When I was interviewing a high school baseball coach earlier this week, he told me that a leadoff walk comes around to score 88 percent of the time. That's wrong! That's so very, incredibly wrong. I'll tell you who really needs to read this and learn a little something: It's [REDACTED] of [REDACTED] High School in [REDACTED], Missouri. Stop spreading baseball misinformation to impressionable minds!
You're going to keep his name in there, right, Sam?
Sabermetrics (or sabermetrics-ish thinking, at least) existed a good deal before the so-called "sabermetric revolution": When Was the Sabermetric Revolution?, by Russell Carleton, Baseball Prospectus
Let's re-write the narrative a little bit. Around the time of Moneyball, teams were pretty much in the thrall of batting average, even though OBP is a better stat. I guess there really was something about walks that prevented teams from figuring out their true value. Walks to this day are not counted as a "real" at-bat because in the 1910's, someone decided that since the batter didn't "do" anything, he shouldn't get credit. Of course, sometimes it takes all the will a batter has to let a pitch go by. Now it seems that teams really have figured it out. Thanks, Michael Lewis.
But with respect to pitching, teams probably weren't as clueless as we all believe. Over the years, FIP has been a decent predictor of whether a pitcher would come back, even in the dark ages of the '60's, '70's, and '80's. That means that on some level, teams must have known that a lot of what happened on batted balls was heavily influenced by dumb luck. Or, in other words, that DIPS theory was at least partially in practice in MLB before it was fully articulated. So was DIPS a revolution or simply the articulation of something that we already knew implicitly?
The DRS adjustments currently used in WAR? They're WRONG, ALL WRONG (Not really, but not as accurate as they could be, probably): Re-Examining WAR's Defensive Spectrum, by Jeff Zimmerman, The Hardball Times
The WAR values for the first set of players will be less with this adjustment and higher for the second set. Sadly the writing community is probably behind the times and teams have already figured out the difference in values. In terms of next steps, I think it would make sense to go back and look at these values every few years to make sure nothing changes. Or take the information we have and look at the 2002 to 2008 time frame and then from 2008 to 2014. No matter what gets done, it seems like we are a bit behind major league front offices in giving position players too large of a range of values for playing certain positions. The range is likely much narrower.
The next wave of data to flood the analytics scene could come from little gizmos and gadgets on bats and pitching arms: The Future of Baseball Technology, Part One: The Internet of Things, by Jesse Wolfersberger, The Hardball Times
Measuring bat speed, angle, and acceleration is possible without a bat tracker. There are batting cages across the country where coaches can use video to capture these data. The real breakthrough with bat trackers is the democratization of those data.
"We wanted to create a device that made that kind of information easier to access," said Fass. "A scout or a team's trainer can sit there with an iPad at any back field or batting cage, and all he has to do is tell the app which player is swinging the bat."
These devices allow for easier, cheaper access to swing data. This means more hitters who will have the data, and bigger databases with more swings and longer histories per player.
Because the system has operated so well, there continues to be no current plans to implement the system of fines negotiated with the players' association last winter. Instead, Marinak told ESPN.com that baseball will use rules that were revised late last month, calling for players to be fined only for "repeated" or "excessive" violations.
More than seven weeks into the season, however, no player has been fined for a violation of either the batter's box rule or for failing to be ready to play when the between-innings countdown timer reaches zero, Marinak said. Marinak said MLB will continue to send letters to players, alerting them to violations of those rules for informational purposes, but would only issue fines ranging up to $500 for "repeated" violations that occur "multiple times over multiple games."
From 94 mph and lower, there is effectively no change in BABIP. If the large drop at 97 mph is removed, BABIP only varies a little over 10 points. So as a pitcher's velocity drops, he should not expect to give up more non-homer hits.
Indeed, it looks like my hypothesis that phenoms might have the physical traits of a 24-year-old at age-21 or -22 and would therefore stop improving sooner or decline earlier has no evidence to back it up. Again, there is substantial volatility in the phenom curve, so it's best to focus on the general trend rather than individual data points (like the inexplicable decline for phenoms at 26 and 27), but it seems clear that in these samples, the phenoms have a longer plateau than the non-phenoms. Their WAR/600 doesn't begin to decline until their age-29 season, as opposed to age-27 for the non-phenoms, and their wRC+ stays almost at peak from age-25 through age-31, compared to the single-year peak at age-26 for the non-phenoms. It appears that not only are these players great earlier than their peers, they remain great longer than their peers. They're great players! Maybe this shouldn't be a huge shock, but seeing the data laid out is always useful.
Lefties have all the fun…and a smaller strike zone so far this season, to boot: The Expanded Strike Zone: It's Baaaack…, by Jon Roegele, The Hardball Times
For all hitters, it is not surprising to see the majority of the growth at the expanding bottom of the strike zone. The wider gap in 2014 and 2015 between the right-handed hitter and left-handed hitter zones has come from two sources. First, pitches in the far bottom inside corner of the strike zone to right-handed hitters are now being called strikes more than pitches in the equivalent far bottom inside corner to left-handed hitters. Second, the reduction in the strikes in the high and outside regions of the strike zone has remained muted for right-handed hitters, while the trend is definitely stronger toward contraction of the zone in these same areas for left-handed hitters.
Is it possible for a pitcher to deflect or catch a ball that would end up as a home run? Sure. Is it plausible? Not at all: Home Run Trajectories and Pitchers, by John Choiniere, Beyond the Box Score
As I briefly mentioned above, at an initial height of two feet it takes some extremes to find a catchable ball. Coming off the bat at 122 MPH, a ball hit at a vertical launch angle (VLA) of 8.9 degrees will scrape the top of the fence at both Petco and Camden, and will pass over the pitching rubber at 10.097 feet roughly a third of a second after it's hit. Now, I have absolutely no information on the vertical leaping ability of major league pitchers, but I wouldn't put it past, say, 6'10" Chris Young to be able to get that much air. Any slower, though, and the ball won't clear the fence.
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