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.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

 

Happy Opening Day

A belated Happy Opening Day to you all. I've spent much of the past 48 hours half-watching games while I worked against my deadlines, a less-than-entirely satisfying endeavor offset by the fact that at least I was watching real baseball. Sunday night's Braves-Phillies contest, Monday's Mets-Reds, Yankees-Orioles and Dodgers-Padres tilts offered their novelties (touted Braves phenom Jordan Schafer homering in his first major league at-bat, CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira in pinstripes, a Cesar Izturus home run, Manny Ramirez with even longer dreadlocks, and the Reds' diminutive hurler Danny Herrera, who's listed as 5'7" but looks "barely bigger than a roasting chicken," as my BP colleague John Perrotto quipped) and familiar pleasures (Derek Lowe putting up zeroes, Johan Santana working out of jams, Michael Kay's exaggerated home run calls, Vin Scully smooth like butter).

At Baseball Prospectus we've got the staff picks of a dozen contributors, myself included. Here are mine:
AL Standings

AL East AL Central AL West
Rays Indians Angels
Yankees * Tigers Athletics
Red Sox White Sox Rangers
Orioles Twins Mariners
Blue Jays Royals

AL MVP
1. Evan Longoria
2. Mark Teixeira
3. Dustin Pedroia

AL Cy Young
1. CC Sabathia
2. Zack Greinke
3. John Danks

AL RotY
1. Matt Wieters
2. David Price
3. Rick Porcello

NL Standings

NL East NL Central NL West
Mets Cubs Dodgers
Braves * Brewers Diamondbacks
Phillies Reds Rockies
Marlins Cardinals Giants
Nationals Pirates Padres
Astros
NL MVP
1. Albert Pujols
2. Manny Ramirez
3. Hanley Ramirez

NL Cy Young
1. Tim Lincecum
2. Brandon Webb
3. Chad Billingsley

NL RotY
1. Cameron Maybin
2. Colby Rasmus
3. Jordan Schafer
Interestingly enough, the staff consensus is that it will be the Rays left on the outside looking in come October as far as the AL East is concerned; I was one of only two ballots out of 12 that predicted them for first place.

Also up at BP yesterday was the always-controversial preseason version of the Prospectus Hit List, derived from our PECOTA Projected Standings. The Yankees top the list, while the Dodgers rank fifth and the Brewers 12th:
1. Yankees (99-63, .606 Hit List Factor, 800 Runs Scored/635 Runs Allowed)
A $441 million spending spree brought the Yankees the winter's biggest haul, but their self-loving $300 million slugger—a former steroid user, in case you hadn't heard—starts the year on the DL as the team moves into its charmless $1.3 million new ballpark, the House That Ruthlessness Built. This is the third consecutive year the Yanks top the preseason Hit List, but money guarantees nothing in the top-heavy AL East.

5. Dodgers (93-69, .568, 820/710)
Fresh off their first NLCS appearance in 20 years, the Dodgers pared payroll significantly while raising expectations as the spring has progressed. Since our initial PECOTA-driven projections, the NL West race has swung 12 games, thanks largely to the signings of Orlando Hudson and Manny Ramirez. The offense projects to have the league's second-best OBP, not to mention fewer corners for Joe Torre to back himself into, while young studs Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw and Jonathan Broxton forecast to be part of the league's top run prevention unit.

12. Brewers (83-79, .515, 778/754)
After tasting Oktoberfest suds for the first time in 26 years, the Brewers kept their mugs on the table as CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets departed. Yovani Gallardo should help offset that loss, though he'll be capped around 150 innings, and Braden Looper, their most prominent offseason acquisition(!), is nobody to pick up that slack. Nonetheless, with six productive regulars between ages 25 and 29, the Crew retain a respectable outside shot at the Wild Card if not the division.
Both articles are free, and there's plenty to argue with, as usual. But it's also worth remembering that our PECOTA-based system tops the field in accuracy as far as these things go. It's had the smallest average error (RSME) in three of the past four years (barely missing in the fourth) and over every multi-year range since 2005. As you can see from comparing my predictions to the Hit List, I don't necessarily believe that every single placement on the list is as accurate as the next, but -- for those who need a late pass on this topic -- what's presented on the list is what's being produced by our complicated formulas and systems, without any manual intervention; where I differ significantly is noted in the accompanying analysis. We at BP are not hive-minded robots; we're allowed to think critically about what our tools are telling us and to bring more information to the table than what even our most sophisticated models can incorporate. As my guru, Homer Simpson, would say, "Blame me if you must, but don't ever speak ill of the program!"

So what I'd really like to see is the snippy critics of the Phillies', Marlins' and Rangers' rankings -- a few teams whose fan bases have been especially vocal of their placements -- step up to the plate and lay down their own predictions so we can compare notes in October. How many games are those teams going to win, and where are the corresponding losses going to come from? Which Rangers' starters are going to break a 5.00 ERA in a significant number of innings so the team can avoid allowing 900 runs, punk? Inquiring minds want to know.

• • •

Over at Field of Schemes, Neil deMause has an excellent roundup of several first impressions of the new Yankee Stadium, both from professionals (the Post's Joel Sherman: "a fake place designed to manipulate my emotions and get into my wallet") and bloggers (New Stadium Insider: "The Grandstand evokes memories of Shea Stadium - don't count on a baseball, fair or foul, ever reaching there"). Generally negative, with the exception of Lisa Olson's ecstatic take on the cupholders. WTF?

Hearty congratulations to Cardboard Gods' Josh Wilker, the man who unlocks existential secrets from the shoeboxes full of old baseball cards which clutter his mind. According to this New York Times piece, he recently got a well-deserved contract to write a literary memoir. Count me in for a copy.

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