Monday, January 31, 2005

Nats' PECOTA

Others, including Nationals Pastime, have already written at length about Baseball Prospectus's PECOTA projections for each of our beloved Nats. Without going over the ground that has been covered by others, I thought I'd touch on a couple of interesting projections. [For background on the PECOTA projections, click here]
  • Highest OBP - Nick Johnson (.381)
  • Highest AVG - Jose Vidro (.284)
  • Highest SLG - J.J. Davis (.492)
  • Most HR - Jose Guillen (23)
  • Highest VORP - Jose Vidro (30.0)
  • Lowest ERA (Starters) - Tomo Okha (3.96)
  • Lowest ERA (Relievers) - Luis Ayala (3.47)
  • Most Strikeouts - Livan Hernandez (151)
  • Highest VORP - Livan Hernandez (30.7)

J.J. Davis, by the way, is a journeyman who played for the Pirates last year and was acquired by the Nationals....um...somehow. Anyhoo, PECOTA says that J.J. Davis will be the Nationals' feel-good player of the summer, producing 9 home runs in 172 at bats. It's a little sad that he leads the team in slugging percentage, don't you? Among regulars, Jose Guillen takes the cake with a .489 mark.

Terrmel Sledge looks to continue to improve under PECOTA - putting up a .271/.349/.448 line in 382 at bats. If you projected him over 550 at bats, he would hit about 20 home runs and 30 doubles.

How do the Nats' offseason pickups fare? You didn't ask that, did you? Because you don't want to know. Guess who is who.

Pickup A: .245 AVG, .297 OBP, .411 SLG

Pickup B: .263 AVG, .301 OBP, .367 SLG

Does it really matter who is who with lines like that? But, if it makes you feel better, Orlando Cabrera projects to .268/.318/.396 for Anaheim. And he cost the Angels $8 million per year.

The good news is that the pitching looks effective. Livan Hernandez projects to 200 innings and a sub-4 ERA. Okha and Patterson better the league average in ERA. Jon Rauch puts up a 4.46 ERA. Gary Majewski, heretofore batting practice, puts up a nice 3.88 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 51 relief innings. The bad news is that Tony Armas, Jr. is projected not to recover well from his injuries and put up a 4.89 ERA.

Projections are always interesting. But they do play the games for real. And the bottom line to the 2005 Nationals - something that will be remembered long after Brad Wilkerson's on-base percentage is calculated - is that games will be played in DC again.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Sports and Movies

I've been trying to think of my favorite sports movies in response to Dexys' post about the Oscars, but the more I think about it, I'm of the view that sports and movies don't really mix, because they are substitutes for one another. I watch sports for the drama -- indeed, drama where no one knows the ending, and where there can be more than one protagonist (the team you are rooting for). I watch movies for the same thing. Roger Angell wrote a good column on this entitled "No, But I Saw The Game", which you can find in here.

So, to me, the best sports movies are the ones where you see the stuff you don't see in the games -- that's why I have to say my favorite baseball movie is Bull Durham, because it parodied the world of being a pro ballplayer in way that carried a lot of truth (in the same way that Spinal Tap parodied the recording industry perfectly). My favorite part is where Crash Davis give Nuke the cliche answers to reporters' questions before he heads up to the majors. Every time I see a ballplayer interviewed I think of that scene.

Follow Up On ERV Differentials

In all the statistics I presented in my earlier post arguing that the differences in HR, BB and K are largely determinative of a team's success, I did not present the correlation coefficients between the various differentials and games over .500. That's mostly because until Friday night, I didn't know Excel had a function that calculated correlation coefficients. Here they are:

HR Differential/Games over .500 = .7383 (a high correlation)
BB Differential/Games over .500 = .6781 (moderately high correlation)
K Differential/Games over .500 = .4507 (weak correlation)
ERV Differential/Games over .500 = .8569 (very high correlation)
ERV BB/HR Differential/Games over .500 = .8303 (also very high)

The bottom line is that you can pretty much throw out K differential as a key factor in team success. But like the Beane Count suggests, walks and home runs are the most important factors in a team's success.

How do our Nats' fare in these departments? They had a -40 HR differential and a -86 walk differential. Since Guzman/Castilla are pretty much a wash with Cabrera/Batista, I don't expect the HR numbers to improve for the Nats much. On the pitching side, Esteban Loaiza won't help the HR differential much...unless he's the 2003 version of Esteban Loaiza.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Nats And United

There is a new and interesting story about how the Nats and DC United will be sharing RFK. Apparently, the United cannot play on a dirt infield, meaning that "grass trays" will be carted in and installed when the United need to play in RFK. The process will take 72 hours to prepare RFK for a United home game and another 48 hours to return it to the Nats' home field.

That doesn't leave a lot of room for the United to play a lot of home games. The Nats need at least a 5 day road trip in order for the United to play a home game. Here are the list of possibilities (based on the Nats' home schedule):

May 4-11
May 22-27
June 15-21
July 10-16
July 27-30
August 10-21
September 14-18

That's only 7 windows, only a couple of which are probably long enough for 2 MLS games. Since the United have 18 home games per year it seems like the United will either have ridiculously bunched home games or are going to have to find another place to play besides RFK for a number of their games.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

ERV Differential - All You Need?

