David's Blog

On this page, I'll share my thoughts, and any articles or information I think are of interest.  Feel free to use the comments section to join in the discussion!


"It takes 16 weeks until you can safely throw a baseball after Tommy John surgery. "

 

 

 

16 Weeks (Video)

It takes 16 weeks until you can safely throw a baseball after Tommy John surgery. The following short film documents some of what I did during my 16 weeks. I recorded everything with my GoPro camera because it was small and discreet and I didn’t want to get in everybody’s way. When I watch it, it reminds me of the progress I have made since the surgery, as well as the work that still lies ahead in my recovery. I want to thank the Colorado Rockies for allowing me to rehab in Denver and, in particular, Scott Murayama for working with me every day and putting up with me.

http://www.theplayerstribune.com/adam-ottavino-rockies-tommy-john-rehab-video/

 

 

“over the course of a season the wind is blowing out about as often as it is blowing in”

 

 

The Physics of Which Way the Wind Blows

OCTOBER 28, 2015 BY DAVID KAGAN 

I wrote about the wind in the newly remodeled Wrigley Field a while back. In that article I examined not only the average wind speed there, but the average wind velocity as well.  The wind velocity includes the direction of the wind, while the wind speed does not.

I found that while the average wind speed at the “Friendly Confines” is about in the middle of the pack for MLB ballpark, the average wind velocity was near zero. This means that over the course of a season the wind is blowing out about as often as it is blowing in, and it is heading left-to-right about as often as it is going right-to-left.

It wasn’t long before I realized that I should do this for the other parks as well. As a quick reminder, a steady tail or head wind can change the distance of a long fly ball by three to four feet for every mile-per-hour of wind speed. You might also know, if you read The Hardball Times 2015 Annual, a 10 mile-per-hour wind can change the location of pitches by several inches as well.

I collected the wind data from the box scores from Baseball-Reference.com for all of 2015. I kept track of not just the wind speed, but also the direction. I don’t know of a better source for wind data from ballparks, nor do I know anything about the context of the measurements.

So, here’s the spot in this article where I go ballistic about the lack of clarity regarding these wind measurements. We don’t know where they are taken (at the ballpark or at the nearest weather station). We don’t know the altitude at which they are measured. They are only measured once as if the wind doesn’t change over a three-hour game. Regardless, this is the best wind data we have, so I’ll share it anyway.

First, let’s look at the wind speeds without concern for direction. Mike Fast’s blog Fastballshad been my previous source for average weather data by ballpark. His data was compiled for 2007. Here is a plot of his results against my 2015 values.

  

There is generally good agreement except in a few cases worthy of comment. The first thing to keep in mind is that there have been five new parks built since 2007. Open air Target Field replaced the indoor Metrodome in 2010. Nationals Park opened in 2008 replacing RFK Stadium. The other three new parks — Yankee Stadium, Citi Field, and Marlins Park — all seem to have similar average wind speeds as their predecessors.

I don’t know what the deal is with Tropicana Field. It is the only current all-indoor park. Yet, Fast claims there were three dates in 2007 played outdoors with an average wind speed of 6 mph. The San Francisco Bay Area ballparks seem to have less wind than in 2007. Possible reasons from most likely to improbable are natural season-to-season variation, an effect due to the prolonged drought in California, or baseball’s first climate change related effect.

By way of a summary, here’s a list sorted by the average wind speed for each park from 2015. The maximum and minimum wind speeds as well as the number of times the park hosted an outdoor game are also included.

  

BALLPARK WIND COMPARISON

Team

Park

Avg

Max

Min

No.

