Thursday, October 31, 2013


The incredible World Series just turned in by David Ortiz has many folks suddenly envisioning him as a Hall of Famer. (Could they have read it here first??)

As it turns out, however, Papi's case for the HoF has been gaining in strength for some time now. His 2013 campaign, one in which his performance at DH was the key reason for the Red Sox' return from the dead, was in itself a validation of his viability as a Hall of Famer. We've already looked at his superb age-37 season and where that ranks in the pantheon of such seasonal performance; this time, we'll look at what we like to call (for as long as we can remember, which means as we "wing it" for you right now...) as the "three ages of hitting greatness."

What the heck are those? They are three roughly equal career segments for hitters: the "young" period, which includes everything up to the age-26 season; the "prime" period covering ages 27-32 (a bit further that what is fashionable in the eyes of various numberological cadres....), and the "oldster" period, from age 33 on.

These "three ages" work quite well at showing us how Hall of Fame voting has worked over time, and demonstrates a kind of unconscious (hey, let's be fair, and call it "semiconscious") coherence in the voting results.

So how does it work? We examine all of the hitters who post an adjusted OPS (OPS+) of 130 or higher in these three age ranges. We use an OPS+ of 140 as a "cutoff" point for determining the percentages of hitters who are elected to the Hall, and make a series of frequency comparisons.

When we look at that data, we find that it's about four times as easy for hitters in the so-called "prime" years (27-32) to have an aggregate OPS+ of 140 or higher over that six-year span than it is for the "oldsters" (33+). The total number of "prime" age hitters who achieved that (a minimum of 2500 plate appearances over all time frames is necessary in order to make the list) turns out to be 104. (There are another 106 who had OPS+ figures between 130 and 139).

The 140+ "oldsters" are much scarcer: there are only 25. The "youngsters" are pretty much right in between these extremes: their total of aggregate 140+ OPS+ performances up through age 26 is 59.

Put another way, the 25 "oldster" hitters who still crack 140 on the OPS+ scale represent just 13% of the overall instances of such a level of performance.

So where does David Ortiz rank in that "oldster" list? He comes in a #19, with a 142 OPS+. (He's in the top group found in the impossibly long chart over at the left. (You'll have to click on it to actually read it: sorry about that. The three changes in color coding represent the breakpoints at 140 OPS+ for each age group: orange for 140+, followed by yellow for 130-39.)

The chart is organized with the players ranked by "oldster" performance first, then by "prime" performance, and finally by "youngster" performance. All of the players in bold type are already in the Hall; all of the players whose names are in blue are those who we figure are locks to get in at some point in the future--in the case of Barry Bonds, that will be a good bit further into the future, but it will happen well before the earth is turned into a molten set of cinders by some future holocaust.)

Papi's placement in the "oldster" group turns out to be significant for his chances at making the Hall. We've developed three summaries for each age range that show the percentages for players in the Hall of Fame based on the performance criteria. As you'll see, the HoF induction percentages for high-achieving "oldsters" is much higher than the other two ranges.

Players in the "prime group" who post a 140+ OPS+ make it into the Hall at a 66% clip. Those who only post a 130-139 OPS+ are inducted in only 25% of the cases.

Players in the "young" group who post a 140+ OPS+ do a bit better: they make it into the Hall at a 68% clip. The 130-39 group does noticeably better than their "prime age" counterparts, with more a third (37%) getting into the Hall.

"Oldsters" with a 140+ OPS+ however, do the best of all. 84% of them will make it into the Hall. And 56% of those oldsters with a 130-139 OPS+ will also be inducted.

The charts at right (which are a good bit more readable--Amen--than the monster chart that's still over on at left) show that there's a mostly linear result as we go down the rankings. Things get a little wacky in the "prime" group, because a certain number of the hitters in the lower reaches of that chart (more than 200 total names on it...) are players from more difficult defensive positions (C, 2B, SS, CF, 3B) who've gotten some contextual consideration.

So Hall of Fame voters have managed to recognize that older hitters who sustain a higher level of performance are special enough to induct. And David Ortiz meets that criterion--at least through the 2013 season, where his age 33+ performance comes in (as we said above) at 142 OPS+ and ranks 19th among those players.

