Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Le Petit Prince

So I've had this post rolling around in my head for some time. There's quite a lot of other stuff going on in there too but this post has survived in the cage for a while now.
Prince Fielder is my favorite baseball player. I don't know when this happened, that is that he became my favorite. Prince Fielder happened on May 9, 1984 at least according to Wikipedia and our accepted definition of when someone's life begins. Prince became a Milwaukee Brewer in June of 2002, in the first round with the seventh overall pick. This pick would be somewhat important in the novel Moneyball, in that it set the stage for Billy Beane's Oakland Atheltics to select Nick Swisher. It's one of my favorite stories in the book, because the rest of the book is devoted to how the A's saw through conventional baseball analysis to select players based on their on field performance as opposed to their look. Then during the section on the draft when the Brewers take Fielder the book takes the time to ridicule his weight and speed. I'm not sure that Beane shared this view, he probably just thought he couldn't afford to keep Fielder (a correct assumption it turned out) and wanted Swisher instead. Still, Michael Lewis at the very least can suck on .282/.390/.540 lifetime. Fielder could be argued to be the best player in that draft class.
Honestly though his skill is only part of the reason I like Prince as much as I do. I have wrote love sonnets in my heart for the way the man attacks the ball at the plate. Baseballs grow up hearing scary stories about Prince Fielder. He also is way faster than he would seem and once he gets going it's an amazing sight. I've seen him lower his shoulder into Yadier Molina at the plate and then help him up and give a pat on the back when Yadi hung onto the ball. I've seen Fielder laughing and enjoying the game as often as I've seen him with an expressionless scowl as he steps in to take a swing.
The Milwaukee Brewers are my favorite baseball team. They are my hometown team and while that doesn't mean as much now as it used to in terms of exposure they still remain etched in my memories of childhood. I cheer for them when they lose and when they win. This past season was the best the Brewers have ever had and I cheered for them. This upcoming season could be their worst and I will cheer for them.
Prince Fielder is not a Milwaukee Brewer anymore. He signed a nine year $214 million contract to play for the Detroit Tigers. At the time most focused in on what an obscene amount of money that is, and it literally is obscene. If you hear about someone making $214 million the first word you think of is "F**K." I honestly didn't think about the money that much. I just thought about how I would miss seeing Prince in a Brewer uniform.
I knew this was coming. I knew that a team would offer a young All-Star (with pedigree even!) a ridiculous amount of money that a team like the Brewers couldn't dream of offering. I didn't know it would be the Tigers. Many reports had linked the Cubs as being in the running, and I was secretly excited. Unlike most sports fans I don't really ascribe to rivalries and hatred of everything under a teams banner. I don't like the Yankees. I like Curtis Granderson. I can keep these things separate. I don't like the Cubs (settle down, Dave). I like Prince Fielder. I live in Chicago. I can see the benefit in that setup.
Prince had prepared me for the eventuality anyway. Fielder's agent was Scott Boras for a reason. I knew this. He knew this. He had said during the season that it was in all likelihood his last in Milwaukee. It's not what he wanted necessarily, but as a young commodity he was going to cash in while he could. I can't really begrudge him for this. He is set for life, as are his loved ones.
I'd have loved for Prince to be a Brewer for life but he's not and that's how it is. Baseball is a game but it's a business. Anyone who can make money off of playing the game and doesn't is a fool and isn't really looking out for his own interests. People talk about how small the difference between contracts are but not making as much as you can while you can is just selling yourself short and letting others make money off of you.
I named my dog after Prince Fielder and she is the most wonderful little muppet in the entire world. I am happy with this decision.
Prince Fielder will be coming with the Detroit Tigers to Chicago to play the White Sox several times this season. I plan on being there to cheer for him. Prince may win the World Series with Detroit this year or the next or anytime in the future. I will cheer for him then. Prince may win an MVP trophy and break the single season record for home runs. I will cheer for him then. Prince may foul a ball off his foot on opening day and completely shattering his ankle and derailing his career. I will be cheering for him when he comes back.
Prince Fielder is my favorite baseball player.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Brew Crew through

