Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Revisiting FanGraphs WAR

Back in June, I posted something about the problems that I saw with team WAR about a third of the way through the baseball season. In that post, I said I'd revisit the WAR issue, seeing as how there was a relatively small sample size. Now that the season is really almost over, let's revisit that.

At the time of the last post, the line of best fit of the WAR-adjusted wins and real wins had a slop of about 0.4, quite far from the "ideal" 1. This is what that graph looks like now:

As we can see, the line of best fit has a slop of over 0.85, which is essentially as close to perfect as one can expect. This makes me feel better. However, there are some major differences between the team WAR calculations in June and those today.

This time, the highest FanGraphs team WAR belongs to the Nationals at 2.0, and the lowest is the Cubs at 0.6. The essential definition, or perhaps goal, of WAR is to measure a player's value above a hypothetical "replacement" player. That replacement-level is defined as the level of players that, if an entire team consisted of such players, its winning percentage would be .294. So if we are to take that definition to heart and apply it to team WAR as it stands now on FanGraphs, no team would have more than 50 wins at this point by WAR. Obviously, team WAR is not measuring this, but I'm not sure what it's measuring. It's been adjusted somehow, but I'm not sure how. I've adjusted the WAR win totals to more closely reflect real wins so that they could be compared more easily apples-to-apples.

So as we can see, there are very few serious outliers at this point in the season, and the line of best fit more or less accurately reflects a pretty good approximation of wins as seen through the lens of WAR. But that team WAR certainly is not just a stat that adds up all the individual players' WAR throughout the season, so I'm not sure what it is exactly. Player WAR is still not clarified by this examination.

Next season, I'll be keeping an eye on this and digging deeper into these issues. For now, let's throw all these out the window and enjoy the randomness of 1, 5, and 7-game series.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Ray Rice and the Monolith

Ray Rice deserved this suspension in February. He got it Monday.

TMZ's release of the Ray Rice footage had one crucial consequence: it turned a hypothetical into a definite. As many have pointed out, what was on the video didn't reveal anything we didn't already know. Janay Palmer entered the elevator conscious and was unceremoniously dragged out of it unconscious. Rice entered the elevator conscious and left it remorselessly shuttling his limp fiancee's body out. She switched from active to passive voice; He did not.

There really aren’t any extenuating circumstances to that story, there can't be. Ray Rice has been paid millions of dollars to take abuse from men nearly twice his size, to use his muscular and explosive body to elude them, even to dish out punishment to those giants and to do it well. Whether his fiancee provoked him or not, Rice’s reaction was unconscionable and sickening. He beat the ever-living shit out of her, and we knew this in February. (I could do without the pandering a man should never hit a woman angle. Maybe just don't assault people in general.) The tape was nothing but visceral confirmation and now Rice is out of a job, probably for a long time.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Ranking the Hours of the Day

24. 5 a.m. If you're up this late or this early you're going to be miserable.
23. 6 a.m. Same as 5 a.m. but a little more plausible.
22. 7 a.m. Waking up between 7:00-7:59 is pretty standard, but that's not a fun hour. The highlight is probably brushing your teeth.
21. 11 a.m. Damn man I be getting so hungry before lunch.
20. 8 a.m. You're most likely commuting this hour, not that much fun!
19. 3 p.m. Fuck, I've been here six hours and am so tired and not even close to done.
18. 4 a.m. One of the least utilized hours, most likely you're sleeping but if you're not it sucks.
17. 3 a.m. This is the hour of awful college kids have deep meaningful conversations in the dorm lounges.
16. 12 p.m. It's just starting to get hot, sports haven't started yet, and if you're doing it right you are starving and waiting another whole fucking hour for lunch.
15. 2 a.m. You're either in that solid REM sleep or not quite sure why you've been watching shitty TV for the past 4 hours and mad at how tired you're going to be tomorrow.
14. 10 a.m. Actual working has commenced, you've got hours to go before you lunch, and the good articles haven't come on the internets yet.
13. 9 a.m. An overall decent hour. You're probably enjoying that nice snooze on the weekend and during the week you're getting into work which means time to hit up gchat and not work for at least your first hour.
12. 6 p.m. Huge inconsistency with 6 p.m. Could mean you're working out or starting happy hour or it could mean you're realizing how late you're going to be stuck at work and cancelling your plans.
11. 4 p.m. Afternoon sports are ending which is nice, but in the winter you're saying goodbye to the sun and getting all sad.
10. 2 p.m. You're up, you've got energy, there's still some sun. Not too shabby.
9. 1 a.m. Pretty late, you're probably sleepy, but some cool stuff could be going down to keep you up this late.
8. 11 p.m. The hour of Seinfeld reruns. Not a bad hour. Solidly above average with decent upside potential.
7. 8 p.m. The dinner hour is pretty solid, but you're probably going to have to do dishes too. Minus points for not having good TV yet.
6. 12 a.m. You're finally getting into that good good sleep, hit that REM cycle like whoa.
5. 5 p.m. Hopefully you're getting off work and free. Minus points for it being an hour for commuting.
4. 7 p.m. Sports and jeopardy start this hour. Pretty solid hour imo.
3. 1 p.m. The lunching hour means you don't have to work. Bonus points for it being the starting time for afternoon sports.
2. 9 p.m. Good TV on, night events starting, drinking likely beginning on the weekend.
1. 10 p.m. Still got energy, good shit is on TV, sports games are ending, good stuff all around.

