Saturday, April 30, 2016


Just a few odd facts and figures here, nothing elaborate or in any way comprehensive. The first thing that leaps out is the disappearance of the home field advantage (at least thus far in 2016):

AL teams at home: .509 WPCT
NL teams at home: .457 WPCT (!!!)

That last stat is not a misprint. We have some NL teams having an incredibly tough time winning at home. First, the Atlanta Braves, who, of course, are off to a disastrous start but who've done most of their self-gravedigging at home (1-12). Then, the Miami Marlins, playing much better overall but struggling at home (2-7). And the T
T, usually built to play well in their home field, but not doing that thus far in 2016 (4-7).

This would be more readily explainable if the NL were tanking in interrelate games, but the weird thing is that they aren't (at least not yet): as of this morning, they actually have a 15-13 lead over the AL. (They are only 7-8 vs. AL teams at home, however.)

It's inconceivable that the NL will keep this up all year, but at the moment they rank 234th out of 234 league-years in terms of home field "advantage." The next closest "home non-advantage" occurred in the 1953 AL, when home teams posted a .491 WPCT. (Three other leagues had sub-.500 home records, all in the NL--in 1917, 1923, and 1972.)

Meanwhile, the AL isn't doing all that well in this area, either. Their home WPCT thus far in 2016 is only .509. That ranks 223rd out of 234 league-years.

Last season the leagues had very normal home WPCTs: .540 in the NL, .543 in the AL.

Then we have the Chicago Cubs. Of course, the mainstream media has expected them to dominate the NL this year, and April has been like a dream. Their 17-5 mark after 22 games is second only to the 1907 team, which began 18-4 (we are omitting nineteenth-century incarnations. This year's Cubs are having a better start than the 1906 team (16-6) which went on to win 116 games.

But underlying that incredible start are some other numbers that might be worth some pondering. These are related to the home WPCT stats we were looking at above. The chart at left shows the record for all MLB teams when they play at home against "good teams" (those with a .500+ WPCT). Over all of baseball history, this WPCT is under .500 (the exact WPCT is .479). As you can see, this year that WPCT is, again, down near historical lows (.404). Only 1912 (.375) and 1954 (.380) are lower than the current 2016 home record against good teams. (Last year, this particular WPCT was we have another astonishing reversal on our hands.)

What's interesting is which team you don't see on that list. That's right: the Cubs have yet to play a single game at home against a good team. Now, the Braves have already played thirteen--that's all of their home games (and, as you might recall, they are 1-12 at home). Six other teams have already played 10+ games at home against good teams.

Of course, some of these numbers are likely to change as certain teams move over or under .500, but it's still striking to see that some of the Cubs' start has to be seen as scheduling fortune.

We can see the corollary in the opposite breakout--teams' records thus far at home against "bad teams" (those with WPCT of .499-). Instead of there being only one team missing from the list, there are seven missing here (yes, the Braves being one of them: some of the other teams who've yet to play a bad team at home are the Oakland A's, the Los Angeles Angels, the Houston Astros, the San Diego Padres, and the Chicago White Sox).

Now, as noted, this will change and some of this will even out...but it really is striking that there have been so many more games played in home parks against good teams this month (203 as of 4/28, compared with just 122 against bad teams--that's a 66% difference).

This is such a big difference that it simply may be a scheduling aberration; we will try to keep tabs on this as the season unfolds to see if we have another month like this where the opposite type of result occurs. (And we will try to figure out a way to go back and recalculate these numbers at the year's end to see how much this April data may change as a result of teams jumping categories when they move over or under .500.)

But for now, the season has begun as a blazing anomaly--and wouldn't it be something if it actually stayed that way?

Thursday, April 28, 2016


Don't look now, but the Chicago White Sox (destined to be in the Cubs' shadow virtually no matter what they do...) have lit things up in the early going, coming close to matching their best 22-game start. (Their 16-6 mark prior to their 10-2 loss tonight to the Orioles matched the starts of several notable Pale Hose teams--most notably the 2005 World Champs, the 1919 not-exactly World Champs, and the 1973 star-crossed Dick Allen squad.)

