Tag Archives: world series

The Greatest Astro/Phillie

The time is here. The lesser contenders have been dispatched (it seemed like it was gonna be the Mets’ year, didn’t it?) and we have our World Series matchup; the seemingly unstoppable Astros, who just keep pennanting and pennanting and are so far without a loss this postseason, and the scrappy Phillies, third in the NL East this year but hot at the right time.

And that brings us to our annual question: who was the greatest ever Astro/Phillie? Our methodology, as usual — pull up the top 200 career WARs for each team on Stathead (the best subscription on the Internet, if you like this kind of thing) and find the player who maximizes (WAR with Astros) times (WAR with Phillies.)

This year it’s not even close: Roy Oswalt, the Astros’ career leader in WAR from a pitcher. I’d forgotten that after most of a career in Houston, he went to Philadelphia halfway through 2010 and was terrific, helping the Phils get to the NLCS. He pitched just a year and a half in Philadelphia but that, combined with his record in Houston, is enough to give him the title by a long ways.

But if you really dislike the imbalance here, you can instead rank players by min(WAR with Astros, WAR with Phillies) and get a different greatest Astro/Phillie: Turk Farrell, who started and ended his career a Phillie with six years of Houston in between, usually good, never great. He was an all-star once as a Phillie and four times as an Astro, though two of those times were in 1962. Why were there two All-Star Games in 1962? No idea. Mysteries of baseball.

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The greatest Astro/National

Jose Altuve has done what Jose Altuve does and so it’s World Series time again, the Astros back for the second time in three years, the Nationals there for their first time in infinity years, so we return to our annual exercise: who was the greatest Astro/National? (Last year: the greatest Red Sox / Dodger.) By which, just to have a good pool of players to work from, we mean Astro/National/Expo? This time the answer’s uncontroversial: it’s Rusty Staub. I think of Staub as a Met, because that’s what he was when I was a kid, and that’s who he played the most seasons for, but Staub came up with Houston and spent three years of his prime (and, much later, 38 games of his non-prime) in Montreal. I never knew this guy was so good! In 1969 he had a .426 on-base percentage and hit 29 home runs, a lot back then, and got one measly MVP vote.

Anyway, Staub put together 17.4 WAR in his three seasons in Montreal and 13.1 more in 6 years with the Astros. Good satisfyingly balanced answer this year.

If you restrict to players who played for the Nationals, not their Quebecois predecessors, the pickings are a lot slimmer. Looks like Justin Maxwell and Mark Melancon are the best bets. I guess I give the edge to Maxwell just because he played multiple seasons for each team.

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The greatest Cub/Indian

Congratulations to the Cubs, the Indians, and their fanbases, one of which will enjoy a long-awaited championship!

Now here’s the question.  Which player in baseball history was the best combined Cub/Indian?  My methodology, as it was last year, is to draw the top 200 position players and pitchers from each team by Wins Above Replacement, using the Baseball Reference Play Index.  Then I find the players with the highest value of

(WAR for team 1 * WAR for team 2)

Now I have to admit I couldn’t actually think of a player who played for both the Cubs and the Indians!  And this was borne out by the Play Index results:  there were only five position players and no pitchers who ranked in the top 200 all-time contributors to each team.  Pretty surprising, considering how long both teams have been around!  And here are your top five Cub/Indians:

  1.  Riggs Stephenson (193.6)
  2.  Andre Thornton (98.8)
  3.  Jose Cardenal (47.4)
  4.  Mel Hall (9.0)
  5.  Mitch Webster (7.8)

I almost wonder whether I did something wrong here.  There was so much more overlap last year between the Royals and the Mets!  But until you tell me otherwise, it’s the Riggs Stephenson Series.

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The greatest Royal/Met

A while ago I wrote a little Python code that used career data from Baseball-Reference Play Index (the best $36/year a number-loving baseball fan can spend) to answer the question:  given a pair of teams, which player contributed the most to both teams?  My metric for this is

(WAR for team 1 * WAR for team 2)

in order to privilege players who balanced their contributions to both teams.

So who was the greatest Royal/Met?  In retrospect, this should have been obvious.  How many of the top 5 can you guess?

