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Archive for October 4th, 2010

At the beginning of the season, I took a stab at predicting the final major league standings as well as the winners of the major awards. So, without further ado, just how well did those “educated” guesses turn out?

Listed below are my predicted standings taken from the link above. Also added to the chart is a differential column displaying how far the forecast was from the actual result.

AL East     Diff   NL East     Diff
Yankees 97 65 -2   Braves 91 71
Rays 92 70 4   Phillies 89 73 8
Red Sox 90 72 -1   Marlins 81 81 -1
Orioles 76 86 -10   Mets 75 87 4
Blue Jays 72 90 13   Nationals 67 95 2
                 
AL Central         NL Central      
Twins 88 74 6   Cardinals 90 72 -4
White Sox 85 77 3   Reds 84 78 7
Tigers 81 81   Brewers 82 80 -5
Indians 77 85 -8   Cubs 80 82 -5
Royals 66 96 1   Pirates 70 92 -13
          Astros 66 96 10
                 
AL West         NL West      
Rangers 87 75 3   Rockies 87 75 -4
Angels 84 78 -4   Dbacks 83 79 -18
Mariners 80 82 -19   Dodgers 82 80 -2
As 77 85 4   Giants 81 81 11
          Padres 70 92 20

In the American League, all four of the playoff teams were correctly predicted, although I had the Yankees winning the division instead of the wild card. Furthermore, eight of the 14 teams were pegged within four games of the actual total, while nine were correctly placed in the standings. There were big misses, however. The Mariners underperformed my prediction by a whopping 19 games, while the Orioles and Blue Jays each deviated from the forecast by double digits, albeit in different directions. Who knows, if Buck had been hired a couple of weeks early, I might not have been so far off the mark.

In the National League, I wasn’t as prescient, this time only predicting two playoff teams, although not in the correct order. The Phillies late surge upset what otherwise might have been a dead-on forecast for the NL East, but nothing could have saved my blurry view of the NL West. In that division, the forecast was off by double digits for three teams, including a 20 game under estimation for the champion San Francisco Giants. In the Central, I had the Reds properly highlighted as a team poised for improvement, but Dusty Baker got his team to do even better than I had predicted. At the bottom of the division, the Pirates grossly underperformed an already low expectation, while the Astros proved to be much better than the league worst team I had forecast.

So, how well did I really do? It wasn’t the original point of this exercise, but as things turned out, pretty darn good. In fact, I came out ahead of an entire selection of experts (for the original data, click here, and for the calculations, click here), based on average absolute value for each predicted total. Below is a ranking based on that criteria, as well as a look at how many individual predictions were either “dead on”, “near misses” or “off the mark”.

Captain’s Blog vs. the Experts

Website Name Avg. Difference Dead On Near Misses Off the Mark
Captain’s Blog williamnyy 6.4 2 18 8
ESPN Law 6.6 2 17 6
Yahoo! Henson 6.6 4 13 7
NJIT Bukiet 6.6 1 17 7
Yahoo! Brown 6.7 2 15 6
O/Us Pinnacle 6.7 0 16 7
Expert Average 6.9 2 12 5
Rotowire Sheehan 6.9 2 14 10
via RLYW CAIRO 7.2 1 13 7
ESPN Neyer 7.4 1 18 9
via RLYW Marcel 7.6 3 11 7
BPro PECOTA 7.6 1 14 11
S. Smith CHONE 7.6 1 12 9
via RLYW Oliver 7.8 0 11 9
Yahoo! Passan 8.0 0 14 10
ESPN ZiPS 8.8 1 10 9

Dead On refers to exact predictions, or where a simulator was done, those with an absolute value rounding to 0.
Near Misses refer to prediction within five games of the actual total.
Off the mark refers to prediction 10 games or more from the actual total.

Ok, fine, I didn’t say my predictions were head and shoulders above the experts. In particular, ESPN’s Keith Law’s predictions came with a small percentage of my average, while also tying Yahoo!’s Tim Brown for the fewest forecasts that were off the mark. Fellow ESPN analyst Rob Neyer did not perform as well on average, but his 18 near misses tied my total for most among the experts.

Most of the forecasts bringing up the rear were generated by projections systems like CAIRO, PECOTA, CHONE and ZIPS. The most unimpressive predictions from a human came from Yahoo!’s Jeff Pasan, who missed by an average of eight games per forecast and had 10 guesses miss by a wide mark.

