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If it doesn't make sense to call for pitchouts, why do major-league managers keep doing it?

Last week, my colleague Sam Miller ran a few numbers on the pointless, yet poignant play that is the pitchout (a billion points to whomever catches that reference) and concluded that pitchouts are actually a net loser: they cost the defense/pitching team more in runs than they gain. Sure, individual pitchouts sometimes nab a would-be base stealer (and that's a good thing), but overall, managers guessed wrong so often that the expected payoff wasn't high enough to justify the strategy. Rule number one of strategic thinking is that just because you got lucky on a stupid bet, it doesn't negate the fact that it was a stupid bet.

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Ben and Sam discuss Joe Girardi's decision(s) not to pinch-hit for any of his left-handed hitters late in Game Three of the ALCS.

Ben and Sam discuss Joe Girardi's decision(s) not to pinch-hit for any of his left-handed hitters late in Game Three of the ALCS.

Episode 64: "Should Joe Girardi Have Pinch-Hit in Game Three?"

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September 7, 2012 5:00 am

The Stats Go Marching In: Four Questions for the Stretch Run

7

Max Marchi

Some strategic questions have different answers in September than they do during the rest of the regular season.

During the first four or five months of the season, I don’t care which teams are playing, as long as there is at least one day game I can watch from my location six time zones ahead of the East Coast. But when September arrives, I often find myself looking at the schedule in disgust when I learn that the only game played at 1 PM features two teams already out of contention.

September also brings a different kind of baseball, as rosters expand and teams pull out all the stops to make the playoffs. Given the altered nature of the game in the final month of the regular season, the men in charge of pushing the buttons should know the answers to a few questions that either do not arise or are not really relevant earlier in the season. Let’s have a look at a few of them.

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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.


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April 21, 2010 10:08 am

Checking the Numbers: Churn and Burn

17

Eric Seidman

Can a player's performance one week have any predictive power on how he will perform during the next week?

Full disclosure: I have never really played fantasy baseball, at least in a serious or semi-serious capacity, prior to this season. My lack of participation had nothing to do with ulterior motives like taking a stance against W-L and batting average. I just never got into it. Well, things have changed and, in deciding to try my hand at the massively popular game, I am finding that certain tendencies have awoken that I believed were trained out of my baseball vernacular long ago. For instance, it is becoming increasingly tempting to drop a player after a poor week in exchange for a player in the midst of a hot streak. I mean, I know Jeff Francoeur isn’t going to hit .438/.583/.839, but my goodness, if I had that production or even some semblance of it instead of the .250/.345/.333 from Andrew McCutchen, I might have won both of my matchups so far.

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February 8, 2010 11:46 am

Baseball Therapy: Why Not Two Pitchers?

37

Russell A. Carleton

Alternating left-handed and right-handed relievers by temporarily shifting them to the outfield is an old strategy to reconsider.

It was the second game of a doubleheader last July 12, and the Cardinals were visiting Wrigley Field. In the top of the ninth inning, the Cards held a 4-2 lead, and the wheels were moving in the head of Cubs manager Lou Piniella. Piniella had brought lefty Sean Marshall into the game with runners on first and second and no one out to face the announced left-handed hitting Cardinals pinch hitter Chris Duncan (Tony La Russa countered by using Nick Stavinoha to pinch-hit). Marshall walked Stavinoha, and Piniella popped out of the dugout and called to his bullpen. In came the right-handed Aaron Heilman to face Brendan Ryan, and Marshall was dismissed from the mound to left field. It was Cubs left fielder Alfonso Soriano who was headed for the showers, rather than Marshall. Piniella apparently wanted to keep Marshall in the game to face Skip Schumaker and Colby Rasmus, the next two hitters due up after Ryan. Piniella's strategy worked. Heilman struck Ryan out. Marshall then returned to the mound. He ended up striking out Jaret Hoffpauir (pinch hitting for Schumaker) and getting Rasmus to fly to left field, where Marshall's replacement, Reed Johnson, made a fine catch.

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Bryan concludes his analysis of the draft tendencies of scouting directors.

Today, I close out my attempt to find tendencies in the drafting philosophies of Major League scouting directors. I surmised that any person of power in sports falls back on his own patterns of informed behavior when making important choices. This is basically a case study in making a mock draft without inside knowledge--I'm wondering what the past can tell us about the future.

