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Baseball Told the Right WayIn-depth Baseball analysis on various topics regarding the sport we all love!
Complete Game Decay
John brings up a good point about Pedro's lack of complete games and shutouts. However, I think the raw numbers don't really tell the whole story.
Consider that the frequency of complete games overall has plummeted: from 632 in Roger's first season, to 209 last year. Roger had his prime in a time period where it was much more frequent for a manager to leave pitchers in to finish off games. You get a better picture if you look at where they ranked in complete games over the seven seasons before age 32. Advantage to Clemens, but it’s a lot closer than one would think.
Clemens 8th 1st 1st 4th 3rd 2nd 2ndPedro pitching in his new style isn't going to be racking up more than a couple of complete games each year, so he's not likely to keep pace with Roger, but its also worth noting that Clemens only pitched 22 complete games beyond his 32nd birthday.
I also think that it deserves looking into a little more in general, because I have heard other people use the complete game argument for other ol' timers. For example, Walter Johnson's 531 complete games makes him a better pitcher than Clemens and his 117, right? This ignores the changing dynamics of the game and really isn't too relevant.
People inherently seem to understand that Pedro's career ERA of 2.62 is a lot better than Cy Young's career 2.63 ERA, because Pedro did it in a higher scoring environment. A stat like ERA+ has the ability to quickly tell how good a pitcher actually was when you compare him to the league average pitcher (3.62 for the days of Denton True, and 4.50 today). Even Roger's 3.18 career ERA (140 ERA+) is slightly better than Cy Young's (138 ERA+), and Pedro's ERA+ of 174 shows just how much more dominant he was when compared to the league average.
The same idea has to hold for other pitching accomplishments as well. We have to understand the environment each pitcher pitched in. Heres a plot of the number of games pitched for every complete game in both leagues since 1901,
Pretty astonishing. Basically, if the current trend continues, and complete games go to zero, then that graph heads to infinity and we have true exponential growth, or more accurately, exponential complete game decay.
We have to compare everyone's totals to the league average if we want to judge two pitchers with respect to each other. So I took the total number of complete games divided by the total games started in each league (twice the total games played) to be the league average complete game rate. Multiplying that rate by a certain pitchers GS gives the number of league average CG. The difference between this and the pitchers total is what I call CG+, which is basically the number of complete games a pitcher had above the league average pitcher.
I know its not perfect, it will favor the workhorse pitchers from the 60s and 70s, but it sure helps to put things in a little bit of perspective. Here are some notable career CG+ totals,
Pitcher CGs CG+A little bit suprising that while Cy Young had 749 complete games, a league average pitcher would have had 663 over the same time span. This also helps when you compare two pitchers, Warren Spahn's total looks a little more impressive now doesn't it? Especially when compared to Walter Johnson. Also, Juan Marichal is always one of the most over-looked pitchers, he had a six year stretch where his CG+ totals were: 13, 15, 16, 11, 19, 17. That 19 is the highest total out of all the pitchers on the list, tied with Steve Carlton. Clemens' highest season total was 12 in 1987, Pedro had 11 in 1997. Maddux was consistent, but he never had a total higher than 8. That's okay though, neither did Cy Young, and he got an award named after him.
Yesterday I looked at Roger Clemens' case to be the best pitcher of this generation. So far he is. Only slightly better than Maddux, but he's better. There are, though, a lot of great young pitchers, guy like Mulder, Hudson, Wood, Prior, who all have the talent to be better than Roger. Lest we forget about Ken Griffey Jr. its dangerous to start talking about what a kid in his mid-20s can accomplish if he only stays healthy. So right now, the pitcher with the best chance to catch Roger Clemens, has to be Pedro Martinez. Take a look at what Pedro has accomplished compared to where Clemens stood through the same point of his career:
Thru Age 32 GS IP W/L ERA WHIP SO K/9 CG SHO ERA+Pedro's career numbers have been better than anyone in his generation, and possibly in history. This is a little bit misleading because Pedro hasn’t yet pitched through his "decline" years like Clemens or Maddux. So his numbers are heavily skewed by his career peak and are likely to go down as he ages. However, the difference between Pedro and anybody else is huge and Pedro would need a lot of ineffective pitching to move down the list. His career ERA+ of 174 is miles ahead of anybody else, the difference between Pedro and the #2 guy, Lefty Grove, is the same as the difference between Grove and the guys tied for 78th all-time.
Pedro also has won three Cy Young awards, and is one of the three pitchers (Gaylord Perry is the third) to win one in both leagues. He won the pitching triple crown in 1999 and would have won the MVP award if a single writer from New York hadn't left him completely off the ballot. Has led the league in ERA five times, led the league in strikeouts three times and finished in the top 10 for ten years in a row. Has won 20 games twice and is third all time with a 71.2 winning percentage, behind a guy who pitched in 1877, and Spud Chandler who pitched on a Yankee team that won the World Series in six of his ten seasons.
