CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe
Strength of Schedule Report


Search Spitballing

All Blogs (including podcasts)

Active Columns


Article Types

<< Previous Column Entries No More Column Entries

Baseball's best basestealers should get proper credit for knowing when crime does and doesn't pay.

We’ve heard the argument against RBIs a million times. It begins with name-calling and ends with being called names, but in between, the rational party explains that Runs Batted In do not control for context. Batters do not get to choose when they hit with runners on base. The same logic can be applied to win probability added—a measure that assigns credit based on the shift in a team’s win expectancy over the course of play.

A walk-off grand slam in a tie game might be worth 4 RBI and raise the team’s win expectancy to 100%, but the batter does not deserve more credit for that home run than for most other home runs. In fact, a single would have been just as good. Batters can alter their situational hitting but not their hitting situations. The accepted solution* has been linear weights, which gives batters credit for their contributions devoid of any context. An average home run is worth 1.4 RBI or 0.14 WPA.

Read the full article...

Evaluating each pitcher who appeared in the Futures Game and identifying the most similar current major-league pitchers and pitches with the aid of PITCHf/x.

Sample size or apple pies? You can choose only one. Apple pies—that’s what I thought. A quick glimpse of a prospect might not tell us all we need to know, but it’s still plenty tempting to draw possibly premature conclusions. With that in mind, I decided to watch the Futures Game for the second straight year and make snap judgments on every single pitcher, even though none of them threw more than a couple dozen pitches. Last year, my main takeaway was that Zach Britton was the man. He still is. This year, I came to the conclusion that the only way to top a Bernie Williams rendition of the national anthem is to catch a Sal Fasano first-base coach sighting.

The following table lists every pitcher who appeared in the game, in order of appearance. I’ll tackle them one by one, offering comps to current major leaguers where applicable, as well as links to videos of similar pitches.

Read the full article...

Enlisting a new type of analysis to reveal who's winning the eternal battle between batters and pitchers, and why.

Background: You’ve got to admit they’re getting better

“When the 100-meter freestyle is held today in high school girls’ regional swimming meets, it is generally won by a girl who swims the distance in just under 60 seconds. That time would have won the men’s Olympic competition in 1920, or any year before it.”—Baseball Between The Numbers

Read the full article...

Jeremy finds out whether the consistency of release points matters on a pitch-by-pitch basis and pinpoints the pitchers who give batters the same look most and least often.

Back in November, Mike Fast covered most everything you need to know about pitchers’ release points. The difficulty lies in determining the value of release point consistency. Mike found that pitchers with lower variation in their release points from game to game tended to produce lower walk rates, but looking at the distance between successive release points can also provide useful information at a more granular level.

With that in mind, I looked for all consecutive pitches from one pitcher to one batter and came up with the initial position of each pitch 50 feet from home plate, according to PITCHf/x, and each pitch’s run values using the process detailed here. The sample has some biases: all plate appearances must go at least two pitches, and curveballs will appear to be released higher than preceding fastballs, even if that’s not the case. This method does remove a significant bias that often exists when doing PITCHf/x analysis—miscalibration.

Read the full article...

Your starter goes eight scoreless, and your closer is available. Who pitches the ninth? There's only one right answer.

“If Jose Valverde is not better in the ninth inning than Rick Porcello after eight innings, and Jose Valverde's a top closer, then we might as well not have a closer.”—Jim Leyland

 “Never is (Colon) your best chance, because on his best day, he’s never as good as Rivera.”—Mike Francesa

Read the full article...

This is a BP Premium article. To read it, sign up for Premium today!

April 28, 2011 12:00 pm

Spitballing: Undefeated Angel


Jeremy Greenhouse

Jered Weaver is off to the best start of any pitcher in baseball, prompting Jeremy to examine how he's doing it and whether we can expect it to continue.

