Saturday, November 14, 2015

Sunday, October 25, 2015


Let's sum up what we know about World Series geography in a succession of visual displays.

First, the overview of the percentages for the nine categories with at least one incidence (we're still looking for the first "South-South" World Series (in the table at right).

Since 1961, "East-Midwest" (the geographic matchup that we have for 2015) has been the highest (22%) but the incidences are much more spread around the categories now.

That's especially the case from 1998 to the present.

What about summing things up by basic region? (That is, East-Midwest-West-South, as we did up to a point in the previous post.) We really only need to do this from 1961 to the present, since the West and South simply didn't exist as regions until then.

This will look best in a "running total," and in a chart rather than a table, so here goes.

We can see that while the West got into the act early, the South languished and didn't get into the World Series action until 1991.

(And we should also remember that the Southern region consist of just five teams out of MLB's total of thirty, so it's likely to be trailing the pack. The Midwest region actually has twice as many teams in it than the South (with ten), so by rights they should have the highest percentage of team in the WS over this time span, but they don't: the East does.

Finally, here's a table that sums up what's been going on by region with respect to the World Series since 1991. We wind up at the bottom with the total number of WS appearances for each region as the numbers add up.

We also get the color coding for the times when there are years where the World Series occurs entirely with a single region (EE, MM, WW...remember, no "SS WS" has happened yet).

We can see that it's the Eastern teams who've managed to get into the most "all-region WS," with three over the past twenty-five years,

And we can see just how the West languished, reaching the WS just once in the first nine years of the time period, and not really showing something like a normal distribution until as late as 2010.

When you look at it this way, the South (with half as many teams in its region as the Midwest) has done a good job of holding its own.

And, in fact, the Midwest has had to stage a rally over the past five years to slip ahead, with a team in the WS in each season.

At some point we'll put all this together with which region actually won all of these World Series, but we'll save that until we know who wins this one. Stay tuned...

Saturday, October 24, 2015


Well, now we know what the "geographical configuration" of the 2015 World Series will be--with the Royals eliminating the Blue JAys, it'll be "East-Midwest."

That category (EM for short) is one of ten possible geographic "collisions" that exist due to baseball's franchise movement and its incremental expansion.

The "West" came into the picture in 1958; the South in 1962 (with the Houston Colt .45s, later the Astros).

As you'll see at the bottom of the chart (at right), the South has insinuated itself into the World Series 20% of the time since 1961...

...but the South has yet to crash through with that tenth category, the "South-South" World Series, a situation partially explained by the fact that the playoff-bound teams from the South have seemingly found themselves in the same league most of the time, making it extremely difficult to bring off the still-elusive "SS" World Series.

And that's why, in case you were wondering, there is no column on the chart for the "SS" series. When it happens, we'll add it.

Since '61, East-Midwest (EM) and East-West (EW) World Series have been the most plentiful, though our breakouts (1961-80 and 1981-2015) show that these two categories have faded into the pack over the past thirty-five years...

...with the East-South (ES) matchup having the highest preponderance (15%) over the past thirty-five years, thanks in large part to the 90s Braves.

If we measure from 1991, when the Braves began their run of World Series appearances (augmented by the Marlins in '97 and '03, the Rays in '08, and the Rangers in '10 and '11), teams from the South have appeared in 44% of the World Series over the past twenty-five years.

The "all-Midwest" (MM) World Series had a bit of a flurry in the 80s, but it then went nearly twenty years before manifesting again in 2006 (Cardinals-Tigers).

Overall, however, Midwest teams are well-represented in the Fall Classic over the past thirty-five years, appearing in 47% of the World Series since 1981 (and, like the South, in 44% since 1991).

Teams from the East have matched the Midwest's performance, appearing in 47% of the World Series since '81.

It's the West that's lagged behind: they have made it to the WS only 36% of the time over that time frame.

We'll sum up the breakouts in an aggregate chart next.


Since blogs work backwards, we'll be our usual prickly selves and reverse the reverse order, thus beginning (perversely) at the beginning.

