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"if you're going to come out here and play, you might as well win."
-- Cito Gaston, yesterday

Today the Blue Jays enjoy their first off day, and it's safe to say that even those of us who were starry-eyed optimists about this year's team  (I think that's WillRain and myself) weren't expecting a 10-4 start.

It's encouraging that the team has been able to mount an effective offense despite the struggles of the number three hitter. They've been able to do this largely because of the two guys hitting in front of him. It's probable that all three hitters will return to something much closer to their established levels of production. There are always things to work on - David Purcey and Brandon League don't seem to be firing on all cylinders. They throw the ball as well as anyone on the staff, but the pitching part kind of comes and goes. And is it just me, but has Aaron Hill not quite recovered the defensive form we had grown accustomed to? (Relays from the outfield aside.)  Although if Hill decides to continue hitting like this, I really couldn't care less.

People are still getting used to Cito Gaston and his ways, and occasionally reminding us all what it was that people never did like about his approach to the job. He hates to pinch hit - he always has - because he regards it as telling one of his players that "I don't think you can do the job." Gaston is a manager who works by building up his players. The only guys he isn't going to mind saying that to are John McDonald and probably, now that he's here, Raul Chavez. Everyone has observed that he won't send Snider up to hit for Bautista. Fair enough, but the reverse is true as well. He's far less likely than most managers to send Bautista up to hit for Snider (and there are any number of pitchers in the AL where Bautista is a much more logical choice). One of Gaston's previous teams had a whopping 4 pinch hits over the entire season; another team had 5 (hey, this year's squad already has 1 pinch hit!.)  Gaston will happily sacrifice a game matchup to stick with his approach. He manages the team and the season, rather than the game. So - get used to it.

It does mean that Gaston might not be the best manager of a computer simulation or a fantasy team.

And while Gaston says the road is open for Snider to move up in the order, know this - Rios isn't going anywhere while he's struggling. Right now, the LH bats line up 5-7-9 which makes it a trifle inconvenient for the other manager to fire a LOOGY at a couple of them. I'm not sure how Gaston can mess with that without putting two LH bats in succession. Or dropping Scutaro and/or Hill to the bottom part of the order (and why would he want to do that at this moment in time?) My own ideal batting order would be radically different (probably something like Rios-Overbay-Lind-Wells-Snider-Rolen-Hill-Scutaro-Barajas). But it really doesn't make an enormous amount of difference either way.

Next comes 20 games in 20 days. Twelve of them are on the road. After the three games with Texas they're off to Chicago for three games and on to Kansas City for four. They come home to play three games against the Orioles and two against Cleveland, and then it's off to the west coast for two games with the Angels and three with the A's. Then comes their next off day and after the flight home they get the Yankees. They may have upgraded their third base situation by then. The schedule and the travel alone makes it tough, so I'll be more than pleased if they can split these 20 games.
Tough Stretch Ahead | 123 comments | Create New Account
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Jeremy - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 09:59 AM EDT (#198604) #
A 10-10 split would put them at 20-14, a .588 percentage.  Roughly a 95 win pace.
Mike Green - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 10:25 AM EDT (#198605) #
Snider got the start against Braden yesterday; he'll be seeing more lefties over time.

The offence is pretty flat.  There is no natural leadoff hitter or cleanup hitter (Snider will get there eventually), but the bottom of the order is damn good.  I remember that the 85 Jays often had Barfield and Fernandez batting 8th and 9th (to my chagrin), but in retrospect it made sense from a developmental perspective.

Jevant - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 10:27 AM EDT (#198606) #
Perhaps the early success has tilted my brain a bit, but I think at this point 10-10 over those 20 would be a bit of a disappointment for this team.  Going into the year, I would have had the Jays as the better team than every team on that list with the exception of the Angels and Rangers (with a "maybe" to the Indians).

At the same time, I was expecting something along the lines of a 7-7 or 8-6 record at this point, so what do I know?  All told, I would think that the team would be disappointed with anything less than a 10-10 split, and if they can go 12-8 or better over that stretch...we're cooking with grease for real now, boys!
GrrBear - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 11:13 AM EDT (#198607) #
Every year there seems to be a team that lucksacks its way to a division title despite not appearing to deserve all those wins.  Remember in 2007 when the Arizona Diamondbacks won 90 games even though they gave up more runs than they scored?  Maybe - and I'm not discounting the Cito influence here - 2009 is the Jays' turn to get ridiculously lucky.  In 1992 the Jays' run differential suggested a 92 win team, but they won 96 games.  In 1993 they should have won 92 games again, but they actually won 95.  Cito + Luck = Playoffs?
Magpie - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 11:22 AM EDT (#198609) #
Those two teams (1992 and 1993) were probably just making up for the 1990 squad, which should have won 93 games and ended up 86-76. It all evens out, eventually!
Mylegacy - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 11:34 AM EDT (#198610) #
Of the 7 teams we'll face over the next 20 games only two have winning records - CWS and KC are both 7 & 5. The Orioles are 6 & 6. Tex, Indians,  Angels and A's are a combined 18 & 31. The OVERALL record of these 7 teams is 38 & 46.

Personally - I'd be happy with 15+ wins (based on the existing percentages we'd win 16), disappointed with less than 12 and devastated, absolutely mortified with 10 or less. But then - I mortify easily - just ask my first wife.
Magpie - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 11:53 AM EDT (#198612) #
I mortify easily

Maybe you're just a little hard to please! I mean, Gosh - you'll be happy if they play .750 ball? I will be giddy with delight if they go .500 on the road and break .600 at home - which would be 11-9 for these 20 games.

Well, Greinke's got to give up a run sometime, right? These guys might as well be the ones..
Mike Green - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 11:54 AM EDT (#198613) #
Nothing about this 10-4 start was lucky.  The club has outscored the opposition 87-58 (a very pretty 3-2 ratio on the button).  The team BABIP and team batting average with RISP is entirely consistent with the overall offence.  The pitchers' HR/fly rate has settled in at a league average 13%.  All elements on the run prevention side have been above average (walks, strikeouts, home run rate and defensive efficiency), with the key probably being overall defensive efficiency (as it has been the last couple of years). 

Mick Doherty - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 12:05 PM EDT (#198614) #

Guys, the Rangers are terrible. They're 5-7 and have already given up 81 runs -- that's a pace to give up 1094 on the season.

But wait, they've also scored 80, a pace for 1080 for the year! So maybe not "terrible" so much as "meteoric"? Maybe for this series we can just implement a "first team to score 10 runs wins" ledger?

Seriously, though, the Rangers are doing all this without any noticeable contribution from Josh Hamilton (65 OPS+) or much from catcher (Saltalamacchia, 54 OPS+) or first base (Davis, 47 OPS+) ... if they get those three guys going and Kinsler and Cruz stay anywhere remotely near where they've been, that's a legitimate 1000-run club.

The pitching, of course, not so much.


westcoast dude - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 12:17 PM EDT (#198615) #

Greinke's got to give up a run sometime, right?

The games in Kansas City may well be a preview of the ALCS.  Can you believe that sentence?

Chuck - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 12:21 PM EDT (#198616) #

that's a legitimate 1000-run club... The pitching, of course, not so much.

No, I think the pitching is a 1000-run club in its own way.

An aside: anyone see Andruw Jones' numbers? 7 for 14, 4 doubles,1 HR, 5 walks


John Northey - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 12:50 PM EDT (#198619) #

Great start, great fun.  I did say 93 wins and the AL East title pre-season :)

Cito's never pinch hitting is firmly rooted in finding out what he can about each guy and letting them find out what they can do.  Then, if the team makes the playoffs, Cito is all set knowing that player A cannot hit in situation C thus you let player G hit instead.  Yes, stats can tell you some of that but most situations/match ups are so rare that observation can make a big difference if the observer is someone who really knows their stuff and can pick up on the little things (does the guy grab his bat harder, does he look nervous, does he get excited, etc.). 

As to stats, after 14 games, we have Chavez with as many plate appearances as McDonald (1 game for Chavez, 3 PA's, 7 games for McDonald).  Barrett is the only other guy under 20 and he is on the DL and Millar is the only other one under 30.

Our leadoff hitter, Scutaro, is also the walk leader (what a novel concept eh?).  The lineup has been Scutaro, Hill, Rios, Wells for every game.  The other regulars, Lind/Rolen/Overbay/Barajas/Snider have also stuck to the same slots in the batting order.  Only Batista (sub for Rolen/Snider) Millar (for Lind/Overbay) and Barrett (for Barajas and once in the 9 slot) have hit in multiple slots and they are all vets who knew going in they were role players.  A beautiful recognition of how batting order is secondary and keeping the right guys in it is primary - if letting them hit in their slots keeps them happy and productive why not do just that eh?

Murphy is still the only reliever to be in less than 5 games (Tallet is 4 relief and one start) while none have reached 8 yet.  BJ Ryan is the only one averaging less than an inning an appearance (4 2/3 in 5 games) while Tallet is the only one to be an inning or more over 1 inning per game.

Gotta say, this method of running the team is sweet.  No reliever is being leaned on, none are being ignored.  No guy is sitting on the bench without a role (McDonald being defense/running only) as only Millar has been in less than 1/2 the games at 6 out of 14.  Glad to see the W-L matching the methodology.  Lets hope it sticks.

Magpie - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 01:19 PM EDT (#198620) #
Back when John Gibbons took the long walk off the short pier, I thought to myself ( and speculated for all to see!):

Something that could be interesting going forward. Cito Gaston never carried a seven man bullpen in his life. When under extreme duress, he would expand the pen from five guys to six. And running a bullpen was one of the things he was certifiably very good at doing.

How has he taken to it? Like a duck to water, and in retrospect I should have seen that coming. For one thing, Gaston's always been a manager who used a short bench - when he carried 10 pitchers and 15 hitters, it meant he had several guys sitting around doing nothing. Now he only has one (McDonald). When he took those rosters into the post-season and expanded the bullpens (by moving the extra starters into the pen) he cheerfully shoved that deep and talented bullpen down the throats of the NL managers (who were required to carry and use larger benches because of all the pinch hitting for the pitcher that's required by the National League.) As everyone knows (or ought to!), the true MVP of the 1992 World Series was the Toronto bullpen (which went 3-0, 0.49 with 3 saves in 18.1 innings - they allowed 1 earned run.) It's just hard to give the car to seven guys.

Gaston actually switched to a six man pen in 1993, although he had been forced into it by the ineptitude of most of his starters after the 1992 All Star Break. Prior to that - well, his 1989 team really had a 3 man bullpen, although it usually carried five guys.

I kid you not. Ward got into 66 games, Henke 64, and Wells 54. Tony Castillo and Todd Stottlemyre were the other relievers out of training camp - they were both sent down in May (Castillo made 13 relief appearances, Stottlemyre made 9 and a couple of starts). Dewayne Buice and Frank Wills came up to replace them and Wills stuck around: he relieved in 20 games, mostly in the second half (he also was pressed into a duty to make some starts in June - Xavier Hernandez filled in as the fourth reliever while this went on.) Castillo came back up in August, made 4 appearances and then was traded for Jim Acker, who got into 14 games over the final six weeks.
christaylor - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 01:22 PM EDT (#198621) #
The games in Kansas City may well be a preview of the ALCS. Can you believe that sentence? I'll choose to believe it until the evidence says otherwise but raise your hand anyone who'd like to see that match-up? (CT - raising hand after he finishes typing this comment.)
Magpie - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 01:24 PM EDT (#198622) #
Hang on - I wasn't finished!

