Which outfielders and DHs proved to be the biggest black holes in the majors?
Picking up where I left off on Friday, we continue hunting the fish at the bottom of the major-league barrel in search of the positions where teams got the worst production—worse than the Replacement-Level Killers, but without the burden of toiling for a contending team. As with their catching and infield brethren, the following players helped produce tornado-level disasters amid their lineups, often at salaries that represented far more than just soft breezes running through their teams’ bank accounts. These are the Vortices of Suck.
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The Rays finally send for Desmond Jennings and demote Reid Brignac, the Pirates get some assistance from within, the Diamondbacks part with Wily Mo Pena and acquire a blast from the past, and the latest knuckleball developments out of Boston.
Derek has a rundown of a Game You May Have Heard About.
So the question is, why are we back with these two teams? They came into this weekend series a game and a half apart in the standings atop the AL East. So far, the Yankees have taken the first three games-sweeping a Friday doubleheader that featured an afternoon blowout and the longest nine-inning game in major league history in the nightcap, then blasting past the Sox in the late innings of Saturday's game. With two games left in the series, the Red Sox have the opportunity to salvage the series, or to watch a prime chance slip through their fingers. With the level of competition we are seeing in the AL Central, the loser of this division race is anything but guaranteed a playoff spot via the wild card.
Following up last week's column, James continues to explore optimal lineup construction.
One of the more interesting questions left unanswered last week was
just how important sorting by OBP or SLG is. By using two lineups for
each metric--one in ascending order and one in descending order--it
was clear that players with higher OBP and SLG should be near the top of
the order. Sorting by absolutely the wrong way only changed the lineup
output by 26 runs at the OBP mean and 13 at the SLG mean. Considering
the sample size and the standard deviations, the results were close to
statistically significant, but the confidence was not high. Thus, we
could only loosely conclude that OBP is more important than SLG when
determining a lineup order when all other factors are equal.
The Red Sox have a glut of starting pitchers--and may need all of them. The Reds have a glut of outfielders--and may need all of them. The Padres' offense looks similar to the 2004 version--they need more.
The PECOTA projection that has garnered the most attention this year is the one for the Reds' Wily Mo Pena. Nate Silver breaks down how PECOTA arrived at such an optimistic--and accurate--prediction.
I think it's a mistake to assume that your tools are smarter than you are. At the same time, the advantage of an objective system of measurement--be it VORP, PECOTA, or, hell, SAT scores--is that it prevents you from being fooled by biases that you might not even be aware of. Prior to this season, the name "Wily Mo Pena" conjured up an image of a young, chubby ballplayer with terrible plate discipline and a goofy name, someone had been a "prospect" for seemingly forever (a friend of mine drafted him in a Scoresheet Baseball league way back in 1999), and who was only in the big leagues as the result of an ill-advised contract that had been conceived years ago. It's easy to be dismissive of this sort of player; it seems like there are hundreds of them who have come and gone over the years. At one time or another, we've all been fooled by a big performance in a hitters' park by a player repeating the Southern League, or a hot run by an old rookie during a September cup of coffee.