The Best Players in Baseball to Lead Off Your Team’s Inning

Timing in baseball is everything, it comes up again and again in different areas of the game. One area in which it is particularly important is the batting order, and which hitters come to the plate at various points in the game.

The effect of how the lineup is set has been well-documented, like herehere, and here, along with many other articles since then. But after the first inning or two, the order largely gets jumbled, and different players come to the plate at different points in the game with different leverages. With this in mind, which players have been the best this year at leading off an inning for their team(s)?

Continue reading The Best Players in Baseball to Lead Off Your Team’s Inning

The Blue Jays Quietly Have One of the League’s Best Rotations

Through August 13th, the Toronto Blue Jays’ rotation has performed at a high level, ranking 1st in innings pitched, 5th in groundball percentage, 3rd in GB/FB ratio, 4th in ERA, 12th in FIP, 9th in xFIP, and 5th in WAR. The collective of Marcus Stroman, R.A. Dickey, Marco Estrada, Aaron Sanchez, and J.A. Happ have even done this while posting league-average K% and BB% and laboring through innings (only the Reds and Orioles throw more than Toronto’s 17.1 pitches per inning). They also go after hitters at a league-average rate (i.e., they throw an average number of strikes), and yet they have the second lowest BABIP in the league at .273. What about Toronto’s rotation makes their results so special, when their peripherals seem so average? The short answer is their individual fastballs.

Continue reading The Blue Jays Quietly Have One of the League’s Best Rotations

Analyzing the Yankees 2016 MLB Trade Deadline by Prospect Surplus Value

The New York Yankees were far and away the busiest team at the August 1st trade deadline, and their decision to “sell” surprised many. As detailed here by MLBTradeRumors, the Yankees traded away 4 active players and a prospect, and received back 10 prospects, 2 major leaguers, and 2 players-to-be-named-later (PTBNL). While the Bronx Bombers are only 5.5 games back of the second wild card spot as of August 3, their decision to sell off aging players and retool for the future is a tried and true strategy that they hope will pay off.

Continue reading Analyzing the Yankees 2016 MLB Trade Deadline by Prospect Surplus Value

The MLB Postseason Effects of Regular Season Performance Against Top of the Rotation Starters

In the ensuing discussion of Review of First Half Rotation Matchup Luck, Reddit user /u/JustTrynaChill posited the question of the effect of regular season success against top-of-the-rotation starters on playoff success. This certainly was an intriguing question, and so using similar parameters, we’ll investigate the query.

To examine this effect, we’ll look at the 40 playoff teams from 2012 to 2015, the beginning of the expanded Wild Card era. During each individual season, we’ll investigate the performance of the team versus the top two quintiles of MLB starters by FIP. We’ll limit these starters to ensure that they have at least 80 IP as a starter (approximately half a season), to guarantee that they had a significant enough effect on their team’s season to qualify.

Continue reading The MLB Postseason Effects of Regular Season Performance Against Top of the Rotation Starters

Reviewing First Half Rotation Matchup Luck

Now that the unofficial second half of the MLB season is underway, every team looks to reassess its approach as the non-waiver trade deadline nears. Underperforming teams look to become “sellers”, while teams confident in their playoff chances seek new infusion of talent as “buyers”. Part of a team’s prospective outlook is its remaining strength of schedule. Teams that over or under performed their talent due to the MLB schedule in the first half may look to benefit in the second half.

Having poor luck with the scheduling can cause an MLB team to underperform, but in addition to this there the luck involved with rotation scheduling. For instance, on two separate occasions, the Braves had to face a stretch of 4 #1 caliber pitchers in a row, and one of these occurred in a stretch of games where 10 of the 12 opposing starters were #1 caliber. Similar “luck” has also occurred for the Phillies and Diamondbacks so far this year. While in some instances the team handled it well, in others it caused extended overall down turns.

This luck applies to both the rotation scheduling of the other team, but also your own, and the disparity between the two. Let’s evaluate the relative strength of rotations that each team has faced over the first half of the season, and the disparity in the quality of their starter versus that of the opposing team. Continue reading Reviewing First Half Rotation Matchup Luck

Which Teams Use Their Bullpens Optimally?

Earlier this week, Casey Boguslaw posted an excellent article over at Baseball Essential regarding Lineup Optimization. The premise of his argument revolved around comparing a team’s wRC+ and their run production per game. In theory, a team with a low wRC+ but high R/G implies that the lineup has been optimized, i.e. they are squeezing every run out of which they are capable out of the lineup. Conversely, a team with a high wRC+ but low run production is suboptimal, and not scoring as much as they should.

