The Royals

They’re in the World Series, and the usually critical Joe Posnanski does a good job of rolling back the years, and finding a sliver of possible evidence that Ned Yost is responsible for some of the Royals’ post season run.

For me, the evidence is that when player’s play good things can happen. The bad possible thing is if a manager gets in the way.

The Ned Yost story seems to bear that out. His basic impulse is good. Empower the players so they do their best. Which is powerful, since his in game sense is weak. But maybe that isn’t as important, especially when you’re on a run.

At this point we really have no idea. Joe’s anecdotal piece makes a strong anecdotal argument that the manager is happenstance, mostly. But we don’t really know, as Joe’s history of Royals managers, a part of the story, seems to lay out quite vividly.

 

Map of US Baseball Players’ Birthplaces

Screenshot 2014-10-08 09.01.24What if you took the birthplaces of all the US born major league baseball players since 1900 and mapped them into 50 states of equal size?

And what if you gave them cute names based on a famous ballplayer who was born in that imaginary state?

You would have this map. If you did it for current ML players, you would have this map. I was born on either Long Yastzremski or Markakis York.

And you would have this story that maps the birthplaces of NLF, NBA and NHL players, too.

LINK: The State of the Fantasy Baseball Nation

Nick Minnix does a fantastic job surveying the fantasy baseball business at Hardball Times, looking for the games’ next big thing. He covers a lot of ground, with insightful reporting and a light touch with the analysis. Highly recommended for fantasy players.

LINK: Building a Major League Bullpen

Former Fantasy Baseball Guide writer and former Brewers and Mariners front office hand Tony Blengino takes a look at the best bullpens in each league in each year since 2000, and what he discovers is something we only-league fantasy players have already figured out: Even though good relievers are important and can earn lots of fantasy value, non-closers are not a good place to invest draft dollars.

Analysis at Fangraphs well worth reading for what it tells us about player consistency, management intention, and how the two are not a straight line.

 

LINK: Did pitchFX Destroy Baseball?

marcummoveDerek Thompson surveys the scientific literature of the strike zone today to demonstrate that fewer homers hit is bad for baseball, and that fewer homers are being hit today for two primary reasons:

1) Starting in 2006 stringent drug testing reduced the use of PEDs in the game.

2) Starting in 2006, the introduction of the pitchFX system increased the size of the strike zone, most notably by expanding the low part downward. Follow the link for more about pitchFX, a video and computer sensor system that tracks the speed and trajectory of every major league pitch.

It’s an interesting piece, especially the chart that shows how much better the umpires have gotten since their work could be not only reviewed, but reviewed against real objective data (not that it is always perfect).

As someone who, perhaps naively, argued in the early days of the homer boom that it looked to me like the real cause was a flattening strike zone, which meant hitters could look inside or outside and not so much up and down, the data strongly suggests this is at least partially true. One researcher says that the decline in homers since 2006 is 40 percent due to changes in the strike zone.

That’s a lot, and could be true, but I suspect we haven’t heard the last of this.

At the end of his piece Thompson lists other causes for a drop in offensive power, including defense (though this shouldn’t have much of an impact on homer rates) and changes in the baseball, but when he tries to remind us all of the shadow of PEDs use on this issue, he falters.

He writes:

Perhaps most importantly, the harsh 2006 rules against performance-enhancing drugs offer a compelling explanation for baseball’s dearth of power—although it’s odd that baseball’s minor leagues haven’t seen a similar decline in offensive performance since their own steroid policy was implemented.

The minor league drug policy is in many ways more stringent than the major league program. What the minor leagues don’t have is pitchFX and the absolutely best umpires.

Baseball_umpire_2004Oh, and to answer the question in the headline: pitchFX didn’t destroy baseball, it simply made the administration of the game more accurate and fair.

But if the low run environment proves to be persistent and unpopular, MLB can raise the bottom of the strike zone back to 2006 levels. That’s what they do. (It perhaps pertains that it was part of my argument about the power of the strike zone to change other outcomes, that umpires would be inclined to make this adjustment in an ad hoc way if the pitchers became too dominant, in order to help sustain the game’s equilibrium, which wavers but never cracks.)

LINK: Origins of John Holdzkom.

Screenshot 2014-09-10 10.49.21John Holdzkom landed in the Pirates pen a few weeks ago with a spotty history. He started this year in an independent league in Texas, for instance.

A friend of our friend Tim McLeod, Brook “Boris” Kilpatrick, has some first-hand experience with Holdzkom in Australia in 2013, and shares it at his website that covers Australian baseball. It’s a fun piece.

Link: Causes of Competitive Balance Equals Selig

Joe Posnanski has a theory why so many lower budget teams are doing well this year. I like that he doesn’t say it is definitively the Age of Peds, but includes that possibility in with some of the other things going on at the end of the last millennium.

In the meantime, it seems, rich teams overinvested.

Rotoman’s Tout Wars Wipe Out

Today my Tout Wars team lost Troy Tulowitzki for the rest of the season. In an OBP league, as Tout is, he’s earned close to the $29 I paid for him, so this doesn’t count as tragedy. And I got him for $29 because he hasn’t been the most durable player over the years.

But if you read this piece I posted the other day at ToutWars.com you’ll see that losing Tulo wasn’t half my problems. Note that since I posted Andrew McCutchen went on the DL as well.

It was a fun run, and I just hope I can stay in the fight for fourth.

LINK: The Power of PR

Screenshot 2014-07-30 00.42.11Josh Levin and Jeremy Stahl at Slate do some sleuthing about a website that has popped up that presents itself as the work of former Redskins players, but is actually (apparently) the work of the PR firm Burson-Marsteller.

Which is fine. I could list all of Burson-Marsteller’s heinous clients and former clients, as a way to cast doubt on this enterprise, but that’s the way PR works. Those who want to shape public opinion hire experts to create arguments that appeal to regular folks, whose regular voices resonate more widely than regular advertising or political graft might. Or give ideas authenticity, at least. And I’m sure BR also has some non-heinous and virtuous clients.

It is not unreasonable, of course, for people to question the veracity of claims made by those buying ad and airspace trying to shape public opinion. We all should. There’s no smoking gun here, no defining moment of cynicism, but rather an example of how far people who have money will sometimes go to try and sway the world to their opinion.

The story also links to a Washington Post story from last November about William “Lone Star” Dietz, the legendary coach for whom the team was named. If you’re interested in this issue it is a must read, since it clearly lays out the evidence about whether or not Dietz was actually a Sioux, as he claimed his entire adult life.

And it also raises the question of whether that matters. If Dietz was able to make everyone think he was a Native American (well, one fourth), and advocated for Indian rights and respect throughout his life, wasn’t it a sign of respect (as claimed) when team owner George Preston Marshall named the team in his honor?

Read the story to come to your own conclusion about that. Then we have to decide whether, even if that was the intent (then), that matters now.

 

 

 

 

LINK: The Rise of the Daily Game

The New York TImes has an informative story today about the rise of the daily fantasy baseball game, which has been embraced by MLBAM and managed to avoid being classified as a game of chance.

The writer quotes a guy who says he works 35 hours a week playing the game and made $50,000 last year, which seems very possible. It also mentions a recent surge of casual players who are increasing the pools. It might be time to start playing.