> The pace of the game has been a talking point around pro baseball discussions for a few years now. The debate now is if anything could (or should) be done to speed up the game.
Baseball’s own perception seems to be that it is necessary to do something so as to not alienate a large population who finds baseball too slow. They have created a pace of game committee and will be testing several new rules in the Arizona Fall League including a pitch clock.
Having watched and listened to semi-old games, I have never really noticed a distinct difference in pacing from the modern game. There are certainly more pitching changes now and commercial breaks are way longer, but the actual back-and-forth between batter and pitcher seems about the same now as it did in the 70s, 80s and 90s.
To make sure, I estimated minutes spent on commercials. Speaking generally, a modern commercial break in a baseball game is two minutes long and doesn’t distinguish between an inning change and a pitching change. Different channels each do their own thing, so this is just a general rule of thumb. From the games I could find in 1979 online, the average commercial break then was one minute.
|Est. Commercial Minutes/Gm||20||46||26|
Again we’re using estimates here, but according to this initial analysis, well over half (59%) of the time-of-game increase in the last 35 years was caused by longer and more frequent commercial breaks, which of course will not be targeted by the league who profits from them. Given that at-bats are getting longer, this probably leaves MLB with an optimum improvement of about 15 minutes per game.
> Below is every manager who has won the Manager of the Year Award (MOTY) during a full season and then also managed a full season afterward. Listed are their teams’ win totals in both seasons.
|Clint Hurdle 2013||94||88||-6|
|Terry Francona 2013||92||85||-7|
|Davey Johnson 2012||98||86||-12|
|Bob Melvin 2012||94||96||+2|
|Kirk Gibson 2011||94||81||-13|
|Joe Maddon 2011||91||90||-1|
|Bud Black 2010||90||71||-19|
|Ron Gardenhire 2010||94||63||-31|
|Mike Scioscia 2009||97||80||-17|
|Lou Piniella 2008||97||83||-14|
|Joe Maddon 2008||97||84||-13|
|Bob Melvin 2007||90||82||-8|
|Eric Wedge 2007||96||81||-15|
|Jim Leyland 2006||95||88||-7|
|Bobby Cox 2005||90||79||-11|
|Ozzie Guillen 2005||99||90||-9|
|Bobby Cox 2004||96||90||-6|
|Buck Schowalter 2004||89||79||-10|
|Jack McKeon 2003||75||83||+8|
|Tony Pena 2003||83||58||-25|
|Tony LaRussa 2002||97||85||-12|
|Mike Scioscia 2002||99||77||-22|
|Larry Bowa 2001||86||80||-6|
|Lou Piniella 2001||116||93||-23|
|Dusty Baker 2000||97||90||-7|
|Jerry Manuel 2000||95||83||-12|
|Jack McKeon 1999||96||85||-11|
|Jimy Williams 1999||94||85||-9|
|Joe Torre 1998||114||98||-16|
|Dusty Baker 1997||90||89||-1|
|Bruce Bochy 1996||91||76||-15|
|Johnny Oates 1996||90||77||-13|
|Jim Leyland 1992||96||75||-21|
|Tony LaRussa 1992||96||68||-28|
|Bobby Cox 1991||94||98||+4|
|Tom Kelly 1991||95||90||-5|
|Jim Leyland 1990||95||98||+3|
|Jeff Torborg 1990||94||87||-7|
|Don Zimmer 1989||93||77||-16|
|Frank Robinson 1989||87||76||-11|
|Tommy Lasorda 1988||94||77||-17|
|Tony LaRussa 1988||104||99||-5|
|Buck Rodgers 1987||91||81||-10|
|Sparky Anderson 1987||98||88||-10|
|Hal Lanier 1986||96||76||-20|
|John McNamara 1986||95||78||-17|
|Whitey Herzog 1985||101||79||-22|
|Jim Frey 1984||96||77||-19|
|Sparky Anderson 1984||104||84||-20|
|Tommy Lasorda 1983||91||79||-12|
|Tony LaRussa 1983||99||74||-25|
On average, a Manager of the Year’s team lost twelve more games in the following season (going from an average of 95 to an average of 83). Of the 51 qualified instances, only four managers would go on to have better records the following year, with the average of those improvements being just four more wins.