As noted in the previous post (which is behind you, not in front of you...) World Series geography--the categories of regional identity for the two teams facing off in the Fall Classic--has expanded as baseball itself has grown.

Back in the day (pre-1953, to be exact), baseball had nine teams in the East and seven in the Midwest, and thus there were only three possible categories:

--East-East (EE)
--Midwest-Midwest (MM)
--East-Midwest (EM)

That changed, as we also noted previously, when the Dodgers and Giants moved west, giving us three new categories:

--East-West (EW)
--Midwest-West (MW)
--West-West (WW)

The Dodgers managed to inaugurate one of these new categories before the first expansion era hit, in 1959, with their playoff win over the Braves (then in their Milwaukee way-station between Boston and Atlanta) depriving us of another "all-Midwest" World Series.

The chart at left gives you a visual fix on the narrow geographical bandwidth of baseball's post-season, which was also quaintly "narrow" in the sense that the World Series, in those days, was--as it is increasingly hard to fathom--the only post-season baseball at all.

The "golden age" of East-East World Series is clearly to be found in the early history of the post-season, from 1903-24, when those matchups accounted for 52% of the World Series. The other two categories (remember, the only other two possible categories at the time...) split the remaiming World Series evenly.

There was a "last hurrah" for the "EE" category right after WWII, when eight of ten World Series from 1947-56 featured teams from the East (in fact, all but one of these teams being from New York).

But clearly the 1925-60 period was dominated by East-Midwest (EW) matchups, with "Midwest-Midwest" fading to a distant third. And the overall story for the pre-expanion period is that the two major categories (EE and EW) each accounted for the same percentage of World Series matchups (40%).

Of course, that will all change in the expansion era. But, since blogs work backwards, you already know that...

Thursday, October 22, 2015


We are not going to have an "all Midwestern World Series" this year, thanks to the New York Mets. (Which, from one perspective, is regrettable, as we tend to think that the Chicago Cubs, with math-meth-"magician" Joe Maddon at the helm, would have made a better story had they wound up doing in the World Series what they just did in the NLCS. (All the better for Theo Epstein's self-burnishing "legacy," don't you know.)

But snark is just a side dish here--the question that we are asking here (though the title of the post isn't quite in sync with it...) is how many World Series have there been with all-Midwestern teams facing off against each other?

When, for example, was the last "all-Midwestern" World Series?

Answer: 2006, when the St. Louis Cardinals swept the Detroit Tigers (thanks, in part, to some wild throwing--to first base--by Tigers relief pitchers).

We'll have some charts on this tomorrow, but let's at least answer the basic question here. First, however, let's anatomize the categories that exist for a geographic rendering of the World Series.

For many years, there were only two such categories--East and Midwest. Franchise movement altered that configuration in the fifties, with the West coming into the MLB picture in 1958 (Dodgers and Giants to the coast). The first expansion added the South, with Houston (particularly with their original "south-western" nickname, the Colt .45's). The South added more teams via franchise movement in the sixties (Braves) and seventies (Rangers), and would later on colonize Florida.

The West would add teams via expansion (Angels, Padres, Pilots--later replaced by the Mariners), eventually adding Arizona and Colorado. The A's would move to Oakland.

So, from the original possible categories of East-East (EE), East-Midwest (EM) and Midwest-Midwest (MM) that still operated by themselves as late as 1957, we have further categories of East-West (EW), Midwest-West (MW), West-West (WW), East-South (ES), Midwest-South (MS) and West-South (WS) that came into existence as MLB expanded.

The answer to the basic question--how many "all-Midwestern" (MM) World Series have there been--is fifteen. There have been five since the first year of expansion (1961):

2006 STL-DET
1987 STL-MIN
1985 STL-KCR
1982 STL-MIL
1968 STL-DET

That's rather monolithic for the NL representative, come to think of it....

More tomorrow...stay tuned.

Sunday, October 11, 2015


Chase Utley is a borderline Hall-of-Famer whose late start as a major leaguer has doomed him to a long, possibly infinte Veterans Committee purgatory. All across his career he's shown a command of the "little things" that win ball games.

Two of the most prominent of these "little things" are extra OBP in the form of walks, and superior, intelligent baserunning (as measured by stolen base success rate and out-on-the-basepaths stats).