Pedro doesn't have the complete games of Roger or Maddux, but nobody on the active list ahead of him is younger than 35. Through age 32, Clemens was in the top 10 in complete games seven times, and Pedro has been there five times. In slightly less starts (remember he started off as a reliever) Pedro has started off better than Clemens. Pedro's peak value was much greater than that of Clemens, so he really only needs to achieve slightly less overall value. The real question is whether or not Pedro can last long enough. It doesn't look good as Pedro has already had to drastically alter his pitching strategy to help keep his arm healthy. He has gone from having the most devastating repetoire of pitches, to merely being Greg Maddux with better stuff.
While Pedro has proven he can still be very effective, he has only been able to pitch 180-200 innings. At 32, he would still need ten more healthy seasons in which he averages thirteen wins to catch Clemens' totals. I can't see him holding up that long but realistically if Pedro pitches six or seven more healthy seasons at his current level of performance, he'll get to ~3500 innings, close to 300 wins, and I'd say he has an excellent chance to pass Clemens in terms of overall value.
The streak has ended....
What streak? Nothing anybody was really paying attention to, but Scott Podsednik was caught stealing today for the first time all season. If you remember, we talked about this a while back. He started the year with 22 consecutive steals which would have been the record for most steals in a season without being caught. Counting one at the end of last year, that was 23 consecutive bases, which was only half way to the record, 50, by Vince Coleman. Too bad, at least he's still on pace for 81 steals at a 96% success rate.
The best we've seen?
The Sporting News' Ken Rosenthal has a good article, here, about Roger Clemens. At the very end, he mentions in passing that Clemens is the best pitcher of this generation. I'm not to sure this is as clear as Rosenthal makes it sound, but at least its pretty clear that there are only three choices, Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, or Roger Clemens.
Here are some relevant numbers, I'd be interested in all your takes on this as well,
GS IP W/L ERA WHIP SO K/9 CG SHO ERA+It took Randy Johnson a little while before he moved up into the elite level of pitchers, but once he did, he never looked back. What clicked for Randy was his control. Once he learned how to control his high-90s heat and his nasty low-90s slider, he began to simply embarrass hitters. Has won five Cy Young awards including four consecutive, to go with the pitching triple crown in 2002, and nine All-Star appearances. One of only three pitchers to win the Cy Young in both leagues.
Strikeouts have always been king for Randy, and he is currently 4th on the All-time list, and first all-time with 11.16 K/9. Led the league in K's eight times, and finished in the top 10 twelve times. Originally labeled as a post-season choker of sorts, Randy dominated in three rounds of 2001 to earn World Series co-MVP with Curt Schilling. Owns a 7-8 record with a 3.08 ERA in 108 postseason innings.
The only lefty on this list, Randy was hurt by his relative late start. For peak value (amazingly occurring in his mid to late-30s) it doesn't get much better, but for overall value, Randy falls short. He has recently shown signs of slowing down due to injuries, but when healthy has been as dominant as ever, even at 40 years old. It will be interesting to see if this freak of nature can continue to pitch into his mid-40s like that other freak, who also struck out a few in his day. Its possible Randy could creep up on Clemens and Maddux, but for now he's third best.
GS IP W/L ERA WHIP SO K/9 CG SHO ERA+The Professor (see photo) deserves to be on this list simply because he doesn't possess a dominating pitch like the others. One could even argue that nothing Greg Maddux does can be described as dominating, yet that is exactly what he has done for a very long time.
Has eight All-Star appearances and four (consecutive) Cy Young awards. Led the league in ERA four times and finished in the top 10 eleven times. Won 20 games twice, and also won 15 or more games an unprecedented sixteen (and counting) consecutive years. Has thirteen consecutive gold gloves, something no one else on this list has even one of. Incredibly durable over his career and finished in the top 10 in innings pitched in fifteen of his seventeen full seasons. Led the Atlanta Braves to the postseason ten straight years and owns a Greg Maddux-like 3.22 ERA in 190 postseason innings, though is only 11-14.
Maddux's two best years in 1994 & 1995 could be the best two year stretch of pitching in the history of the game. The only other competition would be Pedro's 1999 & 2000 and Walter Johnson's 1912 & 1913 seasons. Maddux's peak performance in the mid-90s was good enough to get him on this list, but over his career he has been remarkable in his consistency. For both career and peak value, Maddux surpasses Randy Johnson, but how does he compare to Roger Clemens?
GS IP W/L ERA WHIP SO K/9 CG SHO ERA+Clemens has won a record six Cy Young awards, and is the only player in history to win one in three different decades. He also won the pitching triple crown in 1997 & 1998 along with an MVP in 1986. He's pitched in nine All-Star games, and looks to be making the 2004 squad as well. Led the league in ERA six times and finished in the top 10 twelve times. Led the league in strikeouts five times and in the top 10 sixteen times. Pitched very well in the playoffs, 8-6 with a 3.47 ERA in 155 2/3 innings.
