In today's episode of pairing up in threes, a dissection of the expected contenders' relief crews generating the most scoreboard gore.
In the wide world of Baseball Prospectus readers and writers, I'm fairly certain that nobody looks at our win expectancy-based team pitching stats (SNLVAR and WXRL) more often than I do. For some reason, we still don't have pre-programmed team pages for those the way we do for Defensive Efficiency or the Team Baserunning pages (a Johnny-come-lately on our Sortable Stats page), but I've got a customized page bookmarked, and I reference it dozens of times per week in the Hit List. Getting a picture of which end of the staff is shining and which might be failing to hold up its end of the deal always feels like a fairly critical piece of information to analyze, even this early in the season when a few bad outings can have a disproportionate effect.
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The Angels intend to hold the line in Anaheim, the Obamas wear White Sox, and much more from around the major leagues.
The Angels led the major leagues with 100 regular-season victories last year, but there aren't many indicators pointing to that happening again in 2009. The Angels were 15th in the major leagues in runs scored last season with 4.7 per game, and ninth in runs allowed (4.3 per game), and they exceeded their Pythagorean record of 88-74 by a stunning 12 wins. One of the basic tenets of sabermetrics holds that those teams that outplay their projected record will regress to the mean the following season, and the Angels, having lost both first baseman Mark Teixeira and closer Francisco Rodriguez to free agency this winter, will be hard-pressed to slow the expected downturn.
The Rays hold steady, the Padres keep the faith, and the Cubs are refusing to hibernate.
There was no bigger story in baseball last year than the Rays, as the Tampa Bay franchise, which had known nothing but futility since its inception in 1998, dropped the Devil from its nickname, changed its color scheme and its uniform, and then dramatically changed their losing ways. In one of the more stunning turnarounds in the history of the game, the Rays went from having the worst record in the major leagues in 2007 with a 66-96 mark, to going 97-65 and winning the American League pennant by beating the White Sox in the Division Series and the Red Sox in the Championship Series. Though the Rays fell to the Phillies in the World Series in five games, their transformation from laughingstock to champion was astonishing.
Is it "committee day," and have all of the big moves already been made?
The rumor mill is decidedly quiet today. Some will call it the calm before the storm, but to me, it's "committee day." It happens every year, and is the time when everyone gets together (actually or virtually) and sorts out what they think they still need to do. The big, bold deals have for the most part been made, and now harsh reality sets in and the fine work of running a team comes into play. If you can't get the one big piece, can you get the one useful piece? Was there really a Plan B, a Plan C, or a plan at all?
Team USA is dealt in, the Yankees begin hoarding chips, and the White Sox hold.
The idea of sending a baseball Dream Team to the Olympics has been dead a while now. Major League Baseball would never consider shutting down its season for two weeks to send an All-Star team to an Olympiad, and furthermore, baseball will be discontinued as an Olympic sport after next month's games in Beijing. The opening ceremonies are August 8, and the baseball competition will be held from August 13-23. Thus, baseball will be taking a back seat to a lot of other sports in the Olympics. You have to search to find the games on television, and strain even further to find much coverage online or in print.
With the trade deadline looming, which teams will make waves, and which will continue to flounder and drift?
Now that the All-Star Game is history and will go down as one of the more interesting Midsummer Classics in recent years, it's on to the non-waiver trading deadline as the game's next big event. Major league clubs have until 4 p.m. on July 31-just two weeks from today-to make trades without having to first secure waivers on players. While deals are often made after the deadline, they can be blocked by any club willing to claim a player.
Closers, closers everywhere, on your teams and in your hair!
Part of my recent conversation with Yahoo's Scott Pianowski centered on closers, and in particular on how, prior to the last week or two, there's seemingly been relatively little closer attrition this season. Usually we can count on 12 to 15 teams changing their closers in a given season, either due to injury or poor performance, and for many of those changes to become permanent. It's one of the ways we can justify discounting their price in our preseason dollar valuations, and at the draft table. If saves are a category that you can capture in part by being active on the waiver wire, then by all means, don't overpay for these one-trick ponies.
Picking all 64 All-Stars, plus news and notes from around the major leagues.
The All-Star Game is still nine days away, but this year's event is already on the verge of becoming the most-hyped Midsummer Classic ever. The game will be played at Yankee Stadium in the Yankees' last season in the venerable Bronx ballpark. Major League Baseball and the Yankees plan to boost the event's memorability factor by bringing in more than three dozen Hall of Famers for a dizzying array of events and ceremonies.
AL players under the microscope at home and abroad, Opening Day bartering, and rumors and rumbles.
Opening Day is just two days and a half a world away. Set the alarms, because the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics open the season Tuesday and Wednesday morning (American time) with a two-game series at the Tokyo Dome in Japan.