Tom Verducci recently wrote an odd column in which he argues that walks are equivalent to turnovers in the NFL. He also tries to correlate walk differential with winning percentage on a very rough basis - showing the top 5 and bottom 5 teams in walk differential and their won-loss records. Verducci explains his thought process:


I've begun to think in recent years that the giveaway/takeaway equivalent
in baseball is walks. Get more of them than you give away and chances are good you'll have a winning team, even a playoff team. For instance, of the 11 clubs last year that posted a walk differential better than plus-30, 10 of them had winning records. Six of those made the playoffs. The lone losing team to go better than plus-30? Hold on to your stein: It was Milwaukee, a great credit to the job pitching coach Mike Maddux is doing there. Only St. Louis and San Diego walked fewer batters than the Brewers last year in the NL.
I find it odd that Verducci would make that statement without getting any statistical help. It's a simple linear regression - walk differential vs.games over .500. Well, I plugged in the team walk differentials and games above or below .500 for 2003 and 2004 and got an r-squared value of .4599, meaning that, statistically speaking 46% of the variance in games over .500 can be explained by a team's walk differential.

Now, Verducci's column is not the first place the importance of walk differential has been recognized. Rob Neyer's Beane Count tracks the rankings of teams in walks and home runs, suggesting that these are critical elements to a team's success. Those rankings, however, measure relative rankings, not absolute differentials in walks and home runs. The problem is, there are no real good ways to combine walks and home runs into one stats....or are there?

That's when I decided to combine walk differential, strikeout differential, and home run differential into one statistic and try to analyze them versus the success of a team. The natural means to combine those statistics is ERV - the expected run value of each event. ERV has been explained and calculated in this space before. In short, walks are worth .337 expected runs, home runs are worth 1.391 expected runs, and strikeouts are worth -.296 expected runs. So I took the walk, strikeout and home run differentials of all major league teams in 2003 and 2004 and ran a linear regression against their games over .500, and here's what I got:


The .7393 r-squared value is pretty high, suggesting that a very high percentage of a team's success can be attributed to just three statistics - K, BB and HR. These statistics, of course, are defense-independent events or the "Three True Outcomes" in baseball. And, in fact, the majority of the success can be attributed to BB and HR only - I ran the same linear regression on the ERV value of BB and HR differential as well, and got a r-squared of .6894 - indicating that K differential, on its own, adds little (5% or so) explanatory power [in fact, a linear regression of strikeout differential and games over .500 got an r-squared of .20 in 2003-04. When I ran the same one for 2004 only, the r-squared was about .07]. I'm not sure if I'm not reinventing the wheel here, but it does suggest that getting players who can walk and hit home runs and pitchers that do not give up walks and do not give up homers is the key to success.

Now, there are problems with this - one of which is that my ERV calculation is not based on perfect (just good) data and might be off a bit, as I explained in the orginal ERV post, and because I didn't calculate ERV in 2003, just using the ERV K/BB/HR values for 2004. But, in general, it makes the point as to how much the value the defense-independent events make to a team's overall success, all other things being equal.

As with my prior posts on ERV, if you send an e-mail to natsblog@gmail.com, I'll send you my data.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Nats Fan Club Meeting - Tonight

Just spreading the news already spread by BallWonk!:
The Nats Fan Club will gather downtown at Fado on Wednesday evening, January 26, not long after 6:00. Here are the details:
Fado Irish Pub
808 7th Street NW
Washington, DC
(202) 789-0066
Half a block from the Gallery Place Metro stop
We at Nats Blog heartily endorse this event or product. Speaking of Fado, it raises a mystery I've never solved. I have traveled to Ireland and found that it is true that the Guinness tastes better in Ireland - it's a bit sweeter and thicker. Have they ever figured this one out?

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Oscar thoughts

Well, surprisingly neither Mr. 3000 nor Surviving Christmas got any nominations, which means once again the Oscars will be faced with massive boycotts and picketing.

But now that the nominations are out, I thought I'd start two discussion lines in one:

1. I thought it was a really great year for movies, maybe the best since 1998 when Shakespeare in Love, Saving Private Ryan, Life Is Beautiful, The Truman Show and some other good ones were all released.

I'm extremely surprised Ray got all those nominations--haven't seen it yet, and no shock that Jamie Foxx got nominated (and from what I hear so far should win), but it got panned by a lot of critics and didn't get nominated for any of the other major critics awards for anything but Foxx's acting.

The only one I am a bit saddened by is that Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind didn't get nominated (not that I thought it would since it came out last March, but still, I loved it that much). I'm not sure if I have ever walked out of a movie feeling as good about it as I did for that one--best movie I have seen in years. I would have knocked out Sideways or (based only on the reviews I have read) Ray to put Eternal Sunshine in.

Of the five nominated movies, I haven't seen Ray and Aviator yet (but plan to in the next couple of weeks for both), but did see Million Dollar Baby, Finding Neverland, and Sideways, and would rank them in that order. Million Dollar Baby was exceptional, Finding Neverland was great, and Sideways was very good and well done, but nothing that special in my mind. (What I can't believe is that I keep hearing it called a "buddy comedy"--my wife thought it was an extremely depressing movie, and while I might not go that far, it was definitely not a comedy--it was a drama with a few humorous parts).
Anyway, if you have seen any of the films or other films this year, would be curious to hear your thoughts on the films, the acting, who got snubbed (haven't seen Kinsey or Hotel Rwanda, but surprised Ray came in above them, the latter especially, from what I have heard).

2. Since this is a baseball site...my opinion is that The Natural is hands-down the best sports movie of all time (with Hoosiers #2) and that Bull Durham, while very very good, is vastly overrated (so what if I put Major League above it :-p). Thoughts? Thoughts on other baseball movies?

Monday, January 24, 2005

New owners not to come for a long time

Jayson Stark is reporting that the Nationals won't have new owners until at least July. This should give Jim Bowden just enough time to unload Brad Wilkerson and Jose Vidro at the trading deadline in exchange for Albert Belle, two players to be named later, and a stack of low-fat American cheese and a quarter pound of Havarti with Dill.

