Friday, August 31, 2012


Here's a pop quiz for you--don't worry, it's a short one...

1) What do you think the average winning percentage is for a team in games in which its hitters hit no home runs? When they hit exactly one home run? Two HRs? Three or more HRs?

2) And what do you think the distribution of such games might be? What's the percentage of games in which a team--a single team, mind you, not both teams in a game--fails to hit a HR? Exactly one HR? Two HRs? Three or more HRs?

Quick now...walk like a neo-sabe and decide that the question isn't worth addressing, for whatever reason first comes to mind. It's too simplistic. It's too reductive. It isn't the right kind of compilation of data. There must be a few more reasons, but we'll let you think of them.

Or take a crack at the answer, on the off-chance that it might lead somewhere you haven't been--inside a context that hasn't been examined because it didn't contain enough nuance, or examining a framework that's been ignored because it seems to have way too much empty space in it.

OK, before you pull a set of numbers out of thin air, consider whether those numbers are fixed or mutable. How uniform might the sequence or progression be? Those who remember their baseball history will know that prior to 1920, these figures will all be a helluva lot different, simply because almost no one hit homers and it would thus be a lot easier to win games without hitting any.

So it's probable, then, that hitting no homers in a game is becoming a less successful strategy (that word might be a little strong...let's revise that simply to less successful result) in a time when hitting homers has reached historical levels of frequency.

Pondering it this way, and looking at the history of home run hitting as represented by the chart above, we can see that if no one hit any homers at all, we'd have a .500 WPCT. How much will a league that averages half a homer a game depress that WPCT for teams that don't hit a homer in a single game? Is it a straightforward mathematical function?

To answer the question, we need to break out all those winning percentages by team for every year, based on results sorted by homers/game. Now, as you might suspect, this breakout has yet to be performed, though you can do it (by hand) from the data available at Forman et fil. (We will have to take some of our leftover "nice pills" and ask Sean to write a query that will do this, but it's the Labor Day weekend and we know he's got much better things to do that read our e-mail.)

So we've done it just for a few years to give you a taste--and supply those of you who can't help but want to know the answer despite all instincts and inclinations to the contrary. The table below shows these breakouts for the AL in 2012 (a year where teams are hitting in excess of a homer per game); the AL in 1975 (when they hit about three-fifths of a homer/game); the 2011 NL (just under nine-tenths of a homer/game, the lowest average in twenty years), and the 1950 NL (about four-fifths of a HR/game).

What we see in the AL this year is a distribution very similar to how things have been in baseball for the past twenty years. Without the entire dataset, we can't be sure where that percentage of games with two or more HRs ranks in history, but when you compare it to the totals in the 2011 NL it's still quite a large difference. And comparing it to the 1975 AL is pretty revelatory.

Note how the WPCT in zero-homer games is so low in this year's AL (just .317) compared to the other years. This is where the game's escalating problem of two-dimensionality really stands out: it's simply impossible to be a winning team without hitting a lot of HRs. In 1975, the AL champion Red Sox were barely over the league average in HRs, and the league doormat (Detroit, 55-107) hit nearly as many HRs as the league champs. That type of run-scoring flexibility has decreased markedly over the last twenty years to the point where only one offensive style is possible.

Of course, there is still variation in WPCT for individual teams across this distribution. Teams that do better in games where they don't hit any homers, however, tend to be the best teams.

However, this trend can be bucked when the percentage of no-homer games gets as low as it is in the AL this year. Astonishingly, the two teams currently fighting it out for the AL East (the Yankees and those mind-blowing Orioles) are both doing terribly in games when they don't hit HRs. (At last count, the Yankees were only 3-17 in such games; the Orioles were only 8-25. By way of contrast, the Rangers were 17-22.)

