The Relatively Short Goodbye

I have done a less than stellar job of keeping up with things here at HDIB? as of late, most of it simply a matter of writing opportunities elsewhere. Now, opportunities put me in the place of shutting things down for good here and at my other writing outlets.
I am excited to announce that I have accepted a position with the Pittsburgh Pirates and will no longer be writing about baseball, here or at my other haunts. It’s a job that will have me doing work in a number of arenas – this recent article by Ben Lindbergh over at Grantland gives a great overview of some of the potential duties and mentions a few of the great folks that I will be working with and for – and is also one that I have many people to thank for putting me in a position to hopefully succeed.
I am indebted to the people at my recent writing outposts: Beyond the Box Score, Camden DepotDistrict Sports Page, and Gammons Daily. If you aren’t already, please give these folks a read; they’ve all been wonderful to me and I can’t thank them enough for giving me the outlet to write and grow. I also owe Baseball Prospectus a huge debt of gratitude; my time there was brief, but exceptionally enlightening. I must also say thanks to Pete Kerzel of MASN for the opportunity to write a weekly guest post this season and to some other outlets that gave me a chance to cut my teeth on this whole baseball writin’ thing many moons ago – MLB Injury News, Citizens of Natstown, and Baseball Press. They all took a chance on a guy who was really rough around the edges and I am very thankful for that.
Since most of my work was data-driven, I would be remiss to not give a shout out to the folks of Baseball-Reference, Brooks Baseball, FanGraphs, MLBAM, Retrosheet, Baseball Savant, and of course BP for their part in this; if it wasn’t for them, none of this happens…for any of us.
Of course, I owe a tremendously enormous amount of gratitude to my wife; without her patience, support, and willingness to let me chase down a crazy dream, I wouldn’t be in the position I am in today.
…and thank you for reading and commenting; none of this happens in a vacuum, so thanks for your readership and input, here and elsewhere across the interwebs. It’s been a wonderful run – thank you for making it so.

How Do I Boras? An Intimate Evening with Scott Boras

Earlier in the week, as some of the uncouth, unwashed masses went on and took in the Baltimore-Washington makeup game at Nats Park, I decided to get my learn on and headed on down to the Smithsonian Institute of Free, Old, and Occasionally Cool Things and Stuff* to take in one of their evening seminars: The Most Powerful Man in Baseball? An Evening with Superagent Scott Boras. Boras, as many of you probably know, is the agent to many baseball luminaries and Stephen Strasburg, and is often seen as Public Enemy Numero Uno when it comes to baseball’s purported decline, given his meddling in…I don’t know, exactly.

To be honest, I’ve always admired the guy, as he has done a lot of things that I have done (or wanted to do) in my life and has done so with aplomb after coming from a fairly disadvantaged background. A former minor leaguer with the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals, after his playing days were over, he went on to pursue graduate studies in not only pharmaceutical sciences, but also in law, securing degrees in those disciplines from the University of Pacific, whose name is as oxymoronic as it gets, but I digress.

OK, fine, you’ve egged me on. Stockton is a turd. There, I said it. GREAT thrift stores, but yeah…pass.

Enough rambling about who Boras is, biographically—if you don’t know all the details, wiki up. More importantly, what did I learn by sitting at the feet of Boras, along with D.C. baseball stalwarts Phil Wood and Adam Kilgore?

Because my brain is feeble and my recollection of what I did an hour ago, let alone four days ago, is fuzzy, my apologies in advance for the cryptic crib notes and for the potentially bouncing format. Also, let it be known that Boras is a lawyer and as such, can ramble on and on and on in response to a question and NEVER FUCKING ANSWER IT. He’s a bang up lawyer in this respect. Caveat emptor.

His relationship with George Steinbrenner was contentious, but steeped in both parties’ desire to win.

  • Given the average age of the crowd was roughly 203984390, there were a lot of questions asked about the good ol’ days, especially the Yankees. OK. Either way, he had a lot of respect for Steinbrenner and had his share of passionate calls and chats from King George through the years, especially about Bernie Williams, whom ol’ George didn’t take a shining to at the start. Winning can change a man.

