If you have any ideas for topics, please email me. Thanks,Stan!
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

On October 2, 2017, I presented a talk to faculty and senior math majors at Sacred Heart University. The title of my talk was “Undergraduate College Students Can Do Original Math Research.” The senior math majors were from their Senior Seminar Course where each student, as a final requirement, must write a paper on a research topic. Even though their research requirement does not require original research, some of them were actually doing original research.

Using the topic of Linear Regression, taught in every first year statistics course, I showed the students how I developed a formula to predict a team’s winning percentage in the MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL. The formula for the MLB is Winning Percentage = .000673*(Runs Scored – Runs Allowed) +.50. My formula appeared in “The Baseball Research Journal”, in the book “Math and Sports”, and on the website “Baseball-Reference.com.” At the end of my talk, the students asked very interesting questions about my research. One student asked me a question about something she found interesting in my talk. I answered her question by saying your question can lead you to do your own research.

After my talk, my wife Tara and I had dinner with the professor teaching the seminar course and three of her students. Driving home from Sacred Heart I remarked to Tara how much I enjoyed meeting the faculty and students at Sacred Heart.

Here I am with Professor Bernadette Boyle who invited me to speak:

with Prof Boyle
 

And here I am with some of the students:

Sacred Heart 1


Sacred Heart 2


Sacred heart 3

Sacred Heart 5

Sacred Heart 5
 

 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

This man is 6-ft-7 in tall weighing 282 pounds and plays professionally for a NY team. Is he a power forward for the NY Knicks? Is he a tight end for the NY Giants? The answer is no to each of these questions. He is the starting right fielder for the NY Yankees and his name is Aaron Judge.

Reading a column written by Marchand, I discovered some really fascinating superstitions of Judge that I never noticed before. Moments before seeing his 1st pitch in a game Judge pops 2 pieces of Double Bubble sugar-free bubblegum in his mouth. Until he makes an out, he'll continue to chew it. If he picks up a hit in his first at-bat, it stays in. Another hit, and he keeps chewing. In fact, as long as his future at bats do not yield result in an out the gum stays in his mouth. So if he was to have 4 consecutive hits or walks in a 4-hour game he would still be chewing tasteless dried out pieces of gum. When he makes an out he will get rid of the old gum and replace it with 2 pieces of new gum. You could say each out sets him up for a fresh beginning. Judge started this superstition in college and has no plans on changing it.

Another unique judgeism is, after the 3rd out of an inning, he waits in front of the Yankee dugout for his fellow outfielders. There he offers words of encouragement and high-fives as they enter the dugout. Judge says. "If someone makes a good play or someone does something on defense, I want to be there and say, 'Hey man, nice play' or 'Good job.' If there is miscommunication in the outfield, it gives me a chance to grab them real quick and say something."

Could the Yankees have picked a better last name for PR purposes than the word judge. In fact, the Yankees have created the new Judge’s Chambers which accommodates 18 fans picked at random from other seats. The fans get to borrow a black judge's robe and keep a foam gavel that reads, "All rise!"  Judge, 25, has already been compared to Derek Jeter by his manager Joe Girardi. Girardi said," Back in Jeter's day, when the Yankees scored or got a big hit, Jeter was always the first out of the dugout to congratulate his teammates. It was a trademark No. 2 move.” Girardi continued, “That’s who he was; Derek was all about winning. I feel the same about Judge. It is very genuine. He is all about the team. His encouragement of players, helping guys, being upbeat all the time -- it is really kind of cool to witness." Girardi thinks Judge is a leader in his own way despite being a rookie -- something that might irk veterans if Judge weren't so respectful and earnest. His teammates notice that Judge is not trying to stick out, but rather help out.” He is a positive influence on his teammates," left fielder Brett Gardiner says. "He always has a positive attitude. He says different things to you every time [when he waits to go into the dugout] and different things to each person, like,  'Let’s go get some more runs.' 'Nice play." .

Judge credits his parents, who adopted him as a baby, for giving him his first lessons on putting team above self. He says he's been blessed with coaches who have done the same. Judge is accommodating in talking to the media, but he almost blushes when speaking about himself. The top-step move could be seen as grandstanding, if Judge didn’t act the right way. "It’s genuine," third baseman Chase Headley says. "He is not doing it to have somebody write about it or see it."

Offensively and defensively Judge backs up his leadership role. He is second in WAR, tied for first in HR, and 6th in OPS. Defensively being so tall and having a long-arm reach has enabled him to make catches in the outfield that would be impossible for others to make. Add to this a strong throwing arm and the Yankees have a 5-tool future superstar like Mike Trout.


