Friday, April 14, 2006

Yankees 9, Royals 3

That, my friends, is what a Win Expectancy chart should look like. A quick jump to start things off, and a steady rise to 100 percent towards the end. Though, I did uncover a few more flaws with the system, such as the ninth inning, when after recording one out, the Yankees had a 100 percent chance of winning. This means that every team that was in that situation – up 9-2, one out, top of the ninth – went on to win the game. However, the probability of winning dropped to 99 percent when John Buck walked. This means – according to the theory of the statistic – that at least one team won a game down 9-2 in the top of the ninth with one out and a runner on first (why else would the percentage drop from 100?).

Or does it? It seems to me that the program is flawed in that regard. It dropped by another single percentage point when Doug Mientkiewicz singled, putting runners on first and second with one out. It seems as if the program isn’t set in its percentages come the ninth inning, which makes sense, since there is an increasing weight with each action as the game progresses.

The other nuance I picked up on has to do with subjectivity. Bottom of the second, Cano on first, Bernie on second, none out, 3-0 Yanks. After sacrificing the runners over, Stinnett was debited .1 percent. Sure, it’s a nominal debit, but Stinnett certainly should have been credited on this play because of his below average hitting skills. Surely, the Yanks were better off with him bunting and moving the runners over than the most probable outcome, the double play, or either of the other prevalent options, striking out or popping out. Historically, there wasn’t even a one in four chance that Stinnett would get a hit, so the sacrifice was certainly the right move. Maybe this is the next step for Win Expectancy, taking into consideration the player’s historical performance.

[MORE] for the WE breakdown and game recap.


Apparently Win Expectancies doesn’t account for Game Nine of 162-game hit streaks. Still, Jete leads the team in WE by about a mile. But none of that mattered, as good old Randy carried most of the load. A big high-five to him, by the way, for leaving a 4-1 game because of stiffness in his left shoulder. No reason to pitch through it at that point. The game might not have been in the bag (then again, these are the freakin’ Royals), but it’s No. 9 of 162.

The bullpen eased some fears today, working in generally solid fashion to finish the game. As much as I want to be sold on Proctor, I reasonably can’t at this point. Because of Tanyon Sturtze last year, I no longer can trust unproven relievers who look unhittable for a stretch. Speaking of Sturtze, he still sucks, but at least he listens to Poppa Torre. After surrending a ding dong to Tony Graffanino leading off the eighth, Torre made a rare non-sub mound visit to speak with his misbehaving son.

Torre: “Son, we gave you $1.5 million and all the confidence in the world. You didn’t deserve it, but I kept singing your praises and made them do it. You’ve always been my favorite, and it’s damn time you stopped making me look like a damn fool. If I have to read one more message board post calling me an idiot for using you, I’m just going to flip. And you don’t want to see a calm Italian man when he’s angry.

And it looked like he got the message, notching two ground outs and a strikeout to finish his inning. See, Tanyon, it’s not so hard. Don’t think and just throw; you just hurt yourself when you think.

To finish off, I’d like to address an open letter to Mike Mussina.

Dear Moose,
All I want for my birthday is a win.


Thursday, April 13, 2006

AL Leaders

New daily feature: AL Leaderboards!

Okay, maybe you’re not as excited as I am, but The Sporting Brews is slowly turning into your newspaper, only better. Not only do you get the AL East standings and Yankees statistics without even leaving the main page, but you get insightful commentary daily – and now League Leaders.

I’ll have a page with the full ML standings soon, as well as pitching stats. Expanding into the NL might not happen, seeing as keeping the AL statistics eats up a good portion of my normally allotted sleep time.

The Sporting Brews: F*ck the Star Ledger.

Your AL Batting Leaders for April 13th, 2006 (min 20 AB):

Ramon Hernandez.500Travis Hafner.568
Chris Shelton.500Ramon Hernandez.562
Travis Hafner.467Chris Shelton.529
Victor Martinez.419Ian Kinsler.519
Bengie Molina.417Jim Thome.514
Ian Kinsler.409Jason Giambi.514
Alexis Rios.409David Ortiz.514

Chris Shelton.750Travis Hafner6
Jim Thome.654Chris Shelton6
Travis Hafner.663Jim Thome5
Eric Chavez.471Eric Chavez5
Alexis Rios.455Justin Morneau4
Nick Swisher.40711 Tied3
Justin Morneau.387

PlayerPA/K highPA/K lowOBP
Placido PolancoxxxMark Teahen2.27
Mark Tiexiera39.00Brad Wilkerson2.56
Mark Loretta37.00Brian Anderson2.67
Joe Crede28.00Nick Swisher2.80
Toby Hall28.00Garret Anderson3.00
Ronnie Belliard27.00Nick Green3.22
Jason Kendall27.00Bobby Crosby3.33

