Showing posts with label infographics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label infographics. Show all posts

FanDuel Posts Continue

There are six total parts out so far in the FanDuel MLB preview. Here's who me and 31 other bloggers though would be a surprise team this year. The results (ironically?) surprised me:

FanDuel Fantasy Preview

I am one of 32 bloggers who participated in a fantasy baseball preview for FanDuel. The nifty info graphic below is from the first article. If you are about to draft (like my main league), perhaps you will enjoy the piece.

Courtesy of: FanDuel (click image to enlarge)

Tanaka's Teammates

The hot rumor today is that the Mariners are considered frontrunners for Masahiro Tanaka's services. Maybe they are, maybe they aren't. A fair amount is made of Hisashi Iwakuma coming from Rakuten (Tanaka's current team) and succeeding. Shannon Drayer posted a piece about player personalities and cities.

I don't know how to handicap the Tanaka sweepstakes. It will probably come down to money, and if that's similar enough, Tanaka's comfort level with whatever city he chooses. As I thought about comfort levels, I got to wondering: who have Tanaka's teammates been? What kind of stories could they have told him about Major League Baseball during his career in Japan?

The results surprised me. I tallied up Rakuten and MLB seasons for players that both played for Rakuten while Tanaka pitched for them (2007-2013), and in the MLB at some point in their careers. All of Tanaka's teammates played in the Majors before going to Japan with one exception (Hisashi Iwakuma, so an exception certainly worth mentioning). Below is an area chart visualizing the data. Bigger areas means more time playing for Rakuten; darker shades of red represent MLB experience:

Masahiro Tanaka's MLB Connections
area represents Rakuten seasons, shading represents MLB seasons

I doubt there is much of consequence or strategy revealed in this graphic, but it's interesting. The Indians are the only MLB team which Masahiro Tanaka couldn't ask a former teammate about, which is pretty remarkable when you stop and think about it. This graphic only represents six years worth of players with MLB connections that played for Rakuten - not any team in Japan, just Rakuten. I expected to be surprised by the number of connections, but this still blew my mind.

However, most mind-blowing might be the Expos. Look at their box! It's pretty big, especially considering that the team ceased to exist (or, more accurately, relocated) nine years ago. That's three years before Tanaka's career in Japan began!

Most players represented in the area graph played sparingly in the majors, and sparingly for Rakuten too, so it would be ridiculous to think that Tanaka has lasting bonds with all the players represented in the graphic. However, it's equally ridiculous to think that Major League Baseball is a mysterious land to Tanaka. He has possibly heard first-hand accounts of every MLB franchise (except Cleveland) while hanging around Rakuten's clubhouse.

The only potentially interesting insight in the graphic is the Yankee presence. If Tanaka signs with the Yankees the headlines will likely focus on their deep pockets and the glamour of playing in New York. However, for what it's worth, they have both a large rectangle and heavy shade of red, which speaks to an extensive Rakuten presence along with several years of experience on the Yankees. Perhaps the strong former Yankee presence over an extended period of time in Rakuten makes Tanaka feel like he knows the Yankees better than any other franchise. Maybe that matters, maybe that doesn't. I think it might - the Cubs and White Sox are pretty small and pale on this graphic, and neither seem to be big players in the Japanese baseball marketplace despite playing in Chicago.

Click the jump if you'd like an interactive version of this graphic.

2014 Hall of Fame Ballot

The Hall of Fame ballot came out earlier this week, and thanks to a whole week off from school I've had lots of time to dig into it. This ballot stands out as a particularly important and invigorating one thanks to a confluence of factors. There are several first-time names on the ballot that are very sexy (Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Frank Thomas come to mind). There are holdovers like Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, and Mark McGwire that continue to make voters think about the legacy of PEDs in the 1990s. Then there are also a few long-time ballot members that seem to be on the fence of induction. Chief among this final group is Jack Morris, who is on the ballot for the 15th and guaranteed final time. He earned over 67% of the vote last year, and needs to be named on 75% of ballots for enshrinement.

In other words, pick your favorite debate on this ballot. There are lots of fun ones, which is why this ballot might mean more than most. People are even debating the voting process itself. In fact, Deadspin has even purchased a ballot this year, presumably from a disgruntled voter. Literally any and all debates are on the table this year.

