Category Archives: Spreadsheet Skillz

Putting Strasburg’s Contract In Context

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There’s been a lot said and written about Stephen Strasburg’s seven-year, $175 million extension, and much of it is very good. I recommend Fangraphs, Nats Baseball and SB Nation as goodreads, but I want to add something extra here, which is a quick look at the Strasburg deal relative to the top 10 pitcher contracts ever.

Note: The innings pitched and ERA+ and FIP columns here are averages of the four seasons leading up to the deal in question. So, for Strasburg that’s 2012-15.

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Four thoughts/takeaways that jump out:

1. Accounting for inflation, Strasburg’s $25 million/year isn’t much for this group. Consider Sabathia, who got $23 million/year starting in 2009. That season, only nine teams had $100 million-plus payrolls. In 2016, that number has more than doubled to 21.

2. Strasburg’s much-chronicled injury concerns show up here in the form of 28% fewer innings than the others. Of course, this was an extraordinarily healthy group leading up to their deals. Verlander, Sabathia and Tanaka haven’t held up.

3. Strasburg is slightly younger (28) than the average (29).

4. Stras’ ERA+ (which adjusts for ballpark effects) is slightly worse than the rest of the group (122 vs. 135). His FIP (fielding independent pitching), however, is slightly better (2.96 vs. 3.08). Overall, he’s right in line, effectiveness-wise.

Bottom line: Of course injuries are a concern, but that’s why Washington was able to get him at this price. It’s a reasonable deal, and putting it next to other big-time pitcher contracts confirms that. Scherzer’s is a little troubling, though.

History Says the O’s Will Win 80 in 2011

There was a time when this year’s Orioles were so bad that I actually researched next year’s No. 1 pick. But then they hired Buck Showalter and suddenly everything has changed.

Baltimore, which was 32-73 under Dave Trembley and Juan Samuel, is 31-22 since Showalter took over. Maybe it’s because the rotation turned things around (Brian Matusz’ August-September ERA is 2.25, Brad Bergesen’s is 2.78, Jeremy Guthrie’s is 3.51, Kevin Millwood’s is 3.66 and Jake Arrieta’s was 3.78). Maybe it’s because Brian Roberts returned from injury. Maybe it’s because Showalter has a rabbit foot up his ass. Who knows.

And, really, who cares? The 2010 O’s are still going to lose 90-something games. What’s interesting, though, is what their hot finish means for 2011.

So, since I am not cool, at all, I found every 21st century team that has lost 90 or more games despite posting a .500-or-better record in August, September and October. The results are kind of fascinating:

On average, a really bad team that finishes quite well improves by 15.3 games the following season. That’s a lot.

For the Orioles, that would mean winning ~80 games next season, or more than they’ve won in any season since 1997. I’d like that.

The Real Reason for Epic Redskins Fail

Vinny Cerrato said this when asked about his team’s failing offensive line:

We tried to address the line. We added [Derrick] Dockery. We added Mike Williams. We attempted to, and when we were in the draft, there was nobody at No. 13 worthy of it.

So they added Dockery and Williams, which is hardly better than the departed LG-RT combo of Pete Kendall and Jon Jansen. It also says nothing of Chris Samuels and Randy Thomas being old and injury prone, or that Williams was out of the NFL. Or that the line sucked to begin with.

But that last part (“when we were in the draft, there was nobody at No. 13 worthy of it”) really chaps my ass. The Redskins had five picks remaining after 13, and none were used on offensive (or defensive) linemen.

Which is right in line with Cerrato and Dan Snyder’s M.O. this decade:

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Read it and weep, Skins fans. Washington has drafted more quarterbacks (seven) than defensive linemen (six) during the ’00s. They’ve spent twice as much value* on defensive backs (57) as offensive linemen (29). And they’ve drafted 13 wide receivers and tight ends, only one of whom — Chris Cooley — is any good.

Beyond anything else (free agent signings, coaching changes, mistreated fans and media, etc.), this is what needs to change. They have to draft smarter, lest they remain stuck in their current predicament, going down in flames thanks in large part to an O-line reminiscent of five turnstiles.

So, yeah: Fire Vinny.

* A first-round pick is worth seven, a second-rounder is worth six, etc.

Seriously, We’re Just Fine With Campbell

So long as Denver is dangling Jay Cutler, Washington rumors will abound. Whether or not there’s anything to them, well, that’s just how it’s gonna be.  And it’s too bad, because he’s not much better than Jason Campbell.

If you were to ask, for example, the Jets’ GM, “Who would you rather have: Cutler or Campbell?” He’d say “Cutler” every time. But Vinny and Danny are in a different situation, with two major considerations: 1) Campbell has four years with the Skins and a year with Zorn under his belt. 2) The Skins would have to give up Campbell plus some to get Cutler.

