Saturday, July 28, 2012


A nice new feature at Forman et fil: lists (at times quite long) of trades made between franchises over the course of baseball history. (Actually, it's not clear to us just how "new" this feature actually is, but it's new to us, and we are delighted to discover it.)

Love: "Brian, I hear you got a great deal with the
GIANTS!! WTF--we're LA boys!!! Just as soon as
I lose the rest of my hair I'm gonna sue ya for
everything you got!!"
If we remembering correctly, this is data originated by the good folks at Retrosheet. One of that organization's stalwarts, Tom Ruane (who contributed to BBBA in 1999-2000 and helped make those volumes a good bit weightier than they had any right to be), has done a great deal of analytical work with trades, some of which is available at the Retrosheet site.

We don't plan to trespass into that exact territory, though there are some patterns to be discerned that may yet to have seen light of day. (We'll get back to that idea a bit later, when time permits.) For now, we simply want to mine the data as presented by Sean in order to examine the trading histories of baseball's greatest long-term arch rivalries.

And yes, those would be the New York Yankees v. Boston Red Sox (neither of whom has sued the other nearly as often as the Beach Boys' Mike Love has filed paperwork against his own cousin...) and the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers v. New York/San Francisco Giants.

Let's start with the Dodgers and Giants. When you look at the trade page, you'll see that the two teams last made a trade in 2007, which represented the second trade between them over a span of forty years.

The most famous trade between the two teams, as many of you know already, was the one that didn't stick--the December 13, 1956 trade of Jackie Robinson which was voided once Jackie retired.

Of the 28 trades the two teams have made since 1901, 16 of them were simple purchases. As a look at the page will indicate, they dealt back and forth with reasonable regularity until they both moved west--and it was at that point that the tap was turned off. Over the past 54 years, they've made exactly three deals.

Now let's move on to the Yankees and Red Sox. As the trade page demonstrates, the boys from the Bronx benfitted at a level that must be considered historic as a result of seven trades/purchases with the Red Sox between 1919-1924. As a result, the dynasty that had been thriving in Beantown moved a couple of hundred miles southwest to New York, and has (for the most part) remained there ever since.

Sparky: Pre-Bronx,
Unlike the Dodgers and Giants, however, the Yanks and Red Sox actually managed to make a couple of fairly substantive trades. The biggest of these--and the one that would help the Yankees return to their old dominating ways--came in the spring of 1972, when they acquired Sparky Lyle for Danny Cater and Mario Guerrero (yes, THE Mario Guerrero). That set up the Bronx bullpen for a number of years to come.

The last trade that the Red Sox and Yanks made came in 1997. It involved two well-known and well-traveled players: Tony Armas and Mike Stanley.

All in all, the teams have made 42 transactions since the Yankees have been in New York (18 of which were straight purchases, including the fateful one on January 3, 1920 that--purportedly, at least--initiated a curse that some people believe was broken in 2004).

To which we say: dream on, suckers!

Thursday, July 26, 2012


Our epicyclical two-month "shotgun snapshot" approach for projecting MVPs, named after the master of circuitous cosmology himself (that's Ptolemy as in "tol-em-ee"...) is back.

Our leader charts have added four new two-month rankings utilizing data captured every week, and as you'll see, both races are neck-and-neck.

Those who are skeptical about the counting categories (HR, RBI, runs) that co-exist peacefully (remember that phrase?) with rate stats (OPS, OBP, SLG, BA--that last one will be bothersome to some...) may be heartened to discover that the men with the highest combined total according to the rate stats are for the most part the overall leaders in the Ptolemaic sweepstakes.

In fact, Joey Votto (who will have to weather some downtime that could affect his overall standing in the NL race...) is still cleaning up in the four rate categories, and continues to keep a gap between himself and those who're chasing him.

It's now Andrew McCutchen in second place, with defending MVP Ryan Braun right on his heels.

Over in the AL, the race is even tighter, with seven hitters clustering up within twenty points of one another.

As we told you last time, Robinson Cano was beginning to make a move even as Josh Hamilton took a nosedive after a hyper-torrid streak in May; also climbing past Josh is the ageless David Ortiz, still rock-solid as everything remains slippery in Beantown.

