The Baseball Graphs Blog
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
- 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.
Monday, September 11, 2006
Five Years Later
“I don’t tear up nearly as much as I used to,” said the Rev. Stuart Hoke, an Episcopal priest at St. Paul’s Chapel, across the street from the World Trade Center site. Asked by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the last time he did, Mr. Hoke replied: “Yesterday.”
Monday, September 04, 2006
It’s hard to get a handle on managerial strategy. Bill James has written pages and pages of managerial review, much of it very well done, but his impact in this area has been less significant than in others. I don’t think the fault is James’s; I think it’s just a tough subject.
For instance, Ducksnorts (Geoff Young’s very fine Padres’ blog) has this insightful entry about Bochy’s game management in yesterday’s win over the Reds (and Jerry Narron’s poor performance). This sort of detail is difficult to quantify or pick up in a boxscore. You have to watch the game and think along with the managers, as Geoff did in his post.
MGL takes a good stab at identifying the things he sees as the most frequent managerial errors in The Book Blog. His comments, as well as the following comments, are also thought-provoking.
As Guy points out in one of the last comments, the more sophisticated analyses, particularly ones that hinge on game theory, seem to find that overall managerial strategies are pretty much on target. That doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of clunkers out there; just that it’s hard to find them through quantitative analysis.
Friday, September 01, 2006
The Beauty of Tennis
I used to follow lots of sports, not just baseball. I was a football fan for many years, and I was a particularly avid pro basketball fan during the Bird/Magic years. Those were probably the most enjoyable years I’ve ever had as a sports fan in general.
As time has passed, I’ve given up most of those sports to concentrate on baseball, with one exception: tennis. I played recreational tennis for many years before hurting my back, and I’ve loved to watch tennis as long as I can remember. In my eyes, the most thrilling tennis player ever was John McEnroe in his prime.
Which brings me to last night’s US Open match between Andre Agassi and Marcos Baghdatis. Baghdatis is a really good young player. He played tremendous tennis in the Australian Open, making it to the finals against Roger Federer, and he has a real presence and joy of playing. But last night’s Agassi-loving crowd seemed to psych him out early and Agassi was on, winning the first two sets. It was a great display of tennis by an old guy with a bad back (hey, sounds familiar!). Baghdatis showed that he is also a true champion, however, winning the next two sets (the second after being down 4-0) and forcing a fifth set.
What a fifth set it was. The two traded serve games, with Agassi looking older and older with each game (his back was obviously bothering him). I thought Baghdatis had the momentum. But then he started experiencing severe leg cramps and in one of the last games of the set, could barely stand. Because the rules didn’t permit medical treatment during the game, he continued to bravely play a dramatic game with about eight different deuce points (or ties) before finally losing the game. Agassi seemed to find a second wind at this point, Baghdatis was still bothered by the cramps, and Andre took the last set. After the match was over, Agassi was in such pain that he couldn’t make it off the court.
Why do I mention all this on my baseball blog? I dunno, except to say that it was one of the most thrilling sports events I have watched, particularly considering that it was only the second round of the Open. And if you haven’t read David Foster Wallace’s article about tennis and Roger Federer from the August 20 New York Times magazine, well, you really should. It’s one of the best pieces about a sport and a player I have read.
Here’s a great quote from the article:
Beauty is not the goal of competitive sports, but high-level sports are a prime venue for the expression of human beauty. The relation is roughly that of courage to war.
So, here’s a baseball question for you: what are the best examples of beauty you can think of in major league baseball?