Baseball Bits #10: Not many 100 Win Teams win World Series

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As I publish this post, the Sox need only one win to reach 100 for the first time since 1946. Last year, 3 of the 6 division winners were 100-win teams. But what does this mean for the Red Sox hopes for the post season success?

The American League is a league of extremes. 3 teams in the AL are on pace to win 100 games this year and 1 more is on pace to be very close. But there are a lot of teams in the American League who are on pace for close to 100 losses. The Orioles have already lost 103 games and most teams have 15-20 games left! The 3 worst teams by record are in the American League, and 6 AL teams have already been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. The National League has only 3 teams that have been eliminated so far.

The American League playoff picture is practically locked up, while no National League team has even come close to clinching a playoff berth. It’s likely going to come down to the final week in the NL and tiebreakers may be a factor.

Even though the top AL teams will likely finish with a better record, does this mean they are better teams? I don’t think so. Due to the tough competition, talented National League teams have been challenged to reach win totals of some of the top AL teams. For example, the Washington Nationals aren’t even a .500 team. That being said, I think a National League team could win the World Series this year, giving a wake-up call to the AL because regular season wins won’t mean anything once the playoffs start.

I’ve done some research on every 100-win team in the 162-game era. I wrote down the team, the year they did it, their final record, and how they did in the playoffs. Based on 100-win teams of the past, what are the odds the Red Sox or one of the other 100-win teams to win the World Series? Will these teams choke early in the playoffs? (Note: Considering that there could be 3-4 from the American League, it is unlikely that all of them do). Check out my research below and keep reading to find out what the research says and how I interpreted it.

The Research

Baseball Bits #10_ 100-Win Teams – Sheet1

The “Baseball Bits”

  • There have been 57 100-win teams in the 162-game era
  • Only 15 of the 57 (26.3 %) went on to win the World Series, even though 30 of the 57 (52.6%) made it to the World Series.
  • Since the LDS began, there have only been 26 100-win teams. 12 of them (46.15%) lost in the LDS
  • 13 of the 57 100-win teams (22.8%) lost in the LCS
  • 2 of the 57 (3.5%) 100-win teams missed the playoffs entirely. These two teams both played in the era before any playoffs beyond the World Series
  • The Red Sox reached 100 wins three times before the 162-game era: they won the World Series in two of those years
  • However, the Red Sox have yet to have a 100-win season in the 162-game era
  • The Yankees have had 8 100-win seasons in the 162-game era, winning the World Series in 3 of them
  • The best team in 162-game MLB history (the 2001 Mariners) went 116-46 and went on to lose in the ALCS
  • The 2018 Red Sox are on pace to win 111 games, which would make them the third best team in the 162-game era by record behind the 2001 Mariners and 1998 Yankees (who lost in the ALDS)
  • Each of the last two World Series winners were 100-win teams
  • There have been 15 seasons in the 162-game era with multiple 100-win teams
  • 5 of these seasons had three 100-win teams – in only 2 of those years did one of the 3 100-win teams win the World Series
  • The Red Sox, Yankees (on pace for 101), and Astros (on pace for 102) are all on pace for 100 wins this year, and Athletics (98) are close
  • The best team in the 162-game era to win a World Series went 114-48 (The 1998 Yankees)
  • The best team in the 162-game era to miss out on the LCS went 103-59 (The 2002 Athletics)

The Verdict

The fact that an 100-win team won the World Series in each of the last 2 years is very promising. There were three 100-win teams last year and three on pace to do it this year, so I think one of them will pull off a World Series victory. But will it be the Red Sox? The Astros just outplayed the Red Sox in their most recent series and won the series 2-1, and the Yankees always give Boston a hard time in the playoffs. You also have to consider how easy the competition is in the American League compared to the National League. Who knows, there might have been no 100-win teams this year if the MLB’s leagues were more balanced.