Friday, January 21, 2005

RFK Getting Ready



I saw this picture on washingtonpost.com today, and I have to say, it gives me goosebumps just looking at it. RFK really is a baseball stadium underneath it all. It may not be the prettiest stadium. It may not be Camden Yards. But in about three months, it will have Major League Baseball being played in it. And for that, it's the most beautiful thing in the world.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Now Osuna

Jim Bowden apparently likes ex-White Sox. Today, he signed free-agent reliever Antonio Osuna to a 1-year, $800,000 contract. Osuna had a stellar 2.46 ERA last year in 36 2/3 relief innings for the Padres. He even sported a 36/11 K/BB ratio, and allowed just 3 home runs. His contract is a very good one if he could repeat that performance.

Here's what I know about Osuna. He'll be 32 in April and, at times, has let his waistline expand somewhat. He features a good screwball, which allows him to be relatively effective against lefthanded hitters - his career stats show a similar batting average against for lefties and righties.

I also know that he's got a, well, interesting hairdo at times. Think Eriq LaSalle in Coming to America. I think he might have lost it recently, but you know it's in there, waiting to get out.

Note that the Nationals have signed three players this offseason - Osuna, Loaiza, and Castilla - who are all Mexican born. I've often thought that it would be interesting to see teams be stronger in terms of recruiting from specific countries - i.e., the White Sox and Venezuela - but I'm not sure if it's ever worked out that way.

Upside to these acquisitions - bigger audience for El Zol. [RIP, HFS].

Loaiza agrees to $2.9M deal

ESPN is reporting that Esteban Loaiza agrees to $2.9M, one-year deal with the Nats. Good old Steve made $4 million last year to serve batting practice up to the American League.

Quothe Jim Bowden:
This is a pitcher who has started an All-Star Game and performed at high levels in tight pennant races and the postseason, so he offers the veteran presence that we covet to help develop our young pitchers.
Well, I can't dispute the fact that Loaiza started the 2003 All-Star Game in U.S. Cellular Field for the American League.

Performing at high levels in tight pennant races...well, I don't know about that. [Aside - does Bowden expect the Nats to be in a pennant race during the length of Loaiza's contract? This year?]. I was there for the White Sox pennant run in 2003 (not literally, but I followed it closely as a lifelong Pale Hose fan), and I seem to remember that Loaiza choked in a critical September 16th game against the Twinkies and gave up 5 runs in a critical September 11th game against the Twinkies. Two starts in the stretch against division rivals. Two losses - allowing 9 ER in 9 1/3 innings.

If Loaiza can be half the pitcher he was in 2003 - say, a 3.90 ERA and 150Ks over 220 innings - this will be a very good signing. But if we get the Steve from prior years or from 2004, he's just taking up the roster spot of a young Nats starter.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Love For Termel Sledge

If you haven't seen it already, ESPN's Jon Sickels takes a question about the Nats' outfield in 2005. The premise of the question is a little odd - assuming Jose Guillen plays centerfield - but the bottom line is that Sickels likes Termel Sledge in 2005. Among other things, he notes:
Sledge hit .286/.357/.515 on the road last year, but only .250/.314/.406 at home. Getting out of the Olympic Stadium dungeon should do him a lot of good. We don't know exactly how RFK Stadium will play, of course, but a major improvement in Sledge's numbers is certainly possible.

I'm not sure why he calls Stade Olympique a "dungeon," but it played at a 95/96 park factor in 2004, after being neutral to slightly hitter-friendly in prior years. Given that our analysis suggests that RFK will play to about a 96 park factor, I wouldn't be surprised if Sledge's home/road breakdowns would stay relatively the same. However, another year of experience under his belt and the fact that he's coming into his prime should help more than anything. Here's the 2005 Termel Sledge slogan: Expect Better Than Mediocre Things.

Monday, January 17, 2005

A good start ...

So, I was thinking, "What do the Nats have to do to make the playoffs this year?" (you can do these kinds of things in January). Anyway, more precisely, what kind of pace do they need to maintain for playoff contention? I reviewed the records of the 80 playoff teams since they were expanded in 1995, and found some interesting things. First, no team that has won 97 or more games has failed to make the playoffs. Only one team that won 96 failed -- the 1999 Reds, who lost a playoff game to the Mets. On the other end, the worst record to make the playoffs is 84-78, the 1997 Astros. But that's a bit of a fluke, as they were the only team to do that, and no team with 85 or 86 wins have made it. When you get to 88 wins, 8 teams have made it, so that is really the low end of the serious contenders.

That means the real target is 88 to 96 wins. The average record for playoff teams is 95 wins. The amazing thing about baseball is that the difference between 87 wins (out) and 97 wins (in) is less than one game in every ten. In other words, if you go 5-5 every ten games, you are out. If you go 6-4, you're pretty much in. Just one game about every two weeks. SuperNoVa's White Sox blog tracks the 10-game segments during the season, which is a very useful way to measure progress, but also reveals what a punishing march the entire season is. (You can see there that the 2004 White Sox were holding their own until Segments 10 through 13, where simply going 4-6 for four straight segments killed their playoff chances.).

My rule of thumb has been that a team should play .500 ball on the road and take 2 of 3 at home, which gives you 95 wins (54-27 home and 41-40 road), and pretty good shot at post-season. The problem is that that is a tough pace to keep up.

But what about the Nats? Our problem is the April schedule, which makes it tough to start out on a playoff pace, as we play all the Eastern teams, who are good on paper, except for the home opener series against Arizona. As I see it, we will need to sweep the D'Backs and pick one East team to beat up on (my guess is Florida) to overcome the expected losses against the Phils, Braves and Mets. But even maintaining .500 ball for April will be an accomplishment, so if we go 5-5 and 5-5 for our first two 10-game segments in April, that would be terrific. On the other hand, I wouldn't be surprised if we go 3-7 and 2-8.

