With the real postseason finally upon us and that silly stream of winner-take-all games behind us, the Beyond The Box Score staff stopped by to take some reader questions. If you're interested in asking questions in the future, make sure you're following @BtBScore on Twitter or you've joined the BTBS community so that you can comment on posts. Both are fast, easy, and have very limited side effects.
Let's get to it!
So the Braves are going to sit Dan Uggla? Is there a good math-y reason to do this? They played him right through September. I mean, I know he's terrible but why did they decide now is what I'm asking?
Weinberg: Yeah, despite a 15.2% walk rate in the second half, he has a 57 wRC+ since the break. At some point, you have to accept it isn't happening this year. Not really a fluke either, his well-hit average is way down this year too.
Wallace: They finally had a defensible reason to exclude him, given his contract. They don't have to justify the contract in the playoffs like they do in the regular season. Terrible defense and the occasional homer is a suitable skill set from your pinch hitter, not your starting 2B.
Skillin: The Uggla situation is a bit strange, especially since he did get 537 plate appearances this season, while playing at second base pretty much full time. But that .179/.309/.362 line is ugly, and he stopped drawing walks in September, which is what always made his propensity for striking out at least partially acceptable. Add in his subpar fielding (-5.4 UZR, -19 defensive runs saved in 2013), and I guess the Braves just figured having strong fielders in Elliot Johnson and Paul Janish at second would be a better option.
If you could take any outfielder in the postseason and put him on your newly invented team, who would you take?
Weinberg: I think McCutchen is the obvious answer, but I'm partial to Wil Myers if we're thinking about cost too. I love Myers.
Skillin: NL MVP? Second-best all-around player in baseball? Beloved by Pittsburgh natives and pirates everywhere? I'm taking Andrew McCutchen, who had the highest WAR this season of any player in the playoffs.
Most likely to get started first: 2013 World Series or US Government?
Weinberg: I'm a political scientist who writes about baseball or a baseball writer who studies politics depending on your outlook on life, so I can tell you very definitively that the US Government will get started first. That said, this shutdown would be way more interesting if I didn't have playoff baseball to watch.
Skillin: I sure hope it's the US government, but let's just say I'm more looking forward to the 2013 World Series.
Has there been studies done on players doing better with postseason experience? Studies that show it's hooey?
Weinberg: I believe there was an old Hardball Times post that said it makes a bit of a difference, but I've seen individual years in which it didn't matter at all. I have a suspicion that it makes very little difference.
Skillin: Great question here, and one that, I don't think has been studied extensively despite the prevailing belief that experience matters in the playoffs. I did find one study done at The Hardball Times back in 2008, but I'd say the results were more inconclusive than anything else.
Momentum. I'll hang up and listen.
Weinberg: The idea of "momentum" as a force in sports is silly because it's arguing that success breeds success. But being good at sports also breeds success, so momentum is this odd middle step. That said, I do think the state of mind of a player is a relevant factor - we just shouldn't make judgments about it when the best we can do is guess what their mental state is.
Wallace: ...is the product of the mass (m) and velocity (v) of an object. Therefore, the answer is C.C Sabathia running.
Skillin: Momentum's as good as your next starting pitcher. Just ask Cleveland, winners of 10 straight before last night, about momentum. Granted Danny Salazar was impressive, but that "momentum" they had built up didn't matter at all.
Also how many little things do you have to do to win? And grit. Thanks.
Weinberg: The little things matter! Grit also matters! The problem is when we make after the fact judgments about these things. Watching a player correctly anticipate the way the ball is going to bounce off a wall is a "little thing" to me. That matters, because it's not really a tool, but you can't just say a player does the little things right just because they aren't toolsy.
The Dodgers OF looks shaky at best for the NLDS - do they still have the depth and pop to make a long run? They are trying out Scott Van Slyke and Dee Gordon as well as Skip Schumaker in CF - who gets the most PT? I'll hang up and listen...
Weinberg: Yeah, it's going to be interesting to see how they fill in with Kemp out and Ethier working his way back. The Dodgers have enough offense to go with their starters to make a deep run. I'm only half kidding, but maybe you try Greinke out there. Dude can hit.
Skillin: Ethier's health is no doubt a concern, but it looks like he may actually make LA's ALDS roster. To be honest, I wouldn't be too concerned about their outfield depth. That lineup's still as good as any in the NL, and I think Kershaw and Greinke give them more of an advantage over the Braves than any outfield injuries will hurt them.
Certain teams are known to be more analytics savvy than other teams. Would you say that their fanbases are analytics savvy as well? How do you sell analytics to a fanbase, and not just the players?
Weinberg: Good question, I can't speak about every fan base, but I'd say there is probably some correlation. There are a lot of smart-analytics minded Tigers bloggers (myself included), but the fanbase doesn't get that into it as a whole, which is more in line with what the organizational philosophy is. I think the key is the announcers as far as selling it goes. Curious fans will find the blogs, but the casual fan needs to see the bricks being stacked up by the guy calling the game.
