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Back in June, I went wandering through the history of all 30 active franchises. I was interested in each team's all-time record - were they winners overall or were they losers? What was each team's highest mark above .500, what was the lowest? If they have a losing record, when did they fall below .500? Stuff like that.

All this required one piece for the National League and another for the American League.

Coming into 2006, a couple of teams had a chance to change their overall standing - to call themselves Winners rather than Losers. Or vice versa. So what happened?

Atlanta - The Braves fine performance in Milwaukee and Atlanta had the franchise finally within reach of reaching .500 overall - they came into 2006 just 23 games below .500, which meant that all they had to do was win their usual 93 games in order to give the franchise it's first overall winning record since 1923. So, naturally, the wheels finally fell off. The Braves go into 2007 with an overall record of 9612-9639, which means they'll need to go 96-66 in 2007.

Houston - The Astros were just 6 games below .500 when the 2006 season began. They burst out of the gate and made a little Houston history on April 22, when they defeated the Pirates. It was win number 3509 against 3508 losses. By May 4, they were four games above .500 all-time. Alas, it didn't last - they lost 11 of their next 15, and slipped back beneath the waters again for the first time on May 9. They've been submerged since May 15. They made a little run at the end of the season, and ended up shaving a couple of games off the all-time disadvantage. They go into 2007 with a 3579-3583 mark, so a good first week will have them in the winner's circle.

Arizona - The Snakes have had a winning record since 1999, but the last few years have not been kind. Three times in 2005 they actually fell to .500, but each time managed to win their next game, and a fine finish had them 8 games above .500 when 2006 began. They played pretty well for the first two months of 2006. They were 34-22 on 4th of June, and as late as August 19, the 2006 club had a winning record (62-61). But near the end of the month, they lost 8 of 9 games. On September 3, they fell to .500 overall and a loss the next day dropped them under for the first time in seven years. They would spend most of September fighting to stay even - they would fall a game or two behind, move a game or two ahead. They went into the season's final series, a four game set with the Padres, sitting exactly at .500. They lost the opener, won the second game to pull back even - and then dropped the final two to bring the all-time mark to 728-730.

None of the American League teams had any chance of changing the overall franchise record. However, while the Minnesota Twins came into 2006 more than 600 games below .500, much of that horrible legacy was compiled in Washington. Since moving to Minnesota, the Twins had posted a 3565-3584 mark, which meant that .500 was in their grasp, if they could just put together a 91-71 season. Seeing as how they were below .500 in mid-June, when I wrote the original piece, I didn't think much of their chances. And yet, even as I was writing them off, they were in the midst of an 8 game winning streak. And when that streak was broken, they ran off another 11 straight wins. C'est la vie, say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell. On August 5, they evened their record in Minnesota at .500 (3629-3629), and won 3 of their next 4 to move into the winner's circle. Three straight losses to the Blue Jays dropped them back below .500, but they salvaged the last game of the series to draw even again. On August 15, Johan Santana beat Jake Westbrook, and the Twins were above .500 all-time to stay.

If we leave out the 60 years in Washington, of course.

As for the Blue Jays - they made some progress climbing back towards break-even. The franchise mark now stands at 2345-2390. The target date is 2008; they need to go 92-70 and 93-69 in the next two years.

And as for the Yankees...they're now 2195 games above .500, so if they lose 100 games every season for the next fifty years, they'll still have a winning record. (But wouldn't that be fun to watch?) They still trail the Giants (10,113), Cubs (9,901), Dodgers (9,384), and Pirates (9,320) in all-time wins - those four teams all have more than a two decade head start, after all - but they're now just 31 wins behind Pittsburgh. In 2006 they won exactly 30 more games than the Pirates. Will 2007 be the year they overtake them?

