Friday, May 13, 2011

Beyond the Boxscore

Another announcement! Thanks to Justin Bopp and the crew at Beyond the Boxscore, I will be regularly contributing over there. So far, I have only re-posted my look at when the standings matter, but should begin adding new material next week. As such, my ground-breaking posts (/sarcasm) here will diminish in order to publish to a wider audience at BtB. I will post links to my stories here and will probably post new things here that don't fit into the stories over there. I'm excited for the new opportunity and hopefully I take full advantage of it!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

When Do the Standings Matter?

Vin Scully likes to repeat a quote from a well-known former Major League manager, "Give me 50 games and I'll know what kind of team I have." I don't remember who said it, or what the exact quote is, but that's the gist of it. Just for reference, 50 games into the MLB season usually lands around the end of May. I wanted to test this out and see how quickly we know how good a team actually is, so I did what any regular baseball fan would do: I went to and grabbed the record at the end of each month for every team since 1998 (expansion). Then, I looked at the end of month winning percentage and compared it to the end of season win total, using a linear regression. I also split each month up into bins of team winning percentage. Each bin contains about 65 teams.

Teams are all over the place at the end of April. Sure, the 43-119 2003 Tigers looked terrible, but so did the 102-60 2001 Oakland Athletics (end of April WP of .320). There is a definite pattern, but not enough to say who is good or bad with any certainty.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Full On Double Wildcard: What Does This Mean?

According to Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig, another wild card spot in each league will be added to MLB's playoff system. However, Michael Weiner - head of the Player's Association - says talks are still in negotiation, though he doesn't seem opposed to the idea. I'm sure there is a lot of politicking taking place, something I don't much care for. So instead, I ask the question: what is the difference in adding a second playoff team? I decided to take a look at each season since the wildcard was introduced in 1995 and find out for myself.

I took the record for each playoff team since 1996 and this is what I found:

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Retrosheet MySQL Queries

Here are a few Retrosheet queries I have found helpful. You can download Retrosheet using the steps outlined here. These queries assume you followed those exact steps. If your columns are named something different, you'll have to change that part of the code a bit. All of this was done by trial and error, so there may be a better way to do the code.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Albuquerque Isotopes vs. Omaha Storm Chasers 4/9/11

The only professional baseball anywhere near me is the Dodgers AAA affiliate Albuquerque Isotopes. They played the Kansas City Royals AAA Affiliate Omaha Storm Chasers this past weekend, so naturally, I went to watch it. I got seats just to the 1st base side of home plate, 4 rows back. I took some video on a few of the prospects there that I would like to share. I took the video on my phone, so I apologize for any poor quality. Also, you can right click and watch on Youtube for a larger size. I haven't been able to figure out how to make it bigger on this page.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Process Report

The fine folks at The Process Report (R.J. Anderson, Tommy Rancel, Heath Baywood and Nicolas Maculuso) have decided to give me a shot. The Process Report is "an electronic publication centered on the Tampa Bay Rays - using advanced statistics and progressive analysis." I have been helping them a little on some data gathering stuff and they have returned the favor by giving me a place to write (about the Rays) when I feel so inclined! My reaction? "Thanks guys. Leave it to a Rays blog to take a chance on an unproven commodity." R.J. Anderson's response? "I just hope you bring back a great package when we trade you in a few years before you get expensive." I think I'll like it there. 

Meanwhile, I'll still be writing here when I can't find a way to squeeze a Rays reference into a post.

Oh, and here's my first post there. It's about the steal of home. Of course.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

How to Put Retrosheet on Your Windows Computer...For Dummies

I have never taken a database class and have no idea what I'm doing as far as programming goes. So naturally, I decided to figure out how to put retrosheet on my computer and learn how to manipulate it. What could go wrong? These are the steps I would have taken If I knew what to do in the first place. If they don't work for you, I probably can't help. These steps are for Windows. I will hopefully do one for Mac as well, although the "Saberizing a Mac" series at Beyond the Boxscore has a lot of help there.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

2011 Top 167 Prospect List

This is based on my previous look at prospects here. These rankings do not reflect any of my personal knowledge or thoughts about the players, as I have none. They are simply a cumulative ranking based on the 9 lists I looked at. Those 9 lists are AOL, Baseball America, Bullpen Banter, Baseball Prospectus, Fangraphs, Keith Law, MLB, Prospect Junkies and Project Prospect. There may be a few oddballs, as some of the lists had different criteria. For example, Jenrry Mejia was included on a majority of the lists, but was excluded on the Keith Law and Fangraphs lists because he does not qualify as an MLB rookie. Without further adieu...

