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Another way to think about it is to assume that each batter/pitcher combination has some distribution of fly ball distances. What you are saying is that the shapes of those distributions are not identical from one pair of players to another, and/or they are not a shape that would lose area in the tail in perfect proportion to how far out one cuts off the tail by placing the OF fence there. Those seem like safe assumptions to me; the proportional, constant shape assumption is a reach.
I don't know that anything is a clear inarguable conclusion, but that's exactly why I think your point is a serious one and deserves discussion. The minus makes no sense to me either.
If the Phillies' fortunes were to collapse, and Hamels had signed an extension, they'd probably deal him for prospects, and he'd be out of there anyway.
Rings bells. I drove 250 miles to see a band, and absolutely had to be back the following afternoon, but it started to snow. Told the girlfriend "How bad can it be? It won't be the blizzard of the century." It was the blizzard of the century. This is the pumping blood of life. If I'd stayed home, I wouldn't remember a second of that weekend.
Terrific writing, Ian, thanks.
I'm very surprised that "Bucky Fucking Dent" doesn't automatically link to his player card.
Thanks. It looks good now and should really be something to look forward to every day.
Cool, I like the partial-basepath notation idea a lot. Thanks.
Thanks for the improvements and the explanation. A couple of possible tweaks to Collateral Damage Daily:
1) The players do not appear to be in any particular order. I suggest presenting them alphabetically by team, but other options would include alphabetically by name or in order of projected return date
2) There doesn't appear to be a way to comment.
3) Some of the return dates do not match the text notes below them, but this probably has to do with the wrinkles you mention you are ironing out.
I do the star too.
I designate where the hits went by entering 17 or 29, for example, rather than 1B or 2B.
How do you mark a tag play when grounder, runner and shortstop all arrive at the same place at the same time, for example?
I do something similar to what you do, but with the number of for the hitter's position, rather than his uniform number. So if the SS moved the runner to second, I'd have a 6 next to that line segment.
If the Padres' defense of that era was so superior that it made a sub-replacement pitcher look like an ace, and none of that out creation was really to Jones's own credit, then the Padres' staff should have had two or three apparent aces every year, at least. This was not the case.
I really love your Opening Night idea. What could be a better rollout than the game celebrating itself and its heroes, and replaying all the highlights of last year's World Series?
Estalella had good power.
With all due respect, please let's not start down this road again. It's been debated ad nauseum here and of course there is no resolution possible through debate. apbadogs made an offhand and fairly obvious nudge-nudge joke, which could easily be ignored, no matter where you stand on PEDs.
Lucroy's raw rate stats may be about average, but Miller Park is a hitters' park, so he probably is a bit below average, so far. Still I agree that this is a good contract.
The doctors have never figured out what is wrong with me, beaned a game I once baseball during have although been.
Thanks for the Goldman redux. His point about received wisdom will always be crucial, and is certainly closely tied to the Moneyball/inefficiencies concept.
BTW I'd never heard of Fritz Ostermueller, so I clicked and found that his card gives his batting record, which seems odd for someone who started at least 126 games.
I love this sort of article too. Many thanks for it.
Not really important, but Dick Bosman has a little more to his post-pitching career than his Rays instructor gig. He was a MLB pitching coach for ten years or so, including for the Rangers.
Actually I don't find the FRAA in the table of switchers all that alarming. Success in this case can't be defined as non-negative FRAA. Assuming he and Fielder bash as expected, they can afford some negative FRAA, and certainly could live with the plus or minus low single digits many of the switchers put up. Health seems like more of a concern.
True. I realized as I wrote that he did not belong in the same article as Rich Aurilia et al.
Injuries are probably behind many of these cases. Not just major ones, but also minor lingering ones that reduce a player's effectiveness and stamina, but don't take him out of the lineup. Then one year he's completely healthy and also his skills and luck align, and pow.
Beware: you may be stuck in a pi-rut, which as we know can last for years and years.
Good to bad players often have one anomalous year, and I have long wondered why. Rico Petrocelli in 1969 - 1969! - set career highs in everything, including 40 homers at SS, and put up 8.6 WARP. The rest of his career he was OK to good, but I suppose mostly better than mediocre. But Walt Dropo 1950. Rick Sutcliffe 1984. Red Schoendienst 1953. I'll bet there are dozens of guys.
This is an excellent dissection of the issue. The principles should be usable to lay out a map of situations in which bringing in the closer before the 9th makes sense, given the difference between his performance and that of the next-best alternative.
Too bad Mason Williams is not a pitcher, because then we could say he throws Classical Gas. Clearly this has to be what the PA plays when he comes to the plate.
Curtis Granderson likes to put sandwiches in his PJs at 3:00 AM? Who said we don't have enough characters in the game these days!
I agree it's a reasonable question. For me the answer is that no one else on the roster is as all-out terrible at fielding or hitting as 95% of pitchers are at hitting. It's a matter of degree, and it's a big difference in my view.
Oh, lest I forget, the pitcher might just be in a situation where he will automatically bunt, without exception. Strategy, not.
I can't wait for the pitcher's at-bat to end, because either he flails embarrassingly, or he watches three strikes. It does reduce my enjoyment. As for pitchers homering, it feels like random bad luck for the opposing pitcher, rather than an accomplishment. Not unlike a missed extra point kick. It's so rare and fluky that it seems to weigh unfairly much on the outcome when it does happen.
I've always wondered about Marc Newfield, who put up over .300/.350/.500 in part of a season for Milwaukee in maybe his only stretch of MLB success. He was out of the majors at 25 and out of baseball at 26. How might organizations be able to decide a former prospect is hopeless at an age when some good players are first arriving in the majors?
With respect, if your definition of trusting them is that they should consistently be less than 10 VORP off, you are maybe putting more faith in them than any sort of projection can really provide.
This will be a fun division to watch. PECOTA predicts a three-game spread from 1st to 3rd place. There's even more uncertainty in those predictions in this case than usual, before anyone gets injured or traded for. Anything can happen! When the Astros inevitably trade the unicorn for Soriano, even the Schlubs could be relevant.
I will miss your articles here terribly. The historical perspective you brought to current events and questions, not to mention the stories from the past themselves and the occasional literary reference, was just about my favorite thing about BP. Still a lot to love here, but you can bet I will seek out what you write at your new endeavor as well. Best of luck.
Sounds good, thanks!
Steph states in the Reds section that the Brewers have taken a "major hit on offense" this offseason. Before we get to Part II, it's worth noting that while they will probably lose a lot of WARP at 1B, they will make up some of that at 3B, so the hit may not be too terrible. The comment refers to offense, but it is made in the context of who will win the division, so it's also worth noting that they will probably pick up a bit of WARP on defense at SS. Finally, they won 96 games, so odds are they can afford to lose a few more and still be right there.
If Belt starts hitting well, Sabean will lose interest and the price will drop. He likes a challenge.
The Fister-Furbush trade offered some yuks recently.
I wonder whether this is the highest-rated post ever at BP.
MLB does have some possibly crossed motivations in this area, but destroying one of their stars to highlight their testing program, when they've already caught some others, and no one is really screaming that the program is fouled up? I don't know that I can buy into that without some real clues.
Always best to ignore the content of someone's arguments, and instead rely on pigeonholing and labeling to decide whether there's any merit to them.
"Liberal Mr. Goldman"? I would have thought that the _conservative_ point of view would be that it is best to follow the constitutional concept of fair process, even in the face of unpopular outcomes, as opposed to individual arbiters deciding how much to weigh errors in process.
Totally agree. Careful analysis of how teams win and what we can predict about the future is just one element of enjoying baseball. We should never eliminate any of the traditional stats, even when everybody sees their flaws.
Depends on the shape of the upper tail of each player's distribution of distances, I guess. And on what is meant by "less affected". It could be that most players will be affected by about the same proportion, but knocking a weak hitter from 4 homers to 3 is less impact than knocking Stanton from say 32 to 24. Some of the would-be homers become doubles rather than outs, I suppose.
I agree the situation was odd, but I just can't imagine a GM - sorry, all 30 GMs - deciding to pass up 40 homers or 1.000 OPS so that they could influence who holds a particular record. Compared to winning more games, that has to be way far down his list of priorities.
There's something very Chuck Klosterman-like about this article (which is a good thing by my lights), and it has engendered the same kind of responses as some of his analogies do. Klosterman has even tried to develop a performance metric for rock bands.
My feeling is that it is a good film by the standards of film-making and acting, but by pinning fabricated deeds on a real historical figure it is fatally and morally flawed. If it had just been a movie about George Smith, fictitious baseball player, it wouldn't be bad.
I've seen a lot of 18-year-old boneheads who matured, though. Of course, if it doesn't come fast enough, maybe he could somehow undermine his career in the majors at an age when his peers are in Rookie leagues. Then again, there are mouthy, brash, insufferable guys in the Hall of Fame.
So in a two-game series in which Cabrera will get 8 ABs, even if I'm allowed to start him out 0-2 in every AB, he will get a single and a double. That's impressive. Pujols's .275 TAv is just unfair.
