Archive for July, 2008


I’m messing around with the theme this morning. If things go down, don’t be surprised.

UPDATE: Well, it wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, but it will do for now.

SoSH ALS Auction Update

Rick sends along an update about a new auction item up for bid.

Here is the package that is up for bid for fans of The Office:

The winner and a guest will receive a tour of “The Office” production facilities, including the sets and the backstage areas, and depending on the timing, may be able to watch footage being shot for a future episode. Winner will also eat lunch with the crew. Schedule permitting, “Office” writer and SoSH member Ken Tremendous will also be there to conduct some of the tour himself, unless for some reason that diminishes the value of the package in your eyes. Don’t miss this opportunity sit in Michael Scott’s chair, holding his “World’s Best Boss” mug.

Hook-up and bonus time donated by “The Office” writer and SoSH Member Ken Tremendous!

Retail Value: For you? Priceless.
Minimum bid: $200

Auction ends 8/10 at 6 PM

Here is a link to the auction.

For those of you who don’t know, Ken Tremendous is Michel Schur‘s blogging pseudonym at Fire Joe Morgan. Schur is a producer and writer for The Office, but you probably know him as Dwight Shrute‘s cousin Mose.

I’m a huge fan of The Office, and this is quite a donation.

Until the auction has finished, I am running a link to the auction/donation site in all posts. So, if you forget where to give, just stop by Sabernomics to get the link.

Hobbyists versus Experts

This post by Steven Levitt makes me smile.

On Tuesday afternoons we had wine tastings. I asked if I could be allowed the opportunity to conduct one of these wine tastings “blind” to see what we could learn from sampling wines without first knowing what we were drinking. Everyone thought this was a great idea. So with the help of the wine steward I selected two expensive bottles from the wine cellar and then I went down the street to the liquor store and bought the cheapest bottle of wine they had made from the same type of grape….

The results could not have been better for me. There was no significant difference in the rating across the four wines; the cheap wine did just as well as the expensive ones. Even more remarkable, for a given drinker, there was more variation in the rankings they gave to the two samples drawn from the same bottle than there was between any other two samples. Not only did they like the cheap wine as much as the expensive one, they were not even internally consistent in their assessments….

Fifteen years later, I am happy to report that the results of my little experiment have been confirmed by rigorous academic research involving more than 5,000 subjects, as published in this working paper of the American Association of Wine Economists. Their conclusion: fancy people with lots of training can tell cheap wine from expensive wine, but regular people cannot.

What lesson should we take from this? No matter what, do not let yourself become a wine expert who can tell the difference between cheap and expensive wines. When it comes to your pocketbook and wine, ignorance is bliss.

I would like to add one further lesson. It is easy to fool yourself into thinking that you know what you are doing.

Help Fight ALS

Sons of Sam Horn is hosting a charity auction to aid the fight of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), which is more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. I have contributed a signed copy of The Baseball Economist to be included in the Sons of Sam Horn Library, Inscribed auction.

I encourage you to visit the auction site to view many of the items up for bid. You do not have to be a member of SoSH to bid. And even if you do not wish to bid on any of the items you can still donate to the cause.

How the auction works

Curt's Pitch

2008 PrOPS-Stars, Overperformers, and Underperformers

Here are the top-three performers in terms of PrOPS by position and league (via THT).
If you are unfamiliar with PrOPS, it is a metric that estimates how players typically perform in terms of OPS based on how they hit the ball, along with a few other characteristics. You can read the primer here.

National League						American League				
Year 	Last 	First 	Tm 	PrOPS 		Year 	Last 		First 	Tm 	PrOPS 
2008	McCann	Brian M	ATL	0.900		2008	Mauer		Joe	MIN	0.841
2008	Soto	Geovany	CHN	0.868		2008	Hernandez	Ramon	BAL	0.793
2008	Martin	Russell	LAN	0.861		2008	Rodriguez	Ivan	DET	0.727

Year 	Last 	First 	Tm 	PrOPS 		Year 	Last 		First 	Tm 	PrOPS 
2008	Pujols	Albert	STL	1.054		2008	Giambi		Jason	NYA	1.017
2008	Berkman	Lance	HOU	0.961		2008	Youkilis	Kevin	BOS	0.853
2008	Howard	Ryan J	PHI	0.940		2008	Morneau		Justin	MIN	0.838

Year 	Last 	First 	Tm 	PrOPS 		Year 	Last 		First 	Tm 	PrOPS 
2008	Utley	Chase	PHI	1.001		2008	Kinsler		Ian M	TEX	0.834
2008	Uggla	Dan C	FLA	0.894		2008	Ellis		Mark	OAK	0.803
2008	DeRosa	Mark	CHN	0.849		2008	Roberts		Brian	BAL	0.792

