The Baseball Graphs Blog

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Greg Maddux’s Great Game

I wrote about Greg Maddux’s 330th win yesterday in today’s THT Daily.  My brother, who has been following the Dodgers closely for approximately 80 gajillion years, sent me the following e-mail with a great description of Maddux’s performance:

Maddux’ performance yesterday was far better than anyone has expressed.  In addition to what you mentioned, consider:
1.  The Dodger bullpen was in shock after the long extra inning game the night before, so Maddux averaged something like 10 pitches an inning and rescued the entire pitching staff.
2.  Maddux singled home the first run of the game with two out and took second on the throw on what should have been a close play.
3.  Maddux started two double plays, one on a spectacular stab.
4.  Maddux squeezed home a run!
5.  In the bottom of the 7th, Maddux made an amazing play that even Vin Scully didn’t really fully appreciate.  With two out and men on (I forget exactly), the batter lined sharply to Nomar, who seemed likely to glove it for the final out.  I relaxed, Scott relaxed, and I’m sure that Vinny relaxed.  But not Maddux!  When the ball skipped off Garciaparra’s glove, Normar picked it up but was too far from first to beat the runner.  BUT MADDUX WAS THERE!  Maddux had run hard to cover first even though it seemed obvious to everyone that Nomar would catch it.
6.  When Maddux walked off the field after this play, over 30,000 Angelos rose and gave him a standing ovation.  If you’re from New York or Boston or Chicago or St. Louis, you won’t understand how important this last point is, but having lived in LA for 36 years, I can tell you that it was huge.  We don’t do things like that.  Maddux has revitalized the fans to the point where cheers break out without the organ helping us (sort of like they do in the East).  From that point of view, he’s replaced Eric Gagne as the adopted hero of the fans, and I think you’ll see that this new level of support will help the team substantially.

Posted by Studes on 08/31 at 06:39 PM
Monday, August 21, 2006

WPA in Wins and Losses

One of the theories of win-based stats going around is that only contributions in wins should count toward a player’s wins, and vice versa for losses.  Andy takes a look at WPA in Yankee wins and losses in his most recent Yankee WPA Rundown blog and finds some interesting things.

For instance, Mariano Rivera would rack it up in that sort of system, because he mostly enters games when the Yankees are ahead.  The other interesting finding is that Derek Jeter stands out as someone who contributes a lot in both Yankee wins and losses.  Fun stuff.

Posted by Studes on 08/21 at 04:47 PM
Win Probability AddedPermalink
Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Projecting Players

I was on vacation in Massachusetts the last two weeks.  Enjoyed it very much, thanks.  While browsing books at the Harvard Coop bookstore, I saw The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Statistics and decided to buy a copy.  Yes, I browse the mathematics section at bookstores.

I talk about statistics a lot on this blog, but I last took a statistics class over twenty years ago.  I’m pretty sure that I’ve forgotten everything I learned over twenty years ago, so I decided to buy the book to make sure I know what I’m talking about here.  I actually enjoyed reading the book and I’d recommend it for those who’d like to remember what they’ve forgotten from their old stats class.

And I realized that much of the book, particularly the part called Inferential Statistics, is exactly what baseball analysts are doing when they try to project player performances.

There was recently a five-part Projection Roundtable at the Hardball Times that focused on the current state of the art.  I don’t know about you, but much of that discussion was over my head; I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about projections because I find the current state of baseball so fascinating.

But player projections are the most important task facing ballclubs, so I might start paying a bit more attention to the subject.  Along those lines, let me present the following, very simple, Player Projection Framework.  I’ll call it the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Player Projections.

Let’s say you want to know how many stars there are in the sky.  The problem is that you can’t count them all at once; you can only look at one small portion of the sky at a time, and it would take an eternity to take in the entire sky.  So you can never truly know how many stars there really are in the sky.

It’s the same thing with a baseball player.  A baseball player has what Tangotiger calls a “true talent” level.  When you look at a part of the sky, you’re only counting the stars in a sample of the total sky.  With a ballplayer, when you look at a season of 600 plate appearances, you’re only looking at a sample of his true talent level.  In both cases, the absolute truth can’t be directly measured.

This is a pretty common thing in statistics.  Statisticians are always talking about samples, sample distributions and sampling distribution of the mean.  There’s also this really important concept called the Central Limit Theorem that says that the larger the sample size, the more the sample results will follow a normal probability distribution.  Which means you can consider the results of a player’s seasons to be normally distributed.  See? I did read the book.

Anyway, the basic process, for both baseball and the sky, is to estimate the larger population (true talent level or total stars in the sky) based on the samples you have, and then estimate the likely outcome (and potential range of outcomes) for the next “sample” (or, piece of the sky or season).  And that’s the overview of the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Player Projections.

Here are some specific steps:

I’m sure one of those fancy-pants sabermetricians will come along and correct me, but I think this is a pretty good framework for how to project player performances.  Some of the keys are how well you correct any bias in the original stats, your regression method, the population to which you regress, whether you do this for components or for overall players and how you estimate ongoing changes to the player’s true talent level.  At this stage, a breakthrough in any of those areas (not to mention the injury risk) would pretty much guarantee you a seat at the next Projection Roundtable.

