Author Archive

How Much Luck Is Involved in One-Run Games?

The Orioles shocked the baseball world by making the American League playoffs last season, based largely on a 29-9 record in one-run games. This .763 winning percentage in one-run games was the best in baseball and had every analyst who knew how to calculate a Pythagorean record screaming, “Lucky!”  Was the Orioles record in one-run games lucky? Or, the better question is, how much of it was luck?

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Stan Musial 1920-2013

On Saturday night, baseball lost one of its all-time greats. Stan “The Man” Musial, a Hall-of-Fame inductee who played 22 seasons for the St. Louis Cardinals, passed away at the age of 92.

I’ll leave the descriptions of Musial’s unique swing and the stories of contributions to the community to writers more eloquent and knowledgeable than I. FanGraphs is all about statistics, so let’s look at Musial’s career though his numbers.

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New Wild Cards and the Playoff-Probability Curve

Some say the new wild card is a gimmick to artificially create drama. Some say it rewards teams for wining their divisions. No matter what you think about the new playoff format, it’s here — and the playoff probability curve we’re used to is suddenly out of date.

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Is There Hope for the Diamondbacks?

The first three months of the season have not been kind to the Diamondbacks. An extra-innings loss on Tuesday brings the defending National League West champions’ record to 33-35, nine games out of first place. However, Arizona is better than their record suggests. They are one busted slump, one injury return, and one trade away from contending for a playoff spot.

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Is Proprietary Information Disappearing?

Carl Crawford, Adam Dunn, and Jayson Werth signed large free agent contracts with new teams last offseason, and each were unequivocal disappointments in 2011 with their new club. This phenomenon is not limited to free agents. In recent memory, several highly touted prospects have been traded and not lived up to expectations with their new teams: Justin Smoak, Brett Wallace, and Kyle Drabek, to name a few.

Whenever a player changes teams and fails to live up to expectations, I find myself wondering, “Did his old team see this coming?” In these specific examples, we may never know, but we do know that teams have internal information which creates an advantage in personnel decisions. While this advantage may never completely go away, there is evidence to suggest that it’s starting to disappear.

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A Long-Run Analysis of Salary Inflation

The contracts that baseball players sign are some of the longest contracts in business — not just sports. When handing out nine- or ten-year deals, projecting salary inflation is critical, and yet getting an accurate forecast is nearly impossible.

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Why Did C.J. Wilson Sign for Cheap?

Thursday morning C.J. Wilson, the consensus top free agent starting pitcher, signed a five-year, $77.5 million contract with the Angels. His new contract has an average annual value of $15.5 million, which is only $1 million more than Mark Buehrle‘s four-year, $58 million deal signed less than 24 hours earlier.

Wilson is younger — 31 to 32 — and better — career FIP- 83 to 92 — than Buehrle, so why did he sign such a similar deal?

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My Game 7 Experience

Disclaimer: this post will not contain any wOBAs, xFIPs, or UZRs. This is the story of Game 7 from the perspective of one fan — me.

As soon as David Freese‘s home run landed in the grass beyond the centerfield wall, ending Game 6, I made up my mind that I was going to the stadium for Game 7. It was an interesting and amazing night, and I thought I’d try to relay that experience.

On Friday in St. Louis everyone seemingly adopted new salutations. Gone were “hello” and “goodbye”, instead, every conversation started with, “Could you believe that game last night?” and ended with, “The Cards have to win tonight.” Everyone at my office spent most of their Friday passing around emails with the best links about Game 6 (the win expectancy graph being one popular option). Cardinals fans are always crazy about their team, and we’ve been in two World Series recently, but I’ve never seen anything like the buzz for Game 7.

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World Series Game Three Chat


Determining the “Value” of “Valuable”

When the FanGraphs staff voted for the major postseason awards, I was the only guy who cast an MVP vote for Justin Upton.

I made my choice after calculating the Diamondbacks’ playoff probability with and without its 24-year-old star outfielder. With Upton, Arizona makes the playoffs 92% of the time. Without him, the figure drops to 30%. The success gap is impressive, and is the largest for any player in the National League.

And that’s why he’s the MVP.

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Why Are Lefties Crafty?

