In the first of a series, Rany examines 15 years’ worth of draft data to establish some basic rules.
Five players who could follow in the footsteps of 2004’s biggest surprises.
He’s more than just underrated; Bobby Abreu is on his way to the Hall of Fame.
Our annual list finds two highly regarded young hitters battling for the top spot.
Having embarrassed the meek, the good doctor now celebrates the strong by counting down the best-hitting pitchers in baseball.
What kind of list has Ben Sheets in between Sterling Hitchcock and Ryan Dempster? Not one you want to be on. The good doctor shines a light into some deep, dark corners of the batter’s box.
Imagine spending a week at your cubicle at work, slaving away at that TPS report, and then as you hand it to your boss, she tells you, “Thanks, but the company just decided that they didn’t need the report after all. I was just about to e-mail you the memo.”
That’s about how I feel right now. Having painstakingly put together an article on Danny Kolb, which centered around Kolb’s incredible stretch of surrendering no extra-base hits all season, I was all set to have the article published during the All-Star Break–and then Kolb ran into the unstoppable force that is the PECOTA-powered Wily Mo Pena on Sunday.
(Yes, I’m aware that Jason LaRue homered off Kolb before Pena did. But I’ve been working as a journalist long enough to know it’s considered poor form to let the facts get in the way of a good story.)
So the article is ruined.
But you’re going to have to read it anyway, unless you really want to hurt my feelings. I’ve taken the liberty of making some small changes to the piece, in light of Kolb’s Sunday meltdown. Most of the points made in the article still stand, even if the punchline has been spoiled.
It takes a lot these days to awaken me from my slumber and coerce me into penning a column for BP. Between taking care of a baby daughter at home and starting my own medical practice, the truly important things in life–like baseball analysis–have gotten short shrift of late.
But finally, I have found a topic that arouses my passion. A question so intriguing as to get my heart racing, my blood pumping, my brain thinking. Finally, a puzzle worth being solved, a code worth being cracked.
That question, of course, is: “Does Alex Sanchez have the emptiest batting average in major-league history?”
Consider the evidence. Bolstered by an obscene number of bunt hits, Sanchez was hitting .359 going into Wednesday night’s game, which ranked him third in the American League. (By the way, who had the exacta on a Melvin Mora-Ken Harvey-Alex Sanchez top three at this point in the season?) But Sanchez’s impressive ability to hit singles is neutered by his inability to do anything else: hit for power (eight extra-base hits), reach base by other means (four walks, no HBPs), or make effective use of his speed (11 steals, 10 caught stealings).
For the season, Sanchez is hitting .359/.371/.431. His batting average may rank third in the league, but his 802 OPS ranks just 43rd–in a tie with Jose Cruz, who’s hitting .237.
Put succinctly, Sanchez’s batting average is about as empty as Le Stade Olympique. But is it the emptiest ever?
Very quietly, with almost no fanfare whatsoever, one of the most significant developments of the year just occurred in Denver. As reported in Denver Post, the Rockies are switching to a four-man rotation.
Let me repeat that: the COLORADO ROCKIES are going to a FOUR-MAN ROTATION. In one stroke, Dan O’Dowd has mixed together two of the most compelling issues in baseball analysis today–how to win at altitude, and how to optimize the usage of your pitchers.
So to understand the methods we use to analyze pitcher usage, it’s important to appreciate that while every team in baseball today employs essentially the same usage pattern–starting pitchers work in a five-man rotation, with four or five days of rest between starts, and never relieving in between–that usage pattern is far from the norm historically. As recently as 30 years ago, starters were expected to start every fourth day, with only three days of rest between starts. This does not appear to have had a detrimental effect on the pitchers of that era; in fact, over half of the 300-game winners of the live-ball era were in the prime of their careers in the early 1970s. There is no definitive proof that pitching in any kind of rotation is a necessary ingredient for successful pitching staffs. Through the 1950s, starting pitchers would routinely get six or seven days off to pitch against a team they matched up favorably against, then return to the mound on just two days’ rest for their next start. There is no evidence that starting pitchers who relieve on their days off between starts suffer adversely for doing so. Starting pitchers routinely made 10 or 15 relief appearances a season for the better part of half a century.
