Swing State Pres

Friday, August 16, 2013

Yankees at the Three-Quarter Mark: What Will it Take? (August 16, 2013)

Yankee fans are a peculiar mixture of realists and dreamers, attributes often occupying the same mind.  We boo, we rage, we stare at the standings and admit to no hope. And yet, we still watch.…we still cheer….and a few of us….calculate…

What will it take to sneak into a wild card slot?  What do the Yanks need to do – statistically -- in these final 42 games to defy the incredible odds (6% according to espn.com) and live to see the postseason?

Recapping the Yanks as They Headed into the Second Half of the Season

At the midway mark, I said it would take a mixture of quality help (the return of “The Cavalry,” the injured stars expected to return by roughly August 1) and luck (continuing to win more games than their stats would indicate they “deserved”) to get to 87 wins, which I thought then might be enough for a wild card spot.  (See: http://www.borntorunthenumbers.com/2013/07/yankees-midseason-report-do-you-believe.html)  Analytically, I broke it down as follows:

Scenario 1:  Base Case…if the Yanks…

·        Continued to hit at their abysmal May/June OPS of .643
·        Continued to pitch to their reasonably good first half ERA of 3.87
·        Had none of the “Cavalry” (Jeter, A. Rod, Granderson and Cervelli) actually come back
·        Stopped winning more games than they “should” given their stats (“smoke and mirrors”), most likely due to their excellent 26-18 won-lost record in close games (1- or 2-run margin games)

In this scenario, they would end up with only 77 wins.

Scenario 2:  Smoke and Mirrors …same as Scenario 1, except they continued to win more games than they “deserved,” which would give them 5 extra wins, or 82 wins.

Scenario 3:  Smoke and Mirrors plus the Cavalry Returns…same as Scenario 2, except the “Cavalry” returns on August 1, and achieves a .744 OPS versus the .593 OPS of their replacements, they would get 5 more wins, or 87 wins.

And Now at the Three Quarter Mark, 120 Games

So far, through the first 39 games of the second half (from games 82-120), the performance has been pretty much as expected, per the chart below.   The pitchers have been a little bit better than expected (3.77 ERA versus 3.87, their first half ERA).  The hitters on balance have been virtually right on, with a .677 OPS versus my expectation for .683). 

The “Core Hitters” (Cano, Overbay, Gardner, Suzuki and Stewart) have slumped, but the "Cavalry" (substituting Soriano for Cervelli) has been superb, well ahead of expectations.  The “Replacement” players did slightly better than their terrible first half pace.

And the Yanks continue to “outperform” their stats, winning 20 games instead of the 18 that their .677 OPS/3.77 ERA says they should have won (per my regression equation).  Thus “smoke and mirrors” was worth 2 games, probably due to the fact that they continue to win more close games than they lose.


Games 82-120
Games 82-120

Projected
Actual
ERA
3.87
3.77
OPS
0.683
0.677
Core Hitters OPS
0.730
0.695
Replacements OPS
0.550
0.589
Cavalry OPS
0.744
0.875
Expected Wins
18
18
Actual Wins

20
Diff:  "Smoke/Mirrors"

2

If the Yankees continue to meet my expectations, then they are on pace for 86 wins.  This is a slight reduction from the 87 wins I previously projected because the “Smoke and Mirrors” effect has diminished a bit.  The "Cavalry” is doing better but the “base wins” from the Core and Replacement players (how many wins they would have if the Cavalry had never returned) are a bit off.



2nd Half
2nd Half

Ist Half
Projected
Projected

Actual
At Midseason
Now
Base Wins
37
35
34
Smoke & Mirrors
5
5
4
Cavalry
0
5
6
Total
42
45
44
Full Year
n/a
87
86

What Does it Take From Here?

What has to happen for the Yanks to sneak into the second wild card?

