Thursday, December 31, 2015

2016 Tennis ratings test: Melog vs. ATP

One of the obvious things to try when building a new sports ranking system is to compare it to the systems that are already out there. And while there are plenty of other statistical ratings in tennis, by far the most commonly-used measure is the official ATP rankings themselves.

So let's set up to see how the Melog system compares to the ATP's. This fairly unscientific study will involve choosing several pairs of players who are at least somewhat similar in type but whose rankings differ significantly and in opposite directions between the two systems, then seeing how they fare in comparison to each other over the next 12 months.

Since the ATP rankings are the generally-used standard, we'll be watching how the players fare by that measure next year. It's worth pointing out that the players the ATP rankings prefers will have a built-in advantage, because those are the rankings used to determine acceptance into tournaments and seedings within them; some of Melog's preferred players will have to face much tougher opponents much earlier in their draws.

With that caveat out of the way, let's get to the list...

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Best Postseason Win: Cleveland Indians

The Cleveland Indians have not won the World Series since 1948.

This isn't exactly a secret, but it's also not discussed all that often. It doesn't get the press of the Cubs or (now defunct) Red Sox droughts. When it is mentioned, it's most commonly in the context of the tortured city of Cleveland as a whole, with Dusty Rhodes and Edgar Renteria being mixed together with John Elway and Brian Sipe and Jordan-over-Ehlo and the Decision.

But the Indians' drought on its own is pretty noteworthy - it's the second-longest active one in baseball (at least depending on how you feel about expansion teams who've never won the World Series), and it's been going since the Berlin Airlift and Dewey Defeats Truman. It started before MASH, and before the war that MASH was set in. My grandmother's seventh birthday came a little over a month after the Indians won their last title. Heck, it was so long ago that the team they beat in the World Series was the Boston Braves, who had not yet seen the debuts of Eddie Mathews and Hank Aaron.

As with the more famous active drought, the Indians have been pretty bad for most of their fallow period, but they've had some good teams as well. We talked about their 112-win team in 1954 in the New York Giants' entry. The other notable great drought-period Indians team came in the mid-'90s, and their best season was the strike-shortened 1995 year, in which they went 100-44 and won the newly-formed AL Central by 30 games.

And then came the team's best postseason win. 1995 ALDS Game 1: Indians 5, Red Sox 4 (13). Cleveland started Dennis Martinez, a very good pitcher who had just completed a fine age-41 season. Boston's starter, on the other hand, was coming off of a down year - which would have been more reassuring to the opposition if he wasn't Roger Clemens.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Best Postseason Win: Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles did not get off to the best start as a franchise, mostly because it took a little while for them to recover from the fact that they began their existence as the St. Louis Browns. They finished in the bottom half of the AL in all six of their Baltimore seasons in the 1950s. That changed quickly, however, as they won 89 games and came in second in 1960, and posted similar records and finishes in four of the next five years. They were pushed over the edge of contention in the offseason of 1965 when they traded for Frank Robinson, who won the 1966 AL Triple Crown and propelled the O's to their first pennant, which was followed by a sweep of the favored Dodgers in the World Series.

Three years later, Earl Weaver took over as the team's manager - and the Orioles began a decade-and-a-half run at the top of the game. Over the next fifteen years, Baltimore would win 94 or more games nine times, capture seven division titles in the newly-formed AL East, and secure five AL pennants and two world titles.

The O's kicked off that stretch of dominance with a bang, as the first postseason game contained within it doubles as their best postseason victory. It is 1969 ALCS Game 1: Orioles 4, Twins 3 (12). The pitching matchup was a pair of fine pitchers with slight caveats; Mike Cuellar was a fine pitcher whose career was outshined by the Hall of Famer in his own rotation, and Jim Perry was a fine pitcher whose efforts were bettered by the Hall of Famer from his own family.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Best Postseason Win: St. Louis Browns

I'm still on a curtailed posting schedule this week, thanks to the upcoming New Years holiday, so it makes sense that our topic in this post is a team whose postseason history is pretty curtailed in its own right.

The St. Louis Browns, as an American League franchise, existed for 52 years. During that time, they finished within the top four places in the AL standings a total of 12 times - less than one out of every four seasons. They managed two second-place finishes, one of which came before the World Series existed.

The other second-place team was the 1922 edition, which is generally (and correctly) regarded as the best Browns team ever. They allowed the second-fewest runs in the AL, and scored the most; their hard-hitting outfield of Ken Williams, Baby Doll Jacobson, and Jack Tobin drew some of the headlines, but most of the attention (justifiably) went to the spectacular George Sisler, who in 1920 had set an MLB record with 257 hits in a season (since broken by Ichiro - but in a longer schedule). He didn't quite match that number in 1922 - but he did put up 246 hits, while also leading the league in runs (134), triples (18), and steals (51), and hitting .420.

Sisler's 1920 and 1922 seasons came under very favorable conditions - the league was high-scoring at the time and the Browns played in a good hitter's park. He also didn't have great power or patience (he never drew 50 walks in a season), and as such, his high average can tend to make him a bit overrated in some circles. But the backlash against him in sabermetric analysis has been overdone; Sisler's peak is not just two years long, it's six, stretching from 1917-22. The earlier years don't look as impressive, because the league wasn't scoring as much and the 1918-19 seasons were shortened by World War I. But over that six-year stretch, Sisler was probably the third-best position player in baseball - and given that the top two were Babe Ruth and Rogers Hornsby, third place is no mean feat.

Despite arguably being the better team, the '22 Browns finished a game behind the Yankees - and then disaster struck, as Sisler came down with double vision that cost him the entire 1923 season and left him a shell of his former self when he returned. St. Louis regressed to its former state of mediocrity - which was made all the worse when the cohabitating NL team, the Cardinals, emerged as a powerhouse later in the decade (and really, they've remained one for about the last 90 years).

But just as catastrophe taketh away, catastrophe also giveth. The Browns were mired in mediocrity until World War II, at which point nearly all of the best players in the league were called into military service. In 1944, the Browns assembled a respectable pitching staff and patched together a lineup around star shortstop Vern Stephens, and won 89 games - just enough to finish one game ahead of the Tigers and capture their first pennant.

Their World Series opponents, of course, were the Cardinals; the team that had developed baseball's first farm system had so much depth coming out of the minors that they could lose nearly all of their best players to the war and still field a credible major league lineup and pitching staff. And in 1944, a credible team (well, plus Stan Musial) was all it took to win 105 games and run off with the pennant.

The stage was set for a classic matchup of powerhouse and punching bag - and the first game, at least, did not disappoint:

1944 World Series Game 1: Browns 2, Cardinals 1. The pitching matchup was exactly what you'd expect from the two teams. The Cardinals started ace Mort Cooper, who had won 20 games in each of the last three seasons and was best known as the 1942 NL MVP. The Browns responded with Denny Galehouse, who had also established a career high in wins in '42 - with twelve. He is best-known today as Joe McCarthy's surprise choice to start the 1948 AL playoff game for the Red Sox; the Sox would lose that game 8-3.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Final 2015 Melog tennis ratings

All right, let's try this again. Here are the Melog ratings for men's tennis in 2015. The changes from last time I posted the ratings (apart from six months' worth of tennis being played) are the inclusion of more Davis Cup data (World Group playoff, Group 1 and Group 1 playoff matches are now included), and a shift in the baseline from the player with the 75th-highest mELO rating (Dusan Lajovic) to the player whose rating is at the median of all service games played during the year (Ryan Harrison, whose mELO rating is 142nd-highest). If you want more detail about the ratings, you can get it here if you want the mathematical version, or here if you want them explained in (hopefully) simpler terms.