At some point I will offer my own Hall of Fame ballot on this blog, but this post isn't about who should be in the Hall of Fame. I decided it would be more interesting to ask who will make the Hall of Fame. I was pleasantly surprised when I realized that the voters and the voting process are more predictable than many believe - or at least I believed.

Red Sox Revival

First of all, before digging into how the Red Sox made the World Series, I feel obligated to share a few graphs after yesterday's post on the Cardinals. Boston's roster is constructed quite differently:

The players developed through Boston's farm system are still a cheap and cost-efficient commodity, but not to the same degree that is seen on the Cardinals roster. Relying on free agency is a luxury that big-market teams enjoy though.

Still, the real story of the 2013 Boston Red Sox is just how much they transformed their roster in the past season, and how much they improved. Also, lost in the massive Beantown shuffle, is that they ended up reducing their team payroll about $20 million while adding 28 victories, winning their division, and now returning to the World Series. Alot went right, to say the least.

So what exactly did they do? Here's a look, position group by position group:

The Cardinals Way

The St. Louis Cardinals made it to the World Series last night in stately fashion. They bludgeoned Clayton Kershaw, who should go on to win the NL Cy Young Award, to make it to the fall classic for fourth time in the last decade. A couple of their runs to the World Series seemed lucky in recent memory, but as they continue to make it back, now including once since Albert Pujols left town, there's a growing consensus that St. Louis has a dynasty of sorts going on at the moment.

It's painfully easy to get romantic about the Cardinals. The "Cardinals way" is often characterized as "the right way" to play the game, and the roster is filled with a bunch of no-names who know how to come together and compete towards a common goal. It's a nice narrative that seems to pair perfectly with a city that's often characterized as having the best fans in baseball.*

*And they might be the best fans in baseball. More on that later.

Jayson Stark wrote an article arguing that the third inning of last night's game epitomizes the 2013 Cardinals. His article is exhibit A for the romanticized "Cardinals way." In particular, I'm fond of these couple lines from Stark's article about Cardinals game 6 winner, Michael Wacha:
Two weeks ago, most of America was wondering who the heck he was and where he came from. Next thing we knew, he was out there Friday night, outdueling Kershaw for the second time in this series, spinning seven more insanely dominant innings of two-hit, shutout baseball and winning an NLCS MVP award. At age 22.
 Wacha outdueling Clayton Kershaw twice is a fantastic story, and the kind of story that makes baseball beautiful.  Stark is good at what he does, and he has sniffed out a great storyline for sure. Michael Wacha is the Cardinals way embodied, but to write off who the heck he is and where he came from as a side story to build up the "some-nobody-versus-The-Greatest-Pitcher-In-The-NL" as a storyline is to miss the Cardinal way completely.

Mariners Losses Harder Than Wins (Graphic)

Last night was close to perfect, then came crumbling apart.

I watched game 7 of the NBA finals, rooting for the Spurs. The game was tense and close throughout, though Tim Duncan, the Big Fundamental, couldn't get a tying layup or tip-in to go, so the King James version of the ending (a 17-foot jumper) won out.

The basketball game disappointed me, but Kyle Seager kept cutting through my twitter feed. It seemed the Mariners were thrashing the Angels early.

I changed the channel just in time to watch Peter Bourjos take Felix Hernandez deep. It turned out to be the first of seven consecutive hits for the Angels.

I thought I was going to watch the Spurs win a hotly contested game seven, then enjoy a rare Mariners rout - of the Angels no less, the team I hate more than any other! Instead, I got a Heat victory, and the worst inning of King Felix's career.

So last night went from nearly perfect to utter disaster.

I knew I had to write something about last night's Mariners game, besides how soul-crushing it was. Part of me thought that I had a skewed view of the game, given that I only saw the Mariners score 1 run, and the Angels score 8. It was one of those weird games with a big swing in the middle, and I only saw the latter half of it. So, it felt like a rout for the Angels as I watched it, even though most of the innings I caught featured a close score.

That got me thinking about the nature of painful losses, and thrilling victories. They are the ones that live on the edge between glory and disaster, the games that could easily go either way. Sabermetrics has a nice way of gauging these situations, through a stat called Win Percentage Added (WPA). It is quite simply a way of calculating the odds of a team winning a game, given the current game situation. Each event changes the odds, so WPA is a calculation of how much the odds changed for or against a team winning.

