Friday, October 10, 2014

2014 Internet Baseball Awards Ballot

Just this week, for the fifth year in a row, I voted in the Internet Baseball Awards at Baseball Prospectus.  You can read my old ballots from 2011, 2012, and 2013 on the site (for some reason, I never posted my 2010 results on the blog; I'm not sure why).  Anyone can vote in these, as long as they have a subscription to Baseball Prospectus - including the "free" subscription level, which is what I've been using for four years.  Anyway, the whole thing is a lot of fun, and it's definitely the only thing I do with any regularity on this blog, so I figured I might as well pass along whom I voted for this year:

AL Manager of the Year
1.  Lloyd McClendon, Seattle
2.  Terry Francona, Cleveland
3.  Buck Showalter, Baltimore

As per usual, I just try to think, "Where did I think each team would finish, and then where did they actually finish?"  It's a dumb way to vote for Manager of the Year; I just don't know a better one.  And seriously - did anyone have Seattle with the 6th best record in the AL?  They were competing for a playoff spot in the final week!  The SRS (Simple Rating System) at has them tied as the fourth best team in baseball!  NO ONE (outside some ridiculously optimistic fans in Seattle) saw that coming.  Cleveland was another - I thought they were a year away, and they still might be.  But I thought they were a year away from a winning record; they might be a year away from being serious contenders.  Kudos to Francona.  Likewise, I thought the AL East was terrible and would be a cakewalk for Boston; instead, the AL East was great, and Boston was terrible.  That Baltimore waltzed away with the division title is a credit to their manager.

NL Manager of the Year
1.  Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh
2.  Ron Roenicke, Milwaukee
3.  Mike Matheny, St. Louis

For the second year in a row, I find Clint Hurdle on top in the NL, and Mike Matheny in my top three.  I just keep asking myself, "How are these guys doing it?"  Look at those rosters, and tell me that you see two of the best teams in baseball.  Likewise, it's a clean sweep for the NL Central on my ballot this year.  I saw preseason predictions that the Crew would finish behind the Cubs.  Instead, they spent a GOOD chunk of the year with the NL's best record, they were in first in the division for 150 days, and they were in it until the end (16 games over with 36 to play).  I don't hold the late-season collapse (11-25 in those final 36) against Roenicke - that was the result everyone was expecting.  Instead, I give him credit for staving that off as long as possible.

AL Rookie of the Year
1.  Jose Abreu, Chicago
2.  Daniel Santana, Minnesota
3.  Masahiro Tanaka, New York
4.  Collin McHugh, Houston
5.  Dellin Betances, Seattle

Every year, THIS is the award I feel least prepared for.  As an "NL guy," I know those players better.  Thankfully, Abreu made it easy this year.  Sans injury to Tanaka, it may have actually been a race.  So I give Tanaka a little credit for missed time and put him at #3.  I wanted to give a shout-out to someone on my adopted AL team, and thankfully Danny Santana finally gave me a Twin worth voting for in my years of IBA voting.  (I don't know what I did in 2010; that said, the only other times I've voted for Twins were a #8 for Josh Willingham and #10 for Joe Mauer in the MVP voting in 2012; it hasn't been a good last few years for the Twins.)

NL Rookie of the Year
1.  Ender Inciarte, Arizona
2.  Jacob DeGrom, New York
3.  Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati
4.  Kolten Wong, St. Louis
5.  Kris Negron, Cincinnati

Wow.  This was a preeeeetty uninspiring cast of characters.  Hamilton will likely win the BBWAA award based on name recognition, and it's not a terrible call.  But when we've seen ROY candidates like Mike Trout, Jose Fernandez, Yasiel Puig, Bryce Harper, and Craig Kimbrel in the last three years, this NL class is just... blech.  I have nothing further to say.

AL Pitcher of the Year
1.  Corey Kluber, Cleveland
2.  Felix Hernandez, Seattle
3.  Chris Sale, Chicago
4.  Max Scherzer, Detroit
5.  David Price, Detroit

I had a friend in college, a really good friend, who's and excellent violinist.  As a freshman, he was put in the second chair of the top orchestra.  Well, the next year, they made a senior the second chair.  And the next year, a freshman pseudo-prodigy came in, and took the first chair then next two years.  That, it seems to me, is the story of Felix Hernandez.  I really wanted to vote Felix.  I LOVE Felix Hernandez.  I want him to get to 300 wins.  I want to see him strike out 4000 batters.  I kinda doubt those things will happen, but I WANT to see them.  So I WANT him to win some Cy Youngs.  But I feel like he's kind of always been the thing that Miguel Cabrera was four about four years there - he's always 2nd best.  The guy at the top seems to change every year, but the #2 guy stays the same.  What can you say?  Detroit has two guys in the top 5?  Check; happened for me the last two years, too.  Felix and Chris Sale in the top five?  Check; make that three years in a row for them.  Just throw in a random guy (Kluber this year, who was OUTSTANDING), and you've got a boring, typical, snooze-your-way-through-it AL Pitcher of the Year ballot.

NL Pitcher of the Year
1.  Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles
2.  Adam Wainwright, St. Louis
3.  Cole Hamels, Philadelphia
4.  Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati
5.  Jordan Zimmermann, Washington

More consistent than Felix has been the position of Cliff Lee on my NL Pitcher of the Year ballots.  The last three years, he's been #2 each time, with a different winner each time.  Well, this year, that changes.  Kershaw, who I've had on my ballot each of the last three years, is on top for the second year in a row.  Wainwright is a solid #2.  Hamels had a great year, though his W-L record will fool you.  Cueto looked like a sure-thing winner before Kershaw came back.  But he faded down the stretch, and there were a lot of guys with great years this year.  As for Zim?  Well, he's a Wisconsin guy, and there were about 50 pitchers who could've taken that #5 spot, so I gave it to a local fave and someone who definitely deserved it (full disclosure:  he WAS the #5 player on the ballot, but the difference between 5 and 10 was pretty meaningless).