On to the numbers!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Tennis rankings like Thing Explainer would write about them

If you have read my writing before, you know that I like to write about games that people play, especially games that other people pay them to play. I also like to use numbers to talk about these games. Sometimes I use numbers that other people made up, but sometimes nobody else has made up numbers that can help me find out the things I want to know about the games I am writing about, so I make up my own numbers. I have a lot of fun seeing what my numbers say about the games I am watching, but the numbers can sometimes be hard for other people to understand.

So I am trying a new thing right now, using an idea from a man who used to help our country build boats that fly into space, and now makes funny drawings that people look at on their computers. He decided to draw a picture of an important space boat and write about what all of the parts do, but in words that most people can understand. He decided to use only the ten hundred words used most often in the language we use in my country. The drawing he made helped people learn about the space boat, and it was also very funny. The people who saw the drawing liked it so much that he decided to make a whole book of pictures of hard-to-understand things that were explained in simple words. (It is called Thing Explainer and it is a very good book.)

This man also made a place that helps other people write using the same words that he did. That is what I am doing now. I am going to explain some of the numbers I have made up using only the ten hundred words people use the most in this language.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Best Postseason Win: St. Louis Cardinals

2011 World Series Game 6: Cardinals 10, Rangers 9 (11).

Like there was even the slightest chance it would be anything else. The Cardinals are probably the NL's most successful franchise overall, and I believe (without having checked) that their 130 postseason victories are the second-most of any team in baseball, and they've had their share of legendary outings, which we'll get to later on. But there's no real competition for this game.

The pitching matchup was Colby Lewis for Texas, and Jaime Garcia for St. Louis - but even if you don't know already, you can probably guess from the score and the length of the game that the starters didn't figure too heavily in the outcome.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Best Postseason Win: Cincinnati Reds

The Cincinnati Reds have 49 postseason wins in their history as a team. It's not a spectacular total, but it's a respectable one, roughly on par with their five World Series titles.

Of those 49 wins, 26 of them came between 1970-76. That team, known as the Big Red Machine, is arguably the best in NL history - and may well have the best collection of position players in baseball history, period. They were at the peak of their considerable powers in 1975-76, so that's naturally where their best victory comes from.

1976 NLCS Game 3: Reds 7, Phillies 6. Cincinnati's starter was Gary Nolan. At age 19, in 1967, Nolan led the NL in strikeouts per 9 innings; he continued to pitch well for several years, but battled through injuries, which would eventually cost him almost all of 1973 and all of '74. He returned the next year with his K rate in the tank, but reinvented himself as a control pitcher, walking the NL's fewest batters per nine innings in both '75 and '76. He was opposed by 37-year-old lefty Jim Kaat, who had never had Nolan's strikeout capabilities to begin with, and nearly two decades into his career was even more of a finesse arm than post-injury Nolan.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Best Postseason Win: Pittsburgh Pirates

If you have a guess about which game is going to be picked here, you are almost certainly correct.

There have been a few times in this series when I have overruled WPL's selection for a team and picked a different game than it preferred. I was very much prepared to do that in this case as well - except that it proved unnecessary, because while WPL doesn't absolutely love this particular entry (ranking it just outside the top 100), it does still recognize it as the Pirates' best playoff win.

1960 World Series Game 7: Pirates 10, Yankees 9. The games preceding this one had made it probably the most mistmatched series ever to last the full seven; Pittsburgh's margins of victory had been 2, 1, and 3, while the Yankees won their games by 13, 10, and 12. The seventh and final game pitted 1958 Cy Young winner Bob Turley against 1960 Cy Young winner Vern Law.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Best Postseason Win: Philadelphia Phillies

You likely already know that the Phillies did not win a World Series for a long time. By 1950, 13 of the 16 original franchises had won titles; the long-suffering Brooklyn Dodgers finally took their first in 1955, and the perennial sad sack St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore that same year and won their first title a decade later in 1966, leaving the Phils alone with an empty trophy case.

It's not that the Phillies were never competitive. They were a decent team for much of the century's first decade (albeit generally well behind the dominant Giants, Cubs, and Pirates), and they rode Grover Cleveland Alexander's arm and Gavvy Gravath's bat into legitimate contention in the mid-teens, winning one pennant and coming in second three times. But the Babe Ruth Red Sox beat them in five games in the 1915 World Series, and when Alexander went to war, they sold him to the Cubs and promptly went down the tubes.

From 1918 to 1948, the Phillies had one winning record; they went 78-76 in 1932. Their fourth-place finish that year was also the only time they escaped the bottom half of the standings or finished within 20 games of first place in those three decades. 24 times in those 31 years, they finished in either seventh or eighth; in 14 seasons, they were at least 40 games back of first, including an astounding eight in a row from 1938-45.

Their fortunes took an upswing starting with a third-place finish in 1949, and in 1950, they won a stunning pennant. They were swept in the World Series by the Yankees, but given that the team was built around young players (Robin Roberts and Richie Ashburn most notable among them), they looked like a team that would contend for a while. Instead, they hung around in mediocrity for most of the decade, finishing between third and fifth every year from 1951-57, and then cratered again, coming in last in each of the last four years before the NL expanded.

Expansion seemed to help the Phillies out a bit. The Amazin' Mets certainly guaranteed that they wouldn't finish in last. More importantly, they brought in manager Gene Mauch, who started assembling a respectable team. Young outfielder Johnny Callison was a fine front-line player, but the two biggest parts of the team joined up in the offseason after a fourth-place finish in 1963: The Phillies traded for Tiger ace Jim Bunning, and installed the spectacular Dick Allen at third base. This is not the forum for a full exploration of Allen's career, but suffice it to say that whatever fielding difficulties and clubhouse issues came with him, the man was a once-a-generation hitter, and he helped carry the Phillies into contention in '64. They led the NL almost all year, only to see the lead disintegrate down the stretch as they lost 10 straight games. (The culprit was pitching depth; the team only had two reliable starters, Bunning and Chris Short, and Mauch compounded the problem by having those two make multiple starts on short rest down the stretch, which... did not work.)

Again, the team remained all right for a while, but by the time the league expanded again in 1969, they had returned to the cellar once more, finishing in fifth or sixth in the first five years of the newly-formed NL East. They bottomed out with 97 losses in 1972, a season that would have been much worse if not for the presence of the remarkable Steve Carlton, who won 27 games for a last-place squad.

Even in that terrible team, you could see the beginnings of the competitors they would eventually become. Along with Carlton, the '72 Phillies already had Larry Bowa at short and Greg Luzinski in left. In 1973, they installed the (soon-to-be) great Mike Schmidt at third, and Bob Boone took over behind the plate. Dick Ruthven also made his rotational debut that year, and became a regular starter in 1974. Garry Maddox was acquired to play center field during the 1975 season; the team finished in second that year, and then won 101 games and the NL East in 1976. They lost to the Reds in the NLCS, but this Phillies contender had much better stamina than its predecessors, winning division titles in '77 and '78 as well. Still, losses to the Dodgers in both of those NLCSs followed by a fourth-place finish in 1979 must have dampened hopes for the team just a bit, even though new addition Pete Rose had posted a spectacular year in '79.

