The Formula for Building a Baseball Championship Team

How does a General Manager go about building a championship baseball team? There’s no exact formula, though the stat geeks are trying to find one.

In order to figure out the analytics into what a World Series Championship team needs it’s important to decide on which factors are most important. Putting team chemistry into numbers or an equation would be subjectively impossible. What one person values as teamwork another may not. Instead we have to rely on statistics alone in determining the secret to building a winning franchise.

Using the last five World Series Champions and the statistics I think are most valuable in an overall format, here are the numbers each team put up along with where they ranked in baseball.

Batting

Runs
2013 – Boston Red Sox 1st, 853
2012 – San Francisco Giants 12th, 718
2011 – St. Louis Cardinals 5th, 762
2010 – San Francisco Giants 17th, 697
2009 – New York Yankees 1st, 915

Hits
2013 – Boston Red Sox 2nd, 1566
2012 – San Francisco Giants 5th, 1495
2011 – St. Louis Cardinals 5th, 1513
2010 – San Francisco Giants 15th, 1411
2009 – New York Yankees 1st, 1604

Home Runs
2013 – Boston Red Sox 6th, 178
2012 – San Francisco Giants 30th, 103
2011 – St. Louis Cardinals 13th, 162
2010 – San Francisco Giants 11th, 162
2009 – New York Yankees 1st, 244

Total Bases
2013 – Boston Red Sox 1st, 2521
2012 – San Francisco Giants 18th, 2205
2011 – St. Louis Cardinals 6th, 2351
2010 – San Francisco Giants 13th, 2241
2009 – New York Yankees 1st, 2704

Batting Average
2013 – Boston Red Sox 2nd, .277
2012 – San Francisco Giants 5th, .269
2011 – St. Louis Cardinals 5th, .275
2010 – San Francisco Giants 15th, .257
2009 – New York Yankees 2nd, .283

On-Base Percentage
2013 – Boston Red Sox 1st, .349
2012 – San Francisco Giants 8th, .329
2011 – St. Louis Cardinals 3rd, .341
2010 – San Francisco Giants 19th, .321
2009 – New York Yankees 1st, .362

Pitching

Runs
2013 – Boston Red Sox 13th, 656
2012 – San Francisco Giants 8th, 649
2011 – St. Louis Cardinals 15th, 692
2010 – San Francisco Giants 2nd, 583
2009 – New York Yankees 14th, 753

Hits Allowed
2013 – Boston Red Sox, 9th, 1366
2012 – San Francisco Giants 11th, 1361
2011 – St. Louis Cardinals 21st, 1461
2010 – San Francisco Giants 1st, 1279
2009 – New York Yankees 5th, 1386

WHIP
2013 – Boston Red Sox, 15th, 1.300
2012 – San Francisco Giants 13th, 1.275
2011 – St. Louis Cardinals 15th, 1.306
2010 – San Francisco Giants 4th, 1.271
2009 – New York Yankees 9th, 1.352

Fielding Percentage
2013 – Boston Red Sox .987
2012 – San Francisco Giants .981
2011 – St. Louis Cardinals .982
2010 – San Francisco Giants .988
2009 – New York Yankees .985

I didn’t bother with fielding percentage rank as every team was in the same .980-.990 range. You can get a good estimation on where they compare just by seeing the numbers.

My conclusion from spending all of this time trying to find a solution is that there is no real correlation. Some teams win the World Series with a dominant offense. Some teams win the World Series with dominant pitching. Some teams are right in the middle and their strengths slightly outweigh the weaknesses.

There is no one or simple way to win a championship. Now we can also stop searching for it, right?

By Jleybov (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Jleybov (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Three Surprisingly Great Fantasy Baseball Pitchers From 2014

Pitching wins championships and that is never more evident than in fantasy baseball. Depending on how your league scoring system works the value of pitching changes. Most leagues though, pitching is either as valuable or more than offense. The tricky part about pitching is that injuries are frequent and can be lengthy. Thankfully there are always surprise pitchers you can pick up in free agency who emerge and can help you throughout the season. Here are three from the 2014 season who may have helped you and can again in 2015.