It's not like he burned out his 1989 rotation doing that, either. The 1989 team had fewer complete games (12) than the 2008 Jays (who had 15) , and the guy who worked the most innings for the 1989 team (Key with 216 IP) didn't pitch as many innings as either Halladay or Burnett did last season.

Mike Green - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 01:40 PM EDT (#198623) #
It's just hard to give the car to seven guys

Not any more, Mags.  Your 2015 World Series MVP will get an Autoshare or Zipcars membership.  It gets easier to do when there isn't a GM, Ford or Chrysler around to see the award as a marketing plus!

raptorsaddict - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 01:45 PM EDT (#198624) #
The arguments put forth today have completely changed my attitude towards Cito's decisions. Having been only 12 during his previous heyday, the insight provided into his past strategies is very enlightening. As others alluded to, his decisions thus far also seem to have created a squad where every player has a known role. Personally, I think that the manager's role as team psychologist is not discussed enough, regardless of the sport. In today's sports environment, managing people is more important that managing the sport (although, obviously, a minimum level of tactical expertise is required, which Cito unquestionably has plenty of).

Is anyone else now thinking that maybe Roy Halladay might want to stay for a few more years? At this point, the potential for an amazing stable of young pitchers is not that unrealistic. Of course, that is based on assumptions about recovery from injury and development of youth, but the future looks brighter now than it has in a long, long time.

christaylor - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 02:03 PM EDT (#198625) #
If I recall correctly (I read it in hard-cover so at least two years ago) the book "Winners" touches on just how good the Jays' bullpen of era was... Ward is discussed in more depth than any other Blue Jay.

joeblow - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 02:22 PM EDT (#198626) #
"Cito's never pinch hitting is firmly rooted in finding out what he can about each guy and letting them find out what they can do.  Then, if the team makes the playoffs, Cito is all set knowing that player A cannot hit in situation C thus you let player G hit instead. "

This comment is bang on. Watch replays of the playoff years to see this in action. The level of trust really pushed players to rise to the occasion and be placed in spots where they could excel. Cito was quick and decisive when making moves. I remember watching those games in awe, thinking to myself how Cito was managing so differently from the regular season.

The role of a manger is not to throw you under a bus when things are going badly, but instead to put you in situations where you can succeed.
Bid - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 02:43 PM EDT (#198627) #

At our house we're having just as much fun as the rest of you, although we all feel that speculating on Doc's future is a mug's game. Roy will spend his entire career in Toronto even if Brad Arnsburg has to top up his contract, or Rogers elects to subsidize by going with a 24-man roster.

What could we possibly get in return for this shining example which could fill the miserable hole of his departure? One doesn't think of great pitchers generally as leaders. Roger? Certainly not. Unit? Don't think so. Maddux? Closer. But there can't be a pitcher or a position player on the club whose game isn't raised by sharing the field with Roy. What a model.

Ducey - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 02:44 PM EDT (#198628) #

Wow the rose coloured glasses have been issued here at the Box!

Lets see what everybody thinks of Cito's inaction when the Jays go 4 and 10 a couple of times later in the season...

That will come.  The hitting will cool.  After Halladay, this roatation is pretty fragile.  Say Romero has turned the corner, he still needs to deal with the expectations the early success will place upon him.  Given he has had confidence issues in the past, I expect he will struggle significantly for at least a while in mid summer when his curveball can't find the zone.

Those are the top two.  Tallet and Richmond will be average at best and Purcey should be in AAA learning to hit the strike zone.  After them there is not really a lot of options at AAA.  Cecil could be good some day but he should really be spending most of the year at AAA.

I guess Litsch might come back, and Janssen and McGowan might be ready mid season, but those are too many mights for me.  Unfortunately I expect we will focusing on the Draft come June, rather than this team's pennant chances.


John Northey - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 02:50 PM EDT (#198629) #

Cito did show an ability to learn quick.  In 1989, his first year, his playoff managing (as I recall) was the same as during the regular season.  In 1991 there were changes, but nothing drastic.  In 1992 though it was obvious (playoff changes) and very effective. 

I suspect watching Bobby Cox and knowing how amazingly predictable he was in the playoffs (his 1985 gaffs were well known - the Royals manager just kept shuffling right hander/left hander to get rid of the best hitters since Cox was using a strict platoon) gave Cito the push to do things different.  Playoffs are 3 (if swept in round 1) games to a maximum of 19 games (4 to 14 in '89-'93) then home for the winter.  If you run a playoff round in the same fashion as you do the 162 game marathon that is MLB then you are not doing your job.  If you stick to your normal rotation, for example, then your ace gets just 4 starts maximum but with some juggling you can get 6 or even 7 starts from them if all lands right and who would you rather see pitch with the season on the line, Halladay or Richmond? 

Fun remembering those years.

AWeb - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 03:02 PM EDT (#198631) #
I don't think there are any legitimate 1000 run clubs out there, but I suppose it's possible Texas could manage it. Cleveland in 1999, I think, was the last team to break the barrier, and with the ball seeming suspiciously lively this year...

But Kinsler has been good enough so far to make up for Saltalmacchia and Davis (C and 1B). Combined, they are hitting .292/.345/.577. This is known as the Bonds Effect, where one player is so good they more than make up for not one but two holes in the lineup. If Kinsler hits as per "normal" (.400/.550, giving him his best season by a large margin), the others will have to do better than not suck to make up the difference, they'll have to be solidly above average.

The OF is similar...Hamilton will get better, but Marlon Byrd isn't likely to OPS 1.000 for the year. Cruz just might, he did last year in a 1/4 year, and destroyed minor league pitching for years. For Texas to have a historic run production year, though, it will depend mostly on the left side of the infield. Andrus is 20 years old, and young hasn't been this good in 4 years, if ever....but actually to my surprise, looking at the team, there is a chance of 1000 runs, I suppose.

If anyone is going to score 1000 runs, it's the Jays, right? They are on pace at this point...and once Rios and the catchers start hitting? Cito's powers are unlimited in all things. But seriously, Cito is a great manager for this team right now. It needs the obvious moves (platoon at first and/or DH) to be made, and most of all, it needs to find out what they have. The Jays still need to approach this year as a chance to see what the youngsters have to offer (Snider, Lind, Romero, etc). If that something happens to be a division championship, then all the better.  As has been noted, Cito will let his guys play. When he has the right guys, it works very well. When he has a team of  "not quite ready" and "past their primes", it gets ugly (see the 1996 season, with bad seasons from every hitter except Ed Sprague and Otis Nixon. And when those guys are your only hitters doing better than average for themselves, things aren't going well).
Jevant - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 03:13 PM EDT (#198632) #
The biggest change this year from last (and perhaps I should clarify by saying "this year this time to last year this time") to me is that the Jays just don't seem out of games right now.

Last year, with a 3-0 deficit in the 8th inning, you could pretty much turn off the TV.  Not only would the team likely not come back, it would *feel* like they were out of it and were gone in 6 straight batters. 

This year just *feels* different.  Is it early? Yes.  Will they slump?  Yes.  If the team was 4-10 right now would people be saying the same things?  No.

But the culture seems to have shifted, just a bit - and the fact that people other than diehard Bauxites are starting to talk ball again can only be a good sign. 

I'd prefer this hot streak now rather than later in the year, even if the record will end up the same.  It builds interest in the team and excitement around the ball club, which hasn't happened in a goodly number of years.

Richard S.S. - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 03:22 PM EDT (#198633) #
Ten games to determine the future:  3 games -vs- Texas (Doc, David and Scott - Advantage Jays); 3 games @ Chicago (AL) (Brian, Ricky and Doc - Advantage Jays); 4 games @ KC (David, Scott, Ricky and Brian - Advantage Jays).  The first evaluation of pitchers and batters takes place at the end of April, any needed changes will take place then.  Why?  The games against the East start with game 11 (Doc - Advantage Jays).  
Magpie - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 03:22 PM EDT (#198634) #
One doesn't think of great pitchers generally as leaders.

It goes with the territory. The Blue Jays are going to play some 128 games this season that Roy Halladay won't be part of. You can't lead when you're not part of it.

Pitchers are weird anyway, everybody knows this. The other players certainly do. They're not lie regular players. They're like goalies or something...
Mike Green - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 03:41 PM EDT (#198636) #

I had this club as a true talent 82 win team at the beginning of the season.  I now think that I erred in taking into account at all of the club's offensive performance during the Denbo/Gibbons era, and that it is probably a true talent 84-85 win team.  Bearing in mind that the club had 93 "Pythagorean wins" in 2008, this does not seem outrageous. Excellent defence, a very good bullpen, the best starter in the game (notwithstanding Greinke's 2009 beginning) and an improved offence can create conditions where average 2-5 starting pitchers succeed. 

After 3 starts last year, Purcey had walked 12 in 13 innings and had an ERA of 8.10.  He walked 17 in his last 51 innings.  I am expecting that he will improve significantly beginning on Wednesday.  That will help, as other pitchers regress toward reasonable expectations.

One of the keys to the team's success so far is that John McDonald has had only 3 plate appearances.  They need a better backup middle infielder (neither Hill nor Scutaro has had a day off yet), and Joe Inglett can probably do only half the job. 

92-93 - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 03:54 PM EDT (#198638) #
"My own ideal batting order would be radically different (probably something like Rios-Overbay-Lind-Wells-Snider-Rolen-Hill-Scutaro-Barajas). But it really doesn't make an enormous amount of difference either way."

For the record, my lineup vs. RHP would be Rios-Hill-Lind-Wells-Snider-Rolen-Overbay-Barajas-Scutaro and vs. LHP it would be Rios-Hill-Lind-Wells-Rolen-Millar-Bautista-Barajas-Scutaro. (Using the lineups Cito has been using recently.)

Either way, we agree Rios belongs at the top, and I think this is really the key issue. Alex Rios is seriously miscast as the team's #3 hitter, especially with the preseason expectations from Cito that he could and should be a 30 HR guy who drives in 100 runs. Rios has never been a HR hitter, and likely never will be (I know power is said to develop, but seriously, who remembers his rookie season?). He crushes mistake fastballs that tail down and in, but he really doesn't have a swing that is conducive to power - you rarely see Rios take a pitch the other way for a HR. Having him locked into the middle of the order and hearing Cito's quotes from the spring can only help to build up the pressure. Rios has enough problems staying focused on his own, he doesn't need more things to worry about. Moving him to the top of the order should allow him to relax again and worry about just hitting as opposed to hitting for power. His speed makes him ideal for the top spot, and he actually takes walks when he isn't mired in his slumps where he swings at every single offspeed pitch that's a foot off the plate. I think the leadoff spot is where Rios belongs, and who knows, maybe then you'd get your 25-30 HR out of him.
John Northey - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 04:03 PM EDT (#198639) #
I wonder if Rios will become the 'Olerud' for Cito this time?  A guy who is very good but keeps getting pressed to be a power hitter when he just isn't.  I suspect guys like those two drive Cito nuts - tall, strong, line drives everywhere but just won't hit 30+ HR's.  Every manager has their blind spot and that seems to be Cito's.  Still, Olerud did win a batting title under Cito so who knows?
Mike Green - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 04:11 PM EDT (#198640) #
If Rios can have a year like Olerud's 1993,  I'd bet that Cito would take it. :)
Magpie - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 04:19 PM EDT (#198641) #
Rios and Olerud are such completely different hitters, and their specific problems have nothing in common... So don't worry!