But any fears of recession were put to bed in 1980. Schmidt and Carlton both had outstanding years (WAR rates the season as the second-best in each of their Hall of Fame careers). Schmidt won the first of his eventual three MVPs, Carlton snagged the third of his four Cy Youngs, and the two of them carries a patchwork cast of longtime Phillies, veteran imports, and youngsters to 91 wins and another division title. And this time, their opponents in the NLCS weren't the Big Red Machine, or the Garvey/Lopes/Russel/Cey Dodgers. (Really, it seems like that team should have a nickname; they're the longest-tenured infield in baseball history.) Instead, they would face the team that beat the Dodgers in a Game 163 to take the NL West title and seal their first postseason appearance: the Houston Astros.

The Astros are a story all their own, enough of one that I can't gloss over them entirely despite this post not being about them. In 1979, the Astros came in second in the NL West, finishing a game and a half back of the Reds. The biggest reason for their contention was ace JR Richard, who led the NL in ERA. Before the 1980 season, they brought in both Nolan Ryan and Joe Morgan, and seemed primed for a run at the division title - which they were in the process of making when Richard suffered a career-ending stroke in July. The Astros still went into LA holding a three-game lead with three games to play - but the Dodgers swept them, forcing a one-game playoff for the division title. However, the Astros scored seven early runs and Joe Niekro threw a complete-game six-hitter to send Houston to the playoffs.

The two teams would produce a series that was utterly bananas. The Phillies took the first game behind a Carlton gem and a sixth-inning Luzinski homer. The Astros replied with a win in Game 2, in which the Astros rallied to tie the game at 2 in the seventh and took a 3-2 lead in the eighth; the Phillies tied it in the eighth, then loaded the bases with one out in the ninth but didn't score. Houston scored four in the tenth to apparently break it open, but the Phils got one of the runs back and got Schmidt to the plate as the tying run before finally losing. Houston took Game 3 as well, as Niekro threw 10 shutout innings and left with a no-decision when the Astros waited until the bottom of the eleventh to score the game's only run.

Facing elimination in Game 4, the Phillies trailed 2-0 going into the top of the eighth, but tied the game on RBI singles from Rose and Schmidt, then took the lead on a sac fly double play, which is... unorthodox. Terry Puhl (who had an incredible series, going 10 for 19 overall) tied it with an RBI single in the ninth, but Luzinski and Manny Trillo hit RBI doubles in the tenth to seal the victory and force the playing of the Phillies' best postseason win.

1980 NLCS Game 5: Phillies 8, Astros 7 (10). The Phils started Marty Bystrom, who had pitched in all of six regular-season games at this point in his career; he had pitched well (5-0, 1.50), but still seems like an unusual choice in a winner-take-all game, especially when the opposing pitcher was Nolan Ryan.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Best Postseason Win: Philadelphia A's

We went over the feast-or-famine history of the A's franchise last time, so let's start off by hitting their Philadelphian feasts. They were solid in the first decade of the 20th century, including a pennant in 1905, but the two best Connie Mack A's teams were the $100,000 infield, which won four pennants from 1910-14, and the Grove-Foxx-Simmons-Cochrane squad in the late '20s, which won three pennants in a row from 1929-31.

Both teams are deservedly famous, all the more because Mack's finances forced him to break them up when they were still at their best. But they didn't necessarily play too many famous games - and the ones that they did play tended to be of types that WPL doesn't care for.

But we'll get to that later. For now, the selection - 1911 World Series Game 3: A's 3, Giants 2 (11). The Series was tied at one game each, with the Giants having come from behind to win a 2-1 duel in Game 1, and the A's taking Game 2 thanks to a sixth-inning homer by Frank Baker. In the third contest, the A's started Jack Coombs, who I always thought of as a mainstay of this team's pitching staff - and he kind of was, but what fame he has comes mostly from his teammates. In 1911, he pulled off the odd feat of leading the AL in both wins (28) and earned runs allowed. His 3.53 ERA would be solid or good in most modern contexts, but it was substantially below average in the deadball era.

Coombs also led the league in hits allowed - and as it happens, his opponent on the mound did the same in the NL. But Christy Mathewson still managed to take the NL ERA title while pitching over 300 innings.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Best Postseason Win: Oakland A's

I haven't checked this guess, and have no immediate plans to do so, but I feel reasonably comfortable in guessing that the A's franchise has, if not the highest statistical variance in seasonal winning percentage among the original 16 teams, at least a top three figure. Going back to their days in Philadelphia, they've effectively alternated between periods of excellence and dreadfulness, with very little time spent being mediocre. The reason is simple: the team has often been run by extremely smart baseball men (Connie Mack, Charlie Finley, Billy Beane), but they have almost never made any money, and so they can't (or at least don't) keep their great teams together for long.

We'll get to the Philly A's later, but in Oakland, there have been three or four major competitive periods for the team: the early '70s, when they won three consecutive World Series, the late '80s, when they won three consecutive AL pennants, and the Beane era (which you can take as one decade-plus competitive period, or split into roughly 2000-06 and 2012-14 periods of strong contention), in which they've made the playoffs eight times and won zero ALCS games.

Surprisingly, the best option for this entry comes from the team whose (excrement) doesn't work in the playoffs. It's 2003 ALDS Game 1: A's 5, Red Sox 4 (12). Since it was the first game of the series, both teams had their aces going - which meant the underrated Tim Hudson for the Oakland, and the much-better-than-Tim-Hudson(-and-most-other-pitchers) Pedro Martinez for Boston.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Best Postseason Win: San Francisco Giants

There's only so much room in sports narrative for talk about championship droughts - and for most of recent baseball history, that storytelling role has been filled by the Red Sox and Cubs, with an honorary mention for the pre-1980 Phillies. But there have been plenty of other noteworthy droughts; the White Sox went two years longer than their crimson counterparts between titles, the Indians haven't won in nearly 7 decades, and over half of baseball's expansion teams have yet to win a title at all (the Rangers, Astros, Padres, Nationals, Brewers, Mariners, Rockies, and Rays).

And then you have the Giants. As mentioned in the last post, they won the World Series in 1954, and moved to San Francisco three years later. They had Willie Mays, and Willie McCovey, and Juan Marichal, and Gaylord Perry, and Orlando Cepeda... and didn't win a title. They lost the Series in 7 in 1962, and then went on a long run of not-good-enough finishes (four straight second place efforts from 1965-68, with a bonus #2 spot in the newly-formed NL West in '69). They made the playoffs again in 1971 but lost the NLCS, and after that, Mays and McCovey were gone or aging and the team backslid for a decade and a half until Will Clark showed up in the late '80s. They lost a close NLCS in 1987, then won the pennant but got swept in the earthquake Series of 1989, and then slipped again for a bit.