Posted by Studes on 08/19 at 08:00 AM
Baseball StatsPermalink
Friday, August 04, 2006

More Organizational Trees

In my latest Ten Things article on The Hardball Times, I noted that Will Young has built a pretty cool organizational tree that shows how each member of the Minnesota Twins’ roster had been acquired.  And I wondered if there were any more trees like that.

Maybe there weren’t at the time, but a couple of guys have built them for their favorite teams.  Ben Kabak posted one for the Yankees on his blog and a reader named Greg Sullivan created one for the Red Sox.  Greg doesn’t have his own blog (there are still people without their own blog?) but he sent it to me and I thought I’d make it available for you here.

An organizational tree is an insightful way to look at a roster.  But wouldn’t you know that the first two (after Will’s) would be for the Red Sox and Yankees?

Posted by Studes on 08/04 at 03:23 PM
Graphs and GraphicsPermalink

Top Months So Far

Sox Watch went back to the Fangraphs WPA totals and calculated who has had the biggest WPA months so far.  David Ortiz’s July was second best to Albert Pujols’s April.  Pujols’s July was third-best, which surprised me a little bit given his time on the DL.  Chase Utley’s July is fourth.

Here’s the top ten list:

 1 Albert     Pujols     April   3.115
 2 David      Ortiz      July    2.351
 3 Albert     Pujols     July    2.144
 4 Chase      Utley      July    1.929
 5 Ryan       Zimmerman  July    1.869
 6 Jason      Schmidt    May     1.864
 7 Jermaine   Dye        July    1.808
 8 David      Ortiz      June    1.802
 9 Ryan       Howard     May     1.797
10 Jason      Bay        May     1.794

Jason Schmidt?

Posted by Studes on 08/04 at 02:56 PM
Win Probability AddedPermalink
Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The first players from Each Country

In a recent SABR-L discussion, home run king David Vincent listed the first persons to play major league ball from a specific country of birth.  The list was inspired by the Indians’ Tom Mastny, who was born in Indonesia—the first major leaguer born in that country.

No, I never heard of Dodecanese Island.

USA                05/04/1871   Many players
England            05/05/1871   George Hall, Harry Wright
Ireland            05/05/1871   Andy Leonard
Cuba               05/09/1871   Steve Bellan
Netherlands        05/18/1871   Rynie Wolters
Germany            05/20/1871   George Heubel
France             04/26/1875   Larry Ressler
Canada             09/15/1875   Tom Smith
Scotland           05/20/1878   Jim McCormick
Australia          04/26/1884   Joe Quinn
Austria-Hungary    04/22/1885   Amos Cross
Sweden             09/23/1885   Charlie Hallstrom
Norway             09/08/1894   John Anderson
Wales              07/06/1896   Ted Lewis
Russia             08/20/1897   Jake Gettman
Colombia            4/23/1902   Louis Castro
Switzerland          8/3/1902   Otto Hess
Denmark             8/11/1911   Olaf Henriksen
Spain               5/16/1913   Al Cabrera
Atlantic Ocean      4/17/1914   Ed Porray
China                7/1/1914   Harry Kingman
Finland             8/28/1921   John Michaelson
Poland              9/19/1929   Henry Peploski
Italy               4/18/1932   Lou Polli
Mexico               9/8/1933   Mel Almada
Venezuela           4/23/1939   Alex Carrasquel
Czechoslovakia      9/22/1940   Elmer Valo
Puerto Rico         4/15/1942   Hi Bithorn
Dodecanese Island   9/23/1943   Al Campanis
Austria             4/21/1949   Kurt Krieger
Panama              4/20/1955   Humberto Robinson
Canal Zone          4/19/1956   Pat Scantlebury
Dominican Republi   9/23/1956   Ozzie Virgil
Bahamas             4/16/1957   Andre Rodgers
Virgin Islands      5/26/1959   Joe Christopher
Japan                9/1/1964   Masanori Murakami
American Samoa      9/16/1968   Tony Solaita
West Germany         8/2/1975   Rob Belloir
Nicaragua           9/14/1976   Dennis Martinez
Jamaica             4/10/1981   Chili Davis
Honduras             7/8/1987   Gerald Young
Curacao             8/23/1989   Hensley Meulens
British Honduras     7/5/1991   Chito Martinez
Afghanistan          5/2/1993   Jeff Bronkey
South Korea          4/8/1994   Chan Ho Park
Singapore           4/18/1996   Robin Jennings
Philippines         5/26/1996   Bobby Chouinard
South Vietnam       7/13/1996   Danny Graves
Belgium             8/25/1996   Brian Lesher
Aruba                9/3/1996   Gene Kingsale
Taiwan              9/14/2002   Chin-Feng Chen
Indonesia           7/30/2006   Tom Mastny

Posted by Studes on 08/02 at 11:31 AM