In the beginning, there were no rotations. There were no relievers. There was only one pitcher, and the term “everyday player” had no meaning. In 1876, George Bradley started all 64 games for the St. Louis Brown Stockings, completing 63 of them; his teammates combined to throw four innings all year.
Of course, in the early days of the National League, the task performed by the pitcher bore little resemblance to what we call “pitching” today. At various times in the first two decades of professional baseball, the distance from the pitcher to home plate was less than 50 feet; a walk required nine balls; bunts that landed in fair territory before skidding to the backstop were considered fair balls; hitters could call for a “high” or “low” pitch; pitchers could throw the ball from a running start; and curveballs and overhand pitches were illegal.
The game changed quickly, and it quickly became impossible for a team to rely on a single pitcher for its entire season. And once that point was reached, the question of how best to maximize each pitcher’s usage was born.
After some 28,000 words of spirited debate in Parts I through IV of the Top 50 Roundtable, Baseball Prospectus unveils its Top 50 Prospects list. Rany Jazayerli will be along tonight to discuss.
Following up on yesterday’s article, here is the definitive list of every transaction made at last weekend’s Mock Winter Meetings in Chicago. The list of moves includes a blockbuster trade for Mark Teixeira, cheap contracts for Trot Nixon and Juan Gonzalez, and a surprise new home for Vladimir Guerrero.
A week before representatives from all 30 teams descend upon New Orleans for the annual winter meetings, a collection of equally knowledgeable but considerably less experienced men and women–our readers–gathered at a restaurant in Chicago with the same purpose: to craftily mold their teams’ rosters, through canny trading and judicious use of the free-agent market, into the best team that money–a strictly budgeted amount of money–could buy. And like any good reality TV show, there were a couple of twists along the way. The mechanisms of the event were simple. The first 30 attendees to sign up were assigned a team in advance, and instructed to pore over their team’s roster, look over the free-agent market, and come to the event prepared to wheel and deal. Each team was also given a firm budget number in advance that they could not exceed. The event began with each team announcing its list of non-tendered players, who then immediately went into the free-agent pile. All free agents were then represented by the remaining attendees, along with myself and Nate Silver. Will Carroll presided over the event, playing the unenviable role of Bud Selig.
A lot has happened since last we met. I’ve completed my residency, started a new job, passed my boards, and moved to Chicago. Which, given my proven attraction to lost causes, meant that it was only a matter of time before I became a Cubs fan.
My allegiance to this team may only be three months old, spanning less than 0.5% of the time since their last World Series appearance. But thanks to Dusty Baker, my patience is already wearing thin.
After a Game Seven performance that would make Jim Frey look like a tactical genius, the hope here is that a couple chinks may be starting to form on Baker’s Teflon coating. His failings are well-covered, here and elsewhere, but indulge me in this quick synopsis nonetheless.
Welcome to the third and final instalment of my look at the meaningfulness of the first few dozen games of a team season. (Go back and review Parts 1 and 2 here. There will be a test later.) This final article looks to merge a team’s starting record with its established performance over the past few years, to come up with a formula that most accurately projects its final record based on the available data. Warning: If you thought Part 2 was laden with too many equations, you’re not going to like Part 3 any better.
I ended Part 2 with a projection that the Royals, based on their 17-5 start, are projected to finish with about 97 wins. The folly with that logic should be self-evident, but let me share some evidence with you to make the point a little more clear.
When the Royals’ record reached 13-3, my inner circle of fellow Royals fans finally got serious about questioning whether such a strong start really meant anything in light of the team’s 100-loss season in 2002. I decided to look for comparable teams throughout history that had gotten off to a similar start. Using my database of all teams from 1930 to 1999, I found a total of 75 teams that started the season either 12-4, 13-3, or 14-2. Sixty-three of those teams, or 84%, finished above .500. As a group, they finished with a .545 winning percentage.
But it’s not all roses. Because I then whittled down that group to look only at those teams that had played less than .420 ball the previous season, which corresponds to a 68-94 record or worse.