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May 29, 2004

From The Mailbag

Bunts, Arms and Outs

by Baseball Prospectus

Take One for the Team - When Does it Make Sense to Sacrifice?
Excellent columns on sacrificing. One question though. In the situation where the team is looking for just one run, and there is a runner on 2nd with no outs. If I were the opposing manager, and the other team succesfully sacrificed the runner to third, depending on the next batters, I might give batter two an intentional walk and hope for a double play to get out of the inning. Does this response by the opposing manager change the effectiveness of the strategy?

--J.P.

You make an excellent point. Running the numbers assuming that a GIDP is possible after a sacrifice of the man to third, the breakeven levels now read:

AVG: .306
OBP: .384
SLG: .516

(Instead of the .351/.436/.619 line from the article.) Obviously this reduces the number of players who should be sacrificing from "everyone except Bonds" to simply the vast majority. I will definitely include this correction in future adjustments to the equations. Thanks for pointing out the shortfall.

--James Click

An Early Look at Catcher’s Arms

Just wanted to add one comment. The reason (I believe) that Doug Mirabelli's down on the bottom of that list is that he catches Tim Wakefield exclusively. Which means that a) the ball's slow getting to home plate and b) really hard to handle once it gets there. He's at a real disadvantage when it comes to throwing out runners, and it's got nothing to do with his capabilities. No one else on that list is catching a knuckleballer at all--that's all that Mirabelli's catching.

--L.B.

Good point. Normally you don't expect pitchers to have a big influence on a catcher's caught-stealing numbers (see this article for an explanation), but personal catchers are an obvious exception. Mirabelli's totals this year break down to 1-for-9 catching Tim Wakefield, 0-for-1 catching everyone else.

However, it's worth noting that Mirabelli has had pretty good success controlling the running game with (despite?) Wakefield before this year. He caught a respectable 16 of 60 (27%) runners with Wakefield from 2001 to 2003.

--Michael Wolverton

Batting Orders

I’ve been curious for awhile now about the effect of batting order on a team's runs scored. I want to know: How should a batting order be created? How large of a contributing factor is batting order on runs scored? What managers or teams have the most efficient batting order? The curiosity stems from looking at the 2003 Red Sox. I wanted to know how Trot Nixon could finish 3rd in OBP, 3rd in SLG, and with the fewest GDPs on the team, and yet finish 7th in runs scored. Since he was such a huge offensive factor for the Sox, could he have scored more runs if his position in the order were different? Did the team lose out on potential runs?

I feel like the batting order is a mystery sometimes. I understand why certain guys might bat leadoff or cleanup, but sometimes I feel that beyond the 1-4 spots, they are simply ordered by AVG.

--Spencer

There actually has been a considerable amount of research done on batting order, although for the life of me I can't recall the name of the primary person who did it. He ran a series of models using every possible lineup permutation of a given nine-man lineup, and found that the difference between the very best and the very worst orders differed by about 15%. However, if you threw out the really ridiculous ones and forced the pitchers to bat ninth, and only did all of the other permutations, then the difference between the very best lineup and the very worst lineup was only about 6%--surprisingly small. Since even that difference required batting the eighth-best hitter first, the seventh-best second, etc., the difference between different "reasonable" lineups would seem to be very small.

I think the general consensus among the authors has pretty much become that choosing the right nine people for the lineup is a lot more important than what order you bat them in. There is some feeling in favor of breaking it up by handedness (to keep from being overly vulnerable to an opponent's lefty-killer in the pen, you don't want your left-handed hitters one after the other) and to reduce double-play potential with certain hitters, like keeping Edgar Martinez and John Olerud apart from each other, but overall there's little enthusiasm for lineup issues.

--Clay Davenport

Garret Anderson

A co-worker mentioned that Garret Anderson has had more hits than anyone else in baseball since 1995. I said, well, he probably made more outs than anyone else, too. My co-worker says no way. Any chance I could get you to settle this? Pretty please?
--L.P.

Including batting outs, double (and triple) plays hit into, and caught stealing, Garret Anderson indeed leads the majors in outs made since 1995, with 4042 outs (through May 19), edging Rafael Palmeiro by 20, despite having almost 500 fewer plate appearances than Raffy.

Here's an expanded list with everyone with 3500 or more outs since 1995 (through 2004-05-19). This may be the only list where Derek Jeter is listed between Mark Grudzielanek and Royce Clayton.


NAME                   OUT   CS   DP  TP TOT_OUTS         PA
-------------------- ----- ---- ---- --- -------- ----------
Garret Anderson       3839   41  162   0     4042       5822
Rafael Palmeiro       3870   16  136   0     4022       6303
Craig Biggio          3833   60   94   0     3987       6356
Sammy Sosa            3772   48  156   0     3976       6125
Ray Durham            3757   84  104   0     3945       5917
Bret Boone            3753   38  152   0     3943       5699
Steve Finley          3764   57  111   0     3932       5810
Omar Vizquel          3684   86  131   0     3901       5737
Jeff Bagwell          3624   59  196   0     3879       6371
Vinny Castilla        3636   35  200   0     3871       5540
Raul Mondesi          3673   81   97   0     3851       5632
Tino Martinez         3675   14  157   0     3846       5738
Luis Gonzalez         3630   43  159   0     3832       5975
Marquis Grissom       3643   67  121   0     3831       5437
Chipper Jones         3591   40  176   1     3809       6142
Johnny Damon          3638   67   72   0     3777       5694
Roberto Alomar        3555   39  156   0     3750       5765
Shawn Green           3573   41  130   0     3744       5678
Jeff Kent             3515   38  159   1     3714       5615
Eric Karros           3501   25  161   0     3687       5341
Alex Rodriguez        3505   47  134   0     3686       5805
Todd Zeile            3474   19  176   0     3669       5424
Kenny Lofton          3465  103   86   0     3654       5588
John Olerud           3448    6  179   0     3633       5877
Eric Young            3380  127  117   0     3624       5374
Bernie Williams       3386   51  169   0     3606       5775
Mark Grudzielanek     3424   40  138   0     3602       5229
Derek Jeter           3415   50  127   0     3592       5706
Royce Clayton         3365   70  149   0     3584       4984
Fred McGriff          3346   15  158   0     3519       5379

--Keith Woolner

May 04, 2004 Teams: A Critical Guide

Regarding Colorado going to a four-man rotation, and the lack of quality of the pitchers they're trotting out for this experiment: This reminds me of a little Tony LaRussa experiment he tried near the end of his tenure with the A's. I think it was in 1993 or 1994. If memory serves, he decided to take nine pitchers and put them all on 50-pitch limits and use three of them in each game, with everyone pitching on two days' rest. The theory I guess was that each pitcher could bear down harder and recover faster from short stints. It was briefly controversial (one point being that the starter would almost never go four innings, and thus never get the win), but it failed for the obvious reason: The pitchers on the Oakland staff at the time were just not very good. The moral of the story being: There ain't no substitute for quality. No matter how you use him, 180 innings of [your scrub here] probably won't yield a division title.

--Michael Rawdon

Well said, Michael. In fact, probably better said than how I'd put it. I do remember the La Russa gambit, and I think you have the details correct. My favorite part is the hub-bub over pitchers not getting the win. I mean Good Lord, won't somebody PLEASE think of the children!

--Jonah Keri

Related Content:  Batting Order,  Catching

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