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A Baseball Blog - Scientific and Speculative Thoughts from Third Base

Monday, September 15, 2014

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Directionless Rockies Continue to Baffle Me

I don’t understand the Colorado Rockies. At all.

News came out yesterday that the team had resigned pitcher Jorge De La Rosa to a two-year deal. And it made me remember something I had thought of many times before: I’m pretty sure the Rockies don’t really have a strategy.

Sure, they have a solid core. Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez are great…when they aren’t injured. Nolan Arenado has prospect pedigree and has shown talent at the major league level (hopefully he avoids the problems with injuries the other two have had). After that, though, they are surprisingly shallow in talent. Sure, Charlie Blackmon, Drew Stubbs, and Corey Dickerson are okay, but that’s pretty much every other decent part they have left.

And you know what’s the sad thing? It didn’t have to be this way.

You know when the last time the Rockies had a winning season was? 2010. It wasn’t even that successful a season, either, with only 83 wins. And yet, here are the things they have done since then to improve:


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Different Way to Look at Parity: Analyzing World Series Droughts

I was looking at the playoff picture for this year and was struck by something interesting: this might be the freshest playoff picture we’ve had in years.

I’m not really sure what made me think of that. I think I was just reflecting on how odd it was that the Yankees and Red Sox and Phillies and Braves and Tigers and Cardinals were all of out of or falling out of contention a few weeks ago. Since then, the Cardinals have come roaring back into first place, but I still thought it might be worth looking at somewhat analytically.

It was a pretty simple process. I simply looked at the teams currently in place for a playoff spot, then looked at what year they last won the World Series. Next, I repeated this for each year of the wild card era. I realize that this method isn’t perfect, but it’s a quick and easy way to look at it, and since the number of teams who win the World Series each year has remained more constant than the number of teams in the playoffs to begin with, this method seemed more stable from year-to-year.

So, for example, this year’s playoff picture looks as such:

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Most Underrated Players of (Offset) Decades, Part One

Last week, Graham Womack of Baseball Past and Present did a run down of the most underrated players per decade (the rest of the pieces are linked to at the bottom of that one). It was fun, and I wanted to do something quick and related. So, I decided to look at the same topic, but shifted half a decade. Basically, the only difference is that I look at decades that start with a 5 year and end with a 4 year (for example, 2005-2014). With those parameters, who are the most underrated players?


Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Look at Joe Mauer's Hall of Fame Case, and the Sorry History ofCatchers in the Hall

I was at the Houston Astros game yesterday, which means that I got to see Joe Mauer single in the first inning. This brought him to 1499 career hits, which he followed up during today’s day game with hit number 1500 in the first inning. It’s a big mark for one of the game’s longtime greats, and as I am wont to do, it made me think about his place among the all-time greats.

There are a lot of ways to go about looking at it, so let’s start with the most basic. Right now, Mauer stands at 1501 hits, thanks to his single and home run today. If he made it to 3000 hits, even the most brain dead of Hall voters would surely vote for him. Well, maybe not “surely”, but it would at least check off the arbitrary milestone box that so many voters seem to fall back on to avoid critical thought.

Let’s take a rough estimate of his chances of 3000 hits, then, since 500 home runs probably isn’t happening. Bill James’s career projection tool is good enough to use for our purposes. It requires full seasons, though, so let’s try and estimate where he’ll be at the end of the year first. Right now, Mauer sits at 87 hits in 79 games, with 43 games remaining. Let’s assume he continues at his current pace of 1.1 hits per game and plays in 35 of the final 43 games. That would give him about 38.5 hits left this season, which we’ll round to 39. That means he’d finish the season with 126 hits, for a career total of 1540.

It’s easy to forget with all of his injury troubles, but Mauer is only 31. With our inputs, the projector spits out a career total of 2310 hits for Mauer, with a 3% chance to reach 3000 hits. 2310 hits might seem like a disappointment, but that would rank fourth all time among players with at least half of their games at catcher. The only other catchers with even 2200? Ivan Rodriguez, Ted Simmons, and Carlton Fisk.


