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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Poz: Stolen Bases And Rex Hudler

Ryan made the point that there are studies that seem to show that the stolen base is not as effective or important as people used to assume. Ryan will tell you he’s not especially a fan of some of these advanced statistics, but he’s also an open-minded guy and we have had some fun discussions and disagreements through the years. Anyway, I think he was simply making the fair point that while statistics may show that attempting steals is not necessarily a prudent play—and he concedes that this absolutely might be true—he wonders if maybe the statistics do not pick up on some of the psychological force of the stolen base and its threat, such as how it can distract a pitcher and stress out a defense.

This could make for a very interesting discussion. Unfortunately, Rex Hudler took it in kind of a different direction.

First, Rex asked if these studies about the stolen base not being as effective or important were “Sabermetrics.” I don’t know, I found that kind of funny. He said it as if “Sabermetrics” is actually a person. Ryan just said that there were such studies out there that questioned the value of the stolen base. At the time, I should add, the Royals had runners on first and third.

Then Rex Hudler basically said this: If the guy on first (Alcides Escobar) stole second base, he would be able to score on a single. If he stayed at first base, he would not be able to score on a single. But if he made it to second base, he would be able to score on a single. Which he would not be able to do if he stayed on first base. So it would be better if he was on second base. That way he would be able to score on a single. He couldn’t do that on first base. But he could on second base.

“What’s wrong with that?” he asked.

Thus endeth the dissection of stolen bases. ...
And the “stolen bases put runners in scoring position” is an argument against nothing. It is like saying the sacrifice bunt is good because it moves the runner to second and then the next guy singles him home. It is like saying the intentional walk is good because the next guy hits it into a double play. It’s like saying asking a woman out in a bar is good because you have a great date afterward and then get married and stay married for 50 years. The best case scenario isn’t an argument. It’s just the best case scenario.

So that’s my plea to Rex and some other baseball folks out there. Just learn a little something about Sabermetrics. Maybe it’s stupid, yucky math stuff figured by the pajama-wearing nerds and it sucks the heart and soul out to the game. Or maybe, just maybe, there’s something in there to talk about.

JE (Jason) Posted: May 14, 2013 at 07:39 PM | 42 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: royals, sabermetrics, stolen bases

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   1. Guapo Posted: May 14, 2013 at 10:32 PM (#4443268)
"Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig."
   2. Yastrzemski in left. Posted: May 14, 2013 at 10:37 PM (#4443272)
Ryan has a good point. There was certainly some serious "psychological force" to this stolen base. Before, and after.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNnqbf2Vpv0
   3. steagles Posted: May 14, 2013 at 11:03 PM (#4443290)
And the “stolen bases put runners in scoring position” is an argument against nothing. It is like saying the sacrifice bunt is good because it moves the runner to second and then the next guy singles him home. It is like saying the intentional walk is good because the next guy hits it into a double play. It’s like saying asking a woman out in a bar is good because you have a great date afterward and then get married and stay married for 50 years. The best case scenario isn’t an argument. It’s just the best case scenario.
slight difference there. by sacrificing, you get the base and an out. by stealing, you get the base or an out.

   4. Everybody Loves Tyrus Raymond Posted: May 14, 2013 at 11:13 PM (#4443301)
by sacrificing, you get the base and an out.


Or a force out of the lead runner. Or a double play. Or a strikeout.
   5. cardsfanboy Posted: May 14, 2013 at 11:42 PM (#4443314)
I have my criticism with the simple "run expectency says this means the break even point on a stolen base is...." argument. But Joe's point about Rex was correct. I wish people would try to bother to learn at least the background of what the stats or sabermetric community is saying about a particular stat. And for them to get over mis-steps in explaining the stat to the masses that have caused so many problems.

If you are an analyst, it should be in your job description to learn what you can about what is out there, even if you aren't going to use it. You never know when you are going to be forced to remark on it, and it isn't a bad idea for an expert to be at least conversant in the topics at hand.