Continue reading

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Bumgarner 2014, Ortiz 2013, and the World Series OVP

I was wondering about the question of whether Madison Bumgarner was not only the MVP of the 2014 World Series, but the MVP of all recent World Series.  I mean, here’s something startling:  Bumgarner’s ERA for the series was 0.43, over 21 innings.  The rest of the Giants staff recorded a 5.71 ERA in their 40 innings of work.  Bumgarner wasn’t just the most valuable player — he was, on the pitching side, the only valuable player.

I asked Daniel Erman how far back you had to go to find a comparable performance, and he pointed out that the answer is “One year.”  David Ortiz had an insane 1.948 OPS for the series.  The next-highest mark on the Red Sox?  Jacoby Ellsbury, at 0.599.  That is amazing.  At least the Giants had Affeldt, who was effective in four games of middle relief.  Boston really had no hitter other than Ortiz who was any good at all.  The Red Sox had 62 baserunners in the series.  19 of those were David Ortiz.

Are there any other World Series OVPs?

2014 World Series stats

2013 World Series stats

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The Curse of Arthur Rhodes

In August, the Texas Rangers released veteran reliever Arthur Rhodes — once, long ago, a fireballing Oriole prospect, and always a favorite of mine.  Rhodes signed with the Cardinals, and is now, after 20 years in the majors, in the World Series for the first time, facing the team that dumped him two months ago.

Think the Rangers could have used one more bullpen arm last night?

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I say two sentences about the World Series on NPR

Transcript and recording here.

This was based on a much longer conversation.  I’ll just add that yes, not only do wild card teams not always get blown out, they sometimes win!  The larger point stands, though — if the pennant winners are drawn somewhat uniformly from the best four teams in the league, you’re more likely to have a mismatched World Series than you were in olden times, when the pennant winner was usually the best team in its league.

Here’s my old Slate piece on why the World Series should be stopped when one team goes up 3-0, but should go to best of 9 if the first six games split 3-3.

If you like Mike Pesca’s voice and you like smart sports talk, I highly recommend Slate’s Hang Up and Listen podcast.


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Renteria’s place in history

Does Edgar Renteria have the most distinguished World Series resume of any below-average hitter?  Are there even that many players who have played in the World Series for three different teams?  Even if so, there are surely no others who have played in three World Series, and recorded either the game-winning hit or the last out of the deciding game all three times.

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Is there a Philly title drought?

If the Phillies win tonight, they’ll bring the city of Philadelphia its first championship in a major sport since the Sixers won the NBA finals in 1983.

Is 25 years really a long time to wait? Philadelphia is the eighth largest Combined Statistical Area in the U.S. No larger CSA has waited nearly so long; the closest is San Francisco / Oakland / San Jose, which hasn’t had a champion since the 1990 49ers. But go down the list a little and you find some sorrier stories. Seattle is the 12th largest CSA, about 2/3 as big as Philadelphia. Their last — and only! — champion was the 1979 Seattle SuperSonics. Go down to #15 and you’re at Cleveland, a pretty big city with a long sports history and a devoted fan base, which hasn’t seen a championship of any kind since the 1948 Indians won the World Series.

So stop crying, Philadelphia. When Rocky Colavito curses you, you stay cursed.

Update: See comments for some corrections to my hurriedly compiled statistics.

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Southern California Number Theory Day, the airport Chili’s, Evan Longoria counterfactuals

I came back this morning from a very brief trip to California to speak at Southern California Number Theory Day, hosted this year at UC Irvine. The other speakers were terrific, well worth undergoing the pain of a red-eye flight back Midwest. (Non-math material follows below the SCNTD sum-up, for those readers who don’t cotton to the number theory.)

