Oct 072016

This was the year, well almost. Various stuff happening in my life, minimal interest in my team, not very exciting pennant races overall. I had decided not to by mlb.tv, a big step for me as I don’t get cable TV, so this would mean watching NO Baseball on TV. My wife encouraged me to get it, and I did, and I watched the early season with some interest. There were some interesting early stories (Kershaw’s dominance, the return of Jose Fernandez, the fabulous Cubs, reemergence of Cleveland as a contender, early play of the Phillies), I blogged a couple of times.

But the Yankees were old, boring, and bad, and there were almost literally no players who held my interest. Once the likely became certain, that A-Rod and Teixeira were NOT the players they were in 2015, and that, in turn, Ellsbury, Headley and McCann WERE exactly the players they were in 2015, the Yankees really no longer held my interest. I doubt I watched a single complete game after May 31st, and really parts of not that many others. Yes, the 3-headed bullpen was pretty fun (and pretty unhittable) early on, and yes, the Yankees thus were winning the close ones and kept near .500 despite a negative run differential.

Starlin Castro was (I guess) a positive addition, though a player with a sub-.300 OBP is not my kind of player, despite the home runs. Didi Gregorius was having a good season, and Carlos Beltran was reborn, but the team overall was old, slow, and uninteresting, and by July 1 I had stopped watching, stopped reading the box scores, and mostly stopped following the sport at all! 60 years of fandom was fading away, and I was not analyzing, not blogging, etc. Bye, bye, baseball.

At the deadline the Yankees threw in the towel, and I cheered: they traded Miller, Chapman and Beltran, along with Ivan Nova, and got a collection of semi-exciting prospects in return. I applauded the practical decisions, especially as they weren’t really that far out of a playoff spot, and I wondered if they would have the guts to go for it. Then, more significantly, they cut A-Rod, convinced Tex to retire, brought up their top prospects Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, Rob Refsnyder, Tyler Austin, Chad Green and Luis Cessa.

And SUDDENLY there was energy in the clubhouse and on the field. Sanchez had a start like no other rookie ever, really. Judge and Austin both homered in their first at bat, and what’s more back-to-back. And I was watching: Sanchez (who came up first) had energized me to extent of at least watching the news, so I knew of the debuts, and they didn’t disappoint. In reality, of course, the rookie hitters (except for Sanchez) did not do that well (next most productive, probably, was Mason Williams) but watching the Yankees was FUN again. For the last 45 days of the season I saw a part of nearly every game. They surged for a while (mostly due to long home stands), went on the road in the thick of the wild-card race, fell on their faces in Boston and Toronto, and were eliminated on September 30 – third to last day of the season.

Will the Yankees be good next year? Who knows? A rotation of Tanaka, Sabathia, Pineda, Green and Cessa doesn’t scare anyone, but it could be fun. A lineup with Ellsbury, Gardner, Headley, and McCann still sounds old. But not as old as adding A-Rod, Tex and Beltran. Bird was hurt and missed the whole year, but he looked real at the end of 2015. Torreyes was there all year as a utility infielder, and when he got more playing time showed that he could really field and could hit some. They won’t, of course, but the Yankees COULD field this lineup in 2016:

Catcher – Sanchez

First – Bird

Second – Castro

Short – Gregorius

Third – Torreyes

Left – Austin

Center – Williams or Hicks

Right – Judge

DH – Refsnyder

In this (fantasy) lineup, Didi Gregorius at 26 is the OLDEST player!

Rotation: Tanaka, Green, Cessa, Mitchell, Kaprelian

Tanaka at 28 (29?) is the old man here.

And of course EVERYONE can staff a bullpen with 20 somethings – Betances qualifies and he can pitch!

So I’m NOT quite ready to give it up. Baseball is fun again. Hooray!

Home Grown Talent

Posted by Baseball Bob at 10:29
May 272016

Since the news about the Yankees is discouraging (achieving the heady heights of .500, they stopped hitting again, and lost twice despite good pitching) I thought I would try a bit of ad hoc analysis. During the Yankees’ recent heyday, the presence of the “Core Four” caused them to lead all baseball in value derived from their own system. I was noticing this year that this is not really true at present: the Yankees sport relatively few players who were developed by them. I found an easier way to do this analysis, but it changed the definition of home-grown.

