Jul 212014

Of course they CAN. Will they? Probably not. Let’s take a look at the Yankees’ chances to make the postseason.

The all-star break Yankees were 47-47, and as my previous post claimed, deserved this record. Of course, the RS/RS analysis normally done suggests they were over their head at .500 (-40 run differential) which makes a playoff run even more improbable. Their problem is that the players they most expected to come through for them are mostly older, and that 4/5 of their opening day rotation is on the disabled list. By my metric, the ONLY pitchers to have started a game for NY and who deserved a winning record at the break were Tanaka (on the DL) and Pineda (on the DL) plus Shane Greene who started a total of 2 games. So the starting pitching is a major problem.

But they traded for Brandon McCarthy, and in 3 starts for NY he has posted game scores of 67 and 71, thus deserving a 2-0 record. His fWAR after 2 starts is 0.3, as compared to -0.5 in 18 starts for Arizona. So it’s a fluke you say, and you’re probably right. BUT fWAR has him at 1.5 – he had badly underperformed his peripherals in Arizona, which could be luck. IF he is really a 3.69 FIP or (even better) a 2.87 xFIP then he might help the Yankees. A lot.

Meanwhile, since the break the Yankees hosted the red-hot Reds for a 3-game set. The Reds have 3 quality starters, two of them all-stars, and of course with 4 days off all three were good to go. The Yankees countered with Phelps (3-4 3.96), McCarthy (4-10 4.90) and Kuroda (6-6 4.10). The offense had one deserved win (7 runs), one deserved break-even (4 runs) and one deserved loss (3 runs) but Phelps threw a GS 57 (0.65 wins), Betances and Robertson were effective, and they won. Then McCarthy threw a GS 71 (win) and they won easily. Then Kuroda threw a GS 70 (win) but the offense struggled (well, it WAS Cueto) and the bullpen was one effective and one ineffective, but the combination was a lucky win. Thus they swept the Reds, upped their record to 50-47, and gave us hope.

What needs to happen going forward? Well, for one thing, the other AL East teams need to not get hot. The 5 teams were all playing out-of-division, and their collective record for those 3 days was 12-3, so NY didn’t gain too much ground. On the other hand, the 3 losses were all by teams ahead of them (Baltimore 2, Toronto 1) so in fact they closed to within 3 of the division lead, and tied for second. Still, if the Yankees are to have a chance, it is likely to be the division: the wild card teams figure to win 90 games, and the Yankees would need to go 40-25 to achieve that, a .615 pace, which seems most unlikely. on the other hand, the division could very possibly be won with about 87 wins, which doesn’t seem like a lot fewer but 37-28 is only .569 which seems a lot more doable.

To accomplish this, the Yankees need more offense out of Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran. They need Gardner and Ellsbury and Teixeira to continue about where they have been, and Jeter to keep getting enough singles and walks to not be an anchor in the 2-slot (in a table game, he should probably bat 9th, but that is just NOT going to happen). A .275 hitter with a .330 OBP and no power is not an ideal #2, but it will play. But if he slips to .250/.300 he will drag them down for sure. The Yankees are 8-7 in games in which they scored only 3 runs, which is pretty lucky. But they are 6-7 in games which they score 5 runs, which is pretty unlucky. Their offense is average, and it needs to move a little above average.

Meanwhile, the rotation. Kuroda has faded badly in the second half of each of the last 3 seasons, and the Yankees need him not to do that, as he is kind of the ace of this rotation. McCarthy needs to pitch like his FIP or xFIP instead of his ERA, which history suggests is reasonable. Phelps, Whitley and Greene need to hang in there and give the Yankees a chance to win some of the time. Doesn’t sound like a championship rotation, does it? But actually, none of them has been so bad by my metrics. Phelps deserves a .500 record, Whitley 4-6 and Greene of course is 2-0. And sometime in August they should get both Tanaka and Pineda back. If both are effective (as they were before going down) and if NY is still in the race when they return, then a Rotation of Tanaka, Kuroda, Pineda, Phelps and McCarthy sounds a WHOLE lot better.

then there is the Jekyll and Hyde bullpen. The Yankees had 2 all-stars: the sentimental but not by-the-stats-deserving Jeter, and a reliever: the electric Dellin Betances. And Robertson has been just as good as Betances in the closer role. In terms of fWAR Betances is at 2.1 and Robertson at 1.6. They are better than all the starters except Tanaka (3.2) and Kuroda (2.0). Supporting the two rock stars are two other effective relievers: Adam Warren and Shawn Kelley. If the game is close, this quartet can usually keep it that way. The rest of the bullpen is pretty awful, and all four of these guys is right-handed (as are all 5 starters) so the Yankees are certainly vulnerable to left-handed hitting.

But the bottom line is that, in this division in this year, they are not actually far behind: neither in the standings, where they trail Baltimore by a mere 3 games, nor in actual ability. I give them about 1 chance in 3 of the postseason, with most of that being a division leader. And a Yankee team with Tanaka and Pineda, and with offense from about 6 positions, could actually do some damage when they get there.

A man can dream.

Jul 182014

The inability of this blog manager to post a readable table frustrates me (and likely my readers, as well) and I am, for the time being, giving up on trying to outsmart it. Instead, I will post the report cards in a redundant, non-table manner which is at least pretty readable. So, without further ado, here are the scores:

ARI Actual F Hitters D+ Starters F Bullpen C
ATL Actual B Hitters D Starters A- Bullpen B-
BAL Actual B Hitters C+ Starters D- Bullpen B-
BOS Actual D Hitters C Starters C Bullpen B-
CHC Actual D- Hitters D- Starters C Bullpen B
CWS Actual D+ Hitters B Starters D+ Bullpen D+
CLE Actual C Hitters C Starters F Bullpen C
CIN Actual B- Hitters C Starters B Bullpen C
COL Actual F Hitters C+ Starters F Bullpen D
DET Actual A- Hitters B Starters B- Bullpen D+
HOU Actual F Hitters D Starters D Bullpen D
KCR Actual C Hitters C- Starters C Bullpen B-
LAA Actual A Hitters A Starters B Bullpen B-
LAD Actual B Hitters C Starters A- Bullpen C
MIA Actual D+ Hitters C Starters D Bullpen C
MIL Actual B Hitters B Starters C- Bullpen B
MIN Actual D+ Hitters B Starters F Bullpen C+
NYM Actual D+ Hitters C+ Starters B- Bullpen C+
NYY Actual C Hitters C Starters C- Bullpen D+
OAK Actual A+ Hitters B+ Starters B Bullpen B+
PHI Actual D Hitters D Starters D+ Bullpen C+
PIT Actual C+ Hitters C- Starters C- Bullpen C+
SDP Actual D- Hitters F Starters C+ Bullpen A+
SFG Actual B Hitters D Starters C Bullpen A
SEA Actual B- Hitters C Starters B Bullpen A+
STL Actual B Hitters C+ Starters B Bullpen B
TBR Actual D Hitters C Starters C+ Bullpen B-
TEX Actual F Hitters D+ Starters F Bullpen C-
TOR Actual C Hitters B- Starters D Bullpen D-
WSN Actual B Hitters D+ Starters B+ Bullpen A+

A few comments about methodology and meaning, in case I might happen to have a stray new reader: each grade is supposed to be independent, in an “all else being equal” way, though it doesn’t really work. In theory, then a B grade for hitters should produce a B overall if the two pitching categories are C. This actually works fairly well for hitters and starters, but for a bullpen to carry average starters and average hitters to a high number of wins is pretty nearly impossible, so to really rate it this way would result in all the bullpen ratings being between D+ and B-, and what fun is that?

