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Robert Arthur 

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10-02

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10

Moonshot: Fastballs and the Collapsing A's
by
Robert Arthur

09-19

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6

Moonshot: Detecting the Best Medicine
by
Robert Arthur

09-09

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0

BP Unfiltered: BP At Fox Sports: The Impact of the Evolving Strike Zone
by
Robert Arthur

09-09

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8

Moonshot: The Year In Zone Distance, and Next Year in Breakout Candidates
by
Robert Arthur

09-03

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18

Moonshot: Time vs. Pace
by
Robert Arthur

08-28

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12

Moonshot: On Regressing Defense
by
Robert Arthur

08-20

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38

Moonshot: The Analytic Value of the Crack of the Bat
by
Robert Arthur

08-12

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2

BP Unfiltered: Sveum's Unheard Guide to Fixing Royals' Offense
by
Robert Arthur

08-06

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10

Moonshot: Troy Tulowitzki and the Brittle Bones Hypotheses
by
Robert Arthur

07-30

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25

Moonshot: Separating the Phenoms Who'll Make It From Those Who Won't
by
Robert Arthur

07-22

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11

Moonshot: Accounting for Count
by
Robert Arthur

07-18

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3

BP Unfiltered: BP at Fox Sports: Anthony Rizzo and the Making of An All-Star
by
Robert Arthur

07-16

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5

Moonshot: The Matter of the Heart
by
Robert Arthur

07-08

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1

Moonshot: Survival of the Fittest: Position Players
by
Robert Arthur

07-01

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1

Moonshot: Survival of the Fittest: Pitchers
by
Robert Arthur

06-24

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21

Moonshot: Dale Sveum and the Royals Remedy
by
Robert Arthur

06-17

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5

Moonshot: Striking Distance
by
Robert Arthur

06-10

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4

Moonshot: Learning from Yasiel Puig's First Year
by
Robert Arthur

06-03

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5

Moonshot: What Makes Position Players Injury Prone?
by
Robert Arthur

05-21

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6

Moonshot: PITCHf/x and Batter Breakdowns
by
Robert Arthur

05-12

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10

Moonshot: Predicting Batter Breakouts with PITCHf/x
by
Robert Arthur

05-05

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7

Moonshot: The Winding Path of Albert Pujols, Via PITCHf/x
by
Robert Arthur

04-28

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19

Moonshot: How Quickly Do Team Results Stabilize?
by
Robert Arthur

04-23

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6

Moonshot: What PITCHf/x Can Tell Us About Batters
by
Robert Arthur

04-14

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8

Moonshot: Does April Velocity Last?
by
Robert Arthur

04-08

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10

Moonshot: Miguel Cabrera and the Bearable Heaviness of Being
by
Robert Arthur

04-01

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7

Moonshot: Cracking the Location Code
by
Robert Arthur

03-25

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5

Moonshot: Attrition Over Time
by
Robert Arthur

03-14

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16

Attrition By Position
by
Robert Arthur

03-12

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8

The Art and Science of Sequencing
by
Robert Arthur

02-06

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14

Baseball ProGUESTus: Entropy and the Eephus
by
Robert Arthur

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October 2, 2014 5:33 am

Moonshot: Fastballs and the Collapsing A's

10

Robert Arthur

What does it mean that the league suddenly shifted its pitch selection just as the A's suddenly shifted into a full-scale meltdown?

The Oakland Athletics completed their second-half collapse in true Oakland fashion by failing somehow to advance in the postseason against the Royals. For a season in which Beane went all-in by trading future potential for current performance, in which the A’s began the year an unstoppable, historic juggernaut, the inglorious ending has to smart.

The A’s of this year embodied one of the most beloved playoff myths, that the second half of a team’s performance predicts how that team will do in the playoffs. I say “myth” because, at least in the aggregate, there is little or no evidence in support of this idea, and so it has been debunked on numerous occasions. And yet, there may not be a better example of that phenomenon in action than this team, which roared out to an incredible start to the season, on pace to challenge run-differential records, only to buckle in the second half, barely making the playoffs.