AL Player of the Year
1.  Mike Trout, Los Angeles
2.  Corey Kluber, Cleveland
3.  Josh Donaldson, Oakland
4.  Michael Brantley, Cleveland
5.  Alex Gordon, Kansas City
6.  Felix Hernandez, Seattle
7.  Adrian Beltre, Texas
8.  Jose Bautista, Toronto
9.  Chris Sale, Chicago
10.  Robinson Cano, Seattle

Talk about boring!  Trout on top, year three in a row.  He's the best player in baseball.  That's it.  I don't even think there's another player in the conversation.  I had Donaldson at #2 last year, and he's "all the way down" to #3 this year, although he IS the second position player listed again.  A comment on the pitchers:  I've never had three in my top-ten before.  They were great, and that's why they're here.  It's actually really unfortunate that Kluber's not going to get more MVP support.  I expect him to finish outside the top ten in the BBWAA vote, and that's absolutely absurd. 
The next guys on the list, Brantley and Gordon, are great.  Gordon's a familiar face.  Brantley REALLY came into his own this year:  first All-Star appearance, 154 OPS+, 20 HR, 45 2B, 200 H, and great defense in LF.  He's my early dark horse candidate for NEXT year's AL MVP... you know, if Trout is tired of winning it (or if the voters just get sick of giving it to him).
The down-ballot guys (Beltre, Bautista, and Cano) are VERY familiar down-ballot faces.  They all had great years - which is to say, what they consider "normal" years.  Some thoughts, old-school-baseball-card-style:  Seeing Joey Bats come back from two injury-plagued years to still be one of the top hitters in MLB has been satisfying...Cano's last five years in OPS+ (talk about consistent) 142, 147, 148, 133, 141...Beltre has 2604 hits (!!!), and should reach 3000 in 2017, his age-38 season.  For those who would look at his age-35 season and suggest that he must be fading, he posted a 147 OPS+ - the SECOND HIGHEST of his career!  Plus, he passed 10000 PAs this year.  Next year, he'll top 80 WAR, and nothing he does will shock me.

NL Player of the Year
1.  Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles
2.  Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee
3.  Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh
4.  Anthony Rendon, Washington
5.  Giancarlo Stanton, Miami
6.  Jason Heyward, Atlanta
7.  Jhonny Peralta, St. Louis
8.  Carlos Gomez, Milwaukee
9.  Buster Posey, San Francisco
10.  Russell Martin, Pittsburgh

I'll start at the bottom:  two catchers, Martin and Posey.  Both were great.  I stuck Gomez next, because I just think that dude deserves more credit than he gets.  Another OUTSTANDING year for him.  Not as many homers robbed as last year, but still great D in center, and a mighty bat to boot.  Peralta... what a find for the Cards!  The would not have made the playoffs without him.  Who was expecting the best season of his career from a guy on the wrong side of 30?  But, it's probably just that thing where guys go to St. Louis, and inexplicably play out of their minds (see:  Walker, Larry; Clark, Will; Berkman, Lance, and ALL THE PITCHERS).  Heyward's here because of his defense.  Honestly, we were spoiled by his age-20 season, with the 131 OPS+ and the .335 BABIP and a number of walks WAY out of line with the rest of his career.  Unfortunately, he'll likely be remembered as a disappointment because he had the audacity to be "too good" his first year.  But that's a LONG time from now.  Heyward has yet to play his age-25 season, and while he's not hitting as many homers, he's better at stealing bases, he's walking more, and his defense just keeps (somehow) getting better.  He's still got a bright future, so don't sleep on him yet!  Stanton... what can you say?  A guy actually YOUNGER than Heyward, and with such prodigious power, Stanton could've been the MVP this year were it not for 17 missed games (he didn't play from 9/12 on).  He still managed to lead the NL in HR and TB (also SLG, but the injury doesn't affect the rate stat so much).  The concern with him is that, in his five seasons, he's played 100, 150, 123, 116, and 145 games.  If he's really going to miss time like that every year, it's a concern moving forward.  Rendon, a first-rounder from 2011 (#6 overall) is young (born June 1990), but already elite.  He led the NL in Runs Scored, and managed a 125 OPS+.  On Bill James's site, Rendon is listed as the top player in all MLB - ahead even of Trout and Kershaw.  Definitely a player to watch in the future.
Finally, we get to the top three.  Third, I have Cutch.  Last year's MVP has an argument for it again this year, and would be expected to win it, were it not for the unusually incredible season by #1.  Led the NL in OBP, OPS, and OPS+.  Expect a third-straight top-3 MVP finish from him.
At #2, I have a Brewer.  That shouldn't be TOO big a surprise, because I've had a Brewer in my top three four years running (Braun at #2 in 2011, when he won, Braun at #1 in 2012, Gomez at #2 last year, and Lucroy this year - makes you wonder what this team could do if they had all put it together the same year).  Luc hit 53 doubles, and did the best catching in baseball.  A .301/.373/.465 slash from ANYONE is impressive; from a catcher who caught 136 games (plus 19 at 1B, plus 1 as a DH), it's downright unbelievable.  I considered giving him the nod as the top player.  It was his (or Cutch's, or Stanton's) for the taking in September, but instead, the nod has to go to...
Kershaw.  What can you say that hasn't been said?  Fourth-straight ERA title.  Third-straight ERA+ title (so you know it wasn't JUST pitching in Chavez Ravine), a 21-3 record (I know, I know... but STILL), and an absolutely ABSURD 7.71 K:BB ratio.  200 Ks for the fifth year running, 6 CG (most in baseball)... and all that while making only 27 starts (previous five years:  31, 32, 33, 33, 33).   He AVERAGED 7-and-a-third per start and led in FIP and WHIP.  What can you say?  This was a better season than Verlander's MVP year, at least on a per-start basis.  I generally try to avoid pitchers since they have their own award, but you can't do much about it when someone's as good as Kershaw was, and none of the batters take up the challenge.

That's it for me.  Anyone wanna debate?

As usual, I started from a base of adding Fangraphs WAR+ Baseball-Reference WAR, and deviated as necessary.  Special thanks to Fangraphs, Baseball-Reference, and The Baseball Gauge - the three best sites on the internet!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The 25 Most Influential People in Baseball History