The problem is it will take more than 87 wins now.  Tampa Bay, Detroit and Kansas City got hot in the second half, and right now, the Bucs and Oakland are in a virtual tie for the two wild card slots with a winning percentage of about .570 each, which projects to 92 wins.  So, let’s say the Yanks need 92 wins to get there, which means they have to go 30-12 in their last 42 games. 

That’s a very tall order, as we all know.  What sort of OPS and ERA do they need to get there?

I can get the Yanks as far as 91 wins, but it’s a stretch.  Importantly, it’s not a huge stretch, but one nonetheless:

·        Most of the team (Gardner, Suzuki, Overbay, Stewart, Nunez, Nix, Wells and Romine) simply  has to do continue their OPS at the same level they’ve achieved thus far.  And for the pitchers, the same “keep up the good work” requirement holds (on ERA) for Kuroda, Nova, Mariano and the rest of the relievers.  None of this is implausible; only Kuroda and Nova are having exceptional years by career standards.

·        The Cavalry needs to keep overperforming…Granderson needs to maintain his .862 OPS (perhaps a stretch); Soriano has to bump up his current .785 OPS (including his Cub data) from .785 to .821 (his 2012 mark); and A. Rod has to jump a bit from .767 to .800.  Jeter has to return and achieve a .700 OPS in the final six weeks (Jeter has never been that low, even in 2010 when he hit .710).

·        And most of all, C.C., Pettitte and Hughes have to improve significantly…I figure it is reasonable for CC and Pettitte to hit a 3.50 ERA for the final quarter of the season, and Hughes to get to 4.50.  CC has a 3.40 over his last two starts, Hughes hit his 4.50 in his last start and Andy….well, Andy simply has to do better.

·        They need to stay healthy.  All of these guys need to play!

Believe it or not, if the Yanks check each box – IF those three underperforming starters turn into their former selves, IF the Cavalry performs to recent career standards, IF everyone else keeps on trucking and IF no one gets hurt – the Yanks have a shot.  They will have a team OPS for those last 42 games of .762, and a team ERA of 3.20, and that translates (using my regression equation) into a .641 won-loss percentage, or 27 wins over the last 42 games.  Add in 2 more wins for “smoke and mirrors) and the 62 they have already won, and that adds up to 91 wins…will it be enough for a wild card?

Or…the Yanks just took two out of three from Detroit and three out of four from the Angels…just keep winning each of the last 14 series and they achieve the same outcome. 

We’ll be back in October to see how we did!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

July Month in Review: Marco Rubio Stumbling on the Highwire? And the Econometer Continues to Rise... (August 4, 2013)

It is, to be sure, a slow month when the top political story is a Senate fight over the fate of the filibuster.  But such is life in July in Washington.  To briefly summarize that and the other main events that shaped the political dialogue this month:

·        The filibuster process indeed remained intact (that is, the so-called “nuclear option” was avoided) through a deal that allowed passage of a number of major President Obama appointments that the Republicans were heretofore refusing to consider.  (An editorial comments:  this is not the type of news that penetrates the national consciousness, but I, for one, am glad the filibuster rules remained in place.  They do contribute to the glacial congressional pace, but I’d hate to think of what could happen without it if the Republicans won the presidency and control of both houses of Congress, hardly an unlikely possibility).

·        The wheel of fortune spun once again in the Middle East, where the “coup-that-isn’t-a-military-coup-because-if-it-was-we’d-have-to-cut-off-$1.5 billion-in-foreign-aid-to-Egypt” occurred, tossing Morsi and Islamic Brotherhood out of power.  The U.S. diplomatic response has been muted to say the least.  In addition, John Kerry, eager to establish his legacy, has succeeded in bringing the Israelies and Palestinians back to the peace talks table, albeit against very low expectations for any breakthroughs. 

·        President Obama spoke out on the Trayvan Martin case, an unannounced drop-by the press room in the White House (virtually unprecedented for this President) on a Friday afternoon, after much pressure from the African-American community.  Obama spoke eloquently and mostly off the cuff in expressing his view that Martin “could have been me 30 years ago,” and offering a litany of everyday slights faced by African-American males that he himself has experienced. 

