For the full High Heat Stats experience:

Monday game notes – ersatz edition

John’s taking a well-deserved night off, so here’s a brief (and pale) imitation of the original.

Rockies 1 @ Cubs 9. The Rox offensive woes continued as they managed just one run or less for the fourth time in five games, and 2 runs or less in 6 of their last 7. If not for a Josh Rutledge homer in the 9th, Colorado would have been shut out for the 3rd time in 4 games, something no Rockies team has ever done. That charge from the gate with 6 or more runs in 10 of their first 15 contests (something only 23 other clubs have done) seems but a distant memory.

More after the jump.

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Top Team Batting Months

Here are the highest OPS numbers posted, since 1916, by a major league team over a full calendar month (min. 750 PAs):

1. Yankees (June, 1930) 1.035 OPS
2. Cardinals (April, 2000) .959 OPS
3. Red Sox (June, 2003) .945 OPS
4. Indians (April, 1997) .942 OPS
5. Indians (July, 1936) .940 OPS
6. Mariners (May, 1999) .935 OPS
7. Giants (June, 2000) .932 OPS
8. Cardinals (July, 1928) .931 OPS
9. Yankees (May, 1936) .929 OPS
10. Yankees (July, 1927) .925 OPS

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Saturday game notes

Cubs 8, @Nationals 2: Stephen Strasburg retired the first 11 Cubs, as if we’re impressed by that any more, and matched zeroes through 4 with Edwin Jackson (which is far more remarkable). With two down and a clean slate in the 5th, Ryan Zimmerman made his daily throwing error …

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Quiz – Power Pitchers (solved)

Here are a group of dominating pitchers, among the elite in the game’s history. They have distinguished themselves from their live-ball era brethren by dint of achieving a certain seasonal feat.

What is this feat achieved by no other pitcher since 1920?

Hint: some of these pitchers achieved this feat more than once

Congratulations to John Autin! John identified these pitchers as the only hurlers since 1920 with a season of 200+ IP and an ERA+ > 200 x WHIP. Take a look at these spectacular seasons after the jump.

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Friday game notes, im-perfect focus

Miller and Lester, fine — but I’ve got an SP line that hadn’t occurred in 90 years, and it’s not Alex Cobb, either. You’ll have to read through to find it.

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Fraction of balls put in play is at an all-time low

Here’s a plot showing the percentage of balls in play each year. Specifically, this refers to the fraction of plate appearances that result in a ball being handled by the defense.


The formula uses at-bats in the numerator, subtracting out home runs and strikeouts, and adding sacrifice hits and sacrifice flies. That total is then divided by plate appearances, which of course includes walks and hit-by-pitch.

As you can see, 2013 is on pace to have the lowest percentage of balls put in play in MLB history. And even though 2013 is far from over and could change, 2012 itself set the all-time record, at just 68.7%.

The two biggest factors are, of course, home runs and strikeouts. Even in this year of very low offense, home runs are still quite high. I wrote about that in my USA Today Sports Weekly piece this week. Strikeouts continue to go higher and higher, and drive the percentage of balls in play lower and lower.

Some comments and implications about the above graph:

  • Think about 2013, at 68%, vs baseball in the 1940’s, around 80%. With teams averaging around 38 plate appearances per game, that’s a difference of nearly 5 balls in play per game. Think about that–5 batted balls fewer per game, every game! That’s astounding.
  • The fewer balls in play also means that defense matters less. In the current game, defense is the best it’s ever been. Equipment and fields are of uniformly excellent quality and players have better range than ever. However, the lack of balls being put into play means that the defense has fewer chances, so overall, there is less variability on defense from team to team.
  • We think of 1968 as the year of the pitcher, but 74.2% of balls were still put in play that year, meaning the defense played a much bigger role.
  • Take a look at fielding metrics over the years, here. Putouts have remained the same over the years, because they are basically all outs. But total chances has dropped gradually over the years, from about 41 in the 1920s to 39 in the 1940s to about 37.5 in recent years. This number has fallen a bit because errors have continually dropped, but more because assists have dropped. And why have assists dropped? Because a higher fraction of putouts are to the catcher, i.e. strikeouts, when there can be no assist.

The game is changing, for sure…


Thursday game thoughts, plus Wednesday wanderings

I’m a little punchy, but here’s what I’ve got for you:

@Indians 9, A’s 2: Take that, skeptics. Those (like me) who scoffed at the odds of Scott Kazmir‘s comeback, 4 years since his last good season and after dropping all the way to the independent Sugar Land Skeeters, now have a reason to eat their words. Coming off his first quality start in almost 3 years, Kazmir fanned 10 while holding the AL’s #2 offense to one run in 6 innings, with no walks against the club that’s far out front in that department.

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Harvey’s heroics, and some other Monday game notes

[If you’ve had enough Harvey by now, skip down to “Other Monday action.”]

Six inches, maybe four: That’s what came between Matt Harvey and 9 perfect innings. The only blot on his line was a 2-out infield hit in the 7th by Alex Rios, gloved in the hole by Ruben Tejada with a jump-throw that was a split second late. Move that grounder a few inches to the right….

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Quiz – Singular Seasons (solved)

The players in this quiz include a number of all-time greats, some sabermetric favorites, and a  couple of other guys.

So, what seasonal feat have only these players accomplished since 1901?

Hint: none of these players accomplished this feat more than once.

Congratulations to Phil, RJ and Richard Chester! They teamed up to identify these hitters as the only players since 1901 to have a qualifying season with more walks than hits, 25 or more HRs and 100 or fewer RBI. Despite the somewhat modest RBI totals, that is a pretty potent combination as 9 of the 10 seasons (listed in comment #30) scored 130 OPS+ or better, including two seasons over 200. Evidently, pitchers were justified in pitching around these guys frequently.

Catching up with … Monday’s game notes

Belated happy 82nd birthday, Willie! May 6 is otherwise a dull day in MLB birthday history: no one else had more than Dick Wakefield’s 56 HRs, 315 RBI or 334 Runs, Walton Cruise’s 644 hits or 49 SB, or Mike McCormick’s 748 games (the ’40s OF, not the pitcher). Gerardo Parra and Jose Altuve, you have something to shoot for.

To the games we go!

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