Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Edgar Martínez Is a Coin Flip Away from the Hall of Fame

In early December, I thought we were finally going to get a break. After four consecutive Hall of Fame elections where the outcome was in real doubt, this year looked like a gimme: Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Vladimir Guerrero, and Trevor Hoffman were going to make the Hall of Fame comfortably; no one else would sniff 75%.

Then Edgar Martínez started polling at 80%. And stayed there. And stayed there. And stayed there.

Thanks to Edgar's steady strength in Ryan Thibodaux's BBHOF Tracker, which aggregates all Hall of Fame ballots made public so far this year, my projection model of the Baseball Hall of Fame election has alternated between forecasting the Mariner great's narrow election and predicting he would barely fall short. Despite the roller coaster of emotion these fluctuations have caused on Twitter, the reality is that my model paints a consistent picture: Martínez's odds are basically 50-50.

My model, which is in its sixth year of predicting the Hall of Fame election, operates on the premise that publicly released ballots differ materially—and consistently—from ballots whose casters choose to keep them private. BBWAA members who share their ballots on Twitter tend to be more willing to vote for PED users, assess candidates using advanced metrics, and use up all 10 spots on their ballot. Private voters—often more grizzled writers who in many cases have stopped covering baseball altogether—prefer "gritty" candidates whose cases rely on traditional metrics like hits, wins, or Gold Glove Awards. As a result, candidates like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens (PEDs), Mike Mussina (requires advanced stats to appreciate), and Martínez (spent most of his career at DH, a position many baseball purists still pooh-pooh) do substantially worse on private ballots than on public ballots. Candidates like Hoffman (so many saves) and Omar Vizquel (so many Gold Gloves) can be expected to do better on ballots we haven't seen than on the ones we have.

That means the numbers in Thibodaux's Tracker—a.k.a. the public ballots—should be taken seriously but not literally. What my model does is quantify the amount by which each player's vote total in the Tracker should be adjusted. Specifically, I look at the percentage-point difference between each player's performance on public vs. private ballots in the last three Hall of Fame elections (2017, 2016, and 2015). The average of these three numbers (or just two if the player has been on the ballot only since 2016, or just one if he debuted on the ballot last year) is what I call the player's Adjustment Factor. My model simply assumes that the player's public-to-private shift this year will match that average.

Let's take Edgar as an example. In 2017, his private-ballot performance was 16.6 percentage points lower than his public-ballot performance. In 2016, it was 7.7 percentage points lower, and in 2015 it was 6.8 percentage points lower. That averages out to an Adjustment Factor of −10.37 percentage points. As of Monday night, Martínez was polling at 79.23% in the Tracker, so his estimated performance on private ballots is 68.86%.

The final step in my model is to combine the public-ballot performance with the estimated private-ballot performance in the appropriate proportions. In the same example, as of Monday night, 207 of an expected 424 ballots had been made public, or 48.82%. If 48.82% of ballots vote for Martínez at a rate of 79.23%, and the remaining 51.18% vote for Martínez at a rate of 68.86%, that computes to an overall performance of 73.92%—just over one point shy of induction.

But my model is far from infallible. Last year, my private-ballot projections were off by an average of 4.8 percentage points—a decidedly meh performance in the small community of Hall of Fame projection models. (But don't stop reading—historically, my projections have fared much better.) Small, subjective methodological decisions can be enough to affect outcomes in what is truly a mathematical game of inches. For example, why take a straight average of Edgar's last three public-private differentials when they have been growing more and more gaping over time? (Answer: in past years, with other candidates, a straight average has proven more accurate than one that weights recent years more heavily. Historically speaking, Edgar is equally likely to revert to his "usual" modest Adjustment Factor as he is to continue trending in a bad direction.) If there's one thing that studying Hall of Fame elections has taught me, it's that voters will zig when you expect them to zag.

One of my fellow Hall of Fame forecasters, Jason Sardell, wisely communicates the uncertainty inherent in our vocation by providing not only projected vote totals, but also the probability that each candidate will be elected. His model, which uses a totally different methodology based on voter adds and drops, gives Edgar just a 12% chance of induction as of Monday night. I'm not smart enough to assign probabilities to my own model, but as discussed above, it's pretty clear from the way Edgar has seesawed around the required 75% that his shot is no better than a coin flip. Therefore, when the election results are announced this Wednesday at 6pm ET, no matter where Martínez will fall on my model, no outcome should be a surprise.

Below are my current Hall of Fame projections for every candidate on the ballot. They will be updated in real time leading up to the announcement. (UPDATE, January 24: The below are my final projections issued just before the announcement.)

(Still with me? Huzzah. There's one loose methodological end I'd like to tie up for those of you who are interested: how I calculate the vote shares of first-time candidates. This year, that's Chipper Jones, Thome, Vizquel, Scott Rolen, Andruw Jones, Johnny Damon, and Johan Santana.

Without previous vote history to go off, my model does the next best thing for these players: it looks at which other candidate on the ballot correlates most strongly with—or against—them. If New Candidate X shares many of the same public voters with Old Candidate Y, then we can be fairly sure that the two will also drop or rise in tandem among private ballots. For example, Vizquel's support correlates most strongly with opposition to Bonds: as of Monday night, just 21% of known Bonds voters had voted for Vizquel, but 49% of non-Bonds voters had. Holding those numbers steady, I use my model's final prediction of the number of Bonds voters to figure out Vizquel's final percentage as well.