So I'm bummed. Obviously. I wish we won. I wish we had at least played better in losing. I wish we had traded for Reyes. I wish I was big.
I don't want to dwell on this to much but it's hard not to. I am so proud of this team. They won more games than any other Brewers team ever. They made it to their first CS since 1982, and the first playoffs I could watch (only a one year-old in '82, in Europe in '08). I got so much joy from watching the team this year it's hard to feel let down by them.
I know the playoffs are as much about luck as they are about being good at baseball. I know this. It still hurts.
I hope that I will remember the season for the fun it was in the future. I hope we get a SS with some range. I hope it's not another 29 years.
A lot of things happened during this series but among them was me noticing how terrible umpires are. The advent of baseball technology is amazing, not the least of which is slow motion instant replay. The umpires blew several important calls. I'm not blaming this for the loss as these bad calls went both ways. Primarily though I was blown away by the Pitch FX data. Even the one just on the broadcast showed some pitch calls that were not even close. Ryan Braun got a strike call on a fastball that was shown to be lower than the previous fastball that was called a ball. The strikezone varied so much from batter to batter it was stupid. Umpires suck, I want robots.
Here's a list of things that I want to look into to see if my impressions were off or not:
- The Cardinals seemed like much more patient hitters, especially in games 3-6. P/PA will tell us this pretty quickly.
- Braun and Fielder were trying too hard and pressed, and their P/PA was much lower than their season average.
- The Cardinals struck out far less than the Brewers in games 3-6. I know strikeouts are not the terrible thing that they are made out to be but it's just an observation.
- It seemed like the Brewers were all trying way too hard. The errors may be a product of that but I'm mostly referring to every batter going up there with home run swings. I want to see if the Cards bullpen (who really gets the credit for containing our offense) even give up a lot of HR.
- Tony LaRussa is still an idiot.
Thanks again for the great season Crew. I'll call when I feel ready again.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

It's always the Central, isn't it?

So we have an all Central NLCS. Neat for us, as we care about the NL Central here at NL Central Stage. You know our motto: "If it's not NL Central, then it's pretty much the minors."
A deranged fan asked me if the NL has more intradivision LCS (LCSs?) than any other division. I was doing other research anyway so I looked into it. Get ready for some numbers.
From 1995-2011 there have been 34 LCS and 11 intradivision matchups. Of those the numbers for each division were:
AL East: 5
AL Central: 0
AL West: 0
NL East: 2
NL Central: 3
NL West: 1
So yeah it's the AL East, buoyed by 3 different NY vs. Boston series. I suppose it's not that much of a surprise. Still, I'm happy to see the NL Central a not entirely distant second. Also we are much less hateable so I'm happy in my polite Midwestern fandom.

Championship Market

Commentary in these playoffs has already mentioned many times that Milwaukee is a very small market. It's the smallest in baseball in fact. Seeing as how this is the Brewers first appearance in an LCS since 1982 it seemed possible that this was the smallest market for combined LCS ever?

I decided to dig into a bit as I ran an experiment. It required spurts of activity followed by waiting so it's good time for me to do online research, and occasionally it doesn't have to be work related.

The idea that Milwaukee is the smallest market is based on their Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). It works as a general measure of the population of a city area as opposed to the population of the city itself.

A few notes: I limited my analysis to the Wild Card Era because I didn't want to spend an entire week on this and I answered my original question pretty quickly. I used census data from 2000 as an approximation for 1995-2011. While there were some significant changes in populations from 2000-2010 in some markets (i.e. +23% for Dallas-Fort Worth) the lack of yearly data rendered completely accurate analysis impossible regardless of method. You'll notice some years with only three markets. Those are years that two teams that share an MSA both made it to their LCS and it doesn't make sense to count both populations.

So you don't have to go back that far to find a year with a smaller total market.

