Archive for October, 2013

FanGraphs Audio: Dave Cameron Analyzes All Stirring Finales

Episode 395
Dave Cameron is both (a) the managing editor of FanGraphs and (b) the guest on this particular edition of FanGraphs Audio — during which edition he analyzes the last fleeting moments of the recently concluded 2013 baseball season.

Don’t hesitate to direct pod-related correspondence to @cistulli on Twitter.

You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or other feeder things.

Audio after the jump. (Approximately 31 min play time.)

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The Contradictory Identities of the Cardinals

It is perhaps no longer appropriate to talk about the 2013 St. Louis Cardinals as a current baseball team. As of late Wednesday night, there are no current baseball teams, with all teams now to be referred to in the past tense. In the end, the Cardinals came up just short of the Red Sox, and though they lost the finale by five runs, they did manage to strand runner after runner against John Lackey and bits of the Boston bullpen. It was a theme for the Cardinals in the World Series — though they didn’t perform much worse than Boston at the plate, their timing was worse, and as Dave noted earlier Thursday, the Cardinals were let down by a lack of timeliness that had driven them all regular season long.

Oddly and interestingly, some semblance of Cardinals magic was with them in October. In the playoffs, with runners in scoring position, the Cardinals batted just .259 with a .701 OPS. Those numbers aren’t particularly good, but in the playoffs, with the bases empty, those same Cardinals batted a woeful .190 with a .522 OPS. On the one hand, the Cardinals weren’t automatic in run-scoring situations, like they were during the year. On the other, they still significantly elevated their performance, and this gets to a subject most perplexing.

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A Method for Examining Two-Strike Hitting

Let’s talk about why I love Jamey Carroll. He has had — like most of us would like — his best years after the age of 30; he has played every position except catcher, including an inning of scoreless relief in 2013; he’s short; he spells his name humorously; and he plays a cop in this music video (therabouts of 1:10).

But what impresses me most about him is his rare combination of no power and great plate discipline (as seen here here). There is almost no threat of a homer and only a mild threat of a double when he walks to the plate, but he still induces a walk rate near 10%. Carroll walks more than Robinson Cano and Adrian Gonzalez not because pitchers fear him, but because — as anyone who’s watched Carroll can attest — the 5-foot-11 infielder fights off a half-dozen bad pitches until he finds one he can pop for a single.

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A Statistical Report on All the Caribbean Leagues at Once

For much the same reason that he has published statistical reports of varying degrees of maturity for the Arizona Fall League over the past several weeks, the author is publishing here a combined statistical report for the various Caribbean winter leagues that have started play — again, not necessarily because such reports are of great utility for evaluating players, but because they provide a means by which to participate in those leagues which doesn’t also require a substantial investment in transportation and lodging.

In this case, what the author has done is to identify the regressed hitting and pitching leaders in the Dominican Winter, Mexican Pacific, and Venezuelan Leagues separately*. What he’s then done is to combine the hitting and pitching leaders of those leagues into a pair of top-10 lists, which one can find below. Note: all ages are as of July 1, 2013.

*The fourth major Caribbean league, the Puerto Rican League, doesn’t commence until tomorrow.

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The Cardinals as an Object Lesson

The St. Louis Cardinals are often referred to as a “model organization”, and for good reason. Despite playing in one of the smallest markets of any team in Major League Baseball, they have built a sustainable model of success, flowing through nearly every aspect of the game. They draft and develop talent exceptionally well, leading to a seemingly never ending pipeline of young talent flowing into the big leagues. They manage their financial resources very well, and consistently add quality veterans at prices that won’t prohibit them from making other necessary improvements. They have a formula in place that has allowed them to win in both the short and long term, and have shown that it doesn’t take a $175 million payroll to be one of baseball’s elite franchises.

But, of course, they aren’t perfect. No organization is. So, while the Cardinals 2013 season was a remarkable success, and should be viewed that way no matter how the season ended, there may be a few things that can be learned from their final series loss to the Red Sox.

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Eno Sarris Baseball Chat — 10/31/13

11:48
Eno Sarris: see you at the top of the hour

11:59
Eno Sarris: lyrics of the day are totally inane but still germane

Lay a whisper on my pillow,
leave the winter on the ground.
I wake up lonely,
there’s air of silence in the bedroom
and all around
Touch me now, I close my eyes and dream away.

12:00
Eno Sarris: Okay, let’s get… intimate.

12:00
Comment From person hscer
It’s the offseason! And Eno’s chatting! Regularly?

12:00
Eno Sarris: We’ll see.

12:00
Comment From Sadwick
A wild Eno appears!!!!

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The First Four Red Sox Championships in Boston

Last night, as you may have heard, the Boston Red Sox won the World Series. As many noted, it was the first time that a Boston team clinched the World Series in its home town since the Sox won in 1918.