Despite missing two playoff teams in the NL, both of my LCS matchups are still in play, so there is still hope for the Yankees vs. Braves rematch that I predicted. My CY Young predictions of Roy Halladay and Felix Hernandez also look very good, but those weren’t exactly long shots to begin with. My MVP choices of Alex Rodriguez and Chase Utley were also chalk selections, but injuries derailed both players. Finally, my NL ROY selection of Jayson Heyward seems like a good bet, but my wildly optimistic expectations for Scott Sizemore now seem somewhat silly.

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Despite its disappointing end, the 2010 season had its share of triumphs and memorable moments. In fact, exiting July, the current edition of the Yankees looked at least as strong, if not better than last year’s championship version. Even after going an AL East worst 30-31 over the final two months of the season, the Yankees still came within a game of the league’s best record, not to mention the best run differential in all of baseball (as well as a better run differential than the 2009 team). Ultimately, however, the only way this year’s team will measure up to their predecessor is by winning another World Series. In the meantime, following is a recap of the team’s 2010 regular season performance.

Carrying a Big Stick

For the second straight season and fourth in five years, the Yankees led the American League in runs scored. There were some peaks and valleys throughout the year, but for the most part, the Yankees did not lack for run production, even if it did seem as if leaving runners in scoring position was a team hallmark.

Yankees Offense, by Month

Month G R HR AVG OBP SLG wOBA R/G
April 22 118 27 0.271 0.362 0.454 0.361 5.4
May 29 171 30 0.297 0.371 0.451 0.361 5.9
June 26 124 29 0.245 0.333 0.401 0.325 4.8
July 26 150 38 0.267 0.347 0.463 0.354 5.8
August 29 154 44 0.263 0.340 0.454 0.350 5.3
Sept./Oct. 30 142 33 0.255 0.346 0.398 0.331 4.7

Source: fangraphs.com

Robinson Cano was the Yankees undisputed MVP, leading the offense in batting average, slugging percentage, OPS, runs above average, wOBA, WAR and WPA. Regardless of what side you take in the statistics revolution, Cano was the Yankees most productive bat in 2010. Not too far off Cano’s pace was Nick Swisher, who offered further evidence that his 2008 campaign was an aberration in a career of well above average offensive production.

Cano’s and Swisher’s production levels were needed because Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez each experienced a down year, based on their relatively high standards. Teixeira sandwiched a strong middle of the season around a very disappointing April and September, and as a result, posted the lowest BA/OBP/SLG/OPS+ since his rookie campaign. Still, however, Tex managed to lead the American League in runs, while belting over 30 HRs and knocking in 100 runs for the seventh consecutive season.

Teixeira’s consistency is certainly impressive, but no one has made hitting 30 and 100 more of an art form than Alex Rodriguez, who accomplished the feat for the 13th consecutive season and 14th time in his career, both major league records. Also like Teixeira, however, Arod posted his lowest BA/OBP/SLG/OPS+ rates since being a rookie. And yet, Arod managed to finish just behind Cano in WPA, suggesting the magnitude of his contribution was greater than the frequency. After years of being maligned as a compiler, Alex Rodriguez has emerged with a reputation as one of the Yankees most clutch offensive weapons, an impression enhanced by his 2010 campaign.

In addition to solid seasons from Jorge Posada, Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson, who after reworking his swing with Kevin Long rebounded from a lackluster first half to post a .411 wOBA in September, Marcus Thames’ contribution was worthy of note. At .288/.350/.491, Thames not only exceeded expectations, but also found himself as a frequent hero, including twice in walk-off fashion.

Over the past 15 years, Derek Jeter’s name has always been at the forefront of any discussion concerning the team’s most important offensive contributors, but this year he found himself in an entirely different conversation. Aside from Francisco Cervelli, Jeter was easily the Yankees least productive regular player, as the future Hall of Fame short stop easily posted the worst season of his career. His rates of .270/.340/.370 were all well beneath his previous lows, and Jeter ranked as a subpar major league hitter for the first time since taking over in 1996. Jeter also posted an abysmal WPA of -1.33, which ranked ahead of only Austin Kearns (which tells you all you need to know about how poorly Kearns played in his two months as a Yankee).

As early as May, I noted a disturbing trend in Derek Jeter’s at bats. Despite still posting a strong OPS of .833, Jeter’s expansion of the strike zone had been very evident. At the time, the Yankee Captain was swinging at a whopping 33.3% of pitches out of the strike zone, which caused me to express some worries. Unfortunately, those concerns proved warranted as Jeter’s production declined significantly over the passing months. As 2010 progressed, Jeter never really corrected his sudden lack of discipline and ended the year offering at 28.2% of pitches out of the strike zone, a problem exacerbated by making contact on nearly 70% of those offerings.

