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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

A Day with Sweeney

My buddy Ron's kids spent a day with Mike Sweeney as the result of a charity auction. Looks like he and the kids had a great time.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Ejections, Sacrifices, and the XBox360

Worked the Rockies game today which ended on a single by Miguel Ojeda in the bottom of the 10th that scored Eli Marrero from first with the game winner; 3-2 Rockies.

This game was filled with story lines as it included four hit batsmen and ejections of Giants Pitching Coach Dave Righetti, Rockies Manager Clint Hurdle, Giants pitcher Matt Morris, Rockies pitcher Ray King, and Giants Manager Felipe Alou. Alou, Righetti, and Morris were thrown out in the first after Morris hit Brad Hawpe after being warned subsequent to hitting Matt Holliday. From my vantage point it appeared Holliday may have been hit intentionally (Jose Mesa hit Omar Vizquel yesterday in the continuation of Mesa's grudge againt Vizquel for comments he made in a book relating to 1997) but the pitch that hit Hawpe simply got away.

Later in the game Jeff Francis hit Steve Finley but was not ejected much to the consternation of what was left of the Giants staff. Ray King then plunked Vizquel in the 8th and was ejected along with Hurdle.


But of course the silliness of it all is that the umpires feel they have to give these warnings to both teams and then paint themselves into a bit of a corner when someone gets hit. Although they have discretion according to the rules it's human nature that they feel pressure to eject whoever it was regardless of the situation. It makes me wonder how many hit batsmen could be considered retaliatory and how many are simply pitcher errors? My guess is 20-30% in the modern era anyway.

A second story line was Barry Bonds of course. He didn't start but did pinch hit in the 9th with a runner on first and two outs. Mesa struck him out on a foul tip much to the delight of the 30,310 booing fans.

Finally, Clint Hurdles, on his quest to break the National League record for sacrifice hits had his boys lay down two more today. He went for a third but Jamey Carroll bunted it right to Lance Niekro who was (surprise!) playing about 40 feet from the plate in the 9th inning. The sacrifice in the first especially made no sense and was nullified when Holliday was hit and Carroll scored on a throwing error by Vizquel. However, the sacrifice in the bottom of the 10th worked and Ojeda came through with the big hit. That makes 13 sacrifices in 18 games, on a pace for 117. Not exactly a record but pretty high none the less.

On another note I picked up MLB 2K6 for XBox360 the other day and like it thus far. The Inside Edge scouting information is interesting and when playing in Franchise mode you can purchase the scouting reports of opposing teams in order to increase your performance in simulation mode. In Franchise mode you also set your lineups against both hands with and without DH and even setup playing time by percentage with a nice depth chart feature. Your manager and coaches have tendencies you can control as well and you can even fire coaches and pick up replacements. It also gives you a budget you can use to re-sign players and a small selection of minor leaguers to move up and down (AA and AAA). In addition team morale is a factor which you can affect with calling team meetings.

The Inside Edge data also is utilized in the interactive play and allows you to get a heads up on where pitchers like to throw and gives you advice on pitching to hitters. The graphics are great and the swing stick system to control the hitting works pretty well. The only glitch I've seen thus far is that Rockies shortstop Clint Barmes name is pronounced Barmes instead of Bar-mess by the PA announcer as well as Joe Morgan and John Miller. Of course you do have to listen to Joe Morgan alot so that could be considered a glitch as well. Wonder how I can turn that off?

Black and White

I finished listening to the interview with Frank White on MLN Radio yesterday and was interested to note that White said he had a five-year plan upon accepting the managerial job at Wichita. What he meant was that if he were not offered a major league managing job in that time span that he'd retire. He also said that he hadn't had any interviews as of yet which kind of surprised me both because he hadn't been talked to and for his honesty. 2006 will be his third season as the Wranglers manager.

At present both Alex Gordon (3 homeruns and 8 walks in 16 games) and Billy Butler (3 homeruns .310/.333/.507 but only 3 walks) have performed well but White was most impressed with his shortstop Angel Sanchez (.327/.429/.462) although I note that he has 7 errors already. Since White has managed some of these prospects I wouldn't be surprised if he was on the very short list of options if a new GM is hired and Buddy Bell becomes a sacrificial lamb.