Let’s apply this concept to bullpen use. Each team has a certain number of relievers they are able to use in different situations. Similar to the lineup, different points in the game are more or less crucial. This is tracked by the leverage index (pLi). In a few words, a game situation of average leverage has a pLi of 1, with more intense game situations greater than 1, while less intense situations are less than 1. For a bullpen to be optimized, as the leverage increases incrementally, better and better relievers must be used, i.e. the relationship is roughly linear.

Continue reading Which Teams Use Their Bullpens Optimally?

Probability: Why Hitting Streaks are Impressive (And Why They’re Not)

As it seems to happen every year, baseball was recently aflutter with a hitting streak chasing Joe DiMaggio‘s legendary 56 game streak. This time, it was Jackie Bradley Jr.‘s 29 game hitting streak, between April 24 and May 25. During this stretch, Bradley collected 44 hits, including 20 XBHs to triple-slash .415/.488/.783 and raised his batting average for the season from .222 to .350.

Then, his teammate Xander Bogaerts followed it up with a 26 game hitting streak of his own from May 6 to June 2. During this time, Bogaerts collected 45 hits, 13 of which were XBHs, and triple-slashed .385/.419/.581.

Continue reading Probability: Why Hitting Streaks are Impressive (And Why They’re Not)

AL Midseason Debuts: Prospects Looking to Make an Impact – #1 Blake Snell

With the 2016 season underway, each team looks to compete immediately with the pickups they made in the offseason. But as we saw around the MLB in the 2015, the midseason callups can have as big of an impact as the players obtained in free agency. This series will detail the 5 prospects in the AL looking to make the biggest impact on their respective teams this season.

For the purposes of this series, we will set a few baseline criteria:

  1. The prospect cannot have any previous Major League experience prior to the 2016 season.
  2. The prospect must already be reasonably close to the MLB.
  3. The prospect must play a position of need for his big-league squad, and this need cannot be due to injury.

Be sure to check out the impact cases for the prospects previously covered:

#5 – Sean Manaea, OAK, LHP

#4 – Tim Anderson, CHW, SS

#3 – José Berríos, MIN, RHP

#2 – A.J. Reed, HOU, 1B

And for the previous series detailing the NL version of this list, check out the posts here.

Continue reading AL Midseason Debuts: Prospects Looking to Make an Impact – #1 Blake Snell

AL Midseason Debuts: Prospects Looking to Make an Impact – #2 A.J. Reed

1024x10241
Houston Astros’ A.J. Reed hits an in-the-park home run off New York Mets’ starting pitcher Matt Harvey, during the second inning of an exhibition spring training baseball game, Thursday March 24, 2016, in Port St. Lucie, Fla. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson/via chron.com)

With the 2016 season underway, each team looks to compete immediately with the pickups they made in the offseason. But as we saw around the MLB in the 2015, the midseason callups can have as big of an impact as the players obtained in free agency. This series will detail the 5 prospects in the AL looking to make the biggest impact on their respective teams this season.

For the purposes of this series, we will set a few baseline criteria:

  1. The prospect cannot have any previous Major League experience prior to the 2016 season.
  2. The prospect must already be reasonably close to the MLB.
  3. The prospect must play a position of need for his big-league squad, and this need cannot be due to injury.

Be sure to check out the impact cases for the prospects previously covered:

#5 – Sean Manaea, OAK, LHP

#4 – Tim Anderson, CHW, SS

#3 – José Berríos, MIN, RHP

And for the previous series detailing the NL version of this list, check out the posts here.

Continue reading AL Midseason Debuts: Prospects Looking to Make an Impact – #2 A.J. Reed

AL Midseason Debuts: Prospects Looking to Make an Impact – #3 José Berríos

With the 2016 season underway, each team looks to compete immediately with the pickups they made in the offseason. But as we saw around the MLB in the 2015, the midseason callups can have as big of an impact as the players obtained in free agency. This series will detail the 5 prospects in the AL looking to make the biggest impact on their respective teams this season.

For the purposes of this series, we will set a few baseline criteria:

  1. The prospect cannot have any previous Major League experience prior to the 2016 season.
  2. The prospect must already be reasonably close to the MLB.
  3. The prospect must play a position of need for his big-league squad, and this need cannot be due to injury.

Be sure to check out the impact cases for the prospects previously covered:

#5 – Sean Manaea, OAK, LHP

#4 – Tim Anderson, CHW, SS

And for the previous series detailing the NL version of this list, check out the posts here.

Continue reading AL Midseason Debuts: Prospects Looking to Make an Impact – #3 José Berríos

Empirically Baseball