Saturday, March 31, 2007

AL West 2007 Predictions

TEAM (definitely) / WINS (possibly)

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim - 92
Oakland Athletics - 85
Texas Rangers - 82
Seattle Mariners - 70

Gary Matthews Jr. got a big contract to be the center fielder, and he had a nice season (.371 OBP, 19 HR, .280 EqA), but those are career high numbers. Just the year before he had a .320 OBP, 17 HR, and a .255 EqA. The deciding question will be whether he is a late bloomer (six full seasons plus 103 games over his first two seasons) or baseball's equivalent of a one-hit wonder. Regardless, Los Angeles of Anaheim should have worked to improve their line-up a little; I don't think Shea Hillenbrand (21 HR, .313 OBP) is going to cut it, especially not when he is the second best power option after Vladimir Guerrero (33 HR, .307 EqA, 63.9 VORP, .382 OBP) and possibly Garret Anderson (17 HR, .256 EqA), at least until Juan Rivera (23 HR, 33.5 VORP, .362 OBP) returns from his broken leg sometime around June or July. With Bartolo Colon (-0.3 VORP) injured, the Angels have to rely on a rotation that is, quite frankly, good. John Lackey (47.1 VORP, 7.86 K/9, 1.26 WHIP), Ervin Santana (30.2 VORP, 6.22 K/9, 1.23 WHIP), Kelvim Escobar (33.9 VORP, 6.99 K/9, 1.28 WHIP), Jered Weaver (46.5 VORP, 7.68 K/9, 1.03 WHIP, 23 RAA) provide nice options, and their bullpen of Scot Shields (1.07 WHIP), Justin Speier (1.32 WHIP), phenom Francisco Rodriguez (1.10 WHIP, 47 saves, 12.08 K/9, 6.8 WARP), et al makes them a tough team to hit against.

Oakland led the division in OBP (.340) and HR (175), but they couldn't keep up with the Angels in pitching. With Zito (49.9 VORP) gone, things don't look like they will improve. After Rich Harden (1.22 WHIP, 9.45 K/9) and Dan Haren (1.21 WHIP, 41.4 VORP), the rest of the rotation doesn't wow me, although Joe Kennedy (1.34 WHIP, 9 RAA) has potential. Closer Huston Street (37 saves, 1.09 WHIP, 8.53 K/9) should have an even better year if he stays completely healthy. I'm not sure if Mike Piazza
(.287 EqA,, 22 HR) is a good enough replacement for Frank Thomas, but being a full-time DH helps. Nick Swisher (35 HR, .372 OBP, 6.6 WARP, 28.1 VORP) is the biggest bopper in the line-up, which means that HR total will probably decrease. I expect that Jason Kendall (.367 OBP, an entire HR), Eric Chavez (.351 OBP, 22 HR) and Bobby Crosby (.298 OBP, 9 HR) will probably have improved years this time around, but it will take a massive increase in production to overtake Los Angeles of Anaheim.

For a team that led the division in runs by a significant sum (835 vs. 771 and lower), the Texas Rangers just couldn't put anything together. Michael Young (46.0 VORP, 14 HR, .356 OBP) and Mark Teixeira (37.4 VORP, 33 HR, .371 OBP) should put up juicy numbers, and the team has to expect Hank Blalock (16 HR, .325 OBP) will rebound. The big question is what they can get out of Sammy Sosa (35 HR, .279 EqA in '04), who stunk in 2005 and missed all of 2006 watching soap operas (presumably). Texas is certainly hoping to get their own version of '06 Frank Thomas. Brad Wilkerson (-5.3 VORP, .306 OBP) was terrible and really needs to step up. The rotation isn't really that bad, with Kevin Millwood (32.9 VORP, 6.57 K/9), Vicente Padilla (29.2 VORP, 7.02 K/9) and Brandon McCarthy (14.1 VORP) all offering some potential for the upcoming season. Too bad they traded Chris Young, eh? The bullpen looks promising as well, with Akinori Otsuka (32 saves, 1.07 WHIP, 7.09 K/9) probably going to be the closer until, possibly, Eric Gagne (average of 11.3 K/9 from 02-04) gets back to his old ways (or stays off the DL).

