Sunday, February 28, 2016


So here are a few more of these odd little team won-loss breakouts from 2015, gleaned from some of the special tools at Forman et fils. (We will endeavor to keep the main font at its customary size, as our readership tilts to the over-40 and the near-sighted...)

Cardinals 51-26 (.662)
107th best 1901-2015
(77 games tied for 125th highest total in season;highest all time is 103, LAD 1968)
Other 2015 playoff teams:
Cubs 41-25 (.621)
Mets 36-24 (.600)
Royals 38-26 (.594)
Dodgers 36-30 (.545)
Rangers 26-24 (.520)
Yankees 28-27 (.509)
Blue Jays 23-24 (.489)
Astros 29-33 (.468)
Pirates 28-32 (.467)

It would be interesting to take a look at how many teams have made the post-season with a sub-.500 record in low-scoring games. Would 2015's 30% figure hold up over history? We suspect not.

Cubs 6-2
Pirates 7-5
Blue Jays 3-3
Rangers 6-7
Royals 5-6
Cardinals 3-5
Yankees 3-6
Astros 3-7
Dodgers 3-10
Mets 2-7

Rays 18 (10-8)
Tied for 77th highest, 1901-2015
Overall WPCT, Low-Scoring 1-Run Road Games:.381 (122-198)
Most Low-Scoring 1-Run Road Games: 27, CHW 1968 (9-18)

Small sample size alert at the top, but included mostly to demonstrate how little rhyme or reason is to be found low-scoring road games in terms of team quality. Key stat here is that road teams do a good bit worse in this subset than they do in all road games (.378 to .457).

Pirates 15-10 (.600)
71st in WPCT 1901-2015; highest all time: BAL 2012 16-5 (.792)
Other playoff teams:
Cubs 14-12 (.538)
Rangers 14-13 (.519)
Royals 9-12 (.429)
Cardinals 8-13 (.391)
Yankees 6-12 (.333)
Dodgers 8-17 (.320)
Blue Jays 6-14 (.300)
Astros 8-19 (.296)
Mets 6-18 (.250)

Braves 21-2 (.913)
Playoff teams:
Mets 19-6 (.760)
Pirates 21-7 (.750)
Royals 14-5 (.737)
Cardinals 24-10 (.706)
Cubs 20-9 (.690)
Dodgers 15-9 (.625)
Rangers 13-9 (.591)
Yankees 17-12 (.586)
Astros 13-10 (.565)
Blue Jays 9-14 (.391)

Cardinals’ 34 1-run home games tied for 44th highest total, 1901-2015;

Highest all-time: 40 (HOU 1971, STL 1991)

That same 30% works in the reverse: only 3 of 10 playoff teams played better than .500 ball in all one-run road games--games that comprised about 15% of all games played in 2015. We'd like to see that percentage over time, and one of these days we'll do the work necessary to extract the data.

The Atlanta Braves had a strange, strange season in 2015, which we will document in another entry here in the pre-season. All those close wins at home surely didn't translate into anything remotely resembling a winning season, a fact that screams anomaly at a rather high volume.

The 2015 post-season teams couldn't get close to that performance, but they obviously did a bunch of other things well that the Braves didn't...all to be revealed anon. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays look like the anomalous playoff achiever in that they didn't perform well in any of these measures. (Of course, as we are continually reminded as the age of post-neo-sabe ideology whimpers off into the night, there are many ways to win, and--seemingly, at least--this is becoming more the case as analytics breaks off the from the sabermetric iceberg. Anyone care to rearrange some deck chairs in the bracing, maudlin moonlight??)

Friday, February 26, 2016


We await spring training game results, which will be coming our way next week...but in the meantime, let's play with some of the basic won-loss breakouts from 2015 and place them in historical perspective:

Cardinals, Dodgers 55-26 (.679)
Tied for 134th best from 1901-2015
Record holder: 1932 NYY 62-15 (.805)

Cubs 48-33 (.593)
Tied for 170th best from 1901-2015
Record holder: 1906 CHC 60-15 (.800)

Royals 48-24 (.667)
Tied for 307th best from 1901-2015
6 teams over .800:
1928 STL 38-6 (.864)
1952 BKN 54-11 (.831)
1909 PIT 71-15 (.826)
1904 NYG 71-16 (.816)
1954 CLE 89-21 (.809)
1945 CHC 53-13 (.803)

World Series winners records vs. .499- Teams since 2000:
2002 ANA 61-21 (.744)
2009 NYY 51-24 (,680)

Blue Jays 53-33 (.616)
44th best from 1901-2015
2 teams over .700:
1906 CHC 31-12 (.721)
1902 PIT 43-17 (.717)

Astros 16-4 (.800)
Tied for 11th best from 1997-2015

Record holder: 2004 STL 11-1 (.917)

Friday, February 19, 2016


Well, of course they can...all they have to do is do it.

But you know what we really mean. The Cubs' overachievement in '15 (close to ten wins when factoring in PWP, non-save good fortune, and other events) is suggesting to some that adding John Lackey, Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist has put this team in the stratosphere.

What the Cubs are banking on is that Heyward, who's struggled against lefties for most of his career, is over that problem after a decent showing last season. That remains to be seen.

The fact is that most NL teams really struggle when they bat their left-handed hitters against southpaws. The Cubs masked that last year by minimizing those plate appearances, with a solid plurality of them going to Anthony Rizzo, who performed well in those situations (.294/.409/.472). Rizzo pretty much singlehandedly put the Cubs into the top half of NL teams in terms of their LHB performance against LHP.

