Sunday, December 28, 2008

Fun With Racism

"Stokley is a Welker type of guy".

No, John Madden, he is not.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

As Lisa Simpson Would Say

"The Reds completed their offseason search for a leadoff man on Saturday, signing center fielder Willy Taveras to a two-year contract."

I know those words, but that headline makes no sense.

Backloaded Contracts

I don't like this piece at all; it defies the normal good quality of content over at Statistically Speaking.

The article asks a simple question--why are contracts backloaded?--and proposes several arguments that have little real-world application:

- Jones wants to be paid more than Smith because he's a better player right now than Smith, who has declined significantly since signing his free agent contract years ago. Some dumb team accepts this reasoning and incorrectly pays Jones a higher average annual salary than Smith's.

This offseason, A.J. Burnett and Ryan Dempster have signed long-term deals for less per year than Barry Zito is getting, and I'm sure no one would argue Zito is the better pitcher right now. Mark Teixeira and C.C. Sabathia will each make less in 2009 than Jason Giambi did in 2008. I don't think this hypothesis is correct in practice.

- Players refuse to believe they will grow old, so they demand an escalating salary to prove that they will improve with age.

If I believe I'm going to improve or stay at this level as I age, why am I signing a five-year deal worth $65 million when I can take $17 million for one year and re-enter the market in a stronger position next offseason? Surely the risk of a career-ending injury next year is not that great, and if you buy the idea that salary is most important as a status symbol, $17 million fares a lot better in a measuring contest than $13 million.

A marquee free agent seeks a long-term deal for the exact opposite reason: he (or his agent) knows this is likely his last big payday, so it's time to make the most of it.

- It's more difficult for a team to manage an "albatross" contract than to consistently overpay him from year-to-year.

I would argue that if anything, albatrosses get traded more often than other players. There always seems to be some team that believes a change of scenery will help the player, who must have been good at some point to earn such a large contract. (Well, not always.) Of course, you'll often have to eat some cash to swing such a trade, but the ability to equalize a trade with money proves that a large salary is not a barrier to a trade in and of itself.

Teams have also shown a willingness to release players who are worth nothing to the club, even if they have plenty of money left on their contract. Russ Ortiz was released with $22 million still due him. Frank Thomas and Richie Sexson were cut last year in the middle of earning $8MM and $14MM respectively for 2008.

- Baseball players are financially illiterate and want to guarantee themselves a high income in the future.

Most baseball players are well aware that they are financially illiterate, which is why they hire an agent to negotiate their contract for them.

How often do you hear about a player voluntarily asking for his salary to be deferred for 20 years, to ensure a solid income well into retirement? Even a baseball player knows that a dollar today is better than a dollar in 2030.

The article does contain hints at the right answer. Player salaries are something of a measuring contest, as there is an element of pride in having a higher salary than a comparable player. And because players aren't finance majors, they're likely comparing average annual salaries rather than the net present values of their contracts. A team, on the other hand, concerns itself with things like time value of money, so it is in their interest to pay the player as late as possible.

How can a team give a player a higher average annual salary while holding constant the total value of the contract? By backloading it. As any FIN 101 student could tell you, a contract structure like Sexson's (05:$4.5M, 06:$11.5M, 07:$14M, 08:$14M) is considerably less costly to the team than simply giving him $11M every year--and much better than frontloading a $44M deal.

I doubt anyone making $5M in 2005 tried to win a measuring contest with Sexson. Through the magic of backloading, everyone was happy*.

*Well, except the Mariners when Sexson sucked.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Yankees Offseason In Perspective

The Bronx Bombers' spending spree has prompted two common responses:

a) They spent HOW much!?!
b) The Yankees are buying a championship and ruining baseball!!!

Neither view is really correct. The Yankees have made four big offseason moves:

- Replacing Bobby Abreu with Nick Swisher
- Replacing Mike Mussina with CC Sabathia
- Replacing Andy Pettitte with AJ Burnett
- Replacing Jason Giambi with Mark Teixeira

What has changed?

First, the money. The four castaways made a total of $64 million in 2008, not counting the $5MM Jason Giambi is getting paid to not play for the Yankees next year. Their replacements are signed for an average annual value of $69 million. Once you factor in salary inflation--estimated at 10%/year in baseball--that's not even an increase, it's just treading water.

Fine, so they're not spending more, they're spending smarter. How many wins did New York buy? For that, I turn to CHONE:

Excommunicated (with 2008 Wins Above Replacement):

Abreu (3.1*)
Mussina (5.0)
Pettitte (2.6)
Giambi (2.8*)

No, I didn't just pull these numbers out of my ass. Here's how they were calculated.

Brand Spankin' New (with 2009 projected WAR):

Swisher (2.0*)
Sabathia (5.5)
Burnett (3.6)
Teixeira (4.7*)

*Includes estimates of these players' fielding acumen. Abreu and Giambi are bad glovemen, Swisher slightly below average, Teixeira well above average.

Total WAR lost: 13.5. Total WAR gained: 15.8. Net benefit: 2.1 2.3 wins to the positive.

I am not ready to concede the 2009 World Series title just yet. However, I'm already practicing clicking the 'bet' button on the Rays and Red Sox next year.

Edit: According to Fangraphs, who have really upgraded their stats pages this year, the difference is actually 4.5 wins, mostly because they have Abreu as a -25 run fielder. I know he stinks, but I don't buy this number.

Super Bowl XLIII: The Coin Toss

No, this isn't a prop bet offering you -105 on Heads or Tails. I just think that when they sit down to make a film documenting the 2009 Super Bowl, this would make a fine title.

Take a look at the NFL Futures odds from The Greek (found here). Since they're collecting roughly the same juice on the Super Bowl and both conference markets (about 16%), we can use each team's Super Bowl and conference odds to calculate their approximate chances--in The Greek's opinion--of winning the Super Bowl should they get there:

Bal .516
Den .520
Ind .525
Mia .434
NE .612
NYJ .401
Pit .459
SD .519
Ten .473

Ari .358
Atl .449
Car .568
Chi .512
Dal .504
Min .496
NYG .493
Phi .549
TB .572

I doubt any of Olympic Sports' oddsmakers actually think that New England and Tampa Bay are the best the NFL has to offer, but talk about having no clear-cut favorite. The number 1 seeds from both conferences are dogs in the big game, and if Atlanta wins the NFC South--which they have a downright decent chance to do--both 2 seeds will be dogs as well!

Hey, at least they correctly identified the weakest participant in the tournament.

A Bet By Any Other Name (NFL Edition)

Perhaps this isn't as clear-cut as it was for MLB, but here are some 'to win division' odds that are available for various teams at BetCRIS, juxtaposed against the Week 17 money lines at that same book:

AFC East

Miami
Futures price: +135
Money line price: +120 (straight bet against NYJ)

New England
Futures price: -115
Money line price: +129 (parlay NE and NYJ)

New York Football Jets
Futures price: +570
Money line price: +500 (parlay NYJ and Buf)

NFC North

Chicago
Futures price: +380
Money line price: +631 (parlay Chi and NYG)

Minnesota
Futures price: -910
Money line price: -816 (it's complicated)

NFC South

Atlanta
Futures price: +135
Money line price: +151 (parlay Atl and NO)

Carolina
Futures price: -215
Money line price: -183 (it's complicated)

As the saying goes, it pays to line shop, sometimes even if you only have one betting account.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Market Efficiency

NFL futures odds earlier this week carried an interesting quirk. Here are some sample lines that were available at multiple books:

NFC to win Super Bowl: +140
AFC to win Super Bowl: -160

Giants to win NFC: +110
Giants to win Super Bowl: +300

Panthers to win NFC: +500
Panthers to win Super Bowl: +1000

Can you spot the problem?

Certainly the perception is that the NFC is now the stronger conference for the first time in years, which is reflected in the early Super Bowl line of NFC-3 (and the -160 money line seen above). However, the lines for the Giants and Panthers--ostensibly the two favorites to advance from the NFC field--indicate that they are smaller favorites in the Super Bowl than the NFC as a whole!

Generally, books charge a higher vig on Super Bowl futures than Conferences, but even if we assume they don't, the above lines indicate the Giants are a paltry 52.5% favorite in the big game, and the Panthers 54.5%. Meanwhile, the NFC is at least a 58.3% favorite, unless you believe the +140 is a profitable bet.

