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Monday, April 14, 2014

Cameron: Baseball’s New Strategy: Drop the Ball on Purpose

Setting the stage for a Brant Brown comeback?

This year, in an attempt to clarify the difference between a catch and a transfer on plays around the [second] base bag, MLB informed teams that a clean transfer from glove to hand was now going to be a required element in making a legal catch. No longer could a player argue that the ball was dropped on the exchange between glove and hand in order to retire the lead runner in a double play attempt…

However, this rule isn’t just being applied to second base; it’s being applied everywhere, including the outfield…

it shouldn’t be too hard to spot the problem with using the same definition of a catch in the outfield as it is at second base; the drop at second base has no real impact on the runner’s decision making..

That is absolutely not true with runners and outfielders, however; the decision of whether to advance or return to base is entirely dependent on whether the outfielder is ruled to have safely caught the ball… now, the ball entering the glove is no longer the determining factor of whether or not the catch was made; that is now the ball moving from the glove to the hand… [an outfielder] can catch the ball in his glove, run in a direction for several steps, and still be ruled to have not caught the ball if he drops the ball on the transfer to his hand. This definition of an outfield catch opens up a huge can of worms, because this definition has now created the exact play that the infield fly rule was designed to eliminate…

If some enterprising team wants to test the rule, they should actually tell their left fielder that, on any play with runners at first and second and less than two outs, he should run the ball all the way back in to the infield, and then drop the ball only once he’s a few feet from the second base bag…

This is most likely going to be a one season nuisance than a long term problem, as everyone watching these plays can see the problems with this definition of a catch, and I can’t see any way in which anyone would support this definition staying in place… Most likely, we’re in for a year of weird plays like the ones from last week, where runners don’t know whether to advance or not, and teams get free outs when their fielders screw up.

The District Attorney Posted: April 14, 2014 at 06:54 PM | 16 comment(s)
  Beats: rules, strategy

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Bill James Mailbag - 3/25/14 - 3/26/14

C’mon now, cancelling the World Series is joyous compared to Arli$$.

Hey Bill, In what context do “one run” offensive strategies (in particular the sacrifice bunt, but also stolen bases) make sense in the early innings of a game? Said another way, how scarce do runs need to be in order to make the sacrifice bunt a favorable strategy in the early innings of a game?

I’m not sure I have a solid understanding of the issue. Billy Southworth bunted constantly in the early innings, believing that the most important thing was to grab the lead. Southworth’s teams were tremendously successful. It could be that if you have a GREAT team, one way to maximize that is to bunt in the early innings. I DOUBT that, but I don’t KNOW that it is untrue. And, as I have pointed out before. . .if the third baseman can’t field a bunt, why not bunt?

Re Southworth’s strategy: I’ve always heard that teams scoring the FIRST run in a game tend to win that game by some ludicrous %, but then I realized that every shutout of course is won by the team scoring the first run, probably equivalent (or close) to the % of wins claimed by the bunting/stealing crowd. Do you see this as blowing a significant hole in the small-ball argument? McCarver used to invoke it like it was heaven-sent wisdom, but I always found it spectacularly dumb.

Well. . .spectacularly dumb is harsh. It’s misleading. If you were to look, for example, at teams that score a run in the bottom of the fourth inning, you would find that those teams win about 70% of their games, just because a) EVERY run you score is highly significant in a contest in which it only takes a few runs to win a game, and b) when you score one run in the bottom of the 4th, very often you will score 2 or more, whereas when you score NO runs in the bottom of the fourth, then you never score 2 or more. It’s not that the first run is hugely significant; it is that every run is hugely significant.

Bill: I don’t expect you to keep printing my input on this. . .

Deal.

In “Four Sluggers” you tossed in a very interesting generalization that fantasy GMs and possibly real GMs should all know - but I didn’t think was considered general knowledge: ” The usual rule is that a player is consistent when he is young; when he gets older, what he loses is not the ability to produce but the consistency of his production.” Can I take that as fact? Could you, please, elaborate on that? It would make a good subject for a serious study.

I can’t demonstrate that it’s true, no. It seems obvious to me, but then, Amy Adams didn’t win Best Actress for “American Hustle”, so I guess you never know.

Hey Bill, ESPN Magazine has published preseason predictions ( http://assets.espn.go.com/magazine/0331TEAMAL.pdf, http://assets.espn.go.com/magazine/0331TEAMNL.pdf ) based in part on a “chemistry score.” They worked with a couple of professors to build “a proprietary team-chemistry regression model” with three factors: “clubhouse demographics, trait isolation and stratification of performance to pay.” Basically, on each factor, more homogeneity is better: players with similar salaries, experience, race, nationality, etc. Each component gives a result in terms of wins; e.g., the Cubs lose 3.5 wins on “clubhouse demographics” because of “too much diversity”. A fuller summary of the method is here: http://blog.philbirnbaum.com/2014/03/espn-on-clubhouse-chemistry.html Any thoughts on this?