Marlins

Marlins Park

12.4

16

9

5

Giants

AT&T Park

11.8

22

3

81

Mets

Citi Field

11.5

28

1

81

Athletics

O.co Coliseum

11.1

24

3

81

White Sox

US Cellular Field

11.1

24

3

81

Red Sox

Fenway Park

10.9

23

3

81

Twins

Target Field

10.5

23

1

81

Indians

Progressive Field

10.3

24

2

80

Cubs

Wrigley Field

10.2

24

0

81

Brewers

Miller Park

10.1

23

0

36

Tigers

Comerica Park

9.7

24

2

81

Jays

Rogers Centre

9.6

18

2

52

Phillies

Citizen’s Bank Park

9.6

18

1

81

Yankees

Yankee Stadium

9.4

21

2

81

Rangers

Globe Life Park

9.3

17

3

81

Padres

Petco Park

8.5

17

1

81

Royals

Kauffman Stadium

8.5

19

1

81

Dbacks

Chase Field

8.1

15

4

35

Pirates

PNC Park

8.0

21

1

81

Braves

Turner Field

7.9

17

1

81

Astros

Minute Maid Park

7.8

14

1

13

Reds

Great American

7.6

17

1

81

Cardinals

Busch Stadium

7.1

17

1

81

Rockies

Coors Field

6.5

15

2

81

Angels

Angel Stadium

6.3

12

2

81

Dodgers

Dodger Stadium

6.0

10

0

81

Nationals

Nationals Park

5.8

14

0

81

Orioles

Oriole’s Park

4.2

14

0

78

Mariners

Safeco Field

2.5

6

0

76

Rays

Tropicana Field

0.0

0

0

0

One might be tempted to claim that Miami is the windiest park. However, they only held five games with the roof open, so the small sample size really negates that assertion. In my view, the Giants still are the reigning wind champions.

As mentioned earlier, I also found the average wind velocity. To understand the difference between average speed and average velocity, let’s simplify things by thinking about four wind measurements instead of 81. Below is a sketch of four winds, each represented by an arrow. The length of the arrow indicates the speed of the wind, while the direction of the wind is in the direction of the arrow. The speed of the wind in mph is listed next to each arrow.

  

To find the average wind speed you just add all four speeds and divide by four. You should get 10 mph. To find the average velocity, you need to realize that the 10 mph wind up the page cancels out the 10 mph wind down the page. Meanwhile, the 12 mph wind to the right is reduced by the 8 mph wind to the left leaving a four mph wind to the right. Now divide by four.

The average wind velocity is one mph to the right, while that average wind speed is 10 mph. The average wind speed and the average wind velocity tell you different things. The average wind speed ignores direction. In baseball, direction makes all the difference. A 10-mph wind out will benefit the hitters, while a 10-mph wind in will help the pitchers.

The example we just did has a large average wind speed compared to the average wind velocity. This is typical of a situation where the wind direction varies a lot. We’ll see this often when we look at the results park-by-park. Let’s do that now.

Below is a table of data for the National League ballparks, broken down by division. Each park has table with number of games played outdoors, the average wind speed, the average wind velocity and direction. That is followed by a chart of distributions of wind directions.

  

NL WEST

   

Average

Ballpark

# Games

Speed (mph)

Velocity (mph)

Direction

AT&T Park

81

11.8

9.6

out CF

Chase Field

35

8.1

2.5

LF to RF

Coors Field

81

6.5

2.2

out LF

Dodger Stadium

81

6.0

4.7

out RF

Petco Park

81

8.5

6.9

LF to RF

  

  

NL CENTRAL

   

Average

Ballpark

# Games

Speed (mph)

Velocity (mph)

Direction

Busch Stadium

81

7.1

1.5

out LF

Great American Ballpark

81

7.6

1.5

out LF

Miller Park

36

10.1

3.2

RF to LF

PNC Park

81

8.0

3.5

out LF

Wrigley Field

81

10.2

0.9

in CF

  

 

NL EAST

   

Average

Ballpark

# Games

Speed (mph)

Velocity (mph)

Direction

Citi Field

81

11.5

4.2

out LF

Citizen’s Bank Park

81

9.6

2.6

out RF

Marlins Park

5

12.4

7.2

in CF

Nationals Park

81

5.8

0.3

out RF

Turner Field

81

7.9

0.9

LF to RF

 

Some parks such as AT&T, Petco, Dodger Stadium, and Citi Field have fairly consistent wind directions resulting in relatively large average wind velocities. Others, such as Coors, Wrigley, and Nationals Park have widely varying wind directions and rather low average velocities. Great American and Turner Field are distinct in that the wind predominantly blows two ways along the same line – about half the time in each direction.

Now for the American League parks, again broken down by division, just because it’s easier to present the info in this way.

