Category Archives: Team Ranking

Career Rankings Part 4

Today we’ll go back 2 years to the beginning of the 2015 season.  At the beginning of the 2016 season, the season which the Cubs won a World Series, they were ranked middle of the pack of 30 teams

The Cubs were last of 30 teams based upon career data at the start of the 2015 season.  They were probably last, or close to last the last 5 seasons before that too but that’s all water under the bridge now.  How did the Cubs go from last in valuation at the start of a season to making the playoffs that season?  First let’s look at a truncated table showing the top 5 and bottom 5 teams in April of 2015.

April 2015 Team Career Valuation

TeamID Hitters Pitchers Starters Relief Total W-L
DET 51.2 32.2 27.5 4.8 83.5 0
WAS 10.5 67.2 47.1 20.1 77.7 0
ANA 40.7 28.3 12.0 16.4 69.0 0
SEA 22.5 44.7 30.1 14.6 67.2 0
SLN 36.8 26.4 20.2 6.2 63.2 0

TBA -0.4 5.5 -2.3 7.9 5.1 0
PHI -6.4 11.1 2.0 9.1 4.7 0
MIN 16.8 -18.7 -23.4 4.7 -1.9 0
HOU -5.0 -2.2 -13.8 11.6 -7.2 0
CHN -12.6 -9.0 -15.0 6.0 -21.6 0

The above are sum of career value from 2012-2014 of players on each team’s opening day roster for 2015.  Notice how Detroit is #1 in 2015 but this season, right now, they’re at the bottom like the Cubs were in 2015.  HOU is also at the bottom in 2015 and now at the top.  Both these bottom two teams wins a World Series in the next 3 years!  This is quite a switcheroo showing fortunes can change, good and bad, for a team in only a few years.

Let’s see who the Cubs had pitching in April that year.

April 2015 CHN Starters

Rank WAA Name_TeamID Pos
+188+ 3.1 Jon_Lester_CHN SP
XXXXX 2.3 Kyle_Hendricks_CHN SP
XXXXX -1.3 Jason_Hammel_CHN SP
XXXXX -2.3 Travis_Wood_CHN SP
XXXXX -3.4 Jake_Arrieta_CHN SP
XXXXX -13.5 Edwin_Jackson_CHN SP
Total -15.1

Lester was their big off season acquisition and WAA=3.1 was his 2012-2014 split.  The Cubs starting rotation was saddled with Edwin jackson who was one of Theo’s (we’ll spare Jed on that one :) first acquisitions as a Cub.  Just cutting Jackson greatly increases their starter value.  Joe Maddon makes Jackson a reliever and then shortly after they cut ties with him.

April 2015 CHN Relievers

Rank WAA Name_TeamID Pos
+170+ 3.5 Pedro_Strop_CHN RP
XXXXX 2.3 Neil_Ramirez_CHN RP
XXXXX 1.5 Jason_Motte_CHN RP
XXXXX 0.8 Hector_Rondon_CHN RP
XXXXX -0.6 Brian_Schlitter_CHN RP
XXXXX -1.5 Phil_Coke_CHN RP
Total 6.0

Pedro Strop had the highest 3 year split of any Cub starting the season in 2015.

EDIT:  Anthony Rizzo (below) has the highest career 3 year split at the start of 2015.

April 2015 CHN Hitters

Rank WAA Name_TeamID Pos
+120+ 4.9 Anthony_Rizzo_CHN 1B
XXXXX 1.1 Jorge_Soler_CHN RF
XXXXX 0.7 Miguel_Montero_CHN CR
XXXXX 0.5 Dexter_Fowler_CHN CF
XXXXX 0.0 Mike_Olt_CHN BAT
XXXXX -0.3 Matt_Szczur_CHN LF
XXXXX -0.3 Arismendy_Alcantara_CHN BAT
XXXXX -1.1 David_Ross_CHN CR
XXXXX -2.4 Tommy_La_Stella_CHN 2B-3B
XXXXX -3.2 Chris_Coghlan_CHN LF-RF-2B
XXXXX -3.3 Jonathan_Herrera_CHN 2B-3B
XXXXX -4.1 Welington_Castillo_CHN BAT
XXXXX -5.1 Starlin_Castro_CHN SS-2B
Total -12.6

Those are all three year splits and may not be reflective of their overall careers.  These last three tables verify the sums in the total table and show how it was tabulated.  You should not read this that Mike Olt is better than David Ross.   This model measures offensive production and catchers are the most important defensive fielding asset on the field.  They’re involved in every play. This model is limited to showing value derived from generating or not generating runs.  The defensive value of a catcher is outside the scope of this data model.  For more thoughts on defensive related positions see our All Star picks article last July.

