Will Jim Hendry’s [CENSORED] Work In The Playoffs?

In Moneyball, Michael Lewis quotes Oakland Athletics GM Billy Beane as saying:
“My sh_t doesn't work in the playoffs. My job is to get us to the playoffs. What happens after that is f_cking luck.”
In Baseball Between The Numbers, the editors of Baseball Prospectus ask the question raised by Beane’s frank self-analysis: Why hasn't the guy’s sh---t worked? To get to the answer, BP identified 26 different measures of team quality—everything from things like regular season won-loss record, late-season W-L record, run differential, and team playoff experience to the more arcane Percent Of Runs Scored On Home Runs and Isolated Power—and after a lot of number-crunching and analysis, they concluded that three factors have “the most fundamental and direct relationship” to playoff success: Closer’s Win Expectation Above Replacement (WXRL) Defined here, WXRL measures the contribution of a team’s closer, i.e., the guy who receives the majority of the save opportunities, toward increasing his team’s probability of winning games. Pitchers' Strikeout Rate Just what it sounds like. Fielding Runs Above Replacement (FRAR) The total number of runs a team’s fielders saved compared to replacement-level fielders. So how do this year’s NL playoff teams compare on these three key measures? Here’s a look: Closer WXRL Arizona (Valverde), 4.269; 4th in NL Colorado (Corpas, 4.158, 6th in NL CUBS (Dempster), 2.657; 24th in NL Philadelphia (Myers), 1.647; 40th in NL Pitchers’ Striketout Rate (K/9) CUBS, 7.53 Arizona, 6.80 Philadelphia, 6.48 Colorado, 5.91 Fielding Runs Above Replacement Colorado, 228 CUBS, 193 Philadelphia, 188 Arizona 158 Not a bad picture for the Cubs, eh? The team’s weak link according to these numbers is pretty obvious. It has red hair, an engaging personality, and in 15 games since September 1st, an ERA of 9.82. The good news, of course, is that the Cubs have alternatives to Ryan Dempster. Bob Howry (3.129) is 17th in WXRL among NL relievers. Carlos Marmol (3.694) shows up 11th. Would Lou Piniella entrust closing duties in the playoffs to the 25-year-old Marmol, who has exactly one career save? Almost certainly not—personally, I’d love to see it--but that still leaves Howry. Given how horribly Dempster has pitched lately, I’d argue that Howry, though only 8-for-12 in save opps this season, is actually the smart choice. Plug Howry into the closer's spot and the team that Jim Hendry built looks fairly formidable according to BP’s yardstick. And in case you’re wondering about the Billy Beane question posed at the beginning of this post, BP points to a combination of factors that led to the downfall of Beane's 2000-03 playoff teams. These included at various times bad luck, a veteran pitching staff “cobbled together from the waiver wire,” an immature bullpen and some defensively challenged rosters like the 2000 club with an outfield of Ben Grieve, Terrence Long and Matt Stairs, “one of the worst defensive groups in recent memory."
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Comments

How do you calculate these numbers, especially the WXRL? (I used to listen to WXRL before they got too commercial.)

I have never found the formulas. BP seems to keep all of that stuff behind a big, black curtain, I suppose so others can't profit from their hard work. Either that or all the crap is just made up.

I officially have no comment regarding this post.

I sincerely hope my good friend Chad has no comment, either.

Cubnut:
"Either that or all the crap is just made up."

Now we are getting somewhere...:)

A factor in the Cubs' favor is that Lou isn't afraid to manage.

For example, couldn't somebody else have carried the winning run home yesterday besides Matt Holliday? He didn't look too fast, and then he took a nosedive and had to be helped off the field.

Lou would have found the perfect guy to pinch run: Jason Marquis!

Holliday got tagged out too and only scored because McClellan either blew the call or felt bad about the HR they robbed from the Rockies earlier in the game.

VA Phil:
"For example, couldn’t somebody else have carried the winning run home yesterday besides Matt Holliday? He didn’t look too fast, and then he took a nosedive and had to be helped off the field."

Can't tell if you are joking or not, but there is NO WAY Holliday should have been lifted for a PR. There were 0 outs in a tie game in a playin game. You don't take out a top MVP candidate in that situation, IMO.