 

AL WEST

   

Average

Ballpark

# Games

Speed

Velocity

Direction

Angel Stadium

81

6.3

4.6

out RF

Globe Life Park

81

9.3

1.9

in RF

Minute Maid Park

13

7.8

5.4

out LF

O.co Coliseum

81

11.1

10.6

out RF

Safeco Field

81

2.5

1.3

out RF

 

 

AL CENTRAL

   

Average

Ballpark

# Games

Speed

Velocity

Direction

Comerica Park

81

9.7

1.4

RF to LF

Kauffman Stadium

81

8.5

3.2

RF to LF

Progressive Field

80

10.3

2.2

in CF

Target Field

81

10.5

2.9

RF to LF

US Cellular Field

81

11.1

3.0

out RF

 

 

AL EAST

   

Average

Ballpark

# Games

Speed

Velocity

Direction

Fenway Park

81

10.9

1.2

out LF

Oriole Park

78

4.2

1.1

out CF

Rogers Centre

52

9.6

1.9

out LF

Tropicana Field

0

-

-

Yankee Stadium

81

9.4

2.1

RF to LF

 

The O.co Coliseum has the most consistent wind of any ball yard. It blows out to right field nearly all the time. The average speed is almost the same as the average velocity. Kauffman Stadium is another park where the wind blows back and forth along the same direction like Turner Field.  Most of the rest have rather erratic wind directions.

All of this wind data seems to me to provide a challenge for the sabermetricians. After all, this directional information about the wind should correlate with the distance of fly balls hit different directions in different parks. Is it possible to tease out the effect of the wind by park from Statcast trajectory data? How would I know? I can’t stand fighting with databases. Collecting this wind data was about as much of that as I could tolerate!

http://www.hardballtimes.com/the-physics-of-which-way-the-wind-blows/

 

"often described as a throwback to a less enlightened era"

 

 

 

 

The Royals Are the Epitome of a Moneyball Team

Ignore Ned Yost’s terrible reputation—Kansas City is a perfectly designed machine.

By Martin Johnson

 

The Kansas City Royals head into the World Series against the New York Mets with a distinction among recent American League champions: They are only the second AL team since 2001 to win consecutive pennants. So it’s fair to say that the Royals, chasing their first title since 1985, have built a pretty sound team.

Yet, Kansas City—more than any other successful team in baseball—is often described as a throwback to a less enlightened era, one where the backward ways of a time before advanced statistics still reigned supreme. This is largely due to their manager, Ned Yost, who, earlier this month, was described in practically Neanderthalian terms by the New York Times Magazine. In a strangely loving piece, Bruce Schoenfeld argues that “the most criticized manager in the major leagues dismissed metrics and embraced failure” to lead the Royals to success.

Many of Yost’s moves fly in the face of modern baseball best practices—such as the Royals’ reliance on bunts and stolen bases—so it is fair for the Times and others to target him in that regard. (Though the Times might have toned down their own over-the-top caricature of the manager, described as “Ruddy-faced and taciturn,” and looking “like a baseball manager from a less image-conscious era, someone who might spend the game with tobacco juice dribbling down his chin.”)

It’s also true that the Royals are built around speed, defense, contact hitting, and stellar relief pitching, all things that teams that follow the analytical dictates of Bill James, the authors of Baseball Prospectus, and other advanced statisticians decried as being overvalued in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Around that time General Manager Billy Beane built an Oakland A’s team around these ideas and despite having a payroll that was less than half of their big market competitors in places like Los Angeles, New York, and Boston, the A’s were regular contenders for seven seasons.

Since Beane’s accomplishments were romanticized in Michael Lewis’ Moneyball and its movie adaptation, baseball teams have begun employing committees of statistical analysts, and an Ivy League MBA has become a better qualification to run a front office than a World Series ring. Several small-market teams like the Tampa Bay Rays and the Pittsburgh Pirates became regular playoff challengers on the basis of following Beane’s approach. In a span of less than two decades, Moneyball went from being some rebel philosophy to becoming the modus operandi of most teams.

Then along came the 2014 Kansas City Royals. On July 24 of last season, they were 50–50—in the midst of a playoff drought that stretched back to that 1985 World Series win—and seemed en route to another nondescript season. Instead, the Royals won 39 of their 62 final games, mounted three jaw-dropping rallies in the Wild Card Playoff game to beat Beane’s A’s, swept the next two rounds of the playoffs, and took the San Francisco Giants—a team that had won two titles in the previous four seasons—to the deciding seventh game of the World Series before falling just short in the final inning. They did all of this with a team built on speed, defense, contact hitting, and relief pitching—traits supposedly anathema to Moneyball.