It's also interesting to note how much progress Albert Pujols has made since our last update (late June). The $253 million man had a big, fat goose egg at that point in the season. He's managed to climb up all the way to twelfth place in just four weeks.

When we look at the rate stat components and total them up by themselves, we see that in the AL, we see a different ranking:

Trumbo 54
Cano 52
Trout 48
Ortiz 48
Konerko 47
Hamilton 44

That gives us the impression that the AL MVP race could be one of the most crowded in quite some time.

Over in the NL, Votto has 99 points in the rate stat components, giving him a 29-point edge over McCutchen. The current WAR rankings, not to mention the HR, RBI and BA stats, would point to Andrew being the leader...but Joey's consistent high level of two-month performances has got him out front according to Ptolemy.

Friday, July 20, 2012


Another magical Sunday afternoon with the Baseball Reliquary and its Shrine of the Eternals ceremony has come and gone, marking the midpoint of both the calendar year and the baseball season...the memories of a rapt audience, engaging speakers, and the combination of offbeat humor and unconditional love will linger as always.

My old BBBA partner in crime G. Jay Walker (sometimes referred to as the Albert Speer of the BBBA...) attended the ceremony with me, arriving via the always unpredictable San Diego-Los Angeles Amtrak "connection" (a route that invariably adds thirty to sixty extra minutes of travel time to its purported schedule...Jay always promises to study the phenomenon, but I think he already knows that there are some things that simply can't be reduced to mere understanding, and that this is one of them).

Jay has been a Reliquary member and voter for more than a decade (as opposed to yours truly, who recused himself back in the day when Dick Allen had not yet been inducted into the Eternals lest I lose all sense of perspective and find a way to stuff the ballot box--fortunately, that proved to be unnecessary); he has always been active in identifying and suggesting potential candidates for the Shrine, and as the great anti-institution gets further into its teenage years, he is becoming more engaged with how the Shrine's unique combination of elements will continue to produce the quality of inductees that's been the case over the first fourteen years.

As he says, we now have 42 inductees, and it's important for the idea of a viable "alternative Hall of Fame" that the next 42 inductees represent the same level of je ne sais quoi as the first 42. (Or something like that--you can correct me later, always do!!)

However one phrases it, it's a legitimate issue. There is always the possibility that an organization built on a delicately balanced conceit, as the Reliquary most definitely is, can misplace that razor-sharp sensibility which makes its activities so special. In terms of the Shrine, it can start selecting individuals who are simply pale reflections of its former inductees, or who are more caricature than character. It's a tricky business, and while Terry Cannon, Buddy Kilchesty and the Reliquary voters have been well-nigh perfect thus far, there's always a chance that they'll "fall off the wagon." As Jay notes, the issue is keeping the effort locked in on Eternals, as opposed to the "Shrine of the Somewhat Interesting."

So, with that in mind, here are ten individuals who have yet to receive a slot on the Shrine of the Eternals ballot who, in our occasionally humble opinion, are deserving of consideration by the voters. This list originated with Jay, but as always (and you may wince now, Mr. Walker...) I have made a few modifications to it. (Jay also created a list of ten currently on the ballot who in one way or another fail the "Eternal/Somewhat Interesting" dichotomy, but these will be passed along to the Reliquary honchos--honchoes??--privately so as to not publicly demean those folks whom we think deserve the hook.)


The great walkman of Connie Mack's third Philadelphia Athletics dynasty (1929-31). In an earlier post, we discussed players who had more walks than hits in a season. Bishop did it six times, all without benefit of the type of power that would make pitchers take extra care in locating their pitches. Max passes the Reliquary "extremity" test with ease, and possesses one of the game's most intriguing nicknames--"Camera Eye."


The Reliquary's tender heartstrings were made to order for Tony C., one of the ultimate "might have been" players in baseball history. A true "star-crossed" star, a man worth celebrating due to--and in spite of--his tragic life.


The tricky business of the Reliquary can be located here, where a player with skills and achievements that seem to be too subtle for any voter combination at the Hall of Fame can be a "point of correction" at the hands of the Reliquary voters. Hernandez clearly falls in this category and is an exemplary candidate, but what's tricky is that sometimes the Hall of Fame wises up, and too much overlap between the Hall and the Shrine is not a good idea. Also--it's important to have living representatives to attend your ceremony.


