Opinion: Not all bad

The prevailing thoughts have been that MLB is not in a good spot when the best players are being traded away. The more pressing part is that the return for the player has been seemingly has less value than what the trading team “should” have received. Many believe these trades are happening as a result of “salary dump” because the teams can’t afford the player. I suppose in some cases that might be true, like the Indians with Lindor, but I don’t like this thought process at all. I think it is good for baseball to have the best players on competitive teams.

The Rockies are one of the worst teams in MLB for 2021. They were going to lose nearly 100 games with Arenado or without him. MLB teams are businesses with revenue goals, budgets, and future growth aspirations like any other business. Business owners make tough decisions that are best for their businesses. MLB is no different. Last season is exposing some of the teams with financial impacts. Playing less games with no one in attendance really changes the revenue model. Maybe it was an unforeseen situation with the pandemic, but every team was in the same boat. Executives are expected to navigate through the troubling waters as such when they come out the other side into calm waters, they can operate on full go again. Every decision made leading into last season won’t return the expected outcome. The Arenado deal made by COL is one of those deals. He almost walked last year and everyone was up in arms over that. COL signed him to a very large contract that now made the dealings of this season very hard to overcome. It was a bad choice last year, so this trade frees them of their errors and now they can rebuild under less financial burdens.

As far as from a fans stand point, I want to see the best players playing in the most impactful games. Arenado on the COL would not have provided that. Now as a STL Cardinal, he will be in impactful games. STL is the expected division winner in the NL Central, so he will play games that are important. A few years back, Alex Rodriguez went to the NY Yankees. Everyone said bad for baseball because only the “rich” can afford players like him. Same theme as with Arenado just recycled. A-Rod was no longer hidden away in Texas on teams that didn’t play meaningful games. He was now in the spotlight everyday. The players need to produce, and if they do, they build upon the legacy they leave from the last team. None of that is guaranteed.

The continued recycling of how this stuff is bad for the sport is “hogwash”. Business decisions of the past have led to these moments and almost forced the actions to happen. The Rays moving Snell or the Indians moving Lindor are smart. They both made moves prior to being forced to, thus are continually building while fielding their best possible teams. COL is not in that spot, so they are forced to build from a position of weakness, yet that is due to their errored methodology as business decisions from last year have gone awry. These poor business decisions need to have accountability go with them as such that teams will not put themselves in these spots in the future. The Rays are great examples of how their executives are consistently making moves that keep the product relevant. If you are not relevant, it is not always the star player, but more commonly the executives who are running the teams. I want to see these star players in the largest spotlight available. It is good for the game to have it’s most meaningful games represented with the most talented players.

Let’s be GM of the Angles today

The Angels play in the AL West division which the OAK A’s won in 2020. In fact, the Angels finished 4th in the division last year even behind the SEA Mariners. Their record was 26-34 and were 10 games back. However, their play was much better than this record and the true gap is NOT that wide. Indeed, I can make a case where they should have been only 1 game back and should have been a playoff team!

Using BaseRuns as the “true” measure of the team performance, the record for the Angels was 31-29. The A’s was 32-28. BaseRuns is vital as it indicates a team’s record based off of offense and defense performance. It indicates what should have happened against what did happen based off performance. Whether there was a leadership issue with Joe Maddon, bullpen collapses, or just bad luck, being able to identify the true worth of a team helps lead to identifying opportunities in the betting market.

The Angels are an ACE starting pitcher away from being the best team in the AL West. OAK leads the West in starting pitcher WAR 13.0 and LAA 12.0 projections. HOU leads in offense by a wider margin, but is last of the three in starting pitching. If HOU and OAK are the front runners with betting lines of OAK +110 and HOU +175 for the division, then LAA at +375 is already a good value in the market. The projected wins for HOU is 89 and for LAA is 86; only 3 games variance (OAK 84). Angels project a 2nd place finish yet the market line is not reflective of this (having them third) creating value to them now. What if we could get Trevor Bauer?

Bauer would become the best starter in the division the day he signs! His projection of 3.8 WAR makes up the 3 games variance behind the Astros. I like that it would slot Heaney, Bundy and Quintana properly behind him. An area of concern for this team a season ago would become the reason why they can win one season later! Bauer would be a favorite over any other pitcher in the division! HOU best pitchers are Framber Valdez and an aging Zach Greinke. OAK best pitchers are Jesus Luzardo and Frankie Montas. Really, all those pitchers would be no guarantee of being favorites over Heaney or Bundy or at least they would be small favorites.

Get out in front of this now! The Angels will do something with the remaining off season to address this issue. They are better than they are perceived to be. If you wager today, you get best number. Wagering later, will put you behind the sharpest plays. Even if there is zero additions, the value is proper. Make your bet today! I just got Angles +380 at Bookmaker!

What can MLB standings tell us?

