Friday, September 07, 2007

Random Play Friday

The Kid's All Right -- I don't know what the best part of Wednesday's game was: getting a series against our nearest challenger for the Wild Card, beating Jarrod Washburn, or Phil Hughes finally breaking out a good start again. I actually was offered a ticket to the game, which I reluctantly turned down because it was the last night of my pool league. Big mistake--I not only missed out on Alex Rodriguez's two homers in the seventh, I took a total beatdown at the pool hall, while constantly craning my neck to try to catch the Yankees score. Not good times.

(Even though the pool hall is usually a good place to catch a game, for some reason most of the TVs on the floor were tuned to the replay of that afternoon's Mets game.)

The Odds Are In Favor -- My weekly Toolbox column for Baseball Prospectus came out on Thursday, rather than Tuesday, due to the holiday. This week's topic was BP's Playoff Odds report, and in particular, the way various iterations of the Playoff Odds have treated the Yankees this season. Here's a taste:

Take the Yankees, for example. On May 30, they were 21-29, eight games under .500, the low point of their season in terms of their actual winning percentage. Thanks to a healthy runs scored/allowed differential, their third order win percentage, regressed for the Playoff Odds Report was .537 at that point—better than their real-life record, but still not as good as the team was expected to be prior to the season. The PECOTA version of the Playoff Odds regressed the Yankees' third order win percentage up toward .580 (the winning percentage that PECOTA predicted for them) rather than down toward .500, so for the PECOTA report, they effectively had a .552 third order win percentage. The difference could be seen in the playoff odds, where the regular report saw the Yankees as having a 10.7 percent chance of making it to the postseason, the PECOTA version of the report was much more optimistic, seeing the Yankees playing in October 18 percent of the time, based on the likelihood that the team would eventually play up to their PECOTA-projected level.

The third variant is the ELO version, which is based on a famous chess ranking system, modified by Nate Silver to be used in baseball. The principle behind ELO is that it ranks a team's quality at a particular moment in time, emphasizing recent performance, and carrying over from one season to the next (there's a series of articles that I link to below that deal with the ELO system in greater detail). In the ELO Playoff Odds Report, ELO ratings are substituted for third-order winning percentage as the ranking system by which the relative strength of the teams is judged. To use the Yankees as an example, again, on May 30 ELO ranked them with a 1538 ELO score (on a scale on which 1500 is a league-average, 81-win team, and 1600 is roughly a 104-win juggernaut), and gave the Bronx Bombers a 15.9 percent chance at the postseason. Throughout the season, ELO has seen the Yankees as more likely to overtake the Red Sox for the division lead than either the regular Playoff Odds report or the PECOTA version—to go back to the May 30 example, ELO gave the Yankees a 4.97 percent chance to take the division, as opposed to a 1.54 percent chance by PECOTA and a 1.24 percent chance by the regular report.

Check out the whole article, which like all my Toolbox work, is free content available to non-subscribers.

This Word, "Strike," I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means -- I tend to find local news slipping by me now that I work from home. I got in to LaGuardia late on Tuesday night, only to find a long cab line. It wasn't til the next day that I heard that New York's cabbies were on strike as of midnight--so we just caught our ride home on time. When I went out on Wednesday and Thursday, however, I was surprised to see the streets choked with yellow cabs, trolling the streets for fares at the livery rate. As a matter of principle, I don't begrudge the cabbies--they don't make much money, and it's a thankless job. But it's strange to hear that there's going to be a strike, but just about everyone is working, anyway.

Random Questions -- How much is Alex Rodriguez worth, right now? When was the last time a guy pitched a no-hitter, only to make his next appearance out of the pen? How important is Ian Kennedy's start against the Royals?

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