Friday, February 29, 2008

What I Learned From SportsCenter

As regular readers know, I'm no fan of ESPN, but it's basically the only way I can get Spring Training highlights in HD. I probably should have watched on mute, but I didn't, so I picked up this tidbit from Tim Kurkjian:

"Keep in mind, the last left-handed pitcher as young as Santana, with a winning percentage as high as Santana, to be traded or sold was Babe Ruth."

Note to Kurkjian: When you want to emphasize how valuable a pitcher will be to his new team, don't compare him to someone that averaged under 2 IP per season for the balance of his career.

But you heard it here first, folks: Santana is going to evolve into the best slugger in MLB history, turning the Mets into a dynasty. The Twins, owing to the "Curse of the Johan," will go championship-free for 86 years. Book it.

Touting and all that

I've received several emails from people who want to know if I'll be doing the tout thing again this year. Apparently, they've gotten over the July massacre; I know I have, but I needed all seven months to do so.

Will I be back? Maybe. It's hard to turn down a steady income stream just for publishing something that I'm going to work out for my own use anyway. And while it's true that I may be creating more competition in my line of work, I'm mostly selling a man a fish, rather than teaching him how.

However, there will always be some chance that selling picks will adversely affect my quality of life, and that's a powerful incentive not to.

Rest assured, either way you'll know my decision before Opening Day.

One more thing: A reader wrote to me asking that I not make my traditional post with my recommended futures bets for the upcoming seasons. Well, he doesn't have a lot to worry about, because most of the bets I'd suggest have already been hammered at the major books, crippling their value. If you pay any attention to line movements in the MLB futures or season wins markets, you should already know what these are.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Computers Are Heartless Again

Take it away, Kevin Kernan!

"COMPUTER CRASH

CAPTAIN SHAKES OFF MEAN MACHINE’S SILLY STUDY"

If this headline seems oddly familiar, it is. Good thing the computer was wrong about the Sox, right?

"Derek Jeter arrived at his 16th Yankees spring training yesterday labeled the worst shortstop in the majors by some statistical braniacs over at Penn."

What a bunch of assholes, those "extremely intelligent" brainiacs. We should form a mob like in this Simpsons episode and destroy everything science-related. After all, science just ruins the movie for you by telling you how it ends.

"Maybe it was a computer glitch," the three-time Gold Glove winner said of the report. But Jeter just didn't laugh this one off. He defended himself, saying, "Every [shortstop] doesn't stay in the same spot, everyone doesn't have the same pitching. Everyone doesn't have the same hitters running, it's impossible to do that."

Cap'n Jetes has a good point here, but let's not stop there. Every hitter doesn't stand in the same spot in the batter's box or face the same pitchers or defense. Thus, what evidence do we have that Derek Jeter is a better hitter than Adam Everett? Remember, you're not allowed to use statistics to support your case, or you'd just be another brainiac over at Penn.

"Something like that is a disgrace," the scout said. "It made me ill when I read that article. First of all, what pitching staff was out there? Each team has a different staff. Derek doesn't really have a sinkerball pitching staff whereas other shortstops, you sit behind certain pitchers, you're going to get a lot of ground balls."

This might be relevant, except it's not correct. Go here and you'll see that while Yankee pitchers allowed only 43% of balls in play for grounders as opposed to the AL average of 44%, they made up for it by striking out fewer batters, keeping the total number of ground balls virtually the same.

Even if this effect was real, the defensive metrics in question are smart enough to account for it. Oops, there I go again, praising intelligence instead of condemning it.

"You might put some people ahead of him range-wise, but that doesn't mean they are better shortstops. Look how sure-handed he is, look how clutch he is. That makes up for a lot."

Wow, even in an article about computer analysis of fielding, they bring out the c-word.

"Alex [Rodriguez] is as good as they come," Jeter said. "Without him, you'd have to have four or five guys replace him in the lineup."

Wait a minute, I thought we already discussed how statistics (like A-Rod's 54 homers last year) are biased, while clutch-ness and sure-handedness are absolute. Doesn't A-Rod have a reputation as a terrible clutch player? And didn't he develop a nasty habit of committing errors in 2006? You might even call him the anti-Jeter, because he can't do any of the important stuff.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Jon Heyman is an Idiot, Part II

This should come as no surprise to those who read his last article, but Heyman's evaluation of baseball's best GMs is a little lacking.

"a risky, yet superb, trade with Florida of young star Hanley Ramirez for (Josh) Beckett..."

