Ten Things I Didn’t Know Last Week

Here’s a list of my latest strong opinions, weakly held:

Chipper Jones is hot when healthy.

Chipper has been injured the last few games and may stay out of the Braves’ lineup until Friday, which is too bad. He is in the midst of a monster hitting streak. Jones has hit in each of the last 20 games he’s played, with a .512/.570/.939 batting line, eight home runs and nine doubles in 82 at-bats (Courtesy of David Pinto’s Day-By-Day Database).

According to SABR’s Trent McCotter, Larry Walker is the only player known to have hit .500 or better over a 20+ game hitting streak in the last 75 years. Hugh Duffy had the highest average over the entirety of any 20+ game streak, with a .545 average in 1894; and Harry Heilmann had the longest streak over which a .500+ average was maintained, with a 32-gamer from 1922 to 1923. (Another example of why you should join SABR.)

Chipper is hottest of the hot. Here are the top 10 batting averages over the past 20 games (thanks to Doug’s Stats; minimum of 20 at-bats):

Batter             Team     BA
Jones, Chipper      Atl    .525
Encarnacion, Ed     Cin    .478
Randa, Joe          Pit    .469
Hatteberg, Scott    Cin    .446
Mackowiak, Rob      Whi    .444
Escobar, Alex       Was    .441
Barfield, Josh      SDG    .436
Utley, Chase        Phi    .424
Barrett, Michael    Cub    .422
Bell, David         Phi    .413

Isn’t that a strange list of hot batters? Who would have guessed Scott Hatteberg would be having a great year, or that the Reds wouldn’t play Edwin Encarnacion on a daily basis when he’s on fire?

The rookies are throwing complete-game shutouts

Last year, there was only one complete-game shutout by a rookie; the Angels’ Ervin Santana over the White Sox, 4-0, on May 23. Last Saturday, Jeremy Sowers threw the sixth such game this year when he beat the Twins 11-0. In fact, this was just a day after the Mets’ John Maine had thrown a 7-0 shutout over the Astros (weird coincidence: both pitchers had the same line: nine innings, four hits, no runs, one walk, four strikeouts).

The other rookie shutouts this year have been registered by Matt Cain of the Giants (6-0 at Oakland), Taylor Buchholz of the Astros (5-0 vs. Texas), Justin Verlander of the Tigers (8-0 at Kansas City) and Alay Soler of the Mets (5-0 at Arizona).

Compete-game shutouts are rare. Last year, there were only 63 of them, the lowest total for both major leagues ever. In contrast, there were 146 in 1992 and 238 in 1978. By my count, there have been only 38 this year, about on pace to equal last year’s record. The difference is that 16% of this year’s complete-game shutouts have been hurled by rookies.

Justin Verlander has controlled the running game better than any right hander.

Speaking of rookie pitchers, Detroit’s Verlander is having quite the year. You and I knew that a couple of months ago, but I’m now talking about his ability to control the running game.

Following is a list of leading pitchers’ stolen bases allowed, caught stealings and pickoffs. “Net SB” stands for net stolen bases, and it’s calculated by taking stolen bases and subtracting 2*(CS plus PO). The pitchers with the lowest Net SB have done the best job of managing the running game:

Player         Team   T  SB    CS   PO   Net SB
Maholm P.      PIT    L   8     7    6     -18
Moyer J.       SEA    L   2     5    4     -16
Duke Z.        PIT    L   8     8    4     -16
Rodriguez W.   HOU    L   5     6    4     -15
Verlander J.   DET    R   1     3    5     -15
Glavine T.     NYN    L   3     6    2     -13
Meche G.       SEA    R   3     6    2     -13
Olsen S.       FLA    L   7     7    3     -13
Buehrle M.     CHA    L   2     3    4     -12
Redman M.      KC     L   2     6    1     -12
Wang C.        NYA    R   4     7    1     -12
Johnson J.     FLA    R   4     7    1     -12
Chen B.        BAL    L   7     6    3     -11
Tallet B.      TOR    L   1     4    2     -11
Capuano C.     MIL    L   1     2    4     -11
Zito B.        OAK    L   4     6    1     -10
Rheinecker J   TEX    L   2     5    1     -10

I included all pitchers with -10 net stolen bases or better. Notice how most of the leaders are lefthanders, and how Verlander sticks out as the leading righty? I’m sure Ivan Rodriguez has helped, but allowing only one stolen base is quite an accomplishment, particularly for a right-handed rookie.