For the present post, i define home-grown as a player who was DRAFTED BY THE ORGANIZATION in the Amateur draft, and is still with them. Minor league free-agents, rule five acquisitions, and trades for minor leaguers no longer count: if a player only played for you in the majors, but was acquired in trade, then he is not home-grown. This is a practical definition: Baseball-Reference lists “how acquired” and Amateur draft is a category. Minor-league free agent is also a category but potentially misleading: for example, this season Nick Swisher is a minor-league free agent!

So what i plan to do is to ask the question: what percentage of the team’s bWAR (WAR according to Baseball Reference) was acquired in the draft? I may look at last year as well, since this year is barely 25% complete.

SO: Yankees

The ONLY players with actual WAR this year, and acquired via the draft, are: Gardner 0.9, Nova 0.8, Betances 0.6, Goody 0.3 and Romine 0.1. This is 2.7 of 9.4 which is 28.7%, higher than i would have guessed. There are two caveats to this number: 1) Nova was actually lost to the Rule 5 draft, then returned (because they didn’t want to keep him on the 25-man, as rules require). 2) the 9.4 total includes negative WAR, so the total of positive WAR is higher. The latter caveat will hold true for all teams, though, so i’ll stay with 27.8.


The Yankees got positive contributions in 2015 from the following position players who were drafted by them:

Gardner 3.3, Bird 0.9, Murphy 0.5, Refsnyder 0.3 and Williams 0.1. (Note: Bird is hurt and Murphy traded) This is 5.7 of their total 26.5 WAR

On the pitching side:

Betances 3.7, Warren 2.7, Pindar 0.6, Whitley 0.4, Pazos 0.3 (Note Warren and Whitley traded). This is 7.7 of their total 19.4 WAR

Adding it up, 13.4 of 45.9 is 29.2% essentially identical.

And of the 13.4 WAR from drafted players, 3.6 was traded away.

Is this number high or low? I have no idea, but it FEELS low. Let’s try the Yankees’ rival Red Sox, who came out MUCH lower than NY a few years ago.


2016 Bradley 2.2, Shaw 2.1, Betts 2.1, Pedroia 2.0, Vazquez 0.3 Swihart 0.1 Total 8.8/18.6 47.3% Here there is one BIG caveat: Buchholz was drafted, and is currently -0.8 WAR. Adding him in would make 8/18.6=43%

2015 Hitters Betts 6.0, Bradley 2.2, Shaw 1.1, Pedroia 0.6, Swihart 0.4 10.3/21.9 = 47%

Pitchers Buchholz 2.7, Owens 0.6 3.3/15.1 = 21.8%

Total 13.6/37 = 36.8%

So the same drafted Red Sox who did well last year are all back at it (though Buchholz is NOT doing well). With the exception of Buchholz, the team is maintaining the almost 50% value from drafted players.

Let’s do another team. I choose the Astros, for the following reason: the two “rebuilt” teams are the Cubs and the Astros. I suspect that both are built by ACQUIRING minor league talent, rather than DRAFTING it – the team with the rep to draft that talent is Tampa Bay, and i’ll probably do them next.

2016: Springer 2.5, Castro 1.1, Correa 0.8, White 0.5, Kemp 0.1, McCullers 0.1 4.1/7.7 53.2% (The also have Dallas Keuchel, currently negative but a big part of the rebuild)

2015 Hitters: Correa 4.1, Springer 3.8, Castro 1.3, Tucker 0.3, Duffy 0.1 9.6/26.2 = 41.4%

2015 Pitchers Keuchel 7.2, McCullers 2.4, Velasquez 0.2, Buchanon 0.2 10/20.4 = 49.0%

Total 20/46.6 = 42.9%

Fun stuff! I have to stop for now, and I don’t promise to get back to this, but I WILL say this: if you like this, and put in a comment, I am much more likely to do some more. Feel free to suggest teams to do – the Angels come to mind, as Trout is 10 out of a limited total, all by himself!

