May 29, 2004
From The Mailbag
Bunts, Arms and OutsTake 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?
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:
(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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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!