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May 4, 2007

Aim For The Head: Aim For the Front Office

by Keith Woolner

A good front office just got better.

June 21, 2006

Aim For The Head: Customized Stat Reports

by Keith Woolner

Keith explains our new stat features, and how you can put them to good use

April 10, 2006

Premium Article Aim For The Head: Lengthening Pitch Counts

by Keith Woolner

Keith sees what he can learn from a database of pitch data, wondering if plate appearances today require more pitches than they did in "the good old days."

March 24, 2006

Premium Article Aim For The Head: New Relief Categories

by Keith Woolner

Keith revisits relief pitcher stat categories armed with some new information from our play-by-play database.

March 8, 2006

Premium Article Aim For The Head: Quick-n-Dirty Base-Out Expected Runs Matrix

by Keith Woolner

Ever need a simple expected runs matrix on the fly? Keith has one for you.

March 2, 2006

Premium Article Aim For The Head: Mailbag: Outcomes and Outrages

by Keith Woolner

Keith catches up with reader mail from his two most recent columns.

February 2, 2006

Premium Article Aim For The Head: Five More Reasons to Hate the Hold

by Keith Woolner

Keith returns for some venting about an often meaningless reliever statistic.

January 24, 2006

Premium Article Aim For The Head: Three True Outcomes, 2005

by Keith Woolner

We salute those players who most resembled Rob Deer in 2005.

March 4, 2005

Premium Article Aim For The Head: Three True Outcomes, 2004

by Keith Woolner

Which player best evoked the spirit of Rob Deer to win the 2004 Three True Outcomes title? Keith Woolner takes a look.

October 8, 2004

Aim For The Head: Rookies, RBI and Revamped Reliever Reports

by Keith Woolner

Continuing to add to Baseball Prospectus' stable of stat reports, Keith Woolner unveils new entries for rookies and RBI opportunities. Plus all-new, fully-updated reliever reports, with some new twists.

September 13, 2004

Aim For The Head: Support-Neutral Pitching Reports, Revamped

by Keith Woolner

After successful surgery, the Support-Neutral pitching statistics return, bigger and better than ever. Keith Woolner takes a look at the changes.

May 26, 2004

Aim For The Head: Hidden Perfect Games Mailbag

by Keith Woolner

Leave it to Randy Johnson to ruin a perfectly good trivia question. At the end of my previous article on "Hidden Perfect Games," I included a trivia question on the remaining pitcher who tossed two perfect games (hidden or not), having already named Pedro Martinez and Tom Browning. In the meantime, Randy Johnson threw an "official" perfect game on May 18th, to go along with a hidden perfect game in 1998, to add his name to list of those attaining multiple perfection. In response to the original question, many people sent in their guesses...

April 27, 2004

Aim For The Head: Hidden Perfect Games

by Keith Woolner

Cleveland Indians pitcher Jake Westbrook recently drew attention for an outstanding seven-inning perfect relief appearance. Interestingly enough, he retired the last batter he faced his previous appearance, and the first five batters of his next apperance (en route to a complete game win over the Tigers), for a total of 27 straight batters retired. There's that "27" again--a perfect game, albeit one "hidden" across three appearances. Following Westbrook's accomplishment, I became curious about the idea of "hidden" perfect games--instances where a pitcher retired 27 batters in a row, but may have done it across multiple appearances; i.e. the pitcher retired the last 15 batters he faced in one start, and the first 12 batters he faced in his next start, he would have a streak of 27 batters retired, and thus have a "hidden" perfect game. Relievers could qualify as well, if they had, for example, nine straight 1-2-3 one-inning appearances.

April 1, 2004

Aim For The Head: Discovering True Clutch Hitters

by Keith Woolner

The following article was part of Baseball Prospectus' April Fool's Day content for 2004. Sabermetrics has grappled with this issue for the past two decades, trying to discover whether clutch hitting existed, who the clutch hitters were if they did exist, and how much effect they had on the game. Most studies focused on situations that could be defined by objective criteria that related to the subjective impression of being "clutch"--batting with runners in scoring position, and batting in the late innings of close games being the two most common examples. However, in thinking about this recently, I realized that we had been approaching this in entirely the wrong way. Defining clutch in terms of a particular characteristic in a point in time fails to capture the common understanding of the term--delivering when it means the most to your team. Without having the larger context of the game in which to evaluate clutchness, any attempt to measure it is doomed to failure. So, what larger context applies in this situation? Clearly, the outcome of the game is paramount.

February 11, 2004

Aim For The Head: Memory Lane

by Keith Woolner

The defining moment of my Red Sox fandom must have been the first major league game I ever attended--naturally it was at Fenway. It was 1979, we were going to a game to celebrate my birthday, and the Sox were playing the Angels. Someone had mentioned to me that it was really rare for your team to win the first time you go to see them in person, and therefore it would be really unusual if the Sox were to pull it out that night. For some reason, I believed him--I was young, and much more easily swayed by faulty reasoning then. It's funny the things you remember. At the ballpark, I had a slice of what was to me at the time, the greatest slice of pizza I'd ever had--which upon reflection probably meant it was a greasy mess. But the fact that I was eating it at Fenway Park made it great.

