Archive for Red Sox

The Red Sox Do Have an All-Time Outfield

Let’s try, for a moment, to forget all about Game 4’s fan-interference controversy. It was a moment that looms incredibly large, absolutely, but it was also just one moment of the game, a moment that occurred in the bottom of the first. Maybe Jose Altuve was robbed of a home run by Joe West. Maybe Jose Altuve was going to be robbed of a home run by Mookie Betts. It didn’t resolve itself cleanly, but, what can you do? The rest of the game played out. The Astros even took the lead. It wound up as one of the longest nine-inning games in baseball history, but it didn’t feel like it dragged, because it included so much action.

We should consider some of that other action. And we might as well start at the very end. With two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, Alex Bregman swung at Craig Kimbrel’s first pitch and sent a shallow line drive into left. Andrew Benintendi charged, and he laid it all on the line. Benintendi made a do-or-die dive attempt. The Red Sox did. The Astros died.

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The Red Sox’ Unsung Heroes

During his tenure as an MLB executive, Dave Dombrowski has earned a reputation for failing to build quality bullpens. Currently the president of baseball operations with the Red Sox, that reputation grew during his time with the Tigers and has followed him to Boston. Dombrowski took over Detroit in 2002. In 2003, the team lost 119 games. From 2004 to -15, Dombrowski’s Tigers won an average of 83 games per year, made two World Series appearances, qualified for the ALCS four times, and reached the playoffs five times overall. Those teams routinely had the worst bullpen in baseball, however.

The graph below shows average wins per year and reliever WAR from 2004 to -15.

At the end of the 2015 season, when Dombrowski came to a Boston organization with a great farm system, he shored up at least one inning’s worth of bullpen by trading for Craig Kimbrel. Dombrowski’s reputation might have come with him to Boston, but the Red Sox have gotten solid performance from their relievers the last few seasons.

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David Price’s Playoff Problem Might Be a Cutter Problem

It’s perhaps easy to forget, given his postseason woes and the presence of a dominant left-handed rotation mate, but David Price remains, at age 33, among the premier starting pitchers in baseball. Price, in his career, owns a 3.34 FIP, 80 ERA-, and 82 FIP-. (For comparison’s sake, Justin Verlander is at a nearly identical 80 and 81, respectively.) Even in his injury-shortened 2018, Price still approached three wins, and his 24.5% strikeout rate in 2018 remains among top-25 marks in the major leagues.

Though he’s now a couple of years removed from his prime — during which he rattled off seven seasons of 4 WAR or more — he retains a five-pitch arsenal, three of which (fastball, cutter, and sinker) posted positive run values this year. He doesn’t throw as hard as he used to — Father Time is, after all, undefeated — but a 93 mph fastball and an above-average cutter and sinker should still be enough to get hitters out. They were, after all, during the regular season.

Except that, in his postseason career, David Price has posted a 133 ERA-, 115 FIP-, and -0.92 WPA. In 2018, in the postseason, Price has a 222 ERA- and 259 FIP-, “good” for a -0.38 WPA. In other words, David Price, regular-season ace, makes his teams worse in the playoffs. Price’s failures in the postseason are by now a well-known narrative. The Wall Street Journal‘s Brian Costa and Jared Diamond called Price’s playoff misery one of “the Great Mysteries of October Baseball.” After the Sox’ October 6 loss to the Yankees in the Division Series, Bob Nightengale openly wondered if Price would even start again in the playoffs.

Let me start by saying that I am very much a lawyer, and not what one might term a “sabermetrician.” In other words, I profess no great or singular skill, unlike Dan Szymborski or Jeff Sullivan or Jay Jaffe. What I do have, on the other hand, is a healthy curiosity for this game we call “baseball,” and more specifically why things happen the way they do. Lawyers like patterns and predictability. We dislike anomalies. David Price is an anomaly.

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ZiPS Updated Playoff Probabilities – 2018 ALCS/NLCS

Updated through Game Four of ALCS and Game Five of NLCS.