With the enshrinement of Dr. Frank Jobe, it's almost a certainty that the man most closely associated to him in terms of baseball will not be far behind. John's story is a complete match for the Shrine, and even if the Hall of Fame eventually wises up and inducts him, it will be in some part due to his amazing career resurrection after what was at the time a "Hail Mary" surgical procedure. We figure that Tommy will be accepting his own plaque in Pasadena in 2014.


The Reliquary voters have been generous in enshrining writers--Roger Angell, Jim Bouton, Jim Brosnan, Lester Rodney--and Lardner is arguably the greatest of the early baseball scribes. He should be elected if only to see if the person or persons unknown who send up his classic character Jack Keefe at the Baseball Think Factory will come to Pasadena and make themselves known.


How did a .250 hitting catcher become a hitting coach? How did he become such a good hitting coach? Unfortunately, Charlie died young (in 1984, at the age of 50), so he can't tell us himself. But it's a compelling story, and the Reliquary's Shrine is just the place for such stories.


A giant of Japanese baseball, Nomura hit more homers than any other catcher in history--heck, he hit more homers than any two other catchers in history, he's been a successful manager, but around the world it's (Saduharo) "Oh and Who?" The Reliquary voters might want to consider rectifying that situation.


Though a good bit of his "modern baseball strategy" will make the "advanced metrics" addicts grab their needles, Richards had an incredible career as a kind of "permanent floating underdog," regularly spinning gold from dross, and lining his pockets with cash by hustling countless victims on the golf course.


Why Vin? Because the Reliquary is, in part, a West Coast/L.A. kind of organization. Because he represents the type of legacy and link from organization to fan that one could only hope existed for each and every team. Because he has been, and (thank God) continues to be, an Eternal.

And because we want Arnold Hano to introduce him at the ceremony (you'll need to read our essay at the Hardball Times to understand this reference...)!


A brilliant idea from Jay. Charles Somers was the money man that made it possible for the American League to not only come into existence, but do so with sufficient panache to change the face of baseball into what we know it to be. Ban Johnson is the man who gets the recognition, but even he knew that what he accomplished could not have happened without Somers.

So there you go...ten who deserve their shot at eternity, Baseball Reliquary-style. All of these folk will fulfill the elusive but palpable combination of qualities that exemplify a bonafide Eternal. We hope that the voters and the incomparable brain trust who bring us their unique perspective on the game will not be put off by our more-aggressive-than-usual (huh??) advocacy. Which is a nicer way of saying "put these guys in--or else!" (Or is it??)

Our great thanks to the Baseball Reliquary for continuing to be the anti-institution that we need it to be.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


He's played just one-ninth's worth of a season's games since being banished from Beantown, but Kevin Youkilis has (so far, at least) looked a lot like his old self:


Moving around in the top slots of the Pale Hose lineup, Youk has averaged an RBI a game since being welcomed to the South Side by none other than Barack Obama.

The White Sox have won twelve of eighteen since acquiring the sometimes prickly corner man, who looks as though he's reasonably healthy again. His departure from Boston may have preceded the final act that dismantles what we've puckishly termed the EJE (Epstein-James Era) over in the Usher-like "House of Fen," a structure overbuilt by its previous architect/owner and still prone to a peculiarly lingering form of fractious fragility.

For now, at least, Youk is giving the lie to those who've made their careers in the pursuit of faux elegiacs, an ingrown art that has plagued sports pages since the defeat of the Spartans (and we are not referring to collegiate football when we write this). Let's hope that the curtain does not come down on Youk's performance for a good long while, and that those who decided to jettison him will have to reckon with their hasty decision even as the remaining monuments from the EJE crumble into the mists of memory.

Monday, July 16, 2012


The man with less (MUCH less...) than 1/8 chance
of executing a slam dunk....
In these days of rage, when highly-thought-of (or, at least, highly-placed) sportswriters are either puffing up like blowfish or burying themselves in the silt on the ocean floor over the moral lapses of Joe Paterno's mortal remains, it's downright upright--and curiously refreshing--to immerse oneself in mere absurdity.