Eat s**t, Gene Wojciechowski...

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/columns/story?...

We've come a long way. Go Cubs!

WXRL is indeed BP proprietary, but you can see the problem even with something as simple as WHIP (Walks plus Hits per Innings Pitched):

Corpas: 1.06
Valverde: 1.12
Myers: 1.28
Dempster: 1.34

(Howry, by the way, is at 1.17 and Marmol is 1.10.)

While it supposedly adjusts for strength of opposing hitters, WXRL is a "counting stat"--so it is based upon playing time.

This has the effect of understating Myers, because Myers had 15 innings of (really crappy) starting this year and only 53 in the pen (compared to Dempster. It also overstates the value of Corpas because he pitched 78 innings this year as a middle-relief guy before becoming the closer in July.

So if one were to adjust based on a uniform number of innings as a closer, Valverde becomes the clear winner, and Corpas, Dempster and Myers would be bunched up together closer than they are in the WXRL report.

Love the title of this and the Beane quote. I hope this shit works, too!

Baseball Prospectus Series Preview

Free to everyone at the moment

WXRL is a counting stat, but leverage is also a factor in this. (i.e. striking out a batter with a man on third and one out then finishing the game counts for more "points" than saving a 3 run game)

This probably tilts this stat in favor of teams that play closer games with a good pen (such as Arizona).

Can’t tell if you are joking or not

I wasn't joking, Manny, but I could be wrong in suggesting that Lou would have used a pinch runner. He does have a tendency to play for the moment and not for some later inning. (That's why Marmol isn't the closer--Lou can't wait to bring him in!)

I'm still not joking.

On the other hand, I've only seen Lou pinch-run for runners like Ward, Ramirez and Floyd, and not for someone like Derrek Lee, who might be comparable to Holliday.

Personally, I would not want to give Lee the job of bringing that run home when there are guys like Cedeno and Pie that you could throw out there. And Lee knows how to slide.

Apologies to Wes and Chad, but this is topical, as Cubnut brought Baseball Prospectus into the discussion. BP's Nate Silver today has a column analyzing the the Cubs-D'backs series using all of their black-box stats.

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php...
(subscription only).

On offense, BP calls the Diamondbacks "one of the worst lineups ever for a team that reached the playoffs, a group that resembles the 1998 Dodgers sans Kirk Gibson." Gives a strong edge to Cubs: "Overall, the Cubs are probably two-thirds or three-quarters of a run better per game on neutral ground, which is a really substantial advantage."

Benches: notes that the Cubs bench "might be the best October bench I’ve seen since I started doing these previews." For Diamondbacks: "this is about what you’d expect on the bench of a team that finished 14th in their league in run scoring."

Starting rotation: edge to Cubs, mostly on fact that Brandon Web cannot start every game.

Bullpen: gives edge to Diamondbacks, but notes "I’m not sure if the Diamondbacks have a great bullpen so much as a good bullpen that had a great year." Makes the case for Marmol as closer.

Team Defense: strong edge to Cubs, especially with Orlando Hudson out.

I've no clue how he did any of this, but Silver's secret sauce gives Cubs 64.3% chance of winning the series, most likely in in 4 games (28%). But Nate Silver believes that home field advantage might be overstated for this series, "since the Cubs have a lot of roots in the Phoenix area, and might get as much of a third of a crowd to support them, as well as the royal treatment at the local strip joints." As a result, Silver predicts a Cubs sweep.

Jedi Knight wrote:

WXRL is a counting stat, but leverage is also a factor in this. (i.e. striking out a batter with a man on third and one out then finishing the game counts for more “points” than saving a 3 run game)

This probably tilts this stat in favor of teams that play closer games with a good pen (such as Arizona).
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

I hadn't thought of that, but you are correct. Since AZ has many more one-run games (52) than the other teams (Cubs 45, Rockies 38, and Phillies 37), WXRL will be inflated for Valverde, perhaps by as much as 10%-20%. Good point.

Although Bob Howry is 8-12 in "official" save opportunities, he's actually 8-9 (89%) in "true" save opportunities (a "true" save being a situation where a pitcher is protecting a 9th inning lead). .