The ZiPS projection system will update these charts after every game and as the starting pitcher probables change. They are based on the up-to-date ZiPS projections of the strengths of the teams and the projected starting pitchers. They are different than the playoff odds that appear elsewhere at this site. The FanGraphs playoff probabilities are based on 10,000 simulations using the updated projections in the depth charts. Where ZiPS differs is guessing the game-by-game starting pitcher matchups and using the ZiPS projections, including split projections.

First, here are the game-by-game probabilities:

Game-by-Game Probabilities, NLCS (Hill Game 7)
Game Home Team Milwaukee Starter Brewers Win Los Angeles Starter Dodgers Win
1 Brewers Gio Gonzalez 100.0% Clayton Kershaw 0.0%
2 Brewers Wade Miley 0.0% Hyun-Jin Ryu 100.0%
3 Dodgers Jhoulys Chacin 100.0% Walker Buehler 0.0%
4 Dodgers Gio Gonzalez 0.0% Rich Hill 100.0%
5 Dodgers Wade Miley Fakeout 0.0% Clayton Kershaw 100.0%
6 Brewers Wade Miley 48.4% Hyun-Jin Ryu 51.6%
7 Brewers Jhoulys Chacin? 44.3% Rich Hill? 55.7%

Game-by-Game Probabilities, NLCS (Buehler Game 7)
Game Home Team Milwaukee Starter Brewers Win Los Angeles Starter Dodgers Win
1 Brewers Gio Gonzalez 100.0% Clayton Kershaw 0.0%
2 Brewers Wade Miley 0.0% Hyun-Jin Ryu 100.0%
3 Dodgers Jhoulys Chacin 100.0% Walker Buehler 0.0%
4 Dodgers Gio Gonzalez 0.0% Rich Hill 100.0%
5 Dodgers Wade Miley Fakeout 0.0% Clayton Kershaw 100.0%
6 Brewers Wade Miley 48.4% Hyun-Jin Ryu 51.6%
7 Brewers Jhoulys Chacin? 41.8% Walker Buehler? 58.2%

Game-by-Game Probabilities, ALCS
Game Home Team Boston Starter Red Sox Win Houston Starter Astros Win
1 Red Sox Chris Sale 0.0% Justin Verlander 100.0%
2 Red Sox David Price 100.0% Gerrit Cole 0.0%
3 Astros Nathan Eovaldi 100.0% Dallas Keuchel 0.0%
4 Astros Rick Porcello 100.0% Charlie Morton 0.0%
5 Astros David Price 42.5% Justin Verlander 57.5%
6 Red Sox Chris Sale 58.0% Gerrit Cole? 42.0%
7 Red Sox Nathan Eovaldi? 48.7% Dallas Keuchel? 51.3%

And here are the overall series probabilities.

Overall NLCS Probabilities (Hill Game 7)
Result Probability
Brewers over Dodgers in 4 0.0%
Brewers over Dodgers in 5 0.0%
Brewers over Dodgers in 6 0.0%
Brewers over Dodgers in 7 21.4%
Dodgers over Brewers in 4 0.0%
Dodgers over Brewers in 5 0.0%
Dodgers over Brewers in 6 51.6%
Dodgers over Brewers in 7 26.9%
Brewers Advance 21.4%
Dodgers Advance 78.6%

Overall NLCS Probabilities (Buehler Game 7)
Result Probability
Brewers over Dodgers in 4 0.0%
Brewers over Dodgers in 5 0.0%
Brewers over Dodgers in 6 0.0%
Brewers over Dodgers in 7 20.2%
Dodgers over Brewers in 4 0.0%
Dodgers over Brewers in 5 0.0%
Dodgers over Brewers in 6 51.6%
Dodgers over Brewers in 7 28.2%
Brewers Advance 20.2%
Dodgers Advance 79.8%

