Author Archive

Are 1-run games more common in 2012?

There have been some funky things going on with 1-run games in 2012. The Orioles have played 25 of them already and won 19, a remarkably high percentage. (This is thanks mainly to luck and unlikely to be maintained the rest of the season.) The Athletics just swept four games from the Yankees and won each one by 1 run. The Phillies had been 11-18 in 1-run games until winning two such games in a row the last 2 days.

All of this 1-run-ness has me wondering if it’s more common in 2012. Certainly, it would seem likely that 1-run games would be more common when overall scoring is lower. When teams average closer to 4 runs a game than 5, it means that a higher fraction of final game scores will be 1-run decisions. There’s also something to be said for strategy–when overall scoring is lower, managers are more likely to “play for” 1 run, i.e. use sacrifices to advance runners, lessening the chance of a big inning.

Anyway, there’s a quick way to look up the basic numbers for such a study. Read the rest of this entry

What’s wrong with Jon Lester?

“How could you do this to me…AGAIN!!!” / US PRESSWIRE

Here’s a very quick look at some statistical explanations for why Jon Lester‘s 2012 season isn’t going so well. Read the rest of this entry

Photos of the day from yesterday’s games

Here are a few photos all credited to US PRESSWIRE.

First, here are the Red Sox about to go berserk after Cody Ross (7) hit a walk-off homer. Sure, they look happy now, but how do you think Carl Crawford felt 3 second later when he was drenched with Gatorade? But seriously, this could be a turning point for the Red Sox. They already got rid of one problematic guy in Kevin Youkilis. If they can manage to jettison Josh Beckett by the end of the month, they still have a shot at a wild card slot.

Here we see the Orioles’ outfielders (Endy Chavez, Adam Jones, and Nick Markakis) having a bit of a rump bump….or a rear smear…or entwined behind…

Kind of a weird shot here, as Ubaldo Jimenez tags Desmond Jennings out at home on what turned out to be a failed attempt at a squeeze play. It’s weird to see the catcher blocking home without the ball–in fact isn’t that obstruction? Jimenez also looks like he could do with a few more cheeseburgers.

The definitive inner-circle Hall of Fame list

Our friend Graham Womack has executed an amazing study over at his website, Baseball: Past and Present. He asked voters to name the top 50 Hall of Famers, and determined the inner circle of Hall of Famers. You’ve got to go check it out. He assembled an all-star team of writers to compose essays on the 50 finalists.

It’s interesting that Tony Gwynn just made it into the inner circle, while Wade Boggs was the last guy to get cut. They got a similar number of votes, and had a lot of similarity as players. Boggs finished with a huge edge in WAR, at 88.3 compared to Gwynn’s 65.3. Boggs played a more important defensive position and played it well. How exactly did Gwynn get the nod?

The Mount Rushmore of the Boston Red Sox

David Ortiz, crushing it / US PRESSWIRE

We’re down to just two teams from the Junior Circuit–the Yankees and the Red Sox. These should both be pretty interesting.

The Red Sox playoff history is pretty well known. When they started off as the Boston Americans, they were strong out of the gate, finishing no lower than 3rd each of their first 4 years (1901-1904) and winning the World Series in 1903. After a run as a middling team from 1905 to 1911 (during which they changed their name to the Red Sox), they embarked on a great run from 1912 to 1918, where they appeared in and won 4 World Series.

After that, the team has had some major ups and downs. They had 6 straight last-place finishes from 1925 to 1930. They were quite respectable from the late 1930 through the 1950s, but made just one post-season appearance, losing the World Series in 1946. After being dismal for most of the 1960s, they made the World Series again in 1967, only to lose again. They were great throughout the 1970s but lost another Series in 1975.

Starting in 1986, the team has had a strong run continuing to present day. In the 26 completed season since then, they have finished lower than 3rd only 5 times. However, they also reeled off 7 more post-season exits until finally winning the World Series in 2004. They followed that up with another win in 2007, as well as 3 more playoff losses.

Anyway…let’s dig in. Read the rest of this entry

You will buy this book. You MUST buy this book.

