Over the last three years, the Orioles have consistently walked away with more victories than models would predict (whether based on forecasts or observed game action), but Dave Cameron of Fangraphs argues that random variation is still the most likely explanation. You’ll need to read the full piece, but in essence, Cameron says that the O’s outperforming streak is probably not attributable to some skill or special insight, but is rather an outlier that falls within the expectations of the models that predict win-loss record.
More from around the game:
- Cubs GM Jed Hoyer indicated that the team is focused on building out its big league staff in the near term, as Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports on Twitter. “We know we have to have balance,” said Hoyer. “That’s going to be our main area of focus.” With several of Chicago’s touted young position players beginning to make an impact at the MLB level, many have suggested that the organization could become a big player on next year’s free agent market — especially to fill out a rotation that is now without Jeff Samardzija.
- Designated hitter Billy Butler reiterated recently that he is still hopeful of remaining with the Royals, Jeffrey Flanagan of FOX Sports Kansas City reports. In spite of a recent hot streak, his $12.5MM club option for 2015 seems a bit steep. “After the season, we’ll see what happens,” said Butler. “We’ll know five days after the World Series what will happen. But even if they decline, it doesn’t mean they won’t offer me something else. I hope that’s the case.”
- Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg’s comments about Darin Ruf’s playing time reveal a continued flaw in the organization’s decisionmaking, argues David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News. “The situations he’s been in the last couple of years here, not being able to have a string of at-bats, it’s hard to really get a gauge still,” Sandberg said of Ruf. But while consistent playing time would appear to offer a means of evaluating the outfielder/first baseman, Sandberg said “that’s the tricky part about making lineups and also trying to win a game.” As Murphy opines, this line of thinking suggests that the organization is still focused primarily on winning meaningless games this year, rather than setting up the organization for future success.
Just make it a split. A platoon split. Straight. Pinch hit Ruf against lefties. Start him against lefties. Drop Howard in the order
But Howard is hitting lefties better then righties this year
Regression to the means. He’s not hitting both particularly well anyway. Like saying this apple is less rotten than that one, both are still rotten.
He’s hitting LHP to the tune of an .800 OPS (with a massive .252 ISO) in over 100 PAs. That’s not great by Ryan Howard career standards, but it’s much better than “not particularly well.”
Spray charts also show him going to the left side more this year than the last two seasons combined, and he’s got more homers to CF, LCF, and LF this year than both 2012 and 2013 combined as well.
I hope the royals decline the 7 million option on Wade Davis
The Orioles get no respect. In midst of all of these deep statistics we forgot human will. Not everything can be explained by math. The Orioles have a great manager who manages above the statistics. Human will, determination, and focus could potentially explain this “outlier”. These aren’t computers playing, they’re real people.
So the Orioles are just more determined to win than the other twenty-nine teams? While I’m not completely sold on BaseRuns as a predictive engine, that is a much less compelling argument than Cameron’s.
I think the Orioles have figured out how to win in the current game. The game changes, so it may not last, but they have found something that other teams have not. That is why they are the outlier. Statisticians should be required to have played the game to understand the human element and feel for the game. Buck knows what he’s doing right now.
I played baseball for years, and I have been in my share of games where one team started to tilt and lose focus, causing them to play poorly. So I understand what you mean. But I think part of what makes these guys professionals is their ability to stay focused, so unless you could show me some concrete proof of the Orioles specifically targeting players that are somehow quantifiably more focused, I can’t just give that edge to the Orioles over other teams. Also, as Cameron pointed out in his piece, the Showalter argument is weak because his Texas Rangers teams actually under-performed their BaseRuns records.
I encourage everyone to read the article.
If Buck has it all figured out what happened to last years team? The one that underperformed in “clutch” situations. Or the Angels team that beat expectations for 8 straight years, but has fallen short the last three?
I encourage you to consider things other than numbers.
I read the article, I understand. I agree with the statistical model. Its not about finding a way to predict it or understand why the stats don’t back up the win total. What I’m saying is that there is no denying that they are in fact winning. Maybe this team’s successful model, unique to these players, this year, and only in the current environment (including every other player and team and coach in the game), is based on what they think will work. Consider things like match-ups, lineups, hot and cold guys, nagging injuries, etc. Buck has a feel for what will work because he has developed an image of what each of his guys brings each day. He feels things with his gut. I know that sounds crazy because there is no “gut stat”, but I can tell you there are a lot of baseball men who go with their feelings, and it works. Don’t ask me where it comes from or why its only this year. But if you want to actually explain the outliers (including the Angels), you would have to get inside the brain of the manager.
