Rays-Yanks opener, and a couple other game notes

As it was in the end, so it shall be in the beginning: The Rays walked off winners against the Yankees today, putting themselves six games ahead of last year’s pace. Carlos Pena celebrated his return to the Trop by bookending the pinstripe aces, with a “take-that!” slam off Sabathia in the 1st and a sacks-full bingle in the 9th off Mariano Rivera.

Watch our great game long enough and you’re liable to see just about everything, even an Opening Day Mo-blow. This was the 16th year that Rivera was available to pitch in the opener (he was hurt in April 2003 and was a May callup in ’95), the 6th time he’s gotten into the game, the 4th time he’s had a save chance, and the first time he blew the save. It’s also the first time the Bombers lost when he pitched in the opener.

  • The last time Mariano allowed an Opening Day run, or even a hit, was in 2000. Why, that’s so long ago, the Angels still played in Anaheim….
  • Today’s game snapped his streak of 27 straight saves converted against the Rays, dating back to August 16, 2005 — and that was the only save he’d ever blown against them in 61 tries.
  • The 2 intentional walks Mo gave today matched his total for all of last year. It’s just the second time he’s ever issued back-to-back IBBs — and the last time, he actually worked out of it.
  • Number of times per year that Mariano allowed 5+ baserunners in a game, going back through the past 6 years: 1, 1, 0, 0, 1, 1.
  • Number of times he’d ever done it while getting 1 out or less: 1.

What else, what else….

– I’ve already said my piece about CC’s 1st-inning misadventures.

– How many years can a reliever hang on while posting an ERA that starts with “4”? Rays’ winning pitcher Fernando Rodney has a 5-year streak going. Of the 318 active pitchers with 30+ games each of the last 5 years, Rodney is the only one who hasn’t had a single sub-4 ERA. Yet the Rays signed him for a guaranteed $2 million this year … and he set down the Yankees 1-2-3 in the 9th.

David Robertson, who hasn’t allowed a run since last August, worked out of his own no-out, 3rd-and-1st jam in the 8th by fanning the side, with a little help from Jose Molina‘s 2-strike foul squeeze attempt.

  • There are three ways to strike out — swinging, looking, and bunting — and Robertson notched one of each in the 8th inning. I am not counting as a separate category “batter abandons attempt to hit,” a la John Kruk vs. Randy Johnson, but Robertson may rack up some of those before he’s done. When his breaking ball is on, he’s untouchable.

– With 3 hits and 2 walks, Evan Longoria reached in all 5 trips, a personal first.

Ben Zobrist who tied the game with a triple in the 9th, started in RF, then moved to 2B in the 8th. It’s the 55th time he’s played OF and 2B in the same game. The unofficial record is 76, by … can you guess?

In other games:

Carlos Beltran is one of those modern hitters who rarely swing on 3-0; he had just 29 career ABs resolved on a 3-0 count. Until today, when he tied the game in the 3rd with a 3-and-0 bomb that touched off the Cardinals’ 4-HR barrage off Yovani Gallardo. that sent the St. Louis Orphans to an 11-5 win. Matt Holliday hit the next pitch out to left (he’s connected in three straight regular-season games off the Brewers’ ace), and after a walk, David Freese banged the 3rd tater of the inning.

  • Counting last year’s postseason (he was MVP of both the NLCS and the WS), Freese has 26 RBI in his last 20 games, batting .411 with 6 HRs and .7895 SLG.
  • The last time STL hit 4 rountrippers in a regular-season game was last Sept. 1, also off Gallardo; those are the only times Gallardo has ever allowed more than 2 HRs.

Jake Arrieta matched a personal best with 7 scoreless innings and Nick Markakis drove in 3 with a HR and triple as Baltimore doubled up Minnesota, 4-2. Markakis is trying to reverse a 3-year slide in slugging that reached a career low .406 last year. Brian Roberts was not in the Opening Day lineup for the first time since 2003.

