Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Dueling Projections

I have taken considerable heat for my post on Nate Silver's A-Rod projections in our comment section and elsewhere. As always, here at Fack Youk, we subscribe to Benjamin Disraeli's quote "It is easier to be critical than right". As the result of some goading from a commenter named Fridas Boss at Baseball Think Factory, I have used some cutting edge statistical techniques to develop my own projection for how many home runs Alex Rodriguez will amass over the course of his career.

First, for the record, here are Nate's projections again (with A-Rod's past two years).

One thing I didn't notice before was that Silver's projection lasts two years beyond A-Rod's current contract. I'm going to go out on a limb here, but if A-Rod hits four home runs in 2017 and is at 726 total, I don't think the Yankees, or any team for that matter, are going to sign him.


My method was extremely complex and exhaustive. Here are the steps I took.
  1. Used the later years of Frank Robinson, Eddie Murray, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Babe Ruth to see, in total, how some of the greatest home run hitters of all-time have produced during their decline phases. I excluded Barry Bonds because of his atypical middle aged physical metamorphosis, despite the fact that he a A-Rod are both alleged PED users.

  2. Combined that and A-Rod's previous totals to develop a trend line for doubles.

  3. And for slugging percentage, factoring in his declining speed and the negative impact it will have on his SLG%.

  4. Combined those three lines into a conglomerate trend line I called his Projected Power Index (PPI)

  5. Estimated the ballpark effects of the New Yankee Stadium based on the prevailing weather patterns in April through September and the way it the diamond now faces.

  6. Used all of these in conjunction with his previous home run numbers, taking into account his steroid use in Texas (increased production minus park effects) to create his Projected Home Runs (PHRs).

  7. Decided all of that that would be way too difficult and possibly counterproductive, and instead picked the number "792" which would ensure that if he breaks the record, I will be closer than Nate by a couple of HRs. I then back-filled the numbers making sure there wasn't a drop off every single year since that was something I took issue with.

  8. Behold:

One of the things I said in the last post, but probably should have emphasized more was:

I realize that the most reliable way to predict future outcomes is by analyzing past events. However, the flaw in using this methodology is that it becomes impossible to predict when someone will do unprecedented things. Simply put, how is analyzing 20 guys, none of whom is the career home run leader, ever going to result in the simulation predicting A-Rod will break the all-time record?

Commenter scatterbrian nailed it:

It seems futile to attempt projecting a career that is an outlier. Rodriguez had 91 extra-base hits in his age-20 season, so we're dealing with a pretty rare player as it is. (DiMaggio and Pujols each had 89 in their age-21 seasons.) Using guys like Grich, Caminiti and Sandberg as comps doesn't seem fair to Rodriguez. Combined those three have only four seasons with 30+ homers. Rodriguez has hit less that 35 just one time.
The point of an individual projection, at least to me, is not to produce a seemingly exhaustive and all-encompassing methodology. The objective is to be right.

PETCOA is obviously more complex and accurate overall than anything I could ever hope to construct. However, the point of the previous post was to call into question a method that is only going to produce one result: A-Rod falling short of the all-time home run record.

Silver's projection serves to remind us that A-Rod breaking Hank Aa-- er, Barry Bonds' record is far from a foregone conclusion based on pretty much every career path that has taken shape in the history of baseball. I just don't think A-Rod fits that mold.

Only time will tell.


Oh and by the way, I made a similar projection for his home run totals this year, based on his performance in Spring Training. You probably won't believe it, but he is currently on pace for 162 HRs in 2009: A-Rod homers in first spring game [ESPN]


  1. Wrong. Because if you're right, he stays and keeps playing to chase Oh. He probably doesn't know who that is, but people will tell him. He could play to 45 easily.

  2. 868 is a long way from 792. If you give him 'til 45, which would be pretty unprecedented for a power hitter, he would have to average 19.25 homers over those last 4 years (to hit 869). That doesn't quite mesh with my ultra scientific projection.

    You never know since he's such a headcase, but I think he'd be content with smashing the MLB record.

    Or maybe in a misguided and ultimately disastrous effort to be loved internationally, he'll go to Japan to try to pass Oh... I'll get back to you with the movie script.

  3. Happened upon this discussion. Nate's blowing the doors off you, bro.