Now that's two-dimensionality in action. (Interestingly, however, that 3-17 mark being put up by the Yankees just might help explain the nagging feeling we've had about the club for most of the 2012 season--they are built so extremely around what we might call the "big fly" offense (and no offense to our favorite multi-winged correspondent, Buzzin' Fly, who is still on assignment) that they might be more vulnerable than anyone has been willing to consider due to this fly in the ointment. The Yanks have been so far ahead of the league in terms of 2+-HR games (59 at last count, 14 more than any other team in the AL) that one just gets the sense that they might come back to earth in more ways than one.

It would be interesting to track the fluctuations in those 2-HR games; it seems that in certain years, there are events that conspire to create anomalous results (that 1950 NL average is awfully low, possibly skewed by the Whiz Kid Phillies winning so many one-HR games that year, including a bunch against teams who hit 2 HRs in a game against them). Another way to track all this would be to calculate the average runs/game when teams hit 0, 1, 2... HRs and see how this has fluctuated with respect to HR/G averages. Relative to the overall league run scoring, this average may well be lower now than at any other time in baseball history.

We'll need to fill in all of this data to be absolutely sure, but based on what we see here, it will take a lot of work to make offenses three-dimensional. It's possible that it simply can't be done. It's also possible that folks simply won't like it if it actually can happen. But there's got to be a better way than what we have right now...

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Let's see...we have the usual suspects pushing watered-down versions of soothsaying tools in an attempt to make you believe that they know something about the future.

Yes, Dave S. and Joe P. have wandered into the Cheerios plant right at the moment of a massive quality control snafu, where all the various niche brands of O's have been inadvertently mixed together into an imponderable mess.

Patricia McKenzie--more than ready
for her closeup...
Yes, you could call it a granular apocalypse... Honey Nut tossing in with Banana; Frosted sendin' mash notes to Yogurt Burst; Cinnamon making bedroom eyes with Chocolate (...and can we avoid--especially in an election year, for Crissakes--making an incendiary comment about the glories of black nookie? Of course not!!--especially when the scarifyingly sexy Patricia McKenzie is steaming things up with Robert Pattinson in David Cronenberg's latest, the existenzial crash-and-burn called Cosmpolis).

And all because those O's from Baltimore--the ones that Dave and Joe and a whole bunch of other folks (whose heads seem to have that same empty space in the middle that Cheerios and every doughnut in the hand of every cop getting caffeinated for a little late night dance of deadly force has been occupying since before the 1% had mastered the soap-bubble principles of self-containment) have been dissing because they are playing over the heads...those O's are still in the race.

To be fair to Dave, he's trying to find a way to get on the Baltimore bandwagon. But his body language is a lot like a hitter who's just been knocked down--that front leg has a lot of jelly in it (and we didn't really mean to conjure up more doughnut imagery: as Frank Zappa said, it just crawled into my hand). He's left himself a quick path to the exit in case the O's take a powder.

While your boldly regressed Tango Love Pie™ has to be a little bit
nutty, it's not itself without a generous portion of rhubarb!!
Joe P., in a new phase of his shill pages, uses WAR when PWP would be the better binding agent for the Tango Love Pie™ he be bakin' of late, reminds us that, by gum, the O's are playin' over their head. And that should do it for us--let's face it, if WAR (whichever mixed-up version of it is being used, since that Cheerios factory malfunction is applicable to the state of that oversold, overexposed and overrated tool) and PWP agree, then why should we even try to do anything else?

Jimmie Dodd : why, indeed!!

Why? Because... --despite what many are committed to believing about a big bad blog that prominently features the phrase "The lost art of the diatribe"--because...we like you! And we want you to have some alternatives to the mixed-up confusion of the groupthink that seems to be increasing its grip on those who've seen so many reversals and mixed signals in the past twelve months.

We want you to have some historical context, instead of one monolithic math orgasm (surely an oxymoron if there ever was one)

Some of you will remember earlier in the year when we told you that the Orioles, who'd gone 29-17 to start the year, had a 93% likelihood of finishing the season at .500 or over. Such a notion was culled from the data available at Forman et fil, which allows us to examine more than two thousand team-seasons in order to create a projection with historical credibility.

Few (probably fewer than the 7% of teams who started 29-17 and finished under .500) put much stock in that figure...yet here we are, going into September, and the O's are hanging in there.