Last week, baseball lost former Cy Young winner Mike Flanagan. This post is not a eulogy for Flanagan. I’ll leave that to writers more skilled than myself. One of those, Joe Posnanski, wrote a tribute to Flanagan in a column entitled “The Crafty Lefty Hall of Fame.”

I’ve always been fascinated by crafty lefties, and Posnanski’s story made me wonder: why don’t we ever hear about crafty righties? Perhaps “crafty” is an adjective that — due to some old baseball tradition — is used exclusively for southpaws. The other possibility is that there just aren’t as many crafty righties. It turns out, this is one historical baseball saying that holds up under statistical analysis.

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The Odds Behind Seattle’s Losing Streak

Mercifully, the Mariners’ historically bad 17-game losing streak is over. Sure, Seattle didn’t play well for the last three weeks, but it found itself on the wrong side of probability on an incredible level.

If Seattle had a 50/50 chance to win every game, the chances that they would lose 17 games in a row can be calculated by using a probability chain. Taking 50-percent to the 17th power results in 0.0008-percent, or 1-in-131,072 odds.

However, the Mariners are not expected to win 50-percent of their games. Read the rest of this entry »


A Baseball Argument 13 Years in the Making

Because FanGraphs wasn’t around in 1998, a golden opportunity was missed. That year, Sammy Sosa launched 20 home runs in June, the most for any month in baseball history. However, he did not have the best offensive month of all time. He was not even the best hitter in June of 1998. Hop in the time machine and follow me back to the age of steroids, The Truman Show and Master P in order to re-examine the month Slammin’ Sammy rose to stardom.

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Rays’ Defense Continues to Impress

A few weeks ago, with his team streaking back into contention, Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon tweeted about a key to his team’s success:

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What’s Wrong With Adam Dunn?

Adam Dunn is one of the most durable, consistent power hitters in baseball. When Chicago inked the 31-year-old to a four year, $56 million deal last offseason, there was no reason to suspect anything less than the .250/.380/.520 that he puts up seemingly every season. However, through the first month of the season, Dunn is hitting .171/.308/.316. Is The Big Donkey going to rebound, or should the White Sox be concerned about their DH?

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So Far, So Good for The Big Puma Experiment

When St. Louis signed Lance Berkman this offseason, it raised a lot of questions:

“Don’t the Cardinals still have Pujols?”

“Wait, he’s going to play outfield?”

“Can he even hit anymore?”

Through the first two weeks of the season, the Cardinals’ gamble on the man called “The Big Puma” is paying off.

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Salary Inflation Estimates for 2012

Ahh, the joys of small samples. Home runs are up, Kansas City is a contender and Howie Kendrick somehow pulled a Vice Versa with Albert Pujols. Thankfully, there are some statistics we do not have to wait until May to analyze. The average Major League salary is up 1.2-percent from last season, and, unlike Jorge Posada’s 162-homer pace, it’s for real.

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2011 Organizational Rankings: #10 – Colorado

Colorado will never lead the league in payroll. It’s unlikely that someone will write a book about its front office or coaching staff. Yet, the Rockies have been to the playoffs two out of the last four years and should contend for the next several seasons. Above-average results with average resources is what makes Colorado a Top 10 organization in baseball.

Present Talent – 85.00 (T-5th)

Rockies Season Preview

Future Talent – 80.00 (T-15th)

Rockies Top 10 Prospects

Financial Resources – 78.85 (13th)

Baseball Operations – 78.33 (T-16th)

Overall Ranking – 80.74 (10th)

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Dave Righetti: Lord Of The HR/FB Rate

In a couple of recent posts, I created and then tested a regression model which helps explain the variance in home run per fly ball rate. I ended up with a model which performed really well, so it’s time to turn it loose on the question that sent me down this path in the first place: can Dave Righetti really coach his pitchers to a better HR/FB rate? It turns out, the answer may be “yes”, and it could be more emphatic than I would ever have guessed.

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Team Preview: Houston Astros

While the top of the National League Central figures to be competitive in 2011, the Houston Astros will be fighting their own battle this season: to stay out of the basement. The Astros might not be a complete doormat this year, but it’s hard to envision a scenario where they compete for a division title. That being said, Houston has a few position players to watch and a pitching staff that might surprise in 2011.

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