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Thursday, March 31, 2011

It's one of my favorite days of the year: Opening Day of the Major League Baseball season.

Thought I'd run through some quick picks for the divisional races and the major awards.

AL East:
New York Yankees

AL Central:
Chicago White Sox

AL West:
Oakland Athletics

NL East:
Philadelphia Phillies

NL Central:
Cincinnati Reds

NL West:
San Francisco Giants

Evan Longoria

Jason Heyward

AL Cy Young:
Felix Hernandez

NL Cy Young:
Mat Latos


Ivan Nova

Brandon Belt

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Roger Clemens, Cy Young justice, and other random thoughts

I was reading an old post on Fire Joe Morgan, and it got me looking at Cy Young voting results through the years, specifically all the years Roger Clemens was prominent in the voting (either winning or finishing in the top 3). Basically, I wanted to see how deserving Clemens was of all his Cy Youngs, and if there were any years he didn't win but should have. In looking at all those results, a few things jumped out at me, and I thought I'd share them. I'll go chronologically.

1986. Here's what I'm trying to figure out about 1986: how did Teddy Higuera lead Clemens in WAR (Wins Above Replacement) by a half-win? Well, that's by Baseball-Reference's WAR. Fangraphs has Clemens handily beating Higuera 8.0 to 5.7 and leading the league. That makes more sense to me.

In '86, The Rocket was better than Higuera in the following prominent statistics: Wins, ERA, ERA+, Innings, WHIP, H/9, HR/9, K/9, BB/9 and K/BB. Higuera did throw five more complete games (15 to 10) and three more shutouts (4 to 1), but other than that, Clemens came out on top in pretty much everything. So, to me, it seems that Higuera would be around the same value as Clemens at best. I don't see how the numbers amount to Higuera having a fairly significant edge over Clemens in BR's version of WAR. Not sure how slightly fewer innings of pitching not quite as well could make Higuera the more valuable pitcher.

1987. What struck me about this year actually has nothing to do with Clemens. The Rocket won the award easily and deservedly. The only pitcher who came within one win of him (as measured by WAR) was Frank Viola, who actually beat Clemens in ERA but threw fewer innings, had fewer strikeouts, served up more home runs, and didn't come close in complete games or shutouts. Ol' Roger started 36 games that year and completed 18 of them, including seven shutouts. That's just nuts. No issue with him winning the Cy -- I'm actually surprised anyone else got a first place vote.

And that's exactly what struck me about 1987. The first place votes that didn't go to Clemens. Jimmy Key got four, and the guy did lead the Majors in ERA with 2.76, adjusted ERA+ with 164, and WHIP with 1.057. Fine by me. Dave Stewart got two, and he was the only other 20-game winner besides Rocket. Still questionable, though, as none of his other stats were as good (Clemens had twice the WAR: 8.4 to Stewart's 4.2). But there's nothing terribly shocking about the ERA champ and a 20-game winner snagging a few first place votes.

Here's what stood out to me:

Doyle Alexander got one first place vote in 1987. He was to the 1987 Tigers what CC Sabathia was to the 2008 Brewers. Both switched leagues midseason and pitched their clubs to playoff berths with dominating second half performances. Alexander came over from Atlanta in August and helped the Tigers win the East by going 9-0 with a 1.53 ERA and 1.008 WHIP and averaging over 8 innings a start. Although, strangely he only struck out 4.5 batters per 9 innings and had a 1.69 K/BB ratio. Like Sabathia in '08, Alexander snagged a first place Cy Young vote without even pitching enough innings to qualify for the ERA title in his new league (which he would've won by more than a run had he been able to keep up his pace over a full season). Now, I understand that his second half was great and that he helped the Tigers win a tight race for the division title, but come on. A first place vote? When there was a candidate who threw 280 innings with an ERA under 3.00 and went the distance in HALF HIS STARTS? That's a little much if you ask me.