This year, however, the Cubs seem committed to trotting out more lefty hitters against southpaws. Heyward and Keith Schwarber (.481 OPS vs southpaws) are the major names here. The Cubs expect Hayward to hit better against lefties than Chris Coghlan did last year, but the question is by how much.

The Cubs do have the option of playing Zobrist in left against lefties while giving Javier Baez some time at second base. The jury is still out on Baez, however.

We also aren't convinced that the Cubs' starting pitching is going to improve this year. It's incredibly tough for Jake Arrieta to get better than he was in '15, nicht war? And it's difficult to project both Lackey and Jon Lester as better--it kind of looks like Theo is having a bit of a Red Sox nostalgia moment, one that has a not inconsiderable chance of biting him in the heinie over the course of '16.

So when we factor all that in, we see the Cubs at best holding even with their actual quality level from 2015--86-87 wins. To offset that, they'll need an uptick in Year Two from Kris Bryant (as opposed to a sophomore slump) and/or a step-up from Jorge Soler. And these two will have to be part of the punishment for opposing lefty SPs in order for the Cubs to come close to matching their 2015 record against lefties (20-14, with six of those wins coming in games where Chicago scored two runs or less).

Thursday, February 11, 2016


So--is it Zager...or Evans? Does anyone
really know what time it is??
Yes, a long, long hiatus...we have been inundated with other projects (including the shocking recomposition of muscle tone in our upper arms; the better to throttle you with, of course...)--and, besides, it takes a long time to "recover" from the specter of the Royals being World Champions. They are due again in the year 2045 (no, not 2525, though one wonders if the thirty-year interval might bring them into alignment with the dizzy duo of Zager and Evans...).

As we stretch our sea legs in anticipation of another baseball campaign, let's spend some time with Hall of Fame voting. Predictions of a long, intractable logjam by baseball numberologists have not come to pass, and while the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA)  remains an organization stumbling toward transparency, they might not be as catastrophic a voting body as they are usually made out to be.

There are two major rants about the BBWAA record. The first, that they are deficient in selecting a sufficient number of players through their "front door" to Cooperstown, is a fact as undeniable as it is ugly. We are not here to meditate (or, heavens forfend, mediate) on this claim--while it is somewhat overblown in the eyes of the die-hard complainers, there is more than a kernel of truth in these charges. (We have the Hall of Merit as a corrective for the excesses and exclusions in the Hall of Fame voting process, but that's really more of a glorified kluge than an adaptation of the stringent induction requirements the BBWAA somehow must utilize.)

Two fellas who've been helping to "skew and screw" the BBWAA HOF
voting results for the past few years...
The BBWAA's problem, however, is due mostly to the 75% voting threshold. They've elected 122 players, and that in itself is something of a miracle given the level of consensus needed. If the voting threshold was 50%, the BBWAA would have inducted 14 additional players, or about 12% more; taken down to a "large plurality" (40%), this would make only another 11 more, which would produce only a 20% increase in "front door" inductions. This suggests a series of factors involved in the decision-making that do not conform to "bell-curve" distributions--a fact that, in and of itself, will drive hard-core numberologists stir-crazy.

And that leads into the second rant, which is the current "meme" or "trope" or "semi-intellectual fetish" (you decide which term gets closest to what's actually happening...we prefer the term "hegemonic delusion--but you already knew that). The ranting is about the BBWAA's purported need to let HOF candidates "ripen on the vine" before inducting them.

Why on earth--the growl quickly morphs into a screech--can't the mo-fos just put the deserving ones in the first time around? What's with all this $#$%-ing pussyfoot tut-tut-tut posturing horse manure, anyway? (Will someone please invent a Xanex spray that can silently emanate from these guys' computer screens??)

It's time to follow the bouncing ball, dudes. The data in the table below gives the lie to this perception of BBWAA antics. As you'll see, the BBWAA may have trouble identifying all of the deserving players (rant #1, remember)...but they aren't really doing that bad of a job inducting the ones they actually do manage to stumble across:

So what you see here is as follows: over the nine decades that the BBWAA chimps have been circling the selection process, they have inducted 43% of the players in the very first year of their eligibility. (Yes, all these numbers are percentages.) But: as we look at the decade-by-decade data (the orange column), we can see that their big problems occurred early in the process; since the 1960s, they have been comfortably above that ever-increasing overall "first-year induction" average.

From here we can read across and see how this plays out for Year 2, Year 3, etc., all the way to Year 15. As you may remember, the Hall of Fame lopped off Years 11-15 from the selection process recently, mostly in order to cast out those two nasty dudes whose mugs are displayed further up in the post and put them into Veterans Committee limbo. What this does from an historical standpoint is to threaten about 10% of potential inductees who've needed those last five years in order to make it in through the front door.

But as you can see, there is no evidence that the BBWAA's recent voting patterns display a pattern of "dragging their feet" with respect to the induction process. They were a bit slugging in Years 2-4 during the decade of the 2000s, and that might be in part due to the "roid rage" that dominated media coverage during those years. But the effect, if there was one at all, was at best a mild one, and it has emphatically reversed itself so for in the current decade.

So no comfort food for those who want to make the BBWAA into carrion. They are far from perfect--and who is, for that matter--but they look to be doing a consistent and mostly acceptable job of identifying deserving inductees and voting them in without undue delay. (But...only that Xanex spray is likely to put a stop to the whining.)