The stolen base isn't hated by sabermetrics, it's the rate of stolen bases that the community has a problem with. The fact that the teams have reduced their stolen bases isn't because they have been converted to the cause.
   6. cardsfanboy Posted: May 14, 2013 at 11:48 PM (#4443317)
Or a force out of the lead runner. Or a double play. Or a strikeout.


Or advanced two bases and reached on error etc. That is one of my arguments against the perceived break even point argument on stolen bases, the stolen base has one of the higher percentage plays of creating an error in baseball, yet whenever people argue it, they generally argue 1. Neutral situation(no consideration of the game score, bullpen, quality of the players involved, whether or not it's an NL game and the pitcher on deck with one out and after the 6th inning of a low scoring game etc.) 2. they generally only give two outcomes, stolen base or no stolen base, while ignoring the error that puts the runner on third base. 3. ignore the advantage of having to hold the runner creating a gap on the first base side of the diamond.
   7. bigglou115 Posted: May 15, 2013 at 12:10 AM (#4443327)
Or advanced two bases and reached on error etc. That is one of my arguments against the perceived break even point argument on stolen bases, the stolen base has one of the higher percentage plays of creating an error in baseball, yet whenever people argue it, they generally argue 1. Neutral situation(no consideration of the game score, bullpen, quality of the players involved, whether or not it's an NL game and the pitcher on deck with one out and after the 6th inning of a low scoring game etc.) 2. they generally only give two outcomes, stolen base or no stolen base, while ignoring the error that puts the runner on third base. 3. ignore the advantage of having to hold the runner creating a gap on the first base side of the diamond.


But unless I"m mistaken, and I can't find the study right now so I may be, I was under the impression that swing and misses and weak contact go up with runners going, which would nullify a lot of that. The idea being that as distracted as a pitcher might be, the runner is actually in the field of vision of the hitter and thus much more distracting.
   8. cardsfanboy Posted: May 15, 2013 at 12:19 AM (#4443329)
But unless I"m mistaken, and I can't find the study right now so I may be, I was under the impression that swing and misses and weak contact go up with runners going, which would nullify a lot of that. The idea being that as distracted as a pitcher might be, the runner is actually in the field of vision of the hitter and thus much more distracting.


I don't know, batters numbers are better with a man on first base than they are with them empty. Not talking about just running, the mere threat of the steal helps out, if everyone knows you aren't going to steal, the first baseman doesn't have to hold the runner.
   9. valuearbitrageur Posted: May 15, 2013 at 02:24 AM (#4443348)
Rex is never gonna forgive Saber Metrix for using his foreign cachet to seduce Rex's girl, is he?

As for Nolan, 3 for 6 in 26 years doesn't make him no expert.
   10. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: May 15, 2013 at 05:58 AM (#4443355)
I have my criticism with the simple "run expectency says this means the break even point on a stolen base is...." argument. But Joe's point about Rex was correct. I wish people would try to bother to learn at least the background of what the stats or sabermetric community is saying about a particular stat. And for them to get over mis-steps in explaining the stat to the masses that have caused so many problems.

The missteps are irrelevant. It's like blaming bad algebra teachers for American innumeracy. The problem isn't sabermetrics have been explained badly, it's that 98.7% of the population can't understand sabermetrics. People who can't understand something get angry and resentful because it tells them they're not that smart.

If you are an analyst, it should be in your job description to learn what you can about what is out there, even if you aren't going to use it.

Hudler's not an analyst, whatever his job description might say. His job is solely to deliver listeners to advertisers.

You never know when you are going to be forced to remark on it, and it isn't a bad idea for an expert to be at least conversant in the topics at hand.

