December 8, 2013
And here's the full roster.
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Following are the one hundred most recent articles for the category Fielding .
11/14/2013: Let’s discuss the THT Annualby Dave Studeman
12/06/2013: Cooperstown Confidential: Ed Charles and 42by Bruce Markusen
12/06/2013: The Athletics get busyby Brad Johnson
12/06/2013: Getting to know Ryan Haniganby Chad Dotson
12/04/2013: Cataloging the non-tendered playersby Brad Johnson
12/04/2013: Alone on the pedestalby Jason Linden
12/03/2013: Mascot fight!by Greg Simons
12/03/2013: Why is a sinker “heavy?”by David Kagan
12/03/2013: The role of fall leaguesby Jeff Moore
12/02/2013: Nationals make great deal for Fisterby Matt Filippi
12/02/2013: The Twins go holiday shopping, but to what end?by Brad Johnson
12/02/2013: The end of the benchby Chris Jaffe
11/29/2013: Card Corner: 1973 Topps: Danny Waltonby Bruce Markusen
11/29/2013: The best rookies of the ‘30sby Chad Dotson
11/27/2013: Towards an award prediction systemby Shane Tourtellotte
11/26/2013: MLB’s coffers are overflowingby Greg Simons
11/26/2013: The role of prospects in tradesby Jeff Moore
11/25/2013: Stepping up to the plateby Frank Jackson
11/25/2013: 10 things I didn’t know about player birthdaysby Chris Jaffe
11/22/2013: The end of the road for Chris Carpenterby Chad Dotson
11/21/2013: All the news that’s fit to inventby Azure Texan
11/20/2013: Marcus Stroman, the mythbusting machineby Kyle Boddy
11/20/2013: Welcome to the birthplace of… someone elseby Jason Linden
11/19/2013: 2013 THT awards reviewby Greg Simons
11/18/2013: THT Fantasy has moved to Rotographsby Dave Studeman
11/18/2013: Atlanta gets burned againby Frank Jackson
11/18/2013: The 2014 Hall of Fame VC ballotby Chris Jaffe
11/18/2013: Must See MLB.TV 2013by Dave Studeman
11/15/2013: The best rookies of the ‘40sby Chad Dotson
11/15/2013: Card Corner: Wayne Granger: 1973 Toppsby Bruce Markusen
11/14/2013: 10th anniversary: the A.J. Pierzynski tradeby Chris Jaffe
11/14/2013: The Screwball: The face of championship baseballby Azure Texan
11/14/2013: Player-A-Day: Casey Fienby Brad Johnson
11/13/2013: Player-A-Day: Tim Lincecumby Brad Johnson
11/13/2013: Pitcher performance after batting successby Shane Tourtellotte
11/13/2013: 25th anniversary: Rob Neyer writes a letterby Chris Jaffe
11/13/2013: Houston hoodoo ‘62by Frank Jackson
11/12/2013: It’s The Hardball Times Annual 2014by Dave Studeman
11/12/2013: Player-A-Day: Joe Mauerby Brad Johnson
11/11/2013: Fastball velocity by game stateby Jon Roegele
11/11/2013: The rise of the middle-aged managerby Chris Jaffe
11/08/2013: Player-A-Day: Josmil Pintoby Brad Johnson
11/08/2013: Hall monitor: The case for Andruw Jonesby Chad Dotson
11/07/2013: Big leaguers, bit partsby Azure Texan
11/07/2013: Player-A-Day: Nathan Eovaldiby Brad Johnson
11/06/2013: If he’d only gotten another shotby Jason Linden
11/06/2013: Player-A-Day: David DeJesusby Brad Johnson
11/05/2013: Player-A-Day: David Ortizby Brad Johnson
11/04/2013: Player-A-Day: Jose Dariel Abreuby Brad Johnson
11/04/2013: The Boston (Braves) Marathon of 1928by Frank Jackson
11/04/2013: 10 things I didn’t know about birthdays in 2013by Chris Jaffe
11/01/2013: Taking the close pitch with two strikesby James Gentile
11/01/2013: Card Corner: 1973 Topps: Don Baylorby Bruce Markusen
11/01/2013: The best rookies of the ‘50sby Chad Dotson
10/31/2013: The Screwball: Celebrate good times, come on!by Azure Texan
10/31/2013: Player-A-Day: Leonys Martinby Brad Johnson
10/30/2013: Player-A-Day: Jon Lesterby Brad Johnson
10/30/2013: Forecasting the major 2013 awardsby Shane Tourtellotte
