The Other Fifteen

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Chicago Tribune figures out this computer thing could actually be something

The Trib (Dave van Dyck, I should clarify) sits down with Nate Silver and talks to him about PECOTA's projections for the Cubs and White Sox. They did the same thing last year, and had great fun with the reactions of the White Sox to the rather dour forecast PECOTA had for them. Welllll...

Just ask the 2007 White Sox, who were coming off a World Series championship and then a 90-victory season only to be picked to finish 72-90 by the modern-day baseball folks who feed historical information into computers.

And those 2007 Sox finished … 72-90, much to the amazement of those who dismissed the data spit out by the Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm, better known as PECOTA.

What is ahead for Chicago's baseball teams in 2008? The predictions:

  • The Sox, because of a series of off-season dealings, will rebound to 77-85 and third place in the American League Central, trailing the dominance of Cleveland and Detroit.
  • The Cubs will follow their 85-victory NL Central championship with another division title, this time with a 91-71 record, second best in the National League but not enough to break their 100-year drought of winning the World Series.

I'm pretty sure those forecasts will seem reasonable (and perhaps familiar) to anyone who frequents this site; I'd buy on both of those. I should note that the preseason forecasts are pretty reliable when it comes to predicting division winners; the wild card is probably a little trickier and the playoffs are an utter crapshoot. The Mets may, as he says, be the favorites to represent the NL in the Series, but that's a lot less reliable of a forecast than the one that has the Mets winning the East.

There are still some "mainstream press taking on a complex topic" sort of mistakes; for example:

He helped design PECOTA and put out a fascinating bible for baseball statisticians ("Baseball Prospectus 2008," available at bookstores) that includes thousands of computerized calculations on players and teams. In the past, most have proved amazingly accurate.

Silver is probably deeply involved in the publication of BP2008, but it's not a solo effort like Bill James' Baseball Abstracts were; if there's an individual mostly responsible for the BP annual it's probably Christina Kahrl. I'm nitpicking, of course; nothing's precisely wrong about that graf, but it doesn't exactly communicate the whole truth about the matter. It's just the sort of thing that I notice reflexively; spent way too many years doing press clippings, I guess.

Anyways, back to the analysis:

Who is the closer to take over from Ryan Dempster, who has moved to the rotation and whom Silver says will "be fine as a No. 4 starter"? Silver factored in Kerry Wood, Bob Howry and Carlos Marmol.

"All these guys, we think, will be fine," Silver said. "None [is a] top closer. Dempster was not that good a closer, so there's not that much to lose."

One thing that would help the Cubs is trading for Baltimore second baseman Brian Roberts, who would lead off.

"My guess is that he would add another two or three wins to the bottom line," Silver said. "Leadoff hitter has been kind of an Achilles' heel for the Cubs. We like guys who get on base. The [rumored] trade makes a lot of sense."

The thing about Dempster would be interesting to hear Silver justify further; run Dempster's PECOTA-projected ERA through Silver's own "quick-and-dirty" starter-to-reliever conversion and it jumps to a very unsightly 5.30 ERA, far worse than what ZiPS or CHONE are projecting for him.

And I don't see how Roberts adds two to three wins to this team; or perhaps I should say I don't see how the Roberts trade adds two to three wins to this team. Losing Gallagher is a huge blow to the team's rotation depth, and losing Cedeno kills any hope of getting out from under the impending Ryan Theriot Menace. And including Pie or Colvin (as the O's are reported asking for) further skews the deal toward irresponsible.

Maybe I'm overattatched to Cubs prospects, and maybe Silver doesn't keep up with the daily Roberts rumor mill. Who knows.

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4 Responses to “Chicago Tribune figures out this computer thing could actually be something”

  1. # Anonymous Maddog

    I think trading for Roberts probably adds somewhere between 1 and 3 wins to the Cubs. 1 win if Roberts has a 2004 or 2006 like season and 3 if he has a 2005 or 2007 like season. Split the difference and it's probably two.

    Gallagher may add some depth and I think it would be foolish for the Cubs to trade him, but he's not pitching with the big league club this season in any kind of meaningful capacity. The Cubs will trade for a starter before they let Gallagher get a handful of starts and Marshall is ahead of him on the depth chart as is Marquis so we're talking about a lot of injuries or a lot of pitchers being ineffective for that to even happen. I could see Gallagher getting a spot start for the 2nd game of a double-header or something like that and maybe middle relief for a short period, but that's about it.

