Cashman, You Wily Bastard

My first reaction (when EDS emailed me the news): “no effin way!!”

But, it’s true: Mark Teixeira signed with the….YANKEES!!

More fodder for the “sure, when you buy all the most expensive players, it’s easy” haters, and that does temper my enthusiasm, but Teixeira is a guy the Yankees really needed.  This fills a HUGE whole.

Like Bill Simmons would say, imitating Mike Francesa, “this is hayooj for da Yanks.  they absolutely needed to sign Tayshera.”

Cashman says the whole time he’s staying out of it.  Never publicly negotiating.  Waiting out the market.  Maybe 8 years, $180 million isn’t a bargain, but they didn’t get into a bidding war.  They let the Angels and Red Sox each get frustrated with Boras and Tex taking their time, and either drop out, or have their owner say something stupid.  Then he swooped in, made the offer Teixiera was looking for, and got his man.

Some things I like about Teixeira: An OBP of .410 last year, with 33 HRs.  Switch hitter.  Above-average defense at 1B.  28 years old.  Career OPS+ of 134, with 150 and 151 the last two years.  3.86 pitches per plate appearance in his career.

Thanks to EDS for the heads up.  No word yet from Jersey.  His head might have exploded.  (Teixeira was his offseason priority #1, and he may have given up after CC and AJ.  Not worry, Jersey, we got Tex, too!)

Quick look at the Yankees lineup:

(Name, position, bats, avg/obp/slg*, age)  *-career

1. Damon, LF, L, .289/.354/.435, 35

2. Jeter, SS, R, .316/.387/.458, 34

3. Teixeira, 1B, S, .290/.378/.541, 28

4. A-Rod, 3B, R, .306/.389/.578, 33

5. Matsui, DH, L, .295/.371/.478, 34 (this is for the time being; I just heard Buster Olney speculate that the Yankees could try to move Matsui now, but for now, he’s in this spot.  Not sure why they would, unless they want Swisher/Nady here, and Melky in center?  I’m ambivalent about that.)

6. Nady, RF, R, .280/.335/.458, 30

7. Posada, C, S, .277/.380/.477, 37 (it only seems like he’s 82)

8. Swisher, CF, S, .244/.354/.451, 28

9. Cano, 2B, L, .303/.335/.468, 26

Yeah, me likey.  Three lefties, three righties, three switch hitters = good balance.  Lot’s of OBP there, should translate nicely to lots of runs.

Advertisements

52 responses to “Cashman, You Wily Bastard

  1. Baseball is a dumb sport. It’s like watching Toyota play games against Ford and Kia, except at least Ford had a shot at one point.

  2. This is what happens when a that just missed the playoffs has 80 million dollars coming off payroll. I’m not happy with the Burnett move, but the Yankees just went from borderline playoffs to world series favorites.

  3. Can it possibly be fun being a Yankee fan?

  4. Rob,

    yes, it is fun. maybe not as much fun as having the second highest payroll in baseball and choking away the playoffs two straight years, but still fun.

  5. I don’t only mean the payroll. Every Met or NY Ranger fan can tell you that payroll doesn’t mean everything. I was referring to the valid expectation of being the best in your division and making the playoffs every year and considering every season other than those in which your team wins the World Series to be bad seasons. How is that fun?

    Also, the Yankees spent $63,000,000 more than the next highest payroll team (the Mets). That’s the equivalent of 3-4 pitching aces or A-Rods more than any other team let alone the 20 teams that spent $100,000,000-$180,000,000 less than the Yankess. And there are 8 teams that spent within a few million of what the Mets spent.

    Again, it’s not just the payroll it’s the approach to the season that seems to be lacking in fun.

  6. considering every season other than those in which your team wins the World Series to be bad seasons

    I never quite understood this argument against Yankee fans. How is not being content without a championship a bad thing? When did mediocrity become “success”?

    Are Mets fans satasfied with their last few years? Are you just fine that you haven’t won a title in over 20 years? “Hey, we made the playoffs a bunch of times, and there was “fun” september races, that was awesome!” Seriously? Wanting your team to win a title is a bad thing?

    As the last few years have shown, nothing is a foregone conclusion, so I don’t take anything for granted. The chase is fun, sure, but so is the result. Exulting in a championship win is fun. It’s the most fun! Why would or should I be satasfied with less?

    Is rooting for the Royals more fun because they have no expectations? Would I rather be a Rays fan, who had one awesome season in their entire existence, because hey, that run came out of nowhere, that was great? Of course not. Winning is what it’s all about. Making the playoffs is nice. But why would I be satasfied with it?

    If the Mets make the playoffs next year, but lose in the first round, would you be happy? Honestly, would you consider that a “successful” season?

  7. All fans of all teams want to win titles. But all fans except for one team fall short. Does that mean that nobody has fun? Of course not.

    It’s fun to root for your team, it’s fun to strive for a title, expectations or not, and it sucks to watch your team lose, at any point, whether it’s missing the playoffs, the first round or in Game 7 of the WS. Losing sucks, but getting there is fun. What difference does it matter if you see losing in Game 7 of the WS as a “success” or “failure”? It’s still fun.

  8. “Of course not. Winning is what it’s all about. Making the playoffs is nice. But why would I be satasfied with it?”

    Because there’s a competitive imbalance dictated by diverging economic situations among teams that play against each other as many as 18 times a season.

