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South Wind Blowing: Return of the Lefty

After a lengthy period in the wilderness, lefties are once again in vogue in the majors. The chart below shows the difference in ERA for left-handed and right-handed pitchers. When lefties have the edge, the bar is brown and for righties the bar is green. 2013 was the 6th straight season that left-handers have outshone righties in ERA, albeit by small margins. Perhaps in consequence, innings for left-handed pitchers (the blue line) are also on the rise.
Pitcher Handedness Results 1950-2013
More on the change in southpaw fortunes after the jump.
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Ralph Kiner, 1922-2014

Hall of Fame slugger Ralph Kiner died Thursday, at age 91. (NY Times obituary; Jayson Stark on the lighter side of Ralph.) Some notes on his playing days:

During his 10-year career (1946-55) with the Pirates, Cubs and Indians, Ralph Kiner led the majors with 369 HRs, 80 more than #2 Stan Musial. He ranked 3rd with his 1,015 RBI (behind Musial and Del Ennis) and 971 Runs (Musial and Pee Wee Reese), and 2nd to Musial in Times On Base and Total Bases.

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Has the game actually changed since the peak of the Steroid Era?

Run scoring and such have dropped since the peak of the Steroid Era, but at least for now, the face of the game remains unchanged. Although homers have dropped off some, three other events–triples, intentional walks, and sac bunts–continue to hurtle towards extinction.

Here’s the simple ratio of HR per game to the sum of those other three events. Suddenly, 2013 is looking more like the offensive peak years of 1999-2000.


Circle of Greats: 1933 Balloting

This post is for voting and discussion in the 46th round of balloting for the Circle of Greats (COG).  This round is for voting on the group of players born in 1933.  Rules and lists are after the jump.

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“Arriba” was Roberto Clemente‘s nickname and an apt one it was. defines the idiom as “an expression of pleasure, approval or elation”, a sentiment that Clemente inspired in most who saw him play.

I only saw Clemente at the tail end of his career, but his skill and passion for the game were still plainly evident. I have quite vivid memories of the 1971 post-season when Clemente, with an 18-hit barrage good for a .383/.420/.596 slash, carried his team to a World Series championship, capped by a game 7 home run off Mike Cuellar that stood until the 8th inning as the only run of a taut pitchers’ duel ultimately decided by a 2-1 score.

Even among the pantheon of all-time greats who graced baseball’s stage in the 1960s, Clemente holds an honored place. Indeed, a compelling case can be made that he was among the two or three most dominant players of his time.

More on Clemente after the jump.

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Betcha can’t do that again: musings on one-season wonders

Some players have career years in which they far exceed their previous best performance and, as it turns out, any subsequent performance. Using FanGraphs leaderboards, I’ve identified the record-holders of this type.

This post takes a quick look at the players who had the largest difference between their best and second-best seasons in a variety of different statistical categories. Thanks to HHS reader Richard Chester for the idea for this post.

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100 Greatest Moments Of The Last Decade

Recently a NFL writer at bleacher report named Bryn Swartz has taken on a project to select the 100 most memorable  NFL moments of the last decade. As a matter of fact I was helping him pick some of them just last night. I felt like this was a fun, albeit time consuming, project. I have decided to piggyback onto his idea, and do the same for MLB. This will be a pure celebration of baseball. There will be no off-field incidents on this list. The only thing that matters is the game that we love. It will be made up of events that happened between the 2004 and 2013 season. I will start unveiling the list next Monday, and hope to release 2 a day. At that rate we will be finishing up right around opening day, and hopefully get everybody gung-ho for baseball. If you would like to leave a comment with some of your favorite baseball moments from the last 10 years that would be greatly appreciated.

Quiz: Something Doesn’t Add Up

A chance observation led to an unusual search of the Play Index, which produced these four pitchers:

These are the only pitchers since 1916 with an extraordinary relationship among three adjacent items in their seasonal pitching lines. What might seem an error actually reflects a bizarre game feat. The pitchers are listed in order of the years in which this occurred.

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Quiz – a funny thing happened on the way to the showers (solved)

These players in this quiz have the distinction of being the only pitchers since 1916 with an unusual (and very unexpected) game accomplishment. What is it?

Hint: this feat has been accomplished only by starting pitchers. None of these players has done it twice.

No fooling quiz solver extraordinaire Richard Chester. He correctly identified these players as the only pitchers to be credited with a win when surrendering 5 or more home runs. More on winning when you shouldn’t after the jump.

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13 Hitters Instead of 15: Where Did the PAs Go?

This one’s a bit dry, but Andy fed me a good lead-in, so here goes.

What happened to the plate appearances once taken by the 14th and 15th hitters on a roster, now that those spots have gone to relievers? Have they been spread evenly among regulars and remaining bench players, or what?

That question arose when I noticed that only 140 players qualified for the batting title last year, the lowest full-season total since 1992. That surprised me. Yes, the number of qualifiers tends to fall when scoring does, but I thought that would be offset by the roster shift: Surely some of the 200+ PAs from the 14th and 15th hitters would have gone to regulars.

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