In 1993, the Giants brought in one of the best free agent acquisitions ever in Barry Bonds, and promptly won 103 games - but since it was the last year before baseball revamped its playoff structure, the team with the game's second-best record finished one back of the Braves, who lost the NLCS to the 97-win Phillies, who lost the World Series to the 95-win Blue Jays. That season kicked off another stretch of intermittent competitiveness, with more playoff appearances (because more were available) but not more success. The Giants lost three of their four division series between 1997-03; in 2002, they made the World Series, carried by a torrid October from Bonds, but blew a 5-0 lead in Game 6 and went down in seven. And after a second-place finish in 2004, Bonds finally aged and the team slipped again, posting four straight losing records.

You probably already know what happened next, since we're getting into very recent events. The '09 Giants won 88 games, and in 2010, San Francisco assembled a terrific collection of young pitchers, and cobbled together an offense out of players who, with two notable exceptions, were better-traveled than the Harlem Globetrotters. They won 92 games, and beat the Braves in four games in the NLDS, advancing to face the Phillies, who were the winners of the last two NL pennants and were led by a still-excellent offense and a marvelous starting trio of their own.

The teams split the first two games in Philadelphia, and the Giants took the third, which brings us to the topic here:

2010 NLCS Game 4: Giants 6, Phillies 5. Philly's veteran Joe Blanton face off against Giant rookie Madison Bumgarner. This matchup was not yet as lopsided as it would look later... but it didn't exactly favor the Phillies, either.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Best Postseason Win: New York Giants

This post is not really about the Yankees. It's just hard to tell a story about baseball in the 1950's that doesn't start with them.

From 1949-53, the Yankees won five consecutive World Series; it was a record then, it's a record now, and given that the baseball playoffs seem to be growing at a rate approaching that of the expanding universe and short baseball series are little more than an exhilarating coinflip, it's probably going to be a record for the foreseeable future. The remarkable thing about the team was not just that they won all the time, but that they did it while constantly turning over their roster. Only one position player had at least 120 games played for both the 1949 and 1953 teams. (Yes, there were three others who were over 100 in both years, but still.)

In 1954, the Yankees won 103 games - more than they had won in any of the five preceding seasons. And the Indians still beat them out for the AL pennant - easily. The Indians had one of the best regular seasons ever, setting an AL record with 111 wins. As a result, the team that had finally dethroned the Yankees was a substantial favorite in the World Series against the Giants, who had won a mere 97 games.

Which brings us to the Giants' best postseason win. 1954 World Series Game 1: Giants 5, Indians 2 (10). The Giants sent Sal Maglie to the mound; he didn't have the best 1954 of any of their starters (that was Johnny Antonelli), but he probably did end up with the best career of the group. He would have had, at best, the fourth-best résumé on Cleveland's staff (you can argue either way between Maglie and Mike Garcia). He was opposed by Bob Lemon, one of the Indians' three future Hall of Fame starters.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Best Postseason Win: Nobody

No, this isn't a discussion of Odysseus's victory over Polyphemus while acting under an anonymous pseudonym, although that was a classic. It is, literally, the best postseason game that nobody won.

There were three ties in the history of the World Series. (I guess you could technically say "have been" instead of "were," since it is not utterly impossible that baseball could add to the total, but it's hardly likely, given the existence of stadium lightning and the available option to suspend a game and resume it at a later time if needed.) As ties, they were inherently close games, especially because all three of them went to extra innings. But as ties, they also lack the satisfaction of an actual result.

Even with that caveat, there was one tie in particular that I wanted to write up, and it happens to be the best of the three by a fairly healthy margin.

1912 World Series Game 2: Giants 6, Red Sox 6 (11). Boston started Ray Collins, who spent about five years as a good-to-excellent starter in what wouldn't have been considered heavy work at the time (his career high in starts was 30 and he exceeded 250 innings only once). After posting a career-high 20 wins in 1914, Collins vanished from the league after 100 terrible innings the next year. He was opposed by another pitcher whose career was about to go into decline - but Christy Mathewson preceded his slide with twelve consecutive seasons exceeding Collins's career high in wins (and usually exceeding it by a wide margin).

Monday, December 7, 2015

Best Postseason Win: Boston Red Sox

For a team that went nearly a century without winning the World Series, the Red Sox have a very large selection of outstanding postseason victories. It makes sense, given that most of their playoff losses were of the agonizing variety, and it's hard to be too torn up about getting swept out of a series. True sports misery comes from losing a series in which you had a chance - which means a close series, and you can't have a close series without winning some of the games. Indeed, the Red Sox had two extremely (and justifiably) famous postseason wins come out of years in which they did not win the World Series - and if this post was being written 15 years ago, it would most likely be about one of them, and would end with a sad disclaimer.

Happily for Red Sox fans, their postseason fortunes have shifted with the new century, and with them, the selection for this post. The famed Dave Roberts Steal Game, which came when they were down 3-0 in the 2004 ALCS, saw the Sox trade the lead with the Yankees throughout regulation, come back to tie in the ninth, strand a baseload of Yankees in the eleventh, and finally win in the twelfth on a David Ortiz walkoff homer. It surpassed all previous Red Sox postseason wins... and held the top spot for about 24 hours before being leapfrogged.

Our selection is 2004 ALCS Game 5: Red Sox 5, Yankees 4 (14). Future Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez started for Boston, and was opposed by Mike Mussina, who will hopefully one day join him in Cooperstown. Both men were into their thirties and had slipped from the peak of their considerable skills, but both were still quality pitchers.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Best Postseason Win: Boston Braves

The last post was about the Atlanta Braves, who had one of baseball's longest runs of regular-season success in the 1990s and early 2000s. The Braves of a century earlier were like them in essentially no ways.

First, they weren't in Atlanta; they were in Boston. Second, they weren't the Braves; they started the 20th century as the Boston Beaneaters, then went through such imposing nicknames as the Doves and the Rustlers before settling on Braves in 1912 (with a brief detour to Bees in the late '30s). And third, they were straight-up awful. The World Series was first played in 1903, and it featured the Beaneaters' Boston counterparts (then known as the Boston Americans, because they were in the American league... subtlety was not an omnipresent feature of early baseball nicknames). Meanwhile, the Beaneaters themselves, who had been reasonably successful in 1902 (a 73-64-5 record, good for third in the NL), slipped significantly to 58-80-2, and fell to sixth in the standings. (The last number in those records, of course, represents ties, because ties were a relatively common feature of formative baseball. If the sun went down and neither team was winning, there weren't a lot of options.)

That .420 winning percentage and sixth-place finish both represented the franchise's high point for the next decade. From 1904-12, the team that would eventually be known as the Braves came in last in the eight-team NL five times, and seventh in three other years. And they weren't merely a bad team; they tended to be a dreadful one, as six times in the nine years, they failed to win even 35% of their games. By comparison, the only team in the last decade to dip below 35% has been the abysmal Astros of recent vintage; they fell that far three times, bottoming out at .311 in 2013, their first AL season. Boston's NL franchise came in below that decade-worst winning percentage twice in the early 20th century: .294 in 1909, and .291 in 1911.