    Following the Yankees or the Red Sox or the Mets – and I would imagine that each team’s fan base should hold their team to the same expectation – is very different than following the Royals or the Rays. Fans will concentrate on different parts of the storyline that ultimately make rooting for a team a fun experience, much as one would look at different metrics in analyzing a small tech stock versus Exxon Mobil.

    So, yes, I believe that making the playoffs is a more enjoyable experience for a ’08 Rays fan that has been following the team for the last few years than a ’07 Yankees fan that’s been doing the same.

    And perhaps you just can’t understand why that might be the case because you’re a Yankees fan.

  9. If you limit the experience of being a Rays fan to just 2008, of course it’s more enjoyable, than say a 2001 Yankees fan (same result, different contexts).

    But that wasn’t the point. I enjoy being a Yankee fan because of the expectations, not despite them. Because I enjoy having the chance to win every year, and being involved every year, and not needign to suck for 10 years to accumulate draft picks and young talent to finally be competetive. The overall experience of a Yankee fan since 1998 has been far superior to that of the Rays, because of the continued success.

  10. Some life-long yankee fans have told me that they can’t possibly root for the Yankees anymore. I totally get it.

    Look, I play in a softball league. The league has three divisions: A, B, and C. The A-league is the toughest, the B-league is the middle division, and the C-league is the lowest level.

    Let’s say I went around and assembled a team of only A-league players, with an all-star at every position. Do you think we’d have any fun beating up on C-league teams? Isn’t that what the Yankees will be doing when they play the Royals? Where’s the fun in that?

    Hell, even in the A-league, if I plucked the the best player from each team and put them on my own, and then played in the league and won the championship, it might (might) be fun once. But not more than once.

    It’s like Noyam playing trivial pursuit against a retard. Would you really be excited when you won?

    As any athlete will tell you, the thrill of victory comes from vanquishing an equal (or better) opponent.

  11. I should add, though, that if the retard ever beat Noyam in trivial pursuit, that would be pretty embarrassing.

    Better hope the Yankees win it all…

  12. Hell, even in the A-league, if I plucked the the best player from each team and put them on my own, and then played in the league and won the championship, it might (might) be fun once. But not more than once.

    Yeah because the Yankees win the championship every year…..

    Reality is that the Yanks have an advantage over the other teams, but let’s not go crazy.

  13. “The overall experience of a Yankee fan since 1998 has been far superior to that of the Rays, because of the continued success.”

    Again, that depends on the starting point of your expectations.

    If you expected the Yankees to at least make it to the World Series every year and worked your way down from that base = no, it sort of has not.

    If a Rays fan expected his team to lose 100 games each year and worked his way up by following the draft and the system, comparing his team’s development to that of Kansas City’s and Pittsburgh’s = no, it has not.

    If on Opening Day you both came into the season thinking anything could happen over the next 162 games = yes, it has.

    But I don’t think a Rays fans that took the approach that his team had as much of a shot as any other team every year (including 2008) would have stayed a fan very long.

    Which goes to Adam’s point about the different divisions.

    You can group a few teams that have over a certain payroll in the A Division (and be disappointed if the team doesn’t at least make the playoffs), most others in the B Division (and be super excited if the team can squeak in), and a few in the C Division (and be super excited if they have a winning season, while going nuts if they make it to the playoffs)

  14. Since 2001, Yankees teams have fallen into one of two categories:

    1) Yankee teams that had more money to spend than other teams, but spent it poorly and therefore didn’t have more talent than other teams.

    2) Yankee teams that had more talent than other teams in the league, but underperformed.

    If you’re a Yankees fan, the first category is frustrating. But the second category is a killer.

    In category one, it’s frustrating to see your team squander good money. But when you’re watching an individual game—between the lines, individual players vs. individual players—you can recognize when your team just doesn’t have the ability to overcome its opponent. In those cases, you throw up your hands and say, “What can we do? The other guys were better.”

    Category two is much worse. When your team has the better talent and you *still* lose, it’s not your ability but your *character* that’s to blame. That’s infinitely more painful for a fan to watch, because the fan now find himself spending his time, money, energy, and emotional capital watching a bunch players that don’t give a shit about the game that he cares so much about. It makes you feel kinda pathetic rooting for them.

    The Yankees now have more talent than any team in the league. They’ll either win it all, or be a major embarrassment (aka Noyam losing to a retard at trivial pursuit), making their fans feel pretty pathetic.

    Meanwhile, the rest of the league will be gunning for the evil empire. As I said before, any athlete knows that you don’t gain any satisfaction from beating the inferior opponent. It’s only satisfying when your opponent is a worthy foe. And it’s an even greater feeling when you vanquish an opponent with superior talent.

    So, Yankee fans, you have nothing to gain and everything to lose. Enjoy the season. If you win the World Series, you’ll feel more a sense of relief than jubilation. That sucks.

  15. Would you differentiate the Mets from the Yankees? If so, why?

    The Mets spend more than anyone else in their league… Add Sabathia + Tex to the payroll of their closest division rival to get a sense of the uneven playing field in which the Mets compete.

    So why should your expectations for the Mets be any less than a Yankee fan’s expectations? Because Minaya hasn’t been as successful in allocating the dollars he’s been given?