Far too early to call it a mistake by Melvin. It's too early to know whether Lawrie will be as much of a star as .953 OPS at age 21 usually would portend. But even if he does turn out to be brilliant, Melvin can only be judged by what he could know at the time of the trade, and what his biggest needs looked like. 3B looked like it would be OK with McGehee for a couple of years, and the outfield corners were also set. The rotation was very needy. the need to win immediately lowered the value of prospects to Milwaukee. Even if a trade works out poorly in the long run, it doesn't mean it was a bad decision.
It would be interesting to whether anyone might go deeper than the Yankees. I was surprised at how quickly the Yankees started dipping towards ordinary, so my hunches are probably not worth much, but other teams with multiple eras of success, and thus maybe deeper reserves of good players, could include the Cardinals, Giants, Braves, Dodgers. Indians, As and Red Sox were probably mediocre and worse for too long to go five deep, maybe only three.
I enjoyed this "strings' excursion. Will play around with it for my favorite teams.
"Yeah, but still" has a close relative that's a pet peeve of mine: "I'm just sayin'", when it is used as an actual argument, in which case it means "Don't hold me to any kind of logical standard". This was one of my in-laws, God rest her soul, favorite rhetorical weapon.
I may be missing it, but I'm unclear on what the top 15 table of relievers is top 15 for. Is it people with more than X relief appearances?
If it turns out there really is only one suitor, he's probably going to be cheaper than $10M.
This is a side issue to your main thrust, but I am not so sure that pitching to the score, if it attempted, involves throwing weak pitches more than it does throwing more strikes and doing less painting of corners etc.
Re Richard and the FRAA debate, I have no nostalgia for inferior stats, but I do feel that the apparent uncertainties surrounding FRAA could be taken into account more strongly, in discussion and probably in analytical approach. Like all of the fielding metrics I'm aware of, this one seems to display unexplained variability and counter-intuitive results somewhat frequently, which doesn't invalidate it, but may mean it should not be freely blended full-weight with more mature hitting metrics. It's probably another step on the way to really reliable fielding metrics, but not quite there yet. If so, to put a lot of analytical weight on it without reservation may be hasty. To insiders this may be clearly wrong-headed, but it's not clear to me on the outside.
At least Steve Sparks could handle a pair of salad tongs, unlike Matt Wise, who probably suffered the most ridiculous Brewers' injury ever.
The suit card is inspired.
@randolph3030: "if one year's result (FRAA) isn't reliable, isn't a career's result (FRAA) just a bunch of unreliable yearly results added together?" If by unreliable we mean that it will err upward one year and downward the next, but none of the variations are too terrible, then building up a larger sample will make the overall estimate better. But if the variations are biased in some way, so that they always make the same error in the same direction for some set of cases but not others, then adding to the sample will not help. It all depends on what the source of the errors is in the first place.
Interesting how very few of the "Good Prospects" have made meaningful mark on the majors, with five years to make headway. (3 or 4 out of 18?) This is not a complaint, it's just as acknowledgment that hitting a projection still is kind of like hitting a baseball, or was in the spring of 2007 anyway.
@juiced: Despite the look of the current roster, I think the Mariners might make sense. They have enough pitching that they do not need to raise the offense to greatness to contend. Just by assembling ordinary players at several positions, they could increase WARP pretty significantly in comparison to the production they've been getting. I think the rest of your breakdown makes a lot of sense. Which probably means that the Orioles, enemies of all that is sensible, will probably sign him for 10 years and $250M.
A short deal with the Cubs makes the least sense of all. If you're going to sign him, sign him long enough to have him when his presence might matter.
@AlexHoefer: Wikipedia isn't always reliable, but if you look at a particular article and it matches the facts as you understand them, then it makes a handy reference to point people to, and I don't see anything wrong with it.
If Hoes was an infielder at one time, is 3B a possibility? An empty .300 would look better there than in LF.
I know very well that it's a uselessly small sample, but somehow in all of the handful of Keys games I saw this past season, Schoop looked very mediocre. I take heart from the fact that people who have actually watched him seriously are optimistic.
@mrenick: The Phillies pitching staff will boggle your mind.
Thanks for this.
It's hard, even at this remove, to separate occasions when the GM trading a hot prospect might have simply been lucky that the prospect fizzled, and when he might have been shrewdly contrarian.
@Nathan: A favorable park may increase QS, but QS are not the objective per se. They are just an indicator, and of course a rough one. In a more pitcher-favorable park, a QS means less in terms of wins.
Nelson Cruz is listed as 30 years of age for both 2010 and 2011 on his player card. Maybe part of the secret of his late blooming is some new PED that grants immortality.
@saucyjack88: We'll have something to talk about all spring if the Tigers ride this win on to a championship, and then Verlander develops a sore elbow in spring training and never pitches in 2012. Where does the cost-benefit ratio fall for this decision?
One factor in the decision I'm sure was how short-handed the bullpen was.
The scout's assessment of Colby Lewis is ironic, since we saw Cabrera hit a pitch well out of the zone for a home run. Lewis probably feels he can't win.
Thanks, Mike. We may be a ways from full confidence about all aspects of the matter, but we sure are a lot farther along than we used to be, thanks to your work and others'.
What record did Ankiel's 194 Ks as a rookie set? Thanks.
Thanks for that table. Very interesting. Apologies for being dense, but what does CONT stand for? Thanks.
I'm worried a little about the impact on metrics like O-Swing and Z-Swing that could arise from the fact that players adjust to the individual umpire's strike zone in effect during a particular game. Therefore they are often pitching to, and selecting pitches based on, a strike zone that is different from the denominators of the metrics, no matter how carefully the metrics are adjusted. I guess as long as we apply the metrics to seasons and not individual games, it will probably even out enough.
I think nbmehta79 has a refreshing point of view, especially compared to the loudest Sox fans, and it's one that has to be difficult to embrace in these circumstances. Someone minused him, so I guess maturity is still a minority stance in some circles.
+1 to Mike Cuccaro. Glad that Christina ended up vindicated, though even then her time and peace of mind were wasted by this guy. I wonder whether that 1% of cops who are like this ever realize that they are undermining faith in law enforcement in general.
Oops. The truth is revealed that Mr Cthulhu and I are one and the same subscriber.
So it was you, Goldman! You, that day!! Why, I oughtta...
Prince Fielder 22.64, 22.79 and 21.59. It's that kind of consistent production that will make him worth the big pile he is going to be paid.
I'm surprised Dunn is at only -2.6 WARP. I don't know what replacement level is at DH or 1B in the AL but I would guess something like .250/.310/.400. Dunn can't see that with a telescope.
A movie about rowdy early baseball teams, perhaps in the mold of LEATHERHEADS, but better, could be good. Maybe the 19th century Orioles
I like the marlin, and I don't mind the colors, either, as long as the black is just a background and not the main color any more. We've got way too much black in sports, and for a sunny town like Miami it's all wrong.
The comic strip is a great allusion to ENGLISH AS SHE IS SPOKE - purports to be an educational guide, but mangles the whole idea humorously.
I know this isn't really an A's article, but:
If Chris Carter has contact issues and can't really field any position, surely the Orioles will be interested.
Fielder is apparently going to be cloned several times over in time for spring training, so the glut on the market should help keep the cost down to where it's worth it for all these struggling teams.
Fun stuff. Of course there are also many stories of birds on the field, and insects. Has a pooch ever gotten himself out there?
I enjoyed this a lot. The stories for the A's, Dodgers and Giants players were interesting anyway, even if that's sort of cheating in a discussion of 'defunct franchises' (I suppose the Senators, Expos and Pilots are no different, so there wouldn't be an article if we were strict about it). It would be great to see a second part, telling us the stories of some 19th century and Federal League players, perhaps. Thanks for this.
Re Galloway, Richie is right. Keep in mind that most WRs are done by 37 anyway, so I see no a priori reason to say that the treatment failed after two years. It's at least as likely that he just got too old, healthy legs or not.
"Reimold still stands, a natural DH with a glove"
But one with a positive FRAA. I've had similar disparities between fielding metrics and anecdotal but repeatedly observable performance thrown at me by non-sabermetricians trying to prove it's all hooey. I wonder whether we are premature in incorporating any 'advanced' fielding metrics into overall performance metrics like WARP.
Thanks guys for your pointers to more material on the subject! I will dive in.
The initial formula I gave is usually how it is framed in statistical inference. (One usually sees the equivalent formula p/(1-p)). But in the betting world, and in general conversation, the latter expression is more often used, I believe.
Care has to be taken because the word "odds" is used differently in different contexts. There's been some argument about this at BP before. In fact, I think I may have given the wrong formula for this article. Looking at the teams lower on the list, 1/(1-percent/100) - 1 seems to be what's in play here instead. And that will fix one thing that sometimes bothers people. Note that the formula I orignally gave will return 2-1 as the odds when the percent probability of success is 50%. People have trouble interpreting that, and often prefer to represent that as 1-1, which my second formula will return.
