Wednesday, November 23, 2011

2011 NL MVP Picks

I realize the voting results were released yesterday, but I did not get a chance to post my ballot, so I will do it today:











I realize that Braun won the vote, but the offensive numbers between Braun and Kemp are really close and Kemp has more defensive value, thought there seems to be some variance of opinion on his offensive value.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

There are NOT too Many Hockey Teams in New York

Peter King in his Monday Morning Quarterback column mad the following column about the NHL and New York:

"b. I worry about the NHL. Last week, on the same night, all starting at 7 p.m., three teams within 35 miles -- the Islanders, Rangers and Devils -- all dropped the puck. And 97 miles south of the Devils' rink in Newark, the Flyers played. Also at 7.

c. And Quebec City can't get a team?"

I'm not sure what his complaint here is, but if it is the idea that there are too many hockey teams in New York or New York and Philadelphia then he is completely off base. There are 22.2 million people in the New York metropolitan area (CSA) and 6.5 million in Philadelphia. There are 715,000 in Quebec City and only 8 million in all of Quebec. There are more people in the combination of the metropolitan areas of New York, Philadelphia, Hartford, Albany, Allentown, Harrisburg, Scranton, York (PA), Lancaster, Atlantic City and Norwich, than there are in all of Canada.

This is not a region that has no interest in hockey. The Rangers and Flyers are two of the league's flagship franchises. Also, last I checked New York is the media capital of the continent, so having an excessive presence there would probably not have much of a downside.

There are not too many professional sports teams in New York!

Friday, November 4, 2011

NHL Realignment

The NHL is considering changing its playoff structure (see here and here). The second article lays out two big advantages for TV. First a little background. Here is a listing of teams by time zone:

Eastern: 16

Central: 6

Mountain: 4*

Pacific: 4

* I'm assuming that Phoenix is in Mountain, even though it actually would be the equivalent of Pacific Time for the beginning and end of the season. Arizona doesn't go on Daylight savings.

So an Eastern Time team has to play in the Western Conference because more than half the teams are in the Eastern Time zone. That team is not decided in the current plan; it will either be Columbus or Detroit.

The new plan has goes from 6 divisions of 5 to 4 divisions of 7 or 8. Also the schedule would change from 24 intra-division games, 40 inter-division, intra-conference games and 18 inter-conference games to 36 intra-division games and then two games against each other team regardless of conference. Whichever Eastern-Time team gets stuck in the Western Conference would definitely have an improved schedule.

Old schedule:

Eastern: 9

Central: 16

Mountain: 8

Pacific: 8

New schedule:

Eastern: 15

Central: 18

Mountain: 4

Pacific: 4

The Red Wings would trade 8 Mountain or Pacific games for 6 additional Eastern games and 2 additional Central games.

However, the second supposed advantage is to help the Pacific teams have fewer Eastern trips. I don't see that helping under the proposed schedule:

Old schedule:

Eastern: 11

Central: 12

Mountain: 9

Pacific: 9

New schedule:

Eastern: 16

Central: 6

Mountain: ~11 (would range from 10-12)

Pacific: ~8 (would range from 7-9, the total across Mountain and Pacific would by 19)

So the Pacific teams end up having one fewer trip to the Eastern and Central, but five more of them will be further east.

{Offline H/T to my brother}.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

2011 Nobel Prize in Econ Preditions

Since I did not correctly predict last year's Nobel Prize winners, my predictions for this year will look fairly similar to last year's.

1. Lars P. Hansen and/or Hal White. I had them first last year and it has been one additional year since the last econometrics selection.

2. Richard Thaler and/or Robert Schiller.

4. Gordon Tullock. Trendier choice than last year.

4. Paul Romer. I dropped him behind Tullock since Macro won last year.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

2011 MVPs at All-Star Break

Here are my picks for the NL and AL MVP at the All-Star Break. I'm a little behind in posting one of these for this season, but I was having a hard time distinguishing the players when I tried coming up with a list in May and mid-June.

