With the World Series approaching this week, and at the suggestion of my friend, Eric Edward, I thought I’d take a look at whether we can predict which teams make it to the World Series, and why others do not. A huge topic, I know, but I have found some statistics that might shed some light on the subject.
We now know that the New York Yankees
will play the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series
, which will begin Wednesday night in New York. The Phillies are looking to 2-peat, having won the Series last year. The Yankees, who have won more World Series than any other franchise (26), are really pumped, if last night’s game against the Angels is any indication. It should be a very good series.
So were these two teams the likely candidates to play in the World Series? Let’s look at some numbers in various categories: salaries, market size, attendance, team value, and prior World Series appearances, to see if we could have predicted this year’s Series contenders.
Salaries/Payroll: It is no surprise that the Yankees have the highest team payroll in the Majors at $201,449,289 for 2009, as of opening day. The teams ranked 2 through 10 have payrolls between $135,773,988 (Mets) down to $98,904,167 (Mariners). Of the top 10, only 5 made it into the post season at all, and 4 of the 5 made it to the Championship Series. If only half of the top ten teams in payroll get into the post season, the correlation between Payroll and getting into the world series is pretty significant, but not over whelming, especially since the 13th, 16th and 24th teams in this category also made it. So maybe it’s not only about paying players more money.
Market Size: 4 of the top 5 teams in market size–Yanks(1), Dodgers (3), Angels (4) and Phillies (5) made it to the 2009 postseason and the same 4 won their respective divisions. The Mets (#2) didn’t make it to the postseason, but their #2 position is due largely to the fact that they are in a very densely populated metropolitan area and they moved into a very nice new stadium this season. The other 4 teams in the playoffs were #6 (Red Sox-Wild Card), #21 (Twins), #23 (Cards) and #24 (Rockies-Wild Card). Thus it appears that market size helps your chances because there is a larger pool of fans to draw from, but it is not determinative in making it to the postseason.
Attendance: 6 of the 8 top teams in attendance made it to the playoffs in 2009, as well as nos. 11 and 14, all in the top 50% of teams. The top 5 teams in this category won their respective divisions. So it looks like Attendance seems to track closely with appearance in the postseason. But what does this mean? Are the teams doing well because they have more people coming to the games, or do more people come because the team is doing well? My guess is it is the latter, which means that attendance alone is a good indicator but not a deciding factor.
Team Value: By far the most valuable MLB franchise is the New York Yankees ($1.5 billion). The Mets ($912M, 2nd), the Red Sox ($833M, 3rd), the Dodgers ($722M, 4th), and the Cubs ($700M, 5th) make up the rest of the top 5. 23 of the other teams are worth between $509 million (Angels, ranked 6th) down to $314 million (Royals, ranked 28th). The Pirates ($288M, 29th) and the Marlins ($277M, 30th) and are “in the bottom two,” a la Dancing With The Stars.
But let’s look at the most valuable teams and how they have fared in the World Series. #1 and #7 will compete in the Fall Classic; both are division and, obviously, the pennant winners. The 2 other teams that played in the Championship Series are the Dodgers (# 4) and the Angels (#6). When we go back to the Division Series, the results are mixed. The Red Sox (3rd) and the Cardinals (8th) are in the top 10, but the Rockies (20th) and Twins (22nd) are way back in the value pack, and show that much less valuable teams can at least make it to the Division Series, though not very likely. Since 7 of the top 10 in this category made it to the postseason, the team value category seems to have the highest correlation with getting beyond the end of the season.
World Series Experience: The Yankees by far have played in most World Series (39). Of the rest of the top 10 — Dodgers (18), Cardinals and Giants (17 each), Athletics (14), Red Sox (11), Tigers and Cubs (10 each), and the Reds and Braves (9 each)–only the Yankees, Dodgers, Cardinals and Red Sox made it to the post season in 2009. So World Series experience certainly helps, but it didn’t help the Yankees in 2001-2007 when they got eliminated in the ALDS 5 times, and in the ALCS once and lost the World series twice. The Bronx Bombers haven’t made an appearance in the Series since 2003 and haven’t won it since 2000. They also didn’t play in the post season at all in 2008, the first time in 14 years. Because a lot of ancient baseball history skews these results, I didn’t include World Series experience in my statistical analysis.
So what do we make of all this? I determined the rank of each team in each category and then averaged the 4 ranks for each team. The top teams, from 1 to 10, are, : Yankees, Mets, Dodgers, Red Sox, Angels, Phillies, Giants, Astros, Tigers, and Cards. 6 of them made it to the post season, and #1 and #5 are playing in the World Series. The 1st 6 teams are bunched together in averaged ranks; teams 7-10 (including the Cards) are ranked considerably lower. So I guess this ranking system is pretty good in predicting who will make it to the post season, but beyond that it’s anybody’s guess and involves a lot of luck.
The aberrations in the top 10 are interesting: the Mets, Giants, Astro’s and Tigers. None of them made it to the post season but all have circumstances leading to unusually high ranks: a new stadium, attendance and large market size (Mets), a reasonably new stadium, attendance and long history (Giants), high payroll and market size (Tigers), and then there’s the Houston Astros (T#5 in Payroll, #7 in Market Size, and #12 in attendance account for their high rank), go figure.
