Tuesday, May 31, 2016


No, it's not the HR record. Albert Pujols, in albatross mode at this point for the Los Angeles Angels, is closing in on the top of a leaderboard that he would likely love to avoid...but can't.

It's the record for most times grounded into a double play (GIDP).

Currently the record is held by Cal Ripken, Jr., with 350. Albert has passed Cal's long-time teammate Eddie Murray (315, tied with Jim Rice) and is now fifth all time with 320 GIDP, which means that he will soon pass Carl Yastrzemski (323, who holds the mark for the most GIDPs by a left-handed batter.)

We thought we would provide a list of the right-handed batters who were especially "good" at hitting into the double play. It's a fun list, filled with some present day GIDP wonders (can you say Billy Butler...and wouldn't you bat for this guy every time he was supposed to come up with a runner on first and less than two out?). As you'd expect, right-handed batters are a good bit more likely to hit into DPs than lefty hitters...something about that extra distance down to first base, so we hear.

The all-time rate champ for GIDP is Ernie Lombardi, who, at 4.1% of all PA's, really should have been batted for when the Reds were trailing late in a close game and a GIDP situation came up.

We doubt you'll be surprised to see the high number of catchers on this list, including two of the Molina brothers.

At the bottom of the list we've put on several familiar RHB who were especially good at avoiding the GDP. Oddly enough, all three of these guys are in the Hall of Fame...

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

2016: COMPLETE GAMES #19-21

Our first day of the year with three CGs, and the first instance in 2016 of a game where both pitchers went the distance.

Well, sort of. But we'll get to that in a minute, because we also had the first instance of a pitcher throwing back-to-back CGs. That was Johnny Cueto, who drew the Padres again and this time shut them out on two hits as the Giants won, 1-0. (This was also the Giants' second consecutive 1-0 win, having beaten the Cubs by that same score in a nationally televised Sunday night game.)

Back to the dueling CG game. The winner in the game was Clayton Kershaw, who fanned seven and allowed just two hits. (This, too, was a 1-0 game.) The loser was Reds' lefty Brandon Finnegan, who gave the Dodgers just four hits, but the lone run he allowed sealed his fate.

The reason we said "sort of" is that Finnegan was batted for in the top of the ninth, which means if the Reds had managed to at least tie the game, it would not have been a CG for Finnegan after all. However, it's a situation where he wasn't actually replaced on the mound, so it stands as a CG.

CG pitchers are now 18-3 on the season. And the current pace for CGs at the end of 2016 is now at 76.

Sunday, May 22, 2016


So THIS is why Buffalo has been permanently "reclined" in AAA for all these years...
Not quite true that old shortstops never die, but they do fade away. We were prompted to take a look at the data on this when we looked up from our gen-u-wine refurbished Barcalounger™(and the way that thing still tilts despite the intervention of our slightly addled "handyman," the viewing angle was downright non-upright...) to discover that good old Jimmy Rollins is still grinding it out as the (mostly) starting shortstop for the Chicago White Sox.

Jimmy is 37 now, and we were curious to discover just how many 37-year old shortstops there have been over the course of baseball history. (And, no we did not conduct the research from the "comfort" of our Barcalounger, since whenever we do that, the blood rushes to our head and you know what that can lead to.)

We thought it would be best to go forward age-wise a bit, just to get some perspective on all this. So we started looking at players who had at least 75% of their games at shortstop beginning at age 33. (Naturally, Jimmy is one of those players.)

And it turns out (as the chart at left shows) that there have been 89 shortstops at age 33 who meet that criteria. These 89 shortstops have had many more than 89 total seasons, of course, because many of them kept playing SS for a number of years to come (think Honus Wagner, Luke Appling, Luis Aparicio, Omar Vizquel, and the favorite of post-neo-sabes everywhere, Derek Jeter). We would add up all of the stats for all of the shortstops who've played at age 33 and up, but we fear that the effect of such a statistical aggregate would inspire some readers to discuss how useless it is to play old players. While there is some merit to be found there, the call for youth in baseball is itself a tired old saw; what we hope to make clear with this data is how rare it actually is for someone to be playing shortstop past the age of 32.

