29 October 2007

What Happened? What the Hell Happened?

by Joshua Worley

There they were, the Rockies and their fans, winners of 21 out of 22, miracle contestants in the World Series --- and then it was gone, swept away by the Red Sox.

There we were, Dodger fans, in May of 1998, with the greatest hitting catcher ever, a sure-fire future Dodger Hall-of-famer --- and then it was gone, traded away to the Marlins.

There we were, in 2005, 12-2 to start the year, winners of games by blowout and comeback, by fortune and talent, riding high with a great young GM at the helm --- and then it was gone, doomed by injury, arrogance, and panic.

There we were, this year, 13-5 to begin April, looking like the best team in the National League --- and then it was gone, doomed by injury and stupidity.

There they were, the Yankees and their fans, finally in love with the greatest player in the game, and then it was gone, terminated by email.

Baseball fans know all too well the horrible feeling that comes when the bottom falls out. Everything is going fine, and suddenly nothing is fine. The season is in shambles. Future seasons are in shambles, perhaps. You're helpless, bewildered, angry. What the hell happened?

The Mets, and the Brewers. The Padres. I think some of their fans are still wondering what happened. And now the Rockies. Everything was going so well. Unimaginably well, historically well. They were the new team clutch. And then they weren't. Why did the Rockies magic melt? What happened to that team of destiny?

There is no answer. There are grasping explanations, there are urgent reasons why the disaster occured, but there is no honest answer. The 8-day layoff hurt them. The Red Sox were a far superior team. But inferior teams have won before, and teams with long layoffs have won before. There is no true answer, unless one is content to just make up new rules for why teams win every year.

There is a necessary humility in knowing you don't have the answer. It's a humility many sportswriters lack. This is why our team lost, and this is what has to be done to fix it. Usually fixing it involves firing someone. Sometimes it's making a trade or signing a player.

I think the Dodgers should make a run at Alex Rodriguez. He's such a polarizing figure --- already Peter Gammons, Buster Olney, and Jemele Hill have all ripped him at espn.com. But if he hits, and he will, I don't care. I don't care about the whole question of clutch. He's worth going after. But he's not the answer. No one player is ever the answer. The trap door can open on any team.

There are, sometimes, lessons to be learned from failure. Weaknesses shown, a path to improvement indicated. But there are no definitive answers. During many of the recent offseasons the Yankees thought they had found their answer. They were always just one big signing away. There is no foolproof way to win as much as you'd like, when you'd like. There is always the possibility for the "what the hell happened" moment to come again. A player leaves unexpectedly, or the team just goes into the tank out of nowhere. There are just no guarantees. So much in baseball just doesn't make sense. Even when there are reasons they may not quite add up to what happened. There are good reasons why the Red Sox won the World Series --- but these reasons shouldn't have added up to a sweep, not over a team that had been playing as well as the Rockies.

I hope 2007 Rockies are remembered well. But in the short term I fear it's a huge mark against them that they didn't win the World Series. Becoming worthy of remembrance seems more and more like an all or nothing sort of thing in modern times. Maybe the perspective of time is needed. Does anyone even care anymore that the 1951 Giants didn't win the World Series? It's irrelevant to the legend of that team. Heck, the '51 Giants are far more famous than the '51 Yankees, who won the World Series. Maybe the same will happen with the Rockies. I have too much respect for what they did down the stretch, including those awful 7 losses they handed the Dodgers, to think of them as failures.

I wonder if Grady Little is wondering what the hell happened right now. The year got really bumpy toward the end, but he seemed comfortably on track to manage the team next year. There were no reactionary sportswriters calling for his head, and management said he would be back. He had a contract.

And now? Who knows? Someone out there knows, I guess. I'm not sure who, though. All these rumors out there, about Girardi, and now Torre --- it's hard to ignore. No one with the Dodgers will come out and say Grady will be back next year. These are bad omens. I'm guessing he feels like a trap door below his feet has opened up, at the least. I don't think it's right. I've had problems with some of Grady's decisions, but this whole round of drawn-out speculation, fueled by the Dodgers' unwillingness to just end it with a definitive statement ( one way or the other ) isn't fair to Grady. Whether he's back next year or not, this past week has been a shame. Part of that falls to Buster Olney and his rumor-mongering, and part of it falls to the Dodgers.

I just hope the Dodgers aren't falling into the Yankee trap of thinking after each failure that they have the answer. Not only does arrogance not breed winning, but it makes it unpleasant to root for a team. I sure hope Colletti and McCourt are proceeding with all due humility. But this thing with Little and Torre bothers me. 2005 was DePodesta's fault. That ended up being the answer for that year. Will 2007 go down as Grady's fault, perhaps for playing those spoiled kids too much?

I don't know. I just wish the Dodgers were still a classy organization. I'm looking at what's happened with the team the last ten years, and sometimes I just wonder what the hell happened.

