Archive for November, 2004

Baseball Revolution #1: The Fouler

Wednesday, November 17th, 2004

This is the first in the Baseball Revolution series. These articles are an attempt to throw out conventional baseball wisdom and explore one particular baseball strategy to decide whether or not it would help a team.

This summer I became enamored with the book Moneyball. In addition to its great storyline, it contained a great deal of baseball theory. I enjoy the game of baseball in and of itself, but what makes it particularly attractive to a mathematically-minded person like myself is that there are just gobs of statistics out there to analyze. Want to find out what pitcher allows the most stolen 3rd bases? Or what hitter hits the best in the bottom of the 6th inning with two outs in night games on Friday the 13th? All that information is out there, all you have to do is grab it.

Using these kind of statistical studies, Moneyball shows how on-base percentage has been an underrated statistic in baseball – that walks can be just as important as hits and baseball conventionalist have ignored this fact for years. Slugging percentage is also an important measure of a hitter’s value, but the book specifically points out that on-base percentage is three times as important as slugging.

On one particular geeky evening, I took some of this year’s statistical data to analyze Barry Bonds, baseball’s greatest statistical abnormality. I found that if you removed all the at-bats where he got a hit, Bonds would have the following line: 000 AVG / 500 OBP / 000 SLG. I stared at these numbers and wondered: would a hitter with this line be a valuable player? A walk every other plate appearance but no hits otherwise? What if we made a lineup completely out of these players?

Later I was practicing softball hitting in the batting cage for our team’s fall league and decided to head over to the fastest pitching baseball cage. Let’s just say I’m not yet ready for the major leagues. I was able to make contact on just about every pitch, but every one of those hit balls went flying far to the right of the imaginary first-base foul line. After about three dozen fouled balls I laughed to myself that the only way I could ever get on base against a good pitcher was to try to foul off every pitch and look to get a walk.

I realized that this method of fouling off every pitch, not even looking to get a hit, would be a possible way to accumulate this “Hitless Barry Bonds” line of 000/500/000.

So that’s Baseball Revolution Concept #1: The Fouler. A hitter that only looks to get a walk by fouling off strikes. On-base percentage to the extreme!

The idea of The Fouler was intriguing, but I wanted to see how it would play out on the baseball field. To see if a team of hitters made up entirely of .500 OBP Foulers would have any success, I decided to write a simple computer program that simulated nine innings of baseball. It was remarkably simple because there were only two possible results to an at-bat: an out or a walk. The simulation essentially flips a coin at each plate appearance and counts up the base runners and runs in each inning until there are 3 outs. I ran the simulation 16,200 times (100 seasons of 162 games sounded good) and found that this lineup scored an average of 8.4 runs per nine innings.

Just to put that in perspective, the highest scoring team in baseball in 2004 was the Boston Red Sox with an average of 5.9 runs per game (and with extra innings, there were certainly fewer than 5.9 runs per nine innings).

It’s evident that a team full of skilled Foulers would be a dominant offensive force — without even putting a ball in play. While the impact of a single Fouler on a team has yet to be explored, sabermetrician Bill James offers his insight in his Historical Abstract:

Sooner or later, we’re going to get some little guy with limited athletic ability who just draws walks and punches singles, somebody will put him in the lineup in front of Albert Belle or Ken Griffey or Nomar of Juan Gonzalez, and the big guy will drive in 175 runs, and everybody else will go scrambling around looking for little guys who can get on base.

Now remember that I enjoy the game of baseball in and of itself, and hitting is an integral part of the game. If the game consisted only consisted of foul balls and walks, it wouldn’t be very fun to watch and the stands would empty faster than Moises Alou can be picked off at first base. But it’s still interesting to consider that this can be an effective offensive strategy.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Results of the simulation with different values of Fouler OBP:

OBP RUNS/9
.250 0.5
.300 1.0
.350 1.9
.400 3.4
.450 5.4
.500 8.4
.550 12.6
.600 18.6

If you’re interested in seeing the code behind the simulation, it’s written in Perl and the source can be found here.

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

File this one in the random file

Monday, November 15th, 2004

Every now and then I come accross something that makes me glad that I am a baseball fan. Today, that something was the following news story. Since I know people are too lazy to click links, I will post the jist of the article.

Soccer exec drives car onto field, tries to run over ref

CHISINAU, Moldova — The chairman of a Moldovan soccer team became so incensed when a penalty kick was awarded to the opponent he drove his car onto the field and tried to run over the referee. No one was hurt, and the game was called off.