[Edit: During the season, we will track the Nats against the Playoff Pace using a hypothetical team that wins and loses games according to the pace. For example, when the Nats are at home, the Pace Team goes like this: Win, Win, Loss, Win, Win, Loss. When the Nats are on the road, the Pace Team goes: Win, Loss, Win, Loss. We'll update the "standings" as the season progesses.]

[May 2006 Update] Due to circumstances beyond our control, we can no longer in good conscience provide Playoff Pace. We have refocused our efforts to a more realistic measure of the Nats 2006 season: the Royals Watch. SuperNoVa mentioned about a month ago that our personnel had dropped to the Royals level, so we'll track that for the rest of the season.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Moneyball Debate

This is a very engaging, almost LOL debate at Baseball America's website between "stat" guys (including Voros McCracken) and "scout" guys over the whole "Moneyball" issue -- whether teams should assess players based on stats or scouting or both. It reads more like a teleplay than real debate, with Eddie Bane of the Angels playing the role of grizzled scout rejecting the devotion to stats, and McCracken the cool statistician, confident in the evidence on his side. (After you've read it, ask yourself, does Eddie really have any clue what DIPS is -- he keeps saying "we read all the DIPS stuff" like someone touting how his computer has a lot of "megahertz" in it). Note that (re: SuperNova's post on Loaiza) one thing McCracken would like to have is a database of radar gun readings for pitchers. (Tip: Nationals Review)

Nats Interested in Loaiza

I heard this morning driving in (specifically, when I was taking an illegal left turn onto D street, S.W.) that the Nats were interested in Esteban Loaiza, one of the ultimate rags-to-riches-to-rags pitchers of all time (confirmation of said interest at MLB.com is here).

Here is Steve's career thus far:

Year(s)H/9K/9BB/9HR/9ERA
Before 200310.555.442.561.164.88
20037.798.232.230.682.90
200410.675.753.491.575.70


As a White Sox fan, and having watched Steve throw gem after gem in 2003, I can say that Loaiza does have greatness in him. He was truly amazing in 2003, and even though we kept expecting the real Loaiza to show up (i.e., the pre-2003 one), he maintained his performance pretty well throughout the year.

Unfortunately, that may have only been one year's worth of greatness. He threw 226 innings in 2003, by far the most in his career. In 2004, the speed of all his pitches was down, and hitters started laying off his cut fastball and teeing off on his fastball. Whereas his fastball was consistently 94 mph in 2003, he had real trouble breaking 90 in 2004. After he was moved into the bullpen and rested by the Yankees, he did pitch well in the playoffs for the Yankees - he had a 1.08 ERA (although with a 1.44 WHIP) in 8 1/3 innings of relief. His velocity was (anecdotally) also up in the playoffs.

This is kind of a puzzling interest on behalf of the Nats. The possible rotation - Livan Hernandez, Zach Day, Tony Armas Jr., Tomo Okha and Jon Rauch - is not altogether offensive. In fact, it's down right presentable when you consider that Rauch has a lot of upside and Okha has pitched well his entire career. So the Nats are not in desparate need of a starter such that they need to take a flyer on Loaiza.

Loaiza, hoping to cash in on the irrationality of this offseason's spending on free agents, is apparently holding out for a multi-year deal priced at untold millions per year. All Nats GM Bowden will say is that "if Loaiza does not knock his price down, we cannot compete." The word compete suggests that Loaiza has apparently attracted multiple teams willing to give him a multimillion multiyear deal.

The word "pass" comes to mind, Jim. 1 year $1.5 million sounds about right. Let him pitch his way into a bigger contract. The Germans have a saying about this - Einmal ist keinmal (literally, "one time is no time") - something that happens once (Loaiza's 2003 season) might as well have never happened at all (when negotiating his next contract). See also Jaret Wright. Accord Carl Pavano.

Monday, January 10, 2005

$17 million per year?

I write this as a disheartened Mets fan.... So, I know they are trying to make splashes on the back page, but didn't we think that the A-Rod & Manny Ramirez fiascos made people realize that this kind of contract can just kill a team?

If Beltran turns out to be great and the Mets find that they can also build a team around them (and they better, because they are missing many pieces), so be it. But if he's not, this contract makes him absolutely untradeable (unless the Yanks take him or the Mets just suck up a bunch of the money).

Beltran is a great player but this reminds me a bit of Antonio McDyess. Back in the 1996 NCAA tourney, McDyess was a known but not superlative player at Alabama. But in the first round, I watched him throw down 39 points and 19 rebounds against Penn and thought "this guy just made himself a few million bucks in one night." After he put up 22 points and 17 boards against Oklahoma St. in a loss, sure enough McDyess left school early and was the #2 pick overall, signing a big contract. Compare that to Beltran's 2004 playoff performance. Beltran is a true "five tool" player, but it is hard to imagine the Mets overpaying by this much if he didn't make people drool over a two-week span in October.

Let's examine a couple of the flaws in this signing: 1) there will be a lot of pressure in home games, since last I checked, New York can be, oh let's say, a somewhat hostile place if you don't perform. Beltran hit (not a typo) .225 at home last year. Now he hit better at home than on the road his prior couple of years, but still, that is a shockingly low number. 2) While he does have good OBP numbers, hitting .267 like last year just will not get it done in the press and could backfire on Minaya. 3) Last year was a career high for him at OPS.....with .915, a nice number, but not a number that makes you say, let's get him to go for a long contract at a staggering salary.

