The Baseball Graphs Blog
Monday, November 27, 2006
Updated Win Shares
I’ve updated the Win Shares files in the baseball graphs FTP section. The files now include all historical Win Shares, including 2006. There are three Excel spreadsheets:
- Win Shares by team
- Win Shares by player per season
- Win Shares by player per team per season
The data covers two Excel sheets, which makes it hard to look at all the data at once. So I’ve also included a CSV file with all player/team/seasons broken out. This file can be imported into Access.
You can download the files at ftp://ftp.baseballgraphs.com/winshares
These files are provided as a public service. If you have questions or see problems with the data (which wouldn’t surprise me at all), leave a comment.
Update (11:22 CST): Found a couple of mistakes (incorrect player labels). Corrected.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Ryan Howard and Justin Morneau were crowned the Most Valuable Players in their respective leagues. Neither choice was particularly insightful, but neither choice was terrible, either. I would have voted for Carlos Beltran in the National League, with Howard probably third on my ballot behind Albert Pujols. Still, if you want to vote for a guy who hits 58 home runs, I won’t complain.
The choice of Morneau is less defensible, but not horrible. Good buddy Aaron Gleeman makes the case that Morneau wasn’t even the most valuable player on his own team, but once you accept that baseball writers simply aren’t going to choose a pitcher for MVP (unless he’s a lights-out reliever), the choice of Morneau over Mauer becomes defensible. Not right, mind you, just defensible. After all, the guy did lead his team in batting WPA by a good margin. As JP says, While Morneau’s selection was a head scratcher, it wasn’t even in the top five greatest injustices (according to Win Shares) in the past twenty years.
But something truly inexplicable and horrendous happened yesterday; the sort of thing that makes you throw up your hands in disgust. Word is that the Dodgers are about to sign Juan Pierre to a five-year deal worth $44 million—just about $9 million a year. I know that this is the year of outrageously paid free agents, but this signing is just terrible no matter what other players are receiving.
I know a lot of people feel differently, but I actually understand the outrageous Soriano contract of $17 million a year for eight years. I mean, it’s clearly outrageous, but I understand the underlying economics that led to it. The Pierre deal is different. It’s the result of not understanding what makes baseball players and teams successful.
He was two Win Shares Above Bench last year, and one the year before. Even if you apply my Net Wins Shares Value findings (which you shouldn’t, at least not without a lot of other considerations), Pierre is worth $4 million a year, at most.
Salary inflation results in outrageous salaries for really good players, but it doesn’t justify bad judgement.
Monday, November 20, 2006
The Tribune Company is for Sale
Just some rumbling about the economics of baseball
Reports are that the Cubs signed Alfonso Soriano to an outrageous contract: $136 million for eight years, or $17 million a year. The dollars are amazing, but the it’s the length of this contract that astounds me. Soriano will be 38 when his contract is up, and the years from 33 years old through 38 years old will represent enormous risk for the Tribune Company, or more likely someone else.
The Cubs are indeed owned by the Tribune Company, which is up for sale. The latest I’ve heard is that observers are unsure if the Tribune Company will split up its businesses or sell them altogether, but the Trib, and the Cubs, are most definitely for sale.
This may be the most amazing thing of all. A company on the block is committing itself to long-term contracts on a riotous scale. I’ve been involved in several mergers and acquisitions, and I’m struck by two things:
- Companies don’t commit themselves to long-term contracts when they are up for sale. They assume buyers don’t want to take on long-term risk.
- If they do sign long-term commitments, they usually have an accepted bid and are going through due diligence with a buyer, in which case they touch base with the buyer before making the commitment.
Which leads me to believe one of two things is happening here:
- The Tribune Company has a strong prospective buyer for the Cubs, or…
- The Cubs are worth more with Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez under long-term contracts than with cash in the balance sheet.
Last I heard, there were two strong prospective buyers for the Tribune Company but neither one was exactly into due diligence. Of course, I’m not a part of the business circle. I just know what I read.
