Baseball Toaster Catfish Stew
Monthly archives: February 2006


2006-02-26 15:58
by Ken Arneson

I'm watching live baseball! I just flipped the remote over to something on ESPN Classic called "ESPN Classic Vintage Live: Negro League Baseball presented by Jordan Brand". It's the Bristol Barnstormers vs. the Birmingham Black Barons. I have no idea who these players are, but it's sure nice to see some live baseball, no matter who is playing. They're also doing some Negro Leagues reminiscing. As I write, it's tied 8-8 in the eighth innning.

* * *

Seems appropriate that baseball would show up on the scene the day the Winter Olympics ended. I'm a big fan of Swedish winter sports, a leftover from my three years spent enduring the long, dark winters of Scandinavia. I've been on a bit of a high all day long, ever since the Swedish hockey team won the gold medal this morning, beating arch-rival Finland 3-2.

It's hard to underestimate how big a deal this is in Sweden. Sweden had won Olympic and World Championship hockey gold before, but never in a context where all the top NHL players participated. This victory puts this hockey team into the very top circle of all-time Swedish sports legends, alongside Ingemar Stenmark and Björn Borg. They'll be talking about Nicklas Lidström's slapshot, and Henrik Lundqvist's last-second save forever. An instant classic.

I've spent the afternoon browsing Swedish websites for reactions. My favorite was listening to the Swedish Radio highlights (be patient, it's a little slow to load), featuring all five goals, plus the frantic final minute where Lundqvist made his save. Even if you don't understand Swedish, I'll bet it's kinda fun to listen to, because the radio announcer goes absolutely bonkers. Plus, the guy speaks so fast, he's hard to understand even if you speak Swedish. But the emotions are clear.

* * *

That's why I think I'm going to like the World Baseball Classic. Because for smaller countries like Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, the chance to compete in your national sport is something special. I'm American, and I should probably root for my own country, but I don't think if we win, it will be a big deal for us. I'm kinda hoping one of the smaller countries wins. It would mean so much more to them.

* * *

A Birmingham player steals third, and scores on an error. Seems like an appropriate way to win a Negro League tribute game. Black Barons win, 9-8.

Must. Bat. Kendall. Leadoff.
2006-02-25 00:01
by Ken Arneson

Following up on my last post: Studes points out a simpler online lineup generating tool.

That tool creates a lineup with Jason Kendall leading off, instead of batting ninth. The lineups differ, depending on which projection tool you use:

With Thomas, using ZiPS:  Kendall Johnson Chavez Bradley Thomas Crosby Swisher Kotsay Ellis
With Thomas, using Marcel:  Kendall Bradley Thomas Chavez Johnson Swisher Crosby Ellis Kotsay
With Payton, using ZiPS:  Kendall Johnson Chavez Bradley Crosby Swisher Kotsay Payton Ellis
With Payton, using Marcel:  Kendall Johnson Chavez Bradley Swisher Crosby Payton Ellis Kotsay

I don't know about that. I still kinda like the idea of Ellis batting leadoff instead of Kendall that came out of the last tool. But the rest of the lineup looks a little better.

* * *

Along those lines, Cyril Morong made some corrections to his DH-only stats. That changes the "ideal" lineup under the corrected AL numbers to the following:

With Thomas:  Ellis Thomas Chavez Johnson Swisher Kotsay Crosby Bradley Kendall
With Payton:  Ellis Chavez Johnson Bradley Swisher Payton Crosby Kotsay Kendall

I don't think Thomas batting second is likely to happen. Nor Bradley batting eighth.

For what it's worth, I'd probably write a Thomas lineup like this:

Ellis Johnson Bradley Chavez Thomas Crosby Swisher Kotsay Kendall

which keeps the left-right thing through the top of the order.

* * *

And then late this afternoon, David Pinto emailed me that he had translated my Perl script to Python, and made an online tool for creating lineups. Now you all kinds of choices for your lineup generation. Enjoy.

Must. Bat. Kendall. Ninth.
2006-02-21 12:40
by Ken Arneson

Ryan has a post about optimizing the A's lineup over on The Pastime, using PECOTA projections and a formula from Cyril Morong over at Beyond the Boxscore.

Ryan didn't have the programming nerdiness to work through all 362,800 lineup permutations. But I happened to be cursed with such geekdom, so I wrote a perl script to churn out the calculations. I ran it twice, once with Frank Thomas in the lineup, and once with Jay Payton in place of Thomas.

Here are the best and worst lineups. The number is runs/162 games.