I had a simple idea this morning: why not take the absolute value of each WPA in a game's play log, then add them all together? In theory, games with big momentum swings would have higher sums, because one team would go from heavily favored to the other. That swing would take lots of changes in WPA, though if I didn't take the absolute value, I wouldn't see the big fluctuation. Most of the WPAs would cancel each other as the pendulum swung back and forth.

I've decided to call the sum "net WPA." Below is a chart summarizing the net WPAs for every Mariners game in June. The 'W's and 'L's show Mariners wins and losses:

Last night's net WPA was 3.99, which means it is the game fourth from the left. The crazy high net WPA came in the 16 inning game, where Seager hit a grand slam to tie the game in extras, only to have the Mariners ultimately lose. It makes sense that that game was so brutal by net WPA standards.

The M's losses this month, according to WPA, are more painful than their victories are satisfying. An average loss this month has a net WPA of 3.16, and an average victory has a net WPA of 2.35. I decided to see if the median net WPAs told a different story, given that the crazy 16-inning game might have skewed the results. Medians told the same story though. The median net WPAs for wins and losses were 2.58 and 1.94, respectively*. The extra inning game had skewed the results some, but not enough to change the story.

*The fact that both medians were lower than the means suggests that WPAs are skewed in general. A logarithmic scale might be more appropriate, though this is also a very small sample size.

Higher WPAs tend to correlate to more memorable moments in a game, because they are attached to moments that greatly alter a game's outcome. So, it follows that the higher net WPAs in Mariners losses makes their losses more memorable. Tack on the fact that the Mariners lose more often than they win, and it's easy to see how losses are the dominant story in June.

Boring wins coupled with painful losses. Is it much of a wonder that fans aren't flocking to Safeco Field these days?

Perfect Problem

Yu Darvish nearly pitched a perfect game last night. Here's the evidence that he wasn't perfect:

Perfect games haven't quite become common place, but they are more common now than ever before. There had never been more than one perfect game in a season before 2010. Last year, there were three. For some perspective there weren't any perfect games from 1968 to 1981, a stretch of over a decade. Yu Darvish nearly pitched the sixth perfect game in the last two seasons, plus two games (and that total doesn't count the one Armando Galarraga lost on a blown call at first base).

On some level, perfect games are fluky. They are extreme outliers by definition, with them being perfect and all. Looking for patterns in extremes is a bit destined for failure for a number of reasons (sample size being one of the biggest). Still, it certainly seems like there is something about the modern game that allows for more perfect games. I decided to look for an explanation.

Spring Dingers Almost Meaningless

If you are an optimist, the word "almost" probably jumped out at you in the title.

The Mariners have hit more home runs than any other team in spring training so far. The Mariners made a concerted effort to beef up their offense with some power hitters, so the early onslaught seems like a promising sign.

I decided to see if spring training dingers have translated into regular season dingers in recent history. Below are team home run totals in spring training vs. team home run totals in the regular season for the past four seasons, 2009-2012. I stopped in 2009 for no great reason; it gave me over 100 data points and was also the season Jack Zduriencik took over the Mariners.

Here's the data (click for larger image):

Correlation coefficient: 0.18

The data points look more or less like a random blob with perhaps a slight upward trend. The correlation coefficient confirmed what is obvious to our eyes - there is a slight positive correlation (suggesting teams that hit more home runs in spring do hit more home runs in the regular season), but it's impossible to stress slight too much. Barely any of the variation in regular season home runs is explained by spring training home runs in theory.

I got to thinking about the Mariners situation though. They go from playing in the warm, dry air of Arizona to the cool, damp confines of the Pacific Northwest. I wondered if park factors were obscuring a more noticeable trend in the data.

A Visualization of Team Italy

The Mariners have nine players on various World Baseball Classic rosters. I perused the names and countries without many surprises, until I came to one.

Brian Sweeney is playing for team Italy.

I had never thought of Sweeney's ancestry until this afternoon, but he piqued my interest. I simply did not expect him to be a part of any WBC roster, much less Italy's. The option wasn't within my realm of possibilities.

