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    Friday, October 28, 2022

    World Series Predictions and Yet More Postseason Trivia!

    You probably guessed there would be another Sporcle quiz today, but I’ll get to that in a second. First up, The Crawfish Boxes ran a staff-wide World Series Prediction article, which includes insight from yours truly!

    At first, I tried to approach this from a more analytical standpoint. Sure, playoff series can be pretty random, but you might as well try and work with what you know, right? Of course, we’ve seen how the Astros going up against a theoretically-weaker NL East team has played out multiple times recently. Even stuff like this, which I still think was a very reasonable series preview, ends up feeling kind of embarrassing in retrospect.

    Of course, the 2022 Phillies may share similarities with the 2021 Braves or the 2019 Nationals, but they aren’t them, and even the 2022 Astros look different than their iterations from those two years. In the end, I just approached it almost like a creative writing exercise; what do the Astros need to do to win, is that particularly likely, and how would it all play out? Maybe less logical than years past, but we see where that’s led me, so why not go with my gut for a change?

    Okay, now for the Sporcle quiz: Can you name the pitchers of the Wild Card Era with the most career Win Probability Added? This is the other half of yesterday’s quiz looking at position players, and these two serve as natural follow-ups to last week’s quizzes looking at single-season records for hitters and pitchers (for any who still haven’t tried them out).

    This one is longer than the position player one, with nearly twice as many entries and a top of the list far above the heights of the hitters. I was also kind of shocked at how many closers appeared here? Like, there were a lot on the single-season list as well, but the ratio feels a lot closer here. I also bet that makes the average on this one a little lower, since you have your famous, obvious names like Mariano Rivera and Kenley Jansen, but also some more surprising ones.

    I’m not sure if there will be another quiz published during the World Series, but I still have all of this WPA data sitting around, so I won’t rule anything out. At the very least, I might do something like a “2022 Playoffs in Review” quiz once things wrap up, and of course there will be the yearly “Best Players Without a World Series” quiz once we know who can be removed. So keep your eyes on this space, and here’s to an exciting World Series!

    Thursday, October 27, 2022

    New Sporcle Quiz: Most Career Postseason Win Probability Added of the Wild Card Era (Hitters)

    Hopefully, everyone has had a chance to try my two new Sporcle quizzes from last week, looking at the post individual postseasons of the Wild Card Era by Win Probability Added, for both hitters and pitchers. Today, we look at a similar topic: Can you name the position players of the Wild Card Era with the most career WPA?

    This quiz might actually be a little easier than the last hitter quiz? I used a cutoff of 1 cumulative Win, which might not sound like much given how many individual hitters had 1 or more WPA in a single postseason. But as it turns out, there are only 30 players who matched that for their careers, despite there being 27 single postseasons of 1 or more Win.

    I guess this goes back to my theory about hitters losing out from more opportunities to slowly erode their totals; after all, any out will bring your total down, and you’ll make an out at least 60% of the time or more. To stay above 1 WPA, even throughout your cold streaks or older years, you’ll need to build up a decent amount of big moments.

    (minor quiz spoilers below)

    Take Jose Altuve, for an extreme example; his hitless streak this October has cost him -0.76 WPA, but he had so much built up that he managed to stay on the list. Same goes for Justin Turner (-0.28). That wasn’t the case for Randy Arozarena or Eddie Rosario, however, who were both much closer to the 1-Win cutoff, and dropped below it.

    I’ll update this quiz and all of the other new ones once the World Series is complete. I don’t foresee this one changing much (although that can always change); the single-season ones are much more likely to need names added. Yordan Alvarez remains in the lead for hitters, improving his total for the postseason to 1.39 in the ALCS. Bryce Harper also moved above the 0.8 threshold I used for my single-season quiz. After those two, it’s ALCS MVP Jeremy Peña at 0.46, and nobody else above 0.3.

    On the pitching side of things, Zack Wheeler (0.95) is the current 2022 leader, with Ryan Pressly just on the outside at 0.69. Of course, all of this can change rapidly, depending on who gets hot or goes cold, especially in the case of pitchers. One really-bad outing from Wheeler or Pressly could completely ruin their chances; just look at the Astros’ first ALDS game, where Justin Verlander lost nearly 0.4 full WPA from his rough start, and Robbie Ray’s blown save was worth a full -0.913!