The ratings are derived by esoteric means, and at the moment the MLB rating for hitters is C, as it should be, but starters is C- and Bullpen is C+, so some minor adjustment is required. I normally do this adjustment at season’s end, as the variability of small sample sizes would require constant tweaking.

Hitters: teams are rated on how often the offense puts the team in a position to win. 3 or fewer runs is considered a loss, 4 is a half-win, 5 or more is a win. No adjustment is made for ballpark, for the simple reason that this is a FAN based metric: if a team scores only 3 runs, the fans think they didn’t get the job done, even if the team won. Similarly if they score 5, then a fan blames the pitching if they lose.

Starters: pitchers are rated on Bill James’ game score, explained elsewhere. The league average game score when this was introduced in the mid-80s was about 48.5. But it has been steadily rising, being nearly 54 last season. This year it has (so far) slipped a bit, to just over 53. But I am keeping it at 54 for now. What that means is that a pitcher gets a deserved half-win for a GS of 54. for each point above that he adds .05 until at 64 it is a full deserved win. For each point below that he loses .05, until at 44 it becomes a full deserved loss. This works pretty well.

Relievers: this is based on my own esoteric scale, where each relief outing is rated Effective (+1), Ineffective (-1), yikes (-2) or YIKES! (-3) and these are simply totaled up to get relief value. To get rating, though, you need to know volume, so a ratio of this total to number of relief appearances gives a percentage, and a number is added to that to get a winning percentage. That number is currently .275 if anyone cares. This means that if your ratio of score to outings is .115 you get a grade C. This requires and example, I am sure:

Randall Delgado of the Diamondbacks has appeared in 26 games, a total of 36 IP. His ERA is exactly 4.00, so standard metrics might suggest that he is an average reliever. I have his 26 appearances classified as follows: 17 effective, 7 ineffective, 2 yikes, 0 YIKES! His score then is 17 – 7 – 4 = 6, and 6/26 = .230 so he grades as a .505 reliever, which is a C.

One note about all these metrics – most baseball stats assume that RS/RA are random, but these metrics are based on the assumption that this is slightly flawed. A team that is losing 8-0 will put its worst reliever(s) in, and leave them in, often losing 15-2 in the process. An offense keeps trying to get hits and score, in part because their own stats are effected, even if they are losing or winning big. Thus a starter with a GS of 35 is really not that much better than one with a GS of 5 – both expect to lose. Similarly, a pitcher with a YIKES! hurts the team but often this comes in a game that is already lost. Thus a pitcher that allows nothing in 9 outings, and 6 runs in one outing, will score very well (9 effective, 1 YIKES!) while a pitcher that allows those same 6 runs in those same 10 outings, but allows 1 run in 6 of them is likely to score much more poorly (4 effective 6 ineffective). In effect, these metrics try to answer the question: how OFTEN does this offense, starter, or reliever play well, rather than HOW WELL do the numbers suggest they do overall.

Mostly, this does not matter. Teams whose hitters grade well are usually the teams that score the most runs, and vice versa. Sometimes, though, they explain anomalies: the 2014 Yankees are 47-47 despite a terrible run differential. The reason, according to these metrics is that the much-maligned hitters score an acceptable number of runs more often than you would expect, but they almost never score a really high number. And similarly, they have a bullpen with four very effective pitchers: Betances A+++, Robertson A++, Warren B- and Kelley B-. Not coincidentally, these are the four pitchers with the most relief innings. But ALL their other pitchers grade out at D+ or worse, and so their overall bullpen rating is not good. What this really means, though, is that when the game is close they use their 4, and when it is not they use the others, and the others get pounded. So they lose bigger than they would if they had some extra mediocre arms, and that explodes their run differential, but does not materially affect their W/L record. The Yankees (as I expect to show in my next post) deserver their average record: they are an average team. Their W/L is a better indicator of how they have played than their RS/RA, even though often the reverse is true.

One last note: many readers will look at the Oakland ratings and say this method doesn’t work. How, they say, can a team with a B+ offense, a B rotation, and a B+ bullpen be an A+ team, with the best record in baseball and an absolutely amazing run differential. My answer is that is EXACTLY what I would expect from a team well above average in all three. Remember, this is supposedly a team that would be B+ (.560) with AVERAGE pitching, and B (.550) with AVERAGE hitting. When both are way above average, this combines to be well above .600 (A+). If anything, the A’s should have MORE wins than they do.

The Silence Breaks

Posted by Baseball Bob at 09:58
Jul 182014

Hi friends!

Long time, no talk to. I have been busy, but that is no excuse. I followed the World Cup closely (what does it say about me that I would rather follow the WBC than March Madness, but the World Cup took me away from the regular season? Nothing good, I’m guessing). I also have had my grandchildren 3-4 days a week for the past few weeks, which cuts into my time (AND my sleep :-)

It is the all-star break, the Yankees are 47-47 but still in it, sort of, and baseball is on my mind. I don’t know how much I will write, but I expect to do some posts today: this one, all-star break report cards, and possibly a Yankees analysis.

Meanwhile, I make no promise about future posts, but I hope to get back to a more regular thing. I miss all of you, and you don’t write if I don’t, so I hope to try.

thanks for your patience.

April Report Cards

Posted by Baseball Bob at 10:22
May 052014

Didn’t get to it on Thursday; life intervened. But I have chosen to cut off the data at April 30 anyway, so if your team is the Giants (won every day so far in May) then these numbers may appear to be a little low. By the way, to have the starters overall come out to .500, I have to consider a GS of 44 to be a whole loss, with 45 worth .05 win, and needing a 64 to garner a whole win. When GS first came out, Bill James reported that the average game score was a little under 50, at 48.85. It is now over 54, so the decade of the pitcher is very real.