Apparently some bettors have taken notice. (Okay, I was partially responsible.) The Giants are down to +270 now, and the Super Bowl money line is now +120/-140 at The Greek and +105/-125 (!) at 5Dimes. To the best of my knowledge, MGM Mirage is still offering the AFC at +135, so if you live in Vegas, there's an arbitrage opportunity for you.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Opt-Out Clauses

Point

Counterpoint

"So far as I can recall, all of the big-name players with opt-out clauses that come to mind (Alex Rodriguez, J.D. Drew, A.J. Burnett) have exercised that option when it came up because the market for annual salaries has risen faster than the general rate of inflation."

Results aside, this is EXACTLY the problem with opt-out clauses, one so glaringly obvious that I can't believe Jay Jaffe makes this point yet goes on to say, "I don't see the opt-out as a downside."

Let's take a look at what those three opt-out clauses really cost:

Alex Rodriguez
Remaining contract at time of opt-out: 3 years, $81 million
Actually signed for: 10 years, $275 million

How much would it have cost the Yankees to sign A-Rod for just three years after 2007? I think $120 million is a reasonable estimate. Remember, to sign that contract, Mr. Madonna is giving up $155MM in guaranteed money for his age 35-41 seasons.

If we accept the $120MM estimate, then this opt-out clause cost the Yankees $39 million--the difference between the $81 million Rodriguez was signed for and the $120 million the Yankees were willing to offer for those three years. (If you want to be really results-oriented, it's true that this opt-out clause cost the Rangers nothing, except maybe some negotiating leverage when they traded A-Rod.)

J.D. Drew
Remaining contract at time of opt-out: 3 years, $33 million
Actually signed for: 5 years, $70 million

To re-sign Drew for three years, the Dodgers would have had to pay perhaps $48 million. This opt-out clause cost LA $15 million.*

*You might argue that the Dodgers wouldn't have actually paid Drew $48 million for three years. That's not relevant; what matters is his market value. By having a $48 million player under contract for $33 million, they're running a $15MM surplus, and they can capitalize by trading Drew to a team that values him more highly.

A.J. Burnett
Remaining contract at time of opt-out: 2 years, $24 million
Offer currently on table: 5 years, $80 million

If a notoriously injury-prone pitcher has an offer of 5-$80MM on the table, I'd say it would take $44 million to sign him for two years. That's a $20 million surplus the Jays won't get to enjoy, thanks to the opt-out clause.

----

As Dave Studeman said in the counterpoint, the Yankees are guaranteed to get the shaft in 2011 regardless of CC's decision; either they will be upset that their dominant starter is now demanding more money and more years, or they'll be stuck with a 300-pound albatross. What value would you put on the final four years of Mike Hampton's contract? Kevin Brown's? Barry Zito's?

Handing out a $92 million player option is just a really dumb idea. I'd rather give Sabathia $85 million for three years, or $175 million for seven. This is a terrible contract for the Yankees. Either they didn't realize that, or this was the only way to land CC.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Information Advantage

The NFL's tie-breaking system for playoff spots is admittedly confusing--apparently even for bookmakers.

Here's a sample of some 'to win division' lines that were available around the internet earlier this week:

Miami +297
Pittsburgh -320
Minnesota -240
Tampa Bay +275

All of these lines are substantially worse now, largely because I've been betting them heavily. (I posted my estimates of the true odds over here.) Still, the point is that these are the lines the bookies thought were "correct".

What do these four teams have in common? They all own substantial tiebreaker advantages, and the books apparently didn't realize it in each case.

The exact scenarios are complicated, but here's one example: The Vikings split their head-to-head matchups with the Bears. They're 4-2 in the division, so Chicago (3-2) can't gain the advantage there. Minnesota currently owns the edge in games against common opponents, 7-4 to 4-5. The only way the Bears can catch up in that column (without overtaking the Vikings in the standings) is for Chicago to win out while Minnesota goes 2-1, losing to the Falcons. In this scenario, the Vikings win the division on the basis of their 8-4 conference record to the Bears' 7-5. The Bears win this tiebreaker exactly never.

In the NFC North, there's another factor at work. The Vikings still have to face the Giants in Week 17, but it looks likely that New York will be taking it light that game--the early line is Minnesota -7.5. Perhaps the bookmakers aren't taking this into account when setting the futures lines.

The bookies could always consider hiring consultants. These guys know how to implement tiebreakers in their simulations. Hell, when I told a Bears fan living in Chicago that his team is boned in all tiebreaker scenarios, he replied "Yeah, everyone here knows that."

Well, apparently not everyone.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Comedy Gold

Well, I enjoyed it anyway.

If you can't identify at least 10 reasons this article is terrible, you have no future as a winning sports bettor.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Ah, Bodog...

I know a lot of the readers on this blog bet on sports, so I just wanted to pass along my experiences cashing out of Bodog:

I requested a $9000 cashout about a month ago, and they're stringing me along by giving me a $3000 check every other week. I deposited the first check a week ago; it bounced, leaving me with a returned check fee.

I know Bodog has been having problems lately, but this is pretty bad. If anyone is thinking about putting more money in there, I have to advise against doing so.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Quick Hits

I've been spending a lot of time playing Fallout 3 lately (ah, the bounties of being a nerd). Catching up on the last week or so of transactions...

Cubs sign Ryan Dempster for three years and $38 million, plus $14 million player option for 2012 (3)

Four years and $52 million is less than many people thought Dempster could command, but it's important to note that this contract is significantly worse for the Cubs than a simple 4/$52M. In November 2011, if Dempster's 2012 value is anywhere near $14 million, he's going to opt out of the contract. Think A.J. Burnett this offseason or J.D. Drew two years ago. I'd rather make the contract for 3/$42M or 4/$55M than give Dempster a player option that he'll only exercise if he's ineffective or hurt.

Either way, is Dempster worth four years at big money? Probably not. From 2004-07, Dempster worked almost exclusively in relief (which is easier than starting) and didn't manage a K/BB ratio over 2.0 in any of those years. Though his ratios improved greatly this year, they still weren't elite; Dempster's xFIP was just 3.94, good but not great. He's a slight groundball pitcher, but nothing special in that department. Realistically, the Cubs should be happy if Dempster is significantly better than a league-average starter next year, let alone in 2012.

The Cubs are certainly in a position where it's the right move to spend some money, but I'd have shelled out an extra ten million for four years of Derek Lowe, who has a much stronger track record.

Cubs get: Kevin Gregg (2)

Marlins get: Jose Ceda (9)

An outright theft by the Marlins, who acquired Gregg basically for free two years ago and now get a fine pitching prospect in return for one year of his service. It's not like Gregg has improved substantially in that time; if anything, his ratios have gotten worse. What has changed is Gregg's save totals: 61 over the past two years, which apparently caught Jim Hendry's eye.

This move is a potential triple whammy for the Cubs: they lose value in the actual exchange, miss out on signing Kerry Wood--possibly the finest closer on the market--at a hometown discount, and quite possibly could end up with their fourth-best reliever (Gregg) closing for the team next year. Ouch.

Red Sox get: Ramon Ramirez (8)

Royals get: Coco Crisp (7)

Now here's a trade I can see working out for both sides. Crisp was a redundant resource on the Red Sox, but he instantly makes the Royals a better team by taking over for the worthless Joey Gathright. Defensive metrics sometimes disagree on Crisp, but I feel he's an above-average fielder who won't kill you at the plate.

Ramirez is a good sixth- or seventh-inning option for the BoSox. He won't post another 2.64 ERA--that home run rate is bound to regress--but he's cheap and under team control for four more years. They also free up payroll by trading Crisp, who's an unnecessary luxury with Jacoby Ellsbury around.

Giants sign Jeremy Affeldt for two years, $8 million (8)

I'm a fan. Affeldt's been a scouting favorite for years now, and he finally put it together in 2008. I'd expect him to give some of those gains back, but given the outlandish salaries for relief pitchers these days, 2/$8M is a bargain. It's interesting to note that Affeldt is a strong groundball pitcher, unlike the four big closers on the market.

Yankees get: Nick Swisher, Kaneoka Texeira (7)

White Sox get: Wilson Betemit, Jeff Marquez, Jhonny Nunez (4)

This is something of a head-scratcher, given that I expected the Yankees to aim higher (Mark Teixeira, Manny, Dunn, Burrell) to fill their hole in the lineup, plus the White Sox no longer have a Major League center fielder on their roster. (Swisher isn't really a center fielder either, but I'd put up with his poor defense to keep Brian Anderson out of the lineup. I'd even put up with Swisher's bleach-blond goatee to keep Junior Griffey and his iron glove off the field altogether. Well, maybe not.)