    Anyway, check back tomorrow for the pitching follow-up, plus some World Series predictions!

    Sunday, October 23, 2022

    New Sporcle Quiz: Best Pitcher Postseason Performances of the Wild Card Era

    Yesterday, I broke out my first Sporcle quiz of the postseason, looking at the Best Postseason Performances by Hitters, according to Win Probability Added. If you missed it, go check that out; I even wrote up a little blurb of extra info to go with it.

    Today, I return with the obvious follow-up: Can you name the best postseason performances among pitchers? Once again, we’re dealing with just the Wild Card Era, so 1995 to present. This list includes both starters and relief pitchers, although a few of the top answers notably pulled double duty on that front (as a small hint). And I don’t know if the top answer is as singularly obvious as it was on the other list, but I would bet the top three players would still be most people’s first three guesses in some order or another.

    I didn’t do a formal study or anything, but it might be a little easier to rack up or lose Win Probability as a pitcher than a hitter, thanks to the outsized effect a starter has in a game or the high leverage situations relievers are brought into. The spread of values is a little greater than it was with the hitters; only about 1050 pitchers out of 2500-ish fall in that 0.1 to -0.1 range that I highlighted yesterday. And we also see a lot more pitchers making that 0.8 cutoff for the quiz. The upper and lower bounds stay in similar places, but that’s in part because there are only so many games in the postseason in the first place. It also probably helps that too many losses and you don’t get many more opportunities to lose more WPA.

    Anyway, go try today’s quiz (and yesterday’s, if you missed it!), then come back here for ahas been on trial for sexual assault few more bits of trivia.


    Saturday, October 22, 2022

    New Sporcle Quiz: Best Postseason Performances of the Wild Card Era

    As some of you may have picked up on by now, the postseason is a good time for me publishing Sporcle quizzes. One of my favorite things about regular season baseball is that it’s a thing that you can watch or listen to super intensely or passively, as a background soundtrack while you do other things.

    However, playoff baseball and its added intensity kind of demands attention, which usually leaves me a little lost, since I usually multitask during games. I’ve found overtime that data entry is a good compensation, and having another relatively-easy thing leaves me feeling less anxious when games get tense. And naturally, once I have a bunch of data entered, it’s only natural I do something with it, and making trivia quizzes is a fun way to do that.

    This year, I hit on a good topic: Postseason Win Probability Added (WPA). Baseball-Reference has a lot of WPA data*, but it wasn’t collected in one searchable place, like their Stathead resource. So instead, I compiled all Win Probability data since the start of the Wild Card Era (1995 and later) myself.

    *For those unfamiliar with the concept, over the years, statisticians have figured out the average chance of a team winning a game from every game-state. So, to use an overly-simplified example, say a game is tied 0-0 and both teams have a 50/50 chance of winning (or .500, in win percentage). Say then that a player hits a home run to make it 1-0, and teams in that situation win 55% of the time (a .550 winning percentage), then their chances of winning went up .050, and that is credited to that player. If he instead strikes out and his team’s chances go down to 47%, that player is instead given -.030 WPA. If you’d like to play around and see exact numbers, here’s a calculator that I like to use. It’s not an all-encompassing stat (for instance, it doesn’t usually extend to fielding), but it’s a lot of fun to look at.

    This has given me a wealth of cool numbers to play around with, and I’m still trying to decide all of the quizzes I want to make with it. But in the meantime, here’s the first one: Can you name the best postseason performances among position players? “Performance” in this case includes the entire postseason, so one strong World Series isn’t going to do much if they played horribly in the Division and Championship Series (although if you can remember the MVPs of individual series, that’s also not a bad starting point). Go check it out, then come back here for a few spoiler-filled discussions!


    Friday, October 7, 2022

    The Newly-Expanded Annual Playoff Trivia Article, 2022 Edition!

    Welcome once again to Hot Corner Harbor’s Annual Celebration of Postseason Trivia! It’s a little later than usual this year, but that’s more thanks to the delayed nature of the 2022 season than the additional teams joining this year’s affairs.

    Speaking of those extra teams, I feel like I should give my thoughts about the expanded format, seeing as I pretty regularly had strong thoughts about the 10-team playoff format. At this point, though, I would say that my feelings about it are mostly neutral.