VORP since trade:

Ramirez/Anibal Sanchez: 182.9
Beckett: 78.5

World Series wins since trade:

Marlins: 0
Red Sox: 1

Obviously, Hanley Ramirez is not a clutch player. I suppose you could call this a "superb" deal for Boston...personally, I'd go with "colossal mistake," but to each his own.

This gets better, however. After asserting that Ramirez-for-Beckett was a great trade for Boston, Heyman praises Epstein's decision to hold firm on the Johan Santana front. Apparently Ramirez is no Jacoby Ellsbury, who's older than Hanley and OPSed .740 in AAA last year.

"while a couple of free-agent deals haven't worked (Edgar Renteria, Coco Crisp) the bulk of the big-money moves have been nothing short of boffo."

As near as I can tell, these are the biggest-money contracts handed out to free agents under Epstein's watch:

Daisuke Matsuzaka: $103 million, 6 years. He had a decent enough season, but I'd hardly call this a coup based on his MLB debut.
J.D. Drew: $70 million, 5 years.
Let's just say that if I had to describe this signing in one word, I would not choose "boffo".
Edgar Renteria: $40 million, 4 years. After one season, Boston had to pay the Braves to haul him away.
Jason Varitek: $40 million, 4 years. It's more than I would have given him, but this deal has worked out okay for Boston.
Julio Lugo: $36 million, 4 years. Proof that Edgar Renteria taught the BoSox nothing.
Matt Clement: $25.5 million, 3 years. Is un-buffo a word? Because it should be.

The verdict: When you want to get overpaid, Boston is a good place to go.

Heyman goes on to rank Mark Shapiro fourth on the strength of his Bartolo Colon-for-the-franchise trade with Omar Minaya, but has no qualms with placing Minaya eighth; the deal is conspicuously absent from Omar's resume. Dan O'Dowd makes the top ten even though his big-money record makes Theo Epstein look like Nostradamus; O'Dowd is given credit for Matt Holliday, even though Holliday was already in the organization when O'Dowd was hired.

R-D punching bag Kenny Williams also cracks the top ten, even though this is Heyman's elaboration of why:

"No one can say he's afraid to take a chance or make deals. Williams brought the first championship to the South Side in decades, but his constant trading and tinkering left the Sox with a placid roster (thus the acquisitions of SS Orlando Cabrera and OF Nick Swisher) and hard-throwing but erratic bullpen (thus the deal for Scott Linebrink). They look no better than a third-place team in their tough division, but Williams' teams are full of surprises."

That's the full description. I could have done this a lot more efficiently: "Williams has largely made bad moves, but he won a championship, so he ranks high."

Jon Daniels is rated as an "up-and-comer". Daniels' donation of Chris Young and Adrian Gonzalez to the Padres is probably the most lopsided trade since A.J. Pierzynski was shipped to San Francisco.

I could criticize Heyman more, but I'd still rather have him running my team than Kenny Williams, which would make Heyman one of the top nine GMs in baseball. Now he just needs to give $121 million to Mike Hampton to crack the top eight.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Jon Heyman is an Idiot

Heyman just released his MLB offseason grades. The formula for getting an A is pretty simple: Trade for an established big-name player. What you gave up to get him, or whether your team is in a position to contend (*cough*Seattle*cough*) is completely irrelevant.

Actually, he does violate this rule once, for Houston. Not because the Astros are still well below .500 even with Miguel Tejada, but rather: "How does anyone get Tejada just hours before Mitchell takes the podium? Good grief." Yep, that's right: Tejada's alleged PED use is what will kill the Astros' chances this year, not their total lack of pitching. Apparently this syndrome is unique to Tejada, however, because Heyman suggests the Padres should sign Barry Lamar Bonds, who has been known to carry a few accusations with him.

Never one to avoid contradictions, Heyman also gives the Dodgers a good grade for adding Joe Torre, then praises the Yankees for letting him go--although apparently New York enters 2008 with only "a shot at the wild card". The Erik Bedard trade is lauded as both a "gem" for the Mariners and a "superior deal" for the Orioles. I've heard of a win-win trade, but not a pwn3d-pwn3d trade.

The Rockies earn a B+ by "locking up" Matt Holliday for the two years he was contractually obligated to play in Colorado anyway. The Phillies are given a good grade even though Heyman criticizes Philly's only mentioned acquisition, Brad Lidge. The Red Sox receive a good grade solely due to the Yankees' lack of activity, even though New York (re-)signed four of the ten best free agents.

