Friday, October 28, 2011

10/28/11 Texas Rangers 2, St Louis Cardinals 6

Busch Stadium, St Louis, MO
2011 World Series Game 7

TLR in suspended shock as David Murphy’s fly ball to Left-Center field is about to land in Allen Craig’s glove…

The Cardinals finish the series in what would have been a relatively exciting game, but in comparison to game 5 and game 6 the yawn factor was induced for some viewers…but not for me. This game had a lot of thrilling and tactically interesting moments; it was less than a “cake walk” as suggested by some, and more of an example of how a team whose chances of winning go from slim to none to all the way in just a few games.

Chris Carpenter had a fantastic start, not anything akin to his 3-hit shutout of the Phillies on October 7th in the LDS, but hey…

The critical flaw for the Rangers tonight had to be the almost predictable short start of Matt Harrison, but only marginally so…the concept of tournament baseball notwithstanding, Harrison’s 3 ER in 4IP could have been met with another reliever other than Scott Feldman, who gave up 2ER (on 2BB and a HB, more on this in a moment) in 0.2 innings. Would bringing CJ Wilson down instead of Feldman in the 5th inning have changed anything? Probably not, but after some of the relief pitching miscues from the Ranger’s stall in the 2010 World Series, you might wonder…as I do.

A lead-off hit by Ian Kinsler, given the circumstances of Game 6, lethally ignites the Rangers and simultaneously threatens to stun the home crowd at Busch Stadium. Yadier Molina’s subsequent put-out of Kinsler attempting to steal 2nd base on an 0-0 count to Elvis Andrus slammed a rally door shut, symbolically, so early in the game. The Rangers still manage to eke out 2 runs during this frame after Andrus walks and Hamilton doubles him in, followed by a textbook Michael Young RBI double scoring Hamilton, but from where I was sitting the Kinsler CS was a bold statement by the Cardinals.

In response, to further underline this, Matt Harrison walks Pujols and Berkman with 2 outs. David Freese, in his first at-bat since his historic walk-off win in Game 6, drives a deep fly ball into the gap in left-center to tie the game.

Allen Craig delivers a 1-out HR courtesy of Harrison in the 3rd, putting the Cardinals in the lead. Harrison sweats a lot in the 4th inning, allowing 2 Cardinals to reach on back-to-back singles with 1 out. He breaks 2 of Skip Schumaker’s bats in the same AB; Schumaker grounds out to 1B, Carpenter flies out to RF to end the inning, stranding both baserunners, and Harrison is done for the evening.

Scott Feldman picks up the ball in the 5th…again, why not CJ Wilson? After retiring Theriot (and breaking his bat as well) Feldman walks Allen Craig and hits Albert Pujols, who both advance on a Lance Berkman groundout… that’s 2 on, 2 outs, and David Freese is intentionally walked so that Feldman can pitch to Yadier Molina. Freese is 1-for-2 so far; I have no strength as a baseball strategist, but I am a vocal dislike of the intentional walk, even in “obvious” situations. So to me, this is less than obvious as to why Freese gets the IBB; I would give Mike Napoli a free pass way before David Freese but nonetheless, Molina is UNintentionally walked, walking in a run and giving the Cardinals a 2-run lead.

Just so you know, Matt Harrison also broke Pujols’ bat in the 3rd…so that’s a total of 4 BLS (Broken Louisville Sluggers, from my scoresheet notation) in the game, 3 of them by Harrison…

CJ Wilson’s very first pitch in relief of Feldman hits Rafael Furcal (who was shockingly 2-for-2 in this game, after being so silent offensively for so long), which allows Pujols to score. Feldman is charged with the run, Wilson shuts down Schumaker to end the inning, and is dominant until he is replaced by Mike Adams to start the 7th.

The real story from this point on is the Cardinals’ bullpen, carrying Chris Carpenter’s torch and handcuffing the Rangers for the rest of the game. Well, they had some help from Allen Craig in the 7th, who majestically robbed Nelson Cruz of a sure-fire solo HR in the 6th, but the line speaks for itself, the bullpen allowed no hits and no runs for the rest of the game, exclamation point.

And thus endeth by far, the best World Series I think I’ve seen in many, many years.

Cardinals win 4-3

If you enjoy my work, I encourage you to spread the word via Twitter
(I am @yoshiki89), and also please leave a comment!

10/27/11 Texas Rangers 9, St Louis Cardinals 10

Busch Stadium, St Louis, MO
World Series Game 6

I will update with a write-up soon...for now, there are no other words that could serve as a recap, other than...WE WILL SEE YOU TOMORROW NIGHT!!!

Series Tied 3-3

HEY, I want your feedback!
If you enjoy my work, I encourage you to spread the word via Twitter
(I am @yoshiki89), and also please leave a comment!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

McCarver the Cut-Up: Quote of the Game

World Series Game 5: October 24, 2011

Not to steal Tim’s thunder, but Joe Buck actually had the worst quote of the game, when Michael Young approached the plate and Buck declared “now he has to face one of the best hitters in baseball…” I’m not even going out of my way to discredit this, if you read Joe Posnanski’s blog yesterday (”Baseball on FOX”) you would have read a proper critique of Young’s praise over others on the team and the reality of statistical evidence of his “moderate” baseball prowess. Also, there were no less than 26 hitters drafted in my fantasy league this year who were, really, much better hitters than Michael Young…Nelson Cruz, Albert Pujols, and Lance Berkman being among that group. Hey, don’t get me wrong…I like Michael Young quite a bit. One of the best hitters in baseball? No, not at all.

