If you have any ideas for topics, please email me. Thanks,Stan!
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

In the good old days of the 50s, 60s I remember watching such baseball managers as Casey Stengel, Leo Durocher and Billy Martin. In those days the manager ruled his team as a dictator with absolute power. Even a super star like Mickey Mantle feared Casey Stengel. When Mickey stayed out all night before a day game and arrived at the game drunk, he knew he good not perform. He was afraid to face Casey and say he could not play in the game. Like a child who misbehaved, Mickey chose to cover up his misdeed by getting himself thrown out of the game by arguing with the home umpire about a called strike. Another story that comes to mind is when Billy Martin yanked Reggie Jackson out of the outfield in the middle of an inning because Reggie did not hustle after a ball. In the dugout the 2 exchanged blows.

In the old days the manager was the CEO of his team. He had complete control of his players He was solely responsible for all the in-game strategic decisions including when to bunt, when to hit-and-run, when to remove a starting pitcher, who to play, and many others. He also had a very strong input on which players to hire and which player to get rid of.

Today’s baseball manager is really a middle manager. He surrounds himself with a bench coach, pitching coach, bullpen coach, hitting coach, and base-running and fielding coach. In the background he has an analytic department to decide on positioning the fielders, which batter to use against a pitcher, how many innings to use a starting pitcher, and so on. The front office people control the hiring and releasing of players.

What brought about the changing role of today’s baseball manager? The book Moneyball featuring Billy Beane, the GM of the Oakland As, was a major contributing factor in changing the role of the manager. Beane was responsible for leading his Oakland As to successful seasons in the early 2000s in spite of having one of the lowest payrolls in baseball. Beane with the help of his assistant Paul Depodesta used baseball statistics to discover and sign underappreciated players. Beane also used statistics to show that the old gold standard of measuring a player’s value by his batting average was wrong. Instead, Beane showed that a player’s on-base percentage led to more runs than a player’s batting average. Finding damaged players with good OBPs enabled Beane to get these players on the cheap. One of his tenets was don’t give up outs. This led to Oakland not bunting or stealing bases. His manager Art Howe was ordered to follow Beane’s mandates.

Beane’s formula for success has been copied by many other low budget teams. Today, almost all the ML teams have sports analytic departments. Teams are bunting at their lowest rate since 1920; teams are attempting to steal bases less frequently than they have in the last 45 years. Pitching has also adopted the 100-pitch rule for the removal of a starting pitcher. Also, teams now have designated 8th and 9th inning pitchers. Again, these decisions no longer belonged to the manager. Defensive shifts are determined by the analytic people and not the manager.

Even the new technology of instant replay is mainly determined not by the manager but by the umpire crew chief. The manager is allowed just 2 reviews. So what is today’s baseball manager’s job description? Today’s manager must have good people skills. He is responsible for keeping a good atmosphere in the clubhouse and at the hotels. He also acts as a psychologist, talking to his players to keep them focused on the upcoming games. His most important task is to keep his players on the field and off the DL. The term used for today’s manager is he is a ‘players’ manager. This accounts for the fact that so many of the recent hired managers were ex-players. This list includes Brad Ausmus, Craig Counsell, Walt Weiss, Robin Ventura, and Don Mattingly.


 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

This January I gave similar talks at both the Math Conference in Seattle Washington and at the Kiwanis Club of Naples on the Gulf. Both talks discussed my philosophy of teaching. That is, the teaching of any subject matter is more successful for the teacher and more enjoyable for the student if the student both understands the underlying content associated with the subject matter and also enjoys that content.

Kiwanis Club of Naples on the Gulf

Joint Math 2016
 

This philosophy led me to a different way of teaching the subject matter of statistics. In my course Baseball and Statistics, given each semester at Quinnipiac University, I teach an introductory course in statistics using the data from baseball. My students learn the same concepts as those students who take  other introductory statistics classes such as in my biostatistics class. However, my feedback from the students in my baseball statistics class versus my biostatistics class is quite different. The difference is the students enjoy my baseball statistics class much more and seem to understand the concepts of statistics more. At the end of my baseball course students approach me and ask if they can do research with me. I am currently on sabbatical but two students from my fall baseball class will start researching with me next fall. One student is a male and the other is a female. In fact, each semester about 25% of the baseball class is made up of females.

