A writer who never saw Jack Morris pitch watches him in action for the first time and comes away even less convinced that the traditionalist case for his candidacy should earn him a call to Cooperstown.
Jay Jaffe and JAWS examine the starting pitchers on this year's Hall of Fame BBWAA ballot, starting with the inevitable Jack Morris.
After delivering the JAWS piece on first basemen earlier this week, I had planned to tackle the outfielders—Tim Raines, Bernie Williams et al—next. The sad news of Greg Spira'suntimely passingon Wednesday presented me with a reason to change course, however. In the service of working on a chapter on Jack Morris’s Hall of Fame case for Extra Innings: More Baseball Between the Numbersin November, I had called upon the Internet Wayback Machine to unearth Greg's seminal research piece questioning whether Morris "pitched to the score." a piece that was published in Baseball Prospectus 1997, predating Morris’s arrival on the BBWAA ballot by a three years and Joe Sheehan's own outstanding Morris research by five years. I suggested to Dave Pease that we republish it on our site to run alongside yesterday’s article in tribute to our fallen colleague and friend, a fine example of his intellectual curiosity and dogged research efforts, particularly as the work dated to a time when Retrosheet was in its infancy and the relevant data not easily compiled. This piece is dedicated to his memory.
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As CC Sabathia's opt-out date ticks nearer, we look at some of his potential free-agent comparables from the past.
The stroke of midnight on Monday is the deadline for Yankees ace CC Sabathia to opt out of the final four years of the seven-year, $161 million deal he signed in December 2008, and the word on the street, via SI.com's Jon Heyman, is that he will do so. While a thrilling World Series played out in Texas and St. Louis, the New York City tabloids were been busy picturing Sabathia in a Red Sox uniform, particularly on the heels of the news that John Lackey will miss the 2012 season due to Tommy John surgery. The Yankees are said to have prepared a pre-emptive pitch; according to the New York Post's George King III, "The Yankees are believed to be OK with a five- or six-year deal for an obvious raise over his current $23 million a year. Yet seven or eight years is something they want to avoid because of age, workload, and Sabathia gaining weight across the second half of last season."
While Tim Wakefield limped to his 200th win, Mariano Rivera continued his string of excellence.
Tuesday night was a momentous one as far as forty-something pitchers earning round-numbered career milestones of questionable significance go. In Boston, Tim Wakefieldwobbled but didn't fall down, earning career win number 200. Hours later and about 2,500 miles away in Seattle, Mariano Rivera earned his 600th career save. Wakefield labored to become the 108th pitcher to reach his plateau, while Rivera looked almost effortless in becoming just the second pitcher to reach his, but neither accomplishment changes how those venerable hurlers should be viewed in the context of history.
As the Braves ride another strong bullpen to a playoff spot, rediscover the relief corps that helped them reach the playoffs in 2002.
While looking toward the future with our comprehensive slate of current content, we'd also like to recognize our rich past by drawing upon our extensive (and mostly free) online archive of work dating back to 1997. In an effort to highlight the best of what's gone before, we'll be bringing you a weekly blast from BP's past, introducing or re-introducing you to some of the most informative and entertaining authors who have passed through our virtual halls. If you have fond recollections of a BP piece that you'd like to nominate for re-exposure to a wider audience, send us your suggestion.
Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel were still years away from the majors when Rany wrote a paean to the Braves bullpen, which originally ran as a "Doctoring the Numbers" column on June 18, 2002.
While there is a confusing starting rotation picture for the AL playoff contenders, the NL is much clearer.
With the matter of the playoff participants in both leagues largely settled, on Wednesday I examined the unsettled nature of the playoff rotations of the likely AL representatives. As I showed, each has a considerable amount of unfinished business with regards to identifying their front four, with injuries and matchup issues both playing a part, and there's relatively little separation between the four, at least according to a quick and dirty measure I nabbed from Nate Silver's back pages. By comparison, the NL teams have much less uncertainty as to who will be taking the ball, and much more certainty about whom the fairest of them all is, at least when it comes to post-season rotations.
While the playoff picture may be clear, those who will take the mound in each game are not.
When Josh Beckett hobbled off the mound with an ankle sprain during the fourth inning of Monday's start, he added an unwelcome layer of suspense to Boston's championship aspirations. Not that the Sox are in danger of missing the playoffs without him; their chance of bonus baseball stood at 99.7 percent even after losing extra innings. For all of the team's strengths, including its formidable offense and late-game bullpen, Beckett's sprain—which will cost him at least one start—spotlights the unsettled nature of the Red Sox’ October rotation.
