Circle of Greats Round 31 Results: No More Waiting For Lefty

It may not have been passionately dramatic, but this round continued the recent trend of pitchers taking the top several vote-getting spots.  Steve Carlton, freed of the competition from Tom Seaver he faced in the previous round, surged to the top spot, solidly ahead of Nolan Ryan and Jim Palmer, who landed in second and third places respectively.  Carlton becomes the 31st inductee into the High Heat Stats Circle of Greats (COG).   More on Lefty and the voting after the jump. Continue reading

Can the Pirates Shift Past the Cardinals?

The ascension of the Pittsburgh Pirates, from two decades of losing to 94 wins and the NL Wild Card, was not an easy one. The franchise had to completely revamp everything; from they way they do business on the international market to the way they play on the field. Gone were the frugal Pirates of the past. In 2011, GM Neil Huntington and his mates scoured the high seas, spending a record $17 million in the amateur draft in order to turn the franchise around. And while many of those players (top pick Gerrit Cole aside) have yet to make an impact on the big league level, the message was sent. Pittsburgh was here to compete.

That aggressive front office approach in the draft has bled over into other areas of the franchise as well. After decades of doing everything in their power to avoid spending money on free agents, Pittsburgh opened up the coffers for Russell Martin, who was brought in on a 2-year/$17 million dollar deal to fortify what had previously been an extremely weak catching position. Along with Martin, veterans AJ BurnettWandy Rodriguez, and Justin Morneau among others have been traded for in an effort to raise the roster’s overall talent level. And perhaps most importantly, modern-day analytical analysis has been embraced.

Nowhere is that new, modern approach to baseball more evident than in the Pirates’ commitment to the defensive shift. Pittsburgh was one of the shiftiest teams in baseball this season, using one defensive maneuver or another over 400 times. That ranks 2nd among all of the franchises currently in the playoffs, trailing only the original super-shifters, the Tampa Bay Rays. That’s a huge jump from 2012, when Pittsburgh shifted just 105 times and the numbers back up just how effective all those extra defensive movements were. Pittsburgh ranked 3rd in baseball as a team in defensive runs saved and they finished tied for 7th in the league in defensive efficiency, which is the percentage of balls put in play that are then converted into outs.

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Quiz – Old-timers and one other guy (solved)

All of the players in today’s quiz were active before the end of World War II. Except one, who needs no introduction. But, what season feat have only these players accomplished in the history of major league baseball?

Congratulations to Bix! He correctly identified that only the players in today’s quiz have played every inning of every game at one position, including the post-season, for a World Series winning team. Only Billy Johnson did this to start his career. Among this year’s playoff teams, only Prince Fielder and Joey Votto played every game, but neither played every inning (resting your regulars for the post-season is evidently a more recent strategy).

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OPS+ and ERA+ are on completely different scales

ERA+ has issues. This was brought to my attention awhile ago by Sky Kalkman (see the Storify for lots of gruesome details). I’ve written about some of the issues with ERA+ as they relate to Rick Reuschel. But today I want to bring up something different.

I was looking at the ERA+ career leaders (you know, because Mariano Rivera). I found this:

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Finishing on a high: Henderson Alvarez no-hits the Tigers

While attention was focused on the sprint to the finish for the AL wild card contenders, Miami quietly completed a weekend sweep of the AL Central champion Tigers with a 1-0 walk-off win in the first no-hit game pitched by Henderson Alvarez.

In the first ever season-ending inter-league game, Alvarez required only 99 pitches to retire the Tigers who reached base only 3 times, on a 1st inning hit by pitch, a 5th inning error and a 9th inning walk, all with two outs. No Tiger would reach second base.

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