Disclaimer: After one week of baseball, we can conclude very little, except that Trevor Story will hit about 190 HR in 2016. Moving right along…
Appendix to the disclaimer. OK… this piece is in two parts. Do note our sponsor’s audible above. And what is Trevor Story doing in a piece on the AL and NL East? Stay tuned… and forgive the split personalities in this piece.
In the AL East, the teams more or less lived up to preseason predictions…except that the Orioles are undefeated. We’ll get back to that.
In brief: Boston and Toronto demonstrated that they will need either A) to acquire or develop some pitching depth or B) to score about 8 runs each game to win. David Price remains a legitimate ace in any league. After that, the Boston pitching staff remains as poor as it was last year. With rising temps, one hopes that Porcello, Kelly and Rodriguez can show the numbers they had last September. Rodriguez is a quality starter. But he’s out till at least May with a knee injury.
IF — and that’s a big if — Boston can consolidate its SP by the all-star break, the bullpen will carry the team. Kimbrel is a top shelf closer. Uehara can close. Smith is a closer in waiting. Tazawa is a solid setup man. These four in combination can take the pressure off any pitcher to go more than 6 or 7 innings a night.
Toronto is in a similar situation with one glaring exception – they really have no ace SP. Stroman showed no real dominance in week 1. Dickey struck out a bunch of Red Sox, but he also had an 8+ ERA. The bullpen is unstable. Either Storen or Osuna can close. But, as in Boston, you can’t save a non-save situation. Toronto will need consistent, high scoring production out of its bats if it’s going to win. That is never a formula for success.
Some other week 1 weirdness in the East…Baltimore is undefeated. They’ve struck out 54, have a 1.80 ERA and…ONE QS. That will not hold up. Meanwhile, the Yankees lead the AL in runs scored. Their staff has given up the fewest walks in the AL (8). This looks awesome. Let’s review in a week. Tampa Bay had no quality starts in week 1, but they have a [56:13] K:BB ratio and a 2-3 record. Granted, they are hitting only .228. So, they are the one exception to the AL East syndrome of good hitting and no pitching.
In the NL East, things are going more or less as folks predicted. The Mets have filthy SP. They have a 43:7 K:BB ratio, four quality starts and opponents are hitting only .233. But, they are 2-3. Washington ([33:14], 3, .241) is at 3-1. Go figure.
Philadelphia, Miami and Atlanta have assumed their positions in the second division of the NL East. As predicted, this will be a two-team race between the Mets and Nationals.
Some things to look for: Despite some issues remembering what the infield fly rule is all about, the Phillies do boast some good young talent. They will outperform expectations this year. The Braves look disastrous. In the NL, only Colorado has a worse ERA (and the Rockies, at least, can blame geography. Atlanta has no such luxury). Somehow, the Braves have managed 2 QS. But they’ve also walked a batter nearly every other inning, and they are hitting a paltry .198. This is a team in disarray that will need to correct its course quickly. Otherwise, it will be the sole denizen of the NL East’s third division.
I will abide by the opening disclaimer: There is much to observe in and little to learn from baseball’s first week. We’ve had cold temperatures, snow, and an unknown hit 7 HR. Our data sample is small — so we can’t draw more than preliminary thoughts — hardly what we’d call conclusions. In seven days, we’ll have twice as much data.
Oops. hang on…
We interrupt this unfinished draft to bring you… Part Deux: a Less-statistically-unsound codicil to the analysis just north of this interruption.
As we resume our story, we find our gentle scribe in a state of perturbation as he discovers that, as he recovered from travel to Atlanta and back at the mercy of an airline that shall not be named but has five letters in its name, begins with a D and rhymes with smelt, the nonsensical ravings of his lunatic mind (in draft form, of course) would be aired for all the public to see.
As we rejoin our hero, he attempts to focus on further analysis knowing that Gal Gadot has appeared as Wonder Woman, Jeremy Irons is now Alfred (not bad, but not necessarily an upgrade on Michael Caine), on balance Ben Affleck is much better than Christian Bale and we learn that Batman and Superman’s moms were both named Martha…
And the Baltimore Orioles are now 6-0…Mirbile dictu
Now then, sticking to my original thesis, the O’s hot start means nothing and it really is too early to draw much in the way of conclusions about anything. Sure, Syndergaard and deGrom are pitching like they are supposed to. Harvey has been knocked around. Scherzer, Strasburg and Ross have ERAs over 5. Archer and Price have lots of K’s but little to show for it. Clearly, the world is coming to an end.
