Billy Burns has a very particular set of skills, which set includes fouling off pitches.
Billy Burns must be tired of the word grinder and its relatives, having heard them all throughout his career. Such diction is often reserved for short players, like the 5-foot-9 Burns, or those with otherwise unimpressive physiques—hence their now-pejorative nature. But sometimes a player is called a grinder based on merit. Such is the case with Burns, who deserves the label for legitimate baseball reasons, as opposed to having the heart of a hummingbird. Burns is a grinder in the sense that he annoys pitchers by fouling off put-away attempts, disrupting pitch counts and tempers. He has a statistical claim on the title, too, having entered the week with the highest percentage of fouls per two-strike swings:
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I doubt the world needs another piece on whether to give a foul ball to a nearby kid, but I happen to be sitting next to a nearby kid and she would like me to keep earning money for her college fund, so here the heck goes.
Mike continues his investigation of HITf/x data to glean more insights into whether pitchers can prevent hits on balls in play.
In the first part of this study, I used detailed batted ball speed information from HITf/x to examine the degree of skill that batters and pitchers had in quality of contact made or allowed. Here, I will look deeper into the question of why some batted balls fall for hits and others do not.
Breaking down the pluses and minuses of a "six-man baseball" game, a game explained in a 1939 issue of "Popular Mechanics".
I don't think I'm stretching anything to say that most baseball fans know what it's like to play a game of baseball with too few people. Depending on just how many kids were available, we might play a game with no third baseman and only two outfielders or, if players were really limited, we'd have only one player in the outfield and rely on ghostrunners to run the bases. It wouldn't be unheard of to make all of rightfield off limits as well. You make do with what you have, right?
Along those same lines comes a version of baseball that I've never seen before. It was featured in the December 1939 issue of Popular Mechanics and was invented by Stephen Epler to allow smaller groups of players to play games quicker. Epler had, five years previously, invented a game called "six-man football" so, naturally, he also came up with "six-man baseball". From the magazine:
As Jose Bautista can attest, the percentage of pitches a batter sees in the strike zone tells us a good deal about his capabilities.
The pitcher begins each confrontation with a batter with the initiative. He alone controls when the baseball is thrown, how it moves, and where it is located. Thus, the batter is by nature placed in a reactive position. However, the batter, too, has a measure of control over how the plate appearance proceeds. He stands at the plate with a club, and it is within his discretion to swing his weapon or not.
Clay takes the field to get acquainted with the rules and regulations of your great-great-grandaddy's baseball.
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 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.
Revisit Clay's account of a trip back in time to baseball's formative years, which originally ran on October 26, 2006.
Should MLB take the simple step of extending the protective screens behind home plate?
Royals broadcaster Denny Matthews has seen more than his share of foul balls. Now in his 43rd season, the Hall of Fame play-by-play man with a dry wit regularly employs a succinct description of a ball hit too hard for a fan to try to catch barehanded. “Bad trajectory,” Matthews occasionally observes, in a tone of voice that suggests you couldn’t pay him to make a play on the foul ball.
Looking at boundary calls, hit-by-pitches, and how to safely reach first base.
Most baseball fans feel they know the rules, but many of them are actually misunderstood, at least their nuances and technical definitions. Even you are fairly well-versed in the rulebook, a primer never hurts, so BP asked the MLB Umpiring Department about 10 of them. Major League Baseball umpire supervisor Charlie Reliford, a 19-year major-league umpire, and Major League Baseball umpire supervisor Larry Young, a 23-year major-league umpire, provided the definitions and clarifications.
Using DIPS Theory to understand a pitcher's skills.
I have always loved pitchers’ duels. One of my favorite childhood baseball memories is watching Curt Schilling throw a complete game shutout for the Phillies in a 2-0 win against the Blue Jays in Game Five of the 1993 World Series, with the Phillies facing elimination. I was only 12 years old at the time, and I did not know anything about sabermetrics, but Schilling appeared majestic as he pitched yet another brilliant start in what would become a magnificent playoff career. He only surrendered five singles that night and extended the series one more day.
A literature review of attempts to statistically assess catchers' defensive prowess.
Last week, I brought up the topic of catcher defense, and how it had so piqued my interest. One of the main reasons for my fascination is how there are several different aspects of a catcher’s responsibility on the defensive end, some more quantifiable than others, yet the more qualitative components seem to matter a heck of a lot more than what can currently be measured. Another interesting point is how, even with the recent advancements in defensive metrics, determining how a catcher contributes to a team with actual glove work—and not just from being a catcher—has eluded analysts for quite some time. Even more interesting is the thought of catcher defense itself: while shortstops field grounders and right fielders shag fly balls, the foul outs and dinky three-foot balls on the ground that would be the equivalent for catchers of the balls in play for infielders and outfielders aren’t thought of initially with catcher defense.
BABIP isn't as luck-driven as many suggest, not after you drill down into the numbers.
If you don’t put your bat on the ball, you’re not going to get a hit, and if you don’t hit the ball over the wall, someone might catch it. This series begins with what happens the rest of the time as I develop a model to predict a hitter’s Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP). In Part 2, I will explain some of the current BABIP superstars then some of the players where my system differs from PECOTA will be the topic of Part 3.