The Baseball Exchange

A follow-up to the response to the last-last post. by 27yankees
September 30, 2007, 2:52 am
Filed under: Arizona Diamondbacks, Baseball Statistics

I found the articles with the data I was looking for:

In Theory, Diamondbacks Are Winning Way Too Often (New York Times – Dan Rosenheck)
No Mirage in Arizona (The Hardball Times – Chris Jaffe)

This is a small sample of data and it could be luck. But the point is, there does appear to be a reason for their overperforming their Pythagorean record.

And, the point still stands: A whole seasons worth of run differential and statistics should be thrown out the door come October – the D-Backs, if they catch fire, could do just as well as anyone else in the playoffs.



A Response to That Last Post by 27yankees
September 28, 2007, 8:55 pm
Filed under: Arizona Diamondbacks, Baseball Statistics

Hey, TwentySeven here. I’d just like to respond to Red’s last post.

The Diamondbacks actually haven’t been as lucky as it seems, to be honest. Part of the reason why their run-differential is so  bad is actually because their bullpen is so polarizing. I don’t have a link to put up, but I know someone at The Hardball Times did an article about this very topic and showed that when the Diamondbacks start losing, they put in their worst relievers, who are ridiculously bad, but when they are winning, they put in their elite relievers (i.e. Jose Valverde & co.) and they don’t give up a lot of runs. It hurts their run differential. They are a good team.

Besides of which, just because they are theoretically a bad team, it doesn’tmean that they couldn’t take it all. A bad run differential might mean that you could expect a seasonal regression, but certainly not a regression over a few playoff games.


Baseball and Luck by red

I mentioned earlier that the D’Backs have an astounding +11 win difference between their actual record and their Pythagorean record, meaning they have been extremely lucky the entire year. As of now, their record is 89-70, enough to lead the NL West by a game. However, their Pythagorean record is 78-81 – good enough for fourth in the west. The fact that the D’Backs have been so lucky means that they probably will have to come down to earth and realize their “real” record – there’s only so much luck around. In other words, don’t expect them to go far in the playoffs, if they even get there.

Key example: The Mariners. I said it before, but I’ll say it again: they were outperforming by far the whole year, and finally the last month or so they played like their Pythagorean said they would. They once led the wild card by three games, but now they trail their division and wild card by 7.

The reverse happened with the Yankees – they were extremely unlucky the first third or so of the season, and I knew sooner or later they would have to regress to their norms, this time a winning norm. Since then they’ve played like their pythagorean record said they would (sound familiar?) the result is that they’ve clinched a playoff spot, and I am happy.


Baseball is a lot about luck and things evening out. Bill James and the late Stephen Jay Gould among others (both pictured, one when he was a lot younger than the other) have talked a lot of about luck and how baseball likes it so much. People like to turn things nearly always dependent completely on luck to turn it into a “skill”; clutch hitting, ability of a pitcher to “win” games, the ability of a catcher to call games, etc.. Johnny Vander Meer, Don Larsen, Ted Williams, everybody who’s hit four homers or six hits in a game; they all worked with luck. Luck says that those improbable events are bound to happen among the thousand upon thousands of major league ball games ever played. What makes Joe DiMaggio’s streak so amazing is that he worked against luck. Even luck says that streak should never have happened in all those games through the years. But that’s a whole different thing, and there’s an excellent Gould article on the subject here.

Stephen Jay GouldBill James

Outliers in a basic linear pattern of baseball, like a breakout season or a surprisingly good stretch of games by a so-so team, are almost always connected with luck and are therefore likely to regress back to the norm. Bill James has predicted that eventually pitchers will go back to dominating games, pitching more complete games, even going back to a permanent four or three man rotation. Why? No statistics at all have to be calculated, just the simple fact that baseball has a tendency of evening itself out over time.

And that’s the beauty of baseball, one of the fundamental aspects that make it the best game there ever was.

