Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Wednesday Update

Changes:

- AL Central finalized
- Rafael Furcal added to Dodgers lineup



DS% Lg% WS%
Boston
.534 .301 .168
Tampa Bay
.621 .316 .167
Chicago (A)
.379 .143 .055
Los Angeles (A)
.466 .240 .114










Philadelphia
.543 .272 .139
Chicago (N)
.520 .284 .147
Milwaukee
.457 .200 .092
Los Angeles
.480 .245 .117

Why I Hate The Cubs And Angels

I don't, really. I grew up in Chicago and have been a Cubs fan for 15 years. However, I can see how you'd get this idea from my numbers, which are well off from the betting markets and pundits' predictions. What's going on?

Cubs

The Cubs are the best team in the NL, but the gap is not that big.

Offensively, Chicago led the NL in runs this year by a wide margin, but that overstates the case in their favor. The Cubs were projected to score fewer runs than both the Phillies and Brewers this year. That matters, because teams regress to toward their preseason expectations. Going forward, we expect the Cubs to have a slightly better offense than Philly and Milwaukee, but only by about .2 runs/game. The Dodgers lagged far behind in offense, but that's mostly because they spent a large portion of the year starting Andruw Jones, Juan Pierre, and Angel Berroa in place of Manny Ramirez and Rafael Furcal. You could argue that their current lineup is as good as any in the NL field.

As for pitching, it's easy to forget that the Cubs' Game 1 starter had ERAs of 4.80 and 4.72 as a one-inning reliever the past two years, or that Carlos Zambrano now has the peripherals of a 4.60 ERA pitcher. Fortunately for the Cubs, they have maybe the best starting pitcher in baseball right now...and they're relegating him to one start in the NLDS, because they're idiots. Simply naming Harden the Game 1 starter would improve Chicago's chances of winning the World Series by a full percentage point, but that would be too easy for Lou Piniella.

Looking at the BP Adjusted Standings, we see that the Cubs are a 95-win team playing against three teams in the 87-89 range, all of whom are managing their rotations better. That adds up to much less than a 40% chance to advance to the World Series.

Angels

The Angels are certainly not the best team in the AL. You won't find any metric besides W-L record that puts them ahead of the Red Sox or Rays. In fact, they're not just worse than those two teams, they're worse across the board, unable to match either team in offense, defense, or pitching.

Anaheim had the run differential of an 88-win team this year, and the peripherals of an 84-win team. You can argue until you're blue in the face about their "ability" to win close games, but the truth is that this was a fluke season; the Angels may have been the luckiest team in MLB history.

How can a team be built to win a disproportionate number of close games? A strong bullpen? The Blue Jays had a 2.94 relief ERA this year (wow) and they went 24-32 in one-run games. The Dodgers, third in bullpen ERA, went 19-24. Meanwhile, the Rangers--who had MLB's worst bullpen ERA and a losing record to boot--were a robust 28-18 in one-run contests. San Francisco's pen may have been the worst in the majors after park adjustments; they went 31-21 in one-run games, and 41-69 in all others.

What about batters delivering timely hits? The Twins were by far the best clutch hitting team in the league this year: they batted .280 overall, but a whopping .306 with runners in scoring position, which is the only reason they're still in this thing. That plus Joe Nathan's 1.34 ERA led to a 26-25 record in one-run games.

This "ability" is a backward-looking measure, like clutch hitting. It's easy to name last year's best clutch hitters, but nobody can identify next year's. Similarly, you can tell which teams have overperformed this year, but not who will do it in the future--and the future includes the playoffs.

The Diamondbacks were 2007's poster children for overperformance after going 90-72 with a -20 run differential. This year, they improved that differential to +14, yet fell to 82-80--right in line with expectations. The carryover is a mirage.

That's basically it--the Angels are clearly the third-best team in this field, and their odds reflect it. Their chances would be even worse if they didn't have home field advantage and only one game against Josh Beckett.

