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11-04

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6

Prospectus Feature: The #Sources Season
by
Matthew Trueblood

11-03

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32

Prospectus Feature: The Decision that Decided a World Series
by
Dustin Palmateer

10-09

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39

Prospectus Feature: Check Out This Obnoxious Cardinals Fan
by
Brian Gunn

10-08

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6

Prospectus Feature: Aaron Judge and the Question of Long-Armed Hitting Prospects
by
Jeff Moore

10-07

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1

Prospectus Feature: The Great Octoberness Rankings
by
Miles Wray

09-23

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11

Prospectus Feature: Colin Moran and the Matter of Draft Status
by
Jeff Moore

08-29

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38

Prospectus Feature: Roast A Parks
by
BP Staff

02-28

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0

Prospectus Feature: The Downfall of Denny McLain
by
Mark Armour

02-28

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0

Prospectus Feature: The Eddie Award
by
Jeff Bower

02-26

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0

Prospectus Feature: 2003 IHOF Veterans Committee Results
by
Neal Traven

02-26

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0

Prospectus Feature: The Injury Nexus: A Look at Pitcher Injuries
by
Nate Silver and Will Carroll

02-21

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0

Prospectus Feature: PECOTA At Altitude: A Review of Major League Hitters in Colorado
by
Nate Silver

02-20

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0

Prospectus Feature: Touring the Minors: The Pacific Coast League
by
Keith Scherer

02-19

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0

Prospectus Feature: Where Does the Money Go?: Taking a Look at Major League Payrolls
by
Doug Pappas

02-18

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0

Prospectus Feature: Could Relegation Work?
by
Derek Zumsteg

02-11

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0

Prospectus Feature: The Yankees' Seven-Man Rotation
by
Nate Silver

02-06

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0

Prospectus Feature: Playing the Armchair Arbitrator
by
Nate Silver

01-31

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0

Prospectus Feature: Top 40 Prospects Roundtable
by
Baseball Prospectus

01-28

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0

Prospectus Feature: Expanding the Playoffs: Drawing Guidance from the NBA
by
Jeff Bower

01-28

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0

Prospectus Feature: Expanding the Playoffs
by
Jeff Bower

01-24

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0

Prospectus Feature: That's the Chicago Way
by
Keith Scherer

01-23

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0

Prospectus Feature: Breaking Out
by
Nate Silver

01-22

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0

Prospectus Feature: The Midsummer Classic: Making it More Than Just an Exhibition Game
by
Doug Pappas

01-21

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0

Prospectus Feature: The Appearance of Misconduct: A Conspiracy Theory Worth Considering
by
Tim Walker

01-17

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0

Prospectus Feature: Baseball Prospectus Radio
by
Will Carroll

01-14

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0

Prospectus Feature: The 1987 Free Agent Market
by
Nate Silver

01-14

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0

Prospectus Feature: A Brief History of the Veterans Committee
by
Neal Traven

12-12

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0

Prospectus Feature: Freely Available Talent
by
Dayn Perry

12-09

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0

Prospectus Feature: 2002 STATLG-L Internet Hall of Fame
by
Neal Traven

12-04

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0

Prospectus Feature: The Forty Million Dollar Question: Building the 2003 Expos (Part Two)
by
Scot Hughes

11-26

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0

Prospectus Feature: 2002 HACKING MASS Results: All Players, By Position
by
Baseball Prospectus

11-26

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0

Prospectus Feature: 2002 HACKING MASS Results: All Players, By Name
by
Baseball Prospectus

11-26

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0

Prospectus Feature: 2002 HACKING MASS Results: All Players, By ESPN
by
Baseball Prospectus

11-22

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0

Prospectus Feature: The Forty Million Dollar Question: Building the 2003 Expos (Part One)
by
Scot Hughes