True, but Hudler's not an expert.
   11. The elusive Robert Denby Posted: May 15, 2013 at 06:11 AM (#4443357)
To be fair, Rex's idea of creative thinking is adding a "y" to the end of player's names, so sabermetrics is just going to confuse him.
   12. Bug Selig Posted: May 15, 2013 at 07:03 AM (#4443362)
I was under the impression that swing and misses and weak contact go up with runners going, which would nullify a lot of that. The idea being that as distracted as a pitcher might be, the runner is actually in the field of vision of the hitter and thus much more distracting.


That's likely a result of the hit-and-run. Guys swinging at pitches they were ordered to swing at won't be as good as guys who get to choose their pitch. And weak contact with a runner going isn't necessarily a bad thing.
   13. Greg K Posted: May 15, 2013 at 07:49 AM (#4443369)
The missteps are irrelevant. It's like blaming bad algebra teachers for American innumeracy. The problem isn't sabermetrics have been explained badly, it's that 98.7% of the population can't understand sabermetrics. People who can't understand something get angry and resentful because it tells them they're not that smart.

I think to a certain point cardsfanboy makes sense here I think. I mean, even though Hudler completely ignores the possibility of a stolen base attempt turning into an out in his response, surely he knows it is a possibility. Every baseball man that harps on and on about the magical power of the stolen base and aggressive running understands that there is a balance to be struck. Otherwise guys would be running evertime someone throws the ball, like in Little League. Every runner who's ever stolen a base has done some kind of odds-calculation in his head before doing so - whether he would describe the process as that or not. Whether he's properly weighing all the costs and benefits, and his chance of success is another matter. I'm relatively sure 99% of the baseball watching community is able to grasp that every steal attempt, or extra base taken, is the product of a decision by a runner which takes into account many variables. Starting from that assumption, I think it should be possible for just about any baseball fan to discuss the cost/benefit analysis being performed by the runner. For some reason people are weird, and let their hang-ups get in the way of that discussion. Perhaps I just give humanity too much credit, but I can't possibly believe what's preventing that discussion from happening is a comprehension issue.
   14. Greg K Posted: May 15, 2013 at 07:50 AM (#4443370)
That's likely a result of the hit-and-run. Guys swinging at pitches they were ordered to swing at won't be as good as guys who get to choose their pitch. And weak contact with a runner going isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Also, if you're swinging at a pitch with a runner going, if it's not a hit-and-run it is likely a two-strike pitch, which on average results in weaker contact I would think.

[ie. Absent the hit-and-run, I don't think you get too many 3-0, 3-1, or 2-0 counts where the runner goes and you're swinging)
   15. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: May 15, 2013 at 08:11 AM (#4443378)
The missteps are irrelevant. It's like blaming bad algebra teachers for American innumeracy. The problem isn't sabermetrics have been explained badly, it's that 98.7% of the population can't understand sabermetrics. People who can't understand something get angry and resentful because it tells them they're not that smart.

I think to a certain point cardsfanboy makes sense here I think. I mean, even though Hudler completely ignores the possibility of a stolen base attempt turning into an out in his response, surely he knows it is a possibility.

But, just as likely, he's unable to incorporate that into his evaluation. TFA gives substantive evidence of that, and that would be the norm for an adult. Understanding the cost of an out here would make Hudler mathematically exceptional for his cohort and there's no evidence he's mathematically exceptional. You're making a mistake typical of smart people who just can't quite conceive of how mathematically ignorant the vast majority of people are.

Whether he's properly weighing all the costs and benefits, and his change of success is another matter.

Right, and that's precisely the rub. Glossing over it misses the entire point (no offense). For a century baseball men were unable to 'properly weigh all the costs and benefits' despite the math and the weighing being alarmingly simple. It doesn't have much to do with tradition, either. It's largely an inability to understand simple math (and all the sabr stuff you need to get 90% of its benefits involves very simple math).

...but I can't possibly believe what's preventing that discussion from happening is a comprehension issue.