Here are the other ballot rookies' closest matches:
  • Chipper voters correlate best with Bonds voters, though not super strongly, with the result that Chipper is expected to lose a little bit of ground on private ballots.
  • Thome voters have a strong negative correlation with Manny Ramírez voters, so Thome is expected to gain ground in private balloting.
  • Rolen voters correlate well with Larry Walker voters, giving Rolen a slight boost among private voters.
  • Andruw voters are negatively correlated with Jeff Kent voters; in fact, no one has voted for both men. This gives Andruw a tiny bump in private balloting.
  • It's a very small sample, but public Damon voters and public Bonds voters have zero overlap. Damon gets a decent-sized private-ballot bonus because of that.
  • Santana voters are also inclined to vote for Gary Sheffield at high rates, although small-sample caveats apply. Therefore, Santana gets a slight boost in the private projections.

Finally, anyone with one or zero public votes is judged to be a non-serious candidate. Every year, one or two writers casts a misguided ballot for a Tim Wakefield or a Garret Anderson. There's little use in trying to predict these truly random events, so all of these players—including Jamie Moyer this year—have an Adjustment Factor of zero.)

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

State of the State Schedule 2018

Got any New Year's resolutions? Fifty governors do too. This is the time of the year when each state's chief executive gives his or her State of the State address, setting forth an ambitious (usually too ambitious) agenda for the year ahead. As we head into an election year that could usher in massive changes to state government, it's worth paying attention to the issues that those elections will be fought around. To that end, as Baseballot has provided every dang year since 2013, here is a full schedule of 2018's State of the State speeches. As each date passes, links will be added to the transcript of each speech; dates will also be updated as new orations are announced.

Alabama: January 9 at 6:30pm CT
Alaska: January 18 at 7pm AKT
Arizona: January 8 at 2pm MT
Arkansas: No speech in even-numbered years
California: January 25 at 10am PT
Colorado: January 11 at 11am MT
Connecticut: February 7 at noon ET
Delaware: January 18 at 2pm ET (State of the State); January 25 at 1pm ET (budget address)
Florida: January 9 at 11am ET
Georgia: January 11 at 11am ET
Hawaii: January 22 at 10am HAT
Idaho: January 8 at 1pm MT
Illinois: January 31 at noon CT (State of the State); February 14 at noon CT (budget address)
Indiana: January 9 at 7pm ET
Iowa: January 9 at 10am CT
Kansas: January 9 at 5pm CT (Brownback State of the State); January 31 at 3pm CT (Colyer inaugural); February 7 at 3pm CT (Colyer joint address)
Kentucky: January 16 at 7pm ET
Louisiana: February 19 at 5pm CT (special-session address); March (State of the State)
Maine: February 13 at 7pm ET
Maryland: January 31 at noon ET
Massachusetts: January 23 at 7pm ET
Michigan: January 23 at 7pm ET
Minnesota: March 14 at 7pm CT
Mississippi: January 9 at 5pm CT
Missouri: January 10 at 7pm CT
Montana: No speech in even-numbered years
Nebraska: January 10 at 10am CT
Nevada: No speech in even-numbered years
New Hampshire: February 15 at 10am ET
New Jersey: January 9 at 3pm ET (Christie State of the State); January 16 at 11am ET (Murphy inaugural)
New Mexico: January 16 at 1pm MT
New York: January 3 at 1pm ET (State of the State); January 16 at 1pm ET (budget address)
North Carolina: No speech in even-numbered years
North Dakota: January 23 at 10am CT
Ohio: March 6 at 7pm ET
Oklahoma: February 5 at 12:30pm CT
Oregon: February 5 at 9:30am PT
Pennsylvania: February 6 at 11:30am ET
Rhode Island: January 16 at 7pm ET
South Carolina: January 24 at 7pm ET
South Dakota: December 5 at 1pm CT (budget address); January 9 at 1pm CT (State of the State)
Tennessee: January 29 at 6pm CT
Texas: No speech in even-numbered years
Utah: January 24 at 6:30pm MT
Vermont: January 4 at 2pm ET (State of the State); January 23 at 1pm ET (budget address)
Virginia: January 10 at 6:30pm ET (McAuliffe State of the Commonwealth); January 13 at noon ET (Northam inaugural); January 15 at 7pm ET (Northam State of the Commonwealth)
Washington: January 9 at noon PT
West Virginia: January 10 at 7pm ET
Wisconsin: January 24 at 3pm CT (State of the State); February (budget address)
Wyoming: February 12 at 10am MT

National: January 30 at 9pm ET

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Follow Every Election in 2018 with This Calendar

In the year that is now almost complete, people took a practically unprecedented interest in politics. Granted, it was generally concentrated on one side of the political spectrum, but in 2017 people demonstrated in our nation's capital, called their congressmen and congresswomen, and voted. Boy, did they vote. Turnout in inconveniently timed special elections for GA-06 and the U.S. Senate seat in Alabama surpassed that of even regularly scheduled midterm elections. And people—again, mainly on the left—who had never before felt a stake in their local races began religiously following legislative election results—even in districts all the way across the country.

This was a welcome development to me as a charter member of Election Night Twitter. I've always enjoyed following minor special or local election results as idle entertainment on a Tuesday night, the same as I might sit down to watch a random A's-Twins game when my teams have an off day, but this year I was joined by so many engaged netizens eager to see "the Resistance" strike its next blow. Suddenly, it wasn't idle entertainment anymore; every week's elections became appointment viewing.

To keep to those appointments, I found I needed a calendar—so I started one. To my knowledge, no one has tried to create a comprehensive schedule of obscure elections before. Each state's election office has a listing of upcoming elections, but you have to visit 50 different websites to find them all. Fellow psephology nerds like Daily Kos Elections and Ballotpedia—both of whom I am indebted to in the compilation of my own calendar—have admirably assembled calendars of different types of elections but haven't taken the final, ultimate step.