He doesn’t like the draft as now constructed

  • He feels that it really hurts player and organization alike, with the notion that any artificial dampening of the market is a bad thing. Forgive my lack of basic economics chops, so I will probably explain this in a very ham-handed way, but essentially, the money and the value that is applied to a player these days is wrong and it all goes to the basic premise that the player determines the market value. Thinking about some of the more esoteric aspects of sabermetric valuation of a player monetarily and the assignment of dollars to wins above replacement, I can appreciate how crazy this whole concept is, trying to slot money to particular picks and draft rounds. If Joe Bloggs is worth eleventy billion dollars, let him get it; let a team willing to give it to him do as such. Of course, that means more money for Boras if he does represent Bloggs, but it makes sense that the framing of the draft is archaic. Consider Bloggs’ Cuban counterpart, Jose Bloggas, can come in and actually get said eleventy billion smackers, just adds to the frustration of Boras and how he can operate. And his main raison d’être?

He works very hard for his clients to get them their fair value and feels that in doing so, will make players and the game the best they/it can be

  • Here, Boras made a few references to clients—Greg Maddux, Jered Weaver, and Prince Fielder come to mind—and their mindsets going into free agency and signing contracts, but to paraphrase, Boras does his homework and then some to make sure the number he has in his head for his players is the correct one now, tomorrow, and five years from now. As such, he leans heavily on statistics and people who know the numbers and can make projections, which leads us to…

He has his own database(s) and even his own proprietary stats to measure and evaluate talent

  • Not a huge surprise, but hey, Scott, if you’re reading this…call me!

The next uncharted frontiers in baseball are injury analytics and what pharmaceutical agents can be used to improve player health and performance

  • I know it’s crazy that a guy with a pharmacy background would be interested in what we can use SAFELY AND LEGALLY to improve player health, with the secondary perk of improved performance. Again, he goes back to taking care of his client and their health, both physically and financially. A question was also posed about sports psychology and its role in his activities and he kinda lawyered the answer, talking about his playing days and telling a story about Stan Musial (or some other Cardinal old-timer) and never answering the question. Reading between the lines, yes, he probably uses it. And again, Scott, if you’re reading…*makes universal hand gesture for ‘call me’*

Angelos

  • No real hot takes on Peter Angelos and he did a great job of extinguishing the majority of the flaming torches (thoughtfully provided by the Smithsonian!**) at the ready at the mention of anything Baltimore, MASN, or Angelos related. But here’s a couple of thoughts: they are both Greek lawyers, so yeah, you can guess their relationship is one of respect at the least; also, Boras made a point to show Angelos in a light that showed his earlier ways of being heavy-handed with the team and the decision-making processes were history, so again, an even-keeled, lawyer answer and discussion, with some pearls of wisdom there if you *really* dig.

Redskins

  • Someone asked his thought on the Redskins name. This was the first goddamn question the audience asked (albeit, on an index card, so who knows if the order got shuffled to the moderator’s liking). One of the most polarizing and influential people in baseball in the last 50 years and you ask this question. I honestly lost all senses in a fit of rage and disillusion for a few seconds, so I didn’t hear his whole answer, but again—LAWYA’!—he answered with a measured response, putting the decision in the respective tribe(s) hands.

And the last take home message?

No matter who’s playing, Boras always wins.