I pan most Kenny Williams trades, but every time I do, the pitcher he deals away turns up with some severe injury. Insider trading: no-no in business, yes-yes in baseball. I fully expect Texeira's rotator cuff to snap into five pieces by May at the latest.

Sox fans should hope Betemit is not up for an everyday job, because he's not worthy of one. He might make an okay platoon player at third base.

Yankees sign Damaso Marte for three years, $12 million plus $4 million option for 2012 (7)

I personally think this is a bargain, but I'm not sure why the Yankees didn't just exercise his 2009 option for a cost of $5.75 million, instead opting for two additional years of risk. Maybe they thought (correctly) that Marte's Type A free agent status would give them negotiating leverage, since other teams would be hesitant to give up a draft pick to sign a middle reliever? Whatever the case may be, Marte is a very capable reliever, and easily worth this contract.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Holliday To The A's

A's Get: Matt Holliday (Tentative 4)

Rockies Get: Greg Smith, Carlos Gonzalez, Huston Street (8)

Obviously, Holliday is the biggest name here, so the media have focused on him. What I find most interesting about this trade is that Street seems to be taking a back seat to Smith and Gonzalez, as if the world has forgotten that he was considered a top closer less than a year ago.

Street will be taking over for Brian Fuentes, so it's instructive to compare the two. I'd probably take Street over Fuentes for the next two years--the two years the Rockies will get before Street hits free agency--but I admit it's close. We'll call it a wash.

Fuentes is expected to get a three year deal for about $33 million, so it's fair to estimate it would cost $24 million to sign him for two years. The Rockies will probably actually pay Street $10-12 million for those two years. That's a big surplus, one we shouldn't push aside in evaluating the trade.

Smith was quite valuable to the A's in his rookie year, but his performance was a fluke. He scored well below average on all three of the biggest indicators for pitchers: strikeout rate, walk rate, and groundball rate. That's a pitcher who has no chance to post a sub-5.00 ERA in Coors Field; in fact, I'd bet against him staying in the rotation for all of 2009. Smith still has long-term potential, but he doesn't belong in the Major Leagues right now.

Gonzalez took a big step back this year, with mediocre hitting stats in AAA and an awful MLB debut. Like Smith, he's a long-term project; he's a worse option than Willy Taveras for the 2009 Rockies. However, he still has some hope of becoming an above-average Major Leaguer.

Holliday is the big fish, of course. In writeups of the trade, he's alternately been described as "possibly the best player in Rockies history" and "a product of Coors Field". Neither is accurate: Holliday is a very good hitter, and the talk about his home/road splits is overblown--all players, Rockies or not, tend to perform better at home. (If this isn't true, why do home teams keep winning 54% of their games?) Larry Walker, Andres Galarraga, Ellis Burks...all these guys hit a lot better at Coors than on the road, and all of them kept on crushing the ball after leaving Denver. Holliday is going to be fine in Oakland.

Some people think Billy Beane did this largely for the draft picks he'll receive when Holliday leaves as a free agent after 2009. That's a fair point, but it's an oversimplification. If Street returns to form, he'll be a Type-A free agent after 2010. Smith and Gonzalez could be worth compensatory draft picks down the road. Oakland may have gained two draft picks, but they gave up the potential for others.

The real question here is why the A's are trying to contend in a division they lost by 25 games in 2008. It's actually not the worst idea in the world. The Angels don't have the talent of a 100-win team or even a 93-win team, and they may lose one or both of Francisco Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira to free agency. The A's dealt from surpluses; Street was the only player in the deal who should have been part of their 2009 plans. Still, unless this was part of a larger plan, I think this was too high a price to pay for one year of Holliday.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Jacobs-Nunez

It's a minor trade, but it's the only one we have so far this offseason.

Most of the intelligent reviews of this trade have been negative for the Royals. However, I'm a fan of Kansas City's side. There are two relevant reasons for my stance:

- For Mike Jacobs, a large platoon split is a good thing, not a bad thing.
- Leo Nunez sucks.

Taking these in order...if your first baseman is a fair hitter overall, would you rather he be a fair hitter against everyone, or a good hitter against some pitchers and a terrible hitter against others? Platoon hitters have value for a reason; find Jacobs a right-handed partner (say, Billy Butler) and you're getting decent production from your DH spot at a low cost.

However you slice it, you cannot say that Jacobs is less valuable than a hitter with similar stats and no platoon split. He's still a below-average regular with an iron glove, but if you use him strictly as a DH against RHP, you're in fairly good shape.

On to Nunez: We're talking about a reliever with a career 4.92 ERA who doesn't get strikeouts or ground balls. This is exactly the kind of asset you trick someone into taking off your hands when he puts up a fluke good season. The Royals aren't getting a great return, but they couldn't have expected much better.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Final Playoff Tally

Games: 14-10, +15.66 units

Futures: 9-1, +20.25 units

Hooray for running good!

Thanks to everyone who stuck around for these.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

No Play Tonight

Tough way to lose last night, but these things happen.

I think the mid-game line is fairly accurate for tonight, so no play there.

YTD Games: 14-10, +15.66 units

YTD Futures: 7-1, +10.06 units, Phi WS bets pending

Somebody Is Doing It Wrong

All from SBR-rated online books:

Team to win the Eastern Conference Southeast Division
Atlanta Hawks 22/1

Team to win the Eastern Conference Southeast Division
Charlotte Bobcats 35/1

ODDS TO WIN 2008 - 2009 NBA SOUTHEAST DIVISION
MIAMI HEAT +950

To win the 2008/09 Southeast Division
Washington Wizards +900

2008-09 SOUTHEAST DIVISION WINNER
MAGIC +105

If you're math-challenged, you should at least be able to compare that last line to this one:

Team to win the 2009 Southeast Division
Orlando Magic -170
Any Other Team +140

Hmm...

Monday, October 27, 2008

On World Series Odds

We've now seen odds for five games of the World Series, which is enough to test the efficiency of some proposition bets.

For games 1-4, I used an approximate no-vig betting line near the closing price:

Game 1: Phi -101
Game 2: Phi +165
Game 3: Phi +112
Game 4: Phi +104

Games 5-7 contain the opening no-vig line for Game 5 and extrapolated odds for Games 6 and 7, based on previous game lines:

Game 5: Phi -170
Game 6: Phi +165
Game 7: Phi +165

By the way, if you want to argue that home-field advantage shouldn't be enough to move the game line from -101 to -170 with the same pitching matchup, you're preaching to the choir. Moving on...

- Based on these lines, the series line "should" have been Phi +141, which isn't far off the mid-market line of about Phi +132.
- The series breaks down thusly:

Phi in 4


.043
Phi in 5


.132
Phi in 6


.118
Phi in 7


.121





Tam in 4


.084
Tam in 5


.108
Tam in 6


.200
Tam in 7


.194

I took a few bets concerning the exact series result. I won't grade them because they were off-market lines--that's basically the only way to make money on this kind of bet--but you can see why it pays to do these calculations yourself:

Tam wins 4-3 (+650)
Phi wins 4-3 (+800)
Phi wins 4-1 (+805 and +750)
Tam wins 4-2 (+465)
WS lasts 7 games (+380)
Phi wins 4-1 (+330; bet after Game 3) - Game odds say 30.7%

Bodog also had some other props that they set terrible lines for:

Phi wins G1 and WS (+275) - Game odds say 28.6%
Tam wins G1 and WS (+225) - Game odds say 36.9%
7-game series, Phi wins G1 (+750) - Game odds say 16.9%
7-game series, Tam wins G1 (+850) - Game odds say 14.6%

For the most part, however, the books were dealing good enough lines on these props that you were better off betting individual games.

Some more exotic props included "Will the winning team clinch at home?" or point spreads like Tampa+1.5, where you won if Tampa won the series or "covered" by losing 4-3. These were only offered at a couple of books, and those books were consistent with the individual game lines.

All in all, not a bad job; only four sportsbooks--and only one big online book--contributed to the off-market lines, and the vast majority of the good bets were from Bodog.

10/27 Picks

Tam +167 (2)

YTD Games: 14-9, +17.66 units

YTD Futures: 7-1, +10.06 units, Phi WS bets pending

Friday, October 24, 2008

10/25 Picks

Phi +111 (1)

YTD Games: 13-9, +16.55 units

YTD Futures: 7-1, +10.06 units, Phi WS bets pending

Thursday, October 23, 2008

10/23 Games

Phi +150 (1)

I may or may not actually play this, because I don't want to be the douchebag who's rooting against the Rays at the Trop tonight. Still, it's a good value.

