Deadballers: Ducky and High Pockets Present…

Passionately undeveloped opinions on the state of baseball, the shifting landscape of stats and analysis, and the opiate power of El Pato tomato sauce

Cobb County Charlatans

“Thanks for submitting. However, this really isn’t the type of content we’re looking for. This piece would be fine for a blog, but, for us, there are too many generalizations, it’s too political, and it really has no connection to sports.”

TO THE BLOG CAVE!

I don’t live in Atlanta and don’t deserve any credibility to comment on the new Cobb County stadium story.

But in the wake of details released Thursday about how Cobb County plans on paying for their portion of the deal, I can’t help but feel a twinge of pain. The most upsetting detail is that over the course of the 30-year plan, Cobb County will reallocate $8.67 million per year in existing property taxes to pay for the stadium.

This is, in no uncertain terms, corporate welfare to enrich the Atlanta Braves organization at the expense of hundreds of millions of dollars in local services. Cobb County citizens should brace for even deeper cuts to their already struggling school system, fire and police services, and other activities that regular citizens depend on whether they want a professional sports team or not. And, perhaps most outrageously, this will all go down without a public vote.

It’s not the most preposterous waste of money I could imagine from a local government. I live in Tucson, a sleepy desert town that generally minds its own business and asks you to do the same. However, Tucsonans have a bitter spot in their heart thanks to the disastrous Rio Nuevo project and the more recent boondoggle “Modern Streetcar” project, a pair of quarter-billion dollar city development plans that have lined the pockets of out-of-town developers.
The alleged revitalization comes at the expense of a struggling local construction industry (some of the largest contracting bids were awarded to out of state firms) and resulted in many local businesses shutting down due to the torn up sidewalks and resulting depression of local traffic.

Tucson was deeply impacted by the housing bubble, and really isn’t anywhere near recovering. Road improvements are restrained to the point where they are almost mythical. We have potholes that Tolkien could have written about at great length. Many public teachers work on one-year contracts, and those with specialist training are the first to be let go because they’re the most expensive to retain.

Tucson Police Department is expected to lose 100 jobs before next year. A superficial facsimile of either San Francisco streetcar charm or eco-friendly public transport isn’t going to make up for these precious losses. We could use a few hundred million dollars right now. This is why I’m upset about the new Braves stadium deal. A county outside of Atlanta is going to start dealing with these same, avoidable problems.

I’ve always known that there was much about Atlanta that I didn’t understand and couldn’t ever hope to experience as an outsider. Southern culture is beautiful and perplexing to me, from the language to the cuisine. I don’t understand what it means to be in Atlanta for more than a weekend, to deal with the legendary traffic, or to try to live and work and raise a family in the area. I’m one of those fans that Atlanta locals probably mock, a kid that started watching the Braves because they were on national TV while I didn’t have a local team to pull for and was learning how to play the game.

But it is upsetting to me to hear about this type of public fleecing, and I didn’t think I’d ever be forced to consider it on behalf of my favorite team and the cornerstone of my childhood. It is of course a sweetheart of a deal for the Braves that they’d be insane to not accept. And as a fan of the Braves, this is a positive development that should help field a winning team into the future. But the deal doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It is going to have human consequences.

This appears to be a decision made by Cobb County officials, without a vote from the rest of the citizenry, that they think is going to pay for itself and help the local economy. The spin will deceptively say that the majority of residents won’t see any change in their tax bill. But those millions are coming out of existing budgets at the expense of critical assets. If an exchange of police officers and teachers for professional baseball is indeed the will of Cobb County citizens… well, I’ll just consider it another cultural quirk I’m unlikely to ever understand.

Interleague Update: June 24, 2013

We are officially past the halfway point of interleague games in 2013 (2 games past technically) so I’m back with an update on how the scoring has broken down. First and foremost, the AL leads the NL on record, 80-72. Based on pythagorean expectation, the AL should’ve won 80.82 games, the NL 71.18, so we are actually very close to what our run differential suggests. Check out how win expectancy has tracked with actual wins here: AL Wins, Game 152

Not too much variation off expected, in fact never more than about 3.5 games.

Run differential itself is a bit more interesting. The AL regained the advantage around game #30 and has never looked back, pushing it as high as 60 in their favor.

Run Differential, Game 152

Who wants to see stabilized data? Everyone! Runs scored per game has tracked nicely since about game #40, as can be seen below. There’s currently a 0.29 runs/game advantage for the AL (AL: 4.32, NL: 4.03), though both are ever so slightly below their intraleague averages (AL: 4.39, NL: 4.06). I’m going to step out on a limb and assume those aren’t significant differences.

