Handicappers Prep to the NFL Season Part 3 Parlays

Many smart people view parlays as a bad bet.  Well they are, just like every other bet, if you do not a have positive expected value.

Here is the expected value calculation for someone who picks about 50%.

Lets use a 100 unit bet per game.  They will win 50% of the time and lose 50% of the time.  When they win they will win 100 and when they lose they will lose -110.  100*.5 + -110*.5 = -5(EV).  What this says is for every 100 units you bet you can expect to lose 5.  Over the course of 200 bets in the NFL you can expect to lose 1000 units.

Now if that same player plays a 2 team parlay the results to be expected are as follows.

The probability that a 50% player wins 2 of 2 games is .50*.50 = 25%.  Lets say the payout will be 2.6/1 on a two team parlay (it may vary slightly depending where you play it) So 100*.25*2.6 + -100*.75 = -10.  For every 100 bet the player can expect to lose -10 on each bet.  So that is twice as bad as betting the games straight.  Below you can see the expected value for each parlay for the 50% bettor based on 100 unit bets

3 team: -13 units
4 team: -17 units
5 team: -20.75 units

So the more games we add to a parlay the lower the EV becomes.  In other words the book take a larger percentage of each bet the more teams you put into a parlay.

Now lets assume you pick at 60%.  That is a very high number but one that we have come very close to over 400 plus games.

Our expected value on a straight bet of 100 is 100*.60+-110*.4 = +16.  That is 21 better than the 50% better.  A huge difference.  How do we do on parlays?

2 teams we expect to win 36% of the time with a payout of 2.6/1.  100*.36*2.6 + -100*.64 = 29.6

3 team: +52.5
4 team: +72.1
5 team: +97.2

So you can see that we can flip the tables on the sports books if we can pick at a 60% clip.  Now picking at a 60% clip is extremely difficult to do, but the numbers work at 55% also.  Betting parlays can allow us to bet smaller amounts with a better EV.

The real discipline comes in the fact that you are not going to win as many bets and you will have more losing weeks than if you play every game straight up.  But the winning weeks will be magnified to make up for it.  Now you if you go and play 10+ game parlays you may have a positive EV but the chances of hitting will be very slim.  At a 60% win rate you can expect to hit that bet 1 in every 58.5 times you play it.  Those are fantastic numbers when you consider the payout is much higher than that but you have to remember you may go multiple seasons before you hit one.

Much like in the Kelly system you need to know that you have a proven track record for performance.  Once you are confident in that record then you can play some parlays.  Parlays are a great way to use a small bankroll and build it quickly.  Again provided you are picking at a win rate you have in the past.

Using the Kelly is a good way to determine how much you should wager on each parlay.  If you are a flat bettor of 2% of your bankroll and want to add parlays in to your money management I would lower my bets to 1% flat and play 2 team parlays at .25% of my bank.  3 team parlays I would drop to .15 or .10%.  This may be conservative but remember if you are flat betting the same games you are parlaying you have added to your risk.  If you are following my system you may have multiple 2 team parlays with the same team.  If that team loses you will be losing more than the 2% flat bettor.  You may want to not flat bet at all and just play parlays.    Adjust your strategy accordingly.

Refer back to these articles and build your game plan for the season.  The teams are doing that now and so should you.  You will have a lot more fun and have a better chance at profitability if you get disciplined.

If you have a specific question in regards to how you are going to plan for this season or on a specific game or wager feel free to email me Statsational@gmail.com and I can try and be of assistance.

 

Follow on twitter @statsational

Handicappers Prep to the NFL Season Part 2

In Part 1 I discussed getting your bankroll together and a simple money/risk management game plan.  In part 2 I want to discuss some more advanced money management ideas.

 

Many of you have very small bankrolls.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.  If your bankroll is 50 or 50,000 it is still wise to use solid money management techniques.  What is huge risk to some is not much to others.  Be honest with yourself and what you can handle.

 

Kelly Criterion

 

If you have a relatively small bankroll and want to take greater risks with it then you may want to try the Kelly Criterion.  The math behind the system are a bit complex.  There is no need to totally understand it.  What you need to know is how to use it.  There are some great calculators out there like the one here.  That is the one I frequently will use if I am implementing Kelly into my games.

 

When developing my system I actually had the Kelly Criterion in mind.  I thought there may be a way to weigh the games to maximize profits.  With my system there are percentages given to each game.  What I have found is the games that my system gives a very high probability of winning will skew the bets so much in that games favor that the other games are virtually meaningless.  So what I do is weight the games evenly.  But let me back up a bit and go over Kelly in layman terms.

