May 20, 2013
And here's the full roster.
Now availableHardball Times Baseball Annual 2013, with 300 pages of great content. It's also available on Amazon and Kindle. Read more about it here.
Or you can search by:
THT E-bookThird Base: The Crossroads is THT's e-book, available for $3.99 from the Kindle store. The good news is that anyone can read a Kindle book, even on a PC. So enjoy the best from THT in a new format.
our CafePress store. We've got baseball caps, t-shirts, coffee mugs and even wall clocks with the classy THT logo prominently displayed. Also, check out the THT Bookstore. Please support your favorite baseball site by purchasing something today.
All content on this site (including text, graphs, and any other original works), unless otherwise noted, is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Following are the one hundred most recent articles for the category Commentary .
05/20/2013: The daily grind: 5-20-13by Brad Johnson
05/20/2013: And That Happenedby Craig Calcaterra
05/20/2013: The Hot Seatby Scott Strandberg
05/20/2013: AL Central: state of the divisionby Chris Jaffe
05/20/2013: Fantasy Waiver Wire: Week 8, Vol. 1by Karl de Vries
05/20/2013: Louisville slugging in 2013by Frank Jackson
05/20/2013: 5,000 days since Eric Milton’s no-hitterby Chris Jaffe
05/17/2013: The daily grind: 5-17-13by Brad Johnson
05/17/2013: And That Happenedby Craig Calcaterra
05/17/2013: Gems without whiffsby James Gentile
05/17/2013: 40th anniversary: Bobby Valentine breaks his legby Chris Jaffe
05/17/2013: Strength of schedule: Adjusting hitter valuesby Moe Koltun
05/17/2013: Fantasy Waiver Wire: Week 7, Vol. IIIby Jack Weiland
05/17/2013: Card Corner: 1973 Topps: Mike Andrewsby Bruce Markusen
05/16/2013: The daily grind: 5-16-13by Brad Johnson
05/16/2013: And That Happenedby Craig Calcaterra
05/16/2013: How Scott Kazmir got his groove backby Kyle Boddy
05/16/2013: Three more for eternityby Don Malcolm
05/16/2013: Not exactly definitiveby Don Malcolm
05/16/2013: The all-decade team: the ‘40sby Richard Barbieri
05/16/2013: Of Uggs and Ugglaby Derek Ambrosino
05/15/2013: The daily grind: 5-15-13by Brad Johnson
05/15/2013: And That Happenedby Craig Calcaterra
05/15/2013: Running hot and coldby Shane Tourtellotte
05/15/2013: The Phillies should retool but not rebootby Brad Johnson
05/15/2013: Fantasy Waiver Wire: Week 7, Vol. IIby Karl de Vries
05/15/2013: Currently historic: 300 strikeouts?by Jason Linden
05/15/2013: Mike Moustakas’ holeby Noah Woodward
05/15/2013: BOB: How bad is the Marlins’ attendance?by Brian Borawski
05/14/2013: And That Happenedby Craig Calcaterra
05/14/2013: The daily grind: 5-14-13by Brad Johnson
05/14/2013: How much do hot/cold starts matter?by Greg Simons
05/14/2013: 25th anniversary: The Jose Oquendo Gameby Chris Jaffe
05/14/2013: Jonathan Schoop and the value of role playersby Jeff Moore
05/14/2013: THT Awardsby John Barten
05/13/2013: The daily grind: 5-13-13by Brad Johnson
05/13/2013: And That Happenedby Craig Calcaterra
05/13/2013: 30th anniversary: Reggie’s 2,000th Kby Chris Jaffe
05/13/2013: NL Central division update: May editionby Jason Linden
05/13/2013: Fantasy Waiver Wire: Week 7, Vol. Iby Jack Weiland
05/13/2013: Last remaining teammatesby Chris Jaffe
05/13/2013: The Hot Seatby Scott Strandberg
05/12/2013: The curious case of Vernon Wellsby Matt Filippi
05/12/2013: 60th anniversary: Whitey Ford’s near no-hitterby Chris Jaffe