You're kidding, right? What was the level of comprehension the public displayed wrt numbers and economics during the last election cycle?
   16. Sean Forman Posted: May 15, 2013 at 08:17 AM (#4443380)
Perhaps I just give humanity too much credit, but I can't possibly believe what's preventing that discussion from happening is a comprehension issue.


I can invite you to sit in on an intro college math class sometime.
   17. TomH Posted: May 15, 2013 at 08:42 AM (#4443392)
"scoring position"; a concept that was very useful in 1908.

I would love to see raw data: I just want to see three numbers. Use 2011-2012 or larger recent data set if desired.

runner on third; how often does he score during the next plate appearance? runner scores / divided by all PA. Would include balks, PB, SF, etc.
runner on second, runner on first; same metric.

My gut feel guesses:
1st base - 06%
2nd base - 20%
3rd base - 30%

   18. Walt Davis Posted: May 15, 2013 at 09:09 AM (#4443409)
Although we (and surely Hudler) know what was meant, the fact is that the premise was phrased incorrectly. Poz's paraphrase: "the stolen base is not as effective or important as people used to assume." But the stolen base is fine and dandy. It's the stolen base attempt that is not necessarily worth a lot. (Note, "not as effective as people used to assume" is a tough one to judge.)
   19. Ron J2 Posted: May 15, 2013 at 09:56 AM (#4443473)
#8 The best work on the matter is a bit dated (in that teams are more selective about running these days. Still, there's nothing that tops Doug Drinen's study on rsb. Subject: More on hitting and the running game (long)

Linky

Bottom line, batters hit dramatically worse in plate appearances where a SB was attempted (study covers 1980-87. Tom Tango reports that the results are less dramtic these days though I haven't seen a full study)

There is one type of hitter that seems to do consistently well in these PAs. High walk rates for whom Home runs are a huge part of their game. Guys with low walk rates appear to do very poorly as a group.
   20. philly Posted: May 15, 2013 at 10:07 AM (#4443482)
To be fair, Rex's idea of creative thinking is adding a "y" to the end of player's names, so sabermetrics is just going to confuse him.


Maybe you get the Hudlers of the world on board by calling the study of baseball - Sabermetricsy?

Sure it started as a joke, but now it DOES seem a lot more warm and cuddly... I could have a beer with this Sabermetricsy fella!
   21. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: May 15, 2013 at 10:33 AM (#4443499)
More likely it would take the already-existing nickname "Sabes".
   22. Greg K Posted: May 15, 2013 at 11:58 AM (#4443606)
But, just as likely, he's unable to incorporate that into his evaluation. TFA gives substantive evidence of that, and that would be the norm for an adult. Understanding the cost of an out here would make Hudler mathematically exceptional for his cohort and there's no evidence he's mathematically exceptional. You're making a mistake typical of smart people who just can't quite conceive of how mathematically ignorant the vast majority of people are.

Fair enough, I will concede that I often lean on my naiveté a bit too much. To be fair, I'm pretty awful at math myself, to the point where I don't really think of it as a mathematical decision. I just mean that there is the groundwork for a conversation to be had. The fact that Hudler didn't steal second base immediately every single time he was on first demonstrates that he's at least aware of the potential drawbacks (if he vastly under-estimates them).

I guess it's just the way I am - I always assume, no matter how vehement the disagreement, that there is always some common ground you can start from. It's partly why I hang around political threads so much. I (stupidly) read all disagreements as simply a misunderstanding somewhere along the way, and think if you can trace the two strands back to the common ground, you can at least see where the other person is coming from.

As may or may not be evident, I don't have much experience with arguments.
   23. cardsfanboy Posted: May 15, 2013 at 12:32 PM (#4443649)
The problem isn't sabermetrics have been explained badly, it's that 98.7% of the population can't understand sabermetrics.


