FREE hit counter and Internet traffic statistics from

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Game Three Notes

I worked the game last night for which was certainly an experience in and of itself and too strange to relate here. So instead here are a couple thoughts on the game itself...

  • Here we go again. Right off the bat it seemed that the Rockies were in for a long night when Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia got hits on balls that weren't well-struck to say the least. Josh Fogg was fortunate to get out of the jam after striking out David Ortiz and going to 2-0 on both Manny Ramirez and Mike Lowell.

  • Poor Decision. The top of the third was fraught with poor decision making it seemed. After Ellsbury doubled Pedroia put down a bunt that for some reason Fogg decided to let Yorvit Torrealba field. Having to come so far towards the mound Torrealba had no chance to get Pedroia at first. Clint Hurdle then went too long with Fogg and allowed him to pitch to Mike Lowell and Jason Varitek before unintentionally-intentionally walking Julio Lugo. It was clear at this point that Fogg simply didn't have it and would have to be taken out shortly regardless. Given that the season was hanging in the balance I would have expected a strikeout pitcher to be up in the pen.

    At the time the only thought I could conjure up as to why he would still be in the game is that his spot was coming up first in the bottom of the third. Even so, with Cory Sullivan in centerfield and two potential centerfielders on the bench, Hurdle could have and should have opted to double switch then and there (something he ended up doing the next time around the order with Ryan Spilborghs). But after the Daisuke Matsuzaka single he was pulled for Franklin Morales anyway who retired Pedroia for the final out. What was perplexing was that, now down 6-0, Morales was allowed to lead off the bottom of the third. Although he's a good hitting pitcher and he pitched well in his 2.3 innings of work the game situation dictated that no outs from this point forward could afford to be wasted.

  • Formualic. When Matt Herges came in to the game in the seventh he disposed of the Sox hittrs on three strikeouts and 13 pitches inducing four swinging strikes. Despite his success and that with the game now at 6-5 and the prospect of extra innings, Hurdle opted to follow his formula to the letter and bring Brian Fuentes into the game. That it didn't work out doesn't really matter, at the time it seemed like a questionable move.

  • Good Umpiring. Both contentious calls last night (Ramirez getting called out at the plate and Varitek thrown out at first by Troy Tulowitzki) were called correctly by the umpires.

  • Bad Luck. Although the Red Sox are the stronger team and would win perhaps around 70% of the series against the Rockies if one could play it over and over again, once again the Rockies got a taste of what the Phillies and DBacks experienced in the previous two series. Three defensive plays, one by Cory Sullivan on a sinking liner to his right, one by Troy Tulowitzki on a Coco Crisp liner up the middle, and the other by Brad Hawpe on a ball down the right field line, were an eyelash from being caught. Meanwhile, pinch hitters Jeff Baker and Willy Taveras both hit line drives that were caught by Sox infielders.
  • Friday, October 26, 2007

    Game Two Notes

    Just a few notes from Game Two..

  • During the pre-game show Eric Byrnes, Kevin Kennedy, and Eric Karros all pile on to the "rust and too much rest excuse". Gee, how predictable was that? At least Kennedy noted that it was difficult to tell given that Josh Beckett was so overpowering.

  • Nice stat on Willy Taveras bunting only 17 of 176 times towards the first base line in his career. I've written about Taveras' bunting ability this season on several occasions and have certainly noticed that he has a decided preference for using the third base line. He needs to work on bunting down the first base line as well in order to bring the first baseman in and take advantage of lesser fielders like Kevin Youkilis and obviously David Ortiz in game 3 when needed.

  • I thought the second inning discussion of Ubaldo Jimenez using his curveball at altitude versus 20 feet above sea level at Boston was interesting. I wrote on this topic a few weeks ago and showed that Coors Field was at the bottom in movement on fastballs and third from the bottom in curves. For fastballs I found that at Coors they drop more--roughly two inches - presumably because the backspin on the fastball doesn't counteract gravity as well in air that is less dense. They also don't tail as much by about 2.3 inches. Curveballs seem to have roughly the same movement vertically but break 1.6 inches less horizontally than curves thrown on the road. In order to make this calculation I compared pitchers who threw fastballs and curves both at Coors Field and on the road and so Jimenez was included in the analysis. For Jimenez I had 103 pitches at Coors Field with an average pFX (the hypotenuse of the triangle defined by the vertical and horizontal movement and thus incorporating movement in both vectors) of 9.92 inches and 61 pitches on the road with a pFX of 8.05 inches. So perhaps this is just small sample size or measurement problems or park differences in the road parks but I didn't see any negative difference at Coors for Jimenez.

  • Early on Jimenez was being aggressive in the strike zone as you can do when you have his stuff. I loved the microphone on Bob Apodaca as he reiterated that Jimenez needed to stay aggressive. That's a great use of that technology.

  • The strikeouts of Ryan Spilborghs in the fifth inning and seventh innings and Willy Taveras in the ninth were all on pitches that were clearly inside. The first was almost three inches inside, the second about two and half, and the third an inch. That said, that pitch was being called a strike pretty consistently by Laz Diaz and in fact there were 15 called strikes that were technically balls on that side of the plate. There's no excuse for the Rockies hitters in not recognizing how the zone was being called and adjusting. Elevne of the fifteen called strikes were on Rockies hitters.

  • Gotta love this quote. Tim McCarver on David Ortiz . . . "one of the great clutch hitters of his era". Well, if by era you mean 2005 and 2006 then he has a point.

  • By the end of the third inning "Jimenez looked like he started to overthrow and his release point became inconsistent". And "Jimenez seemed to lose his mechanics after 60 or 70 pitches and was fortunate to get out with only two runs". I jotted both notes down during the third and fourth inning unaware that Will Carroll had posted something similar on BP Unfiltered. This morning I went back and checked and the result is the following plot of his release point in innings one through three and four and five (The perspective is from the catcher with a negative horizontal component indicating a release towards third base. These are also reflected of the ball at 50 feet from the plate and are therefore not "true" release points).