10/30/2013: The effect of seeing pitchesby Jon Roegele
10/29/2013: Putting the knock on pitching changesby Joe Distelheim
10/29/2013: Player-A-Day: Ryan Howardby Brad Johnson
10/29/2013: Losing momentum in the sixth gameby Dave Studeman
10/29/2013: Previewing the fall Stars gameby Jeff Moore
10/28/2013: Player-A-Day: Travis Woodby Brad Johnson
10/28/2013: Marquis Grissom: Mr. October Jr.by Frank Jackson
10/25/2013: The blackballing of Dick Dietzby Bruce Markusen
10/24/2013: Player-A-Day: Xander Bogaertsby Brad Johnson
10/24/2013: The Screwball: Put it in neutral?by Azure Texan
10/24/2013: The all-decade team: the ‘00sby Richard Barbieri
10/24/2013: Player-A-Day: Michael Wachaby Brad Johnson
10/23/2013: Earn money watching baseballby Dave Studeman
10/23/2013: Player-A-Day: Jose Iglesiasby Brad Johnson
10/23/2013: 20th anniversary: The Joe Carter gameby Chris Jaffe
10/23/2013: Giants take a risk with Lincecum’s two-year dealby Matt Filippi
10/23/2013: BOB: Nolan Ryan retires…for nowby Brian Borawski
10/22/2013: Where does David Price fit?by Jeff Moore
10/22/2013: Survey says?!?!?by Greg Simons
10/22/2013: ALCS post-mortem: The Fielder playby Shane Tourtellotte
10/21/2013: The best rivalries of 2013by Chris Jaffe
10/21/2013: World Series workhorsesby Frank Jackson
10/20/2013: WPS recap: ALCS, 10/19/2013by Shane Tourtellotte
10/19/2013: WPS Recap: NLCS, 10/18/2013by Shane Tourtellotte
10/18/2013: WPS recap: ALCS, 10/17/2013by Shane Tourtellotte
10/18/2013: Card Corner: 1973 Topps: Bob Baileyby Bruce Markusen
10/18/2013: The 2013 Atlanta Braves and core WARby James Gentile
10/18/2013: The best rookies of the ‘60sby Chad Dotson
10/17/2013: The Screwball: What about Bob Lemon?by Azure Texan
10/17/2013: WPS Recap: LCS, 10/16/2013by Shane Tourtellotte
10/16/2013: WPS recap: LCS, 10/15/2013by Shane Tourtellotte
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January 01, 2013
A baseball card mystery: who’s sliding into Dick Green?Dick Green was the poor man’s Bill Mazeroski. He didn’t play as long as his Hall of Fame counterpart, nor did he have nearly the same durability. He wasn’t quite as quick at turning the double play, an area in which Maz shined above all others.
Green’s inconsistent hitting also limited his playing time, as the A’s sometimes sought an offensive boost from their middle infield. He also had an annoying habit of announcing his retirement most every winter, only to be convinced by the A’s that he should return for another season.
Despite these drawbacks, Green was still a very fine defensive second baseman and an underrated part of Oakland’s 1970s dynasty. He had golden hands, excellent range, and the ability to work well with another underrated player in shortstop Bert Campaneris. Green and Campy formed one of the better double play combinations of the era.
Green also had a large degree of toughness. If you’ve ever seen tape of Hal McRae’s vicious slide into second base during the 1972 World Series, it is Green who is on the receiving end of his rolling block. Two innings later, Johnny Bench knocked down Green with a vicious takedown. Green hung in on each play, didn’t complain either time, and actually claimed to enjoy being in the middle of such heavy contact.
Appropriately enough, Green’s 1973 Topps card shows him attempting to finish off a double play against an unknown team. My first reaction in seeing the photograph is to consider this an action shot from the 1973 World Series, in which the A’s toppled the Mets in seven games. The baserunner looks vaguely like Felix Millan, the Mets’ second baseman.
