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Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Speier: Reliefonomics: Red Sox reliever Burke Badenhop offers a different outlook

Badenhop acknowledges bad hops.

Of all the soundtracks that have greeted a reliever on the commute from the bullpen to the mound, it’s safe to suggest that the Freakonomics podcast has never been employed. Though an unabashed fan of the series, new Red Sox reliever Burke Badenhop is unlikely to buck that trend. Yet in his own way, the right-hander—who graduated magna cum laude with a degree in economics from Bowling Green University—might make an intriguing subject for the series…

Badenhop’s consistency is nothing short of startling.

So how did it happen? The answer is as interesting as the phenomenon itself.

“It’s not something you shoot for. You try to progress. I obviously knew walks were one thing I can control, so I knew my walks, and from there the rest kind of fell in place,” suggested Badenhop, a sinkerballer who has consistently produced some of the highest ground ball rates in the game. “Me throwing the ball over the plate, that’s my job.

... “You can control if you throw a strike, you can control if you have movement and if you’re down in the zone, keeping the ball on the ground. Then once it’s hit, it’s not up to me. It’s my job to put it in the zone,” he continued. ” ...

Because Badenhop is a ground ball pitcher who relies considerably on his defense, he’s very mindful of the significance of the defense behind him and its positioning.

The notion was reinforced in 2011, Badenhop’s final year with the Marlins…  “I go back and look through the Rolodex of all my outs for the year, nowadays we have access to some good stuff and I can pull up how many outs the third baseman makes, whether a five-unassisted or 5-3 or 5-4, and I think it was five plays. Our third baseman was positioned where he fielded five ground balls after the fifth month of the year? What’s the point of him being out there? I’d rather him cover some of those dinky balls in the six-hole. He might as well be hitting off the tee getting ready for his next at-bat if he’s fielding one ball a month.

“I know when I brought that up to our infield coach in Miami,” Badenhop conceded, “he wasn’t as receptive as other places I’ve been.”  ...

Badenhop… takes considerable pleasure in… embracing a period when the sport where he earns his living is undergoing challenges to its conventional wisdom.

“You can play old school—which is playing hard and playing the right way—but if you don’t embrace new things, embrace change, those people are left behind,” said Badenhop. “I think the game is really starting to catch up. To be in an organization—Milwaukee last year, Tampa the year before, these guys this year—where they do pay attention to that stuff, it’s pretty awesome.”

The District Attorney Posted: March 04, 2014 at 10:21 PM | 11 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: brewers, burke badenhop, marlins, rays, red sox, sabermetrics

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   1. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: March 04, 2014 at 10:57 PM (#4666548)
It is crazy how similar his last two seasons have been:

2012: 62.1 IP, 63 hits, 21 ER, 6 HRs, 12 BBs, 42 Ks
2013: 62.1 IP, 62 hits, 24 ER, 6 HRs, 12 BBs 42 Ks

Here's more from the article:

“One thing I’ve learned in Tampa that they’ve reiterated here is that you want to catch line drives. We don’t want guys to be kind of where they hit it,” he explained. “We want to be exactly where they hit it the hardest, because then if they deviate from there, it’s a little weaker contact. Weaker contact does what? It gives the infielder more time to get to those balls.

“It’s all probability. It’s all probability. If this guy hits the ball on the screws, what’s the probability that you’ll get it? You’ve got to be right there pretty much, or within arm’s length. If this guy chops the ball then the probability of you getting the ball there is great. If 90 percent of my balls are hit from the cut-outs in, I’ll give you that 10 percent, because hopefully the next ball is going to be in that 90 percent and right at somebody. That’s the beauty of baseball and the statistical revolution, things going on now, but it’s just really smart. It’s not just doing things because it’s how they’ve always been done. … Just increasing your probability of being where the ball is going to be hit is a pretty simple concept and I think nowadays teams are doing it pretty well.”
   2. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: March 04, 2014 at 11:08 PM (#4666549)
the Freakonomics podcast