11-07

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0

Prospectus Feature: The Arizona Fall League
by
Jonah Keri

10-31

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0

Prospectus Feature: Evaluating the Dowd Report
by
Derek Zumsteg

10-28

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0

Prospectus Feature: Player Cards
by
Clay Davenport

10-11

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0

Prospectus Feature: The Curse of The Budbino
by
Jeff Angus

10-10

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0

Prospectus Feature: Breaking Balls: A Stroll Through the Mailbag
by
Derek Zumsteg

08-23

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0

Prospectus Feature: Touring the Minors: Organizational Overview: Los Angeles Dodgers
by
Keith Scherer

08-08

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0

Prospectus Feature: Breaking Balls: Unbalanced
by
Derek Zumsteg

08-07

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0

Prospectus Feature: Touring the Minors: Organizational Overview of the St. Louis Cardinals
by
Keith Scherer

06-21

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0

Prospectus Feature: Baseball's Brave New World
by
Gary Gillette

06-12

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0

Prospectus Feature: Touring the Minors: Goin' Through Mobile
by
Keith Scherer

06-05

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0

Prospectus Feature: Draft 2001: The First Round
by
Joe Sheehan

06-05

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Prospectus Feature: Sifting Through the Discount Bin
by
Jonah Keri

05-24

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0

Prospectus Feature: 6-4-3: Rounding the Bases
by
Gary Huckabay

05-24

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Prospectus Feature: The Daily Prospectus: Heading Out
by
Joe Sheehan

05-23

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Prospectus Feature: Jose Canseco and the Keltner List
by
Ryan Wilkins

05-23

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Prospectus Feature: The Daily Prospectus: The Trade
by
Joe Sheehan

<< Previous Column Entries Next Column Entries >>

The PCL is famous for its pinball scores but there are other, better reasons to pay attention to it this year.

Pacific Coast League Profile

BATTERS PITCHERS AVG OBP SLG REQA ERA H/9 BB/9 K/9 K/BB .275 .345 .432 .791 4.52 9.5 3.2 7.0 2.2 COMBINED RUNS PER GAME: 9.9

The Cubs, Padres, Astros, Giants, and A's are among the best-run and best-stocked minor league operations in baseball and they each have an affiliate in the Pacific Coast League. It's not too much of a stretch to say that the two best hitting prospects in the high minors will play in the PCL this year, as will the game's two best pitching prospects. The minors' most extreme pitcher's park is here, along with Colorado Springs, among the minors' top three hitters' parks. Inspired by an episode of The Simpsons, baseball in Albuquerque has been revived after a couple years' hiatus. The PCL is famous for its pinball scores but there are other, better reasons to pay attention to it this year.

American Conference, East Division

Read the full article...

Whenever "competitive balance" is debated, the debaters inevitably turn to published information about team payrolls to support their positions. This sounds straightforward. Unfortunately, "team payroll" is a fluid concept. The four most widely reported measures each use different methods and can lead to different conclusions.

Whenever "competitive balance" is debated, the debaters inevitably turn to published information about team payrolls to support their positions. This sounds straightforward... but unfortunately, "team payroll" is a fluid concept. The four most widely reported measures each use different methods and can lead to different conclusions.

The four measures are (1) the Opening Day payrolls reported by the AP and USA Today a week or so into the season; (2) the August 31 payrolls reported by MLB after the season; (3) the August 31 average team salaries reported by the MLBPA after the season; and (4) the luxury tax payrolls reported by MLB after the season.

The first three have a lot in common. Each begins with the salary of every player on a club's 25-man roster, or its major league disabled list, as of the stated date. Each computes each player's base salary in the same way: the actual amount he is paid during the season, plus a pro-rated share of his signing bonus and the discounted present value of any part of his salary which is deferred to a future year. Each has a common flaw: by taking a snapshot of the roster as of a specific date, it ignores the effect of midseason player moves.