That’s a nice try, but it cannot be right. A perusal of the Mets’ 1973 roster shows no one wearing the No. 14. Millan wore Nos. 16 and 17 in 1973, and not No. 14. So let’s forget the Mets’ theory.
That leaves us with 11 possibilities. They would be Oakland’s 11 opponents in the American League. Let’s narrow it down further. The bluish helmet of the opposing baserunner looks like something the Red Sox, the Indians, the Twins, or the Yankees would be wearing. But which team is it? And who is the mystery No. 14?
In examining the rosters of the aforementioned teams, here are the players who wore No. 14 in 1973. For the Red Sox, it was Ben Oglivie, while Chris Chambliss wore the number for the Indians. From the Twins, it was the late Dan Monzon, and for the Yankees, it was Ron Swoboda, whom we can safely eliminate based on skin color.
There are other questions in play here. Where was this game played? Was it the Oakland Coliseum, where so much Topps photography took place in the early 1970s? And when did this game take place during the 1973 season?
Let’s ring in the New Year with some good answers.
Posted by: Bruce Markusen
September 25, 2012
Dee Gordon, invisible manI've been reading Bill Chuck's Billy-Ball.com for years, and he and I exchange e-mails about his posts from time to time. On Monday, Bill had a post that caught my eye for an odd reason, and I felt obliged to comment.
Bill was citing the number of players with 20-plus stolen bases thus far in the 2012 season. Having just watched Sunday night's Dodgers-Reds tilt that included Dee Gordon throwing balls everywhere except to the first baseman's glove, Gordon was on my mind. (I have Gordon on a fantasy team, too, so I've been following him and his one-category contributions all season long.)
I couldn't help but notice that the speedy Gordon wasn't listed among those with at least 20 swipes, so I mentioned this to Bill. He responded that he had done a search at Baseball-Reference.com, and we all know the power and wonder that is B-Ref, so the lack of Gordon on the list was surprising.
I could think of only one explanation for this omission, which I shared with Bill: "Maybe B-Ref looks at his overall game, realizes he does NOTHING good except stealing bases and makes the value judgment to disregard him as a baseball player. It doesn't sound logical, but it's the best reason I can think of."
Bill found the glitch and re-posted the list, but I couldn't stop thinking about Gordon and his future. With the acquisition of Hanley Ramirez, the Dodgers found a shortstop for the remainder of 2012. However, 2013 could be a different story, with Ramirez possibly shifting to third base once again and opening up short for Gordon.
The question is, can Gordon do enough to justify the starting role? Yes, he has terrific speed. In about one-third of a season last year, Gordon swiped 24 bags, and this year he has pilfered 31 bases in about a half-season of games. But what else does he bring to the table?
Last year, he raised expectations with a .304 batting average in 224 at-bats. Sure, his slugging percentage was an unimpressive .362, as was his .325 on-base percentage, but if Gordon could hit .300, he would at least appear to be providing value. This season? How about a .228/.281/.281 triple-slash line? Gordon's stick has gone flaccid.
Defense? Well, if you watched Sunday's performance, you got a glimpse of why people question whether Gordon can remain a shortstop.
So you have a weak-hitting, poor-fielding speedster. The mid-1970s Oakland A's took a player like this, Herb Washington, and made him a pinch-runner. Incredibly, Washington appeared in 92 games in 1974 but had zero (yes, zero!) plate appearances. (He returned in 1975 for a mere 13 games, also without ever standing at the dish.)
Dee Gordon is almost certainly a better player than Herb Washington, but he needs to make some significant improvements at the plate and in the field if he wants to stick in the big leagues for any length of time.
Posted by: Greg Simons
May 04, 2012
Calico Joe and home-field advantageI'm reading John Grisham's new book, Calico Joe. As the name, and certainly the book's cover, indicate, this is not his latest legal thriller. It's a quick (208-page) piece of baseball fiction for which his publisher has the gall to charge $25. (Thank goodness for libraries.) A full review may be forthcoming, but for now I'd like to focus on one singular scene in the book and the question it raised in my mind.