Ortiz belongs to another list, however--and it's one we should look at. It's a list of players who didn't have a great start to their careers (age -26) but who made great strides in their "prime" years and had at least a 130+ OPS+, and who sustained that success in their "oldster" phase.

There are 22 hitters on that list. Nine of them (Dan Brouthers, Roberto Clemente--with the most dramatic improvement in the transition from "prime" to "oldster" of any player in baseball history--Willie Stargell, Honus Wagner, Roger Connor, Bill Terry, Billy Williams, Zack Wheat, and Fred Clarke) are in the Hall. Five more (Edgar, Chipper, Larry, Raffy, and Gary) will eventually get in.

It's hard to imagine that Papi won't be the sixth, given where he sits on the list (above everyone but Edgar).

There are those who'll quibble with longevity issues, but Ortiz is one of those special hitters who came close to equaling his "prime" year performance as an oldster. Since both of those aggregate performances are over 140 OPS+, it would actually be something of a travesty were he not to get in.

Sunday, October 27, 2013


The World Series has always brought out the armchair, barstool, clamoring-at-home manager-type, drooling expectorantly at the foibles of those anointed ones who grab overly-exposed handfuls of intellectual jibbery that passes for "baseball strategy."

Raymond Queneau, the apostle of "Oulipian" writing,
contemplates the foibles of baseball...
Now that's a pretty artificial (actually, almost Oulipian) way in which to say that second-guessers just start crawling out of the woodwork when mass-media hoses down the Jericho-like walls of what used to be called "the global village."

--Hmm...we're not sure that the clarification was actually less opaque than the Oulipian butterfly-stroke in that first sentence...clearly we're swimming up-stream and against the current. (But, hey, you knew that.)

How about this--everyone's a critic, but it only becomes calamitous when the whole world is tuned in to the game. And in the World Series, the concentration of rooting interest increases in an odd kind of intensification, because people have to make second and third-order transfers of allegiance to reorient themselves--and, with the stakes at their highest, they become (temporarily) more invested than they actually are to their own team during the regular season.

And in a game like the one we just witnessed--an exciting, sloppy, overwrought, and slightly sordid affair (in need of the appropriate headline: "THE AMISH INVADE ST. LOUIS"...), we have all sorts of folk expressing themselves. The ending--unique to the World Series--generated a great deal of anguish in Boston (probably because having lost a close game in what might be a closely-fought series, the fans there are worried that they'll have to see all that facial hair again next season).

Anyway--it's hard to quantify where the greatest amount of criticism is directed. There are three primary targets for the "fans watching at home": the umpires, the managers, and the announcers. Our old pal C.O. Jones, armed with a team of semantic analysts (that's fancy lingo for a small harem of bar girls he managed to round up with a series of promises too cheesy to make public in these pages...), has preliminary data indicating that this year the managers are receiving the brunt of the criticism (44%), while the announcers are at 30%, and the umpires at 26%. (Just how do C.O. and his mascaraed mob gather this data? Say hello to your "friends" at the NSA...)

John Farrell, channelling Raymond Queneau...
And in keeping with that, we stumbled across the bibulous blog of Cardinal conquistador El Maquino, who apparently only wears his cape on the weekends and continues to be quite certain of his own certainty. (Don't get us wrong: we like that, even when--especially when, in fact--it produces unintentional comedy.) It was wonderful to see just how inept the managers were in Game 3--and we hope that "El" (we call him "El" for short...) will see fit to bestow the Bob Brenly Award at the close of the series to either Mike Matheny or John Farrell. (We also hope that, like Brenly, the winner of the managerial ineptness award will prove to the manager of the winning team...these are the paradoxes, of course, that make life worth living.)

Now, not all of El's critiques are directed at the managers, which is what produces the humor in what otherwise would be merely an exercise in armchair archness. He acknowledges that players can make mistakes, too. And he gets in a gratuitous slam of an umpire. Mostly, however, he's invested in taking down Matheny (no Tony LaRussa when it comes to flamboyant on-field maneuvering).

