Yesterday, Jeff Sullivan presented some fascinating data on pitchers that benefit from, and are harmed by, missed strike zone calls - he asked, which pitchers get the most strikes that should be balls, and the most balls that should be strikes? At the core of this question is pitch framing; are some pitchers harder to frame than others? I'll let Sullivan elaborate:
I think we’re at the point where we can acknowledge that pitch-framing is probably a real skill that some catchers have more than others. But not every pitcher on the mound comes with the same framing degree of difficulty. If Jamie Moyer throws a low fastball in the zone that gets called a ball, and if Felix Hernandez throws a low fastball in the same spot that gets called a ball, one of those is a little more forgivable than the other. Framing might not be hard, I don’t know, but framing some guys has got to be a relative challenge.
As Sullivan himself points out, the point of this article was really just "to show some numbers". However, as with many articles that just "show numbers", we come out with more questions than answers. How hard is it to frame pitches? Is it primarily under the pitcher's or the catcher's control? Are certain umps better than others at making the right call? Are catchers getting better at framing pitches? What factors go into how difficult it is to frame pitches?
It is that last question that I wish to look into today. I don't plan on coming to any definite conclusions, but I'll simply give you some suggestions, possibilities, and .gifs, then open it up for discussion. Without further ado, here are some factors that I feel could influence a catcher's ability to frame pitches:
This is fairly self-explanatory. The faster a pitch is travelling when it reaches the catcher's mitt, the harder it will be for the catcher to hold his hand steady and control his mitt. Like Jeff said, a fastball from Felix Hernandez is going to be a lot harder to frame than a fastball from Jamie Moyer. Consider these .gifs (which may or may not actually apply to this example):
Yeah, yeah, I know neither of those is a great example of pitch framing, but you get the idea. If the top pitch was 79 miles per hour instead of 93, maybe Jesus Montero could have even made an effort to frame it. And in the bottom frame, a faster pitch may have pushed Ramon Hernandez's mitt off the plate. At the very least, you can see how slightly different locations would have been affected by velocity as far as framing is concerned.
Intuitively, a pitch that is moving away from the strike zone would be harder to frame than a straight pitch (or at least a relatively straight pitch). Similar to velocity above, the more momentum that the ball has, the harder it will be for the catcher to hold his mitt steady. Consider a strikeout and a walk by Zack Greinke:
Again, the second .gif isn't the best example in the world, but the important thing to notice is that the catcher is forced to jab his mitt down and follow the path of the ball, thus making it almost impossible to frame the pitch effectively. Low breaking pitches, I would suspect, are very hard to frame because of this movement away from the zone.
My third and final suggestion is that pitch location could influence the difficulty of framing said pitch. As a commenter in Jeff's article pointed out, Derek Lowe, who appeared at the top of the "getting lucky strike calls" list, pounds the lower half of the zone with his sinkerball, while Masterson, who appeared at the top of the "getting unlucky ball calls" list, often leaves his pitches up in the zone. Maybe, just maybe, low pitches are easier to frame than high pitches. Let's look at the final .gifs:
In the top frame, you can see Masterson miss on a pitch high and outside. It looks as though the pitch had the potential to be framed for a strike, but whether it be because Carlos Santana is a bad pitch framer or high pitchces are harder to frame or it wasn't actually that close, the pitch was called a ball. In the bottom frame, Lowe gets a called strike three on a pitch in the lower half of the zone. It was pretty clearly a strike, but it certainly seems possible that the location of the pitch made it easier for Santana to hold his mitt steady.
So there you have it. With some simple intuition, 5th grade physics, and poorly chosen .gifs, you have three potential factors that could affect pitch framing. Do you think these are valid factors? Is one more or less important than others? Do you you think other variables could make it easier or harder to frame pitches? Please, leave your thoughts below.