But back to the lede: Is Cutler better than Campbell? Yeah, sure, but not by much. Strip away counting stats (touchdowns, yards, etc.) and look at their first three seasons (Cutler has 37 starts, Campbell 36).

First up, Cutler:

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And here’s Campbell:

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Let’s see … Campbell is one year older, and Cutler has a better QB rating, completion percentage and yards/attempt. But the touchdown/interception ratios and winning percentages are virtually identical. Plus, there’s one more thing: Campbell is improving, Cutler is stagnating.

Now, I’m no expert on Jay Cutler — or anything else, really — but the numbers are plain as day. These two aren’t far apart, and taking trends into account, there’s even less separation. Consider those two items from the second paragraph as well, and I’m not sure what the hubbub is about.

Would be nice if it simmered down though.

Update: MJD gauges Washington’s interest and gets to the heart of it:

I just wouldn’t have pegged the Redskins as a team that would’ve been unhappy with their quarterback situation.

That’s exactly what it took me 250 words and a spreadsheet to say.

Update No. 2: Chris’s Cutler flowchart is spot-on. Absolutely priceless.

Update No. 3: The Skins are “actively pursuing” Cutler. Of course they are.

Update No. 4:
Pro Football Reference ranks quarterbacks as commodities. With Cutler “you build your team around” him, and with Campbell “you like what you’ve got.” Seems about right.

D.C. Is America’s Worst Pro Sports City

With the Nationals posting baseball’s worst record, the Skins sliding from 6-2 to 8-8 and the ass dropping out of the Wizards’ season, I’ve been meaning to measure Washington’s professional sporting success — or lack thereof — against that of other American cities with teams in each of the four major pro sports. I finally got around to it, and the results aren’t pretty:

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Thank god for those ice-breaking, goal-shaking Washington Capitals.

The samples used here are a) the most recent NFL season b) the most recent MLB season c) last NBA season and this NBA season and d) last NHL season and this NHL season. For NBA and NHL, I weighted the two seasons equally, which seems fair and really helps the Wizards out.

Playoff appearances and performance trump regular season records (i.e. the 9-7 Super Bowl-bound Cardinals give Phoenix a higher NFL rating than the 11-5 Patriots give Boston. For cities with two teams in one league, the average of those two teams is used (this is messy, but I couldn’t figure out a better way, and it doesn’t effect the rankings significantly).

You could probably use this approach at any point on the calendar, but now is a good time as the NFL and MLB are hibernating and the NBA and NHL are at the midpoint. A better time may be early summer, once the NBA and NHL seasons are complete and baseball is at its midpoint. Maybe I’ll revisit this then, though Washington doesn’t figure to improve a whole lot.

For D.C. fans, the added kick in the pants is that Philadelphia is tied atop the rankings with Boston. This should delight Philly fans to no end, and, should they mention it, just ask about their last Super Bowl championship.

Adding even more salt to the wound is that this could be D.C.’s worst college basketball season in 30 years. So, yeah, it’s a particularly cold winter. I recommend rooting for the Caps, and praying for Blake Griffin.

Update: Steinz did something similar in the fall of ’06, concluding that D.C. was 11th out of the 12 cities. So, while nford2 points out that ’07 wasn’t so bad, Washington pro sports teams have been awful for at least two of the past three years. I’d be interested to see where they rank historically, if anyone’s taken the time to figure that out.

Six More Years of Markickass in Baltimore

markickass-666.jpgSix years and $66 million is a lot for a guy who doesn’t do any one thing exceptionally well, unless you count getting on base as a “thing”. But that’s the objective, isn’t it? And Nick Markakis achieved it 41 percent of the time last season, good for third-best in the American League.

He’s also, along with Brian Roberts, one of only two position players Baltimore has developed since Cal Ripken Jr. who’s actually worth a shit. Plus, at 25 years old, Markakis is a five-tool player whose dad worked at Lockheed, and he’s just getting warmed up, really.

The good ol’ OPS shot up 49 points in his second season, and another 49 this past season. At that pace, here’s what Nick’s career looks like through the duration of his new contract:

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Easy peezy! Eleven million per suddenly doesn’t seem like so much, does it? He’ll be in A-Rod/Pujols territory by 2010 and years beyond!

For real though, if he just maintains current levels of production and good health, this is a win for the O’s. And lord knows they need a win.

In other B’more news, the O’s signed Gregg Zaun and traded for Felix Pie. These do not seem like wins, but at least Zaun’s website ROCKS.

(Mark of the beast Photoshop via ‘Duk Sauce over at Big League Stew)

Never Mind the Nitwits, JC Is Still the One

jc-hoodie.jpgIt’s been a hard row for the Skins these past four games, what with lopsided losses to Pittsburgh and New York and a close one to Dallas. Jason Campbell in particular has had a rough go, what with only two scores versus four picks. But at no point has it crossed my mind to call his job into question, now and hopefully for the next decade.