1990. Going off just WAR (either version), 1990's Cy Young results were astonishingly unfair. Roger Clemens, the second-place finisher, was worth seven more wins than the winner, Bob Welch. Insanity. And basically every other stat other than wins also shows how crazy that year's vote was. Yes, Welch had a ridiculous 27 Wins against just six Losses on the season. But Clemens' ERA was MORE THAN A FULL RUN LOWER, for an ERA+ 87 points higher. Rocket struck out almost twice as many batters per nine innings (8.2 to 4.8) and dwarfed Welch's 1.65 K/BB ratio with his MLB-leading mark of 3.87. Clemens was also markedly better at keeping the ball in the park (MLB-leading 0.3 HR/9 to Welch's 1.0) and threw five more complete games and two more shutouts. Welch did throw ten more innings, but Clemens averaged more than half an inning more per start. I understand why Welch's 27 wins caught voters eyes, but it's not like Clemens only won 13 or 14 games. He won 21! Even 20 years ago, it seems crazy that Welch got almost twice as many first place votes as Clemens.

Like I said before regarding 1986, I'm not the biggest believer in WAR -- I think it's a good place to start to get an idea of a player's value and then start digging deeper, not the Final Word. I mean, it does seem hard to believe that a pitcher who went 27-6 with an ERA under 3.00 could only be worth two or so wins more than some guy called up from AAA. But even if Welch was worth more than that -- say five or six wins -- Clemens would still have destroyed him in WAR as well as all the other stats besides Wins.

2001. I guess in a way things even out. The Rocket was robbed in 1990 but did the robbing himself in 2001, and from his own teammate no less.

Mike Mussina led the AL in WAR -- more than a full win better than Clemens, by both Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference. He also had a significantly better ERA (3.15 to 3.51), ERA+ (143 to 128), WHIP (1.067 to 1.257), and walk rate (1.7 to 2.9). Mussina almost matched Clemens' in strikeout rate (8.4 to Rocket's 8.7), and he crushed him in K/BB ratio (5.10 to 2.96). In fact, Mussina's 5.10 mark is better than Clemens ever did in any season of his career. Mussina also three four complete games, three of which were shutouts, while Clemens didn't go the distance in a single start.

It would seem Win-Loss record is again the reason for this Cy Young injustice. Roger had an outstanding 20-3 record, while Moose went 17-11. Aside from Wins and Losses, The Moose had the edge in virtually every stat on the leader board, except K/9 and HR/9 -- and neither of Clemens' edges in those stats were very large. It's really a shame Mussina didn't get more consideration, because I'm sure a Cy Young on his resume would really boost his Hall of Fame chances.

2004. More good karma from 1990's insanity? Based on both versions of WAR (among other things), it would appear The Rocket robbed The Big Unit. By BR, Randy Johnson was 2.2 wins better than Clemens. Fangraphs has the gap even larger, with Johnson coming out 3.9 wins ahead. T.B.U. also pitched more innings with a better ERA and a much better K/BB ratio (an awesome 6.59 to Rocket's 2.76). Johnson also had a WHIP of 0.900, compared to Clemens' 1.157. The Big Unit also threw four complete games and two shutouts; Rocket threw none of either. Now, clearly Clemens was a great pitcher in 2004. But Randy Johnson was better.

This time, it probably wasn't so much Wins that tipped the scales, but Losses. Clemens only had two more Wins than Johnson (18 to 16), but Big Unit also had 14 Losses to Clemens' four. (The only 20-game winner that year was Roy Oswalt, but his ERA was way higher than the other two aces, and he also didn't strike out as many men or have as good a WHIP.) But Johnson pitched for an abysmal 51-111 Arizona team that finished dead last in scoring with 615 runs. Clemens' Astros tied for fifth with 803 runs scored and had a 92-70 record.

Twelve of Johnson's Losses that season came in games when had had two or fewer runs of support, including a complete game loss at Pittsburgh in which he only gave up two earned runs. He was handed Losses in ten games in which he gave up three or fewer earned runs, including three when he only gave up one -- he had an ERA of 3.64 in his losses for the entire season. Big Unit also took two no decisions in which he pitched 7 and 8 innings of shutout ball.

Clemens pitched six more games receiving 6+ runs of support and eight fewer with 0-2 runs scored for him. He only had two losses in which he gave up three or fewer earned runs, and he was spared a loss in six games in which he gave up four or more earned runs. Johnson only benefited from the latter scenario once.

