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11-25

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Pitching Backward: Reviewing Rapsodo
by
Jeff Long

10-05

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1

Pitching Backward: Closing the Window
by
Jeff Long

09-27

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5

Pitching Backward: What We Know About Spin Rate
by
Jeff Long

09-14

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Pitching Backward: What's In A Name
by
Jeff Long

08-25

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Pitching Backward: Zach With No K
by
Jeff Long

07-27

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4

Pitching Backward: Valuing Relievers, in July and Otherwise
by
Jeff Long

03-08

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11

Pitching Backward: Starting Pitching Depth, Ranked
by
Jeff Long

02-25

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Pitching Backward: The Superest Utility
by
Jeff Long

02-03

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3

Pitching Backward: Bringing the Heat
by
Jeff Long

01-22

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3

Pitching Backward: A Refresher on Changeups
by
Jeff Long

01-12

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2

Pitching Backward: Pudge, Preserved
by
Jeff Long

12-17

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6

Pitching Backward: The Rise of the LiRPA
by
Jeff Long

12-10

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2

Pitching Backward: The Real-Life Closer Report
by
Jeff Long

12-01

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7

Pitching Backward: The Bundy Conundrum
by
Jeff Long

11-17

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12

Pitching Backward: So, Hey, What if the Mets Had Intentionally Walked Wade Davis
by
Jeff Long

11-04

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Pitching Backward: How Chris Sale Learned A Third Dynamite Pitch
by
Jeff Long

10-23

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Pitching Backward: How The Mets Got Here
by
Jeff Long

10-15

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3

Pitching Backward: Some Signatures Are Forgeries
by
Jeff Long

09-29

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10

Pitching Backward: TINSTAABOPP
by
Jeff Long

09-17

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Pitching Backward: There is No Such Thing as TINSTAAPP
by
Jeff Long and Jeff Quinton

09-04

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16

Pitching Backward: On Manager Analysis
by
Jeff Long

08-27

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2

Pitching Backward: Casey Fien Makes No Sense
by
Jeff Long

08-20

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14

Pitching Backward: Cribs, Dorms, Ballplayers in Swarms
by
Jeff Long

08-17

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Pitching Backward: Mother May I?
by
Jeff Long

08-09

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Pitching Backward: The Next Collin McHugh?
by
Jeff Long

07-23

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8

Pitching Backward: Spin That Curveball
by
Jeff Long

07-14

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Pitching Backward: Advance Scouting the All-Star Game: American League
by
Jeff Long

07-14

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Pitching Backward: Advance Scouting the All-Star Game: National League
by
Jeff Long

07-03

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4

Pitching Backward: Manny Happy Returns
by
Jeff Long

06-30

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8

Pitching Backward: Chaz Roe and the Mechanics of Aesthetics
by
Jeff Long

06-17

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8

Pitching Backward: Reflections on a Golden Changeup
by
Jeff Long

06-12

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Pitching Backward: To Rush or Not to Rush
by
Jeff Long

05-28

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Pitching Backward: Started From the Bottom, Added a Forkball, How About Now
by
Jeff Long

05-21

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Pitching Backward: How Offense is Created
by
Jeff Long

05-11

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8

Pitching Backward: Who'll Throw The Greatest Pitch Ever?
by
Jeff Long

05-01

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Pitching Backward: PITCHf/xing and Pitcher Fixing
by
Jeff Long

04-23

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24

Pitching Backward: Every Player In Its Right Place
by
Jeff Long

04-10

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Pitching Backward: The Future of Leadership
by
Jeff Long

04-03

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Pitching Backward: Do the Bullpens that Stay Together Parade Together?
by
Jeff Long

03-27

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8

Pitching Backward: Why Relievers Get A Free Pass
by
Jeff Long

03-13

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39

Pitching Backward: Every Team's Pitching Depth, Ranked
by
Jeff Long

03-05

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7

Pitching Backward: In Search of the Winningest Logo
by
Jeff Long

02-23

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Pitching Backward: Which Hitters Have it Toughest?
by
Jeff Long

02-13

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6

Pitching Backward: How to Outperform Your Prospect Status
by
Jeff Long

02-04

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8

Pitching Backward: PECOTA's No. 1 Breakout Candidate, And the Case Against Him
by
Jeff Long

01-22

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13

Pitching Backward: The Cost of Being on Baseball's Bad Side
by
Jeff Long

01-15

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12

Pitching Backward: Jake McGee's Smash-And-Grab
by
Jeff Long

12-19

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Pitching Backward: Brandon McCarthy and the Outlier Curveball
by
Jeff Long

12-16

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Pitching Backward: Curveballs and Changes
by
Jeff Long

12-04

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19

Pitching Backward: Best. Reliever Season. Ever.
by
Jeff Long

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Can a $3,000 investment revolutionize amateur baseball and maybe interest MLB teams as well?

