June 19, 2013
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Monday, June 01, 2009
If someone asked you who the best pitcher has been this season, what would your answer be? Zack Greinke and his 0.84 ERA? Johan Santana and his rejuvenated strikeout rate? Tim Lincecum and his continued dominance? According to LIPS ERA, you'd be wrong with all three guesses. Instead, LIPS ERA would herald the name Javier Vazquez:
2009 LIPS ERA leaders through 5/30/09
+----------+--------+----+------+------+----------+-------+------+-------+ | LAST | FIRST | GS | IP | ERA | LIPS ERA | K/9 | BB/9 | xGB% | +----------+--------+----+------+------+----------+-------+------+-------+ | Vazquez | Javier | 11 | 70.3 | 3.58 | 2.71 | 11.00 | 2.05 | 45.30 | | Santana | Johan | 10 | 66.0 | 1.77 | 2.72 | 11.73 | 2.73 | 31.29 | | Lincecum | Tim | 10 | 65.3 | 3.03 | 2.89 | 11.57 | 2.62 | 47.24 | | Greinke | Zack Z | 10 | 75.0 | 0.84 | 2.90 | 9.72 | 1.44 | 43.96 | +----------+--------+----+------+------+----------+-------+------+-------+
Vazquez doesn't beat Santana out by much, but the fact that he is on this list (and at the top, no less) says something. While some fantasy owners would view Vazquez as the answer to a "one of these things is not like the other" question, I (and faithful readers of THT Fantasy) would vehemently disagree.
If you recall, back in January, I introduced a new method for evaluating pitchers called CAPS (Context Adjusted Pitching Statistics). CAPS focuses on strikeouts, walks, and ground balls—fundamental pieces to any analysis of a pitcher—and goes a step further by adjusting for the context under which they were produced. CAPS adjusts for the following:
CAPS showed that Vazquez would be entering a favorable new environment and had been unlucky, not only in terms of the usual BABIP, HR/FB, and LOB%, but also in terms of his peripherals (i.e. strikeouts, walks, and ground balls). Here's what I said about Vazquez then:
No matter how much bad luck he faces in terms of HR/FB (which will greatly improve moving away from Chicago), BABIP, or LOB%, I can't see Vazquez's ERA being held above 4.00 as it has four out of the last five years. In fact, his QERA hasn't been higher than 3.35 over the past three years, and there's a good chance his actual ERA ends up there in 2009. Plus, with the strikeout adjustments, he could strike out over 230 batters if he reaches his usual innings total. Huge fantasy value to be had here.
Vazquez's CAPS K/9 for 2006-2008 were 9.4, 10.1, and 9.7, respectively. While 2009 is still young, here we are on June 1 and his K/9 currently sits at 11.0. This puts him on pace for 250 strikeouts, above even my seemingly high prediction (to compare, ZiPS was the most optimistic of the major projection systems at 202). He obviously won't strike out that many batters, but he is undoubtedly the real deal. If you weren't a reader of THT Fantasy at the time or didn't have the opportunity to draft Vazquez, then my reason for writing today is strictly for you. Buy Javier Vazquez now!
Now I'd like to throw out my own "one of these things is not like the other" challenge. While Vazquez surely belongs on the above list, what makes him different from the rest? Take a look at that ERA: 3.58. That is a high ERA for a guy as talented as he is. While he might never live up to his LIPS ERA—he always seems to struggle with at least one of his luck indicators—his ERA should decrease. He's currently experiencing a bit of bad luck with all three of the luck indicators, and once it evens out a bit, Vazquez could easily post an ERA in the low-to-mid 3.00s. (And as a side-note, his DIPS WHIP is 1.02 to go with his massive strikeout numbers).
This means that Vazquez is one of the best pitchers in baseball but won't demand the same price tag as a guy like Greinke. This is especially true since so many owners have been burned by him before and since he's seemed to pitch inconsistently this year.
Right now, he should be at the top of anyone's trade target list who doesn't already own him. The only pitchers I prefer to Vazquez at this point are Santana and Lincecum and maybe Jake Peavy. One could make a case for Greinke and maybe Dan Haren, but I'd probably take Vazquez if push came to shove. Own C.C. Sabathia? Roy Halladay? Cliff Lee? Josh Johnson? If you do, I wouldn't hesitate to make a one-for-one trade for Vazquez. You'll likely be able to get him for less than that, but if it comes right down to it I'd make the deal and expect an upgrade.
