Friday, March 30, 2007

Tribune Baseball Preview

Just a reminder that the Trib's annual baseball preview comes out with Monday's paper. I was sent the following press release for those interested (full disclosure: they are sending me a poster that will appear in select copies of Sunday's trib. What can I say, I'm a cheap date.) Also, Illinois' Mr. Basketball (presumably Derrick Rose) will be published in tomorrow's paper.

· Select copies of Sunday’s Chicago Tribune will include a free full-color, poster-sized season schedule for both Chicago teams. Measuring at more than three-feet high, this special insert is a keeper all season long. Be sure to pick up your free schedule in Sunday’s edition only available at Chicagoland newsstands, retail outlets and newspaper boxes.
· Monday’s edition of Chicago Tribune will include its annual baseball preview special section, complete with team rosters, season schedules, predictions, “9 Things To Know” features and loads of photos of your favorite Chicago players.

· Go to and interact with other fans, submit fan photos or browse others’, and don’t miss the return of “From The Cubicle” coverage starting on Monday.

· Help us celebrate the start of baseball season as we hand out free Mardi Gras beads in both Chicago team colors on your way home from work on Friday between 3 and 7 p.m. (or until supplies last). Catch us outside CTA Red Line stops (Addison, Belmont, North, 95th Street and Chinatown) as well as the IIT Green Line stop.

WHERE: Pick up the Sunday and Monday editions of the Chicago Tribune at your local newsstand, read our online coverage of Chicago baseball at and grab your free baseball beads on Friday afternoon at select CTA “L” stations.

Central Predictions

After giving this 30 seconds thought, and then spending 30 minutes building the tables, here are my predictions for the two Central divisions:

AL Central

I'm going with Detroit since they are the only AL Central team to improve themselves over the winter. Minnesota should threaten, but a lot of what they do depends on how long they wait to bring up Matt Garza and Scott Baker up from the minors and into the rotation. Of course, nothing would make me happier than watching Ortiz and Ponson make 30 starts this year, but I'm afraid that won't happen.

The 2006 Sox weren't good enough and nothing I've seen suggests this version is any better. Most likely they are worse.

You would think the Indians would be a great break-out candidate as their Pythagorean winning percentage last year suggests they ran into some bad luck in 2006. But with their weak bullpen, I can envision them blowing many late leads as they have done the past couple of seasons.

NL Central

I don't think the Cubs built a great team, but they should have half of one as they figure to put a lot of runs on the board. That should be good enough in the lousy NL Central. And as the Cardinals proved last year, once you get into the playoffs anything can happen.

But something tells me I will be celebrating a hundred year anniversary drought next year.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

AL Central 2006 Run Distributions

2006 was a pretty strange year in the AL Central. Cleveland had good hitting and solid pitching yet still managed to finish below 500 at 78-84. Detroit was the most consistent team all year but lost the division on the last day of the season after being swept by the Royals. Minnesota had the privilege of being outscored by more than two runs per game and April then turning around and doing the same to their opponents in June.

Below is where the teams stood according to their win distributions. RS eW is each teams expected amount of wins if you combined their daily offensive output and matched it with league average pitching (example: teams that score six runs win about 60% of the time - if a team scored six runs 20 times, that would give them 12 expected wins).

RA eW is the exact same thing done with runs allowed.

TeamRS eWRA eW

As you can see, the Sox had the best offense and the fourth best pitching in the league which was good enough for 90 wins. Yet the Indians had the second best offense and third best pitching and finished with only 78 wins.

From May to July Cleveland outscored their opponents 409-398 while posting a record of 32-47! If I were an Indians fan I would sit here and try to figure out what happened. But since I'm not, I'll just give a Nelson Muntz laugh and move on.

According to the run distributions, Detroit was better than Minnesota in both offense and pitching. But the the distributions don't quite tell the whole story. If you could somehow combine your low scoring games with your bad pitching games you could in essence "save your runs" for times when they are most needed. Now, you can't do this intentionally, but this is in fact how the Twins season played out.

As you can see, April was the Twins worst hitting and worst pitching month. They scored 4.04 runs per game but gave up 6.17. If you took a half a run out of August and added it to their offensinve output in April, they probably still would have gone 6-15. Yet that half a run probably won them four games in August.

Now there were very good reasons the Twins got better after April. Their pitching shook off an early season slump, Liriano replaced Silva in the rotation, and Castro and Bautista were dropped for better offensive players (actually the replacements were better defenders too).

So while Detroit finished with better overall numbers, I don't think they were the better team at the end of the year.

I thought it was interesting to see that the Royals offense wasn't all that bad last year. They finished just a bit below average on offense, but the staff only pitched well enough to win 67 games. It makes overpaying for Gil Meche a bit more understandable.

As for the Sox, it is time to close the book on 2006. Lets just hope the monthly trends shown below don't extend into 2007.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

White Sox Runs Scored Allowed Compared to AL

Here are the charts for runs allowed last season. As you can see below, the Sox pitching ended up right around league average. I guess it only seemed worse. Actually, it started out fine but got worse as the season went along. I plan on looking at that in more depth in a future post. For now, I'll just say that the pitching was below average after April and May and you can't see that in the chart.

Overall, the Sox pitching staff would have been expected to win 82 games if combined with a league average offense.

Runs Allowed Distribution

As we saw in the last post, the Sox offense was much better than league average, which is why they won 90 games and not 82. The chart belows shows that they outpaced the league average in winning percentage for just about every run distribution point.

Winning Percentage

Now I need to add the Sox play in a pitchers park, so you might want to adjust these numbers accordingly. However, the Sox actually gave more runs on the road, so the park didn't seem to play that large of a role.

It seems a bit odd that the Sox would give up more on the road than at home, especially considering the AL Central has a few pitcher's parks in Cleveland, Detroit and Kansas City (and I remember a low scoring series in Fenway, a hitters park). Just another of baseball's many mysteries.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

White Sox Runs Scored Compared to AL

Well, I procrastinated a bit posting the run distributions. It wasn't all laziness. The numbers didn't really show anything that we didn't already know, so I wasn't motivated to put the charts together. Hmm, I guess that would still qualify as laziness.

Anyway, on to the charts.

Runs Scored Distribution

As you can see, the Sox offense did better than the league average in putting runs across the board. For some reason, they had trouble scoring five runs as they only had 14 such games compared to the league average of 18.5. As we saw previously, the 2005 Sox has 28 such games.

Nevertheless, the Sox did have one of the better offenses in the American League last year. With league average pitching, the Sox offense would have been expected to win 88.6 games according to their runs scored distribution.

The Sox ended up with 90 wins, so 1.4 wins could be chalked up to pitching, defense, coaching and luck. Since I watched a lot of Sox baseball last year, I'll go with luck.

Winning Percentage

The win % chart highlights another fact we already knew: the Sox could not win low scoring games last year. The made up for it by winning more than their share of four and five run games. I'm not sure what to make of it, if anything. Your theories are welcome.

I'll post the runs allowed distributions tomorrow.