2010 Offensive Production

Name PA R HR RBI AVG OBP SLG wRAA wOBA WPA
R. Cano 696 103 29 109 0.319 0.381 0.534 38.3 0.389 3.50
N. Swisher 635 91 29 89 0.288 0.359 0.511 28.5 0.377 1.94
M. Teixeira 712 113 33 108 0.256 0.365 0.481 26.6 0.367 0.70
M. Thames 237 22 12 33 0.288 0.350 0.491 8.5 0.365 0.13
A. Rodriguez 595 74 30 125 0.270 0.341 0.506 20.0 0.363 3.25
B. Gardner 569 97 5 47 0.277 0.383 0.379 16.9 0.358 0.91
J. Posada 451 49 18 57 0.248 0.357 0.454 12.9 0.357 -0.38
Granderson 528 76 24 67 0.247 0.324 0.468 10.8 0.346 0.33
N. Johnson 98 12 2 8 0.167 0.388 0.306 0.7 0.330 0.23
E. Nunez 53 12 1 7 0.280 0.321 0.360 0.3 0.328 0.33
D. Jeter 739 111 10 67 0.270 0.340 0.370 -0.8 0.320 -1.33
F. Cervelli 317 27 0 38 0.271 0.359 0.335 -1.5 0.315 -0.77
J. Miranda 71 7 3 10 0.219 0.296 0.422 -0.3 0.315 -0.67
L. Berkman 123 9 1 9 0.255 0.358 0.349 -0.7 0.314 -0.45
A. Kearns 119 13 2 7 0.235 0.345 0.324 -1.0 0.310 -1.43
C. Moeller 15 2 0 0 0.214 0.267 0.429 -0.3 0.300 -0.14
R. Winn 71 7 1 8 0.213 0.300 0.295 -2.6 0.276 -0.30
C. Curtis 64 7 1 8 0.186 0.250 0.288 -3.9 0.244 -0.86
R. Pena 167 18 0 18 0.227 0.258 0.247 -11.4 0.236 -0.41
C. Huffman 21 1 0 2 0.167 0.286 0.167 -1.6 0.229 0.00
K. Russo 54 5 0 4 0.184 0.245 0.224 -4.2 0.224 -0.22
G. Golson 23 3 0 2 0.261 0.261 0.348 -1.8 0.222 -0.20

Note: Pitchers excluded
Source: fangraphs.com

The Pen Is Mightier than the Starting Staff

After the first two months of the season, the Yankees starting rotation appeared to be its biggest strength, while the bullpen looked as if it would be the achilles heel. By the end of the year, the opposite proved to be true. Over the last two months of the season, the Yankees’ starting rotation ranked as the worst in all of baseball with a cumulative ERA higher than teams like the Royals, Pirates and Brewers. Meanwhile, the bullpen emerged as a model of consistency, even in the face of an increased workload necessitated by the starters’ inability to go deep into games. As a result, the Yankees enter the playoffs with C.C. Sabathia and a deep bullpen, but lots of question marks in the starting rotation.

Relievers  
Month IP ERA
April 50 3.96
May 78 1/3 4.94
June 72 3.25
July 75 2/3 3.57
August 89 2.12
Sept./Oct. 104 1/3 3.62
Total 469 1/3 3.47
     
Starters    
Month IP ERA
April 140 3.41
May 175 2/3 3.94
June 164 1/3 4.49
July 158 1/3 3.41
August 166 1/3 5.14
Sept./Oct. 168 1/3 5.51
Total 973 4.35

Source: fangraphs.com

For the second straight season, C.C. Sabathia led the American League in victories, the only Yankees pitcher to accomplish that feat. Sabathia’s 2009 and 2010 seasons were nearly indistinguishable from each other as the big lefty continued to pay dividends on the Yankees’ big investment in him.

Unfortunately, the team’s other big acquisition from 2009 did not live up to his contract. Instead, AJ Burnett made history of an ignominious kind, becoming the first Yankee to suffer at least 15 losses with an ERA above 5.00. Incredibly, that doesn’t even speak to just how poorly Burnett pitched in 2010. In 14 of his starts, Burnett spit out a game score below 35, meaning the Yankees pretty much had no chance to win half the games he pitched.