    On the one hand, the expansion of the playoffs at this point feels a little excessive. It’s been over 20 years since the last time the league expanded, the longest such drought going all the way back to the Angels and Senators-Rangers beginning back in 1961. The league doesn’t feel any larger, or like there was a need for a corresponding growth in the playoffs.

    And as a result, we got lucky this year, with all of our Wild Card teams at least landing in the upper-80s in their win totals… But it’s practically inevitable that a year will come when the league is a little more balanced, with fewer tanking teams soaking up losses at the bottom of the divisions, and as a result, we’ll end up with teams that are barely .500 or worse making it to the postseason. I went back and looked at years prior to this (more on that in a bit), and it wasn’t hard to find years where mediocre teams would have snuck in, and even a few with outright losing teams.

    And the continued devaluation of the postseason isn’t great; I think it clearly disincentivizes teams from going all-out to compete, especially in a sport as random as baseball. After all, why would you go out and sign that big star in free agency to a nine-figure deal when building a merely-competent 85-win team will still get you a spot in the October Lottery with barely worse odds?

    All of that being said… this wasn’t exactly a surprise. There have been rumbles for a while now about expanding the playoffs yet again, and based on some of those rumors, there was real potential for things to be even worse (including some proposals from last winter’s CBA negotiations for a 14-team postseason, which I think would have definitely tipped things into “excessive” territory).

    And if you told me to make a positive case for this new format that wasn’t “well, it could have been worse”... I’m actually surprised how easy it would be? I get the excitement of a one-game Wild Card Game, and while I could appreciate that, I ultimately think an actual series makes more sense. Baseball isn’t a “one-game” sport, and while I’d prefer a seven- or even five-game series, a three-game set at least prevents good teams from being sent home after a single loss.

    My main complaint about the five-team format was that it was often unfair to the top Wild Card team, and in an unexpected twist, this new system has actually indirectly fixed that. As I pointed out several years ago, the top Wild Card is not only better on average than the worst division-winner, but they also played a more difficult schedule to get to that point. So at the very least, I think it makes a lot of sense to make them both play through the Wild Card round.

    We’ll still occasionally run into the edge cases where the Wild Card has the second-best record in their league and get relegated to the best-of-3 round anyway, but at least it should be rarer than our former problem. And I suppose you could argue that it will look weird when a team with 100+ wins loses in the first round to a team in the high 80s (something that might even happen this year!), but at a certain point, that’s just a risk of having Wild Cards (and, more broadly, a playoff tournament in a sport as random as baseball). The three-game series (plus next year’s more-balanced schedule, which will hopefully address teams that cruise off of weak divisions) should help mitigate some of the worst, most noticeable problems in the old system, I think.

    My only other concern is to wonder how much of a boon the bye is for the top two seeds; it feels like we’ve seen teams go cold after too much time off in past playoffs, but that might also be a case of confirmation bias, and I’m forgetting all of the times rest has helped a team. Either way, I’m sure after a few years, we’ll have a better sense of how this new system plays out.

    With that out of the way, on to our normal trivia!


    After several years of dropping, we saw the average and median drought length of playoff teams bounce back. It’s still nowhere near the peaks we’ve seen, but a result near the middle beats the recent near-lows that we’ve been seeing.

    It’s kind of impressive, considering how many recent winners are represented here. A full half of the twelve teams still playing have won it all in the past fifteen years, and yet we’re still looking at the midpoints being in the 20-25 year range. A big part of that is Cleveland, San Diego, and Seattle all making it, with those three representing the longest (73 seasons), third-longest (never, founded 1969), and fifth-longest (never, founded 1977) active droughts in the Majors. The Mets also fall in the top-third of the league, with their 35 years outlasting all but 8 other teams, and even the Blue Jays are nearing their third decade since their last title.

    Of course, all of those teams are at risk to leave in the first round, so that does temper the expected drought-busting that can happen (especially since our top-four seeds include three of the last five champs). At least a lot of those titleless teams will be playing each other, so they can’t all leave in the Wild Card round, while the most recent champions in the Wild Card round (the Cardinals and Phillies) will play each other right away.

    Of course, one thing that I wondered was whether the expanded playoffs had any effect on the potential for drought busting. So I went back and looked at every postseason of the Wild Card era (dating back to 1995) and looked how these numbers would compare in the 8-, 10-, and 12-team formats.

    Long story short, it didn’t really matter. 12-team playoffs usually had the longest average and median droughts, thanks to the ability to occasionally sneak in an extra team with a really long streak, but the difference was rarely significant, and it was beaten by the other two formats over half the time.

