Closer by Committee

31 03 2011

Closer by committee, a highly used term, is a terrible misnomer.  I get that people people like alliteration, but an actual closer by committee would have to involve 3-15 pitchers standing on the mound at the same time, using Robert’s Rules of Order to determine which pitch to throw.  The ninth inning would take hours to play, as committee members jostle for positioning, form coalitions, file motions, second motions, debate, vote on cloture, file amendments, debate amendments, file motions to limit debate on amendments, etc.

I think every team should go closer by committee.

Link of the Day (Month? Year? Bueller?)

30 12 2010

Derek Jeter’s New Contract

18 11 2010

Derek Jeter just signed a five 5-year, 450 million dollar contract extension with the Yankees, plus performance bonuses.  For each season Jeter fields at least fifteen ground balls, he earns an addition $20M.  If he reaches 50 hits in a season, he earns $1M, then an additional $1M for each hit beyond the 50th.  If selected by fans to appear in an all-star game, he earns $5B, plus another $5B if he plays in the all-star game.  If the Yankees make the playoffs, Jeter becomes owner of the Yankees, and also becomes owner of any team the Yankees defeat in the playoffs.  And if the Yankees win the World Series, Jeter becomes President of Earth.

When reached for comment, Yankees fans said, in unison, “It’s Derek Jeter.  Pay him whatever he wants.”

Football Endgames

12 11 2010

Football coaches don’t think nearly enough about the amount of time they’re leaving on the clock when they score near the end of halves.  Time left on the clock is something they have a lot of control over.  And it has a considerable effect on the result of the game.  And yet, it seems like coaches bungle these decisions even more often than when deciding whether to go for it on 4th down.

For example, suppose a team trails by 5 with first and goal at their opponents’ 1-yard line and 0:50 left on the clock, their opponent having three timeouts.  Consider the result of three outcomes:

  1. The team scores a touchdown on first down, leaving their opponent 0:47 and three timeouts.
  2. The team scores a touchdown on second down, leaving their opponent 0:42 and two timeouts.
  3. The team scores a touchdown on third down, leaving their opponent 0:35 and one timeout.
  4. The team scores a touchdown on fourth down, leaving their opponent 0:30 and zero timeouts.
  5. The team turns the ball over.

For each of these scenarios, you can estimate the team’s expectation of winning, based on the skill of their defense and the opponent’s offense.  For scenario 5, their expectation is zero, or very close to zero.  For scenario 1, their expectation may be as low as 0.3.  For scenarios 3 and 4, their expectation will be much higher, even assuming their opponent’s ability to move the ball.

Any yet, you never see a team in this situation call a running play that’s designed not to score.  They always try to score immediately, then seem overjoyed when they hand the ball–and the game–back to their opponent.  While the specific example above may not happen often, the thinking applies any time a game is close at the end of a half.  Teams should be thinking both about how many points they’re trying to score, and how much time they’re leaving on the clock, as both are significant determinants of the final score of the game

I can think of explanation why coaches do this.  There’s the classic risk aversion argument used to explain coaches’ timidity on fourth down.  Furthermore, there’s a certain gamesmanship going on; it looks bad when a coach is looking the game and appears to be not trying hard to score.  Players themselves may resist the idea of running plays designed not to score points but rather to run off the clock.  But there are a lot of game swung by teams leaving their opponents too much time on the clock.

Identity of Hurricane Kawasaki Revealed

27 04 2010

I’ve written a fair bit about my mysterious fantasy teammate / co-manager Hurricane Kawasaki.  While I was careful to hide Hurricane’s true identity, it should now be obvious, based on statements made on this blog and off it, that Hurricane Kawasaki is indeed: Mr. Curt Schilling.

Drafts versus Auctions

27 04 2010

I haven’t played a ton of auction fantasy leagues, but my feeling is they’re a considerable improvement over the standard snake draft.  However, I suspect auctions would make for an even greater improvement to actual drafts.  (Hat tip: football outsiders)

What’s the toughest division in baseball? (continued)

19 04 2010

My co-manager Hurricane Kawasaki hit me over the head for my last post:

Based on that argument, you can argue that any pitcher coming up from the minors into the AL east would be facing an “easier” league and thus his poor performance should not be because he’s facing better hitters.

I’d like to clarify what I was trying to say, and how I think this analysis should be used.  Also, I think there was a key piece of information missing from the analysis.

For the analysis, I used baseballmonster‘s ease rankings to rate the difficulty of pitching in each division.  As Hurricane points out, the way ease rankings are calculated depends both on the quality of hitting in a league and the quality of pitching.  So if the AL East has the best hitters, but also has really good pitchers, it will appear as if it’s a pretty good division for pitchers, when really it’s a very tough division that happens to have some incredibly good pitchers.

In the post, I used the analysis to suggest that Javier Vazquez’s pitching performance shouldn’t be tied to his league change.  As Hurricane says by email, “Javy might have been the best pitcher in the NL east, but he’s at best the fifth best on his own team right now.”  My analysis was highly dubious.  Of course, I find Hurricane’s assessment that Vazquez is pitching on par with his AL track record to be equally dubious.  Vazquez’s ERA is currently 9.82.  His worst ERA over the course of a season in the AL is 4.91.  I think it’s perfectly fair to call that struggling.

The better application of this analysis is in thinking about where to find pitchers to add to your fantasy roster.  If the divisional ease ranking of the AL West and NL Central are favorable to pitchers, as I suggested last post, then there are presumably pitchers getting good results in those divisions.  Whether they’re getting good results because they’re strong pitchers or because they’re facing weak hitters is somewhat immaterial.  It’s not completely immaterial since there’s plenty of inter-divisional play, but it’s nonetheless valuable to know which divisions have weak hitting relative to their pitching.  That seems to be the case for the AL West and NL Central.

One question worth addressing, however, is how many starters are owned in each league?  The 10th best starter in the AL West might be more valuable than the 10th best starter in the NL West, but they may not both be available.  Who’s owned differs by league, but here’s the breakdown for mine:

  • AL West: 0.48 ease rating, 13 SPs owned.
  • NL Central: 0.42, 12 SPs owned.
  • AL East: 0.10, 18 SPs owned.
  • AL Central: -0.23, 14 SPs owned.
  • NL West: -0.37, 13 SPs owned.
  • NL East: -0.39 , 11 SPs owned.

(Note: injured players who haven’t yet pitched and relief pitchers who qualify as a starter are excluded from these counts.)

This information tells a different story.  The AL East has a more favorable ease rating for pitchers, but 18 starters are owned, far more than any other division.  This suggests that the starting pitching is indeed stronger in the AL East, skewing the ease rating.  If you’re looking for a spot start, chances are the 15th best starter in the AL Central, or the 12th best in the NL East is a better bet than the 19nd best starter in the AL East.

This analysis probably needs some further hammering out, but I’d nonetheless look to the AL West and NL Central as the best divisions for pitchers.