Bullshit. That elitist crap is utter bs. Vast majority of sabermetrics is simple high school math, and most of the population can understand it. Putting it on an intellectual pedestal like that is just as ridiculous as idiot players who put themselves on a pedestal saying "you didn't play the game at my level, so you just can't understand." And the stuff that requires advanced math, still comes from reasonably simple starting points, that if you trust the starting points, you can trust the "equation."

Sabermetrics got into a lot of trouble because people had this attitude that "I know this, and I'm right, and if you can't grasp it when I explain it to you, it's not my fault you are stupid." Sure there is the hard headed Joe Morgan types out there, but a significant amount of that was a reflex to the Prospectus or MGL's of the world and their snark and confidence etc.


But, just as likely, he's unable to incorporate that into his evaluation. TFA gives substantive evidence of that, and that would be the norm for an adult. Understanding the cost of an out here would make Hudler mathematically exceptional for his cohort and there's no evidence he's mathematically exceptional. You're making a mistake typical of smart people who just can't quite conceive of how mathematically ignorant the vast majority of people are.


Again smugness that caused a sabermetric backlash. There is nothing complicated with understanding the cost of an out. This attitude of superiority over a person just because they didn't couch their thinking in the way you want them too is ridiculous. It's not a difficult concept to understand "break even point for a stolen base is around 70%". Whether you accept that premise is a different argument. And yes I know that Hudler completely ignored the possibility of getting caught in his response, but I think his response was a backlash against sabermetrics, and not an indication of his mathematical ignorance.
   24. cardsfanboy Posted: May 15, 2013 at 12:55 PM (#4443679)
In defense of Rex, Joe's article says

Ryan made the point that there are studies that seem to show that the stolen base is not as effective or important as people used to assume.


And Rex responded
Then Rex Hudler basically said this: If the guy on first (Alcides Escobar) stole second base, he would be able to score on a single. If he stayed at first base, he would not be able to score on a single....


If this is the correct exchange, the mistake made was by Ryan who said that the stolen base isn't as important as people assume. That is incorrect. It's the stolen base attempt that isn't as important as people assume. Heck looking at the run scoring matrix for a 4.25 run envirionment and depending on the out situation you can expect a bump of anywhere between .092 to .238 run improvement by the successful steal. Nobody in the sabermetric community has a problem with the stolen base. The problem lies with the steal attempt.
   25. Mike Emeigh Posted: May 15, 2013 at 01:23 PM (#4443712)
I don't think you get too many 3-0, 3-1, or 2-0 counts where the runner goes and you're swinging


3-1 and 2-0, at least, are actually very good running counts for a lot of managers - figuring that the pitcher is likely to take something off the pitch to throw a strike.

-- MWE
   26. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: May 15, 2013 at 01:25 PM (#4443719)
########. That elitist crap is utter bs. Vast majority of sabermetrics is simple high school math, and most of the population can understand it blahblahblah


Would you prefer I respond in kind and call you a simpleminded imbecile with no understanding of how people think nor their limitations, or would "fuck you" suffice, you rude little bitch?

Before you post again do a reality check on the buffoonish condescension of your claim that people are actually a lot smarter than their actions indicate, and it's really the fault of those rude, sabermetric meanies whose high falutin' explanations are keeping just folks from understanding simple math.
   27. Ron J2 Posted: May 15, 2013 at 01:27 PM (#4443723)
That elitist crap is utter bs. Vast majority of sabermetrics is simple high school math, and most of the population can understand it


Well it's underpinned by things like regressions or Markov chains, but even if you don't understand the math involved it's not tough to grok the underpinnings (IE you can explain markov chains through examples or you can point them at the dataset used -- say the Lahman database for regressions)

I've been talking to non-statheads for a fair length of time -- going back to usenet. And if the critic is genuinely interested in engaging (when I first encountered him Chris Dial was a self decribed anti-stathead, but he's a scientist by training), well you won't always convince them but at minimum you'll sharpen your chops if thy're arguing in good faith.