To top it off, the article is poorly edited, unless "Troy Lauds" is some kind of pun that I don't understand.

I give the article an F+, because maybe it will convince someone to bet lots of money on the Mariners this year.

Baseball Determinism

PECOTA's projected 2008 standings are out, and over at BBTF they're discussing the results.

(I'm just going to mention here that it looks like the PECOTA depth charts include some players accruing substantial playing time for the wrong teams, such as Steve Trachsel and Morgan Ensberg. That may be affecting the results. Moving on...)

The guys at BBTF are normally very good at baseball analysis, but most of them are missing the point in this thread. First, they start on an unnecessary tangent about whether last year's Yankees would have won the AL East or the World Series under a number of hypothetical scenarios. The answer: we don't know. Maybe they would have had a 35% chance at winning the World Series if they had advanced to face the Red Sox in the ALCS, but we can't say that it would happen for certain. If it was that easy, the pundits at ESPN--who are so sure what will happen ahead of time--would never have to work again, because the gambling winnings would constantly flow in.

But my main bone of contention is with the notion that the outcome of this year's AL East race will be a test of various projection systems. Obviously, all the projections have the Rays and Blue Jays battling it out...for third place. The Yankees and Red Sox are separated by only a few games in each projection, with most having New York on top.

Let's say your projections have New York beating Boston, 94 wins to 93, while another person says Boston will triumph by one game. If Boston actually wins the division, does this prove that the other guy did a better job than you? Certainly not. When it comes to such small margins, the results are dominated by variance. In fact, even if you KNOW that New York is a 94-win team and Boston is a 93-win team, the Yankees will only come out on top 54.4% of the time! With a sample size of one, this is practically a coin flip, and I rarely say that someone else is smarter than me because I lose a coin toss to him.

I highly recommend this piece on randomness in MLB standings. Even if you know a team is "supposed" to win 94 games, 15% of the time they will still finish with 87 or fewer wins. Another 15% of the time, they'll win 101 or more.

Remember, this assumes you know the exact talent level of each team. In real life, you have injuries, trades, call-ups, send-downs, and uncertain projections; all of these serve to increase the level of uncertainty. I very much doubt that anyone can consistently project the MLB standings with a standard deviation of under 8 games.

This doesn't mean you can't that argue some projections are better than others. When the White Sox hit PECOTA's 2007 projection of 72 wins on the nose--versus a Vegas over/under line of 89.5--it was extremely unlikely that this happened by chance alone. This alone doesn't prove PECOTA is a better judge of the standings than Vegas, but it's certainly a strong data point in favor of that notion.

Friday, February 15, 2008

CRIS v. Kenny Williams

It looks like Kenny Williams and leading online bookmaker CRIS don't see eye-to-eye on the White Sox. While Williams still considers his team the favorite to win the AL Central, CRIS opened them as a 35-1 underdog for the division crown.

But I'm sure when this is all over, they can still kiss and make up.

Hypothetically Speaking

Suppose the Twins had traded Johan Santana to the Tigers and the Marlins dealt Miguel Cabrera to the Mets. Both the trading teams would have been blasted for dealing a star player to a division rival. But what's the difference between this scenario and what actually happened?

(Yes, Santana and Cabrera are not exactly equivalent in value, but they're pretty close.)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Lifeline Madness

The scene: Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, $16,000 question. All three lifelines remaining.

The question: In the children's book "The Little Prince," where is the title character's home?

The contestant asks the audience. Good idea. They respond:

25%: A. Asteroid
7%: B. Spaceship
16%: C. Under a castle
52%: D. Forest

The contestant then takes the 50/50. Probably not my action of choice, but reasonable. While this situation is somewhat similar to the Elmo question, it's not nearly as clear-cut.

The 50/50 leaves A and B as the possible choices. Now the contestant phones her friend. This is terrible. Not only is the difference between 25% and 7% huge, but Asteroid is not what a typical person would guess here if they had no clue. Asteroid has to be the correct answer here well over 90% of the time.

What was the contestant hoping for when she took the 50/50? Only two outcomes were really better than the actual one: if B/D or C/D were the remaining choices. More likely, she would have called a friend no matter what, and the 50/50 was just a waste of a lifeline.

Luckily for the contestant, her friend believed it was Asteroid, and the third confirmation was enough for her to lock in A as her final answer, and get the $16,000.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

More Giants

Courtesy of Football Outsiders.