Monday, March 28, 2011

Taking a(nother) Look at Prospect Rankings

Well, this is it. I did a preliminary look at prospect lists here. This time, I am including the Bullpen Banter and Fangraphs rankings. I have also changed my methodology a bit.

Likes: The list places a prospect at least two standard deviations below the average ranking. A prospect must be on at least 5 lists to qualify.

Dislikes: The list places a prospect at least two standard deviations above the average ranking. A prospect must be on at least 5 lists to qualify.

Surprising Inclusion:  The list includes a prospect ranked better than 80 which is only included on at most 3 lists.

Surprising Exclusion: The list does not include a prospect that is ranked anywhere on at least 6 other lists.

I also changed how the overall rank was calculated. Instead of taking an average rank, I gave each player a certain total depending where he was ranked on each list. a #1 ranking equals 100 points and a 100 ranking equals 1 point. These are all added together and the prospect with the highest total is ranked 1st, etc. Mike Trout ranked 1st with a total of 896 out of a possible 900 points. Bryce Harper was 2nd with a total of 888 points.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Looking Up to Michael Schlact

I recently finished reading "Ball Four" by Jim Bouton (I know, I'm 40 years late) and I remember a passage from it that basically read like this: If baseball fans knew what players were really like, they wouldn't deify them as much. And that, in general, may be true. Fans of any sport are in awe of the physical abilities of the athletes they watch. Throwing a baseball in excess of 90 mph is just a dream for most people. Hitting that fastball is an even greater impossibility. So fans see these men and women do incredible feats with ease and tend to project other features onto them. Professional athletes are held to a higher standard. In one sense, this may be necessary as they - like it or not - are viewed as role models. They can have quite an effect on the lives of those around them simply by their stature as an athlete. But sometimes, fans tend to forget that the players are still people, just like everyone else.

When "Ball Four" was written in 1969, the access to players' personal lives was extremely limited. Even the reporters who followed the team were shut out, as players were told to rarely speak to them. As I read the book, I was amazed that the outcry was so large. There didn't seem to be anything shocking to me in it. Baseball players chase girls and drink alcohol? No way! It shows how much has changed in the privacy of professional athletes' lives. Of course, the best view that the fans now get into a player's personal life is Twitter. Twitter is awesome. I've smacktalked with Derek Holland on how the Anaheim Ducks are better than the Phoenix Coyotes. I've personally asked J.P. Arencibia and Manny Machado how to pronounce their names. I've asked Heath Bell why he has the number 21 ("That's the number they gave me. I like it."). I've won a personalized signed baseball from Will Rhymes. I've shared my anchovy-eating story with Thomas Neal. And I've shared Bible verses with LaTroy Hawkins.

Which brings me to Michael Schlact. Michael Schlact is a 6'8 right-handed pitcher who spent the last 6 years in the Texas Rangers organization. He was drafted in the 3rd round in 2004 and has bounced around the minors, reaching as high as AA Frisco. In 2009, he had shoulder surgery and missed time in 2009 and 2010. His contract with the Rangers ended after 6 years and they declined to re-sign him. Just recently, he signed with the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs in the Atlantic League, an independent baseball league, not affiliated with Major League Baseball. Schlact is also a blogger. His blog is here. And he tweets. A lot. As of this moment, he has 14,381 tweets.

But none of that is seemingly worthy of a dedicated post, is it? A pitcher gets drafted, tries to make it to the major leagues, gets injured and tries to prove that he's healthy. He blogs about his life and tweets. A lot. Besides the fact that without Twitter, I would have never even heard of Michael Schlact, none of this is ground-breaking stuff.

So this is where the story begins to differentiate itself, Schlact's Twitter bio: "Professional baseball player. Husband. Glorifying God while chasing my dream. Follow me on my journey..." Innocent enough. The only reason I followed him in the first place was that first sentence, "Professional baseball player." I follow over 500 people on Twitter and a majority of them are either baseball players or baseball writers. So, I figured, "this guy's a baseball player, I'll follow him." I read "Husband" and probably thought nothing. Or at least, "Well, good for him." Then I read "Glorifying God while chasing my dream" and I thought, "Well, I'm a Christian and this guy is at least Christian enough to put God in his Twitter bio. That's nice." Finally, I read "Follow me on my journey..." and figured, "Well, okay!"