Clemens is a little bit strange in that he never really had a traditional career peak, he was just really damn good for a really long time. This is probablly a direct result of his legendary work-outs, and his religious commitment to keep himself in great shape. Even without a peak as high as Maddux, Clemens has been a better pitcher, if only slightly. Its possible that if Maddux plays out the length of his contract, and Clemens "retires" after this year (looks unlikely at this point) that Maddux could pass him. Pitching in the AL for almost all of his career means the ERA difference is negligible. The strikeouts, the wins, and the extra innings give Clemens a tiny advantage but its very, very close.
Clemens has won 20 games six times, and 317 games in his career. If he keeps up his current hot start, he could conceivably get to 330 career wins. If he does, he would have passed Tom Seaver, Gaylord Perry, Phil Niekro, Don Sutton, Nolan Ryan, and Steve Carlton on the all-time wins list this year alone. At that point, Clemens would be 9th all-time, and Warren Spahn, with 363, would be the only pitcher ahead of him that pitched after the 1920s.
Clemens is the best pitcher of this generation, and one might even be able to make a case for him as the best of all time. That's a story for another day.
When is Junior going to get injured?
This is Griffey’s 5th year with the Reds and he has yet to finish an entire season. He has averaged 93 games over that span with the last 2 years playing only 70 and 53 games. With the average games played he is due for an injury by July 17th when the Reds play the Cardinals. I just thought it would be interesting to predict the time it would take Griffey to be put on the shelf.
Has never won more than 8 games in his career with a record of 34 wins and 47 losses. He has a career ERA of 4.71 and only 2 complete games. Its only a matter of time until he gets shelled and has a sub-500 record again this year. He has given up 830 hits in 769.1 innings pitched. He was the number 1 overall pick by the New York Mets in the 1994 draft and was supposed to be a member of one of the most promising young staffs that included Jason Isringhausen, Bill Pulsipher, Bobby Jones, and the aging Brett Saberhagen. New York must have had the Kansas City Royals training staff of this year looking after their young arms because they all came up with arm injuries. Wilson may have a career year but will never be what was expected.
Is on pace for 77 saves. He has already blown 4 games this year, which would have made his projected total over 85 or so. Graves is so lucky right now that he lost his wallet a couple of weeks ago, which included $1,400, and had it returned to him with nothing missing. That is worth a few saves in my book.
Why do I even bother?
Harold Reynolds said that the Cubs were the third best team in the NL Central. That's fine, everyone is entitled to think the Reds are actually good. His reasoning was: "the bullpen is worn out already, what will it be like in August" (paraphrased, I wish I had Tivo for times like this). The funny thing is, I was always under the impression that Dusty Baker overworked his pitchers and if I remember Jimy Williams from his days in Boston, and after watching him last year, thats one guy who definitely overworks his bullpen.
Despite the fact that the Cubs are in first place with an All-Star team on the disabled list, Harold thinks they are the third place team. I wouldnt mind this so much if he had a legitimate reason, of which there are plenty. (injuries, nobody to lead off, infield defense, injuries) Maybe I was wrong about the pen, but I wasn't about to give Harold Reynolds the benefit of the doubt, so I checked.
PEN IP TEAM IP PEN %Well if Dusty is overworking his pen and the Cubs are third place team because of it, then I'm not really sure who's bullpen is going to lead them to the playoffs. Despite pitching the 6th most innings in MLB, the Cubs bullpen has only pitched the 27th most innings. There are only three teams with less innnings by their bullpen, where can Harold possibly get his information.
In fact, even if Harold was right (which we all know better than to assume) it wouldn't matter in the least. If theres a team set up to suceed wihout a fully rested pen its probablly the Cubs who have the best rotation and a manager not afraid to use it.
I said I was going to stop watching, I know. Fox Sports Net, can you hear me? There is a market opportunity here, take advantage of it. Hire some ex-major leaguers who can speak reasonably well, forget that, we've seen Kruk. Okay, hire some ex-major leaguers and a FACT-CHECKER! Instantly you have a better show than Baseball Tonight.
Stop trying to be the hero.
Something that gets me is many managers insistence on pinch running late in the game. Grady Little did it all the time last year, usually running for Manny Ramirez with Damian Jackson late in the game. A number of times Damian Jackson would end up batting later in the game in a crucial situation, and I had the honor of watching him dribble one to second while Manny sat his $20M ass on the bench.