The recently-christened Braves turned things around a bit in 1913, finishing in fifth, with a 69-82 record. But in 1914, business as usual seemed to be resuming, as the team started off 3-16 and found themselves 10.5 games out of first after a month of play. The team started to play better from there; it would have been nearly impossible not to. But after getting swept in a July 4 doubleheader, they were 26-40, 15 games out and still in last.

After that... things turned around. The Braves won four straight, then three, then six. On August 1, they climbed back to .500, at 45-45, for the first time since they hadn't played a game yet. That was in the middle of an eight-game winning streak; once that was broken, they won seven more in a row (with the exception of a tie). On July 18, the Braves had been in last; 30 days later, they were in second, three games behind the Giants. They had gone 22-3 over the intervening month.

Much like their abysmal beginning, that pace was unsustainable, and the Braves did start to lose a bit more often - but so did the Giants. Boston pulled even for the first time on August 25, and two days later, started a 10-3 run that moved them from 1.5 games back to 1.5 games ahead. Then they really took off, unleashing a 20-2 sprint that emphatically ended any semblance of a pennant race.

The Braves, arguably the National League's worst franchise, were going to the World Series, making them the first team other than the Giants, Cubs, and Pirates to represent the Senior Circuit. Their opponents? The Philadelphia A's, owners of the storied $100,000 infield and winners of three of the previous four Series.

Naturally, the Braves went into Philadelphia and beat up on the A's just like they had on everyone else they'd faced for the last three months. They knocked Chief Bender around to take the first game 7-1, then had their young ace, Bill James (no, not that one), outduel future Hall of Famer Eddie Plank 1-0 in Game 2. The Series shifted to Fenway Park (the Braves played about a third of their home games there) for the third game, which doubles as our entry here.

1914 World Series Game 3: Braves 5, A's 4 (12). The pitching matchup was a pair of youngsters: Boston's 24-year-old Lefty Tyler, who two years earlier had led the NL in losses while pitching for a lousy Braves team, and Philly's 21-year-old Bullet Joe Bush, who two years later would lead the AL in losses while pitching for a lousy A's team. There's probably a full blog post in discussing each of their careers, and there's a full-length book in laying out the story of how the A's went from being great to terrible, but we've done enough lead-in already.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Best Postseason Win: Atlanta Braves

The Atlanta Braves of the 1990s and early 2000s are one of baseball's longest-lasting dynasties (non-Yankee edition). They famously won 14 consecutive division titles (in completed seasons; the Expos led them in the NL East when the strike hit in 1994). You can argue that this record was enabled by the changes in baseball's playoff format - but that argument doesn't hold up terribly well, because if you lump the NL together as one giant league (and make the same exception for '94 that's already made for the division title streak), the Braves would have won seven consecutive pennants from 1992-99. That would also have been a record, and one set in a larger league than any of the Yankee dynasties it surpassed.

Given their constant presence in the postseason for a decade and a half, it should come as no surprise that the Braves won quite a few October games - 65 since the move to Atlanta, nearly all of them within their stretch of dominance. Some of those games were quite noteworthy - the clinching sixth game of the 1999 NLCS was an utterly wild 11-inning seesaw affair, the seventh game of the 1992 NLCS featured probably the most dramatic pinch hit single in baseball history, and the 1991 World Series, while best-known for dramatic victories by the opposing Twins, had a pair of spectacular wins by the Braves as well.

I am picking none of those games. Instead, the selection is (probably) the first NLDS game played under the new playoff format, Game 1 of the 1995 NLDS: Braves 5, Rockies 4. The Rockies started their ace, Kevin Ritz, who attained that status by being their only pitcher to qualify for the ERA title. (The Rockies actually had a pretty good pitching staff once you adjust for Coors Field, but it was very bullpen heavy.) The Braves countered with their ace, Greg Maddux, who earned that billing by winning the ERA title. For the third year in a row. And his fourth straight Cy Young award. And coming in third in the MVP voting. And winning his sixth straight Gold Glove, because the other stuff didn't make him ridiculous enough.

Greg Maddux was good. You all know this, and I'm not going to do a second consecutive multi-paragraph digression about a Hall of Fame Braves starter. Let's get to the game.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Best Postseason Win: Milwaukee Braves

The Milwaukee Braves are, I believe, the shortest-lived team to have an entry on this list. The Braves are one of the two franchises to have moved twice; the other, the Philadelphia/Kansas City/Oakland Athletics, did not make the playoffs in their middle iteration. But the Braves had something going for them that the A's didn't: Hank Aaron. And Eddie Mathews. And... well, let's forgo listing all of their players and just say they were a highly talented team - one that arguably should have won more than they did.

But here at Best Postseason Win, we're focused on the positive. And the positive in this case is a good one: 1957 World Series Game 4, Braves 7, Yankees 5 (10). New York's starter was Tom Sturdivant, who spent most of his career as a reliever; '57 was his only all-starting season, and it was a good one. He went 16-6 in a career-high 28 starts, with a 2.54 ERA.

The Braves replied with the guy who would have been next on the above list of great players: Warren Spahn, who in 1957 had essentially an average season - for Warren Spahn. Which means that he went 21-11, 2.69.

(No, seriously, this was almost exactly his average, in all respects. Spahn's full numbers were 21-11, 2.69 ERA (130 ERA+), 35 starts, 18 complete games, 271 innings, 111 strikeouts, 78 walks, 23 homers allowed, and 4.7 WAR per Baseball-Reference, His averages over a 17-year span, from 1947-63, were (with some rounding): 20-12, 2.96 (124 ERA+), 35 starts, 21 complete games, 278 innings, 138 strikeouts, 75 walks, 22 homers allowed, and 5.4 WAR. Eleven times in those 17 years, Spahn's total WAR was between 4 and 7. Ten seasons of the 17, he won either 21 or 22 games.)

(We'll get to the game in a minute, I promise, but one more Spahn note first: His 1957 was probably not quite as good as his average season - and he won the Cy Young. And this was in the early days of the Cy, when they only gave out one award for all of MLB.)

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Best Postseason Win: Milwaukee Brewers

There have been two genuinely good Brewers teams in the history of the franchise - Harvey's Wallbangers in the early '80s, and the NL Central contenders of roughly 2007-12. The Wallbangers were clearly better; their six consecutive winning seasons from 1978-83 are easily the franchise's high-water mark, and they won the only pennant in team history. They are also likely to be more fondly remembered. Their two best players were Robin Yount, who spent hist entire Hall of Fame career with the Brewers, and Paul Molitor, who stuck with Milwaukee for all but the end of his career as well. Molitor struggled with drug use early in his career, but cocaine has to this point not been considered nearly as serious an offense in baseball circles as steroids, which got current Brewer star Ryan Braun suspended for half a season. Meanwhile, the recent squad's other signature player, Prince Fielder, left town in his prime to sign a large (one might even say Prince Fielder-sized) contract with the Tigers.

All of that is to say, most fans would probably opt for a postseason win from the 1980s Brewers here, rather than the more recent version. Naturally, WPL does not care, and in this case, at least, I agree with it.

