Ratings for the MLB All-Star Game were up this year, but does that really tell the whole story?
Television ratings are a funny thing. The spin that can come out of the numbers can drive reports in wildly divergent directions. In sports, ratings can be spun to say that the popularity of a given league or club is high or low, depending on those feeding the information. Of course, leagues and clubs love to tout growth, while detractors can spin numbers negatively. For Major League Baseball, ratings have been used to show that the game’s popularity is on the rise, while others have pounded keys to say that it’s a “dying sport.”
So, which one is it? As is often the case in data analysis, the truth can lie in the middle. Before we get started, let’s give a quick primer on what the ratings numbers mean.
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An examination of how baseball's increasing strikeout rate has impacted the game, torn from the pages of BP's next book.
Extra Innings: More Baseball Between the Numbers, edited by Steven Goldman, is the sequel to Baseball Prospectus’s 2006 landmark Baseball Between the Numbers, a book that gave many their first taste of state of the art sabermetric thinking in the years after Bill James and Moneyball. BP now returns with a sequel that delves into new areas of the game, such as how to evaluate managers and general managers, the true effects of performance-enhancing drugs, how prospects are recruited and developed in Latin America, and more. The book is now available for pre-order from Amazon and Barnes & Noble and should ship ahead of its official release date of April 3, 2012. Today, we present the first of two excerpts from the book.
Roundtable discussion of the pressing questions facing the NL East teams as we approach the start of the season
1) After a disappointing sophomore campaign, what can we expect of Jason Heyward going forward?
MJ: Jason Heyward had an injury-riddled sophomore season in Atlanta, but there is a lot to like about his chances at a rebound campaign in 2012. His offensive line was deflated by a .260 BABIP, but his peripherals were once again stellar. His 11.6 percent walk rate represented a regression from 2010 but cannot be considered poor, and his .162 ISO likewise dropped from the previous year but did not experience a precipitous fall.
After starring for opposing teams in the Japan Series, Wei-Yin Chen and Tsuyoshi Wada will try to adjust to life in Baltimore and last place, as the Orioles react to the new CBA by plugging their pitching holes with Asian imports.
On November 12th, 2011, as Major League Baseball recovers from one of the most exciting World Series in recent memory, Nippon Professional Baseball begins its own best-of-seven championship: the Japan Series.
Much like MLB, Japanese professional baseball has two leagues—the Central and the Pacific—and much like MLB, the champions of those respective leagues play each other to determine a final champion for the entire season. As NPB has only 12 teams compared to to MLB's 30, however, the playoffs are structured a bit differently; with only six teams per league, NPB does not bother with divisions or Wild Cards—the best three teams in each league make the playoffs, with the league's top seed getting a first-round bye. The second and third seeds play a best-of-three series, and the winner faces the first seed in a best-of-five “Climax Series” that's roughly analogous to MLB's League Championship Series. The winning club from each league's Climax Series is that league's champion and advances to the best-of-seven Japan Series to determine which is the best club in NPB. The Climax Series format was implemented first by the Pacific League in 2004 and then adopted by the Central League three years later. Previously, there had been no real postseason in NPB: the team with the best season record from the Central would play the team with the best season record from the Pacific in the Japan Series, and that was that.
A writer who never saw Jack Morris pitch watches him in action for the first time and comes away even less convinced that the traditionalist case for his candidacy should earn him a call to Cooperstown.
Jay Jaffe and JAWS examine the starting pitchers on this year's Hall of Fame BBWAA ballot, starting with the inevitable Jack Morris.
