23 October 2014

MLB Postseason Projections 2014: Royals Get Even

This post is part of a series tracking the postseason series win probabilities throughout the 2014 MLB Playoffs. Click here to enjoy the full series of posts.

Kauffman Stadium • Photo credit: jimcchouCreative Commons 2.0

What the Kansas City Royals suffered in Game 1 they dealt back in Game 2. Against the San Francisco Giants, a five-run slugfest boosted the Royals' chances of winning it all by ~12% in the bottom of the sixth inning alone (if you combine my model's numbers with FanGraphs' Win Expectancy figures). The full win itself was responsible for a ~14% increase in their World Series probability.

It wasn't enough to help the Royals regain the WS% lead, however. By splitting the first two games in Kansas City, San Francisco now enjoys home field advantage, leaving them slim 53% favorites to take home the Commissioner's Trophy.


22 October 2014

MLB Postseason Projections 2014: Giants End Royals' Streak, Set High Water Mark

This post is part of a series tracking the postseason series win probabilities throughout the 2014 MLB Playoffs. Click here to enjoy the full series of posts.

Kauffman Stadium • Photo credit: State FarmCreative Commons 2.0

Two record streaks came to an end last night. The Kansas City Royals were enjoying the longest winning streak in postseason history (eight games) when they ran into the human buzz saw that is Madison Bumgarner. The San Francisco Giants' ace was enjoying a streak of his own, one which came to the end when Salvador Perez's homer plated the first postseason run against Bumgarner in 21 innings.

Perez notwithstanding, it was never really much of a contest, the eventual winning run having crossed before Bumgarner even took the mound. The Royals lost their first World Series game in 29 years by a 7-1 drubbing, sending the Giants to the top of the heap for the first time this October according to the Rational Pastime model.


21 October 2014

MLB Postseason Projections 2014: Odds About Even in Fall Classic

This post is part of a series tracking the postseason series win probabilities throughout the 2014 MLB Playoffs. Click here to enjoy the full series of posts.

Kauffman Stadium • Photo credit: Ian MunroeCreative Commons 2.0

Tonight begins one of the most improbable World Series match-ups in recent memory. Both teams are the lowest seed in their league. Neither one enjoyed home field advantage after the play-in round. At the start of LSD play, I placed the odds of a San Francisco-Kansas City World Series at just under 3%. Vegas' expectation was about the same. Among LDS contenders, I ranked the Giants and Royals 6th and 7th most likely to reach the final stage. Their Power Scores were equally pathetic.

Yet here we are.

The Kansas City Royals have faced the #1 and #2 seeds, enjoying four home games out of eight (including the play-in), but nevertheless set a postseason record with eight straight victories. The San Francisco Giants had to win on the road just to reach the postseason, promptly disposed of the best team in the National League (the Washington Nationals), and then swiftly dispatched a significantly weaker St. Louis Cardinals squad.

My model underestimated both squads, and what we're left with is a match-up of equals. Equal in seeding, the Royals and Giants are equal in talent with a Power Score of .534, the latter fractionally ahead, both trailing eight teams that have since waived goodbye. As a result, both teams are essentially an equal shot at winning it all, the Royals with an insignificant 51-49 edge.


17 October 2014

MLB Postseason Projections 2014: San Fran Golden in Pennant Clincher

This post is part of a series tracking the postseason series win probabilities throughout the 2014 MLB Playoffs. Click here to enjoy the full series of posts.

AT&T Park • Photo credit: randychiuCreative Commons 2.0

The games were close, but the series wasn't. Knocking off the defending NL Champion St. Louis Cardinals, the San Francisco Giants are heading to the World Series for the first time since all the way back in 2012. It was only the second time in a rather unpredictable postseason that the Rational Pastime model picked a series correctly.

Standing in the way of the Giants' third World Series Championship in five years are the surging Royals of Kansas City, the slightest of favorites in the upcoming contest.


16 October 2014

MLB Postseason Projections 2014: Orioles Fly Home for Winter

This post is part of a series tracking the postseason series win probabilities throughout the 2014 MLB Playoffs. Click here to enjoy the full series of posts.

Rainbow over Kauffman Stadium • Photo credit: Kari SullivanCreative Commons 2.0

Joe Posnanski shared a quote that's so fitting that I have no choice but to steal it.