25 October 2007

Maximizing Beckett

When JD Drew came up in the first inning of World Series Game 1, I thought he would hit a home run. Really. That would have made the score 5-0, and put the game firmly in Boston's control, especially with Beckett pitching. But Beckett is just gravy, you know? The Red Sox would have been firmly in control even with Matsuzaka or Schilling or Lester starting as well. Near locks to win the game, being up 5-0. Beckett would have been made superfluous. Frakly with the game well in hand up 5-0, his excellence would have been wasted.

So my Drew flight of fancy inspired another flight of fancy. If Drew hit that home run to make it 5-0 in the first inning, why not pull Beckett from the game? Save him for game 2, or even game 3 if he can't start a day after throwing an inning. Look, he's scheduled to start only two games anyway. It's not as if the Red Sox would be losing any of his starts by pulling him from a lopsided game and holding him back to start a possibly closer game when his great pitching would be more useful.

There are so many objections to this idea, I know. I can just imagine the consternation and outrage this would cause McCarver and Buck! It would be worth it just to hear them spit bile and indignation at the decision. "You can't run a real baseball team like a strat-o-matic team! You have to win the game you're playing first!" McCarver would be even more outraged than he was when Manny loafed to first on his home run single in the ALCS!

This idea wouldn't work if Schilling or Matsuzaka wasn't ready to come in and "start" game 1 after Beckett was pulled with the 5-0 lead. It could also possibly screw up Beckett, though this objection I find unpersuasive. It would be unorthodox, and leave the manager open to all kinds of criticism if the unlikely happened and the Red Sox gave up their 5-0 first inning lead.

Of course, JD Drew did not hit a home run in the first inning to make it 5-0. He hit a double down the right field line, that unclutch bum, to make it just 3-0. And Beckett stayed in the game, of course. And the Sox went on the win 13-1. So his great effort was kind of wasted anyway. It could have been Schilling in there giving up 4 runs in 6 innings and the Sox would have won just as comfortably. Not that there was an obvious moment to pull off my crazy plan. By the time the Red Sox were up by 5 runs Becket had already pitched 4 innings. I wonder if it would have been possible to pull Beckett at this point and have him be fresh enough to start game 3. I think so, but I'm not the manager.

This is an extreme case of creative pitcher usage, I guess. But even the mild cases of creative pitcher usage are rare now, outside of a do-or-die playoff game. I wish we'd see creative, leverage maximizing pitcher usage out of managers more often. The most obvious flaw in pitcher usage these days is in the deployment of closers, of saving the best reliever for only a ninth inning lead, and not using him often when the game is truly on the line. This has been covered by countless other bloggers; I won't belabor the point. In the Dodgers' case it wasn't so bad most of the year, because they had two elite closer-type relievers in Broxton and Saito. But even with these two there were times when Beimel would pitch in the seventh with the game on the line, because Broxton was the eighth inning guy. The only defined role a pitcher should need is that he gets outs!

The Red Sox won game one, and that's great for them. But they merely held serve, with a home game with their ace going. Let's assume Beckett wins his game 5 start as well. The Sox still have to then win 2 of 5 non-Beckett games to become champions. That doesn't sound too hard, but they are counting on their rather thin second-line pitching to hold down the deep Rockies offense in all of those games. This thing isn't over yet.

18 October 2007

The Lost Offseason

Yesterday I had the happy realization that the new season of Lost was just a few months away. For just a moment, I was giddy with excitement. And then, because my thoughts often come tumbling in strange patterns, I hoped I would have the same kind of anticipatory excitement for the Dodgers around, say, February of next year.

Stay with me, even if you aren't a fan of Lost. Why would it be that I have such excitement for the new season of Lost, even more than two months out? It's because the season finale was so great. More specifically, it's because what the writers of Lost have given us to look forward to is so great. They've had their vision all along, and they've stuck with it. And that's what the baseball offseason is really all about. Give us something to look forward to. Commit to your own excellence! Don't be scared. Don't retreat to the hackneyed old storylines, the reliable comfort of known mediocrity, the tried tricks that everyone has seen before. Resist the Gonzalezes, the Garciaparras, the Pierres. They are the laugh tracks of the baseball world. The sound of laughter without real laughter. The sound of wins without real wins.

Lost came under a lot of criticism over the past few years. People doubted the direction of the show. They wanted more answers. I never understood this. I never saw the slippage in the show. The writers never did lose their way, and I think the strong season finale showed that.