This suggests a flaw in the voting mentality. If the manager is the one who caused a team to win more games than they should have, then he should be able to do the same thing again next year. But he never can, which suggests that we’re taking the wrong approach when voting. The winner should be rewarded for sound judgement, not how many unexpected wins his team had.
> The on-field management of MLB teams is in a bad way right now. Teams have essentially abandoned Xs and Os in favor of having clubhouse leaders whose qualifications have everything to do with being good leaders of men and nothing to do with baseball strategy. This is reflected in their day-to-day decision-making and is readily apparent to basically everyone watching.
Because of this, it’s hard to hand out Manager of the Year Awards since you are essentially choosing the lesser of 30 evils. Management is also hard to quantify, so there is almost no one qualified to actually vote on this thing since one would have to become familiar with each manager’s day-to-day policies. Presented here is my meager attempt. It’s not statistically rigorous by any means; I just feel some objective attempt has to be made at finding Baseball’s best managers since the current voting philosophy simply gives credit to the manager of that season’s surprise team (even when the surprise came as a result of bad prognostication).
Below are each manager’s rankings in
- “Mismatches” — Lefty-on-righty or righty-on-lefty pitching matchups after the seventh inning in games that are still within two runs.
- “Bunts” — Sac bunt attempts by position players.
- “Two-Hitter” — OPS put up by the team’s two-spot hitters. Shows whether the manager constructed his lineup aggressively or split up his hitters in the name of getting the runner over.
- “After Three” — How many runs the team’s starters faced after three times through the order.
- “SB%” — The team’s success rate on steal attempts.
Again it’s not perfect; you can spot the problems in a few of those. But it’s a start, and here’s what it comes out to. (1 is best, 30 is worst.)
|1. Matt Williams (NATS)||7||4||7||3||5||5.2|
|2. Don Mattingly (DGRS)||14||6||3||8||11||8.4|
|3. Bo Porter, Tom Lawless (ASRS)||6||12||5||18||8||9.8|
|4. Bruce Bochy (GNTS)||1||1||8||13||26||9.8|
|5. Rick Renteria (CUBS)||2||7||17||1||30||11.4|
|6. Kirk Gibson, Alan Trammell (DBKS)||21||5||14||4||15||11.8|
|7. Mike Scioscia (AGLS)||22||11||1||2||25||12.2|
|8. Walt Weiss (RCKS)||3||22||4||5||27||12.2|
|9. Ron Gardenhire (TWNS)||8||14||10||20||13||13|
|10. Terry Collins (METS)||17||2||15||23||9||13.2|
|11. John Gibbons (JAYS)||10||29||6||19||7||14.2|
|12. Ron Roenicke (BRWS)||15||21||13||6||20||15|
|13. Mike Matheny (CRDS)||4||16||19||9||28||15.2|
|14. Joe Girardi (YNKS)||24||20||21||10||2||15.4|
|15. Bob Melvin (ATCS)||16||18||26||15||3||15.6|
|16. Bud Black (PDRS)||5||19||30||11||14||15.8|
|17. Buck Schowalter (ORLS)||23||26||2||7||23||16.2|
|18. Mike Redmond (MRLS)||25||15||22||12||12||17.2|
|19. John Farrell (RDSX)||20||8||20||25||16||17.8|
|20. Robin Ventura (WTSX)||28||3||24||17||18||18|
|21. Ryne Sandberg (PHLS)||30||9||18||29||4||18|
|22. Bryan Price (REDS)||12||23||12||26||19||18.4|
|23. Brad Ausmus (TGRS)||13||17||16||30||17||18.6|
|24. Fredi Gonzalez (BRVS)||27||10||25||22||10||18.8|
|25. Clint Hurdle (PRTS)||29||13||9||21||24||19.2|
|26. Ned Yost (RYLS)||18||27||27||28||1||20.2|
|27. Terry Francona (INDS)||19||28||23||27||6||20.6|
|28. Joe Maddon (RAYS)||26||30||11||16||22||21|
|29. Ron Washington, Tim Bogar (RGRS)||9||25||28||14||29||21|
|30. Lloyd McClendon (MRNS)||11||24||29||24||21||21.8|
So I guess my Managers of the Year are Matt Williams and Bo Porter.