    It such a small sample size that one or two teams could dictate the entire thing (for example, the late-90s really favored bigger playoffs… because you could count on the Yankees and Braves dynasties to take two of the division slots; or the pre-2016 Cubs could swing entire things depending on whether they were a 4-seed or 5-seed, thanks to their century without a title). Consequently, this year really likes the 10-team format, because the two five seeds (San Diego and Seattle) are two of the three largest droughts we have.


    As per another of my traditions, I have built the list that will serve as the basis for this year’s edition of my Best Active Players Without a World Series quiz. This year’s version covers a little past the top 100 active players, by Baseball-Reference’s version of Wins Above Replacement. That will be going up on Sporcle once the World Series is done and we know who all can be scratched off the list, with a link and small blurb going up here as well.

    In the meantime, I’ll include a list of the players still in the running at the end of the article, so that anyone trying to avoid spoilers has an easier time avoiding it. But if you’d like to see which teams winning will take the most names out of consideration without names attached, here you go:

    None: Dodgers
    One: Astros, Braves, Guardians
    Two: Padres, Rays
    Three: Blue Jays, Cardinals
    Four: Mariners, Mets
    Five: Phillies, Yankees


    This is a new idea I had in the final days of the regular season that serves as the inverse to the last section. As I mentioned last year, pinch runner extraordinaire Terrance Gore won his third World Series ring as part of the 2021 Braves (joining his titles with the 2015 Royals and 2020 Dodgers). That put him in extremely rarefied territory, as one of only 17 players to win a championship with three different franchises.

    Gore returns to the playoffs this year, bringing his late-game specialties to the Mets in his search to become the first-ever playoff to win it all with four unique teams. But I had a question that required some digging to answer: is there anyone else this year looking to join him in three-peat land?

    The short answer is no. I did a quick-and-dirty dive into Baseball-Reference’s Stathead search, and supplemented it with a lot of eyeball work, but according to my count, there are roughly 100 or so players going for their second (or more) World Series ring.* And of those 100-ish players, under 50 will be going for a ring on their second team.

    *For the sake of completeness, I included anyone who played on the 2022 roster of a playoff team or the regular season roster of a past champion. So we’ll be including players who have since been dropped, which means that Sergio Romo (who played on all three recent Giants champions) can win his fourth title if either the Blue Jays or Mariners take it all, despite not having played in a Major League game since July. And Robinson Canó will pick up his second unique team from any of the Mets, Braves, or Padres winning (although not the Mariners).

    That’s a lot of names to cover, especially since a lot of them are just bit players who made cameos on these teams. But, to cover some notable cases briefly:


    Just in terms of sheer numbers, this postseason is looking extremely balanced between Original 16 teams and Expansion Teams; a full half of our dozen teams still playing are late-comers to the league. That would give us pretty good odds to see just our third-ever all-expansion team World Series, but as those who are familiar with this column might already realize, those chances aren’t quite as good as you might initially think.

    The AL has four of our six expansion representatives, and at least one ALCS team is guaranteed to be an expansion team, as the winner of the Blue Jays-Mariners series will play the Astros in the ALDS (fun fact: the latter series will mark the first time MLB’s two 1977 expansion teams meet in the playoffs). But the Rays will need to upset both the Guardians and the Yankees to meet one of them there, which might be a tall order for a sixth seed that limped into the playoffs.

    Meanwhile, the NL side looks downright unlikely. One of the Mets or Padres is guaranteed to lose in the first round, and the surviving team will need to knock out a 111-win Dodgers team that looks like a juggernaut. Granted, the path to our second All-Expansion World Series started in a similar manner, so nothing is impossible.


    Our expanded bracket this year means a full 36 potential World Series matchups, and the large number of expansion teams (plus Cleveland) means that over half of them are brand new. Of course, there’s also the potential to see the Yankees play the Dodgers for the dozenth time.

    Among new matchups, the Mariners represent the largest source of them; as the last remaining team without a pennant to their name, any match-up they’re involved in is new. In contrast, every single potential matchup for the Yankees has occurred before, including against the Padres (who only have two pennants at all).

