Team NERD: Some Early Returns by Carson Cistulli April 11, 2011 Though we’re just a bit over a week into the season, every team in the majors has recorded over 300 plate appearances and has, at least to some degree, begun to fashion something like a “team identity.” Whether said identity is the one that defines the team even two weeks from now — that remains to be seen. But, like I always say, it’s never too early to begin making sweeping generalizations! In any case, owing to the samples available, it’s not entirely inappropriate to look at our very proprietary watchability index, NERD, at the team level. NERD, which was introduced in these pages at the end of last August, represents an attempt to anticipate how interesting a team might be to the smarter baseball fan — taking into account both sabermetric variables (batting runs, bullpen xFIP) and more aesthetic or generally appealing ones (team speed, age, payroll). Here are the results, first. Discussion regarding particular scores and a reminder on calculating NERD appear after the jump. (UPDATE: for some reason the Padres’ Pay variable was off. Now fixed. Thanks, reader Tony.) Two Quick Notes As I say, there’s a reminder further down on how NERD is calculated. Still, I want to mention two quick things here. First is that, because UZR numbers aren’t available yet, they’re not factored into the scores you see here. Second is that I’ve added a new variable to the team scores — namely, a way to reward teams that are squarely in the middle of playoff contention (and represented above by POFF). I noticed last season that teams which were either totally incapable of clinching, or had already clinched, a playoff spot — they were generally less interesting to watch, as they had less to play for than teams competing directly for postseason play. Accordingly, I’ve rewarded teams that have approximately a 25% chance of making the playoffs per Cool Standings (with the idea that most teams begin the season, generically, with something like a 25% chance of making the postseason). I’ve included more information on calculating the POFF variable below. Discussion • I’ll concede that it’s difficult to consider very interesting a team that’s given considerable playing time to Willie Bloomquist, but the Diamondbacks have other, less scrap-related items of interest to offer. First of all, only the Phillies and Reds in the National League have produced more park-adjusted batting runs above average. Additionally, there’s the relatively low team age and payroll. And, finally, the Arizona bullpen — which was miserable last season — has been excellent so far. J.J. Putz, Juan Gutierrez, Kam Mickolio, and Aaron Heilman: all have posted xFIPs under 3.00 (in very few innings, admittedly). • When considering the Cleveland Indians, it’s probably important to divorce them from their present stadium atmosphere (which SB Nation’s Jeff Sullivan has monitored with admirable dilgence). Still, it’s important to note somthing — namely, that Carlos Santana is frigging awesome. Also, per Base Runs standings, the Indians actually “should” be 6-3 through their first nine games — meaning their 7-2 record isn’t totally crazy. • The Royals? What? (Tim Collins is one thing. Alex Gordon hitting .357/.400/.548, 163 wRC+ so far is another.) • The Cubs? The Mariners? The Astros? These aren’t suprising, are they? • The Twins would do better if sideburns were one of the criteria. Components of Team NERD The components of Team NERD — again, originally presented last August — are as follow: • Batter Age (AGE) • Park-Adjusted wRAA (BAT) • Park-Adjusted Home Run per Fly Ball (HR/FB) • Stolen Base Attempts per Opportunity (SBA) • Stolen Base Runs (SBR) • Extra-Base Taken Percentage (XBT) • Bullpen xFIP (BULL) • Team Defense (UZR) • Base Runs – Actual Runs Scored (LUCK) • Payroll (PAY) • Playoff Contention (POFF) The Formula for Team NERD The formula for Team NERD is represented as follows: (AGEz*2) + BATz + HR/FBz + (SBAz*.333 + SBRz*.333 + XBTz*.333) + BULLz + UZRz + PAYz + LUCK + POFF + Constant (to make 5.00 average) A Note on Calculating POFF As noted above, I’ve added a variable to the NERD formula to credit teams that are most thoroughly in playoff contention — that is, neither way ahead or behind in the standings. To measure playoff odds, I use the POFF number from Cool Standings. For teams with less than a 25% chance of making the playoffs, I do 25-POFF. If a team’s chances of making the playoffs is greater than 25%, I do (25-POFF)/-3. This way, a team with, say, a 10% chance of making the playoffs is roughly equivalent to one with a 70% chance of making the playoffs. We’ll call the results of this X. From here, I do the following: ((25-X)-12.5)/6.25. This gives teams with exactly a 25% chance of making the playoffs a +2.00. Team that have either clinched or been matheatically eliminated will have a 2.00.