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Another idea to remodel the MLB: A mid-season trophy

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Last month I posted this change to the MLB schedule, operating under the framework that a 162 G schedule hurts the stakes of games too much.

Now I have an idea I like even more!

There’s a reason one can’t just cut the 162 G schedule in half. Financially it’s worth it to teams to dilute the product for twice the games and it’d wreck statistical records like home runs or wins for pitchers.

If cutting the season in half isn’t an option, what about two seasons half as long? Say the first three months, they play an 80 game-ish long “season”. There is no playoffs at the end, instead it’s old school rules – First place teams in the AL and NL play each other. Instead of the World Series, they’re playing for another trophy – let’s call it the Jackie Robinson trophy for now. The series would have to be short because other teams’ pitchers can’t be sitting for too long. A 5 G series, a 3 G series or even a 1 G winner takes all, would work.

After the Jackie Robinson trophy game, the slate is wiped clean and everyone starts back at 0 W-0 L. They then play another 80 or so games, before their records are seeded into the divisional and wild card October playoff format we know now, leading to a World Series winner.

The plan would be for the Jackie Robinson trophy to be the Golden Globes to the World Series’ Oscars, or the Eurocup to its World Cup – the 2nd most important trophy, but still a big deal to win and still cool.

The benefits of this plan:

– First, it achieves the objective of putting 1/80th of the season level stakes into games, instead of 1/162. The second half of the season in particular as the teams race to October playoff seedings, would be exciting.

– It gives a reprieve to teams in the second half of the season. In the current system, more than half the league are out of the playoff picture and playing meaningless games in the second half. This system gives them another shot. Teams who disappointed out of the gates like the Blue Jays and Royals this season, would get another kick at the can.

– At the same time, it adds a level of meritocracy. A criticism can be made of the MLB playoffs, that the World Series team doesn’t have to be the best team, they can just be the most hot. With the regular season AL and NL leaders playing for the Jackie Robinson trophy, there’s a reward for a team playing the best in the regular season. A truly great team also has the opportunity to prove it by winning both the Jackie Robinson trophy and the World Series in the same season.

– Financially, the series for the Jackie Robinson trophy is ratings winner and a gates winner for the teams involved. It also makes games with the AL and NL pennants on the line leading up to it, more important and talking heads worthy. It’s a fun and fan-friendly idea.

I would love this change for the MLB! It seems overwhelmingly a positive change.

Written by jr.

August 24, 2013 at 7:46 pm

A crazy idea to make the MLB more fun and relevant!

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Mike Trout

Mike Trout (Photo credit: Keith Allison)

Of the four major sports – the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, I have little doubt about which appeals to me least. Regular season baseball games are long, slow and they mean half as much as the others. It’s just not as fun or compelling.

Here’s a idea I came up with that’s a radical change, but maybe one is needed!

First of all, we can’t change the amount of innings in the game or the amount of games of the season. The former because it’d be far too heavy a sledgehammer to the format and tradition of the game and its fans, not to mention it’d cost too many players their jobs. The amount of games are staying for financial reasons.

Here’s my proposal: Don’t change the length of the season, but change what the games mean. Instead of every game counting for one win or loss, make every 3 or 5 games between teams a “best of” series. So if two teams play 3 times, the team that wins 2, gets the “series win”. And this is what counts in the standings – the amount of series wins vs losses that a team accumulates over the season.

The first immediate problem that comes to mind for this idea, is that a best of three consecutively can’t work, because if a team wins the first two games, the third becomes meaningless. The way to fix it is this. A series doesn’t have to be completed on consecutive days. Say Detroit and Oakland are having a 3 game set. Detroit wins the first 2 games, meaning they add a series win to their record without having to play a third game for it. The 3rd game that week thus, becomes the first game of the next series. Then perhaps Detroit and Oakland aren’t set to play again for another month. When they do, the final one or two games of the series are played, if not the beginning of the next series right after it. This also allows 4 games series to still exist as they do now. In that case the teams would be guaranteed to both complete one series that week, in addition to starting the next one, whether it’s 1 or 2 games played in it.

This still presents a concern that the amount of series two teams play in a year is not set. For every team a series ends 2-0, it starts the next series a game earlier than if it goes to three games. So by the end of the year, the amount of “series” two teams have played is not entirely set and it’s likely teams would have a different total amount of series played in the year, even if playing exactly as many games. However I assume this isn’t a major concern. For one, records could be counted by winning % of series, moreso than the raw W/L of them, making it irrelevant if one team has played more series than another. Secondly, games could be cancelled on the end of a team’s schedule or a make-up game could be added to balance it out, without a huge hassle, I assume.