So I present to you, election-obsessed people of the internet, this Google Calendar for all to view. My calendar will track every federal, state, and local* election in the country from January 1, 2018, all the way through the midterm general election—and beyond. If you find that I'm missing any, please let me know on Twitter. Enjoy!

*In localities of significant size; I draw the line at the Union City, Pennsylvania, school board.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Power to the Max: My National League Award Picks

Last night, Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger were named the 2017 Rookies of the Year by the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA). They were virtually incontestable picks—but the rest of the awards-reveal week won't be nearly as clear-cut. Back in September, I agonized over my own picks for the National League's top performances when voting for those same awards for the BBWAA's digital shadow cabinet, the Internet Baseball Writers' Association of America (IBWAA). Here, preemptively, is why the real awards voters are wrong. (You can read my picks for the American League here.)

Reliever of the Year

1. Kenley Jansen
2. Corey Knebel
3. Pat Neshek

This IBWAA-only award is in perennial danger of being hijacked by gaudy save totals, but, happily, in this case, the league leader in saves is also the best reliever in baseball. Not only did Kenley Jansen shut the door 41 times for the Dodgers, but he led all qualified relievers in strikeout rate (42.3%) and was one-tenth of a percentage point away from doing so in walk rate (2.7%). If you strike dudes out and don't walk them, you're going to be very, very good—like 1.32 ERA good, also tops in the circuit. Jansen also crushes all comers—pitchers or hitters—in WPA (5.33), an important stat for a situation-based reliever.

Brewers closer Corey Knebel is the only other NL pitcher in Jansen's league when it comes to strikeouts (40.8%), but he also had a huge Achilles heel: his walk rate (12.9%). By contrast, Phillies-to-Rockies tradee Pat Neshek sported the stingiest walk rate of them all (2.6%) but a more mortal 29.4% strikeout rate. By K/BB ratio, Neshek blows Knebel out of the water (11.50 to 3.15), but the less denominator-skewed K−BB% stat gives Knebel a 27.8–26.8% advantage. Neshek also led in WHIP (0.87 to 1.16) and ERA (1.59 to 1.78) despite pitching much of the second half in Coors Field. So why did I opt for Knebel? Neshek's 4.2% HR/FB percentage implies he was quite fortunate in the dinger department, and his xFIP is accordingly 3.26—much higher than Knebel's 2.97.

There were plenty of runners-up for this category, most notably Archie Bradley and Felipe Rivero, but Bradley left a lot to be desired going by true skill (his 1.73 ERA masked an unremarkable 3.71 DRA), and Rivero benefited from a .234 BABIP.

Rookie of the Year

1. Cody Bellinger
2. Paul DeJong
3. German Márquez

Cody Bellinger (.933 OPS, 39 home runs, 4.0 FanGraphs WAR) was an easy pick here. Between him and honorable mention Austin Barnes (whom I would've ranked fourth) plus Rookie of the Year Corey Seager and Kenta Maeda last year, the modern Dodgers are debuting a streak of rookie talent reminiscent of the Eric KarrosMike PiazzaRaúl MondesíHideo NomoTodd Hollandsworth run of the 1990s. Cardinals middle infielder Paul DeJong—best known for hitting the foul ball caught by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie—racked up 3.0 WAR and 25 home runs, making him a comfortable choice for second.

At 2.2 WAR in just 50 games, Phillies wunderkind Rhys Hoskins was awesome but didn't have enough at-bats to justify stiffing DeJong or my eventual number-three vote, German Márquez. The Rockies rookie was hated by Baseball Prospectus (who gave him a negative WARP!), but his FanGraphs WAR (2.4) matched Barnes's, and his Baseball Reference WAR (3.1) wasn't all that far behind Bellinger's. Despite a 4.39 ERA, he pitched 14% better than the average 2017 pitcher for 162 innings; it's rare for a rookie to be a solid contributor all season long.

Manager of the Year

1. Bud Black
2. Dave Roberts
3. Andy Green

There are so many more deserving candidates for Manager of the Year in the NL than the AL. Bud Black led Colorado to a playoff berth on the strength of their pitching (a 90 ERA−, the best in Rockies history), previously believed to be an impossible feat. That is surely a testament to this former pitching coach, who also managed his team to a great record in one-run games (21–14). Dave Roberts adeptly juggled playing-time dilemmas in his outfield and at second base, and he righted the ship after a rough stretch that set off a panic in Chávez Ravine. Immediately after losing 16 of 17 games in late August/early September, the Dodgers recovered to go 12–6 over the final few weeks.

The surprise on my ballot is Andy Green. I appreciate how Green has used his team's suckitude to experiment with unorthodox strategies, like shifting and multi-inning reliever usage. Something he did worked, as the 71–91 Padres outperformed their Pythagorean record (57–105) by more than any other team in baseball.

That's three picks, but there are two other NL skippers who would've cracked my ballot had they had the fortune to manage in the AL. Torey Lovullo was clearly a boon to the Diamondbacks, but I hesitated when I saw that they still underperformed their Pythagorean record by five wins. And Craig Counsell—he of the painfully erect batting stance—led the surprise Brewers to be the last team eliminated.

