Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Ain't Much Going On...
A lot of rumors floating around, especially the supposed offers made to Giles and Furcal. It's unlikely that the Dodgers sign both of them due to payroll limits, whatever that may be. While signing Giles makes plenty of sense, Furcal at first glance seems superfluous given the depth in the middle infield.
It's also possible (even likely) that LA misses out on both of them, and will have to resort to trades to fill needs, as there are slim pickings in the free agency market. Time will tell whether Colletti has a trade idea or two lined up to shore up the roster. I hope he does, anyway.
Meanwhile, here are some recent off-topic things that caught my eye.
I finally found a photo of Bo Beer, named in honor of Bobby Valentine and his championship-winning season in Japan as manager. Too bad the mugshot doesn't include the fake glasses and moustache combo.
Why does the blank spot always turn to green? Must have something to do with complementary color schemes.
Ronald McDonald robs Wendy's?
Imagine the taunts this guy faced at work before he decided to rob it. Come to think of it, imagine the taunts he faces now:
"Robble Robble Robble!"
Saturday, November 19, 2005
Bucs Score Big with Bay
While Colletti is busy giving Collins a pity interview, other teams are busy signing players. One really great recent signing was the Pirates deal with Jason Bay. For $18.25 the Bucs lock up Bay for 4 years. And the contract is really back loaded, so if the small-market team needs to trade Bay for prospects before the last year of the contract, they'll save a bundle.
Bay has now logged over 1000 major league ABs and can be considered the real deal. He was 10th in MLB in OPS last year (.961), has a career OPS of .940 and a career EQA of .314. He wouldn't be considered a frontline defensive CF (career Rate2 of 98), but he is a fine defensive corner outfielder (career Rate2 in LF of 104). At 27 he's just entering his prime and should perform at or above these levels for the duration of this four-year deal.
Obviously this contract replaces arbitration years and not free agency years, otherwise Bay would be asking for Matsui/Giles money. Still, I think the Pirates are saving money over what Bay could have received in arb and circumventing the hassle and ill will that goes along with annual arbitration hearings. Say what you may about Littlefield's taste in managers, but I agree with BP when they say that "it doesn't get any more canny than this".
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Dark Day in Dodgerville
Read it and weep.
It's not that there is no possibility of Colletti being a serviceable GM, but compared to what we had (Depo) or could have had (Epstein or Ng), Colletti is a big downgrade.
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Late Night Potpourri
The Nightmare, AKA the LA Mets
No GM, no manager, no coaching staff ...
Floating through a dimly lit corridor, a door opens and a press conference appears...
"Mr. Phillips, what is your vision-"
"Call me Steve, please."
"Alright Steve, what is your vision for the Dodgers as the new GM?"
"My job is to immediately return the Dodgers to its rightful place among the elite. As such, I would like to announce our first moves of this offseason. Ladies and gentlemen, you may know this guy. The Dodgers have just signed Mike Piazza to a 3 year contract. Welcome home, Mike."
// camera flash all around, a roar amongst the press //
"In addition, the Dodgers have just acquired Adrian Beltre from Seattle in a six player trade -"
// a collective gasp //
"Steve, can we get the exact details involved in that trade?"
"Sure, just give me a sec." // whispers to Lasorda and smiles // "We acquired Belly and Eddie Guardado in exchange for some minor leaguers. Seattle will also be chipping in about $4 million a year for the next 4 years, which we think-"
"Who are the prospects that went to Seattle?"
"Uh," // pulls out some memos //" Chad Billingsley, Russell Martin, Andy LaRoche, and a player-to-be-named-later. We feel that this trade helps us win right now, and the money offset from Seattle gives us the financial flexibility to..."
A nightmare. Cold sweat. TV still on.
Damn, I must have fallen asleep while watching ESPN... What's this? A press conference with Steve Phillips as the GM? What kind of a sick joke is this?
Wait, the scrolling words at the bottom...it's fake. So that must have caused my nightmare...
The Mets a few seasons ago were an overshadowed, second-class team that often made transactions in short-sighted desperation. (Steve Reed for Jason Bay!) Here in LA, the Angels are making all the headlines, and surely the PR-sensitive McCourts surely will demand immediate improvement from the new GM.
Even though the salaries of Dreifort and Green finally came off the books, the freed-up payroll might not be wisely spent; the free agent market is thin. LA may also be outbid by those teams with deeper pockets, like the Mets. The alternate way to acquire proven talent would be to trade away the prospects that Evans and DePodesta were loath to give up. This is especially possible if the new GM is from outside the organization. The mandate from McCourt seems clear:
Fix this mess right now, otherwise you'll be outta here faster than you can say "DePodesta"!
An outside GM would have fewer qualms burning up the farm system, as he would be on a short leash AND would have zero ties to the players. I don't like this scenario at all - as I've said before, it's a return to the days of FOX without the dinero.
It may be preferrable if all the outside candidates turn down the job, and Kim Ng gets promoted by default. As for bringing in "experience" and "Dodger tradition", why not hire a senior advisor to the GM who has ties to the organization? Would Dave Wallce be interested in returning to his old club?