Values that hover around 0 are not that meaningful in the context of evaluating a player.  It shows they haven’t done much above or below average.  Sometimes an average player is useful for other purposes a manager may need — like pinch running and being a fast guy in the outfield who can run down errant fly balls late in a close game.  Mike Olt, should be hitting well above average as 3B is usually a productive position on most playoff contending teams.

Kris Bryant comes up from the Iowa later and replaces Mike Olt.  Jake Arrieta starts his Cy Young award winning performance mid June, and Maddon gets everyone to click.

This kind of report will be available for any team any year.  You’ll be able to look up to see how the Cubs or Detroit ranked based upon 3 year career splits at the start of 1935 or 1945 or whatever year.  Once we compile all the years I’ll run some numbers to see how well these rankings predict the end of season results.  As always, past results do not affect future results, they only show capability.  It is important however to have an accurate evaluation of past results.  Much of Sabermetrics is far from accurate.

Enough of this table.  In Part 5 we’ll look at top MLB careers from 1900 – present.  We have all 15,000+ players ranked from top to bottom but we only assign rank to the top 1000.   Until then….

Career Rankings Part 3

Since we don’t have current year data to crunch until next month, career numbers are all we have to look at.  In Part 2 of this series we ranked teams based  upon opening day rosters.  Each career only included last three years which was sum of WAA value for  seasons 2015-2017.  In Part 3 we will look at opening rosters of the 2017 season and use seasons 2014-2016 for each player’s valuation.   Players get categorized as relief, starter, and hitter and everything adds to give a team total.

We have to estimate historical rosters using our daily snapshots taken from retrosheet.org event data.  The code was already written to estimate the changing  team relief squads  each day, each year for our lineup/starter/relief simulations.  We take a snapshot on April 12 and assume every player has made an appearance.  Then separate them in their role and team, add them up, and sort.

Since we are from the future when this table could have been made we can predict it.

Note:  Unfortunately there are a lot of numbers in this table and ironically this data model is about consolidating baseball statistics.  We’ll walk though it after the fold.   There is no other way to present this.

TeamID Hitters Pitchers Starters Relief Total W-L
CHN 27.9 89.8 57.6 32.2 117.7 0
TOR 61.2 35.3 23.9 11.4 96.5 0
LAN 25.9 49.1 39.7 9.4 75.0 0
CLE 31.3 43.2 18.4 24.8 74.5 0
NYN 36.7 34.1 28.8 5.2 70.7 0
SFN 19.1 51.1 26.5 24.5 70.2 0
WAS 35.4 33.9 21.9 12.0 69.3 0
BOS 35.5 30.2 25.3 4.9 65.7 0
HOU 23.0 31.9 11.4 20.5 54.8 0
SLN 9.2 35.5 22.5 13.0 44.7 0
TEX 13.3 30.1 10.9 19.2 43.4 0
BAL 26.3 14.2 -14.6 28.8 40.5 0
NYA 5.7 33.5 7.2 26.3 39.2 0
COL 34.9 -3.3 -0.2 -3.0 31.6 0
DET 23.4 7.9 12.1 -4.2 31.3 0
SEA 14.6 16.5 16.6 -0.2 31.1 0
CHA 11.4 19.0 4.5 14.5 30.4 0
OAK 14.4 15.6 1.7 13.9 30.0 0
TBA 0.6 20.0 11.2 8.9 20.7 0
KCA 2.0 17.7 12.0 5.7 19.7 0
PIT 8.0 7.9 4.3 3.6 15.9 0
MIL 6.8 4.1 -5.0 9.1 10.9 0
ARI 17.2 -6.6 6.4 -13.0 10.6 0
MIA -7.5 6.5 -2.3 8.8 -0.9 0
ANA 9.6 -12.1 -2.1 -9.9 -2.5 0
MIN 6.3 -11.2 -6.5 -4.8 -5.0 0
ATL -4.7 -0.5 12.3 -12.8 -5.2 0
CIN -2.3 -4.0 -0.8 -3.2 -6.3 0
PHI -14.6 5.3 -4.7 10.0 -9.3 0
SDN -5.8 -21.5 -21.2 -0.2 -27.3 0

The colored teamids are teams that will make the playoffs this year.  Since we are from the future we know HOU wins the World Series beating LAN with CHN and NYA as DS winners.  NYA and COL are middle of the pack so the top half of this chart picked 8/10 teams who made the playoffs with MIN and  ARI as outliers.

