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The Stats Go Marching In 

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08-07

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21

The Stats Go Marching In: Is it Time to Lift the Ban on Left-Handed Catchers?
by
Max Marchi

06-13

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3

The Stats Go Marching In: Measuring Catcher Framing in the Minor Leagues
by
Max Marchi

05-16

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18

The Stats Go Marching In: Catcher Framing Before PITCHf/x
by
Max Marchi

02-26

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4

The Stats Go Marching In: Who's Ahead of Whom?
by
Max Marchi

09-07

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7

The Stats Go Marching In: Four Questions for the Stretch Run
by
Max Marchi

08-24

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17

The Stats Go Marching In: Do Pitchers Forget How to Hit in the Minors?
by
Max Marchi

07-27

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5

The Stats Go Marching In: The Rise and Fall (and Rise) of Barry Zito's Arm Slot
by
Max Marchi

07-13

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14

The Stats Go Marching In: Catching Up with Catcher Rankings
by
Max Marchi

06-29

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3

The Stats Go Marching In: Should Pitchers Change Their Between-Innings Routine?
by
Max Marchi

06-15

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2

The Stats Go Marching In: Reaching Back for a Little Extra, Part Two
by
Max Marchi

05-25

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10

The Stats Go Marching In: Reaching Back for a Little Extra
by
Max Marchi

05-11

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1

The Stats Go Marching In: All About Velocity
by
Max Marchi

04-27

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5

The Stats Go Marching In: Scoring Runs, Revisited
by
Max Marchi

04-13

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13

The Stats Go Marching In: Bringing Back the Birdie Tebbetts Shift
by
Max Marchi

03-23

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5

The Stats Go Marching In: Exploring Starter Conversions
by
Max Marchi

03-09

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24

The Stats Go Marching In: The Hidden Helpers of the Pitching Staff
by
Max Marchi

02-24

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9

The Stats Go Marching In: The Art of Handling the Pitching Staff
by
Max Marchi

02-10

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14

The Stats Go Marching In: What Are the Rays Expecting from Jose Molina?
by
Max Marchi

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A new argument in favor of reviving a long-extinct species.

On July 9, 2013, Sir James Paul McCartney performed at Boston's Fenway Park on one leg of his Out There Tour, which has seen him rocking in an amphitheatre from 30 A.D. and coming under attack by thousands of grasshoppers. While he was at the oldest big league park, footage of him holding a baseball bat was taken, as you can see at the 0:44 mark of this video. Two things immediately appear to the attentive baseball fan: 1) the former Beatle features a Ty Cobb-like split hand grip and 2) he swings from the right side despite being a southpaw.

McCartney is not alone in the latter trait, Rickey Henderson and the elder George Bush being notable precedents. However, throwing from the portside while swinging from starboard is not advantageous, as you forfeit the frequent platoon advantage at the plate, plus the possibility of playing three infield positions.

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Extending the quantification of catcher framing to a new frontier.

In my last article, I presented the results of using Retrosheet pitch-by-pitch data for measuring catchers’ framing performance. After showing that the alternate method fared quite well, despite not relying on pitch location data, I went on to provide historical leaderboards (Brad Ausmus is tops among catchers of the past quarter century) and explore the issue of aging (Father Time seems not to take much of a toll on framers).

I left you with one teaser: while it was nice to have some of the retired catchers ranked, the most valuable byproduct of that research was that it made ranking active catchers at lower levels possible. That’s the topic I’ll tackle today.

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Extending our research into framing back to 1988.

Analysis of framing has intensified over the past couple of years, with Joe Maddon talking about it on the radio and (via Ben Lindbergh) Clubhouse Confidential and MLB Network’s Diamond Demo series featuring discussions of the issue with guests like Jonathan Lucroy. Ben has been running a weekly column on the subject since the start of the season: in the first installment (as well as this piece for Grantland) he provided some background on the research so far, so you’re invited to have a look at that article before you read the rest of this one.

Framing evaluation is one of those research subjects that has been made possible by PITCHf/x data, which means that we’re now into the sixth full season for which catcher framing can be measured. However, for quite some time, I’ve been thinking about this: if one could get a good approximation of the framing numbers just using Retrosheet pitch sequences, 20 years of catcher framing could be added to the discussion. When Ben jogged my memory recently, I decided it was time to stop thinking about it and start doing some number-crunching.

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February 26, 2013 5:55 am

The Stats Go Marching In: Who's Ahead of Whom?

4

Max Marchi

An attempt to answer the age-old question: Are hitters or pitchers closer to mid-season form early in the year?

1.The hitters are ahead of the pitchers. You use this one after your staff gets pounded for fourteen runs early in the spring. After all, maybe the hitters are ahead of the pitchers at this point. Who’s to say which group develops faster?

