Sunday, April 22, 2007

Baseball Round Up [J. Mark English]

  • He's getting closer. Barry Bonds hits homer number 740. He is now within of 15 of Hank Aaron's record.
  • This is just a bizarre story from the Mets game the other day against the Braves: A New York Mets fan pleaded not guilty Sunday to shining a high-powered flashlight at an Atlanta Braves pitcher and shortstop during a game at Shea Stadium.

    Frank Martinez was arraigned in Queens criminal court on charges of interfering with a professional sporting event and second-degree reckless endangerment. He was held on $1,000 bail and is due back in court May 1.

  • Wow the Philadelphia Phillies actually did something right yesterday. Cole Hamels showed that they can win if you just leave the starting pitcher in for the whole game. He struck out 15, and pitched all nine innings. On top of that the Phillies pulled a triple play.
  • Dan Rosenheck of the New York Times: Who hit better last year, Alex Rodriguez or David Wright? Carlos Beltrán or Jason Giambi? For that matter, which was a better team on the whole, the Yankees or the Mets?

    Fans acquainted with modern statistical evaluation may eschew traditional metrics in such debates, and compare the players’ on-base and slugging percentages with the league average to make their case. But though both pairs of sluggers hit the same relative to their leagues last year, there’s no doubting that the Yankees’ players were more valuable. And although the teams had the same 2006 won-lost record and split their interleague games, last year’s Yankees probably would have beaten the Mets comfortably had they played more games against each other.

    The Yankees were superior because they faced a subtle but significant disadvantage: their league. The gap between the American League and the National League has grown larger in the past two years than at any point since the 1950s, when the N.L. integrated black players much faster than the A.L. did. According to Nate Silver of Baseball Prospectus, a typical A.L. hitter moving to the N.L. can expect to gain about 10 points of batting average and on-base percentage and 20 points of slugging percentage. A.L. pitchers switching leagues will usually have their earned run averages decrease because of the absence of the designated hitter in the N.L., but Silver calculates that the E.R.A. of an A.L. pitcher switching leagues is likely to drop by 0.25 runs more than can be accounted for by the D.H.

    At a team level, an average A.L. squad would probably improve its record by about 10 games if it could face N.L. competition, meaning that last year’s Yankees probably would have been a 107-win juggernaut if they had played the Mets’ schedule. The same is true in reverse: if the 2006 Mets had played in the A.L., they would have won only 87 games and missed the playoffs. This is about the same difference in league strength as the gap between today’s N.L. and Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball.

    Some variation in league strength is not uncommon in baseball history, but the magnitude of today’s imbalance is remarkable. The cause is straightforward: A.L. teams have spent more money on players than their N.L. counterparts. In 2005, the average N.L. team had a $71 million payroll, while the average A.L. team’s was $75 million. Since then, N.L. spending has increased only slightly, to $74 million a team, while salaries in the A.L. have soared to $93 million a team.

    Surprisingly, the Yankees cannot be directly blamed for this trend. They are one of only two A.L. teams that have reduced their payroll since 2005. The Red Sox, often accused of imitating the Evil Empire, are not the primary culprits, either — their $20 million increase in spending over the past two years is right around the A.L. average.

Labels: , , , ,