I don't have any insight into any of this, but the recent firing of Paul DePodesta in LA and the resignation of Theo Epstein in Boston are truly shocking, at least to this observer. It is shaping up to be a very interesting offseason, and we haven't even talked player moves yet, just executives.
Sunday, October 23, 2005
Barring a remarkable final five games of the World Series, the 2005 playoffs will go down as one of the most uninspiring, boring, and horrifically officated playoffs of recent memory--certainly of the last five years. Looking at the last five postseason, the 2000 playoffs are in the same sort of boat, although without the horrific umpiring which has sullied it this year. Looking at 01-04, though:
The maximum possible number of games in the 05 postseason is 29+5=34, the same number as 2000. Looking at extra inning games, which I consider a fairly good quick indicator of the closeness of the games(although certainly there are many fantastic games of 9 innings or less, but just about every extra inning game can be considered a great one), you see this:
Again, 05 is at or near the bottom.
What are the great moments of the 2005 playoffs? The Pujols HR game was fantastic, and the Astros/Braves epic battle ranks among the greatest games I've ever seen. Game 2 that we just saw will be remembered but will be sullied by bad umpiring. Outside of that, the moments which will live on will be the atrocious umpiring. The Josh Paul play took Game 2 of the ALCS from an extra-inning pick-em to a potential White Sox victory. The umpires in Game 5 whose strike zone can only be rivaled by Eric Gregg and his Pacific Ocean-sized zone for Livan Hernandez in the 1997 NLCS. The catcher interference non-call in the ALCS that probably had no impact on who won but had to increase the ire in the Angels to remarkable levels. And finally, the phantom hit by pitch tonight which loaded the bases and denied Wheeler the opportunity to retire Dye.
In the interests of full disclosure, if you had asked me before the playoffs started who I was pulling for, I would have responded in order:
2 Red Sox
8 White Sox
So the fact that my least favorite team of the eight is winning the thing could well be a factor in my bitterness(incidentally, the team I favored least also won the World Series in 2001, 2002, and 2003). But I firmly believe that when objective baseball historians of the 22nd century write the ex post facto history of the playoffs, 2005 will be an afterthought.
Friday, October 21, 2005
I guess one should issue a WS prediction if they are going to fancy themselves as a baseball pundit. I will admit that I am personally inclined to root for the Astros(mostly because I have always been an admirer of Biggio/Bagwell/Clemens and because the White Sox are division rivals with the Indians and are falsely held up as "small ball yadda yadda yadda"). Anyway, I will try to prevent that from coloring the analysis.
The White Sox' .611 W% is superior to the Astros' .549. The EW%s(based on R and RA) come in at .563 and .555. PW%(based on RC and RCA) come in at .537 and .542. Home Field Advantage should be considered, and that of course belongs to Chicago.
Based on the EW% and PW%, I would have to consider the two teams about equal. Taking a look at the teams offenses, the White Sox scored 4.5 runs/game(park-adjusted) versus the league average of 4.8. The Astros scored 4.2 versus the league average of 4.5, so both teams are -.3 runs/game against their leagues. It is not pretty offensively here. As a matter of fact, the White Sox were 3rd to last in the AL in runs and the Astros 5th to last.
It is defensively where these teams shine, and the White Sox allowed 3.9 runs/game while the Astros allowed 3.7. The White Sox are +.6 and the Astros +.8. The White Sox and Astros were each the top defensive team in their leagues(which may lead to silly assertions about pitching is 99.3% of the game or what have you. May I point out that the Red Sox led the AL in runs last year and the Cardinals were second in the NL, while Boston was in the middle of the pack in runs allowed(the Cards were a close second in the NL)).
Much is being made of the White Sox pitchers and their complete game streak, but the top three pitchers in the Neanderthal League this year were named Clemens, Pettitte, and Oswalt, and they'll each pitch twice. Backe at -7 RAA is a little bit of a weakness, so overall I would consider the starting pitching equal or a slight advantage to Houston. The bullpen, if Ozzie ever uses, favor Chicago in depth and Houston in the stopper. Qualls, Wheeler, and Gallo are the only setup guys Garner trusts, while Chicago can come at you with Cotts, Marte, and Hermanson, plus El Duque who has pitched great in the playoffs. But Brade Lidge is certainaly a more intimidating prescence then rookie Bobby Jenks. Again, very close, but a slight edge to Chicago.
Looking at the offenses, Pierzynski and Ausmus both created 4 runs/game so they are equally poor. The White Sox have a huge advantage at first with Konerko over Lamb--if Berkman plays first and Burke plays center, the Astros gain a little bit but you still have weak hitting in one of the outfield corners. Biggio and Iguchi are close to equals, while Uribe is average and Everett is a sinkhole. At third, Ensberg had a suprisingly good season(+44 PRAA) and Crede fairly average. For all the hype, Scott Podsednik had a .347 OBA and a .150 SEC playing left and is not much of an asset, Aaron Rowand is a below average hitter, and Jermaine Dye is average for right field. The Astros have the big bat in Berkman, but Taveras and the left fielder of the day wash that advantage right out. Carl Everett at DH is -18 RAA, but sadly that may be better then whoever Houston can drudge up(Jeff Bagwell has the name but not the skills that made him one of the greats). There is nobody on the bench for either team that should scare Lidge or Jenks. Again, I see the offenses as fairly equal.