The MLBPA's formula has a more serious flaw which renders it essentially useless for meaningful team-to-team comparison. Its averaging method involves dividing the club's total payroll by the number of players on its roster-plus-DL. However, the size of the disabled list varies widely from team to team. In 2002 just 26 players were used to compute the Kansas City and Oakland averages, while San Diego's average was based on a 36-man roster. Thus while the August 31 payrolls for Oakland and San Diego were virtually identical, Oakland's reported average was $450,000 higher. Given the other information available, that's an unacceptable variance.

Here are each club's 2002 payrolls as computed by the three other methods:

Opening Day Aug. 31 Luxury Tax Team Payroll Payroll Difference Payroll Difference Anaheim Angels $ 61,721,667 $ 62,757,041 $ 1,035,374 $ 69,449,444 $ 7,727,777 Arizona Diamondbacks $102,820,000 $103,528,877 $ 708,877 $106,590,086 $ 3,770,086 Atlanta Braves $ 93,470,367 $ 93,786,065 $ 315,698 $103,035,498 $ 9,565,131 Baltimore Orioles $ 60,493,487 $ 56,504,685 ($ 3,988,802) $ 64,351,025 $ 3,857,538 Boston Red Sox $108,366,060 $110,249,535 $ 1,883,475 $106,060,766 ($ 2,305,294) Chicago Cubs $ 75,690,833 $ 74,950,543 ($ 740,290) $ 81,104,031 $ 5,413,198 Chicago White Sox $ 57,052,833 $ 54,534,084 ($ 2,518,749) $ 57,800,783 $ 747,950 Cincinnati Reds $ 45,050,390 $ 46,310,698 $ 1,260,308 $ 54,663,420 $ 9,613,030 Cleveland Indians $ 78,909,448 $ 74,888,365 ($ 4,021,083) $ 82,693,915 $ 3,784,467 Colorado Rockies $ 56,851,043 $ 56,509,185 ($ 341,858) $ 72,300,867 $15,449,824 Detroit Tigers $ 55,048,000 $ 54,390,870 ($ 657,130) $ 67,589,693 $12,541,693 Florida Marlins $ 41,979,917 $ 40,822,536 ($ 1,157,381) $ 45,369,104 $ 3,389,187 Houston Astros $ 63,448,417 $ 65,412,960 $ 1,964,543 $ 74,384,060 $10,935,643 Kansas City Royals $ 47,257,000 $ 49,362,709 $ 2,105,709 $ 50,973,807 $ 3,716,807 Los Angeles Dodgers $ 94,850,952 $101,504,889 $ 6,653,937 $112,274,884 $17,423,932 Milwaukee Brewers $ 50,287,333 $ 49,259,130 ($ 1,028,203) $ 50,455,737 $ 168,404 Minnesota Twins $ 40,225,000 $ 41,309,031 $ 1,084,031 $ 45,931,954 $ 5,706,954 Montreal Expos $ 38,670,500 $ 37,901,032 ($ 769,468) $ 35,814,751 ($ 2,855,749) New York Mets $ 94,633,593 $ 94,395,575 ($ 238,018) $102,182,193 $ 7,548,600 New York Yankees $125,928,583 $133,429,757 $ 7,500,992 $167,592,745 $41,664,162 Oakland Athletics $ 39,679,746 $ 41,942,665 $ 2,262,919 $ 58,143,776 $18,464,030 Philadelphia Phillies $ 57,955,000 $ 59,593,741 $ 1,638,741 $ 64,505,697 $ 6,550,697 Pittsburgh Pirates $ 42,323,598 $ 46,059,984 $ 3,736,386 $ 55,967,080 $13,643,482 St. Louis Cardinals $ 74,098,267 $ 76,227,801 $ 2,129,534 $ 88,378,549 $14,280,282 San Diego Padres $ 41,425,000 $ 41,791,170 $ 366,170 $ 57,943,130 $16,518,130 San Francisco Giants $ 78,299,835 $ 78,426,572 $ 126,737 $ 88,488,058 $10,188,223 Seattle Mariners $ 80,282,668 $ 86,084,710 $ 5,802,432 $ 92,310,287 $12,027,619 Tampa Bay Devil Rays $ 34,380,000 $ 34,728,540 $ 348,540 $ 36,249,505 $ 1,869,505 Texas Rangers $105,302,124 $106,915,180 $ 1,613,056 $122,887,987 $17,585,863 Toronto Blue Jays $ 76,864,333 $ 66,814,971 ($10,049,762) $ 58,963,374 ($17,900,959)

Read the full article...