  • Jim Johnson, the AL’s most valuable reliever outside of the Bronx last year, earned the save. Johnson converted all 7 September save tries scorelessly after unofficially inheriting the job from Kevin Gregg, and finished with 3.2 WAR and a 2.67 ERA in 91 IP.

– Play-by-play head-scratcher: ESPN’s account of Rockies @ Astros says that Eric Young stole second base and scored on the catcher’s throwing error. Come again? The pitch-by-pitch clears it up: The steal and the error were separate plays. Young induced the error with a sweet deke on catcher Jason Castro: he went halfway on a pitch in the dirt but stopped and leaned back toward 2B, provoking the rookie’s throw, then spun on a dime and broke for third. When the throw sailed into CF, Young scored the go-ahead run standing up. That’s a nice game impact for a pinch-runner.

  • It’s also the first time @EYJr has ever scored as a PR; in his 8 prior games in that role, he swiped 3 bags in 4 tries, but was always stranded.

– It only took Adam Dunn three trips to the plate to fill out his first Three-True-Outcomes Bingo card, but Michael Young broke the 6th-inning tie by singling in Josh Hamilton, and the Rangers began their second AL title defense with a 3-2 win over the visiting White Sox.

– As expected, every Angel except Albert got a hit, while Jered Weaver stunned the crowd with 8 scoreless innings and 10 Ks in their 5-0 win over the Royals.

  • Last year, KC rookie relievers Aaron Crow and Greg Holland didn’t allow a run over their first 13 games (15.1 IP) and 9 games (12.2 IP), respectively. Tonight, Crow fanned the side in the 7th (including Pujols on 3 pitches), but in the 8th they combined to allow 5 runs on 6 hits.
  • Mark Trumbo’s Hot Corner Extravaganza got off to a rocky start with a pair of errors. There are wags who say that a workplace with an average employee salary of $3.4 million is no place for on-the-job training, and Trumbo’s entire professional experience at third base came this spring training. But since these forced 3B conversions usually go so well — think Dave Kingman — why worry?

What did you see?

51 thoughts on “Rays-Yanks opener, and a couple other game notes

  1. 1
    Hartvig says:

    John- Great stuff as always.

    As far as playing OF and second base in the same game?

    I’m gonna go with an old favorite of mine, Tony Phillips.

    • 4
      koma says:

      Phillips played 73 games at 2B and OF in the same game

      and the winner is…

      …Skip Schumaker

      • 9
        John Autin says:

        Confession: I was thinking Tony Phillips, but actually koma is right — based on my unofficial method, it’s Schumaker. This is what comes of rushing to claim a “record” that can’t be determined easily.

        My method was necessarily imprecise, based on 3 separate P-I searches of “played at least 2B and [outfield position]”. The problem with this method is that it will double-count any games in which he played 2B and two different OF positions. But I wasn’t interested or energetic enough to comb through the individual game listings.

        The larger problem, though, was that I just failed to add them up properly. By my simple method, Phillips comes out with 76, Schumaker 83. Good job, koma! (You too, Hartvig!)

  2. 2
    AlbaNate says:

    I’ve really missed your wrap-ups over the off season John. Glad to see you’re back doing them.

  3. 3
    Doug says:

    In other action:

    The Dodgers blanked the Padres 6-0 on an impressive outing by starter Chad Billingsley who allowed just 3 hits and struck out 11, including twice striking out the side. His shutout bid was abandoned after 108 pitches, and a 1 out bases empty single in the 9th. Andre Ethier had a double, a triple and 4 RBI to lead the Dodger attack.

    The D-Backs got to Tim Lincecum early with two first inning HRs and Arizona hung on for a 5-4 win over the Giants as J.J. Putz, after allowing a run on a Pablo Sandoval double, induced a game-ending groundout by Buster Posey.

