Baseball America released their Top 100 Prospects List today, with Matt Wieters predictably at the top. David Price comes in at number two, and is followed by the usual suspects: Rasmus, Hanson, Heyward, Snider, et al. Three Yankees made the list, Austin Jackson at number 36, Jesus Montero right behind him at 38, and Andrew Brackman 92. Old pal Jose Tabata checked in at number 72 75. Chime in with your opinion in the comments, I think the Yanks’ farmhands are right about where they belong. · (57) ·
Nate Silver has been the man about town lately. Famous within baseball circles for his groundbreaking statistical work with Baseball Prospecuts, Silver broke out in a big way when he, on his site FiveThirtyEight, predicted a Barack Obama win to the electoral vote. When he analyzes, people listen.
Yesterday, in a Baseball Prospectus story syndicated on ESPN.com’s Insider, Silver examined the future career of Alex Rodriguez (subscription required). The outcome for Yankee fans is not a positive one.
First, Silver notes that A-Rod is not an easy man to analyze. PEDs or no PEDs, his career numbers to date have been at the top of or off the charts. As Silver notes, though, “past performance is no guarantee of future results.”
Yet, A-Rod has numerous factors in his favor. He’s very athletic; he is playing for $30 million in incentives; and he could end as he began his career with a bang. However, Silver notes that A-Rod also will suffer from age, an injury risk and the fact that, when push comes to shove, he might just not need that extra. His comparables through his current age include Ken Caminiti and Sammy Sosa as well.
The bad news for Yankee fans is this:
I took Rodriguez’s top 20 PECOTA-comparable players and averaged their performances over each remaining season of their careers…Comparables like Frank Robinson, who aged well, have a favorable effect on Rodriguez’s forecast, and players like Caminini just the opposite one.
PECOTA’s best guess is that Rodriguez will finish with 730 lifetime home runs, running out of steam after another three or four seasons and leaving him just shy of the marks established by Aaron and Bonds. Of course, there is a lot of uncertainty in this estimate. If Rodriguez follows the path charted by Aaron or Frank Robinson, he could finish with well in excess of 800 home runs (and possibly as many as 900). On the other hand, if he draws Albert Belle’s ping-pong ball, he might not top 600. Overall, the system puts Rodriguez’s chances of surpassing Aaron at only about four in 10 and of surpassing Bonds closer to three in 10.
One needs to remember the ways Aaron and Bonds finished out their careers were far from typical. At least as common are folks like Jimmie Foxx (before Rodriguez, the fastest player to 500 home runs), who hit just 34 home runs after turning 33. Only about a dozen players have hit 200 or more home runs from their age-33 seasons onward; Bonds and Aaron are the only two to have hit at least 300.
The worse news is Silver’s home run projection for A-Rod.
A-Rod is committed to the Yanks until 2017. Based on Silver’s projections, A-Rod and his contract will be dead weight by the start of 2013, and he’ll still have four more overvalued years left in the Bronx.
Of course, as we all know, baseball isn’t played on computers. Chemically aided or not, A-Rod will have his fair share of opportunities to prove the projections wrong, but history isn’t on his side.
Just wanted to point you in the direction of a new site out there called Minor League Notebook. The site was created by Doug Gray of Reds Minor Leagues and has a staff of fifteen people covering the vast expanses of the minor leagues. Even though the site’s only been around since last week, they’ve already posted previews of the High-A Florida State League and Double-A Eastern League, and ranked the top ten prospects in the AL East. Make sure you check it out. · (10) ·
In city after city, baseball fans like to claim that their town is home to the most loyal, the most rabid fan base. New Yorkers will fight Bostonians and Philadelphians to the death while Chicogoans just sit back in watch. In Los Angeles, the fans leave in the 7th to beat the traffic, and in Atlanta, well, no one really cares.
While we could all debate the subjectively loyalties of fans until we are collectively blue in the face, a RAB reader took it upon himself to model fan loyalty. Jim Lane has spent the last few weeks refining a model of fan loyalty. The raw data is available here in spreadsheet form. I’m going to drill down a bit on it tonight.
Lane decided to assess fan allegiance by using a payroll figures, average ticket prices, win percentage and 2008 attendance. He started off by computing what he calls team appeal. It’s the average of the percentage of payroll of the MLB whole, the average ticket prices also expressed as a relative percentage to the MLB total and the club’s winning percentage. He then compared his team appeal figure to attendance capacity to come up with the final fan allegiance number.
As you might guess, the Red Sox with their high win total, high payroll and small park were the top team on Lane’s list. Their fan allegiance figure was 31.12, nearly triple the second-place Cubs. Having a ticket demand that far exceeds supply will do that.