But, the groupthink groans, they're clearly playing over their heads, and, and--WAR and PWP agree, already!

Which is why we should look a little deeper at the data.

Dave S. points out that the O's are 24-6 in one run games. Well, astonishing that certainly is... but it's only about a fourth of their games in '12. Turns out that when you expand that to include two-run games, the O's are currently 45-18. As the chart indicates, that's not merely's historic.

That's right. Right now, the O's have the second best won-loss record in games decided by two runs or less in baseball history.

Now lest this send some of you off in the direction of the WAR/PWP predictive hegemony, let's stick around a bit longer and look for any recent historical parallels.

Going down that Top 25 list a bit gets us to the 2008 Angels (11th best) and the 2008 Rays (20th; really should be 19th, as the '81 Reds played in a strike season and should be pulled from the list). Both these teams parlayed extreme success in close games into post-season appearances; both teams played better than their PWP would have indicated. In the Angels' case, they won 12 more games than their PWP.

We've not got the time to check all of these teams, but we're betting that the vast majority of 'em had WPCT in excess of what PWP prescribed. [EDIT: We should note, of course, that the other three teams with > .700 WPCT in close games are all high-win teams, much higher than will be the case for the '12 O's.]

But wait...we have a few more Cheerios to toss around. Keep in mind that the following data include some small sample sizes, but note also that a seasons' worth of data is itself a small sample and that the Dave S.'s and Joe P.'s et al are fond of waving around their own privileged small samples when it suits them--apparently mixing the Cheerios is something of an unavoidable occupational hazard. Take the following with a grain of salt, but don't put it in your cereal bowl...

Here are three stages of the O's--their first 72 games, where they treaded some water after their fast start; their next 29 games, their "bad patch" thus far in 2012; followed by their most recent 27 games, in which they've been playing about as well as they did in the opening six weeks of the season.

The chart shows how it's possible to distribute good fortune over several levels of play. The O's have gained on their PWP (the "Dif" column, second from the right) in all such cases this year--when they were playing just OK, when they were playing poorly, and when they were genuinely playing well (from top to bottom in the chart). They had a pitching crisis (as we'd kinda sorta predicted back when we first wrote about them...), but during that bad stretch they managed to go 6-0 in one-run games and beat their PWP by three games.

Mirror man: Buck Showalter, channeling
Screamin' Jay Hawkins--tryin' to put a spell on the
American League...
Similarly, during their current streak, they've hit better, their starters have stabilized, and their bullpen has remained solid--and they are another three games up on their PWP. And perhaps you won't be surprised to discover that the O's bullpen, third in the league in ERA, has the best won-loss record in the AL (22-10, a half-game up on the Oakland A's.)

So what's behind all this? Luck? Good managing--of a type, however, that's not on the approved list of ingredients for the Tango Love Pie™? Or some inchoate, mixed-up cereal bowl of causes and effects? Unlike many who toil in the increasing "serial punditry" of the numbers world, however, we are content to let the O's fall where they may--and let you make up your own minds.

Saturday, August 25, 2012


You' know...quite a prospect, she said.

The Mustang sliced through the summer night, keeping a much straighter path on the road than it had any right to do, considering that the driver was 99 and 44/100ths percent stoned.

I was trapped in the back seat with a sexual volcano.

I'm barely legal, I quipped, staring out into a haze of lights flashing by on the western edge of consciousness (aka the Sunset Strip).

She laughed--so hard, in fact, that she actually began to snort--and started unbuttoning my shirt.

I'd just seen her most recent movie. She'd played herself--the sexiest hippie chick to ever tremble on the fructuous synapse of every man-child too closely in sync with his erectile tissue--and here she was, in the flesh.

What we have here, she giggled, is most definitely a win-win situation.

If only that were the case for our "friends" in Boston and L.A. (which will have to stand in for Berkeley as we erect our out-of-the-mists parallel parable), whose overnight transaction was every bit as unexpectedly electrifying to baseball fans as the glorious gifts of a screen goddess were for a precocious, eminently undeserving young prick.