Ozzie Guillen is obsessed with hitting batters.

A few weeks ago, Guillen lost his cool when rookie Sean Tracey couldn’t follow commands and hit an opposing batter. Then, last Sunday, Guillen lost it again when Vincente Padilla hit a White Sox batter (again) and Jon Garland didn’t retaliate.

“This guy (Padilla) is the nastiest pitcher in the league and all of a sudden, he hits someone,” Guillen said. “I was upset also because Garland … missed it. I expect him to do a better job.”

I have a feeling Ozzie may need to sit through another Sensitivity Training session. Maybe he doesn’t know that in some cultures it’s not considered nice to hit someone with a really hard object going 90 miles per hour?

Seriously, I understand that beanball retaliation is part of the game and pitchers play a role in protecting their batters. But should a team retaliate for every single hit batter, even the accidental ones? Ozzie was hit by a pitch only seven times in his career. Maybe he just doesn’t understand that it hurts.

As the White Sox have lost their edge in the AL Central, Ozzie has become more of a distraction. Someone should tell him to cut it out, before Mr. Comissioner does.

Clutchiness

I love the way the internet works. A couple of weeks ago, Tangotiger posted a relatively simple method for gauging a batter’s clutch contribution by comparing his WPA total to his “linear weights runs created.” Dan Smith thought this was way cool, and set up a process to scrape Fangraphs’ WPA stats into his Excel spreadsheet and carry out Tango’s calculation on a semi-automated basis.

Then, he started a blog and he now uses it to post and update his clutchiness stats (clutchiness is a great name) on a regular basis. The upshot is that you can now look up, on almost a daily basis, something that took me several days to produce earlier this week. Yes, I’ve been spending way too much time with Win Probability Stats lately, but I’m not the only one.

Speaking of which, there’s a new blog in town analyzing the WPA results for the Yankees. If you’re a Yankee fan, check it out.

Pennant Races in Action

I’ve just found one of the most enjoyable uses of the Net yet. It’s called BaseballRace.com and you can use it to almost literally “watch” whichever pennant race you’d like. It’s kind of like watching a horse race, with a finish line and other markers, plus you can stop it on any day and move forward one day at a time.

For a great example, watch the Phillies’ famous fade in 1964, the Giants catch the Dodgers in 1951, or the famous “miracle” in Boston (the Braves, that is) in 1914. I could get lost in a site like this.

Where in the World is Denver, San Diego?

As we’ve said before, Coors Park isn’t the hitter’s paradise it used to be. This year, the Coors Park Factor is only 1.01 (meaning runs scored have been only 1% higher than average at Coors). Over the past three years, it has averaged 1.33. In fact, we’ve officially thrown in the towel and we’re now using the one-year park factor at Coors in our THT stats, instead of factoring in previous years. It’s obvious that Coors should be measured differently this year, as if they opened a new ballpark.

But Coors isn’t the only ballpark that’s been different this year. Here is a list of each ballpark, its park factor from the three previous years (courtesy of the Bill James Handbook), and its park factor for this year only. I ranked them by the biggest differences from previous years (negative or positive):

Name   PrevRPF   RPF    Diff
COL      1.33   1.01   -0.32
WAS      0.87   1.10    0.23
LAD      0.87   1.07    0.20
TEX      1.19   1.00   -0.19
BOS      1.10   0.92   -0.18
KC       0.97   1.15    0.18
CLE      0.87   1.05    0.18
CIN      0.98   1.12    0.14
SDP      0.80   0.93    0.13
MIL      1.03   0.92   -0.11
ATL      0.99   0.89   -0.10
PHI      1.10   1.00   -0.10
PIT      0.99   1.09    0.10
TOR      1.09   1.01   -0.08
CHW      1.03   0.96   -0.07
ARI      1.12   1.18    0.06
TBD      0.96   1.01    0.05
BAL      0.97   1.01    0.04
LAA      0.93   0.89   -0.04
SFG      1.02   1.05    0.03
CHC      1.05   1.08    0.03
NYM      0.98   0.96   -0.02
MIN      1.04   1.06    0.02
HOU      0.99   1.01    0.02
OAK      0.95   0.93   -0.02
NYY      0.95   0.93   -0.02
STL      0.97   0.96   -0.01
FLO      0.90   0.89   -0.01
SEA      0.93   0.93    0.00
DET      0.95   0.95    0.00

