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Nice guy.  Have some blogs.  Do baseball research.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Has the season started?

I think I saw part of a regular season game last night and it may not have even been the first.  Meanwhile those silly exhibition games continue unabated and unashamed.  I recently suggested they be replaced by regular season games in warm weather .  Ban all exhibition games.

After the depressingly silly 2011 tournament all this would be driving another stake into MLB, Inc. were it not for the slim hope of minor improvement from the new tournament format, rushed into place, perhaps because some in MLB, Inc. sense the impending doom foreshadowed by thousands of empty baseball fields throughout the land.

Our national pastime is being outsourced and no one seems to notice or care.  Pass the hot dog ... or sushi.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Yanks in 30?

MSG network condenses New York Knicks games into 60 minute programs called the "Knicks in 60".  They include part of the pre and post game talk, commercials and most of the 48 minutes of action.

Since NBA games have so much more action than MLB games I figure the YES network can produce "Yanks in 30".

Monday, March 26, 2012

Eliminate exhibition games. Just start regular season in FL & AZ.

Somebody please research whether MLB can make more money by starting the regular season in the minor league parks in which MLB teams play these unnecessary and incredibly boring exhibition games.

1. Teams can charge regular season prices.
2. Teams can televise all the games, let's say 20 games.  Even the Yankees only have a few exhibition games on TV.
3. Teams will collect regular season TV revenue, which should make up for the fewer fans attending because the parks have fewer seats.  Attendance at early season games can be low because of bad weather.

Some teams already have their warm weather exhibition parks configured like their MLB parks.  See the Red Sox.

This would eliminate the persistent and increasing friction between starting the regular season earlier and adding games to the post season tournament.  With all teams starting in warm weather locations, the regular season can be played pretty much any time.

Those locations would love it as many more fans would vacation there to see regular season games, not those exhibition games featuring minor league players in split squad games designed to squeeze more money out of fans.  Plus, the fans would sit closer to the action than many could in the large parks in the home cities.

Remember, some teams have started regular season games in Japan.  So why not Florida and Arizona?

Some teams with warm weather homes could play in them: Miami, Tampa, Arizona, San Diego, LA, maybe Atlanta.  Some can play indoors: Seattle, Toronto, Milwaukee, Houston.  That reduces some of the congestion.

But don't the players need those games to prepare?  No.  Non-pitchers need them like a hole in the head.  Pitchers just need to throw more and more pitches to build up their arm strength, something they can do on the sideline and pitching to teammates.

Eliminate exhibition games.

There's a concept that I associate with former star Pittsburgh Pirate pitcher Vern Law: if you're not playing to win, then don't keep score.  MLB teams do not play to win exhibition games but they keep score and play with regular season rules except for maybe stopping after nine innings ... sometimes.  MLB does not even have the sense to spice up the games by allowing flexibility and experimentation.

For instance, if a team leads after the top of the ninth, why not bat in the bottom of the ninth?  Both teams could benefit.  If Alex Rodriguez walks, why not let Yankee manager Joe Girardi ask for a do-over and let A-Rod bat again?  Both teams might benefit as would the fans.

The fact that they don't do these common sense things is another reason to just start the regular season down there at the training sites.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Batting Average on Balls in Play: fun, games and common sense.


BABIP: Batting Average on Balls in Play ... (H - HR)/(AB - K - HR + SF)
How many of a player's balls in play go for hits. BABIP removes HR, BB, and K -- outcomes not impacted by defense -- from the player's average. It can serve as a rough estimate of a player's luck, and can help predict future performance. The league rate stays around .300 (it was .295 in 2011). A higher BABIP often means a player is on the right side of luck (hits are falling in) and will regress. A lower number often implies a player is on the wrong side of luck and will improve. The metric can be used mostly for pitchers, and somewhat for hitters.

On the MLB Network Clubhouse Confidential TV program I had not noticed BABIP used less forcefully for batters than for pitchers but maybe it was.  BABIP seems to make the most sense for fielding, especially team fielding, but we'll leave that aside for now.

Because I have stressed the silliness of baseball being played in non-uniform playing areas from the first radical baseball post in 2006, BABIP has a fundamental flaw: home runs are not included.

Since almost all home runs in recent decades go over the fence, i.e., they are not inside the park home runs, they are hits that travel at least 300 feet on the fly and are therefore balls that are hit hard.  To discount them is silly.

For players who keep the same real batting average (BA) in the same number of at bats (AB) from one season to the next an increase in home runs will decrease the player's BABIP: fewer hits in fewer AB.  Conversely, an increase in strike outs (SO), which are also not counted, will increase the player's BABIP: same number of hits in fewer AB in BABIP.

