Sam checks in on several of his articles from earlier this season to see whether what he wrote made sense.
July 18 is as good a time as any to go back and read old pieces to see whether they make a lick of sense in hindsight. It is as good a time as any because there is, from the writer’s perspective, no good time to do this without wondering why that thing was written in the first place. Baseball is really just a lifelong project to break down any sense of certainty you might have about cause and effect.
Nonetheless, let’s review a few of the conclusions I made in March, April, and May to see what new information tells us.
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Getting the most out of an arm as valuable as Stephen Strasburg's is a fraught task for the Nationals.
The Washington Nationals have cornered the phenom market in recent drafts, and 2012 is set up for outfielder Bryce Harper and pitcher Stephen Strasburg to begin their hostile takeover of the National League East. Harper made his D.C. debut four weeks ago and has impressed with his fearsome swing, cannon arm, and competitive moxie. Strasburg, on the other hand, is trying to recapture the success that he enjoyed in his own debut two years ago, when he pounced on the scene with such utter domination that he immediately vaulted to Ace status.
The former no. 1 pick's $15.1 million contract shattered Mark Prior's previous record for a bonus baby, not long Strasburg stole the title of “The Greatest College Pitcher of All Time” from the former Cub. The Strasburg hype machine was on overdrive during the summer of 2010—his final minor-league start was nationally televised, and the baseball used for the first pitch of his major-league career was put aside for the Hall of Fame museum. I was floored by Strasburg's inaugural MLB start, watching major-league hitters flail at devastating heat that jumped out of the rookie's hand as he struck out 14 Pirates. Stras showed impeccable consistency, poise, and preternatural command of one of the filthiest arsenals these eyes have ever seen.
What are the real mechanical precursors of pitcher injury? And what is the real lesson of Mark Prior's injury history?
Pitching mechanics are a bit like long-snappers in football, in the sense that we hear about them only when something goes horribly wrong. Mechanics rarely enter the discussion until a pitcher gets hurt, but when an ace succumbs to injury, the village folk grab their torches and pitchforks to go on the hunt for blame.
Experience has taught me that there is rarely an isolated cause for a pitcher's injury, with confounding variables that include mechanics, conditioning, workloads, genetics, and plain old luck. The pitching delivery is a high-performance machine, with a multitude of moving parts that must work efficiently in concert for the system to perform at peak levels, and any weak link in the system can lead to a breakdown.
If you had to bet on Jamie Moyer, Mark Prior or Scott Kazmir to win more games from today until the end of the world, on which pitcher would you bet?
On Aug. 23, 2004,Scott Kazmir made his major-league debut. He was 20 and one of the dozen best prospects in baseball. Three days later, Mark Prior struck out eight and beat the Astros. He was 23 and one of the half-dozen best pitchers in baseball. The same day that Prior won his game, Jamie Moyer gave up six runs to the Royals and lost his seventh decision in a row, a streak that would eventually stretch to 10 losses and push his ERA over 5.00. He was 41 years old.
And here we are in 2012, and each is attempting his own comeback. Moyer is pitching well in the Cactus League; Kazmir threw for scouts last month; Prior’s audition for major-league teams could come in the next few weeks. Based on what we knew through 2004, it is a surprise that all three are still pitching. Based on what we knew through 2004, it is a surprise that none of the three is on a major-league roster. Based on what we knew through 2004, it is a surprise that the band Bush is still releasing new music. Life is surprising, man. But the question before us is this:
Pitchers continue to get injured while batting, so should baseball continue to require NL pitchers to hit?
I'm not known around the Internet as the world'sbiggestA.J. Burnettfan. During last Wednesday's BP roundtable, I even dusted off an old Simpson's riff: "I'm a well-wisher in that I wish him no specific harm." Now, to set the record straight, any voodoo dolls I may have referenced over the past decade or so for any player exist only in my breathlessly hyperbolic narratives, and I would never actually wish injury on a ballplayer, particularly not such an injury as befell Burnett later that day. The recent trade that sent the enigmatic righty from the Yankees to the Pirates mandates that he practice his hitting and bunting, and unfortunately, a less-than-stellar bit of work on the latter sent a ball into his own face, fracturing his right orbital and necessitating surgery. Fortunately, it does not sound as though he suffered a detached retina, which could have threatened his career.
