Everybody butchers baseball. How do romance novels do, you might wonder.
We play a game when we go on vacation: One person grabs a steamy romance novel out of the bag, reads the title and back-cover plot summary out loud, and everybody else writes a first sentence for the book. Then the original person reads all the first sentences out loud, and the rest of us guess which one is real. Long way of telling you how I ended up with a copy of The Winning Season, by Alison Packard, not long ago.
Pitcher roles change, but what we think of as (statistically) a full season hasn't. This is bad and wrong.
One hundred and sixty-two innings was as good a number as any. By design—"provided that the pitcher has pitched at least as many innings in league championship games as the number of games scheduled for each club in his club’s league that season (MLB Rule 9.22(b))"—the number had a pleasing symmetry with the number of games in a season, which is one of baseball’s three or four most significant figures. And it worked. In 1962, for instance, there were 118 pitchers who started at least 10 games. A majority—58 percent—reached 162 innings. A supermajority (70.1 percent) of pitchers who started at least 15 games did; 80 percent of pitchers who started at least 20 did. If you were a starter, the minimum-innings threshold recognized you.
Is anybody doing anything interesting, or are we all just waiting for the apocalypse?
The Oakland A’s started the ninth inning of Game 7 of the 1973 World Series ahead 5-1. There is video of this. Rollie Fingers is on the mound. The great A’s relief ace is already the great A’s relief ace by this point. He was an All-Star in ’73, his 1.92 ERA the fifth best in baseball (minimum 50 innings; third best minimum 100). He saved 22 games, third-most in baseball. He had pitched in six of the seven World Series games, for a total of 12 2/3 innings as John Milner worked him to a 3-2 count leading off the ninth in Game 7. Milner pulls the pitch foul, and that’s when the video of Game 7 cuts off. The final half-inning of that game doesn't appear to exist online.
The ultimate unintended consequence of the ever-expanding bullpen.
In the sixth inning of a recent Cubs game, Addison Russell (a right-hander) singled off Gio Gonzalez (a left-hander) to bring the Cubs to within one run of the Nationals. Blake Treinen (a right-hander) relieved Gonzalez (the left-hander) to face Tim Federowicz (a right-hander), who was immediately replaced by Tommy La Stella (a left-hander), who walked to load the bases for Ryan Kalish (a left-hander), pinch-hitting for Clayton Richard (a pitcher), at which point Dusty Baker (a right-hander) walked to the mound (a no-hander) and signaled for Sammy Solis (a left-hander (who bats right)), which is when the ride stopped. Solis faced Kalish. It took some doing, but Baker finally got his platoon advantage.
On the pitches the best pitcher in baseball has thrown, by one way of measuring it, the worst--and why they didn't hurt him.
An English teacher once gave us a writing assignment: Describe the taste of the best chocolate you ever had, to somebody who has never had chocolate. Without the self-referential crutch (“It tastes like chocolate, but, like, really chocolaty”), how do you convey what makes chocolate good?
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.
A sketch of the missing bunts for us to put on our Missing Bunts fliers.
Here’s a very brief history of the sacrifice bunt: From around 1960 through around 1981, teams bunted around .45 times per game. There was such a powerful instinct guiding managers to this number that even the introduction of the DH didn’t budge it. In 1982, sacrifices dropped under .4/game for the first time, but hung in around .38 or so until the end of the century. Since then, bunts have been steadily dropping, at the rate of just under one-hundredth of a bunt per game per year. Put another way, a decline of around 3 percent per game per year. Last year, there were .25 bunts per game.
How many simulations does it take for the Rockies to win 106 games, or the Dodgers to lose 121?
If PECOTA were a sentient Baseball Prospectus reader, I bet it would mostly ignore our projected team win totals. Putting a single number on a team’s upcoming season is antithetical to what PECOTA tries to do. It doesn’t actually see the Royals as a 75-win team, or the Cubs as a 94-win team; it sees them both as collections of players who are individually more likely to do some things than others, and who are collectively more likely to do some things than others. If forced—and, really, if you think about how many steps it takes us to get from Omar Infante’s individual projections to a one-number team projection for the Royals, “forced” might be exactly the word you’d use—PECOTA will give you a most likely number for the team. But that specific number is not that likely, and it's not what PECOTA wants you to take away from this.