But the idea that this team is some sort of 1960s throwback that is just getting by on grit, luck, and managerial tobacco drool is a false narrative. Yes, the Royals were tied for second in the American League in batting average (trailing first place Detroit by just .270 to .269), and second in stolen bases. Their bullpen boasted the best ERA in the American League and the fourth-best WAR. According to advanced statistics, the Royals have had the best defense in baseball for three consecutive seasons by a significant margin. So it sounds like the Royals are just really good in areas where teams long ago decided it’s less important to be so good. Which is exactly what Beane did with his millennial era Oakland A’s.

Beane built those teams around on-base percentage. But a large part of the reason for that was because it was a time when baseball professionals didn’t value OBP, and a bargain-hunting small-market team could gain a cheap edge by focusing on it. In fact, led-footed, unathletic players who often took walks were even looked down upon at the time. (In 2004, Chicago Cubs manager Dusty Baker infamously said he didn’t want his players clogging up the basepaths by taking walks.)

But these days almost all teams value OBP and recognize that a patient hitter is superior to one who hacks away. The thing is that this statistical analysis wasn’t built around valuing walks qua walks, but rather advocating that teams with smaller budgets could be competitive by building around undervalued assets that bigger franchises were neglecting. The Royals are doing just that.

Kansas City’s payroll, at the start of this season was $113.6 million, 16th in Major League Baseball. With elite veteran starting pitchers commanding well north of $20 million, it made sense for the Royals to develop a lights-out bullpen that would cost a small fraction of what top starters do. While building one of the best bullpens of all-time, the Royals have also designed one of the best defenses in the history of baseball—another asset that is not nearly as valued by their competitors.

Finally, while it’s true that the Royals don’t prioritize walks (their 383 walks ranked last in the American League and second-to-last in all of baseball), they don’t strike out either (their 973 strikeouts was the lowest total in the majors, more than 100 fewer than second-place Atlanta and third-place Oakland). While it’s become conventional wisdom that strikeouts aren’t that bad anymore, the Royals are putting more balls in play than their opponents. This ultimately led them to the 11th best OBP in baseball despite walking nearly 200 fewer times than OBP leaders and defeated ALCS opponents Toronto. The pendulum has swung so that there’s value in a team like the Royals putting together players who hit really, really well for average and don’t walk as much.

The larger point is that Moneyball was originally about roster construction and not game management. Even when you consider those day-to-day decisions, though, the Royals are not nearly as backward as they have been depicted. The team is about at the league average in using extreme defensive shifts. It also has one of the best advanced scouting operations in baseball, with Sports Illustrated making a strong case that scouting played an almost decisive factor in the team’s series victory over the Blue Jays.

Despite Yost’s (sometimes legitimate) detractors, Kansas City is one of the finest examples of adapting the Moneyball ethos—which is to try to gain an edge on your opponents by doing things that they are not—to modern-day baseball.

http://www.slate.com/articles/sports/sports_nut/2015/10/why_the_kansas_city_royals_are_actually_the_perfect_moneyball_team.html

 

“And so, his legacy is in the lessons.”

 

 

The complicated legacy of Oscar Taveras

6 hours ago  •  By Benjamin Hochman

I wanted to do it justice, describing his home run swing with the absolute fitting description, for this is the column on the anniversary of his death.

Over and over, I watched the pinch-hit homer — “That’s hit in the air to right!” Joe Buck exclaimed on the broadcast. “Taveras, off the bench, has tied it!” — and I agonized over analogies.

And then, there it was. So simple, so perfect, so poignant:

His swing had such life.

When Oscar Taveras hit it — tying Game 2 of the 2014 National League championship series in the seventh inning — the Fox cameras followed the ball over the wall and then cut to the dugout. A wowed Adam Wainwright “wooooo’d!” The cameras caught the Cardinals pitcher spotting Mike Matheny. Waino waited until he locked eyes with the manager — and then stoically pointed an index finger at him, a moment within a moment.

