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Monday, September 17, 2012

Bill James Mailbag - 9/17/12

A rare free “Pass” by Dunstan.

I seem to recall that you favor running a bullpen situationally as opposed to going with a traditional set-up/closer model and an occasional left-handed One-out guy (the so called LOOGY). Is this correct? If so, is Bruce Bochy more-or-less following the approach you favor?...

Well, no, your understanding isn’t correct.  It’s always been my view that there are different optimal strategies with different assemblages of talent.

The Andres Torres appeal play at first base a couple of weeks ago (Torres doubled but was called out by umpire David Rackley on an appeal for allegedly missing first base) reminded me of a question that you asked years ago in an ABSTRACT or BASEBALL BOOK. (I think it was you, anyway; please forgive me if I am mis-remembering that.) The question is, why are these situations treated as appeal plays, where the pitcher has to go through the ritual of stepping off and throwing over, and the violation of the rules is ignored if the defense doesn’t spot it?...

Well, I understand why the ball has to be made “live” from a narrow standpoint.  A runner is only put out if he is tagged off base or if the base is tagged when he has a responsibility to be there; otherwise the runner has the RIGHT to be off the base, therefore there is no call based on the fact that he is off the base. 

What I don’t understand is why this ever came to be the standard interpretation of the rules.  It is very much like having a practice that if a basketball player steps out of bounds while dribbling, the referee only calls it if, on the next dead ball, the other team steps out of bounds and throws the ball to the referee; otherwise the referee just ignores it.  The REAL question isn’t how this came to be the standard practice; it is why baseball has never fixed an obvious defect in the enforcement of the rules.

We’re loving the pennant race out here in Oakland. By my rough count 650 of the A’s 1303 innings pitched so far have been by rookie pitchers, almost exactly half. Is that a very unusual ratio for a successful team?

It is, yes.  I don’t THINK any championship team has ever had 50% of its innings pitched by rookies.    There have been teams that won around 90 games with heavily rookinized pitching staffs.    Disturbed by the fact that my word editor fails to flag “rookinized”.

I appreciate your comments about the difficulty of updating my favorite baseball book, the historical abstract, and the progress in analysis since it came out. But could you name off the top of your head a player (or three or four) that you now think you particularly overrated or underrated in the latest historical abstract, and say what the new knowledge is that makes you think this?

No.

The District Attorney Posted: September 17, 2012 at 03:08 PM | 16 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: athletics, bill james, bruce bochy, giants, history, rules of play, sabermetrics

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. TomH Posted: September 17, 2012 at 05:48 PM (#4238398)
Was the questioner just BEGGING to get a "Craig Biggio" answer?

   2. JJ1986 Posted: September 17, 2012 at 05:51 PM (#4238401)
Was the questioner just BEGGING to get a "Craig Biggio" answer?


He basically got the other Killer B answer instead.
   3. Danny Posted: September 17, 2012 at 06:38 PM (#4238433)
By my rough count 650 of the A’s 1303 innings pitched so far have been by rookie pitchers, almost exactly half. Is that a very unusual ratio for a successful team?

I think it's actually ~740 IP by rookies.

Is ROY eligibility (50 IP, 130 AB, 45 days) determined on a cumulative basis over a player's career? Or does the player have to cross one of those thresholds in a single season to exhaust his eligibility?
   4. OsunaSakata Posted: September 17, 2012 at 07:31 PM (#4238477)
Count me as somebody who has never liked the appeal play. If a runner misses a base or leaves early trying to tag up, they don't get the safety of the next base if they're tagged.

Example: Batter hits an apparent double, but misses first. Second baseman makes a perfunctory tag while the batter is standing on 2nd base. Second base umpire calls him safe. First base umpire runs in saying he missed first and calls him out.
   5. esseff Posted: September 17, 2012 at 07:37 PM (#4238483)
#3, It's cumulative. 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the majors during a season or seasons:

A player shall be considered a rookie unless, during a previous season or seasons, he has (a) exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues; or (b) accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club or clubs during the period of 25-player limit (excluding time in the military service and time on the disabled list).
   6. SoSH U at work Posted: September 17, 2012 at 07:42 PM (#4238493)
Count me as somebody who has never liked the appeal play. If a runner misses a base or leaves early trying to tag up, they don't get the safety of the next base if they're tagged.

