Why it pays to look at the weather forecast before starting a flyball pitcher at Wrigley Field.
One of the first axioms I learned when I wandered into the world of sports betting was to heed Wrigley Field’s winds. Wrigley’s proximity to Lake Michigan gave it a reputation for dramatically affecting fly balls, which would inflate or deflate the game over/under on runs. If the wind was blowing out, fly balls were expected to sail out as home runs, and the total would be unusually high. A low total typically meant that winds were blowing toward home plate, suppressing fly balls.
Vegas already knew this, which unfortunately added an additional dimension to handicapping Cubs home games. Amazingly though, this advice was extremely exploitable in fantasy baseball. An “@ChC” note next to my pitcher meant a trip to Baseball Weather Analyzer or Daily Baseball Data (two sweet resources) to examine Wrigley Field’s conditions that day. Flyball pitchers sat on blow-out days and started on blow-in days.
Chris Constancio of The Hardball Timesinvestigated the effect of winds on HR/FB rates six years ago, and he observed statistically significant results in Chicago parks. I replicated his method on data from 2007 to the present and found that the Wrigley wind effect is stronger than ever. Over 508 games, here’s how pitchers performed in HR/FB rate, ERA, and slugging percentage allowed, split by Retrosheet’s wind field:
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If Anthony Rizzo fails to fulfill expectations, an excess of media attention will be partly to blame.
As one who ordinarily dislikes slack moments, I tend to plan things down to the second. It's a practice that often leaves little margin for error and sometimes results in small mishaps. Because as much as you try, you can't fully allow for externalities. One of those is the Chicago Transit Authority, not a sturdy peg on which to hang a daily calendar. The online tracker for the trains is very accurate, but you want to leave a buffer, because the CTA has its externalities as well.
The day of Anthony Rizzo's Cubs debut, I did not leave enough of a buffer. I know that it takes me about six minutes at a steady pace to walk to the Argyle Station, and the tracker told me I had eight minutes. Nevertheless, there it was pulling into the station just as I approached the entrance. I sprinted up the stairs only to find the doors sliding shut and an unforgiving train operator at the helm.
With Tony La Russa retired and Albert Pujols weighing other offers, we look back at a historic manager-player partnership.
While looking toward the future with our comprehensive slate of current content, we'd also like to recognize our rich past by drawing upon our extensive (and mostly free) online archive of work dating back to 1997. In an effort to highlight the best of what's gone before, we'll be bringing you a weekly blast from BP's past, introducing or re-introducing you to some of the most informative and entertaining authors who have passed through our virtual halls. If you have fond recollections of a BP piece that you'd like to nominate for re-exposure to a wider audience, send us your suggestion.
In a piece that originally ran as an "Inside the Park" column on December 8, 2010 and which will also be appearing in the soon-to-be-released Best of Baseball Prospectus, Bradford Doolittle wrote about the special La Russa-Pujols era in St. Louis.
Recounting the rich history of cats and baseball in the wake of the latest on-field feline sighting.
Believe it or not, most of our writers didn't enter the world sporting an @baseballprospectus.com address; with a few exceptions, they started out somewhere else. In an effort to up your reading pleasure while tipping our caps to some of the most illuminating work being done elsewhere on the internet, we'll be yielding the stage once a week to the best and brightest baseball writers, researchers and thinkers from outside of the BP umbrella. If you'd like to nominate a guest contributor (including yourself), please drop us a line.
Dan McQuade was a contributing editor at Walkoff Walk. His sportswriting has appeared on SI.com, VF.com, Philadelphia Weekly, Phillymag.com, AV Club Philadelphia, and many other current and defunct publications. He occasionally remembers to update his blog, Philadelphia Will Do. His Twitter account (@dhm) was named Best of Philly this year; he also runs the @kittyonthefield Twitter account, documenting all cat-related baseball news. He lives in Philadelphia and was positive Kevin Milwood's no-hitter would be the high-water mark for the Phillies this century; he still isn't sure how to deal with their recent run of success.
A visit to the Friendly Confines inspires thoughts on nostalgia, progress, and Bill Veeck. Warning: some adult language.
Last Friday I was lucky to attend part of the American Statistical Association Conference in Chicago, and Saturday I was luckier still to go to Wrigley Field for the first time. One of Friday’s speakers was Allen Sanderson, a professor in the University of Chicago’s Department of Economics. In between making a number of intelligent points about things like the fiscal reality of hosting the Olympics, he said one thing that seriously jarred me: that it made no sense for the owners of the Cubs to put “another penny” into Wrigley, and that instead they should tear it down and move the team to the suburbs.
