Monday, March 24, 2008

Fouled-Off Bunts: Bully For Billy Edition

Congrats to Bill Ladson for being the first reporter to get Paul Lo Duca on the record about his former drug-pushing ways.
Asked if staying in the Dodgers' Minor Leagues system for eight-plus years was the reason he started using performance-enhancing drugs, Lo Duca said, "I had a bad injury in the Minor Leagues. I got run over at home plate. That was part of it, but that's not an excuse. I did it to get healthy, and then I saw the results and I did it again.

"You see guys that might have done it or you suspected [of using it]. I was in the Minor Leagues for a long time and I thought this might get me over the hump. It's just a mistake that I made [and] I wish I could take back."

That's probably the most specific that any current (or most former!) players have been in addressing the Mitchell Report. Great stuff.

  • Shawn Hill is still hurt. He threw more and dealt with more pain, but he's going to try to suck it up and throw through it. Take that part away, and this seems an awful lot like Patterson's whole story. Still, Hill deserves tons of credit for trying to pitch through it. He likely realizes this is his last best shot. Either he pitches through the pain, manages it, and succeeds. Or he goes back in for more surgery, effectively ending his career before it began. I don't envy the choice.

  • Jason Bergmann is starting to throw a sinker. Good!

    Bergmann's been a pretty extreme flyballer in his years with the Nats, owing to that high 4-seam fastball. It's important in that a flyball generally leads to more runs than a groundball (owing to doubles and triples, and the fact that it's hard to hit a grounder over a fence!)

    Bergmann's peripheral numbers were quite good last year. He struck out a bunch. He got the walks under control, to a normal level. He just allowed homers like a madman. And moving to the smaller park, that was going to be a bit more of a problem. Throwing a sinker and getting more groundballs likely alleviates some of that.

    Svrluga's report notes that he's aiming to throw about half and half 2- and 4-seamers. I'll be interested to see the kind of movement he's able to generate on the 2-seamer. Acta certainly seems impressed by his quote there.

  • Jesus Flores officially starts in the majors. Good!

    All the talk about Will Nieves starting the season as the backup didn't make much sense to me, primarily because of 40-man implications. I assumed that the intent with that, especially if it's a short-term problem, was to keep Flores down the entire season, thereby gaining an additional option year. (players who stay down for a full year get an extra year). Anyway, the better player's coming north to start.

  • BS Prediction Time!

    SG at the Replacement Level Yankees blog runs his annual prediction blowout. He takes all the major projection systems, runs them through a simulator a bazillion and one times, then spits out the results. Post 1. Post 2.

    Bottom line: After 6,000 sims, the Nats average 70 wins among the six projection systems he uses. One of the individual systems has them as high as 74. A different projection system has them at 68.

    My number based on my RS/RA analysis was something like 75. My gut says it's a bit lower than that, but I'll have my final number before the season starts.


    • In the news biz, what Ladson got on PLoD is what's called a scoop. Great work, Bill. Shame on the pair of Posties, who seem more interested in their lame NCAA basketball picks, than in actually covering some news for their employer. It's bad when the houseman at beats the big boys on 15th Street, but he's been doing that for awhile now. Bill may be delusional at times -- a World Series in three years? -- but he's proving he belongs as much as Kid Flores deserves to be in the bigs.

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/24/2008 10:43 PM  

    • PLoD wishes he could take it back? It got an otherwise career AAA catcher a major league career, with major league paychecks (and major league office supplies), and he wishes he could take it back? Back where?

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/24/2008 11:46 PM  

    • A couple of comments on the simulation.

      1. According to the aggregate simulation, we have a 1% chance of making the playoffs. That's good enough for me!

      2. SG at the Yankees blog agrees with you. His gut tells him the Nats will fare better than 70 wins, and I've gotta agree with you both. I predict 74 wins (one better than last year).

