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Entries in baseball (6)

Sunday
Jul072013

Fun With Baseball-Reference's Neutralized Stats

If you are a regular reader of this site, then you are no doubt, a regular visitor to Baseball-Reference. Which means you also know about Baseball-Reference's neutralized batting and pitching stat tables. If you don't, here's a rundown.

Baseball-Reference took the time to create a special, interactive-like, table where you can adjust a players stats to reflect what they could have been like had the player put up his stats in a different season. Want to change Babe Ruth's 1927 hitting line? See what it would have looked like had he played for the Montreal Expos in 1987? Go for it. Want to see what Jimmie Foxx's 1932 would have looked like had he and his back pocket flask been a member of the Miracle Mets in 1969? You can do that too. See? Fun.

This is fun.

So I was sitting around, doing what people normally do when they live in a town of 1,900 people (which is nothing), and said to myself: "Self. Let's go play around with Neutralized Batting on Baseball-Reference for a few hours. It's not like we are doing anything else today." Then I took my meds, and the voice stopped. But it had already given me a good idea.

And now, here we are.

So let's start with the aforementioned Babe Ruth and his 60 home run 1927 season. The original home run record. A year where the Bambino hit an astounding .356/.486/.772. Now, let's jump into our Dalorean with it's flux capacitor and take this season ahead in time. Add some extra competition. Ruth played in an eight-team American League in 1927 and without interleague play, had the chance to face each team 19 times.

The major league average for runs scored by a team during the 1927 season was a healthy 4.75. Thanks largely to a Yankees team that was stacked from top to bottom, and anchored in the middle by Ruth and fellow slugger, Lou Gehrig.

Now, let's take Ruth out of that season, and put him on the, oh, I don't know, the 1988 Dodgers. Ruth still gets a ring (even though Kirk Gibson reportedly blows up on him in Spring Training for his eating habits), but he now has to face 11 other teams. And the National league average for runs scored is nearly a full run lower at 3.881. What happens?

Ruth is still a monster, but is not as historically monstrous.

He hits 53 home runs instead of 60. Drives in 135 runs instead of 164. And his slash line takes a hit as he now hits .321/.448/.692. If Ruth played his entire career under the circumstances only playing in Dodgers Stadium, and every year the league average for runs scored during a game was at 3.881, he wouldn't hit 714 home runs. He wouldn't hit 700 home runs. He actually falls below Willie Mays and finishes his career with 652.

Which speaks more to the testament of how otherwordly talented Ruth was as a hitter.

Even if you place him in an enviroment where he faces more competition, and where less runs are being scored, and all of his games are being played in a pitchers park. Babe Ruth is still a sure-fire Hall of Famer. Amazing. 

Let's go contemporary.

In Baltimore, Chris Davis is having a season for the ages. He has already matched his career highs for home runs and RBI, and the Orioles haven't even reached the 90 game mark. But what if we took Chris Davis into that same Dalorean, maybe this time with Michael J. Fox driving (I get tired from driving. I'm sure you understand), and place him in an even more favorable hitting environment? Like, oh, I don't know, pre-humidor Colorado in the year 2000.

The 2000 Colorado Rockies scored 968 runs. Baseball-Reference's much-better-at-the-math-than-me stat heads figured out that if they only played games in Colorado, they would have score 1,013 runs. But how would the 2013 version of Chris Davis fare in the middle of a lineup that sported a breakout season from a young Todd Helton?

He would already have 42 home runs and 127 RBI to go along with a slash line of .381/.459/.846. Or roughly Todd Helton's entire 2000 campaign. That's how neutralized batting says he would fare.

So, in summation...

Congratulations to every era of baseball that didn't include Babe Ruth. No matter when he played, there stands a good chance he would have owned that time in baseball history.

And congratulations to the 2000 National League. You didn't have to face what Chris Davis has turned into. A ferocious lefty with power for days weeks months eons. Yeah, that sounds about right.

Check back in next time when I play around with Neutralized Pitching. We'll do some flip-flopping of Christy Mathewson and Pedro Martinez.

We'll have all kinds of fun.

I'll even bring some dip.

Tuesday
Feb122013

Jeff Passan Exclusive: 'PEDs Are Going Nowhere' 

Today's Three Up Three Down interview is with Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports. Jeff is an award-winning columnist who has covered baseball since 2004. He is the co-author of the book "Death to the BCS: The Definitive Case Against the Bowl Championship Series." Jeff is one of baseball's most respected columnists  and we really enjoyed his candor and dynamic insight - we hope you do as well.

You can keep up with Jeff on Yahoo! Sports and of course you can follow him on Twitter (@jeffpassan).

Baseball Analytics: It seems as if the issue of PEDs won't die - what will the long term impact be on baseball and with so much money in player contracts do you think PEDs are here to stay?