R. J. Anderson of Baseball Prospectus questions whether or not Coco Crisp is a base-stealing genius: Baseball Prospectus | Painting the Black: The Unimaginable Base-Stealing Genius of Coco Crisp
Who should get credit for Crisp’s stolen base genius? It’s unclear whether he’s a good guesser, a good video scout, or a good reader who took advantage of his team’s apparently über -detailed scouting reports. The most likely answer is a mix of all three. Crisp seems to have an advanced feel for reading a pitcher’s movements and identifying the point when the pitcher shifts his attention from preventing a stolen base to throwing his pitch. Whether that skill comes from study or from attention to the front office doesn’t matter.
Marc Normandin of Baseball Nation analyzes the Boston Red Sox plan for 2013: Just what is Boston's plan this off-season? - Baseball Nation
These waves of talent were missing from the last few years, part of the reason Boston went the trade and gigantic-contract route to begin with. They have been given the chance to start over, though, and refocus their efforts on developing from within. That, plus their expansive wallet, is what made them so good to begin with, and it's understandable why they'd want to get back there again.
Eno Sarris of FanGraphs discusses catching prospects, Las Vegas and Travis D'Arnaud: Travis D’Arnaud, Las Vegas, and Catching Prospects | FanGraphs Baseball
Prospects are iffy. Prospects whose best offensive seasons came in hitter-friendly parks might be more so. And (large?) catching prospects might even provide an additional layer of uncertainty. By all accounts, Travis D’Arnaud is an excellent all-around catcher and a great get for the rebuilding Mets. Given all those question marks, though, it’s still good news that there are other interesting names coming back to the Mets in the R.A. Dickey deal.
Matt Swartz of the Hardball Times rolls out the second part of his series on Game Theory and baseball: Game theory and baseball, Part 2: Introduction to pitch selection--THT
If you ever hear a commentator talk about knowing what pitch should be thrown in any given situation, he is probably misinformed. If batters knew what pitches were coming in any given count, they would change their strategies. If it’s easy enough for the commentator to guess, then it’s easy enough for opponents to guess. This is especially true in two-strike counts where you often hear commentators proudly declare that the pitcher should have thrown the ball out of the strike zone to get the batter to chase. If pitchers never threw into the strike zone in two-strike counts, batters would react by simply taking the free ball and improving the count in their favor. Pitchers do sometimes throw strikes in these counts, and that is why hitters swing at balls in the dirt.
For the second time in as many days, the Houston Astros have added a free agent. This time, it's right-handed reliever Jose Veras. The 32-year old played in 72 games last season for the Brewers and the Astros will be his fifth team in as many seasons.
Veras is a very good strikeout pitcher, averaging 10.6 Ks per nine innings last season and 9.4 K/9 in his seven year career. In 138 innings the past two seasons, Veras has struck out 158 batters, but has also walked 74 over that same stretch.
Because of that strikeout rate, Veras has been able to limit home runs to under 1.0 per nine innings despite posting ground ball rates around 40 percent in his career. He also has walked batters at a clip of 5.0 per nine in most of the past five season, but still managed to keep his FIP under 4.00.
His SIERA numbers have been very consistent the past three seasons, though his true ERA has been more erratic. His expected FIP also has been very consistent, right around 3.80 in each of the past three years.
Veras primarily throws a fastball and a curve, occasionally working in a slider. His fastball comes in at an average speed of 94 MPH and was a positive pitch by linear weights and runs above average (according to FanGraphs). Interestingly, though, his arsenal looks different through Pitch F/X in FanGraphs' data. Last year with the Brewers, it said he threw mostly splitters, sinkers and curves.
What do you think? Is this the kind of low-cost move you wanted Houston to make to fill that closer/setup role? Do you expect them to add more low-cost relievers? Does Veras' walk rate scare you?
Knuckleball pitchers can be tricky to evaluate, and if you want a quick statistic to see how they stacked up against the rest of the league you generally look at wins above replacement. Over at FanGraphs, Dave Cameron shows us why traditional FIP-wins may not be the best statistic to use when evaluating knuckleballers.