05/10/2013: The daily grind: 5-10-13by Brad Johnson
05/10/2013: And That Happenedby Craig Calcaterra
05/10/2013: Cooperstown Confidential: What really happened with Fritz Ostermueller and Jackie Robinsonby Bruce Markusen
05/10/2013: Fantasy Waiver Wire: Week 6, Vol. IIIby Karl de Vries
05/10/2013: Still life, after allby Azure Texan
05/09/2013: Oh Dustyby Pat Andriola
05/09/2013: And That Happenedby Craig Calcaterra
05/09/2013: 40th anniversary: back-to-back first homersby Chris Jaffe
05/09/2013: The Roto Grotto: rates versus opportunitiesby Scott Spratt
05/09/2013: Swing rates: the John Farrell effectby Moe Koltun
05/09/2013: Winning, TWTW, and the purpose of baseballby Matt Hunter
05/08/2013: Closer watchby Karl de Vries
05/08/2013: And That Happenedby Craig Calcaterra
05/08/2013: The daily grind: 5-8-13by Brad Johnson
05/08/2013: Fantasy Waiver Wire: Week 6, Vol. IIby Jack Weiland
05/08/2013: What nobody is talking aboutby Greg Simons
05/08/2013: Currently historic: A truly rare achievementby Jason Linden
05/08/2013: Craig Anderson’s greatest dayby Frank Jackson
05/08/2013: BOB: Stadium updatesby Brian Borawski
05/07/2013: And That Happenedby Craig Calcaterra
05/07/2013: The daily grind: 5-7-13by Brad Johnson
05/07/2013: Fun with minor league leader boardsby Jeff Moore
05/07/2013: 90th anniversary: Casey Stengel goes bonkersby Chris Jaffe
05/07/2013: THT Awardsby John Barten
05/07/2013: A.J. Ellis: hardly swinging, hardly missingby Noah Woodward
05/07/2013: Baseball Press: a fantasy secret weaponby Jack Weiland
05/07/2013: The Verdict: keeping it on the DLby Michael Stein
05/06/2013: The National League Graph, 2013by Dave Studeman
05/06/2013: And That Happenedby Craig Calcaterra
05/06/2013: The daily grind: 5-6-13by Brad Johnson
05/06/2013: AL East division update: May editionby Nick Fleder
05/06/2013: The Hot Seatby Scott Strandberg
05/06/2013: Last living linksby Chris Jaffe
05/06/2013: Fantasy Waiver Wire: Week 6, Vol. Iby Karl de Vries
05/05/2013: The American League Graph, 2013by Dave Studeman
05/04/2013: 50th anniversary: Braves balk-a-thonby Chris Jaffe
05/03/2013: The daily grind: 5-3-13by Brad Johnson
05/03/2013: And That Happenedby Craig Calcaterra
05/03/2013: Debut class WAR-fareby James Gentile
05/03/2013: Card Corner: 1973 Topps: Jose Cardenalby Bruce Markusen
05/03/2013: Fantasy Waiver Wire: Week 5, Vol. IIIby Jack Weiland
05/03/2013: The Grand Tour, part fiveby Shane Tourtellotte
05/02/2013: Yankees acquire Chris Nelsonby Pat Andriola
05/02/2013: And That Happenedby Craig Calcaterra
05/02/2013: The daily grind: 5-2-13by Brad Johnson
05/02/2013: Tales from the scorebookby Richard Barbieri
05/02/2013: Daily fantasy gaming: Five adagesby Moe Koltun
05/02/2013: The Grand Tour, part fourby Shane Tourtellotte
05/01/2013: Ryan Howard’s odd decline continuesby Pat Andriola
<< Click here to return to the category list.
April 19, 2013
Competing religions of baseballThere are two seemingly unrelated stories that I'd like to take a moment to compare in order to make a point.
In the world of economics, public policy, and how not to format a spreadsheet, word has come out that a seminal paper arguing that high debt-to-GDP rates are bad for economic growth was based on bad data after the two professors who ran the study made an error in Excel.
Meanwhile, in the world of amusing-but-not-important baseball news, MLB Network's Brian Kenny ripped into White Sox broadcaster Hawk Harrelson for blaspheming sabermetrics.
