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Tuesday, October 09, 2018

“By now I’m entirely consumed with it, and only marginally able to do anything else”: Bill James can’t stop dreaming about baseball – The Athletic

I know exactly how he feels. I also know I wouldn’t be making this post without ever finding and reading his books.

“The more you know about the game, the more enjoyable — the more fun it becomes,” James says. “And this cycle has been running in me for 50 years, so that by now I’m entirely consumed with it, and only marginally able to do anything else.

“And I’m up in my dirty little office upstairs, just obsessively studying this and that. Not because I have to … I just can’t stop doing it.”

“I dream about baseball every night,” Bill James says, one day earlier this year. He doesn’t know if people will believe this. It sounds apocryphal, a charming anecdote. James is not trying to be charming. He lays down. He dreams about the game. He wakes up.

“It’s true,” he says.

Jim Furtado Posted: October 09, 2018 at 01:47 PM | 129 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: bill james, pay site

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   1. asinwreck Posted: October 09, 2018 at 02:09 PM (#5763262)
This article was effective in making me feel really, really, really old for reading James in the early 80s (or before quoted upstart in this article Brewers GM David Stearns was born).
   2. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: October 09, 2018 at 02:13 PM (#5763270)
Bill James seems to have done what most of us wish we could do. He was an overnight security guard trying to figure life out, and who loved, loved, loved baseball. He grinds it out over many years, eventually is able to make a living doing something related to his baseball obsession, then is able (I presume) to make a very good living doing it, then is able to get a job with a major league baseball team, making good money, doing what he loves. He gets comfortable enough that he tries some other things about which he has a lot of passion (like the crime-related books, one of them with his daughter), and now, in his late 60s, he still dreams about baseball every night..and then wakes up and works on baseball.

I've told others that part of the definition of happiness is when you can do something you love for a living, making enough money to pay your bills. It seems like Bill James has definitely done this.
   3. dlf Posted: October 09, 2018 at 02:18 PM (#5763278)
One of the biggest tools that I use during my daily life is to ask 'if this is true, then how would we know it' a basic Bill James approach that I first remember from a little piece he wrote about the old cliche that pitching was 90% of the game. I dabbled very briefly in baseball statistics in the 80s and 90s and even had a couple of very short things published in James' old Project Scoresheet books. But much, much more so, that maxim has helped me professionally and personally in all kinds of circumstances. Thanks Bill.
   4. winnipegwhip Posted: October 09, 2018 at 04:54 PM (#5763432)
Great life...wait until he dies and goes to the Pearly Gates and is asked if he ever would sacrifice in his life. And he presents five spreadsheets and run probabilities which clearly shows why it isn't appropriate to sacrifice.
   5. cardsfanboy Posted: October 09, 2018 at 06:23 PM (#5763487)
One of the biggest tools that I use during my daily life is to ask 'if this is true, then how would we know it' a basic Bill James approach that I first remember from a little piece he wrote about the old cliche that pitching was 90% of the game. I dabbled very briefly in baseball statistics in the 80s and 90s and even had a couple of very short things published in James' old Project Scoresheet books. But much, much more so, that maxim has helped me professionally and personally in all kinds of circumstances. Thanks Bill.


I'm the same way. I think the Politics of Glory or Whatever happened to the hall of fame, is a great book to read just because of the arguments for rationality that he presents. But I absolutely use the same tool you use in my daily life, every time I hear anything that tries to present an argument.
   6. RMc's Daps of the Dope Artists Posted: October 09, 2018 at 06:37 PM (#5763494)
The Baseball Abstracts (I have them all) formed the cornerstone of what is now my Baseball Library, with 525 volumes at last count.
   7. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 09, 2018 at 07:39 PM (#5763518)
I've told others that part of the definition of happiness is when you can do something you love for a living, making enough money to pay your bills.

Truer words were never spoken.
   8. Ziggy's screen name Posted: October 09, 2018 at 08:26 PM (#5763557)
James' greatest strength is that he's curious and passionate. It's a good combination. He is (by his own admission) not much of a statistician, but the numbers were always incidental to his work. It's just that they are the proper way to pursue his curiosity, so he dealt with them as best as he was able. I've learned more about baseball from other people, but I admire and respect James more than pretty much anybody else in SABR world.
   9. AndrewJ Posted: October 09, 2018 at 09:08 PM (#5763580)
I'm reminded of the line that The Velvet Underground's first album sold only 1,000 copies, but everybody who bought one started their own rock group. Pretty much every young person who read Bill 35-40 years ago went into baseball research and/or became a sportswriter. We're all in his debt.
   10. Random Transaction Generator Posted: October 09, 2018 at 09:14 PM (#5763588)
The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract is one of the few books that I've read cover to cover more than twice. The dust jacket on it has long since disappeared because of wear and tear, and the binding for the book itself is starting to wear out. One of my absolute favourite tidbits from the book is how he describes Alfredo Griffin's baserunning exploits:

Most Aggressive Baserunner: Alfredo Griffin

One thing I have always wanted to do was to document Alfredo's baserunning exploits. He really was phenomenal. I personally saw him score from second on a ground ball to second, scoring the lead run in the top of the ninth. I have heard about Alfredo doing things like going first-to-third on infield outs, moving second to third on a pop up to short, scoring on a pop out to the catcher, and taking second after grounding into a forceout. Alfredo figured that if you left the base ahead of him unguarded, it was his. Somebody ought to make a documented list of those basepath heroics, with dates and specifics, before it gets away from us.
   11. PreservedFish Posted: October 09, 2018 at 09:15 PM (#5763591)
One of the biggest tools that I use during my daily life is to ask 'if this is true, then how would we know it' a basic Bill James approach that I first remember from a little piece he wrote about the old cliche that pitching was 90% of the game.


Yeah, my whole mindset was profoundly changed by James - the rare cultural and intellectual influence that permanently altered the way that I think, not just about baseball, but about everything.

I now no longer remember the exact timeline of my discovery of James, but I remember requesting the abstracts at the Rose Reading Room in the big NY Public library at Bryant Park before I was in high school. So, the early or mid 90s.
   12. McCoy Posted: October 09, 2018 at 09:24 PM (#5763600)
So is it true about Griffin? He's got a negative runs in running for WAR and his baserunning stats don't seem out of this world on BRef. I guess tomorrow I could go through his event finder page to see if he did the stuff James claimed
   13. cardsfanboy Posted: October 09, 2018 at 10:01 PM (#5763633)
Maybe not out of this world, but it's clearly above average.. During his era "extra base taken" was about 45%, he was 57%... obviously as a fast guy he's going to be above average, but if you look at his outs on base paths it doesn't look low compared to others. Rickey Henderson was 55% on extra base taken, and was out on the base paths a lot more often than Griffin... Raines was 50% on extra base taken, but was less likely than Griffin to be out on the base paths but both Rickey and Raines were more likely to score if they were on second and a single was hit.... but ultimately he compares well to, two of the best base runners of his generation if not history.

His negative running runs is all attributable to his horrible steal percentage.
   14. DanG Posted: October 09, 2018 at 10:17 PM (#5763645)
So is it true about Griffin?
Well, he said "most aggressive" not "most effective".