Travis Hafner13Chris Shelton12
Jhonny Peralta10Richie Sexson12
Jim Thome9Travis Hafner9
Melvin Mora9Torii Hunter9
Ichiro!9Jonny Gomes9
7 Tied8Justin Morneau9
Eric Chavez9
Reggie Sanders9

Yankees 12, Royals 5

He may have struggled in the first, but leave it to the unflappable Shawn Chacon to settle down and realize that these are the freakin’ Royals. I happened to miss the first inning, but from what I’ve seen, his curveball looks as nasty as ever. He’s inconsistent around the strike zone, and while that would worry me with most pitchers, Chacon always seems to pitch out of it. Plus, he has maintained a consistently low Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) over his career (you can read about it at Bronx Banter). This isn’t normally a repeatable statistic, much like a player’s batting average, but Chacon has been well below the league average for quite some time now.

I was pretty sold on Chacon entering the season, and he’s not doing much to retain my confidence. He hasn’t reached the point of abomination, but it’s lurking around the corner. The homer was the big killer for him. He’s known to scatter hits, but as long as he keeps the ball in the park, he won’t kill the teamRun support will be required, but that’s what this lineup is built to do.

We all know they can’t put up 10 runs a game, which is why we have Randy Johnson. I don’t want to use the "he’s due" philosophy for tomorrow, but dammit, I want to see a 10 K shutout. No better team to do it against than the Royals, who will likely finish in the bottom three for each major offensive category this season.

Win Expectancies after the [MORE].

Jeter.089Ron Villone.001

A big thank you to Gary Sheffield for actually showing up today. I was certain the Yankees could have made up the three-run deficit, but I was especially pleased to see it erased so swiftly. More thanks goes to Sheffield for giving me the pleasure of saying, "GONE!" as soon as the ball hit his bat, and being right. And I was right: I did jump the gun on Sheff.

My favorite stat of the day: 8 team walks. Get the walks up, get the wins up; that’s how the Yanks have been acting this year (with the exception of Game Two against Oakland, but that game was just a shitstorm in general). In fact, the Yankees have walked 37 times this year, good for a third-place tie with Atlanta. Only the Reds and those cursed Red Sox walk more often.

Game notes:
  • For all you South Park fans out there, Jimmy Gobble is officially GOBBLES! from now on.

  • When I saw Paul Bako in the starting lineup, I got to thinking about the catcher situation (because I thought Bako wouldn’t have been a bad option for the job). Stinnett is pretty terrible, and I’m thinking he’ll be the odd man out once Small returns to action. Think about it – they already had a third catcher on the roster in Wil Nieves, but released him in favor of Hill. And, like Nieves, Hill doesn’t have options. It’s certain that a catcher will be the one to go, and it would seem foolish to release Nieves to sign Hill, and then cut Hill only a week later.

  • Cairo dove for a Shane Costa grounder in the fifth, and it caromed off his glove into shallow center. I have a few questions to ask at this point. Which second basemen in the league would have made that one, and which would have completely missed it? Would Cano have made that play? Was that play reasonable makeable at all? This question is emboldened, since Costa ended up scoring.

  • Second and third, one out in the bottom of the fifth, Yanks up 6-5. Affeldt has been chased, as has GOBBLES!. Hudson pitching, now, a righty facing Miguel Cairo. I’m wondering, why isn’t Robbie Cano batting here? Yes, I realize that the game is only half over, but these are rather important runs. You don’t want to leave these guys stranded, and I think that Cano gives you a better opportunity than Cairo to plate one. Sure, you lose your backup infielder, but Andy Phillips could handle the position should the need arise. Of course, this is all moot, since Cairo made me look like a dunderhead by singling in Matsui.

  • There’s no possible way to script that Damon hit. Hit and run situation, Damon whales one that is unlucky enough to spray off the pitcher’s glove. But, because the steal was on, Grundle Grass was out of position and couldn’t make a play on the caromed ball, plating a run and leaving the Yanks with runners on first and second with one out. Simply amazing.

  • For some reason, I feel happy every time Mike Myers comes into a game. I know I said it yesterday, but this guy is just what the bullpen needed. Not only is he one of the top LOOGYs in the game, but he has fared decently against righties thus far. Bridging the gap to Mariano…more efficiently than in 2005.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Something To Think About Come July

Marlins May Be Shopping Willis, Cabrera

Of course, I'll believe it when I see it. However, it would make sense, seeing how the Marlins have already purged their roster and failed to lock up Dontrelle long-term this winter. You know what's coming next...

