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.... Sunday morning guest appearances

My two friends Doug and Iain have sent in more work for your pleasure. Since it's Sunday, I'm still sick and very worn out, and I don't have the energy, here it is.

Iain, that post about home field advantage (HFA) is mine, not John's. My name is Doug Purdie. And rest assured, I’m not totally nuts although I admit, debating issues with people more prone to personal insults than reasoned arguments, does make me a little crazy. :-)

Your comments on my idea resembled my wife’s. It’s to your credit that you think like her. Your choice of words, though, was more fit for family consumption. She suggested the idea might be saturated with bovine excrement. (I really don’t mind when people rip my opinions.) She also pointed out that the team with HFA has won 15 of the last 17 World Series. That stunned me. I’ve been watching but I hadn’t been counting. Could it really mean that much? Could my original post really be just so much hooey?

So I counted. I counted how many games the home team won. I brought the result to Tina (my good wife) and said, “Here it is” and she said, “Don’t tell me about games won. It’s about winning The Series”, and back upstairs she sent me, to get the right numbers.

So I did. The team with the home field advantage has won 36 times and lost 26, for a .588 winning percentage.

I was hoping to get a sample the size of the entire century. But, I only went back to 1940, sorry. Earlier than that, in series that didn’t go the full extent, it was hard to guess what the schedule might have been and which team might have had HFA. Series schedules weren’t yet in a fixed pattern.

By the way, the home team has won 36 games and lost 26, numbers that are identical to the actual end results. (Ed. note, I also am stunned by the similarities. I have not checked Doug for accuracy)

Not a whole lot of difference between the two percentages, but both are a lot different than the theoretical .505 percentage that I posted earlier. So I admit now - that post did contain some hooey as well as that other stuff that Tina said.


And here's a piece looking at numbers from Iain. No rebuttal for Doug, as of yet.

Magic Numbers

Here is a bunch of fun magic number stuff. Just for reference, the 'Magic Number' usually pops up later in the season to determine how many wins by a first place team and losses by a trailing team will clinch first place.

So here are the magic numbers for the Giants to eliminate the rest of the division.

Pads - 32

Rocks - 44

LA - 47

$$backs - 49

The Giants have 58 games to go. The magic numbers are still pretty high...but any time your magic number is lower than your games remaining, you are in pretty good shape. The Giants is significantly lower.

Let's just say we go 29-29 the rest of the way. What are the magic numbers remaining? In other words, how many games can the opposition lose before being eliminated. And next to it what record they would need in order to just TIE with us.

Pads - 3 (55-2 .965)

Rocks - 15 (41-14 .745)

LA - 18 (42-17 .711)

$$backs - 20 (39-19 .672)

So this thing definitely isn't over. And of course those numbers go down if the Giants start to suck. Realistically, we are in very good shape. It's a long season and we still have much to go. A 10 game lead really isn't that large, tho. (Ed. note, I believe the number of teams who have made the playoffs from more than 5 games back at the end of July is something like 6. Ergo, a ten-game lead is actually very substantial)

Just to be extra silly, here is the Dbacks Magic Number for winning the division:

69

It is quite a bit higher than our 49, but still... the Giants and D'backs each have 58 games remaining. So of those 116 games, 69 need to go in the D'backs favor, either D'back wins or gmen losses. This works out to a .595 percentage. That's not really that HUGE. 59% of the rest of the season needs to go their way. Still unlikely, but a lot more likely than the Pads who need 85 of 115 which is .739 or 74%. Another thing to keep in mind with these backwards magic numbers...they only take into account the two teams being mentioned, it is still possible with these scenarios for one of the other teams to pull ahead. If the Giants lost the rest of their games and the pads won 27 of their final 57, the Giants would likely finish in last and would be 1 game behind the Padres.

So for the first time, perhaps, you have seen how magic numbers work for teams who are not in first place. You can actually make a magic number for any 2 teams at any time.

There are a few ways to do it, but perhaps the easiest is to start with 163, and subtract the wins from one team and the losses from the other. This will give you the magic number for the team that you used the wins from.

Well, this has been a lesson in baseball silliness. I hope you have enjoyed it.

Comment on this   [2]  »  July 27, 2003


.... Indeed

Skip Bayless says he'd trade Jesse Foppert for Bartolo Colon. I don't know about that, but the team absolutely needs to bolster the rotation heading into the stretch run, and more importantly, the playoffs. I know, I know, they've won nothing. But it's never too early to get your ducks in order. Don't let the big lead and all the excitement go to your head.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 25, 2003


.... Oh yes, they call him the streak!

Nine in a row for the red-hot G-men, after today's 5-2 win. For the second straight day, the Giants left-fielder ended the game with a home run in the bottom of the ninth. Today, it was courtesy of Pedro Feliz (in for Barry, who was with his Dad, who was undergoing open-heart surgery), who hit his 10th of the year with two on to send the 20th consectutive sellout crowd home in a frenzy once again. The Giants now lead the D'backs by 11.5 games, by far the largest advantage in baseball.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 25, 2003


.... Superman

Well, well, well. How do you like that?

Superman did the impossible again yesterday, celebrating his birthday in one of the most incredible displays of timing and drama you will ever see. After throwing out Craig Counsel at the plate to end the top of the ninth inning with the Giants and D'backs tied at 2, he led off the bottom of the ninth with his San Francisco Giants career-best 470th home run to finish off the sweep of the D'backs with yesterday's stretch the imagination 3-2 win.

With an 11 game lead with 62 to play, you might say the Giants are in the drivers seat. Bruce Jenkins was flat-out amazed, as was the sell-out crowd who stayed and cheered for an eternity after one of those etched in time moments few players get to enjoy. Here's a question for you, is it possible that Bonds will win his third in a row, sixth in his career MVP award? The only way Pujols gets it at this point is if he does win the Triple Crown. Otherwise, who else could you possibly vote for, especially if Barry hits 60 home runs, passes Willie Mays, and leads the Giants to a wire to wire NL West crown.

As for the Giants, well, watching Alou manage the game as if it mattered, even though it's July, even though the team already enjoyes a huge lead.... I was reminded of how frustrated I would get watching Dusty allow the team to lose by making the same old moves, never challenging the team to rise up, never creating an edge or pushing a player, or even worse, allowing a player (say, oh, I don't know, Felix Rodriguez?) to let the team down.

It is only July, but the one aspect of Baker's managerial style that created the most ire with the fans seems to be gone. Alou manages like he's behind all the time. It's tough on pitchers, to be sure, and it remains to be seen if the team can recover from the slew of injuries to the staff; but it's a hell of a lot more exciting.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 25, 2003


.... Maybe nine?

Is a nine game advantage in the NL West something to dance about? Not according to Felipe Alou, after the Giants beat Curt Schilling and the D'backs 3-1 yesterday. The win pushed Alou's career managerial record to .500, a nice little milestone, as Damian Moss threw perhaps his best game of the season facing the big right-hander. With a 6-0 record since the break, the Giants are making a pretty impressive statement with their play, rather than their words, as a pissed-off Schilling will attest.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 23, 2003


.... Eight is enough?

The Giants opened up their largest lead of the season by beating the D'backs 5-4. They now enjoy an eight game lead over the Snakes, and a 10.5 game lead over the spiraling Dodgers. Jerome Williams struggled with his release point after three hitless innings, allowing four runs (3 earned) before being lifted. NL Player of the Week Rich Aurilia had a terrific hit that brought the team back, and Yorvit Torrealba finished off the comeback.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 22, 2003


.... Complaint Department

Steve Shelby's Giants Diary is a quality product. Yesterday he wondered/criticized why Foppert was allowed/asked to pitch the 8th inning. I'd say there would be four reasons why Alou shouldn't have done this; a) he had thrown 90 pitches, b) on three days rest, c) had allowed just one hit and had ten strikeouts, and d) too many injury problems with their pitchers.

I am beginning to be very concerned with the apparent lack of planning and/or execution of said plan with the pitching staff. Shelby also notes that Felix Rodriguez pitched for the third day in a row with a four run lead and the second place Diamondbacks on the way for a four game set. I know that there can be many explanations for all these injuries, (one of them is real simple, the Giants' pitchers have been amazingly injury-free for most of the last four years, and now they're being hit all at once), but has Alou shown that he has the ability to properly manage these pitchers? I am not so sure.

Additionally, Righetti was given a remarkable amount of responsibility by Baker in terms of caring for the health of his staff. Does it seem that Alou is taking more control away from Rags? Looking at the stats (mostly game log pitch counts), there is little obvious evidence to contrary, (other than what I've already noted), but man, these pitchers are going down like dominoes. Here's hoping this is similar to the outfielders falling apart last year, all at once, but right in the middle of the season. By the stretch run, everybody was back on track.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 21, 2003


.... Yankee Clipper?

Reading this Vic Ziegel piece on Derek Jeter made me think of Joe DiMaggio. The whole sum is bigger than the parts, hard-boiled veteran playing well through one injury after another, 29-year old going on 39, kind of thing. Don't you think?

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 21, 2003


.... Odds and ends

The Giants completed the rare, four-game sweep of the Rockies yesterday, behind Jesse Foppert's outstanding return from Triple A.

Foppert had a career-high 10 strikeouts, as he carried a one-hitter into the seventh. Third string catcher Alberto Castillo had a grand slam; but all the fun and games were tempered by the fact that the team faces one more injury, this one to Marquis Grissom, who slammed into the wall after making a stellar catch to rob ex-Giant Bobbby Estalella.

