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Jeremy Greenhouse 

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March 18, 2011 9:30 am

Between The Numbers: The Rule X Draft


Jeremy Greenhouse

If Major League Baseball were run like your fantasy league, what would Albert Pujols be worth?

Consider this hypothetical: Bud Selig has had enough. He’s sick of hearing that his league lacks competitive balance, sick of thinking about Albert Pujols’ impending free agency, and most of all, he’s sick of watching the impossibly tan Adam Schefter interview the improbably crimson Roger Goodell. Selig’s first recourse: to cut his own salary to 50 cents per annum. With that act of magnanimity achieved, the players have no choice but to accept Selig’s radical proposal: the Rule X Draft. Selig guarantees the salary of every MLB player, but places them all into a draft-eligible pool. The owners are to hold a real-world fantasy draft.

Now the focus is no longer on what team Pujols picks, but on what team picks Pujols. Immediately, owners begin jockeying for position. Desperate for Pujols to play in his home town, David Glass tells Selig that if granted the first pick, he would allow Selig’s wages to be increased to the federal minimum. The Wilpons one-up Glass by offering Selig an insider trading tip in exchange for the first pick. How valuable must that first pick be to justify so much interest?

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Exploring in-game velocity changes, and determining whether fatigue should inform calls to the bullpen.

I don’t believe pitchers should go past 100 pitches. That might seem like the view of a baseball luddite, but it’s quite simple. Throwing 100 pitches means six innings. Surviving six innings equates to 27 batters. Facing 27 batters impends the fourth time through the order. And that spells doom.

As a rule of thumb—not without exceptions—a decent reliever coming out of the bullpen will be better than all but the best of starting pitchers facing the fourth time through the order. Batters make adjustments, and there’s little a pitcher can do.

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February 24, 2011 9:00 am

Spitballing: Playing with Playing Time


Jeremy Greenhouse

Exploring the hazards of projecting playing time with monkeys and machines.

Projecting playing time is hard. When news hit that Adam Wainwright was almost certainly out for the year, forecasters went into fits. There’s no way to predict Tommy John surgery* for a pitcher coming off back-to-back 230-inning seasons. So you can say there’s a five percent chance he gets hurt and dismiss that possibility as too unlikely to weigh into your projection, or you can drag your forecast down by five percent. Regardless of which course of action is better, the only recourse after the fact is to “cheat” by manually updating the number of projected innings when such news comes out.

*Wait, he had an inverted W? Well, in that case...

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What can pitch locations tell us about the likely directions of batted balls?

“The phrase 'off with the crack of the bat,' while romantic, is really meaningless, since the outfielder should be in motion long before he hears the sound of the ball meeting the bat.”Joe DiMaggio

Before each pitch, a fielder wants to position himself such that a batter will be no better off making any adjustments to his approach.  Nevertheless, at last year’s PITCHf/x summit, Max Marchi used FIELDf/x data to verify DiMaggio’s assertion that fielders are in motion before the ball is put in play. So what informs a fielder’s first step?

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What can we learn from the circumstances surrounding a player's debut?

A bad first impression can be overcome, be it by Austen's Mr. Darcy or MTV's Snooki. (See, I make both high- and low-brow pop culture references. You can relate to me! Unless you haven’t watched The Wire. Then you’re dead to me.) Good ones, well—you never really know if you’ve made a good first impression.

We can try to quantify first impressions, like most everything else having to do with baseball. This being PECOTA week, I got to wondering about the predictive value of a major leaguer’s first plate appearance. When you think about it, there’s probably no more nerve-racking moment in a big leaguer’s career than his first time up. The moment is the culmination of a lifetime of work, and nobody forgets their first time. What can we learn about those who deliver? Are they any better than those who don't? Are they more clutch?

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Bio: I'm a sophomore at Tufts University. I write a weekly column for The Baseball Analysts and am an editor and columnist for the school daily newspaper. I'm the president of the Baseball Analysis at Tufts club and the Tufts Table Tennis club. Frankly, I don't really think I should win BP Idol. I know there are better writers out there who are submitting entries, and all I've got on them as that my love of baseball is at least equal to theirs. But I've got nothing to lose, so here goes.

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