The Dodgers seem to be on the edge of losing their way. Their strong vision for the future has already faltered --- look at how many roadblocks they put in front of Loney and Kemp --- will they completely abandon what is left of their vision? I fear, sometimes, that the new season may end up having all the excitement of a season of Leave it to Beaver. Safe, predictable, mediocre. 0.500. Jason Bay instead of Matt Kemp. Nomar Garciaparra instead of Andy LaRoche. The offseason for the Dodgers is not about getting Alex Rodriguez. That's not going to happen, most likely. What it is about is realizing that Alex Rodriquez is just about only potentially available veteran out there worth getting. But I don't know if the Dodgers know that. A few weeks ago, dodgers.com reporter Ken Gurnick reported that Frank McCourt had vowed to stay the course. In the next few months we'll find out what that really means. What course are they on? It's possible to follow a course faithfully and still end up lost.

10 October 2007

The Boring Snakes

by Joshua Worley

Will anyone east of the Mississippi River be watching the National League Championchip Series? The Cubs, I guess, were the only good national draw in the National League playoffs this year. This is a shame, since the Rockies are the best story, by far, in all of baseball. But I think the habit of ignoring them is just too ingrained for them to really capture a wide range of interest. If the Cubs are loveable losers, then the Phillies are the surly losers. There's just an unpleasant edge around the Phillies and their fans, and I'm not sorry at all to see them out of the playoffs. The Phillies unexpected ascent into the playoffs never felt as pure and joyous as the Rockies ascent did, probably because of the palpable anger there would have been in Philadelphia if they had come up short yet again.

Then there are the Snakes. I don't think the Diamondbacks are a very good story, nor a fun team to watch, particularly. Except for one exception nothing about this team excites me, unlike the other three teams still alive in 2007. They win games, somehow, and that's about it. That fine for their fans, and boring for everyone else. How many fans are we talking about, though? They have trouble even selling out their home ballpark for the NLCS. What a waste of a playoff spot, in a way. But they did earn it. I'm glad Bud Selig and TBS can't rig things to get their way, which would certainly have not included the Snakes making the NLCS.

The Snakes do the bare minimum required to move along. I wish the Dodgers could have done even that much! I congratulate the Snakes on getting way more out of their middling team than any analysis says they should have. As a Dodger fan I'm very jealous.

The Snakes don't hit well, on balance. Worse, they have no exciting hitter, no one I will make sure I watch when he comes up, no one whose looming presence in the batting order I'm aware of. I want to see Ortiz and Manny hit for Boston. And Holliday and Tulowitzki in Denver. And Sizemore and Hafner and Martinez in Cleveland. You don't want to miss it when these guys hit, especially Ortiz and Holliday. But on the Snakes? I don't know, maybe Byrnes, a little bit. But he's more of a second tier guy, whom the other three teams have plenty of as well, such as Helton or Youklis or Hawpe.

One could argue that it's exciting to watch Upton for his raw potential. Not Chris Young, though. That would be like asking a non-Dodger fan to get excited for watching Ethier bat. Maybe in a few years, but not now. Other than the occasional home run Young just doesn't do much. Young couldn't even get his on base percentage above 0.300. And not Drew either. I'd rather watch JD than Stephen at this point. Yeah, Stephen has hit some home run in the playoffs. So did Mickey Hatcher. Didn't make Hatcher a must watch batter.

Other than Webb the Snakes don't have any pitcher to get excited for. But yeah, Webb is big stage worthy. Webb v Francis is an underrated matchup, as good in its way as Beckett v Sabathia in the AL. But Webb is it. The Snakes have good relievers, but none of them are electric. No Gagne in his prime, or Saito, or Papelbon, or Rivera. The team is just a neverending expanse of blah. Lots of blah and lots of wins. Curse those wins!

I'm really looking forward to watching the Rockies play. The Snakes? Well, someone had to be the opponent. Maybe it's just as well it's not the Cubs, so that the great story of the Rockies isn't obscured by all the nonsense about loveable losers and billy goat curses. Let the Snakes be more fodder for the Rockies amazing win streak. I sure don't want to see them in the World Series.

03 October 2007

Papi Being Manny

I didn't always enjoy the baseball post-season for its own sake. There was a time when I couldn't watch the games if the Dodgers weren't involved. I was so heartbroken, so angry at the fates, so angry at the teams, those cruel, unjust usurpers who had buried the Dodgers under their excellence and ruined my fall. Eventually, I would come back, and grudgingly watch the World Series, muttering that it was where the Dodgers should be. I might pick a rooting interest, out of spite, against a league or team I didn't like, or whim, just to pretend, for a moment, that my favorite had indeed made it to the ultimate series.

Now I enjoy the post-season on its own merits, for what it is. I follow the games, judge the evolving chances of each team, pick favorites, criticize managers, and immerse myself in the drama. I pray for late-inning drama, the chance of the sudden turnaround. Hmm --- perhaps I don't pray --- that is too desperate, too lofty a description for what I do. I grope for that drama. This at-bat is important, a turning point, an event accompanied by a virtual soundtrack, because if he gets on it may start a rally. A 2-0 count is already a baserunner if I need runners for the game to be close again. Surely that batter will get on in some way from such a fortunate count: it would be uncivilized not to. I'm already racing ahead to the home run hit by the wispy center fielder!