In 2011 pitcher Justin Verlander had 250 SO in 969 plate appearances against him and 904 AB.  Using the BABIP equation, the denominator is 904 - 250 - 24 + 3 = 633.  BABIP numerator: 174 - 24 = 150.  That's 150/633 = .237.  Verlander 's career BABIP, including 2011, is .287.  So the conventional wisdom is that Verlander was lucky and very unlikely to repeat.

I don't believe in luck over six months and several hundred AB: 633.  I'm thinking that those 250 SO are an indication that Verlander was overpowering and that in many of the AB in which batters put the ball in play the ball was not hard hit, leading to more outs than Verlander usually gets on balls in play.

There is some indication that other factors are being addressed, like how many line drives were hit.  Recently, MLB CC host Brian Kenny provided these numbers for 2011 BABIP:
- flies: .152
- grounders: .233
- liners: .707

Of course, there are no definitions and no numbers.  What percent of balls in play are each?

Plus, flies omits home runs, all of which are hits.  Home runs are omitted because the pitcher supposedly has no control over balls hit so far that his fielders cannot catch them.  Say what?  That would be silly if all parks had the same home run distances in all direction and the same wall heights, you know, like it should be, like NFL and NBA do it.  Logically.  But with those factors being random the pitcher should be held accountable for 300 foot fly balls.

What's the BABIP for 300 foot fly balls, including home runs of course?

And since BA is in disrepute generally, why is it used here? What about reach on error (ROE)?  What about slugging (SLG)?  What about adjusting for ball parks?  Why not mush all that together and then come up with a number?

Sportvision is generating detailed data, which individual MLB teams are using in proprietary ways to evaluate performance.  This supposedly includes trajectory and speed of batted balls.  It seems to me what is needed is time and distance, which should be available in the videos.  Time could be calculated from the number of frames between when the ball is hit and when the ball touches something.  Distance must be in the system, perhaps from google earth images.  Combine them and you can then better define terms.

We think we know what a line drive is.  How about these:
1. liner to pitcher who drops it and throws out batter; probably a grounder
2. liner over an infielder that lands on the infield dirt; beats me
3. fly caught by an outfielder

Time and distance should provide a good idea of whether a ball shoud be caught and how hard it was hit.

And if you want to measure luck, why not just categorize all events.  For instance a 400 foot rocket to center field that is caught should be considered a home run.  In fact all flies over 380 feet should be home runs and home runs shorter than 380 feet should doubles.  Heck they track every play, so why use a guesstimate like BABIP at all except for prior seasons that were not tracked?  And for them use something better.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Clutch hitting on planet earth. Oh, and please explain Bobby Richardson.

Yesterday on the TV program MLB Clubhouse Confidential host Brian Kenny focused on clutch hitting with the expected conclusion that it does not exist.  He had a couple of the usual suspects support this with data on gazillions of plate appearances.

In the individual sports, especially golf and tennis, choking, the unspoken opposite of clutch, seems quite evident and the former participants providing commentary can scarcely hide their disdain for those choking in real time, particularly in major tournaments.  So how come clutch and choke are considered a myth in baseball?

Brian Kenny compared playoff stats for Alex Rodriguez, considered a choke, and his Yankee teammate Derek Jeter, considered clutch.  He used BA, OBP, SLG.  Their numbers are pretty close.

Brian Kenny never mentioned:
Jeter: 152 games, 704 PA, 7 WS
Rodriguez: 68 (15 Seattle, 53 Yankees) games, 299 PA, one WS

This illustrates part of the problem.  Homogenizing clutch numbers, large and small, in April with those in September for a player's career seems silly on its face,  as does ignoring the team situation in the standings.   And aren't these the same people who give more brownie points for a closer pitching the ninth inning than a set up guy pitching the eighth?

There may be just a few moments of truth in a player's career, usually in a big spot in the MLB finals or down the stretch in the regular season, not in some meaningless game early in the season or late between teams not in contention.

Please see my favorite baseball clutch conundrum:

October 24, 2008 Bobby Richardson and clutch performance

Most people know when they are having a good day and when they are not.  They know when they have met their personal expectations and when they have underachieved.  Why it so difficult for baseball analysts to treat baseball players like human beings instead of like so many rolls of the dice in a never ending game of chance, a pathetic adult version of Stat-O-Matic, sitting in their rooms rolling those dice over and over again?  To paraphrase Einstein: God does not play dice with baseball.