So here's the table we created (at left). Note that 33 shortstops who played 75% or more of their games at short at age 33 managed to play 500 or more games at shortstop from age 33 on. That's kind of nifty: 33 at 33. That's 33 out of 89, or about 37%.

As you can see, those numbers start to dwindle rapidly. At age 34, the total number is down to 61, with only 21 playing 500+ games from age 34 on. There is something of a holding pattern at age 35-36, with the numbers settling in the 40s (total SS) and on just this side of double figures (500+ games) for those years.

It's at age 37--right where Jimmy is--where things take the final downward turn. In each decade across baseball history, it becomes uniformly rare to see anyone playing SS in the 37+ age range. The last time we had two 38-year old SS in the same decade was in the 1970s; it's happened only in two other decades (the 1940s and the 1900s).

So who are the guys who played over 500 games with 75+% of them at SS past age 37? You won't be surprised to discover that we've named them already...Wagner and Appling. It's actually Appling who played 500+ games from age 39 on; Wagner got moved to first base at age 43.

We don't expect Rollins to play 500+ games from age 37 on--his hitting probably won't hold up. But if he stays away from a Barcalounger (the damn thing has been known to fold you up inside it, pretzel-like, when the whim comes over it), he might just beat the odds.

A final note. The percentage of possible starting shortstops who've played at age 33+ is, as shown in the chart, is a bit over 3%. That's a low number. It's fluctuated over time, going as high as 6% in the 1910s and close to 5% in the 1940s, when able-bodied young men were siphoned off to war; it was just 2% in the 2000s, and right now it's just under 4% (that pesky Jeter, of course). So it's probably best if we actually savor these guys, because they really are rare.


On the other hand, we prefer more direct comparisons than what Cat Garcia (omnivorizing in sync with the octupoidal reach of Baseball Prospectus' franchiseable flatulence)... tossed into her salade niçoise the other day.

There, as always, you get the serially-massaged percentage probability along with error bars (where, unfortunately, last call comes before the first pitch...) and the type of writing that reminds us of L. Frank Baum's Princess Langwidere, the girl with a different head for every occasion.

Here, also as always, we do things with the blunt elegance of a jitterbugging caveman, one who's still saddened that Madonna never took the advice of her first agent and bought the kitsch capital of San Luis Obispo (and no, we're not talking about the mission).

So when we give you a projection, it's based on actions that focus on verbs, not adjectives that have been put through a post-Procrustean strainer and set forth against the sky like an etherized prepositional phrase laid out in the chaotic scrum of an emergency room.

How did we come up with the projection in the title of this blast-from-the-past post? (As in "past blasts" against our ancient fee-fi-foe-fum, who've brought us many emperors who have remained blissfully ungarbed through thick--mostly thick, we think--and thin.)

Houseley Stevenson and his terrible towel...
Here's how. We went to Forman et fils (and though we know Sean prefers to downplay it, he was a BBBA boy before he became emperor--the fully-clad emperor, BTW--of numbers) and dialed up in the Play Index all of the teams since 1901 who've started the season 28-11. (Prior to the 2016 Cubs, there have been eighteen such teams.)

We hooked up with our sharp-tongued friend William of Occam, lathered up, shaved clean and close (as prescribed by Houseley Stevenson in his outré cameo in Dark Passage, where he then proceeds to perform plastic surgery on a pathetic, desperate guy in order to make him look just like Humphrey Bogart...), and added up the season-ending wins and losses for the team...

...Computed the won-loss percentage (.599), and multiplied by 162...

...And--holy Catwoman! We have a projection (as opposed to that other thing you're hoping to induce so that we'll be distracted, a la Carlos Santana--you know, the other Carlos Santana--from your evil ways).

In short, 97 wins.

Do we think the Cubs will actually win 97 games? We must still say no, we strongly suspect the final total will be somewhat lower than that. Not by a lot, as we've said before...but lower. The reasons are numerous, at least three or four more than the fact that we still think Theo's smugness ideally should have to coagulate a good while longer, while reminding you that late-blooming egotists like (Uncle) Joe Madden can only be humble if the humbling experience of not winning the Big One is part of their recurring psychological plat du jour.