Mike Matheny, vowing to screw it up more than even a six-man
post-season umpiring crew...
The way we parse it from El's bromide, Matheny made five idiotic decisions last night; Farrell made four. (And it's odd to note that the final score was 5-4! For some reason, however, we suspect that might merely be a coincidence.) Cardinal players made six on-field mistakes (not counting fielding errors). The Red Sox made three.

That's a total of eighteen "deficiencies" in a a single game. (And this isn't including El's misguided idea that Allen Craig made a mistake in trying to score once he'd been tripped by the flailing feet of Will Middlebrooks. It's simply absurd to think that a player wouldn't try to score the game-winning run in that situation. To expect order to prevail in every micro-instance of a game is a feckless feature of the neo-sabe age, where mutually exclusive categories of criticism get tossed into the discussion indiscriminately.)

While it's fascinating to ponder just how many stupid things can happen in a single game, we wonder if all of El's items really fit. There's actually something worth working through here, though one has to be careful not to wind up chasing their tail (or, in El's case, tripping over his cape.) We think that quantifying questionable managerial tactics and odd in-game player decisions over the course of a season might tell us something, but it has to be done with some kind of truly systematic application or it will only measure our anal-retentiveness.

We have no Oulipian finish to these proceedings...besides, it's time for Game Four. Who knows how badly these two teams can play, especially if El Maquino (which, by the way, translates to "The Machine"...) is out there following in the footsteps of our old pal C.O., who at least has a bevy of beauties doing his beancounting. (And, by the way, C.O.'s comment about this when we spoke with him was: "Pish-posh...who needs El Maquino when we have El Kabong??")

A question that not only doesn't need an answer, but doesn't even
need to be asked...

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Just a quickie (we have to take what we can get these days, eh?) to inform you that with their 8-1 victory in Game One of the World Series this evening, the Boston Red Sox are closing in on their favorite team to hate.

With that win, Boston has now scored eight or more runs in 26 post-season games since the creation of divisional play in 1969.

That puts them just two behind the Yankees over that 45-year time span.

It's been that kind of year for the Sox--you might recall earlier in the season they were taking back the .500 mark in home games vs. the Yankees.

As the long, narrow chart at right shows, there have been 242 games in which a post-season team has scored eight or more runs since the post-season was expanded.

By contrast, there were only 81 World Series games from 1903-1968 that featured at least eight runs scored by a single team.

As you might expect, the Yankees dominated that list, with more than a third of the 8+ runs scored games to their credit (28, exactly the number of times they've scored at least that many of runs since the beginning of digital [EDIT: digital? that should be "divisional," n'est-ce pas??] play).

The Cardinals took a drubbing that came to pass in the very first inning when the (Pete) Kozma blues kicked in. The St. Louis shortstop, who's been filling in for veteran Rafael Furcal this season, pulled a "clank" on a double play ball hit by our old friend David Ortiz, giving the Sox an extra out.

By the time the dust had settled, it was 3-0 Boston (bases clearing double from Mike Napoli). The Cards did not mark a threat until the top of the ninth, when Matt Holliday homered to get them off the schneid.

But the Cards can take solace in the fact that they are currently third in post-season run eruptions, with 22 games in which they've scored eight or more runs. They might want to try doing the same one of these days soon, as they try to break their five-game losing streak against the Red Sox...

Thursday, October 17, 2013


The simplest answer to the question posed in our title is: they always were.

The next simplest answer: the playoffs became a "crapshoot" when more teams were included.

"Next time, no sausage in the stuffing, you sadist!!"
Now we are admirers of Occam's razor as much as anyone (except, of course, when we make up our mind to stray...), but these answers are too simple, even for us. (And we'll let you wonder how we have managed to remain so single-minded while so unfailingly referring to ourselves in the plural.)

A better, but still relatively simple answer (which can always be trussed up like a turkey in the manner than Sean Penn was purported to have done to Madonna one evening when her banshee-like rejoinders left him with a splitting headache--and with what the great Akron meta-punk band Devo quaintly referred to as an "uncontrollable urge"...) is that the crapshoot has been a half-assed asymptote for lo these many years without anyone taking notice of it.

(Half-assed asymptote...are we describing ourselves, or is there a metaphorical method in our madness? We won't regale you with the type of glib pseudo-characterizations that can be found in Jonah the K's gourd vine...figure out that literary reference, all ye whose eyes are watching God!!)

