2011 Predictions

I think it’s a little foolish to project who will win each division, and even more so to project the postseason. When was the last time a team finished the year with the same roster they started with? It just doesn’t happen. Injuries, trades, surprises, failures all happen. We can try to take these things into account when projecting, but even the most knowledgeable analysts aren’t any more accurate. With that said, here are my picks!!

NL East
1 Atlanta
2 Philadelphia (wc)
3 Florida
4 New York
5 Washington

Comments: Heading into the season, I think the Braves have the best 25 man roster in the National League; I seriously considered putting the Marlins ahead of the Phillies, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

NL Central
1 Cincinnati
2 Chicago
3 Milwaukee
4 St. Louis
5 Houston
6 Pittsburgh

Comments: I don’t like picking repeat division winners, but I just there is another team that can finish above the Reds; I’m just not as sold on Milwaukee as other seem to be; I can see the Cubbies making a playoff run this year. Although, a lot of things will have to go right for that to happen

NL West
1 San Francisco
2 Colorado
3 Los Angeles
4 San Diego
5 Arizona

Comments: The Giants offense is a concern, as it was last year. But that didn’t stop them from winning it all; I like the Rockies to finish a very close second, I really like the Tulo and CarGo combo; The Dodgers may be the toughest to project. I can see them finishing 1st or 4th, but I’ll go with 3rd; After looking at San Diego’s “projected lineup”, I still can’t seem to find the middle of the order.

AL East
1 Boston
2 New York (wc)
3 Tampa Bay
4 Baltimore
5 Toronto

Comments: Boston just has way too good of a roster to not make the playoffs. They’d really have to have injuries like last year, which is very unlikely; Tampa Bay’s offense will score more runs this year than last and their bullpen will surprise; If the Yankees miss the post season, we’ll see another offseason like we did with CC, Burnett, and Teixeira

AL Central
1 Chicago
2 Detroit
3 Minnesota
4 Kansas City
5 Cleveland

Comments: The top 3 may be the most evenly matched 3 in any division. I wouldn’t be surprised if it came down to the final days; I really worry about Mauer and Morneau’s injuries, so I can’t pick them higher than 3rd; I’m really excited to see Moustakas and Hosmer this year in Kansas City

AL West
1 Oakland
2 Texas
3 Los Angeles
4 Seattle

Comments: The A’s remind me a lot of the Giants across the bay (Great pitching, suspect offense). But they should score enough runs to win the division; Father time won’t be nice to the heart of the Angels order. I also think they’d really like to take back that Kazmir trade (How can a guy be a part of 2 lopsided trades for opposite reasons?); I really hope King Felix is still a Mariner at the end of the season, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they had Montero and Banuelos instead.

World Series: Atlanta over Oakland
NL MVP: Troy Tulowitzki
AL MVP: Robinson Cano
NL Cy Young: Josh Johnson
AL Cy Young: John Lester
NL ROTY: Freddie Freeman
AL ROTY: Jeremy Hellickson

Adjustment in Career Primary Position Algorithm

I’ve made a small adjustment in how I figure a player’s primary position. This should only affect a handful of players throughout history, with John Montgomery Ward being the most notable. Previously, Ward was considered a Pitcher for his career since he has more Win Shares as a pitcher than any other position. I made the change to compare Pitching Win Shares to all other positions combined, to determine if the player is a pitcher or position player. Ward is now considered a Shortstop for his career.

This should only affect a few players, most of them from the 19th century.

Ten-Man Baseball

I just finished reading Leigh Montville’s biography on the Babe “The Big Bam“. I’m ashamed to say that this was the first Babe Ruth biography that I have read, especially after reading a ton of bio’s about much more obscure players. One of the many factoids that stood out to me was this….

In December 1929, National League president John Heydler had showed up at the major league meetings in Chicago with a proposal he thought would add energy to the game, a proposal that would have been perfect for the 1933 Babe. Heydler had called it “ten-man baseball.”

The tenth man in the suggested ten-man baseball would be a permanent pinch hitter for the pitcher. Every time the pitcher’s turn came to go to the plate, the tenth man would take his place. The pitcher never would hit. The tenth man never would play in the field. The game would be given a revolutionary, immediate injection of offense.

“With the exception of two or three, practically all pitchers are weak hitters and weaker base runners,” Heydler, a former umpire and sportswriter, said. “When they come to bat, they literally put a drag on the game. No one expects them to do anything, and they literally suspend the action of the play.”

Heydler had hoped the proposal would be put into action for the next season, 1930, by both leagues, but it found little support. Though traditionalist John McGraw surprisingly liked the idea, most baseball men had found it hilarious. The measure was tabled, never even brought to the floor for discussion.

“With a rule like this,” Yankees scout Paul Krichell said derisively, “Babe Ruth could play until he’s 50.”

Ten-man baseball, alas, was not in effect. Not yet.

If you didn’t feel like reading the quote above, it essentially sums up a failed attempt to create the DH 43 years early for the 1930 season.