They have the Giants as only 145-1 underdogs, but that's a lot closer to 161-1 than 40-1.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Consistent Foul Calls

Tonight's Villanova-Georgetown game ended in controversial fashion. You can argue about whether or not the contact actually constituted a foul, but the most common argument I'm hearing is that you can't make a call like that late in a tie game; you have to let the teams settle it themselves in overtime. I don't buy that for a second.

Why does the definition of a foul--which is clearly laid out in the rulebook--suddenly change just because it's a critical spot in the game? More importantly, where do we draw the new line between call and no-call? How will the players know what is now a foul and what isn't? And just how close and late must the game be before the refs switch to the new rules?

You can't have one set of rules in the book and another in practice. Baseball learned this lesson the hard way. Hopefully the refs keep doing what they're doing, critics be damned.

Addendum: Jay Bilas just commented on SportsCenter that a foul shouldn't be called there because there was no advantage gained. Again, where do we draw the line? If all the Georgetown players simultaneously kick their Villanova counterparts in the groin with 0.1 seconds left, is that also a no-call because it doesn't affect the outcome? If Georgetown Villanova doesn't want to get called for a foul there, maybe they shouldn't make pointless contact.

Game Show Lifelines

I love card games: they're fun to play and test many different skills. One of the most important facets of winning card play is to have a plan. Whether it's poker or bridge, good players will usually think about a strategy before implementing it, while bad players are content to simply wing it, always unsure of what to do next and often making the wrong play as a result.

Game show contestants often exhibit the same tendencies when presented with "lifelines". Most players don't plan their lifeline usage in advance, and as a result they often get little or no utility out of them.

For example, on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?", often a contestant will encounter a question where she has absolutely no clue what the correct answer is. Typically, she will ask the audience, but if that option has already been exhausted, she will often take a 50/50, then re-evaluate the question. Still having no clue, she then phones a friend for help.

This is abysmal usage of the lifelines. Taking the 50/50 in this spot can only be justified if the contestant intends to guess between the remaining two answers. (Even then, it's probably not the best move.) Generally, the phone-a-friend either knows the answer or doesn't. (She might have to Google/Wikipedia the answer, but that's irrelevant.) Clearly, the superior strategy is to phone a friend right away, then use the 50/50 only if the friend doesn't know the correct response. This will usually save a valuable lifeline; the 50/50 by itself is worth tens of thousands of dollars if you still have it after ten questions.

Another Millionaire quirk deals with asking the audience. This is best illustrated by a (real) example. The question asked what Elmo was searching for in a recent Sesame Street movie.

The choices included three physical objects--regrettably, I don't remember which ones--as well as Big Bird. Naturally, the contestant chose to ask the audience. Naturally, most of them voted for Big Bird, as they had not seen the film but were all familiar with the giant yellow symbol of Sesame Street.

However, the voting breakdown looked like this:

A: 30%
B: 2%
C: 3%
Big Bird: 65%

The contestant then went with a "final answer" of Big Bird. This was not her best play. The audience could be broken down into two groups: those who knew the answer and those who were just taking a guess. Naturally, those who knew would all answer the same way. The others would guess in a predictable way: they'd most likely choose Big Bird because it was a familiar answer, but they would be about evenly divided between the physical objects. What would possess them to choose one over another?

If Big Bird is the correct answer, what explanation is there for the popularity of answer A? Certainly the explanation isn't good enough to justify 30% of the vote compared to 5% for B and C combined. It's much more likely that only a small portion of the audience has seen the film, all of whom voted for A. Sure enough, A was the correct answer, and the contestant went home with only $1,000.

The relatively new show "Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?" may feature easy questions, but the lifelines present some interesting strategies, which the contestants almost always get wrong.

For those not familiar with the show, the contestant and an actual Fifth Grade student answer the questions together--with the student writing his answer down rather than speaking it--and the contestant has three single-use lifelines:

Peek: The contestant may look at the student's answer, but does not have to use it.
Copy: The contestant locks in the student's answer as her own.
Save: If the contestant answers incorrectly but the student answers correctly, the contestant is credited with a correct answer.

It should be clear to readers of this blog, if not the general public, that the Peek is a dominant strategy to the Copy, since it gives the player the added option of rejecting the student's answer. Additionally, many questions in the show have only two or three answer choices, so the Peek and Save lifelines can often be combined to virtually assure a correct response.

Say you approach a question and have no clue what the answer is. Assuming you have all your lifelines intact and don't intend to quit, what strategy should you use?

