Wednesday, February 11, 2009

BP 2009 Team Projections

The Looper signing pushes a replacement level pitcher out of the rotation and puts the Brewers at 85 wins, according to Baseball Prospectus:

BP 2009 Team Projections

A quick and dirty estimate says that based on that projection, the Brewers have around a 25% chance of winning 90+ games. Assuming 90 wins gets you into the playoffs 75% of the time (don't know the real number), the Brewers might have a 1:5 or 1:6 chance making the playoffs in 2009.

Hey, it's been much worse than that for the Brewers in recent years and I won't let one playoff birth let me forget that!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

NLDS Odds: Phillies vs. Brewers

I've always been fond of trying to estimate series odds for the regular season, as flawed as they are. They've always carried the major disclaimer of not considering pitching matchups, among many other things. In honor of the Brewers' first post season appearance since the personal computer was invented, I decided to take a stab at at least adjusting for pitching matchups this time around.

Now, the right way to do something like this is to plug in starting rotations and lineups for each game and simulate them, PA by PA. The simulation should account for lefty/righty matchups, pitcher flyball/groundball tendencies, defense, likely bullpen moves, etc... My estimate does none of that, so if you want to call these numbers an educated guess, I'll thank you for being kind.

Basically, I used the last 2 years of each starter's FIP to come up with a reasonable projection for each, used each teams's regular season average runs/game and and made up some bullpen RA numbers. It's quick, dirty and the results may even be slightly reasonable. My biggest sin, I think, is not adjusting for the handedness of the starting pitchers. The Phillies' starting lineup is lefty heavy, and the Brewers' is righty heavy, so that omission is a big one. Here are the pitching matchups I assumed:

Game 1: Gallardo vs. Hamels
Game 2: Sabathia vs. Myers
Game 3: Bush vs. Moyer
Game 4: Suppan vs. Blanton
Game 5: Sabathia vs. Hamels

Blanton is just a guess for game 4. They would probably have Hamels pitch on short rest if they are down in the series. I also assumed that Bush would get game 3 and Suppan game 4 for the Brewers but that is far from decided, yet. Although Bush had a decent year in terms of ERA, he's had a pretty subpar FIP the last two year. Suppan has been even worse, unfortunately. And since they are both righties, I'm not very optimistic that they'd do even as well as their projections, against the Phillies offense. I'd be tempted to give Parra a shot for game 4 but I don't think that's going to happen. They way I have it, game 2 is almost a must win, as it's probably going to be the best pitching matchup the Brewers are going to get this series.

Anyway, here are the resulting odds:


I'm giving the Brewers a 42% chance of winning game 1, while Vegas is calling it closer to 35%. They are probably less optimistic about Gallardo chances on Wednesday than my estimates are. Overall, I estimate the Brewers as having a 46% chance of winning this series. Vegas says it's only about 40%. This guy agrees with me, so maybe the wisdom of the crowds is biased toward the larger market. There might be some money to be made on the Brewers! :)

I also get a 75% chance of this series going at least 4 games, for all you people holding tickets to the second Brewer home game.

EDIT: THT estimates the run production for all the NL playoff teams. I assumed that the Phillies average .3 runs/game more than the Brewers, while these numbers say .25. Not a huge difference but it might raise those Brewer odds ever so slightly.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Why I Didn't Sell My Tickets to Cub Fans


Thursday, September 11, 2008

How Big is The Phillies Series?

146 games down, 16 to go.

While the Brewers are still 4.5 games behind the Cubs in the divisional race, the Crew is currently in the driver's seat of the wildcard race. With a 4 game lead on the Astros and the Phillies and a 4.5 game lead on the Cardinals, even a mediocre finish should be enough propel the Brewers to their first post season birth in 26 years. But the schedule gets pretty rough for the Brewers here on out, as they start a four game series with Philadelphia tonight.

How important is this series? As it turns out, pretty darn important. First, here are my estimates of the Brewer post season odds as they currently stand:

Division: 7.5%
Wildcard: 73.8%
Total: 81.3%

If those look suspiciously similar to Baseball Prospectus's odds, they should, as I used their WP3 for each team's true collective talent. It's not the best stat but it's the best publicly available one that I am aware of. Now, here are the odds of Brewers reaching the post season, based on every possible outcome of this series:

Brewer Wins DIV/WC/TOT

4 Wins: 19.6/78.8/98.4
3 Wins: 12.0/83.4/95.4
2 Wins: 6.8/80.6/87.4
1 Win: 3.7/64.8/68.5
0 Wins: 1.6/38.7/40.3

A sweep either way and things dramatically change! The chance of either team sweeping is pretty low, though, so let's concentrate on the middle three possibilities. The most likely scenario is that the Brewers and the Phillies simply split the series, where the Brewers would enjoy a 6% bump in their playoff odds. The Brewers win only one and they still have a 2 in 3 shot at the playoffs. How about the Brewers win 3 and just about lock up that playoff birth? Please?

Alright, I won't be greedy. A split would be just fine with me. With only 12 games to go, it would be tough for the other wildcard hopefuls to catch the Crew in that scenario.

