Monday, October 09, 2006

(Rhetorical) Question

Suppose that you read somebody's blog, and they gave predictions on the playoff series. And while this person explicitly told you that he didn't have a lot of confidence in his predictions, and that the playoffs were a crapshoot and anyone could win, etc., he picked the wrong team in each of the four series. The question is, would you care to know who he picked for the next round of the playoffs?

The answer, I believe is yes, you would want to know, because maybe he's always 100% wrong, and that's just as valuable as being 100% right. And in that spirit, I offer (against my better judgement) the A's in the ALCS and the Mets in the NLCS. Why the A's? No particular reason. Call it a hunch (or more likely, a hope).

Of course it is fated that the Tigers will win the World Series. So did the Diamondbacks, Angels, Marlins, and White Sox. What did all these teams have in common? I couldn't stand them.

I need some content for this post, and it will just be some random stuff:
1. There was a little flap this week about some comments Phil Birnbaum posted on his blog (linked under his name on the side of the page). The Cliff's Notes is that he criticized academics for ignoring the work of sabermetricians when they write baseball-related articles. Unfortunately, Phil specifically discussed a paper by JC Bradbury of Sabernomics (also linked on the side of the page). The problem with this is while JC may in this instance (or may not; I don't really have an opinion and don't want to get involved) have been "dismissive" of the work of sabermetricians, he has excellent credentials as someone who engages with the sabermetric community at large, best exemplified by his occasional writing for The Hardball Times. So while I agree completely with Phil's criticisim of academics in general (it is a sentiment that to some degree I expressed here; my target was "statisticians" but of course many of the statisticians I was referring to are academics), it was unfortunate that he coupled this complaint with an article by Bradbury, when there are plenty of other examples out there.

2. Kevin Kennedy criticized Joe Torre and Bruce Bochy for not bringing back their top pitchers to pitch in game four, facing elimination. Now in the case of Bochy, I can see it since Peavy could have pitched game four and maintained his normal rest. And that allows you to come back with Woody Williams in game five, plus maybe use David Wells as a long man on three days rest. So I can understand that. But if you throw Wang on three days rest in game four, you are stuck with Jaret Wright anyway, and you don't get either your "ace" on full rest or skip your bum. So I'm not sure what that is supposed to accomplish. Yes, you can't get to game five if you don't win game four, but your goal has to be to win both games. Having a 60% chance to win game four and a 40% chance to win game five is not more valuable to you then having a 50% chance to win both games (just throwing out numbers there), even if it makes you feel better. It doesn't matter if you lose in four or lose in five.

3. One thing Bochy did that did bother me was bat Josh Bard cleanup. I don't even want to get into the debate about ideal lineup construction and how big of an impact in terms of runs the batting order makes. That's not the point. I just see it as laziness on the part of the manager. And other guys do this too (I remember seeing Mike Redmond batting third for the Twins while Joe Mauer was getting a day off). You slide the replacement into the regular guys spot because that way everybody else stays in their same spot. If the players really do have a psychological problem with batting in different spots (and really, what's the difference between say #6 and #7 anyway?), then if I was a manager I'd see what I could do to shake it up and change their thinking on it.

4. Remedial Math for Torii Hunter. But keeping it simple with run expectancy, and overly simplistic assumptions. Everyone knows that with 2 outs and a runner at first, Hunter dove for a ball and it got by him and was an inside-the-park homer. Given Tango's 1999-2002 RE table, the expectancy is .251 runs. Obviously it is 0 if you make the catch. If it goes for an inside the parker, it is none on and 2 out, which is .117, plus the 2 runs that scored on the play. So 2.117 runs. The breakeven percentage is:
.251 = 0(X)+2.117(1-X)
Where X = 88.9% So if you can make the play 89% of the time, you break even. Of course, this assumes that it always goes for a homer if you don't catch it, which is not true, and makes the play a little better. But the point is, you've gotta be pretty confident that you're going to make the play.

5. Technical Sabermetric stuff that apparently needs to be repeated constantly, and hopefully somebody will remember:
a) Win Shares has a built-in baseline. Putting lipstick (distribution of team wins) on a pig (marginal runs versus a .200 player) leaves you with a pig, not Kate from Lost.
b) OW% is the W% a team would have if they had AVERAGE defense and hit like the player in question. And therefore when you say a replacement player is a .350 player, it doesn't mean that a team filled with replacement players would be .350. They'd be worse. A replacement level offense with an average defense would be .350.

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