The Baseball Graphs Blog
Friday, April 28, 2006
Book Review: “Stepping Up”
Alex Belth, purveyor of Bronx Banter, has written a fine book about the life and times of Curt Flood, the fine centerfielder who challenged baseball’s reserve clause all the way to the Supreme Court. Alex’s book is a well-told story of a talented, sensitive and courageous man who did much for baseball and, by extension, all of us.
Alex chronicles Flood’s early years in Oakland, including the influence of his coach George Powles and his early interest in art. Most importantly, Alex notes that Curt didn’t personally experience many of the horrible racial attitudes and practices he would encounter later in life. This environment, the blessings of his family and the influence of people like Powles built a strong foundation for Flood’s personality and actions later in life.
Things changed during his minor league years and Alex chronicles the behavior (such as a father encouraging his sons to yell “black bastard” at Flood) and pain those years caused Flood. It is hard, in this day and age, to recall what conditions were like for black players in the 1950’s. The book also talks about the rivalry between Vada Pinson and Flood and how the Reds, deciding that Pinson would likely be the better player, traded Flood to the Cardinals.
The book describes Flood’s major league career and gives particular attention to his postseason appearances. But it is the off-field stories that were most interesting to me. After the Cards won the World Series in 1964, Flood and his family rented a house in Alamo, California. The boyfriend of the person who rented the house was evidently incensed that a black family had purchased it, and he threatened to be “waiting for them with a shotgun” if they moved in. Flood moved his family into the house anyway, a characteristic move for this highly idealistic and courageous man. Living in the neighborhood proved to be too stressful for the family, however, and they eventually moved out.
The heart of the book is Flood’s challenge of the reserve clause under the guidance of Marvin Miller. It is sometimes easy to forget that Flood actually lost that case, and that many baseball players were against him at first. The impact of his legal challenge to the “Lords of Baseball” has been deep and permanent, however. The details are all here, including the backroom dickering, the outcome and the ramifications.
It is a credit to Alex’s writing that you’re not surprised Flood did what he did; that having the strength and vision to challenge the Reserve Clause was almost a natural extension of the man and his times. This is a very important story in baseball’s and America’s history, and Alex handles it magnificently. Congratulations.
You can buy Stepping Up: The Story of Curt Flood and his Fight for Baseball Players’ Rights, at Amazon.com.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Division Win Shares Preview
The Baseball Crank recently finished his division preseason reviews, using his own special, patented “Expected Win Shares” approach. Something like this should be taken with a grain of salt (as the Crank admits), but that doesn’t make his posts any less interesting. Here are links to each review:
Friday, April 21, 2006
Red Sox WPA
I was just informed of a new WPA, this one tracking the Red Sox. Soxwatch does a very nice job of collating the WPA stats into graphics. Check out just how important starting pitching has been to the Sox so far this year.
Game 6, 1986
As a Mets’ fan, this was one of the greatest moments of my sporting life. As someone who lived in Boston for six years and who has a lot of friends who are Red Sox fans, this was one of the greatest moments of my sporting life.
You may have seen these two recent creations before, but I thought they should be put together in one place: a video recreation and a WPA graph of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series…Click for more...
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Many props to Skyking, who pointed out an error in one of the tables in the WPA spreadsheet. It’s been fixed, so I think the spreadsheet is in pretty good shape now. However, if you downloaded it in the past two days, be sure to replace it with this most recent one (it’s labeled version 1.6.1).
Monday, April 17, 2006
New WPA Spreadsheet
I’ve just uploaded a new version of the Win Probability spreadsheet; this is version 1.6. You can download it from ftp://ftp.baseballgraphs.com/wpa. As a reminder, it only works in the Windows version of Excel, and only for Excel 2002 and later (I think).
The front end of the spreadsheet hasn’t changed at all, but I’ve changed the “guts” to make the spreadsheet driven by tables. There is now a “Big Table” tab that includes the WP of every situation, based on the run environment you select. This will make it easier to users to see and understand the specific differences between situations, if they want to.
Please let me know if you find any bugs in it.
Thursday, April 13, 2006
Fangraphs Does It All
David Appelman of Fangraphs.com is now creating WPA graphs of every game this season. This is a great resource for bloggers who like WPA. I know that David will allow you to copy and paste his graphs into your blog as long as you fully credit his site (which you should do, anyway).
Congrats to David and Fangraphs, and what a great breakthrough for WPA. I hope he compiles all of the individual stats at some point, too.
Sunday, April 09, 2006
I found this note on the ESPN comment board, which lists the Mets’ WPA for their first three games. As you can see, I’ve asked the poster if he’d be willing to share his results with this blog in the future. Evidently, someone else is tracking WPA for the Red Sox on the SoSH board. Got to admit, I’m excited that WPA seems to be catching on.
Here’s the latest from Lookout Landing.
Saturday, April 08, 2006
Lookout Landing’s WPA
Lookout Landing does a great job of tracking and reporting the Win Probability Added of every Mariner game. Here are the two most recent A’s games:
Update: here’s a link to the WPA of the Astros/Nationals game from yesterday, courtesy of The Crawfish Boxes.