Fretting over the workloads of a couple of young hurlers on playoff-bound ballclubs might be a bit exaggerated.
We're coming up against the post-season as well as concerns for younger pitcher's workloads this season. While this is obviously progress-it's better that teams follow and worry about their charges wearing down or blowing out the odd shoulder or elbow-it's also important to frame concern over how much is too much for the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw, the Tigers' Rick Porcello, or the Yankees' Joba Chamberlain. It's good to be concerned, especially with pitchers aged 24 or younger-Chamberlain's in his age-23 season, Kershaw his age-21 campaign, and Porcello's a precocious 20. However, in light of recent successes so many playoff teams have enjoyed keeping their better under-24 starters in working order into the postseason and then on into the following season, it's important to recognize that this sort of reasonable caution is an example of a lesson already learned.
In this case, it's important to recognize how a period in time can frame a debate. In the so-called wild-card era, running from 1995 through to 2008, there have been 56 different pitcher/seasons where hurlers aged 24 or younger have started post-season games for their teams. That may sound like a lot, but keep in mind that the period includes all of those veteran-laden rotations on perennial contenders in Atlanta or the Bronx. To narrow our focus towards its beginning, there were 15 different who pitchers made post-season starts in their age-24 seasons or younger from 1995-2000, for a total of 18 different post-season appearances (Andy Pettitte, Ismael Valdez, and Jaret Wright each appeared in two postseasons before their age-25 seasons). Of those 15 different pitchers, nine of them melted down pretty publicly and messily, while only six endured:
Even Alexis Gomez came from somewhere (Kansas City). Kevin tells us how the Tigers and A's acquired the rest of their postseason difference-makers.
\nMathematically, leverage is based on the win expectancy work done by Keith Woolner in BP 2005, and is defined as the change in the probability of winning the game from scoring (or allowing) one additional run in the current game situation divided by the change in probability from scoring\n(or allowing) one run at the start of the game.';
xxxpxxxxx1160846402_18 = 'Adjusted Pitcher Wins. Thorn and Palmers method for calculating a starters value in wins. Included for comparison with SNVA. APW values here calculated using runs instead of earned runs.';
xxxpxxxxx1160846402_19 = 'Support Neutral Lineup-adjusted Value Added (SNVA adjusted for the MLVr of batters faced) per game pitched.';
xxxpxxxxx1160846402_20 = 'The number of double play opportunities (defined as less than two outs with runner(s) on first, first and second, or first second and third).';
xxxpxxxxx1160846402_21 = 'The percentage of double play opportunities turned into actual double plays by a pitcher or hitter.';
xxxpxxxxx1160846402_22 = 'Winning percentage. For teams, Win% is determined by dividing wins by games played. For pitchers, Win% is determined by dividing wins by total decisions. ';
xxxpxxxxx1160846402_23 = 'Expected winning percentage for the pitcher, based on how often\na pitcher with the same innings pitched and runs allowed in each individual\ngame earned a win or loss historically in the modern era (1972-present).';
xxxpxxxxx1160846402_24 = 'Attrition Rate is the percent chance that a hitters plate appearances or a pitchers opposing batters faced will decrease by at least 50% relative to his Baseline playing time forecast. Although it is generally a good indicator of the risk of injury, Attrition Rate will also capture seasons in which his playing time decreases due to poor performance or managerial decisions. ';
xxxpxxxxx1160846402_25 = 'Batting average (hitters) or batting average allowed (pitchers).';
xxxpxxxxx1160846402_26 = 'Average number of pitches per start.';
xxxpxxxxx1160846402_27 = 'Average Pitcher Abuse Points per game started.';
xxxpxxxxx1160846402_28 = 'Singles or singles allowed.';
xxxpxxxxx1160846402_29 = 'Batting average; hits divided by at-bats.';
xxxpxxxxx1160846402_30 = 'Percentage of pitches thrown for balls.';
xxxpxxxxx1160846402_31 = 'The Baseline forecast, although it does not appear here, is a crucial intermediate step in creating a players forecast. The Baseline developed based on the players previous three seasons of performance. Both major league and (translated) minor league performances are considered.
Jonah Keri catches a pitchers' duel between the two Second City teams in this week's Game of the Week.