In English, the way to see how the odds come about is this. Take the '51 Dodgers, with their 99.74% for example. There are 99.74 chances for them to win, and 0.26 chances for them to lose. 99.74/0.26 = 383.6, so the odds are about 384 to 1.
The odds are 1/(1 - percent/100).
@Mr Chthulhu: You are so right. :-)
Actually, on a serious note, there is reason to feel compassion for Orioles folks today, as Mike Flanagan has reportedly taken his own life.
@TangoTiger: This is very interesting, and I appreciate that you give us the caveat that it's a back-of-the-envelope sort of analysis, but it just makes me hungry to see more. Is there a study on this subject? I have a feeling that the contribution of a ball or strike to a hit or out in the field may be more of a driver, if for no other reason than that more PAs result in those. Also, if a walk follows a 3-2 count instead of 3-0, there are two strikes that contribute zero, and therefore should reduce the estimated value of a strike, unless we come to grips with the effects in each count situation. I realize you will have thought of all this already. Many thanks.
@Mr Cthulhu: Brewers #1: Born in Wisc. and most of my family are fans of the teams there. #2 Orioles: As a kid I was a Senators v 2.0 fan, and when they left, the Orioles were on TV several times a week and became the obvious choice. #3 Nationals, as I still live in the DC area and they look like latter-day Senators, in uniforms and place in the standings. Judge away, I've heard it all :-)
Carlos Lee actually hit well enough for the Astros for a few years, but his fielding was so bad that his overall impact was nowhere near good enough. Had he been a DH somewhere, he might have put up 4 to 5 WARP annually in that period.
Boy am I glad to see a calm discussion of dual fandom in these comments. I root for three teams for various reasons. Almost everyone thinks this means I cannot "really" be a fan of any of them, whatever that means. Even though the teams are all perennial losers, I long ago determined what the pecking order would be if they ever did compete for something meaningful.
The Braves' pen is fearsome, but there is the question of whether Everyday Jonny et al will experience any fatigue in October, given their heavy use. I think the really telling difference is in the benches. The Brewers' bench is really weak. There is still time for Tyler Green to be a September call-up and earn a spot.
Carlos Ruiz has hit over .500 since his testicle contusion. Maybe we should all try to....no, probably not.
Gene Mauch once tiraded memorably, but I can't find a video. After chewing out the ump and getting the thumb, he went into the dugout and began to throw stuff on the field. He threw a bunch of batting helmets, which rolled around crazily. He threw a bunch of bats, which bounced end to end at various rhythms and then rolled around. He threw a case of bubble gum. He threw some gatorade cups. I forget what else. For some reason, the way that all that stuff bounced around while everyone stood patiently and quietly, waiting for it all to be over, cracks me up every time.
"two players at each position (regardless of league) who have most helped their teams stay close, turn things around, or pull away since the All-Star break"
Everyone discussed is on a contender because of this stated scope of the article.
@pobothecat: Charlie Brown did trade Snoopy away to PP, but then voided the deal after a sleepless night of agony..."Good grief! I traded my own dog!"
+1 John Collins.
Thanks, acarlisle, good stuff. I'm surprised at how often it has happened. I suppose though that the two phenomena aren't independent - a bad organization is bad on both sides of the ball.
I'm still puzzling over how Harden's medical outlook could sour a trade -after- it was already agreed to, as though it came as a shock that he is a risk. Who wouldn't have assumed that we can rate Harden a red-as-can-red-be red light health-wise, for the rest of his career? What did it say in his file that was a surprise, "Go Yankees"? And how much better a risk is it to trade four guys for Bedard?
Keep in mind that that wacky .172/.351/.483 line is based on 37 plate appearances. He's only had 1/3 of a season in the majors so far, and not in one continuous stretch.
Oops, just noticed your own announcement of that - sorry. Need to go to bed.
Just heard that this trade may not be finalized after all.
@Ron Peck: I can't put a finger on the year, but I have a recollection that the Orioles once walked the fewest times and gave up the most walks.
Was this a one-for-one deal? Any cash involved? Thanks. I know I can dig it up on the net, but I figure you may want to add the information anyway.
Emmanuel Burriss batting #5. You have got to be making that up. He can't outslug pitchers. That has to be some kind of message being delivered to the guys who might reasonably be expected to slug .350 or more.
I couldn't put my responses any better than Ken Funck did; I agree with every word he said. And drawbb is also completely on the mark. There will always be some calls that no umpire and no technology can completely confirm. In those situations, we can do no better than accept what the umpire thinks in his best judgment has happened, and approve of his honesty in an uncomfortable spot.
I don't see this as a Yankee column. It's about the rarity of pitching weak points on championship staffs. The Yankee angle is just an intro and humorous wrapup to the real topic. And if a writer is most familiar with team X, and they want to use team X to set up topics, or even as a subject themselves, why not. I would be surprised if NYY didn't get more than 1/30 the coverage in any baseball venue anyway. Unique team, unique opportunities to learn from them.
Nice article. We are kindred spirits in this. I also liked bobbygrace's story about Winfield. "Like a baby bird" - beautiful.
The closest I have come was standing near concessions far behind 1B at a Frederick Keys game, with a friend who had just bought an ice cream cone. A foul ball that we never saw coming obliterated the cone, but was pursued by a horde of scurrying kids, so we had no shot at retrieving the offending ball. The lucky kid probably wondered why it was sticky and tasted like strawberries.
@Steven G: HE has given a number of public statements now and again, and when combined with the inside-baseball comments of others involved over the years, they strongly suggest a project that he could not allow to be simply great, it had to be beyond anything anyone could imagine. He kept buying stories and kept buying stories, never finding the time to edit or write his introductions to them, and then he got boxed in: he had way too much material to publish in one book, way too much work to do to get it ready for publication, but too much ego invested in it to cut the scope and give back some of the stories. British writer Chris Priest (THE PRESTIGE) wrote an essay about it, not especially generous but with the feel of truth. It used to be on-line, but apparently it's no longer available. Too bad; it painted a vivid picture.
@Steven G: Ellison is a fascinating fellow, a man of many contradictions. One is that despite the invaluable points he makes in your source, his ego drives almost everything. His fierce loyalties and equally fierce feuds. His reaching intellect and his fisticuffs over points of literary debate. His insistence that LAST DANGEROUS VISIONS be the end-all of sf anthologies, decades in preparation and expansion beyond any realistic scope, while writers age and die without seeing publication or getting their work back. He's a huge, terrific writer, and an even bigger study in ego.
Consider it ironic if you like, but I liked this article enough to save a copy for future reference.
I read a lot of old fiction, but I had never heard of Kelland. Except for the references to actual films, the whole bio reads like fiction itself.
Harlan Ellison's work may or may not survive, but after he passes, his personality will live on in the form of a small, very hot sun, and although less will revolve around it than he might expect, it will be eons before it goes out in a nova, leaving nothing but empty space for parsecs around.
I've been shocked by how badly Mr Consistency Dunn has struggled. I doubt there's anyone, prospect or not, in AAA who couldn't do better than he has done, in hindsight. Granted the team knows the player better than I do, and maybe there's a very good reason to let him keep waving away out there, but so far that plan hasn't worked very well.
I'm not a Yankee fan or A-Rod fan to any degree, but I do think there is some merit in the idea that A-Rod tried to own up. For what it's worth, it seems to have changed Derek Jeter's mind about him. He may not have done it perfectly, and he may not be a candidate for Pope. This article and some of the comments are trying to get us to think about whether there's a mitigating aspect to his reputation. That's a far cry from uncritically beatifying him.
Not to excuse Gregg's role in the flap, but Red Sox pitchers hit brush back and hit batters constantly, so to hear any Sox take umbrage about pitches that didn't even hit the batter really galls me.
Don't know how to write about this, you say? Open vein, let it flow onto the page. That's how you do it, and that's what you did. This article is so good because you tapped into real feeling and held nothing back.
I appreciate how hard this is. I expect that managers change tendencies over time, so that some of their record probably doesn't really predict what can be expected now. I also expect that some alter their tendencies to fit their rosters, so they may handle the current team differently. I also think that ignoring the manager's effect on pitching altogether, and their attempts to maximize the focus of the players, can't really be right. But I have no better ideas. I do think that we ought to take even our best attempts with big grains of salt.
@cburnell: I think everything you say is absolutely correct. I just (and it's just my feeling, I could be missing the obvious) see it as nothing to get really exercised about, because harsh, unfair and premature words don't add up to really meaning anything. It's just one writer's opinion, in an article that falls under the "fun" category rather than the "advancing our understanding" column. Nobody's future opinions will be affected - his performance will drive that - and Wieters himself will never know what Steven Goldman thinks. So it seems like no harm is really done in any meaningful way. But I don't mean to offend those who feel differently; I just don't quite understand the impulse to take umbrage. But enough said already, i guess.