  • Brian Conrad talked about his work (some of it with Gabber and G. Prasad) on finite class numbers for algebraic groups, and an alternative to the notion of “reductive group” over global function fields of characteristic p, where the usual notion doesn’t behave quite as well as you expect. Very clear, and very much in Brian’s style in its admirable refusal to concede any “simplifying assumptions.” Well, except the occasional avoidance of characteristic 2.
  • Jeff Achter talked about a circle of results, many joint with Pries, about the geography of the moduli space of curves in characteristic p. Here you have lots of interesting subvarieties that don’t have any characteristic 0 analogue, such as the “p-rank r stratum” of curves whose Jacobians have exactly p^r physical p-torsion points. Typical interesting theorem: the monodromy representation of the non-ordinary locus (a divisor in M_g) surjects onto Sp_2g, just as the monodromy representation of M_g itself does. I asked Jeff whether we know what the fundamental group of the non-ordinary locus is — he didn’t know, which means probably nobody does.
  • Christian Popescu closed it out with a beautiful talk arguing that we should replace the slogan “Iwasawa theory over function fields is about the action of Frobenius on the Tate module of a Jacobian” with “Iwasawa theory over function fields is about the action of Frobenius on the l-adic realization of a 1-motive related to the Jacobian.” This point of view — joint work of Popescu and Greither — cleans up a lot of things that are customarily messy, and shows that different-looking popular conjectures at the bottom of the Iwasawa tower are in fact all consequences of a suitably formulated Main Conjecture at the top.

On the way over I’d eaten a dispiriting lunch at the St. Louis airport Chili’s, where I waited twenty minutes for a hamburger I can only describe as withered. Last night, I got to LAX with an hour and a half to spare, and the Rays and Phillies in the 7th inning of a close game 3. And the only place to watch it was Chili’s. This time I was smart enough just to order a Diet Coke and grab a seat with a view of the plasma screen.

The airport Chili’s, late on a Word Series night, turns out to be a pretty pleasant place. People talk to you, and they talk about baseball. On one side of me was a pair of fifty-something women on their way to Australia to hang out with tigers in a nature preserve. One was a lapsed Orioles fan from Prince George’s County, the other had no team. On the other was a guy from Chicago in a tweed jacket who writes for the Daily Racing Form. He liked the Mets. We all cheered for Philadelphia, and pounded the table and cussed when Jayson Werth got picked off second in the 8th in what seemed at the time the Phils’ best chance to score. (Werth, you might remember, used to be the Orioles’ “catcher of the future”; in the end, he never played a major-league game for the Orioles, or behind the plate.)

The game went into the bottom of the 9th tied 4-4, about a half hour before I was supposed to board. I figured I’d miss the end. But a hit batsman, a wild pitch, and an off-line throw to second put Eric Bruntlett on third with nobody out. Tampa Bay intentionally walked the next two hitters to get to Carlos Ruiz.

Question 1: Was this wise? I understand you set up the force, and I understand you want to put the worst Phillies hitters in the critical spot. But even a pretty bad hitter suddenly turns pretty good if you can’t walk him. And the extra two baserunners mean that Tampa Bay is still in big trouble even if Bruntlett is out at the plate after a tag-up. Mitchel Lichtman of The Hardball Times says Joe Maddon blew this decision.

And then: well, you probably saw this on TV, but Ruiz hits a slow, goofy chopper up the third-base line. Evan Longoria charges it, but by the time he gets there Bruntlett is almost home; Longoria heaves a desperate moonball in the general direction of home plate, only much, much higher; Phillies win.

Question 2a: Would Longoria have had a play if he’d stopped, set, and thrown, instead of trying to fling the ball to the catcher mid-dive?

Question 2b: Should Longoria have tried to make the play at all? Suppose he’d just stood at third, recognizing he had no play. Maybe Bruntlett scores and the Phillies win; but maybe the ball rolls foul, sending everyone back to their base with the game still tied. My Racing Form neighbor was convinced the ball was headed foul, and that Longoria had blown the game by picking it up. Subquestion: Would any human being alive have the self-control not to charge the ball in this situation?

Question 2c: A commenter on Baseball Think Factory proposed a counterfactual ending for this game even more outlandish than what actually occurred. Say Longoria runs towards the ball, sees he has no play, decides not to pick it up and hope it rolls foul. The ball rolls past Longoria, headed towards third base, as Bruntlett crosses the plate. If the ball stays fair, Phillies win; if not, Ruiz bats again. So the ball’s rolling along the line, and meanwhile, Shane Victorino, who started on second, is rounding third — and as he passes the ball he kicks it fair. Now Victorino is clearly out for interfering with the ball in play. But in this scenario, has Philadelphia won the game?

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