These are two evenly matched teams. This has the potential to be a fabulous, low-scoring, tightly-contested seven game war. I'll pick it to go seven, but given Roger Clemens sub-par playoff performance, I will pick the White Sox to exorcise their demons. If that happens, we will have gotten rid of the 2nd longest drought(CHA) and the 3rd(BOS) in two years. Now can we please get around to #4?
Friday, October 07, 2005
Now the NL
It pained me to include Taveras on the candidates list, because I don’t think he deserves a second thought. But he is widely considered a contender(he is the ESPN “third party candidate” in this race with Howard and Francouer as the top guys). However, I think there are a number of rookies I did not list such as Garrett Atkins and Victor Diaz just to name a few. Taveras hit 288/317/338 for a .092 Secondary Average. So he stole 34 bases and was thrown out 11 times. Even if you use the old generous Total Baseball weights of .3 for a SB and .6 for a CS, that’s 7 runs. Yippee. Yes, he played a full season while Howard and Francouer did not, but Howard and Francouer + replacement still add ten to twenty more runs then a full season of Taveras. And that includes a positional adjustment.
Anyway, the rookie crop fails to inspire anyway you slice it. The top rookie starter was Jeff Francis, who pitched 180 serviceable innings at Coors, which is commendable, but not award-worthy. Looking at the relievers, Tejada’s LI was only .44 according to BP, so he was mostly mopping up. Majewski and Qualls were each right around 1.3.
Ultimately, if I am given the choice for the
1. Ryan Howard, PHI
2. Jeff Francouer, ATL
3. Gary Majewski, WAS
Review of pre-season pick: JJ Hardy, MIL
Hardy may have cost himself the award by hitting 187/293/267 before the break. But he rebounded to hit 308/363/508 after the break which would have won it had it been over a full season. Of course, usually caveats about the word “if” apply. Hardy’s improvement coincided with a 42% decline in his walk rate, although his .086 W/AB ratio in the second half is still fairly good for a young hitter. Hardy was a solid player this year and though he may have to move off short some day, should have a very solid career and could also become something special.
Now we move on to Rookie of the Year picks, starting as always with the American League and working our way to the Neanderthal League. First I will give a long list of potential candidates with their RAR and RAA figures(for position players, they are versus an average hitter at their position):
ESPN.com has a page devoted to the awards with two writers making the case on behalf of two different players, and then a “third-party candidate”. For this race, the two major guys are Gomes and Street and the third-party is Iguchi.
The forgotten men in all of this are Joe Blanton and Gustavo Chacin. Blanton worked 201 innings with a 3.89 RA and Chacin worked 203 innings with a 4.00 RA. Both of them appear to have been “lucky”, with Blanton posting a 4.13 eRA and 4.93 GRA, and Chacin at 4.51/4.53, as Blanton gave up hits on 25.4% of his balls in play; Chacin at the league average rate of 29.8%. However, while Blanton and Chacin may not have pitched as well as it appears, when considering value this season, the runs are where it’s at. Blanton and Chacin project as solid starters, not aces, but they both deserve more consideration in the
The hitters are not particularly close to the pitchers; Iguchi, Gomes, and Cano are the only solid candidates, and Iguchi has the Japanese League thing working against him(although I don’t think it should). So it comes down to the pitchers.
Street at +37 RAR trails Blanton and Chacin, but is well ahead at +26 runs above average. He also worked in high leverage situations as a short reliever, but Baseball Prospectus puts his leverage index at just 1.19. Crain is behind in both and has a very low 21.6% $H. If you use the BP leverage result, and assume that Blanton and Chacin as starters had 1.00 LI, Street can move to +44/31. Combined with his strong eRA and GRA, as well as his youth advantage, is enough to win my vote:
2. Joe Blanton, OAK
3. Gustavo Chacin, TOR
Review of pre-season pick: Nick Swisher, OAK
As much as I'd love to pass out love to my fellow Buckeye, he is not worthy of ROY consideration. But he had a solid rookie season and should continue to improve and become a very good major league hitter. My favorite player in baseball.
Thursday, October 06, 2005
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
With the end of the season upon us, I have compiled my annual statistical reports which have now been posted on my website. I have some random observations from these, cross-posted at FanHome, and then I will get into the matter of my ballots for the Internet Baseball Awards.
I was just stunned when I was putting my stats together tonight when I looked at the NL starting pitchers. I have the top 3 NL starters in terms of Runs Above Replacement(defined as 125% of the league run average as):
The top 3 starters in the NL, all Astros(although Carpenter, Willis, and Pedro are all within a few runs and well within the margin of error, etc.) Still quite impressive. If you do the list by RAA, Pedro and Carpenter overtake Oswalt by fractions of a run but Clemens and Pettitte remain on top.