I have no idea whether scorers are givig Wieters unfair breaks, but in response to one remark above, actually it _is_ more likely that a scorer would do something like that than an umpire. Scorers are home town guys furnished by the team.
I agree that it's too early to use terms of finality about how Wieters will pan out, but while I respect the intellect of 99% of BPers, I don't really get the apparent fury about Steve's opinion. Articles like lists of busts are by their nature partly subjective, and really exist to generate discussion; here's one that succeeded at that. After all, what on earth is affected by this list, besides people's blood pressure? I may disagree with one or two of the choices, but I don't feel any outrage about it. My reaction is hmm, something to think about, maybe so, maybe not - rather than suspecting personal bile.
Dick Siebert's big year was 1941 rather than '42, which makes it all the more inexplicable that a guy who would finish at .251 with 1 HR (wish there were advanced metrics to look at for this era) would start the '43 ASG at 1B. There's got to be some sort of story there.
Why did Hegan play for 20 years, with a career OPS of .634 and 9 WARP (plus probably a handful from before 1950)? Must have called a brilliant game, gelled the locker room, etc. He wasn't too bad for the 1948 pennant winners, I guess.
I actually think it's kind of fun to have guys who've been hot for half a season turn up in the ASG. If we're going to have to explain away one thing or another, I'd rather have this than have a guy who was good in years past get in with a lousy resume for the current year. Many fans won't have seen these guys play very much, so there's some novelty value. And that wouldn't hurt anyone if the game had no real stakes attached to it....
Re WARP for pitchers: it seems OK to me for WARP to measure the player's overall impact; after all, that's what it does for position players. I think though that pitchers being considered for the all-star game ought to be able to waive their hitting and maybe their fielding too. I doubt that anyone in the history of all-star voting has stopped for one moment to think about the hitting of the candidate pitchers, and their fielding only comes up if it is visibly superior. It's not a real factor in the voting. Therefore I think WARP is probably not ideal for choosing the pitchers.
Connie Mack :-) This year is the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, and next year is the sesquicentennial of Connie Mack.
If Doug Davis is washed up, I'll miss him. I liked him, He did some decent pitching for Milwaukee, and he faced down some unusual challenges to his career.
Riggleman is saying that he did not say "pick up the option or I'm gone", but rather, "agree to at least talk about it or I'm gone." I still don't understand the decision. But I suppose there are a lot of hypothetically possible conversations that might make it more understandable, and we'll never know (what if team personnel were personally insulting to Riggleman, or said something like "Werth wants you gone, so you may as well go"?) But if it sucks to be there, why would you want your option picked up?
Stupid owners who waste their team's resources are nothing new, and fans, the "citizens' of the baseball "nation", vent fury about it all the time. I guess the question in my mind is, do they really hurt baseball, i.e., do they harm the baseball "economy" overall, or do they just shift the balance of power within it?
Riggleman is saying on local radio that he was frustrated that Rizzo would not even discuss the option matter, after repeated requests. Even so, what does he gain by this? If he hates the environment there so much, why would he want his option picked up? Odd.
Can't + bossfan101's observation directly, so consider this a +.
Putting Adam Kennedy at 1B would be a great way to cancel out the value of Ackley at 2B.
Very interesting observations about the home/away dichotomy. Thanks!
Ironically "kerning" has the r-n combination and at first I did not recognize the word.
Sweeping the Cards and getting licked by the Schlubs raises this crazy home/away issue they're having. Can it be real in any way? Can it be mental at this point? Small sample of course, but it's not like Wrigley is a long grueling trip from home, where the STL series took place.
I should have added: thanks for this, it's really cool to see. Whatever it's quirks, it is an early example of performance analysis.
"How would you adjust the weightings...?" This is what linear weights approaches attempt to answer.
Everybody, including Ruth, got 100 points for "Hit for Club", so it can't really be bat handling given the accompanying comments. Also, it is completely irrelevant to separating these players, apparently.
It would be ironic if Pablo Sandoval is playing catcher against Pittsburgh, when a play at the plate unfolds...
I shudder to think of you sitting through that murderer's row of horrendous movies. I mean, some bad movies are funny-bad, but that chimp-a-thon you list is just punishing.
Very nice job.
I was prepared to scold you for not perceiving that the annoying girl was also struggling with how to approach the person of the opposite sex that she was awkwardly attracted to - boy did i have that wrong.
And I sure didn't see the excellent metaphor coming down the middle for strike three.
Somebody in the game must know something specific that can explain Wood's complete combustion. There appears to be such a thing as a 4A player, but this is something beyond that. If he is such an easy victim in the majors, seemingly for any sort of pitcher who comes along, it's hard to understand why so few in the minors were able to get him out. Pitches in the minors do have some tools, after all, and that seems to be all it takes.
He got knocked out of the previous game by an HBP, but I don't know whether anything happened in this game beyond jawing. My guess is he will temper this kind of stuff, whether he gets plunked or not. He's a cocky teenager. That will probably mature soon into confident young adult.
I'm sure LaRoche would like the chance to bring his BA up, but I don't see a reason to make compromises in his recovery so that he maximizes his chances of playing again this year. Even if he plays at his best for a month, the Nats are not going to win the pennant, but if he's fully ready to go next year, that might mean something.
Gus Bell's fielding in CF (-28.2) cost the Reds the 1956 pennant! (They finished 2 GB.)
I'm sure other flaws on the team can be found. As I recall, their starting pitching wasn't great. But this is kind of fun to stumble on.
As is the whole article.
Thinking about the fact that only 3 of the top 50 seasons belong to 1Bmen (as stated under #25 Pujols). Does that ring true? The top 1Bmen are typically among the top offensive producers. They seem less likely to put up the highest levels of FRAA, but then FRAA are not contributing the lion's share of any of these WARP scores. Does it raise any questions to find that 1Bmen appear about half as often as they would if the distribution across positions were uniform? The same number of slots as accrued by SSs, even though the metric is dominated by offense? It appears that the defensive spectrum is different for superstars than it is for good or ordinary players, i.e., the offensive monster who is very limited defensively doesn't turn up at this loftiest level.
@NYYanks826, I noticed that too about Brooks Robinson, and here and there are other examples of someone who had one high-top-10 finish and then (based on the scores of those at the bottom of the top 10) nothing even close in any other season. Look at Andruw Jones, with a 37.8 and then nothing as high as 24.6. Robinson never got within 75% of his best season. I wonder whether this reflects an effect of commonplace non-DL injuries that pull down most seasons, and then one totally healthy season in one's prime surges far beyond anything else.
Cool note about the nefarious Bullseye, thanks! I wonder if he set up the victim with a couple of breaking balls down and away, first. I can just imagine the argument on the mound if the manager came out to make a change, with the target coming up to hit.
Sort of on topic, there's a pretty good graphic novel called THE GOLEM'S MIGHTY SWING, about, yes, a golem who plays ball. Can't recall the creator(s). I suppose a golem is a superhero, of sorts.
In the first (or maybe second) issue of Marvel's KA-ZAR, there is a brief episode of unrest among the jungle tribes that KZ rules, and it turns out to be a dispute about the infield fly rule - KZ has taught them baseball because he can never return to the regular world where he lived as a kid to see the real thing.
It only amounts to about one win given away, but it's worth noting that the Braves are dead last in Team Baserunning, by a good margin. Leading the team and all of baseball in this "slug"-ing is Chipper Davis and what's left of his legs.
Riffing off of Behemoth's question: is it important that MLB and its fans and reporters recognize the value and findings of sabermetrics, or is it OK to be content to observe and learn?
It looks like the strategy is not paying off directly in additional runs, but a tenth of a run is within the noise of many of our measures, and so if it has any other benefit (morale, distracting opponents, selling tickets, whatever) it's possibly even a small plus.
@ramtax re Kendry Morales's injury and players modifying their behavior: a similar thing occurred in football when a player jumped in the air to celebrate and came down wrong. Players still do the same thing, though, and I think this reflects their belief that it was just a rare, fluky kind of thing. On the other hand, as you suggest, it's a pretty needless risk.
Ah yes, thanks Michael, I did mis-read the legend. Makes sense now.
He Hate Me may have played arena football, I wouldn't be surprised, but I think the HHM thing started in the XFL, a short-lived outdoor rival of the NFL, created by folks who tried to bring the all-flash/little-substance nature of pro wrestling over to football. That may be even more removed from serious football than arena is, I guess.
I think Ichiro's jersey should now read "He Hate Me". (apologies for the football reference)
I was stunned by the graph of batted balls vs. angle. I would have expected a smooth curve, not the highly multi-modal thing we see. It's hard for me to understand this unless all hitters are able to place their batted balls to within 5 or 10 degrees of the hole. Is that the case? If so, wow.
I'm torn about whether to root for Rich Thompson to get a shot. He has one MLB PA, long ago, and is batting .000. You'd like to see a guy get more of a chance than that. On the other hand, he must have hit into an error or fielder's choice, as he has a SB and a run scored, and maybe it can't really go up from there.
Outstanding stuff. Just completely outstanding.