Tim McCarver is a well-known and globally respected resource of baseball knowledge, be sure and pick up his critically acclaimed book Tim McCarver’s Baseball for Brain Surgeons at or pick it up at your favorite retailer.

Monday, October 24, 2011

10/24/11 St Louis Cardinals 2, Texas Rangers 4

Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, TX
2011 World Series Game 5

His name is Mike Napoli…there should be no question as to the ‘now’ value of his signing to the Rangers this year. Jeff Mathis couldn’t do any of this.

The World Series and the Texas Rangers work things up to a feverish pitch (pun completely intended) as a game that certainly seemed within the arms (pun also intended) of the Cardinals got out of hand. In true glitzy postseason fashion, the out-of-handedness turns out to be the fault of two botched calls, but not at the hands of an umpire…

The Cardinals did their thing and scored early, putting 2 on the board in the 2nd inning thanks to a Yadier Molina single-plus-David Murphy error and a Skip Schumaker groundout. The opportunity to drive a few more nails into the coffin expired when Nick Punto flew out to LF, stranding Molina. At this time, the most memorable moment had to be when Punto appeared to attempt a Bo Jackson Bat Break in frustration, only to vacate this idea without shedding a single splinter. Punto had a reason to be slightly miffed, as he was robbed by a brilliant David Murphy catch, the kind of catch that screams of redemption after his fielding error.

Mitch Moreland broke his postseason silence with this decisively clubbed solo HR response in the 3rd. After I recovered from my awe, I felt as if now that Chris Carpenter had tasted blood, he would work even better than he had up to this point, in this game. Adrian Beltre, after nearly striking out “on his knee” earlier, dismissed the taste of blood with a solo shot of his own in the 6th inning, again “on his knee,” and tying the game at 2 apiece.

Napoli seals the deal in the 8th, with a 2-RBI double off Marc Rzepczynski. Napoli is an OPS beast, and he loves pitches up in the zone. With all the strategy behind intentional walks and Pujols (who was intentionally walked 3 times during this contest), you’d think that TLR would consider offering Napoli free passes…pitching to him just isn’t working out.

Botched calls seemed to prevent the Cardinals from responding to the Rangers offense. I’m not a fan of isolating one event in a game (or even two) as a ‘turning point,’ each failed opportunity expires to present another opportunity. However, the two celebrated botched calls extended a postseason focus on communication issues that didn’t doom the Cardinals in this game, but they certainly didn’t help a bunch.

The first of these was a failed hit-and-run that was put on by Albert Pujols in the 7th, with Allen Craig caught at 2nd base on the play. Craig was caught again in Pujols’ next at-bat.

Then there was the call for Motte in the 8th…the Bullpen phone story is high baseball comedy at its finest…I must admit, I knew nothing of this until the next morning, when some of my associates thought it would be comical to outfit my cube with cans attached to strings; before I had a chance to watch the post-game press conference.

At best, this incident alone has led to a resurgence of phone humor, something I explicitly adore. I mean, I work with phones all day long…as a baseball fan on top of this, my cup definitely runneth over.

This image was originally posted by Big League Stew blogger Rob Iracane, and represents the best of the barbs out there so far…

SCOREKEEPER’S NOTE: Lance Berkman’s game-ending dribble ball was scored as a “dropped third strike” K, PO 2-3.

Rangers lead the Series 3-2

He said WHAT?!? Click on this link to see Tim McCarver’s Quote of the Game

HEY, I want your feedback!
If you enjoy my work, I encourage you to spread the word via Twitter
(I am @yoshiki89), and also please leave a comment!

McCarver the Cut-Up: Quote of the Game

World Series Game 4: October 23, 2011

I had a very hard time believing this, it’s a good thing Joe Posnanski called him out on this in this post today, otherwise I would still be scratching my head for years to come…

Tim McCarver is a well-known and globally respected resource of baseball knowledge, be sure and pick up his critically acclaimed book Tim McCarver’s Baseball for Brain Surgeons at or pick it up at your favorite retailer.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

10/23/11 St Louis Cardinals 0, Texas Rangers 4

Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, TX
2011 World Series Game 4


One could have expected just about anything out of Derek Holland tonight, but certainly an outing like this wasn’t on the radar!!

You just can’t say he had a great outing…that’s just too friggin’ easy. He had the outing of his career, I think. Just based on the lack of expectations alone, if your head was not spinning when he walked off of the mound, you aren’t human.

Postseason is the focus here, so here’s how Holland did in his last 3 postseason starts, compared to how he did tonight:

OUCH. I heard Ron Washington had a talk with him about keeping his cool and not getting so “amped up.” Good talk, Rusty.

You can see it in his eyes…he is VERY COOL right here.

So what did the Cardinals have? Offensively, not much…they were pretty much hand-cuffed. Defensively, John Jay steals a sure-thing HR from Nelson Cruz, and Yadier Molina runs one of his “Yadier Molina” class pickoffs of Ian Kinsler on a 2-3-6 play to end the 2nd inning.

This was payback for a Molina groundout to Kinsler to end the top of the 2nd; a play that would have made Brooks Robinson blush at 3rd base…

The tension was broken in the 6th inning by another Mike Napoli bomb, a 3-run HR to deep left field. I use the term “tension” because Derek Holland was on the mound and the Rangers only had 1 run on the board. There wasn’t much tension after that.

Holland’s pleas to Washington to leave him in the game were to no avail…I still think he could have closed the game. Still. Derek Holland has been one of my favorite pitchers for a couple of years now. I’m glad he was able to add a postseason gem such as this to his resume.