I get a lot of e-mail suggesting that baseball should use European-style relegation/promotion to encourage teams to compete. People suggest it to me in bars. I've read it in columns by otherwise sensible baseball writers. It is easily the most impractical idea anyone has proposed to solve some of baseball's problems, and I am baffled by its continued popularity.

I get a lot of e-mail suggesting that baseball should use European-style relegation/promotion to encourage teams to compete. People suggest it to me in bars. I've read it in columns by otherwise sensible baseball writers. It is easily the most impractical idea anyone has proposed to solve some of baseball's problems, and I am baffled by its continued popularity.

Let's say that basketball decides to do something even more radical, and every year they're going to turn the NCAA Division I college with the best record into a professional team, and the Nuggets have to go into the amateur business and start a university.

But wait, that's ridiculous, you say. Those players don't have professional contracts. Where would they play? They've graduated, would they then have to stay with the same team? Who would pay these new salaries?

Uh huh, yup, you're right. And those are only some of the problems that relegation in baseball faces. But I want to take a concrete approach to showing the barriers to this course.

Let's say that baseball implemented a modest form of relegation to begin after the 2002 season. One team from each league is relegated. Then one team from each Triple-A league is promoted. I chose that method because it seems fairer that way, but what happens next is applicable no matter how you divvy up the joy and pain.

The two teams in 2002 would be Milwaukee (56-106) and either Tampa Bay or Detroit (55-106), with the tiebreaker being Tampa Bay's 2-4 record against Detroit, and the team's distinguished record of sustained, general haplessness.

Read the full article...

As pitchers and catchers report to sunny climes this week--soon to be joined by hitters, beer vendors, and spring breakers--much will be made of the battle for the five slots in the New York Yankees' starting rotation.

As pitchers and catchers report to sunny climes this week--soon to be joined by hitters, beer vendors, and spring breakers--much will be made of the battle for the five slots in the New York Yankees' starting rotation.

The Yankees, you see, have seven handsomely--paid starters--what hubris!--any of whom could start on opening day for the Newark Bears or the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, or if you give them a mulligan on Sterling Hitchcock, about half the teams in the major leagues. It is the greatest waste of talent, so it would seem, since Ocean's Eleven.

Here is our cast of seven, in most probable order of appearance:

Read the full article...

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February 6, 2003 2:15 pm

Prospectus Feature: Playing the Armchair Arbitrator

0

Nate Silver

No, the most contentious sports battles of February are fought not in football rinks or hockey stadiums, but in hotel conference rooms in Tampa and Phoenix, where owners and agents will square off against one another all month long in a series of arbitration hearings that will be fully nasty enough to recall the high period of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling circuit, except without quite as much hair-pulling.

February is a rough time of year to be a sports fan. As I sat down in front of the television on an appropriately dreary Sunday afternoon, my viewing options included an exhibition hockey game played in Florida, a football game played in a hockey rink, and a seniors golf tournament. How many more days until pitchers and catchers report, again?

No, the most contentious sports battles of February are fought not in football rinks or hockey stadiums, but in hotel conference rooms in Tampa and Phoenix, where owners and agents will square off against one another all month long in a series of arbitration hearings that will be fully nasty enough to recall the high period of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling circuit, except without quite as much hair-pulling.