 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

Monday, May 15, 2017 marks the 76th anniversary of the beginning of Joe DiMaggio’s record 56-game hitting streak, which ran from May 15 to July 16, 1941. The streak ended On July 17 when he went 0-for-3 against the Indians, with third baseman Ken Keltner making two outstanding plays to stop the streak.

In Chapter 16 of my book, “Sandlot Stats: Learning Statistics with Baseball,” I developed a new formula which uses a player’s seasonal batting statistics to assign a probability of that player duplicating any batting streak. Then I apply my formula to calculate which players had the highest probabilities of duplicating special batting streaks. Of course, the most talked about batting streak is DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak. Another interesting streak belongs to Ted Williams when in 1949 he reached base successfully in 84 straight games. Which streak was harder to achieve? My formula assigned DiMaggio a probability of .0001 (1/10,000) and assigned Williams a probability of .0935 (935/10,000) of achieving their respective streaks. This says that, using their batting statistics for 1941 and 1949, for every 10,000 seasons DiMaggio would duplicate his streak one time while Williams in 10,000 seasons would duplicate his streak 935 times. Clearly, DiMaggio’s streak was the harder to achieve.

I also applied my formula to many other batting streaks such as the most consecutive games with at least one home run, the most consecutive games without striking out and many other streaks. If you are interested in seeing the mathematics I used to develop my formula and the players who actually own these records, please read Chapter 16---titled ‘Streaking’--- in my book.

Below are the players with the longest hitting streaks in both the Major and Minor Leagues. Observe that Joe is the only player that appears on both lists.

Hitting Streaks

In a recent article Sara Lang looked at the streak by the numbers:

.408: DiMaggio hit .408 (91-for-223) during the streak with 15 home runs and 55 RBIs.

.375: He entered May 15 (the first game of the streak) with a .306 batting average. That rose to .375 after the July 16 game, the final game of the streak.

4: DiMaggio faced four future Hall of Fame pitchers: Lefty Grove, Hal Newhouser, Bob Feller and Ted Lyons.

10: DiMaggio extended the streak in his final plate appearance 10 times, as Elias research notes.

16:DiMaggio started a 16-game hitting streak the game after the 56-game one ended. So he hit in 72 of 73 games total. In those 73 games, he had 120 hits, 20 home runs and six strikeouts.

44: The longest hitting streak since DiMaggio’s is a 44-gamer by Pete Rose in 1978.

29: The longest hitting streak by a Yankees player since DiMaggio’s streak ended is a 29-gamer by Hall of Famer Joe Gordon in 1942. Derek Jeter’s longest hitting streak was 25 games in 2006. Don Mattingly’s longest was 24 in 1986. Those are the three longest for the Yankees since DiMaggio.


 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

The book “Moneyball” chronicles how Billy Beane used certain batting statistics to build the low budget Oakland Athletics into a contender in the early 2000s. With the help of Paul Depodesta he showed that on-base percentage (OBP) was much more valuable for run production than batting average. Concentrating on a player’s OBP and ability to create runs, he was able to sign players with WARTS for less money. Two examples of such players were David Justice and Scott Hatteberg. Justice was an aging player who lost his power but still retained his high OBP average and Hatteberg was a catcher with a bad arm who had the ability to create runs.

In today’s game of baseball, the big budget teams are signing starting pitchers based on the fact that they can throw the ball close to 100 mph. They want strikeout pitchers. Unfortunately, strikeout pitchers use up their 100-pitch limit by the fifth or sixth inning. This leads a team to bring into the game their middle inning relievers which happen to be their weakest pitchers. A manager hopes these middle relievers will get his team to their setup and closer for innings eight and nine. The flaw with this thinking is so much of the success of a team becomes dependent on their weakest pitchers. Another problem with power pitchers is they seem to wind up either in a line for Tommy John Surgery or on the DL for an extended period of time. Just look at the New York Mets. For 2016 and 2017, the Mets lost, for extended periods, Zack Wheeler, Matt Harvey, Stephen Matz, and most recently Noah Syndergaard.

The Pittsburgh Pirates, under the direction of their pitching coach Ray Searage, have developed a Moneyball strategy for pitching for his low budget Pittsburgh Pirates. With the encouragement and support of Pirates management, Searage’s philosophy of pitching is described by the phrase “three pitches or less.” From the time a pitcher joins the Pirate’s organization at any level they are indoctrinated into this phrase. “Through the minor leagues all the way up to the parent club, this is what we preach,” Searage said, “We are aggressive. We will attack you. We want you to swing, and we will make adjustments accordingly. These are our values.”