Rios is just messed up mechanically - it's happened before, he's got a complicated swing - he'll get fixed and he'll be fine. Olerud's issues were moer fundamental. He'd had all kinds of success (he'd hit .363) by driving the ball into the left-centre gap. But AL pitchers soon figured out that if you busted him inside with hard stuff, he couldn't do that. You could handle him. The solution to that - the necesary adjustment - is to turn on the inside pitch and pull it.. Which is what the Jays tried to teach him to do, but Olerud had a very difficult time adjusting his swing and his approach. Not because he's a difficult guy, but some players are very reluctant to tinker with their swings.

The perfect solution (for Olerud anyway!) was to change leagues. Where he terrorized a new set of pitchers until they caught on...

Thomas - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 04:20 PM EDT (#198642) #
If the Jays are, in fact, a true talent 84 win team, then their hot start means that right now they are on pace to finish with about 87 wins. This is a bit simplistic as it ignores strength of schedule, for one, but if the team plays like a true talent 84 win team over the remaining 148 games, the Jays will finish with 87 wins given their hot start.

Yes, it is still very possible that the focus will be on the draft or 2010 by June or August, but right now the team is just a lot of fun to watch. Don't forget to just enjoy the way the team is playing.
Magpie - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 04:27 PM EDT (#198643) #
While both Rios and Olerud are tall and skinny, Olerud's swing was much more like Paul Molitor's than anyone else - very short and compact. Rios has a lot of moving parts and a lot of things that have to stay in sync. He reminds me much more of Dave Winfield, except he's not as strong.
Mylegacy - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 04:30 PM EDT (#198645) #
Too much talk about the offense. Pitching and defense win - offense is NECESSARY to get to the playoffs but once there it's P & D. The Yanks for the last few years had the hitting to bludgeon bad pitchers and so they ran up big regular season wins only to fold when faced with exceptional pitching in short series. This year we look a bit like those Yankee teams. Enough offense to terrify weaker teams and pitching - BUT - do we have enough pitching to punch with the big guys?

Our BEST hope is that Halladay and Romero are for real and that at least ONE of Tallet and Richmond are a + pitcher with the other being a 50/50 guy. Purcey - is an enigma wrapped in a riddle with a side of fries. For us to HONESTLY be a contender this year - TWO of Janssen, McGowan, Cecil, Mills and Purcey HAVE to be healthy for at least a bit more than half the season AND the two have to BOTH be + guys.

Can it happen - sure - not only sure - I think it's more than a 50/50 chance.

John Northey - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 04:34 PM EDT (#198646) #
Good points on the differences between Olerud and Rios.  My point was more how Cito sees both physically and goes 'these guys should hit 30+' regardless of their swing/temperment/etc.  Hard to argue as both look like guys who should hit that many (or more).  Still, in the end, you have to work on their strengths and build from there.  Hopefully Rios gets it straight and can become a 300-20-100 (avg-HR-RBI) guy as that mixed with his defense would be an all-star.  I guess a 340/450 OBP/Slg is where I see him starting at, with 375/550 being where we'd like him to be and Cito wanting a 350/600.
Magpie - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 04:35 PM EDT (#198647) #
If the Jays are, in fact, a true talent 84 win team

As you may recall, that was my worst case-scenario - if Romero has an ERA is 6.50 and has to go back to Vegas, and none of the other new starters can get their ERAs below 5.00, that's where they ought to end up. The base they can build on.. And yes, I've been enjoying these rose-colured glasses. The fact that I didn't watch any hockey this winter is probably why I've been able to keep wearing them.
Mike Green - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 04:38 PM EDT (#198648) #
Sort of, Magpie.  Olerud came back to the AL and terrorized them again at age 32-33 (which is a big part of the reason why the Mariners won 116 games in 2001).  Johnny O was a fine, fine pure hitter, and was perfectly capable of driving the pitch down and in to right-center, and to lay off the high hard one up and in and out of the strike zone.  There was a spot to pitch to him, but the pitcher needed to have very good control. 

You are right, though, that Rios is a completely different case, both mechanically and in terms of overall strengths and weaknesses as a hitter.  Rios' strike zone control is fair, he runs well and he is capable of turning on the pitch up and in and driving the ball into the left-field seats.  If he fine tunes everything a little bit, he can hit .320 with medium range pop.  There is a mechanical issue, but there is also the mental maturity to hone his craft, which predominantly would result in a few less strikeouts and as much pop as he has shown.  Maturity has always been an issue for him, but he has made strides.  I am of the view that we have not yet seen his best, but whether it comes in 2009, 2010 or 2011 or later is, of course, entirely speculative.

92-93 - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 04:45 PM EDT (#198649) #
"If the Jays are, in fact, a true talent 84 win team, then their hot start means that right now they are on pace to finish with about 87 wins. This is a bit simplistic as it ignores strength of schedule, for one, but if the team plays like a true talent 84 win team over the remaining 148 games, the Jays will finish with 87 wins given their hot start."

I never understand when people say this, so please correct me where I err. I think it's more than simplistic, it's looking at it entirely the wrong way. The Jays were an 84 win team because that's what people thought their talent was worth. The first 14 games shouldn't change any of this. When people make win predictions, they build into it the various ups and downs that can be expected from even the very best or worst of teams. If you thought they were going to win 84 games this year, you should think they are going to 74-74 the rest of the way.
Magpie - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 04:56 PM EDT (#198650) #
I agree completely with 92-93 on this one!
Magpie - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 05:01 PM EDT (#198651) #
Too much talk about the offense. Pitching and defense win

Ooh, don't do that. It makes me absolutely crazy.

You need both! It's the combination, the relationship between the two, that wins.

Ask the team with the best offense in the AL last year (that would be the Texas Rangers) and then ask the team with the best pitching/defense (that would be the Toronto Blue Jays) how well being the best at one-half of the game and inadequate at the other half worked out for them.
johnny was - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 05:04 PM EDT (#198652) #
"... and once Rios and the catchers start hitting?"

No big fan of Barajas here, but Zaunnie's off to a blistering.129/.250/.258 start with the O's.  Black holes are relative...

Nolan - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 05:05 PM EDT (#198653) #

To me, the Jays this season feel suspiciously like my golf game.  When I'm in the zone, I am a pretty good player: power off the tee, nice irons and a soft touch around the green.  However, I know that it can take just the smallest mistake to tweek my mechanics or disrupt the flow of my game, sending me back to my normal bogey-a-hole game.

I am loving the Jays this season, but in the back of my mind I keep thinking, "Is this the game that they unravel?"  My brain worries about when Halladay will start declining, whether Rios will stay in his funk indefinitely, whether Romero is a flash in the pan, will our young starters on the DL ever make it back and is Snider truly a stud or will his k rate catch up with him?

I am as much an optimist as Mylegacy [well...maybe not...but somewhere on the next level below him], but every time the Jays fall behind, I wonder if they can claw back.  I don't know at what point I start to really believe - 25 games? 50 games? - but I'm looking forward to the team making me eat my fears.


John Northey - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 05:06 PM EDT (#198654) #

The true win level is more to do with statistical probability.  If a team is a 500 team but gets a 10-0 start then, statistically speaking, they should finish the season 10 games over 500 if all else breaks even.  Same if they start 0-10 they should finish 10 games under.  The first 10 games have no influence (in statistical theory) on what happens in the other 152 games.  Each game is a unique event.

For a comparison, take a coin and flip it.  If it comes up heads what are the odds of getting a tail the next time you flip it?  The odds are 50-50 if it is a fair coin.  What if you get heads 5 times in a row?  Still 50-50 odds of getting that 6th head or of finally getting a tail (again, based on the assumption it is a fair coin).   Even if you get 10 heads in a row the next 10 flips should still come up with 5 heads and 5 tails.  Of course, if I get 10 heads in a row I start doubting how valid my initial assumption was (namely that it is a fair coin) given the odds of that are slightly below 0.1% (a bit worse than 1 in 1000 odds).  Same with the Jays.  If they keep up this pace (714 winning percentage) for another 14 games (ie: 20-8) then the odds of them being a 500 team goes down.

92-93 - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 05:09 PM EDT (#198655) #
"And is it just me, but has Aaron Hill not quite recovered the defensive form we had grown accustomed to? (Relays from the outfield aside.)"

Since we are in complete agreement these days, let me point out that no, it's not just you. And it's not just yesterday's play where the seams may have played a role - my eyes think he's been slower turning the DP, especially getting the ball out of his glove, his range has diminished, and he isn't getting into as good of an athletic position to field the balls he does get to.

As for that relay, much ado is being made about it, but am I the only one who thought it was a bad throw? Ellis was a dead duck and we all knew it, so Hill had plenty of time to catch, turn, set and fire (as opposed to having to do all those things at once and rushing your throw) and he still threw the ball up the 3B line and caused Chavez to scramble. It was a strong throw, but not a very accurate one.
Magpie - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 05:12 PM EDT (#198656) #
Even if you get 10 heads in a row the next 10 flips should still come up with 5 heads and 5 tails.

They should - but you might get tails 10 times in a row.

It will even out eventually - but 162 games isn't all that many flips of the coin - its a small enough sample that random luck can be a significant player.

Is that good news or bad news?
Geoff - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 05:15 PM EDT (#198657) #
Another exclusive behind the scenes interview from Vernon Wells, which I hope he continues and eventually becomes very famous for his body of work in that area.

Hot button revelation this time would have to be the accusation that Aaron Hill hates blacks and latinos.

"There's hatred issues that go on, and unfortunately Hilly's at the front of them."

God bless Vernon Wells and the cheek where he keeps his tongue. Let us pray that Aaron has a salvo to fire back.

"24 ... 23..uh... 22? ............ ..22, yes." [smiles] [giggles]

92-93 - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 05:17 PM EDT (#198658) #
You can't provide mathematical odds in a 50-50 coin flip as a parallel to somebody's prediction of a team's win total. What you said would make sense if it were FACT that the Jays were an 84 win team, but they aren't. As I explained, the person who made that prediction anticipated these very highs and presumably some lows too. They shouldn't be expected to play like an 84 win team the rest of the way (as a coin should be expected to remain 50-50), they should now be expected to play like the team that would make them into an 84 win team, which would put them at 74-74.
Mike Green - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 05:17 PM EDT (#198659) #
Nope, Magpie and 92-93. Thomas has it exactly right.  It's basically a Monty Hall problem. If the team is an 84 win true talent team (.519 WP), they should be projected to win .519  of their remaining 148 games, or 77 games.  77 projected wins plus 10 actual wins equals 87 projected wins.  The twist is, of course, the strength of schedule issue.  It does appear that the AL East opposition is significantly stronger than the teams they have faced.  Let's say that the initial projection would have included 38-39 against the AL East opposition and 46-39 against the rest of the league (.541).  The current projection would then be 38 projected wins against the AL East opposition, 38 projected wins against the rest of the league (.541 WP by 71 games) and 10 actual wins for 86 wins. 