The way in which we interpret data is important. For years prior to the Moneyball revolution (which has definitely been related to the success of Nate Silver and Big Data's popularity), people within the sports stats community were begging for somebody to pay attention to their numbers, and they had a darn good point. Good hypotheses based on solid evidence were ignored for traditional theory in a way that seemed fraternal and anti-scientific.
Since then, statistical analysis certainly has gained ground in front offices and with the greater fan base, but too often it's presented, much like a lot of modern economic theory, as science.
A lot of blame here is on the media, which like to create false dichotomies to masquerade conversation as conflict. No example of this is better than MLB Network's over-the-top commercial featuring Kenny and Harold Reynolds, with the former serving as the God of Logic and the latter as the God of Wisdom in an eternal battle to decide who should bat fifth for the Mariners.
The commercial begins with Kenny doing his best Will Hunting impression. (And if we're gonna get all super nerdy, the best he can mutter is something about OPS? C'mon.) He then looks squarely into the camera and states resolutely, "Stats tell the truth," which befuddles me. The truth ... about what? Reynolds plays opposite as the old-timey baseball coach who learned the game on the diamond, not from a textbook.
This all really started with Michael Lewis' over-dramatization of the front office divide between scouts and stats guys in Oakland, but it's been taken to a whole other, dare I say, religious level. On one side is Sabermetrics, represented as a branch of science grounded in Enlightenment values and unyielding objectivity. On the other side is Scouting/Feeling/Traditionalism, represented as dealing with strategy, keen observation, and insightful instinct as a result of experience.
I talked to a random guy about baseball before this season started, and when I attempted to rebut his argument that the Mets would have the worst outfield in the history of baseball, he shook his head, looked at me solemnly and said, "Sabermetrics says so." I guess I had two options: I could agree with him and trust the numbers or reject the numbers and trust faith. Sabermetrics said so, so I really had no other choice.
In the big data revolution, it's always important to remember that there are no panaceas. Statistical analysis is a social science, not a physical one. The best anyone can do with a spreadsheet is test some thoughts and get results that mean the thoughts may be true after all. Nerdy 20s-something-looking kids with glasses are not the modern oracles. They're just using a different tool.
*Note: for another good take that overlaps with this topic, check out Jack Moore's article
Posted by: Pat Andriola
April 15, 2013
It was the top of the fifth inning and the Giants were down by one run to the Cubs last Thursday. The bases were loaded and there was one man away. Hisanori Takahashi, a soft-tossing lefty, was in for Chicago, and the ninth spot in the order was up for San Francisco. This meant Ryan Vogelsong, who had already thrown 81 pitches in the game and had given up five runs, came up to the plate.
Vogelsong battled and worked a walk to erase the last of what was a five-run deficit and tie the game. The Giants scored two more in the inning, eventually holding on to a narrow 7-6 win.
I was confused when Vogelsong came up to hit. Results aside, the Giants were down by one run and had the bases loaded with one out, which should produce, on average, around 1.55 runs. According to win expectancy, the game was completely even, 50-50, when Vogelsong hit. So the question is, should Bruce Bochy have pinch-hit?
I think it’s unquestionably yes. Vogelsong wound up going two more innings, throwing 26 more pitches, after the top half of the fifth. Last year Vogelsong threw 3,056 pitches in 31 starts for an average of 98.6 pitches per game, so based on last year’s numbers, Bochy was looking at around 18 more pitches.
Ryan Vogelsong is a pretty bad hitter. He has six career extra base hits in 209 plate appearances, good overall for a .198 wOBA (17 wRC+). Meanwhile, Andres Torres and Marco Scutaro, switch-hitter and right-handed hitter respectively, toiled on the bench. Torres had a .342 wOBA against lefties last year and is at .324 (102 wRC+) for his career. Scutaro had a .315 wOBA against lefties last year and is at .325 (96 wRC+) for his career. Simply put, both players would have been immense upgrades over Vogelsong.