Art Howe did the same thing the other day pinch running for Piazza in only the 7th, with Mike Cameron who couldn't stay in the game anyways. So the Mets' best hitter was out of the game, and his replacement, Vance Wilson, (yes the Vance Wilson hitting .237 on the season) was in the on deck circle as the winning run in the 9th.
Same thing happened today between the Padres and Phillies, where Bruce Bochy went pinch hit/pinch run crazy. The Padres have five guys on the bench and Bochy had already used two pinch hitters. In the 8th, after a Ramon Hernandez single, down one run, Bochy pinch ran Kerry Robinson. Phil Nevin pinch hits, but it doesn't matter because Robinson is thrown out stealing to end the inning. Well, so much for that, except Robinson can't catch.
Needless to say, the very next innning, Tim Worrell proceeds to load the bases. The Padres are now down 3, and guess who is stepping to the plate with 2 outs? None other than career .180/.267/.267 "hitter" Adam Eaton. Granted, thats pretty decent for a pitcher but with the game on the line is this really the guy you want at the plate? Apparently, Tim Worrell is so suprised that he doesn't realize its actually a pitcher pinch hitting and proceeds to walk him.
But wait, next up is the fearsome last-man-on-the-bench Miguel Ojeda who came in for Robinson to catch. He proceeds to do what everyone was suprised Eaton didn't do: ground out weakly to short to end the game.
Pretty bizarre game, but I cant help thinking that if Ojeda bats for Eaton, and Hernandez hits for himself, the Padres have a better chance of winning this game. Even if its not that much greater, does the difference in speed from Ramon Hernandez to Kerry Robinson make up for it? More likely, Bochy wanted to pinch run Robinson so that he could steal 2nd. Most likely, he needed to use a guy on his bench who has absolutely no value outside of pinch running. Robinson is only on this team so Bochy can pull moves like this, using some kind of reverse logic to manage his team out of wins.
I wish Bochy was alone in this regard. You'd think a manager would be embarrassed the first time they had to send the pitcher to the plate to pinch hit, but it just keeps happening. Sometimes its just better for a manager to watch the game, instead of actually trying to take part.
I know theres a bunch of Cubs fans around. So if you guys need to get your fix, and your sick of us ranting about all those other teams, head over to Cubs Now! for some pretty good stuff, and you'll be greeted with a shot of Mark Prior, who I know you haven't seen in awhile.
......and fortunes rising.
Yesterday I wrote about a team that was heading south, the Dodgers. For a team heading in the opposite direction, check out the Phillies. On May 6th, the Phillies were sitting at 12-14, third place in a pretty evenly matched NL East race. Something then clicked, and the Phillies started playing like everyone expected going into the season. They've gone 11-3 since to catch the Marlins, who started off on fire, and now sit in first place. Not only have they won a bunch of games but they have won convincingly. The three games they lost have all been one-run losses, and they've outscored their opponents 96-58 during the stretch, (right in line with their Pythag Wins).
So what changed?
Well, as much as I hate to agree with Joe Morgan, when the Phillies played the D-Backs on Sunday Night Baseball, Morgan mentioned that in order for the Phillies to get going they were going to need to get better production out of their leadoff guys. He was pretty much right. Jim Thome and Bobby Abreu have been good as usual, Pat Burrell has bounced back from his Aubrey Huff-like 2003 season. Marlon Byrd and Jimmy Rollins, on the other hand, had been out-machines at the top of that order. Both have now started to hit, Rollins has raised his average and OBP close to 50 points, and Byrd has done the same, including two leadoff triples, two homers and six multi-hit games since May 6th. Bill Liming has a chart, here, showing that the Phililes will go as far as their table setters will take them, and are a combined 13-4 when the #1 & #2 hitters have a game OBP greater than .375. Larry Bowa really should keep Rollins and his career .315 OBP at the bottom of the order and just move everyone else up a slot, ("With his skills, he an ideal top-of-the-order guy," said manager Larry Bowa.) but that’s another story.
Speaking of Bowa, there was clamoring all around baseball that Bowa needed to go. Former player Tyler Houston spoke out against Bowa calling him a "sideshow" with "little man's complex". The Philly media has pretty much tried to impeach him, but where are they now? Its funny how winning solves just about any "chemistry" problem a team may have.
Will it continue?
I see no reason why it shouldn't. This is a team that drastically underperformed last year. For the most part the young guys like Byrd, Wolf, Padilla, Myers have started to improve their games. They stabilitzed an already decent bullpen with Billy Wagner and Tim Worrell, and now have the best ERA in MLB. A useful Pat Burrell has returned with 11 HRs and 36 RBIs, and helped Philly rank a quickly rising 7th in OPS.
