Postseason umpiring and an early holiday present for our readers.
"When you get right down to it, no corner of American culture is more precisely counted, more passionately quantified, than the performance of baseball players." --Alan Schwarz, from the introduction to The Numbers Game
Sitting down to talk about pitching with the Royals rotation regular.
Brian Bannister is a thinking man's pitcher. Known more for his guile and pitching acumen than for his stuff, the 26-year-old right-hander has established himself as a mainstay in the Royals starting rotation in his first full major league season. Originally a seventh-round pick by the Mets in 2003, Bannister was acquired from them last December in exchange for reliever Ambiorix Burgos. The son of former big league pitcher Floyd Bannister, the USC product has started 17 games for Kansas City and is 7-6, 3.45 in 107 innings.
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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.
Parsing the data can help us address questions of bias among umpires in calling balls and strikes.
Bias in sports officiating isn't a topic to be taken lightly, and one need only recall the recent furor over a New York Times article written by Alan Schwarz, where he reported a study on racial bias in the officiating of NBA Games. But as discussed in this space a month ago, PITCHf/x data does give us a limited window into asking questions about how players are treated by umpires; today, we'll continue trekking through this new world and see what we can learn about pitchers, hitters, and the umpires who like them, like Ron Luciano with Rod Carew.
In general, it's a bad thing if you can associate an umpire's name with his work.
In general, it's a bad thing if you can associate an umpire's name with his work. It's one thing if the umpire is Doug Harvey, and you're talking about his "Rules of the Game" segment on the old Game of the Week, back when that term actually meant something. (Something horrible.) It's still another when umpire's name is Don Denkinger, and you're in the wrong part of the midwest. Even more strange and upsetting is the recent revelation of the activities of Frank Pulli and Richie Garcia in the 1980's. Rule 21 is serious business, and with all the scrutiny on MLB's main office right now, I'm kind of surprised that they didn't completely hang those two out to dry.