Monday, April 08, 2013

Monday Pythagorean - 4/8/2013

One of the things that I like to do during the baseball season is compile a weekly report of the AL standings, looking at runs scored and allowed, to see who's better than their records and who's worse.

For those unfamiliar, the Pythagorean report is based on a Bill James discovery regarding the relationship between runs scored, runs allowed and winning percentage. It intuitively makes sense that a teams record will be related to how many runs they score and how many they allow. What James discovered was that, for almost all teams, the winning percentage is very close to a ratio of the square of the runs scored to the sum of the squares of the runs scored and runs allowed. Which was dubbed the "Pythagorean" theorum of baseball.

The report consists of, for each team, their runs/game, runs allowed/game and Pythagorean project winning percentage, along with their rank among the teams in the league for each of those categories. The Pythagorean winning percentage is calculated as (r ^ 1.83) / ( (r ^ 1.83) + (ra ^ 1.83) ). (1.83 has been determined to be a slightly more accurate exponent with the current offensive levels than 2.) Using the Pythagorean winning percentage, the expected wins total is calculated and compared to the actual win total. Finally, any difference is expressed as "luck", with negative numbers representing underperforming teams.

Finally, there's a linear projection of final records, based on current winning percentage, and based on Pythagorean winning percentage.

So, on to week 1...

The 2013 Boston Red Sox certainly got off to a better start than the 2012 and 2011 versions got off to. Yes, that's not saying much...

  • I will confess to being surprised to hear that this was the first time since 1999 that they had started a season at 2-0. A .500 team should expect to be 2-0 25% of the time, and the Red Sox have been a much better than .500 team over the past 14 years.
  • The 4-2 record over their first 6 is their best six-game start since going 5-1 in 2006.
  • They not only started the year with four wins in their six games, the four corresponding losses went to division rivals New York and Toronto, the team with whom they are in the tightest competition for playoff spots. That's a good thing.
  • Going in, the offense looks like it could be mediocre to pretty good. The starting pitching looks like it could be good to very good. The bullpen looks loaded.
  • John Lackey looked very good for four plus innings, then walked off the mound in the middle of a batter, following a pitch that was nowhere near the plate. I was reminded of Frank Viola. That's not a good thing. The good news is that, so far, there's no catastrophic news. And they're talking about possibly going on to the 15-day disabled list. Frankly, if he were back in a month, I'd consider that much better than I expected.
  • Assuming that the presence of John Lackey in the rotation is, you know, a good thing. If you're of the opinion that it's not, then, well, he probably isn't going to do much damage.
  • Five minutes of sports radio this morning, for the first time in months, was more than enough to remind me why I stopped. Note to Gerry Callahan: the fact that Julio (sorry, Jose) Iglesias hit .529 this week has predictive value of just slightly greater than 0. If there were reason to believe that he's not a Major League hitter before the season started, and there was, then five games isn't close to adequate additional information required to change that belief. In response to, "he's leading the team in hitting this week," I say, "cross yourself, look to the heavens and praise God in thanksgiving, and ship him off to Pawtucket."
  • People who were hanging around in the Projo Red Sox board back in 2001 probably remember the great Shea Hillenbrand debate, in which I repeatedly castigated Jimy Williams for giving Hillenbrand the third base job based on a great spring training. My point, made, frankly, ad nauseum, was that a) anyone can hit anything for fify at-bats and b) Hillenbrand's complete and utter lack of plate discipline meant that he wasn't a prospect. Some might expect me, therefore, to be castigating the team for the presence of Jackie Bradley, Jr., on the opening day roster, based on a hot spring. But I'm not. Here's the difference. Bradley is a prospect, whose spring indicated that he might be ready.
  • Shea Hillenbrand, first fifty-nine (59) Major League games - two (2) walks. Jackie Bradley, Jr., first one (1) Major League game - three (3) walks.
  • The one legitimate criticism of the decision to put Bradley on the opening day roster is that the first eleven days of the 2013 season cost the team control over the player for the 2019 season. And it's a legitimate argument. On the other hand, he can still go down for 20 days later, if that seems like a good idea, and they'd maintain that control. And the whole idea, particularly after the past two years, is to re-establish a winning atmosphere and attitude. The evidence suggested that their best opening day lineup, with Ortiz out, included Bradley. Therefore, Bradley made the team. I support that decision.
  • Red Sox Player of the Week - Hey, credit where it's due. I don't believe that he's a Major League hitter, and I don't want him on the team, but there's no question about his defensive skills and Jose Iglesias (.529/.556/.647/1.203) had a fantastic week.
  • Red Sox Pitcher of the Week - Jon Lester started twice and won twice while giving up only two runs in 12 innings of work.

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 4/8/2013
Kansas City5(4)3.83(5)0.619(3)4233-1
Chicago Sox3.67(13)3.17(2)0.567(7)33421
LA Angels4(9)4.17(7)0.481(9)3324-1
Tampa Bay4.17(8)5.5(12)0.376(12)24331
NY Yankees4(9)5.5(12)0.358(13)24240

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Chicago Sox10854

Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
Kansas City10062

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