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Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

The 2014 World Series between San Francisco and Kansas City is underway. Outside of Kansas City and San Francisco does anyone care? In the locker room at my workout facility in Cheshire, Ct. I asked several people two questions. Have you watched any of the World Series games? Are you interested in who wins the World Series? The people I talked to were either Yankee, Red Sox, or Mets fans. The vast majority said they may watch a couple of games but really weren’t interested in the outcome.

With San Francisco defeating Kansas City 7 to 1 in a non-action blowout, TV viewers didn’t tune in or tuned in but did not stick around. The overnight TV rating for Game 1 was 7.3 drawing 12.2 million viewers. That’s way down from last year’s 9.4 for Game 1 of the Red Sox-Cardinals Series. In fact the 7.3 is the lowest rating ever for any Game 1 of any World Series. The previous lowest overnight rating for a Game 1 was an 8.8 in 2012 when the Giants met the Tigers. Game 2 of the World Series stayed close deeper into the night, boosting television ratings. The 7 to 2 Kansas City victory saw a 6% increase in TV ratings to 7.9 which translates to 12.9 million viewers. Before cheering for this increase realize that the 7.9 rating is the second worse Game 2 rating in World Series history. 

Other evidence of the shrinking popularity of baseball is the Giants have played in two of the three lowest rated and least-viewed World Series ever. Their 2012 sweep of the Tigers ranks dead last with a 7.6 average rating, and their five-game win over the Rangers in 2010 is tied for second worse with an average rating of 8.4.

Do these lower ratings for the Fall Classic mean baseball is continually losing its popularity? Should we now call football our National Pastime? After all the Super Bowl each year is a national event with ratings near a 40.0, over 5 times the ratings of the first game of the 2014 World Series. World Series television ratings have been in a well-documented decline for years.

Because of shrinking TV ratings, baseball pundits are declaring baseball must make many changes to stay relevant. While I agree that baseball must make changes, Michael Gee presented an interesting argument that says national TV ratings aren’t important to baseball.

Gee argued the use of national TV ratings to compare the World Series to the Super Bowl and MLB baseball to NFL football is wrong because they are different kinds of television shows generating two entirely different revenue streams. He equates football to a long-running broadcast network national hit and baseball to a local, not national, cable hit. Even though baseball has a national TV deal which provides $50 million annually for each of its 30 franchises; it really is not the major source of income for most of the baseball franchises. It’s one-third the revenue garnered from Red Sox ticket sales; its one-fifth of what the Dodgers got from their cable agreement with Time Warner. Teams like the Yankees and Red Sox that own their own cable networks do even better.

Baseball’s appeal is local, not national. The TV rating for Game 2 in Kansas City was an enormous 49.6, which is at the Super Bowl level. Baseball economics explains why a World Series which includes the Yankees or Red Sox would have much higher ratings.  

Baseball fans root hard for their local team. A loyal Yankee fan like myself will watch almost every one of the Yankee games on the Yankee YES cable network. Yes, I will watch most of the World Series games. But if it is Sunday afternoon and my Yankees aren’t playing in the World Series; I would watch the football Giants instead of the World Series.

Since Major League baseball adopted their local cable model, giving up trying to emulate the NFL national network model, it has never been more profitable.

Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

In my talk at Whitney Center in Hamden, Ct., I focused on people from groups disenfranchised by baseball who made major contributions to the game, With the 2014 World Series approaching, the story of an immigrant Jew named Barney Dreyfuss should be told.

Before 1903, many attempts were made by baseball to declare a champion between existing leagues. Leagues were made and disappeared throughout the 19th Century. In 1894, a championship trophy was given to the winner of a best-of-seven-game series between the first and second-place teams in the National League (founded in 1876). This experiment lasted three years and its popularity became the forerunner of the World Series as we know it today.

Barney Dreyfuss was born in Freiburg, Germany in 1865. In 1885, Mr. Dreyfuss came to America to do odd jobs and keep the books for his cousins Isaac and Bernard Bernheim, the makers of I.W. Harper bourbon. He worked so hard he became frail, and a doctor suggested an outside recreation like baseball. Mr. Dreyfuss learned to play second base and later managed an amateur team composed of fellow distillery workers.

Over time, he invested his savings into part ownership of the Louisville Colonels, which entered the National League in 1892.When the league contracted after the 1899 season, Mr. Dreyfuss purchased a half-interest in the Pittsburgh Pirates by negotiating the transfer of the best Louisville players, including future Hall-of-Famers Honus Wagner, Rube Waddell, and Fred Clarke, to the Pirates. In 1900 he obtained full ownership of the Pirates. After a second-place finish in 1900, the Pirates dominated the National League with three straight titles.

With the founding of the American League in 1901, a rivalry between the two leagues was created. The two leagues fought over getting fans and getting players. In 1903, Dreyfuss brokered a peace treaty that recognized the two major leagues. It also instituted a single set of rules, established agreements with the minor leagues, set up cooperative scheduling, and recognized each league's rights to its own players. To cash in on the peace between the leagues, Dreyfuss forged an agreement with the rival American League which created the modern World Series. Because of his efforts, Barney Dreyfuss was later dubbed the  “Father of the World Series.”