This team is thus far doing things the way their 1964 counterparts did it--by playing and winning a lot of low-scoring games. The 2016 Sox are 9-3 in games where both teams combine to score six runs or less, more than 50% of their games thus far. The 1964 Pale Hose, who won 98 games finished just one game behind the New York Yankees, led the AL in low-scoring games that year (80) and posted a league-best 51-29 record.

Good as the Sox starters have been (or, shall we say, three stellar starters in Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and Mat Latos), the bullpen has simply shut down everyone they've faced thus far (1.32 ERA).

They will need to keep that up...because, frankly, the offense is looking very creaky. While Jose Abreu is certain to get things going after a slow start, this is a very undistinguished lineup and they actually project to score fewer R/G than what they're producing thus far.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


Johnny Cueto: so hard to hit because he doesn't actually
throw the ball...
CG #5 for 2016 goes to Johnny Cueto, now with the Giants after his wild and woolly post-season run with the Royals, who scattered seven hits in a 1-0 win over the Padres.

(Those who may read the "official" stats or use the Play Index at Forman et fils to monitor the CG total will note that the stats say there are six CGs this year. That's because they are counting Phil Hughes' 6 IP game from 4/18, in a contest that was halted due to rain, as a "complete game." There are a few of these games every year--last season there were a total of four--and, frankly, baseball ought to simply get rid of this "official game" rule and dictate that every game get played out to nine innings.)

At any rate, CGs are currently on pace to top out at just 40 for the season. That's clearly going to change, as April is always the slowest month for CGs. What is interesting right now is the fact that all of the CGs that involve full games have produced shutouts. That will change, too, but it will be fun to see how long this shutout streak might go...

Sunday, April 24, 2016


Last season the St. Louis Cardinals won 101 games, due in some part to their ability to win low-scoring games (a subset of all games played where the total runs scored by both teams is six or less).

We wrote about it during the 2015 season when the Cards looked like they might crack the Top 10 all-time in terms of low-scoring game WPCT (note that this list contains only those teams who played more than 70 low-scoring games in a season, making it that much harder to achieve a stellar won-loss record).

The Cardinals were also threatening to crack the Top 20 all-time for WPCT in games where they scored 3 runs or less, a category where only two teams in baseball history have managed a winning record (the 1906 and 1907 Chicago Cubs).

They finished 17th on the list of high quantity low scoring games (51-26, .662), and they finished 35th all-time on the list of team WPCT in games when scoring three runs or less (32-47, .405).

Thus far in 2016, the Cards are not showing any signs of repeating last season's performance in these two categories. As of this morning, they were 0-5 in both low-scoring games (that's six total runs for both teams in the game) and games where they've scored three runs or less.

The only good news in this is that the Cards' ratio of games where they're scoring three runs or less is down markedly from last year. Such games only comprise 29% of their games in 2016, as opposed to 48% last year.

Two teams are currently over .500 in games where they score three runs or less: the Nationals (5-3, .625) and the Dodgers (5-4, .556). We don't hold out much hope for them to join those ancient dynastic Cubs teams, however.

We'll keep an eye on this...stay tuned.


Well, hell, we had a spare moment after we removed the spare tire from our waistline and slapped it on the four-legged tricycle that passes for our transportation these days...and so, we decided to cruise through the hamburger stand now (aka the Play Index at Forman et fils) and anatomize the post-season prospects for teams based on their records in the first twelve games of the year.

The data we cobbled together is captured in the chart below, which gives a yearly breakdown of the number of teams with zero to twelve wins in the opening dozen. (And yes, this is our variation of doin' the dozens, but sans the rhyme'n'rap--we ain't got time for that right now.)

As you'll see, no team in our sample (2000 to 2015) went 12-0 or 0-12 (those rare events occurred back in the twentieth century) but as you'll see if you glance down the TOT column, we have pretty much a bell curve distribution.

And what we also have is mostly linear gradation for "fast dozens" (9 or more wins) all the way down to the "slow dozens" (4 or fewer wins). It's odd that teams with 10-2 and 11-1 starts managed to fall out the post-season more than what we'd expect, and that 68% post-season success rate for the 9-3 mark is probably inflated, but mostly what we see here conforms to what we'd expect.