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September 19, 2014 6:00 am

Moonshot: Detecting the Best Medicine

6

Robert Arthur

Can we figure out which teams are best at preventing injuries?

At the team level, injuries are as mysterious as they can be crippling. The Texas Rangers are suffering a whirlwind of pitcher injuries that threatens to break records and has certainly been one of the primary causes of their disappointing season. Meanwhile, teams full of aged veterans like the Yankees and Phillies have somehow managed to evade their fair share, albeit without benefiting very much.

Differences like these suggest asking whether some teams are better at limiting injuries than others. Ben Lindbergh (with the help of Russell Carleton) tried to tackle this issue a few days ago in the context of the Pirates' remarkable run of injury prevention. They found little detectable signal of any team having an ability to reduce injuries.

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The bigger strike zone has caused more than just increased strikeouts.

Recent analysis from Jon Roegele and Brian Mills (among others) has shown that the strike zone is changing. Specifically, the lower edge of the zone has dropped several inches in the last few years, opening up a new area for pitchers to attack. Responding to the deeper zone, pitchers have peppered this region with strikes and sinkers.

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If pitchers are telling us which hitters are especially scary, does that make Pittsburgh's no. 6 hitter one of next year's top breakout candidates?

For a pitcher, the center of the strike zone presents a high-risk, high-reward proposition. There is the opportunity to steal a strike against an overly patient hitter, but also the possibility of the ball being walloped for extra bases. From a game theory prospective, pitchers must balance the need to acquire additional strikes versus the added risk which comes from throwing those strikes.

Yet, the inherent risk of a strike varies depending on who is standing in the batter’s box. Jose Bautista can hit a pitch middle-middle a long way, maybe out of the park. Ben Revere is less of a threat to achieve the same outcome. For this reason, pitchers can be more aggressive in pitching to the center of the zone against Ben Revere than Jose Bautista.

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September 3, 2014 6:00 am

Moonshot: Time vs. Pace

18

Robert Arthur

One's a problem. The other's not. Hopefully, MLB will note the difference.

I have a job that, unfortunately, limits the amount of time I can spend watching baseball. In that window of time in which I am not at my job or doing any of the other loathsome, menial things that consume an adult’s life, I like to fit in as much baseball as possible. Baseball is fun! I enjoy watching it. So when I sit down to a game, I am ready to watch something awesome.

Here are some of the things I love about baseball: the complex maneuvers Chris Sale has to enact in order to deliver his pitches, in which any of his seemingly eight limbs might snap. The slashing swing of Javier Baez, rendered by my television as a blurred streak over the plate, usually far from the passing ball. The crack of the bat, and all the various sounds within that crack. The graceful, loping range of a good outfielder. Bartolo Colon hitting a double.

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August 28, 2014 6:00 am

Moonshot: On Regressing Defense

12

Robert Arthur

Should WAR(P) systems adjust their defensive measures? Okay. Now, which direction?

We heard the first blows in the nascent MVP debate of 2014 unfold just last week. At the time, Alex Gordon led all players in fWAR (by a narrow margin), largely on the basis of his extraordinary defense in left field (15 fielding runs above average, fifth highest in MLB). In response, Jeff Passan wrote that the idea of Alex Gordon as the best player in baseball was absurd.

Much wailing and gnashing of teeth ensued. To some of the doubters of sabermetrics, Gordon’s triumph on the leaderboards was yet more proof of the uselessness of WAR(P). To others, arguments against Gordon may have seemed ill-formed.

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Can you use the sound of the bat for actual sabermetric research? Heck yes you can.

Baseball is possessed of a rich and diverse collection of sounds. The shouting of the fans, their intermittent applause and jeers, and the crackling of the PA system all contribute to the cornucopia. Even limiting ourselves to the action on the field, baseball is aurally pleasing: the pulse of the ball pushing the air out of a glove, for instance.

