Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Who will win the World Series in 2014?

World Series Champions since 2001

AL Winners: # of regular season wins (99, 98, 99, 96, 103, 97) - Avg: 98.6

NL Winners: # of regular season wins (92, 91, 83, 92, 92, 90, 94) - Avg: 90.5

Since 2001, every AL team to win the World Series has won at least 96 games and no NL team has won more than 94.  It sounds kind of simplistic, but I write this post on 9/23/2013 predicting that the Red Sox were the favorites based on this set of data.  At some point, it is going to be broken, but it might not be for a while.

As of right now, the Orioles (95-63) and the Angels (98-61) are the only AL teams that could finish with at least 96 wins (although the Orioles need to win at least 1 more game).  The last 4 AL Winners (2005 White Sox, 2007 Red Sox, 2009 Yankees, 2013 Red Sox) were all at least tied for the best record in the AL. 

The previous winners were Wild Cards (2002 Angels, 2004 Red Sox), but it is significantly more difficult for a Wild Card winner in 2014 because of the Wild Card game.  The team with the best record in the league has an even bigger advantage now because they get to play the winner of the Wild Card game in the first round of the playoffs. 

In the NL, only the Nationals (92-64) could finish with more than 94 wins, although that's not a given.  The Wild Card teams (likely Pittsburgh and San Francisco) might not even reach 90 wins.  The sweet spot for NL teams to win the World Series seems to be in the 90-92 win range.  The Dodgers (90-68) and Cardinals (88-70) might be in the only NL playoff teams in the 90-92 range.

If history follows form this year, the only teams that would win the World Series would likely be the Angels, Dodgers or Cardinals.  I'm making some assumptions here, so we'll have to check back after the games are finished Sunday.  I'm assuming that the Nationals finish with 95+ wins, the Cardinals win the division and the Angels finish with a better record than the Orioles. 

None of those things might turn out to be true.  What we do know is that the Tigers, A's and Royals will be going against recent history if they win the World series.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

2014 - Offense Continues to Struggle

2006: .768
2007: .758
2008: .749
2009: .750
2010: .728
2011: .719
2012: .724
2013: .714
2014: .701

The question coming into this year was whether offensive numbers would continue to stagnate or would actually get significantly worse.  This shows that hitting has actually gotten much worse from just one year ago.  My assumption going into 2015 is that the OPS numbers will be pretty close to 2014, but we'll have to wait and see. 

I'm sure that the league would like to see some more runs scored, but I don't know what could be done.  A combination of factors, including steroid testing, advanced shifts and bullpens full of overpowering arms, mean that hitters will continue to be overmatched for years to come.  The only question is how bad it will get.  It's very difficult to predict the long term, but I think next year will look a lot like this year.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Strikeout-to-Walk Ratio Continues to Rise

2000: 1.74
2002: 1.97
2004: 2.00
2006: 2.04
2008: 2.05
2009: 2.03
2010: 2.19
2011: 2.31
2012: 2.51
2013: 2.53
2014: 2.63

The strikeout-to-walk ratio was remarkably consistent from 2000 to 2009, being right around 2.00 every year.  Since 2010, it has risen slightly more than .1 every year on average.  If that continues, it could reach 3.00 by 2018. 

Of course, it could stop rising or even reverse itself, but there is no reason to think it will in the next few years.  With steroids out of the game and speciality relievers becoming more dominant, it looks like it will a tough couple of years for hitters.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Strikeout Trends: 2000-2014

K/9 (Relievers)
2000: 7.16
2004: 7.31
2008: 7.53
2010: 7.85
2011: 7.90
2012: 8.40
2013: 8.31
2014: 8.47

K/9 (Starters)
2000: 6.21
2004: 6.22
2008: 6.44
2010: 6.76
2011: 6.74
2012: 7.12
2013: 7.18
2014: 7.36

We have enough data by now about 2014 to say that strikeouts trends are continuing as they have for the past few years.  The enormous jump in relievers' strikeouts from 2011 to 2012 is holding steady and strikeouts among starters is increasing.  This probably can't continue forever before there is an adjustment back towards the hitters, but it looks like it will continue like this for a while.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Can the Tigers and Blue Jays overcome their bullpens?

