Blog Entry

## Statistical Debates, Analysis and Predictions

Posted on: February 8, 2011 2:24 pm

This debate is actually comical. Not one person on Planet Baseball doesn't look at the 2011 Orioles everyday lineup and doesn't think that its not significantly improved over last year's. And, that it is more formidable and will compete with the other teams in the AL East, AL and MLB on a daily basis. Nobody.

I get a kick out of people who quote the sabermetric mathematical analysis as actually scientific ways to describe player's abilities. Anyone that knows anything about those statistics knows that it takes years (like 7) to make the data reasonable. If in fact, you believe that those stats actually tell you something you don't already know or try to tell you something that just does not exist. In other words, its fantasy and tells you nothing that means anything.

Wikipedia: Sabermetrics is the analysis of baseball through objective evidence, especially baseball statistics that measure in-game activity rather than industry activity such as attendance.
Try this load of crap for a stat.  dERA: This is a measurement of what a pitcher's earned run average would have been, if not for the effects of defense and luck. It uses batters faced, homeruns allowed, walks allowed, intentional walks allowed, strikeouts and hit batsmen in a complex mathematical formula.

Sites like FanGraphs and others like it, spew out garbage numbers that have no bearing on the true standards of baseball. I'll stand corrected when the first Cy Young award is given to a pitcher with the best DICE and DIPS.  Or a player wins the MVP for a stellar VORP or MLV.

For over 100 years the standard stat lines were perfect descriptions. BA, OBP, HR, RBI, RS, SB, ERA, W, SO, BB, SV and a few others were the only categories needed to compare players and seasons. Do we really care if Nick Markakis has a RC/9 of 8? So, if Kakes was to hit in every spot in the line-up for the entire game, the O's would score 8 runs. Really? Is this a stat based on any reasonable possibility of that actually happening?

Why is it that everything has to go right for the Birds to be more than "above average" and to stay competitive in the AL East? Are we assuming that every other team in the division will remain healthy but the O's players won't? If not, then we are assuming that everyone on all the teams will stay healthy.

If that's the case, Brian Roberts, Adam Jones, Derrek Lee, Vladimir Guerrero, Justin Duchsherer, J.J. Hardy and all of the O's will be at their healthiest and therefore at their best. And at their best, they are scary good. Every bit as scary as the Yankees for instance. Who would you rather have? New York's starting outfielders/DH (Swisher, Granderson, Gardner and Posada) or the Orioles (Scott, Jones, Markakis and Guerrero). Or the starting staffs? New York has Sabathia who's a true ace, but Hughes/Matusz is a wash and Guthrie has outperformed Burnett for the past couple years rather easily. Duch, Bergy, Jake, Tillman and Britton versus Mitre, Colon, Garcia, Prior, Nova and Backman? You choose. And the difference in the infielders has dramatically shrunk. Tex/Lee, Cano/Roberts, A-Rod/Reynolds, Jeter/Hardy, Martin/Wieters. A-Rod, Tex and Jeter all had "down statistical years" last year (and were healthy).

If Mark Reynolds can cut down on his strikeouts, then... (a strikeout does matter.  I have mentioned this before, but I  live in AZ and I could not tell you how frustrating it has been to watch Reynolds strikeout, when all that was needed was a sac fly to win/tie the game)
This is a horrible analysis IMO. It wasn't frustrating when Reynolds knocked in those 85 to 100 runs. Or belted all those homers. His at bats were VERY productive last season even without a high BA and a ton of K's. He still had a .320 OBP, rarely hit into a DP (which is two times as bad as a K), and he is atypical for a prototypical power guy because he doesn't clog up the basepaths. He's quick and steals some bases too. And he did that for a Diamondbacks team that had a lineup that offered him little help or protection. He had a down year at 27 years old. So what? That's exactly what happened to Markakis last season in his "down year." He had no lineup protection. Yet we rationalize his problems.

Pitt up some numbers based on "real statistics." They point to a very improved Orioles team. Those trying to be "cautiously optimistic" (to a ridiculous degree) are looking for cracks in the armour. To make predictions one must assume that everyone is on an equal playing field in terms of health. It won't remain that way, but you can't predict injuries or what effect they'll have until it happens. You can't predict decline in a player until there is a pattern. Lee had a monster year in 2009. He was injured in 2010. Guerrero had a huge bounce back season in 2010. The second half stats could have been that the 105 degree heat in Texas had a toll on him. He's not on the Rangers team any longer and may hit for better numbers in 2011 playing in a cozy hitters park in Baltimore.

And for comparison purposes, what if the Boston Red Sox players who were injured last year remained injured or became re-injured? Boston (who I like to win the AL East based on their paper team) was without Pedroia, Youkilis, Beckett, Dice-K, Ellsbury and Cameron for huge parts of last season. Lackey, Drew and Papelbon had down years, and Ortiz was horrible early. Their two best offensive players last year was V-Mart and Beltre, both who have signed elsewhere via free agency. In comes Crawford and A-Gonzo. Will the change of environment help or hinder these two stars? They actually have big shoes to fill because Martinez and Beltre put up significant offensive numbers last year. What if they don't, and all of the injure players don't return or bounce back? IMO, a healthy Orioles team could easily pass them in the standings.