The first World Series was held in 1903 between Dreyfuss’s Pittsburgh Pirates of the National League and the Boston Americans of the American League. The first series was a best of nine-game series. Even though his Pirates lost that inaugural series 5 to 3, Dreyfuss donated his share of the profits to the players, making the checks out to their wives. It was and is the only time a losing team received a higher share than the winners.

Even though the first official World Series was a success, the 1904 series was cancelled. John Brush, president of the National League champion New York Giants, refused to play the Boston Americans. The reason he gave was that the American League was an inferior league. The World Series resumed in 1905 becoming a yearly event ending the baseball season.

The Pirates won their first championship in 1909 by beating Ty Cobb's Detroit Tigers, and they won again in 1925 against Walter Johnson's Washington Senators. They lost in 1927 to a Yankees team known as Murderers' Row.

In 1909 Dreyfuss opened the first steel and concrete stadium called Forbes Field which was the home of the Pirates for 61 years. Dreyfuss worked to outlaw "freak" pitches such as the spitball, and was a vigilant force in ridding the game of gambling. He advocated a clean game on a level playing field, but he never called attention to himself. He owned the Pirates until his death in 1932.

Because of his many contributions to baseball, Barney Dreyfuss was inducted into the baseball’s Hall of Fame in 2008. 

Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

As said in the previous blog posting by Dr. Stan “The Stats Man”, the Mets were the only team in 2014 with a winning season and a losing record.  A winning season means the subtraction of their runs allowed from their runs scored for the 2014 season was positive. This difference is called their run differential. In Dr. Stan’s blog he presented his formula for predicting a team’s winning percentage for a season based on their run differential for the season. The formula is:

Winning Percentage = .000683*(runs scored – runs allowed) + .50.

With their positive run differential of +11, the Mets were expected to have 82 wins, giving them their first season above .500 since 2008. However, the Mets only finished the season with 79 wins, which raises the question, what went wrong? The answer is simple; they ran into bad luck. Frankly, the Mets should have done even better than their run differential showed. The Mets had a run differential against the Washington Nationals of -43 on the season and an overall run differential of +11. This means that without getting blown out by the Nationals, the Mets would have had a run differential of +54, making them look even better as a team. With this run differential the Mets would have finished with a record of 87-75 making them one game out of a wild card berth.  The Mets woes mainly came from one run losses, which they had 29 of. If the Mets had their bullpen working as well as it did in the second half all season, things might have gone differently in those one run games. If the Mets could improve their run differential by about 50 runs from their 2014 runs scored, they could easily be a playoff team. With a strong, dominant pitching staff, the Mets runs allowed could easily be reduced meaning only a minimal increase in offense is all that is necessary to get the Mets to the playoffs.

The key to this Mets team is that they won with nearly no production from David Wright, no production from either a shortstop or a left fielder, half a season from d’Arnaud, and no Matt Harvey. Assuming everyone is healthy, they will be gaining a full season from d’Arnaud, a full season from one of the best pitchers in baseball in Matt Harvey, and an all-star caliber third baseman in a healthy David Wright before they even make any offseason moves and before they even increase their payroll. Then, the Mets have excess pitching such as Dillon Gee and Rafael Montero that they can use to trade for a formidable bat in either left field or shortstop. These additions could help the Mets improve their run differential even more than first expected. The key to the Mets offseason plans is the ability to use their assets in pitching to match up with a team who has an abundance of bats. However, the Mets cannot assume all their assets returning can allow them to stand pat. The Mets had breakout seasons from both Jacob deGrom and Lucas Duda last season and those productions should be assumed to go down by a small margin. The numbers show that an improvement at shortstop and left field, a rotation featuring Harvey, deGrom, Wheeler, and top prospect Noah Syndergaard, and a continued strong bullpen could lead the Mets to a run differential of +60 leading them to 88 wins (usually a team with at least 88 wins usually will make the playoffs) and a playoff spot in 2015.

By Alex Everett

Alex has not forgotten about the Yankee fans and will have a future posting about the 2015 Yankees. Alex is a junior math major at Quinnipiac University and is Dr. Stan’s research assistant.

Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

In a previous blog I talked about two important sabermetric formulas.

  • Bill James’s Formula is Win% = (Runs Scored)2 / [(Runs Scored)2 + (Runs Allowed)2] and
  • Stan “The Stats Man” Formula is Win% = 0.000683*[(Runs Scored) – (Runs Allowed)] +.50.

James’s formula is called the Pythagorean Formula for Baseball and Stan’s Formula is called the Linear Formula for Baseball. Both formulas are used to predict a team’s season win total.

In my book “Sandlot Stats: Learning Statistics with Baseball”, the derivation of the Pythagorean Formula is presented on pages 164-170. My Linear Formula will appear in the fall, 2014 issue of the “The Baseball Research Journal.”