“I pointed at Mike because he pinch hit Oscar there, and I do that sometimes when coaches make good decisions like on defensive positioning or pinch-hitting the right guy,” said Wainwright, one October later, via text. “And if I’m not mistaken, he called the homer. When I call homers sometimes I’ll go, ‘Great time for a home run.’ If I’m right, in that spot HE said, ‘Great time for a home run.’”

It was all just so wonderful. The Cardinals’ phenomenon of a prodigy — “El Fenómeno,” as they called him in the Dominican Republic — unleashed his swooping swing to tie a playoff game, which St. Louis would go on to win. He was only 22. Imaginations didn’t just run wild — they deliriously scampered.

Fourteen days later, the phenomenon was gone. And someone’s daughter was also dead.

HE WAS OURS

It’s hopeless, isn’t it? 

People will always drive drunk, right?

Even if a St. Louis Cardinal dies in a drunk-driving accident — as Taveras did on this day a year ago — some St. Louisans will still drink and drive.

You.

You do it.

You make justifications.

I trust myself.

I’m super-close to my home.

I’m not totally drunk.

“It” won’t happen to me.

Every drunken driver thinks “it won’t happen to me,” but it obviously still happens to some people, right?

If we don’t try to make a change, nothing will change, and someone’s son or daughter will die. Guaranteed.

Death, guaranteed.

Oscar Taveras’ legacy is complicated. You cannot mourn the loss of the Cardinals’ top prospect, the guy who homered in the NLCS, without acknowledging how it happened — by Oscar’s doing.

Oscar Taveras could have avoided killing Oscar Taveras. And Edilia Arvelo, his girlfriend.

And so, his legacy is in the lessons.

And his legacy is also in the images of his swooping swing, which we can watch on YouTube, over and over.

And his legacy is in how the Cardinals honor him, in how they carry themselves on the field and, yes, off.

And his legacy is in our imaginations, written by each one of us in mind-wandering wonderment.

What might have been? Who could he have been? In his six minor-league seasons, he hit .321. He was only 22. He was our town’s, he was ours.

‘LIFE’S TOO PRECIOUS’

Carlos Martinez didn’t use a finger to dab; he used a towel to wipe away all those tears, as he waited to start a game, while watching a highlight video of his dead teammate, whose number he then wore on his back.

Oscar’s first big-league hit was a home run. He swatted it so dramatically amid a rainfall, on May 31, 2014.

On May 31, 2015, the Cardinals honored Taveras at Busch Stadium. His family stood on the field. His best friend stood in the bullpen.

Memories are all we have now. And memories of memorializing.

The way the team honored Oscar this past season was pitch perfect.

And the perfect pitcher to carry his legacy was, and is, Martinez.

“We had a day-to-day reminder (of Taveras) in the way Carlos went about his business — it was like a living reminder,” Matheny said. “Carlos always had a pendant around his neck with OT on it. There was no denying that that was still a part of this club. Whenever any person or group loses somebody who is close to them, that’s not something that goes away this quick.”

We remember Cardinals gone, but how often do we remember why these Cardinals left us?

Oscar Taveras. Josh Hancock.

If a big-league ballplayer isn’t invincible, surely we aren’t.

And we remember snippets of news stories. Oh yeah, didn’t he once get a DUI? Gary Pinkel. David Freese. Tony LaRussa. Rob Ramage. And, of course, Leonard Little. We remember, and then we forget.

In 2012, the Rams’ Robert Quinn crashed his car while driving drunk. The late, great Bryan Burwell wrote in this newspaper, “Because this is St. Louis, sadly we all know exactly how these sports stories go. ... You know how it all ends, and I’m getting tired of writing about this. ... For the lucky ones, it ends with embarrassing arrests, punitive suspensions and awkward apologies. But far too often, it’s a tragic tale that comes to a disturbing halt with a heap of twisted metal, funeral processions, lawsuits, court trials, lives lost and reputations destroyed.

“I just don’t understand why it keeps happening.”

The Rams’ Quinn is now 25, a wise veteran. He’s well-respected for his perspective. At Rams Park last week, Quinn talked about second chances. He was one of the lucky ones who lived to get one.