Overall ALCS Probabilities
Result Probability
Red Sox over Astros in 4 0.0%
Red Sox over Astros in 5 42.5%
Red Sox over Astros in 6 33.4%
Red Sox over Astros in 7 11.8%
Astros over Red Sox in 4 0.0%
Astros over Red Sox in 5 0.0%
Astros over Red Sox in 6 0.0%
Astros over Red Sox in 7 12.4%
Red Sox Advance 87.6%
Astros Advance 12.4%

The Fan Interference Call Was Probably Good

Let’s just get this out of the way now: That sucked. I mean, the game between the Astros and Red Sox was great, and it couldn’t have ended in a more dramatic fashion, but ultimately, the Red Sox won by two runs. And, in the bottom of the first inning, a controversial call and replay review might well have cost the Astros two runs. Yes, you’re right, the game would’ve played out differently had that call been made differently. We have no idea what that alternate game would’ve looked like. But the Astros have been pushed to the brink now, and a two-run homer would’ve been a pretty big deal. No one ever wants to think a game and season were damaged by umpires. It’s a very unsatisfying kind of disappointment, when the outcomes aren’t solely determined by the players themselves.

I don’t think we’re ever going to know for sure whether the right call was made. As such, it’s the sort of thing that’s going to linger, at least if the Astros fail to advance. Immediately, this has turned into a great What If?, and a target of Astros fan rage. Yet having reviewed all the evidence, I’ve come to the conclusion the call was good. And by that I mean, I think it was more good than bad. In the absence of anything conclusive, some amount of mystery is everlasting. But if you are to render judgment, you go whichever way you’re leaning. I’m leaning toward fan interference.

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Job Posting: Boston Red Sox Analyst

Position: Boston Red Sox Analyst

Location: Boston, MA

Description:
The Boston Red Sox are seeking an Analyst for the team’s Baseball Analytics department. The role will support all areas of Baseball Operations while working closely with the SVP/Assistant GM, Director of Baseball Analytics, and the department’s team of analysts.

This is an opportunity to work in a fast-paced, intellectually curious environment and to impact player personnel and strategic decision making.

Responsibilities:

  • Statistical modeling and quantitative analysis of a variety of data sources, for the purpose of player evaluation, strategic decision-making, decision analysis, etc.
  • Effectively present analyses through the use of written reports and data visualization to disseminate insights to members of the Baseball Operations leadership.
  • Maintain working expertise of leading-edge analytics, including publicly available research and novel statistical approaches, in order to recommend new or emerging techniques, technologies, models, and algorithms.
  • Other projects and related duties as directed by the Director, Baseball Analytics, and other members of Baseball Operations leadership.

Qualifications:

  • Bachelor’s degree in an analytical field such as statistics, predictive analytics, data science, engineering, applied math, physics, quantitative social sciences, computer science, or operations research.
  • Demonstrated experience with baseball data analysis.
  • Advanced understanding of statistical methods or machine learning techniques.
  • Proficiency with modern database technologies including SQL.
  • Demonstrated experience with programming languages (e.g., R or Python).
  • Demonstrated ability to communicate technical ideas to non-technical audiences using data visualization.
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Office (Excel, PowerPoint, Word).
  • Demonstrated work ethic, passion for baseball, and strong baseball knowledge, including familiarity with current baseball research and analysis.
  • Attention to detail while also having the ability to work quickly and balance multiple priorities.
  • Experience working for a major league club preferred.
  • Ability to work evening, weekend, and holiday hours is a must.
  • Other programming and database skills are a plus.

To Apply:
To apply, please send an email to analyticsresume@redsox.com with the subject “Office Analyst”. Please include the following items/answer:

  • Updated resume
  • Example of analysis you’ve done, preferably related to baseball.
  • What is a project that you believe would add substantial value to a baseball team? Please describe the project and provide an overview of how you would complete it.

How Do You Feel About This Ball Down the Middle?