With a seven game lead over the D'backs, who come in for four games themselves this week, they matched their largest advantage of the season..... Although with all their injury worries, they just might need it.

Then again, as Scott Ostler notes, the way their backups step in and make plays, maybe they won't.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 21, 2003


.... Ouch!

The brilliant Mike Carminati takes a few hours to absolutely destroy ESPN's Page2 columnist Ralph Wiley in this post. In my opinion, it's writing like his that has cemented the legitimacy of this new form of media, blogging.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 20, 2003


.... Guest columns

Two columns by my good friends for your pleasure. First, a trip down Nostalgia lane, with Doug Purdie....

Everybody has his or her “baseball bridges the generation gap” story.  This one is mine....



Part I: Mom

My mother was the one who would take me out to the ball games, not my dad. God bless my mom, who just wanted to watch baseball happen.  She didn’t want to discuss its intricate details.  Just seeing it played was her pleasure, accompanied of course, by a beer and a stadium dog.  Not me.  Then as now, I loved to do spin.  Mom couldn’t care less about my endless string of baseball commentary, but acted like she cared anyway.

Wherever there was professional baseball being played, be it the Bees in San Jose, The Giants in San Francisco or the A’s (we really went to see the Tigers) in Oakland, I was going to see it with my mom.  We saw an exiting California League Championship series between the Bees and the Modesto Cardinals in ’68.  In one of the games the Bee’s manager ran out of healthy catchers, applied for and was granted, on the field of play, the right to be a player/manager and enter the game as the team’s catcher. 

We saw Vida Blue get his 18th win (out of 24 for the season) in one of his 9 shutouts that year.  We saw Denny McLain get his 17th win in ’68, the year he got 31.  Most of all we saw the Giants.  Unless it was a scheduled double-header or a solo game against the Dodgers we could buy tickets at the stadium on game day and still get lower reserved seats behind home plate.

A couple key Candlestick memories: I got my first foul ball off the bat of Gary Maddox, the Giants' young center fielder and at the time, the league’s leading hitter in late May.  While Mom was getting dogs, a foul popup landed about four rows behind me in the middle of the aisle, but it hit off the facing of the step and rebounded back down the aisle where I sat.  I merely stuck out my hand and the ball came into it.  When Mom got back and I told her the news, she was amazed.  It was miraculous.  The first always is, I suppose. 

Bill Buckner stared me down one night.  Yes, the Bill Buckner of the ’86 World Series infamy.  He was a young player with the Dodgers then.  He was a respected young player I might add.  His reputation then was of a fierce competitor, a scrappy guy who would beat you in different ways, mostly as a hitter, the kind of guy who annoys you so much you hate him, especially because he’s a Dodger, but whom you also wish was on your team (the Lo Duca of the 70’s).  Anyway, the game was the day after Buckner got into a scuffle with Marichal (big surprise).  I was there with my Dodger fan best friends, and their mom too.  Right after the PA introduced Buckner in his first plate appearance, I stood and booed with all my heart.  After the previous night’s game I thought the whole crowd would also, but they didn’t and my voice carried to places I didn’t expect it to, like to the batter’s ear.  Buckner turned toward the voice and stared for about 1.5 seconds before going about his normal business.  I sat hastily and red faced upon realizing the spectacle I had made of myself.  My Dodger fan friends tore me up for that one.

There’s one other general memory of Mom taking me to the Giants games.  I never saw the great Willie Mays hit a home run, which was what I most desperately wanted since I hero worshipped him.  Instead Bobby Bonds would always provide the long balls.  (Please heal quickly Bobby.)  Not really always, but it was amazingly frequent enough to seem so.  Now days I, the son, take Mom to the games at Pac Bell and we almost always see Bonds’ son, Barry, hit a home run.  It’s a generational flip-flop thing.



Part II: Dad

My father didn’t like to watch baseball at all.  He enjoyed participating but he felt it was boring to be a spectator.  He did enjoy talking about it (Heck, he just enjoyed talking.), so I had at least one interested outlet in the family for my baseball ramblings.  Since he liked playing, I played a lot of ball with him and learned a great deal in the bargain.  He taught me how to throw a curve and it’s the one thing in baseball that I ever did consistently well.  He told me not to twist my wrist as I released it, but instead roll my fingers around the ball.  Oh, and throw it at the batter’s ear.  That way, when it breaks down and away, not only does it break in the zone for a strike, but scares the bejesus out of the hitter and makes him look foolish for flinching

I was starting catcher in my second year of little league.  My dad was an assistant coach and I had a particular rapport with our second best starter, which Dad took notice of.   He suggested that we work out a change-of-pace pitch.  My father was of the WWII generation and that’s what they called the change-up.  Curves were not allowed in Little League, but a change-up doesn’t break does it?  So we planned and practiced it.  I called for it in the next game, and the first batter we tried it on struck out on it.  Dad’s voice drowned out all the others in the bleachers that day because he was so loud and so proud.  It was the only voice I heard.  “THAT”S THE WAY!  That’s the way to do it!  Just like I showed you.”  He probably was one of only a hand full of people who knew what had just happened.  We devised our secret little plan and it worked to perfection.  What a splendid day that was.

Dad used to brag about the feats he used to accomplish with ease, in his glory years of sports.  He would swear on the alter of any church, of any denomination, that he could lie on his back at half court of a basketball court, and with two hands over his head, fling a basketball into the hoop at the end of the court with great regularity.  He even took a fool or two for his hard earned cash.  So he said.

In his glory years in baseball, catcher too, was his position.  He would swear again, and again with great regularity, that he could throw out a runner trying to steal second base, from the squat position or from his knees.  “No way dad.”, I said.  “I watch the Major Leaguers Dad, and none of them do it.  Johnny Bench is the best and he doesn’t do it.”

He simply replied, “Well I did.”

“OK Dad, whatever”, rolling my eyes.

For 35 years I never saw a Major League catcher throw out a runner at 2nd from the squat position or from his knees.  In the 36th year (2001) I saw Benito Santiago do it.  I wish Dad had liked to watch baseball so he could have seen it happen too.  “See, didn’t I tell you?” he would have said.  “That’s heads-up play.  That kid is on-the-ball.  He knows how to play the game right.”

Dad, if you can read this from where you are, I’m sorry.  You were right and I was wrong.  I should never have doubted you.
Next up, Iain, with some ranting and raving, as well as some analysis, well actually, it's mostly ranting....


This is my all-star, midseason baseball review.  This could be rather long as there are a number of subjects I would like to go over.

First, someone posted on this site that home field wasn't a big deal.  Well, I say HOOEY.  Yer totally nutz, whoever you are.  Obviously you haven't watched much sports.  If you had been paying attention, in game 7's, the team with home field wins the majority of time in baseball and basketball and to a smaller extent in hockey.  This is so widely known I am amazed you even said something contrary.  Anyway, that leads to my next point.

Dusty Baker sucks!  He doesn't just suck, actually.  He is the most bloatedly overrated piece of crap manager I can ever remember.  I am extremely thankful that he will never ever be in a World Series again and won't be in another All Star Game as a result.  He had many great seasons with the Giants.  In these seasons, the General Manager gave him a highly talented team that was able to succeed in spite of Dusty.  I am certain that without his being there, they would have been even more successful.  I could go on and on about how much the guy sucks, but I will wait till the seasons conclusion to lambast him even more.

Now that I've got that out of my system...

I am going to touch on my preseason picks.

In the Al East I picked the Yanksters.

In the Central I picked the Twins...WRONG!

In the West I picked the A's.

Wild Card I chose Red Sox. 

So all in all, I'm not doing too badly there.  I did make one preseason guarantee.  The halos will not SNIFF the playoffs.  GUARANTEED.  I don't think they will be .500 either, but currently they are a little bit over.  Damn them!  :)

In the NL.  I picked the Braves and Stros.  Doing ok there, but the Central is a wacky thing.  I chose the Dbacks as the Wild Card and they are close to the hunt, but I don't expect that to go on much longer. 

I am gonna touch on the Cubs for a sec.  More Dusty bashing.  They SHOULD be way ahead in that division with the way the others have played.  But they do NOT have the greatest player ever hanging around hiding the deficiencies of Bonehead.  I do not think they will be able to overcome their manager, so I am sticking by my Stros pick.

Now on to the Giants and the West.

Padres - they still suck.  They are over and done.  It's not magic number time yet, but they'll be effectively eliminated in the next month.

Rocktards - They suck on the road.  As I said before, no team in Denver will ever win.

Dodgers - They have suddenly become a lot more compelling with the two OF pickups.  I do not think it will be enough to win.  Burnitz is like a really crappy short version of Shawn Green with no speed and poor defense.  Green is in a horrendous slump but he's too good for it to go on much longer.  Rickey is OLD.  The Dodgers didn't pick him up when he was 39...and they sucked then.  Now they REALLY suck and they've added him.  He will prolly give them a slight boost but it won't last long.  The pitching is still good, but it can't go on like that all year.  I still say they will finish more than 10 games behind the G-men.  Here we are at the All Star Break.  They have had a REALLY hot streak, are still 7.5 back, and the Giants are just now starting to play well.  What does that tell you?

$$backs - Well..they are back in the hunt.  When push came to shove, they are getting whupped by our boys.  They have relied heavily on rookies and it's worked so far.  They haven't had their top guns for most of the year and still they are 5 games out.  It is possible that once they get everyone back, they will put it together and make it a fun race.  I doubt it, tho.  They didn't do it early in the year when they were healthy.  Why should they do it now?