I hope I am wrong, but I would hate to see this be the contract that keeps the Mets in the basement for the next 7 years.

Word From On High

TO: ALL WASHINGTON NATIONALS SEASON TICKET HOLDERS
FROM: NATIONALS TICKET SALES AND SERVICE DEPARTMENT
SUBJECT: SEASON TICKET UPDATE

Thank you for purchasing 2005 Washington Nationals full-season tickets. We appreciate your support and patience while we've launched the organization ovethe past three (3) months.

Over the next week, we will be completing the season ticket location process. You will receive an e-mail and an invoice in the mail with your 2005 full-season seat location no later than Friday, January 21. Payment in full for your season tickets will be due on or before Friday, February 4.

If you have any questions after receiving your invoice and seat location, please contact us at 202-675-NATS (6287). Our office hours will be 8:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. from Tuesday, January 18 through Friday, February 4.

Thanks for being on our inaugural team. We look forward to seeing you at RFK Stadium this spring.

ERV Scoring, Deluxe Edition

Based on the fine comments to this post on my ERV scoring system, I've thought some more about it and came up with an idea for a "Deluxe Edition" of ERV (you don't need to use it, but it makes you cooler if you do) that might address the main concerns raised in the comments.

The main criticism of the ERV Standard Edition is that it is good at valuing actions relative to the inning, but not relative to the game, in that it values the game winning single the same as the single that makes the score 12-1 instead of 12-0. A related criticism was that it sometimes did not adequately value the batter who actually caused a run to occur -- I call this the "Cabrera Problem" after my example from the earlier post, where Cabrera hits a sac fly to score a runner from third but gets a 0 RV. I think the Deluxe Edition takes care of both problems. And most importanly, I think it does so meeting the strict, paramount, external constraint on the ERV system -- it must be something I can compute on paper with a dog in one hand and few beers consumed

I started with the notion that you can analyze the "state of the game" with ERV just as you analyze the "state of the inning". ERV tells us that the average team scores 0.5 runs per inning, or 4.5 runs per game. Thus, at any point you can calculate what the expected runs per game is for each team, and thus which team will win if the averages play out. For example, at the first batter of the game, each team is expected to score 4.5 runs, so the game is tied.

Now, let's assume the Visitors score 1 run in the top of the first. According to ERV, they will score 5 runs in this game (the 1 they just scored, then 0.5 for each of the remaining 8 innings, or 4.0 more, for a total of 5). Now, what about the Home team's chances of winning? If they just score the ERV average, they will lose 5.0 to 4.5. They need to make up the 1 run to avoid a loss. So, instead of 0.5 runs per inning, they need to score 0.556 runs per inning (5 runs divided by 9), or an additional 0.056 runs per inning. Let's round that off to 0.1 run per inning, or 1 RV.

What about later innings, like the 7th, for example? Let's say a game is scoreless until the top of the seventh, when the Visitors score 1 run. ERV says they will score 2 runs that game (the 1 they have scored, plus 0.5 for each of the 2 remaining innings, or 1, for a total of 2.) Now, ERV says the Home team will score 1.5 in its remaining at bats, but they need to score 2 to avoid a loss, so they need to score 0.67 runs per inning at least, or 0.17 extra runs per inning, which we can round off to 2 RV extra per run.

Why only go-ahead or lead-building runs? These are the only types of runs that make the opponents job of avoiding a loss harder. If my team is winning 7-2, and the other guys score 2 runs, according to ERV we'll each score the same for the rest of the game and I win by 3 runs without doing any extra work. So, it is key to remember that the Deluxe Edition requires a new approach only for those runs that create a lead or add to a lead. This is why it is relatively simple to implement.

Simple? After all this explanation? Yes. Because I've done the work for you. I have calculated the Win Value (as I call it) of each run for each inning for Home and Visitors, in the table below:




Team 12345678910
Visitors1111112355
Home1122335101010


These values can be easily added to the ERV scoresheet, at the top next to each Inning number for Visitors and Home.

What do you use these numbers for? Remember that in Basic ERV, when a run is scored, you add 10 to the normal comparison of states to account for the run that crossed the plate. Now, in ERV Deluxe, if a go-ahead or lead-building run is scored, you add the corresponding Win Value above to the 10 RV, based on the inning you are in.

Here's a good (but heart-breaking for me) example, from the top of the eighth inning in Game 4 of the 1993 World Series between Toronto and the Phils. Going into the inning, the Phils were winning 14-9. The Win Value for the Top of the Eighth is 3.

Larry Andersen pitching for the Phils
Alomar grounds out, -2 RV
Carter singles +2 RV, (runner on 1st, 1 out)
Olerud walks, +5 RV, (1st & 2d, 1 out)
Molitor doubles, run scores, 14-10 Phils, +15 RV (2d & 3d, 1 out) (Note: he gets 5 RV for moving the state from 12-/1 to -23/1, and 10 RV for the run scoring. No WV is applied, because they still trail 14-10)
Mitch Williams comes in to pitch (pit forms in my stomach, even today)
Fernandez singles, run scores, 14-11 Phils, +7 RV (1st & 3d, 1 out) (Note: he gets -3 RV for moving the state from -23/1 to 1-3/1, plus 10 RV for the run, but again no WV as they still trail)
Borders walks, +4 RV (bases loaded, 1 out)
Sprague strikes out, -8 RV (bases loaded, 2 outs)
Henderson singles, two runs score, 14-13 Phils, +17 RV (1st & 2d, 2 outs) (Note: he gets -3 RV for moving the state from 123/2 to 12-/2, but plus 20 RV for the runs scoring. Again, no WV applied)
White triples, two runs score, 15-14 Toronto, +22 RV (3d, 2 outs). (Note: He gets -1 RV for moving the state from 12-/2 to --3/2, but gets plus 20 for the two runs, plus 3 for Win Value, as he knocked in the go-ahead run worth +3 in the 8th inning).
Alomar grounds out, -4 RV

Totals: 55 RV, 3 WV for the Blue Jays. Mitch Williams has a -38 RV for 6 batters faced.