Another "enigmatic" era comes
to an end...
Electrifying, to be sure. But we wonder, in our borderline mystical ways, whether this massive, breath-crushing maneuver will simply produce a series of empty mornings once the heat of the nocturnal moment has vanished to wherever it came from.

In fact, this could be the diametric opposite of the "win-win" that the young, spectacularly uninhibited movie star had referenced.

The trade--sending the Red Sox' sticker-shock talent out to what some folks still like to call The Promised Land (especially if you wind up in the right back seat at the right time with the most righteous of all right girls...) in exchange for two semi-wild pitching prospects, an enigmatic first baseman, a utility infielder, and a guy whose name would better describe a 60s Vegas comedian-turned-used-car-saleman--will be analyzed to death for years to come.

The mechanisms for such overanalysis are now firmly in place, of course, and we don't want to get in the way of those who simply can't resist such behavior--just as we were powerless to resist the charms of someone so copiously profligate with their sexual charisma.

This was a blockbuster trade that clearly operated in the mode of the sex act, with early whisperings, the buildup of foreplay, a brief moment of interruptus, a long, lunar moan, and the decaying echoes of the cool-down from the spittle-like spate of heavy breathing.

I found myself being nudged awake.

Hey, hey, she said. Who's this?

What--what time is it, I asked.

A male voice answered. It's early--and it's too late.

I found myself being escorted out into a courtyard--or what used to be one, at any rate. The water in its fountain had receded, dissipated. Its landscaping had turned as brown as her skin, and a squadron of sleeping bags formed a hazy semi-circle in the stark half-light.

You'd better get going, the voice said.


It's only half a mile down the hill to Sunset.


Take the bus.


She's not going to remember.

I was finally able to focus on the eyes. They were hard, cruel, but strangely compassionate, rimmed with a redness that was just starting to appear in the edges of the sky. The inscrutable eyes of a kung fu master who'd seen it all before.

He patted me on the shoulder. I turned and walked down the hill, contemplating the manifold nature of ecstasy....and oblivion.

That's right. Ecstasy--and oblivion. Strange soulmates--and, now, trading partners.

Consider the downsides of such a concupiscent coupling:

Jerry Sands (with Russ Mitchell) carrying that
forty-pound brick to Boston, where the "clubhouse
atmosphere" will soon be different. Behind them is
an unidentified dancin' DEA agent...
--Adrian Gonzalez has a lifetime batting average of .212 at Dodger Stadium.
--Carl Crawford probably won't play until the middle of next year.
--Josh Beckett may have lost his fastball.

--The two pitching prospects (Rubby de la Rosa and Allen Webster) have control issues.
--James Loney will be gone to free agency after the 2012 season.
--Ivan de Jesus probably can't play shortstop well enough to start, so he's at best a utility player.
--Jerry Sands (yes, the man who owned Las Vegas in a former life) might be the only "plus" here--but as "mights" go, it's not all that mighty.

The world is fortunate in that only eight percent of all one-night stands have "consequences." This one-night stand, however--between two teams mobbed up by their recent peccadilloes, ripe for the most reckless of all assignations--will have more than consequences, more than repercussions. The probability of remorse here looks to be upwards of sixty percent.

For the Dodgers, it's more conventionally the buyer remorse and the level of resentment that will cpme into play now that they've had the "faux Yankees" wardrobe dealt like a forty-pound brick from Boston to the offices of Magic Johnson. (In the movie Dealing, it was Berkeley-to-Boston, but forty years later the mob and the contact high have drifted westward back to Tinseltown.)

For the Red Sox, it's a journey back into the wilderness. From ecstasy to oblivion. At least they won't be the faux Yankees--at least, not for a little while.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


As the homestretch for the 2012 regular season comes into view (we're now at roughly the 3/4ths mark), we can start dividing our attention between the teams racing toward the finish line and the players who are chasing the Most Valuable Player award.