    As you can see it is more varied (red) in the fourth and fifth and the standard deviation in both the horizontal and vertical components is about three quarters of an inch higher.

  • Another great quote. Joe Buck on Garrett Atkins while talking with Clint Hurdle: "Atkins looks like he can cover a ton of ground over at third base". Looks can be deceiving and neither the fans (-20 in Tango's fan scouting report) or the numbers (-17 in BP's FRAR) back up that assessment. The single by Manny Ramirez in the fifth inning past a diving Atkins was more typical of what you see when you watch him over and over. The fact is that he is not a good third baseman.

  • Matt Holliday makes the single biggest boneheaded baserunning play I've seen this season. End of story. Yes, Jonathan Papelbon had not picked off anyone in his big league career but you get the feeling that he could have stepped off the rubber, dropped the ball, fetched it, and tossed it underhand to Youkilis and Holliday still would have been out.
  • Thursday, October 25, 2007

    Game One and BIPChart

    This week in my column I provide an updated version of the Balls In Play Chart software that includes 2007 data as well as a couple of new features showing batting average on balls in play and a grid view. In total the application contains data from 2003 through 2007 for both hitters and pitchers. You'll need the .NET Framework 2.0 runtime in order to run the software. Any suggestions for improvements would be welcome of course. The column also includes a discussion of home plate umpiring in the postseason and how it compares to the regular season using PITCHf/x data and a pretty graphic on the actual size of the strike zone.

    Well, Game One was less than exciting as the Sox jumped all over the Rockies and Jeff Francis. To me, Francis looked like he did back in 2005 when he allowed a .376/.414/.518 line in the first inning. He seemed to have solved that problem somewhat in 2006 and his numbers weren't as bad in 2007 but last night he wasn't able to locate the fastball which forced him to throw more fastballs down in the count which of course led to hard hit balls all over the place. More than most pitchers the first inning is the key to his success.

    Predictably the story lines out of much of the mainstream media are about the layoff and rustiness as well as the difference between the two leagues in terms of quality. I doubt that either played much of a role in last night's outcome as Josh Beckett was simply overpowering for much of the evening and Rockies pitchers couldn't find the strike zone. There's also lots of talk about Terry Francona's decision to leave Beckett in the game in the sixth and seventh innings although the game was sewed up. Although statheads like to talk about bringing back pitchers on short rest in situations like these I don't think you do that with Beckett. Rather, he should have been removed from the game because of the small but real risk of injury on a line drive, covering first, fielding a bunt or squibber on the wet surface, or even hurting his pitching arm. There's simply no defensible reason for leaving him in the game under those circumstances.

    I like the matchup tonight for the Rockies with Ubaldo Jimenez on the mound. He can get by at times with less than great command because of the movement on his pitches and if he has both working, the Sox could be in for a long evening. Curt Schilling has to be the finer of the two and so could be hit around some.

    Incidentally, both Eric Karros and Ken Rosenthal were less than stellar as Karros talked about the Rockies only taking batting practice for eight days and not mentioning the intrasquad games they played while Rosenthal had the Rockies playing the Cubs in the NLDS rather than the Phillies. Hopefully, they'll be a little better prepared tonight.

    Wednesday, October 24, 2007

    You Gotta Have Faith

    Just a couple thoughts before Game One tonight in Boston.

    First, I thought this was an interesting article on the Rockies, faith, and how they've put their team together. It's funny how when you're winning things like this are spun in a neutral to positive fashion and when you're losing they're seen as part of the problem.

    Like many folks in the area I too have a Rockies-ticket-buying-horror-story to tell. On Monday morning I was of course shut out as were all but 500 others. On Tuesday I had three computers running and twice was taken to the page allowing (supposedly) ticket purchases. After selecting four best available (section 121 row 26 for Game Four), getting the seats, entering the credit card, and verifying it, I was at, presumably, the final screen. After clicking the button it spun and spun for about three minutes and when it finally returned it said my reservation had timed out. On the three or four previous screens I had spent probably a total of 20 seconds in data entry and so the timeout consisted entirely of the response time from their servers. On the same machine I was able to access the transaction a couple seconds later (since they used a cookie per machine approach) but that browser could not access the cart information and the session died. I was hoping that perhaps the order went through and I'd receive a confirmation email but to no avail...

    I think it's pretty clear that the company that runs the system simply wasn't prepared for the load and then tried to shift blame by claiming a malicious denial of service attack. Their tentativeness in saying that they could have been a target of such an attack smells funny and the fact that all they apparently changed was upping the wait time from 60 to 120 seconds indicates that they were trying to lighten the load. I hope the Rockies and MLB aren't buying the excuses. It's also clear that after looking at the HTML code they used to put up a timer, a program could easily have been written (and I'm sure was by ticket brokers as evidenced by the thousands upon thousands of tickets that now grace StubHub and EBay) to "force your way in line" and therefore have a better chance of acquiring seats.

    It's too bad that local fans didn't have much of a shot at acquiring seats. Although the Rockies rightly claim that internet sales are the most equitable way to sell tickets (assuming you have the technology) there are other considerations to be made as well.

    Sunday, October 21, 2007

    Around the Bases in 2007 (and 1987)

    Last week in my column at Baseball Prospectus I revealed the 2007 numbers in my five baserunning metrics. Somewhat suprisingly Juan Pierre took the top spot at +11.47 runs by recording positive values in all five categories but doing especially well in runs on stolen bases (EqSBR) and advancing on hits (EqHAR). Together those accounted for over nine runs with EqSBR at +3.93 and EqHAR at +5.09. Other leaders included Luis Castillo (+9.41), Coco Crisp (+8.60), Brian Roberts (+8.43), and Jose Reyes (+7.90). Readers of the original article will note that there Castillo was credited with +8.42. However, upon further inspection his EqOAR (other advancement including wild pitches, passed balls, and balks) was incorrect dues to overcounting his opportunities because of his playing for both the Twins and Mets and so that went up from 2.78 to 3.77.