Griffin has the lowest bWAR of anyone with 7000 PA:

Player         WAR/   WAAOPSRfield OBP  SLG    PA From   To
Alfredo Griffin 3.0  
-20.5  67  -28.1 .285 .319  7331 1976 1993
Joe Quinn       4.7  
-18.9  76   -5.0 .303 .328  7367 1884 1901
Dave Philley    7.4  
-14.2  92   -7.8 .334 .377  7004 1941 1962
Kid Gleason     8.3  
-15.7  78  -23.0 .311 .318  8210 1888 1912
Doc Cramer      8.4  
-22.8  87  -36.0 .340 .375  9927 1929 1948
Don Kessinger   9.0  
-18.8  73  -43.1 .314 .312  8530 1964 1979
Eric Karros    10.4  
-11.1 107   -9.4 .325 .454  7100 1991 2004
Shano Collins  11.0  
-16.4  90   25.0 .306 .364  7042 1910 1925
Charlie Grimm  13.4  
-14.6  94   18.0 .341 .397  8747 1916 1936
Bill Buckner   15.1  
-17.1 100   12.0 .321 .408 10037 1969 1990 
   15. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: October 09, 2018 at 10:20 PM (#5763649)
So is it true about Griffin? He's got a negative runs in running for WAR and his baserunning stats don't seem out of this world on BRef. I guess tomorrow I could go through his event finder page to see if he did the stuff James claimed

Looking at his baserunning stats, he was very bad on stolen bases (59%), which is probably why his running score is negative. But comparing his entire career to, say, Tim Raines through 1995 (which both ends Raines's tenure with the White Sox and brings their games played totals within shouting distance of each other) and Rickey through '93 (same deal), Griffin was more aggressive in non-SB baserunning:

1st on single: Griffin 343 times (170 to 2nd, 162 to 3rd, 11 other - outs maybe?); Raines 429 (264/163/2), Rickey 458 (242/210/6). That's Griffin stopping at second less than half the time, Raines over 60%, Rickey just under 53%.
1st on double: Griffin 63 times (25 to 3rd, 36 to home, 2 other); Raines 111 (51/60/0), Rickey 116 (51/61/4). Griffin stops just under 40% of the time, Raines over 45%, Rickey 44%.
2nd on single: Griffin 218 times (54 to 3rd, 158 to home, 6 other); Raines 372 (112/245/15), Rickey 373 (92/267/14). Just under 25% stops for Griffin and Rickey, just over 30% for Raines.

At least in terms of advancement on teammate hits, Griffin appears to have been as or more aggressive as two of the best baserunners of his generation. (Not necessarily as efficient, but if you try a lot, sometimes it'll work.)

Edit: Coke to CFB for looking at the exact same contemporaries I did.
   16. PASTE, Now with Extra Pitch and Extra Stamina Posted: October 09, 2018 at 10:45 PM (#5763658)
I'm actually in the middle of re-reading the NHBA abstract right now. Some quotes I highlighted along the way:

On Bill Thomas being banned from baseball for allegedly consorting with gamblers:
As Jim Baker points out, this raises some fascinating questions, such as "Where do you go to place a bet on the Evangeline League?"


On Don Mossi:
He looked like Gary Gaetti escaping from Devil's Island.


Next paragraph, on Hoyt Wilhelm:
Susie showed me a picture of Hoyt Wilhelm in which he looked positively handsome. I assured her it was just a bad shot.


On the 1961 Yankees:
The '61 Yankees have been listed among the greatest teams of all time since June of 1961.


On Walt Bond:
The Indians had finished under .500 in '61 and '62, and you might think that a kid with these credentials, including 6 homers in 12 games in the majors, would make an impression on them, but the Indians in those days had no intention of being intimidated by the obvious.


On Mark Fidrych:
It's hard to describe, but it was just hypnotic. That was just one of his mannerisms. There was an intensity about him which gave the impression that, when you cared this much about winning baseball games, of course you would talk to the baseball.


On aluminum bats:
If you get jammed with an aluminum bat but happen to meet the ball squarely, you've got a base it, whereas if the same thing happens with a wooden bat you've got a bat handle.


On the Babe Ruth revolution:
Up until 1920, any young hitter who experimented with an uppercut was told to cut it out and swing level, because everybody "knew" that if you uppercut you would hit a few home runs, but you'd hit twenty times as many fly outs and pop ups. Babe Ruth was "allowed" to uppercut, and wasn't coached out of it, because
(1) He was a pitcher, and
(2) It wasn't Ruth's nature to do what he was told.
   17. Kiko Sakata Posted: October 09, 2018 at 10:59 PM (#5763677)
So is it true about Griffin?


Probably. Here's how I break down Alfredo Griffin's baserunning by what I call "Components".

Component 1 is basestealing - Griffin was well below average at that. Component 2 is advancing on wild pitches and passed balls. This is fairly trivial for most baserunners. Component 7 is avoiding double plays - as a baserunner, not a batter; the latter's the same component, but batting. Like Component 2, the baserunner component of avoiding double plays is really small.

Component 8 is baserunner outs - "wins" here would be avoiding getting thrown out on the bases; "losses" would be making baserunner outs. Griffin is below average on this, which I think is consistent with him being very aggressive on the bases.

Component 9, then, is baserunner advancements. This would be the stuff that James is talking about. And this is definitely Griffin's strongest baserunning component. Here's the top 25 players in Component 9 during Griffin's career (1976 - 1993) - the middle table in the third set of tables down is net baserunning; Griffin ranks #15.

Somebody ought to make a documented list of those basepath heroics, with dates and specifics, before it gets away from us.


I've been reading a lot of old baseball books in the last couple of years - both of James's Historical Abstracts; his Win Shares book; Palmer and Thorn. And I find it fascinating how far we've come in terms of the availability of information. I think this is a great example of this: we can look up the play-by-play details of every game that Alfredo Griffin ever played. There is absolutely no danger that these "dates and specifics" will ever actually "get[] away from us". I mean, I still think it would be cool to do what James is suggesting here and documenting these unusual plays he remembers, but it's kind of interesting how much more access we have to the details of Alfredo Griffin's career today, 25 years after he played his last game, than James had almost 20 years ago.
   18. PASTE, Now with Extra Pitch and Extra Stamina Posted: October 09, 2018 at 11:01 PM (#5763682)
There's an article in the NHBA in which Bill James wrote (this was in 1999) that "four things about the future of baseball seem so obvious to me that I am willing to put them on record in a hardcover book, so that the next generation of sportswriters can make fun of me twenty years from now."

Well, Bill, I'm not a sportswriter and it's only been nineteen years, but I've never been known for my patience. :)

1. That baseball will eventually solve or contain the problem of economics corroding competitive balance.
Hasn't happened yet; the competitive balance situation is still about where it was in 2000. It hasn't gotten worse, I don't think, so partial credit for that.

2. That baseball will eventually gain control of the problem of the ever-lengthening games.
Not even close. Twenty years later, the games are still getting longer every year. But at least in the past few years there have been quiet acknowledgments from MLB that this could perhaps actually be a problem. That's new. So maybe it'll actually get turned around in another twenty years.