Sure, we could have believed that a Kansas City Royals team that just barely squeaked into the playoffs would win eight straight games and reach the World Series, defeating the #1 and #2 AL seeds along the way, not permitting their opponent a single victory and taking many games by a single run and several in extras. I'm sure many—primarily located within driving distance of Kauffman Stadium—believed that they would see their Royals play in the Fall Classic this year.

But most didn't, and that's what's so great about baseball (and sports in general): it defies our expectations in the most magical way.

Many more now believe that the Kansas City Royals could win their first World Series since 1985. Little in sports is impossible. The crazy thing is, this scenario is no longer even improbable. Should they face either the St. Louis Cardinals or the San Francisco Giants, the latter of whom are now one game away from the World Series themselves, they will be my model's favorites.


15 October 2014

MLB Postseason Projections 2014: Giants Find Their Heart in San Francisco

This post is part of a series tracking the postseason series win probabilities throughout the 2014 MLB Playoffs. Click here to enjoy the full series of posts.

AT&T Park • Photo credit: Bryce EdwardsCreative Commons 2.0

Tuesday saw the San Francisco Giants regain the upper hand at home against the St. Louis Cardinals, followed by the Kansas City Royals' seventh consecutive postseason victory. The Royals' win set a postseason high in WS%, just short of the 50% mark, and pushed the Baltimore Orioles to the brink of elimination.


14 October 2014

My BBA Votes: The Stan Musial Award

Cardinal • Photo Credit: Dakota L.Creative Commons 3.0

Every season, BBA writers vote for their choices in the Stan Musial Award, picking the best players of 2014 in each league regardless of position. This being a modern analytics blog, I relied primarily on the new stats in my voting. Metrics that I leaned on heavily for both pitchers and hitters include Win Probability Added (WPA), Leverage-adjusted WPA (WPA/LI), Run Expectancy (RE24), fWAR and RA9-WAR

I do like to consider rate stats. However, taking rate stats into account is difficult when comparing hitters to pitchers and vice versa. There's no real rate stat to which anyone gives equal weight when it comes to both pitching and offense. As with the Gossage and Johnson Awards, I considered runs allowed per nine innings (RA9), SIERA and FIP for pitchers. For batters I used run-expectancy-weighted On Base Percentage, or wOBA. I standardized each of these values (inverting the pitcher stats, since lower numbers are better), and compared their standard deviations from the mean to make a combined list of pitching and hitting rate leaders.


My picks are as follows:

American League #1: Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels)

Mike Trout, who should have been AL MVP the last two years and will probably win it this year, posted a wOBA of .402 (3rd, AL qualifiers). But where he really stands out is in win probability added. Trout's 6.88 WPA is over two wins better than the next best AL contender, Michael Brantley, and his 64.54 RE24 beats AL #2 Victor Martinez by 13 runs. In addition, his WPA /LI is second only to Jose Bautista's (5.38 to 5.55). According to fWAR, Mike Trout's 7.8 wins above replacement make him the most valuable player of the 2014 season. This choice was nearly as easy as my next one.

National League #1: Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles Dodgers)

It's more common than we think that a pitcher is the best player in his league. This year, Clayton Kershaw removed all doubt. Vying for a place on the mantle of all-time great pitchers, the Dodgers ace posted league bests in RA9-WAR (7.9) and fWAR (7.2). His 5.47 WPA led the National League, whereas his 5.37 WPA/LI and 48.56 RE24 finished second only to Giancarlo Stanton. His domination of RA9, SIERA and FIP--finishing tops in all three MLB-wide--cement his place at the top of my NL ballot.


Runners Up: American League

My BBA Votes: The Walter Johnson Award

Walter Johnson with Pres. Calvin Coolidge • Library of Congress

Every season, BBA writers vote for their choices in the Walter Johnson Award, picking the best pitchers of 2014 in each league. This being a modern analytics blog, I relied primarily on the new stats in my voting. Metrics that I leaned heavily on include Win Probability Added (WPA), Leverage-adjusted WPA (WPA/LI), Run Expectancy (RE24), runs allowed per nine innings (RA9), SIERA, FIP, fWAR and RA9-WAR. My picks are as follows:

American League #1: Felix Hernandez (Seattle Mariners)

I could have voted for either HRH King Felix this year or the Indians' Cory Kluber. Both tied in games started for the AL lead and nearly tied in innings pitched. But Hernandez was second in the AL with a 3.82 WPA/LI, second among AL qualifiers with an RA9 of 2.59, best among qualifying AL pitchers with a SIERA of 2.50, and tops among AL pitchers with 7.5 RA9-Wins Above Replacement. It was a tough call, and in the end it's Hernandez by a hair (more on Kluber after the jump).