Adrian Beltre (25 HR, .328 OBP) and Richie Sexson (34 HR, .338 OBP) have been disappointing, but they have provided most of the power on the team, along with Raul Ibanez (33 HR, .353 OBP, 37.8 VORP). Along with sophmore Kenji Johjima (24.0 VORP, 18 HR) and perennial Ichiro Suzuki (46.4 VORP, .370 OBP), the Mariners have a pretty interesting line-up. If they walk a little more overall, they could really be contenders. Of course, after Felix Hernandez (22.1 VORP) and Jarrod Washburn (20.6 VORP), they don't have much in the way of starters (please, spare me Jeff Weaver and his 1.51 WHIP), and that's not much anyway (both had -5 RAA). They have a nice closer in J.J. Putz (36 saves, 0.92 WHIP, 11.95 K/9), but the rest of the bullpen is hit or miss (or maybe hit and hit because they give up so many hits HAHAHA okay I'm done).

Stats (and crazy use of) can be found here. Complain if you need to.

Friday, March 30, 2007

AL Central 2007 Predictions

TEAM (for real) / WINS (just guessin')

Detroit Tigers - 87
Chicago White Sox - 85
Cleveland Indians - 81
Minnesota Twins - 81
Kansas City Royals - 60

The Tigers hitters had a terrible OBP (.329) last season, and scored less runs than both the White Sox and Indians. What really helped them was a 117 ERA+ and a 6.23 K/9 ratio, providing the second most dominant pitching staff in the Central after Minnesota. However, Jeremy Bonderman (39.8 VORP, 8.5 K/9) and Nate Robertson (43.4 VORP, 118 ERA+) both pitched in excess of 200 innings for the first time in their young careers, so I wonder if their will be any repercussions from that. Kenny Rogers (40.6 VORP, 1.26 WHIP) had a good season last year, but he's older and he probably won't be able to smear feces on his hands anymore. I also don't like Todd Jones (37 saves, 3.94 K/9, 1.27 WHIP) as a closer. Nevertheless, there's reason to have faith in the Tigers pitching, especially with bullpen studs like Joel Zumaya (1.18 WHIP) and Fernando Rodney (1.19 WHIP). The addition of elder Gary Sheffield should help (34 HR and .379 OBP in 2005), and having Magglio Ordonez (27.6 VORP, 24 HR, .350 OBP) and Carlos Guillen (66.3 VORP, 19 HR, .400 OBP) doesn't hurt. They need good years out of Brandon Inge (6.0 WARP, 27 HR) and Curtis Granderson (22.7 VORP, 19 HR), but Placido Polanco (.329 OBP) needs to stop getting out and Pudge Rodriguez (.332 OBP, 13 HR) needs to contribute more offensively. The Indians seem to be the trendy pick this year, and I'm surprised to be saying this, but I think the Tigers take the division in a close race.

I would pick the Chicago White Sox to win, because I don't expect Jim Thome (42 HR, .416 OBP, 62.6 VORP), Paul Konerko (35 HR, .381 OBP, 47.7 VORP) and Jermaine Dye (44 HR, .385 OBP, 64.6 VORP) to regress that far from last season's numbers, but how do you trust a line-up that has Scott Podsednik (.331 OBP, -9.9 VORP) and Darin Erstad (.279 in '06, .325 in '05) in the one and two holes? That's two guys who can't get on base in front of your three best hitters. Sticking Tadahito Iguchi (18 HR, .352 OBP) in the back of the line-up doesn't help, either. I like the rotation, though. Mark Buehrle (1.45 WHIP, 16.1 VORP) should have a better season this time around, and Jon Garland (1.36 WHIP, 32.4 VORP), Jose Contreras (1.27 WHIP, 33.1 VORP) and Javier Vazquez (1.29 WHIP, 22.8 VORP) could provide a decent presence on the mound, although Buehrle and Garland need to improve those K/9 rates (4.4 and 4.8, respectively). Bobby Jenks (41 saves, 10.0 K/9, 11 RAA) is one of the better closers in the AL, which also helps.