One advantage of having everybody wear 42 is that no one will be asking anyone why they chose not to.
Top-notch article, Jay. Many thanks.
The fair/foul rule is not written as well as most, IMO. For example, in the Comment on Rule 2.00, it says "if the ball...is touched by a player on foul territory, it is a foul ball". I assume that it means "touched by a player while the ball is on foul territory..." given the other statements about where the player is standing being irrelevant, but it could easily be interpreted to mean that a player could reach over from foul territory to make a fair ball foul.
I'm not sure a pitcher would like to be known as a "walkin' fool" (see BP article earlier this week about ridiculous displays of wildness) but that is a cool thing Rooker did.
There was a 14-run bottom-of-the-9th rally at Virginia Tech to win 15-14 some while ago, but darned if I can find anything about it on the web. Somewhere I have a clipping. I'm sure the situation is rare enough that the empirical probability of success would be rather high since it was actually done once, but I'd be interested to know what the odds were given ordinary distributions of runs in an inning.
A team of all-stars against the 1964 Mets. There may have been a balance-of-play issue with that one.
I love tabletop baseball games. Invented a Statis-Pro-like one at about age 12, then discovered Statis-Pro itself, which became a mania for many years. Replayed all of 1956 NL to see whether I could get the Braves the pennant (nope). For some reason my friends and I did not discover SOM until much later, and never really even tried APBA.
This is great stuff, thanks! Fascinating throughout.
One bit of off-topic pedantry: I believe Yonamine never played in the NFL, as the 49ers had not yet joined that league. But it was top-level pro football.
Flu? Sounds more like walking pneumonia...
The catcher's mask corral - how is that scored? Error? Interference? Or just "advanced on 7.04(e) (catcher)"?
I wonder whether anyone ever had a higher SIERA:ERA ratio than Paul Siebert, who put up 5.97:3.77 in 129 IP. (I couldn't remember who he was, so I clicked on his name above.) He was running an even wider disparity before his last year, when he gave the Mets 6.60:5.14.
Outward appearances do consistently suggest that Swisher is a good egg.
Nishiola failed to jump out of the way of Swisher. If that is a tendency, then it is his "fault" in the sense of whether it is predictive.
I was at Broderick's debut, from a close vantage. I've never seen a pitcher look more nervous. I would have thought he might have got the worst of his butterflies out in spring training, but he looked like he could throw up at any minute. Hope he gets some happier memories than that to think back on after his MLB time is over.
As much as I hate W/L as a stat myself, no single game makes the case, any more than one wind-assisted homer renders HR a meaningless stat. If everyone gets screwed like Sabathia did, in equal proportion, it's fine. It's the fact that the randomness in W/L does not balance out across a season, or even multiple seasons, that rules it out as reliable.
Has anyone had a career like Bill Bergen's? OPS around .350 and often well under it, on 300+ plate appearances, year after year, for a decade?
Similarly, when there's going to be a play at the plate, everyone stands up, although everyone would see it fine if they all remained seated. If you're old and craeky and can't stand up quickly, you miss the play. People react differently to such stimuli, and like it or not, we kind of have to all meet each other halfway.
This article gives me great comfort that we're still going to be in good hands with this material. Good job.
I am one of those who is shocked to see that Winn's career for Dye's would be an even trade. Nice little gem there.
@Chadwicks: Even Proust himself meets this description, profusely. It's not clear that he really valued brevity.
Re Nyjer Morgan, I'd like to be more optimistic that he will be useful, but he's kind of a knucklehead, was really pretty bad last year, and failed to beat out Ankiel.
Not only might they be able to find a decent 1B for 2012 and reduce the damage of losing Fielder, but they may also be able to affordably add a couple of wins at C, or SS, or CF, given that those positions look to be mediocre again.
@harderj: The Mariners are going to be playing Jack Wilson at 2B, at least temporarily. When Ackley comes up he will probably be superfluous. Not a star, but he can play the position.
I'm a little bit confused. Just a couple of years ago, at the MLB level, defense was the rage and we had Brendan Ryan types all over the place. I guess some clubs' wires must have been crossed about what they were putting priority on.
@tgrcub: Just for an instant I thought I'd read "Fire new manager Kirk Gibson", which struck me as premature. But I suppose it could turn out to be the hidden subtext in your wording.
Measuring performance against a more or less arbitary baseline is useful to understanding performance level. Not the only way to look at it, but one useful way. Specific cases where replacements turn out to be better than the player they replace do not affect that fact. Wally Pipp's value to the 1925 Yankees is a different question from Wally Pipp's context-free performance level. The hypothetical aspect of RP is actually crucial to exploring the latter.
Mr. Jenkins managed to knock down a straw man and spray ad hominem all over in just that short passage deholm1 quoted. Logical fallacies per paragraph, a stat we can all grasp the meaning of.
@jrbdmb: The problem is that we have no way of knowing how the committee used such data, or even whether they really did. They go in a locked room, make their decisions, and emerge with long mealy-mouthed explanations that explain nothing.
@Mike Fast: Artificial surfaces are another era-dependent factor that could alter average BABIP. I wonder, without any data, whether there have been changes on the distribution of ball-strike counts at the time of contact.
Washington can pencil the name Feliz into his rotation, and the name Verducci into his rolodex.
@R.A., clearly Ben had the band in mind and you were in tune with him. I was noting my own out-of-touchness, I guess. @cooper7d7, I didn't mean to come off that way, I guess I didn't think through how it sounded.
Huh. The phrase "tragically hip' predates the band by at least a decade. I didn't even think of the band when I saw that.
Interesting that only about 6% of QS are of an iffy sort. If that's enough to discard the entire stat as useless, as Mr. Chass would apparently say, then we must also be done with errors, ERA, park- or league- or era-unadjusted BA and XBH, certainly W-L, and probably most of the other traditional stats that he feels captured everything we'd ever want to know.
Thanks for your response, Jeremy. I have no better suggestion than 25%, and I'm sure trying to settle on exactly the right pitches for each individual would be a huge undertaking. Simplifying assumptions are a part of life. The only thing that pricks my ears up about it is the fact that the loss of velocity is so often so small, relative to the initial velocity. Upon finding a small difference, or a gentle curve, amidst lots of noise and assumptions, it's often tough to be sure it's a real effect. It sounds as though you've thought about that. Very interesting stuff.
Another Brewers pitcher of yore, Matt Wise, hurt his finger using tongs at a salad bar. Steve Sparks dislocated a shoulder trying to rip a phone book in half. Part of me is surprised Greinke didn't hurt himself playing badminton, or hopscotch, or chess. I don't think we can expect ballplayers to live risk-free offseason lifestyles, avoiding all physical activity. It's just bad luck.
I always had fun saying Hiram Bocachica.
Jeremy, in response to your question above (I can't get the Post Reply button to work for me or I'd have responded directly), my question about statistical significance is directed at the regressions underlying the table showing velocity changes after 100 pitches. When I see a delta of somewhere around +/- 1 mph compared to 85 to 95 mph initial values, with data as noisy as these probably are, I wonder whether the regressions' coefficients are statistically different from zero, and if they are, whether they're stable enough to put faith in their fit at the edges of the dataset.
The other half of my question had to do with the 25% cutoff for identifying fastballs. I certainly understand the merits of choosing one cutoff, but unavoidably there some folks will have a lot of other pitches mixed into that group, others fewer. Therefore, if a pitcher's mix of pitches changes at all as the game moves along, this alone could possibly produce both the small deltas found within any one pitcher's data and the differences across pitchers. In other words, the findings could be an artifact of that assumption.
It's a good article and I'm glad to see such work, so I'm not trying to attack it. But it's our job as the readership to probe the science and make sure it stands up.
I wonder whether those deltas of +/- 1.0 or so are statistically significant. Also, could they be a result of the error introduced by (necessarily) using the same 25% cutoff for isolating everyone's fastball?
I'm fine with Wieters being here. Look at the conversation it has generated, which is really the point of articles like this. Another high-pick C that comes to mind now when thinking of Wieters is B.J. Surhoff, who was expected to hit but put up TAvs in the mid-to-lowish .200s for almost all of his many years in Milwaukee, before blossoming somewhat in Baltimore. But he played til age 40, and generally added something to a team. There are worse legacies.
@RedsManRick, I think you're right. Certainly it's true of book people that talking about books and reading books about books often surpasses reading the books of interest themselves for a while, sometimes forever.
I've been a metafan of baseball since age 6 but for me the real game and the meta stuff augment each other. Neither dominates. But it took some bravery to write this article, and I'm glad that the reception has been what it should be: accepting.
Thanks for the review. As an aside to Phil's discussion, the idea that referees should swallow their whistles and "let the players decide it" late in the game infuriates me. Clearly, this amounts to letting some of the players play without constraints of fairness, and forcing other players to suddenly lose that protection. If there's no such thing as traveling all of a sudden, then the defenders are not being allowed to "decide" it. Oh how this makes me fume.
This was fun.
