Saturday, July 5, 2014

Finding the Best Division in Baseball using BaseRuns

The best division in baseball is a title that is hotly disputed among baseball fans.  Oftentimes sportswriters claim the superiority of one division over another, however they rarely use empirical evidence to back up their claims, instead relying solely on anecdotal evidence.

There is, however, a way to find the best and worst divisions in an objective manner.  FanGraphs recently started publishing Team BaseRuns, a team statistic that gives a team's expected run differential and win percentage based on its underlying offense, defense, pitching, and base-running.  If you want to find more about BaseRuns, this article by Dave Cameron does a good job at explaining the basic methodology behind the method.  The system is also validated by recent research.

Now that we are familiar with BaseRuns, let's sort each division by expected win percentage:

AL East

Blue Jays - .530
Orioles - .513
Rays - .497
Yankees - .465
Red Sox - .441

AL Central

Tigers - .563
White Sox - .485
Indians - .481
Royals - .474
Twins - .463

AL West

A's - .626
Angels - .605
Mariners - .537
Astros - .458
Rangers - .380

NL East

Nationals - .565
Braves - .515
Marlins - .477
Mets - .475
Phillies - .434

NL Central

Cardinals - .555
Pirates - .522
Brewers - .513
Reds - .511
Cubs - .501

NL West

Dodgers - .576
Giants - .528
Rockies - .476
Diamondbacks - .426
Padres - .418

Next, let's sort the divisions by average winning percentage to find out the divisional strengths.  

  1. AL West - .521
  2. NL Central - .520
  3. AL Central - .493
  4. NL East - .493
  5. AL East - .489
  6. NL West - .485
This list is a good starting point, but unfortunately it doesn't paint the full picture.  The American League has been the stronger league for quite some time, and still is in 2014.  This is the AL's record against the National League, in both 2013 and 2014, as provided by Vegas Insider and Wikipedia:  (I include data from 2013 because the 2014 season is not yet complete.  Also I weight the two seasons equally (even though 2013 has twice as much data) because 2014 data is more relevant.)

2013: 154-146 - .513 
2014: 90-81 - .526

Averaging the two winning percentages, we can see that the AL going forward can be expected to have a .520 winning percentage against the NL, while the NL can be expected to have a .480 winning percentage against the AL.  By dividing these winning percentages by .500, we get a multiplying factor for each league. 

AL: .520/.500 = 1.04
NL: .480/.500 = 0.96

After multiplying each divisional average BaseRuns winning percentage by the League Multiplying Factor, this is what we find:

  1. AL West - .542
  2. AL Central - .513
  3. AL East - .509
  4. NL Central - .499
  5. NL East - .473
  6. NL West - .466
Clearly, the AL West is far and away the best division in baseball, despite being home to two of the worst teams in baseball, the Rangers and the Astros, because of the A's and the Angels, baseball's two best teams playing in baseball's best league.  

In addition, baseball's best division got even better yesterday with a blockbuster trade between the A's and the Cubs, sending talented pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to Oakland for prospects.  

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Ranking the NCAA Tournament Teams 1-68

Last year was not a good year for me in terms of predicting the bracket, despite correctly picking Louisville as the winner.  As a result, I made sure that this year my bracket would be better.  Over the past few months, I have been fine-tuning a logarithm that models college basketball with predictive accuracy.  Turns out this was the right year to create a formula, as Warren Buffet is giving $1 Billion to anyone who can make a perfect bracket through the Quicken Loans Bracket Challenge.

The formula is similar to that of Nate Silver; It incorporates various well-known college basketball rankings system into an average.  My model differs, however, by taking a Weighted Average, based on performance instead of just weighting each system equally, as Silver does with the computer model portion of his rankings.

I won't go into the exact weights each system gets (Any good formula needs a bit of secrecy), but the rankings used are as follows.

Ken Pomeroy's KenPom
Joel Sokol's LRMC Bayesian Model
Joel Sokol's LRMC Classic Model
Raymond Cheong's AASM+HCA
Sonny Moore's "PR"
Associated Press's Preseason Rank

I should note that these rankings have been proved to be the most accurate, more accurate than some of the ones that Silver uses in his model like seeding.  In addition, my model rewards the most accurate models by giving them more weight, which should make the model the most accurate one available.