Did the champion Rays improve? Is Manny and Damon enough to offset the loss of Crawford? Garza's gone, and so is every reliever from the top ranked bullpen.  Price is a beast and Hellickson will be too. But Shields? Davis? They're not scary and they don't have a ton of bullpen support now.

How about the Blue Jays? Like the O's, they are relying on their very talented young pitching. They also have young hitters like Snider and Lind. But they lost their closer, Kevin Gregg, and their CF and leader, Vernon Wells. An OF of Snider, Rivera and Davis is a far cry from Bautista, Wells and Lind. Granted Bautista stays in the lineup at 3B, but Lind platoons with Encarnacion now.

You make the call. Can the Orioles stay with Boston, Tampa, Toronto and New York for an entire season? IMO, if this O's team had played in 2010 against the Jays, it wouldn't have lost half those games. The Rays pitching staff would have had to work harder to record outs. And the oft injured BoSox and pitching poor Bronx Bombers would have fallen more often too. The difference would have easily been 15 wins over the course of the season. And that, would have been good enough to play .500 ball last year.

So, you want predictions. Here's what I think about the AL East:

Tampa lost the most this offseason. They won 96 games and scored a ridiculous amount of runs for a team with a poor team BA. However, I attribute that to Crawford and he's gone. So is that tremendous bullpen of last season and Garza who was their second best pitcher behind Price. Manny and Damon have chips on their shoulders and Hellickson is going to be a stud. But this team is probably 12-14 wins less than last year's club. Prediction: 83-79

New York will have to buy parts at some point this season. They won 95 games last year with a rotation that included a mechanically flawed A.J. Burnett, an injury riddled Andy Pettitte and a completely overmatched Javier Vazquez. Sabathia dominated and Phil Hughes had a great first full time season in the rotation (although he faded some late because of fatigue). I expect Hughes to continue his success and expect Sabathia to dominate again. But as a few Yankees fans have alluded to, "its Sabathia, Hughes and then we lose!" I'm not sure its that drastic, but couple that with an aging offense (Jeter and Posada have appeared to slow down and Tex and A-Rod were statistically down last season) and its possible that the Evil Empire takes a tumble in 2011. Even though Robinson Cano has now become a MVP candidate, this team needs better years from their veteran studs A-Rod and Tex. IMO, the New York pitching staff, even with the spectacular Riviera and Soriano at the end to shut down opponents, will end up being the team's achilles heal. They too, like the Rays will lose more. Near 10-12 more games because of that staff and aging offense. Prediction: 84-78

Boston, if healthy, could dominate the division. I look for new additions Gonzo and Crawford to fit in nicely, and expect Beckett to perform well (it is an odd year). Lackey will provide innings and Lester is the team's ace now, and a good one. Dice-K is probably not going to bounce back because he has no control any longer. Buchholz, on the other hand, has the ability that other young upstart AL pitchers have like Matusz, Hellickson, Romero and Hughes have. The ability to become a top of the rotation guy. The offense with a healthy Pedroia and Youk will have this team in the post season.They didn't win 90 last year, but they'll easily surpass that mark this year. Prediction: 98-64

Toronto mashed the ball last season and without Buck and Wells won't come close to last year's numbers in 2011. The loss of Vernon Wells is bigger than most think. He was the face of the franchise. The young pitching is going to be very good. Romero, Cecil and Drabek are the real deals. The bullpen may not be. Overall, this team took a step backwards. Until that young staff starts to consistently produce (and it will very soon) and young power hitters Lind and Snider do the same , this team will hover around the .500 mark which is a few games worse than last season. Prediction: 81-81

The Orioles are the most improved offensive team in baseball on paper. Hands down! The team was next to last in runs scored and in ERA in the AL. A combination that nets you about 66 wins. That won't happen this year. Like Toronto, the Orioles young staff will improve this season. Unlike Toronto, Baltimore has a rock solid bullpen in the making. The team ERA which peaked at over 4.5 runs a game should be much improved. My guess by at least a half a run. That would place the Orioles in the middle of the pack and behind the leaders by about a half run. The offense didn't average 4 runs per game (3.83 I think). That WILL change. By at least one full run. The Yankees at 5.3 led the AL last season. If those numbers do move as I expect them to, the Orioles will score more than they give up. Something that hasn't happened in a very long time. And that, equates to more wins than loses. that means as much as a 20 win increase from last season's 66. But at 15 more wins the O's will have played .500 ball. I think it happens. Prediction: 82-80

Bottom line: All 5 teams in the AL East play .500 or better. The Red Sox easily win the division. The Yankees, Rays, Orioles and Blue Jays will all battle for 2nd place. None make the playoffs as a wildcard.  The deciding factor after who's healthy or not and to what degree, will be the starting pitching. No revelation there. Its always been that way. Long before any saber-stat or baseball stat-geek told us so by formulating it through a maze of statistical data.
Category: MLB