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Predicting Hall of Fame Pitchers, Part II; or, Breaking Down the Likely Candidates by Age Group

Now that I’ve gotten ranting about the stupidity of the Hall electorate out of my system from the other day, now it’s time for the actual predictions. What players active today are on a Hall of Fame pace? In case you don’t feel like looking back at the piece from the other day, here’s the data:

Age
Median WAR
# HOF at median WAR
# Non HOF at median
# non HOF still on ballot
% in HOF
20
1.3
7
32
0
17.95
21
2.4
10
78
0
11.36
22
4.8
12
59
0
16.90
23
6.5
14
79
2
15.38
24
9.6
14
80
2
15.22
25
12.25
15
77
2
16.67
26
18.1
15
44
2
26.32
27
24.55
15
25
2
39.47
28
27.6
16
24
2
42.11
29
34.6
16
14
2
57.14
30
38.4
16
13
2
59.26
31
42.4
16
12
2
61.54
32
45.5
16
11
           2
64.00
33
51.6
16
5
2
84.21
34
55.6
16
4
2
88.89
35
59.9
16
2
2
100.00

Since I conducted this study back before the season started, I’ll be primarily using Baseball-Reference WAR numbers from before the season started, although I won’t rule out referencing present-day stats. Now then, on to the players:

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Predicting Hall of Fame Pitchers Part I: or, The Voters Have Become Awful at Evaluating Starters

I’ve been meaning for a long time to write a follow up to my update looking at future Hall of Fame hitters. The pitchers presented an interesting finding though, and I couldn’t figure out how best to summarize it, so I let it sit. And before long, it just didn’t make sense to follow up; we were starting the season and everything. So, I figured I’d let it go into Hall of Fame weekend.

And now, finally, here we are. Once again into Hall of Fame season, thanks to the induction. All of the numbers are from before the season started, but the analysis is still good, so let’s go ahead.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

2014 All-Star Roster Corrections, National League

The other day, I began making my list of All-Star corrections with the American League roster. I have no idea why I always start with the American League, but what’s done is done. All that’s left now is to fix up the National League.

The NL had a few more…interesting picks than the AL. Still, nothing mind-blowingly bad, but there was room to improve.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

2014 All-Star Roster Corrections, American League

And now, it’s time for one of my favorite traditions: adopting a faux superior tone to criticize the All-Star Rosters!  But, it looks like I’m continuing last year’s downward trend in condescension; few of the picks this year made me sigh and shake my head in disbelief, like most of Bud Selig’s pet projects. For whatever reason, the All-Star Game rosters are just getting better and better. Maybe people take the job more seriously now that something is on the line? Maybe sites like Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs are disseminating information to voters better than ever before? Maybe Nate Silver implanted a chip into Bud Selig’s ear that whispers changes to the All-Star roster into his ear before they’re announced? Who knows!

Either way, there are still a few nits I would pick if I were setting the rosters myself, and if there’s one thing that I love, it’s discussing the minor details of a roster for a one-off exhibition game. So, let’s get down to business!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

2017 Champions? What Exactly Does the Future of the Houston Astros Look Like?

What do the Astros’ future prospects look like? Just a few days ago, people were abuzz when Sports Illustrated ran this cover featuring new star George Springer and calling the Astros “Your 2017 World Series Champs”. Really, it might seem like big talk for a team that’s finished last in the majors for the past three seasons, but is it merited?

Is there a history of teams turning around like this on the strength of a minor league program bursting with talent? In fact, just how “bursting with talent” is the Astros’ farm system, from a historical context?

To answer that, I went back through Baseball America’s top 100 rankings since 2000 on a team-by-team and year-by-year basis, thanks to Baseball-Reference. My methodology was pretty basic-I gave each prospect points based on where they appeared on the list, with first getting 100 points and 100th getting 1 point. Then, I totaled the points for each team by year.