On a warm Saturday morning I pulled into the parking lot of a big industrial warehouse in Knoxville, TN. Driving past row after row of cars for an “inflatable party zone” I made my way to the side of the building, parking between a set of stairs and a long set of rusty railroad tracks. Tucked back in the corner of this industrial complex, just a short drive from the University of Tennessee and the vibrant downtown of Knoxville, was a hidden jewel for baseball nerds like myself.

I'd arrived at RBI Baseball, a premier facility where amateur athletes pursue improvement in the hopes of perfection. It’s here, and places like it across the country, where forward-thinking coaches pursue the future of amateur player development. More on that in a bit, though.

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Buck Showalter and the Orioles may have lost more than just one game with Zach Britton on the sidelines.

As writers and analysts, we often discuss, with the benefit of convenient removal from the situation, the merits of decision-making within major-league organizations. We wonder why a GM makes a certain trade or if the owner pushed for a particular player to be signed. We critique lineups and defensive positioning. We lampoon bunt proponents, and loathe bullpen mismanagers.

We do all of this, of course, because we know better. We have data and proofs and theories and algorithms. And more often than not, we’re not wrong. We might overstate the magnitude of these transgressions, or make a minor mistake seem like a life-or-death decision. This is why it’s so easy to criticize Buck Showalter for his decision-making related to inarguably the most dominant pitcher in baseball this season. Matthew Trueblood put it exceptionally well in his postgame recap:

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Diving into the treasure trove of data finds as many questions as answers.

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It's not enough to have a database. Teams need to have a named database.

Humans name everything. We name our progeny, our pets, our cars, our software, our hardware, our boats, and many other things. It is believed that people have named things, inanimate or not, in order to assert their dominance over the object in question. Since there have been tools and machines people have been giving them names. Peter McClure of the Oxford English Dictionary suggest that machines are named for two reasons. The first being that it gives the owner/operator some sense of ownership over the machine and the second being purely anthropomorphic in nature.

The idea being that these machines are helpful and so we bestow names upon them, which allows us to greater appreciate their contributions to our work and goals. It’s all about comfort for the owner. Adrienne LaFrance of The Atlantic had a prescient observation in a profile of this phenomenon:

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Exploring a hypothetical: What if Zach Britton, extreme batted-ball outlier, didn't strike anybody out?

Hypotheticals are fun. If they weren’t fun, nobody would put any time into thinking about them because, well, they’re hypothetical. Recently, hypothetical scenarios have gotten a lot of press, what with Lebron learning handball, and Tim Tebow figuring out how to waste the time of scouts.

It was that sort of thinking that led the BP Stats team down an interesting path on the afternoon of August 24th. The question at the heart of the matter was equal parts absurd and vexing:

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The real world doesn't care about partial wins.

It’s that time of year again. That last week in July when we swear that teams lose all sense of things big and small and ship otherwise valuable prospects in exchange for late-inning relievers who will pitch a few dozen innings over the balance of the season. It’s a formula that the sabermetric community sometimes finds difficult to rationalize. Relievers pitch so few innings and are so volatile that their value is almost certainly lower than that of the prospects dealt for them.

It’s difficult to look at the trade returns for late-game specialists and understand the thought process. The Cubs seemingly traded a king’s ransom to acquire Aroldis Chapman, a pitcher whose performance is only marred by the domestic violence charges that hang over him. Let’s not mince words either; that marring very real and deserved. For the purposes of this article, though, we're be ignoring that component of this trade, not because it doesn’t matter—it matters immensely—but because it didn’t dramatically diminish his value in the baseball world, which is what this article is about.

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March 8, 2016 6:00 am

Pitching Backward: Starting Pitching Depth, Ranked

11

Jeff Long

Anticipating the disasters that will befall this year's rotations.