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Buzzards are Circling

Joe Posnanski came off his book writing sabbatical to pile on in the Royals debacle.

"The Royals have to fire Allard Baird. Everyone who would care knows how much I like and respect Baird as both a baseball man and a person, but we’re way past all that now. Business is business. And this team is a Royal disaster.

You know all this: The pitchers can’t or won’t throw strikes. The lineup has no speed, no power, no patience and no hope. The two young pitchers the Royals needed to succeed — Zack Greinke and Runelvys Hernandez — are both dealing with serious issues and might never make it back. Veterans like Mark Grudzielanek, Reggie Sanders and Scott Elarton have played like expected, but that has made no difference at all. The team has been absolutely horrible. As one baseball person told me: “This team is drifting beyond our ability to capture it in words.”

It just hasn’t worked. Why? I don’t think it’s just one thing. Royals ownership has not spent much money (even while Forbes says the team made $20 million last year). Baird has swung and missed with free agents. He traded stars Johnny Damon, Jermaine Dye and Carlos Beltran and has not secured even one above-average everyday player. The Royals have done a miserable job developing pitchers, despite the hiring and firing of a half-dozen pitching coaches. And there has been some bad luck.

Perhaps more than anything, though, Baird has not figured out a way to create a winning climate in Kansas City.

It’s not an easy job. But it is the job."


I'm a little on the fence on this one. If you read my Five Questions piece on the Royals you'll see I noted how many good things Baird has done along with some of the more inexplicable moves topped off with letting Chip Ambres go and keeping Estaban German. That said, it's not like this 2-12 start is that surprising. If David Glass thought he was getting a .500 team this year then he was sadly mistaken or mislead. And although a 2-12 start is not good, things are not as bad as they might seem. Anything can happen in 14 games and losing perhaps your best starting pitcher to a strange ailment and having your best hitter in a horrible slump certainly didn't help. What if the Royals were 4-10 or 5-9? Would anyone be surprised? Would the buzzards be circling? It just seems like if the ownership had no confidence in Baird they should have fired him in the offseason. Seems less like "business is business" and instead a little bit like a scapegoat situation now. In addition it will put the new GM at a disadvantage if they want to go in a different direction especially with the draft just 8 weeks away. BTW, Kevin Goldstein had some interesting comments on the Royals perhaps moving away from drating Andrew Miller in favor of a lower priced option.

I listened to Frank White on MLB radio this morning talking about the prospects at Wichita right now and he said he told those guys that the reason the Royals went out and signed a few veteran free agents was to give them time to develop. To me that's a reasonable approach although as I mentioned previously I think they over did it a little bit on the pitching side and with Sanders (2 year contract). Now, I do think Baird has given way too much slack to Runelvys Hernandez and Jimmy Gobble, both of whom they should have cut loose awhile back.

But again, it seems a little disingenous for everyone to be so surprised.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Hargove's Aggressiveness

My column on BP this week deals with the new aggressive baserunning style of Mariners manager Mike Hargrove. It turns out that as measured by my baserunning framework the Mariners were already a pretty good baserunning team last season (at least if you don't count stolen bases). I also take a quick look at run downs and was a little surprised that when a runner gets in a run down of any length (meaning more than 2 throws) he was put out 99% of the time in 2005.

What prompted the article were some questions from a reporter for The Oregonian which he summed up here.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Greinke Surprise

Zack Greinke is back in Surprise and Dick Kaegel wrote a nice piece on that discusses his departure from the team in spring training and some interesting quotes from Greinke himself on his problems.

It could take him some time before he's ready to pitch again at the major league level and I wouldn't be surprised that having rushed him the first time around, Baird and company will keep him in Wichita and/or Omaha for the majority of the season. This season is already lost and so it certainly wouldn't help to rush him any.

Sabr What?