Something else thats bound to change: They were hitting a combined .209 with runners in scoring position, including .229 from Abreu and .129 from Thome. Expect that to rise soon, and expect this team to continue its run to the NL East title. Don’t be surprised if they run away with it. The Marlins look to be their biggest competition, but save another Cabrera and Willis entering the picture, its going to be hard for the Marlins to hang with Philly from here on out.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The roller coaster that is a major league baseball schedule gives us overly optimistic or pessimistic impressions of teams early in the year, as streaky starts have not yet begun to even off. On May 12th the Dodgers had just rattled off six straight wins and sat at 22-10, five games up on the second-place Padres. Dodger fans were feeling good, it sure looked like there was at least a non-zero chance this team could run away with a weak NL West. Seven losses in a row later, Dodger fans are shaking their heads, and everyone else is giggling: 22-17 doesn't look so good.
So what changed?
Well, first off their 22-10 record was very misleading. The Dodgers had already overshot their Pythagorean winning percentage by 3 games, mostly thanks to a 10-0 record in 1 run games. Think about that, almost half of their wins were by one run, you had to expect things would change. Some people like to attribute this to a dominant bullpen, and while LA's bullpen certainly is very good, Lady Luck always evens things off in the end. The Dodgers have already lost two one-run games and expect them to win around half of their one-run games from here on out.
For another major reason, you don’t have to look much beyond perennial breakout candidate, Adrian Beltre. On May 12th, Beltre was putting up MVP numbers (.377/.385/.669, despite only walking twice), but has since cooled off, going 3-24 in the seven game losing streak. Beltre is exhibit A why guys with no plate discipline provide negative value to a team during slumps. If a guy can continue to get on base even when he isn't swinging the bat real well, he still helps his team somewhat by not making three outs every game.
Will it continue?
Yes and no. They won't play as poorly as they have during the current losing streak, but they aren't a 22-10 team by any means. The Dodgers are a pretty good team with solid pitching and an improved offense. Besides just Beltre, the Dodgers are hitting pretty well overall. Take a look at this chart of the 8 starters OPS this year and for their careers,
2004 CareerBeltre will likely improve on his career number, but I don’t see any other break-through candidates besides maybe Milton Bradley. Encarnacion and Green are likely to hit better going forward, but any improvement there is going to be cancelled out by regression by the other starters. The Dodgers rank 23rd right now in runs scored at 4.5 runs/game and that will likely get worse before it gets better. Their pitching is pretty much on target and will help them stay in a lot of games, and it will help immensely if Hideo Nomo can get fully healthy. They also play in the NL West, which would be an understatement to call a weak division. Yet, as of tonight they are tied for first with a Padre team that is deeper, more talented, and much more likely to keep up their current pace. I certainly wouldn't be surprised if the Dodgers made the playoffs, but don’t expect them to regain the torrid pace they opened the year with.
All DL Team
Kerry Wood went on the DL today, as John pretty much expected. The thing is, he is joining some pretty good players. In fact, I bet I could make the playoffs with only players currently on the DL (provided they were healthy, of course). Take a look at this roster.
C Joe Mauer SP Mark Prior RP Rob NenThere's a lot of guys still out there for a bench, but I'll take Placido Polanco for my utility guy, Jose Reyes to pinch run, and Trot Nixon, Larry Walker, and Garrett Anderson to pinch hit. On second thought, I need a righty to pinch hit, I'll take Dmitri Young over Nixon. They're a little weak at the back-end of the rotation, but who wants to make out that lineup card and tell Preston Wilson he's hitting 8th.
The Little Things Count Too
Tonight the Tigers were down a run to the A's, and Tim Hudson was up to 99 pitches through 7. You would think the Tigers might work the count, take a couple pitches, try to get Hudson out of the game and get into the meaty bullpen of Oakland. Nope, instead 10 pitches later they're retired in order. You'd think Alan Trammell and Kirk Gibson, both of the .352 career OBPs, would have taught the kids to work the count a little.
Maddux passes some guy named Denton
Greg Maddux, one of my favorite pitchers of all time, passed Cy Young on the All-time strikeout list today. He now stands at 15th all-time with 2807 strikeouts. If he stays healthy this year he could jump up to 13th. If he stays healthy over the length of his contract, he's got a chance to finish his career with about 3200 strikouts, the 11th most strikeouts ever. What does this mean? Not much, the guys a hall-of-famer, if you didn’t know that you probablly wouldn’t be reading this.
How bad are the Devil Rays? Well, despite embarrasing the Red Sox tonight there are many reasons. One reason that amuses me: as a team they have more stolen bases (36) than home runs (30). As a team they are "hitting" a combined .242/.304/.368. Melvin Mora's batting average is higher than the Devil Rays team slugging percentage. Wow. Its probablly partly a result of their their DHs hitting a combined .153. Uh, guys, NL pitchers are hitting .152, maybe you ought to just forget about this whole DH experiment.
