Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Brewers Home/Road Split

The Brewers have a pretty extreme home/road split this year. Despite sitting 9 games under .500, the Brewers have the third most home wins in the NL. Of course, that has the nasty side effect of giving the Brewers the 2nd least wins on the road. All teams are expected to win more games at home than on the road but what's causing the Brewers' extreme home/road split?

I thought I'd take a peak at the RS and RA splits for home and away and see how their pythagorean record compares to the expected:

What I'm trying to show is that the distribution of runs scored and given up at home and on the road are exactly as expected. They simply exceeded their pythagorean record at home while falling short on the road. Their overall record is still much better than their pythagorean record.

If this all has to do with mental touchness, than their toughness allowed them to win 7.6 more games than expected at home, while their mental wimpiness cost them 4 runs on the road. That's a net mental toughness value of 3.6!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Another Thing The Brewers Aren't Good At

I'd like to pretend this suprises me but it doesn't:


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Batting Order Protection & The Value of Speed on the Basepaths

This slideshow is from Mark Pankin's presentation at the the 1993 SABR Convention (PDF):

Subtle Aspects of the Game

His conclusions on lineup protection:



And having speed on the basepaths:



Nothing that's not considered common knowlege these days but it's presented clearly and simply. Good linking material.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

NL Wildcard Race

With about a quarter of the season remaining, the NL Wildcard race is completely up in the air:

When you see that the Brewers are only 4 games back, it's hard not to get excited but what are their real chances? The part of the equation that is often ignored by playoff hopeful fans is just how many teams are actually in the running. In this case, an astounding 10 NL teams could still claim to be in the wildcard race at this time. How do we sort the Brewers wild card chances out of that mess?

Baseball Prospectus calculates playoff odds by running a monte carlo simulation for the remainder of the season and finding the probability of each team winning their division or the wild card. They calculate the "true skill" of each team by looking at their raw stats to determine how many runs they "should" have scored and given up so far. From that, they can simulate all the remaining games of the season. How do the Brewers fair?

BP's Playoff Odds Report

Not so good. The Brewers have been heavily outscored this year and their raw stats indicate that that was no fluke. They give the Crew a 2.7% at winning the NL Central and a 1.9% chance at winning the wild card. That's a 4.6% chance to make the post season.

Not so good.

But wait. Those raw stats were compiled in part by players not even on the team anymore. Furthermore, players like Sheets, Ohka and Cordero have hardly even played for the Brewers this year. The major flaw of this approach is that it might tell you how a team has done so far but it isn't adjusted for injuries and trades. For a team like the Crew, this can substantially distort the team's true skill level. Perhaps we can take another approach.

What I'm going to do it run a poor man's monte carlo. I'll simply choose a reasonable skill level for each team and estimate what the resulting average record each team would finish with. If I think a team has a .500 winning % skill level, they'll have a 50% of winning each of the remainder of their games. No home/road considerations. No strength of schedule. No wildcard team playing wildcard team. Like I said, poor man's monte carlo.

The next assumption I'll make is that all the teams in the wildcard race (except the Brewers) are perfectly mediocre (.500 winning %). When you look at it, that's really not a huge assumption to make. No wild card hopeful team has outscored their opponents by much if at all. BP doesn't have any of those teams finishing with more than an average of 82 wins! I think this “mediocre” assumption models reality pretty well.

This is where we diverge from reality, however. The only team that has been outscored significantly is our very own Milwaukee Brewers. But since I'm doing the simulation, let's see how the Brewers would do if their true skill level is higher. I'll adjust their "true" winning % skill level and see how often that results in the Brewers being at least tied for the wildcard crown at the end of the season.

I ran each season 10,000 times. That should be enough to at least get in the correct ball park. I also listed the number of wins that winning % would give a team over a 162 game season, just to put the winning % in perspective:

-SKILL--     WC
.500 81 5.0%
.525 85 9.2%
.550 89 14.6%
.575 93 21.9%
.600 97 29.9%
According to my approach, if the Brewers have a .500 skill level the rest of the way, they have a one in 20 shot of winning the wildcard. That's really not too bad, all things considered. While the offense probably isn't very good, I think the Brewers pitching staff and defense are pretty decent right now. If we really want to be optimistic and call this a .525 skill level team, their WC chances go up to 9.2%. Couple that with the Crew’s small chance at the NL Central and they have a reasonable outside shot at the post season. Hey, I’m a Brewer fan. Even a 10% chance is a lot!