Orioles get no respect. 4th best team ERA since the ASB, one of the best bullpens in baseball, leading the MLB in home runs, and a #1 defense, and they’re just an outlier? Please, this super sabremetrics of “regression to the mean” and “outperformance” is nonsense. They’re a great team.
You’re not talking about the same thing they’re talking about. They’re talking about pre-season predictions.
They are a good team that is sequencing like a great team.
They are (in the AL using FG out of 15 teams):
wOBA – 4th
wRC+ – 3rd
Baserunning – 10th
Defense – 2nd
Overall positional player WAR – 3rd
ERA – 8th
FIP – 14th
xFIP – 14th
Starting pitching WAR – 15th
Basically you have a team that is solid with positional players (right behind the Angles/A’s) with mediocre to poor starting pitching. Their bullpen ranks right in the middle in terms of WAR.
Sandberg is in a no win spot. Can you really just sit Howard and his giant contract? It’s pretty hard to do, especially if the FO knows it can’t trade him at this level of production. Howard still had an ops+ of 115 and a positive WAR last year, in about half a season. That doesn’t mean he’s good. But it does lead one to fear that if you just cut him loose he might start hitting again.
The problem isn’t with playing/sitting Howard. The problem is that Sandberg has insisted on playing Grady Sizemore – a player who has 0 future with this team. And in doing so, sacrifices playing times for Brown/Revere/Ruf. And while none of those trio will probably ever be stars, they can all be contributors for the next 3-4 years (and cheap ones at that).
I have no problem with playing Howard – because you are stuck with him. You can’t just cut him and swallow $60 M over the next 2 seasons. That’s not a feasible decision. Like you said, he’s nowhere near the player he was before, but he can still be a useful piece.
My opinion as an outsider; don’t worry about what Howard would do if traded, he will never play to that contract. Forget about brown (can’t field or hit). Revere is playing like an all-star. Your right about sizemore, no matter what he does he’s not the future, play Ruf everyday.
I’m not worrying about what Howard would do if traded – just the fact that we are locked into $60 M for him over the next 2 years (unless they find a way to trade him and not take on all the salary). What’s the point in cutting bait with him if the only reason to do so is to NOT have him on the team? I don’t think Ruf upgrades the position much (if at all) from the current level of production Howard provides.
As far as Brown goes, it’s funny that everyone says he’s done. He was an All-Star just last year. I’m not saying he’s going to be a perpetual one – just that I’d rather they not give up on a 26 year old kid who was a top 5 prospect 3 years ago.
I think Sizemore is being played for the same reason Boston took a flyer on him. When he’s fluid, he looks like he can still be a plus player, and he works hard, which has credibility with Sandberg. The problem is that the Phillies have a lot bigger fish to fry than whether Howard is playing full time or part time.
You can cut Howard. Angels did it with Wells. I haven’t heard an Angels fan yet wish that they held onto Wells. Free up the roster space and move on. Now, if there is no one better to take his place that’s another story.
The Angels didn’t cut Wells, they traded him for relatively nothing (and got the Yankees to take on some of his salary – actually, Yankees paid over $10 M of his remaining $40 M). The Yankees then cut him this year.
Like I said in a later post, I don’t think Ruf (the current option for an “upgrade”) is even an upgrade.
The reactions on the Ruf comment are a bit dramatic IMO. I get what Sandberg is trying to say. Over analyzing has become the norm.
Stephen J. Puopolo
In other words: the Orioles are just lucky. Ugh…
Apparently you didn’t read the article. That is not the conclusion that Cameron reaches.
I have a background in higher math and read the Cameron piece with interest. I even re-posted it. Cameron does not analyze, purposefully or otherwise, the factors that may predict the Orioles now-consistent performance as a statistical outlier.
Between roster makeup (Dan Duquette) and game strategy (Buck Showalter), quite possibly there is a factor that predicts the Orioles outlier performance now in two of the last three years.
SAT scores are also normally distributed, but there are factors that may predict that certain students consistently do well on the tests (innate intelligence, quality school district, good test-taking training, etc).
Observing that a student gets 99s does not go to the “why” and there can be a “why” more compelling than dumb (good) luck. Cameron should have done more.
100% agree. After 3 years its no longer an outlier its a trend so the model not not measuring all necessary variables to make a accurate prediction.