But an awful lot of critics simply aren't interested in engaging.

I would add that a fair number of people on the stathead side do not make a good faith attempt to engage. Or don't have any true understanding. Or get things subtly wrong.

The most common example is "don't bunt". Well it's properly closer to -- never bunt with a position player who isn't a good bunter. And a base for an out is generally a bad trade with a position player. But you need to dig deeper for any given player/pitcher/defense/game situation. And it turns out that base for an out as a consolation prize (with some chance of reaching and little chance of things going very wrong) makes it really tricky to get things any finer than to say that the potential costs are in the noise in certain circumstances.
   28. cardsfanboy Posted: May 15, 2013 at 01:51 PM (#4443775)
Would you prefer I respond in kind and call you a simpleminded imbecile with no understanding of how people think nor their limitations, or would \"#### you" suffice, you rude little #####?

Before you post again do a reality check on the buffoonish condescension of your claim that people are actually a lot smarter than their actions indicate, and it's really the fault of those rude, sabermetric meanies whose high falutin' explanations are keeping just folks from understanding simple math.


I'm the rude one for calling myself smarter than 97% of the population, because I can grasp simple math? Seriously you need to get off your high horse.

Most people can do math. It doesn't take being smarter than 98% of the population. You are what is wrong with sabermetrics, the belief that I'm smarter than someone because they don't care about math, is ridiculous. This concept that people are idiots because they don't understand is what Pos is trying to get at here. Rex isn't an idiot because he doesn't understand or is incapable of understanding. It's his unwillingness to try to understand that is at fault here. And part of that is guys like MGL and Prospectus that insult people who don't understand their concept.

There is nothing wrong with ignorance. The problem is condescension from the side with the education or stubbornness from the side with out the knowledge. When people with the knowledge act like their knowledge is some sacred fount of intelligence that others can't grasp, then that is the crap we need to stamp out.


Before you post again do a reality check on the buffoonish condescension of your claim that people are actually a lot smarter than their actions indicate, and it's really the fault of those rude, sabermetric meanies whose high falutin' explanations are keeping just folks from understanding simple math.


I never knew you were Ray like in your ridiculous close minded point of view of the world. It's not sabermetric meanies, it's sabermetrics poor social skills that is at fault here.
   29. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: May 15, 2013 at 02:06 PM (#4443803)
Nobody in the sabermetric community has a problem with the stolen base. The problem lies with the steal attempt.

Just having players that can steal bases has it's benefits. Obviously they are fast and tend to be better base runners. Also the distraction to the pitcher (pickoff, slide step, it's a pain in the ass), the catcher leaning a little more towards fastballs so he has something easy to catch-and-throw (Pudge-itis), etc. I think the community in general is too hard on stolen bases.
   30. Ron J2 Posted: May 15, 2013 at 02:17 PM (#4443812)
#29 The problem with this is that there's pretty clear evidence that an active baserunner on first distracts the hitter more than it does the defense. In the 80s it wasn't subtle.

One of the knock on influences of sabrmetrics that we may be seeing is that there's a clear type of tradeoff a hitter has to make with a an active baserunner on first. Basically you have to be willing to become Max Bishop. And it's worth noting that WHitey Herzog's Cardinals did in fact make that adjustment back then (with the specific exception of Terry Pendleton -- who was flat awful in PAs where a SB was attempted).

These days it's much less common to bat a "bat control" guy second and these guys as a group got just got killed in PAs when a stolen base was attempted.
   31. GuyM Posted: May 15, 2013 at 02:30 PM (#4443832)
Ron/19: you really must stop posting that link to Drinen's study. The impact of SBAs on the hitter's performance, if there is any at all, is much, much smaller than Drinen reports. The problem is that he simply compared outcomes on PAs with and without a SBA. That sounds fine, except for one big problem: a SBA will not be recorded on a pitch that is put in play (even if the runner was going), or that results in ball 4, but is recorded on strike 3 (unless there are two outs). So if the runner goes with 2 strikes, this is what happens:
K: SBA
BB or BIP: no SBA.
This creates an enormous bias that will make it appear that hitters do poorly when there is a SBA, even if there is no effect at all.
   32. GuyM Posted: May 15, 2013 at 02:36 PM (#4443842)
*Most studies I’ve seen suggest the break even point is about 70%. Rex Hudler was successful 71% of the time.