NFL and Roger Goodell: Idiots who are Full of Shit

The video of Ray Rice knocking out his fiancee in an elevator, something we already knew happened, was released a few days ago. The NFL and the Baltimore Ravens came down hard on Ray Rice. There's a lot of talk out there about how there must have been a cover-up and how the NFL must have seen the tape before. This piece by Deadspin's Drew Magary makes a pretty strong hypothetical case for why the NFL must have seen the tape before a couple of days ago. Drew's last bullet point, however, is causing me the most confusion: we didn't need the tape to know what happened.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Baseball's Dumbest Rule

Just a friendly reminder that starting tomorrow, September 1, baseball rosters will expand from 25 to 40 players. Why would the rules about how many people you can have change for the last 20% of the season? It's unclear. In theory, the fact that minor league seasons typically end around September gives teams an opportunity to keep their best minor leaguers fresh until the big league season ends. That's cute and all and some shitty teams certainly take advantage of the opportunity to see what guys can do. Mike Trout certainly benefited from a month of at bats in 2011 before he became Mike Trout in 2012.

However, you don't just fucking change the rules for the last month when playoff spots are being finalized. Smart teams will use the additional 15 players (that's almost an entire other team!!!!!) to get tons of little advantages. Teams can bring up the all glove double A player and use him only in the field without worrying about running out of players. Speedy pinch runners can steal a crucial base winning just one more game for their team. Imagine if football teams could use 80 players on gamedays in December instead of 46. You'd never risk a player like Rob Gronkowski getting hurt on an extra point, you'd use the 7th string tight end. Don't worry though, this rule goes away in the playoffs, where the you know normal fucking 25 players are required. Also, weirdly, players who start with a team after September 1 cannot play on the postseason roster. So these callups will only screw up things in the playoffs before they are ineligible for the playoffs and the rosters go back to 25.

This is baseball's dumbest rule and now that old-man farter Bud Selig is going, new commissioner Rob Manfred (jesus that's a fake sounding awful name) needs to fix the roster size.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Rules for ReTWOling

Two years ago, the Red Sox were among the worst teams in baseball. They traded away all their awful contracts in August of that year. Then they were the best team in baseball. And now, after all the injuries and disappointments that could have happened this year are now happening (along with the loss of Jacoby Ellsbury), the Red Sox are back to being bad and trading everybody. They're looking to next year again, for the second time in three years.*

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Yankees, Stephen Drew, and Shortstopping in Jeter's America

In the Red Sox trade deadline bonanza that ultimately saw four of last year's World Series-winning starters get traded (all in at least arguably good deals, especially Lackey), a lesser trade occurred, the first between the Yankees and Red Sox since 1997. The struggling Stephen Drew was dealt for the declining yet cheap Kelly Johnson. Stephen Oris Drew, he of .176/.255/.328 slash line in 39 games this year with the Red Sox, was headed to New York. With the Yankees' recent acquisitions of Chase Headley to play third and the suddenly overpaid Martin Prado to play whatever position they needed (including 2nd base), it seemed as though Stephen Drew would fit nicely on the Yankees' bench. However, what the Yankees are actually doing with Stephen Drew is pretty crazy when you think about it for more than two seconds: he's their everyday second baseman.

To clarify, this is not crazy because Stephen Drew is having a terrible year at the plate and should not be an everyday player. Drew missed spring training and the beginning of the season while waiting for a contract offer, and his struggles against players in midseason form aren't overly surprising. He's likely to bounce back, and has always been a productive player at the plate, and also in the field.

And that second part is what makes the Yankees' new arrangement crazy. Stephen Drew has never played another position besides shortstop in his Major League career. Another player on the Yankees can also make that claim, and he happens to be in his retirement tour with the Yankees struggling to stay in the playoff race. That other guy, #2, also happens to be one of the worst defensive shortstops in baseball.