Analyzing where pitches that hit batters end up, and whether we should change the system.
The batter read the spin of the pitch: slider. It came straight at him, but he knew it was a ruse, that the pitch was going to break back toward the plate, bite the back corner, and strike him out. He held firm. It was a breaking pitch, 86 miles per hour, but it seemed to take forever. The batter started a check swing he hoped he wouldn’t need. But the pitch didn’t break, and clipped the elbow he’d dropped to start his motion.
Max Scherzer was already walking away, his head up in disgust. Jose Tabata turned away from the pitch by instinct, and found himself facing the umpire, Mike Muchlinski, already out of his crouch, his arms extended to signal the dead ball. There was a single beat, and Scherzer forced himself to look back: Would he somehow make the call, the call that is never made? But then the moment passed, and Muchlinski pointed to first. The perfect game was over.
The rest of this article is restricted to Baseball Prospectus Subscribers.
Not a subscriber?
Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get access to the best baseball content on the web.
Ian Kennedy, Zack Greinke, and the probabilistic approach to determining intention.
When home plate umpire Clint Fagan made the decision not to eject Zack Greinke for hitting Miguel Montero with a pitch, and a subsequent decision to eject Ian Kennedy for hitting Greinke with a pitch, he was answering a couple of probability questions that umpires and eventually Major League Baseball will have to face.
It’s not a question of whether the hit by pitch was intentional or not. You’re never able to answer that question. The probability that the act was intentional from the point of view of the umpire/disciplinarian is never 0, even on the most innocuous-looking play, and it’s pretty much never unless Cole Hamels is just begging for a suspension.
Do pitchers have reason to fear stepping into the box after hitting a batter?
An accepted piece of baseball wisdom that I understood growing up is that a pitcher is less likely to go headhunting if he has to step into the box himself. As J.C. Bradbury and Douglas J. Drinen wrote in the 2007 article “Crime and punishment in Major League Baseball: the case of the designated hitter and hit batters,”
Bryce Harper has already impressed with his play, but on Sunday, he made a similarly strong statement about his much-maligned makeup.
We thought we knew Bryce Harper pretty well even before he arrived in the big leagues. We saw him on the cover of Sports Illustrated when he was 16. We watched him dominate against older amateur competition, get drafted first overall, and hold his own against professional players several years his senior. Presented with Harper’s on-field exploits and the testimony of talent evaluators, we never questioned his skills, except to wonder whether he was merely great or the most promising prospect ever.
Our only serious questions concerned his makeup, and Baseball Prospectus was the source of some of the most concerning quotes. Two years ago, Kevin Goldsteinwrote, “It’s impossible to find any talent evaluator who isn’t blown away by Harper’s ability on the field, but it’s equally difficult to find one who doesn’t genuinely dislike the kid.” Kevin repeated a scout’s assessment that Harper had “top-of-the-scale arrogance, a disturbingly large sense of entitlement, and on-field behavior that includes taunting opponents.” He quoted one front-office official who said, “He’s just a bad, bad guy. He’s basically the anti-Joe Mauer.”
Events that have happened already this season after not happening for all of 2011 help explain why we're still hooked on baseball.
There were 2429 major-league games played last season.* Most of the things that can happen in a baseball game happened in one of those. With a few exceptions, teams and players will do all of the same things in 2012 that they did in 2011—they’ll just do them in a difference sequence and more, or less, frequently than they did before. When and how often they do those nearly identical things will determine which teams win divisions and which players win awards. We’re suckers for those things, so another season of the same, reshuffled, is enough to suck us in. But we're not completely content with repetition. We also watch in hopes of seeing something we didn’t see the season before.
*There would have been 2430, but no one felt like seeing another Dodgers-Nationals game in September. That missed game may have deprived us of history: Matt Kemp finished the season one home run away from 40 home runs, and Dee Gordon finished the season one home run away from one home run. For the alternate-history buffs: the man who would have started that game against the Dodgers, had it been played, was Tom Milone. Milone had the fifth-lowest home run rate among Triple-A starters last season, so that extra game might not have made Matt Kemp baseball’s fifth 40-40 man. Then again, that home run rate might not have meant much, since there weren’t many Matt Kemps in the International League. More on Milone a little later.
A visual and statistical look at Carlos Quentin's track record of taking one for the team.
It’s 5:53 a.m. I have three hours, and one factoid for inspiration: Carlos Quentin has been hit in 4.0 percent of his plate appearances. YunieskyBetancourt has walked in 3.3 percent of his. Let’s just see where this takes us.
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.
You might not know it from watching the World Series, but it often makes sense for a manager to pinch hit for his starter before the late innings.
Believe it or not, most of our writers didn't enter the world sporting an @baseballprospectus.com address; with a few exceptions, they started out somewhere else. In an effort to up your reading pleasure while tipping our caps to some of the most illuminating work being done elsewhere on the internet, we'll be yielding the stage once a week to the best and brightest baseball writers, researchers and thinkers from outside of the BP umbrella. If you'd like to nominate a guest contributor (including yourself), please drop us a line.
Mitchel Lichtman, or MGL, has been doing sabermetric research and writing for over 20 years. He is one of the authors of The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball, and co-hosts The Book blog, www.insidethebook.com. He consulted for the St. Louis Cardinals from 2004 to 2006, as well as other major-league teams. He holds a B.A. from Cornell University and a J.D. from the University of Nevada Boyd School of Law. Most of the time these days you can find him on the golf course.
If you tuned out when the Rangers led 7-5 in the ninth, you missed quite a finish
It was the best worst World Series game—or perhaps the worst best World Series game—I've ever seen. Four and a half hours, 11 innings, 42 players, 19 runs, 23 men left on base, six home runs, five errors, two final-strike comebacks, a handful of bad relief performances, some managerial howlers including a cardinal (not Cardinal) sin… and it all ended with the much-maligned Joe Buck giving a fitting nod to history by emulating one of his father's most famous calls. As David Freese's game-winning blast landed in the grass beyond the center field wall of Busch Stadium, Buck exclaimed, "We'll see you tomorrow night!" Game Six of the 2011 World Series will be remembered as a classic—a Game Six that can sit alongside those of 1975, 1986, and 1991, among maybe a couple others—as the Cardinals staved off elimination to beat the Rangers 10-9, forcing a Game Seven.
A series of questionable moves, bloopers, and blown calls to the bullpen were pertinent in the outcome of Game Five.
Given not only his history but the clinic in bullpen management that Tony La Russa put on in the NLCS, it’s difficult to believe that he could wind up botching a situation as badly as he did in the eighth inning of Monday's Game Five of the World Series. But thanks to a miscommunication between the Cardinals' dugout and their bullpen, a manager who has spent his career chasing the platoon advantage ad nauseam was left with lefty Marc Rzepczynski facing righty Mike Napoli with the bases loaded and one out. Meanwhile, the pitcher he wanted to face the Rangers' best hitter at the game’s pivotal moment wasn't even warmed up. Napoli, whose three-run homer had broken the game open the night before, pounded a double off the right-center field wall, breaking a 2-2 tie and helping the Rangers take a 3-2 lead in the Series.