Naw, it's just our quaint way of rephrasing the numberologist's favorite (and not infrequently useful...) catchphrase "regression to the mean." In this case, we mean to say (and are probably not as mean as some think when we are actually saying it...just sayin'!) that a half-assed asymptote is simply a series of recorded events that inevitably trend, not to zero, but to a state of even-steven--or, as we who unnumb the numbers like to say: .500, 50-50--your garden variety coin-flip.

But maybe it's the fact that there are more teams in the playoffs, yes? It has that gut-like feel of shrieking strings, like Bernard Herrmann killing Marion Crane with his chamber orchestra even before that fake version of Tony Perkins can start slashing away with Occam's favorite kitchen knife. (Be thankful, dear reader, that when you go to Forman et fil, you will not find a player there named Norman Bates...though there are four guys named Arbogast and ten named Loomis...bush leaguers all.)

After all, look at how the playoff results have slithered from a high correlative (significantly less invasive, as you know, than a high colonic...) in the early years to a point where, in the almost present-day, the results are closing in on 50-50.

Convincing? Hey, of course. You can see how time and chance have conspired to chip away at the "advantage" that the teams with better WPCTs had over less successful competitors in the increasingly feverish post-season.

But let's look at the same chart for the World Series (at left). More than half of the data on this one stems from a time frame where two (and only two) teams made it into the "post-season."

Though the "front end" of these two charts show some deviation (or is that "deviance"??) from one another, what we have on our hands here (aside from the blood of kings and concubines, of course...) is a big, fat, slow (and possibly dumb, for that matter...) regression to 50-50.

So an increased number of teams in the post-season is not driving the results in any way that's different from what was happening when there were fewer teams in the playoffs.

Now we haven't accounted for a number of other items here, such as: how much better/worse (in terms of WPCT) were these opponents; or differences in league quality; or perturbations such as dynastic behavior (of course, "dynasties" are not guaranteed to have the best WPCT in any given year, though the WS chart above shows a couple of interesting upticks in the 20s and 30s as a result of the New York Yankees--a phenomenon that is not repeated, by the way, during their 50s-60s dynastic period).

We'll explore several other dimensions and directions of this data in a subsequent post (or two), but for right now, let's stop with the following: the post-season has, in both of its historical manifestations, become a crapshoot over time. The "how" is mostly due to the undeniable efficacy of the half-assed asympote--which, come to think of it, is probably inversely related to the divorce rate, and contains a completely sufficient explanation of why Sean and Madonna were doomed from the start. (Put down that brick, Mr. Penn, and listen, dammit!)

Monday, October 14, 2013


The scatter chart does not lie: David Ortiz has just had a remarkable
Age-37 season...
David Ortiz' galvanizing grand slam last night in Game 2 of the ALCS reminds us that his has been a storied, late-blooming career since the Red Sox quietly plucked him off the slag heap during the 2002-03 off-season.

It was the defining moment of what we like to call the "EJE" (the "Epstein-James Era"), which resulted in a stone miracle in 2004 (assisted mightily by Ortiz' first 40+ homer season) and a delirious repeat in 2007 (sparked by what both "old sabermetrics"--OPS+--and "new sabermetrics"--WAR--regard as Big Papi's best season).

But is it a career that's worthy of the Hall of Fame? Response to such a question will be mixed. Ortiz has had that mostly terrific 11-year run with the Sox (marred a bit by a downturn in 2008-09), which has produced 373 HRs and a 148 OPS+.

For those who like their counting stats, Ortiz produced his seventh 30+ HR season and his seventh 100+ RBI year in 2013 at the age of 37. After several single-year contracts following his downturn, Ortiz will be back with the Sox in 2014, in the second year of a two-season deal.

Let's talk some about that "age-37" thing. Ortiz had just a tremendous year this season, quietly and very consistently anchoring the Red Sox offense. As the chart at right shows, Ortiz' 160 OPS+ for his age-37 season is in very select company: it ranks sixth overall.