    Seattle’s 8-9-1-2 hitters delivered 10 hits and scored 6 runs as the Mariners cruised past Oakland 7-3. Chone Figgins and Dustin Ackley at the top of the order each had 3 hits, something Seattle hadn’t done since last Apr 19th against Detroit. Oakland catcher Kurt Suzuki, who had a passed ball in the Ms 4-run third, struck out with runners at 2nd and 3rd to snuff out an 8th inning As rally.

    • 5
      Neil L. says:

      Doug, thanks for drawing Ethier’s big night to my attention. I would have missed that.

      What Ethier’s opening game exploits made me think of was how many good hitting performances there were in season starters. Carlos Pena, Nick Markakis, Ian Kinsler, even J.P. Arencibia in the 16th inning.

      Don’t pitchers traditionally have the edge over batters in the cool-weather early going?

  4. 6
    Neil L. says:

    John, I’m sitting here and am shaking my head in awe.

    You have buried so many statistical nuggets in that gold mine of a post that I could spend hours looking into the individual gems.

    Alright, alright …. so you put your pants on one leg at a time, just like the rest of us, but great job. 🙂

    How do you put together a piece so detailed in such a short amount of time?

    I have to go over some of the points in more detail in order to respond intelligently but I gotta quibble with you about one phrase. 🙂

    Pena’s game-winning line drive that one-hopped the left-centre field wall was a “bingle”? Come on now! 🙂 🙂

    • 7
      kds says:

      According to “The Dickson Baseball Dictionary”, the original definition of “bingle”, dating to before 1900, was a base hit of any kind. Sometime around the middle of the century its use became restricted to singles only. The term implied that the hit was not “cheap”, like a bunt or an infield single.

      • 8
        Neil L. says:

        kds, I stand corrected! I’ve learned something about baseball lingo. I shouldn’t have doubted JA’s use of words for a nanosecond.

        • 10
          John Autin says:

          On word usage, I am a strict Humpty-Dumpty-ist: “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.” 🙂

  5. 11
    Neil L. says:

    JA, 3 IBB dialled up by Joe Girardi! And in a 9-inning game to boot. I wonder what managers hold the record for most IBB’s in a season?

    Since 1990, managers of teams have ordered up 3 or more IBB 393 times in a 9-inning game. The record of these teams in those games is 37 wins and 356 losses, a cool 0.104 winning percentage.


    Surprisingly, restricting the search to AL games only in the same time period with the same criteria, gives 246 incidences of which 55 were wins, a 0.278 winning percentage. (I would have thought that walking to get to a pitcher in the NL would have been a better strategy than in the AL.)


    So was it a desperation managerial move? Did Girardi lack confidence in Mariano to just go after the hitters?

    • 12
      John Autin says:

      Good stuff, Neil. Having hammered Girardi for the IBB in the 1st innning, I hasten to add that I have no quarrel with the walks in the 9th, specifically because it was Mo on the hill.

      – The biggest reason I hate bases-filling IBBs is that I think managers underestimate the likelihood of a walk forcing in a run. However, Mariano has only walked in a run 4 times in 127 chances. That’s less than half the AL walk rate with bases loaded.

      Given the situation of winning run on 3rd with no outs, I can’t squawk about loading ’em up. One might think that after putting Longoria on 1st to create a DP chance, they’d go after Luke Scott. But even though Scott GIDP’d in his previous AB, he doesn’t generally hit many grounders, and Mariano doesn’t induce a particular high DP rate because of so much weak contact.

      About those W% numbers you found in games with 3+ IBBs: There’s some question of whether it’s measuring cause or effect; I do think there are far more IBBs given when a team is already behind.

      I share your puzzlement over the AL/NL split.

      • 15
        Neil L. says:

        “There’s some question of whether it’s measuring cause or effect; I do think there are far more IBBs given when a team is already behind.”

        Like pulling your goalie in hockey, when you’re behind by a goal late in a game. More often than not it’s a loss anyway and you give up an extra goal. Good point!(Sorry I’m Canadian, eh.)

        JA, I just figured out that to get that fancy brown background on your comments you have to be the author of the blog.

