Archive for the ‘Playoffs?’ Category

moraplayoffs

Have at it…

gibbers

Don Mattingly was nearly fired in the middle of this season. John Farrell showed precisely zero magic while leading his un-bearded charges in Toronto for two years. Jim Leyland and Mike Matheny are two of the most absurdly old-school managers, tactically, in the game. Yet these are the managers who… er… managed to get their teams into baseball’s final four this season. It sort of flies in the face of all kinds of things, doesn’t it? Turns out magic is bullshit. Pulling teams to victory by strength of will is bullshit. Winning before the gift of Yasiel Puig is bullshit. Tactical perfection is bullshit.

It’s all kind of bullshit, isn’t it? And yet, through the sheer force of lazy metaphor, baseball managers are “generals” who “take” a team to the playoffs, or “take” the previous year’s version of a team to some kind of new strata of achievement.

Dumb, huh?

Of course, it’s not entirely bullshit. Those of us interested in data and the scientific method and tangible understanding and the quantification of as many aspects of the game as possible– i.e. those of us who’d rather think like those in the game’s front offices, as opposed to those willing to accept laughable spoon-fed legacy narratives– often get accused of not believing in things that can’t be quantified, but that’s hardly the case. Yes, the endgame of many advanced statistical pursuits is assigning appropriate value to something, and that does tend to marginalize some of the more abstract, or superstitious, notions about how the game works, but that doesn’t mean anybody thinks we’ve boiled down a manager’s potential impact to its bare essence. On the other hand, though– on the side of those who need to open their bloody minds to their thorough, hilarious lack of understanding of how it can all possibly work– when assessing a manager’s impact, in addition to questioning that which we know we don’t know, we all probably need to think a little bit more about what we think we do know.

Sorry to get all Dick Cheney Donald Rumsfeld on you there. What I mean is, not only is it important to ask questions about the absurdities–  like about Farrell’s sudden gain of managerial magic, or how it’s possible that tactically inept managers can manage to “lead” their teams so deeply into the postseason– but some of things that we take too easily for granted.

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rajaicelebrates

Jacoby Ellsbury, who starts tonight in centre for the damn Red Sox as the World Series begins, came to the plate 636 times in the regular season this year, and led the Majors in stolen bases with 52 of them. The man with the second-most steals in the American League? Rajai Davis, who came to the plate just 360 times. In fact, had it not been for Eric Young of the Mets swiping two bases on the final day of the season, Davis would have been second in all of baseball in steals.

That’s pretty seriously impressive, as is the fact that he also ranked second in baseball– again behind Ellsbury– in FanGraphs’ base running component of WAR, which combines their Ultimate Base Running metric with Weighted Stolen Base Runs, and that he was caught just six times in stealing his 45 bases, for a success rate over 88%.

Imagine what that would look like over the course of a full season’s worth of at-bats, right?

Pretty ugly, actually. Or… the base running stuff would still be elite, but everything else? Yeesh. Yes, if Davis gets his wish this winter some team is going to find out that… hoo boy… is he ever a platoon player.

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moraplayoffs

Have at it…

janssenTX

Tonight:
8:00 PM ET – Boston (2) vs. Detroit (2) – Jon Lester (3.0 rWAR) vs. Anibal Sanchez (6.3 rWAR)
Get news updates on the game as they happen, and whatever else fun comes along the way, by downloading theScore app for free on your moblie device!

Casey Janssen, if you look at the overall numbers, had his third straight tremendous year in 2013. An ERA of 2.56, a WHIP below 1.00, 34 saves compared to just two blown (if you’re into that sort of thing), and using FanGraphs’ WPA-based metric, 36 shut downs compared to just six meltdowns.

By every standard, he’s been terrific. Over the last three years, by FanGraphs’ ERA- stat, his mark of 59 in the top ten in all of baseball among pitchers with more than 150 innings. That’s just a shade ahead of Clayton Kershaw– which isn’t a great comparison, granted, given that Kershaw provides boatloads more value by pitching so many more innings, and has a much tougher task by having to turn lineups over multiple times… but still!

Among relievers, he’s comfortably among the elite ones by that metric, behind Kimbrel, Koji, David Robertson, Greg Holland, Sergio Romo and Brad Ziegler, and ahead of Aroldis Chapman, Mike Adams, Joe Smith, Kenley Jansen, and many, many others.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Janssen cementing himself as one of the top relievers in the game: many Jays fans, myself included, started having trouble believing what they were seeing.

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lawriethrowsPPTB

Today:
4:00 PM ET – Boston (1) vs. Detroit (1) – John Lackey (2.8 rWAR) vs. Justin Verlander (4.6 rWAR)
8:00 PM ET – St. Louis (2) vs. Los Angeles (1) – Lance Lynn (1.8 rWAR) vs. Ricky Nolasco (0.4 rWAR)
Get news updates on the game as they happen, and whatever else fun comes along the way, by downloading theScore app for free on your moblie device!

To say that Brett Lawrie’s 2013 was a tale of two halves somehow doesn’t even do it justice. There was certainly a point where it looked like that was going to be the case– much to our delight. Back in late August, we passed along a comment from a scout who had spoken to Baseball Prospectus and said, unequivocally, “I am comfortable saying that he is going to be a superstar third baseman, and it’s more likely to happen sooner than later.”

At that moment Lawrie was healthy for the first time in basically a calendar year. His swing was quieter, and he was finishing up his best month at the plate since he burst onto the scene in August of 2011.

Taken as a whole, the difference between his first- and second-half splits is encouraging, with the second-half ones being pretty close to what you’d expect of a player who missed Spring Training, rushed himself back into the lineup, went down with an ankle injury, and then came back as healthy as he’d been since the first half of 2012. In the second half of this season his walk rate ticked up by two percent over the first half, and his strikeout rate dropped by 12%, thanks largely to a month of August in which he made crazy contact, combining to walk and strikeout in just 12% of his plate appearances.

His second half slash line of .283/.346/.417 looks very nice for a third baseman who plays outstanding defence (despite not being nearly as well liked by the advanced metrics– perhaps because of the lack of shifting– in 2013 as compared to 2012), and still might have some additional home run power in his bat, considering that he’s still going to be just 23 years old for another three months.

But, while we really don’t want to put too much stock into a single month of data, his September wasn’t so hot, and it would be much easier to salivate over the possibilities of a Jays lineup fully healthy and running on all cylinders, with Lawrie fulfilling his supposed superstar potential, if not for it.

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reyeshighfive

Tonight:
8:00 PM ET – St. Louis (2) vs. Los Angeles (0) – Adam Wainwright (6.2 rWAR) vs. Hyun-jin Ryu (3.3 rWAR)
Get news updates on the game as they happen, and whatever else fun comes along the way, by downloading theScore app for free on your moblie device!

In a post last week at Sportsnet, Ben Nicholson-Smith wrote about the Jays’ evolving core of players, and mentioned the name of Jose Reyes. He went as far as openly wondering about how far the Jays could choose to go to reshape their core into a group more capable of winning, and quoted Alex Anthopoulos as saying that nobody on his team has a no-trade clause.

What he didn’t do, however, was suggest that the Jays will specifically consider trading Reyes this winter, except in as much as he said that they would, in general, consider trading anybody if it made the team better. But why should that stop the New York media for pining for their shortstop back?

Here’s Mets beat writer Howard Megdal, writing for Capital New York:

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