Matt Kemp
Jose Reyes
Andrew McCutchen
Roy Halladay
Ryan Braun
Prince Fielder
Shane Victorino
Joey Votto
Cole Hamels
Troy Tulowitzki

Jose Bautista
Adrian Gonzalez
Jacoby Ellsbury
Curtis Granderson
Ben Zobrist
Jered Weaver
Dustin Pedroia
Justin Verlander
C. C. Sabathia
Ian Kinsler

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Cubs at .500

The Cub Reporter used much of the off-season to describe the Cubs' off-season plan as "Project .500". The Cubs have decided to take that to extremes. After each of their ten even-numbered games they have had an even record. This is their sequence of games so far this season:


This looks like the type of sequence someone would make up trying to make the sequence look random.

I noticed this pattern when the Cubs were 7-7, but I wasn't sure if it was that unusual. The fact that they are the first team to go 1-1, 2-2 on up to 10-10, makes this a little more interesting.

Actually maybe we should not view it as that surprising. Assuming that each game has a 50% chance of the Cubs winning and each game is independent, the likelihood of them doing this is 1 in 1024. There have been somewhere over 2300 individual-team baseball seasons, so we might have expected someone to do this. Of course most teams in history had either a greater than or less than 50% probability of winning each game, so that probably explains it.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Projected 2011 NCAA Basketball Field

As I did last year, I tried to come up with what my projection would be for the NCAA field if it was 96 teams instead of 68. One assumption I make is that they will take no losing teams. Last year this was a strong assumption, but this year it probably would not have made a difference. I will assume that all of the at-large NIT teams would have made it, plus Missouri St. Since there were 13 automatic bids for the NIT that still leaves eight additional spots to come up with. Wisconsin-Milwaukee was an automatic bid and a five-seed, while Harvard was an at-large and a six-seed. However, making Milwaukee a five-seed meant that they were playing Northwestern which means a lot less travel. I will thus not assume that they would have been selected (see below).

My final eight in order of selection:

Marshall: should be in

Maryland: should be in

Southern Miss: should be in

Minnesota: overall ok record but finished the year 1-9

College of Charleston: good RPI, good record and won regular season conference title

Hofstra: worse RPI than CAA-mate Drexel, but finished higher in conference

Wisconsin-Milwaukee: a UAB-type pick, regular season champion from a highly-rated conference (at least at the 96-team level). The high NIT seed is indicative of strong assessments of this team.

Baylor: Not a good record but from a big-time conference

Last 4 out: Central Florida, Drexel, Iona and Mississippi St.

Next 4 out: Valparaiso, JMU, Kent St. and Tulsa

Monday, March 21, 2011

Why was UAB Selected?

I was preparing my annual 96-team tournament field. In trying to determine the last couple of teams, I kept coming back to the question of why the selection committee picked UAB. I think UAB had three things going for it:

  1. High RPI
  2. Regular-season conference champion
  3. Played in a highly rated conference

In particular, the fact that it won the conference championship of Conference USA, which overall had a very good RPI, was very important to the team's selection. Also, the conference did not have any obvious other at-large teams to select. I think everyone has only focused on the high RPI, but I think the latter two elements actually mattered more and will be important to my analysis of an extended 96-team tournament.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Clemson and UAB are the same

Clemson and UAB play tonight in one of the First Four games of the tournament. As I said in my previous post, there has been a lot of whining about UAB's selection. However, there has been almost nothing said about Clemson's inclusion, even though when you look at their profiles they look very similar. UAB has the better RPI and the better record. They both beat one marginal tournament team (VCU for UAB, Florida St. for Clemson). Clemson beat 6 NIT or NIT-bubble teams, UAB beat 7. Clemson had more losses to good teams, but neither of them had any real bad losses. If you remove Clemson's three losses to UNC, they lost the same number of games and the profile of teams they lost to look amazingly similar. Heck, they both lost to Duke on the road.

It seems like the only reason to include Clemson is that they beat Virginia Tech and Virginia Tech beat Duke. Virginia Tech's win over Duke might be reason to include them in the tournament, but it seems like a bad reason to include Clemson.

Must be that Clemson plays in the ACC and UAB is in Conference USA.

Monday, March 14, 2011

2011 Bracket Announcement and ESPN

The wailing and gnashing of teeth from ESPN over the inclusion of UAB and VCU over Colorado and Virginia Tech is quite annoying.

Hubert Davis talked incessantly about the Eye Test, which near as I could figure meant: (i) Teams he saw play, (ii) Teams from big conferences and (iii) Teams with big-name recruits. Pretty much teams from the BCS conferences.

