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

June 13, 2016

Big Papi - Last Return to Minnesota

Yes, that is Big Papi!
Before David Ortiz became Big Papi and a three time World Series champion with the Red Sox, he was simply known as David Arias - a Twins 1st baseman/DH fighting for his share of playing time.  And most people remember that great trade prior to the 2003 season, when the Twins traded Ortiz to the Red Sox for, um, well, nothing really. He was actually outright released and the Sox acquired him for no cost.  And ever since, Oritz has feasted against Twins pitching, hitting .323 with 20 home runs in 67 career games. In particular, he's loved visiting Target Field, where after getting a single and a double in last night's game, his career average which was .435 there actually dropped.  He has also hit 9 long flys in just 17 games.

So, it wouldn't be surprising if the Twins were a little bitter at all the success he's had in his post-Minnesota career.  But they were good sports about it and honored him prior to the game last night.  First of all they presented a cheque to Pucket's Scholar's Program - Kirby Puckett was a good friend of his, and is the reason he chose #34 when he came to Boston.  But more entertaining was the story his old teammates shared involving his "tidy whities and peanut butter".  You have to watch the video for all the details.

If you want your own Farewell tour t-shirt there's still time to get it here:
Farewell Tour t-shirt

June 08, 2016

Big Papi gets a San Francisco cable-car bell

Ortiz with McCovey and a couple of former WS Champion teammates
Another infrequently played at NL park was the latest stop on David Ortiz' farewell tour.  He's only played in San Francisco a few times, starting 6 games since 2004.  But that didn't stop the Giants from having all-time great Willie McCovey (who is currently, but not for long, ahead of Ortiz on the all-time home run list 521 to 519), make a presentation before the start of last night's game. Also on hand were a pair of World Series Champion teammates, Javier Lopez from the 2007 team and Jake Peavy from 2013.

They presented him with a cable-car bell to commemorate his last regular season trip to San Francisco.

Here is video of the ceremony

May 22, 2016

Jackie Effin' Baseball!

It's a bird. It's a plane. It's Superman!  Nope, it's just Jackie Baseball!
In case you've been living under a rock and hadn't noticed, Jackie Bradley Jr. is finally hitting the way we all thought he would when he first got called up in 2013. Despite gold glove level centerfield play, his .189 and .198 batting averages his first two seasons kept him from sticking in the majors.  In fact, he had a historically bad offensive start to his career. And lots of people were just hoping that he could be close to an average hitter to keep his glove on the field.  He spent most of the early part of the 2015 season in Pawtucket, only starting a dozen games for the Red Sox before August. But then he came up for good and hit over .350 and showed some power, hitting 5 home runs that month, more than he had in total in two and a half part seasons prior to that.  Unfortunately he regressed a bit in September and a lot of naysayers were saying it was a fluke / pitchers learned how to adjust to him / it wasn't sustainable etc.