I wondered who else was on team Italy, and one thing led to another. Below is a map plotting the birth cities of everyone on team Italy:

View Italy WBC in a larger map

I'd think that Italy makes a horse shoe around New York city if I didn't know better. Sweeney was born in Yonkers, NY, so he fits right in.

There are 15 other nations besides Italy in the upcoming World Baseball Classic. I bet a handful of them have player birthplaces that leave similar geographic footprints.

Fun fact: Italy enters the WBC ranked ninth in the world in baseball.

Payroll Kind Of Matters I Guess

I keep trying to come up with fresh ideas for blog posts. The obvious one for free agency is a grand off-season plan. That would have been fun, and I have my preferences. However, I don't expect the Mariners to do much in the free agent market, and trades are nearly impossible to sniff out. So what's the point?

Instead, I have an overwhelming (but interactive!) data extravaganza. Free agency boils down to money, and in particular the Mariners payroll seems to be a topic of concern most off-seasons. The payroll has sunk about $20 million while revenues across baseball have risen, and it is fair to wonder if the shrinking funds have something to do with the team's struggles. Below is a visualization tool so you can explore just about anything you want relating team payrolls to team victory totals from 1997 through 2012. I would say more, but I still am yet to play with all the options:

Bottom line: payroll does not seem to matter as much as we might intuitively think. There is a connection between payroll and success, but not much of one in baseball.

Winning Rosters

Every division series went five games this year for the first time ever. I was constantly reminded how awesome it is to make the postseason, and how long it has been since the Mariners made it.

Honestly, how close are the Mariners to contention?

The more I thought about game fives, the more I thought about what makes them special, and perhaps illuminating with the correct data. Winner-take-all games foster the purist winning strategies. Neither team plays for tomorrow. They must put their absolute best lineup on the field that day, and every move is made for the sole purpose of winning the current ballgame. This is a rarity in baseball, where managing the daily grind is often as big of a deal as managing the current game at hand.

This year provided a chance to look at four game five winners. A total of 57 players were used by the four winners, for an average of 14.25 players per team. Starters account for 9.5 of those (one league has the DH, the other doesn't), and the remaining 4.75 players are roughly a 50/50 split between a team's bench and bullpen.

The following graph is a look at these 57 players' career trajectories, from the first season they appeared as a professional to today. Seasons where a player split time at multiple levels were counted to the level they spent the most time at (judged by plate appearances for position players and innings pitched for pitchers):

Fences Coming In

The last game of the season just happened, and that feels like a big enough deal to write about, but is it really? Neither the Mariners nor the Angels had much to play for, although the M's seemed to care a bit more with their convincing 12-0 victory. They beat Jered Weaver in the process, dropping him to 20-5 on the season. Fun fact: 3 of Weaver's 5 losses in 2012 were to the Mariners. Go figure.

Anyway, the more meaningful news is that the Safeco Field's dimensions will be different in 2013. The fences are coming in, particularly in left-center field. The changes should make hitting easier, but what kind of an effect will it have?

Let's start with quantifying how cavernous Safeco Field played in 2012. The Mariners had a .275 wOBA at home, easily the worst mark in all of Major League Baseball. 7.7% of their fly balls at home went for home runs, easily below the MLB average, but still better than the Padres, Marlins, and Giants.

Of course, not all team lineups are created equal. The Mariners have had some rough seasons in Safeco, but been just about as atrocious on the road. That suggests something more about their lineup than their ballpark. 2012 was a different story though. The Mariners had a .305 wOBA on the road and 11.9% of their fly balls went for home runs. The differences are noteworthy, but wOBA is particularly shocking given that MLB teams as a whole posted a .323 wOBA at home this year, but just a .308 wOBA on the road.*

*Percentage of fly balls that were home runs had a negligible difference, 11.9% at home and 11.5% on the road.

So what exactly will the new walls do? Below is a diagram of Safeco Field with balls in play data from 2012 (both Mariners and opponents). I've only included doubles, triples, and fly balls. The yellow lines are the new walls sketched to the best of my ability. Ball in play data doesn't have the incredible precision that the scatter of dots might suggest either. In other words, the picture gives a feel for what might have happened this season with the new dimensions, but no definitive answers. See what you think:

image from

Smoak's Swing no Smoke Screen?

