DeGrom DeGrominates, the surprisingly good Tigers' bullpen is unsurprisingly bad, Bumgarner beats Kershaw again, and the best defensive play of the day.
The Thursday Takeaway
When Jacob deGrom served up three home runs to the Yankees on April 24th, then gave up five runs in 5 1/3 innings to the Mets six days later, some wondered if regression or an injury was afoot. A rollercoaster first month isn’t what prognosticators expected from deGrom after his outstanding rookie campaign, but it’s what they got. And so, the cries of “The Yankees broke deGrom!” rang out and wouldn’t die, not even after he struck out nine Orioles in seven innings on May 6th.
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Painting a table of how the season's expectations have changed.
Our lives are ruled by probabilities. All things are possible, and the varying degrees of possibility of various things govern everything from our decisions to our dispositions. Often, we’re too preoccupied by our preoccupations to look forward very far, but the truth is that few events in our lives sneak up on us. Conscious or subconscious, perceptions of the likelihood of important events inform our mood, our priorities and our choices.
Sports fandom is a unique sliver of life, though, in which those probabilities aren’t floating whispers in the background. We’re constantly reevaluating them, recalculating and recalibrating them. Even in baseball, the sport of the long season, we look for significance in every win and every loss. We try to gauge the impact of everything we see, not only in the context of the game or the series at hand, but in the big picture. That’s why spirited fans so often seem to agonize over every pitch: it affects our perception of our team’s chances in the long run, and that affects our sense of well-being about our entire investment in the team. The effect of those small things is minute, compared to what we perceive it to be, but baseball is bedeviling. It lures us into the sense of constant cataclysm that characterizes the NFL, even though the moments that really matter as much as the outcome of any given NFL game happen perhaps once a month.
Alfredo Simon exemplifies this truth in baseball. Simon's legal history makes him perhaps the least endearing player on a big-league roster. In 2011, he was charged with (then acquitted of) involuntary manslaughter arising from a shooting death. More recently, he was sued by a woman who says he assaulted and raped her in April 2013.
Taking a look at the teams who should find it easiest to upgrade.
It’s the time of year when what has happened to date begins to really carry weight. The Mets have surpassed the Nationals as the most likely team to win the NL East, even though we all know that the Mets’ hot start and the Nationals’ cold one are only loosely indicative of real differences between the talent we thought each team had and the talent they actually have. The Brewers were fringe contenders when the season began; they’re non-factors now. The Royals were long-shot dreamers; they’re now serious postseason hopefuls, though not yet favorites.
Still, in most cases, we should assume that the level of play we expected from a team before the season is still its true talent level. Only injuries should be changing any minds about that at this point. What we thought we knew about each team, about each player and position, we should generally still believe.
The first week of the season is overrated, overanalyzed, overdiscussed--and, also, enough to move the odds significantly.
Prospectus co-founder Joe Sheehan often says that fans would be better served by baseball writers if they all put down their pens and pushed away from their keyboards from Opening Day until Memorial Day. Rany Jazayerli—another co-founder—ran a three-part study back in 2003 that provides some objective support to that subjective statement: it takes about 48 games for a team’s seasonal performance to become more predictive of their final record than a simple blend of their three previous seasons’ records, and a regression factor. After 10 games, that rough preseason projection is still more than six times as predictive of final record as actual performance is.
Joe isn’t wrong, and Rany’s math wasn’t, either. We have some tools that change the way we perceive the early segment of the season, though. For one, we have PECOTA, which was just making its maiden voyage through April when Rany wrote up his study. For another, we have the Playoff Odds Report, which uses PECOTA and a Monte Carlo simulation that repeats the season thousands of times to give us an estimate of the chances that each team will make it to the postseason.
Money, Venezuela, and barrage of trades have kept the Tigers at the top.
Every day until Opening Day, Baseball Prospectus authors will preview two teams—one from the AL, one from the NL—identifying strategies those teams employ to gain an advantage. Today: the winningest teams of the past four years and PECOTA-projected division titlists Nationals and Tigers.
Fighting for a client who is all but out of the sport.
Jiwan James is one of my clients. He is formerly of the Phillies, where he was regarded by Baseball America as the best defensive outfielder, the best runner, and the best athlete in the system. Then he got a life-changing diagnosis. Last week he signed with the Detroit Tigers on a minor-league deal literally the day before minor-league players reported to spring training. Here’s the incredible journey we went on together.
Making sense of why the Tigers didn't add a big-name arm to their bad bullpen this offseason.
Has there ever been a team that entered an offseason more obviously in need of bullpen improvements than the Tigers? They finished 13th in the AL in bullpen ERA, ahead of only the Astros and White Sox; 14th in WHIP, ahead of only the White Sox; and 28th in all of baseball in FRA, which is park- and league- and era- and luck-adjusted. Notably, they managed that while throwing the fewest innings in the American League, a reflection of their strong starting staff but also a boost to their overall relief numbers—if they’d had to scrounge up an additional hundred innings to match the Angels’ total, most of those extra 100 would have come from even worse options.