What game, exactly, did Ferris Bueller and friends attend on his famous "day off"? Who hit the foul ball that Ferris caught?
On his day off, Ferris Bueller had quite the adventure. From "borrowing" the 1961 Ferrari 250GT of his best friend's unforgiving father to visiting both the Sears Tower and the Art Institute and finally to singing "Danke Schön" and "Twist and Shout" in front of thousands of Chicagoans, it's fair to say that no one ever had a day off quite like it.
On Ferris's agenda that afternoon was, naturally, a trip to Wrigley Field. After grabbing a bite to eat (as "Abe Froman, Sausage King of Chicago") at a snooty Magnificent Mile restaurant, Ferris and pals headed to the stadium to catch a ballgame.
The Tony La Russa-Albert Pujols era in St. Louis is nearly unprecedented.
It’s the last day of the season at Wrigley Field and I’m determined to wait out Albert Pujols.
I’ve been assigned to cover the Cardinals for the weekend series, the last three games at the antique ballpark in the 2010 season. Before each game, I spend about three hours hanging around the Cardinals in the visiting team clubhouse at Wrigley—a dank, cramped space that isn’t as big as the locker room at the high school I attended in small-town Iowa. It’s an awkward setup, leaving you hovering around 30-35 big-league personnel with no place to stand. On the flip side, there really is no place for them to hide. If you need to interview someone, this is the place to do it. Only the most resolute can avoid the press in there.
Why are home teams winning more now than in previous eras?
When I wrote my five-partseriesonhome-fieldadvantage in 2009, I noticed that it had been steady at about 54 percent for over half a century. It was 53.9 percent in the 1950s, 54.0 percent in the ‘60s, 53.8 percent in the ‘70s, 54.1 percent in the ’80s, 53.5 percent in the ‘90s, and 54.2 percent in the 2000s. However, in the last three years, we have seen home teams win 55.5 percent of the 7,288 games played, a very statistically significant difference. Does this suggest that a large change has actually taken place, or is it just a coincidence? If a change has taken place, what is causing it?
The Diamondbacks television analyst talks about his playing career and his professional approach to hitting.
Mark Grace was, in his own words, “a professional hitter,” and it is hard to argue with the longtime Cubs, and later Diamondbacks, first baseman. The left-handed-hitting Grace batted .303/.383/.442, from 1988-2003, pounding out 2,445 hits, including 511 two-baggers and 173 home runs. A three-time All-Star who won a World Series ring with Arizona in 2001, Grace currently serves as a color analyst on Diamondbacks broadcasts.
A look at how a sabermetrician would have viewed a memorable Saturday afternoon game at Wrigley Field nearly 26 years ago.
It started as an ordinary Saturday afternoon game between a third-place club and a fifth-place club—sure, there were NBC broadcasters there, but not the main announcing team of Vin Scully and Joe Garagiola. They were in Atlanta calling the marquee matchup between Fernando Valenzuela and Pascual Perez, while this game featured a rookie starter looking for his first major-league win, and a nondescript veteran with a career 54-57 record. Before it was over, however, one player would hit for the cycle, another would stroke a bases-loaded pinch-hit single in extra innings to win the game, and neither would be remembered as the game’s hero. This Cubs/Cardinals tilt at Wrigley Field was one for the annals, and if you’ve ponied up the cash to log onto CompuServe to read this you probably want more detailed analysis than you’re likely to find in Monday's USA Today—and that’s what I’ll try to provide, along with some statistical tidbits from the recent cutting-edge work of “sabermetricians” Bill James, John Thorn, and Pete Palmer.
The new Yankeee Stadium has received a lot of press this spring for the large number of homeruns hit there so far. On April 21, 2009, Buster Olney wrote at ESPN http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=4080195 "The New York Yankees might have a serious problem on their hands: Beautiful new Yankee Stadium appears to be a veritable wind tunnel that is rocketing balls over the fences...including 17 in the first three games in the Yankees' first home series against the Indians. That's an average of five home runs per game and, at this pace, there would be about 400 homers hit in the park this year -- or an increase of about 250 percent. In the last year of old Yankee Stadium, in 2008, there were a total of 160 homers."
Possible changes coming in the GM landscape, the Astros are irked, and Cubs players envy how the other half lives.
A few months ago, it appeared that there would be wholesale changes made among major league general managers in the offseason, but now that no longer seems to be such a certainty. One team that will definitely have a new GM in 2009 is the Phillies, as Pat Gillick has already announced that he is retiring at the end of the season. It is conceivable, though unlikely, that the Phillies could be the only team to change GMs.