      • 38
        bstar says:

        John, I’m OK with the intentional walk to load the bases if there’s a worse hitter on deck and a better one at the plate, provided that the guy pitching is not a walk-prone pitcher. The time I really hate it is when it’s a reliever who’s just entered the game and has sketchy BB/9 numbers; that’s just a recipe for disaster, especially in a close game.

    • 13
      John Autin says:

      Teams managed by Girardi have usually been above the league average in season IBBs. But I think there’s more extremity in managers who eschew the IBB, such as Francona. Last year, the AL average was 33; Girardi had 43, Francona 11.

    • 20
      MikeD says:

      Hmmm, the difference between the two leagues is interesting. Not only is the AL winning a higher percentage (although still quite poor) of those games, but they are deploying the strategy much more frequently than the NL.

      If I read your numbers correctly, AL managers have issued 3 or more IBB in a game approximately 68% more frequently than NL managers, 246 times vs. 147. So the NL’s winning percentage in those games

      Oh, wait. Something is wrong here. How can your first data point showing only 37 wins for both leagues be correct, when the AL-only run shows 55 wins? If it’s a subset of the first, the number would have to be lower than 37.

      • 22
        Neil L. says:

        Hmm…. let me re-check that. The math does not compute. Thanks, Mike.

        • 23
          MikeD says:

          I was about to calculate the NL’s winning % in those games, figuring it had to be horrifically low, which is when I realized something was off, either on the orginal data or in my reading.

          Be interested to see the new numbers.

          • 24
            John Autin says:

            I’m sure Neil will post the corrected numbers while I’m typing this. My results:

            Since 1990, games where one team issues 3+ IBBs:

            All games:
            – 727 games, 151 wins, 576 losses, .208 W%

            – 220 games, 45 wins, 175 losses, .205 W%

            – 462 games, 94 wins, 368 losses, .203 W%

            AL (pitching) vs. NL:
            – 26 games, 9 wins, 17 losses, .346 W%

            NL (pitching) vs. AL:
            – 19 games, 3 wins, 16 losses, .158 W%

            Interleague totals:
            – 45 games, 12 wins, 33 losses, .267 W%

            Interleague at AL park (DH):
            – 20 games, 4 wins, 16 losses, .200 W%

            Interleague at NL park (pitcher hits):
            – 25 games, 8 wins, 17 losses, .320 W%

          • 27
            Neil L. says:

            You are so gracious, JA. I was indeed working on the correction but I’m not nearly as fast as you with the PI. You’ve done it all.

          • 28
            Neil L. says:

            JA @24,

            Not that it changes the overall conclusions, but did you restrict to nine innings or less? I am still getting some different numbers from my PI searches. I would like to know, for my own benefit, what filters I am setting incorrectly.

            Either way you cut it, 3 IBB in one game does not correlate well with winning, even allowing for the cause-effect connection.

          • 29
            John Autin says:

            Neil @28 – Oops! No, I did not filter for 9-inning games.

          • 33
            MikeD says:

            JA and Neil, thanks. While I know John’s new numbers weren’t restricted to 9 innings, it does at least make more sense. The winning percentage league wise is pretty much identical. The one thing that leaps out is the AL (pitching) vs. NL with a .346 W%, but it’s such a small number of games that it’s probably meaningless.

          • 34
            Neil L. says:

            Mike D @33,
            What team do you bleed for or are you a totally dispassioniate baseball watcher?

          • 36
            John Autin says:

            MikeD @33 — I think the AL-vs-NL numbers simply reflect the AL’s indisputable superiority.

          • 39
            MikeD says:

            Neil, ask a simple question, but you’re going to get a long answer. I can never use the word “dispassionate” when talking about my love of baseball. There is nothing dispassionate about my affair with baseball, but I understand what you’re asking.

            You will see a heavy NY team and Yankees influence from me. I follow both NY teams, for a reason I’ll explain in a second, but the Yankees are #1, yet they weren’t my first team. And I didn’t become a Yankees fan because of their winning ways. I became a fan as a kid during their moribund years of the early to mid-70s when I was going through my own transitions.