However, I don’t think the Red Sox will choke in the ALDS, even though 12 of the 26 100-game winners in the ALDS era did. They are on pace for 110 wins. The winning-est team that missed the LCS was the 2002 Oakland Athletics, who were 103-59. But I do think there’s a good chance the Yankees come close to topping the Red Sox in the ALDS, and there’s an even better chance the Astros beat them in the ALCS to advance to the World Series. In the end, I think the World Series goes to one of these teams: the Astros, the Red Sox, the Cubs (best NL team), the Dodgers (always a contender), or the Rockies (a young team with a stacked lineup and drastically improving pitching).

I’ll be going to the game tonight against Toronto. Will David Price lead us to our 100th victory? We’ll all find out tonight.

UPDATE: I just witnessed Red Sox history! The Red Sox have reached 100 wins. Hopefully they become the 16th 100-win team in the 162-game era to win the World Series.

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Baseball Bits #9: Why Mookie Betts Should Still Lead Off

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Although he has missed significant time due to injuries, Mookie Betts has had a phenomenal season.  As of June 18th, he is batting .340/.419/.699 with 18 HR, 38 RBI, and 13 stolen bases. As his stats show, he is a speedy, consistent leadoff hitter who hits home runs.  With stats like his, many have argued that he belongs in the middle of the line-up as he has nearly made the 30-30 club in each of the last two years.

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Despite their speed, most 30-30 hitters of the past did not lead off.  Instead, they have been middle of the line-up threats.  Alex Cora has said time and time again that Betts is his leadoff hitter and I think there is evidence to support the Sox rookie manager’s decision and it goes beyond the Sox best start in years.

Betts has hit 3 leadoff homers just this year (13 in his career).  He also bats in consecutive innings or twice in an inning very often.   And the more at-bats he gets, the more chances to help the Sox potent offense get going whether it is the start of the game or in later innings.  Read below for some more compelling stats that support the decision to keep Betts leading off.

The Research (Note: Data as of June 18th)

Baseball Bits #9_ Mookie Betts Back-2-Back Innings – 2018 At-Bats in Back-To-Back InningsSame Inning (1)

The “Baseball Bits”

  • In the 54 games Betts has played this season, he has batted in consecutive innings (including one time he batted twice in one inning) 36 times over 29 games
    • The Red Sox are 22-7 in these games (.759 winning percentage)
    • To compare, the Sox current overall record is 49-24 (.671)
    • When Betts plays and does not do it, the Red Sox are 15-10 (.600)
    • The Sox are 4-3 when Betts does it twice in one game (.571)
    • They are 1-0 when Betts bats twice in an inning (1.000)
    • The Sox are 3-1 (.750) when Betts comes up to bat in three innings in a row
  • 12 of these 36 (33%) of Betts’ consecutive inning at-bats have started in the 1st inning
  • Betts is batting .468/.533/.887 with a 1.420 OPS for all of the consecutive inning/same inning at bats
    • He has hit 8 HR and drove in 18 runs in these at bats
    • 44% of his home runs this season and 47% of his RBIs this season have been when he has batted in consecutive innings or twice in an inning

The Verdict

As much as the Red Sox would benefit from having Betts batting before J.D. Martinez, creating a 1-2 punch, I think the data shows it’s been plenty beneficial to keep Betts in the leadoff spot.  Even with the bases empty at the start of the game or after our weak end of the lineup struggles, Betts manages to come through. He has hit 13 career leadoff home runs and would not bat in consecutive innings this often if he wasn’t leading off.  33% of his consecutive inning at-bats have started in the 1st inning.

The only major downside of keeping him in the leadoff spot is that with the 7th, 8th, and 9th batters struggling, he has fewer RBI opportunities.  If the Sox find a way to get another bat or the bottom of the order heats up, that will change.  Another option is if Dustin Pedroia can return to his old self, it will help make 1 through 9 stronger like the Yankees potent offense.  Either way, it’s hard to argue with the success the Sox line-up has had with Mookie at the top.