Unlike Debbie Debutante and Spanish Red, salary arbitration appears poised to make something of a comeback. Only five arbitration cases went to a hearing last winter, a figure that tied for the lowest total ever. Twenty-one pairs of players and owners are prepared to take their cases to the mat this time around, and although a number of those cases are likely to be settled beforehand, both sides seem less willing this winter to compromise on dollar figures for the sake of creating goodwill going forward.

Gary Huckabay covered all of the arbitration basics and then some in a recent 6-4-3, so I won't rehash those here, except to reiterate that the single most important criterion in resolving each case is a player's previous track record of playing time and performance. The true value of that track record can be meaningfully different from the most reasonable expectation for his performance in the upcoming season, not to mention the factors an arbitrator actually weighs.

What I'll do in the balance of this article is present data from our PECOTA forecasting system for some of the most prominent upcoming arbitration cases, in order to discuss which players have the best chance of turning in performances that are out of line with their previous histories. Just for kicks, I'll play Armchair Arbitrator too. Keep in mind that I'll be taking into account information that the real arbitrators will not be allowed to consider, and that an arbitrator will sooner make a decision based on batting average or won-lost record than more meaningful measures.

The rest of this article is restricted to Baseball Prospectus Subscribers.

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Part two of our look at the top 40 prospects.

Part One

Rany Jazayerli: OK. Some responses...

Read the full article...

Although the specifics haven't been laid out for public consumption, it is widely assumed that four teams would be added to the post-season mix, raising the number of participants from eight to 12.

Major League Baseball's recent decision to base home-field advantage in the World Series on the outcome of the All-Star Game runs contrary to the way Commissioner Bud Selig normally operates. Spurred by last year's All-Star debacle in Milwaukee, the entire process - from concept to approval - took only six months, and failed to employ even one sub-committee of analysts to explore the issue. More typical of Selig's decision-making process is his announcement of the newly-formed special task force for "The Commissioner's Initiative: Major League Baseball in the 21st Century."

One of the issues the new task force will supposedly investigate is whether or not to expand the playoffs. It's not a particularly new idea - Selig himself quietly broached the subject last October. Although the specifics haven't been laid out for public consumption, it is widely assumed that four teams would be added to the post-season mix, raising the number of participants from eight to 12.

If approved, the accelerated pace at which MLB is adding playoff teams will continue. For 66 seasons (1903 through 1968), both leagues were division-less and the pennant winners advanced directly to the World Series. In 1969, professional baseball celebrated its 100th birthday by adding four expansion franchises. Each league was split into two divisions, with the four divisional winners playing into October. A quarter century later - perhaps encouraged by his Brewers' participation in MLB's unplanned eight-team bash in 1981 - Selig further subdivided the leagues into three divisions and presented baseball fans with the Wild Card. Just nine seasons after expanding the playoffs to include eight teams, and less than a year after deferring industry contraction, he is now considering a 12-team post-season format.

Those who want to include more teams in the post-season share a widespread belief that fans stop turning out at the ballpark when their local heroes aren't involved in a playoff race. Many organizations favor the notion of letting more teams into the playoffs for that reason alone. However, is their perception accurate?

Studying the effects of a single action on attendance is challenging simply because so many factors can influence a team's attendance: marketing, position in the community, performance, the comings and goings of players, popularity of the sport, and new playing facilities, to name a few. Furthermore, using previous MLB attendance data doesn't seem appropriate in this case, since by expanding the playoffs to 12 teams, baseball would be entering new territory for the sport. Though a significant number of fans despise the Wild Card, since its inception Wild Card teams have a 94-68 regular season record on average. Were the playoffs to expand further though, some of the beneficiaries would be little more than .500 ball clubs. The attendance effects of such mediocre teams consistently reaching the post-season won't show up in baseball's existing historical record.

