Saturday, September 27, 2008

Relative League Strength

How much better is the American League than the National League?

To answer I looked at all pitchers and all hitters who appeared in each league within a decade and figured the RC/game for hitters in each league, and RA/game for pitchers, matching by the lessor total of plate appearances. I've done this before looking only at players who played in both leagues in the same season, but in the past there was much less player movement, killing my sample size.

Grouping by decade instead of year gives me a large enough sample to look at relative league strength before 1970. I use the difference in pitcher performance and combine it with the difference for hitters to estimate the won-lost record an average team in one league would have in the other league.

Results: (expressed as record an AL team would have in the NL)

decade Win lost
2000 88 74
1990 87 75
1980 82 80
1970 83 79
1960 73 89
1950 73 89
1940 70 92
1930 84 78
1920 84 78
1910 88 74
1900 84 78

For the 40's, 50's, and 60's, the National league dominated to about the same extent that the AL does today. What does this mean for player stats? surprisingly little. Bill James used a .82 league strength modifier, or M, for AAA when he first published minor league equivalencies. To get an 88-74 record for the stronger league you only need an M of .95. That would mean a slugger who hits .300 with 35 homers in one league would hit about .290 with 33 homers in the stronger league. It's barely noticeable, and only aggregate analysis with a strong sample size (and the introduction of interleague play) allows us to quantify it.

Using an M of .82, by the way, would indicate an average record of 53-109 for a typical AAA team, about the same as the worst team we'd see in an average 5 year stretch in the majors. Other leagues, assuming an M of .7, .6, and .5 as I move from AA to low A:

AA 35-127
A+ 22-140
A 12-150

If I used M= .25 for college ball, then a typical college team would win one game per year, scoring one run per game and allowing 16. I have no idea how accurate that is, but to me it passes the smell test. 16-1 I think is a typical score when big league teams play college teams in spring training.

Monday, September 22, 2008

MLEs, 2008 hitters

All players who had at least 150 plate appearances combined at levels AAA, AA, and A+. I'm not doing mle translations for low A, or any of the short season or rookie leagues. Enjoy.

2008 MLE file

Friday, September 19, 2008

Angels over Rangers, 15-13

The game got off to a great start, as passes to Garret Anderson, combined with Mark Teixiera's ground game, put the Angels in the red zone and led to a Torii Hunter field goal for a 3-0 lead. A touchdown later, the Rangers blitz was too much to handle for starting QB Jon Garland. He was sacked repeatedly, and eventually was taken down in the Angel end zone for a safety, followed quickly by a Ranger kickoff return for a touchdown of thier own.

The Angels came back, scoring a safety of their own and a field goal to regain the lead. Late in the contest the exhausted offenses, tired of running up and down the field, were only able to trade extra points (which baseball allows to to score without first getting a TD) and the Angels held on to the game, with Scot Shields taking a knee and letting the clock run down.

It was a wild Texas game, and those aren't good for any pitcher, but Jon Garland especially bad. I hope Scioscia thinks long and hard about making Garland the #4 starter in the playoffs over Jered Weaver. After tonight's game Weaver's ERA is 60 points lower. They are almost equal in walks allowed, and homers allowed, but in fewer innings Weaver leads in strikeouts 144-84. Garland just doesn't miss many bats, which is a recipe for disaster assuming game four would be played against the Red Sox in Fenway park. As a result of allowing so much more contact, Garland has given up 60 more hits than Weaver.

If we play a game 4 against the Red Sox, it will be a huge game - either we are up 2-1, trying to close out the series, and doing so with Josh Beckett looming for game 5, or else we're down 2-1 and trying to avoid elimination. I just don't trust Garland to get the job done, he just has too many games where he gets bashed around some. Weaver, on the other hand, pitched against Boston in game 3 last year and lost, but it was an admirable effort, 2 runs in 5 innings. If he does that, with Vlad, Tex, and Torii in the lineup, the game is ours. Besides, a classic from the top 40 of 2006...