All of the evidence surrounding Utley suggests that he is a thinking man's player.

Er,'re not on the base--and you've just screwed up
how people will remember you for the rest of recorded time...
So it's a "dirty old shame" (as Karen Carpenter would croon for us, had she not been the victim of her own takeout slide) that Chase Utley is now likely to be remembered mostly for a play on the basepaths that looks uglier and uglier the more it is replayed.

Worse yet is the unconscionable set of errors made by the umpiring crew in interpreting and ruling on what should have been the result of that play--which not only resulted in a needless season-ending injury to Mets' shortstop Ruben Tejada, but allowed the Dodgers to score four runs in an inning when the proper call would have resulted in them scoring none at all.

The irony is that the umpiring crew made one of the most egregious errors in baseball history while using the very system designed to prevent such errors from occurring.

So, as the title of this post indicates, what we have on our hands now is a "big painful mess that needs the rug the size of Jupiter in order to be swept out of view."

Utley's "slide" was probably not 100% intentional. It's one of those things that happens in athletic contests on rare and unfortunate occasions when two people moving in opposite directions wind up moving right into each other's path. The results are cataclysmic.

But the fact that Utley was uninjured as a result of the collision indicates that his intent was of a magnitude that cannot be overlooked by MLB. Plays of this nature, when there is even a scintilla of evidence pointing toward non-accidental intent, must be legislated in a way that makes it clear that no grey areas will be tolerated. The present and future health of players, particularly middle infielders, needs just as much special attention from MLB as is the case with catchers.

The simplest solution for baseball when such a play occurs--one that results in an injury--is to eject the player who caused the injury. Eject him immediately and without exception or recourse to appeal. (This does not apply, of course, when two teammates collide--only when injuries occur on the basepaths.)

The "big painful mess," aside from Tejada's needless season-ending injury, is that Utley was not called out (for any of three legitimate reasons which were, against all odds, completely overlooked) and a double play imposed as a penalty for causing the injury. (Replays indicate that Tejada was attempting to position himself for a throw to first when Utley slammed into him.)

We've previously suggested that players who cause injury, whether this way or by charging the mound (Carlos Quentin-->Zack Greinke), should be suspended for the length of the time that it takes the injured player to return to action. Applying that in this case, Utley should be suspended for the rest of the post-season.

This will make teams think twice about condoning the type of behavior that creates unnecessary risk on the playing field--something that a smart player like Utley certainly knew was the case, and had the option to not "put into play" in last night's game.

Joe Torre, who is getting too old to be involved in such serious matters, is almost certain to whitewash this--his hands are tied by the shabby actions of everyone involved in last night's "painful mess." But MLB can institute a coherent, consistent policy with respect to this "terror on the basepaths."


We told you the previous post in this ongoing series, on the final day of the 2015 regular season, we noted that we had hit 99 on the complete game list and that we would have at least one more that day to keep the "quest for double figures" in play for another year.

And so it was...

10/4 Cole Hamels, TEX (vs. LAA, 3-hitter, 9-2 win)

Interestingly, there were only 98 games in 2015 where pitchers threw 8 2/3 or more IP, regardless of whether they had a complete game. That should remind us that a sub-set of CGs are games where the pitcher throws eight innings--and, of course, loses. There were 19 such games in 2015.

A look at the official stats will show you that there were actually 104 CGs in 2015...but once again we remind you that those extra four CGs were due to games called early due to rain. (We do not recognize any CGs of less than 8 IP as legitimate.)

So...clearly we can't get any closer without dipping down into double figures. Next year projects to be another down-to-the-wire type of affair with respect to this endangered species...

Sunday, October 4, 2015


We were taking a snooze with our phone--a phrase that might describe most of the Western world these days--opening one eye, then the other, keeping tabs on the final day (no more plural "daze" for the 2015 season, that's for sure...) and we found ourselves corn-fed over to Sports on Earth, where stringer extraordinaire Paul Casella provided a shocking little data point.