This might be spoiling things a bit, but the seminal moment of the book is a hit-by-pitch, as the home team's hurler plunks a visiting batter. There is some speculation that the batter simply didn't see the ball, that for some reason he couldn't pick up the ball as it rocketed toward his skull.
This got me thinking. In baseball, the home team usually wears white uniforms, while visiting squads wear some sort of colored uniform—gray, blue, red, yellow, orange, teal, purple, etc. (I think the Marlins' new unis contain all these colors, and more.) How much does the fact that a white baseball is being thrown by a pitcher in a white outfit contribute to home-field advantage?
Certainly, it's easier to pick up the ball against a dark background, which is why the batters' eye in ballparks usually is painted black or dark green, and why some teams have had to remove trees and other distractions from their center-field backdrops over the years.
An aside: Jeff Sullivan at SB Nation wrote an article recently about the advantage Jered Weaver gets throwing the ball with Angels Stadium's rockpile behind him, and it's possible this benefited Weaver in his recent no-hitter. Well, that and he was facing the Twins. There is also speculation that the Marlins' new home run feature could provide a similar benefit to certain pitchers.
A quick internet search did not come up with any studies examining the impact of jersey color on home-field advantage, so I'm wondering if anyone has looked into this effect. If not, it could be an area worth exploring. With so many teams donning non-white alternate home uniforms over the last several seasons, there could be a large enough sample size to work through the noise and see if there's any impact.
Posted by: Greg Simons
April 29, 2012
Holland and an imperfect gameI got my first chance to watch my nine-year-old nephew Holland play baseball on Friday. His game was, unsurprisingly, a very different experience from watching the big leaguers. I won't give all the gory details, but a short example from the third inning will show what made an impression on me.
Holland reached base on a 5-4 force-out. On the next pitch, the opposing catcher let strike one roll a couple feet away, and Holland swiped second. The next pitch, ball one, went in the dirt too, and Holland took third. Then, after a walk, the pitcher turned his back for a moment, and not only did Holland steal home, but in the confusion the runner on first got all the way to third.
From my rough scoring of the game (yes, I was scoring it), four and a half innings produced 18 instances of what in professional baseball would be judged wild pitches or passed balls. Nothing more need be said to illustrate the chasm between these kids and "real" ballplayers, right? The professional game, the true game, is on a plane of effective perfection, right?
Jump-cut to the bottom of the ninth at Yankee Stadium that night. Game knotted at six, with Derek Jeter on first and Brayan Villarreal pitching to Curtis Granderson. The payoff pitch goes wild, and Jeter makes it all the way to third. Three pitches later, a slider goes off the end of catcher Alex Avila's glove, and Jeter beats the throw back to the plate to score the winning run.
This was a highly dramatic example, but not an isolated one. On that busy Friday night in major league baseball, there were four passed balls and 12 wild pitches (including two "dropped" third strikes) that led to 20 runners gaining extra bases. Ten of the 15 games on the schedule had at least one wild pitch or passed ball—and all five that didn't had at least one hit-by-pitch.
Maybe most interesting, one of those wild pitches led to that bizarre rarity: a four-strikeout inning. In the top of the eighth at Camden Yards, Oakland's Ryan Cook got the first two Orioles hacking, but strike nine to Adam Jones was a wild one that let Jones reach. Cook regrouped and threw strike 12 past Matt Wieters' bat to end the inning.
It was, according to MLB.com, the 59th four-K inning in history. (And the second one in four days. Who knew?)
So on a pretty ordinary day in baseball, arguably the two most interesting and memorable moments are defined by their imperfection, by someone goofing up. Kinda brings those multi-millionaire celebrities down to the level of nine-year-old boys playing for fun, right?
Well, no. Let's not get carried away. The pros are light-years in quality beyond those kids. But they aren't machines; they aren't infallible.
And thank God for that.
A flawless game is a sterile game. Tic-tac-toe holds no interest for anyone but kids, because adults can figure out the perfect strategy pretty easily and make a perpetual tie of it. Several years ago, computers solved the game of checkers, figuring out its optimum strategies, and the world of human tournament checkers has been reeling ever since. Once there's an equation for a game, the game is over. It's a solved puzzle, thrown out like a completed crossword in yesterday's paper.