Posted by Derek Carty at 12:32am (13) Comments
With the first two calendar months of the season in the books, the time to look towards next season is occurring whether one wants to or not. Even if you think your team needs just a couple more weeks to recover, the other four or five teams at the bottom of the pack may think otherwise and make decisions that force your hand. For standard leagues, this essentially means focusing on the upcoming fantasy football season. For keeper leagues, though, it means something entirely different. Well for at least the week or two it takes to restructure your roster for a run at the league championship in 2010. In other words, bailing.
Bailing is an interesting phenomenon in 2009. The rules from the Official Rotisserie Baseball Handbook spoke specifically about player contracts in subsequent years. Essentially, the game was intended to be of the keeper league variety and AL- or NL-only. Then came the internet with its ease of standings calculation and free mixed leagues from internet service providers looking to bring eyeballs to their websites to bury traditional rotisserie baseball.
Before long, the game of “rotisserie baseball” morphed in “fantasy baseball” and its most popular format was the mixed league re-draft version. After several years of this, most participants playing fantasy baseball don’t know any better. So bailing becomes just another phrase with no real meaning.
For the hardcore minority who know only the “pure” version of the game, bailing brings all sorts of mixed feelings. On one hand, you understand and accept it as a rational decision by those who see little chance of finishing in the money this season and look to improve those chances for the following season. On the other hand, you know it destroys the competitive balance of the current season by juicing the teams who receive the players from the bailing team while watching the bailing team drop in the counting categories and give points to those teams who happened to be trailing the bailing team before hand.
The question is how to balance the two competing forces. Like water going downhill, teams in keeper leagues will find a way to prepare for the next season when they are no longer competitive in the current one. Mitigating the competitive destruction bailing wrought, or attempting to do so, is the goal.
The unhip way to do it is to allow a free-for-all that puts no limits on who and what can be dealt from the bailer to the bailee. Typically, this leads to a team dealing Albert Pujols and Jose Reyes for Gerardo Parra and Buster Posey. This is a scary environment and doesn’t ameliorate the corrosive and divisive effects of the bail.
So the next to come is the in-season salary cap. Essentially, the goal is not to unlopside the bail trade, but keep any one team from acquiring both Pujols and Reyes. Instead, each goes to separate teams for a player whose future value (a combination of salary, ability and control) is greater than the current value of Pujols or Reyes. This retains the freedom each team has to make whatever deal they feel best serves their future interests but prevents a team from supercharging his roster with two or three superstars.
From this point, the subjective evaluations of the bailing team turn towards the subjective evaluations of the other teams. Whether it is a commissioner veto or a league wide one, the teams not involved in the trade get final say on whether the bail trade moves forward.
Or rules can be established prescribing a fixed amount of distance between teams in the standings determines who can and cannot trade or a fixed distance between players salaries/round drafted are set. Penalties can also be assessed towards the teams who decide to violate these rules such as costing a team a draft penalties such as hits in draft order or salary cap.
All these efforts are attempts to balance the ability of a losing team to construct a more successful team for the following season(s) versus the inherent unfairness of the bail trade. All are also efforts to balance the subjective player valuations of the two teams involved in the bail trade versus those of the other six, eight, 10 teams in the league whose seasons are not completely sunk or hoping to still make a run for the Yoo-hoo.
And that is how teams are compelled to think bail even if they do not want to do so.
Are there solutions to the bail crisis or are there just not-as-bad options?
Posted by Eric Hinz at 12:37am (10) Comments
I know David Gassko rolled out the official welcome wagon yesterday, but I thought I'd pop in too and welcome you all to the new THT Fantasy website (especially now that we don't have to worry about articles getting lost in the shuffle if we publish more than three per day — they're all easily visible on our shiny new homepage now!)
David already announced Buy on the Rumor, so I simply want to echo his sentiments. THT Fantasy currently provides mostly strategy or in-depth analytical pieces, and I think this new blog will serve as a perfect complement to what we're currently doing. It will allow us to communicate with you quickly, in an easily accessible format, and provide our insights into current events that otherwise wouldn't make it into a full article.
To give a little background, the original concept behind Buy on the Rumor was a blog to discuss rumors floating around and what the fantasy ramifications would be if said rumor were to actually happen. "Hey, did you hear Corey Hart might get traded? If he does, that would likely give more playing time to Jody Gerut, Frank Catalanatto, or maybe Mat Gamel." We felt that this kind of preemptive information would be important for fantasy owners who 1) might need to make a dash to the waiver wire (especially in the case of closers) or 2) are simply trying to place a remainder-of-season value on certain players (such as part-time players for AL and NL-only leaguers).