Year 	Last 	First 	Tm 	PrOPS 		Year 	Last 		First 	Tm 	PrOPS 
2008	Jones	Chipper	ATL	1.030		2008	Rodriguez	Alex	NYA	0.946
2008	Ramirez	Aramis	CHN	0.922		2008	Lowell		Mike	BOS	0.870
2008	Wright	David A	NYN	0.910		2008	Longoria	Evan	TB	0.867

Year 	Last 	First 	Tm 	PrOPS 		Year 	Last 		First 	Tm 	PrOPS 
2008	Ramirez	Hanley	FLA	0.921		2008	Peralta		Jhonny	CLE	0.797
2008	Reyes	Jose	NYN	0.820		2008	Scutaro		Marco	TOR	0.775
2008	Rollins	Jimmy	PHI	0.808		2008	Renteria	Edgar	DET	0.751

Year 	Last 	First 	Tm 	PrOPS 		Year 	Last 		First 	Tm 	PrOPS 
2008	Dunn	Adam	CIN	1.057		2008	Cust		Jack	OAK	0.956
2008	Burrell	Pat	PHI	1.025		2008	Quentin		Carlos 	CHA	0.926
2008	Lee	Carlos	HOU	0.912		2008	Ramirez		Manny	BOS	0.882

Year 	Last 	First 	Tm 	PrOPS 		Year 	Last 		First 	Tm 	PrOPS 
2008	Ankiel	Rick	STL	0.898		2008	Sizemore	Grady	CLE	0.932
2008	Beltran	Carlos	NYN	0.878		2008	Hamilton	Josh 	TEX	0.926
2008	McLouth	Nate	PIT	0.877		2008	Swisher		Nick 	CHA	0.879

Year 	Last 	First 	Tm 	PrOPS 		Year 	Last 		First 	Tm 	PrOPS 
2008	Ludwick	Ryan	STL	0.992		2008	Drew		J.D.	BOS	0.954
2008	Hawpe	Brad  	COL	0.896		2008	Dye		JermaineCHA	0.908
2008	Nady	Xavier	PIT	0.872		2008	Markakis	Nick	BAL	0.883

						Year 	Last 		First 	Tm 	PrOPS 
						2008	Bradley		Milton	TEX	1.045
						2008	Thome		Jim	CHA	0.941
						2008	Huff		Aubrey	BAL	0.865

Also here is a list of the top-25 overperformers, which means their OPS exceed their PrOPS. I expect these players’ performances to decline.

Last 		First 	Tm 	PrOPS 	OPS 	OPS-PrOPS 
Berkman		Lance	HOU	0.961	1.096	0.135
Kinsler		Ian 	TEX	0.834	0.945	0.111
Lewis		Fred 	SF	0.701	0.798	0.097
Uggla		Dan 	FLA	0.894	0.978	0.084
Damon		Johnny	NYA	0.774	0.856	0.082
Youkilis	Kevin 	BOS	0.853	0.933	0.080
Holliday	Matt 	COL	0.896	0.975	0.079
Jones		Adam 	BAL	0.658	0.732	0.074
Roberts		Brian	BAL	0.792	0.864	0.072
Morneau		Justin	MIN	0.838	0.903	0.065
Granderson	Curtis	DET	0.782	0.838	0.056
Jones		Chipper	ATL	1.030	1.086	0.056
Rios		Alex 	TOR	0.691	0.737	0.046
Durham		Ray	SF	0.754	0.799	0.045
Loney		James 	LAN	0.752	0.796	0.045
Gomez		Carlos 	MIN	0.594	0.638	0.044
Hudson		Orlando	ARI	0.773	0.816	0.044
Guzman		CristianWAS	0.721	0.765	0.044
Rowand		Aaron	SF	0.764	0.804	0.041
McCann		Brian 	ATL	0.900	0.940	0.040
Young		Delmon 	MIN	0.677	0.716	0.039
Ramirez		Hanley	FLA	0.921	0.957	0.036
Reyes		Jose	NYN	0.820	0.854	0.035
Young		Michael	TEX	0.743	0.777	0.034
Hart		Corey 	MIL	0.799	0.831	0.033

And here are the top-25 underperformers. I expect these players to improve.

