Link City #4


Bradley Woodrum writes about Mo'ne Davis. While I never got a chance to actually see her pitch, I think all of the attention she is getting (and how she is handling it) is and will be a good thing for baseball. This is also amusing.

David Kagan talks about the physical limitations of replay reviews. A lot of technical talk here.

TechGraphs looks like it's going to be awesome and David G. Temple's first post does nothing to dispel that.

Drew Fairservice writes about pitcher hitting and it's impact on this year's playoff races. This is another thing that I have always wondered about. Not so much on how it impacts a playoff race, more of just in a general sense. How good of a bat does a bad pitcher need to be worth keeping on a roster? Just like aging hitters who can no longer field a position every day become DHs, could an aging pitcher who just doesn't have the same stuff he used to be a valuable pitcher if he has a decent bat?

Magic: The Gathering

Josh Silvestri discusses how slow play can change the outcome of a match. I don't usually mind slow play myself, sometimes you just need to sit and think about your options for a minute. That said, I never really thought about how much time shuffling and taking a mulligan can waste. I will for sure be more mindful of this in the future.


Luyman's Terms #16: Lets Make Fun of My Draft Skill

Today is my birthday, so today will be a quick post. While I like to think I'm pretty good with reading and manipulating board states. I'm pretty much the worst drafter that ever drafted.

Went 1-2. Yep.


Luyman's Terms #15: Learning WPA and WE with Goofy

In my post on Monday, I mentioned that I would expand upon the How to Play Baseball video with Goofy. I thought it might be fun to take the video and learn a couple new stats and how they work together. Those two stats are Win Probability Added (WPA) and Win Expectancy (WE). These are hardly stats that are predictive, but they are fun to play around with. They do a good job telling the story of a particular game, and outline "clutch" plays quite well.

To understand how these stats work, we must first understand the concept of "context neutral" statistics. Context neutral stats are stats that do not care about about the situation in which they are trying to quantify. Like my pieces about the value of hitters in the batters box. Tat stat didn't care about if the batter came to the plate with runners on 1st and 3rd with nobody out or if there was only a runner on 2nd with 1 out or nobody on and 2 outs. All it cared about was the outcome of the at bat.

Most stats are context neutral. Batting average only cares if a batter got a hit, OBP only cares if a batter got on base, and fielding percentage only cares if a defender didn't make an error on a play. Context neutral stats are great for large sample sizes. Unfortunately, context does matter during an individual game of baseball. Not every single is created equal. Some singles score runs if runners are on base, others don't.

Enter WPA. this is a statistic that is entirely depends upon context, and quantifies the difference between singles that score runs and singles that don't (as well as any other batting event). WPA uses what are called Win Expectancy Matrices to determine the change in a teams probability of winning. Now that we have a rough idea of what WPA is, lets learn how to calculate it piece by piece. I used this tool to determine win expectancy

We join our game already in progress with the Blue Sox up by 3 in the bottom of the ninth. At this point, the Blue Sox are a 99.443% favorite to win (and I imagine a little extra since the batter has two strikes). This means that the home team only has a 0.557% chance of winning. Our pitcher is pretty pleased with himself, and gives the crowd a bow.

 He unleashes his next pitch...and the batter ends up Bill Bucknering the third baseman and ends up on first with a single.

As a result of this play, our team now has a 98.854% chance of winning, and the home team now has a whopping 1.146% chance! Since RedGoofy1 was the batter who hit the single, he is credited with .00589 WPA for that plate appearance. Immediately after RedGoofy1 gets into a run down and ends up stealing second!

As a result of this play, our team now has a 98.924% chance to win, and the home team has a 1.076% chance. After the steal of second, RedGoofy1 is credited with - .00007 WPA. Bringing his total WPA for the inning to .00589 - .00007 = .00582 WPA. So why did RedGooy1's WPA drop after a steal of second? He's in a much better position to score! Shouldn't it go up?

This is one of the problems of dealing with small samples. If we take a closer look into amount of times this particular situation has come up, we see that a total of 1208 games had this exact game state. That may sound like a  lot, but that is 1208 games out of a 112620 game sample. That translates to 1.0726% of total games played. That isn't very many.