Texas 5,221,801
Detroit 5,456,428
Milwaukee 1,689,572
St. Louis 2,603,607

Boston 5,819,100
Cleveland 2,945,831
Arizona 3,251,876
Colorado 2,581,506

1995 (first WC year and smallest market)
Seattle 3,554,760
Cleveland 2,945,831
Atlanta 4,112,198
Cincinnati 1,979,202

All three years are lower than the markets for New York (21,195,865) and Los Angeles (16,373,645) alone.

There are some obvious problems with this analysis. The big one is that the MSA is not actually the market for many teams. For some (Baltimore and Washington) their MSA includes another market meaning that the MLB doesn't actually count the entire MSA. There are others (Boston) whose market greatly exceeds their MSA. Still, it was interesting looking into how little my home town, that used to feel so big, really was.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Class of?

A question occurred to me the other day that prompted the writing of this article. I'll get to that later and instead just get into it: which player on each NL Central team already has (or is closest to) a Hall of Fame resume?

I'm picking one player for each team and in some cases it's a stretch to say the least. Regardless the premise is that I'm considering only those already Hall of Fame bound, not on the track. To continue the train metaphor I will present the case and whether or not I think they're in for each player I choo choo choose. I really only even looked at players who were at least 33 years old as anyone younger hasn't had enough season for a Hall of Fame career regardless.

(Speaking of which in researching this article I came across Dick Allen's career numbers which I had never looked at before. Holy crap. To admit Jim Rice and keep Allen out is asinine. All those character issues and his outspoken nature didn't endear him to reporters and really that's what the Hall should be about right?)

In the order for current standings (hahahaha this is an evil laugh):

Milwaukee Brewers - Randy Wolf

In other words no we don't have anyone who's already punched a ticket into the Hall of Fame. Really my choices were Wolf, Mark Kotsay or Craig Counssell and c'mon. I can't even be bothered to spell Craig Counsell's name right. Back to Wolferine though, he's had a nice career but nothing spectacular. Career ERA+ of 103, high of 124. Strikes out 7 per 9 but walks 3 per 9 too. He's a decent to good pitcher and I'm happy he's in our rotation but he's not a Hall of Famer. Career WAR of 20.0 in 13 seasons. So yeah we don't have anyone already in the Hall but we have a couple guys who could be on their way so no worries.

St. Louis Cardinals - Lance Berkman

This is what prompted this article: Is Lance Berkman a Hall of Famer? I was inclined to say yes and in looking at the numbers the answer is he's getting there. His resurgence this year has been incredible (although quite frankly I wish he'd stop) and it made me want to take a look at his numbers to see if he's already in. .295/.408/.548, OPS+ 146, 49.2 WAR in 13 seasons. As of right now the fact that he's only played 13 seasons is what will hurt him but frankly after this year it looks like he's got a few good years left in him without significant decline to add to his number totals (sitting at 355 HR). But the question presented is does he get in right now? I'd say he's good enough (3.78 WAR/yr is good) but I'm not convinced the BWAA will vote for him, mostly because that's the Boxing Writers Association of America and I mistyped. So he still has some work to do but he looks like he has a great case once he is finished.

Now it's easy to say "Wait what about Pujols?" Only the season thing kept me from picking him but frankly if he were hit by a bus tomorrow I'd still say he had the numbers to get in. 86.7 WAR in 11 seasons (7.88 WAR/yr) is already better than the average HoF player (70.5 WAR in 19 seasons, 3.71 WAR/yr). (I couldn't find an update to those numbers on BTB but it's from 2009 and three players can't have changed the numbers that much. Also I think that might use FanGraphs' WAR instead of B-R. I think FanGraphs gives more credit to defense. Someone correct me if I'm wrong.)