Sunday's game was different. Even right off the DL Prior is a constant
threat to completely dominate a game. His opponent, Jon
Garland, entered Sunday's game tied with Dontrelle
Willis for the best record in baseball at 12-2. You can
some of Garland's win barrage to luck, no question--his .253 BABIP, for
one, is well below league average, and when more balls in play start to
fall in for hits, that'll hurt him. His strikeout rate of less than one
every other inning also portends regression, as virtually no pitchers
sustain success over the long haul at that level. Still, there's a lot
be said for terrific control, which is just what Garland has shown this
year. At just over a walk and a half a game, Garland's been among the
stingiest in baseball with the free pass. Even with a good but not
HR rate (11 in 108 IP), that's enough to achieve success. Broadcaster
turned World Series-winning manager turned broadcaster Bob Brenly notes
that "Garland has been the best pitcher in baseball up to this point,"
point contradicted by several
Baseball Prospectus metrics--Roy Halladay and a
dozen others can make a better claim. But Garland's still ranked a
respectable 15th in the majors in Expected
Wins according to BP's brand spankin' new Sortable Stats, 8th if
count only pitchers with 15 starts or fewer.
As many of our readers were submitting their ballots for the annual Internet Baseball Awards, 11 Baseball Prospectus authors went into the polling booths themselves, voicing their opinions on who should win the major baseball awards this year. Here are the results...
As many of our readers were submitting their ballots for the annual Internet Baseball Awards, 11 Baseball Prospectus authors went into the polling booths themselves, voicing their opinions on who should win the major baseball awards this year. Here are the results:
Judging from my Inbox, I'm supposed to be upset because Fox dictated to MLB that the two LCS games last night would be played simultaneously, with one shown on the cable channel FX. I might have ranted about it a couple of years ago, but to be honest, this is a minor, understandable move. Afternoon baseball games during the week don't draw very good ratings and are difficult for fans in broad swaths of the nation to see. Even motivated fans on the west coast who might be able to shake free from work to catch a 5 p.m. start are pretty much screwed by a game at 1 p.m.
A lot of the frustration over various scheduling decisions is justifiable, because the decisions are driven primarily by television and often run counter to logic. However, neither Fox nor MLB can do anything about the fact that the continental United States spans four time zones. None of the solutions will placate everyone, so the one that allows the widest possible audience to watch the games is acceptable. Rest assured that if a similar conflict occurs next Wednesday, Game Six of the Red Sox/Yankees series will be played at 4 p.m. Eastern, clearing the night for the Cubs/Marlins Game Seven.
As it turns out, the Cubs solved yesterday's problem by about 6:15 Pacific time, pushing ahead of the Marlins 5-0 after two innings. Brad Penny didn't have much command and Sammy Sosa punished him for it with a three-run bomb to an el station somewhere in the Loop. Everything after that, including two Alex Gonzalez home runs (see? I told you he'd be a great player some day!), was gravy.
When the season begins each spring, the ivy on the outfield wall at Wrigley Field is not a lush green, but a vine-bare patch of brick and brown. Botany is not among my hobbies, and I do not know whether this condition results from some half-intentional negligence, or the natural distaste of Parthenocissus tricuspidata for the cool Midwestern spring. But in either event, the effect is unsettling: that feeling you get in a dream when you see a place familiar but vaguely and profoundly incomplete. That was the feeling I had on Friday night when I walked through Gate F at Clark and Addison Streets and into the nation's most beloved ballpark. Though the architecture of Wrigley Field is the same as always--an array of ascending ramps, chain-linked fences, city vistas, and dank inner concourses pierced by streaks of evening sunlight--the atmosphere is palpably different. Gone are the rowdies, the drunks, the tourists; present instead is the eerie timbre of quiet before battle. It is the playoffs, the third game of the first series against the Atlanta Braves, and whether owning to the somber, rainy weather, the melancholy brought on by raised expectations, or, more likely, the Trans-Atlantic airline fares that have passed as market rates for scalped tickets, these fans were here to win.
That was the feeling I had on Friday night when I walked through Gate F at Clark and Addison Streets and into the nation's most beloved ballpark. Though the architecture of Wrigley Field is the same as always--an array of ascending ramps, chain-linked fences, city vistas, and dank inner concourses pierced by streaks of evening sunlight--the atmosphere is palpably different. Gone are the rowdies, the drunks, the tourists; present instead is the eerie timbre of quiet before battle.