    If the Cubs acquire Roberts, DeRosa becomes the infield predator that has a chance to unseat Ryan Theriot and he's a much better bet of being league average than Cedeno is so I think the Cubs come out ahead in losing Cedeno and having DeRosa as that guy will be waiting in the wings for that chance to take over when Theriot slumps.

    And for what it's worth, the guy I talked to a month ago said the O's initially asked for Pie and Gallagher and others, but the Cubs weren't interested and Pie was no longer a part of any recent discussions the teams had been having (as of one month ago).

    Where this deal becomes irresponsible on the Cubs part is in future seasons when you could have a cheap rotation starter in Gallagher for several years, cheap league average shortstop for several years in Cedeno, and then you'd have the huge upside and potential that Veal offers.

    As for 2008, none of those guys matter, unfortunately. We both know Cedeno should be starting over Theriot and I think we both agree Gallagher should be in the rotation. It's possible Cedeno could take over at shortstop, but the only way Gallagher is getting into the Cubs rotation is if the Cubs rotation suffers a minimum of 3 injuries. Then it doesn't matter anyway.  

  2. # Anonymous Anonymous

    As an O's fan I can understand an overattachment to prospects. We've been hoping our prospects would turn around our team for 10 years only to watch most of them never pan out.

    The Cubs farm system is ranked around 20th and the O's around 16th. According to Sports Illustrated the Cubs have only 2 prospects in the top 100...Vitters and Soto.

    So Colvin isn't viewed all that highly. Neither is Ceda. Pie is a big MAYBE to pan out. Gallagher/Marshall = #4 or #5 starters most likely. Possibly a #3 for one of them.

    Roberts on the other hand. AL SB champ last year. 2 time All Star. High OBP, hovers around .300 BA. This guy has proven himself at the major league level. As someone who's watched countless crappy O's games I can say this guy disrupts pitchers BIG time when he's on the basepath which is an invaluable intangible.

    This deal only works for both sides if you trade something of value instead of a group of spare parts. Cedeno - not good, Marshall/Gallagher - #4/#5 starter - EASY to find. We have 20 prospects that fit that bill already.

    Roberts for basically spare parts is a bad trade for the O's. Imagine if we were trading you - Jay Gibbons, Kevin Millar, Luis Hernandez, and Hayden Penn (our #4/#5 starter prospect) for say Derrick Lee. Although Lee is more valuable than Brian Roberts - my point is understandable. We don't need your castoffs for an All Star. You have to trade some part of quality which is why the deal if it gets done will be with one or two high quality pieces say: Gallagher, Cedeno, Ceda, than Pie or Colvin. You aren't losing your top talent but you are losing some of the future. You are looking into Coco Crisp as a centerfield option at the moment anyways so losing Pie at some level (be it altogether or playing time) is a big time possibility in Chicago. This trade is all about "The now" for "The Future". Cubs can't have it both ways in this deal - you have to give up a piece of the future for the now. Once you take fan bias out of the equation its the only way to look at it logically.  

  3. # Anonymous Maddog

    Anon, you can take your intangibles and stuff it. Roberts is a 30-year old 2nd baseman whose primary skill is his speed. These guys do not age well. That's a fact. He's had exactly 2 good years in his career and a bunch of average to below average ones. Another fact. Telling me he's a 2-time all-star is as meaningless as telling me what a prospect is ranked.

    Roberts is a good 2nd baseman, but he's not even remotely close to being in the top 5 at his position. If you'd prefer to keep your intangibles providing middle aged middle infielder rather than getting a guy who is 21 with the ceiling of a number 2 starter (Gallagher) and a young lefty who is a number 4/5 starter and a young shortstop who has tore up AAA, then good luck.

    I've never liked this deal for one minute. I wouldn't trade Gallagher straight up for Roberts let alone this ridiculous inclusion of other prospects as well. You do not know what you're going to get from Roberts. He's as inconsistent as any player in MLB. Yet another fact.  

  4. # Anonymous Dave

    Cesar Izturis was an all-star once. Whoop de doo.  

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