Don't know if anyone else caught this the other night but on Baseball Tonight two nights ago former Mets General Manager Steve Phillips was discussing the Red Sox situation with Jonathan Papelbon in the closer role. In the course of his comments he said something to the effect that sabermetricians might argue that Papelbon should be moved to the rotation once Keith Foulke is deemed fully recovered since in that role Papelbon will face more batters and you want your best pitchers to face the most batters. He poo-poooed that notion on the grounds that Papelbon is "settled" in the closer role and it would not be good for either him or the team to disrupt him.

Now, clearly Papelbon has been lights out thus far recording 7 saves in 7 opportunities and while not giving up a run and striking out 8 in 8 innings with only 3 hits and 2 walks. Of course Foulke is not quite the pitcher he once was. But when you look at the Red Sox rotation you see that Matt Clement is struggling and with David Wells out they could use another starter despite the lights out work of Curt Schilling and Josh Beckett. That said, as Dayn Perry showed in his book Winners, relievers simply don't pitch enough to as valuable as starters and so the sabermetric argument is sound. The decision though should really hinge on whether any of the other Red Sox relievers can step into the setup man role vacated by Foulke- a point missed by Phillips entirely.

But what I found most entertaining about the segment was that Chris Berman, Harold Reynolds of What the Heck is O-P-S fame, and John Kruk were all somewhat taken aback and found the term "sabermetrician" more amusing than anything. I think it was Kruk who said "sabr what?" Bill James among others has said that they don't particularly like the term "sabermetrics" and reactions like this tend to reinforce the notion that we who purvey such ideas should probably stick with a term like "performance analysis" or simply "numerical analysis" when discussing these ideas.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Rocky Mountain SABR News and Notes

Spent a great day with Rocky Mountain SABR today. The day started with a business meeting in the press box lounge at Coors Field. The most interesting item discussed is a plaque that the chapter is having created and that will be installed near Invesco Field pointing out the previous location of Bears Stadium (old Mile High) where the Denver Bears were for a long time the presence of professional baseball in Denver. Looks like the ceremony may be sometime in May of this year, perhaps on the 19th.

The keynote speaker was Rockies first base coach Dave Collins. Collins is in his fourth season as the Rockies first base coach and is also the team’s outfield and baserunning instructor. This is his fourth organization as a coach having worked for the Cardinals in 1991-92, the Reds from 1999-2000, and the Brewers in 2002. He’s also down everything from working as an advanced scout, a baserunning and bunting coach for the Tigers in 1996, and managed the Rockies high-A affiliate in Salem in 2001 (where he had Garrett Atkins, Matt Holliday, Clint Barmes, Aaron Cook, and Choo Freeman).

What I found most interesting about his talk was how amazingly candid he was in all areas including his assessment of his own skills, feelings about former teammates and managers, and especially his thoughts about the young players the Rockies are now grooming.

He began by relating the story of how he was drafted. He grew up in South Dakota and at that time they didn't even have high school baseball. They did a legion level baseball in what was known as the Basin League. It turned out that a scout attended one of those games and happened to sit next to a guy who had attended the state track meet who had seen Collins win multiple events. He had also heard that Collins played baseball and so the scout made a trip up to see Collins three days before the draft. After pitching to Collins and watching him run and throw he discussed it with him and told Collins that he would draft him. Sure enough the Angels then selected him in first round (6th pick) of the 1972 amateur draft (Secondary Phase). Although he didn't have the skills scouts generally look for, Collins feels that he was drafted because the scout saw in him an attitude of "must have" instead of "want to have" and it was that heart and determination that allowed him to succeed thereafter.

When he got to rookie ball he was intimidated by the talent (except running) of the other players but he says what he learned is that the "talent" you need can be developed if you get the right teaching and instruction. What can't be taught is how bad to want it - so called makeup. Turns out he was the only player who made it to the bigs from that rookie league team and he attributes that to the fact that he always believed he was going to make it.

He then went on to describe his playing career and was emphatic in stating that the turning point for him came when he was traded to the Reds following the 1978 season. He obviously reveres his teammates from those days and made a special point of noting that Pete Rose was like no one else. His enthusiasm, intensity, and work-ethic were second to none, and that enabled him to raise the level everyone around him.