They are still an outlier among their competition. They have outperformed where other teams have not found a way to outperform. I’m not even questioning their predictive models. I believe the Orioles have positioned themselves as the outlier using a bettter strategy, they win more games, and the mathematicians can’t accept that it is not a random event. There is nothing random about finding a winning formula.
Haven’t we been hearing the “Orioles are lucky!” argument for 3 years now? I could believe that more in 2012 when the point differential wasn’t very good and they had that incredible run in extra inning and 1 run games. But last year and this year are a little different than that.
That being said, some people take the models as the end all be all of baseball prediction. Which it isn’t meant to be in the first place. It seems the O’s are more on the good side than the lucky side this year.
It’s not 3 years. It’s 1.5 years out of 2.5 years. They underperformed last year. And if it’s all Buck then why wasn’t his success repeated before coming to Baltimore. And if it was Duquette why was the team so poor before 2012?
Cameron acknowledged that there may be something to this other than sequencing. However, it cannot be explained and is most likely just noise.
I think Cameron’s point was that, while an interesting case, the Orioles beating their BaseRun predictions in two out of three years is very likely to just be a result of variance, and that they have not consistently beaten the projections on a yearly basis enough to suggest otherwise. There just isn’t enough evidence yet to say that the model is bad when it comes to the Orioles.
Despite what the nerds in the corner will lead you to believe, baseball isn’t just a giant equation. There is so much more that goes into winning games than the numbers side of things.
I don’t agree with most of the advanced stats unless is a very large sample size but even then I still like to go with the straight up raw numbers unless the the stat adjusts for ballpark or league. Like some people rely on the Pythagorean record for win-loss (sometimes it works) but its not 90-100% accurate.
I thought Cameron’s article was fair. The AL East is a nightmare this year. Someone’s got to win it. The O’s have been impressive.
The AL east has the best winning percentage in baseball.
True but the talent in AL West is concentrated with Oakland, Seattle and the Angels. Each team gets to play far lesser teams ( Rangers and Astros) at the bottom 38 times.
I’d say the AL East isn’t top heavy (although the Orioles do appear to be beating up on a lot of good teams lately). But not being top heavy doesn’t mean the division as a whole isn’t good.
It’s an off year for the Sox and the Rays while the Yankees continue to puzzle teams by remaining in the picture at all.
That’s not to take away from what the O’s have been doing, but both them and the Jays still have big question marks surrounding them. The East is normally better than this.
It usually has more elite teams than this. But I don’t think it’s a “nightmare.” It still has the highest winning % in the AL. Just because you don’t have the frontrunner for the WS, doesn’t mean you aren’t, from top to bottom, the best division.
I like Dave Cameron’s work and appreciate Fangraphs. The one flaw in their projections is not accounting for the leadership’s effect on the team. In the O’s case, Buck Showalter is good leader in decisions on the field, instilling good habits/training new players and to inspire better performance from his players. It would be interesting to look back and see if Showalter’s teams have routinely outperformed projections. It’s one of the elements hard to quantify, but can be important in a team’s overall performance. I’d love to see a rating system for management calculating how much a group may add or subtract from a team’s wins.
From the Cameron article:
“From 2003 to 2006, [Showalter] managed the Texas Rangers; in three of those four years, the Rangers lost more games than expected, and his overall average winning percentage in Texas was 16 points lower than the BaseRuns model…Of the nine seasons managed by Buck Showalter in the years for which I have BaseRuns data, his average bump in winning percentage amounts to 1 point of winning percentage per year.”
It’s funny seeing people getting all riled up about Cameron’s article. Mostly it’s people who haven’t read it or don’t understand the article. It’s the same folks that still believe that wins are an important stat or that saves mean something. Unfortunately, those folks are pretty hard to reach.
There was a time in my life that I felt like the Angels had figured something out. Shrewd baserunning and bullpen management led the Angels to outperform the models for 8 straight years. That’s a heck of a track record vs what the Orioles have done. Yet, as Cameron points out, they have underperformed the models for the past 3 years now. While I *think* that there might be something that the Angels were doing that was giving them an edge, that edge is probably pretty minor. The reality is that they simply had things break their way pretty consistently for a fairly long period of time. That doesn’t take anything away from what the club accomplished because at the end of the day wins count.
“Meaningless” is broad. You can’t totally discount the average 30,289 people watching the game, focusing on Howard’s name brand. But they should dump Howard and play Ruf. He was projected at the beginning of the season to have one of the higher OBP or SLG (can’t remember) in the league. He could be good.