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October 25, 2002

From The Mailbag

Pete Rose, Mike Marshall, and K-Rod

by Baseball Prospectus

 K-ROD

From your Transaction Analysis page:

Anaheim Angels - purchased the contract of RHP Francisco Rodriguez from Salt Lake. [9/15]

I thought a player had to be on the active roster (or disabled list) as of August 31 to be eligible for post-season play. Does this mean that the Angels have to forfeit his 5 wins?

--PG

The Angels pulled the oldest roster trick in the book to make this work: They placed someone from their 60-day DL (Steve Green) on their postseason roster, effectively leaving a roster spot open for somebody else, or in this case, Francisco Rodriguez. What's less clear is whether or not Rodriguez should have been on the 40-man to really be available for the postseason roster. Fortunately for the Angels, the rules on the subject appear to be murky, and even more fortunately, the Commissioner's office barely operates on autopilot, if at all, so there is an extremely reasonable chance that the issue has been entirely overlooked.

Don't hold your breath waiting for a declaration of any forfeits.

--Chris Kahrl

WHACK A MOLE

From your article:

"Pete Rose has gotten the short end of the stick in one specific way. The Board of the BBWAA decided after Rose signed his agreement that people on the permanently ineligible list would be barred from induction into Cooperstown. It's possible that Rose would not have signed the agreement had that rule already been in place. To me, that's enough to allow Pete a normal vote by the BBWAA."

Not quite; it was the Hall's board that codified the rule against ineligible players being ineligible for Hall election. The BBWAA was rather incensed about it, having their right to vote (or not) for Rose taken away (Rose being the only individual significantly affected by the rule change). But eventually, it all blew over.

After the 1999 All-Century Most Popular Team, and now the Marketable Moments similar drivel, I'm wondering who the Pete Rose fan is in the marketing division at MasterCard.

--TW

MIKE MARSHALL

Your interview with Mike Marshall made me think of John Lackey, who is from my hometown, Abilene, Texas. Lackey never pitched in high school, went to UT-Arlington as a first baseman, transferred to Grayson County Community College and then started pitching. We don't know for sure, but it seems like starting competitive pitching at a later age has helped him be the up and coming pitcher he is now. I am sure there are other cases similar to Lackey's.

--Scott Jeffries

As with anything, the key will be finding as much data as we can to get a better look at the situation. Intuitively what you say makes sense, but there's also a lot to be said for learning proper mechanics and mastering pitches at an earlier age. Dr. Marshall's program has kids learning how to throw pitches from an early age, but avoiding throwing them in high-stress game situations. Ideally, when they're ready for the later years of high school, into college and minor-league ball, their arms are fresh and injury-free, but they can still throw fastballs, curves, even screwballs with velocity and movement. That's the end goal, anyway.

--Jonah Keri

What a coincidence! Every few years I re-read Ball Four and I just happened to finish it up Wednesday. Voila! My daily trip to BP yields an interview with Mike Marshall. Thirty-three years later baseball executives still think he's nuts, which doesn't surprise me a bit. Everything Jim Bouton wrote is still true today. What's great is to see how players he wrote about turned out--Bouton nailed so much right on the nose.

The brainy Marshall with his wild ideas gets run out of Seattle, ends up with a Cy Young and sets all kinds of records. Lou Piniella becomes a minor star and ends up a fine manager. Eager young rookie catcher Bob Watson...

Anyway, I wish my dad had known this stuff when I was throwing 150 pitches as a 10 year old (I once struck out 16 AND walked 16 in a 6-inning game).

--Jeff Fawcett

It's amazing how many people in their comments about the Q&A have talked about Marshall in Ball Four, Jeff. One does get that sense, that people who think outside the box have a tendency to get ostracized from baseball's inner circles. It's a shame, because contrarians often have the most to offer when it comes to improving on conventional wisdom.

As for Little League, my specialty was stepping into the pitch and taking my base. Sounds like you would have obliged.

--JK

  1. This Mike Marshall character is insane. Fascinating, but insane. Then again, I said the same thing about Voros McCracken 2 years ago.
  2. Why does he think that pitch counts don't matter? If I took every batter to 3-2, could I really stand to face 27 batters? (that's Jim Leyland/Bruce Kimm territory: 162 pitches.) Facing batters 3 times at an average of 5 pitches per batter puts you at 135 pitches. Four pitches per batter puts you at 108 pitches. The major-league average is well under 4 pitches per batter. So he's not saying "pitch counts are irrelevant; look at batters faced" as much as he's saying "here is a system under which you will never get your pitch count high enough to matter." I mean, maybe he's right, and pitchers can't be effective the fourth time through a lineup for some reason, but that seems orthogonal to the arm-stress-through-more-pitches issue, which he just avoids entirely.
  3. Apparently Mike Marshall watches a different Greg Maddux from the one I watch. Here are Maddux's BFP by game from 2001, when he was healthy:
    BFP      Count
     0-18     2
    20-21     1
    22-24     3
    25-27     8
    =============
    28-30    12
    31-33     6
    34+       2
    

    Almost 60% of the time, Maddux does more than go through the order three times.

