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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A writer who never saw Jack Morris pitch watches him in action for the first time and comes away even less convinced that the traditionalist case for his candidacy should earn him a call to Cooperstown.
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.
The challenge of changing speeds while integrating perceived velocity into the mix.
When a pitch begins its flight towards home plate, the radar gun registers a specific velocity-one that correlates quite strongly to the start speed component of PITCHf/x-which unfortunately becomes the gospel as to how hard the pitch was thrown. Various factors, like the natural loss of velocity as the pitch reaches home plate, the true distance of the release, the actual flight time, the location, when the batter picks the ball up, and what pitch the batter initially anticipated all work together to alter a hitter's perception of velocity.
Changing speeds can depends as much upon where you throw as how hard you're throwing.
The velocity recorded by the radar gun and what the batter perceives do not always match. As discussed previously, several factors can cause a pitch to appear faster or slower to hitters. One such factor is the flight time from the point of release to when the ball crosses home plate relative to the flight time the PITCHf/x system projects at 55 feet away. Pitches released any closer than this predetermined distance result in a higher perceived velocity with the inverse true of pitches let go from distances greater than the default. During our initial look it was observed that a few pitchers generated perceived velocities dissimilar to their recorded velocity, a proof of concept that was much more important than the velocity discrepancies themselves. Johnny Cueto, for example, averaged 92.9 mph with a perceived 90.8 mph, while Ian Snell found himself perceived to throw just 87.6 mph in spite of the reported 91.7 mph. But where Snell threw these pitches must also enter the equation, since the location of a pitch works in conjunction to the flight time to add or subtract perceived miles per hour.
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:
Baseball must be toasting this week's sports pages over glasses of vodka and schadenfreude. Last Friday, NBA referee Tim Donaghy was implicated in a betting scandal. On Wednesday, Tour de France leader Michael Rasmussen, under heavy suspicion of doping, was kicked out of the race by his own team. And on Thursday, Michael Vick was scrambling away from reporters in a federal courthouse, rather than opposing linebackers on the field.
How different ballparks affect velocity, whether pitchers use the fastball more early in games, and the challenge of quantifying plate discipline.
"Plate discipline though is difficult to measure. Good plate discipline can mean swinging at the first pitch, fouling off the fifth, taking the tenth; it's about hitting when it's possible to do so and walking when not. If it's possible to hit, a walk is a relative failure. Ultimately though, because information as to just how many juicy pitches players swing at and how many unhittable ones they take is non-existent, though walks are an imperfect measure, they will have to do."
--John Hill writing for The Cub Reporter weblog in 2005