Uncivilized? What could that mean, really? Civilization is the institutionalization of the expected. The stone-tool hunters of millenia ago didn't have predictable, regulated lives. They couldn't depend on a trip to the supermarket. They couldn't depend on the 2-0 count becoming a baserunner; the 2 run late-inning lead becoming a win. But then again, neither can we. Between the lines, the hunt is on. Baseball is uncivilization brought to the spectator. These brutes come into our homes, our minds, and take our emotions hostage. They make us leap out of our skin. I wish the Dodgers were in it -- there's nothing like it when your team is in it. It's so immediate, visceral. It's an enchantment that transports our civilized bodies into the Veldt, the hunt, the heart-beat of not knowing, truly not knowing what will happen next, and caring with all your muscles what does happen.

I wish, even more, on rare occasions, to know what it was like to be between those lines, to know what it was like to be one of the players in that uncivilized arena. David Ortiz seemed gloriously unhinged at the press conference after today's game in Boston, the win in which he clobbered a ball over the less famous Fenway fence. I just saw a few seconds of his question-and-answer session, in which he seemed to leave his body and return briefly to this existence as a pirate-girl scout who referred to himself in the third person. For a moment he inhabited the state of mind that appears to belong to Manny Ramirez 24 hours a day. Post-season baseball will do that to a person.

Yankees vs Indians Statistical Breakdown

by Joshua Worley

This is the last of the four series to begin, and the last to be previewed, using the same method as the previous four. One thing that will surprise no one is that the worst AL team is better than the best NL team. The Red Sox appear to to be the best team overall, though if momentum and quality of play in August and September are important then the Yankees might be the best team. This is an intruiguing series because both teams would benifit greatly from a 3-man rotation, but since the Red Sox plucked away the choice first round series both the Indians and Yankees are right now going with a 4-man rotation.

Yankees Hitter Weights

1.0 -- Rodriguez
1.0 -- Cano
1.0 -- Posada
1.0 -- Jeter
1.0 -- Abreu
1.0 -- Cabrera
1.0 -- Damon
0.8 -- Mientkiewicz
0.6 -- Matsui
0.4 -- Duncan
0.2 -- Giambi

It appears that after a strong September Mientkiewicz will get most of the starts at first over Giambi. Matsui is hurting and may be limited to DH duty, with Shelley Duncan going if he can't.

Yankees Pitcher Weights

12 -- Wang
6 -- Pettitte
6 -- Clemens
6 -- Mussina
3 -- Chamberlain
3 -- Rivera
3 -- Farnsworth
3 -- Hughes
3 -- Villone

I don't know. It's really hard to figure out the Yankees 'pen. The bullpen numbers are probably where my weights are off by the most for every team, and that's especially true of the Yankees. Beyond Joba and Mariano who knows? As for the starters, I really have a tough time seeing them going with Mussina if they go into game 4 down 2-1 in thew series. Mussina did bounce back with a good September, but could they really go with him if the season is on the line? Isn't Wang on 3-days rest better than Mussina anytime? I think that if Torre goes with Mussina in a do-or-die game 4 it's the last major decision he'll ever make as Yankees manager.

Yankees Weighted Stats

Yankees --- OBP -- SLG
Offense -- 0.371 -- 0.480
Defense -- 0.318 -- 0.383
Difference -- (+53) -- (+97)

The Yankees would have a winning percentage of about 0.681 with this post-season constructed team. I should point out that this would be against standard regular season major league competition. Obviously all of these playoff teams ( with the exception of the Cubs ) are going up against a very good team that's also getting to leave off the back end of the bench and pitching staff, so on average no one will hit as well or pitch as well as their numbers. The win percentage of the Yanks if they go with Wang on short rest instead of Mussina is 0.690. It's funny, these seem like such abstract, unattainable win percentages, and yet the Yanks pretty much had to go 0.700 the second half of the year to make the playoffs.

Indians Hitter Weights

1.0 -- Hafner
1.0 -- Sizemore
1.0 -- Martinez
1.0 -- Garko
1.0 -- Blake
1.0 -- Peralta
1.0 -- Gutierrez
1.0 -- Cabrera
1.0 -- Lofton

Another good offense.

Indians Pitcher Weights

12 -- Sabathia
6 -- Carmona
6 -- Westbrook
6 -- Byrd
3 -- Borowski
3 -- Betancourt
3 -- Perez
3 -- Fultz
3 -- Lewis

The 'pen is pretty good with the exception of the closer Borowski, who is pretty awful. With the starters, same situation as the Yanks: if they go into game 4 down 2-1 in the series, will they really go with Byrd instead of Sabathia on short rest?