    I never quite understood the lamentations of Mets fans in this regard (and the same goes for Red Sox fans). The Mets may spend millions less (many millions less) than the Yankees, but they spend millions more than any other NL team.

  16. Adam,

    When your team has the better talent and you *still* lose, it’s not your ability but your *character* that’s to blame. That’s infinitely more painful for a fan to watch, because the fan now find himself spending his time, money, energy, and emotional capital watching a bunch players that don’t give a shit about the game that he cares so much about.

    Right, the Yankees lost because they couldn’t care less about winning. That’s what it was. Not because they faced good teams (Detroit 06), tough matchups (Red Sox 04), or plain had back luck (Indians 07). Rather, when Arod comes up with RISP in the playoffs, he’s strikes out so he can start his vacation early.

    The Yankees now have more talent than any team in the league. They’ll either win it all, or be a major embarrassment (aka Noyam losing to a retard at trivial pursuit), making their fans feel pretty pathetic.

    This is nonsense. Yes, the Yanks are arguably the best team in the majors. But if they lose to the Red Sox or Rays in the playoffs, they would be major embarassment? You are really overestimating the Yankees’ talent this year (or severely underestimating their competitors, especially in the AL East). This isn’t the 1998 Yankees we’re talking about.

    So, Yankee fans, you have nothing to gain and everything to lose. Enjoy the season. If you win the World Series, you’ll feel more a sense of relief than jubilation. That sucks.

    Yep. As a Jets fan, I’m much happier right now than I would be if the Yankees lose in the ALCS to the Rays. Much happier. In fact, I wish the Yankees would just cut all their good players, so they can “vanquish an opponent with superior talent.”

  17. Mike –

    The Mets have been totally mismanaged. They fall into category 1: Lots of money to spend, but spend it poorly and therefore don’t have the best talent. It’s like the line from Major League:

    Lou Brown: I thought you said we didn’t have any high priced talent.

    Charlie Donovan: Forget about Dorn, because he’s only high priced.

    The Mets *do* spend more than any other team in their division — though not nearly to the same degree as the Yankees — and it has been very frustrating to see them collapse the last few years. But those collapses were not entirely unexpected, given how they didn’t really have a better roster than other teams. To wit, Tom Glavine, Pedro Martinez, and El Duque are/were washed up, Luis Castillo is broken down, Wagner couldn’t close a big game in 2007 and was injured in 2008, the entire bullpen was terrible (including the big-ticket free agent signings), Moises Alou was predictably hurt… etc., etc., etc.. The list goes on.

    Simply put, the Mets were not a good team in 2007 or 2008. And it’s incredibly frustrating to see Omar make moves that make no sense. But if it’s bad for a Mets fan, it’s worse for a Yankees fan simply because of the degrees to which they overspend. And this year, with the Yankees having an all-star at almost every position, they will fall into category 2 if they don’t win it all (“teams that had more talent than other teams in the league, but underperformed”).

    Nephtuli –

    Respectfully, allow me to try to explain it a different way. The Yankees have raised the stakes (by gobbling up all the top talent in the league), and so they have raised the expectations as well. As the phrase goes, “the bigger they are, the harder they fall.” In 2009, the Yankees will not only spend more than any other team, but they also will have the most talent. Those are some very big expectations, and it will be a mighty hard fall if you don’t meet them. Yes, other teams, such as the Mets, also fall hard when they don’t meet their expectations. But it’s a matter of degrees. The Mets have high expectations, but the Yankees have higher. And in 2009, the expectations for the Yankees will be about as high as they can possibly be because, unlike the Mets, they have the most talent in Baseball. Winning the World Series in 2009 will be a par. Hell, it’ll be a bogey. It will be nothing more than meeting expectations. Like I said earlier, there is nothing to gain, and everything to lose.

  18. Adam,

    A lot of writing and words that sound, coming from a Met fan, like bitterness.

    Bottom line is, no Yankee fan cares about what Mets fans or anyone else whine about payroll. Par, bogey, birdie or any other stretch of a metaphor, doesn’t matter to us.

    What matters is that we (hopefully) will get to enjoy high quality, winning baseball, that stretches deep into October with high quality, exciting postseason games.

    Post-mortems on expectations and payroll can be done after the season by columnists that need to fill inches. Fans like to watch games. No true fan’s exictement of watching his/her favorite team play a world series game is diminished in any way by “expectations.” It just doesn’t happen.

    That’s how it’s fun. Because watching good baseball games is fun. Because watching exciting playoff games is fun.

  19. Any time a Yankee fan wants to dismiss a Mets fan without addressing his argument, he calls the Mets fan bitter and says that he is whining.

    The fact is, I’ve already acknowledged that watching the Mets has been frustrating. I agree with what Mike said a few posts back regarding the Mets.

    And it’s not true that a “true fan’s” enjoyment of a World Series game isn’t diminished by high expectations. And it’s even less true that the satisfaction of winning the World Series isn’t diminished by high expectations. Because the satisfaction of winning is greatly increased when your team is the underdog. Ergo, if your team is the clear-cut favorite (by stacking the roster with the best talent plucked from the rest of the league), it’s less satisfying than if your team was the underdog. Like if someone with an IQ of 80 beat you (Noyam) at Trivial Pursuit. That would be a big accomplishment for that guy; less of an accomplishment for you if you were to win.

  20. First of all, what is with you and that Trivial Pursuit analogy? I mean, I like that you think I’m the Yankees of that game, but it’s a little stretched, no?