Now, let's get to the good stuff.  How can I help you fill out your bracket?

While I am not yet finished calculating each teams odds at reaching the championship (Because the model is in its first year, these things take longer), the teams ranking does correlate very well with their odds of advancing far in the tournament, even if some teams have a harder path than others.

Be aware, however, that this does NOT mean that these are the teams most likely to win the tournament.  It should provide a good idea, but some teams (Wichita State comes to mind) just have a much harder path than others.

Rank. Team (Seed)

  1. Louisville (4)
  2. Arizona (1)
  3. Florida (1)
  4. Duke (3)
  5. Kansas (2)
  6. Michigan State (4)
  7. Virginia (1)
  8. Creighton (3)
  9. Villanova (2)
  10. Wichita State (1)
  11. Wisconsin (2)
  12. Michigan (2)
  13. UCLA (4)
  14. Oklahoma State (9)
  15. Ohio State (6)
  16. Kentucky (8)
  17. Iowa (11)
  18. Gonzaga (8)
  19. Syracuse (3)
  20. Tennessee (11)
  21. VCU (5)
  22. Pittsburgh (9)
  23. Connecticut (7)
  24. Iowa State (3)
  25. North Carolina (6)
  26. Oregon (7)
  27. Cincinnati (5)
  28. New Mexico (7)
  29. San Diego State (4)
  30. Oklahoma (5)
  31. Baylor (6)
  32. Memphis (8)
  33. Stanford (10)
  34. Providence (11)
  35. BYU (10)
  36. Saint Louis (5)
  37. Xavier (12)
  38. Texas (7)
  39. Arizona State (10)
  40. Harvard (12)
  41. Kansas State (9)
  42. Massachusetts (6)
  43. Colorado (8)
  44. George Washington (9)
  45. Nebraska (11)
  46. Dayton (11)
  47. Saint Josephs (10)
  48. NC State (12)
  49. New Mexico St (13)
  50. North Dakota St (12)
  51. Tulsa (13)
  52. Manhattan (13)
  53. SF Austin (12)
  54. Delaware (13)
  55. NC Central (14)
  56. Mercer (14)
  57. American (15)
  58. Louisiana Lafayette (14)
  59. Western Michigan (14)
  60. Eastern Kentucky (15)
  61. Milwaukee (15)
  62. Albany (16)
  63. Cal Poly (16)
  64. Weber State (16)
  65. Mount St. Mary's (16)
  66. Wofford (15)
  67. Coastal Carolina (16)
  68. Texas Southern (16)

EDIT:  I now realize that I posted this after Albany had already beaten Mount St. Mary's.  I didn't cheat; the data was from before the game was even played.  On the bright side, 1 for 1!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Winter Storm Tomorrow

A major winter storm should impact much of the northeast Sunday into Sunday Night.  Unfortunately for snow lovers like me, the low pressure system should remain almost entirely rain for the New York area.  Don't expect any significant snow accumulations unless you live in Interior New England, with the highest amounts likely confined to the mountains of Maine and New Hampshire.

Luckily for me, I am going skiing to start off the New Year at Stratton in Vermont, from the 1st to the 3rd of January.  While the storm should start off as rain, by Sunday Night the high elevation of Stratton Mountain should allow for significant snow accumulations.

Fresh Powder! (More like wet snow, but who cares anyway)

GO/AO ratio and HR/9 (Part 1)

One of the best predictors of Earned Run Average (ERA), Expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP) uses a pitcher's Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) and Home Run to Fly Ball (HR/FB) rate to provide an estimate of what the pitcher's ERA should have been with neutral defense, luck, and opponent quality.

Many people, including myself, believe that the quality of a pitcher can essentially be derived from a few basic statistics, specifically Strikeouts per Nine Innings (K/9), Walks per Nine Innings (BB/9), Hit by Pitches per Nine Innings (HPB/9), and Home Runs per Nine Innings (HR/9).  The rest is up to the defense.  Because these statistics are the only things a pitcher can control, it is unfair to penalize a pitcher for having a poor defense behind him, which is exactly what many more common pitching statistics like ERA do.

Does a pitcher really control all of those aforementioned statistics?  At first glance, you may think so, but consider that home runs are still batted balls.  The best power hitters in the league are the hitters that are able to hit lots of home runs without sacrificing their batting average by constantly flying out.  As a result, the best power hitters almost always sport high HR/FB rates.  The worst hitters, therefore, have low HR/FB rates.