During Saturday’s first division game in Floreni between Roso Floreni and Politehnica Chisinau, referee Vitalie Onica gave Politehnica a penalty kick with the score 1-1.

After Politehnica made the kick, Roso chairman Mihai Macovei drove onto the field and attempted to run over the referee several times. Onica dodged the car each time.

Macovei left the field and was stopped by police officers when he tried to return, Politehnica coach Ion Caras. Macovei has made no comment.

The Moldovan soccer federation Monday fined Macovei about $1,900, and an investigation is under way.

What the heck is wrong with these creepy soccer fans? When I have kids, there is no way they are playing this crazy, psycho sport. It’s baseball all the way. We need to thank God that Alou and Merker and the rest of the 2004 team did not follow suit and try to kill the umps. We could be faced with having to replace a lot more positions than we do, because our players would have been banned from the game.

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

Where The Good Free Agents Will Go

Sunday, November 14th, 2004

ESPN is at it again this year, posting their list of the Top 50 Free Agents on the market. If you remember last year, you would know that out of the top 50 predictions, ESPN managed to correctly pick an overwhelming 14 correctly. That is an impressive 28%. Now, if we go with baseball percentages, that’s a .280 avg. Not too bad. However, coming from a place that has unlimited sources to consult, I expect at least 40-50% accuracy. So, to show that it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to predict wrong, I offer you my picks as compared to ESPN’s picks. We’ll see who wins.

1. Carlos Beltran
ESPN: Yankees.
Joe: Cubs
Comment: I know I seem like a homer on this one, but something tells me we’re going to move Sammy and get this guy. I think the Tribune is finally realizing that winning is kind of cool, and that it fills the seats too.

2. Adrian Beltre
ESPN: Dodgers
Joe: Dodgers
Comment: This kid is not going anywhere for a long long time. The question will be once he has a contract, will he go back to the Beltre of old?

3. Roger Clemens
ESPN: Astros
Joe: Astros
Comment: Clemens came to Houston to be with his family. Another year older, that won’t suddenly change. IF he signs anywhere, it will be in Houston.

4. Edgar Renteria
ESPN: Cubs
Joe: Cardinals
Comment: despite all the talk that the Cubs will get Renteria, I just don’t see it happening. The Cards would be stupid to let this kid go. Look for him to re-sign with the enemy.

5. Pedro Martinez
ESPN: Red Sox
Joe: Red Sox
Comment: The evil empire will make a pitch to Pedro this year, but if my gut is right, he’ll listen and decide Red Sox Nation is where he wants to be.

6. Carlos Delgado
ESPN: Marlins
Joe: Yankees
Comment: No Pedro? No Beltran? Steinbrenner needs to make his splash and here it is. He locks up a tremendous bat and moves Giambi to DH or out of town.

7. Magglio Ordonez
ESPN: Mets
Joe: Orioles
Comment: Magglio is not going to the Mets, because they will have Sammy in RF next year. Instead, he will go to Baltimore, who is desperate for a player to market.

8. Jason Varitek
ESPN: Red Sox
Joe: Red Sox
Comment: This kid was one of the leaders, if not THE leader on the Boston Red Sox this past year. His fire is not something the Sox will let go. He’s a great catcher and they realize that.

9. Carl Pavano
ESPN: Orioles
Joe: Yankees
Comment: Since George can’t get Pedro he has to fill his pitching need somewhere. As a result, he will make the same mistake I made in Out of the Park Baseball. He will overpay for Carl Pavano, who will flop in the Big Apple.

10. Richie Sexson
ESPN: Mariners
Joe: Dodgers
Comment: None

11. J.D. Drew
ESPN: Braves.
Joe: Braves
Comment: The Braves got a healthy Drew this past year and will reward him accordingly.

12. Nomar Garciaparra
ESPN: Angels.
Joe: Cubs
Comment: Nomar is going to realize that there are a few other SS on the market this year and will sign a 1 year deal with the Cubs and try again next year. It will give him a chance to prove he can stay healthy.

13. Troy Glaus
ESPN: Astros.
Joe: Brewers
Comment: Glaus to the Astros? Last I checked they had that position covered.

14. Armando Benitez
ESPN: Braves
Joe: Marlins
Comment: None

15. Steve Finley
ESPN: Padres
Joe: Diamondbacks
Comment: None

16. Troy Percival
ESPN: Cubs
Joe: Cubs
Comment: As much as I hate this one, all signs point to true. Cubs will overpay and get a DL spot taken care of.

