Monthly Archives: May 2013

Pitcher-Turned-Law Student On Cheating In Baseball

I’m an avid reader of Slashdot, and there’s a great bit over there this morning about a pitcher-turned-law student who was advised to cheat to succeed. Apparently the coach wanted him to start breaking the rules in order to have an out pitch. He gave up the game, became a student at the St Louis University School of Law, and wrote a paper “that attempted to apply the tenets of legal theorists to the rampant cheating in baseball and other sports”.

I’ve only read part of it so far, and it’s quite interesting. I wanted to point anyone to it who might be interested. It gives us a peak into the “culture of cheating” as some call it, and how it starts creeping into a player’s psyche.

What’s Wrong With The Angels?

I keep waiting for the Angels to start playing baseball. Right now they’re a .386 team, but I really don’t think that’s who they really are.

A quick look at the offense, and you see that 6 of their starting 9, have an OPS+ over 100. Yet, the team as a whole is just league average in BA (.256), & close to league average in OBP (2 points lower) and SLG (6 points lower). Not great, but not so bad that they should be on pace to lose 91 games, which is how many L’s Cool Standings is projecting for them right now.

Look a little deeper though, & we see the Angels are making lots of outs. They have hit into more GDP (47) and SF (24) than anybody else in the American League and only Houston has more SH & CS. In fact, the Angels SB% is just 57.1%.

Despite all those rally killing outs, they’re just 3 R’s below league average, with 289 runs scored.

While the offense is busy giving away outs, the team’s pitchers are also busy giving away outs. They’re intentionally walking more than any other staff in the AL, and only Houston has served more BB’s than the Angels. I know it’s been said before, but how can you win games if your offense is making outs and your pitchers aren’t making any?

Oh, but what about strikeouts? Well, the pitchers are throwing ’em just below league average. They’ve struck out 326, and league average is 332. Not too bad, but, when you’re giving away so many outs, you can’t get away with this. Contrast that with the Royals or Orioles, who have struck out far less batters than the Angels. Compare that to Baltimore, who’s nowhere near the top of the league in IBB’s or BB’s, so they can get away with being below league average in strikeouts.

When a pitching staff lets a good amount of batters reach base, the defense needs to play sharp. That’s not happening in Anaheim. The Angels have the 2nd most errors in the league, behind Chicago by only 1 error. Again, let’s contrast that with the Orioles, who have only 14 errors.

And I’ve gotta say, they’re not stopping anybody from stealing a base. There’s been 42 attempts against them, and 36 have been successful. Let me repeat that in case you think that’s a typo – the Angels are only catching 14% of base stealers. What?!? For a team with a former catcher for their manager, I’m really shocked at that stat. It’s actually even worse than it sounds, ’cause the Angels main catcher, Chris Iannetta, is only catching 9% of attempted steals again him.

The league average, is 25%.

Without even dipping into advanced stats, it’s clear to see the Angels are losing with decent hitters, ’cause the team is giving away outs in every area of their game.

Pittsburgh’s Games Over .500

After a rough first week of the season, Pittsburgh’s been the 2nd best team in baseball (tied with the Yankees) from April 8th onward, going 24-12, just 0.5 games back of St Louis during that time. Now after last night, the Pirates are 8 games over .500 on the season.

To put that in some context, here’s a list of the highest above .500 the Pirates have gotten in the years since they won the ’79 World Series (33 seasons), showing the latest date in each season that the team reached their peak that season.

Peak Games Over .500 Date
16 Aug 08, 2012
7 Jul 19, 2011
2 Apr 18, 2010
4 Apr 26, 2009
1 Apr 14, 2008
3 Apr 04, 2007
Never over .500 in 2006
Never over .500 in 2005
2 Apr 18, 2004
4 Apr 11, 2003
7 Apr 21, 2002
Never over .500 in 2001
Never over .500 in 2000
5 Jun 4, 1999
2 Apr 12, 1998
4 May 9, 1997
3 Apr 6, 1996
Never over .500 in 1995
3 May 11, 1994
5 Apr 15, 1993
32 Sep 29, 1992
34 Oct 06, 1991
29 Oct 02, 1990
Never over .500 in 1989
18 Jul 21, 1988
2 May 24, 1987
4 Apr 20, 1986
Never over .500 in 1985
1 Apr 08, 1984
9 Sep 24, 1983
10 Sep 19, 1982
4 Jun 07, 1981
17 Aug 17, 1980

Will Pittsburgh Collapse Again This Year?

I was watching the Pirates beat up Milwaukee last night, and thought “Wow, these guys are lookin’ pretty good right now.”

As of this morning, the Pirates can go just 57-64, to win half their games this season. Two years ago, at the point in their season, they would’ve needed to go 63-58. They rose up, and fell fast, ending up with just 54 more W’s. Last year, after 41 games, they weren’t much better. They needed to go 62-59 to make the 81-81 mark.

Of course, I’m hesitant to believe they’ll manage 81 wins ’cause a) it’s too soon, and b) they keep collapsing in late July/early August. On the other hand, they looked pretty good last night. Better than I remember them being last season, even when they won. It’s especially encouraging that the team’s 7 games over .500 so early, and that’s with McCutchen in a slump.

If the Pirates can keep winning when McCutchen’s not carrying them, then they’ll definitely end their streak of losing seasons. That’s probably stating the obvious, but really, that would mean the team’s capable of being a team, not just a team surrounding a star.

If you look at their batters, there’s 4 guys in the lineup with OBP’s over .350, and none of them are Andrew McCutchen. He’ll come around, but it’s great to see the team being more than McCutchen. On the other side of the ball, 3 of the team’s starters have ERA’s 3.25 and under. So this isn’t like they’re winning by accident or by beating teams that are in slumps, they’re actually playing well and being productive.

I’ll probably have more in-depth stuff to say about the Pirates as the season goes on, but right now I just want to say they’re starting off on he right foot. And if/when they win their 81st game, they should celebrate on the field like they just won the World Series. I don’t think anybody would hold it against them.

Why the Tigers Keep Winning

Entering tonight’s games, the top 4 pitchers in the majors, ranked by FIP—

FIP WAR Pitcher Team
1.46 2.2 Anibal Sanchez Tigers
1.87 2.2 Adam Wainwright Cardinals
1.88 2.0 Max Scherzer Tigers
2.08 2.1 Justin Verlander Tigers

They probably won’t keep this up all year, but if they stay somewhere in the vicinity, nobody’s going to want to face them ever again. Awesome start to the season for the Tigers starters. If you look at the top 20, you’ll see another Tiger too, Doug Fister, at #19 with a 3.02 FIP.

in support of the pitching, the offense is doing it’s job. They rank #1 in the AL in BA & OBP, #2 in Runs, #3 in Walks, and #4 in slugging.

Impressive Pitching Performances Friday Night

Alex Cobb used 117 pitches in 4 2/3 IP, striking out 13 of 23 BF. I’d like to see a Pitch/FX analysis on that one. He even managed to get 4 strikeouts in one of the innings. His only problem was that he threw way too many pitches and had to come out of the game so early.

Meanwhile, in Boston and St Louis, both Jon Lester & Shelby Miller, tossed 1 hitters. Actually, that’s kind of a misleading way to put it — they only allowed a single base runner all game. No walks and no reaching on errors.

Lester did it against the Blue Jays. His lone runner was due to a double in the 6th. Impressively, he only threw 58 pitches through the 5th inning.

Miller on the other hand, retired 27 straight batters after giving up a single to start the game. Like Cobb, Miller also struck out 13 batters. He was far more efficient tho, using 113 pitches over 9 innings.

What Miller did, reminds me of what Jerry Reuss did against the Reds in 1982. Reuss gave up a leadoff double, before retiring the next 27. That lone runner (Eddie Milner) came around to score, so people don’t tend to remember this game as a near perfecto. The Dodger defense played a big part in it too, as Reuss only struck out 2 batters.

If the A’s…

I know I’m thinking way ahead, but if the A’s lose out on a playoff slot by 1 game, then Angel Hernandez should lose his job. If they get into the playoffs but lose out on home field by 1 game, then Angel Hernandez should get disciplined in some way, at the very least. Can MLB just fire him now?

I’m fine with umpire mistakes, ’cause that’s going to happen at times. But when you’ve got to check a reply and the replays all clearly show a certain play but the umpire says it didn’t happen that way at all… something’s very wrong.

Break up The Astros!

I’ve always been fascinated with historically bad teams. Back in 2003, I rooted for the Tigers to lose 121, just for the historicalness of it. I recall being glued to MLB’s gameday when the Royals had a 19 game losing streak in ’05. Last summer, I had fun watching the Astros go through a 9-50 stretch. I think it was the worst stretch by any club since the Philadelphia A’s went 6-63 in the summer of 1916.

Now the Astros have my full attention again. After losing 106+ games in each of the past two seasons, they look like they’re at it again just 32 games into this season. Consequently, they need to go at least 55-75 (.423) to avoid a third consecutive 100 loss season.

Doesn’t sound too hard, but we’re talkin’ about a team that’s playing .250 baseball so far, and hasn’t played .400 ball in over two years. Their upcoming schedule looks tough too, with 19 of their next 21 games being against clubs currently over-.500. That includes Texas, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Oakland, & Colorado.

So this made me ask — where might these Astros be placed in the history of bad teams? Losing 100+ games means a team couldn’t manage better than a .383 winning percentage for the season. Only 47 teams ever stumbled through consecutive seasons that badly, and just 20 of them played that way for at least 3 straight seasons.

Consecutive Seasons of .383 WP or Less
Team W L % Note
2011-2013/5/6 Astros 119 237 .334 could be 3 straight by end of 2013
2008-2009 Nationals 118 205 .365
2004-2006 Royals 176 310 .362 3 straight seasons
2002-2003 Tigers 98 225 .303
2001-2002 Devil Rays 117 206 .362
1981-1982 Twins 101 170 .373
1977-1979 Blue Jays 166 318 .343 3 straight seasons
1972-1973 Rangers 111 205 .351
1964-1965 A’s 116 208 .358
1962-1965 Mets 194 452 .300 4 straight seasons
1961-1964 Senators 239 407 .370 4 straight seasons
1960-1961 A’s 119 196 .378
1960-1961 Phillies 106 202 .344
1955-1957 Senators 167 295 .361 3 straight seasons
1953-1955 Browns/Orioles 165 297 .357 3 straight seasons
1953-1954 A’s 110 198 .357
1952-1954 Pirates 145 317 .314 3 straight seasons
1949-1951 Browns 163 299 .353 3 straight seasons
1948-1949 Senators 106 201 .345
1945-1946 A’s 101 203 .332
1942-1943 A’s 104 204 .338
1938-1942 Phillies 225 534 .296 5 straight seasons
1936-1940 A’s 269 493 .353 5 straight seasons
1936-1939 Browns 201 411 .328 4 straight seasons
1931-1932 White Sox 105 199 .345
1930-1931 Reds 117 191 .380
1928-1929 Braves 106 201 .345
1925-1930 Red Sox 268 609 .306 6 straight seasons
1922-1924 Braves 160 300 .348 3 straight seasons
1921-1924 Phillies 213 399 .348 4 straight seasons
1919-1921 A’s 137 310 .306 3 straight seasons
1915-1917 A’s 134 324 .293 3 straight seasons
1914-1915 Naps/Indians 108 197 .354
1912-1913 Highlanders/Yankees 107 196 .353
1910-1913 Browns 202 411 .330 4 straight seasons
1909-1912 Doves/Rustlers/Braves 194 416 .318 4 straight seasons
1908-1909 Superbas 108 199 .352
1906-1907 Senators 104 197 .346
1905-1909 Cardinals 265 498 .347 5 straight seasons
1904-1905 Superbas 104 201 .341
1904-1905 Beaneaters 106 201 .345
1903-1904 Phillies 101 186 .352
1903-1904 Senators 81 207 .281
1901-1902 Giants 100 173 .366
1895-1898 Browns 147 395 .271 4 straight seasons
1883-1884 Quakers 56 154 .267
1883-1884 Alleghanys 61 145 .296

No streaks for these clubs…….

  • Angels
  • Brewers
  • Cubs
  • Diamondbacks
  • Mariners
  • Marlins
  • Rockies

The trouble in Houston is all about finances. It probably always boils down to that. The new owner, was put behind the 8 ball by MLB, which forced him to switch to the tougher American League. In the meantime, in order to buy the team, he had to borrow a lot of money. So they’re smartly trying to pay that back quickly, while building up some prospects in the minors.

Right now, the Astros AAA club in Oklahoma City (18-11), the AA club in Corpus Christi (18-11), and the Advanced A club in Lancaster (18-12), are all in 1st place in their respective divisions. The class A team in Quad City (17-11) ain’t doin’ half bad either, sittin’ 3 games back of the top of their division.

So clearly, the Astros won’t turn into the Pirates, who’ve been struggling to have just one .500 season since 21 years ago, or those late 1920’s Red Sox who lost tons of games for 6 straight seasons. Houston’s just in the midst of a historically bad rebuilding period.

Will Anyone Ever Hit 150 Triples Again?

David Pinto noted in a recent post about the most triples hit since the century began, and it made me wonder who leads in triples since I really got into baseball in 1982. That turns out to be 128 by Brett Butler, who’s possibly the most underrated leadoff man of the past 50 years.

If you go back to the start of the expansion era, the leader is Willie Wilson, with 147.

So I had to ask, “when was the last time anyone hit 150 triples?”

Turns out, it was Robert Clemente, on July 17, 1970 in a 4-3 Pirates victory over the Reds. It was a 1 out triple, and he scored on a sac fly to tie the game at 3. He finished his career with 166.

Here’s the last times anyone’s managed to reach the 150 triples plateau after the 1920’s—

  1. Roberto Clemente, on July 17, 1970
  2. Stan Musial, on Sept 10, 1954
  3. Kiki Cuyler, on April 30, 1938
  4. Lou Gehrig, on June 7, 1937
  5. Jim Bottomley, on Sept 3, 1936
  6. Heinie Manush, on May 19, 1936
  7. Paul Waner, on June 30, 1935
  8. Earl Combs, on June 23, 1934
  9. Pie Traynor, on Sept 1, 1933
  10. Goose Goslin, on August 23, 1933
  11. Harry Heilmann, on July 7, 1930
  12. Joe Judge, on June 28, 1930

As you can see, it was pretty common in the 1930’s, but after Cuyler in ’38, only two batters have reached 150.

Most of the time we ask if anyone will ever break this record or that record, but after seeing this, I gotta wonder if anyone will ever hit 150 triples, never mind ever breaking the all-time record…. of 309 triples.

I think Jose Reyes, with 111 triples and turning 31 years old in June, could reach the 150 mark—if he gets healthy & stays that way. As recently as last season, he hit 12, and he only needs 39 more.

17-11

Just noticed that 4 out of the 6 divisional leaders, are 17-11, including the entire National League.