Tuesday, October 30, 2012


There is a lot of chatter (not necessarily of the "intelligence" type--though we will drop in the usual oxymoronic caveat for the fabled term "military intelligence"...) about how the 2012 World Series was somehow a dud.

There's some kind of pseudo-aesthetic impulse driving these rushes to judgment, a knee-jerk need that only grows stronger as the speed of things continues to increase, so we can't rely on the anecdotal evidence and have to sift out the underlying reason via other means.

And, naturally, after knocking back a couple of highly caffeinated beverages, we've once again arrived at the answer.

It's meta-decadent consumerism at work again, kiddies. You're simply feeling cheated because you didn't get your money's worth.

To be succinct:  the damn World Series, despite all of the newfangled foreplay with which it's been festooned, is simply becoming too short.

We're getting visited by the broom more frequently than at any time in world history.

Just think about how that's affecting popular sovereignty in Afghanistan...or campaign finance reform here in the beknighted USA.

A cursory look the data shows that a downturn in the number of World Series games began late in the Reagan years. We haven't really come out of it since, and over the past quarter-century we've seen a complete flip-flop in the percentage of World Series that are wham bam thank you ma'am vs. those that go full-term.

38% of World Series went seven games from 1903-1987; since then, that total has dropped to 21%. At the same time, World Series sweeps have more than doubled (from 15% up to 33%).

What could be causing this? An extra round of playoffs, perhaps? Our last chart, which tracks running twelve-year averages for four-game and seven-game series, shows a bit of visual symmetry...there is much less distance between long and short prior to 1940 and after 1990. (And yes, you eagle-eye types will note that the descriptions for the data lines should read "Sw12" and "7g12.")

So there was a fifty-year period in which the ratio of long series to short series was particularly high, peaking in the 60s and 70s, when many of our present-day curmudgeons were in what we will charitably term their "formative years." Relative to that time frame, of course, what's happening today is abrupt, shocking, disreputable, and--most importantly--a miserable consumer value.

Are flying carpets un-American??
We can't really think of another reason for this decline outside of the creation of the wild card and the added playoff round: added fatigue might be a factor in creating more "performance separation" (not to mention "performance anxiety"...) amongst the teams who survive to what is now the third (and a half) round. It is a small sample, of course, and subject to all the various vagaries of randomness--but it's a pattern, and our fascination with Oriental carpets (both the floorbound and flying varieties) impels us to bring it to your attention whether you like it or not.

But consumer protectionists can take solace. Surely it's in the best financial interest of those who print $$ from baseball to have its climactic event extend to as many games as possible. In a world where so much seems to be for sale, it's quaintly refreshing to consider that the number of games is going down, when the pressure of the revenue stream would really want it to move toward those peaks we can see in the 1962-74 time frames on the graph above.

Hey, at least they aren't rigging it to squeeze out the maximum profit margin. (Ah, oops, now we've gone and called attention to it...opening our trap when we should have been shutting our yap. But it's part of our insidious reverse psychological plan to induce a record string of seven-game World Series...which, in case you're wondering, would be five, topping the four consecutive full-term classics that occurred from 1955-58, under that Commie Republican named Eisenhower.)

We leave you with a paraphrase from Preston Sturges' magisterial romp The Palm Beach Story (1942), in which itinerant billionaire John D. Hackensacker (Rudy Vallee) makes a sharp pronouncement vis-a-vis tipping and patriotism. "Tipping is un-American," he says. (Bill James, who's sort of Rudy Vallee on steroids, heartily agrees.) And so, let's all say in unison, are sweeps in the World Series.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

2.59 AND 13.6%

Max...MAX!! Break their broom, buddy!!
Quickest of quick hits as we move to Game Four of the World Series...

There have been 22 fourth games where a team held a 3-0 lead going into play. In 19 of those games, the team with the 3-0 lead completed the sweep.