 

The Kelly system makes one huge assumption in order to work.  That is you are honest in your assessment of your win probability for each bet.  For a normal bet of -110 you need to win approximately 53% of the games you play in order to make money.  A good handicapper is going to win 55-58% and there are a rare few who can do better than that consistently.  When using the Kelly, despite hitting at close to 60% over the last 400 games, I will use a much more conservative Win prob number.  I use 55%.  Below is an example of how you would play 3 games using the SBR calculator.

index

http://www.sbrforum.com/betting-tools/kelly-calculator/

 

 

 

 

You have 3 independent events (3 games).  I use a Kelly multiplier of 1 if the bankroll is small.  You can us .50 to be more conservative or even .25.  Consecutive series you can keep at 1.  Changing this just shows you what your bankroll would be if you did this x amount of times.

 

After clicking All you will see that the system says I should bet $25 per game straight and $1 parlays for all 3.  My bankroll is too small here to warrant a bet on a 3 team parlay but with a bigger bankroll it would give you a number on that.

 

The key with Kelly is being accurate, or at least conservative, in your win probability.  Like anything else if you have a bad season you won’t be making any money here, as a matter of fact you will lose it much quicker than flat betting 2%.  With a $500 bankroll the flat bettor will be betting $10 on each game.  The Kelly bettor has $78 at risk in total.  A much bigger chunk of the bankroll.  But the more games you put in the calculator the smaller the bet sizes will be.

 

I love using Kelly for a small bankroll.  It is very difficult to do when your bankroll grows because of the size you will be betting.  It is not a bad idea to take $500 or $1000 or whatever is a small bankroll for you (10% of your normal bankroll would be about right) and try out the Kelly Criterion.

 

Labouchere System (Labby)

 

The Labouchere System or Labby is one you that was created for even money roulette situations and can be used in any even money (or close to it) proposition.  Because of that many sports bettors have turned to this money management system.

 

In short the system is based on the premise that in coin flip situations there can only be so many heads flipped in a row.  Now of course any statistician will tell you that in the short term you can get many heads or tails in a row.  Just like you can lose 10 straight hands of blackjack, see red come 10 straight times in roulette or lose 10 straight sports bets.  When these runs happen the system gets very expensive.  Let me show you how it works.

 

Lets say I want to win $100.  I can set up a Labby that looks like this.

 

25 25 25 25

 

So I have 4 $25 bets lined up.  Labby works to knock these bets out and clear the row.  To do this you add the last number and the first to make your first bet.  So in this case $25 +$25 or a $50 bet.  Lets assume that bet loses and the bettor loses $55 (-110 odds).  That $55 gets added to the end of the previous labby and looks like this.

 

25 25 25 25 55

 

The next bet is then the last and first numbers $55 + $25 = $80.

 

As you can see already we are now betting $80 just to get to 3 numbers and initially we wanted to win $100 total.  If that bet loses the labby looks like this

 

25 25 25 25 55 88

 

It gets very expensive very quickly.  The reason people fall in love with it is because you do not have to pick 53% to make a profit.  As a matter of fact you do not need to pick over 50%.  But where the system fails is your risk/reward ratio is so bad that you can go broke rather quickly.

 

I would much prefer playing a reverse labby system.  That is the system is exactly the same as above except you take numbers away when you lose and add your win total to the end when you win.  So using the same $100 win goal we have

 

25 25 25 25

 

If we win the first bet of $50 we would add it to the labby line.

 

25 25 25 25 50.

 

Now I am betting $75 on the next game.  A win would look like this.

 

25 25 25 25 50 75

 

As you can see you are now compounding winning bets as opposed to losing ones.  You will need a goal to hit to end the line or go to no numbers left which would mean losing your initial stake of $100.  This is far more advantageous but used far less.  The reason is you will lose far more often than you win but the wins will be far greater than the losses.

 

Lets keep going with a goal of $200 profit.  That means the line needs to total $200 (my initial $100 plus $300 profit)  The above line is now at $225.  With our next bet 75 + 25 = 100.  If that loses we are now

 

25 25 25 50

 

next bet is 75.  A win would look like this

 

25 25 25 50 75

 

The next bet is $100 and a win would hit the goal and we would stop and start a new labby.

 

I would advise never using labby and only using a reverse labby for small stakes.  You will need to withstand many losing lines in order to make a profit.  Using too much of your bankroll will probably tap you out very quickly.