There are only two reasonable lines of play:

- If it's a true/false or multiple-choice question, use your Peek, then answer the opposite way of the student, OR
- Copy the student's answer.

However, this is not what the typical contestant does. She Peeks at the student's answer, rationalizes the answer (whether or not she actually agrees with the student) in her own mind, then uses the student's answer as her response. By doing this, she has turned the Peek into a Copy, and the only benefit is that she gets to see the student's answer 30 seconds earlier.

I understand the psychological motivations for wanting to see one's answer before committing to it for a large sum of money, but it should still be obvious to the contestant that this strategy is terrible. Of course, if she knew that, she'd be smarter than a fifth grader.

Numbers

I often wish I could be a famous baseball writer, but there are many benefits to anonymity. For example, I don't have to deal with idiots like those commenting on this USS Mariner post.

There are a lot of comments, so don't bother reading them all. Basically, they each take on one of four forms:

- "The A's will never beat the Angels. Projections are for losers. You are an idiot."
- "The Mariners will be awesome in 2008. Projections are for losers. You are an idiot."
- "Clubhouse chemistry is the most important thing in baseball. You are an idiot."
- "I don't understand numbers. You are an idiot."

In essence, everyone is saying: "These numbers disagree with my intuition, so they have no value." Well, things don't work that way. The White Sox didn't look like a 72-win team entering last year, but by the time September rolled around, they bore a damn good resemblance. It was easy to picture them winning 90 games, so long as you were willing to ignore all the forecasts--which called for declines from the entire offense.

And if you don't believe in numbers, the 2008 Mariners don't look half-bad either. They won 88 games last year, added a legitimate ace pitcher and a $48 million innings eater, and play in an easy division. What's not to like?

Unfortunately, the rules of baseball still require a team to score at least one run to win a game, and that's a level the Mariners may have trouble reaching in 2008. PECOTA forecasts them to have exactly ZERO above-average position players on the roster. They probably have one--Ichiro is notoriously difficult to project, since he is such a unique player. But I can't see any rational fan arguing that starting Richie Sexson or Jose Vidro gives the M's a competitive advantage. Even Raul Ibanez, their de facto cleanup hitter, is 36 and plays defense like the Detroit Lions.

On to pitching. 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. Sixth starter Horacio Ramirez might be the worst pitcher in the majors. And the bullpen, aside from excellent closer J.J. Putz, isn't looking so hot. These factors are all reflected in the projections, but the subjective fans are ignoring or underrating them.

Numbers aren't perfect, but if they're intelligently applied, they will always beat the purely subjective forecasts in the long run.

Do I agree that the A's will beat the Angels in 2008? No, but they're certainly within striking distance. Because LA cakewalked to a division title last year, we seem to have forgotten that the Angels are not very good. Basically, their whole team revolves around three top starting pitchers--one of whom is already hurt--plus a good bullpen and Vladimir Guerrero. That's enough to win the AL West, but not enough to make you a runaway favorite.

But this opinion is based on my numbers. They have the Angels significantly ahead of the A's. If it were the other way around, I would double-check them, then go bet on the A's without worrying about how stupid I'd look. The only thing better than being right is being right while enjoying a delicious meal paid for with my winnings.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Mailbag

Reader Mark chimes in:

The way the playoffs unfolded was the worst case scenario for a Giants futures holder...had any upsets occurred, the diff. between buying the futures and playing the ML each game would have shrunken (sic).

This is a fair criticism, and we don't want to let the results get in the way of the process. Luckily, I do this for a living, so at the start of the playoffs I made a spreadsheet with all the possible playoff scenarios to estimate accurate futures odds.

The Giants, for example, had about a 40% chance of beating the Bucs and advancing to round 2. Of those 40%, roughly 25% had them facing the Cowboys, and 15% the Packers. Of the 10% of scenarios where New York advances to the NFC Championship game, they face the Cowboys 2.8%, the Packers 4.9%, the Seahawks 1.4%, and the Redskins 0.9%. And so on.

The results? The Giants' odds indeed improve: they move all the way up to 163-1 dogs to win it all. The difference between this and 211-1 isn't much, because:

- The Giants have to face a top-2 NFC seed in round 2, and will probably face another in the NFC title game
- The Patriots were huge favorites to win the AFC
- The Colts, who probably win the AFC if the Pats don't, are also big favorites over the Giants

If I could give one piece of advice regarding futures betting, it would probably be to never bet a 5- or 6-seed to win the Super Bowl at the start of the playoffs. 40-1 odds may look sexy, but they will virtually never be good enough.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Why No One Should Brag About Their Giants Futures Ticket

I'm seeing plenty of people bragging that they cashed a ticket on the Giants to win the Super Bowl at odds of 40-1, or sometimes even worse. Congratulations, you won a lot less than you could have.