It seems as if every April there’s a pitcher who bursts upon the scene and makes us ask: How could he—how could anyone—be this good? Three years ago it was Cliff Lee, redefining himself as baseball’s top control artist. The following year it was Zack Greinke, a pitching prodigy who cleared his mental hurdles in order to become a pitching savant. Last April it was Ubaldo Jimenez’s turn, as the Rockies right-hander fully harnessed his fastball, the hardest pitch thrown by any starting pitcher. This year it’s Jered Weaver, off to a 6-0, 0.99 ERA start. But why him and why now?

Weaver has always been good. He began his MLB career in 2006 by winning his first seven starts. In 2009, he became the undisputed ace of the Halos’ rotation, and last year, he led all of baseball in strikeouts. Yet, the southern-California native had never captured the national spotlight before this season. Perhaps his fastball, just 90 miles per hour, failed to captivate our imaginations. Using more advanced PITCHf/x data, we can take a look at what makes Weaver so effective.

The rest of this article is restricted to Baseball Prospectus Subscribers.

Not a subscriber?

Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get access to the best baseball content on the web.

Cancel anytime.

That's a 33% savings over the monthly price!

That's a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Already a subscriber? Click here and use the blue login bar to log in.

The mysterious art of scouting needn't defy analysis, as long as ratings are applied consistently.

Consistency: the word itself a food metaphor, irony dripping from it like ice cream from a half-melted cone. Despite the rhetoric, consistency doesn’t matter much in baseball. What matters is being good. In the process of evaluating ballplayers, however, consistency is all that matters.

Scouts grade prospects based on a 20-80 scale where 50 is average, and, according to one scout*, “one grade is a standard deviation. Think of it as a bell curve.”

Read the full article...

Reliving some of history's most unusual comebacks through the lens of win expectancy.

Had there been an unlikely comeback on yesterday’s slate of games, it would have served as the subject of my lead-in. Since no teams were kind enough to supply one, let’s forgo a lead-in and dive right into the wacky world of win expectancy. Baseball Prospectus houses win expectancy tables for all years over the Retrosheet Era (1954-2010), and The Hardball Times provides a Win Probability Inquirer that uses a theoretical model. I sifted through Retrosheet data to dig up some tidbits on historical win probability, focusing on some of history’s most improbable comebacks.

There have been 4,000 instances since 1954 in which a team has trailed by four runs with nobody on and two outs in the top of the ninth inning. Not once has a team come back from that deficit. According to theoretical win expectancy, that should have happened several times by now. Another 5,000 attempts have been made down by 5 or 6 runs, but the away team still has yet to come through. On a more exciting note, let’s look at some long-shot teams that did rise to the occasion.

Read the full article...

The Mets' outfield swap of Carlos Beltran and Angel Pagan represents creative roster reshuffling, but such positional swaps are nothing new.

In an offseason packed with turmoil and turnover but bereft of big-money acquisitions, the Mets made one high-profile on-field move by swapping Carlos Beltran and Angel Pagan in the outfield. Even though Beltran still feels that he could play center, he offered to move to right field to save his knees and supplement his offense at the risk of losing defensive value:

Read the full article...

Cracking the Opening Day lineup even once is an honor, but what can we learn from players who repeat in the same roles?

What makes Opening Day different from all other days? Every team is undefeated, and every crowd is a sellout. The sun is out (sometimes) and the grass is green. It’s a national holiday in the same vein as Columbus Day, but without all the messy genocide.

Winning a starting assignment on Opening Day is the goal of every major leaguer. On Opening Day, managers start players they feel give their teams the best chances to win not only on that day, but for the rest of the year. Those who play on Opening Day are not only healthy, but often in the best shape of their lives. They also don’t have arbitration clocks that can be manipulated by forcing exile to the minors until May or June.

Read the full article...

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.

Read the full article...

This is a BP Premium article. To read it, sign up for Premium today!

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...

The remainder of this post cannot be viewed at this subscription level. Please click here to subscribe.

<< Previous Column Entries No More Column Entries