May 232016

Life at our house is complicated at the moment, and blogging about baseball is not high on the priority list. It may change; it may not. I really don’t at the moment have time for baseball analysis, which is where my interest lies and where my three (or so) loyal readers expect me to go. Comments about yesterday, while interesting, are available from a myriad of sources.

BUT: the Yankees completed a 4-game sweep of the awful A’s, and their 5-in-a-row streak is their best since early June of last year. And all of this puts them still BELOW .500 (21-22). I fear that .500 is likely a viable aspiration, and a wild-card berth likely out of reach. One thing, though, makes better a possibility: all 5 starters pitched well in this stretch, each going 6 innings, and none allowing more than 3 runs – thus, a “quality start”. And four of the five (all but Pineda) allowed only a single run.

Actually the above statement is true, but misleading: Luis Severino, one of their season-opening starters, is on the DL and hasn’t come close to a quality start all year. Ivan Nova, who replaced Sabathia and then Sabathia, replacing Severino, are among the 5 mentioned above. Not clear if Severino will get his job back, or if Nova is now the 5th starter.

Meanwhile, the Phillies are 5 over .500, and have improved their postseason chances from 0.1% to 0.4%. Go Phillies! Maybe more on that another day; today i have non-baseball stuff to do. Again.

Horror Show

Posted by Baseball Bob at 12:03
May 052016

Hi friends! I am just back from a quick trip to Los Angeles, and while I was away, the Yankees lost 5 straight, and the Dodgers lost SIX straight. And while NY’s losses were to contenders Texas and Boston, the Dodgers managed to be swept, IN LA, by the Marlins and then lost a pair to the Padres. Of course, the Yankees are in last place, while the Dodgers are still in first! Life is weird.

A-Rod broke out in Boston (not that it saved them) so naturally he injured himself in the first Baltimore game (also a loss, six straight) and was replaced in the lineup by Aaron Hicks, he of the 2 for 28 season-to-date. It just keeps getting better. The two minor league pitchers expected to help this year are both on the DL (Kaprelian the 15-day, Lingren out for the year) and the Yankees’ team ERA over 5 is a bottom feeder. And they have scored the fewest runs of any major league team (take THAT DH-less NL!) . And worse: through Tuesday they had scored just 82 runs in 24 games, and THIRTY-TWO of them came in a 4-game stretch from games 2-5. In the last 19 games they have scored only 47 runs (spoiler alert: they won 7-0 last night, which altered this stat a bit).

By my metric, then, the Yankee offense through 25 games (including last night) deserves a record of 7-18 with an average pitching staff. Since THEY have been awful, as well, the Bombers (so to speak) are actually LUCKY to be 9-16!


Last night the Yankees were on, but i watched the Mets instead (Good choice: Matz was terrific (Game Score 83) and the Mets won 8-0).

I still love this game, but the Yankees are at present a hard team to love. I root for them, though, because Baseball. I rooted for the 1965 Yankees – I can root for ANY Yankee team.

Bring up Nick Swisher!

Still Here

Posted by Baseball Bob at 09:00
Apr 232016

Hi friends,

Contrary to appearances, I have not gone back into hibernation: my grandchildren have been here this week, and I have concentrated my efforts on them. Since two were sleeping in the basement, when they were awake I was busy with them, and when they were asleep my computer was unavailable. And this coming week I will be in California with my son, so once again there may be no posts (I may post on his machine if I get up before him (likely) and feel like getting on his system (less likely). In any event, I should be back the first week in May.

I deny emphatically that the Yankees’ recent suckage (they lost 7 of 8, never exceeding 3 runs in a game) had anything to do with the silence (I am, after all, not usually one to suffer in silence!). The Yankees are going to be awful if A-Rod, Teixeira, Headley and Ellsbury are really done, as they appear so far this year. And the relief pitching has been awesome, but the starters are among the worst in baseball. Ugh.

Go Phillies!

Apr 132016

The Yankees finally played again (yay!) and they actually won (yay!) and they did it in the planned manner: the hitters got barely enough runs, the starter kept them in the game through five (down 2-1), the hitters got a bloop and a blast for 2 more runs, and the bullpen pitched 4 hitless innings. It is a formula that works, I guess, but with little room for error. Tanaka, their ace, is the only one with a GS over 50 (he has two) but they are 4-2 on the young season.