Digger Phelps talked about getting things done in the conference season. Of course the big-conference teams will be the only ones who can beat top teams in the conference portion of the season. Also it seems a little strange to talk about teams that were denied after getting the job done in the conference season when they were 8-8 in conference (Colorado).

I am half-convinced that Jay Bilas would be perfectly happy if they just took the 68 best teams from the BCS conferences. It is particularly annoying when he complains about how worthless RPI is and then talks about how poor a team's record is against the RPI Top 50.

Dick Vitale must have three or four rants prepared and then picks the one that makes the most sense given the bracket that is announced. In the past he has railed against the exclusion of the small schools. This year he complained about the exclusion of Colorado and VPI.

The whole program had a tendency to make "My father can beat up your little brother" arguments, i.e. focusing on the positives of Colorado and the negatives of VCU and UAB. They posted a graphic on VCU that only had the negatives, such as their worst loss against Georgia St. Meanwhile there was no mention of the fact that in addition to playing a weak non-conference schedule, Colorado played most of those games at home.

This all should not necessarily mean that the committee got it right. I personally would have taken St. Mary's, VPI and Colorado over UAB, Clemson and Georgia, but this number of changes is not much different than my usual preferences.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Baseball’s Blackout Policy

Yet another sign of spring, discussing MLB's idiotic Blackout policies for (H/T). Let me suggest one reason why the NFL gets their package right, and MLB gets theirs wrong. The NFL splits up the revenue amongst their teams evenly, so when they sell an additional package the money is split the same way as their national deal. However, MLB teams sell their games individually, so they do not want people to move from the local broadcasts to the national one.

Of course the biggest complaints are in the cases where fans are in a team's market and yet have almost no local coverage of the team. I have lived in the split market of the Royals and Cardinals for 10 years, and I have seen a grand total of one Royals game on here. You cannot even pick-up the radio broadcast until you get 20 miles north of where I am. Six teams split Iowa. There is no way that a fan in Des Moines will be able to watch every game of the Cubs, Cardinals, Royals, Twins, Brewers and White Sox on local TV. A more rational policy on blackouts would definitely be beneficial to MLB's worth.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Voting Method and ROY

I realize I'm a little late on this issue, but there was a minor storm about one writer's ballot for NL Rookie of the Year. One voter from Pittsburgh voted for Buster Posey first and then for two Pittsburgh Pirates second and third. There have been suggestions that this was defensible (see here and here). He has been criticized for homerism.
The voter himself defended himself by saying that he picked Posey (the eventual winner) first. (Since he defended himself on Twitter, it is hard to find the appropriate tweets). He just used his second and third place votes to recognize flying under the radar Pirates, but picked the best player first. However, I think the fact that he picked Posey first makes his other picks even more irresponsible.

The key decision for the award was Posey vs. Heyward. Since 1st place votes are worth 5 points and 2nd place votes are worth 3 points, a voter who had Posey first and Heyward second would increase his top choice by 2 points. However, Kovacevic increased Posey by 5 points over Heyward. If his motivation was for Posey to win, this was pretty close to the perfect ballot. I actually would have preferred if he had just chosen three Pirates or three random players. In that case his ballot would have had no influence on the final outcome. Or he could have just picked the two Pirates first and second and then picked Posey third.

Part of the problem is that, according to Arrow's Impossibility Theorem, there is not a perfect way to design a ranking method among more than two alternatives. The choice of a Borda count method pretty much opens up the possibility of strategic voting. I do not think his intent was strategic, but his ballot looks exactly like that of a strategic voter trying to help Posey.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Financial Impact of the Wainwright Injury

Fangraphs has a discussion of the financial impact of Adam Wainwright being out for the entire season. The article estimates the impact as approximately $16 million based on lower attendance and a lower probability of making the postseason. The calculation suggests that Wainwright is worth about 4 wins and that would translate to the average team lower attendance worth about $10 million.

One problem with this analysis as I see it is that the Cardinals are not an average team. I have a paper that looks at the relationship between attendance and winning percentages but does not assume that all teams' fans are the same. In looking at the 12 National League teams that have been in existence since 1969, I found that the Cardinals' attendance was the least responsive to in-season changes in team performance.* In case you are curious, the Expos' and Dodgers' fan bases were the most responsive. My findings would suggest that the financial impact on the Cardinals will be less than it would be on the average team from which the numbers are derived.

