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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


 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

My previous blog looked at the performances of the American League Teams at the midpoint of the 2016 season. I now turn to looking at the National League Teams. As I did with the Al Teams, I will compare the NL Teams actual winning percentages to their expected winning percentages based on all games played as of the end of July 2. To obtain their expected winning percentages I use my Sabermetrics Formula, called The Linear Formula for Baseball, which is based on their run differential (subtracting their runs allowed from their runs scored) on all games played so far. My Formula is:

Expected Winning Percentage = 0.00112*(Runs Scored – Runs Allowed) + 0.50.

For example, the Mets expected winning percentage based on their first 80 games is 0.515 = 0.00112*(294-280) + 0.50. Their actual winning percentage based on their first 80 games is 0.538. This shows a slight over performance by the Mets probably due to their great five starting pitchers and solid closer. 

Below is my recap of the comparison of Actual PCT to Predicted PCT and Actual Standings to Predicted Standings for all 15 National League Teams.

Midseason 2016 NL

What does the comparison between the Actual and Predicted PCT show for each team? Since a team’s predicted PCT is based solely on the difference between a team’s runs scored and runs allowed, we can see which teams underperformed and which teams over performed in the first half. Over performing is when a team’s Predicted PCT is less than their Actual PCT, that is, they won more games than their run differential indicated. Underperforming is when a team’s Predicted PCT is more than their Actual PCT, that is, they won less games than their run differential indicated. Philadelphia and San Francisco were the teams that most over performed and Chicago and St. Louis most underperformed.

Unlike the comparison between the actual and predicted standings for the American League, both Standings in the NL are identical except for a tie between Atlanta and Philadelphia. In fact, I expect Atlanta to pass Philadelphia for fourth place. The fact that the Predicted Standings confirm the Actual Standings in the NL influences my prediction as to the five National League Teams that will be in the 2016 playoffs.

In the NL East, Washington should win the Division. Because of their great heat-throwing young starters the Mets should hold off the Marlins for second place. In the NL Central, I believe St Louis will make a run at Chicago but fall short. In the NL West, I see the Giants falling off but if Kershaw is lost for a long period of time the Giants should comfortably win the West.

Washington, Chicago and San Francisco will be the Division Winners. My two NL Wild Cards will be New York and St. Louis.


 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

With the baseball season entering the midpoint of its long 162-game schedule, each team has played approximately half its scheduled games. This is the time when I compare their actual winning percentages to their expected winning percentages based on all games played as of the end of July 2. To obtain their expected winning percentages I use my Sabermetrics Formula, called The Linear Formula for Baseball, which is based on their run differential (subtracting their runs allowed from their runs scored) on all games played so far. My Formula is:

Expected Winning Percentage = 0.00112*(Runs Scored – Runs Allowed) + 0.50.

For example, the Yankees expected winning percentage based on their first 80 games is  0.463 = 0.00112*(329-362) + 0.50. Their actual winning percentage based on their first 80 games is 0.480. This show a slight over performance by the Yankees probably due to the big three BMC in the back of their bullpen.

Below is my recap of the comparison of Actual PCT to Predicted PCT and Actual Standings to Predicted Standings for all 15 American League Teams.

Midseason 2016

What does the comparison between the Actual and Predicted PCT show for each team? Since a team’s predicted PCT is based solely on the difference between a team’s runs scored and runs allowed, we can see which teams underperformed and which teams over performed in the first half. Over performing is when a team’s Predicted PCT is less than their Actual PCT, that is, they won more games than their run differential indicated. Underperforming is when a team’s Predicted PCT is more than their Actual PCT, that is, they won less games than their run differential indicated. Texas was the team that most over performed and Minnesota most underperformed.

In the AL East, Baltimore and Boston swapped places based on their predicted PCT. Toronto, New York and Tampa stayed fixed. Based on these results I predict we will have a three-team race in the AL East and my nod goes to Boston because of their hitting and the fact they have the money to buy a top-line starting pitcher.

In the AL Central, the new City of Champions Cleveland will easily win the Central Division. I see Kansas City dropping to third place and Detroit moving up to second place in the final standings.In AL West, we will have a close three-team fight for the Divisional Championship between Texas, Houston and Seattle. The Predicted PCT shows that Texas vastly over performed and Seattle underperformed which accounted for the change in their predicted standings. Seattle jumped into first place and Texas dropped to second place while Houston dropped to third place. I will go out on a limb and predict that in the end even though Seattle is currently 9.5 games behind Texas they will win the Division and Texas will finish second.

From what I said above the five teams that will contend for the AL Pennant are the three Divisional Champions Boston, Cleveland and Seattle along with my two Wild-Card teams  Baltimore and Texas.

Yes, the City of Champions Cleveland Indians will win the AL Pennant.

The next blog will analyze the National League.


 


 
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