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...