Toronto and Detroit are both currently ranked among the bottom 5 teams in baseball in relievers' ERA.  Going back over the last ten years, the only teams that finished the season in the bottom 5 and made the playoffs were the 2005 Red Sox and the 2011 Rangers. 

The '05 Red Sox were #1 in run scored and won the wild card before being swept in the 1st round by the White Sox.  The 2011 Rangers came within 1 pitch of winning the World Series, but that seems like an aberration.  They also finished 7th in starters' ERA and 3rd in runs scored. 

The Blue Jays and Tigers both play in (as of right now) mediocre divisions and have the ability to score plenty of runs (ranked 2nd and 3rd in OPS).  They have the 10th and 11th best ERA in their starting rotation, and Detroit (at least in theory) should have one of the best starting rotations in baseball.  Being ranked near the bottom in relievers' ERA isn't something that can't be overcome, but it is a major hurdle.

The Tigers are always a threat to catch fire because of their starting pitching, but that usually doesn't last more than a series.  The Blue Jays probably can't count on being able to outscore everyone in October.  Absent significant improvement, however, I have a hard time seeing the Blue Jays or Tigers winning the World Series with their current bullpens. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Strikeouts in 2014

# of teams with 7.5+ K/9 in May
2006: 3
2007: 1
2008: 6
2009: 7
2010: 8
2011: 7
2012: 14
2013: 13
2014: 16

After a monster April for strikeouts (7.93 K/9 in April 2014 vs. 7.68 in April of 2013), strikeouts have leveled off and are identical to May of 2013 (7.54).  The number of teams, though, that are maintaining a high rate is still going up.  The strikeout numbers might not shoot up as much as they have the last few years, but they are still mind-blowing when compared to just a few years ago.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Power outage in 2014?


2006: 31.7
2007: 35.0
2008: 35.8
2009: 34.2
2010: 37.4
2011: 38.5
2012: 34.8
2013: 36.7
2014: 41.3

April: 36.0
May: 35.9
June: 36.6
July: 43.1
August: 38.9
September: 40.6

April: 42.0
May: 48.6

It is still early in the season, but the increase in the number of at bats it takes to hit a home run is very noticeable.  Not only is the overall rate up, but the numbers are worse in May than in April.  Since last June, 3 of the 4 complete months have been above 40 and May appears to be heading that way too.  If this is the new normal, it will be be a significant shift that will have a major impact on the way the game is played.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Can Albert Pujols make a comeback?

Date on which Albert Pujols hit 8th HR of season
2004: May 3
2005: May 9
2006: April 16
2007: May 25
2008: May 13
2009: April 30
2010: May 14
2011: May 23
2012: May 29
2013: May 23
2014: April 22

He's hitting HR again, but his average hasn't rebounded yet (.274 vs. .321 career).  It doesn't seem outlandish, though, that he could hit around .300 this year.  It seems unlikely that he's going to hit .330, but not that he might hit 40 HR again.  He also could finish with relatively low walk and strikeout totals for a power hitter.  Are there are historical precedents for this?  Yes, several great hitters from the past had similar seasons in their mid-30's.

1946 Hank Greenberg (age 35): .277, 44 HR, 88 SO, 80 BB
1964 Willie Mays (age 33): .296, 49 HR, 72 SO, 78 BB
1969 Hank Aaron (age 35): .300, 44 HR, 47 SO, 87 BB

Of these 3, Aaron is the only one that continued to be productive for years afterward.  Mays did win the MVP in 1965, but began to decline almost immediately afterward.  After 1966, he never again hit over.300 or 30 HR again.  Greenberg retired after another productive season in 1947.  Aaron continued having excellent seasons until he was nearly 40. 