            My family is originally from the NY area, but moved to Chicago shortly before I was born. I’ve lived in both the Chicago and the NY areas during my life, first as a kid moving from Chicago to NY, and then as an adult I relocated back to Chicago in the mid-90s for work reasons, before returning again to NY. I’m not sure why Chicago keeps resurfacing in my life, but I was recently offered another job in Chicago, but this time I opted to stay in NY. None of the moves, potential moves, were and are related.

            Anyway, I almost told this story during the Bucky Dent discussion the other day, since he also moved from Chicago to NY. My very early days as a baseball fan, but while not yet a rabid fan, start in Chicago and the White Sox as a little kid. I wasn’t a huge fan then, a casual fan with a developing interest in the game just as I was yanked (no pun intended) to NY. After moving to NY, I had my pick of two teams, and by all rights the Mets should have been my #1 team since they owned NY in the early to mid-70s. The Yankees were a seemingly dead empire in those days with not a lot of talent beyond Munson, White and Murcer, and not much coming out of the farm.

            In future years, I always thought it was funny that I might belong to a select group of people who became Yankees fans because they were rooting for the underdog. The Mets were the team. Yet it really had nothing to do with that. Unlike many NYers, I had no problem following both teams, perhaps because I wasn’t originally from the area and didn’t have that either-or, Yankees or Mets, mentatlity, but I eventually started watching the Yankees more than the Mets for an odd reason that had little to do with the ballplayers: It was the broadcasters. As a kid learning the game, I loved listening to the banter of Phil Rizzuto and Bill White. Rizzuto seemed like the approachable grandfather who liked telling funny stories, wanted to get home to his wife Cora before the bridge traffic got too bad, and would run from the booth at the first sign of lightning. He didn’t seem anything like what he was, which was one of the starting nine for some of greatest teams ever. Then a few years later, Bucky Dent was traded from the White Sox to the Yankees, so since he was also from Chicago (or a team from Chicago), my interest in the Yankees grew even more.

            Anyway, I developed a great passion for the game in those years, got my first Baseball Encyclopedia in 1975, discovered this mad-scientist numbers guy named Bill James in 1979 who taught me that many of the things I been taught were wrong, and I’ve never looked back.

            I was happy when the White Sox finally won another World Series a few years back, and I still follow the Mets, but the Yankees are my team. I mention that since many of my notes will reference parts of my youth and teams that have nothing to do with NY.

            There aren’t many real fan-boys on this type of board, but I assume everyone has some team they live-and-die for. I mean, what fun would the game be without a favorite team?!

            And how about you?

          • 40
            Neil L. says:

            Mike @39, I am humbled by your reply. May I wait a little bit to be as forthcoming as you were.

            One of the interesting things about baseball commenters in here is the demographic.

            I will not try to guess your age, but to be weaned on Bill James’ Baseball Abstracts you have to have born within a certain window.

            Anyway, more later.

          • 41
            MikeD says:

            JA @36, I did consider that, and was going to mention it, but figured the number of games was too small, yet I do think it’s playing into the results.

          • 42
            MikeD says:

            @40, Neil L, don’t worry about being as forthcoming, or as some people might call it, verbose! I could have simply answered with one team’s name, but my path to fandom was a bit more nuanced as a kid back in the 70s. I’m guessing most became fans of a specific team based on where they were born, or their parents fandom. Outside of places like Chicago and NY, most cities have one team.

          • 43

            “Approachable Grandfather” is exactly how to describe Scooter. He was almost the same age as my own grandpa, who I got to see maybe once every three weeks. But I got to listen to Phil Rizzuto two hours a night 100+ times a year.

            The most endearing broadcast Homer of all time.

      • 26
        Neil L. says:

        Found my mistake with the PI. It had to do with setting the league for the pitcher’s team, the opponent’s league and excluding interleague play.

        More to come, but the original data didn’t completly make sense.