Cy Young

1. Max Scherzer
2. Stephen Strasburg
3. Zack Greinke
4. Clayton Kershaw
5. Jacob deGrom

NL Cy Young is one of those awards that everyone acknowledges is close but everyone also acknowledges there's an obvious correct choice. Therefore, I won't be surprised if Max Scherzer wins the thing unanimously on Wednesday night. At first glance, Scherzer appears to be neck and neck with his Washington teammate, Stephen Strasburg: ERAs of 2.51/2.52, xFIPs of 3.28/3.27. But Scherzer, befitting his reputation as a workhorse, pitched more than 25 more innings. He creates more distance when you note that he was the league's most dominant strikeout pitcher, with a 34.4% strikeout rate and a 15.5% swinging-strike rate. No wonder Baseball Prospectus gives him a 2.26 DRA (Strasburg's is 2.93) and a wide lead in WARP (7.41 to 5.95) over Jacob deGrom.

After Scherzer, Baseball Prospectus likes deGrom and Zack Greinke the best, while Baseball Reference ranks Gio González second in WAR among National Leaguers. But those three all had ERAs of at least 3.20, so it's clear that Strasburg is just being penalized for the three starts he missed due to injury. He is, though, second to Scherzer in FanGraphs WAR (5.6), the version that is the closest summary of the fielding-independent-pitching factors that I favor when considering Cy Young Awards.

Greinke slots in at third place, where he also ranks in FanGraphs WAR (5.1) and Baseball Reference WAR (6.1) if we ignore González. Despite that site's esteem for the Nationals southpaw, I just couldn't see a way that González was among my top five NL pitchers. His excellent run prevention (a 2.92 ERA) was not fully attributable to his actual pitching skills (a pedestrian 8.42/3.54 K/BB ratio; a 3.93 FIP). In the same way, but for opposite reasons, I disregarded FanGraphs WAR's own outlier, Brewer Jimmy Nelson. Nelson's 4.9 WAR was due to some significant revisionist history on the saber-site's part, dismissing many of his 75 runs allowed as products of bad luck. They may well have been, but no other site saw in Nelson (owner of a 3.58 DRA) what FanGraphs did.

Like his 2016, Clayton Kershaw's 2017 was difficult to pigeonhole. The Dodgers ace missed around five starts with a bad back, but he put up characteristically superb stats when he did pitch, including a 2.31 ERA and a league-leading 6.73 K/BB ratio. Yet, very uncharacteristically, he didn't pitch all that well beneath that veneer: he mustered just a 3.30 DRA thanks to some good luck on balls in play (.267 BABIP) and runners left on base (87.4% LOB%). That dropped what could have been a Cy-winning campaign with more innings and some better fundamentals to fourth place. Finally, deGrom rounded out my ballot. With what qualified as a workhorse season for the New York Mets combined with a strong 4.05 K/BB ratio, Baseball Prospectus makes a strong case for deGrom being one of the best pitchers in the league. But he flunks the eyeball test, with an ERA+ (119) a lot less impressive than Greinke's (149) or Kershaw's (180).


1. Giancarlo Stanton
2. Joey Votto
3. Max Scherzer
4. Charlie Blackmon
5. Kris Bryant
6. Nolan Arenado
7. Anthony Rendon
8. Zack Greinke
9. Gio González
10. Paul Goldschmidt

This messy MVP race makes the other NL awards look like the pictures of consensus. According to FanGraphs WAR (for pitchers, RA9-WAR added to their offensive and defensive WAR, for a picture of the whole player), Max Scherzer is the MVP with 7.3 WAR. At Baseball Prospectus, it's Giancarlo Stanton (8.55 WARP) in the lead by a distance roughly equivalent to one of his monster home runs. And at Baseball Reference, Scherzer, Stanton, and Joey Votto are all effectively tied at 7.6 (7.5 for Votto, but WAR is hardly an exact science).

As in the American League, I went to WPA/LI—a.k.a. the stat that best sums up all the times you contributed to helping your team win—to break the tie. By Baseball Reference, Votto leads Stanton 6.4 to 6.2, but at FanGraphs, Stanton has a clearer lead of 7.00 to 6.32. In the end, Stanton also ranks higher than Votto according to all three flavors of WAR, so he is my pick by a hair.

What about Scherzer, for whom a strong case can be made to be number one? His lead in RA9-WAR is effectively nullified by his deficit in WARP, so he doesn't clearly stand out from the pack of hitters to me. And then there's the National's WPA/LI of 3.05 (FanGraphs version, subtracting his negative hitting value from his positive pitching value)—good for a starting pitcher, but in the end he just didn't provide the constant jolts to his team's chances of winning that Stanton did for the Marlins.

The rest of the league didn't quite measure up to those three. FanGraphs ranked Kris Bryant (6.7) and Anthony Rendon (6.9) above Votto, giving them extra credit for playing the more challenging position of third base. However, Votto had more Defensive Runs Saved (11) than either Bryant (2) or Rendon (7), so a defensive penalty for him seems perverse. Rendon falls particularly far in my ranking because of his 3.29 WPA/LI; Bryant's was 5.20, third in the league.

Meanwhile, Baseball Prospectus's pet case was Charlie Blackmon, who they convinced me was at least Bryant's equal. The Rockies outfielder ranks just behind Votto in FanGraphs WAR (6.5) and is a close match for Bryant in other categories. Baseball Reference says the Rockies outfielder has the edge in WPA/LI (5.3 to 4.5); FanGraphs says the Cub does (5.20 to 4.88). But BP seemed more convinced that Blackmon was better than Bryant (7.70 vs. 6.67 WARP) than the other two sites were that Bryant was better than Blackmon (just a fraction of a win separated them at both FanGraphs and Baseball Reference). Blackmon also took 60 more plate appearances than Bryant.