Pittsburgh Pirates - Derrek Lee

It pains me to do this to Dave but he's really the best choice on a relatively young Pirates squad. That being said no Derrek Lee is not a Hall of Famer. But he is a very good player. .281/.364/.494, OPS+122 at first base is something you'd definitely be happy to have on your team but it's not all time great level. WAR of only 30.7 in 15 seasons (2.04/yr) is lower than the HoF replacement (low) level of 53.3 in 17 (3.13/yr). (Doing all this is just making me more mad that Jim Rice got in.) So while Derrek Lee was a very good player he falls short of the Hall. (FanGraphs gives him more credit for his defense, which I always thought Lee was pretty good at. Still he only has 39.1 WAR by their metric so he's still shy.)

Cincinnati Reds - Scott Rolen

Finally I get to someone who actually has 16 seasons played and can actually measure his current numbers against the Hall. .282/.366/.494 is good not great. Same with an OPS+ of 123. Of course none of that adjusts for position and Scott Rolen was for a period of time the best third baseman in the game. He played great defense on the hot corner and his WAR total of 66.3 (4.14/yr) is enough for me to say that yes Scott Rolen is already a Hall of Famer.

Time for a mea culpa. .277/.362/.464. OPS+ 125. WAR 66.4 in 15 seasons (4.14/yr). Those are Ron Santo's numbers. For a long time I've been saying Santo was borderline and that he doesn't deserve to be in. The only reason is the number of years he played because those are Hall of Fame quality numbers without quesiton. I'm willing to admit I'm wrong and that he belongs in and that if you can generate almost the same number of wins in four fewer seasons than the average Hall of Famer then you shouldn't be penalized for a lack of longevity.

Chicago Cubs - Kerry Wood

Oh what could have been. That statement may hurt Dave more than the Derrek Lee stuff. Only 13 seasons but damn. 10.3 K/9 (balanced against 4.3 BB/9 though) is monsterous. Of course every counting stat will make his career graphs all exponential decays. The injuries all mean he'll never get the innings or strikeout totals that are enough to get elected but damn, look at those first four seasons. Not a Hall of Famer but in some alternate universe he is still a dominant starter for the Yankees. Sorry, in the alternate universe the Yankees are still the Yankees.

Houston Astros - Carlos Lee

I was actually thinking to myself the other day "What ever happened to Carlos Lee?" El Caballo put together a nice career but was always hurt by relatively low OBP totals. .286/.338/.491 is a frustrating line for a sabermetrician to look at. Career OPS+ 114 isn't going to blow anyone away either. 22.2 WAR in 13 seasons. Yeah not a Hall of Famer. Houston doesn't have much going for it. At least they have Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn entering the prime of their careers nevermind.

So what is the end result of all this? Really Rolen's the only one that I would say is already heading for the Hall but plenty of players are building their cases to be on the ballot right now. And really given that the average class size can be assumed to be 2-3 players so it's really not so surprising. Among players playing right now here's who I think are already in the Hall: Rolen, Thome, Halladay, Jones, Jeter, Rodriguez, Rivera, and Helton. There are a few other borderline cases out there (plus Ichiro will be sort of hard to predict how the writers treat him but I think he'll get in) but these guys could all be on a bus together tomorrow that drives off a cliff and I'd still say they did enough to get in and also that was really random that they were all on a bus together.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Quick link

I want to shout out to James Dunne who posted basically the same article I was about to write after watching part of the Red Sox vs. Rays last night. I saw the graphic and the only thing I could think was "Well that was a fun an interesting way to illustrate how random and unimportant counting stats can be."

Vacation is fun. I get to watch a ton of baseball.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wrong Met

Yes K-Rod will help our bullpen, which really needed help. Although I was under the impression that K-Rod wouldn't be happy with anything but the closer role based on the clauses in his contract. Does that mean Axford is moving to setup man? All reports seem to indicate otherwise.

The point is that obviously the Brewers could have upgraded a lot more if they had gotten Reyes. Reyes has been worth 4 wins already this year while Betancourt has been worth -0.8. That's almost a five game swing at the halfway mark. That is massive for a single position.