Graham Womack, who runs the annual "50 Best Players Not in the Hall of Fame" poll over at his site, Baseball Past & Present, is running a new poll.  He's calling it, "The 25 Most Influential People in Baseball History."  This is my ballot, which I ranked in order, although that wasn't necessary for the purposes of the "assignment."
1.  Jackie Robinson - In my opinion, Robinson is the player who has most transcended baseball.  Not the greatest player of all-time, but in the top 50 (higher if you love a good peak).  Definitely brave beyond all reason, and a remarkable historical figure.  I couldn't have put anyone else here.
2.  Babe Ruth - The only other person one could have reasonably put ahead of Robinson, in my estimation.  Again, if "transcends baseball" is the highest compliment a figure can achieve in baseball, Ruth is the only one other than Robinson to do that.  "Ruthian" is an adjective normal, non-baseball-loving people use, for goodness sakes!  Inarguably the greatest hitter of his time, and probably any other.
3.  Cap Anson - The man who made Jackie Robinson necessary.  Yeah, he was a great player.  But his legacy, ultimately, is the color barrier.  And, though it was a terrible, awful, no-good, very bad thing, it had a HUGE impact, costing the rest of us the joy of seeing a bunch of great players play in the same league.
4.  Henry Chadwick - Inventor of the box score, he shaped how we understand the game.  We owe him a debt.
5.  Bill James - He made us re-think how we understand the game.  He's a pompous ass, but a delightful one.  His writing makes me laugh, makes me think, makes me angry, and is a constant delight.  And that's beyond his contributions to baseball statistics, which are unmatched since Chadwick.  My personal favorite.
6.  Curt Flood - There are a lot of people who have opinions of what Curt Flood did.  Popularly, lately, I think you see more and more people saying that Flood took a bad course of action in challenging the reserve clause.  I disagree.  His and Marvin Miller's campaign to make baseball's labor laws fairer are the greatest victory in baseball since Jackie Robinson's first game.  I only regret I felt I couldn't put both Miller and Flood on the list, and I thought Flood deserved the nod.
7.  Bud Selig - Love him, hate him, whatever.  He's done more to shape baseball than any other commissioner, he's overseen the greatest financial growth in the history of the game, and he's brought baseball successfully into the 21st century, in spite of people claiming its death.  Any opinion on Selig is valid, but he's DEFINITELY been influential.
8.  Charlie Comiskey - A fantastically divisive owner, maybe more than Charlie Finley or George Steinbrenner.  I thought I only had room for one, and Comiskey was my choice.
9.  Hank Aaron - The hero who broke Babe Ruth's home run record with grace.  A true American hero, and the man who every Milwaukee boy is brought up to believe was and is the game's greatest ambassador.  Thanks for all you've done, Hank!
10.  Buck O'Neil - The man who made the Negro Leagues live.  He carried on the legacy when others would not; he made the Negro League museum in Kansas City a reality, and a memorial to all the brilliant and wonderful men who deserve to be honored and remembered.  Although he's not remembered in Cooperstown himself, he got a bunch of other men there, too.  There's perhaps been no better person in the history of the Greatest Game.
11.  Joe Jackson - Can you tell the story of baseball without Shoeless Joe?  The 1919 Black Sox represent a crucial moment in baseball history, and Shoeless Joe makes us think about innocence and guilt.  He is perhaps the last American icon who is well-remembered in spite of being illiterate.  Less than a hundred years have passed, but Shoeless Joe represents an America of a different millennium.  A wonderful ballplayer, and a representative of the one of the great stains on baseball's history.
12.  Cal Ripken, Jr. - The man who saved baseball.  Baseball's Iron Man.  An icon in Baltimore.  Legend.  Though he doesn't have the cachet of a Robinson or Ruth, he's perhaps the man next on the list of those who have actually transcended the game and entrenched themselves in the American imagination.
13.  Hank Greenberg - The Jackie Robinson of Jews.  He did it in a climate in which antisemitism was growing in America and abroad, and he carried the weight of a whole group of people with aplomb.  Like Jackie, a true hero.
14.  Roberto Clemente - Perhaps the Jackie Robinson of Latinos.  Though there were certainly great Latin-American players before Clemente, he captured the imagination like no other.  The arm, the clutch hitting, the humanitarianism.  You can't not love Clemente.  Plus, the subject of a great rant in City Slickers, the non-baseball movie with perhaps the most baseball references of any.
15.  Jose Canseco - The man who blew the lid on the "steroid era."  A great player in his own right and baseball's first 40-40 man, Canseco became more famous for his book after his career was over.  Though no one will mistake him for a great human being, the culture of baseball in 2014 owes more to Jose Canseco than nearly anyone else in history.
16.  Pete Rose - Like Joe Jackson, Rose was a man who left baseball in disgrace.  Nonetheless, the story of baseball is impossible to tell without the story of Pete Rose.  Like so many others, a flawed man whose flaws proved to be both his salvation on the field, and his downfall at his retirement.
17.  Satchel Paige - Was Satchel Paige the greatest pitcher to ever play the game?  I'm inclined to think "yes," but the aforementioned Cap Anson prevented me from answering the question with any certainty.  Undoubtedly, Paige was the game's greatest showman, and it's almost certain that no one before or since has pitched nearly as much as he.
18.  Ted Williams - The stories of Williams as a player alone would be enough to get him on this list:  the last .400 hitter, the home run in the final at bat, The Science of Hitting.  Heck - when I even think of watching him in his wheelchair, sitting and talking hitting with Tony Gwynn at the 1999 All-Star Game, I still get chills (seriously - it happened three times while I typed this sentence).  But more than anything else, what gets him to rank this high (and perhaps he should be higher) is that he used his Hall of Fame induction speech not to rip the media that ripped him, not to prop up himself or his accomplishments, but to ensure that there would be Negro League players in the Hallowed Halls of Cooperstown.  A great advocate.
19.  Ty Cobb - Once revered as the game's greatest player (and hitter), Cobb was like none other.  Still the owner of the game's highest-ever average, he also set hits and steals records in his day.  Though the game has changed, and though cultural mores make many of Cobb's views (particularly on race) look wrongheaded, he would've surely been a great ballplayer in any generation.
20.  Cy Young - The only man who truly succeeded in the days of the closer mound, the farther mound, the pre-1900 game and the post-1900 game; and all he got for it was 511 wins and an award named after him.
21.  Lou Gehrig - The Iron Horse.  How many baseball players get a biopic that's beloved 50+ years later?  Just Gehrig, so far.
22.  Yogi Berra - The most quotable of baseball's legends, Berra has remained as significant a figure in his post-playing life as he was as a player - and his playing legacy was only as a 3-time MVP and the lynchpin to the greatest dynasty the game has ever known.
23.  Joe DiMaggio - 56.
24.  Willie Mays - I thought about putting Barry Bonds here, I really did.  But his godfather may deserve it even more.  Was there ever a player better than Mays?  Many don't think so; I can't say they're wrong.
25.  Mike Trout - Yes, this is the controversial choice.  He's of course being picked for what I think he will do, but I'm also picking him for the fact that he's represented, for two years, the "advanced stats" vs. "old-time stats" debate.  And no matter what stats you love, he's the best player in baseball today.  I can't believe I've been spoiled enough to live through Barry Bonds' offensive explosion of the early 2000s, the blissful dominance of Prince Albert, and the rise of young Mike Trout.  I can't wait to see what he has in store for us.

