Ten Things I Didn’t Know Last Week

The Red Sox and the Yankees are the same team.

While gazing at the graphs of the American League East, I was struck by how similar the Yankees and the Red Sox are. If you track those two teams throughout the graphs, you’ll see that they’re in virtually the same spot on each one. Consider:

  • Adjusted for park factors, the Sox have scored 5.6 and allowed 4.9 runs a game. The figures for the Yankees are 5.5 and 5.0.
  • The Sox’s on-base percentage (OBP) is .360 and their Isolated Power is .173. The Yankees’ are at .353 and .172.
  • The Sox’s Fielding Independent Pitching is 4.29; the Yanks’ is 4.32. Defense Efficiency Ratio for the Red Sox is .682 and it’s .684 for the Yankees.
  • Extra credit fact not on a graph: the Red Sox’s “Win Share Age” is 32.6, the Yankees’ is 33.2.

On the surface, no two teams are nearly as similar as the Red Sox and Yankees. Is there a rule of thumb that says intense competitors become more alike over time?

By the way, here’s a sparkline of each team’s Win Share age (team age based on a weighting of Win Shares by player), from youngest (Tampa Bay and Oakland) to oldest (New York and Boston). It’s interesting to me that the bars increase strongly among the five or six teams on the right of the sparkline: Yankees, Red Sox, Giants, Astros, Padres and Cardinals.

The Angels are the best team in the American League.

With the White Sox’s offense sputtering, it’s time to give credit to the team that now has the best run differential in the American League, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that the A’s looked like a shark sneaking up on the Angels, but look what’s happened since the A’s “reached the surface.”

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There are still many games to play, but the Angels deserve credit for continuing to hang onto first. In particular, their starting pitchers lead the league in ERA (3.76) and Vlad Guerrero is having another great year. Speaking of starters, doesn’t Chris Bootcheck sound like he should be a catcher?

In other team news, MetsGeek reports that, prior to Tuesday’s win, the Mets had been 0-10 in games in which they were four games over .500 since 2002. The spell was broken Tuesday night, making the NL East and NL Wild Card race even more competitive.

The NL West is now officially the worst division ever.

As of this writing (August 23), no team in the National League West is playing even .500 ball. As we reported earlier, this is the latest point in the season a division has “reached” such a level of ineptitude. Even the Padres’ owner thinks 81 wins may be enough to win the division.

Andy Dolphin’s website can be a bit difficult to understand, but at the bottom of the page he rates the NL West as the worst division by far (and the AL West as the best). NL West teams are playing .443 ball overall, but only .413 outside of the division. To put that in perspective, only four teams in the majors are playing worse than .413 ball this year.

One more data point: the NL West is 5-7 against the Kansas City Royals.

Songs for game situations.

There’s been a great discussion on the SABR-L listserv about songs that are played when certain relievers enter the game. As part of the discussion, Cecilia Tan pointed to this site that contains suggestions for game musicians. Who knew that sites like this existed?

I would probably miss the meaning of some of these songs. For instance, playing the theme song from Hawaii 5-0 when the score is 5-0? That’s just a tad too subtle for me.

Jeff Francoeur = Hurricane Bob Hazle

Also on SABR-L, Jeff Francoeur’s sensational rookie year has reminded posters of Hurricane Bob Hazle, who was called up to the Braves (who then played in Milwaukee) in July of 1957 and batted .403/.477/.609 to help them win the World Series. Sadly, he only played in 63 games the rest of his career.

The Braves were led by Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews and Warren Spahn, but Hazle managed to contribute 10 Win Shares to the Milwaukee cause in less than half a season.

Francoeur, whose only walk in 137 plate appearances has been intentional, has contributed nine Win Shares already. But if he doesn’t learn to take a walk, he may meet the same fate as Hurricane Bob.

Smoltz’s most similar pitcher and batter are the same guy.

Baseball Reference has a lot of cool stuff on its website. One cool thing is that it lists the top 10 most similar players for every player who’s seen time in the major leagues. For pitchers who have batted enough times, it has separate lists for most comparable pitchers and batters. These are almost always different players.

In a recent Baseball Think Factory thread, the definitely immoral Eric Enders discovered that Smoltz’s most similar pitcher AND batter is one John Candelaria, who was known as the Candy Man during his Pittsburgh heyday. I guess Smoltz and Candelaria are just really, really similar.

By the way, if Mike Stanton has batted his last, he holds the record for highest career batting average among all players with at least 100 games played and 10 at bats. Yes, he’s a .421 batter.

Caffeine Calculations

Thanks to the Internet, you can now not only find out how much coffee it will take to kill you, but how much it will cost too.

Lots of people have watched baseball games this year.

Last year, Major League Baseball set an all-time attendance record with 73 million spectators, an average of 30,400 per game. This year, thanks primarily to the Expos’ move to Washington, attendance is averaging 31,333 per game. If my math is right, that means we’ll set a new attendance record this year of over 75 million attendees.

Besides the Nationals, the teams that have experienced the greatest increases have been the Mets (about 7,000 more per game), Cardinals (6,000) and White Sox (5,000), while the biggest decreases have been the Phillies (almost 7,000 fewer per game), Rockies (5,400 fewer) and Diamondbacks (5300 fewer). The Nationals, by the way, have increased attendance from 9,400 a game in Montreal to 33,600 in Washington.

The Atlanta Braves have been in the playoffs as long as this year’s college freshmen can remember.

Beloit College published a fun little piece this week, which listed 75 items in the “mindset” of a college freshman (who was born in 1987). Some examples are “The Starship Enterprise has always looked dated” and “Michael Jackson has always been bad, and greed has always been good.” (References to Jackson’s album and the movie “Wall Street.”)

Baseball Think Factory started its own baseball-related mindset list yesterday, and it’s filling fast. The Braves comment is great, as well as “They’re impressed by a complete game.” The entire thread is a lot of fun.

This year’s Hardball Times annual will be available in bookstores.

imageLast year, we published The Hardball Times Annual at the end of the year and were happy to discover that there’s an audience for our stuff. So, this year, we’re even more pleased to announce that ACTA Publications (the publishers of the Bill James Handbook) has agreed to publish The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2006.

The format will be the same as last year’s, including reviews of the 2005 season, additional commentary and lots of graphs and stats. In addition to the fine stable of THT writers, we will have a number of guest writers. The tentative list includes Bill James, Rob Neyer, Maury Brown, Brian Gunn, Matt Welch, Alex Belth and Bat-Girl.

Plus, our partnership with ACTA means that the Annual will be available in bookstores, book websites and all places baseball books are sold. Look for its publication in early-to-mid November, and opportunities to buy the book on our website starting in September. This should keep me busy!

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