What We’re Reading: February 16

The dust has barely settled on the Super Bowl, yet it’s already time for the sporting world to turn its attention to a different marquee sport: baseball!  Spring Training for all 30 Major League teams begins this week, so we thought it would be a perfect time to check back in with the baseball industry and look towards what promises to be a very exciting 2017 season.

  • Recently, the St. Louis Cardinals were fined $2M and forced to forfeit two draft picks in penalty for Carlos Correa’s hacking of the Houston Astros’ proprietary database. SSAC speaker Ben Lindbergh, writing for The Ringer, argues that while Correa’s actions were certainly illegal, they may not have provided the Cardinals much benefit.   With the plethora of publicly available baseball data, and the technical expertise of every team, Lindbergh argues that baseball’s secrets don’t matter as much as they used to.
  • Spring Training can become monotonous for fans and players alike. But this year is different, as the World Baseball Classic returns for the fourth time to break up the pre-season routine.  The tournament, to be played from March 6 – 22, will feature a fantastic collection of talent, according to Craig Edwards at FanGraphs.  The United States, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico are all fielding entire rosters of big league players, with the United States bringing more talent than any of the other represented countries.  Maybe this is the year that the USA wins gold!
  • Most every team enters Spring Training with renewed optimism and a real belief that “this will be our year.” Projection systems such as PECOTA, which was developed by SSAC speaker Nate Silver and is now owned by Baseball Prospectus, are perhaps more realistic.  The team-level PECOTA projections for 2017 were released last week, and according to the models, it might be time for Royals and Padres fans to begin tempering those expectations.
  • Worth $8.35B at the time of signing, the Dodgers have the most lucrative regional TV deal in baseball. Yet for four years, Dodger games have been blacked out in the LA market because Charter Communications has not been able to sell the channel to other Los Angeles-area TV providers.  It appears as though nothing will change this year, leaving millions of Dodger fans once again without TV access to their favorite team.
  • Finally, some of the most original Sabermetric research this off-season came from SSAC speaker Harry Pavlidis and his group at Baseball Prospectus. Using detailed pitch data, Pavlidis and his team quantified for the first time, the idea of “pitch tunnels”: the fact that some pitchers are better than others at making their pitches look the same to the hitter.