In the end, I believe the Tribune Company thinks that signing Soriano and Ramirez will increase the value of the Cubs (and the Tribune Company). Otherwise, you wouldn’t see these deals happening on the North Side. As outrageous as they seem, these contracts may actually be good for business. And if that’s true, it puts these outrageous free agent salaries in an entirely different perspective.
UPDATE: Maury Brown has an article covering this precise topic in today’s Baseball Prospectus. Maury essentially thinks that the Trib just doesn’t care as much about saving money as they used to, since they won’t own the Cubs in the future. I think he’s misreading the situation. My guess is that the value of the Cubs is probably uppermost in the minds of Trib executives.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Holy Cow, Sean Forman
You could find boxscores on the Retrosheet site in the past, but Sean (the proprietor of Baseball Reference) has added several remarkable twists. In particular, he has added popup windows (click on any red text) that adds amazing context to the stats and the play-by-play. For example, this is an all-time favorite game of mine; click on Jimmy Qualls’s three at bats. Grrr….
Friday, October 20, 2006
Mets’ fan talking here.
When I saw that catch by Endy Chavez, I figured it was fate. I mean, I know I’m supposed to be a baseball analyst and all, but I’m a fan first and foremost. Well, from a WPA viewpoint that catch was the second-biggest play of the game, behind Molina’s home run. But back to the fan thing: what a great start by Oliver Perez. With Perez in a groove and Chavez channeling Tommie Agee, I really believed the Mets would win, right up to the Molina homer. Then I changed.
Even when the Mets loaded the bases in the ninth, I wasn’t there. My analytic mind had taken over, knowing that their WPA with the bases loaded, two out and two runs behind was only 17%. Yes, the catch made me a fan, but the home run turned me back into a geek.
It’s ironic, I think, that the Mets’ flaw in this series was their offense, not really their inury-racked starters. I’m personally hoping they move Heilman to the rotation next year, a role in which one floating changeup might not hurt as much.
Ah, I’m rambling incoherently. I’m in shock. I’m depressed. It’s 5:00 a.m. and I can’t sleep. For a more literate and coherent Mets’ requiem, I recommend Jessica’s blog entry. Maybe I’ll go back to bed, or maybe I’ll just get back to work on the THT Annual. Either way, I won’t feel quite the same as I did a few hours ago. There will be a little bit less to look forward to.
Following Jessica’s lead, let me be the second to congratulate the Mets’ on their 2007 World Series victory.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
I logged today’s A’s-Twins game in my WPA spreadsheet and found some curious things. Frank Thomas was voted the Game MVP (rightfully, in my opinion), but he actually finished third on the A’s in WPA, behind Zito and Street. Thomas’s home runs occurred in less critical situations: the second inning, when the LI was just 0.89, and in the ninth with the A’s up 2-1 (LI of 0.70), so the WPA of each home run was just under .10 in both cases.
There were several bigger hits in the game, including Scutaro’s double in the second (.103) and Jason Bartlett’s double in the eighth with none out and the Twins down by a run (.166). Also, the flyball that Milton Bradley lost in the Metrodome roof was worth .166 WPA, too. Those were the two biggest plays of the game.
So Frank Thomas, who homered for two of the A’s three runs, didn’t lead the team in WPA and didn’t even have the biggest hits of the game. Go figure.
Monday, October 02, 2006
A couple of tidbits to fill your day waiting for the playoffs to start.
Nate Silver has introduced a new stat at Baseball Prospectus called Secret Sauce. It combines those elements Nate and Dayn Perry found have the most impact on postseason success: fielding, strikeouts and bullpen. It’s an interesting stat, but I found it disconcerting that Nate used WXRL (closer only) for his bullpen measurement.
WXRL is Baseball Prospectus’s version of WPA. As always, care should be taken when interpreting WPA and I don’t think Nate gets it quite right. In this case, WXRL includes both the performance of the ace and the number of close situations he was brought into. Closers have no impact on the criticality of their appearances—that is totally up to the manager. I don’t understand why Nate would include it.