Most fans of Baseball History know that the National League in 1930 was the highest scoring league in the modern era. Just how high was it? The league batting average was .303, with an OPS of .808. Teams scored an average of 5.77 Runs per 9 Innings. The worst hitting team in 1930 had a batting average of .281. The best team in 2010 had a .272 batting average. This, of course, was with the pitcher in the lineup.

So when I though about the possibility of adding a Designated Hitter to this Run Scoring environment, I knew that I had to test out the possibilities.

First, I separated all position players from pitchers. Next, I calculated to BaseRuns to estimate runs produced for both of these groups. As I mentioned earlier, the league averaged 5.77 Runs/9 (before removing pitchers). The pitchers that year produced just 2.15 Runs/9 (256 Runs and 3,219 outs), while position players produced 6.17 Runs/9.

I’m making the assumption that the new “10th man” or DH would be a league average hitter. Doing this, we can replace the pitcher’s production with the DH’s. In those 3,219 outs, the DH’s would produce 735 Runs (3219 / 27 * 6.17) as opposed to the 256 Runs that the pitchers produced.

This means that by having adding a Designated Hitter, the league would have scored 479 more Runs than it actually scored. On average, each team would have scored 60 more runs. And just imagine Hack Wilson with a DH in the lineup, with all those extra base runners, there’s a good chance his RBI record would be 200+ instead of 191.

But just as the quote above mentions, this change was never close to actually happening. But just imagine if it did. Records as we know them today could be different. Ruth could have extended his career and padded his numbers. Who knows, Bonds may have been chasing Ruth and not Aaron as the all-time leader.

Seamheads Ballpark Database

This is a little late, but if you haven’t check it out yet, take a look at Seamheads.com’s Ballpark Database. It
was created by Kevin Johnson AKA KJOK and I helped by designing it for the website.

There’s tons of information, such as Park Factors, Park Configurations, dates, geographical data with customizable searches. It includes every ballpark to host a game in the history of Major League Baseball. It’s definitely worth a visit.

Hindsight is 20/20: Prospect Lists

Every off season, leading up to Opening Day, the talk amongst fans, blogs, and scouting services is Prospect Lists. It’s a passion for many because they want to know who will be the stars of the future, or they want to know if there is any reason to get excited about their favorite team’s future. There are a lot of great sites available which specialize in prospects (John Sickels / Baseball America / Baseball Prospects), but even the best aren’t perfect.

What I wanted to do is find a way to take a look back and see which players were actually the best prospects and which teams had the best farm systems. The goal isn’t to prove any of the scouting services wrong, because they do the best job they can with the data which is available at that time. I’m using the same Metrics as usual from my site (WAR, WS, WSAB) in addition to retrosheet’s amazing transactions database (headed by Tom Ruane). Without their database, this project would not be possible.

Just a quick note about the criteria for “prospect status”. Players are considered prospects from the ages of 16 until 25 or until they lose their rookie status. Players are considered “amateur” until they join a major league team or (if that info isn’t available) until their first major league season. Also, all prospect lists are as of March 1st of each season to coincide with the release dates of most of the popular prospect lists.

The different ways to view the data include:
Yearly Team Prospect Lists: 1994 Atlanta Braves
Yearly Top Prospects in Baseball: 1985 Top MLB Prospects
Yearly Top Amateur Prospects: 1985 Top Amateur Prospects
Baseball America’s Top 100 Prosepcts: 1992 Top 100 Prospects
Yearly Top Farm Systems: 1967 Top MLB Farm Systems
Farm Systems by Franchise: Twins/Senators Farm Systems

Next, let’s take a look at the Best Farm Systems of All-Time:

1951 New York Yankees
The Yankees Farm Systems were near the top of the league through the entire 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s. No other franchise can claim that kind of dominance. Simply put, they had great young players coming through their system every single season, but I don’t think that surprises anyone. Their Farm System in 1951 is the best ever, and it’s really not that close. The system included 58 players who would eventually play in the big leagues. They would amass 3,856 Win Shares and 577 Wins Above Replacement.
Key Players: Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Gil McDougald, Lew Burdette, Elston Howard, Jackie Jensen, Woodie Held, Norm Siebern, Moose Skowron, Vic Power, and Jerry Lumpe. I could go on, but you get the point.

1938 St. Louis Cardinals
Branch Rickey, the man who created the “farm system”, put together this group of prospects that would go on to win 4 Pennants from 1942-46. It consisted of 29 players who would total 3,195 Win Shares and 548 Wins Above Replacement.
Key Players: Stan Musial, Enos Slaughter, Harry Brecheen, Murry Dickson, Walker Cooper, Marty Marion, Ken Raffensberger, Preacher Roe, Johnny Hopp, and Pete Reiser.

1957 New York Giants
The top 2 teams on the least each included 2 Hall of Famers, this one had 3. The Giants would be in their final year in New York, so only the fans in San Francisco would benefit from the prospects. Many of the players would go on to be vital to their 1962 Pennant. They would rack up 441 WAR and 3,087 Win Shares.
Key Players: Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda, Felipe and Matty Alou, Bill White, Leon Wagner, Tony Taylor, Manny Mota, Mike McCormick, and Bobby Bolin.