Later when he was asked the inevitable question about Rose and the Hall of Fame he not surprisingly said that Rose should be inducted as a player because of his great accomplishments. However, and on this I certainly agree, Rose does not deserve to make any money from the game today because of what he's done. In Collins' words "actions have consequences" and Pete must pay for his. His view is one that clearly delineates Rose's playing career from his managing career - something that not everyone is able or willing to do. As I've said before, if it can't be shown that Rose bet on baseball during his playing days, then he deserves induction as a player. However, I'd heard in the past that his betting may not have been relegated to his managing days in Cincinnati.

As a way of illustrating the attitude of Rose Collins related this anecdote. When Pete was going for his 4,000th hit he was 13 away but had 6 games to go before getting back to Cincinnati. When asked by a reporter if he thought he'd break the record before the home fans, Rose immediately said no, he would break the record in the last game of the current series or the first game of the next. His reasoning was that he'd get 13 at bats by then and his mindset was that he'd get 13 hits in a row. To emphasize the point Collins said with a straight face - "that's the way Pete Rose thought".

From there his remarks turned to the current crop of Rockies. His attitude is that the Rox will win the division if they develop that winning attitude. He was quick to add that a division title will be possible because there is no 100 win team in the division. In his view, this season will show who among the young players is the heart of the team and who are the true teammates - who are the "victors" and who are the "victims".

He holds Clint Barmes in very high regard as a winner, leader, a player with heart, and although not the most skilled, a player who will find a way to beat you. If you challenge him he'll respond. In his view there is a big difference between stats and what it takes to help a team win. In Barmes' case I hope that's true since statistically I simply don't see how he helps the team win hitting at the top of the order.

Well, he had lots more to say, from the effects of expansion, the impact of Marvin Miller, and especially regarding positioning of outfielders and baserunning given the Rockies array of blunders over the past two weeks but I'll have to save those for later.

I came away from the talk (which lasted almost 90 minutes with questions) with a great deal of respect for Collins despite our likely differing views on a variety of topics related to baseball strategy in particular. He seems like a man of high character and as he says himself, he views his role as that of mentor and not coach which I admire. Although I know our chapter president Neal Williams will extend the official thank-you I know I certainly appreciated Collins' giving his time and insight to our group.

After a nice lunch at a local pub our SABR group then headed back to the ballpark for a prviate tour of Coors Field. Finally, I'm here in the press box getting ready to score tonight's Phillies/Rockies game for And I'd be remiss if I didn't note that these kinds of experiences are normative for SABR members so of course I'd encourage anyone with a passion for baseball to sign up.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Platoons and Chats

Two new links on BP yesterday. First, I had an article on variation in platoon splits that discusses why it is that the performance analysis community doesn't seem to take platoon splits very seriously. The short answer is that there is so much variability inherent in them particularly due to small sample sizes that it's very difficult to get a read on true split ability which makes them less valuable as a tool for projection.

And then I did a chat yesterday and so you can read the transcript. Thanks to everyone who submitted questions (especially those who did so ahead of time).

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Summer Job

If I were a college student in the San Diego area this would be my first choice for a summer job...

DEPARTMENT: Baseball Operations
REPORTS TO: Director, Baseball Operations
EXPECTED HOURS/SCHEDULE: 40 hours per week (late May to August 15, 2006)

Assist with database manipulation and integrity Assist with internal web coding and building Assist with research projects Assist with data entry

Help complete internal database/website functionality Implement data integrity and uniform schemas

Must meet the following minimum requirements:

Currently enrolled student in a college or university or recent graduate within 2 years majoring in Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, or some other form of a Science/Analytical background.

Knowledge of baseball or other professional sports preferred.

Experience with data manipulation (PGSQL preferred).

Advanced knowledge of PHP5.

Familiarity with a scripting language (Perl, Python, or Ruby preferred).

Organized, able to follow directions and meet all deadlines established.

Able to work independently and make appropriate decisions based on experience and guidelines.

