Technically, these should all be called strikes. However, I found that roughly 68 percent were called balls. Not a great success rate. So we can see that umpires’ calls are more than likely influenced by the location of the ball at the front edge of home plate.
Therefore, if a pitch was not a strike at the front edge, it was much less likely to be called a strike. This can be confirmed by looking at the correct call percentage for pitches as a function of the time they spent over home plate in the strike zone.
There were zero cases in which any of the "meaningful games" variables made a difference. There weren't even any borderline significance calls. Whether teams were in or out of the playoff chase, their regular players did pretty much what would otherwise be expected of them. Even the guys who are out of the race still seem to play as hard as they usually do. (In the aggregate, of course; there probably are some individual cases where guys dog it.) I don't think that this should shock anyone. There's professional pride to think of. There's individual stat-padding. There are guys who may have been up for a good portion of the year but still need to think of their job security. There are guys who want to set a good example for the young kids. If nothing else, there's not wanting to have the reputation as the guy who quits when the going gets tough.
An r-squared of literally 0.00. No observed relationship. No observed hint of a relationship. The only relationship here is the one between Clutch and total randomness, and that’s not a relationship for anyone to rely upon. It would be one thing if there were no relationship between Clutch in Year 1 and Year 2 (and there isn’t). But this is looking at the same teams, within seasons. Even clutch teams are only temporarily clutch. Sometimes they remain clutch, but no less often do they do the opposite.
In summary, the winds within Wrigley are far too fickle to address the question of changes in wind pattern due to the remodel. We can get an estimate of the effect of the left field video board from our knowledge of the aerodynamics of the flight of a baseball making the unrealistic assumption that the new board completely blocks the wind.
The maximum effect is about a 10 foot change in home run distance for winds directed in from or out to left field. It will be less for other wind directions. In addition, the reduced wind will lower the distance variation due to changes in the wind direction. It will be interesting to see if over the next couple of years sabermetricians can detect any remodel effect in their park factors.
Brandon Moss thought the most likely thing was that the catcher is looking for a change in approach, particularly due to count. “I’d never tell anyone my two-strike approach,” he told me when I asked him what he did to make more contact. “We all know when we have to make a small adjustment to get a pitcher off a spot. I think the catcher can see it. They watch the hitter get in the box with their feet. They’re seeing what you’re doing, they always watch.”
They’re mostly watching the feet. Chris Iannetta remembered figuring out what one veteran did with his feet: “Paul Konerko would open up his back foot towards right field when he was trying to go opposite field, and when he wanted to pull the ball, he’d close it.” If you want to try to simulate this at home, imagine you are a right-hander. Make your back foot perpendicular to the pitcher’s mound, and then open up your toe so that your foot is now parallel with the right-field wall. Your body is now lined up to power pitches to right field.
Well, it might actually have something to do with those strikeout and home run trends we've mentioned. While it's still happening somewhat under the radar — since overall offensive levels are still down — home runs have come roaring back in baseball this year, to the point where the rate of home runs on contacted balls is the same now as it was a decade ago. We're not seeing guys hit 50 or 60 home runs anymore, but that's mostly because guys don't hit the ball as often as they used to, not because it isn't going as far when they do hit it.
This year, 23 percent of all plate appearances are ending in either a strikeout or a home run, the highest total on record in league history. The base you're standing on is entirely irrelevant if an at-bat ends in a strikeout or a home run, so with those two both trending upward, the potential reward for stealing a base is not as high as one might think based on the level of offense in the sport right now. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, when only about 15 percent of all plate appearances ended in strikeouts or home runs, stealing a base had a much better chance of being followed by an event where the stolen base could matter. So not surprisingly, teams ran more then.
All of this is to say that pitching prospects are, unsurprisingly, riskier than hitting prospects. Teams, strategies, and analyses all run into trouble with pitching prospects because of base-rate neglect, the tendency of our minds to ignore base-rate information (Prospect X is a pitcher), while focusing on player-specific info (Prospect X is athletic, always been healthy, good build, etc.). TINSTAAP is an attempt to correct this base-rate neglect, but it appears to be an over-correction, at least as it is being applied today. While we should be mindful of both the base-rate information and player-specific information, TINSTAAP places all the emphasis on the former, while also overstating its risk. As seen in our charts above, there clearly is such a thing as a pitching prospect and ignoring that would probably be as costly as overrating pitching prospects as a result of base-rate neglect.
Here’s another unique pitch — there might be another pitcher that throws a submarine riseball, but we couldn’t find one — and it’s not all about arm angle. There are other submariners, in other words, but no other PITCHf/x-era submarine rising fastballs.
When I asked about how he manages to get that movement, O’Day wasn’t sure either. “I spiral it, and that keeps it stabilized,” he told me before a game with the Athletics. “When I throw my slider, they look similar.”
He mentioned arm slot, but also finger action. The thing that makes his slider (left) and four-seamer (right) similar despite different grips is that they come off his middle finger. By releasing the four-seamer off of his middle finger, he gets the backspin that leads to that rare rising action.
To look at this, I first identified all the pitchers in the age 31-35 cohort between 2011-2015. I then used Fangraphs to determine their IP, FIP, and ERA at every age available, and binned that data using the same age ranges as the Play Index. Sam hypothesized that the reason for the FIP-ERA split was an increase in craftiness and/or wisdom and/or some other experiential factor; for the sake of having a competing idea, I guessed that FIP over-performace was always a characteristic of these pitchers, and said characteristic was selected for over the course of their careers (hence them still being around at ages 31-35 while the under-performers no longer are). If Sam's right, I should see an age pattern that mimics that of the entire sample; if I'm right, I'll see a consistent FIP-ERA across all the age bins. The answer is somewhere in the middle. At each age range this cohort of pitchers out-performs their FIP; however, in no other age range do they do so as dramatically as they do during their age 31-35 seasons. I also don't trust the number for the 36+ group, which is 0.004 runs better than FIP, due to an extremely small sample size.
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