Because Dickey throws the knuckleball, and we already know that knuckleball pitchers outperform their FIP, you should lean more towards RA9-wins for Dickey than FIP-wins. Pitchers like Dickey are why we present both options here on FanGraphs. There simply isn’t one system that works perfectly for everyone.
No matter what kind of calculation you use, there are going to be guys who don’t fit perfectly into the model. We added RA9-wins to help show the differences between the two systems, and to give you an alternative way of valuing pitchers who don’t fit perfectly into the assumptions that FIP makes.
As Dave states, knuckleballers tend to outperform their peripherals, and Dickey is no exception. Here is his ERA and FIP the last three seasons:
When looking at his RA9-Wins compared to his FIP-Wins, we can see that Dickey has actually been worth about 5 more wins.
This makes sense, since knuckleballers tend to induce weaker contact on balls in play, If you are trying to look at a knuckleball pitcher's value you are likely to get a better representation when you look at RA9-Wins, rather than FIP-Wins.
This is true for essentially all knuckleballers throughout history, if you are interested in looking at pitcher's who have thrown knucklers take a look at this leaderboard. It was created by Eno Sarris over at FanGraphs. Remember that you shouldn't use RA9-Wins for every pitcher though because defense as well as good luck can often be a big factor.
1) Do you think there are better alternatives than WAR for knuckleball pitchers?
2) Is there anything that we could add to WAR to give it a better overall representation?
Yesterday, the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Mets finalized a deal that would send R.A. Dickey as the principle component from the Mets to the Jays for top prospects Travis D'Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard. You will note that those prospects were likely the best position player and best pitching prospects in the Jays' system. The Miami Marlins had previously sent five starting players to the Jays and received more quantity than quality relative to the Mets trade, as the team received Jake Marisnick, Justin Nicolino, and Adeiny Hechavarria along with Yunel Escobar, Jeff Mathis, and Anthony DeSclafini.
Marlins blog First Place Fish mentioned in passing on Twitter that it was interesting that the Fish failed to secure the best player in the Jays' system despite all of that talent being dealt.
I know the $ offset has to be considered, but funny Marlins fail to get A+ prospect for maybe best SS in baseball, Mets get for 38 yr old SP— firstplacefish (@firstplacefish) December 18, 2012
Now, First Place Fish acknowledges that the money is a major aspect of this trade, but the money essentially singlehandedly explains the oddity that is trading more players to get a lesser return, at least in terms of prospects. The major players heading to Toronto in the Marlins trade were Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes, and Mark Buehrle; Reyes was the 34th-ranked position player by FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement, and Johnson and Buehrle ranked 23rd and 61st respectively among pitchers. By any stretch, one would expect sending those type of players would garner more of a return than just sending Dickey, even if Dickey was the 13th-ranked pitcher according to FanGraphs.
But, as we discussed yesterday, the contracts cannot simply be overlooked, and the difference in monetary value is very significant when it comes to evaluating these trades. Dickey just signed a two-year extension that covers his 2014 and 2015 seasons at just $25 million total. In 2013, he will be paid just $5 million. This represents a significant surplus contract given how well he played just last season, a National League Cy Young campaign.
It does seem impossible to predict a knuckleballer, but Bill James has Dickey putting up a 3.58 ERA and 3.76 FIP next year. Just using his ERA estimate at 200 innings and you get a rough estimate of Dickey being worth 3.5 wins next season. If you expect him to age like any other pitcher, we may expect him to be worth $47.4 million over the next three years, yielding a surplus value of $17 million.
When you compare that to the values the Marlins were trading, you can clearly see why the Jays were more willing to deal their best prospect talent to the Mets rather than the Marlins. In the rosiest of projections, Reyes at best matches his contract value, meaning that the inclusion of Reyes is essentially a free agent signing for the Jays with some trade value tied in "exclusive rights." Even if you are rosy about Mark Buehrle, it is difficult to imagine him being worth close to the $52 million he has remaining; in the trade value article for the fire sale, I had Buehrle as worth between $12 million and $20 million in negative trade value.