The Sox have plenty of speed in their line-up and super utility man Brock Holt 9th could bat 9th to give them a second lead-off.  Holt has been doing well this season, while the more frequent bottom of the order consisting of Jackie Bradley Jr. (another good 9 option when hitting better), Sandy Leon, and Christian Vazquez have struggled to the point where none of them are batting .250 or higher.  Trying Holt or Pedroia in the nine-hole could potentially get Betts some runners in scoring position when he comes up, which should make him perform even better. Betts is batting .353 with runners in scoring position this year, but only 34 of his 209 at-bats (16.3%) have been with runners in scoring position.  That just shows how desperately Betts needs some end of the lineup support and how Betts’ home runs have helped his RBI total of 38.  The Red Sox have a top-heavy lineup.

They have not shown signs that they are already missing Hanley Ramirez but will they need to add another hitter in order to contend in the playoffs?  If the Sox 7-8-9 hitters keep struggling as we get closer to the July 31st trading deadline, it will be something the Sox will have to consider.  I hope they heat up but if not, expect to see a post from me on potential additions either by trade or internal or both.

Baseball Bits #8: What The Unusual Amount of No-Hitters Means for Jordan’s Furniture Customers

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As they do every year, Jordan’s Furniture, a major sponsor of the Red Sox, is having a big baseball sale.  This year, they offered to make any furniture bought between March 28 and today (May 20) free if a Red Sox pitcher or pitchers throw a no-hitter (games shorter than nine innings do not count) between July 17 and the end of the regular season.  Should you buy furniture? Will the Red Sox pitch a no-hitter after July 16?

 

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For those of you who are undecided on whether to give in and buy some new furniture, I have done some research about no-hitters based on the fact that there have already been 3 no-hitters in 2018.  Based on the data, I calculated the chance of a Red Sox no-hitter during the time that the Jordan’s Furniture sale counts towards (July 17-end of the regular season). You can also come to your own conclusions, as I have provided my official data below.  I looked at every regular season no-hitter since 1990 (according to ESPN) and tallied up all the no-hitters each year. I split it into no-hitters before July 17 and after July 16, and I also looked at how many were thrown by Red Sox pitchers.  

The Research

I have provided 5 PDFs with my research:

 

No-Hitters By Year After 7/16: Baseball Bits #8_ No-Hitters – After

No-Hitters By Year Before 7/17: Baseball Bits #8_ No-Hitters – Before

All No-Hitters By Year: Baseball Bits #8_ No-Hitters – All

Summary Pivot Table: Baseball Bits #8_ No-Hitters – Summary Pivot

List of All No-Hitters From ESPN (Cut out data from before 1990 and during the postseason) with data I added for this article: Baseball Bits #8_ No-Hitters – Master Data (Note: The “Count of No-Hitters” column was just used to help set up the pivot table)

 

The “Baseball Bits”

  • Since 1990, the average number of no-hitters per year is 2.79
    • There is an average of 1.03/year after July 16
    • There is an average of 1.76/year before July 17
    • Based on this data, not only are we ahead of the average pace for no-hitters before July 17, we are ahead of the average pace for no-hitters all season
    • However, in the last 10 years:
      • The average number of no-hitters/year is 3.6 (2.2 before July 17, 1.4 after July 16)
      • In the last 10 years, we are only a little ahead of average pace for # of no-hitters before July 17, and we are not quite at the average pace of no-hitters/year
  • Since 1990, there have been 5 other years when there have been 3 or more no-hitters before July 17 – in those years, the average number of no-hitters after July 16 is 2.2
    • We have not had 3 no-hitters by May 8th since 1969
    • Since 1990, there has only been one time (2010) where we have even had 3 no-hitters by June 1st
      • There were 5 no-hitters that year (1 was after July 16th)
  • The Red Sox have thrown 4 no-hitters since 1990
    • It has not happened since 2008
    • 3 were before 7/17 (thrown by Jon Lester (2008), Derek Lowe (2002), and Hideo Nomo (2001))
    • Only 1 was after 7/16, thrown by Clay Buchholz in 2007
  • Just a cool anomaly about this year’s no-hitters: They have all taken place in different countries (Paxton in Canada, Manaea in USA, Buehler/Garcia/Cingrani/Liberatore combined in Mexico)

 

