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:
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.
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.
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:
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!
Morse-esque with the range and grace out there. Inspiring.
But it doesn’t end there! More LF shenanigans ahoy, courtesy of Tommy 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.
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.
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.
…and 2012 Wilson, during his last outing with the San Francisco Giants, before surgery:
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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
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?
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.
One of the many tangibly intangible things that a pitcher can do to endear himself to umpires, his defense, and their adoring TV viewer public is to work fast. Pitchers also benefit themselves by working fast, as one of the basic tenets of successful pitching is to interrupt a hitters timing — by controlling the pace of an at bat, the greater chance a hitters innate cadence and timing for each pitch can be oh so slightly interrupted.
Even with some of these tiny advantages to working fast, some pitchers just…
One of the many side stories of this year’s World Series that exemplifies this was Clay Buchholz‘ pace to pitch. Glacier-like was the overarching sentiment as to how quickly a Buchholz outing went; given the age-old complaint that any Boston Red Sox game takes longer than most, this wasn’t a new revelation.
So was it all in our heads? And how do Washington Nationals pitchers do in this arena of pitching?
FanGraphs can help us out with this — with the pace statistic.
Pace tells us, on average, how many seconds a pitcher take in between pitches of an at bat. For 2013, the average time between pitches was 22.9 seconds, when you include all players who made an appearance as a pitcher (*waves at Skip Schumaker and John McDonald*).
Again looking at all pitchers, starter or reliever, but using an innings pitched cutoff of 10 innings and we find that the fastest pitcher was New York Yankee Vidal Nuno, at a 17.2 second pace; on the other side of the coin, Tampa Bay Rays reliever Joel Peralta was the slowest, at 31.9 seconds.
However, this doesn’t tell the whole story; while time between pitches is obviously a hindrance to a quick game, so are the number of pitches thrown. More pitches thrown, the more time in between pitches, the longer the inning is — simple math. So with that in mind, let’s pull out our abacuses, TI-82 calculators, and perhaps some scratch paper, and figure out who are the yin and yang of pitching pace.
So, we have pace, innings pitched, and total pitches, courtesy of FanGraphs. From there, we simply need to calculate pitches per inning, then multiply by pace, then divide by 60 to get a rough estimate of how long an inning is for a given pitcher, in minutes.
Doing all of this voodoo brings us to this:
Cool? Kinda, I guess; to circle back to the Buchholz reference and close the book on that, he comes in at a 24.2 second pace, 15.04 pitches per inning, which gives him an average inning pitched in 6.09 minutes. This ranks him 54th among 146 pitchers with at least 100 innings pitched and fourth out of the five Red Sox starters with at least 100 IP. Yes, Clay is a quick worker, compared to his carmine brethren.
Enough of that, let’s talk WASHINGTON NATIONALS BASEBALL. Remember that? Barely, I know. Sarcasm aside, let’s have a look at how the Nats staff pans out with this whole pace thing. A priori, we are led to believe that Jordan Zimmermann is a very fast worker and Stephen Strasburg kind of plods along.
Any truth to this?
Well, yes and no; ZNN appears to be a quick worker, for sure — not too far behind the pace setter (pun intended) Nuno at 4.79 minutes per inning, but Strasburg isn’t too far behind him. So we have a wee bit of a misconception of Strasburg’s pace, even when pitch count is factored into a pitcher’s overall pace. We also find Nathan Karns conspicuously absent from our list; for whatever reason, Karns and two other players’ paces were not listed by FanGraphs.
Yunesky Maya? Yeah. Moving on…
The bottom part of the list — let’s lovingly dub them DAWDLERS — are primarily relievers. While we know that Tyler Clippard enjoys long walks around the mound, blowing into his pitching hand, licking his hand, and doing a number of sundry things on his pre-pitch checklist before dealing, we also see another quirk about the pace stat and an underlying component of it, courtesy of hitters, with the dawdlers — home runs.
Yes, the more home runs you give up, the more time you have to wait for the hitter to get around the bases before you can throw your next pitch. While I will save the rigorous statistical analyses for the effect of home run rate on pace for another day — and as we can see in the above table, it isn’t something that appears to be highly correlated — it is an unfortunate aspect of pitcher pace.
Keeping with eyeballing trends, we also see with the Nats that relievers are a tick slower than starters, in general. While homers do play a role, the fact that relievers are in-game during typically higher leverage situations — a fancy way to say there are men on base with the game on the line — the need to change your timing to the plate and even throw over to first base on occasion to keep a runner close takes precedence over keeping your pace number low. Strategery at its finest.
So again doing some quick eyeballing, the Nats average a 6.03 minute inning; countering
Cubans outliers and using the median, Nats pitchers come in at about 5.7 minutes per inning. Comparing that to the MLB overall (and again using a 10 IP cutoff) and an average 6.3 minute inning or 6.2 minute median inning, and we see that Nats hurlers are a tad quicker than the average team.
Here’s how the entire MLB pans out; note that this chart does not include data from players who swapped teams during the season and are thus noted as playing for ‘—‘ by FanGraphs.
So there you have it; the Angels are DAWDLERS on average, while the Braves and Cardinals, bastions of all that is unwritten and unheralded, are the quickest. Snark aside, both of those teams more than likely have an organizational mantra that predisposes guys to work fast, and if you look at their team pitching stats, it’s definitely not hurting their stock.
Pace; it’s not just salsa.
It’s been awhile since I’ve last posted here and while I would love to tell you I have spent the time away from HDIB? analyzing the L.O.M.B.O. data and results in preparation for a manuscript that will be submitted to the International Journal of Sport Grit and Want and Desire and Other Things No One Can Truly Measure But Dammit We Try — the IJSGWDOTNOCTMBDWT for short — alas, I have not.
I have however, been busy writing about the Shutdown. Put away the pitchforks and take a look at what Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann have done before and after Tommy John surgery and having their innings limited post operatively across a number of stats and categories:
For the Orioles fan in your life, I have lots of prose dedicated to Manny Machado and his MPFL injury and his prospects for a healthy return and what that means for the Orioles in 2014:
Looking to 2014, part of a series over at Camden Depot breaking down 2013 and 2014 by position.
I will be helping out Camden Depot with a couple more of these year in review write ups, focusing more on the O’s bullpen; you can also find more of my nerd math writings over at Beyond the Box Score, if you enjoyed the Strasburg/Zimmermann/TJ bits discussed.
Anyone know what IJSGWDOTNOCTMBDWT’s impact factor is? Might have to shop L.O.M.B.O. around…