The Yankees and Mets, meanwhile, came in at six and seven respectively. They both had fairly high attendance figures and tickets were, all things considered, somewhat reasonable. Combine that with high payrolls and three years of regular season success, and you’ll get a formula for fandom.
There are of course a few lessons we can glean from the spreadsheet. The teams on the bottom — Kansas City, Florida, Tampa Bay — suffer from one problem or another. Either the teams weren’t very good or they can’t draw fans. All three of those teams are finding that low ticket prices don’t exactly spur attendance.
The Braves, at number 23, are one of the outliers. The ownership is willing to spend some money, the ticket prices aren’t very high and the team’s winning percentage is decent. Fans, however, aren’t going to the games.
So what conclusions can we draw from this? Well, it certainly doesn’t solve that good old fan loyalty question, but we can look at a few patterns. Popular teams that put a winning product on the field are going to draw, and mediocre teams that keep ticket prices low are going to draw. But at some point, fans just won’t show up. They don’t come to Miami; they don’t go to Atlanta. Why is a question we can debate for a long time. Some of it is geographic; some of it is apathy.
Anyway, feel free to chew on this spreadsheet for a few hours as the lazy days of Spring Training tick away. Jim broke the years down so you can see his raw data. Perhaps you’ll find a conclusion in the numbers. After all, if the Indians are doing it, so can we.
This is pretty damn entertaining, I must say. Notable rhymes: Jeter with Weiters, “take us” with Markakis, and “Boog Powell and his meat” with Eutaw Street.
hat tip BLS
“We’ve added some pretty big pieces here and you want to bring them together as quickly as possible,” Girardi said. “Every year you’re here as manager, you want to have more knowledge about the players. It’s important that a group is united when you leave Spring Training.”
“It’s a day to forget about baseball a little bit and think about our family here,” Posada said. “It’s a little rest and I think it’s good for everyone.”
Well, I do think that team chemistry is overrated, but I approve. While the “divided clubhouse because of egos” thing gets overplayed, the clubhouse certainly has to be intimidating to young players, so it’s good to see Girardi pull something like this. My money was on Brian Bruney, but Mariano Rivera won both tourneys. Sure sounds like the guys had a blast.
Here’s your open thread for the night. The Nets and Knicks are both in action at home tonight, but I’ll be watching House and 24. Oh, and the Rangers fired their head coach today. Talk about whatever, just be nice.
Update (7:35pm): Forgot to mention this, but reader Rob sent along an email saying that during last night’s Georgia Tech-Clemson basketball game, they had a poll asking everyone to vote who their favorite former G-Tech baseball player was: Tex, Varitek or Nomar. Tex won in a landslide.
Photo Credit: Yankees via PeteAbe
Remember the revelation a few years ago that talked about clubhouses having two coffee pots: leaded and unleaded? Clearly, this referred to the presence of amphetamines in the brew. Turns out, both pots can enhance your performance. J.C. Bradbury of Sabernomics post a link and summary of a study done on caffeine, titled “The effect of caffeine as an ergogenic aid in anaerobic exercise.” The abstract, with my own emphasis:
The study examined caffeine (5 mg/kg body weight) vs. placebo during anaerobic exercise. Eighteen male athletes (24.1+/-5.8 yr; BMI 26.4+/-2.2 kg/m2) completed a leg press, chest press, and Wingate test. During the caffeine trial, more total weight was lifted with the chest press, and a greater peak power was obtained during the Wingate test. No differences were observed between treatments for the leg press and average power, minimum power, and power drop (Wingate test). There was a significant treatment main effect found for postexercise glucose and insulin concentrations; higher concentrations were found in the caffeine trial. A significant interaction effect (treatment and time) was found for cortisol and glucose concentrations; both increased with caffeine and decreased with placebo. Postexercise systolic blood pressure was significantly higher during the caffeine trial. No differences were found between treatments for serum free-fatty-acid concentrations, plasma lactate concentrations, serum cortisol concentrations, heart rate, and rating of perceived exertion. Thus, a moderate dose of caffeine resulted in more total weight lifted for the chest press and a greater peak power attained during the Wingate test in competitive athletes.
You can read more about Wingate tests here.
Clearly, this is not a cry to add caffeine to the banned substance list. It’s legal in all 50 states (obviously), so everyone is on even ground. Yet it does enhance performance, perhaps even more so than some of the illegal substances baseball players use to get an edge. I’ll refrain from jumping to any conclusions about how much or little it affects performance, especially when compared to other stimulants and psychoactive drugs. I just think it would be amusing if caffeine actually helped athletes more than certain steroids and amphetamines.
