Monday, April 13, 2015

Monday Pythagorean - 4/13/2015

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.

Week 1 Pythagorean report

It's simple math, and you've all heard it before, but it's truth - any period of time over which you win 2/3rds of your games is a success. 4-2 is a successful week. Period. A team that wins 2/3 consistently all year ends up with 108 wins...

The Week That Was:

  • 4/6 - Boston 8 - @Philadelphia 0. Clay Buchholz shines with 7 scoreless innings, Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia (twice) and Hanley Ramirez (twice, including a grand slam) hit home runs as Boston opens the 2015 season with a comfortable and convincing win.

  • 4/8 - @Philadelphia 4 - Boston 2. The wind knocks down HRs from Mookie Betts and Hanley Ramirez, with Ramirez' shot a potential game-winning grand slam against Jonathan Papelbon in the 8th, and Rick Porcello's Red Sox debut is spoiled by a 3-run Jeff Francouer HR in the 6th.

  • 4/9 - Boston 6 - @Philadelphia 2. No one scores before or after the 3rd inning, but Justin Masterton only allows two runs in six strong innings, while also going 2-3 at the plate. Two games into the season, the ridiculous "when should we start worrying about Xander Bogaerts" stories are put to rest, at least for the moment, as he goes 3-4 and drives in 3.

  • 4/10 - Boston 6 - @NY Yankees 5. Strong effort from Wade Miley in his Red Sox debut, but doesn't result in a win when Edward Mujica allows a Chase Headley HR with two outs in the 9th. Boston takes leads in the 16th and 18th only to have the Yankees tie in the bottom of those innings. But NY can't match Boston's score in the 19th, and the Red Sox win the longest game (by time) in the team's history.

  • 4/11 - Boston 8 - @NY Yankees 4. Joe Kelly makes a start in NY rather than in Greenville (A) and is outstanding, while the Yankees look tired and weak on offense and in the field. Kelly leaves with a 5-1 lead after 7 dominant innings, retiring the last 17 Yankee batters that he faced, and giving a hug break to the Red Sox bullpen which had thrown 13 innings the night before.

  • 4/12 - @NY Yankees 14 - Boston 4. This one's over almost before it starts. As good as Buchholz was in his first start against the Phillies, he was that bad here, giving up 7 in the first, 3 more in the fourth after Boston briefly showed the potential for getting back into the game.

Thoughts and commentary...
  • In 1984, the Washington Post's Thomas Boswell published a book on baseball that's got some interesting stories, but isn't the greatest baseball book ever. What it does have, though, is a wonderful title. Why Time Begins On Opening Day. And this week, after a long off-season and a winter that left those of us in New England repeatedly buried in the snow, we finally got to the Red Sox much-anticipated opening day.

  • And what an opening it was. Baseball is a game in which perfection is fundamentally impossible. Yes, there are some games which are called "perfect", but if a team were actually playing a "perfect" game, it would never end, because they'd never make an out. The Red Sox made 27 of them on Monday in Philadelphia. That pedantry out of the way, there's really nothing more you could ask for from an opening day game than Boston got. Two HR from Dustin Pedroia, two from big-money addition Hanley Ramirez, one of which was a Grand Slam, another HR from lead-off hitter, rookie phenom Mookie Betts, seven scoreless innings from starter Clay Buchholz and two more scoreless from the bullpen, all adding up to an 8-0 win.

  • The obligatory second day off is a lot more palatable after the kind of opening that the Red Sox had than after the kind of opening that the Phillies had.

  • Ok, no one really thinks that Joe Kelly is going to win the AL Cy Young award, but it's a little bit less preposterous a notion after Saturday's effort.

  • The longest game, by time, in Red Sox-Yankees history. That covers some ground in a rivalry noted for extended game times...

  • The Yankees looked, and played, on Saturday exactly like a team that had lost a 19 inning game the night before.

  • As bad as the Yankees looked on Saturday, they looked better than Boston did on Sunday.

  • If Dustin Pedroia is healthy, if his hands and wrists are completely functional for the first time in three years, that's a tremendous boon for the Red Sox.

  • Craig Breslow, Robert Ross, Anthony Varvaro, and Junichi Tazawa combined to throw 12 scoreless innings on the week.

  • Understatement of the week: "Much better inning for Buchholz..." - ESPN announcer Dan Shulman, after Clay Buchholz retired the three Yankees he faced in the second inning on Sunday night. In the first inning, he'd allowed 7 runs, including a three-run double to Alex Rodriguez and back-to-back home runs.

  • Boston got outstanding starting pitching in five of the six games played this week, with Buchholz' Sunday disaster being the only exception. Of course, neither the Phillies nor Yankees looks like much of an offensive powerhouse right now, either.

  • Tales from the Jumping-the-gun department: Two (2) games into the season, there were already stories being written, and there was already angst being expressed on sports radio, about how long you could go with struggling Xander Bogaerts. To the extent that people feel contempt for sports-writers, this kind of nonsense is a large part of the reason why.

  • More than once this year, someone is going to say, "that's just Hanley being Manny." If he hits the way Manny did, it will be worth it.

  • Red Sox Player of the Week - Hanley Ramirez (.320/.333/.680/1.013, 4.86 runs created, 6.07 RC/25 outs) looks like he's going to do the job he was brought in to do. Dustin Pedroia (.207/.303/.448/.751, 3.42 runs created, 3.42 RC/25 outs) looks like he's finally healthy. But the Player of the Week goes to Xander Bogaerts (.407/.467/.519/.985, 6.33 runs created, 9.31 RC/25 outs).

  • Red Sox Pitcher of the Week - Before Sunday's first inning, there was a good possibility of seeing Clay Buchholz' name here. And I guess you are seeing it, but only in the context of saying that he is not the pitcher of the week. His first outing was outstanding, but you can't put your team behind 7-0 in the first inning and win the award, regardless of what else you've one, or what anyone else has done. Fortunately, there's another obvious candidate. Until late in the week, Joe Kelly was expected to make a rehab start in 'A' ball over the weekend. Instead, he ended up making a stellar start on Saturday against the Yankees, giving up only one early run, and retiring the last 17 batters that he faced in a seven-inning start, just hours after the marathon 19 inning game on Friday night had depleted the bullpen.

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 4/13/2015
Kansas City6.67(2)2.5(1)0.858(2)51601
Tampa Bay4.67(8)4.5(6)0.517(6)33330
NY Yankees5.17(6)5.5(13)0.471(8)3324-1
LA Angels2.67(13)4.33(5)0.291(13)24240
Chicago Sox3(12)5.5(13)0.248(14)15241

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Kansas City1620
Tampa Bay8181

Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
Kansas City14022

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