The showdown between East and West is echoed in the junior circuit, but is it power versus power?
Whether due to the simplicity in casual conversations or the attractiveness of identifying the major component of team-wide success, combining several aspects of play into a tidy unit has become fairly commonplace. Most teams, however, are multidimensional, and many instances of such identifications are simply incorrect, based on reputations and not actual facts. Did the Twins really succeed through small ball and the manufacturing of runs, or was it simply assumed that they did based on using Nick Punto and a general lack of familiarity with their roster beyond Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau? And did the Yankees really not execute the little things throughout the season just because they could bop the ball all around the yard? I raise these questions because, for at least the next week, we are going to hear about how different the Angels and Yankees are in terms of their respective styles of play.
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If nothing else, the Division Series taught viewers the importance of good baserunning, so which of the Final Four has the largest advantage on the basepaths?
Baserunning plays often end up being among the most dramatic moments in a critical ballgame. Matt Holliday's tagging up and coming home in the 13th inning of the Rockies' play-in tie-breaker against the Padres in 2007 might be the most dramatic October baserunning play in recent years, proving you can be a hero on the bases without being the fastest man on a ballclub. Then there's Jeremy Giambi's non-slide-and why hadn't he even been pinch-run for?-that helped make The Flip by Derek Jeter in the 2001 ALDS a timeless example of what bad baserunning (and heady defense) can do to change an outcome. The LCS round is sure to present opportunities for the men aboard to be heroes or goats, but looking back on the 2009 season, who are the most and least likely candidates on the four ballclubs? Looking at each team, here's a quick view of the best and worst baserunners, using Baseball Prospectus' Equivalent Baserunning Runs. (We'll show everyone who was worth 2.5 runs or more, or hurt his team by 2.5 runs or more.)
It's a fourth spin in six years for these two teams, but will the outcome change this time around?
Well, this certainly seems familiar. One of the reliable features of a divisional playoff slate that involves twice as many ballclubs and wild-card teams makes for a few rematches, so it's not too much of a surprise that we get to see the Red Sox and Angels square off for a fourth time in six years in October. Perhaps it's the easy isolation of living in the Midwest, but there seems to be little of the overwrought provincial self-absorption for Angels fans, where they might deserve to be filled with equal parts trepidation and anticipation. Where the hysterics of Red Sox Nation would treat three series losses to the same opponent in five years in October-the very same opponent from the epic '86 ALCS no less-there seems to be no such elaborate attention devoted the equally desperate concerns of Angels fans for having to be the ones who have seen their team fight and falter before the Red Sox in those three LDS matchups. It can't be taken as too much of a surprise; no doubt there are Rangers fans still bitter over how their team was squashed thrice in four seasons by the Yankees in the late '90s, and no doubt Yankees fans, those East Coast sophisticates, were like so many crushers and enjoyed the stomping, and Red Sox fans are no doubt no different when it comes to their post-season entertainments.
The Angels' halo effect puts them far higher than their expected record yet again.
In a September that appears slated for a dearth of late-season drama, the American League West contains not only the last vestige of a real post-season race-the only one where the underdog has even a 10 percent shot according to our Playoff Odds-but also a bit of potential history, at least from a sabermetric standpoint. Once again, it's the Angels, those anti-sabermetric darlings, making that history.
Teams who truly let themselves down, plus those happy few who did so but nevertheless made it into the postseason.
It lacked the fanfare of a division-clinching victory, or the exuberance of Francisco Rodrigurez's record-setting 58th save, but around the time that the Angels popped the champagne corks last week, they surpassed another record. Roughly two weeks since I pointed out their impending date with history, they inched past the 2004 Yankees' all-time mark of 12.7 wins above their third-order Pythagenpat projection—that is, their projected won-loss record after adjusting for run elements, park, league, and quality of competition. Since then, they've just kept going; through Wednesday, the Halos held a 92-59 record, the best in the major leagues despite their having outscored their opponents by just 63 runs. After adjusting for everything under the sun to get a truer bead on the quality of their offense, the Adjusted Standings show them as 14.2 games above their third-order projection of 77.8-73.2. While it's possible they could backslide a bit before the season ends, right now they have a solid claim as the most overachieving club of all time.
The first of Joe's series of division previews addresses the questions going into camp for baseball's short stack.
Yeah, great game, whatever. The long, dark winter comes to a close, and we can look forward to what really matters: pitchers and catchers reporting to camps in Florida and Arizona next week. This week, blatantly ripping off paying homage to Nate Silver's off-season previews, I'll be looking at each of the 30 teams as they head into spring training, which begins February 14. Off we go with today's division, the AL West:
A look at the starting pitchers on this year's Hall of Fame ballot.
Once again, Ye Olde Winter Workload kept me from reaching the pitchers' portion of the Hall of Fame ballot before the arrival of the New Year, not to mention the December 31 deadline for postmarking ballots. Nonetheless, with the election results not due to drop until January 8, there's still plenty of time for readers to play along at home.
The basics of JAWS remain the same for the pitchers as for the hitters: we consider a player's career and peak WARP totals--the latter defined as his seven best seasons--using the all-time version of our WARP3 metric. Just as the worst elected Hall of Famer at each position was eliminated in the process of determining the JAWS benchmarks, we'll exclude a similar percentage of pitchers--four out of 60, in this case. Four more (Dennis Eckersley, Hoyt Wilhelm, Rollie Fingers, and Bruce Sutter) are excluded for use in creating the reliever benchmark, known as RAJAWS (Reliever Adjusted JAWS); while Eckersley had a significant career as a starter, his overall numbers are so close to the JAWS benchmark for starters that including or excluding him doesn't move any measure more than a few runs. In examining these pitchers, we'll also use Pitching Runs Above Average (PRAA) as a secondary measure for "peak" in conjunction with PRAR's "career" proxy. A pitcher with many PRAA but fewer PRAR likely had a high peak and a short career, while one with the same number of PRAA but more PRAR likely had a longer career. Although durability should not be confused with excellence, league-average performance has value, as anybody who's ever suffered through a fifth starter's pummeling knows.