Therefore, our Ptolemaic MVP rankings (which, for those who've stumbled in here against their better judgement, are overlapping two-month snapshots of hitter performance geared to handicap the MVP race as the season evolves) will start to be updated every 4-5 days (instead of 6-7) to capture a little more detail in the homestretch.

We've had four more updates since last time, and we have a new leader in the AL (though the race, according to Ptolemy at least, is very close).

We have three players (Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, and Robinson Cano) who are all within striking distance as of yesterday.

We're providing the top twenty in each league according to Ptolemy. Interestingly, Albert Pujols has just passed Josh Hamilton in the rankings. That would have seemed well nigh impossible back in early June, but things do change rapidly, even across a series of two-month snapshots.

Over in the NL, Andrew McCutchen seems to be building what might be an insurmountable lead. He's had a series of two-month snapshots in which he's exceeded 1.100 OPS and hit a bit over .400, a feat that is (as you've probably guessed) exceedingly rare even over a span of two months.

Joey Votto might have stayed with him, but he's stopped accumulating any points via Ptolemy's "epicyclical" system as a result of his month-long downtime.

The Giants' Buster Posey has been putting on an amazing hitting display over the past several two-month snapshots, but he got started a bit too late to be any real kind of factor in the MVP race. With Melky Cabrera suspended, the Giants are going to need Buster to keep bustin' out.

Saturday, August 18, 2012


Stop the presses....that "everything you know is wrong" twaddle that the neo-sabe movement has been overselling is ready to take one on the chin.

And, miracle of miracles, it's one of the so-called "precepts" that's been a bedrock formation in the sabermetric ideology for a long, long time--since before the fellas who wrote The Book spent an exhaustive (and, frankly, exhausting) fifty pages on just about everything than anyone could possibly think about concerning the topic.

Oh, yes, what topic is that, you ask? Well, jeez Louise, it's in the title of this's the strategic play that everyone from Linear Weights to Win Shares to Those Who Bash Managers For A Living™ can agree to despise: the sacrifice hit.

The disdain for the bunt that first surfaced in The Hidden Game of Baseball nearly thirty years ago is so ingrained that more than a few eyebrows were arched when The Book boys picked over its carcass at a dirge-like pace and found a few mitigating situations in which a bunt might not call for the formation of a lynch mob.

Gene Mauch--the king of the sac hit (142 SH in 1979)
contemplates the religious efficacy of vestal virgins...
But the one thing that no one seems to have done as part of the elaborate analysis that's spun off from the original win expectancy tables that exposed the sacrifice as a barbarous practice is to look at what the overall won-loss record is for the teams who employ it in an individual game.

And what is most surprising--beyond that, in can easily call it downright shocking--is that this won-loss record is so good.

More than good, in fact.

Since 1954, teams who have employed one or more sacrifice hits in an individual  game have posted a winning percentage of .641 (46,522-26,064) in those games.

This figure has been declining over time (for reasons that may well be worth exploring in a separate study). Teams in the 50s had a .671 WPCT (3565-1748) when they utilized the bunt, while so far in the 2010s that WPCT has decayed to .614 (2212-1390).

Still, this is quite a fact. Despite the math that indicates a great deal of counter-productiveness strategically in the SH, using it in games co-exists with an elevated WPCT.

Does this mean that everyone should start bunting with promiscuous impunity (as some folk already seem to believe is the case)? Of course not. But it points up the fact that Win Expectancy Tables and all of the other doodads applied by the math set are only as good as the actual context that applies to the strategy in question.

One of the other surprising facts that a look at the games in which sacrifice hits occur is that they feature higher runs scored totals than average. The average number of runs scored by the teams who employ at least one sacrifice bunt in a game is 4.91. That's about half a run higher than the historical average.

The overall batting line for teams in these games: .275/.337/.414 (.751 OPS). Which, again, is higher than baseball's batting line since 1954: .259/.323/.397 (.720 OPS).