Historical comparisons are imperfect because times have changed.  None of those players was able to take advantage of being a DH, which Pujols almost certainly will for plenty of years.  Being a DH has helped David Ortiz continue to hit well into his 30's, in addition to players like Paul Molitor and Edgar Martinez.   

Pujols has maintained that he is "too young" to become a DH full-time.  I'm sure people in the Angels organization are wondering if he would be hitting better if he were a full-time DH.  If he sustains an injury playing the field this year, the talk about him becoming a DH will only intensify. 

They would probably be happy at this point with an average around .300 if he would hit 40 HR, although that would be below what I'm sure they were expecting when they signed him to that monster contract.  If he's healthy, he's young enough to have a bounce back, although it will probably never get back to where it was from 2001-2009. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Will the Brewers make the playoffs in 2014?

# of teams in top 3 (including teams tied for 3rd) in W-L% on April 18 to make playoffs
2008: 3/5 (Cubs, Brewers, White Sox)
2009: 1/3 (Dodgers)
2010: 3/3 (Yankees, Rays, Twins)
2011: 1/3 (Rangers)
2012: 4/5 (Rangers, Nationals, Tigers, Cardinals)
2013: 3/4 (Braves, A's, Red Sox)

Over the past 6 seasons, 15/23 teams made the playoffs, including 7 out of 9 in the last two years.  That's probably a trend that will continue because of the additional wild card teams added in 2012.  In 2012, two of the four teams were wild card teams, and the Cardinals (who nearly made the World Series) were the 2nd WC team with 88 wins.

The top 3 teams today are the Brewers, A's and Braves.  The Brewers are the only surprise, and are actually the only real surprise in the top 10 (4-10: Yankees, Giants, Dodgers, Cardinals, Tigers, Rangers).  The team with the #1 record on April 18 has made the playoffs each of the last 2 years (Braves, Rangers) and 3 of the last 4 (Rays, Yankees tied for 1st in 2010).

A team's record on April 18th seems to be a good predictor of whether they'll make the playoffs, especially with an extra wild card slot in each league.  I don't think the Brewers will end up with the best record or even in the top 3, but I think they will at least be competitive for a wild card spot. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Pitching in the 7th Inning or later: 2011-2014

# of teams with 10+ K/9, 7th Inning and later
2011: 0
2012: 0
2013: 0
2014: 9

# of teams with 1.10 WHIP or lower, 7th Inning and later
2011: 0
2012: 1
2013: 1
2014: 8

K/9, 7th Inning and later
2011: 7.78
2012: 8.31
2013: 8.17
2014: 9.10

WHIP, 7th Inning and later
2011: 1.31
2012: 1.28
2013: 1.27
2014: 1.29

The strikeouts keep going up, but the WHIP has stayed very consistent despite a growing number of teams with extremely low WHIP totals.  This can be explained because there are more teams with terrible numbers at the end of the game.  In 2013, the only team at 1.50 or above was Houston. 

In 2014, there are 7 teams at 1.50 or above (Tigers, Royals, D-backs, Cubs, White Sox, Mets, Astros).  It's very early in the season, so a couple of bad games can drag down a team's numbers.  If the bad teams can get their numbers, the league numbers should improve substantially over previous years.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

What was the secret behind the Pirates' success in 2013?

One of the biggest reasons why the Pirates were able to make the playoffs last year was that their pitching staff gave up very few home runs (#1 in fewest allowed with 101).  Even in the 2nd half when they became hittable (falling from 1st in batting average against to 17th), they still managed to lead the league in fewest home runs allowed.

In 2014, they're pitching very well so far, with the 7th best ERA in the ML (2.66).  It's early, but they are allowed more home runs than at the end of last year, ranking only 19th in fewest HR allowed.

It might be nothing to worry about even if it persists because they didn't become really stingy until after April last year.

Fewest HR allowed by month (Pirates, 2013)
April: #18 (28 HR allowed)
May: #3 (17)
June: #2 (19)
July: #5 (16)
August: #1 (8)
September: t-#1 (13)

They're playing well (5-2), but this is something to keep an eye on because it played such a big role in their playoff season last year. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Dominant Bullpens on the Rise in 2014?