I wonder whether opening day, and its opposing ace on the mound, is disproportionally represented among the batters' debuts.
Very enjoyable. I know these must be time-consuming to compose, but they're great fun.
I think the Nats are straining to create some buzz with these press conferences, because with the news that Stephen Strasburg would miss the whole year, the whole fanbase just deflated and wrote off 2011 - portending a likely bottoming-out of ticket sales.
@Richie: I disagree with the contradiction you suggest. The word "know" is being used in different ways. There's a big difference between the yellow journalism of blogging something amounting to "y'know, I always kinda thought that guy was dirty" and doing actual reporting, which would produce and present facts.
I am curious about why Japanese shortstops' arms are insufficent for MLB. The distances are the same. Do MLB hitters run faster, or hit more grounders into the hole?
Bobby Grich was one of my favorite players long before I'd heard of Bill James, and I was delighted to find that better metrics rated his accomplishments highly. I think it's a lost cause, but I still hope he'll somehow get his broader recognition, from the HOF or some other way.
I really enjoyed this interview too. Too bad about his 1968 HBP injury, because his 1967 season was really quite good, and who knows what he might have been able to follow up with, even in that hellish year for hitters. In 1967 he was good enough to make the AS team, even though another player from his own team and own position (sort of) was also on the team.
Interesting, R.A., thanks.
I'm sorry Richie, I agree with you about poetic license and journalism, but I don't think this is journalism at all, and doesn't pretend to be, in my view. Either way, I hope you'll reconsider ignoring all future Hertzel pieces because one was disagreeable to you.
I agree with PeterBNYC. If there's some poetic license taken with some of the patriotic phrasing, I think most of us understand that. I think it fits the nature of the piece, which is not a doctoral thesis on the manifestation of patriotism in WW2. I cannot understand the comment about Waitkus and sex at all. So what?
I wonder why some organization doesn't try to gather the best scouts by raising pay. Huge sums are paid out all over the organization; why scrimp here to the degree that salaries are notably low?
Did I say 82 games a year? I blame my fat finger.
Re Olympic Stadium: I'm sure you'll laugh, but I saw a bunch of games there, and always enjoyed it. I'm not sure 82 games a year wouldn't get old, but I liked how it was different from other venues: people playing trombone in the stands, goofy bleu-blanc-rouge getups on both mascot and fans, French PA (in my head I will always say "Larry Walker" with the French inflections it received there), different food before every stadium had that, rock bands on the concourse, the startling architecutre of the roof support. I miss it, actually.
Very good point, Richie, thanks.
Tom Boswell, in his column Friday for the Washington Post, notes that Crawford has hit relatively poorly in Fenway (.275/.301/.406 in 338 PAs). He then observes that, if that were to continue, CC in Fenway would amount to a speedy guy with little offense and little arm - comparable to scads of toolsy 4A corner OFs. But a pricey one.
Garland is one of the guys I thought the Brewers might have made an effort to get. For them he would probably be #3, and if they could have had him for $6 million....
@smocon re Brewers: Your points are all sound. But the players at the core of today's Brewers are internally grown. We're already at the point in such a program where the team is within reach of winning. Some now are on the verge of leaving. It makes more sense to me to try to make 2011 pay off before key cogs leave, and then re-adjust back to building. With decent pitching, I don't understand why a 2011 playoff spot would be a pipe dream.
I'm glad to see the Brewers take some steps regarding the rotation. I've been growing nervous as a number of decent FA starters got signed up. None were superb players, but the Brewers don't need superb, they need league-average. smocon's math doesn't seem to average in the value of Lawrie if he doesn't pan out so well, nor the need to win now.
If the MVP award is meant to be subjective, and to depend on team success and other externalities, then do we need another award for Best Non-Pitcher?
Great stories, thanks!
Re Boswell, in comparison to the As pitchers who burned out: Boswell did throw 256 innings in 1969, with 10 CG, but that was not that unusual for the era, was it? It was a jump from what he was used to, but not insanely, it seems to me. I actually don't know what finished him - apparently injury, but what kind?
I think Mr. Jaffe did an estimable job here of trying to fairly dissect these complex candidacies. I would prefer neither Martin nor Steinbrenner were honored in this way, but this article does show why there's a non-trivial discussion to be had. Some reactions are emotional, similar to those that argue for a player along the lines of "He was our hero in 19xx, we'll never forget him nor that wonderful summer, and on top of that he was a good guy. Smith is in and he hit 10 points lower." Only these fall along the lines of "he was such an inexcusable jackass, how can we stomach calling him the best?" Good stuff to know, but not enough to settle the matter. I found npb7768's response about Martin both very entertaining and iluminating, but I'm not sure how comfortable I am with dismissing Martin's record as one of being lucky over and over and over. Still in the end I agree - is this the sort of career we honor? We need a new kind of HOF plaque, the Dissenting Opinion, to be mounted next to the regular one, and depicting the player in a dunce cap, a prison cap, or whatever is appropriate.
Not to change the subject, but what happened to Dave Boswell? Pitched pretty well from age 20 to 25, then out of the league by 27?
Many of the projections were pretty close to 50/50. I'm not sure that the difference between what was projected and what happened was enough to be statistically signficant.
I hear the phrase "a triple short of the cycle" as an entirely positive figure of speech, not as indicating a failure to do anything. Thus I can't get worked up about it as I might if I dissected it literally word by word. But I have my own pet irritations like this, so I can relate.
Love Klipzlskim's story about Tejada spraying the ball around to all fields (except the outfield).
Niese took over sole possession of the disaster-start lead this afternoon by getting bludgeoned by Milwaukee.
The Brewers should be done with free agent starters named Jeff. If Jeff Francis turns out to be the big splash for them this summer, 3rd or 4th place will again beckon. Francis has better control and stuff than Suppan, but has shoulder trouble on his resume. Francis will be 30, has had more bad years than good, with a couple of modestly successful years, while Suppan was 32, and had had a couple of good years and a bunch of struggles to his name when they signed him. They can probably find a cheaper way to get 150 innings of 4.63ish ERA.
"the Snakes employ Allen because going without a first baseman would betray a lack of seriousness"
I don't think even Eddie Feigner tried that. But perhaps we shouldn't scoff at innovation.
Re ESPN readers exploding, EQA was changed to TAv in the hope, perhaps forlorn, that it would be more palatable to a wider audience. I wonder whether WXRL shouldn't be the next acronym traded in. It can't be pronounced like a word, and it doesn't stand for anything exactly, and it just looks arcane and intimidating.
This is exciting. It sounds like a pretty momentous advance, unless it turns out that nothing changes all that much. The thinking, anyway, sounds spot-on.
I agree with j11forbes that it's hard to see the case that Pena would replace all of the offense that Dunn is likely to provide. But if I recall correctly, Boswell didn't say that the Nats believe Pena's offense will match Dunn's, but that the front office prefers to trade some of that offense for defense at 1B. They apparently blame Dunn for some of the many errors by the middle infielders, and also like the idea of helping the pitchers out a little more on balls hit to that side. All of this may have been a negotiating ploy, anyway. There are now signs that he may sign an extension.
@BillJohnson: I interpret Olney's statement to indicate that Zimmerman himself will hit less, not simply be isolated as the only production in the lineup. That's why the example of Cabrera strikes me as ridiculous. How much more damage do we think he could have done? The reason I read it that way is the emphasis on who is hitting behind Zimmerman, not simply elsewhere in the lineup. I could be wrong in how I'm reading it. If instead the point is that losing Dunn and not replacing him will mean less offense, I can't argue with that - it's not only not hard to understand, it's a trivial observation.
Sigh. Yes, Buster, isn't it a shame how modest Miguel Cabrera's contributions have been because there's no slugger to hit behind him. He's had to struggle along at .326/.417/.611. I'm sure he could do a lot better with some help. How can Mr. Olney not see the obvious nonsense in this? I know I'm preaching to the choir, but what can we ever do if this is the kind of logical howler passes for common knowledge?
In any event, Dunn is now making positive statements about signing and extension and being a Nat in '11.
175 plate appearances seems like a curious cutoff. Does it add someone who didn't reach 200 both at home on the road? Unusual threshholds like this - "he's one of five players with 375 homers, 275 steals, and 225 sac bunts" - always raise questions to me about whether putting the threshhold at a tidy round number would change the story.
Also curious is the use of Raw TAv, which I believe only omits elements of TAv that would apply equally to home and road performance anyway, so the same list of players would appear in the same order with TAv.
But these are minor curiosities, not intended to ruin any nerdy fun.
Very interesting finding.
As to ranking the teams, one could put more weight on beating good teams than on losing to bad ones, or vice versa. Offhand I don't see a strong reason to lean either way. A team can get to X wins the easy way, or the hard way, but it doesn't matter which. Except: it certainly does raise the question of which might fare better in the post-season.
This has been a lot of fun, and I hope there's something interesting to look at next year. Projecting races in single categories, though, like HRs or BA, will probably not show us much more than simply extrapolating current numbers would. Projecting the ERA race could be more interesting - it would be crucial to predict who everyone's remaining opponents would be. What else besides the Triple Crown race consists of multiple related but different metrics? WARP?