Such as? Well, how about the notion that Bill Veeck was right--what baseball really needs is a team full of midgets??

OK, not a roster composed of 25 Eddie Gaedels. We are using the term "midget" loosely here, without resorting to the tortuous legalisms that have befouled the ersatz law firm of Posnanski, James, and Neyer. Even we know that a bunch of 3'8" guys can't pass muster on a ball field. (And, in the spirit of foul play, we'll simply avoid any mention of the shower room. Oops...)

No, not "midgets." (Certainly not the ones that Tom Griffin wanted to drop from the Astrodome roof.) Rather, "smallfry." We had a team years ago, in Bill James Fantasy Baseball--before it became necessary to distance ourselves from the King of Big-Screen Contrarianism--that was made up of players who were no taller than 5'9." (Bill, of course, is 6'5", and ya know what they say: "the bigger they are..."). We placed that team in the Rockies' first home park--Mile High Stadium. We called that squad the Mile High Smallfry. Those little dudes--of course, some of them weren't really so little back in the day, when men were manly without being at least 6'3"--beat the snot out the ball.

Alexi Amarista (now with the Padres): at least they
could have cropped the shot to make him look taller...
So, as we try valiantly to recall simpler, more innocent times (when being sent to the showers wasn't frought with peril), we are reminded of our continuing fondness (which, mind you, goes no further than mere admiration...) of players whose height is, shall we say, "challenged." We watch the Padres' Alexi Amarista, who is probably no taller than 5'5", and marvel at the force that he is able to generate in such a, ahem, short stroke. We have similar warm (but not overheated!) thoughts when watching the Astros' Jose Altuve, another member of the smallfry fraternity who goes out there to play with the unyielding conviction that he is ten feet tall.

And we wonder if the Sox' Dustin Pedroia, arguably the greatest of baseball's recent (and increasingly rare) fraternity of smallfry, didn't win his 2008 MVP award in large part because he was so small. If so, that's a good thing.

So, in honor of the little big men who stand toe to toe if not eye to eye with their peers, here is the 2012 rendition of the Mile High Smallfry. We'll begin with the starting lineup...

Batting first, playing right field: Norichika Aoki (5'9", 180). The Brewers' Aoki, 30, was an on-base machine in Japan, and he's holding his own in MLB (.368 OBP). A two-time batting champ for the Yakult Swallows, he was originally not expected to get as much playing time as he's received, but he seems to be making believers out of his teammates.

Jose Altuve: good gravy, the water cooler is taller than he is...!
Batting second, playing second base: Jose Altuve (5'5", 165). Altuve, just 22, made huge strides in 2011, hitting .389 while playing for two teams in the Astros farm system. After being handed Houston's starting second base job in the last third of '11, he elevated his game enough this year to be named to the NL All-Star squad. It's possible that he may become the biggest "little man" we've seen in the game for quite some time.

Batting third, playing center field: Shane Victorino (5'9", 190). Maui's homeboy has been one of the most successful short guys in recent memory, and you'd expect him to be a favorite here due to his having cracked double figures in triples three years running (including 16 last year). He's having a down year thus far, but he's solid...a two time All-Star and a three-time Gold Glover.

Batting fourth, playing first base: Dustin Pedroia (5'8", 165). We moved Pedroia to first because somebody has to play there. And, yes, he's batted cleanup for the Sox, so he can do so for the 'Fry.

Batting fifth, playing shortstop: Rafael Furcal (5'8", 190). It will be necessary to have Jimmy Rollins around in order to keep this position filled and functional, but for the 'Fry, such would be a good platoon arrangement.

Batting sixth, playing third base: Alberto Callaspo (5'9", 200). These aren't quite your father's Smallfry...a lot of these guys are what the supermarket soup cans like to call "chunky." The cheap-ass Royals dumped Callaspo because they didn't want to have to pay him a big league salary, a brazen example of "sizism" that we'd point out needs some serious investigation except for the fact that MLB just isn't any good at conducting them.

