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April 29, 2010


Volume 1

by Eric Seidman

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Welcome to Seidnotes, a new column I'll pen a couple of times each month that focuses on researching quirky events or tidbits. It might not help you win a fantasy league, but it will certainly help you excel at Quizzo or those mid-game trivia questions on television broadcasts. Today's debut piece will focus on Jamie Moyer's odd season through his first three starts-he had allowed 12 runs, 10 earned-- but had only allowed those runs in three of his 18 total innings- and it will also take a look at the road less traveled with regards to early-season performance, finding players whose end-of-season slash lines actually do resemble what they produced in their first 10 games. It has to happen some of the time, right?

Moyer and the Tale of Scoreless Innings

Moyer is quite the conundrum when it comes to projections. While he isn't the first pitcher over 40 years old to succeed with 78-80 mph pitches, most of his peers in this regard were knuckleball specialists. As I explored before the beginning of last season, he is largely unprojectable from a comparables sense because, well, there aren't comparable players. Entering his age-47 season, most Phillies fans expected the worst but hoped for an ERA close to the 5.00 mark with the ability to go five or six innings each time out. In his first three starts,Moyertossed 18 frames,an average of exactly six per game-and helasted exactly six innings in each start-with an ERA of precisely 5.00. However, whatactually transpired in those 18 innings was rater interesting.

In his first start against the Astros, Moyer surrendered five runs in the bottom of the third inning. The rest of his five innings were tremendous, as the Astros only managed five hits and were not issued any free passes. A week later, Moyer took on those feisty Florida Marlins, whom he normally dominates, and again allowed five runs in six innings. However, those five runs were produced in the first inning; after that, Moyer lasted five more frames, allowing just two hits while whiffing seven. Through two starts he had thrown 12 innings, allowing 10 runs, but 83 percent of those innings were scoreless.

Fast forward to last Thursday, when Moyer allowed two runs-neither earned-in the same inning, holding the Braves scoreless in his other five frames, surrendering just four hits while allowing no walks and whiffing three more hitters, including Jason Heyward. Overall, of his 18 total innings, only threeinvolved runs crossing the plate; in 83 percent of those frames (15 of 18) Moyer did not walk abatter,struck out 10, andallowed just 11 hits. In the other three innings: 12 runs, eight hits, four walks, and just one punchout.

His odd start to the seasongot me thinking about the percentage of scoreless innings in general: Has there ever been a starter with a poor ERA who did not allow a run in an above-average percentage of his innings pitched? From 1974-2009, across all pitchers with 100 or more innings in a season, the weighted average rate of scoreless innings is 75.1 percent. The table below lists the highest scoreless percentages for pitchers with an ERA greater than or equal to 5.00 in 100-plus innings:






Bob Owchinko





Luke Hudson





Jesse Jefferson





Armando Reynoso





Ken Brett





Bob Shirley





John Montague





Bob Wells





Eric Plunk





Tim Worrell





Overall, only 27 pitchers satisfied the criteria over the last 3 decades, suggesting it is certainly rare. The odds are against Moyer sustaining one of the numbers-if he continues to be stingy with runs to the tune of a scoreless rate above 75.1 percent, his ERA is going to come down or vice versa. Across pitchers with that same 100-innings floor, the weighted average ERA is 4.01, and amongst those with a scoreless innings rate above the 75.1 percent average, the ERA is 3.43.

These numbers might not be predictive in any way-a story for another day-but are certainly interesting to digest in the context of Moyer's peculiar season so far. Just as a foreshadowing for a potential article down the road, what I am referring to in the sense of the rates being predictive is that maybe these pitchers with higher ERAs but above-average scoreless rates are due for an evening out of sorts in the following season, with the inverse also true. It is certainly worthy of further research and contemplation even if it amounts to nothing, with the central theme being that a blowup inning in which five or six runs score could be different than allowing five runs distributed throughout five innings.

Beginning Slash, Meet End Slash

At the beginning of the season, many writers take it upon themselves-and rightly so-to remind fans that what happens in the first two weeks stays in the first two weeks. If three months still constitutes a small sample, and it does, then 55 plate appearances' worth of data represents a minuscule sample. Through April 16, Jeff Francouer was hitting .457/.535/.857 in 43 PAs, paving the way for a bevy of scribes to opine on how his slash line at the end of the year would be around half of each of those components. So often is the case early on in a year that the numbers will not resemble the eventual year-long production. But, given that I'm sort of an odd person, I started to think about the reverse side of this: looking over the last 10 seasons, has anyone finished the season with a slash line similar to their line through 10 games?

After creating game logs in my database for each season from 2000-09, I calculated the slash lines for the first 10 games of each season for every player, and added overall slash lines to every row. In order to prevent batters who amassed around 40 PA in the first 10 games but finished the season at, say, 53 PA, I added the stipulation that the PA total for the season had to be 300 or more. In order to determine distance from each component of the slash line I fooled around with different intervals; plus/minus ten points for each, plus/minus eight points, and so forth, trying to find as small an interval as possible where at least five batters finished what they started, quite literally.

The table below shows the five batters I found from 2000-09, with 35-plus PA in their first 10 games, 300-plus PA on the entire season, and a BA, OBP, and SLG after those 10 games within five points on either side of where those numbers fell at season's end.