YTD Games: 13-8, +17.55 units

YTD Futures: 7-1, +10.06 units, Phi WS bets pending

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

World Series Game 1 Trip Report

This will be short and sweet, since I'm tired from a day of air travel and sleep deprivation.

Seats were great (thanks Thremp):



Game was fun. I lost my bet, but it was close for nine innings even though the Phillies dominated the stat sheet.

The Rays fans really brought the noise and enthusiasm for the most part. Of course there were some lulls, especially after the double plays, but the overall energy level in the stadium was quite an experience.

As for the Trop itself, it's an absolute eyesore from the outside, but the concourse is actually fairly nice, reminiscent of other newer ballparks I've visited. The catwalks are obviously completely unnecessary, and they serve to detract somewhat from the viewing experience. However, it was fun to root for every pop fly to hit or miss a catwalk.

Other quick hits:

- I had a Cuban sandwich for dinner, judging it to be the most regional item on the menu. It was pretty poorly done, possibly because they jammed it onto a sandwich press with four others to save time, or possibly because the meat was far too dry.

- After witnessing the Ray Team girls in person, I'm beginning to think every MLB team could use cheerleaders.

- An enormous number of fans came to the park wearing customized Rays jerseys with their own names on the back. You see these people at games every now and then, but usually only a few per night. I'd estimate that the Trop had at least a dozen per section.

I had thought this was because the Rays are a historically bad franchise that lacked players good enough to market to jersey buyers, but most of the custom duds utilized the new team colors and logo, so the jerseys were purchased this year. Maybe it's a Florida thing.

- The Bo Hart Award* went to a couple of guys who bought one white Rays jersey and one gray Phillies jersey, cut each lengthwise, and sewed together two half-and-half jerseys. Sitting next to each other, they looked like an Oreo cookie. Again, this is something I've seen before, but I've never understood why anyone would make such a statement about himself.

*Remember Bo Hart? He was the Cardinals' scrappy middle infielder before David Eckstein came along. He hit .400 for about three weeks after being called up in 2003, then immediately fell off the face of the earth. Still, to this day, I have never gone to a Cardinals game--even one at Wrigley Field--without seeing at least one fan with a Bo Hart jersey or T-shirt. This led me to christen an award for the worst jersey you see a fan wearing at a game. The mulatto jerseys barely beat out an authentic red Shawn Riggans model.

Edit: Oh, and Thremp after five large beers is obnoxious and likes to wish for players to contract STDs.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

WS Game 1

Tam +100 (1)

LOL Bodog (Part II)


So...the Phillies, if they win Game 1, are more likely to lose the series than win it?

Most books don't allow correlated parlays; Bodog designs them for you.

I'm playing both win-win props, and you should too.

Monday, October 20, 2008

LOL Bodog

WS to last 7 games +380

I'm not going to grade this, because it's just a $100 limit Bodog prop, but anyone with a Bodog account should hit this now before they fix it. I have the correct line at +219.

Edit: They also have two similar props:

Phillies win Game 1 AND series lasts 7 games +750
Rays win Game 1 AND series lasts 7 games +850

The second bet is better in my opinion, since the Rays should be favored to win Game 1, but both are good.

Edit 2: And others:

Phillies win series 4-3 +800
Rays win series 4-3 +650

10/20 Futures

Phi WS +139 (1)

YTD Games: 13-7, +18.55 units

YTD Futures: 7-1, +10.06 units, Phi WS bet pending

Sunday, October 19, 2008

10/19 Games

Tam +120 (2)

YTD: 12-7, +16.15 units

Saturday, October 18, 2008

10/18 Games

Bos +132 (2)

YTD: 11-7, +13.51 units

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

10/15: No plays

YTD: 11-6, +16.51 units

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Day 12 Games

Tam +135 (2)

Yes, I'm determined to lose any money that Sonnanstuck made me this year.

YTD: 10-6, +13.81 units

Graded futures: 4-1, +4.00 units

Monday, October 13, 2008

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Day 10/11 Games

Add: Phi +152 (1 additional) for tonight

Tomorrow: Tam +165 (2)

Day 10 Futures

Tampa to win AL +150 (1)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Day 10 Games

No play on tonight's Bos-Tam game.

Tomorrow: Phi +139 (1)

YTD: 8-5, +8.99 units

Graded futures: 4-1, +4.00 units

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Love Those MLB.com Headlines

"When Rays in hard place, Shields a rock"


Yep, that's right. When Tampa is in a tough spot, their Game 1 starter is there to make sure they get caught there.

Day 8 Games

Phi +101 (2)
Tam -111 (1)

YTD: 7-4, +8.08 units

Graded futures: 4-1, +4.00 units

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Round 2 Futures

Rays to win ALCS +130 (1)

The Phi/LAD series line and Game 1 line both look like passes at this point.

YTD: 7-4,

Graded futures: 3-1, +3.00

Monday, October 06, 2008

Day 6 Games

Tam +115 (2)

YTD:

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Day 5 Games

Bos -170 (2)
Tam +137 (3)

YTD: 6-2, +12.18

Graded futures: 2-0, +3.00

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Day 4 Games

LAD +125 (1)

YTD: 5-2, +10.93

Friday, October 03, 2008

And The Cherry-Picker Of The Year Is...

This guy.

If you're going to define a prediction as "accurate" based on the results, I think it should have to fit a couple of simple criteria: it suggests a higher chance of a team winning than the public thinks, and that team goes on to win.

Here's what I don't call accurate: Forecast five different things, then gloat when only one of them comes to fruition.

Take a look at this prediction, and see if you can spot the part where they say the Phillies are a good bet.

Did you miss it? I'm not surprised. It's tucked away at the end, long after they pimp the Brewers not one but four times:

"For game one, we said the Phillies were big favorites, having won 676 of our 1,000 sim runs. We just finished 1,000 runs of game 2 on our Diamond Mind simulation, and The Sim expects different results today. With C.C. Sabathia on the mound, that's no surprise, really. But the key might be whether repeatedly pitching on 3-days' rest might start to catch up to him, and he threw 122 pitches on Sunday. With that in mind, we ran our simulation 3 ways:

1. Sabathia is not significantly affected by the short rest (something he showed over the past couple of weeks).
In this scenario, the Brewers win 59.5% of the 1,000 simulation runs we did, scoring an average of 5.0 runs compared to 3.8 for the Phillies.

2. He is affected by the short rest. We ran the simulation 2 ways, one where the fatigue factor assumed is mild and one we'd project as normal for him. Using "mild" fatigue, Milwaukee wins 7 fewer games out of 1,000 sim runs of today's game, reducing their projected odds of victory to 58.8%. However, when we used "normal" fatigue, based on Sabathia's pitcher durability ratings in the 2008 version of our Diamond Mind Online game, the Brew Crew won only 528 times out of 1,000 sim runs.

Keys to the Game: Sabathia's durability.

And, just as getting on base was the key for Philadelphia in game one (as The Sim predicted), not getting on base looks like it will be the Phils' downfall in game 2. Sabathia's control is critical here - if he is tired and does not have his typical excellent control, the Brewers could be in trouble.

If you're looking for likely hitting stars, the sim points to surprisingly good odds that Milwaukee infielders Craig Counsel and Ray Durham will have a good day, each scoring a number of multi-hit games, while the Phillies might pitch around Prince Fielder, who shows a high number of walks.
Philadelphia starter Brett Myers does not fare well in many of the sim runs, and his bullpen mates fare even worse, indicating that this could turn into a Brewer rout by the end.

In any case, the key point of leverage here is Sabathia - if he's on, the Brewers will likely pull even. But if the heavy pitching load he's been carrying lately starts to catch up with him, this odds becomes much closer. The key might be his pitch count - watch his control, especially in the middle to late innings. And if the Phillies get to the Brewer bullpen early, they become the favorites, according to The Sim.*

Oh, and did we say Sabathia's durability is a key factor?"

*If you couldn't figure out on your own that the Phillies were the favorites if Sabathia got knocked out of the game early, go unsubscribe from this blog right now.

If you're counting at home, that's five predictions, four of them inconsistent with the game's outcome. Guess which one they highlighted on the summary page?