The other three so-called "blown saves" charged to Howry were actually "blown holds," one occurring in the 6th inning, and two occurring in the 7th inning.

So Howry protected each and every 8th inning lead to which he was entrusted, and eight of the nine 9th inning leads to which he was entusted.

Howry's nine "true" save opportunities:

8 IP
6 H
3 R (3 ER)
1 BB
13 K
1 HR

NOTE: All three of the runs, three of the hits, and the one HR all occurred in the same game (6/25 at Wrigley Field vs COL, a game the Cubs won in the bottom of the 9th), a game that was Howry's first "true" save opportunity. He then went 8-8 in saves after that (7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 12 K, and 0 HR).

So I'd go Wood-Marmol-Howry 7-8-9 in the post-season.

And I still maintain that a "Blown Save" should NOT be charged when a pitcher blows a lead in a "hold" situation.

No apology necessary, DC Tom.

I came to the same conclusion without giving myself a headache by starting at SABR for a while. :)

DC Tom — October 2, 2007 @ 10:23 am

I’ve no clue how he did any of this, but Silver’s secret sauce gives Cubs 64.3% chance of winning the series, most likely in in 4 games (28%). But Nate Silver believes that home field advantage might be overstated for this series, “since the Cubs have a lot of roots in the Phoenix area, and might get as much of a third of a crowd to support them, as well as the royal treatment at the local strip joints.” As a result, Silver predicts a Cubs sweep.

===========================

DC TOM: And the local Phoenix media is already whining about this.

Let's go, Cubbies!!!!!
Let's go, Cubbies!!!!!

I'm just getting warmed up.

Dmitri Young and Carlos Pena named Comeback Players of the Year.

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=3...

Crunch all the numbers, but from where I sit the only number that matters is wins and loses. Dempster has a very good save conversion percentage. Howry and Marmol have been very good in the 7th and 8th. Why change a formula that has worked? How many saves has Demp blown in September? What is his ERA in save situations? I honestly don't know the answer to these questions, and am being too lazy to look them up right now. But I do know that it is not uncommon for closers to have have a much higher ERA in non save situations.

AZ Phil said:So I’d go Wood-Marmol-Howry

Marmol's job description is to come in when the starter runs out of gas in the sixth or seventh, clean up the mess left behind by the starter, and then turn the ball over to the setup guy after the seventh.

So how about Marmol-Wood-Howry?

(Dempster can be in charge of pie-throwing and hazing activities.)

Are your headlines and text getting censored, guys? If so, that's bullshit.

I just got to work, did it say something else earlier?

someone took it upon themselves to change bitch to b_tch in an earlier post. Let's say I'm not thrilled.

Virginia Phil — October 2, 2007 @ 11:29 am
AZ Phil said:So I’d go Wood-Marmol-Howry

Marmol’s job description is to come in when the starter runs out of gas in the sixth or seventh, clean up the mess left behind by the starter, and then turn the ball over to the setup guy after the seventh.

So how about Marmol-Wood-Howry?

(Dempster can be in charge of pie-throwing and hazing activities.)

=============================

VA PHIL: Marmol-Wood-Howry would be fine.

Yes, Christian. The posts are being censored for profanity. (Never mind that the headline and the content of this post are based on a direct quotation.)

And you're right--it's bullshit. Or should I say, bullstuff.

Comeback player of the year, I guess it's not voted on like the other awards. I still can't figure out what Pena 'came back to' but he had a big season so congrats!

"On offense, BP calls the Diamondbacks “one of the worst lineups ever for a team that reached the playoffs, a group that resembles the 1998 Dodgers sans Kirk Gibson.”

Was this really a direct quote as you have posted? 1998 sans Gibson? How about 1988? That sound better to anyone? shouldn't these baseball genius' re-read their work?

I've supported Dempster most of the year but his Sept was awful. My guess is Lou lets him close to start but it'll be one short, short leash. Anything resembling a blown save will lose his job.

Good catch, Chad.

As TCR Reader of the Day, you just won a free lifetime subscription to Baseball Prospectus.

Woo Woo for you Comcast owners!!!

http://chicagosports.chicagotribune.com/sport...