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May 29, 2007 12:00 am

Wait 'Til Next Year: The Scouting Directors, AL East

0

Bryan Smith

Bryan continues his analysis of the draft tendencies of scouting directors.

Two weeks ago, I started an attempt to identify the drafting tendencies of MLB scouting directors. I surmised that any person of power in sport falls back on his own patterns of informed behavior when making important choices. This is basically a case study in making a mock draft without inside knowledge--I'm wondering what the past can tell us about the future.

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May 27, 2007 12:00 am

Wait 'Til Next Year: The Scouting Directors, NL Central

0

Bryan Smith

Bryan continues his analysis of the draft tendencies of scouting directors.

This series is my attempt to identify the drafting tendencies of Major League scouting directors. In looking at the scouting directors, I'm hoping that the past might tell us something about the future. I'm analyzing them in multiple categories: Best Player Produced, Best Prospect in Minors, Notable Steals (any notable player that was drafted after round five), Five-Round Strategy (total picks in first round divided by college and high school selections), and Strategy in a Nutshell (subjective look at the scouting director's choices). Finally, I use this information to look into the 2007 Draft Crystal Ball and determine if we can forecast choices merely based upon previous tendencies. Today, we move to the NL Central. You can find the AL West here, the NL West here, and the AL Central here.

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May 22, 2007 12:00 am

Wait 'Til Next Year: The Scouting Directors, AL Central

0

Bryan Smith

Bryan continues his analysis of the draft tendencies of scouting directors.

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April 11, 2007 12:00 am

BP Kings Update

0

Ben Murphy

Everything you wanted to know about the BP Kings Charity Scoresheet Draft.

Peter Gammons' unfortunate incident focused the spotlight on cerebral aneurysms, but my connection is more personal. My mother had a cerebral aneurysm rupture way back in 1977 and was fortunate to survive.

Draft Strategy: Be strong at scarce positions offensively, avoided the dreaded Pitcher-AAA as always, and work on building a better bullpen to compensate for the lack of early starting pitchers. I sort of strayed from that strategy by taking John Lackey relatively early, and I might have a problem at second base if Jose Lopez doesn't pan out. I wanted to build a good core under the age of 30, and I did a fairly decent job of that. One of my harder decisions was my first one--Grady Sizemore vs. Joe Mauer. The consensus seems to be that I went the wrong with Sizemore--the consensus could be right, but I get the idea that three years from now Mauer won't be catching as often, to preserve his knees. Maybe that's too far forward to look, but at the same token, I see Sizemore as basically being risk-free.

I participated in the Mock Draft in the Scoresheet newsgroup, and because of that I expected the draft to be a little more prospect-heavy early-on. With the notable exception of Nate Silver, it wasn't, which suits me fine. I'm happy to have Brignac and Adam Miller among my top prospects.


King Kaufman & Rob Granickback to top
Charity: Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health
Draft Strategy: Our only real strategy was to get big bats with the first few picks, then turn to pitching. Other than that, we basically reacted to the draft. We had the third pick, and in a league with an obvious top three, that made things easy. The one who's left is your guy, and that was Joe Mauer, whom we were happy to have. When Vernon Wells fell, we felt, to us at No. 22, we had our theme for the early part of the draft: Young, studly up-the-middle guys.


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March 21, 2006 12:00 am

Who Are the AL-Kings?

0

Jonah Keri

Jonah Keri introduces us to the participants in Baseball Prospectus' Celebrity Scoresheet League.

Even the most die-hard Rotisserie player would stop short of calling the game a perfect proxy for the real thing, though. Roto's focus on statistics such as RBI, stolen bases, saves and wins are enough to make any card-carrying stathead scurry for the soothing comfort of his VORP tables. Luckily there are games that do a better job of replicating real-life baseball. Strat-O-Matic incorporates such elements as defense and strategic decisions (taking the extra base, bunting, hit-and-run plays) into its game. Strat does fall short in one element though, as it relies on the previous season's stats to generate the action. "What, Derrek Lee hit another three-run homer? Shocking!"

Scoresheet Baseball, on the other hand, combines realistic game results with current-year statistics. If Eric Chavez goes 11-for-24 in a given week, you get the benefit of that offensive outburst and Chavez's Gold Glove defense during the corresponding week on the Scoresheet schedule. Scoresheet has a few flaws too. It doesn't account for park effects for one, making Rockies hitters and Nationals pitchers appear more valuable than they are in reality. Still, it's a challenging, fun-to-play game that's a departure from traditional rotoball.

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