> The end of the 2014 regular season is almost here, which means it’s finally time to draft MVP ballots. There are seemingly dozens of philosophies out there on how to go about doing this, so I’ll first explain my thought process.
The MVP should go to the player with the most transferable, inherent value. What his teammates did or did not do is irrelevant. In essence, if we were to re-play the entire 2014 season over again and started with an all-players draft, the MVP is the guy you would take in the first round with the first pick.
This is a difficult task; one that we are not totally capable of performing with our current set of statistics. For position players, my methodology consisted of taking the player’s contributions on offense, defense and baserunning and normalizing the number of opportunities. So an outfielder who had a ton of balls hit to him while playing behind a flyball-heavy pitching staff will have his defensive WAR total diminished and a leadoff hitter who gets to come to the plate more often than most will have his offensive WAR diminished; and vice versa for a hitter who did not have as many defensive chances or hit low in the order. Defense at the player’s primary position was the only defense considered
Catchers’ defensive WAR was diminished since I think it’s silly to give them full credit for controlling the running game, framing close pitches and saving bad pitches since the pitcher obviously has a hand in all of that.
For pitchers, I went with SIERA WAR.
Using the above process simply creates a list of top ten candidates in each league. From those ten I will look deeper to decide which three players had the most legitimate, reproducible output in 2014.
|Jonathan Lucroy||6.0||Mike Trout||6.9|
|Clayton Kershaw||5.9||Jose Bautista||5.9|
|Andrew McCutchen||5.5||Felix Hernandez||5.7|
|Buster Posey||5.4||Michael Brantley||5.6|
|Giancarlo Stanton||5.3||David Price||5.5|
|Anthony Rendon||5.3||Josh Donaldson||5.4|
|Russell Martin||5.1||Corey Kluber||5.4|
|Carlos Gomez||5.0||Adrian Beltre||5.4|
|Stephen Strasburg||4.9||Alex Gordon||5.2|
|Jhonny Peralta||4.8||Yan Gomes||4.8|
These are the candidates, and these are my ballots:
1. Clayton Kershaw, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Usually when players are compared to long-retired Hall-of-Famers who played for the same team at the same position, it’s because analysts are taking the easy way out in looking for a historical comparison. This is not the case with Kershaw and former Dodger lefty Sandy Koufax. In Koufax’s last (and best) three seasons, he posted an ERA+ (era- and park-adjusted ERA) of 176. In his last (and best) three seasons, Kershaw has also posted an ERA+ of 176. He missed as many as eight starts due to an early back injury, but still finished with the highest RA9 WAR per start since Pedro Martinez’s legendary season in 2000. Kershaw continued to pave his path to the Hall of Fame in 2014, and so he is my NL MVP.
2. Andrew McCutchen, CF, Pittsburgh Pirates
At the time of this writing, McCutchen leads all of Baseball in WRC+ (a more accurately weighted OPS).
His defense has always been a weird thing for me. I think, based on observation and statistics, he is overrated defensively; but in our hypothetical draft he could be moved to a corner outfield spot or even DH in order to de-emphasize his mediocre fielding. (Which the Pirates should be doing anyway.)
3. Giancarlo Stanton, RF, Miami Marlins
Stanton didn’t make a lot of contact this season, but when he did, it was devastating. No one in the NL can rival his raw power, and had a freak injury not cost him the rest of his season, his added value probably would have been even higher.
Honorable Mention: Jonathan Lucroy, CR, Milwaukee Brewers
I’ve been excited about Lucroy’s candidacy for a large part of the year, but a lot of his case is built on the shady world of catcher defensive metrics. I acknowledge that I could be making a mistake by not putting him in my top three, but I feel that even if this is a miss on my part, I’m not missing by much.