I just polled you all about something last Thursday. I asked you how you feel about the diminishing role of the starting pitcher in the modern game. I don’t know what I expected, which meant I’d be surprised by *any* results, but here’s where things stand — 23% of you are neutral. Yet 57% of you have a negative opinion, while just 20% of you have a positive opinion. That’s almost a 3-to-1 ratio. We’ll see how things evolve over time, as we become increasingly accustomed to how pitching staffs are used, but there’s clearly a collective sense of loss. The audience likes to think of the starter as the protagonist. The protagonists shouldn’t be killed off in the fourth or fifth inning. Leaves too much of the story.

Now I’m going back to the well again. I have another question for you all. This isn’t about some sort of trend within the game. Rather, this is about one call. But really, it’s about how calls are made in general. It’s about how you prefer that judgment be rendered. We’re going back to Saturday’s Game 1 of the Red Sox/Astros ALCS. Let’s all watch Joe Kelly throw a curveball down the middle.

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Matt Barnes Threw 14 Curveballs in 15 Pitches

There was a moment where Sunday’s Game 2 might’ve unraveled. David Price left the mound to a Fenway Park standing ovation, because he left the mound with a lead, but he also left the mound in the top of the fifth with two runners on in a one-run game. That meant it was up to the Red Sox bullpen to get 13 outs. It was, most immediately, up to Matt Barnes to get out of a jam. And within three pitches, the Astros got a break.

Barnes got ahead of Marwin Gonzalez with two quick strikes. At that point, Barnes came back with a breaking ball low. Gonzalez swung, and he came up empty, and that appeared to be that, but according to home-plate umpire Vic Carapazza, Gonzalez had tipped the ball before it landed in the dirt. So instead of Barnes getting out of the inning, he’d have to try again. Replays couldn’t confirm a foul tip, but a foul tip is a non-reviewable play. It was like watching a dramatic turning point in progress.

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FanGraphs Audio: Dan Szymborski Analyzes All the Postseason

Episode 839
Dan Szymborski is the progenitor of the ZiPS projection system and a senior writer for FanGraphs dot com. He’s also the guest on this edition of the program, during which he examines which managers have produced the best performances of the postseason. Also: Szymborski’s argument for playing Matt Kemp at shortstop. And: a status update on the forthcoming projections for 2019.

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 49 min play time.)

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Sunday Notes: Brewers Broadcaster Jeff Levering Looks at Bullpens, Sees Value

Jeff Levering has had a bird’s-eye view of bull-penning at its best. Perched alongside Bob Uecker in the Milwaukee Brewers radio booth, he’s gotten to watch Craig Counsell adroitly shuttle relievers in and out of games, most notably since the calendar turned to October. One thing he hasn’t seen — at least not often — is starters going deep into games. Brewers starters threw just 847 innings in the regular season, the fewest among teams that advanced beyond the Wild Card round.

A few months ago I asked Levering if he could share any observations, and/or opinions, on the current state of the game. He brought up pitcher usage.

“Baseball is trending to specialization, especially with how bullpens are being constructed,” said Levering. “You’re asking starting pitchers to give you five or six innings. You don’t have many guys like Max Scherzer where you can say, ‘All right, he’s going to give us seven or eight innings today, no matter what.’”

Levering proceeded to mention last winter’s free-agent environment. Rather than being priorities, as they had been in the past, starting pitchers were almost an afterthought. Lucrative offers were neither plentiful nor quickly-coming. Read the rest of this entry »


Mike Clevinger, Will Harris, and Brandon Workman on Developing Their Curveballs

Pitchers learn and develop different pitches, and they do so at varying stages of their lives. It might be a curveball in high school, a cutter in college, or a changeup in A-ball. Sometimes the addition or refinement is a natural progression — graduating from Pitching 101 to advanced course work — and often it’s a matter of necessity. In order to get hitters out as the quality of competition improves, a pitcher needs to optimize his repertoire.

In this installment of the series, we’ll hear from three pitchers — Mike Clevinger, Will Harris, and Brandon Workman— on how they learned and developed their curveballs.