They needed five predictions to get one right; I bet I can do the same for Game 3 of this series:

1. Philadelphia will win a blowout
2. Philadelphia will win a close game
3. Milwaukee will win a blowout
4. Milwaukee will win a close game
5. Bud Selig declares the game a tie

Hooray for accuracy!

Math Is Hard

Note to Hal Bodley: You do not understand math.

To use a real example from this year's playoffs, the Tampa Bay Rays were 64% favorites to win their ALDS against the White Sox. That number rockets all the way up to 64.9% if the two teams had to play seven games instead of five.

That's a 0.9% difference. Keep that in mind.

"A five-game series in baseball is like getting all dressed up for the big dance and the music stops before you walk through the ballroom door."

I've never been rejected from a dance before. Apparently Hal Bodley has, possibly because the dance director was a big believer in the current playoff system and was making a statement. Either way, I'd have to imagine that if this happened to me, I would consider that more than a 0.9% loss in my enjoyment of the dance.

"To me, after playing 162 games the Division Series should be a best-of-seven. Period. Most managers and players agree."

How much documentation does he have for this statement? None? Okay.

If you want to get an unbiased opinion of how to improve the system, there's nothing quite like asking the people who will get paid more if the setup changes.

"That happened to the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1977 LCS against the Dodgers. The teams split the first two games, but the Dodgers rallied in a bizarre ninth inning of Game 3 to win, 6-5. The Phillies lost the next night and it was over. "We were lucky," said former Dodgers skipper Tommy Lasorda. "If it had gone seven games, the Phillies had a good chance of beating us." "

Probably about one-in-eight.

By the way, I love how he glosses over the Game 4 loss, as if it meant nothing.

"Joe Torre, now the Dodgers skipper, has won the LCS more times than any other manager.

"I've always thought that if you're good enough to win your division, or even to reach the playoffs, it's not right to have the chance to get blown out in a three-of-five series," said Torre, who was so successful in his years with the Yankees."

I say that when the Dodgers beat the Cubs this weekend, Torre rejects his invitation to the NLCS, demanding that the Dodgers have to win a fourth game to really "earn" it.

" "You've done too much to get there over the course of 162 games. In a best-of-five, a team may have a hot pitcher that you face twice and the chances of a better team getting knocked out are great. Bottom line: Four of seven is much fairer." "

0.9% = much fairer.

" Bobby Cox: "The smartest thing is to sweep as quickly as you can." "

If a Hall of Fame manager says his team should try to win the first three games of the series, rather than stopping at two, then that's good enough for me.

"Or as veteran Braves pitcher John Smoltz puts it: "We compete and struggle and work hard from Spring Training through a grueling season. I never felt a short series was an accurate test of the true strength of the teams playing each other. A Wild Card team can come into a series against a team with the best record and have two hot starting pitchers and win it all."

And the music stops before you know what happened."

I have a novel idea. Why don't we have each team play a large number of games--say, 162--and award the championship to the team with the best record? After all, that would be more fair, and it would remove the problems with the playoffs, like excitement and upsets. I'm sure Kirk Gibson's 1988 homer would have been just as legendary in a meaningless 162nd game with the Dodgers already eliminated.

Day 3 Games

Bos +123 (1)
Tam -149 (1)

YTD: 3-2, +8.68

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Daily Rant

A lot of the color commentary in today's Rays-Sox game is focused on how Tampa Bay has "overcome the culture of losing year-in, year-out".

Here is today's Rays starting lineup, along with when each player joined the Rays' major-league club:

Akinori Iwamura (2007)
B.J. Upton (2004)
Carlos Pena (2007) - Replaced by Willy Aybar (2008)
Evan Longoria (2008)
Carl Crawford (2002)
Cliff Floyd (2008)
Dioner Navarro (mid-2006)
Gabe Gross (mid-2008)
Jason Bartlett (2008)

James Shields (mid-2006)

In six out of ten instances, the Rays have been better than .500 since that player joined the team. Two others were added in mid-2006; they've hardly suffered to get this far. Four of the batters (five counting Aybar) have never been on a Rays team that won fewer than 97 games.

I'm just sayin'.

ADDENDUM: Look at the 2005 Tampa page on BB-Ref. Two players from that team are still around: Crawford and Scott Kazmir. (Trever Miller left, then came back in 2008; Jonny Gomes is not on the ALDS roster.) No one else even made a cameo appearance on both teams. That's an amazing turnover, and people need to stop talking like the 2008 edition is the same hapless team from five years ago.

Day 2 Futures

Bos -200 to win ALDS

Pretty straightforward value based on my estimates.

This series line has never made sense. Extrapolating lines for Games 4 and 5 from the Game 1 and 2 lines (since the pitching matchups are the same), the single game lines were only consistent with the Bos +125 series line (and the -200 now) if the books think the Angels are even money to win Game 3 at Boston with a Saunders-Beckett matchup, which is laughable.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Day 2 Games

Phi +125 (2)
ChW +170 (1)
LAD +160 (3)

YTD: 1-1, +2.38 units

Day 1 Games

LAD +146 (3 units)
Mil +190 (2)

Playoff Bets: Futures

Moving right along...

Dodgers +200 to win NLDS
Cubs -145 to NOT win NL

This series line is ludicrous. Maybe gamblers think the Cubs are due, or they like the round number of 100 years, or Cubs fans just have a lot of money and want to back them. It doesn't really matter; the Dodgers are not your typical 84-win team, and they're actually starting their best pitchers at the front of their playoff rotation, unlike the Cubs.

I make the true line Cubs -108. +200 is an outright steal.

The NL line follows similar logic; the Cubs are going to be overrated in both their playoff series, so why not bet against them in both at the same time?

Milwaukee +164 to win NLDS

Not as clear-cut, but still worthwhile. The Brewers are getting C.C. Sabathia for two starts in the series, and Yovani Gallardo is a capable replacement for Ben Sheets. The gap between the
offenses is not large, and the bullpens are roughly even except for the closers.

Milwaukee +1500 to win the World Series is also tempting, but betting them in every series is probably better, especially if they face the Cubs. They're just crazy enough to start Sabathia three times in a seven-game series, which is a huge bonus.

Philadelphia +880 to win World Series

If you're a fan of hedge funds, the last two bets make a nice combo of solid ROI and low risk. I don't see how Philly can be a 5-1 dog to win the World Series if they advance to the NLCS, which is what these two lines imply. Even though there's a talent gap between the leagues, the AL playoff field is not especially strong, and I don't see the Phils being a big dog in the World Series unless they face a healthy Red Sox team.

Tampa Bay +326 to win AL

Apparently the oddsmakers at Pinnacle still don't think this team is for real.

Interestingly, the Rays opened at -160 to win their ALDS--a fair price by my figuring--so this line implies they'd be a +160 dog in the ALCS, on average. I have them favored to win the ALCS should they get there, so one of us is off by a lot. Hopefully it isn't me.

Angels -400 to NOT win World Series

I've been over this a million times: the Angels are the third-best team in the AL, and the fifth-best playoff team overall. They'd probably be better off if the playoffs were a series of coin flips, which would make -700 the fair price for this bet.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

PSA

If you're looking for actual baseball-related analysis as related to the playoffs, it will be conducted over here for now.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Wow

This has to be the most delicious irony ever.

How many months are we removed from the "Tampa can't make the playoffs in this division" discussion? Six?

Personally, I love that Hank has to rip the NL West, since that's the only division out of six where the Yankees would make the playoffs. Apparently the Yankees should have jumped ship 50 years ago along with the Dodgers and Giants.

Commenter number 2 is saying what we're all thinking:

"I didn't RTFA, but what does Stein think about the Yankees' 2000 championship?"

uhhh...What?

Joe Sheehan's take on how to 'fix' the Yankees

There must be something about this that I don't understand. Anyway, on to the snark:

The article begins innocently enough, pointing out that the Yankees were one of the best teams in baseball this year, but happened to get stuck in the best division in baseball history. Both points are probably true.

Sheehan then moves to a step-by-step plan for what the Bombers need to do this offseason:

"Sign Mark Teixeira."

Sure, why not. He's the best hitter out there, and they have a hole at first base for him.

Try to bring back Bobby Abreu."

I question the wisdom here. Abreu's going to play all of next year at age 35, and he has just an .831 combined OPS the last two years. He plays the field like a serial monogamist, and he's going to demand a big contract.

I can't see how Abreu is more than a one-win upgrade over Xavier Nady, if that.

"Avoid the pitchers."

Eh, maybe. After all, as Sheehan points out earlier in the article, all the big free agent SP have injury histories, except C.C. Sabathia, whose health is the subject of much concern.