17. Matt Clement
ESPN: Tigers
Joe: Tigers
Comment: So long Matt. I’ll miss you.

18. Orlando Cabrera
ESPN: Cardinals
Joe: Red Sox
Comment: Red Sox take their SS and hope he does the same next year.

19. Jeff Kent
ESPN: A’s.
Joe: Astros
Comment: Kent to the A’s? With what money? Astros are loyal to their players and will bring back Kent.

20. Moises Alou
ESPN: Dodgers
Joe: Giants
Comment: It will be the Alou/Alou connection, with Mo playing the rest of his career for pops in SF.

21. Odalis Perez
ESPN: Rangers
Joe: Dodgers
Comment: None

22. Jaret Wright
ESPN: Braves
Joe: Braves
Comment: None

23. Jermaine Dye
ESPN: Giants
Joe: Brewers
Comment: Brewers get a nice OF for fairly cheap here.

24. Brad Radke
ESPN: Devil Rays
Joe: Devil Rays
Comment: Rays pick up a potential 10 game winner. Awesome!!!!

25. Omar Vizquel
ESPN: Red Sox
Joe: Giants
Comment: At the time I wrote this, he already signed.

26. Russ Ortiz
ESPN: Dodgers
Joe: Braves
Comment: none

27. Matt Morris
ESPN: Cardinals
Joe: Cardinals
Comment: No other market for this guy other than St. Louis.

28. Vinny Castilla
ESPN: Reds
Joe: Rockies
Comment: A return to the team that gave him his best years statistically.

29. Placido Polanco
ESPN: Cardinals
Joe: Cardinals
Comment: none

30. Eric Milton
ESPN: Yankees
Joe: Phillies
Comment: None

31. Jon Lieber
ESPN: Yankees
Joe: Cubs
Comment: Cubs get their # 5 starter right here for dirt cheap. He’s a fan favorite and will return to the place where he shined brightly

32. Corey Koskie
ESPN: Royals
Joe: Twins
Comment: None

33. David Wells
ESPN: Phillies
Joe: Padres
Comment: Who else wants him?

34. Derek Lowe
ESPN: Orioles
Joe: Tigers
Comment: Tigers try to look respectable by getting a “Ace” (hold laughter)

35. Richard Hidalgo
ESPN: White Sox
Joe: Mets
Comment: Mets get their LF

36. Kris Benson
ESPN: Mets
Joe: Mets
Comment: None

37. Jeromy Burnitz
ESPN: Expos
Joe: Angels
Comment: None

38. Kevin Millwood
ESPN: Braves
Joe: Phillies
Comment: None

39. Cristian Guzman
ESPN: Twins
Joe: Twins
Comment: None

40. Tony Batista
ESPN: Expos
Joe: Expos
Comment: None

41. Jose Valentin
ESPN: Mariners
Joe: White Sox
Comment: How is this guy top 50?

42. Bob Wickman
ESPN: Braves
Joe: Indians
Comment: None

43. Esteban Loaiza
ESPN: Rangers
Joe: Ranges
Comment: If he has the numbers he put up in 2003, the Rangers get a steal.

44. Orlando Hernandez
ESPN: Yankees
Joe: Yankees
Comment: none

45. Juan Gonzalez
ESPN: A’s
Joe: Rockies
Comment: Gonzo could put up 35 HR at Coors

46. Paul Wilson
ESPN: Indians
Joe: Rockies
Comment: None

47. Tony Womack
ESPN: Cubs
Joe: Cardinals
Comment: We’re not getting Womack. Get it straight, we’re getting Walker.

48. Jose Lima
ESPN: Dodgers.
Joe: Dodgers
Comment: Lima Time in LA again

49. Paul Byrd
ESPN: Rangers
Joe: Tigers
Comment: None

50. Steve Kline
ESPN: Yankees
Joe: Yankees
Comment: None

Sorry for not commenting on everyone, but this was a long task as it was. I tried to take it very seriously and not just throw names out there for nothing. So, feel free to agree, disagree or not care one way or the other. Either way, I plan on beating ESPN. I will keep you posted as FA sign, who is winning.