To try and analyze the issue, I decided to see what happened to attendance in the National Basketball Association when it expanded its playoffs by four teams (from 12 to 16) prior to the 1983-84 season. In addition to adding the same number of playoff teams as baseball might, NBA attendance figures from that time have the added benefit of not being tainted by work stoppages or brief surges caused by a wave of newly extorted arenas. As a result, those effects don't have to be accounted for in the analysis. Though consumer choices and behavior have changed substantially in the past 20 years, we should still get some indication as to what MLB can expect from its fans if and when it chooses to allow more teams into its post-season dance.

Read the full article...

Major League Baseball's recent decision to base home-field advantage in the World Series on the outcome of the All-Star Game runs contrary to the way Commissioner Bud Selig normally operates. Spurred by last year's All-Star debacle in Milwaukee, the entire process - from concept to approval - took only six months, and failed to employ even one sub-committee of analysts to explore the issue. More typical of Selig's decision-making process is his announcement of the newly-formed special task force for "The Commissioner's Initiative: Major League Baseball in the 21st Century."

Major League Baseball's recent decision to base home-field advantage in the World Series on the outcome of the All-Star Game runs contrary to the way Commissioner Bud Selig normally operates. Spurred by last year's All-Star debacle in Milwaukee, the entire process - from concept to approval - took only six months, and failed to employ even one sub-committee of analysts to explore the issue. More typical of Selig's decision-making process is his announcement of the newly-formed special task force for "The Commissioner's Initiative: Major League Baseball in the 21st Century."

One of the issues the new task force will supposedly investigate is whether or not to expand the playoffs. It's not a particularly new idea - Selig himself quietly broached the subject last October. Although the specifics haven't been laid out for public consumption, it is widely assumed that four teams would be added to the post-season mix, raising the number of participants from eight to 12.

If approved, the accelerated pace at which MLB is adding playoff teams will continue. For 66 seasons (1903 through 1968), both leagues were division-less and the pennant winners advanced directly to the World Series. In 1969, professional baseball celebrated its 100th birthday by adding four expansion franchises. Each league was split into two divisions, with the four divisional winners playing into October. A quarter century later - perhaps encouraged by his Brewers' participation in MLB's unplanned eight-team bash in 1981 - Selig further subdivided the leagues into three divisions and presented baseball fans with the Wild Card. Just nine seasons after expanding the playoffs to include eight teams, and less than a year after deferring industry contraction, he is now considering a 12-team post-season format.

Those who want to include more teams in the post-season share a widespread belief that fans stop turning out at the ballpark when their local heroes aren't involved in a playoff race. Many organizations favor the notion of letting more teams into the playoffs for that reason alone. However, is their perception accurate?

Studying the effects of a single action on attendance is challenging simply because so many factors can influence a team's attendance: marketing, position in the community, performance, the comings and goings of players, popularity of the sport, and new playing facilities, to name a few. Furthermore, using previous MLB attendance data doesn't seem appropriate in this case, since by expanding the playoffs to 12 teams, baseball would be entering new territory for the sport. Though a significant number of fans despise the Wild Card, since its inception Wild Card teams have a 94-68 regular season record on average. Were the playoffs to expand further though, some of the beneficiaries would be little more than .500 ball clubs. The attendance effects of such mediocre teams consistently reaching the post-season won't show up in baseball's existing historical record.

To try and analyze the issue, I decided to see what happened to attendance in the National Basketball Association when it expanded its playoffs by four teams (from 12 to 16) prior to the 1983-84 season. In addition to adding the same number of playoff teams as baseball might, NBA attendance figures from that time have the added benefit of not being tainted by work stoppages or brief surges caused by a wave of newly extorted arenas. As a result, those effects don't have to be accounted for in the analysis. Though consumer choices and behavior have changed substantially in the past 20 years, we should still get some indication as to what MLB can expect from its fans if and when it chooses to allow more teams into its post-season dance.

Read the full article...

The Anaheim Angels finished the 2001 season 41 games out of first place, so you would be forgiven if their World Series victory last fall surprised you. It surprised all of us. All of us except Phil Rogers, that is. He saw it coming.