What's important to note is that even if we pretend the Brewers are a 97 win season type team right now, they would still only have about a 30% chance of winning the wildcard. There are simply too many teams currently in the running to give the Brewers anymore than around a 10% or 15% chance right now. I'll still be watching those wild card standings but it's going to be an up hill battle, to say the least.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Payroll vs. Winning Percentage

Guess what team is that dot on the far right. Anyway, assuming all teams keep their same winning % for the rest of the year, let's rank them in terms of how many million per win they spent:

Team            Win%      Payroll  Mil/Win
Florida 0.467 15.0 0.20
Colorado 0.488 41.2 0.52
Tampa Bay 0.397 35.4 0.55
Minnesota 0.583 63.4 0.67
Oakland 0.567 62.2 0.68
Arizon 0.504 59.7 0.73
Cincinnati 0.512 60.9 0.73
Milwaukee 0.471 57.6 0.75
Pittsburgh 0.380 46.7 0.76
Cleveland 0.450 56.0 0.77
Detroit 0.653 82.6 0.78
Toronto 0.537 71.9 0.83
Texas 0.508 68.2 0.83
Kansas City 0.352 47.3 0.83
San Diego 0.496 69.9 0.87
Washington 0.438 63.1 0.89
Baltimore 0.438 72.6 1.02
St. Louis 0.533 88.9 1.03
NY Mets 0.600 101.1 1.04
Chicago Sox 0.600 102.8 1.06
Philadelphia 0.492 88.3 1.11
LA Dodgers 0.529 98.4 1.15
San Francisco 0.479 90.1 1.16
Seattle 0.463 88.0 1.17
Atlanta 0.467 90.2 1.19
Houston 0.479 92.6 1.19
LA Angels 0.516 103.5 1.24
Boston 0.580 120.1 1.28
Chicago Cubs 0.433 94.4 1.35
NY Yankees 0.593 194.7 2.03

The Twins and A's seem to know what they are doing, don't they?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Series Win Probabilities - HOU @ MIL

After a thrilling road series win over the worst team in the NL, I found the strength to muster up some series probabilities for the upcoming Houston/Milwaukee series:

Pitching Matchups:

RHP Ben Sheets; 4.98 ERA, 1.79 FIP
RHP Jason Hirsh; 9.00 ERA, 12.34 FIP (2nd MLB Start)

RHP Tomo Ohka; 4.30 ERA, 4.56 FIP
RHP Brandon Backe; 3.93 ERA, 4.70 FIP

RHP Dave Bush; 4.69 ERA, 4.21 FIP
RHP Roy Oswalt; 3.24, 3.45 FIP

LHP Doug Davis; 4.97 ERA, 4.54 FIP
RHP Roger Clemens; 2.71 ERA, 3.18 FIP

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

"The Book" Blog & The Lee Trade

"The Book" Blog has quickly turned into a must read. Contributing to the blog are the three authors of "The Book: Playing the percentages of Baseball". They are Tangotiger, Michael Lichtman (MGL) and Andrew Dolphin. There's just so much great information there, including the discussions that follow in the comment sections. Check it out.

One post that caught my eye was a discussion on the Carlos Lee trade. Here's MGL's take:

The Tex/Mil trade is an interesting one. “Trades” mostly have to be considered in the context of the contracts that come with them, which is the one thing that is mostly and usually overlooked. If I “trade” for Jeter, A-Rod, Konerko, and Bonds, and give up some young decent players and prospects, have I made a great trade, or have I simply acquired a bunch of very good players with bloated contracts? If you would not sign a FA for a certain salary/contract, you certainly shouldn’t give up something of value for the opportunity to acquire that player and that contract. There are very few FA’s who are actually worth their contracts. Of course it depends on the team and the value of a marginal win for that team at any point in time. Lee is definitely not one of them (FA’s who are worth their contracts), even though he is underpaid compared to his current reputation. But I’ll get to him later.