Example: Batter hits an apparent double, but misses first. Second baseman makes a perfunctory tag while the batter is standing on 2nd base. Second base umpire calls him safe. First base umpire runs in saying he missed first and calls him out.


What if he's in the dugout, having left third early? Do you chase him down there and tag him out? I don't like the idea of the umpire automatically calling the guy out, because it becomes very difficult to enforce (when is the runner out for leaving early?).

The appeal play seems a little odd, but I don't know that there's a better way to handle all the situations where appeals are employed.

   7. Misirlou's been working for the drug squad Posted: September 17, 2012 at 08:48 PM (#4238539)
The appeal play seems a little odd, but I don't know that there's a better way to handle all the situations where appeals are employed.


Here's what I don't get. Let's take the case of the guy leaving 3rd too early. Runner on 3rd, 1 out, batter hits a fly to left, runner advances, LF throws home, runner called safe at home. At that point, why not just throw to 3rd and avoid the whole mummers show of giving the pitcher the ball, the next batter steps up, pitcher steps off and throws to third? Is the latter required by the rules? What if the LF threw to third instead of home? Surely the runner would be called out then.
   8. Best Regards, President of Comfort, Esq. Posted: September 17, 2012 at 09:09 PM (#4238552)
Here's what I don't get. Let's take the case of the guy leaving 3rd too early. Runner on 3rd, 1 out, batter hits a fly to left, runner advances, LF throws home, runner called safe at home. At that point, why not just throw to 3rd and avoid the whole mummers show of giving the pitcher the ball, the next batter steps up, pitcher steps off and throws to third? Is the latter required by the rules? What if the LF threw to third instead of home? Surely the runner would be called out then.
I don't think in that case it's required by the rules. However, if the guy scores from second on a hit and doesn't touch third, I think it *is* required by the rules.

Note: I haven't looked at the rule.
   9. SoSH U at work Posted: September 17, 2012 at 09:19 PM (#4238558)
Here's what I don't get. Let's take the case of the guy leaving 3rd too early. Runner on 3rd, 1 out, batter hits a fly to left, runner advances, LF throws home, runner called safe at home. At that point, why not just throw to 3rd and avoid the whole mummers show of giving the pitcher the ball, the next batter steps up, pitcher steps off and throws to third? Is the latter required by the rules? What if the LF threw to third instead of home? Surely the runner would be called out then.


If the leftfielder throws directly to third, yes, that would be an out. Whenever you throw directly to the base to get a runner who left early, you're essentially appealing that action during live play. For rules purposes, there's no difference between leaving a half-second early and running with the pitch and being 70 feet off the bag when the ball is caught.

As for the other part of your question, my guess is baseball determined it wanted appeals of missed bases or runners having left early to be intentional, rather than accidental.

Same situation as above, but suppose you add a runner to first. Throw goes to the plate, runner scores, ball gets away from the catcher, so runner from first has also tagged and makes his way to third base. Throw goes down to third baseman, who, while attempting to make tag on runner, grazes third base. Would the guy who left early be ruled out, even if the defensive team had no idea the runner left early? Should he be (I'd say no, but I'm not positive that's how umps would rule)? It seems to me that baseball rulesmakers determined the defense had an obligation to notice such violations and make an intentional move to put them out.
   10. jacjacatk Posted: September 18, 2012 at 12:00 AM (#4238739)
7.08 (d)
He fails to retouch his base after a fair or foul ball is legally caught before he, or his
base, is tagged by a fielder. He shall not be called out for failure to retouch his base
after the first following pitch, or any play or attempted play. This is an appeal play;


In your example, the attempt to get the guy at the plate and subsequent throw to third are all part of the initial play IMO, and I believe the correct call would be for the 3B umpire to ring up the original runner on 3rd.