MLB Actual Hitters Starters Relievers
Team W L Gr W L Gr W L Gr G Rat Gr
Arizona 9 22 F 18.25 12.75 A- 7.65 23.35 F 103 15 D
Atlanta 17 9 A++ 12.00 14.00 D+ 19.15 6.85 A+++ 73 23 B
Baltimore 12 12 C 9.75 14.25 F 8.50 15.50 F 70 15 C
Boston 13 14 C- 16.50 10.50 A+ 14.05 12.95 C+ 74 19 C
Chic Cubs 9 17 F 12.00 14.00 D+ 13.80 12.20 B- 80 17 C
Chic Sox 14 15 C- 18.00 11.00 A+ 11.90 17.10 F 83 5 F
Cleveland 11 17 F 13.25 13.75 C 9.20 18.80 F 92 18 C-
Cincinnati 12 15 D 11.50 15.50 D- 16.15 10.85 A 63 8 D
Colorado 16 13 B 17.25 11.75 A 11.20 17.80 F 95 21 C
Detroit 14 9 A 13.25 9.75 A- 13.80 9.20 A 72 5 F
Houston 9 19 F 9.75 18.25 F 13.25 14.75 D+ 74 2 F
Kans City 14 12 B- 13.00 13.00 C 15.20 10.80 A- 65 7 D-
LA suburb 14 13 C+ 16.25 10.75 A 15.20 11.80 B+ 87 23 C+
LA real 15 12 B 13.25 13.75 C 17.50 9.50 A++ 104 18 D+
Miami 13 14 C- 13.50 13.50 C 14.40 12.60 B- 70 19 C+
Milwaukee 20 8 A+++ 16.00 12.00 B+ 17.60 10.40 A+ 89 49 A+++
Minnesota 12 12 C 16.00 8.00 A+++ 5.70 18.30 F 74 19 C
NY Mets 15 11 A- 15.25 10.75 A- 15.05 10.95 A- 81 8 D-
NY Yanks 15 11 A- 12.75 13.25 C 13.60 12.40 C+ 75 14 C-
Oakland 17 10 A+ 17.25 10.75 A+ 15.20 11.80 B+ 79 36 A+
Philly 13 13 C 12.00 14.00 D+ 10.95 15.05 F 78 16 C-
Pittsburgh 10 16 F 10.75 15.25 F 12.20 13.80 D+ 66 25 B+
San Diego 13 16 D 8.00 21.00 F 12.65 16.35 D- 80 43 A++
San Fran 17 11 A 11.75 13.25 D+ 12.80 15.20 D 84 40 A+
Seattle 11 14 D 15.00 13.00 B- 13.25 11.75 B- 81 22 C+
St. Louis 15 14 C+ 12.25 16.75 F 18.40 10.60 A+ 80 20 C
Tampa 11 16 F 12.00 15.00 D 11.40 15.60 F 84 20 C
Texas 15 13 B- 13.25 14.75 D+ 11.55 16.45 F 82 16 C-
Toronto 12 15 D 15.50 11.50 B+ 12.50 14.50 D+ 83 2 F
Wash DC 16 12 B+ 13.50 14.50 C- 15.45 12.55 B 83 33 A-

A few observations:
the D-Backs have had an excellent offense, rating at A-, but their starting pitching has been SO bad that an F doesn’t begin to do it justice. I have them as deserving 7.65 wins out of 31 games played, a .246 winning percentage. An F rating is given for any element below .425. So anything below 13.15 wins is an F. Arizona is about HALF of that. Wow! And their bullpen isn’t all that much better.

The Brewers hot start is primarily pitching fueled, and with their starters outstanding and their bullpen has been off the charts. Hats off to them!

My Yankees clearly don’t deserve their first-place standing. I justified it in a previous post by saying that the blowouts they suffered didn’t really hurt them, but hurt their ratio of RS to RA. But this analysis says they have an ordinary offense, a slightly above-average rotation, and a slightly below-average bullpen. That makes a .500 team no matter how you cut it.

Boston is the opposite: an outstanding offense coupled with a slightly above-average rotation and an average bullpen should produce an overall A (remember, each rating suggests what the team record would be if all the other aspects were average) but in fact they finished the month under .500.

And who would have placed baseball’s best offense in Minnesota? While they don’t have (quite) the most runs scored, they have 1) played fewer games than anyone else, so their RS/G is high, and 2) have scored consistently, which is what my metric measures. You get ½ win for scoring 4 runs, and a full win for 5 or more. No extra credit for 16.

Finally, the Giants. I don’t see how they are 17-11, unless they have been really lucky. A D+ offense and a D rotation often gives an F record. Yes, their bullpen has been great, but still. Lots of 1-run games and extra-innings wins, I would guess (but am too lazy to check!)

I hope to be more consistent in putting out monthly report cards this season; I’m obviously off to a bad start, as I missed the end of April.

But it is still fun, and at least I find it interesting.

Finally, sorry about the formatting. it looks all right on the editing screen, but it messes up when publishing, and I can’t seem to fix it.

Oddity

Posted by Baseball Bob at 06:23
May 042014

I really want to do April report cards, maybe tomorrow. Meanwhile it is early Sunday morning, and I have about 10 minutes. I have noted a serious oddity, that I wanted to share. This has been true for several days, but this is my first moment to comment.

The mighty AL East, widely recognized as the best division in baseball, is a compressed division: top to bottom only 3.5 games separate the 5 teams. Currently the standings almost exactly reflect my preseason prediction: Yankees, Orioles, Red Sox, Rays, Blue Jays. But this is not the oddity.

ALL FIVE of these teams have a negative run differential, and in fact the whole division is 3 games BELOW .500. In fact, TWELVE of 15 AL teams have negative run differential! The AL as a whole is 9 games below .500 – for the first time ever, the NL is clearly winning the interleague play.

Further differential oddity: the two BEST teams in run differential in MLB are the A’s and Angels, both in the AL West. But the Rangers, who are -20, are also in the AL West and have a better record than the Angels (at +39).

And in contrast to the AL East, the wimpy NL East has ALL of its teams at or above .500.

Weird, right?

Don't You Love April?

Posted by Baseball Bob at 11:07
Apr 262014

Small sample sizes are the hallmark of April. Career minor-leaguers get a shot and for a few weeks bat .300 or .400 or .500. Weak teams get off to strong starts, strong teams blow up, and sluggers bat .150 with no home runs. Most of this stuff evens out over the course of the season, and the career minor-leaguer winds up at .225 and back in the minors, the slugger slugs .500 and the good teams mostly beat the weak ones. But in April, anything can happen, everyone can dream, and life can be a lot of fun.

Take the Yankees. Please. Well, let’s consider these things: New York is 13-10, in first place. After a 13-1 loss to the woeful Angels last night, they are -10 in run differential, having scored 100 runs in 23 games, 4.35 per game which is near league average. But having allowed 110 (4.78/G) they are near the bottom in that category. Yet recently I said that pitching was their strength, and they would go as far as their pitching, in particular their rotation, would take them.

You remember the stories out of spring training: they had four solid starters: CC Sabathia, Kuroda, Ivan Nova and Tanaka. And they had four candidates for the fifth spot: Pineda, Nuno, Warren and Phelps. All four pitched well in spring training, as did all of the original four except Nova. All eight of these pitchers made the opening roster, and there were stories about how the Yankees were overly deep at starting pitcher, and perhaps should trade one of the also-rans in the 5th starter competition for a better infielder.

Well, after 23 games Sabathia has games scores of 37,48,56,61,63 – he is figuring it out, and deserves a 3-2 record. Kuroda has a clear progression, as well, with GS of 62,53,47,43,18 – last night he looked every inch a 39-year-old has been. Granted it is only 1 game, but he deserves a 2-3 record and seems to be struggling. Nova was bad with GS of 45,16,58, 17. The third start was fine, and it looked like he might be rounding into form: actually, he was blowing out his elbow, and is done for this year and probably next as well, as he is undergoing Tommy John surgery. One down: for the record he deserves a record of 1-3. Tanaka has been pretty spectacular, with GS of 63,60,87,63 – he deserves a record of 4-0, and has been totally dominant, except that he apparently has a tendency to allow home runs: 4 in 4 starts. Still his ERA is great, his FIP is better still, and his xFIP is so low as to approach zero. in case you missed it: in 4 starts he has struck out 35 and walked 2. Yes, TWO. Wow. And Pineda has already earned, in 4 starts, more WAR than all the players involved in the blockbuster 2011 trade combined: he has GS of 36,65,66,39. Oh, yes, and he was suspended for 10 days for using a foreign substance (pine tar) on the ball – that was the 39. So can he pitch? No one yet knows. He deserves a record of 3-1. Vidal Nuno started one game and went 5 innings with 3 hits, no walks and a GS of 65. Adding it up, with average hitting and relief pitching, the starters deserve a record of 14-9, BETTER than the actual record.

