Featuring Matt Moore, Jose Fernandez, and everyone who faced Brett Wallace.
You could have an intro here, or we could go straight to the sweet and sexy pitches. Nobody pays for the intro (literally, in the case of BP's paywall), so forget the intro. To the pitches!
3. Matt Moore, fastball, against Asdrubal Cabrera, in which Moore eagerly unveils the new slider he's been working on; "guys," he tells everybody before he throws it, "it's such a swell slider, sliding all over the place and real hard like, so I can use it on two strikes and it'll break way out of the zone and batters will swing at it because they don't anticipate how much it's going to slide," upon which Moore proceeds to throw it and everybody tells him that, as far as sliders go, it actually breaks the wrong way, that clearly Moore is doing it wrong, sending Moore into a funk until he figures "ah shucks to it all, I'm going to throw it anyway."
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The story of the sandlot, told by the people who played on it.
Benny: The sandlot was in a rough part of the San Fernando Valley. It wasn’t a great place to live, but it wasn’t on fire or anything either. Smalls: It’s the kind of place that your parents are proud to be able to move the family to, but that you’re real glad to move away from later on in life. Timmy: Me and my brother Repeat found the sandlot. We lived in the house right up behind it. Repeat: Our parents hated that field. It was always covered with trash and dirty underwear from the hobos. Hobo: It was a real good sandlot for hoboing in. Repeat: But we never played much ball at first. Then one day we had to find something to do to keep busy for the day. Squints: My dad drank a lot. And back then it was just basically accepted that adults would hit their kids. Benny: Such a weird time. Squints: Such a weird, weird time. Not idyllic like in the movies at all. Repeat: So we needed a place where Squints could hang out until his dad drank himself to sleep. Benny: There were only six of us at the time: me, Ham, Timmy, Repeat, Squints, and Bertram, and the others came later. We couldn’t decide what to do. Timmy and Repeat thought they had figured out how to go the speed of light. Timmy: Mixing water and electricity. Benny: So they wanted to run experiments in the bathtub with a bunch of curling irons and transistor radios. Repeat: I didn’t want to do that, but I was locked into a bad cycle at the time of just repeating everything my brother said. Ham: I wanted to shoot guns. Benny: Everybody had guns back then. Kids just had guns. So weird, that time. Bertram: We were going to get two BB rifles and then see if we could shoot two BBs into each other. Two guys facing each other and firing at the same time at each other. Ham: And if the BBs hit they would smash up. Repeat: I actually wanted to shoot guns, too. But, again, the repeating thing. Benny: And Squints wanted to go to the library and pretend to have a seizure. Squints: And when the librarian comes to resuscitate me I touch her on the boob. Hobo: I just wanted to get a few quarters together and buy a drink. Benny: And I wanted to play baseball. Ham: And Benny always got what he wanted.
How did the Cardinals' young starter approach the Giants' young catcher?
On Saturday, one of the most electric young arms in baseball faced one of the best in-his-prime hitters in baseball. Shelby Miller's Cardinals came out of it with a win over Buster Posey's Giants, but the matchups between Posey and Miller were more interesting than just an outcome.
Posey, the 2012 MVP, received his award before the game Saturday. Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Jeff Kent, and Kevin Mitchell were in attendance to take part in the ceremony. Posey’s 172 OPS+ led the NL in 2012, and is the second-highest ever for a catcher.
Tim Lincecum rarely pitches to Buster Posey. On Wednesday, Hector Sanchez's flaws were on display.
Wednesday was the first start of Tim Lincecum's season, which felt worth watching closely because new seasons are new starts. There's a feeling, perhaps justified and perhaps not, that the borders between seasons might actually matter, and that a player might find his former self more easily once a new year has begun.
Watching Lincecum, though, also meant watching—or, at least, seeing, if not noticing—another player's first start of the season. Hector Sanchez was behind the plate, as he usually is for Tim Lincecum, and as he rarely is for anybody else, because Hector Sanchez isn't much of a catcher. He's Lincecum's catcher for reasons that, so far as I can tell, have never really been made explicit by the Giants, but those unexplicit reasons have meant that Buster Posey has left his usual spot behind the plate for 18 of Lincecum's past 20 games. The Giants don't use the exact phrase, but Sanchez has acted as Lincecum's personal catcher.
Now that even big-market teams are signing young players to long-term deals, can extensions still give small-market teams an edge?
