Rosenthal On Yankees, Playoffs, Sabermetrics

The Yankees enter play today with a one-game lead over the Orioles and four games over the Rays. And, it's a good thing this isn't your father's Yankees, writes Ken Rosenthal of If George Steinbrenner was alive today, Rosenthal believes he might have fired manager Joe Girardi after blowing a ten-game lead in the AL East and replaced him with the likes of Lou Piniella. Hal Steinbrenner is almost the polar opposite of his father. So much so that, when Rosenthal asked Brian Cashman of the potential fallout that might occur if the team fails to reach the playoffs, the Yankees' GM said, "We have objective, patient ownership." Also from Rosenthal's column:

  • The new schedule hasn't been a cure-all for small market teams like the Rays. Rosenthal suggests one way to mitigate the Rays’ disadvantage would be to scale revenue sharing so they would receive a greater percentage than a low-revenue club such as the Indians, who compete in a division with lower payrolls.
  • A criticism of the new playoff system is Wild Card teams who have better records than division winners are penalized in the seeding of the Division Series. Rosenthal's solution is to wait until after the Wild Card game to seed the Division Series.
  • The AL CY Young Award voting will be a test of how accepted advanced statistics are by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Rosenthal points out the last eight AL pitchers to either lead or tie for the lead in those categories, like the RaysDavid Price this year, each have won the award. The Tigers' Justin Verlander meanwhile leads in wins above replacement and Chris Sale of the White Sox leads in ERA+. Price is tops, however, in quality of opponents faced, based on the rankings of Vince Gennaro, president of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).
  • Larry Bowa's interview for the Astros' managerial vacancy is a good sign, as rival executives have worried that GM Jeff Luhnow is surrounding himself with too many like-minded sabermetric types rather than building a diverse baseball operations department.
  • The Marlins may have difficulty in sticking with their plan to keep Emilio Bonifacio in center field, play Donovan Solano at second, and make the acquisition of a third baseman their top priority. Rosenthal points out the market for third basemen is bare, so one alternative for the Marlins is to acquire an outfielder and move Bonifacio back to third base.
  • Look for the Rays to exercise their $2.5MM option on Fernando Rodney. Rodney is bidding to become only the second reliever in history (Dennis Eckersley in 1990) to have a season of 40 or more saves and an ERA under 1.00. Rodney leads baseball with 43 saves and his ERA is 0.66.
  • The Cubs will look again this offseason to move Alfonso Soriano, who is one home run and one RBI shy of his first 30-homer, 100-RBI season since 2005. If the Cubs fail to receive a sufficient offer, they could always bring back Soriano, owed $36MM over the next two years, and try to move him at the deadline again. Rosenthal cited the example of Carlos Lee of how it is easier to deal an overpriced player the closer he gets to the end of his contract.

31 Responses to Rosenthal On Yankees, Playoffs, Sabermetrics Leave a Reply

  1. captainjeter 3 years ago

    George would have fired Girdai, Rothschild and Long by now

  2. Encarnacion's Parrot 3 years ago

    Rosenthal points out the last eight AL Cy Young Award winners have either lead or tied for the league lead in wins and ERA

    This is accurate, or was just not worded correctly. Hernandez only had 13 wins when he won his in 2010, and they got that one right, completely overlooking Sabathia’s 21 wins. I think sabermetrics are starting to be incorporated into Cy votes, and possibly MVP votes, but Rosenthal is right that this year will be a good indication.

    EDIT: It was indeed worded incorrectly. Altered comment in light of it.

    • I disagree about them using sabermetrics more. Although I do give them credit that they’ve FINALLY stopped caring about wins, at least kind of.

      • start_wearing_purple
        start_wearing_purple 3 years ago

        Eh, I can’t cite a lot of specific information but over the last couple of years it has seemed like the trend has moved away from the stereotypical stats that would win awards. Both Grienke and Hernandez were hotly debate choices since they were pretty far behind on the wins list. Compare that to 8 seasons ago when Colon won based on wins despite the fact he trailed Santana in virtually everything else.

        That said, Rosenthal brings up WAR as the great equalizer. There’s one major problem with that, there’s no set formula.

    • start_wearing_purple
      start_wearing_purple 3 years ago

      I think it was worded badly. I think he meant to say the winner lead in either or both ERA and wins. Remember, Grienke also won a Cy Young award when leading the league in ERA while trailing in wins.

    • bigpat 3 years ago

      I’m happy they don’t care as much about wins, but ERA has to trump sabermetrics in the Cy Young vote. It’s all about what actually happened on the field when it comes to giving out awards.