@Mike White: Football is different from the other sports in that almost no one coming right out of high school is physically ready for pro-level competition. I don't know how much this figures into the NFL's rationale for the rule, but I would guess it would be very, very rare for such a player to be competitive and remain healthy long enough to be worth drafting.
36 triples is a hell of a lot. I can imagine some oddball stadium of the future combining with a good fast hitter to approach that, but that's probably what it will take.
I'm not sure how to manipulate the BP statistics to get all-time records for sabermetric measures, but I'm guessing Barry Bonds's TAv of .451 in 2002 and VORP of 145.1 in 2001 (Ruth got into the 130s I think) may be hard to reach. 2004's 1.421 OPS I'm also guessing is the record (Ruth reached the 1.300s three times). Adding on to DavidK44's observation above, 232 walks of all kinds in '04 seems like a long shot.
I agree with houstonuser. History given with from a smart analytical point of view is very appealing.
Didn't Willard Marshall have one of the all-time most surprising home run seasons, like Brady Anderson or Davey Johnson? I suppose we can't blame PEDs, but I wish we could know something about why that happens.
I wonder whether Gamel will finish well enough that Fielder could be traded for pitching over the winter without the fans rebelling.
It's possible that no trading partner was highly interested in a player (Wiggy) who is out of position at 2B, and would be ordinary offensively wherever he would be adequate defensively, especially if one accounts for the fact that he had a ridiculous run of homers early in the season that he was not able to maintain. Still, you'd think he'd be as useful as some of the guys who were moved elsewhere.
Very interesting article. I should go back to read your earlier MORP articles about whether the value of player-wins is linear. I have always thought that the reason this might not be true is that concentrating value in one position has value itself. Otherwise, it would make sense to trade a 24-win player for 25 one-win players, but if a team did this it would finish below .500. The limited number of positions on the roster means that the high-value player in one position increases the ceiling of the team and allows for some other positions to fall short and still succeed as a team.
Among many good points, 18 is one that makes a lot of sense but I have not seen suggested before. In my field, many people have a tendency to say that sure, there are errors surrounding our estimates, but as long as we look at relative performance and not absolutes, it shouldn't matter much. Wrong.
For what it's worth, observers, including announcer Dave Johnson, thought Brad Mills was mediocre at best against Baltimore, despite the results.
When I saw that Fu-Te Ni had been sent down, I immediately thought here's a chance to make a funny reference in a comment, but, no, Christina was way ahead of me with exactly the joke I had come up with. She doesn't miss a trick.
Coincidentally a friend and I had just been discussing some of the worst teams ever, such as the 1916 As, 40 games out of 7th place. Which brought us around to the fun book ON A CLEAR DAY THEY COULD SEE SEVENTH PLACE, by George Robinson and Charles Salzberg. As a fan of a couple of baseball's least successful teams, it's nice to have this book handy to remind me that things could be much worse.
Very interesting article, thanks. I appreciate the dashes of older history BP is mixing in with the current studies.
These guys were a close second in the vanguard in many ways and first in some important ones, yet I for one really knew nothing about all of this. Did anyone know who hit the first HR by a black player in the AL? Admittedly Brown hit .178, in his generous opportunity of 67 PA, but Witte, the guy who moaned about having to go down, was hitting .141 in twice the chances, so even by the metrics of the day, he had not earned any more breaks than Brown.
"Brajamel Giamordred" is just brilliant. I have begun writing a seven-book series about his exploits on worlds far and near.
It bums me out but I have to agree with this logic. Not that it would occur in Milwaukee either way, but Fielder's projections suggest he will hit 500 HRs and provide somewhere around 50 career WARP. The projections do not show the sudden dropoff that big sluggers sometimes experience. Even if that does happen, he's going to make some lucky team very happy in the meantime.
It's a good question about overfitting. I was surprised that no variables that reflect getting on base made the cut for the model, and this may be why. The good R-squares don't add up to much, because adding any variables at all in an already overfitted model will raise R-squared but it doesn't mean much in such a case. Simple regression on a time variable also has its issues.
But Jay has not made any big claims about the model (though he did use the word "robust") and hasn't based a lot of further work on it. I get the impression it's meant as a first step at this stage.
Back-of-the-envelope, a difference of 0.005 in league DE (about the biggest difference from 2010 in the table above) equates to about 0.015 more plays made by each team per game. So if a team accomplishes this with defensive aces at a significant expense to the offense at, say, two positions, they could afford to lose up to a .0075 hits per game from each of them before the trade-off hurt the team. it would be better of course to translate both sides of the question in to runs. It would be interesting to see this calculation done rigorously.
Not that it should be a factor in making this decision, but as an aside, there's always some chance - though maybe not great with this particular pen - that the no-hitter would have been completed after Jackson was removed. I can recall this happening to Bob Milacki and Steve Barber in Baltimore, and Vida Blue and Mark Langston. I think there are some more of these, perhaps the strangest of all no-hitters. I know in Milacki's case he left with an injury, and Barber made Jackson look like Greg Maddux with I think 10 walks plus a few HBPs and WPs, but I don't know the story behind the rest.
I cannot understand the Orioles' interest in Wedge. Other than ML experience, does he have any strengths on his resume?
Davey Johnson came immediately to mind to me too. He had fewer than 43 HRs in the four years prior to 1973 combined, all of them full seasons, and 1970-72 fall within the era studied. But maybe he didn't get really hot until after June 15.
I don't know about "essentially unrivaled in the annals of baseball lore" if it's rivaled within a homer or two by eight guys since 1970. I'm willing to bet that Babe Ruth and others probably had this happen to them in the 20s, and then maybe the same rate of a guy every five years or so in intervening eras as well. Common, though, no, clearly.
I agree with every word Schere writes. I've been watching the Orioles since 1970, and I've never seen so many hopes for the future implode at once. Maybe this is one sort of situation that a managerial change can affect.
Looks like the Orioles may lose even more ground to the other teams in the division in the coming years.
Interesting note and brilliant title to the article. Thanks.
I wonder what attracts the Orioles to Eric Wedge. Did the Indians make positive progress or advance the development of any young players while he was there? I heard people saying he seemed limited as a manager, but I'm curious what those who know more about it think.
@TangoTiger, in your first comment you compute a rate based on "conducive' conditions. Can't apply that rate to all games since 1900, since all games are not conducive, so the estimate of 22 perfect games, while enticingly accurate, doesn't hold up.
I agree with your latest point, though. If all nine batters are going to bat exactly three times each, and any non-out by anyone zeroes the chance of a perfect game, then the order in which they bat doesn't matter (assuming there's no psychological effect of mounting outs etc). The idea that it does is probably a confusion with the idea that it affects the probability of stringing several events together and thus scoring, but we're not talking about shutouts here.
@Nate Sheetz: I respectfully disagree about regressing to the mean. Selecting a population that approximately, but not precisely, matches the player in question, and then adjusting estimates on that basis, is more likely to introduce bias than to reduce it. I believe that this generally is going to be the case in any realm with a huge number of variables, most of which we cannot measure. The true parameters underlying the performance of even the same player are different from year to year, let alone a different mix of players playing in different circumstances for each year. One must accept that some variation simply is not going to be accounted for. Regression to the mean is best understood as a phenomenon to account for where appropriate, not an adjustment to be made in every analysis.
R.A Wagman: right-click on the link and select "Open in New Tab" or "Open in New Window".
I love the name Starlin Castro. With the "star" in there, I think of him as Astro Castro, and I can't help but hope he ends up in Houston one day.
Something about Gould's argument about the distribution of hitters puzzles me. If hitters are piling up against the wall on the high end, that alone doesn't mean they should have a lower chance of hitting .400 (though it does mean the chance of hitting like Brandon Wood, er, I mean Ray Oyler should go down). In fact if the wall were at .406 since at least 1941, we should see more and more .406 seasons. There would have to be something moving the wall to the left also for .400 to dwindle away. So we're back to the list of hypothetical reasons.
Terrific interview, thanks. I remember Baldwin as a player fondly but had no idea he was this sort of thinker.
Speaking of word definitions, it never fails to boggle me that someone named their kid "Merkin", given that word's meaning.
The mascot on the Trucks card: it's a brownie, a type of elf.
I second boc4life, Dead Player of the Day is a lot of fun.
As is TGABCTFABGB, Jay - probably as enjoyable as any baseball book I own. The comment next to Coot Veal's card is simply "Coot Veal??", and cracks me up to this day. Fun stuff, serious stuff, great stuff for any fan whose attention reaches back to the 60s and earlier.
If the Brewers can have a pitcher hurt himself using the salad tongs at a buffet (Matt Wise, 2006), I see no reason to be surprised that one can hurt himself sleeping. Wise was so fragile that he also hurt his shoulder losing his grip on a dugout railing.