———

Mike Clevinger, Indians

“My curveball was pretty inconsistent in the past. I would get kind of slurvy with it — it was sloppy the past couple of years — but I’ve tightened it up. It’s more 12-6 now. I’ve been able to find a more consistent up-to-down break.

“There was a lot of process involved. It literally started as… it was almost like we were trying to catch a bass, just flipping it with a tight wrist. A reversed stance — my right foot forward, almost like a pickoff — and just flipping it, flipping it. We were kind of getting the feel for that, coming down and pulling out in front.

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Another Slow Hook Helps Send Red Sox to ALCS

A night after he was pilloried, both here and elsewhere, for sticking with his starting pitcher for too long, Yankees manager Aaron Boone did it again — this time in an elimination game. It wasn’t quite as egregious, and it didn’t turn the contest into a blowout, but the rookie skipper was short on urgency with his team’s season on the line, and it cost them. The Red Sox beat the Yankees 4-3 in Game Four of the AL Division Series (box), closing out the series on their rivals’ home field and moving on to the ALCS for the first time since 2013.

With the Yankees down two games to one in the Division Series, Boone started CC Sabathia, who at 38 years old is long on experience and guile but short on stamina. Of the 128 pitchers who threw at least 100 innings as a starter this season, the big man’s 5.28 innings per turn ranked 102nd. It didn’t prevent him from turning in a valuable season: over the course of 153 innings, he delivered a 3.65 ERA, 4.16 FIP, and 2.5 WAR, the last mark 0.6 wins higher than last year in a similarly sized body of work (148.2 innings). Some credit for that is due to Boone for limiting Sabathia’s exposure the third time through the order (when his wOBA allowed jumps to .391), and some to the pitcher himself, for accepting his role and his limitations.

On Tuesday night, against a lineup stacked with righties — Ian Kinsler and Eduardo Nunez were back at second and third bases, respectively, in place of Game Three heroes Brock Holt and Rafael Devers, while Steven Pearce subbed again for Mitch Moreland at first base — Sabathia wobbled through the first inning on 20 pitches. After retiring the first two hitters, he loaded the bases with two singles and a walk before escaping via a towering Kinsler fly ball that left fielder Brett Gardner ran down near the foul line. He prolonged his second inning with a two-out walk of Christian Vazquez, the No. 9 hitter and a guy who posted a 42 wRC+ in the regular season. That required him to face leadoff hitter Mookie Betts again. On the 15th pitch of the inning, though, Betts hit a routine fly to right for the third out.

Sabathia was in trouble from the outset of the third, hitting Andrew Benintendi with a pitch and then yielding a single to Pearce that sent Benintendi to third; he soon came home on a J.D. Martinez sacrifice fly, the game’s first run. Sabathia induced Xander Bogaerts to ground out, but by this point had thrown another 16 pitches, running his count to 51. Boone, with a rested set of A-listers (save for Chad Green, who threw 29 pitches on Monday night, at a point well after any of them mattered), had finally gotten David Robertson up in the bullpen — the kind of power arm sorely needed in mid-inning on Monday night, but one who never got the call.

Kinsler smoked a double (exit velocity 106.2 mph) over Gardner’s head in left field, scoring Pearce and putting the Red Sox up by a score of 2-0.

Boone stayed put.

Nunez hit an RBI single to right, pushing the tally to 3-0.

Boone stayed put.

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The Meaningless Cycle

Brock Holt had a fun night on Tuesday, recording four hits in the Red Sox’ commanding 16-1 victory over the Yankees in Game Three of the ALDS. Even more notable than the number of hits recorded by Holt was the type. He followed a fourth-inning single with a fourth-inning triple with an eighth-inning double with a ninth-inning home run. Put all those together and the result is the first cycle in postseason history.

A cycle obviously isn’t the most potent collection of four hits a batter can record. Replacing the single with a double would technically represent a “better” night at the plate. Replacing all the hits with four home runs wouldn’t be so bad, either. A cycle is fun, though. It’s impressive for its offensive impact and unusual for the distribution of hit types.