In his fifth Asian Equation column, Michael looks at the relievers who have enjoyed modest success--and failure--making the move from Japan to America.
The last group in my analysis of the player’s who have migrated to MLB from Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) are the relievers, the least appreciated members of a successful baseball team. Yet, of all NPB imports, they have been the most numerous (explaining the length of this article, for which I apologize in advance) and the cheapest. Diminished quality is the most obvious reason for these extremes, since starters who don’t meet MLB standards get shifted to the bullpen, and lesser talents also keep salaries down. Additionally, the typical NPB pitcher’s arsenal matches well with an MLB reliever’s skillset.
As I discussed in my last Asian Equation article, NPB is a breaking ball league, which translates better to relief than starting. A good breaking ball might fool major league hitters the first or second time they see it in a game, but it probably won’t the third or fourth time. As an illustration, here’s how batter OPS rises against two of the biggest NPB starting-pitcher busts as compared with three current MLB pitchers: the best, the most mediocre, and an old junkballer. While MLB batters’ performance improves against each pitcher the more times they see him in a game, the change is far more dramatic with Matsuzaka and Kawakami.
A number of pitchers traded at the deadline hope to follow in CC Sabathia's 2008 footsteps by turning around their seasons with their new teams.
CHICAGO—The Cleveland Indians team flight had just touched down after completing its journey from Minnesota when word began to spread around the cabin.
CC Sabathia, the Indians' star pitcher and free-agent-to-be, had just been traded to the Milwaukee Brewers. With the plane still on the tarmac, Sabathia began saying his goodbyes to his teammates and his manager, still stunned at a reality that would eventually set in. He had gone from an also-ran with the Indians to a playoff contender with the Brewers, a change of scenery that he later called “refreshing.”
Recently, there has been a lot of digital ink spilled about ERA estimators—statistics that take a variety of inputs and come up with a pitcher’s expected ERA given those inputs. Swing a cat around a room, and you’ll find yourself with a dozen of the things, as well as a very agitated cat. Among those is SIERA, which has lately migrated from here to Fangraphs.com in a new form, one more complex but not necessarily more accurate. We have offered SIERA for roughly 18 months, but have had a difficult time convincing anyone, be they our readers, other practitioners of sabermetrics, or our own authors, that SIERA was a significant improvement on other ERA estimators.
The logical question was whether or not we were failing to do the job of explaining why SIERA was more useful than other stats, or if we were simply being stubborn in continuing to offer it instead of simpler, more widely adopted stats. The answer depends on knowing what the purpose of an ERA estimator is. When evaluating a pitcher’s performance, there are three questions we can ask that can be addressed by statistics: How well he has pitched, how he accomplished what he’s done, and how he will do in the future. The first can be answered by Fair RA (FRA), the third by rest-of-season PECOTA. The second can be addressed by an ERA estimator likeSIERA, but not necessarily SIERA itself, which boasts greater complexity than more established ERA estimators such as FIP but can only claim incremental gains in accuracy.
The rest of the division may be a dud, but the Rangers' red-hot run looks all the more impressive when compared to their past rotations.
I'm beginning to wonder if I’ve broken the AL West. I'm being facetious, of course, but the timing has caught me a little off guard. Since writing at length about how Seattle was making something of a spirited go at the division crown and might have a decent shot at swinging a .500 season, the Mariners have dropped from an even 38-38 (2 ½ games back) to 43-54 (12 ½ games), effectively crushing any lingering hopes of contending in 2011. Something similarly strange has happened to the Angels, as my efforts to paint them as legitimate contenders for the division crown just seven days ago had been rewarded by a sharp 3 ½-game drop in the standings and a one-week post-season odds plunge of 11.9 percent going into Wednesday night.
But rather than falsely attribute the coincidentally-timed struggles of the Rangers' competition to any of my work at Baseball Prospectus, let's just be brutally honest about what's going on here: Texas has gone into hyperdrive. Seriously. Before dropping a 9-8 heartbreaker in Anaheim during the waning hours of Wednesday evening (a game the Rangers led by an 8-3 margin after chasing Dan Haren early, leading to a peak win expectancy of 96.4 percent), Texas had collected 12 straight wins, a high-water mark for winning streaks among American League ballclubs since the Red Sox accomplished that same feat back in June 2006.