Bullpens: 1.25 WHIP or below, 9+ K/9
2002: 0
2003: 0
2004: 0
2005: 0
2006: 0
2007: 0
2008: 0
2009: 0
2010: 2
2011: 1
2012: 3
2013: 3
2014: 7

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Bullpens in 2014

Bullpens with 9+ K/9 (since 2000)
2000: 0
2001: 1 (Cubs)
2002: 0
2003: 0
2004: 1 (Angels)
2005: 1 (Cubs)
2006: 0
2007: 0
2008: 0
2009: 0
2010: 4 (Braves, Padres, Cubs, White Sox)
2011: 2 (White Sox, Braves)
2012: 5 (Phillies, Reds, Padres, Rays, Brewers)
2013: 6 (Royals, Mariners, Reds, Rays, Tigers, Yankees)
2014: 12 (Nationals, Angels, Yankees, Braves, Indians, Rockies, Dodgers, Brewers, Mets, Giants, Royals, Mariners)

That's only through 4 or 5 games, but I wouldn't be surprised if there were at least 8 bullpens this year with 9+ K/9 for the entire season.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Are the Dodgers overhyped in 2014?

The predictions for 2014 are starting to roll out and the Dodgers are the overwhelming favorite to win the World Series.  I expect they'll be picked by many of ESPN's experts when their predictions come out soon.  While it makes sense that everyone thinks they'll be really good, I think they're being overhyped.  We saw it last year with the Nationals and Tigers, and we know how that turned out. 

One prediction I'm sure will be true is that they'll have excellent pitching.  They always have great pitching, having been ranked in the top 5 in team ERA each of the last 3 years.  What about offense?  I doubt the numbers will be overwhelming.  That's fine, because they can still win 95 games without a great offense, but it is clearly a factor. 

Since 2011, they've been ranked 21st, 26th and 17th in runs scored.  Even in the 2nd half of 2013 (when they had the best record in baseball), they only were ranked 9th in runs scored.  Their lineup is solid and they can score a lot of runs if several players have career years, but that's highly uncertain. 

There are some huge question marks that will help determine whether they'll be truly great.  One is obviously Yasiel Puig.  Over his 4 months in the big leagues last year, he hit .436, .287, .320 and .214.  He hit .333 in the postseason, but only had 2 extra base hits in 39 AB (and 0 HR).  Another big question is what they'll get out of Matt Kemp.  If he comes back and plays like he did a few years ago, it will give them a huge boost.  Considering all of the injuries he's sustained, that doesn't seem very likely. 

The Dodgers probably won't hit many home runs this year.  Teams can certainly win without a lot of power (Giants won in 2012 being ranked last in HR), but it will make it more difficult to score runs. 

They also had kind of a quiet offseason.  On the other hand, they'll probably have plenty of money to acquire players through trades if they have to.  There are still plenty of questions about whether their manager is ready to take them to the next level. 

None of this means that they shouldn't be favored to win the NL West or even the pennant.  It just means that they've become a trendy pick this year and the hype they're getting doesn't match up with reality.  I wouldn't be surprised to see a rematch in the NLCS this year, and the Cardinals will still probably find a way to win.  They're going to be very good, but I'm not buying into the idea that they're the overwhelming favorite to win the World Series.   

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Are strikeouts already up in 2014?

2007: 6.67
2008: 6.83
2009: 6.98
2010: 7.13
2011: 7.13
2012: 7.56
2013: 7.57
2014: 9.00

Yes, the 2014 numbers include all of 2 games, but they fit in with the trend.  No, the strikeout rate won't jump up to 9 this year, but I wouldn't be surprised if it went much closer to 8.  Obviously, it will become more clear after a few weeks of games, but this could be a sign of things to come.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

How Dominant will Pitching be in 2014?

