Sunday, October 4, 2015


We were taking a snooze with our phone--a phrase that might describe most of the Western world these days--opening one eye, then the other, keeping tabs on the final day (no more plural "daze" for the 2015 season, that's for sure...) and we found ourselves corn-fed over to Sports on Earth, where stringer extraordinaire Paul Casella provided a shocking little data point.

What was that shock? No teams in the past twenty years (1995-2014) who played .700+ ball in September (to keep our "cred" with those who genuflect in Mecca-esque formation to Forman et fils, let's specify that as being "Sept-Oct" in the monthly splits...) have gone on to win the World Series.

Well, holy hangnail...that actually is a shocker, and Casella doesn't quite deserve some of the snark he's getting in the comments section over there (we think most of those comments are some kind of whacked linguistic algorithm created to simulate human beings, part of the meta-sophistry of post-modern least we hope real people aren't that ignorant and mean-spirited).

But we do think Casella should have provided one additional piece of context, just so he wouldn't be vulnerable to the "freak show stat" accusation.

What's that? Why, of course, it's the September-(October!) WPCT of the teams who won the World Series.

We've taken the liberty of accessing Forman et fils for that data, and it's what you see at right. As you can see, 1995-2001 was a "cold spell" for World Champs in the month prior to the post-season, with no teams playing over .600 and an average WPCT of just .525.

In the past thirteen years, however--that's 2002-2014--the eventual World Champs have been a lot better in the season's final month, with ten teams playing over .600, and seven over .650 (but, yes, as Casella noted, none over .700). The aggregate WPCT in the final month over the past 13 years is .625.

We'll update this with the final Sept-Oct WPCTs of the 2015 playoff teams. However, a preview: the only post-season team with a .700+ WPCT during the last month (and purportedly doomed to fall short of winning the World Series...) is--you guessed it--the Chicago Cubs.

2015: COMPLETE GAMES #88-#99

Yes, that's right. We are down to the last day of the 2015 season, and we are sitting on 99 complete games. (Now, we know that the total at Forman et fils says 103, but please recall that we don't "recognize" short-inning CGs--any of them that are less than eight innings in length).

So if we can get through today without another CG, we will (according to us, at any rate) have achieved the next level in baseball extinction.

We aren't betting on it happening today, however. There are 32 team-games today, and odds are good that there will be at least one CG out of that mix.

Staying with our log of 2015 CGs, here are the most recent twelve of them that have occurred since our last accounting:

#88 (9/12) Madison Bumgarner, SF (vs. SD, one-hit ShO, 9Ks)
#89 (9/15) Josh Tomlin, CLE (vs. KC, a 2-1 loss)
#90 (9/15) Jon Lester, CHC (vs. PIT, 2-1 win, 5-hitter)
#91 (9/16) Jorge de la Rosa, COL (vs. LAD, a 2-1 loss)
#92 (9/21) Jeff Samardzija, CHW (vs. DET, one-hit ShO)

#93 (9/22) Jake Arrieta, CHC (vs. MIL, three-hit ShO, 11Ks)
#94 (9/25) Rich Hill, BOS (vs. BAL, two-hit ShO, 10Ks)
#95 (9/25) Carlos Carrasco, CLE (vs. KC, one-hit ShO, 15Ks)
#96 (9/29) Clayton Kershaw, LA (vs. SF, one-hit ShO, 13Ks)
#97 (9/30) Mike Leake, SF (vs. LAD, two-hit ShO)

#98 (10/2) Alfredo Simon, DET (vs. CHW, a 2-1 loss)
#99 (10/3) Max Scherzer, WAS (vs. NYM, no-hitter, 17Ks)

We remain on the cusp...

A few quick facts related to 2015 CGs:

--Pitchers' WPCT in these games, which had a slow start this year, eventually returned to something close to the historical average (.778, 77-22).

--Two AL teams, the Royals and the Astros, have had by far the most CGs thrown against them this year, with ten and eight respectively. The Royals, as befitting a season where they've continued last year's post-season overachievement into an entire adjacent year, have managed to win four of those games, which (as you'd suspect) is the highest total for that in 2015.

--Another AL team, the Indians, has the most CGs by its pitchers this year, with a total of 11.

Some may say that CGs have become as scarce as they are trivial. But somehow they become more intriguing as they become more endangered. Just how far will this trend go? Would altering the strike zone a la 1962-63 produce an uptick, or are baseball insiders now so locked into the mega-bullpen mishegoss that even a full return to deadball-era offense wouldn't turn the tide?

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Thursday, September 17, 2015


We started to write the title of this post in the form of a question...then stopped ourselves.

We momentarily forgot exactly how much we loathe that faux formulation.

We don't want to either lead you to water or make you drink--we figure many of you are drunk enough already, and don't need to get any wetter than you already are.