    On the other end of the spectrum the Tribe's Ryan Garko recorded a -8.83, -7.25 coming on hit advancement by virtue of being thrown out five times (most in the majors) but otherwise not advancing very frequently. His poor showing in that metric easily bested the previous low set by Pat Burrell in 2005 (-5.60).

    As mentioned in the article these are essentially counting statistics and so the number of opportunities does matter. For that reason I also have rate statistics for these metrics that I'll break out again in a future column. Also look for team results at that time as well.

    Although I haven't run the numbers for all Retrosheet seasons, in honor of the 2007 numbers I thought I'd take a look back 20 years and run the 1987 top and bottom 20.

    Name Opps EqGAR Opps EqSBR Opps EqAAR Opps EqHAR Opps EqOAR EqRuns
    Vince Coleman 59 2.41 140 6.55 50 1.74 56 2.39 406 0.83 13.92
    Willie Wilson 60 0.41 69 7.06 39 0.08 36 3.90 369 0.70 12.15
    Tim Raines 31 -0.41 56 6.92 34 0.41 48 2.38 390 0.91 10.21
    Tony Gwynn 52 0.26 65 1.95 40 1.35 58 3.54 458 2.34 9.44
    Eric Davis 36 1.23 58 2.59 20 0.81 24 2.14 248 1.17 7.94
    Lenny Dykstra 38 1.86 35 2.58 33 0.53 37 1.36 272 1.35 7.68
    Ozzie Smith 50 0.82 50 2.28 53 1.61 66 2.48 522 0.18 7.37
    Ozzie Guillen 43 1.77 34 0.80 27 0.60 23 2.05 299 1.99 7.20
    Milt Thompson 38 1.26 57 3.11 28 0.68 37 1.28 336 0.86 7.19
    Luis Polonia 29 1.44 37 1.74 34 0.17 32 2.94 319 0.86 7.15
    Joe Carter 25 1.04 38 2.89 26 0.51 21 1.22 262 1.25 6.90
    Phil Bradley 51 -0.28 49 2.91 43 0.60 43 -0.07 451 3.63 6.80
    Billy Hatcher 35 0.25 69 2.69 41 1.04 24 2.64 355 -0.12 6.50
    Gary Redus 39 0.49 64 4.15 28 0.78 35 1.35 286 -0.62 6.16
    Oddibe McDowell 32 1.01 28 3.84 24 0.93 25 -0.34 224 0.37 5.81
    Lou Whitaker 49 -0.44 20 -0.08 36 0.20 57 1.67 432 3.83 5.18
    Steve Sax 47 0.71 49 2.33 44 0.10 44 2.15 376 -0.27 5.01
    Dick Schofield 33 0.60 22 2.53 17 0.08 15 0.73 261 0.50 4.45
    Ellis Burks 38 0.79 33 1.87 41 -0.01 40 1.28 345 0.27 4.20
    Paul Molitor 34 -0.35 58 5.11 0 0.00 0 0.00 332 -0.63 4.13
    Terry Pendleton 35 0.60 30 -4.23 29 -0.96 38 0.65 352 -0.12 -4.06
    Alvin Davis 26 0.00 1 -0.23 30 -0.81 41 -2.25 340 -0.81 -4.10
    Alfredo Griffin 20 -1.05 42 -2.46 28 0.74 30 -0.42 238 -0.95 -4.14
    Shane Mack 15 -0.09 11 -3.27 4 -1.00 17 -0.19 132 0.20 -4.35
    Bo Diaz 34 -1.48 1 0.16 13 -0.67 32 -1.68 220 -0.75 -4.41
    Eddie Murray 28 -0.46 4 -1.51 35 -1.81 25 0.06 340 -0.79 -4.51
    Harold Baines 13 -0.60 0 0.00 20 -0.16 34 -3.48 285 -0.49 -4.74
    Keith Moreland 21 -0.50 6 -2.15 17 -0.56 33 -0.40 238 -1.18 -4.79
    A Galarraga 32 -0.70 17 -3.37 18 -0.16 29 -0.30 277 -0.28 -4.81
    Casey Candaele 37 0.14 18 -4.61 35 0.71 49 -0.69 310 -0.52 -4.97
    Mike Young 20 -0.60 18 -2.67 23 0.29 7 -1.24 197 -0.77 -4.99
    Benito Santiago 28 0.30 34 -2.17 12 -0.11 29 -2.64 251 -0.43 -5.05
    Dave Parker 24 0.18 11 -0.88 28 -0.19 37 -4.11 265 -0.07 -5.07
    Mike Kingery 28 -0.90 17 -3.02 19 0.06 21 -0.54 188 -0.75 -5.16
    Carlton Fisk 17 -0.47 5 -2.25 27 -0.55 37 -1.29 234 -0.79 -5.35
    Joey Cora 27 0.02 26 -2.66 13 -1.51 20 -0.50 150 -0.88 -5.53
    Keith Hernandez 13 -0.30 2 -1.03 29 -0.36 41 -3.89 356 -0.10 -5.67
    Mike Pagliarulo 29 -0.50 5 -1.78 18 -1.35 25 -1.44 239 -0.68 -5.76
    Cal Ripken 24 -0.43 8 -1.50 24 -1.64 29 -1.14 330 -1.15 -5.85
    Will Clark 30 -1.23 22 -8.41 22 -0.35 42 1.81 284 0.90 -7.28

    Not surprisingly Vince Coleman takes the top spot at +13.92 runs largely powered by his 109 stolen bases in 131 attempts. But he also scored well in all other categories. Both Willie Wilson and Tim Raines crack 10 plus runs with great stolen base percentages (Wilson at 59 steals in 70 attempts and Raines at 50 of 55) and their advancement on hits. Many of the others in the top 20 aren't big surprises although Lou Whitaker and Phil Bradley are both there courtesy of advancement on wild pitches, passed balls, and walks that while reflecting some skill, is more prone to small samples and luck than advancing on hits.