3. That the hundred-year trend of using more and more pitchers will end, and complete games (for the first time ever) will soon become more common, rather than less.
He completely whiffed on this one--the complete game is now nearly extinct. In 1999, when James wrote those words, there will still about 10-20 complete games per team per year. In 2018 there were 42 complete games all year, total.

4. That the trend toward more strikeouts and more homers from the top of the order to the bottom will also end soon.
Also completely wrong; the trend has continued unabated. More than that; it's actually continued to accelerate in the past twenty years.

Fun fact I recently read: Joe Sewell played almost every game for 13 years, and struck out 114 times in his career. There were 104 players who struck out more than 114 times in 2018.
   19. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: October 09, 2018 at 11:50 PM (#5763806)
Sure, he made a few wacky guesses in the New Historical Abstract. But he got at least one right!

I keep the Abstract by my bed and will sometimes read a few pages before bed, particularly the player profiles. Most are informative and/or funny. But every once in a while I'll come across one that's quite profound or even emotionally devastating, like Ernie Lombardi.
   20. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 09, 2018 at 11:52 PM (#5763808)
Man...that list might better have been titled "An Exercise in Wildly Wishful Thinking."

My favorite NHBA quote was about Cecil Fielder, something like "He acknowledges a weight of 250 pounds, leaving unanswered the question of what he would weigh if he put his other foot on the scale."
   21. PreservedFish Posted: October 10, 2018 at 07:50 AM (#5763832)
Wow, James couldn't have been more wrong with those predictions. I suppose at the time it might have seemed wise to bet on the cyclical nature of things. But none of these changes just happened randomly, with the possible exception of game length - they're all about teams and players trying to gain an advantage, and succeeding.

The humorous and fawning treatment of the "Three True Outcomes," Rob Deer, Beane's late 90's collection of softball players, etc was based on the hunch that the hitting style was in fact a superior, enlightened philosophy. There was more truth in that than anyone expected (or wanted).
   22. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 10, 2018 at 08:45 AM (#5763847)
And even the game length is about players (and managers) thinking they’re gaining an advantage.
   23. Ziggy's screen name Posted: October 10, 2018 at 08:58 AM (#5763852)
Yeah, those loose batting gloves are a real problem.
   24. PreservedFish Posted: October 10, 2018 at 09:00 AM (#5763853)
I wonder if there are any players that are clever enough to change their pace in order to make their opponent uncomfortable. We saw Joey Votto do it once.
   25. Greg K Posted: October 10, 2018 at 09:03 AM (#5763856)
If I hadn't read the intro and link, I'd have assumed these comments were eulogies in response to James' death.
   26. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 10, 2018 at 09:13 AM (#5763862)
I wonder if there are any players that are clever enough to change their pace in order to make their opponent uncomfortable.
Color me skeptical. I was reading a book earlier this year by Bob Tewksbury, the former pitcher who has gone on to become a mental skills coach/guru.

It occurred to me that a major cause of the pace problem has probably been the rising awareness of and emphasis on the mental game in the last several years. What does virtually every mental skills coach preach? Slowness and ritual. Slow down. Take your time. Contemplate. Visualize. And have a routine that you must complete, without any alteration, every single time. Including the f-ing batting gloves.
   27. Der-K: at 10% emotional investment Posted: October 10, 2018 at 09:16 AM (#5763865)
Got the '84 abstract from a grocery store clearance bin when I was 11, it was almost immediately dog eared from repeated readings. Possibly the most influential person in my thinking (outside of my parents), even now as I see the many "quirks" in his work.
--
Pace: Totally agree that's a major cause. How is that book, by the way? I remember trying to mimic some of his approach on the mound when I was a kid.
   28. Greg K Posted: October 10, 2018 at 09:18 AM (#5763868)
On the subject of timing, it really seems like pitchers altering their deliveries has really increased in the last 3-4 years.
   29. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 10, 2018 at 09:18 AM (#5763869)
Right, but in only one direction.
   30. Greg K Posted: October 10, 2018 at 09:23 AM (#5763871)
Right, but in only one direction.

Not necessarily (assuming I understand your point correctly)

There have been a few quick pitches this post-season (AJ Pierzynski was outraged by one from the booth I recall). Marcus Stroman and Roberto Osuna (formerly) were the big experimenters with the Jays. Stroman especially has three pitching motions - the normal, the pause, and the quick-pitch.
   31. Crispix Attacksel Rios Posted: October 10, 2018 at 09:35 AM (#5763875)
It occurred to me that a major cause of the pace problem has probably been the rising awareness of and emphasis on the mental game in the last several years. What does virtually every mental skills coach preach? Slowness and ritual. Slow down. Take your time. Contemplate. Visualize. And have a routine that you must complete, without any alteration, every single time. Including the f-ing batting gloves.


This is why they need a RULE to FORBID players from doing this. Only then will players have to do something else to feel comfortable.

So does that mean it needs to be in the CBA? Hopefully the MLBPA can bargain this away in exchange for another poorly designed policy to force teams to spend less on something so they will then, in theory, be able to spend more on veteran free agents but actually pocket the money.
   32. . Posted: October 10, 2018 at 09:37 AM (#5763877)
"Why would you give teammates credits for wins via WAR when the team didn't win those games?" is pretty much a quintessential example of applied intellect and wisdom. Devastating. (*) He kind of sloughed off WAR excesses the way a black sweater wearer would swoosh off a few random dandruff flakes.

(*) WAR fanatics would probably never understand it, but James's critique, while perhaps more diplomatic, was no less searing than the ones he made of people like Chuck Tanner, or the Mariners' GM when he traded away Danny Tartabull for a poo-poo platter of Scott Bankhead, Mike Kingery, and maybe one or two other nobodies.
   33. PASTE, Now with Extra Pitch and Extra Stamina Posted: October 10, 2018 at 09:47 AM (#5763881)
There have been a few quick pitches this post-season (AJ Pierzynski was outraged by one from the booth I recall). Marcus Stroman and Roberto Osuna (formerly) were the big experimenters with the Jays. Stroman especially has three pitching motions - the normal, the pause, and the quick-pitch.


Dirk Hayhurst in his second book described how he developed a quick pitch move in the minors, and used it in his first major league start. It got hit, and when he finally returned to the dugout, the pitching coach flipped out at him and screamed at him to never ever do that bush league horseshit again. This was in 2008.
   34. Crispix Attacksel Rios Posted: October 10, 2018 at 10:24 AM (#5763905)
I'm reminded of the line that The Velvet Underground's first album sold only 1,000 copies, but everybody who bought one started their own rock group. Pretty much every young person who read Bill 35-40 years ago went into baseball research and/or became a sportswriter.


It was funny 10-20 years ago how half of all the "progressive" internet baseball writers were Royals fans.
   35. . Posted: October 10, 2018 at 10:25 AM (#5763907)
So is it true about Griffin? He's got a negative runs in running for WAR


LOL.
   36. Tom Nawrocki Posted: October 10, 2018 at 10:28 AM (#5763910)
1. That baseball will eventually solve or contain the problem of economics corroding competitive balance.
Hasn't happened yet; the competitive balance situation is still about where it was in 2000. It hasn't gotten worse, I don't think, so partial credit for that.