This table is sorted by Total of all career value between 2014-2016 for each team.  The blue bold highlight numbers are the leader in each category.  The Cubs clearly dominate in all categories except hitting.  Hitting will be a big problem for them all the way up to All Star Break.  We know this because we are from the future and we will write about it every day.

Not going to get into what this chart might say or might not say.  SFN turned out to be one of the worst teams in baseball yet they have high value.   The Cubs had a very good above average run between 2014-2016 and they kept the good guys and acquired even more good guys.  Does that mean they had the best team in April?  Apparently not!

In this part we’ll drill down into the Cubs and check their numbers.  This will be streamlined in subsequent parts as we go farther back in time.  First let’s look at CHN starters and relievers.

2017 CHN Starters

Rank WAA Name_TeamID Pos
+004+ 20.6 Jake_Arrieta_CHN SP
+008+ 17.2 Jon_Lester_CHN SP
+034+ 11.1 Kyle_Hendricks_CHN SP
+055+ 8.8 John_Lackey_CHN SP
XXXXX -0.0 Brett_Anderson_CHN SP
Total 57.6

The above Total number is what you see in the Starter column for CHN in the team ranking table above.  The Rank is based upon 2014-2016 career value.  Jake Arrieta had a good run these last three years and is ranked 4th in MLB of all 30 teams, both pitchers and batters ranked together.

2017 CHN Relievers

Rank WAA Name_TeamID Pos
++028++ 11.7 Wade_Davis_CHN RP
++098++ 6.3 Hector_Rondon_CHN RP
++118++ 5.1 Pedro_Strop_CHN RP
++154++ 4.2 Koji_Uehara_CHN RP
XXXXX 2.3 Mike_Montgomery_CHN RP
XXXXX 2.2 Justin_Grimm_CHN RP
XXXXX 0.3 Carl_Edwards_CHN RP
Total 32.1

Wade Davis was the big acquisition in the off season that year.  He turns out to be very useful this season and this relief squad kept the Cubs in contention at All Star Break.

2017 CHN Hitters

Rank WAA Name_TeamID Pos
++018++ 13.9 Anthony_Rizzo_CHN 1B-2B
++027++ 11.8 Kris_Bryant_CHN 3B
++140++ 4.6 Ben_Zobrist_CHN 2B-LF-RF
++172++ 3.6 Kyle_Schwarber_CHN LF
++192++ 3.0 Addison_Russell_CHN SS
XXXXX 0.5 Willson_Contreras_CHN CR
XXXXX 0.2 Matt_Szczur_CHN LF-CF-RF
XXXXX 0.2 Albert_Almora_CHN CF
XXXXX -0.2 Miguel_Montero_CHN CR
XXXXX -0.4 Javier_Baez_CHN 2B-SS
XXXXX -2.3 Jason_Heyward_CHN RF-CF
XXXXX -3.4 Jon_Jay_CHN LF-CF-RF
XXXXX -3.6 Tommy_La_Stella_CHN 2B-3B
Total 27.9

Hitting very good but it becomes a problem first half of the season.  For those reading from the present, below is a post made during All Star Break from this season.  All teams throughout the season move and acquire players.   Career value may not make any sense in the context of April baseball games.

No matter how good a player was the last three years, the MLB Baseball Commissioner requires that he play and prove himself again.  Many players do it over and over for a very long time, many don’t.  In the next part we’ll quickly run through a bunch of opening day roster career value years and then we’ll bring guys like Babe Ruth and Cy Young into the mix and see how well they scored here.   Until then….

Note: I had to double check Heyward’s number above.  He has a very above average career.  His 2016 value dragged him underwater on the three year split (2014-2016).

Career Rankings Part 2

Today is opening day at Wrigley Field and there’s almost an inch of snow on the ground — almost enough to think about shoveling it.  Arggghhh!  Normally we do an analysis of each Cubs’ series at the start and if there are some strange shifts in the Ouija board we’ll look at that particular game and talk through it.

Most likely they’ll call this game and play a double header sometime later in the season.  In the old days when they played two you only had to buy one ticket.  Those days are long gone.

