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Gauging a Team in MLB - extended...

Posted: 2023-04-30 09:18:25 (ET)    [ 552 views ]

Something to think about!

As everyone knows, the human brain is a fascinating study.  One aspect of the thinking about MLB is that most humans assume that their own brain is correct and they imagine they know baseball as well as any other non-professional.  That is what gives laymen pride enough to compete with others to prove that their brain is better than yours. 

So, when one imagines that they know a particular team in MLB, they can become very frustrated to watch them perform so poorly at times.  After all, hitting and pitching is pretty much the same every day, right?  Well, let's think about it.  Pitchers can only throw about 8 different pitches and some of those are pretty similar to each other, especially now MLB is naming some variations of the curve (sweeper) and the change-up (forkball), etc. 

Placement in or out of the strike zone is tricky, but the zone is fixed.  The professional hitter has been hitting many of those same pitches since he was about the age of 15 years old.  And, the most used pitch in MLB is the four-seamer.  It is well-known that a pitcher must be very careful about throwing any pitch too many times, but especially the four-seamer, or he will pay for it. Yet, there are teams in MLB that seem to repeat their same overall performance year in and year out.  Some are good; some are not so good; some are average and continue to be.  So, what is this all about?  Is it talent?  Is it pitching?  Is it hand-eye coordination?  Is it scouting?  Is it training in the minor leagues?  Is it ownership?  Is it management?  Or, is it everything? 

The members of baseballvmi know that we follow each team in and out of various environments that we gauge using the ADI or air density index.  We have been able to track their performances since 2014, through all the rules changes, pitcher changes and hitter changes and yet the league is still similar and the same teams are continually the contenders. We now have a database of about 6 million pitches which includes the player and his performance. 

A number of times, I have mentioned in articles that the Colorado Rockies have been the academy that has taught the baseball world a lot of things we have never thought about.  One thing that stands out to everyone, is that "they are the best home team ever in the MLB, and they are the worst road team ever in MLB".  Their pitching is easy to point out, because if a pitcher gets hit hard, everyone can see that he was not good on that day.  But almost every pitcher to perform in Colorado has had bad days, which leads to the, "something to think about".

"Every team" that has played a three or four game series at Coors Field has the same record upon leaving Coors Field as does the Colorado Rockies - - 39% wins.  Yes, they lose the next series, almost always.  It is comonly called the Coors Field Hangover and there is a direct correlation between high scoring at Coors for a visiting team and how strong is the conformity to Coors upon leaving that ballpark.  But there is something about the aspect of the three-game series that has popped out within the travels of each team throughout the nationwide schedule in MLB. 

Yes, the Rockies are bad on the road.  Yes, they seem to struggle for the entire trip, but they get a little better as they continue and it makes sense that they would struggle with both hitting and confidence as they lose more games.  However, they increase their road win percent as they travel, only to return home and start over.  What that tells us is that "exposure" is the key to getting better.   What about the balance of the league?  Do they tend to get better as they travel?  Yes, and no!

"Yes" when they travel to a lesser ADI and "No" when they travel to a substantially greater ADI.  This is not always identifiable by wins and losses, but it certainly is when looking closely at specific pitches that turned into hits.

The key to understanding the team is actually the ADI played within at each ballpark.  So, if a team leaves a high ADI at home and travels to a lower ADI, the team will conform to the new lower ADI within three games and will then leave fully conformed to that ballpark.  Yes, their talent level is still intact, but the hitters are now used to the amount of movement allowed in that ballpark.  So, you would be accurate to say that they become conformed to the same exact level as is the home team.  This happens to the Dodgers and the Giants as they travel away from Coors Field regularly as an extreme example.  In, I believe it was 2002, when the mighty Yankees scored over 40 runs in 3 games at Coors Field and upon leaving and arriving at San Diego, scored only 5 runs in three games there as Colorado tends to do continually.  Yes, if the Yankees play a series in St. Louis, for example, they become a St. Louis team and will travel to the next location with that exposure to pitch movement in their freshest memory.  Their talent is different from St. Louis, of course, but their strengths and weaknesses against specific pitches are similar to St. Louis, due to their new visual memory.

As they travel up to much higher ADI's they are actually getting better because they are seeing better movement from the pitchers, but it comes at a cost of a couple losses.  If they travel to lower ADI's, they are actually getting worse, because they are seeing lesser movement on the pitches, but they add a couple wins in the process.  If the ADI's are essentially the same as home, or the previous ballpark's ADI, there is little to no adjustment, just a more stabilized conformity to the pitch track of each type of pitch. 

So, the easy way to remember this is that a team leaves a visiting stadium the same as the home team and will perform very similar to what that team does when it arrives at the next ballpark.  Whether winning or losing while on the road, both confidence and defiance affect the outcomes of games and the hitting prowess against the toughest pitch-types.  The only known difference is if a team continues to lose, then the confidence of the team will suffer.  Of course the defiance of the team will build, as well, and can bring the team out of it, but rarely within the 3 game series. 


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