Blackmon's Colorado teammate, Nolan Arenado, similarly gets a boost on my ballot because he is beloved by Baseball Reference (7.2 WAR), but unlike Blackmon, there is a wide gulf between him and Bryant in FanGraphs WAR (Arenado's is 5.6) and WPA/LI (3.43). Although Arenado is obviously an asset with the glove, his hitting (129 wRC+) is both easier to quantify and less impressive than Blackmon's 141 wRC+ and Bryant's 146. Arenado does get the nod over Rendon, though, as FanGraphs WAR is the only measure of value that believes Rendon was superior.

My last few slots give love to the pitchers—and specifically those who were valuable to their team in ways beyond balls and strikes. Zack Greinke boosted his overall value (6.70 WARP) with good defense, while Gio González, despite mediocre peripheral pitching stats, was valuable enough when paired with his team (i.e., his defense) that he prevented enough runs to tie Blackmon in RA9-WAR (6.5). However, his 1.25 WPA/LI revealed that he didn't actually boost the Nationals' chances of winning all that much. Finally, I fit Paul Goldschmidt onto my ballot in order to honor his contributions to win probability (4.3 per Baseball Reference, in fifth place) and his 6.36 WARP (good for seventh), although I could have just as easily gone with my top honorable mention, Justin Turner. Two of my other Cy Young votes, Clayton Kershaw and Stephen Strasburg, might also have shown up here, but as with Turner, I ultimately decided that their missed playing time was more of a disqualification in an MVP race. To help your team, you've got to be on the field.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Judging Aaron: My American League Award Picks

Another baseball season is in the books—and it was a weird one. Between record-breaking rookies, a total lack of parity, a rush on immaculate innings, and, of course, too many damn home runs, there was plenty to gawk at in MLB in 2017. This week, the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) recognizes the most eye-popping feats of all with its end-of-season awards, voted on by the beat writers who followed each team all season long. Meanwhile, the Internet Baseball Writers' Association of America (IBWAA) holds a parallel vote for the rest of us schlubs. Here's how I voted in that election.

Reliever of the Year

1. Craig Kimbrel
2. Chad Green
3. Andrew Miller

The one award given out by the IBWAA that the BBWAA doesn't bother with is Reliever of the Year. This year, that's to Craig Kimbrel's detriment. The Red Sox closer led all American League relievers who pitched at least 34 innings with a 1.43 ERA, a 1.42 FIP, and a 1.50 xFIP—that last one by a mile (at number two was Joe Smith, 2.39). Kimbrel struck out almost exactly half of the batters he faced while keeping his walk rate at a paltry 5.5%. In short, there was no one hitters wanted to see less at the end of a game.

The Yankees' Chad Green, whom many of you may not have even heard of until the playoffs, edged out Andrew Miller for second place. While Miller had the edge in ERA (1.44 to 1.61), Green's peripheral stats were slightly better: he struck out 41.0% of batters and walked just 6.6%, while Miller struck out 38.9% and walked 8.6%.

Rookie of the Year

1. Aaron Judge
2. Matt Chapman
3. Mitch Haniger

The easiest award of the year—if not the decade. Yankees sensation Aaron Judge hit more home runs this year than any rookie ever had in the history of this great game. Mitch Haniger (Seattle) and Matt Chapman (Oakland) were quite close for number two—it was the classic offense (Haniger's .282/.352/.491 line) vs. defense (Chapman's 19 Defensive Runs Saved) conundrum. I gave Chapman the nod because he played the harder position (third base) better. BBWAA finalist (and my preseason prediction) Andrew Benintendi just didn't amass enough WAR (2.2, going by FanGraphs) to beat any of these three guys.

Manager of the Year

1. Terry Francona
2. A.J. Hinch
3. Ned Yost

The one award left where you have to go with your gut. I'm not a very big believer in giving managers the credit for analysts misreading a team at the beginning of the season (*cough* Twins *cough*), nor do I think that managers suddenly switch between "brilliant" and "dumb" when their team has a good or bad season. For my money, Terry Francona has emerged in recent years as the best manager in the Junior Circuit. He is beloved by his players, and his groundbreaking methods of using Andrew Miller—his best reliever—in non-save situations have drawn raves. This year, of course, he deserves at least a share of the credit for the Indians' 22-game winning streak.

Houston's A.J. Hinch is a safe second choice; he imported stat-savvy techniques from a front office that hasn't always gotten along with its players and made them work on the field. Obviously, he was also able to overcome some slight clubhouse dissent to win the World Series (although these awards, BBWAA and IBWAA, were all voted on before the start of the playoffs). As for Ned Yost... yeah, I'm surprised too, but his Royals went 25–16 in one-run games and outperformed their Pythagorean record by nine wins.

Cy Young

1. Corey Kluber
2. Chris Sale
3. Luis Severino
4. Carlos Carrasco
5. Justin Verlander

Sometimes, the truth hurts. Chris Sale is undeniably one of the best pitchers of his generation—and yet he has never won a Cy Young Award. This season looked like it was going to be his year, until Corey Kluber (who won the award previously in 2014) turned on the jets in August and September. After August 1, he went 10–1 with a 1.42 ERA and a .492 opponents' OPS. He finished with a league-leading 2.25 ERA and 2.05 DRA (Baseball Prospectus's Deserved Run Average, the best indicator we have for what a pitcher's ERA "should" be, removing the effects of luck), and he crushed Sale 8.0 to 6.0 in the Baseball Reference WAR department.