We’ve seen comments to the contrary, sure, but when the Post publishes a story on the subject, well, it’s high time to take a look (emphasis added):

Frustration among fans — not to mention sports radio and television pundits — boiled over after Sunday’s 23-7 loss to the New York Giants. Callers filled talk radio programs with attacks on Campbell’s performance, with many saying he should be benched in favor of backup Todd Collins, who led the Redskins’ late, four-game winning streak that resulted in a playoff berth last season after Campbell was lost to injury.

As Skins fans, we’re forever indebted to Todd Collins. He was thrust into play with last season on the brink and guided the team to a far-fetched, much-needed Wild Card in the face of tragedy. Hell, my buddy Andy and I even drink what we’ve dubbed a Todd Collins (bourbon and ginger) or 10 whenever we watch the Redskins together, but still. He’s a system QB and career-long 37-year-old backup whose last game wasn’t a good one.

Now let’s consider the alternative in Jason Campbell: a 26-year-old first-rounder who’s been forced to learn a new offense each season yet has also shown perennial improvement. And it’s that steady progression I’d like to focus on here. His 2006-08 stats:

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Football Outsiders could do a better job of this than I (and they’re high on JC too), but what’s plain to see is improvement from Season 1 to Season 2, and even greater improvement from Season 2 to Season 3. His rating, completion percentage, yards/game, yards/attempt, TD/Int ratio, fumbles … everything is better this year than last, and just about everything was better last year than the one before it. And if it’s wins you want, Campbell was 2-5 as a starter in ’06, 5-7 in ’07 and is 7-5 so far in ’08.

He’s getting to be pretty good, and figures to get even better with time. Of course this recent stretch has been rough, but the pass protection and wide receivers are more to blame for that than the passer himself.

So chill out, people, and remember that Campbell’s first two quarters of this season were so good that Ron Jaworski called him the league MVP just one month ago. Have a little faith and hope that his — and his team’s — fourth quarter is more like those first two rather than this past one.

And don’t even get me started on Colt Brennan.

Epic Fail: The 2008 Washington Nationals Season in Excel Line Graph Form

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Despite their current MLB-best seven-game win streak, the Nationals still have an MLB-worst .384 win percentage and are on course for 100 losses. That would be 11 games worse than last year, which was two games worse than the year before. This is the story of your 2008 Washington Nationals, a failure of epic proportions.

But let’s not focus on the past five months. Let’s focus on the past week, a week of wins, and what it means for the future. Sadly, as is often the case with this franchise, it doesn’t mean much. Shall we go through the lineup?

Willie Harris, LF — 29-year-old utility guy who’s having a nice season.

Christian Guzman, SS — 29-year-old fatty with a hollow .300 batting average. Also, this is by far his best season since 2001.

Ryan Zimmerman, 3B — The face of the franchise, despite stagnating offensive performance in his first three seasons. That’s not to say he won’t be a regular All-Star at some point, but he’s not the type to carry a lineup.

Lastings Milledge, CF — Terrible instincts in center and on the basepaths. Was bad offensively April-July, but had a great August. Would be delightful to see him finish strong.

Ronnie Belliard, 1B — It could be worse; he could be Paul Lo Duca. He’s having the best season of his career, though he’s just a glorified bench guy.

Elijah Dukes, RF — I love me some Dukes, and he was terrific in June, as well as parts of July and August. If he stays healthy, which is a big if as he’s been hurt each of his two seasons, we’re looking at a 25-25 guy.

Jesus Flores, C — Along with Zimmerman, Dukes and maybe Milledge, this is the only other position player on the roster that I can see working out as part of The Plan. Of course, he’s not that good.

Emilio Bonifacio, 2BHe never hit in the minors, and he hasn’t hit in 106 at-bats with the Nats. I can’t believe they traded Jon Rauch for this guy. Actually, Jim Bowden’s in charge.  Believe it.

There you have it. That’s the lineup that’s produced the winning streak and a glimmer of hope. Too bad there are only three of four players in there who may actually be good someday. And don’t look at the pitching, because that’s even bleaker. Tim Redding, Odalis Perez and Jason Bergmann are end-of-the-rotation, scrap heap guys. John Lannan is probably a #3 starter at best, and Collin Balester has had a tough go of it so far. And do NOT go to the bullpen, because it’s the worst part of the worst team in baseball.

So, yeah, not much to root for here. Other than, you know, somehow managing to avoid 100 losses while also maintaining the worst record so they can draft that kid out of San Diego State #1 overall next summer. Even though you know they won’t sign him.