What was that shock? No teams in the past twenty years (1995-2014) who played .700+ ball in September (to keep our "cred" with those who genuflect in Mecca-esque formation to Forman et fils, let's specify that as being "Sept-Oct" in the monthly splits...) have gone on to win the World Series.

Well, holy hangnail...that actually is a shocker, and Casella doesn't quite deserve some of the snark he's getting in the comments section over there (we think most of those comments are some kind of whacked linguistic algorithm created to simulate human beings, part of the meta-sophistry of post-modern least we hope real people aren't that ignorant and mean-spirited).

But we do think Casella should have provided one additional piece of context, just so he wouldn't be vulnerable to the "freak show stat" accusation.

What's that? Why, of course, it's the September-(October!) WPCT of the teams who won the World Series.

We've taken the liberty of accessing Forman et fils for that data, and it's what you see at right. As you can see, 1995-2001 was a "cold spell" for World Champs in the month prior to the post-season, with no teams playing over .600 and an average WPCT of just .525.

In the past thirteen years, however--that's 2002-2014--the eventual World Champs have been a lot better in the season's final month, with ten teams playing over .600, and seven over .650 (but, yes, as Casella noted, none over .700). The aggregate WPCT in the final month over the past 13 years is .625.

We'll update this with the final Sept-Oct WPCTs of the 2015 playoff teams. However, a preview: the only post-season team with a .700+ WPCT during the last month (and purportedly doomed to fall short of winning the World Series...) is--you guessed it--the Chicago Cubs.

2015: COMPLETE GAMES #88-#99

Yes, that's right. We are down to the last day of the 2015 season, and we are sitting on 99 complete games. (Now, we know that the total at Forman et fils says 103, but please recall that we don't "recognize" short-inning CGs--any of them that are less than eight innings in length).

So if we can get through today without another CG, we will (according to us, at any rate) have achieved the next level in baseball extinction.

We aren't betting on it happening today, however. There are 32 team-games today, and odds are good that there will be at least one CG out of that mix.

Staying with our log of 2015 CGs, here are the most recent twelve of them that have occurred since our last accounting:

#88 (9/12) Madison Bumgarner, SF (vs. SD, one-hit ShO, 9Ks)
#89 (9/15) Josh Tomlin, CLE (vs. KC, a 2-1 loss)
#90 (9/15) Jon Lester, CHC (vs. PIT, 2-1 win, 5-hitter)
#91 (9/16) Jorge de la Rosa, COL (vs. LAD, a 2-1 loss)
#92 (9/21) Jeff Samardzija, CHW (vs. DET, one-hit ShO)

#93 (9/22) Jake Arrieta, CHC (vs. MIL, three-hit ShO, 11Ks)
#94 (9/25) Rich Hill, BOS (vs. BAL, two-hit ShO, 10Ks)
#95 (9/25) Carlos Carrasco, CLE (vs. KC, one-hit ShO, 15Ks)
#96 (9/29) Clayton Kershaw, LA (vs. SF, one-hit ShO, 13Ks)
#97 (9/30) Mike Leake, SF (vs. LAD, two-hit ShO)

#98 (10/2) Alfredo Simon, DET (vs. CHW, a 2-1 loss)
#99 (10/3) Max Scherzer, WAS (vs. NYM, no-hitter, 17Ks)

We remain on the cusp...

A few quick facts related to 2015 CGs:

--Pitchers' WPCT in these games, which had a slow start this year, eventually returned to something close to the historical average (.778, 77-22).

--Two AL teams, the Royals and the Astros, have had by far the most CGs thrown against them this year, with ten and eight respectively. The Royals, as befitting a season where they've continued last year's post-season overachievement into an entire adjacent year, have managed to win four of those games, which (as you'd suspect) is the highest total for that in 2015.

--Another AL team, the Indians, has the most CGs by its pitchers this year, with a total of 11.

Some may say that CGs have become as scarce as they are trivial. But somehow they become more intriguing as they become more endangered. Just how far will this trend go? Would altering the strike zone a la 1962-63 produce an uptick, or are baseball insiders now so locked into the mega-bullpen mishegoss that even a full return to deadball-era offense wouldn't turn the tide?