    On the flip side Will Clark is down over seven runs despite doing decently in many of the metrics. His -8.41 in stolen base runs was the killer as he was caught stealing no less than 17 times in 22 opportunities and remarkably was caught stealing twice at home and three times at third base. Perhaps some of those were broken hit and run plays but one would think that either Clark himself or Roger Craig would have given up the strategy at some point. The others on the bottom are pretty much what you might expect as well with Mike Pagliarulo, Cal Ripken, Carlton Fisk, Eddie Murray, Harold Baines, Keith Moreland, and Andres Galarraga all making an appearance.

    Monday, October 15, 2007

    NLCS Game Three

    Last night I worked the NLCS game three matchup at Coors Field for as a stringer for Gameday. While I was certainly glad that I didn't have to endure the 40 degree and drizzly weather, I was unprepared for the crush of media in the usually uncrowded and spacious press box at Coors Field. After finding my newly assigned seat and enjoying the pre-game press conferences I settled in and despite the unreliable wireless access we were able to get the job done.

    In the end the night was not a good one for Eric Byrnes, a topic I wrote about today on BP Unfiltered. It was also a game that focused in on one plate appearance which was written about by Jenifer Langosch and which I also touch on in the Unfiltered post with the help of PITCHf/x data. For the conditions I thought the game was well played and both managers made solid moves. The only thing I second-guessed was Clint Hurdle's use of both Manny Corpas and Brian Fuentes in the eighth and ninth innings with the three run lead given that there is a game tonight. In that situation I think I would have favored bringing in LaTroy Hawkins or perhaps Ryan Speier and only going to either Fuentes or Corpas if there was trouble. But that's pretty nit-picky since if the Rockies win game three, you may purposefully sit one of the two tonight and roll the dice a little.

    In any case, looking forward to the games again tonight.

    Friday, October 12, 2007

    Chat Transcript 10/12

    Thanks to everyone who participated in the chat today. You can post any other questions here and I'll do my best.

    Thursday, October 11, 2007

    Chatting and Probabilities

    Just a quick reminder that I'll be chatting on Baseball Prospectus at 11am mountain time tomorrow morning. As always you can submit questions and topics to discuss ahead of time...

    Also, my column this week on BP took another look at the atmosphereic effects on pitched balls using PITCHf/x as well as a short rant on probability versus predictions and models versus reality.

    In the latter vein, I ran my simulator for the National League Championship series with the following results:

  • D'Backs win 54.6%, Rockies with 45.4%

  • D'Backs sweep 5.9%, Rockies sweep 5.0%

  • Series goes seven games 33% of the time with the D'Backs winning those contests 61% of the time

  • Series goes six games 31% of the time with the D'Backs winning those 60% of the time

  • The D'Backs do well in the simulator because of their excellent home winning percentage (.617) and the fact they have home field advantage while neither team did well on the road (.491 for the Rockies and .494 for the Snakes). But echoing today's column probabilities like this are not prediction and any model won't factor in all the variables that play into a result in the physical world. In this case the model is simple and takes into account only home and road record along with the series format. It could of course include pitching matchups, health, and head to head matchups, all of which would improve the model. That said, even with a reasonable model seemingly improbable events occur all the time and so don't be surprised if something "improbable" occurs and instead just enjoy the ride.

    Monday, October 08, 2007

    Light Reading

    A couple interesting links:

  • Manny Acta Reads Blogs. Nice little interview here and I appreciated his comments in regards to bunting and Baseball Prospectus.

  • Piling On. We might be seeing more of these articles in the next two months in the wake of the sweep. Dump Aramis Ramirez and pick up A-Rod. While it would be an upgrade for sure both defensively and offensively, I'm wondering whether anyone still thinks A-Rod can play shortstop.

  • Moving Up a Level. This is a topic that Bill James has been talking about for a little while but it involves looking not at how teams win using performance analysis but looking at how leagues can and perhaps should be structured using data analysis. Interesting stuff.
  • Mailing It In

    This is just cruel.

    Sunday, October 07, 2007

    Indians at Yankees, Game 3 Part 6

    Starting in the top of the eighth...

    Final. Indians 4, Yankees 8.

  • Unimpressive. I haven't seen Robinson Cano play much this year but he's now looked poor on two plays. Such are the risks of small sample sizes since Baseball Prospectus' Fielding Runs Above Average have him at +23 in 2007 and Ultimate Zone Rating has him at +15, second in the American League behind Mark Ellis at +25. Derek Jeter, on the other hand, was last in the AL at -27 in UZR and at -6 at BP.

  • Tomorrow, Tomorrow. The Yankees don't replace Joba Chamberlain and he has a 21 pitch inning and gives up a run. For the two innings he throws 38 pitches. Wonder how that will impact tomorrow's game assuming this one ends with a Yankee victory especially not knowing what you're going to get with Mike Mussina as the probable starter tomorrow.

  • Guts. Chip Carey notes that Joe Borowski does it with location and "guts". I'm not sure but I think that means he doesn't have very good stuff. The graphic they showed of his ERA in save and non-save situations was interesting with his save era at around 3.70 and his non-save at over 9.00. The implication of course is that he's better under pressure but I do see from looking at his game logs that he took four losses in 15 non-save situation appearances. In only two other games did he come in with a big lead, pitch poorly and have his team still win.

  • Mariano Rivera finishes it off and we'll have baseball tomorrow night.
  • Indians at Yankees, Game 3 Part 5

    Starting in the top of the sixth...