It seems pretty clear that run support and luck worked in Clemens' favor. The voting process did too. But perhaps the real surprise of 2004 is that the top two pitchers in the Cy Young voting were over 40 years old. That's pretty crazy.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Tom Glavine's left arm and the Hall of Fame

I had some thoughts about Tom Glavine that were sparked by reading a Yankees blog. And they're not about the 1996 or 1999 World Series.

Over at It's About the Money, Stupid, Will shares some thoughts on Andy Pettitte's Hall of Fame case, as compared to other pitchers of the era. In discussing the merits of the 10 pitchers considered (Pettitte, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez, Mike Mussina, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Curt Schilling, and Kevin Brown), Will discusses at some length how poorly Glavine comes off, relative to the other guys. Glavine doesn't stack up against his peers when it comes to Winning Percentage, WAR, ERA+, Ks, K/BB or WAR/9IP. About the only things going for Glavine in Will's chart are Wins and Innings Pitched. So this got me thinking about Glavine -- surely such a highly regarded pitcher must have SOMETHING on his Hall of Fame resume besides Wins and awards with questionable voting processes (Glavine has two Cy Youngs, four other Top 3 finishes, and four Silver Sluggers).

Thanks to -- one of the best sites on the internet -- I found out he does.

It's kind of insane how durable Glavine was. He made at least 25 starts and pitched at least 165.1 innings TWENTY YEARS IN A ROW. And that one year when he made only 25 starts and pitched 165.1 innings was the strike-shortened 1994. Aside from that season, his lightest workload of that 20-year stretch was 183 innings over 32 starts in 2003. (He also made "only" 29 starts in 1989, his second full season, and the truncated 1995 season, but he averaged more innings a start in those years.)

IIATMS isn't the only place you'll find analysis suggesting that Tom Glavine's Hall of Fame case is over-hyped because of his high win total (305). And yes, it's true that the pitching win is a very flawed stat, and Glavine was aided by pitching most of his career for very good teams who scored runs for him. But he also helped himself get all those wins by averaging 215 innings a season from when he was 22 until he was 41. That durability by itself is incredibly impressive. And when you consider that Glavine was above average at preventing runs from scoring (as measured by ERA+) 15 out of his 20 full seasons, it's even more impressive. Glavine also had an ERA+ of 125 or more in 10 different seasons (all Top 10 finishes), including outstanding marks of 140, 141, 147, 153 (which led the league) and 168.

Sure, Tommy Glavine didn't strike out a ton of guys (5.3 K/9 career) and walked more than half as many as he did strike out (1.74 K/BB career) and only cracked 5.6 WAR once (in his excellent and deserving 1991 Cy Young season). But he made all his starts, pitched deep into games, and prevented runs from scoring. Year in and year out for two decades. Not to mention that he has a "signature moment" -- 8 one-hit, shutout innings in the clinching Game 6 of the 1995 World Series. I'd vote for him.

Back at it.

Well, I've been away for quite some time. My last post was Opening Day 2010, and it's almost time for Pitchers and Catchers to report in 2011. (Fail? I'd say so.)

My apologies for letting other things get in the way of my rants and ramblings about sports. I intend to change that, especially as my zeal for writing has been revived over the past few months. I may transfer a couple posts I've made on my Tumblr over here in the coming days/weeks.

But in any case, I'm going to start posting on here again, starting with some random thoughts that have been sparked by reading other blogs and articles. Let's see how long anyone stays around to keep reading.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Opening Day, and Predictions.

Well, it's been forever since I posted. I've been busy, and slacking off in writing about sports. But Major League Baseball is back in full swing, so I thought I'd make my return as well.

Even though it's two days into the season, I'll still be making my "Pre-Season" Predictions. It's a pretty dumb exercise, but a fun one nonetheless. I'm going to try my hand at it, since I've never done it before. Here goes.

AL East:
New York Yankees

AL Central:
Minnesota Twins

AL West:
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

AL Wild Card:
Boston Red Sox

NL East:
Philadelphia Phillies

NL Central:
St. Louis Cardinals

NL West:
Colorado Rockies

NL Wild Card:
Atlanta Braves

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The curse is broken!

