Dan enjoys a Sunday doubleheader in one of the game's shrines.
"It was beautiful. So many times because of a key play we get David or Manny to the plate and we feel like we have a chance. It's a tough way to win, but what a great swing." --Red Sox manager Terry Francona commenting on the walk-off home run from David Ortiz last Sunday
Too often, teams ignore granular park effects when it comes to putting together a lineup. According to Dayn, it's not just where you play, but from which side you play.
The (excruciatingly obvious) recognition that environment affects the game on the field has made impressive inroads in recent years. It's not uncommon these days to hear rank-and-file fans or mainstream analysts paying qualitative heed to this notion, which is a good thing. In seamhead circles, most commonly this discussion takes the form of park effects, which, as you know, entails making statistical calibrations to reflect the tendencies of a particular ballpark. After all, a run scored in Dodger Stadium in 1968 isn't the same as one scored in the Baker Bowl in 1932 or Coors Field circa 1998.
But a player's home ballpark only applies to half their games. What about the other half? Road games never enter into the equation. Conventional wisdom says that a team's away games are fairly evenly distributed, and the aggregate impact of all those different road parks will even out.
Two hypotheses down, one to go: James Click tries again to divine truth from park factors.
Last week was spent checking to see if groundball pitchers were less affected by park factors than flyball pitchers are, a theory based on the assumption that park factors are based largely on outfield dimensions. This turned out not to be the case. Months before that was a little foray into park factors and baserunning attempt and success rates, checking to see if perhaps home teams got some of their inherent advantage from knowing how the ball bounces in their yard better than their visiting opponents do. Again, the theory did not pan out.
James Click launches his new column with a look at whether groundball and flyball pitchers are affected differently by parks. The results surprised him.
After taking a detailed look at the Dodgers' acquisition of Derek Lowe, a number of readers wrote in to discuss the hundreds of new field-level seats being added to Dodger Stadium. The general question was: "Did I consider this in my research, and if not, how do I think it will affect Lowe and the Dodgers in general?" The answers I provided over e-mail were: "No, I didn't, and it should increase general offense in the park. Because that should mainly be a result of a few more foul pop-ups lost to the seats, Lowe would be affected less by these changes than other pitchers because he's such an extreme groundball pitcher."
Derek Lowe's four-year agreement with the Dodgers seems well out of line with his recent performance. Will changing coasts be enough to make him a pitcher worth $9 million a year?
Let me be very clear about two of my primary assumptions: First, I think DePodesta is a very smart guy and that he has shown a tendency to be very bold in his short tenure as GM of the Dodgers; second, I don't think he's lost his mind.
The reasons people have found the Lowe contract so horrendously out of line with DePodesta are 1.) both its length and its amount, and 2.) the fact that it's being spent on a pitcher who hasn't just been trending downward, he's been spiraling. Given DePodesta's pedigree in Oakland and his willingness to trade players whose best qualities - according to the media - are intangibles, committing that much time and money to a player who has one - count them, one - good season as a starting pitcher on his resume and a few well timed outs in the post-season appears drastically out of line. Thus the conclusion that either DePodesta has lost his mind or he knows something that the rest of us don't. Since I'm assuming the Dodger GM is quite sane, I'd like to know what he was thinking.
Baseball teams show a consistent home-field advantage each season, with homer teams playing about .540 ball. Is that edge due to home teams doing a better job of taking the extra base thanks to familiarity with their environment? James Click breaks it down.
The source of this advantage is unknown. It's been suggested that local knowledge, how to hit or pitch better in a team's more familiar home park, is the key. Perhaps some of the home team's advantage lies in knowing the nuances of their particular ballpark, but applied in a different area. It's possible that home teams may be better baserunners, knowing better than their opponents which balls will allow them to take the extra base.
Before getting into whether or not a baserunning advantage is the result of a particular park, it's important to first establish that parks do affect the baserunning in a consistent manner from year to year. To determine if park factors for baserunning do exist, I'll look at three typical baserunning situations where the runner is faced with the choice to take the extra base or not: a runner on first during a single, a runner on first during a double, and a runner on second during a single. There are three possible outcomes to each baserunning event: the runner can take the base he's supposed to, the runner can take the extra base or the runner can be thrown out.
It's been a couple of weeks since the 30th anniversary of Hank Aaron's historic 715th home run and the accompanying tributes, but Barry Bonds' exploits tend to keep the top of the all-time chart in the news. With homers in seven straight games and counting at this writing, Bonds has blown past Willie Mays at number three like the Say Hey Kid was standing still, which--
Baseball Prospectus' Dayn Perry penned an affectionate tribute to Aaron last week. In reviewing Hammerin' Hank's history, he notes that Aaron's superficially declining stats in 1968 (the Year of the Pitcher, not coincidentally) led him to consider retirement, but that historian Lee Allen reminded him of the milestones which lay ahead. Two years later, Aaron became the first black player to cross the 3,000 hit threshold, two months ahead of Mays. By then he was chasing 600 homers and climbing into some rarefied air among the top power hitters of all time.