    Second, it’s not that I was dismissing your argument as bitter without addressing it, it’s that there’s nothing to address. You purport to know how a Yankee fan would experience the season, but you can’t. Meanwhile, the Yankee fans on this blog and elsewhere are telling you that we’ll be just fine, thanks, and will immensely enjoy a championship season.

    I’m not making Mets/Yankees comparisons, or dismissing a Mets fan. I’m dismissing an argument that’s trying to tell me how I feel. Sorry, but your argument is worthless. As Nephtuli and I have been trying to point out.

    Sports fandom is an emotional investment that doesn’t have to play by your mathematical and logical ordered rules for who will feel what in what circumstances. Nobody can tell a Yankee fan how he/she will feel except that Yankee fan.

  21. You purport to know how a Yankee fan would experience the season, but you can’t. Meanwhile, the Yankee fans on this blog and elsewhere are telling you that we’ll be just fine, thanks, and will immensely enjoy a championship season.…Sorry, but your argument is worthless. As Nephtuli and I have been trying to point out.

    If that is true — and I don’t think it is — then the Yankee fan is the only fan in the world that doesn’t appreciate how much more satisfying it is to win as an underdog rather than as a favorite.

    But I don’t think that that’s a fair conclusion, because I bet that you’d acknowledge that 1996 was sweeter than 1999. (I’m using 1999 because 1998 was a record-setting year and 2000 was against the Mets, so both provided additional reasons for celebration other than the victories themselves.)

    Yes, Noyam, I’m likening you to the Yankees in my Trivial Pursuit analogy. When winning is expected, and when the talent is tilted in your favor, winning is less of an accomplishment than if the sides were even (and certainly less of an accomplishment than beating an opponent with more talent than you). And losing when the deck is stacked in your favor is a worse feeling than losing when the odds are up against you. Anybody who has ever participated in anything competitive, sports or otherwise, would agree with this.

    Noyam, let’s say you were playing goalie in college intramurals. Suppose one of the best players in the league scored against you. Then, suppose *I* scored against you. Which one would be eating at you later that night?

    And how about this: Which victory is more fun? (1) A blowout? (2) A come-from-behind victory? I think that most people would agree that the come-from-behind victory is more fun, and I submit that the reason is that the fear of losing makes the victory feel more satisfying.

    Ask Giants fans about last season. I think that everyone would agree that winning the Super Bowl would have been great no matter what. But when we look back at the season, and think that (a) they were underdogs at Tampa Bay, went down 7-0, and won; (b) they were underdogs to the Cowboys and were losing in the game, and came back in the fourth quarter to win (holding off a late surge); (c) they were underdogs to the Packers and needed a nail-biting game to beat them; and (d) they were underdogs against the Patriots, were losing with 2:42 to go and the ball on their own 17, and handed the ball to a then-unproven (and highly criticized) quarterback — when you look at those accomplishments, and at how the dream could have ended at any one of dozens of points along the way, the victory is far more satisfying. The greater the risk of losing, the greater the feeling of satisfaction when you win.

    As a Giants fan, I’ll be the first to admit that if the Giants win the Super Bowl this year, it will not match the euphoric feeling of last season. When Moishe reads this post in three months, I think he’ll agree with me.

    So too — and I’d even go farther and argue, a fortiori (kal vachomer for non-lawyers) — with the Yankees. Whereas the Giants were underdogs last season and favorites this season, which takes away some of the thrill, at least they’re doing it with the same roster (with the only changes being the good players they lost to free agency). The Yankees, on the other hand, became front runners by gobbling up talented players from other teams in the league.

    Will it be satisfying to win the World Series that way? Apparently, according to Yankee fans, yes. But I assert (A) that it won’t be as great as in 1996, when Yankee fans were proud of their “homegrown” team of underdogs that went down 2-0 to the Braves heading to Atlanta, and persevered through the adversity to finally win the World Series when the ball landed in Charlie Hayes’s glove. (B) And if the Yankees don’t win it all, it will be more painful than the last few years which had similar results. I don’t think that either of these two points can reasonably be disputed.

  22. a fortiori (kal vachomer for non-lawyers)

    And “Az, I tell you stronger” for Yeshivat HaKotel grads….

  23. I don’t want my point to be misinterpreted, so allow me to clarify. The Giants and Yankees are different because the Giants won the Super Bowl last year and the Yankees didn’t win the World Series. But what I’m trying to stress is the concept that winning as an underdog is sweeter than winning as a favorite. The a fortiori (kal vachomer) argument is that if winning as a favorite is less satisfying even when you have the same (or worse) players as when you were an underdog, so too is winning as a favorite less satisfying when you import the best players in the league.

  24. And “Az, I tell you stronger” for Yeshivat HaKotel grads….

    HA! And Netiv for the younger generation.

  25. And going back to address Mike’s point from earlier, you can be an underdog even if you spend more money than everyone else, because if you spend the money poorly then you’re still not going to be good between the lines. But clearly it’s still a failure of the organization, which leads to a substantial amount of frustration.

  26. Whatever, bud, I think you’re trying to paint yourself a victim of your organization’s failures. To me, your team and Noam’s team are doing the same thing, only his has been more successful at it than yours. There’s little excuse for the Mets to have missed the playoffs in any of the last ten years, just as there was no excuse for the Yankees to miss it this season.

