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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Rain Delay Musings

I'm scoring the Rockies/Phillies game at Coors Field tonight and in the very first inning the rains came causing the game to be delayed. So more to entertain myself than you here are a few random thoughts on the passing scene (to borrow a phrase).

  • Angering the Gods? - Before the rain delay Jimmy Rollins homered to right field on the 3rd pitch of the game from Rodrigo Lopez. After a Chase Utley double off the right field wall with one out Ryan Howard lofted a fly ball down the left field line and it just made its way over the wall for a two-run homer. Before the homer lightning had been evident out beyond left field and I think when Howard hit that ball there was an accompanying roar of thunder. Very strange and more than a little distracting to say the least. Rollins homerun was the 100th of his career and on 6/27 Howard hit his 100th and in the process becoming the fastest player to do so (325 games).

  • More Pitchf/x - A couple more articles on using the Gameday data for analysis were written by Joe P. Sheehan and John Beamer. In Joe's article I love the idea of looking at this data from a consistency standpoint and am not surprised that Joe doesn't see much of a difference between starts. While it's probably the case that there are some pitchers whose success hinges on good stuff on a particular night, those are likely the more marginal pitchers. And my assumption is that location and pitch selection in specific situations would vary more than a measurement of "stuff". Better pitchers like Halladay simply have good stuff and differences between good and bad starts also have a lot to do with simply luck in which balls are hit at fielders and which aren't. This would be a topic to revisit after we have a few thousand pitches for starters in good and bad starts. John, on the other hand does a profile of Tim Hudson much like I've done for King Felix, Tim Wakefield, and Daisuke Matsuzaka. What he adds, and what I'm just getting around to, is sorting out pitch types using a clustering algorithm. I've recently gotten ahold of an implementation of one such algorithm in my programming language of choice so I'm excited to see how it can be modified or customized for this type of data.

  • And a Clarification - Related to PITCHf/x one of the questions I get most frequently and haven't explained very well is just what the measurements of vertical and horizontal movement are relative to. In short, they are measured relative to a theoretical "reference pitch" defined as a pitch thrown at the minimu with the same release velocity and release point but with no spin. Therefore a pitch that has a vertical movement of 11 inches like many four-seam fastballs doesn't actually rise four inches but rather drops 11 inches less than the reference pitch. As a result the way to get a more intuitive measurements of the movement of a pitch, especially vertically, one needs to have a feel for the trajectory of the reference pitch. While this can be inferred from looking at the data I don't possess the parameters for calculating exactly the trajectory of the reference pitch.

  • MLB2K7 Gets a Thumbs Up - I bought this game for XBox 360 a month or two ago and have great fun playing it. Compared to MLB2K6 this is head and shoulders a better game. They've adjusted the way fielding works by allowing you to have your fielders sprint and their reaction times to your movements are much snappier. The graphics are better and there seem to be more signature stances and windups for various players. I've had no issues with the game seeming to go crazy in terms of offense or pitching when playing in franchise mode like I did last year and the various game levels seem to incrementally make the game harder in an appropriate way. I'm playing the Cubs in franchise mode and am hovering at .500 by playing some of the games and managing others. Unfortunately the manager interface has not changed and so it still lacks all of the strategic options of the real-time game play and most annoyingly does not let you warm up pitchers when at bat. One cool thing is that through XBox Live I was able to download Olympic Stadium and they say there will be other retro parks added in the future including the Polo Grounds and Fores Field among others.

  • Ted and Ted - I didn't realize that Cubs pitcher Ted Lilly was named after Teddy Roosevelt who once employed Lilly's grandfather. Very cool.

  • Rox Surge? - The Rockies are now 25-16 since May 22nd (second only to Seattle at 28-15) after last night's walk-off win in extras after a Brad Hawpe two-out, homer to dead center in the bottom of the ninth tied the game. The Rox are now 25-18 at home and 18-25 on the road following that miserable 1-9 road trip where they lost in walk-off fashion four times and that saw Brian Fuentes blow four saves. The offense seems to be firing on all cylinders and it's clear that the addition of Ryan Spilborghs after the John Mabry/Steve Finley experiments failed miserably. Spilborghs has 24 RBI with his 26 hits and is 4 for 5 in his most recent pinch-hitting chances and 7 for 17 overall. One of the things that has most impressed me this season in watching the Rockies is how Willy Taveras bunts. He now has 27 bunt hits on the season with the next closest player having 8. He also has 40 infield hits which leads the majors. I haven't looked it up but my guess is that he's successful around 80% of the time when attempting to bunt for a hit which seems pretty remarkable.

  • The tarp is coming off the field and so we'll be resuming here at some point. Right now, however, the grounds crew is wrestling with the tarp as it catches 20 mph gusts of wind and drags them to and fro.

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