The Indians did well to pick up Josh Barfield to play second base, but they have to hope his ceiling is very high, because he didn't do much in terms of offense (.267 EqA, 13 HR, .318 OBP). Outside of Travis Hafner (79.7 VORP, .439 OBP, 42 HR), Victor Martinez (47.8 VORP, .391 OBP, 16 HR) and perhaps the best lead-off hitter in the division, Grady Sizemore (69.1 VORP, .375 OBP, 28 HR), I don't like this line-up at all. The pitching staff last year put up league average ERA (101 ERA+), a low K/9 rate (5.99) and a high WHIP (1.41). They have to hope that C.C. Sabathia (46.5 VORP, 1.17 WHIP), Jeremy Sowers (23.0 VORP, 1.19 WHIP), and new closer Joe Borowski (36 saves, 1.38 WHIP, 7.4 K/9) provide stability on the mound, or else their chances for a playoff spot are minimal.

As much as I love Johan Santana (1.00 WHIP, 245 Ks, 9.44 K/9, 79.6 VORP, 39 RAA, etc., etc.), what do the Twins do on days he's not pitching? I'm not in love with Carlos Silva (-7.6 VORP, 3.49 K/9, 1.54 WHIP), and really the best option after Santana is Boof Bonser (17.8 VORP, 7.53 K/9, 1.28 WHIP). Fransisco Liriano (51.0 VORP, 10.71 K/9, 31 RAA) won't be back for a long time. There's nothing really to scream about, and this rotation is going to tax an admittedly excellent bullpen. On non-Santana days that go well, you're going to need Juan Rincon (1.35 WHIP) to hold down the 7th and 8th before the outstanding Joe Nathan (0.79 WHIP, 36 Saves, 12.51 K/9) can close it out. As for hitting, Joe Mauer's .429 OBP and 66.9 VORP last year was sexy, but as a catcher, can he repeat? Michael Cuddyer (36.3 VORP, 24 HR, .362 OBP), Justin Morneau (52.0 VORP, 34 HR, .375 OBP), and Torii Hunter (32.6 VORP, 31 HR, .336 OBP) are nice options to have in the heart of the line-up. However, there's nothing about the Twins' hitters that makes me believe they can overcome a highly questionable pitching staff.

Gil Meche (-7 RAA, 7.0 K/9, 1.43 WHIP) was the big off-season acquisition for the Royals, which may not be terrible if he wasn't supposed to lead the rotation. Last year Kansas City as a team had an 85 ERA+, a 1.60 WHIP, and a 5.7 K/9 rate, all worst in the AL. The addition of closer Octavio Dotel (11.7 K/9 in '04) might help, although he hasn't played a full season since 2004. The Royals also were AL-worst in HR (124) and OPS+ (87, tied with Tampa Bay). If I'm a Royals fan, I pray I have a farm system that can be tested during the season, and I hope Mark Grudzielanek (will be 37 years old, 7 HR, .331 OBP), Reggie Sanders (39 years old, 11 HR, .304 OBP), and maybe Emil Brown (32 years old, 15 HR, .358 OBP) are traded for some prospects. May as well trade Mike Sweeney (will be 34, 8 HR, .349), too. Get younger, KC; you have no shot at anything else.

If you want to bitch at me about my choices and crazy, inconsistent use of statistics (explanation here, unload in the comments.

