Sabermetrics and the Twins

Aaron Gleeman liked this story today on Facebook, and it’s a delightful romp showing how baseball’s statistical revolution is earworming Terry Ryan and Ron Gardenhire.

The thing I didn’t know and wonder about is the assertion that Michael Lewis’s first choice for a Moneyball team was the Twins. That seems, um, sick, in the, um, sick way. Whatever.

The reason to read this story is because some of the players talk about their process in a less than canned way, which is bracing. Okay, a little bracing.

The Final Weekend

The penultimate software update came out last Thursday, and there haven’t been any major suprises since then, but I’m going to post notes on some of the little things that might change your draft.

Khris Davis: Has made the Brewers after a big power-hitting spring. He’s not a huge prospect, but he is coming off a very productive minor league year and a robust spring training. I think he’s moved up into the top of the $1 or $2 outfielders in NL only leagues.

Steven Pearce: He’s also had a huge spring, but unlike Davis who is 25, Pearce is 30. Not that he can’t be productive for a spell, but his issues are with major league pitchers (not the mix he saw in ST). He may be a worthwhile pickup if you have a hole, but don’t count on him to get playing time or hit regularly.

Johan Santana: Is having shoulder surgery and may never pitch again. And certainly not this year.

Colin Cowgill: Has been given the leadoff spot and job in center field for the Mets. I’m very dubious that he’ll be able to hold it, too many strikeouts, not enough power, but he doesn’t have any shut down opposition.

Pablo Sandoval: Is hurting still. These spring training issues often go away when the games count, but I’m not buying him. There’s simply too much downside smoke to ignore.

JD and Fernando Martinez: JD is recalled, Fernando goes on the DL. Neither has shown he’s a big league regular, but Fernando has the better pedigree. Both are still young and should not be ignored.

Steve Delabar: Manager John Gibbons has said he’ll get saves if Casey Janssen needs to be rested and he’s a better matchup than Sergio Santos. That will probably send his price up some, but his skills will make him a plus even if he doesn’t get a lot of saves.

Mike Carp: Made the Red Sox and could see time at DH with David Ortiz’s problems. Carp is a good hitter but a defensive liability.

Ryan Sweeney: Did not make the Red Sox.

Tyler Colvin: The Rockies for some reason demoted Colvin. It’s hard to see what the talented hitter with limited contact skills can learn in more Triple-A time, but there you go. He’ll be back and instead of costing $12 will be a waiver pickup, and much more dangerous.


I love Denard Span, out of proportion to his achievements.

Steve Gardner does a great job here of laying out why Span helps the Nats.

I think they made a good move.

Where I Stand: Miggy v. Trout

First off, a link to Joe Posnanski making some strong points in favor of Mike Trout as AL MVP over Miguel Cabrera this year. My favorite is his suggestion that you vote for whoever Brandon McCarthy thinks should be MVP.

Since the season ended, I eventually came to the idea that Mike Trout was most deserving of the award. The preponderance of the evidence weighs in his favor, even if I don’t think it’s quite so clear a case as some. By that I mean that despite Trout trouncing Cabrera in WAR, the award isn’t solely given to the best hitter or the best player in the league. The MVP is supposed to go the player who was most valuable to his team.

This has led some people to suggest that Cabrera was most valuable to his team because he led it to the playoffs, while Trout was only able to lead his team to third place. These people should note that Trout’s team won more games than Cabrera’s and step away.

But I think a case can be made, sort of, that Cabrera was the more important player on his team. If you use as your measure WAR, and if we’re having this discussion why not, Cabrera contributed 6.9 WAR of Detroit’s hitters’ total of 13.7 WAR, or more than 50 percent. Trout, on the other hand, was worth 10.7 WAR, which was 28 percent of the Anaheim team’s 37.9 batting WAR.

But that’s the best case, and it isn’t that persuasive, since Detroit’s total WAR (they had great pitching, with Justin Verlander worth more WAR than Cabrera at 7.6) was 36.9, while the Angels’ total was 40.5. Trout’s contribution of 26 percent of his team’s total versus Cabrera’s 19 percent of his team’s total is a decisive edge.

Which leaves one final mode of attack: dWAR, defensive Wins Above Replacement, is far from established as a reliable measure of defensive value. Even those who champion it point out that it really takes two years of defensive play to start to establish a fielder’s performance baseline in fielding WAR. In 2012, Cabrera did a decent job playing third base, exceeding expectations but probably not adding to his own value with his defensive contributions (but not hurting it either–some argue that his agreement to play third also helped the Tigers because it meant they didn’t have to play Ryan Raburn), while Trout was simply amazing. Still, if you discount his defense because the measure isn’t reliable (and don’t believe your own eyes), Trout’s contribution in WAR drops to 8.6, or 21 percent of the Angels total, which at least makes it a horse race.

I’ve enjoyed the argument about this MVP race because in discussion new ideas come up. Nate Silver, championing Trout but expecting Cabrera to win, pointed out that Trout was superior to Cabrera while leading off an inning, a not inconsiderable skill that compares nicely with Cabrera’s better stats in the clutch this year.