If I'm Cashman, I'm putting together a package based around Wang and Hughes in the effort to acquire Willis. The kid is only 24 years old, still in his arbitration years, and most importantly, he's a proven lefty. A rotation boasting him and Randy might be just what the Yanks need to counteract Shilling-Beckett.

Now, I know what you're thinking; you don't want to give up Wang and Hughes. But let me tell you something: there are no guarantees with Hughes. He's a torn labrum away from busting big time. And Wang is far from proven. Yet, these two are valuable because of their age and potential. So maybe Hughes becomes the next Roger Clemens. Think he might want to sign with the Yanks as a free agent when the time comes?

Of course, those two alone probably won't do the trick, and I'd immediately refuse any counteroffer involving Cano. He's far too valuable to the organization at this point. Eric Duncan, maybe, but the Duncan-Hughes-Wang package is as high as I'd go. Remember, this isn't a Buhner for Phelps deal; Willis is still young and could become a facet in the Yanks rotation for the next eight to ten years. And as we learned with Pettitte (whom I also wouldn't mind re-acquiring should the Astros fall out of contention), lefties are invaluable at Yankee Stadium.

Surely, there will be other 10 or so teams in the bidding for Dontrelle, so there's no guarantee that Duncan-Hughes-Wang gets the job done. But, should the Marlins be willing to accept such a package, I think Cashman needs to act without blinking.

Yankees 9, Royals 7

Told you the graph would be interesting. I’m trying to figure out a way to get an innings value on the X-axis, but that would take a bit more work. And considering I started doing these all of two days ago, I think we can deal without an innings tracker for the moment.

It’s pointless to recap the game at this point, since you can just scroll down and read my live reactions from yesterday. My blood pressure resembled the trend line in the Win Expectancy graph, just in reverse. Nevertheless, I do have a few wrap-up thoughts – as well as the Win Expectancy table – after the [MORE] button.


Herein lies the problem with the straight addition of Win Expectancy scores. For his eighth inning heroics, Jeter was credited with raising the Yankees expectancy of winning by 64 percent, and netted 56 percent for the game. At this point, Jeter could stroll to the plate batless and wouldn’t be in the negative for quite a while. Even a horrid game – like Sheffield’s on Friday night – will only debit you 27 percent. So Jeter could ground into every double play and go 0-10 over the next two games against the Royals and still break even. Is his contribution in the one win, albeit significant, really worth two train wrecks, possibly costing your team both games?

I’m recording WE stats in game-log style, so maybe over the course of the season I can come up with a more practical application. This is a truly remarkable statistic, helping understand who contributed what to a win. And it’s perfect for a guy like me, who isn’t very keen on predictive statistics; Win Expectancy tells you what did happen, not what should happen. Just like the Yankees should have beaten the snot out of the Royals yesterday. They did not.

Okay, bullet point time.

  • Bernie “Double Play Machine” Williams not only avoided a rally killing DP in the eighth, he showed great recognition on the off-speed pitch around the letters and placed it in shallow left to plate a run. Of course, I’m not 100 percent certain that it was an off-speed pitch, but I really don’t think Bernie would have been able to pull the ball had it been traveling circa 90 m.p.h.

  • Sturtze sucks. I was peeved when Cashman picked up his option, and I’m peeved that he can’t even retire a hitter on the worst team in baseball without yielding a home run. $1.5 million or no $1.5 million, he’d be the guy I’d oust once Small is ready to return.

  • Looks like Wang is still struggling with his mechanics. The easy explanation for his early inning success/late inning trouble conundrum is that hitters are getting used to him the second time around. Personally, I think he has ADD and should be prescribed to Adderall – a la Derek Lowe – right away. I’m only half-joking with this. It looks more like Wang is missing his spots and not getting the proper break on his sinker in later innings – more a sign of dwindled concentration on Wang’s part than familiarity on the batters’ parts.

  • Words uttered to my buddy Jon: “You know who sucks? Gary Sheffield.” Yes, I’m obviously jumping the gun here, and no, Gary Sheffield has not lost the ability to hit the ball. It’s just that he’s pissed his 2007 remains unexercised. Of course, playing like this won’t give Cashman reason to execute said option, meaning Sheffield will continue to mope his way to the plate. At least he’ll never have to worry about losing his spot in the batting order. Friggin’ Torre.

  • Mike Myers is a Godsend. We need to use DNA technology to clone him, half righties and half lefties. It would be the ultimate set-up bullpen.