Giants - Isn't it amazing that they have a 5 game lead at the All Star break and the left side of their infield has been Dodger caliber?  They don't have a set line up?  and the starting pitching has been decimated?  The pitching is a concern, but I don't think it's as huge as some people are making it out to be.  I think that Moss, even in his struggles, has shown himself to be very capable.  Until that bad stretch that got him benched, he had done very well.  He doesn't give up a lot of hits but he walks too many.  Once he finds his control he is going to be very very tough...see: Kaz Ishii.  Jerome has been incredible and he looks like the real deal.  Kruk is a very positive guy but the things he says about him don't just sound like yer typical rookie raves.  I think we can expect Jerome to continue with what he has done the rest of the year.

Schmidt is in line for a Cy Young.  If he matches his first half in the second, he will garner a bunch of votes.  I think Reuter is going to come back and be just fine.  This is his only injury since joining the Giants, it was bound to happen eventually.  Let's not worry. 

It's a shame we lost Ainsworth because he was improving with every start for a while before the injury.  His stats are pretty darn good for a rookie pitcher.  Foppert...um...disappointment.

The offense is going to get stronger as the year goes on.  I really wonder about Richie...he started off 2002 like gangbusters and then got hurt and has never found that groove again.  I wonder if he ever will.  I am beginning to think this is his last Giants hurrah.  Neifi has been better than expected but he should NEVER bat at the top of the order.  That's just a waste of a lineup spot.

Alfonzo is like Green..in a weird funk.  It can't go on forever.

On to the MVP... Mr Bonds.  Barry is the MVP...not Pujols.  Barry has been the league MVP every year for quite a while now...back to 1991, I imagine.  He's like Michael Jordan was..the true MVP, even if he didn't get the votes.  He will probably not win the award this year, but:

1 - he is leading in HR, BB, SLB, OBP, OPS

2 - he is 10th in BA... 52 pts behind Pujols.  with a decent hot streak, say 15 hits in one week, he could pull that up to 3rd or 4th pretty easily within 30 pts of Pujols and if there is a slump at the top...  What I'm saying is that it is still early enough that Barry could win the batting title again.

3 - he is 5th in runs and 12th in RBI's.  With way less ABs and Games than most ppl in front of him.

4 - He is playing on a winner. 

At this point, the race comes down to him, Sheffield and Albert Pujols.  I do not think Pujols will win the triple crown nor will he make the playoffs.  Unless he really excelerates his totals and distances himself from the pack, he won't win.  Shef is having a great year and may win it.  But..well, Barry is on one of the top teams in the league and is obviously the best hitter in the league.  I think he's gonna get it again.  He may hit 60 home runs again and win the batting title. 

It's going to be an exciting 2nd half. 

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 19, 2003


.... All Stars

My good friends are busily writing and posting all over the place. Here's a quick run-down on some places to visit that aren't listed in my links just yet (as many of you know, I am working to solve these blogger issues, and may, in fact, be moving to Movable Type soon).

Over at Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT, you can find a terrific follow-up to his Quad article, in which he is working a similar vein as my own Triple Crown dialogue. He has taken the time to provide you with many stats and analysis, a worthy All Star weekend diversion.

For a ton of quality, detailed links and info on the Giants, check out Steve Shelby's Giants Diary. Steve was kind enough to inform me that the Giants rotation will feature journeyman Brian Powell, as opposed to rookie Correria, who has already been sent back down to make room for Herges. Can't say that makes me feel all that much better, really.

The Baseball Crank has done a yeoman's job at figuring out the defense independent putout's of the NL West. Um, that's important. Go. Now.

I must also recommend that everyone run through my everyday links for updates from around the league. For those of you who have requested link exchanges but don't yet see yours in my roster, please send me another email so that I remember to add you when I get back in business.

As for me, well, I have a lot of work to do if I hope to get all these things squared away by the time the second half gets under way. Wish me luck.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 15, 2003


.... Break up the Giants

The Giants head into the All Star game at 57-37, with a 5 game lead over the D'backs, who have come back from the dead (even with losing two of three to the Giants, they've still won 19 of their last 25 games) to make things interesting. It's too bad Jim Brower couldn't hold the four run lead the team gave him in the first inning yesterday, or they'd be an even more impressive 7 games up.

Brian Sabean made his first move, trading some old baseball cards and a pair of Converse Hi-Tops for Matt Herges, the proverbial well-traveled relief pitcher (he's a righty, by the way). That will allow Alou and Sabean to see if Brower's bad outing yesterday was a fluke, or if they really do have to make a move for a real starter. Sabean had this to say about acquiring a starter:

"If you can't get a guy who makes a difference you might be spinning your wheels and end up with a guy who's a .500 pitcher anyway, and in some cases you might be better off strengthening your bullpen and shortening the game that way."
Yeah, well, a .500 pitcher wouldn't be the worst thing to have right now, especially if he can get into the seventh inning with any consistency. I know this sounds ridiculous coming from me, but right now, the Giants could use a guy like Livan Hernandez. Actually, my biggest complaint with Livan these last couple of seasons had more to do with Dusty Bakers insistence that he was his ace than with Livan himself.

As a fourth or fifth starter in your rotation, he's a pretty valuable commodity. Once Baker was finished brainwashing him that he was the number one guy, he was no longer valuable in that role, because he wanted to be handled like the number one guy.

Now the Giants have a five inning pitcher (Moss), two rookies (Correria and Williams) a journeyman (Brower) and an ace (Schmidt). That's a recipe for disaster, even if you had a bullpen made up of five Mariano Rivera's. Although the Giants do have an excellent bullpen, they need a proven starter, no matter what smoke Sabean's blowing up our ass.

By the way, here's a look at Matt Herges over his last three seasons:

Pitching stats: 196 appearances 274.2 IP 277 Hits 106 ER 25 HR 201 K 112 BB 3.47 ERA

Opposition batting stats: .267/.339/.394 .733 OPS

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 14, 2003


.... Guest appearance

Doug Purdie was wondering (or more like weeping, if you ask me) whether the Giants lost the World Series because of the home field advantage the Angels enjoyed, so he wrote this:

Home Field Advantage

So they're going to award home field advantage to the league that wins the All Star Game, so I guess this year it means something, or so MLB keeps telling us, which leaves me with the question of just how much does it mean?

This year, 53.2% of all games played in the Major Leagues were won by the home team. Apply that as odds and you can say that the home team has a 53.2% to 46.8% chance of winning any single game, all other things not considered. If the home team has that edge, was does it mean in a 7 game World Series? Simple.

Suppose the team with a 4 home game advantage is team A and the disadvantaged team is team B.

Team A in Home games: 4 x .532 = 2.128

Team A in Road games: 3 x .468 = 1.404

Team A total Wins: 3.532

Team B in Home games: 3 x .532 = 1.596

Team B in Road games: 4 x .468 = 1.872

Team B total Wins: 3.468

That’s a 3.532 to 3.468 advantage, which works out to a winning percentage of:

.505

Wow ( that's sarcasm, for those of you who can't see me). Home field advantage in the World Series, again, all other things not considered, is .505 to .495. Not a very impressive advantage.

If there are still people out there who believe the Giants lost the series last year, because the Angels had home field advantage, they’re probably right. It probably did play some small part, a very small part though.

Again, .505 to .495.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 14, 2003


.... Don't tug on Superman's cape

With his 29th home run, his 9th in his last 12 games, and his fourth game in a row with at least one, Superman has assumed the ML lead in home runs, finally; as the Giants beat the D'backs 10-7 last night. All I have to say is, here comes your Godson, Willie.

April .303/.489/.712 8 HR's in 66 AB's

May .306/.500/.583 5 HR's in 72 AB's

June .309/.481/.679 9 HR's in 81 AB's

July .440/.531/1.200 7 HR's in 28 AB's

Hmmmmm.....

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 12, 2003


.... Pitcher abuse, infinitum

One of my favorite writers, Travis Nelson, (who has hilariously referred to yours truly as John (Jacob Jingleheimer) Perricone on more than one occasion), has taken a swing at our ongoing pitch count rant in this post. His point, that the high pitch count games I refer to are not the type of pitch counts to worry about, that they are essentially borderline; is correct. He also provides links to many of the Baseball Prospectus articles I referred to. Here's some of what he had to say:

.... I think John's overreacting a little with the pitch counts issue, at least in these few cases. I happen to agree with Perricone (and with Baseball Prospectus) that the evidence exists to indicate that repeated high pitch counts decrease short-term effectiveness and increase long term injury risk, but to say that Foppert or Reuter or Williams or anyone's specific injury is due to throwing too many pitches in a particular start is more than a bit of a stretch. Even the guys who actually did the research were referring to for BP will tell you not to go out and buy a sniper rifle if your favorite manager leaves your favorite young pitcher in for 140 pitches, much less 128 or 122.
OK. Let's get one thing out of the way. The performance of Rueter and Foppert before and after their high-stress games is startlingly different, their earned run average is doubled, their hits per inning, runs per inning, pitches per inning; everything is completely off the charts.