    If anything, it’s easier for the Mets since they should be able to spend less and guarantee the same end-of-regular-season result as the Yankees.

    And I believe in the Billy Beane theory that a GM can only get his team into the playoffs. Once in, winning and losing is heavily a function of luck since the sample size is so small and the quality of the opposition is so strong.

  27. Mike: I’m totally agreeing with you about the Mets failures, not disagreeing in the slightest. (And although I agree in large part with the Billy Beane theory, I don’t think it’s ironclad.) The Mets organization is not good. Omar is terrible. He should be able to accomplish MUCH more with the money than he has been.

    That said, when the Mets blew it last year, was I surprised? No. Because they weren’t a good team. I sat in the upper deck the last two seasons, with the Mets facing the Marlins and the season on the line, and each year the Mets spit the bit. But then again, each year, the Mets weren’t a good team.

    And I said it in 2007 and again in 2008: better the Mets not make the playoffs and have to face the fact that they are bad, rather than squeak into the playoffs and be able to plausibly uphold the canard that they’re a good team. Had they made the playoffs in either of those years, they wouldn’t have done any postseason damage. (This is where I disagree with the Billy Beane point that you made, because the Mets, who nearly made the playoffs, had no hope of doing any damage with barely any starting pitching, no bullpen, and no consistent offense. Probably most of all, the bullpen would have done them in. I think that while there is a large degree of luck in the playoffs, probability plays a large role as well.)

    I guess I’m making a distinction between having a good front office vs. having a good team on the field. If the front office is bad and puts a bad team on the field and the team loses, as is the case with the Mets, there is a high degree of frustration. Then again, there is a sense of fait accompli when the bad team takes the field and proceeds to lose, like, for instance, when Scott Schoeneweis takes the mound and blows a late-game lead. The game has in essence already been lost. But if the front office puts a good team on the field, and the expectations are high, and yet the team still loses, the degree of frustration, I think, is higher.

    As a Mets fan, I personally think that 2006 was worse than either 2007 or 2008, because it was the 2006 team that had the talent to go all the way and fell short.

  28. Cool. Got it.

    Final thought: if anything, Beane’s assessment re: probability of success over a short time period against good opponents, was proven true this past year.

    Do you honestly believe that the Rays and the Phillies were the best teams in their respective leagues?

    Because I think a reasonable argument can be made that the Rays and the Phillies weren’t even the second best teams in their leagues.

    Meaning, the Mets in the post-season could have been as “lucky” had they made it as I believe the Phillies were. Not having to face the Red Sox or the Cubs, the two teams I personally would consider to be the “best”, helped a lot.

  29. Well, I’d agree with that, because probability is just probability, and it has its limits. Luck plays a big factor. If your players get hot at the right time, then you can win the short series even if you’re not as good. But what are the odds of your players getting hot at the right time? That’s based on probability.

    Extreme example: Let’s say you have a streaky hitter, who at times catches fire and other times is ice cold; if you’re lucky enough to have him catch fire in the postseason, then chances are you’ll win. On the other hand, let’s say he’s a .250 overall hitter. Factoring in his hot and cold streaks, he averages out to being hot about 1/4 of the time. So I think it’s fair to assume that the probability is 25% that he’ll be hot during a postseason series.

    The GM who assembled that team is gambling that the 25% will overcome the 75%, which for a small-market team might be good odds. But then when you factor in that the team has to win three series in a row, the odds get longer. 1/4 x 1/4 x 1/4 = 1/64.

    (My math might be TOTALLY off there, and I might have made assumptions that I shouldn’t have made – it’s been a long time since I’ve thought this through, and I just wrote that quickly. But even if the odds aren’t quite as bad as I just made them out to be, my broader point is that luck and probability are cousins, and they both factor in.)

  30. …Unless, of course, you truly believe that these series are determined purely based on the luck of the bounce of the ball. But I think that while pure luck (i.e., the bounce of the ball) factors in, the series tend to be decided more by player performance, which is based on a combination of probability and luck. So basically, I think that it would have taken a statistical miracle for the Mets to have done any damage in the postseason last year.

  31. And I think you either overestimate the Phillies or underestimate the Mets. But we already know that, I suppose.

    I think your example is a bit misleading. Luck and probability are close cousins. Good teams (one with higher probabilities of success due to the natural talent of the players on the team) will get “lucky” more often than bad teams. But in the end it should even out. It obviously won’t over a single season for EVERY team because the margin between a playoff team and a non-playoff team can be a matter of a few ground balls hit two feet apart by two different teams over the course of many games. But good teams will usually end up with good records and bad teams with bad records.

    Your example doesn’t really make practical sense because it’s way too extreme and would have to apply to an entire team instead of just one player. Besides, if anything it would suggest that playoff success is random since the weaker (streakier) team beats the better (non-streaky) team as a result of doing well over a limited time period (which is what Beane talked about).

    We’ve had this discussion off-line before. As I recall, you aren’t as big a believer in the value of the Pythagorean win-loss record (I am). And, relatedly, I thought I heard you say a while back that you think a team’s record in 1-run games speaks to that team’s intangible ability to eeke out wins (whereas I think it’s more dumb luck that should ultimately revert back to .500).