    And, just for good measure, some yearly averages:

    Year                      BFP/GS
    1998                      29.0
    1999                      28.5
    2000                      28.9
    2001                      27.3
    

    So over a four-year span he averaged going through the order more than three times.

    How does he stack up to other workhorses?

    Randy Johnson 2002        30.4
    Randy Johnson 2001        28.0
    Curt Schilling 2002       29.1
    Curt Schilling 2001       29.2
    Kevin Brown 1998          29.5
    Matt Morris 2001          26.7
    Bartolo Colon 1999        26.8
    Kerry Wood 2002           27.2
    

    Yeah, that Maddux guy really wusses out after going through the order three times.

    --NB

I think what you say comes out in the interview. I basically ask him "isn't limiting times through the order the same as limiting pitch counts?" Obviously Marshall's speaking in hyperbole when he says pitch counts are irrelevant. His point is simply that as a matter of in-game strategy, a pitcher's less likely to succeed if he has to face the same guy a 4th time. I'd wager there's a decent correlation here in the pitcher getting tired after three times through the order as well, but that wasn't the point he chose to emphasize. As for actual pitch counts, like you say, less than four per AB is MLB average. If a pitcher's throwing so poorly that he's on pace to throw 162 pitches to 27 batters, it becomes a self-correcting mechanism. The manager will take him out of the game.

Fair points on Maddux. Personal observation can certainly cloud one's opinion when used in lieu of hard data, no matter who you are.

--JK

PLAYOFF PROSPECTUS

No matter how they perform in the final game of the series tonight, I think it is time for you to admit you were just flat out wrong about Keith Lockhart, Vinny Castilla, and Javy Lopez. Far from being the Braves' Achilles heel, they are the reason the Braves aren't making tee times yet.

--DM

I'm afraid I have to do nothing of the sort. Anything can and usually does happen in a short series, and nothing that Lopez, Castilla or Lockhart did erases the fact that they have been and will be liabilities. Did they have a nice series? Generally, yes. Does it mean much for the past, the present, or the future, or hold any predictive value whatsoever? No. However, if you're a Marlins, Expos, Phillies, or Mets fan, you can look forward to all three being Braves next year.

--CK

YANKEE DEFENSE

I hate to give advice to the dreaded Yanks, but you're right about the range of Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter and Alfonso Soriano. How about the following moves: Williams to left or right, Jeter to centerfield a la Robin Yount, Soriano back to short and sign Jeff Kent? The Boss has the money for it.

--MG

Your idea is pretty much exactly what I had in mind--signing Ray Durham or Kent at 2B. You've got a chance to upgrade two positions defensively if Jeter takes to the new position, though SS would remain a defensive problem with Soriano there.

One idea could be to really open the wallet, sign Durham or Kent at 2B, Alfonso to play SS (he's always been a good fielder, even held his own coming up playing SS). Williams moves to LF, Soriano to RF, Jeter to CF. You let Roger Clemens or Andy Pettitte leave to offset cost, and if you're lucky, tap anyone who'll take Rondell White off your hands.

Of course all this armchair quarterbacking assumes the Yankees will have the guts to mess with their veterans, which likely won't happen.

--JK

200-HIT CLUB

I noticed the Yankees have two 200-hit players this season, Bernie Williams and Alfonso Soriano. These were the first two Yankee teammates to hit 200 hits in the same season since 1937, I believe. Derek Jeter came close this year with 191, which leads to my question. Has there ever been 3 players on the same team with 200 plus hits?

