The Futility Infielder

A Baseball Journal by Jay Jaffe I'm a baseball fan living in New York City. In between long tirades about the New York Yankees and the national pastime in general, I'm a graphic designer.

Thursday, November 01, 2007


Getting PADE and Other Notes

Just clearing my clipboard:

• This week's installment of Prospectus Hit and Run just went up. In it, I note that the 2007 Red Sox are in very fine company in terms of post division-play teams that went on to win the World Series after conclusively proving themselves as the best teams of the majors in terms of run differential, Pythagorean record, and/or Hit List ranking -- and went went on to win the World Series. It's a short list, just nine or 10 teams long (depending on which of those criteria you use) and it includes some true powerhouses: 1970 Orioles, 1975 Reds, 1978 Yankees, 1981 Dodgers, 1984 Tigers, 1986 Mets, 1989 A's, 1998 Yankees, 2002 Angels, and now the 2007 Red Sox. Not too shabby.

Elsewhere in the piece, I revisit James Click's work on Park-Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, providing 2007 numbers which were retro-engineered by our data department, since Click himself now has better things to do as the Coordinator of Baseball Operations for the Devil Rays. The Defensive Efficiency metric, a Bill James creation, tells you how often a team converts a ball in play into an out; it's the flip side of the Batting Average on Balls In Play coin, though it also incorporates the number of times an opposing team Reaches On Error. Like everything else in baseball, it's subject to distortions by park, since some fields are easier to defend than others based on symmetry, fence distances, the amount of foul ground, and the playing surface itself. And like just about everything else in baseball which we can measure, it can be adjusted to remove some of that distorting effect.

Factoring in the park adjustments and cutting through a lot of interesting details which shall remain behind the subscription wall, here are the revised Defensive Efficiencies based on a formula where DE = [1 - (H + ROE - HR) / (PA - BB - SO - HBP - HR)]:
Team    ADE
BOS .7093
COL .7083
CHN .7052
SFN .6983
NYN .6976
ARI .6954
TOR .6949
ATL .6948
DET .6928
SDN .6898
PHI .6882
NYA .6874
CLE .6873
WAS .6870
SLN .6845
OAK .6840
KCA .6840
BAL .6826
CHA .6823
LAN .6823
HOU .6794
MIN .6776
ANA .6765
TEX .6751
CIN .6726
PIT .6720
SEA .6666
MIL .6636
FLO .6607
TBA .6484
Note that the two leaders were the teams that squared off in the World Series, that most of the top 10 were contenders, and that the Brewers are very conspicuously near the bottom, having watched their NL Central hopes slip away one ground ball through their porous defense at a time.

One other thing to note regarding this is that Click's finding that teams consistently play better defense at home than on the road (the park factors average out to 1.0089, in line with recent data) jibes very well with my Chien-Ming Wang-related finding regarding the homefield BABIP advantage enjoyed by pitchers.

• Alex Belth and the Bronx Banter community have a provocative discussion going regarding Josh Levin's Slate critique of Sports Illustrated magazine. Belth himself is a guy who works particularly well in longer-form pieces -- he's got a very readable book about Curt Flood, Stepping Out under his belt -- and while he's broken through on, he can't buy a page in the magazine because they've moved away from the kind of literate, long-form pieces that used to be the magazine's hallmark. The web, blogs, the instant news cycle, corporate takeovers of print media... it's all in the discussion.

• Chatting with Neil deMause on IM last night about Joe Torre reminded me of a classic Peanuts strip, one that I clipped out of the newspaper back in December 1999, less than a week before Charles Schultz's retirement and about six weeks before his death. The next summer, I found out amid a Baseball Hall of Fame retrospective on Schultz that it was his last baseball-themed strip ever. In light of the news about Torre possibly taking the Dodger job, it seems fitting to run this:

I'm walking on eggshells until Torre's deal with the Dodgers is done. Having seen the way Ned "Stupid Flanders" Colletti operates, I'm not taking anything for granted.

• Speaking of Stupid Flanders, Nate Silver had some scathing words to say about the Dodger GM:
There is no bigger disconnect in baseball between the Dodgers’ ability to develop talent and the front office’s lack of appreciation for that talent. Matt Kemp is someone that they should be thrilled to have in their lineup for the next six years. Andy LaRoche’s time is now. So is Chin-Lung Hu’s, and the Dodgers should consider trading Rafael Furcal to make way for him.

Instead, all rumors are that Ned Colletti’s compass is pointed in the opposite direction. What I envision happening is something like the following: Kemp or LaRoche are included in a deal for a premium starting pitcher. And then -– guess what -– you do have a hole at left or third, and you do need to work the free agent market to repair it. But it isn’t a hole that existed before; it’s one that you’ve created yourself. The behavior is literally almost pathological, a kind of Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome: Colletti seems determined to make the Dodgers sick so that he can make them well again. Playing the kids-–these talented kids from your farm system that embody everything that used to be called the Dodger Way -– well, that’s just too darn obvious.
The Dodger front office is a drunk with a loaded gun and bad aim. I wouldn't weep a bit if Colletti is the next domino to fall after he wraps up the Torre contract.

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