27 December 2017

Good Links of (a Not-Insignificant Portion of) 2017

It's the end of the year, and that means it's time for end-of-the-year review posts. Here are my favorite baseball-related links from 2017. Okay, technically these are my favorite links since June when I started keeping track.

Tom Verducci explored how the Houston Astros' analytical approach (as evidenced by their hiring of prominent Baseball Prospectus alumni) led them to their Justin Verlander acquisition and to the ALCS (and later to a World Series championship).

Katie Baker followed Alex Rodriguez from heel to, well, not quite a hero, but an incredibly comfortable and insightful analyst on MLB on FOX.

Emma Baccellieri noted that MLB's new trajectory (e.g. Statcast and related products) threatens the current sabermetric revolution that grew out of Baseball's open-access attitude towards fine-grained statistical data.

Jay Caspian Kang wondered why some sabermetric concepts catch on easily, some revolutionize clubhouses and some fade into oblivion.

Maury Brown wrote about how China is big and MLB wants a piece of the People's Republic, partnering to build 20 new facilities on the Mainland.

Ballpark, Fort Reno Park, Washington DC by Me

Maury Brown also wrote about how the Cubs gave Steve Bartman a 2016 World Series ring, granting the undeserving target of early-millennium infamy the opportunity to decry scapegoating (and reclaim the dignity he had been wrongfully denied).

Jeff Sullivan reminded us that Giancarlo Stanton is more than just Aaron Judge 1.0.

Micah Hauser uncovered how stingy and disingenuous the Yankees and the Steinbrenners have been in living up to the promises they made after the city built them their new stadium.

Ben Lindbergh and Mitchel Lichtman were the first to break through this year with a study indicating that the construction of the ball is at least in part responsible for the home run surge. Rob Arthur provided additional support by examining Statcast data, and baseball physicist Alan Nathan used first principles to show the same.

Ashley MacLennan critiqued the culture of toxic masculinity in baseball and in so doing argued that there isn't just one right way to play.

Ballpark, Fort Reno Park, Washington DC by Me

Jack Moore questioned whether we need an amateur draft or caps on international free agent signings and concluded that we in fact do not.

Travis Sawchik proposed a solution for making the wild card round even more exciting and challenging for the lower seed, borrowing an idea from the Republic of Korea.

Jen Mac Ramos demanded that Major League Baseball do more to address, punish and prevent off-the-field sexual violence by MLB athletes.

Mary Craig demonstrated how, like everything else, the language of baseball is inherently and inescapably political.

Paul Lucas provided us with the facts about the most polarizing design in the history of baseball: the Houston Astros' Tequila Sunrise uniforms. He then followed up with an excellent, previously untold history of the design process.

Sam Miller astonished a fictional time traveler with how much baseball has changed since 1987.

Finally, Matt Swartz nailed it this year. In his residency at FanGraphs this past July, Dr. Swartz produced not just one, two or even three fantastic articles, but nine posts about the economics of labor and the cost of a win in baseball. Your baseball aedification for 2017 is not complete without perusing each of the articles below:

Thanks for reading and have a fulfilling and prosperous 2018!

10 November 2017

MLB Postseason 2017: Recapping the Series That Made Champs of the Houston Astros

It was a bumpy road for the Houston Astros from the regular season to their first ever franchise World Championship. They nearly dropped out vs. the Yankees in the ALCS, when they reached the nadir of their playoff chances. The Dodgers had a chance to bounce them, too. Houston prevailed, however, only occasionally the favorite but eventually the only team left standing.

World Championship Probabilities by Playoff Team over Time

An Astros victory in seven games was the third most likely projected outcome at the start of the series at 14%.

Estimated Probability of Discrete Series Results

The Astros' hopes bottomed out at 12% after their game five loss to the New York Yankees, putting them down 3-2 in the American League Championship series. They would later rebound, of course.

Probability of Winning Various Postseason Series: Houston

The simulator performed slightly above average when it came to Houston's World Series odds throughout the postseason. A Houston win seven games was among the top ranked possibilities at the start of every new round, becoming steadily more likely as the playoffs progressed, but becoming relatively less likely compared to other possibilities according to the model.

The modeled simulation took off in the final two rounds of the postseason. Barely better than chance in the LDS round, the simulator was successful vs. a random guess in the ALCS, NLCS and World Series.

You can review every post of the 2017 MLB Postseason here. Thank you for following along. It was a blast as always.

01 November 2017

MLB Postseason 2017: One. More. Game.

We've been spoiled of late. The 2017 World Series will go seven games. The Series went seven last year too, and in 2014, and in 2011. That's three out of the past four years and four out of the past seven. The current flourish of winner-take-all championship baseball follows an eight-series drought from 2003 through 2010, in which not one World Series went the full seven.

Total of Games Played in Each World Series since 1903

Both the flourish and the drought are uncharacteristic. More series have gone seven games than have gone only six, five or four since the World Series adopted the seven-game format in 1922. Nevertheless, it's a less-than-even proposition: 39% of series in the best-of-seven era have gone the distance.

Frequency of Total Games Played in World Series during the Best-of-Seven Era

So let's savor tonight and keep in mind the lean times when baseball events like tonight's seemed rare. This year's seventh game pits the favored Los Angeles Dodgers against the never-say-die Houston Astros, who have faced adversity before in this postseason. This is it.

World Championship Probabilities by Playoff Team over Time

30 October 2017

MLB Postseason 2017: Astros One Game, Thirty-One Percentage Points away from Title

There has been no shortage of drama in the 2017 World Series. Recovering from two separate 3+ run deficits, the Houston Astros won their final home game, putting them up 3-2 and one game away from their first Commissioner's Trophy in franchise history. The Dodgers aren't done, of course, though this is the closest they've come this year. They will have the benefit of home field advantage for two games in a row. The mantra for Houston should be to win it all in game six.

World Championship Probabilities by Playoff Team over Time

29 October 2017

MLB Postseason 2017: Dodgers Tie Astros, Reclaim Frontrunner Status

They may have waited eight innings to do so, but last night the Dodgers took the lead in game four of the 2017 World Series. By holding onto that lead, they reclaimed frontrunner status in title probability. Though nominally tied 2-2 with the Houston Astros, the Dodgers remain the slightly better team and, importantly, regain home field advantage for the remainder of the series.

World Championship Probabilities by Playoff Team over Time

28 October 2017

MLB Postseason 2017: Astros Heavy Frontrunners for First Time This Postseason

The Houston Astros took a 2-1 lead in the 2017 World Series and now enjoy a 68% chance of winning their first ever title. The Los Angeles Dodgers championship probability now stands about where it did at the beginning of the NLCS vs. Chicago.

World Championship Probabilities by Playoff Team over Time

26 October 2017

MLB Postseason 2017: Astros Pull Even after Rowdy Game Two

The Houston Astros will not go quietly into hibernation. George Springer & Co. took the Los Angeles Dodgers on a wild ride last night, dealing their opponents their first major setback of the 2017 postseason. With the World Series knotted up at 1-1, and with home field advantage transferring temporarily to Houston, the Astros are now effectively tied with the Dodgers in terms of title probability.

World Championship Probabilities by Playoff Team over Time