Thursday, November 17, 2005


I'm not the biggest proponent of the "Moneyball" statistics geek trend but I do find some technical advancements in baseball as a welcome addition. Nate Silver's "Pecota" system is an intriguing piece of wizardry that should help front offices figure out which to players to sign and ignore.

The New York Times column, "Keeping Score" highlighted Pecota on Nov 13.

Pecota was developed four summers ago by Nate Silver, a 24-year-old Chicago financial consultant. "In some ways it was boredom," Silver said. "If I had a spreadsheet on my computer, it looked like I was busy." (Its official name, Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm, joyfully boils down to the last name of Bill Pecota, a former major league utilityman.) The projections are anticipated enough among some executives that Silver has received e-mail messages saying, "Hey, are the Pecotas done yet?"

Though the system naturally cannot predict all player fluctuations, it succeeds more than most. Last winter, it identified Jonny Gomes, a relatively unknown Tampa Bay Devil Rays outfielder, as having an excellent chance at significant improvement. Gomes hit .282 with 21 home runs in just 101 games. It also foresaw even greater production from established players like Andruw Jones, Derrek Lee and Dontrelle Willis.

Pecota helps quantify the danger of long-term pitching investments, and points out which types of arms tend to project best. The strongest indicators of future performance are rates of strikeouts, walks and home runs, but also ground ball-to-fly ball ratio and even body type.

As for this year's free-agent pitching market, Silver sees a fine future for A. J. Burnett, an enigmatic 28-year-old right-hander. Burnett projects to have a 3.65 earned run average next season, but also has a 15 percent chance of blossoming into a Cy Young award candidate for several seasons. Of the two most intriguing relievers available, the veteran Billy Wagner and the less-known B. J. Ryan, Pecota chooses Ryan as the better long-term investment thanks to his age next season (30 to Wagner's 34) and several other peripheral factors.

NYTimes: Predicting Futures in Baseball, and the Downside of Damon by Alan Schwarz

Pecota site: Baseball Prospectus

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


The Los Angeles Galaxy shocked the MLS world by winning the MLS cup. The underdogs dispatched the depleted New England Revolution and are now the champs. And who was Cinderella of the very Cinderella-esque team?

Donovan started the play with a corner kick from the right side. Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis ran out to punch it away, only to send it directly to Ramirez. With no defender near him, Ramirez leaped and kicked the ball out of the air and into the net.

"I'm very proud of Pando Ramirez, a guy who suffered all year and didn't score one goal in the flow of play all season," Los Angeles coach Steve Sampson said. "If he had scored more goals during the course of the season, we would've won more ballgames. But he found the right time to get it done."

As if to prove his lumpy touch, Ramirez missed a close-in chance for a second goal in the closing minutes. Regardless, he was selected the MVP, quite a feat for someone who entered in the 66th minute.

"I'm stunned, impressed and extremely happy for him," said Donovan, who won his third MLS Cup, but first for his hometown team. "He deserves his reward."

The Galaxy won their second championship in five finals. This was the least expected considering they went 13-13-7 this season and claimed the eighth and final playoff seed. They have both the fewest wins and lowest seed of any league champion.

Read the whole article here, ESPN: Galaxy overcome Revolution in overtime

Friday, November 11, 2005


Fox Sports: JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) - Jacksonville Jaguars running back Fred Taylor will not play Sunday against Baltimore because of an injury to his right ankle.

He had been listed as doubtful on this week's injury report, but was ruled out after practice Friday.

Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio wouldn't say who will start against the Ravens. But Del Rio said backup running back LaBrandon Toefield - inactive in three of the team's last four games - would be in uniform.

Greg Jones started for Taylor against Pittsburgh last month and gained a career-best 77 yards on 18 carries.

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Johan Santana should have won the AL's top billing for hurlers

It's hard to argue against Chris Carpenter winning the Cy Young Award. Even his competitors for the honor, Dontrelle Willis and Roger Clemens, would be deserving recipients.

However, a strong argument could be made that Bartolo Colon was not the best AL pitcher in 2005. Was he good? Yes. Was he great? Possibly. Was he the best? Not so much. The award should have been given to Johan Santana.

Yes, Bartolo Colon got 21 wins, impressive. But, he had great run support which is a significant determining factor when it comes to Wins. ERA is probably the best (but not the only) barometer of figuring out which starting pitcher (don't get me started on flame-throwing-one-inning-at-a-time relievers) deserves the Cy Young.

Compare the stats of Johan Sananta, Bartolo Colon and Colon's teammate Jarrod Washburn

Santana 2.87 (2nd in the AL)
Washburn 3.20 (4th)
Colon 3.48 (8th)

Santana 16-7 (Colon and Santana both started 33 games)
Washburn 8-8 (started 29 games)
Colon 21-8 (Colon had 1 more loss than Santana did)

Santana 4.70
Washburn 3.81
Colon 6.02 (probably the best reason why Colon had 13 more wins than Washburn)

WHIP (another great barometer)
Santana 0.97 (1st)
Washburn 1.33 (26th)
Colon 1.16 (3rd, Colon acquits himself well here, but Santana is the best!)

The numbers don't lie. Pitchers on mediocre teams get penalized because of the lack of wins. But no one can doubt that if Johan Santana was on the great Angels team, he would have won a lot more than 16 games. Who would you rather have as your ace, Santana or Colon? I thought so.

Johan Santana was far more deserving than Bartolo Colon of the 2005 American League Cy Young Award.

PS: Don't get me started on 2004 NL's Cy Young... Randy Johnson deserved it way way more than Roger Clemens!

Extra Innings: Baseball Crank examines previous league leaders in ERA.