The Anaheim Angels finished the 2001 season 41 games out of first place, so you would be forgiven if their World Series victory last fall surprised you. It surprised all of us. All of us except Phil Rogers, that is. He saw it coming.

He saw it coming even though last spring the Angels brought back their 2001 club nearly intact--their most significant off-season pickups were two ordinary starting pitchers, Kevin Appier and Aaron Sele.

He saw it coming even when the Angels went 6-12 against their division rivals in April, after going 17-41 against them in 2001.

He saw it coming, but he didn't have the stones to call it. Instead, he pegged them for third in the West and he has been kicking himself for the last six months because of it.

According to Rogers, "It is a very good thing to go into a season with a stable of established starting pitchers coming off workhorse seasons." Such a good thing, in fact, that you can accurately predict the postseason by finding the teams that start the year with at least three starting pitchers who threw at least 190 innings in 30 or more starts the previous season. From among those teams a world champion will surely emerge.

If you have never heard of this theory and think he pulled it out of his ass, you can be forgiven for that, too. I asked around and no one at BP had heard of it. When discussing the theory Rogers sometimes uses the journalistic "we" ("we would argue that"), but it's not as if he has a corps of colleagues at his side. As best I can tell, it's all his and he made it up to support a presupposition.

Read the full article...

In an article that appeared last week on ESPN.com, Peter Gammons provided a list of 20 players whom respondants to an informal straw poll described as candidates for a breakout season. The list, derived from a survey of major league executives, included a mix of pitchers and hitters, five-tool talents and makeup guys, united only in their ability to tease hibernating fantasy leaguers into dreams of greener days ahead. If one needs any reminder that lists like these are little more than a grownup's version of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, it's worth reviewing a similar list that Gammons produced last year.

In an article that appeared last week on ESPN.com, Peter Gammons provided a list of 20 players whom respondants to an informal straw poll described as candidates for a breakout season. The list, derived from a survey of major league executives, included a mix of pitchers and hitters, five-tool talents and makeup guys, united only in their ability to tease hibernating fantasy leaguers into dreams of greener days ahead.

If one needs any reminder that lists like these are little more than a grownup's version of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, it's worth reviewing a similar list that Gammons produced last year. That list includes roughly equal representation of the good (Alfonso Soriano and Derek Lowe), the bad (J.D. Drew), and the ugly (Juan Uribe), as well as four players whose performances were so impressive that they made repeat appearances on this year's list.

Now, none of this is meant to be a knock on Gammons, or the lists he has compiled. Everybody likes to talk about breakout candidates this time of year, ourselves included (Eddie Yarnall, anyone?). Having formerly moonlighted as a daily team correspondent for another baseball website, I can attest to the fact that virtually every player provides at least some excuse each winter for gushing commentary, delusions of grandeur, or other forms of irrational exuberance.

As it happens, however, we're unrolling a new forecasting system at BP this year--one that is also preoccupied with the question of breakout candidates. The PECOTA system--short for Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm--seeks to identify potential breakouts by comparing a player against a database of his historical peers. In so doing, it comes up with an objective estimate of the probability that a player will display marked improvement in the upcoming season (defined as an increase of at least 20% in his Equivalent Runs per plate appearance, or a decrease of at least 20% in his PERA, relative to a weighted average of his previous three years of performance). We refer to this estimate as a player's Breakout score. Readers interested in a more extensive treatment of the PECOTA system will find it in this year's book, and in the PECOTA glossary provided here.

One brief caveat: the PECOTA system is new technology. That doesn't mean that we stole it from the Raelians, or that we haven’t tested it thoroughly. But sometimes PECOTA provides us with definitive and unexpected answers, and we need to work backwards to try and explain why they came about. That's a bastardization of the scientific method, and I'll ask that you'll excuse me as I run through the hitters on Gammons' list.

Rank on Gammons List, Player, PECOTA Breakout Score

Read the full article...

