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Conflicts April 14, 2014

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You’re trying not to smile, aren’t you?

– My wife on Saturday morning

Although the Dodgers are currently my favorite California team, it’s tough – I’m a huge Angels fan. It all started in 2004, when Josh Paul forgot to tag A.J. Pierzynski …. but I prattle on. Suffice to say, I was a terrible Mets fan this weekend.

Bartolo Colon took one for the team yesterday, going 5 innings but allowing nine earned runs (four of them home runs). After two extra-inning games, it was nice to get some length out of Colon, even if it will destroy his stats for the rest of the month. Although this would have been an excellent time to allow professional pinch hitter Ike Davis to show off the stuff that made him Arizona State’s closer, Terry Collins opted to allow Scott Rice, Jeurys Familia, and John Lannan each toss an inning. Familia was a bright spot, since he doesn’t seem to be taking his loss on Saturday too hard.

I was really pleased to see Lannan used as a potential long man on Saturday night. Although both Lannan and Rice pitched in the night game Saturday and the day game Sunday, Rice had been used in the left-handed specialist role before being asked to eat up an inning on Sunday. Lannan was finally used in extra innings as a second starter; he ended up only needing to go two innings, but I’m sure Terry was glad to have a sixth starter on the bench for his second straight extra-innings game. Gonzalez Germen is also doing some excellent work these days. Hopefully we won’t be on the hook for Kyle Farnsworth in the setup role for too much longer. I’m not sure what kept the Professor out of the high-leverage game on Saturday night – I’m glad, don’t get me wrong, but he had only tossed a third of an inning the night before, and Terry seems to think he’s useful.

Jose Valverde finally blew a save. It’s been almost a year since he did – he blew three saves in 2013 for Detroit, all within a one-month span starting on May 12th. Of course, June 12th was his last save opportunity.


Pujols is happy to be in the AL West. That’s where the Rangers are. August 2, 2012

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Albert Pujols hit two home runs in the Angels’ 11-10 extra-innings loss to the Rangers yesterday night. It was his first multi-homer game since, well, the Angels 6-2 win over the Rangers the previous night. Albert’s last multi-homer game was an October 22 win over… yep, the Rangers.

Although he’s dragging a bit in comparison to previous years (currently hitting .049 home runs per plate appearance, as opposed to last year’s .057 and 2010’s .06), there’s an argument to be made that he’s the victim of bad luck. For example, the league’s batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is .292, and Pujols’ is a full .016 below that at .276. In his 401 at-bats, that’s about 6 hits that average defense wouldn’t have fielded. Mike Trout, on the other hand, is up at a BABIP of .400. That’s about 36 hits on his 333 at-bats that are above his expectation if he had the league’s average BABIP. This is emphatically not to say that Trout’s season is a fluke, or that Pujols’ is, but sometimes the human element of the game has odd results.

Complete Game Shutout… PSYCH! May 30, 2011

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Jered Weaver pitched a brilliant game Saturday night for the Angels against the Twins. He’s had a strange opening to the season, starting with six straight wins and then beginning May with four straight losses followed by a no-decision. Saturday, on four days rest, he pitched nine scoreless innings with 2 hits, 0 runs, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts, no hit batsmen, a Game Score of 88, and a career-high 128 pitches. It’s a good thing he grabbed another win… wait, no he didn’t. The game went into extra innings, the Angels lost, and Weaver walked off the mound with a no decision.

Put another way, if anyone had managed to hit a home run, or if Hank Conger had singled instead of popping fly to third in the eighth, Weaver would have a two-hit complete game shutout, and we’d be talking about how he still had it. Instead, he gets a no decision, and the Angels lost the game.

That doesn’t happen a whole lot, but it does happen enough to take notice. For example, on May 12, a 2-1 win for the Orioles over the Mariners was 0-0 into the 12th. So, both the Mariners’ Jason Vargas (9 IP, 7 H, 0 R, o ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 76 GSc) and the Orioles’ Zach Britton (9 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 86 GSc) left with complete game shutouts that weren’t.

Similarly, last year, on July 10, Roy Halladay was outpitched by the Reds’ Travis Wood in an 11-inning 1-run loss. Wood managed a game score of 93 on one hit, no walks, and 8 strikeouts, whereas Halladay had a paltry 85 on 5 hits, 1 walk and 9 strikeouts. Neither man got the win, which went to Phillies reliever Jose Contreras.

June 15 Wins Above Expectation June 16, 2010

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Wins Above Expectation are a statistic determined using team wins and the Pythagorean expectation, which is in turn determined using runs scored by and against each team. The Pythagorean expectation is the proportion of runs scored squared to runs scored squared plus runs against squared. It’s interpreted as an expected winning percentage.