These facts might lead you to the particular context--or, more accurately, the nuance within that context--which explains why a strategy that's so reviled is associated with such a high WPCT. The secret is to look at the distribution of sacrifice hits with respect to the relative score in the game in which they occur.

To look at this, we compiled SH data from three years (2009-11) in the American League (the two leagues sharply diverged in SH/G as a result of the introduction of the DH; the AL has a less skewed distribution of SH as a result). What we found explained why the WPCT is so high.

Looking at the chart, you can see that there are many more sacrifice hits that occur when the team is ahead in the game than when they are behind. Interestingly, when we leave out the SH that occur when the game is tied (about two-fifths of the total in the 2009-11 AL), those that are implemented while the team is ahead is just under 62% (61.7 to be exact). That lines up awfully well with the overall WPCT in games where SH occur.

This suggests that, despite their retrograde status in terms of win expectancy, SH are essentially neutral game elements due to the specialized context in which they tend to occur. There are only three places in the chart above at right where teams use SH more when behind than ahead: the first inning, the third inning, and in extra innings.

So we can see that SH are "wired" for success by the fact that so many more of them are called for when the team is ahead than behind. (That's yet another surprising discovery.) And we can see that much of their lack of "grand strategic" value (as measured by win expectancy) is mitigated by the specific game context in which they get employed.

So the late Gene Mauch, roundly castigated by Bill James in his Guide to Managers book for setting the modern record in SH (142 in 1979), can rest easy. He could point to the fact that his team went 56-32 in those games--and that he called for twice as many SH when the Twins were ahead than when they were behind.

And so we can conclude that the SH is not really the out-of-control eyesore for the game of baseball that it is so often represented as being. Most managers actually manage to employ it in a way that optimizes its outcome in terms of wins and losses. And there simply aren't so many of them to induce the type of mouth-foam that so often accompanies a so-called "empirical" approach to one of baseball's "knotty problems." The inconvenient truth about sacrifice hits is that the insurance runs they create tend to stand up, and the judicious use of the strategy is nowhere close to being a sufficient reason to form a posse.

Monday, August 13, 2012


Candy: his threads are NOT "moldy"!!!
As threatened yesterday, here are the hit leaders for the National League from 1987, as of the morning of August 12th.

As always, thanks to David Pinto and his Day-by-Day Database.

There's not quite the depth of pure hitting power to be found here in comparison to the AL guys, but let's not forget (though it's easy to do so...) that the NL only had twelve teams to the AL's fourteen in 1987.

So there ought to be at least ten more thumpers on the AL list than the one you'll peruse below.

We confess to still being stunned by the season-to-date totals from Candy Maldonado (or "Moldy Candonado", as we used to impishly call him back in the day).

But we note that as the balance of the '87 played itself out, Candy did indeed get "Moldy," hitting just .221/.287/.403 from August 12th on.

Many of the other folks at the top of the chart are ones you'd expect to be seeing up there:

One can't help but wonder what might have happened in terms of the infamous NL MVP voting in 1987 had Jack Clark remained healthy in September. Today, he might well have won the MVP despite missing September.

Back then, however, it had been awhile since anyone had hit close to 50 homers in the NL, so when Andre Dawson wound up with 49, it probably seemed like a big deal. Also, as we all know, RBI leaders--especially those whose totals were above 130--were clearly favored by MVP voters.

Our August totals show that Clark was right on Dawson's heels, even with the fact that he'd been bypassed via the base on balls 90+ more times than the Hawk.

Also note that other Clark--the one we know remember by the monicker "Will the Thrill." Having a fine rookie year, to be sure--just don't look too closely at those stolen base percentages!!

Finally--note the name of that fellow named Bonds. Speedy, and with a little pop, but not sure he's going to turn out to be much more than a (cough, cough) pale reflection of his old man...

Sunday, August 12, 2012


Big, fat, colorful lists are just one of our specialities here. And this one is no exception, once again brought to you via the multivariate capabilities provided by David Pinto's Day-by-Day Database.

As of 8-11-1987, this is how the AL hitters looked. We are sorting by OPS.

