Data Visualization

MLB All-Star Break Recap: 5 storylines to follow in the second half

Believe it or not, we’ve reached the midpoint of the 2014 baseball season. As such, this is a great opportunity to look at the data that we’ve acquired so far and use it to look forward to the second half.

I put together the All-Star Break recap dashboard to analyze a variety of data on the 2014 season so far, including: year-to-date standings, payrolls, playoff projections, as well as individual offensive and pitching statistics. After diving into the data, 5 storylines stick out to me:

The Oakland Athletics are really, really good and I don’t think we’ve seen the best of them yet.

What the Athletics have been able to do throughout the first half of the season has been amazing. Baseball is all about scoring and preventing runs, and no team has done this better than the A’s so far this year.  It hasn’t been particularly close either. The A’s have a run differential (Runs Scored – Runs Allowed) of +134, well over twice that of the second best in the league. If anything, the A’s have underperformed in the first half—crazy.

Lots of teams are still in the playoff hunt, thanks to the second wildcard spot.

Based on the playoff projections available on fangraphs.com, 6 teams have a greater than 75% chance of securing a playoff spot. After these 6 teams, there are 12 teams reasonably competing for the remaining 4 spots. If nothing else, this lack of separation should make for a very interesting second half of the season.

Money doesn’t buy wins—at least not this year.

Of the 4 teams with the highest opening day payrolls, only the Dodgers have performed to expectations. The Yankees, Red Sox, and Phillies have all woefully underachieved. The Brewers and the Athletics on the other hand own the 2 highest winning percentages in the league while having the payrolls that rank 16th and 25th respectively.

Some big name pitchers might be in line for a rough second half.

Josh Beckett, Doug Fister, and Mark Buehrle are all name brand pitchers with long track records in the MLB. That being said, each has exceeded their expected performance by a significant margin so far this season (measured by ERA and FIP respectively), suggesting that each could be in line for a significant regression in the second half.

Are Lonnie Chisenhall and Corey Dickerson for real?

So far this season, Lonnie Chisenhall and Corey Dickerson (both young players and relatively unknown) have played at a similar level to the likes of Troy Tulowitzki, Mike Trout, and Yasiel Puig—bonafide MLB stars. Both Chisenhall and Dickerson have very high—and potentially unsustainable—batting averages on balls in play (BABIP). BABIP looks at the number of balls a player puts into play that fall for hits and is one statistic that can fluctuate quite a bit depending on luck. It will be interesting to see if Chisenhall and Dickerson are really top flight contributors, or if they have just been unusually lucky.

I encourage you to check out the dashboard here to uncover your own insights.

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