Series tied 2-2

He said WHAT?!? Click on this link to see Tim McCarver’s Quote of the Game

HEY, I want your feedback!
If you enjoy my work, I encourage you to spread the word via Twitter
(I am @yoshiki89), and also please leave a comment!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

10/22/11 St Louis Cardinals 16, Texas Rangers 7

Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, TX
2011 World Series Game 3

Prince Albert makes his mark…

In only the 3rd game of the World Series, a World Series that is so far one of the best in recent memory, we’ve already seen 2 great games but didn’t have to wait long for a truly “historical” event to occur.

This one will certainly be remembered as ”The Pujols Game” for as long as Albert’s career will stand it…a dedicated response to his otherwise historically flat postseason performances, this year and in years past. Pujols’ first 2011 World Series hit in the 4th after a groundout to 3B in the 1st begins what would end as a 5-for-6, 6 RBI, 3HR outing; his 14 total bases establishes a new World Series record. If the line doesn’t cross your eyes, the highlights will.

But wait, it’s not just 3 homers…it’s 3 back-to-back homers, the third of which ties a World Series record for the most HR in a single WS game, a record also held by Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson.

You can bet that if I had access to Photoshop, I would have added a picture of Nyjer Morgan here, with his eyes crossed, steam rising from his ears, sitting at home watching the game with a soda straw stuck in his teeth…

In what may erupt later (depending on how the series swings) as a “botched call” similar in scope (if not in urgency) to the controversial Don Denkinger call in the 1985 World Series, 1B ump Ron Kulpa completely and absolutely fouls up the call on this play at first during the 4th inning…Holliday was certainly out, but as the play didn’t affect the tide of the game (same as the 85 WS call, where that call wasn’t missed anywhere nearly as much as this one was) there would be no point in screaming about it any more than just about everyone watching it did at the time. Assume Holliday was the 2nd out, and assume further that all 4 of those runs in the 4th never happened…the Cardinals still win. Officials can make mistakes, Kulpa was in a peculiar POV, but it’s still kind of hard to understand how this one flew so far out of hand.

In less interesting review, Matt Harrison and Kyle Lohse both had very un-interesting outings, neither pitcher able to complete more than 11 outs.

During the 7th, a fan is ejected when a corny rubber white ball is thrown into the outfield in what seems to be an attempt to confuse Matt Holliday. TLR argues “fan interference” (by the letter of the ‘law,’ no fan touched the ball in play, so no fan interference) but you can almost bet that he would, as millions of Cardinals fans know that a mere shift in the direction of the wind can result in Holliday with something bruised or strained.

Cardinals lead the Series 2-1

HEY, I want your feedback!
If you enjoy my work, I encourage you to spread the word via Twitter
(I am @yoshiki89), and also please leave a comment!

Friday, October 21, 2011

McCarver the Cut-Up: Quote of the Game

World Series Game 2: October 20, 2011

Tim McCarver is a well-known and globally respected resource of baseball knowledge, be sure and pick up his critically acclaimed book Tim McCarver’s Baseball for Brain Surgeons at or pick it up at your favorite retailer.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

10/20/11 Texas Rangers 2, St Louis Cardinals 1

Busch Stadium, St Louis, MO
2011 World Series Game 2

It’s all about the “D”…and two great reel-worthy plays!!

Can it be true that after only 1 game my expectations of this World Series are burying the memories of last year’s Ho-hum Classic? This game makes it so.

Yet another pitchers’ duel develops as Jaime Garcia and Colby Lewis show off #1 starter stuff, neither yielding a run, only allowing 2 hits apiece for the first 6 innings. Garcia, though not awarded a decision, pulled ahead of Lewis with 7 scoreless innings, 3 hits, 1 BB and 7K…and 3 broken bats!!

I will have to dig a bit to confirm, but I think this is the most bats broken in a game by a single pitcher that I have ever scored…

Defense from both teams, along with the stellar starting pitching, was the true highlight, but the Rangers ran away with the prize. Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler are the double-play combo of the game, if not the Series so far. They did it not once, but twice; contributing two eye-rubbing plays to end the 4th and 5th innings.

With the game locked at a scoreless tie in the bottom of the 7th, history more or less repeats itself…funny how the events in last night’s game replayed themselves, as if there was no regard to what happened only 24 hours before. With Freese on base, thanks to a 1-out single, Yadier Molina flies out, Nick Punto reaches on a single (Freese advances to 3B), and with 2 outs and runners on the corners, Washington pulls Lewis and brings in…Alexi Ogando. LaRussa brings in who else but Allen Craig in Garcia’s spot in the order…so what do you think will happen next???

It happens…Craig does it again, with a rocket to RF, scoring Freese and Ogando shaking his head…it’s ‘de ja vu all over again’!!

The inning ends with the Cardinals up by one and a Nick Punto TOOTBLAN (or should it be ROOTBLAN?) as he is ruled out at 3B for running outside the basepaths. WAAAYYY out.

The Cardinals stay on top with that single run on the board, Nelson Cruz robs Pujols of a sure-fire HR in the 8th, and Jason Motte steps in to close things out…and the Rangers come back, again with Kinsler and Andrus leading the charge. They both get on base to lead off, two consecutive SAC flys from Josh Hamilton and Michael Young bring them both in, and the Rangers squeak out a hard-fought win with Neftali Feliz shutting the Cardinals down. And they do it without any extra base hits.

Is Ian Kinsler on a campaign to walk away with the World Series MVP trophy? It’s too early to tell, but he is the real unsung hero of this Rangers team, and also a valid source of comic relief, as demonstrated when he “brushes off” a blistering Adrian Beltre foul line drive down the 3rd base line.