John Northey - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 05:21 PM EDT (#198660) #
<P>Just thought that people might want the odds of a 500 team (as many thought the Jays were) starting off 20-8 or better.&nbsp; Those odds are 1.78% (do a google search for coin flip odds to get the math).&nbsp; Odds of them going 10-4 or better?&nbsp; 8.98%.&nbsp; </P>
<P>For more fun, the odds of a 500 team winning 100+ is 0.18%, 95+ is 1.68%, 90+ is 9.07%, 85+ is 29.12%.&nbsp; Of going 162-0 is 1 in 5,846,006,549,323,610,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 or if you prefer the odds of the Jays winning all 148 games left is about 1 in 356,811,923,176,490,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000
Geoff - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 05:23 PM EDT (#198661) #
And for the record, Brandon League is 22. Aaron is 2.

But it must be hard for Vernon to see clearly from center field with that double vision.

And I don't believe anyone has 1 this year... who is Vernon referring to?

92-93 - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 05:25 PM EDT (#198662) #
"If the team is an 84 win true talent team"

Again, this is where you lose me. This isn't a fact, it's a prediction that included the likelihood of this 10-4 stretch.
Magpie - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 05:35 PM EDT (#198663) #
I somehow think the point 92-93 and I are making is a little different than the point you're making. To rephrase - there's nothing significant about 10-4.  If you think this is an 84-78 team, the fact that they win 10 of 14 at some point in the schedule doesn't mean a whole lot. They're still an 84-78 team, and it just means that they went 74-78 the rest of the way.

There is a point where a hot start tells you something about the nature of the team - there came a point in 1984 where it became quite obvious that the Tigers really were better than the 86-76 we were probably expecting. There's a point where the sample becomes significant. But obviously, this isn't it. Most any team can win 10 of 14 at some point, just as most any pitcher can string together nine scoreless innings.

I continue to think that the 2009 Jays are/will prove to be a quality team - but I certainly don't think anything they've done so far actually proves it.

Geoff - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 05:44 PM EDT (#198664) #
"it just means that they went 74-78 the rest of the way."

Of course you mean that they went 74-74 the rest of the way.

"just as most any pitcher can string together nine scoreless innings."

"most any pitcher"? you mean nine innings in one game or over 2 or more games? I'd be curious how many major league pitchers have been able to throw nine scoreless in a game in the past decade.

HollywoodHartman - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 05:47 PM EDT (#198665) #
The only way that's true is if you believe the competition faced in the first 14 games is significantly easier than the remaining games (it may be). Although it seems you aren't assuming that. You are falling for the Gambler's Fallacy then, just because there has been a hot streak does not mean there has to be an equal cold streak. The hot streak has happened. In terms of predicting the rest of the season forget about it. It's happened and can't unhappen and shouldn't affect your predictions (again this only covers predictions, for the case the prediction is the Jays were an 84 win team, for these purposes whether or not that's true is irrelevant).

Dave Cameron, a man much smarter than I wrote about it relating to the M's hot start.
Thomas - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 06:09 PM EDT (#198667) #
Again, this is where you lose me. This isn't a fact, it's a prediction that included the likelihood of this 10-4 stretch.

The post I was responding to was Mike Green's, where he said that he thought his initial estimate of the team's offensive capabilities was influenced too much by the Gibbons/Denbo era and that he has since revised his thoughts on the hitting. He said, unless I'm mistaken, that he did think this was a true talent 84 win team, not an 84 win team because of this start.

Maybe your predictions for Toronto's win total is different from Mike's, but if you did think this was an 84 win team, you need to revise your prediction based on this start. This is an extreme example, but ZIPS predicted 6 home runs from Marco Scutaro this season. Are you still confident predicting 6 home runs from him or would you revise your prediction based on what has occurred so far, despite the fact that he'll likely have a 70 at-bat stretch without a homer over the rest of the season?

Yes, every baseball team goes through streaks of various length where they'll win 65% of their games or lose 65% of their games, but the fact that the Jays have had such success at the beginning of the season does not increase the odds that they will go 4-10 at some later point. Nor does it decrease the odds that they will go 10-4 again at some point later in the season.

92-93 - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 06:21 PM EDT (#198669) #
Again Thomas, and this really is the crux of this discussion. When you keep saying they are an 84 win team, is that over the course of a season, or simply that they have a 51.9% chance of winning each individual ball game? I would have assumed its the former, but clearly you're all saying it's the latter, and that's the only time this coin flipping thing would be a proper analogy. Because I believe that people are predicting what a team will do over the course of the season as opposed to making a prediction that is basically fact and saying this is an 84-win talent-level team, I believe you have to account for later cold streaks that you originally had in mind.
Magpie - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 06:25 PM EDT (#198670) #
I'd be curious how many major league pitchers have been able to throw nine scoreless in a game in the past decade.

I dunno, but over the last five years 159 different pitchers have thrown shutouts. And they are:

C.C. Sabathia (9),  Brandon Webb (7),  Chris Carpenter (7),  Dontrelle Willis (6), Johan Santana (6), Roy Halladay (6), Aaron Harang (5), John Lackey (5), Jon Garland (5), Roy Oswalt (5), Tim Hudson (5), Jeff Weaver (4),  A.J. Burnett (3),  Ben Sheets (3),  Carl Pavano (3),  Cory Lidle (3),  David Bush (3),  Jake Peavy (3),  Jake Westbrook (3),  Jarrod Washburn (3),  Jason Schmidt (3),  Jose Contreras (3),  Mark Buehrle (3),  Mark Mulder (3),  Paul Byrd (3),  Tom Glavine (3),  Brad Radke (2),  Carlos Silva (2),  Carlos Zambrano (2),  Chris Capuano (2),  Cliff Lee (2),  Cole Hamels (2),  Daniel Cabrera (2),  Derek Lowe (2),  Doug Davis (2),  Ervin Santana (2),  Esteban Loaiza (2),  Fausto Carmona (2),  Felix Hernandez (2),  Hiroki Kuroda (2),  James Shields (2),  Jason Jennings (2),  Jason Marquis (2),  Jeff Francis (2),  Jeremy Bonderman (2),  Jeremy Sowers (2),  Jesse Litsch (2),  Joe Blanton (2),  John Maine (2),  John Smoltz (2),  Jon Lester (2),  Jon Lieber (2),  Josh Beckett (2),  Justin Verlander (2),  Kazuhisa Ishii (2),  Kenny Rogers (2),  Kevin Slowey (2),  Kyle Lohse (2),  Livan Hernandez (2),  Mark Redman (2),  Matt Cain (2),  Matt Garza (2),  Matt Morris (2),  Miguel Batista (2),  Mike Mussina (2),  Noah Lowry (2),  Oliver Perez (2),  Pedro Martinez (2),  Randy Johnson (2),  Randy Wolf (2),  Ryan Franklin (2),  Sidney Ponson (2),  Zach Duke (2),  *Ted Lilly (1),  Aaron Cook (1),  Aaron Heilman (1),  Aaron Sele (1),  Aaron Small (1),  Alay Soler (1),  Andy Pettitte (1),  Andy Sonnanstine (1),  Anibal Sanchez (1),  Bartolo Colon (1),  Braden Looper (1),  Brandon Backe (1),  Brett Myers (1),  Brett Myers (1),  Brett Tomko (1),  Brian Anderson (1),  Brian Lawrence (1),  Bronson Arroyo (1),  Chad Billingsley (1),  Chan Ho Park (1),  Chien-Ming Wang (1),  Chris Waters (1),  Clay Buchholz (1),  Clay Hensley (1),  Curt Schilling (1),  Danny Haren (1),  Darrell May (1),  Dave Williams (1),  Devern Hansack (1),  Dustin McGowan (1),  Edwin Jackson (1),  Eric Stults (1),  Erik Bedard (1),  Gavin Floyd (1),  Gil Meche (1),  Glendon Rusch (1),  Greg Maddux (1),  Horacio Ramirez (1),  Ismael Valdez (1),  J.D. Durbin (1),  Jamie Moyer (1),  Jason Johnson (1),  Jason Schmidt (1),  Javier Vazquez (1),  Jeff Karstens (1),  Joe Mays (1),  John Patterson (1),  Josh Fogg (1),  Josh Towers (1),  Justin Duchscherer (1),  Kameron Loe (1),  Kason Gabbard (1),  Kelvim Escobar (1),  Kip Wells (1),  Kirk Saarloos (1),  Kris Benson (1),  Mark Hendrickson (1),  Matt Harrison (1),  Micah Owings (1),  Mike Hampton (1),  Mike Maroth (1),  Paul Maholm (1),  Pedro Astacio (1),  Ricardo Rodriguez (1),  Rich Harden (1),  Rich Hill (1),  Ricky Nolasco (1),  Rodrigo Lopez (1),  Runelvys Hernandez (1),  Russ Ortiz (1),  Scott Baker (1),  Scott Downs (1),  Scott Elarton (1),  Scott Kazmir (1),  Scott Richmond (1),  Sean Burnett (1),  Sergio Mitre (1),  Sun-Woo Kim (1),  Taylor Buchholz (1),  Tim Lincecum (1),  Tom Gorzelanny (1),  Tomokazu Ohka (1),  Vicente Padilla (1),  Wandy Rodriguez (1),  Wes Obermueller (1),  Zach Day (1).

There are some serious ne'er-do-wells in that crew.
Mike Green - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 06:28 PM EDT (#198671) #
I'll give it one more shot.  The 10-4 start does not provide much in the way of evidence that the team is an 84 win true talent team vs. a 78 win true talent team or a 90 win true talent team.  That is not the point.  But, you do have to adjust expectations according to the actual record. 

For instance, take an extreme case.  The White Sox in 2005 were pretty clearly not a true talent 99 win team. They won 91 Pythagorean games that year.  Let's say, for the sake of argument, that they were a true talent 91 win (.561) club. But, at the end of June, they were 53-24.  In their remaining 85 games,  they might be expected to win .561 or 47. 

It is not the fact that the Jays have gone a 10-4 streak that is of significance, it is that their current record is in fact 10-4.  You are looking for "signature significance" like the Tigers' 13-0 streak at the start of 1984.  This is really a "very lower" case version of the 35-5 start for the Tigers that year. 

Geoff - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 06:30 PM EDT (#198672) #
What I see happening with the hot start is that every year there are surprises and every year some hope their team will be that one. Baseball's great for surprise success that no one sees coming until after it's happened. After it's done, it was clearly set up to happen. The rookies were primed and ready, the free agents glad for new opportunity, the pitchers glad to have better health for the year, the coaching knew what buttons to push and the prognosticators just couldn't factor in so many of the factors to help them predict.

So plenty of folks hope that hot start means that their team or player is that surprise do-better-than-expected. Maybe they have the 2006 Tigers on their hands or the 2007 Indians or the 2008 Rays. Rather than, say the hot Orioles team of April 2008. Maybe they root for a player they hope will sizzle like Ryan Ludwick rather than flame out like Chris Shelton.

Can 24-year-olds Litsch and Purcey show as much poise as 23-year-olds Verlander and Bonderman did in '06? Dubious, sure. Can Halladay be this staff's Kenny Rogers? heh. Can Purcey do as well as Nate Robertson did for the Tigers? Why not?

Let the optimists believe in rags-to-riches hope. Sure it seems highly unlikely and it would be beyond unexpected. Something could go wrong. Something must go wrong. Nothing more could go right. The other teams will be more prepared. The other teams will have better skill. This team will start making more mistakes. Injuries. The statistical probability is too low for these guys to put up these statistics.