Once we had this down, we decided to take it a step further and include all kinds of news items, not just rumors. Hopefully you guys enjoy this new feature as much as we hope you will. The THT Fantasy team made a few posts over the weekend in anticipation of the grand opening, so be sure to check in on those — it's all still pretty relevant. On days when we post a lot, also be sure to check the mini-calendar that appears on each Buy on the Rumor page so that you don't miss anything.
One thing David didn't mention is that, to go along with our new homepage, you can access it easily by going to thtfantasy.com. Should be easy to remember.
As for me, I know you haven't heard much from me lately, so you have my apologies. Not to fear, however; I should be getting back on a regular schedule now.
That's all for now. Hopefully you guys enjoy the new setup. Be on the lookout for even more new features and analysis in the coming weeks and months! If you ever have any questions, comments, or suggestions for things you'd like to see at THT Fantasy, always feel free to shoot me an e-mail.
Posted by Derek Carty at 1:45am (0) Comments
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
Player Pool: Mixed
No. of Teams: 14
Categories: Yahoo! 6x6 (R, HR, RBI, SB, Batting Avg., OPS) (W, SV, K, ERA, WHIP, K/9)
Scoring Type: Rotisserie
Misc.: Teams carry 2 UTIL spots on offense.
C - Bengie Molina
1B - Paul Konerko
2B - Felipe Lopez
SS - Troy Tulowitzki
3B - Mark Reynolds
OF - Jason Bay
OF - Adam Jones
OF - Bobby Abreu
UTIL - Lance Berkman
UTIL - Juan Pierre
BN - Luis Castillo
BN - Kendry Morales
BN - Pat Burrell
SP - Tim Lincecum
SP - Josh Outman
RP - Ryan Franklin
RP - John Grabow
RP - Dan Wheeler
RP - JP Howell
RP - Jason Isringhausen
BN - John Danks
BN - Kenshin Kawakami
DL - Jose Valverde
DL - Brandon Webb
Further notes about the team:
1. Dropped Gil Meche after suffering through the pitcher's bad start.
2. Dropped Kelly Johnson to pick up Luis Castillo.
3. After hearing about Troy Percival, picked up every breathing soul in the Tampa Bay bullpen.
4. Has unsuccessfully tried to trade hitting for pitching.
5. Slowly slipping in the standards due to poor pitching.
I think you're being a bit too rash. Of course, Gil Meche and Kelly Johnson haven't lived up to expectations, but both have been the victims of very poor luck this season. I consider it likely that both will sport better numbers in the future, but I guess what's done is done.
The real question is how to salvage the pitching. Right now, I see two legitimate starters in a 14-team league—Lincecum and Danks—and frankly, that's not enough. Josh Outman has a surprising 3.06 ERA and a nice 40-21 strikeout-to-walk rate, but he's too young and does not possess a solid enough body of work to be any more than a #4 or #5 in this kind of league.
I think you need at least two more starters. Who might be droppable?
Chasing saves is a necessary evil in many leagues and having a category that counts K/9 certainly raises the incentive towards carrying multiple relievers. That said, after Isringhausen's flameout in his first save opportunity last week, we can't see much reason to hold onto him.
We also don't see much reason to hold Luis Castillo, especially in a league that counts OPS as a category.
Isringhausen and Castillo seem the most logical candidates to drop for starters off the waiver wire. Obviously, target starters with good strikeout rates.
Who are your best trade candidates?
Well, if you can get anything for Juan Pierre, go for it. He's having a great season, but his value will be kept in check in an OPS league that hates his slugging ability. Since he's batting near .400, and some teams are bound to need speed, maybe you can get something.
The other candidate I might look to trade, believe it or not, is Brandon Webb. Your team needs pitching help right away, and Webb carries a lot of injury risk. Many teams will be attracted to the prospect of having an ace-caliber pitcher like Webb, so he might at least return someone like Jon Lester. (Also, note that Lester's been struggling, but posts a stronger strikeout rate than Webb and will offer you more wins than a pitcher who plays for a poor offense. You may be able to get Lester plus something else.) After you move Webb, you can then push Burrell to DL, clearing up another roster spot for use.
Posted by Eriq Gardner at 7:14am (0) Comments
Now that the baseball season has passed June 1, roughly a third of the season is over. It's high trading season, and some fantasy teams are beginning to consider that the investment they made during draft time on a particular player doesn’t necessarily equate to that player’s true value.