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

Sosa

Sunday, November 14th, 2004

Samuel Peralta Sosa is a jerk. He firmly believes himself to be the greatest player in the game. I do not want him to be a Cub next year. Why do I feel that way about the guy who has hit more home runs in the history of the franchise?
When you’re a star in major league baseball, it’s your belief that a)you’re better than everyone else, b) that your willingness to work like a maniac that makes you that way, and c) your belief that you have to do anything you can do to push yourself beyond just better and into being the best, that marks the difference between Wade Boggs and Jeff Manto. Guys express it in different ways, like Walter Payton’s fanatic hill workouts and Ken Caminiti’s steroid use. When the press (and fans) loved Sosa, the spotlight brought out the best elements of those beliefs. Now that they’re questioning his perfection, the bad side has become evident.
Some superstars are able to age gracefully. Those superstars are the ones that keep that egotistical dark side to themselves.
Barry Bonds is a complete ass, Sammy Sosa is a jerk. These are undeniable facts. But the things that make Sosa a jerk are the things that turned him from 1995 Sosa into 1998 Sosa. It’s not going to reverse his career decline and it’s not an excuse for his crybaby behavior.
That’s my hypothesis, and I’m sticking to it. I’d just like the tests to be performed in another city.

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

Highway Robbery of the Cruelest Kind

Friday, November 12th, 2004

Over the past few days, MLB has been announcing it’s yearly awards. There has been much talk about the robbery that occured to Randy Johnson. People everywhere are saying how poorly the voting was. I don’t mean to take anything away from the Big Unit, but there is another unjust vote that was far more cruel and hurtful. It occured at the end of the 2005 season in our Sim Baseball league, ISL. I run the Anaheim Angels and I had a player named Joe Thurston as my 2b for the year. Thurston was amazing as a Rookie. He made the All Star game, almost won the batting title, and was a huge playmaker for a team that won the AL West. When it came time for the game to pick the awards, I all but made my acceptance speech when I was informed that Thurston lost out on the award to NY Yankees outfielder, Bubba Crosby. Here are the numbers. You tell me Thurston did not have a better season.

Games Played
Thurston – 156
Crosby – 148

At Bats
Thurston – 640
Crosby – 550

Hits
Thurston – 227
Crosby – 165

Doubles
Thurston – 34
Crosby – 28

Triples
Thurston – 11
Crosby – 6

Homeruns
Thurston – 19
Crosby – 12

RBI
Thurston – 84
Crosby – 76

Runs
Thurston – 132
Crosby – 94

BB’s
Thurston – 49
Crosby – 52

K’s
Thurston – 64
Crosby – 84

Batting Avg
Thurston – .355
Crosby – .300

On Base %
Thurston – .398
Crosby – .358

Slugging %
Thurston – .531
Crosby – .438

OPS
Thurston – .930
Crosby – .796

Stolen Bases
Thurston – 109
Crosby – 52

Runs Created per 27 outs
Thurston – 8.7
Crosby – 6.1

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

Instant Replay

Thursday, November 11th, 2004

There’s been a lot of talk recently about the possible implementation of instant replay in Major League Baseball. I personally like the idea of having instant replay on certain “dead ball” plays like home runs, balls that should have been called foul that were called fair, and plays where Alex Rodriguez knocks the ball out of the fielder’s glove. In fact, let’s use instant replay on every play where A-Rod is involved, and only reverse the call if it goes against him.

But I also think there are many instances where instant replay just wouldn’t work. Remember in Game 5 of the 2003 NLDS when Kenny Lofton made a spectacular catch at his shoetops and it was not ruled an out? We all saw the catch on the replay, but the umpires got it wrong when the play occured. Well, there were runners on base whose decision to tag or go back to their original base depended on the result of the play in center field — if we used instant replay and that call was reversed and ruled a catch, then what happens to the runners on base? Do they get to tag up one base or do they stay where they were originally? It’s these kind of situations where instant replay simply couldn’t fix any mistakes made by the umpires because the outcome of the rest of the play depends on what happened at that moment.

Also, how the heck would instant replay work? Would the umpires decide when it’s necessary or would managers get an opportunity to call for it at the risk of using up one of their…uh…timeouts?
“Come on, don’t toss me C.B.! I haven’t even gotten to throw my red flag yet!”

And would there be a viewing machine near one of the dugouts where Cubs fans get to throw bottles at Bruce Froemming while he reviews his terrible call at second base?

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

What About Bob

Wednesday, November 10th, 2004

Well, position 1 of 2 in the Cubs broadcast booth has been sorted out, with the hiring of former Arizona Diamondbacks manager, Bob Brenly. However the most important position, the play by play position, remains vacant. There are rumors and names floating around, but it does no good to name them when nothing is official. Instead, I would like to talk a little about Brenly.