Justin Smoak is on a roll in September, seemingly out of nowhere. He has performed like the first basemen he teased us fans into imagining he could (or would) be after his strong start last season. I want to believe Smoak's September success is more than a mirage, maybe even proof that his altered swing is working out.

I went and broke down Smoak's batted ball data for each month this season. I noticed his BABIP is easily the highest in September out of all his months, and sometimes BABIP suggests good or bad luck in limited sample sizes. However, based on the batted ball data I present in the following chart, there is much more than luck involved with Smoak's surge:

Two Hopes for Noesi

The Mariners sent down RHP Hector Noesi to Tacoma today, and called up OF Carlos Peguero. The Mariners do not need a fifth starter for a while with the All Star Break coming up, and that's likely a factor in this decision, but the fact remains that Noesi got sent down. He is the owner of a 2-11 record with a 5.77 ERA this season - hardly unassailable numbers.

I hope that the Mariners sent down Noesi with two things to work on. He is far from a lost cause. I will start with a pretty picture (click on it for a bigger version). The explanation of the graph follows:

2012 All Stars by WAR

Instead of debating who should and should not have made the All Star team, I decided to make an infographic. It is a simple scatter plot, with a player's career WAR on the x-axis, and their WAR so far this season on the y-axis. The colored boxes signify quadrants, which I will explain more after the graphic. You can also click on the picture for a larger view:

The quadrants are not evenly sized because I divided them based on the medians for career and season WAR, respectively. Career WARs varied greatly, with more players lower on the scale. This makes sense since it takes time to accumulate large career WAR totals, and some All-Stars are young, while others are grizzled veterans.

Season WAR is one way to measure how great the player's current season is. Career WAR is a way to measure their past performance, and the kind of reputation they have earned/accumulated.

The following are the All-Stars listed by quadrant, along with a suggested way to interpret what each quadrant represents:

MLB Influence - June 2012

Last year I rolled out an MLB Influence infographic every month, in place of projected standings. This year, I'm more or less doing the same thing, with an added piece of data.

FanGraphs and Sports Illustrated have teamed up for MLB power rankings this season. The rankings are based on team WAR totals. I've now added this to the Cool Standings data, and search traffic data from Google Insights. I've also tried to make the graphic a little more interactive by sharing it on Google Docs. The result? It's below:

Z Versus B, State By State

Jack Zduriencik has clearly improved the Mariners farm system. He has made 152 draft picks so far as M's GM. His predecessor, Bill Bavasi, made 245 draft picks. I figured both sample sizes were big enough to see some trends in their draft strategies.

To a degree, the big-time prospects are known around the nation. However, as a draft wears on, a GM relies on their scouts and connections. Scouts are typically deployed to cover certain regions. So, I figured if Zduriencik and Bavasi have different people in their ears, and different connections, I would see differences in where Mariners draft picks geographically come from.

Below are the results. Mouse over different states for the raw total of prospects the respective GM selected from that state:

Bill Bavasi 
Jack Zduriencik
Click "continue reading" for some of my thoughts on the data.

MLB Influence - April 2012

Last year I rolled out an MLB Influence infographic every month, in place of projected standings. This year, I'm more or less doing the same thing, with an added piece of data.

FanGraphs and Sports Illustrated have teamed up for MLB power rankings this season. The rankings are based on team WAR totals. I've now added this to the Cool Standings data, and search traffic data from Google Insights. I've also tried to make the graphic a little more interactive by sharing it on Google Docs. The result? It's below:

2011 Mariners Connections

On the personal/professional side, things are going to change significantly for me this year, and we will see how that impacts my blog posts (most importantly, my frequency). Regardless, one thing I hope to do is provide more data visualizations.

So, I'll kick off 2012 with the type of graphic that I hope to make a little more often. Just how connected are MLB teams these days? Let's take a look at the 2011 Mariners to get a feel for what modern baseball movement looks like:

Every player who appeared for the Mariners in 2011, and at some point of their career was in another organization, is visualized on the map. Blue dots are the 30 MLB teams. Red lines symbolize players that left at some point in 2011. Green lines indicate acquisitions. Brighter greens mean the move was more recent. More opaque lines are more direct. Click on the image for a larger view. More details after the jump.