Random Thoughts

I can’t remember the last time I wrote something that looked like a “notes column”, but today, I have a bunch of thoughts on different subjects, and so that format seems like the best way to cover them all without writing 10,000 words. On to the loosely-related points that are on my mind today.

Crappy News

Yesterday, Mac Thomason – the founder of Braves Journal – announced that his cancer had returned, and it’s spread to the point where surgery to have his tumors removed no longer looks to be a viable option. Given my own ongoing fight against leukemia, this is especially tough to hear, and my thoughts and prayers go out to Mac and his family. His friends and co-authors at Braves Journal are asking you to support Mac in any way you deem best, and I heartily endorse those sentiments.

Fascinating Research

While we’re linking to things, go read this article over at The Hardball Times today by Bojan Koprivica on catcher defense. It’s long and involved, but it’s super interesting, and continues to push forward the analyzation of catcher defense. There’s still a lot more work to be done on the subject, but it’s great to see it being tackled in such a thorough, interesting, and thought-provoking way.

Postseason Data

In looking at some postseason data, it’s interesting how large of an impact home runs have had during the playoffs. During the regular season, the league posted a K/BB ratio of 2.30 and a HR/9 of 0.94, which ended up leading to 4.28 runs being scored per game. During the postseason, the K/BB ratio has actually gone up to 2.58, but HR/9 has spiked to 1.29, a 37 percent increase over the regular season average. Because of the extra long balls, the eight playoff teams have averaged 4.96 runs per game, 16 percent more than teams scored during the season. And, of course, the playoffs have taken place in October, a cold-weather month when we’d typically expect lower than average offensive performance.

Obviously, there are sample size issues at play, but I think we’re also dealing with offenses that are relatively better than the pitching staffs they are facing. Five of the top six teams in regular season wRC+ qualified for the playoffs this year, with the two World Series teams ranking 3rd and 4th respectively. By contrast, only two of the top seven teams in FIP made the playoffs, and the Phillies (#1) went out in the first round. It seems that this year at least, pitching does not win championships.

Don’t Worry About Wilson

Speaking of pitching, C.J. Wilson hasn’t exactly had a banner postseason so far, and there’s been some talk that his free agent price might be going down as his struggles in October continue. However, it’s worth noting that Wilson’s postseason xFIP of 3.86 isn’t that much different from his regular season mark of 3.41, especially when you adjust for quality of opponent. His struggles are almost entirely due to giving up home runs, but I don’t know that anyone should draw many conclusions from a postseason HR/FB rate of 37.5%.

If Wilson’s value is taking a hit in the eyes of teams with money to spend this winter, that may simply make him the rare undervalued starting pitcher on the free agent market – there’s not much of a reason to re-evaluate how good Wilson is based on his October results to date.

The Best Team In Baseball

The playoffs are not setup to ensure that the best team in baseball emerges as World Champion, but while Philadelphia had the best regular season record, I think Texas’ postseason run is helping them make a pretty strong claim on that title for this season. Including their postseason games, the Rangers are now 103-69, giving them a .599 winning percentage overall this year. They also led MLB in WAR this year, coming in at +60.6 during the regular season.

When you factor in the upgrades they made to the roster in July and the fact that Mike Napoli has now become a full-time player, it’s hard to see any other team from any point in 2011 stacking up against what Texas is putting on the field right now. The Cardinals offense is good enough to make the World Series interesting, but the Rangers are rightfully going to be the favorites, and if they win it all, we’ll see a postseason result where the best team really did take home the title.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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Also had the best third order record at Baseball Prospectus.