Aside from pitching well in June and July, during which he went 6-2 with an ERA of 3.28, Javier Vazquez was another bust. In the first half of the year, Vazquez and Burnett seemed to take turns being the rotation’s sore thumb, but over the final six weeks, both pitchers proved to be a deadly combination.

Before suffering a groin injury, Andy Pettitte was on his way to having one of the best seasons of his career. When he went down on July 18, Pettitte was a sterling 11-2 with a 2.88 ERA. Even more importantly, the Yankees were 15-3 in the games that he started. With the veteran lefty out of the rotation, the Yankees struggled to fill the void, turning to retreads like Sergio Mitre and Dustin Moseley before settling on rookie Ivan Nova. Although Moseley and Nova (particularly the latter) had their moments, neither was able to give the Yankees the consistency needed to stem the tide until Pettitte’s return.

With three-fifth’s of the rotation a crap shoot at best, Phil Hughes emerged as the only relatively reliable starter after Sabathia. To be sure, Hughes suffered his own bouts of inconsistency, including a very difficult June and July, but he turned in a solid 18-8 campaign with an ERA just above the league average. Unlike Burnett and Vazquez, Hughes only had three starts with a game score under 35, which helps explain why the Yankees were able to win 20 of his starts.

2010 Yankees Starters

Name W L ERA G IP HR BB SO
CC Sabathia 21 7 3.18 34 237 2/3 20 74 197
Andy Pettitte 11 3 3.28 21 129 13 41 101
Phil Hughes 17 8 4.23 29 174 1/3 25 58 143
Ivan Nova 1 1 4.91 7 36 2/3 4 14 24
A.J. Burnett 10 15 5.26 33 186 2/3 25 78 145
Dustin Moseley 4 4 5.29 9 51 10 22 26
Javier Vazquez 8 10 5.56 26 144 31 61 109
Sergio Mitre 0 2 5.93 3 13 2/3 3 4 8

Source: fangraphs.com

With the exception of Chan Ho Park, just about everyone who saw a significant amount of innings in the Yankees bullpen proved to be at least competent. With Mariano Rivera being his usual dominant self (and arguably having one of his best seasons before a few September blips resulted in three blown saves), the focus all season was on building a stable bridge to the legendary closer. Although second half improvements from David Robertson and Joba Chamberlain helped to achieve that goal, it was really the emergence of Boone Logan and the acquisition of Kerry Wood that proved most important. Logan finished the season with a 2.93 ERA, but his real value stemmed from an ability to shut left handed hitters down to the tune of .190/.286/.215. Meanwhile, Wood, whose acquisition at the July 31 deadline seemed like an afterthought, shut everyone down. Over his 26 innings as a Yankee, Wood allowed only two earned runs and 14 hits, a level of dominance reminiscent of his days in Chicago.

2010 Yankees Relievers

Name W L ERA G IP HR BB SO LOB%
Phil Hughes 1 0 0.00 2 2 0 0 3 100.0%
Romulo Sanchez 0 0 0.00 2 4 1/3 0 3 5 100.0%
Kerry Wood 2 0 0.69 24 26 1 18 31 98.1%
Ivan Nova 0 1 1.69 3 5 1/3 0 3 2 90.9%
Mariano Rivera 3 3 1.80 61 60 2 11 45 78.5%
Sergio Mitre 0 1 2.45 24 40 1/3 4 12 21 84.3%
Javier Vazquez 2 0 2.70 5 13 1/3 1 4 12 80.9%
Boone Logan 2 0 2.93 51 40 3 20 38 82.7%
Alfredo Aceves 3 0 3.00 10 12 1 4 2 73.5%
Dustin Moseley 0 0 3.77 7 14 1/3 3 5 7 87.8%
David Robertson 4 5 3.82 64 61 1/3 5 33 71 78.4%
Jonathan Albaladejo 0 0 3.97 10 11 1/3 1 8 8 79.6%
Damaso Marte 0 0 4.08 30 17 2/3 2 11 12 72.9%
Joba Chamberlain 3 4 4.40 73 71 2/3 6 22 77 66.6%
Chad Gaudin 1 2 4.50 30 48 11 20 33 79.1%
Chan Ho Park 2 1 5.60 27 35 1/3 7 12 29 64.8%
Mark Melancon 0 0 9.00 2 4 1 0 3 35.7%
Royce Ring 0 0 15.43 5 2 1/3 0 2 0 20.0%

Source: fangraphs.com

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