Phil Hughes

The Minnesota Twins will not win many games in 2014, but that should not stop you from adding pitcher Phil Hughes to your rotation.

Hughes has a proven track record of winning, granted a lot of the credit should be given to playing for the New York Yankees. He may have never finished a season with an ERA below 4.00, yet at 27-years-old he has room to change for the better and this could be the year. Pitching half of his games at Target Field, a ballpark that has proven so far to favor pitchers, Hughes will continue to limit runs from his opponents. His strikeout to walks ratio has been superb so far and he could be on his way to having a career year.

Drew Hutchison

The 23-year-old Drew Hutchison shined in spring training and earned a spot in the Toronto Blue Jays’ starting rotation. Hutchison had already debuted back in 2012 when he started 11 games so this is technically not his rookie season, just his breakthrough one.

So far Hutchison’s biggest flaw has been his ability to win games, something that can be blamed on the often inconsistent offense his team provides. In his first 9 starts in 2014 Hutchison has averaged more than a strikeout per inning, which is always something you should look for when adding pitchers to your fantasy baseball team. While he needs to find some better control, you can expect him to continue with an impressive season now that the Blue Jays are beginning to provide him with good run support and he has his first shutout to his career totals.

Tanner Roark

After pitching out of the bullpen and earning a few starts in 2013, Tanner Roark has shifted to starting full-time in 2014. Making up for lackluster performances by some of the team’s aces, Roark has been racking up lots of fantasy points this year.

An added benefit of Roark is not feeling the pressure on a team with Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Jordan Zimmermann in the same rotation. Roark may have become the best fifth starter in baseball. Playing in the same division with the offensively weak Philadelphia Phillies, New York Mets, and Miami Marlins is an added benefit to including Roark in your fantasy baseball plans. He will win games and do it with lots of quality starts.

By Keith Allison [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Keith Allison [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The Hank Aaron Award Nominees – The Unbalanced Offense in Baseball

The Hank Aaron Award nominees are here, and after brief review it’s clear how unbalanced baseball is right now.

Perhaps the nominees are always like this. As honored as I’m sure the winners of this award are, nobody really pays attention to it. There’s far less prestige than the MVP which really is the same thing, right? I suppose the only difference is pitchers are incapable of winning this award and the fans decide instead of the writers.

Each team has one player nominated. Guys like Mike Trout, Nelson Cruz, Giancarlo Stanton, Andrew McCutchen, and several other possible winners are there.

Then there are guys with absolutely no shot. Names like Seth Smith, Marlon Byrd, Trevor Plouffe are there. Like I said, each team has one player nominated and these three just happened to be the best on a very bad squad.

Several nominees also had down seasons and are there mostly on reputation. Not to take anything away from some of the lesser players on this list, it just feels like a waste of typing to even bother adding them in.

Here is the full list from MLB.com

Hank  Aaron Award

What Was the Last Great Baseball Postseason Moment?

Babe Ruth‘s called shot at Wrigley. Bill Mazeroski’s walk-off home run. Kirk Gibson’s fist pump in 1988.

These are just three great postseason moments in baseball history.

Lately it seems these classic moments are lacking. Even with the additional games and playoff rounds we rarely get those standout moments of amazing catches or clutch come-from-behind hits that barely squeak through. I wonder, what is the last great postseason moment?

Last season the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals put on a decent series. By this point, seeing these two franchises compete for the World Series Championship was nothing new. Combined they had won 3 of the last 10 including the 4 game sweep by the Red Sox in 2004. Great teams with some memorable players, the only standout moment from the 2013 World Series was Will Middlebrooks’ defensive interference call to end the game. Since the Red Sox still ended up as the victors, this really had no major effect on the series.