That means that only three teams, or 13.6%, have managed to win Game Four while trailing 0-3.

None of those teams managed to win a Game Five.

As for Game Four run scoring by teams down 0-3: it's not a pretty picture. Half of these teams scored two runs or less; overall, teams scored 57 runs in these 22 games, or 2.59 runs/game.

The three teams that won Game Four while down 0-3: the 1910 Cubs (won 4-3), the 1937 New York Giants (won 7-3), and the 1970 Reds (won 6-5).

So if the Tigers could win tonight's game and then win again in Game Five, they would do something that's never happened in the history of the World Series. (Of course, the Boston Red Sox did manage to come all the way back from an 0-3 deficit in the 2004 ALCS, and as even your sainted and buried-before-the-fact great grandma knows, they are the only baseball team to have ever done it.)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


We have some ranking and performance comparisons for the last five years' worth of World Series teams to jam up into your divided consciousness (no more devilishly divided, alas, than the silly USA itself, improbably warming to a glad-handing cash-grabber--but then we love to fall behind 2-0 or 3-1 and then roar back to make a killing for someone's home team).

Politics? While the Series is on? How outré...but it's not any of the 99%'s fault that they've pushed the Fall Classic so far back into October that these two diametrically opposed pastimes in America are now forced to overlap. Of course, this year the really contentious election is going to be for the AL MVP--now that will be an ideological bloodbath...

At any rate: ranking and performance comparisons. First up, some offensive rankings guaranteed to offend...

Yes, that's correct. The Giants (dead last) and the Tigers (despite the presence of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, a shocking 10th) in home runs. Why, it's positively revolutionary. The Giants, as anyone listening to Game 1 tonight already knows, have a home park that is the stingiest in terms of HRs allowed (except, of course, on this evening, when a total of four left the yard).

Interesting to note how much different the Giants' offense in '12 was compared to the '10 World Champs. Despite fewer HRs, they were a good bit better ranked in NL OBP, and they were sixth best in run scored. What twangy Tim McCarver failed to mention during Game 1 was that the Giants scored the most runs on the road in the '12 NL (led by The Man Whose Name Cannot Be Mentioned, aka Melky Cabrera). The Unutterable One and Angel Pagan scored 50+ runs on the road, both of them plated often by Buster Posey, who had 62 RBI in 76 road games.

The pattern that's most discouraging for offense, however, is captured in the far right column, where we've seen fit to display the league leading team in drawing walks. Note how the league-high total has dropped on the order of a hundred walks over the past 2-3 seasons in each league. A decline in plate discipline is a leading indicator of continuing decline in offense, and the flattened distribution of walks is another troubling sign.

Our other table examines the OPS+ values for pitching staffs of World Series teams. We've broken these down into starters and relievers, and then we've broken the relievers down into save situations (SvS) and non-save situations (NSvS) as defined at Forman et fils.

Remember that lower is better in this instance. Keep in mind also that the better team performance in terms of the yearly World Series matchup is shown for starters (yellow background) and for relievers (orange background, for overall reliever performance only).

Again, it's interesting to note the performance difference between the two Giants squads. The '10 Giants were truly driven by their pitching, which had one of the great stretch runs in baseball history (which contributed to their impressive OPS+ figures, clearly the best over the past five years).

This year's team, however, has a sharp performance variation between top of the line relievers and the staff's second tier. That performance is actually worse than the analogous group for the '11 Rangers, who had their relievers exposed during the World Series (7.13 ERA). That's something that the Giants may well run into at some point this time around...tonight their hitters made that a moot point, but it's something to watch for over the course of the series.

How do these "pseudo-indicators" perform? Well, we didn't try to take it back all that far into the recesses of history (time is short right now...) but two out of three teams with OPS+ advantages in both starting/relieving won their WS matchup; the fourth matchup was split, but the Rangers' sub-par second tier was a decisive factor in their second consecutive Fall Classic bringdown.