Monday, February 3, 2014

"Most Prolific Offense in NFL History"?????????????

It was a pretty common sight to see the words "Most Prolific Offense in NFL History" (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) in articles references the AFC Champ Broncos in the lead-up to Super Bowl Sunday.  There were reasons for this, of course.  They led the league in offense in the most offense-heavy year of all-time.  They set a record for points scored (and became the first team to ever top 600).  Manning set the passing yardage and TD records.  But, as their 8-point output in the Big Game showed, perhaps their offense wasn't all it seemed.

I think it's only fair to measure a team against its own context.  So I'm going to use a simple measure to check how great the Broncos' offense really was.

This is a REALLY fast study you can do with any team, from any era.

All you do is a quick ratio.  The team's number of points scored, divided by the average number of points a team scored that season.  This tells you, essentially, how many season's worth of points the team scored in the season in question.  Let's look at the 2013 Broncos.

The Broncos scored 606 points in 2013.

All 32 teams scored 11987 points.

Divide the latter by the former (11987/32) and we see that the average team scored 374.59375 points in the season.

Then we do a simple ratio.  606/374.59375=1.618

In other words, Denver scored 1.6 season's worth of points this year.  But is that really the best figure in the 16-game era?

I picked 10 teams which I believe represent the best offenses of the era.  Truth be told, they're probably NOT the 10 best teams.  You could probably find someone better, because some of these may be overrated.  Either way, they're the ones I tried, because I'm interested in getting a quick answer, not necessarily the right answer.  Here is a list of the teams and how many points they scored:

2013 Broncos - 606 points
2007 Patriots - 589 points
2011 Packers - 560 points
1998 Vikings - 556 points
1983 Redskins - 541 points
1999 Rams - 526 points
2004 Colts - 522 points
1994 49ers - 505 points
1991 Redskins - 485 points
1981 Chargers - 478 points

Now here they are, reordered how they rank when we divide their scoring by their scoring context:

2007 Patriots - 1.703
1998 Vikings - 1.637
2013 Broncos - 1.618
1991 Redskins - 1.602
1999 Rams - 1.582
2011 Packers - 1.578
1994 49ers - 1.559
1983 Redskins - 1.549
2004 Colts - 1.518
1981 Chargers - 1.446

Well, the 2013 Broncos, the 2011 Packers, even the 1983 Redskins, and (expecially) the 2004 Colts look quite a bit worse this way; the 1991 Redskins look astonishingly good this way.  The '91 'Skins are also the top-ranked team to have actually won the Super Bowl.  In fact, only three of these teams ('91 Redskins, '94 49ers, and '99 Rams) won the Big One at all.

Adjusting for context is something that people virtually NEVER do with football stats. I don't know why this is.  As someone who's more of a "baseball guy," it's almost laughable, since baseball has been doing this for a LONG time.  But it's fun to goof around and see some things in a new light.  And, like just about every "study" I've ever done, this one spits back to me yet another reason to consider the 2007 Patriots the greatest team in NFL history (at least in something resembling the modern era).  Certainly, I'd have no qualms about saying that they were better at scoring than the 2013 Broncos.  The 17-points more that the Broncos is more than made up for by the context in which each team played, even though they seem to be contemporaries.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Overrated and Underrated in MLB

Over at HHS today, Bryan O'Connor posted a query about who the most over- and underrated players in MLB were.  And specifically, he asked that we (if we were so inclined) devise a method for measuring it.  I came up with separate lists for position players and pitchers, and I want to post the comments I wrote as I came up with my method over here on my own blog.  Why have something so fun only floating around on OTHER people's sites?

Here's what I wrote:


To mimic fantasy baseball, I took five categories: HR, R, RBI, SB, and H (I took H instead of BA, because I wanted them all to be cumulative). Then I set up a fake fantasy scoring system: 1 pt per hit, 2 pts per RBI or R, 5 pts per HR or SB. This way, everything is (sort of) scaled to H, such that 200 H=100 RBI=100 R=40 HR=40 SB, and a 200 H, 100 RBI, 100 R, 40 HR, 40 SB season is worth 1000 points (that’s a pretty awesome season, I think). Then, for one season, I would divide the number by 2500 – because 1000/2500=.400, which is a batting average representatively awesome enough that it goes with the stats I posted earlier.

Then, I took WAR/25 (in other words, the above season would be seen as equal to a 10 WAR season). You can quibble with my number sense or not, but the goal was to come up with a system, right?
Anyway, for a running three year total, I still just added everything together and divided, but by 7500 and 75, respectively, so the results were scaled to one another. Then I just subtracted the second column from the first (I tried dividing; that didn’t work very well because of negative numbers). I used all players with 1000 PAs in the last 3 years. This made for 226 hitters Fangraphs gave me in the Custom Report I generated for this project.

The Most Overrated Players:
Adam Dunn
Mark Reynolds
Eric Hosmer
Raul Ibanez
Alex Rios
Michael Young
Nelson Cruz
Ichiro Suzuki
Delmon Young
Rajai Davis

The Most Underrated Players
Buster Posey
Mike Trout
Yadier Molina
Joey Votto
Carlos Ruiz
AJ Ellis
Joe Mauer
Evan Longoria
Matt Carpenter
Ben Zobrist

Now, if you ask me, that list looks pretty darn close to right, as far as who sabermetrically-minded folk see as the superstars of baseball, as opposed to what fantasy-focused folk see. This worked pretty well. I’m gonna try something with pitchers, and see what I can do. Be right back…


And my second comment (this one has been corrected, since I made an error when I initially posted it on HHS):


I’m back!

I did something similar for pitchers.

The categories I used were IP, W, S, SO, ER, BB, and H. I shaped them into five “buckets,” and all had to be cumulative, just like the hitters. The five categories I used were IP, 10*W+5*SV, SO, IP-ER, and IP*2-(BB+H). They also had to be scaled to one another. So just as the hitters were scaled to H, I did the same, but to IP. The “ideal” season (and worth 1000 points, just like the hitters) is this: 200 IP, 20 W or 40 SV, 200 SO, 50 ER (2.25 ERA), 200 BB+H (1.000 WHIP). That season would be worth 1000 “points,” just like with the hitters. I used 180 IP minimum, so that the report was roughly the same size as the hitters (I had 226 hitters, 239 pitchers).