Game 5, 2011 NLDS: Brewers 3, Diamondbacks 2 (10). The decisive game of the series matched up the two aces, pitting Milwaukee's Yovani Gallardo against Arizona's... Ian Kennedy? Man, it's only been four years and it's still hard to remember that Kennedy had a 21-4 season.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Best Postseason Win: Seattle Mariners

The Mariners are better off than some of the other teams whose victories we've reviewed - but not overwhelmingly so, having never reached the World Series and only winning 16 postseason games to date in their 39-year history. In fact, it took nearly 20 years for them to reach the playoffs for the first time, and by that point, the possibility existed that the team would be moved out of Seattle.

Any Mariner fan reading this already knows what came next - and the result is Seattle's entry here. 1995 ALDS Game 5: Mariners 6, Yankees 5 (11). The pitching matchup features David Cone for the second straight entry here; this time, the itinerant ace took the mound for the Yankees, facing off with Andy Benes, whose two-month stint with the Mariners completely escaped my attention (probably because it was rather forgettable; his ERA was over 5).

Friday, November 20, 2015

Best Postseason Win: Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays have two major advantages on their former Canadian brethren. First, they've won two World Series titles, and made the playoffs a few more times (including this year).

Second, they still exist. So they have that going for them, which is nice.

The more famous of Toronto's back-to-back world titles is 1993, which featured both the highest-scoring game in World Series history and a come-from-behind Series-ending walkoff homer. So naturally, WPL is bypassing both of those games in favor of the best entry from the previous year.

1992 World Series Game 6: Blue Jays 4, Braves 3 (11). The pitching matchup was David Cone, who at 29 had been traded for the first time in midseason, thereby putting him on the wandering ace path that would define the latter part of his excellent career, against Steve Avery, a 22-year-old lefty coming off of back-to-back 35-start, 115 ERA+ seasons, who fit in nicely with the other two young aces on the Atlanta staff (for now).

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Best Postseason Win: Montreal Expos

The best postseason win for the Expos was, of course, the seventh game of the 1994 World Series, in which the greatest Expo team of all time, led by star outfielders Larry Walker and Moises Alou, plus a pitching staff including ace Ken Hill, emergent Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez, and stud closer John Wetteland, beat the Yankees in a 15-inning thriller. It was, in fact, the greatest game that was never played.

But since we're constrained by the need to describe actual events, we'll go with the best of a limited set of options - 1981 NLDS Game 1: Expos 3, Phillies 1. Montreal started the best pitcher in team history, Steve Rogers, whose nickname obviously would have been Captain America if he'd played for almost any other team. Despite Rogers' excellence, they were still at a disadvantage against Philly's Steve Carlton, a Hall of Famer whose third-place finish in the '81 Cy Young voting was sandwiched between a pair of wins.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Best Postseason Win: Washington Nationals

The Washington Nationals have now existed for eleven years. In those eleven years, they have made the playoffs twice, and in both of those appearances, they have lost their first series.

So we're not drowning in a sea of options here. Fortunately, one of the team's three postseason wins is pretty good - 2012 NLDS Game 1: Nationals 3, Cardinals 2. The game matched up (maybe) the best pitchers on each team - Adam Wainwright, who had missed 2011 due to Tommy John surgery and spent 2012 still showing the effects, and Gio Gonzalez, who I believe became the first starter ever to win 20 games without throwing 200 innings.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Best Postseason Win: Washington Senators

The Washington Senators were one of the original American League franchises in 1901, and relocated to Minnesota in 1961. (They were replaced by another iteration of the Senators that year; that team would relocate to Texas a decade later and become the Rangers. The second Senators did not make a single postseason appearance, so this is the only mention they'll get in this series.)

In their 60 years of existence, the original Senators won the AL pennant a total of three times. They weren't quite the St. Louis Browns, but they still very much earned the line: "First in war, first in peace, and last in the American League." They were so bad, in fact, that even the presence of arguably the greatest pitcher in baseball history wasn't enough to pull them entirely out of the doldrums; in the first 17 years of Walter Johnson's career (1907-1923), they had fewer winning records (6) than bottom-two finishes (7), only twice finished within 10 games of first, and won no pennants.

Until 1924, that is. The 36-year-old Johnson was still effective that year, and finally had a quality team built around him, with future Hall of Famers Goose Goslin and Sam Rice in the outfield, future AL MVP Roger Peckinpaugh at shortstop, and a solid group of pitchers, including Firpo Marberry, regarded as one of the first relief aces. (He had almost as many starts - 14 - as saves - 15 - in 1924. Suffice it to say that the "relief ace" standards have changed a little in the intervening 90 years.)

That team finally claimed Washington's first pennant, setting up a World Series against the New York Giants, who had won their fourth NL flag in a row. The Series itself was a really good one, and culminated in one of the most famous games in baseball history.

Game 7, 1924 World Series: Senators 4, Giants 3 (12).

Monday, November 16, 2015

Best Postseason Win: Minnesota Twins

The two best postseason games the Twins have ever won are probably the two you would expect: Game 6 and Game 7 of the astounding 1991 World Series. Both games check all of the boxes you could hope for in a best postseason win - hugely important, team won the World Series, legendary plays, heroic individual performances (or sports-heroic, at least).

So naturally, I am picking... neither of them. Instead, I'm going to cheat just slightly and pick a game that's not technically from the postseason - but it may as well have been, and in terms of in-game excitement, it easily surpasses both of the 1991 contests.

It's the 2009 AL Central one-game playoff: Twins 6, Tigers 5 (12). Both teams had to play all-out through the scheduled end of the regular season, so neither necessarily had the starter it wanted available for this game; however, the Twins were still able to use Scott Baker, who was roughly as good as ostensible ace Nick Blackburn, while the Tigers had a much larger dropoff from Justin Verlander to Rick Porcello.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Best Postseason Win: Kansas City Royals

Game 1, 2015 World Series: Royals 5, Mets 4 (14). In 2013, Matt Harvey was a phenom, posting a 2.27 ERA in 178.1 innings; meanwhile, Edinson Volquez put up a 5.71 figure spread across two NL West teams, both of whom play in pitcher's parks.

In 2014, their fortunes were sharply reversed. Volquez cut his ERA nearly in half, going for a 3.04 mark in Pittsburgh, while Harvey missed the entire year after Tommy John surgery.

And in 2015, both pitchers were very good (13-8, 2.71 for Harvey; 13-9, 3.55 for Volquez), and they faced off in Game 1 of the World Series.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

2015 MLB Postseason: The statistical view

With baseball season having wrapped up, it's time to return to one of my favorite topics: postseason statistics, We'll look at the MVPs and LVPs in both pitching and hitting, then introduce a series that will carry me through the rest of this year.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Grand Slam Scores update: Post-2015

And we're back (again). A second stolen computer and a move to a less theft-prone apartment later, and I should be up and running for the foreseeable future. On the other hand, the goal of posting regular ranking updates for the entire 2015 season has vanished just as thoroughly as my previous two laptops, so I'm taking the rest of this year to overhaul the Melog rating in a few ways. If my computer remains my computer, I'll plan to resume regular ranking updates at the beginning of next year.

For now, here's something a bit simpler: an update on where the best players of 2015 now stand in Slam Score.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Melog Rankings: Post-French Open 2015

And we're back. Apologies for the interruption; it turns out that the difficulty of compiling tennis rankings based on inordinately large spreadsheets increases exponentially when somebody steals your computer. But the computer has now been replaced, the spreadsheets re-accessed (thanks to the cloud-based version of Office), and we're up and running again.