Cordero is NOT a good, or even very good, reliever. He is a premier/elite reliever, along the lines of Wagner, Rivera, Ryan, and K-Rod. He is one of the best relievers in baseball. He never was a big name, and fell out of favor with Texas after pitching badly for like one month, typical of a bad organization, which TEX is. The guy has posted these NERC’s (SSRATES), or normalized component ERA’s, (the average pitcher is defined as 4.00, the average reliever is 3.90 and the average closer is 3.30) over the last 4 years:


The guy is an absolute stud. I don’t normally advocate spending a lot of money for a reliever, even a great one like Cordero, but he is worth a lot as a closer and is vastly underpaid, especially by closer standards. Tex is NOT a sabermetrically oriented team, never has been as far as I can recall, and is and has been generally terrible at evaluating player talent, sabermetrically speaking. Cordero should not have been traded. Period. It is a joke. Let’s look at the other personnel in this trade.

Nix is in fact a very good defender in CF, which is worth a lot in and of itself. His hitting is a little below average for a CF’er, which means that he is a little above average overall for a CF’er. That is worth 5-6 mil in the FA market! The guy is making 345,000 this year. He is an absolute steal! He is one of those good, young players that you want to hold onto until his arb or FA years, assuming that he is going to command big money in those markets. These kind of players are gold and the only reason to trade them
is to get better or more gold in return (other good, young players or prospects or the very occasional underpaid FA).

Carlos Lee is the classic (way) overrated player. A big, slow, 30 year-old, below average on defense, corner outfielder, who is having a great current season. His Superlwts projection is less than 1.5 wins above replacement! He is making 8.5 mil this year, which is about 5 mil more than he is worth! Who the hell would want his contract? I don’t! Lots of stupid teams would. He is similar to Konerko. ALL first baseman and corner outfielders hit well. If you are a corner outfielder and hit REALLY well, like Lee and Konerko, unless you are good on the bases and very good on defense (which neither one of these guys are), you are simply a win or so above average - maybe.

And after this season, in order to get those draft picks (and it is not clear how much they are worth anyway), they have to offer Lee arb of course. If he takes the arb, he is going to be vastly, vastly overpaid by Tex, making the whole deal even worse than it is! They’ll probably end up signing him to some bloated long-term contract anyway. They are a BAD organization!

Mench meanwhile is a BETTER player overall, and a much underrated one. He does not hit as well, but he is better defensively, has a better arm, runs the bases better, and is 2 years younger! Add everything up and he is actually worth more (in Superlwts projection for 06 and beyond) than Lee for 1/3 the price!

You are 100% wrong for all the above reasons about this trade. It was absolutely horrible for the Rangers. They traded away a better player for a worse one who is making almost 5 mil more per season (and both are FA in 07). In addition, they gave away a way underrated good, young, cheap player in Nix, and one of the best relievers in baseball who is vastly underpaid.

This is one of the most misunderstood trades in baseball history by almost everyone and I am here to set the record straight!

— MGL, 08/02 @ 11:47 PM

But later...

I forgot about Cruz. I don’t know anything about him, but his MLE’s over the last 3 years are excellent, especially for a CF’er. If he is of average defense in CF, or even a little worse, he is in fact gold. If he is a corner OF’er, then he is not worth all that much given his MLE’s and at his age. But you are right. He must be included in the equation.

My main point was the assumption that Lee was much better than Mench, which is patently false, and that people seem to forget or ignore how great Cordero is and has been. Thinking Lee is so good is a perfect microcosm for what is wrong with player evaluation in baseball.


The stuff on Lee being overrated is not suprising. I think many Brewer fans already knew that. He's certainly not worth 5 years, $60 mil, which is apparently what teams will be willing to offer him.

Considering the huge defensive upgrade Gwynn or Nix would be to Gross or Clark, perhaps the Brewers would be better off going to a new option in CF soon? I'm not convinced Gwynn's stick is ready yet but Nix is tearing up AAA right now and may very well get a chance to show his stuff next year.