The Verdict

Based on my research, my previous baseball knowledge, and WHIP of MLB starters in recent years, I have concluded that there is 60.5% (about 3 in 5 chance) of a no-hitter somewhere in the MLB after July 16.  The average of 2.2 no-hitters after July 16 when there has been 3+ before July 17 (data based on no-hitters since 1990) has had a big influence on these odds. But I couldn’t say there was a 100% chance of a no-hitter because I cannot tell the future.  You have to factor in the fact that although there has been an increase in recent years, no-hitters are still very rare and unpredictable. You really cannot be more than 75% confident that one will occur during that time. I have calculated the chances of a no-hitter by the Red Sox as a 2.82% chance.  This was influenced by the MLB odds because I divided those odds amongst all 30 MLB teams based on recent WHIP of starters and what I already knew before my research.

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If the Red Sox throw a no-hitter, it will likely be from one of two pitchers.  Chris Sale’s WHIP is extremely low, and if he gets into a good rhythm and limits his pitch count, he could toss a no-hitter.  However, you have to factor in late-season fatigue that is common for Sale as well as the fact that he often throws too many pitches to go deep into a game, even in the case of a no-hitter.  They will probably not keep him in for more than about 150 pitches even if he has a no-hitter, at least with Alex Cora managing. He could start off a combined no-no if he has thrown too many pitches by the 7th or 8th despite a dominant game.  He would need backup from an inconsistent bullpen for that though.

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I think it is more likely that Rick Porcello throws a no-hitter.  His WHIP has been very low this season as it was in 2016, his Cy Young winning year.  Porcello is more of a ground-ball pitcher and is usually pretty consistent throughout the season.  These traits help increase his odds of a no-hitter, especially if he continues to dominate this season (he is 6-1 with a 3.39 ERA).

However, since it is extremely difficult to predict a no-hitter for any team, I would not recommend going all out buying furniture.  If you need furniture, go right ahead, but I wouldn’t spend much more than you normally would because I still think there is less than a 3% chance that the Red Sox pitch a no-hitter.

 

Sources

“MLB No-Hitters.” ESPN, ESPN Internet Ventures, http://www.espn.com/mlb/history/nohitters.

Baseball Bits #7: Will Martinez Meet HR Expectations for the Sox?

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This off-season was pretty quiet for the Red Sox.  They did hire a new manager, but besides resigning Mitch Moreland and Eduardo Nunez, the Red Sox did not make a big move until late February.  The Red Sox appeared confident in their roster until they signed J.D. Martinez on February 26th.  But there was a clear need for a home run hitter, something the Red Sox have lacked since David Ortiz retired.  The need grew larger after the Yankees acquired OF Giancarlo Stanton.

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But with Martinez on board, the Red Sox may be able to compete with the Yankees in the AL East, a feat that appeared impossible after the Sox lost out on Stanton to their archrivals.  This year, the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry is back and better than ever.  Despite the fact that the Yankees have the Top 2 home run hitters of 2017 on board, the Red Sox have #3 in Martinez and he can help them compete along with a strong rotation.  That’s assuming that J.D. continues to hit dingers with the best of them.

Switching teams, especially to a big baseball city like Boston, adds pressure that can often impact results as it did for David Price.  Like I did last year on top pitchers who switched teams to make predictions for Chris Sale, I researched how MLB Top 5 home run hitters perform after changing teams the following season.  I only evaluated players traded or signed to start on a new team the season after they were a top 5 HR hitter.  This research could provide intel on what to expect for both Giancarlo Stanton and J.D. Martinez.  Since Stanton is a little younger than Martinez, could it show that he is more likely to remain elite?  Although it is hard to predict the age at which a player will decline, history has shown that for many players, performance begins to decline in their mid to early 30’s.