Incidentally, in their game tonight, the DRays started the league leader in walks, Victor Zambrano against a lineup that featured Mark "Bartleby" Bellhorn and Kevin "The Greek God of Walks" Youkilis. Go figure, they only walked twice in six plate appearances. Zambrano cemented his spot atop the wrong leaderboard with 8 walks and a hit batter. It takes a lot to have a worse game than a guy who walked 8, but not to be outdone, Derek Lowe gave up seven earned in 2+ innings. Ugly, ugly game.
Oh and did I mention yet that you can stick a fork in Joe Borowski?
Pitch to 'em.
Quick aside on Bonds which makes the number of home runs he's hit even more incredible. Take a look at this list from Lee Sinins, which I got in his ATM Reports. Since 1955 baseball has been recording intentional walks. This list is the career leaders vs. the league average,
Diff Player LG. AveIt's staggering that Bonds has been intentionally walked 200 times more than the next most, Hank Aaron. It's also staggering that people got intentionally walked more often in the days of Hammerin' Hank. The most staggering of all is how many home runs Bonds has run off while hardly ever being pitched to. Its also funny that Harold Baines made the list. Who was hitting behind him?
While the intentional walks are staggering, we also have to remember how many times he actually sees good pitches to hit. Almost every time he is up, even if his team is down 4 runs, pitchers will largely pitch around him. Bonds is just that good. Bonds seems like he is playing that video game that you master and can get a hit every time up. Its unfortunate though, since I cannot stand his arrogant, self-serving attitude, but that is another story all together, I can still admit that he is the best hitter I have seen in my lifetime.
Tangotiger, for those of you who know his work, once worked out a "When to walk Barry Bonds" matrix, based on his win expectancy chart. He looked at the expected outcome of a Bonds at bat and worked out when it was better just to put the extra guy on base. Pretty interesting stuff, but I can't seem to find it anymore, so if anyone knows offhand where it is, let me know.
Is Joe Morgan Right?
Nothing big today, just wanted to point out something pretty interesting over at The Hardball Times. This is one of the best things I've read in awhile, its worth checking out. Vinay Kumar takes a look at all the playoff games since 1995 to try and find trends with all the winners. Now the conventional wisdom about winning in the playoffs is that it takes pitching, defense, and a little bit of 'small-ball' to manufacture runs.
Personally, I thought all that was just b.s. I mean a team that scores more than it lets up is going to win, regardless of whether they are winning 10-8 or 3-1. Right? Well not according to Kumar. He found that the teams with the better pitching (allow less runs, less HRs, etc.) and also teams that steal bases and don't strike out have been winning their playoff games.
So Joe Morgan has been right all this time? No, not exactly, I also think this data is heaviliy skewed by the great Yankee teams that were full of good pitching, contact hitters, and a number of guys swiping some bases. However, the fact that one team skews the data doesn't mean that the data is not important. The Yankees could have won because they were built like the 'ideal' playoff team. I'm not ready to say thats true, but who knows?
The one thing I think is pretty important (though it needs more evidence) is that Kumar found teams with good contact hitters to succeed more often in the playoffs. I've always thought that batter strikeouts had little effect on offense in general. This article a while back at Baseball Prospectus showed that there was almost no correlation between batter strikeouts and team offense and also that there was a positive correlation between strikeouts and an individuals offensive production (i.e. power hitters strike out more). If we believe what Kumar found, then it would suggest that teams who strike out a lot might do well in the regular season, but not in the playoffs. The question is why exactly is this true, or is it even true at all? Angel fans have to be happy with this news.
Who are you?
The counter we use on this page also lets us know where the visitors are coming from. We can see what people typed into search engines to arrive at this site and some of 'em are pretty damn funny. The other day someone typed into google:
Arod Jeter gay duoWhoever you are, we need to talk, drop us a line if you're still around.
Kerry Now, Carlos Next?
Dusty Baker continues to ruin the arms of the Cubs future. Maybe he doesn't believe in any curses because him coming here is part of a curse. If Kerry is indeed hurt, the cubs are looking to be in huge trouble. Dusty left Kerry in for an average of 111 pitches in 2003 season. His reason for this as quoted on MLB.com, "I'm trying to get these guys to a point where they've never been before."
Kerry had pitch counts of 95, 105, 131, 111 then he came up injured. Dusty apparently didn't realize what he already did to Prior so he wanted to make sure he got it right with Kerry.
Zambrano is next. He continues to leave Carlos out longer and longer each start. He will be disabled by mid July at this pace. Then Clement will follow with the worst Asmetha attack ever and the Cubs will have a rotation of Maddux, Mitre, Dempster, Rusch, and Anderson. That is what we should have expected as Cubs fans.
Just wanted to take this time to thank you Dusty for bringing the Chicago Cub Nation down to reality and ruining the future. We need to bring in Peterson and Billy Beene and then we will be successful in managing young arms!
Small sample size?