    End of the seventh inning, Indians 3, Yankees 8.

  • Hard Stuff. Uneventful top of the sixth with Phil Hughes now mixing his pitches nicely. He threw all fastballs to Kenny Lofton in striking him out and 13 of his 18 pitches were fastballs.

  • Done. Like Bob Brenly, also surprised that Jake Westbrook is back out for the bottom of the sixth but that doesn't last long with A-Rod's second single of the night on a changeup. It was clear that Westbrook had lost the confidence in his sinker as he threw just two in five pitches to Rodriguez.

  • Strategic. I really liked the bunt by Doug Mientkiewicz in that situation with nobody out and runners on first and second. That's the situation where, if the idea is to score a single run, the break even value is the lowest it ever is for laying down a sacrifice bunt at under 80% for the general case. In this situation already up by two runs, a third run means raising the win expectancy by over 8%.

  • Busted It Open. The move pays off with the single from Robinson Cano and subsequent error by Trot Nixon in right field that plates three runs and lets Yankee fans breathe a little easier.

  • Joba Rules. Joba Chamberlain hits greater than 98 mph on three pitches to the first two batters and 99.2 on the first pitch to the third, but strikes out the first couple on sliders in the dirt. He tries the same thing to Travis Hafner but he gets it up and Hafner flies out to right field. After the fourth pitch to Hafner Chip Carey says that "last pitch broke a foot and a half". PITCHf/x had it's movement at 9.4 inches horizontally and 7.4 inches horizontally and thrown at 77 mph. Not a foot and a half but a huge break none the less. That said, I hope Brenly is wrong and they don't elect to use him for another inning. With a five-run lead it would seem to be prudent to save him for tomorrow.

  • Wow. Jensen Lewis looks impressive and had an excellent September in 10 games.
  • Indians at Yankees, Game 3 Part 4

    Starting in the top of the fourth...

    End of five innings, Indians 3, Yankees 5.

  • Tailing. Tony Gwynn mentioned that the fastball Phil Hughes threw to strike out Trot Nixon in the fourth was a good running fastball. Generally speaking Hughes' fastball rides more than it tails (I presume the definition of "running" likely includes both). On the season his fastball will typically record a vertical movement value of 12 or more inches, meaning that it comes in about two to three inches higher than a typical fastball thrown at that velocity. The tailing action on his fastball, however, is only in the range of one to three inches. In fact, that pitch referenced by Gwynn had a value of 1.3 inches according to PITCHf/x.

  • Consistency? Robinson Cano doesn't move his body and get in front of the ball and after scoring it a hit initially the call is changed to an error. The right call I think but terribly inconsistent given Jeter's gift in the first.

  • Curve. As noted by Bob Brenly Phil Hughes has established his curveball and threw it four of the first eight pitches in the fifth inning and then used it setup the fastball on the outside corner to Ryan Garko to end the top of the fifth. Nice.

  • Shift. Before Jason Giambi struck out in the bottom of the fifth I think Tony Gwynn was going to take Giambi to task for not attempting to beat the shift with his team desparately needing base runners. BIPChart says Giambi hits 75% of his grounders from the middle to the right side of the infield and the shift worked perfectly in his first at bat.

  • Getting the Ball Up. The three straight singles in the bottom of the fifth off of Jake Westbrook were all elevated sinkers at 2.2, 2.4, and 3.3 feet above the ground. Not mentioned but two very nice plays by Kenny Lofton to hold Hideki Matsui at third and to charge the single by Melky Cabrera and hit the cutoff man.

  • See Above. As was the homerun Johnny Damon hit to give the Yankees at 5-3 lead. That pitch was thrown at 91.7 mph and came in at 3.4 feet above the ground and was also about 2 inches towards the left-handed batter's box. Can the relievers get ready any faster? As a result, Derek Jeter sees only one sinker out of five pitches and now Westbrook is trying to adjust by working his curveball and slider. Maybe a little too late.
  • Indians at Yankees, Game 3 Part 3

    Continuing in the top of the third as Phil Hughes enters the game...

    End of the third inning. Indians 3, Yankees 1.

  • Wild Pitch. Jorge Posada has no chance on that pitch from Hughes and it hit so far in the front of the plate that moving over into a blocking position likely wouldn't have helped. Of course as has been their luck it immediately costs them on Jhonny Peralta's double to right.

  • Sweeps. This is looking like the first time all four division series will end in sweeps. In fact this is the first time there have been as many as three sweeps. The two game sweeps

    In 2006 Oakland swept Minnesota and the Mets swept the Dodgers.
    In 2005 the White Sox swept the Red Sox and the Cardinals swept the Padres (despite my prediction to the contrary).
    In 2000 the Mariners swept the White Sox and St. Louis swept Atlanta.
    In 1998 the Yankees swept the Rangers and Cubs were swept by the Braves.
    In 1997 Florida swept San Francisco and Atlanta swept Houston.
    And finally, in 1995 the Indians swept Boston and the Reds swept the Dodgers.

  • DPs. As with Livan Hernandez last night, Jake Westbrook has been able to get out of trouble courtesy of the double play via his sinker. At one point, as reported by Nate Silver, 12 of 24 Cubs hitters had reached base and yet they were unable to break it open. And so with their defeat, 2008 will be the 100th year of the rebuilding effort.

  • Mistake. Terrible play by Victor Martinez in throwing to third with a three-run lead. Nice slide by Hideki Matsui to get his hand in there. And another good sinker from Westbrook to get the ground ball. He's throwing his sinker consistently between 91.5 and 92.5 mph. However, the one he threw to Johnny Damon stays up and he scoots it through the right side.

  • And another DP on another sinker, this one at 1.99 feet from the ground.
  • Indians at Yankees, Game 3 Part 2

    Starting at the top of the second...

    Top of the third. Indians 2 Yankees 0 - pitching change.