Saturday, May 21, 2016


Continuing his torrid start in 2016, Chris Sale tossed his third CG of the year on Thursday, limiting the Houston Astros to just four hits and one run (with 9 K's) as the White Sox tried to stay within striking distance of the Cubs' exceptional success--who will win the battle of Chicago? And could this actually be the year--the first since 1906--for these two teams to meet in the World Series?

Tut, tut--let's neither feed the hype nor get ahead of ourselves. Sale is having a QMAX "S" renaissance while having a drop in K/9--something that seems to fly in the face of post-neosabe wisdom. Ben Reiter over at SI tries to dance through the various clichés, but winds up doing a modified goose-step: what the new data still hasn't found a way to pinpoint is whether a pitcher (other than Greg Maddux, perhaps) can consistently "pitch to weak contact." We'll have to see if what Sale is doing this year stays in play all the way to the end of the season...

Friday, May 20, 2016


As you might expect, the Minnesota Twins and the Atlanta Braves (who both started 0-9 and both completed the first quadrant of the 2016 season with 10-30 records) are very likely in for a long, long season.

We looked at the eleven other teams since 1901 to start the season with a 10-30 mark, and believe us when we say that the results are...ugly.

The average WPCT for these teams at the end of the season is .346.

Over 162 games, that translates to a 56-106 record.

The 1903 St. Louis Cardinals, the 1936 St. Louis Browns, and the 1987 and 1994 San Diego Padres all managed to lose less than 100 games. But those primordial Redbirds only played 137 games that season--and the 1994 Padres were spared due to Budzilla's Folly (aka the Players' Strike).

The most recent team to start the season 10-30, the 2013 Houston Astros, wound up at 51-111 for the full year. The 2006 Kansas City Royals came close to beating the 100-game barrier, but finished at 62-100.

Odds are great that both the Twins and the Braves are going to wind up north of 100 losses this season.

What team got off to the worst start? (Remember, we are talking 1901 to the present.) Why, the 1988 Baltimore Orioles, of course, who finished the first fourth of that year with a 6-34 mark...en route to a 54-107 season record.

Really bad teams do tend to get off to really bad starts--the 1928 Philadelphia Phillies and 1932 Boston Braves both began with 7-33 marks over their first 40 games, and their final records were virtually identical (43-109 and 43-111 respectively). The 1952 Pittsburgh Pirates went 8-32 at the outset, and wound up with a woeful 42-112 record at season's end. The 2003 Tigers were 9-31 in their first forty games, and cruised home to a 43-119 mark.

The only team close to the futility level of the 2016 Twins and Braves who went on go to the post-season? The 1914 "Miracle" Boston Braves, who began the year 12-27 but got hot in July and never looked back, pulling away for the NL pennant and going on to upset the heavily favored Philadelphia A's by sweeping them in the World Series.

Might we suggest that you don't hold your breath for this to happen with either of this year's slow-starting squads...

Thursday, May 19, 2016

2016: COMPLETE GAMES #12-17

As we noted, our coverage slacked off last week due to other events--and right at the time (as we suspected would be the case) when complete games would start to pick up.

Since our last post on the subject (on Friday the 13th) there have been six more, including the first two CG losses on the year. (The CG won-loss record for 2016 now stands at 15-2.)

Over at left we have your first look at the 2016 complete game calendar display. We'll fill it in and try to remember to post the final version at season's end. Dates in pink are days when there was one CG; dates in purple are dates where there have been two CGs. (We will color-code further when/if we have days with more than two CGs.)

Here's a quick list of the recent CGs:

#12--Chris Sale (CHW) joined Clayton Kershaw with his second CG as the White Sox beat the Yankees, 7-1

#13--Justin Verlander (DET) racked up the first CG loss of 2016 as Chris Tillman and two Orioles relievers blanked the Tigers; Verlander allowed only four hits and a run, but the O's prevailed, 1-0.

#14--Matt Andriese (TBR) tossed a nifty two-hit shutout at the Oakland A's as the Rays won 6-0.

#15 and #16--A real rarity, with Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto tossing back-to-back CGs for the Giants against the Padres at Petco Park; Bumgarner fanned eleven, Cueto eight. (Johnny's CG was his second of the year, knotting him with Kershaw and Sale.)

#17--Steven Wright (BOS) became the first pitcher in 2016 to win and lose a complete game when he went eight innings in a 3-2 loss against the Royals in KC's Kauffman Stadium.


