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  1. Clearly there are some Angels in the Outfield.

    /ashamed

    Comment by Temo — February 24, 2010 @ 4:12 pm

  2. Two thoughts:

    I’m thinking here of the definition of ‘intangibles,’ as those qualities we cannot exactly quantify or articulate but nonetheless have an effect on outcome. To say that the Angels have been lucky I think is not as outlandish as you make it seem.

    I remember late in 2007 when a surging Mariners team were swept at home by the Angels. Everyone at the stadium on Sunday knew that the Angels would win the division. If the Mariners had swept? They would have been a game ahead of the Angels and the division race would have continued.

    Here’s the link: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9A06E0DA153EF933A0575BC0A9619C8B63

    So the performance of the Angels in the AL West in 2007 is not only based on their individual and team performance but also the performance of the other teams in their division and league. Quantifying all these factors would be very difficult if not impossible, especially if we are willing to account for fan, player, and team psychology.

    Perhaps luck is the only explanation we can have for now.

    Comment by low — February 24, 2010 @ 4:15 pm

  3. Best organization in baseball IMO (including manager)

    I think they’re the new ‘moneyball.’ Where the A’s found statistical inefficiency on a player-level, I think the Angels do it on an organizational level. Can you measure intensity? I think that’s a lot of it. They fight for every run, for or against, and put pressure on other teams. Is PECOTA/Pythag based on total runs or earned runs? I’ve looked and can’t find the stat showing % of team runs that were unearned…but I’d bet the angels are up there.

    Many teams will make a defensive switch, or play for an insurance run…perhaps the angels take it to an extreme and have perfected it. I commented on the THT “Call to Arms” post yesterday with some interesting stats about save % and use of pitchers. Didn’t dig anything up on offense.

    Great sabermetric puzzle though.

    Comment by Jimbo — February 24, 2010 @ 4:38 pm

  4. I think when analyzing why a Pythagorean W/L varies considerably vs actual W/L you need to essentially dive into the 162-game schedule and pick out the blowout losses, which would drive that unseemly variance. If the Angels take two of three in a series but get blown out in the loss, that easily turns the Pythagorean W/L on it’s end. It wouldn’t take very many blowout losses to produce this effect IMO. The step that’s missing here is a simple “runs-in-wins” versus “runs-in-losses” comparison.

    That said, Mike Scioscia is the best manager in baseball, and as a Yankee fan who has seen him manage rings around Torre for years, I know it ain’t luck!

    Comment by libertyboynyc — February 24, 2010 @ 5:28 pm

  5. My guess is that part of their over performance is that they keep their players healthier than average. There was a post on Beyond the Boxscore that had them as the healthiest team over the recent past.

    The question is whether that is an effect of their training staff, usuage or their selection of free agents/draft picks.

    Comment by JoeWho112 — February 24, 2010 @ 5:44 pm

  6. The Astros are another team that has been outperforming their pythag. Last year, they outplayed it by 6 wins. In 2008, they outplayed it by 8 wins.

    Comment by OremLK — February 24, 2010 @ 6:36 pm

  7. On the win side, they have a much higher percent of ‘saved wins’ over the last 5 years than any other top team. That’s why I think they’ve simply mastered small ball. More saves (probably) means a lower margin of victory in wins, combine that with ‘taking the day off’ in blowouts and you have the required scenario.

    Not sure exactly what it means, but since 2005 they’ve made 300-400 fewer pitching changes than their winning percentage peers. Could part of that be that in a blowout they let one guy eat innings to rest everyone else?

    How about league-average margin of victory/margin of loss compared to the Angels? Might be a good starting point.

    Comment by Jimbo — February 24, 2010 @ 6:47 pm

  8. “Clutch” hitting can come in waves, be contagious, but it’s been pretty consistent for the Angels. I will say often in sports waves of above “normal” negative or positive outcomes are aided by how good the team is. I.e., the Angels have been overall good these years in question and therefore could their offensive “clutchness” be partly because they’re good as a team and in situations that matter (and partly because they themselves are aware of how they’re messing with the minds of the “experts” and that itself drives them?)

    I think in this case a simpler answer may prove best. As libertyboynyc suggests, simply look up blowout losses.

    If Scioscia is simply better than most managers at sensing/being realistic about games that are out of hand and letting his lower end bullpen guys get hammered “for the team,” then that alone could make for the biggest reason the Angels “outperform” every year (recently.)

    Has this been done? Last year in particular the Angels’ pen wasn’t that good, but much of the recent past it has been good. Does Scioscia understand when to let a game go and throw his scrubs to the wolves more than other managers?

    Comment by Jon — February 24, 2010 @ 7:12 pm

  9. I realize the sample sizes are completely meaningless, but for a team that is constantly praised for “playing the right way” and “doing the little things”, they sure made a ton of fundamental errors in the playoffs last year. Same goes for the Twins.

    Comment by Steve — February 24, 2010 @ 8:31 pm

  10. As a fan, I’ve observed Scioscia has one of the slowest hooks I’ve ever seen in lopsided games. I’ve always felt that has tended to skew their overall pythag record to a measurable degree.