In other news… I don’t have a Baseball Prospectus subscription (something I’m working on, next season I promise), but I happened to come across a certain column. Yep, that’s right, a Baseball Prospectus column on how to build a fantasy team. A fantasy team. Has BP has gone to the dark side? Now don’t get me wrong, I like fantasy baseball a lot, I play about three or four teams a year. It’s just really fun. However, don’t you think there’s enough fantasy advice on the net? Of all people, Baseball Prospectus shouldn’t be writing on that kind of stuff, stuff already too plentiful in my opinion. These two things – fantasy baseball and PECOTA, VORP, EqA, etc. -don’t go together. Granted, those stats could sometimes be useful when building a fantasy team, but it’s completely different ways of looking at the game: prediction for fun and a possible $5,000 prize (not to mention big-time bragging rights), and prediction to analyze the entire structure and motives of the game. BP shouldn’t go into draft sleepers and Rotoworld shouldn’t start analyzing wins expected matrix.

Brand it by red

Marc Ecko has just announced that the votes from his site to decide the fate of Barry Bond’s 756th home run ball have been tallied and the results are:

Banish it: 19%

Bestow it: 34%

Brand it: 47%

Even better is the Hall of Fame’s reaction:

“This ball wouldn’t be coming to Cooperstown if Marc hadn’t bought it from the fan who caught it and then let the fans have their say,” [Hall of Fame President Dave] Petroskey told The Associated Press. “We’re delighted to have the ball. It’s a historic piece of baseball history.”

I’m glad the hall of fame isn’t shying away from this – they are a seperate institution not necessarily officially “endorsed” by MLB, or at least not owned by it. Therefore, it’s their duty to recieve anything donated to them, no matter if it’s contreversial, as long as it is, as Petroskey said, “a historical piece of baseball history,” which it undeniably is. Now, we just have to wait as to how they’re going to “brand” it. Duct tape should do the job.


One Dennis G Carrier in the comments section just pointed out some quite frightening and disturbing racial history of the term “branding.” I don’t really believe that Marc Ecko meant any racist implications, I think often many of those terms get tossed around without knowledge of previous uses and obviously Ecko should reconsider using it. Unless I’m missing a key point of Ecko’s beliefs or opinoins, as far as I know I don’t think he mean any implications like that. If, for example, Ecko had McGwire’s 500th home run or 62st home run ball in his possesion, and again, unless I’m not aware of past specific racist beliefs by Ecko, I doubt he wouldn’t not use the term “Branding.” However, it’s still important to be aware of those things pointed out by Mr. Carrier.

Ain’t no Wil Nieves by red
September 23, 2007, 5:52 pm
Filed under: MLB

Ok, so Jose Molina doesn’t exactly have the whole beginning, middle, and end concept down pat, but his words still stay true. It always surprises me at how much people don’t seem to realize the Yankees when looking to win, look to win, and it even sometimes surprises me at how much they sacrifice personal playing time for a better ballclub. Oh, and another thing.

Jose Molina w/ NYY: .321 AVG, .339 OBP, .472 SLG, 5/17 (29%) CS, 1 pickoff

What do we want to do with 756? by red
September 23, 2007, 8:43 am
Filed under: Barry Bonds, MLB, Steroids | Tags: , , , , , ,

If you’ve read some of our previous posts, you’ll remember we mentioned that Mark Ecko, the guy with that clothing line that has something to do with a rhinoceros, is putting it to a vote. So, what do we want to do with the 756th home run ball?

Red says: At first I thought it would be cool to take this artifact of baseball history and just throw it out into space; forget the whole thing, so that we can play baseball in peace without someone always talking about Barry Bonds on the side. We should be focusing on actually playing the game. However, when I thought about it, forgetting past wrongdoings isn’t the solution: we’ve got to remember what happened, remember what was wrong about it, and make sure we don’t do it again.

Obviously there’s no comparison to an actual war and some jerks cheating at baseball, but that’s why there are war memorials – so we don’t forget what happened in some awful wars, and make sure we don’t make the same mistakes again. We’ve got to remember that Bonds, McGwire, Palmeiro, and the like are ridiculed, so that we don’t get something like the sequel in thirty years. So, brand it. And make the hall of fame take it. Isn’t there something in the hall of fame about the Black Sox? Then there should be something on the steroids era.

TwentySeven says: I voted to brand the ball. I know that you may be thinking that I’m a Bonds hater… I’m really not. I was born in New York, but I grew up the the Bay Area where fans have a far more liberal perspective on Bonds, i.e., they don’t mind his antics. This opinion has rubbed off on me, and I’ve also seen the kind of respect the players all give Bonds. You have to respect the fact he’s become the figurehead for steroids, his name synonymous with a syringe.