As for the benefits, it adds a fresh spin to the schedule. Instead of 162 games with diluted value, teams may have 60-70 series a year for whom the winner of each, is very important. Furthermore every 3rd game of a series in a “winner takes it” situation (or 5th, if best of 5s are included), becomes more exciting and important than any regular season on the present schedule. In addition, teams are put into “close-out” or “elimination” game situations in these series even before the ‘winner take all’ game, also adding a layer of intrigue and reason to watch them. That every week would have a varying combination of series beginning games or potentially series-ending ones, would make the schedule and the upcoming games for the team more compelling. Within the games, it also creates the potential for bigger moments for its players. It’s one thing for a player to hit a game-winning hit or walk-off home run, or a reliever to blow a save in regular games, when there’s 162 of them. But a walk-off hit when it wins a series, or a reliever blowing one? That play becomes twice to three times as important and thus, twice to three times as interesting. It also provides a reason for very casual MLB fans like me to watch. Right now I have no incentive to watch any baseball game except my team the Cubs or the Blue Jays because I live in Canada (truthfully, I’m usually hoping for them to lose). However, in this now series system, now I can look at the scores and see that Detroit and Oakland or Cincinatti and Pittsburgh are in the 7th-9th innings of a series deciding game. Aren’t I more likely to turn on that game as a neutral fan of those teams, or to care who wins, or if a player is specifically responsible for that win? And to be honest, I can go weeks without watching a full Cubs game in the dog days of the season like this. But if there were series-deciding games on the schedule, I could pick out 30-50 full games to watch a year – the most important ones. This works for the very casual baseball fans like me.

It’s a big change and unlikely, but I think it’d make Major League Baseball more fun and appealing to me.

Written by jr.

July 14, 2013 at 9:02 pm

Posted in Baseball

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Video Blog Wednesday: Why OPS is a very flawed stat and no more than baseball’s PER + An idea to fix it

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By Julien Rodger

Twitter: @ASFW_twitter

Email: julienrodger@gmail.com (If I get enough questions, I’ll do a mailbag)

Written by jr.

October 3, 2012 at 4:28 pm

Stats Tuesday: A statistical case for Miguel Cabrera as American League MVP + Should a runs involved stat replace RBIs?

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English: Miguel Cabrera at Dodger Stadium.

English: Miguel Cabrera at Dodger Stadium. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The AL MVP race is the most interesting in years due to the debate of traditional stats vs new age sabermetrics, as many have pointed out. As of October 1st, 2012, Miguel Cabrera is in position to win the Triple Crown of leading the league in the traditional hitting stats Batting Average (BA), Home Runs (HR) and Runs Batted In (RBIs), but Mike Trout holds a significant lead in Wins Above Replacement (WAR), 10.7 to Cabrera’s 6.8 according to baseball-reference.com, a massive gap.

Trout’s gap in WAR comes from two places. One, he is given 2.3 points in defensive WAR due to excellent fielding in center-field, while Cabrera’s score is -0.2 at 3rd base. Secondly, Trout’s offensive WAR (8.6) beats out Cabrera’s score of 7.4 on baseball-reference. This is interesting because it is clear that Cabrera is the better hitter statistically, leading in OPS, batting average, slightly trailing in on-base percentage, and having a sizeable gap in home runs. A fascinating statistic is that Cabrera has 137 Runs Batted In (RBI) to Trout’s 83.

RBIs have of course lost favor in recent years for obvious reasons. They’re simply too context based. A player’s RBIs depends on the ones in front of him who get on base. In this case, Trout’s offensive value is more reliant on scoring from the bases than Cabrera’s is. For one, he hits lead-off, a position where where worse batters behind him mean there’s less chance of players to be on base – and the first bat of the game no players can be on base. Secondly, Trout is a fantastic base-runner and base stealer (Leading the AL in stolen bases at 48, amazingly only being caught 4 times). Third, by the fact that less of hits are home runs than Cabrera’s despite a higher on-base percentage, this is another reason why more of his hits end up with him on the bases, waiting for the batters in front of him to hit him in. RBIs of course can’t measure the value Trout brings by getting into scoring position. When a batter in front of him hits Trout in, they are credited with an RBI, while he is given a Run Scored, which is tracked but not given much weight in awards voting. Trout, unsurprisingly, leads the AL in Runs Scored by far with 129 – Cabrera coming in 2nd at 109. Trout leading Cabrera in offensive WAR comes down to favoring this “scoring from the bases” advantage Trout has over Cabrera, outweighing the extra damage Cabrera does at the plate.