Note that if Morandini had walked and Lenny Dykstra had hit a home run in the bottom of the Eighth to take the lead again, it would have been worth 28 RV for Dykstra (20 for the two runs, 10 for the one WV, -2 for the change in states). Alas, they both struck out.

This solves the Cabrera problem because if Cabrera's sac fly scored a go-ahead run, then he would get a WV added to it, which in his case (Top of Fourth) he would get a +1 RV.

I think this accurately accounts for game situation in ERV without a lot of extra work. I'd be grateful for any comments or suggestions, especially those picking up something I missed. One question I'm not sure on is excluding game-tying runs from any WV adjustment. My rationale is that a tying run does make it harder for the opponent to avoid a loss, so it should not get credit, since the WV are calculated based on the extra runs needed to avoid a loss. Any thoughts on that issue would also be helpful.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Wilkerson Signs Deal

Rotoworld sez that Brad Wilkerson and the Nats have agreed to a 1-year $3.05 million deal. Happily enough, this amount is about $500k less than the $3.5 million deal I predicted about six weeks ago. We'll see how the other salaries shake out, but Brad Wilkerson at $3 million is one of the better contracts in the National League. He gets on base, he hits homers, and he can play any position in the outfield, including centerfield.

Nobody doesn't like Brad Wilkerson.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

A Test of Faith

Dexys, according to various reports (here and here ) the Mets are close to signing Carlos Beltran. Beltran and Pedro in the uniform of your native team. Will this test your devotion to the Nats? Are you tempted? For the web equivalent of the "cold shower", click here.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

A Spot For Hinckley In DC?

Rotoworld is reporting that the Washington Times is reporting that Jim Bowden indicated that Mike Hinckley will get a shot at the fifth spot in the rotation.

I think it's about time we have another Hinckley in DC. The last one left kind of a bad taste in our mouth. . . and Al Haig in control here.

Though I do hear that Jim Bowden is trying to impress Jodie Foster with our rotation...

P-P-P-Playoffs???

For those of you out there who watched any of the *cough* "national championship" last night....Was it just me or did it seem like the announcers had a gun to their heads, as if they ever mentioned the word "playoff," they would be ejected from their booth. They essentially spent 4 hours trying to convince the audience over and over that they were watching the correct matchup. One of my favorite parts was when they said that USC was the clear #1 because: we all know (do we??) how much better Oklahoma is than Auburn, and USC is crushing Oklahoma.

I'm not going to say that I know how a bowl feels to fans and to the players. I'm from the Northeast, like many of you, where we believe that college football is mostly an afterthought to the NFL, and that the NCAA Tournament for college basketball is the far and away #1 college sporting event to watch. That being said, if there was a college football tournament/playoff, I'd watch it.

The BCS is simply a joke at this point, especially now that the AP is pulling out of it because being in the BCS "undermines its integrity" and coaches clearly used politics and traded votes and favors to get certain teams put ahead of others. You can't tell me that Auburn, who went undefeated, beat top 10 teams 4 times during the season, beat the defending national champs, LSU, won a very tough conference and then beat another top conference's champion doesn't even deserve a shot because the arbitrary BCS says so?? Or that Utah--who we all know that the BCS was hoping would be killed by Pittsburgh saving the BCS people embarassment over degrading Utah by putting them against Pitt--who also went undefeated and then killed their bowl opponent, doesn't deserve a shot against the big boys? Oh, and those voters who voted Oklahoma over Utah this morning (most of them): shame on you. This good ol' boy system needs to end immediately to give the fans what they ask for overwhelmingly in just about every straw poll out there.

Have a playoff or don't bother talking in terms of undisputed national champions.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

More on ERV Scoring

I've scored a few Expos games from last year with the ERV scoring method I talked about in this post, and it's been a lot of fun. To make it more clear how it works, here's an sample inning from this game between the Expos and Reds, the top of the fourth, Expos batting. Here's the ERV Chart I'm using:



Outs ---1-- -2-12---3 1-3 -23123
059 12 1515 19 21 23
1 3 5710 101215 16
2 1235 4 5 68

Note that I have multiplied the Estimated Run Values by 10 and rounded to the whole number, which makes it easier to score this on paper (for me, anyway). So I record "tenths"of a run -- 1 run equals 10 RVs, a half a run equals 5 RVs. With bases loaded and no outs, the average team will score 2.3 runs, or 23 RVs.

So here's what happened in the Expos 4th inning:

Vidro leads off with a double. He gets 7 RVs. Before, 5 RV (O on, O out); After, 12 RV (2nd, 0 out) an increase of 7.

Batista flies out to right, pretty deep, but Willie Moe Pena makes a strong throw to third to hold Vidro at second. This is a good example of how to score fielding with this system. In my judgment, the ball was deep enough to get the runner to third, but for Pena's throw. So I give Batista the RVs he would have gotten if that happened, -2. (Before: 12 ERV, After (1 out, Runner on 3d): 10 ERV, difference of -2). But I give Pena the difference between what should have happened and what did happen, or -3 RV (Runner on 2d, 1 out: 7 RV, instead of runner on 3d, 1 out: 10 RV). So I record the -2 in Batista's box and a -3 in the margin for Pena.