Let's go back to our game. After RedGoofy1 steals 2nd base, our hero pitcher gets so salty that he cracks the next batter right in the face! 

That leaves runners on first and second and with our team at a 96.234% chance of winning! This leaves the home team at a 3.766% chance to win and RedGoofy2 is credited with .026934 WPA. With the tying run coming up to bat, I'm still feeling pretty good about our teams chances of a victory! The feeling doesn't last very long as RedGoofy3 drops a bunt, wacky cartoon hijinks ensue, and the bases are suddenly loaded.

This brings our team with a 91.12% chance of winning and the home team with a 8.86% chance of winning. RedGoofy3 is credited with .05094 WPA. It should be noted that while the batters are gaining WPA, our pitcher is losing it as a result. WPA is a zero sum stat, meaing that for every positive value incurred, there is an equal negative value somewhere else. Our pitcher has a WPA for the third of an inning of -.00589 (single) + .00007 (stolen base) - .026934 (HPB) - .05094 (bunt) = -.083694 total WPA, meaning he is charged with costing his team of losing 8.3694% of a win since recording the 2nd out of the inning.

So even with the bases loaded, and the winning run at the plate, I'm still feeling pretty good about our team's chances of winning. The next batter hits a long fly ball to center, more wacky cartoon hijinks ensue and our teams finally records the third out! We win! A fight breaks out, because baseball, and we are left to celebrate out victory.

After the dust settles, RedGoofy4 is credited with -.0886 WPA since he dropped his team's chances of winning down to 0%. Our pitcher is credited with .0886 WPA since he raised his team's chances of winning up to 100%. That brings his total WPA since the second out was recorded to -.00589 (single) + .00007 (stolen base) - .026934 (HPB) - .05094 (bunt) + .0886 (third out) = .004906 WPA.

It should be noted, again, that this is hardly a predictive statistic. WPA has a weak year-to-year correlation of .414 which means that only 17% of year X WPA informs a players year X+1 WPA. Which means that 83% of WPA comes from somewhere else. Most likely it is the amount of chances a player has to come to bat in high leverage situation and how often they succeed in those situations. If a player has a lot of chances, they are more likely to have a high WPA. If a player does not get those opportunities, their WPA will suffer.


Link City #3


Brett Talley asks if fantasy owners are putting too much stock in pitcher matchups. This is something that I have always thought about, and my conclusion has always been the same as his (even if I've never looked into any data). In my leagues, I almost never change my starters before June or July and only then if my pitchers are up against an exceptionally good or bad team.

Learning baseball with Goofy and Bradley Woodrum. I will expand on this Wednesday.

This conspiracy runs pretty deep.

Chris Gigley wrote a piece on some of the players from the Staten Island Yankees, the New York Yankees short-season single-A affiliate. I almost always enjoy pieces on minor league baseball players. It never ceases to amaze me how their major league counterparts make hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars a year, while they make less than I do. And everyone seems to be alright with that.

Nick Ashbourne writes about how outstanding Aroldis Chapman's year has been. This is mostly another "this player is even better than you thought" piece, but I'm a big Red's fan and I need something to be happy about.


I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Mark Rosewater's article from last monday. I don't really have a strong opinion one way or another about the block format as far playing is concerned. I've only been playing Magic for a few months and by the time the change starts happening I will not know any different.

The Boston Globe and Retale.com show us what everyone in America is doing at this exact moment. I've kept this running in a tab for a few days now, I find it incredibly fascinating.

Andrew Wheeler talks about the effects of changing a superhero's costume. I'll let this one speak for itself.


