GUEST WRITER TODAY!!
Lucky You!!! Today, frequent contributor Kirk Beller has written what I think is a very interesting article ranking MLB's teams in a different way. Personally, I find the data very interesting. Take a look at it, absorb it, and then, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to e-mail me or e-mail Kirk directly. I know he'd love to hear from you.
One other quick note... and this has nothing to do with Kirk... don't you just love the Levitra commercial where they play Queen's We Are the Champions!? That just makes me laugh!!!!!! Have a great weekend!
Friday May 21, 2004
TWINS SHELLED BY SOX
TWINS MINOR LEAGUE REPORT
NBA CONFERENCE FINALS PREDICTIONS
AMERICAN IDOL THOUGHTS
NEW-LOOK POWER RANKINGS
By Kirk Beller
If youíre a real baseball fan, youíre probably a lot like me, where you think of the year as being divided into baseball season and the off-season. The day after the World Series is finished, you wake up and feel a bit gloomy because you know youíve got six months to wait until the first pitch of the regular season. You feel like . . . blah, because you know that nothing youíre going to see over the winter is going to capture your attention like big league baseball. Oh, I know there are plenty of sports fans out there that get just as excited for the NFL and to a lesser extent, the NHL or NBA, but it really seems like none of those sports get me as geared up as I feel on opening day of the MLB season. However, here is one spectator sport that does get me almost as stoked as I am for baseball season, and thatís college hockey.
I live about 70 miles from Grand Forks, which is the home of the nationís premier college hockey facility, and the perennial powerhouse UND Fighting Sioux. Three and a half hours southeast is Minneapolis, home to the until-recently two-time defending national champion Golden Gophers. Simply put, this area is a hockey hotbed, and the level of competition among the teams in the WCHA is on par with ACC basketball or SEC football. Add in the fact that the NCAA season perfectly fills MLBís off-season and you have the recipe for me to be a year-round sports junkie.
Long story short: Iím usually thinking about hockey or baseball. It wasnít until earlier this week, however, that I thought of a way to apply something learned from watching NCAA hockey to pro baseball.
I came upon the idea while chatting with some co-workers about how the Twins have played so far this season. The consensus was that while itís nice that the Twins have gotten off to a nice start, we werenít amazed by their record, because the wins came at the hands of a weak AL central and the suddenly in-a-funk Mariners. It bothered me that there was no way that I could think of to quantify how much this seemingly weak schedule had bloated the Twinsí record.
Then it dawned on me that college hockey has a model in place that helps the tournament selection committee determine who will advance to the NCAA tournament. I figured that there must be some way to apply their system to the MLB season to get a picture of how teams would rank if strength of schedule were considered.
The official system that the selection committee uses is the Pairwise Rankings. I wonít go into the details, but there is some level of controversy within the college hockey world regarding the use of this system, because it is possible for a team to move down in the pairwise standings with a victory, due to a factor called RPI. I donít know about you, but I think that sounds pretty dumb. It has been proposed that the NCAA consider using the KRACH system (Kenís Ratings for American College Hockey) in the place of the Pairwise Rankings, because it eliminates this problem. That was enough to sell me on adapting KRACH to the MLB standings for my purposes.
I should pause for a moment and say that Iím not certain how one is supposed to pronounce ĎKRACHí, but I can tell you that Iím a 13-year old on the inside, so you can probably guess what my favorite pronunciation is . . .
KRACH is calculated by multiplying a teamís win ratio by its strength of schedule. Win ratio is easy to calculate; strength of schedule . . . not so much. The problem is that to determine a teamís strength of schedule, one must already know the KRACH of that team and each of its opponents. You essentially end up needing to know each teamís KRACH rating in order to determine a teamís KRACH ratingóI guess technically this is called a Ďrecursiveí system. Yeah, exactly. Thereís a pretty good explanation of the whole thing (the math, the KRACH vs. Pairwise ranking, etc) here.
A problem of this sort can be solved if you plug in a set of values as guesses, and re-input the results that you get back out. Do this enough times, and eventually the numbers that you enter into the equation will equal the output--thatís when you know that youíve correctly determined a teamís KRACH. Starting with a value of 100 for each team, it took me 16 recalculations to reach a point where the values were such that rounding the KRACH guess column and KRACH column to three decimal places would yield the same answer.
Again, check the link for a much clearer description of the process if youíre interested in that sort of thing.