Needed: Korean Translator
Here are some recent Korean articles on Hee Seop Choi. It looks as if he's taking instructions from former hitting coach Reggie Smith. Can anybody translate?
OT: Two Time Killers
1) For those who like popping bubble wrap... (Edit: Pretend that each bubble is a GM prospect who says no.)
2) This is a bit more challenging. Use the various items lying around to advance to the next room.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Dodger 2006 Home Attendance: 3,417,575
Or at least that's my best estimate without knowing how the club will perform on the field next year. As explained below, over 70% of the variation in home attendance during the Dodger Stadium era can be explained using external (i.e., non-baseball) factors and prior club performance. If you could magically know how the club will play next year, then nearly 90% could be explained. (Why is it that the same magic that tells you how the team plays couldn't just tell you the attendance as well? I don't know -- it's magic. I'm talking stats here, bear with me.) So here are the refined attendance numbers corresponding to how the club finishes in the NL West in 2006:
So how did I come up with these estimates? Smog's post got me thinking about the relationship between team performance and attendance. So I ran some (linear) regression analyses to see what correlation there is between various measures of performance and attendance. First I looked at the current year's winning percentage, then the prior year's, then averages of prior two years, etc. Surprisingly, I didn't find much correlation at all (e.g., current year's win percentage vs. average per game attendance r^2=.0114, prior year's r^2=.0001). Whether the club made the playoffs or world series also weren't very predictive. Division rank yielded slightly better results (rank current year, r^2=.2106; prior year r^2=.0975), but still not as high a correlation as I expected. [Note on tests of statistical correlation and the reporting thereof: if references to r^2 aren't familiar to you, then take this very perfunctory explanation offered by Microsoft Excel: "The r-squared value can be interpreted as the proportion of the variance in y attributable to the variance in x." In this case, the proportion of variation in Dodger attendance explained (although "explained" is really too strong) by the variation in other factors, such as the Dodger's win percentage. Calculating r^2 values is best left to Excel or other statistics software, and further explanation of statistics is best left to someone else.]
It's More about When than What
So I stepped back and a took at the plotted data to see if anything obvious jumped out at me. FYI, here it is (source: baseball-reference.com) (click on the graph to see a larger, more legible version):
Note that the graph shows per game average attendance, not total annual attendance. I used per game rather than total numbers so strike-shortened seasons could be compared with others. The strikes didn't seem to have much effect on Dodger draw, perhaps because the Dodgers won the series in 81.
The one noticeable thing that stands out to me is the overall steady increase in attendance. In fact, the one factor that best correlated to attendance was simply the year (r^2=.4621). Here's the same chart with a trend line added:
The resulting equation (i.e., the equation of the trend line) is: average Dodger per game home attendance equals 357.81 multiplied by the year minus 674,738. So without looking at baseball factors at all, we could estimate next season's attendance at 43,028.86 per game [43,028.86 = 357.81 * 2006 - 674,738] or 3,528,367 in total (82 games).
Does this make sense, or is it just luck? Given that baseball factors didn't yield better results, I surmise that the correlation to the year really shows correlation to external (non-baseball) factors such as growth in population, disposable income, etc. To test this I looked up population numbers for the five county area (aka, the Los Angeles-Riverside-Orange County CMSA). Unfortunately, I could only find annual numbers as far back as 1970. Over this period the population correlated fairly well with attendance (r^2=.3005), but not quite as well as years over the same period (r^2=.3525). Perhaps the difference is due to increase in disposable income, expanding economy, etc. It was a big enough pain in the ass hunting through the census info to find annual population data that I decided to punt on testing the economic factors and just settle on using years as a proxy. Besides, I wanted to use all the attendance data from the entire Dodger Stadium era and I only had population data going back to 1970.
The Baseball Factor
So if the general trend toward increase in attendance over the years explains about 46% of the variation in attendance, what about the rest? To test this I compared various baseball factors versus the difference in actual attendance in each season from estimated based upon the foregoing trend equation. In other words, residual analysis. Again I found that divisional rank was far better at predicting attendance than raw win percentage. But what really surprised me was the factor that best correlated with the attendance residuals wasn't the current year's rank, or prior year's, or the average of two or three year's, but it was the club's average divisional rank over the prior nine years (r^2=.3702). Apparently, most Dodger fans have long memories.
Using multivariate regression analysis, we can look at how well these two factors, when taken together, explain the variation in Dodger home attendance. ("Multivariate regression analysis" sounds pretty gnarly, but from a user perspective, it just involves adding another column of data to the spreadsheet.) And the answer is about 68% (r^2=.6851). After testing a number of different factors, I found that the highest correlation between a given year's attendance and things other than current year's performance was about 71% (r^2=.7117). To get this I regressed Dodger home attendance versus four variables: 1) the year; 2) the Dodgers' average divisional rank over the prior nine years; 3) the Dodgers' average divisional rank over the prior three years; and 4) a playoff factor equal to 2 if the Dodgers reached the world series in the prior year, 1 if the Dodgers finished 1st or 2nd in their division in the prior year (i.e., were in the race for the playoffs), or 0 if the Dodgers finished 3rd or lower in their division in the prior year. Here's the resulting equation: average Dodger per game attendance = 283.22878 * the year - 4293.465343 * 9yr av rank - 924.4837235 * 3yr av rank + 878.7310142 * playoff factor - 513,349.8755. Do the math and you should come up the attendance number in the title (or one or both of us has our math wrong).