Five best lineups with Thomas:

853.45: Bradley Chavez Ellis Thomas Johnson Crosby Swisher Kotsay Kendall
853.44: Bradley Chavez Ellis Thomas Johnson Swisher Crosby Kotsay Kendall
853.13: Bradley Johnson Ellis Thomas Chavez Crosby Swisher Kotsay Kendall
853.12: Bradley Johnson Ellis Thomas Chavez Swisher Crosby Kotsay Kendall
852.90: Ellis Chavez Bradley Thomas Johnson Swisher Crosby Kotsay Kendall

Five best lineups with Payton:

834.91: Bradley Johnson Ellis Chavez Swisher Payton Crosby Kotsay Kendall
834.80: Bradley Johnson Ellis Chavez Crosby Payton Swisher Kotsay Kendall
834.78: Bradley Swisher Ellis Chavez Johnson Payton Crosby Kotsay Kendall
834.63: Bradley Crosby Ellis Chavez Johnson Payton Swisher Kotsay Kendall
834.50: Bradley Chavez Ellis Swisher Johnson Payton Crosby Kotsay Kendall

A few interesting notes:

  • This formula insists on batting Kotsay eighth and Kendall ninth. The other players switch around a lot at the top of the list, but that configuration is solid. If there is one conclusion to draw from this exercise, this is it.
  • The A's are about 20 runs/year better with Thomas in the lineup than Payton.
  • It likes Bradley leading off and Ellis batting third. That's probably not going to happen in real life, but the presumed order with Ellis leading off also works pretty well.
  • Given that Ellis is probably going to lead off, and Chavez will bat either third, fourth, or fifth, the ideal lineups with that configuration are:
    With Thomas:  852.58: Ellis Johnson Bradley Thomas Chavez Crosby Swisher Kotsay Kendall
    With Payton:  834.36: Ellis Johnson Bradley Chavez Swisher Payton Crosby Kotsay Kendall

    Providing evidence that Zachary's preference for Ellis and Johnson at the top of the order is a good one.

  • When Thomas is in the lineup, it tends to like Chavez batting second. When Thomas is out of the lineup, it tends to like Chavez batting cleanup.
  • Crosby and Swisher are pretty much interchangeable. Swapping them between any two lineups spots produces almost exactly the same result.

Now for some fun: the worst lineups...

With Thomas:

816.79: Crosby Kotsay Johnson Kendall Swisher Ellis Bradley Chavez Thomas
816.84: Swisher Kotsay Johnson Kendall Crosby Ellis Bradley Chavez Thomas
816.92: Crosby Kotsay Johnson Kendall Swisher Bradley Ellis Chavez Thomas
816.97: Swisher Kotsay Johnson Kendall Crosby Bradley Ellis Chavez Thomas
817.05: Kotsay Ellis Swisher Kendall Crosby Bradley Johnson Chavez Thomas

With Payton:

799.02: Payton Kotsay Swisher Kendall Crosby Ellis Bradley Johnson Chavez
799.11: Payton Kotsay Crosby Kendall Swisher Ellis Bradley Johnson Chavez
799.15: Payton Kotsay Swisher Kendall Crosby Bradley Ellis Johnson Chavez
799.24: Payton Kotsay Crosby Kendall Swisher Bradley Ellis Johnson Chavez
799.59: Payton Kotsay Swisher Kendall Crosby Ellis Bradley Chavez Johnson

The perl code is below, for those of you with the Unixness for these things...

Continue reading...

2006-02-20 12:07
by Ken Arneson

Evolution tries some crazy experiments sometimes. Sickle cell anemia: that's a bad thing, unless there's lots of malaria around you. Then it's a good thing.

Or crying: everybody hates it. Hates it! But it's a wickedly effective means of communication. More babies were saved by this odd form of communication than were killed by irritated parents. Therefore, crying gets to stay in our genes instead of being selected out of them.

When you become a parent, you quickly learn to recognize the different types of cries. There's the "I'm hurt" cry, the "I'm hungry" cry, the "I'm bored" cry, the "I'm tired and anything that goes wrong is going to make me cry" cry, and of course, the "cry of injustice" a/k/a the "hey, that's mine!" cry.

Somewhere around first or second grade, those cries start turning into other forms of behavior. If you're lucky, the cries turn socially accepted behaviors: the "I'm hungry" cry becomes the sentence "What's for dinner?". Sometimes, it turns into something else: the "I'm bored" cry becomes the "kick your sister in the shin for no reason" behavior.

My kids, ages five and eight, are almost over the crying thing now, although the younger one still does cry on occasion. But we have visitors at my house now who have a two-year-old girl, and I'm getting to relive those cries all over again.

The interesting thing is that this little girl, who can only speak a handful of words, and who still has her full complement of cries, has learned to imitate the post-crying behavior to manipulate her environment. If she wants attention, she simply screams "Ow!" as loud she can, and everyone around her stops what they're doing to make sure she's all right. OK, now that I have your attention...can I have a cookie?