Last week, Major League Baseball's owners unanimously approved Commissioner Bud Selig's proposal to give the league that wins the All-Star Game home field advantage in the World Series.

Last week, Major League Baseball's owners unanimously approved Commissioner Bud Selig's proposal to give the league that wins the All-Star Game home field advantage in the World Series. In the official release announcing the vote, Selig proclaimed, "This change is designed to re-energize and give greater meaning to the All-Star Game."

This wasn't a problem before 1997. Until then, the All-Star Game had plenty of meaning. It was the only time before the World Series when AL and NL players competed against one another. However, in yet another Selig-era obsession with the short-term "fix," the owners not only wore out the novelty of interleague play in short order, but took the bloom off their own midsummer showcase by scheduling all those interleague games within three weeks of the All-Star Game. MLB's antitrust exemption might protect the league from a lot of things, but it doesn't protect it from the Law of Unintended Consequences.

The move will surely be applauded by Fox, which has TV rights to the next three All-Star Games. And MLB's current proposal could improve the quality of the game, especially if players from contending teams appreciate the impact of a win.

Still, the move has been met with considerable skepticism from the players. As NL player representative Tom Glavine told the New York Times: "It's an exhibition game. That's how it's approached. What other games do we play where we have the starting pitchers wearing microphones? If you want to do that, it's going to be hard for players to have the mentality that this is a win-at-all-cost game." As the MLBPA must approve the proposed change before it takes effect, Glavine's comments suggest that the issue is far from resolved.

Home field advantage in the World Series has never been more important. Consider:

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Jonah Keri has ably analyzed the Colon trade and its ridiculousness for the Expos. I want to focus on the deal as an indicator of the shadiness and shame implied by the league's ownership of the Expos.

Jonah Keri has ably analyzed the Colon trade and its ridiculousness for the Expos. I want to focus on the deal as an indicator of the shadiness and shame implied by the league's ownership of the Expos.

First, some background. For better and for worse, Major League Baseball is a legal cartel. As such, it may be thought of as a sort of open, friendly conspiracy (it conspires to keep any competing league from offering top-level baseball in North America). Nothing wrong with that in itself -- we happily put up with cartels in most of our major sports, and in other areas of life as well. And as long as I the consumer understand the arrangement, benefit from it, and have some kind of recourse to get out from under it, what's the problem? No one makes me spend money on MLB or the NFL. If I have a beef with one of these cartels, I can always boycott their sponsors, or push for new laws to rein them in, or just go to Longhorn games instead. So far, so good.

But for their own long-term health, sports leagues must convince their consumers that they field a fair product, or else the entire attraction of honest competition is ruined. By this token, baseball's fans must be able to believe that MLB holds itself in check by various means, whether in the structure of the amateur draft, or in a player's arbitration calendar, or in the rules of the waiver wire. These rules (and many others) allow for open explanations of events: The Red Sox signed Johnny Damon fair and square under the free agency rules; the Yankees got stuck with Jose Canseco's contract because the Rays really were looking to unload him via waivers; there's only so long the Expos can hold onto Vlad Guerrero thanks to his free-agency calendar. And so on.

Whether we like an individual piece of news or not, we have reason to believe that matters were handled out in the open. The league's internal rules are made even more potent in this regard since they're monitored by a powerful player's union and, at least in theory, by an independent press.

Onto the problem at hand. The very nature of the league's ownership of the Expos raises the specter of misconduct - of a violation of consumers' trust - because it subverts this system of checks. Because the league now controls the Expos' players, this specter extends not just to Expos fans, but to fans of other teams (like the Red Sox), and to followers of the league as a whole.

Protestations of innocence from Selig & Co. are irrelevant. Maybe the Commissioner does have firewalls in place such that he holds no sway on the Expos' day-to-day operations. It doesn't matter. Again, it is the very nature of the arrangement that opens the way for back-channel, conspiratorial explanations for events. Indeed, given the current arrangement, it actually becomes logical to entertain such notions.

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