  32. What about this (again, I’m not really sure I know what I’m talking about):

    One series is the short term, whereas a full season is the long term. But if you look at many series, over several years and in the aggregate, I think you’d find that the results of those series are generally predictable. That is, that although the underdogs will win their share of series, the favorites (as measured by regular season, i.e., long term, success) will generally win more often, and probably (I’m guessing) would win a predictable percentage of the time as based on their regular season record. So if one player plays one hand in blackjack, it might appear like a crapshoot because of the near-50% odds, but if 1,000,000 players played one hand each, a predictable percentage of the 1,000,000 (about 497,000 (?) give or take a few standard deviations), would win.

    (I forget what the odds in blackjack are, but you get the idea. Thinking about it now, I don’t think that 49.7 percent of hands win; I think it’s that you’ll win about 49.7 % of the total money bet, when you include doubling down and other aspects of the game.)

    Anyway, my tortured point is that each series is the short term, but it would still follow the overall predictability of probability.

  33. I would agree with your theory but I’m not sure how practical it is.

    Blackjack is a game played in a closed box effectively. Baseball is a game in which the rules are set in a similar closed box but the participants in the game are constantly changing for each team. And those that don’t change are subjected to seeing their skills either either improve or weaken through age and injury.

    So whereas I would agree with you if you were to argue that the rosters for, say, the Rays and Jays of ’08 were magically put intact for ’09, ’10, ’11, etc… you would see that reversion to the norm and the two teams would end up with the same number of wins instead of the Rays winning 11 more games. But that’s obviously impossible.

    So what do I mean?

    1) Hashem hates me. Or someone on the Jays. On the entire Jays. I’m not sure which. But if it’s someone on the Jays, I hope it was Burnett.

    2) Once a team has enough skilled players on its rosters, it’s basically gonna come down to how many of those skilled players they have, how many skilled players their divisional rivals have, and how lucky they get in certain circumstances.

    Consider: The Rays ended up with 29-18 record in 1-run games. The Jays had a 24-32 record in 1-run games.

    This partially explains how the Rays and the Jays can end up with such different records, despite having a Pythagorean W-L record that’s basically the same. And don’t say it’s a function of their grit or team chemistry bc the same team went 0-3 in 1-run games in the World Series (incredibly small sample size… but that’s my point).

    3) If you were to come up with a total team win expectation and compare it to a playoff opponent’s win expectation and then compare those results to every single series in which the win expectations were the same for two teams like that, it would be so tangental to anything that can be practically applied over a short series (5 or 7 games) in a single year that it would have to be rendered meaningless. And I’m pretty certain that no one does that since it’s a lot easier for a Joe Morgan-type journalist to meet a deadline with an I-just-think analysis of what the result of a series will be.

    4) In post-season matchups, where the skill differential is a lot smaller than the average regular season matchup (or at least it should be), luck plays more of a factor than anything else.

    That is, A-Rod doesn’t suck when the leaves start to turn; over a very small sample size stretched out over a number of years, he’s performed below his regular season average. It’s really meaningless to anyone that watches him play regularly and knows how good he is.

  34. The bottom line: Your Mets and Noam’s Yankees are both playing trivial pursuit against the mentally challenged.

    The Steinbrenner’s decided to do their homework beforehand and practice, despite knowing that they didn’t really need to do so because they were going to win anyways (I call this, the pre-Texeira ’08 off-season). So the net result is a very prepared and very scary player.

    On the other hand, for some reason, Fred Wilpon and Co. decided to perform a lobotomy before the die was first rolled…

    … And then he invested with Madoff – sorry, couldn’t resist…

  35. Thoughts:

    1) I too hope it’s Burnett.

    2) The Rays played 47 one-run games; the Jays played 56 one-run games. That’s not a small sample size. It could be that the Rays were simply better, and so the probability of them winning close games was higher.

    3) The way I was thinking about this was that you’d take the two teams, and based on their records in the long term determine their probability for winning. Not predict who will win one series, but come up with a number based on, say, a million hypothetical match ups. If the teams played each other a million times, how many series would Team A win, and how many would Team B win? Hypothetically, let’s say that’s 75/25. It wouldn’t be a miracle for Team B to win, and indeed they would win a quarter of the time, which would reinforce the thought that anybody can win in the playoffs. But actually, it would be a highly predicable result.

    4) Agreed about the skill differential. In a world where my theory of probability makes sense, the reduced skill differential would just alter/adjust the probability ratios, but not invalidate them. Generally, they could still be the same but with smaller amplitudes.

    Finally, I don’t think the Mets are playing against the mentally challenged. The problem is that they themselves are mentally challenged.

  36. The way I was thinking about this was that you’d take the two teams, and based on their records in the long term determine their probability for winning.

    Uh, you’re using record to predict record? That’s very circular and offers no predictive value.

    Record predicting has to be based on some other, external, value. Which is the Pythagorean W-L thing Mike was talking about before. There are strong correlations between record and run differential.

  37. Wait, why is record not predictive of record?

    A team’s record over 162 games is a long term sample size.

  38. It’s not predictive of record, because it is record. That’s not helpful.

    You’re putting the cart before the horse. The analysis you should be trying to do is to determine how lucky a team is, meaning, by how much did they out- or under-perform their expected win total.

    The example of the Rays and Jays this past season is instructive. The Rays, despite a similar run differential, won more games. That’s attributed, by statisticians and baseball analysts, to luck. The Rays were more “lucky” than the Jays, based on what you’d expect.

