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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Kepner (NYT): Astros’ Jose Altuve Doesn’t Let Height Be a Disadvantage

Yes, today is the 63rd anniversary of Eddie Gaedel’s appearance. WHAT ARE YOU IMPLYING.

The Houston Astros may be the most data-driven organization in baseball, or at least the one most willing to try new ideas. Yet there are no statistical models that would project the smallest player in the majors to be the game’s best hitter.

That is what Jose Altuve is, as measured by batting average. Before Tuesday’s game at Yankee Stadium, Altuve was leading the major leagues, at .339. He led the majors in hits with 173, and led the American League in stolen bases with 46.

Altuve is also 5 feet 6, matching San Diego’s Alexi Amarista as the game’s shortest player, according to Baseball-Reference.com…

Altuve, who could become the first Astro to win a batting crown, brings a set of extremes. Before Tuesday, he had seen only 3.17 pitches per plate appearance, the fewest in the majors. Yet he put the highest percentage of pitches in play (27.3 percent), and only Detroit’s Victor Martinez has been tougher to strike out.

Altuve could become the first player to lead his league in batting average, hits and steals since Ichiro Suzuki for Seattle in 2001. He was on pace for 224 hits and 59 steals before Tuesday’s game. Only one player in the last 100 years has reached totals that high in both categories in a single season: Willie Wilson for Kansas City in 1980.

 

The District Attorney Posted: August 19, 2014 at 10:52 PM | 35 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: astros, jose altuve

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   1. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: August 20, 2014 at 12:15 AM (#4775091)
Wee Willie Keeler was 5'4" and won two batting titles. He also once led the NL in OPS.
   2. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: August 20, 2014 at 01:14 AM (#4775106)
Before Tuesday, he had seen only 3.17 pitches per plate appearance, the fewest in the majors. Yet he put the highest percentage of pitches in play (27.3 percent), and only Detroit’s Victor Martinez has been tougher to strike out.


Those things aren't exactly unrelated. If you're really good at making contact with the balls you swing at, you're most likely not going to see a lot of pitches, and you're not going to strike out a lot.

   3. TerpNats Posted: August 20, 2014 at 02:43 AM (#4775123)
Jose Altuve: The Kristin Chenoweth of MLB.
   4. RMc is a fine piece of cheese Posted: August 20, 2014 at 08:00 AM (#4775146)
Yes, today is the 63rd anniversary of Eddie Gaedel’s appearance.

Would a guy that walked every time he came to the plate -- but couldn't run or field -- be worth a MLB roster spot? How about a spot on the 40-man?
   5. depletion Posted: August 20, 2014 at 08:46 AM (#4775173)
Probably worth a roster spot for leadoff in road games and pinch hitter in home games.
   6. McCoy Posted: August 20, 2014 at 08:55 AM (#4775181)
as in literally could not run? probably not. But he could dh if he could actually take steps forward.
   7. silhouetted by the sea Posted: August 20, 2014 at 09:26 AM (#4775199)
It's almost as if eye-hand coordination is important in baseball, although we all know that it is not as important as height.
   8. AROM Posted: August 20, 2014 at 10:03 AM (#4775232)
Jose Altuve makes Dustin Pedroia look like a big clumsy giant.
   9. donlock Posted: August 20, 2014 at 10:04 AM (#4775233)
In what way does he not let height be a disadvantage? How does he control this?
   10. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: August 20, 2014 at 10:44 AM (#4775267)
Would a guy that walked every time he came to the plate -- but couldn't run or field -- be worth a MLB roster spot? How about a spot on the 40-man?

He'd be my starting DH. Batting leadoff.
   11. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: August 20, 2014 at 10:52 AM (#4775274)
Would a guy that walked every time he came to the plate -- but couldn't run or field -- be worth a MLB roster spot? How about a spot on the 40-man?


Sure, but it's worth noting that if Eddie Gaedele hadn't been expelled, he wouldn't have walked at anywhere near 100 percent. Many, if not most, MLB pitchers would have been able to throw three strikes against someone who posed absolutely no threat with the stick.

And in a story that probably depresses me alone, it looks as if the big league aspirations of Eddie's nephew have stalled at Double A.
   12. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: August 20, 2014 at 10:58 AM (#4775279)
Would a guy that walked every time he came to the plate -- but couldn't run or field -- be worth a MLB roster spot? How about a spot on the 40-man?


He'd be my starting DH. Batting leadoff.

Not a bad idea, as long as you took him out after that first walk. Either that, or save him for situations where the bases were loaded in the late innings of a tie game.
   13. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: August 20, 2014 at 11:02 AM (#4775281)
Sure, but it's worth noting that if Eddie Gaedele hadn't been expelled, he wouldn't have walked at anywhere near 100 percent. Many, if not most, MLB pitchers would have been able to throw three strikes against someone who posed absolutely no threat with the stick.

I doubt if it'd even be "many", not with today's strike zone. Gaedal's stance would have resulted in a strike zone that'd be about 9 or 10 inches high.
   14. Greg K Posted: August 20, 2014 at 11:03 AM (#4775282)
Not a bad idea, as long as you took him out after that first walk. Either that, or save him for situations where the bases were loaded in the late innings of a tie game.