Since we finished the career scripts, instead of analyzing the CHN PIT matchup, which we can’t really do because we have no current year data to crunch, let’s look at all 30 MLB teams based upon career.  The table below is the same format used for playoff horse race last September.  The win loss column is meaningless right now so it’s zeroed out.  Total is the sum of Pitchers and Hitters, Pitchers is the sum of Starters and Relief.  All players categorized by how they’re listed on the active roster.

Careers are limited to the last three years service (i.e. what have you done for me lately).  Although Albert Pujols is clearly the highest ranking career player in baseball and most likely unanimous HOF first ballot, he’s near the end of his career.  He’s ranked #71 for his last three years which is still very very productive.  More on him later.

The below table is sorted by Total value from best to worst.

TeamID Hitters Pitchers Starters Relief Total W-L
HOU 49.53 70.04 35.28 34.76 119.57 0
CHN 49.94 55.63 36.47 19.16 105.57 0
CLE 32.33 59.88 26.13 33.75 92.21 0
WAS 36.34 55.19 40.93 14.26 91.53 0
BOS 55.55 35.24 23.90 11.34 90.79 0
LAN 17.97 65.55 48.05 17.50 83.52 0
TOR 40.74 41.30 26.12 15.18 82.04 0
NYA 30.25 51.65 17.22 34.43 81.90 0
COL 59.60 10.11 -3.68 13.79 69.71 0
NYN 25.85 34.70 25.38 9.32 60.55 0
BAL 35.79 9.31 -15.11 24.42 45.10 0
MIL 15.53 24.69 8.49 16.20 40.22 0
MIN 15.78 19.32 4.18 15.14 35.10 0
ANA 24.16 10.20 5.10 5.10 34.36 0
SFN 13.20 17.68 0.33 17.35 30.88 0
ARI 10.90 13.62 19.42 -5.80 24.52 0
TEX 24.26 -1.94 -4.78 2.84 22.32 0
OAK 7.10 12.83 -4.28 17.11 19.93 0
SLN 15.17 4.10 8.72 -4.62 19.27 0
SEA -7.55 15.31 6.93 8.38 7.76 0
TBA -17.78 17.43 9.99 7.44 -0.35 0
MIA 0.65 -3.47 -13.06 9.59 -2.82 0
CIN 1.02 -4.12 -2.82 -1.30 -3.10 0
PHI 0.62 -6.06 -5.49 -0.57 -5.44 0
PIT -9.62 3.55 -0.73 4.28 -6.07 0
CHA -4.03 -4.82 -12.68 7.86 -8.85 0
KCA -25.54 7.30 -0.22 7.52 -18.24 0
ATL -11.08 -8.34 -17.33 8.99 -19.42 0
SDN -16.12 -15.16 -10.71 -4.45 -31.28 0
DET -14.45 -23.97 -11.29 -12.68 -38.42 0

The Cubs are #2 behind Houston as having the best career talent.  Theo Epstein is using the same model as ours.   In Part 3 of this series we’ll look at past career rankings at the beginning of various seasons and, since we are from the future, compare that to how things turned out that year.  Until then….

Playoff Horse Race Part 4

This episode in our playoff horse race series shows a table listing the top MLB teams sorted by their total value based upon current roster.  There are only 8 teams left and a playoff roster is the most culled of any roster a manager has for an entire season.  It is expected that these will be much higher than regular season and they are.  Here is the current table listing the 8 MLB teams left in the playoffs.

TeamID Hitters Pitchers Starters Relief Total W-L
WAS 21.66 30.56 21.09 9.47 52.22 32
NYA 23.19 28.63 11.38 17.25 51.82 20
CLE 19.30 28.61 17.35 11.26 47.91 42
LAN 10.48 36.91 21.29 15.62 47.39 46
HOU 25.71 19.67 16.69 2.98 45.38 40
ARI 15.99 24.49 15.98 8.51 40.48 24
CHN 18.85 20.20 7.41 12.79 39.05 22
COL 19.80 7.53 -0.11 7.64 27.33 12
BOS 7.56 19.71 8.69 11.02 27.27 24

Correction 10/9/2017For some reason I left out BOS who are in the playoffs and left COL who got eliminated by ARI in the NL wild card gaem.  BOS has the worst total WAA of the 8 teams left.  As of now they’re down 2-1 in ALDS with one more home game.  This will be easier when there are only four teams.

