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.
Checking in on the pre-season over/unders to see who's exceeding or underperforming expectations halfway through the season.
Last spring in this space I introduced a contest entitled “Setting The Line,” wherein I selected two key players from each American League and National League team, set a benchmark for what their 2011 season might produce in a given metric, and invited participants to speculate about whether each player would score Over or Under that line. Now that we’ve reached an approximate midpoint to the season, I thought it worthwhile to take a look at where these players are compared to their set line and identify how well our readers have done at picking the over/under, both collectively and individually.
The Dodgers, Yankees, and Red Sox, you know, but who really ranks best among the nine teams in the playoff picture?
Last week, I ranked the playoff rotations, coming to the conclusion that, looking at who would be starting the post-season games as opposed to the team-wide performances, the Cardinals were easily in the best position as far their rotation was concerned, while the Yankees, Angels, and Rockies were at something of a comparative disadvantage. To repeat the exercise with the bullpens, let's look at who's done best in terms of season-long performance (through Sunday's games):
The Rays' relief rebound ranks as the most profound pen improvement on record.
You wouldn't know it given the way that their bullpen pitched at times during the latter portion of the American League Championship Series, but the Rays likely wouldn't have reached this year's World Series without the remarkable turnaround achieved by that unit. By a couple of measures, the performance of the Tampa Bay bullpen qualifies as historically significant.
A look at the degree to which the performance of relief pitchers is determining who might partner up for the post-season shuffle.
As the final two weeks of the season kick into gear, most of the post-season berths are still in play. Three of the six divisions-the AL East, AL Central, and NL East-feature races where the margin is two games or less, as does the race for the NL wild card. Adding to the drama is a flurry of games decided in the late innings, by timely hitting overcoming leaky bullpens. Consider Sunday's activity:
James takes a look at the crazy offseason market for relievers to see if there's anything we can learn about reliever consistency.
Putting aside the dollar values on these contracts for a moment, it's important to consider just how consistent and predictable reliever performances are. There are a multitude of factors that routinely influence reliever performance more than that of starting pitchers or batters; primarily those are small sample size and the prevailing usage patterns of modern bullpens. The sample size issue is obvious--most relievers top out around 60 or 70 innings, roughly 1/3 of a typical starting pitcher's innings--but the way modern bullpens are managed (bringing in relievers in the middle of innings, for example) often means that a reliever's performance, as measured by ERA, is as much a reflection of those pitching before and after him than his own contributions. Whereas starters often get to work into and out of their own jams, relievers don't have that luxury.