  6. 14
    Neil L. says:

    JA, a very good question about Fernando Rodney. Your nightly re-cap prompted me to pull up his player page. He’s not a lefty reliever and he’s had steady employment despite the inflated ERA.

    I guess he’s trading on the fumes of his 2009 campaign with Detroit, although it is interesting that his ERA+ in two of those five years you refer to was over 100.

    WHIP is not good for a reliever, though. How did he bedazzle the Tampa Bay front office?

    • 17
      John Autin says:

      “How did [Rodney] bedazzle the Tampa Bay front office?”
      – Dunno, but I’m sure they didn’t hire him for his brutal track record against the other AL East contenders:
      — vs. Yanks, 4.32 ERA, 1.74 WHIP in 16 games.
      — vs. Jays, 6.10 ERA, 1.55 WHIP in 24 games.
      — vs. BoSos, 8.10 ERA, 1.75 WHIP in 20 games.

      BTW, those “over 100” ERA+ marks for Rodney were 108 in 2007 and 104 in ’09, which is well below average for a reliever. And for the last 5 years combined, Rodney’s 98 ERA+ ranks 106th out of 114 RPs with 200+ games.

      • 21
        Neil L. says:

        JA, nice extraction on some of Rodney’s AL East stats vs his career. I’m not sure if a GM looks at that detailed a breakdown before offering a contract, but let’s see how long he is allowed to finish close games.

        Hey, he scooped up a win, thanks to the Rays comeback

  7. 18
    Neil L. says:

    “Carlos Beltran is one of those modern hitters who rarely swing on 3-0….”

    JA, are you saying that major league hitters always have the green light on a 3-0 count? It is not totally up to them whether they swing or not.

    We will never know as observers, based on the outcome of the plate appearance, what percentage of the times it was a take sign as opposed to a hit away.

    • 19
      John Autin says:

      I don’t actually know how often managers order a “take” on 3-0. But my gut says that no manager in today’s game gives any established good hitter the take sign.

      I don’t have numbers for swinging on 3-and-0, but there has been a decline in the rate of PAs that began 3-0 and saw the ball hit fair on 3-0, over the span for which we have count data:
      – In 1988, 4.1%
      – in 2011, 3.2%

      This is despite the rate of 3-0 PAs ending in walks going down a tad, from 6.7% to 6.4%.

      And those that do hit the ball fair on 3-0 have had much better results lately:
      – In 1988, .290 BA and .532 SLG, with 17 HRs in 355 ABs (4.8%)
      – In 2011, .361 BA and .708 SLG, with 23 HRs in 288 ABs (8.0%)

      One interpretation of those last data is that today’s hitters do a better job of offering only at the meatiest 3-0 pitches. But one could also argue, from the decline in PAs settled on 3-0, that hitters have become a little too selective in that situation.

      During Mike Piazza’s career, my fellow Mets fans often griped that he would never swing on 3-0, no matter the situation or the caliber of the 3-0 pitch. And in fact, Piazza only ever put 3 balls fair on a 3-0 count. Two of them were HRs; both came when he played for LA.

      • 32
        Neil L. says:

        John, I think this is a topic that merits further discussion in another blog, but I’m not sure if I agree with your gut. Once in a while, a batter will pop up a 3-0 pitch, or even worse, ground into a double play.

        I may be reflecting my conservative nature, and I realize that it varies with the manager, hitter and game situation, but I’m not prepared to concede that a hit away on a 3-0 count is a no-brainer for most major league players.

        • 35
          John Autin says:

          I guess I’ve not made myself clear. I think there are many situations that dictate an automatic “take” on a 3-0 count, whether the impetus comes from the dugout or from the hitter himself.

          And I don’t think a hitter should ever become aggressive on a 3-0 pitch.

          My point is that a hitter like Beltran, who is both a good, powerful hitter and naturally selective, should not give himself an automatic take on 3-0 unless the situation dictates it.