Of course that does not mean that there is no impact, especially given that the Cardinals win expectation before the injury was right on the cusp of being a playoff team.

*The results for the Cubs, Astros and Giants are less reliable because of the number of sellouts those teams experienced. There are methods to deal with the sellout issue, but I was using an econometric technique to deal with a different concern and not compatible with the solutions to sellouts. It is possible that all three of those teams, especially the Cubs, would have smaller responses to winning than the Cardinals, but the Cardinals would still be near the top regardless.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Escondido Beavers

In a previous post, I discussed the Portland Beavers moving to Tucson. Eventually the plan is for the team to move to Escondido, near the major league affiliate in San Diego. When I wrote my paper on the determinants of the locations of minor league baseball teams, I specifically ignored cases where a minor league team is located in the same metropolitan area as a major league team. Partly this choice was because my econometric method did not allow for this possibility, but mostly because this phenomenon did not happen very often. In fact, the league rules pretty much give the major league teams territorial rights to keep minor league teams out of their metropolitan area. The exceptions to these outcomes are either because the minor league team predates the major league team (i.e., the Tacoma Rainiers) or because of the minor league team using creative geography to be just outside the territorial zone (i.e., the Kane County Cougars).

However, in the years since I wrote my paper, the major league teams have decided that either minor league baseball is a complementary good, as opposed to a substitute good, or that having their AAA affiliate nearby is enough of a positive to make up for the substitution effect. The Gwinnett County Braves, the Escondido Beavers and the Lehigh Valley IronPigs all represent examples of teams bringing their AAA affiliate into their metropolitan area, or just outside of it in the case of the IronPigs. Having the AAA affiliate close makes it easier to call up players in case of injury. My guess is that over time the increasing value of proximity of the AAA players and that the changing nature of baseball markets, making minor league and major league baseball more complementary, have both increased the teams' willingness to bring their affiliates into their home markets.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Miracle on Ice

Today is the 31st Anniversary of the United States win in hockey in the Olympics over the Soviet Union. This morning I heard on television this mentioned as not being the gold-medal game, which is correct. That statement was followed up with the next game against Finland being the gold-medal game, which is how it is often described. However, this was not the case either. The final round was a round robin. If the US had lost, Finland would not have won the gold, the USSR would have. As it turned out, Finland did not receive any medal. Lastly, it is even possible that the game could have ended in a tie, which actually makes the US-USSR game more exciting, because a tie would have meant the USSR would have won the gold. Since the US-Finland game was not a game between two teams vying for a gold medal, the term "gold-medal game" seems incorrect for me.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

My Suggestion on How to Fix Overtime

Over at Advanced NFL Stats, they have some suggested rule changes for the NFL. One of them is for changing the overtime rules (#11). Their suggestion is for the home-team to automatically get the ball in overtime. This approach has one big advantage to it, that the teams know who will get the ball in overtime, so that they can play the game in regulation with that knowledge. The team that knows they will not get the ball will be more willing to play to win the game in regulation. The problem with their approach is that giving the advantage to the home team seems arbitrary.

My suggestion is to treat overtime as a third half, continuing the coin toss from the beginning of the game. Also if you defer until the second half, you lose out on choosing for the overtime. And if you really want the option in overtime, then you can choose to defer from the second-half choice. It balances out the original winner’s value in they would lose the ability to defer unless they are willing to sacrifice the overtime choice. Everything going into overtime is known ahead of time. It is not gimmicky like a lot of other approaches, i.e. the college football overtime system. It does not change things very much, so it is should not be too controversial.

I honestly do not know if anyone else has suggested this before. If I come across someone else who suggested this earlier, I will give him or her credit.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Sears and Customer Service

Free Money Finance recently had a disastrous experience with Sears customer service. I can relate as I had a run-in with Sears last fall. The two-year old lawnmower that I had bought from Sears had broken down. I took it to them to look at. After a week, I got a call saying it was ready to be picked up. When I got there the clerks at the store looked at me like I was stupid, since there was no way that it would be ready that quick. I went home and waited an additional two weeks for my lawn mower. In the meantime I got a robo-call survey from Sears about the service I had received. The computer system had become convinced that they had returned my lawnmower to me. Since I had not gotten my lawnmower yet, I ignored the survey, but they kept calling back until I took it. Then when I finally did get my lawnmower back, the robo-calls started again.

