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Sunday, August 05, 2012

Bill James Mailbag - 8/2/2012 - 8/5/2012

Channeling WHO??  Never heard of him…

Just a quickie. Saw the Mets in SF the other day and I guess I’d never seen Wright in person before, because I was immediately struck that he seemed to be channeling Jeff Bagwell. I couldn’t look at his at bats without seeing Bagwell. Same stance, same mannerisms, same too-muscled body. Is this something everyone knew but me? Have you had that experience of just seeing one guy as another?

I’ve never had that reaction to Wright, no. . .never thought over him as being as muscular as Bagwell.    I do often see one players as a copy of another, and scouts very often do this as a way of helping the person reading the report to visualize the player.  The first time I saw Felix Doubront on the mound, when he was like 19, I thought “He looks like Mike Cuellar”, and that’s still what I think every time I see him pitch.

Bill, I agree completely regarding [“A-Rod” style] nicknames. Gary “the Kid” Carter, Andre “The Hawk” Dawson and “Rock” Raines are way, way better… this gets me to thinking… Which team had the best player nicknames? I don´t mean for the team, but individual players. I´m biased, but my vote goes to the 1978 Red Sox: “Roosta”, “Steamer/Big Foot”, “El Tiante”, “Spaceman”, “Soup”, “Pudge”, and “Boomer”, are all top notch. They are backed by the less inspiring, but nonetheless endearing “Yaz”, “Dewey”, and “Eck”. And of course, managed by “Popeye” (I´ll stick with that over “Gerbil”...) Oh yes… the team color man was “Hawk” Harrelson.

Red Sox reliever the other day said that he got “Peskied”, meaning that he gave up a short home run to right on a ball that wouldn’t have gone out anywhere else.  First time I had heard “Pesky” used as a verb. ... .

Hi Bill, saw a comment from you on the site along the lines of “most pitchers can hit 91 mph” not long ago… Have modern radar guns changed? When exactly and how much? For comparison purposes, what adjustment should one make looking at radar gun data from say, the 1980’s? Did Fernando really strike out 240 in 261 innings in 1984 without ever hitting 90 mph?...

I would guess that Fernando threw 92-94 on a modern gun; he got his strikeouts on a screwball, which almost nobody throws anymore.  
 
There actually have been two generations of changes in the radar guns.   The earliest radar guns, in the 1970s, were challenged in the late 1970s by newer radar guns that picked up the ball quicker out of the pitcher’s hand, so that for a time (roughly 1977-1983)  there were two different radar guns in use, giving different readings.   Then they all consolidated around the “faster” gun, then the same thing happened again; a new gun was introduced about 8-9 years ago that read faster than the old guns, and there was another period in which both guns were in use, and then again we seem to have consolidated around the faster gun.   
 
The baseball decelerates after it leaves the pitcher’s hand, so that it crosses home plate moving significantly slower than it is when it is first thrown.   The newer guns pick up the ball quicker, earlier, thus get faster readings.     I’d say that we gained 2-3 miles with each switch, so that the guns in use now are at least 5 miles faster than the first generation of radar guns.    Fernando certainly threw 90 on a modern gun, at least early in his career.  

The District Attorney Posted: August 05, 2012 at 10:30 PM | 14 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: bill james, david wright, history, jeff bagwell, sabermetrics

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   1. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 05, 2012 at 11:19 PM (#4201217)
Which prompts another question, has a converted pitcher ever played a position besides the outfield?

There have been a bunch of pitcher/first basemen, but I guess it does seem that they're mostly outfielders. Let's see. ..how many of those guys can we name? Bobby Darwin, Willie Smith, Johnny Cooney, Bob Smith, Ruth, Rube Bressler, Wood, Jack Bentley. ..too many to name in that generation; we should stick to post-1950. Jeffcoat, Hartung. I think George Crowe, who hit 31 homers for Cincinnati in 1957, may have been a pitcher in the Negro Leagues; certainly his teammate Bob Thurman was. A guy named Bart Johnson tried to make the transition, but failed, and. .who was the guy who was a replacement player in the '94 strike, later switched to the outfield and played for the Twins?


Anyone know who the Twins player is?

Phillies reliever Joe Savery briefly converted to 1B. Micah Owings could be headed that way. Adam Loewen played some 1B in the minors, but was an OF (and pitcher) in the big leagues.
   2. Guapo Posted: August 05, 2012 at 11:53 PM (#4201234)
Ron Mahay was a scab OF in the '94 strike, later converted to pitcher and finished his career with the Twins. I wonder if BJ has it backwards (seems to be a recent theme)
   3. boteman is not here 'til October Posted: August 06, 2012 at 12:10 AM (#4201243)
As an r.f. engineer I have to wonder what component of a baseball reflects microwaves sufficiently in order to obtain any reading on a RADAR gun, let alone a reliable one. There's not much mass there to start with. It's either cork, string, or leather, none of which reflect radio energy very well. Obviously, the metal of your vehicle does the best job, but there aint no metal in a baseball last time I checked.