  • His influence and reach in the game is such that he always wins out. A silly story to (sort of) prove this point; he mentioned getting to the Nats-Orioles game, as he had a few clients playing; I want to say the number of Boras clients on both teams sums up to about 12-14 players. Two of those players are each team’s respective closer. Nats win? Boras wins. O’s win? Boras, yet again, wins. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Where you there? Did I miss something? I know I did, since the seminar lasted two hours, but hopefully, this provides a taste of what Boras’ thoughts are on the game. Either way, the more we understand his rhyme and reason, the better attuned we will be to the idiosyncrasies of the game; in the end, we become better fans. Then, we all win.

~~~

*may or may not be official name

** may or may not be true

(Nationals) Park(s) and Recreation

If you’re like me, if you aren’t watching baseball, you’re watching Parks and Recreation episodes, making every effort to find ways to incorporate the wisdom of Ron Swanson into your everyday life.

Or at least gifs of Ron—here’s my personal fave:

swanson_poop

Every so often, these worlds collide in a cacophony that is comparable only to a Mouse Rat concert, or perhaps the Pawnee/Eagleton Unity Concert—you pick. Well, it happened just now, in the form of song.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you ‘5000 Sac Bunts in the Wind’, inspired by Twitter’s very own @nextyeardc, sung to the tune of ‘5000 Candles in the Wind’ by Mouse Rat (formerly Scarecrow Boat):

 

5000 Sac Bunts in the Wind

 

Down in southeast DC here’s the thing

You square to bunt and never swing

 

Come here with a hitting eye

Forget all that it’s time for the sacrifice

 

Bunt bunt Washington National

Outfield hits are way too casual

 

Bunt bunt Washington National

You’re 5000 sac bunts in the wind

 

It’s still a work in progress, but I think it has hit power. Expect it to quickly replace ‘Take On Me’ as the song sung during after the seventh inning stretch when it’s complete and become Bryce Harper’s new walk up song, replacing the other 73 he currently uses. It’s just a matter of time.

Although now that I think about it, Bryce is probably more of a Johnny Karate guy.

So, uh, last night: WTF? moments from the Nats-Padres game

Despite a discouraging loss at the hands of the Friars of San Diego (more specifically, former Washington National and the only two-time Tommy John surgery survivor position player Xavier Nady), last night’s game was full of entertainment. Let’s have a GIF’ed up recap of some of the highlights.

First, the kid pulling out her tooth on LIVE TELEVISION:

https://www.instagram.com/p/nMP41FDOx3

Christ on a bike. Moving on…

Second, the rare pitcher-to-field switch, this one featuring a finely mulleted Andrew Cashner. Let’s have a look at Cashner’s outfield patrolling prowess!

cash

Morse-esque with the range and grace out there. Inspiring.

My research on this phenomenon wasn’t exhaustive, but this sort of thing happens every so often, most recently in 2009, when Sean Marshall went all 1-to-7 on us.

But it doesn’t end there! More LF shenanigans ahoy, courtesy of Tommy Medica!

medica

Fucking majestic. Ibañez-ian.

To be fair, Medica is a first baseman making the switch to the outfield, but for now, let’s just revel in the derpy glory.

Fingers out and pointed everyone…

 ***

Tooth pulling courtesy of Tom Block.

Screen grabs courtesy of yours truly via the MASN broadcast.

 

 

 

How Do I Link Dump, v5.0?

Has it been a month already since I last posted? Oof. Que terrible.

Well, if you’re so inclined, check out some of the things I have written for Parts Elsewhere on the Series of Tubes, yes?

 

I have written a little more about injuries for Beyond the Box Score as of late. In particular, ulnar collateral ligament tears.

First, I revisited the Medlen/Strasburg debate, looking at whether leverage might have played a role in Kris Medlen’s re-injury, while Stephen Strasburg continues to truck on, almost four years post-Tommy John surgery.

I then take a page out of my old lab notebooks and consider whether tobacco use might play a role in UCL re-tears and poorer outcomes, surgically.

Hot off the presses, I also take a look at the role of the triceps muscle in the throwing motion, through the lens of Scott Kazmir’s recent triceps tightness.

 

For Gammons Daily, it’s been all about pitching.

For the Athletics fan in your life, I wrote about the move of Jesse Chavez from the bullpen to the starting rotation and what he might do differently pitch-wise in the new role.

