Knuckleballs

Unpredictable, rare, and occasionally effective…but always entertaining.

Starting Hot

with 6 comments


I was taking some flak the other day for ragging on Vernon Wells in my previews.  Last year he was pretty terrible, the year before just average; not good for someone signed to this contract:

  • 7 years/$126M (2008-14)
    • $25.5M signing bonus ($8.5M payment each March 1, 2008-10)
    • 08:$0.5M, 09:$1.5M, 10:$12.5M,11:$23M, 12:$21M, 13:$21M, 14:$21M
    • full no-trade clause
    • Wells may opt out of contract after 2011 (Editor’s Note: HA!)
    • Wells to donate $143,000 annually to Blue Jays charity

Anyway, he hasn’t played a decent centerfield since 2007, and his contract is an albatross for the Blue Jays; they can’t trade him, and he won’t give them anything near what they are paying him.  Basically, the Blue Jays are looking at 5 more years of a sunk cost, a disaster for any team without one of the top five payrolls.

The reason Wells came up in conversation was his hot start so far in 2010.  He has hit 5 home runs in 7 games after hitting 35 in 268 games the past two seasons. Before the season, as part of my fantasy baseball preparation (yeah, I know, I’m awesome), I had Wells projected for a 0.265 BA, 18-homer, 70-run, 70-RBI season.

I want to know how much extra credit players and teams should get for starting hot.  Let’s say Wells played 150 games.  That means I was projecting him for 0.12 home runs per game.  After 7 games, I would expect him to have 0.84 home runs (either 0 or 1 in reality); however, he has 5 with 155 games left.  My question is: do I think Vernon Wells only hits 13 more home runs (based on my projection of 18), or does he hit 22 home runs (the 5 he has hit plus the 17 he is yet to hit)?

Let me present it another way; there’s a non-zero chance Vernon Wells was going to hit 5 home runs in some small amount of games this season.  If he did this in July, would we be revising our predictions for him?  I suggest that we might, based on what had happened before the hot streak.  If he had 9 home runs through 81 games, and then hit 5 in 7 games, he would have 14 with 70 games to play.  We would probably expect him to hit more than 18 for the season.

One more way to demonstrate this point: let’s say Wells had a pulled hamstring and missed the first week of the season; would my prediction be any less possible if he didn’t play at all last week?  Would I expect him to only hit 13 home runs because he didn’t hit 5 in the first week?  I don’t think so.  So being hot at the very beginning of the season has an added benefit.  Since the games played have removed almost none of the potential for his season, he basically has a 5 home run head start.

I want to consider this for teams as well; the Giants started 6-1, pasting the Astros (terrible team), taking two of three from the Braves (good team) at home, and winning the first from Pittsburgh (not good).  At some point this season, the Giants were probably going to win six of seven; they were probably more likely to have done it playing the Astros and Pirates for four of those seven games.  Does this mean we revise our predictions for them?  I had the Giants at 75-87 in my preview post.  Using that winning percentage and giving the Giants credit for their start would put them at 78-84; however, they mostly beat teams they were supposed to beat.

I think it’s a lot more dangerous to do this for teams (especially after 7 games) than for players (particularly their counting stats).  Team records become valid to me after 30-40 games; before that, you’re just trying not to fall way behind.  If the Giants are 25-15 in mid-May, then they’d have to get credit for that, having played a larger cross-section of the teams on their schedule (this scenario would put them at 82-80 based on my prediction).  One more thing to remember is that all of these exercises consider my projections to be the “true” talent level of these players and teams; there’s a chance I’m just wrong.

One last thing I think is important to consider is the scaling of these numbers.  For instance, let’s say Wells finishes the month with 10 home runs.  Given my expectation for him at the beginning of the season, my revised prediction would be 25 home runs; I think most people would agree that he’ll probably hit more than 8 home runs in the final 5 months.

My projections also had Albert Pujols at 40 home runs for the season, if he hit 12 in the first month, his revision would 45 home runs.  12 is not too many more than the expected number for Pujols (seven home runs), so it’s probably not worth revising that prediction.  During some month of the season, Pujols was probably going to hit more than seven home runs,  and 12 is within reasonable range. Wells had tripled his expectation for a month, therefore requiring the adjusted forecast.  This is the kind of thing we saw for many years (1993-2002ish) where some power hitter has 16 home runs in early May and we begin the watch for 60+; it’s just not that easy.  Let me know if you think I’m crazy or if I might be onto something.

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Written by Dan Hennessey

April 13, 2010 at 11:16 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

6 Responses

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  1. I like how you talked about the Giants. They are cool. I call them the Gigantes though. I am trying to save up some money to buy a new jam box and I wonder if you could write an article on baseball betting.

    Sincerely,

    Alfonzo

    Alfonzo from Aragon High

    April 16, 2010 at 9:59 AM

  2. rumor is this is how some fantasy legends do their predictions during the season. average expectation over the span of games left.

    groundhog

    April 19, 2010 at 6:57 AM

  3. […] typical production, or land somewhere in the middle (Editor’s Note: Part of this is discussed here, where I consider the effect of a hot start on a season’s stats).  Johnson’s ISO (isolated […]

  4. LOL your posts r really funny ; ) and you seem like a QT. But Alfonzo I think the Giants r hella overrated and you should write more about the A’s.

    Juanita from Junto High

    May 10, 2010 at 9:40 AM

  5. […] the Blue Jays decided to let him go for nothing to get out from under his contract.  I’ve written previously about the disaster that is Vernon Wells’ contract.  In addition to not producing at nearly […]

  6. […] good players…at least those that have played well so far.  Vernon Wells responded from some harsh criticism with his best season since 2007 and an All-Star berth.  His has a career high ISO matched by a […]


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