Sometimes the statistical probability of predictions being close to actual results says that predictions will be wrong in cases, despite all educated knowledge that went in to the prediction.

Jim - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 06:40 PM EDT (#198674) #

I think that the people saying it's an 84 win team would believe that if the season was played 1,000,000 times they would average 84 wins.  A true 84 win team could win realistically win anywhere from 70-95 games probably based on injuries, strength of schedule considerations, hitting with RISP, performance in 1 run games, etc. 

Why they would revise to 87 would be because they now know this season's 'sample' starts with a 10-4 streak.  If you still think it's a .518 baseball team because 14 games isn't enough of a sample to revise your number you would expect them to play .518 baseball over the last 148 games of the season.   That equals 86.7 wins.  Similar to the Baseball Prospectus playoff odds report.

Personally I think many of you are getting way out in front of yourselves.  First of all the schedule has played into Toronto's hands, 57 games with Boston/New York/Tampa still loom.  They all have their issues, but you can't objectively say that Toronto is better then any of those three teams.  Be excited because it's a good start, but consider some of what has happened to start quickly.  Did a 33 year old shortstop turn into Orlando Cabrera in the offseason?  Is the team that wins the AL East really going to have a 21 year old as their best hitter?  Campbell?  Tallet?  This is a veteran lineup, lots of injury risks and very little depth for Rolen, Wells, Barajas, etc. Take every win you can get because the wild card may be a managable number this season if Tampa struggles, but worrying about the standings this early is a recipe for disappointment. 

Geoff - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 06:43 PM EDT (#198675) #
I never would have guessed that Pavano, Lidle and Bush kept such elite company together. That's 26 pitchers who've amassed more than two shutouts in five years.

Kason Gabbard, Devern hansack, Dave Williams and Kameron Loe all holding company with Greg Maddux with one shutout a piece.

A very compelling list. I also would have thought that Roy would have more shutouts in the past five years.

Why does Ted have an asterisk beside the record of his accomplishment, an August 23, 2004 three-hit shutout of Boston?

Geoff - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 06:47 PM EDT (#198676) #
And by 24-year-old Purcey I meant of course, 24-year-old Romero.
92-93 - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 06:50 PM EDT (#198677) #
I guess I'm just not understanding what any of you mean by saying "a true talent X win team". It seems you keep asserting this as FACT, as opposed to a PREDICTION that would factor in the highs and lows. Because we are dealing in PREDICTIONS, a team you PREDICTED to win 84 games should not have its projected win total adjusted because of a 10-4 start.

The White Sox example uses their Pythag to determine that they were a true talent 91 win club, not a prediction, so it seems entirely irrelevant to me.

Please keep explaining, because I really do want to wrap my head around this.
Magpie - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 06:53 PM EDT (#198678) #
It is not the fact that the Jays have gone a 10-4 streak that is of significance, it is that their current record is in fact 10-4.

Okay, I think (!) I take the point and this is starting to remind me of math class when I was a young fellow.

Let me explain. (Does he ever do anything else?) When I was a wee nipper, back in the previous century, my family moved from province to province with alarming regularity. At the time, new approaches to mathematics were being introduced and none of the various provinces were remotely in sync or teaching the subject in anything like a similar way. After changing provinces three times in five years, I no longer had a clue how to do anything. However, I am for the most part pretty good with numbers (leaving aside the occasional mental lapse when I subtract 4 from 78 and get... 78?) and I could almost always get the right answer. I just couldn't "show my work" (and consequently didn't get any marks for that of the exercise. I'm still bitter, by the way.)

So if this .519 team has a 10-4 record, you invoke the Laws of Large Numbers and infer that the team, if that is their quality, should end up 87-75? I say something like if Ricky Romero has a 6.50 ERA, they'll go 84-78 - but if he's better than that, my feminine-like intuition or some such things makes me believe the team will likewise be better...

Although in the end what both statements really means is this - it's not an 84-78 team.

Which we don't know yet. Actually, they could still be a 74-88 team. Or a 94-68 team. And so on...
Magpie - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 06:55 PM EDT (#198679) #
Why does Ted have an asterisk

All the LH pitchers had 'em, I just missed Ted when I was taking them out.
Geoff - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 06:56 PM EDT (#198680) #
Since you're good at this and I'm not sure how you do it, have you got a figure of the number of able-bodied gentleman (Sidney Ponson included) who were designated as the starter of a regular season MLB game?

*voice in ear provides update* what's that? Sidney Ponson has two shutouts to his credit and is on the list above? He shut out the Angels and Yankees in 2004? Okay, so maybe you're on to something with how easy it is to throw nine shutout innings.

But just a figure, not a list of all the starters names, please.

Magpie - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 07:10 PM EDT (#198682) #
Last year, 146 different pitchers started games in the AL. Many were making just one or two starts, of course. 85 pitchers started at least 10 games, another 33 started from 4-9 games, and the rest - 28 guys - started 1-3 games.

In the NL, 91 pitchers made at least 10 starts; another 44 started 4-9 games, and 31 guys started 1-3 games (166 pitchers altogether. Two extra teams, of course.)

Dave Till - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 07:10 PM EDT (#198683) #
A team is never as good as it looks when it's streaking, or as bad as it looks when it's slumping. The Jays will have bad stretches as well as good; once we've seen a couple of each, we'll know what we're dealing with here.

One ground for optimism: it's not like everybody's hot, or the Jays haven't had to deal with misfortune. Rios is slumping; Litsch is gone for some indefinite period of time.

Best things:
  • Romero looks confident and polished.
  • Hill, Snider and Lind are hitting: youth will be served.
  • The bullpen is still deep and still pretty good.
  • Halladay is the best pitcher in the American League, and possibly in the galaxy.

Magpie - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 07:15 PM EDT (#198684) #
AND.... of those 146 AL pitchers, 16 of them (11%) managed to throw a shutout.

And of those 166 NL pitchers, 22 of them (13%) were able to throw a shutout. Three guys made the shutout list although they made fewer than 10 starts: Scott Richmond (fluke, it was a 6 inning game),  Eric Stults, and Jeff Karstens.
Alex Obal - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 07:16 PM EDT (#198685) #
Because we are dealing in PREDICTIONS, a team you PREDICTED to win 84 games should not have its projected win total adjusted because of a 10-4 start.

Bingo. Every 162 games, that team should win 84 of them. Every 148 games, that team should win 76.7.

The fact that they've gone 10-4 in their first 14 games shouldn't affect your perception of how many games per 162 you'd expect them to win going forward. (If anything, it should increase it. Unless the 10-4 was accomplished against NL teams or something.) If you could amend your prediction based on the assumptions that (a) you think the Jays will win 84 of every 162 games and (b) they've started 10-4, you would amend it to 86.7-75.3, before adjusting for schedule (as Mike G suggested).
greenfrog - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 07:21 PM EDT (#198686) #
I find it interesting that we're all so intent on trying to figure out whether the team is a 78-, 84- or 87-win team, when the amazing thing is that they've just stormed out of the gate with a 10-4 record. Expectations were basically nil when the season started. Why worry about an imminent collapse when that was what most people predicted anyway? The team may or may not stay in the race, but the team has been playing as well as it has in a long time. It's been a weird and wonderful--but not flukey--start to the season.

"The hitting will cool. After Halladay, this roatation is pretty fragile."

I think this is true, but it's also true that the pitching staff has held up surprisingly well so far. Each of Romero, Richmond and Tallet have shown something. And Purcey may yet pull his game together (he definitely has the stuff, and sometimes the control, to succeed--as he showed against Detroit earlier this year). Plus, unlike some teams, the Jays have a few potential contributors waiting in the wings in Accardo, Janssen, Litsch, Cecil and Mills. (I don't see Marcum and McGowan contributing in '09.) Imperfect, but the team does have some pitching depth. And they might be able to add an innings-eating veteran to help anchor the rotation later in the year.

I agree that the odds are against the Jays, but I don't think it's as simple as Halladay + pray for rain.
Magpie - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 07:24 PM EDT (#198687) #
By the way, Geoff - here's how I've been doing it today. I'm sitting at the computer with a bunch of programs running. I'm doing baseball today, so Da Box is open and and Notepad and Excel. (I'm in a Ray Davies mood, so iTunes is working its way through the Kinks catalog!)

I have a query and off I go to look at the 2008 AL pitching stats. You can sort them by category - if I click on Game Starts, it ranks them all by number of starts made. I copy and paste into Excel ( I usually copy them first into Notepad just to get rid of any unwanted formatting surprises first), play with them a little and copy them back into NotePad so that I can share them with all the dedicated followers of fashion...
Geoff - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 07:35 PM EDT (#198688) #
You, you're good, you.

Yet I can still find tiny little mistakes to bug you about. The link provided for 2008 AL pitching stats was missing an 'L' at the end.

brent - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 07:36 PM EDT (#198689) #

92-93, I linked to this a few days ago.

Go check out Tango's blog and search for true talent levels. He explains things far better than other people. Aside from strength of schedule, it is now up to you to understand this. Read up and then everyone can talk with you about it.

Anyway, the Jays just have to go 72-78 to .500 on the year. Does anyone want to take that bet believing that this true talent stuff is nonsense and that the Jays will finish below .500? I didn't hear back the last time I offered this.


Alex Obal - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 07:53 PM EDT (#198690) #
Brent, (and I don't think you're taking the other side of this but it kinda takes off from your post) I think it can be reasonable to change your estimate of a team's true talent level after two weeks in some cases. For instance, I think some people's views of the Jays were informed by very strong opinions about Ricky Romero. Those opinions may have changed during the first couple of weeks, for perfectly valid reasons.
Mike Green - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 08:26 PM EDT (#198692) #
We were talking about batting orders and managerial strengths and weaknesses earlier.  Speaking of this, did anyone notice the lineup that Trombley ran out for the Orioles today against the Sox?  Cesar Freaking Izturis batting second?  One look at the boxscore tomorrow morning and half the sabermetric community in metropolitan Baltimore and halfway to DC will turn to stone.

It is difficult for a manager to choose a batting order that can significantly affect a game.  Cesar Izturis batting second meets that high standard.  Maybe Trombley thought that the O's acquired the 2006-07 version of Maicer. Izturis rhymes with "tzuris", the yiddish word for trouble or grief.  This is perhaps not a coincidence.

92-93 - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 08:35 PM EDT (#198693) #
Mike, we saw the same last year with John McDonald, and I wonder what Cito will do this year when he eventually does start a game.

esquire - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 09:29 PM EDT (#198694) #

With all this talk about numbers today, it was interesting to check out Apparently, Toronto currently has the second highest projected playoff chances and second highest projected wins in the majors. Of course, this probably won't last throughout the season, but still fun numbers to mull over on this off-day.

Mike Green - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 09:32 PM EDT (#198695) #
I don't remember that.  I checked McDonald's BBRef game logs for 2008, and they always show him batting 9th when he played the whole game.  They sometimes double-switched him into the 2 hole late in the game.  Maybe I am missing something.

Anyways,  I am pretty sure that Cito would not hit McDonald 2nd.  The only places you can justify for him are #8 and #9.  There is a logic to having your worst hitter bat 8th in the AL.

scottt - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 09:34 PM EDT (#198696) #
Doc is starting a 3 game series at home against Texas in which Millwood and Padilla are not taking the mound. That could be a lot worse.