The Research

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The “Baseball Bits”

  • In the last 100 years, only 33 players have changed teams the year after completing a season as an MLB Top 5 home run hitter
    • Only 6 players (18.1%; these guys are highlighted green on the spreadsheet) have remained in the Top 5 in the following season
      • This has not happened since 2003 when Jim Thome did it after going from the Indians to the Phillies
    • 15 players (45.5%) remained in the Top 20 but fell out of the Top 5 (these guys are highlighted yellow on the spreadsheet).
      • In total, 21 of the 33 players (63.6%) have remained in the Top 20
    • 5 of the 33 players (15.1%) remained in the Top 50 but did not make the Top 20 (these guys are highlighted in orange on the spreadsheet), meaning that 26 of the 33 remained in the Top 50 (78.8%).
  • Only once before has an MLB Top 5 home run hitter come to the Red Sox (Jimmie Foxx came to the Red Sox in 1936) the year after achieving the feat the year before, He remained in the Top 5 in Year 1 with the Sox.  However, this was back in the 1930s when there were less big home run hitters who could surpass him.
  • Prior to Stanton, the Yankees had acquired two MLB Top 5 home run hitters who achieved the feat the year before on another team.  Babe Ruth, who came in 1920 as the Curse of the Bambino began, stayed in 1st place with the Yankees, hitting 25 more dingers than he had when he finished first with the Red Sox in 1919 (he had 115 more at bats in 1920).  Alex Rodriguez, who came from the Rangers in 2004, stayed in the Top 20 despite dropping out of the Top 5.
  • Prior to 1970, big home run hitters were less common, keeping the same guys on top year after year.  In addition, switching teams was less common for a superstar back then and the off-season was not anything like what it is now.  Of the 9 top 5 home run hitters who switched teams the next year before 1970, 3 remained in the Top 5 but all 9 remained in the Top 20.
  • Only 4 players have switched teams after a Top 5 home run hitting season more than once.  They are:
    • Adam Dunn: He remained in the Top 20 the first time he did it, but after heading to the White Sox, he declined, falling out of the Top 100 and hitting just 11 home runs.
    • Greg Vaughn: He stayed in the Top 5 after the first time, but after switching teams again the next year, just made the league’s Top 50 in home runs.
    • Albert Belle: He did this twice in the span of three years, and he placed between 15th and 30th in each of his first years after.  However, it only took one year for him to adjust the first time.  After a second time, he declined and decided to retire.
    • Rocky Colavito: He did this twice.  In his first year after, he stayed in the Top 20 both times, but did not make the Top 5 either time.  However, he took just one year to adjust in both cases.

The Verdict

It is hard to come up with a verdict based on this research alone.  But based on what I think and the research I have conducted, J.D. Martinez will fail to make the Top 5 again but will hit at least 30-35 home runs and make the Top 20.  Some people believe that he could turn out like Jason Bay did for the Sox, but I don’t think that is the case.  Based on the research, I think Martinez is a better player (Bay never made the Top 5).

Since 2014, Martinez has been a consistent HR hitter and I find it hard to believe that he will decline too severely after joining the Red Sox.  He’s not 35, he’s still just 30 years old.  If he does struggle, I think he could easily bounce back in Year 2 or 3.  As for Stanton, I think he will stay in the Top 10 if not the Top 5 with at least 40 dingers.  He is only 28 and people are talking about him and Aaron Judge as having the potential to become a historic home run hitting duo.

Speaking of rebounding in Year 2 or 3, I think that after a strong Spring Training, David Price could bounce back.  He won’t be quite what he used to be but he will at least put up a strong season that will put him back in the conversation when it comes to elite starters.  With Opening Day tomorrow, comment with your Red Sox thoughts.

Baseball Bits #6: How Sac Fly Rule Impacts Averages

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Did you know that if the current sacrifice fly rule were in effect in 1941, Ted Williams would’ve batted .417?  Instead, Williams batted .406 becoming the last player to bat over .400.  I have recalculated the top 5 batting averages in each league from the last 10 years if the current sacrifice fly rule wasn’t in effect.

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With the old rule, none of these guys would’ve even come close to what Ted Williams did.