No, we have no idea why Mike Davis's doubles total is in bold. The rest of 'em should designate the league leader in the offensive category at the time of the snapshot.

It's downright strange to look at these numbers in this way--and that's because it wasn't displayed this way until just about this point in time, and never with OPS as the organizing principle. (Of course, for many today it's already passé.)

It was, as many of you doubtless remember, the hittin'-est year anyone had seen in quite some time. (No one knew what was just around the corner, of course.) In retrospect, it's clear what an outlier it really was, at least at the time...for goodness' sakes, it's a year in which Rob Deer could hit over .250!

We'll be back with the NL tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


Here's Jered Weaver and he's 15-1. His ERA is 2.13. He's got to be way out in front in the AL Cy Young race, n'est-ce pas?

To his credit, our semi-occasional whipping boy (and let's face it, who isn't in that category--at least according to some who are actually in that category...) EPSN's David Schoenfield has seen through that gaudy won-loss record and suggests that last year's CYA-MVP winner Justin Verlander is just about as worthy of consideration despite a 12-7 record.

Dave is using WAR, of course, to come to that conclusion. Around here, we retain some semblance of pride of invention in the Quality Matrix (QMAX), the great "probabilistic schmeer" method for determining starting pitcher performance. Each start is ranked in a 7 x 7 performance grid and the data tells us a bunch of things that no other method is capable of doing. It's part of that "value/shape" debate that separates the increasingly virulent strains of post-meta-neo "baseball boskage" (a phrase not invented by either Eric Walker or Walt Davis!).

So now we have a bunch of QMAX matrix boxes--seven in all, which show the distribution of starts for some of the current AL leaders in adjusted ERA (ERA+).

These are interesting to look at simply for the differing patterns they embody, but they don't get to the bottom line as fast as some of you out there tend to expect.

Those seven pitchers are: Weaver, Verlander, David Price, Chris Sale, Felix Hernandez (damn, still wish that King Felix had gone 12-13 in '10 just so we could have found out if the BBWAA would give a CYA to a pitcher with more losses than wins...), Scott Diamond (who?), and Matt Harrison.

(At the end of the year we'll post a more exhaustive look at AL starting pitchers when it comes time to weigh in on the actual, final CYA.)

What these charts show us--without needing to go to the "bottom line"--is the difference in dominance level that Weaver and Verlander have compared to the rest of these guys. These two are getting in the "1S" range more than anyone. That fact will be duly reflected in the QMAX range data and in the system's summary stat, the QMAX Winning Percentage (QWP).

The boxes (and the summary data) make it pretty clear that Chris Sale is currently staying within shouting distance of Weaver and Verlander. And David Price is having his best season yet.

Not so for the other guys, though. Felix has had a lot more "hit hard" games than usual this year, though he's been on a tear of late. Diamond is an extreme finesse pitcher, the new king of the "Tommy John" region of this chart (nearly half of his starts are in that box at the lower left, where high hits/low walks reside, allowing for odds-defying success).

Harrison is a little less constrained by the lack of stuff that defines Diamond; he can actually live in the region of the QMAX "S" range (3-4-5) where he can be successful. But guys like this don't usually do this for a dozen or so years--they tend to hit a bump in the road.

At this moment in time, Weaver is a bit ahead of Verlander according to QMAX. Justin is a bit off his 2011 pace (he wound up with a .735 QWP last year en route to his double win), but the "raw" QMAX data has him slightly ahead.

If we were going to be a betting man (and that's one of the reasons why we've never returned to Vegas after our long internment there...), we'd figure that Justin will wind up with the best numbers at season's end. Best, that is, except for the won-loss record. Even in our so-called "new era" for CYA voting, he's going to need to close things out with a string of wins, and he's gonna need Jered to start losing a few. (And maybe more than a few, in fact.) As we often like to say at this time...

