Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Spike Lee Plays D

I don't know who would be penalized, but I'm fairly sure this is against the rules.

With the Knicks down by two and under a minute to go, Spike Lee decided to get his lean on and help Al Harrington force the Magic to spend their last timeout. Well played, sir.

Spike is trying to be fairly discreet, but unfortunately, the guy in the suit next to him looks like he's about to piss himself.

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]

The Stolen Base: Fallen From Grace

With the advent of the Juiced Era and an emphasis on sabermetrics by front offices around MLB, the stolen base has declined in use around the game.

One of the most telling disadvantages of stealing bases is measured by the run expectation stat. Below is the run expectation chart for the 2003 MLB season (thanks to writer Joe Sheehan at Baseball Prospectus).

Based on this chart, a runner on first with no one out is worth .9116 runs. A successful steal of second base with no one out would bump that to 1.1811 runs, a gain of .2695 expected runs. However, in the unfortunate event that a runner is caught stealing second base, the run expectation stat drops to .2783. This is a loss of nearly 2/3 of a run (2.3 times more than the gain).

Why would managers risk this chance for a run and give up one of 27 precious outs? Unless it is late in the game and there is a need for a tying run, the batter is a ground into double play threat, or there is next to little chance that the batter at the plate cannot drive the runner in from first (i.e. low slugging percentage), it is stupid.

Horrible times to steal bases include early in the game, when you need multiple runs (baserunners are important) and when a big slugger is at the plate.

In his article, Sheehan points out that the belief that running distracts defenses is misplaced or exaggerated. Sheehan correctly states that "a runner on first is more disruptive to a defense, with the first baseman holding and the second baseman cheating towards second for a double play, than a runner on second." He also points out the distraction that running has on the batter. How many times have we seen a batter give up an out by flailing at pitches in the dirt so that the runner can advance? If the batter strikes out and the runner is thrown out, the run expectation goes from .9100 to .1083 in an instant.

Sheehan concludes that break even rate for a stolen base is a 75% success rate. Thus, players with less than a 75% success rate should not even attempt to steal. In fact, if your speed is your only asset and you have less than or barely a 75% success rate, you shouldn't even be on a roster (ahem, Scott Podsednik).

Stealing bases also presents injury risks. Why risk the injury of high-salaried slugger such as an A-Rod, Vladimir Guerrero or Alfonso Soriano? The benefit that these players provide at the dish is immensely higher than their base stealing benefits.

With the decline in Performance Enhancing Drugs and subsequently the decline in the number of home runs, it will be interesting to see if the number of stolen bases returns to 1980s levels when Rickey Henderson, Vince Coleman and Rock Raines ran wild. Having a few .390+ OBP/85+% SB guys can make a team lethal so long as they are in front of a few power hitters. However, as evidenced by the teams mentioned in Sheehan's article, teams shouldn't run just to run.


(Benjamin Molina with Yadier pictured above)

Peter Abraham has a story about the passing of Jose Molina's father in LoHud this morning.
Despite having three sons in the major leagues, Benjamin Molina continued to work at a factory on an assembly line. Only after his death did the brothers learn that he intended to retire in December to spend more time with their mother.

"He used to say he worked to get the health insurance for my mom," Molina said. "We told him we would take care of that, but he loved to work. I could tell you hours and hours of stories like that. There was nothing bad about him."

There is no way a father can have three sons at the same position in the major leagues without knowing a whole lot about baseball, teaching and hard work.

I lost my dad a while back and although I never played baseball, my dad was a lot like Mr. Molina. When I was six years old he started taking me to the driving range and eventually let me play in from the 150 yard markers. I owe a lot of my golf skills to the fact that my dad wasn't afraid to push me to try harder.

He'd get up at 5AM during the week and bust his ass at SOFCO during the day but would usually stop by The Edison Club on the way home to pound some balls and could always be found at sunset on the putting green.

You have to hang in 'til the end, but this song will hit home if you've lost your father.