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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

FG (Sullivan): The Tigers and the Angels Needn’t Scramble for Help

September roster expansion is weird, if you think about it.

recently, of course, the Angels lost Garrett Richards for the year. Meanwhile, Anibal Sanchez experienced a setback in his injury rehab, and now it’s unclear whether he’ll be able to return in the regular season…

This year, replacement-level starting pitchers have averaged an ERA close to 5, and an FIP close to 5. Meanwhile, replacement-level relief pitchers have averaged an ERA a little under 4, and an FIP a little under 4. This is very basic stuff. This is why, for one-game playoffs, you’ll often see it suggested that teams try bullpen games. Or at least, that teams be more aggressive with their bullpens. This isn’t something you can do feasibly during much of the regular season, because you’d wear your relievers down, and you’d have to be constantly shuttling guys back and forth between the majors and Triple-A. But in September, teams are free to roster much bigger pitching staffs, which allows for greater flexibility. Precisely the sort of flexibility that could work to Anaheim and Detroit’s benefit…

Maybe, in a sense, it’s unfair that the Angels could patch up a rotation hole in this way. But maybe, in another sense, it’s unfair that the Angels weren’t left with many options to patch up the hole when it opened. As long as the September rules are what they are, teams might as well try to take advantage of them. A few teams in contention are positioned to do just that.

The District Attorney Posted: August 27, 2014 at 07:09 PM | 3 comment(s)
  Beats: angels, strategy, tigers

Monday, August 25, 2014

FG: Joe Maddon’s Bunting Identity Crisis

I also thought the graph of “league wide WPA on sac bunts” was extremely interesting.

Since he began leading the Rays in 2006, Joe Maddon has been known as one of the more progressive MLB managers… He’s even spoke out publicly against sac bunting in the past… [yet] The Tampa Bay Rays have attempted 58 non-pitcher sacrifice bunts this season, by far the highest mark in the major leagues. No other team has even 50… Just 35 of those 58 attempts have turned into “successful” sacrifice bunts… 35-of-58 yields a 60% success rate. That’s bad. The league average success rate for a sacrifice bunt is 71%. Only five teams have lower success rates on bunts than the Rays this year…

the Rays, despite having attempted more sac bunts than anyone, have not executed more sac bunts than anyone. Instead, that title goes to Terry Francona’s Indians, with a league-leading 38 successful sacrifice bunts. The Indians, like the Rays, are known as one of the most progressive organizations in baseball and Francona has a reputation as a progressive manager from his time with the Theo Epstein-led Red Sox who didn’t bunt at all…  both the Indians (104 wRC+) and Rays (102 wRC+) have top-1o offenses in baseball this season… The Indians have at least bunted well, which is more than the Rays can say, with an 82% success rate that is topped only by the Rangers’ 86%...

To be honest, I really can’t think of a good explanation as to why Maddon and Francona have fallen in love with the sacrifice bunt this year. Both have proven to be anti-bunt in the past and have strong lineups, yet rely on the bunt more than any other manager in baseball seemingly to a fault.

Just for fun, since we’re talking about the Rays and the Indians, what do the bunting habits of the Moneyball A’s look like? Fewest in the league, with just 12. Part of that is due in part to their league-worst 44% success rate, but they’ve also attempted just 24, the sixth-fewest in the MLB.

 

The District Attorney Posted: August 25, 2014 at 06:31 PM | 13 comment(s)
  Beats: athletics, indians, joe maddon, rays, strategy, terry francona

Friday, August 01, 2014

Neyer: The Jim Johnson Gambit fails

Gambit always fails.

Last winter, Matt Murphy noticed that a bunch of teams were signing veteran closers to good-sized contracts, even though the clubs already had impressive young closers-in-waiting. Was this merely fealty to Proven Closers run rampant? Or was something else going on?

Murphy focused on the A’s and found something else. Something really interesting. Murphy found that paying a veteran now means saving millions of dollars later, because your impressive young closers-in-waiting, if kept in setup roles for an extra season or two, won’t make as much money in the arbitration process. Because the arbitration is skewed, however ridiculously, toward saves.

Running the numbers, Murphy figured the A’s would save roughly $7 million on closer-in-waiting Ryan Cook’s salaries during his arbitration years, merely by keeping him out of the closer role in 2014. They’re paying [Jim] Johnson $10 million this season. But $10 million minus $7 million equals $3 million ... or Johnson’s effective cost in 2014…

I like the theory. But relief pitchers, leaving aside the elite, might just be too unstable for testing a theory that might cost you $10 million. Not to mention a few critical victories.

The District Attorney Posted: August 01, 2014 at 03:35 PM | 12 comment(s)
  Beats: jim johnson, rob neyer, ryan cook, sean doolittle, strategy

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

 

 

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