Meanwhile, the AL is averaging 4.0 R/G, while the NL is at 4.57. So I guess having the pitcher bat instead of a washed-up DH is worth about 1/2 run per game. For example, no hitter has a HR against Kershaw, but Bumgarner DOES have one (he’s a pitcher, in case you didn’t know)!

The most intriguing story line of the young season is undoubtedly the also-ran Orioles, projected by almost everyone as last place in the loaded AL East, who are the last undefeated ML team at 7-0. FanGraphs commented on it here. I remember an article DECADES ago, in the 1986 Bill James Abstract, which commented on “signature significance” which suggested that a 4-1 start or a 3-2 start or a 2-3 start or a 1-4 start were all basically equivalent – they really say nothing about the quality of the team. But a 5-0 start suggests that the team is likely to be good – it has signature significance. I’m too lazy to look up the details (i know he was talking about the 1985 Tigers, who started 35-5 (!) and no one ever came close to them all year. James doesn’t say that it is guaranteed that a 7-0 team will be really good, but that at some point the early winning by a team not considered good does two things: it indicates that the team is likely better than we originally thought, and also the wins count! In simplest terms, a team projected to .500 which goes 8-0 to start the year, would go 85-77 even if the original projection were true talent, and they played .500 the rest of the way.

For the record, i’m not on the Orioles bandwagon just yet, but I AM on board with projecting the Twins and Braves to be truly awful, based on THEIR 0-7 starts, so I guess I have to be at least mildly inclined to the Orioles. They are doing it on both sides of the ball: scoring 5.72 R/G and allowing 3.14. Pythag suggests they should be “only” 5-2, and the Cubs (RS 47, RA 18) project clearly better (they deserve their 6-1 record) but still, there you have it.

Red Sox fans are already panicking, based on a 3-4 start – it is FUNNY to listen to talk sports radio.

This game is FUN!

Apr 122016

The Yankees haven’t played in two days; I may be experiencing withdrawal.

Fun weird stuff still seems to happen in baseball, of course. The Phillies, widely projected to be the worst team in baseball, found a truly weird way to lose yesterday. Trailing 3-2 in the sixth inning, they loaded the bases with no outs and sent up pinch-hitter Daren Ruf. He lifted a high fly ball to short left field, in kind of no-man’s land between the left fielder and the shortstop. The left fielder immediately signaled that he couldn’t see it (lost in the sun/lights not sure which) and so the shortstop ran out to try to get to it, but it dropped untouched behind him. The runner on third scored, the runner on second tried to advance to third halfheartedly, because he was a force at third, though the third baseman did tag him as he loafted into third. THEN it turns out that the umpire, misjudging the depth of the fly ball, had ruled it an infield fly (with a hand gesture but no vocal call) and none of the players, runners, coaches, or anyone really had noticed. So Ruf is out, runner going to third is out, and the run scores, tying the game. Without the infield fly, you have two on with one out, but instead you have one on with two out. If the players KNEW about the infield fly, you have bases loaded with one out and no run. Still, weird indeed.

A call from a valued baseball friend got me thinking about lineup selection, though not with the usual spin. The traditional lineup selection (basestealer first, bunter second, high average third, sluggers fourth and fifth) has largely been debunked, and pretty much ANY selection has been attacked by the analyst types, claiming it has minimal impact on run scoring. The Cubs batted the pitcher eighth last year, and Addison Russell ninth, Joe Madden being an innovator (actually copying Tony LaRussa). The Yankees batted Maris third and Mantle fourth, resulting in 61 HRs and NO IBB for Maris, which is a VERY bizarre line, and earlier Yankee teams batted Ruth third and Gehrig fourth, resulting in Gehrig driving in 175 runs or so every year.

