December 6, 2013
And here's the full roster.
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Following are the one hundred most recent articles for the category ZZTop .
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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October 04, 2013
WPS recap: NLDS, 10/3/2013The playoffs move into high gear, beginning with the National League.
Wednesday night's win by the Rays punctured a potential bit of trivia. Had Cleveland taken the game, it would have meant that all eight teams remaining in the playoffs were "original" teams, ones that had been around since the American League became a major league in 1901. Tampa Bay was the only expansion team to make it into the postseason. (The tiebreaker against Texas technically does not count.) They have their work cut out against the Old Guard, but that begins Friday.
Game 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 F Pirates 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 Cardinals 0 0 7 0 1 1 0 0 X 9 (Cardinals lead series 1-0) WPS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Pirates 5 5 5 3 3 1 0 0 0 Cardinals 7 24 49 0 1 0 0 0 X WPS Base: 98.1 Best Plays: 37.6 Last Play: 0.0 Grand Total: 135.7
There isn't too much to say about a game that is effectively over before the 16th out is recorded. Unless, of course, you have a rooting interest, but then the things you'll say are pretty obvious and, in the case of Pirates' fans, obscene. I'll find another direction, such as making this a lesson on how the WPS Index functions.
The Cardinals' third inning is exactly the most boring way to score seven runs, at least according to WPS. All the runs came in on eight players reaching base consecutively, from Adam Wainwright's leadoff walk to David Freese's three-run single-plus-error.
WPS likes outs interspersed with its baserunners, to keep expectations swinging and produce a "sawtooth" pattern on a Win Expectancy graph. There was virtually no suspense in A.J. Burnett's meltdown, no point at which you could think he was in position to squeeze free. It was an efficient way to kill a ballgame.
And it did kill this game. Pedro Alvarez's home run to open the fifth inning earned a WPS score of 1.4. That's a hair below what the second out of the game netted (1.5). When a home run is more ho-hum than a top-of-the-first grounder to the pitcher, things have gotten out of hand. As a further, and final, example, 14 of the last 15 plate appearances in the game produced a score of 0.0.
Desperate Pittsburgh boosters could point to the Cardinals' batting average with runners in scoring position as a ray of light. St. Louis went 2 for 10, a far cry from the incredible .330 they put up in the regular season.
Ah, but we know better than to stop looking there. The season triple-slash line for Cards' RISP was .330/.402/.463. With a homer, two walks, and a hit batter pitching in, they went .200/.385/.500 on this afternoon. Their OPS was better than the season average. No solace there, Buccos fans.
There was some suggestion by the broadcast crew that Carlos Martinez would have been wiser to eat the ball rather than throw to first on his eighth-inning play that amazingly nipped Russell Martin. They feared the ball getting away, giving him a free base, setting up a big inning.
Really? With an eight-run margin, the difference between a runner on first or on second is minuscule compared to that between a runner on first and a runner out. You want the outs, and you should be taking a chance like that. Don't listen to 'em, Carlos!
One final tactical quibble was manager Mike Matheny sending in late-season closer Trevor Rosenthal to pitch the ninth with an eight-run cushion. In his defense, I note that Rosenthal had last pitched six days earlier, and he might have needed a little work to prevent rust. Of course, St. Louis knew they wouldn't be playing until Thursday, so maybe they could have set up an intrasquad scrimmage, as Boston reportedly did, and given Rosenthal his maintenance work on Tuesday.
Just a thought to fill the cavernous vacuum of interest left by this game after the third inning.
Game 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 F Dodgers 0 2 2 1 0 1 0 0 0 6 Braves 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 (Dodgers lead series 1-0) WPS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Dodgers 5 27 22 10 7 6 1 0 0 Braves 5 13 13 17 4 2 5 3 3 WPS Base: 142.5 Best Plays: 31.5 Last Play: 0.6 Grand Total: 174.6
This one toyed with us a little more but still ended up the fifth postseason/tiebreaker game in a row below average excitement. Had the Braves not been making some threats in the second through fourth innings, this game could have been almost as low on the WPS Index as the Pirates and Cardinals.