Tuesday Update

Changes:

White Sox win their first play-in game


Div% WC%
DS% Lg% WS%
Boston .000 1.000
.534 .299 .167
Tampa Bay 1.000 .000
.613 .312 .164







Chicago (A) .572 .000
.217 .082 .031
Minnesota .428 .000
.170 .069 .031







Los Angeles (A) 1.000 .000
.466 .238 .113














Philadelphia 1.000 .000
.543 .277 .141







Chicago (N) 1.000 .000
.538 .293 .151
Milwaukee .000 1.000
.457 .205 .094







Los Angeles 1.000 .000
.462 .224 .106

Monday, September 29, 2008

Beckett Injury Update

(Note: Ben Sheets is also out for the playoffs, but I didn't have him in the latest iteration of the numbers anyway, so there's no change for Milwaukee.)

Apparently Josh Beckett is hurting. The Red Sox will try to have him start Game 3, but nobody's sure that will happen.

Assuming Beckett returns in time for the ALCS, I have two sets of alternative odds. The first is for Beckett starting Game 3:


Div% WC%
DS% Lg% WS%
Boston .000 1.000
.534 .298 .166
Tampa Bay 1.000 .000
.612 .311 .164







Chicago (A) .324 .000
.123 .046 .018
Minnesota .676 .000
.265 .107 .048







Los Angeles (A) 1.000 .000
.466 .237 .113














Philadelphia 1.000 .000
.543 .277 .141







Chicago (N) 1.000 .000
.538 .293 .151
Milwaukee .000 1.000
.457 .205 .094







Los Angeles 1.000 .000
.462 .224 .105


Next, Beckett missing the ALDS altogether:


Div% WC%
DS% Lg% WS%
Boston .000 1.000
.494 .276 .154
Tampa Bay 1.000 .000
.612 .312 .165







Chicago (A) .324 .000
.123 .047 .018
Minnesota .676 .000
.265 .108 .048







Los Angeles (A) 1.000 .000
.506 .258 .122














Philadelphia 1.000 .000
.543 .277 .142







Chicago (N) 1.000 .000
.538 .293 .151
Milwaukee .000 1.000
.457 .205 .094







Los Angeles 1.000 .000
.462 .224 .106

Sunday, September 28, 2008

September 29


Div% WC%
DS% Lg% WS%
Boston .000 1.000
.565 .316 .176
Tampa Bay 1.000 .000
.612 .310 .164







Chicago (A) .324 .000
.123 .046 .018
Minnesota .676 .000
.265 .106 .048







Los Angeles (A) 1.000 .000
.435 .221 .105














Philadelphia 1.000 .000
.543 .277 .141







Chicago (N) 1.000 .000
.538 .293 .150
Milwaukee .000 1.000
.457 .205 .093







Los Angeles 1.000 .000
.462 .224 .105

September 28


W L
Div% WC%
Lg% WS%
Boston 94 66
.000 1.000
.310 .179
Tampa Bay 96 65
1.000 .000
.309 .159









Chicago (A) 86 74
.300 .000
.043 .018
Minnesota 87 74
.700 .000
.112 .050









Los Angeles (A) 99 62
1.000 .000
.227 .110


















New York (N) 89 72
.000 .465
.095 .042
Philadelphia 91 70
1.000 .000
.286 .144









Chicago (N) 97 63
1.000 .000
.292 .147
Milwaukee 89 72
.000 .535
.115 .053









Los Angeles 84 77
1.000 .000
.213 .097

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Short Rest

The Mets, White Sox, and Brewers are throwing their starters out on short rest in an attempt to secure a playoff spot. Are they making the right moves?

The easiest case to consider is the Brewers'. By moving C.C. Sabathia up to Sunday, they lose him for Game 1 of the NLDS. However, if they throw him on short rest in Game 2, he can still come back and pitch Game 5 on normal rest, so the cost to their NLDS chances is minimal assuming they go this route. Since Sabathia is a huge upgrade over Dave Bush in Sunday's game to secure a playoff birth, this was the right move. Specifically, it improves their Wild Card chances from 77.2% to 80.2%, and their World Series probability from 7.7% to 7.9%.

Even though Sabathia is slated to start Game 5, it would still greatly benefit the Brewers to win the first series in four or less; then they would likely set up Sabathia up for Games 1-4-7 in the NLCS.

On to the Mets. After moving Johan Santana up to Saturday, they will likely keep him on normal rest and have him pitch Games 2 and 5 of the NLDS. This means they essentially aren't penalized at all once they reach the playoffs. The question is whether Santana and Oliver Perez, both on short rest, are a better combination than Jonathon Niese and Santana on normal rest. They are; this move improves their playoff chances from 20.1% to 21%, and their World Series number from 1.9% to 2.0%.