2.The pitchers are ahead of the hitters. The opposite of number 1, so it should be used when you get shut out by three rookie pitchers nobody’s ever heard of.

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September 7, 2012 5:00 am

The Stats Go Marching In: Four Questions for the Stretch Run

7

Max Marchi

Some strategic questions have different answers in September than they do during the rest of the regular season.

During the first four or five months of the season, I don’t care which teams are playing, as long as there is at least one day game I can watch from my location six time zones ahead of the East Coast. But when September arrives, I often find myself looking at the schedule in disgust when I learn that the only game played at 1 PM features two teams already out of contention.

September also brings a different kind of baseball, as rosters expand and teams pull out all the stops to make the playoffs. Given the altered nature of the game in the final month of the regular season, the men in charge of pushing the buttons should know the answers to a few questions that either do not arise or are not really relevant earlier in the season. Let’s have a look at a few of them.

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Do pitchers get worse at the plate the more time they spend in the minor leagues?

One of the most-used arguments in favor of extending the DH rule to the National League is that the sight of a pitcher flailing about with a bat in his hands every two or three innings isn’t anyone’s idea of competition at the highest levels. This argument can be countered in several ways.

One could be the following: pitchers aren’t much worse at hitting than some oversized sluggers are at circling the bases (notice how I avoided using the word “running”). So why not make baseball a bit more like football? You could have a defensive unit and an offensive one, plus the special teams (the runners). That way, we would always see the best performers in each aspect of the game.

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Barry Zito's performance seems to rise and fall along with his arm angle. But is this correlation or causation?

On April 9 of this year, after watching one of the day games on the east coast, I turned to the Giants vs. Rockies game. Barry Zito was on the mound for the visiting Giants, and I was particularly interested in how he fared, as I had studied his career path extensively for the 2011 Hardball Times Annual. My analysis had been done at the end of a strange 2010 season in which Zito had looked like he was on the verge of a big rebound, only to decline down the stretch to the point that he was not included on the postseason roster.

The following season did not prove to be much help in deciphering whether Zito would continue to be the unspectacular back-of-the-rotation guy he had been since crossing the Bay Bridge or recover some resemblance to the pitcher who had induced the Giants to reach deep into their pockets in 2007.

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Max crunches the numbers and comes up with the top 10 catchers of the 2012 season based on overall value both at and behind the plate.

The season has reached its midpoint, so this seems like a good time to take a look at some rankings. I debuted here at Baseball Prospectus with a series on evaluating catchers defense, so catchers are the subject of the top-10 list that follows.

The catchers will be listed with four numbers beside their names. The first three cover batting, baserunning, and defense. The fourth is the sum of the numbers pertaining to each of those areas.

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Are pitchers less effective after taking a break between innings? And if so, should teams do anything about it?

When the third out is recorded, the pitcher goes back to the bench, puts on a jacket (or wraps a towel around his throwing arm), and sits on the bench for the other half of the inning. When his teammates are retired, he slowly trots back to the mound and delivers a handful of warm-up pitches, and he’s ready to go.

In one of my previous columns, I noticed that pitchers throw their fastballs slowest when there is nobody out and the bases are empty—in most of the cases, that’s at the beginning of the inning. One of the questions that came to my mind was whether they are a bit rusty after spending some time doing nothing on the bench.

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Max continues his investigation into how starters and relievers and hard throwers and soft tossers alter their velocity depending on the situation and opponent.

In my previous installment, I explored pitch speeds in several situations and discovered that pitchers can add some gas to their offerings in certain spots. Both here at Baseball Prospectus and at The Book Blog, readers made insightful comments on the subject, suggesting possible biases and ways to expand on the analysis.

This time, I’ll go over some of those points.

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Do pitchers really throw harder in tight spots? And if so, how much velocity can they add?

In my last article, I explored the rich subject of pitch velocities. I tried to isolate the many factors influencing speed, from weather, to PITCHf/x calibration issues, to in-game situations.

One of the things I noted was that pitchers tend to throw (slightly) harder with runners on than they do with the bases empty. I had expected the contrary, since the full windup delivery should give the hurler some extra power. However, I reasoned that pitchers might reach back for something extra when they are in a tight spot, thus (more than) making up for the deficit due to the set position.

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Max examines all the factors that influence pitch velocity, lays out his simple and complex approaches to making PITCHf/x information more accurate, and determines how hard the Nationals are really throwing.

Cooling off the radar guns
No more calling Strasburg's 91 mph pitch a 'changeup'. It's disheartening to like 98% of the rest of us for whom 91 is a 'fastball'.—@BMcCarthy32

Everyone likes looking at radar guns.


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