You could still make the case for Sale—the Red Sox beat the Indian 7.7 to 7.3 in FanGraphs WAR mostly on the strength of his 12.93 K/9 (Kluber's was "only" 11.71) and slightly lower FIP (2.45 to 2.50). But ultimately I decided that voting for Sale would be interpreting the evidence selectively in order to get the answer I wanted to get. Sale's strikeout advantage nearly evaporates when you look at the more precise strikeout-percentage stat (Sale 36.2%, Kluber 34.1%), and Kluber's K/BB ratio is actually higher than Sale's (7.36 to 7.16). Moreover, FIP is a useful measure, but it's really just a blunt tool in assessing true pitcher performance—DRA is a far more refined statistic.

The battle for third place followed similar contours but was much more easily resolved. Despite similar peripheral stats (K/9 ratios in the 10s, BB/9s in the twos), Luis Severino posted a 2.98 ERA in a much tougher pitching environment than Carlos Carrasco twirled his 3.29. Severino's WHIP was also a skosh lower, 1.04 to 1.10, contributing to a 3.05 DRA (3.36 for Carrasco). Two of the three forms of WAR (FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus) agreed that Severino was more valuable.

I was really close to giving Chris Archer the last slot. By FanGraphs WAR, he deserved it—registering at fifth in the league behind the above four men with a 4.6 mark, half a win ahead of Justin Verlander. Archer appeared to best Verlander in nearly every peripheral stat, including a dramatically better K/BB ratio, 4.15 to 3.04. But while I believe strong pitching fundamentals should undergird a Cy Young case, I couldn't bring myself to totally ignore end results, and Archer's 4.07 ERA just wasn't Cy-worthy. I consoled myself when I saw that both Baseball Reference and Baseball Prospectus gave Verlander the edge in WAR/WARP. In fact, per Baseball Reference, Verlander's 6.4 WAR was second in the AL only to Kluber's. In a nice little feat of balance, my final ballot thus includes five of the top six finishers in pitching value according to all three major sites.


1. Aaron Judge
2. Corey Kluber
3. José Altuve
4. Mike Trout
5. Chris Sale
6. José Ramírez
7. Carlos Carrasco
8. Luis Severino
9. Justin Verlander
10. Carlos Correa

Hoo boy, is there a lot to tease out here. Let's start with this: how the heck do you compare the six-foot-seven Aaron Judge to the five-foot-six José Altuve? According to the FanGraphs version of WAR, Judge has a small but perceptible lead, 8.2 to 7.5. According to Baseball Reference, though, it's the opposite: Altuve leads 8.3 to 8.1. As I often do, I broke the tie by going to the stat that comes closest to quantifying that pesky phrase, "most valuable": win probability. Judge had a 6.23 WPA/LI to Altuve's 4.59, indicating that, holding the leverage of their plate appearances constant, Judge's did more to increase his team's likelihood of winning. (Those numbers are from FanGraphs, but Baseball Reference agrees on the order.)

One problem: That pesky GOAT, Mike Trout, crushes both of them in that category. A not-unsizable part of me wanted to cast off my cloak of objectivity and lay my first-place vote at Trout's feet—his career-best 187 OPS+ made him indisputably the most valuable player on the field when he played. Ultimately, though, you can't just ignore the nearly 200 plate appearances he lost to injury. Just know I'm not happy about sticking him at fourth.

Then there's the debate everyone else seems to ignore: pitcher or hitter? Yup, both Corey Kluber and Chris Sale have a case for being better than any of the AL's position players this year. Kluber's 8.00 WARP from Baseball Prospectus leads the league, while Sale's 7.64 is second. FanGraphs and Baseball Reference put them more solidly in the muddle, though, and their WPA/LIs are far behind Judge's and Trout's. Kluber's 4.87 WPA/LI is better than Altuve's, however, which, along with his world-beating dominance in FanGraphs's RA9-WAR (the type of WAR I like to use for MVP voting), is enough to give him second place. Sale's 3.77 WPA/LI and 6.1 Baseball Reference WAR (not even in the top nine) give me an excuse to honor Trout's peak excellence a little more than I otherwise would.

José Ramírez is an easy pick for sixth place; not in the above five's league, but clearly better than everyone else. After that it's pick your poison. The next-most deserving based on WPA/LI are the Carloses—Correa and Carrasco. By FanGraphs RA9-WAR, it's Carrasco and Justin Verlander. By regular FanGraphs WAR, it's Francisco Lindor and Luis Severino. By Baseball Reference WAR, it's Andrelton Simmons and Mookie Betts. By WARP, it's Betts and Severino. The first two stats being my preferred ones for MVP, I therefore penciled in Carrasco, but then deferred to Severino given how close the two were for Cy Young. (I ranked them differently here because I believe Cy Young should assess pure pitching ability, while MVP is about the whole player, including defense, run-prevention outcomes, workload, and even hitting if applicable.) Then came Verlander and, squeezing onto the ballot despite missing 42 games with a torn thumb ligament, Correa, who, when he did play, increased his team's chances to win more than any other player remaining on the board.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Your Complete Guide to Election Night 2017

Tuesday marks the first regularly scheduled elections of the Trump era—and, probably in a related development, interest in this year's off-off-year campaigns has reached unprecedented highs. Democrats are eager to strike a blow for "the Resistance" by winning the high-profile Virginia gubernatorial race, but they also sit on the verge of taking complete trifecta control of two more state governments (no small feat when they started the year with only six). Tonight's 214 legislative elections will be the best bellwethers yet of the 2018 midterms. Maine may become the first state in the nation to popularly vote to implement a key provision of Obamacare, or New York may decide to tear up its constitution and start from scratch. Some of the biggest cities in the country face stark choices between sending their city halls leftward or rightward—or choosing which vision for the future of the Democratic Party to put their faith in.