Johnson hits a grounder to second that Jimenez muffs, Vidro to Third. The official scorer ruled this a hit, but I thought the average fielder would have made the play, so I give Jimenez an error. Another good example here. I give Johnson the RVs as if the play had been made, or -3 (Before, 2nd and 1 out: 7 ERV minus After: 3d and 2 out: 4 ERV). Then I give Jimenez the RV that represent the error, the difference between what happened (1st and 3d, 1 out: 12 ERV) and what should have happened (3d, 2 out: 4 ERV) or a +8 RV for the error. (When I compute Jimenez's total RV for the game, this turns into a -8 when combined with his offensive RV -- he had a bad game, since his Batting RV was -11 and his Fielding RV was -8, for a total of -19. He cost the Reds almost 2 runs, and they lost 4-2).

Cabrera hits a sac fly that scores Vidro, Johnson stays at first. Before: 12 ERV (1&3, 1 out); After: 2 ERV (1st, 2 out), plus 10 for the run scored equals a RV of 0 for Cabrera.

Sledge Walks. Before: 2 ERV (1st, 2 out); After: 5 ERV (1st & 2d, 2 outs), so Sledge gets 3 RV.

Schneider flies out to end the inning. Before: 5 ERV; After: 0 ERV (Expos can't score anymore), so Schneider gets a -5 RV.

So here's how my scoresheet looks:

Vidro: 7 RV, 2B, run scored
Batista: -2 RV, F8, Footnote A: Pena gets -3 RV for good throw.
Johnson: -2 RV, E4, Footnote B: Jimenez gets a +8 RV for Error.
Cabrera: 0 RV, Sac F8
Sledge: 2 RV, BB
Schneider: -5 RV, F7

Total Offensive RV: 0
Total Defensive RV: +5
Total RV: +5

Why is the total RV 5 (1/2 a run) if they actually scored 1 run? Because we are recording marginal runs above the average. Recall that the ERV for 0 on, 0 out -- the start of the inning -- is 5 or 0.5 runs. That means the average team scores approximately 0.5 runs each inning, or 4.5 per game. So when they actually score 1 run, they are scoring 0.5 above the average, or 5 RVs. Note that the ERV scoring shows that the run scored here was half due to the Expos batters and half due to the Reds fielders. Also note that Jimenez's error is the largest RV -- scoring this way shows how errors really kill, because the turn outs into bases and/or runs.

It seems that each inning should result in a Total RV that is a multiple of 5. A 1-2-3 inning is a -5 (-2, -2, -1). One run scored should be +5, two runs +15, three runs +25, etc. I didn't expect things to work out like that, i.e. it be a zero-sum thing, but I guess it makes sense, but I need to think more about that.

As for the pitcher, I usually assign them the negative of the Offensive RV number, here it was 0, so they don't suffer the errors of their fielders. This is usually a multiple of 5, except where there are errors. In this game, in the Ninth, Rocky Biddle got an 11 RV (runs saved in his case), because there was one error in the inning, yet the Reds did not score (the error gave the Reds 6 RVs). He essentially gets credit for getting four outs in one inning.

I pulled a Word document from this great site and modified it for ERV scoring, but I'm still working on it. If anyone is interested, use the e-mail link to the right and I can send it to you, especially if you are good at form design and can improve it.

Boggs, Sandberg Elected to Hall of Fame

From the Post.

Boggs gets about 92 percent, Sandberg squeaks by with 76 percent. I take solace in the fact that only one of them was traded away by the Phillies.

DC Ballpark Neighborhood

SuperNoVa and girlfriend made a loop around the site of the proposed D.C. Ballpark on New Year's Day, hoping to find some plots of land or existing housing stock for the purposes of possibly moving to the neighborhood around the ballpark.

Here's what we found: nothing. And I just came across this Web site, which pretty accurately portrays how run down this area is. One of the pictures describes a "surprisingly well-tended house on the southwest corner of Half and N streets." Yes, I saw that house, too - it's pretty much the only house I saw in decent condition in the stadium area....and this is the neighborhood that put up so much opposition? I think the better answer is that the night clubs / gentlemen's establishments in the area were the real opposition.

Across South Capitol Street in SW D.C., the housing stock is a little better, but is largely smaller apartment buildings and what appears to be public housing stock. (As a side note, concentrated public housing is a really, really bad idea...let's put all the poor people in one place, so that we can blame them for not making the social connections necessary to move up the ladder!). The proposed move of Fannie Mae to Southwest should help, but this area still needs a lot of work. It's underserved by the Metro rail network (which runs along M street and ignores SouthWest otherwise). An extra stop on the Yellow Line in SouthWest (if feasible) would be useful.

All in all, the DC Stadium, when it opens in 2008, will be in an area that needs a lot of work. I really hope that the Stadium is the impetus for that change and the rewards from the Stadium as a catalyst to growth flow back to the City. But the Stadium area is a 20-year project, not a quick turn around like Baltimore or Cleveland.

Baseball Crank on Steroids

No, I don't know what he ingests. But he does have a clear, well-written post on the steroids issue and Bonds here.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Official Name Changes

Today, in a move mentioned repeatedly over the past few months, but still shocking to anyone with common sense, the Anaheim Angels officially changed their name to the "Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim." Somehow, they say this will help marketing. Unfortunately, however, the replica uniforms will only be sold in XL and XXL to accomodate the team's full name on the front." Former SS David Eckstein was overheard to say: "I would have hated to have to use the front AND back of my uniform on the team name."

This led your truly to wonder if the LAAoA's will start a new trend in baseball. Research has shown me that the following potential name changes are already in the works.

