Everything you could ever want to know about the causes and effects of a pitcher's pickoff throws
Remember earlier in the spring when everyone was all abuzz over the fact that Jon Lester hadn’t thrown to first base since the Carter Administration? Lester’s nonexistent pickoff move became a story for a few reasons, not the least of which was the fact that he had signed a contract with nine digits in it over the offseason. But for the most part, it was just strange. Throws to first aren’t anyone’s favorite part of a baseball game, since they generally accomplish “nothing” and they take up time. Still, everyone understands that there’s a certain sense to those throws. If they were outlawed, then runners would be at liberty to take as large a lead as they wanted. They could walk halfway to second base with no consequence. A throw to first isn’t likely to actually pick the runner off, but it does keep him a few feet closer to the base. Even the fact that a throw to first is a legal play is enough in some cases to keep the runner close. It’s probably the one thing that Lester had going in his favor. He hadn’t thrown over in a year… but he could.
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R.A. Dickey will make his final start of the season tonight. You know how good he's been at retiring batters, but you might not know about something else he excels at.
R.A. Dickey, who makes his final start of the season this evening in Miami, doesn't lack for résumé bullet points to sway Cy Young voters. Unsatisfied to elevate his career at an age when most pitchers are heading out to pasture, Dickey has also elevated the standard to which knuckleballers can aspire. He leads the National League in strikeouts, innings pitched, complete games and shutouts. He has an ungodly 4.1 K/BB ratio. He’s been one of the few bright spots on a Mets team that might be in last place without him. And fine, I’ll say it: Dickey is the first Met to win 20 games since Frank Viola in 1990. He even offers enough charming human interest angles to fill several episodes of This American Life.
Allow me, then, to toss a molehill on top of that mountain of accomplishment: R.A. Dickey is doing a historically great job of holding runners on base. With agility, poise, and a deep understanding of the fundamentals—as well as some out-and-out flaunting of the rulebook, which we’ll examine later—Dickey has overcome the highest possible degree of difficulty to not only hold his own against the running game, but become one of the very best in baseball at shutting it down. In 2012, only three qualified starters in all of baseball have allowed fewer stolen base attempts per stolen base opportunity than Dickey (defining “stolen base opportunity” as a man on first or second with the next base open). The average qualified starter has allowed 5.81 stolen base attempts per 100 opportunities this season. Dickey has allowed 1.85.
Breaking down the series between the Rangers and Yankees as they gear up for Game Six.
Ode to CC: It was hardly a work of art, but CC Sabathia withstood a barrage of Rangers hits to give the Yankees six innings of two-run ball in Game Five, his best start of the 2010 postseason, and a critical one as far as helping New York stave off elimination and send the series back to Texas.
A developer tells how advanced metrics help shape his company's video game.
Baseball video games have come a long way from the early days of arcade-style gameplay. Today, with franchise modes and career progression, the need for additional data is apparent. Throw in the fact that you have a more informed audience—and as a baseball audience, a very fickle one—and you realize how important it is to get your team and player ratings right, or else it may not matter how well your product plays. The developers from Sony Computer Entertainment San Diego are aware of this, and they use some of today's most advanced data in order to craft an authentic baseball experience for you in your living room. Jason Villa, a producer on MLB 10: The Show, spoke to us about how they do this.
A minor-league lefty discusses the mechanics behind the best pickoff move in professional baseball.
Derrick Loop has the best pickoff move in professional baseball. Not one of the best, the best. A 26-year-old left-hander, who recently signed with the Padres after two seasons in the Red Sox organization-Boston had plucked him out of an independent league-Loop picked off 17 runners last summer. Astoundingly, he did so in just 71 1/3 innings. Working primarily as a closer at High-A Salem, the deceptive southpaw appeared in 55 games and logged 18 saves to go with a 1.89 ERA.
Sorting and separating the best and worst baserunners from the rest.
"I don't really like to run, and that's why I didn't go out for track in high school. I ain't no fool, I see those dudes running around a track for a living. I wouldn't want to run against them. I wouldn't want to embarrass myself." --Willie Wilson
Memories of this fan's rite of passage engender a look back at 1977 on the bases.
"This team, it all flows from me. I'm the straw that stirs the drink. Maybe I should say me and [Thurman] Munson, but he can only stir it bad." -Attributed to Reggie Jackson in the May 1977 issue of Sport magazine.
Dan backs up and provides an overview on what this summer's findings tell us about team-level baserunning, and what we can learn about baserunning in general.
When last we were together, we added up the various baserunning metrics we've been formulating all summer to come up with a total number of theoretical runs contributed on the bases for individual players. This included runs from advancing on ground and air outs, advancing on hits, and runs contributed from stolen base attempts (and pickoffs).
Dan has the final word on the value of stealing bases in the latest installment of his series on baserunning.
We've covered quite a bit of ground over last the month or two in this series on baserunning. For those just joining us, here's a quick recap. Baserunning is an aspect of the game that draws a lot of attention. After all, who doesn't like the drama of the stolen base, or the excitement of the relay home as the runner narrowly beats the throw and avoids the tag with a nifty slide? Unfortunately, many of the things that players actually do on the bases go unaccounted for. No offense to Henry Chadwick, mind you, but this is the historical result of the way we keep records. Aside from the inferences we can draw from runs scored and today's topic (stolen bases and caught stealing) even the most ardent fans don't necessarily have a gut feel for the contributions most of their favorite players make on the basepaths.
A rematch of the World Champs and the NL pennant winners is what Derek's clicker dials up this time around.
It's been a busy week for both ballclubs. The Astros had the season debut of seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens on Thursday, making the decision to have Clemens go against the Minnesota Twins at home, rather than pitch against the White Sox in Chicago. Clemens was hardly dominant in a game where young phenom Francisco Liriano emerged victorious.