It is the possibility, indeed the inevitability, of imperfection that makes the game what it is. The pitcher missing the outside corner; the batter getting under a fastball; the infielder's dive deflecting the hot-shot grounder. You can be perfect for a moment, or for a few at-bats. You might, like Philip Humber, be perfect for a whole game—but then there's the next game.
This should give us a bit of perspective. The players are going to keep striving for perfection, and we're going to keep rooting for our teams to exhibit it, and that's exactly as it should be. But the pursuit of that flawlessness is only interesting because it's so hard to achieve, even briefly, even for the best in the game. In baseball as in so many other endeavors, nobody's perfect.
Except for Holland's team, that is. They're 4-0 on the season so far—but there's still a lot of baseball left to be played.
Posted by: Shane Tourtellotte
January 07, 2011
Catcher Defense 2010Estimating a player’s defensive value is quite difficult.
I know, I know—duh. BUT, I would venture to say that it’s a tad bit easier to estimate a catcher’s defensive value compared to other positions. At least, most of it. There are, of course, certain aspects of a catcher’s impact behind the plate that we can only feebly grasp at—game calling, for example, and framing pitches, amongst other things. But we can still make a reasonable estimate of things that we do know about—the catcher’s caught stealing rate, prevention of wild pitches or passed balls, things like that—and while it is certainly influenced by the pitching staff the catcher works with, there is one piece of information we have for catchers that separates them from the rest of the position players: opportunities. We know the number of plays made by infielders and outfielders, yes, but not the actual amount of chances they had afield. When it comes to catchers, we do know how often a baserunner attempted to swipe a bag; we do know how often a catcher allowed a passed ball with a runner on and a base open for the taking, and so on.* So in some ways, we’re a bit ahead of the curve with catchers than we are with the other positions.
When I first began studying sabermetrics, I was heavily influenced by Justin Inaz’s series of player valuation at his site, Basement-Dwellers.com (it appears to be abandoned, which makes me really sad—it was one of my favorites). In it, Justin presented a method for estimating a catcher’s defensive efficiency based on statistics that were carried here at The Hardball Times: the catcher’s runs saved or cost compared to the league average based on stolen bases allowed, wild pitches and passed balls, and the catcher’s rate of errors (differentiating between throwing and fielding errors). Matt Klaassen of FanGraphs and Beyond the Box Score has brought it back, and I thought I’d revisit his work (the more people that see this, the better) with some slight differences:
• The run values are tailored for the 2010 run environment and were derived from a Base Runs equation, which was derived from empirical linear weights. This is really just for theoretical accuracy more than anything else.
• Catcher pickoffs have been added. So we’re getting a look at not only runners removed from stolen base attempts, but also the guys being caught off guard.
• I use different denominators for the rates—rather than WP or PB per PA, I’m doing it as a function per stolen base opportunity, and errors per defensive chances, not PA or innings.
• There is an estimate for a catcher’s efficiency at handling balls in play.
Naturally, these estimates are nothing more than just that—estimates. They are approximations of a catcher’s defensive value based on freely available data located at Baseball-Reference.com or Sports Illustrated. They are by no means definitive; plenty of adjustments could be made to enhance the quality of the estimate. Think of it as a crude starting point. Commentary on the components are below, and, of course, a spreadsheet containing all of the data can be found at the very bottom.
CS Runs are the catcher’s runs above/below the league average based on their caught stealing rate. I’m only giving catchers credit for times in which they recorded an assist (in other words, I’m excluding times runners were picked off by the pitcher). The league average in 2010 was 22.9%, and the run value of the caught stealing is 0.641 (the run value of the SB in 2010 was .193; CS -.448). The best was, unsurprisingly, Yadier Molina at +9 runs saved (with an astonishing 44.4% CS rate), followed by Miguel Olivo (+7) and Lou Marson (+5). The worst was Ryan Doumit (-9), followed by East Coast powerhouse catchers Victor Martinez (-6) and Jorge Posada (-6). The spread between the best and worst is 17 runs; nearly two wins.