Monday, October 22, 2012


One of our great favorites, Sergio Romo, was on the mound when the San Francisco Giants completed a second back-to-the-wall comeback to defeat the St. Louis Cardinals in Game Seven of the NLCS by a score of 9-0 and advance to the World Series.

Romo levitated into the air in the same manner that our sometimes animated, sometimes forlorn spider pal Webster does. Or is it his hat that does the levitating?

(Sources differ...)

At any rate, the Giants have allayed the fears of those who denigrated the Cardinals for their low win total and the perceived stigma of being "the second Wild Card team."

No such thoughts here: the defending World Champs had the greatest amount of adjustment to make, playing without three major contributors to their 2011 title run (Albert Pujols, Chris Carpenter and Lance Berkman) for virtually all of the regular season. In the end, lingering health issues with regard to several key players contributed to their inability to close the deal after taking a 3-games-to-1 lead.

So Webster the spider gets to revel in the third World Series in his still young (and markedly fuzzy) life. He (and the rest of us) will see in the Giants-Tigers matchup (a first for these two teams...) what should be a fascinating collision of starting pitchers and contrasting offenses.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


In the wake of the Detroit Tigers' sweep of the Yankees (and we will chime in here to note with others that the Tigers have had the Yanks' number in the post-season for some time now...), we thought it would be interesting to examine the future fate of teams who've been swept in either the league championship series or in the World Series itself.

The idea was prompted by the hyperbolic reaction to a juxtaposition of two not-necessarily-related facts about the Yankees that swirled around in the wake of their defeat: 1) the advanced age of the team and 2) their astonishingly anemic hitting.

We are talking about teams that made the playoffs but managed to fall very flat. So how have these teams fared in the season following their post-season malfunctions?

(Note we've included the LCS data for the years 1969-92...the thinking here is that these are all teams that either were on the brink of being in the World Series and had a spectacular collapse, or were in the Series and got their proverbial butts kicked. Perhaps later we'll look at flameouts from the more recent LDS data, but we figured that bombing out in the first round might well be less "traumatic.")

So what do we find? Well, as you might suspect, there is pervasive decline to be found here. There are 26 teams who've bombed out in LCS or WS ("bombed out" = "failure to win a single game"). (That's actually 27 with the '12 Yanks, but we don't have their next year data.) Of those 26 teams, 20 (76%) had a lower WPCT in the following year.

On average, these teams played 8 games worse than they did in the previous year of "team make playoff, fall down, go boom."

The teams who lost 4 games played 10 games worse the next year, while the teams that lost 3 games played 5 games worse the next year.

Eight of these teams (30%) made it back to the playoffs in the following year. Five (18%) made it to the World Series, and four of those teams actually won it.

But those teams are all from the best-of-5 LCS format (70-71 Pirates, 71-72 A's, 76-77 Yankees, 84-85 Royals). Teams that get swept in best-of-7 series have a much lower following-year success rate.

So, according to this data, the Yankees are likely to win 8-10 fewer games in '13 than they did this year. Should that happen, they'd most likely miss the playoffs, given that they'd be in the 85-87 win range.

Of the twelve teams who've lost 4 games to get swept in a post-season series, eleven of them have won fewer games in the following season. Only the 1976 Yankees (swept in the World Series by the Big Red Machine) won more games the next year.

So maybe this is the end of these Yankees...

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


A sideways look at Derek Jeter's "retirement" home...
The jibe of the day is that the Yankees finally have the Tigers right where they want them, anxious as they are to eliminate the lone remaining artifact of uniqueness from their even more fallen rivals to the north (in case you have your "harsh vowel filter" in the permanent "on" position...that's the Boston Red Sox).

Storming back from 0-3 will have to begin with C.C. Sabathia, but however far the Yanks get in such a pursuit, they'll be doing it without Derek Jeter. The Yankee captain and Florida real estate kingpin is sidelined with a broken ankle, suffered a few innings after he collected his record 200th post-season hit.