In all, 34 states will decide governorships, congressional seats, ballot measures, mayor's offices, constitutional offices, legislative seats, and much, much more. To help guide those who haven't been following these hyper-local campaigns but are interested in tracking them on election night, I've created this viewer's guide for Tuesday night. Sorted by poll-closing times (all times Eastern), it's a state-by-state rundown of what's on the ballot on November 7, 2017.

7pm ET

Florida: Municipal elections, including for mayor of Miami (unofficial results) and mayor of St. Petersburg (unofficial results), where the Rays-supported Democratic incumbent faces a stiff Republican challenge.
Georgia: Special all-party primary elections in SD-06, SD-39, HD-04, HD-26, HD-42, HD-60, HD-89, HD-117, and HD-119 (unofficial results); municipal elections other than Atlanta's.
Massachusetts: Municipal elections in four cities.
New Hampshire: State House special elections in Hillsborough County District 15 (unofficial results) and Sullivan County District 1 (unofficial results); most municipal elections, including a Manchester mayoral race that has drawn some big names.
South Carolina: A special general election in HD-113 (unofficial results); municipal elections.
Virginia (unofficial results): A well-publicized governor's race, but also close lieutenant governor and attorney general elections; all 100 seats in the House of Delegates; municipal elections.

7:30pm ET

North Carolina: Municipal elections, including for mayor of Raleigh (unofficial results) and a close partisan contest for mayor of Charlotte (unofficial results).
Ohio: Two ballot issues, one to strengthen crime victims' rights and another to require the state to pay the same prices for prescription drugs as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (unofficial results); judicial and municipal elections, including mayoral races in Cleveland (unofficial results), Cincinnati (unofficial results), and Toledo (unofficial results).

8pm ET

Connecticut (unofficial results): Judicial and municipal elections.
Georgia: Municipal elections in Atlanta (unofficial results), where the battle to succeed Mayor Kasim Reed has gotten divisive.
Kansas: Municipal elections across most of the state.
Maine (unofficial results): Four ballot questions, including Question 2, which would expand Medicaid in Maine after multiple vetoes by Governor Paul LePage; a special general election in HD-56; municipal elections, including one ballot initiative instituting rent control in Portland and another asking whether Maine's second- (Lewiston) and fifth- (Auburn) largest cities should merge.
Maryland: Municipal elections in 13 cities and towns, including a close mayoral election in Annapolis.
Massachusetts: State House special general elections in the First Berkshire District (unofficial results) and Third Essex District (unofficial results); a State Senate special primary election in the Worcester and Middlesex District; municipal elections in 69 cities and towns (unofficial results), including a sleepy race for mayor of Boston.
Michigan (unofficial results): Special general elections on opposite ends of the state, in HD-01 and HD-109; municipal elections across most of the state, including for mayor and city clerk of Detroit and an attempted recall of the mayor of Flint.
Mississippi: Nonpartisan special elections in SD-10, HD-38, and HD-54; judicial and municipal elections.
Missouri: Special general elections in SD-08, HD-23, and HD-151 (unofficial results); municipal elections, including referenda on building a new terminal at Kansas City International Airport and increasing St. Louis's sales tax to give raises to police and firefighters.
New Hampshire: Municipal elections in cities with extended voting hours.
New Jersey (unofficial results): A gubernatorial/lieutenant-gubernatorial race that's looking like a blowout; all 40 State Senate seats; all 80 General Assembly seats; two ballot questions on fiscal issues; municipal elections, including a mayoral race in Jersey City that's been rocked by scandal and elections for Edison school board and Hoboken mayor that will test whether racist campaign tactics are effective.
North Dakota: A local referendum to raise the sales tax in Grand Forks.
Pennsylvania (unofficial results): A state constitutional amendment to allow the legislature to allow local governments to exempt residents from property taxes; judicial elections, including for three state Supreme Court seats that some angrily claim that Democrats have ignored; municipal elections, including a nationally watched race for Philadelphia district attorney and the tight re-election campaign of Allentown's indicted mayor.
Rhode Island: Local ballot initiatives in East Providence, Lincoln, and Scituate.
Tennessee: An uncontested special primary election in SD-17 (unofficial results); municipal elections.
Texas: Municipal elections across most of the state, including six city propositions in Houston (unofficial results).

9pm ET

Arizona: Municipal elections.
Colorado (unofficial results): Municipal elections, including for the Douglas County school board, the latest of Colorado's local school elections to be turned into a national referendum on education reform.
Kansas: Municipal elections along the western edge of the state.
Michigan (unofficial results): Municipal elections in parts of the Upper Peninsula.
Minnesota (unofficial results): Municipal elections, including for mayor of Minneapolis and a chaotic open-seat race for mayor of St. Paul.
New Mexico: Judicial and municipal elections in Las Cruces.
New York (unofficial results): Special general elections in SD-26, AD-27, and AD-71; three ballot measures, including Proposal 1, the vicennial referendum on holding a new constitutional convention for the State of New York; judicial and municipal elections, including mayorals in New York City and Syracuse as well as spirited county-executive races in Westchester and Nassau.
Texas: Seven proposed constitutional amendments; municipal elections in the western tip of the state.
Wyoming: A local referendum to raise the sales tax in Campbell County.

10pm ET

Idaho: Municipal elections in the southern part of the state.
Iowa: Municipal elections, including for mayor of Cedar Rapids.
Montana: Municipal elections, including the open Billings mayoral election.
Utah: The special general election for UT-03 (unofficial results); municipal elections.