Which book? Why, The Hall of Nearly Great, of course. I’ll tell you below why you will and must buy this book, but first let’s learn about what it is you’ll be buying.

This grand e-book is officially out today and features 42 of the best baseball writers around (folks like Joe Posnanski, Craig Calcaterra, Rob Neyer, Jonah Keri, and Josh Wilker) covering the careers of numerous great but not all-time great players. It’s published by Sky Kalkman & Marc Normandin.

Taken straight from the book’s website:

The Hall of Nearly Great is an ebook meant to celebrate the careers of those who are not celebrated. It’s not a book meant to reopen arguments about who does and does not deserve Hall of Fame enshrinement. Rather, it remembers those who, failing entrance into Cooperstown, may unfairly be lost to history. It’s for the players we grew up rooting for, the ones whose best years led to flags and memories that will fly together forever. Players like David Cone, Will Clark, Dwight Evans, Norm Cash, Kenny Lofton, Brad Radke, and many others.

The book totals more than 97,000 words about 42 players, meaning that each guy gets several pages. Here are a few snippets to read as you get out your wallet:

Steve Goldman, on Don Mattingly:

“Having hit only one home run in his first 99 plate appearances of 1984 and just five in the first 417 plate appearances of his major-league career going back to 1982, Mattingly homered in three consecutive games against the Indians and was off, knocking 22 balls over the fence over the remainder of the season. In September, someone asked Berra if Mattingly had exceeded his expectations, and the manager replied with a basic Yogiism: ‘I’d say he’s done more than that’”

King Kaufman, on Ron Cey:

“I’m on the phone with Ron Cey and he’s not getting why I think he’s a vastly underrated player.

‘There has to be a basis behind it,’ he’s saying, ‘so why do you feel that way? And then maybe I can respond to it.’

I’m a little hung up. I hadn’t expected to have to defend this idea. I’d figured if I were ever going to find a friend for the thought that Ron Cey, the squat, power-hitting third baseman for the longest-running infield in baseball history, has not gotten his historical due, that friend would answer the phone when I called Ron Cey’s house.

I can’t go with ‘Well, when’s the last time you heard anyone talk about Ron Cey?’ because he’s Ron Cey. He probably hears about Ron Cey all the time.”

Tommy Bennett on Fred McGriff:

“Over his career, McGriff played for six different teams in 19 seasons. He played baseball at the highest level. He was five times an All-Star, three times a Silver Slugger recipient, and six times a top-ten MVP finisher. His visage graced some of the most coveted Donruss baseball cards of his era: Rated Rookie, Diamond King, and Triple Play Nicknames. But despite his accomplishments, cable-television notoriety, and Super Star nickname, every bio of the Crime Dog ever written, no matter how short, will note that he hit 493 home runs, just seven shy of excellence.”

These are just a few short bits drawn from a long volume covering lots of wonderful players. Some of the stories involve interviews, while most involve statistics (the authors are, for the most part, sabermetrically-inclined.)

Now, here’s why you need to buy this book:

1. First and foremost, it’s awesome. It’s got a lot of different writing styles (all good) and shines a lot of light on players who don’t appear nearly as brightly as they once did.

2. This project was funded by Kickstarter.com, a crowdsourcing mechanism that supports great projects. I paid for my copy of the book already, on the day that Sky first launched the Kickstarter drive. This sort of model just makes tons of sense, and I really want to see Sky and his team succeed, and succeed wonderfully. Rather than some crusty old publisher in a dusty office deciding whether this book should get written, we (the baseball public) decided, gave the group the money they needed to make it happen, and now get to reap the benefits. Let’s help make this program a massive success so that we can get more like it.

3. Yes, High Heat Stats is an affiliate promoter for The Hall of Nearly Great, so if you buy a copy of the book using any of the links on this page, we get a small piece of the action. That means you’re supporting the authors, supporting your favorite blog, and, oh yeah, GETTING AN AWESOME BOOK.