So, for those of you who arenít snoring yet, hereís what KRACH adapted to fit the MLB standings looks like (through the games of 18 May):
TEAM W L WIN % WIN RATIO RECORD RANK SOS SCHEDULE RANK KRACH ANA 26 13 0.667 2.000 1 103.750 9 207.4992 HOU 23 15 0.605 1.533 2 98.473 13 150.9920 LA 22 15 0.595 1.467 4 94.512 22 138.6183 MIN 23 15 0.605 1.533 3 89.374 26 137.0404 TEX 22 16 0.579 1.375 6 97.021 15 133.4035 CHN 22 16 0.579 1.375 7 96.806 18 133.1081 NYA 22 16 0.579 1.375 8 95.335 21 131.0853 BOS 23 16 0.590 1.438 5 86.586 27 124.4667 CIN 20 18 0.526 1.111 14 110.891 6 123.2120 OAK 20 18 0.526 1.111 15 107.296 7 119.2179 FLA 21 17 0.553 1.235 9 92.773 23 114.6015 DET 19 19 0.500 1.000 17 113.660 3 113.6596 SD 21 17 0.553 1.235 10 90.560 24 111.8682 PIT 17 18 0.486 0.944 20 112.069 5 105.8433 BAL 19 16 0.543 1.188 12 86.435 28 102.6420 CHA 21 17 0.553 1.235 11 82.731 30 102.1977 STL 20 19 0.513 1.053 16 96.995 16 102.0999 PHI 20 17 0.541 1.176 13 84.895 29 99.8768 MIL 19 19 0.500 1.000 18 96.995 17 96.9949 ATL 17 20 0.459 0.850 22 102.738 10 87.3272 CLE 18 20 0.474 0.900 21 95.788 19 86.2094 NYN 19 20 0.487 0.950 19 89.803 25 85.3126 COL 17 21 0.447 0.810 23 99.273 12 80.3637 SF 16 23 0.410 0.696 25 112.435 4 78.2153 TOR 17 23 0.425 0.739 24 102.350 11 75.6498 SEA 13 25 0.342 0.520 28 133.816 1 69.5845 ARI 15 23 0.395 0.652 26 95.619 20 62.3600 MON 14 25 0.359 0.560 27 97.075 14 54.3618 KC 12 24 0.333 0.500 29 106.575 8 53.2877 TB 10 27 0.270 0.370 30 120.163 2 44.5047
So whatís that telling us? Well, as expected, itís telling us that the Angels are pretty freakiní good, and that the Devil Rays stink. The nice thing about KRACH ratings (seriously, I still snicker every time I type that) is that it gives us a ratio of how many games each team would be expected to win against each opponent. In meetings between the Angels and Orioles, one would expect the Angels to win games at about a 207:103 or 2:1 pace. That works out to the Angels winning two games out of every three game series with the Orioles. The White Sox and Orioles would be expected to split the season series with their 103:102 ratio.
As for my questionóare the Twins simply lucky to have played an easy schedule to this point--it appears that the Twins have benefited from the 26th hardest (or 5th easiest) schedule in all of baseball. On the other hand, in winning as many games as they have in that stretch of their schedule, the Twins have ensured themselves of not dropping in these rankings. They probably deserve some credit for taking advantage of that weak schedule rather than losing games to bad teams.
My gut reaction to the results was that the Twins were a perfect example of how win ratio might carry too much weight in determining KRACH. It seemed weird to me that Texas, which was one game behind the Twins in the standings and had the 11th toughest SOS value, should end up behind Minnesota in the KRACH ratings.
On the other side, however, we have the interesting case of the Pirates. Here we have a team that is a game under .500 ranked just ahead of five teams with winning records, owing to having the 5th toughest schedule in the majors. That result almost makes me think that SOS might be overvalued in this system.
Maybe itís just that the system is right and I should quit listening to my gut.
Incidentally, since Iím a Twins fan and I canít stand the White Sox, I must admit that I find it amusing that the Sox are two games behind Minnesota in the standings while playing the easiest schedule in the league.
At any rate, I donít think this is anything to get too excited or worked up over. Honestly, I like it because Iím a sucker for power rankings. Most of the time I like to look at them and see where ESPNís resident yahoo has ranked the Twins so that I can get ticked that no one in the national media is giving my team the credit it deserves. However, Iíve always wanted to see a more scientific approach to those rankings than some twit slapping his opinions up there, and I think that KRACH does a pretty decent job of that. In short, it might prove to be an interesting little toy more than anything else.
So there you have it. Kirk uses a college hockey formula, using Strength of Schedule and Win Ratio to determine baseball's power rankings. What do you think of this? We would love to hear your thoughts. E-mail me or E-mail Kirk and let us know what you think.
SOX SHELL TWINS!
TWINS 3 WHITE SOX 10
You know, I have commented about how it doesn't matter if the White Sox out slugged the Twins last weekend when the Twins won 2-3 games. Yesterday, the White Sox crushed Twins pitching for 10 more runs. In order for the Twins to beat the White Sox and continue to be able to say that they are the better team, they need to get strong starting pitching. They will not be able to out-hit the White Sox, so they will have to out-pitch and out-defend the Sox.
Well, last night, they didn't do any of that.