Each of the past two seasons, Sam Miller or I have done this fun bit of analysis that looks at which teams would fare best if they had to resort to their sixth and seventh starters (2014, 2015). Obviously, every GM needs to fill out the top five slots in his rotation, but that’s just the bare minimum. Over the course of the season, nearly two-thirds of teams will have two starters injured at the same time, meaning fans will get acquainted with sixth, seventh, and possibly even eighth and ninth starters.

As spring training ramps up, injuries are inevitable. So it makes sense for teams to assess their options now, just in case something goes awry before the real games start.

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Or: The only way Jake Elmore is going to get this much ink on Baseball Prospectus.

What does it really mean to be a super utility player? I’m not talking about Ben Zobrist or Ryan Flaherty here. I’m talking about someone who can literally play any position the manager might need him to. What does that kind of player look like?

Four players have ever played all nine positions on the field in one major-league baseball game (assuming you ignore Will Ferrell, which we will do here). Bert Campaneris was the original, doing so on September 8th, 1965. A little over three years later, Cesar Tovar would accomplish the same feat for the Minnesota Twins during their final home game of the season. Fast forward more than 30 years and Scott Sheldon would accomplish the feat in a September game where his Texas Rangers got blown out by the Chicago White Sox. Last but not least, Shane Halter played all nine positions for the Tigers less than a month later, even scoring the winning run in the process.

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February 3, 2016 6:00 am

Pitching Backward: Bringing the Heat

3

Jeff Long

When we take the weather into account for DRA, how big a swing are we talking about?

One of the most important components of DRA is the awareness of external factors on pitching performance. Obvious things like the parks each player is pitching in, and the defense behind him, clearly affect performance. So too, does temperature.

Derek Holland quite literally brings the heat. Sure, he threw a 94 mph fastball in 2015, but he also pitched in some of the highest average temperature games among all pitchers who recorded at least 162 outs last season. Holland started 10 games for the Rangers, the average temperature of which was over 81 degrees. That’s nearly 8 degrees warmer than the average gametime temperature last season.

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January 22, 2016 6:00 am

Pitching Backward: A Refresher on Changeups

3

Jeff Long

A look back at what makes a good changeup, and a look ahead at who has the best ones.

A few years ago, Harry Pavlidis presented some research on what makes a good changeup (part 1, part 2). In the first part of Harry’s analysis, he identified a few key truths about changeups that I’ll include below for quick reference:

1. The faster a pitcher's fastball, the more likely he was to get whiffs with his changeup.

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What Ivan Rodriguez really did do better than anybody ever did.

Much has been made of catcher framing, which can add or detract a dozen or more wins from a player’s career WARP. But this isn’t going to be a discussion about framing, or about how important it is to a player’s legacy and/or Hall of Fame candidacy. This is going to be a celebration of old school catcher evaluation. It’s going to be about the best all-time at the catch-and-throw. It’s going to be about the guy who was catching personified: Ivan Rodriguez.

Next offseason, Rodriguez will be eligible for the Hall of Fame, and much will be made of his ability, his reputation, and where he falls among all-time catchers. According to JAWS and the Hall of Stats, Rodriguez lands easily among the five best catchers of all time. It’s easy to see why. He was elected to 14 All Star games, won 13 Gold Gloves, has seven silver sluggers and an MVP award, and won a World Series ring.

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December 17, 2015 6:00 am

Pitching Backward: The Rise of the LiRPA

6

Jeff Long

Also, the introduction of "the LiRPA."

In 2015, 137 pitchers threw at least 48 2/3 innings in relief. Of those 137 pitchers, Fernando Rodney was 134th in terms of RE24[i] , pitching roughly 10 runs worse than the average reliever in baseball. Despite being objectively awful, Rodney had the 11th highest inLI—the leverage of the situation when he entered—of those same 137 relievers. Rodney notched 16 saves as the Mariners closer before ending up in Chicago, where he was surprisingly dominant for a handful of innings at the end of the year. But in Seattle, Rodney’s track record and closer job title garnered him plenty of high-leverage innings despite his being one of the worst possible options to pitch them.

Luckily, Rodney didn’t lead the team in inLI. That honor goes to Carson Smith, whose 2.11 inLI was actually the highest in baseball among qualifying relievers. Smith was a much more worthy recipient of those pivotal innings as he posted an 11.7 RE24, making him one of the better relief pitchers in the game last season.

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