“People say it all the time — ‘make plans, get a (sober) driver’ — but it’s easier said than done,” the All-Pro Quinn said. “But we’re all grown men playing this game, so when it comes to that, we should stop acting like children sometimes, be grown and get somebody to drive us — no matter if you don’t want to pay for (the service) or you’re worried about your car. Life’s too precious to think you can overcome it, because you’re this big guy or (think you’re) invincible.

“At the end of the day — how much do you love to live? You really have got to appreciate life.”

http://www.stltoday.com/sports/columns/benjamin-hochman/the-complicated-legacy-of-oscar-taveras/article_656f65e7-54dd-56aa-84d5-1567da9c5636.html

 

“these trends can be transient and even illusory to those who seek patterns where sometimes only randomness exists.”

 

 

 

Has 2015 Been A Bit Of A "Draft/Develop Renaissance"?

By Nico on Oct 25, 2015

 

As the stage closes in from 10 featured acts to 8 to 4 to 2, no doubt key acquisitions have played a significant role. Ex-A's no less: Ben Zobrist andYoenis Cespedes have been difference-makers for their respective World Series teams, both down the stretch and in the postseason.

Overall, though, 2015 feels like a year in which high draft picks, homegrown talent, and a consistent core, has been a pattern throughout the playoffs. Store bought teams like theYankees sniffed the postseason but wound up playing the part of the fire hydrant and not the dog. Or like the Red Sox they sat home. The Dodgers did make it to the NLDS but then fell flat. Meanwhile...

No doubt Cespedes energized the Mets' second half run, having had a good season in Detroit but having a tremendous two months for New York. But what has allowed the Mets to stampede over favored teams and represent the National League in the World Series? Their rotation (Jacob DeGrom, Noah SyndergaardMatt HarveySteven Matz) and Daniel Murphy, along with Lucas Duda and the 9th -- and often 8th -- inning dominance of Jeurys Familia.

The Royals are a product of extremely high draft picks they held onto through thick and thin. We won't even focus on Luke Hochevar, who is a bit buried as the Royals' 4th righty out of the bullpen, though he was a #1 overall pick. Eric Hosmer (#3 overall pick) and Mike Moustakas (#2 overall pick) wobbled at times in their early career, but KC stuck with both and are reaping the benefits. Alex Gordon (#2 overall pick) struggled at 3B but found a home as a stellar left fielder. Other Royals' signees who play key roles on the team include Salvador Perez and Kelvin Herrera.

No the Royals did not draft either Alcides Escobar nor Lorenzo Cain, but they acquired both from Milwaukee at age 24 and both have been staples for the Royals for so long now that's it's hard to remember they were once someone else's. This team has grown up together through its prime years.

The Astros, of course, enjoyed the highest of draft picks for enduring 100-loss seasons like they were going out of style. It paid off with the rise of George Springer and Carlos Correa joining Jose Altuve to help propel the Astros into the Division Series where they came within 6 outs of a date with the Blue Jays in the ALCS.

The Cubs, too, rode drafted talent and acquired-before-they-were-successful talent to the Division Series, notably Kyle SchwarberJorge SolerStarlin CastroJavier Baez,Addison Russell, and Jake Arietta. As deep and exciting as the Cubs' farm system is, though, of all the teams they perhaps borrowed the most veteran talent from elsewhere, as Jon LesterDexter FowlerAnthony RizzoAustin JacksonTravis Wood andTrevor Cahill all made their name outside of Chicago before joining the Cubbie Blue.

I'm not outlining this as a surefire blueprint for the A's, or any other team, to follow to glory -- these trends can be transient and even illusory to those who seek patterns where sometimes only randomness exists. Sometimes it's not a Jackson Pollack masterpiece so much as "Dang it I spilled paint all over the garage but huh, maybe I can sell this..."

It is, however, notable how much good young talent there is in baseball right now, how much of it has grown up together to help teams get deep into the postseason, how important it can be to hit on your top draft picks and to bring in -- and hang onto -- talent that is around the "breakout" age of 24. From the whispers around the A's front office, it appears the A's are leaning towards embracing this model for the coming years, and based on what we've seen so far in October it would be hard to blame them.

http://www.athleticsnation.com/2015/10/25/9610848/has-2015-been-a-bit-of-a-draft-develop-renaissance