RS/G, Game 152

Lastly, I’ve added a histogram of win margin to see if one league or another is posting a lot more 8-run victories than normal. Nearly 75% of both teams wins are of the 1 to 3 run variety, though the AL has more of the 2- and 3-run variety, the NL has more 1-run. Beyond that each league is posting about the same number of blowouts, with the AL having two 9-run victories to the NL’s zero, and two 10-run victories to the NL’s one being the biggest contributors to run differential.

Win Margin, Game 152

As a whole, the leagues are very well matched up through a 152 games, which should be expected. The AL seems to be making slow but steady progress towards a better record, but the small win margins would seem to indicate it’s fairly luck driven and not necessarily an indicator of a real quality difference between the leagues. I guess the All-Star Game will sort that one out for us! /sarcasm/

We need more power!

Got wind thanks to @lonestarball, this tweet sums up The Worldwide Leader’s attention to details:

Yup, the Red Sox just jumped the Rangers in rankings of power (a bizarre concept when you really think about it) after getting swept by said Rangers.

3 weeks of interleague

And boy how things have changed. I suppose it’s not actually too much considering one week of data is so small, but still things are different looking. That primarily is due to the White Sox getting swept by the Nationals a week and a half ago, as well as the Twins getting knocked around by the Mets in between snow storms. The AL gained some ground back with wins by Texas, New York, and Baltimore, but really only enough to stem the tide for the time being.

chart_1

As you can see, the run differential took a drastic turn south in favor of the NL when the Metropolitans beat the Twins by 11. It peaked as high as +16 in favor of the senior circuit and hasn’t got closer than +8. Note: The Twins now play the Marlins for the first interleague series this week. God knows what this graph will look like come Thursday.
chart_2

Hand in hand with getting outscored is losing (learned that from Joe Morgan), and you can see a nice 5 game losing streak right after I started this project. The AL Central blows. It did provide us with our first drop in expected win percentage though (at game 10). A nice recovery towards expectations has the AL being only slightly unlucky according to Pythagoras.
chart_3

Meanwhile, the NL has a nice steady climb going for it, which serves up some confirmation bias for me that the AL is top-heavy in good teams while the NL has more parity but higher average talent. Provable? Hopefully for someone else.

chart_4

And lastly, a new graph that shows each league’s runs scored per game in interleague contests. The NL has actually scored exactly 5 runs per game to this point, whereas the AL is a tick below 4.5. We’ll see how much the summer months cause this graph to go skyward.

I know I mentioned that Ducky wasn’t as positive this data is actually meaningful a few weeks ago and I’m still not either, but I do think it provides an interesting storyline to how the first year of year-round interleague progresses. Who’s the better league is always a nice subplot to the season and while this in no way provides an answer to that question it does provide food for thought. And pretty graphs.

-High Pockets

Advise

My older bro is busy doing fancy law stuff with lawyers out in New York. Not my cup of tea because, as you’ll see below, it greatly infringes on one’s ability to blog about baseball.

Generally, I enthusiastically respond to anybody asking me about the Great Pastime. But not when the query comes before 5am.

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Boston

First, I share my deepest sympathies and astonishment over the events yesterday in Boston. I’m blessed that personal family and friends appear to not be directly injured, though I would still consider them victims in need of all available positive juju. An acquaintance is a trauma surgeon at Mass General. Makes my stomach tie up. I think we need a live chicken up here on the mound.

In this spirit of needing to enjoy enjoyable things as a means of avoiding my instinct for disgust and abhorrence at our human condition, our troubling capacity for infliction and disheartening incapacity for meditation, here is the comprehensive list of the top baseball movies of all time. Scientific and irrefutable, guaranteed or your money back:

1) The Sandlot
2) Bull Durham
3) Moneyball
4) The Bad News Bears
5) Major League
6) A League of Their Own
7) Eight Men Out
8) Field of Dreams
9) Little Big League
10) Rookie of the Year

2,048) Fever Pitch
2,049) For Love of The Game
2,050) A Bronx Tale (mostly a slobberjobbing of the old timey Yankees. Blech. And then some Mafia stuff, which was alright)
2,051) That video of The Indians doing the Harlem Shake
2,052) That episode of LOST where Linus explains to Jack that the Sox won the ‘04 Series
2,053) Major League II
2,054) Major League: Back to the Minors

Discuss, and be WRONG.

But please, be happy and spread your happiness. Patton Oswalt said that if humanity were inherently evil, we would have eaten ourselves a long time ago (Go read the rest of his message for a pick-me-up). Call your family and tell them how much you love them, let your neighbor borrow your trash can, and have some people over for a bratwurst this weekend. For all of our sake.

Keeping tabs on Interleague

Update: I think Ducky is not as enthused about this as I am, and he brings up good points. I’ve always seen pythagorean expectation used for a single team over the course of a season and assumed it would apply for a league as well. That may not be the case. So while I do some digging take all this with a grain of salt. Which you should anyway since 6 games doesn’t not a meaningful sample size make. The run differential trend should be fun regardless though. -High Pockets

Update 2: Also, this expectation equation I’ve used has a factor of 2 involved. Apparently research since the original equation came about has found that a factor of 1.83 is more accurate. It will be used from now on (if pythagorean expectation is continued).