Meanwhile, the offense deserves a record of 11-11, by my metric, having scored 3 or fewer runs (loss) 9 times, 5 or more runs (win) 9 times, and 4 runs (half a win) 4 times. Exactly an average offense. Six of their nine regulars are over 100 OPS+, with only McCann, Roberts and Gardner on the minus side, and you know McCann and Gardner will hit (Gardner actually has the best bWAR on the team, due to defense and baserunning). And the nine don’t include Teixeira, who returned from the DL to hit a HR and walk 3 times in his first game back. If you replace Roberts with Teixeira and Gardner with Ichiro (I don’t necessarily recommend this, mind) then 8 of 9 starters are over league average, with only McCann lagging. It has been, and figures to be, a league average offense.

Where things come apart, then, is that when the start is bad, it is BAD. And when the bullpen falters, it FALTERS. Nuno had one start, and was great, but his ERA is an unsightly 6.75 (ERA+ of 64). This is because he came in for Nova with the team already down 7-0 (that’s Nova’s GS 16) and he didn’t have it. Not expecting to pitch, he wasn’t really ready, and he gave up a bunch of runs right away. Not wanting to use up more pitchers in a lost cause, Girardi left Nuno out there for 3.1 innings, in which he gave up 8 hits and 7 earned runs, ruining his ERA for the season. But from a bullpen perspective, using my metric, he has 3 outings: 2 effective, one YIKES! That scores to -1, which is of course not good, but it is only one game. So they gave up a LOT of runs, but it is only one loss and one YIKES! And it gets worse, actually: in Nova’s OTHER terrible start, he went 4 innings and allowed 8 runs (and blew out his arm). Matt Daley came in and gave up six runs of his own (4 earned) which is also a YIKES! but this is not someone counted on to pitch important innings, so again this YIKES probably doesn’t matter. And Dean Anna, a rookie utility infielder, pitched the last inning for NY, allowing 3 hits and 2 ER, another YIKES! but clearly irrelevant in evaluating the Yankee runs allowed.

Last night, it was Kuroda who didn’t have it, and he left in the fifth inning with the Yankees trailing 8-0. They used callup Bruce Billings, on the roster for Nova, for 4 innings, essentially “taking one for the team”, and he allowed 4 more runs (yikes) and threw 76 pitches, but THAT is obviously irrelevant to the evaluation of Yankee run production.

These games count, and 3 such games this early in the year can’t really be good, but in the other 20 games the Yankees scored 98 runs and allowed 69. The 13-10 record, while perhaps not deserved on the underlying numbers, is not as ludicrous at it might appear – it is partly dependent on small sample size freakiness.

Meanwhile, that solid starter corps looks a lot less solid. Nova is gone, apparently Nuno gets the nod. Kuroda is spiraling down, he will get a chance to show what he can do. Pineda will miss two starts, I suspect Warren will get to show off. And my claim is still true: the Yankees will go as far as their starting pitching will take them. Whether that is far enough to satisfy them, remains to be seen.

The 10% Report

Posted by Baseball Bob at 10:38
Apr 172014

I just can’t seem to find the time to blog. My INTEREST in baseball has not diminished; I watch most Yankee games, and occasionally other games (mostly Phillies and Dodgers) and I watch the MLB Game Recaps faithfully of all games. I often see things I would like to comment on, but I don’t get to the computer, and when I do I have other things to do. I don’t promise to do better, though I plan to try.

Meanwhile, about 10% of the season is done (most teams have played about 15 games) and I have a few minutes, so here I am. Sadly, I advise that you don’t get used to it.

The universally projected division leaders were Tampa Bay, Detroit, Oakland, Washington, St. Louis and Los Angeles. As of this morning, the actual division leaders are New York, Detroit, Oakland, Atlanta, Milwaukee and San Francisco. And the two which match on both lists are not exactly running away with it: Detroit is 7-6, and therefore leads 8-7 Cleveland by .012 and 0 games. Only Oakland, 2 games up on Texas, is where they were expected to be. Atlanta is no surprise, though they were expected to falter with a weakened pitching staff.

Probably the biggest small-sample-size results of the young season are the Yankees, Brewers and Giants. I plan to take a peek under the hood of these three teams. Remember, though, that it is a 15-game sample – many of the fun stuff is not truly meaningful. It is still fun, though, at least to me.

The Giants at 10-5 lead the Dodgers (9-6) by a single game: before last night’s game between the two they were tied. The Dodgers have played well, not surprisingly, but the Giants HAVE surprised: they have scored 71 runs in 15 games, 4.733 per game which is well above the MLB average, and even more above the NL average. They are third in the NL behind the Nationals and Marlins(?) and fifth in baseball, trailing the AL-leading White Sox(?) and Angels. Using wOBA, they are paced by Michael Morse (.408), Brandon Crawford (.406), Angel Pagan (.406), Brandon Hicks (.405) and Brandon Belt (.397). ASIDE: Is San Francisco trying to corner the market on the name Brandon? The only Giant regulars who HAVEN’T hit, so far, are Pablo Sandoval (.277) and Hunter Pence (.244) who were projected to be among their best hitters.

On the pitching side, the Giants have allowed 59 runs, or 3.933 per game, somewhat below the league average. There are LOTS of teams that have done better, however, since the average is driven up by the Diamondbacks (115 runs allowed 6.389 per game). The Giants run prevention currently ranks 7th of 15 NL teams, middle-of-the-pack as it were. They have gone 3 times through the rotation, with each starter making exactly 3 starts. In ERA they range from Hudson (2.35) to Lincecum (7.20). Their bullpen has been strong. The most fun stat, for me: Lincecum has a 7.20 ERA, and a 5.31 FIP, but a 2.37 xFIP, best on the team. What does this mean? Nothing, I expect. But if you believed the small sample size numbers, Lincecum has not been bad, but merely unlucky (that his fly balls allowed have been home runs too often) and that he will go back to being dominant.

Milwaukee has been the story of the early season. The Brewers reeled off a 9-game winning streak, and at 11-4 own MLB’s best record. They have scored 63 runs (4.2/G) while allowing just 40 (2.667/G) so you can clearly say that they are winning with pitching. The offense is paced by Carlos Gomez (.433 wOBA) and Aramis Ramirez (.398) but also features Ricki Weeks (.146!) among others. It is ordinary, and is likely to stay that way.

The pitching, on the other hand, has been extraordinary. They have also had 5 starters make exactly 3 starts apiece, and their ERAs range from Gallardo (0.96) to Garza (3.43). Based on this sample, it is arguable that only Hudson from the Giants would crack the Brewers rotation. FIP is not as high on them, of course, ranging from 2.35-4.57, but xFIP has all of them in the tight range of 3.33-3.95. So, for the most part, they have not outpitched their true talent by that much, and are better than we thought. I think the Brewers will have a tough time sticking in the race, because this division has the Cardinals and the Pirates and the Reds (sorry, Cubs fans) but I DO think their pitching staff will be among the best in the game, barring unusual injuries.