The previous World Series was one of the worst as the San Francisco Giants beat the Detroit Tigers in a quick 4-game series. The 2010 and 2011 World Series, both featured the Texas Rangers as the representatives of the American League, were also not very memorable. Roy Halladay’s no-hitter was great in the NLDS however this game took place too soon in the playoffs and unless you watched it, you probably don’t remember.

2009 had Cliff Lee’s behind the back catch although I only remember it because I’m a fan of the Philadelphia Phillies. 2008 had the rain shortened finale. Once again this has more meaning to me because of my rooting interest.

I think you have to go back to 2004 to find a truly memorable postseason moment. This was when the Red Sox beat the New York Yankees after coming back from trailing the series 3-0. This ALDS was far more exciting than the actual World Series as the Red Sox had so much momentum they were able to sweep the Cardinals.

By Ken Curtis (sox15) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Ken Curtis (sox15) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
With that said, what does the average fan remember about the series other than the result?

Most of us would be lucky to know who played in each of the last 10 World Series. We’re baseball fans an often times we lose interest when our team gets knocked out. Like I said, I’m a Phillies fan. It’s amazing I know anything about baseball from the last three seasons.

Three Reasons Why the San Diego Padres Should Be Embarrassed

Not a team many people talk about, the San Diego Padres are off to a strange start in 2014. Their pitching has done fairly well in every category except for wins. Petco Park is a tough place to hit, but they haven’t always played there. Even before this lackluster 2014 season, where a player only crosses the plate when walking back to the dugout after a strikeout, the team has a history without many memorable moments or achievements. As an organization, they have a few reasons to be ashamed.

No World Series Victories

While they share this dishonor with several other teams, the Padres are still one of the oldest to have never won a World Series. An expansion team in 1969, the Padres are 0-2 in the Fall Classic. Their first appearance was in 1984 against Spark Anderson’s Detroit Tigers where they lost in 5 games. They only got back there one more time in 1998 when they ran into the New York Yankees and were swept in 4 games. This lack of memorable postseason highlights drastically shortens the team almanac.

Only One Hall of Famer

The only player currently in the Hall of Fame to have primarily played with the Padres is of course Tony Gwynn. Gwynn is Mr. Padre and in 2006 he became an immortal by receiving enough votes to join the other legends in Cooperstown. Trevor Hoffman will most likely join him eventually; however, no one else even comes close to matching them except for Dave Winfield was more of a Yankee than anything else.

More on Tony Gwynn

Tony Gwynn is the leader in most of the team’s offensive categories including games played with 2440 of them. Second on the list is Gary Templeton who played in just over half as many. The only major category Gwynn is not the leader in is home runs. This is held by the forgettable Nate Colbert who only spent 6 seasons with the team. Long story short, the Padres do not keep talented players for very long.

The Pitching

Eric Show won 100 games for the Padres and is the only pitcher to reach this three-digit milestone in a Padres’ uniform. Like Gwynn is to the batter’s box, Trevor Hoffman is to the mound. Hoffman appeared in 902 games for the Padres, the most of any pitcher. Second is Craig Lefferts who didn’t even crack 400 games. Thankfully Hoffman’s 552 career saves as a member of the Padres is one impressive statistic the team holds dear.

Jedd Gyorko‘s Twitter Following

Infielder Jedd Gyorko is one of the few offensive players the Padres have some high hopes for going forward. A look at the amount of fans he has on Twitter, you might think he is a 30-year-old veteran backup catcher. Perhaps it has been his slow start in 2014 that has scared people away from finding what he ate for breakfast.

By Keith Allison from Owings Mills, USA (Jedd Gyorko  Uploaded by Muboshgu) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Keith Allison from Owings Mills, USA (Jedd Gyorko Uploaded by Muboshgu) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

2014 MLB Playoff Tie-Breaker Scenarios

A lot of the time on the last day of the season there isn’t a single game with any meaning. However today there are several scenarios which could lead to a one-game playoff that will determine which team wins the division and which wins the second wild card or even which team wins the second wild card itself.