But perhaps the biggest news of the month was related to the tortured path of immigration legislation, and the (underreported) effect it might be having on Marco Rubio’s potential presidential run.  In June the Senate passed a sweeping immigration reform bill by an overwhelming margin with full bi-partisan support (68-32, including 14 Republicans).  The bill featured a pathway to citizenship for the 13+ million undocumented immigrants in our country. 

The House refused to take up this specific bill, instead beginning work on their own, a piecemeal effort (rather than comprehensive reform) that appears to be cynically motivated – that is, the objective is to get Democrats to record a “Nay” vote on popular subsets of the issue (such as a path to immigration for undocumented children) rather than actually achieve any reform at all.  Democrats and their supporters (including big business) know that only comprehensive reform will begin to meet the need.  But the Republican House seems intent on continuing their path of principle over compromise.  And thus the Republicans are in real danger of cementing their status as a minority party and jeopardizing their ability to ever win a Presidency that could have otherwise been within their grasp.  You just can’t win the White House by capturing only 27% of the Hispanic vote, a la Mitt Romney.

This makes for quite a difficult time for Marco Rubio, whether the Senate bill becomes law or not.  The promise of his rise rested on his ability to walk the tightrope, as he is, of course, a deeply conservative Hispanic, and a youthful, savvy and telegenic one at that.  But now that he has voted for the Senate bill – indeed he was one of the “Gang of Eight” that crafted it – he is seeing his popularity erode among Republicans in the 2016 polls.  Below is a series of polls from Public Policy Polling (PPP), which show that Rubio is now in sixth – sixth -- in the Republican polls, after leading in every poll since the November, 2012 election.  His support is now half of what it was – which was hardly dominant to begin with – and Rand Paul and Ted Cruz are the purest voices on the right (both voted “Nay” on the Senate bill).  Rand Paul now leads the polls.


Dec
Jan
Feb
Apr
May
Jun
Aug
  Paul
7
5
10
17
16
14
16
  Christie
14
14
13
15
15
15
13
  Bush
12
14
13
12
11
15
13
  Ryan
12
16
15
12
15
9
13
  Cruz
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
12
  Rubio
18
21
22
21
20
16
10
  Other/DK
37
30
27
23
24
31
23

Digging deeper into the PPP data (and I believe I may be the only one who has done so, since you have to get into the cross-tabs!), the divisions along the Republican spectrum are clear (below).  The Republicans have six bona-fide (if unannounced as yet) candidates, and they put the 2012 primary field to shame.  It is simply a much stronger field…every candidate is arguably stronger than Mitt Romney, and while Ted Cruz is a right-wing nut, he is far more articulate and commanding than say, Rick Santorum, or (trying not to snicker) Rick Perry, Herman Cain or Michelle Bachmann. 

Chris Christie and Jeb Bush represent the moderate wing of the party – such as it is – and Rand Paul, Paul Ryan, Rubio and Cruz are the arch-conservatives.  The only good news for Chris Christie is that there are so many of them on the far right, they could divide their votes enough for Christie to squeak through the primaries to the nomination.  (The idea of the New Jersey Governor squeaking through anything, even with his somewhat reduced girth, is quite an image.)

Check out this chart.  Republican voters self-report into three groups….about a quarter of them describe themselves as “liberal” or “moderate,” 40% as “somewhat conservative” and 35% as “very conservative.”  Predictably, Chris Christie leads the moderate group, with Jeb Bush right behind him.  But look at the “very conservatives”:  Ted Cruz is top of the heap, closely trailed by Rand Paul and Paul Ryan.  Marco Rubio?  Down at 8%.  That’s in Chris Christie land.  Is Rubio being squeezed out, essentially on his immigration stand?



Liberal/
Somewhat
Very

Total
Moderate
Conserv.
Conserv.