The Research

Note: 

Average w/Sac Fly = Sac Fly Counts at At Bat

Average = Average as it is calculated today where the sac fly does not count as an at bat

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AL

The “Baseball Bits”

  • After the re-calculation, nobody has come closer to Ted Williams in the last 10 years than Joe Mauer, who batted .362.  He is .044 below Ted Williams.
  • Miguel Cabrera, who won the Triple Crown like Ted Williams, has been Top 5 in the AL 7 times.  After the re-calculation, his best batting average from the last 10 years was .341.  That’s .065 lower than Ted Williams
  • After the re-calculation, only 33 players had averages over .325.  That’s just 32% of the averages calculated and just 2.2% of players eligible for batting average.
    • Only 7 players had averages over .350, just 6.8% of the re-calculated players, and 0.4% of players eligible for batting averages
    • However, nobody had an average under .300.
  • The biggest decrease in average was a .006 decrease by Joe Mauer in 2008, Daniel Murphy in 2016, and Buster Posey in 2012.
  • These averages prove that nobody was even close to being as good as Ted Williams was since 1941.

The Verdict

You may have been amazed by some hitters with high batting averages that came close to .400 but what Ted Williams did was just amazing and it will be hard to beat, old rules or new rules.  No wonder he won two Triple Crowns in his career (nobody else has done that).  He is arguably the best hitter to ever play baseball.  Nothing matches up to the things he did.  Nobody has had an average over .400 since he did.  Nobody has ever won two Triple Crowns besides him.

Stay tuned for more baseball articles.  The trade deadline is coming up; will the Sox be shopping for a new third baseman?  Do they need another home run hitter?

Baseball Bits #5: Porcello Struggling, Is This Typical of First Time Cy Young Winners?

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Rick Porcello did not look good in his start on Friday.  He did not even make it out the 5th inning, pitching only 4.1 innings and giving up 8 earned runs.  This is disappointing because Porcello just won the Cy Young and we were expecting a good year.  Is it the pressure on him that’s causing him to struggle?  There was a lot of pressure on him in 2015 as a new member of the Red Sox and he struggled.  That might be the problem with all the first-year Red Sox pitchers.  On the Sox, the expectations are high and the pressure is on because the team spent has spent a lot of money on this roster.  I thought the pressure was all on Sale this year but Porcello is under pressure as well.


Porcello looked spotless last year though when the pressure was not on him as much.  He won the Cy Young.  But is it typical of a first time Cy Young winner to thrive the next year?  That gave me an idea for more research.  The question is, how many of the first-time Cy Young winners improved their ERA the next year?  I also researched how many had an ERA under 3.25 the next year: here are the results dating back to 1956, when the award was founded.
The Research



Prior to 1967, there was only one Cy Young winner for the entire MLB.


The “Baseball Bits”

  •  Only 18 players (13 AL, 3 NL, 2 when only one MLB pitcher won) of the 75 first time winners had an ERA over 4.00 the next year (just 24%!).
    • Only 2 (Mark Davis and Bartolo Colon) had an ERA over 5.00 the following year
  • Only 6 players (1 AL, 2 NL, 3 when only one MLB pitcher won) of 75 first time winners have ever improved their ERA after winning their first Cy Young (just 8%!). They were:
    • Tim Lincecum (2008, improved from 2.62 to 2.48)
    • C.C. Sabathia (2007, improved from 3.21 to 2.70)
    • Brandon Webb (2006, improved from 3.10 to 3.01)
    • Sandy Koufax (1963, improved from 1.88 to 1.74)
    • Don Drysdale (1962, improved from 2.83 to 2.63)
    • Whitey Ford (1961, improved from 3.21 to 2.90)
  • 38 players (12 AL, 21 NL, 5 when only one MLB pitcher won) have held their ERA under 3.25 the next year. That’s 54.3% of the 70 players who were first-time winners that won with an ERA under 3.25
  • The last pitcher to have an ERA under 3.25 after their first Cy Young was Jake Arrieta in 2015
  • Not including Porcello, 2 of the first time Cy Young winners were on the Red Sox (Jim Lonborg and Roger Clemens). Lonborg was one of the 18 over 4.00, with an ERA of 4.29. But Clemens had an ERA of 2.97 the next year, which was not an improvement but was under 3.25.
  • No player has improved their ERA after their first time Cy Young year since 2008 when Tim Lincecum did it. The last time it happened in the AL was in 2007 when C.C. Sabathia did it.
  • The Cy Young was won 30 times by a multiple time winner. However, only 13 people have ever won the Cy Young multiple times.  That means that some of the 13 have won more than twice
  • No pitcher with an ERA over 3.25 when they won improved their ERA after their first Cy Young
  • If Rick Porcello turns it around and improves his ERA from last year, he would be the first first-time Cy Young winner on the Red Sox to do it. Right now that seems unlikely based on how he pitched on Friday.