The part I really want to focus on is stuck right in the middle there: "Glorifying God while chasing my dream." Athletes, singers and actors talk about God sometimes, mostly when winning awards or giving interviews. They thank God for the talent He has given them, which I appreciate. But in their normal day-to-day activities, they completely forget about Him. But Michael Schlact is not like that. He has Phillipians 4:13 on his glove. (I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.) He has basically been without a job from last October until this March. That's 5 months without knowing where he would end up and what he would be doing this baseball season. But instead of lashing out and being publicly depressed (I can't speak as to how he was in private), he tweets things like this: "Never think that God’s delays are God’s denials. Hold on; hold fast; hold out. Patience is genius."(George-Louis Leclerc de Buffon) And this: "Trust God with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him and He will make your paths straight." (Proverbs 3:5)

I greatly appreciate the fact that he references God and trusts in Him, but I'm sure that there are some out there who are turned off by it. I appreciate the courage and the boldness that it takes to be so open about his faith, but I believe that the overall lesson is not just that he has faith. It's that he is able to put it in action and that he is able to keep a positive attitude throughout a difficult time. This is an area in which anyone can grow, regardless of religious or non-religious preference.

This is his response to the Ranger organization, who declined to re-sign him after 6 years (a string of tweets): "Rangers fans, as of now, I'm not returning back to the Texas org. I am forever thankful for all the opportunities they gave me.  The Rangers drafted me and gave me lots of opportunities. I am forever grateful for that. I wish them the best of luck in the future. As you've seen, careers come full circle though. (Colby Lewis) So, there are DEFINITELY no hard feelings. Thoroughly enjoyed my time there." He's obviously a classy guy.

But what really drove me to write about him is that I have been where he has been. No, I was never a professional baseball player. The farthest I got was casual softball leagues (let me know if you need the best defensive centerfielder you have ever seen play). But I've been in the place where I had no clue where I was going to end up. I went through my senior year in college with a higher cumulative GPA than Schlact's Rookie ball ERA. I interviewed with company after company, only to get that wonderful e-mail that always begins with "Dear Candidate: While we are impressed with your skills and qualifications, we have chosen another candidate for this position...." And it hurt. And I can't say I handled every missed opportunity with as much class as Schlact did. I was not on Twitter at the time, but if I had been, my feed would be as depressing as a teenage girl whose parents just grounded her before a Justin Bieber concert. I ended up graduating college with a degree in Chemical Engineering...and moving back into my parents' house. Eventually, I was able to get a job and I'm thankful for that opportunity. But I severely dislike the feeling of the unknown. I don't like to be in limbo. And when I am, I freak out. But just by following Michael Schlact on Twitter, I have seen a glimpse into the life of someone who did not let his surroundings define him.

Maybe Jim Bouton was partially right in "Ball Four." Maybe there are some players who are great athletes but not very nice people. Maybe they have extremely skewed views. Maybe they kick puppies. But I refuse to believe that all athletes are this way, and I believe that I have found at least one of the exceptions to the rule in Michael Schlact, the insanely tall former AA pitcher who just really likes to tweet.

I've never met Michael Schlact and I may never meet him in my life. If I'm ever in Waldorf, Maryland and he's still pitching for the Blue Crabs, I'll go to a game. But even though I may never physically be in the same place as Michael Schlact, that won't stop me from looking up to him.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Book Review: The Extra 2% by Jonah Keri

I just finished reading Jonah Keri's first book, The Extra 2% - How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First. As has become vogue for this particular book (seriously, check out, there are close to a million reviews), I have decided to write a little review of my thoughts on the book.

The book details the history of the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays franchise and the copious changes that were made by new ownership to make the Rays a competitive team. I was wary of purchasing the book at first, as I had no real connection with the Rays, but decided to go ahead and buy it anyways since I was able to purchase it on for less than a third of the cost of a tank of gas. Plus, Keri told me on twitter ( that the book would be "similar to how Moneyball was nominally about the A's, but really about a lot more." So I took his word for it. As it turns out, in the time between that conversation and today, I have taken a volunteer position at, a Rays-centric site. By the way, Jonah Keri also wrote the forward for TPR 11 which is coming out very soon.

Enough about that, what were my thoughts on the book? I'm going to start out with the cover. It's a hardcover book with a sleeve that is not at all attached. So in the process of reading the book, the cover slides around, which I found to be slightly annoying. I'm just more of a paperback guy. (If I'm griping about the cover slipping on the book, there must not be much to complain about in the content.)