I’m not as confident in this method as I am with the hitters; especially using Fangraphs WAR, rather than some combination of B-R and Fangraphs, which would be my preference. Nonetheless, the list actually looks pretty good, I think. So here they are.

The Most Overrated Pitchers
Bronson Arroyo
Ervin Santana
RA Dickey
Tim Lincecum
Yovani Gallardo
Jeremy Hellickson
James Shields
Ian Kennedy
Jason Vargas
Kyle Lohse

The Most Underrated Pitchers
Matt Harvey
David Robertson
Phil Coke
Roy Oswalt
Aaron Cook
Kevin Millwood
Javier Vazquez
Chris Carpenter
Matt Belisle
Hyun-Jin Ryu

There are a lot of relief pitchers on that bottom list. Before you go about saying I’ve overvalued saves, only three of those guys (Holland with 67, Papelbon with 98 and Kimbrel with 138) have more than 4 saves in the last three years. And when I changed the formula to be SV/3 instead of SV/2, it was still the same 10 names – the order only changed slightly.

Again, I’m not as confident about this as the position player list. I don’t know that it’s accurate, but it’s certainly one way of looking at it.


Specifically, I wanted to post a couple of things here that I thought about as I did this little project.

First, what are some factors that lead to over- or underrating players?

1.  Park factors - Hitters in hitters' parks are overrated; likewise for pitchers in pitchers' parks.
2.  Guys who provide a lot of defensive value - This is obvious; it's not even measured in the former measure.
3.  Positional scarcity - Also not taken into account is position.  To be fair, I generalized to "fantasy players," and fantasy players are usually VERY aware of positional scarcity, so that's not entirely fair.  The mainstream public, though, is not.
4.  DIPS theory - Using Fangraphs WAR, this is going to have a huge impact on who's rated well or poorly.  RA Dickey's numbers suffer from this in particular.  He may actually be a bit overrated (since his performance last year was so bad), but Fangraphs openly acknowledges that FIP-based WAR underrates knuckleballers, so Dickey suffers.
5.  Outs used - Leadoff hitters who don't walk a lot can accumulate MANY more at-bats than players who hit lower in the lineup and take the occasional walk.  Since all of the stats used in the former calculation are at bat-based (well, technically RBI and R aren't, but RBI in particular come pretty scarcely on BBs), that's a major factor.  Plus, if you imagine two guys, each with the same five "basic" stats, wouldn't you prefer one who did all that in 500 ABs, but with 100 BBs and no CS if the other guy also had 600 PA, but no walks and 15 CS?  The first would have created 300 outs; the second would have created 415.  It's an ENORMOUS difference, and it's often not thought of.
6.  Guys who hit lost of doubles - Doubles are the ugly stepsister of hits.  They're better than singles, but the "H" and "HR" column tell you nothing about them.  Ditto for three-baggers; there are just fewer of those, so they're less of a thing to worry about.  Guys who slap a bunch of those hits, though, are tremendously underrated by the "newspaper" stats.

One last thought I should share is just the formulas for each, in long form.

For hitters:


For pitchers:


The idea is that these are equivalent; they're probably not.  But it's really just for fun, so don't worry about it too much!  Any thoughts?

Saturday, November 30, 2013

WARSCOR 3.1 & the 2014 Hall of Fame Ballot

I just recently rolled out WARSCOR 3.0, so why would I mention WARSCOR 3.1?  Because I made a tweak.  The tweak is so minor, in fact, that it would probably be more appropriately be called WARSCOR, but I'm not going to make so many updates (I hope) that that will be necessary.  So WARSCOR 3.1 it is.  The only change between WARSCOR 3.0 and 3.1 is multiplying by a constant at the end.  Why?  Because I think career WAR numbers have actually developed a sort of currency in the world of baseball stats today.  And WARSCORs are always lower than career WAR numbers, so it's hard to tell.  What does a "40" mean?  Well, instead of leaving it as it is, we're going to multiply everything by 1.618 at the end.  Why?  Because phi doesn't get as much love as pi, even though it's also a cool irrational number.  But also because that worked out really well as the number - it brought everything pretty well in line with what it needed to be.  So anyway, I'm now presenting all 36 candidates for the BBWAA Hall of Fame vote, as well as the 6 players on the Veterans Committee ballot (I'll put the VC nominees in italics, so you can tell them apart).  I'll post the players WARSCOR, career WAR, HOF monitor and HOF standards.  The last two of these were defined by Bill James in The Politics of Glory (also known as What Happened to the Hall of Fame?) as good measures of a candidates qualifications for the Hall of Fame.  In HOFm, 100 means (roughly) a Hall of Famer, while 120 signifies a virtual lock.  In HOFs, 45-ish is around the average HOF player, so scores around 35 or above merit consideration, while a score in the 60s signifies a virtual lock.  Without further ado, here are the candidates for the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, NY, for 2014:

Barry Bonds:  131.9, 162.6, 340, 76
Roger Clemens:  115.8, 139.2, 332, 73
Greg Maddux:  93.5, 104.8, 254, 70
Curt Schilling:  80.6, 80.7, 171, 46
Jeff Bagwell:  78.3, 79.6, 150, 59
Mike Mussina:  76.0, 82.7, 121, 54
Larry Walker:  72.6, 72.4, 148, 58
Frank Thomas:  71.7, 73.6, 194, 60
Alan Trammell:  70.5, 70.3, 118, 40
Edgar Martinez:  68.8, 68.1, 132, 50
Tom Glavine:  67.6, 74.0, 176, 52
Tim Raines:  67.0, 68.8, 90, 47
Craig Biggio:  66.7, 64.8, 169, 57
Rafael Palmeiro:  66.0, 71.8, 178, 57
Sammy Sosa:  65.0, 58.3, 202, 52
Mark McGwire:  64.6, 62.0, 170, 42
Mike Piazza:  64.6, 59.1, 207, 62
(Joe Torre:  57.6, 57.3, 96, 40)
Jeff Kent:  56.6, 55.0, 122, 51
Tommy John:  55.8, 62.2, 112, 44Fred McGriff:  55.2, 52.4, 100, 48
Kenny Rogers:  54.5, 51.2, 66, 29
Ted Simmons:  53.9, 50.3, 124, 44
Luis Gonzalez:  53.4, 51.2, 103, 48
Dave Parker:  50.6, 40.0, 124, 42
Don Mattingly:  50.3, 42.2, 134, 34
Jack Morris:  48.2, 43.9, 122, 39
Dave Concepcion:  44.0, 40.1, 106, 29
Moises Alou:  42.9, 39.8, 80, 44
Steve Garvey:  41.6, 37.5, 130, 32
Ray Durham:  37.7, 33.7, 64, 33
Lee Smith:  31.4, 29.3, 135, 13
Dan Quisenberry:  31.2, 24.8, 77, 19
Hideo Nomo:  29.4, 21.7, 24, 14
Paul LoDuca:  24.4, 18.0, 21, 26
Richie Sexson:  23.6, 17.8, 46, 21
Armando Benitez:  23.0, 19.2, 73, 14
Sean Casey:  22.2, 16.3, 38, 19
Mike Timlin:  21.0, 19.4, 49, 8
Jacque Jones:  16.8, 11.4, 8, 12
JT Snow:  16.8, 11.7, 16, 16
Eric Gagne:  16.3, 11.7, 46, 17
Todd Jones:  14.6, 10.4, 78, 3

