Contract Year Fallacies

The concept of the “contract year performance bump” has been long debated.  Many in the fan and mainstream media communities swear it exists; while those in the analytical circle claim that if the effect does exist, it’s small.  Yesterday, Joe Sheehan of Sports Illustrated wrote a lengthy piece discussing this theory.  Within his article was a carefully crafted an argument designed to poke holes in the contract year bump theory.  Here’s what he had to say.

“I kid, of course. The conventional wisdom is that players find a higher level of success in their ‘walk year,’ putting up big numbers so that they can hit the market as a valuable property. No one associates impending free agency with failure, even though it happens fairly often.”

While Sheehan’s correct that it’s conventional wisdom to assume players will be additionally motivated and therefore “rise to the occasion” in order to cash in on the free agent market; quite frequently, the fans and media will express concerns regarding a particular player’s ability to perform under the weight of an unresolved contract situation.  Case in point, let’s travel back in time to this past February.  Almost instantly after the Albert Pujols negotiating window closed, numerous articles were released questioning whether or not the uncertainty of his contract status would place additional pressure on him to perform.  That apprehension was further amplified when he uncharacteristically struggled throughout the month of April.  Clearly, these concerns indicate there was some doubt he wouldn’t be able to handle the pressure; thus affecting both his performance and perceived free agent market value.  As a result, it’s unfair to assume that no one associates free agency with failure; because clearly, some do.

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Hughes Excels in Rehab Start

Just in case anyone missed this over the weekend…

Injured Yankees right-hander Phil Hughes made his first official rehab start for the Staten Island Yankees on Sunday, going 4-1/3 innings while allowing three hits and striking out seven. Though the results appear overwhelmingly positive; perhaps, most encouraging was his fastball velocity. While his velocity dropped as his pitch count increased, it constently registered at 93-94 MPH, and touched 95 MPH early in the game.

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Could Kazmir Become a Yankee?

According to Alden Gonzalez at MLB.com, Scott Kazmir could be on the New York Yankees radar, soon rather than later.

“Cashman said he hasn’t looked into the possibility of acquiring Scott Kazmir but will eventually. “I know he’s struggled,” he said. #yankees

Considering Brian Cashman’s semi-successful track record dumpster diving for starting pitching this year, it’s probably not a bad idea to kick the tires on the former power pitching lefty. After all, the most they’d sign him to is a minor league deal with no guarantee of making the major league roster. In reality, it’s about as low risk of a deal as you can make.

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Yankees Winning Battle for Connecticut

While New England has always been considered a stronghold for Red Sox Nation, the state of Connecticut has been a battleground for team supremacy between the Yankees and Red Sox.  According to the latest annual Quinnipiac University poll, it appears the Yankees are winning.

“Forty-three percent of baseball fans surveyed in the poll, which has an error margin of 2.6 percentage points, support the Yankees. Thirty-eight percent said they are fans of the Sox.”

You can take this poll for what it’s worth, but the sub-3% margin of error shows that it’s probably pretty accurate.  Perhaps of greatest interest to me was that 7% of those polled indicated they preferred the Mets.  Funny, I didn’t know so many Connecticut residents were masochists.  I guess you learn something new every day. Continue reading Yankees Winning Battle for Connecticut

Time for a Phil Hughes Update

According to the New York Daily News, Phil Hughes appears to be making quite a bit of headway in his rehabilitation, and may return a little sooner than expected.

“Hughes, out since April 15 with inflammation in his shoulder, will start on Sunday for the Class A Staten Island Yankees in a road game against the Brooklyn Cyclones, the Mets’ Single-A affiliate.

The goal is for him to throw 65 pitches as he builds himself back up to rejoin the starting rotation. If the outing goes well, he would likely need 2-3 more starts as part of his rehabilitation assignment and could be pitching for the Yanks in the first week of July.”

After winning 18 games and showing immense promise last season, the Yankees were relying on Hughes to grab ahold of the number two spot in their rotation this year. As we all know that hasn’t happened. During his first three starts, he struggled mightily with his velocity, and allowed contact at a rate so high that even Kirk Reuter would’ve been embarrassed. Clearly, something was wrong. Sure enough, after multiple tests, the Yankees announced he was suffering from the always nebulous “shoulder inflammation.”

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Analyzing Jim Bowden’s Plan for Realignment

While Brien already discussed the possibility of MLB’s interest in a realignment that could include the creation of two 15 team leagues; moving either the Astros or Marlins from the NL to the AL; daily interleague play; and/or the abolishment of divisions (all things I am for), I feel compelled to throw my two cents into the ring.  No, I’m not going to debate Brien point-for-point.  Though I could easily write a 3000 word piece arguing against Brien’s position that a divisionless system will ultimately reduce the number of competitive playoff teams, and therefore, playoff races, I will avoid the temptation.  Why?  There are much more pressing matters.

