Category Archives: Analysis

Sixty feet six inches and the birth of relief pitching

This season marks 125 years since pitchers first launched their offerings from the current distance of 60½ feet from home plate. That’s 10½ feet or more than 20% further than before the 1893 season, a massive change that launched the 1890s “ultra-live ball” era but also introduced the more lasting change of pitchers who were used fairly frequently in relief roles. More after the jump. Continue reading

Baseball’s Takeaway/Giveaway Leaders

As football season gets underway, here’s a look at baseball’s version of the takeaway/giveaway margin. On the gridiron, the unit of measurement is turnovers and winning teams usually need to show a positive margin between turnovers forced (takeaways) and turnovers surrendered (giveaways). In baseball, the metric is more like points off of turnovers, as this post will consider unearned runs scored vs. unearned runs allowed, those runs being the “points” arising from errors forced and errors committed, More after the jump.

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Leadoff hitters are slugging at an unprecedented rate (in the first at bat)

Last week Anthony Rizzo, first baseman for the Chicago Cubs, hit leadoff for the first time in his seven year career. Before Rizzo’s first at bat, Cubs’ color man Jim Deshaies recalled:

Big Riz did it a couple of times in spring training, and on one occasion he went out there and ambushed the first pitch and hit a home run.

Two pitches into the regular season version of this experiment Rizzo hit a leadoff home run. The next evening Rizzo, still batting in the No.1 spot, made an impact one pitch sooner by hitting the first offering of the game over the outfield fence.

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Best “Bad” Pitching Seasons

Not every player enjoys the good fortune of playing on good teams. Position players, even on bad teams, can attract attention with stellar counting or rate stats. But, it isn’t so easy for pitchers who, even today, can still be overlooked without an attention-grabbing W-L record.

This post is looking at pitchers who sported bad W-L records for bad teams, but who nonetheless turned in creditable if under-appreciated seasons.

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Best and Worst Hitters Against Different Pitches

That’s pitches, not pitchers! In the never-ending cat-and-mouse game between pitcher and hitter, the pitcher’s biggest advantage is choosing the type of pitch to throw to different batters in different situations. Fangraphs provides summary data from PitchFX, the system employed by MLB to track every pitch thrown in every game. Included are data on the success of each hitter against different types of pitches. Those data for the 2016 season are after the jump.

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Hitting in the Clutch

In their 2007 work “The Book” (as in “Managing by …”), Tango, Lichtman and Dolphin used hard statistical analysis to debunk any number of notional ideas about baseball players and teams, among them that certain players are “clutch” performers. Their analysis indicated that whatever clutch tendencies players might exhibit in a given season would “correct” over time such that performance levels over a career would be much the same in “clutch” situations as in any other.

But, that doesn’t stop us from looking at those one-season tendencies, which I’ll explore next in looking at the players (like the Rockies’ Nolan Arenado to the left) who were best in the clutch in the 2016 season. Continue reading

Today’s Young Guns and WAR Contribution by Age

Followers of the game will be aware that baseball today is awash in young talent, including the group below, showing their career totals through their age 22 seasons.

Rk Player Year WAR/pos From To Age G PA R H HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS Pos Tm
1 Carlos Correa 2016 10.1 2015 2016 20-21 252 1092 128 266 42 164 115 217 .276 .354 .475 .829 *6/H HOU
2 Francisco Lindor 2016 10.3 2015 2016 21-22 257 1122 149 304 27 129 84 157 .306 .356 .454 .810 *6/HD CLE
3 Bryce Harper 2015 19.8 2012 2015 19-22 510 2143 328 528 97 248 279 449 .289 .384 .517 .902 978/HD WSN
4 Manny Machado 2015 17.7 2012 2015 19-22 451 1979 252 511 68 215 128 330 .281 .330 .458 .787 *5/6 BAL
5 Mike Trout 2014 28.6 2011 2014 19-22 493 2195 373 572 98 307 269 489 .305 .395 .549 .945 *87/D9H LAA
6 Jason Heyward 2012 14.7 2010 2012 20-22 428 1730 226 392 59 196 200 373 .261 .352 .447 .799 *9/H8 ATL
7 Giancarlo Stanton 2012 12.4 2010 2012 20-22 373 1498 199 358 93 232 150 432 .270 .350 .553 .903 *9/HD8 FLA-MIA
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 1/6/2017.

In fact, the players above all compiled 10 or more WAR by age 22. What may surprise you to learn, though, is that these 7 players from just the current decade represent fully one-sixth of all such everyday players since 1901. But, will they continue to produce handsome WAR dividends for their teams as their careers progress? To answer in a few words, for most of them, it’s very, very likely.

After the jump, more on being very good when very young, and projecting that success over a career.

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