The Verdict

Based on this research I would not expect Porcello to improve his ERA from last year, especially after his horrid Friday night performance.  But it is possible that his ERA will stay under 3.25.  That will be hard to do.  He put up an ERA of 3.15 last year when he won the Cy Young.  But it is possible.  Is Porcello at the level of those 38 pitchers who did keep their ERA under 3.25?  Maybe not when he’s under pressure because he has stunk under pressure.

Trading for Chris Sale helped strengthen the Red Sox rotation and you would think that would get the pressure off Porcello.  Maybe by winning the Cy Young Porcello has put more pressure on himself, especially now that David Price is injured.  With Chris Sale and David Price (who will be back in June) also in the rotation and Pomeranz doing well, the Red Sox should be able to allow Porcello time to adjust.  I think there’s a chance that we can see the kind of numbers we saw from him in 2016.  I don’t think his 22 wins will be repeated but I think his numbers can be at least respectable if he makes the adjustments necessary.

The research shows that most Cy Young first-time winners keep an ERA under 4.00 (76%).  I believe that Porcello can be part of this 76% because the Sox are one of the best defensive teams in the league and they should help steal a few hits and runs.

Stay tuned for my next Baseball Bits, where I will look at how top home run hitters impact their teams.  Thanks for reading.

Baseball Bits #4: Setting The Expectations for Chris Sale in 2017

 

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Hope you’re excited baseball fans because baseball is back in season! That means it’s time for another Baseball Bits. In the off-season, the Red Sox acquired Chris Sale from the White Sox. On Chicago, he was an ace, finishing as a Top 10 AL pitcher in ERA for the last 3 years. But historically, pitchers with a top 10 ERA in their league often don’t repeat their success the following season if they’re joining a new team. I did some research to prove it. So, don’t think Chris Sale will be the same in 2017 as he was the last two years.
What are the expectations for Chris Sale in 2017? That’s what I did the research for. What I looked for were top 10 pitchers by ERA in their league that changed teams the following year. What I wanted to find out is how many of them had an ERA under 3.50 on their new team. Pitchers that were on my spreadsheet were filtered by the following guidelines:

  1. The pitcher must be in the top 10 or tied for top 10 in ERA that year.
  2. They must have been on a different team the year after they made the leaderboard.
  3. They must have stayed on the team they join for the whole season.
  4. The team they joined must have been joined in the off-season after they made the leaderboard.
  5. The team they joined cannot be a team they left earlier in the year when they made the leaderboard.

I have used this research to set expectations for Chris Sale in 2017, and compare his expectations to the rest of the rotation. I have also projected stats for Sale compared to the rest of the rotation based on the research. Pitchers with ERAs under 3.50 on their new team are highlighted below.
The Research since 1960
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NL