  • Oops. Did I say Clemens' location was good? Trot Nixon hits an 86 mph splitter that doesn't sink or a slider that just spins and ends up thigh high on the inner half (PITCHf/x had it an inch and half towads the left-handed box). Grady Sizemore hits almost the identical pitch albeit a few inches lower for a single to right. The splitter is looking better in the at bat to Asdrubal Cabrera even though he was able to lay off the two best pitches.

  • A-Rod. 0 for his last 18 in the postseason and Alex Rodriguez just misses a 3-1 fastball in the zone before hitting a solid single to left on a 92.5 mph fastball. Maybe the buzzards will move off for a few innings at least.

  • Turbo sinker! The first "turbo sinker" reference belongs to Bob Brenly in reference to Fausto Carmona in the bottom of the second.

  • Laying off. Chip Carey and Tony Gwynn agree that Indians hitters are laying off the split fingered fastball and he's taking longer between pitches now and doesn't look good. This won't last long.

  • Done. Clemens is done after throwing fewer than 60 pitches. Is this the last time we see him on the mound? Lord I hope so. I'd hate to see another round of "where will Roger go" this offseason. Enough is enough and maybe this will convince him to hang it up content with the fact that he was arguably the greatest pitcher of all time.
  • Indians at Yankees, Game 3 Part 1

    Hoping that this game is more interesting than the Red Sox/Angels, I thought I'd blog a little during the game. I'll try to do an inning or two at a time for as long as I can.

    Indians 1, Yankees 0 end of one inning.

  • Derek Jeter throws wild in the top of the first. A hit? Are you kidding? Yet another example of how scoring has been construed to the advantage of the fielder to a ridiculous degree in recent years. In a recent column noting the Rockies breaking of the all-time fielding percentage record, I talked about the increase in fielding percentage and how that records an increasing level of excellence in play. While I think the general trend still holds there is no doubt that fielders have a larger margin for error today than they did say 20 years ago.

  • Clemens. 27 pitches in the top of the first. He topped out at 93.2 mph in his first pitch to Asdrubal Cabrera. His location hasn't been bad other than the single hit by Ryan Garko on a 91.4 mph fastball that was right down the middle.

  • Jake Westbrook struggled a bit in September (60 baserunners in 37 innings) but in the first inning all three balls that were hit were down in the strike zone (2.2, 1.9, and 1.8 feet off the ground. Good news for a guy that relies on his sinker and as Bob Brenly said, throws his fastball 80% of the time on first pitches.

  • Torre's Job. So the boss says Joe Torre needs to win to keep his job. It seems like we've heard this before although it seems this is a little more serious.
  • Rocktober Rocks On!

    I was wrong.

    As September dawned more and more co-workers, acquaintances, and family members posed the question to me as to whether the Rockies would make the playoffs. Being the realistic analyst type guy I am I assured them that given the unbalanced schedule and the number of teams that the Rockies would have to jump over, that it was virtually impossible. Even as September 15th dawned I distinctly recall a co-worker cornering me in the break room and with a hopeful expression, asking whether the Rockies could still pull it off. I said something about them having to win 10 of 11 or 11 of 12 just to have a shot while knowing that wasn't going to happen and feeling good about myself for letting him down easy.

    As Nate Silver has written, when the Rockies stood at 77-72 their odds of reaching the playoffs using BP's post season odds report was in fact 1.82% or 54:1. That marked the third most unlikely comeback with 20 or fewer games to play in history behind only the 1964 Cardinals (1.26% with 13 games to play) and the 1934 Cardinals (1.16% with 15 to play). He also points out that their odds were at 1.46% when their record stood at 18-27 on May 21st and was only 4.4% after their loss to the Diamondbacks on September 28th (I wrote a retrospective on the Rockies season at BP you might want to check out). In fact, Silver notes that what's so impressive about the Rockies season is that "they were never, not for one day, greater than even-money to make the playoffs until they actually did."

    In accord with that simulation, from a historical perspective, through 2006 there were 988 teams that found themselves with an 18-27 record or worse at some point in the season and only 13 of those (1.3%) had reached postseason play.

    So given the long odds and history I don't feel too bad about trying to be realistic but next time I'll be a little more humble.

    With all that in mind I headed to Coors Field as a fan to take in only the third home playoff game in Rockies history and the first postseason game I had ever attended. I arrived early and stood in line with the faithful outside of gate A waiting for the gates to open two hours prior to game time. It had been a warm and windy day in Denver and was still over 75 degrees with warms winds from the south west as we made our way into the ballpark.

    The Phillies were on the field taking batting practice and so I made my way into the left field stands to watch the mad rush for homerun balls. With the wind gusting out to left center Jayson Werth put on a show hitting several balls onto the concourse and showing the fans in straight-away left with souvenirs. The Phillies starters including Cole Hamels had fun with the fans, teasing them by pretending to throw balls into the stands before actually giving them away. In one kind of funny scene several of them started to imitate the motion of throwing a pitch left-handed and then slamming their glove on the ground and I couldn't help thinking that they were reenacting Ted Lilly's reaction in game two against the Diamondbacks after he gave up a homerun to Chris Young in the second inning. During all of this a young boy standing a few feet from me, who was sporting a glove, got hit with a ball in the head and was rewarded for his lack of attention with another ball from a Phillies pitcher before being checked out by the medical staff.

    Being in the vicinity I had to snap this picture of the row of seats behind the left field fence to provide some perspective on the ball that Garrett Atkins hit in the one-game playoff that likely hit one of the chairs and bounced back onto the field. Although it happened at an inopportune time from the Rockies perspective a ricochet like that is not unheard of and I believe it was the second or third time a homerun was in question this season.