2020 MLB Standings Fangraphs

The prior year MLB standings carry prognostication power when looking into a team’s future performance. Their overall won/loss record tells a story, however, that story can be misleading or even tell an untruth or two. Our goal must be to level set the “true” value of a team. We build from a data opinion which leads to better accuracy of worth. Knowing the team’s worth, we use it as a starting point in developing an opinion for the approaching season.

There are three columns listed above. The first is the actual wins and losses. The second is the Pythagorean theory, and the third is the BaseRuns. Each variable has a specific purpose. Column one (actual performance) represents what happened in terms of wins, losses, run differential, runs per game, and runs against per game. Column two (PythagenPat) is a model of what should have happened based on how many runs were scored and allowed, then converts into wins and losses. This model is built around scoring. Column three (BaseRuns) indicates what should have happened based on offensive and defensive team performance. Using this column, we need to think about base runners, advancement of base runners, outs, and automatic runs (HRs). This model incorporates performance, hence should be most accurate gauge of true worth.

The actual record is the baseline. Let’s look at SD Padres 37-23. Column two indicates a -1. This reflects their actual wins were one less than it should have been based on runs scored and runs allowed, thus they should have had a record of 38-22. In the Padres case, column three shows the same result as column two. There is not much variance between the actual result with the result of what should have happened. Thus, SD level sets with like they ended 2020.

Now let’s look at the NY Mets. Their actual record was 26-34. Column two indicates a -2. This reflects their actual records was two less wins than it should have been, thus their record should have been 28-32. Column three indicates a -5 indicating their performance should have earned them 5 more wins and a record of 31-29. A record of 26-34 (actual) is a winning percentage of .433. A record of 31-29 is a winning percentage of .520. The Mets go from a below average team to an above average team without playing a game.

Why is this significant? Let’s compare the Mets and the Marlins. The Braves won the division and the Marlins finished second 31-29. The Mets and Nationals finished tied for the bottom behind the Phillies. Shuffling the view to the third column, the Marlins were +7. They won 7 games where their performance indicated they should not have, thus their new record would be 24-36. Doing the same for the rest of the division would put the Mets finishing in second not last. The Mets would likely have taken the Marlins spot in the playoffs too. The Marlins should have finished in last place! The importance of this comes into view when level setting for 2021. We must view the Mets as an above average team or even a playoff team coming into 2021, then look at their off-season player movement, and regression and progression analysis. The Marlins need to be viewed as a bottom feeder first, then apply the rest of the analysis. The Marlins fit the bill for the “untruth” being told about the quality of their team. The Mets also fit the bill but the other direction. It will make the opinion of the teams more accurate for their outcome projections of 2021.

2021 is a season to enjoy

Mar 25, 2019; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; On deck mat with MLB logo and gear in the first inning during a spring training game between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Toronto Blue Jays at Olympic Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

The 2020 season had many problems. The Covid-19 pandemic, no fans in the stands, outbreaks amongst teams, rule changes, only 60 games and more. There was a mini season with a World Series champion so all was not lost. In fact, the best team won mitigating some of the issues from the season.

2021 intends to be a complete 162 games. I think we should enjoy this as much as we possibly can. It might be the calm before the storm! Last year, while trying to start the season, the owners and the MLBPA could not agree on anything. They had issues agreeing to rules regarding pay, schedules, playoffs and so forth. There was no playoff agreement until opening day last year! It was ugly at times. This season season is special for one reason alone. This season is the last season under the current CBA. There will need to be a new CBA for 2022. Based on the troubles in communication, trust, and betterment of the game; it is the last season we stand a chance of having before negotiations get hot and heavy again.

Although this season has yet to have Spring Training or pitchers and catchers report, there are some negations currently on going. The teams don’t know about the rules carry overs from 2020 for example. The latest proposal from the owners was to have a unified DH in both leagues, which the players want, but to get it, the players had to agree to extended teams inclusion into the playoffs. The two issues were tied together by the owners. The MLBPA declined that proposal and did not counter offer as of yet. The MLBPA believe that extending the playoffs allows more teams in the playoffs; hence the teams will then not try to be as competitive, which could limit free agent signings. The owners would incur a cost of the DH as another player on the roster, but would recover some by getting playoff revenue to compensate. Regardless of your stance, we continue to see these sides battle over everything.

As simple as trying to get a DH into the game may seem, it has become apparent that every issue will be negotiated hard. The current CBA gives the owners leverage because they can always fall back on what was agreed to. In 2022, there will be no CBA, as it has yet to be written. Imagine rehashing every item, every rule, pay structure and having to agree for a new CBA. I do not expect this process to go well at all. In fact, I expect this to be very tedious and extremely ugly. The MLBPA does not trust the owners. This is crystal clear. The impact of this will be devastating at the negotiation table. The point is, labor will be a topic around the game once this season ends and possibly have “pop up” scenarios during this season. Pay close attention to how the sides work together. It might be a forecast into the 2022 negotiations.