The 2014 Astros had 314 prospect-points, thanks to Carlos Correa (7th), George Springer (18th), Mark Appel (39th), Michael Foltynewicz (59th), Lance McCullers (77th), and Jon Singleton (82nd). That gave them the 31st highest ranking since 2000, and the third best system from 2014 (the Cubs had 402, while the Pirates had 359). It’s fair to say that the Astros should be doing better, what with two first overall picks heading in to this season (Brady Aiken* will almost certainly make the list next year, representing their third straight number one pick). However, it’s important to see the context of where they were just a few short seasons ago:


Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Orioles Should Offer Chris Davis an Extension, Despite His Lackluster 2014

As an Orioles fan, it’s been a bit of a source of concern for me that Chris Davis isn’t repeating last year’s breakout numbers. Granted, I wasn’t expecting him to repeat those, since they were probably the extreme end of what he could produce. At the same time, though, I don’t think anyone expected him to post a .206/.327/.401 slash line half way through the season. The 28-year old first baseman was supposed to be a contributor going forward, not posting a 98 weighted Runs Created+ (wRC+, meaning he’s hitting 3% below league average).

Which is why what I’m about to say might sound crazy, but just here me out: if I were the Orioles, I’d be making every effort to resign Chris Davis right now.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Another Out of Left Field Update

After a bit of a break, I posted another update to Out of Left Field, this one a sequel to last week's piece on the concept of film adaptations.  Check it out!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

What Would a Trade for David Price/Jeff Samardzija Look Like?

The trade deadline is coming up in about a month, but there’s already quite a bit of rumor buzz springing up. The two hottest commodities, it would seem so far, look like they’re going to be David Price and Jeff Samardzija. Both have ace credentials in a world were pitching is hard to get ahold of. And not only do they come with those credentials, they both also come with the entire other year under contract after this one. One might call these the ejector seat of trade scenarios; in case you enter a premature tailspin, you can jettison them to save yourself to some extent.

Either way, since I’ve been comparing past trade packages recently, I figured why not continue further down this avenue? What can a team trying to acquire Price or Samardzija expect to give up for a year and a half their services?

Well, to start with, I went around looking for ace-type pitchers who were traded in the last few years. I tried to be as complete as possible, so in some cases, I stretched the similarities, going for players who were under contract for fewer seasons, or who were more “young with potential” than “ace-like” or “old and actually an ace”, and I might have missed some, but in the end, these were the cases I found, in no order:

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Out of Left Field Updated-The Edge of Tomorrow

I'm going to link to the first few Out of Left Field posts here as a reminder, since the site is still new (not yet sure how many, but at least a few). So, with that in mind, here's today's post on the new movie Edge of Tomorrow (which I very much enjoyed).

Friday, June 13, 2014

People Are Discussing Jimmy Rollins and the Hall of Fame, So I Had to Weigh In

A week ago, a Hall of Fame story sprung up, and I just didn’t have time to write about it. A few days went by and I assumed it sort of just died out. But no, here we are a week later, and there’s a second article discussing Jimmy Rollins’s Hall of Fame chances out. I figure that means I have carte blanche to write about the Hall in June, then.

Jayson Stark makes about as good of a case for Rollins as I think a person can make, and truth be told, it’s based on a lot of misdirection. One thing that Bill James always cautioned about in Hall of Fame discussions was the picking of incredibly arbitrary statistical groups. Unfortunately, that’s the main thrust of Stark’s argument for Rollins.

His main arguments, as far as I can tell, are that Rollins is the only shortstop in the 400 steals/200 home runs club, one of four shortstops the 200 home run/2000 hit club, and one of six shortstops in the 2000 hit/4 Gold Glove club. Why are these bad? Well, mostly because, despite what it would seem, they’re really not that informative. The best example of why can be seen in Stark’s second example, the 200/2000 club.

As Jayson Stark tells us, only four shortstops have both 200 home runs and 2000 hits: Derek Jeter, Cal Ripken Jr., Rollins, and Miguel Tejada. He ignores Alex Rodriguez and Robin Yount, both of whom hits those marks and has played a plurality of games at short (Yount just over 50%, A-Rod, just under), which I’ll assume is an oversight. Now, just of this group, you may notice something: even taking Rollins out of the group, there is a HUGE gulf in talent. We can debate whether Jeter and Ripken are equals in the magnitude of their awesomeness, but Miguel Tejada sure as heck isn’t on that level, no matter how you swing it. Even if we take Stark’s assurances that Rollins will blow past Tejada’s numbers, that still invites the question of whether it is at all inherently Hall-worthy to be in this exclusive club. Maybe the 200 homers and 2000 hits aren’t what gave the player Hall-level value, but instead, sometimes valuable players happen to accumulate those marks.