So what does this have to do with Frank Tanana the A's? Just an observation. Camps have opened, and the fluffy puff pieces have started to flow from the tap. The most interesting one so far has been this story by Joe Roderick about Milton Bradley. Bradley seems by all accounts a very intelligent person, who has one very big flaw: he overreacts to injustice.

Overreacting to injustice: anyone who has ever had a two-year-old has seen that before. The "cry of injustice" is probably the loudest, most piercing cry of all. And the hardest one to deal with as a parent: you often can't fix the problem. Sorry kid, you can't have cookies for dinner. I don't know why you expected that you could, but you can't. Life is unfair sometimes. Sorry.

Most of us eventually resign ourselves to the fact that life sucks, give up the temper tantrums, and learn to deal with the pure injustice of being alive. There's a reason the Terrible Twos only lasts about one year, instead of five or ten. In prehistoric times, the kids that had their Terrible Twos last longer than that probably didn't make it through puberty very often to pass down their genes.

So I wonder, perhaps Milton Bradley is one of evolution's strange counterintuitive experiments. One of those things where a bad trait has a benefit in a particular context. Perhaps Bradley's inability to shed his cries of injustice, his refusal to accept not getting what he wants, is exactly the trait that drives him to be a better baseball player than 99% of the human population. In an environment where pro athletes can have all the sex they'd ever want, and being the child of a pro athlete is a great predictor of becoming one yourself, perhaps the question to ask isn't "Why is Milton Bradley so unusual?", but "Why aren't anti-social athletes much more common than they already are?"

Clear Skies
2006-02-15 13:16
by Ken Arneson

A strong wind blew through the Bay Area yesterday and cleared out the air. I'm sitting here staring across the bay, and it's quite distracting. The visibility is absolutely perfect. The colors are vivid, the edges are sharp. It's Mother Nature's own HDTV.

I can see individual cars driving on the freeway past Candlestick Park. I can see the individual aisles of Pac Bell SBC AT&T Park. I can see individual windows on individual buildings on the San Francisco skyline. There's a sailboat about 300 yards out, slowly drifting southward in the breeze. The sailor is wearing a light blue shirt, and a white visor. It feels like I should be able to just leap out and hop onboard from here. Warning: objects may be farther away than they appear.

It's spectacular. I can feel the winter doldrums being lifted right off my shoulders, and the winter fog being cleared from my mind. It feels like spring again. I'm ready for some baseball. Let's go.

Heavyweights: 2002
2006-02-13 21:12
by Ken Arneson

We're looking at baseball like boxing: if you beat the champ, you're the champ. Today: a look at the 2002 season. Previously: 2003 2004.

The 2002 Heavyweight baseball season was dominated by the St. Louis Cardinals. They won over twice as many games as any other team. They also ended up holding the title at the end of the regular season. Ordinarily, for a team that doesn't win the World Series, that might be something of significance to remember your season by. But the 2002 Cardinals had anything but an ordinary season, as Cardnilly so poignantly points out.

Heavyweight of the Year: St. Louis Cardinals
Final 2002 Regular Season Champ: St. Louis Cardinals

2002 Heavyweight Standings

Game by game:

Continue reading...

Market Dynamics
2006-02-10 19:59
by Ken Arneson

Marine Layer has a fabulous essay over on his A's ballpark blog about the relationship between the amount of personal income in a metropolitan area, and the number of sports teams in that market. Money quote:

Many outsiders and the Bay Area's own media blame the market's fickle, fair-weather fans for attendance woes. In the end, does this have more to do with simple market dynamics?

Read the whole thing.

A's Prospects: PECOTA vs. Baseball America
2006-02-09 13:05
by Ken Arneson

I had been getting pretty bored with Baseball Prospectus lately, but BP has suddenly awakened with a vengeance. Will Carroll's 2006 Team Health Reports are starting soon. But I really dig the new PECOTA cards. Before, my eyes would mostly glaze over when I looked at all the numbers. Now there are some nice graphs along with the numbers. The five-year "Stars and Scrubs" chart for each player is really cool: you can visualize at a glance how a player is likely to perform over the next five years. Will he be a star, a regular, or a scrub? Just look at the chart!

Along with the new cards is Nate Silver's new method for ranking prospects. Each player gets a score, based on objective measurements only (no scouting involved). What the score means is a little unclear to me, but from what I gather, a score over 300 is pretty much a can't-miss prospect, someone who is very likely to be a star. From 200-300 is a good prospect, probably will be a regular, with a modest chance to be a star. 100-200 is someone who will likely make the majors, possibly as a regular, but probably not a star.