Or even to lead off an inning late in a tight game. Swapping out your worst hitter for a utility man is a small price to pay to start an inning with a man on first!

I'd certainly rather have a 1.000 OBP immovable object on my roster than a 13th pitcher.
   15. PreservedFish Posted: August 20, 2014 at 11:06 AM (#4775284)
I doubt if it'd even be "many", not with today's strike zone. Gaedal's stance would have resulted in a strike zone that'd be about 9 or 10 inches high.

Do you know how photos like this were taken? Obviously the photographer was not standing 4 feet from the batter's box during the real game. And yet the stands are full.
   16. zack Posted: August 20, 2014 at 11:09 AM (#4775286)
With a zoom lens?
   17. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: August 20, 2014 at 11:09 AM (#4775288)
I doubt if it'd even be "many", not with today's strike zone. Gaedal's stance would have resulted in a strike zone that'd be about 9 or 10 inches high.


And MLB pitchers can hit a 10 inch by 18 inch square. If they didn't have that level of control, then we'd never be able to accuse anyone of throwing at someone, or missing in the middle of the plate when the catcher set up outside, etc. Most pitchers are pretty good at throwing to spots the size of Eddie Gaedel's zone, and would be even better doing it against someone who couldn't make them pay for throwing nothing more than get-me-over fastballs.

I'd guess Eddie Gaedel (Kyle's emergence always makes me want to give him the extra family e) would OBP no better than .333 if he were a regular that teams were expecting, not a one-time thing.
   18. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: August 20, 2014 at 11:21 AM (#4775300)
Do you know how photos like this were taken? Obviously the photographer was not standing 4 feet from the batter's box during the real game. And yet the stands are full.


Is it me or does it look like the stands are 80% full of women? Something about the hairdos.
   19. PreservedFish Posted: August 20, 2014 at 11:32 AM (#4775315)
With a zoom lens?

No way that's a photo of real game action. Looks like they're posing.
   20. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 20, 2014 at 11:50 AM (#4775345)
preserved

it was very common for photographers to be in foul ground and even near the batters box taking photos at major games

i am not aware of any zoom capability back then for cameras. at least not the portable units used by the papers

are folks not aware of the clutter of people that used to exist on the field back in the day? baseball was a looser run operation before it became all sophisticated
   21. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 20, 2014 at 11:56 AM (#4775357)
are folks not aware of the clutter of people that used to exist on the field back in the day? baseball was a looser run operation before it became all sophisticated

To Harvey's point, scenes like this:

http://magazine.uc.edu/content/dam/magazine/images/favorites/alumdiscovery2_large.jpg

used to be common.
   22. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: August 20, 2014 at 12:00 PM (#4775366)
To Harvey's point, scenes like this:

http://magazine.uc.edu/content/dam/magazine/images/favorites/alumdiscovery2_large.jpg

used to be common.


What the hell was going on behind home plate there. That the batter, catcher and one of the photographers are all staring back behind home plate is quite odd.

   23. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 20, 2014 at 12:28 PM (#4775397)
That the batter, catcher and one of the photographers are all staring back behind home plate is quite odd.

cleavage
   24. PreservedFish Posted: August 20, 2014 at 12:29 PM (#4775399)
Thanks for that photo Snapper. Very cool. (But I still think the Gaedal photo looks posed)
   25. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 20, 2014 at 12:33 PM (#4775404)
What the hell was going on behind home plate there. That the batter, catcher and one of the photographers are all staring back behind home plate is quite odd.

Hard foul back into the crowd? (looks like the batter just swung) Maybe looking to see if anyone was hurt?
   26. McCoy Posted: August 20, 2014 at 12:37 PM (#4775413)
Snapper's photo is a photo taken right after the first pitch of the major league night game in history. By the way the person who took that picture was not a professional photographer but an employee that helped design and build the lighting sytem for the park.

Here's a picture of the White House switch that turned on the lights
   27. Tom Nawrocki Posted: August 20, 2014 at 12:39 PM (#4775421)
To Harvey's point, scenes like this:

http://magazine.uc.edu/content/dam/magazine/images/favorites/alumdiscovery2_large.jpg

used to be common.


Thanks for digging that up. I was looking for similar photos of an entire scrum of photographers crouched near the on-deck circle. I can't believe none of them were ever killed by a foul ball.
   28. bobm Posted: August 20, 2014 at 01:21 PM (#4775492)
Veeck`s Midget Plan Was Picture Perfect - July 23, 1991|By Jerome Holtzman, Chicago Tribune.

Until now, the assumption has been that only Veeck`s wife, Mary Frances, a few of his front-office lieutenants and manager Zack Taylor were in on the gag. Not so. Bob Broeg of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, then a baseball writer, also was tipped off. A good thing, too, because otherwise the famous photograph of Gaedel at the plate, with Detroit catcher Bob Swift on his knees, would not have been taken.