Keep in mind that these are based on only about two-thirds of one season, but RFK has been a very different park this year, as has Dodger Stadium. I would expect both of these parks to revert back to form as the season progresses, particularly Dodger Stadium. But who knows? Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium has become a hitter’s park, and even the pitcherest park in the majors, PETCO, has been more favorable to hitters this year. During their most recent six-game home stand, the Padres and their opponents averaged 16 runs a game.

Kansas City is old.

Here’s another table: the Win Shares Age (that is, age of each team based on the players have contributed the most to the team) for each team. I wasn’t too surprised by these results, except to find that Kansas City is one of the oldest teams in the majors (CWS stands for career win shares on each team):

Team         CWS      WS   WSAge
SF          2944     150    33.6
NYA         3484     168    32.3
BOS         2676     177    31.2
SD          2046     152    30.6
LAN         2336     141    30.5
NYN         2629     177    30.4
KC          1305     102    30.1
HOU         2091     141    30.1
PHI         1770     130    29.9
ARI         1748     146    29.8
CHA         1553     158    29.8
BAL         1683     132    29.7
CHN         2140     112    29.4
SEA         1456     132    29.4
STL         1854     166    29.4
DET         1457     184    29.3
CIN         2017     155    29.0
TEX         1280     153    28.9
TOR         1459     160    28.8
MIL         1209     140    28.8
ATL         1870     140    28.8
OAK         1729     144    28.5
WAS         1709     128    28.4
COL         1000     133    28.4
CLE         1291     127    28.4
LAA         2021     147    28.2
PIT         1187     102    27.8
TB           907     123    27.1
MIN         1557     163    27.1
FLA          413     113    25.3

The Royals’ age is driven by guys like 30-year-old Doug Mientkiewicz (9 Win Shares), 36-year-old Mark Grudzielanek (8), 34-year-old Tony Graffanino (6) and 38-year-old Reggie Sanders (5). The Royals not only have a lot of old guys, their names are really hard to type, too.

By the way, Bradford Doolittle conducted a very interesting interview with Dayton Moore, the Royals’ new GM.

Cool Video Analysis

JC Bradbury pointed out this great video analysis of Jeff Francoeur’s swing, including a side-by-side video comparison of Francoeur with Manny Ramirez.

This is a good time to distinguish quickness from bat speed. Notice they arrive at the ball at the same time; however, since Francoeur plants his foot earlier, this is an indication that he has to get his bat going earlier in order to get to the same spot (contact). Again, Francoeur generates all kinds of bat speed; it is just taking him a little too long to do so.

For pitching fans, Bat-Girl also has an insightful analysis of Pat Neshek’s delivery.

We’ve had some loooong games lately.

On July 17, SABR’s Phil Lowry reported:

The Cardinals set a new National League record Thursday night when they defeated the Dodgers at home. That game, plus their two wins over the Astros in Houston prior to the All-Star break, gave them 11 hours 32 minutes in combined time of game for three consecutive extra inning games.

The AL record of 11 hours 33 minutes was set by the Red Sox April 8, 10, and 11, 1969 in action at Baltimore and Cleveland. The amateur record is 10 hours 49 minutes, set by the Zanzibar Cats June 12-14, 1997 in action vs. the Saugerties Counters and Walden Merrimacks at Thoreau Field in Concord, Massachusetts.

Seven days before, the Oneonta Tigers beat the Brooklyn Cyclones 6-1 in 26 innings, the longest game in the New York-Penn league history.

Looks like baseball teams could really use that McDonald’s sundial ad in Wrigleyville.

Finally, just to prove that you can find anything on the internet, I proudly present Cats that Look Like Hitler.

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