Friday game notes (abridged)

@Rangers 10, Angels 3: No foolin’ — at the exact moment that I flipped over from Mets postgame to the MLB Network, that man was up to bat. Five seconds and one pitch later, he had another HR — his 2nd of the game, 8th in 18 times up over 5 games, and 17th of the year. This is the Rangers’ 33rd game, Hamilton’s 30th.

  • The Angels have 18 more games with Texas, and they may need to win ’em all to get back in the race. More likely, the ref stops this fight on cuts.
  • Hamilton tied the mark for most HRs in the team’s first 33 games, set by Cy Williams in 1923 and by Frank Howard in 1968. Hondo had a similar barrage, homering in 6 straight games from #28-33 for a total of 10 HRs.
  • Now he’s on pace for 83 HRs. I know, I know — you’re never as good as you look when you’re hitting every other pitch outta the park. Hey, I just do the arithmetic; take it for whatever it’s worth.
  • Heywood Broun once said of a Babe Ruth HR, “It was a pop fly with a brand new gland.” Let’s see, 6.5-second hang time — yeah, that’ll work.
  • Before yesterday, Mike Napoli had 4 triples in over 2,300 career PAs. Now he’s tripled in consecutive games.

Braves 7, @Cardinals 7 (tied in 12th): Speaking of hot sluggers, Carlos Beltran had his third 2-HR game this month, including a game-tying blast in the 8th off Jonny Venters, the first off him this year. But in the 12th, Jason Heyward connected

  • Beltran’s big night — he also tripled and doubled — gave him 12 HRs (tied with Kemp) and 31 RBI, one off Ethier’s pace. His first HR tonight had some distance.
  • Beltran has 314 career HRs but just one 3-HR game.
  • Winning pitcher Livan Hernandez loaded the bases in both of his innings, but wiggled free each time. It’s the first scoreless outing since 2008 of 2+ IP with a 3.0 WHIP.

@Orioles 4, Rays 3: Their first series this year is a first-place showdown, and the home fans went away happy after Nick Johnson hit his first HR in over 2 years. With 2 down in the 7th and the O’s down a run, Johnson worked the count full, then unloaded on Joel Peralta to take the lead.

  • Just up from the minors, Dana Eveland staggered to a quality start (3 runs, 11 baserunners in 6 IP), but the bullpen was stalwart as usual. Darren O’DayPedro Strop and Jim Johnson all tossed a perfect inning. Johnson has 10 saves with none blown, and just 1 run allowed this year.

Astros 1, @Pirates 0: Four hits for each side led to the first no-RBI win in the majors this year; the run scored on a GDP.

  • Winner Bud Norris also got the win in Houston’s previous 1-0 victory, last April.
  • Norris was lifted after 6 superb innings (3 hits, no walks, 8 Ks) and just 94 pitches, and not for a pinch-hitter. Brad Mills has one of the league’s better bullpens (3rd in ERA and WHIP). Wilton Lopez has yet to allow a walk in 19.2 IP, the longest season-starting streak since Mariano Rivera went 20 IP in 2008. Lopez has stranded 8 of 9 inherited runners and has the 5th-best OPS allowed (min. 15 IP). Brett Myers is 9-for-9 in save opps with no runs allowed.
  • Hard-luck loser James McDonald fanned 8 and lasted 8 IP for just the 2nd time in his 54 starts. He has a 2.42 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in 45 IP.

@Brewers 8, Cubs 7 (13): Corey Hart won it with a hit in the 13th after Lendy Castillo filled the bags with back-to-back HBPs and a single. But the really heavy lifting came in the 7th and 9th. With Milwaukee up 1-0, David DeJesus hit the first pitch thrown by Kameron Loe for the second pinch-slam of the year. But the Crew snatched the lead right back with their own PH heroics in the home half. Jonathan Lucroy capped a 2-out, 4-run spree by slicing a 3-run pinch-double off Michael Bowden, who had relieved the short-leashed Carlos Marmol (2 outs, then a walk, a double and the hook; oh, fine, he left with an injury, but I would have yanked him).