TBS HD should be available by Wednesday.

My email to the Comcast automatons worked! :-)

I’ve supported Dempster most of the year but his Sept was awful. My guess is Lou lets him close to start but it’ll be one short, short leash. Anything resembling a blown save will lose his job.

I tend to agree with that, Rob. He hasn't had many save situations in September, so we don't know how he will react.

He might go back to good Dempster when it's a save situation. For some guys it's just a switch that you flip. When the lights are on in the 9th, it's different.

Or, he might not. He might continue being teh sux.

Hey Chad, maybe you should click the link before calling names. In fact, BP says 1988.

Follow-up to post # 19, AZ Phil's regarding the Cubbie "home field advantage" in Arizona.

Never before in the history of the post-season has a team played road games in the same metro area where that team has its Spring Training and facilities.

This proximity was only possible once the Marlins, Devil Rays, and Diamondbacks entered the league. The Diamondbacks have not faced a team in the post-season that trains in Arizona. The Marlins played the Indians in 1997, the Braves in 1997, and the Yankees in 2003. Those teams train in Flroida, but in Winter Haven, Orlando, and Tamps--a couple hundred miles from Miami.

I believe that this will in fact give the Cubs an advantage--they will have their full complement of coaches available in Mesa, a familiar training environment, and even homes for some players.

Sorry if this is old news, the this article is about the Cards talking about the Cubs chances.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/cs-07100...

Chad, I am the source of that typo. And many others, for sure. You'd never know that I am a published writer based on what I spew here sometimes, but there's no back-up of a proofreader here.

hey dbt, maybe you should read my post. I asked if that was a direct quote. Apparently it wasn't. I refuse to click on any link to BP for obvious reasons.

some quotes from that article:

Readier than the Cardinals were, according to one St. Louis veteran who didn't want his named used.

"[The Cubs] are a lot better than we were," he said. "A lot. A lot."

St. Louis pitching coach Dave Duncan agrees.

"They're a better club than we had last year," he said. "They're deeper offensively, they're healthier, deeper starting pitching. I think they have a better chance than we did.

"Pitching is a key part [of postseason success]. They are deeper than we were. They have more veteran starters who have been successful. And they have a proven closer [in Ryan Dempster], who makes it exciting but gets the job done."

This is how good that BP article was. I was so engrossed reading it on the train, I missed my stop and am now in Oxford. Getting back to London tonight is going to be very very tough. The read was worthwhile though.

i re-read moneyball recently...i know beane's come out and said a chunk of the text in the book is a bit old-school elevated in drama and importance with a bit of padding of importance to the key players...but...

did every interview and sound bite from beane in the book come after he's had a testosterone laden workout? i think 1/2 the book takes place with beane in a workout room. =p

re: dumpster

throw around all the numbers you want...you can do the same for rob beck in 98, too...

what he did last year, the year before, and april-august doesnt explain or put anything to rest about what he did in sept.

he's given up nearly 2 and 5/6th worth of homers up in 1 month if you wanna bring up past stats.

he's getting hit and its not that weak stuff to theriot or bouncers to derosa. given he's not throwing 84mph fastballs like rob beck's sept. meltdown (and no, im not seeing or listening to an arguement that all he's throwing is sliders because he's not) i dunno what to point to as a possible issue.

he's being seen well and being hit well...on a level we've not seen.

The splitter (or whatever it is that Dempster uses) just doesn't seem to have the bite it needs to get people out. The fastball is not impressive and won't get passed power bats unless it is accompanied by the good breaking ball. He definitely does not currently have the good breaking ball!

I really wish we had a Papelbon on this team.

Ah, good old Rob Beck.

Who on this team has had good numbers againt Webb?

Would do the research myself but am still in Oxford with only my bb for company.

ROB G: I ended up buying two in RF for "Game One" in COLO as it just so happens that I was going to be there Oct 12-15.

I hope both teams make it.

I wonder if in RF Upper Deck one can even see anything.

So spoiled with my tickets @ Wrigley. It is not the "real world".

I really wish we had a Papelbon on this team.

Call Peoria.

CRUNCH: - sigh - Ain't it the truth.