Brock Holt’s cycle, specifically, occurred in a blowout, so most of the component hits had little bearing on the Red Sox’ win. We’ll get to that in a bit. First, let’s take a look at why there have been no playoff cycles before this one.

For baseball to facilitate 100 years of postseason play without producing a single cycle seems odd. Consider, though, that the modern MLB season features around 2,400 games and that those 2,400 games have yielded only about three cycles per season this decade (and fewer in earlier eras). Meanwhile, there have been only about 1,500 playoff games. In other words, using historical averages, there’s still about a one-in-three chance of no cycles occurring across the entire swath of postseason history. Limiting the calculus to playoff games since 2010 — or roughly 300 postseason contests — there’s a two-in-three chance of zero cycles.

While Holt’s was the first official cycle, history has produced a number of close calls. A few searches of Baseball-Reference’s Play Index reveals 152 player games in which a batter finished one hit short of the cycle. Those hits are broken down as follows:

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Brock Holt Has Been One of Baseball’s Best Hitters

If Game 3 of the ALDS between the Red Sox and Yankees is going to be remembered, it’ll be remembered for up to three reasons. It could be remembered for Aaron Boone’s alleged mismanaging of the pitching staff, believing too strongly in Luis Severino and then believing too strongly in Lance Lynn for some reason. It could be remembered for Angel Hernandez having three separate calls at first base overturned by replay review. And/or it could be remembered for Brock Holt hitting for the cycle. Yes, the cycle is a silly accomplishment, and yes, the home run to cap it off came against the Yankees’ backup catcher. But it was somehow the first cycle in the entire history of the playoffs, and the author was literally Brock Holt.

Holt is a 30-year-old utility player with a career wRC+ of 92. Including the playoffs, he has a total of 22 home runs to his name, and he didn’t so much as appear in Game 1 or Game 2. Holt’s entire identity is a big part of what makes this so delightful — you’d expect the first playoff cycle to belong to someone better. Someone like Willie Mays or Mookie Betts. Holt hitting for the playoff cycle feels like Adam Kennedy hitting three home runs in a playoff game against the Twins. I’ll say this much for Holt, though: This didn’t come completely out of nowhere. Of late, few hitters in baseball have been better than him.

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Rick Porcello on Elevating and Evolving

Boston’s Rick Porcello enters tonight’s ALDS Game Four at Yankee Stadium — a potential clincher for the Red Sox — having recorded the second-highest pitching WAR and most innings for a Boston club that won 108 games. The 29-year-old right-hander also goes in with 10 full seasons of big-league experience. He’s learned a lot in those 10 seasons.

Porcello is savvy — in a number of ways. Fully at home with analytics — terms like “spin axis” are part of his vernacular — Porcello is equally reliant on his instincts. The 1,800-plus major-leauge innings he’s authored have taught him that an ability to adjust on the fly is invaluable. He knows that hitters have just as much access to data as he does.

He’s evolved since debuting with the Detroit Tigers in 2009. Primarily a ground-ball specialist in his earliest seasons, Porcello now relies heavily on elevated four-seam fastballs. He’s not a flame-thrower — his heater sits in the low 90s — but thanks to an above-average spin rate and an array of offspeed offerings, he’s become increasingly effective upstairs. Changing eye levels is a key. When he’s on his game, Porcello is adept at getting hitters to chase pitches both above and below the strike zone.

———

Rick Porcello on learning what works: “Through experience, I’ve acquired knowledge of what it takes to be a starting pitcher at the big-league level. That includes what it takes to go out there every five days as a starting pitcher. There’s a learning process involved. There’s mental preparation and physical preparation.

“As far as attacking hitters, there have been ebbs and flows since I first got to the big leagues — which pitches are effective, which zones to throw to. For example, the high fastball. Nobody threw that when I got here. The high fastball was just to change eye levels, then you’d get back down and try to command the ball at the bottom of the zone. It’s completely different now.