The Jays are playing 4 games in KC this year and I'd rather they do that in April than in July.

Jim - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 09:50 PM EDT (#198697) #
"I guess I'm just not understanding what any of you mean by saying "a true talent X win team". It seems you keep asserting this as FACT, as opposed to a PREDICTION that would factor in the highs and lows. Because we are dealing in PREDICTIONS, a team you PREDICTED to win 84 games should not have its projected win total adjusted because of a 10-4 start."

I think that is where your misunderstanding lies.  If someone thinks the Jays are a 84 win true talent team that isn't a fact nor necessarily a prediction.  84 is an estimate based on statistical projections which themselves are based on past performance regressed to a league norm in some fashion.  It's an estimate since it's made up of the individual projections of many players, each of which is an inexact number.  Each Blue Jay has a true talent level, figuring it out is the hard part.  So after you estimate the players you estimate the team.  Clearly there is a margin of error in play, greater at the team level then the player level.

So someone saying that they think the Jays are an 84 win true talent team isn't neither a fact nor a prediction.  That person may predict 84 wins, or they may predict 79-89. 

Maybe looking at San Diego would help since there is no emotional attachment involved with them.  That's a bad team, regardless of the fact they started 9-4.  Most people predicted they would lose 100 games.  Well if they stay hot for another ten weeks and are 20-12 wouldn't you agree:
A.  They are still a terrible team that if the season started May 1st would have a chance to lose 100 games
B.  They probably aren't going to lose 100 games now since they started 20-12 and they would have to go 42-88 the rest of the way to lose 100.  They are bad, but they aren't that bad. 

If you flipped a coin 162 times you'd expect 81 heads and 81 tails.  After 100 flips if it's 75 heads and 25 tails are you still expecting 81-81?  Of course not, you now expect 106 heads and 56 tails.  The coins true talent is 50/50, but in a small sample that can be easily over or under performed.

 As far as the calculation goes you are right, someone who says the Jays are an 84 win true talent team is saying that the team would have a 51.8% chance of winning each game (if each game were played against a .500 true talent team).  Each individual game isn't 51.8% though because of a multitude of reasons, the largest being who is pitching, who are you playing and where is it being played.

Jim - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 09:53 PM EDT (#198698) #
No idea what method they use, but BP's PECOTA adjusted odds report has the Jays at a 1.8% chance of winning the division and a 4% chance at the Wild Card.  Those seem low, but much closer to reality then coolstandings.

esquire - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 10:16 PM EDT (#198699) #

I looked briefily at coolstandings - it seems to use strength of schedule and pythagorean expected wins. Thus, it looks at all future games and your chance of winning each game is dependent on your runs for/runs against and the other teams runs for/runs against. It then simulates the season 1000 times and tells you how often you will be in the playoffs.

That said, it does not seem to look at individual players, previous years stats, etc.

I imagine, it is a valuable tool in the last 25% of the season when the sample sizes are larger and strength of remaining schedule really starts to come into play.


92-93 - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 10:16 PM EDT (#198700) #
Mike, here's the relevant games.
esquire - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 10:32 PM EDT (#198701) #


Coolstandings has similar numbers to this site: which has playoff odds based only on the current data of the season, and not the pre season projections.

The site you linked to will always regress teams to their preaseason projected wins. Thus, according to this algorithm, the Blue Jays will always be a .440 team, even if they started the year 30-5.

I imagine the pecota playoff percentages are only realistic if you think the Jays are a 72-73 true-win team, which seems to be the projection they used (thus giving them only 75 wins despite their 10-4 start).

As the season progresses, actual data will be more valuable than preseason projections.

Nolan - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 10:54 PM EDT (#198702) #
I am no math genius, but I think the question everyone seems to be talking around is, at what point in the season can the pre-season rankings/predictions be overtaken in predictive value by the actual results of the season. 

It's all well and good to say that if the Jays' hot start does nothing to change expectations if they are truly a 84-78 talent team.  At what point do we throw the pre-season predictions out and recalculate.

Nolan - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 10:58 PM EDT (#198703) #
And I see that I skimmed a little too lightly - esquire beat me to my my point and dot it across much more clearly.
greenfrog - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 11:29 PM EDT (#198704) #
Also in the reality check dept.: despite their injury issues (Dice-K, Lowrie, Teixeira, Nady) and early-season inconsistency, the Yankees and Red Sox are both 7-6 and right behind the Jays. Each team has a few weaknesses, but overall they figure to remain competitive throughout the season, whereas the Jays seem to be more of a wild card (figuratively--but also literally, I hope) at this point.
Mike D - Monday, April 20 2009 @ 11:55 PM EDT (#198705) #
How morbidly fascinating, on several levels, that Cory Lidle is tied for thirteenth in all of Major League Baseball in shutouts over the last five years.
TamRa - Tuesday, April 21 2009 @ 12:20 AM EDT (#198706) #
Maybe it's just me but the reason I'm reluctant to revise my estimate YET comes from a very different place than most of what's been said here.

Before I explain let me just be clear, if the Jays somehow managed to start 30 and 10 or something I WOULD have to revise because some of the arguments in that regard are compelling.

But for a small sample...anything much less that 1/4 of the season...this holds for me unless i see a compelling argument otherwise:

All the coin analogies refer to a situation which is by definition "all things being equal" but the tremedus number of variables in a baseball season mean that all things will never be equal.

So when I make a prediction of 86 wins (as a "true talent level") I'm NOT saying "out of 162 individual events, the team will be successful 86 times even though that it what it appears to say.

What I am actually saying is that when the SEASON occurs - that one event which is a conglomeration of thousands of smaller events - then the Jays will finish with 86 wins.

The closest analogy i can come up with off the top of my head is to say not "if I flip a coin 162 times..." but rather "if I drop 162 coins off the top of the Empire state building, when I check them I will find 86 heads"

the drop is all one event, which may be affected by wind and birds and traffic and the order in which the coins leave the jar and lord-knows what else.

The analogy is weak, of course, because I have no rational way of guessing how those factors would affect what i find on the ground whereas i do have some educated information about what might happen during the baseball season. But the point remains that when I project a teams record, I am pedicting the outcome of ONE event - a baseball season - not the outcome of 162 unrelated events.

In making that prediction I might be supposing that we'll do really well against Baltimore, we'll struggle against Tampa, and whatever else.

that being the case the sample size we have in hand isn't enough to change the outcome because the fact that we beat Minnesota has no bearing on the likelihood that we'll beat Tampa Bay. When I made the original projection I EXPECTED we'd do well in some stretches against some teams and do poorly in other stretches against other teams.

One need look no further than the Toronto Blue Jays, May 2008.

Thomas - Tuesday, April 21 2009 @ 12:59 AM EDT (#198707) #
When I made the original projection I EXPECTED we'd do well in some stretches against some teams and do poorly in other stretches against other teams.

WillRain, what you're saying, to me, looks like a re-wording of what 92-93 and others are saying. If there is a difference there in the underlying concept (which seems to be that your predictions based on your original true talent calculations are not being revised because the season will always include hot and cold streaks), I am failing to spot it. You frame it as one event and others don't, but the bottom line seems to be that hot and cold spells are inevitable and not enough for you to change your predictions (at least yet).

What Mike Green, Alex Obal, myself and others are saying is that this hot streak does not decrease the odds that the Jays will have future hot streaks and nor does it increase the possiblity that the Jays will have a later cold streak. While there are strength of schedules adjustments to be made, the fact that you are not presupposing exactly when and where the Jays hot and cold streaks will occur is a key part of why predictions should be slightly revised in light of this start. I agree that going 3 of 4 against the Twins should have no bearing on how the Jays perform against the Rays. They should perform however well a 'true talent' 84 win teams performs against a true talent 88 win team, for the sake of argument over 18 games, which is to win 9.5 and lose 10.5 games (or whatever). Average that out over the remaining 148 games and the Jays should win 76.7 games (roughly), which would make them an 87 win team.
Alex Obal - Tuesday, April 21 2009 @ 01:06 AM EDT (#198708) #
... this hot streak does not decrease the odds that the Jays will have future hot streaks and nor does it increase the possiblity that the Jays will have a later cold streak.

I think it would be fascinating if someone proved this false. I'm definitely not prepared to rule this possibility out... but it does seem very unlikely.
Thomas - Tuesday, April 21 2009 @ 01:06 AM EDT (#198709) #
I find this upcoming series against Texas to be intriguing. The Rangers hit Halladay harder than any other AL team, but Doc fared well against them in 2008. Memories of Kevin Mench in a Rangers uniform are always dancing in my head whenever Texas faces Toronto. Wednesday and Thursday see Purcey and Richmond facing off against Kris Benson and Matt Harrison, respectively. Neither of those two hurlers has fared well for Texas so far this year, but Purcey's also struggled and Richmond will have to be at the top of his game to get by the high powered Texas offence.
TamRa - Tuesday, April 21 2009 @ 01:46 AM EDT (#198710) #
What Mike Green, Alex Obal, myself and others are saying is that this hot streak does not decrease the odds that the Jays will have future hot streaks and nor does it increase the possiblity that the Jays will have a later cold streak.

Of course not - but that's not what I'm suggesting. What I'm saying is that THIS hot streak is ONE OF the set of hot and cold streaks that i already figured into my prediction.

Look at it like this - if you predicted an outcome of 84 wins, you most likely projected at least one win over the Yankees. So when the Jays play and beat the Yankees, it is both true that it has no effect on future games against the Yankees or anyone else, but it also has no effect on your overall projection because you assumed a win over the Yankees when you made it.

A 14 game hot streak is simply an extrapilation of the same reality.

In no way am I arguing that this streak has any affect on future outcomes.

That's why I said that an extended run of over 30 games would be a "game changer" because that long a run is NOT figured into my prediction.

the fact that you are not presupposing exactly when and where the Jays hot and cold streaks will occur is a key part of why predictions should be slightly revised in light of this start.

I don't see that it's relevant where the 10-4 stretch occurs during the season - I was expecting X hot streaks and X cold streaks. Now I expect X-1 more hot streaks and X cold streaks.

(Albeit I don't know that this one is over yet and if it grows into something i didn't expect then i would revise my projection)

esquire - Tuesday, April 21 2009 @ 02:18 AM EDT (#198711) #

"What I'm saying is that THIS hot streak is ONE OF the set of hot and cold streaks that i already figured into my prediction"...

But if you had predicted 2 weeks ago, that the Jays of 2 weeks ago would have a similar number of hot and cold streaks in order to balance out to a 84-win season, then in order for the Jays to actually have an 84 win season now, you would have to revise your prediction from 2 weeks ago, and imply that the current jays of today, will actually have more losing streaks going forward than they will have winning streaks (in order to end up with 84 wins). Has anything happened in the last 2 weeks to make you think that the Jays are going to have more losing streaks than winning streaks in the next several months?

It seems counter-intuitive to many of us here that because they Jays have started out with a great 10-4 record, that someone who thought they had the potential to win approximately half their games, has now revised their prediction to say that these new jays are going to lose more games than they win going forward - because that's the only way they jays can end up winning 84 games.