 

Email me at statsational@gmail.com with any questions.  I would be happy to answer.

Follow me on twitter @Statsational

 

Part 3 I will discuss parlays

Victoria Duval Wins at US Open

 

How fitting is it that on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther Kings “I Have a Dream” speech, Victoria Duval, a young 17-year-old Haitian-American Black girl,  ranked 296th in the world, beat 2011 US Open Champion, Sam Stosur? It was a big win for a lot of people because getting to this point hasn’t been easy for Duval or her family.  To get to this point the Duval family has had a great deal of help, and those people invested into Duval’s future.

Hopefully her game will be allowed to develop, and people will not just try to cash her out because she still needs to develop, but the future looks very bright.  Even though she is a professional, Duval is only 17 years old, so there is no guarantee that she will reach the potential that we all see for her.  But Duval has championsip pedigree.  Tennis great Billy Jean King has shown interest in Duval’s career and has been serving as her mentor.

If you notice, Duval is wearing Venus Williams’ clothing line, which I don’t think is by coincidence.  Duval is tall and slim like Venus, and is shaping up as possibly this generation’s version of Venus Williams.   It would really be eerie if Duval could duplicate Williams early success at the US Open as a teen.  Whatever happens from here on there is no doubt that life will change for Duval from this day forward, let’s hope it doesn’t change her because her joy and innocence are what makes her so easy to root for.

 

 

 

Handicappers Guide to Prepping for the NFL Part 1

In my opinion the NFL is the greatest sport on the planet.  It has gotten to that level mainly because it lends itself to gambling like no other.  It is hard to find someone who is not in an office pool, fantasy league, or just likes to place a bet on a few games a weekend.  Even my 86 year old grandmother likes to get in an office pool or two and she really doesn’t understand the game at all.  The NFL can speak out against gambling all it wants but the bottom line is gambling has made the NFL the number one sport in the United States today.

 

Without doing a scientific study I would imagine a very small fraction of those betting on the NFL really treat it like a business.  If you are playing in an office pool then it may not be necessary but if you are betting one or more games each week then you need to treat this like a business.  Treating it like a business means you need to prepare yourself before the season starts.

 

Things you need to do to prepare

 

1. Bankroll

 

Do not move on if you can not determine what your bankroll is for the season.  Many of you reading this have gotten themselves in trouble at one time or another because you had no bankroll set aside for the season.  Or if you did you did not adhere to it.  When you do not adhere to a strict bankroll you can find yourself in debt, taking out a 2nd mortgage, borrowing from friends and family, selling valuables etc.  None of these are very attractive options.

 

When gamblers get themselves in trouble it usually is not because their handicapping was terrible, it is because their money management was terrible.  That starts with a bankroll.  It is hard to go in debt when you have a set amount of cash put aside for the NFL season.  Key word there is cash.  If you do not have cash to put aside then do not play.  It is that simple.  Your bankroll must not be on paper.  Most people lie to themselves.  They figure they will never lose an entire bankroll so they will come up with some multiple of what they are comfortable losing and base their bets on that.

 

Many of you will bet on multiple sports throughout the year, especially during the football season.  I personally like to have a bankroll for each sport.  It keeps me more disciplined.  Lets say you play NFL, NCAAF, NCAAB and NBA and you have 10k set aside for this.  You can either use the entire 10k as bankroll for all sports combined or you can allocate a percentage to each.  Maybe an even split of 2.5k each or a weighted split giving a higher amount to the sports you tend to do better at.  This of course is a personal preference.  The key is having the bankroll in the first place.

 

 

2.  Risk Management (basic strategy)

 

You now have a bankroll.  Next step is to determine how much to play on each game.  There are a lot of ways you can go about this.  The easiest was is to limit yourself to 1-5% of your entire bankroll per bet.  5% is really pushing it.  That is just 20 bets.  I would only use 5% if I were using a very small bankroll.  You should try and keep things to 1-2% of your bankroll.  That gives you some room to play with.

 

Let’s say you have a bankroll of 10,000.  You are strong in the NFL and pretty good in NCAAF and about average in NBA and NCAAB.  You decide to allocate your bankroll as follows

 

 

Total 10000
% of Bankroll per game 2%
Sport Confidence Bankroll Bet Per Game
NFL 50.0% 5000 100
NCAAF 25.0% 2500 50
NBA 12.5% 1250 25
NCAAB 12.5% 1250 25

 

This is a very simple way to do it and a way that limits your risk.  Think about the worst run you ever had.  The odds are pretty good you would not have blown out your bankroll if you were using this risk management system.