Those two contracts, even with the fact that they include talented players, offset the value of their play. At best, the Jays are paying fair market for Reyes, and there is good reason to suspect otherwise, since we figured the Marlins overpaid by at least $15 million at the time of the signing. Similarly, Buehrle cannot be expected to perform up to the value of his backloaded deal, even if he performed up to snuff in the first season. All of that also offsets the bonus value the Jays got in acquiring Johnson, who is in a similar one-year situation in which Dickey was before the extension.
No matter how talented a player like Reyes is, you have to consider them as an asset when trading. The asset, with the contract, can lack value even if the player itself is fantastic. As The Book Blog's Tom Tango often mentions, would you rather have a house worth $500,000 with a $1 million mortgage, or a $200,000 house with a $150,000 mortgage remaining? Which asset has more value in this question? The $500,000 house, or in the Marlins' and Jays' cases the package of Reyes, Johnson, and Buehrle, may be more valuable than the $200,000 home, in this case Dickey. But if one mortgage is bigger than the value of the house, where is the value in that property?
As mentioned yesterday, that is why the Jays offered more for Dickey than for the Marlins' giant haul. The Fish got rid of some expensive mortgages, and while those homes / players were quite fancy, their mortgages outstripped their own value. In Dickey's case, his contract was so team-friendly that the Jays felt it deserved more of a return.
Did the Jays overpay for both "houses?" Probably. But the reason why the Mets' house was more attractive than the Marlins' home was clear once you read those pesky contracts.
Ernie Banks 2004 Upper Deck Timeless Talents – Legends This set is becoming a favorite at ’30-YOC’. I like the plain design. I like the full-size photo. And I like the year that is highlighted under the player’s name. As … Continue reading →
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You're a baseball fan. We're baseball fans. We're all baseball fans. And that means most likely you either currently have some baseball cards still stored in the basement or the closet or wherever the heartless fool your mom sold them to for literally pennies at a garage sale to make room for yet another unused ... I digress.
Anyway, to most of us can't-believe-they-put-them-in-bicycle-spokes types, baseball cards are like your best friend's mom's nice soaps and/or towels. Don't touch 'em. But soaps stink like Avon products, and unless you have different soaps than I've ever seen, there's no stats on the back. hydroxymethylcellulose.
This is all to say that the idea of taking a sharpie to baseball cards is offensive and terrible and should never be done. But someone did. And it's hilarious.
Most are funny in that we're-still-12-years-old way, others are worthy of a smirk, and some few are just mean. Here's a few of my favorites:
Do you like baseball? Do you like games? Well here is a fun game for you to play to test your knowledge of both baseball and Christmas carols.
The game involves decoding a clue that is written using baseball-related terms and names. If you decode the clue correctly, you will arrive at the name of a Christmas carol.
Here is an example:
Throw at former Brewer multi-position-player Bill and 1960s All-Star Jimmie.
Answer: The baseball knowledge that you need to decode this clue is that both former Brewer Bill and 1960s All-Start Jimmie share the last name Hall. If you throw at them, you will deck them. Thus the answer is:
Deck the Halls
Everyone understand? Some of these will hopefully be attainable without seeking help, but there are certainly some difficult ones among the following list for you to decode.
If you do want to have some help, I can say that all of the Christmas carol answers appear in this list of Christmas carols. See if you can decode one, or more. If you can, leave your answers in the comments. If you have to sign up for a Beyond the Boxscore user account, it's fast. If you have to wait after signing up before you can leave a comment, send me answers via Twitter @MLBPlayerAnalys and I'll enter the answers in the comments for you.
For help decoding the baseball side of the clues, may I recommend Baseball Reference as a useful resource for this game.
Despite this being Christmas, there is no present here for decoding the most....but hopefully you're experience some Christmas joy.
Let's get started!
You can follow me on Twitter at @MLBPlayerAnalys. Follow @MLBPlayerAnalys
I firmly believe the Angels are a better team with Peter Bourjos on the field. So, I?m sure[...]