The background which led to the establishment of my baseball and statistics course began in 2008 when Quinnipiac created a Sports Minor. I was then approached by the faculty director of the Sports Minor asking me to teach a course in sabermetrics, the science of using statistics to make objective decisions about baseball. Being a big baseball fan, A Yankee fan I might add, I loved the idea of combining two things I really enjoy baseball and statistics. However, I did not want to just teach sabermetrics but instead I wanted to teach a true introductory statistics course with baseball. In searching for a textbook I discovered that there were many sabermetrics books but no book to teach an introductory statistics course with baseball.  Coincidentally, at the same time I was contacted by an editor for Johns Hopkins University Press about writing such a textbook. What led him to email me was he saw my course listed online. I agreed to do it and started my writing in 2008. The book “Sandlot Stats: Learning Statistics with Baseball” was published in 2012 by Johns Hopkins Press.

The first 15 chapters teach the concepts and the last three chapters apply these concepts to actual research problems. One chapter develops a formula for predicting batting streaks such as Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak and another chapter tries to answer the question: Will a current player ever bat over .400 for a season? The last chapter uses 12 statistics to decide on the top ten hitters of all-time.

In my course, the students also read the book “Moneyball” so they can see how the statistics they are learning can be used in the real world. My book can be and is used both at high schools and at colleges to teach an introductory statistics course to those students who enjoy baseball. The book can also be used by any person who wants to learn statistics in a fun way. You can find the book online at Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Please go to my website www.sandlotstats.com to read the testimonials given by students and reviewers of my book. While there you can read my Interesting Facts about baseball. , 


 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

Sabermetrics is derived from the acronym SABR used for the Society of American Baseball Research. Sabermetrics is the science that uses baseball data to form statistics allowing baseball people to make objective baseball decisions. In the past most general managers just followed what previous general managers did in making crucial decisions. However, as the amount of money paid to players increased exponentially it became necessary to make important player decisions based on objectivity and not subjectivity. Bill James is credited with beginning these studies in the 1980s. Enter Billy Beane who was a 5-tool high school baseball player who could not make it in the majors and decided to become a baseball scout at the age of 27. All of this is chronicled in the book and movie Moneyball. With the help of Paul Depodesta, Billy Beane the general manager of the small budget Oakland Athletics used sabermetric analysis to lead Oakland to an amazing 20-game winning streak in 2002. His success came from his ability to look for undervalued players who excelled in undervalued statistics. This allowed him to sign players on the cheap who possessed metrics other general managers ignored. Billy Beane’s success at Oakland year after year has led most major league teams to eventually see the light and create their own sports analytic departments to objectively evaluate players.

Today, Billy Beane believes the next frontier of analytics is not about statistics measuring on-field performance but instead on keeping players on the field. In fact Billy Beane, now vice president of baseball operations for Oakland, has been one of the loudest voices touting player injury prevention.

The term PHM (population health management) has now appeared in baseball circles. Healthcare metrics are being introduced to analyze the causes of injuries which will hopefully lead to their prevention. Healthcare data mining and baseball Sabermetrics have more in common than one might think. Both want to notch some big wins and both healthcare and baseball are faced with greatly increased costs which must be controlled.

Neil Kudler, MD, showed how healthcare can learn from Moneyball how to use large amounts of data to make objective decisions on injury prevention. Like baseball, for many years healthcare was dictated by handed-down wisdom of the past without using newer available data. Kudler’s novel approach is to create measurements in a way similar to baseball. In baseball, some of these metrics are OBP (on-base percentage), SLG (slugging percentage), and OPS (on-base plus slugging). Dr Kudler argued that population health management has to be an evidence-based team sport. Some of Kudler’s metrics are POP, AC, RM, and ERR. Below is how Kudler links his health statistics to baseball statistics.