      3. Everyone is jumping on the Rays bandwagon. I know these predictions don't allow for personal opinions, so it's the stats speaking, not the statisticians'. But these simulations also don't factor in things like attendance. When the Rays are 10 games above .500 entering at the All-Star break and still drawing 15,000 to a game, that will adversely effect them.

      Likewise, when the Yankees were 43-43 at the All Star break last year, they still had 50,000 devoted fans at every game to cheer them on. And as we all know, they finished the second half 51-25.
      No way can/could a team keep up the same level of play when they hit the dog days of summer with a couple thousand fans in the stadium to cheer them on.

      There's lots of other intangibles like managing. The Reds are going to lose a couple more games with ODB (Ol' Dusty Baker) at the helm, and I think the Nats can win a couple more games because of Manny.

      Nevertheless, these simulations are a lot of fun and potentially very useful, and they're great blogger fodder.

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/25/2008 12:14 AM  

    • One of the Chicago writers put the Nats at 67 wins, as did Jerry Crasnick of ESPN, I believe. It is annoying that nobody gives the Nats a chance to get out of last place again, as they did last season. All the Marlins did was give away their offensive cornerstone and the face of the franchise. It is a bit much to project their prospects into improving on the year before, when they gave up so much.

      By Blogger Positively Half St., at 3/25/2008 4:53 AM  

    • Oh yeah, I meant to give Ladson kudos for that as well, but my computer crashed and I lost the open article (which I use as a reminder). I think the team will do better than last year. Or at least I did til the injury bug hit. I guess I still do.

      By Blogger Cathy, at 3/25/2008 6:46 AM  

    • "Nevertheless, these simulations are a lot of fun and potentially very useful, and they're great blogger fodder."

      Say, does anyone ever sit down at the end of a season and review how well all these simulations did in predicting that season's results? If so, I somehow must miss it every year. Keep in mind that another word for 'simulation' is 'model'. Then think about all the times you've watched Sue Palka on the little screen (back before they started really frightening us by putting her up on the big screen at the ballpark - and BTW, boy am I glad I only saw that on the webcam and not in person, otherwise I'd've been scarred for life) and she's talking about a storm and says "The models are telling us something or other". Then think about how few times those models have called it correctly, or even close to correctly. Those weather models cost an order of magnitude more than any baseball simulation, and have tons more computing power behind them. Yet what percentage of the time are they right? Not very often. Why would anyone then think that baseball simulations built by bigger cheapskates than the Lerners would do any better? Even when you plow all the money you save by living in your mother's basement back into your simulation, it still won't amount to much, will it?

      By Blogger An Briosca Mor, at 3/25/2008 8:05 AM  

    • Yep, lots of people look back and refine. They're never going to be perfect because they can't account for everything of course, but they're typically within 3 games or so.

      You're not looking for precision to 3 decimal points, but to a relative position.

      You might be surprised to see Seattle's win total, given all their additions. You might be surprised to see Oakland's win total given all their subtratctions. It's just a way of getting a handle on the current range of performance if the talent plays to its abilities... which it never does anyway!

      I can assure you that someone with the Nats is doing something similar to this. They don't just wing it by gut.

      (Here are some reviews of past Diamond-Mind projections)

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 3/25/2008 8:51 AM  

    • wonder how many of last year's projections were w/in +/- 10% of the rockies and dbacks win totals?

      By Blogger DCPowerGator, at 3/25/2008 1:44 PM  

    • Bill,
      The Diamondback's success was pretty accurately predicted.
      The Replacement Level Yankees blog, which Chris referenced, lists several different simulations. Averaging out all the predictions, they came up with a record of 83-79.
      PECOTA, the most highly respected of the simulations, put them at 89-73.

      The Rockies, on the other hand, were a complete crap-shoot. With so many young players, the accuracy of the simulations was much harder to gauge. Thus, the Rockies were predicted to finish 79-83.

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/25/2008 8:17 PM  

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