According to PECOTA, the A's have no top-level prospects. It likes Daric Barton as a good, solid contributor, but doesn't think he's likely a superstar. An A's Top 10 prospect list from PECOTA would like this (if my math is right):

1. Daric Barton: 239.4
2. Kevin Melillo: 203.5
3. Chad Gaudin: 192.6
4. Dallas Braden: 159.1
5. Javier Herrera: 153.4
6. Matt Watson: 129.9
7. Kurt Suzuki: 122.1
8. Cliff Pennington: 120.4
9. Mike Rouse: 112.5
10. Travis Buck: 107.4

There are some names missing from PECOTA's list, like Jason Windsor, Shane Komine, and the three high-school arms drafted last year: Italiano, Mazzaro, and Lansford. And is Watson still a prospect? Compare this list to Baseball America's list (for the Los Angeles Athletics according to the title bar...), there are some holes:

1. Daric Barton, 1b
2. Javier Herrera, of
3. Cliff Pennington, ss
4. Travis Buck, of
5. Kevin Melillo, 2b
6. Santiago Casilla, rhp
7. Craig Italiano, rhp
8. Shane Komine, rhp
9. Vince Mazzaro, rhp
10. Kurt Suzuki, c

There are some interesting notes here. PECOTA loves Kevin Melillo more than any other prospect site I've read. Chad Gaudin looks like the guy to step in for Barry Zito when he leaves for free agency: his score is almost identical to Joe Blanton's. (I'm not sure if Gaudin was with the A's when BA made its list, or where he'd fit on it.)

On the negative side, PECOTA thinks Richie Robnett is a flop, and will be out of baseball within two years. It isn't much kinder to Danny Putnam. It's lukewarm on Santijairo Garcasilla and Juan Cruz, who each scored just below 100.

As for the existing core of young A's players, there are two tiers. Eric Chavez, Bobby Crosby, and Rich Harden are the big stars, all scoring over 400. Mark Ellis, Dan Haren, Nick Swisher, Huston Street, and Dan Johnson all score in the 200's, with Joe Blanton just behind at 194.4.

What all this means, I'm not quite sure yet. You have to get used to these new measurements, compare them to other teams and players, learn its strengths and weaknesses, and absorb them. But it's fun to have a new tool to play with. I'm looking forward to the rest of Silver's series on using PECOTA for measuring prospects. Welcome back, BP!

The A's that Time Forgot
2006-02-07 21:21
by Ken Arneson

I recently browsed through the A's rosters of the last ten years, and found 14 players in the last decade that I have absolutely no recollection of them ever appearing in an A's uniform.

Most of them were from 1996-98, which makes sense, because (a) there have been plenty of time for those brain cells to evaporate, (b) the A's weren't very good in those years, and (c) I was working about 100 hours a week in them crazy dot-com days, so who had time to pay close attention to anything important like baseball?

Some of the names are familiar to me, but I don't remember them playing in Oakland. Here's the list:

For a sec, I thought I remembered watching Tim Kubinski, but then I realized I was thinking about the guy who married a monkey.

Anybody remember these guys?

What players have you forgotten from your favorite team? Or is that like asking what you look like in a mirror with your eyes closed?

I'm Taking Steroids!
2006-02-03 12:22
by Ken Arneson

OK, it's just a topical corticosteroid cream for an allergic rash, but I dig catchy titles. Take that, Will Carroll!

I'm also taking a strong antihistamine for the rash, so if I act oddl
y or fall as
leep in
the middle of th



...mmm...huh? where was i? oh february. i hate it. might as well sleep through it anyway. billy beane said at the fanfest that after signing mark ellis he's going to take a month off. zito trade: not happening. so what better time to be zonkkndkeided. i'll be coked to the gills when I bump that old buzzard off.

did you know the super bowl and i are twins? I was born first. I turn XL tomorrow, Supe turns on Sunday. we're having a combined party. I'd invite you over, but I'll probably just be a


ombie, and you could probably have more fun elsewhere. Maybe I'm a barrel of laffs when I be souped up on antihistamines and corticosteroids, but I doubabtttttttt it.

hehhhh i said tttttt it.

speaking of drugs you gotta wonder if the amphetamine ban is an ever bigger advantage for the a's this year. billy beane has constructed a very deep team, with quality replacements at practically every position. without their uppers, players may need more time off this year, and the a's will be in better position to exploit that than probably every other team. as joe sheehan said

When you consider the depth of the bench and bullpen, the A's may have the strongest 16-25 roster in the game. That matters over 162 games.
and especially ove r 162 greeniefree games?

of course if the green team relied on a lot of greenies in the past, they may suffer more than most, too. won't know til august september what am i saying we probably wont even know then. pay no attention to me im'm on the oppositittie of greenies.

hehhhh i said oppositittie

i listened to vince cotroneo on mlbradio yesterday, decent voice, a bit of a chatterbox, can probably give ray fosse a run for his runonsentence money if you know what i mean but i think he'll be at least inoffensive which is all i am relaly hoping 4

punctuatio nis too mcuh work who needs it anywys nd spacebar isawaste


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