Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Bucky Was Lucky, But Maybe He's Plucky

That's typical:  I say I'll write less then I go and write soon.  :^)  But it's baseball and baseball is my passion...

I heard a snippet of an interview of Bucky Showalter, where he was testy because the reporter brought up the fact that his 2012 Orioles were 20 games over .500 in one-run games, the best ever in MLB history.  He jokingly said that he would tape the reporter's quote to the team's lockers (to motivate players presumably).  Given my research on Bochy's record in one-run games (best in his era, by a long shot, and as his numbers are barely, but clearly, over the 95% test, he should be the only manager in his era where, assuming .500 is the true mean, as sabers say, they hypothesis test says that he is statistically significantly over .500 (how far is the real question, but he's been averaging 4 games above .500 in one-run games).
It does not look good for Bucky, for all his bravado in facing up against history, but there is a small sliver of silver lining that maybe, just maybe, he bucks history in some way.

Frankly, historically, he's been pretty bad.  He had a +4 his first season as a manager, but then he had 7 straight seasons without being over .500.  His career total before his +20 in 2012 was -17 games under .500, so he just broke over .500 for the first time since going under in 1998.

His Pythagorean over his career has not been good either.  While he was 4 over in one-run games, he was 4 under his Pythagorean in his first season.  He fell below 0 in 1998, but has had ups as well as downs, and was at -3 before racking up a +11 Pythagorean in 2012.

I can tell you from researching Bochy's record (and his peers during those years) that those are very high, and as noted in the news, highest in history for wins over .500 in one-run games.  Bochy was 8 games or higher in roughly 40% of his seasons as manager, so you can see that what Bucky did not impossible to repeat, per se, in terms of being above .500, but of course the issue is repeating anywhere close and that does seem improbable.  Only Valentine, among the managers I looked at in the NL when researching Bochy, was able to be in double digits (or near enough) in consecutive seasons (I recall him having three straight seasons, his last with the Mets). 

The silver lining is that this is not new for Bucky.  In 2010, despite only managing 57 games (just over a third of the season) he was a marvelous 7 games over .500 (12-5 by my count) in that stretch in 2010.  That's roughly a 20 wins over .500 season for the 2010 season (though obviously for only a third of the season).  And his Pythagorean has been above .500 for his two plus seasons with the Orioles, a total of 16 (whereas he as a -8 previously in his career), suggesting that perhaps he has internalized what he has learned from his three prior stints as manager and are applying them with the Orioles now. 

However, he was a normal .500 (22-22) in 2011, so it is not like he does it every season.  History suggests that he'll regress a lot in 2013, though not necessarily to a negative figure, regression is not like a pendulum, per se, where you end up opposite in the following season, it just mean that you'll be nearer the mean, than before.  Even Bochy doesn't do great every season, but he has done it very frequently, roughly half his seasons as manager.  And a drop to, say, 10 games over .500, while still a great season for any manager, is still a steep 10 game swing.  That, last season, would have left him at 83-79, not his 93-69 he actually had.

So, all in all, hard to say exactly with so little data, but I think it is pretty clear that he will have a fallback season for certain, and most probably a large one, to 10 games over or worse.  He's actually been pretty bad previous to the Orioles in one-run games, but he has been great with the Orioles at 27 games over .500 in 2.3 seasons, 381 games.  So that suggests that he should revert to mean and be much worse soon, if not this season. 

However, Bochy shows that some managers are able to sustain greatness in one-run games over an extended period (Valentine was another one who was really good, with the Mets, over a handful of seasons) so it is not impossible that Bucky finally figured it out with this job, or that he got himself into a good situation with good players who respond to the way that he manages, or a combo of both and other factors.  So it is not impossible for Bucky to meet his bravado half way and do really well in one-run games, while falling a lot still.

Moreover, the good thing for him is that most of his players should be on the upswing of their careers, as most are 30 or younger.  In particular, Jones, Davis, Weiters, Machado, Markakis, roughly in that order, on offense.  He also has a number of young guns in the starting staff in Hammel, Tillman, Chen, Gonzalez, Arrieta, plus Matusz, Jurrjens, Johnson, Brittan, and Hunter in reserve.  On top of that, they have Bundy and Gassman cooling their jets in AA for now.  In addition, their bullpen is full of 20-year-olds, only Ayala is over 30. 

That's a lot of youth, a lot of potential for improvements, so that even if he doesn't match up historically in one-run games or pythagorean, he could still end up near 90 wins if there is improvement among his young core of key players to make up for the probable drop in his record in one-run games and pythagorean.  They will probably fall, but a rise in overall talent and abilities will raise the floor from last season's 83-79 could push him back to 90-ish, and that would be good enough for him to tell people, I told you so. 



3 comments:

  1. NOTE: I'm reposting this here from the previous blog, because I'm guessing that the older blog won 't be read, making my comment pointless.

    I'm with you on your enthusiastic, enlightening forecasts about the Giants and am glad to see your overriding your forecast about yourself, that you probably will be blogging here less frequently. I'd be glad to see you write twice as often.

    One insight that you offered this year is that of evaluating a lineup by comparison of roles in the batting order, to supplement the usual comparisons by position. It's useful to consider how Pence stacks up against other right fielders, say, but also how he stacks up against other 5th-place hitters. I wonder if you have thought of extending this insight to an evaluation of individual stats, based on batting-order role. Brandon Crawford's, for example--how badly do they suffer because hitting eighth he is unlikely to get good pitches (being followed, as he is, by a poor hitter) and may well be dissuaded from taking walks (less likely to be driven in from first base)? Just as WAR makes evaluative adjustments, depending on the player's defensive position, how far should we make adjustments that depend on the player's batting-order role? One often sees discussions of a player's aptitude for a given role--lead-off guy needs high OBP, for instance--but very rarely of the stats that predict that aptitude, in terms of how that player's batting-order role encouraged him to generate the stats. I've seen groaning and sneering about Crawford's OBP, to stick to this example, with no consideration of the impediments to getting a high OBP if one hits eighth. This issue is one that you, it seems to me, are very well-suited to explore, given your intelligent creativity about the use of stats.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am Oz, wise and powerful! I see all, know all!

      :^)

      Blogger is great in that it automatically sends me every comment that comes in, no matter how old the post is, and I do read each and every comment made. So I did see this comment made on the other post, which is where I'll reply.

      Delete
  2. Right, right - the pundits seem to have the Orioles as back to .500, almost always citing the one-run games. But they ignore that part of the surprise last year was the cast of relative unknowns - a nit I always want to pick with the Tom Tangos of the world is that you can't compare two numbers and expect only one to "regress". It may well be that the Orioles' w/l is much the same as last year, without the one-run factor. Mathematically anyway, it's equally likely.

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