For an added wrinkle, if the 3rd baseman doesn't touch the bag as in your example, but does record the third out of the inning on the runner attempting to advance from 1st, the run would score even if the runner from 3rd left early unless the defense also appeals the original play at 3B before leaving the field. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourth_out for an MLB example.
   11. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: September 18, 2012 at 12:24 AM (#4238751)
I don't know Bill, rule 7.10 says:

A player inadvertently stepping on the base with a ball in his hand would not constitute an appeal.

Since I don't know how one would inadvertently step on a bag in an appeal situation, I don't know what else that could be referring to other than sitautions like the one I described.
   12. jacjacatk Posted: September 18, 2012 at 12:56 AM (#4238767)
Yeah, I wonder if there's a clarification anywhere in the umpire's manuals, since live play appeals work differently than dead ball. Otherwise, you're essentially relying on the umpires judgement as to whether the player is appealing (granted, most appeals on tag-up plays during live play are pretty obvious). I suppose attempting to get the guy at the plate in your example is significant evidence that the defense isn't appealing (or at least that the OF isn't aware of an appeal), but what happens if the runner reaches the plate before the tag but the catcher clearly tags him? I suppose he's out under 7.08d on appeal even if the catcher is attempting the tag without being aware of the appeal because he's actively making the play, rather than inadvertently, even if he's not aware of it? That would be an interesting one to see live as well, since I think it'd be the 3rd base umpire's call.
   13. bjhanke Posted: September 18, 2012 at 04:23 AM (#4238808)
My guess is that the answer to how you would inadvertently step on the bag on an appeal play is related to why the rule is as cumbersome as it is. Suppose you're the second baseman, and there's a runner on first, and the batter hits a single to right, and the runner from first doesn't touch second on his attempt to make third. Well, you, as the second baseman, don't just stop playing and make an appeal when you get the ball as the relay man. You continue to throw to third, even if you inadvertently step on second in the process, because, even if you know that the runner didn't touch second, you DON'T know what call the umpire will make when you actually appeal. So, the first thing to do is complete the play; throw to third just like you would if the runner had certainly touched second. When that is over and done with, it's time to appeal. However, time is now out, and the runner can be anywhere he wants; you can't just tag him. So you have to go through the motions of restarting "play ball." This would also be the reason that the umpire doesn't stop play and declare the runner out when he fails to touch second. The runner might backtrack to second. The batter might try to take second on the relay throw to third. As the umpire, you have to let that all play out. Only then can you declare the runner out and work through the consequences of that. Also, as the umpire, you might not make that call on your own, because you've got a lot of things to watch here. You only make a call if what happened was obvious enough that the defensive team caught it and appealed. Like I said, that's just my guess, but it makes sense to me.... - Brock Hanke
   14. villageidiom Posted: September 18, 2012 at 08:26 AM (#4238838)
Appeal plays exist to prevent a player from goading an umpire to call time before the opposition can make a play on a missed base.
   15. Busted Flush Posted: September 18, 2012 at 10:20 AM (#4238938)
Here's what I don't get. Let's take the case of the guy leaving 3rd too early. Runner on 3rd, 1 out, batter hits a fly to left, runner advances, LF throws home, runner called safe at home. At that point, why not just throw to 3rd and avoid the whole mummers show of giving the pitcher the ball, the next batter steps up, pitcher steps off and throws to third? Is the latter required by the rules? What if the LF threw to third instead of home? Surely the runner would be called out then.

What I don't understand is . . . when you owe a bookie a lot of money, and he, say, blows off one of your toes, you still owe him the money. Doesn't seem fair to me.
   16. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 18, 2012 at 06:27 PM (#4239518)
You'd think James would get enough questions that he wouldn't be forced to include multiple ones he doesn't want to answer.

Oh, wait, he's just being obnoxious?

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