The Yankees, of course, are the team I know the best. I have seen all or part of 12 of their 15 games, and I am pretty amazed that they are 9-6. At the season’s start, I worried about the following things: 1) Can a team really compete with a 40-year-old shortstop who was never a good fielder (despite several gold gloves!), has the highest ground-ball rate in the game, and essentially didn’t play at all last year? 2) Can a team really compete with a first baseman who essentially didn’t play at all last year, and with NO backup at all? 3) Can a team really compete if your other infielders consist of the following: Kelly Johnson, a 30-year-old still looking for his first 1+ WAR season, Brian Roberts, a 36-year-old who hasn’t reached 300 PA since 2009, Dean Anna, a 27-year-old without a major-league PA, and Yangervis Solarte, a 26-year-old without a major-league PA, and NINE minor league seasons behind him? 4) Can CC Sabathia redefine himself after a bad 2013 and the loss of about 5 MPH from his fastball? 5) How much of the recent Yankee success can be attributed to the almost automatic ninth-inning magic from the irreplaceable Mariano Rivera?

We have no answers to these questions, obviously, after 15 games. The Yankees have scored 54 runs, just 3.6 per game, and obviously well below the AL average (in total runs, the easy metric, they have outscored only Kansas City (42), Detroit (42), Houston (44), Tampa Bay (45) and Boston (53). Essentially the AL divides neatly into (so far) terrible offenses (Royals, Tigers, Astros, Rays), bad offenses (Red Sox, Yankees, Rangers, Mariners, Orioles), average offenses (Blue Jays, Indians, Athletics, Twins), and powerhouse offenses (Angels, White Sox).

And two of the questions above already have consequences: the only First Baseman (Teixeira) is already on the DL, as is the replacement closer (Robertson). And the Yankee offense, such as it is, has been fueled by Carlos Beltran (.432 wOBA) which might have been expected, and Yangervis Solarte (.404) which was certainly not. Solarte is playing every day, first because Kelly Johnson was bad, then because the bad Kelly Johnson moved to first to replace the injured Mark Teixeira. Brian Roberts hasn’t been really hurt, yet (though he already missed several games with a bad back) but he HAS been BAD (wOBA .227) and starting for them yesterday (they played 2 games) were not only Solarte and Anna, but also Scott Sizemore and JR Murphy (replacement catcher for injured backup Cervelli). Not only are they not scoring, they DESERVE not to score, with the lineups they are trotting out. For example, one day last week they faced a good left-handed starter, and their lineup contained the following left-handed hitters: McCann, Johnson, Gardner, Ellsbury, Suzuki and Anna. SIX lefties! They rounded out the lineup with switch-hitting Beltran and Solarte, and righty Soriano. Ugh! Yesterday was a typical day at the office: they managed 5 runs in two games, pounding out 14 singles, 2 doubles and one home run in those 2 games.

But THEN there’s the pitching. The concern about Sabathia is still there, as he has not been dominant or even effective in his three starts: ERA 6.63, FIP 4.73, but his xFIP (oddly) is 2.23 – so he may be all right. He HAS struck out a lot of hitters (10/9 IP) and walked very few (1.42/9) which is actually a characteristic of this staff overall. Nova has been himself, winning 2 of 3 despite an ERA of 5.53, a FIP of 4.90 and an xFIP of 4.77. He is NOT a good pitcher, and there is no sign that he will get better. Kuroda is old, and relies on craftiness, but his numbers are good, and consistent: ERA 3.86, FIP 3.58, xFIP 3.83. For two years running he has been good for 3-4 months, then wore down and was bad at the end of the year. BUT the Yankees are currently sporting two young studs: Michael Pineda, out to prove that the trade was NOT irrelevant, is pitching like he did 3 years ago. After 3 starts he has an ERA of 1.00 (!), with a FIP of 2.60 and an xFIP of 3.89. And Tanaka has become just the 2nd pitcher in HISTORY to post 8+ strikeouts in each of his first three starts (the other: Stephen Strasburg, who did it in his first 4). Tanaka has given up some homers, but has been otherwise completely dominant: ERA 2.05, FIP 1.95, xFIP 1.78. So far this young season, there is an argument that Tanaka is baseball’s best pitcher.

The Yankees have also allowed 54 runs this year, 3.6/G but a much better number than the offense. And it is better/worse than this: the anemic offense plays in hitter’s paradise Yankee Stadium, and the pitchers have to toil there, too.

I said in an earlier post that the Yankees would go only as far as their pitching would take them. So far, that is pretty far indeed. And if Sabathia/Nova continue to struggle, Warren, Phelps and Nuno are all waiting their chance, on the roster but in the bullpen.

Some anecdotal info to close: Solarte and his giant BABIP has been totally lucky. He is not a plus defender (the numbers reflect this) and his hits have been a lot of bloops, dribblers, and seeing-eye grounders. Still, he is having a LOT of fun, and his excitement to just be here, after 9 years of minor-league experience, is infectious. I hope he sticks (I would LOTS rather have him than Brendon Ryan, currently on the DL). And Dean Anna actually looks to me like he can play. He IS a plus defender – a better shortstop than Jeter (easy to do) by a wide margin, a better second baseman than Roberts and a better third baseman than Johnson/Solarte/A-Rod. He will never be a great hitter, but he seems to have a solid approach, and I think he could stick.

Last word: I think the Brewers are a fluke, and will wind up fourth in the NL Central. I think the Giants will challenge for the NL Wild Card, but not the division. But I think the ragtag Yankees have caught lightning in a bottle in their two young starters, and will surprise the AL East.

Opening Day Part 3

Posted by Baseball Bob at 12:29
Mar 312014

The Dodgers are 2-1. Ryu is 1-1. And 27 of the 30 teams in MLB have not played a game. San Diego leads all teams at 1-0. Definitely weird.

Most teams open today, so this is the “real” opening day of the baseball season. The Yankees, though, open tomorrow at triple-A Houston. They are sure to lose 2 of 3!

Since I haven’t had even remotely enough time to make my predictions via the method I wanted, and since most prognosticators think the AL East is the ONLY competitive division (other 5 winners, Detroit, Oakland, Washington, St. Louis and Los Angeles), I guess I predicted the right one, sort of. I didn’t really predict it, but my “analysis” said Baltimore, which NO ONE has.

Going along with this silliness, here are the rest of my predictions:

Division Winners: Baltimore, Kansas City, Texas, Washington, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles

Wild Card Teams: New York (Yankees), Detroit, St. Louis, Atlanta

World Series Champions: Yankees

Yeah, sure! Let the games begin!

AL East

Posted by Baseball Bob at 16:27
Mar 192014

This took WAY longer than I expected! It was fun, but I don’t think I am going to get all the divisions done this month. Sorry and all that. All WAR given below is fWAR for 2013, invented by me for 2014.