The 2014 Yankees had 633 runs scored and 664 runs allowed.For the Pythagorean Formula, Win% = 6332 / [6332+6642] = .4761 (win total = .4761*162 = 77.13). For the Linear Formula, Win% = .000683*(633–664) +.50 = .4788 win total = .4788*162 = 77.57).

The 2014 Mets had 629 runs scored and 618 runs allowed. For the Pythagorean Formula, Win% = 6292 / [6292+6182] = .5088 (win total = .5088*162 = 82.43).For the Linear Formula, Win% = .000683*(629–618) +.50 =.5075 (win total = .5075*162 = 82.22).

The Mets had a winning season (a team scores more runs than it allows for the entire season) and a losing record (79-83); the Yankees had a losing season (a team that allows more runs for a season than it scores) and a winning record (84-78).

The table below shows each team’s win total, their run differential, their win total using the Pythagorean Formula, and their win total using the Linear Formula. In the National League only six teams had a positive run differential. This includes the Mets and the five teams that reached the playoffs. The Mets were the only team in all of baseball with a positive run differential and a losing record. This would indicate that the Mets had played well enough to have a winning record (the first time since 2008). In the American League only seven teams had a negative run differential and of those only the Yankees had a winning record. Observe in the tables below how close each team’s Pythagorean win total is to their linear win total and how close each team’s win total is to both their Pythagorean win total and their linear win total. The amazing thing is this relationship for team wins holds for every year in the major leagues from 1901 to 2014.

How well did the two sabermetric formulas predict the 10 teams that made the playoffs in 2014? For the N.L. the same five teams would have made the playoffs. The only change is St. Louis would be a wild-card team. For the A.L. four of the five teams would have made the playoffs. The only changes would be Seattle would replace Kansas City as a wild-card and Oakland would have won the division with the Angels being a wild-card

2014 Playoff Teams

Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

George Shuba died on Sept 29, 2014 at the age of 89. He was the last living Brooklyn Dodger who appeared in the final game of the 1955 World Series, the only one won by the Dodgers in their Brooklyn history. In that game he pinch-hit for Don Zimmer and grounded out. This game was also his final game in baseball.

George “Shotgun” Shuba joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1948 and was a utility outfielder for the Brooklyn Dodgers. His career with the Dodgers spanned seven years from 1948 to 1955. His best year was 1952 when he batted .305 in 94 games hitting 9 home runs, driving in 40 runs, and finishing 31st in the MVP balloting. He had a .259 career BA with 24 homers and 125 RBIs in 355 games. Shuba did not play in the 1949 World Series but did play in the 1952, 1953, and 1955 World Series for the Dodgers. For the three World Series he had 12 at bats with 1 homer and 2 RBIs. His one homer was special because it was the first pinch-hit homer by a National Leaguer in a World Series. The Dodgers said Shuba earned his nickname after someone compared his line drives to the sound of buckshot.  

Clearly, his career baseball statistics were nothing to write home about. So, what was his major contribution to the history of baseball? His contribution actually occurred in 1946, two years before joining the Brooklyn Dodgers. At that time he was in the minor leagues playing for the Montreal Royals an affiliate of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Enter Jackie Robinson. Jackie Robinson signed his contract with the Dodger organization on Oct. 28, 1945 and spent spring training in Daytona, Fl. with the Montreal Royals. The two men became teammates on the Montreal Royals in 1946.

George Shuba grew up in Youngstown, Ohio and often played with black youngsters. He quickly developed a friendship with Jackie. “It didn’t make any difference to me that Jack was black,” he said, “I was glad to have him on the team.”

The Jersey City Giants hosted the Montreal Royals on opening-day April 18, 1946 before a sellout crowd of 25,000 at Roosevelt Stadium. This was the 27-year-old Robinson’s debut as the first African-American to shatter organized baseball’s color barrier. There were several reporters there to witness Jackie’s first game. Jackie was the Royals second basemen and George Shuba played the outfield for the Royals. In the third inning, with two on, the Jersey City pitcher threw a waist high fastball that Robinson slammed over the left-field fence. On deck was George Shuba holding two bats. As Jackie rounded third base heading toward home-plate, George still holding his two bats was there waiting for him with his right-hand extended. The black and white hands clasped and the photographers clicked. I am thrilled that I have on my wall at home this famous picture signed by George Shuba. This photograph was called “A Handshake for the Century.” It’s known as the first interracial handshake in a professional baseball game – not a barnstorming game or other exhibition.

Jackie Robinson went on to break Major League baseball’s color barrier when he started at first base for Brooklyn on April 15, 1947. In 1948 the two men again became teammates. This time it was with the Brooklyn Dodgers. They remained teammates for the next seven years.  Shuba appeared at Dodger Stadium in 2005 when the club marked the 50th anniversary of its only championship in Brooklyn. In George Shula’s living room there is only one momento of his baseball career. It’s the photo of him with Jackie Robinson which hung over his recliner for over 50 years. A Handshake for the Century




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