We will see how Lou handles all of this soon enough.

As I recall - when Dempster was "injured" didn't the "closer by committee" have good success? Esp. Howry?

..and yes, there's some "funny" names in that list.

fwiw...beck actually still managed to get people out and get his saves with his mysterious velocity drop in sept.

still, he was never the same and never quite got his velocity back to normal. he "did his job" with his tired arm, but man was it weird seeing him go from a 88-90+ guy to a guy who couldnt even break 85mph.

showed up the next year looking like "that other" borowski. we know how his story eventually ended...meh.

Thanks Crunch. Only Dlee with an OPS of note then.

Good news for Cubs fans stuck with RCN in Chicago: I got an email response from RCN this morning saying that they are negotiating with TBS as we speak to get TBS-HD added before the Wednesday game. No idea if they'll close a deal, but it sounds like they're at least making some effort.

VA Phil: think I wanted Jon more than Jeremy. Unless you think Jeremy could do a similar job?

Damn, why did we trade Freddie Bynum? 1.667 career OPS against Webb! Stupid Hendry.

Thanks, crunch

HD? Ha. I would feel so sorry if people had to watch baseball in Regular Definition:)

Meanwhile, I just ordered cable so that I can watch the playoffs. Unfortunately, they won't hook it up until next Monday. I hope there's still something to watch by then.

So here's how the teams do based on which starter takes the hill:

The Cubs are 85-77 (.525) in all games.
The Cubs are 18-16 (.529) when Zambrano starts.
The Cubs are 19-15 (.558) when Lilly starts.
The Cubs are 17-15 (.531) when Hill starts.

The Diamondbacks are 90-72 (.555) in all games.
The D'backs are 22-12 (.647) when Webb starts.
The D'backs are 16-17 (.484) when Hernandez starts.
The D'backs are 20-13 (.606) when Davis starts.
The D'backs are 14-13 (.518) when Owings starts.

No idea what any of this means.

Think it means that certain pitchers are better than others.

"No idea what any of this means."

i think those stats just called you gay.

FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT!

"The Cubs are 18-16 (.529) when Zambrano starts."

And Zambrano went 18 - 13. so that mean the Cubs never won a game for Zambrano if he left with while losing or tied. Conversely, 3 games they lost after zambrano left with a lead or tie.

Point being? I'm not sure but I know it means something.

"So here’s how the teams do based on which starter takes the hill:

The Cubs are 85-77 (.525) in all games.
The Cubs are 18-16 (.529) when Zambrano starts.
The Cubs are 19-15 (.558) when Lilly starts.
The Cubs are 17-15 (.531) when Hill starts.

The Diamondbacks are 90-72 (.555) in all games.
The D’backs are 22-12 (.647) when Webb starts.
The D’backs are 16-17 (.484) when Hernandez starts.
The D’backs are 20-13 (.606) when Davis starts.
The D’backs are 14-13 (.518) when Owings starts.

No idea what any of this means."

I think it means Marquis really stinks and that not including him greatly improves the Cubs chances.

Cubs .525
3 playoff starters only 54-36 .600
Games started by others 31-41 .430

any news on playoff rosters?

fwiw...which is nothing...8 out of 10 ESPN talking heads give the Cubs the nod to beat ARZ...(no they didnt ask dusty).

the 2 who give it to ARZ are bryant (who) and keri (who).

Quote from the Cardinals article: "A lot of times you play as good as you have to play. Had there been more competition, the Cubs might have been better."

Very true of this year's team. Nobody on the Cubs exemplifies this tendency more than Ryan Dempster.

What the heck, we have until 10 pm Eastern tomorrow, so let's continue beating this horse.

I posted yesterday that Dempster's problems appear to be related to fact that lefty hitters hit him hard this year (.259/.349/.464). He is still effective against righty hitters, .224/.300/.336. The Diamondbacks have no lefty hitters of note except for Stephen Drew.

Let's look at Dempster's bad September outings and what went wrong with each of them. In most, the crucial, game-breaking mistake was caused by a left-handed hitter.

9/1: Cubs hold two run lead in ninth, gives up one run, a meaningless solo shot to Carlos Lee (rightie), but keeps save.