Since Interleague play is constant this year as a result of the Astros moving to the AL, we can follow how each league is doing all year long instead of waiting until June. I’ll be posting a few graphs after every week to get an idea of what’s going on. The first will be run differential, then a graph of AL Wins vs. Expected wins (computed based of simple pythagorean expectation), and finally a graph of NL Wins vs. Expected Wins (the inverse of the AL graph).

chart_1 (2)

Fairly close after a week, thanks to four 1-run games, a 2-run game, and a lone blowout of Philly by KC. The Reds and Angels seemed to be evenly matched, but the 9 run win by the Royals threw the run differential immediately into the AL’s favorite.

chart_2

The AL has already been unlucky to the tune of nearly a game. Again, thank the Royals beatdown of Philadelphia on Friday.

chart_3

Since the AL has been unlucky, the NL must’ve been lucky to win its 3 games. Math is fun like that.

So there you have it. After one week the AL is clearly superior to the NL /incorrect assertion/. See you all next week!

WGotD: 4-2-13

Slim pickin’s for the worst game of the day today. There’s only 7 games to begin with, which is odd because you think these guys wouldn’t need a day off yet. And the Rays, Orioles, Blue Jays, and Indians are just now getting started. Weirdos. So with our limited slate of games to choose from I’ve gone ahead and selected the Rockies and Brewers as the Worst Game of the Day. Which is hilarious because their first game was tied in the 9th on a homerun by Dexter Fowler of all people, then Jonathan Lucroy hit a walkoff sac fly for the Brew Crew in the 10th. Go Figure. The matchup of Marco Estrada and De La Rosa…wait, that’s not Rubby is it? No, it’s Jorge. Ok, Marco Estrada and Jorge De La Rosa don’t create excitement, so yeah, I’m comfortably making Colorado v. Milwaukee (all matchups now titled like court cases) my selection.


Go Tulo!

Unconnected thoughts

First, the WGotD (worst game of the day, catch up with the new lingo) quickly turned one-sided thanks to a Colin Cowgill (who?) grand slam. He plays for the Mets. So the Mets won 11-2 over the hapless Padres. Edinson Volquez was once traded for Josh Hamilton and for awhile people thought the Reds won that trade. Not so much. Oh, and Ike Davis was 0-5 with 4 Ks. So begins the Deadballers curse.

Second, I was going to rant about this earlier, but Ron Washington is an idiot and his ability to create a unified clubhouse is quickly becoming a non-starter for me in conversations. Is it really that hard to not be seen as a blowhard stats guy of a manager by players? Why can’t common sense work in a clubhouse? Can’t we just tell baseball players, “Look, bringing in this player in this situation gives us the best chance to win, period. Sorry you’re the veteran and you’ve got to take a seat on this one.”? Would they not understand? Yesterday, in a 4-2 game in the 6th inning, Ron Washington brought in Derek Lowe to face Rick Ankiel with 2 men on. Lowe had most recently not been selected to be the teams 5th starter over Nick Tepesch (go look him up, I can wait)……….Exactly. Why do you bring in your worst possible option to face a decent power hitter?! WTF, Ron?!

Rant over. It could be a long season.

WGotD: Opening Day Edition

Happy baseball season, everyone! Yes, it all started last night technically, with an abysmal performance by the Texas Rangers against division foe Houston (so strange), but I’m actually in a good mood. Probably because Texas followed that game up by signing awesome shortstop and handsome gentleman Elvis Andrus to a long term extension at a very friendly price. Hello most amazing infield for the next 5 years (at least).

Back to today though. Games have already started and before they get going too much I wanted to introduce a new feature I’m going to try and pump out daily (probably not going to happen). Instead of the game you should really try to find on tv, it’s the game you ideally want to avoid. It’s The Worst Game of the Day! [cool graphic and guitar riff]

I’ll try to prevent this from becoming whoever is playing the Marlins all year long, but standings, talent, and general interest will take precedent in deciding who gets the short straw.

Our first worst game of the day is San Diego vs. the Mets. Both teams have decidedly low expectations and strong divisional rivals. Edinson Volquez takes the hill for San Diego, a team I was unaware he played for. Jon Niese, who’s actually not bad, toes the bump for the Metropolitans. Other than that we have David Wright and Yonder Alonso (forgot he was a Padre), maybe Ike Davis, as standout players of the game. If Davis could go ahead and smash about 6 homeruns today to get my fantasy team off to a hot start it would be much appreciated.

The game has already started and it’s the top of the 2nd, scoreless, and the Padres have the only hit and an error. Avoid at all costs, folks. And Chase Headley, come back soon.

-High Pockets

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