Let's go, Benny!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Strength of Schedule and Catching the Cubs

With the Brewers sitting five games back of the Cubs in the NL central and with all signs pointing to the Cubs being the best team in the National League, it's time for Brewer fans to set their sites on the wildcard, right? According to some, if you consider the strength of schedules difference between the Cubs and Brewers, we might actually expect the Brewers to catch the Cubs. Could strength of schedule over 47 games really make that big of a difference? I can't imagine it but let's run the numbers and find out.

When people refer to strength of schedule, they are usually talking about the cumulative win percentage of a team's opponents. Even after 120+ games, a team's record might still not represent their true collective talent very well but let's just roll with it for this excercise:

remaining schedule

The first column is the win percentage of each opponent. The second column is the probability of the Brewers or Cubs beating that opponent, using the log5 method ( illustrated here).

The cumulative win percentage for the Brewers' remaining opponents is .475. For the Cubs, it's .502. How many wins does that strength of schedule advantage translate into? Both teams have 47 games remaining, so roughly:

47 x (.502 - .475) = 1.3 extra wins than the Cubs

While the Brewers are on pace for about 90 wins, their relatively easy schedule might allow them to get about 91 or 92 wins. That's not going to make up a five game lead, but to make sure my back-of-the-envelope calculations are reasonable, let's simulate the rest of the season using those win probabilities from the previous graph:

simulated season

All that easier strength of schedule does let the Brewers keep pace with the Cubs. The Cubs are simply the better team according to their overall record and just about any other metric you can dig up. That 1.3 game advantage in SOS is basically eaten up by their respective talent differences.

Just from luck alone, the Brewers still have around a 16% chance of catching the Cubs (11.6% + 4.4%) but that's not much to hang your hopes on. For me, if the Brewers catch the Cubs, great. But the playoffs are the playoffs, so the wild card would be just fine.

The Cubs and Cardinals start a three game series on Friday. Go Cubbies! :)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Brewers Struggle Against Bad Pitchers?

Miller Park. The local watering hole. My brother-in-law's house. No matter where I've been lately, it's always the same. If a conversation is struck up about the Brewers' chances of a post season appearance this year, it never seems to take long before someone says, "Yeh, if they can just figure out how to hit bad pitchers." So ingrained in Brewers lore is this belief that evidence supporting it isn't even necessary. Everyone knows it's true, right?

Well, as the resident skeptic of all things assumed in baseball, you'll have to excuse me if I want to see if the facts support the theory. But how do we do that? The first thing we need to do is define what exactly a "bad pitcher" is. Is it a starting pitcher with a bad ERA at the time of his start? Not necessarily, as a pitcher with a 6+ ERA in June may not really be that bad of a pitcher. ERA just can't be trusted over a short period of time. We need something better.

What we really need to use is an updated ERA projection for each pitcher, which is our best guess at their true ERA (their ERA without the sample error). Now, I could use this method to update each of the pitcher's 2008 Marcel projected ERA to account for their performance this year but that's a little too much work. I'm going to do it a bit more crudely. I'll simply take a weighted averaged of their 2008 Marcel projection and their 2008 ERA. The exact weight I used is dependent on the number of innings each pitcher has worked this year but it works out to roughly to a 70/30 split for most pitchers. Not perfect but good enough for the task at hand.

Now, all all we have to do is find the worst projected starting pitchers from the first half of the season and see how the Brewer batters did against them. Here's every start against a pitcher with a projected ERA over 4.75:

In 19 games, the opposing starters had an updated projected ERA of over 4.75. Their average projected ERA (weighted by the IP of their appearances) was 5.12. Brewer batters hit them for a 5.42 ERA. The Brewers batters feasted on bad pitching!

But hold on a second. Of those 19 starts, the Brewers only beat the projected ERA in 8 of them. That's terrible, right? Not really. When a bad pitcher gets tagged for 5+ earned runs (as they invariably do at least a few times a year), it doesn't take many of those kind of starts to kill their ERA. Bad pitchers still have plenty of good starts. Let's look at a couple of the worst pitchers on that list. Josh Fogg? 5.01 career ERA. Despite that, in 42% of his career starts, he gave up 2 or less runs (min. of 5 IP). Mark Redman? Career ERA of 4.85. 2 or less earned runs in 5+ IP in 43% of his starts. A quality start, 48% of the time. That shouldn't be surprising, though. That's just how baseball works.

And for anyone who thinks that projections are the work of the devil, the Brewers have done fine against pitchers who have a bad 2008 ERA as well:

It's frustrating to watch a starting pitcher with a bad ERA do well against the Brewers but it happens to every team fairly often. That fact may not make it easier to watch but it's certainly not unexpected. So the next time you hear that Brewer batters stink against bad pitchers, send them this link!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

How Much Did Aquiring CC Raise the Chances of a Playoff Appearance?

According to MGL:

"MIL (Increased their chances of making post by 16%, by acquiring CC.)"

The Book Blog: With all the talk of parity in baseball this year…

Dixieflatline estimated the post season appearance improvement at 10%, but I think the 1.5 win improvement he used was a tad low. I had it at about 2.5 wins and MGL pegged it at between 2.0 - 2.5 wins. 16% sounds right to me. Slightly better than a coin flip chance at this point.

Does 16% justify the move? There's a lot of factors to consider and this article considers most of them but leaves one important one out. How much did adding Sabathia improve the chances of the Brewers succeeding in the post season? I'll try and tackle that question soon.