For example, to get Francisco Liriano in a draft, someone would have had to invest a sixth or seventh round pick in a 12-team league. The Twins pitcher has slumped this season so far — but hey, pitchers are prone to bad luck for good stretches of time. Unfortunately, Liriano sports a 5.04 FIP and a 4.96 xERA, which tells us that although Liriano may be a bit unlucky, a pot of gold doesn’t look likely around the bend.
Some owners will stubbornly wait until the Minnesota Lake freezes over to see if Liriano can pull it together—the 2008 season offers a bit of hope—while others may open themselves to recouping at least some of the investment by trading him.
Fantasy experts love to tell their followers which players they should buy low, but much more problematic are the candidates to be sold low. And even when pundits finally find it within themselves to hum a few notes of requiem on a former superstar—David Ortiz is done!—you may as well be given a shovel to dig the grave.
Let’s not give up so easily: Selling low is tough, but it’s not impossible.
In my experience, most teams will pull the trigger on a trade if they see three things in a player being offered.
First, brand quality. They are being offered a player who has a reputation for being solid and consistent for a long period of time.
Second, recent performance. They are being offered a player who has flourished in recent weeks, signaling no hidden risk.
Third, fills a need. They are being offered a player who will surely help them out.
Unfortunately, any holder of a troubled asset has only brand quality to market. David Ortiz and Francisco Liriano have track records of success in the majors. Just not recent ones. And most teams will make trades out of need—not out of speculation that a struggling player will rebound and help them out down the line.
But there are always exceptions.
Not every team has the same tolerance for risk. Some teams are struggling in the standings. Some are doing well. Some teams have deep benches. Others have ones that are already stacked with disappointing upside gambles. Figuring out a potential trading partner’s capacity for making a gamble is part of the due diligence that’s necessary for getting decent return on a player whose stock has sunk.
Also, all teams have troubled assets. Not all players are disappointing for the same reasons, though. Some are serving 50-game steroids suspensions. Others are on the disabled list. And then there are the players who only seem like disappointments, but are merely getting unlucky. All good targets.
Finally, it always helps to be creative in deal-making. Perhaps selling a struggling, high-risk player on his own merits little interest. What if the player is packaged with a high-performing player? In investment, this is often called securitization, where assets are pooled together and repackaged in a way where the risk/upside ratio becomes acceptable and attractive to a buyer.
Yes, it’s always best to buy low and sell high. Everyone wants to do that these days. But figuring out a way to get some return from high investments that have depreciated in value should not be ignored as an important component of success.
Posted by Eriq Gardner at 7:19am (2) Comments
One of the most important stats in fantasy baseball is Average Draft Position, or ADP, because it accurately shows how a player is valued by the fantasy community at large. ADP numbers can be compared against end of season numbers to show which players outperformed expectations the most, or be used to identify the optimal time for taking certain players.
The main reason, I think, that you do not see this type of analysis being done is that nobody has the ADP database to do so. Even though the big sites like Yahoo ang ESPN have the numbers up on their sites for free, nobody seems willing to put in the time to copy and store them down.
That is where I came in last year, when I decided it would be a good idea to get an ADP database started. One year's worth of data would not be very valuable, but a few years' worth and I knew I would have a valuable resource on my hands that could lead to new and interesting analysis being done.
With the 2009 drafts in the books, I spent the time this weekend compiling all of the ADP numbers from ESPN and Yahoo into compact spreadsheets for you to download at your convenience. The links to download the spreadsheets containing the 2009 data are found below:
And now here are the links to download the 2008 numbers if you did not last year. Even if you downloaded them last year, you should replace those with the spreadsheets I am providing now because this year I put in a little extra effort to make the list with every position mixed include the players' positions.
There you have it. I'll let you all go with a disclaimer about these numbers I said in my article last year:
Download away! And if anyone happens to have ADP numbers from season before 2008, let me know.
Posted by Paul Singman at 8:00am (0) Comments
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
Let's start with some quotes...
Part of Vazquez's inability to win at home so far can be attributed to hard luck, but part of it can also be explained by his tendency to be victimized by one bad inning.
Vazquez's problem has been one bad inning, usually the fifth or sixth.
He holds the patent on the Really Bad Pitch and is currently litigating for trademark rights to the term "One Bad Inning,"
This time, Javier Vazquez didn't have reason to be frustrated about that one bad inning that doomed him courtesy of a number of soft singles.
Javy has three quality pitches, but the one thing that has got him into trouble this year is just one bad inning, a hiccup. ... When he avoids that, he has been dominant.