Of the other 19 hitters in the Age-27 Top 20, thirteen are already enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Two more (Barry Bonds and Rafael Palmeiro) would also be in the Hall save for the ongoing steroids imbroglio. His opposite-handed DH compatriot, Edgar Martinez, is also here on the list at #7, right under Ortiz: Edgar is slowly working his way up the BBWAA ballots and might yet make it through the glut of candidates before his 15 years are up. (It's a delightful surprise, in fact, to see that Edgar is the RBI leader amongst age-37 performers.)

In short, anyone on this particular list was a darned good hitter and will not be greeted with a chorus of catcalls when his name is mentioned in connection with the Hall. Ortiz is near the top of the list, with only Bonds and four inner-circle Hall of Famers (Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Ted Williams, Tris Speaker) ahead of him.

Is that fact, by itself, enough to get Big Papi into the Hall? Probably not, but there's more to consider. We'll get back to all that a bit later in the off-season...stay tuned.

[UPDATE: What a pity...Big P had a hit tonight as the Red Sox took a 3-2 lead in the ALCS with a 4-3 win over the Tigers. That makes it a total of two in the series thus would have been something if his grand salami had proved to be his only hit. Detroit should be wary: of Papi's dozen lifetime grand slam homers (including the one in this series), all but one have come at Fenway Park...the scene for Game 6 (and, maybe, Game 7).]

Saturday, October 12, 2013


Just a very quick note to let all of you know that today, October 12, 2013, is now a singular day in baseball history.

Why is that?

Not fair for Michael Wacha to throw that "winged ball" up to the plate...
actually, that's the dimension marker in center field which is helping
to make the batter about as miserable as it's possible to be.
Both of the games played on this day (in St. Louis this afternoon and in Boston this evening) were decided by a score of 1-0.

Until today, this had never happened on the same day during the post-season.

Yes, it's something of a gimmick, because this can only happen during the pre-World Series portion of the post-season. (And we don't think it's likely that we'll be seeing any doubleheaders in the World Series anytime soon...)

Given the number of division series and championship series that have transpired since 1969, however, we've got to admit that we were surprised to discover that it had never happened previously.

So--kudos to Annibal Sanchez, Michael Wacha, Jon Lester and Clayton Kershaw for their sterling efforts in creating this baseball "first."

It took 45 years, but it's finally happened. Savor it a bit...

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


While we wait for the first playoff round to conclude (so long, "Southern men"--Braves and Rays...), let's keep you hog-tied in matrix charts...

So...why 1916? It's the first year where sufficiently detailed stat breakouts exist (thanks as always to Retrosheet and Forman et fil...) so that we can create a master data set for Ye Olde Quality Matrix (or QMAX, for short).

Why the American League? Why not??

It's an interesting year, a kind of premonition of things to come, if you will, replete with some colorful names--including a couple who are extremely well-known, even now, nearly a hundred years later.

Who could that possibly be, you ask?? Well, how about:

Walter Johnson.

Babe Ruth.

Yes, this is 1916. There's a World War going on, though the USA isn't in it yet. (Woodrow Wilson kept us out of war until the 1916 election was over, much like LBJ in 1964--only to go for the gusto the following year. War is always hell, but the strategy worked better for least for a while.) Babe Ruth was not yet dropping bombs in every ball park in which he came to the plate; he was toeing the rubber and blowing away opposing hitters.

As QMAX has it (range data above), he was almost as good as Johnson.

What makes QMAX so good is that it adds dimensionality in ways that are specific. You can see the distribution in the matrix charts (below) and you can see the patterns that differentiate the nine top pitchers in the 1916 AL. Power guys (Johnson, Ruth, Bob Shawkey, Bullet Joe Bush and Harry Harper) reside at the top of the rankings alongside finesse guys Carl Mays, Harry Coveleski, and Reb Russell. Somewhere in between: future Hall of Famer Urban "Red" Faber.

The overall QMAX data shows that there are a lot more "finesse" pitchers plying their trade. It's still the  Deadball Era, but there's a slow leak in the pitching dominance that prevailed in the previous decade. Note that a number of these starters have fewer than 30 GS (only Ruth, overworked at age 21 with 40, Coveleski with 39, and Johnson with 38 are getting the type of workloads that were once commonplace). A number of these guys (Russell, Faber, Shawkey, and Bush) are making a lot of relief appearances--necessary in an age where teams are carrying only eight or nine pitchers at any given time. (The White Sox used only nine pitchers all year--one of 'em 35-year old Ed Walsh, who threw a total of 3 1/3 innings.)