      • Encarnacion's Parrot 3 years ago

        Does ERA do that though? It does give a partial idea of a pitcher’s ability, but ERA is highly indicative of defense/ballpark also.

        • davbee 3 years ago

          ERA only tells part of a story. As indestructible mentions, it doesn’t take into account a team’s defense or home ballpark. it also doesn’t take into account a team with a poor bullpen who give up a high number of runs from inherited runners.

          • notsureifsrs 3 years ago

            the problem with ERA is that it tells too much of the story. we want a story about a pitcher and it gives us a story about a team

      • rikersbeard 3 years ago

        that’s what advanced metric are trying to measure. They do so by isolating out factors that inflate or distort pitchers era in a way that is out of their control.

      • Brian Stevenson 3 years ago

        That’s funny, all this time I thought it was about rewarding the pitcher who actually pitched better than everyone else. Considering that ERA is very flawed and not representative of only the things a pitcher has control over, doesn’t make much sense to use it.

        • johnsilver 3 years ago

          “Considering that ERA is very flawed and not representative of only the
          things a pitcher has control over, doesn’t make much sense to use it.”

          Yet ERA, H and BB per 9IP were the bar pitchers were measured by for baseball the 1st 100 years.. funny how only in very recent history some now think fancy new statistics are all that matter.

          • davbee 3 years ago

            we also primarily used land lines for our phone service until about 10 years ago. I don’t see people clamoring to go back to that. Can you admit that things change?

  3. Jason Champion 3 years ago

    It does seem sensible to rank/seed the remaining teams after the wildcard game. But hey, when was the last time Selig made sense?

  4. Lionel Bossman Craft 3 years ago

    I like the sabermatic: “quality of opponents faced”. Thats a pretty good indicator and comparison between pitchers of different divisions, leagues, and matchups. Based on this statistic Verlander wouldn’t have won CY Young last year. He wasnt even close to the sole reason the Tigers made it to the playoffs last year.

  5. mrsjohnmiltonrocks 3 years ago

    Rodney at 2.5 million is a bargain, even for the penny pinching Rays.

    • mmiller54 3 years ago

      Unbelievable how he has transformed.

    • LazerTown 3 years ago

      His xFIP is 2.78. So while he has been good you really shouldn’t expect a 0.66 era next year, although you really shouldn’t expect that from anyone.
      Price’s xfip of 3.21 is better than Verlander’s xfip of 3.36. Although 30 innings is a considerable advantage when it is so close. It’s also going to be tough because alot of people that are looking at the rays will probably also vote for rodney.

  6. TimotheusATL 3 years ago

    the biggest problem with sabermetrics as a valuation tool for awards is that there aren’t really any standardized absolutes. for instance, how many different formulas for WAR exist?

    the quality of an outstanding pitcher (such as felix, greinke, etc) winning a cy young award is evident in many other stats that can be displayed as absolutes (ERA, K, swing+miss, K:BB, etc) without needing to muddy the waters, in my opinion. i do like the fact that “whoever has the most wins is by default the favorite to win the cy young” thinking has gone by the wayside, however. it’s forcing us all to look and see who’s really the most complete/dominant pitcher beyond one simple number that has too many extraneous factors that don’t even involve pitching.

    • notsureifsrs 3 years ago

      “one simple number that has too many extraneous factors that don’t even involve pitching”

      this is a good definition of ERA

      as for your objection to a lack of absolutes in WAR, what absolutes are there about how to weight each of the stats you listed (“ERA, K, swing+miss, K:BB”) when evaluating a performance?

      there aren’t any! every person here, in his head, does what WAR does. he just doesn’t spell out how he’s doing it. he might say “player x is better than player y; look at these numbers” but he won’t tell us what priority those numbers should take over other numbers or why. and generally if you ask him, he won’t know because he hasn’t even thought about it. rWAR and fWAR on the other hand assign specific values to specific inputs based on specific calculations, allof which are available for others to see and to scrutinize

      WAR is a framework for evaluation just like we all have in our head when he compare players. the difference is that its methodology is explicit. this means that not only is each implementation (rWAR v. fWAR) absolute, it’s more absolute than any combination of the stats you listed

      in fact, every time someone comes around disagreeing with what WAR says about this or that player, he is necessarily doing the same exact thing that WAR does. what he’s actually doing is giving us a less absolute implementation of WAR – i.e. a framework for how to evaluate a player

      you might have a good reason to dislike WAR, but a lack of absoluteness is not it

      • TimotheusATL 3 years ago

        there’s nothing really more absolute than “x has more strikeouts than y” or “x has a higher k:bb ratio than y” — every which way to define a strikeout, for example, has been determined. the jury is still out on a lot of the saber-style calculations, which is why so many variants exist on so many websites. unless they decide to go with one central institution for any given metric, it’s too questionable to use as a true evaluation for awards.
        having all those tools available is great for the fan, the franchise’s talent evaluation division, or even the math student, but it’s just too edgy when you’re talking about awards that have contract bonus implications.

