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.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

You've Got To Be Kidding

I don't have the exact transcript handy, but during today's Cubs game, with the score tied in the top of the ninth and a man on second, the announcers implied that Carlos Marmol "would be careful with Luis Gonzalez" since Gonzo is 2-4 in his career off Marmol, while the on-deck hitter was 0-3.

The on-deck hitter? Hanley Ramirez.

Justice wasn't served, as Marmol walked Gonzalez then induced a flyout from Ramirez that was a few feet from being a 2-run double. The system works!

How Not To Break In A Questionable Rookie Pitcher

...put him in to protect a one-run lead in the middle of a playoff race.

Seriously, what were the Cubs thinking? Samardzija's career minor league numbers: 255 IP, 4.45 ERA, 102 BB, 149 K, 27 HR. Most of that was done in the low minors. Sign me up!

Worse, ESPN is discussing how impressive Samardzija was in his debut. The same debut where he blew the lead, contributing to a defeat when his team was clinging to a one-game division lead.

If Lou Piniella keeps letting Samardzija "get his feet wet" in situations like this one, he deserves every blown save that will come his way.

Friday, July 25, 2008

This Is SportsCenter

"So what does Vegas think about Dallas's chances to win the championship this year? They opened at 11-2, and they're currently at 9-2, the third-best odds of any team, as New England (3-1) and Indianapolis (5-1) are still the early favorites."

It's a good thing none of these guys have to actually handicap sports for a living.

Ramirez vs. Longoria

In his chat today, Keith Law had to deal with a bunch of Chicago-area trolls touting Alexei Ramirez as Evan Longoria's equal (or superior).

Let's see...

Longoria: Best-hitting third baseman in the AL (Non-ARod division), Gold Glove-level fielding, legitimate MVP candidate. 22 years old. 2008 WARP: 5.5.

Ramirez: A cool-looking Web Gem on Wednesday. 26 years old. 2008 WARP: 1.1.

WARP isn't a great stat, but a difference of 4.4 wins means one thing only: One of these players is light years ahead of the other.

Monday, July 21, 2008

K-Rod's Quest

Francisco Rodriguez is way ahead of the pace to break the all-time saves record, but is he really that likely to finish the job?

The Angels have 63 games remaining. K-Rod needs 18 saves to break the record. Right off the bat, that's a pace for 46.3 saves per 162 games, which I don't think is sustainable for any closer in the long run. Remember, picking up saves is more about situation than skill; just ask last season's AL saves leader--who, by the way, couldn't manage 46 saves.

Assuming a more realistic pace of one save per four team games--a 25% chance of a save in each remaining Angels game--K-Rod has a 29.9% chance of breaking the record. Assuming a 45 save/season pace, it's basically a coin flip: 49.2% to break it.

Either way, unless some sportsbook puts a line up on this, I don't really care. Saves are by far the dumbest widely available baseball stat, and it's ridiculous that they've outlived their creator. However, I will certainly enjoy it when some team overpays Rodriguez this offseason thinking he's coming off a career year, when in fact his numbers have been getting steadily worse every season--plus the experts agree he's a huge injury risk.

Monday, July 14, 2008

How Not To Glean Information From Vegas Lines

What might you "learn" from this post?

Let's focus on one team, USC. USC plays 12 games this year. Their season wins line is 11, with the under being a substantial favorite; you have to lay -180 on under 11, while over 11 pays +160.

Now, using this information, and only this information, Vegas Watch calculates that USC should win 10.45 games, giving them an .871 winning percentage. How often does an .871 team go 12-0? 18.9% of the time, says the post, by simply assuming a constant winning percentage: .871^12 = .189. (This number should actually be 19.1%, but that's not germane to this discussion. I will, however, use the correct numbers from here on out.)

Using the same method, how often will an .871 win 11 games? The calculation is a little more complicated, but the probability is equal to 12*(.871^11)*(1-.871) = 33.9%.