Well, I went to the Bobcats game last night against the Wizards. And it was a highly entertaining, tense game, so I was stressing until the final 1.9 seconds that I might see Charlotte go 0-3 in the games I've attended this year. But at that 1.9 second mark, Raymond Felton hit a beautiful fadeaway shot to put the Bobcats up by two. I feared a 3-point buzzer beater by Washington, but they settled for an Antawn Jamison scoop shot that fell short, sealing the Bobcats' win and snapping their 3-game losing streak.

It was the best of the three games I've been to so far this season, and not just because Charlotte won. The game was close and tightly contested the entire way, with the teams ending each quarter within 3 points of each other. Neither team led by more than 7 points the entire game.

It's good to know I'm not a jinx on my hometown team. Now I can go to games worry-free!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Nice one, me.

I was looking back over some of my old Facebook status updates, and I found this one I wrote during the second round of the NFL playoffs:

"People who say baseball is boring, have you been watching the NFL playoffs? The rain delay in Game 5 of the 2008 World Series was more exciting than this."

Thought it was worth sharing. (Although, there was at least one exciting game in each round, admittedly.)

I might be bad luck...

Well, the Bobcats are 0-2 in games I've attended this season. They lost to Charlotte's former team, the Hornets, 104-99 on Saturday night.

The Cats started strong and led by 10 at halftime, but they crumbled in the 3rd quarter, being outscored 36-21. Charlotte's defense, their greatest strength all season, let up a barrage of Hornets buckets down the stretch. Although, some of what hurt the Bobcats was the fact that seemingly every 2nd half shot the Hornets put up was falling. Stephen Jackson gave the crowd some hope with about 30 seconds left when he converted an old fashioned 3-point play, but Charlotte again let New Orleans score and then couldn't deliver another basket at the offensive end.

It was disappointing to see the Bobcats show flashes of the exciting play that has gotten them into the playoff picture but then ultimately limp to a third consecutive loss. But I got extremely cheap tickets (thanks again, eBay!) to tonight's game against the Wizards, so hopefully I can see them turn it around.

On a final note, the Hornets' jerseys were kind of odd looking. And they seem to have at least five team colors: the "creole blue" and white of their warm-ups and standard uniforms, and the green, purple and gold of their "NOLA" jerseys. Strange. It's not like the Cavaliers, who wear throwbacks and alternates from their relatively long history. The Hornets have only been in "NOLA" since 2002! However, I admit to kind of liking the trippy two-sided jerseys.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Capital city connection?

The Washington Capitals and the Ottawa Senators each have winning streaks of at least 10 games (the Caps have won 11 straight). Is this a coincidence? Is there something about playing in a country's capital city? Was the Hurricanes' recent 4-game win streak attributable to them playing in the capital of North Carolina? What does this mean for the Coyotes, Avalanche, Thrashers, Bruins, Wild, Blue Jackets, Predators, Oilers and Maple Leafs? The only one of those teams with a significant winning streak is the Coyotes with an active string of 5 wins, although the Avs did have a 6-game streak in January. The Bruins have lost 8 straight, and the Oilers had lost 13 consecutive games before winning their last two. So, I guess there's no connection between recent success and playing in a state/provincial capital. But hey, there's nothing refuting the Caps/Sens connection!

These are the kinds of things I think about.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

An observation about logos.

I was thinking about the logos of the four major professional sports leagues in North America. You know, Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, the National Basketball Association and the National Football League. It occurred to me that the logos of MLB and the NBA both feature the silhouette of a player in red, white and blue, while the NHL and NFL logos are both in the shape of shields.

The MLB and NBA logos are both blue on the left, red on the right, and show a white outline of a man playing each respective sport in the middle. In the NBA's case, Jerry West's likeness is represented. These sports' logos are extremely similar but very different than those of the NHL and NFL. Those logos both take the form of a shield and prominently feature the league's initials, much more so than MLB (which doesn't feature the league's name within the logo itself) or the NBA (whose logo focuses more on the silhouette than the small initials).

So, why are the leagues' logos split down the middle in this way? Well, hockey and football are full-contact sports, while baseball and basketball are only limited-contact. I'm not sure if this actually had anything to do with the design of the logos, but it's interesting that they worked out that way. Perhaps the shield motif signifies that players wear a great deal of protective padding in hockey and football.

Who knows? I thought it was interesting to think about, though.