You think? I don't know exactly how you'd measure it, but if you told a fan in 2000 that the Royals would win back-to-back pennants, and you'd have five different World Champions in five years (none of whom were the Yankees), they'd consider the problem solved.
   37. . Posted: October 10, 2018 at 10:30 AM (#5763912)
The humorous and fawning treatment of the "Three True Outcomes," Rob Deer, Beane's late 90's collection of softball players, etc was based on the hunch that the hitting style was in fact a superior, enlightened philosophy. There was more truth in that than anyone expected (or wanted).


The 1991-93 Tigers were built around TTO baseball, and were actually pretty entertaining. But it was much cooler then because not every single team and player in major league baseball were doing the exact same thing.

Bringing it forward to the present, the problem isn't just the boring strategies and techniques -- it's that every single team and player employs the same boring strategies and techniques.
   38. Greg K Posted: October 10, 2018 at 10:33 AM (#5763913)
So is it true about Griffin? He's got a negative runs in running for WAR

I think it depends on what you think James was saying about Griffin. I didn't read his comment as saying Griffin was necessarily a good base runner, but an insanely aggressive one (which might well make a guy a bad base runner).
   39. . Posted: October 10, 2018 at 10:34 AM (#5763915)
I mean, I still think it would be cool to do what James is suggesting here and documenting these unusual plays he remembers, but it's kind of interesting how much more access we have to the details of Alfredo Griffin's career today, 25 years after he played his last game, than James had almost 20 years ago.


Sure, but we're never going to know the precise coordinates of those plays, so the only way you can "measure" a Griffin against others is by some method of aggregation and deviation from means and medians. Which is essentially worthless.
   40. Rally Posted: October 10, 2018 at 10:37 AM (#5763921)
In 2018 there were 42 complete games all year, total.


Of those, one was a 6 inning rain shortened game, and 5 were 8 inning losses, only 36 games of 9 innings and nobody pitched past nine.

The last pitcher to complete a game with more than 9 innings was Roy Halladay in 2007.
   41. . Posted: October 10, 2018 at 10:39 AM (#5763924)
I think it depends on what you think James was saying about Griffin.


He was saying that Griffin's baserunning exploits were phenomenal. Precedent to whether that was "analytically true" is the fact that it registered in James's memory and he expressed it colorfully via the written word. That matters, irrespective of "analytical truth." (*) (It happens, quite likely, to be analytically true, too, but we'll never really know, in part for the reasons I explained above.)

(*) Saber fanatics have never really understood this, and still don't.
   42. Greg K Posted: October 10, 2018 at 10:45 AM (#5763937)
I guess my reading of James' comment has always been coloured by being a Jays fan. I was too young to see Griffin play myself, but among Jays fans of my dad's generation Griffin was always a by-word for a player with athletic talent, but not much of a head for baseball. Good range at short, but always making a million errors; a frustrating hitter to watch because he swung at everything; very fast, but constantly running into outs (hence the terrible SB rate).

That Griffin was an aggressive, exciting base runner (but not an especially good one) just fit my image of Griffin when I first read that. So I always read it in those terms. Griffin did some crazy stuff out there, and we should make sure that isn't lost to history. But, let's not make him a model for how to run the bases.
   43. SoSH U at work Posted: October 10, 2018 at 10:49 AM (#5763939)
There have been a few quick pitches this post-season (AJ Pierzynski was outraged by one from the booth I recall). Marcus Stroman and Roberto Osuna (formerly) were the big experimenters with the Jays. Stroman especially has three pitching motions - the normal, the pause, and the quick-pitch.


I'm a fan of the quick pitch, but my son's high school team faced a pitcher this past season who, about three times during the course of the game, stood behind the mound, took one step with his right foot onto the rubber and then threw. I'd never seen anything like it. I thought it was a little dangerous.
   44. PreservedFish Posted: October 10, 2018 at 10:56 AM (#5763950)
Is that even legal?
   45. Greg K Posted: October 10, 2018 at 11:02 AM (#5763958)
On my little league team one of our pitchers quick-pitched a guy doing the Thome/Ichiro thing or slowly extending the bat out before getting into his stance. Or, not really "quick-pitched", but just started pitching while the batter was standing in the box but doing his little routine.
   46. . Posted: October 10, 2018 at 11:04 AM (#5763964)
Good range at short, but always making a million errors; a frustrating hitter to watch because he swung at everything; very fast, but constantly running into outs (hence the terrible SB rate).


One thing the play data could show is making the first or third out at 3B, which is almost always stupid. That would be valuable.

As to risks, to get a true picture of baserunning, we'd have to take into accounts "throwing errors caused."
   47. SoSH U at work Posted: October 10, 2018 at 11:06 AM (#5763967)

Is that even legal?


The two umps working the game didn't bat an eye about it. His left foot was on the rubber when he delivered the ball. I don't know that anything else is truly required of pitchers (and if the pitcher is Carter Capps, that rule is waived anyway).
   48. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 10, 2018 at 11:06 AM (#5763968)
On my little league team one of our pitchers quick-pitched a guy doing the Thome/Ichiro thing or slowly extending the bat out before getting into his stance. Or, not really "quick-pitched", but just started pitching while the batter was standing in the box but doing his little routine.
Good. You're a little leaguer. You don't get an "assuming your stance" routine.
   49. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 10, 2018 at 11:09 AM (#5763970)
Not necessarily (assuming I understand your point correctly)

There have been a few quick pitches this post-season (AJ Pierzynski was outraged by one from the booth I recall). Marcus Stroman and Roberto Osuna (formerly) were the big experimenters with the Jays. Stroman especially has three pitching motions - the normal, the pause, and the quick-pitch.
Yes, there have been the occasional quick pitches, but 99% of the variations in pitcher deliveries involve them holding the ball longer...and then, usually, the batter stepping out. "I shall disrupt you by making you wait!" "Haha, au contraire, my friend. It is YOU who shall be disrupted by MY dallying!"
   50. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: October 10, 2018 at 11:14 AM (#5763974)

"Why would you give teammates credits for wins via WAR when the team didn't win those games?" is pretty much a quintessential example of applied intellect and wisdom. Devastating. (*) He kind of sloughed off WAR excesses the way a black sweater wearer would swoosh off a few random dandruff flakes.

I'm not a subscriber; can you explain what aspect of WAR this is actually a critique of? The fact that a team's WAR / WAA totals can effectively add up to more (or fewer) than the number of games the team actually won?
   51. Greg K Posted: October 10, 2018 at 11:15 AM (#5763975)
Yes, there have been the occasional quick pitches, but 99% of the variations in pitcher deliveries involve them holding the ball longer...and then, usually, the batter stepping out. "I shall disrupt you by making you wait!" "Haha, au contraire, my friend. It is YOU who shall be disrupted by MY dallying!"

Yeah, that is infuriating. I swear half the time the catchers put down the sign for "stand on the mound until the batter calls time".
   52. PASTE, Now with Extra Pitch and Extra Stamina Posted: October 10, 2018 at 11:25 AM (#5763981)
This is a paraphrase from memory of another Bill James quote from the NHBA: the batter can't call time. Only the umpire can call time. All that needs to happen, in addition to enforcing the pitch clock, is for the umpires to quit granting time whenever batters ask for it. Stay in the ####### box, and if you're not in the box when the ball leaves the pitcher's hand, automatic strike.