Boston – The Red Sox won 97 games last year, most in baseball, and then broke a recent trend by having the team with the most wins actually win the World Series. They became the first team to win 3 WS titles in the 21st century – the Yankees, Cardinals and Giants have 2 apiece; these 4 teams have won 9 of the 15 championships since 2000. That the Sox did this coming off a disastrous 2012 campaign, and that their Pythagorean projection was actually HIGHER (100 wins) is pretty frightening for the rest of baseball, especially for an aging Yankee fan. There are rays of hope, however:

Position        2013 Player        WAR       2014 Player    myWAR          +/-

Catcher         Saltalamacchia   3.6         Pierzynski          2.0              -1.6

First              Napoli                   3.9         Napoli                3.0               -0.9

Second         Pedroia                 5.4         Pedroia              4.0                -1.4

Short            Drew                     3.4         Bogarts               2.5               -0.9

Third            Middlebrooks     0.3         Middlebrooks    1.5               +1.2

Left               Nava/Carp          3.0         Nava/Carp         2.5               -0.5

Center         Ellsbury                5.8         Bradley               2.5               -3.3

Right           Victorino              5.6         Victorino            4.0               -1.6

DH              Ortiz                      3.8         Ortiz                    3.0               -0.8

Bench         Various                 2.5         Various               3.0               +0.5

Net difference for position players: -9.3 wins – I look on the Sox offense in 2013 as being extremely fortunate: EVERYONE played up to or better than expected, with the exception of Middlebrooks. Even my bench rating for 2014 may be optimistic: the bench in 2013 was basically Gomes and Bogarts, and Bogarts is now a regular. In fact, some of these projections may be on the high side: Bogarts and Bradley are highly-touted, but neither has shown all that much (though Xander did have a great postseason). Projecting non-top-ten rookies for 2.5 wins each is giving a lot of credit to the management, which I suppose is fair considering how they did last year.

Rotation

2013 Player              WAR        2014 Player    myWAR     +/-

Lester                       4.3            Lester                4.0           -0.3

Buchholz/Peavy     4.5           Buchholz           3.5           -1.0

Lackey                      3.2           Lackey               2.0           -1.2

Doubront                2.8           Doubront          2.5            -0.3

Dempster                1.3           Peavy                  1.0            -0.3

Other                  1.0            +1.0

Net difference for Rotation: -2.1     Here it is not dramatic, though it COULD be: four of the Red Sox starters in 2013 started 29 games or more, the exception being Buchholz, and they landed a solid replacement in Peavy, now counted on for a whole season. All of them didn’t pitch well (Dempster was pretty bad) but I really don’t see Lackey being as good as he was, and I am not too high on Doubront, though I admit he could surprise. The rotation could be as good as last year, and I project them to be almost as good.

Relief Pitching – the Sox relief pitching last year was phenomenal, at least at the top: Uehara was unhittable (3.3 WAR) and Tazawa (1.1) was more than solid. When you add in the rest of the corps you get another 2.8 WAR in positives, so their “real” relief pitching totals an amazing 7.2 WAR. Of course, as on any team, there were guys they tried but who failed, in this case to the tune of -1.6 WAR, but the real effect of that is less: relief pitching is one place that your bad players don’t hurt you all that much, as you get to decide who to pitch in critical situations. Overall you would have to consider the Sox bullpen added something like 6.5 wins to the total. I think the pen will be good again, but Uehara can’t duplicate his season – if he is at 2.0 WAR (about where Mariano was last year, for context) and the rest of the pen is the same, you get 5.0 net for a drop of 1.5.

Overall then I expect the Sox to be about 13 wins (!!) worse than last year. Since they “should have” won 100 games, this puts them at 87-75, not exactly what their fans are expecting. But the loss of Ellsbury, natural regression to the mean, the Plexiglas principle (teams that take a huge jump from one season to another almost always have a strong rebound back toward where they started) and my natural instincts say that this is about where they will end up. For a different (and probably much better informed) opinion, click here.

Tampa Bay – The Rays won 91 games last year, plus the play-in game and the wild-card game. Unlike the Red Sox, though, they won MORE games than projected, by a bunch: their Pythagorean projection is 86-76, so they were 5 games over that. They have been solid ever since they dropped “Devil” from their name. Go figure. They are, in my opinion, the best-run organization in baseball; they make good decisions, they compete in baseball’s toughest division with one of the game’s lowest payrolls, and their players love them, as well as both their fans. Now, if only people came to see them play!

Position         2013 Player             WAR     2014 Player      myWAR    +/-

Catcher          Molina/Lobaton   1.6         Hanigan/Molina   2.0         +0.4

First               Loney                       2.7        Loney                       1.5          -1.2

Second           Zobrist                    5.4        Zobrist                     4.5          -0.9

Short              Escobar                  3.9        Escobar                    3.0         -0.9

Third             Longoria                 6.8        Longoria                  5.0         -1.8

Left                Johnson                  1.2        Dejesus                     2.0        +0.8

Center           Jennings                 3.2       Jennings                   3.5        +0.3

Right             Myers                      2.4       Myers                        4.5         +2.1

OF                 Joyce                        1.7                                                          -1.7

DH                Scott                         0.3      Joyce                          1.5          +1.2

Bench            Various                   1.5       Various                      1.5

Net differential for position players: -1.8   The Rays had a number of players (Loney, Escobar, Longoria, Zobrist) who, like the Red Sox, played about as well as they can play, and were not hurt (or not much). But balancing this, they had some players (Molina, Scott) who didn’t do much, and where the Rays can look to make gains, and a potential superstar (Myers) who played only a half-year. So I expect their position players, not actually great last year, to be about the same this year.

Starting Pitching

2013 Player              WAR         2014 Player         myWAR    +/-

Price                           4.4            Price                     4.0             -0.4

Hellickson                 1.4            Odorizzi               2.0             +0.6

Hernandez                0.2                                                             -0.2

Moore                         1.8           Moore                  2.5              +0.7

Cobb                           2.4           Cobb                    2.5              +0.1

Archer                        1.2            Archer                2.0              +0.8

Net difference for Rotation: +1.6  No, I haven’t forgotten Fletcher’s rule (Young pitchers can break your heart) but this is NOT a stretch: these are young guys, they have shown that they can pitch, and I have NOT projected them for greatness. I actually think that one of this group will be at 4.5 or 5 WAR, BESIDES Price. I just don’t know which one. This is a talented and young corps: they could be a LOT better than this, and the Rays could well be the team to beat.

Bullpen – As usual, the Rays put together a bullpen mostly of spare parts, and produced 4.8 WAR from the positive pitchers, and only -0.1 (!!!) from the negative – they really had no one below replacement all season. There is no reason to expect that they can’t do it again: just like in starters, they got rid of the older guys and are going with mostly young arms, though they did sign Grant Balfour to be their closer.

Overall, then, I expect the Rays to be right where they were last year. And since their Pythagorean projection was 87-75, that is my prediction. It turns out to be exactly the same as the Red Sox! And if forced to pick, I would guess the Rays are more likely to exceed their projection than Boston is.