Batting seventh, playing left field: Alexi Amarista (5'7", 155). Just imagine how cuddly the seriously shorter than 5'7" Alexi would look if he were decked out in actual "Padres' robes"--it would make for a wonderful publicity shot, except for the fact that people have become creeped out by all of those sex scandals. As Stephen Stills so prophetically noted at the height of the Aquarian Age: "It's getting to the point/That I'm no fun anymore." When you can't play dress-up with MLB's most appealing tater tot, you know that the thought police have managed to make the Puritans look like party boys.

Batting eighth, playing catcher: Brayan Pena (5'9", 225). 'Tis a bit of a sinkhole in the #8 slot for the 'Fry, but we could always try to coax Pudge Rodriguez out of retirement.

We're convinced that this is a National League team, so no DH. (Matt Stairs retired, so what's the point?)

Here are the Smallfry backups:

Catcher--Jhonatan Solano, Humberto Quintero (waddya know, we've got the entire Royals' catching staff!)
Infielders--Jimmy Rollins, Mike Fontenot, Maicer Izturis
Outfielders--Ben Revere, Rajai Davis

How will they do, offense-wise? They will look a bit like the Oakland A's this year before their bats kicked in. Not much power, and--surprisingly--not much of a propensity to draw walks, which you'd think would be the one thing that a team of players this diminutive would be able to manage.

But projections indicate that this team would actually score close to the middle of the pack in the NL this year. There are some good hitters here, most of whom can play defense. And they will steal bases like no one's business--probably exceeding 200 for the season (something that's been done only twice in the past sixteen years...can you name the teams that did it?).

In short, this would be a fun team to watch. And you could stock the pitching staff with the tallest guys entire staff with the collective nickname of "Lurch." In an age where finger-pointing seems to have become the national pastime, it's actually preferable to have short legs--and, of course, stubby digits.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


We must confess to loving it when "superior" teams and/or "superior" leagues not only lose but take it on the chin...if we have to play an All-Star Game in the same old stultifying way as always, then at least let's have a result that is confounding, n'est-ce pas? The sight of two less-than-svelte Latin players (Pablo Sandoval and Melky Cabrera) wreaking havoc is, plainly put, licentiously liberating as well as tossing up a well drink to the face of those lubricious enough to make premature pronouncements about comparative league quality.

So towel off your faces, kiddies, and gird up for the second half of is the current status of the eleven-game chart, where we keep track of the fluctuating fortunes of the teams over our favorite encroaching increments of time.

Special emphasis in this chart must be focused on Ye Olde Evil Empire (aka the New York Yankees), who lost Mariano Rivera and learned to embrace winning by loving the bomb (more on that below).

The bolded figures in the chart represent the teams who managed to score 60 or more runs in an eleven game stretch...while the endpoints are a bit arbitrary, we do get a sense of how often this feat is happening in the current offensive environment (one which is not nearly as astringent as was intimated in the early going).

AL teams have achieved this 16 times over the first seven instances of eleven-game units; the NL has done it 13 times. AL teams who do it have an aggregate .643 winning percentage, while the NL WPCT in such high-scoring stretches is only .586.

Teams with the best 22-game stretches: Yankees 18-4, Rangers 16-6 (twice), Marlins 16-6, Dodgers 16-6, Angels 16-6.

Teams with the worst 22-game stretches: Royals 6-16, Twins 6-16 (twice), Cubs 6-16, Astros 6-16, Rockies 6-16 (twice)

Teams with the best 33-game stretches: Yankees 24-9, Angels 24-9, Dodgers 22-11, Rangers 22-11, Pirates 22-11.

Metrecal™, introduced in 1961, the year the
Yanks set a record for team HRs (since eclipsed),
kinda tasted like the leather in that belt...
Teams with the worst 33-game stretches: Twins 9-24, Padres 11-22, Mariners 12-21, Tigers 12-21. (Note: the Phillies will crack this list, as they are currently 9-23 with one game to go in the G78-88 stretch.)

So how about those carpet-bombing Yankees, anyway? A team designed to hit homers, draw walks--you know, all those sabermetric things that sorta got shoved under the rug in the emperor's-new-pantaloon race to "advanced defensive metrics" (which is little more than an excuse to be flogged by the loosened belt accompanying America's first "scientific diary supplement," Metrecal).