Pitching - Esteban Loaiza went 7 innings and gave up three runs. Certainly not great, but more than enough. The Twins got 9 hits and 3 walks off him, but just three runs. Twins starter, Seth Greisinger went four innings and gave up 7 runs (just three were earned). The Sox got 10 hits off him and he walked two. Terry Mulholland gave three innings of work. Grant Balfour again looked very nervous on the mound for his two innings. At what point will he relax and just pitch? If he can't, well, then he'll never live up to what he could be. (Note - I still think he'll be just fine. Even last night, he gave up just the solo homer to Konerko in the 9th and walked one.)
Defense - The White Sox committed no errors. The Twins committed three errors. Michael Cuddyer's error on a ground ball in the 2nd inning led to 4 runs being scored. Now, Greisinger didn't exactly pick up his teammate either. I mean, did you see the meatball he threw to Frank Thomas? Jose Offerman also had an error and Terry Mulholland had the third. Now, it is important to know that the infield last night was Michael Cuddyer, Cristian Guzman, Alex Prieto and Jose Offerman. Not really a defense to expect perfection from!
Offense - The Twins got the early, first inning lead when Torii Hunter hit a two-run double. Lew Ford went 3-5 to raise his average back to .344. Jacque Jones hit his 8th homer, his third hit of the game. His average is back up to .318. For the White Sox, Frank Thomas was 4-5 with a 2B, HR and 3 RBI. Paul Konerko went 4-5 as well, with two home runs. Juan Uribe was 2-4 with two walks. Timo Perez was 2-4.
The White Sox earned that win, and the Twins need some help. Too many injuries meaning too many reserves are being counted on to contribute. Someone needs to go on the Disabled List. Because of the recurring effects of plantar fascitis, I think that Shannon Stewart should be put on the DL. Justin Morneau will probably be called up this weekend to play some 1B until Doug Mientkiewicz can play there and then he'll DH. If it is Morneau that is called up, Michael Restovich has to be wondering about his role with the Twins. If an OF goes on the DL, and they call up a 1B/DH type instead of Restovich, who has 10 HR at Rochester so far, they should just trade him and try to get something decent for him. If he is not in the major leagues at this point with all of the injuries the Twins have had, when will he be called up. And, I think Jason Kubel has leapt ahead of him on the organizational depth chart.
The two teams play again all weekend. Here are the remaining pitching matchups :
Friday - 7:10 - Carlos Silva (5-1, 4.01, 1.42, .302) vs. Mark Buehrle (3-1, 3.99, 1.37, .284)
Saturday - 6:10 - Brad Radke (3-2, 4.09, 1.33, .306) vs. Neal Cotts (0-1, 2.45, 1.09, .196)
Sunday - 1:10 - Johan Santana (2-1, 4.70, 1.37, .280) vs. Jon Garland (3-2, 3.62, 1.35, .262)
Any thoughts on the Twins or the upcoming White Sox series? E-mail me.
TWINS MINOR LEAGUE REPORTS
Redwings 9, Norfolk 2 - Justin Morneau went 3-5 with his 10th homer of the year. (Was it Morneau's final AAA game?) Chris Heintz raised his average to .318 with a 2-4 effort, with a double and a homer. CF Brian Simmons also hit a home run for the Redwings. Willie Eyre got the win going 6 1/3 innings. He gave up 4 hits and 2 walks for two runs (struck out 2).
The Redwings will play in Richmond the next four days.
NEW BRITAIN ROCK CATS
Rockcats 3, Portland 2 - The story was Rick Helling. With the Twins telling him he had the right to check with other teams, I'm sure there were plenty of big league scouts in attendance. And, with Seth Greisinger struggling, maybe he sticks with the Twins. Anyway, last night, he threw 108 pitches in 7 innings. He gave up 5 hits, walked one, struck out 5 and gave up two earned runs. Beau Kemp pitched the last two innings for the win, improving his record to 2-1.
2B Luis Maza had a triple, a homer, a walk and 2 RBI last night. He is now hitting .342 on the season. (maybe the Twins do have a 2B prospect!)
New Britain now travels to Norwich for the weekend.
FORT MYERS MIRACLE
Miracle 1, Dunedin 11 - Jeff Randazzo continues to struggle. He went 4 2/3 innings. He gave up 7 hits, walked two and gave up four runs. However, just one run was earned. He also struck out 4. With the loss, he is now 1-6 with a 5.89 ERA. Remember a week ago when I mentioned that reliever Marcus Moseley had not given up a run in 12 innings all season. Well, he gave up a run a couple days ago, and yesterday he gave up 7 earned runs in 2 innings. His ERA is now 4.50.
C Kyle Geiger went 2-3 with a walk. The Miracle had just four total hits on the game. They play Dunedin the rest of the weekend.