Javier Vazquez had that one bad inning syndrome thing we had heard so much about when he came over here, though, like Frenchy said, it wasn't like they hit him hard or anything.
Vazquez has a reputation as a “1 bad inning” guy. Now, I have yet to find anyone who has actually studied his game lines to see if he’s prone to clumping his hits and walks together (producing more runs than expected for that numbers of hits/walks), but it’s at least logically possible, and given his reputation, it’s worth investigating.
On Monday, I talked about why I believe Javier Vazquez will be one of the top pitchers in baseball this year. A couple commenters were less than convinced, saying that even with the improved peripherals predicted by CAPS (and which he is currently displaying), he still may not get to that elite level. I pasted an excerpt from commenter Mark above, essentially summarizing what so many sportswriters have been saying for years. Today, I'd like to examine whether or not this is actually true of Vazquez or if it is simply incorrect conventional wisdom that has developed into a sort of conformation bias each time it happens.
To test the validity of the claim, I used the ever-useful Retrosheet to examine Vazquez dating back to 2004. There were a couple different ways to tackle the problem, but I went with what Mark suggested—how often Vazquez bunches hits and walks (and HBP) together, "producing more runs than expected for that numbers of hits/walks."
To define "bunching," I'll say that it is any inning in which Vazquez allows more hits and walks than his WHIP would indicate. As almost every pitcher posts a WHIP between 1.00 and 2.00, every inning in which he allows two or more runners will be examined. In my calculations, I broke things down by the percentage of time Vazquez allowed at least two, three, four, five, six, and seven hits and walks in an inning.
[For those really interested, I made sure to use the number of instances in which a pitcher started an inning, not his total combined innings for the year (i.e. when a pitcher is taken out after recording just one out, this counts as a full inning for our purposes).]
In addition to testing Vazquez's numbers, I also ran the numbers for league average. I wanted to test a group of pitchers with similar peripherals to Vazquez as well, but I couldn't quite get it done in time. I may post those results in the future, though it's entirely possible they don't differ too terribly much from league average.
If you'd like to see the results for each year individually, click here.
Overall, the results don't lend too much weight to the arguments that Vazquez is prone to bunching his hits and walks together. He has been better than average in allowing two, five, and six H/BB innings and below average at three, four, and seven H/BB innings, but not by a whole lot (he also never allowed more than seven, while some pitchers allowed as many as 11). In addition, there doesn't appear to be any recognizable year-to-year trend. He was almost exactly league average in 2004 and 2005, terrific in 2007, and poor in 2006 and 2008.
The fact that he is below average in the three and four H/BB innings might lead us to believe that this is what sportswriters are seeing, but what we're really looking at is just 0.7% more three- and four-runner innings than league average. That comes out to 1.5 innings per season (assuming 210 innings pitched). Plus, in the really damaging five- and six-runner innings, he's a bit better than league average.
The net result of his 2004-2008 work is actually the bunching of 1.6 fewer hits and walks than league average per 216 inning appearances (his average number pitched since 2004). If you want to exclude the innings with two hits and walks (which are much less likely to end in runs scoring), he would still only be bunching 5.4 hits and walks more than league average. Exclude the three H/BB innings? Drops to 5.1. Hardly seems condemning, and although it would be useful to see what similarly good pitchers are doing, I think it's relatively safe to say that Vazquez isn't some super-magnet for quick, sudden blow-ups.
More likely, I'd wager we're seeing at least some degree of confirmation bias. After all, a full 16 percent of Vazquez's innings have resulted in three or more hits and walks. That raw percentage is pretty high. While this comes with the territory for all pitchers, because Vazquez has such a reputation for it, it gets noticed and pointed out much more often when it happens to him.
I may delve a little deeper in the future, but for now, I think this should definitely give us something to think about. At the very least, it means we shouldn't rule out the possibility that he'll pitch like an ace for the remainder of 2009. In fact, I think it makes it a little more likely.
Posted by Derek Carty at 2:01am (18) Comments
I firmly believe that daily fantasy sports contests are a better investment than the stock market. Actually, I should clarify that. I firmly believe that for someone who has had an overall winning record in daily fantasy sports contests, they are a better investment than buying and holding a portfolio of stocks in the future. Obviously, fantasy contests of any sort are not a good investment for losing players. And other than in cases where sites offer "freerolls" or "overlays" to generate new business, daily fantasy contests will be a negative sum game for the "average" player, while the stock market is probably a positive sum game.