It turns out that these Yankees have a cluster of sluggers who can take up the slack for the flagging efforts of the team's iconic hitters (Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez). This is a team that's hit 200+ HRs in twelve of the past fourteen seasons, a feat not matched by any other major league club during this offensive boom time, and they will definitely make it 13 out of 15 in 2012 (current pace for the year: 255 HRs).

You can see the steady influx of long balls from folks such as Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson. But the real shock of the Yankees 18-4 run last month (technically, from May 25-June 18) was the performance of its pitching staff.

Not only did the Yankee bullpen find a way to overcome the loss of Rivera (truth told, not nearly as difficult to do as what many folks would like you to believe...), but also the loss of phenomenal setup man David Robertson. Folks that no one west of the Jersey Shore had ever heard of (Boone Logan, Clay Rapada, Cody Eppley) stepped in to fill the void. Rafael Soriano did a passable Rivera impression during this time frame, racking up 10 saves in 11 appearances.

In short, the same old results with a cast of characters whose perceived value outside of the Apple was, shall we say, less than crisp.

In fact, it's enough to make many a Yankee hater (and, to slightly amend Joe Pos' formulation, if you can't root against the Yankees, the world simply might not be worth living in) take his applesauce and hurl it against the wall.

Not even an NL win in the All-Star Game is as confounding to natural law as the miraculously timed ascension of Ivan (Super) Nova to a 5-0 record as the Bombers laid carpet all across the baseball landscape during those three weeks.

Ivan Nova (26-7 in 2011-12): divine intervention is looking
like the only plausible explanation...
Not only Yankee hating, of course, but that pure, Metrecal™-enfused neo-sabe loathing of the won-loss record, that taunting spectre of the "everything you know is wrong" self-righteousness that lives to pout another day.

Good grief, the Yankees suddenly have two Andy Pettitte types on their squad, guys who win well beyond the actual level of their achievement, and how can that not make the angst in your pants so infestational that you have to drop propaganda leaflets into Itchycoo Park?

It's enough to make a nut go flaky, in fact. Steel yourselves up for the second half, folks--we can only hope that the carpet-bombers have somehow shot their wad.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Here at the ASB we can take a quick look at how predictive tools can go awry...the example for this installment of "be careful what pattern you see in the carpet" utilizes two teams from the NL Central who were in a virtual dead heat seven weeks ago and have since gone in completely opposite directions.

The teams? Houston (22-23 on the morning of May 26th) and Pittsburgh (21-24 on that same date).

The basic data for these teams on that day would have surely favored the Astros. Despite a rough 2011,  the team was holding its own through the first couple months of '12 and was at that time posting an overall Pythagorean Winning Percentage (PWP) of .536. Houston's pitching was holding its own (3.39 ERA).

"Over Our Heads"--another great track from
Lauren (Lo-Lo, Kotomi) Hillman, coming soon
to a soundcloud near you..
The Pirates, on the other hand, were experiencing one of the most anemic offensive starts in recent memory, with a scoring average that was fewer than three runs per game (2.82 to be exact). Their PWP was just .396.

Good grief, these things are just popping up
all over the place!!
Now, conventional sabermetric wisdom would suggest that the PWP indicated that the Astros were "for real" and could maintain their current performance level, while the Pirates were playing over their heads and would likely slide down toward the bottom of the league.

Eminently reasonable? Kinda. Sorta. But it had been a bit chilly in the Northeast in the spring (though no one except those with an axe to put in the skull of global warming evidence might possibly remember that fact right now...) and a plurality of Pirate hitters (with the exception of Andrew McCutchen) were swinging their bats as if they were giant frozen popsicle sticks.

Of course, we know what happened. That's right. The Pirates got hot and scored more runs (216) from May 26th to the ASB than any team in major league baseball. Yes, more than the Yankees, Rangers, Red Sox or Angels (with their new bashy offense led by Mike Trout and a sprung-from-his-coffin Albert Pujols). They won 27 of 40 games over this time frame and moved into first pace in the NL Central. The architects of their offensive resurgence can be seen in the comparative chart at the right. (OPS gain: from .606 to .801...or, .195.)