  • It remained 5-4 into the 9th, so Ron Roenicke called on the most reliable closer left standing. John Axford had converted 49 straight save opps, dating back to 2011. But this is 2012, when closers enter not to heavy metal music but the simple cry of “Dead man walking!” This blown save had everything — an error by Aramis Ramirez, a wild pitch, a tying triple by DeJesus (5 RBI off the bench, plus this catch!), an unusual strikeout/wild pitch for the lead, a stolen base, and a 2-out hit for an insurance run. Chicago took a 2-run lead into the last of the 9th.
  • Uh-oh, Rafael Dolis walked Ramirez with 1 out. That brings up Corey Hart; he’s got power … boom, we’re tied. Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be closers.
  • John Axford had the first outing with 3 Ks in less than an inning since last August, also against the Cubs.
  • Milwaukee’s receiving tandem of Lucroy and George Kottaras leads the majors with a .320 BA and over .900 OPS from that position. Kottaras drew 3 walks tonight and has 14 in just 45 PAs, helping build a .523 OBP.
  • Ryan Braun went 0-2 but reached 5 times on the HBP and a new career-high 4 walks.

@A’s 11, Tigers 4: The meat of the order led Oakland to a season high in runs; the #3-6 hitters went 11-18 with 3 HRs, 11 RBI and 8 Runs.

  • Brandon Inge does have a couple of 27-HR seasons in his past, but this is still ridiculous. That makes 4 HRs and 16 RBI in his last 5 games. Of his 18 RBI this year, 16 have come on his 5 HRs — two slams, two 3-run shots and a modest 2-run affair.
  • Josh Reddick (4-4-4-5) has 10 RBI in his last 6 games.

@Marlins 6, Mets 5: New York mounted their usual comeback, getting 3 in the 8th on pinch-hits by The Nieuw Kid and Mike Baxter (6-15, 5 RBI as a PH). But Miami had the last licks, and they used them wisely.

  • Can a grounder grow a brand new gland? The hardest-hit ball I’ve seen this year came low off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton, touched down in the infield, skimmed past the shortstop, split the outfielders and kicked off the wall for a double.
  • The Timmy Pea Catch of the Day: Cat-like quickness.
  • They scored this a triple. Come on.


Friday game notes (abridged) — 31 Comments

  1. “…when closers enter not to heavy metal music but the simple cry of “Dead man walking!”

    If Josh Axford blows a save, then who’s next?

    Saves are running at only a 65% conversion rate in the majors this year compared to about 68%-69% normally. A trend or a small sample size in the post-Rivera era? Subjectively, it has seemed to me as if there have been a lot of blow-ups by celebrated closers this year.

    Marlins with a 5 for 14 conversion rate (36%), stink out the joint so far, followed closely by the Angels at 4 out of 10 (40%) and the Blue Jays at 5 out of 12 for 42%

    Houston, Toronto and the Angels bottomed out the save percentage last year. The Astros have solved their closer situation so far this year, while the Angels and Blue Jays continus to search for answers!

    • Neil, I’m very interested in save conversion rate, but the question is how to measure it. Technically, “blown saves” can occur at any point, not just the 9th or whenever the official closer enters.

      Can you say exactly what data you are citing there?

      • JA, just using the rough-and-ready data of blown saves as a percentage of save opportunities on B-Ref, which is the sum of saves and blown saves.

        • The trouble with league conversion rates is that there are a lot of “blown saves” accrued to setup men, since the definition of save opportunity is blind to the inning or the assigned role of the specific pitcher. And since we’re looking at less than a quarter-season’s data for 2012, I’d like to eliminate as much noise as possible.

          So, I looked at the conversion rates for pitchers who actually have saves. Still imperfect, but better than the league rate. I set the minimum to 1 save for 2012 and 3 for other years, which gives roughly equivalent numbers of pitchers.

          2007 — 81.3%
          2008 — 79.6%
          2009 — 82.5%
          2010 — 82.1%
          2011 — 82.9%
          2012 — 77.6%

          The average of the previous 5 years is 81.7%. To get this year’s rate (based on 242 saves and 70 BS) up to that level would require another 70 saves with no BS, or wiping out 16 BS. So I think there is some significance to this data.