We didn't keep notes about all of the sub-.500 teams (the 1-5 rows) who made the post-season, but we can tell you that the lone playoff team to start the year 2-10 was none other than the 2001 Oakland A's.

The problem with going back too much further in time with this data is that there is a significant drop in the percentage of teams making the post-season...thus the results become non-comparable. We will have to wait for this data to accumulate over the years to see if the odd peak for teams that start the year 9-3 will hold up--or not.

Friday, April 22, 2016


It took six days, but CG #4 was about as media-heavy as any such event could be, given that it was Jake Arrieta (the man whose Faustian bargain is currently in its "nothing but blue skies" phase...) bringing a no-hitter to the table as the churn-and-burn Cubs laid waste to a lefty (Brandon Finnegan, who'd baffled them earlier in the year) en route to a surreal 16-0 win.

Arietta was not as sharp in this game as he was in last year's Dodger Stadium no hitter (or as he'd been in a couple of his other starts in 2016), but the Reds conjured up an especially limp performance, led by the slumping Joey Votto (now 0-for-19 in his past six games). Perhaps the shock of the ongoing pile-on that the Cubs engineered in the late innings simply turned them into automatons...

Department of redundant randomness department: this year CGs have seemed to become events involving exceptional, low-hit know, ones that grade out well on Bill James' Game Score method. Oddly, Arrieta's ultimate low-hit performance actually grades out lower (GS of 89) than the other three CGs this year; so far, CGs are all shutouts, involving performances where pitchers have given up no more than three hits in a game. In their 36 CG IPs thus far in 2016, CG pitchers have allowed just six hits, walked five, and racked up 44 K's.


So after the 0-9 data twirl (thanks to Forman et fils), we got curious about something a bit more subtle...determining whether the point in the season when "intense losing" over a somewhat longer period would make any difference in a team's ability to make the post-season.

And that led us to toss together a salad of data around 12 game units. We wanted to get to the point where teams would start making the playoffs...and we figured (correctly) that no team starting the year 0-12 had done so. These five teams (plus the team that had a tie game in the bunch and went "only" 0-11...) were all uniformly one remotely near .500.

Of the 26 teams that started the year 1-11 (heck, let's throw in the three more who, again, had a tie and went 1-10) only one team got to .500--the 1973 St. Louis Cardinals.

So we figured it might come down to the 2-10 teams. And this turned out to be true. Two teams actually made it to the post-season after a 2-10 start: the 1951 New York Giants and the 2001 Oakland A's. In fact, 27% of the 30 teams that started 2-10 since 1901 have wound up with a .500 or better WPCT at the close of the year.

But what about at other points during the year? Are there any teams that limp into the post-season by posting a 2-10 record over the final dozen contests in a year? We took a look--and discovered that the answer is no. Only six of 43 teams since 1901 that finished their year 2-10 (in either a 154-game or 162-game schedule) managed to play .500 or better at season's end (14%) and none of them made it into the post-season.

Finally, we took a slice from the middle of the 77-88. Teams that floundered over that 12-game stretch were less likely to get to the post-season than teams with a late-season swoon...only 5 of 73 teams, or just 7%. The full date is at the chart at right.

So the moral of the story seems to be: if you are going to swoon, swoon early. That's the only way to stage a recovery, and have a shot at the post-season.

Saturday, April 16, 2016


Another low-hit gem featured prominently in the third complete game of 2016 as the White Sox' Chris Sale tossed a two-hit shutout at Tropicana Field in a 1-0 win over the Rays.

Sale improved his early season record to 3-0 with the victory, striking out nine and walking none while lowering his ERA to 2.35. The Rays only managed to get one baserunner into scoring position during the game.

Jimmy Rollins' heads-up baserunning gave the White Sox their chance to score the only run of the game in the ninth inning.

Unlike last year, when a spate of complete game losses were prominent in the early going, the CGs posted thus far are all shutouts

Friday, April 15, 2016


You've probably noticed that we have two teams--the Braves and the Twins--who've started out 2016 with nine-game losing streaks. What's in store for these teams, when we look back at the other teams in baseball history who've started out the season 0-9?