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I've been going to anywhere between 70 and 100 baseball games a year since I was a teenager in the mid 90s, and in any given season I interact with several thousand players. I can tell you one thing I've learned over the years, baseball players are, in general, good guys. And no team seems to put more effort and care into making sure their organization is full of good guys than our beloved Atlanta Braves. Growing up and watching the team on TBS made me a fan, but the outstanding people in the Braves organization refresh my fandom each year.
Back in 2010, I posted my list of the Top 10 Good Guys In The Braves Minor Leagues, where I highlighted the players in the organization who were, on a personal level, the best the organization had to offer. It wasn't an easy task, there are over 150 players in the organization, they're all wonderful people, and I feel awful that I was only able to list a handful. Not awful enough that I didn't do it, and not awful enough that I haven't done it again. Five players from the original list, Cory Gearrin, Myke Jones, Matt Kennely, Adam Milligan, and Julio Teheran, are still in the organization, and each of them would easily be able to make the list again. But, for the sake of new blood, I'm going to make them ineligible for our new list. I'm also limiting myself to people in the Braves Minor League system, so Major Leaguers like Jonny Venters, Brandon Beachy, and Luis Avilan, who absolutely belong on any list of good guys, will be ineligible as well.
With all those caveats, here's CB's Top 10 Good Guys In The Atlanta Braves Minor League Organization, listed alphabetically, split into two parts, with the second part to be released on Thursday.
Johnny Almaraz - Johnny is the Braves Director of International Scouting And Operations, so he's the guy in charge of all the top international talent the team brings in as well as making sure things run well at the Dominican and Tenerife academies. He's also an amazing ambassador for the front office, as he's constantly taking time to interact with fans. One of my favorite parts about heading to Spring Training each year is knowing I'll get to talk with Johnny, but I've also been lucky enough to run into him at a few Minor League games during the season. He has a wealth of baseball knowledge and insight, and he's more than happy to share it openly and frankly. When people like him are the decision makers in the organization, it's easy to see why the Braves make character and personality a priority.
Evan Gattis - I could only smile when I heard that Gattis' teammates in Venezuela had nicknamed him El Oso Blanco. Nicknames are usually only given to players that are beloved, so it was no surprise to me that Evan was given a friendly moniker. Talking to him for any length of time, it's hard to believe that at one point he struggled with anger and addiction. He's friendly, encouraging, and goofy in the best kind of way. It's very obvious he really cares about people and he'll always ask what's going on in your life before he'll even think to talk about his own.
JR Graham (@JRGraham013) - If you only ever saw JR on the mound, you'd imagine him to be gruff and intense, with wild, crazy eyes. Really, that couldn't be further from the truth. He's a friendly, soft-spoken, extremely intelligent, and just nice guy. Of course the intensity and drive is there, but he knows how to be a player and a person. Every time I've talked with JR, he's spent more time talking about one of his teammates than himself, so he's not only great to the fans, but to his teammates.
Robby Hefflinger (@RHefflinger) - Like JR, if you only saw Heff during a game, you'd think he was a brooding hulk capable of shaving a bat down to size with his bare hands. Well, he is a huge guy, but he's also one of the friendliest players in the Braves organization. He regularly spends time before the game getting to know the fans and he's rightfully become a favorite in Rome. Heff is willing to openly vent his frustrations with the rigors of Minor League ball, but just as quick to point out how lucky and happy he is to get a chance to play.
Barrett Kleinknect (@bkleinknecht) - I hate to play favorites, even when I'm already playing favorites with this list in the first place, but Klank is one of the best. He's just a fun-loving, funny, great guy. And he's a ginger, which automatically makes him better. The first time I met him was in Danville, the same day he won an award for being the team's fan favorite, an award he could easily win wherever he goes. On the field, he's turned himself into a utility player, and that mirrors his personality as an all-around great guy. Klank is my buddy, and guys like him and the rest of the players on this list, are why I love baseball, because without it I'd never have met him.
CB Wilkins is the author of the baseball novel Four-A.