So, in essence, Bochy had this calculus:
(Value of ~18 pitches of Ryan Vogelsong – Value of ~18 pitches of substitute pitcher) > (Value of ~.325 wOBA – Value of ~.198 wOBA in situation with leverage index of 3.80)
I’m sure there are ways to rationalize the decision. There was only one out and the top of the order was coming up, the Giants wanted to save their bullpen, Vogelsong was settling down and it was good for his confidence, Bochy saw an arrangement of sunflower seeds on the ground that spelled out “RYAN” and thought it was a sign from God. But whatever, managers make mistakes like this all the time; it’s not the biggest deal in the world.
But it did get me thinking about the role of the starting pitcher and the ninth spot in the batting order. As long as the National League shuns the designated hitter, this is going to be an issue. It’s long been theorized that the way in which starting pitching has traditionally worked is suboptimal, and that’s probably right.
Interestingly, the game may be reacting to the realization of this fact. Starting pitchers averaged 6.66 innings per game in 1972, 5.98 in 2010, 6.03 in 2011, 5.89 in 2012, and 5.71 thus far this season (sample size warning, of course). Maybe managers are starting to realize that the word “starting” in starting pitcher is the most important part of the title: They start the game, but that doesn’t mean they need to be around forever. Dave Cameron talked last year about some of the play-in teams starting the game with a closer, which definitely would’ve been neat.
Interestingly, the shorter the average starting pitcher goes, the more important the ninth spot in the lineup becomes. The data behind pitchers hitting eighth have already demonstrated some possible underlying importance out of the ninth spot (probably because it immediately precedes players who typically have high OBPs). So maybe one benefit of being flexible with who's on the mound is that you can take advantage of high leverage index situations early in games. You also will probably have fewer pitchers reach the plate on average, which will unquestionably help the offense.
Bochy’s error is easy to pick out because of how crazy the situation was: a huge leverage index spot pretty early in the game, a starting pitcher who already had a high pitch count, and pretty good pinch-hitting candidates. But what if we tweak the formula above? Instead of 18 pitches of Vogelsong, make it 30, and instead of a 5-5 game with the bases loaded and one out, have the Giants up 5-4 with a man on third and one out. It gets trickier, and the sooner managers start experimenting with shorter stints from their starters, the sooner we’ll see some interesting managerial maneuvers.
Posted by: Pat Andriola
February 12, 2013
Bourn finds a home, Lohse still waitsNews broke Monday night that, after months of deliberation, outfielder Michael Bourn had signed a four-year deal with the Cleveland Indians. The market had seemed to be thinning for Bourn, 30, in the recent months, and this move came almost out of nowhere. That leaves Kyle Lohse as the only player left on the free agent market who received a qualifying offer.
This is our first offseason working with the new free agency rules set forth by the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and there already seems to be a clear bias. The "good-not-great" players seem to be hurting.
Players like Bourn and Lohse, who had very good years in 2012, both received qualifying offers following the season, which sets up their former teams to receive draft pick compensation when they sign elsewhere and takes a pick away from the team that signs them. For example, the Braves received the 31st overall pick in the 2013 amateur draft when Bourn signed, while the Indians lost their second-rounder (the top 10 overall picks in the draft are protected, and Cleveland had the fifth).
Bourn finally found a home as teams are starting to report to spring training, but what about Lohse?
Lohse, 34, is your classic sinker-slider pitcher who is a very serviceable mid-rotation starter. He had a career year in 2012, posting a 3.51 FIP (2.86 ERA) across 211 innings (all career bests). He's had trouble staying healthy in the past, however, and he's starting the climb up his 30s, which would make any team cautious.
If it weren't for the new draft compensation rules, you could make the argument that Lohse would have signed a deal by now, but since he is not considered a top-flight pitcher, teams are hesitant to give up a first-round draft pick for his services. A team like the Red Sox may be a good fit because they need starting pitching depth and are looking to contend this year, making the draft pick a little more expendable.
Lohse might have to settle for a one-year pillow contract (a la Edwin Jackson) and test the waters again next offseason, where he'll be up against a very weak free agent class. However, it's hard to predict what will happen because there are no comparables. Everyone is still very new to the way this new system works, and it's going to take a while to work out the kinks, as we've seen through the New York Mets' pursuit of Bourn.