Highlander: Wasted Potential

Although not perfect, Highlander is one of my favorite films. The continuous sequels and variations have done nothing but disappoint, although I admit the "Duncan MacLeod" regular series had its moments. I recently learned that Imagi, the same company that animated the latest TMNT cartoon movie, was working on a Highlander film. Hmmm...lessons of the past have not sunk in with me, including the recent Highlander comic book with Connor MacLeod, so I decided to look into this film, Highlander: The Search for Vengeance, which comes out this summer:
The lone warrior Colin travels with the wise-cracking ghost Amergan through the ages searching for the immortal despot Marcus Octavius, who killed his lover on the Celtic plains tens of centuries ago. On his quest, he discovers New York is submerged, and one dominant monolith fortress towers over the seas. Colin can save the survivors, but his sword only hungers for the blood of one man. Despite many lifetimes of training, Colin has failed to vanquish Marcus on the great battlefields of history. Can he finish what he started and stop Marcus? Will Colin lead the people to freedom or become consumed by hate? There can be only one. Written by Tom Benton

Well, that sounds...terrible, to be honest. I thought the Highlander comic book was bad, but this is miles beyond that. I'm not sure if Colin MacLeod is a new character or based on something else I'm unfamiliar with, but either way it sounds like it's on par with Highlander II.

I'm not sure why it's so hard to get this franchise right, but apparently the people who control it are creative morons. Highlander is a great concept, and there's no excuse to keep botching it over and over and over again.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

AL East 2007 Predictions

TEAM (exact) / WINS (approximate)

New York Yankees - 95
Boston Red Sox - 92
Toronto Blue Jays - 88
Baltimore Orioles - 78
Tampa Bay Devil Rays - 70

The Yankees have a monstrous line-up, probably the best in the majors. Last season they were second in the AL in HR (210), first in Runs (930), and first in OPS+ (117). Robinson Cano is batting 8th, and last year he had a .293 EqA and a 49.1 VORP. The only glaring weakness is the 9th hole, which is filled by the declining Doug Mientkiewicz (.265 EqA, 4 HR, 1.4 WARP). The rotation looks pretty decent, although questions (Wang - 3.1 K/9, Pettite - back, Mussina - age, Igawa - unknown, Pavano - everything) do abound. The bullpen is anchored by the great Mariano Rivera (34 saves, 0.96 WHIP, 36 RAA), and the other pieces look as if they will work, especially if Scott Proctor (1.19 WHIP, 7.3 K/9) was not totally worn down by manager Joe Torre last year.

The Red Sox have a dynamite middle of the line up, with the addition of J.D. Drew (.305 EqA, 20 HR, 34.9 VORP) adding a solid 5th batter, but I'm not overly confident about the rest of the line-up. Julio Lugo (.341 OBP, 12 HR, 94 OPS+)? Coco Crisp (.241 EqA, 8 HR, .317 OBP)? Then there are the questions about how Jason Varitek (2.8 VORP, 12 HR) will rebound and whether Mike Lowell (20.7 VORP, 20 HR, 6.3 WARP) will come back with another positive season. The rotation is somewhat shaky, although if Curt Schilling (19 RAA, 1.22 WHIP, 7.9 K/9) stays healthy and Daisuke Matsuzaka (200 Ks, 0.92 WHIP with the Seibu Lions) translates his brilliance to the American League, the Red Sox should be able to piece together reasonable enough pitching, especially with Jonathan Papelbon (35 saves, 41 RAA, 0.78 WHIP, 9.5 K/9) back as closer in his sophmore year.

If they can repeat last year's numbers, Toronto's hitters actually look pretty good. Their 2-6 batters combined for a total of 148 HR (including new addition Frank Thomas, who hit 39 home runs, had a .302 EqA and a .381 OBP), they have a pretty good overall on-base average (except Royce Clayton, an abysmal .313 career OBP), and they even have respectable EqAs (and traditional ol' BA). I feel they could go lumber for lumber with the Red Sox, but believe it or not their pitching is actually worse than the Sox. I would take Roy Halladay (31 RAA, 1.10 WHIP, 68.0 VORP) any day of the week (minute WHIP balances out declining K/9 ratio), and A.J. Burnett (7.3 K/9, 1.30 WHIP) should be somewhat more effective, but who else do they have after that? They'll have to rely on their bullpen quite a bit, which, admittedly, is wonderful (led by closer B.J. Ryan's 10.7 K/9, not to mention his 0.86 WHIP and 38 saves).