Individually, there are mitigating factors in both cases. Rueter, historically, is a 100-pitch per start type of pitcher. That's not to say that he's never gone more than that, but when he has gone significantly beyond that number he has seen a drop in effectiveness, (as I illustrated in my earlier post). Baker understood this, and made it a point of paying strict attention to his starts. As a slightly more than casual observer, it seems to me that Woody is one of those on the edge of failure type of pitchers, with his low strikeout totals, his reliance on the outside corner strike and his fielders; he operates with a very slim margin of error.

Consequently, when he starts to tire, when he reaches that 100th pitch in the fourth instead of the sixth, he gets lit up. This is not something that anyone who watches this team would debate. Why then would we question whether a high-stress game wouldn't have lasting effects? I've worked in construction all my life, and I can tell you that a 12 hour day in 103° heat has lasting effects, not just for a day or two, but even a week later you can feel fatigued. I have little doubt that this type of effect would happen in any physically demanding occupation (I mean, is this premise the slightest bit debatable?). Woody is exactly the type of pitcher I would expect to suffer from such a lasting fatigue, a slender, less than physically imposing pitcher who relies on guile and command more than strength and a powerhouse fastball.

As for Foppert, he has some similarities to Woody in that, as a young man, he is still fairly slender; although he is taller than Rueter; he certainly isn't built like Livan or say, Russ Ortiz. He's also a highly-touted rookie, part of the future of the team, and as such, he ABSOLUTELY HAS TO BE HANDLED WITH KID GLOVES, REGARDLESS OF ANY OTHER CONCERN. It doesn't matter whether the team's relievers were wiped out, it doesn't matter whether the matchups favored leaving him in after the 100th or 105th or 110th pitch. What matters is that he represents that rarest of commodities, a 21-year old major league-caliber pitcher. As an investment, as a significant part of the future, it is imperative that the team err on the side of caution in handling his induction into the majors.

In the same vein, I watched that 128 pitch game of Jerome Williams, and in the eighth and ninth innings, he was exhausted. Flat out wasted. You could see it clear as day, in fact, by the middle of the eighth, he was looking into the dugout after each batter. The team had a significant lead, almost certainly they were going to win; again, there was simply no reason to make that kid throw those last 40 pitches. That is not the smart way to handle someone who is as young and as valuable as he is.

I'm not arguing that these situations are along the lines of what the boys at Baseball Prospectus are talking about, the 140-plus pitch outings that we have seen Randy Johnson or David Cone or Livan Hernandez throw. But there's a reason why most of those types of games are limited to those types of pitchers; because it's obvious who can and can't throw that many pitches and remain effective (not to mention, alive). Rueter is never gonna throw 145 pitches in a game, NEVER. 125 pitches for him is the same as 145 for Livan, maybe even worse. For the rookies, with no established ability, it's a travesty to ask them to throw many more than 100-110 pitches. There's just far too much at stake.

Finally, as I said in my previous post, this is exactly the type of problem many other bloggers were saying about Alou prior to his arrival. His reputation of over-extending his young pitchers was a known concern coming into the season. Is there any doubt that the entire season now hinges on Sabean's ability to make a deal? Who cares if I (or anyone) can prove that there is a correlation. It shouldn't even be a worry. These young players, these rookie should be treated with more attention and concern for their long-term health and production than a veteran. Frankly, with Rueter signed through 2006, so should he.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 12, 2003


.... Pitching woes

The Giants have been pounded by the Rockies the last two days, they have just one reliable veteran pitcher (Schmidt), and they have absolutely demolished their bullpen (already taxed by the loss of Robb Nen). Professor Jim Adams offers the following:

I realize it's a fool's errand to make baseball predictions, but since I've got one that flies in the face of conventional wisdom, here goes:

BY AUGUST 1, THE GIANTS WILL HAVE TRADED KURT AINSWORTH OR JESSE FOPPERT FOR A VETERAN STARTING PITCHER.

Now, Brain Sabean has explicitly stated that he won't do this, that Ainsworth, Foppert, and Jerome Williams are "untouchables," but I still say Sabean makes this deal for the following reasons:

1) The Giants absolutely have to acquire another durable starter. This is not an option, it's a necessity.

2) The Giants have nothing of value to offer in trade except their young pitchers.

3) Sabean may say he would never do this, but he's made this kind of deal several times before.

Let's take these points one at a time:

1) The Giants absolutely have to acquire another starter. Right now the Giants have only two healthy pitchers they can count on, and one of these is Jerome Williams, a 21 year old who has made less than 15 major league starts and who may suffer after-effects from throwing 128 pitches his last time out -- by far the most he has ever thrown (in the majors or the minors). Look at their other pitchers. Foppert has pitched his way back to the minors. Moss may soon join Foppert in Fresno, if not earn his outright release. Ainsworth is likely out for the year. Reuter is on the DL, and is the kind of pitcher who will get smacked around if he loses any velocity upon his return. Jim Brower -- well, he did well against the Cardinals and I'm happy for him, but we're still talking about a 30-year-old pitcher who has made exactly 24 major league starts, with a career ERA around 4.50. Does any of these guys, other than perhaps Reuter, have even a 25% chance of being a healthy and effective starter over the second half of the season? You can't win the pennant with a two-man rotation. And if one of these guys surprises us, well, you probably won't win with a three-man rotation, either.

2) The Giants have no trade bait except their young pitchers. It's generally acknowledged that the Giants have less hitting talent in the minors than any other organization. The only promising hitter they have above A-ball is Todd Linden, a 23-year old who is having a so-so year at Fresno, and who is probably not a Grade-A prospect at this time. When Sabean comes around asking for pitching, any smart GM will tell him that the price of a veteran starter is one of the Giants' top pitching prospects. We know he won't trade Williams since the Giants need him for the stretch drive, so that leaves Foppert and Ainsworth.

3) Sabean has made this kind of deal before. Sabean often makes statements about young pitching being the "cornerstone" of the Giants' future, but when push came to shove he was willing to include Keith Foulke in the package to acquire Wilson Alvarez and Roberto Hernandez, he traded Nate Bump and Jason Grilli to acquire Livan Hernandez, and he included Ryan Vogelsong in the package to acquire Jason Schmidt. All of these guys were considered Grade-A pitching prospects (well, Vogelsong was probably a B+ prospect). So Sabean may say he won't trade good young pitchers, but he does it all the time.



Now, I have a strong prejudice against trading away potential stars in exchange for expensive veterans who aren't stars, but I gotta say that this situation is the exception that proves the rule. The Giants are not only losing most of the games not started by Schmidt and Williams, but they are shredding their bullpen trying to cover for starters who rarely make it through five innings. That will catch up with them if it goes on much longer. So acquiring even a league average pitcher who can go seven innings would be a huge boost. And even if Sabean trades away one of his three prize pitching prospects, he still has two left; is that so terrible? Finally, remember that Santiago, Grissom, Bonds, Snow and Gallaraga will never see 35 again. The time for this team to win is right now.

Foppert or Ainsworth for a veteran pitcher. You heard it here first.

Regards, Jim Adams
Great work by one of our most esteemed visitors. Thanks. I have to agree with everything Jim says here. They cannot continue like this for very much longer, in fact, I wouldn't be surprised if they made a move even sooner. The All Star break is here none too soon, but all it will do is stem the bleeding. They are finishing a really taxing stretch of 17 games in a row or something like that, but if their biggest concern coming out of the break is whether they asked too much of Jermoe Williams on July 7th, well, they're gonna collapse like a house of cards.

I'd even go so far as to suggest they may make a blockbuster trade, something along the lines of Alfonzo, or even Aurilia, who is a) in the last year of his contract, b) under-performing his career for two years plus now, and c) going to command a salary that the team will not be able to handle. Aurilia, in fact, could be the missing piece for the team to get their hands on a premier pitcher, as opposed to Kevin Appier or some other over-priced piece of garbage.

I mean, they've got Neifi (I am too a major league hitter) Perez locked up for this and next year, so basically, they're spending something like $7 million on short right now. If they moved Aurilia, they would have Feliz and/or Alfonzo at third, Durham and/or Alfonzo at second, Neifi at short.... It wouldn't be too bad, especially if they could get a seriously good pitcher. Of course, I looked at all of the top pitchers out there, and many of them are out of the Giants price range. In fact, most of them are. And the ones that aren't are young, so they would be difficult to get.

I was thinking back to the period of time when Alou was signing his deal with Sabean, and there were a lot of bloggers saying that he has a history of poorly managing his pitchers. It sure seems like that's what we're seeing now, doesn't it?

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 11, 2003


.... Superman

Bonds hit a three-run homer and had four runs batted in, but Foppert was way out of sync again, and the Giants fell to the Rockies 9-7 yesterday.

Henry Schulman, apparently an OBM reader, ran essentially the same numbers I did on Foppert's before and after that June 11th game against the White Sox. Here's the disappointing response the Giants brass gave regards Jesse:

".... after Foppert's fifth consecutive rough outing, Alou seemed open to the idea of Foppert going to the minors for re-education. "I have to start being concerned about him because of all his pitches," Alou said. "He threw 43 pitches in the first inning, and it has nothing to do with Coors Field because he threw 40 at home last time. The lack of command, especially with the fastball, is obvious."
How's that for awareness and responsibility? Righetti, Conte, Wotus and Alou all seem to be completely blind to the fact that they made a major mistake asking the youngster to throw that many pitches, a mistake they have since repeated with two other pitchers; and now they think it would be good for him to go back to the minors.