So what exactly am I saying? I’m saying that daily fantasy contests have lower variance than buying and holding a portfolio of stocks. That means that your past results give you a much better idea of whether you’re making good picks in daily contests, and that your future performance will be a lot more consistent. If you’re a winning player, you can count on a much higher percentage of winning days, months, and years than in the stock market, and the downswings should be much smaller relative to the growth of your bankroll.
To make any kind of fair comparison, we need to set up some parameters. For the stock market, I’m talking about a portfolio of U.S. common stocks. The best comparison to that in the daily fantasy world would be playing a bunch of heads up contests each day, with similar (but not identical) lineups. Each day, each stock may go up or down. The various stocks in the group will show moderate (but far from perfect) correlation with each other in their daily performance. Each day, you may win or lose each fantasy baseball contest. Your results in each contest on the same day will show moderate (but far from perfect) correlation with each other.
Let’s look at stocks first. What percentage of days will my portfolio of stocks go up? I don’t have the data available, but I suspect it’s around 50.5%. What percentage of months? I’m going to guess around 52% or 53%. Years? This one I actually remember reading about … the U.S. stock market has gone up in 57% of years. That’s an old statistic, but probably still not far off.
How about fantasy contests? What percentage of days will I come out a winner? Let’s assume that I’m a very good player, going up against average competition. I’d guess that I’m coming out ahead at least 55% of the time. If that’s the case, and I’m playing almost every day, what percentage of months will be winners? I think estimating 75% is conservative. Years? Again being conservative, I’m going to say 90%. I suspect the actually number is above 95%. Even the best stock pickers would have trouble getting that kind of results.
Assuming that I’m right about these percentages, the question is why this would be the case. Do daily fantasy contests have some characteristics that the stock market lacks that make them easier for skilled players to beat? I think they do. And I think that those characteristics have to do with what makes markets of all sorts more or less "efficient." Here are the three factors that I think going into creating an inefficient, or easily beatable market or game:
New markets: Daily fantasy contests have only been around for about two years. Most of the people who will ultimately be most successful at them probably don’t even know they exist yet. The stock market has been around for hundreds of years, and many of the best and brightest people spend their lifetime studying how to select stocks that will be winners. In other words, daily contests provide weaker competition.
Closed markets: Each daily fantasy contest is a "closed market" in the sense that entry is limited to a fixed number of participants. Once two people are entered in a heads-up contest, nobody else can enter that contest. That means that sometimes you’ll find yourself in a contest against only weak participants. In the stock market, stronger "competitors" can always get involved.
No Scalability: The size of "bet" that can be made in each fantasy contests is limited. Each participant in a $33 contest can only invest $33 in that contest. In the stock market, "bet size" is theoretically unlimited. That, combined with the openness of the markets, means that a single person with unlimited funds and omniscience can theoretically remove ALL of the inefficiency or profit opportunities.
On a separate note, I'd like to invite readers to take a look at the new site I launched this week in conjuntion with Dave Hall of Rotoguru. The site is Daily Baseball Data, and will showcase a variety of tools for players of fantasy baseball formats that use daily transactions. The initial three tools are:
1. MLB Weather Dashboard - Hour by hour forecasts for all games displayed on one screen.
2. Batter vs. Pitcher Report - Showing history of matchups for all of the day's games.
3. Sortable Statistics - For a variety of daily transaction contest formats.
Posted by Alex Zelvin at 2:18am (14) Comments
David Gassko informed me that he's recently made some tweaks to the LIPS formula, so here are updated numbers to account for them. The list is pretty similar with a few changes.