    Every other AL competitor has faced exactly two potential NL pennant winners, even the Rays and Blue Jays (who both also have just two previous World Series appearances). In contrast, a full half of NL teams have only faced the Yankees: the Padres and Mets are expected, given their newer status, but the Cardinals are a surprise, given their long history and 19 World Series appearances. For whatever reason, St. Louis have a large number of repeat matchups among their pennants, and with no Red Sox, Tigers, or A’s (4x, 3x, and 2x, respectively), they have a lot of potential to meet a new team. Or, they could just run into the Yankees again, which has happened 5 times already (making it the third most frequent championship pairing, behind the Yankees-Dodgers and Yankees-Giants).

    Here’s a full chart of which pairs have met up in October pasts, as well as a list of when the potential repeat World Series matchups have occurred:

    rematches ATL STL LAD NYM SDP PHI
    NYY X X X X X X
    CLE X X
    HOU X X
    TOR X X
    TBR X X

    One Time
    Astros-Braves (2021)
    Rays-Dodgers (2020)
    Astros-Dodgers (2017)
    Rays-Phillies (2008)
    Yankees-Mets (2000)
    Yankees-Padres (1998)
    Blue Jays-Phillies (1993)
    Blue Jays-Braves (1992)
    Guardians-Dodgers (1920)

    Multiple Times
    Yankees-Dodgers (1941, 1947, 1949, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1956, 1963, 1977, 1978, 1981)
    Yankees-Cardinals (1926, 1928, 1942, 1943, 1964)
    Yankees-Braves (1957, 1958, 1996, 1999)
    Yankees-Phillies (1950, 2009)
    Guardians-Braves (1948, 1995)


    Sunday, October 2, 2022

    Reflections on the Orioles' 2022 Season, and Transitioning from Tanking to Winning

    As of October 1st, the Orioles’ 2022 season has come to a close, thanks to a walk-off win by the Mariners and a regular-old win by the Rays on the final day of September. Even a nailbiter win in the Bronx couldn’t save them (edit: and they lost Saturday's follow-up anyway); at best, they can tie Tampa and Seattle, and they lost the season series to both teams, and therefore, the official tiebreaker as well.

    While it’s a bit of a sour note to go out as the AL’s runner-up, the best record to be sent home before the postseason, it’s ultimately hard not to view this season as a success. This wasn’t a team meant to even be good yet, let alone be a playoff contender all the way through September, and sealing up their first winning season since 2016 while seeing so many young players make strong impressions… those are all definite wins, even if they aren’t a playoff berth.

    (It also probably helps that this is the first season with three Wild Card slots, so they wouldn’t have even been the runner-up prior to this year, but we’ll ignore that for now.)

    And yet... it’s also not hard to feel like they could have made it. It’s like that Crash Davis quote from Bull Durham quote about the difference between a .300 hitter and a .250 being one extra hit a week; it wouldn’t take that many tweaks to get this team over the final hurdle. And despite being plucky up-and-comers, it’s also not difficult to find areas where they were very clearly leaving some opportunities on the table.

    The one that I imagine most people are going to point to is going to be the trade deadline. Dealing veterans Trey Mancini and Jorge López away is going to look like giving up, to some extent, even if there is a solid logic behind both of those deals.

    But I’m not sure that I fully buy that, either. The team looked fine in the immediate aftermath of their departure, with August being Baltimore’s second-best month by record, at 17-10 (only narrowly behind July’s 16-9). And neither of them looked especially dominant post-trade either, with Mancini’s Houston wRC+ dropping from 117 to 87 and López‘s ERA and FIP both ballooning in Minnesota. Sure, maybe they wouldn’t have fallen off that much had they stayed with the Orioles, but at the very least, I think it’s clear that just keeping them wouldn’t have been enough to get the O’s over the hump either.

    September was definitely rough after going 47-31 over the three summer months. They actually kept a over-.600 record for half the season, a 97-win pace! And they absolutely stumbled after that, going 13-15 in the final full month of the season. But it also wasn’t their worst month of the season: in April, they went an abysmal 7-14. And May was also rough, a virtual tie with September at 14-16; it can be easy to forget now, after a serious attempt at the third Wild Card spot, but this was a team that still looked pretty hopeless two months into the season!

    And that’s ultimately why it’s difficult for me to blame any midseason moves the team made. The biggest flaws that ultimately cost the team were all cast by Spring Training, and I was predicting it not just in that May piece, but as far back as December, when I noted how disappointing the team’s pre-lockout offseason had been.