``We were out drinking the night before,`` Broeg recalled Monday. ``About midnight, Bill looked at his watch and said, `I guess you`re in with your last edition.`

``Bill said, `I can trust you, anyway. I`m going to use a midget tomorrow. In the second game of the double-header.`

``I told him, `I`m glad you`re telling me. We don`t have many photographers working on Sunday.` ``

At the ballpark the next day, before the first game, Broeg sought out Jack January, a Post-Dispatch photographer. January advised Broeg he was just shooting the first game.

``No, no, Jack,`` Broeg told him. ``You`ve got to stay for the second game.``

Broeg said, ``In those days, the photographers were allowed on the field. Jack kept creeping up toward the plate and got the picture. He wasn`t more than 10-12 feet from the plate. And, of course, he knew he had a helluva picture.``

January had plenty of time to get set because umpire Ed Hurley, working the plate, took one look at Gaedel and started toward the Browns` bench.
   29. Steve Sparks Flying Everywhere Posted: August 20, 2014 at 01:33 PM (#4775504)
And in a story that probably depresses me alone, it looks as if the big league aspirations of Eddie's nephew have stalled at Double A.


As a fellow Valpo grad, I was hoping Kyle would make it to the majors. He's been injured most of this year. Hopefully they give him a second chance at San Antonio.
   30. The District Attorney Posted: August 20, 2014 at 03:27 PM (#4775580)
Altuve with Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant.

(BTW, his Instagram bio consists of "Me gusta dormir.")
   31. madvillain Posted: August 20, 2014 at 03:48 PM (#4775598)
I was a pretty big fish in a small pond in N. Michigan baseball, played in some regional all-star games, got recruited by some schools like Fordham and Kellogg Community College (JUCO Michigan school) and I was a stocky CF at 5-8 190. Ended up going academics first and playing DIII at a liberal arts school. I was constantly reminded by my coach (a former MilB farm hand) that at 5-8 I was going to have to work twice as hard to get noticed and that I should sure as hell make sure I was the first guy out to the field and the first guy back into the dugout and to run out every single ground ball 100%.

Things everyone should do to get noticed but things that short players MUST DO.

I don't know how much of that perception is still around scouting but at the time, back around the early aughts, it was widespread.
   32. Walt Davis Posted: August 20, 2014 at 06:53 PM (#4775766)
On walking Gaedel ...

Al Leiter walked in 5.7% of his ABs. Lolich walked 10.3% of his PAs. Both of those guys were over 6 foot so probably had strike zones about double Gaedel's. Not that a 200 OBP would get it done.
   33. PreservedFish Posted: August 20, 2014 at 07:10 PM (#4775785)
Thanks BobM. Pretty cool. Looks like I was wrong.
   34. Walt Davis Posted: August 20, 2014 at 07:21 PM (#4775798)
Question is ... in theory, assuming he could walk (nearly) every time up, just how bad of a baserunner does he have to be that he's not a good full-time DH option? Clearly you're going station-to-station at best. He might be so slow that he'd turn some doubles behind him into singles and he'd turn some singles into forceouts.

But a walk vs. an out is about .6 to .7 runs on avverage. In 600 PA, he must be producing something like 15-20 wins above average on offense. Bonds 2004 with a 600 OBP and 800 SLG was 10 wins above average.

Could even Gaedel really give back even 100 runs on the bases? That would still make him something like a 5-10 WAR player.

In fact, pushed to the extreme, he's essentially guaranteed to be above average. The average value of a NIBB (by linear weights) is .33 while the average value of an out is -.299. That's relative to average. So even if he creates an out on the bases every time he reaches base, the 1000 OBP puts him +,033 RAA per PA which over 650 PA is 2 WAA.

Now of course that can't possibly be right (which is just an example of models not fitting at the extremes). The only advantage from him walking then creating an out on the bases is whatever base advancement might have resulted from his original walk -- i.e. the equivalent of a productive out. And if you make an out every time you're more than worthless, even if (say) 2/3 of them are productive outs. But then he wouldn't be creating an out on the bases every time (he walks with two outs, next guy flies out ... and of course all the times the next guy HRs).

Bat Gaedel (or the magical 1000 OBP Gaedel) leadoff and McGwire 2nd.

Back to the walk rate question ... In some ways, the best example might be Rickey Henderson. Yes, Rickey was dangerous with the bat -- but nobody every walked Rickey on even semi-purpose. (OK, not technically true, he had 61 IBB) Anyway, he walked 16% in his career. He walked at that rate at ages 21-23 when his ISOs were under 120 and he was stealing 100 bases a year. He walked at about 15% when he led off an inning and 15-16% when the bases were empty.

Rickey's strike zone would have been closer to Gaedel's but I think he gives more reason to think Gaedel's BB rate would have been 20%ish, maybe a bit higher. Still nowhere near good enough of course.
   35. silhouetted by the sea Posted: August 21, 2014 at 02:11 PM (#4776442)
If Gaedel's strike zone was 8 or 9 inches, that's basically from the lower end to an inch or 3 below the top of the thigh. That would be fairly easy for a major league pitcher to hit if they are not laughing.

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