Ah. . .it’s happened at last. The happy marriage of sabermetrics and bullshit.

Bill, Selig will retire a the end of this year. Who are the leading candidaes to replace him?

George Will, Bob Costas, Mariano Rivera, Stephen Colbert, Pope Francis, Gwyneth Paltrow, Mitch McConnell, Dale Chihuly, Maui Mike, Rob Neyer, Robert Wuhl, Betty White and Steven Goldleaf. In that order.

The District Attorney Posted: March 26, 2014 at 12:40 PM | 40 comment(s)
  Beats: amy adams, bill james, sabermetrics, strategy

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Marlins president David Samson debuts on Survivor: Cagayan

RECAP CONTAINS SPOILERS
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David is the President of the Marlins, which means that if there’s a challenge that requires salary dumping, he’s going to be hard to top…. After making it clear to his tribe that because his blazer doesn’t match his pants, he’s not wearing a suit, David picks Garrett as Brain’s weakest, saying that he’s making the decision for the end of the game. Is anybody else surprised that the President of the Marlins’ first instinct is to jettison the strongest person on his team? Not anybody who watches baseball! ....

The Vote, No.1. “In the real world, I may hire you, but in this world, not tonight,” David says, writing J’Tia’s name and suggesting the Marlins might be in need of a nuclear engineer. Probst tallies: J’Tia. David. J’Tia. David. David. DAVID. “Unbelievable,” he says. What? The President of the Marlins doesn’t understand how prioritizing long-term hypothetical strategy in a win-now game could backfire? At least he’ll have a Top 5 pick in the next “Survivor” draft. “The tribe just doesn’t have it together or they have it together just against me,” he says.

Adam B. Posted: February 27, 2014 at 12:13 PM | 22 comment(s)
  Beats: marlins, strategy, television

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Bill James Mailbag - 10/31/13 - 11/3/13

Bill, are there any teams that don’t make use of the newaadvanced metrics. Ifn not, which teams were the last holdout?

I think the Royals are the last holdout.

I am wondering if you are aware of a review written by Dorothy Rabinowitz in today’s Wall Street Journal of a TV docudrama called “JFK: The Smoking Gun”. The film is somewhat based on the book “Mortal Error”, which you describe in “Popular Crime” as one of the two best books on the assassination. Check out what Rabinowitz has to say: “That’s not to say that the theory (that Kennedy was accidentally shot by a Secret Service agent in addition to being shot deliberately by Oswald) hasn’t convinced some people, including Malcolm Gladwell . . . (who) had reported in a 2012 online exchange how he came to see the convincing wisdom of the Secret Service agent explanation by reading Lebron James, baskerball star. Mr. James had praised the theory in his own book.” This is a pretty embarrassing error, don’t you think? I wonder if the Wall Street Journal employs copy editors.

It’s more funny than embarrassing.    I’ve worked with the Wall Street Journal, and I’ll tell you that their standards of double-checking/fact checking are the highest in the industry.   But that’s a good one.

Congratulations, Bill. Don’t have a question, but thought your readers might enjoy an updating of your “Dynasties” accounting system. When that article was written in July of 2012, the current Cardinals had accumulated 15 points, and were tied for the designation of 21st Greatest Team of All Time. Since then they’ve picked up 4 more points, and are now tied for 14th with the 1900-12 Pirates and 1927-32 Athletics, vaulting past such celebrated teams as the 1976-86 Yankees and the 1926-35 Cardinals. Perhaps that’s cold comfort for St. Louis fans, but their club is advancing into very elite territory. The Red Sox’s improvement is less dramatic: They had 13 points after the 2009 season, and now have 14. This moves them up from a tie for 24th place with 5 other teams, to 24th place all by themselves. That’s right, 1885-89 St. Louis Browns; you’re now in Boston’s rearview mirror.

Thanks for doing that.   I thought I was going to have to do it myself. .. .

In what area will the biggest jump be made in sabermetrics in the next few years? As a casual observer, it looks like defensive shifting and pitch framing by catchers analysis will take a big jump forward soon.

1)  I don’t have any idea what to make of the pitch framing stuff.

2)  The breakthroughs in shifting have already occurred, although that is not to say they are finished.   But the next movement there, one would think, would be the comeback of the bunt, which should—one would think—be able to defeat the shifts for ordinary hitters (not David Ortiz), and thus drive the shifts into remission.   I would guess.


 

 

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