Rick Peterson, current Mets and former A's pitching coach, is one of the important baseball guys who largely flys under the radar. In 1998, Peterson took over the AL worst A's pitching staff and quickly turned it around. From 1998 to 2003 A's pitchers ranked 9th, 3rd, 3rd, 2nd, 1st, 1st in the AL. Notice any kind of a trend there?
Obviously, a lot of that success is due to the arrival of the big three: Hudson, Mulder, and Zito, but Peterson deserves much of the credit for developing and more importantly keeping young pitchers healthy (are you listening Dusty?). Another important point: in addition to the influx of young talent, Peterson has helped quite a few journeymen and underacheivers put together solid seasons. Guys like Mike Neu, Bobby Taylor, John Halama, Gil Heredia, Tim Worrell, Jason Isringhausen, Jeff Tam, Jim Mecir, Corey Lidle, Eric Hiljus, Aaron Harang, and Chad Bradford have all emerged from obscurity, or had their best seasons under Peterson. I understand, there is at least a little bit of a ballpark effect at work, but there really isn't a whole lot of talent on that list.
Now Peterson is gone to the Mets for the 2004 season. Think its going to have an effect on their pitching staff, which gave up 4.68 runs/game and ranked 10th in the NL last year? Well so far it has. Mets pitchers currently rank 1st in the NL with 3.90 runs/game. What about the Peterson-less A's? Well as already mentioned, the A's ranked 1st in the AL in 2003 with 3.97 runs/game. In 2004, they have already fallen to 5th at 4.97 runs/game. I was skeptical at first, but this is starting to look like too much of a coincidince.
I know it is still real early and the sample sizes are small, but that's almost a run difference for both squads, there has to be some reason. Instead of looking at the pitchers who have come and gone for both teams, lets look at the pitchers who have worked under Peterson, and compare their performance to how they fared without Peterson. Below is a list of the 10 innings leaders for the 2003 A's and 2004 Mets, both under Peterson. I compared those numbers with how they did either last year (Mets) or this year (A's) without Peterson.
w/Peterson w/o/Peterson w/o/Peterson w/PetersonOverall, ptichers have done significantly better under Peterson. Out of the A's, 5 are doing noticably worse, 2 are doing noticably better, and 2 are doing about the same. Now obviously Zito's numbers are likely to improve. But given all these trends can we be so sure that Mulder and Hudson's will? I think they will, but we'll have to wait to find out.
Out of the Mets, 4 pitchers have noticably improved (not counting Moreno), 1 has gotten worse, and 2 are about the same. Glavine, Leiter, and Looper have been unconcious so far. They'll certainly come back down to earth, but can we even be so sure that they won't pitch like Mulder, Hudson, and Foulke last year? Sample size is certainly an issue, roughly 220 innings is not enough to make a determination, but there is a lot of preliminary evidence suggesting Rick Peterson is having a larger effect on his staff's performance than he is getting credit for. It will be interesting to take a look at this once the whole season is in the book.
If it turns out that by season's end, there is this large of an effect, I think I will take a good look at other highly regarded pitching coaches to see if they measure up to Peterson, guys like Leo Mazzone, Dave Duncan, or Joe Kerrigan.
Note: As I was writing this, four Mets pitchers combined to hold San Francisco to only 1 run in 11 innings, while Harden has given up 4 runs to the Yankees through 5, so you can tack a little more evidence onto those numbers up there.
I was looking through the box scores this morning and I saw something that didn’t look right. It wasn’t Barry Bonds numbers, of course, which haven't looked right for four years. It was that Dave Roberts got caught stealing. No big deal, just Roberts had already stolen 15 bags this season. The thing is that until last night, he hadn't been caught. He is still on pace for 97 steals, which would be the most since Vince Coleman stole 109 in 1989.
The news now is that Roberts pulled a hammy and was taken out of the game. If he pulled it while running does that mean nobody can throw him out unless he physically injures himself running to second?
Maybe if the immortal Les Nunamaker was still around. For the Yankees in 1914, he caught three Tigers stealing in the same inning.
Record for most times caught stealing: Robby Thompson. On June 27, 1986 he was caught stealing 4 times in a 12 inning game. Who the hell gave him the green light? That year he stole 12 bases and was caught 15 times! Do I really need to repeat my question?
Although Roberts still had a little ways to go, the record for most steals in a season without being caught is 21 by Kevin McReynolds in 1988. If you count the 6 consecutive bases Roberts stole at the end of last season, he would have 21 consecutive, but Coleman holds that record. Vince stole 50 bases in a row in 1989. So Roberts has a long way to go for that, but at least he never threw a firecracker at some poor group of kids.
Now its up to the afore mentioned Scotty Podsednik who's got 14 steals this year without being caught. Counting one more from the end of last year, he's only got 35 more bases to steal. Think he can do it?
Catchers on fire.