Some thoughts:  WARSCOR 3.1 ranks the candidates (even the ones at the bottom of the list) within two spots of where JAWS ranks them compared to one another, with the exception of Tom Glavine.  JAWS is much more bullish on Glavine than I am, but that's only because (in my opinion), JAWS's use of a 7-year peak gives one a more favorable impression of Glavine's peak that is merited.  I thought that was kinda neat, though. ...  You may have noticed that Joe Torre is included, in spite of not being on the ballot as a player.  I thought it would be fun to include him, to see where he shook out.  By WARSCOR, he's a better bet as a player than everyone on the Vets ballot!  He should have received MUCH more consideration than he did.  It's a shame that he didn't; that being said, though, he will get in as a manager, so at least he's got that going for him. ...  Can you believe the difference between the HOFs and HOFm for Lee Smith?  CRAZY!  If you have any familiarity with those metrics, you'll know that HOFs rewards career accomplishments, while HOFm looks at a career on a season-by-season basis.  Usually, they're in pretty good agreement - but that's the most extreme difference I've ever seen.  That HOFs score is very good - first-ballot-electee kind of good - but that HOFm score is more of an off-the-ballot-with-only-one-vote-in-the-first-year kind of score.  Insane difference.  No wonder he's hovered around 50% forever - measured one way, he obviously deserves it - measured the other, he's not worth a second look.  Interesting. ...  There are eighteen (EIGHTEEN) players on the BBWAA ballot who are more qualified via WARSCOR than anyone from the VC ballot.  It's been said before, but - can you say "logjam?" ...  Did you know that the link between Bonds and steroids starts with 1999, and he played 13 seasons before that?  Did you know that Roger Clemens' association with steroids starts with his time in Toronto, and that he also played 13 seasons before that?  If you took only their first 13 seasons, Bonds would have a WARSCOR of 100.0, Clemens' would be 88.3.  They would still be the best- and third-best players on the ballot, respectively.  They will eventually get in, because a Hall of Fame without those two is a bit of a farce. ...  Did you see how close some of the WARSCOR numbers are to the career WAR numbers of some of these players?  For Schilling, Walker, Trammell, and Torre, the number is +/- 3 of their actual career WAR.  It seems to break down below 40 WAR and above 80, but when we talk borderline HOF players, we're almost always in the 40-80 range, so that's where it's most important for it to "work."  Besides, the 1.618 multiplier is pretty irrelevant - it's just to make things look more "normal" to people who are familiar with WAR, so regardless of the fact that it seems to break down a bit, you know that a player with a WARSCOR<40 a="" and="" candidate="" is="" not="" player="" really="">80 is a shoe-in.  And since it's really designed to check HOF candidacy, it's a good measure, I think. ...  WARSCOR probably underrates catchers.  The catcher-adjustment in WAR does a good job for single seasons.  But it's not really designed to compensate for the toll catching takes on a body over the course of a career.  It's quite reasonable to argue that Piazza, Torre (if you're counting him), and Simmons (also Lo Duca, but he's really a non-factor in this discussion) should rank higher.  I wouldn't quibble with someone who argued that.

I think that does it for now.  Any thoughts?

As always, thanks to for the stats!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Best NFL Teams Ever, Part III: 1970-2012

And here we are:  post AFL-NFL merger.  Basically, this is the part of history football fans are generally familiar with.  Let's get straight to it.  Here's the 1970s:

1973 Los Angeles Rams, .885
1976 Pittsburgh Steelers, .880
1972 Miami Dolphins, .877
1975 Pittsburgh Steelers, .865
1970 Minnesota Vikings, .856
1973 Miami Dolphins, .854
1975 Minnesota Vikings, .841
1971 Dallas Cowboys, .839
1973 Dallas Cowboys, .828
1977 Los Angeles Rams, .824

Okay, be honest:  raise your hand if you thought the 1972 Dolphins were going to be the top team of the decade.  It's fine if you didn't.  But seriously, I'm SUPER impressed if you had the Rams with TWO of the top-ten teams of the decade.  The Rams did make one Super Bowl, but that was in 1979, when they scored only 14 more points than they allowed and went 9-7.  Both years, 1973 and 1977, they were upset in the  first round of the playoffs.  And in 1973, they actually did have the best record in the league:  12-2 - which is the record my system predicts, more or less (12.4-1.6).

The Vikings also had two great teams this decade, and made the Super Bowl thrice; just not in their best years, appearing in 1973, 1974, and 1976 (they also lost the Big Game in 1969).  The stars never seemed to align for the Vikes in the 1970s... or otherwise.

The 1972 Dolphins went undefeated, but weren't that great of a team.  In my opinion, calling them even a top-five all-time team is preposterous, and there's certainly an argument to be made via this model that they're not a top-20 team.  They just got lucky enough to win one-and-a-half more than they were expected.

The 1980s:

1985 Chicago Bears, .874
1984 San Francisco 49ers, .865
1984 Miami Dolphins, .817
1983 Washington Redskins, .799
1987 San Francisco 49ers, .798
1989 San Francisco 49ers, .786
1988 Minnesota Vikings, .767
1986 Chicago Bears, .751
1980 Philadelphia Eagles, .747
1981 Philadelphia Eagles, .722

Remember how, in the 1980s, the Raiders won two Super Bowls, and all the rest were won by NFC teams?  Well, this nearly-all-NFC top-ten may give an indication why that was.  The 1980s had probably the most parity of any decade.  It's actually crazy in how many seasons the teams were jammed pretty closely together.  In the 1960s, there were more teams with a .900 "record" than there were .800 teams in the 1980s!  The reason this is interesting, I think, is that you often hear the 1985 Bears and the 1984 'Niners and the 1989 'Niners in
discussions of greatest ever teams.  Only the top two teams of the 1980s would have even made the 1970s top ten.  It seems to me that the most dominant teams of the 1980s simply weren't that dominant relative to their peers, at least in the regular season.  That being said, the 1985 Bears were a pretty special team.  They are a reasonable group to have in a discussion of the best-ever teams, as are the 1984 49ers.  But the fact of the matter remains, neither of those teams can stack up to the sheer dominance of earlier teams, like the 1968 Colts or 1962 Packers, or the later dominance of some teams from the 1990s or the 2000s.  Actually, the 1980s look a lot like the 2010s.  The only difference is, the 2010s aren't even half over, and have plenty of time for a few dominant teams to sneak in.