But no. As Samuel Clemens stated, there are three kinds of lies: Lies, damn lies and statistics. This is not to say that statistics themselves are misleading. Statistics count things. Life goes awry when we humans decide to make bad inferences based upon them.
A quick summary of the pitching in both the AL and NL East through Sunday demonstrates the silliness of prediction at this point. The following data are all accurate through the close of business on 10 April.
Based on this, it’s clear that the data don’t tell us much. We learned long ago from Bill James that you need to score runs if you want to win. If you want to score runs, you have to get on base. So, OPS ought to correlate with wins. Ditto ERA.
OK—looking at these data, we discover that Bill James obviously was wrong because there is virtually no correlation between:
- QS and W
- OPS and W
- ERA and W
The list goes on. There is no there there. Bill James is right. It’s simply too early to make any predictions.
Compare, though, to our friends at FanGraphs. After a week, they’ve recalculated the odds of making the playoffs. Really?
Seriously? Baltimore’s increased their odds because they have won 5 games in a row? The Mets are wading in doo-doo because they are 2-3? “Honey, take junior’s college fund and place it on the Orioles” (????). Quick! Sell Houston and the Mets before they get any lower. I mean really.
OK. Fine. Maybe odds have moved up or down a tad. The FanGraphs chart tells us only the relative change in odds to make the playoffs. But, it does not tell you what the real odds are or what they were before the 5 (OK SIX) game run. Sure, Baltimore’s odds may have increased some 14%. But, 14% of what? Had their original odds been 1 in a million, this increase would have no impact on bets being placed in Vegas.
The problem with the FanGraphs analysis—in fact, with any analysis right now is that there is not enough data. This is the curse of the small sample size. An explanation and a couple of examples:
- Baltimore did win 5 in a row last year, too. It happened once: the last five games of the year. No one cared because, there were 157 games behind. So, if there are 157 games ahead…
- The Mets lost seven in a row from 17-24 June 2015. They also lost 3 out of 4 numerous times throughout the year. They seemed to overachieve.
In short, this is much ado about nothing. It is too early to look at much of anything. In 162 games, it is not hard to find many sequences of 5 games in which a team goes winless, 5-0 or somewhere in between. Further, I’d argue that a run of 5 wins in a row in July or August is more indicative of how a team is doing than a similar pattern in April precisely because there is a significant chunk of the season behind the team and it has had a chance to work out batting orders, rotations etc.
So, don’t place your bets on Baltimore yet. Or, if you do, please give me a piece of the action. While you are at it, don’t forget to dump Price and Archer. In fact, I’ll trade you Trevor Story for either. C’mon. He’s on pace to have more HR than either one of them will have strikeouts. Please don’t throw me in the Briar Patch…
Next week, I’ll develop this analysis further as we take a look at how some of the stud pitchers in the two eastern divisions are doing.
Till then, best of luck with your fantasy teams….and our gentle scribe awakens to see…
(Click the RED link below to listen)
Major League Fantasy Baseball Show: Join Corey D Roberts on Sunday April 10th, 2016 from 7-9pm EST for this week’s episode of the Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show. We are a live call in radio show so we encourage callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This week we will discuss the coming week’s games Mon-Thu, do some recap of the previous 3 days, and general fantasy news.
Our guests this week are Mark Rush and Phil Weiss. Mark is the Professor of politics and law at Washington & Lee University, an author, writer, and a frequent guest on National Public Radio as well as the Arabian News Network. Mark was part of the writing staff at Ron Shandler’s old site shandlerpark.com. Since Ron shut that project down Mark has joined our writing staff here at majorleaguefantasysports.com, and also does some editing.
Phil Weiss’s resume includes working as a CPA with a large public accounting firm as well as private industry (Fortune 500), specializing in international corporate tax planning. Chief Financial Analyst for Independent RIA.
Media Experience: Frequent guest on CNBC and Bloomberg television. Multiple appearances on Bloomberg radio, local and national radio. Regularly quoted in Wall Street Journal, Reuters, New York Times, AP, thestreet.com, local news, Financial Times
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