    Using regular season record to predict post-season record is not instructive, because it doesn’t get to the statistical basis for what created that record to begin with.

  39. I’m a little rusty on my statistics, but one team won 61.7% of 47 one-run games, and the other team won 42.9% of 56 one-run games. Isn’t it possible that that’s a statistically significant difference, attributable to more than just luck?

    Also, the whole point is that 162 games is considered a large sample size over the long term. Hence you can use it for predictive purposes.

  40. The point isn’t what’s occurred, it’s what’s occurred as it relates to what’s expected.

    If Team X won 162 games, all by a 1-run margin, would you say that team was good, or lucky? The fact is, winning 1-run games in general is lucky. A team that scores 162 more runs than it allows in a given season, you would expect to do very well, maybe a .600 WP, depending on the actual numbers.

    Even if you go to the very extreme, and suppose they win every game by a score of 2-1, that would only, based on run differential, expect an .800 WP, meaning that you would expect them to something like 130-32. Which means they still won 32 more games than expected, based on performance. That’s lucky.

  41. You said: The fact is, winning 1-run games in general is lucky.… and that a team that went 162-0, all by a 2-1 score, won 32 more games than expected, based on performance. That’s lucky.

    We disagree on that premise (as I noted above with my statistical significance point). And I don’t think that you’ve disproved the simpler explanation, which is that better teams will tend to win one-run games more often than poorer teams. Over the course of 162 games, which is a large sample size and the long term, luck balances out. When comparing the different records of two teams over a total of 324 games, the variables should even out and you should have a fair comparison, statistically. I don’t see the need for the more complicated formula, unless, possibly, to account for differences in strength of competition.

    What I propose to do is to use these long term, large samples, and say, for instance, that Team A is a 100-62 team. If they play another 162 games under the same conditions (which is impossible, but theoretically speaking assuming no (or similar) injuries or aging or fatigue), their record would be approximately 100-62, give or take a few standard deviations.

    When you compare the records of Team A to Team B (assuming all things equal, such as strength of competition), you should be able to come up with a probability of one team beating the other (for example, 0.55), and, if those teams played a million times, Team A would win 55% and Team B would win 45%.

    Since no two teams ever have the same exact schedule (and even if they do, the order in which they play teams can be a factor), this method would not be precise. But the concept is solid, and it can be tweaked and modified to take strength of schedule into account.

  42. and that a team that went 162-0, all by a 2-1 score, won 32 more games than expected, based on performance.

    Not exactly, and that’s phrased poorly, so I’m sorry.

    A team that scores 162 more runs than its opponents, over the course of 162 game season, you would expect to win a certain number of games. If it turns out that they won 162, all by one run, then that’s way out performing expectations. What explains that difference? Luck. Because the win expectancy takes into account the team’s performance. What explains the rest is good bounces, good BABIP….in other words…good luck.

  43. And the point of that is, if two teams score the same amount of runs, allow the same amount of runs, but Team A wins 100 games and Team B wins 90….do you really think Team A is 10 games better? If they played 162 times against each other, Team A would win 10 more times? Based on their performance, and luck (which you don’t expect to continue, because it’s arbitrary), you should expect them to split evenly. That’s the point I’m trying to make. Record doesn’t give you a full enough picture to make good predictions.

  44. Over 162 games, the good bounces and bad bounces balance out. If the team STILL won 162 games, then they really are a 162-win team. Because 162 games is a large sample over the long term.

    I’m sure that “win expectancy” and the other advanced statistics are based on good ideas, but I don’t see how anyone has disproved the simpler way.

    A team might have a great closer but bad middle relief, and win a lot of one-run games and lose a lot of five-run games. That team’s win expectancy might be low, but if they had a great record then that’s the team they are, no?

  45. By the way, even luck is predictable in its randomness. Over the long term, it will go for and against you an even number of times and at equally important moments, approximately. That’s why I think that 162-games is enough to show what a team really is.

    In a playoff series, the whole thing might be turned on its head because it’s too small a sample. But if you played a theoretical one-million playoff series, the outcome would follow according to the normal, predictable, probabilities.

  46. Of course, you realize that there’s a huge gap between the theoretical 1 million series and 162 games, right? You keep saying that a 162-game season is a large sample size, but I’m not sure if it’s large enough to equalize all the different variables. Hence a team like the Rays, which can outperform itself for a full season.

  47. That the Rays lost in the World Series doesn’t prove that there wasn’t a probability that they would win. Yeah, that’s right. Three negatives in one sentence. Based on their record vs. the Phillies’ record, the probability probably leaned towards the Rays. But even if the probability was 0.55, or 0.6, that still leaves a 40% chance that they would lose. It’s not an anomaly that they lost, and doesn’t disprove the simple theory that records over 162 games are a good predictor of a team’s ability/future results.

  48. OK, let me weigh in with this thought first:

    As Noam sort of said, if the Rays were truly “better” wouldn’t their total run differential be wider than Toronto’s? Especially when you consider the fact that they played in fewer 1-run games than Toronto.

    The Rays had the second best 1-run record in the league (behind Milwaukee) with a .617 winning percentage.

    Some would call that skill – that they had the perseverence to hang on more than other teams. And that this success ultimately was one of the reasons why they made it to the playoffs.