Finally, the White Sox. They're potentially bringing back their whole rotation on short rest for the next four games to decide the division title. What this really boils down to is how to line up their starters:

A) Vazquez-Buehrle-Floyd-Danks (all short rest)
B) Richard-Vazquez-Buehrle-Floyd (all normal rest)
C) Richard-Vazquez-Buehrle (all normal rest) -Danks (short rest)

Ozzie Guillen probably considered options A and B, and given the choice, I would have taken A. The dropoff from Danks to Richard isn't worth giving everyone normal rest. Furthermore, plan A gives their top two starters more time to recover and pitch in the ALDS.

However, plan C is the best of all. Richard isn't that much worse of a pitcher than Floyd (cue hate mail) and he'd be facing an Indians lineup that's more dangerous from the left side of the plate. Meanwhile, the Sox are gaining three key days of rest for their pitchers, and they can still set up the postseason rotation so Vazquez pitches two games in the ALDS while missing only one day of rest. This setup would improve Chicago's Wild Card chances from 32.5% to 33.9%.

I suspect Ozzie didn't give any thought to this plan, partially because he can't look past the respective ERAs of Floyd and Richard.

Happily enough for the Sox, though, their playoff chances are about to improve by accident, assuming that Ozzie keeps his rotation on normal rest in the playoffs. By starting Vazquez twice instead of Buehrle, their chances of winning a 5-game series against Tampa improve from 38.9% to 40.5%.

Idiocy In Action

You may have noticed that the Angels' chances of winning the AL and World Series took a hit today even though they locked up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

How is that possible? Because the Angels looked only at their own pitching rotation when deciding which playoff series to take, ignoring how Weaver-Wakefield is clearly a better pitching matchup for them than Santana-Matsuzaka. (They also picked Joe Saunders for their playoff rotation over Jered Weaver, but that was going to happen all along.)

I hear a lot about how good starting pitching is vital to success in the playoffs. That's true, of course, but it's also an important part of winning in the regular season. The difference is that the playoffs don't involve the back end of your rotation. Thus, if you want to be disproportionately successful in the playoffs, what you really want is a terrible number 5 starter, not a great staff ace.

You might hear someone tell you that the Angels are set up for success in the playoffs with their starting rotation. In fact, the system doesn't favor the Angels at all; Jon Garland isn't great, but he's one of the best number 5s in the league, certainly better than the likes of Paul Byrd and Edwin Jackson. Now Weaver, a very good number 4, was taken out of the equation for the ALDS. It's no wonder the Angels are only the fifth most-likely team to emerge as champs.

September 27


W L
Div% WC%
Lg% WS%
Boston 94 66
.000 1.000
.334 .193
Tampa Bay 96 64
1.000 .000
.289 .149









Chicago (A) 86 73
.325 .000
.048 .020
Minnesota 87 73
.675 .000
.106 .047









Los Angeles (A) 99 61
1.000 .000
.223 .108


















New York (N) 88 72
.022 .188
.045 .020
Philadelphia 90 70
.978 .011
.276 .139









Chicago (N) 96 63
1.000 .000
.292 .147
Milwaukee 89 71
.000 .802
.172 .079









Los Angeles 83 77
1.000 .000
.214 .097

Friday, September 26, 2008

September 26


W L
Div% WC%
Lg% WS%
Boston 94 65
.024 .976
.328 .190
Tampa Bay 96 63
.976 .024
.288 .149









Chicago (A) 86 72
.309 .000
.046 .020
Minnesota 87 72
.691 .000
.109 .049









Los Angeles (A) 99 60
1.000 .000
.230 .112


















New York (N) 88 71
.231 .370
.139 .062
Philadelphia 89 70
.769 .172
.253 .128









Chicago (N) 96 62
1.000 .000
.292 .147
Milwaukee 88 71
.000 .459
.101 .046









Los Angeles 83 76
1.000 .000
.215 .098

September 26


W L
Div% WC%
Lg% WS%
Boston 94 65
.024 .976
.328 .190
Tampa Bay 96 63
.976 .024
.288 .149