PO Runs are the catcher’s pickoff runs based on their rate of picking off runners per stolen base opportunity. These are relatively rare occurrences—it happened only 60 times in 68,338 opportunities (.08%)—but some players excelled at removing potential stolen base threats. Humberto Quintero led the Majors at +4 runs, with Russell Martin (+3) and Jeff Mathis (+2) directly behind him, and Jason Kendall, Kurt Suzuki and Joe Mauer at the bottom of the list with -1 run. The run value of the pickoff is about .535 runs, and the overall spread was five runs; about half a win.
Glove Runs consist of the catcher’s passed balls and wild pitches allowed per stolen base opportunity. I treat the two separately, although more often than not the two are indistinguishable and the difference between them is purely arbitrary. The run value of the passed ball is .279 runs; the wild pitch .282, so they’re essentially the same in terms of runs. I’m also including the catcher’s runs saved or cost due to catcher’s interference (.365 runs), which makes a very small difference (+ 1 run). The Major League leader was Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz at +7, followed by Nats backstop Ivan Rodriguez (+6) and Matt Wieters (+5). At the bottom of the list are Jeff Mathis (-6), Adam Moore (-5) and Miguel Olivo (-5). The difference between the best and worst catcher is approximately a win and a half, a bit more than I imagined.
The player’s Error Runs are composed of the player’s rate of throwing errors and fielding errors per defensive chance. Following Justin’s methodology, the run value of a throwing error is about .492 runs and a fielding error .758. The best in the Bigs was Chris Snyder at +2, followed by Joe Mauer (+1) and Yadier Molina (+1), while the worst were Francisco Cervelli (-3), Jason Kendall (-3), and Brian McCann (-3). All in all, we’re looking at about a half win of difference.
Last but not least, the catcher’s Range Runs. This is a trivial addition but I thought it would be fun to throw in to the mix. Catchers don’t see that many ball in play chances—we’re talking about 30 or so chances at the most—but some catchers are a bit more adept at converting attempted bunts or weak hits into outs than others. The run value of an out made above average is .666 (infield singles are about .40 runs; the out value in 2010 is -.266). The best catcher at handling balls in play was Ryan Doumit at +1 run, followed by Ivan Rodriguez and Ramon Hernandez. The worst were Gregg Zaun, Francisco Cervelli and Russell Martin, all at -1.
Putting it all together, we get:
Name Runs Yadier Molina 16 Ivan Rodriguez 11 Carlos Ruiz 10 Matt Wieters 9 Humberto Quintero 9 Lou Marson 6 Henry Blanco 5 Yorvit Torrealba 5 Ramon Hernandez 5 Brian McCann 4
Dang, Yadier. Looks like Pudge still has it, and it's nice to see a kid with so much offensive potential in Wieters score so well in his defensive ratings.
Name Runs Chris Iannetta -4 John Hester -5 Kevin Cash -5 Victor Martinez -6 Mike Napoli -6 Adam Moore -8 Jeff Mathis -8 Ryan Doumit -9 Jorge Posada -10 Francisco Cervelli -10
Mathis is considered to be the "defensive specialist" if I remember right, so it's a bit odd to see him do so poorly. The Yankees were horrendous behind the dish last season, so switching to Russell Martin (+2) as the primary backstop could give them an extra win based on just the simple categories used. For a relatively small signing, it could have a modest impact for the Yanks.
All in all, there’s a 2.8 win difference between the best and worst catcher, which is pretty large. Of course, that’s not accounting for the intangibles, so it’s pretty apparent that the quality of defense behind the plate—even when you’re not paying attention to framing, pitch sequencing, etc.—is pretty important.
Yeah, yeah, I know...I promised you all a spreadsheet. So here it is- I hope you enjoy.
UPDATE (1/9): I've put WP and PB together (averaging the run value as well). The spreadsheet has been updated.
*As I already mentioned, naturally, pitchers can and do affect a catcher’s CS and WP/PB rates. Of course, if one is interested in estimating the catcher’s true talent, you’ll have to regress each component to the mean. I imagine this would help sift out the impact of the pitcher by at least a little bit.
Posted by: JT Jordan
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