Maintaining the California Love, I then had a look at Tyler Skaggs’ Uncle Charlie. Lookin’ good…

 

Nationals baseball more your thing? My condolences I have just the thing for you!

For District Sports Page, I’ve covered a numbers of things:

– defensive shifts and their effect on Nats hitters? Got it.

– discussion of some troubling velocity declines for some pitchers? Order’s up!

– Ross Detwiler and some discussion of why he fell short for the fifth starter role (for now)? Enjoy.

– Rafael Soriano? Yes, I have that as well, much to your chagrin.

– Drew Storen and his troubling walk rate during spring training…WITH PRETTY PICTURES? Ayup.

– STRASBURG OUTRAGE AFTER ONE GAME? Embrace it.

– Man crushin’ on Anthony Rendon’s swing? Alright, alright.

 

Adding to the DSP work, I have been invited to guest blog for MASN, which I am very excited to be a part of.

I started with a comparison of Stephen Strasburg and Tyler Clippard, went from there with a discussion of some quirky stats related to the aggressiveness of Nats hitters early in the season, and went with more velocity decline concerns, this time, with Taylor Jordan.

 

Lots of words. Lots to discuss. I hope you enjoy them. If you don’t, I welcome your comments (constructive ones, at least) on how to make the words better-er.

How Do I Link Dump, v4.0?

I’ve been a busy little woodland creature who displays an affinity for aquatic environs as of late.

Along with my usual Beyond the Box Score writing duties, which recently included a piece on the 2014 prospects of Cody Ross after his relatively gruesome hip injury, I have joined a couple of other teams as a contributor in the last couple of weeks.

As of last week, I am a part of the District Sports Page team and will be providing weekly content revolving around the more statistical aspects of Natsdom. My first article can be found here and asks the question: should Danny Espinosa scrap switch hitting?

The bloggering doesn’t stop there!

Today marked my maiden journey as a contributor to Gammons Daily. Check out my first piece on Brian Wilson, if that’s your thing. My contributions there will be a little less frequent than at DSP, but I am nonetheless very happy to be on board.

…and because I made gifs of Wilson pre and post Tommy John surgery, highlighting some mechanical tweaks that didn’t make it to the piece, I provide them here, for S’s and G’s.

2014 Wilson:

wilson5

…and 2012 Wilson, during his last outing with the San Francisco Giants, before surgery:

wilsonSF_3

Notice the difference in arm slot and the slightly less closed lead leg in 2014 compared to 2012?

Anyhow, it goes without saying I am very excited to be a part of both of the new sites and I hope you enjoy the content I provide at both. As you can imagine, with my responsibilities at the aforementioned places as well as at Baseball Prospectus and Camden Depot, my posting here at HDIB? will be less frequent. I plan on using HDIB? as a landing-place for posts, ideas, and other such things that don’t quite fit the M.O. of these places.

Happy reading and basedballing, everyone.

Mannying Up

Inspiration strikes us all in weird ways on occasion.

For some, it comes from a particular person of repute or venerability. Perhaps a scene or experience from nature can strike a chord and propel a person to artistic brilliance or encourage a more virtuous route in life to be taken.

How about Facebook?

Yes, Facebook. For me, a long sabbatical from my usual HDIB? posting routine was interrupted by a comment on the Book of Faces. The setting? A simple question: Should the Washington Nationals pursue free agent King of Aggro and occasional closer Grant Balfour and sign him to a deal. It’s an interesting premise and one that would have the Nats with little room left at the inn, so to speak, with the inn being the bullpen. With that in mind, it was also posited that a Balfour deal would be predicated upon a trade of fan favourite, Drew Storen.

As you can imagine, it was a question that inspired people to give their thoughts on the matter. Some thoughts were well formed, albeit emotional, others were poorly phrased, or just mean. Then there’s this one:

Screenshot 2014-01-20 17.44.57

Yes, get him back here! Back here to close!

WHO THE FUCK IS MANNY?

Manny…Ramirez? Not a pitcher.

Manny…Acta? Had one inning as a pitcher in A ball, never a big leaguer, but was a former manager of the Nats. Getting warmer.

Manny…Machado? Not a pitcher, Nat, or currently retired.

Manny McMannyerson? Made that one up, so no, not him, either.

Oh! All time great and sure bet Hall of Famer Mannyano Rivera!

Nope, not Mariano Rivera, either. At least, I don’t think.