You don't have to believe in "intimidation" to believe that traditional saber studies understate the value of SBAs. The problem is that most (all?) of these studies have ignored plays on which the runner goes and the batter puts the ball in play. The net offensive value of these plays is positive: extra bases gained and GDPs avoided far outweigh the occasional runner doubled up on line drive outs to infielders. But if the batter swings and misses on this same play, the SB or CS gets counted (and since the runners on these busted hit-and-runs tend to be slower than the guys who attempt "pure steals," the success rate isn't great). So a non-trivial amount of positive value from sending the runner has not been captured in these studies.
   33. GuyM Posted: May 15, 2013 at 03:26 PM (#4443955)
Ron: Please don't run off without dealing with the massive problems in the Drinen study. You've cited this at least half a dozen times in different threads. But it's completely bogus. About 10% of the SBAs in Drinen's study come on pitches that ended the PA, and 100% of those are strikeouts! So of course the hitters do worse.

We hashed this all out six years ago. I'm not sure why you keep repeating this.
   34. Long Time Listener, First Time Caller Posted: May 15, 2013 at 06:11 PM (#4444165)
Is that 70% break even point up to date? Break even on SB% is dependent on run environment, if I'm not mistaken. I have to assume the run environment is lower now than it was circa 2002-2005 when the 70% thing was really brought to the public eye.
   35. Greg K Posted: May 15, 2013 at 06:56 PM (#4444191)
3-1 and 2-0, at least, are actually very good running counts for a lot of managers - figuring that the pitcher is likely to take something off the pitch to throw a strike.

-- MWE

Oh I agree. I just don't think the batter is swinging very often in those situations (if he's not asked to as part of a hit and run).

My point was made in relation to the discussion of whether batters hit better with a man in motion or not. I think usually a batter swinging while a runner is in motion when:
A) the hit and run is on, and he is obliged to swing at the pitcher wherever it is, the result sometimes being weak contact on a poor pitch to hit
B) a runner is stealing and the batter has two strikes so he has to swing (and 2 strikes is often a situation where you get poor contact regardless of a runner or not)

Runners do steal when the batter is ahead in the count, but it's my understanding that the hitter usually isn't swinging at that pitch (ie. he knows the steal is on and is letting the guy go for it).
   36. cardsfanboy Posted: May 15, 2013 at 07:15 PM (#4444206)
Is that 70% break even point up to date? Break even on SB% is dependent on run environment, if I'm not mistaken. I have to assume the run environment is lower now than it was circa 2002-2005 when the 70% thing was really brought to the public eye.


It does change by run scoring environment, but I don't think that it's that big of a swing that most people are comfortable with the 70%... The problem of course is that the 70% is based upon average teams vs average pitching, and includes the upcoming batters are league average. The simple fact is that teams, no matter how anti-saber they are, don't generally steal when you have an Albert Pujols in his prime up to bat, and will generally steal more often with the bottom of the order coming up. They are instinctively making adjustments for their actual scoring environment without bothering to know the numbers. Steals is one of the offensive results that is solely a choice attempt by the offense. But it's graded by the saber crowd based upon it being a random event just like a homerun.
   37. Sunday silence Posted: May 15, 2013 at 07:43 PM (#4444220)
anecdotally I used to spend a bit of time in batting cages. For me it was damn near impossible to hit the last pitch. You got 25 balls, and on the last ball the red light in front of the ball shooter would go out. Just before it released or at the same time.