Meanwhile, however...the Astros, just three games out of first on May 26th, suddenly discovered that the ozone layer for their pitching staff had been sucked out into outer space (even catastrophes are more catastrophic in Texas...) and they were in more trouble than the doomed moon mission Apollo 13. That 3.39 ERA over the first seven weeks of the season was followed by a big fat 5.80 in the second (and much more unlucky) seven stanzas.

Houston allowed more runs than anyone during this time frame (245, more even than the Rockies, playing in the suddenly humorless, apparently Humidor-less Coors Field). Even our pal Wandy Rodriguez regressed as part of the Astros' "blast-off in reverse." When all the dust had settled and the ASB allowed them to (temporarily) abandon ship, the star-crossed young men had lost 30 of 41 and had managed to actually get below the Cubs (yet another piece of good fortune for Theo Epstein, whose franchise had been looking like baseball's sore thumb for the first three months of the season).

So here's another example where one of sabermetrics' primary soothsaying tools leads us down a primrose path despite its empiricist patina.  Someone needs to simply study the percentages of this particular scenario--two teams with records close to .500 with divergent PWP indicators--and see exactly how often the teams wind up confounding the scenario. Our guess,for this particular scenario at least,  is that this occurs 40-50% of the time. It'd be more clear cut over a 40-45 game stretch with teams playing under .450/over .550, of course...but it's precisely this muddled middle region that we want to be able to conquer.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


Back in 2008, we wrote an essay for The Hardball Times about a new (read: outlandish) approach for the All-Star Game...that cotton-pickin' notion was to have three squads per league (one for each division) and create a round-robin tournament featuring three-inning matchups. (You can re-read the original article to get a sense of how it works. Trust us, it's outlandish--but it's a helluva lot more fun than the current set-up.)

And how else but in a divisional All-Star Game setup
can we get the Keanu Reeves of baseball into the lineup?
One of other advantages of the divisional approach is that it permits a deeper cut into the expanded talent pool of relief pitchers--particularly the middle relievers, who always get short shrift come All-Star time.

And, face it, if Trevor Plouffe doesn't get his shot at an ASG this year, the rest of the country--hell, the rest of the world--is going to be poorer for never having pronounced his name.

Last but not least, this approach actually makes use of the division construct--one of baseball's necessary evils (a phrase that does not extend to the tricky troll who is still occupying the Commissioner's Office)--and gives it the type of twist that anyone wearing knickers will be sure to appreciate (even while they're complaining).

So take a gander at the 2012 Divisional All-Stars, voted on by no one, imposed by fiat at the behest of the mercurial, semi-trustworthy BBB brain trust. You will notice a series of familiar and not-so-familiar names, and you will also notice the absence of many who were voted in by the fans.

Take a moment or two to look at the performance numbers for many of those mysterious names listed under the pitchers...while most of the starting pitchers (found at the top of each divisional list) are well-known, there are quite probably a dozen or so of the names found in the lower depths of the list who are toiling in total anonymity.

One of the great virtues of the divisional approach--and we can't repeat this often enough--is that these mostly faceless performers actually receive some recognition for their accomplishments.

We added a "DH" slot for the NL to keep roster sizes consistent.

The extra slots also allow us to pick out a few players who've turned in noteworthy performances in part-time roles--for example, Craig Gentry of the Texas Rangers.

And our old pal Jerry Hairston of the Dodgers.

And a couple of fellas who know how to take a walk--A. J. Ellis of those same (swooning of late) Dodgers, and Brandon Belt of the Giants (finally getting some playing time).

And, of course, it's our chance to pay an hommage to one of our favorite bearded wonders--the other bearded wonder of the Giants' bullpen, who doesn't get all the face time with the foo-foo press, who is shut out of the insidious, insipid Taco Bell commercials and is still stuck at MLB's minimum wage, who is--really, truly, actually--a much bigger loon than the one who shares his name with the man who's once again a Beach Boy...

"Do you know me? Of course not! I can't even qualify
for an AmEx card, much less make a commercial for them!"
So who is it that's getting this altogether all-too-long build-up? Can we just stop spewing and just spit out his name, for Crissakes? Well, hey, all you gotta do is ask nicely...