--BD

Having three or more teammates with 200+ hits has been done eight times, most recently by the '91 Rangers, and the '82 Brewers. Two teams, the '29 Phillies and the '37 Tigers actually had four teammates with 200+ hits:

 YEAR TEAM   NAME                          H
----- ------ -------------------- ----------
 1920 CHI-A  COLLINS,EDDIE               224
 1920 CHI-A  JACKSON,JOE                 218
 1920 CHI-A  WEAVER,BUCK                 208

 1920 STL-A  JACOBSON,BABY_DOLL          216
 1920 STL-A  SISLER,GEORGE               257
 1920 STL-A  TOBIN,JACK                  202
 1921 STL-A  JACOBSON,BABY_DOLL          211
 1921 STL-A  SISLER,GEORGE               216
 1921 STL-A  TOBIN,JACK                  236

 1929 DET-A  ALEXANDER,DALE              215
 1929 DET-A  GEHRINGER,CHARLIE           215
 1929 DET-A  JOHNSON,ROY                 201

 1929 PHI-N  KLEIN,CHUCK                 219
 1929 PHI-N  O=DOUL,LEFTY                254
 1929 PHI-N  THOMPSON,FRESCO             202
 1929 PHI-N  WHITNEY,PINKY               200

 1930 CHI-N  CUYLER,KIKI                 228
 1930 CHI-N  ENGLISH,WOODY               214
 1930 CHI-N  WILSON,HACK                 208

 1930 PHI-N  KLEIN,CHUCK                 250
 1930 PHI-N  O=DOUL,LEFTY                202
 1930 PHI-N  WHITNEY,PINKY               207

 1935 NY_-N  LEIBER,HANK                 203
 1935 NY_-N  MOORE,JO-JO                 201
 1935 NY_-N  TERRY,BILL                  203

 1937 DET-A  FOX,PETE                    208
 1937 DET-A  GEHRINGER,CHARLIE           209
 1937 DET-A  GREENBERG,HANK              200
 1937 DET-A  WALKER,GEE                  213

 1963 STL-N  FLOOD,CURT                  200
 1963 STL-N  GROAT,DICK                  201
 1963 STL-N  WHITE,BILL                  200

 1982 MIL-A  COOPER,CECIL                205
 1982 MIL-A  MOLITOR,PAUL                201
 1982 MIL-A  YOUNT,ROBIN                 210

 1991 TEX-A  FRANCO,JULIO                201
 1991 TEX-A  PALMEIRO,RAFAEL             203
 1991 TEX-A  SIERRA,RUBEN                203

--Keith Woolner

JOSE HERNANDEZ

Mystified by your article attempting to excuse Jose Hernandez's 188 strikeouts. To begin with, he isn't the best shortstop in the league; Edgar Renteria is, and Renteria has more RBI with one-third as many strikeouts.

Secondly, if you have 188 strikeouts you had better be leading everyone in production numbers, not just NL shortstops. For A-Rod, 188 strikeouts might be excusable. For Jose Hernandez, it isn't.

--KH

There's plenty of prior art out there that says that a strikeout is really very similar to any other out in terms of importance; that is, there's nothing intrinsically bad about a strikeout that isn't bad about a ground out. With a K, you lose the possibility of runner advancement, but with a batted ball out, you've got a much higher chance of a double play.

As for RBI, Hernandez hit behind Jeff Hammonds, Richie Sexson, and Matt Stairs, while Renteria hit behind Jim Edmonds, Albert Pujols, and Tino Martinez. It'd be surprising if Renteria didn't have more RBI. Giving a player credit for the players he bats behind is not a good way to evaluate performance.

--Dave Pease

BOTTOM OF THE NINTH

Here's why you need to be on a winner to be the MVP.

Imagine you're at McDonald's. You really want a Quarter Pounder with Cheese. Anything other than a Quarter Pounder w/ Cheese is worthless and you'd rather go hungry. You look on the Value Menu and see that you're going to need a dollar to buy your Quarter Pounder. You only have 99 cents. That 99 cents has absolutely no utility whatsoever, you might as well have a stick of gum and some lint in your pocket.

A stranger, sensing your need for a Quarter Pounder with Cheese, comes up to you and gives you a penny. That penny has a dollar's worth of value to you, since without it, you couldn't buy what you wanted.

The only thing that has any value in a baseball season is winning. Home runs and strikeouts are components of winning, but they are like the 99 cents if you don't win.

To continue the analogy, let's say Alex Rodriguez contributes 50 cents toward the Rangers' Quarter Pounder while no other player in the league contributes more than 40 to his teams. ARod's 50 cents never gets used to buy anything, though, so it has no utility. With or without ARod's 50 cents, the Rangers are still going hungry, but Tejada's or Giambi's 25 cents buys the Quarter Pounder.

On this train of thought, it's surprising that Cecil Fielder never won an MVP since he clearly ate a lot of Quarter Pounders.

--Jay Kirsch 

0 comments have been left for this article.

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