Last 		First 	Tm 	PrOPS 	OPS 	OPS-PrOPS 
Sanchez		Freddy	PIT	0.721	0.556	-0.165
Cust		Jack	OAK	0.956	0.815	-0.140
Dunn		Adam	CIN	1.057	0.918	-0.138
Hernandez	Ramon	BAL	0.793	0.664	-0.128
Renteria	Edgar	DET	0.751	0.627	-0.124
Swisher		Nick 	CHA	0.879	0.754	-0.124
Mora		Melvin	BAL	0.802	0.688	-0.114
Howard		Ryan 	PHI	0.940	0.832	-0.108
Greene		Khalil	SD	0.701	0.593	-0.107
Cabrera		Melky	NYA	0.751	0.648	-0.103
Giambi		Jason	NYA	1.017	0.915	-0.103
Millar		Kevin	BAL	0.828	0.730	-0.098
Garko		Ryan 	CLE	0.765	0.668	-0.098
Griffey, Jr.	Ken	CIN	0.843	0.748	-0.096
Scutaro		Marco	TOR	0.775	0.680	-0.095
Cano		RobinsonNYA	0.737	0.643	-0.094
Beltre		Adrian	SEA	0.863	0.769	-0.094
Delgado		Carlos	NYN	0.876	0.784	-0.092
Kent		Jeff	LAN	0.801	0.711	-0.090
Francoeur	Jeff 	ATL	0.746	0.659	-0.087
Ellis		Mark	OAK	0.803	0.716	-0.087
Helton		Todd	COL	0.866	0.783	-0.083
Barton		Daric 	OAK	0.718	0.639	-0.080
Pierre		Juan	LAN	0.716	0.644	-0.072

The Economics of Trading Teixeira

Frank Stephenson at Division of Labour explains to Peter Gammons the economics of trading Mark Teixeira.

The Braves choice is to compare the net gain from keeping Teixeira to the value of the talent they can acquire for him. If trade rumors are to be believed, there are no teams offering substantial talent for Teixeira (this can, of course, change between now and the July 31 trade deadline). There would be two advantages to trading him for prospects rather than waiting for draft choices. One, as noted above, is that draft choices require signing bonuses. The other is acquiring prospects who have already played, say, 2-3 seasons of minor league baseball gives (for both the Braves and the trading team) a better read on whether they will turn out to be bona fide major league talent. That is, prospects with minor league experience are less risky than newly drafted players who have not yet begun the transition from high school or college to pro baseball.

I would like to address another popular incorrect statement that I keep hearing about the acquisition of Teixeira: that the loss of prospects was a waste unless the team re-signs him. Signing Tex has very little to do with giving up prospects to get him. As a result of his service time, the Braves acquired the right to play Teixeira for 1.5 years. After his indenture expires, he is free to sign with another team. Let’s say the Braves signed him on the free agent market after playing for the Rangers, what would the Braves give up? His salary and the team would lose some compensatory draft picks that would have gone to Texas. What will the Braves give up if they sign him after this season? His salary, and possibly some additional compensatory draft picks for signing with anther team. In both cases, the forgone prospects are irrelevant. The prospects the Braves lost were given up for the time he played with the Braves. Re-signing him has very little to do with them. The only small gain is that he might have been willing to sign for a little less than the free market premium to insure against risk of injury; but considering the fact that his agent is Scott Boras, there was little chance of that happening.

I’ve often heard the Tim Hudson deal discussed in these same terms. The Braves got Hudson for several years for only a few prospects. In fact, the Braves got Hudson for one-year for a few prospects. The Braves signing of Hudson to a long-term deal is a separate issue.

Three Days in Double-A

I recently heard from someone who is tired of my Jeff Francoeur posts. Well, because it’s basically been Frenchy week at Sabernomics, I couldn’t resist one more post.

3 Days in AA = 123K
Francoeur’s ninth-inning at-bat versus San Diego last night.

Brought to you courtesy of Phil Wellman, who apparently teaches his players to succeed in the Braves organization through means other than hitting.

Addendum: I’ve also been reading comments that Jeff looks like he’s back to being his old self after his three days in Mississippi. Let’s see.

Pre-Demotion: .234/.287/.374/.661
Post-Promotion: .238/.238/.381/.619

I agree; however, I believe people claiming that he is back to his old self are referring to another small sample of his career. Let’s face it folks, Jeff is who he is.

What Is Sports Economics?

That’s the question Dennis Coates (President of the North American Association of Sports Economists) asks over at The Sports Economist.

There was less agreement on what sports economics is. One possibility was that sports economics was the study of those “sports” that were commercial, though I think there was unanimous agreement that such a definition was far too narrow. Another possibility was that sports economics is defined by the application of price or decision theory. For example, a study that examines sport using incentives and objective functions or tries to understand, explain, or predict choices in a sport context is sports economics.

Here is my, which I posted in the comments. It is from my book review of John Fizel’s Handbook of Sports Economics in Managerial and Decision Economics.

It is the job of the economist to study interesting phenomena of human behavior, even if the application appears to be limited to the subject studied; thus, when such phenomena occur in sports, economists should study them. Sports games offer a wealth of data on human action in a controlled setting, and that ought to be a sufficient reason to study them.