    But I’d call it luck. Consider: in 2008, bad teams were more often “better” in 1-run games than good teams. Only 9 of the 17 teams that had winning records in 2008 were over .500 in 1-run games while 7 of the 13 teams with losing records were over .500 in such games. That should not be the case. Bad teams should be under .500 more often than good teams.

    So this tells me that it’s a function of luck more than anything. Would you argue that the Rays were better than the Red Sox (22-23) or the Cubs (24-22)? Or that the Giants (.596 winning percentage despite having a 72-90 record) were as good as the Rays?

    The Rays benefitted from a weakened Yankee team (offense way down) and unlucky Toronto and Boston teams to win the AL East. It’s that simple. If it happens again, it will be because the team will have added another bat and its young players will have matured. The current squad, simulated as many times as you want, should not have been as lucky as they were given their performance.

  49. “A team might have a great closer but bad middle relief, and win a lot of one-run games and lose a lot of five-run games. That team’s win expectancy might be low, but if they had a great record then that’s the team they are, no?”

    The Blue Jays had one of the best bullpens in baseball last season (if not the best). Lowest ERA, OPS, and WHIP. 2nd lowest # of blown saves, save conversion percentage, and batting average against.

    Tampa, by the way, had probably the second best bullpen, so go figure.

    “Based on their record vs. the Phillies’ record, the probability probably leaned towards the Rays. But even if the probability was 0.55, or 0.6, that still leaves a 40% chance that they would lose. It’s not an anomaly that they lost, and doesn’t disprove the simple theory that records over 162 games are a good predictor of a team’s ability/future results”

    You did a couple of things wrong here, I think:

    a) You placed way too much emphasis in the wins and losses of the record, without any regard to whom those wins and losses were against. Right off the bat, I would argue that having to play against the Jays/Yankees/Red Sox 54 times is a lot more difficult than having to play the Marlins and the Nationals 38 times.

    b) You completely ignored how the Rays achieved their record. You assumed that the runs were dispersed properly throughout the 162 games and therefore, the Rays 97-wins was indicative of their strength as a franchise. I would disagree with this notion.

  50. I’m not sure how I’d explain the difference in records from last season. It could be an aberration.

    I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know a lot about these advanced statistics. But from what I understand about win expectancy, as Noyam put it, is that there’s a direct correlation between how many runs you score and how many runs you give up, on the one hand, and how good a team you are, on the other hand. I think I understand the concept behind it – the goal of baseball is to score runs and to prevent the other team from scoring runs. But this statistic might also be misleading, since teams play differently based on different situations. (And please correct me if I’m misunderstanding this to any critical degree.) For example, a team might designate a certain relief pitcher to come into games when the team is losing. This pitcher might be very bad, and turn close losses into blowouts. The team would not rely on him to pitch in games in which it’s winning. On the other hand, the team will have a closer to preserve close wins. A team might remove a powerful offensive weapon in favor of a defensive replacement (which would tend to keep the score close and make it less likely that the team would turn close wins into blowout wins). Each of these decisions might make a team very tough to beat, but their run differential might show a different story.

    In today’s specialist-driven game, the scenario above seems likely to me.

    “The current squad, simulated as many times as you want, should not have been as lucky as they were given their performance.”

    I might be misinterpreting that sentence. If they were unusually lucky, then doesn’t that lend itself to idea that it was probably not luck but something more statistically significant?

    Also, regarding the numbers that I threw out regarding probability of the Rays beating the Phillies, those were totally made up for example/discussion purposes only. I agree that there’s no accuracy to them whatsoever.

  51. Where we fundamentally disagree is in your assessment that “teams play differently based on different situations.”

    There’s definitely a big emotional element involved in the game. Players are likely motivated to play harder when the games are close or meaningful relative to when they aren’t close or meaningful. I think that, to some extent, this is diminished by a player’s desire to get as huge a contract as possible (aka the A.J. Burnett syndrome) but I can generally buy what you are saying. Though the problem you run into is how you define a situation to be meaningful. If a team is 5 games out on September 1st, have they given up? If a team is three runs down in the bottom of the ninth, will they not try to come back?

    But because the Jays had: a strong run differential, the best pitching in the league, and a high number of really close games, logic would dictate that either they lost some games REALLY badly or more often than not, the players on the team were strongly motivated to play their hardest from start to finish. This runs against your premise.

    Further, your example of the team designating a mop-up reliever didn’t really make much sense to me since I think you misstated it. If a team is towards the end of a game in which they’re losing “closely”, why would they put in the mop-up reliever?

    But I think I see your point. And there’s actually a stat that’s used that accounts for this. It’s called the leverage index (see the hardball times for a description) and it says how often a certain pitcher is used in high and low leverage situations. Closers obviously have a much higher leverage index value than mop-up long-relievers. I’m too lazy to go look at how often the Jays (the best example of a winning team that underperformed their expected win-loss record) had low-leverage relievers in games relative to higher-leverage relievers. But I would imagine that because they played in a greater-than-average number of 1-run games, this number should be below-average.

    “I might be misinterpreting that sentence. If they were unusually lucky, then doesn’t that lend itself to idea that it was probably not luck but something more statistically significant?”

    No, it just means that they were unusually lucky, especially compared with other teams that had a similar run differential, like the Jays.

    The Angels were even luckier, but not as lucky as the ’07 D-Backs, who won 90 games despite giving up more runs than they scored.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s