We just called up a top prospect
Climbed aboard the Jered Weaver bandwagon

Take away this season in last place
and get back into first

Ooh Jered Weaver
I believe you can pitch into the 7th
Ooh Jered Weaver
I believe you can strike out the side

Fastball high hit to center field
Into Darin Erstad's Torii Hunter's glove
Lots of flyballs hit tonight
But you haven't allowed a run

Ooh Jered Weaver
I believe you can pitch into the 8th
Ooh Jered Weaver
I believe you can strike out the side

Though the game may be ending soon
You still haven't walked anyone
Keep on pitching like Cy Young
And maybe we'll score a run

Ooh Jered Weaver
I believe you can pitch into the 9th
Ooh Jered Weaver
I believe you can strike out the side

Jered Weaver....

Thursday, September 18, 2008

That was better

Good thing the Angels had a 6 run lead, as they gave up twice as many runs in the 9th as last night's game.

Josh Outman has a great name for a pitcher. He was one of the guys they got for Joe Blanton. I thought the trade was worth it just for Cardenas, not knowing anything about Outman, but he's not bad either. Outman throws in the mid 90's, and not many lefties can do that. He mostly relieved in the minors, and that might be his future. His control is not that good. He seemed to be on a tight pitch count, leaving the game in the 4th inning. He's not a big guy but doesn't have much of a windup, just sort of short arms the ball up there with surprising velocity. That will probably work in relief but not hold up to a full season of starting.

The Torii Hunter steal of home was pure Angels baseball. It started with Robb Quinlan stealing 2nd with two out, stopping, and getting himself in a rundown. The Angels executed the play perfectly. It works as long as the defense is taken even slightly off guard. I don't think the play works if Mark Ellis was playing 2nd, but it worked perfectly on Cliff Pennington.

Any other Angel fans tired of the criticism "I thought the Angels had all these can't miss prospects, how come none of them are any good", well tell them to watch the replays of Kendry (gotta have more cowbell) Morales, Mikey Napoli, and Brandon Wood hitting back to back to back homers. Do we have an MVP candidate among the young players? No, but we've got so many of them who can do their job, adding up to what is a great team. It's been beautiful how every time another player gets hurt, we've got another farm product ready and able to step in and do the job.

Tonight's 9th inning meltdown, comebined with an ugly outing on Tuesday, probably means we won't see Jason Bulger taking Justin Speier's playoff roster spot. Especially since it's looking more and more like we'll play Boston. The last thing we need against them is a pitcher who has trouble throwing strikes. Save Bulger for next year when he can get Seattle and Texas hitters to swing at breaking pitches out of the zone.

Last Night's Ugly Loss

How to lose a one run game:

1. Error allowing Barton to reach 2nd after a leadoff single, the error was charged to Matthews but the blame should probably go to one or more of the infielders.

2. Frankie walks a guy who was trying to give him an out.

3. Throwing a high chopper down the right field line. It was a tough play, and if Frankie holds the ball you've got bases loaded and nobody out, but still an ugly way to lose. I couldn't tell where Reggie Willits was as the throw went wild. Was he already on the way to backing it up or did he only chase the ball only after he saw it got by first base?

The Angels have one and a half weeks to start playing championship caliber baseball again.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Top First Basemen, American League

The Angels have the best record in the American League, but Teixiera is the only player who has any real argument for being the best in the league at his position. Had he put up his entire season totals for the Angels he'd have a decent shot at the MVP award. As is, he probably won't be considered, with good reason. It's hard to give an AL award to a guy who played most of the year in the national league, and the Angels had pretty much won the division before the even got him.

Mark will have to try for the AL Playoff MVP award.