My question is this: if you are designing a baseball computer game, and one element of the game will be computer versus human individual games, how do you program the computer manager to create a plausible lineup? That is, if you choose the lineup by formula, rather than eye/brain combo, what is the formula? Let’s assume that the computer manager has, at its disposal, the following stats: BA, OBP, SLG, SB, CS, S, D, T, H, K, BB, IBB, HBP, wOBA. How do you choose a lineup? Remember, the goal is not really to generate the most runs (which is where most analysis goes) but rather to avoid having the human player say “my, what an odd lineup”. Thus, even if it makes sense to a manager, you don’t want the pitcher to bat eighth, because it will seem odd. Your catcher may indeed have the best OBP on the team, but if you bat him leadoff people will question the quality of the AI. So where do you go?

Here is a simple example, to get the discussion started (PLEASE feel free to weigh in):

Choose your two best hitters (by wOBA). Put the one with the highest ISO (SLG – BA) fourth, and the other one third, unless the difference in wOBA is more than .025, in which case put the higher one third.

Choose your two remaining players with the highest OBP. Put the one with the most SB first, the other second, unless both stole more than 20 bases, in which case put the one with the better stolen base percentage first.

Align hitters 5-9 by wOBA, best to worst. Once aligned, adjust to try to alternate LHB with RHB, as long as no one moves more than one spot.

Taking the 2015 Yankees as my sample, here is my team (listed C to RF, follwed by DH): McCann, Teixeira, Drew, Gregorius, Headley, Gardner, Ellsbury, Beltran, ARod. Teixeira, Headley and Betran are switch-hitters, A-Rod hits righty, the rest lefty (not typical, I’ll admit).

1. Two best wOBA are Teixeira and ARod. Tex has better ISO. So 3. Teixeira 4. ARod

2. Best remaining OBP are Gardner and Headley. Gardner had more SB, so 1. Gardner, 2. Headley

3. Ranking the rest by wOBA you get 5. McCann, 6. Beltran, 7. Ellsbury, 8. Gregorius, 9. Drew

This lineup is L, S, S, R, L, S, L, L, L so no further adjustment is needed.

Gardner, Headley, Teixeira, ARod, McCann, Beltran, Ellsbury, Gregorius, Drew

Note that Headley leads Ellsbury by .004 in wOBA, if these were flipped, you would get about the most common lineup they used (Typically Gregorius batted ninth, but Drew was CLEARLY worse).

That’s kind of cool.

What do you think?

Apr 102016

CC Sabathia was not horrible: he wasn’t really even bad. After 6 IP he had allowed just two runs, and had only one bad inning (the fourth, in which he walked the bases loaded and then gave up his first hit, a 2-run single). He allowed a single in the seventh and was pulled, and the vaunted bullpen allowed that run (and another) to score, so he officially gave up 3 ER in 6+ IP (ERA 4.50) but he was really better than that. Meanwhile, Chase Headly, off to a .143 start, was given a day off and Ronald Torreyes, he of the 2-RBI triple a couple of days ago, played third and batted ninth. Torreyes had 3 singles in 4 trips, reducing his batting average for the season from 1.000 to .800, his OBP from 1.000 to .800, and his slugging from 3.000 to 1.200. His 2.000 OPS is cut in half from the 4.000 he used to have. How the mighty have fallen!

Meanwhile the Yankees won 8-4 (I guess if your #9 hitter gets 3 hits, it is a good sign) and the 5-game stats have some other fun stuff – Brett Gardner has more walks than hits, for example, leading to a .278/.500/.278 line. A-Rod hit a HR and has been walking himself, so his .214 BA is counterbalanced by an OPS over .800.

Clayton Kershaw started against Madison Bumgarner, and Bumbarner hit a home run off of him, but Kershaw and the Dodgers won the game 3-2. He IS amazing.

Speaking of amazing, what would you think of a team which had scored 29 runs in their first 5 games? Pretty good offense, right? Well, welcome to the SD Padres, who were the first team in MLB history to be shut out in the first three games of the season! Leaving LA, they went to Colorado, where they scored 13 on Friday and 16 yesterday, enjoying the dizzying heights of Coors’ as well as the Rockies second-line starters. By the way, astoundingly, those 29 runs scored puts the Padres LAST in the NL West in that category: a hitting division, do you think? The Rockies have ALLOWED 48 runs in their 5 games, while scoring 30. That they are 2-3 has to be considered a win, right?

I LOVE this game!