Tickets and ticket sales are a hot topic among Yankee fans these days. For the most part, the news covers the same old story: Long-time Yankee fans are upset with the way the Yankees have handled season-ticket packages. Meanwhile, those of us hoping for single-game tickets have been waiting and waiting and waiting.
As Opening Day draws near, however, the more academic side of ticket sales and attendance figures is beginning to emerge. Last Friday, Shysterball highlighted a profile of the frontiers of baseball analysis. In Cleveland, the Indians’ ticket office has engaged, in a thorough analysis of ticket sale patterns. As expected, the Yankees are a big draw.
Using statistical analysis of ticket purchases to understand the preferences and price limits of their fans, the Indians learned that fireworks after a game draw an additional 4,000 fans; every one-degree temperature drop below 70 Fahrenheit costs them 300; and when the New York Yankees come to town, attendance jumps 11,000.
The Major League Baseball club is at the forefront of using statistical analysis to design pricing. The team says its plan will increase ticket revenue 5 percent this season as the U.S. skids into its worst economic decline since the Great Depression.
“The goal was to do a better job figuring out what people were willing to pay for their product,” said Vince Gennaro, 57, a Purchase, New York-based consultant who managed the research project. “Where could we add value to convince them to make the purchase or decrease the price where demand is lower?”
Gennaro, by the way, is a leading member of the Society for American Baseball Research.
Meanwhile, in a separate attendance-focused article — again referred to us by Shysterball — Jon Bois examines the impact new stadiums have on local revenue. While he concludes that the Yanks and Mets may not enjoy the revenue they expect, his findings are flawed. He bases his conclusions on projections of stadium capacity without giving nod to the fact that the Yanks’ — and Mets’ — new parks are significantly smaller than the old ones. The Yankees and Mets will do just fine with their revenue streams despite the economy.
So what does this all mean? Well, it means that a salary cap wouldn’t make much sense. The Yankees are a preeminent team in baseball. Opposing fans head out in droves to catch them in action, and limiting their ability to put a top product on the field would eventually do more harm to the overall health of the sport than it would go good. The Yankees haven’t won the World Series in 2000, and in baseball, economics will always trump that red-herring hunt for a fair notion of competitive balance.
Even though the team told him to prepare for the season as a starter, Joe Girardi told PeteAbe today that the Yanks plan to use Phil Coke out of the bullpen. “He’s a guy we see being able to pitch multiple innings out of the bullpen. That’s how we’re going to try and develop him,” said the manager. Unlike Joba Chamberlain, who can legitimately go after hitters with four pitches, Coke’s bread-and-butter is a fastball-slider combo that plays up significantly out of the pen. His changeup is decent, but he doesn’t project to be anything more than a back-end starter, something the Yanks have plenty of in Triple-A. It’s good to see that the Yanks realizes he’s more than just a LOOGY. · (53) ·
The Yankees spent hundreds of millions of dollars on players outside the organization this winter to improve their starting rotation and their lineup. Yet they spent zero dollars on players outside the organization to improve the bullpen. For some, this might be cause for worry. We’ve seen the Yanks have some pretty bad bullpens in the past half decade, and one year with a solid pen might not do much to alleviate concern. However, as we’ve said repeatedly in this space, the Yankees have little to worry about with their 2009 relief pitchers.
The argument we most frequently employ is that the Yankees are going with the San Diego Padres method of building a bullpen: find as many capable arms as possible and make sure you have some flexibility with them. If some guys stumble out of the gate, they can be replaced by eager relievers in AAA. In other words, there are cases like Heath Bell out there, and you don’t find them by signing big-name relievers to fill your pen.
(Also, go me for picking three guys who put up above-average numbers out of the pen in 2008, including one monster year from Balfour.)
There’s another argument to be made for the Yanks’ above-average and underrated bullpen. Sky Kalkman of Beyond the Boxscore takes care of it for us. It revolves around FIP and Runs Above Replacement, so it covers the sabermetric ground where our argument does not. The bad news: Joba Chamberlain is on his list. The good news: The list also contains a number of players projected to have quality FIP numbers, as well as Runs Above Replacement figures.
As is always the case with BtB, the whole article is worth a read. Sky mentions that the Yankees had the best Runs Above Replacement total from their relievers in 2008, though they did pitch the most innings (higher is better in this situation). He then uses that league-leading figure to show how the bullpen is overrated. The team with the leading RAR in offense was Boston with 332, and the leader from the rotation was Toronto with 216. So the best rotation saved over three times as many runs above replacement as the best bullpen. Hmm…I wonder if we can apply this stat to any other argument…