310ToJoba: February 2010 Archives

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Sadly this is one of those rare weekends where I actually need to venture out of my Excel-riddled basement to accomplish things in the real world. This means I don't have anything particularly well thought-out to waste your time and bandwidth this morning, but I will present you with something that has been traveling around the interwebs for the past few days. Oh, would you look at that, it's the Vegas over/under numbers for every MLB team's win total!

Note: Unless we're talking about poker, I am not a good gambler. You should never listen to me in such matters. Ever. Seriously, your house might be at risk. But if pressed to lay some money on a few of these odds, I'd probably go with the following three:

LA Angels - 84. OVER. The Angels outperform every projections system every year, why not the Vegas line too?

Milwaukee- 80.5. OVER. The Cubs and the Brewers are vying for second in the NL Central. Surely the Brew Crew can finish .500!

Florida - 81. UNDER. This is a manly division, and the Mets have to be better than last year, based on lack of injuries alone. The Marlins will probably win 78.

Thoughts? Any of the lines jump out at you as being ridiculous? I didn't mention the Rays one, but that's a tempting bet too. It's also interesting to reconcile these Vegas numbers with the (now revised!) PECOTA projections and the CAIRO numbers, if you so choose.

So yeah, sorry for the lack of content. Feel free to talk amongst yourselves... or to keep Photoshopping Rob into pictures. Have a great weekend.

Title inspired by this guy. Covered in awesome fashion by these guys.

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So when my infinitely more competent weekend predecessor, a card-carrying member of the "Numbers Are Awesome Club" like myself, goes out of his way to show the necessity of tempering one's zeal when it comes to over-emphasizing the numbers... it has my attention. The points Drew made about Phillies sandwich-hawker slugger Ryan Howard are spot on and contain a wisdom that half the blogosphere should be lucky to demonstrate in their offerings on the interwebs. Yes, Ryan Howard is not good against left-handed pitching, but he does a lot of things exceptionally well that more than make up for this difference. Drew pointed out his impressive mashing of righties, and this led me to look at Howard's stats more closely myself to try to gain a better appreciation of the big fella's talent.

I was not disappointed, and what I found further solidifies the fact that "stats" and the "real world" aren't two realms constantly butting heads against each other. If anything, as one brilliant WoWie pointed out in my "work" from days of yore, stats are just a way to gain an appreciation of how truly great some of these players are. This is exactly what I found out in digging into Ryan Howard's numbers.

If you saw some of Howard's dingers from this past season, you know he can absolutely punish a fastball with impunity. This something we learn "from the eyes," by simply watching the game and being fans. But it turns out, the numbers say Howard is one of the most elite fastball hitters in the entire game. How good is he? Fifth overall in runs above average per 100 fastballs faced the last three years. His company? The likes of Pujols and A-Rod. More impressive? That over those same three years, Howard has been offered the lowest percentage of fastballs among all eligible hitters. That's some impressively efficient production, yes? The dude can hit the cheese. The eyes and the numbers say it. And just to put the icing on the cake, look at Howard's HR Tracker for 2009. That, my friends, is power, and power to all fields.

Your mind: sufficiently blown.

I'm speaking for myself here in chorus with Drew, but I would like to hear others' opinions on this reconciliation of the numbers and the "lived experience" of the game itself.

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Hey doodz, weekend writer here. Fantasy baseball season is fast-approaching and Rob was nice enough to expand the terms of my captivity duties to include setting up a new endeavor for the WoW community: an auction fantasy baseball league!

Just to clarify a few things, this is not a replacement for the usual, "standard" Walkoff Walk fantasy baseball endeavor. In fact, I'm told that Rob is still looking for participants for that funfest, so if you want in, you should definitely email him. I'll be there, so if you thrash me in the standings you can reap the added benefit of putting the stat nerd in his place!

This new auction league is just meant to give people yet another option. If you're in the normal league, feel free to join. If you really like auction leagues, sign up! If you're not really familiar with auction leagues but think they might be really fun (you'd be right), then sign up. The benefit of the auction league is it fixes such things as Rob giving himself the first five picks in the draft because anybody is allowed to bid on a player at any time, provided they have the appropriate fake funding. It's fair. It's entertaining. It requires you to demonstrate ingenuity. There will be efforts to drive up prices so that somebody gets stuck with a $21 Yuniesky Betancourt. Profanity will ensue. I don't know what the winner of this shindig will receive, but I'm sure we'll figure something out.

Here's the catch: since it's an auction league, attendance at the draft is nothing short of essential. As a result, this could be a huge pain in the ass to schedule. That's why I'm putting this post up. If you're interested in participating in the auction league, then send me an email. So I hope you're interested, but again, please recognize the necessity of a flexible schedule going in. As soon as I know there's enough interest, I'll throw out some ideas for dates and times within the circle of interested folk. Feel free to ask questions in the comments!