Indians Weighted Stats

Indians --- OBP -- SLG
Offense -- 0.356 -- 0.448
Defense -- 0.300 -- 0.377
Difference -- (+56) -- (+71)

Their pitching is better than New York's, but their offense is far enough behind to give the overall edge to the Yankees. Their win percentage based on these numbers would be 0.665. If they went with Sabathia on 3 days of rest and took Byrd out of the rotation, that would go up to 0.688. Even more than the Yankees the Indians had to be annoyed when Boston chose to play in the longest first round series. The gap between the top two starters and the rest is just so big.


Yankees in five games. This is going to be a tough series, with the Yankees just a little bit better.

I like Boston and Colorado to advance to the World Series. These are the two best team in each league by my method and I'm sticking with them. However I think Colorado is the team of destiny so I pick them in an upset over the Red Sox to win it all.

Angels vs Red Sox Statistical Breakdown

by Joshua Worley

Same method as the last two posts, with weights given to the stats based on how much each player is likely to play. This series is unique because it allows the teams to go with a 3-man rotation without any short rest. The Red Sox are taking advantage of this, while at the moment it appears the Angels are not.

Red Sox Hitter Weights

1.0 -- Ortiz
1.0 -- Varitek
1.0 -- Ramirez
1.0 -- Pedroia
1.0 -- Youklis
1.0 -- Lowell
1.0 -- Lugo
1.0 -- Drew
0.6 -- Crisp
0.4 -- Ellsbury

Drew was sitting more in the middle of the year, but since he started hitting better he's played just about every game, so I'm putting him down as a 1. Ellsbury was also playing just about every day in September, but Crisp is the veteran starter and Martinez is back, so he only gets a 0.4. The Sox would be best off benching Crisp, probably.

Red Sox Pither Weights

12 -- Becket
12 -- Matsuzaka
6 -- Schilling
3 -- Papelbon
3 -- Okajima
3 -- Delcarmen
3 -- Lopez
3 -- Timlin

Gagne is on the roster, but why would they use him unless they really had no one else? Lester is the long man and Wakefield is off the roster.

Red Sox Weighted Stats

Red Sox ---- OBP -- SLG
Offense -- 0.375 -- 0.460
Defense -- 0.293 -- 0.373
Difference -- (+82) -- (+87)

Wow. What a team. The winning percentage these basic numbers spit out is 0.713! That's what will happen when you pair a stacked offense with a pitching staff where four fifths of the starter innings come from Beckett and Matsuzaka.

Angels Hitter Weights

1.0 -- Guerrero
1.0 -- Willits
1.0 -- Anderson
1.0 -- Cabrera
1.0 -- Kendrick
1.0 -- Kotchman
1.0 -- Figgins
1.0 -- Izturis
0.5 -- Napoli
0.5 -- Mathis

Gary Matthews Jr. is not on the roster because of injury. So what would have been a complicated outfield situation ends up being very simple. This is a good offense, but not in the same class as the Red Sox.

Angels Pitcher Weights

12 -- Lackey
12 -- Escobar
6 -- Weaver
3 -- Rodriguez
3 -- Speier
3 -- Oliver
3 -- Shields
3 -- Moseley

I wonder if the probables listed on the Angels official site are wrong. It just doesn't make sense to go with Saunders in game 4, not when you could have Lackey and Escobar go again in 4 and 5 on regular rest. I can't believe that if faced with a 1-2 series deficit and Becket in game 4 that Scioscia would give the ball to Saunders instead of Lackey. So I'm going to give the Angels a 3-man rotation because I truly think that's what they'll go with.

Angels Weighted Stats

Angels ---- OBP -- SLG
Offense -- 0.361 -- 0.437
Defense -- 0.306 -- 0.368
Difference -- (+55) -- (+69)

Using the simple runs created formula of OBP times SLG and the pythagorean projection, the Angels would have a winning percentage of 0.661 with this team. That's with Escobar and Lackey starting 4 out of 5 games. If Saunders steals a start from Escobar, this goes down to 0.640, with the OBP going up by 6 points, and the SLG going up by 11 points. Really, Scioscia, you have to take advantage of the format here.


Red Sox in 4. I just don't believe the Angels offense will score enough runs, and that Sox bullpen is better than the Angels bullpen. Unless Gagne pitches. I think the Angels win game three at home against Schilling and then get closed out by Becket in game 4.

02 October 2007

Phillies vs Rockies Statistical Breakdown

by Joshua Worley

These are the two best teams in the National League. Or, more specifically, these are the two best playoff versions of teams in the NL. The method used to derive team stats was explained in the previous post: essentially each player's stats are weighted based on how much it appears he will play, so back-end pitchers and bench players are left out of the calculation.

Phillies Hitting Weights

1.0 -- Utley
1.0 -- Howard
1.0 -- Rollins
1.0 -- Burrell
1.0 -- Rowand
1.0 -- Dobbs
1.00.5 -- Ruiz
0.5 -- Coste Ruiz is carrying an injury that may limit his playing time, so either Coste or Barajas may see more time. They all have reasonable similar offensive stats, so it doesn't matter that much who gets the weight here.