Luyman's Terms #14: Rabble Red

Today, I just want to show you guys my version of the "Rabble Red" deck that become so popular recently. I've seen quite a few different lists, and to be honest I'm not sure which list is the best. Mine is set up to still be legal post rotate, mostly because 99% of my cards are from Theros block and M15. Here is the list:
There are a few cards that I have in my list that I have not seen on any others, and I want to take some time and tell you why they are included:
  • Satyr Firedancer is a great way to burn out my opponents early drop creatures if they are trying to out-aggro me, and even a great way to get rid of big late game creatures. There have been a couple instances where I have burned my opponent for 5-7 with various cards and taken out a high toughness creature in the process. If one of those cards is a searing blood I can usually take out another creature as well. This almost always leads to a victory.
  • Frenzied Goblin is also nice to have in almost any stage of the game. It's a one drop creature that I can start turning sideways quickly and its ability is quite relevant in the late game when I'm trying to get in the last few points of damage and I don't have my Firedancer/burn spell combo.
  • Act on Impulse is a card good only in the late game, but it does its job very well. When I first started playing this deck I found myself without a hand after turn 5 or 6 fairly often. My opponent would be at 2 and I would be begging for the top of my deck to be a burn spell. Since I've put Act on Impulse in, I've not once had this problem. There have been a couple times where I draw the card in my opening hand or early in the game and it sits in my hand while I die, but I think that is acceptable given that the number of times it has drawn me that last burn spell I need is much bigger than the times it just sits in my hand. 
This deck has been a blast for me to play. My win percentage with it is over 70%! Barring some new amazing archetype out of Khans of Tarkir, I will probably be playing Rabble Red for the foreseeable future. What do you guys think? Could my list use a tweak here or there? Do you wish this deck would die? Let me know!


Luyman's Terms #13: When Pinch Hitting Works

For this post, I will be using data from the 2008 and 2009 seasons because it is the most recent data I have at the moment. I am having issues updating my database and I hope to have more recent data in the near future.

When I first sat down to write this, all that I knew was that I wanted to do some sort of a post on pinch hitting. Pinch hitting strikes me as one of the most complicated parts of a baseball game, while also being one of simplest. If you're pitcher is having a bad day on the mound and it's his turn in the order to bat, you pinch hit for him. If the home team is down in the bottom of the ninth and it's the pitcher's turn to bat, you pinch hit for him. These are both easy decisions.

What complicates matters is if a team is down one or two runs late in the game, or even if a team is down five or six runs. What if you're down 6-1 in the 5th and the pitcher's spot is up? Is it worth it to pinch hit in such a low leverage situation? What if you're down 1-0 in the 7th and it's the pitchers turn to bat? Do you pinch hit for the pitcher to try to score and hand the ball off to a potentially worse pitcher? 

In all of the following charts, sheet one will be reserved for starters, sheet two will be reserved for pinch hitters, and sheet three will be your cheat sheet for determining which hitter type was worth more runs. According to my data, there were a total of 9718 plate appearances by pinch hitters in those two seasons opposed to 358137 plate appearances by players that started the game. This means that a little over 2.6% of plate appearances were by pinch hitters.

Here is the expected number of runs generated by hitters while hitting in a given out state:


It makes sense to see that the runs generated goes down as the number of outs goes up. If you have more outs, then you have fewer chances to score runs. What's interesting is that pinch hitters are worth more than non-pinch hitters in situations where they come to the plate with one or two outs recorded, but starters are worth more when no outs have been recorded. Let's see if we can figure out why.

To do this, we will have to break our data into more, smaller pieces. With smaller pieces it will be easier for us to identify exactly when/why our data shifts. Lets take a look at how  Here is the expected number of runs generated by hitters separated by base/out state:

According to this, there are four instances (out of a possible 24) where pinch hitters are worth more than non-pinch hitters when they come to the plate with no outs, but only two instances when they come to the plate with one or two outs. This seems backward since we determined that pinch hitters were worth more when they came to the plate with one or two outs in the first chart. These tables seem to tell us the opposite. Lets take a look at the data from a different perspective. What do the number look like when we take into account how many runs a team is down or if the score is tied when they send a pinch runner to the plate?

It should be noted that this is far from a complete chart. The score of a game of baseball often differs by more than four runs, but these situations were by far the most common, and I didn't want the results skewed by a small sample size. In every situation but three, pinch hitters were worth more than starters. Two of those three situations are when the batter comes to the plate with no outs, which helps confirm our first chart. It looks like its a good idea for a team to pinch hit if they are in a position to do so. What about when a players team is up when a that player pinch hits?