LIPS ERA Top 25 (through 6/2/09)
+------------+----------+----+------+------+----------+-------+------+-------+--------+ | LAST | FIRST | GS | IP | ERA | LIPS ERA | K/9 | BB/9 | xGB% | IF FB% | +------------+----------+----+------+------+----------+-------+------+-------+--------+ | Greinke | Zack Z | 11 | 82.0 | 1.10 | 2.77 | 9.66 | 1.32 | 44.33 | 3.94 | | Santana | Johan | 11 | 72.0 | 2.00 | 2.83 | 11.13 | 2.63 | 32.79 | 11.48 | | Lincecum | Tim | 11 | 71.7 | 3.01 | 3.13 | 11.43 | 2.64 | 45.90 | 2.73 | | Vazquez | Javier | 11 | 70.3 | 3.58 | 3.16 | 11.00 | 2.05 | 45.30 | 3.87 | | Peavy | Jake | 12 | 74.7 | 4.10 | 3.20 | 10.13 | 3.13 | 40.64 | 4.28 | | Halladay | Roy | 12 | 91.0 | 2.77 | 3.26 | 8.11 | 1.19 | 55.94 | 2.68 | | Haren | Dan | 11 | 78.0 | 2.42 | 3.30 | 9.00 | 1.15 | 40.39 | 2.96 | | Verlander | Justin B | 11 | 69.3 | 3.63 | 3.36 | 11.68 | 2.60 | 31.58 | 2.92 | | Harden | Rich | 8 | 43.7 | 4.74 | 3.37 | 10.92 | 4.33 | 38.53 | 9.17 | | Weaver | Jered D | 10 | 68.7 | 2.36 | 3.40 | 6.95 | 2.36 | 33.16 | 7.65 | | Hamels | Cole | 9 | 48.3 | 5.21 | 3.42 | 9.31 | 1.86 | 43.48 | 2.90 | | Johnson | Randy | 10 | 52.0 | 5.71 | 3.63 | 9.35 | 3.29 | 46.21 | 3.45 | | Hernandez | Felix A | 11 | 71.3 | 3.41 | 3.67 | 9.08 | 2.52 | 49.76 | 2.44 | | Johnson | Josh | 11 | 74.3 | 2.66 | 3.68 | 7.75 | 2.18 | 54.98 | 2.84 | | Slowey | Kevin | 11 | 68.0 | 3.97 | 3.70 | 6.49 | 0.93 | 34.63 | 5.63 | | Jackson | Edwin | 11 | 74.3 | 2.30 | 3.74 | 6.90 | 2.18 | 36.28 | 6.05 | | Scherzer | Max M | 10 | 54.3 | 4.47 | 3.85 | 9.44 | 3.64 | 43.14 | 2.61 | | Oswalt | Roy | 12 | 69.3 | 4.28 | 3.91 | 7.14 | 2.47 | 41.23 | 5.69 | | Lester | Jon T | 11 | 65.3 | 5.65 | 3.92 | 10.19 | 3.31 | 45.16 | 2.15 | | Bedard | Erik | 10 | 60.7 | 2.37 | 3.92 | 9.05 | 2.67 | 41.72 | 4.29 | | Baker | Scott S | 9 | 52.7 | 6.32 | 3.94 | 6.66 | 1.71 | 29.07 | 8.14 | | de la Rosa | Jorge A | 10 | 54.7 | 5.43 | 3.97 | 9.38 | 4.28 | 43.92 | 4.05 | | Gallardo | Yovani | 10 | 65.0 | 3.18 | 3.98 | 9.00 | 3.32 | 43.68 | 2.30 | | Richmond | Scott | 9 | 54.0 | 3.50 | 3.99 | 7.33 | 3.00 | 41.25 | 4.38 | | Pavano | Carl | 11 | 63.0 | 5.29 | 4.01 | 7.14 | 1.86 | 46.23 | 3.52 | +------------+----------+----+------+------+----------+-------+------+-------+--------+
Also, there was a good comment that I think should be given more attention: "Does this mean I should pickup and stash Blanton and De La Rosa?" The answer is "No, not necessarily." What LIPS ERA gives us is a luck-neutral indication of how well a pitcher has performed so far this year. It is a much more solid indicator than ERA, but it is not the be-all-end-all. Just because Edwin Jackson has a 3.74 LIPS ERA right now does not mean he will post a 3.74 ERA going forward.
What we're looking at right now is a 65 (or so) inning sample of a player's true pitching ability. This sample is relatively small in the grand scheme of things and should not be the only thing considered. To better estimate a pitcher's true ability, we need to look at a larger sample — i.e. his performance in previous years. While LIPS ERA is much more stable than actual ERA, it is still prone to small sample size caveats.
As an example, let's say you go to a restaurant and have an awful meal. While the restaurant may truly be an awful one, we can't say for sure after one single meal. Maybe you go there another five times and have really good meals. The more times we go to the restaurant, the more accurate we will be when we talk about the overall quality of the restaurant. If we simply judged it by any single meal, though, the chances of being wrong would be relatively large.
If we roll a six-sided die twice and it lands on '3' both times, are we going to say that this die is more likely to land on '3' than any other number? Of course not. The sample we're basing this on is too small. If we roll that die another thousand times, I can assure you it will land on each number about evenly.