# of teams that allowed a Slugging % at .370 or below (Pre/Post All Star Break)
2004 (0/0)
2005 (0/0)
2006 (0/0)
2007 (1/0)
2008 (1/0)
2009 (1/2)
2010 (2/2)
2011 (7/3)
2012 (3/3)
2013 (2/8)

If this trend holds and teams are able to carry dominance like this in both halves of the season, 2014 is going to be an extraordinary year for pitching.  Maybe the 2nd half of 2013 was like the first half of 2011 and that number will be a fluke. 

From 2000-2008, there was only 1 team (2003 Dodgers) that allowed a slugging % of .370 or lower for the full season.  Since 2008, it has happened 12 times, including 4 times in 2013 (Pirates, Dodgers, Braves, Cardinals).  Along with the skyrocketing strikeout numbers, it will be fascinating to see if these numbers hold steady, go down or keep going up.  My guess is that they hold steady, but it is difficult to predict anything right now. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

More Strikeouts = Fewer Runs Scored?

Top 5 in K by an offense (rank in runs scored)

#1 Astros (26)
#2 Twins (25)
#3 Braves (13)
#4 Mets (23)
#5 Mariners (22)

#1 A's (14)
#2 Astros (30)
#3 Pirates (23)
#4 Nationals (10)
#5 Rays (18)

#1 Nationals (24)
#2 Padres (28)
#3 Pirates (27)
#4 Mariners (30)
#5 Indians (16)

#1 D-Backs (20)
#2 Angels (2)
#3 Rangers (10)
#4 Brewers (9)
#5 Rays (7)

#1 Reds (4)
#2 Brewers (16)
#3 Rangers (3)
#4 Rockies (14)
#5 Dodgers (26)

#1 Cardinals (8)
#2 Brewers (26)
#3 Marlins (29)
#4 Padres (24)
#5 A's (4)

What's going on here?  Obviously this doesn't include every season since 2000, but the trend it pretty clear.  Over the past few years, the number of teams that were in the top five in strikeouts and scored a respectable number of runs plummeted.  One of the most obvious answers is that home runs have also gone way down and it is more difficult for teams to make up for striking out a lot with a lot of power.

Most of the teams that had a lot of strikeouts and runs (2000 A's, 2000 Cardinals, 2005 Reds, 2005 Rangers) hit well over 200 home runs.  That's just not happening anymore.  In 2013, only 1 team (Orioles) hit over 188 home runs, and that's probably going to continue.  The days of an entire team leading the league in strikeouts and being near the top in runs scored appear to be over for the time being. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

More on Strikeouts in 2014

15+ K/9, 25 + IP (since 1900)
2012 Craig Kimbrel 16.66
2011 Kenley Jansen 16.10
2010 Carlos Marmol 15.99
2013 Aroldis Chapman 15.83
2012 Aroldis Chapman 15.32

Until 2010, there had never been a pitcher that had more than 25 innings and averaged more than 15 strikeouts per nine innings.  Since then, it has happened 5 times in 4 seasons.  Last year, Kimbrel's strikeout rate went down (13.3), while Marmol and Jansen don't seem to be threats to repeat either.  It wouldn't be a surprise, though, to see several pitchers with 15+ SO/9 in 2014 considering the huge increase in strikeouts that we've seen recently.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

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Monday, February 17, 2014

Ubaldo Jimenez

After doing almost nothing the entire offseason, the Orioles signed Ubaldo Jimenez to a 4 year contract today.  Is this a good signing?  He rebounded nicely last year after several down seasons, but he has been wildly inconsistent. 

In 2010, he was on his way to having one of the all-time great seasons, going 15-1 with a 2.20 ERA before the All-Star Break, but finishing 19-8 with a 2.88 ERA after a struggling down the stretch.  He went 19-30 over the next 3 seasons, before going 13-9 with a 3.30 ERA in 2013.  Those are good numbers, but it is the splits that make the case that he's ready for a strong 2014.