4. By my quick count, the book has at least a handful of women authors. These are folks like Wendy Thurm, Cee Angi, and Emma Span: experienced writers who have more business contributing to a book like this than I do. Until the day comes when talent alone dictates who gets opportunities, I will always go out of my way to support hard-working people who are under-represented in their profession. I’d buy this book if it contained only the pieces written by women.

5. Ready for the kicker? THE BOOK COSTS ONLY TWELVE DOLLARS. Yeah, $12. So that’s less than 30 cents for each essay. You’ve read this far. Buy it now.

The Mount Rushmore of the Baltimore Orioles

1983 O-Pee-Chee #163 Cal Ripken – It is absolutely impossible not to love this card with an absolute passion.

This Mount Rushmore takes a look at the original Milwaukee Brewers. After joining the American League in 1901, the Brewers relocated to St. Louis for the next season and re-branded themselves as the Browns. Following the 1953 season, the franchise moved one last time, this time moving to Baltimore. They took the name of a previous franchise that played there (and later moved to New York…) and called themselves the Orioles.

For years, this was a pretty bad franchise. From 1901 to 1943, they didn’t have a single first-place finish (in just an 8-team league!) They had only 2 second-place finishes in that time too. After finishing first and losing the World Series in 1944, the team embarked on another went another 21 years without another top finish. Then, in 1966, their fortunes changes. The Orioles won the World Series that year, made 3 more finals in 1969-1971 (including another win in 1970) and proceeded to make the playoffs 4 more times from 1973-1983, capping off with yet another World Series win in that final season.

Since 1983, the pickings have been pretty slim. They’ve made the playoffs just twice (in 1996 and 1997, losing in the  ALCS each time) and are way under .500 for that period. So far, 2012 has been the best season in years for the team, with them clinging to 2nd place in the AL East.

Anyway, the franchise has had some pretty awesome players over the years. Let’s dig in.

Read the rest of this entry

The unremarkably remarkable career of DeWayne Wise

DeWayne Wise is 34 years old. He’s played for 6 teams over 10 years, has never had as many as 200 plate appearances in a season, and has an abysmal 62 OPS+.

And yet, for a guy whose baseball card tells a truly unremarkable story, the guy has been involved in quite a few memorable events:

Taken separately, none of these 3 things is all that unusual. Put together, though, and Wise is going to be remembered far longer than most other players with similar numbers.

My oh my, how closing times have changed

1988 Score #656 Steve Bedrosian HL / Saves Record

25 years ago today, on June 29th 1987, Steve Bedrosian recorded a save in a 6-5 Phillies win over the Pirates. It was the 19th save of his Cy Young-winning season, and it was the 12th straight appearance where he recorded a save.

Read the last part of that last sentence again…he got a save in 12 straight appearances. That doesn’t sound too unusual, right? Can you believe that at the time, he had just set the MLB record for most consecutive appearances with a save?

The card above actually celebrates that very streak. Read the back of the card, posted at the bottom here. At the time, Bedrosian’s record-breaking performance supplanted that of Sparky Lyle from 14 years prior.

In the 25 years that followed Bedrosian’s record, here are the longest streaks where a pitcher recorded a save in every appearance:

Rk Strk Start End Games
1 John Wetteland 1996-05-31 1996-07-14 24
2 Todd Jones 2005-07-19 2005-09-13 23
3 Lee Smith 1995-04-28 1995-06-25 19
4 J.J. Putz 2011-08-12 2011-09-25 18
5 Lee Smith 1993-05-24 1993-06-28 17
6 Randy Myers 1993-09-03 1993-10-03 16
7 Jose Valverde 2008-08-09 2008-09-10 15
8 Chad Cordero 2005-06-05 2005-07-02 15
9 Jose Mesa 2004-09-26 2005-05-10 15
10 Trevor Hoffman 2001-07-19 2001-09-01 15
11 Kazuhiro Sasaki 2000-06-20 2000-07-28 15
12 Jeff Shaw 1997-08-25 1997-09-19 15
13 Doug Jones 1988-05-13 1988-07-02 15
14 Mariano Rivera 2003-08-19 2003-09-19 14
15 John Smoltz 2002-06-03 2002-07-01 14
16 Rod Beck 1998-06-28 1998-07-26 14
17 Mariano Rivera 1998-06-02 1998-07-11 14
18 Jose Mesa 1995-05-20 1995-06-17 14
19 Jeff Montgomery 1994-07-08 1994-08-09 14
20 Ryan Franklin 2009-08-07 2009-09-05 13
21 Joakim Soria 2008-09-06 2009-04-22 13
22 Francisco Rodriguez 2008-04-14 2008-05-13 13
23 Francisco Rodriguez 2005-09-17 2006-04-10 13
24 Bob Wickman 2005-08-23 2005-09-23 13
25 Trevor Hoffman 2005-04-30 2005-05-29 13
Rk Strk Start End Games
26 Troy Percival 2003-06-08 2003-07-09 13
27 John Wetteland 2000-05-12 2000-06-05 13
28 Jeff Montgomery 1998-06-17 1998-07-24 13
29 Lee Smith 1993-10-01 1994-04-30 13
30 Rod Beck 1993-05-21 1993-06-21 13
31 Dennis Eckersley 1992-04-25 1992-05-29 13
32 Steve Bedrosian 1987-05-25 1987-06-30 13
33 Jonathan Broxton 2010-05-07 2010-05-30 12
34 Jason Isringhausen 2004-08-05 2004-09-01 12
35 Mariano Rivera 2004-05-26 2004-06-15 12
36 Joe Borowski 2003-09-04 2004-04-09 12
37 Troy Percival 2002-06-02 2002-07-03 12
38 Rod Beck 1996-09-28 1997-04-27 12
39 Mark Davis 1988-10-01 1989-04-29 12
40 John Franco 1988-07-05 1988-07-30 12
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/29/2012.

You can see Bedrock ran his streak to 13 games, but since setting his record, it’s been tied or broken 31 times. Insane.

The way that closers get used now is so exclusively in save situations, that any guy who doesn’t get a blown save for a couple of months will rack up a streak that ties Bedrosian’s 1987 record.

I don’t even really know where to begin with the stupidity of how closers are used today. The dumbest thing of all is a road team saving a closer for when they have a lead. If it’s the bottom of the 9th (or 10th or 11th, etc) and the score is tied, managers just about never use their closers. They “save” him (ironically enough) for the next inning in the hopes that their team scores in the top of the inning so they can then bring in the closer to protect the lead. That means that the manager puts in a lesser reliever to pitch that inning, and if he gives up a run, the game is over while your closer is still sitting on his ass, having never come into the game.

I do miss the days of Goose Gossage, who routinely came in during the 7th or 8th inning to pitch 2 to 3 innings to close out games. It seems to make a lot more sense. I understand, though, that limiting a closer to 1 inning (and usually fewer pitches) means he’ll throw harder, batters have less opportunity to see the pitcher, and generally he will be more effective. But I can’t help but feel that managers have swung too far in the other direction, limiting the user of closers far too much.

When Joe Torre started using Mariano Rivera in the playoffs in the 8th inning, I had hoped that this would carry over to the regular season and that Rivera would be the first of a new breed of closers who would come in for as many as 6 outs. But this hasn’t happened, presumably because on the rare occasions when a closer blows a game in such circumstances because he’s lost an MPH or two off his fastball, managers feel like they would have been better off saving him for the 9th. But the current prevailing strategy has been shown to be monumentally flawed…

It takes time I suppose. I feel pretty confident in saying that in another 10 years time, closers will not be used in such restricted circumstances. Joe Madden will probably be the first guy to figure it out.

If you’ve read this far, you get a prize. Take a look again at the picture of Bedrosian on the front of the card at the top of this post. Notice anything unusual?

There is a Montreal Expo in the background who is not a baserunner, but an infielder. This means that the photo can only be from the 1987 All-Star game, and that must be Hubie Brooks.

Quick poll: More gifted athlete–Deion Sanders or Bo Jackson?

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