Baseball does not reveal its patterns quickly. How many of us, after watching Kris Medlen strike out the side in the first, were thinking he'd be knocked around for five runs in the next three innings? Clayton Kershaw, on the other hand, while doing almost as well in the first on less dominant stuff, had the horses for the long haul, with a dozen strikeouts in his seven frames.
If the game had been closer, Evan Gattis could well have been remembered as the goat. Missing a diving attempt at a fly ball in the top of the second inning to let Los Angeles' second run across was forgivable. Getting hung out far, far off first on a fly to right and doubled off by Yasiel Puig in the bottom half was inexplicable. But if you're going to have a bad night, have it when it doesn't matter so much. We'll see how Gattis shakes off the experience.
The Dodgers tacked on a run in the sixth, which I wouldn't mention except for the Braves reliever who gave up that run, Jordan Walden. I did not recognize the name, but I recognized the delivery. I saw him at PNC Park earlier this year during a baseball tour that I wrote up here at THT. He had the same odd crow-hop off the rubber just before releasing the ball. Good to see that: April connects to October, the season ties itself into a bow for me.
There's no way I wouldn't mention Brian Wilson's stint in the eighth because, good Lord, that beard. If he were blond, he already would have joined ZZ Top.
Don Mattingly followed Matheny's lead and sent his closer to the mound with a large, non-save lead. It had been four days since Kenley Jansen's last appearance, so the rust argument holds less water. If it was just to keep him sharp, it may have backfired, as Jansen had to throw 25 pitches to finish the game.
Join us tomorrow as we run down all four playoff games across both leagues. One of them's going to be an exciting one. Law of averages, right? Right?
Posted by: Shane Tourtellotte
October 10, 2012
WPS Recap for Oct. 9Two elimination games, but zero eliminations. Bay Area baseball fans had a very good night on Tuesday.
Game 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 F Giants 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 Reds 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 (Reds lead series 2-1) WPS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Giants 5 5 16 6 6 11 8 10 13 81 Reds 27 4 12 6 6 17 8 19 13 19 WPS Base: 292.8 Best Plays: 56.5 Last Play: 4.3 Grand Total: 353.6
This was a tight contest all the way through, locked in a 1-1 tie for more than six innings, yet it had trouble exceeding the median WPS Index (roughly 310), with the 10th inning being the only breakout. What gives?
It's more a matter of what didn't give: the pitchers. Homer Bailey lost a no-hitter in the sixth despite having yielded a run in the third, and Giants hurlers were not far behind in effectiveness. Of the 20 half-innings played, only seven saw any baserunners. A tie, yes, but without serious threats to break the deadlock, one gets not tension but stasis. The hero does not look nearly as heroic if he does not have to struggle before prevailing.
A great final inning can brush away memories of tedium, and the drama of Scott Rolen's bobble that let Joaquin Arias reach first and Buster Posey reach home was a fine jolt. But then the Reds went down 1-2-3 in their half, which seems almost a microcosm of the game: a quiet inning when we were hoping for things to pop.
Game 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 F Tigers 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 A's 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 X 2 (Tigers lead series 2-1) WPS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Tigers 4 19 11 6 18 6 10 6 15 A's 30 10 4 4 16 2 4 2 X WPS Base: 167.5 Best Plays: 28.5 Last Play: 7.4 Grand Total: 203.4
Another instance where the pitching, primarily Oakland pitching, was too good to make for a very interesting game. Detroit managed more than one baserunner only in the second inning, and it's no coincidence that's when they posted their highest inning WPS score. It is probably a coincidence that this game's WPS Index is identical to yesterday's 12-4 St. Louis win over Washington. Two different styles of being kinda boring: the runaway win, and the offensive shutdown.
If you wanted excitement, your best bet was to watch Oakland's outfielders robbing Prince Fielder. In the second, Fielder hammered a ball deep to center, but Coco Crisp (perhaps still smarting from that misplay that cost Oakland dearly in Game Two) went over the wall to steal the home run. Five innings later, Fielder lined a pitch to left field, but Yoenis Cespedes made a tumbling catch to take away what even Fielder could have made a double.
After this second play, Oakland reliever Ryan Cook could be seen shouting, "Big Boy!" to Cespedes. Somewhere, Rico Carty was smiling.