National League #1: Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles Dodgers)

Kershaw wasn't simply 2014's best NL pitcher--he was probably the best player in baseball not named after a fish. He allowed fewer runs than any qualifying pitcher in baseball with 42. His 5.47 WPA was a full win ahead of the NL #2, Johnny Cueto. At 5.37, his WPA/LI was a full win ahead of NL #2 Adam Wainwright. His RE24 was over 12 runs ahead of Wainwright's, at a monstrous 48.56. He had the lowest RA9 in the game (1.91), the lowest SIERA in MLB (2.09) and the stingiest FIP in baseball (1.81). His RA9-WAR was a future-Hall of Fame quality 7.9. In English, picking Kershaw for the Walter Johnson Award was the easiest choice I made in this year's BBA voting.


Runners Up: American League

My BBA Votes: The Goose Gossage Award

Goose • Photo Credit: Alan D. WilsonCreative Commons 2.5

Every season, BBA writers vote for their choices in the Goose Gossage Award, picking the best relievers of 2014 in each league. This being a modern analytics blog, I relied primarily on the new stats to pick my votes. Stats that I leaned heavily on include Win Probability Added (WPA), Leverage-adjusted WPA (WPA/LI), Run Expectancy (RE24), Shutdowns and Meltdowns, runs allowed per nine innings (RA9), SIERA and RA9-WAR.

American League #1: Wade Davis (Kansas City Royals)

In 71 appearances for the Royals, Wade Davis allowed only eight runs. His teams win expectancy improved a full 324% while he was in the game. That 3.24 Win Probability Added (WPA) remains 2.60 when adjusted for high leverage situations (WPA/LI)--that's best among qualifying relievers. His pitching saved 24.04 runs better than average when controlling for the various base-out states (RE24), second only to my #2 choice. He shut down offenses 35 times while committing only five meltdowns, posted a qualifying best 1.00 runs allowed per nine innings (RA9), a 1.61 SIERA and a FIP of 1.19. His 3.7 RA9-WAR was second among qualifiers.

National League #1: Tony Watson (Pittsburgh Pirates)

Based on my analysis, the National League's best reliever in 2014 was a set-up man for the Pittsburgh Pirates. In an NL-leading 78 appearances, Watson recorded an MLB-best 44 shutdowns along with an NL-best 2.8 RA9-WAR. His WPA of 3.01 was second only to my third place choice, while among qualifying pitchers in the NL, his 16.22 RE24 was second only to the Giants' Santiago Casilla. It was tough choosing between him and my second place vote, fellow Pirate Mark Melancon.


Runners Up: American League

My BBA Votes: The Connie Mack and Willie Mays Awards

Connie Mack • Courtesy Library of Congress

As BBA members, bloggers share their votes for the annual manager and player awards. The first two are the Connie Mack Award (Manager of the Year) and the Willie Mays Award (Rookie of the Year).

I'm going to be honest with you: I'm not big on either award. I don't honestly believe there's any objective way to pick the "best" manager, while "Rookie of the Year" seems vague to me. Nevertheless, I gave it my best shot. Don't ask me to defend my choices—my criteria are an inconsistent review of various statistics and my gut. 

Connie Mack Award
  • American League
      1. Mike Scioscia (Los Angeles Angels)
      2. Buck Showalter (Baltimore Orioles)
      3. Lloyd McClendon (Seattle Mariners)
      • National League
          1. Mike Redmond (Miami Marlins)
          2. Clint Hurdle (Pittsburgh Pirates)
          3. Ron Roenicke (Milwaukee Brewers)

          Willie Mays Award
          • American League
              1. Dellin Betances (New York Yankees)
              2. Jose Abreu (Chicago White Sox)
              3. Xander Bogaerts (Boston Red Sox)
              • National League
                  1. Ken Giles (Philadelphia Phillies)
                  2. Collin McHugh (Houston Astros) Whoops, Houston is AL now.
                  3. Jacob deGrom (New York Mets)