We'll stick with CGs for a bit, since we've been swamped of late with non-baseball stuff.

Let's take another look at "bad complete games," which are another item on the verge of extinction (as the table at right indicates.)

We've broken this out a bit differently than the last time we looked at this--here we define a "bad CG" as one where the pitcher allows five runs or more (with no need for those runs to be earned runs, as was the case previously.)

As you can see, occurrences have dwindled, reaching a permanent single-figure status in 2001 and moving onto "countable on the fingers of one hand" in 2003. This might be the year where we don't see any of them at all.

The other table (over at the left) shows the data by decade, with WPCTs (which, as you'd expect, have also trended downward, with a sharp drop for "bad CGs" since 1990.

Friday, May 13, 2016

2016: COMPLETE GAMES #10, #11

You didn't think we'd forgotten that Max Scherzer actually threw a complete game in his 20-K effort against the Tigers on 5/11, did you? Good gravy, if Max had struck out 20 guys in 8 IP and been pulled for the knee-jerk pitch count overcorrection that, among other things, is surely bringing CGs down into double figures, it would have been all over the sports pages...imagine not giving a guy a chance to own the single-game strikeout record.

As it was, Max had a chance to set the record, but Tigers catcher James McCann got his bat on the ball on the 0-1 pitch, grounding out to end the game.

Truth told, Max has been pretty erratic this year; he's allowed 11 HRs in just 52 IP, including two in his 20-K game. His ERA is 4.15, and while that will very likely improve, he's not a consistently elite pitcher the way he's been in previous seasons.

And, FWIW, his CG here represents the most runs allowed by a starter-two--in all eleven CGs thus far in 2016.

Now, for a consistently elite pitcher, we spin the dial over to Clayton Kershaw, the first pitcher to appear twice on the 2016 CG list, who mowed down the Mets last night with a 3-hit, 13-K shutout. Final score: Dodgers 5, Mets 0.

Kershaw has a 1.74 ERA thus far, 3 HRs allowed in 62 IP, and--as noted earlier--a surreal K/BB ratio (now 19.25...77 K, 4 BB).

In the 11 CGs of 8 innings or more (remember, we toss out that bogus 6-inning "CG" from Phil Hughes), the pitchers in question have combined for a collective ERA of...



Max Scherzer's 20-K performance against his old team (Detroit Tigers) got us to thinking about ways to examine the number of games where pitchers strike out more men than innings pitched.

We decided to eschew (now there's a word you don't hear every day...) the "double-digit" approach, though we wanted to incorporate those games into the mix.

So we decided to query things up at Forman et fils by looking for games where pitchers had lasted at least six innings into the game and had a K/IP ratio of at least 1.33.

And when we ran the query, we were interested to see where Scherzer ranked. We figured he would be reasonably high up on it.

But we really weren't prepared for what we found.

No, Max isn't at the top of the list. Far from it. But as of Wednesday, after his 20-K night, he did rank in the Top 10. (As we write this, he's now tied for eleventh, since Clayton Kershaw just fanned 13 and has moved into the tenth slot all on his own.)

What is really astonishing is the number of such games racked up by Randy Johnson. We figured on Nolan Ryan being at the top of the list. He's second, but Johnson's 192 such "big-K/IP ratio" games is way ahead of everyone else. He flew by Ryan and never looked back...

Pedro Martinez is a distant third with 107 such games.

On our table, the color coding is as follows: orange means still active; rich yellow means HOFer; pale yellow means no longer active and not (yet, at least) in the HOF.

As you'd expect, big-K games produce a great deal of success, as a .709 WPCT attests. Johnson's 107 wins in such games is also a record--one that no one on this list looks like they are going to approach.

Thursday, May 12, 2016


Our hoped-for face-off between fat pitchers came close to happening Wednesday when the previously feted Vidal Nuno (Mariners) and Erasmo Ramirez (Rays) managed to appear in the same game for the first time in their careers. They did not actually pitch against one another: Erasmo pitched the seventh inning for the Rays, while Vidal's appearance wasn't until the tenth. The Mariners, currently astride the top spot in the topsy-turvy AL West, managed to eke out a 6-5 win.