I voted to brand it more as a statement on the steroids era in itself. I think that if things keep on going as they are right now, soon baseball will be seen in the same light as “professional” wrestling – a farce. We may not realize it, but steroids could be the biggest issue in baseball since the Black Sox scandal.

What I think is interesting is that the Black Sox scandal actually lead to steroids. After the Black Sox scandal, Babe Ruth came along and did his thing, and the teams saw the crowds that brought in, so they started juicing the ball and players started to hit homers. Fast forward 60 years, and instead of only juicing the ball, we start to get the players juiced up because interest in baseball is dying. One lead to the other, and both really hurt the fair game.

TheFallenPheonix says: Clearly, Mark Ecko has deserved the right to do with that ball as he sees fit, being as he purchased it for a rather significant sum. I’ll admit that blasting the ball off into space certainly sounds rather interesting (although I’m not entirely sure how he’d pull that one off), and in a way, kind of fitting as a commentary not on steroids, but just on the economics of sports.

…but that’s not really what the subject of this story is about. On to Barry Bonds, and his home run ball. We know for a fact, from the leaked BALCO Grand Jury testimony, that Barry Bonds has taken steroids at some point, whether knowingly or not. Clearly, the court of public opinion is finding him rather guilty on that count–and I think that the voting will reflect that. I would be rather surprised if donating the ball to the Hall of Fame wins the voting, and I’ll admit I’m rather ambivalent about it. That ball should be a part of Baseball history, and the fact that there is any question about whether it should be, I think, speaks volumes enough about the entire situation.

What do you think?

Mike Pagliarulo, pt II by 27yankees

This article was one I found after I posted before, and I thought that this was as ridiculous, if not more, than the other…


As the New York Yankees begin an all-important four-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays today, let’s take a look at how individual Blue Jays pitchers have fared against the Yankees. Yes, it’s a small sample size, so individually it’s difficult to read too much into these stats. But, collectively, we see a trend. Let’s go behind the stats and understand them.

The Yankees are a great offensive team. They lead the majors in team runs, batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Yet within this dominance, there are weaknesses.

The Yankees are an aggressive low ball hitting club, especially their power bats A-Rod, Giambi, Cano, and Abreu. And, they are an excellent off-speed hitting team, led by their captain Jeter, Damon, and Matsui. It’s not a surprise then, that when the Yankees play against “command” types who throw a lot of offspeed pitches, they can run up the score. On the other hand, the Yankees are susceptible to hard throwers. Looking at the Blue Jays pitching stats from 2007 (diagram above [look on the actual link]) versus the Yankees, you’ll see that generally the pitchers who have done well are those with above average fastballs. Those pitchers are highlighted.

Given that the Blue Jays will be throwing three pitchers (Burnett, Hallady and McGowan) with plus fastballs against the Yankees, and only one command guy this series (Marcum), look for the Yankees offense to be mitigated.

Again, in the last paragraph they call him Hallady instead of Halladay. Copy editing, please.

So… A.J. Burnett, Roy Halladay, Dustin McGowan, Jason Frasor, and Jeremy Accardo have all been good against the Yankees? And, this can somehow be explained because they have plus fastballs? Damn! It’s genius!

Maybe this is just me, but don’t most teams have trouble against pitchers with good fastballs?

But the general idiocy of this is that those are all good pitchers. Sure, the Yankees have trouble with them, but maybe that’s just because they’re good. Take a look at their stat lines:

A.J. Burnett: 153.3 IP, 9-7, 3.40 ERA, 136 ERA+
Jeremy Accardo: 65.3 IP, 28 SV, 2.20 ERA, 210 ERA+
Jason Frasor: 54.7 IP, 3 SV, 4.28 ERA, 108 ERA+
Roy Halladay: 218.3 IP, 15-7, 3.71 ERA, 125 ERA+
Dustin McGowan: 159.3 IP, 11-9, 3.84 ERA, 121 ERA+

The irony is that the post is title, ‘Using and Understanding Stats’. It’s kind of sad, really. If the people on this site stuck to just scouting, and only focused on the main elements, i.e., what pitches so-and-so throws, or where in the zone certain batters can hit well, it would be a great blog. But no, they have to go into the ‘stats’ that aren’t really stats and they have to try to actually provide analysis.