11pm ET

California: Municipal elections in 31 counties, including for mayor of Santa Barbara.
Idaho: Municipal elections in the Panhandle.
Oregon (unofficial results): Municipal elections.
Washington (unofficial results): Three nonbinding advisory votes; State Senate special general elections in LD-07, LD-31, LD-37, LD-45 (a Republican-held seat in Democratic territory that, if flipped, would give Democrats control of the State Senate and therefore all of Washington state government), and LD-48; State House special general elections in LD-07 (Position 1), LD-31 (Position 2), and LD-48 (Position 1); judicial and municipal elections, including a Dem-on-Dem race for the open Seattle mayor's office (unofficial results) and a ballot initiative to overturn Burien's sanctuary-city status, where proponents accused immigrants of crimes in a widely criticized mailer.

Monday, October 16, 2017

2017 Downballot Race Ratings for Louisiana and Virginia

The year following a presidential election is often the sleepiest time for elections (although certainly not for politics). Indeed, this November will feature only three of this blog's favorite races to analyze: downballot constitutional offices. As always, Baseballot will be the only site on the World Wide Web handicapping these under-the-radar yet multi-million-dollar campaigns. As my colleagues at Inside Elections do for congressional elections, I rate each state executive race on a Solid-Likely-Lean-Tilt scale, with the very closest of races earning the coveted label of "Toss-up."

According to my Big, Bad Chart of Constitutional Offices, the seats on the ballot this year include one lieutenant governor, one attorney general, and one treasurer. As it turns out, all of these elections will probably continue the status quo in the two states where they are taking place. Below are my initial ratings for the three seats; in the future, these ratings can be found on the "2017 Ratings" tab in the menu above, where they will be updated through Election Day.


  • Treasurer: Solid Republican. After Treasurer John Kennedy was elected to the U.S. Senate in December 2016, a statewide special election was called to fill the remaining two years in his term. After six candidates squared off in the low-turnout October 14 jungle primary, Democrat Derrick Edwards (31%) and Republican John Schroder (24%) finished first and second to advance to the November 18 runoff. Democrats might have once had an outside shot at winning this seat: the party has overperformed in special elections thus far this year (probably due to the unpopularity of President Donald Trump), and the treasurer election just so happens to coincide with a competitive open mayoral race in dark blue New Orleans, meaning Democrats may constitute a disproportionate share of the electorate. However, it has quickly become apparent that Edwards isn't taking his campaign seriously. Despite an inspiring backstory (the wheelchair-bound Edwards was paralyzed by a brutal collision in a high-school football game; after doctors told him he would have to be cared for in an institution for the rest of his life, he instead got two graduate degrees and is now a practicing lawyer), Edwards has barely campaigned, missed campaign-finance deadlines, skipped debates and media events, and refused to talk about his plans until after he is elected. As a result, the Louisiana Democratic Party isn't even supporting his campaign, effectively ceding the race to the Republican Schroder, a former state representative. Schroder was the only candidate able to accrue significant funds from a tapped-out Louisiana donor class in the first phase of the campaign, raising more than all of his opponents combined ($436,954, compared to only $9,678 for Edwards). Now that he's the only Republican in the race, he'll use that dough to consolidate support and win easily.


Sometimes, a state's downballot races are decided by turnout at the top of the ticket, and it looks like that will be the case in Virginia this year: so far, the commonwealth's two constitutional-officer elections have tracked extremely closely with its hard-fought gubernatorial race. That contest is rated Lean Democratic by Inside Elections, but if it ends up being more Democratic or Republican than predicted, the two elections below will too. (All three elections take place on Tuesday, November 7.)
  • Lieutenant Governor: Lean Democratic. With a truly batty Republican primary behind us (which State Senator Jill Vogel might have won by spreading rumors that her opponent had an affair), the general election for lieutenant governor has been as uninteresting as the actual post, which is part-time and mostly consists of breaking ties in the State Senate. Vogel has struck an interesting balance between distancing herself from the rest of the Republican Party on issues like gay rights and also not showing any of Ed Gillespie's hesitance to embrace President Trump. Meanwhile, Democrat Justin Fairfax, who lost a close primary for attorney general in 2013, is attacking Vogel for her legal defense of various dark-money groups and a bill she sponsored to require women to have an invasive ultrasound before getting an abortion. Vogel also caused a mini-stir by saying Fairfax, who is black, couldn't "talk intelligently" on the issues. Ultimately, though, that gaffe is unlikely to make a splash in an ocean of daily Trump tweets, and, with each candidate having only about $300,000 in the bank, the LG race has been the quietest of Virginia's three campaigns on TV thus far. Polling shows Fairfax with a lead comparable to Democrat Ralph Northam's in the governor's race.
  • Attorney General: Lean Democratic. Instead, all the downballot action in Old Dominion is here. The Republican Attorneys General Association has poured $2.75 million into the campaign coffers of Republican candidate John Adams—and yet he still trails Democrat Mark Herring in total fundraising by $2.8 million. In response, the Democratic Attorneys General Association has given Herring $1.7 million, helping to fund a major TV blitz by the incumbent AG. Adams's campaign has responded in kind, and he is further buoyed by the air support of the NRA's political action committee, the only outside group advertising in a downballot race so far this year. Adams and his Republican allies are accusing Herring of politicizing the attorney general's office (Herring has sued the Trump administration over immigration and tried to prevent out-of-state gun permits from being used in Virginia), but this light blue state might actually be on board with that: Herring leads polls by as wide a margin as any of Virginia's three Democrats on the 2017 ballot.