It leads me to this understanding of the 2021 season. 2022 is uncertain at best. A labor problem is likely and current trend makes it seem lengthy. It means this 2021 season needs to be enjoyed to its fullest. Regardless if you like a bad team or a good one, recognize these are the best players in the world. Their day to day performances are amazing. When you get a chance to see a live game….GO! Who knows if 2022 will provide us with those opportunities. It is a unique sport where every pitch thrown is by a pitcher that is the best in the world. His purpose is to disrupt the timing and rhythm of the best hitters in the world. It is a battle on every pitch.

Enjoy the games, we might not be able to later. My advice is to capitalize now. Take nothing for granted. Get into the details and be in awe of how great today’s MLB players really are. Every pitch, every swing, every field of a groundball or a flyball matters. Above all else, have fun watching the games!

Interesting; Good hitter but hole in swing?

MLB is a sport where rhythm, timing, muscle memory, and routine are common successful traits when players are properly executing. Pitching is all about changing the timing, rhythm, expected location, and speed to disrupt a proper swing. Hitting is all about identifying what pitch is on the way, where it is going to be, and what velocity it is arriving at. The question is what batters are making solid contact per swing, not per at bat? Once identified, does it really matter if they swing and miss, or have a high strike out rate because they are productive anyway?

I found a way to measure this. There is a Stat Cast metric Hardhit% per swing. It does just that. It measure 95+ mph exit velocity per swing! It is similar to barrels, but exactly the same. A top 25 hitter under this stat would be someone who has limited holes in their swing. They are not fooled often and make solid contact better than the average hitter, thus they should be a good hitter. I want to compare that to the Sabermetric stat wOBA. wOBA is a very important metric. It is an offensive all inclusive metric. wOBA is based on a simple concept: Not all hits are created equal. Batting average assumes that they are. On-base percentage does too, but does one better by including other ways of reaching base such as walking or being hit by a pitch. Slugging percentage weights hits, but not accurately (Is a double worth twice as much as a single?) and again ignores other ways of reaching base. On-base plus slugging (OPS) does attempt to combine the different aspects of hitting into one metric, but it assumes that one percentage point of SLG is the same as that of OBP. In reality, a handy estimate is that OBP is around twice as valuable than SLG. In short, OPS is asking the right question, but we can arrive at a more accurate number quite easily. Weighted On-Base Average combines all the different aspects of hitting into one metric, weighting each of them in proportion to their actual run value.

Lets see what happens when we compare Hardhit% per swing with wOBA. The first chart is Hardhit% per swing. Followed by wOBA chart.

The wOBA chart is the most important in terms of the hitter being productive so lets see how many of the top 25 are on both carts. The answer is only 9 hitters are on both charts. This answers a very big question for those who believe the strikeout hurts the game. The top 25 batters in MLB are not the same 25 batters who hit the ball hard per swing. It corelates the best hitters will swing and miss, yet be more productive than someone who hits the ball hard more often.

Marcell Ozuna (#3 wOBA) is the first not on the top 25 hardhit% chart. Clearly he has a K% of 22.5% so he has swing and miss. Jose Ramirez (#5 wOBA), Ronald Acuna (#6 wOBA), Trea Turner (#7 wOBA), Dominic Smith (#8 wOBA), and Nelson Cruz ( #9 wOBA) are all top ten but do not get on the hardhit% per swing chart. In general, it is easy to see why, their K% rates are higher n most cases. Ramirez and Turner are the only ones not above 20%.

The data shows while making hard contact per swing would seem like a tie in to performance, it does not. It doesn’t mean it is a poor trait to have, yet it is not a focus point for success. There is a guy on the top 25 wOBA list with 30% K rate! This supports the idea that swings and misses or strikeouts, are not as bad as we think. It isn’t pretty but it is reality. MLB conceptually has changed and we need to understand performance of the players today against the concepts we have of what good looks like. I guess in my mind. I would like to see the guys who miss get better making contact and maybe they would move up the wOBA charts.

2021 Season Forecasting

The previews cannot officially begin without an understanding of what last year was. When we investigate forecasting 2021, we do rely on many conditions; some of which are, 2020 and its relevant data, the previous most recent seasons and those trends, age, team changes, off season development, and more. In the past, the previous season was largely the single most influencer to predict the future for most players and teams. Not the case for everyone or every team, yet strong weighting compared to some of the others. This year forecasting will be more difficult unless the homework is done properly.