Flexible scheduling - may be required to work evenings, weekends and holidays as needed for position.

Consistent, punctual and regular attendance.

Professional image and demeanor.

Strong ability to work well with co-workers and supervisors in a team environment.

TO APPLY: Please submit your cover letter and resume in MS Word format to by May 1, 2006. In your cover letter please indicate how you heard about this posting.

The San Diego Padres is an Equal Opportunity Employer and conducts employment background screening including a check of criminal records, past employment verification and drug screening.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Old Coors?

Received this note this morning which I thought was interesting...

"With the opening of the new Busch Stadium in St. Louis yesterday, Coors Field moves from seventh to sixth on the list of oldest ballparks in the National League. With the Mets breaking ground on a new facility later this year, the Nationals' situation moving toward resolution and the Marlins wondering about their future, it is quite possible that on Opening Day, 2009 Coors Field will be the third oldest baseball cathedral in the NL."

"Only Wrigley Field and Dodger Stadium will have served longer."

Sunday, April 09, 2006


Well, here on the front range folks are smiling after the three game sweep the Rockies laid on the Padres this weekend in San Diego which was completed with a 10-4 win today. That performance is especially good news after last season when the Rox lost their first six road games on their way to a 7-36 start away from Coors Field.

Fellow BP writer Paul Swydan also reports that in sweeping the Padres the Rockies set a record for runs scored by a visiting team in PETCO park with 32 (10, 12, 10 in the three games). They also became the first team to score 10 or more runs in three consecutive games at PETCO.

Corey Sullivan also hit two triples in one inning today (one courtesy of Termell Sledge), the first time that's happened since 1951.

But among all the good news and prolific scoring I still believe that in the long run this team will have difficulty scoring runs. In both Saturday's and Sunday's game the Rox put up 7 run innings where they did most of their damage. On Friday night they had a 4 runs and 3 run inning. That's lots of crooked numbers but scoring them in such large bunches may be more indicative of good fortune than a sustained offensive attack.

More importantly though, if you look more closely at their offensive statistics you see a team that has scored 42 runs in five games which is very good but has drawn just 21 walks and struck out a league leading 59 times. Now I'm certainly not one to argue that strikeouts take alot away from your offensive output, but a strikeout to walk ratio so poor shows that the Rockies have lots of free swingers who show little plate discipline. Of those 21 walks nearly half (9) are from Todd Helton and 5 of them are intentional (4 to Helton). That's a lotta swingin.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Wins and Environment

Today's column on BP talks about Win Expectancy and especially Keith Woolner's fine article "Adventures in Win Expectancy" in BP2K6. In that article Woolner provided a table and slopes and intercepts for calculating win expectancy for various offensive events in different run environments based on his Win Expectancy (WX) framework.

Since traditionally Win Expectancy is calculated directly from play by play data it's obviously only useful when PBP is available - which goes back to 1960 or so. I use the table to caculate WX back to 1876 and then show the results for individual seasons and careers so that Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb etc. can be included.

To give you a preview I also show a few graphs that map the WX for different offensive events over time. A graph that doesn't appear in the article, for the American League, is shown below.

The interesting aspect of course is that as the run environment declines, the WX for these events increases. Somewhat paradoxically, homeruns were worth more in the deadball era than today.

You'll need to subscribe to BP to see the rest... :)


If you haven't seen yet, go take a look. I have it setup in Newsgator and is a great way to scan the baseball headlines. And just when you thought the drama in Washington was over you get this.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Helton and Company

Quick report on my first day of scoring for of the 2006 season. It was a 6:35 game with the Rockies taking on the Diamondbacks.

Although I arrived a bit late due to traffic and had some trouble with the printer (new cartridge etc.) I had everything setup and ready to go by 6:15 just as the clouds parted which I took as a good omen.

Orlando Hernandez started for the D'Backs against Aaron Cook for the Rockies. Hernandez threw his usual collection of junk from various arm angles and varied his speed from 62 to 89 mph in his 5 innings of work. He struck out 8 and was particularly tough on young free swingers Matt Holliday and Brad Hawpe. Todd Helton, however, had little trouble waiting on his pitches and hit two doubles in the first and in the third to drive in the Rockies first run.

