September 24, 2016


Mike Trout should have 4 of these by now
The baseball regular season is nearing its end, and the MVP voter’s ballots are due soon.  And as usual there is a lot of talk about who should win and fans of individual players or teams make passionate arguments to convince others why they should vote for their guy.

What is the defined criteria for MVP?  Well, eligible voters are given the following guidelines: 

There is no clear-cut definition of what Most Valuable means. It is up to the individual voter to decide who was the Most Valuable Player in each league to his team. The MVP need not come from a division winner or other playoff qualifier.

The rules of the voting remain the same as they were written on the first ballot in 1931:
1.  Actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense.
2.  Number of games played.
3.  General character, disposition, loyalty and effort.
4.  Former winners are eligible.
5.  Members of the committee may vote for more than one member of a team.
You are also urged to give serious consideration to all your selections, from 1 to 10. A 10th-place vote can influence the outcome of an election. You must fill in all 10 places on your ballot. Only regular-season performances are to be taken into consideration.
Keep in mind that all players are eligible for MVP, including pitchers and designated hitters.
Ok, nothing too specific, but there is always the usual controversy over whether MVP means best player in the league, or most “valuable” to his team.

What’s the difference you may ask?  Well, when the best player in the league plays for a losing team, fans of a good player on a playoff team will use a variation of “Well, team X could have finished in last without player Y so how ‘valuable’ was he really?”  (By the way, this year X = Angels, Y = Mike Trout).

August 06, 2016

Big Papi's Farewell in Seattle Includes 1st Contract

Courtesy Twitter / @mariners 
In spite of David Ortiz having started his MLB career with the Twins, it was Seattle that signed him to his first professional contract. Back in 1992, the Mariners signed 17 year old David Arias as an amateur free agent.  But in the summer of 1996, they were a few games out of first place and wanting to increase their productivity from 3rd base, traded a player to be named later for Minnesota's Dave Hollins.  A few weeks later Ortiz was the player named to finalize the Hollins trade. The trade boosted the Mariners lineup a bit, but they still ended up 3 games out of a playoff spot.  Still, it was fairly unnoteworthy at a time, not many fans lamented that trade.  Alas, what could have been having Ortiz join the Mariners lineup in the late 90s with ARod, Griffey, Edgar and the rest.

Anyhow, prior to Wednesday night's game at Safeco the Mariners honored Ortiz and among other things gave him a framed copy of that first contract he signed. They also gave him a 34 pound salmon and some other stuff.

You can watch the whole video by clicking below:

August 01, 2016

Big Papi's last stop in Anaheim

Ortiz with a walkoff to clinch the 2004 ALDS against the Angels
(Courtesy Barry Chin / Globe Staff)
It's safe to say that this past weekend was the last time David Ortiz faced the Angels in his career. (In spite of Mike Trout, they ain't making the playoffs).  And he is probably lamenting that, as he has loved playing in Anaheim and against the Angels in his career, having many memorable moments. His first home run as a Red Sox came here in April 2003, when he pinch hit for Jeremy Giambi in the 14th inning and took a 2-0 pitch deep for the game winning home run (alas not a walkoff as those are infinitely harder to hit when you're on the road!).  And of course, no one will ever forget his extra inning Series winning walk off home run (pictured above, video heer)in the ALDS vs. the Angels in 2004 that helped propel the Red Sox to their first Championship in 86 years.  He also won the 2010 home run derby at Angel Stadium, defeating former and future teammate Hanley Ramirez while putting on a show hitting 32 balls out - which matches the total number of home runs he's hit against the Angels in 117 career starts.

Before Thursday's night Series opener, he was presented with a customized portrait by Mike Trout (doing his best Papi impersonation, wearing a big gold chain around his neck) and Albert Pujols which can be seen below:
(Courtesy of Jae C. Hong / AP)
You can enjoy the full video here

July 26, 2016

Why Trade Deadline Deals Make Little Difference

This is a random formula I found on fangraphs,
 which was NOT used in researching this article!
A series of twitter posts by fans who were convinced that the acquisition of Aroldis Chapman by the Cubs would guarantee them a World Series victory inspired this post.

Fans typically grossly overestimate how much difference a player can make to a team. And there are a couple of reasons why.  First of all, just using a basic WAR analysis, you can see that adding a superstar to replace an average player mid-season won’t make a huge difference in the odds of making the playoffs. For example, if you replaced Brock Holt with Mike Trout, based on their current season’s play extrapolated to end of season would give the Red Sox maybe 3 more wins.
If this seems doubtful consider an extreme, but simple case: Red Sox are losing by a run in the World Series in an NL park in extra innings with 2 outs, bases loaded and the pitcher’s spot due up.  David Ortiz is on the bench. Should you pinch hit?  OF COURSE, everybody knows you should, and it would be an immediately fireable offense for the manager to let the pitcher bat for himself. Assume Ortiz has a 35% chance of getting a hit and winning the game, and the pitcher is batting .150 (for simplicity, assume any hit will be a single that scores 2 runs, ignore walks and errors).  How much has pinch hitting increased your chance of winning?  Well, 65% of the time, Ortiz is going to make an out just like the pitcher would.  Also, 15% of the time the pitcher would get the winning hit just like Ortiz would.  It’s only the other 20% of the time that Ortiz will win the game where the pitcher batting wouldn’t.  Even in this extreme case, 80% of the time it doesn't matter that you have a better hitter at bat. 
But the other thing that fans and analysts often overestimate are the odds of a better team to beat an inferior team in a playoff series.  For example, a great 100 win team will beat a "barely made the playoffs" 90 win team only about 56% of the time in a single game1.  Using some basic math, this works out to them winning 61% of 3 of 5 Series and 63% of the time in a 7 game Series2.

If a team needs to win the LDS, LCS and WS, multiplying out the probabilities works out to under 25% probability that this team will win it all.  And that is assuming they get to play “weak” 90 win teams in all the Series.

June 24, 2016

Big Papi - Texas Farewell Completes Cowboy Costume

Unique pair of cowboy boots
(Courtesy Twitter @Rangers)
Last night was the Rangers turn to make a presentation to David Ortiz, during his last series in Texas. He already had his farewell in Houston, and this may be the last opportunity for Rangers fans to see him (barring a playoff visit).
He has loved to play at The Ballpark in Arlington, Ameriquest Field, Rangers Ballpark, Globe Life Park in Arlington, sporting a career .302 batting average and 19 HRs in just 57 career games there coming into this Series.

He also hit his first career home run there during his September 1997 callup with the Twins. Watch it here

Longhorn belt buckle
(Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports)
Almost looks like a real Cowboy!
(Bob Levey/Getty Images)
The Rangers gave him a pair of cowboy boots and a buckle, which will go well with the cowboy hat the Astros gave him earlier, if he ever needs a Hallowe'en costume.

Here's a video of the presentation

Unfortunately, after one of the best wins of the season, scoring 4 times with 2 outs in the 9th capping a 6 run comeback, on Friday night, the magic was gone yesterday, and they'll need to win a Clay Buchholz start to win the series this afternoon.  I give better odds of David Ortiz being mistaken for a real cowboy!

Meanwhile, don't forget to get your own Big Papi Farewell tour t-shirt:

Close up of back of shirt