A "98% tilt" would seem to be in order for the man who invented the faux verb
"jeterate"....which, appropriately enough, is highly applicable to his own bad self.
As the king of low-key, "tasteful" hubris and hate-object of basement-dwellers across this scarred land is fitted for a cast that will miraculously complement his oddly matched eyes and painstakingly asymmetrical facial stubble, we thought we'd share a few basic facts about his hitting career--you know, the things that have been kicked to the curb by pasty white sportswriters who've needed to change jobs with alarming frequency of late and whose next gig (according to our alien sources, at any rate...) will be for a sports venture called "Sports On Uranus."

So let's start with some random fun facts. Did you know, for example, that Jeter hit .388 this year when he was the DH? Too bad he wasn't playing in that capacity last Sunday night. 2012 was the first season in which Derek started more than 20 games at DH (he's up to 54 in his career at this point), and it's going to become an increasing feature of his future play.

While Jeter has been batting leadoff almost exclusively for the Yankees since 2009, he has batted second for them a good bit more often (1313 games in the #2 slot vs. 978 at #1). There is not much separation in his offensive numbers to be found in this breakout.

Jeter is a somewhat stronger finisher--.843 OPS in the second half as opposed to .817 in the first half.

Derek hits a good deal better when there are no outs in the inning (.886 OPS, as opposed to .791 with one out and .796 with two out). He's been a good deal less effective against relief pitchers (.754 OPS lifetime, as opposed to .865 against starters).

He has suffered a good bit against right-handed pitchers as he's aged. His SLG against them nosedived below .400 in 2007 and dipped under .350 in 2010-11. Though 2012 was better, he was still only back up to .377. He's compensated for this by hitting lefties at a prodigious rate for the past two years (close to .360). That's going to have to continue if he's going to be productive in the future.

The chart at left shows Jeter's breakout against the opponents he's faced in at least 100 games. It is quite probably a big surprise to discover that he's hit the worst against the Red Sox.

He's also proven to be good at taking advantage of weaker teams (his lifetime OPS is seventy points higher against losing teams), and he's clearly enjoyed great success against in-season opponents from the National League.

We can also break this down by ballpark, where we continue to see some interesting surprises. Jeter's favorite park over the years was Jacobs Field (now called Progressive Park), and it looks as though he's sorry that the Brewers switched leagues. He's hit extremely well in Oakland, where the ballpark is not at all welcoming to hitters.

He hit much better in old Yankee Stadium that in his team's new home, though that could be connected with aging. He didn't hit well in the Kingdome (Seattle's old park which favored hitters) but he's thrived in pitcher-friendly Safeco.

But we again see that Derek just doesn't hit well against Boston--and the data here makes it clear that it's a Fenway Park problem for the Captain.

So many gift baskets, so little time...
In fact, the only place that Derek hits worse is--yes, that's right--in the very place where the Yankees are trying to battle back from 0-3. A kind of surreal connection point, to be sure--he gets hurt just before the team is headed to his least favorite park, and his replacement (Eduardo Nunez) hits a homer in the first game they play there.

All of the above (and none of the clatter about his highly-discussed defensive deficiencies) serves to reinforce the notion that Derek will be a first-ballot Cooperstown selection five years after he hangs up his cleats. And, as our final diagram indicates, he's already something of a Hall of Famer with the ladies...in fact, it's that very thing that probably explains his lack of staying power in the batter's box as the game goes into the late innings. Given his preternatural penchants, Derek is almost certainly trying to tailor his inning-by-inning performance curve to fit the curves of these ladies--leaving himself some wiggle room for the post-game ritual (complete, as the world now knows only too well, with "gift basket").