Apr 082016

Can the Yankees keep it up? No, of course not. They have scored 27 runs in 3 games, after last night’s 8-5 win. Castro is batting over .583, Gregorius and McCann .455. Ronald Torreyes (who?) in his only appearance this season, hit a triple. Amazingly, this raises his career line to .429/.500/.857 as he had all of 7 prior plate appearances. He also tripled his career RBI with that at bat.

What they CAN keep up is their lousy starting pitching. Tanaka was fine (GS 56 in 5.2 IP) but Pineda (32 in 5 IP) and Eovaldi (42 in 5IP) were not. Ironically, Tanaka got a ND (Betances a well-earned loss) while Pineda got a win with the weakest performance of the three.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers scored only 6 runs, but did not quite keep up their 0.00 ERA, as the Giants scored 12 times.

Runs are up all around baseball. Despite the Padres all-time futile start (3 starts, 3 shutouts against) the Yankees 27 runs scored ranks only fourth in the majors, behind the Dodgers (31) and the Cubs and Giants (29 each). If my math is to be trusted (always a dangerous assumption) there have been 194 runs scored in the AL and 223 in the NL. AL teams have played 46 games, so they average 4.22/G while NL teams have played 45 so they average 4.96. We need to make the rules uniform, because it isn’t fair that the NL pitchers get to hit, while the AL has to rely on aging DHs, which clearly suppresses offense!

After 2 games Carlos Correa had 3 HRs, which is a decent pace (243/162 Games) but only left him tied for 3rd among ML players at the time. Bummer!

Yanks on pace for 108 win season. Of course, they would lose out to the 162-0 Orioles, but the wild card could be within reach! Go Yankees.

PS I’m rooting this year for the Yankees (2-1), Dodgers (3-1), Cubs (3-0) and Mets (1-1). Off to a good start, for once.

Baseball is Back

Posted by Baseball Bob at 12:19
Apr 072016

Hi there

Don’t know how many, if any, of my previous readers still get this blog, but the season has started and maybe I have, too. The maybe part is that I have resolved before to post more often, to do more analysis, etc. but have not always followed through, so this time I make no promises – I DO plan to watch and read about baseball, and maybe I’ll talk about it, too.

Some interesting (to me, anyway) early results: The Dodgers have a team ERA (and RA/9) of 0.00, after shutting out the Padres three times in four days. No team prior to the 2016 Padres, in the history of the game played the first three games of the major league season without scoring a run. Way to go, Friars!

Meanwhile, I watched my first game of the season last night, and Colin McHugh managed to set his season ERA at One thirty five. Now, 1.35 is a fine ERA, don’t get me wrong. The trouble is that his is missing the decimal point: he gave up 5 earned runs (and one unearned) in just 1/3 of an inning, for an ERA of 135.00. I expect it to come down during the year. The Yankees were trailing 1-0 (Carlos Correa’s second homer of the season) when the bottom of the first went catcher’s interference (!), walk, walk, single, double, double, pull the pitcher. Relief pitcher Feliz came on and threw 107 (!!!) pitches in relief. The Astros got a grand slam in the top of the second to close to within 6-5 (Pineda was not all that sharp) but the Yankees continued hitting and walking (3 in the 2nd, 3 in the 3rd) so that Pineda was able to hang in until the fifth (and give up ANOTHER home run to Correa) for one of the cheapest wins of the year (GS 31). His GS was barely better than McHugh (21), and Ivan Nova, inheriting a 12-6 lead, pitched 4 scoreless innings for a SAVE in a 16-6 rout.

This Yankee offensive outburst took the top scoring game of the season from the Dodgers, who had scored 14 more runs than they needed to support Kershaw’s opening day gem. They outscored the Padres 25-0 in their 3-game sweep.

Fun stuff from the Yankees first to games:

First homer of the year – Didi Gregorius (!)

First stolen base of the year – Alex Rodriguez (!!!!!!!)

Second stolen base of the year – Chase Headley (he didn’t have any last year)

Second homer of the year – Starlin Castro

AL leader in RBI for the young season – Starlin Castro with 7 (!)

Brett Gardner did not play in the opener, but he had 4 walks by the sixth inning of game 2.

I love this game!



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