"P
ut Joba Chamberlain in the rotation and leave him alone."

I couldn't agree more.

"Re-sign Mussina or Pettitte."

I like it. They're willing to go short-term and shouldn't be overly expensive.

"Pick up Carl Pavano's option."

WTF WTF WTF WTF WTF WTF WTF WTF WTF

Yes, that Carl Pavano. The one who has pitched 42 innings in three years; the one with the 5.55 xFIP this year--worse than Garrett Olson, Luis Mendoza, and a million others.

"It seems like a ridiculous idea, but Pavano's late-season performance has shown him to be a reasonable back-end option for a big-league rotation."

No, it's shown him to be possibly more valuable to the Yankees on the DL than in the rotation.

"You can laugh, but if he hits the market, some team will give him a two-year contract just off of the last month of work."

I'd probably lay -500 that he will sign for exactly one year, maybe with an option.

"The Yankees can pay $13 million—$11 million marginal considering the $2 million buyout—and have a fifth or sixth (insurance) starter in place for 2009, one who will be better than Sidney Ponson and Darrell Rasner."

What would it cost the Yankees to sign a comparable pitcher? Mike Hampton has thrown more innings than Pavano since 2005, and his rate stats this year are better. I guarantee you he won't be getting $11 million from his new employer next year. Freddy Garcia has had a much better career than Pavano, and he's going through a similar late-season audition for next year. No way in hell he gets $11 million.

What's really mind-boggling is that Sheehan uses injury risk as his main argument against signing Sheets, Burnett, Sabathia, et al. I don't necessarily disagree with this point on its own, but how can he also believe that it's a good idea to retain Pavano, perhaps the most injury-prone starter on the market, at an eight-figure salary?

Sheehan doesn't even have Pavano in the rotation; he's the sixth man, behind Ian Kennedy. Now, I understand why Kennedy doesn't seem like the safest bet in the world, but he's a better pitcher than Pavano now and is much more important to the future of the Yankees. Why jerk him around?

Since the article gave me express permission to laugh, I will choose to. If the Yankees pick up Pavano's option, you'll be able to hear me chortling from Vegas to Big Sur.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Bet By Any Other Name...

Sportsbook.com isn't the most reliable book out there, but they often offer futures lines that are hilariously out-of-whack and even inconsistent with the other lines at their own book.

Let's say you want to bet some Astros futures. You can currently get them at 10-1 to win the Wild Card, 150-1 to win the NL Pennant...or you can go to "World Series Possible Matchups" and bet the Field. This gives you the Astros, Marlins, AND Cardinals to win the NL, complete with a 1000-1 payoff. Even ignoring Florida and St. Louis, the Astros would have to be 90-1 dogs in the playoffs for the Wild Card and Field lines to be consistent with one another.

The Marlins show an interesting and different pattern. Florida is 250-1 to win the NL (note that this is still much worse than the 1000-1 Field payoff which includes the Marlins) but 300-1 to win the Wild Card, which is their only possible route into the playoffs! They'd have to be even better than a lead pipe lock in the playoffs for this to make any sense.

Speaking of the NL Wild Card lines, how about the Brewers at -300? Collapse be damned! Milwaukee is 5-1 to win the NL, but a whopping 50-1 to win the World Series, making them 7.5-1 dogs in the Fall Classic, should they get there. Apparently the AL is just that good.

Looking to hedge your bet on Tampa Bay to win the AL East? No bookie is offering a fair price on the Red Sox at this point; you might get +250 when the true odds are more like +400. No one, that is, except Sportsbook.com, who offers you the same bet in the guise of Tampa to win the Wild Card at +500.

Lastly, if you're betting the Wild Cards, be careful not to put any dollars down on the White Sox, Twins, D-backs, or Dodgers, who all have odds posted despite being mathematically eliminated from the race. The Dodgers are especially funny, as their payoff is only 20-1 even though they've been dead for several days now.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Yankee Stadium is Closing!!!!!!!11111

What is the point of even writing pieces like this one? "Fluff" is far too positive a description.

The headline says it all:

"Yanks hoping to close Stadium with 'W'"

Well, shit, it is a different strategy than the one they've used in their attempt to finish higher than fourth place this year.

"The Yankees will once again make history Sunday, but inquiring minds want to know: Will they leave the big ballyard with a win or a loss?"

Who exactly are these 'inquiring minds'? Don't they have anything better to worry about, like who will win the games between teams that are actually in contention?

"The trend of the last 18 Major League ballpark closings seems to work against the Bronx Bombers, with only four of the home teams prevailing in their final game before moving or permanently losing stadiums. They'll also be trying to break a nine-game losing streak for the home team."

I can't hate on this too much, because somebody is going to use this as an excuse to bet on the Orioles, as if they have a built-in advantage here, the way Roy Oswalt does against the Reds because he dominated a completely different Reds team early in the decade.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Timeline of Evaluation

December 20: "No need to tell Carlos Silva how crazy it is that the Seattle Mariners gave him a $48 million, four-year contract.

"In this market, we felt this was the No. 1 guy out there," Bavasi said."

-ESPN

January 28: "Mariners receive: SP Erik Bedard (3)

Orioles receive: OF Adam Jones, RP George Sherrill, SP Chris Tillman, SP Tony Butler, and RP Kam Mickolio (8)"

-Me

February 8: "After weeks of delays, denials, flights and physicals, the Seattle Mariners have their ace."

-ESPN

(I can predict the future. Awesome, right?)

February 11: "As any intelligent fan can tell you, you want pitchers who strike batters out and induce ground balls. The Mariners are spending $30 million/year on three guys who don't do either of those things particularly well: Carlos Silva, Jarrod Washburn, and Miguel Batista."

-Me

February 15: "GM Bill Bavasi's back was to the wall, and he pulled out a gem, acquiring talented left-hander Erik Bedard. The price was steep, and included top outfield prospect Adam Jones. But it was worth it. On the other hand, the price for Carlos Silva -- $48 million -- might have been a tad high, but he could thrive in a big ballpark and with a superior defense. A"

-Jon Heyman

March: "PREDICTIONS
  • Jayson Stark

    Stark
    90-72
    1st in
    AL West

  • Tim Kurkjian

    Kurkjian
    91-71
    2nd in
    AL West

  • Buster Olney

    Olney
    90-72
    1st in
    AL West

  • Keith Law

    Law
    82-80
    2nd in
    AL West

  • Steve Phillips

    Phillips
    92-70
    1st in
    AL West"


March 29: "The Mariners will finish last in the division

Seattle has the worst or second-worst (Minnesota) offense in the AL, and may be the worst defensive team in the league."

-Me

September 17: "
Is Bedard a candidate to be non-tendered? The Mariners would have to pay him something in the range of $10 million next year, when he's eligible for arbitration. Unless he comes out of the surgery cleanly, with minimal damage detected, it is something the Mariners should consider"

-Buster Olney

Postscript: The Mariners have already clinched last place in the AL West. They're ranked 13th in the AL in scoring, ahead of only Oakland, and 12th in Defensive Efficiency.

The pitchers mentioned have these stats as of today:

Silva: 4-15, 6.42 ERA. Good think he's not in a small ballpark with an inferior defense!
Bedard: 6-4, 3.67 ERA, may get non-tendered. Was it worth it, Bavasi?
Washburn: 5-14, 4.69 ERA
Batista: 4-13, 6.19 ERA

I certainly can't think of a better value for $37 million, Adam Jones, George Sherrill, and three prospects.

Edit: Try and ignore that comment about Minnesota having one of the worst offenses in the league. Although, they are ninth in the league in AEQR, and eighth in OPS+, so there!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Fire Lou Piniella

This might be the dumbest proposed playoff rotation I've ever seen.

"Barring injury or another scheduling glitch, that makes a playoff rotation of Zambrano, Lilly and Dempster, with either Marquis or Harden as the final pitcher in a probable four-man rotation."

Let's consider how an intelligent manager would set his rotation. First, he'd slot Harden--by far the Cubs' best pitcher--in at the front of the rotation, to ensure he pitches twice in the NLDS if necessary. Number 2 is a surprisingly close decision: Zambrano is the best of the rest, but if he pitches Games 2 and 6 of the World Series, he doesn't get to bat in either game, since both will be at the AL team's park.