AL 1st Basemen LW runs defense Total
Teixiera 40.6 14.0 54.6
Youkilis 31.2 4.7 35.9
Morneau 36.7 -7.9 28.8
Cabrera 23.9 3.0 26.9
Pena 22.5 2.1 24.6
Overbay 11.1 13.0 24.1
Giambi 24.8 -8.3 16.5
Davis 8.0 -3.0 5.0
Konerko 2.2 0.8 3.0
Sexson -3.7 -1.3 -5.0
Barton -11.6 5.0 -6.6
Millar -6.4 -4.9 -11.3
Garko -8.2 -4.1 -12.3
Gload -15.9 -4.4 -20.3

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Top First Basemen, National League

Linear weights runs are park adjusted, and copied straight from Baseball-reference. Fielding runs are based on RZR, available on The Hardball Times. Baserunning is not included.

NL 1st Basemen LW runs defense Total
Pujols, Albert    71.4    14.8    86.2
Berkman, Lance 54.5 16.7 71.2
Gonzalez, Adrian 29.6 -6.8 22.8
Delgado,Carlos 20.4 -0.6 19.8
Votto, Joey 8.8 4.7 13.5
Lee, Derek 10.9 1.5 12.4
Howard, Ryan 11.7 0.7 12.4
Helton, Todd 2.2 7.5 9.7
LaRoche, Adam 10.0 -2.9 7.1
Fielder, Prince 17.6 -11.0 6.6
Loney, James 3.5 1.7 5.2
Kotchman, Casey -4.6 9.6 5.0
Jackson, Connor 8.3 -6.3 2.0
Boone, Aaron -3.6 -1.0 -4.6
Jacobs,Mike 4.0 -16.0 -12.0
Bowker, John -11.6 -0.5 -12.1

It should be obvious which two are generating MVP talk, shouldn't it?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

2008 AL West Champions

I understand the Angels set a record for the earliest clinching date ever in the AL west. It's been an unreal season. There are still goals to accomplish, like securing home field advantage throughout the playoffs (At least they will have it in the first round, we are 7 up on the central division leaders)

Then there's the matter of getting everyone back healthy, starting with Aybar and Howie. Even their injuries have had a silver lining. Sean-Rod and B-Wood are finally showing something at the plate after initial struggles at the big league level. Early in the season they were hitting like pitchers, but the 23 year olds have shown so much in the minors (Wood's OPS was .970, Rodriguez even better at a Salmonesque 1.042) that it was only a matter of time before they figured it out.

It's been a great season. Now it's time to prepare to play 12-15 games in October.

Cool extra inning game

ESPN had the Rays-Red Sox game on, which the Rays won in 14 innings.

Andy Sonnanstine pitched 7 innings, allowed 4 hits, no walks, one unearned run, and struck out 7. It was the most unimpressive dominant performance I've seen in a long time. He doesn't throw very hard, and though he doesn't walk anybody, his control is hard to figure. He looks like he's missing his spots, not hitting the catcher's target, but perhaps he knows what he's doing. He to give just enough of an illusion of wildness to keep hitters from sitting on his 88 mph fastball.

It was a well pitched game, especially by both bullpens, until the geezers arrived. I kind of laughed when the Red Sox brought geezer Timlin into their bullpen 5 years ago, but he's had a pretty good career there. Looks like he's finally out of gas. Not sure about Percival. He came into the game protecting the easiest type of save, the 3 run variety, but walked the bases loaded with nobody out. Joe Maddon took him out and let Jason Hammel get the final outs. If Percival needs another trip to the DL, will he be ready in time for the playoffs? Dan Wheeler may be a better pitcher anyway, but Grant Balfour (48 innings, 22 hits, 70 strikeouts) may be the best reliever on the staff.

The announcers always say stupid things. Today they tell us that in trading for Mark Kotsay the Red Sox may have acquired their best defensive outfielder. Say what? Do they even watch the game? This is after two of the Rays early hits are on flyballs to right that Kotsay can't get to (he hasn't shown any kind of range since about 2004), not to mention an incredible diving catch by speedster Ellsbury. After him, Crisp, and Drew when healthy, Kotsay may be their 4th best defensive outfielder.

Congratulations to the Rays on taking 2 out of 3 on the road.