The foreword of the book was written by Mark Cuban. Yes, that Mark Cuban. This fits perfectly within the book, as Cuban has run the Dallas Mavericks franchise in a very similar way as the Rays' ownership has run their franchise.

The book tends to follow a (mostly) chronological order. It begins in Chapter 1 in 1988 with a vote in the Illinois State Senate and follows the history of the franchise up until 2010, leaving a hint of a Matt Garza trade to the Cubs. (It eventually happened.) Personally, I found the history very interesting, as I was between 2-10 years old when a lot of this was happening. Keri provides ample background and it is quickly apparent the amount of research that went into the book. He clearly explains the politics that went into creating the Rays franchise. He also covers the history of the Vince Naimoli ownership years and the changes that led to a new ownership group. Eventually, he gets into a few of the key moves that the Rays have made over the years to become competitive and many of the struggles that they face to stay competitive in an increasingly unfair situation.

It's a very interesting book, to the say the least. There are a few places where the content drifts into Wall Street-speak (it's in the title, after all), especially when describing the history of Stuart Sternberg. I felt the history was a little too deep here, swerving off into the history of how SLK was purchased by Goldman Sachs, etc. My other major critique of the book is that the author tends to repeat himself, nearly verbatim, in quite a few places. The same information may find its way into multiple chapters. It works well to drive the point home, but seems unnecessary.

Overall, the book is a very good read. There are a few places of humor scattered throughout and a plethora of information that permeates nearly every paragraph. It describes very well the history of how the Rays became what they are today. It also gives great insight into the process that the team takes to pursue competitiveness in the toughest division in baseball. It is definitely a must-read for Rays fans, baseball history fans and overall baseball fans alike. If I were to give it a rating on a scale of Jamie Moyer's fastball to Mariano Rivera's cutter, I would give it a...James Shields changeup. Well above average and something any baseball fan can enjoy.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Taking a Look at Prospect Rankings

*Edit 3/1: Keith Law brought to my attention that Jenrry Mejia was excluded from his list because he is no longer a rookie and thus not eligible. This has been changed. Also, the Baseball Prospectus rankings have been included.

I have been trying to obtain information on MLB prospects since the beginning of this year (thanks, dynasty league fantasy baseball). Sure, I had heard of Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg, but it was literally a surprise to me when some new prospect would come along and win a starting job. People like Carlos Santana. Buster Posey. Even Jason Heyward. Pathetic, right? So now I know a tiny bit more. I know that Devin Mesoraco used to be highly thought of, had a few pretty poor years in the minors, was nearly written off, supposedly re-tooled his swing, had a good year last year and is now back on prospect lists. Not too in-depth, but it's a start.

Anyways, that's not the point. I, like many others, like lists. I also like making spreadsheets with all of the lists put together and comparing them. So that's what I did with prospect top 100 lists. I looked at AOL Fanhouse (AOL), Baseball America (BA), Baseball Prospectus (BP), Keith Law (Insider) (KL)MLBProspect Junkies (PJ) and Project Prospect (PP). I will also be looking at Fangraphs once they are available. Of course, the MLB rankings only go to 50, so they do not contain as much information. Here is the spreadsheet.

I took all of these rankings and averaged them to get an overall rank for each prospect. The averaged list starts out with Mike Trout with an average rank of 2, contains 156 players and ends with Jacob Petricka, James Jones, Joe Benson and Tyrell Jenkins. Each of these four players were only listed as the number 100 prospect and only on one list. Good start. Now comes the fun part. What can I do with all of this information? Well, the first thing is look at how each list likes or dislikes certain players. The average for a player may be 63 (Jaff Decker), but he may be ranked at 26 on one list (PP), 97th on another (BP) and not even show up on others (AOL, BA, MLB). As it turns out, Jaff has the greatest standard deviation among players ranked at least twice (isn't cherry picking fun?).

For each ranking, I looked at the players it had ranked higher or lower than at least 20 spots from the average of players that were included on at least 3 lists. Why 20? Because. I also listed the players who were surprisingly included or excluded. A surprising inclusion is defined as a player who was only on one or two lists and was ranked higher than 80. A surprising exclusion is defined as a player who was on at least 4 prospect lists, but did not make that specific list. Another note: by "likes" or "doesn't like" I simply mean ranks higher or lower than average. It is definitely not to be taken as "Keith Law doesn't like Chris Sale as a person." The wording is simply odd since "ranked highly" could mean "ranked 100" or "ranked 1." Just to be clear. First, a summary of each system:

So here we go.