Based on that, I'd slot Big Z in at number 3. If the series goes to seven games, he will still pitch twice, and he wouldn't go twice in a 5-game series either way. Lilly and Dempster are also pretty close in value, and I wouldn't argue with either permutation of them in the 2 and 4 spots. It could come down to matchups: if the Cubs are poised to face the lefty-heavy Phillies in the NLCS, having Lilly pitch twice rather than Dempster would be a boon, while the converse would be true of the overly right-handed Brewers.

Contrast that proposal with this one outlined in the article. Rich Harden (who is currently leading Major League Baseball in ERA, strikeout rate, and rescuing kittens from trees) is a candidate to not make the playoff rotation at all.

Read that sentence again. Now imagine Phil Jackson sitting down for a heart-to-heart with Michael Jordan and telling him: "Kid, you've played your heart out this year, but we only have five spots in the playoff lineup to go around. I hope you'll understand."

Here are the Cubs' five candidates and their xFIPs this year:

Harden: 3.47
Dempster: 3.95
Lilly: 4.38
Zambrano: 4.54
Marquis: 4.99

If--and it's a big if--the Cubs are smart enough to excommunicate Marquis from their playoff rotation, they'll be slotting in their pitchers 4-3-2-1 in xFIP rank. It could be worse: that list reads 4-3-2-5 with Marquis in.

How does this affect the Cubs' odds of winning the World Series? With my rotation, they end their 100-year drought 16.0% of the time. Not bad. In Lou Piniella's world, he would rather win it 14.0% of the time.

If 2% of a World Series title doesn't sound like that much to you, you're not thinking straight. MLB teams spent around $3 billion this year in player salaries to compete for one title; 2% of $3 billion is $60 million. That's a whole lot of value this team is throwing away because they can't hire a competent strategist to make decisions like this.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Joba Chamberlain

This is a pointless fluff piece, but it still illuminates a bit of poor resource management that I feel I should write about.

A few weeks ago, there was a big hullabaloo when C.C. Sabathia was left in to throw 130 pitches in a game where the Brewers entered the ninth inning with a 7-run lead. (That doesn't necessarily mean the lead was safe, of course.) Though the merits of letting Sabathia finish the game remain trivial, the risk in doing so was mitigated by Sabathia's impending free agency; if he suffered a career-ending injury, it would have cost the Brewers only a month of C.C.'s services, rather than several years' worth.

In the case of someone like Tim Lincecum, the math is different. The Giants--who are obviously going nowhere this year--continue to ride Seabiscuit hard, letting him go to 138 pitches in his latest outing. Lincecum is contractually bound to the Giants for the next five years, and is the single most important factor in the future of their franchise. Letting him top 120 pitches in meaningless games as a matter of course is reckless behavior on San Francisco's part.

This brings us to Joba Chamberlain. The Yankees have already announced that Joba will open 2009 in the bullpen, and it seems like he will remain there for awhile. Like Lincecum, Chamberlain is under contract for five more years at below-market rates. Are the Yankees simply exercising proper caution with their future ace?

No, I think they're going too far. Yes, they're protecting their investment in Joba's future, but in doing so, they're wasting the most valuable resource in baseball--a star player with a tiny salary. By leaving him in the 'pen, the Yankees are certainly improving Joba's chances of staying healthy for a 15-year career, but what is that really worth to them?

Mark Prior is considered a huge bust, but the Cubs paid him about $15 million in salary and he certainly returned more than $15 million of on-field value to the team. If the Cubs could choose between Prior or Barry Zito--who has never been injured--for their respective careers, salaries included, wouldn't they choose Prior? I would; Zito looks very unlikely to have a career worth $144 million.

If the Yankees sign Chamberlain to a big free agent contract at the end of the 2013 season, history says they're likely going to receive a poor return on their investment. Meanwhile, right now they could have one of the top 15 (or so) starting pitchers in baseball on their squad, playing for $400,000. That's a potential surplus of $15-20 million, a figure the Yankees are doing their best to minimize.

Furthermore, the Yankees aren't the Giants, who have no chance to contend until 2010 at the earliest. They're going to be right back in the thick of things next year, and an extra win or two would have a huge impact on their chances of making the playoffs in a tough division.

New York's first concern should be to get as much value as they can out of Chamberlain while he's still cost-controlled. That doesn't mean letting him throw 138 pitches, but it does mean they need to get him into the starting rotation ASAP. Joba has already proven he can handle starting in the major leagues; now let him.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Why I Have More Money Than Vegas Watch

Ahem.

"New England was favored against Kansas City by 16 points last week, with the total sitting at 43. This would indicate an average final score of 29.5-13.5. Plugging this into the football Pythag formula, we get an 86.4% chance of the Patriots winning."

That's interesting. I would have used the money line to arrive at a similar conclusion much more quickly, but manipulating numbers for no reason makes you look smarter, I guess.

That's nothing, however, compared to this abortion of an argument:

"At Matchbook, you can currently get the Patriots winning over 12.5 games at +250, and the under at -490. This indicates that there's somewhere between a 16.9% and 28.6% chance of them winning at least 13 games. That's an unfortunately large gap, but it's the best thing we have, so we're forced to take the average, 22.8%."

Forced? Forced.

When I see a line at +250/-490, I think there are a few different explanations for why the line is set that way:

- Perhaps the oddsmaker isn't looking to actually book any action on this prop, so he makes a line that no one except a complete sucker will bet into. If you've ever checked the futures odds at the Stratosphere, you've seen an example of this style of bookmaking.
- In the case of Matchbook, perhaps the people who are offering bets aren't confident in their estimates, so they shade their odds accordingly. They might continue to offer slightly better odds until someone accepts the bet, which will give them a better idea of the true odds.
- Most likely, since there is next to no interest in betting NFL regular-season wins on Matchbook right now--just look at how few offers are out there for all the non-Patriots teams--the +250 and -490 are fairly arbitrary, making this much like an illiquid market at TradeSports: you can't glean any useful info from it.

Here's what I've never thought: Staring at two arbitrary numbers, the correct line must be at the exact midpoint of those numbers, and I'm forced--forced!--to make this the basis for an "analysis" of how that team is going to perform this year without its star QB. I've also never extrapolated this into an evaluation of what that QB is worth to his team, even when I admittedly have no clue how good his backup is.

I'm tempted to buy all the +250 Matchbook is offering--down to +240 now, by the way--just to see Vegas Watch have to make a hasty rewrite: Since the best offer on the Over would then be +123, my bet would have single-handedly shifted the Pats' odds of hitting their over all the way up to 30.9%:

+123: Equivalent to 44.8% chance
Midpoint between 44.8% and 16.9%: 30.9%

Go Math!

In fact, I would go do this right now, except I don't like the Patriots. I should, however, go bet all the Rays futures I can to artificially increase their chances of winning the division and World Series.

I conclude with a partial list of some other things you can learn by reading into current Matchbook lines:

- The Angels have yet to clinch the AL West, since that market is still open.
- The Angels are also the favorites to win the AL pennant, even though they'll be a dog to the Red Sox in their probable first-round matchup.
- Until just now, Toronto was being offered at -200 to go over 85.5 wins, meaning their chances of doing so must have been less than 66.7%. I personally believe they'll get there 80% of the time (there I go again, doing my own handicapping instead of letting the market do it for me) so I took the -200. Luckily, with no more offers on the Over, there's no longer a ceiling on Toronto's chances of winning 86 games, so it looks like this bet will roll home a winner!

Update: Keith Law not only linked to the article, he appears to have bought into its premise. For shame, Keith.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Random Baseball "Analysis" From Around The Web

I'm spending most of September in Germany, so updates won't be frequent for awhile.

Is it me, or is there a ton of terrible baseball writing out there right now? Let's look at a few highlights:

Of the players Arizona received in return, Qualls has been fine, but no Valverde


Qualls in 2008: 3.09 xFIP, 3.12 ERA
Valverde in 2008: 3.27 xFIP, 3.49 ERA

Think this is a one-season fluke? Qualls has a 3.34 career ERA, Valverde 3.33.

"All of this is a long-winded way of opining that the Valverde deal has to be one of last winter's worst trades."

If I had to score this trade at the time it was made, I would have applauded the Diamondbacks for refusing to adhere to the "closer" label and acquiring the cheaper, arguably better player with less service time--they have Qualls for three years, the Astros get Valverde for two--and receiving throw-ins on top of that. Pretty much par for the course for Ed Wade, who would have been willing to trade Qualls for a handful of magic beans.

As I score the trade now, the throw-ins haven't panned out, but Qualls is still better than Valverde, he still costs less money, the D-backs still have him for an extra year, and Ken Davidoff is still an idiot.