Saturday, October 13, 2012


It's also hard to believe how worked up people
were thirty-five years ago about "coloured vinyl"...
OK, so many of you already know what the "mystery chart" is...but for those who don't, we'll get the misdirection over with by merely pointing to the left and indicating that it has absolutely nothing do with the so-called "mystery dance" that Elvis Costello was so worked up about thirty-five years ago.

You may have recognized some of the strange annotations that the "mystery chart" contained, things like "---" and "1-3" and "-23". That's right: these represent the eight different combinations of "men on base" situations that are possible, running the gamut from bases empty to bases loaded.

These "men on bases" situations have one other important defining component (highly wise folks please insert "of course" at this point). That would be the number of outs that exist at the particular point in time.

So eight "men on base" combinations times three "out situations" equals a total of twenty-four "base-out states" or "base-out situations." These have been used for nearly thirty years since first being discussed in The Hidden Game of Baseball, primarily to calculate run expectancy tables for the innings in which they occur.

Here is the same chart from our earlier post...except that it's been identified as being the percentage of plate appearances for each base-out situation as they occurred this year in the American League. Our "total" figures in orange provide summary percentages that add up the outs for each "base situation" into a combined percentage.

Thus you can see that 57% of all plate appearances occur with the bases empty. And when we add the "first base only" group (the ones in the row labeled "1--"), we see that only one-fourth of all plate appearances occur when there is at least one runner in scoring position.

This is an interesting fact in and of itself, but consider that this is just the overall average for the league. These configurations differ for individual players. How much do they vary? Well, here are two "base-out situation percentage" charts for a couple of very notable players in the 2012 AL.

One of these players batted leadoff for his team, while the other batted third in his team's batting order. If you give it a bit of thought, you'll be able to figure out which one is which.

Yes, the player on the left is Mike Trout, and the player on the right is Miguel Cabrera. As you can see, the act of batting leadoff wound up giving Trout more than double the plate appearances that Cabrera had with none on and none out, and about 60% more than the overall league average. One outcome from batting third is that Cabrera's percentage of plate appearances with two out and nobody on increases by 50% over the league average, due to the fixed nature of his plate appearances in the first inning--he is guaranteed to bat third, and more such two out-none on appearances happen at that point in the game. It's about as pronounced an uptick as is the leadoff man's when leading off a ballgame.

Hitting results by base-out situations are tracked at Forman et fil, and that gives us a chance to delve into the nature of RBI performance at a level of detail that just might provide a more objective contextual comparison of this offensive function. We can look at only those PAs that don't result in home runs and intentional walks, and we can compare those RBI percentages for individual hitters. Better yet, we can look at those percentages in comparison to the league average for each "base" situation (not "base-out," however, as that's a level of detail that probably won't tell us much).

We'll stick with the Trout-Cabrera comparison (and why not--everyone else is...) because it highlights how the approach can provide us with a benchmark that doesn't get caught up in the vagaries of the long ball. Cabrera hit 27 of his 44 homers with the bases empty; Trout hit 21 of his 30 that way. Cabrera drove in 66 runs with his homers; Trout drove in 41. That means that Cabrera drove in 73 runs without benefit of a homer, while Trout had 42.

But the two players had vastly differing amounts of opportunities. Cabrera had a total of 277 at-bats where he had a chance to drive in runs with men on bases without the benefit of a home run. Trout had only 180 such at-bats. When we divide the non-HR RBIs by the non-HR at-bats (we leave out the walks), it becomes clear that while Cabrera is a bit better, he's not all that much better at it: his percentage of non-HR RBI/non-HR AB is 26.4%, while Trout's is close behind at 23.6%.

Both of these percentages are significantly better than the overall AL average in 2012 (18%). The chart at right shows the comparisons for each base situation (Cabrera, Trout, and the AL as a whole).

It's interesting to see these percentages broken out this way, particularly for the league. It would be even more interesting to view them in lists for each base situation. This provides a more direct means of comparison for RBI performance that is not biased by opportunities, the relative frequency of the long ball, or the percentage of none on situations.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


As we sweat out the ALDS games, let's look at a couple of charts that focus on ends and beginnings--in this case, starting pitcher performance during the last two months and the first two months of the 2012 season.

