Mets muster up some runs, but miss out on a chance to climb closer to first place.
The Wednesday Takeaway
The Mets have had an up-and-down July after a terrible June. They had put together some good games entering Wednesday's series finale against the NL East-leading Nationals, winning six of their previous 10 games. Their playoff odds had risen from 25 percent in the beginning of July to 39 percent after Tuesday's win against the Nationals.
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Why Kansas City is so interesting, and why Kansas City is so good.
The Royals are the most difficult team in baseball to analyze and discuss, and it’s not especially close. What does one do with this team? A year ago, they were one of the most maligned franchises in baseball. Eight months ago, they were the toast of baseball. Four months ago, they were an enigma, and in some circles, a laughingstock after an inscrutable offseason. They were a playoff team last season, but if you take away the games played July 22-August 23, they weren’t even a .500 team. They became famous as the bullpen-and-defense team during last year’s playoffs, but in fact, they won only when their inconsistent, below-average offense went into spasms of competence.
This season, though, they’re moving from the ranks of the uncommon to the lonely spotlight of uniqueness. They’re incomparable, because while they’re having tremendous success, there’s not much evidence that their success can be reliably replicated anywhere else. That killer bullpen? It’s still killer: The Royals’ 1.60 relief ERA is a half-run lower than that of any other team. Much of that is driven by the .215 BABIP those relievers are allowing, though. Kansas City is 19th in reliever strikeout rate. Eight of every nine runners the Royals’ bullpen has allowed to reach base have been stranded. They do have some guys capable of stifling opponents’ power, but that strand rate still feels fluky.
You remember Daniel Bard, surely. He was the lights out reliever that the Red Sox called up in 2009 who basically imploded a few years later. This isn’t a post about Daniel Bard though. This is a post about my favorite pitch of all time.
I want to try something a little different this week. Oddly enough, I have to confess that it was inspired by Yordano Ventura. Ventura and his Kansas City Royals, who apparently think that they’ve won an American League Championship recently, have gone from the feel-good story of October 2014 to the feel-kinda-creepy-when-you-watch-them story of April 2015. Ventura is now serving a seven-game suspension for his role in a brawl with the White Sox and earlier was involved in a beanball war with the A’s.
The shift made Mike Moustakas 'a more complete hitter,' though the real effects are unexpected.
All indications out of Royals camp during the spring were that Mike Moustakas was a man on a mission to combat the defensive shift that had hampered him in 2014. Prior to last season, Moustakas was rarely shifted against but the book finally got out on his dead pull tendencies as Kansas City’s storybook season unfolded. He was the 10th most shifted batter in baseball in 2014, per the Bill James Handbook, and saw the right side of the infield loaded up with three infielders in approximately 70 percent of his trips to the plate. Moustakas’ BABIPwhen he pulled the ball in 2014 dropped to .211, which was over 100 points lower than his career mark.
The Nationals are scuffling and so is Strasburg; the Astros are in first place, naturally; Alex Gordon makes the real catch of the year; and so on.
The Weekend Takeaway
The fourth week of the season is late enough to press the panic button, right? The sample size of innings and plate appearances isn’t at the point of being statistically significant (when is it ever, amirite?), but usually, teams’ particular strengths or weaknesses are made at least partially clear by this point. So yeah, I’m pressing it, for the Nationals. To be fair, it’s more “intense discontent,” than “panic,” but even the latter feeling is one that this team didn’t expect to feel at any time this season.
Would Yordano Ventura act this way if he pitched in the NL?
As many a pundit has pointed out this week, Yordano Ventura might not have so much fightin' spirit if he pitched in the NL and knew he had to bat. But does retaliation against pitchers really exist? Two years ago we looked at that question. This piece originally ran on March 15, 2013.
An accepted piece of baseball wisdom that I understood growing up is that a pitcher is less likely to go headhunting if he has to step into the box himself. As J.C. Bradbury and Douglas J. Drinen wrote in the 2007 article “Crime and punishment in Major League Baseball: the case of the designated hitter and hit batters,”
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 Weekend Takeaway
In a sport with a culture as staid and a season as long as baseball's, everyone loves a nice dose of old-fashioned shenanigans. This weekend’s A’s-Royals series was a shenanigan factory.
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.