        • notsureifsrs 3 years ago

          “it’s too questionable to use as a true evaluation for awards”

          what framework is superior to it? as i just explained, a framework is going to be used no matter what. you are concerned for some reason that more than one organization has furnished a metric with the same name (WAR). but what are you saying is more reliable than it? tell us what should be used instead

          so far, every criticism you’ve named applies more to non-WAR frameworks than to WAR

    • LazerTown 3 years ago

      I’m really not a huge fan of WAR. I’m not sure how to explain it, I just always feel like it is bugged both offensively, and defensively, because alot of defensive metrics aren’t the best.
      xFIP has shown a strong correlation to future era so I think that it is the best indicator of what kind of season a player had. Price’s is slightly lower although Verlander has pitched 30 more innings.
      Price’s WAR is 4.1 and Verlander’s is 6.1. I just think it is ridiculous to think that 3 Price = 2 Verlanders. They are much closer players than that would lead you to believe.

  7. jigokusabre 3 years ago

    That Marlins’ plan is to start Donovan Solano? That’s a terrible plan. Besides, there are like 7 better OFs on the FA market than Boni (who should be playing the IF).

  8. LazerTown 3 years ago

    “Rosenthal points out the last eight AL Cy Young Award winners have either lead or tied for the league lead in wins and ERA”
    He actually said the last 8 that lead in both have won the al cy young
    Voters have shown that wins is not always the most important. Greinke won with 16 in 2009 and Felix won in 2010 with 13.
    I wonder if rodney will get a substantial amount of votes. Eckersley did win several years ago with an era nowhere close to what he has. Although it would take a pitcher with an era of 3.5 over 120 innings to combine with rodney to get up to the innings total and combined era that price is at. So while rodney has been good, Price is more valuable.

  9. petrie000 3 years ago

    the problem with that argument is that if you’re not basing your projections on sabremetrics (which has everything to do with the numbers the player has put up in the past, and what similar players have done), then you’re effectively basing a multi-million dollar player evaluation on nothing but ‘gut and instinct’… which is a quick way to lose one’s job if you guess wrong.

    I’m not a huge stat head, i’ll admit, and some of the sabremetric categories seem a little strange to me, but there’s a lot of it that you really just can’t argue with.

  10. notsureifsrs 3 years ago

    when jered weaver gives up a deep drive to left center and mike trout scales the wall to make the catch and rob a home run, do you say “good job, jered”? do you say “well, that’s what actually happened on the field! jered did his job”? of course you don’t

    FIP doesn’t tell you “what should have happened”. it tells you what did happen. it just doesn’t tell you everything that happened. neither does OBP, AVG, or (wait for it)…ERA. ERA only tells you about earned runs

    here’s the key: which players are responsible for OBP? only the batter. same for average. which players are responsible for FIP? only the pitcher. which players are responsible for earned runs? all of them

    earned runs are important; there’s no argument about that. the point is that ERA is not a precise way to measure a pitcher’s role in allowing them

  11. Crucisnh 3 years ago

    Life is a class.

  12. sf55forlife 3 years ago

    FIP doesn’t do that at all really, its not meant to be a prediction tool that would be xFIP. What FIP does is remove the things pitchers don’t have control over (balls in play) from what they do (strike outs, walks, and home runs to an extent). By doing this pitchers can be compared evenly because good/bad defenses can’t effect the numbers. Obviously this is a very simple explanation, if you want to know more I would read some studies on DIPS theory.

  13. jigokusabre 3 years ago

    But if two P’s have an ERA of 2.50, and one has a FIP of 3.50 while the other has a FIP of 2.00… it’s valid to say that the pitcher with the FIP of 3.50 was helped out by their defense, luck, etc. and is less deserving of the award.

  14. javywoz 3 years ago

    But the problem then with FIP is that it assumes pitchers would pitch the same if the situation (good to bad) were different. Take Hellickson as an example, his FIP and ERA have always had a large difference primarily because of the Rays great defense. But guess what, he knows he’s pitching in front of a great defense. He knows if he induces weak grounders or flyouts his defense will take care of it. This completely changes his approach than if he were pitching infront of an average defense (which is what FIP attempts to emulate). So FIP essentially punishes Hellickson for taking an approach utilizing an advantage he knows he has. That is the big weakness in FIP.

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