There’s a quote that gets attributed to Gandhi in a variety of iterations that follows this idea: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” Baseball isn’t quite as combative as British colonialism, but baseball’s history of finding inefficiencies fits the structure. Small-market teams come up with new ideas, incubate them, and, if they work, eventually see their ideas incorporated by big-market teams. Virtually any strategy works better with money, so once that happens the edge is trimmed or eliminated. Small-market teams can win but, the thinking goes, not by playing the same game in the same way. I’m not telling you anything new.
This is pretty clearly where we’re going with extensions. A year ago, in a piece on MLB.com, Jordan Bastian ran down the list of teams that had signed players to extensions before the players reached two years of service time.
If everyone on the Astros played to their 90th-percentile projections, and everyone on the Angels played to their 10th-percentile projections, which would win more games?
Last year around this time I had plans to compare the Astros’ teamwide PECOTA projections to those of a variety of lower-level squads: the best Triple-A roster, the best Double-A roster, an All-Star High-A team, etc. I didn’t get to it, and then the season started, and I still didn’t get to it, because the Astros started off hot and it would have been weird to have run that piece about a team that was 22-23 in mid-May. I was sort of glad I didn’t run it, because the longer I lived with the idea the more it started to feel mean.
So this year, I have a similar idea, and I’m rushing it out before the guilt kicks in. Again I’m going to be exploring just how bad the worst team in baseball is. Or just how good the worst team in baseball is. That’s the point of it, after all. It’s not to prove that the Astros are as bad as, say, a team of High-A All-Stars. It’s to see if the Astros are as bad as a team of High-A All-Stars, and if they’re significantly better (as I suspect they would have been), then we’ve learned a little something about baseball.
The story of a pitcher who was secretly amazing last season.
Today is the final weekday of the 2013 offseason. On Monday, there will be real stats, living stats that will change by the next day. On Monday, every stat will have to go through the sample-size filter, and even in the final month of the year we will be looking at some team that’s outperforming its pythagorean record, or some pitcher with good BABIP luck, and caveat everything we say with “but regression is likely and things could change.” We don’t have to do that when we’re talking about 2012, because 2012 is over. No matter how lucky or unlucky, no matter how much regression should have happened, it didn’t happen. The numbers are in the books and they’re not changing.
So, on this last weekday of the 2013 offseason, let’s talk about my favorite statistical line of the 2012 season. A line that defies belief, that defies explanation, and that will never, ever, ever change. As of Sunday, that line will no longer be relevant, because we'll care mostly about what's going to happen in 2013. This line will just be a forgotten marvel affecting nobody. But today it’s still relevant, and it’s totally real.
Baseball statistics are always trying to mislead you.
Most of what I write centers on The Factoid. I like to organize the word into surprising, easily digested chunks, so Ilovefactoids. My job usually requires me to write longer pieces than a simple factoid, so I keep writing and writing, but if you strip away the stalling, the GIFs, the jokes, the pointlessly long lead-ins, the repetition, and the tables, it’s usually just a factoid that I wanted to find a place for. Here’s a factoid: In the average day, I spend approximately 25 minutes looking for factoids, and 18 minutes interacting with my family. Factoid!
But the very pithiness and the juxtapositions that make factoids awesome also make them easily deceptive. As much as I love a good factoid, I am skeptical of a good factoid. There’s one baseball factoid that I see more than any other factoid, and it has always made me uncomfortable, and I’m finally getting around to exploring that factoid. That factoid is a variation on this:
Jered Weaver's arm slot might be back to where it was several years ago. What would that mean?
One of my plans for the 2013 season is to try to watch baseball like a scout would. Buy a thousand index cards, jot down notes on each player in each game, throw some numbers on the tools, and file them away. I figure the practice will give me more discipline, help me focus on the process in each play, and leave stronger impressions on my mind about what I watched.
Of course, I don’t have nearly the knowledge or technique to actually scout, but ideally this will be a start toward picking up things that I'd like to pick up. For example, it might have been nice to have noticed this:
Everyone knows you can’t predict baseball. What this article presupposes is... maybe you can?
The first key to getting forecasts right is simply stating them in terms of likelihoods, and hoping nobody does the math on the long-term accuracy of such forecasts. As long as I give each prediction a greater than zero percent chance of happening and less than 100 percent chance of happening, I can’t be wrong. So let's go make some correct predictions!
Do pitchers have reason to fear stepping into the box after hitting a batter?
An accepted piece of baseball wisdom that I understood growing up is that a pitcher is less likely to go headhunting if he has to step into the box himself. As J.C. Bradbury and Douglas J. Drinen wrote in the 2007 article “Crime and punishment in Major League Baseball: the case of the designated hitter and hit batters,”