While the mind boggles as to which Manny should be brought back to man the helm of the Nats bullpen, it did give the ol’ grey matter a jump start. Who are the Mannyest of them all in MLB lore? Could we field a team of nothing but Mannys?

Off to FanGraphs I went — and wouldn’t you know it, there were a handful of Mannys who made it to the bigs. 21 to be exact — if that’s handful to you, you have enormous hands, that I oddly want to shake.

I digress.

Yes! A team full of Mannys! How would that look? It would look a little something like so:

HITTERS

Name PA HR RBI AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ WAR
Manny Ramirez 9774 555 1831 0.312 0.411 0.585 0.418 153 66.8
Manny Sanguillen 5380 65 585 0.296 0.326 0.398 0.321 99 27.8
Manny Mota 4227 31 438 0.304 0.355 0.389 0.334 112 15
Manny Trillo 6573 61 571 0.263 0.316 0.345 0.300 81 10.7
Manny Machado 912 21 97 0.279 0.309 0.435 0.323 100 7.5
Manny Jimenez 1116 26 144 0.272 0.337 0.401 0.331 101 0.2
Manny Martinez 613 8 53 0.245 0.284 0.374 0.288 65 -0.1
Manny Castillo 767 3 73 0.242 0.27 0.314 0.260 54 -2.5
Manny Alexander 1387 15 115 0.231 0.282 0.324 0.270 55 -3

…and the PITCHERS:

Name W L SV GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 ERA FIP WAR
Manny Parra 28 36 0 74 559 8.61 4.46 1.03 4.97 4.23 4.1
Manny Corpas 13 20 34 0 374.1 6.35 2.69 0.91 4.14 4.06 3.2
Manny Delcarmen 11 8 3 0 292.2 7.66 4.15 0.74 3.97 4.01 3.1
Manny Salvo 33 50 1 93 721.1 3.08 3.54 0.52 3.69 4.00 2.9
Manny Sarmiento 26 22 12 22 513.2 4.96 3.01 0.74 3.49 3.67 2.7
Manny Aybar 17 18 3 28 391 6.28 3.96 1.13 5.11 4.79 0.9
Manny Hernandez 2 7 0 7 50.1 3.93 3.04 0.54 4.47 3.79 0.5
Manny Acosta 13 13 9 0 248 7.95 4.25 1.09 3.99 4.42 -0.6

The tables — with cutoffs at 50 IP for pitchers and 500 PA for hitters, sorted by career FanGraphs WAR — show us what Team Manny would shake down. Overall, the Manuels would have no issues putting bat to ball, but might be a little thin on pitching. Some superb players past and present clog the proverbial bases in the form of Mannys Sanguillen as well as the aforementioned Ramirez and Machado, with some leather wizardry being handled by Mannys Trillo and Alexander along with young phenom Machado.

Overall, not a bad showing by Team Manny — their average batting WAR of 13.6 would slot between the New York Yankees and Colorado Rockies in 2013 (good for 24th in MLB), while their average pitching WAR of 2.1 would best only the Houston Astros (1.6) in 2013.

Maybe they should sign Balfour to shore up their pitching.

How Do I Link Dump, v3.0?

Time for another update on my non-HDIB? comings and goings, of which there are few, but for good reasons — lots of moving and shaking in my life right now, which has slowed down the usual sabermetric drivel down to a slow drip.

First, words.

As of late, I have started a small series over at Beyond the Box Score on the best and worst pitches of 2013. You can find my thoughts on four seam fastballs and sliders over at BtB. I used a very sophisticated method as well as an old Cray supercomputer to come up with my algorithm.

OK, fine. I used z-scores based on a handful of PITCHf/x derived values and went from there. On a Mac. Not as lustrous as working on a Cray, but there you go. Once things have calmed down to a dull roar, I hope to pick up the series where I left off by looking at best/worst change ups, cutters, curves, and maybe even split finger fastballs.

Dull roars are a nice segue into my latest article over at Camden Depot — this one is on concussions. Get it? Dull roars, headaches…yeah. Gauche attempts at humour aside, I discuss what a concussion is, how it is treated, and also dig into the little bit of data we have for players who suffered a concussion in 2013 and see how they did pre/post concussion, performance-wise. I hope to grab more data — Jon over at Camden Depot was kind enough to grab a good chunk of the 2013 and 2012 data for me already — and see how things parse out across several years of data. Fun? YOU BET. Analyzing the data, not concussions.

Now, different words, these being of the audio kind.

If you go to Tunes of i, you will find The Shift podcast, courtesy of Beyond the Box Score, with myself included. As we are all busy folks over at BtB, timing and scheduling matters are still being worked out, but we are well on track to be doing a ‘cast weekly, with us hoping for twice weekly sessions. While we are shooting to have guests on periodically, it will primarily be Bryan Grosnick, Andrew Ball, and myself bringing you sabermetric goodness over the airwaves, via a series of tubes. It will mostly be the other two guys, with me being awkward and rambling here and there, so listen to them, and feel free to laugh at my awkwardness. It’s a lot like this:

http://www.tubechop.com/watch/1694887

The fun doesn’t end there! Not only have I been doing the above, but I am also painfully gainfully employed for the first time in nearly a year. While I wish I could say that it was for a baseball team or baseball related organization, I sadly cannot; hopefully, that day will come, but for now, consulting work in the bioinformatics field will have to help pay the bills for now.

That being said, I am proud to say that I will be working for a baseball organization in the form of a behind the scenes as a contributor -slash- intern for Baseball Prospectus, doing more stats and technology driven endeavours for those powers that be. I am very stoked to be helping out such a great organization and some great folks.

And if that wasn’t enough on my plate to keep me from posting as frequently as I once did at HDIB?, I will also be heading down to Orlando for this year’s Winter Meetings, doing what, I don’t know. Hobnobbing of some sort. If you’re down there, come say hello! I’ll be the pudgy white guy in a shirt and tie — you can’t miss me!

As always, thanks for reading and for your patronage.

 

Good For (More Than) One: Multi-Inning Saves

With the retirement of New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, some things have or are becoming less and less a part of the game, the number 42 notwithstanding. In particular, Rivera was a rare breed of reliever that is slowly going the way of the buffalo, a remnant of how games were closed out before the 2000’s — the multi-inning closer.

Much like the reliever who relied upon the split finger fastball, which was en vogue for most of the 1970’s and 1980’s, only to be practiced by a scant few in the current day game, the closer who comes in to get the 4+ out save has apparently all but vanished. With the current landscape of the bullpen filled with one out specialists and closers who can only come in to a game in a clean inning, but only if you ask nicely, the reliever who can be relied upon to get more than one inning’s worth of outs stands out amongst the ultra-specialization of the 21st century bullpen.

Or is it? Is this Last of the Mohicans perception of the multi-inning save guy just a misguided narrative, or is there some merit to the notion that closers like Rivera or his counterpart in Boston — Koji Uehara — for example, are few and far between?

Let’s take a look at the last 25 years of saves, which is a reasonable swath of data to look at and figure out if the 4+ out save is truly dying a slow death. 25 years also covers the evolution of the bullpen and the role of a closer within the 9th inning, and the development of the setup man and the stat that accompanies said 8th inning guy, the hold.

So with that, let’s look at some data, all courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and their invaluable Play Index tool. Using said tool, we will look at all saves of 1.1 innings or more between 1988 and 2013.

Multi IP Saves By Team Across Year

This first chart is simply a count of all of the multi-inning saves (let’s shorten it to MIS moving forward), broken down by year. The various coloured tiles denote a pitcher — as we can see, there were quite a few pitchers who notched a MIS back in the day, with quite a few of them notching multiple MISs in a season. The number at the end of each row is the number of MISs for a season; we can already see a drastic change in the role of a MIS, with 2005 being a particular watershed year for the ‘death’ of the MIS.

Rewinding a bit, let’s talk about the kings of the MIS:

Multi IP Save Career Leaders

Of the relievers with 10 or more MISs between our years of interest, we find one — ONE — who is still currently active moving into the 2013 offseason: Philadelphia Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon. Adjusting the criteria to include pitchers who have made an appearance in the last three years and we grab one more pitcher, the aforementioned Rivera. All in all, this list is dominated by some of the bigger closer names of the 1980’s and 1990’s. Right now, there is a strong chance that the dying breed of the MIS closer is more truth than happenstance.

Just to compare/contrast some of the players who dominate the first five seasons of our 25 year span to those of the last five years, I have included the next two pie charts for comparison:

Multi IP Save Leaders, 1988-1993

Multi IP Save Leaders, 2008-2013

With this, we see a trend — the leaders of the given five year eras vary greatly in how many saves they have garnered to put them atop the MIS leaders list — no one in the last five years has notched double digit MISs, while in the early era, ten saves wouldn’t even be a drop in the bucket.