Series tied 1-1

He said WHAT?!? Click on this link to see Tim McCarver’s Quote of the Game

HEY, I want your feedback!
If you enjoy my work, I encourage you to spread the word via Twitter
(I am @yoshiki89), and also please leave a comment!

McCarver the Cut-Up: Quote of the Game

World Series Game 1: October 19, 2011

Tim McCarver is a well-known and globally respected resource of baseball knowledge, be sure and pick up his critically acclaimed book Tim McCarver’s Baseball for Brain Surgeons at or pick it up at your favorite retailer.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

10/19/11 Texas Rangers 2, St Louis Cardinals 3

Busch Stadium, St Louis, MO
2011 World Series Game 1

Chris Carpenter demonstrates PFP in full force…

The 2011 World Series begins with a raucous battle between the Cardinals and the Rangers in St Louis. After a breathtaking LCS and LDS, I’m hoping that the Fall Classic will follow suit; after this game I think I have more than a hope!

Chris Carpenter and C.J. Wilson face off; Wilson hoping to get his first 2011 postseason win, Carpenter hoping to enjoy an outing at least half as fantastic as his stunning close-out of the LDS in Game 5 against the Phillies.

The pitchers’ duel ensues quickly, with great pitching from both parties and some outstanding “riot defense” by Carpenter in this outrageous play at first, where Pujols throws wide with Carpenter diving to receive the ball and sliding aggressively across the bag and directly underneath the feet of Elvis Andrus, who is charging down the baseline like a freight train and barely misses crushing Carpenter’s exposed hands under his Texas cleats. You could feel LaRussa and Duncan wince sharply as they watched this unfold…fortunately, no harm done. If it were a pitcher with less grit, you can expect a nightmare after a jump such as this.

The game is viciously and excitingly tied at 2-2 by the bottom of the 6th, when Wilson offers David Freese a 1-out double, a wild pitch to Yadier Molina that allows Freese to advance to 3B, and a walk to Nick Punto. Washington removes Wilson in favor of Alexi Ogando, who is great but does have his moments. LaRussa brings Allen Craig in Carpenter’s slot in the batting order, and Craig has a moment of his own, a clutch go-ahead single to RF on a 1-2 pitch, scoring Freese and putting the Cardinals in charge for the remainder of the contest, finishing with a thrilling 10-pitch Save by Jason Motte.

A few days before the Series began, Fox announced it would use “heat-vision” technology currently in use for European Cricket broadcasts (I don’t know enough about Cricket to comment on this)…as if TBS’ Liberovision during the postseason wasn’t enough kool (or not), Fox Hot Spot was brought on to help us…well, we weren’t really sure what it was going to help us with!! Fortunately, Hot Spot was used right away in this first game of the Series, to show us chumps at home that Adrian Beltre’s groundout to 3B in the top of the 9th was really a “shoe polish ball” -shades of Earl Weaver- that bounced off of Beltre’s foot. The replay video looked close, Hot Spot showed that it definitely popped his foot and should have been a foul.

Cardinals lead the Series 1-0

He said WHAT?!? Click on this link to see Tim McCarver’s Quote of the Game

HEY, I want your feedback!
If you enjoy my work, I encourage you to spread the word via Twitter
(I am @yoshiki89), and also please leave a comment!

2011 Baseball Prospectus NL/AL Projections – How Did They Do?

Let me start this out by affirming that projections are pretty wacky, in theory and practice. Particularly in baseball, where you have 30 teams in 2 leagues and 6 divisions and 162 games of sheer madness, with trades, call-ups, DL stints, fried chicken and beer popping up over the course of 6 gruesome months. You can calculate and pythagorize all you want, stuff happens that nobody can see coming and that’s that.

For the past couple of years, I’ve always enjoyed recording season projections when they are out, so that I can drag them out at the end of the season and compare. I use these projections quite profusely as part of my Fantasy draft strategy, so they are quite important to me. They are also important to many others, for all kinds of fans. This year, I thought it would be fun to share the “before and after” results with my readers, in the event you might be sitting at a bar or at your local Laundromat and a stranger should ask “hey, how about them Cards…did anyone think they had a chance to do so well in the NL Central?” Now you can answer that question.

The folks at Baseball Prospectus are making some decent money compiling and providing statistical data and analysis for use by chumps like me as well as for very important folks in the baseball business. They certainly do know what they are doing. They have ultimato respect from everyone who reads their work, whether the information is used casually or used professionally.

I purchase their handbook on an annual basis, and enjoy their work immensely. I am not a subscriber, as this is too expensive for my budget (I’m not being paid to be a Baseball Enthusiast) but if you have the cash flow, you really should consider subscribing to their exclusive content, as well as shelling out a couple of bucks for the annual handbook.

The purpose of this is not to say “look, they were way off on this” but to compare side-by-side what the projections were, and to identify some criteria by which to analyze the comparison at a very high level, and then to draw some sort of conclusion that is less than obtuse and lightly informative. There is no “right” or “wrong” in projections (predictions are a different story…); there is only the data, the distribution, and how you analyze it and use it for whatever you need it for.

The “actual” performance data presented here was compiled from Baseball-Reference. Here are the key data points I studied and compared from both sources:
Wpct (Win percentage)
RS (Runs scored)
RA (Runs allowed)
Rdiff/G (Run differential = Runs allowed – Runs scored per Game, average over 162 games)
Teams are listed in ‘ranking’ by WPct as reported by Baseball Prospectus as well as Baseball-Reference.

