Thursday, July 31, 2008

Trade Deadline Madness

This time of year is the busiest for all baseball executives. Everyone has at least contacted every GM in the league once and maybe even more than that. Every bad team is looking to capitalize on this situation that puts buyers at a disadvantage.  If the buyers think that they're "one player away" from the playoffs/world series they will go all out to acquire their guy therefore succumbing multiple top prospects to teams under .500 (the sellers).  Sellers also have to make sure their top competitors don't acquire their top guys.  To read first hand what GMs go through this time of year click here.  

A GM has a long and complicated job to do in July.  He first has to assess his team's needs which change on a daily basis because of injury, rookie emergence and waiver wire additions. He then has to gauge the talent being offered around the league.  He then has to evaluate his prospects and mark some off limits.  After, he has to call GMs around the league to either court offers for a player or ask about certain players.  You then have to match up the prospects and the money alongside he centerpiece of the deal and walla you have your trade.

Sometimes a trade like the Manny trade happens, where a team has to pays extra because of the fact that they have to expose of a certain player who's corroding their clubhouse and identity.  So instead of making a fair trade the Red Sox traded the superior player along with two prospects and $7M for a season and a half of the inferior Jason Bay.  The Red Sox are in some ways repeating 2004, where they traded the superior Nomar Garciaparra for the inferior Orlando Cabrera but somehow managed to win the World Series.  How did this work?  Because Theo Epstein is a genius.  He figured that although Nomar was the superior player he was extremely injury prone meaning that 30%-40% of the Red Sox performance at SS that year was coming from Pokey Reese.  Orlando Cabrera easily trumped 40% Pokey Reese and 60% Nomar, therefore the trade strengthened the Red Sox.  In Manny's case, he never gave 100%, he was destroying the clubhouse and was ditching important baseball games.  Jason Bay at least equals this level of performance if not trumps it.  Jason Bay is not that far behind Manny statistically and all in all he's a better fit for the current Red Sox therefore giving the Red Sox the advantage and not the disadvantage.  These are the kind of things that make Theo Epstein a genius.  

Monday, July 28, 2008

Analyzing Billy Beane's Trades

Billy Beane has already made two big trades and can make a few more before the non-waiver trade deadline this year. He has traded Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin to the Cubs for Eric Patterson, Sean Gallagher, Matt Murton and Josh Donaldson and has also traded Joe Blanton to the Phillies for Adrian Cardenas, Matt Spencer and Josh Outman. He still has a few more pieces to trade, his top level players that he wants to deal are Huston Street, Justin Duchscherer, Mark Ellis and Alan Embree. The less attractive options are Eric Chavez, Bobby Crosby and Emil Brown. Billy Beane is overhauling/rebuilding this team. If he does manage to trade Justin Duchscherer he'd have managed to trade away his hole starting rotation from last year in a 6 month span.

Billy Beane is the master at finding diamonds in the rough and future star players in waiver pickups and in blockbuster deals. So if teams get ripped off how come they keep coming back for more? There are three reasons: A) teams focusing on their present before their future, B) no one's perfect(meaning that Billy's bound to make a mistake sooner or later, like in the Tim Hudson trade), and C) baseball teams are stupid.

So what did the A's get from these trades? They got two future extremely athletic 2nd basemen, a major league ready starter and a minor league very talented lefty, a couple outfielders with power and a young interesting projectable catcher. Altogether he got
seven young talented ballplayers for three pitchers. Altogether the pitchers are average, injury prone and below average. Meanwhile Billy Beane got a quarter of a baseball team. I can guarantee you that all of them will make it to the majors and at least 4 of them will become solid players while two will probably become stars. These are the kind of trades Billy Beane makes he just rips every team off(except for the Braves).