This is the major reason why a pitcher's HR/FB rate is almost entirely random, and the variation of the statistic prevents pitchers from maintaining a steady rate from season to season.  In order to compensate for this statistical noise, xFIP was created, normalizing a pitcher's HR/FB rate to the league average.  This adjustment has made xFIP the best predictor of future ERA among the statistics available to the public, even surpassing actual projection systems like Steamer, ZIPS, and PECOTA.

Unfortunately, almost all minor league batted ball data is unavailable to the public, making it impossible to quantify HR/FB rate for minor league pitchers.  Indeed, the only statistic available is Ground Out to Air Out (GO/AO) ratio.  This has made it difficult to distinguish true minor league pitching talent from fluke seasons caused by irregular HR/FB rates.

For major league players, these two categories are easily distinguishable.  For example, in 2012, Oakland A's pitcher Jarrod Parker had a 3.47 ERA and a 3.43 FIP, on the basis of a 6.8% HR/FB rate and 0.55 HR/9.  The low HR/FB rate was clearly unsustainable, and as expected in 2013 his HR/FB rate jumped to a more reasonable 10.5%, right around major league average.  As a result, his HR/9 hiked to a staggering 1.14 home runs per nine innings, causing his ERA and FIP to elevate to unimpressive values of 3.97 and 4.40, respectively.

If Jarrod Parker happened to be a minor league pitcher, we would have been unaware of his unsustainable HR/FB rate, and would have falsely characterized him as a talented pitcher capable of a 3.43 ERA (based on his FIP).  In reality, with xFIP and HR/FB rates available for major league pitchers, any person familiar with saber-metrics could have told you following the 2012 season that Parker's 2012 was a fluke, and that he is more of a 3.97 ERA pitcher than a 3.43 ERA pitcher just by looking at his xFIP.

A little more than half a run in ERA may seen insignificant, but Parker was worth 2.2 WAR more in 2012 than in 2013 despite similar peripherals.  That is the difference between an All-Star and a borderline major league pitcher.

Clearly, a statistic similar to xFIP is necessary in order to determine the true talent levels of minor league pitchers.  With GO/AO being the only available batted ball statistic available for minor league pitchers, this seems like a difficult task.

It is common knowledge, however, that pitchers who induce more ground balls also allow fewer home runs.  What is not clear is whether the relationship between GO/AO ratio and HR/9 is significant enough to form a new ERA predictor for minor league pitchers.

In Part 2, we will find out whether or not this statistic, MiLB xFIP, is indeed possible.  Is there really a correlation between GO/AO ratio and HR/9?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Food: Juniper

Ratings are out of 20
Restaurant:  Juniper
Location:  575 Warburton Avenue, Hastings-on-Hudson, NY
Type: New American
What to get:  The soups they have for appetizers are absolutely fantastic.  Today I had the cream broccoli soup, and it could not have been better.  I also recommend the brisket burger, which I have had before, which is fantastic.  Similar to the cookery, just less choices and not quite as good pasta.
Food: 9/10
Service: 8/10
Overall Experience: 17/20
Juniper reminds me of the Cookery, serving a similar style of food.  In fact, when I was there I overheard the waiters talking about going to the Cookery on their off-day!  At Juniper, they have a nice open kitchen, where you can see right in front of your eyes where your meal is.  The servers are very emphatic and know all the dishes they serve.  Juniper has a modern, open look that lets all the light into the restaurant.  It is very casual, and expect to be able to walk into the restaurant with any part of your wardrobe.

Notes:  Juniper is the only restaurant I have tried and enjoyed in Hastings (I have not been to Buffet de la gare).  If you like the Cookery, you will most likely enjoy Juniper.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Mets Draft OF Nimmo with 13th Overall, followed by RHP Fulmer

Yesterday, the Mets drafted  left-handed outfielder Brandon Nimmo from East High School, Cheyenne with the 13th overall pick in the 2011 MLB First Year Amateur Player Draft.  Nimmo, who oddly never played high school ball, was committed to Arkansas but is now content on going to the Mets.  He did not play baseball in high school because frankly, they didn't have a team.  Despite that, he still played baseball for Cheyenne American Legion Post 6, leading them with a .448 average, 84 RBIs and 15 home runs, while also stealing a perfect 34 bases in 34 attempts.  Many people are excited about this pick, and when asked about the pick, Keith Law exclaimed that the Mets are "finally drafting for ceiling!"