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Has the Early Bird special at diners across the United States gotten even cheaper over the past week? The behavior of a few big names in baseball would lead me to think so. While some other corners of the Internet are agog over the retirement of Frank Thomas, no doubt you also noticed that another big name, Tom Glavine, decided to hang up his cleats in favor of the greener pastures of yelling at kids to get off his lawn and trying to keep the Braves from ruining Tommy Hanson's golden arm.

Apparently it's my thing to pen retiring lefties who happen to be 300 game winners a "goodbye" post, so let's dive in, shall we? The funny thing is, aside from these aforementioned shared qualities, that's about where the similarity between these two guys stops. And it stops abruptly too. You probably recall how I was amazed at Randy Johnson's statistical dominance, especially in his strikeout numbers. With gaudy totals like that, it's no wonder the Big Unit achieved one of baseball's most impressive milestones.

Glavine though? It's almost the exact opposite. My nerd self is baffled. The guy is among the winningest lefty pitchers in baseball history, and yet his peripheral numbers don't strike fear in the hearts of men the way some of his contemporaries did. He never once struck out 200 batters in a season, and his career K/9 sits at a fairly low 5.32. His career WHIP is good, but not great, and a lot of the time his FIP was significantly higher than his sparkling ERA, a testament to the benefit of having a non-plantain'd Andruw Jones gobbling up fly balls with reckless abandon. Not surprisingly, The Big Unit also dominates his softer-tossing counterpart in WAR (91.8 to 67.0) despite throwing a lot less innings.

This is not to say that Tom Glavine was a bad pitcher... not in the least. He led the league in victories five times while winning two Cy Young awards, but his numbers indicate he did it in a lot less of an glitzy, overpowering manner. How did he do it? Well, from a sheer statistical standpoint, a large part of his success undoubtedly stems from the fact that for his career, Glavine was a very durable pitcher that averaged less than a hit per inning. Somehow, this guy, despite the fact that he was a.) not a strikeout pitcher and b.) not even particularly adroit at inducing grounders like his own teammate Greg Maddux, consistently denied opponents the opportunities to beat him. I'm looking for other statistical reasons to explain his success and there's nothing else jumping out at me. Weird. And it's even weirder when you consider there are pitchers who have far better peripheral numbers, but probably won't even come close to 300 victories when it's time to leave the game.

Well, hasn't this just thrown a mighty big wrench into the typical account of a "dominant" pitcher?

(Image courtesy of 'Duk, a veritable bounty of Coke Zero is headed your way.)

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This offseason has certainly been an interesting one if you look at it from the financial perspective. As one would expect, the amount of dollars spent on free agents this offseason is down significantly from just a year ago. Oddly enough, while most teams have been tightening their belts and refraining from signing egotistical players (hi, Johnny Damon!) that have priced themselves out of the market, a few teams have opened the checkbook in a big way to secure their young talent.

Since I'm a huge baseball nerd, I was born with the inherent belief that the "Player A / Player B" device is interesting and worthwhile. I apologize in advance for doing this. All numbers are for careers.

Player A: 3.78 FIP, 0.75 HR/9, 72.3 LOB%, 7.99 K/9, 116 ERA+

Player B: 3.54 FIP, 0.57 HR/9, 74.4 LOB%, 8.06 K/9, 125 ERA+

Player C: 3.78 FIP, 0.82 HR/9, 76.5 LOB%, 7.85 K/9, 128 ERA+

Player A? That's the recently extended Justin Verlander for the tidy sum of $80 million over five years. Player B is none other than the pictured Felix Hernandez, also extended in the new year for five years and $78 million. The final hurler? Oh, that's just Kris' horse in the (in)famous Bon Jovi Golden Pipes Wager, Jon Lester. Let me bring up his contact information here... What's this? 5 years and $30 million?

HOLY SHIT!

Bear in mind that Lester's deal was signed last offseason under different market conditions, but what does this all mean? On the one hand it's strange that the Tigers, who play in the recession-rocked city of Detroit, and who also already traded an affordable, cost-effective player for the purpose of "shedding salary" were apparently able to conjure cash out of the ether to extend Verlander. For two, the deals for King Felix and Verlander likely bode well for Tim Lincecum and his flowing mane of awesomeness. And lastly, why is Theo Epstein so good at his job and even more so in hindsight? Lester is arguably the best of the three, especially when you consider he's getting pennies compared to the other two. At this point, my obvious respect for Theo Epstein is rivaled only by Rob's closeted adoration of HIMYM.

Image of Felix le roi courtesy of flickr user carmenicole