In large part the chronic wasting of fans' time by baseball players is so royally frustrating because it's SO DAMN EASY to fix.
   53. PreservedFish Posted: October 10, 2018 at 11:34 AM (#5763986)
Umpires don't appear to give a #### about how long the games are, and indeed I think there's a type of professional courtesy on display by all engaged. Even if MLB made it crystal clear that pitchers could deliver the ball while the hitter is in the middle of the batting glove readjustment routine, I don't think that overnight they'd start pumping the ball in there, they'd wait.
   54. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 10, 2018 at 11:48 AM (#5763995)
...which brings us, sadly, back to the necessary, but seemingly impossible, first step for any meaningful change: 1. Manfred grows a pair.
   55. Kiko Sakata Posted: October 10, 2018 at 12:16 PM (#5764011)
I'm not a subscriber; can you explain what aspect of WAR this is actually a critique of? The fact that a team's WAR / WAA totals can effectively add up to more (or fewer) than the number of games the team actually won?


Yes. James has always been big into making sure that his analytical estimates precisely match reality. In calculating runs created, he makes a final adjustment so that the runs created by all of the players on a team equal the actual runs scored by the team. In constructing Win Shares, he adjusted them such that team Win Shares were exactly equal to three times team wins in all cases. I believe the basic premise is that if reality differs from one's model then it's the model that's in error and one shouldn't automatically hand-wave differences away to "random chance".

He wrote about this last Fall in the context of the MVP race between Aaron Judge and Jose Altuve. I wrote an article on the subject that may be most worthwhile because I linked to James's piece and a companion piece by Joe Posnanski (the first two links in the article).
   56. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: October 10, 2018 at 12:25 PM (#5764018)
Thanks Kiko. I remember that being one of the most obvious failings of Win Shares when it was originally unveiled. Not so much that James insisted on the totals matching up, but that he had no basis for the way in which he did it (IIRC, he basically just took the unallocated wins and distributed them amongst the players on the team in proportion to their unadjusted Win Shares, to come up with an adjusted Win Shares total). That is just as much hand-waving as citing "random chance".

I am much more comfortable with a system that simply admits that there are an additional Y wins above/below average that the system cannot allocate to individual players for now. Maybe that's due to random chance, maybe it's due to factors we simply can't reconstruct with the data we have, or maybe we just haven't refined the analysis enough yet. This is implicit in systems like WAR, and perhaps James would be more comfortable if it was simply made explicit, by calling them "team wins" or something like that for now. Kind of like the "team rebounds" concept in basketball.
   57. SandyRiver Posted: October 10, 2018 at 12:25 PM (#5764019)
The 1991-93 Tigers were built around TTO baseball, and were actually pretty entertaining. But it was much cooler then because not every single team and player in major league baseball were doing the exact same thing.

Bringing it forward to the present, the problem isn't just the boring strategies and techniques -- it's that every single team and player employs the same boring strategies and techniques.

I'd exempt this year's two winningest teams from that group (and probably Cleveland), or at least assign them a lesser role in TTO. Yes, Boston/Houston finished 2/3 behind the Yankees for AL walks, but they were middle of pack (6/7) in homers and near the bottom for Ks (only Cleveland had fewer.)

I don't think that pitchers varying their timing has much effect on batters, though I've queried zero professional ballplayers on the subject. And of course that variation is important for holding baserunners.
   58. John DiFool2 Posted: October 10, 2018 at 12:33 PM (#5764022)
I watched a lot of Cubs games in the 80's, and Shawon Dunston's own baserunning exploits at least approached Alfredo's.
   59. Rally Posted: October 10, 2018 at 12:38 PM (#5764025)
Astros hit 205 homers and struck out 1197 times. For 2018, that's middle of the pack in homers and second fewest strikeouts.

The 1991 Tigers of Fielder, Tettleton, and Deer hit 209 homers and struck out 1185 times. Both figures led the league by a wide margin.

   60. Kiko Sakata Posted: October 10, 2018 at 12:39 PM (#5764027)
I remember that being one of the most obvious failings of Win Shares when it was originally unveiled. Not so much that James insisted on the totals matching up, but that he had no basis for the way in which he did it (IIRC, he basically just took the unallocated wins and distributed them amongst the players on the team in proportion to their unadjusted Win Shares, to come up with an adjusted Win Shares total). That is just as much hand-waving as citing "random chance".


You recall correctly, and this is actually what prompted me to develop my Player won-lost records. If you're going to insist on tying your "Win Shares" to actual team wins then you need to do so at the game level, where teams actually accumulate wins.
   61. Rally Posted: October 10, 2018 at 12:41 PM (#5764028)
Yeah, that is infuriating. I swear half the time the catchers put down the sign for "stand on the mound until the batter calls time".


Yeah, it's hard to watch this over and over and over every single plate appearance. But if somebody did a commercial with the batter and pitcher actually saying "I shall disrupt you by making you wait!" "Haha, au contraire, my friend. It is YOU who shall be disrupted by MY dallying!"

I would be entertained. At least the first time. I would hope it didn't get replayed 2x every commercial break like those horrible Guinness Blonde commercials.
   62. PreservedFish Posted: October 10, 2018 at 12:43 PM (#5764031)
Astros hit 205 homers and struck out 1197 times. For 2018, that's middle of the pack in homers and second fewest strikeouts.

The 1991 Tigers of Fielder, Tettleton, and Deer hit 209 homers and struck out 1185 times. Both figures led the league by a wide margin.


Seems like fairly convincing evidence that nearly everyone has a TTO approach these days.
   63. . Posted: October 10, 2018 at 01:15 PM (#5764054)
I'm not a subscriber; can you explain what aspect of WAR this is actually a critique of? The fact that a team's WAR / WAA totals can effectively add up to more (or fewer) than the number of games the team actually won?


Though the "effectively" isn't really necessary, yes.
   64. PASTE, Now with Extra Pitch and Extra Stamina Posted: October 10, 2018 at 01:19 PM (#5764058)
It's often written that shifting would go away on its own if only hitters would give up their delusional belief that they can beat the shift straight up, and just take the ball the other way, into the gaping holes, for easy singles and doubles.

It's sometimes counter-written that, actually, it's not that easy, because the pitcher is pitching to the shift too, throwing pitches that are very difficult to hit into the holes.

There's truth to that. But it misses the real point of why hitters don't try to beat the shift: shift or no, hitters aren't trying to put the ball in play at all. They're trying to hit home runs. The biggest defensive hole of all is the one on the far side of the wall.

So hitters can respond to shifts by doing what they're already doing, only more so, or by radically changing their approach. It's no surprise they opt for the former.
   65. . Posted: October 10, 2018 at 01:21 PM (#5764060)
I am much more comfortable with a system that simply admits that there are an additional Y wins above/below average that the system cannot allocate to individual players for now.


There won't be a "for now." If wins can't be accurately (*) derived from run differentials, there's no hope whatever of unlocking the mysteries of the WAR/actual wins gap.

Although the "explanation" such as it is, is pretty simple -- the rules of baseball.