Miguel Tejada (.294 EqA, 65.9 VORP) batted in 100 runs despite playing in a shoddy line up, but the most exciting player on the Orioles this season might be sophmore Nick Markakis (.270 EqA), who hit 16 home runs and had a .351 OBP last year, numbers that should improve in his second go-around. However, there's not much offensive power on the team, and with a questionable pitching staff that won't keep games close (the team gave up an AL worst 216 HR), Baltimore will lose more games than they win. Erik Bedard (7.84 K/9, 13 RAA) is a decent pitcher, but when he's the guy leading your rotation, you know you're in for a long season. Chris Ray (33 saves, 1.09 WHIP, 21 RAA) is a nice, young closer that sadly won't see a lot of save opportunities.

A couple of seasons ago, Tampa Bay had a surprisingly good offense, and I thought that would translate into a 4th place finish last year (small expectations). Well, led in part by Jonny Gomes (20 HR, .339 OBP despite a .215 BA) shoulder issues, the team collapsed offensively, finishing last in the AL in runs (689) and OBP (.314). Their pitching also stinks, and although Scott Kazmir (10.14 K/9, 18 RAA) and James Shields (7.51 K/9, 14.6 VORP) have potential, their WHIP last year (1.55) was second only to Kansas City; likewise, their number of losses might just be second only to Kansas City this season.

Feel free to argue with me in the comments, and if all that mumbly bullshit doesn't make sense, I explained what VORP, et al is here. I also acknowledge that my use of types of statistics is inconsistent, sometimes even in mid-comparison (I try to use the most illustrative stats for each player).

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

My preview of my 2007 MLB preview

As I like to do each year, I'm going to post my predictions for the upcoming MLB season. Although systems like PECOTA and CHONE, among others, use far more advanced and detailed numbers to predict outcomes, not to mention that trades and rookie call-ups can significantly alter the balance of divisional and wild card races, I enjoy doing this. Not only is it fun, but I get to learn a little more about teams than I would relying on hearsay from sports journalists and the like.

Over the past few years I have become increasingly enamored with advanced statistics, and you will see that I use them to illustrate my points, often inconsistently (sometimes I use VORP, sometimes I don't). I was a big fan of OPS up until recently, when I heard that OBP + SLG didn't work as well as we thought due to the fact that OBP should be weighed with more importance. Instead, as of recently, I like to rely on EqA, which uses a formula of different statistics like walks, stolen bases, hits, total bases, etc. The end result looks exactly like a batting average, with league average EqA being .260, according to Baseball Prospectus.

Here is a list of terms I use at least once:

BA - Batting Average (.300 is a traditional benchmark)
EqA - Equivalent Batting Average (total offensive value, adjusted for 2006 season)
ERA+ - Earned Run Average adjusted for parks and league the player is in
HR - Home Runs (I consider 30 HR to be a good offensive output)
Ks - Strike Outs
K/9 - Strike Out Ratio per 9 innings (I look for 7.0 or better; 10.0 or higher is fantastic)
OBP - On Base Percentage (also known as On Base Average)
OPS+ - OPS (as described above) adjusted for the parks and the league the player is in
RAA - Runs Above Average (runs allowed greater or less than league average; Johan Santana had a 39 RAA in '06, which is very good)
VORP - Value Over Replacement Player (how many runs extra per year a person is worth over a league average player; Santana had a 79.6 VORP)
WARP - Wins Above Replacement Player (same as VORP, but with wins instead of runs; Santana had a 9.9 VORP, i.e. the Twins would have won ten fewer games, theoretically)
WHIP - Walks & Hits/Innings Pitched (I consider 1.30 to be average; 1.00 or lower is outstanding)

Otherwise, I write things out (like Runs or Saves). I'll be posting each division and the wild card predictions separately, probably one per day.