On Sunday, ESPN’s Jim Bowden laid out a controversial proposal for not only expanding the MLB playoffs, but also drastically realigning baseball’s league and divisional structures.  While Bowden states up front that his proposal would be “radical” in “old school terms,” he fails to recognize that his recommendations are still “radical” even in new school terms.  Though I don’t have any problems with concepts like daily interleague play being implemented, he offers up several other ideas that are not only impractical, but also likely to face extreme resistance upon being recommended.

For starters, Bowden recommends abolishing the American and National Leagues, and replacing them with two, 15-team geographically realigned conferences similar to the NFL, NBA, and NHL models.  While some might wretch at the idea of changing from “leagues” to “conferences,” it actually makes a lot of sense with interleague play evolving from a novelty into an everyday occurrence.  “Leagues” symbolize exclusivity; a hard line.  “Conferences,” on the other hand, signify fluidity and intermingling.  In reality, MLB would be updating the titles of the two entities for the sake of accuracy.

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Live Game Chat Tonight!

Hello Yankee Universe!  We just wanted to let you know that we will be co-hosting another live game chat with our friends at Fire Brand of the American League for the Yanks-Sox game tonight at 7:05 p.m.  The game will be televised on ESPN, so Dan O’Brien, Nomar Garciaparra, and Pedro Gomez will be calling the game.  While we’ll be intermingling with the enemy (or in my case, my allies), we request that everyone who participates be civil and respectful.  That doesn’t mean you can’t engage in some playful smack talk, but please don’t let it get out of hand.  Our goal is to have fun, and not break up virtual fist fights!

We hope to see you there!  Speaking solely on behalf of Jason, Brien, Larry, Tamar, Josh, and Anna:  Go Yanks! Continue reading Live Game Chat Tonight!

Live Game Chat: Yanks-Sox on June 8th

Hello Yankee Universe!  We just wanted to let you know that we will be co-hosting another live game chat with our friends at Fire Brand of the American League for the Yanks-Sox game on Wednesday, June 8th at 7:05 p.m.  The game will be televised on ESPN, so Dan O’Brien, Nomar Garciaparra, and Pedro Gomez will be calling the game.  While we’ll be intermingling with the enemy (or in my case, my allies), we request that everyone who participates be civil and respectful.  That doesn’t mean you can’t engage in some playful smack talk, but please don’t let it get out of hand.  Our goal is to have fun, and not let this turn into Round 2 of the Montagues and the Capulets.

We hope to see you there!  Speaking solely on behalf of Jason, Brien, Larry, Tamar, Josh, and Anna:  Go Yanks! Continue reading Live Game Chat: Yanks-Sox on June 8th

All Hail, the WAR Graph!

WAR graphs are amazing. Aren’t they? For those who aren’t familiar with the concept, allow me to explain. WAR graphs, a creation of Fangraphs,* is a tool that allows you to compare up to four players at a time using the WAR metric as your basis of comparison. For example, if you wanted to see how Bobby Grich’s career stacked up against Lou Whitaker, Roberto Alomar, and Ryne Sandberg, you could. If you wanted to compare that career of Barry Bonds to that of Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Babe Ruth, you could do that as well. Outside of not being able to compare create WAR graphs with pitchers (an omission that will someday need to be rectified), there are few limits to whom you can compare.

One of the greatest things about WAR graphs is that it gives you three methods of comparing the players of your choice: nth best season, cumulative by age, and by age. Using the “nth best season” option, WAR graphs allows you to sort the selected player(s) WAR values, and graphs them from most to least valuable season. This method allows you to examine the manner in which your selected player(s) produced value. For instance, this method makes it easier to determine whether a player experienced a small, but productive peak, or an extended period of solid, but unspectacular run. This can be key in deciding a player’s legacy and/or worthiness for the Hall of Fame.

Using the “cumulative by age” option, you can compare your selected players based on their cumulative WAR at their respective ages. For instance, if you wanted to compare the careers of Nomar Garciaparra and Derek Jeter at age-30, you would find that they’d produced nearly identical career WAR values up to that point. Of course, we all know that soon after the injury bug derailed Nomar’s career, while Jeter continued on his Hall of Fame path. Still, this method allows you to see how the two players diverged in production as they crossed from their 20s into their 30s.

Using the “by age” option, you’re afforded the option of analyzing your selected player(s) season-by-season value, in order of age, in a non-cumulative fashion. One of the benefits of using this method is that it allows you the option of determining when a player’s true peak occurred. While most players peak between the ages of 25 and 29, this isn’t always the case. Some players, especially those with “old man skills,” tend to peak earlier in their careers. Players like Melvin Mora and Edgar Martinez, who started their major league careers in their late 20s, may have peaks in their early 30s.

The WAR graph I’ve decided to analyze today is one comparing four of the Yankees greatest catchers: Yogi Berra, Elston Howard, Thurman Munson, and Jorge Posada.

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