Same disclaimer as above, these were simply the most common situations and I didn't want the results skewed by a small sample size. Here, we see similar results to when a team is down when they pinch hit. The only situation in which a starter was worth more was when he came up to bat with no outs recorded, which also helps to confirm our first chart. It also seems as if even if a team is up it is advantageous for them to send a pinch hitter to the plate if they are in a position to do so.

So what about that second chart that seems to contradict everything else? Lets take another look at the data. This time, sheet three will show the number of times a pinch hitter came up to bat in those situations:

Now this is interesting. Most notably when a pinch hitter came up to the plate with runners on 1st and 2nd and one or two recorded outs. As you can see, there is a sizable increase in pinch hitters in those situations. Those also happen to be the situations in which pinch hitters were more valuable than starters. This may simply be a coincidence, but nonetheless explains why that chart seems to contradict all of the others.

According to all of this data, if a team has an opportunity to pinch hit, they probably should. It seems as if the fresh bat is worth more than the tired bat, especially as pressure increases due to outs being recorded or if the game is close. That said, I'm not convinced that this data is at all definitive. It might be worth looking into how much the handedness of a pinch hitter compares to the handedness of the batter he is replacing as well as how much pinch hitting for a pitcher vs pinch hitting for a position player changes the data. I think this is a good stopping point for today though and will give us something to chew on for awhile.


Link City #2

Here's a list of things that I found interesting this week!


Jeff Sullivan attempts to explain how the Orioles are beating their projections. Unsurprisingly, he fails. That said, the Orioles are having a heck of a year. And while I'm not a huge fan of results-oriented thinking (I do not think that being in first place makes the Orioles a good team, or vice versa), results are what matter and the Orioles have them.

Drew Fairservice takes a look at Mike Trout and why his value on the basepaths has taken a dip this season. It's interesting to look back on Trout's (short) carrer, and how he has changed so much as a hitter. He's no longer as valuable on the base paths (and this article suggests that that fact might be up for debate), but just keeps getting better with his bat to offset the decline. If nothing else, I think this article serves as a nice reminder on the merits (or lack thereof) of small sample sizes.

Dave Cameron writes about pitch framing and how it may or may not impact his vote for NL MVP. While I see the merits of pitch-framing and have no trouble seeing it's value to a team. I'm not sure if that skill alone is worth considering a player for the MVP ballot. That said, I love Cameron's willingness to entertain all options and really put some thought into something like this. Defense is part of the game too, and preventing runs is probably just as important as creating them.

Magic: The Gathering

Reid Duke explaining What is Magic? I think this is both a perfect primer for a new player to the game, as well as a good way of explaining what the game is for people who just don't understand. 

Marshall Sutcliffe explaining the his and Brian Wong's "Quadrant Theory" for drafting. I think like it a lot more than BREAD. The quadrant theory makes you think more about a card than "is it good", which is all I have found myself doing when I consider BREAD while drafting. The quadrant theory makes you consider WHEN a card is good. Which I think will lead to more synergy throughout a draft deck and, therefore, a better draft deck.

Mike Linnemann explaining some of the real-world inspiration for Khans of Tarkir. If you like to dabble in being Vorthos (as I do), this is the article for you. 

Nick Vigabool shows some statistics on how M15 has impacted standard. As for me, M15 has led to many different deck ideas (with varying levels of success). My favorite of which was a mono-red deck featuring Goblin Rabblemaster, which I was delighted to see pop-up at Pro Tour M15. My deck is built slightly different from the one Jeremy Dezani and the like ran, but that is because I have set mine up for post-rotation. I've had quite a bit of success with it nonetheless. Here is a decklist if you're interested.

Miscellaneous (a.k.a. reading about Batman)

I spent a lot of time this week looking at Comics Alliances's posts on Scott Snyder and the Batman: Zero Year story arc. There were several different interviews with Snyder that took place in different times throughout the arc, but my favorite by far was the last interview that took place after the story was over. It gave me a whole new outlook on the story, and gave me a better appreciation of both the story itself, and the choices the creative team made.

I also enjoyed this post from Andrew Wheeler on the story from the perspective of a new reader. I don't really have anything to say about it, I just like to read new and different perspectives on things I've been involved with for a long time.