    Comment by walther — February 24, 2010 @ 11:06 pm

  11. My stats background is not super strong, but I’ve been doing my best to follow this conversation over at the book and here. I’m surprised that I haven’t noticed this come up (maybe I missed it), as it seems to provide a great start for explaining why the angels have out performed their pythag. I think this also parallels nicely with the team health reports that are now available at BP, which have been calculating the financial value of time on the DL. Please chime in if I’m putting these pieces together incorrectly.

    http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2010/2/21/1319936/how-many-wins-did-teams-lose-to

    Comment by Phillies Red — February 25, 2010 @ 2:21 am

  12. If they could only outplay it by 20, they could be in the postseason….

    Comment by B N — February 25, 2010 @ 3:52 am

  13. That would definitely seem like an interesting hypothesis. You could make the argument that there are different preferences of run distributions and that they deviate from the normal somewhat. If there were a way to discount runs scored in “garbage time” that might help to improve the fit of a Pythag. After all, if you score 4 runs off of Nick Swisher and Nick Greene then those have essentially no impact on anybody’s record.

    Except Nick Swisher maybe. He pitched really well. If he keeps that going, he might get a call up.. Or something.

    Comment by B N — February 25, 2010 @ 3:56 am

  14. A good, well-leveraged bullpen? Are the Angels winning more close games that we would expect? If so, the bullpen could be the reason.

    Also, IIRC, the Angels are really good in the non-stolen base baserunning category. Taking the extra base. In a tight game where a run or two can be decisive, being really good (not just aggressive, but also successful) at that could lead to a higher win % in close games.

    I recall the 2004 Yankees outperforming their pythag record by ~10 games. Tom Gordon and Mariano were great that year, and Quantrill did good work too, at least for a while (but Quantrill and Gordon were cooked by the ALCS, and even Mo went and walked Kevin Millar). That team wasn’t good at “the little things” AT ALL. The defense stunk. The rotation had issues. The bullpen was 2-3 good relievers and a pile of junk. Which ultimately cost them, but not during the regular season.

    Comment by Rob in CT — February 25, 2010 @ 11:23 am

  15. I agree the bullpen needs to be looked at more closely. Maybe they have had elite late inning pitching (7, 8, 9th) or use them more effectively.

    I think an interesting study would be to look at the number of lead changes in their games. How often do they occur in their games versus other teams’? What percentage of the changes were in their favor? And what was the inning by inning break down in these numbers?

    Comment by Nate — February 25, 2010 @ 12:50 pm

  16. I’ve heard that having a good pen helps you out perform your Pathag. Can’t remember who said it. Neyer?

    Either way, never have seen a study on that. Anyone know of anything that looks into a bullpen/beating pathag correlation?

    Comment by Tim — February 25, 2010 @ 1:05 pm

  17. I’m eye-to-eye with you, Jimbo. Excellent observation on pitching changes. The three-game series structure of the schedule dictates that if you put your best foot forward two out of three you can roster-stunt and take the necessary side/back steps on the one game, be that spelling starters, getting bench guys their at bats, and especially giving your bullpen hotshots a blow. Might be the reason that Lackey never seemed to have the high win rate that you would assume an ace would have – if he turned up on the short end of the two-of-three stratagem he might have picked up a couple of wins that were lost to the 162 game look.

    Comment by libertyboynyc — February 25, 2010 @ 1:41 pm

  18. I second that. It’s the physical errors that kill them.

    Comment by libertyboynyc — February 25, 2010 @ 1:44 pm

  19. hey hey hey JD Drew isn’t topical.

    Comment by libertyboynyc — February 25, 2010 @ 1:45 pm

  20. Another thing, I saw a strangely high number of four-game sets last year compared to previous seasons, at least with the Yanks. That complicates the strategy, I’m sure, but it’s just an aside on my part.

    Comment by libertyboynyc — February 25, 2010 @ 1:48 pm

  21. It will probably take about 10 this season.

    Comment by OremLK — February 25, 2010 @ 2:06 pm

  22. Why are people so quick to dismiss luck as an “explanation?” I guess it’s not a very satisfying answer. But it seems to me like you could figure out the probability of the prediction systems erring by so many games, and then the odds of doing it for so many years in a row. I mean, we run these things for 30 teams, and it’s not like they’re amazingly reliable or anything. Predicting things is hard. It doesn’t seem so far-fetched that one of those 30 teams happens to go in one direction or the other consistently through sheer chance. It’s like flipping a coin and getting heads ten times in a row…sometimes weird stuff just happens.

    Not to say that we should abandon all hope of finding an explanation. But I’d first ask the question of whether this is truly a one in a million, impossibly unlikely outcome.

    Comment by Jayson — February 25, 2010 @ 4:59 pm

  23. Just throwing this out there. Maybe the negative-looking “Little Things” actually shows BETTER situational hitting that is MORE CLUTCH in a manner of speaking. Bottom 9th and bases loaded — sure a walk wins the game the same as a home run, but apparently the Angels are sacking up and hitting a home run, not settling for some wussy walk. This is a leap, of course, and it would make it even more difficult to swing the pythag b/c they’d be winning by more runs than necessary in this scenario.

    Maybe the flaw is in the wRAA to WPA/LI derivation/comparison?

    Another flier of a candidate: hustling all the time. They outcompete their opponents when the leverage is low b/c they are giving 110% and the opponent is not. But when the situation “matters” everyone is giving 110% and the playing field is equalized from the “hustle” standpoint.

    Comment by SagehenMcGyver47 — February 25, 2010 @ 9:26 pm

  24. The reason people throw out luck is because to accept that this kind of success is luck is to throw into question all sabermetric theory, which is largely based on sample size.

    Comment by Alireza — February 25, 2010 @ 9:55 pm

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