The 1990s:

If I asked you to guess the best team of the 1990s, I can guess that you'd think of a few teams:  perhaps the 1992, '93, or '95 Cowboys.  Maybe you're sneaky, and you know how great the '94 49ers were.  Perhaps you remember 1998:  the year of five truly dominant teams, particularly Denver and Minnesota.  Maybe you like a team that was basically the 1998 Vikings 2.0:  the 1999 Rams, the Greatest Show on Turf.  Or maybe you favor the all-around dominance of the 1996 Packers.  Do you know which one was best?  Take a look:

1991 Washington Redskins, .929
1999 St. Louis Rams, .926
1998 Minnesota Vikings, .882
1996 Green Bay Packers, .876
1992 San Francisco 49ers, .825
1994 San Francisco 49ers, .822
1993 San Francisco 49ers, .797
1995 San Francisco 49ers, .789
1998 Denver Broncos, .782
1997 Denver Broncos,  .779

The 1991 Washington Redskins are a team that I often worry history will somehow forget.  They weren't dynastic.  They played a little worse than they're points scored/allowed total should have indicated (I have them at 14.87 wins; basically, they should have gone 15-1).  They rolled through the playoffs, thrashing Atlanta 24-7, crushing Detroit 41-10, and very solidly handling a very good Bills team, 37-24.  It was an excellent team, but the year before they were 10-6, the year after 9-7.  And they were sandwiched in the 49ers-Cowboys era of dominance, which makes them forgettable - even if they were the best team of the bunch.
The four 49ers squad above rank as the #2, 3, 5, and 6 49ers teams of the 1980s-1990s dynasty.  It's actually quite possible that, in spite of only winning one Super Bowl, the 49ers were better in the 1990s than they were in the 1980s.  That's insane to think about, considering they won four titles in the 1980s.
The 1997 Broncos were supposed to lose the Super Bowl to Green Bay, who was coming off a title in 1996.  The AFC hadn't won a Super Bowl since the 1983 season, when the LA Raiders defeated the heavily-favored Redskins.  What all the pundits ignored, though, was that the 1997 Broncos were a better team than the Packers.  The 1998 Broncos get more press because they started off 13-0; what no one ever tells you is that they were, from a point-differential perspective, more or less the exact same team as the year before - only 3 one-thousandths of a point different.
The 1996 Packers are a team that I have often, in barroom-type arguments, argued were more or less the equal of the 1985 Bears.  I used to make this claim in spite of not having done this research.  Those Bears outperformed their expected record by a game; the Packers underperformed theirs.  But they profile, basically, as exactly the same.

The 2000s:

2007 New England Patriots, .954
2001 St. Louis Rams, .856
2005 Indianapolis Colts, .791
2006 San Diego Chargers, .785
2005 Seattle Seahawks, .774
2000 Oakland Raiders, .772
2007 Indianapolis Colts, .771
2006 Chicago Bears, .760
2004 New England Patriots, .757

If you're surprised by the top team of the 2000s, you weren't paying attention to the teams of the era.  I'm quite certain that, even if I included playoffs, I would reach the same conclusion:  the 2007 Patriots were the best team of the decade, bar none.  And, if you're into making timeline adjustments when ranking teams, there's an extremely reasonable argument that the 2007 Pats are the greatest team ever.  The only other team since 1943 to best the Pats' .954 mark is the 1946 Browns of the AAFC.  And if you don't want to count them, that's fine.  The only team who's particularly close to the Pats is the 1968 Colts, at .949.
Of all the various top-tens I've shown, this one had the best rate of getting to the Super Bowl:  half of these teams made the Big Game.  They have the worst rate of winning it; only one team did (the 2004 Pats).
The gap between the best team of the decade and the 3rd-best is astronomical, with the #2 team closer to #3 than #1.  The near-100-point-gap between 1st and 2nd is also, far and away, the largest of any decade.  The 1999 Rams were much closer to the 2007 Pats than the 2001 Rams were.
Much like the 49ers of the 1990s being superior to the 49ers of the 1980s, there's ALREADY an argument that the Patriots teams of the 2010s will have been better than the Patriots teams of the 2000s, even if they go completely without a title.

The 2010s;

Admittedly, there's not much to write home about here... yet.  We're still waiting for our most dominant teams, which I assume will be coming later.  Here's the top-5 so far:

2010 New England Patriots, .791
2011 Green Bay Packers, .783
2012 Denver Broncos, .764
2011 New England Patriots, .741
2012 Seattle Seahawks, .729

Yup, Denver and Seattle were the two best teams last year.
I can't help but think that a Green Bay-New England matchup in 2011 would have made for a great Super Bowl.  Not that the Giants-Pats game was a bad one.  It just would have been interesting.
I think most people would have guessed the 2011 Packers as the top team of the decade so far, since they went 15-1.  Of course, they actually profiled to be a 12.5-win team, not a 15-win team.

So far, the best team of the current season is the Denver Broncos (in spite of their first loss to the Colts yesterday), who are +101 on the season.  The undefeated Chiefs are at +88.  If I were to do percentages today, before the Monday Night game, I could do that.  There have been 106 games this year.  There have been 4896 points scored.  That's 46.188 per game - the highest scoring season since 1965, if the trend were to continue.  The Broncos are +101 through 7 games, which profiles to 5.6867 wins in 7 games, a percentage of .812.  The Chiefs are at .772.  So it's possible that Denver is headed towards being the best team of the decade so far.  Only time will tell.