Ruth was not the only player here to eventually switch positions, though his transition was undeniably more spectacular. But little Reb Russell, whose arm would give way in 1919, would return in 1922 as an outfielder and have a sweet 60-game stretch in which he drove in 75 runs.

Funny, we make the same gesture
when we're forced to think of you, Ted...
(Screams of "meaningless!!!" are being transmitted as fast as the Tea Party can scoff about the impact of ignoring the debt ceiling...but we're impressed with the little lefty's legerdemain nonetheless...there just aren't that many pitchers who've reinvented themselves as hitters over the long history of the game. What we wish Ted Cruz would reinvent himself as is not something we can share with you--not even here, at the site of "the lost art of the diatribe.")

Russell and fellow lefty Harry Harper demonstrate how difficult it is for pitchers who excel at only one dimension of the job to sustain their success over a season. By June of '16, it was clear as the fact that Archduke Ferdinand was still dead (now, where have you heard that one before??) that Ruth and Johnson were likely to go down to the wire for top pitching honors in the AL, but Russell and Harper made runs at that duo during the summer. Each had a flurry of "1S" games that put them in the race--at least for a little while. Harper was even ahead of Johnson in "1S" games in late July...but his arm tired and was was hit hard down the stretch.

("Hackensack" Harry Harper may have been a southpaw, but he was no lefty off the field, running unsuccessfully for office in New Jersey some 25-30 years after his short run as one of baseball's most exciting young pitchers in 1916-17. Even then--especially then--young guys were brought up, slobbered over, worked hard, and only a few of them managed to have long careers. These "good old days" were rather calamitous, when you take a closer look.)

Interesting stories...Red Faber picked a poor time to get injured--in 1919, when White Sox manager Kid Gleason could have used him to replace Eddie Cicotte (.587 QWP in '16) and Lefty Williams (.559  QWP), who were creating a great deal of consternation in the World Series that year.

Shawkey and Mays would soon be teammates with Ruth on the Yankees, at least for a little while. Mays remains one of the few pitchers with 200+ wins and a WPCT of .600+ who's not in the Hall of Fame...a little matter of having killed Ray Chapman with a pitch seems to have done the trick.

But that Ruth...power hitter, but power pitcher? Who knew? 28 starts (70%) in the top hit prevention categories--even more than the Big Train. But the Bambino was worked so hard in 1916-17 that it was clear that his pitching days were numbered.

The "spread" of games in 1916 as shown in QMAX is wider than is the case now...possibly because pitchers went deeper into games--and (oddly enough...) got pulled more quickly from games as well. More than 16% of starts in the the 1916 AL were in the "Tommy John" region (the box at lower left in the matrix chart, TJ" in the range chart at the top), about 60% higher than today. Those games overall were just over .500 for teams, as opposed to ~.560 today. "Power precipice" games (box at upper right in matrix chart, "PP" in the range chart at top" were 9% of the total, only about 10% higher than today. Those games had a .620+WPCT for teams, as opposed to ~.580 today.

More on this later...stay tuned.

Sunday, October 6, 2013


A quick note as the post-season motors forward, desperately trying to keep our minds off the epic struggle developing between Alex Rodriguez, MLB, and the soon-to-be-deployed army of suits who will do everything to dissuade us from the naive notion that "...the world could be a better place."

The following is a much paler shade of cautionary tale, to be sure.

Many of you have probably read that the St. Louis Cardinals set a record this year for the highest batting average with runners in scoring position (RISP). They hit .330 in those situations.

However, they didn't come close to having the highest OPS (theirs was .865, very good but tied for 16th place (as you'll see in the chart at right).

They did have an amazing BABIP (batting average on balls in play), in large part because they didn't hit very many home runs in RISP situations. That BABIP was a staggering .377, which looks like the best value by far (at least in the seasons for which we have the data: this info, available at Forman et fil through their Batting Splits option at the indispensable Play Index--you must subscribe for access, is linked to the play-by-play data developed by Retrosheet).