Unlike Part one, two, and three, this table is sorted by best total WAA value according to this data model.  In part 3 made a couple days before the end of the season Cleveland led in total value with 49.3.  Now Washington is on top,.

Starters and relievers add to make pitchers, hitters and pitchers add to make total.  Bold blue is the top team in that category, regular blue second.  For starters WAS and LAN are close enough to be considered tied for the best starting staff.  This can be deceiving because some teams are placing relievers in as starters.   Right now the Yankees have the best relief with Dodgers second.  Dodger relievers as a squad helped win a playoff game yesterday.  Yankee relievers as a squad lost a playoff game yesterday and badly.

The numbers above represent past results based upon 162 games of data.  The playoff season can make great players play terribly.

Rank WAA IP ERA Gs Gr Name_TeamID Pos
-013- -2.50 107.3 4.53 18 4 CC_Sabathia_TOT PITCH  playoffs
-030- -1.91 89.0 4.45 14 4 Clayton_Kershaw_LAN PITCH  playoffs

Neither of the above pitched well last night.  Kershaw is arguably the best pitcher since Greg Maddux.

Rank WAA IP ERA Gs Gr Name_TeamID Pos
+182+ 1.16 197.7 3.28 30 8 Greg_Maddux_TOT PITCH

Maddux pitched almost 200 innings in post season.  Considering this is Greg Maddux he should be ranked at least in the top 100 or top 50.  He pitched well but even Greg Maddux didn’t pitch completely like Greg Maddux in the playoffs.

Note the Cubs have the second lowest total.  The Cubs were an average team at the All Star break and they climbed to their current total mostly in the second half of the season.  If we called the first half of the season a Mulligan and sorted on second half value the above table would look very different.  Perhaps that’s something to do for Part 5.  Until then….

Playoff Horse Race Part 3

There are only a few days left in the season.  Let’s take one final look at the playoff horse race before we actually dive into the playoffs.  As explained in Part1 and Part2, the following table is derived by taking current rosters and adding up players’ WAA into groups of hitters, starters, and relievers.  We add starters and relievers to get pitchers and pitchers and hitters to get a team total.  The last column is the only column that matters, real wins and losses.  Once in the playoffs even regular season wins and losses won’t matter anymore.

TeamID Hitters Pitchers Starters Relief Total W-L
LAN 9.96 35.75 21.55 14.20 45.71 44
CLE 16.07 33.23 15.27 17.96 49.30 39
HOU 25.82 10.24 15.20 -4.96 36.06 37
WAS 18.80 29.58 20.48 9.10 48.38 33
BOS 5.06 26.14 9.88 16.26 31.20 25
ARI 19.29 22.28 16.47 5.81 41.57 24
NYA 23.28 24.74 10.59 14.15 48.02 19
CHN 17.32 14.72 6.19 8.53 32.04 19
COL 17.53 2.23 -3.49 5.72 19.76 12
MIN 10.06 -5.27 -7.04 1.77 4.79 9
MIL 2.01 18.43 6.71 11.72 20.44 9
SLN 8.49 17.05 7.63 9.42 25.54 7
ANA 2.78 1.46 -3.94 5.40 4.24 -1

Teams colored in purple are division leaders, most of whom have already clinched, green are the 4 wild card teams.  MIL and SLN still might have a shot at overtaking COL.  The Cubs haven’t completely clinched the NLCS either.

Bold blue are top value scores for that category, regular blue second.  Bold red the worst, regular red second worst in the above list.  The Yankees will probably get in through a wild card yet on paper they are more or less tied having second best total value in MLB with the Nationals.  Cleveland has the best team on paper and MIN has the worst of the ten teams in post season (if the above stands).  Cleveland has the best relief and Houston has the worst.  Houston may start with Boston who has the second best relief squad in MLB.  The Dodgers still have the best set of starters and best overall pitching.  Houston and the Yankees have the best hitting of the bunch.

It’s hard to say which team will end up on top.  NYA should be heavily favored over MIN but then they’ll have to face the Cleveland Indians.  Can NYA’s hitting defeat CLE’s pitching?    The Dodgers will probably face ARI who have a similar total value and the Cubs will have to deal with the Nationals who have much better starters and hitting.  Dusty Baker conveniently chose not to let Cub hitters see Gonzalez or Scherzer during their last series.

More historical playoff data coming soon.  Had to rewrite some scripts to compile the event data but they’re almost finished.