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Tim Kniker 

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Playing the percentages means different things in different circumstances.

Ugh!  What is that vile stench? That’s right, it’s Sidney Ponson starts and the Mariners' offense polluting our pristine Run Expectancy and Win Expectancy Matrices. Before we write our congressman to apply for stimulus money for the cleanup, let's ask: How did it get this way?

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How should Pat Sajak and Grady Little adjust our view of measuring bullpen management?

In the article on the Archimedes Awards, we developed the metric BMAR (Bullpen Management Above Random) to quantify a key aspect of bullpen management: assigning the best pitcher to the highest-leverage situations. While it helped to isolate some of what we were looking for, especially when we normalized by "the best" that a manager could do with the UBBM (Upper Bound Bullpen Management) metric. The problem was that when one looked at the list, managers with consistent closers still seemed to rise to the top of the list. For gosh sakes, in 2008, Trey Hillman tied Ron Gardenhire for highest BMAR, mostly on the back of Joakim Soria.

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January 7, 2010 3:15 pm

Voting Outcomes

39

Tim Kniker

Robbie Alomar isnt a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer, but should we be surprised, or outraged?

After listening to a whole afternoon of baseball talk radio-specifically to the outrage of some of the on-air personalities like Casey Stern, Kevin Kennedy, and Rob Dibble-I'm wondering why they're so surprised by Roberto Alomar not getting into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. Their typical first argument is the comparison argument that says Player B is in the Hall of Fame, but Player A has better numbers and, therefore, Player A should be in the Hall of Fame. The common comparison for Alomar is Ryne Sandberg since, by all accounts, Alomar's numbers are better than his. The point that they miss is that Sandberg wasn't elected on the first ballot; he was elected on his third ballot, and that waiting is significant to the voters.

This brings us to their second argument, which is why should anyone's vote change from one year to the next since the stats don't change? I find this a nave view of human nature. We are obsessed with rankings, from VH1's Top 100 One-Hit Wonders (a wonderful series, although why couldn't they expand it a few hours and play each song fully? But I digress) to the Top 10 reasons why my wife should go get an account on eHarmony. Obviously, the baseball media is not immune to rankings, from Kevin Goldstein's Top 11 prospect rankings here, or his Top 101 Prospects in Baseball Prospectus 2010, or innumerable articles at Baseball America, ESPN, and other outlets.

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December 27, 2009 1:09 pm

Fine Penmanship

33

Tim Kniker

Which managers did the best at understanding leverage in their handling of the bullpen?

"Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world"-Archimedes

There seems to be one baseball topic where there is agreement between the "old school" and the "new school" bullpen management. Frequently, former players-those who haven't played in 20 or more years-or color commentators talk about the demise of the fireman and the rise of the closer, and bemoan the fact that you don't see the likes of a Rich Gossage or Dan Quisenberry coming into the game at a critical juncture in the seventh inning any more, or only occasionally in the eighth. Similarly, the sabermetric community has shown mathematically (see Keith Woolner's piece in Baseball Between the Numbers), that a manager willing to break from the current mold could garner a few more wins per year by bringing in his "closer" in crucial seventh- and eighth-inning situations.

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November 20, 2009 1:35 pm

Early Career Splits

5

Tim Kniker

Do extreme splits early in a player's career predict future success?

There's one advantage about being a fan of a franchise that never makes the postseason: I have much more off-season time to obsess about the following year. For Royals fans, one of the main questions over the last few years has been what do they have in Alex Gordon. Probably unfairly, people were labeling him as the next George Brett immediately after being drafted. On the other hand, a perennial All-Star is not too much to ask for a player who was picked second overall and considered the best college hitter that year.

When you watch him in numerous games, the one thing that pops out is how uncomfortable Gordon looks against southpaws, and the stats back this up (.217/.288/.365). Against righties, he has a slash line of .264/.349/.436 which is not as good as one would hope, but still serviceable in a Joe Randa kind of way. On the flip side, one of the Royals' newest acquisitions, Josh Fields, has an extreme split the other way: .285/.367/.580 against lefties, while just .206/.280/.348 against righties. I find myself hoping that these young hitters can figure it out against same-side pitchers, since they have demonstrated some hitting prowess against the opposite side. But is this an accurate assessment of the situation? This thought process led me to a bigger question: do young hitters who have extreme righty/lefty splits improve more in their peak years because they begin to figure out same-side pitchers better? Or are the young hitters who show minimal splits better hitters who improve equally against both.

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September 16, 2009 1:33 pm

Forecasting Stolen Base Success Rates

8

Tim Kniker

An exercise in sorting out when and why stolen-base rates fluctuate.

A lot of sabermetric research has gone into understanding when to steal, and when not to. Most of this research focuses on understanding the number of outs in the inning and the current position of the runners and calculating the increased run expectancy of a successful attempt versus the decreased run expectancy of an unsuccessful attempt. I direct the new reader to Joe Sheehan's article in the Baseball Prospectus Basics series as a great primer to this concept. Almost all of the research ends up with statements like, 'If the success rate for a stolen base is at least X percent in situation Y, then it's a good tactic to steal in this situation.' However, very little research has been devoted to understanding what the success rate X is likely to be, or it has been assumed that simply looking at either the runner's success rate is a good enough measure for that.

Understanding the Context

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August 30, 2009 1:50 pm

Catcher Fatigue

34

Tim Kniker

Is Joe Mauer's quest for another batting title really at risk because of his wearing down from catching?

During this year's All-Star Game, in the first inning as Joe Mauer came up to bat, and Tim McCarver wanted to emphasize to the viewers just how amazing Mauer's batting titles in 2006 and 2008 were, as well as his current production in 2009. McCarver said that one of the reasons that catchers don't win batting titles is because their batting average goes down late in the game with all of the bumps and bruises they get from donning the tools of ignorance. This seemed an interesting little theory from an ex-catcher that begged for some numbers to back it up. This comment also got me thinking about a potentially even larger issue: Does the wear and tear of playing at certain defensive positions on the field lead to reduced offensive production? Does this happens during the course of the game, and/or throughout the season?

In-Game Fatigue

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To read Tim Kniker's Unfiltered post following up on one of the audience's suggested topics, surf here.

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Mike Ferrin talks with Tim Kniker in a special edition of Baseball Prospectus Radio. Click to download the mp3.

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Today's slate of interleague games was particularly unappealing as only one matchup featured two teams with winning records - the 2008 World Series rematch between Tampa Bay and Philadelphia. Unfortunately, the pitching matchup of Antonio Bastardo (5.21 ERA) versus Andy Sonnanstine (6.60 ERA) left a lot to be desired. The lone National League contest had two winning teams, the first place St. Louis Cardinals and the second place New York Mets, and featured a face-off between two Cy Young winners on the mound: the resurgent Chris Carpenter and struggling Mets' ace Johan Santana. While the mainstream buzz before and after was about the Cy Young matchup, the real story of the game was the showcase of Tony Larussa's incessant managing style which gave mixed results.

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In March 2002, Baseball Digest said we were living in "the era of the shortstop." After all, the late 1990s ushered in a crop of offensive-minded shortstops like Alex Rodriguez, Miguel Tejada, Derek Jeter, and Nomar Garciaparra. The article included the Royals' Neifi Perez, but given the benefit of hindsight, I'll leave him out of the discussion. A popular conception was that this represented a new era where the once defense-dominated position was no longer going to be a wasted spot in the batting order. As the other teams scrambled to keep up with the Joneses, was something lost in the process? Is the quest for the next batch of power-hitting shortstops leaving defense in its wake? To answer this question and others, we will use the Win Shares system to help us.

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Background/History

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