With 19.1% 12-win seasons and 33.9% 11-win seasons, USC will go under 11 wins the remaining 47.0%. What would be fair odds on the over/under for 11 season wins? Since 11 is a push, the odds should equal the ratio of 12-win seasons to 10-and-under seasons. That's 19.1%/47.0% = +247 over, -247 under.

What happened? Somehow the fair line went from about +170/-170 to +247/-247.

I'm not sure whether .871 is really USC's true winning percentage; if it's not, that's a big reason our numbers are off. But there's another problem: the probability of winning each game is not constant. Is USC going to beat Ohio State 87.1% of the time? Are they only 87.1% favorites against East Dickhead State? Being a 7-1 favorite in every game is a lot different from being an overwhelming favorite in ten games and a slight favorite in the other two.

The lesson? Don't use short-cut math if you're putting real money down on it.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Pitching Blockbusters

The Cubs and Brewers just swung blockbuster deals for top starting pitchers. Did either team come out ahead, and by how much?

In an important way, both NL Central teams made good trades: they each took some assets they were never going to get full value out of, and converted them into something of immediate value. Matt LaPorta was blocked in the Brewers' system by Prince Fielder and to a lesser extent Ryan Braun. Matt Murton and Eric Patterson were never going to get full-time jobs in Chicago, and Josh Donaldson was blocked by Geovany Soto. Whether or not trading these players was correct from a talent standpoint, cashing them in is better than letting them rot.

Harden, while healthy, is as good a pitcher as Sabathia, but the Brewers still landed the bigger fish, for a few reasons:

- Just look at Sabathia. If there's a bigger fish out there, I'd like to see him.
- Sabathia is obviously much more likely to finish the season without an injury.
- In addition to providing a big upgrade to the Brewers' chances in October, CC (not C.C.!) also delivers a solid boost (10-15%) to Milwaukee's chances of getting there in the first place. The Cubs were almost guaranteed a spot anyway, so Harden doesn't help a lot on that front.

Chad Gaudin is a nice bonus, though. He'd clearly be a better starter than Jason Marquis at this point; hopefully the Cubs realize this. However, it looks like they'll use him in a suboptimal bullpen role.

I question whether or not the Indians got the best deal they could have, although LaPorta was probably the best prospect available. The A's did well; had they waited until the deadline, there's a reasonable chance Harden would have suffered a serious injury. They also picked up some young, cheap players that were undervalued by their old team. This package doesn't have the upside of Daric Barton and Dan Haren, but the trade is similar in structure to the Mark Mulder deal, which worked out fabulously for Oakland. Of course, it's also similar to the Tim Hudson trade, one that looks brutal in hindsight.

Honestly, if I'm the Cubs, I give some serious thought to sending Harden home for the next two months, bringing him back only for a couple of tuneup starts, then the playoffs. At the very least, they should give him plenty of extra rest if they have a big lead entering September.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Who Do You Think Is The Most Deserving All Star?

Take it away, Eric Young:

"Well Bert, I think they're all are deserving, very deserving, but if I had to pick most--it's hard to pick most, but if I had to pick most--I would have to go with Josh Hamilton, and the fact that his battles have been well-documented, we don't need to even talk about that, we need to talk about what he's doing between the lines, and you look at these guys--this guy's--stats from last year to this year, you know, they definitely gonna surpass 'em but they surpass 'em already at the halfway break! So that way, this guy's putting it all together, he's come back, he's persevered, and you know what, he's in a lot of ways batting very well in front of Brad-Milton Bradley, another All-Star, so he's definitely most deserving to compare from where he came from to the other guys."

I could fisk this, but do I really need to? Boom goes the EY-namite.

How Not To Pick All Stars

I stopped watching the All Star Selection Show a few years back--it's a meaningless honor--but seriously, Jason Varitek? Is this an effing joke?

If you're into scavenger hunts, try looking for Varitek's name on a list of the 30 most valuable catchers in the AL this year. You won't, unless you cheat and click the little "NEXT" button on the bottom of the page.