Pre-All Star: 7-4, 4.56 ERA, 94 SO, 53 BB
Post-All Star: 6-5, 1.82 ERA, 100 SO, 27 BB
September: 4-0, 1.09 ERA, 51 SO, 7 BB

If the final few months of his 2013 season were an aberration, he sure picked the right time to do that.

Rank: Post All-Star (60+ IP)
ERA: 1.82 (3rd)
SO: 100 (2nd)
SO/BB: 3.70 (21st)

September 2013 (25+ IP)
ERA: 1.02 (3rd)
SO: 51 (2nd)
SO/BB: 7.29 (6th)

When you put all of his numbers together, he was one of the two best pitchers in baseball last September, along with Kris Medlen.  He was constantly pitching in high pressure games the entire month, as the Indians were fighting for their lives every day.  If the Orioles are counting on Ubaldo to be the ace on a playoff team, that might seem like a stretch, but he has the talent.

The Orioles were ranked 27th in ERA for their starting rotation in 2013, after being 21st in 2012.  It might not be ideal to give Ubaldo Jimenez a 4 year deal, but they had to do something.  He was at the top of his game when it counted the most last year, and he might be ready to finally put it all together for a full season.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Will hitting bounce back in 2014?

# of players with 80+ BB, since 1999
1999: 40
2000: 35
2001: 28
2002: 28
2003: 26
2004: 24
2005: 20
2006: 27
2007: 24
2008: 23
2009: 22
2010: 17
2011: 14
2012: 11
2013: 7

Since 1930, the only seasons with 7 or fewer players with at least 80 BB were 2013, 1968 (7), 1965 (6), 1957 (6), along with the strike shortened seasons of 1994 (3) and 1981 (1).  Just as with the spectacular rise in strikeouts over the past 4 years, the question is whether the trend will continue.  If it does continue, will the league try to somehow reverse it? 

The mound was lowered after 1968 in response to the greatest season ever for pitchers.  By 1970, the number of hitters with 100 walks jumped up to 12 (one of the highest ever) from 2 in 1968.  Aside from changing the way that balls and strikes are called, there probably isn't much the league could realistically do to increase offense even if they wanted to. 

Steroid testing has been in place for a decade, but pitchers only started to truly dominate over the last 4 years.  If that is part of a bigger trend relating to specialization of relievers, then it might continue.  I will assume that the trend will reverse at some point, although I doubt we'll ever see offense like the late 90's again.

Until significant adjustments are made, though, there is every reason to believe that the gains made by pitchers will hold and might even accelerate over the next few years.  If they do, we might see more offensive totals not seen in at least 50 years. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Will the top bullpens from 2013 repeat in 2014?

Top 5 Bullpens, ERA

2013: Braves, Royals, Pirates, Rangers, Brewers
2012: Reds, Braves, Rays, A's, O's
2011: Braves, Giants, Padres, Yankees, Nationals

Top 5 Starting Rotations, ERA

2013: Dodgers, Cardinals, Reds, Tigers, Pirates
2012: Rays, Nationals, Dodgers, Cardinals, Reds
2011: Phillies, Giants, Dodgers, Rays, Angels

Of the top 15 teams in bullpen ERA from 2011-13, the Braves are the only team on there more than once.  Of the top 15 teams in starting rotation ERA from 2011-13, 4 teams were in the top 5 more than once.  This isn't exactly a long term trend.  In 2011, 4 of the top 5 teams in bullpen ERA were the same from 2010 (Braves, Giants, Padres, Nats and the Yankees had been #7). 

It could be just be a blip, with several teams repeating in 2014 from the top 5 in 2013.  We'll have to wait and see.  If this happens again,

It also could be part of a bigger change in pitching that has shown itself over the past few years.  The number of pitchers, particularly relievers, with high strikeout and low walk totals has skyrocketed over the past few years. 

This could make it more common for teams to go from among the worst bullpens to the best without spending a lot of money (as the Brewers did last year, going from #30 in 2012 to #5 in 2013).  I would be surprised to see more than one team carry over in the top five in 2014.  It will be an interesting development to watch this season.
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