Let's start with the stretch drive (last two months):

These are the top 35 pitchers sorted by plain old ERA. Pitchers who hurl for playoff-bound teams are shown in blue (NL) and yellow (AL). Pitchers whose stats are displayed in red are those who can be found both on this list and the one that follows for the first two months of 2012.

Lost in the Kris Medlen hoopla is the fact that Mike Minor had quite a solid performance for the Braves over the final three months of the season (he was actually better in July than he was in the sample shown here). Skeptics will note that he had a very low BABIP during this time frame (.223); but Minor's work was an important component in the Braves' second-half drive to the post-season.

All in all, sixteen of the top 35 starting pitchers toiled for playoff teams. So how does that stack up with the ratio of ERA leaders to post-season teams that we can trace for the first two months of the season?

If you count it up, you'll see that eighteen of our 36 starters who landed on the April-May leader list wound up pitching for playoff teams. That's a bit higher than the "last two months" list, but there's a caveat here--three of those pitchers (Ryan Dempster, Derek Lowe and Anibal Sanchez) began the year pitching for different (and non-playoff) teams.

So around 40% of starters were members of playoff teams--and 30% of all teams are now playoff teams.

Pitchers on both lists: Gio Gonzalez, Clayton Kershaw, Matt Cain, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels,  R.A. Dickey and Jeff Samardzija (!!) in the NL; Justin Verlander, David Price, and Jeremy Hellickson in the AL. One pitcher who's still considered in the running for the Cy Young Award didn't appear on either of these lists: Jered Weaver of the Angels, who did his best work in the middle months (8-0, 1.87 ERA). We'll go back and look at that "middle of the year" stuff when we're in the middle of the offseason...


...then a day like today is the one you live for. Four playoff games, scheduled to permit as much uninterrupted viewing of each contest as possible (not quite 100%, but close...), with each game potentially bringing about the conclusion of the series.

(Of course, we're not saying that we want the Division Series to come to an end today...that would mean that our spider friend Webster would have his hopes of an all-black-and-orange World Series come to an end as well.)

The question remains, though--has there been a year in which all the Division Series came to an end on the same day? If it happened today, would it be a first?

As the chart at right indicates, the answers are yes and no. Yes, it happened back in 1996, in the second year of the current playoff set-up. So no, if it should happen today, it won't be a first.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Haven't you awakened every so often with an uncontrollable urge? Something that's got nothing to do with anguish or tension or the trauma of having been shipped a clandestine video of your baby gettin' sloppy? Something that stems from an inner conviction--that bright, guilty recognition that this is how events should transpire, that it's your wild, wacky intervention that's going to be that slender thread between delusion and reality?

That's just what seized upon us just this morning, as the rosy fingers of dawn dislodged themselves from our throat and informed us that we'd survived another dark night and (like the Giants and A's) had survived to bob'n'weave for another day (or at least until God's giant thumb decides to descend from the sky and turn us into a grease spot). We staggered to the toilet, finding ourselves filled to the brim with an unavoidable vision even as we relieved ourselves.

It was as subtle as a flying mallet. The Path, The Way, The Next Big Move from the folks charged with cleaning up the toilet spill that left Boston awash in a sea of brown silt in the after-math of the great Cherington-Coletti contretemps.

As we flipped the lever, we knew just what the battered Beantown brain trust would do during the fateful off-season of 2012-13.

Answer: they will be going uptown! (No, they're not going to sign anyone named Jefferson...no one named Helmsley--neither Sherman nor Leona.) They be going for what, yesterday and today, is often referred to as a "Brother Act."