Beginning in the American League, the Detroit Tigers need a win or the Kansas City Royals to lose. If the Tigers lose and the Royals win, they will play tomorrow for the American League Central. The loser still makes the playoffs, but will have to compete in the one-game wild card game.

Sliding down the standings, the American League West has two teams also battling with each other. The Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners are in the same scenario as the Tigers and Royals except one of them will not make the playoffs. An Athletics win or Mariners loss puts the Athletics in as a wild card team. The opposite, the Mariners winning and the Athletics losing, will lead to a one-game playoff tomorrow. The loser of this game packs up and goes home for the winter.

Finally in the National League there is the battle between the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates for the National League Central. If the Cardinals win or the Pirates lose then the Cardinals capture the division and the Pirates are a wild card team and play the San Francisco Giants. If the Cardinals lose and the Pirates win they will compete tomorrow for the division and the loser will play the Giants.

Today was supposed to be the last day of the regular season, but with three different scenarios it’s looking like we may get a team with 163 games on their schedule.

Starlin Castro and Alexei Ramirez: Two Great Shortstops in Chicago

The city of Chicago is one of the fortunate places to have two major league baseball teams. On the Northside are the Chicago Cubs and on the Southside they have the Chicago White Sox. Both teams have had their ups and downs and in 2014 they appear to be going uphill if only because things could not get worse than they were the previous season.

One stable position for both teams is shortstop. Starlin Castro has been with the Cubs since 2010 after being signed as an amateur free agent in 2006 when he was only 16-years-old. Alexei Ramirez was also signed as an amateur free agent by the White Sox. He was 26-years-old when it happened though, and made his debut that same year in 2008.

By Keith Allison on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr as "00063398") [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Keith Allison on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr as “00063398”) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
The style of game each plays is a bit different. Castro is a top of the lineup guy with a very similar game to Jimmy Rollins. He has a little bit of pop in his bat with the ability to drive in runs, but his walk totals are far too low for someone batting leadoff. His stolen base totals are also quite low with an even worse percentage. For instance in 2012 Castro stole 25 bases and was caught a league leading 13 times.

Ramirez’s time in the majors has been spent hitting all over the lineup. In his rookie season he hit a career high 21 home runs in a career low 480 at-bats. His offensive production has since fallen off each season in nearly every category. Like Castro, Ramirez draws far too few walks. Not nearly as speedy as Castro, he did manage to swipe 30 bases in 2013 while only being caught 9 times.

Among their greatest weaknesses, Castro strikes out a lot. He has tallied 71, 96, 100, and 129 strikeouts each season with a walk total never going higher than 36. Ramirez has no obvious weakness as he is a much more balanced player by comparison.

By Johnmaxmena2 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Johnmaxmena2 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
The biggest strength both have is the ability to stay healthy and take the field. From 2011-2013 Castro only missed 5 games. Since 2010, Ramirez has played in 156 or more games each season. As the shortstop of their respective team, this has been a constant stability for each organization.

When it comes down to it, which player is better?

Both are have to great starts in 2014 after a poor 2013 season. Analyzing them closely, there seems to be no clear winner. Factoring in defense Ramirez does have a slight edge however his defense is nothing more than average.

If you could only have one on your team though, Castro would be the way to go. At only 24-years-old he has an opportunity to get much better and eventually accumulate numbers worthy of the Hall of Fame.

Three of the Worst Free Agent Signings for the 2014 Season

Whenever a baseball team signs a free agent they want every dollar to be worth it. Taking a look at the players who joined new teams via free agency for the 2014 season, these are three of the worst signings.

Curtis Granderson

Outfielder Curtis Granderson didn’t have to travel very far from his old team to the new one. After spending four seasons with the New York Yankees, the team no longer felt the need to re-sign him after the 2013 season. Granderson eventually settled on signing with the New York Mets and so far it has been a wasteful decision.

The contract Granderson signed with the Mets is a four-year $50 million deal. Even with the Yankees his batting average began taking a nosedive and with the Mets it doesn’t look like it will improve. In addition to a lack of hits, Granderson has lost his power. For what the Mets are paying the now former slugger, this may end up as a decision to further hold them back from once again being able to contend in the National League East.