9/6: a four-run blow-up against Dodgers. Martin (rightie) and Loney (leftie) single. Ethier (leftie) hits a HR. Mark Sweeney (leftie) gets a single. Fielder's choice, Sweeney out, Furcal to first. Juan Pierre (leftie) gets a hit, then weird stuff with baserunning and hats tilted sideways, end result, while pitching against Matt Kemp (rightie), Dempster throws a wild pitch and Furcal scores. Kemp strikes out.

9/11: extra inning, tie game, Dempster pitches perfect tenth. Dempster comes out for 11th inning, only the fourth time he's come out for another frame all year, first time since the injury. Walks Mark Loretta (rightie). Luke Scott (leftie) triples in winning run.

9/12: Dempster comes out next day against Houston after pitching 2 innings, Cubs have a 2 run lead. Loretta (rightie) gets single, Mike Lamb (leftie) gets triple to score run. Dempster gets out of inning and save anyway.

9/14: Cubs have 5-1 lead over Cardinals, Dempster makes appearance anyway. Gives us all freaking heart attacks by giving up two solo shots, to Edmonds (leftie) and Ryan Ludwick (rightie). Howry mercifully ends game.

9/21: Cubs have 13-7 lead going into 9th over Pirates, Dempster makes appearance anyway. Gives up meaningless solo shot to Xavier Nady (rightie).

9/22: 9-4 lead for Cubs, Dempster comes in for 9th inning against Pirates anyway. Gives up meaningless solo shot to Nate McLouth (leftie).

9/27: Cubs trail Marlins 5-4, Dempster comes out to pitch bottom of eighth. Walks Todd Lindin (hitting lefty). Foul out, stolen base, strike out. Idiot Cody Ross (rightie) gets a double and drives in a run. Then Dempster gets Hanley Ramirez (rightie) to ground out.

9/30: Hard to tell whether to bother with this game, for all we know Dempster was trying out his gyroball. But gives up 4 runs to Reds in fourth inning. Jason Ellison (rightie) single, Pedro Lopez (rightie) single. Ryan Hanigan (rightie) singles and drives in a run. Joey Votto (leftie) hits three run home run.

you want some more meaningless stats?
This seasons, Cubs are 14-8 on wednesdays, 10-9 on thursdays, and a whopping 18-9 on saturdays. so i'm predicting a sweep. i just hope we don't have to play on a tuesday (9-15).

“The Cubs are 18-16 (.529) when Zambrano starts.”

And Zambrano went 18 - 13. so that mean the Cubs never won a game for Zambrano if he left with while losing or tied. Conversely, 3 games they lost after zambrano left with a lead or tie.

Point being? I’m not sure but I know it means something."

I figured it out. It means that when Z pitches well, the Cubs win. When he doesn't, well, not so much.

So - that makes 23 "meaningless" homers ;) ?

What does this mean?

It means we only should worry about Dempster when he faces lefties, E-Man. And since the Diamondbacks everyday lefty hitters are Augie Ojeda and Stephen Drew, we can rest a little easier. For this series, that is. Ryan Howard or Todd Helton? Different story.

MVN censored Cubnut! I will not stand for this! Or something

feel free to check the front page again and the current top story...

yearly right/lefty splits dont really reflect his sept.

he got hit a lot by both righties and lefties even if "only" 3 of his 7 homers given up were vs. righties.

this is a guy who gave up 9 homers total in 05/06 and only 1 from april-august.

the flip is in sept. his walks to guys from the left side turned into more hits.

we're going into october with this guy, not a spreadsheet.

What's ironic is that the censoring is being done in the name of bringing heightened professionalism and class to the MVN world.

Evidently, not quite appreciating how unclassy, petty and professionally disrespectful they have been towards one of the blogs on MVN that holds itself to the highest standards of writing and analysis.

Seriously, if I'm a blogger of any talent, would this incident inspire me to come write at MVN?

Why isn't the fact that the D-Bags have scored fewer runs than they've allowed getting more press (at least here)?

How in the (censored) did they have the best record in the NL?

I refuse to click on any link to BP for obvious reasons.

You're an idiot?

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