Friday, July 25, 2008

Playing The Percentages: Why the Mets didn't sweep the Phillies

It's a 5-2 ballgame, the Mets were ahead of the Phillies in the first game of an intense 3 game series between the two cross-state rivals. The top of the 9th inning began when Jerry Manuel called on Duaner Sanchez to close out the game because the Mets trustworthy closer Billy Wagner was inactive due to left shoulder spasms. Sanchez had been pitching excellently before that game but still hasn't regained his best stuff from before the taxi cab accident so the chances of him faltering are higher because he's not a shutdown pitcher now but he's pitched like one recently. He came out of the game with bases loaded and no out. Again the odds of losing the game increase. Joe Smith entered the game and induced a double play ball, Jose Reyes tries to rush it and gets no one out, 5-3. Pedro Feliciano comes in to face So Taguchi who hadn't gotten a hit in his last 16 at-bats, again leaving him with a higher chance of getting a hit in this specific situation because he isn't a .000 hitter he's a .230's hitter. He doubles, and ties the game. At that point you should make another bullpen switch but instead Randoph, I mean Manuel left Feliciano in and he let up 3 more runs. In the bottom of the 9th the Mets scored one more run to close the game out at an 8-6 Phillies victory. The two run run differential is actually the same amount of runs squandered by the Mets rookie 3rd base coach Luis Aguayo, who twice sent Endy Chavez home from second on David Wright base hits with no one out in the 3rd and 7th innings both with Carlos Beltran and Delgado due up and Endy twice got thrown out.

A smart, tactical manager would've gone with his top setup man from the beginning, Aaron Heilman. Also, seeing that Sanchez has excelled recently a smart manager would've given him a break knowing he could soon implode. He should've also left Joe Smith in because him and Heilman are the only relievers that did anything right that inning. But he opted to keep Feliciano in for the longest amount of time even though he caused the most damage. These are just some mistakes managers that don't manage from a percentage standpoint will make over the course of the season.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


In the game of baseball it often happens that the expected(best) team doesn't win their division instead succumbing to an inferior team. How can you actually prove and weigh each team and show which one is really better? By using a method called the Pythagorean Method. This method was created by Bill James in order to show the best team while excluding all variables and luck from the equation. It equates your runs scored and runs allowed and produces a win-loss record. This formula reminded him of the Pythagorean Theorem we all learn in school and that's why he called the Pythagorean Method. The formula is:
This method has been changed and perfected over the years and is now a lot better.

I did a little research and found that teams that overachieved their Pythagorean Records by 4 or more games, experienced a lot of dumb luck, had little to no success in the postseason. Like I wrote here, the postseason entails much luck. What this shows is that teams which experience a great deal of luck in the regular season have a smaller chance of succeeding in the postseason because of the fact that they've already experienced a great deal of luck in the regular season.

A few extreme examples of this are the 1997 Giants, the 2003 Cubs and the 2004 Yankees. The 1997 Giants had a sub .500(more losses than wins) Pythagorean Record but somehow they still managed to win 90 games which was ten more than their predicted(Pythagorean) record. The playoffs didn't go as well for them. They were swept in the first round of the playoffs by the eventual World Series winning Marlins. The 2003 Cubs, well everyone knows what happened to them, cough...Steve Bartman...cough. The Cubs were supposed to have lost their division by 9 games but instead won it by a game, that's a ten game differential. The Cubs were then one win away from advancing to the World Series when Steve Bartman "interfered" with a foul ball. All the sudden the Cubs fortunes were reversed. The Cubs were winning 3-0 in game 6 with one out in the top of the 8th inning when this happened and then know Alex Gonzalez(their best fielder) makes an error on an easy play and then the next thing you know the Marlins were winning 8-3. Even going into the 7th game the Cubs should've won. Game seven's pitching matchup was Kerry Wood(2003 version) vs. Mark Redmon who do you think would win? Wrong, Brad Penny got the win. You can probably call this the worst possible thing that could've happened to a team in this situation or the least lucky thing and it actually happened.

The 2004 Yankees won 12 more games than they should've according to Bill James' Pythagorean Method and won the AL East. The Red Sox also made it to the playoffs that year as the wild card. These two rivals had a showdown in the ALCS. The Yankees were leading the series 3-0 and were leading game four 4-3 in the 9th inning with the most reliable closer ever(it's debatable) on the hill. The Red Sox not only won that game but then won the last 3 games to advance to the World Series where they swept the Cardinals. The Yankees having experienced a great deal of luck and success in the regular season then had luck turn against them in the postseason.

When receiving extreme amounts of luck during the regular season it's only fair if the exact opposite happens in the playoffs. What would you rather? The immediate taste of greatness(advancing to the playoffs) or the everlasting eventual greatness(winning the World Series).