Posted by: Shane Tourtellotte
August 12, 2010
Scouts, statisticians and wizardsI was about to leave a comment at The Book Blog in a thread titled When to go from the eyes to the numbers when I realized it was probably worth delving into here as well. It opened a philosophical door in my mind that occasionally opens and closes. It seemed a good time to take advantage of the open door and get my jumbled, innermost thoughts peer reviewed (or at least committed to paper for future reference)!
In post No. 8 of the thread I linked above, Nathan asked:
I guess the real question is, can anybody, just by watching 20 games, tell the difference between a .275 and a .300 hitter? I’m referring to batting average here which I know is lame, but the point is that the difference over 80 at-bats (roughly 20 games) is 2 hits! Can an observer notice 1 hit every 10 games?
My response is No. 9 and you can view it for yourself if you like. In fact, I highly recommend taking a look at the whole thread. I'll hit the highlights a little later. Really, it's unfathomable to me how any person can divine the difference between a .275 and .300 major league hitter when he's in high school, rookie ball, or even Double-A. The rate of attrition among minor leaguers could mean that perhaps they can't, at least not with any real degree of accuracy . The problem I see with figuring it out is that there are so many different inputs that make up a good hitter. Coordination, reflexes, strength, eyesight, reaction time, mental toughness, intuition, temperament, focus, etc. all have some bearing on whether one player is one hit per 10 games better than another.
Numbers, with sufficient sample size, of course, allow us to proxy the net product of all the myriad inputs that make a player a player. But the sample size is the limiting factor. Beyond that, Cliff Lees abound in the baseball world, players whose skill sets undergo such massive changes that the previous data becomes nearly worthless. And anyone who watches the game knows that other difficult to explain phenomena occur. Raul Ibanez and Adam LaRoche come to mind.
It seems to me that scouts and statisticians are asking similar but ultimately different questions. The scout's job is to learn the player, to become familiar with his mechanics, his strengths, his flaws, how he handles himself under pressure, how he spends his time off the field, how he relates to his family and loved ones. By doing this, the scout tries to paint as detailed a picture of the player as humanly possible so he can convey to his employers how much that player is worth. He judges the quality of the player's skills. Knowing the quality of those skills and knowing which ones can be improved, he can estimate where a player is at now and where his ceiling is.
Statisticians do something else entirely. We ignore the majority of the inputs and focus on the measurable output. When we look at numbers (or at least when I look at numbers—maybe I'm being presumptuous in using "we"), we're trying to quantify a player's skill in a succinct and tidy manner. We don't care if Chris Coste has a godawful swing, that it's of poor quality and so very unlikely to stick at the major league level. We care that he produced a .316 and .326 wOBA in '07 and '08 respectively. And we care that he was a catcher, making him above average for his position. We don't care that Milton Bradley's temperament is at best questionable. We just care that he can mash the crap out of a baseball when healthy. (Yes, I'm simplifying.)
I must admit, that philosophical door in my mind that I mentioned earlier rarely stays open long and now it is closing quickly. I hope I got my views across clearly enough for some good dialogue. Oftentimes I've heard the work of saberists referred to as statiswizardry (which can be intended to compliment or disparage). Ultimately, I think it's the scouts who do the magic by divining the quality of a player's individual skills.
And I think that partially explains why some casual fans are resistant to openly accepting saberist ideas. All we have is charts and graphs and output from R and Stata. It's all very convincing and useful stuff to statistically oriented minds, but the scouts have something more popular with the masses: Magic.
Posted by: Brad Johnson
July 31, 2010
Measures of Qualls-ityArizona has shipped Chad Qualls to the Rays, eliciting responses ranging from anger to mockery to happiness.
Qualls is having an off year, his worst showing of the past four campaigns. It's just not as bad as his bloated ERA indicates. Using pitch-by-pitch linear weights to derive "ERA", both rvERAe (based on batted ball types) and rvERAa (based on actual hits and outs) have jumped for Qualls in 2010. This is along with an apparent downward trend in both whiff and ground ball rates.
Not a stud, not a dud. You may even expect Qualls to regress towards his career/recent levels—improve, in other words.
Posted by: Harry Pavlidis
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