Here's an idea, guys.... do some research. Forget about research, read a newspaper or a magazine for crying out loud. Managing pitch counts is being done (and talked about and written about) by probably four or five of the best teams out there, the Yankees, the Braves, the Athletics, the Twins, the Mariners.... All of these teams have been monitoring the workload they ask of their pitchers for quite a while now, and golly gee willickers, they all sure seem to have some really good pitching staffs.

Of course, the Giants brass aren't the only ones blind to what's going on. While we're over here at OBM ranting and raving about the Giants ruining their own pitching staff, and the staff is in shambles, Glenn Dickey is writing a column about how Felipe Alou can do no wrong!

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 10, 2003


.... emails and details, continued

A bit more discussion has followed on this topic, so, read on....

John,



Just to add one more voice to the choir...



The e-mail you quoted critical to your outrage stated: " In the old days, pitchers thru a ton more pitches...." It's a common refrain shouted by those who think yesterday was better than today, and stats are ruining the game instead of providing a greater and deeper understanding to a game we love. You respond quite correctly that there were a lot of young pitchers whose careers didn't survive that abuse.



What I wanted add was an interesting article over at Baseball Prospectus (I spent about 10 minutes searching for it but struck out) last month that basically said, yeah pitchers in the old days threw more pitches but they also faced easier lineups. Specifically I think the author looked at the C, 2B, and SS of yesterday and compared them to the hitters at those positions today. The comparison showed that pitchers could rack up higher pitch counts because there were more easy outs in a lineup than there are today, when there are actually very few easy outs.



I wish I could remember who wrote it, but my brain is Swiss cheese these days. Anyway it was interesting and directly rebuts the "they used to do it" argument.



Adam Strasberg
Yeah, I think I saw that piece too. Another one was done by Zumsteg (or maybe it was Nate Silver), in which he got his hands on one or two years of Juan Marichal's actual pitch counts, compiled by the coaching staff. The basic conclusion was that Marichal didn't throw 150 pitches or anything like that.

Most of the time he was pretty much doing what pitchers do now, 110, 125, occasionally more, but quite often he'd throw a complete game with under 100 pitches. I can also remember reading about a complete game shutout thrown by Bill (Spaceman) Lee in which he threw 69 pitches or something like that.

I'd guess that with walks still being a hidden scoring advantage up until these last couple of decades (brought into sharp focus by the Yankees championship teams of recent years), far fewer hitters were working long and deep counts. The axiom of getting your pitch and ripping at it must have meant there were more hitters swinging at the first or second pitch than we're used to seeing now.

I'd also suggest that the really great thinking-man type of pitchers, guys like Catfish and Marichal and Palmer and their ilk, probably figured out for themselves at some point that low pitch counts were better. Those pitchers who were groundball inducing machines and smart would have eventually realized they were feeling less beat up and exhausted after 90 pitch games. I'm not sure I've ever read anything that would suggest there was a line of coaching direction that sounded the alarm, but the Marichal pitch count stuff that was found suggests that at least one or two people must have thought about it forty years ago.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 9, 2003


.... emails and details

I got more than a couple of responses to my rant on Jermoe Williams' pitch counts. Here's the best of the "you are an idiot" type:

John, 128 pitches is NOT that big a deal. He's 21...not 31. He doesn't have a violent delivery. In the old days, pitchers thru a ton more pitches.



They showed confidence and faith in him. I applaud it. He gave up 1 run to them. He's pitching lights out. If he keeps it up, and as a youngster, you never know, but if he does keep this pitching up...we have the best 1-2 punch in the league. Here he is 8 starts into his career, he's bested a top offense twice, he's thrown a shutout and he KNOWS he can do it. He KNOWS he can finish a game.



That's a wondrous thing. So many pitchers are not given the free reign to throw deep into games and what is it that makes an ace? The ability to throw deep into games consistently. Well, you have to be able to shut the opponent down, but if you can't, you shouldn't be pitching deep into games anyway. *coff-Livan-coff*



I'm really glad to see you posting again. I'd begun to worry.

Iain


And here's the best of the "You are some smart cookie" type:
John, like you, I was horrified to see the Giants let the 21 year-old Jerome Williams throw 128 pitches. I assume this was Felipe Alou's decision, since my understanding is that managers who have been ejected usually contrive to keep managing from the clubhouse, or from the runway leading to the dugout. If so, Alou's handling of Williams is part of a worrisome pattern. Here are a couple of other areas of concern, in addition to the points you document about the total number of pitches Alou has piled on the young pitchers:

1) There were several reports on KNBR last night that Reuter hasn't been right since he threw 122 pitches in a game back on June 1st. Dusty rarely pushed Reuter past 100 pitches, and absolutely never asked him to throw more than 110. It's a pretty fishy coincidence that shortly after throwing more pitches in a game than he has in several years, Reuter suffers his first injury in years.

2) My recollection is that Alou left in Jesse Foppert to threw over 120 pitches in his 5-walk, 10-strike-out game against the White Sox, where he pitched 7 1/3 innings. In this game the Giants were comfortably ahead after seven innings, yet Alou sent Foppert back out to pitch the 8th even though he had thrown 110 pitches to that point. Foppert has not thrown a good game since his start against the White Sox..

I hope that one month from now we're not saying "Gee, Jerome Williams hasn't been right since his complete game against the Cardinals on July 7."

One last point. I wonder if one reason Alou is riding the youngsters so hard is to save the bull pen, which is being pushed to the limit largely because Damien Moss rarely makes it through the fifth inning. This is no excuse in my book, since there is never a good reason to overwork your promising young pitchers, but if this is behind Alou's thinking then I suggest the Giants get rid of Moss right now.

There have to be 20 pitchers the Giants could get off the waiver wire who could pitch as effectively as Moss has. I think the Giants are mesmerized by the fact that Moss won 12 games last year, with a 3.20 ERA and just 140 hits allowed in 179 innings. But if you look carefully at his stats they scream "FLUKE." Last year Moss walked 89 men and struck out just 111 while allowing 20 home runs, which means that his low hits allowed total came about because an unusually low percentage of the balls put ij play against Moss became base hits. As the folks over at Baseball Prospectus have persuasively documented, when this happens it usually represents luck, not the pitcher's innate ability. Anyhow, here are Moss's career statistics:

289 IP, 155 BB, 167K, 32 HR.

Does this look like the profile of a promising pitcher to you?

Of course if the Giants demote or waive Moss this will be an admission that the Ortiz-for-Moss trade was a blunder, and Brian Sabean may be reluctant to do this. But this outcome is infinitely preferable to blowing out your young pitchers.

Regards,

Jim Adams
Now that's some terrific work by my readers. Thanks to all who sent in an email.

On to my rebuttals. Actually, Professor Adams does most of the work in his piece. There is no doubt that pitchers years ago threw many more pitches in their starts. There is also little doubt that baseball history is littered with story after story of young pitchers who blew their arms and their careers out after being over-worked. Don Gullet and Jim Bouton are just two of whom I've been reading about lately. So just because pitchers used to do it is no reason to risk these young pitchers today. Let's look at the Jesse Foppert issue raised by Adams.....

Foppert threw 123 pitches in the start he is referring to, on June 11th, pitching into the 8th inning, allowing one hit and walking 5. He has failed to get past the 5th inning in any of his four starts since; and he hasn't pitched particularly well in any of them either. Here's his before and after numbers:

Before June 11th: 53 IP, 48 Hits, 25 ER's, 34 BB's, 4.25 ERA

After June 11th: 15.2 IP, 21 Hits, 12 ER's, 8 BB's, 7.14 ERA

That's four starts, and that's some ineffective pitching.

What about the Rueter injury.....

On June 1st, Rueter threw 122 pitches aginst the Rockies, pitching into the eighth inning of a game that the Giants ended up winning 4-0. Let's do the same thing for Rueter that we did for Foppert:

Before June 1st: 65.2 IP, 71 Hits, 27 ER's, 21 BB's, 3.72 ERA

After June 1st: 30.1 IP, 47 Hits, 24 ER's, 11 BB's, 7.18 ERA

Oh, and Woody allowed 2 home runs in the 65 innings before June 1st, and he's allowed 6 in the 30 innings since.

There can be little argument that both pitchers have seen their effectiveness dramatically reduced. These results are consistent with what we know about high-pitch count effects, albeit much more pronounced than normal. What about Rueter's history of usage? Well, actually, Professor Adams is mistaken there. Last season, on May 30th, Rueter threw 126 pitches in eight innnings against the D'backs. In his next several starts, he was extremely ineffective, allowing 9, 8, 9, 7, 9 and 8 hits consecutively, the worst stretch of pitching for him on the year. In 2001, his effective pitch-count limit was 110 pitches, a figure he exceeded only twice, and by just a few pitches. Interestingly, he never had a stretch of pitching as bad as he has had in both of the last two seasons after he was stretched.

Where does that leave us? Well, is there any doubt that "Don't give me that on-base crap" Sabean ignores most of this stuff? Here we have what any normal business or organization would consider to be damn convincing evidence of a pattern of behavior that can be managed and planned, and the Giants seem to be ignoring it.