Under the new MLB plan:

The Washington Nationals will become The Washington Nationals of Anacostia after a Brief Sojurn Somewhere Else

The Boston Red Sox will become The Boston Red Sox of What the Hell Do We Complain About Now

The New York Yankees will become The Kings of All They Survey (To always be said with an evil laugh by MLB mandate)

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays will Become The Crap Craps of Crap.

The New York Mets will become The Overspending Mets of Long Island.

The Atlanta Braves will become These Are the Atlanta Braves (to always be said by James Earl Jones by MLB mandate)

The Florida Marlins will become The Is This One of the Crappy Years or Do We Win the World Series?

The Chicago White Sox will become the South Side White Sox Who Haven't Sniffed a Series Since They Threw One

The Cleveland Indians will become the Cleveland Indians of Kill Us, Kill Us Now, For God's Sake Put Us Out of Our Misery and Kill Us Now

and finally,

The Philadelphia Phillies will become the Philadelphia Phillies of the This Is Going to Be the Year we Win the Ser...What? We're down, 1-0? This Team Freakin' Sucks!

Poniewozik article

Revisiting steroids, I wanted to give a shout-out to an excellent essay I read in Time this week by James Poniewozik. I know DM's view especially on the steroids issue and I share it for the most part. We have done a decent amount of Bonds bashing here, and I still believe rightfully so. But Poniewozik's treatment of the issue is the first one to make me think about it on a deeper level.

His take on it is essentially: what right does society have to criticize the steroid users when people get plastic surgery to enhance their image and get ahead in jobs and lives, people take brain tonic to get smarter, people send their kids to these intensive SAT courses to do better on a test designed to measure natural ability, people use drugs and surgery to increase their sex lives (and lengths), singers voices are enhanced dramatically in the studio (and at concerts), nations spend millions to get their athletes gold medals, smaller children are given growth hormone to get them taller, tons of research goes on every day to get genetically smarter and faster babies or so that you can choose your baby's gender, eye color, etc. You can add other examples Poniewozik leaves out--a particular pet peeve of mine is studios paying millions in ads and gifts to get films nominated--but he makes the points well in the limited space he has.

I think it is a pretty good point. And it's probably a pretty shallow argument to counter with: "we expect more of athletes" considering these are the same people to whose actions the public turns a blind eye when they are arrested for DWI or domestic abuse among other sordid activities, as long as they are helping the team win.

I guess my best counter would be that while I don't expect more from athletes, I enjoy living in my sports purist fantasy world. Part of my joy is the history of the game (for all sports), comparing feats from era to era, from player to player, trying to account for the differences in the game over time, and such. And the steroid issue takes that away from me, which simply upsets me. I think Poniewozik's essay does put things in perspective very well--the steroid issue is simply a larger societal issue, and a small part of it at that. But for those of us to whom the game really means something, we care a lot more about it than whether the waitress just got her breasts augmented.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Sabermetric Scoring

I am pretty much a loser. For proof of that, here's what I did on Saturday night: I watched the Braves/Expos game from May 31 on MLB.tv. I wasn't in the mood to watch college football, and wanted to watch some baseball, so I figured $3.95 a month not too much to pay to watch our Nats, 2004 version. It helps that I haven't actually watched the Expos play since 1994, so I have almost no idea who won these games (except for the reasonable expectation that the Expos will lose), and it is almost like they are live.

But because I had to watch it on my laptop, I also opened up a spreadsheet with the Expected Run Value matrix just for fun (further loser evidence). A good example of an ERV matrix can be found in this article. It shows you how many runs on average are scored from each state of a baseball game (e.g. 1 out, runner on first; 0 out, runner on second, etc.) SuperNoVa describes it well in this post, where he explains how you can determine the precise value of a batter's action based on these values. It is very strong proof that bunting a man over to second makes you worse off (except maybe where you are almost certain that the batter will otherwise make an out, i.e. the pitcher), and that you need to steal with 70 percent success rate to make it worth while.

So, as I was watching the Expos and thinking about ERV, it struck me -- why don't we keep track of ERV while we score a game? For each batter, we can record the runs his action created by comparing the ERV for the state before he was up with the one after. For example, for the first batter of an inning, (none on, none out) the ERV is about 0.5 runs. If that first batter gets to first base, the ERV for that state is 0.9 runs, so that batter created 0.4 runs by getting to first, and you could record that in your scorecard. If the first batter gets out, it costs his team 0.2 runs (ERV goes from 0.5 to 0.3). You could print the ERV matrix on a scorecard for easy reference. In the end this really tells you which players contributed to the team's success or failure (I think it is also the basis for play-by-play win shares).

For a standard scorecard given out at most games, you could record the RV in the totals columns on the right-hand side, where I usually record pitch counts.

You can add further nuance by accounting for errors and even great fielding plays. With errors, you can record for the batter the runs that he would have lost had the play been made, but then record (maybe in a separate fielding section of the card) the runs created by the error (the difference between the actual state of the game and the state that would have occurred had the play been made). For example, if the first batter hits a routine grounder to short that is booted, he would get a minus 0.2 in his column, because it should have been an out (0.5 ERV down to 0.3). But you would record a plus 0.6 in the fielding column for the error (0.9 ERV that should have been a 0.3).

I did this for the May 31 Expos/Braves game and it was a lot of fun. Much more fun than counting pitches, which is what I used to do, and much more useful. In fact, in a pinch I'd score a game just with batter's outcome and RV (no basepath action, pitches, etc.), and have a good accounting of the game. You could even do a Manager's Column for the sacrifice bunts, IBBs and other plays where they directly determine an outcome. I also did it for the June 1 game (which is a great one if you haven't seen it). I think I might also work on design of a scorecard to record this stuff.