Now we still have some residual fondness for the Cards, despite our singular skill at remaining neutral about any individual team--that stems from our long-term friendship with Brock Hanke, diehard Cardinal fan and our man in St. Louis for more years than either of us care to remember--so the following is not snark.

Those gaudy, season-long RISP totals don't automatically hold up as any kind of predictive indicator of post-season success. We will grant that the top 25 teams in RISP OPS (sounds an awful lot like the CIA, doesn't it??) make it into the post-season a lot (about 60%, if we're eyeballing the chart correctly...), but there are exactly two World Series winners on this list ('98 Yankees, '04 Red Sox).

We'd love to see the post-season RISP values for the post-season teams on that chart, but Forman et fil haven't gotten that query developed just yet. (One of these days.)

What we do know is that it's not continued thus far in the post-season for St. Louis. After the first three games of their NLDS vs. the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Cardinals are (thus far) 3-for-20 in RISP situations.

[UPDATE: When you have Adam Wainwright, you don't really need to hit in RISP situations. The Cardinals' ace pitched them into the NLCS, scattering eight hits as St. Louis won, 6-1. The Cards' RISP score for this game: 2-for-6, making them 5-for-26 overall for the NLDS. The Pirates, on the other hand, were 7-for-20 in RISP situations...which makes one wonder if teams with better RISP performances in individual games actually see that advantage translate into wins more often than not.

We'll have to look into that...]

Thursday, October 3, 2013


So...the "drip" method for interleague play will be covered in the 2015 revision to the Geneva Convention that will attempt to not only cover new variations of Chinese water torture, but try to protect the world from the encroachment of the ongoing Miley Cyrus plague. Clearly diplomacy, like square dancing and nude quilting, is a lost art...

OK, so we tossed in our digression at the start...relax, already! The post-season is here, and thank God (or his designated driver) that there is no freakin' interleague play in the playoffs 'till the World Series, right? Or would we better if they tossed all of this asymptotic aftermath into a blender and let the series cross league lines? (Integration, or miscegenation? This is just another false binary for you to sink your dentures into as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness turn into a liquid T.S. Eliot meant to say in The Waste Land: "I had not dreamed that pablum would be so pernicious.")

Personally, we'd love to see Tampa play the Cardinals, the Pirates play the Red Sox, the Dodgers play the A's, and the Braves play the Tigers in the first round. What if all AL teams advanced to the next round? Or all NL? Would we see first-growth forests get tossed on the fire to fuel the ongoing fusillade concerning the relative strength of the leagues? Not to mention the sacrilege of undoing Bud Selig's greatest "innovation" as Grand Poo-Bah and Yes Man (er, "Commissioner")--the convention-shattering, paradigm-shifting "home field advantage to the All-Star Game victor." (Never let the Devil mess with the details...the "fine print" will leap off the page and strangle you.)

Like a snake sedated in the grass a bit too long, the NL played possum until the final three weeks of the season, at which point they had a 14-4 run (due in large part to a reason we will explore a bit further below). As a result, they wound up eight games back of the AL in what was a season-long yawnfest (if, in fact, the fans woke up long enough to know that interleague play was still happening at all).

Team names shown in blue are the ones who made it into the 2013 post-season...
But back to that issue of relative league strength. 2013 was another year in which the interleague schedule was not close to equitable in terms of "strength of opponent." Of 300 interleague games played, the AL faced wining NL squads just 40% of the time (120 games).

While there is almost no way to not have some such disparity, 2013 represents the largest such disparity in all of the "plague years" (and this is the dreaded seventeenth year...) of interleague play.

That makes it hard to suggest that this small slate of games has much meaning with respect to the relative strength of the leagues.

Possibly more interesting is to note how this disparity plays out for individual teams. Did the fact that the Red Sox and the Rays played only three of twenty interleague games against opposite-league teams with winning records have any impact on where they finished in the 2013 standings?

There's no way to control for strength of opposition when it comes to interleague play. That creates potential for extremity, but it's the wrong should not encourage that kind of randomness. Anything like that should be more systematic, and applied over all of the games, not just some of the games. It's a sloppy form of asymmetry that produces unfair results via randomness...which, come to think of it, is the perfect capsule description of BS's tenure as "Commissioner."