That’s a lot to digest, but if you are a numbers geek like me and want to see my Excel spreadsheet, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll email it to you. It has some very interesting and surprising statistics.
So sit back and enjoy the World Series. If my ranking system is correct, the Yankees should win it easily. But this is the Fall Classic and anything can happen. As is often said, the team that wants it most will find a way to win it. We should have a great series to watch.
Payroll Data: www.cbssports.com/mlb/salaries
Market Size Data: http://www.baseball-almanac.com/articles/baseball_markets.shtml N.B. For New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Baltimore/Washington and the SF Bay Area, all metropolitan areas with 2 teams, the Census data was allocated according to attendance info.
Attendance Data: www.baseball-reference.com
World Series Experience: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Series
As the baseball season begins its fall from summer into winter, and as I embark on a major rewrite of my novel “Contract Year,” I will be posting a bit less frequently on this blog. This is also a natural occurance as the season comes to an end and many people’s focus shifts to football (not mine, however.) There just simply will be less and less news on baseball during the offseason to write about. I will still try to post once a week, but don’t desert me if I miss one or two.
Cliff Pennington and Landon Powell Contribute Big: Cliff had a great game on Saturday, making 2 amazing plays at shortstop, and hitting his first homer from the right side, going 3 for 3 with 2 RBI’s and a walk.
He has a cannon for an arm and Sunday threw out Ichiro when everyone including Ichiro thought he had a hit.
Landon Powell has caught 3 games in the last 8 days and muscled his 1st career grandslam home run to right-center in the 2nd inning on Wednesday against the Royals, and a solo shot high up in the right field bleachers on Sunday. Here’s his trot to homeplate on Wednesday.
Apparently, Landon left the locker room before the press could get to him to ask him about his grand salame, and a conference call had to be set up so that the press could get their statement. Rookie mistake!
Scott Hairston and Gio Gonzalez: Scott Hairston was both goat and hero on Sunday. In the 5th inning with Seattle ahead 2-1, Scott came up with the bases loaded and 1 out, the best opportunity for the A’s so far against Seattle’s Doug Fister from Merced, CA, and popped up to Jose Lopez in foul territory, stranding the 3 runners. Unfortunately, Landon Powell couldn’t get the runners home either.
However, in the bottom of the 7th, Hairston came up with exactly the same situation as in the 5th,
but this time he delivered, blasting a grandslam into the left bleachers, putting the A’s ahead for good, 5-2. He was grinning as he met the huddle around home plate. I bet he called big brother Jerry who plays for the Yankees as soon as possible to tell him the good news.
Gio Gonzalez had undoubtedly his best outing of the season, pitching 7 innings, allowing 2 runs and only 2 walks and throwing 3 strikeouts. The best part of the outing was his effective use of the new 4-seam changeup that he has been working on for the last few months, giving him a credible third pitch to go with his breaking fastball and nasty curve. After giving up a run in the 1st, he settled down and allowed only one more run in the next 6 innings. In the bottom of the 7th when Gio’s day was done, Hairston’s slam got him the win, the second time the A’s gave him a victory in that fashion this year. In July, the A’s scored 6 runs to give Gio a win after pitching his final inning in Yankee Stadium.
Brad Zieger came in and pitched a 1-2-3 8th inning and Andrew (“Boom Boom”) Bailey closed it out for his 23rd save, tying Huston Street’s Oakland record for most rookie saves. Bailey was named American League Rookie of the Month for August. He also is considered one of the front runners for AL Rookie of the Year. Go get’em Boom Boom!
All for now. Upcoming topics include: Being a Fan Can Be Dangerous, Interesting Statistics, and anthing else that I get curious about.
Bay Area Teams Swept: The A’s and their counterparts across the Bay were unceremoniously swept over the weekend. I had hoped for a win yesterday for A’s 21-year-old rookieTrevor Cahill against Eric Bedard, especially after the very expensive Seattle hurler had such a mediocre season last year, but it was not to be. Cahill pitched a terrific game through 6+ innings, only giving up a run, but it was one run too many. Bedard was lights out, living up to his pre-Seattle reputation.
Red Sox in Town: Tonight the A’s begin a series at home with the Red Sox and as usual the Coliseum will look more red than green and gold. Red Sox fans–at least those who come to A’s games–are some of the most rude and obnoxious fans I’ve ever encountered. Unfortunately, A’s fans get sucked in and give as good as they get. It doesn’t make for a pleasant evening at the ballpark and I avoid these games like the plague.
A Leftover Post from Spring Training: I wrote this on the plane coming home from Spring Training at the end of March. It got sidelined once the season started and in all the sadness over the death of Nick Adenhart. Since there is nothing much to celebrate after a weekend of losses, I have decided to put it in here–a positive note for a change.
On March 29th before the Colorado Rockies game (the subject of my “Speed Guns, Testosterone and a Snafu” post below) I drove out to the Minor League Camp at Phoenix’ Papago Park. I parked the car under a Smoke tree, and walked in towards the playing fields. Here the players in the A’s organization who are invited to Spring Training–from Single A through Triple A–work out in the mornings and play intra-squad games after lunch. It was a slightly overcast morning in the seventies with a light breeze to keep things very comfortable.