It was the sixth World Championship that Hub fans have ever had a chance to witness: the Red Sox won at home in 1903, 1912, 1916, and 1918, and the Boston Braves won at home in 1914. Since it’s almost certain that none of the fans at Fenway tonight were in attendance at any of the others, I thought I’d take a quick look at what happened a century ago.
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Effectively Wild Episode 319: Wrapping up the World Series

Ben and Sam review the World Series and talk about the 2013 seasons and futures of the Red Sox and Cardinals with Zachary Levine.


How the Red Sox Got to Michael Wacha

In the little picture, Wednesday’s was a perfectly sensible conclusion. The better baseball team clinched the World Series, on its own home field. One of the truths about the MLB playoffs is that the format doesn’t always reward the best team in baseball. This time, though, the Red Sox have a hell of an argument, and they’re a more than deserving champion. In the big picture, also, Wednesday’s was a perfectly sensible conclusion. The Red Sox won their third title in a decade. They’re always thought of as a powerhouse. The magic is in the medium picture. The picture in which you realize the Red Sox did go from worst to first. Just one season ago, the Red Sox lost 93 games. This season, the Mariners lost 91 games. The Mets lost 88 games. The Padres lost 86 games. There was a lot of talent already in place, but the Red Sox badly needed some work, and the franchise identity shouldn’t blind people to the near improbability of the turnaround. No World Series champion has ever had a worse previous season.

For Sox fans, this was another opportunity to celebrate, and an opportunity to celebrate a Series win at home for the first time in almost a century. For Sox fans and all other fans too, this made for a relatively stress-free game by the middle innings. The top of the seventh offered a glimpse of possible stress, but there was no real stress to be felt after the Sox went up 3-0 in the third and double that in the fourth. Stephen Drew’s homer put Boston’s win expectancy over 90% and it never sank back down below. For several innings, the Sox all but had the clincher in the bag, after chasing the un-chase-able Michael Wacha.

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October Clutch and a Red Sox Championship at Fenway

The ghost of Carl Mays smiled tonight. In 1918, the erstwhile right-hander pitched the Red Sox to a World Series championship with a Game 6 win. Nearly a century later, on the eve of Halloween, Fenway Park was once again the setting for the final game of the Fall Classic.

It was a horror show for the Cardinals.

Boston rolled to a 6-1 win, rocking Michael Wacha in the process. John Lackey played the role of Mays, sucking the life out of the St. Louis offense. For the first time in 95 years, the Red Sox tasted champagne in baseball‘s oldest ballpark.

It was over early Read the rest of this entry »


Congratulations, Boston: 2013 World Series Champions


Source: FanGraphs

Congratulations, Boston. From 69-93 to a World Series title. The curse is well and truly dead.


When David Ortiz has Been Locked In

For a hot minute, used to be the story of the World Series was wacky finishes. More generally, it was overall wackiness, taking into account some defensive blunders. But then we were treated to a more or less clean and conventional Game 5, and now the clear story is David Ortiz, and how he’s presently un-get-outtable. I mean, I guess the real story is how the Red Sox are on the verge of another championship, but as far as players are concerned, Ortiz is the guy. He’s the main guy on the Red Sox, and he’s thought to be the main focus of the Cardinals.

In case you haven’t heard, so far Ortiz has had one of the most productive World Series of all time. He’s got 11 hits in 15 at-bats, and that doesn’t include a grand slam he had taken away by Carlos Beltran, which left him with a meager sacrifice fly. Always a presence, right now Ortiz feels like either a dream or a nightmare, depending on your loyalty. The sense is that he’s seeing the ball better than ever, and hitting the ball better than ever, and as a consequence, if you look around the Internet you’ll recognize the familiar debate about the nature and very existence of hot streaks. They say David Ortiz is locked in. It’s an easy thing to believe. It’s a more difficult thing to prove.

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World Series Game 6 Live Blog

7:58
Dave Cameron: It could be the final day of the 2013 season. Cardinals try to live another day, Red Sox try to win it all again.

7:58
Dave Cameron: This should be fun.

7:58
Comment From Jaack
It could be the end of the Tim McCarver era as well!

8:01
Comment From chuckb
Which number is larger — the % chance that Matheny leaves Wacha in too long or the % chance that Ortiz wins the MVP?

8:01
Dave Cameron: 100% = 100%.

8:01
Comment From Aussie Mariner
If the Cards come back to win the series in these two games and one of their hitters goes all Freese like, do you think he could win the MVP over Ortiz? What would it take for a Cardinal to win it at this point?

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Increasingly Relevant Stat Report on the Arizona Fall League

Over the past three weeks, the author has published an entirely premature statistical report and then a slightly less premature one of those and then, most recently, an almost not premature statistical report on the Arizona Fall League — not necessarily because such a thing is of great utility to prospect analysis, but more because, for those of us not currently present in the Greater Phoenix area, it’s one of the few ways to participate in that very compelling league.

What follows is fourth edition of this site’s weekly AFL statistical report — itself something that is become increasingly relevant for reasons the author would be embarrassed to note for someone as smart as the reader.

