Archive for April, 2011

Full On Double Wildcard: What Does This Mean?

This post originally appeared here.

According to Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig, another wild card spot in each league will be added to MLB’s playoff system. However, Michael Weiner – head of the Player’s Association – says talks are still in negotiation, though he doesn’t seem opposed to the idea. I’m sure there is a lot of politicking taking place, something I don’t much care for. So instead, I ask the question: what is the difference in adding a second playoff team? I decided to take a look at each season since the wildcard was introduced in 1995 and find out for myself. I took the record for each playoff team since 1996 and this is what I found:

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How Much Does Payroll Matter?

This article was originally published on

Everyone knows that money matters in baseball. I’m a Cleveland fan, so you don’t need to convince me that my small-market Indians are at an unfair disadvantage when competing against teams like the Yankees and the Bank of Steinbrenner (in the immortal words of Ken Tremendous, “It’s like Scrooge McDuck’s gold coin-filled pool”). There’s no question that franchises with the financial flexibility to retain their stars, import new ones, and remain contenders even when their well-paid players bust have a leg-up from the get-go.

But we all know that money isn’t everything. Omar Minaya and the New York Mets gave us a years-long crash course in what happens large payrolls are spent poorly. Meanwhile, plenty of underfunded teams have had success, including last year’s Rangers and the Rays of both 2008 and 2010. Check my facts on this, but I’m pretty sure one or two low-budget Oakland A’s teams have had some mild success in the past too.

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Estimating True Talent in Past Years

Often I would like to have an estimate of a player’s true talent in a past year. Projection systems are always only focused on predicting future performance based on past results, but what I wanted was the best estimate of the expected performance for a player in a given year, based on his results in that year and the surrounding years.

I wanted to find suitable weights to assign to performance in the given year, plus the years immediately before and after, and have the right amount of regression to the mean. But I kept running into the same mental block; how to assign a weight to the given year’s performance, since that is exactly what I am trying to “predict”?

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Brett Gardner, Good Eye or Non-Swinger?

On the surface, Brett Gardner looks like a Bobby Abreu protege (without any power). Since 2010, Brett has shown off his great eye for pitches, posting the 2nd lowest chase rate in baseball at 18.1%.

His ability to make contact with pitches is also astonishing, as he makes contact with 97.2% with pitches in the strike zone, behind only Juan Pierre and Marco Scutaro. Of the 2789 pitches Brett has seen since the start of 2010, he has only swung and missed at 265 pitches.

Where Brett Gardner lacks is in his ability to swing at pitches in the strike zone. Over the last two seasons, Brett has swung at a major league low 45.2% of pitches in the strike zone. He owns this record almost 6% (next lowest is Elvis Andrus at 50.9%) and is almost 20% below the league average. Combined with his low chase rates, its only natural also that Brett has the lowest swing rate in MLB at 31.3%, compared to the league average of 45.6%.

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What If Baseball Playoffs Were Determined By Division Record?

All major league sports division winners gain entry into the playoffs–the difference is HOW those division victors are determined. For example, the NFL places a greater weight on division record, so much so that a 8-8 division winner (like the 2010 Seahawks) is seeded higher than a wild card with a better record (like the 2010 New Orleans Saints). The NBA gives the top three seeds in each conference to the division winners, with winning the division based on overall instead of division record.

I was curious how baseball playoffs would be affected if a team’s division record determined the division winner, and I expected to see a handful of changes. I was VERY surprised with what I saw. Read the rest of this entry »

Albert Pujols or Albert Einstein?

This article was originally published on

There’s no question that Albert Pujols is one of the greatest players in the history of Major League Baseball. As the active leader in wOBA (.434) and wRC+ (169), it’s not easy to come up with a superlative that sounds like hyperbole for Pujols. But a commenter on his stats page gave it a try last week:

ALBERT Einstein had an IQ of 160. That means he is 60% more intelligent than the average human.

Albert Pujols has a wRC+ of 177 during the past 3 seasons. That means he is 77% better at the plate than the average big leaguer.

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