January 21, 2004

Aim For The Head: Three True Outcomes, 2003

by Keith Woolner

Periodically, Baseball Prospectus pays homage to the "Three True Outcomes" and those players who excel at creating them. A long-time inside joke at rec.sport.baseball, discussion of the Three True Outcomes (or TTO) has appeared on the pages of BP for years. In short, the Three True Outcomes are plate appearances that end with events that do not involve the fielders: the home run, the walk, and the strikeout. Somewhat ironically, the TTO have gained prominence in recent years with Voros McCracken's controversial (and oft-misstated) theory that pitchers do not differ significantly from each other on their ability to prevent hits on balls in play; thus making their primary differentiators of value the rates of strikeouts, walks, and home runs they allow. But the Three True Outcomes are, at their core, a celebration of hitters, epitomized by the patron saint of the TTO, and the prototype for early BP book covers, Rob Deer. With that in mind, we start with a list of the top hitters for 2003, according to the percentage of their plate appearances that ended with a True Outcome.

September 17, 2003

Aim For The Head: Reader Mail, and More New Stat Reports

by Keith Woolner

Ryan Smith writes: I'm a Cubs fan, and one of the more interesting stats that I remember about their promising 2001 campaign was Eric Young's 43 doubles and 42 RBI. I thought it would be near impossible for a player to have as many as 25 doubles and fewer RBI than doubles. However, after a bit of research (nothing extensive), I learned that there had been a few guys to do it. Indeed, it is rare. Since 1901, there have been only 45 players with 300+ AB who had more doubles than RBI. The record for most RBI with more doubles is held by Mark Grudzielanek, who had 54 doubles, but just 51 RBI in 1997. Grudzielanek also holds the record for most AB in such a season with 649. Three other players have had 600+ AB and more doubles than RBI: Don Blasingame for the 1959 Cardinals (615 AB, 26 2B, 24 RBI), Sparky Adams for the 1931 Cardinals (608 AB, 46 2B, 40 RBI), and the aforementioned Eric Young. The fewest doubles that exceeded a player's RBI total was done by Dick Howser playing for the 1965 Indians. In 307 AB, he hit just eight doubles, but had just six runs batted in (one of them on a home run). J.L writes: Interesting new statistical reports. I'm piqued by Pitchers Counterpart Profile. Why should I care how the opposing pitcher has pitched all season when looking at my pitcher's record? All that matters is how opposing pitchers performed on the particular day they "faced" my pitcher. Unlike PQBF and BQPF, the two pitchers do not really "face" one another, therefore the results need not be filtered by considering their average performances. Counterpart quality is interesting to investigate questions like whether teams juggle their rotations to get their aces facing each other, or whether good run support came from a pitcher's teammates having an unusually good day (better than you'd expect given who they are facing), or if a team was beating up on weak pitching. It may not have predictive value, but it has some explanatory power.

August 15, 2003

Aim For The Head: New Stat Reports

by Keith Woolner

For those of you who haven't noticed, we are debuting several new statistical reports this week that will be updated daily throughout the season. All of these reports are currently available as a free preview at our Statistics page. Some of these reports, however, will be offered as part of Baseball Prospectus Premium in the coming weeks and months.

August 13, 2003

Aim For The Head: Pete Rose and the Hall of Fame

by Keith Woolner

If Pete Rose is, in fact, reinstated after the season, as previously reported, he becomes eligible to be placed on the Hall of Fame ballot. For many fans, his on-the-field qualifications are a foregone conclusion. As baseball's all-time hits leader, 17-time All Star, the 1973 MVP, and key member of the Big Red Machine, it's hard to deny that Rose has some impressive credentials. And indeed, baseball fans voted him onto the All-Century Team as one of the finest players of the 20th century. However, there's been a reassessment of Rose's value as a player over the past 15 years, as sabermetrics has advanced our understanding of how offenses work, and how teams win. As the importance of On-Base Percentage has been recognized, and measures such as OPS (On-Base Percentage Plus Slugging average) have become popular, Rose has become a poster boy for the overrated star--one whose game consisted of hitting a lot of singles, and posting a high but empty batting average. Some have gone as far as to say that Rose doesn't deserve to be in the Hall of Fame on the merits of his playing career, even excluding any gambling controversy. But is this a revisionist history by the statheads, or an honest, updated assessment of a former star?

August 4, 2003

Premium Article Aim For The Head: Supercycles

by Keith Woolner

Apologies for my absence as of late, especially to those adoring fans who actually noticed that I was gone (both of you... Hi Mom! ... ah, who'm I kidding, my mom doesn't read Baseball Prospectus). That said, unlike the majority of AFTH columns, this edition isn't prompted by a reader question, but rather my own interest in a baseball anomaly. I've been interested in "hitting for the cycle" for some time. Though it's primarily a novelty achievement (having each of the four specific types of hits), it does represent a an admirable feat. It has happened 79 times between 1972 and 2002 by 74 different batters. Five batters managed to do it twice: George Brett, Cesar Cedeno, Frank White, Bob Watson, and Chris Speier. The novelty aspect of hitting for a cycle has led to interesting situations, such as whether a batter who already has a double, triple, and home run should stop at first on a would-be double to get his name in the footnotes of baseball history. Clearly, a game with two doubles, a triple and a home run is a more valuable accomplishment than a cycle, and so, while acknowledging the uniqueness of hitting for a cycle, I'd like to introduce a term for having a game at least as good as hitting for the cycle.

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