Notice the cascade effect at work here. Tito could have picked Ivan Rodriguez--who isn't the best catcher in the league, but Detroit needed someone to represent them--and freed up a roster spot for Evan Longoria, who i might pick as AL MVP at this point. Nope, we're going with THE CAPTAIN and his .661 OPS.

That's a stretch, but Francona could have realistically given Tek's spot to Mike Lowell, who's at least a little deserving of it.

Baseball Tonight keeps making a big deal about how Varitek has absolutely killed the Red Sox over the past month. Apparently Francona wasn't watching his own team or the Rays, who Longoria carried into a four-game division lead.

How Not To Re-Sign Your Closer

...when his line reads like this:

2-0, 19/19 saves, 0.77 ERA

Yes, Brad Lidge is one of the better closers in baseball. However, he's THE SAME PITCHER he was last year, and the year before that:

2006 11.9 4.1 43.90% 5.28
2007 11.9 4.1 42.40% 3.36
2008 12.8 4.1 46.80% 0.77

Except for the ERAs--which we know will fluctuate a lot for short relievers--how could anyone tell the difference?

It's not that $37.5 million is too much for Lidge--it's a reasonable offer in the current market. However, they could have saved at least $10 million by signing him to the same deal three months ago, and they're stupid for not doing it that way.

Saturday, July 05, 2008


Hot off the presses from ESPN:

"It's easier [for Tampa] to get to where they're at right now, and harder to stay there, 'cause now they gotta look back, 'Oh man, we're in front of the Red Sox, we're in front of the Yankees.' "

Well said, Fernando, and it's clear the Rays are already buckling under the weight of first place and the expectations it carries.

What's that? Tampa is 5-0 since they took over the AL East lead? Three of those wins were over the Nation of Intimidation? Well, I'll be.

You can't blame the Red Sox for choking, though; they're not used to being behind Tampa in the standings, and the pressure of trailing the Rays has already sunk the Yankees and Blue Jays.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Side Effects

If you're using these numbers to place bets--not that I would ever advocate gambling--it's important to note that not only did the Rays pad their lead over the Red Sox with this week's sweep, they also pulled even with Boston in the head-to-head tiebreaker for the division title in the event that the loser gets the Wild Card, which will almost certainly be the case.

It's a little early to worry about tiebreakers in the NL, where the Cubs have only played three games against the Cardinals and six against the Brewers; the Brewers do hold a 4-2 edge. The Mets are 4-2 against the Phillies and will probably win the season series if they pick up enough games to force a tie.

Rays FTW

Div% WC% Proj W
Baltimore .2 1.7 76.8
Boston 36.3 26.8 92.7
New York (A) 15.3 28.4 88.5
Tampa Bay 47.3 20.9 94.5
Toronto .8 4.9 80.0

Chicago (A) 48.4 3.7 87.2
Cleveland 5.1 .3 77.3
Detroit 27.3 2.7 83.6
Kansas City .7 .0 72.1
Minnesota 18.5 1.7 81.9

Los Angeles (A) 65.5 3.9 90.8
Oakland 27.8 4.1 84.6
Seattle .1 .0 67.9
Texas 6.6 .8 79.0

Div% WC% Proj W
Atlanta 14.1 6.1 81.8
Florida 6.5 3.0 79.0
New York (N) 33.2 10.2 85.7
Philadelphia 46.1 9.9 87.8
Washington .0 .0 66.8

Chicago (N) 62.2 11.8 94.2
Cincinnati .3 1.9 75.6
Houston .3 1.7 75.3
Milwaukee 21.5 26.7 87.4
Pittsburgh .2 1.3 74.4
St. Louis 15.4 25.0 86.0

Arizona 49.3 1.2 82.7
Colorado 4.3 .0 72.2
Los Angeles (N) 39.3 1.0 81.1
San Diego 2.3 .0 70.6
San Francisco 4.7 .0 72.4