Chicago (A) 86 72
.309 .000
.046 .020
Minnesota 87 72
.691 .000
.109 .049









Los Angeles (A) 99 60
1.000 .000
.230 .112


















New York (N) 88 71
.231 .370
.139 .062
Philadelphia 89 70
.769 .172
.253 .128









Chicago (N) 96 62
1.000 .000
.292 .147
Milwaukee 88 71
.000 .459
.101 .046









Los Angeles 83 76
1.000 .000
.215 .098

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

September 24


W L
Div% WC%
Lg% WS%
Boston 92 65
.016 .984
.329 .191
Tampa Bay 95 62
.984 .016
.292 .151









Chicago (A) 86 70
.675 .000
.100 .043
Minnesota 85 72
.325 .000
.051 .023









Los Angeles (A) 97 60
1.000 .000
.229 .112


















New York (N) 87 70
.164 .554
.159 .071
Philadelphia 89 69
.836 .149
.273 .137









Chicago (N) 95 61
1.000 .000
.291 .147
Milwaukee 86 71
.000 .297
.065 .030









Arizona 79 78
.023 .000
.004 .002
Los Angeles 82 75
.977 .000
.208 .095

September 23


W L
Div% WC%
Lg% WS%
Boston 91 65
.057 .943
.331 .192
Tampa Bay 93 62
.943 .057
.289 .149









Chicago (A) 86 69
.810 .000
.119 .051
Minnesota 84 72
.190 .000
.030 .013









Los Angeles (A) 97 59
1.000 .000
.231 .112


















New York (N) 86 70
.046 .605
.138 .061
Philadelphia 89 68
.954 .043
.284 .143









Chicago (N) 95 60
1.000 .000
.293 .148
Milwaukee 85 71
.000 .347
.075 .035









Arizona 79 77
.088 .000
.017 .007
Los Angeles 81 75
.912 .000
.194 .088

Sunday, September 21, 2008

September 21 and Notes

Quick notes:

- Right now the pennant and WS numbers are sketchy, because playoff rotations aren't set in stone. If the Red Sox do something stupid like make Dice-K (or Jon Lester) their Game 1 starter, or the Rays do something smart like put Andy Sonnanstine in their playoff rotation, the numbers could change substantially.

- Some of you may think the NL's chances of winning the World Series seem a little high. I might agree with you, but I'm not sure. While my numbers account for a substantial difference in quality between the leagues, the NL has a big gap between the caliber of the playoff teams and the also-rans. Thus, the NL playoff teams aren't that much worse than the AL playoff teams; rather, the disparity is mostly between the lower-rated teams in each league.

For example, I think the Cubs are a better team than the Angels and maybe the Rays (though not the Red Sox), but the out-of-contention Yankees and Blue Jays are clearly much better than the out-of-contention Astros and Marlins. In the BP adjusted standings, only one AL team is under 70 third-order wins (I think you can figure out who) but five NL teams fail to reach that mark.

- The percentages are adjusted for the starting pitching matchups in each of the teams' remaining games. I assumed every team will keep throwing its normal pitchers out there, which isn't totally accurate, but better than a blind guess.



W L
Div% WC%
Lg% WS%
Boston 90 64
.104 .896
.355 .206
Tampa Bay 92 61
.896 .104
.294 .151









Chicago (A) 85 69
.807 .000
.118 .045
Minnesota 83 72
.193 .000
.027 .011









Los Angeles (A) 95 59
1.000 .000
.207 .094


















New York (N) 86 68
.356 .501
.191 .087
Philadelphia 87 68
.644 .324
.235 .115









Chicago (N) 93 60
1.000 .000
.291 .152
Milwaukee 84 71
.000 .173
.039 .019









Arizona 77 77
.021 .000
.004 .002
Los Angeles 81 74
.979 .000
.240 .119

The Hiatus Explained

As some of you may have noticed, I haven't posted an update to the odds in three weeks. The reasons are twofold:

- I've spent the last three weeks hopping around central Europe, and
- I've also spent the last three weeks working with some people to hunt down and bet inefficient MLB futures.

Anyway, I've exhausted most of the betting opportunities, and I have several hours to kill tonight, so I'll be posting an odds update shortly. I also intend to do a comprehensive playoff preview post, but I can't promise anything.