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April 25, 2006

Prospectus Matchups

The Winner

by Jim Baker

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Last time out, I introduced a contest the purpose of which was to guess which 10 batting lines appeared most frequently in box scores in 2005. The response was great, forcing me to cancel my plans to fly to Rio for a fun and sun weekend so that I could process the ballots. The airfare was non-refundable but I'm cool with that because it was my responsibility to take care of business.

And the winner is…

Our winner in a very close race is Sam Tomarchio, a premium subscriber from Mountain Lakes, New Jersey. It was so close, in fact, that I got palpitations while I did the calculations. Here are the top ten contestants with their scores:

106: Sam Tomarchio, Mountain Lakes, New Jersey
105: Nghia Nguyen, Toronto, Ontario
99: Daryl Orts, Woodinville, Washington
97: Evan Rowe, Paris, France
97: Mike Calcagno, Seattle, Washington
95: Dan Graulich, Yarmouth, Maine
91: Ben Hoese, Minneapolis, Minnesota
91: Scott Daniel, San Diego, California
90: Chris Knauer, West Chester, Pennsylvania
89: Patrick Madden, Portland, Maine
Honorable mentions: 88, David Bond; 87, Roger Anderson; 85, Evan Fraser; 83, Sean Reynolds; 83, David Edelman; 83, Dean Fiala; 82, Eric Chalek

A quick reminder about scoring: everybody started with 100 points and got 10 points for every pick they got exactly right and lost a point for every space they were off (for instance, minus six points if their number one was actually seventh). If a player picked a line that wasn't in the top 20, it cost them 20 points. How did our winner do it? Mr. Tomarchio nailed the top two lines as well as a third. He was only off by one line on four other picks. His worst pick cost him 12 points.

The most popular lines

Here are the top 20 lines from 2005, as researched by Keith Woolner:

PLACE     LINE       COUNT
1         1000        5215
2         4000        4974
3         3000        4417
4         4010        3592
5         2000        2362
6         3010        2111
7         4110        1825
8         3110        1095
9         4011        1029
10        4111         967
11        4020         931
12        4120         843
13        5000         781
14        5010         746
15        1010         720
16        0000         668
17        3100         663
18        4121         636
19        2010         621
20        3011         589
1000: The fate of a majority of pinch hitters and any number of late-inning replacements. Only five contestants correctly named this as the number one box score eventuality. So rare was the feat that we should bear witness to their names: Tom Madigan, Sam Tomarchio, Sam Miller, Evan Rowe and Angelo Grasso.

4000: I would have guessed the Size Four Collar would be number one and so did a lot of you. It was tied with 4010--another logical choice--with the most picks for number one.

3000: Surprisingly, only four players put 3000 in the top spot and it finished third. The ballots that fared the best were the ones that kept it simple: just binary code beyond the At Bat column.

2000: Of all the highest-ranked picks, this one was the least obvious to most contestants, being named on less than a quarter of the ballots. How does 2000 come about and why is it so popular? Taking a look at just last night's National League box scores, we find that in each and every game at least one of the starting pitchers posted a 2000 line and both did in two of the games. There are roughly 2,500 opportunities for this to happen in a given year just from starting pitchers.

0000: Back when the DH was first created, they weren't quite sure what to do with the pitchers in terms of how they should appear in the box score. So, in spite of the fact that they weren't batting, they put them in with the position players and assigned them the 0000 line. Eventually, that changed and now 0000 appears a lot less than you might think. 18 contestants had it at number one and it cost them 15 points each because it actually ranked 16th. It helped wreck some otherwise very nice ballots.

3111: Speaking of wrecking ballots, this pick was the undoing of many contestants. It was named on over a third of the ballots and, because it is not a top 20 event, cost them all 20 points each. I don't think it's a bad pick. Given that 3110, 3011 and 4111 are in the top 20, it makes sense to think this one would rank up there as well. It just doesn't.

4120: Only three entries in the top 20 had a number higher than one in the success portion of the line (runs-hits-rbi). They were: 4020, 4120 and 4121 (but not 4021). Any pick that included a two-run or two-rbi column cost the contestant 20 points.

Other ballots

The average final score was 44 with the median at 49. The worst ballot came in at -125 but didn't count in the final tally because it arrived after the deadline. The lowest score that did make the deadline was a -59. 14 players finished at or below zero.

When introducing the contest I wrote: "A perfect score would be 200 but if you get a perfect score then I'll know you got into somebody's database. That won't do! Just guess--it's more fun that way." Two contestants did submit ballots that were so far off the charts compared to the others that it seemed to me they had checked. It turned out they had--sort of. Mat Kovach scored a 178 which means his only misses were two reversed picks. While he did not actually do a database search at that moment, he did say he has spent the last month searching a box score database and went from memory. He did feel it gave him an unfair advantage over those who were just guessing and graciously recused himself from the contest. For fun, reader Chris Miller wrote a script using the 2006 box scores and submitted a ballot based on that. He scored a 158, showing that, so far, there has been consistency between this year and last.

Jose Reyes' appointment with destiny

Thanks to everyone who participated. It was a lot of fun. All this talk of batting lines has gotten me to thinking about what Jose Reyes has been up to. Until he did not start Sunday night's game in San Diego, he was on a streak that saw him make at least three outs in 13 consecutive games. This is nothing like a record, but it shows that Reyes has not lost his out-making touch. Last year, he tied for the third-most outs in a single season:

Top 10 Outmakers of the 20th & 21st Centuries
551: Omar Moreno, Pittsburgh (1980)
530: Horace Clarke, New York Yankees (1970)
529: Jose Reyes, New York Mets (2005)
529: Omar Moreno, Pittsburgh (1982)
529: Sandy Alomar, California (1971)
528: Omar Moreno, Pittsburgh (1979)
528: Sandy Alomar, California (1970)
526: Juan Samuel, Philadelphia (1984)
525: Alfredo Griffin, Toronto (1980)
521: Bobby Richardson, New York Yankees (1964)
521: Roger Metzger, Houston (1972)
This season, Reyes has an outside shot of bettering them all, even the grand imperial high-exalted most excellent master himself: Omar Moreno. A number of things have to align just so for Reyes to make this happen. His manager,Willie Randolph, must continue to ignore all appeals to reason and bat him leadoff. He has to start every day and refrain from walking--something he hasn't had a problem with in the past. He himself has to maintain a batting average in the .240 range. The Mets need to score enough runs so that he's getting five at bats rather than four (or play a lot of extra inning games). Reyes is a high-percentage base stealer, something Moreno was not, so he's not going to generate many outs that way. At this moment, projecting from what Reyes has done in the first 19 games, he would make 554 outs in 2006, a new all-time record. (Yes, it's a small sample size, but it's one that does not run counter to past performance.)

There really isn't a lot of play there, so it seems unlikely he'll achieve outmaking immortality in 2006. A more likely eventuality is that he betters last year's total but falls short of Moreno's grandeur. In other words: look out Horace Clarke!

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