Roundtable discussion of the pressing questions facing the NL East teams as we approach the start of the season
1) After a disappointing sophomore campaign, what can we expect of Jason Heyward going forward?
MJ: Jason Heyward had an injury-riddled sophomore season in Atlanta, but there is a lot to like about his chances at a rebound campaign in 2012. His offensive line was deflated by a .260 BABIP, but his peripherals were once again stellar. His 11.6 percent walk rate represented a regression from 2010 but cannot be considered poor, and his .162 ISO likewise dropped from the previous year but did not experience a precipitous fall.
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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.
Recently, there has been a lot of digital ink spilled about ERA estimators—statistics that take a variety of inputs and come up with a pitcher’s expected ERA given those inputs. Swing a cat around a room, and you’ll find yourself with a dozen of the things, as well as a very agitated cat. Among those is SIERA, which has lately migrated from here to Fangraphs.com in a new form, one more complex but not necessarily more accurate. We have offered SIERA for roughly 18 months, but have had a difficult time convincing anyone, be they our readers, other practitioners of sabermetrics, or our own authors, that SIERA was a significant improvement on other ERA estimators.
The logical question was whether or not we were failing to do the job of explaining why SIERA was more useful than other stats, or if we were simply being stubborn in continuing to offer it instead of simpler, more widely adopted stats. The answer depends on knowing what the purpose of an ERA estimator is. When evaluating a pitcher’s performance, there are three questions we can ask that can be addressed by statistics: How well he has pitched, how he accomplished what he’s done, and how he will do in the future. The first can be answered by Fair RA (FRA), the third by rest-of-season PECOTA. The second can be addressed by an ERA estimator likeSIERA, but not necessarily SIERA itself, which boasts greater complexity than more established ERA estimators such as FIP but can only claim incremental gains in accuracy.
Do the Yankees plate too many of their runners via the long ball?
In baseball, as George Carlin once said, the object of the game is to be safe at home. It’s a comforting feeling to reach home with another run on the board, and there is no surer means of accomplishing that feat than via the home run, which ensures that with one pitch, at least one run can cross the plate. For fans of the team who just launched the ball over the fence, the homer is the truest of the three true outcomes.
And yet, home runs have a way of bringing out the hand-wringing. Can a team hit too many home runs? It might be the most efficient way of scoring runs, but it’s over and done with very quickly. Those who fear the home run worry that it kills rallies; just recently in fact, the Daily News' Anthony McCarron worried that the AL East-leading New York Yankees were too reliant on home runs.
The Toy Cannon discusses baseball in the 1960s, hitting home runs in a big ballpark and some Hall of Fame teammates.
Jimmy Wynn is a humble man, and he is also one of the most underrated players in baseball history. Known throughout his big-league career (1963-77) as “The Toy Cannon,” the 5-foot-9, 170 pound outfielder was not only a prodigious power hitter in one of baseball’s worst hitting environments, he was an on-base machine who could run. Originally drafted by Cincinnati, he spent most of his career playing in the Houston Astrodome and finished with 291 home runs, 225 stolen bases, a .366 OBP, and a 128 OPS+.
David Ortiz, whose career seemed in an unstoppable downward spiral at this time a year ago, punctuates his return to prominence.
Some stat geeks and sabermetric fanatics usually pass-up the All-Star Home Run Derby, calling the event purely commercialized for the younger or more casual fans, not for the true fans that study the game! Well, now at 18, I’d like to think of myself as a “scholar of the game.” I’m increasing my knowledge each and every day with Baseball Prospectus, as numerous research and analytical assignments ensures the expansion of my baseball mind.
However, I can happily admit that there was nothing wrong with enjoying Monday night's showcase of baseball’s best power hitters (well, beside A-Rod, Pujols, and Ryan Howard….). Maybe, aside from bragging rights, it didn’t count for anything, but what it did do was bring to light the competitive nature of a baseball player. Yes, it was just a derby, but it still meant something to each and every one of those participants. Especially for Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, who was pronounced as good as dead at the same time last year. Now, once again an All-Star, Big Papi put on a show at Angels Stadium in Anaheim.
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.
Should the Mets try to go from being slapped around to getting slappy?
Between injuries and general impotence, the Mets have just one player in double-figure home runs, the superannuated Gary Sheffield with 10. It's like they're doing an imitation of the 1980s Cardinals without the stolen bases. Sheffield is on the shelf with lower back pain and isn't likely to play much the rest of the year, so it's very possible he will stick at 10. Any number of Mets may pass him in the season's final month, but right now the Mets' list of who's hit how many home runs is reminiscent of that of the 1986 Cards, an anorexic outfit that batted .236/.309/.327 and had just one hitter in double figures for homers, Andy Van Slyke. They did offset their lack of power to some degree by stealing 262 bases. The Mets have 106 swiped bags to lead the National League. Times, as Cole Porter wrote, have changed.
An initial look at the extent of the home-field advantage in terms of its incidence on in-game results.
In every sport and at every level, the home team wins more games than the visiting team. While this is true in baseball, it's less the case than in other sports. Throughout baseball history, the home team has won approximately 54 percent of the games played. Nearly every aspect of the game has changed drastically over the last century, but home-field advantage has barely changed at all. Consider the home-field advantage in each decade since 1901:
The Orioles Hall of Famer discusses his contemporaries, solo home runs, commanding the strike zone, and... solo home runs,
A lot of great pitchers have worn an Orioles uniform over the years, but none have been better than Jim Palmer. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1990, Palmer won 268 games over 19 seasons, winning 20 games or more eight times and twice leading the American League in ERA. Signed by Baltimore as an amateur free agent in 1963, Palmer made his big-league debut in 1965 and went on to play his entire career with the Orioles, pitching 3,948 innings and earning three World Series rings. In Game Two of the 1966 Fall Classic, Palmer became the youngest pitcher to throw a World Series shutout when he defeated Sandy Koufax and the Dodgers 2-0 at the age of 20. The winningest pitcher in team history, Palmer is currently an analyst for Orioles TV.