            The “season 2020” had a World Series Champion, played meaningful games, gave young players opportunities to see what they could do, and more. The season was largely experimental. We had to deal with the Covid protocol for the sport which altered the number of games played and the rules. We had zero fans in the stands until the playoffs, then were limited to only a few. The games came across well on tv, but the players have said they felt like exhibitions. The rules were changed for safety. We had a DH in both leagues, extra innings rules, 3 batter minimums for pitcher changes, doubleheader changes, scheduling, and safety protocols like no other. The changes and length of the season do alter what we need to consider for the 2021 forecasts.

            A simple understanding is the length of the season. MLB played 60 games or roughly 2 months. A normal season is 162 games and 7 months. Batters made 250-260 at bats in 2020, but in 2019 (a 162-game season), they made 650-700 at bats. Starting pitchers made 12 starts in 2020 and made 30+ in 2019. This gap is large, and we need to view it with importance. A complete season will often have peaks and valleys in performance. A segment of 60 games often reflects those outlier performances, but due to the length of the season, evens out the final numbers. The year 2020 will NOT have the evening out of the numbers. Certain players or teams will not have had their successes or failures included. MLB tv doing the best position player available now series, usually includes the previous season and the one prior. This year they included last season and the previous two seasons to get to their results. I like how that looks. They applied a weighting factor so 2020 would have large bearing on the outcomes, but they did apply some thought and reasoning to the data.

            I will be doing some similar comparisons. My belief is that we can apply the projections, then identify trends in performance. We need to identify which trends to follow and which ones to debunk. Using methodology around age, team changes, and trend; I should be able to use last year much the same way MLB tv did. Using 2020 is an influencer on future performance, I should be able to forecast 2021 for both players and teams with a large certainty of expectancy. Being right in these forecasts will set us apart from the betting lines on future market wagers, allow proper understanding of value, and give us an edge in the daily grind of a 162-game season. I will be identifying strengths, weaknesses, player progressions and regressions, player movement, depth of teams, and more for every team. I should be able to set a win total for every team with a divisional rank, which then allows for playoff and World Series forecasts. I am very interested in the prop wagers. It is January as I write this so there are not many to look at, but I will be identifying prop wagers to investigate as well. OK, so let’s get into the 2021 team previews!

2021 and Regression of 2020

2020 was only a 2 month season so we must realize there were some oddities of great performances. These performances above a player’s standard season indicate a regression is ripe. The comparison of a complete 162 game season with 6 months is much more truthful than the 2 month snippet of a season we had last year. A perfect example of this is AL MVP Jose Abreu. He earned 2.6 WAR (8th in MLB) with a .411 wOBA and 166 wRC+. He ranked 3rd in WAR, 3rd in wOBA, and 2nd wRC+ in the American League. However, his .411 wOBA and 166 wRC+ are tied for his career best season. It happened in 2014 which was his first season in MLB. The projections for 2021 suggest he is likely to have a “normal” season which is dramatically different form his MVP season last year. Keep in mind he will be 34 years old this season. He is projected with 1.6 WAR, .342 wOBA, and 115 wRC+. He is 7th in projected WAR on his own team for 2021! It is crucial to understand the value of a 2 month season against a full season. Therefore, knowing what performance is expected will not come as a surprise and one can plan accordingly regarding future betting markets or DFS. In this case of the White Sox, look for a progression form Eloy Jimenez. This will the 3rd season for this 24 year old. The productivity lost from Abreu will be picked up by Jimenez. He projects 3.3 WAR, .366 wOBA, and 131 wRC+. His single best WAR season is 1.8 WAR. He projects with 38 HRs and 107 RBI.

The idea here is to look at last season under scrutiny. We need to dig a little deeper to find truths and variances. We can wager on that.

The Betting and Preview

The purpose of this guide and preview is assist your baseball knowledge for the 2021 season. It is laid out and formatted for those who wager on baseball but will also apply to those that are just fans of the game. I hope that by the time you have read through the articles, strategies, team previews, etc. that you will use this as a resource for the season and will have learned a little about baseball through a Sabermetric view of the sport. A daily fantasy player might find some value in here as well. It will not be nor is it intended to be a draft guide for fantasy. This guide is all about wagering and evaluating teams and matchups as to provide an edge to the bettor. It never hurts to put yourself in a spot where you can make some money!

How good are the 2021 Mariners?

When looking into the 2021 crystal ball, I came across the Seattle Mariners offense. Some projections often surprise me. From a far, one might think this is a young rebuilding team with some exciting talent on the rise. I believe this is the worst offense in baseball.

Seattle Mariners (U.S.)

The projections indicate a below average performer at every position except Haniger (who is average in the projection) and missed the entire season last year. Notice that the higher WAR totals reflect defense not offense. OFF is the batting side of the WAR calculation, which in this case reflects everyone (but Haniger) is worse than a replacement player! It is also shown in the wOBA. The average should .325 or so, and here we find no one. Again, wRC+ (average is 100) sees Haniger at the average with no one else! This will be a rough ride for SEA in 2021. It also shows how far away they really are.