 

Some of you may be thinking 100 per game is too small.  I can never make that much betting 100 per game.  Well you won’t make enough to retire that is true but if you are picking successfully you can make a nice return on investment (ROI).

 

In 2011, using my system you would have made 3,620 or a 72.4% ROI.  In 2012 the numbers were 2,320 and 46.4%.  To put that in perspective, the best year the S&P 500 has had in the last 40 years was in 1995 when it was up 34.11%.  I bring up the stock market because the risks are the same.  You can put your entire bankroll on one game(stock) and hit a home run or you can lose it all.  If you are going to survive long term you need to properly allocate a small amount of your bankroll to each game(stock).

 

 

Those that gamble with a local tend to have the worst money management system.  Usually there is no system at all.  We have all seen guys put $500 on a game who will struggle to pay a $2,000 debt.  This makes no sense.  But they do not think it through.  What they think is $500 would be nice to have when this game wins.  When it loses they will just bet another $500 on the next game.  When that loses they will bet either $500 or sometimes $1000 so they do not have to owe.  next thing you know they are $2000 in the hole and all they did was lose 3 games.  The smart bettor took the same 3 games and lost 6% of his bankroll max.  He isn’t going to lose much sleep over that.

In Part 2 I will go over different risk management systems and how to play more exotic style bets.

 

 

 

Mike Tyson Gets Deep on Everyone

 

Mike Tyson got very personal on ESPN Friday Night Fights.  First he made up with Teddy Atlas his former trainer.  Supposedly they became separated  after Tyson crudely approached one of Atlas’ young female relatives.  This was Tyson’s debut as a boxing promoter, so it made sense that he would want to reach out to Atlas, since their paths will probably cross frequently.

But at the post fight press conference Mike told it all, explaining that he was an alcoholic and was 6 days sober and trying to make amends to those he hurt.  Tyson was very forthcoming during the press conference telling all his business, or was he.  I’m starting to believe that Tyson is smarter than everyone and he is playing a role to be able to succeed in this new reality generation.

Think about it, Tyson is a promoter and his presence indirectly got the card more attention that it would typically have had, which is what being a promoter is all about.  So he is doing his job, but the thing that should make you think is that he repeated that he is never going to get rich.  Tyson knows his success is based on suffering, people find interest in the trials and tribulations that he has faced and is facing, so he has to make people think he’s doing bad even if he isn’t.  But how can he be broke if he went on a national tour with a one man show? Who’s in his pockets now? There is no possible way he should be broke, he is playing us all.  But it’s really brilliant when you think about it, so next time you want to laugh because you think Mike Tyson sounds silly, just think he may be laughing at you.

 

Mike Tyson on ESPN Friday Night Fights

6 Tips for Making Your Fantasy Football Draft A Success

This weekend marks the prime-time for adults to channel their inner-nerds as we embark on the start of fantasy football season. (Note: If you did your draft weeks/months ago, you’re doing it wrong. Way, way wrong)

Many of you folks will participate in a league or two (some of you three or four or more – how, I don’t know), so you’re probably in the same boat as me and doing a little bit of preparation for the draft – although my level of preparation being the commissioner is a little different and more time-consuming than just browsing magazines and hoping I get a few of my sleepers in the later rounds.

To make the most of your fantasy football drafting experience, here’s what I recommend:

(1) Do It Live – Fantasy drafts were meant to be done in person. If your fantasy football crew lives within 20-30 miles radius of where you live, there’s no reason to have everyone on their computers at home when a potential congregation of losers can come to life. While the in-person draft adds a little time to the draft, it is a lot more amusing with the banter and beer enjoyed with the group.

(2) Be Prepared – You don’t need to be a Boy or Girl Scout to know this one. Being prepared (i.e. a minimal understanding of the league rules, who is hurt, etc.) is crucial to ensuring that you don’t piss off the people in your league when the draft begins. Being prepared also includes having some sort of list or fantasy magazine that you can cross names off of as the players are picked throughout the draft. It may seem like common sense, but having done the in-person draft as a commissioner five times and as a participant in about 10 others, you’re never surprised when a new surprise pops up.