0.6 -- Victorino
0.6 -- Werth
0.5 -- Phillies Pitchers
0.3 -- Helms

Victorino started 3 of the last 4 games, after Werth had started almost every game previously for more than a month due to Victorino's calf injury. I'm guessing they share time in this series, though Werth has the better numbers. I was always a big fan of Werth when he was a Dodger. This is a scary lineup, made better since Dobbs replaced Nunez at third base.

Phillies Pitching Weights

12 -- Hamels
6 -- Kendrick
6 -- Moyer
6 -- Lohse
3 -- Romero
3 -- Myers
3 -- Geary oops, Geary has been left off the roster because of injury, so I guess Alfonseca gets his innings. It's either that or Mesa!
3 -- Alfonseca
3 -- Gordon
3 -- Condrey

Romero and Hamels are awesome. That's a third of the Phillies pitching weight right there, which will make an iffy pitching staff suddenly look a lot better. The post-season is definitely not about team depth!

Phillies Weighted Stats

Updated with new player weights --- they didn't change much, fortunately. Why go to the trouble of updating them -- who cares, right? Well I care! ;-)

Phillies --- OBP -- SLG
Offense -- 0.357 -- 0.477
Defense -- 0.321 -- 0.418
Difference -- (+36) -- (+59)

Using a basic formula for runs created and a pythagorean projection, the playoff version of the Phillies are set up to have a winning percentage of 0.616. That seems high, right? Well, it's obtained by ignoring all the bad players on a team. The only way the Phillies could sustain this kind of winning percentage for an entire season would be if they could pitch Cole Hamels 2 out of every 5 games!

Rockies Hitting Weights

1.0 -- Holliday
1.0 -- Helton
1.0 -- Hawpe
1.0 -- Atkins
1.0 -- Tulowitzki
1.0 -- Torrealba
1.0 -- Matsui
0.7 -- Spilborghs
0.4 -- Sullivan
0.2 -- Carroll
0.2 -- Baker

When Taveras went down to injury the Rockies added more power in center field, without losing anything except a few stolen bases. This is a great offense, but not as great as the Phillies. They hit much better at home than on the road.

Rockies Pitching Weights

12 -- Francis
6 -- Jimenez
6 -- Morales
6 -- Fogg
3 -- Corpas
3 -- Fuentes
3 -- Herges
3 -- Hawkins
3 -- Affeldt

Before Monday's crazy finale I had no idea Herges was having such a good season. I'm having to guess a bit on the Rockies rotation, since they haven't announced anything yet. Redman has been the fifth man in the rotation the last few weeks, and he's done well, but I'm guessing it's these four at the moment. The Rockies pitching is much better than most people think. The rotation is decent, while the bullpen is fantastic, especially for pitching so many games in Coors.

Rockies Weighted Stats

Rockies --- OBP -- SLG
Offense -- 0.359 -- 0.455
Defense -- 0.317 -- 0.395
Difference -- (+42) -- (+60)

The winning percentage obtained from these numbers is 0.630! Just as with the Phillies, getting to start the ace in 2 out of 5 games makes the team look so much better. The Rockies are the best playoff constructed team in the National League.


Lots of runs, especially in the middle games when Francis and Hamels are out of the way. I like the Rockies in 4, splitting the first two in Philadelphia and then taking two in Denver. I just feel like they're unbeatable at home right now.

Snakes vs Cubs Statistical Breakdown

by Joshua Worley

We all know it that the quality of a team's fifth starter is irrelevant once the post-season begins, because of all the off-days. The same is true of the back end of the bullpen and much of the bench.

It's clear then that the way to assess team strength entering a series is to count the statistics of only the players who will see the bulk of playing time. For each team in the post-season I've calculated a weighted average of on-base percentage and slugging percentage achieved by the hitters and allowed by the pitchers. Players likely to start everyday are given a weight of 1, while players who appear likely to share time get a weighting between 0 and 1. The cumulative hitting stats of a team's pitchers is weighted 0.5. The hitting weights given to players will add to 9. On the pitching side a starter gets 6 innings for every start he'll make if the series goes five games, while the teams top five relievers each get a weighting of 3 innings. So the pitching weights will add to 45.

A lot of these weightings are guesses, of course. Most of the guesses are based on player usage in the past month before teams clinched a playoff spot. But I think even if they're a little off the averages obtained will give a truer reflection of actual team strength in each series than if we just looked at aggregate season stats, which include injured players and mediocre players who won't see much playing time.

I'm going to break down every post-season series in this way. First up are the Cubs and the Diamondbacks.