1. Mike Trout, CF, Anaheim Angels
In a just world, this would make three MVPs for Trout in his first three full seasons. He has now surpassed Miguel Cabrera as the best hitter in Baseball, and while I think his defense is often way overblown and he’s not running as much as he has before, he is still the best player in the world. If our hypothetical draft was not bound by leagues and I had the first pick, I’d take him with confidence.
2. Jose Bautista, RF, Toronto Blue Jays
Bautista maintains his slot in the all-decade team’s outfield, leading the American League in on-base with 35 homers. Very few power hitters have been able to avoid being swallowed up by the rising tide of the Strikeout Era, but he has.
3. Felix Hernandez, SP, Seattle Mariners
Clayton Kershaw is widely regarded as the best pitcher in the Game, but we should take care to note that it’s still close. Felix Hernandez is only 28 years old and his Hall of Fame candidacy is almost sealed; a fact that should be in everyone’s face after the monstrous 230-inning season he just turned in.
Honorable Mention: Adrian Beltre, 3B, Texas Rangers
Speaking of Hall-of-Famers, Beltre is definitely one and despite being 35 years old continues to dominate. He is no longer one of the best defensive third basemen of all time, but the remnants are still there and his bat hasn’t lost a step.
> If I asked you what the odds were of two players on the same MLB team having the same birthday, you’d probably say they weren’t that good since there are 365 days in a year and only about 30 guys on a team.
But in actuality, there is a quirk in statistical probability called the birthday paradox that says it’s actually probable that a given team will have multiple players with the same birthday. So I checked to make sure.
4/28 — David Freese, Yoslan Herrera
5/27 — Jairo Diaz, Garrett Richards
5/30 — Tony Campana, Fernando Salas
8/7 — Wade LeBlanc, Mike Trout
9/27 — Grant Green, Matt Shoemaker
10/4 — Joe Thatcher, Jered Weaver
2/19 — Dan Otero, Josh Reddick
11/1 — Coco Crisp, Stephen Vogt
11/22 — Jonny Gomes, Drew Pomeranz
8/10 — Anthony Gose, Dan Johnson
8/11 — Melky Cabrera, Colby Rasmus
10/19 — Jose Bautista, JA Happ
12/21 — Kendall Graveman, John Mayberry
1/27 — Gavin Floyd, Julio Teheran
9/3 — Brandon Beachy, Shae Simmons
7/10 — Will Smith, Miguel Yan
10/10 — Shelby Miller, Kolten Wong
10/19 — Daniel Descalso, Sam Tuivailala
12/1 — Javier Baez, Dan Straily
2/24 — Bronson Arroyo, Eury De La Rosa
8/28 — Will Harris, Miguel Montero
3/25 — Erisbel Arruebarrena, Hyun-jin Ryu
8/5 — Carl Crawford, Tim Federowicz
3/22 — Michael Morse, Andrew Susac
7/14 — Juan Gutierrez, Tim Hudson
9/24 — Travis Ishikawa, Hunter Strickland
10/30 — Joe Panik, Marco Scutaro
11/22 — Chris Dominguez, Yusmeiro Petit
12/27 — Michael Bourn, Chris Gimenez
3/24 — Corey Hart, Lucas Luetge
4/18 — Henderson Alvarez, Anthony DeSclafani
6/21 — Jeff Baker, Garret Jones
10/27 — Jon Niese, Ruben Tejada
12/20 — Erik Goeddel, David Wright
6/30 — Jeff Kobernus, Blake Treinen
5/21 — Andrew Miller, Matt Wieters
4/4 — Odrisamer Despaigne, Cameron Maybin
8/28 — Yonder Alonso, Carlos Quentin
8/26 — Maikel Franco, Mario Hollands, Kyle Kendrick
8/30 — Marlon Byrd, Cliff Lee
2/20 — Spencer Patton, Jurickson Profar
6/18 — Lisalverto Bonilla, Tomas Telis
7/25 — Kevin Kouzmanoff, Roman Mendez
1/7 — Tucker Barnhart, Brayan Pena
12/9 — Mat Latos, Pedro Villarreal
6/9 — Joe Kelly, Junichi Tazawa
9/9 — Will Middlebrooks, Anthony Ranaudo
10/7 — Alex Cobb, Evan Longoria
5/15 — Brandon Barnes, Justin Morneau
8/7 — Tommy Kahnle, Rafael Ynoa
10/19 — Jordan Lyles, Tyler Matzek
2/10 — Alex Gordon, Liam Hendriks
2/20 — Buck Farmer, Justin Verlander
7/18 — Torii Hunter, Eugenio Suarez
6/15 — Eduardo Nunez, Trevor Plouffe
6/24 — Doug Bernier, Phil Hughes
1/24 — Tyler Flowers, Jose Quintana
9/24 — Scott Carroll, Moises Sierra
10/9 — David Phelps, Chaz Roe
> Speed is a difficult thing to measure in Baseball. Sure you can look at triples and stolen bases, but a lot of that depends on what parks you play in, who you are hitting in front of and how aggressive or conservative your manager and base coach are.