    In any case, after standing in a really long line for patty melt and a Coke I headed up to my seat in the mezzanine level of the right field stands to enjoy the pregame activities which included the introductions, the releasing of balloons, and the national anthem. While in line for the Coke I was reminded of how some "fans" have little actual knowledge of the game. One of the two men behind me turned to the other and expressed surprise that the Rockies had to win just one series in order to be in "the semifinals" while the other assured him that in baseball, unlike some other sports, teams are rewarded for their regular season record.

    Shortly after I took my seat three or four loud and obnoxious Phillies fans ensconced themselves directly behind me. While at first they were rooting for their team, things quickly turned ugly in the second inning and the guy sitting next to me got into an altercation with one of them resulting in a shove. Predictably the police arrived in our section shortly thereafter and escorted one of the Philly faithful away. However, the Phils fan returned an inning later and all seemed to be squared away as the guy next to me bought him a beer (not a good idea as it turned out).

    In the meantime the game had started and Ubaldo Jimenez had his electric stuff. In the midst of giving up a walk and hit in the top of the first he struck out the side. The last strikeout of Aaron Rowand consisted of three sliders thrown 86.4, 86.4 and 87.1 mph as shown below.

    In the top of the second, after the first pitch to Chase Utley all of the banks of stadium lights went dark. The scoreboard was still operational and so there was plenty of light to see by. All told it took 14 minutes for the "computer glitch" to be resolved and the lights to fully come back on and play to resume.

    Jimenez would work six and a third innings, give up three hits and four walks. His fastest pitch of the night was recorded at 98.3 miles per hour to Ryan Howard in the first inning, a pitch Howard was jammed on but would fight off for a bloop single to right. PITCHf/x recorded 95 of his pitches, 57 fastballs averaging 94.5 mph, five changeups averaging 85 mph, 15 curveballs at 73.5 mph, and 18 sliders at 84.9 mph. His only mistake was an 82 mile per hour changeup (correction: Yorvit Torrealba says it was a slider which points out the difficulty in pitch classification on occasion using PITCHf/x) he left out and over the plate to Shane Victorino (shown below from the hitter's perspective) with one out in the top of the seventh. Victorino got ahold of it and hit it into the right field stands just below the section in which I was sitting.

    The weather was also a factor as about 10 minutes before game time the wind shifted, now blowing in from left-center, with a distinct chill in the air. Although the game time temperature was reported at 73 degrees, by game time it was probably already in the mid 60s and dropping. In the bottom of the second (by then 56 degrees with the wind howling) Atkins got a hold of a Jamie Moyer curveball that was down and in and lifted a high fly to left field. Forty-five minutes earlier, or even on a typical night, that ball would have been several rows deep in the stands. As it was Pat Burrell was able to catch it on the warning track. From there the temps dropped and the wind continued to gust from 15 to 20 miles per hour through most of the first five innings or so. Later in the game the winds died down and temps stabilized.

    Throughout the game the Phils fans behind me kept up their cheering but things turned uglier in the seventh. Having obviously had too much beer and prodded on by some obnoxious Rockies rooters sitting somewhere behind them throwing peanut shells, more words were exchanged complete with foul-mouthed name calling. Once again the police were summoned and this time two of the Phils fans were escorted out not to return. As if this weren't enough there was an additional flare up and the final fan (a woman no less who I would expect would be more civilized) was also escorted out. Having cleansed the section, the Rockies fans seem somewhat pleased and the remainder of the game was uneventful from that perspective.

    It's a shame that the family sitting behind me with two boys aged four or five had to endure this silliness. As all of this unfolded I remembered just why it was that I stopped sitting in the outfield stands at Kauffman Stadium with my daughters in tow. It almost never fails that one or more fans ruins the experience through excess drinking. It's not politically correct but in my experience that kind of behavior is rare in the more expensive seats and it's worth it to me to pay $10 or $15 extra bucks to have a positive family experience.

    This too reminded me of the only game I ever attended at old Tiger Stadium. It was in the early 1980s with the White Sox in town and my brother and father and me sat in the left field stands. The liquored-up fans in the center field bleachers had quite a time hitting beach balls, throwing food and beer, and trying to pelt White Sox centerfield Rudy Law with objects forcing him to run into the dugout and emerge with a batting helmet. After several fights the police were called and ended up arresting quite a number of people. Our family was on vacation and I recall my mother feigning concern when we returned to the hotel that we weren't some of the many being held in the clink.

    Of course, the crucial moments of a game that was tense from start to finish occurred in the bottom of the eighth when with two outs Atkins singled on a line drive to left field and Brad Hawpe hit a ball between Howard and Chase Utley, which Utley knocked down, but that scooted away for a hit sending Atkins to third. Both hits were off LOOGY J.C. Romero and after a conference on the mound, surprisingly Charlie Manual chose to stick with the lefty against pinch hitter Jeff Baker when he had righty Brett Myers in the pen. Seemingly, Myers was the obvious choice given Baker's .205/.267/.289 line against right-handers as opposed to .246/.333/.426 against southpaws. But Manuel didn't make the move and with the white towels given out before the game waving madly, Baker hit a 91.5 mph fastball through the hole between first and second to deliver the biggest hit in Rockies history.

    Despite Clint Hurdle using Brian Fuentes, in my opinion needlessly on Thursday afternoon, he came in and pitched a perfect eighth inning striking out Jimmy Rollins and Pat Burrell before Manny Corpas came on and closed the game in the ninth.

    When Victorino grounded to Kaz Matsui (whose triple past Burrell on a Moyer curveball in the fifth inning plated the first run) for the final out pandemonium is the only way to describe it. Fireworks, chanting, and high-fives all around went on for quite some time with several players emerging from the clubhouse to shower the fans with champagne. After about 30 minutes I slipped out with the celebration still in full swing and headed home. A well-played game, an exciting game, and a night to remember for Rockies fans. As for me, besides being at Wrigley Field for a clinching game (alas I heard the listened to the end of the sweep completed just before game time on the radio I brought), I can't think of any better outcome for my first postseason experience.