I think both Attanasio and Levine have good points. However, Levine challenges small-market teams to spend their handouts from large-market teams on the team, and the Brewers have done that, so that response doesn't shoot Attanasio down. On the other hand, the list of recent pennant winners does show a lot of small-market and low-payroll teams. If the large-market teams are frustrated with how some small-market teams are using the redistribution, then they should put some teeth in the rules.
cwc has gone beyond looking at batter and pitcher splits to looking at infinitives split.
Trying to remember - has anyone studied whether the opportunity for the first baseman to cover more field instead of holding a runner detracts significantly from the value of a successful steal? Thanks.
Unfortunately I don't think the section headed "The Proof" is proof of much. The question of whether Utley should attempt more steals is not settled, and in fact the conclusion begs off, saying that the answer would "depend on variables that change from game to game and inning to inning". That's true of everything sabermetricians study, but it doesn't mean that general truths can't be teased out of large enough datasets by well designed studies. Maybe someone will follow up on the tease title given to this piece.
I'd be happy if the Brewers got in on the bidding for either. Risk looks different from the perspective of trying to replace below-replacement-level work, in a winnable division.
There's entirely too much fresh and amusing writing here. Where are the binary logit models? (ducks flying frying pans) Kidding, of course.
Pitchers strike out so much, and such a plate appearance I'm guessing involves less exertion than a ball in play, especially reaching base and having to run all-out, slide etc. I wonder whether an effect might be detected if their innings after striking out were set aside. If the data would support it, it would be interesting to see whether there is any difference among all the possibilities: innings after no at-bat, innings after a strikeout, innings after making an out in the field or reaching base and getting stranded there, and innings after reaching base and having to run the bases.
Mike Tiernan? An inside joke of some kind?
Love these articles. The topic will always be interesting. Thanks.
But more than a few star awards.
I was surprised there was no significant correlation between team performance early in one's career and individual performance later, not because of any culture-related or psychological hypothesis, but because I would have thought the lousy teams would be more prone to botching player development. The findings would appear to rule out that relationship as well, at least at the ML level.
I may be off the geeky deep end, but I'd be interested in seeing the actual numbers you came up with, in support of your conclusion. A regression diagnostic or two.
Regarding the "fungibility" of payroll money: I have never worked for a sports franchise, but the companies I have worked for have certainly not set operating budgets based on carrying over all unspent funds from the year before. If a given year's budget was not fully spent, management did not automatically add the surplus to what they made available for operation in the coming year, at least in the industries I've been exposed to. It went to profit, debt paydown, other business activities, lots of other things.
It's straightforward, rather than ironic, that Don Denkinger would be sympathetic to expanded replay. Had it existed then, his mistake would be meaningless and forgotten, instead of remembered as the sine qua non of huge bad calls. An ump who has never suffered that spotlight might not get why replay is good for him, but Denkinger does.
What time frame is covered in this study? Thanks.
Sean Henn - didn't he pitch for Ridgemont High?
TGisriel: you're forgetting Roberts himself. "None" would be the answer to "How many OTHER Orioles have done that?", which is I'm sure what Steve G. meant.
Strictly speaking, straight linear regression isn't appropriate for estimating percentages, because the errors can't be distributed normally (they can't go outside of +/- 1). But given the consistency of what you've observed, I'm not sure the overall sense of it would change. You would get different estimates from logistic regression, though. (end lecture)
I guess that sounds sensible. On the other hand, LH's starts will completely eliminate one alternative's major league starts, and have no effect on the innings pitched by other starters. I guess most of the young guys have already had a chance this year, though.
I can't figure out why the Nats really needed Livan Hernandez. They seem awash in starters they need to sort through. You've mentioned five in this column, not including Zimmermann, and then there are Detwiler and Martis.
@OkayFine - you may well be right that it would work out, but I fear the chance that it will go goofy somehow. I'd be willing to take that chance if there were a compelling reason, but I'm not sure there really is. I'm skeptical about the time savings. If we assume that it worked OK and there were still some PO attempts, then we're talking about saving the time of some percentage of the small handful of throws over in any given game. So we come down to annoyance among fans, which is important, but people ought to be able to survive a modest number of these plays, says I.
Bill James's rule idea is creative but it seems to me that it could change the pitcher/runner balance in possibly unpredictable ways, and for no compelling reason. The pitcher wouldn't dare throw over a second time, because thereafter the runner could indulge in a big lead, knowing that few pitchers would pay the cost of a ball for a throw over. But if there would never be a second throw, then the runner can start making this assumption to some degree after the first throw. Therefore it might be better for the pitcher never to make that first throw, in order to maintain at least some doubt in the runner's mind. I don't know where the balance would really settle, but probably it would be different from today's. I'd like a better reason than saving probably a minute or less per game before I'd be keen to meddle with the game's balance.
Funny about "Rock me R-Mattheus", but unfortunately for us all, Rizzo says it's pronounced "Matthews".
The Pirates are not giving up anything they will miss in the long run, so the trade makes sense. But Milledge seems to me like a long shot to develop.
One commenter mentioned "perceived character problems", as though they may be illusory. I doubt they are. Anyone who has watched him in DC and listened to Acta can see that he has ignored coaching. He is a wild swinger despite long emphasis on discipline, but Vlad Guerrero he ain't. He is an anti-instinctual and often atrocious outfielder who cannot handle CF despite his physical gifts, and seems unlikely to hit enough to carry LF even if he develops.
Sure, he could mature. That's what it comes down to. Is there a long list of success stories for guys like this?
Why do you suppose the Brewers aren't interested? Their rotation has struggled, and the bullpen has been solid so they can handle short outings by starters (they've had to anyway as they get rocked nightly). He wouldn't be Sabathia II but he'd have a chance to be a lot better than Parra or Bush or Suppan.
Eric: Yes, you did discuss the independence issue. What I meant to say earlier was that I don't believe it even matters in your study because the finding is so extreme. Your point about Feliz would hold even if your probability estimate happened to be off by several multiples.
JayhawkBill: You're right, and I suppose I may have been pedantic to get into the independence issue. But I don't generally think about or use W/L records or OBP in a probabilistic sense. On the other hand, the NYT study was explicitly trying to prove a radical point probabilistically, and therefore I think that examining its flawed assumptions in this regard is worthwhile, lest we all go around thinking that the study means something.
It's hard to be sure of the details of the NY Times simulation, but it sounds as though it makes the assumption that every at-bat is an independent draw from the same distribution, which is not the case. (This affects this Pedro Feliz study a bit too, but not enough to alter the point that he has a vanishingly small chance of walking four times - if it's really twice your estimate of 1/7 of a percent per season, so what.) The article states that Dimaggio had an 81% of at least one hit in the average game. But this is not accurate for a game against the league leader in fewest hits allowed, or most walks allowed. A handful of lower percentages make the odds of a 56-game streak drop quite a bit. Running 10,000 iterations of the model does not introduce into the results any variation that is not represented in the model to start with.
Factors that the NYT simulation probably cannot address, and that a simple binomial approach also assumes away, but that probably affect a hitting streak significantly, include facing a mix of pitchers (including aces), pitcher adjustments as the streak marches on (including simply not offering anything to hit), occasional excellent opponent defenses, fatigue, weather, mild injury, mental pressure on the hitter as the streak continues, umpires with varying strike zones...anything that makes even a few games harder to get a hit in makes a long streak much less likely.
Only with baseball, and only with a good writer who loves the game and unfolds all the layers of the action, can a play be just as exciting to read about as to see. Thanks for a very enjoyable article.
Adam Jones making an out advancing from first to second on a walk a week ago against NY was something new to me. Is that as rare as it seems to me? (I don't know how widely the play was seen: he was attempting to steal on the 3-ball count and overslid second, and was tagged.)
jrwatts wrote: "Whether or not the fans care about PED use is one thing, but whether it is *important* is another matter entirely. I'm not saying that Joe is asserting that PED use isn't important (although honestly, I think his past writing shows that this is his belief), but I think it's crucial to keep the matters separate."
This is an excellent and important point. BP writers often point out that fans don't care about the PED issue. Fans don't care about VORP, either. Why should we ask the fans and then stop there?
I say the following as a long-time friend and vocal supporter of BP: I've been disappointed so far by its approach to the PED question. BP is uniquely situated to take a rigorous look at the effects of PED use on performance, short term durability and long term durability, and it is one of the most important performance issues of this era. Maybe I somehow missed the whole discussion, but I haven't seen much of this here. There may not be enough data or enough certainty about who used what when to say much, but that issue itself could at least be discussed with some scientific rigor.
Columnists here certainly can hold and state personal opinions, but in my opinion, constant snarky asides and dismissiveness towards the issue undermine BP's authority on the subject, while a serious study would ensure it. BP is brilliant at moving us past easy assumptions, taking the lead and advancing our understanding. Here's a big chance to do that.
The Washington Press is saying that Shawn Hill actually has fully recovered, but the Nats let him go because they didn't like the uncertainty of whether/when he will get hurt again. Also, the team saved over half a million by cutting when they did.