The other ways to think about the start are:

1) It was mostly luck due to inherent random statistics - and the jays will still win about half the games going forward, with an equal amount of winning streaks and losing streaks - thus my revised guess is closer to 87-88 wins

2) These jays are better than an 84 win team based on what I've seen so far - so i will reassess whether they will continue to win and lose at the same pace - and likely change my estimate of wins to over 90 wins

Both 1 and 2 seem more intutive than downgrading your initial assessment based on a good early start to the season.

(of course, these arguments do not hold if you just say it's due to sampling that we started with an easy schedule and the easy schedule is why we had such a great start)

Richard S.S. - Tuesday, April 21 2009 @ 05:37 AM EDT (#198712) #

Stats can justify almost anything, but stats never over-rate/under-rate the single datum that is an individual game.  As the Starters, here, in AAA and in Ext. ST pitch more, a clearer picture of their status emergs.  Sometimes starters get better.  Teams have injuries, pitchers/batters, offense/defense need time to develop/gel.  Some teams just aren't that good.  Some teams are good early.  Toronto is having favorable matchups, their players are get better and better.  Of the next 10 games (just to finish off April), Toronto should win at least 7, all projected on single games.

Litsch won't be out more than 6 weeks, Janssen should be ready in about 6 weeks or less.  Jesse had a good first year in the majors.  By any stretch of the imagination, Romero and Purcey should do at least that well; Litsch should come close to that.  Cito's limiting his young starters to 175 IP or so.  McGowan returns when he returns and Cecil, Mills,et al will be up when they're ready and not before.  NYY, Tampa and possibly Boston do not have better pitching staffs than Toronto at this time, nor is their offense better ,(check their schedules).  Toronto is just taking advantage of lesser matchups each day.  If offense, defense, starting and relief were at 80% or better in all 14 games they might have won 2 or 3 more.

Mike Green - Tuesday, April 21 2009 @ 09:54 AM EDT (#198713) #
There is no fixed point at which actual results mean more than projections.  Two examples will illustrate.  Team A is a projected .450 club, and wins its first 15 games of the season.  At that point, the actual results are more important than the projection because the actual results strongly suggest that the initial projection was very wrong.  Team B is a projected .500 club and is 42-39 at the halfway mark despite a 360-400 runs scored/runs allowed rate. It is very unclear at that point in the season what weight to attach, if any, to the team's actual won-loss performance in the first half of the season in projecting the remainder of the season. 
John Northey - Tuesday, April 21 2009 @ 10:17 AM EDT (#198714) #

Always entertaining to see an argument about random odds and how a hot start affects net win totals.  The 10-4 start had about a 1 in 10 odds of happening if the Jays were around a 500 club.  It happened, so there is a chance they are better than a 500 team as well as a shot at them really being worse than that although a hot start tends to suggest otherwise.

Last year I remember on BBTF some people arguing that the Tigers horrid start (0-7) was not an indicator of what was to be (a 5th place finish).  Generally it takes an extreme, such as going 0-7 or 7-0, to demonstrate that a team really is better or worse than most expected.  The Jays 10-4 start isn't strong enough to scream 'better than 500' let along 'playoffs'.  Now, if they get to 20-8 we get into much stronger odds and things start to shift but for now all this start is, is a heck of a lot of fun and it jumps the odds of us seeing the Jays break their high water mark of 88 wins since 1993.

Anders - Tuesday, April 21 2009 @ 11:23 AM EDT (#198715) #
... this hot streak does not decrease the odds that the Jays will have future hot streaks and nor does it increase the possiblity that the Jays will have a later cold streak.

I think it would be fascinating if someone proved this false. I'm definitely not prepared to rule this possibility out... but it does seem very unlikely.

Well for one thing it decreases the number of games the Jays have left to play, and thus inherently reduces the number of opportunities for hot streaks and cold streaks. As for the larger question...

If one were to view these 14 games as random chance, then I do not think that this affects what the Jays are going to do in the future (as I believe is the argument being made by some). However if one were to re-estimate what the true talent of the Jays is based on these two weeks of results (and simply for argument's sake, let's move it from 79 wins to 85 wins), then instead of being a .490 ballclub the Jays are a .525 ballclub. All other things being equal (though they never are), this would suggest that the Jays are in fact less likely to have extended losing streaks and more likely to have extended winning streaks than one would have guessed before the season. The reason for this is that the better the ballclub, the more statistically unlikely it is to lose 5 games in a row, while the odds of winning 5 in a row increase. Of course the variance in numbers is probably small enough that these effects will be hard to observe in a 162 game season, but the underlying principle is still there.

Now let's start disagreeing about grade 9 math again, please.
christaylor - Tuesday, April 21 2009 @ 11:46 AM EDT (#198716) #
Now let's start disagreeing about grade 9 math again, please.

As the kiddies, text... LOL. But really it was just a chuckle and it wasn't very loud, Anders.

The only thought that occurs to me after reading the many comments is that I am amused that the distinction between Bayesian and the other kind of statistics has yet to penetrate very far into the brains of baseball statisticians.

I'll lay out my amusement in English, step by step (I'm doing scientific outreach with this comment, so please indulge me):

1) What is your (I'm talking about everyone) guess for the Jays' wining percentage (let's call it that). Mine was at least .525

2) Consider carefully how much 14 games alter your guess now that it is April 21st. (Use any bizarre formulae you'd like even a Jamesian formulation will do.)

3) Normalize, or something.

4) Conclude that the 2009 Jays are closer to what WillRain and Mylegacy were saying pre-season than any January nay-sayer.

Ryan Day - Tuesday, April 21 2009 @ 12:02 PM EDT (#198718) #
If Roy Halladay blew out his elbow on opening day, people would have to revise their predictions. So the reverse should be true, too: If Scott Rolen's shoulder is 100%, that changes things. If Arnsberg has really straightened out Ricky Romero, that changes things. Granted, there may not be enough evidence yet to prove either of these things are true - Rolen had a couple good months last year, too -but would most people even have expected Romero to have even three good starts in a row, with strong peripherals, and having a lower ERA than Halladay at any point in the season?
Dewey - Tuesday, April 21 2009 @ 12:24 PM EDT (#198722) #
There is no fixed point at which actual results mean more than projections.

Actual results *always* mean more than projections.  Every time.

I can never quite comprehend how obsessed Bauxites are with predicting.  And how wrong they usually are in their predictions.   Can anyone articulate just what is sooo satisfying in this expenditure of time?  Is it just bragging rights?  Just being able to say, once in a thousand times, "I told you"?

Tomorrow, the future, will get here soon enough, boys.   Enjoy the present while it's here.  Let the games happen, and then mean what they will.  You can't *make* them happen ahead of time.
HippyGilmore - Tuesday, April 21 2009 @ 12:34 PM EDT (#198723) #
The reason I love Da Box is because it's the only place in the world an awesome start for the home team results in like 50 comments about how statistically significant a hot start is. While there's a time and a place to just bask in the happiness a 10-4 start produces, I'm glad there's also a place to methodically deconstruct things to the Nth degree. I'm also glad comments seem to be way. way up from this time last year; the excitement is spreading.
christaylor - Tuesday, April 21 2009 @ 12:44 PM EDT (#198724) #
Dewey (that's the name of one of my favourite American philosophers),

I agree that actual results always mean more. However sometimes, in the right hands, the same tools useful for projection are useful for evaluating the true talent level of a team. The 2008 Jays 3rd wins (from baseball prospectus) was a very satisfying statistic to look at around September 18th, 2008.

On projection: not to be glib, but to be glib, sometimes money is on the outcome. That's perhaps one main reason for all the prediction/projection. It is a mug's game. Also, the popularity of Baseball Prospectus, Nate Silver and the utter rock-solidness of PECOTA come into play (yes, I hate what they have to say about the Jays too). So, there's street cred involved in this too.

Bill James, Moneyball, Fantasyland, Nate Silver, Voros McKraken (sp?), Fantasy Baseball, Roto et al, have popularized projection and prediction in a baseball context.

As baseball fans, we've all got to live with it, I believe. Personally, I like projection. The whole process makes me feel as if I'm doing something scientific and important when that couldn't be further from the truth.
China fan - Tuesday, April 21 2009 @ 01:08 PM EDT (#198726) #

There is no such thing as an "84-win true talent team" or an "87-win true talent team."   To claim that the Jays have moved from 84 wins to 87 wins, based on some reading of their "true talent", is pretentious pseudo-science, seeking to give a veneer of precision to a sport than cannot possibly sustain it.   Baseball is an art, not a science.   There is no such thing as "true talent" because there can never be a perfect season where talent is the only thing that matters.  Talent is just one of many variables, and most of them are incapable of prediction.

 The most obvious variable that's ignored by "true talent" is injuries.  A single injury to a key player can alter a team's performance by several wins, if not more.  Most teams have many injuries in the course of a season.  To speak of "true talent" is meaningless because the randomness of injuries will alter the performance of most teams by more than anyone can predict.   (Other unpredictable variables include:  the team's morale and motivation;  luck and the bouncing of the ball on the field; coaching performance; a player's reaction to current or future salary expectations;  the weather; and many others too numerous to mention.)

An honest prediction of a team's potential, based on talent and other variables, would simply say that Team A has the talent to win 80 to 95 games, while Team B has the talent to win 85 to 100 games; or something broad like that. 

For those who are using the "true talent" term, please explain if you are assuming an injury-free season?  If not, how many injuries are you assuming?   How many injuries are you assuming on each rival team?  Are you assuming that the Jays will be injury-free and every other team will be injury-free?  (That's a meaningless prediction because it cannot possibly happen in reality.)   Are you assuming that the Jays will have an average number of injuries and every other team will have an average number of injuries?  (That's equally meaningless because injuries are never equally distributed among all teams -- some teams are always hit by many more injuries than others.)  Or are you assuming that the Jays will have more injuries than others, or less injuries?  On what basis?

To disregard all these other variables is just silly, so the concept of "true talent" is a meaningless concept with no predictive value or analytical value.

The Red Sox last year may have been more talented than the Rays, or less talented.   We will never know.

Geoff - Tuesday, April 21 2009 @ 01:10 PM EDT (#198727) #
the excitement is spreading.

Don't worry about excitement spreading too much; there should be a statistical correction to the spreading of excitement within the next month.

But clearly Buster Olney is getting caught up in the excitement of Blue Jays land. In his blog today he writes,

The Jays have Roy Halladay on the mound today, with a chance to run their record to 11-4. Morgan Campbell has been excellent in the leadoff role for Toronto.
If you're wondering who this Morgan Campbell is who has been excelling as the Jays leadoff hitter, he's actually the Star writer of the second article Buster linked. He's so excited he's forgetting to mention Marco Scutaro and talking about the writer of a story about Marco.
Ryan Day - Tuesday, April 21 2009 @ 01:18 PM EDT (#198729) #
Marco Scutaro's pace for 2009: 46 home runs, 174 runs, 116 RBI, 139 walks.

Yes, yes, it's totally meaningless. But he's already more than halfway towards a career-high home run total. It'll be interesting to see where he ends up.

John Northey - Tuesday, April 21 2009 @ 01:22 PM EDT (#198731) #

Well, the fan excitment metre will grow by 10 points per win and drop by 10 per loss with an extra 5 points per run differential and a 10 point adjustment either way for 'odd news' (such as when a stalker was after Roberto Alomar back in 95).  Yes, that was tongue in cheek.