Here's something we do know about 2007. The Philadelphia Phillies will become the first franchise to lose 10,000 games, having extended their dubious record for Most Games Lost up to 9,955. They can only prevent it by winning 118 games, which seems a tad unlikely.
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Mike Green - Monday, October 23 2006 @ 03:34 PM EDT (#157136) #
It might be fun to divide the team's records, so that one had average 162 game W-L records and composite standings.  Or maybe, in light of the Yankee dominance, it would be an appropriate Halloween project.  Go, Pirates, Go!
AWeb - Monday, October 23 2006 @ 04:00 PM EDT (#157138) #

Aside from the Devil Rays, I think every other team in the AL is somewhere between a 76 (Texas, Seattle) and 83 (Boston) win team, on average. The Yankees are a 92 win team, on average. Almost every team has averaged out their bad times and good times over the years. The Giants are the other notable exception for winning, at a 87 win pace longterm.

Oh, and I love articles like these, and the HoF watches, even though they tend not to draw the comments so much.


Mike Green - Wednesday, October 25 2006 @ 11:42 AM EDT (#157199) #
Chris Dial's year-end defensive ratings are here. No surprises really for Jay fans.  The Jay outfield was spectacular defensively.  Aaron Hill was great.  John McDonald and Lyle Overbay were about average.

I don't buy the suggestion that Jay second basemen are helped by the turf.  I cannot think of an explanation whereby the turf would help the second basemen, but not the third basemen or shortstop.  Last year, some people argued that Hudson was overrated by some analysts because he caught a disproportionate number of balls in the air which were catchable by the right-fielder.  That is plausible, to a degree.  It does not seem to be true of Hill.  His success was built on both range on ground balls and his wonderfully athletic work on the double play. 

Mike Green - Thursday, October 26 2006 @ 10:32 AM EDT (#157219) #
The Globe and Mail yesterday had an article on MLB Advanced Media.  Apparently, an A ball club in the Tampa system will be providing pitch-by-pitch data to next year.

With all this elaborate pitching data being provided, it seems to me that the next step is fielding data. If the stringers are there at the game, recording that the shortstop fielded the ball in the hole, at him, or up the middle and threw the hitter out, shouldn't be too hard. 

js_magloire - Thursday, October 26 2006 @ 11:18 AM EDT (#157225) #
And the even next logical step is having something like Fox's "K-zone" ex ept the field is diced up into ranges and percentages can be drawn, etc. Before that would it be done observationally? It's not impossible to somewhat objectively measure defence.
Pistol - Thursday, October 26 2006 @ 12:56 PM EDT (#157229) #
I don't buy the suggestion that Jay second basemen are helped by the turf

Is there any evidence that the Jays turf plays differently than grass (or enough to make a difference)?  I don't think that there is, but the way some people talk you'd think they're still playing on the old school turf.  If Hill was helped you'd think Castillo would be helped in MN and he was slightly below average (Cantu's so bad I'm not sure it matters).
Mike Green - Thursday, October 26 2006 @ 01:11 PM EDT (#157230) #
The evaluation of park effects on defence generally is under-studied.  Mike Emeigh did some related Derek Jeter research.  Jonny German and I did work on Barry Larkin several years ago, comparing his performance with opponent shortstops using ball in play data. If you broke it down home and away, you could get a good picture of the effect of the park on defence.  David Pinto at Baseball Musings did related work in 2005, but did not (as far as I know) take a look at the park effect issue in a systematic way. 

Just to give an idea how the study would look.  Let's say one wanted to evaluate the effect of the Field Turf in Toronto on second base defence.  You'd look at Aaron Hill's and Blue Jays' opponent second basemen's out conversion rate in the 3-4 hole at the Rogers Center and compare the results with the outcomes for both in away games.  Then, do the same thing with the at 'em ball and finally with the ball up the middle.  If one repeated the investigation for Orlando Hudson 2005, one might have enough data to draw some conclusions.

Magpie - Thursday, October 26 2006 @ 02:18 PM EDT (#157235) #
The notion that artificial turf helps infielders is a new one to me. It does eliminate the bad hops for the most part. But the ball gets on the fielder so much quicker (or right past him before he can get a glove on it) that it introduces a whole new set of difficulties.

I can clearly remember looking at Zone Ratings and Range Factors from ten or fifteen years ago, when there was still lots of turf in the game, and the infielders who played on plastic consistently made fewer plays, year after year, than the guys who played on grass.

Except Chuck Knoblauch.

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