Ryan Braun has acknowledged a business relationship with Anthony Bosch.Passan: PEDs are going nowhere. Elite athletes in any sport, be it baseball, football, basketball or, as we've seen, cycling, will stop at nothing to gain even the slightest advantage. And while much of it is monetarily driven, sure, I think that's too simple an explanation. These are people who at every point of their lives have been the best at something, so usage understandably runs the gamut, from those who no longer look elite compared to their peers to those who want desperately to hold on to such status. Even if a sport disincentivized PED use disproportionately -- say, a lifetime ban on the first positive -- players still would use. As long as drugs are available and work, and the testing is so infrequent, they'll go to embarrassing lengths.

Just think about how ridiculous this sounds: A former male stripper sucks the juice out of the antlers of dead deer, bottles it and encourages you to spray it under your tongue to play better. Or how about this one: A guy who parades around calling himself a doctor despite the absence of a medical degree and has access to wide arrays of completely illegal substances says he can turn you into a star -- and more than a dozen guys making anywhere from a half-million dollars to $30 million allegedly line up. If athletes are willing to do that -- to deal with the incompetent, the shady, the suspect and, in some cases, all three -- then the sports have no chance.

While this doesn't have any of the sociological implications of the War on Drugs, it's equally futile. And, similarly, the seeming solution of legalization is wrought with peril as well. Since the embarrassment of steroids hit baseball a decade ago, the sport has so demonized performance-enhancing drugs, any sort of pivot off that position would bring cries of disingenuousness. So MLB will fight, and it will fight hard. There are true believers in the league office who under the ever-graying line -- you can extract your blood, spin it, reinject it and that's OK, but a less-effective substance isn't because the government regulates it? -- but cannot muddy their moral or ethical stances for fear their well-hewn position would collapse.

Baseball Analytics: How many times a day does someone say to you, "off the record..."? How important are anonymous sources to great reporting?

Jeff Passan: Guys say off the record all the time. To which I respond: No. The vehemence of their counter-response and the vitality of the information helps me decide whether it's worth listening. And it can be. If it means the difference between knowing something and not knowing it, my job is to know, and so it can be a sacrifice worth making.

A lot of it, I think, depends on the history of your relationship with the source. Some sources are wildly paranoid and necessitate it. I walked by a great source at the Winter Meetings this year and couldn't even say hello. Later in the meetings, someone else introduced me to him, and I had to act like I didn't know him. I texted him later: "It was very nice to meet you today."

Another source understands the various forms of anonymity. Off the record means information you simply cannot use. It's sort of a for-your-knowledge thing, and I reserve it only for the best sources, because they're not going to give me frivolities off the record. The next step up is on background, which means information I can use to report but can't attribute it. The next step up is don't use my name, which I've come to find is the most dangerous, because people in baseball love nothing more than to talk shit on other people, and the inclination can be to allow them to cloak themselves in anonymity. Often, this is unfair. There are certain instances I can think of where I have allowed this -- in a Marlins column or two perhaps -- but by and large, I try to limit them. And then is the golden obelisk, on the record, which you shoot for whenever you can.

To me, what made the Red Sox-text message story so strong wasn't just the information about the near-mutiny. It was that Ben Cherington confirmed it on the record. I didn't know Ben all that well when I called him up, and I expected him to ream me up and down. On the contrary, he was eminently professional, calm and reasoned. Not that he cares about such things, but I earned an enormous amount of respect for how he dealt with what he knew was about to blow up into a mess of a situation. And it's why when you make such phone calls, you never offer off the record. Best to let the source negotiate for it and see if it's worth it.

Baseball Analytics: If you could take a pill that helped you perform your job at such a high level that your earnings would increase 5X would you take it (we promise there will be no side effects)?

Jeff Passan: All right, Morpheus ...

I can't answer without understanding the other variables. Is this pill legal? What are the moral and ethical implications of taking this pill? What will my parents think of me? My wife? My sons? I imagine the readers would like it, since my columns would improve, but at the sort of price where those who don't read me accuse me of being a phony and my work a sham? For how long will my earnings increase? And how much more work will that entail, drawing me away from the sorts of things I need to maintain a balanced life?

I do know this: A lot of athletes have said yes without considering such questions because the allure of quintupling one's salary is simply too great. And I get that. I do. The idea of taking care of generations of Passans appeals a great deal. Tempting enough to not even consider the ramifications. And yet I'd hope the magnet of my moral compass is stronger than that of a dollar sign followed by a number and a bunch of zeroes.

Tuesday
Mar062012

SABR Analytics Conference in Phoenix

Are you attending the SABR Analytics conference next week in Phoenix? TruMedia will be attending and we would love to connect... drop us a note or post a comment below if you plan to attend.