Team NERD: Some Early Returns

Though we’re just a bit over a week into the season, every team in the majors has recorded over 300 plate appearances and has, at least to some degree, begun to fashion something like a “team identity.” Whether said identity is the one that defines the team even two weeks from now — that remains to be seen. But, like I always say, it’s never too early to begin making sweeping generalizations!

In any case, owing to the samples available, it’s not entirely inappropriate to look at our very proprietary watchability index, NERD, at the team level. NERD, which was introduced in these pages at the end of last August, represents an attempt to anticipate how interesting a team might be to the smarter baseball fan — taking into account both sabermetric variables (batting runs, bullpen xFIP) and more aesthetic or generally appealing ones (team speed, age, payroll).

Here are the results, first. Discussion regarding particular scores and a reminder on calculating NERD appear after the jump. (UPDATE: for some reason the Padres’ Pay variable was off. Now fixed. Thanks, reader Tony.)

Two Quick Notes
As I say, there’s a reminder further down on how NERD is calculated. Still, I want to mention two quick things here.

First is that, because UZR numbers aren’t available yet, they’re not factored into the scores you see here. Second is that I’ve added a new variable to the team scores — namely, a way to reward teams that are squarely in the middle of playoff contention (and represented above by POFF).

I noticed last season that teams which were either totally incapable of clinching, or had already clinched, a playoff spot — they were generally less interesting to watch, as they had less to play for than teams competing directly for postseason play. Accordingly, I’ve rewarded teams that have approximately a 25% chance of making the playoffs per Cool Standings (with the idea that most teams begin the season, generically, with something like a 25% chance of making the postseason). I’ve included more information on calculating the POFF variable below.

• I’ll concede that it’s difficult to consider very interesting a team that’s given considerable playing time to Willie Bloomquist, but the Diamondbacks have other, less scrap-related items of interest to offer. First of all, only the Phillies and Reds in the National League have produced more park-adjusted batting runs above average. Additionally, there’s the relatively low team age and payroll. And, finally, the Arizona bullpen — which was miserable last season — has been excellent so far. J.J. Putz, Juan Gutierrez, Kam Mickolio, and Aaron Heilman: all have posted xFIPs under 3.00 (in very few innings, admittedly).

• When considering the Cleveland Indians, it’s probably important to divorce them from their present stadium atmosphere (which SB Nation’s Jeff Sullivan has monitored with admirable dilgence). Still, it’s important to note somthing — namely, that Carlos Santana is frigging awesome. Also, per Base Runs standings, the Indians actually “should” be 6-3 through their first nine games — meaning their 7-2 record isn’t totally crazy.

• The Royals? What? (Tim Collins is one thing. Alex Gordon hitting .357/.400/.548, 163 wRC+ so far is another.)

• The Cubs? The Mariners? The Astros? These aren’t suprising, are they?

• The Twins would do better if sideburns were one of the criteria.

Components of Team NERD
The components of Team NERD — again, originally presented last August — are as follow:

• Batter Age (AGE)
• Park-Adjusted wRAA (BAT)
• Park-Adjusted Home Run per Fly Ball (HR/FB)
• Stolen Base Attempts per Opportunity (SBA)
• Stolen Base Runs (SBR)
• Extra-Base Taken Percentage (XBT)
• Bullpen xFIP (BULL)
• Team Defense (UZR)
• Base Runs – Actual Runs Scored (LUCK)
• Payroll (PAY)
• Playoff Contention (POFF)

The Formula for Team NERD
The formula for Team NERD is represented as follows:

(AGEz*2) + BATz + HR/FBz + (SBAz*.333 + SBRz*.333 + XBTz*.333) + BULLz + UZRz + PAYz + LUCK + POFF + Constant (to make 5.00 average)

A Note on Calculating POFF
As noted above, I’ve added a variable to the NERD formula to credit teams that are most thoroughly in playoff contention — that is, neither way ahead or behind in the standings.

To measure playoff odds, I use the POFF number from Cool Standings. For teams with less than a 25% chance of making the playoffs, I do 25-POFF. If a team’s chances of making the playoffs is greater than 25%, I do (25-POFF)/-3. This way, a team with, say, a 10% chance of making the playoffs is roughly equivalent to one with a 70% chance of making the playoffs. We’ll call the results of this X.

From here, I do the following: ((25-X)-12.5)/6.25. This gives teams with exactly a 25% chance of making the playoffs a +2.00. Team that have either clinched or been matheatically eliminated will have a 2.00.