(3) Be Ready To Pick – Online drafts usually have a 1:30 or 2 minute window between picks, so as you’re doing these drafts, you should have a general idea of certain players or a certain position you may be targeting with your next pick(s). On many sites that I have used, there is a draft queue that allows you to click/drag names of players who you may be targeting with your next set of picks. Utilize this tool to help you decide your players quicker than you would by just slowly browsing up and down the position ranks. Yes, there will be times where a certain player you were eyeing gets snatched up right before your pick, so you may need a little time to regroup. Just don’t make it a habit and make the draft drag out longer than need be. In my in-person league, I added a draft clock app to my phone last year, and it gives drafters a good amount of time to make their picks (a generous five minutes). If you’re in my league, please, please heed my advice in these points above and below so I don’t blow a gasket or deflate your tires.

(4) Have Fun With It– I’m probably way too involved and get way into fantasy football, particularly my own league. It was a problem I recognized recently, so like anyone who wants to solve a problem, I took some action and decided to leave two of my money leagues. When you’re to the point where you’ve joined so many leagues that you can’t keep track of what players you have on what teams, and you find yourself rooting for specific players to achieve specific results waaaay too much, you may want to take a step back and realize that you may be in too many leagues and you’re taking it way too seriously. While the goal is to win them (especially the money leagues), have fun with the process. Loosen up, have a few drinks, and remember, you’re playing FANTASY football. There’s no concussions, torn ACLs or broken necks involved in fantasy football…unless (again) you’re doing it wrong.

(5) Tip The Commissioner – Just kidding. (No seriously, tip). Well, no need to tip, but realize that if you got a good commissioner, he or she is busting ass, doing painful, tireless work to ensure that everything in the league is all set for the big draft day. I hope my fellas out there know how much of a pain this can be, but the rewards of draft night being finished make it all worth it (well, somewhat worth it). At the very least, tell the commissioner how awesome he or she is and how you will bow down to him or her for being so righteously awesome.

(6) And As Always…No One Except The Teams In Your League Gives A Shit About Your Team – I know this isn’t so much a tip about the fantasy draft itself as it is about afterwards, but it cannot be stressed enough. I could tell you about the bold moves I made in the offseason of the sixth installment of Super Bowlek, like trading Peyton Manning, my two first non-keeper round picks for 2013 and my 2014 first non-keeper pick for Jamaal Charles, Arian Foster and a bunch of picks…but do you really care? Most of you stopped reading that previous sentence before I even got to my first verb. If you’re in a bunch of fantasy leagues, I expect you to have at least 4 or 5 high quality players, especially if there’s less than 14 teams in your league. So don’t rattle off the names of all of your great players if I’m not in that league – because I’m not really that interested, just like I know you’re not really that interested in mine.

Now that you have your fantasy football draft tips, you can commence your draft process. Now go along, study up, and draft a good team.

Just don’t tell me who’s on it.

Should Albert Pujols Sue Jack Clark for PED Accusation?

 

A couple of weeks ago Jack Clark went on air and said that he knew that Albert Pujols used performance enhancing drugs.  Clark contends that a former Pujols trainer, Chris Mihfeld,  told him he ‘shot up’ Pujols when he was trying to sell Clark some steroids.   Mihfeld had a former client that was linked to PED use, but he was never implicated.  Mihfeld denied that statement and professed his support of Pujols, and Pujols has threatened legal action against Clark.  But the question is, if Pujols doesn’t sue Clark, is it an indicator of guilt?

Albert Pujols had largely escaped being linked to the ‘Steroid Era’ despite being the premier power hitter of  the era, and having strong ties with the fathers of  the ‘Steroid  Era’.  Mark McGwire was right beside Jose Canseco in Oakland when he was doing his thing, and Tony Larussa was the man that let it happen.  Things went so well in Oakland that Larussa brought McGwire to St. Louis, and they started the program again and rewrote the record books.  Not only that, but Larussa had the audacity to bring McGwire on as the hitting coach after he admitted to steroid use.  It’s not like McGwire was a great hitter, so its not clear what Pujols could learn from him, but obviously Tony Larussa thought the entire Cardinal team could learn something from him.  Who knows what that is, but with these allegations now it all seems so seedy.

The other thing working against Pujols, is the fact that his production dropped off so much after he left St. Louis and Tony Larussa.  No one thought that Pujols would be productive the whole 10 years of his contract, but the Angels didn’t expect to get no return on that investment.   It’s also suspicious that he can’t stay healthy now.  What’s even more ironic is the fact that he’s out for the season with the same foot injury that he played through for an estimated 7 years in St. Louis.  One could say that he was due to get injured, but how do you play on an injury that long? All these things are circumstantial, but when everything is factored together it looks pretty bad.  Pujols said he was going to sue to teach Clark a lesson, and he better do just that.  MLB is using the court system to their advantage, so the precedent has been set, and Pujols better follow suit literally.  He threatened a lawsuit, but has yet to follow through.  We will see what happens, but if nothing happens its another of the many pieces of circumstantial evidence suggesting that Albert Pujols took PED’s.