Neglecting to study puzzles for their own sake can have two undesirable consequences. First, the researcher might fail to discover something that is relevant to non-sports economists, which was not initially obvious. As a general lesson of science, discoveries often happen serendipitously. It was not Rottenberg’s intention to discover a principle that is applicable to areas other than sports leagues. After engaging his curiosity within sports, other economists eventually realized the universality of his findings.

Second, if economists do not explore what is actually going on in sports games, future researchers will lack the knowledge necessary to use sports games to understand human behavior in general. Understanding the games is important, even if it only aides the researchers in identifying the proper control variables to include for studies that are relevant to non-sports economists. For example, to study racial discrimination in sports using performance and salary data—a common exercise in sports economics research—the social scientist must be able to properly value player contributions to insure the empirical models are properly specified. Statistics like the slugging percentage and earned run average in baseball are common measures of productivity, yet they are deeply flawed metrics. Without the proper evaluation, economists are left to trust the “conventional wisdom” of the public, which economists would not do for any other subject.

Ultimately, it is the job of all economists to observe economics everywhere; to study human beings “in the ordinary business of life” as Alfred Marshall put it. As Levitt and Dubner (2005) state in Freakonomics, “Since the science of economics is primarily a set of tools, as opposed to a subject matter, then no subject, how offbeat, need be beyond its reach.” Sports generate many intriguing economic questions that no economist should feel ashamed to answer, and it is probably the “freakonomic” appeal of sports economics that leads most economists to study it.

Why Does Everyone Want Frenchy to Go the Other Way?


Playing for the first time since being sent to Double-A Mississippi to get his head and swing right this past weekend, Jeff Francoeur looked good in three of his five at-bats.

His only hit was a fifth-inning single through the left side of the infield. But he grounded sharply to the right side during his first plate appearance and didn’t look pull-happy in the fourth inning when he hit a sharp fly ball to right field.

Putting aside the sample size issue, I am tired of hearing people (I’m talking directly to you Joe Simpson) praise the virtue of hitting to the opposite field. While the ability to hit to all fields is a nice skill, not everyone has it. Take Jeff Francoeur, for example. Thanks to Baseball-Reference’s splits we can see how he performs when he hits the ball to different parts of the field (career numbers below).

Pulled		441	0.451	0.447	0.815	1.261	0.396
Up Mdle		822	0.297	0.296	0.46	0.756	0.269
Opp FldR	258	0.289	0.283	0.443	0.726	0.275

He is far more successful when he pulls the ball. There is an Braves folk tale that involves Joe Torre telling Dale Murphy “there are a lot of hits out there in right field.” Unfortunately, there are a lot of outs over there too, and Frenchy’s finding plenty of them.

Unfortunately, similar data are not available for Mr. Simpson’s career. However, we can look at hitting coach Terry Pendleton‘s splits.

Pulled-RHB	286	0.396	0.396	0.714	1.110	0.347
Up Mdle-RHB	553	0.293	0.290	0.357	0.648	0.285
Opp Fld-RHB	254	0.421	0.419	0.556	0.975	0.414
Pulled-LHB	611	0.396	0.393	0.723	1.116	0.336
Up Mdle-LHB	1164	0.305	0.304	0.401	0.705	0.294
Opp Fld-LHB	446	0.370	0.362	0.540	0.902	0.344

It’s easy to see why TP preaches the opposite-field philosophy: it worked for him. However, it doesn’t look like this is the proper approach for Frenchy.

Francoeur’s problem is a simple one: he has no plate discipline. He needs to worry about what he swings at rather than where he hits the ball when he makes contact.

More Francoeur Quote Mischief?

This morning, the AJC published another Jeff Francoeur response to his demotion in an article entitled “Tom Glavine throws without pain“.

“It’s been something that I never thought I would have to deal with, but at the same time I’m looking forward to getting back and helping these guys out,” said Francoeur, who reiterated twice Tuesday that he didn’t think the minor league assignment was necessary.

Here is what the AP reported.

“Not one thing that I said do I regret,” Francoeur said. “Obviously, a lot of it’s emotion, but a lot of it is how I felt. Was it right to sent me down? I didn’t think so, and that was my opinion.”

Why wasn’t the latter quote reported in the AJC? It is an emphatic indictment of the Braves front office. He’s not backing down, and the front office has acted to remedy his displeasure. I think it is important information that ought to have been reported.

In my opinion, the AJC sports section gets a lot of undeserved criticism. They do a good job, and Dave O’Brien is a fantastic beat writer. But I am really concerned that about what is going on here. Why were Francoeur’s earlier remarks retracted, and why don’t we get the juice of the AP’s quote?