Focusing on the ‘slot positions’ for each team within their division is, in my opinion, a negligible analysis point. Any stat head will probably agree with me that comparing the projected ‘rank’ of two teams in their division with their final ‘rank’ is somewhat interdependent of discrete performance statistics, such as Win-Loss percentage (or, really, Win percentage). Aside from the obvious situation of a team projected to win their division that eventually comes in last in their division (or vice versa), there’s not much to discuss in regards to comparison aside from what you can clearly see…at least not by me and not in this review. I chose instead to gauge “how did they do?” by comparing WPct by utilizing a figure that I’m sure I didn’t invent but that I will call XPctDiff, or “Expectation Percentage Differential.”

Is that sexy or what?!?

XPctDiff is found by subtracting the projected WPct of a team from the actual WPct, you will get a positive or negative number based on if they did better (positive) or worse (negative) than they were projected to. Remember, final ranking is negligible!! Then you can look at how close or how far off each team’s projection was and in what direction, if you like. The smaller delta (percentage difference) defines a projection that was more spot on, the larger delta is one that was spotty. You can click on the images to see the data better in your browser window.

I will also briefly review the Rdiff/G value, in terms of improvement (positive) and deficiency (negative) over projection, for leaders and blowers in each league.

Let’s start with the National League:One thing is obvious: Nobody really can tell how to call the NL West (remember last year’s Padres?!?). This year’s Diamondbacks seemed to be last year’s Padres, with the most noticeable difference in the ranking, and also the highest XPctDiff in the entire league.

In the NL East, the Phillies (positive) and the Marlins (negative) had the largest XPctDiff, tied at .081 each. In the case of the Phillies, the difference had no bearing on their ranking; I know I said I wasn’t going to focus on ranking comparisons, but I had to point this out in order to lend some validity as to why I say “final ranking is negligible. The closest call by BP in this division was on the Braves, with an XPctDiff of .012 positive value. Among all 30 teams, this was their second most accurate projection. In regards to Rdiff/G the Phillies ended up with an 0.6 improvement over projection, the second largest improvement over this projected figure in the National League…that’s a testament to that pitching staff of theirs, as the fewer RA made the biggest difference (they scored 30 fewer runs than projected). The Marlins, on the other hand, had an 0.7 deficiency over projection, with a shift in more RA than RS yielding that value; their Rdiff/G decline was tied with the Giants for the largest deficiency over projection in the National League, who (like the Marlins), allowed more runs than they scored against projection.

The most accurate WPct projection among all 30 teams was the Pirates in the NL Central. At an XPctDiff of a scant .006, their WPct was only one game off. The Brewers were the largest value, .068 better (positive) than projected. As we enter the World Series, I should also note that the Cardinals performed .025 better than projected, a modest value but it shows you in one respect how a good run in September can benefit a team!

The NL West shows a wild finish, 2 teams (the Diamondbacks at .111 better – but still not the largest XPctDiff among all 30 teams- and the Rockies at .074 worse (negative) than projected) had abnormally large XPctDiff in the National League. BP was most accurate with the Dodgers, who finished .022 worse than projected. The Diamondbacks finished with the largest improvement over projection in terms of Rdiff/G with an 0.7 value.

And now…the American League:Here we have a beast similar to the NL West, where the AL Central seems to be the hardest division to nail down from a projection standpoint. It sheds a different light on the current fan reaction to the so-called “Red Sox Collapse” and the opposite of this reaction by fans of the Twins in regard to their performance this season, suffering even greater than the Royals were projected to.

In the AL East, the most accurate projection was undeniably the easiest call to make…for several years, the Yankees have been the easiest team in terms of performance projection, their XPctDiff was .025 better than projected. By comparison, the Orioles, who started very strong this year, finished with a rather large .074 XPctDiff. The Orioles also had the second largest deficiency in the American League over projection for Rdiff/G with -0.9.

Who had the largest Rdiff/G deficiency in the American League? We move to the AL Central for this answer, where as previously noted, was the wildest of the 3 divisions. The Twins quietly collapsed (where the Red Sox were so damn noisy about it), falling to an MLB highest .123 XPctDiff and an MLB highest 1.0 Rdiff/G deficiency over projection. OUCH. The most accurate WPct projection was the White Sox, who posted a League-lowest .018 XPctDiff value in winning only 3 games less than projected.

A few years from now, we might see a day where the AL West is as easy a division to project as the NL Central seems to be; as long as the Rangers keep playing like the Rangers, that is. They blew off the doors this year (much to Lance Berkman’s chagrin, but he’s so classy he admits his mistake after the fact), finishing better than expected, with an XPctDiff of .068, tied with the Angels for the largest value (the Angels also finished with a positive XPctDiff value). Also of worthy note, and what Berkman needs to know, is their Rdiff/G improved 0.9 over projection; like the Phillies they allowed far fewer runs than projected. The Mariners were BP’s most accurate projection in this division, with an XPctDiff of .024, only 4 wins less than projected.

At an overall high level, in light of the results of Postseason so far, the BP projections really only ‘missed’ with the NL West and the AL Central. Those of us who reviewed their data before the season began can only say we were surprised by the rise of the Diamondbacks and the fall of the Twins.

That being said, Twins fans are great people…they aren’t complaining about this very much.

Enjoy the World Series; I’ll be back soon to review the MLB Network NL/AL Predictions! I’ve dusted off the DVDs I have of the 2 specials they aired in late March, and will review their calls and what really happened. This review will be quite different; less statistics, of course…but they made predictions, which are way different than projections.

Thanks mega thanks again, to the folks at Baseball Prospectus (as well as Baseball Reference) for everything they do to give geeks like me something to write about. It’s all good.