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Boone Fiddles While the Bronx Burns

NEW YORK — In stark contrast to the proficiency with which he handled staff ace Luis Severino in the Yankees’ AL Wild Card win, pulling the right-hander after four electrifying (if wild) innings, manager Aaron Boone appeared to be caught flat-footed last night in Game Three of the AL Division Series against the Red Sox.

Well equipped to handle Severino’s heat, the Boston lineup — featuring four players who didn’t start Game Two — hit scorcher after scorcher off the 24-year-old righty through the first three innings, building up a 3-0 lead in the process. By the time Boone came out of the dugout, three batters into the fourth inning, he was too late. The pitcher to whom he turned offered little relief, too. The resulting seven-run outburst broke the game open, paving the way for the Red Sox to humiliate the Yankees 16-1, the most lopsided postseason loss in the franchise’s history and one that pushed them to the brink of elimination in the best-of-five series.

The small fraction of the 49,657 attendees who stuck around to the bitter end witnessed not only that bit of history but another, as well, as Red Sox second baseman Brock Holt became the first player ever to hit for the cycle in a postseason game. The coup de grâce came in the form of a two-run ninth-inning homer off Austin Romine, normally the Yankees’ backup catcher but here just the second position player ever to pitch in a postseason game.

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Job Posting: Red Sox Major League Clubhouse Analyst

Position: Boston Red Sox Major League Clubhouse Analyst

Location: Boston, MA

Description:
The Boston Red Sox seek an analyst to support the major league coaching staff while working closely with the major league manager, senior analyst in Baseball Analytics, and Advance Scouting department.

This is an opportunity to work in a fast-paced, intellectually curious environment and to potentially impact player performance and on-field strategy.

Responsibilities:

  • Statistical modeling and quantitative analysis of a variety of data sources, for the purpose of optimizing on-field player performance and strategic decision-making.
  • Effectively present analyses through the use of written reports and data visualization to disseminate insights to members of the major league coaching staff.
  • Travel with the major league team throughout the season, including to the Red Sox spring training facility. During the offseason this position will be based in Boston working with Baseball Analytics.
  • Maintain working expertise of leading-edge analytics, including publicly available research and novel statistical approaches, in order to recommend new or emerging techniques, technologies, models, and algorithms.
  • Other projects and related duties as directed by the major league manager, senior analyst in Baseball Analytics, and other members of Baseball Operations leadership.

Qualifications:

  • Bachelor’s degree in an analytical field such as statistics, predictive analytics, data science, engineering, applied math, physics, quantitative social sciences, computer science, or operations research.
  • Demonstrated experience with baseball data analysis.
  • Advanced understanding of statistical methods or machine learning techniques.
  • Proficiency with modern database technologies including SQL.
  • Demonstrated experience with programming languages (e.g., R or Python).
  • Demonstrated ability to communicate technical ideas to non-technical audiences using data visualization.
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Office (Excel, PowerPoint, Word).
  • Demonstrated work ethic, passion for baseball, and strong baseball knowledge, including familiarity with current baseball research and analysis.
  • Attention to detail while also having the ability to work quickly and balance multiple priorities.
  • Experience working for a major league club preferred.
  • Ability to work evening, weekend, and holiday hours is a must.
  • Other programming and database skills are a plus.

To Apply:
To apply, please send an email to analyticsresume@redsox.com with the subject “Clubhouse Analyst.” Please include the following items/answers to the following questions:

  • Updated resume
  • Example of analysis you’ve done, preferably related to baseball
  • What is a project that you believe would add substantial value to a baseball team? Please describe the project and provide an overview of how you would complete it.

Sunday Notes: The Voice of the Indians Flirted with a Pigskin Tiger

Tom Hamilton has been the radio voice of the Indians since 1990. Very early into that tenure there was a chance — albeit a small one — that he would move on and spend the bulk of his career elsewhere. How might that have happened? In the winter following Hamilton’s second year in Cleveland, the Detroit Tigers inexplicably informed iconic broadcaster Ernie Harwell that 1991 would be his final season in the booth.