Yankees – the most intriguing team in the division, in my humble opinion. They were marginally in the hunt last year (they finished 85-77, but were within 2 of the wild card until a week left in the season) despite having no real team at all. Their Pythagorean projection was 79-83, and even that seems high when you look at the actual roster and the amount of playing time that each player got (or didn’t get). Well, let’s get to it:

Position    2013 Player(s)            WAR        2014 Player                myWAR    +/-

Catcher     Stewart                       0.5            McCann                        4.0             +3.5

First           Overby                       0.0            Teixeira                        1.5               +1.5

Second      Cano                           6.0            Roberts                        1.0                -5.0

Short         Nunez                        -1.4            Jeter                             1.0               +2.4

Third        Nix                               0.7            Johnson                       1.0               +0.3

Left          Wells                           -0.8           Gardner                       3.0               +3.8

Center     Gardner                       3.2           Ellsbury                       4.0                +0.8

Right       Suzuki                          1.8           Beltran                         1.5                  -0.3

OF           Soriano/Granderson 3.2          Suzuki                          0.5                  -2.7

DH          Hafner                        -0.4          Soriano                        1.0                   +1.4

Bench     Various                       -1.8          Various                        0.0                   +1.8

Net differential for position players: +7.5   This is, I think, a pretty conservative estimate. I consider Jeter, Teixeira, Ichiro, Soriano, Roberts and Johnson as all halfway between replacement and mediocre. But I am pretty confident in predicting that SOME of them will be average major leaguers (3.0 WAR) but I just don’t know which ones. And I am not predicting any of the free agents (McCann, Ellsbury, Beltran) to be a true impact player – the first two I put a WAR above average, and Beltran just better than the group above. And STILL, despite losing far and away their best player and replacing him with very little, they come out 7 1/2 wins better, just on this side of the ball. Further intrigue: Roberts is NOT nothing – he is a very good second baseman who has trouble staying on the field. his WAR/600 for the past few years is nearly 4 – not Cano but very good. So he is a wild card. Anyway, the Yankees can improve by 2 games just by fielding a replacement-level bench: and the -1.8 includes a ridiculous 1.2 from Cervelli in only 61 PAs; the bench was actually much worse than this for most of the season!

Rotation

2013 Player        WAR     2014 Player   myWAR   +/-

Sabathia             2.7          Sabathia           3.0          +0.3

Kuroda               3.8          Kuroda             2.0          -1.8

Pettitte               3.2          Tanaka             3.0          -0.2

Hughes               1.3          Pineda              2.0          +0.7

Nova                   2.5          Nova                 2.5           -

Phelps                1.1           Phelps              2.0          +0.9

Net differential for rotation: -0.1  The Yankees got good value from their rotation this year, and despite the loss of Pettitte and the expected (to me) decline of Kuroda, I expect this group to produce at about the same rate. AND I think there is tremendous upside: none of these numbers are silly, except perhaps expecting Pineda to pitch. I admit that I am influenced by outings I have watched this spring: ALL of the Yankee starters seem to be healthy and throwing extremely well. In fact, neither Pineda nor Phelps has a guaranteed rotation spot, as both Nuno and Warren are in competition for the final spot, and THEY are pitching well, too. I think the Yankees will go as far as their rotation takes them, and that COULD be pretty far indeed.

Bullpen: despite the presence of the great Mariano, and the setup dominance of Robertson (the heir apparent) the Yankee bullpen was good but not great, worth about 4.0 WAR. I see no reason to expect that it will decline in 2014, and may be better with the absence of Chamberlain, who contributed -0.6.

Overall, then if you add 7-8 wins to the 79 they “should” have won, you get 86-87 wins, which puts them about on a par with the Sox and Rays. I expect the East to be a dogfight, won by the team that is luckiest or escapes injuries. Sadly, on that basis, serious injuries are more likely to happen to the Yankees, due to their overall age, than to the other teams. Still, the loss of Jeter or Teixeira or Roberts or Johnson would be relatively easy to cover for, and not that costly. It should be an interesting summer in the Bronx.

Orioles – The Orioles actually finished with the same record as the Yankees but were clearly the superior team, as their Pythagorean projection is the same, 85-77. That’s two years in a row that they have surprised us, so perhaps we need to start thinking of them as a good team. Unlike the Yankees, they did not really contend, as they were never that close to a playoff spot in the final weeks, but still. The Orioles are a young team: they had only ONE player over 31 who got more than 30 plate appearances (!) and ONE pitcher over 31 who pitched more than 3 innings (!!). And both Brian Roberts (now a Yankee) and Freddy Garcia (now a Brave) are gone.

Position   2013 Player            WAR   2014 Player  myWAR  +/-

Catcher    Wieters                   2.4       Wieters          3.0           +0.6

First         Davis                       6.8       Davis              5.0            -1.8

Second    Roberts/Flaherty  2.3       Weeks            1.5             -0.8

Short       Hardy                      3.4       Hardy            2.5             -0.9

Third       Machado                6.2       Machado       5.0             -1.2

Left          McLouth                2.5       Cruz                3.0            +0.5

Center     Jones                      4.2       Jones             4.0             -0.2

Right       Markakis              -0.1       Markakis       2.0            +2.1

DH           None                      0.0      Reimold         1.0             +1.0

Bench      Various                  1.4       Various          2.5             +1.1

Note: the Orioles really had NO DH. Listed on Baseball-Reference is Danny Valencia, who had 170 total PAs, some of them at 3B. They ran out an iron man lineup: except for the platoon/injury at 2B, the fewest PAs for the players above is 589 for Wieters, who is a CATCHER (he started 140 games behind the plate). McLouth is at 593 and all the rest over 600. Markakis, who sucked all year, had 700 PAs and played in all but 2 Oriole games! And BOY was their bench bad! It HAS to be better this year, just by the law of averages.

Net differential for position players: +0.4 Even though I don’t think the big guns will really match their 2013 performance (some regression is always projected) overall I think the Orioles at bat and in the field are basically the same team as last year. I like Nick Markakis, though I like him less than I used to. I think Machado is a stud, and Wieters is one of the best. Last year the Orioles scored 4.6 runs per game, well above average, and I think they will be right there again this season.

Rotation

2013 Player           WAR    2014 Player   myWAR   +/-

Tillman                   2.0       Tillman           2.5            +0.5

Gonzalez                 1.7        Gonzalez        1.5             -0.2

Hammel                  0.7       Jimenez         2.5             +1.8

Chen                        2.0       Chen               2.5             +0.5

Feldman                  1.1        Norris            2.0             +0.9

Others (40 GS)      0.5       Who knows   1.0             +0.5

Net differential for rotation: +4.0

The Oriole bullpen posted a net 3.5 WAR last year, with no one over 1.0 WAR. They lost closer Johnson, but he contributed only 0.9 WAR. Overall, the relief corps is similar to last year, and they are young, so they are not likely to be much worse. I think Tommy Hunter may struggle to close, and I’m not sure if I yet trust Brian Matusz’ transformation from sucking starter to dominant setup man. But it is hard for me to assume they will lose a ton in the bullpen.

Overall, my problem is this: I really don’t think the Orioles are that good. But if you add up the changes, even taking off 0.5 for a worse bullpen, the come out to 89 wins! Thus my ad hoc analysis, backed up by absolutely nothing, shows the Orioles as the preseason favorite in the AL East! Go figure!