As for Moss, well, as far as I'm concerned, that trade is a bust. Moss does not appear to be a major league talent, regardless of his low hits-allowed numbers. He appears to have almost no command, something far more important than "stuff". Ortiz has the optimum pitchers build, similar to a Clemens or a Schilling; and looks to me to be a long-term major-leaguer. Here's what I said about the deal when it happened:
Anyway, I look at this Rueter extension, and I see a choice made by the Giants brass. They chose Rueter over Ortiz, and frankly, they did so in the face of what appears to me to be overwhelming evidence that they should have gone the other way. I'm not saying Woody isn't a terrific player to have on your team. I'm just saying that I would take Ortiz over him, not by a ton, but it wouldn't be too hard to pick the younger, bigger, stronger guy; who gives me more innings, strikes out more hitters, gives up fewer home runs, and who won as many or more games each of the last four seasons.
We have to remember that that trade was supposedly made for money, even though the Giants followed up the deal by signing Rueter to a deal that almost certainly would have kept Ortiz in the orange and black. These issues fall into the "I like Neifi Perez's hustle," or "Shawon Dunston is a good guy in the clubhouse," kind of BS that is certainly the Giants achilles heel.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 9, 2003


.... Good and bad

The Giants swept the Cardinals in their short, two-game series, and took five of six against the NL's best offensive club.

In more important news, Kirk Rueter left the game with a sore left shoulder, which means that for him, the All Star brak could hardly have come at a better time. There was little to report after the game, as Stan Conte will evaluate him further.

I just wanted to touch upon my horror and dismay watching yesterday's win. The two idiots running the team after Alou's ejection yesterday, (Righetti and Wotus), had some sort of brain-lock and allowed 21 year-old rookie Jerome Williams throw an unbelievably taxing and exhausting 128 pitches against the best offense in the NL.

128 pitches!?!? This is the phenom the Giants have spoon-fed for three Goddam years in the minors, and in his eighth major league start these two morons sit there and watch him struggle through the eighth (17 pitches) and the ninth innings (20 pitches), against the heart of the order, with a four run lead, for what?! 37 pitches, in the last two innings of a game with a four run lead, against the best offense in the league, against the numbers one and two home run hitters in the league!?! So he could get another complete game? He's already got a shutout. What the hell were they thinking?

Here's something to worry about....

Williams has made eight starts for the big club, and he's thrown 800 pitches (I think you can figure out his average per start, there), including 113, 92 and 128 in his last three starts. That's way too many. Anyone notice what the Marlins have done to their great young arms in the last couple of years? Will Carroll has only written about it about six hundred times over at Baseball Prospectus.

By the way, here's some numbers for the other rookie pitchers:

Ainsworth 11 starts, 1055 pitches

Foppert 14 starts, 1402 pitches

Anyone notice a pattern here?

That had to be one of the stupidest things I've seen this team do since Dusty Baker let Gardner hit against the Mets in the 2000 playoffs. Wotus and Righetti ought to be ashamed of themselves.

And not for nothing, so should Krukow and Kuiper, who sat there and ignored the obviously preposterous risk the team was taking with the most valuable young player, and arguably the most valuable player in the entire organization right now.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 8, 2003


.... Too good?

I was re-reading my New Baseball Historical Abstract last night, and I came across the Babe Ruth comments page in which Bill James runs with the question of whether any hitter is so good they should be routinely walked, as opponents have sort of been doing to Barry Bonds these last three seasons. Take a look:

Is there any such thing as a hitter so good that it would make sense simply to walk him every time he came to the plate? If there was such a hitter, of course, it would have to be Babe Ruth. To test this, I established on a computer a lineup with Babe Ruth hitting cleanup in the middle of what is otherwise a worse-than-realistic offense. The team was:

1. Willie Wilson, CF (1988 .262/.289/.333)

2. Al Weis, 2B (1966 .155/.233/.187)

3. Gerald Perry, 1B (1985 .214/.282/.273)

4. Babe Ruth, RF (1921 .385/.523/.862)

5. Gino Cimoli, LF (1961 .234/.284/.337)

6. Don Wert, 3B (1970 .218/.307/.303)

7. Jamie Quirk, C (1977 .217/.251/.330)

8. Angel Salazar, SS (1987 .205/.219/.246)

9. Sandy Koufax, P (as a hitter only, career .097/.145/.116)

To make the distance between Ruth and the other hitters on the team even greater, I modified Ruth's 1921 season slightly, taking away ten outs; instead of going 204 for 540 (.378), I changed him to 204 for 530 (.385), thus increasing his slugging percentage from .846 to .862.

I then ran the team through 1,000 simulated seasons, twice, In one simulation, I instructed the computer to simply walk Ruth every time he came to the plate. In the other run, I allowed the computer to pitch to Ruth (except walking him in those situations in which one normally would).

Conclusion? It's not even close. Walking Ruth every time up does far, far more harm than good, even under these impossibly extreme conditions. The team for which Ruth hit .385 with 61 homers scored 601 runs per season, and finished with a winning percentage of .326. The team for which Ruth was walked everytime up scored 667 runs per season, and finished with a winning percentage of .380. As great as Ruth was, as terrible as his teammates were, he was still nowhere near the point at which it made sesnse to simply walk him every time he came to the plate.

Why is this true? Let's assume Ruth came to the plate 726 times per season, which he did in this simulation (when he was being walked). If you pitch to Ruth 726 times, he'll get 210 hits good for 532 Total Bases, a huge number, and Ruth will account for those bases while making only about 330 outs - a phenomenal bases/outs ratio.

But if you just walk him every time, what do you have then? 726 bases, and zero outs. That's far worse. If you walk Ruth every time, Gino Cimoli, hitting fifth, drives in 151 runs per year - .267 with 9 homers, 151 RBI. A real hitter would drive in more than 200, It's not worth it; it's not close. There is no such thing as a hitter so good that he should be routinely walked.
I went and dug up each player and plugged in a real bad season, just so all of you wouldn't have to. As you can see, that is one bad offensive team. It's also interesting that he modified Ruth to push his slugging percentage and on-base percentage right up there with Bonds' historic 2001 season.

Altered Ruth 1921 .385/.523/.862 61 HR's 467 TB's 145 BB's

Barry Bonds' 2001 .328/.515/.863 73 HR's 411 TB's 177 BB's

Hmmmm...... Very interesting, don't you think? Anyway, back to work.

How are you gonna argue with Bill on his conclusion, it seems pretty obvious that he is dead on. The question remains, then; why do teams continue to give Bonds, (and the Giants) a base or two per game for free? It seems evident that continually forcing your pitchers to work from the stretch almost every inning Bonds is up is a bad strategy. The Giants have been one of the winningest teams in the game these last three seasons, and their offense has been very effective, one of the best in the game, even with some pretty glaring holes (first base, catcher, and center field last season, third base and shortstop this year).

Nonetheless, the approach to Bonds hasn't really changed since he hit the stratosphere in the first couple of months of 2001. Pitch around him as often as humanly possible, walking him in situations that fly in the face of baseball convetion, (men on first and second, for instance); and the Giants continue to take advantage of this generosity, winning and winning. Don't forget, were it not for the Angels' miracle rally in Game Six, we'd be talking about the defending World Champs. This season, with all the changes on the team and everything else, their offense away from the graveyard of PacBell continues to be one of the best in baseball.... in fact, let's look at the last three seasons for the road warriors:

2001 .276/.345/.482 447 runs, second in the NL

2002 .273/.350/.471 426 runs, first in the NL

2003 .255/.332/.424 217 runs, fourth in the NL

They're actually a bit off from the last two seasons, most of which is due to the loss of Jeff Kent, who was simply awesome on the road. Anyway.... Just thought I'd throw that out there and see if I can't get a rise from somebody. Walking Bonds seems to help the Giants more than it helps the opposing pitcher, and Bill James' simulation just affirms my feeling that there is little advantage to the strategy.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 7, 2003


.... Triple Crown, revisited

Reader Richard Lederer has his own site, called Rich's Weekend Baseball Beat. In his latest post, he takes a swing at the fabled Triple Crown, and argues for a new interpretation. I have walked that walk before, and many of you are familiar with the Only Baseball Matters Triple Crown. For those of you new to Only Baseball Matters, I thought I would take some time to bring you up to speed. Maybe you can compare the two differing approaches and see what you think.

It's unfortunate (though not surprising), that my version of the fabled baseball accomplishment has met with little universal praise or even begun, just a little, to slip into the common language of baseball writers (or more important to me, the baseball bloggers). Whatever. I like it, and if you're here with any frequency, I'd bet that you find it useful as well. So, on with it..... (Some of you may recognize this rewrite. Sorry.)

The Triple Crown is an interesting accomplishment. Not an award or really an achievement per se, it has long been a part of the baseball vernacular as an acknowledgment of a season of singular excellence. It remains as one of the more elusive combination of accomplishments a hitter can achieve in baseball. Leading the league in batting average, home runs and runs batted in is representative of excellence in three fairly distinct categories. The difficulty of mastering these three different aspects of hitting simultaneously is illustrated by the fact that only fourteen hitters have ever done it, (Rogers Hornsby and Ted Williams are the only members of an even more exclusive club as the only players to have done it twice). Part of the mystique if the Triple Crown lies in that rarity. Rare accomplishments are frequently associated with the extraordinary, and in many instances, this is appropriate. There have only been 16 perfect games, 13 four home run games, 100 or so no-hitters. But these accomplishments are rare and they are examples of excellence. Rarity isn't always indicative of excellence. There have been only 11 unassisted triple plays in baseball history, these are recognized not as examples of extraordinary accomplishment, but more as flukes, strange confluence's of opportunity and fate. Are Triple Crown winners rare because it represents mastery in three distinct areas, or because it represents a strange juxtaposition of ability and opportunity? I'm going to suggest that it is the latter.