Snakes Hitting Weights

1.0 -- Byrnes
1.0 -- Reynolds
1.0 -- Young
1.0 -- Drew
0.8 -- Ojeda
0.8 -- Synder
0.7 -- Upton
0.6 -- Jackson
0.5 -- Clark
0.5 -- Salazar
0.5 -- Team Pitchers
0.4 -- Callaspo
0.2 -- Montero

The Snakes have put together an offense as good as any they've had all year in the last month, even with Tracy and Hudson out. This is in part because Snyder and Reynolds have surged to good overall numbers on the year, while Salazar and Ojeda have stabilized things as well. This is still a weak offensive team, though, who strike out way too much.

Snakes Pitching Weights

12 -- Webb
6 -- Davis
6 -- Owings
6 -- Hernandez
3 -- Valverde
3 -- Lyon
3 -- Cruz
3 -- Pena
3 -- Slaten

The Snakes appear committed to a four man rotation. The front five in their bullpen is very good. This is the one area where they seem to have a clear advangate over the Cubs. The Snakes would gain nothing by going with a three man rotation and pitching Webb on short rest in game 4, because there is so little difference between Owings, Hernandez, and Davis. They're all mediocre.

Snakes Weighted Stats

Snakes ---- OBP -- SLG
Offense -- 0.318 -- 0.413
Defense -- 0.319 -- 0.392
Difference -- (-1) -- (+21)

Using the very simple Runs Created formula of OBP x SLG and the pythagorean estimate of winning percentage from runs scored and allowed, these numbers would give the Snakes a winning percentage of 0.523.

Cubs Hitting Weights

1.0 -- Soriano
1.0 -- Ramirez
1.0 -- Lee
1.0 -- DeRosa
1.0 -- Jones
1.0 -- Kendall
1.0 -- Theriot
0.5 -- Murton
0.5 -- Floyd
0.5 -- Cubs Pitchers
0.3 -- Fontenot
0.2 -- Ward

Most teams aren't as complicated to give weights to as the Snakes. The Cubs, for instance, have a pretty stable starting lineup. I don't know if hot hitting catcher Geovany Soto is eligible to be added to the postseason roster. If so, he might steal some of Kendall's playing time and help the Cubs offensive numbers a little bit. It wouldn't be that fair to include him, however, as he's got a +1.000 OPS in 60 plate appearances. He's not that good!

Cubs Pitching Weights

12 -- Zambrano
6 -- Lilly
6 -- Hill
6 -- Marquis
3 -- Dempster
3 -- Marmol
3 -- Howry
3 -- Wuertz
3 -- Eyre

The Cubs also appear to be going with a 4 man rotation. I wonder if it wouldn't be better to go with a three man rotation and forget about Jason Marquis. I think Zambrano is the type who would relish going on three days of rest; and then Lilly could pitch game 5 on a regular 5 days of rest.

Cubs Weighted Stats

Cubs ------ OBP -- SLG
Offense -- 0.340 -- 0.434
Defense -- 0.316 -- 0.382
Difference -- (+24) -- (+52)

Now this is a playoff team, unlike those lucky Snakes. Or clutch Snakes, if you prefer. It's all the same to me. Using the same simple runs created formula and a pythagorean projection the Cubs would have a winning percentage of 0.599 using these players. This is a much better team than the Snakes. If they dropped Marquis from the rotation and went with Lilly twice instead, that goes up to a 0.609 winning percentage. That assumes that Zambrano won't suffer on three days rest, though.


Cubs in four. They're obviously the better team, unless one rejects this method because I didn't introduce a "clutch" factor. Of course anything could happen in 5 games, but I can't pick the underdog in a matchup of a 0.599 team versus a 0.523 team. I would have predicted a sweep except that the Snakes should have the edge in the first game with Webb starting.

01 October 2007

I Love Baseball!

by Joshua Worley

I ask a lot from baseball umpires. I hope Major League Baseball does as well. At the very least I expect them to be able to make any call that I can make while watching the game unfold in live speed. I saw the ball Atkins hit in the seventh inning clear the yellow line as it happened. I know my perspective isn't the same as the umpire's perspective. Mine is worse; seen on a 17 inch screen at classic resolution. He's there, in the park. It's his job. I've had it with umpires not doing their jobs. Make the correct call and don't curse out the players.

I shouted at the TV screen when I saw it happen: It's a home run. Then I kept shouting the same thing for a about a minute, at the sink, the wall, the ceiling, any household surface that would listen. I thought surely one of those 6 fool umpires saw the ball clear the yellow. I was sure they'd make the right call when they all congregated and talked it over. But no. Sigh. How can they screw up a call in the biggest regular season game of the year? Didn't they all go to umpire school? I think the US government should start making umpires pass a rigorous qualifying exam to get an ump license. And they have to renew if every year!