  • Note to A-Rod: if you continue your failure to hit with men on base, people are going to begin pointing it out. You already have enough enemies; start knocking guys in so we don’t have to concede to their arguments.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Home-Opener In-Game Update

I wasn't going to do the live blogging thing for the home opener, but I feel compelled to rail against the Yanks for pulling the same old stunts. Like working the bases loaded and coming up empty handed. Or allowing the Royals to move from station to station and salvage a run. These kind of things do happen in baseball, but they shouldn't be occurring with such frequency to a team paying $198 million to get their players on the field.

The main reason for this update is the Win Expectancy experiment I'm conducting. I'm scoring it real-time, and noting the Yankees probability of winning at each juncture. Right now, entering the bottom of the 6th, it's 60-40 in favor of the Royals, as they hold a 5-4 lead. However, when they had the bases loaded and none out in the top of this frame, it was 72-28. And two outs in, we're back up there, 67-33.

Oh, and Bernie Williams was debited 17 points for his baserunning gaffe in the fifth. Uh, Bern, I know the bases are loaded, but you can't be hovering that far off the bag -- or off the bag at all. I didn't catch Kay's comments (I tune him out well), but it looked like the Infield Fly should have been called there, making it safe for Bern and his baserunning teammates to stand on their respective bag.

It's absurd that the Yankees can't tag the Royals bullpen. Cano, Williams, and Damon all weakly grounded out in the sixth. And now we have to rely on Sturtze to keep this a one-run affair. This is precicely the kind of game that Sturtze blunders, so expectations aren't high at this point.

On a brighter note, I flipped to the Red Sox game on just in time to see ManRam strike out. Too bad the Sawks put up a 4 spot in that inning.

Update: I'm going to shut up with my pessimism; Shane Costa just broke Sturtze in with a shot over the right field wall. 6-4 Royals. And now a ground rule double to Grundzielanek. I'm roughly the shade of the SHARP ad behind home plate.

And I'm back in the bottom of the eighth. Giambi has led off with a walk, followed by a Matsui single -- and what should have been a walk to Posada, but he's still at the plate, 3 balls and a strike. But all ends well, as he earns that walk, and we've got the bases packed and none out for Robbie Cano.

The Yankees odds of winning have just drastically increased, from nine percent entering the inning to 35 percent currently.

Ooooooh -- even Robbie thought he was rung up on that one. But he takes advantage, hitting a sharp grounder to third. Teahen gets Posada at second, but everyone else is safe, and it's a 7-5 ballgame.

Guess what? The Yankees odds of winning decreased with that play. This Win Expectancy statistic really plays to the "you have 27 outs, don't waste them" mentality. And since it's based on 20 years of research, well, you can make your own connection.

BERNIE! Lordy lord, just when we think he's got nothing left (well, I certainly think he has nothing left), he handles a high pitch, smacking it to left to bring the Yanks within one. Da-Mon! Da-Mon!

I'll take this pitching change to point out that the odds are back to 60-40. A Damon RBI here will certainly push the odds in favor of the Yanks, as the home team always has the advantage in a tie game.

Ouch. Only a DP would be worse. But here's Jeter, hopefully ready to prove his clutchness. OH MY GOD!!!!!!!! He just planted that ball in left, and I was on my feet the second the ball left the bat. Get ready, Mo, it's time to put away these suckers.

The odds are now at 94-6 in favor of the Yanks. You're going to love seeing the line graph on this one.

Costa grounds out weakly to begin the ninth. I'm not going to be very colorful here, since I excreted the totality of my emotions following the Jeter homer. Grundle Grass just hit a bloop to center, which brings the tying run to the plate. I'm not concerned yet.

Just noticed that Phillips is at first base. If this goes to extra innings, God help Torre -- Giambi was due up second in the ninth.

Wow did Sweeney just get plunked in the wrists. That could put him out for a month, though O'Neill doesn't think it'll be that bad. Here comes Sanders...we could use use a 6-4-3.

I'll take the K.


Monday, April 10, 2006

Win Expectancy

I'm totally riffing off Jeff over at Lookout Landing, but I think this whole Win Probability thing is highly interesting. I'll add a link in the sidebar in the coming days, but for now, you can find an explantion of WP over at The Hardball Times.

Basically, the chart above charts the Yankees probability of winning at any given point in the game. Additionally, there are WP values assigned to each player for their contribution to the win, which you can find by clicking the [MORE] button.


So Jorge accounted for roughly 20 percent of Sunday’s win, even though he drove in half the runs.


I’m going to keep a running total of each player’s WP throughout the year (adding to my self-induced workload of keeping raw statistics for each player in the majors this year), as well as posting the WP chart following each game.

This will be much more in-depth once I get into the groove of posting it and I become more familiar with the inner workings of the stat. Win Expectancy, people: it’s how you win games.