If you enjoy my work, I encourage you to spread the word via Twitter
(I am @yoshiki89), and also please leave a comment!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

2011 League Championship Series - Best Pitchers*

* according to Bill James' Game Score

And the WINNER is...


SHOCKER…yes, I am quite surprised, but it’s true. By a little more than a nose, yes. I need to give him a break, I suppose…I have been heckling the Wolfman a little more than usual these days.

Before we start this round of jousting, let’s review Bill James' Game Score real quick.

In case you didn't know, "Game Score" is a neat and easy and FUN way to look at a starting pitcher's line in a Box Score and apply a basic formula on the stats to come up with a fundamental 'score' that "determines the strength of a pitcher in any particular baseball game.
To determine a starting pitcher's game score:

1.Start with 50 points.
2.Add 1 point for each out recorded, so 3 points for every complete inning pitched.
3.Add 2 points for each inning completed after the 4th.
4.Add 1 point for each strikeout.
5.Subtract 2 points for each hit allowed.
6.Subtract 4 points for each earned run allowed.
7.Subtract 2 points for each unearned run allowed.
8.Subtract 1 point for each walk.
The maximum possible score in a 9-inning game with no baserunners allowed is 114, but of course this is possible only if the starting pitcher goes nine innings, strikes out every single batter he faces, and faces no more than 3 batters per inning. The exception to this gets a little hairy mathematically, but is never impossible...because this is baseball.

FYI, the highest game score for a 9-inning game in the history of baseball happened on May 6, 1998, when Kerry "Kid K" Wood famously struck out 20 Astros at Wrigley Field. Yowsah, that Game Score was 105.

So I thought it would be a "hoot" to compile Game Score for all SP during the postseason; I started this at the close of the League Division Series; you can review the LDS results at this post. Now that the League Championship Series is over and we’re going to the WORLD are the LCS results, and the top 5 winners:

Randy Wolf (62) 10/13/11 MIL @ STL NLCS G4
Doug Fister (59) 10/11/11 TEX @ DET ALCS G3
Rick Porcello (54) 10/12/11 TEX @ DET ALCS G4
Max Scherzer (53) 10/10/11 DET @ TEX ALCS G2 - TIE
Matt Harrison (53) 10/12/11 TEX @ DET ALCS G4 - TIE

Quite a change, overall in the top 5 scores themselves, compared to the LDS top 5 (range was 84-72 in the LDS top 5). Right off the top of my head, I would imagine that one contributing factor in the difference in overall scores was more or less attributable to the ‘clinch pitching change’ tactic employed by each of the 4 teams playing in the series, particularly in those crucial Game 6 situations. In the LDS, 38 starting pitchers worked an average of 5.71 innings (or, more accurately in baseball math: 5.2 innings). In the LCS, 24 starting pitchers worked an average of 4.8 innings (again, 4.2 innings in baseball math). So this off-the-cuff theory could have some weight.

Another wacky reality: Randy Wolf had the lowest score among the 38 SP in the LDS. Uh-huh.

Other interesting notes I made, regarding the top 5:
Only 1 NL pitcher appeared in the top 5 (Wolf, at number 1)
The top 3 pitchers earned their scores at home (Wolf, Fister, Porcello)
3 of the top 5 (the bottom 3, in fact) earned “No Decisions” as SP
Of those 3, both teams were the Detroit Tigers and both times the Tigers lost the game
Only 1 SP in the top 5 saw his team advance to the World Series (Harrison)
No Cardinals pitchers made the top 5
Two of the top 5 scores were from SP in the same game (10/12/11 TEX @ DET ALCS G4)

In general (all 24 pitchers with starts in the LCS):
Lowest score – Max Scherzer (20) 10/15/11 DET @ TEX ALCS G6
Lowest score, 4 innings minimum – Jaime Garcia (26) 10/9/11 STL @ MIL NLCS G1
Lowest score by a winning pitcher – Zack Greinke (36) 10/9/11 STL @ MIL NLCS G1
Average Game Score by SP in the 2011 LDS: 41.41

I will now officially revoke my honorary Randy “ERA” Wolf nickname. Until next year.

For now…#HappyFlight

You can review my work on the spreadsheet on Google Docs.

I will continue to tally the Game Score for the World Series, and post the results when that FINAL phase of the postseason is over. Then we can look at a Postseason Sweepstakes review…who will win it all??

If you enjoy my work, I encourage you to spread the word via Twitter
(I am @yoshiki89), and also please leave a comment!

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Cardinals? All the way? I called it…sort of

Really, I sort of did.

I like to think I’m like most baseball fans who struggle with two sides of baseball fan psyche behavior. I have a child’s love of the game and a tunnel-vision view of how the Cubs (and the Royals) will do for any given season. On the other hand, I have an adult’s perception and respect for the numbers and strategic elements that have no respect for childish admiration of “my team”…or anyone’s team for that matter.

Obviously, the latter hat is one when you should wear when you’re a Fantasy Team owner. And the former is the one you should wear when the Cubs are down 8 runs with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th against the Pirates and you know they can pull off a 9-run rally…despite the fact that Blake DeWitt is pinch hitting and nobody is on base.