In order to predict attendance with higher confidence, one must turn to current year performance. Not surprisingly, the most useful current-year factor is division rank. Adding this variable to the analysis described in the prior paragraph allows one to describe nearly 90% of the variation in Dodger home attendance (r^2=.8918). The resulting equation: average Dodger per game attendance = 254.9744543 * the year - 4885.943458 * 9yr av rank - 653.1594398 * 3yr av rank + 1224.126037 * playoff factor - 1593.488331 * current year rank - 452406.8777. Here's what it looks like graphed:
As you can see, the estimate is pretty close to the actual. So what makes up the other 11% variation in attendance? There are lots of possibilities, such as Fernandomania, good/bad PR, or the price of beer. It would be interesting to see if ticket price had much impact, or to see if the correlations that hold true for the Dodgers work for other clubs. I'll leave all that to another day, or maybe Smog will want to take it up.
Thursday, November 03, 2005
BP on Epstein & Depo's Departures
If you're a Baseball Prospectus subscriber you really should check out this fine article by Joe Sheehan. He lays bare the myths of the bitgod crowd and takes a few warranted shots at the McCourts, including this one:
I can't say for sure where McCourt is taking his counsel these days, but I have no doubt that he's getting bad advice. As good as 2006 may be on the field, the long-term prospects for this organization are terrible, and it's McCourt's fault.In a similar vein, norcaldodger has added this articulate post to what's otherwise become a sea of idiotic Depo-bashing over at dodgers.com. He even goes so far as to suggest that McCourt suck it up and take Depo back:
The McCourts, who have in the past paid lip service to "making mistakes", should admit this latest one and bring DePo back. After all, DePo's under contract for three more years . . . the money saved might bring a quality bat.Unfortunately, that's not going to happen. In fact, it's much more likely that McCourt hires Bowden. Until I hear otherwise, I'm going to hang onto hope that somehow the club can land Epstein.
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
All Things Boston
Wacko conspiracy theory to explain Depo's firing: McCourt's lust for all things Boston peaks when he finds out he has a shot at Theo Epstein, so he dumps Depo to open up the GM spot. Then he trades for Manny, signs Johnny Damon and Nomar, and hires Grady Little as skipper. To top it off he changes the name of the club to the Boston Blue Sox of Los Angeles.
Don't think Frank would go that far? All the evidence you need is his interview with Depo. It's not readily apparent from the transcript of the meeting in which Depo discusses his baseball philosophy, use of statistics, etc. To really understand what happened you have to experience it as McCourt did:
Depo: blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah Harvard blah balh blah blah.Yes, much like Ginger, McCourt only hears one thing -- in his case, Boston. Of course, McCourt was later dismayed to find out that Depo worked for Oakland and Cleveland. That simply wouldn't cut it when there was a real Bostonian to be had.
McCourt: You went to Harvard? Isn't that near Boston?
Back in the real world, whatever McCourt's machinations, this scenario will not come to pass. Epstein quit because he had conflicts with Lucchino, so why on earth would he subject himself to McCourt and Lasorda. Also there is that little problem that Frank won't / can't afford to shell out the cash that Theo would demand.
Worst Case Scenario
By the time Theo bursts McCourt's Boston-philic bubble, Gillick and Hunsicker may well already have jobs with Philly and Tampa. Then Tommy gets his wish and McCourt turns to Bowden.
To make matters worse, Arizona has already hired Theo's former assistant Josh Byrnes as GM. Towers could well go to Boston because he is buddies with Lucchino, which could induce San Diego to hire Epstein for revenge. There's also a good chance Depo could take a front office job with Colorado to work with his friend Dan O'Dowd. Of course the only thing that could possibly follow in this nightmare scenario is the hated Giants firing Sabean and then somehow convincing Beane to cross the bay.
What Actually Happens
The chance the club can land Epstein is pretty slim. Of course if McCourt somehow managed to, it would mean the club was in good hands. While he might not be quite the genius Depo is, he does seem to be more outgoing and more adept at PR. And the WS ring would give him some cover to make tough moves that Depo clearly didn't have going for him.
The likely choices appear to be Gillick and Hunsicker. Although a step down from Depo, neither would be a disaster (unless they let Tommy meddle too much). But McCourt does have competition for these guys and will have to pay relatively big money to get them.
Hence, Bowden is a real possibility. The combination of McCourt, Lasorda and Bowden would be really hard for this Dodger fan to take. Of course, Bowden would mortgage the farm to bring in some big names now (albeit big names with team chemistry). The team will do much better in 2006 -- maybe even make it to the first round of playoffs -- and Bowden will be hailed as a savior in the idiotic local press. All the while other clubs in the west will be building a base for sustained future success.