    Wednesday, October 03, 2007

    A Little More PITCHf/x

    Here's are a couple more PITCHf/x articles:

  • Joe P. Sheehan uses a similar format to the one I introduced in order to look at Jake Peavy.

  • discusses the uses and technology behind the system.
  • Division Series Odds

    With the division series set to kick off within the hour I thought I'd post the odds for each of the eight teams as calculated by a little simulator I wrote. The program takes into consideration the home and road records of each team, home field advantage, and the series format. It simulates each series 100,000 times.

    NLDS Rockies vs. Phillies
    Philles win 54.4%
    Rockies win 45.6%

    The simulator has the Phillies sweeping 15% of the time with Rockies doing so just 8.5%. It also says the series has a 38% chance of going the distance with the Phillies winning 61% of those contests.

    NLDS Cubs vs. Diamondbacks
    Diamondbacks win 59.3%
    Cubs win 40.7%

    The simulator likes the D'Backs odds more than any other team in the first round primarily because of their excellent home record (50-31) and the Cubs problems on the road (41-40) coupled with the home field advantage.

    ALDS Yankees vs. Indians
    Indians win 54.5%
    Yankees win 45.5%

    Both teams have exceptional records at home (52-29) and the Indians were slightly better on the road. Adding in the home field advantage the simulator likes the Tribe.

    ALDS Angels vs. Red Sox
    Red Sox win 58.3%
    Angels win 41.7%

    The Angels poor showing (40-41) on the road coupled with the Sox winning ways at home (51-30) are enough to push the advantage squarely into the BoSox camp.

    Monday, October 01, 2007

    Cubs and Rockies Play On

    I've been so busy being a fan the last week I've had little time to put on my analyst hat. With the Cubs looking so strong at the beginning of last week, being swept by the Marlins, and then rebounding against the Reds to clinch the division on Friday night there's been some ups and downs to say the least. They're now getting set to take on the Diamondbacks starting Wednesday with Carlos Zambrano on the hill against Brandon Webb. And then when you add the excitement of the Rockies improbable 13-1 finish to tie the Padres and force today's one game playoff, hopefully you'll forgive the lack of content here during the season's waning days.

    I worked Saturday night's game for at Coors Field and you could feel the tension in the press box as the Padres held a 3-2 lead in the ninth inning at Milwaukee just minutes before game time. Once Tony Gwynn Jr. hit the triple to tie it, however, the tension was lifted and was completely obliterated when the Rockies jumped all over the Diamondbacks in the first inning on their way to an 11-1 win.

    On the Rockies and tonight's game, Nate Silver has a nice piece on about today's game and predicts a 5-3 win for the Pads behind Jake Peavy. Although Josh Fogg has thrown pretty well in September (6 2/3 of scoreless baseball against the Dodgers on the 9/26 and a 3.25 ERA for the month) I still think I'd rather see Franklin Morales take the ball (2.88 ERA in September with 16 hits given up in 25 innings with 20 Ks against just 6 walks). In any case my hope is that Clint Hurdle is ready for the early hook and doesn't endure one of Fogg's Funks where he suddenly loses the strike zone. Although the Rockies are playing at home where they've been excellent (50-31), facing Peavy on normal rest will be a tough task to say the least. In his two previous outings against the Rockies this season at Petco he's thrown 14 innings and given up 2 runs on 8 hits. For that reason I too would have to pick the Padres if I were betting but confidence can do wonders. That confidence is based not only on the fabulous finish but also on the fact that since May 22nd the Rockies have been the best team in the National League with a 71-46 record (the Yankees went 74-45).

    Taking a longer term historical view, tonight's game will mark the twelfth time (including three Wild Card races) in big league history that the season has been extended past the 154 or 162 game schedule. All but the 1915 Federal League season, in which there was no provision in place for playing a tie-breaker, resulted in a playoff. In the NL a three-game playoff was the rule beginning with the 1946 playoff between the Dodgers and Cardinals and ending with the advent of divisional play in 1969. In AL a one-game playoff decided things beginning with the 1948 race. Without further ado, here is the chronological list of the regular season playoffs that decided the affair.

  • 1946 NL – the Cardinals beat the Dodgers 4-2 in St. Louis and 8-4 in Brooklyn getting solid pitching from Howie Pollet and Murry Dickson

  • 1948 AL – the Indians playing at Fenway Park beat the Red Sox 8-3 behind rookie hurler Gene Bearden.

  • 1951 NL – the Dodgers inexplicably elect to play two games on the road and wind up on the wrong side of a miracle.

  • 1959 NL – the Dodgers, having moved west, beat Milwaukee in a pair of one-run games 3-2 and 6-5 in 12 innings.

  • 1962 NL – the Dodgers drop 6 of their final 7 to force the playoff and then lead 4-2 in the 9th inning of game 3 before 4 walks, 2 hits, a wild pitch, and an error seal the 6-4 victory for the Giants.

  • 1978 AL – the Yankees furious comeback culminates in a 5-4 playoff win at Fenway on the strength of homeruns by Reggie Jackson and Bucky Dent.

  • 1980 NL West – after being tied for 6 straight days in September it was only fitting that the season should come down to one game at Dodger Stadium which the Astros win 7-1 behind Joe Niekro.

  • 1995 AL Wild Card – Seattle comes from 7.5 games back on September 1st to force a playoff with the Angels in the Kingdome which they win 9-1 behind Randy Johnson

  • 1998 NL Wild Card - the Giants win 6 of their final 7 while the Sosa-powered Cubs struggle and so the two face off at Wrigley Field where the Cubs win 5-3 behind Steve Trachsel

  • 1999 NL Wild Card – the slumping Mets sweep the season’s final series against the Pirates to force a playoff with the Reds who won 19 games in September. The Mets prevail 5-0 on the strength of a two-hit shutout by Al Leiter.