So...on that cheery note, we gear-shift into expository mode, with the thesis spread out like that patient etherized on the table notionalizing the claim that we just might have lived through the great "golden age" of high-walk hitters.

The first table-and-chart data, submitted here for your approval, would seem to indicate that such is the case.

For goodness' sakes, look at the record-setting number in 2000 (17 hitters with 100+ BBs).

And look at the spike in the five-year average for 100+ BB players--a dozen walkmen (alas, sans headphones...) at the peak of the chart in 2003.

Looks like a slam dunk for our recent past (2003 also being that wonderful year in which good 'ol Dubya smirked at us in his flight suit with his "mission accomplished" claptrap--those of us who weren't led to the Kool-Aid know just what was actually "accomplished" while Georgie Boy fiddled with his zipper...) but, hey, there could be a surprise coming...

--and it ain't even October, when many of the most disgusting surprises occur, particularly in a "tinkle-on-your-neighbor land" where every year is now seemingly an "election" year.

Actually, many of you won't be surprised to discover that the above data was somewhat massaged and manipulated. While it's actually true (as in the numbers aren't faked...), it's still an inaccurate representation of the percentage of possible high-walk hitters that existed in any given year over the history of the game.

Why's that? Because the simple count-up of these guys doesn't take into account how many possible hitters there are in seasons with differing numbers of teams. We must remember that there are nearly twice as many teams in baseball now than was the case in 1960.

We have to adjust for that, just as we should adjust for the shocking revelation that the Republican clown is not the best use of your entertainment dollar--hell, tearing off your toenails with a pair of pliers is actually less painful.

When we adjust for the number of possible hitters in baseball, and recalibrate the "counting" numbers into percentages, we get the true picture of when the "golden age" of high-walk players occurred.

Those who've dared to delve into the bowels of this blog, or who've read the mysterious but not musty back issues of BBBA, will know that this "golden age" occurred in the years immediately after World War II, with 1949 being the peak year.

And the "percentage of possible" table and chart demonstrate this for us. We had a nice run of "walkmen" in the late 90s-early 00's, but it doesn't match the levels achieved in the late 40s.

And, by the percentages, the decade we're in now--the terrible teens, as they will probably be called at some not-too-distant point in the future--is actually putting up high-walk player percentages more akin to the big-strike-zone 60s or the deadball era.

That means we have about as much overall variety from hitters in the present-day game that we have from the "individuals" in that clown car.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

2015: COMPLETE GAMES #73-#87

Over the past 22 days, there have been 15 more CGs, including two no-hitters (Mike Fiers, #75, HOU vs LAD; Jake Arrieta, #78, CHC vs LAD--has there ever been a post-season team that was no-hit twice in a season?).

Here is the rundown:

#73--Alfredo Simon, DET 8/20 (one-hit ShO vs. TEX)
#74--Chris Archer, TBR 8/20 (one-hit ShO vs. HOU)
#75--Mike Fiers, HOU 8/21 (no-hitter vs. LAD)
#76--Justin Verlander, DET 8/26 (one-hitter vs. LAA)
#77--Derek Holland, TEX 8/30 (three-hit ShO vs. BAL)

#78--Jake Arrieta, CHC 8/30 (no-hitter vs. LAD)
#79--R.A. Dickey, TOR 9/2 (four-hitter vs. CLE)
#80--Clayton Kershaw, LAD 9/2 (six-hitter vs. SFG, 15 Ks)
#81--Chris Rusin, COL 9/3 (six hitter vs. SFG)
#82--Josh Tomlin, CLE 9/4 (four-hitter vs. DET)

#83--John Danks, CHW 9/4 (seven-hitter vs. KCR)
#84--Wade Miley, BOS 9/5 (five-hitter vs. PHI)
#85--Bartolo Colon, NYM 9/5 (nine-hit ShO vs. MIA)
#86--Kyle Gibson, MIN 9/6 (six-hit loss to KCR)
#87--Colby Lewis, TEX 9/11 (two-hit ShO vs. OAK)

For the first time in 2015, the projection for CGs has exceeded 100 (it's at 100.3 as of this morning). We have three weeks of the season to go...looks like it could go right down to the final day.

Sunday, September 6, 2015


So just how do the teams in our post-modern post-season structure belly up to the bar for fall ball? How many times do teams that make the playoffs have poor months along the way? And is August the "month of decision" for most of these teams, or does September produce as much excitement as the loopy Lords suggest is the case?

We will have to beg off on Question #3 for now, because we haven't gone back to run the numbers yet. (Fortunately, our current double wild-card thingee is a mercifully recent phenomenon, so we should be back with those answers at season's close.)

We suspect that the chart (at right) will answer some or all of the other questions, however. We have five months of the 2015 season broken out into the 30 WPCTs in each month--a total, thus far, of 150 WPCT data points (we are leaving the team names out to protect the guilty and to keep the chart from frying your eyes).