(*) Or, some might argue, even close approximations.
   66. Rally Posted: October 10, 2018 at 02:22 PM (#5764131)
It's sometimes counter-written that, actually, it's not that easy, because the pitcher is pitching to the shift too, throwing pitches that are very difficult to hit into the holes.


I think many hitters could benefit by altering their approach to beat the shift. But you have to be a good hitter to do it. It's definitely not easy. In a time when players can't even put the ball in play 20-25% of the time, you're asking them to put the ball in play to a specific spot.

Not easy, but when I see crappy hitters like the Boston catchers pull off a hit and run, you know it's not impossible.
   67. Srul Itza Posted: October 10, 2018 at 02:56 PM (#5764159)
But it misses the real point of why hitters don't try to beat the shift: shift or no, hitters aren't trying to put the ball in play at all. They're trying to hit home runs. The biggest defensive hole of all is the one on the far side of the wall.


That was the approach of a hitter who renowned for being shifted against -- Ted Williams.

Unfortunately for all the other batters trying it -- they're not Ted Williams.

I also seem to recall that one year, Ted did very well going the other way -- but it was because he had an injury that caused a change in approach.
   68. John DiFool2 Posted: October 10, 2018 at 02:57 PM (#5764160)
So hitters can respond to shifts by doing what they're already doing, only more so, or by radically changing their approach. It's no surprise they opt for the former.


Someone's going to reap a huge bonanza by moving into [or constructing after winning the expansion lottery] a huge Forbes Field type park, and doing all the right things otherwise Ewing Kaufmann style (3 sprinters for OF'ers for starters).

I'd love to see all of these huge flies go and die in said deepest recesses.
   69. vortex of dissipation Posted: October 10, 2018 at 03:41 PM (#5764211)
I also seem to recall that one year, Ted did very well going the other way -- but it was because he had an injury that caused a change in approach.


When he hit .388 in 1957, he experimented with a heavier bat, which caused a slightly slower bat speed, meaning he hit more balls to center field and left field than he did previously.
   70. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: October 10, 2018 at 05:04 PM (#5764290)
Though the "effectively" isn't really necessary, yes.

I only said "effectively" because WAA would ideally equal (Wins - 81), not Wins itself. And WAR should equal (Wins - wherever you set replacement level). And I figured someone here might be pedantic about it.

There won't be a "for now." If wins can't be accurately (*) derived from run differentials, there's no hope whatever of unlocking the mysteries of the WAR/actual wins gap.

Although the "explanation" such as it is, is pretty simple -- the rules of baseball.


Well, there are things you can learn from looking at the PBP data -- presumably that's what Kiko has done (I haven't had a chance to read his article yet). And as that data gets more detailed you'll be able to refine the conclusions even more going forward (retrospectively will be more difficult).
   71. BDC Posted: October 10, 2018 at 06:11 PM (#5764353)
Despite the fact that they are figured from such different theoretical bases, do the various WARs differ really greatly from Win Shares in how they see individual players? I.e., is there a matched pair of players of about the same WAR, one of whom played for an overachieving team and one for an under-, so that they ended up their careers a significant bunch of wins apart by the different systems?

My hypothesis would be that the ups and downs of actual team wins average out over player careers, so that the two systems (insofar as they measure the same components, of course) arrive at roughly the same assessments of player value. But I have no idea whether this bears out.
   72. Mefisto Posted: October 10, 2018 at 06:33 PM (#5764361)
In the HOM voting, bjhanke regularly notes when WAR and WS vary widely for individual seasons. I don't know how they average out over a full career.
   73. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: October 10, 2018 at 06:39 PM (#5764365)
Who ever heard of Alfredo Griffin?
   74. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 10, 2018 at 06:46 PM (#5764370)
I hear there's a price on Griffin's head.
   75. Rally Posted: October 10, 2018 at 08:02 PM (#5764402)
do the various WARs differ really greatly from Win Shares in how they see individual players?


Good question. Could be checked if you put them on a common scale. Something like WS above bench (checking to make sure "bench" adds up to about the 48 wins bbref/fangraphs sets for replacement level) and then dividing by 3. One thing I saw earlier this year is that pitcher WS were on a different scale, at least for the NL. While WAR has DeGrom/Scherzer/Nola not only the best pitchers but the best players in the NL this year, WS has them a bit behind the top position guys. I don't know if that's a one year thing or a general trend.
   76. Rally Posted: October 10, 2018 at 08:09 PM (#5764404)
Searching for Griffin scoring from 2b on groundout to 2nd. Will repost once I debug my query.



   77. Rally Posted: October 10, 2018 at 08:22 PM (#5764409)
I found way more plays than I should have as I was looking at baserunner eventual destination instead of destination on that play. For Griffin on 2nd, scoring on gb to 2B that does not involve an error, 2 plays in the 1981-1985 period, a few days apart in 1981.

On 8-15, he scored from 2nd on an infield single to second. On 8-19 he scored on a groundout. Expanding the query to all ground balls that didn't go to the outfield, he scored from 2nd 4 times between 81-85.
   78. Rally Posted: October 10, 2018 at 08:26 PM (#5764410)
Did not find going 2-3 on a pop to short, or scoring on a popup to catcher. Doesn't mean it didn't happen, could have happened outside of 1981-85 or I haven't defined my query properly.
   79. Kiko Sakata Posted: October 10, 2018 at 08:54 PM (#5764419)
Something like WS above bench (checking to make sure "bench" adds up to about the 48 wins bbref/fangraphs sets for replacement level) and then dividing by 3.


Baseball-Gauge will do leaderboards for WSAB (that's the link in this sentence). And here's BB-Ref's WAR leaderboard.

Babe Ruth is #1 on both lists with career bWAR of 182.5 and career WSAB of 520.6. If you divide the latter by 3, that's 173.5, which is at least in the same general ballpark as the bWAR number.

You can scroll through those two leaderboards and see who ranks meaningfully differently, although there are a lot of reasons why players may rank differently. For example, Cy Young and Walter Johnson are #2 and #3 in bWAR but #11 and #14 in WSAB. My guess (but it's just a guess) is that there's a difference in how pitchers are treated in the two vis-a-vis position players (Young and Johnson are the top 2 pitchers in WSAB, in the same order as in bWAR).

Skimming somewhat haphazardly, Joe Morgan looks better in Win Shares (#24 vs. #30); Pete Rose looks a LOT better in Win Shares (#31 vs. #64). So, maybe the Big Red Machine was very win-efficient? But Johnny Bench is #115 in Win Shares but #76 in bWAR. But maybe that's an issue with how catchers are valued?

Yogi Berra is the highest-ranked catcher in Win Shares (note: I'm skimming through the two links above; it's possible I've missed somebody) at #85. Bench is the top catcher in bWAR (#76). Berra's only #191 in bWAR, so he would seem to be a guy who looks much better in Win Shares.

