October 7, 2005
BEST MATCHUP (opponents with best combined Prospectus Hit List rankings): New York Yankees (3rd) vs. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (5th)
Did it seem like the Angels were fouling off an extraordinary number of pitches in Game 1 on Tuesday night? Wouldn't it stand to reason that a team that has less patience than other clubs would hit more foul balls because they are not swinging in ideal circumstances? That was my thinking, anyway. James Click ranked all the major league teams based on the percentage of pitches they turned into foul balls. Here are the 30 major league teams, ranked in order by the percentage of pitches they hit foul:
Team Year Fouls Pitches Foul % BB Rank CHA 2005 4299 23269 18.5% (25th) CHN 2005 4005 22163 18.1% (28th) BAL 2005 4009 22437 17.9% (23rd) HOU 2005 4012 22632 17.7% (20th) SEA 2005 4041 22924 17.6% (22nd) DET 2005 3977 22577 17.6% (30th) TEX 2005 4239 24074 17.6% (15th) TBA 2005 3916 22306 17.6% (28th) COL 2005 4073 23251 17.5% (13th) SFN 2005 3767 21620 17.4% (26th) MIN 2005 4007 23020 17.4% (18th) KCA 2005 3922 22575 17.4% (27th) ATL 2005 3960 22846 17.3% (9th) PIT 2005 3903 22538 17.3% (21st) NYN 2005 3998 23107 17.3% (17th) SLN 2005 3970 22975 17.3% (9th) ANA 2005 3927 22772 17.2% (24th) BOS 2005 4252 24776 17.2% (1st) WAS 2005 3835 22648 16.9% (16th) CLE 2005 4046 23906 16.9% (14th) TOR 2005 3939 23360 16.9% (19th) MIL 2005 3931 23421 16.8% (11th) LAN 2005 3889 23487 16.6% (7th) ARI 2005 3847 24138 15.9% (5th) CIN 2005 3835 24357 15.7% (4th) FLO 2005 3662 23303 15.7% (12th) NYA 2005 3775 24049 15.7% (2nd) OAK 2005 3792 24253 15.6% (8th) SDN 2005 3697 23801 15.5% (6th) PHI 2005 3717 24366 15.3% (3rd)My theory doesn't really hold up for the Angels, but there is something to it overall in that the teams with the most walks foul off the fewest pitches on the whole, while the teams with the least number of walks foul off the most. The average walk rank of the ten teams with the highest foul percentage is 23rd. The average walk rank of the teams with the lowest foul percentage is about eighth.
One thing, at least, that we have learned from the above list is this: about one in six pitches ends up in foul territory. One way to reduce this frequency would be to make the field wider.
Remember, if you're a young writer who is going to cover the Yankees someday, you'll need to learn to accentuate the negative and eliminate the positive. For instance, heading into Game 3, this is the type of headline you'll want to go for:
YANKS ON BRINK!!!
Another thing you'll want to do is emphasize the negative in player stats. Traditional metrics won't cut it. You'll have to write things like this: "Alex Rodriguez failed to homer in 667 plate appearances in 2005."
WORST MATCHUP (opponents with worst combined Prospectus Hit List rankings, provided both are in the lower half): Houston Astros (9th) vs. Atlanta Braves (10th)
I respect Craig Biggio as much a anybody, but hasn't he, after all these years, figured out that sliding headfirst into first base is a very low-percentage play? I have this crazy notion that it makes it harder on the umpire to make a correct call in that it is jarring to the eye. He is expecting a call-as-usual and the player messes up his mind by belly-flopping.
Speaking of umpires, I'm not sure I agree with the position that the second base arbiter assumes with a runner on first. By setting up on the inside of the basepaths to the first base side, I believe he is always going to have the runner between him and the glove. We saw Derek Jeter job the second base umpire in such a situation in Game One. There was also a play in Game Two where there was no possible way the umpire could have seen the tag being applied because his eyes, the sliding Alex Rodriguez and the gloved ball were all co-linear. I'm not sure if the solution is to have the umpire stand on the third base side of second or to have him behind the bag.
I think umpires, by and large, do a pretty good job. I do believe when they have problems it is often times a result of not being positioned properly to make the correct call. In some ways, I find that more disturbing than when they are positioned correctly and just flat out miss it. Human error I can forgive. Procedural malfeasance is a different story.
In my last column I presented the In-Spite-of Team--the players whose teams made the postseason in spite of their poor showings. Since every action has an equal and opposite reaction, here's the Don't Blame Me Team--the players whose teams did not make the postseason in spite of their best efforts.
Catcher: Victor Martinez, Indians, 7.2 WARP1
BIGGEST MISMATCHUP (opponents with greatest difference in Prospectus Hit List rankings): San Diego Padres (18th) vs. St. Louis Cardinals (2nd)
The Padres have been melting runners at a pretty amazing rate. In the course of a baseball season, approximately one out of every three runners goes on to cross the plate. The Pads were 2-for-15 with runners on base in Game Two. Average-wise, they were a more respectable 5-for-18 in Game One, but that's still 13 men who were either destroyed via the double play or left to decay on the bases like the all-too-classic bleached skull. Obviously, the only way to get away with that sort of thing is to not surrender any runs to the other teams, something San Diego pitchers haven't been doing.
The Padres find themselves in a position visited by many teams before them in best-of-five series: basically going home to play a farewell game in front of their fans. 15 other teams since 1969 have done this very thing: dropped two on the road and then returned home to get closed out. The Pads themselves did it against these very same Cardinals (not very same to a man, but very same in terms of the overall franchise--you knew what I meant) back in 1996.
CLOSEST MATCHUP (opponents closest to one another in the Prospectus Hit List rankings): Boston Red Sox (4th) @ Chicago White Sox (6th)
What a contrast in the usage of closers presented by Ozzie Guillen and Tony LaRussa this week. Guillen used his man, Bobby Jenks, for two innings, while La Russa saved his man, Jason Isringhausen to start the ninth inning when there was an extremely high-leverage situation in the eighth that was just begging for a closer. Personally, I prefer the Guillen method. I'll admit to not being happy with the Guillen signing when it happened last offseason. I did not like his approach to the game as a player and I made the assumption he would manage the same way. To some extent, he has, but, as Rany Jazayerli points out, there's more to managing than deciding when to send baserunners to unnecessary demises.
Back when only two teams made the playoffs, repeat participants were fairly common. When the playoffs expanded in 1969, the chances of the same teams appearing in consecutive years--or otherwise--decreased dramatically. In fact, the same exact four teams only showed up in the playoffs on two occasions and it just happened to be back-to-back: in 1977 and 1978, the Royals, Yankees, Phillies and Dodgers were the playoff quartet.
When the number of participants doubled again in 1995 it would seem to be just about impossible that we're ever going to see the same octet of clubs in the postseason. (We did get a repeat of the American League quartet in 1998 and 1999.) However, with the Braves, Cardinals, Yankees and Red Sox making the scene just about every year, doesn't it stand to reason we're going to have a postseason very soon in which all eight participating teams are exactly the same as in some other, previous season?
2004's octet (Twins and Dodgers standing in for White Sox and Padres) seems like a good bet to show up again. If the White Sox could do something they've never done before--make the playoffs more than once a decade--2005's group could show up again as-is as well, but it would appear the Indians are going to have something to say about that.