It's been a couple weeks since I last updated this, which was in week 11.  Whoops.  We're officially 224 games into the 256-game NFL season, so just two weeks remain.  At the moment, there have been 10634 points scored in the NFL this year.  That's 47.5 per game (one of the highest numbers of all-time; maybe THE highest number of all-time; I haven't checked for a while).  Here are the top seven "winning percentages" as of week 15:

Seattle Seahawks - .763
Denver Broncos - .745
Kansas City Chiefs - .717
San Francisco 49ers - .682
Carolina Panthers - .681
New Orleans Saints - .634
Cincinnati Bengals - .620

I should really schedule-adjust these rankings, but I'm not going to do that just yet, as it would be a crapton of work, and I do this all manually.  As it stands, Denver is 12 points behind Seattle; we'll see if one of them can manage two blowouts in the last to weeks to go down as the "team of the decade."

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Best NFL Teams Ever, Continued: 1943-1969

This era of NFL history is oft forgotten, and it's a shame.  Football fans, for some reason, think of history as beginning with the Super Bowl.  But it just plain didn't.  And it's unfortunate that they think that way.  In this era, I'm going to start looking at best teams by decade, because I think that'll be more fun that just lumping everything together.  So, the first "decade" will be 1943-1949.  But that's only 7 years, you say.  Well, keep in mind that we covered 1940-1942 in the last post.  But even so, the 1943-1949 "decade" covers 11 seasons, because the AAFC days were four years long, meaning there were two seasons each year from 1946-1949.  So we're still covering 11 "years" in this group!  Without further ado, the best teams of 1943-1949:

1946 Cleveland Browns, 1.018
1949 Philadelphia Eagles, .922
1948 Chicago Bears, .896
1948 Philadelphia Eagles, .889
1948 San Francisco 49ers, .887
1947 Cleveland Browns, .879
1949 San Francisco 49ers, .869
1943 Chicago Bears, .868
1945 Philadelphia Eagles, .868
1949 Cleveland Browns, .828

As I'm sure you noticed, the Browns from three out of the four AAFC years made the list.  Also, in the last post, I said that no teams should have "won" more games than they played outside of the 1920-1942 era.  Well, obviously I was wrong, because the 1946 Browns so thoroughly dominated the competition that they deserve a spot in that group, as well.  Of course, it wasn't actually the NFL, so maybe you'll forgive my mistake.  Anyway, the Eagles had probably their best decade ever in the 1940s.  Which is why it's a real shame for Eagles fans that NFL fans so quickly forget this era of pro football.  You may also have noticed that teams 3-5 all played in the same year:  1948.  San Francisco, obviously was in a different league than the other two, so never played them.  The 'Niners didn't even make the playoffs in their league; despite having the better point differential, the 'Niners went 12-2, while Cleveland went undefeated, and got to play a Buffalo team that went 7-7 in the regular season for the title.  Cleveland won, and that San Francisco team was forgotten.  You'll also notice that the 1948 Cleveland team is the only AAFC Cleveland team not to make the top ten.  They were #11.  In the NFL in 1948, Philadelphia won the championship, but not over Chicago.  Much like in the AAFC, the Bears (10-2) didn't even win their division, so the Cardinals (11-1) were the losers to the Eagles.  That's just how it goes sometimes.

The 1950s:

1953 Cleveland Browns, .860
1951 Cleveland Browns, .840
1954 Cleveland Browns, .831
1958 Baltimore Colts, .828
1950 Cleveland Browns, .801
1956 Chicago Bears, .801
1950 Los Angeles Rams, .785
1952 Detroit Lions, .784
1954 Detroit Lions, .782
1953 Chicago Bears,  .765

Holy Cleveland!  Again, much like Philadelphia in the 1940s, Cleveland's Golden Age for pro football was the forgotten 1950s.  And that's a shame.  Cleveland won NFL titles in 1950, 1954, and 1955, and probably also had the best team in the league in 1951 and 1953.  In their first six years in the NFL, only Detroit in 1952 managed to beat them both head-to-head, and in cumulative points.  Detroit also won back-to-back titles in 1952 and 1953, and had a team just as good in 1954... but they were crushed 56-10 by the Browns.  Even so, this was the Lions' best decade.  And it's been forgotten.  You'll notice a theme:  for these teams who had their best years in these "forgotten" eras of the NFL's past, they haven't won a title since.  It's time to start celebrating history; we may not see a title in Cleveland or Detroit for a looooong time otherwise!

The 1960s:

Basically, the 1960s gets a break.  People kinda start to think of this as the "modern" game, mostly because the Lombardi Packers dominated the decade, both before and after the Super Bowl began.  This allows people to think of it as more or less the same game, so you'll sometimes see NFL "historians" reference the 1960s as being part of the "real" history of the NFL... even though there hadn't been any real changes between the game of the 1950s and the game of the 1960s.  Anyway, keep in mind that the 1960s includes 10 years of the AFL; therefore, there were 20 "seasons" in the 1960s.  So here's the list:

1968 Baltimore Colts, .949
1962 Green Bay Packers, .927
1968 Dallas Cowboys, .927
1969 Minnesota Vikings, .920
1961 Houston Oilers, .900
1967 Oakland Raiders, .872
1961 New York Giants, .865
1968 Oakland Raiders, .856
1966 Dallas Cowboys, .839
1967 Los Angeles Rams, .830
1964 Baltimore Colts, .829
1968 Kansas City Chiefs, .825
1967 Baltimore Colts, .820
1969 Kansas City Chiefs, .808
1966 Green Bay Packers, .783
1960 Cleveland Browns, .780
1961 Green Bay Packers, .779
1966 Kansas City Chiefs, .774
1963 New York Giants, .773
1963 Green Bay Packers, .765

I was extremely surprised by two things Packers-related.  First, I didn't realize that Lombardi's Packers had so frequently outperformed their point differentials.  It may have been luck.  It may have been something about the team.  I doubt you'd find another team as successful as they who so often outperformed superior teams.  Second, I was certain that the 1962 Packers would rank as the best team of the decade.  But it was, in fact, the infamous 1968 Colts (who famously lost to the Jets in Super Bowl III) who took the honor of "team of the decade."  This puts a whole new spin on the idea on just how big of an upset that game was.  The five teams above .900 are the most by any decade since 1943.  I wonder if that'll hold.

Another unfortunate side-effect of people forgetting the pre-Super-Bowl-era is that the great teams of the AFL, like the 1961 Oilers, are basically forgotten.  Also, one more Packers-related thing:  the team won 5 NFL titles in 7 years.  But their 4th best team of that stretch is one that didn't:  1963, the #20 team of the decade.

Well, that's it for post #2.  We'll see if I can fit in everything since 1970 in one post.  Catch you later.