I also have this funky set of “baseball rules” I apply to myself, some which make sense only to me…one of them is that in the NL Central, I embrace competition for the division title between the Cubs and Cardinals only…so if either team is definitively out of the race (the Cubs, for example) then theologically, the only team in the division I should root for is, indeed, the Cardinals…to be fair, there are many reason for this the likes of which I don’t want to go into right now. I’d only like to highlight one: In the NL Central, next to Cubs fans of course, Cardinals fans are really, for the most part, very good to most of us Cubs fans. Case in point: The worst time I was heckled for wearing Cubs gear at another ball park was in Milwaukee by a stupid teenager who felt I had no right to be there. By comparison, at Wrigley, with the Cardinals in town, a conversation with Cardinals fans sitting in front of us lead to free club-level tickets in St Louis several months later. The Cubs/Cardinals rivalry is one of the best, most fun, and least mean-spirited rivalries in baseball. I like it that way.

At any rate, I don’t think I should brag about this, but I do need to let everyone know…I was right.

After listening to Beyond the Box Score Podcast Episode 9 “Ian Snell’s Legacy”, posted on 3/16/11, I had some questions and comments on host Dave Gershman’s preview of the NL Central with guest Mike Petriello (of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness fame). I sent Dave an email on 3/25/11 with the hopes that my comments would be addressed on the podcast. They weren’t, but I saved the email anyway because I thought at the time “what the heck…maybe I really am right about this…”

For your edification, here’s the letter I sent:

RE: BTB Podcast Episode 9 - Dave, excellent episode…having Mike on was great, I enjoyed your review of the NL Central so much I was talking to you guys several times during it, but you couldn’t hear me while I was doing so.

As I am a Cubs fan, and loathing over this division for many years, and also ‘close’ geographical to the Reds and their AAA affiliate Louisville Bats (I am in a Season Ticket partnership there), I wanted to make a few comments/pose a few questions.

Analysis isn’t my strong suit…I merely ABSORB the work of the likes of you and save analysis for discussion with my kids, so go easy on me…

So, a few things:

1. Homer Bailey…argh…if I have to hear “this is a breakout year for him” or anything similar I’m going to be sick. When he was a poster child for the Bats, lumps of praise and projections were wasted on this guy. I’ve seen him at work, I’ve seen most of his failures, and my opinion is those failures far out shadow his potential. I understand the focus of scouting and what it involves, but let’s face it…don’t drink the kool aid! Bailey is far less than a stud pitcher; his stuff is just not that good, his work is very inconsistent, and he is more prone to injury than a front-line soldier in a holy war border skirmish. If he’s been consistent at doing one thing, it’s been at being a disappointing pitcher, period. His handful of decent performances are hampered ultimately by his string of grotesque failures. After so many years of this self-deprecating cycle of his, I am a little surprised you both still think he can do something for the Reds or for ANYONE (but I applaud your confidence in stating your position just the same).

2. Aroldis Chapman…don’t get me started on this guy. I’ve been watching him since he single-handedly LOST THE GAME between Cuba and Japan in the 2009 WBC. When I heard the Reds had signed him for so much money I fell out of my chair laughing. My laughter turned to horror when I watched him destroy several games for the Bats in his first year here as the majority of his outings resembled his epic fail in the WBC. There are many ‘uneasy’ starting pitchers in AAA ball, but none have been as unmistakably predictable in their lack of actual talent (not potential talent…ACTUAL talent). As a starting pitcher, he was the WORST I’ve ever seen in Louisville, hands down. I’m not sure what many scouts are smoking or drinking as they observe and report his “potential” but its effect has warped their minds. So he can throw 95-100 mph nearly effortlessly and in the words of Kevin Goldstein “has an 80 fast ball”…BIG DEAL. His location is abhorrent. My vote for AAA International League MVP of 2010 goes to Wilkin Castillo, this guy looks and moves like a windmill when he’s catching Aroldis. There’s your top prospect for the Reds farm system, a guy who can save 20 wild pitches per game (even per inning!)…I’ve seen Castillo leap from his crouch and snag those Kevin Goldstein 80 fastballs at 104mph from 2 feet behind a batter’s back. He can throw like the wind, but he can’t locate when he needs to. He’s also not the most athletic guy, sure his mechanics are sound but pretty soon now, his elbow is going to go and that will be it. I am more impressed with his performance as a relief pitcher, but as a closer? Take a look at this game, for instance…would you hand the ball to a closer who has the potential to annihilate a game when he does this on a regular basis? (sure, I’ve seen him do better…BUT…just look at his line…not kool! His bad games are as bad as his good games are good)

3. As for your analysis of the Reds…yes, it seems like they have all the pieces, but the Reds have a critical flaw…that flaw is Dusty Baker. As a Cubs fan, I will be happy to testify. 2010 was a good year for the Reds, but look at their track record with Dusty for the years previous…start strong, fade fast. How does 2010 wipe out their past performance under his leadership? Expectations should be high, but projections should be conservative. Should one put as much faith in Baker’s 2011 Reds as in Baker’s 2004 Cubs? His trend for the Reds is going in the reverse as the Cubs, so this year will really validate the whole picture, but for now all we know about Dusty is since he left San Francisco “one GREAT year followed by one ABYSMAL year.” Again, I’m not much of an analyst, but from where I sit all I can do is expect this from Dusty Baker after what happened in 2003 (and what didn’t in 2004).

4. As far as your analysis of the Cardinals…yes, I agree with you both and things really aren’t looking great but the Cardinals have a critical asset…that asset is Tony Larussa. I’ve always respected him as a manager, after reading George F. Will’s “Men at Work” TWICE my respect has mushroomed into my abject recognition of Larussa as the most scientific manager in professional baseball. It’s true, in STAR TREK Kirk always managed to save the day with Lou Piniella-like instincts and Mr. Spock never really got his props for building a TV set in the pre-technology ERA United States of America. If anyone can build a TV set with technology that doesn’t exist, I believe Tony Larussa can forge a winning team that really could surprise the heck out of everyone. With or without Ryan Theriot. I will never discount the Cardinals under Larussa in the same manner I will never preach the gospel of the Reds under Baker.