First among all baseball sounds, without question, is the crack of the bat. Something about the whip striking the ball is downright electric. If you are like me, after watching so many thousands of baseball games, that crack still exercises a visceral and jolting effect on my nervous system. It is baseball’s leverage alarm: the contact could result in a routine groundout, or it could be a massive home run, but either way, the stakes just increased and you’d better pay attention to what happens next.

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Examining whether Sveum fixed the swing height problem with the Royals' offense.

In late June, I wrote about the Royals’ hiring of Dale Sveum as their new hitting coach. I noted at the time that Sveum gave an unusually specific critique of the Royals’ hitters:

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August 6, 2014 11:09 pm

Moonshot: Troy Tulowitzki and the Brittle Bones Hypotheses

10

Robert Arthur

Are injury prone players actually prone to injuries?

In a twist of stunning unpredictability, Troy Tulowitzki is injured. Like the year before, and the year before that, Tulo is spending some time on the 15-day disabled list, after missing a handful of games for sprains and strains earlier in the season. Troy’s annual trip breaks up what was easily (on a rate basis) the best season of his career.

A glance at Tulowitzki’s injury history reveals a voluminous catalog of the many ways baseball players can be hurt. This year, Tulowitzki suffered a hip flexor strain. Last year, Tulowitzki had broken ribs. The year before, a torn muscle which necessitated surgery. Other injuries on his record include maladies in his foot, ankle, and hand.

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And trying to figure out whether we can do it quickly.

Predicting rookie players’ performances is one of the most difficult tasks for any projection system. By definition, they lack the extensive body of work necessary to analyze their performance. While it’s tempting to foresee a Hall of Fame career in the demeanor of one at-bat, statistics (as well as common sense) caution against it. No matter how locked in or lost a player looks in the sample of a few games, his true skill cannot be inferred from such meager experience.

The ultimate cautionary tale here is Mike Trout, whose first year (2011) MLB stats go like this: .220/.281/.390, in 135 plate appearances. Such a line is not the stuff from which legends are made, and had a lesser prospect posted it, there might have been rumblings of doubt in the media. Trout was decidedly not a lesser prospect, and his raw combination of discipline and athleticism had every scout and fan salivating despite the poor batting average. Even so, it’s still possible to find a few sentences in the press reports of that time which noted his difficulties:

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July 22, 2014 6:00 am

Moonshot: Accounting for Count

11

Robert Arthur

Looking at behavior by ball-strike situation reveals one of the ways hitters change most drastically from year to year.

The count controls all aspects of the batter-pitcher battle. From pitch type to location to swing tendencies all the way to the batted-ball outcome of a thrown pitch, nothing escapes the influence of the count. Like many statistics in baseball, credit for the count itself is difficult to parse. If a pitcher falls behind in a count, it could be because he is having trouble locating his pitches, or it could be because he is afraid to challenge the hitter in the zone. Conversely, a hitter’s ability to drive into favorable counts could be because of a good eye or a good approach or the ability to inspire a fear of the zone in the opposing pitcher.

I came to the conclusion recently that, because of the pervasive influence of the count, certain plate discipline statistics must be taken with a grain of salt (or an extra grain, if you were already taking them with the pre-recommended grain). I came to this realization because I was examining a certain hitter’s swing rate, and noticed that while his overall swing rate differed little between years, his swing rate on particular counts had changed quite substantially—that is to say, his approach, as a function of the count, had changed. However, when the positive and negative changes in swing rates were averaged, the overall difference in swing rate became muted, concealing the difference in approach.

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How Anthony Rizzo Became an All-Star

Despite Anthony Rizzo’s ignominious strikeout in the All-Star game, a look at BP’s leaderboards reveals he’s having a monster year—good for the 11th highest BWARP in MLB. So while Rizzo’s performance this year has been nothing short of exceptional, his breakout came a year too late, as I write in this week’s BP on Fox article.

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