Yanks 10, Angels 1

If the Yankees make a pattern out of their first week, I’ll be committed by mid-May. After raising optimism levels to an all-time high with Monday’s 15-2 drubbing of the Athletics, our beloved Bombers dropped four straight games, all winnable. No team wins ‘em all, but 0-4 in consecutive serviceable games has me searching for sharp objects with which to perform hari kari. And while yesterday’s victory provided a sigh of relief, it doesn’t necessarily bode well for the immediate future.

You can’t just bludgeon your opponents to death. It will work some of the time, but as the Yankees have proven over the past few years, it’s no formula for long-term success. Without solid pitching and defense, and a bit of situational hitting, those big bats will go to waste. And considering we’ve seen nothing but inconsistency thus far in those three classifications, I’m not so quick to sing the team’s praises following their series-salvaging win in Anaheim.

[MORE] Furthering my frustration with the Yanks, they’ve teed off on two vulnerable pitchers in their pair of victories. Not only do the Yanks historically fare well against Bartolo Colon, but he was showing signs of a lingering injury, leading to eight runs allowed and his third inning hook. And Barry Zito is a notoriously slow starter, 7-11 with a 4.98 ERA in April from 2002 through 2005. So while the offense may have shown flashes, they’ve basically been bullies thus far.

Bully they’ll have to this week, as the always pathetic Kansas City Royals hang out in the Bronx for a day-game series beginning Tuesday. It’ll be Joe Mays, Jeremy Affeldt, and 25-year-old Denny Bautista against Chein-Ming Wang, Shawn Chacon, and Randy Johnson. When you look at pitching matchups like that, it’s easy to make a wise-ass comment and expect a sweep. But we know what these Yankees are capable of. They made Mark Hendrickson – he of the 5.90 ERA in 2005 – look like a Cy Young candidate. Surprisingly, the series finale has me worried the most. Randy has the capacity to collapse against terrible squads, and the Yanks seem susceptible to young arms they haven’t seen much.

Thankfully, Kansas City has looked all sorts of inept at the plate, which really comes as no surprise. They were quite active in free agency, but adding players like Mark Grundzielanek, Doug Mientkiewicz, and Reggie Sanders to a non-existent core (with my apologies to the talented David DeJesus) accomplished little in the Royal’s quest to transcend treachery. As a team, they’ve drawn nine walks on the season; Jim Thome has eight free passes.

The pitching is in worse shape than last year, pasting together a rotation that probably couldn’t survive on the AAA level. Is there any way that a team boasting Scott Elarton as their ace doesn’t lose 110 games? And there’s no help in sight, as the only hurler resembling a prospect – nutjob Zach Greinke – is out indefinitely as he deals with personal problems. And yes, the joke has been made a thousand times, but if I was a promising pitcher on a dead-end team like the Royals, I’d be dealing with personal problems as well.

The whole organization reeks of incompetence. They cry “small market, no money” year after year, and when they’re finally under enough pressure to actually spend the revenue sharing check they receive from George Steinbrenner, they go blow it on useless players. They centered their team around Mike freakin’ Sweeney, alloting him 23 percent of the team’s total payroll. For comparison, even A-Rod accounts for only 14 percent of the Yankees total payroll, and the egocentric Barry Bonds makes up 22 percent of the Giants dollars. Would you put Sweeney in the same category as A-Rod and Bonds?

What the Royals need is a complete change of face. David Glass may have found incredible success at Wal Mart, but his aptitude as a baseball owner is wanting. He and his GM Allard Baird have done little but butcher a franchise and turn it into a money machine rather than a baseball team. But let me tell you something, folks; a baseball in itself does not make money. Put up enough losing seasons, and you lose the fans interest. It’s about that time that Glass will sell his position, hopefully to a suitor dedicated to actually improving the team.

Signs of additional pessimism: I’ve ranted for 350 words about the Royals ineptitude, yet I still don’t see the Yanks sweeping them. But, since I’ve been getting myself all worried over what will amount to nothing, I’ll take a few seconds to make a few optimistic bullet points.

  • Mussina has looked sharp in his two starts. If only the guys could find consistency. Seriously, if he throws 85 percent of his starts like his previous two, the Yanks will have one less question mark in their pitching staff.

  • Randy looks like Randy. Maybe he hasn’t dominated yet, but all signs point to a few of those games in the near future.

  • It could all just be luck: the Yanks could have won any of their four losses, but couldn’t come up with a timely hit. While this is reminiscent of last year, a lot of situational hitting is pure luck. A few lucky breaks could be in the offing.

  • They can still hit the piss out of the ball.