Just as a reminder, here's what the Freakonomics people thought about sabermetrics during the early days:

http://freakonomics.com/2005/04/02/finally-convincing-evidence-of-billy-beanes-genius/
http://freakonomics.com/2005/04/23/will-the-real-billy-beane-please-stand-up/
http://freakonomics.com/2005/05/11/are-billy-beane-believers-still-expecting-97-wins-this-year/
http://freakonomics.com/2005/07/18/the-oakland-as-are-three-games-above-500/

Bonus shot at BTF in the first link!
   3. The Clarence Thomas of BBTF (scott) Posted: March 04, 2014 at 11:52 PM (#4666557)
That was back when I thought Leavitt was only one of the more lazy authors I've ever read, rather than the laziest sonofabitch who ever somehow got hired by a major university. The man is a joke.

Badenhop, on the other hand, seems to be using statistics exactly the right way as a player, not trying to change his game too much and understanding that good process doesn't always mean good results.
   4. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: March 05, 2014 at 12:05 AM (#4666562)
Eh, I mentioned this article in the Nationals thread about their apparent disdain for fWAR and OPS+.

#3 nails it. Badenhop has simply utilised the data available to maximise his ability to get guys out. He's not rebuilding Rome or anything. He's knows what he is and he's now got information at hand that allows him to do the job he's paid to do.
Would be like most of us trying to work without a computer. Sure you can still do things, but not nearly as well.
   5. devo Posted: March 05, 2014 at 01:11 AM (#4666570)
Of all the soundtracks that have greeted a reliever on the commute from the bullpen to the mound, it’s safe to suggest that the Freakonomics podcast has never been employed. Though an unabashed fan of the series, new Red Sox reliever Burke Badenhop is unlikely to buck that trend.


Bringing up a point and then immediately discarding it. It's Writing 101, people.
   6. KingKaufman Posted: March 05, 2014 at 02:10 AM (#4666577)
About the last thing you'd ever expect to see at Fenway Park is a llama. Sure enough, there was not a llama in sight Saturday as the Red Sox beat the Twins, 6-2.
   7. Walt Davis Posted: March 05, 2014 at 03:06 AM (#4666585)
http://freakonomics.com/2005/04/02/finally-convincing-evidence-of-billy-beanes-genius/
http://freakonomics.com/2005/04/23/will-the-real-billy-beane-please-stand-up/
http://freakonomics.com/2005/05/11/are-billy-beane-believers-still-expecting-97-wins-this-year/
http://freakonomics.com/2005/07/18/the-oakland-as-are-three-games-above-500/


See, there ya go, the 05 A's did not win 97 games. So, y'know, good snark!
   8. The Robby Hammock District (Dan Lee) Posted: March 05, 2014 at 09:17 AM (#4666608)
graduated magna cum laude with a degree in economics from Bowling Green University
Woo! Forward Falcons!

My love of my alma mater aside, Badenhop really seems to understand what he's doing out there. He's not the most physically gifted guy in the world - there are literally thousands of people who can throw a baseball as hard as he can - but good things tend to happen when you can consistently throw strikes down in the zone. You don't need to throw 98 when you don't walk anybody or give up any home runs.

Plus his middle name is Heinrich. And that's supercool.
   9. Steve N Posted: March 05, 2014 at 02:36 PM (#4666782)
It seems that Badenhop's nickname should be Boris. You don't get many chances for a moose and squirrel reference so you should take them when they come.
   10. Zach Posted: March 05, 2014 at 08:00 PM (#4666969)
I had a weird thought once, but I've never bothered to figure out whether it's right or not.

The Simpsons has probably been on the air so long by now that Itchy and Scratchy have more cumulative air time than Rocky and Bullwinkle.
   11. Joe Bivens, Minor Genius Posted: March 05, 2014 at 08:05 PM (#4666972)
moose and squirrel


What does Ted Nugent like for supper?

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