With the Fall Classic now upon us, the staff at Baseball Prospectus shares their most memorable World Series moments.
Every baseball fan has a special World Series memory, whether it's Willie Mays' catch, Bill Mazeroski's home run, Brooks Robinson's defense, Kirk Gibson's limp around the bases, or Derek Jeter becoming the first-ever Mr. November. With the World Series opening tonight at AT&T Park in San Francisco with the Giants facing the Texas Rangers, many of our writers, editors, and interns share their favorite memories of the Fall Classic.
Another look at calling balls and strikes from home.
Prompted by some of the complaints about umpiring, last week I investigated why watching on television may not give an accurate picture of where the ball is actually going. The short version—the position of the camera has a distorting effect on the image, and when the brain reconstructs a three-dimensional view, it is fooled by those distortions. Some people were skeptical of my claims.
Now, as it happens, we have a ready source of data we can use to evaluate the question of observer positioning bias in scoring balls and strikes off of video cameras—the plate discipline stats published by Fangraphs. Those figures are calculated using data provided by Baseball Info Solutions, which uses “video scouts” to collect data off baseball broadcasts (the same telecasts that we see as fans). These video scouts have a representation of the batter, the plate, and the strike zone, and they map the perceived location of the pitch on that image. That data is then aggregated.
Taking an in-depth look at a two-inning stint by Francisco Rodriguez in order to understand why he threw certain pitches.
What follows is a story of a pitcher who lost command of his fastball, and a hitter who approached him as if he could throw it to a teacup. The Mets were clinging to a 3-1 lead over the Giants on July 18 as their game entered the late innings at AT&T Park. After another eight-frame master class from Johan Santana, Mets manager Jerry Manuel called on Francisco Rodriguez to lock down a victory. It was a game the Mets desperately needed; they opened the second half of the season by scoring just four runs in their first three games, and if the week following this game is any indication, they aren’t good enough to waste Santana’s brilliance and still make a run at the postseason.
Now that we’ve set the scene, let’s think along with its principal players, and observe how Rodriguez and his opponents adapt—or fail to adapt—to the Mets closer’s uncharacteristic lack of a reliable fastball. We’ll follow K-Rod’s two innings in hopes of learning a thing or two about the mysterious art of pitch sequencing, and see how the information Rodriguez sends with each pitch of this outing may be more predictive of what he’ll throw next than simply relying on his overall tendencies.
A historian looks at Willard Brown, the first African-American to play in a big-league game at Fenway Park.
Chris Wertz is a freelance baseball writer and historian living in New York City. He is a contributing author to the recently-released Pumpsie & Progress: The Red Sox, Race, and Redemption, by Bill Nowlin, which was published by Rounder Books.
The Angels left-hander talks about the pressures of closing among a variety of subjects.
Brian Fuentes is a thinking man’s closer. The Angels left-hander has a deceptive delivery and underrated stuff, but above all he has a cerebral approach to the game. Originally drafted by Seattle, the 34-year-old Fuentes made a name for himself in Colorado, saving 111 games over a four-year stretch, before signing a free-agent contract with the Sons of Gene Autry prior to the 2009 season. Last year’s American League saves leader with 48, the laid-back and always-thoughtful Fuentes is a four-time All-Star.
We will likely never have enough information to truly separate between the truths that are analytic and those that are synthetic workable.
In 1951, W.V.O. Quine published his landmark paper, “Two Dogmas of Empiricism.” His goal was to disprove a certain type of empiricism that was trendy among analytic philosophers in the early 20th century. That set of beliefs—logical positivism—sought to deny that any statement that was not empirically verifiable had any meaning whatsoever. What Quine showed was that the two eponymous beliefs, which he derisively called dogmas, were necessary to logical positivism but also false. That paper remains one of the most important works of 20th -century philosophy because it demonstrated the limits of a system of knowledge based only in observable fact and logic.
Despite their slow start, the Red Sox can hardly be written off as contenders.
On Monday, while the rest of the country was somewhere between finishing its coffee and making plans for lunch, John Lackey and the Red Sox were pasted 8-2 by the Rays in a game that started just after 11 a.m. The victory completed the Rays' four-game sweep of the Sox at Fenway Park, the first time the upstarts from Tampa Bay had ever swept more than a two-game series there. The loss, Boston's fifth straight, plunged its record to 4-9. Down 6-2 to the Rangers going to the bottom of the fifth on Tuesday night, they appeared headed for their sixth straight defeat before a late rally served to remind that no lead in Fenway is ever safe; they won 7-6 on a walk-off hit by a guy added to the roster earlier in the day. Still, suffice it to say that New England hasn't seen this kind of panic since the Blizzard of 1978.
The Red Sox outfield and baserunning instructor reflects on his career as a ballplayer.
Tom Goodwin loves the running game. The erstwhile speedster stole 369 bases in his big-league career, four times topping the 50 mark in a season and once swiping 66. A first-round pick by the Dodgers in 1989, he played for six teams over parts of 14 seasons and now serves as a roving outfield and baserunning instructor in the Boston organization. Goodwin sat down with Baseball Prospectus late in the 2009 season in Lowell, Mass., where he was tutoring members of the Red Sox's short-season affiliate.
Revisiting a conversation with the long-time official scorer in Boston.
Chaz Scoggins has been the primary official scorer at Fenway Park for over 30 years. A long-time sportswriter for The Lowell Sun and a former president of the Baseball Writers Association of America, Scoggins sat down for this interview in December 2004.
Sorting out the premium producers at a premium offensive slot.
Left field is a very deep position-though there are just a few elite options, like any other position, the four- and three-star tiers are overflowing with quality, while the one-star tier has more to do with playing time constraints then a lack of ability. If most of those players had the plate appearances of a two- or three-star outfielder, they would most likely qualify as well. This list goes 57 deep
As for the previous rankings in the series, check out first basemen, second basemen, third basemen, shortstops, and catchers. Now, here are the changes to this year's ranking system:
The Washington Senators' history of first basemen makes one wonder if Lyle Overbay might have been an original Nat in a previous incarnation.
Lyle Overbay has never had an at-bat in the postseason. Some would say that this is not a coincidence, that a team operating with a de-powered first baseman is working under a handicap compared to those teams that carry hulking sluggers at the gateway. Yet, you can win a championship with Overbay. The Washington Senators did it three times.