Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Super World Cup

With the recent news that a baseball world cup is likely, I thought I'd take a look at how the teams might fare if composed of the best each country has to offer in major league baseball. My methodology was somewhat idiosyncratic, so I hope no one takes this as a major argument about the state of baseball or anything; it's just fun.

I only looked at the four countries that came close to fielding a full team of major leaguers, as Japan, Korea, Cuba, and Mexico don't have enough players in the major leagues for me to get reasonable results. That leaves the United States, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico.

To look at the offenses, I used MLVr, which measures marginal run contribution over an average major league player. Each team's roster was constrained to 14 major league players and was constructed with defensive positions in mind, although I decided not to also study each team's defense. In coming up with the total runs above major league average, I used a distribution that treated each of the eight starters equally and credited the starters with 80% of the team's offensive output. The bench's production was weighted based on the better players receving the most playing time (if you're curious about the formula, email me). Here goes:
US Dominican Venezuela Puerto Rico
Johnny Estrada 0.171 Miguel Olivo 0.046 Victor Martinez 0.16 I-Rod 0.267
Helton 0.507 Albert Pujols 0.526 Miguel Cabrera 0.228 Carlos Delgado 0.179
Mark Loretta 0.289 Alfonso Soriano 0.029 Miguel Cairo 0.008 Jose Vidro 0.075
Alex Rodriguez 0.205 Tejada 0.24 Carlos Guillen 0.285 Dodgers 2B 0.082
Scott Rolen 0.419 Adrian Beltre 0.467 Melvin Mora 0.4 Mike Lowell 0.215
J.D. Drew 0.409 Vlad Guerrero 0.421 Bobby Abreu 0.365 Jose Cruz Jr. -0.031
Jim Edmonds 0.475 Jose Guillen 0.165 Endy Chavez -0.143 Carlos Beltran 0.243
Berkman 0.411 Manny Ramirez 0.363 Magglio Ordonez 0.126 Bernie Williams 0.05
Travis Hafner 0.398 David Ortiz 0.318 Ramon Hernandez 0.127 Javy 0.216
Thome 0.339 Rafael Furcal 0.031 Edgardo Alfonzo 0.033 Jorge Posada 0.191
Varitek 0.167 Carlos Pena 0.048 Omar Vizquel -0.011 Dodgers 2B 0.082
Eric Chavez 0.228 Aramis Ramirez 0.338 Omar Infante -0.008 Ricky Ledee -0.016
Aaron Rowand 0.23 Sosa 0.123 Cesar Izturis -0.032 Ruben Sierra -0.043
Michael Young 0.107 Alberto Castillo -0.069 Richard Hidalgo -0.04 Jose Valentin -0.083
2.63715 1.9975 1.17695 0.975


For Puerto Rico, I merged Jose Hernandez and Alex Cora into one player taking up two roster spots to make the accounting easier. As you can see, a few players are playing out of position. Oh, and in anticipation of the immortal one likely never participating and to give the other countries a fighting chance, I left out Mr. Bonds. Did anyone else realize that three catchers who've arguably been the best three of this decade so far are all Puerto Rican? Anyway, the US clearly has the best offense, although the Dominican's not looking so bad. What if it was just the US against the best of everyone else? I did that, too:

US Non-US
Johnny Estrada 0.171 I-Rod 0.267
Helton 0.507 Albert Pujols 0.526
Mark Loretta 0.289 Carlos Guillen 0.285
Alex Rodriguez 0.205 Tejada 0.24
Scott Rolen 0.419 Adrian Beltre 0.467
J.D. Drew 0.409 Vlad Guerrero 0.421
Jim Edmonds 0.475 Carlos Beltran 0.243
Berkman 0.411 Bobby Abreu 0.365
Travis Hafner 0.398 Melvin Mora 0.4
Thome 0.339 Manny Ramirez 0.363
Varitek 0.167 Aramis Ramirez 0.338
Eric Chavez 0.228 David Ortiz 0.318
Aaron Rowand 0.23 Javy Lopez 0.216
Michael Young 0.107 Jose Hernandez 0.263
2.63715 2.65185


Pretty even, huh? It'll have to come down to pitching. For this I used the Stuff metric available on Baseball Prospectus' DT cards, which might be my favorite quick evaluation metric for pitchers. I do somewhat regret using Stuff since a) it's not very well-known, b) it doesn't give much credit to pitchers who earn their high rates of outs on balls in play, and c) the distribution of correlation to runs allowed is a little funky. Here's what you have to know, from the BP glossary:
A rough indicator of the pitcher's overall dominance, based on normalized strikeout rates, walk rates, home run rates, runs allowed, and innings per game. "10" is league average, while "0" is roughly replacement level. The formula is as follows: Stuff = EqK9 * 6 - 1.333 * (EqERA + PERA) - 3 * EqBB9 - 5 * EqHR9 -3 * MAX{6-IP/G),0}

Once I got to working on Puerto Rico, I was suddenly unable to find major leaguers, so I gave them the benefit of the doubt and filled out their staff with replacement level pitchers. I also distributed the innings to come up with the overall staff Stuff average.

US Dominican Venezuela Puerto Rico
Johnson 45 Pedro 33 Johan Santana 44 Joel Pineiro 15
Sheets 40 Odalis Perez 11 Freddy Garcia 25 Javier Vazquez 13
Schmidt 36 Ramon Ortiz 2 Carlos Zambrano 24 Replacement 0
Peavy 32 Jose Lima -2 Kelvim Escobar 24 Replacement 0
Lidge 51 Francisco Cordero 25 K-Rod 45 J.C. Romero 9
B.J. Ryan 40 Armando Benitez 14 Juan Rincon 34 Kiko Calero 20
Joe Nathan 34 Juan Cruz 12 Gio Carrara 13 Replacement 0
Flash Gordon 27 Damaso Marte 8 Wilson Alvarez 12 Replacement 0
Foulke 21 Guillermo Mota 8 Uguie Urbina 8 Replacement 0
38.60377 13.15094 29.26415 7.641509


US Non-US
Johnson 45 Johan Santana 44
Sheets 40 Pedro 33
Schmidt 36 Freddy Garcia 25
Peavy 32 Kelvim Escobar 24
Lidge 51 K-Rod 45
B.J. Ryan 40 Juan Rincon 34
Joe Nathan 34 Francisco Cordero 25
Flash Gordon 27 Akinori Otsuka 23
Foulke 21 Mariano Rivera 15
38.60377 32.20755


It's not so close; the US really has a much better supply of pitchers. And after cursory research, I don't think there have been any years when the results would have been much different. This shouldn't be a surprising result since in the United States baseball isn't far from compulsory for athletic males in suburban settings, and thus US baseball has an enormous talent pool which has an extreme socioeconomic advantage over the rest of the competition and thus would be expected to have better coaching, nutrition, and access to training and learning resources. Despite this advantage, however, the US would be far from a shoo-in to win a Super World Cup due to (you know I can't go without saying this, right?) the extremely small sample size that would be involved. In any event, I'll probably be rooting for Team Greece to turn it around after their lackluster performance in Athens and win the cup.

p.s. I promise that sometime soon I'll work out the formatting in my tables so that they're not always this difficult to read.

Comments:
Great stuff. Thanks man.

Bit surprised to see that Venezuela is head-and-shoulders above the DR when it comes to pitching. Figured they'd be better, but wow...
 
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