So I tried something else. I wanted to time a runner’s speed from point A to point B and compare him to his peers. I couldn’t do that with stolen bases since some runners get better leads than others. I couldn’t do it with triples because nobody goes for triples anymore. So I went with infield singles. Everyone starts at home and everyone ends at first. The odds are against the runner, so in most cases he feels the need to go as fast as he can.
The samples were based only on infield singles that were properly filmed in either 2014 or 2013; so if the runner touched base off screen, that play had to be thrown out since I couldn’t time it. Infield singles in which the runner realized he would be safe well before making it to first were also thrown out, as were outfield hits that were ultimately handled by an infielder.
I did my best to start the time when the batter made contact and stop it when his foot hit the bag, though this is obviously not an exact science. The reader is encouraged to mentally round to one decimal point.
Below are runners that either I thought were fast or have a reputation for being fast. The time listed is the best one on video. If you see someone omitted it’s likely that they did not have any well-filmed infield hits, but feel free to ask if you’re curious about an unmentioned player.
Again this isn’t perfect; just kind of an interesting first step. Scouting services like Baseball Info Solutions who watch every play of every game could time how fast given players are on all contact plays. It’s possible that EM could do this and similar things with the Cardinals next season, though that’s a discussion for another day.
> A lot of people liked this stat on Twitter, so I figured I’d expand on it here. Below is where each team ranks in baserunners per run scored from fewest (most efficient) to most (least efficient).
01. Colorado Rockies (2.42)
02. Detroit Tigers (2.47)
03. Milwaukee Brewers (2.48)
04. Oakland A’s (2.48)
05. Anaheim Angels (2.50)
06. Chicago White Sox (2.56)
07. Kansas City Royals (2.58)
08. Baltimore Orioles (2.58)
09. Seattle Mariners (2.59)
10. Toronto Blue Jays (2.60)
11. Cleveland Indians (2.63)
12. Houston Astros (2.67)
13. Washington Nationals (2.67)
14. Texas Rangers (2.67)
15. San Francisco Giants (2.70)
16. Minnesota Twins (2.71)
17. Los Angeles Dodgers (2.72)
18. Chicago Cubs (2.73)
19. New York Yankees (2.73)
20. Cincinnati Reds (2.74)
21. Pittsburgh Pirates (2.74)
22. Arizona Diamondbacks (2.76)
23. Miami Marlins (2.78)
24. New York Mets (2.82)
25. Philadelphia Phillies (2.86)
26. Atlanta Braves (2.88)
27. Boston Red Sox (2.90)
28. San Diego Padres (2.91)
29. St. Louis Cardinals (2.91)
30. Tampa Bay Rays (2.92)
A lot of this is causal. If you hit for extra bases and execute with men in scoring position, your number should be lower, though this can be offset by unfortunate sequencing (walk – double play – homerun – walk instead of walk – walk – homerun – groundout).