The projection is all for fun.  I am always optimistic on the Jays (check past things I've wrote) largely because it is more fun to think about what good can happen than to worry about the bad.  Likewise it is fun to enjoy the struggles of the Yanks (Joba over 5 for ERA, Wang at 34 and climbing with 15 different guys pitching for them already including Nick Swisher) and Red Sox (Dice-K and Penny both over 10 for ERA, Lester over 5, Ortiz with a 42 OPS+).  You need stuff to cheer for and against to make it fun imo and this year (so far) it has been ideal :)

Geoff - Tuesday, April 21 2009 @ 01:35 PM EDT (#198733) #
China fan, I am certainly in your corner to take sides against all the scientific mathletes who know the outcomes ahead of time within certain degrees of error.

Let us march on as the idiots oblivious to projections, curses, win probabilities and various efficiencies!

May Kevin Millar show us the way. And always know: We will never know.
Alex Obal - Tuesday, April 21 2009 @ 01:51 PM EDT (#198734) #
China, I don't think anyone is actually claiming to know how good teams are when they say "true talent level." It's just a convenient shorthand for "how many games per 162 I thought they were going to win," which is useful in this context. I agree that it's a hopelessly arrogant-sounding shorthand. I try to avoid it.
Mike Green - Tuesday, April 21 2009 @ 01:55 PM EDT (#198735) #
As long as no one follows the Kevin Millar dance video example, we should all be able to post in harmony.
AWeb - Tuesday, April 21 2009 @ 02:27 PM EDT (#198736) #
Such a strange amount on disagreement on what appears to be a simple concept - the good start counts, even if it may or may not reflect how good the team really is.  If the 10-4 record doesn't matter to the final prediction, then neither would a 4-10 record.  I'll take the team with a 6 game lead to finish ahead, all things being equal.

People are mis-using the "regression to the mean" concept. Baseball seasons are not "long-term" experiments where 5-6 game variations become meaningless, this one is 8.6% over already (until the playoffs?). And the Jays are in first place for at least another 2 days! Last year, a very good Jays team spent all of 0 days alone in first place. With the 10 game win streak (August 30th-September 9) in there, the Jays managed a best 16 game stretch (10% of the season) of 12-4, which they can match if Halladay wins and the Jays win a possible shootout the next day (Purcey vs. Benson). They've already won a few comeback games and had a walkoff homer. Both the offense and pitching/defense are solidly near the top of the league. This may be the peak of the season, even if things go well from here, enjoy it.
Jim - Tuesday, April 21 2009 @ 02:57 PM EDT (#198742) #

There is no such thing as an "84-win true talent team" or an "87-win true talent team."  

Just because you don't understand the concept doesn't mean it doesn't exist.  Everyone who talks about a team's true talent understands that there are a million variable that go into the final results.  That's why anyone who talks about the concept of true talent admits that an 85 win true talent team might win anywhere from 75-95 games because of a hundred different reasons. 

Thinking and discussing the marginal value of players, the 'science' of projecting baseball performance and the study of how teams are built is interesting to a lot of people.  Would I have Extra Innings and have stayed up last night to watch Derek Lowe pitch after a 2 hour rain delay if I wasn't in a high stakes fantasy league?  Projections are another way to stay interested in teams besides your hometown club.  Just because you don't understand it doesn't mean it's not one of many different valid ways to discuss baseball.  Projections are a way for people to be competitive, sure some of the people who work on projections have annoying holier then thou attitudes.  So do some of the morons on MLB network who think that systems like PECOTA and statistics in general are worthless.   It's annoying at times, but still better then watching two drunk morons fight because they like different teams. 


Dewey - Tuesday, April 21 2009 @ 03:05 PM EDT (#198743) #
O.K., I feel better.  Good sense still prevails on Da Box.  Thanks to Chris, Geoff, John, and ChinaFan for taking my question seriously enough to respond so thoughtfully (and sometimes playfully).   The responses confirm some of my own notions about why we find attempts to predict to be so addictive.  (I had simply overlooked the place of betting in this matter.)  Standing way back,  I suppose we usually like to imagine we're more in control than is demonstrably the case.  Oddly, for me, the more insistently we attempt to predict, the more compelling is the fact that we simply cannot do so, except within certain daunting limits.  Not in finance, baseball, or much else--beyond taxes and death of course. 

And I do appreciate some of the appeal of  attempts at prediction.  I've been a fan of Bill James since he was publishing his work in those stapled-together fascicles.  But I've also appreciated how he acknowledges the limits of what it's possible to do with numbers.  (He was an English major, after all, wasn't he?)  I like my scientific calibrations to be like Magpie's Levels of Trust  (he was another English Major.)   I made my post mostly to see if someone could help me better to understand this compulsion to know, ahead of time, what would/should happen.  And the passion with which we sometimes hold our convictions.  The certitude.  My views here are to some extent, no doubt, age-related:   as testosterone levels decline, so does the mere pleasure of much competition,  whether for bragging rights or for betting purposes, I'd imagine.  “I'm right; and you're wrong” ceases to have its old, primitive appeal.  Thank god.

Anyway, I'm really looking forward to watching Doc pitch this evening.
China fan - Tuesday, April 21 2009 @ 03:36 PM EDT (#198747) #
Jim, I should have added that I enjoy predictions and projections as much as anyone else -- they have value as entertainment, as provocation, as stimulation for debate, and even as a rough indication of the strength of a particular team.   But I'm glad that you've also agreed that an "85-win true talent team" is actually a 75 to 95 win team.  It's a caveat that should be included more often in all those confident and scientific-sounding projections.    (And by the way, I'm not opposed to science -- I appreciate all the analytical insights of everyone on this site who provides sabermetric analyses that deepen our understanding of baseball.  I'm just expressing a desire for a lot more qualifiers and asterisks in the predictions.)
Geoff - Tuesday, April 21 2009 @ 03:41 PM EDT (#198748) #
But how entertaining would it be to watch two drunk scientists battle it out with asterisks and qualifiers?

My guess is not very.
Geoff - Tuesday, April 21 2009 @ 03:47 PM EDT (#198750) #
if Halladay wins and the Jays win a possible shootout the next day

what would the world be like if baseball contests were decided not by extra innings, but by shootouts where three batters from each side get a crack at amassing total bases?

A walk would have to count for two bases, I would say. Maybe even make strikeout minus one.

There isn't a league somewhere in the world that does this sort of thing, is there?

Mike Green - Tuesday, April 21 2009 @ 03:55 PM EDT (#198752) #

Thanks for the boxscores with John McDonald batting second last year.  I was away for that, for which I am grateful.  There is no excuse, none, for batting John McDonald second and Scott Rolen eighth.  When Scott Rolen is 55 and is managing somewhere, he'll still be a better hitter than McDonald. 

Alex Obal - Tuesday, April 21 2009 @ 03:55 PM EDT (#198753) #
I'm just expressing a desire for a lot more qualifiers and asterisks in the predictions.

Better yet, a primer on inductive statistics! Educate the masses to the point where qualifiers and asterisks are no longer necessary because everyone understands that they're implied in any sane prediction.
scottt - Tuesday, April 21 2009 @ 05:35 PM EDT (#198759) #
I spoke too soon, Benson is gone to the DL so Millwood will pitch on Thursday in what will be be a though match up for Richmond. Millwood is coming off a complete game, so hopefully he'll run out of gas early.

92-93 - Tuesday, April 21 2009 @ 06:46 PM EDT (#198760) #
Mike, now you see why I'm worried/interested to see what happens when JMac finally gets a start. If it's for Scutaro I wouldn't be surprised to see him bat 9th and the whole lineup moves up a spot, but if JMac is subbing in for Hill I think he might take the 2nd spot in the order. I also wonder if, when Hill gets the day off, JMac will play SS and Scoot will move over or JMac will just play 2nd. You'd assume because of the lack of the late-game defensive changes that Scutaro would stay at SS.
Jim - Tuesday, April 21 2009 @ 11:43 PM EDT (#198768) #
Tuesday night is what happens when some start to assume that Halladay is going to win every start.  Texas and Halladay have never mixed.
TamRa - Wednesday, April 22 2009 @ 02:25 AM EDT (#198774) #
If Roy Halladay blew out his elbow on opening day, people would have to revise their predictions. So the reverse should be true, too: If Scott Rolen's shoulder is 100%, that changes things. If Arnsberg has really straightened out Ricky Romero, that changes things. Granted, there may not be enough evidence yet to prove either of these things are true - Rolen had a couple good months last year, too -but would most people even have expected Romero to have even three good starts in a row, with strong peripherals, and having a lower ERA than Halladay at any point in the season?

Well, my projection and the extent to which I alter it doesn't really depend on what "most people" would have thought.

I can't say i though Romero would ever have a stat line better than Doc's on the season but it's not that irrational a thing - all it takes is a really small sample and ONE bad game from Doc in the absence of any bad one's from Ricky Ro. That's not a totally impossible scenario.

But I, for one, would have had almost NO doubt that Ricky would run off three very good starts in a row - I would simply have assumed they'd come in august rather than April.

Rolen makes another good example. Do you realize that if you take away the 29 games from July 1 until he went on the DL, Scott Rolen hit .874 over 3 times as many games? Which is to say that 3/4 of the time Rolen WAS the "Vinatage Rolen" I was counting on when I was saying 2008 was THE year last April. what I did NOT expect was that awful July. The mistake people make regarding Rolen is to look at the year as one whole uniform .780 production level. Likewise, while I would have guessed Ricky Ro would end up somewhere around 4.80 (and I'm not yet convinced he won't though it seems much less likely) that doesn't mean i would have assumed he'd be at that level uniformly over the whole year.

So far this season, here's how reality matches up with what I expected:

Scutero - never say this happening all year but he had hot stretches last year too so I assume this one is just that - a streak

Hill - pretty much what i figured within the normal variations (i.e. he won't be a .991 OPS guy of course but I expected him to be very productive)

Rios - I expected and assume he will be much fact, average Hill and Rios and you get about what I would have expected from Rios and Hill combined - just with a different guy doing better than I would have guessed

Wells - right on target

Lind - Way better than I expected so far, but we all know he'll have a hellacious cold streak at some point

Rolen - just what I expected

Overbay - pretty much what I expected if he was platooned which so far he has been

Barajas - worse than i thought but I thought he'd be bad

Snider - better than I expected but I expected pretty good

Doc - somewhat worse total than I expected but that's just sample size

Purcey - much worse than I expected

Listch - injury, you have to figure someone would have been

Romero - again, merge him with Purcey and you probably get between them about what I would have expected between them

Richmond - about as much better in a small sample as doc is worse...again, on balance the combine for about what one would expect

Bullpen - collectively just about right - I'd have had League better and Camp worse

Som total - while the win total is a bit better than I might have suggested on precentage, the team is performing overall more or less consistantly with what I expected. So I'm not sure they have altered my assesment yet. I can see trends which, if they hold, would make me alter it though.

Oh, and on the whole issue of exceeding projections-

The winning precentage I first suggested was .530 and I qualified my 86 win projection (as i always do) by saying +/-3 so I was pretty much suggesting a range from .512 to .549 with a mean of .531

now, applied to 15 wins:

.512 = .7.68
.531 = 7.95
.549 = 8.23

Which is to say the Jays are TWO wins ahead of the pace i was projecting.

That's hardly game-changing yet.

on the other hand, .530 would work out to 21-19 over 40 games. So if they get to 40 games and they are 28-12, THEN we are in revision territory.

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