I am happier, perhaps happier than I should be, to see that SIERA, Baseball Prospectus's new run estimator, looks both accurate and worthwhile. As I've said before, when I started blogging—and this wasn't a long time ago, except in internet years—Baseball Prospectus was the sabermetric website of first resort, and as superior as the current situation is I miss those halcyon, VORP-quoting days. Here's hoping these new stats come with a more usable website.
At Play a Hard Nine Erik has already run the numbers on the Cardinals—good news for people who love Jason Motte, by which I mean, presumably, everyone on this website—but for now I'm more interested in the philosophy, specifically how close it comes to encapsulating my understanding of the Cardinals' philosophy:
Thus, these four points have shown us that strikeouts have a diminishing return as you accrue more of them, ground balls have an increasing return the higher your tally, and ground balls are more beneficial to pitchers who allow more walks or balls in play, especially because fly balls are more detrimental to pitchers who allow more runners on base.
The Cardinals, or my caricature of the Cardinals—there's Dave Duncan, with a huge head, and he's yelling "MORE GROUNDBALLS" at Anthony Reyes, who also has a huge head, and is crying—might take this a little too far. But this seems like a good way to describe the Cardinals' bargain basement pitchers of choice. The ones with high strikeout rates and nothing else always seem to slip by, to our chagrin, but for strikeouts-are-fascist traditionalists Duncan and La Russa have always seemed surprisingly sanguine about pitchers with terrible control, so long as they are—or at least appear to be—groundball pitchers.
Incidentally, this makes my sentimental favorite bad-reliever candidate for a Spring Training invite look slightly better, so I am on board. Mike MacDougal, Mac the Ninth or Eighth or Whenever, Really, had an ERA of 3.60 last year after catching on with the Nationals, despite striking out and walking 5.6 batters each per nine innings. His xFIP—4.74. His SIERA—4.64. But it's an exciting 4.64!
Obviously I am not quite serious here, or maybe just-kidding-but-seriously, because I really am, against all reason, a Mike MacDougal fan. ERA substitutes are already really good; except for exceptional cases, new ones aren't going to tell us a lot of things we don't know. But I like the way SIERA suggests we think—the S and I stand for skill-interactive, and with all the information we now have, updating in real time, at our disposal, the series of articles on the stat, though a little over-long, have some interesting ideas on how to parse it.
So, did everybody have a good Truck Day? I'm torn on the divide Strauss mentions between teams that make a big deal about Truck Day and teams whose home newspapers make a big deal about how there is no big deal about Truck Day. I am, of course, starved by now for any and all baseball pomp and ceremony; it's been a long time, and it's going to be an excruciating month and a half until there's a Championship Season going on. But I am leery of anything that is celebrated primarily by the Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox.
Nevertheless, between the Jupiter bylines and the surprise wrist surgery all the signs are here: The offseason, at least the part of the offseason that sucks the most, is nearly over. To all who have braved it by talking here about baseball, TV, obscure music, and image macros (probably not in that order)—thanks.