Now, Nate might say that WXRL came out well in his regression analysis, but that wouldn’t be a good response. Even though a variable may work well in a regression analysis, that’s not a good reason to include it in a formula. There needs to be a logical rationale for why it should be included. I don’t see the logic behind using WXRL.
On another note, the Wall Street Journal ran an article last Friday (by Sam Walker, who mentioned our site in his book Fantasyland) that ranked the clutchiness of all postseason plays. Guess what they found to be the biggest clutch hit? Tony Womacks’ game-tying double against Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the ninth, Game Seven, 2001. The one before Luis Gonzalez’s game-winning hit. Yes, that was deemed even clutchier than Bill Mazeroski’s home run against the Yankees in 1960.
It’s an interesting read, and Walker is to commended for using WPA as the baseline for his analysis. Unfortunately, he included several other elements in his analysis. Actually, the elements (quality of the pitcher, impact on probability of winning the series and not just the game) were good, but the approach was kludgy.
Monday, September 25, 2006
The Win Expectancy Contraption
The Crawfish Boxes made an image of my WPA spreadsheet, which they call the “Win Expectancy Contraption.” Here’s what it looks like to them:
I think that’s pretty awesome, though WPA has nothing to do with OPS, RC, WARP, JAWS, EqA or any of the other esoteric sabermetric stats cited.
I found the WPA Contraption via a link in this post, which argues that a runner on third with two out vs. a runner on second with two out (in the ninth inning) is worth more than WPA allows. WPA says that there is a difference of 2% win probability between the two situations, and the author thinks that is low (though he doesn’t say what he thinks the difference should be). Actually, he thinks it’s “bullshit.”
I’m torn in these types of situations. On the one hand, it always kind of bugs me when people refuse to be open to statistical frameworks like WPA. The poster basically feels WPA is wrong in this case because it doesn’t jibe with his intuition. On the other hand, WPA isn’t perfect. It’s a model of reality. It could be off in specific situations.
So I looked at Chris Shea’s Win Expectancy Finder to see what the difference has actually been in real games. Of course, there’s a wide variance in the three time periods (1979-1990, 1991-1998 and 2000-2004). In fact, WPA was lower with a man on third than a man on second from 2000-2004. But, on average, the difference has been about 4%, or twice as high as my spreadsheet show.
On the other hand, there has only been a difference of 2% this year, according to Baseball Prospectus. And there are significant sample size problems with the “real life” data. For instance, the WE Finder found that, in the seventh inning, a man on second was actually worth 1% more than a man on third from 1979-2004. Just imagine how Crawfish Boxes would react with that data!
So the WPA contraption might be a bit off, or it might not be. I don’t know what Crawfish Boxes would consider the right number, but I think we can safely say it’s between 2% and 4%. That’s assuming Crawfish Boxes won’t object to actual outcomes…
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Bill James and Warren Buffett
a random thought
- Both were viewed as outsiders in their field (Buffett in investing, James in baseball).
- Both lived and worked in the Great Plains of America (James in Kansas and Buffett in Nebraska).
- Both brought new, breakthrough ideas of value in their fields.
- Both were extremely good with numbers, but their true genius lay in their new insights and their expressions of them.
- Both wrote annual reports (James’s Abstracts, Buffett’s Annual Reports) that were highly anticipated by their fans and investors.
- Both are known for their brilliant, incisive and sometimes sarcastic analysis.
- They both have somewhat idiosyncratic personalities.
- They are/have been married to a woman named Susie.
- Their heirs won’t inherit a lot of money.
Warren Buffett taught us to value American Express and Geico, Bill James taught us to value Ken Phelps and Tim Raines. Pennants have been won on the ideas of James, billions have been made on the investment strategies of Buffet. And I’m a big fan of both.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Congratulations, Alex and Emily
Alex Belth finally proposed to his long-time girlfriend Emily this weekend. Alex is one of the very best guys among Internet baseball writers, and it sure sounds like he and Emily have a tremendous relationship. She’s got a mean swing, too.
Congratulations, Alex and Emily. May your marriage be as wonderful and awe-inspring as mine has been.