The bottom line, however, is that the MVP awards are given by voters or judges, and they reflect the values of that constituency. If the BBWA says these 28 voters are the judges, we have to look at who they are to see what values are reflected. They’re the bosses. There was a time when the fans’ access to the records of the game was limited, and some favored Maris while others favored Mantle, for example. Some of that argument was based on numbers, of course, but it was also personality and some ineffable human streak that drew fans to one or the other. And the judges then were Olympian.

We’re now our own best judges, as the ballots of the BBWA so ably demonstrate every time they vote, and this discussion among fans with a much broader understanding of how the game works ideally serves the purpose of helping us better understand baseball, baseball players, baseball teams, winning baseball, and the stats and numbers and opinions that help us describe them. The awards themselves are wan, the judges are suspect, but the discussion is lively, which is just great.

One time, Nate Silver was wrong!

About politics, anyway, in 2004: “Here, too, there is a useful political analogy. The Democrats in particular have been reluctant to throw their resources behind candidates with appealing skills but unproven track records, which in turn prevents these politicians from gaining the exposure they need (or are perceived to need) to run for higher office. It’s a self-perpetuating problem. So we’re going to get Hillary Clinton running for the White House in 2008. And we’re going to lose again, just as surely as if the Diamondbacks had tabbed Jimy Williams for their managerial vacancy.”

Read the whole story about recycled baseball managers and recycled politicians at Baseball Prospectus.

A Rule Is A Rule, Unless There’s No Replay

Uh oh. Here we go again. Not necessarily the game, but 1-0 is a lot different than 3-0. Using replays (or replay challenges) on plays like this Robinson Cano tag on Omar Infante in the second game of the ALCS between the Tigers and the Yankees seems like a no brainer. Why won’t MLB do it?

I keep thinking that there must be more complicated game situations that would be further complicated if an umpire’s ruling in the first part of a play were to be overturned. I bet there are some of those. But I bet we can deal with them. ML rules have pages and pages and pages of examples of situations and rules interpretations, meant to interpret the rules in a practical way. One of the reasons we love the game is because every day we see something we’ve never seen before.

The thing we should never see again is an obviously botched call stand when the replay is irrefutable. Let’s argue about how all those contingent events should be handled. That won’t be easy. But getting the calls right, when the video is clear, should be.

Phillies Roto Champs in 2012: Says CBS Sports.

I don’t know why I’ve never done this before, but I was messing around with the results of this week’s CBS Sports Fantasy Experts Draft and had the bright idea to sum the results by major league team. I’m not claiming any breakthrough here, but the results are fun:

TEAM …..$ Spent
PHI …..260
ATL …..242
MIA …..240
WAS ……228
MIL ……226
CIN ……225
ARI ……222
COL ……206
SF …..201
LAD …..197
STL …..194
NYM …..146
SD …..139
CHC …..135
PIT …..131
HOU …..116

It’s not looking good for Houston fans, and Mets, Padres, Cubs and Pirates fans shouldn’t gloat.

Getting Less Flacid

I should be more rigid about condemning flacid writing (and thinking). We don’t have enough time in our days to sort through all the crap. At tonight, in the game preview for tomorrow’s Cards/Brewer’s Beer Bash,’s Mike Bauman wrote:

“For a time, the Brewers were seemingly in denial about Marcum’s slump, chalking up his poundings to pitching with bad luck. Now, cognitive progress is being made. The first step toward solving a problem is admitting that you have a problem. The slump is being seen as a combination of not being as sharp as he was earlier in the season and bad luck.”

I like his aggressive style, but really, he’s hyping here the way those acronymically diverse wrestling and kickboxing organiztions do. What we want to know is what evidence there is why Marcum’s success in the first five months has cratered.

The answer doesn’t have to be definite. Especially if luck is a factor, which it seems to be in this case. Marcum early success somewhat lucky, late failure somewhat unlucky. But to add such writerly and faux analytical touches to a story that hypes such totally dreamland ideas of starting Narveson over Marcum in Game 6 is just shoddy. Or maybe even, dare I say it, pandering.

Whoops, I just pandered. fail

I love that I can watch any baseball game I want as long as it doesn’t involve the Yankees or Mets on my computer and Roku box and iPod Touch. I pay MLB $120 to watch on my computer and Roku box, and another $15 to watch on the Touch, but it’s worth it. Really.

Except, like tonight, when I tried to check into the Anaheim-Seattle game in the 9th inning. I’m logged in at MLB (they know my name), and my bills are paid (though I’m not including a copy of my receipt here, but trust me), and when I try to check into the game (which ironically enough is the “free” game of the day) I get this:

What’s the problem? I don’t know. I do know that they know I’m logged in to the site, and I’m logged in from my home network, and I’m trying to watch the game that is the “free” game, and I’m paid up, so I also know they’re just failing totally.

If you’re a fan and you understand the blackout rules and you’re okay with them, this is still a great service. But this bogus verification step makes me mad. I’m the customer. When your verification systems fails, give me the game, and sort our your problems on your own time. (Oh, it’s over now. Too late.)

I’m still mad.