Seriously, what's going on with catchers so far? I know, its early, but there's a lot of guys hitting the crap out of the ball from behind the plate. Catchers are hitting a combined .278/.338/.443 against the league average of .268/.337/.426. Catchers hit .258/.320/.403 last year, which was the best in a while, thanks to Javy & Jorge (among others). What's really crazy is that right now AL catchers are hitting a combined .292/.349/.470, which just happens to be better than any other postion, and neck and neck with left fielders. When was the last time catchers outhit first baseman? or DHs? I'm going to say with reasonable confidence that its never happened. I'm also going to say it won't happen this year either, but its fun to look at.
Pudge Rodriguez .368/.408/.537
Mike Piazza .272/.327/.457
Javy Lopez .341/.417/.518
Jason Kendall .333/.414/.387
Jason Varitek .320/.433/.560
Jorge Posada .292/.409/.708
Johnny Estrada .319/.388/.500
Kevin Cash .286/.367/.437
Victor Martinez .286/.367/.543
Miguel Olivo .298/.365/.532
Paul LoDuca .400/.438/.525
Damian Miller .299/.347/.448
Michael Barrett .339/.375/.615
Charles Johnson .316/.427/.772!!
Chad Moeller .255/.349/.455
Bengie + Jose Molina .326/.351/.489
Mike Redmond .319/.377/.447
Mike Matheny .281/.318/.439
Brandon Inge .322/.403/.542 (I know, he's not really catching, but this guy sucks, right?)
That list is 18 catchers performing better than expected (maybe not Piazza). If you include guys like Toby Hall, Joe Mauer, Ramon Hernandez, Mike Lieberthall, AJ Pierzynski, who aren't doing so well right now, theres a lot of guys out there that can handle the bat, and almost every team has one (poor Houston). Especially with all the young guys starting to emerge, it sure seems like the catcher position is starting to become more of an offensive position, much like the shortstop position in the years that followed Cal Ripken. If Mike Piazza is Cal Ripken, then Mauer, Martinez, Olivo, and Estrada have a chance to do for catchers what Arod, Nomar, Jeter, and Renteria did for shortstops.
Or their knees could all wear out by the All-Star break and they will all be back at .250/.320/.400 by season's end.
Notes from Busch, home of Ray "Our Savior" Lankford.
Spent the weekend in St. Louis and got the chance to watch two great games between the Cubs and Cardinals. On Friday, Latroy Hawkins walked in the winning run in the bottom of the 9th to ruin a great Kerry Wood start. On Saturday Matt Clement and Jeff Suppan both pitched very well, the only difference being the one mistake Suppan made to Aramis Ramirez that was kindly deposited in the Cubs bullpen. Some more random things I took away from the two games.
Some more reading over at ESPN. Gammons explains one of the reasons why Manny Ramirez is one of my favorite players. Please don't listen to the popular media who paint the picture of a selfish, lazy, and non-caring Manny Ramirez. The real fans know this guy is a quiet, hard working, aloof yet great teammate who, oh yeah, can also hit the crap out of the baseball.
Don't listen to Bud & his cronies
Also Neyer gives us reason #45,000 why Bud Selig and his cronies are the only thing that truly is 'bad for baseball'. Take this excerpt from Doug Pappas' article in Baseball Prospectus 2004,
…a snapshot of one season's "winners" and "losers" ignores the ebb and flow of team fortunes. If Major League Baseball had proposed contraction 10 years earlier, the Indians and Mariners would have been among the leading candidates for extermination. The Oakland Athletics, heroes of Moneyball for doing more with less, had the majors' highest Opening Day payroll in 1991, the same year the Pirates won their third division title in a row. Over the past 20 years, the Padres and Twins have played in more World Series than the Dodgers or Red Sox. Most tellingly of all, the original list of eight clubs considered for contraction, prepared in December 2000, included all three of the clubs which have won the World Series since then.Competitive imbalance isn't a problem in MLB despite what Bud 'conflict of interests' Selig would have us believe. Any solutions for new stadiums or contraction that Bud comes up with are simply owners whining about the state of the game solely based on where they find themselves. You want a successful franchise? Stop telling the players and fans that 'baseball is a business' unless you are actually going to run it that way. Spend money on your product to improve it, (see Yankees, Angels, Mariners) or fire the dolts that run it and replace them with people who actually know what the hell they are doing (see Twins, A's, Braves). Better yet, do both!
One last thing. I'm watching Baseball Tonight right now, and I think this might be the last time I ever subject myself to such crap. What happened to the greatest show on television? Now I have to sit through the nitwit hall of fame all try to outdo each other by progressively saying stupider and stupider things. I never though I would miss Bobby Valentine, and I didn’t think it was actually POSSIBLE to replace him with someone dumber, but John Kruk has done it. I am amazed.