          What did Hornsby tell Williams (and anyone else who’d listen)? “Get a good pitch to hit.” There’s a reason a 3-0 pitch is called a cripple. A good veteran hitter with a 3-0 count should be able to pick out a speed and a zone that he’s looking for, and if he gets that exact pitch, attack it.

          • 37
            Neil L. says:

            Thanks, JA. My fault for not understanding you properly. Yes Beltran, or Bautista (it has already happened this year)should be treated differently on a 3-0 pitch than a Rajai Davis or a an Asdrubel Cabrera.

            I still envy your authoritative brown background. 🙂

            See even my comment gets written in run-of-the-mill white.

  8. 25
    • 30
      John Autin says:

      Love your site, Bill! “Baseball Newstalgist” indeed!

      However, I must dispute your point #2. I find a total of 8 games in which Mo issued 2+ intentional walks. In 6 of those games, he issued 2 IBBs in the same inning. Here’s a list of all Mo’s IBBs. (My attempt to link to the list failed.)

      Also, as HHS reader Nadig noted, Sabathia gave up a slam in the 2008 NLDS to Shane Victorino:

    • 31
      Neil L. says:

      Bill, I also checked your site and dug (sorry, a sixties’ word) your analysis of the Tampa-New York game. Your data on the IBB is really interesting.

      Until now, the term Billy-ball always conjured up images of either Billy Martin or Billy Bean. Very nice site.

      Where do your rooting loyalities lie, or will you reveal that?

  9. 44
    Dave V. says:

    Something happened in tonight’s Yanks–Rays game, which I wonder whether it has ever happened in an MLB game before…

    Matt Joyce was the #9 hitter in Friday’s opener. He had a Golden Sombrero (0 for 4 with 4 K’s). Then in tonight’s game, he batted in the cleanup spot. Can the PI be used to see if any hitter ever batted 9th, struck out at least 4 times in said game and then in the following game, batted 4th? I wonder how many times a player has even went from 9th to 4th period, even without the 4 K’s?

    Joe Maddon is one interesting manager, that’s for sure…he had Jeff Keppinger batting cleanup in the first game and outside of the lineup wackiness, the defensive positioning for his team has been outstanding vs. the Yanks.

    • 45
      bstar says:

      Great observation about the defensive positioning, Dave. I’ve mentioned this before, but the Rays have led the AL in UZR ratings for the last two years and seem to be well ahead of the curve on where to place their fielders.

      • 47
        MikeD says:

        I mentioned this in the new Lobby section. The Rays keep pushing defensive positioning to previously unexplored places every year, and based on what I’ve seen so far (granted, two games), they’ve taken it to yet another level this season. Extreme shifts against RH’d hitters, and shifts that change from AB to AB against the same hitter based on, I guess, either the situation or the type of pitcher.

        I don’t know if they might get burnt by this eventually, but it’ll be interesting to watch. The real question is how long before other teams start adopting the same tactics. It’s not as simple as shifting. They need to develop the data on how hitters hit in specific situations against certain types of pitchers, at least that’ss my guess.

        Yet as Billy Beane learned, once it becomes clear one team has developed a new approach, it will be adopted by other teams.

        Last, I know Joe Maddon gets credit from the media on all these moves, but he is simply deploying defenses and other changes based on data developed by the front office. The reason he is their manager is because he’s open to using this data. Some managers wouldn’t, so he gets credit, but he is just one man who is integrated into how the Rays operate. He could be replaced. I don’t think he’s a great manager, but I think he fits into the the Rays’ Way.

        Last (and I mean it this time), I think the Rays defensive positioning will become one of the stories of the 2012 season. Opening against the Yankees will fuel that story line.

        • 49
          John Autin says:

          MikeD, very interesting stuff there.

          As for the amount of credit Maddon deserves … I have no grounds to dispute your assessment of his managerial skills, BUT: Don’t underestimate the value of “merely” being open to new ideas and implementing the analytical work of others. Maddon’s willingness to be the public face of the club’s radical experiments is HUGE.