          But here are some things we still don’t know:
          — Are there any established patterns for changes in conversion rates within the season? It wouldn’t surprise me if they tend to go up in the 2nd half, after the weeding out of guys who are having bad years and/or hiding injuries.
          — Was the closer turnover from 2011-12 unusually high?
          (I don’t think that should matter too much, since almost any good reliever can be a good closer. But it should be considered.)
          — What is the effect, if any, of scoring levels on the number of save chances and their degree of difficulty? I would guess that lower scoring correlates with more save opps but greater difficulty.

          And I’m sure there are more factors worth considering before we attempt any conclusions. (Sorry, Neil!)

          • Don’t apologize, John!!

            Shoot down my trial balloons. See if I care!:-)

            I agree about the run-scoring environment affecting the save conversion percentage.

            I just try to distil your cerebral thinking down to a bottom line. My attempt to think on your level.

            So, and here I go again, you are saying that the definition of a blown save as occurring in the last three innings is imperfect? Blown saves should be awarded for giving up a lead at what inning?

            Are you lobbying for the re-definition of a save or the elimination of the save statistic altogether. (No fence-sitting allowed.) :-)

            I agree that we await more data on the current season, but, with respect, you may be over-thinking the issue. The save stats are what they are for this year. No mitigating circumstances.

          • Neil @26 — I appreciate your attempts to distill the data. But may I suggest you replace the phrase “you are saying” with “the data indicate”? :)

            About the definition of blown save: I don’t think there’s any practical alternative, given the definition of save, and the fact that a reliever who enters in the 7th sometimes does finish the game; and of course, decades ago, the relief ace himself often entered in the 7th.

            But I just don’t think the raw league totals of saves and blown saves are terribly useful in studying the modern “closer” phenomenon. The vast majority of blown saves occurring in the 7th and 8th are not by the designated closer.

            In 2008, the Phillies were 47-15 in save conversion, just a little better than Houston’s 48-17. But Brad Lidge went 41-0, while Houston’s closer (Valverde) went 44-7. Save/BS stats for non-closers really clutter up the data if you’re trying to look at closers.

          • JA @27, I should not try to put words in your mouth. The phrasing “the data indicate” are far less confrontational than “you are saying.” :-)

            Maybe I need a little of Timmy Pea’s favorite beverage to digest what you are saying.

            We may be talking at cross purposes over the blown save; I’m not sure if we’re missing each other’s point here.

            A blown save has to measure something about the effectiveness of a team’s relief pitching. One can nitpick about the arbitrary definition of the seventh inning but the bottom line remains that a lead is given up by the pen.

            And the ratio of blown saves to saves is higher this year, so far, than recent historical norms. That is indisputable.

            I agree that the reasons for it or the statistical significance of it is definitely open to opinion.

            I can understand small sample size and less than a quarter of the 2012 season. Perhaps save percentage will return to its normal 68-69% level by the end of the year. It is already up to 66% after last night’s games.

    • Leaving save conversion rate out of the picture, we can just look at the batting stats in the late innings.

      Here are season OPS numbers for the 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th and extra innings:
      — 2009: .788, .740, .726, .690, .739
      — 2010: .755, .730, .701, .679, .736
      — 2011: .757, .711, .658, .665, .736
      — 2012: .719, .705, .703, .703, .717

      Reading both across and down, there are patterns — numbers for each inning declining with time, and numbers declining inning by inning from 6 through 9 with a rise afterwards — which this year’s 9th inning doesn’t fit.

    • Also of interest is the relationship between OPS for starting pitchers and relievers, listed here as SP, RP and % Difference:

      — 2008: .759, .731, 3.8%
      — 2009: .762, .729, 4.5%
      — 2010: .735, .715, 2.8%
      — 2011: .731, .696, 5.0%
      — 2012: .720, .706, 2.0%

      • John, very intersting extraction of data!

