Support the kids and get more math!

Hi Everybody!

First off, some music to set the mood:

As you probably don't know by virtue of my being a terrible publicist, there's more than one group of people trying to help the kids this Cardinals Care 6K season. That group is none other than the inventively named Viva El Birdos 2. Unfortunately, whereas that first VEB group is breaking fundraising records and offering fun stuff like t-shirts and bobbleheads, I have no similar cache of goods to auction off. Instead, I'm offering up something even better* -- statistical analysis.

I'll be going on vacation next week, and whenever I get a break like this from my days full of web programming and performing statistical analyses of biological data, I like to spend it programming and performing statistical analyses of ... baseball data. Previous examples include some tweaks to FIP and a look at some factors at play in one-run games.

Anyway, I've got a few different questions I'm thinking about looking at and figured it might be worth calling upon the wisdom of the generously donating masses for help. Here's what I'm thinking: anyone who donates to any member of VEB team 2 in the next week gets to apportion whatever dollars they donate among the projects outlined below. Just send me an email at after you've donated to place your vote. Previous donations to team 2 are fair game as well. Whichever project has the most donation dollars at the end of the week (Monday morning) is what I'll work on. I'll post the results of the work as a VEB FanPost the week of Labor Day. In the event that no one votes, I'll take it incredibly personally and will instead spend my vacation seriously questioning my self worth, roughly 20% more insecure.

Without further ado, here are the options:

1. Irresistible force vs the immovable object - Baseball is full of head-to-head match-ups; it's basically nothing but them. But who has more control over the possible outcomes? Strikeout rate, for example, converges quickly for both batters and pitchers, suggesting that both batter and pitcher exert a fair amount of control. But what happens when a high K% pitcher meets a low K% batter or vice versa? For this project, I'll look at exactly this question, starting with K% and potentially looking at other outcomes. As a bonus, I'll take a look at the profile of a few Cardinal pitchers. This could be your chance to find out that Lance Lynn is racking up all his Ks against pitchers and Starling Marte.

2. The long arm of BABIP - We often consider BABIP fluctuations to provide context for swings in a batter's average, OBP, and SLG, but the vagaries of balls in play creep into all kinds of other stats as well. For example, ISO, which is commonly used as a proxy for power has plenty of BABIP influence in it. If a batter has a few extra grounders squeak through the infield, he'll see an ISO dip due to the extra singles. If a few more liners or flies find the gaps than would normally, the ISO will jump up. For this project, I'll take a look at how strong these effects are and work on BABIP-neutralized stats that take this into account. As a bonus, I'll take a closer look at some of the BABIP-fueled seasons of Cardinals present and recent past through this lens.

3. PITCHf/x perusal - PITCHf/x offers an amazing trove of data on the movement and location of every pitch thrown, but the relationships between those different PITCHf/x parameters and the outcomes they generate can be rather involved. I'm sure other people have looked at this type of thing before, but I haven't seen a succinct summation anywhere. The goal of this project is to identify PITCHf/x parameters that correlate with pitcher performance. To do this, I'll be using some tools I developed in my thesis work specifically designed to identify such relationships in high-dimensional datasets. As a bonus, I'll take a closer look at some Cardinal pitchers and see where they fall on these continua. This will be the first step towards making a clone army of Adam Wainwrights.

4. Drinking beer on the beach - This option is here for my wife's sake. She's already donated and put her chips on my not spending our vacation in front of a computer. As a bonus, I'll use my Cardinals 6-pack cooler for the beer.

So those are the options I have in mind. If one of those sounds particularly interesting to you, head on over to the Cardinals Care site and get to donating (for the kids). Current results are shown below.

*may not actually be better; probably, in fact, much worse