Cook on the other hand had a rough start and was quickly down 2-0. His control wasn't sharp in the first inning but he righted the ship and pitched 7 pretty strong innings giving up three runs and walking just one batter. His sinker was working and he was able to record 16 ground ball outs.

What was most disappointing was that in the 5th inning with the game tied Cook singled to lead off the inning bringing up Cory Sullivan. Manager Clint Hurdle elected to bunt and Sullivan laid down the sacrifice. Clint Barmes followed with a strikeout and of course Helton was then intentionally walked. Holliday struck out for the third consecutive time against Hernandez to end the inning. In the 7th Choo Freeman led off with a single pinch hitting for Cook and Hurdle, who apparently wasn't watching in the 5th, again had Sullivan sacrifice. This time Barmes popped up in foul territory, Helton was walked, and Holliday grounded meakly into a force out to end the inning.

What's most frustrating is that in both instances the sequence of events that actually transpired were the most probable and yet Hurdle apparently didn't see it. Holliday wasn't evne close to hitting Hernandez and so immediately when Sullivan squared it was as if the rest of the inning had been played out. Some of you know I'm not a big Clint Barmes fan and have a feeling he may lose his job to Luis Gonzalez or Jamie Carroll before the season is out. Barmes is so easily jammed that it's surprising he ever gets a pitch out away from him.

It will be an excruciatingly long year if Helton is intentionally walked 70 times and Holliday doesn't stop swinging at everything in sight. And if Hurdle doesn't have any confidence in Sullivan he shouldn't hit him leadoff. With his speed you would think he'd be able to beat out some double play balls.

To add insult to injury Sullivan walked with one out in the 9th and the score 4-2 D'Backs. Barmes, after fouling off several pitches at 1-1 swung through fastball and Sullivan (with Helton on deck) was promptly picked off first by catcher Johnny Estrada to end the game. Oh well, Helton probably would have been walked anyway.

All in all though, a good first day and as always it's great to be at the ballpark.

Breaking 100 Historically

I made a contribution to Ron's Breaking 100 blog that will track the Royals quest to lose 99 games...or fewer that looks at what happened the year after a team lost 100 games.

Rollins and the Yankee Clipper

Alan Reifman is tracking the probability of Jimmy Rollins tying Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak. He calculates that Rollins has about a 1 in 100 chance of tying the record in the best case and a 1 in 1,000 chance in the worst case.

The Phillies take on the Cardinals tonight at 7:05 ET with Mark Mulder against Brett Myers.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Negativity in Royal Nation

Nice article by Joe Posnanski in the Kansas City Star on the Royals of 2006. He quotes the ending of my preview piece on THT in noting that much of what's been written about the Royals has been negative this offseason.

Well, it's hard not to be on the negative side when you've followed this team over the last 10 years but I did have some good things to say as well including the improved prospect situation and the young and talented arms.

And I am wearing my Royals hat and wind-breaker as I head off to work so that must count for something.

Here We Go Again

I love opening day and wish that Cincinnati would still get the honor of throwing out the first pitch, but still it was great to plunk down in front of the White Sox/Indians game last night.

Of course, then John Miller started right in with "small ball" and talking about the White Sox as if they were the "Go-Go Sox" of 1959 again. And this morning over at the lead story says:

"A sold-out crowd of 38,802 was treated to Ozzie Guillen's usual brand of small ball, with Brian Anderson and Jermaine Dye both swiping bases, not to mention great situational hitting up and down the order."

They also had 10 hits, picked up 9 walks, a three-run homerun from Jim Thome, and left 7 runners on base on their way to scoring 10 runs. I was hoping that the zillion times it's been pointed out over the course of the offseason that the White Sox offense was fueled by the homerun in 2005 would start to sink in. But beat writers need good story lines and this is one that fits so nicely into our preconceived notions that it's difficult to let go of.

Looking foward to my first regular season day with MLB.TV ready to go and the Cubs kicking off at 12:15 MT.