J.P. Arencibia

After the departure of catcher A.J. Pierzynski the Texas Rangers needed someone new to take over behind the plate. Free-swinging J.P. Arencibia was available and although a downgrade, the Rangers hoped in an already strong lineup he would not be depended on too strongly. Unfortunately Arencibia got off to a terrible start going 2 for his first 30.

Not by any means an expensive player, what makes Arencibia a bad free agent signing are the other options out there. First the Rangers could have kept Pierzynski. If that was out of the question there was still Kurt Suzuki, Dioner Navarro, and begging Jarrod Saltalamacchia to come back. They also could have gone expensive and brought in Brian McCann whom may have been a better fit in Texas than he is in New York.

Brian McCann

Not to sound contradictory to the above, as bad as Brian McCann has been in 2014 he is still light years ahead of Arencibia. As a big free agent signing for the New York Yankees much more is expected of him. For the five-year $85 million contract the Yankees gave McCann he should be contending for the MVP, not hitting below .250.

In the case of McCann it appears the Yankees were just trying to get the best they could without caring how much it would cost. The plan has backfired and the once best hitting catcher in baseball seems to have lost his way. Many questioned whether or not Evan Gattis was ready to take over for the Atlanta Braves as the full-time catcher. Seeing how McCann has played in 2014, giving Gattis the opportunity was probably the right decision.

By Keith Allison (Flickr) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Keith Allison (Flickr) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Finish Above .500 in the National League, You’re Probably Playoff Bound

Everyone knows the American League is better than the National League. It’s been this way for a while too. Teams and individual players, overall the American League is far more superior.

The best proof for this is how once again it appears every, or nearly every, team in the National League with a .500 or better record will head to the playoffs. This is uneven balance of 5 or 6 teams over .500 with 10 or 9 below is a bit alarming.

As of today, the Milwaukee Brewers are 81-79. If they win either of their final 2 games they will get over .500 and be the lone team in the NL with more wins than losses not playing into October. Over in the AL, 4 teams will finish with above .500 records and not make the playoffs.

This will be the second season in a row where something similar happened. The 2013 Washington Nationals were 86-76 and missed the postseason. The 81-81 Arizona Diamondbacks were next closest to earning one of the wild cards with the rest of the teams not involved in the postseason below .500. Over in the AL, 4 teams had above .500 records and missed the postseason including the Texas Rangers who won 91 games and couldn’t even get in due to their loss in a one-game playoff with the Tampa Bay Rays for the second wild card.

The last time a team in the NL won 90 games and missed the playoffs was 2010 when the San Diego Padres were 90-72. This was before the invention of the second wild card, which they would have won.

We can probably blame the AL’s dominance in interleague play for the difference between the two. For the 11th straight season, the AL will win the battle with the NL. Although the wins may not seem so significant, it has a huge impact on the records in each league.

2014 MLB Playoff Predictions

Nearly every playoff spot clinched and the majority of the matchups set, here are my predictions for how the 2014 MLB postseason will go. Unfortunately it’s pretty much the opposite of what I hope as I’m rooting for a lot of the underdogs.

Wild Card Round

American League

Oakland Athletics defeat Kansas City Royals

National League

San Francisco Giants defeat Pittsburgh Pirates

Division Championship Round

American League

Los Angeles Angels defeat Oakland Athletics in 4 games

Baltimore Orioles defeat Detroit Tigers in 5 games

National League

Washington Nationals defeat San Francisco Giants in 5 games

Los Angeles Dodgers defeat St. Louis Cardinals in 4 games

League Championship Round

American League

Los Angeles Angels defeat Baltimore Orioles in 6 games

National League

Los Angeles Dodgers defeat Washington Nationals in 5 games

World Series

Los Angeles defeats Los Angeles in 7 games

Yeah, I still can’t decide who will win. I would give a slight advantage to the Angels.