This stat does seem fairly consistent overall, though. In the last six seasons (the Strikeout Era), teams’ baserunners per run rates only changed by 0.02 from year to year on average (0.03 median).
There were of course outliers, though. The biggest one was none other than the 2014 Cardinals, who went from 2.39 last year to 2.91 this year; a difference of 0.52.
> I went back to every Cardinals game this year in an attempt to estimate how much mound visits actually help pitchers. Below is how Cardinals pitchers did in an inning before and after a visit by the pitching coach, how their opponents did then and the combination of both. “PA” stands for plate appearances, but sac bunts and intentional walks were not factored in.
First the Cardinals (season .676 OPS allowed, 20% K, 8% BB):
Their opponents (MLB non-Cardinals .703 OPS allowed, 20% K, 8% BB):
Total (.703 OPS, 20% K, 8% BB):
It’s hard to be sure about how much pitching coaches help since they usually only visit in the first place because the pitcher couldn’t do any worse. Even so, the chaos does stop and on average pitchers not only do better than they were in the inning, but better than they do by themselves in any inning.
> Cardinals hitting coach John Mabry has been catching a lot of flack lately, and this morning manager Mike Matheny called some (all?) criticisms cheap shots. But the allegations are only cheap if they’re not based in fact, so let’s see if they are.
Below is a simple comparison. It takes every position player who has hit for the Cardinals this year and compares what they have done this year to what they have done in every season prior to this year. WRC+ is their average offensive production adjusted for league and park, and next to it are fundamental building blocks such as average on balls in play, slugging percentage minus batting average, homeruns per fly ball, groundballs per fly ball and walks per strikeout.
|2014 w/ Cards||29||100||.299||.125||8.2%||1.48||.44|
Criticism may have been overblown, but that still doesn’t make Mabry look good. Historically, offensive production is basically the same between 27 and 29, but the Cardinals have seen notable drops in basically everything. An increase in strikeouts and a decrease in power per hit is to be expected in this era, but WRC+ adjusts to the league environment and still says the Cardinals have gone from above-average to average.
I’ve got nothing against Mabry, but the fact of the matter is that even if his philosophies didn’t cause this decrease, they aren’t fixing it either. Saying that is not taking a cheap shot, it’s being objective and realistic.
> Kolten Wong has nine homeruns in just 271 plate appearances this year; one every 30.1 times at bat. That’s a better frequency than Freddie Freeman (33.7), Hanley Ramirez (33.8) and Yasiel Puig (35.1) and is barely worse than Andrew McCutchen (28.8) and Miguel Cabrera (27.9).
Wong of course has never done this before. His PA/HR rate in the minors was 49.8. And it’s not that his homeruns have been cheap, averaging 398 feet in projected distance to mostly far right.
My only other hypothesis was that Wong is getting an inordinate number of mistake pitches that even he can drive. To check, I went back and watched the pitches he’s gone yard on.
1: 86 mph changeup* down the middle off James Shields at Busch
2: 88mph fastball down the middle off Henderson Alvarez at Busch
3: 95 mph fastball down the middle off Ernesto Frieri at Busch
4: 90 mph cutter middle-low off Justin Wilson at Busch
5: 91 mph fastball middle-in off Yovani Gallardo at Miller Park
6: 85 mph changeup down the middle off Jimmy Nelson at Miller Park
7: 89 mph sinker down the middle off Kyle Lohse at Busch
8: 88 mph fastball down the middle off Brandon Workman at Busch
9: 87 mph slider down the middle off Craig Breslow at Busch
*I think, though it might’ve been something that was supposed to break and didn’t
A lot of bad pitches. (I checked Pitch F/X to make sure I wasn’t off on my assessment of pitch locations and it said four of his homeruns came middle-in (his best zone), three were down the middle, one was low and in and one was middle-low. So the four that were “middle-in” were barely so.) It’s good to know Wong can handle those pitches when he gets them, but he does need them to hit homeruns. His recent power streak, as you probably supposed, isn’t likely to continue.