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Carson Cistulli occasionally publishes spirited ejaculations at The New Enthusiast.

23 Responses to “Team NERD: Some Early Returns”

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  1. Phegan says:

    Was Tampa the biggest drop? from 10 to 4?

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  2. Bascinator says:

    Why are there no negative numbers for AGEz, LUCKz, and PAYz?

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    • B – It’s because teams with older-than-average players, or higher-than-average payrolls, etc — they’re not expressly UNinteresting for that reason. But a particularly young team or a team on a budget — that, combined with some other things, could make a team watchable.

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  3. Oliver says:

    Am I missing something or does the formula ignore the appeal of great starting pitching? That would explain Arizona, Cleveland and KC outscoring my perception.

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  4. KC says:

    I’ve been a long time baseball fan and as a math major I’m trying to get more into the numbers of the sport, but as I look at this list I see teams that are scoring a good number of runs at the top. I’ll admit that most fans probably like it more when there’s a lot of runs, but for me I love defense and pitching.

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    • As I note in the comment above this one, starting pitchers are accounted for separately. I just haven’t computed their scores yet, on account of the samples are pretty small at the moment.

      Hope that clears things up.

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  5. glassSheets says:

    I would like POFF to account for the fact there are 4, 5, and 6 teams in divisions. The AL West has better odds to make the playoffs than the NL Central simply because there are less teams (if we assume every team is the exact same quality and each game is a 50-50 coin flip). This unfairly penalizes the NL Central, helps the AL West, and actually helps the entire AL more than the entire NL.

    Could POFF be some sort of deviation from the 50-50 percentages. I.e. assuming all teams are equal SEA has 1/4 + 1/11 * (3/4) = 31.8% chance of making the playoffs whereas MIL has 1/6 +1/13 *(5/6) = 23.1% chance of making the playoffs (I just did the math quick don’t be too harsh if I goofed it up).

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    • Nate says:

      “…SEA has 1/4 + 1/11 * (3/4) = 31.8% chance of making the playoffs…”

      SWEET!! Go M’s!

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    • Yirmiyahu says:

      “This unfairly penalizes the NL Central, helps the AL West, and actually helps the entire AL more than the entire NL. ”

      Take it up with Bud Selig, not Carson.

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      • glassSheets says:

        The fact MIL only has a 23.1% chance of making the playoffs doesnt explicitly make them less interesting than SEA with a 31.8% chance, though. In this scenario SEA is in a four way tie whereas MIL is in a six way tie. I would say a six way tie is more NERD-licious than a 4 way tie. Bud Selig hampered their playoff chances, Carson is the detractor of interesting.

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  6. Nate says:

    I love me some NERD.
    This team chart COULD be dynamic. How often will you update/post it?
    I’d love to watch my Mariners climb week after week after week from 2 to say… 4 or something. That’d be awesome!
    Please update and post on some kind of regular (frequent?) basis.

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  7. Tony says:

    Why don’t the Padres have a + PAY score? They have one of the lowest payrolls in baseball.

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  8. shamus says:

    ok, this is undoubtedly a stupid question, but why is LUCK never negative?

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  9. Choo says:

    Willie Bloomquist — Most Scrappiest NERD, Hellenistic Nose Division — April, 2011.

    Atta boy, Willie!

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  10. Derek says:

    Hey Carson…I only get about 100-200 page impressions a day, but I thought you might be happy with the pleasant things I said about your system in my blog today. It’s always nice to feel loved, right? Check it if you wish:

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  11. Jordan says:

    Looking through the chart, the POFF column can’t be right. PHI and TEX are the 2 highest chance teams on, yet both negative in this ranking? something went wrong somewhere.

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    • jrogers says:

      Teams with too high a chance of making the playoffs are less interesting to watch than those on the bubble.

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  12. camisadelgolf says:

    The Reds have a very good defense. When UZR starts to become factored, how big of a boost will they receive in these rankings?

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  13. wurst2first says:

    The Brewers lead the league in an additional category, Gentlemanliness, thanks to Tony Plush. That’s got to be worth something, right?

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  14. Jim Lin says:


    While I understand the idea behind having the POFF column, the use of it early in the season is giving highly counterintuitive results. This early in the season cool standings is clearly using some kind of preseason projection to predict the rest of the season so there are teams like Philadelphia and Texas that are being penalized for “nearly clinching” which is obviously ridiculous this early into the season. Do you really think that Minnesota and Cleveland are the two most interesting teams to watch right now based on standings? Or that Philadelphia and Texas are the 5th and 6th least interesting teams to watch based on standings?

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