I wouldn't be surprised if the pitcher's hand, comprised mostly of water as our bodies are, is what is reflecting most of the energy back to the gun. If so, that's gotta be the most accurate pitch release speed available.
   4. Jarrod HypnerotomachiaPoliphili(Teddy F. Ballgame) Posted: August 06, 2012 at 01:04 AM (#4201271)
I spent a pleasant hour throwing softballs past a portable speed gun by the side of the road in a small town one day several years ago. It was one of these signs on wheels with a big numerical display that had been parked near a school to remind drivers how fast they were going. Never imagined it would register something as small as a thrown ball until I tried it, but it worked like a charm.
   5. Sunday silence Posted: August 06, 2012 at 02:48 AM (#4201281)
I have a question about saves; not necessarily for Bill James...

How did Hanrahan get a save for Pitt today (sun)? He comes in w/ 2 outs and 2 on in the ninth, Pirates up by 4. He gets the final out and a save. So the tying run just has to come to the on deck circle? Sorry I could not think of another place to post this.
   6. vortex of dissipation Posted: August 06, 2012 at 02:58 AM (#4201283)
Yes, if the tying run is on deck, it's a save situation.

10.19 SAVES FOR RELIEF PITCHERS
A save is a statistic credited to a relief pitcher, as set forth in this Rule 10.19.
The official scorer shall credit a pitcher with a save when such pitcher meets all four
of the following conditions:
(a) He is the finishing pitcher in a game won by his team;
(b) He is not the winning pitcher;
(c) He is credited with at least 1/3 of an inning pitched; and
(d) He satisfies one of the following conditions:
(1) He enters the game with a lead of no more than three runs and pitches for at
least one inning;
(2) He enters the game, regardless of the count, with the potential tying run either
on base, or at bat or on deck (that is, the potential tying run is either already on
base or is one of the first two batters he faces); or
(3) He pitches for at least three innings.
   7. bjhanke Posted: August 06, 2012 at 03:08 AM (#4201285)
Kid Gleason is the most obvious case of a pitcher converting to a non-outfield / non- first base position. He converted from several years at pitcher to many years at second base. - Brock Hanke
   8. Srul Itza At Home Posted: August 06, 2012 at 03:53 AM (#4201287)
Red Sox reliever the other day said that he got “Peskied”, meaning that he gave up a short home run to right on a ball that wouldn’t have gone out anywhere else.


Better than saying he got "poled".
   9. Everybody Loves Tyrus Raymond Posted: August 06, 2012 at 05:03 AM (#4201288)
I spent a pleasant hour throwing softballs past a portable speed gun by the side of the road in a small town one day several years ago. It was one of these signs on wheels with a big numerical display that had been parked near a school to remind drivers how fast they were going. Never imagined it would register something as small as a thrown ball until I tried it, but it worked like a charm.


I'm guessing you hadn't seen The Rookie. Good to know the scene where Dennis Quaid did that wasn't entirely bogus.
   10. Chris Fluit Posted: August 06, 2012 at 08:09 AM (#4201303)
Kid Gleason is the most obvious case of a pitcher converting to a non-outfield / non- first base position. He converted from several years at pitcher to many years at second base. - Brock Hanke


There are probably more examples from the Negro Leagues but the one that comes immediately to mind is Jose Mendez. He was primarily a pitcher from 1907 to 1915 and then mostly a shortstop from 1916 to 1923, though like most players in the Negro Leagues, he moved around the diamond a lot (seamheads gives him one reason in RF and another at 3B, as well as those at P or SS).

   11. JJ1986 Posted: August 06, 2012 at 09:21 AM (#4201345)
Stetson Allie (Pirates "Prospect") just moved from pitcher to 3B.
   12. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: August 06, 2012 at 01:46 PM (#4201566)
I'm guessing you hadn't seen The Rookie. Good to know the scene where Dennis Quaid did that wasn't entirely bogus.


Man, I love that scene. It was just so corny and absurd and loveable.
   13. Moeball Posted: August 06, 2012 at 03:28 PM (#4201671)
Come to think of it, didn't John Montgomery Ward go from pitcher to SS? IIRC I think James did a writeup on him in The Politics of Glory...
   14. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: August 06, 2012 at 03:34 PM (#4201677)
Come to think of it, didn't John Montgomery Ward go from pitcher to SS? IIRC I think James did a writeup on him in The Politics of Glory...


Yep. It's mentioned in Mike Sowell's book on Ed Delahanty, which I read just a few weeks ago.

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