100
25
40
35
Paul
16
11
16
18
Bush
13
17
13
12
Christie
13
21
13
7
Ryan
13
10
13
17
Cruz
12
10
7
20
Rubio
10
5
14
8
Other/DK
20
15
22
18

PPP also did a recent (July 11) poll in Iowa.  Rubio trails the field there as well.  Of course, how they all stand up to the intense scrutiny of the caucus process is a whole ‘nother matter, but it certainly seems like Rubio has much work to do.  Winning Iowa is going to be crucial for the arch-conservatives.


Iowa
Paul
18
Christie
16
Ryan
15
Bush
14
Rubio
11
Cruz
10
Other/DK
16

Another not widely known, fascinating tidbit:  Rubio may be a budding rock star for the diversity play he seems to bring to the GOP, but among Hispanics, he is just another Republican candidate.  On the basic “favorable/unfavorable” question, he is middle of the pack at best among Hispanics, a net negative on balance, and far less favorably viewed than Chris Christie.  (Note this data includes both Democrats and Republicans.)


  Favorable/Unfavorable

Total
Hispanics
Paul
33/39
31/43
Bush
33/41
37/41
Christie
42/28
48/31
Ryan
35/40
30/50
Cruz
15/27
25/36
Rubio
32/33
34/41

The rest of the monthly data shows little change from June…

ECONOMETER

The Econometer continues to move favorably, inching upward from 27.5 to 32.5 on the strength of a rising stock market and falling unemployment, solidly in the blue.  (If you are new to the site, see the far right column toward the bottom for an explanation of the “Econometer.”)

Econometer
7-Nov
8-May
8-Jun
8-Jul
5-Aug
Econometer
0.0
12.8
23.9
27.5
30.3
  Unemployment Rate
7.9
7.5
7.6
7.6
7.4
  Consumer Confidence
73.1
68.1
76.2
81.4
80.3
  Price of Gas
3.71
3.62
3.70
3.64
3.72
  Dow Jones
    13,330
    14,747
    15,230
    15,013
    15,506
  GDP
3.1
1.8
1.8
1.8
1.7

OBAMA APPROVAL RATING

There were 28 new polls in July, but no change in Obama’s approval rating numbers.  He remains in net negative land despite continued economic uplift.

Obama Approval Rating
7-Nov
8-May
8-Jun
8-Jul
5-Aug
  Approve
49.6
50.9
48.0
46.0
46.0
  Disapprove
47.4
48.0
47.1
48.7
48.8
  Net
2.2
2.9
1.0
-2.7
-2.3

GENERIC CONGRESSIONAL BALLOT

The Democrats have inched back in the lead in the so-called Congressional Generic Ballot. Republicans, but their ballot position has held steady throughout that battle and others.  It has also held steady through the improving economy and the growing impatience with the Republican “debt-first” economic theory.

Generic Congressional Ballot
7-Nov
8-May
8-Jun
8-Jul
5-Aug
  Democrat
46.3
40.7
42.0
39.3
40.5
  Republican
46.0
38.3
40.0
41.3
39.5
  Net
0.3
2.4
2.0
-2.0
1.0

2016 PRESIDENTIAL POLLS

We have reviewed the Republican side of the race already.  The Democratic side remains as it was, with Hillary Clinton easily lapping the field.  She did take a few body blows over Benghazi which has nibbled on her enormous lead over Joe Biden.  Interestingly, while she lost 10 points, none of them went to Biden.  The beneficiaries, though still in single digits, were Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillebrand and Cory Booker.  Andrew Cuomo did not pick up anything either.  The next generation of Democratic leaders are clearly a diverse group.

Presidential Preference - Dem.
7-Dec
8-May
8-Jun
8-Jul
5-Aug
  Clinton
61
64
63
63
52
  Biden
12
18
13
13
12
  Warren
4
5
3
3
6
  Gillebrand




5
  Booker




3
  Cuomo
5
3
4
4
2
  Schweitzer




2