Triple Crown winners are rare because two of the three statistics that make up the accomplishment are (somewhat) outside of the batters control. Home runs are slightly out of the hitters hands, because the best hitters, hitters who combine all of the aspects of hitting excellence, will frequently be denied the opportunity to swing the bat. Ted Williams is the perfect example of this type of hitter, blessed with excellent strike zone judgment and excellent power; pitchers walked Ted as much as anyone in history. The same was true with Babe Ruth, and in today's game, Barry Bonds. The opposition's respect for these players' excellence often denies them the chance to lead the league in home runs, (this was less true with Ruth, probably because he was the first player to hit a lot of home runs with any real consistency, he led the league in walks and home runs many times).

And this issue becomes even more prevalent when these same hitters come to the plate with men on base. The oppositions' willingness to take the bat out of their hands severely limits their chances to lead the league in RBI. Case in point, Barry Bonds. As we head into the final month of one of the greatest seasons' a player has ever put together, Barry Bonds has no chance to lead the league in either home runs or RBI. He has approximately 120 at bats fewer than players like Sammy Sosa, Shawn Green, Lance Berkman, all of the players he is "battling" for these titles. Does this in any way diminish his dominance? Hardly. Sammy Sosa has 4 more home runs than Barry in 129 more at bats! What's more likely, the Triple Crown as it is currently defined, is a flawed acknowledgment of excellence, or Barry Bonds isn't the most dominant player in the game today? As baseball analysts and sabermetricians have taken the study of the statistical record further and further, a consensus has emerged regarding the importance of RBI as a statistic, as many researchers and baseball analysts have come to the conclusion that using RBI as a measure of "clutch" hitting is simply wrong, that RBI is simply a matter of opportunity. This is the main reason runs batted in has begun to lose some of its importance in the area of sabermetrics and baseball research. Also, OPS, in which on-base percentage and slugging percentage are added together, correlates better with scoring runs (the whole point, after all, in analyzing statistics is to attempt to determine a players effectiveness as an offensive actor, or put another way; how many runs does a player CREATE); which is why OPS has begun to become more and more common as a tool for evaluating hitters.

Since batting average is now and always will be a fine measure of a hitters ability to influence the outcome of an at bat (it may no longer be recognized as the best way to assess a players excellence, but batting average will always be a useful first component of any detailed analysis of a players ability), I would like to suggest a new Triple Crown, one that uses the singular achievements of a hitter, those as far outside the influence of his teammates or opponents as possible. My Triple Crown would be awarded to the player who leads his league in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage; we'll call it the Only Baseball Matters Triple Crown, or OBM TC, for short. No one has won the regular Triple Crown since Carl Yastremski in 1967, but has anybody won the OBM TC since then? When was the last time a player led their league in all three categories. Baseball-Reference.com can answer that, let's take a look...

I looked at both leagues all the way back to 1950. An OBM TC is pretty rare in the last half century of baseball, I found only eight such seasons out of 104 league seasons, 7.5%. That's very close to the percentage of regular Triple Crown seasons, which I estimate is around 6%, depending on how far back you want to consider. Which hitters have won the OBM TC in the last 52 years? Here's the list:

2000 NL Todd Helton .372/.463/.698

1999 NL Larry Walker .379/.458/.710 Major League Triple Crown

1980 AL George Brett .390/.454/.664 Major League Triple Crown

1979 AL Fred Lynn .333/.423/.637

1970 AL Carl Yastremski .329/.452/.592

1967 AL Carl Yastremski .326/.418/.622

1966 AL Frank Robinson .316/.410/.637

1957 AL Ted Williams .388/.526/.731

That's it. Seven players, eight seasons of dominating their league. And a major league OBM TC is even more rare, it's only been done twice in the last 52 years, (once in Colorado, talk about an asterisk). It's pretty clear that this re-thinking of the Triple Crown isn't compromising our evaluation of players in any way, if anything, it could be argued that it raises the bar, as it removes some of the biases that have colored some of our previous interpretations of dominance.

A handful of the greatest players in baseball history have had seasons in which they narrowly missed accomplishing the OBM TC. During the fifties, Stan Musial and Willie Mays' shared brilliance essentially canceled each other out in one category or another, in fact, in 1957 the two of them finished first and second in all three categories:

Musial .351/.422/.616

Mays .333/.407/.626

Looking at this list, one might suggest that the OBM TC is a more useful tool for identifying great seasons than the regular Triple Crown. If that's true, what should we expect to find as we dig deeper into history? If we are looking at a standard of excellence, then obviously we would expect the accomplishment to be rare, and the winners to be made up of the greatest players of all time, right? Well, we're right one count.

The National League records go all the way back to 1876, that's another 75 seasons beyond my initial cut off line of 1950. I found twenty OBM TC winners during that time period, 26% of the time. That's substantial, there were almost three times as many winners as there were regular Triple Crown winners, (seven).

Over in the AL, I found sixteen during the 50 seasons between 1901 and 1950, fully 32% of the time. Again, this is obviously many more times than a normal Triple Crown has occured, (six). Is this because the OBM TC is just easier or less noteworty an accomplishment?

I don't think so. A Triple Crown is inherently rare because of the reliance on events outside the hitters control, during that season, at the plate. The OBM TC is a more individual accomplishment, primarily because it attempts to qualify a players performance in a vacuum. No variable exists that limits or restricts a player from leading his league in any of these three categories, only the player himself. This shows up throughout history, because even though there have been a total of 44 percentage Triple Crown winners, in a total of 229 league seasons, (19%), these 44 seasons have been accomplished by just 23 players, and sixteen of them are in the Hall of Fame, (70%). Here's the list of players and the seasons in which they've won the OBM TC:

National League

Todd Helton NL 1 season. 2000

Larry Walker NL 1 season. 1999 MLB

Stan Musial NL 2 seasons. 1943 MLB, 1948 NL only

Arky Vaughn NL 1 season. 1935

Rogers Hornsby NL 7 seasons. 1920-24 NL only, 1925 MLB, 1928 NL only

Sherry Magee NL 1 season. 1910

Honus Wagner NL 4 seasons. 1904 NL only, 1907 MLB 1908 MLB 1909 NL only

Dan Brouthers NL 2 seasons. 1882 MLB 1883 NL only

George Gore NL 1 season. 1880 MLB

Ross Barnes NL 1 season. 1876 MLB

American League

George Brett AL 1 season. 1980 MLB

Fred Lynn AL 1 season. 1979

Carl Yastremski AL 2 seasons. 1967, 1970

Frank Robinson AL 1 season. 1966

Ted Williams AL 6 seasons. 1941 MLB 1942 MLB, 1947-49 AL only 1957 MLB

Jimmie Fox AL 1 season. 1938 MLB

Lou Gehrig AL 1 season. 1934 MLB

Babe Ruth AL 1 season. 1924

Chuck Klein AL 1 season. 1933

Ty Cobb AL 3 seasons. 1909, 1914, 1917 MLB

Tris Speaker AL 1 season. 1916 MLB

George Stone AL 1 season. 1906

Nap Lajoie AL 3 seasons. 1901 MLB, 1902, 1904

These seasons represent the best seasons of some of the very best players of all time. Most baseball fans know that Chuck Klein had a historic season in 1933, the OBM TC only recognizes the obvious. Nine regular Triple Crown winners also win the OBM TC. 10 times the regular Triple Crown season coincided with the OBM TC season. I believe that the OBM TC does a better job of recognizing these hitters during their dominant seasons, and it does so in as close to a vaccum as possible, negating the opposition's ability to prevent these players from doing what they do best, create runs; and allowing us to look at hitters like Ted Williams and Ty Cobb and Rogers Hornsby through a clearer lens; to get a more complete appreciation of their greatness. The OBM TC is a simple and easy to use standard, and it is an accurate snapshot of single season dominance; more so than the regular Triple Crown, which relies on opportunity and teammates too much to be as defining.

So what about Superman? Well, Barry Bonds had never won the OBM TC, but in 2002, he finally reached the mountaintop, and he was able to reach the rarified air of an MLB OBM TC, leading all of baseball in our three categories. In 2001, he just missed the same feat, as he led the majors in OBP (.515) and SLG (.863) and finished sixth in BA (.328). He missed leading the National League and all of baseball in batting average, and winning his first OBM TC, by a measly 11 hits. Eleven hits! And Bonds' recent dominance isn't out of the ordinary for a player finally being recognized as one of the all-time greats. Here are four different seasons of Triple Crown dominance, the last two, and two from a decade ago, (bold indicates the category in which he missed leading the league, with the league leading total in parentheses):

2002 .370/.570/.827

2001 .328/.515/.863 (.350)

1992 .311/.456/.624 (.330)

1993 .336/.458/.677 (.370)

His dominance of baseball right now is astounding, but actually isn't very far out of alignment with the rest of his career. He has been the best or nearly the best player in the game since the early nineties, and he now owns the following single season records; walks (Babe Ruth), on base percentage (Ted Williams), slugging percentage (Babe Ruth), home runs (Mark McGwire), and OPS (Ruth). He will pass his Godfather Willie Mays for third on the all-time home run list this season or next, he just earned his 2000th career walk, he is the founding member of the 400 home run, 400 steals club, the 500 home run and 500 steals club.... I mean, folks, get on board; Bonds is a walking, talking baseball history lesson. Forget about all the crap you hear about what a jerk he is, pay attention to the fact that you get to see the best player since the Splinter play in your home park. And all this talk about Albert Pujols winning the Triple Crown? Bonds is well-positioned to make a second half surge and win the OBM TC again this season. Mark my words.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 6, 2003


.... Credibility? We don't need no stinking credibility.