Without too much effort, you could have found the following money lines on the Giants to win each game along the way:

@TB: +150
@Dal: +300
@GB: +300
vs. NE: +430

Had you invested $100 in a futures ticket at the start of the playoffs at 40-1, you cashed $4100. Not bad. Had you parlayed that same $100, though:

$100 bet at +150 returns $250
$250 bet at +300 returns $1000
$1000 bet at +300 returns $4000
$4000 bet at +430 returns $21200

So your decision to bet the futures ticket instead of each game line ended up costing you a total of $17100. Nicely done.

By the way, this illustrates just how improbable the Giants' Super Bowl run was: if you believe the game lines were accurate, the Giants were a 200-1 underdog to do what they did.. They may not be the worst team to ever win the Super Bowl, but they're certainly the biggest underdog champions ever.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Trade Recap: Twins, Mets

Twins receive: OF Carlos Gomez, SP Philip Humber, SP Kevin Mulvey, SP Deolis Guerra (Rating: 5/10)

Mets receive: SP Johan Santana (8)

Mets sign Santana to a six-year, $138 million extension (3)

A lot of people are surprised that this is "all the Twins got" for Johan. I find it very unlikely that they would have chosen this offer over a package of Phil Hughes and Melky Cabrera just to get Santana out of the AL; the more likely possibility is that such an offer wasn't on the table.

The package isn't as big as the rumored deals with the Yankees or Red Sox, but in a vacuum, it's not a bad trade for the Twins. In exchange for one year of Santana and the compensation picks they would have received when he left next winter, they're getting 24 potential years of cost control out of four pretty good prospects. That's a good exchange; the question is whether they could have done better.

There is some strategic value to sending Santana out of the AL. Although I generally think teams care way too much about this, the Yankees and Red Sox are partial exceptions, since they are willing to go way over budget to build a winning team. If the Twins trade Santana to the Indians, that's $23 million less per year that the Tribe can put towards signing other players. But such a contract isn't likely to impede the Yankees or BoSox nearly as much.

I'm not that high on Gomez's future, but many respected scouts disagree, and I'm going to defer to them on this one. Lots of 21-year-olds struggle mightily in their first Major League experience. As for the pitchers, none of them can even strike out a batter per inning in the minors, which is a bad sign for their MLB potential, but they all come with good scouting reports as well. The Twins do have an excellent track record of acquiring pitching prospects and developing them into good Major League starters.

As for the Mets, acquiring Santana without giving up anything of value from their MLB roster was a very nice move that puts them way ahead in the NL Pennant race. The important thing is that the Mets--unlike the Mariners or White Sox--stood to benefit substantially from acquiring a big-name player. Nick Swisher takes the Pale Hose from 76 wins to 78; Santana brings the Mets from 89 to 94, which is huge not only for their chances of making the playoffs, but also their probability of winning once they get there.

I'm not a fan of the contract extension. It was a necessary evil, but just look at the other names on the list of richest contracts given to pitchers: Barry Zito, Mike Hampton, Kevin Brown. Yes, Santana is better now than those guys were at the time, but it's easy to conceive a scenario where Johan is getting paid $23 million to pitch 40 innings. That's a big pill to swallow.

Short Rant

Right now, the sportswriting world is talking about how Eli Manning is more "clutch" than Tom Brady.

I find this absolutely hilarious. If you still believe that a magical clutch ingredient is more important than just playing the game well, you need to re-examine your life.

That is all.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Copycats in Prop Bet Blogging

King Yao likes to punish lazy sportsbooks and blog about it. I followed his lead found a nice little value while shopping for Super Bowl prop lines just now.

Lots of books have a line on the number of different Patriots to score in the Super Bowl. A common line is something like under 3.5 players at odds of +240.

One book, however, copied the bet incorrectly. They offered +240 on "under 3.5 different Pats players to score TOUCHDOWNS".

Obviously, this is a massive difference. It's like buying a full player for free, since Stephen Gostkowski no longer counts (unless the Pats run an LSU-style fake FG). It could be even better than that, since a two-point conversion is no good either. In fact, this bet can only be -EV if nearly five different Pats are expected to score touchdowns in the Super Bowl, and they're not even projected to score that many points.