Just eyeballing simple counting stats isn’t enough, we need to look at more data to really see if things have truly changed. Let’s do that now and take a look at the average MIS across the years, with regards to the number of innings pitched and the average walk and strikeout rates per nine innings (BB/9 and K/9) notched:

Average IP, K 9, and BB 9, 1988-2013

While the walk (in orange) and inning (in red) rates are a little tough to see given how close the data run together, we do see a couple of trends — strikeout rates are up and average innings per MIS are slightly down; while there is a bit of ocean wave-like variability, it looks as though walks haven’t really changed much over the 25 years of interest.

So far, we have one solid and one potential change in the MIS over the last 25 years — more strikeouts per outing as of late, with the more recent MIS outings being shorter in duration as compared to those of yesteryear. Cool? I guess.

Let’s grab a couple more stats that can help evaluate the quality of a reliever’s outing — average leverage index (aLI), run average by 24 based out situations (RE24), and win probability added (WPA). I will leave it to the reader to peruse this reference to get a better idea of the finer grain details of each of these stats. In a broad sense, looking at these stats, we can get a feel of how valuable and crucial these MISs were to the success of the team.

Average aLI, RE24, and WPA, 1988-2013

Again, we see some interesting trends, with an additionally interesting drop in aLI from 2008 to the past season; WPA doesn’t appear to have much change across the quarter century, with RE24 also showing a little drop off in the last couple of years, but making a return to pre-2010 values.

Doing a Pearson’s correlation on all of these stats of interest across year, we get the following results:

Stat Pearson’s R p-value
IP -.181 <.001
BB/9 .018 .496
K/9 .179 <.001
aLI .071 .006
RE24 -.054 .035
WPA -.011 .683

Created with the HTML Table Generator

We find four of the six stats have a statistically significant correlation with year (P-value less than .05); in particular, a significant negative correlation between IP and RE24 and year and a significant positive correlation between K/9 and aLI and year is found. One caveat — RE24 is an additive stat, so the fact it trends significantly with innings pitched isn’t a huge deal. However, the fact that we find small (all Pearson’s R’s are very small, below .30) but significant trends in innings, strikeouts, and aLI do portend to the MIS evolving over the last 25 years.

In spite of a number of stats showing us the MIS of years past are not the same as the few that we do see in our current day game, we haven’t seen the death of this quirky save just yet. In fact, an encouraging spike in MISs in 2013 — a jump to 44 after only 17 being notched in 2012 — shows us that with some help from the likes of Uehara as well as Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim’s Ernesto Frieri and veteran Carlos Marmol doing their bit to keep the MIS alive, perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to pen the eulogy of the multi-inning save.

Koji Uehara

Koji Uehara (Photo credit: Keith Allison)

Pace II, Electric Bugaloo: Pacing the Pacers

A few days back, I had a look at the statistic ‘pace’ and briefly discussed how pace affected the Washington Nationals pitching staff. Overall, we found that the Nats staff is fairly quick compared to the rest of MLB, with relievers being more apt to dawdle. We also discussed very briefly what, outside of a pitcher’s internal clock, could factor in to the pace stat — things like home run rate, holding runners on, and what have you.

Let’s return to this topic of pace and more specifically to the topic and its effects on the Nats’ big three starters — Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg, and Jordan Zimmermann. We have already seen some of their cursory pace data, but let’s now look at these three with a different lens; let’s now look at the role and effect of the catcher on pace as well as some of their other pitching stats.

First, some brief materials and methods discussion. Again using FanGraphs data, I grabbed game log data for all three for 2013, including pace, plate discipline data (think contact and swing rates), as well as some other standard data (things like pitch counts, home runs, walks, FIP, and xFIP stats). From there, I matched the games to each of the big three catchers for the Nats last season — Wilson Ramos, Kurt Suzuki, and Jhonatan Solano, with the idea of doing some statistical voodoo and breaking down pitcher stats (pace, xFIP, et cetera) by catcher to see if there were any significant differences in how quickly or productively each of the Big Three pitched, depending on who was behind the dish.

