Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sprite Slam Dunk Showdown Comes to Cleveland

Inspired by ifthisguycandunk.com, I've made it a goal to dunk a basketball by the time I turn 30. Of course, I still have another six inches to go to get rim, and the deadline is less than 15 months away. But if I do reach my goal, perhaps I can participate in a future version of this:


Winner to receive $1,000 and a chance to compete for the Sprite Slam Dunk Showdown title during NBA All-Star Weekend 2011

WHAT: Sprite and the NBA are touring the country in search of the best amateur dunker with a creative spark, and Cleveland is the next stop in their quest. If last year’s competition is any indication, area dunkers will showcase some extremely impressive skills, including Tomahawks, Windmills, Alley Oops... and maybe even something no one has seen before.

The competition is open to all local dunkers ages 18 and up, and will be judged by a panel that includes NBA legend Darryl Dawkins and dunker Carlos "Los" Smothers, the runner–up in the 2010 Sprite Slam Dunk Showdown.

The first-place winner will receive $1,000 and a chance to compete for $10,000 and the title at the 2011 Sprite Slam Dunk Showdown held NBA All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles Feb. 18-20, 2011 and judged by LeBron James.

Saturday, May 29
Time Warner Cable Amphitheater at Tower City During Marc’s Great Rib Cook-Off and Music Festival
Event begins at 4 p.m.
351 Canal Road
Cleveland, OH 44113
**The event is free and open to the public.

  • Cleveland’s best amateur dunkers displaying their impressive aerial skills

  • Interviews with Dawkins and Smothers about the competition and the search for the best amateur dunker

  • Reactions from local dunkers and fans in attendance

ADDITIONAL INFO: Cleveland is the fourth stop in the eight–city Sprite Slam Dunk Showdown tour. In addition to the national tour, contestants in the U.S., Canada and Mexico can submit videos of their best dunks to enter the competition. Videos featuring dunks from 10 semi-finalists (eight tour stop winners and two winning online entrants) will be featured at www.nba.com/dunk. Voters will then select the four finalists who will compete at the Sprite Slam Dunk Showdown competition, which will be held during NBA All-Star 2011 in Los Angeles. LeBron James will help select the online winners and serve as a judge in the final competition.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Cleveland Indians Monthly Statistical Analysis

A (hopefully) monthly look at the Tribe's performance from a variety of statistical angles. Suggestions for additional stats and categories are welcome - just let me know.


Pythagorean Record

One of the most popular judges of a team's performance is their Pythagorean record. "Pythag" is so named because the formula used looks similar to the Pythagorean formula used on right triangles.

Pythag uses runs scored and runs allowed to determine a predicted record. Generally, teams that overperform their Pythags are considered lucky and those that underperformed are considered unlucky. However, small ball teams like the Angels and Twins consistently overperform their Pythagorean records, for reasons saberists have trouble explaining.

Likewise, Eric Wedge's teams traditionally underperformed their Pythagorean record. That may be because those teams sprinkled 15-run wins between seven-game losing streaks. So, it will be interesting to see how Manny Acta's teams perform against Pythag.

So far, the Indians Pythagorean record (which can be found on MLB.com's standings page by turning on the "X W-L" category) is exactly the same as their actual record, 11-18.

Playoff Odds

Several sites offer odds of a team making the playoffs. One such site is CoolStandings.com, which currently has the Indians at a 1.4% chance to win the division and a 0.5% chance to win the wildcard.

Baseball Prospectus is a little more optimistic. Their projections, explained at the bottom of the linked page, have the Indians at 3% to win the division and 0.9% to win the wildcard.

"Wins in the Bank" and the Gambler's Fallacy

Several sites also post preseason standings projections. This is where the "gambler's fallacy" comes in. BaseballProjection.com has the Indians going 81-81 on the season, yet they have gone 11-18 so far.

Someone following the gambler's fallacy would think that the Tribe will go 70-63 the rest of the season to finish 81-81. In fact, Chone's projection should be thought of as a winning percentage, not a definite number of wins and losses.

That is, we should accept the fact that the Indians are 11-18, and assume they will play .500 ball (81 wins/162 games) the rest of the way. That means the Indians should expect to win 66-67 of their remaining 133 games



One of the most consistent statistics in baseball is a pitcher's batting average on balls in play (BABIP). The more a pitcher throws, the more his BABIP will settle in the .270-.290 range. This is true for nearly all pitchers, with only rare exceptions like knuckleballer Tim Wakefield and control specialist Greg Maddux.

That being said, if you see a pitcher with a high BABIP early in the season, you can expect that BABIP - and his overall performance - to improve. Conversely, pitchers with a low BABIP can expect an increase.

According to Fangraphs, David Huff, Jensen Lewis, and Aaron Laffey are already in the .270-.290 range. That's good news for all three, as they have pitched fairly well this season (outside of Huff's win-loss record) and should expect that performance to continue.

Cleveland's two best starters, Fausto Carmona and Mitch Talbot, have been beneficiaries of BABIPs in the .250s and can look forward to some minor regression. The same goes for relievers Chris Perez and Tony Sipp. Meanwhile, Joe Smith and Jamey Wright should see their already high ERAs rise with their BABIPs.

Meanwhile, Jake Westbrook and Justin Masterson should see their traditional numbers improve as their BABIPs decrease. As should Rafael Perez and Kerry Wood, which is good news for their respective ERAs. Hector Ambriz, pitching well by traditional measures, should only get better as his BABIP lowers. Not bad for a Rule V pickup.

Fielding Independent Pitching

While BABIP looks only at balls put into play, fielding independent pitching (FIP) does the opposite. FIP looks at walks, strikeouts, and home runs - the three things that are supposedly the pitcher's responsibility. In other words, FIP looks at those things that can't be affected by the quality of the defense.

FIP is calculated on the same scale as ERA, so the two can be compared easily. If a pitcher's FIP is lower than his ERA, he can expect improvement, and vice-versa. Of course the major caveat here is that if a pitcher plays with the same defense all year, how much can it really improve?

The bad news is that everyone except Jamey Wright, Justin Masterson, Rafael Perez, and Kerry Wood are posting FIPs lower than their ERAs. The even worse news is that Wright's FIP is only 0.40 points lower, and Wood's is based on only one inning of work.


Lineup Analysis

BABIP can be used to study a hitter's luck. But unlike pitchers BABIP, hitter's BABIP normalizes to the hitter's past performance, not an overall league average. I'll leave that as an exercise to the reader.

Instead, for hitters we'll again refer to Dave Pinto's lineup analysis tool. Plugging in the top nine Indians in terms of OPS, here are the results. The lineup is certainly plausible in terms of defensive alignment and batting order, assuming Russell Branyan can still play some outfield.

This theoretical lineup would score 5.232 runs per game, much better than the 3.8 the team is currently scoring. That's an extra 232 runs for the year, or 23 wins. Of course, that's based on some small sample sizes, even for the regulars.