After delivering the JAWS piece on first basemen earlier this week, I had planned to tackle the outfielders—Tim Raines, Bernie Williams et al—next. The sad news of Greg Spira'suntimely passingon Wednesday presented me with a reason to change course, however. In the service of working on a chapter on Jack Morris’s Hall of Fame case for Extra Innings: More Baseball Between the Numbersin November, I had called upon the Internet Wayback Machine to unearth Greg's seminal research piece questioning whether Morris "pitched to the score." a piece that was published in Baseball Prospectus 1997, predating Morris’s arrival on the BBWAA ballot by a three years and Joe Sheehan's own outstanding Morris research by five years. I suggested to Dave Pease that we republish it on our site to run alongside yesterday’s article in tribute to our fallen colleague and friend, a fine example of his intellectual curiosity and dogged research efforts, particularly as the work dated to a time when Retrosheet was in its infancy and the relevant data not easily compiled. This piece is dedicated to his memory.
Redefining the JAWS equation sets a new standard for Hall of Fame induction.
This time of year is a busy stretch if you're a Hall of Fame buff, or at least this particular Hall of Fame buff. The 2012 BBWAA ballot was released on Wednesday, adding 13 new candidates to the 14 holdovers from last year's ballot. I'll start digging into the details of those candidacies starting at some point late next week. Meanwhile, the vote on the Golden Era candidates will take place at the Winter Meetings in Dallas this coming Monday, December 5; alas, I think I’m actually going to be in the air when the results are announced, but I’ll weigh in upon arrival. Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to discuss some of the Golden Era candidates on television as part of my debut appearance on MLB Network's new show, “Clubhouse Confidential.” It wasn't my first time on TV, but I believe it was my first time discussing JAWS in that medium. Explaining the system concisely AND discussing the merits of a handful of candidates in a four-minute span was certainly a challenge, but host Brian Kenny and his producers seemed quite pleased with the segment, and there’s reason to believe that it won't be the last time I appear on the show.
You might not know it from watching the World Series, but it often makes sense for a manager to pinch hit for his starter before the late innings.
Believe it or not, most of our writers didn't enter the world sporting an @baseballprospectus.com address; with a few exceptions, they started out somewhere else. In an effort to up your reading pleasure while tipping our caps to some of the most illuminating work being done elsewhere on the internet, we'll be yielding the stage once a week to the best and brightest baseball writers, researchers and thinkers from outside of the BP umbrella. If you'd like to nominate a guest contributor (including yourself), please drop us a line.
Mitchel Lichtman, or MGL, has been doing sabermetric research and writing for over 20 years. He is one of the authors of The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball, and co-hosts The Book blog, www.insidethebook.com. He consulted for the St. Louis Cardinals from 2004 to 2006, as well as other major-league teams. He holds a B.A. from Cornell University and a J.D. from the University of Nevada Boyd School of Law. Most of the time these days you can find him on the golf course.
Will Yu Darvish's Japanese League domination translate to major-league success?
Rumors abound that Yu Darvish, perhaps the most hyped player to come from Japan since Daisuke Matsuzaka, will be posted by his Nippon Pro Baseball team this winter. If that happens, Major League Baseball teams will have the right to bid on exclusive negotiating rights with Darvish in the hopes of securing his services for their rotation. This possibility has the blogosphere abuzz, with many a writer speculating on where he’ll end up or how he’ll fit in with a blogger’sfavoriteteam.
But the big question on everyone’s mind is how much of this buzz is merely hype and how much is legitimate. As Michael Street has shown, Japanese pitchers (particularly starters) have a very spotty track record when they come across the Pacific, and even a guy like Matsuzaka only managed one above-average season before giving way to injuries and ineffectiveness.
One of BP's co-founders returns to reveal an important amateur draft inefficiency.
Everyone missed on Mike Trout. Don’t get me wrong: Trout was a well-regarded player headed into the 2009 draft, a certain first-round talent. But he wasn’t—yet—a phenom. Everyone liked Trout; it’s just that no one loved him. Baseball America ranked him as the 22nd-best player in the draft. No one doubted his athleticism or his work ethic; a lot of people doubted the level of competition he faced as a high school player from rural New Jersey. The Angels drafted him with the 25th pick overall, and they’ll tell you today that they knew he was destined to be a special player. What they won’t tell you is that they had back-to-back picks at #24 and #25, and they announced Randal Grichuk’s name first.