        Let me be sure I understand you correctly. You are saying that the 2012 season is an anomaly in two ways, so far. Hitters are turning into Babe Ruths instead of felling the pressure of high leverage. And relievers, as an entire group, have been remarkably ineffective compared with starters when contrasted with the past few seasons.

        So blown saves this year are an inevitable consequence of these two facts.

        JA, any conjectures as to why this would be so this year? Halley’s comet appearing in the sky anywhere?

        • Neil, have you been tippling some of Timmy’s favorite beverages? I haven’t drawn any conclusions yet. I’m just collecting data. And remember, we’re not even at the quarter pole yet.

          BTW, when did you add that Skydome avatar? I’ve only just noticed it.

          • No, JA, I stay away from the hard liquor. :-)

            It was Johhny Walker for our esteemed friend, was it not?

            I am having some connection issues with HHS because I cannot see my own avatar appearing on my posts.

            I’m glad you recognized it from the thumbnail.

            Although, in today’s corporate baseball world you know it is called the Roger’s Centre (Canadian spelling)! :-)

  2. Tigers radio play by play guy Dan Dickersom tweeted that with Inge driving in four runs – again, he has had 4, 4RBI games in his last five games. Last to do that? Lou Gehrig – in 1931.

  3. “•Before yesterday, Mike Napoli had 4 triples in over 2,300 career PAs. Now he’s tripled in consecutive games.”

    Gives me a reason to draw attention to the abnormally high rate of triples in the majors this year. Through last night’s games, with 202 three-baggers in 36836 PA, the frequency is 0.548 per 100 PA.

    While this may seem like an insignificant number it is up by 13% over last year’s frequency of 0.485 and is the highest since some time before 2001 (the oldest year for which I’ve calculated it at present.

    The closest year to this year’s frequency since 2001 was 2009 when triples were legged out at a rate of 0.507/100 PA. Run scoring then was 4.61 RPG while this year it has finally risen above 4.20 RPG to a lofty 4.21.

    So what gives? Meaningless number or bigger trend?

    Put another way, in every year from 2001-2011, triples composed either 2.1% or 2.0% of all base hits while this year they make up 2.4%. That is 17% higher than the frequency of the last 10 years.

    • Although I’m not suggesting that any of the following are true, it’s possible that:
      — there are more speedy guys in the majors now.
      — runners are more inclined to stretch, given the drop in scoring.
      — there’s been a decline in defensive teamwork of the kind required to throw out a runner stretching for three.
      — it’s a seasonal thing. (?)

      • I think that the first explanation is the most reasonable. There wasn’t much benefit to being a rabbit that slugged .350 in the Steroid Era, but if that guy can play defense and run he can at least be a bench/utility/PR guy.

  4. Realisticslly new players who are particularly fast or new stadiums or stadiums that have been reconfigured that are more triple friendly would be things you would look for. Other than that unless there’s a huge strategic shift it’s probably noise

  5. Beltran soon to join the 300HR/300SB club. With 849 career BB’s, if he gets to 1,000, he will be in relatively exclusive company:

    Barry Bonds,

    Bobby Abreu is about 16 HR’s (long shot) from joining Barry Bonds as the only guys with 1,400 BB, 300 HR, 400 SB, and 2,400 Hits

    Will either of these guys even SNIFF Cooperstown? Highly unlikely….

    • Yes, I saw on the Braves telecast last night that Beltran is poised to get to the 300/300 club very soon. It was an interesting trivia question from last night’s game: Who is the only player to ever play for the Braves(in their franchise history) to accumulate 300 HR and 300 SB? Tough to get this one, as the answer is a guy who played one year for Atlanta in 2000 during his whirlwind tour of the National League that saw him play for 7 different teams in 7 straight seasons from 1998-2004. Any guesses?

  6. Saturday note: R.A. Dickey became the first pitcher to be hit by a pitch with the bases loaded since September, 2009. On the wright wrist, no less. Hope he’s OK.

    • Nope, Mike, Davis never played for the Braves but was a good guess for the 300/300 club, although he only hit 282 career HR. The player I am describing won a WS ring with the D-Backs in 2001 and was also an outfielder like Davis.

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