Friday, October 03, 2014
It’ll be hilarious if Yost or McClendon wins the award.
Perhaps the worst trend of modern relief pitching is the intractability of bullpen roles. Their very existence is manicured. At some point, when baseball recognized that, yeah, it probably is a good idea to exploit platoon splits, managers started slotting relievers in specific situations. Seventh inning for one guy, eighth for another, ninth and only ninth for the closer. And even if the heart of the order was up in the eighth and Scrub Jones, Slappy Jackson and Pipsqueak Fontana in the ninth, roles are roles, and roles must be adhered to.
Then there is Buck Showalter, the manager of the Baltimore Orioles. On Thursday, he took a tire iron to roles. He threw arguably his best reliever in the sixth inning – and let him pitch another for good measure. He went to his closer for an out in the eighth inning, fully intending to use him for a four-out save. He managed like he always does: with a keen sense of the moment, a singular ability to suss out the right thing for the right time…
“I was ready, and I’ll be ready throughout the postseason if he needs to use me in the eighth, seventh, wherever it is,” [closer Zach] Britton said. “I don’t think people feel like they’re entitled to throw a certain inning. That’s a lot of it. Some guys maybe feel like if you’re the closer you only throw the ninth. It’s not our mindset here. We’re team guys. If he needs to throw us in the fifth, we’re going to throw the fifth.
“He’s going to throw the best guy for the situation. If that’s you, you’re going into the game.”...
“I wouldn’t have signed on for six more years if I didn’t like him,” said Orioles star Adam Jones, he of the six-year, $85.5 million deal.
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
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.
Monday, August 25, 2014
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.
Friday, August 01, 2014
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.
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