I was astounded that there were exactly 5 people in the whole complex who were not players, coaches or groundskeepers. A guy sat in a beach chair munching on chips and watching the Triple A field from about 30 feet away. Across the way, an older couple and a woman on a cell phone sat on the metal bleachers at the Double A field. The fifth was yours truly.
I had come on a mission: to talk to “my guys,” three A’s minor league pitchers whom I had interviewed in October of 2007, when they were playing for the Phoenix Desert Dogs in the Arizona Fall League. At that time I was doing research on the life of a professional ballplayer for my novel, “Contract Year”, which is now “finished”–is anything ever finished? I wanted to say hello and catch up with them.
The first one I found was James Simmons, a lanky right-handed pitcher with a dazzling smile, who was drafted 26th overall by the A’s in the 2007 MLB June draft, and who commanded a seven-figure signing bonus from the A’s. For the last two seasons, he’s pitched for the Double A Midland Rockhounds in the Texas League, completely bypassing all rookie and A ball levels. He’s playing at Sacramento with the Triple A River Cats this season.
I asked James how he felt about Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson (both drafted the year after Simmons) getting an opportunity to play for the A’s this year. He said, “I’m not ready yet. There are still some things I need to work on. I’m fine with it and they deserve it.” Now there’s class!
While I was talking to James, Jeff Gray, another RHP who pitched for the River Cats last season strode up with a big smile on his face and extended his hand. He’s the oldest of the three at 28, and I had hoped he might break camp with the A’s this spring. Joe Stiglich, the A’s beat writer for the Contra Costa Times and other Bay Area News Group papers, told me that the A’s are “high on him,” but he’s going back in Sacramento to start this season.
I had to go looking for the last guy, Brad Kilby, a LHP who has pitched for Sacramento the last two seasons. I found him sitting on the bench next to the water cooler, staring at the paper cup in his hand . A man of few words, he’s also back in Sacramento for another season.
I have been following the careers of these three ballplayers from Double A to Triple A, and in Jeff’s case to the A’s. Last September Jeff got a “cup of coffee” in the majors, when the A’s called him up after rosters expanded on September 1st. He threw 5 innings in relief with the A’s and I got to see him pitch two of them in person. These guys have been invaluable to me in terms of my understanding of what minor league ballplayers have to deal with: playing for peanuts, climbing up the minors, hoping to get called up, and dealing with the fact that so much of their fate is out of their hands.
I brought a copy of my book with me and gave it to James to read. The other two will read it after James is finished. James, bless his heart, agreed to write a blurb for the dust jacket when the book is published.
I must confess that my heart was aflutter standing around talking to these good-looking very fit young men who are living the dream I would have aspired to in my youth if I’d had a Y-chromosome. They are all extremely nice and enthusiastic, and I am honored to call them my friends.
A’s Hope Opener: Well, last night was certainly a disappointment (the A’s lost 5-4) but the game was overshadowed by the pregame ceremonies memorializing the four slain Oakland police officers gunned down a couple of weeks ago. I had a tear in my eye as four OPD officers, each representing one of the families of the slain cops, placed police caps and baseballs on the pitcher’s mound to stand sentinel as the audience lowered their heads for a moment of silence. Nick Adenhart was also honored–a mention that was appropriately brief so as not to detract from the local tribute. The jet fighters’ fly-over and fireworks, the latter choreographed with the rockets red glare and the bombs bursting in air, capped off the moving tribute.
Chavy’s Back: It is great to see Eric Chavez making gold glove plays at third base like the Chavy of old and to have his bat back in the lineup. He’s such a classy guy and had every right to complain during the two plus years he was playing hurt or sidelined, but he never joined the pity party. Hat’s off to you, Eric.
Bobby Bobbles: Crosby just booted a routine play at third base (Chavez is getting the day off, and there’s no TV so I am listening on the radio). I want Jack Hannahan back, lousy bat and all. He is a proven utility infielder. Bobby is anything but, and keeps demonstrating it on the field. It’s his $5+ million salary that’s keeping him in the majors, not his bat, and certainly not his fielding at any position other than shortstop. Please, can I have Jack back, Billy?
A’s Lose Again to the Mariners: The game’s now over. Let’s hope that the A’s can salvage a win tomorrow after blowing another one. The A’s had the lead or were tied for most of the game. Jack Cust’s homer in the fifth was a bright spot–the A’s first homer of the season–making it 5-3, A’s. But the M’s went ahead for good in a disastrous eighth inning off Santiago Casilla and Brad Ziegler, giving Casilla the loss.
Maybe the collective thinking about where the Mariners will wind up at the end of the season could be wrong–last place in the AL West, according to Baseball America and others. The M’s can flat out hit. However, the A’s young pitching staff is showing rookie nerves, which will disappear in the coming weeks, so I guess we can’t be too concerned yet. An A’s win tomorrow would sure be good for the guys’ (and the fans’) morale.