The teams with the weakest weak spots, and the solutions that might exist to save them.
PECOTA isn’t sentient and it doesn’t have it out for your team, but goodness knows there are some players it doesn’t expect to have particularly good 2016 seasons. Much has already been made of some of the rosiest projections, or at least the most fun, but what about the real stinkers? What are the worst positions in baseball, those teams cursed with projected black holes? I looked at the worst spots by projected WARP, and tried to offer a few solutions, sometimes homegrown, sometimes in the free agent or trade market, sometimes an acceptance of fate.
Using PECOTA + context to handicap this year's MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year races.
February is too early to try to predict major baseball awards. Hell, August is often too early to try to predict major baseball awards. Nevertheless, in celebration of the release of PECOTA, I’m here to take my hack at things. Though I’ve never been an especially successful prognosticator in the past, I find the old cliché to be true: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again (using better data).”
We can use PECOTA’s advice to help project a player’s upcoming performance, and while most people gravitate towards the WARP totals and the slash lines, those aren’t the only tools in the toolbox. We can use the percentile projections to see what the system figures the high end or low end of a player’s performance range might be. We can use the Breakout/Improve/Collapse/Attrition percentages to gauge the ways in which performance might shift from history. And we can look at component and peripheral pieces, filtering out the items we think might be most or least variable, and adjust our assessments accordingly.
With a little back-of-the-napkin work, we can also attempt to add the appropriate context to the data PECOTA provides. If MVP or Cy Young voting was a WARP sorting exercise, it’d be painfully simple to predict. Fortunately, it’s neither the sorting exercise or simple to predict. Contextual factors such as how the player displays their value in attention-grabbing ways (shout out to homers and strikeouts) and how a player’s team performs make it just a bit more difficult to choose an award winner based on numbers alone.
A novel, in one accurate throw from Jered Weaver to Kyle Seager.
It seems like a fairly routine at-bat when you look back at the play by play. First pitch: Ball. Second pitch: Hit Batter. It’s an outcome that happened 1,602 times during the 2015 regular season, and a sequence that occurred 84 times. Most instances of hit by pitch are the result of a momentary lapse in control, a slip of the ball, an imprecise targeting of “inside.” Some were brutal in their impact, others no more than a momentary stinger, but more often than not, they were dismissed as a mistake, clearly signaled as such by the pitcher’s body language or post-game interview. Some escalated and led to hand wringing and talk of what boys will do when they are being boys, but mostly hit by pitches are trivialities that fade from our memories like the bruises they leave. In that respect, this hit by pitch is like all the rest; but for particularly cruel placement, the pain from an 83 mph fastball—especially an 83 mph fastball—is relatively easy to bounce back from.
Did this year's IBA voters really prefer the player we said they preferred in a tight race?
I love crowdsourcing projects. I love them because they take virtually no effort to set up, and yet we get a huge amount of information out of them. They work because the voters are the ones doing all the work, and whatever biases they may have get cancelled out, so that we're left with a reasonable view of the perceived truth. That's if everyone is playing fair. Sometimes, the voters try to game the system.
On the eve of this past season, I wrote a piece about the shape of offensive decline in major-league baseball over the prior handful of seasons. By comparing the run-expectancy charts from the early 2000s to the chart for 2014, I found something interesting: A disproportionate part of the recent offensive downturn came with two outs. With zero and one out, the 2014 run expectancies represented about 87 percent of the zero- and one-out run expectancies of a decade earlier. With two outs, though, the average run expectancy was just 81.5 percent of the previous levels.
From there, I dug into two-out batter performance leaguewide, and found that pitchers were dominating in those situations more than ever before. Two-out walk rate was at an all-time low; strikeout rate was at an all-time high. Home run rate and isolated slugging were at a 20-year low. Relative to the league’s OPS in other situations, overall two-out offense was worse than it has ever been.
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Good morning, and thank you all for being here today. We are extremely excited to introduce this man sitting beside me today, and to bring him—and his beautiful wife—into our organization. It has been a long and arduous past four years—disastrous, even—but that’s how baseball goes sometimes. It’s a game of failure. You can fail seven out of 10 times and still be Felipe Paulino. Today, though, marks a new direction and a new era for this organization.
(Note: All real quotes from real press conferences:)
A post-mortem on another disappointing finish for Arte's boys.
There just weren’t enough Mike Trouts on hand to make the Angels a playoff team in 2015.
Trout has been transcendent this season, as much as ever. You’ve probably heard a lot about how close the AL MVP race is, but BP’s numbers don’t see it that way. Trout put up a .352 True Average this year, and 9.9 WARP. (Josh Donaldson comes in at .325 and 7.6, respectively.) I won’t attempt, here, to add to the literature on the remarkable ability of Trout to make adjustments, change his game in radical ways, and still dominate opponents in multiple facets, but it’s worth noting. The Angels went as far as Trout could carry them this season, and no further.
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.
The rules say umps should get it right, but not too right.
I’ve been kicking this can for months, looking for a place to dispose of it properly. I could have kept kicking it, too, but for Casey McGehee and Doug Eddings. It was the seventh inning of Friday night’s Angels-Giants tilt, and the Angels had a runner on first base with nobody out. San Francisco led 1-0. Kole Calhoun led off the top of the seventh with a clean single to left field, bringing up David Freese. On an 0-1 count, Freese hit a double-play ball to McGehee at third base. It was a terrifically easy play, leading McGehee just enough to his left to shorten the first leg of the around-the-horn twin killing.
McGehee, however, flubbed it. The ball bounced up past his glove, deflected of his left side and rolled toward shortstop. Brandon Crawford, a great defensive shortstop who always seems to be in the right place at the right time, grabbed the ball and threw to second base brilliantly. It was a great, reflexive, instinctual play, though ideally, he’d have thrown to first base, because there simply wasn’t a play on the lead runner, Calhoun. Calhoun beat the throw, though somewhat narrowly.