THE SWING OF THE QUAD CITIES
Swing 4, Cedar Rapids 6 - Errol Simonitsch went 5 innings and gave up 9 hits and 3 walks. He gave up four runs and struck out four. Eric Brandon took the loss, giving up a run in 2 innings.
SS JR Taylor went 2-4. DH Dusty Gomon went 2-4 with a double and an RBI. 3B Omar Burgos went 2-4 in his first game with the team.
Any questions or comments on the Twins minor league system, e-mail me.
NBA PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS
Before getting to my Conference Finals predictions, let's take a look at my 2nd Round Predictions:
Seth's Prediction Actual Results
Pacers versus Heat Pacers in 4 Pacers in 5
Pistons versus Nets Pistons in 6 Pistons in 7
Wolves versus Kings Wolves in 6 Wolves in 7
Spurs versus Lakers Spurs in 5 Lakers in 6
So, in the first round, I was correct on seven out of eight series. In the second round, I was right on three out of four. So, what are my thoughts on the Conference Finals series?
#1 Indiana Pacers versus #3 Detroit Pistons
This should be a very good series. Two teams that made it this far because of defense. There could be some low scoring games, but they will be very competitive. Chauncey Billups is the key for the Pistons. He should be able to outperform Jamaal Tinsley in the point guard matchup. Ron Artest will stop Tayshaun Prince or Rip Hamilton. Maybe both. The Pacers also have good depth in the 2 and 3 positions with Reggie Miller, Al Harrington and Jonathon Bender. Jermaine O'Neal is great. Who will he guard? Rasheed Wallace or Ben Wallace? That could be another key decision and matchup. To me, this series will come down to which team has more scoring options. To me, that is the Pistons. Yes, Rasheed Wallace is the key player!! So, I will say Pistons in 6.
#1 Minnesota Timberwolves versus #2 Los Angeles Lakers
My heart wants me to pick the Wolves to win this series. I want to envision any way that it could happen. It is tough to do.
Point guards - Sam Cassell/Darrick Martin versus Gary Payton/Derek Fisher
Well, I think that Sam Cassell is better than Gary Payton and Derek Fisher. However, with his back injury, he will be slowed further, and the Wolves have no backup for him. So, that matchup has to be marked as even. My, how the Wolves need Troy Hudson!
Shooting Guard/Small Forward -Trenton Hassell/Latrell Sprewell/Wally Szczerbiak/Fred Hoiberg versus Kobe Bryant/Devean George/Rick Fox/Bryon Russell
Kobe Bryant has the big advantage over anyone in the league. However the Wolves will probably have both Latrell Sprewell and Trenton Hassell on Kobe. Hopefully they can continue to play such dominant defense, and maybe Spree can score enough points to make up the difference. George has been solid since regaining his starting position in the playoffs. Wally Szczerbiak is vital to the Wolves' success if he is able to get some open shots. However, remember what the Lakers did to Wally last year in the playoffs. They made him put the ball on the floor, which is not a pretty site. If Wally gets looks, he could be deadly. With more options, the Lakers can't designate as much time to Wally. Fox and Russell don't play much. So, combining these like-positions, the Lakers advantage is not as much as you might think. I might even venture to say that the Wolves have the advantage because of their depth. (Note - Kobe Bryant may or may not play in Game 4 because he will be in Colorado)
Power Forward - Kevin Garnett versus Karl Malone
KG is obviously the better of the two, but don't overlook what Karl Malone can do. Yes, the Wolves do have the advantage here, but not by as much as Wolves fans want to think. Malone is incredible! Slava Medvedenko will also get some playing time.
Centers - Shaquille O'Neal versus Ervin Johnson, Mark Madsen, Gary Trent, Michael Olowokandi and Oliver Miller
Seriously. The Wolves may consider using 25-30 fouls on Shaq each game. Ervin Johnson will start and can hope to keep Shaq at bay. Sadly, Michael Olowokandi's size makes him important in this series. Hopefully he steps up and at least makes it look like he's trying. Mark Madsen is greatly undersized when this matchup happens. However, I've quit thinking that there is anything Madsen can't do. I like Gary Trent because of his aggressiveness on offense. I'd like to see him drive toward Shaq with some power moves and try to draw a couple of fouls on the Lakers big man, and maybe even score some points. Oliver Miller would be all about the fouls. Basically, no matter how you look at this matchup, the Lakers have a HUGE advantage.
So, what do I think? I think the Wolves have to hope that Kobe's situation creates turmoil in La-La Land. They have to hope that the Lakers forget about Shaq on the offensive end of the court as they have frequently done this year. The Wolves have to play out of their heads. So what is my prediction?
Wolves in 6. (yes, you read that right!!)
So, what do you think? Can the Wolves really win? What would it take? Or, will the Lakers completely dominate? E-mail me.
That is it for today. Have yourself a great Friday and a wonderful weekend! As always, if you have any questions or comments on anything, please e-mail me.
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