Eddie Murray also ranks a fair bit higher in Win Shares (#53) than in WAR (#111). Murray had very good "clutch" statistics in his career, which maybe led to his teams winning a few more games than expected. But Eddie Murray's also a guy whose ranking is going to depend very heavily on your replacement level, so even relatively small differences in the implied replacement levels here could have a big impact on where guys like Murray or Rose rank on these lists.
   80. BDC Posted: October 10, 2018 at 09:06 PM (#5764425)
Thanks, Mefisto, Rally, Kiko. Those discrepancies are very interesting, Kiko. Doesn’t really look like they’re due to the different philosophies so much as to different valuings of the components. But that’s a superficial impression on my part. It may possibly be that Eddie Murray, for instance, was somewhat better at delivering wins than a player with comparable individual stats, as you note.
   81. dlf Posted: October 10, 2018 at 09:15 PM (#5764429)
Eddie Murray, for instance, was somewhat better at delivering wins than a player with comparable individual stats, as you note.


In Steady Eddie's case, you've got to count the GWRBIs!
   82. PreservedFish Posted: October 10, 2018 at 09:20 PM (#5764431)
It may possibly be that Eddie Murray, for instance, was somewhat better at delivering wins than a player with comparable individual stats, as you note.

Not buying it. Setting aside the idea that certain players might have an extraordinarily important as-yet undiscovered ability to create wins far beyond their underlying statistics ... even if he was creating the extra wins, those wins shares were evenly distributed amongst all of his teammates. There's no way it could make a big difference.
   83. . Posted: October 10, 2018 at 09:28 PM (#5764433)
Not buying it. Setting aside the idea that certain players might have an extraordinarily important as-yet undiscovered ability to create wins far beyond their underlying statistics


Well, different sequencing will give you different run output from the same events, so maybe Murray was more productive when his sequencing could be most leveraged. Of course, this pretty much just reduces to clutch hitting, which no one thinks is a skill anyway. But if all your best events happen to be in the right (or the most fortunate) sequencing times, you will create many more wins than someone with the same events who is less fortunate in sequencing.
   84. cardsfanboy Posted: October 10, 2018 at 09:42 PM (#5764435)
Well, different sequencing will give you different run output from the same events, so maybe Murray was more productive when his sequencing could be most leveraged. Of course, this pretty much just reduces to clutch hitting, which no one thinks is a skill anyway.


No one thinks it's currently a quantifiable skill, and also that if a player is a clutch hitter, then that means he's unclutch in non-clutch situations which has value still.

But war/win shares is a backwards looking stat, and shouldn't care too much whether it's a repeatable skill, but ultimately the value that the player helped produce for his team, so situational hitting should matter a bit.

There is not really a difference between a guy who goes 1-4 with a homerun in a 1-0 game and hits it in the first or ninth inning, that is the flaw of wpa... the guy produced the same value either way... but there is a difference between a guy who goes 1-4 with a double when he hits that double with a man on base vs when he hits it with the bases empty. Whether how much a guy should be reward for his performance that is also dependent on how good the hitters are in front of him, is a debate... but there is absolutely no doubt that in a 2-1 game that the hero of the game is the guy who hit a double with men on second and third to drive both in, over the other guy on the other side who went equally 1-4 with a double but timed it with nobody on base.

And many systems do work to include that type of data, but then you are dealing with the issue that a guy is getting rewarded because of better opportunities, and that isn't really accurate on the quality of the player, but to pretend to not even think of those situations as potentially valuable seems like a weird way to look at a player.
   85. cardsfanboy Posted: October 10, 2018 at 09:46 PM (#5764437)
Skimming somewhat haphazardly, Joe Morgan looks better in Win Shares (#24 vs. #30); Pete Rose looks a LOT better in Win Shares (#31 vs. #64). So, maybe the Big Red Machine was very win-efficient? But Johnny Bench is #115 in Win Shares but #76 in bWAR. But maybe that's an issue with how catchers are valued?


It is, war gives a higher positional advantage to catchers. And from what I remember, bWar also gives a negative to pitchers because if not, early century pitchers would own all the seasonal leaders list, including guys who were just slightly above average.
   86. Kiko Sakata Posted: October 10, 2018 at 09:46 PM (#5764438)
Setting aside the idea that certain players might have an extraordinarily important as-yet undiscovered ability to create wins far beyond their underlying statistics ... even if he was creating the extra wins, those wins shares were evenly distributed amongst all of his teammates.


Win Shares are built up from Bill James's runs created. And his runs created - because, as I noted above, he thinks its important to tie runs created to actual runs scored at the team level - do make adjustments for batters' performances in certain high-leverage situations. In his Win Shares book, he says he makes adjustments based on batting average with runners in scoring position and on the percentage of home runs hit with the bases empty. So, Murray might be getting a boost based on these things (although, honestly, I'm not sure those are the clutchiest of Murray's stats - he batted .292 w/ RISP vs. .287 overall; 1 HR per 26.4 PA w/ bases empty vs. 1 HR per 24.5 PA w/ runners on base).

But that said,

There's no way it could make a big difference.


I tend to agree with this. If I had to guess, I'd guess that the issue with Murray (and Pete Rose, who I also mentioned in #79) is a difference in replacement level. Even though I'm looking at Win Shares above bench, guys like Rose and Murray will look better the lower the replacement level you set as so much of their unique greatness was just the sheer number of games they played (they're 1st & 7th in career plate appearances). So, certainly, they'll look extra-good in raw Win Shares vis-a-vis WAR for virtually any reasonable replacement level.
   87. PASTE, Now with Extra Pitch and Extra Stamina Posted: October 10, 2018 at 09:48 PM (#5764439)
Also, Alfredo Griffin's been a base coach with the Angels for going on 20 years now, I'm pretty sure. I've always thought that was funny, in light of what kind of baserunner he was. Like hiring Dee Gordon to teach plate discipline.
   88. cardsfanboy Posted: October 10, 2018 at 09:48 PM (#5764440)
Not buying it. Setting aside the idea that certain players might have an extraordinarily important as-yet undiscovered ability to create wins far beyond their underlying statistics ... even if he was creating the extra wins, those wins shares were evenly distributed amongst all of his teammates. There's no way it could make a big difference.


That is assuming you have a full knowledge of the methodology of his system, I'm fairly certain Bill's system incorporated some clutch stats into the win shares so that someone like Eddie Murray, who was by all accounts one of the more consistently clutch players in the game, might have received a bit of bonus beyond the stats we look at.

Edit: mind you, it's been near a decade since the last time I looked at the win shares book... so I can be completely and utterly wrong here.
   89. bobm Posted: October 10, 2018 at 09:48 PM (#5764441)
LA TIMES
BASEBALL : DAILY REPORT : DODGERS : Griffin Explains His Baserunning Ploy
August 01, 1991|BILL PLASCHKE

Alfredo Griffin had an unusual pregame meeting with former teammate Alejandro Pena, who pitches for the New York Mets.

Pena wanted to know what Griffin was doing when he tried to advance to second base Tuesday night on a walk.

"Pena told me, 'Man, you are crazy!' " said Griffin, who was thrown out at second by Pena. "I told him, 'Man, I'm just playing baseball, trying to get something started."

Griffin, whose move raised eyebrows on the Dodger bench, said he decided to run for second as soon as he left home plate.

"I know that Pena is slow, and that he goes to sleep a lot," Griffin said. "I saw all the infielders just standing around, so I decided to go for it. The only reason they got me was because (shortstop) Garry Templeton was moving toward second already because it was a bunt situation. Even then, I think I could have been safe."