First, we will toss out the pre-1900 incidences (which total eight). Five of them occurred in the National Association, two in the Union Association, and one in the American Association, so we can safely say that all the teams who stumbled into such a feat prior to the modern era were literally all out of their league. (Insert rim shot here--and, by the way, we have a new sponsor this year, what they use to call in the quaint old days the "alternate sponsor": joining is its kissin' cousin, Visit at your own risk...)

When we get to the modern age (defined as 1901 to now) we see that prior to 2016, there were 11 teams who started out 0-9. The first team to do it: the 1918 Brooklyn Dodgers. The last team to do prior to this year: the 2003 Detroit Tigers, who were apparently just following orders, as they had managed to start the 2002 season in the exact same way. The only difference was that the 2003 team lost 119 games, while the 2002 squad lost only 106.

There is one other instance of two teams starting out 0-9 in the same year: it happened in 1988, when the Orioles (54-107 at season's end) and the Braves (54-106) did it. The O's losing streak actually extended to 21 games before they finally got off the schneid.

Other teams on the list: the 1919 Boston Braves (57-82), the 1920 Detroit Tigers (61-93); the 1962 New York Mets (40-120), the 1968 Chicago White Sox (67-95); the 1983 Houston Astros (85-77, the only team to wind up the year over .500 after an 0-9 start); and last but not least, the 1997 Chicago Cubs (68-94).

Fredi has a penchant for getting tossed, but it might not be the umps
who'll be doing to tossing later in 2016...
All in all, teams that start the year 0-9 have an aggregate winning percentage of .375, which over a 162-game season works out to 61-101. It could be a long season for the fans in Minneapolis and Atlanta--and a short one for respective managers Paul Molitor and Fredi Gonzalez. (We once received a traffic ticket for what the office wrote down as "speeding egregiously" and it just might be the case that one or both of these estimable gentlemen get canned for (rim shot, remember!) "losing egregiously"...

That is all. Stay glued to your TV set!

2016: COMPLETE GAMES #1, #2

Two complete games kick off the quest for a season with a CG total in mere double figures...

...and both CGs were superb, 60s-style high-strikeout shutouts.

First, the Cardinals' Jaime Garcia (the type of quality lefty who should be facing the high-flying Cubs...) mowed down the Milwaukee Brewers with a 13-K, one-hit shutout. The lone hit allowed by Garcia was a sixth-inning single to Brew Crew right fielder Domingo Santana.

Next, Vince Velasquez continued to impress his new team (the Philadelphia Phillies, who acquired him over the off-season as part of a deal that sent reliever Ken Giles to the Astros) with a three-hit, 16-K whitewashing of the San Diego Padres. Velazquez' big K total vaulted him into the early lead in that category--so far, he's fanned 25 in 15 IP.

Both of these initial CGs were home games. Last season only 43 of the 100 CGs with 8 or more IP occurred at home, a figure that's a bit surprising...we may have to go back and look at the home/away wrt CGs one of these days.

Monday, April 11, 2016


Early? Yes, it's early. Could any of the following change diametrically? Sure...maybe even by next week.

But it remains an interesting exercise in terms of "macro trends" to pop up (as is always a possible outcome when you uppercut...) with data values after the first week of the new baseball season. While many things in these numbers wi. ll prove to be aberrations, some of them will not--and by putting all of them out here on display, we can benchmark them in order to revisit later in the year.

Before we get to the numbers that really stand out, let's note that overall run scoring is up (4.43) though it seems to be occurring through a mechanism (a super-abundance of HR) that is propping up a lower batting average, and that might not be sustainable. Overall runs/game hasn't been above 4.4 since 2009.

So--the numbers that stand out: 8.36, 1.58, 1.14, 3.27, 8.41, 0.66, 13.6%, and .159.

Now that's really helpful, eh? Perhaps some annotation will help...

8.36 is the current number of hits/game. This is markedly lower than the averages in the previous two years, even though run scoring was lower in those seasons (4.25 last year, 4.07 in 2014). You have to go back to 1972 to see such a low number of hits/game (8.17).

