StatSpeak World Famous Roundtable: May 20

The roundtable this week is a little late due to some techincal issues.  This week, we had hoped to welcome David Chase of Brock for Broglio for a discussion of some “most likely to…”, the current second place team in the AL East, and the role of advanced stats in the front office, but David had to pull out at the last minute.  So, this week, the roundtable is just Eric and I.
Question #1From the players, to the managers/coaches, to front office executive’s.. How much has progressive statistical analysis penetrated major league baseball?
Eric Seidman: Statistical analysis has made great strides towards infiltrating major league baseball.  At the website friarforecast.com, there is a list of all the statistical analysts working for teams and plenty of teams are listed; those not listed still likely have at least a consultant on their payroll.  Even before Moneyball teams utilized stats; perhaps not as much as the A’s but teams did not ignore statistics and go solely on scouting.  To do so would be irresponsible.  The same can be said for going solely on stats.  Many major league teams have found the proper balance between scouting and statistics.  When it comes to developing players, a factor not often discussed, many teams are struggling, but this has more to do with personnel developing the players than the players themselves.  The Pirates front office representatives acknowledged this in a discussion at Penn State not too long ago.  They weren’t sure if it was who they were drafting or who was developing those drafted, an issue most tend to ignore.
Pizza Cutter: The question for me isn’t how many analysts are working in the offices or how much data is being collected behind the scenes or whether there’s good research going on, it’s how much of a voice this gets at the decision-making table.  Too often, I see decisions that are being made both in terms of signing and game strategy that could be avoided by simply reading Baseball Between the Numbers.  I’m guessing that at this point, just about everyone has a quant working for them, some of them a whole team of quants.  The problem seems to be that at times, I wonder if the marketing department is the one making all the decisions or if the GM hears out the person who runs the numbers and uses it only as a way to justify what he was already thinking while dismissing it if it doesn’t.
Question #2Some so-far superlatives.  a) Current first place team most likely to miss the playoffs, b) Current sub-.500 team most likely to make the playoffs, c) Most likely to throw a no-hitter this year, d) First manager to be fired, e) Hot performer most likely to experience a regression to the mean.
Eric Seidman:

  • Current 1st Place team most likely to miss the playoffs – Florida Marlins
  • Current Under .500 team most likely to make the playoffs – Yankees.  It’s very odd.  At the time of submitting this answer–Sunday afternoon–there are just 6 teams more than 3 games under .500; 3 in the NL West, the Mariners, the Tigers, and the Nationals.  The remaining 24 teams are either above .500, at .500, or within 3 games of .500.
  • Most Likely to throw a no-hitter – Brandon Webb.  I’ll pick Webb for the no-hitter over Cliff Lee because Webb has proven he can repeat tremendous performances.  Lee has been astonishing in not allowing hits thus far but I would tend to think baseball fans are much more confident in Webb sustaining his current level than Lee.  Then again, no-hitters are tough to predict.
  • Most likely to be the first manager fired – Ned Yost. I’m picking Yost for manager contingent on the Brewers continuing to disappoint.  Ron Washington has been mentioned a lot but this team wouldn’t compete with or without him and yet are 22-22 as we speak.  Ozzie Guillen may murder someone and be forced out.
  • Hot performer most likely to experience a severe regression – Shaun Marcum

Pizza Cutter: 

  • Current 1st Place team most likely to miss the playoffs – Florida’s the easy choice here, with the White Sox coming in second.
  • Current Under .500 team most likely to make the playoffs – As much as it pains me to say anything nice about the Yankees, they do this every year.  They start out looking horrid in April and May and are in last place.  And then somehow they end up in the playoffs.  Plus the best Sabermetric reasoning of all: A-Rod has to come back sometime.
  • Most Likely to throw a no-hitter – Frankly, the list hasn’t changed since the beginning of the year.  Why would it?  You don’t mess with the Johan.  (ed note: Somehow my addendum “but I have a funny feeling about a guy like Jon Lester” got deleted.  Hmmm… – P.C.)
  • Most likely to be the first manager fired – Whomever is managing the Giants.  It’s completely irrelevant who (Bruce Bochy, for the record) and he probably won’t deserve it.  But, the Giants haven’t been very good and they make the kind of moves that make me think “this team has no idea what it’s doing.”  Now that Barry Bonds* is gone, someone will come in with a five-year plan and clean house.
  • Hot performer most likely to experience a severe regression – What the heck got into Lance Berkman?  Sure “severe regression” is probably an over-statement as regression to his career means is a really nice “regression” to have, but his HR/FB rate is up by about ten percent (and his infield flies are at 1.8%) and his BABIP is up 80 points over career baseline.

Question #3Your second place Tampa Bay Devil Rays.  Are they for real?
Eric Seidman: I do believe the Rays are for real in the sense that now teams know they cannot walk all over them.  Teams can no longer look at the schedule and pencil in wins when they play the Rays.  I can definitely see them contending for a playoff spot in the coming years but I am not supremely confident this year.  They have been a remarkable first-quarter story and will hopefully continue to surprise, but making the playoffs is very tough as just four teams get in; I would be hard-pressed to pick them over the Red Sox to win the East.  Looking at the other teams in the AL, though, who do you honestly see winning the wild card?  Can the A’s keep this up all year?  The non-Indians teams in the Central aren’t easy picks over the Rays and the Blue Jays and Orioles will likely be non-factors.  Unless the Rays implode or the Yankees absolutely explode, why couldn’t the Rays win the Wild Card?  Their bullpen is much improved and, despite this not being a statistical explanation, they are playing with confidence, which does make a difference.
Pizza Cutter: I suppose the definition of “real” is open to interpretation.  The Rays have some really good pieces and not much else to back it up.  Crawford, Pena, and Upton were outstanding last year.  Kazmir and Shields look quite good.  Eric Hinske has been a revelation.  Eva Longoria… oh, Evan… is apparently all that and a bag of potato chips (are we allowed to use that one ironically yet?)  But, the rest of the team is guys like Akinori Iwamura and Troy Percival — good guys, but in how many other places would they be starters?  In fact Iwamura might be the perfect metaphor for the whole team.  Lots of hype, exotic, huge expectations.  Turns out he’s nothing more than a decent major leaguer at best.  The Rays are finally a better-than-.500 team, and in the AL East this year, that might be good enough for third place.  But they aren’t a playoff team.  Yet.

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3 Responses to StatSpeak World Famous Roundtable: May 20

  1. DanC says:

    I agree with the Yankees probably doing their usual summer charge; the Tigers are another good candidate. And how about Seattle? Maybe they’re buried already. Maybe not. I just hate to give the Yanks any credit whatsoever.
    Oh, and how about Cliff Lee regressing? It’s hard to believe a guy with a 1.33 career WHIP and a 4.39 career ERA can keep pitching like this (thanks for the stats, ESPN).

  2. Pizza Cutter says:

    Quiet, boy.
    Besides, no one wants to hear about Cliff Lee any more.

  3. Erik Hahmann says:

    I have to disagree with you on the “huge expectations” of Iwamura. I don’t think anyone thought he’d hit home runs like he did in Japan. He’s played great defense at second this year also. I may be speaking out of my own biased opinions, but I think he’s been nearly exactly what the Rays had hoped. I know they’re working with him on trying to keep the ball down, but he could start at second for a lot of teams right now.

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