Author Archives: Matt Seybold

Tempering Expectations For Tanaka

AP Photo/Kyodo News

AP Photo/Kyodo News

Brian Cashman made some carefully worded and much publicized statements about Masahiro Tanaka earlier this week. Among other things, he characterized Tanaka’s upside as a “#3 starter.” One can reasonably conclude that Cashman’s declarations were designed to temper expectations, relieve pressure, and perhaps even implicitly acknowledge the potential competitive advantage of pitching in the middle of the rotation.

Cashman also pointed to several oft-overlooked factors which make the transition from the Nippon League to MLB challenging. As has been widely observed due to the publicity surrounding Tanaka’s exceptionally long postseason outings in 2013, Japanese starters throw more pitches per outing, but they also pitch less often. The strike zone is called substantially larger in Nippon, so more contact is encouraged, lineups have fewer power hitters, and a greater premium is placed on defensive ability. Even the ball is different, slightly smaller.

It seems logical that Cashman and Yankees fans expect some growing pains during Tanaka’s rookie season (as you would with any rookie).…

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Does the order of the starting rotation matter? Or “Second is the best.”

One of the popular talking points in the wake of the Masahiro Tanaka signing has been the ideal order of the Yankees rotation. The question of how Joe Girardi will line up Tanaka, C.C. Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, and Ivan Nova has been an object of speculation not only on talk radio, but even amongst the more sabermetrically inclined, including here at IIATMS. I was surprised by the intensity of interest in this topic because for quite some time I have been operating under the assumption that the order of the rotation does not really matter. At some point, I tallied this an established baseball truth. However, when I attempted to figure out why I was persuaded of this belief, I came up empty. (If anybody does know of a comprehensive study on this subject, please make reference to it in the comments.)

So, I began doing some analysis myself. Those who argue about the order of the rotation premise that argument on two primary assumptions.…

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Is Distribution of Wealth a Problem for MLBPA?

On Monday, Dan Rosenheck of The Economist responded to the “predictably hagiographic” coverage of Marvin Miller’s death by outlining  what he calls the “mixed legacy” of the founder and longtime leader of the MLBPA. No doubt several of Rosenheck’s points are imminently debatable, as should be expected. His is, after all, a contrarian position. During the early stages of Miller’s tenure he was up against the only federally-sanctioned monopoly in American history. It was difficult to perfect MLB’s compensatory system when the compensators had grown accustomed to having no system at all. In the latter stages Miller chose to prioritize relevant privacy issues over the long term maximization of revenue, as Rosenheck would’ve preferred. Union negotiators are frequently tasked with a precarious balancing act. Certainly, Miller, like any man in his position, made some difficult rationalizations and, inevitably, evaluators of Miller’s legacy from both camps will be victims of their own hindsight biases.

That said, the centerpiece of Rosenheck’s argument is extremely compelling.…

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Losing v. Loss: Postseason Pariahs, Viral Anxiety, & Behavioral Sabermetrics

It was meme of the month: even before they lost, the Yankees were lost. They were lost without Derek Jeter. Nick Swisher looked lost at the plate. Curtis Granderson appeared to have lost his eyesight. Robinson Cano had lost his mojo. Joe Girardi lost his father. According to Donald Trump at least, A-Rod “didn’t have a clue.” The Yankees offensive collapse was historic and, as such, inspired hyperbole. “Lostness” was the metaphor of choice, not only on Twitter and the message boards, but, increasingly, in mainstream outlets like the New York Post, New York Magazine, and ESPN. Will Leitch’s conclusion following Game Three of the ALCS included a line which took the trope to its inevitable extreme: “They look lost; they look like they’re carrying their bats upside down.”

Especially at the lunatic fringe, as represented by Trump’s typically opportunist rant, the implication was clear: What the team was suffering was more than just a slump. It testified to some greater, probably moral, failing.…

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Postseason Awards In The Statistical Funhouse

Cabrera has finished in the top five in MVP voting each of the last three seasons and in his nine seasons has never failed to get at least one MVP vote, but the closest he’s come to winning the award was last year, when he finished 87 points behind his teammate Justin Verlander (he was 96 points back of Josh Hamilton in 2010). So, I can understand why some voters might feel like it’s “his turn.” However, Cabrera has become an MVP frontrunner in 2012 mainly because of the Triple Crown. Those who vote for him will point to his strong finish and his superior team, but such arguments are pretty easily diffused. Although Mike Trout hit only .287 in August and September, his OBP was still .400, and he maintained his stellar pace in almost every other statistical category. Moreover, the Angels won more games than Detroit and their record with Trout in the lineup (.580) is considerably better than the Tigers with Cabrera (.540).…

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All-Star Selection Show: Duds & Snubs

No Madison Bumgarner?

When we discussed potential breakout Cy Young candidates prior to the season, Bumgarner was the definite frontrunner. Thusfar, he’s lived up to that expectation. Not only is he a sabermetric darling, as he was in 2011, this year he one of the top twelve pitchers in the NL in innings, ERA, strikeouts, and, most surprisingly, wins. Bumgarner is the only pitcher with double-digit victories who didn’t even garner a Final Vote nomination (and, rest assured, Yu Darvish will be in Kansas City). The Giants could have three starters and an NL-leading four players on the roster, which might have worked against MadBum.

Representing the Home Team…

As recently as two weeks ago, it was a distinct possibility the sole representative of the All-Star-hosting Royals might be journeyman reliever Jonathan Broxton. However, several Royals hitters got hot in June and made Ron Washington’s decision more difficult. Alcides Escobar leads AL shortstops in hitting, but his inclusion likely would’ve forced Ron Washington to leave Elvis Andrus (who’s equally deserving) at home.…

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WAR is Better, Healthier, More Supportive of Ryan Braun, Ben Zobrist

Last November, much ado was made, I mean a heck-of-a-lot-of-ado was made, about Matt Kemp’s WAR. So much ado that Jonah Keri was still making much ado about it last week. According to the old bWAR, Kemp had posted the best single-season from a hitter since Barry Bonds “preposterous ’04 campaign.” Kemp’s 10.0 bWAR was so abundantly better than Ryan Braun’s 7.7, Sport’s Illustrated’s Cliff Corcoran could go so far as to claim “MVP voting continues to defy logic or reason” because the BBWAA had the audacity to choose Braun over Kemp (by the slimmest of margins). (To be fair, Corcoran was hardly alone in his outrage, he merely mainstreamed a widely-held position.)

While it’s hardly true that everybody made their MVP arguments based upon WAR alone, nor was Kemp by any means an illogical choice, this type of reductive brow-beating has been an unfortunate side effect of WAR’s popularity. The inconclusiveness of arguments based solely on single-season discrepancies in WAR is reinforced by the Baseball-Reference update.…

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