We know Trout’s Run Scored nor Cabrera’s RBIs advantage over each other isn’t indicative of their value. Their roles are different, Trout’s favoring scoring off the bases and Cabrera with the bat. This is concerning because fundamentally, we should want to measure how much runs a player actually scored in a game, in a same way we want to know how many points a basketball player actually scored.

So what I came up with a little stat to try and incorporate both runs batted in and runs scored off the bases for a player. I can’t be the only one who’s tried this, but nonetheless here’s what I did: I took a player’s Runs Scored and subtracted Home Runs, as when a player scores a Run off a homer, it’s counted as an RBI. A good term for the total Runs Scored not counting Home Runs, is “Baserunning Runs Scored”. I then added this number to RBIs. The stat thus is simply (Runs Scored – HRS) + RBIs, or Baserunning Runs Scored + RBIs.

Thus this counts the “Total Runs Involved In” for a player, accounting for the runs a player scores either with his bats or from baserunning Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jr.

October 2, 2012 at 1:35 pm

8 thoughts on the Lakers’ demise

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1. I feel the Lakers’ loss quite a bit more than the Spurs’. Maybe it’s just me being an Angeleno, but then again, I never felt that sold on the Spurs. The team played so different from their Tim Duncan-peak game, it was hard to look at them as a scrappy champion. The Lakers, after last year’s emergences from late season mediocrity felt like they’d be tough to kill.

2. With that said, the funny thing about a dynasty-type team that has been shown to perform better in the biggest game is that eventually, it’s inexactly one of those situations where the team will sputter.

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Written by Matt Johnson

May 8, 2011 at 6:49 pm

American Playoff Systems: Closure or Chaos?

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Created by Jason R Remy (Jayron32)

Image via Wikipedia

Last week we saw the two #1 seeds in NFL lose in their first (and thus only) playoff game of the season.  Just a few weeks ago I wrote a post talking about just how good one of them, the New England Patriots, was compared with history.  Am I shocked they lost?  Not really given what I know about the NFL playoffs – it’s not uncommon for favorites to lose in the playoffs.

This event though has made a few people start thinking about the system we have and its pros and cons.  Joe Posnanski over at SI writes a great thought provoking article on the matter, its implications to the BCS, and on what playoffs mean in general.  In one line he asks:  “Is a playoff really MORE FAIR? What does fair even mean?”

Fairness in Competition = Removing Bias while Minimizing Randomness

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Why the faith in OPS?

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First off, I’m not a sabermatrician. I won’t pretend to be in their league in advanced baseball knowledge.  But I have a problem with their most widely used advanced batting stat: OPS.

OPS stands for On-Base Plus Slugging. In short, On-Base Percentage measures how often a player gets on base and Slugging Percentage accounts for the value of extra bases. Both these stats are fine. But I don’t see the basis for simply adding them together 1 to 1. Since they clearly aren’t worth the same, this immediately makes the stat flawed.

The consensus is OBP is worth more. It’s more important to not waste one of the precious 3 outs than advance more bases when you get on. The number I’ve heard is OBP is worth 1.8x more, though some have estimated as high as 3x and up. If true, OPS is very off. Furthermore, SLG% itself is also flawed because it weighs singles and walks the same. Singles are worth more because they advance players on 2nd and 3rd without a force from 1st, making them much more potent for scoring runs. Once again this just trips up any pretensions of accuracy for OPS.

The real basis for it is adding them together happens to coorelate pretty well with offensive production. So under the guise of “it works”, it’s stuck. I’m not buying it. Stats should be equated for reasons making sense on their own, not just because they give us the good looking answer. We shouldn’t accept flawed stats because it gives us an answer we want. Especially in baseball, a sport where eventual statistical exactness is not only possible, but realistically attainable.

In truth, OPS is a great ballpark stat. The basketball equivalent is John Hollinger’s Player Efficiency Rating (PER) or Win Shares (WS). In one number it can tell you who the MVP candidates, all-stars, and mediocore players are. It should not be treated as more.

Recently OPS+ was introduced, adjusting OPS for ballparks and giving OBP 1.2x weight. It’s not enough. It still doesn’t make sense without relying on the conclusion looking right. To me the answer is a multiplication equation involving OBP and SLG%, not addition.

My quick glance across the internet has shown me fringe sabermatricians have realized the faults of OPS and tried to develop better, multiplication based batting stats for years. Much credit to them. I’d only say not to treat OPS as gospel or the end of the line because it’s clearly not. Baseball is a sport where we can truly exact offensive value. It’s all on the paper. To treat simply adding together OBP and SLG% together 1 to 1 as enough, is selling ourselves short.