I am excited about Brenly being our guy for next year. He knows Chicago, having worked in the WGN radio booth in the early 90′s, and from what he says, the city was good to him. He is also a good friend of Dusty Baker, having worked as one of his coaches in San Francisco. In my opinion these two things can be big assets or big liabilities. On one hand, it’s nice to have someone in the booth that at least has some ties to this Cubs team, but in the same aspect, perhaps we needed someone in there that had no ties. Let me explain my thoughts on both.

Asset
Brenly could be an asset for this team in a number of ways. First, he is a former manager, so he has a good knowledge of the game and the strategies behind it. Because he’s been in the trenches, he can bring a good perspective in terms of managerial decisions. Also, being close to Dusty, he could bring better insight as to what is going on in Dusty’s head when he makes various moves.

Brenly is also a pretty decent color guy. Watching HIM on Fox wasn’t as bad as watching The Corpse, Tim McCarver fumble through the job he had to do. He will not be as good at what he does as Stone, but won’t be nearly as bad as Darrin Jackson, Joe Carter or Dave Otto.

Liability
Brenly may be a liability for this team in the booth. Because Brenly is a former manager and member of Dusty Baker’s staff, he may be too critical of moves made from the dugout. Sometimes when you’ve been there before, you tend to be more critical than when you haven’t. For example, I spent a few summers as a server for a country club in Wilmette, IL. When you spend the time serving rich people in a fine dining atmosphere, you tend to feel confident in your ability to do the job and do it well. So, when I go to a restaurant with my wife, a lot of the time, I am comparing the server’s ability and performance to the job I feel like I could have done. I fear that this may happen in the booth with Brenly. He’s been there before, won before, and may be critical of moves he disagrees win. This was the main reason Stone came into such hot water with the organization and players. He had a reputation, as does Brenly, for telling it as it is and it cost him.

Time will tell how Brenly does as a color guy. He has mighty big shoes to fill, as did Chip. If he can live up to the hype and pressure of the most prestigious media jobs in baseball, he will be a great addition to this team. If he pulls a Stone and tells EVERYTHING like it is, look out. We could be in for a heck of a ride.

Just for a good Laugh
I ran across this post on Baseball Blogs and it made me smile. Check it out

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

Units Of Measure

Wednesday, November 10th, 2004

Now that the Cy Young voting is complete, let me reiterate what I’ve said before: it’s a tragedy that Randy Johnson didn’t get the Cy Young and it’s even more of a tragedy that it wasn’t even close. Of course Clemens is a phenomenal pitcher, but Johnson is better. I know by just watching the Big Unit that he’s better, but let’s look at the numbers, because they don’t lie:

Earned Run Average
Unit: 2.60
Rocket: 2.98
Winner: Unit

Complete Games
Unit: 4
Rocket: 0
Winner: Unit

Shutouts
Unit: 2
Rocket: 0
Winner: Unit

Innings Pitched
Unit: 245.2
Rocket: 214.1
Winner: Unit

WHIP
Unit: 0.90
Rocket: 1.16
Winner: Unit

Strikeouts to Walks Ratio
Unit: 6.44
Rocket: 2.60
Winner: Unit

Strikouts Per Nine Innings
Unit: 10.62
Rocket: 9.15
Winner: Unit

Opponent’s Batting Average
Unit: .197
Rocket: .217
Winner: Unit

Perfect Games
Unit: 1
Rocket: 0
Winner: Unit

The only major pitching category that Johnson doesn’t lead is wins, and that’s only because the eight guys in the lineup for Arizona pale in comparison to the eight guys in Houston. It’s out of Randy’s control. At least the Internet Baseball Writers Association got it right.

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

Crank up the stove

Tuesday, November 9th, 2004

With the GM meetings begin today, which is the official beginning of the hot stove league, all the rumors revolve around Sosa. As I said yesterday, there are a host of teams that have been rumored to be interested in Sosa. Personally, I don’t feel Sosa will be moved this week, but the groundwork could be laid. Personally, I see him going to the Mets, but at this point, I would take anything.

In other words, I read an article about one of my favorite broadcasters, Bob Costas. I had never really considered him as a potential candidate for Chippy’s job, but apparently other people have. Costas is not interested, according to his response when asked about the job, but is flattered to even be considered. I’m not sure who we’ll get, but I am sure it can’t be worse than Chip, so everything should be fine.

In the next few days, I am going to be organizing the list of the main FA and where they will go. So, look for that. In the meantime, vote in the billygoat poll.

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us: