Saturday, April 25, 2015

2015: COMPLETE GAMES #4, #5--IN THE SAME GAME

"Dammit, Malcolm, I said it was the same DAME,
not the same GAME!"
Last night brought us a very short game (2:03) in which Felix Hernandez went the distance, allowing five hits and no runs, striking out nine.

Another reason why this was the shortest game of the 2015 season (at least to date...) is that the losing pitcher, Phil Hughes, also went the distance, allowing just six hits and two runs over eight innings.

So that gave us CGs #4 and #5 for the still-young year (unless you are part of baseball's administrative apparatus handling suspension appeals; see below...) and the first instance of two CGs in the same game for 2015.

We'll go back and look at the frequency of dual CGs in a later post. But let's digress from this and examine all of the contributing factors in the brevity of this game.

First, no run scoring. Final: Seattle 2, Minnesota 0.

Next, pitchers go all the way. Pitch counts: low and efficient (96 for Hughes, 102 for Felix). That means no pitching changes (which average between three and five minutes each).

Next, no walks (related to the pitch counts). This leads to the question of just how many games occur in a season where neither team draws a walk...we'll go look at that in a bit and report back.

Finally, the home team won. That means the game ends with only seventeen full half-innings. That saves another 5-6 minutes.

Thanks to this little CG cluster, pitcher's won-loss records in complete games in 2015 are still under .500 (2-3).

THANK GOD IT'S RAINING IN CHICAGO...

The late Doug Pappas (possibly due to his legal background...) was the first complier of ejection statistics; while we've never studied them (it's just not the type of baseball minutiae that makes our sanitary socks roll up and down...) we suspect that a preponderance of "heave-ho's"--and their administrative follow-on, the "pay and go away" (in layman's terms, fine and suspension...) devolve on pitchers.

Yordano Ventura: maybe a dose from
Dock Ellis' LSD stash would calm him down...
After all, they've got the ball, and what they do with it has a greater tendency to cause mayhem.

And this year, thus far, that is a verifiable fact. Most of it, thus far, has been happening in the Midwest, where no one has yet legalized marijuana and so have not been either calmed down or turned into zombie-like creatures with insatiable appetites for junk food--and it's been happening a lot with a team that is either bursting with hubris or still shedding the chips on its shoulder.

That would be the KC Royals, whose long-suffering fans include jump-the-shark saber-tooth types, who are apparently so hot right now that they just have to put more, er, "vehemence" into their work.

Led by strapping young hothead Yordano Ventura, the Royals are cutting a swath of disquietude that has more jingle-jangles than the morning in "Mr. Tambourine Man," or the twilight sky in "Eve of Destruction."

We are greatly relieved to report that the rain that began last night in Chicago has mercifully decided to stick around today, which has postponed any further fisticuffs for a little while, at least.

Suspensions handed out from the fracas on Chicago's south side leaned heavily to the boys in powder blue (and why the hell doesn't a team named the Royals play more consistently in royal blue, anyway? It's enough to make you want to quick-pitch someone, ya know??) and, as noted already, to pitchers.

You know, we just might have to investigate those ejection statistics after all...

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

2015: COMPLETE GAME #3--WE GO INTO THE RED...

Now pitching for the Yankees: Chubby Checker's
"full-pack" nephew..Tubolard Playingcard...
Shiver those timbers, mates, we fell asleep in the crow's nest and somehow managed to overlook the biggest iceberg in the ocean...back on Monday night (4/20), the Yankees' C.C. Sabathia was locked up in a pitcher's duel with the Tigers' Alfredo Simon. C.C. had a 1-0 lead going into the seventh, aided in part by the Yankees turning three double plays, but Detroit scored twice in the bottom of that inning and made it stand up for a 2-1 win.

C.C. went all the way to get the loss, dropping his won-loss record to 0-3. (This was another 8 IP CG, by the way...)

That means that complete game pitchers are actually "in the red" in terms of won-loss record: they are 1-2 thus far in 2015. (The usual WPCT for CGs in recent years is upwards of .750...and, yes, we do expect to see something similar by the end of the year.)

We note that 100+ pitch outings are starting to rise--after 12 games per team, the total is up to 97 for the young season, as opposed to 143 over the same span of games in 2014. Instead of being down 50%, as was the case the last time we checked, 100+ pitch games are now down only 33%...

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

TRIPLE YOUR PLEASURE

Paulo Orlando is single-handedly responsible for the slight uptick in triples per game that's occurred in the early days of the 2015 season.

The "blazing basher from Brazil" has hit five triples, including three in his first three major league hits, and so he's grabbed that Warhol moment. (Come to think of it, wouldn't be great if there was a ballplayer named Andy Warhol? Except it would really suck when he turned out to be a pudgy backup catcher instead of a futility infielder with occasional power. In fact, there has been no ballplayer--majors or minors--whose surname is Warhol...the closest was a 50s Phillies' farmhand named Robert Warholic,  a man for whom the bell tolls with no biographical data whatsoever.)

Orlando was almost that anonymous when the 2015 season began, but he found a fit with the Royals, who've always liked speedy outfielders with marginal power who put the bat on the ball. KC is blazing hot right now, and Paulo's three-base-hit surge has fit in with that fast start. (We think that the league will probably start to move their outfielders back about 10-15 feet, which will probably put an end to all this triples tomfoolery.)

But it would be great if that 190-foot rule was in place, which would give someone like Paulo a chance to hit 15-20 triples in a season just by getting maybe forty opportunities to bat with what we've taken to calling a "punitive shift" (and thanks to our friends at "Fright Quotes R Us" for renewing their sponsorship with us this year--it would have been cheap at twice the price, guys).

No one would love it more than us if someone actually hit 30 triples in a season, but it's not going to be Paulo Orlando. Not without some added "help" from a game that really could use about twice as many three-baggers.

Monday, April 20, 2015

2015: COMPLETE GAME #2

It's one of those ersatz CGs, which quite probably befits the event's asymptotic meaning.l

There are, as we can figure it on the back of our self-moistening envelope, precisely three types of ersatz CGs:

1--Those CGs that result from a game being called in the fifth, sixth or seventh innings with one or more starters still in the game;

2--Those CGs where a pitcher is in the game at its conclusion but was (a la Sam McDowell, way back in the late sixties, if our mind isn't getting overtaxed by an assault from the lower chakras...) temporarily removed to another defensive position--and this includes the scenario where the uber-temporary reliever  doesn't manage to record an out;

3--Those CGs where the losing pitcher is bat for in the ninth inning when his team is on the road, and who winds up having pitched the entire game because his team doesn't rally to tie the score (at which point, of course, the starting pitcher in question will no longer have a CG) and the game ends.

#3 is what 2015's CG #2 turned out to be-- a solid but losing performance by the Reds' Mike Leake, who allowed just four hits to the St. Louis Cardinals over eight innings but wound up on the short end of a 2-1 decision.

One consolation for Leake: it was all over in a hurry. Thanks mostly to low pitch count totals for both  starters, the second Sunday night baseball telecast (and the second in a row to feature the Cardinals, who are now 2-0 on Sunday nights in 2015...) only took two hours and two minutes to play.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

STILL NOT PROMISIN', BUT: QMAX "EXTREMES" CHART THRU APRIL 18...

The earlier chart got us to thinking...and you know what THAT can lead to. (Cue soundtrack of stampeding cattle...)

The extremes in starting pitcher performance are the areas of great interest--they have tended to get fetishized in formulations like Game Scores, however. Which is why we've always proselytized for the probabilistic approach in QMAX (short for Quality Matrix), where even great hit prevention is not a guarantee of a win. It's the real-life look at results, without any overdetermination.

Which brings us back to the earlier chart and how it can go further in summarizing the information that QMAX brings to bear on all this. It's simple enough to add in the "bad" performances  (the "hit hard" games, the ones in the "6S" and "7S" range of the QMAX matrix chart). When we do that, we've got a snapshot of those games that are almost--but not quite--"automatic" wins and losses when they occur.

So here's the expanded chart...we'll do as much explaining as possible below. (You're going to have to click on it to get the full "experience"...)




























So what's added to the earlier version are notations for the "hit hard" games, the "6's" and "7's"--when the numbers are shown in black, the team managed to win the game despite the poor starting performance; when in red, 'twas a loss. And the data shown across the bottom--a running count of wins and losses in "6S" and "7S" games--shows what we've told you about these regions for years now: teams can still win about a third of the games where the QMAX "S" score is a "6," but it's much, much harder to win when the score is a "7." (And now that we are back in a lower-scoring era, it's gotten that much harder: in 2009, the overall team WPCT for "7S" games was .140, while in 2014 it was .095 (and in the early going this year is even lower, at .063).

If you look at the totals (summarized in the juxtaposed green and orange boxes near the lower right of the chart) you'll see that there is a very close balance between "top hit prevention" games ("1S" and "2S" on the QMAX chart) and "hit hard" games ("6S" and "7S").

Remember that "1S" and "2S" games that result in losses for the team have the heavier box display, and you can track all of this action team-by-team as the games pile up, day-by-day.

You might be surprised to discover that the Orioles (not thought of as a team with strong starting pitching) have the most "1S" and "2S" games thus far--along with the Cardinals and the Tigers. (And Detroit has managed to win all of those "top hit prevention" games thus far...which is not something that can continue indefinitely.)

The chart also shows that the Cubs have managed to beat the odds in "6S" and "7S" games in the early going, winning three of five such games when the overall winning percentage is less than .250 in the "hit hard" region.

We even found a way to display complete games, and if you look carefully you find it. (There's still only one.)

Now will we be able to keep this up all year? Who knows...but feel free to check up on it as the season plays out.

Friday, April 17, 2015

AND THE FIRST COMPLETE GAME OF 2015 GOES TO...

We waited thirteen days into the 2015 season...and there were thirteen previous games in which a starter threw at least eight innings (including two outings by David Price)...but the first complete game of the year was turned in by a pitcher who'd thrown two consecutive "7S" QMAX games in his previous 2015 starts and had allowed 19 hits in 9 2/3 previous innings.

That's right...it's Josh Collmenter of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who blanked the reeling San Francisco Giants (last year's World Champs are now 3-9 to start the season) on four hits in a 9-0 rout.

Collmenter had a complete game last year, so this is not an example of virginity loss or anything. Those who were hoping for a more dramatic performance (last year, just for comparison, the Padres' Andrew Cashner tossed a one-hitter with 11 strikeouts to kick things off in the CG department) will be a bit deflated by the fact that Josh fanned only two Giants en route to his route-going performance.

With signs of increasing caution in starting pitcher usage swirling around in the early going, we've got the sense that this just might be the year in which the total number of CGs dips below 100 for the first time ever. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

NOT PROMISIN', BUT: 2015 QMAX TOP HIT PREVENTION SCORES DAY BY DAY, BY TEAM

What that title means is that we aren't promising to keep this up the whole damn season, at least not without some automation (or, perhaps, locomotion...) from some of our auto-didact associates.

But, for now, here it is--a way to see when the best starting pitcher performances (according to the Quality Matrix aka QMAX) occur.


































Some explanations: 1) the squares with the extra-bold borders are for those games in which the team lost: at this level of performance, they are (of course) much rarer and thus don't overcrowd the chart;

2) why do we break out two types of "2S" game here...well, that's because an alternate formulation of the QMAX matrix runs in parallel with the one chosen so many years ago to be the basis for the method, one that creates the breakpoints based on the ratio of IP/H as opposed to simple subtraction (IP-H, with adjustments for extra-base hits).

We discovered that the overlay allowed us to further test the probabilistic validity of this model...and this shows up in the 2S range as sorted between IP/H levels. The 2S games where IP>(2*H) produces higher team winning percentages (just over .750 over many years of data, and 8-2 in the 2015 data thus far); while the 2S games where IP<(2*H) have a winning percentage around .640 and a 6-4 record.

Of course, the chart can be enjoyed for simply displaying the top games by team, by day. You could also add all the other "S" scores on it, and make it into an overwhelming piece of visual data--and, if you're not nice to us, that's just what we'll do.

An early surprise from this data is the fact that the Nationals, with their highly touted starting staff, are simply not putting up any top hit prevention games thus far. Nor have the Yankees, for that matter. [EDIT: as of today--Tax Day morning--they are now the only two teams without any top hit prevention games from their starters.]

Now if we could keep this up, we could see which teams have the worst luck in their top hit prevention games--another item in the game subject to randomness that would add some detail to why there is variation between projected and actual WPCT. Every little detail is worth tracking, n'est-ce pas?

Monday, April 13, 2015

WHAT THE DEVIL GOT INTO ANGELL?

Yes, yes, Roger Angell is a national treasure and all that. Even the "wild west" of America, as represented by the Baseball Reliquary, has acknowledged this at levels of extravagance that border on the unseemly.

But the Grand Old Man is (to borrow our earlier conceit...) putting the "limp" into "limpid" with his cheeky chastisement of "games that go on too long" (his recent New Yorker blog post, written after the Yankees/Red Sox' 19-inning game) and his call for curfew.

Sure, he still turns phrases gracefully: but it's now a grace mostly due to slow-motion rather than the bracing eloquence that used to come from his mastery of changing speeds. And he still knows how to be just as pretentious as anyone (including ourselves...) by invoking Higher Powers of literary achievement--though we'll take The Wasteland over some middling Shakespeare history play any day of the week--in order to mask the ultimately pedestrian nature of the subject at hand.

What deep old age may have robbed from Roger (and, to be fair, this is likely to happen to anyone who survives into that unique region of twilight) is the romance still latent in baseball's odd margins--in this case, as manifested in extraordinarily long games.

That romance might be less easy to appreciate at the ballpark, when the late night/early morning creates physical conditions that are, shall we say, sub-optimal. Or at home with the TV on, where the combination of image and sparse dialogue (if it is even that) can't help but create a soporific effect--often well before extra innings.

Dig that suit, Mel! If we run across you in this at 3 AM,
we promise that we'll be wide, wide awake!!
But consider the fan, of any age, with a SmartPhone, suddenly adrift on a Friday night somewhere, anywhere, in this benighted land, who finds that they can tune into a game played (up to) thousands of miles away, listening to the voices of the announcers (even the oft-maligned Sterling and Waldman) as they alternate reportage and repartee, grousing happily about the lateness of the hour, knowing that they  and the fans are getting something that they all-too-rarely get these days.

Namely, extra value. For free.

Those who've become too old, or too self-involved, or too whatever should simply sit this one out, go home, roll over and play dead. For in the wee hours there is a spectral magic in the game that comes through loud and clear to anyone who's willing to surrender themselves to it.

I remember as a kid, long before it was easy to get such nationwide reception, listening to the legendary 24-inning Mets-Astros game in April 1968, on a cheap radio in my upstairs bedroom, safely tucked away from the prying eyes and ears of my parents. The reception faded in and out, and at that hour (going on two in the morning) so did I; like Angell, I dozed off and missed several innings.

Only to wake up and discover that, against all odds, the game was still going on. I'd slipped back to sleep after the fourteenth inning and reawakened in time for the twentieth.

It was a moment of hushed astonishment, the pleasure of paradox delivered in a prosaic discovery made strange and wondrous, as if it were part of a dream.

Only baseball can do that, O ancient literary legend. It can, when it decides to, transcend time. We've taken so much else away from it (and from ourselves)--let's not take that away, too. Sometimes common sense is merely common. No curfews, old man!