Friday, April 07, 2006
The Tiger WPA Blog
Hopefully, you know what Win Probability is, because we talk about it here a lot. Well, a guy named Brian A. has started a blog that intends to track the WPA outcome of every Tiger game this year, using the Baseball Graphs WPA spreadsheet.
Here’s his report on last night’s game.
This is a lofty goal. Please support Brian by checking out his blog on a regular basis.
Thursday, April 06, 2006
Yankees - A’s Win Probability Added
One faithful reader used the WPA spreadsheet to track the just-completed three-game Yankees/A’s series. As he said, “It was very cool. I saw the game from a different perspective.”
Here is the Player Log from the series (which the A’s won, 2 games to 1).
Player Off Pitch Field WPA J. Damon 0.205 0.000 0.018 0.222 G. Sheffield 0.158 0.000 0.018 0.176 H. Matsui 0.111 0.000 0.012 0.123 Johnson 0.000 0.084 0.000 0.084 T. Sturtze 0.000 0.083 0.000 0.083 K. Farnsworth 0.000 0.050 0.000 0.050 J. Posada 0.049 0.000 0.000 0.049 PB 0.029 0.000 0.000 0.029 M. Myers 0.000 0.014 0.000 0.014 Wild Pitch 0.006 0.000 0.000 0.006 M. Cairo 0.000 0.000 0.001 0.001 R. Villone 0.000 0.001 0.000 0.001 Sturtze 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 Villone 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 A. Phillips 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 Bobby Crosby 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 M. Mussina 0.000 -0.014 0.000 -0.014 D. Jeter -0.030 0.000 -0.010 -0.040 B. Williams -0.093 0.000 0.000 -0.093 R. Cano -0.097 0.000 -0.026 -0.123 J. Giambi -0.121 0.000 -0.019 -0.140 J. Wright 0.000 -0.162 0.000 -0.162 A. Rodriguez -0.239 0.000 0.017 -0.221 C. Wang 0.000 -0.242 0.000 -0.242 S. Proctor 0.000 -0.359 0.000 -0.359 Yankees -0.022 -0.546 0.011 -0.556 Player Off Pitch Field WPA M. Bradley 0.447 0.000 0.007 0.455 M. Scutaro 0.254 0.000 0.043 0.298 J. Duchscherer 0.000 0.260 0.005 0.265 J. Kennedy 0.000 0.202 0.000 0.202 E. Chavez 0.164 0.000 0.004 0.168 M. Kotsay 0.107 0.000 0.021 0.128 H. Street 0.000 0.115 0.000 0.115 N. Swisher 0.065 0.000 0.010 0.075 J. Payton 0.034 0.000 0.006 0.040 Halsey 0.000 0.006 0.000 0.006 Witasick 0.000 0.006 0.000 0.006 A. Perez 0.000 0.000 0.001 0.001 Calero 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 Saarloos 0.000 -0.011 0.000 -0.011 J. Kendall -0.005 0.000 -0.042 -0.047 B. Crosby -0.055 0.000 -0.004 -0.059 D. Johnson -0.093 0.000 0.017 -0.076 D. Haren 0.000 -0.100 0.000 -0.100 F. Thomas -0.122 0.000 0.000 -0.122 R. Harden 0.000 -0.139 0.002 -0.137 M. Ellis -0.264 0.000 0.011 -0.253 Zito 0.000 -0.399 0.000 -0.399 A's 0.534 -0.060 0.082 0.556
Here are the WPA’d games from yesterday (that I know of):
- Lookout Landing’s review of the Angels/Mariners game, including some great commentary on the WPA impact of errors and Jerrod Washburn’s delivery.
- The Nats Blog has the Nationals vs. the Mets using their own WPA-like system.
Also, I’ve posted an article at The Hardball Times that looks at WPA to determine which bullpens won last year’s close games.
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
Here’s Lookout Landing’s WPA review of last night Mariner/Angel game.
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
More WPA tracking
There were some WPA posts of yesterday’s games:
Monday, April 03, 2006
WPA in the Opener
The boys at Beyond the Boxscore tracked the Win Probability of last night’s rain-soaked season opener in Chicago. I will try to list as many 2006 WPA and Win Shares postings in this blog as I can. We also hope to use WPA and Win Shares a lot at The Hardball Times this year.
Sunday, April 02, 2006
Publicity on Opening Day
Yours truly was interviewed for this article in the Palm Beach Post. I hate it when interviewers include my age in an article. Baseball Graphs is also featured in the sidebar of this article from the Post that focuses on the role of statistics in baseball.
Today is the big “preseason review” day in all the major newspapers. You may not associate the New York Times with outstanding sports coverage, but they often have some excellent baseball coverage. I particularly like their review of the career home run record. It will be a bittersweet moment for baseball if Bonds breaks the record but, as the Times points out, Alex Rodriguez may make it his own record someday.