5. One thing is certain, the NL Central is very tight, most folks have a tight race towards the top. As a Cubs fan, I think we may surprise a lot of people. I look at the 2010 NL West projections for my inspiration…the PADRES. What the hell. Nobody saw that coming, and nobody could. Regardless of which team, I think there is a very good chance that the NL Central will have the same gap in how it ends and how it looks this year.

Dave, I am enjoying your podcast very much, keep up the good work.

Your friend,

Keep in mind, I really am a fan of the podcast…and I don’t typically email questions and/or comments to other podcasts, so this missive really was something I felt strongly about, and in the back of my mind, I just couldn’t let it go without stating my opinion.

Fast forward to a month or so ago, when I started to realize that what I had commented on in all of my points had started to become concrete over the course of the season. Upon the cusp of the close of the regular season, and onward to postseason, I began to tweet my comparison of Tony LaRussa…now changed from Kirk/Spock and STAR TREK to Commander Adama and BATTLESTAR GALACTICA…for obvious reasons. TLR really IS the Commander Adama of Baseball, and the 2011 Cardinals are his ragtag fleet. How many times have you seen a front line of Cylons as far as the eye can see wiped out by Adama’s 10-fighter squadron running on fumes? This is real, TLR is real, and just like that…the GALACTICA secured the Wild Card berth and last night…WOW, they are really headed for the WORLD SERIES.

You certainly wouldn’t dismiss Adama in any Cylon-thick situation…as a baseball fan, I wouldn’t ever dismiss TLR for the very same reasons.

Again, my message here is not to brag about my extraordinary baseball analysis skills (I really have none) but hey…don’t dismiss Tony LaRussa. Re-read what I wrote above. Embrace the truth. Now will come the onslaught of sports outlets and blogs posting “How LaRussa Did It.” I’ve known all the time, George F. Will (also a Cubs fan!) showed us all in Men At Work…if you haven’t read it yet, why not!?! Now would be a great time to do so, if you haven’t.

Cardinals fans, I can’t guarantee the same for next year (regardless of how the World Series ends this year) but I do predict victory over the Rangers and I just want to say, any time you have less faith in your team than you think you should, give me a holler. Think about how your season started: Wainright out, Franklin hosed, etc. You pwned “the greatest pitching rotation in Baseball history” to advance to the LCS, and now you’re headed for the show against a team that was favored to win last year based on their offense, and are highly touted to have an advantage this year based on their offense. Just ask a Giants fan how they felt about that. Yes, the Rangers’ bullpen is better this year but Milwaukee’s bullpen was pretty darn good as well.

So, I was right. I called it…sort of. I’m just as surprised as the rest of you are, I predicted success, sure...but WORLD SERIES? In hindsight, I really believed it would happen. Good Luck, Cardinals, and regardless of what happens in October…we’ll be seeing you for sure next year!!!

If you enjoy my work, I encourage you to spread the word via Twitter
(I am @yoshiki89), and also please leave a comment!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

10/16/11 St Louis Cardinals 12, Milwaukee Brewers 6

Miller Park, Milwaukee, WI
NLCS Game 6
STL wins the NLCS 4-2

Welcome to the David Freese Show, starring…David Freese! If NLCS Game 2 was “The Pujols Game,” then NLCS Game 6 has to go down in history as “The Freese Game.” There can be no question that even in the 7th inning, that NLCS MVP trophy was his, hands down. He was the Sultan of Hustle today, only a triple short of the cycle.

It was no small feat to defeat the Brewers at Miller Park for most NL teams this year, but the Cardinals had a winning record there during the regular season, and extended that record during the NLCS. Freese didn’t really come out of nowhere here, he’s been playing well recently, but in Pujolsian fashion he started his rally in the first inning; the table was set with 2 on and 2 outs, 1 run already on the board and Shaun Marcum already sweating like a Derek Lowe. A first pitch 3-run HR
Over the left-center field fence was a formidable statement, to say the least.

I had a hunch this would be a close game, but my hunch was deliberately tossed by Freese, Pujols, Allen Craig, and the rest of the Angry Birds. It wasn’t a collapse by the Brewers, no matter how you look at it…they rallied as hard as the best of us could. But the crowd at Miller Park’s eerie silence just got eerier as the game went on and the crooked numbers kept getting posted.

Of course, with pitching changes galore…there were sprinklings of fantastic pitching moments, but still burned into my brain was Jason Motte’s finish and, of course…the home runs. The most HR in the first 3 innings of a postseason game (3 HR for each team).

Jerry Hairston, Jr’s 15 minutes of baseball fame peaked with this outstanding hook slide in NLCS Game 4, a slide that would have made Wally Yonanime blush. It ended completely during the Brewers’ 3-error inning; Hairston was charged with 2 of the 3 during a single play. Now that’s a little more like the JHJr I recall from recent years.

In other news, Prince Fielder grounds out to Nick Punto in his final at-bat in a Brewers’ uniform. Albert Pujols, in a classy move, calls time when Fielder approaches the box for the crowd’s standing O.

Freese got the trophy, but Nick Punto is awarded with a Golden Sombrero, striking out 4 times in 4 AB. Still a #HappyFlight for the Cardinals, and the end of a great and most admirable run by the Brewers.

HEY, I want your feedback!
If you enjoy my work, I encourage you to spread the word via Twitter
(I am @yoshiki89), and also please leave a comment!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...