The success of Searage’s philosophy is measured through the following sabermetric statistics applied to pitchers. In averaging 3.75 pitches per batter faced since the start of Searage’s tenure in 2011 (the fewest in the majors), the Pirates lead the majors in inducing a grounder 49% of the time and causing soft-contact on 20% of their balls in play. This explains why since 2011 the Pirates ranked 6th in ERA despite ranking 22nd in strikeout rate.

Following the example of Billy Beane, Searage sought underachieving pitchers with Warts he believed could be transformed into following his philosophy of pitching to contact. Three such pitchers are Ivan Nova, Edison Volquez, and A.J. Burnett. All three of these pitchers lowered their pitches per batter under the tutorage of Searage. After having an ERA of 4.41 in seven seasons for the Yankees, Nova lowered his ERA to 3.41 since arriving in Pittsburgh in 2016. Volquez, after putting up a 4.75 ERA with four other teams posted a 3.04 ERA for his one year with Searage in 2014. A.J. Burnett came to Pittsburgh in 2012 at age 35 with an ERA of 5.20 for his past two years with the Yankees; he lowered it to 3.41 over the next two years with the Pirates.

In spite of ranking near the bottom in many offensive categories for the years 2013-2016, the Pirates finished second in their division for the years 2013-2015 and finished third in 2016. The Pirates made the playoffs as a Wild Card team for the 2013-2015 seasons. Winning their division in 2017 against the Cubs clearly won’t happen. However, one thing that probably will not change pitching will not be the problem.  


 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

Read what my student Greg considers the biggest surprise in the MLB for 2017 is so far. 

Every year there are storylines between teams and players, and surprises that come out of the league. The biggest surprise so far in 2017 has been one in the name of Eric Thames. Thames is a 30-year-old left-handed hitter who is currently doing wonders for the Milwaukee Brewers. Thames burst onto the MLB scene in 2011 with the Toronto Blue Jays and was an average hitter at best. Thames played the following year with the Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners. His average over this time was a dismal .250 and his OBP was only .296. The following year Thames was not given another shot at the MLB. In 2013 Thames spent time between AAA and Rookie ball, which is not where you want to end up. Things were looking down for Thames and it seemed as if his MLB career would be over. What happened next would surprise almost everyone. Thames headed to the KBO (Korean Baseball League) to try to revive his playing career. The KBO is not a very well-known league, a step down from the well-known NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball League in Japan), so the hitter’s success there is taken with an asterisk next to it.

What Thames did was unbelievable. He turned himself into one of the most feared hitters in the KBO and became a world-class slugger. Over the next three years, from 2014-16, he went on to have gaudy numbers of a .349 BA, .451 OBP, and a .721 SLG. In 3 years he accumulated 124 Home Runs and 382 RBIs, averaging 41.3 Home Runs a year and 127 RBIs. After these unbelievable numbers an MLB team would have to give him at least a tryout, correct?

That is exactly what happened. On November 29, 2016 Eric Thames would get his shot again at the MLB when the Milwaukee Brewers signed him to a 3 year $16 million dollar guaranteed contract. For a player who had only played in a lower level international league over the past three years, this was a big gamble for the Brewers. The Brewers were very intrigued to see how this would work out.

Fast forwarding to the start of the 2017 season Thames arrives at Spring Training hoping to make the Brewers big league club. People were skeptical of Thames numbers because of the KBO being a low level league, but the Brewers gave him a shot regardless. During the spring Thames hit a respectable .263 with only 1 Home Run. He attributed a very solid .368 OBP over 57 At Bats. This was good for the Brewers and it looked like their gamble signing might work.  

Through the first 7 games of the MLB season Thames was struggling power wise, hitting only one Home Run, but still had a respectable .318 BA. Since then, Thames is absolutely demolishing MLB pitching hitting .348 with 10 Home Runs and 17 RBIs. Thames has become a hitting machine that cannot be stopped. In games versus the Cincinnati Reds, Thames hit an astounding 8 Home Runs.

Now, when any player comes out of the blue and starts hitting unbelievably, the thought of “Is he taking steroids?” becomes a question. The Chicago Cubs “jokingly” suggested that maybe he is on steroids and then the entire thing got blown up. Thames was quick to shut it down saying that in Korea the drug policy is run by the IOC, which is even more strict than the MLB. Thames has been drug tested numerous times since the start of the season, and has come up clean every time.

In Conclusion, it is truly great to see a hitter who was down and out, who thought their playing career might be coming to a close, getting a shot with a big league club and proving his worth. The story of Eric Thames right now is for every kid who just got cut by his travel team. Or every kid sent down to a lower step of the minors then they thought they should have. With hard work and determination, anyone can make it back. Eric Thames is proving that right now, and he is living the dream.
- by Greg Kassar


 

 

 
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