I got an email today questioning my constant degradation of Neifi Perez:

Jeez, John. You make me doubt your credibility on other subjects when you run down Neifi so relentlessly. He's done way better than you led me to believe (I knew next to nothing about him before this season) and his current BA is better than J.T., Richie, Jose, Pedro and, of course, Edgardo and Marvin. Throw in some superb defensive plays like one against the Cards where he blocked a ball which deflected off the pitcher, juggled it and crawled to 2nd base before jumping up and rocketing a double play throw to first, and its seems clear why Felipe puts him in so often.

Sure, he may blow up in the 2nd half of the season, but he's surprised everyone so far, so maybe we'll get lucky again.

I'm new to your blog, enjoy reading it, and nod my head in agreement on most subjects. Thanks for writing it.

BTW, here's a cute fact that further highlights the amazing futility of the Dodger offense. If their old teammate Marquis Grissom were still on the team, he'd be the leader in homeruns, RBI's, runs scored, hits, triples, and slugging percentage. Did I read in OBM that the Dodgers are paying $1 million of his salary this year or did I just dream that?

Rick
Thanks for writing, and thanks for the kind words.

I think the $1 million you are referring to is the money the Dodgers were paying Tom Goodwin when he was helping the Giants beat them down the stretch last season.

As for Mr. Perez, I am far from the only one saying he is an impostor as a hitter. You say he has done better than a bunch of guys already? Let's take a look deeper....

Neifi currently has an OBM TC line that looks like this:

.281/.302/.370

That's right, he has an OPS of just .671, which is better than only one Giant who could be considered a regular, Edgardo Alfonzo (who clocks in at a woeful .233/.312/.337, for a dismal .649 OPS). Back to Perez....

His slugging percentage of .370, without running the whole frigging league, is almost certainly in the bottom ten of all players with at least 175 at bats. With an OBP of just .302 is the worst among all Giant regulars, semi-regulars, and even two pitchers (Ryan Jensen and Felix Rodriguez). Add in the astounding fact that he has created 140 or so outs in just over 200 plate appearances(!); is a repulsive 3 for 5 stealing, and has grounded into 4 DP's, (one of his assets is his tremendous speed, according to Brian Sabean); add in the fact that King Kaufman has illustrated that the team is far less successful with him in the lineup than without him, well Rick, what the hell are you talking about?

If his .287 batting average qualifies him as some superstar, well, it doesn't, really; he's still about the tenth best second baseman (or whatever you want to call him) in the NL West. Well, enough of my ranting and raving, let's look for real.....

ESPN.com shows him as creating 3.64 runs per 27 outs, which ranks him 24th among all second baseman in the NL ( or about half what Durham produces, 7.17). He ranks 15th in total bases among second basemen in the NL, just shy of dead last (that is, 34th) in pitches per plate appearance, 18th in extra base hits, (no one with 200 plate appearances has fewer), has just six(!) walks, has scored just 22 runs.... I could go on and on. In fact, the statistical record suggests that everything I said he would be he has.

No amount of super-duper throws from the hole can make up for the enormous number of outs he creates while generating virtually nothing! (Actually, both he and Alfonzo are responsible for a tremendous percentage of the offensive struggles the Giants have faced so far this season; both have been so awful they can't be hid).

Coming into the season, he had compiled some of the worst hitting statistics an everyday player has been allowed to accumulate in as long as I can remember. Brian Sabean made several comments after throwing $4.5 million dollars at him that had me worried that he was missing the obvious. He was. Both he and Alou are oblivious to his shortcomings, constantly going out of their way to mention his terrific throws or whatever. Let me tell you something....

Billy Beane is over on the other side of the Bay making a career out of laughing at the Neifi Perez's populating baseball, and concentrating on players who actually produce, as opposed to those who look like ballplayers. Perez should be lucky to be a career backup, as he is capable of manning several positions adequately; but any team that plays him everyday is completely blind to the obvious (as you, my friend, Rick, appear to be as well).

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 5, 2003


.... The answer man

Many of you know that I think very highly of the John Sickels minor league reports. And many of you have written in to me wondering about the difference between the reported fastball speeds of the new hot rookies the Giants are relying on, particularly Foppert and Williams, being about 6 MPH shy of their reported top speed, (90-91 MPH as opposed to the 96-plus we were expecting). Here's Sickels' response to our worries:

.... Foppert was widely reported as having a fastball timed as high as 99 mph, with regular velocity in the mid-90s. But this year, pitching for the Giants, he's more often in the 89-91 range, and a lot of Giants fans have been disappointed.

I saw Foppert pitch twice last year, once in Double-A and once in Triple-A, and both times he was consistently in the 94-96 range, at least according to the radar guns I was looking at. I did not personally see him hit 99 mph, but others, who would have no reason to lie about it, did. From watching him in person, it certainly seemed like he was capable of throwing that hard. For whatever reason, he has not had that sort of velocity this year, although his velocity has been up in his last couple of starts. He may never hit 99 again, but this 89-91 stuff he's been doing this year is several mph slower than what I saw in person last summer.
OK, so that's pretty much what I figured, but I still seem to remember a lot of the reports coming straight from the Giants themselves, and that's what makes me, (and pretty much everyone I've talked to) pretty pissed.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 4, 2003


.... The Rat

Here's a Ray Ratto column in which he argues quite persuasively that OBM hit the nail on the head in my earlier piece on Mr. Pujols. Well, he didn't actually say that I hit the nail on the head, but you get the point.

In the meantime, it's the Fourth of July, so celebrate safely, and let's start getting excited about the new and improved All Star game, in which we'll get to see these overpaid, whining crybabies actually compete as opposed to show up, collect their bonus money, and leave before the fifth inning. (The previous sentence was sponsored by the Commisioner of Baseball's office)

Really, does anyone think that home field for the World Series should be decided by the winner of the All Star game? Wow.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 4, 2003


.... King for a day

Check out King Kaufman's ongoing Neifi Index for the AL leaders.

I like this little feature he's come up with, because I can't stand listening to the Giants announcers telling me what an asset this black hole is. He is a weak-hitting, out-making, modest athlete with a terrific arm, or to put it another way; he is an absolute zero at the plate. There are literally hundreds of players as good or better earning the major league minimum or worse, as opposed to the $4.5 million over the next two seasons' Sabean decided to throw away on this impostor.

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 3, 2003


.... Happy hump day

The Giants won their third in a row against the St. Louis Cardinals today, riding the slowly surging Superman's 636th and 637th home runs to beat them 4-1. Add in rookie Jerome Williams strong six innings, and the rematch from last season's NLCS has been all SF so far.

Early front-runner for NL MVP, Albert Pujols, has been held almost completely in check, with just a single in 12 at bats. His terrific start has mant writers suggesting he is a Triple Crown threat, whcih I find ridiculous. Sports Illustrated had an article in which they suggested he has surpassed Bonds as the best offensive player in the NL, another ridiculous assertion based on some 300 at bats.

Let me put it this way, Bonds had a pretty good half season last year after the All Star break. Let's look at how Pujols' first half stacks up to Bonds' second half of '02:

Bonds .404/.608/.825 19 HR, 89 BB's 171 AB's

Pujols .381/.441/.700 23 HR's, 32 BB's 307 AB's

Whattaya think about that? Still think Pujols has surpassed him? Let's not forget the all important question of how many outs is each player responsible for? Pujols has created approximately 190 outs so far this season. Bonds' second half last year? He made just over 100 (102). What's that worth?

What about Bonds' slow start this season, how does he look side by side with the next DiMaggio?

Bonds .302/.489/.649 24 HR's 75 BB's 225 AB's

Pujols .381/.441/.700 23 HR's, 32 BB's 307 AB's

Hmmm.... Hasn't Barry been in a season-long slump? Hasn't he been pretty mortal for most of the first half? I'll answer that for you. Bonds just had three consecutive months in which his batting average was below .325, and his slugging percentage was below .725 for the first time since June, July and August of 2000. So next time you read some knucklehead telling you Bonds isn't the number one offensive threat in baseball anymore, check a little deeper. And remember the difference between the regular Triple Crown, and the one we talk about here.

Oh, and I'm not the only one who thinks we should wait a little onger before we pass the crown. Read what Superman has to say about it:

"He doesn't run, he has no position. He plays first base, third base. Pujols, to me, reminds me of Bobby Bonilla, but better. Bobby Bonilla played different positions, first base and right field. All the (great) players you're talking about had a position. Time determines a person's career. If Pujols plays for a long period of time, he definitely has a chance to do some wonderful things in this game of baseball because he has the ability. Time plays with all of us. He's no different from myself and we're no different from him. It's just time that dictates what happens. Who would have thought Vladimir Guerrero would have back problems right now. No one knows how serious that is. You never know...

Comment on this   [0]  »  July 2, 2003


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