Correct, scalawags. The Sox will use a passable portion of their wad of cash to reconfigure their outfield by acquiring both of the Upton brothers. They'll sign B.J. (birth name: Melvin) to play left field (at least until the fragile Jacoby Ellsbury winds up on the meat wagon once again) and then trade away a package that includes a couple of prospects for younger brother Justin (middle name: Irvin)--something on the order of a pitcher/pitching prospect, a good hitting prospect, Daniel Bard and Pedro Ciriaco.

Additionally (so sayeth the waters below that plastic oval into which all men must stare...), they'll acquire two starting pitchers: Zack (first name: Donald) Greinke, and Anibal Sanchez. (Sanchez was a Sox pick back in the Dan Duquette era, traded away to get Josh Beckett: it's one of those "full circle" things that came to us in mid-tinkle.)

They will probably not be able to resist signing Mike Napoli, a player they've lusted after for more than a half-decade. He'll come cheaper after his off-year in '12.

Napoli: they won't be able to resist
bringing the beefcake to Boston...
And Bill James will remind Ben and Larry (ya know, that sounds like a great name for a boutique New England business...maybe frozen cupcakes high in anti-oxidants) that signing David Ortiz is just as good an option in 2013 as it was in 2003. (After all, they're not paying Bill enough for him to come up with any new ideas...but he will remind them that they still need some left-handed power in their batting order.)

So that will put the new face on a leaner, meaner, but still enigmatic Beantown squad in '13. Your batting order will be Ellsbury, B.J., Pedroia, Ortiz, Justin, Middlebrooks, Napoli, Saltalamacchia, and someone to play SS. Your rotation will be Lester, Greinke, Buchholz, Sanchez, and either Lackey or Doubront. Your bullpen will be cobbled together from those who survived the post-ASB holocaust in '12 and a few hunch-plays by the folks who are paid to be opinionated, and it will remain non-descript next year.

The team will get off to a hot start, of course, and we'll be back in the land of over-invested harsh accents, only with a slightly more haunted tone, since the "dark night of the soul" memories will remain fresh. By early June, it will start to look as though the team might really have something, however, and that harshness will get its snap back, despite being nothing more or less than the chewing gum left on the bedpost overnight. Somewhere in the second half, there will be wheels that start to wobble, there will be a losing streak; tongues will wag, gums will flap.

And a pair of brothers will realize in early August that the harsh atmosphere in Boston (erstwhile home of the best and brightest) is not solely due to those harsh vowels. It will be a bit of a troubling time for them, as they both slump, while the Sox dial up another "month of trauma" approaching the Boschian depths from the previous two years.

However (so sayeth the sibilant soothsayer), the team--warts and wounds and echos of all those harsh vowels notwithstanding--will enter September with an outside shot to get back in the wild-card race.

As we write this, we are making a mental note to ourselves to lay off the caffeinated liquids prior to bedtime. And after you read this, so should you.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Enjoying those playoffs? How could you not when someone just springs up out of nowhere and decides to start kissing baseballs?? After all, two national pastimes...here combined for all to see, and creating equal quantities of romance and enmity.

But let's not get bogged down with such passing moments of frivolity and furor. We want to give you something to think about, as opposed to the standard knee-jerk that's seemingly de rigueur in our society these days, where three debates can compromise (hell, even Midasize) a political process sorely in need of a refund.

Perhaps the American people can ask for a "windfall super-PAC tax" to be levied retroactively--and in equal measure--on the donors (those increasingly interventionist billionaires) and the recipients (the suddenly cash-bloated media). The amount of money being thrown around in this election process is at least as shameless as Al Alburquerque's baseball buss, and if some of it could be plowed back into the economy in the form of work projects we might figure out just what's wrong with all those WAR systems.

But let's leave behind the pols with their knee-buckling millions. Instead, here's a little something that we've taken to calling the mystery chart. That's right, we're so confident that y'all are brilliantined enough to figure out exactly what this collection of numbers represents that we're going to post it here without so much as a syllable of explanation--at least for now.