The same logic applies here. Right now in 2009, we're looking at one meal (or one die roll). For the guys on the list, it's a very good meal, but one meal nonetheless. It's certainly better than if it were a bad meal (or a bad LIPS ERA), but we still need more to go on before we make any definitive assertions. A lot can happen over 65 innings. For those who followed CAPS in the off-season, we see that a lot can happen with a pitcher's peripherals over the course of an entire season.
One thing to keep in mind is for leagues where you can stash players on your bench. In this case, even though Carl Pavano may not be a true 4.01 ERA pitcher, it might be worth holding onto him to see if he is. Maybe his true talent level has changed and we just don't know it yet because the 'meals' that will tell us this haven't happened yet — they'll be happening throughout the rest of the season.
Hopefully this helps put things into better perspective for everyone.
Posted by Derek Carty at 12:12pm (21) Comments
Thursday, June 04, 2009
Slot machines are pure luck: you put your coin in, you pull the lever, and you take your chances. Repeat as often as you like or until you get a free drink. The longer you play, the more likely you are to end up with about the average outcome (which for slots is a negative amount—the house always wins). This is a version of the law of large numbers.
Now that the season is more than a quarter over, lots of batters have been playing their version of a slot machine for a while. Every time a batter puts a ball in play, he pulls a lever on the fielding slot machine. Sometimes he gets lucky and it is a hit and sometimes he gets unlucky and it is an out. The well known statistic Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) tracks the average number of hits on balls in play.
Equally well known is that players' skills have little impact on their BABIP; once the batter puts the ball in play (home runs don't count), whether or not the ball goes for a hit has little to do with the name on the back of the batter's jersey.
In this article, I'm going to do three things: I'm going to equate the luck on balls in play to a version of a coin flip, I'll then simulate some of these coin flips and show that it looks a lot like the outcomes that batters have thus far in the season, and, then lastly, we will see that players can still be pretty lucky after only a quarter of a season. What are the practical implications? After a quarter of a season, you should still be skeptical (though not necessarily incredulous) towards players' performances.
As we'll see, the slot machine that a player plays when he puts the ball in play doesn't have to be complex. In fact, let's just suppose that this machine is a simple weighted coin flip. Instead of a 50-50 chance of heads and tails, let's suppose the coin is 30-70. So 30 percent of the time the coin comes up heads and the player gets a hit, 70 percent of the time it goes for an out.
A player's total number of hits and his BABIP after, say, 200 balls in play are random (just like the total number of times heads comes up after 200 coin flips is random). In fact, the distribution of hits and BABIPs (a distribution is sort of like the percentage of time we can expect to observe, say, 78 hits on 200 balls in play) is given by the binomial distribution. It is pretty easy to use a computer to simulate outcomes from a binomial distribution and compare it to the data we have so far from the season.
What I've done: I've taken each batter with at least 100 at-bats (243 batters). I've computed the number of hits in play (hits - home runs) for these batters and their BABIP. For each batter, I've then calculated what their batting average could look like if each at-bat was simulated and the outcome determined by a binomial random variable with the same average success rate (30.3 percent).
The graph below shows the number of hits we get from the data (blue) and from the simulation (red). Not bad (if you're really curious, the two distributions are considered statistically identical according to a Komologorov-Smirnov Test). We can smooth things out and compute a distribution for each—that's the next figure. The third graph is the same smoothed distribution, only this time for actual and simulated BABIPs. On this one, the match is even better.
What can we see from these graphs? The average number of balls in play for each batter is fairly high: 127. As far as statistics is concerned, 127 is a lot of coin flips. You might have read or heard other fantasy commentators say something like "Now that we're in June, we don't have to worry as much about small sample sizes." While that is still literally true, the third graph shows that there is still a lot of variation left in the data. In fact, if you look at the CDF (cumulative density function), you can see that as of June 1, fifteen percent of players still have a BABIP below .250 even though their expected BABIP is .303. That is, even though the coin they are flipping should come up heads 30.3 percent of the time, they've gotten unlucky routinely and have only gotten heads less than 25 percent of the time.
My final graph shows what happens if we simulate 500 balls, or roughly four times the number of balls in play. The blue line is the same simulation from before, with on average 127 balls in play per batter. The green line simulates 243 batters with 500 balls in play using the binomial distribution. As we can see, the more balls in play we have, the more likely we are to get the median outcome and the less likely we are to get extreme outcomes.
In other words, in June, after 125 balls in play, a batter can still be lucky and have a high BABIP. In September, it should be far harder to have had a season of luck. So in June you must still be aware of the small sample.