It's none other--couldn't be anyone else--than: Sergio Romo.

The last year-and-a-half for Sergio (who's no bruiser--he stands all of 5'10) has been simply astonishing (1.27 ERA, with ancillary stats that will make your eyes go as buggy as his).

If nothing else, an All-Star Game nod might at least get Sergio a well-deserved raise.

Sunday, July 1, 2012


First, some context. It is extremely rare for players to have more walks than hits in a season. No one has  done it over the course of a career. In fact, there are only 11 players who've managed to average four walks for every five hits in their careers.

You can make a team out of these guys: their starting lineup might look like this--Eddie Stanky/Max Bishop, 2b; Eddie Yost, 3b; Barry Bonds, cf; Mark McGwire, 1b; Mickey Tettleton, rf; Adam Dunn, dh; Gene Tenace, c; Yank Robinson, lf; Eddie Lake, ss.

It would be extremely interesting to see if they would walk as frequently if they all played together. It's probably true that putting them into the same lineup would affect their walking skills somewhat. Despite that, however, such a lineup would be an odds-on favorite to break the existing team walk record (835, set by the Red Sox in 1949).

As you might suspect, all of the players in the table at can be found on the list of hitters who've had more walks than hits in a season.

Here's a little more context with which to assess that feat: leagues have averaged about 35 walks for every 100 hits over the course of baseball history; only once has a league exceeded 50 walks per 100 hits (American League, 1949).

The walk to hit ratio has settled down over the past fifty years; there is seldom any movement above or below the range between 35-40% in terms of walks/hits. And the gap between the leagues, which used to be considerable, has gotten smaller over that same timespan.

There have only been 83 player-seasons in which hitters have had more walks than hits; a total of 50 players have done it at least once (as shown in the table at right). One player's absence is a bit surprising: Joe Morgan.

We've included all players with 300+ PAs in a season. If we up that eligibility cutoff to 450 PAs, we find that we lose more than 40% of the player-seasons; we are down to just 47 full-time players who are members of this odd but select fraternity.

The names on the master list run the gamut between great sluggers (Bonds, Greenberg, Mantle, McCovey, McGwire, Sheffield, Ted Williams) and light hitting types who developed strike zone judgment as the ultimate defense mechanism (Bishop, Eddie Joost, Lance Blankenship, Eddie Lake).

The overall hitting stats, however, don't look like the ordinary success pattern for big league hitting. Let's break down the 83 player into those two camps: full-time (47) and part-time (36). The full-time group hits .253, with an OBP of .422 and a slugging average of .451. (That OPS works out to .873, which makes for a solid OPS+ of 138.)

The part-time players, however, are somewhat more problematic. Taken together, they average just .225, though they make it up somewhat with a .385 OBP. Their SLG is .374, which makes for a .149 ISO, above the historical average--but it pales in comparison with the full-timers (.198 ISO).

It's clear that high walk/hit hitters are well-dispersed across offensive styles and offensive achievements. The rest of our charts are scatter diagrams showing various attributes of the hitters. You can see exactly how Barry Bonds affected this chart by seeing where he shows up on it: he's all over the top right quadrant. In fact, he owns that quadrant the way some movie stars own a private island.

Oh, that dot in the lower left corner? Adam Dunn, 2011.

These are also not young players, as might have been expected (remember Bill James's famous treatise on "old player's skills." Our next chart shows all 83 player seasons broken out by age: the average age of the BB-H hitter is right at 32. (The players with multiple seasons--Robinson, Bishop, Bonds--can pretty much be picked out of the graph with little effort.)

And, of course, this type of player is declining: there was a flurry in the opening years of the offensive explosion, but even that represented a smaller overall player population than in the 1945-75 time frame. In fact, we might be entering into a drought period such as the one baseball endured from 1915-1926, where for awhile there, it appeared that such a player was in fact extinct. While we aren't expecting  things to get that drastic over the next ten years, we also don't expect to see very many BB > H seasons in the near future...Adam Dunn (and possibly Carlos Pena) may be the last we'll see for awhile.