I am in love with  this pick.  Nimmo has a smooth, fantastic swing that makes the ball jump off his bat, and has great speed to go along with it.  In addition, the Mets are in need of drafting and nurturing their own stars now that they have decided to spend less, and that is how you do that.  To develop your own stars, you have to take risks in the draft, and you have to go for high-ceiling type players.  If they can figure out a way to resign Reyes, they can have a fantastic team in a few years if Nimmo turns out to play at his ceiling.  I see Nimmo coming to the major league club in 2014. 

Next, in the compensatory round, the Mets drafted Michael Fulmer, another high schooler who also has a commitment to Arkansas.  He too is happy to become a New York Met.  Fulmer does not have as a high ceiling as Nimmo, but could develop in to a number two pitcher in a rotation.  Fulmer played for Deer Creek High School, Oklahoma, leading the way going 10-2 with a .72 ERA.

I am also very excited about Fulmer.  He has a low to mid 90s fastball and also carries an excellent curve with two plane break.  From what I saw of him online, he is very poised on the mound, and can also hit if his pitching fails him.  I see him in our rotation in 2014, maybe even 2013. 

Here is some video of Nimmo:

And here is some video of Fulmer:

Weekly Update: Pirates, Braves (6/7/11)

This will be my first weekly mets update, but their will be many more from today moving forward. On this past home stand the New York Mets have gone 4-3, splitting the 4 game series against the Pirates, followed by closing out the June home stand taking two of three from the Braves, to improve to 28-31 on the year.

Notable Performers:
Hitters (homestand stats)

Jose Reyes  6/16, 5 runs, 4 RBIs.   What is also amazing is that he did not even play in the first three games of the pirates series due to the death of his grandmother.

Daniel Murphy 14/25, 3 runs, 3 RBIs.  Murphy has just been on fire of late, and is looking like he did last year at his best, before the injury.

Carlos Beltran  9/26, 6 runs, 6 RBIs, 1 HR.  Beltran might be the hottest of all the hitters, as he has been in the middle of the scoring each day, and leads the team with 9 home runs.


RA Dickey 15 2/3 innings, 4 ER, 13 Ks.  Dickey has been fantastic of late after a tough start to the season.

The Mets will now start a road trip in Milwaukee tonight when they play the Brewers at 8:00.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Mets take two out of three from Marlins

The New York Mets played three games against the Florida Marlins and took two out of three games.  They lost the first game, partly due to Josh Johnson, a pitcher on the Marlins who could compete for the NL Cy Young Award, so I was not to surprised about the loss.  Next, they defeated the Marlins 6-4 in 10 innings with the help of clutch hitting with runners in scoring position.  Also, Jon Niese pitched 7 innings allowing only two runs.  The main cause for concern would be K-Rod blowing his first save of the year, despite striking out 2 of the first 3 batters.  Finally, in the rubber game, the Mets scored three runs in the first inning en route to a 9-2 blowout, winning there first series on the road.  This is very major, as last year they didn't win a series on the road till June.  Now they will be tested, facing the feared Phillies.  Hopefully the Mets will take advantage of this opportunity and take an early division lead.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Food: The Cookery

Ratings are out of 20
Restaurant:  The Cookery
Location:  39 Chestnut Street, Dobbs Ferry, NY
Type:  Modern Italian
What to get:  Anything.  Everything I have had here has been unbelievable.  For your entree, pasta is the way to go, as it is cooked perfectly al dente.  My favorite dessert is now off the menu, but they might add it.  It is called the Pasta Fritta.
Food: 10/10
Service: 8/10
Overall Experience: 18/20
I have yet to be disappointed with The Cookery, as every aspect about the restaurant is great.  The only complaint you could make is that it can get loud, but it is easily ignored because of the great food.  The servers are all nice, friendly and efficient.  The style of the restaurant is well done.  If you are looking for a nice night out, The Cookery is the way to go, and will surely impress any companions.

Notes:  My favorite restaurant in Dobbs Ferry, which is now an honor with all of the newly opened restaurants.