A gut for all seasons: Williams Perez.
But these two weren't alone when it came to "gutty" performances on 5/11. There was also a man with arguably more girth than our doughy duo combined who was on fire for the lowly Braves.

Yes, it was (and still is, presumably...) Williams Perez, who stands six feet tall but tips the scales at 240 lbs., Venezuela's favored entrant in a marathon pie-eating contest. After starting out the year at AAA, Perez was brought back to the majors when the Braves realized that they might need someone a bit weightier in their rotation if they were to escape a sub-50 win season.

Perez tossed eight innings of two-hit ball at the Phillies as the Braves did something they seem to do about once a week...which is actually win a ballgame. Final score: Atlanta 5, Philadelphia 1. (The Braves quickly reverted to form earlier this evening, squandering two chances to win in regulation, ultimately losing in 10 innings, 7-4. They are now 8-25 on the season.)

Tuesday, May 10, 2016


Talk about your "fat pitcher rhapsody"--here is the Red Sox' new 31-year old knuckleballer Steven Wright, who is just a bit taller than the two amigos we profiled recently but is as stout as stout can be (and that means he should really be named Guinness, not Wright).

Anyway, Steven Wright has continued to float above it all so far in 2016, allowing only 5.4 H/9 in his starts thus far, a figure that literally screams "unsustainable!" at top volume, but is nonetheless thrilling to behold in its housing bubble kind of way (assuming you're not buying any mortgages, that is).

Steven's piece de resistance (which hopefully will not presage a swift decline...) was his three-hitter against the Sox' arch-rivals (you know, the Yankees!) in the Bronx. He fanned seven, and lost a shutout with two out in the ninth when Brett Gardner took him deep.

Wright's CG was the first in 2016 where a pitcher actually gave up a run. We knew it couldn't last, and we suspect that this streak of 80 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings in complete games might be a record. We'll check into that one of these days--really, we will.


Let's take a look at the early returns regarding "non-save situations," a widely unheralded stat breakout pioneered at Forman et fils which we've written about before in order to defend the value of  component won-loss records, particularly for relief pitchers.

First, remember that this little-known category isn't quite a zero-sum thing, which rankles most analysts (whose crypto-Newtonian view of the baseball universe really depends on such a notion being the only way to look at baseball "reality") and explains why they prefer to ignore its existence.

"Non-save" decisions always add up to a WPCT that is higher than .500, which some dismiss as merely being further evidence of the uselessness of W-L records in general, but in reality show us that there are more orderly forces at work underneath the seeming chaos (as our studies show, good teams strongly tend to do well in this category).

And when there are aberrations in the data, particularly early in the year (as is usually the case, with 2016, as we will see in the chart at left, being no exception...), the extreme discrepancies that we see in partial-season data clearly have predictive value.

Just eyeballing the W-L records and ERAs of the in-process 2016 team data for "non-save situations" shows us that the better teams perform overall in the various subsets of the game where the relative score is most often a tie game, the better their winning percentage in such situations tends to be.

And seeing the especially good W-L records of teams whose overall ERA performance in "non-save situations" is not similarly above average (as we can see is the case with the Phillies and the Rays) is a likely indicator of teams whose overall won-loss records will be dropping once the anomalous good fortune they've thus far received falls away.

As a reminder of this, we print the overall won-loss and ERA data for "non-save situations" thus far in 2016, sorted by ERA (shown above at right). The summary data in orange shows how this all breaks out based on overall performance level in this category. (Remember that average WPCT in "non-save situations" is around .560, as opposed to .500.) The summary data not shown in orange--the region between 3.50-4.49 in team ERA--shows that this middle range is pretty much dead-on with the overall average (4.14 ERA, .550 WPCT as opposed to the 30-team MLB aggregate of 3.99 and .560).

Thursday, May 5, 2016


We expect that the pace will pick up soon, but we remain in single digits WRT CGs. #8 on the year goes to the Indians' Corey Kluber, who pitched out of two early jams and preserved the freaky shutout streak that this year's CG pitchers have managed to keep going at the outset of the 2016 campaign.

Kluber wound up scattering five hits, and fanned seven. Cleveland scored four in the fourth off Annibal Sanchez, and that was enough for the Tribe to beat the Detroit Tigers, 4-0.