What we see here is that only eight of 150 monthly WPCTs for the teams currently in position to make the 2015 post-season were under .500. That's 5.3% of the WPCTs. Not a lot of margin for error--at least not this year--where it seems that August has separated the wheat from the chaff (barring any spectacular tailspins...can you say Cubbies, anyone?).

What we see here is that August is clearly a month of "separation"--six playoff-bound teams played over .650 ball during the month. (The WPCTs of currently playoff-bound teams are shown in bold type.)

We should note, for purposes of symmetry, that there are six instances of teams playing over .600 ball in any given month and not being (at least not currently...) playoff-bound. The most notable of these teams: the Minnesota Twins, who were 20-7 in May but have fallen behind the Texas Rangers for the second wild-card slot.

August is also the only month where no playoff-bound team played under .500. April, which had close to as many top-performing teams as August, had two playoff-bound teams (the Rangers and the Toronto Blue Jays) under .500--with the Rangers starting out in a big hole (.333).

We'll look at all this more deeply when we get to the end of the year...stay tuned.

Monday, August 31, 2015


As always, apologies for the scramble--there is just too much happening all at once these days...

We want to examine, as simply as possible, the claims made by various members of the "me-me-media" concerning the purported proliferation of young talent in the game during the 2015 season. Are we living through a year that offsets all of this peculiar (even by American standards...) political buggery by virtue of the fact that a crop of fuzzy-cheeked Hall of Famers are parachuting into our consciousness?

Sure, sure, the me-me-media folks didn't put it that way--and why would they slam together the two areas in American culture that wonk the wonk without walking the talk? Really, now, what's in it for them? We need rosy news somewhere, n'est-ce pas, so why not get teary-eyed about young athletes while they still stir our hearts and loins?

But the question, of course, is whether 2015 is a year where young superstars are mega-abundant at levels never seen before. And the answer to that question is to be found, as it often is, in two of our patented "decade-year" charts.

The first chart shows us all of the players aged 23 and younger who qualified for the batting title and had OPS+ values of 100 or higher in any given season. While this doesn't directly address the issue of Hall of Fame talent because it's not restricted to "dominant" seasons by young hitters (some of whom, in fact, flame out...), it does show us the ebb and flow of good-to-great young hitting talent over the course of baseball history.

Seasons with numbers in white are ones with three leagues;
seasons with numbers in blue are expansion years.
In other words, it actually shows us something more than what we were originally asking, which is (usually, at least...) a good thing.

What the chart shows us is that young players were exceptionally abundant in the primordial years of the sport, when the playing conditions were more primitive and careers were shorter. The start-up of the professional game clearly began with something of a selection bias, which explains the high averages of  good-to-great young hitters in the 1870s and 1880s.

After that, there's a lull in great young hitting talent until 1909-10, which ushers in a solid little spike in the 1910s. We have a few small spurts (late 20s, late 30s-early 40s), but there is no big spike again until the 60s and 70s...and, despite continuing expansion, the amount of young hitters having good-to-great offensive seasons has drifted downward over the past three-and-a-half decades.

2015 is definitely an up year, but it is not a dramatic increase. (True, there are some young players, such as Keith Schwarber and Carlos Correa, who don't show up on this list, but qualifying for the batting title is a more than reasonable data constraint for such a study.)

Now let's look at this from the "percentage of available hitter slots" perspective. Here we take the raw number of good-to-great young hitters in a season and divide it into the number of possible hitting slots available in the league. When we do that, we take into account the fact that there are more of these hitting slots available in the post-expansion era.

And when we do this, it tends to level out the data a bit more--and it explains why some people think that the influx of young hitters in 2015 is such a big deal. We see the early selection bias in baseball first two decades even more clearly; we see that the 1910s are cut down some due to the existence of the Federal League.

We see that the 50s weren't quite as bad as the raw data made them look, and the 60s and 70s weren't quite so spectacular because expansion created more available hitting slots.

And we see that young hitting talent in the baseball hasn't been over the historical average (4.3%) since 1992. Baseball's offensive explosion in the nineties may have been aligned with players in their young prime (24-27) coming into their own just as conditions began to seriously favor them.

As you can see, good-to-great young hitting seasons bottomed out in the 2000s--part of a long-term downward trend that had a brief reversal in 2005-7. The uptick in 2013 was overlooked because there were no real "supporting" players (like Schwarber and Correa this season) to add subsidiary bulk to the group.

So, with the subsidiary bulk in play in 2015, and a bonafide uptick to boot, it's easy for some people to get overly excited about the crop of young players out there and hype them prematurely.

We'll know a lot more about this in 2017, when we see if any of these hitters are flashes in the pan.