Said Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda: "It's a great play if you make it, even though I don't think I've ever seen anybody try it before."
   90. Kiko Sakata Posted: October 10, 2018 at 09:55 PM (#5764443)
Pena wanted to know what Griffin was doing when he tried to advance to second base Tuesday night on a walk.


Incidentally, Retrosheet scores this as two plays: a walk followed by a caught stealing (with no comment to indicate that this was a single play). The play happened in the bottom of the seventh inning.
   91. PASTE, Now with Extra Pitch and Extra Stamina Posted: October 10, 2018 at 10:19 PM (#5764446)
The dateline on that article caught my attention--it was four weeks before Alejandro Pena was traded to the Braves. Six weeks after that, he would throw the final pitch of the greatest World Series ever played.
   92. bobm Posted: October 10, 2018 at 10:21 PM (#5764447)
Seamheads: Taking the Extra Base:  The Players

I focused on the “Single_1stTo3rd” plays [where the runner on first base advanced to third base and no errors occurred on the play], since any ballplayer can advance from first to second base on a clean single. Conversely, scoring a runner from first base on a single is such an exciting yet rare event that it only occurs roughly 20 times per season. A baserunner’s dash from first to third base requires speed, skill, agility, daring and intellect. In a few brief moments the runner decides whether to fully commit to taking the extra base, while processing the distance of the hit, how far the outfielder must travel to retrieve the ball, the strength and accuracy of the outfielder’s throwing arm. The baserunner also needs to make an honest assessment of their skills and determine if the gamble is likely to pay off.

The “First-to-Third Percentage” is calculated by taking the number of successful events where the baserunner advanced from first base to third base on a clean single with no errors on a play divided by the number of opportunities. Therefore any “failed” events are essentially noting when the runner exercised caution and remained at second base, with a handful of “put out attempting to advance” events to round out the totals.


Top [...] Baserunners (Career), First to Third Percentage

(minimum 150 opportunities) 
          Player 1st-3rd 1B_BR_Opps Pct1st3rd
   Dexter Fowler 112 193 0.580
   Glenn Beckert 213 374 0.570
    Dave Hollins 123 221 0.557
     Willie Mays 332 612 0.542
      Mike Trout  82 152 0.539
     Chick Hafey  91 170 0.535
       Red Kress  84 158 0.532
   Pepper Martin  80 151 0.530
     Ron LeFlore 109 207 0.527
  Shawon Dunston 119 232 0.513
     Kiki Cuyler 102 200 0.510
   Chone Figgins 142 282 0.504
   Carl Reynolds  81 162 0.500
Bobby Richardson 135 270 0.500
  Thurman Munson 184 370 0.497
       Babe Ruth  83 167 0.497
   Julian Javier 167 339 0.493
       Ed Morgan  73 150 0.487
      Tony Kubek 121 249 0.486
     Chuck Klein 144 297 0.485
     Vada Pinson 249 515 0.483
    Luis Polonia 134 278 0.482
   Jackie Brandt 107 222 0.482
         Al Dark 210 437 0.481
     Roger Maris 146 304 0.480
     Dan Gladden 133 277 0.480
       Tom Tresh 116 243 0.477
    Lonnie Smith 149 313 0.476
    Ival Goodman 126 265 0.475
      Curt Flood 208 438 0.475
  Don Blasingame 178 375 0.475
  Bruce Campbell  99 209 0.474
     Jim Gilliam 244 516 0.473
   Mookie Wilson 109 231 0.472
    Elvis Andrus 111 238 0.466
    Willie Davis 200 429 0.466
    Willie McGee 188 405 0.464
      Odell Hale  96 208 0.462
       Al Kaline 290 629 0.461
      Len Randle  94 207 0.454
     Earle Combs  79 174 0.454
     Bill Bruton 160 353 0.453
       Rod Carew 311 687 0.453
   Vic Davalillo 113 250 0.452
   Lance Johnson 122 271 0.450 
 Alfredo Griffin 148 329 0.450
   93. Sweatpants Posted: October 10, 2018 at 11:35 PM (#5764456)
Lonnie Smith 149 313 0.476
Of course, the biggest moment of his career was him going first to third. I'm guessing he doesn't rate as high on the first-to-home list.
   94. Lonnie Smith for president Posted: October 11, 2018 at 01:14 PM (#5764649)
Lonnie Smith 149 313 0.476
Of course, the biggest moment of his career was him going first to third. I'm guessing he doesn't rate as high on the first-to-home list.


Le sigh...
   95. Karl from NY Posted: October 11, 2018 at 02:49 PM (#5764720)
Someone's going to reap a huge bonanza by moving into [or constructing after winning the expansion lottery] a huge Forbes Field type park, and doing all the right things otherwise Ewing Kaufmann style (3 sprinters for OF'ers for starters).


Why this doesn't happen: Hitters won't sign or stay with a team that plays in such a park. The Mets kinda tried this but no hitter was interested in Citifield's distant fences.
   96. Mefisto Posted: October 11, 2018 at 03:20 PM (#5764748)
The Giants kind of do play in that sort of park already.
   97. Infinite Yost (Voxter) Posted: October 11, 2018 at 03:42 PM (#5764769)
But every once in a while I'll come across one that's quite profound or even emotionally devastating, like Ernie Lombardi.


A couple of times I assigned the Lombardi entry to nonfiction writing students, back when I was teaching.

And "The Man Who Invented Winning Ugly" is probably the funniest piece of baseball writing ever.
   98. GuyM Posted: October 11, 2018 at 04:22 PM (#5764786)
While WAR has DeGrom/Scherzer/Nola not only the best pitchers but the best players in the NL this year, WS has them a bit behind the top position guys. I don't know if that's a one year thing or a general trend.

It's systemic. James gives pitchers only 35% of Win Shares (fielders get 17%, hitters 48%), compared to c. 40% for WAR systems. And starters probably get less than their fair share of the 35%, as James doesn't make an adjustment for the reliever advantage in runs allowed. So WS undervalues starting pitchers in general.
   99. vortex of dissipation Posted: October 11, 2018 at 04:23 PM (#5764788)
But every once in a while I'll come across one that's quite profound or even emotionally devastating, like Ernie Lombardi.


The Hal Chase entry is really well-written, also. (I'm thinking specifically of the one in the original Historical Abstract - I don't know off-hand if it's changed for the New Historical Abstract, and I can't check right now.)
   100. GuyM Posted: October 11, 2018 at 04:39 PM (#5764802)
Top [...] Baserunners (Career), First to Third Percentage

(minimum 150 opportunities)
Player 1st-3rd 1B_BR_Opps Pct1st3rd
Dexter Fowler 112 193 0.580
Glenn Beckert 213 374 0.570
Dave Hollins 123 221 0.557
Willie Mays 332 612 0.542
Mike Trout 82 152 0.539

In addition to speed and baserunning skill, I think this is highly influenced by ballpark and whether the hitters behind you hit a lot of their singles to RF. Fowler played many years in CO, with probably the biggest outfield in MLB. Beckert usually hit in front of Billy Williams, a LHH (anyone recall if he was a pull hitter?). Hollins (47 SB in 10 seasons) just happened to play on three teams with a ton of LHH and switch hitters (PHI, MIN, ANA). It's possible Mays did a fair job of advancing on the bases.....
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