CG pitchers in '16 after 72 IP have allowed just 26 hits, walked just nine, while amassing 79 K's.

Monday, May 2, 2016


Two fellows we like really could be mirror images of one another.

Lefty Vidal Nuno, despite his exotic name (a strange combination of hairdresser and foreign spy) is actually a U.S. citizen. He's also a chunky southpaw who has a mind-bending 4-19 lifetime won-loss record.

Righty Erasmo Ramirez is from Nicaragua, and it's his birthday today (May 2; he's 26.) He still hasn't managed to get into a game on his birthday, as his team (the Tampa Bay Rays) had an off-day. Physically (5'11, 205 lbs.) he's the Central American version of Fat Freddie Fitzsimmons--and for a nice stretch last year upon joining the Rays, he pitched like the Giant of yore.

Both began as starters and now are working out of the pen, where their less-than-svelte appearance is more in keeping with the anonymity that usually accompanies being "one of the boys" who sit out in left field trying not to get caught picking their nose in public. Nuno is now toiling for the team that first brought Erasmo up to the majors (the Seattle Mariners), so we can feel good that they are still managing to meet their "fat pitcher quotient."

Neither one of these guys is going to make us forget about the other Fat Freddie, Fernando Valenzuela, but he and Nuno each managed to have a most unfortunate year where they lost 12 of 14 decisions. For Valenzuela, it was the end of the line; for Nuno, it was the beginning of a nomadic time that included another stretch in the minors.

Erasmo nearly pitched his way back to the bush leagues in his first two outings for the Rays in 2015; in those games spanning 5 1/3 IP, he managed to allow 15 earned runs, which works out to a 25.31 ERA. The Rays didn't panic, however, and kept putting Erasmo out there, and from that point until mid-July Erasmo had his finest stretch as a big leaguer, posting a 2.06 ERA over his next 78 1/3 IP and amassing an 8-2 won-loss record.

So far as we can tell, Vidal and Erasmo have yet to appear in the same game, but our big chance is coming up next week when their teams (Rays and M's) will square off in Seattle. Both men are pitching out of the bullpen, and pitching well, so there's a chance that they might wind up in the same game together. Sure, the knee-jerk response is "fat chance," but we say "give the fatties a chance." The teams that have done so haven't regretted it, and for us it will the opposite of regret if these two wind up pitching directly opposite one another next week. Stay tuned!


Back to the prevailing pattern of low-hit, high-K shutout CGs as the Dodgers' inestimable Clayton Kershaw fanned the first four batters he faced, singled in the only run of the game (and was thrown out trying to advance to second--they don't want you sliding, Clayton!) and wound up with a three-hit, 14-K shutout against the Padres in Dodger Stadium (where his lifetime ERA is 2.08).

Just another day at the office for Kershaw, who is currently sporting an 18-to-1 K/BB ratio. (We kid you not: 54 Ks, 3 BBs.)


From David Pinto's Day-by-Day Database, here is a three-month snapshot of hitting that includes the first month of the 2016 season:

Who would have thought that the ancient Big Papi would still be raking like this? As brilliant as the Red Sox were for signing Ortiz back in 2003, it must also be said that the Minnesota Twins pinned the clueless meter by releasing him in the first place.

BTW, we love David's database, particularly for its usage of players' given names, such as "Senger" Peralta and "Markus" Betts...

Sunday, May 1, 2016


CG #6 was not one that could have easily been predicted, for several reasons. First, lefty Wade Miley (who'd been a bust for the Red Sox in '15 and was shipped to the Seattle Mariners for another problem lefty,Roenis Elias...) had not pitched well in any of his starts thus far in 2016. Second, he was facing the Kansas City Royals, who had actually shown a pretty good knack with lefties in 2015.

That proved not to be operational on April 30 at Safeco Field, however, as Miley became the sixth pitcher in 2016 to go a full nine innings, scattering five hits in a 6-0 M's win over the defending World Champs (and yes, we pinched ourselves three times as we wrote those words).

Miley was not throwing heat past the Royals; he fanned only four, and continued to give up line drives and fly balls at an elevated rate...but the generous dimensions at Safeco and a couple of nice plays by CF Leonys Martin boosted him at key moments.

That's six CGs, six shutouts thus far in 2016.