Friday, March 9, 2012

12 man pitching rotation

pitchers in 2011 SO/IPouts (could not find AB):

SO IPouts SO%
34,488 130,582 26.4

zero GS:
SO IPouts SO%
11,215 37,590 29.8

SO IPouts SO%
15,686 60,689 25.8

SO% for relief pitchers: 29.8%; for starters 25.8%.

More ammunition for my idea that at least lousy teams like Pittsburgh and Kansas City should try something radically different like a 12 man pitching rotation: three pitchers throw three innings each game.  Forget about trying to match the big spending teams on pitching and spend your limited resources on defense and hitting.  Relief pitchers are a dime a dozen.  Get 14 or so and rotate them as needed.

How about we just outlaw walks and strike outs?

Really.  Just eliminate them from the rules.  Batter swings until the ball is put in play.

Ah, you say, the pitcher will never throw strikes.  Ah, I say, the batter will never swing.  Sounds a lot like what baseball has devolved into except for all those plate appearances, approaching 30%, that result in nothing, no ball in play, which is the objective.

What has always made baseball interesting is its simplicity.  Hit the ball.  Catch the ball.  Throw the ball.  Run the bases.  Strike outs eliminate all of those and walks eliminate three of the four.

Maybe batter and pitcher will achieve some equilibrium state in which there is an efficient result and the ball will be put into play after only one or two pitches of moderate difficulty to hit.  Then maybe we'll finally have batting averages over .500 where they belong.

And lots of action at a fast pace.

Rob Neyer: wrong again on MLB Network Clubhouse Confidential?

Rob Neyer was wrong at least once previously on MLB Network Clubhouse Confidential, self describes as the program for the "thinking fan".  See this post:

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2012 MLB Clubhouse Confidential: wrong on AJ.

I sent a message about this to both Neyer, through his website, and to MLB CC but neither responded.

On that Feb. 10 program Neyer stated something categorically that did not sound right and turned out to be incorrect.  He simply did not bother to check.

On a recent program (March 6, I think) host Brian Kenny was making extended remarks about batting average on balls in play (BABIP).  I have reservations about this but they are not the point of this post.  The point is that Neyer again stated something categorically without any supporting data.  Maybe Neyer was correct but his prior mistake made his more recent comment sound hollow.

He is sure that Tiger pitcher Justin Verlander was lucky in 2011 and that there is no way he can repeat his low BABIP of .237; .287 for his career.

One thing that amazes me about the BABIP mania is why its advocates bother with it at all when each plate appearance is tracked and can be categorized as lucky or unlucky by some definition.  I can see some value in looking at the 1927 Yankees for whom we do not have such detail but for 2011 I don't get it.

I do not have access to that level of detail and cannot challenge Neyer about Verlander as I did about AJ Burnett.  Maybe Neyer is correct.  I'd just like to see some facts.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

MLB tournament: inadvertently less random with one more team?


That's the closest I came to finding a description of the MLB tournament by MLB, an article on its website.  Even the old rules were no where to be found on mlb.com.  If you have a link for that, please provide.

Ancient commissioner Bud Selig and his brain trust may have stumbled into a less random tournament format, which will hopefully get the two top seeds through this nonsense and into the finals, which is what anyone with any sense wants, not the Russian roulette of St. Louis coming from nowhere to win as happened in 2011 when the Yankees - Phillies matchup was derailed in game five losses in the first round.

The four seed in each conference should be at a big disadvantage because it will have to play its way into the tournament by using one of its top two pitchers, maybe both.  The one seed is unlikely to have to break a division tie (MLB should just use head to head as a tie breaker, then record in division), although it may have to play hard down the stretch to win the division.  Most likely is that the one seed will be rested and waiting for a tired and depleted four seed, thus ensuring that the types of upsets that occurred in 2011 will become rare.

Ah, finally something positive, even if it most likely happened accidentally and out of greed.  Selig's home town Milwaukee team is less likely to succeed.  Serves him right.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Mess plus additional playoff team still equals MESS.

Word is that MLB will add a second wild card team.  That's good within the straight jacket thinking that restricts any creative improvement.  MLB has put no more thought into this than it has since the two leagues merged in 1994 into a single two conference entity and started the playoff tournament that makes the 162 game regular season increasingly meaningless.

Not resolved:
1. playing division rivals fewer than 50% of games
2. playing different teams in the other conference different numbers of games
3. different rule (DH) for each conference.

And even MLB network Clubhouse Confidential, the self described program for the "thinking fan", yesterday extolling the virtues of non-uniform playing areas as charming.  Oh, the humanity!