One more caveat to our methods here; for each pairing, I used the catcher who started as the catcher for each pairing. While there are a few games where the starter was relieved mid-game and a pitcher’s pace could possibly be affected by this change, I made the leap that the potential for this is negligible. Also, for the most part, catcher swapping was done later in the game, by the time our Big Three were pulled from the game; therefore, pitcher data should be consistent across catcher. While I could do my due diligence and break this all down by inning, the amount of manual manipulation of the data to do that is too much of a time suck, so here we are.

Good with that? A reasonable leap of faith taken? Moving along…

So. Our catchers. We have three, and here are their vital stats for this data set:

Ramos: 44 games caught

Solano: 4 games caught

Suzuki: 46 games caught

One quirk here as well — Solano only caught Strasburg, while Suzuki and Ramos both caught all of the Big Three. More on this later.

Now, some data, in the form of pretty charts!

First pace and pitches per inning for the Big Three; for the moment, I am filtering out Solano data.

Pitches Inning By Catcher Pace Inning By Catcher

Not too much here; overall, pace is pace for our Big Three, regardless of the catcher, with Suzuki getting pitchers to work a hair faster and hair more economically. I will save you the statistical gymnastics and tables, but there were no statistically significant differences in any of the pitching stats I grabbed across catcher.

The stats I looked at were:
O-Swing%
Z-Swing%
Swing%
O-Contact%
Z-Contact%
Contact%
Zone%
Pace
W
L
IP
Batters Faced
H
HR
BB
SO
BABIP
GB%
FIP
xFIP
Balls
Strikes
Pitches
Pitches/Inn
Pace/Inn
Strike%
xFIP – FIP

So with that aside out of the way, let’s keep looking data; here we look at the difference between xFIP and FIP (xFIP minus FIP) between catchers as well as strike rate:

xFIP-FIP By Catcher Strike% By Catcher

With the difference between xFIP and FIP, it was my thought it could possibly portend to some sort of measure for catcher-pitcher dynamic, given that in general, both should trend together tightly for a pitcher, since the only huge difference between the two is how they handle home runs in their calculation. With that in mind, more positive numbers are desired, since it means that the pitcher-catcher combo did better than expected, at least with FIP as our yardstick. Does it really mean anything? Probably not; however, it is interesting to see that all three starters did worse than expected, on average, with Suzuki catching and that Strasburg’s Ramos outings were a full run worse. Again, there might be something here, but I am doubtful. Moving on to strike rate, we again see no real grand deviations with differences in catcher considered. Not shocking.

Now, let’s take a look at the Solano data; let’s also remember that this is based on FOUR GAMES, so we really can’t say much about it, but we can at least admire the differences seen with Solano’s signal calling:

Pace, Strasburg  xFIP - FIP, StrasburgStrike%, Strasburg

Kind of quirky. With Solano catching, Strasburg improves across the board with the pitching stats of interest; again, it’s only four games, and there are a ton of variables and effects that we are not taking into account with the data as presented, but it is an interesting trend we see. Two things that are beaten into a pitcher’s head — work fast and throw strikes — that are purported to be the secret to success are seen with Solano, for Strasburg, in spades. Is it an effect of Solano and possibly some intangible rapport the pair has? Maybe. Could it be simple coincidence? Yep, could be that too. But it will be an interesting trend to keep an eye on in 2014.

Could all of this be luck?

BABIP By Catcher

It could be that too; these BABIP rates by catcher are interesting just as an aside, not so much as a predictor of success (BABIP stinks for that), but how different the rates are across catcher and it speaking to there possibly being an effect of pitch selection amongst each of the pairings. Another study for another day, I suppose.

While there are many aspects of the fulfilling the duties of a catcher that haven’t been considered here, by the looks of it, the Nats are fortunate to have a pair of catchers in place for 2014 — Ramos and Solano — who won’t be poisonous to the overall productivity of their Big Three starters and might even be positive influences on their staff.