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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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 C 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 1B 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 2B 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 3B 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 SS 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 LF 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 CF 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 RF 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 DH 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Field PA AVG OBP SLG OPS BABIP 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.
Field PA AVG OBP SLG OPS BABIP 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.
“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?