          Just to take one example … I feel certain there are at least a few managers out there who realize how silly it is to predetermine bullpen roles according to inning, and to hold their best guy in reserve for a save situation instead of using him at a key moment in the game. But how many are willing to buck the trend?

          I think Maddon is somewhat more than a figurehead, but even if he were no more than that, I’d still think he’s the most refreshing on-field development in the game today.

          • 50
            MikeD says:

            Agreed. I do think Maddon is a good manager and he is the right manager for what the Rays are doing. I’m pretty sure, for example, that Bobby Valentine couldn’t be snapped into the Rays situation and do it as well as Maddon. Yet I also happen to think Valentine is a good manager (or at least he was), something that gets obscured at times by his oversized personality. I also think Maddon would lose some of his luster if he went to another team where he didn’t have access to the data provided by the Rays.

            My words are probably my own counterbalance to what I now view as an overreaction to Maddon, and something I perceive is about to get totally out of hand. In the process, the real story of what the Rays are doing gets a bit lost. In many ways, though, Maddon is the modern manager, no longer the isolated field general, but a man integrated into how the front office operates. Yet he remains my favorite manager in the game right now and he is quite good. Great? I’m not sure how many truly great managers I’ve seen in my lifetime. I’d have to think about that one a little more.

    • 46
      John Autin says:

      Dave, that’s a good question. I don’t think the P-I can tell us, because it would be a 2-step game search — i.e., find one set of games, save it, then do a second search only on the players in that first set. The P-I can only do a secondary search for seasons, not for games.

      But I did the first search anyway, and it turns out there are only 41 games since 1918 in which a non-pitcher batted 9th and struck out 4+ times while fanning in every PA.

      (I added the non-pitcher requirement on the grounds that the only pure pitcher ever to start a game in the cleanup slot since 1918 is Babe Ruth, and he never fanned 4 times while batting 9th. I added the SO=PA requirement because that’s part of my understanding of the term “golden sombrero”.)

      So here’s a link to those games, on the off chance that someone else wants to check each batter and see if he hit cleanup the next day.

      By the way, all but one of the games happened since 1973. The odd game came in 1971, White Sox at Indians. Tom Egan pinch-hit for the pitcher in the top of the 4th, stayed in the game at catcher, and wound up whiffing 4 times in a 9-inning game. The #9 slot got 5 PAs, even though the Sox scored just 4 runs; they had 14 men LOB.

      • 48
        Ed says:

        I don’t have time to check through these but I did notice a few interesting things. Brent Lillibridge and Andy Sheets are on here twice. What’s interesting is how close together their games were. Lillibridge did it on October 1st and 3rd of 2010, Sheets on August 23rd and 27th of 1996. (they did both play in other games between those). The only other player to do it twice is Mark Belanger, but his were 7 seasons apart.

        And what about Alex Gonzalez…0-6 with 6 strikeouts. His SOs came against 4 different pitchers. First three were against Gooden, then Assenmacher, Shuey, and Doug Jones got him once each.

      • 51
        Dave V. says:

        Thanks for the link, JA. I did search through the games (15 minutes, not too bad) and sure enough, none of these guys ever batted in the cleanup spot the game after their Golden Sombrero. Of the players who started the next game that season (26 of the 41), 23 of them remained in the #9 hole. D.Murphy & F.Manrique moved up to the #8 spot and Julio Lugo moved up to the leadoff spot.

        So Matt Joyce is the first player in MLB history to bat 9th, get a Golden Sombrero and then bat cleanup the next game (and of course, he hit a HR batting cleanup yesterday).

        BTW, of the Golden Sombrero players, Tomas Perez followed his up by going 0 for 3 with 3 K’s the following game. And Gary Pettis was 0 for 2 with 2 K’s the following game. And three players literally ended their season batting 9th with a Golden Sombrero (Lillibridge, F.Bynum and the unforgettable Puchy Delgado, as it was the last game of the MLB season for their teams; talk about a lackluster way to go into the off-season…)

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