Predicting Second-Half Performance from Pitchers Relies on Smart Tool Usage
Back in May, I implored fans and analysts to bypass treating discrepancies between a pitcher's ERA and FIP at various points throughout a season as the gospel, given that a more granular line of research-one that would not necessarily require an abundance of time-could provide more telling results. Even if the heavier, research-laden conclusion pointed to the same performance trends suggested by the differential, the investigative process itself would be much more accurate. The subject of that particular discussion was Matt Cain, who continues to be pegged as a candidate for a severe second-half regression based on an FIP over a run higher than his earned run rate. It is certainly plausible and frankly, it is downright likely, that Cain or pitchers of that ilk-Jair Jurrjens, for example-will see their ERAs worsen down the stretch based on many of their current marks falling right in line with those of years past.
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.
A grab bag of loose ends, including BoSox rookie arms, the Chicago-Minnesota Gap, and some not so Giant prospects.
Just about every year around this time, I go through what I've come to refer to as the Great Unplugging. For a few days, I escape the grid and all of my gadgets and head off into the Wind Rivers mountain range in Wyoming to backpack with my father. No phone, no iPod, no internet, no baseball scores, and no Baseball Prospectus columns. Hell, no plumbing or electricity either while we're at it, just a camera to take some photos and a flashlight to read a book by at night. It's a great way to recharge my mental batteries while spending some quality time with my dad-whose boundless energy even at age 67 still puts me to shame-and I look forward to it every year.
Last season, the Oakland A's limped to a 76-86 record and a third-place finish in the American League West. Over the winter, they seemingly worsened themselves (in the near term, that is) by trading away ace Dan Haren and offensive linchpin Nick Swisher. However, as a result of GM Billy Beane's trades, the A's now have one of the best farm systems in the game (although, to be fair, some of that young talent seems to be trending downward), but it was assumed that the cost of those acquisitions would be irrelevance in the present. Thus far, however, those assumptions have turned out to be incorrect.