Aaron produced plenty of late-career homer heroics after 1968. From ages 35 (1969) through 39, he smacked 203 dingers, and he added another 42 in his 40s, meaning that nearly a third of his homers (32.4 percent) came after age 35. The only batters other than Aaron to top 200 homers after 35 are Bonds and Rafael Palmeiro.
Curt Schilling could be perfectly suited for Fenway Park. The Reds' rotation needs a lift from some young guns. The Marlins don't need a roof on a new ballpark. The Yankees hope to avoid jet lag on their trip home from Japan. The Pirates' baserunning errors didn't hurt much last year. The Padres should expect improvement in their rotation. These and other news and notes in today's Double-Stuft edition of Prospectus Triple Play.
McCarty in 2004: David McCarty's last-gasp bid to make the Opening Day roster continues. The 34-year-old tagged two home runs late last week, in the midst of an eight-game hitting streak. The fact that he's only drawn one walk this spring would be cause for more concern if he didn't now have six homers, one off teammate David Ortiz's major league lead.
Next spring, the San Diego Padres and Philadelphia Phillies will take up residence in new stadiums, Petco Park and Citizens Bank Park respectively. It promises to be a momentous occasion, not just for Phils and Pads fans who'll be inaugurated into the era of club seats and cupholders, but for baseball itself. Because it's looking likely that once the Dog Bowl and the Big ATM Machine That's Not The Vet throw open their doors, it will mark the first time since ground was broken for Toronto's SkyDome in October 1985 that not a single new big-league ballpark will be under construction on planet Earth. It's been quite an 18-year run: 19 new stadiums, 18 new corporate monikers (including such double-dippers as Enron Field/Minute Maid Park and Pac Bell/SBC Park) and around $5 billion in taxpayer money sunk into the cause. But is this the end of the new-stadium era, one we'll one day look back on like the 1910-1915 era that produced the first wave of steel ballparks (if perhaps not as fondly)? Or is it just a statistical blip, a pause in the action before the next round of construction?
It's been quite an 18-year run: 19 new stadiums, 18 new corporate monikers (including such double-dippers as Enron Field/Minute Maid Park and Pac Bell/SBC Park) and around $5 billion in taxpayer money sunk into the cause. The start of the new-stadium craze is easy to pinpoint. In 1989, SkyDome demonstrated that a retractable roof was technically feasible (if pricey--the SkyDome lid drove its total cost over $600 million in Canadollars), while introducing baseball's first full-scale food court, complete with baseball's first seven-dollar hot dogs. It also shattered attendance records: the Jays are still the only team other than the Rockies in their Mile High days to sell more than four million tickets in one season, demonstrating that fans would turn out just to take a gander at a new building (though the two titles won by the Jays in SkyDome's first five years helped some, too). When two years later Camden Yards inaugurated the "retro" craze, single-handedly sweeping HOK's old concrete-bowl blueprints into history's dustbin, it set off a feeding frenzy among teams to be the next kid on the block with a shiny new toy.
The result has transformed baseball. On the field, the new home run-friendly parks have helped create the surge in offense that typifies Selig-era baseball, while turning such traditional homer havens as Wrigley Field into relative pitcher's parks. In the stands, the layers of luxury seating that are de rigeur in modern facilities have made the cheap seat with a good view a thing of the past, as nearly every new park has featured upper decks more distant from the field than the old buildings they replaced. The new parks raised demand for tickets, and owners have taken full advantage--new parks have seen average ticket price as much as double in a single off-season.
Evaluating defense has always been one of the more difficult tasks for performance analysts. The first reason for this is that looks can be deceiving. Sure, that acrobatic shortstop playing in the country's largest market might appear to be a superior defender to the untrained eye, but all too often we draw our conclusions by putting emphasis on the outcome rather than the process of fielding the ball, itself. The second reason is the still-severe limitations we face with regard to collecting data, and how to properly interpret that data once we get a meaningful amount of it. Granted, there are some statistics that can be used when evaluating defense--errors, fielding percentage, Range Factor, Zone Rating, etc.--but none of them is without its flaws.
Which bring us to one of Bill James' measures for quantifying defensive performance: Defensive Efficiency (provided here by Keith Woolner). Defensive Efficiency is a metric that measures a team's ability to turn balls-in-play into outs, using the formula (TotalOuts - Strikeouts)/(BIP-HR).
Despite being raw and only applying to entire teams, Defensive Efficiency is a fair measure of overall defensive performance. But that doesn't mean it can't be improved.
Which bring us to one of Bill James' measures for quantifying defensive performance: Defensive Efficiency (provided here by Keith Woolner). Defensive Efficiency is a metric that measures a team's ability to turn balls-in-play into outs, using the formula...