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When to Walk David Ortiz

It is a bit of an exaggeration to say that David Ortiz has been the Red Sox’ whole offense during the World Series, but only a bit, as he is hitting .733/.750/1.267 in the Series so far. Of course, he hit .091/.200/.227 in the ALCS versus Detroit. The reader probably understands both sets of numbers to be both small sample fluctuations — Ortiz is an excellent hitter, but making decisions based on any short span of plate appearances is a bad idea. The temptation to give Ortiz the “Barry Bonds treatment,” i.e., walk him every time he comes to the plate, no matter what the situation, is understandable, but should be resisted.

Even if Ortiz is no Bonds, he is an excellent hitter, and clearly the Red Sox’ best. Although the intentional walk in general seems to be overused, there are situations in which it makes sense, especially with the Cardinals sending the right-handed Michael Wacha to the mound tonight and the Red Sox (probably) hitting several right-handed hitters behind the left-handed hitting Ortiz. When to walk or not walk is not a clear cut situation, but using some general principles, we can at least outline some basic game situations when it is might be the right idea.

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FanGraphs Chat – 10/30/13

11:30
Dave Cameron: The baseball season could end tonight. Let’s talk World Series. Or off-season stuff.

11:32
Dave Cameron: And, despite the hypocrisy because of my “no fantasy questions” rule, I’m going to plug my own fantasy league for a second. I started an Ottoneu league two years ago to help raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. In the last two years, we’ve raised about $8,000 for cancer research. Now, the league has two openings, and we’re auctioning them off to the people who will offer to make the largest donations to TNT.

11:33
Dave Cameron: If you’re interested in joining the league, send a tweet to @dcameronfg stating how much you’d be willing to donate to get one of the two teams. Once we have a list of bidders, I’ll send those folks more information.

12:03
Dave Cameron: Okay, let’s get this thing started. We may be looking at a shortened chat again today, as the puppy might have to take a trip to the vet this afternoon if she doesn’t stop throwing up and start showing some energy.

12:03
Dave Cameron: But I’ll be back tonight for the Game 6 live blog, so there should be hours of time to hang out later.

12:04
Comment From JEB
World Series? End tonight? With Wacha on the mound? Nawwwwwwww.

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A Quiet October For Fans of Offense

Last October, Jeff Sullivan wrote about how the 2012 postseason was almost historically low-scoring, calling it “Where Offense Went to Die,” because Jeff Sullivan is wonderful and perceptive. He noted the following stats at the time:

Hitters had a combined .227 batting average, a combined .290 OBP, a combined .349 slugging percentage.

If the 2012 postseason were a player, it would have basically been Justin Smoak, who had a slash line roughly in that range. Smoak was nowhere near the World Series or the playoffs, of course, largely because his Seattle team was terrible, but also because Smoak was hitting like, well, that all year.

With either one or two games remaining in the 2013 postseason, not likely enough to significantly move the needle, we’ve seen 74 playoff games, exactly the same as last year. And where are we this time around? .229/.289/.355, also known as “being within the margin of error of being completely identical”. That’s in the Starlin Castro or Mike Moustakas range of hitters this year, and again, that’s pretty poor, especially when MLB as a whole hit .253/.318/.396 this season. If you liked last year’s lack of hitting, well, you’re seeing the sequel right now, and suddenly last year’s near-historic offensive outage looks like it might not be so historic after all. Read the rest of this entry »


Effectively Wild Episode 318: Playoff Listener Emails and a Fix for the Draft

Ben and Sam answer listener emails about the playoffs, then discuss how MLB could disincentivize tanking for higher draft picks.


Matt Carpenter and a Most Amazing Strike

I want to assure you right away that what follows isn’t sour grapes. I don’t have a dog in this fight. Even if I did, I’d complain on my own time, and not on the job in front of everyone (probably). What follows is about a call, and a controversial one at that, early in Monday’s Game. But I’m not here to talk about  various implications. I’m here to talk about the call’s significance, relative to others, and about the process that contributed to the call. It was, in the end, a call most extraordinary that went Boston’s way.

The Red Sox went ahead 1-0 in the first, as you recall. The score remained the same into the bottom of the third, when David Freese led off with a single. Pete Kozma bunted Freese to second, and Adam Wainwright advanced Freese to nowhere with a strikeout. Matt Carpenter came up with two down, and he worked the count full. In that full count, Jon Lester threw a cutter inside. Carpenter started to first, assuming he’d drawn a two-out walk. Bill Miller, however, called him out, and Carpenter expressed his disagreement. That went about as well as most fairly cordial expressions of disagreement on a baseball field. That is, nothing changed, and the game moved on to the top of the fourth, with Carpenter having struck out looking.

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The Mechanical Change That Maybe Brought Jon Lester Back

You’ll hear some superlatives sent in Jon Lester’s direction after a couple of strong performances in the World Series. The All-Star break — when Lester was sporting a 4.58 ERA and velocity readings that didn’t inspire hope — seems like a long time ago. Between then and now came a mechanical change, and maybe a short rest, that brought the old Jon Lester back in time for this great postseason run. Remarkable about that fact, though, is that the change has been a long time coming.

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