Wallace: Tough to quantify this with respect to measuring a fanbase's knowledge/use of sabermetric principles. Tough to truly measure if a fan's perception of their favorite player is because they understand his value in terms of WAR/wOBA/etc or because he's on their favorite team. However, I do feel that certain teams provide a gateway to analytics more so than others. I think that fans of the Rays, A's and other analytics heavy teams might be more willing to understand the advanced stats and why they make their team shine more so than say, a Phillies fan, who generally won't have the access to talking heads or members of the organization touting the skills of their players from a sabermetric slant.
You sell it like you sell anything else -- by winning. However, that does bring up an interesting case study -- the Tampa Bay Rays. Great analytics dept, savvy manager and players with sabermetrics, attendance...blech.
Skillin: I think teams that have had longer-term success with analytics and are also known to be analytics savvy probably have a few more fans that are into analytics. Honestly, though, winning is what fans care most about, and if a team has success, fans won't care much how they do it.
What's your preferred version of WAR for pitchers and position players?
Weinberg: FanGraphs for both. I'm a FIP disciple and think I'm just more favorable toward the analytic mindset at FG. I love Baseball-Reference, though.
Wallace: Lean fWAR, but like to look at rWAR as well to see if there are disparities and if so, where they lie. Sometimes, you can learn a lot from this disparity with respect to not only how valuable a pitcher is, but where his value is weighted.
Skillin: Tough question, since each version of WAR incorporates different metrics and has its own drawbacks. I find myself using the FanGraphs version of WAR more than any other because I'm a big believer in FIP and measuring pitchers by what they can control, not what their defense (or lady luck) is responsible for.
Under the radar breakout candidate for 2014?
Weinberg: I spent way too much time thinking about this. No one jumped out, but keep an eye on Kole Calhoun.
Wallace: Johnathan Schoop
Adams: Tyson Ross: he was lights out in the 2nd half. After the all-star break he threw 80 innings and struck out more than a batter an inning (9.6 K/9) while keeping his walks at below average levels (2.6 BB/9). His 3-4 record in the 2nd half is uninspiring and the 2.93 ERA was good enough for 29th in the MLB, but, most encouragingly, he posted the 10th best xFIP and FIP in all of baseball.
Skillin: I wrote about Andrew Cashner recently, whose strong performances as a starter aren't getting nearly the attention they deserve in San Diego, though I don't know how "under-the-radar" he truly is. I'd also throw out Rick Porcello. He'll only be 25 next season, and his strong second half (3.55 FIP, 52.6% groundball rate) was overshadowed by all the horses in that Detroit rotation. On almost any other team, he'd be a No. 3 starter at worst.
Weinberg: Skillin, the question asked for under-the-radar breakout candidates. I've written like 9,000 "Rick Porcello is amazing" articles this year at New English D. You can't pick him!
Who's your favorite baseball writer (who doesn't write for BTBS)?
Weinberg: Jeff Sullivan.
Wallace: Harry Pavlidis, Russell Carleton for analytics stuff. Traditional writing would be Adam Kilgore.
Skillin: There are so many great baseball writers out there, so it's hard to pick just one. But for the sake of this exercise, I'll go with R.J. Anderson at Baseball Prospectus and The Process Report. Apart from providing great Rays coverage, Anderson's writing on baseball at BP has a great deal of insight. His articles aren't terribly long or flashy, but he packs in a lot of information and does a great job of distilling complex topics into easily digestible concepts.
What's a rule change you'd like to see?
Weinberg: Obviously,replay, but since that's pretty much here I'd like to see some sort of attempt to keep batters from stepping out for 25 seconds between pitches. Especially when they don't swing.
Wallace: Call for an intentional walk, let the runner take his base without having the pitcher throw pitches.
Skillin: The fact one league has a designated hitter and one league doesn't is pretty crazy at this point. And, being a fan of an AL team, I always find it hard to understand how fans can stand to watch pitchers flail up there at the plate. So I would add designated hitters to the NL. I could expound upon this topic for a few thousand words, but I'll spare you for now.
Name a surprising player who you think might have a huge October?
Weinberg: Not sure how surprising this is, but I think Omar Infante is going to do some good things.
Wallace: AJ Ellis
Skillin: I'll pick Alex Cobb, who we saw pitch so well last night. This season, he put up one of the more under-the-radar sub-3.00 ERAs I can remember in a while, and he could be a huge factor if he keeps pitching so well as Tampa's No. 2 starter behind David Price. Everything he throws moves, and as a result, he rarely gives up any hard contact.
Questions courtesy of @TheRealFrankL, @Stephaniekays, @FakePhilWood, Stuart, Steph, and anonymous inquisitors. Follow the mailbag crew on Twitter @NeilWeinberg44, @TClippardsSpecs, @Charlie_Adams13, and @AlexSkillin.
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All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.
Neil Weinberg is a Staff Writer at Beyond The Box Score, contributor to Gammons Daily, and can also be found writing enthusiastically about the Detroit Tigers at New English D. You can follow and interact with him on Twitter at @NeilWeinberg44.
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