Finally, Cordero being considered an elite reliever by MGL certainly makes me feel better about him making $5 mil next year. If MGL is correct, Cordero is worth a lot more than. Considering he has 7 saves in 9 appearances while giving up no earned runs with the Brewers, he's certainly walked the walk so far.

Giving up Cruz hurts but I'm liking the trade more and more.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

2007 Projected Lineup

I threw together a projected lineup and performance for 2007. I had to make some assumptions, obviously. I'm approaching this as trying to find the low end of reasonable, so my assumptions keep that in mind:

1. Koskie is done. At this point, who knows but it at least needs to be planned for if it does. Hall gets handed the everyday 3B position. Hardy gets SS.

2. Melvin comes to his senses regarding Mench. He's not a #4 hitter. He's probably not even an everyday player.

3. Melvin can't deal Jenkins. I'm sure he'll try but I just can't see it happening. This sets up a Jenkins/Mench platoon in RF. Hart is given LF full time.

4. Melvin decides Gwynn needs some more development time in AAA and hands the everyday CF job to Gross. He'll have to sink or swing against lefties, which is going to bring his overall numbers down some.

4. Miller's option is picked up but his best days are behind him and Rivera will have to start 3 times a week. I just can't see Melvin being able to upgrade at this position.

I could be wrong with many of those assumptions but here's the resulting lineup:

                     BA   OBP   SLG   OPS
CF Gross .260 .340 .450 .790
LF Hart .270 .350 .450 .800
2B Weeks .290 .350 .460 .810
1B Fielder .290 .360 .510 .870
3B Hall .270 .330 .510 .840
RF Jenkins/Mench .260 .340 .470 .810
SS Hardy .270 .320 .430 .760
C Miller/Rivera .250 .320 .400 .720
None of those projections are unreasonable (IMO) and I think that still results in a solid lineup. There's also alot of potential there for players to substantially beat those projections (Hall especially). That's the beauty of a young team. This isn't 2002, where you had to worry about most of the lineup regressing.

What kind of payroll might we be looking at?

For pitching, I assumed Ohka would be signed to a 2 or 3 year deal at $6 mil per but it's really hard to guess at this point. I also assumed that Davis would be offered arbitration and I'm more confident of that prediction. I didn't add any free agent signings to the bullpen (although I have Melvin resigning Shouse) but since Mark A. is on record with a $70 mil payroll for next year, there's certainly money to upgrade there are somewhere else.

What's your vote? Bullpen? Corner outfielder? Starting pitcher?

Friday, August 11, 2006

What's Wrong With This Picture?

Vs. Righties
                  AB   AB  OBP  SLG  OPS
Mench, Career 1331 .261 .319 .439 .758
Jenkins, 2006 303 .291 .354 .450 .805
Meanwhile, Jenkins has been terrible against lefties all year while Mench has torn them up.

How do you utilize the talents of these two players? Easy. You sit Jenkins against a righty and start Mench in his place!

Yost and Melvin have convinced themselves that Mench is the real deal but I simply don't see it. I see a guy who's put up mediocre numbers in a hitter's park. That's cleanup material, apparently.

Some discussion of this at here.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Clutch Hitting on BTF

As is often the case, the discussion about an article on Baseball Think Factory is better than the article itself:

From Mike Emeigh:

The typical hitter (non-pitcher), in a situation with a leverage index less than 2, hit .269/.335/.428 in 2005. In a situation with a leverage index of 2 or greater, the typical hitter hit .264/.337/.413. The reason for the increase in OBP is that more hitters are intentionally walked in high-leverage situations; if you remove IBB from the mix, the adjusted OBP is .331 for leverage index situation less than 2, .326 for LI 2 or greater. If you look only at such situations from the seventh inning on in 2005, hitters batted .257/.327 (.322 w/out IBB)/.401 in lower-leverage situations, .256/.338 (.323 w/out IBB)/.393 in higher-leverage situations.

One could therefore argue that a hitter who performs as well in high-leverage situations as he does in lower-leverage situations has actually done "better" than expected.

FTM: Mnookin: David Ortiz is not a clutch hitter: A primer in how to lie with statistics