Every time, that last ball was coming the light would go out and I'd swing right through the pitch. And I could hit just about every pitch before that.

Finally one day I made a pt. to hit that final ball and I finally did, but it was so hard. Of course the pt. about the bias in the study is probably even more relevant. Still it's very hard to hit a ball when the background is moving on you....
   38. GGC don't think it can get longer than a novella Posted: May 15, 2013 at 07:44 PM (#4444222)
98.7%? If that's the case, wouldn't we still be living in caves? 80% wouldn't surprise me, but 98.7% is too high and smacks of false precision.
   39. Srul Itza Posted: May 15, 2013 at 08:07 PM (#4444232)
3-1 and 2-0, at least, are actually very good running counts for a lot of managers - figuring that the pitcher is likely to take something off the pitch to throw a strike.


And barred in (3-1)or unlikely (in the 2-0) to throw a pitch out.
   40. GuyM Posted: May 16, 2013 at 10:08 AM (#4444607)
The run environment has some impact on the value of SB and CS. A good place to see that is Tom Ruane's classic "Value Added" article at Retrosheet. In the NL, from 1964 to 1968 the break even rate averaged 65%, while from 1996-2000 the break even rate was 72%. Those are pretty extreme run environments. So the environment matters, but it isn't a huge factor.

More important is to recognize that using any of these estimates to evaluate the value of a player's stolen base attempts will end up undervaluing them, because a SB or CS is recorded when the batter swings and misses but not when the batter puts the ball in play. So we miss a fair amount of positive value when the runner is going and the ball is put in play.

And we're still paging Ron J. Please come back and address the fatally flawed Drinen study, or stop foisting it on unsuspecting Primates.
   41. Ron J2 Posted: May 16, 2013 at 10:57 AM (#4444629)
I'm not sure why you keep repeating this


Presumably because I didn't see the last bits of the thread you mentioned. I suspect I didn't bookmark the thread and missed the important last pieces.

But here's the thing. If batter K rates in fact increase when stolen bases are attempted (as you speculated in the previous thread), that matters.

That said, I think a closer look at Doug's report suggests that the overall results are driven by a few guys who had a lot of problems hitting with a runner in motion. You can't explain away the results of Griffey and Mattingly in 1985 ( a combined 3-48 with no extra base hits but 18 walks) by K rate alone (yeah Voros' Law, but 3-48 has to be in the range of statistically significant)

It'd be interesting to look more carefully at the distribution of results. It might be as simple as no general strong effect but some people really unsuited to bat #2 (or to be more specific, behind an active base stealer), but since Doug didn't report K rates and there are legitimate issues about how to deal with it the study simply needs to be redone.

I'll add it to my ever growing list of things to check, but my past history suggests that if you're really interested you probably want to do the study yourself.

Tom did report that when he looked at this using more recent data the results were much weaker than what Doug reported. But I've only read Tom's summary -- never seen anything like a full study published.

In the meantime, I'll still continue to bring it up in response to claims that active baserunners have positive influences on batting outcomes. I will try to remember to include a disclaimer that I'm making a weaker claim -- that the best evidence I have is that hitters don't do better.

And I'm sure I can count on you to chime in if (when?) I forget.
   42. GuyM Posted: May 16, 2013 at 12:42 PM (#4444756)
And I'm sure I can count on you to chime in if (when?) I forget.

Fair enough. It's a very tricky issue to study, because SBA only get recorded in select circumstances (e.g. yes if strike 3, but no if ball 4). I think the important lesson from Drinen's study is that, when your study finds an unbelievably large result, don't believe it. Doug found that hitters lose 70 points of BA when a runner tries to steal. Well, no one misses that kind of effect. If that were true, it would have been noticed 100 years ago, and almost no one would steal. You want to tell me that SBA suppress BA by .005, I'll listen to what you have to say. But if your research tells you it's 70 points, it's time to go back to the drawing board.

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