We'll just say that it's a new and different way to look at some data that's not quite reached its full "ad placement potential" as yet, but that we'll be able to saturate you with over the next week as we wait to see whether "The Kissing Bandido" will be running up against some overly aggressive "debate tactics" in his next smoochfest on the mound.

Friday, October 5, 2012


Let's sing a simple, simplified song of offense. No adjustments, no added doo-dads, no ideological components, hidden or otherwise.

We are reminded of Dave Studeman's essay some years back (2007 or 2008, if we are remembering accurately) in which he tried to predict MVP voting by adjusting the weights of stats according to when in the season they occurred. Dave's work was much more involved that what we'll do here, but that's not meant as a criticism. It may be that the psychological component of BBWAA voting is shifting, and it may actually require something as complicated as what Dave put together. Here, however, we are going to stick with the middle blade of Occam's Trak-XX (or whatever version they are up to, probably as much in need of an re-do as WAR 2.1--oops...ideology alert!!).

So we are just puttin' out the first three months and last three months of hitting leaders (that's April-June, July-October) in two lists, thanks again to David Pinto and his Day by Day Database. We are givin' you everyone with a .900+ OPS for each snapshot...here's April-June:

The color-coding breaks at 1.050, 1.000 (though we slop down a bit here, as you'll see), and .950. The first half shows that Joey Votto was on a tear, projecting to collect 60 doubles--something that, for all the overall increase in extra-base hits during the recently departed offensive explosion, still hasn't happened since 1936--and that Carlos Ruiz, not Buster Posey or Yadier Molina, was having the big bat season behind the plate. David Wright also was back and seemingly better than ever.

But of course all of these guys, for various reasons, weren't much of a factor in the second half.

In the AL, Josh Hamilton was three months away from his ill-fated intersection with a very high pop fly in the O.co boneyard, and was holding his own against the ageless David Ortiz.

At the All-Star break, Mark Trumbo was the hardest hitter in the Angels' lineup. Mike Trout had yet to show the type of power that we'd see in the second half, and was--that's right--tied in OPS with eventual Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera.

So that makes for a good point in time to roll out the second half hitting chart:

Topping this chart are two guys who are likely to gather significant support for the MVP award in their respective leagues. It would be interesting to go back and look at a simple correlation between second-half performance and MVP voting, just to factor that into a "voting behavior profile." That would be simpler--and possibly less time-consuming--than doing it Studeman's way, and we might just get around to that during the long, cold off-season.

In 2012, of course, the WAR-mongers are entrenched and throwing grenades about the other factors that should be considered in assessing player value, and they are storming the barricades for those principles. It should be noted that the politics of this situation have produced virtually instant turnaround of post-season awards voting from entities such as Baseball Prospectus. Savvy savants that they are, they realize that they have to get that result out just as soon as possible if it is to have any possible impact on what the dizzy demimonde at the BBWAA will do. (We cannot recall these votes coming out so fast in all our years in the shit-slingin' bid'ness, but we must also confess that we don't usually go out of our way to see what our old "pals" are up to--on either side of their "wall of fame.")

It's a dangerous plan to fight an ideological war when one's "advanced metrics" are so flawed, but after the Cy Young "breakthrough" a couple of years ago this battle is now just as pitched--and just as partisan--as the one playing out on the national political stage, and the results may just as equally dreaded from both sides. Perhaps it's safer if we acknowledge the final closing half work from the Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman--certainly one of the reasons why Washington closed the year on a steady note despite the anguish surrounding the "Strasburg Shutdown" (good title for a spy thriller, don'tcha think?).

Prince Fielder cleans up again!!!
And let's give a shoutout  to the "ample one": Prince Fielder. Along with his Triple Crown teammate, he was a big reason why a rather undermanned and (dare we say it?) "thin" Tigers team made its way into the post-season. While he didn't get all that many leftovers from M. Cabrera, he scarfed up everything that managed to slip through.