Posted by: Matt Filippi
September 21, 2012
The “value” of holdsThursday morning, an Adam Hayes-penned an article appeared here at The Hardball Times regarding relievers and the shortcomings of the mainstream stats used to evaluate them.
Thursday evening, the Pirates lost their game against the Brewers to fall below .500 on the year as Pittsburgh continues to do a nifty imitation of last year's collapse.
These two items are related because of the box score that game produced.
After climbing out of an early 4-0 hole to take a 7-4 lead, the Buccos coughed up their late lead and fell by a score of 9-7. One of the pitchers most responsible for this loss was Chad Qualls, who surrendered three runs on three hits while retiring a single batter.
Qualls was credited with a hold.
Chris Resop came in next and gave up a run on two hits and a walk while recording two outs.
Resop took the loss.
Obviously, neither hurler pitched well, but Qualls clearly was worse. It is absurd for him to receive positive credit for his "contribution" while Resop was on the hook for the loss.
Holds, saves, wins, losses, blown saves—these traditional counting stats we attribute to pitcher performances simply don't do a sufficient job of assigning credit and blame. Yes, those with a sabermetric bent are well aware of this, so situations like this simply serve to provide more ammunition in the assault on these stats and the significance many fans—and mainstream media—attribute to them.
Posted by: Greg Simons
June 04, 2012
Nats picked a great time to stinkThe Washington Nationals are leading the National League East by percentage points going into Monday's games. Major League Baseball's First-Year Player Draft begins Monday. These two events are not unrelated.
Two reasons the Nats are (finally) finding success are the contributions of Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, two of the most hyped draftees in history. And Washington had the distinct pleasure of selecting these players with back-to-back No. 1 overall picks in the 2009 and 2010 drafts.
After dealing with Tommy John surgery that cost him more than a year's worth of starts, Strasburg has returned to the form he displayed when he first burst onto the major league scene. He is punching out 10.9 batters per nine innings with a 4.65:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, leading to a 165 ERA+. Traditionalists eat up his 6-1 record and 2.35 ERA.
Harper is tearing it up right of out gate, posting a .288/.380/.542 triple-slash line, good for a 148 OPS+. He's also walking nearly as often as he strikes out and making highlight-reel defensive plays with regularity.
Basically, these guys are living up to the hype, which is saying quite a bit given the lofty expectations placed upon them. The funny thing is, the Nationals wouldn't have either of these terrific players if they weren't so terrible a few short years ago. By posting awful 59-103 and 69-93 records in 2008 and 2009, Washington "earned" the first pick in both of the following year's drafts.
Yes, this is exactly how the draft is supposed to work. The worst teams from the previous season get the first shot at the top talent in the draft with the hopes of developing that talent into a cheap, young nucleus around which pricey free-agent pickups and savvy scrapheap acquisitions can be added. Ideally, these players all gel a few seasons down the road and the former doormat becomes a potential juggernaut. The Tampa Bay Rays are another example of how this is supposed to work.
But Washington had the additional benefit not only of back-to-back top picks, but also of having these two preternatural talents available and ownership's support to pay what it took to sign them, spending roughly $25 million on two kids with no professional experience. And while the Rays can pin some of their success on multiple No. 1 overall picks, only David Price has contributed directly to Tampa Bay's winning ways. The Rays also took Josh Hamilton, Delmon Young and Tim Beckham at the top of the draft, but none of those players did much to push the Rays to the top of the AL East.
Having the first pick is great—it's yielded such talents as Justin Upton, Joe Mauer, Adrian Gonzalez, Alex Rodriguez, Chipper Jones and Ken Griffey Jr. over the last couple of decades—but using that pick on the right player is crucial. After all, Matt Bush, Bryan Bullington and Brien Taylor have gone No. 1, and nobody remembers any key on-field contributions they've made.
Draft well, develop your minor league talent, and spend wisely to supplement that talent. It seems so straightforward, but we all know it's not. Just ask the Pirates.
But when it works out—and the baseball gods bless you with two consecutive über-talents—things can come together very quickly. Just ask the Nationals.
Posted by: Greg Simons
Click here for more THT Notes.