It's probably pie in the sky to hope for Reyes anyway though. Still I'd like to see the Brewers do something to improve at SS if they really are going for it this year. I'm really worried about the Reds. They are below .500 but their Pythagorean puts them at tied with the Brewers and Cards. They are going to start winning some more ballgames.

Cincy needs help at short too and I'm really hoping they don't land Reyes. Paul Janish is at least in the positive for WAR at 0.2 but that's all defense. Holy crap at that .227/.259/.251 line. They probably need pitching help too but somewhat fortunately for them their bullpen looks pretty solid. I hope they don't get the help they need and Johnny Cueto gets kicked in the head.

The Cards have such a surprisingly potent lineup. I have no idea if Berkman can sustain what he's done so far but he doesn't have a crazy high BABIP or anything so who knows. Really though the Cards need pitching in a bad way. They have a couple decent starters and two to three above average arms in the bullpen but it just drops off the shelf after that. Lohse, Garcia, Salas, Motte and Boggs are the only pitchers with significant innings and an ERA+ over 100. I have no idea who's available. Johnson? Zimmermann?

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Fair and Balanced

There's been a lot of talk recently about balancing the leagues and divisions, something that directly affects the NL Central since we are the six team division that along with the four team AL West throws everything off. I'm not entirely sure what the solution is but everyone seems set on moving Houston out west. It seems like a lot of travel for the team but that's the nature of being in the western half of the United States and the Rangers already do it so no big deal I suppose.

The real accomplishment though is the balancing of the schedule. While this would put 15 teams in each league and require one interleague series throughout the season so that every team is playing it would finally eliminate the extra in division games for the NL Central. Lately it's been a way to inflate the win total for the division winners seeing as how they get to play the Astros and Pirates a few extra times.

Really though my purpose for writing this today is this: F*** You Major League Baseball. You look at this interleague schedule for our division and see if anything sticks out:


So this is the current version of balanced. It's the NL Central vs. the AL East this year. But the Brewers have to go play at Boston, at New York and they get the Rays at home. The only other team that plays Boston and New York is the Cubs but they got the Yankees at Home and they play at Kansas City for some reason.

I did realize this at the start of the year but didn't get in the mood to write about it until today.

Also why doesn't Pittsburgh get a home/away series with someone? I know they're the Pirates but at least pretend they matter.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Questions and Concerns

We are roughly a fifth of the way into the season and a few questions/concerns have arisen. I will pose them here knowing that really only one person will read them.

- Is there anyway to revisit arbitration hearings? I'm just asking because Corey Hart has an OPS+ of 7 right now.
- Does anybody want me to send an "I told you so" postcard to them for saying the Randy Wolf signing was a good one a year ago?
- Is Yovani's problem that I'm not writing enough about him? I'm still writing sonnets to him I just haven't been posting them.
- Is it possible that Latroy Hawkins offered up Corey Hart and Casey McGehee's power in some bizarre ritual to transform himself into early 2000s Latroy Hawkins? Because awesome.
- What the hell John Axford?

- Is this the Jose Bautista that exists now? Because 2005 Latroy Hawkins laughed when I said that he should probably pitch around Jose Bautista.
- Can you name someone who plays for the Kansas City Royals? Let me rephrase: can you name someone who plays for the second place Kansas City Royals?
- They are second to the Indians, who have the second best record in baseball.
- The best record in baseball belongs to the Phillies. Duh.
- In terms of OPS Albert Pujols is the fifth best hitter on the Cardinals right now. That's wrong right?
- The Chicago Cubs have one regular starter with a slugging percentage over .500: Alfonso Soriano. The next highest? Darwin Barney at .412. My questions is this: how do you manage to have a better record than the Brewers?

Monday, January 10, 2011


It's no secret that I love over-the-top PSAs.  So to say that I love Bradley Woodrum's "FIP: A New ERA" is about as surprising as a sunrise.  But the damned thing explains FIP quickly, simply, and with use of a Luck Dragon.  So go watch it.  Now.  It's easily my favorite analytical baseball video since "How Mariano Rivera Dominates Hitters."