Friday, January 28, 2011

2010 AL MVP Picks








Felix Hernandez

Cliff Lee



For top of the AL there is a distinction between the bats (Hamilton, Bautista and Cabrera) vs. the gloves (Cano, Longoria and Beltre). Now the "gloves" all had good years hitting but they were about 30 points behind the "bats" in OPS+. I think Hamilton is clearly first, but second through sixth could be re-arranged in any order.

Since Hernandez and Lee are both pitchers and next to each other in the rankings that would suggest that I think they were almost equal. However, I think Hernandez was clearly superior to Lee, but there is quite a bit of drop-off after the top 7 hitters.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

2010 NL MVP Picks

Since football season ended last Sunday, my thoughts have begun to shift to baseball. Since I got pretty busy last November, I did not get a chance to post my ballots for the internet baseball awards. So I will start with my NL MVP picks:







Carlos Gonzalez 



Adrian Gonzalez 


I could see putting Votto and Pujols either way. What is funny is that the last time that Pujols had a close race for top player in the league was 2005, when the other contender was a fellow NL Central First Baseman (Derrek Lee in 2005). The two players had very similar seasons that year, just as Pujols and Votto had very similar seasons this year.

Compared to some voters, I have Adrian Gonzalez lower relative to the other hitters. He had a good year, but he was not the equal at the plate of Votto and Pujols. The other hitters made up ground based on defensive value and position.

Interestingly I had more pitchers in the top 10 most of the year. However, Josh Johnson was hurt the last month and Ubaldo Jiminez had a poor middle of the season and both are just outside the top 10 for my final picks.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Can New York Support a Third NBA Team?

David Stern expresses his doubt (H/T). Of course he has an incentive to downplay the likelihood, in order to protect the market of the Knicks and Nets. However, I think that New York with 22 million people in its metropolitan area should be able to support three teams. Also with one team moving from one side of the city to the other, there is more opportunity to pick up fans right away than there would be for a sport such as baseball.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Federal Money for Hockey Arenas in Canada

Why would the Federal government in Canada be giving money to one city (Quebec) so that it can lure away a team from another city in Canada (Edmonton)? That does not sound like smart politics to me. I guess there is still a chance that the target team is the Phoenix Coyotes. However, the Coyotes have a relatively new arena, and the Oilers are trying to get the city to pay for one, so my guess is that the league would rather the Oilers move than the Coyotes.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Tucson Beavers?

The Portland Beavers, AAA affiliate of the San Diego Padres, announced that they would be playing next season in Tucson. I would like to consider this move from the point of optimal team location in minor league baseball (see this post from last year for details on my model). The move is complicated by the fact that the eventual plan is to have the team play in Escondido near the major league affiliate in San Diego, and is probably only using Tucson as a temporary home for a year or two. For now I will just talk about the Portland to Tucson move and then look at the Escondido angle in a future post.

On the face of it this move does not make a whole lot of sense. According to my model, Portland would be the second most likely city, amongst those without major league baseball, to have a AAA team. Tucson is 46th. I estimate that Portland has a 79% chance of having a AAA team, Tucson has a 15% chance. These rankings should not be too much of a surprise, as Portland has a metropolitan area population of approximately 2.2 million and Tucson's is just over a million.

However, there is the complicating factor of the stadium issue. The Beavers stadium in Portland is being renovated for use for the soccer team in the city. When I developed my model it was based on the idea that the city's willingness to build stadiums for team was endogenous to all of the other factors (population, income etc.). But there may also be other idiosyncratic factors related to willingness to construct a stadium that I could not account for. In this case the stadium situation pretty much precipitated a move. It also explains why a team might move for what might be a one-year stay.

Given that a move was required, Tucson makes a lot of sense. Even though it is ranked 46th, the two cities (Des Moines and Syracuse) right in front of it in the rankings also have AAA teams, so it is not completely out of line with other AAA cities. If the PCL wanted to keep the team out west, Tucson was the best choice, as the westernmost city ranked higher than Tucson is San Antonio. Lastly, since this might be a temporary move, Tucson does not have a AA or A team being disrupted by the move like San Antonio or Boise would have. Also, Tucson had a AAA team as recently as 2008, so it has a suitable stadium.