The Baseball Bits

  • 95 Pitchers who were in the top 10 in ERA for the AL or NL switched teams the following year.  Of those 95, only 17 (13 AL, 4 NL), improved their ERA. That’s 17.9%!  1 of them did not have an ERA under 3.50 in either year (Tim Hudson, 3.53 Year 1, 3.52 Year 2).
    • Only 37 out of the 95 pitchers (20 AL, 17 NL), just 38.9% had an ERA under 3.50 in their first year with the new team!
    • Only 16 (8 in each league) of these 37 had an ERA under 3.00 (43.2%)
  • Pitchers that changed teams but not leagues actually performed better than those that switched leagues
    • 23 out of 47 pitchers that changed teams but not leagues that were in the top 10 ERA had ERAs under 3.50 in their first year with their new team. That is 48.9%
    • Only 14 of the 48 pitchers that changed teams AND changed leagues that were in the top 10 ERA had ERAs under 3.50 in their first year with their new team. That is 29.1%
  • John Lackey was the last pitcher to have an ERA under 3.50 on a new team, with his 3.35 mark in 2016. Max Scherzer in 2015 was the last from the AL in their Top 10 year. Scherzer changed leagues but Lackey stayed in the same division.
  • Not many Top 10 pitchers League-wide switched teams back in the early 1900s. Between 1900 and 1960, only 9 top 10 pitchers by League ERA overall switched teams the following season.
    • However, 6 of those 9 had an ERA under 3.50 on their new team.
  • The Red Sox have signed/acquired 7 pitchers (David Price, Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez, John Burkett, Danny Darwin, Zane Smith, Dennis Eckersley) that were Top 10 in ERA in their league the previous year. Of those 7, only Martinez (2.89), Eckersley (2.99) and Schilling (3.26) have had an ERA under 3.50 in their 1st year. The other 4 averaged a 4.82 ERA in their first years in Boston, Price (3.99), Burkett (4.53), Smith (5.61) and Darwin (5.16).  Only Eckersley improved his ERA.  Sale is the 8th acquisition but we don’t know how he’ll do.
  • 6 active pitchers have had an ERA under 3.50 on a new team after their Top 10 year. However, the lowest ERA on their new team by an active pitcher is 3.34 (Jon Lester in 2015).
  • Only one pitcher has ever changed teams after a Top 10 year and had an ERA under 3.50 more than once in their career, Kevin Brown.
  • Pitchers that changed teams but not leagues actually performed better than those that switched leagues

The Verdict

Repeating a top 10 ERA year on a new team does not happen very often. It’s hard to do. A lot of big name players have done it, but I’d say there’s probably one Hall-of-Famer on the spreadsheet that hasn’t done it for every Hall-of-Famer that has.  Is Chris Sale a future Hall-of-Famer and is he as good as the Hall-of-Famers that have succeeded in year one with their new team?  We’ll find out this season. What I can tell you is that I’ve found a reasonable expectation level for Chris Sale based on the research. Typically, pitchers on the spreadsheet that didn’t do well are at least somewhat better in their second year with their new team.  I hope David Price follows that trend despite his elbow issues that will keep him out early in the year.  Sale staying in the same league might help his success this year not hurt it as one would expect facing new players. But, interleague play, better defense, and changing divisions might also be a factor that my research did not include.

Okay, so here are my expectations & predictions for Chris Sale in 2017 based on the research. I’ve compared the predictions to my thoughts on the rest of the Red Sox rotation

For Chris Sale, I’m not expecting him to have an ERA under 3.00. He is pumped to be on the Red Sox though, so I’m expecting a winning record and an ERA between 3.00 and 3.75. He won’t be as good as he was in his best seasons in Chicago but he will be a big help to the Red Sox rotation. The rotation actually looks really good this year. Now here’s my prediction for Sale. Below I’ve also included stat predictions for Price, Porcello, E-Rod, Drew Pomeranz and Steven Wright.

  • Chris Sale: 18-8, 3.57 ERA, 216 K, 1.26 WHIP
  •  David Price: 11-5, 3.66 ERA, 148 K, 1.34 WHIP
  • Rick Porcello: 19-9, 3.28 ERA, 174 K, 1.17 WHIP
  • Eduardo Rodriguez: 16-9, 3.42 ERA, 151 K, 1.32 WHIP
  • Drew Pomeranz: 14-9, 4.04 ERA, 143 K, 1.36 WHIP
  • Steven Wright: 12-6, 3.64 ERA, 117 K, 1.28 WHIP

I expect all the Red Sox pitchers to have decent years, with Sale, E-Rod and Porcello among the best. Price would be up there too, but his injury is holding him back a little bit.

Baseball is back! Get excited, Sale makes his debut today!  And get excited for more post from me!