POP is the population health management (PHM) team’s win/loss percentage equal to their total patient population kept under control divided by their total patient population.

The players on a PHM team are the primary care physicians (PCPs). Their statistics are: AC is the PCP's on-base percentage equal to their total number of patients that did not get better or worse (stayed the same) divided by their total number of patients.

RM is the PCP's slugging percentage equal to their total number of patients that got better divided by their total number of patients. ERR is the PCP's error percentage equal to their total number of patients that got worse divided by their total number of patients.

These metrics are applied to two physicians in a PHM group. Dr. Smith handled 250 patients from period 1 to period 2; his AC=146/250 =.584; his RM=44/250=.176; his ERR=60/250=.240.Dr. Jones handles 300 patients from period 1 to period 2; his AC=215/300=.717; his RM=45/300=.150; his ERR=40/300=.133.

The performances of these two doctors can then be compared. Yes, moneyhealth has arrived.


 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

In Michael Lewis’ book, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, he chronicles how Billy Beane, the long-time GM of Oakland, a small budget team, had to resort to unusual tactics to make Oakland competitive. One of these strategies was to just stay within reach of making the playoffs for the first half of the season and then through the use of trades before the non-waiver trade deadline and call-ups in September make the final run for the playoffs.

Because of Oakland’s limited budget, players requiring long-term multi-million dollar contracts, were out of his reach in the off-season. This brings me to the date of July 31. July 31 is the end of the non-waiver trade deadline. Starting August 1 of each season, clubs can put players on a special type of waivers. Any player who could possibly be traded can be put on waivers and if they are claimed, the club can call them back without losing the player. If a player is not claimed within the 48-hour waiver period, he can be traded to any MLB team during the month of August. If multiple teams put in claims on the same player, only one club can have the priority waiver claim. Priority is given to the team with the lowest winning percentage in the same league, from worst to first, and then from worst to first in the other league.

This rule encourages many teams out-of-playoff-contention to make trades before July 31. Teams out of playoff contention try to discard a veteran player either to reduce their budget or because they no longer feel he can help them or because they feel they can’t resign him.

This year the Mets were able to snag Yoenis Cespedes from the Tigers. Since putting on the Mets uniform he has led a resurgent Mets offense into a commanding lead in the NL East. Before the trade deadline Toronto acquired Troy Tulowitzki from the Rockies and David Price from the Tigers. These trades helped propel Toronto from an under .500 team to the lead in the AL East.

The other special date is September 1. On this date teams can promote any player on their 40-man roster to the big league club. Most will add four to eight players, bringing their roster size to about 32, but some teams end up with 35 or more.

Here are the problems I see with the September call-up rule as it now stands. First is how the length of a September game can be affected. Forty-man rosters let managers load their bullpens with as many arms as they want. From March to August of last season only two percent of games saw a team use at least eight pitchers. In September, that number skyrocketed to seven percent. As a result, the chances of a game hitting the three-hour mark also went up by about five percent. Next, this rule creates a situation where all teams do not have the same number of players active during a game. A more pressing issue is by adding players to the daily roster, the fundamental nature of the game changes. For example, there have been teams to use non-baseball players. The prime example is the role of a pinch-runner can be filled by a track star. With a 25-man active roster you could not afford the luxury to carry such a player.

Baseball is played with one set of rules for five months, yet suddenly -- when the games are most important -- those rules change. This does not happen in other sports.

I am not against the Sept.call-up rule but would like it changed. After all Sept.call-ups are as much a part of the game as the All-Star game. Allow teams to increase the roster to 40 players but for any game only 25 players would be active. This would keep the many benefits the call-up rule brings to the young player as well as to the team. The young player gets to audition his skills and also increase his pay and increase his Major League credits toward his free-agency and his pension. Remember how last season's Royals benefitted in the World Series by letting Brandon Finnegan get his feet wet in September.


 


 
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