Jays – and now for LAST year’s preseason favorite! (not mine, actually, but a LOT of people picked them to win this division). The Jays finished a spiffy 74-88, and their projection is only 75-87, so no joy there. They disappointed in every aspect of the game, at least for a team which spent big in order to compete with the big spenders.

Position   2013 Player      WAR   2014 Player    myWAR  +/-

Catcher    Arencibia         -0.6      Navarro             1.5          +2.1

First         Encarnacion      4.2      Encarnacion    3.5          -0.7

Second    Bonifacio          -0.4      Izturis               0.5          +0.9

Short       Reyes                  2.2      Reyes                3.0          +0.8

Third       Lawrie                1.3      Lawrie              2.5           +1.2

Left          Cabrera            -0.9     Cabrera            0.5           +1.4

Center     Rasmus             4.8      Rasmus           4.0           -0.8

Right       Bautista            4.1       Bautista          4.0            -0.1

DH          Lind                   1.8       Lind                1.5             -0.3

IF            Izturis               -2.1                                                 +2.1

OF          Davis                   1.2                                                 -1.2

SS           Kawasaki           0.8                                                 -0.8

Bench    Various             -0.3        Various           1.5          +1.8

I listed this the way I did for two reasons: 1) only 2 bench guys (Davis and Kawasaki) made any contribution AT ALL, and Izturis had enough PAs (399) to be a quasi-regular, and he was AWFUL.

Net differential for position players: +6.4. Basically, what the Jays did over the winter to improve their pathetic lineup was to hope that players got better. They replaced Arencibia, but with Dioner Navarro, who had a positive WAR (1.7) last year, his first in 5 seasons. the last time he got 300 PAs in a year was 2009, and the last time he posted a positive WAR was 2008. But regression to the mean suggests that this approach will work; their position players should be much better this year than last.

Rotation

2013 Player      WAR   2014 Player   myWAR   +/-

Dickey                2.0      DIckey               2.0        -

Buehrle              2.5      Buehrle              2.0       -0.5

Happ                   1.2      Happ                  2.0      +1.8

Johnson             0.5     Morrow              2.0      +1.5

Redmond          0.8                                              -0.8

Rogers               0.4     Rogers                 1.0      +0.6

Others (27 starts) -1.1                             0.0      +1.1

Net differential for rotation: +3.7

The bullpen for Toronto was a major strength in 2013: their positive relievers total 6.6 WAR, and the negative ones just -0.6 and mostly that doesn’t count much anyway. No one with 30 or more innings had an ERA above 4.00. I expect some regression, and I put them at about 4 WAR, -2.5.

Overall, then, the Blue Jays had some talent, but it didn’t work out: some guys were hurt, some played badly, and at the end of the day they lost 88 games. I see them as +7 to +8, which puts them at 82-83 wins. In this division, if the rest of my silly analysis holds, would put them on the fringes of a pennant race.

Silly Summary

Orioles   89-73

Rays    87-75

Red Sox 87-75

Yankees 86-76

Blue Jays 82-80

It could be a fun summer in the AL East. If this were to hold up, it would be the AL Least instead of the AL Beast. But it WOULD be pretty exciting.

Games that count this very weekend! And games in the US in 2 weeks! I can hardly wait.

 

 

Bench

Mar 102014

I started out planning to project the AL East, a first step in my preseason predictions. My methodology is not truly sabermetric: I plan to take each position, estimate NOT by the official projections but by my own gut feeling, how much better/worse the team will be at each position (Yankees lose 6 wins at second base, pick up 4 at catcher, etc.) and then apply the result to last year’s wins to get this year’s projection. Simple, no. Simplistic, yes. Fun, YES.

I got sidetracked by a simple problem: three teams in the AL East out- or under-performed their Pythagorean W/L by 3 or more games, which really messes up the stats. The team I root for (Yankees, if you are reading this blog for the first time, however unlikely) missed by the most: they won SIX more games (85) than the RS/RA suggests (79). So should I add the improvements (they were voted at ESPN the most improved team in MLB this offseason) to 79 or 85?

That question is answerable only if you can answer this one: why do teams outperform or underperform their Pythagorean projection? There are four answers put forth to explain this: 1) Pure luck, 2) Clutch performance, 3) Excellent managers, 4) Strong bullpens. The MARKET (as opposed to the statheads) believes the fourth one: when FanGraphs calculates $/WAR, they have to exclude relief pitchers, and especially closers, because they get WAY more $ than their WAR would suggest. The market thinks that closers in particular and relievers in general, are worth more than the WAR calculation suggests.

If, then, teams that outperform their RS/RA projection ALSO have strong bullpens/closers, it would suggest that WAR is mistaken, and relief pitchers ARE worth more than WAR gives them credit for. If the differences are due to luck (some would say clutch performance IS luck) then we overpay relievers, and my analysis should add to the Pythagorean numbers. If the result is the manager, we are never going to be able to prove it, but we should add to the previous year’s total.

I thought to myself: well, the Yankees over-performed, AND had the best closer in history, AND he had a good year. So maybe there is a correlation between the quality of the year and the performance of the closer. Unfortunately, the Red Sox UNDER-performed (they projected to win 100 games instead of the mere 97 they actually won), AND they had for much of the season the most unhittable closer in recent memory. So the correlation is hardly obvious. A good thought, but no.

I then looked at 1-run games. The Red Sox, despite winning 97 games AND having Koji Uehara, were 21-21 in 1-run games. The Yankees were 30-16 in 1-run games. AHA I thought: a team’s record in 1-run games is a prime determinant in their real to projected W/L. Then I looked at the Orioles, 5 games over-performed and exactly the same actual record as the Yankees: they project at 80-82, actually went 85-77, and their closer (Johnson) led the league with 50 saves. Excuse me? No correlation there, either.

What about the manager, then? IS there any way to see if the manager has a measurable effect? Not really, no. What I finally thought of was this: I could look at the real versus projected record for each manager that I wanted to do (it is work, so I don’t plan to do an exhaustive study). IF the difference tends to be in large part the manager (I remember Bill James claiming that the Weaver Orioles out-performed their projection every year), then it should show up in a year-by-year comparison. So I looked at a couple of managers:

Girardi (with NYY): 6, -1, -6, -3, 6, 1  Net 3 in 6 years

Torre (with NYY): -5, 1, 5, 12, 4, 3, 5, 1, -5, 3 Net 24 in 10 years

Showalter (with NYY): 1, 1, 1, -4 Net -1 in 4 years

Showalter (with BAL) : 0, 11, 4 Net 15 in 3 years

So, no, I can’t find any indication that the difference is in the manager. And in the case of the Yankee managers, I always thought that Torre’s brilliance was in keeping the clubhouse happy and productive, but that he was a poor in-game manager. So I didn’t expect that HIS luck would be better than Girardi’s, at all.

So what I really did was waste my time so I didn’t get to the analysis I wanted to do. maybe next time.

For future expectations: I am home on Monday and Thursday, and hope to post consistently on those days. I am away on Wednesday and expect to post quite infrequently on those days. Tuesday, Friday and Saturday are wild cards: I am home but so is my wife, so we may have plans or we may not. I will post sporadically on those days. And I have to be at church on Sunday at 7:30 am, so I doubt I will do much posting on THOSE days.

But games that count will be played in 12 (!!) days, and the real season starts in 20. Life is good!

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