Update: I've noticed sometimes I use number adjusted for the season, and sometimes numbers adjusted historically, which makes slight differences. It really depends which stats page I was looking at. Sorry for the inconsistency, but you get the general idea. Also, it will teach me to try and tame nature's numbers.

UPDATE 4/05/07 11:01 p.m. - My biggest problem with Baseball Prospectus is that I can't get a straight answer out of them. Their stats are adjusted for season, adjusted for all-time, adjusted for equivalents (which may be the same as adjusted for season...I don't know, and frankly I don't care to look it up). The point is, I'm using a lot of figures and they might not correspond to other sources. However, I'm in the ballpark (pun not intended but accepted), and isn't that what baseball is all about? Besides winning?

What does ESPN have on at 8 o'clock?

During their prime time line-up, from 8-10, they are airing...High School Basketball All-Star Game! OH BOY. I thought this was ESPN, not a local UHF channel. My mistake.

History is only as accurate as we make it

A commenter at Alicublog named Captain Goto pointed out an entertaining review of 300. The author, Gary Brecher, goes into the politics of the film, which regular reader(s) of my blog know I generally disapprove of, but he does so towards the end, which makes it one part and not the meat of his article. Here's a snippet from the piece -

The film only approves of two things:

1. Yelling

2. Bashing.

I say "bashing" because you can't call his view of military operations "strategy" or even "tactics." It's just close-ups of Leonidas's teeth while he yells about "freedom." He talks about "freedom" non-stop. I'm serious. A Spartan! Talking about freedom! Leonidas actually says, and this is a quote, "Freedom isn't free"! I thought I was back watching Team America: "Freedom isn't free/It costs a dollar ninety-three..."

And since the ham playing Leonidas has this thick Scottish accent, and teeth like an old horse, it was like some Clydesdale doing an impression of Mel Gibson in Braveheart at the same time. Left me woozy, I tell ya.

I might have to peruse his archive, if you know what I mean.

I mean read older articles. (EDIT: Upon further inspection, he is a war commentator, not a movie reviewer, hence explaining the approach in his review).

P.S. - Don't forget to read this colorful review of 300.

Monday, March 26, 2007

What the hell is wrong with IMDb?

I think it might be catering to perverts. While browsing the "Blow-job" [sic] category, I noticed that IMDb also has sections for Child Nudity, Child Rape and Altar Boys. Gross. I'm not going to see what movies are in those categories because I think the police might be monitoring.

"Cuckold" seems like the most useless category on the website.

If anyone wants to see 2005's The Long Weekend, it is listed under the following categories: Blow Job, Bloopers During Credits, Defecation Scene, Horse Penis, Male Nudity, Prison Rape and Zoophilia, among others. I am sooooo never going to watch that.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Sports are always the best when your team is doing well

Henrik Lundquvist, Rangers goalie, this past month: 8 wins, 1.42 GAA, 338 saves, .947 save percentage, 3 shutouts.

This past week: 3 wins, 0.65 GAA, 78 saves, .975 save percentage, 1 shutout.

Let's hope it carries over to the game today against the Islanders, which is starting right now.

Update 1:17 - Scoreless first period, with Lundqvist and DiPietro showing why they've kept their teams in the playoff race (and why they've been so good to me in my fantasy league). The Islanders have not been very good with the power play, so give credit to the Rangers line.

Update 2:10 - Colton Orr gets a wrap-around goal and the Rangers survive a 3 on 5 power play to take a 1-0 lead after two periods.

Update 3:26 - Alexei Yashin got a dribble goal to tie the game in the 3rd period, and the Islanders survived their own 3 on 5 power play to send the game to overtime, where Brendan Shanahan passed to Michael Nylander for the GOOOAAALLL. Rangers win.