I did like this article, however, because it highlighted how idiotic the trades for Erik Bedard and Edgar Renteria actually were. At the time, sportswriters talked about how each team had added "the last piece of the puzzle" at little immediate cost. Oops.

Rays earn top marks in chemistry

In a way, this is my favorite article of the year, because it illustrates the pure stupidity of "clubhouse chemistry". For those of you who are new here, there's a simple equation: Win games, and your chemistry is great; lose them, and lack of chemistry is the real reason you failed. Thus, good chemistry is nearly perfectly correlated with winning.

I'm a professional sports bettor; you'd think I would be happy to utilize this new surefire tactic in my handicapping; even massively outscoring your opponents isn't perfectly correlated with winning, but chemistry is. Sadly, it doesn't work that way, because real analysts only use forward-looking metrics.

Anyway, my favorite part:

"We always had guys that got along well," said Rocco Baldelli, one of the longest-tenured Rays.

I'm sure Baldelli was a huge fan of Elijah Dukes, who repeatedly threatened to kill his wife; Delmon Young, who threw a bat at an umpire; or Jorge Cantu, who's probably a nice guy, but has a creepy porn-star mustache. Either way, I've never read a story on Tampa's clubhouse chemistry until this year. Strange...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

One Hand Doesn't Know...

From tonight's SportsCenter: "Jhonny Peralta--if he played anywhere else, we'd be talking about him as an elite shortstop."

From tonight's Baseball Tonight: Jhonny Peralta has the number 2 Web Gem of the night, but his name wasn't displayed prior to the play, because it's not in the computer and someone is too lazy to input it. The screen simply showed "Cleveland Indians."

Actually, the more I think about this, the more sense it makes. On a Yankees Web Gem, he'd be "Jhonny Peralta" but on the Indians, he's just "Cleveland Indians SS", as if Baseball Tonight was a video game and Peralta opted out of the MLBPA.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Fact-Checking FTW!

"STAT OF THE NIGHT

Daisuke Matsuzaka and Cliff Lee both won 15 of their first 17 decisions this season

2 pitchers haven't started 15-2 or better in the same season since 1978

Bob Stanley and Ron Guidry"

I don't know about you, but when I see two pitchers finish the year 19-2 and 18-2, I figure they probably each won at least 15 of their first 17 decisions.

What's that? Strike years don't count? Alrighty then.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Alexei Ramirez

In the midst of an otherwise good piece about how the White Sox have been overlooked this year, Patrick Sullivan drops this bombshell:

"Alexei Ramirez, now the team's full-time second baseman, is slugging .515 and shows no signs of slowing down. With Ian Kinsler out for the remainder of the season, no AL team will trot out a better player at the position."

Uh...no. First off, I don't know where that slugging percentage came from; Ramirez has not reached .500 in that department at any point this season. Even at .484, though, Alexei is having a star-caliber season...or is he?

Ramirez ranks seventh in VORP among AL second basemen...out of 11 with at least 300 plate appearances. If you give him extra credit for his low PA total, he's having a better year than Jose Lopez. Still, this leaves him behind Howie Kendrick and Placido Polanco, and well behind Brian Roberts and Dustin Pedroia--not to mention Kinsler.

We're not done yet. Does anyone here think Alexei Ramirez is a better player than Robinson Cano? If so, perhaps you haven't familiarized yourself enough with the concept of regression to the mean. Does anyone think Ramirez is better than Mark Ellis? I suggest you read up on defensive metrics. While you're doing that, check out how Ramirez's defense rates: he's one of the worst in the AL at the position.

So who is Alexei Ramirez? The best second baseman in the league, or a comparative disadvantage for the White Sox? You decide.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Most Important Thing You Saw On Thursday?

Take it away, Buster Olney:

"You know, I'm gonna say the Houston Astros. We made fun of them, basically, when they traded for Randy Wolf, everyone saying, "What in the world are they doing, they're not in the race anymore, they got LaTroy Hawkins...". Well, guess what, they've won eight in a row, they've won 16 out of 20, they're now seven-and-a-half games out of the wild card race...I don't think they're going to win and get there, but you have to give them credit for making the progress they have."

So...a team that's ostensibly out of the race trades for a veteran starting pitcher, goes on an extremely unlikely tear, and still has almost no chance at a playoff berth. According to Buster Olney--who writes off the Astros' playoff chances IN THE MIDDLE of complimenting them--this is a great strategy.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Fooled By Randomness

Who's the best team in the AL? If you said the Angels, you're wrong, though you're in the company of a fairly smart community.

To compare the Angels with the Red Sox and Rays, I present ten statistical categories, along with where each team ranks (among the three) in that category:


LAA Bos Tam
W-L 1st 3rd 2nd
Third-order W-L 3rd 1st 2nd
OBP 3rd 1st 2nd
SLG% 3rd 1st 2nd
OPS allowed 3rd 1st 2nd
Run differential 3rd 1st 2nd
ERA 3rd 2nd 1st
xFIP 3rd 2nd 1st
Def. Efficiency 3rd 2nd 1st
Zone Rating 3rd 2nd 1st

I think this pretty much speaks for itself.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Congratulations to the Angels

...for finally passing the A's in the standings.

I could whine about the way this division has played out, but I expect plenty of betting opportunities to arise next year as a result, so what's the problem?

Shameless Brag Post





It's always good to lock one of these up.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Disgusting Dominance

Mariano Rivera recently passed 1000 career innings. It's a meaningless milestone, but now he qualifies for this list, which basically speaks for itself.

Am I the only one who remembers a time, just a couple of short years ago, when we weren't sure Rivera would be a Hall-of-Famer? One-inning reliever or no, the gap between him and the rest of the list is just sick.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

How Not To Win A Pennant Race

Would you trade for Ken Griffey, Jr. even though he's not an upgrade for your team at any position? It could be worthwhile: he'd provide good depth, regular rest for your OF/DH types, and a very good pinch-hitting option for the late innings.

How about trading for him and starting him every day in center field, weakening both your hitting and your defense? That's where I draw the line.

I pick on Kenny Williams a lot, maybe more than he deserves. His trade for Carlos Quentin is the biggest reason the Sox are still in the race, and John Danks has been a key part of this year's surprise team as well. However, moves like the Griffey trade threaten to undo all his good work.

Tonight Griffey is starting in center field, even though the Sox are facing a lefty. Nick Swisher--switch-hitter, a better bat than Griffey and a better fielder--is riding the pine so the Sox can show off their shiny new acquisition. So far, Griffey has repaid the Sox with two strikeouts in his two at-bats, plus he's misplayed two singles to center field into a double and triple--all in four-and-a-half innings.

Still, it's clear that the trade satisfied Chicago's most important need: Williams's man-crush on Griffey. I imagine Williams is the type of guy who goes to his high school reunion to bang an ex-cheerleader, even though she's put on a hundred pounds and has the personality of toothpaste. After all, she was so hot ten years ago.

To the Sox's credit, Griffey is more famous than Swisher AND higher-paid, two traits that are much more desirable in an everyday center fielder than the abilities to hit and field.

Friday, August 01, 2008

How Not To Analyze Contenders' Schedules

Like this.

Dividing teams into tiers is one way of going about this; it's also the wrong way. We're talking about a system that lumps the Red Sox and Twins into one category! I'm rooting hard for the Rays down the stretch; if their schedule included 40 (out of 55) games against the "playoff-bound" Twins, I'd be ecstatic about Tampa's chances.

In my opinion, the Twins do not have the easiest remaining schedule in the AL Central. The Tigers do, because instead of having to face Detroit--as the Twins do--they play three games against Minnesota. That couldn't possibly suggest any flaw in the methodology, could it?

If you're curious, here are my estimates for each team's strength of schedule from here on out. The numbers have been adjusted for home/away games.

ChW .502
Det .486
Min .491

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Take Your Pick

Player A: Left Fielder, known clubhouse cancer, future Hall-of-Famer. Still a very productive hitter, though his fielding leaves something to be desired. Willing to sign for the league minimum as a free agent.

Player B: Left Fielder, known clubhouse cancer, future Hall-of-Famer. Still a very productive hitter, though his fielding leaves something to be desired. Signed for $20 million this year, and wants a big contract extension if you trade for him. Must give up prospects to acquire him in trade.

I'm no conspiracy theorist, but if any team trades for Manny Ramirez rather than give Barry Bonds a call, something is definitely rotten in the state of baseball.