Milton Bradley






Jeromy Burnitz






Bengie Molina






Edgar Renteria






Reggie Sanders






So there you have it; these five players finished the season with their beginning slash lines over the past decade. It is rare but certainly not unprecedented. Kelly Johnson isn't going to slug .814 all year, but would a .273/.333/.500 from Alex Rios really be out of the cards? Only time will tell.

Until Next Time

That concludes our regularly scheduled Seidnotes. Next time out I'll be looking into the dichotomous starts from Nationals starting pitchers Livan Hernandez and Jason Marquis, amongst other topics. If anyone has a quirky idea that seems worth researching, please post them in the comments.

Eric Seidman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Eric's other articles. You can contact Eric by clicking here

10 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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Do people call pub trivia quizzo outside of philly and Ireland?

Apr 29, 2010 07:07 AM
rating: 0
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18 innings - WAY too small a sample size to say anything about Moyers' "ability" to restrict his run allowances to a small percentage of innings. Come on. This is picking nits off a nit's back.

Apr 29, 2010 09:04 AM
rating: -4
BP staff member Eric Seidman
BP staff

Did you even read the article? I said that this has occurred so far, which got me thinking about the idea in general. Absolutely nothing here says Moyer has this ability. Absolutely nothing here says this IS an ability.

Apr 29, 2010 09:12 AM

having watched moyers starts this year...and i have no clue if this possible...during the big innings he has had some tough/close calls go against him by the home plate umpire (i'm sure this happens to most/some other pitchers, but this article helped me remember this tidbit)...is there anyway to compare the ump's calls & strike zone in those particular innings vs. other innings in the same starts?

Apr 29, 2010 09:48 AM
rating: 0

how about taking games as the unit instead of innings, and count the number of 3 run or less games instead of scoreless.

Apr 29, 2010 10:24 AM
rating: 0

Seidnotes Idea 1: is it better to give your regulars a day off all at once, or staggered throughout the week? That is, would a team with a lineup of 8 regulars and 1 replacement player 7 days a week out-perform a team of 9 regulars 6 days a week with a lineup of 9 scrubs on the 7th day?

Seidnotes Idea 2: Could a team maximize its performance by micro-managing starting pitching matchups? Which is to say, if your ace is better than my ace, but my second tier starters are better than yours, should I punt the matchup against the ace, by trotting out my 5th starter? The idea is similar to a pinochle type strategy where I would throw my junk out there for you to waste your trump cards on and then slaughter you with the superior strength of my other cards.

Apr 29, 2010 10:31 AM
rating: 5
Joe D.

"Seidnotes Idea 1: is it better to give your regulars a day off all at once, or staggered throughout the week? That is, would a team with a lineup of 8 regulars and 1 replacement player 7 days a week out-perform a team of 9 regulars 6 days a week with a lineup of 9 scrubs on the 7th day?"

I've thought a lot about this, especially with regards to the following scenario:

I manage Team X and see that about a week from now, my fifth starter (who is quite scrubby) is up against Tim Lincecum. There are no off days for a week or so after that game. I am seriously considering using that day to rest as many regulars as possible (limited only by how many "bench guys" I have). My reasoning is: our chances of winning that game are about as low as they can possibly be anyway, so why not use it as The Rest Day?

The question: is this a good idea or not?

I personally haven't come to any conclusions on that sort of thing, but it feels like it makes some sense...

Apr 29, 2010 14:29 PM
rating: 3
Ben Solow

Seidnotes idea 2 reminds me of when I was in high school and a friend of mine was playing for her high school tennis team. The rules were to match up 6 singles matches, and 3 doubles matches -- one team, who ended up making it to the state finals, punted the #1 vs #1 match in order to stack the rest of the matches, and it was extremely controversial (although evidently successful, as they were the #2 team in the state).

I suspect, though, in the context of baseball, given different injury patterns, travel days, spot starts, etc. across teams that it would be very difficult to implement this strategy. Perhaps Eric would be able to investigate it on the college level where rotations are more defined by the day of the week that someone pitches?

Apr 29, 2010 14:39 PM
rating: 2
Michael Dennis

I wonder if this has already been done but I was thinking about stolen bases with win expectancy as the main criteria and if it works or not. IE the Dave Roberts stolen base is a lot more important than going up or down 5 runs in the 6th inning.

So instead of measuring success as just a straight percentage, it would be measured in WPA. I'm just curious if it's been done and if not if someone would be interested in seeing the results.

Apr 29, 2010 11:30 AM
rating: -1

I've been curious about the first conjecture above, especially as it relates to young/developing pitchers. Would you rather have on your roster a young pitcher who gives up 3 ER in 6 IP consistently, or one that gives up 6 ER one game, none the next, etc.? (Both of these scenarios produces a 4.50 ERA.) The conventional wisdom is that the "feast or famine" pitcher shows some potential to dominate, so he has more upside. But I wonder what the projection going forward of those 2 pitchers really is.

I'd love it if someone at BP did some analysis down this line. (Actually, there are probably many ways to slice the question.)

Apr 29, 2010 22:00 PM
rating: 0
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