So... did anything interesting happen while I was out of action?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Game of the Day (4/21/91)

Pirates 13, Cubs 12 (11). Chicago's Mike Harkey took on Pittsburgh's Randy Tomlin. Both of them were 24 years old at the time of the game, and neither would end up having a particularly noteworthy career; Harkey would have the best single season by either man - and it was his rookie season, which came in 1990 and was thus already behind him.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Game of the Fortnight (4/20/15)

In terms of producing exciting contests, the 2015 baseball season is off to a fine start. April 12 produced both a 14-inning affair between the Astros and Rangers and an 11-inning showdown between St. Louis and Cincinnati in which there were three lead changes, and the Reds left the go-ahead or winning run in scoring position for three straight innings before the Cardinals finished them off. Both of those were exceeded by Arizona and San Francisco's 12-inning battle on April 16, in which the Giants rallied to tie in both the ninth and tenth, gave up two in the twelfth, then got one of them back only to leave the tying run on second.

But all of those options were merely vying for second place behind Red Sox 6, Yankees 5 (19).

Melog Rankings: Post-Monte Carlo 2015

April is here, which means the weather is warming up, it's raining all the time, and the tennis season has shifted onto European clay. It's always been one of Rafael Nadal's best months; last year was the first time in a decade that he went without a title in April. Let's see how the first part of this year's fourth month has changed things.

Game of the Day (4/20/91)

Tigers 2, White Sox 1 (12). Detroit's Walt Terrell, a nearly-33-year-old right-hander winding down an almost-2000-inning career with his second stint as a Tiger, took on Chicago's Greg Hibbard, a 26-year-old lefty whose previous two seasons looked promising, but who would soon enter a pretty sharp decline largely due to an utter dearth of strikeouts.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Game of the Day (4/19/91)

Pirates 5, Cubs 4. Chicago started Danny Jackson, who is one of the more fortunate journeyman pitchers in baseball history; he pitched in the postseason five times, for five different teams, and came out of it with two rings. (In the '85 playoffs, Jackson's Royals trailed 3-1 in both the ALCS and the World Series; Jackson posted complete game victories in both Game 5's, and the Royals came back to win both series.) Pittsburgh's starter, Vicente Palacios, threw less than 20% as many major league innings as Jackson, but that was largely because much of his career was spent in the Mexican League. Baseball-Reference has a fairly interesting short bio of him here.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Game of the Day (4/18/91)

Brewers 4, Orioles 3 (11). Baltimore's Jeff Ballard was just 27 years old when this game was played, but had under 200 innings remaining in a big league career that had seen him join a rotation for the first time at 23. It wasn't an enviable fate - unless you were Milwaukee's Mark Knudson, who was 30 and had under 50 innings to go before the finish line.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Using Slam Scores: Difficulty of Final

Last time out, we used Slam Scores to evaluate which players might be overrated or underrated by conventional wisdom. This time, we’ll be… doing something almost identical, actually, but in a different way. It’s easy to find the players who’ve won the most Grand Slams, but it’s rare that anyone puts systematic consideration into the question of who was beaten in the process of winning them.

So let’s find out – which players have faced the toughest slates of opponents in Grand Slam finals?

Game of the Day (4/17/91)

Mariners 4, Twins 3 (11). Minnesota's Kevin Tapani and Seattle's Scott Bankhead were both 27-year-old right-handers (Bankhead about 8 months older). Bankhead entered the '91 season with over 600 career innings pitched, over 3 times as many as Tapani had thrown to this point. From '91 on, Bankhead had just over 270 innings remaining in his arm; Tapani, meanwhile, had over 2000 to go.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Game of the Day (4/16/91)

A's 8, Angels 5 (11). California's Mark Langston was a veteran left-hander in the middle of a long and excellent career, and was embarking on a season in which he would receive Cy Young votes. Oakland's Joe Slusarski was making just the second start in a career that would eventually include exactly as many starts as Langston's 1991 season (and fewer than his opponent would make in four other individual years).

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Game of the Day (4/15/91)

Indians 1, Red Sox 0 (13). Cleveland started 24-year-old right-hander Charles Nagy, who was spending his first full season in the rotation for the team he'd stick with for over a decade. Boston countered with 32-year-old southpaw Matt Young, who was pitching for his fifth major league team (plus two minor league squads) in six years. I'm sure there have been plenty of matchups between pitchers in more widely varied circumstances, but this one has to be at least 90th percentile in that respect, right?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Game of the Day (4/14/91)

A's 7, Mariners 6. Oakland's Dave Stewart faced Seattle's Erik Hanson. Both right-handers had thrown very well in 1990, and neither of them would ever pitch quite that effectively again.

Of course, since Stewart had just turned 34, this wasn't unexpected in his case. Hanson, however, had not yet seen his 26th birthday.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Game of the Day (4/13/91)

Yankees 9, Royals 8. This is the second American League game to be selected so far in 1991 - and in both of them, Yankee starter Tim Leary has faced a pitcher who would eventually have a halfway credible (though unsuccessful) Hall of Fame case. His opponent this time was Bret Saberhagen, and since it was an odd-numbered year, that makes him a formidable foe.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Game of the Day (4/12/91)

Expos 4, Mets 3 (11). Montreal's Bill Sampen and New York's Ron Darling were relatively close in age; their birth dates were separated by about two and a half years. Despite this proximity, they were at significantly different stages of their careers. Sampen had made his major league debut at age 27 in 1990, and spent most of that year in the bullpen; as a result, this was the fifth start of his major league career. Darling, meanwhile, had been up since 1983, and had been in the Met rotation from the beginning, so his first appearance of 1991 was career start number 225.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Game of the Day (4/11/91)

Giants 11, Padres 9 (10). San Diego's Andy Benes and San Francisco's Mike LaCoss were both right-handed pitchers whose careers would eventually last 14 years and just over 400 games. Benes, however, was beginning just the third season of his career, while LaCoss was playing the opening chords of his swan song.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Game of the Day (4/10/91)

Phillies 8, Mets 7 (10). Philadelphia started Jose de Jesus, who was approaching the end of a relatively brief career, largely because he was on the way to leading the NL in walks in 1991. The Mets countered with a pitcher who would pick up his own league lead this season - eventual strikeout champ David Cone.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Game of the Day (4/9/91)

Mets 2, Phillies 1 (10). New York started Frank Viola; Philadelphia sent Jason Grimsley to the mound. The two were nearly diametric opposites. Viola was a 31-year-old lefty with good control who'd spent nearly a decade in the league, with his highlights including a shutout win in Game 7 of the 1987 World Series and an AL Cy Young award the next year. He was also one of baseball's most durable pitchers, having made at least 34 starts every season since 1983 (a streak that would continue through '92). Grimsley, meanwhile, was a 22-year-old right-hander with virtually no control who'd thrown fairly well in a fractional season of starting duty in 1990, but would go on to regress sharply in '91 before getting sent back to the minors in early June. That was not the last time Grimsley would be shipped back to AAA; he spent all of '92, '97, and '98 in the minors, and eventually made a permanent move to the bullpen. His tumultuous career eventually took him to seven teams, and came to an end after he was investigated for HGH use in 2006.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Game of the Day (4/8/91)

Tigers 6, Yankees 4. Detroit opened its season with Frank Tanana on the mound; the 37-year-old southpaw had once been an ace, but had long since entered the capable-innings-eater phase of his career. He was still a better Opening Day option than New York's Tim Leary, a 32-year-old right-hander who in 1990 had led the AL in losses and wild pitches.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Game of Opening Day 2015

Dodgers 6, Padres 3. As you'd expect on Opening Day, both teams sent their aces, which meant Clayton Kershaw took on James Shields.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Melog Rankings: Post-Miami 2015

Last time, we saw that this year's edition of the Indian Wells Masters event created only minor disturbances in the rankings, mostly because the outcome of the final was the same as it had been last year - Novak Djokovic over Roger Federer.