Friday, August 3, 2012


So where do we come up with such a projection? Soothsaying based on our favorite flavor of tea leaves (if it's not Mariage Freres, folks, it's not worth talking about...) or some other, even more arcane artifact of divination? A mantic projection from the team's pattern of home run hitting that took a surreal turn in June and July?? A rekindling of a long suppressed belief that Billy Beane is a genius???

That would be no, no, and--no. Here's the answer in a nutshell far too small for Stomper, the A's omnivorous mascot...

Oakland has just completed a 40-game stretch in which they have gone 29-11. We decided to look at the history of teams who've managed to win at least 29 out of 40 games during the course of a season. We went back to 1969, figuring that divisional play might be the best place to begin.

We've generated a chart that shows all the teams who've met that criteria (29-11 or better over a 40-game stretch) in the past 42 seasons. As you can see, most of the teams who've done that have gone on to the post-season. (Of course, you'd have to count the teams in each category since we've seen fit to merely list them all...but fear not, we'll count them up for you, too.)

That's a total of 165 teams from 1969-2011. Of those teams, 116 of them have made it to the post-season. That works out almost exactly to 70%. (The actual figure is 70.3%.)

As the chart shows, however, there have been few "misses" for 29-11+ teams since the institution of the wild card. In the late 70s, a slew of teams had quarter-season hot streaks only to fade into the sunset by season's end. From 1969-1992, the "post-season percentage" for such teams was just a bit above 60% (62.2, to be exact).

Since 1993, however, 60 of 75 teams with a 29-11 or better streak during the year have wound up in the post-season. That's 80%.

So we can use the historical record to suggest that the A's have a 70-80% chance of making it to the post-season based on this data point.

So far in 2012, only two teams have had 40-game streaks of 29-11--the A's and the New York Yankees.

While no one could possibly have expected the A's to have done this at the start of the year (and some of you may still be wondering if this is not some kind of mass hallucination), the fact is that they've reached a level of play that happens for four teams a season (on average), and three of every four teams that manage the feat have played in the post-season.

[UPDATE: This just in...the A's have just pulled off their 13th walkoff win with a 5-4, 15-inning victory against the Toronto Blue Jays. Their latest kid pitcher, Dan Straily, who made his major league debut this evening, threw six innings of one-run ball. One of their out-of-nowhere mashers, Chris Carter, hit his ninth homer.]

Thursday, August 2, 2012


On August 2, 1962, the NewYork Yankees had opened up a six-game lead on the second-year Los Angeles Angels. As our batting leader chart for the 1962 AL indicates, they weren't doing it with a series of league-leading hitters. (Mickey Mantle, struggling with injuries earlier in the year, was having a great season, but he wasn't quite eligible for the batting crown.) Only Roger Maris shows up on the chart with a .800+ OPS--but the Yankees would have all eight starters over .700 (the only AL team to achieve this in 1962). That's right, even Bobby Richardson had an OPS over .700!

Hitting had taken a nose dive in the AL from the record-breaking numbers posted in '61. It's odd to see Norm Cash with a BA more than 100 points lower and still leading the league in OPS.

Over in the NL, the Dodgers were without Sandy Koufax (felled by a finger) but still clung to a four-game lead on the San Francisco Giants. With expansion in full swing in the Senior Circuit that year, the first-year Mets were already 50 games below .500 (26-77). As a result, it was a hittin' league.

Ten hitters with a .900+ OPS, as opposed to just three over in the AL. Tommy Davis with 100 RBI already! Stan Musial's last hurrah. Tony Gonzalez, of all people, making like a superstar. (Tony was actually quite a good player, but this was way above his usual level.)

And George Freakin' Altman. This was the second of two .900+ OPS seasons for George. The Cardinals thought they were setting up a pennant when they acquired George from the Cubs after the 1962 season in a blockbuster trade that sent Larry Jackson to Chicago.

It didn't quite work out that way. Altman, the Ryan Ludwick of his day, petered out and went from AAAA "skimmed cream" (Brock Hanke's term) back to a guy one step away from the glue factory. The Cards would have to get another outfielder from the Cubs in 1964 in order to nail down a pennant.

What was his name, you ask? Lou Brock.