 

Does Pujols Have To Sue Jack Clark?

A couple of weeks ago Jack Clark went on air and said that he knew that Albert Pujols used performance enhancing drugs.  Clark contends that a former Pujols trainer, Chris Mihfeld,  told him he ‘shot up’ Pujols when he was trying to sell Clark some steroids.   Mihfeld had a former client that was linked to PED use, but he was never implicated.  Mihfeld denied that statement and professed his support of Pujols, and Pujols has threatened legal action against Clark.  But the question is, if Pujols doesn’t sue Clark, is it an indicator of guilt?

Albert Pujols had largely escaped being linked to the ‘Steroid Era’ despite being the premier power hitter of  the era, and having strong ties with the fathers of  the ‘Steroid  Era’.  Mark McGwire was right beside Jose Canseco in Oakland when he was doing his thing, and Tony Larussa was the man that let it happen.  Things went so well in Oakland that Larussa brought McGwire to St. Louis, and they started the program again and rewrote the record books.  Not only that, but Larussa had the audacity to bring McGwire on as the hitting coach after he admitted to steroid use.  It’s not like McGwire was a great hitter, so its not clear what Pujols could learn from him, but obviously Tony Larussa thought the entire Cardinal team could learn something from him.  Who knows what that is, but with these allegations now it all seems so seedy.

The other thing working against Pujols, is the fact that his production dropped off so much after he left St. Louis and Tony Larussa.  No one thought that Pujols would be productive the whole 10 years of his contract, but the Angels didn’t expect to get no return on that investment.   It’s also suspicious that he can’t stay healthy now.  What’s even more ironic is the fact that he’s out for the season with the same foot injury that he played through for an estimated 7 years in St. Louis.  One could say that he was due to get injured, but how do you play on an injury that long? All these things are circumstantial, but when everything is factored together it looks pretty bad.  Pujols said he was going to sue to teach Clark a lesson, and he better do just that.  MLB is using the court system to their advantage, so the precedent has been set, and Pujols better follow suit literally.  He threatened a lawsuit, but has yet to follow through.  We will see what happens, but if nothing happens its another of the many pieces of circumstantial evidence suggesting that Albert Pujols took PED’s.

A-Rod & Pujols: The End of Big Deals in MLB

Two stories that have transpired from the past couple weeks could not have been timed out better. As A-Rod continues to play through his appeal of a suspension from MLB for his role with the Biogenesis facility that has trampled the season of Ryan Braun and Nelson Cruz, among many others, Albert Pujols was officially declared out for the year earlier this week after being on the disabled list since the end of July with a torn plantar facia. His team, the Los Angeles Angels, declared themselves out months ago and are underachieving to the tune of a 17.5 game deficit to Cruz’s Texas Rangers in the AL West entering Wednesday.

 

The timing of this news has had some news outlets recently asking which of the contracts was worse – A-Rod or Albert? What the real question should be: is this the end of long-term deals? It was going to be difficult for either of them to truly live up to the expectations of the size and length of their respective contracts (each got 10-year deals).

 

When compared to the first 11 years of his career, there’s a sharp decline in all of Pujols’ power numbers (from 162 game averages of 43 home runs .328 average, .420 on base, .617 slugging with St. Louis to 31 home runs, .275 average, .338 on base, .485 slugging with the Angels.) In other words, he went from a Hall-of-Fame player to a guy that’s above average, but definitely trending downwards (and in a hurry). There’s still eight years on his mega-deal (10 years, 240M), so there’s still time for him to turn things around (perhaps the injury has hurt his production?). But more likely, this is the sign of a player who is on the latter half of his career who can still produce at above-average player percentages. However, above-average is not what the Angels paid for.

 

When the St. Louis Cardinals made the move to let Pujols go, I thought it was the right move. In my lifetime, they are as smart and steady of an organization as there has been in the majors, almost always in playoff contention. They made it to three World Series with Albert (won two), so they definitely got their money’s worth and the very best of his contract. For this contract to be worth it for the Angels, I think they will need to win at least one World Series.

 

I noted the stats of A-Rod since he signed his deal in a blog I wrote about the Pujols contract in 2011 (just ignore the Tebow part). Nothing has changed that would support this being a smart contract for the Yankees – a sub-par 2012 and a 2013 that is likely to end in suspension tell that story. They did win a title with him in 2009, which honestly seems decades ago with how much has happened in baseball and with A-Rod since then.