1.58 is the current number of doubles/game. This is the lowest average since 1992. (You could actually say that the offensive explosion of 1993-2009 was the golden age of doubles, with nineteen consecutive years--1994-2012--with averages of 1.7 per game or higher. Last year's average was 1.7.

1.14 is the current number of HR/game. The last time it was this high was in 2000 (1.17) and if the average stayed at this number it would be the second highest in history. The league splits indicate that young pitchers had a bad week in terms of allowing HRs (40 in 269 IP, a figure that works out to 1.3 HR/game) so this is likely an aberration...we'd expect HRs to settle down to about 1.02-1.06/game by the end of the year. [UPDATE: As we said, early-season volatility is something that must be reckoned with: since we wrote this, HRs nosedived and the HR/game figure as of April 15 is down to 1.01.]

3.27 is the current number of BB/game. That's about a 10% jump over the past two years and, if it held up, would bring walks back up to the late-explosion period. The splits indicate that starters and relievers are just about equally responsible for this uptick, so that could mean that this might actually hold up--which would be a sign that old school sabermetric offense concepts (walks and isolated power) may be staging a bit of a comeback.

8.41 is the current number of K/game. This would be an absurdly high spike above and beyond the near-the-sound-barrier acceleration of K's should it hold up, so we're betting against it, though odds are good that the number could settle in at around 8. It also means that the truthfulness of "three true outcomes" is getting dicier, since K's are now comprising around 70% of the event in this category. (But that's a subject for a different blog post.) What's astonishing even in the small sample size is seeing four teams whose pitchers are averaging more than 10 K/game, with another six at 9+K/game.

0.66 is the number of GDP/game. (That's "grounded into double play" in case you had a rough weekend.) This figure has been steadily in the mid 0.7's and even into the 0.8's in recent years. The last time GDP/game was so low was in 1967-68, presumably due to low OBP lowering GDP opportunities. Or do we have an outcome stemming from playing less accomplished defenders in the middle infield? (We'll leave that for the real wonks to work out...)

13.6% is the percentage of H that are HR. This figure is, as you probably guessed already, really off the charts; the highest such percentage previously was 12.6%, in 2000. This figure went over 11% for the first time in 1987 and had a sixteen-year run over 11% from 1994-2009. This is probably aberrant due to things like Trevor Story, so let's figure on 12% being the likely ceiling for this.

.159 is the current MLB value for isolated power. That value tracks with the numbers from 1996-2009, and seems to indicate that pitching hasn't managed to extend its recent dominance, since league ISO was below .150 in nearly every year since 2009, only to jump back to .151 last season. Again, much of--or should we say even more more of--this is coming from the HR totals, so if they slip, this is going to slip. Figure on it being pretty close to last year when all is said and done.

As we said, time will tell about these stats. But they give us a benchmark to reexamine as the season moves on. Now comes the question about when we'll have the first complete game of the year...hint: it hasn't happened yet. Stay tuned...

Friday, April 8, 2016


Years ago we demonstrated that youth movements aren't quite what saber types (post, neo, crypto, gonzo, klepto...) like to think they are. And in 2016, the purportedly "massively influenced by analysis" executive suite personnel in MLB seem to have taken us to heart (subliminally, no doubt),

The table at right shows the number of young batters in the early starting lineups of 2016 teams (25-, age 25 or younger; 22-, age 22 or younger) and it's all summed up at the bottom. We divided by 8 slots for both leagues to account for the fact that the DH strongly tends to be filled with hitters above the age of 30 (and ten of the fifteen AL teams, in fact, do just that: the average age of the current starting DHs in the AL is 32.1).

We haven't checked lately (as you know if you've come around here of late, we haven't been doing much of anything baseball-wise lately...) but it seems quite likely that these numbers represent a dip from years past--particularly in the AL.

There are no bonafide "youth movements" to be found anywhere: the best scores are just under the threshold of 40%.

This is a cruder measure than adding up the young hitter PAs and dividing by total PAs, but we've found that the values are not too far apart. Right now, youth is not being served...