So I guess if the Padres had hung on to win that would have gone down in history as the wheel-chair phantom double, since it appeared to hit an empty wheelchair just beyond the wall and then bounce right back into the field. It would have been one of those awful moments in Rocky history, if their 15 years in the league can be called a history. It would have been a moment right at home in Cubs or Giants history, or Red Sox history before 2004. Instead it goes down as a funny sideshow in the game, all because Trevor Hoffman and the phantom slide in the thirteenth.

I'm kicking myself for not putting the prediction down somewhere before Hoffman worked his dark magic in the 13th to give the Rockies the win. I was so sure from the beginning that Hoffman would end up the loser. An irrational, certain feeling that he would give up a walk-off home run to lose the game for the Padres. Okay, so the home run part didn't happen. But the rest of it did. Look, Hoffman has been shaky at times all year, most recently two days ago. This wasn't a crazy as having a feeling Eric Gagne would blow a save in 2003, for instance. Hoffman's reputation has been larger than his game for awhile now, and with this delicious ending it has come crashing back to reality. I just wish Bud Black hadn't made us wait until the thirteenth inning to put in his bad luck charm. Thirteen innings did end up a bit much.

I guess Holliday lost the MVP when he horribly misplayed the ball hit to him in the eighth and won it back with his triple in the thirteens. I really think the MVP should come down to one play this year in the NL. There's no Alex Rodriguez out there who is the obvious winner, after all. Let's have some fun with it and let the last game of the year decide it. And Holliday is clearly a better pick than the other popular pick of the moment, Jimmy Rollins. And let's not even mention anyone on the cursed Mets.

I also think Peavy should lose his Cy Young with this loss. I know this is a stupid thing to say, but this game was such a heady rush to watch that I'm going with it. And let's face it, the bullpens showed that one can pitch in Coors without giving up a home run every other inning. Peavy nearly gave up 4; he should have given up 3 but for those fool umpires, and he did give up 2. He was wild all night, probably because in part he was rightfully scared of throwing a strike. How can the Cy Young winner not even be able to beat Josh Fogg in a one-game playoff? I say Peavy is disqualified, and the award goes to no one this year. Let's make the Cy Young like a golfing skins game. The winner next year gets two trophies. Hear that, Chad?

Now I've clearly lost my mind. But what a night. What a game. I've said it before, and I'll say it again --- I love baseball.


by Joshua Worley

Since he became a dominant pitcher in 2004, Jake Peavy has pitched 20 inning at Coors Field, giving up 10 runs, 8 earned, for an ERA of 3.60. He's struck out 17, walked 7, and given up 3 home runs. Yeah, it's a small sample size. Not much to conclude from it, except that he hasn't been chewed up by the mile high city. He can pitch in Denver.

Peavy last pitched on Wednesday, meaning this start comes with his usual 4 days of rest. I think the Padres made the right move to hold him out of Sunday's game, since that would have been on short rest. As a general rule, it's probably best not to do things you wouldn't normally do if you have a lead, whether it's a lead in the standings or in a game. Now if the Padres had needed to win Sunday just to stay alive, then I think they should have seriously considered going with Peavy on short rest, instead of the unreliable Tomko. Such is my distrust and dislike of Tomko that I would have recommended short rest for Peavy even though his worst start by far this year came when he pitched on short rest a month ago against the Snakes.

Would the Padres consider going with Peavy on 3 days rest in the playoffs? Well, if so, it couldn't come until the league championship series. He couldn't pitch in games 1 or 2 in Philadephia, as these are Wednesday and Thursday of this week. Game 3 would be on his natural rest of 4 days, and then he couldn't pitch in game 4 or 5, unless perhaps a bit in relief. But the Padres have a great bullpen without needing to resort to Peavy. If the Padres do make it to the LCS, Peavy would then fall right in line to pitch in game 1 of the series, and then it would have to be very tempting to go with him on 3 days rest in game 4, because then he would be able to pitch in game 7 as well.

I'm rooting for the Rockies today, though, so I hope we never get to find out if Bud Black would use Peavy on 3-days rest again. I think the Rockies will win. They are a much better team at home than on the road, and even if the Padres have a slight advantage in pitching, the Rockies have a bigger advantage in hitting. Or wait ... if you check the away stats only, to cancel the effect of Coors and Petco on each club's hitting and pitching, it turns out that the Rockies have the better road ERA and the Padres have the better road OPS. Hmmmm. I think one needs to adjust the home numbers, not just throw them out to really answer the question of which team does better in offense and defense. I'm sure there are sites out there that do this. But it is clear the Rockies are a much better team at home, with home OPS of 0.850 and home OPS allowed by the pitchers of 0.766, versus a road OPS of 0.730 and 0.739 allowed.

Is there any point in writing about how much fun this playoff game could be to watch? So much is at stake in this game. The loser will end up just like the Dodgers --- with nothing to take from 2007 except a winning record. No trip to the postseason, only the bitter disappointment of falling short in the NL West. The winner? They and their fans get the thrill of winning a do-or-die game, with the promise of more to come.