Wins Above Expectation (WAE) is then the difference between Wins and Expected Wins, which are simply the Pythagorean Expectation multiplied by Games played. It’s a useful measure because it can be interpreted as wins that are due to efficiency (in economic terms) or, more simply, play that’s some combination of smart, clutch, and non-wasteful. It rewards winning close games and penalizes teams that win lots of laughers but lose close games, since the big wins predict more games will be won when all those runs are spent winning only one game.

Using Baseball-Reference.com, I crunched the numbers for AL teams up to June 15. As usual, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim lead the league in WAE with 3.68, with Detroit’s 2.39 a close second,  but the Tampa Bay Rays are a surprising last with -1.96 WAE. Obviously, this early in the season it’s too soon to conclude anything based on this, but the complete data is behind the cut. (more…)

Three Catchers, Four Starters, and Other Playoff Thoughts October 26, 2009

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Last night, the LA Angels lost Game 6 of the 2009 ALCS to the New York Yankees. Mike Scioscia started left-handed pitcher Joe Saunders; he carries, as is becoming the norm, three catchers including light-hitting third catcher Bobby Wilson. Joe Girardi also carries three catchers, although his array includes defensive specialist Jose Molina, sometime-DH Jorge Posada, and Francisco Cervelli, who hit .298 in 94 at-bats this season. Though Mike Napoli was hot during the postseason, Scioscia’s group of catchers wasn’t as specialized as it was in 2005, when he carried big-hitter Bengie Molina, Jose Molina for his glove, and Josh Paul for emergencies. Here, he appeared to be carrying three catchers solely because none of them are big hitters. In retrospect, although Napoli and Mathis are both a big part of the Angels clubhouse, Scioscia should have made a move during the regular season to replace one of them with a catcher who was more of the Bengie Molina or Jorge Posada mold – someone whose glove or arm is slightly defective, but who can hit the ball when necessary. Instead, Scioscia was forced to burn two pinch hitters and a second catcher in his attempt to win the game last night, whereas Girardi has in previous games been able to use the traditional approach of starting Molina and using Posada to pinch hit, or starting Posada and using Molina as a defensive replacement late in the game. In a perfect world, Scoscia could have traded Kendry Morales away and acquired Victor Martinez to use mainly at first base and as an emergency third catcher, replacing Wilson’s more or less dead weight with a big bat but not forgoing any real utility.

In addition, Scioscia started Joe Saunders. This isn’t a crime in and of itself. However, in the ALCS, he started John Lackey, Saunders, Jered Weaver, and Scott Kazmir. Girardi, meanwhile, is using Joe Torre’s time-honored trick of carrying only three starters (CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, and AJ Burnett) and using traditional long-relief men like Dan Robertson in addition to standard situational relief like Joba Chamberlain, Damaso Marte, and Mariano Rivera. In Game 6, Saunders went only 3.1 innings. Weaver performed well in relief and, frankly, should have been left there for the duration of the series. Instead, Scioscia spread his men too thin and was left making an all-hands-on-deck call in the late games where he used both Weaver and Kazmir in relief. Saunders pitched brilliantly in Game 2, and Scioscia should have been prepared to maximize his usage of Lackey, Saunders, and Kazmir while leaving Weaver in the bullpen. Granted, Saunders pitched like crap last night, but all pitchers have their off nights.

Finally, Girardi will probably do quite well in the World Series, as he’s experienced in managing under National League rules. Hideki Matsui, with his legs in bad shape, will be almost entirely useless in the Phillies’ park. In a perfect world, Girardi would be able to dump fifth-outfielder Freddy Guzman and use Matsui in the field. However, that seems unlikely, so Matsui will remain an overpaid pinch-hitter. With Jerry Hairston, Jr., on the bench, Guzman’s utility as a pinch runner is moderate at best. It would be a gutsy move, but I think Girardi would do best to dump Guzman and bring Shelley Duncan in as a pinch hitter and emergency outfielder.

Still, Girardi gets paid the big bucks to do his job, so I’m sure every move he makes is well-considered.

Wins Above Expectation (with a side of run differential) September 1, 2008

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In continuing my thoughts about the Pythagorean Expectation from about a week ago, I took a look at the MLB standings for the period ending August 31, 2008. I played with the stats a little bit, since I haven’t really thought through the basis for most of them.

Today’s project: find Pythagorean expectations for each team, then find the difference between the actual and expected win percentages (“pythagorean difference”). Apply the pythagorean difference to the total number of games played to determine a team’s Wins Above Expectation by multiplying the total number of games by the pythagorean difference.

Practical application: none.

Discussion and numbers behind the cut.