Then there is the matter of my poor Indians, who collapsed in the last week. According to an article on BP today by Clay Davenport, only seven teams had blown bigger postseason odds then the Tribe, who were at 96.5% last week according to their methods. Anyway, the Indians offense ranks in RAA versus an average hitter at their postion:
C Martinez.......+32, first
2B Belliard......+11, seventh
SS Peralta.......+36, fourth
LF Crisp.........+7, sixth
CF Sizemore......+18, first(pretty pathetic group in CF for the AL)
DH Hafner........+37, second
Of course, I left out:
1B Broussard.....-11, eleventh
3B Boone.........-15, fourteenth
RF Blake.........-14, fifteenth
The Indians had the best pyth. record in the AL and the best pyth using RC and RC Allowed in all of baseball. It is very frustrating to miss out on the playoffs by two games in large part because you have no production from the corner positions.
Unless David Ortiz has some other-worldly clutch figures, I don't see how you can deny ARod the MVP. I have ARod leading by 10 RAR above an average hitter. So that's not counting defense at all, not even an offensive positional adjustment. I don't see how Ortiz makes up 10 runs on offense + the defensive value gap. Pujols and Lee are very close in the NL as far as I can tell(slight edge of 5 or so runs to Lee), so that race should be looked at further I would think.
The AL Cy Young should be Johan Santana again. He was being outpitched by Halladay before he got hurt, but nobody is particularly close to him. But I doubt he'll win it again.
Scott Eyre of the Giants has some crazy inherited runners numbers. I'd love to know what his leverage index is, or if he was just coming in to mop up messes when it doesn't matter. He pitched 86 times and inherited 78 runners, or .91/game(all of those figures led the league). Of those guys, only 15.4% scored versus an NL average of 31.4%. And even with all of these inherited runners, his Run Average was only 2.86 to begin with.
Now to the matter of the Internet Baseball Awards. I will start with the Manager of the Year. I really think the manager of the year award is the stupidest one in existence. My criteria has always been "Which team exceeded my expectations the most?" If everyone asked the question this way, we would have little consensus, because everybody has their own set of expectations. Of course, some teams like the White Sox exceeded just about everybody's expectations, so they would do well by everyone if they used this criteria. Anyway, I'm not sure that criteria is the best, but it seems to fairly well approximate how the writers go about voting on it as well. Some people like to compare Pythagorean records, but I think this is silly. Pythagorean deviations are as likely to be random as anything else. Further more, managerial decisions impact the Runs and Runs Allowed totals, be it through strategy or who they play or what have you. It's not as if the R and RA are just pure and the manager comes and muddles them all up to lead to the actual record. You could instead use RC and RC Allowed, but those are still impacted(although a little less so) by the manager and the randomness factor is even larger.
I suppose I could also vote for the manager who ordered the least number of sacrifice hits, intentional walks, and other things I don't personally like, but that would be silly. Therefore, I will go by the default criteria I discussed above to get:
1. Ozzie Guillen, CHA--I picked the White Sox fourth. Oops. But I'll probably pick them fourth next year from the looks of it now. Oh yeah, and what the heck is with the Tigers firing Alan Trammel? What, it was his fault he didn't turn a team with Jeremey Bonderman(-4 RAA) as their best pitcher and Placido Polanco(who was only there for half a year) as their best offensive player? Was it his fault that Guillen and Ordonez got hurt and IRod decided to post a .295 OBA? It's not like they collapsed from last year to this year and they improved a great deal(well, that's a given) from his first season. Plus you wouldn't think that the hometown hero would get thrown to the wolves like that. Oh, well.
2. Eric Wedge, CLE--I expected the Indians to contend for the Central division title. I did not expect them to post the best EW% in the AL, the best PW% in the majors, and contend with the Yankees and Red Sox as well.
3. Ken Macha, OAK--I expected Oakland to contend as well. In August, I thought they would win. Of course they did not, but a lot of people didn't think they would get close, ripped Billy Beane, and they got kicked in the teeth
1. Phil Garner, HOU--Yeah, I picked the Astros fourth, behind the Cubs and Brewers. But I didn't think they would overcome the loss of Beltran, I didn't think that Clemens would get even better at age 43, I didn't think that Andy Pettitte would come back, not as a solid starter, but at the second best pitcher in the National League. So, yeah, I didn't see that one coming.
2. Frank Robinson, WAS--In my NL East prediction I wrote that it could be "a great four team race". The Nationals were not one of the four I was thinking of.
3. Bobby Cox, ATL--Yes, I predicted that the Braves would 10-peat in the East, but it was half-hearted. It has become difficult to pick against the Braves. I had been doing it for the last few years, and kept getting burned. So I finally picked them this year. Eventually, they will lose. But while they are still winning, you've gotta tip your cap to Bobby Cox.