1969 Los Angeles Dodgers
Unlike the previous 3 on the list, this system did not include any Hall of Famers. What it did include was 4 members of an infield that would play together for more than 8 years and win 4 pennants. The farm system was crafted by Buzzie Bavasi and Al Campanis and it would ensure yet another decade of success for the Dodgers. They would amass 383 WAR and 2,791 Win Shares.
Key Players: Steve Garvey, Ron Cey, Charlie Hough, Davey Lopes, Doyle Alexander, Bill Buckner, Bill Russell, Joe Ferguson, Lee Lacy, Ted Sizemore, Geoff Zahn, and Steve Yeager.

1962 Cincinnati Reds
This system included parts of what would become to be the Big Red Machine. In the short term, a few of the prospects would help out Fred Hutchinson’s club finish 1 game behind in the famous 1964 NL pennant race. These players would total 346 WAR and 2,567 Win Shares.
Key Players: Pete Rose, Jimmy Wynn, Tony Perez, Mike Cuellar, Lee May, Tommy Harper, Tommy Helms, Cesar Tovar, and Cookie Rojas.

1989 Texas Rangers
The big difference between this system and the rest on the list is that this one never reached the World Series, or even the LCS. The Rangers of the 90’s would hover around .500 for much of the decade and then win 3 division championships in the late 90’s. Things may be different if they had never made this trade, which was their worst in franchise history. This system would go on to produce 413 WAR and 2,432 Win Shares.
Key Players: Ivan Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa, Kevin Brown, Juan Gonzalez, Kenny Rogers, Robb Nen, Dean Palmer, Wilson Alvarez, Darren Oliver, Jose Hernandez, Chad Kreuter, and Rey Sanchez.

It’s still too early to tell, but some of the more recent systems that could eventually become all-time greats are:
2001-2002 Phillies (Utley, Howard, Rollins, Byrd, Myers, Floyd)
2003 Indians (Lee, Martinez, Sizemore, Phillips, Hafner, Crisp, Scott)
2004 Twins (Mauer, Morneau, Liriano, Bartlett, Kubel, Span, Baker, Guerrier)
2008 Rays (Longoria, Price, Brignac, Davis, Hellickson, McGee, Jennings)
2011 Royals (Moustakas, Hosmer, Myers, Duffy, Montgomery, Lamb, Odirizzi, Jeffress)

Finally, I wanted to point out something from 1952. The Yankees and Dodgers had farm systems that would produce 2,685 and 2,646 Win Shares repsectively and are both in the top 10 of the All-Time farm systems. It is so ridiculous that although they only make up 12.5% (2/16) of the league, their systems would have just under 1/3 (29%) of the entire league’s future Win Shares. It’s no wonder that these teams would dominate the next 15 years.

Soon to Come: Prospect Lists

I’m currently working on Retroactive Prospect Lists. This way, we can look back and see which players were the top prospects each year and which team actually had the best farm system. I’m using retrosheet’s amazing Transaction Database to determine which organization each prospect played for. Lastly, I’ll add the ability to look back at Baseball America’s Top 100 prospects to see how they turned out. I hope to have this available within the next week.

Wins vs Innings Pitched

A couple of days ago, MLBNetwork had an interview with the members of the Phillies 5-man rotation. Fittingly, they had John Smoltz conduct the interview, since he was a key member of the 90’s Braves rotation.

One question in particular, which he asked each of the five members, stood out to me. He asked “Of these three statistical categories (Wins, Innings Pitched, and ERA), which one means the most?” Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, and Hamels all chose Innings Pitched, while Blanton went with Wins. I thought it was interesting that the 5th man, clearly the outsider of the group, went with a different choice.

This isn’t a knock on Blanton, who has been a slightly above average pitcher (I have him at 71-70 adjusted W-L for his career). But I don’t think anybody is putting him in the class of the other four members.

Just as Smoltz said, there are no wrong answers. And you can’t certainly can’t disagree with Blanton picking Wins, since that should be the ultimate goal for every player. In fact, if I were a pitcher, I may very well have made that my choice. But it was the choice of the other 4 that got me thinking.

It seems as though a lot of baseball fans think of Innings Pitched as a “playing time” stat such as Games Played or Plate Appearances. But in fact, IP x 3 is the total number of successful outs recorded while you are on the mound. Obviously, the better pitchers will record more outs than the rest. If you put me on the mound, I could face 50 batters and record zero outs, but my playing time certainly wouldn’t be “zero”. We wouldn’t calculate a hitter’s playing time by times on base, would we?

So when four of the game’s best starters choose Innings Pitched as the most important number, you really can’t argue. The more efficiently a pitcher can record outs (less base runners, less pitches thrown), the more Innings Pitched they will have. This, in turn, will give the pitcher a better chance of the ultimate goal, Winning.

Introducing The Baseball Gauge Blog

The Baseball Gauge is now also a blog! This is something that I should have done a long time ago, but just got around to adding it. I plan on using this to add any new features/additions to the site, as well as Baseball analysis, and anything else that is on my mind.

Up top are links to some of my favorite baseball themed blogs which you should also check out if you haven’t already.