“Ernie told me that I should apply for the job, or at least go if I got called,” Hamilton explained. “I felt uncomfortable about that — nobody wanted to see Ernie have his career end that way — but he came to me and said that I should. The Tigers did call, so I interviewed even though I didn’t really have an interest. Not only was I happy in Cleveland, I didn’t want to be the guy following Ernie.”

Rick Rizzs, who is now in Seattle, ended up getting the job. Predictably, he wasn’t well-received. While Rizzs was, and remains, a quality baseball play-by-play announcer, that means little when you’re stepping into the shoes of a legend.

Another Wolverine State sports legend made Hamilton’s reluctant interview more than worthwhile. Read the rest of this entry »


Mookie Betts Is the WAR Champion of 2018

Before examining Mookie Betts and Mookie Betts’ excellent 2018 season in earnest, allow me first to address some claims I have no intention of making in what follows. I will not, for example, state definitively that Mookie Betts is the most talented player in the majors. I will not suggest that Betts ought obviously to be the MVP of the American League. I will not argue that Wins Above Replacement is an infallible measure of player value. I will also not contend that FanGraphs’ version of WAR is necessarily superior to others that exist.

What I will say is that WAR is a metric designed to account for the ways in which a player contributes on the field and to translate those various contributions into wins. While the methodology employed by FanGraphs differs slightly from the one used by Baseball-Reference, for instance, both are constructed with the same end in mind — namely, to estimate the value of a ballplayer relative to freely available talent. Each represents an attempt to answer a good question in a responsible way.

According to the version of WAR presented at this site, Betts was the major leagues’ most valuable player this year. By FanGraphs’ calculations, he was worth just over 10 wins relative to a replacement player. As Craig Edwards recently noted, that 10-win threshold is pretty significant: the “worst” player to reach it since the beginning of last century is Norm Cash. Cash, according to Jay Jaffe’s JAWS metric, was more or less his era’s Mark Teixeira. Whatever one’s opinion of Mark Teixeira, it’s encouraging if he represents the floor for a player’s career projection. It’s difficult to record a 10-win season by accident. Mookie Betts is very good.

What follows is an account of how Betts produced those 10 wins — an anatomy, as it were, of a historically great season. By examining the constituent elements of WAR — and Betts’ performance in each category — it’s possible perhaps to arrive at a better sense of what is required for a player to distinguish himself amongst his peers. It might also possibly allows us to better appreciate what a special talent Betts has become.

Batting Runs: +62.2
The batting element of WAR is calculated, more or less, by translating all the hitterly events (walk, single, double, etc.) into runs. By this measure, Betts ranked second among all major leaguers behind Mike Trout — and finished just ahead of teammate J.D. Martinez.

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Mookie Betts’ Historic Season

The existence of Mike Trout makes things difficult for everyone. He’s produced more wins through age 26 than any player in history, averaging 9.1 WAR per season. He’s made adjustment after adjustment after adjustment. He became an average Hall of Famer before his 27th birthday. It’s not easy to compete with that.

It’s possible that we’ve grown so accustomed to Trout’s level of production that, when another player rivals it, the effect is muted. But that’s precisely what Mookie Betts is doing this season. Betts has recorded a season on a level we’ve only seen from Trout, Barry Bonds, and Alex Rodriguez over the past 25 years. And if it weren’t for presence of Trout himself just behind Betts on the WAR leaderboard, it’s possible that Betts’ accomplishment would seems even more unusual.

In 2015, a 22-year-old Betts broke out with an impressive power-speed combo, resulting in a 120 wRC+ and a 4.8 WAR season. The following year, he improved nearly every aspect of his game and put together an MVP-caliber campaign, recording just over eight wins finishing second to Trout in the balloting. Last year, Betts fell off a bit despite another good year on the basepaths and in the outfield. He increased his walk rate without suffering a corresponding rise in strikeouts, but his power dropped and he ended up with “only” 5.4 WAR for the year, ranking 15th among MLB position players.

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