The fortnight since then brought the playing of another Masters event, this one in Miami. And while Djokovic defended this title as well (sweeping Indian Wells and Miami for the third time in his career), his victory in the final this year was over Andy Murray rather than Rafael Nadal. Let's see if that created a bit more movement.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

2015 Baseball Preview

The 2015 baseball season gets underway on Sunday, which means I'd better get the obligatory prediction post out of the way. Please keep in mind when reading this post that I picked the Padres to win the NL West last year, and that my Cy Young choices may in fact be cursed - not only have I never picked a winner correctly, but my guesses tend to have horrible years. (Last year, Clay Buchholz had an ERA over 5, and Michael Wacha barely cleared 100 innings.)

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Using Slam Scores: Overrated and Underrated

I've expended quite a bit of virtual ink in this space discussing Grand Slam Scores, which evaluate historical performance in Slams as a way of comparing tennis players. But any player evaluation method worth its salt should be able to do more than just supply an answer to "which guy is better?" questions. Are Grand Slam Scores up to that task?

Let's find out. We'll start by applying them to the question of which tennis players are the most likely to be overrated and underrated in conventional opinion.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Melog Rankings: Post-Indian Wells 2015

It's been three weeks since our last checkup on the world's best tennis players - and in those three weeks, only one tournament was played on the ATP World Tour. This is actually a good sign as far as the interest level of the tennis that's been played: the tournament was the 96-man Indian Wells Masters event, one of the most important events on the calendar, and the extra week was taken up by the (very exciting) first round of Davis Cup play for 2015. Here's where we stand with those matches in the books:

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Grand No-Slam Scores

We’ve spent a significant amount of time and virtual ink exploring Grand Slam Scores as a method for historical evaluation of tennis players – and so far, a significant portion of the findings that have resulted can be summed up by saying, “Roger Federer is really, really good.” While that is, of course, a perfectly valid conclusion to draw (and reinforce many times over), it is also not one that requires the development of new metrics to discover. So let’s expand our horizons beyond the Nadals, Samprases, Lendls, and Borgs of the tennis landscape, and use Slam Scores to evaluate some of the lesser lights of tennis history.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Melog Rankings: Post-February 2015

We've come to the conclusion of the month on the tennis calendar that has the biggest disparity between activity and attention. There were 12 total events in February, and every player in the top 10 participated in at least one; if you leave out Djokovic and Federer, the rest of the top 10 all played two or more.

So let's see where our top 50 stand as the tennis world braces for a return to... maybe not the spotlight, but at least a bit of increased newsworthiness.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Grand Per-Slam Scores

We’ve spent some time now on Grand Slam Scores as a method for evaluating tennis players. We’ve used two different weighting methods, and broken the scores down Slam by Slam. But everything we’ve looked at so far has been a career total, and that is inevitably only part of the story.

So let’s move on to the other basic mode of evaluation: rate statistics. We’ll start with the top players in overall Grand Slam Score accumulated per Slam played:

Monday, February 16, 2015

Melog Rankings: Mid-February 2015

February is not a month in which tennis gets a huge amount of attention from the American sports media. Not only are there no Grand Slams played, there are also no Masters events - and this February, the Davis Cup is also absent.

There are, however, more ATP World Tour events held in February than in any other month on the calendar. And with half of those tournaments now complete, including the first 500-point event of the year in Rotterdam, let's see where we stand on Melog's top 50 players.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Grand Slam-by-Slam Scores

We’ve already looked at two versions of Grand Slam Scores and seen how they treat the career totals of a variety of players. Now, it’s time to start breaking the scores down into their components. We’ll start out the obvious way: by looking at scores achieved in each individual Slam. As mentioned in previous posts on the subject, these breakdowns will be done through the lens of the odds-based scoring method, rather than the world rankings-based method.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Melog rankings: Post-Australian Open 2015

So the men's Australian Open final was played yesterday. Given that Novak Djokovic won his fifth title at the event, an Open Era record, and cemented his current stranglehold on the #1 ranking in the process, it was probably the biggest sports story of the day, right?

Okay, maybe not. But it's still a pretty big deal, tennis-wise. So let's see what the Melog ratings think of the changes from last year's Australian to this year's.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Grand Slam Scores 2: The other weighting option

We’ve previously introduced Grand Slam scores as a simple-yet-effective method for evaluating players through tennis history through a lens that conventional wisdom can understand. The initial method used was to award 1 point for a title, and split that in half for each round further from the title that the player was eliminated. While that’s a mathematically satisfying way of handling things, there’s no reason to insist on it as the only possibility. And as it happens, there’s a readily-available alternative, one that’s already in use in a well-known venue.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Melog rankings: Pre-Australian Open 2015

As promised, I'm going to try doing biweekly (or thereabouts) updates to my tennis rankings this year. The rankings will contain the last year's worth of tennis from Grand Slams, the ATP and Challenger tours, and the Davis Cup World Group.

Due to slight changes in the ATP schedule this year as compared to last, there may occasionally be oddities in what I classify as the last year's worth of tennis - it may not always match the ATP's interpretation precisely, and I will try to point out such differences when they arise. This week's rankings cover exactly the same tennis as the ATP's, as they include everything from last year's Australian Open to the tournaments that were just completed on Saturday.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Evaluating tennis history: Grand Slam Scores

One of the subjects I plan to explore regularly in this space is tennis history. It's a subject I've explored to some extent already, generally through the context of my Melog ratings. While I think the Melog system does a creditable job evaluating tennis performance, it is not without issues.

One of those issues is that the system does not match the evaluation of tennis players in popular opinion. I often find this to be an asset; Melog places value on excelling throughout the year, not merely in big tournaments. But it is inescapably true that most evaluators, including the players themselves, put far more emphasis on Grand Slams than they do on anything else; in fact, “career Grand Slams won,” which obviously ignores achievement in other events, is a commonly-used proxy for all-time ranking.

There is another problem with the Melog system that troubles me far more: It requires a great deal of time to compile the necessary data to evaluate even a single year of tennis. And rewarding as I find that process, it still means that I’ve only got the numbers for 2008-14 so far, which leaves me without a ready means of comparing Roger Federer to Pete Sampras and Bjorn Borg. That would be a nice capability to have.

As it happens, I’ve developed a method that addresses both of those problems at once: it is based entirely on Grand Slam performance, and it is readily calculable for anyone who’s played in the Open Era. And given the content of these introductory paragraphs, you’ve probably figured out that I’m presenting that method here.