 

In the aftermath of these deals, I think you will see these big market teams be smarter in making these long-term deals. Should a long deal be made, it will be similar to the Dustin Pedroia extension with the Red Sox (a 6-year deal that signs him through his 38th birthday). Signing a 31-year-old guy to a ten-year-deal has proven to be a foolish move. The best of these guy’s careers has already passed, and paying a 38/39 year-old Pujols close to $30M is going to be a disaster towards a team’s payroll – the return on investment is going to be brutal for the Angels. If another 10-year deal is to be made, it will be for a guy in his mid-20s, which would be infinitely smarter than the Albert & A-Rod deals.

 

The Rise of the Small Payrolls

 

Ironically, it’s contracts like these that have helped teams with smaller payrolls become contenders – as these teams have no chance in hell of ever being able to sign a guy to that long and rich of a contract.

 

A list of each team’s payroll entering 2013 from USA Today shows that you can contend in MLB with a lower payroll. Out of the six division leaders entering Wednesday, there’s more teams in the bottom half leading divisions than their higher spending bretheren:

 

AL West: Texas (112M, 12th overall out of 30 teams)

AL East: Tampa Bay (57M, 28th)/Boston (150M, 4th)

AL Central: Detroit (148M, 5th)

AL Wild Cards & Contenders: Oakland (68M, 26th), Baltimore (90M, 15th ), Cleveland (77M, 21st), NYY (228M, 1st), KC (80M, 22nd)

 

NL West: Los Angeles (216M, 2nd)

NL East: Atlanta (89M, 16th)

NL Central: Pittsburgh (79M, 20th)

NL Wild Cards & Contenders: St. Louis (115M, 11th), Cincinnati (107M, 13th), Arizona (89M, 17th)

 

While not likely to happen, it is possible that none of the top-10 spending teams make the playoffs. That would require Detroit and Los Angeles (the NL version) to tail off in the last six weeks and for Boston to slip out of the Wild Card – all of which I don’t see happening.  Best case scenario for the big spenders – three of the top 10 make it.

 

You may think some of these teams are flukes, but keep in mind that the Rays have been in the playoffs or on the fringe of it for a while now, Oakland won the division last year, and Pittsburgh has had strong first halves of seasons for three straight years now. These teams are all heading in the right direction and have solid player bases to remain contenders for the foreseeable future.

 

Argue all you want about MLB needing a salary cap, but I don’t think that’s accurate. In fact, it has forced these smaller teams to think outside the box, crunching numbers that were not studied decades ago in order to maximize the talent on its limited payroll (at least limited compared to the Yankees and Red Sox of the world).

 

I’ll take my chances with the Rays, Pirates & Athletics’ set-up for the next five years over what many of these big markets have in place.

After Further Review: MLB Changes That Should Happen

On Thursday, the MLB did the unthinkable – it joined the early 21st century and did something progressive by expanding the use of instant replay starting in 2014. This step is a huge one for MLB, which has struggled to incorporate technology into the game. Some of the traditionalists (ex-players, old and wrinkly writers who have covered the sport for way too long) will frown on this new element being added to the game, as they tend to do with anything that didn’t come from the original roots of baseball (basically anything that doesn’t involve cameras or advanced stats). Apparently, there’s some charm to an umpire missing a call for these traditionalists, as if the human element should triumph common sense and getting the calls right (note: the replay is not being used for balls and strikes, nor should it. And any reasonable baseball fan would agree that this part of the game cannot be reviewed. I think the unreasonable baseball fans – yes, I’ll pick on these traditionalists once more – were the only ones worried about balls and strikes being a reviewable item). However, I believe it should be the start of many changes that need to take place across baseball – from attitude adjustments to the way statistics are perceived and much more.In no particular order, here are some other much-needed baseball-related items that need to get reviewed and refined for the 21st century:

  1.  Pitchers with hurt feelings (i.e. bitchers) – One of the pet peeves I’ve started to develop this year is the whiny pitcher (i.e. the pitcher who hits a guy because an opposing hitter or one of his teammates got too excited about a home run or stared a little too long at the ball as it left the park). I would like to remove this part of the game, as well as other pointless beanball wars that serve no purpose other than get about 60 guys to run onto the field and pretend to fight. If you are a pitcher who allows a home run, you should be more mad that you allowed the home run than the guy who happens to enjoy what he just did to you (especially if it’s a guy who hits about 3-4 home runs a year – he really can’t act like he’s been there if he only does it once every other month). This also goes for pitchers who get mad when a guy tries to bunt or steal when his team happens to be up by a decent lead late in the game. With baseball being one of the only untimed major sport (with its unit of time being “outs”), a team can theoretically come back from a huge deficit with almost 90% of the game complete a lot easier than other sports. This fact and this fact alone makes it perfectly ok for the Rickey Hendersons of baseball to keep running and bunting from Inning 1 till the end, no matter the score. After all, it’s not as if the home run hitters stop trying to hit home runs, so why so mad at the bunters? Quit your bitching, pitchers. If you don’t want guys celebrating or succeeding at bunts/steals late in games, how about you pitch better? Try that on for size and get back to me.
  2. A new way of looking at statistics – He may rub some people the wrong way, but Brian Kenny of the MLB Network is on to something when he presents his points to #KillTheWin (that is, the individual stat of a pitcher win) and bringing advanced statistics to the attention of the average baseball fan, who has grown up with the same stat lines that have been used for the last five generations of baseball players. Like the game itself, statistics have evolved into telling more of a complete story about players, which players may carry more value than realized, and which ones may be considered over-rated due to the static use of old-school baseball stats to judge players. I consider Kenny and Joe Peta, author of Trading Bases, to be among the tops in helping bring attention to this subject. I have been watching a lot more MLB Network this year and have noticed that some broadcasts have started to incorporate some of these new ways of judging players (like on-base percentage, slugging, OBP to name a few) into a player’s normal stat line as he comes up to bat. In ten years, I believe that graphics that we see both at the games and on TV will look a lot different and incorporate this new age of baseball analysis.
  3. Designated Hitter in Both Leagues – While the DH rule started as an experiment in the American League four decades ago, it brought a lot more offense to the league in general. Not only that, but it extended the careers of guys who could still hit but could not really do much else (see Paul Molitor, Edgar Martinez and Frank Thomas, among many examples). This offense has made the American League into the “hitter’s league”, and what do chicks like to see? As Greg Maddux can attest to, they dig the long ball. Meanwhile, in the other league, dingers by DHs give way to sacrifice bunts and double switches, which National League backers think makes the NL better for some damn reason (hint: it’s not that hard to do a double switch – bring in specialist, put him in batting spot where a recent hitter was stationed in the order, and take that particular hitter out of the game for another guy who can take the pitcher’s spot in the order). While I enjoy a well-pitched game more than most, I believe that these elite pitchers should have to face a line-up full of at least average hitters. Some pitchers can swing the stick well, but not enough to make me think that pitchers should continue to hit.
  4. Traditional doubleheaders – I can’t believe I’m including something that was once traditional into my list of things that MLB needs to bring back, but I think that each team should have a couple of scheduled doubleheaders on their schedule, for old-time sake. And I’m not talking about those bogus day-night doubleheaders where they clear the stadium in between games. I’m talking about the way it used to be when baseball had no lights and they had to fit in all games during the daylight hours of summer. Let’s start some of these games on get-away days at noon, then follow that up with a second game to give fans a chance to watch two games on the same day. You might say that this would not hold the attention of today’s baseball fan, and I may not be able to argue that. However, if it’s only a couple times a year that these teams have to do it, what’s the harm in giving these fans two games for the price of one? My friend and his family attended the longest traditional doubleheader in history between Cleveland and Chicago in the last week of June, and he seemed to enjoy himself (without alcohol on top of it).  Let’s make this happen MLB.
  5. Retractable roofs for all – You say that this would be too expensive for some teams to do? Yeah, you’re probably right. But this is make-believe/ideal baseball world according to Brian, so let’s say that this is a possibility in every team’s budget. Baseball is a sport, like football, that is meant to be enjoyed outdoors. Unlike its pigskin counterpart, it needs the ideal conditions (no ridiculous rain/snow storms) in order to function. For those random weather issues, every stadium’s retractable roof can be closed to keep baseball indoors and prevent any rain delays that seem to hold up a handful of games per week. This year more than ever, it seems like a lot of these games are not being called, but played after a 3 or 4 hour delay. Instead of dealing with these delays, let’s skip that process and put up the dome for these occasions. Advanced weather forecasts should be able to tell you when bad weather will play a factor into a game, so close the dome ahead of time if it looks like a storm should be hitting around the 4th or 5th inning.

I’m sure I have a few more suggestions, but these are just a few that I’ve had in mind recently. What changes would you propose for review by the MLB’s top brass?