A’s GM Billy Beane once said that the playoffs are basically a crap shoot, and that the real test is winning out over a 162 season. I would have to agree with him, although his opinion may be slighted, seeing as he’s never had any real playoff success. While can be viewed as a crap shoot, the first round ridiculed for only being five games, the baseball playoffs are for all intents and purposes the greatest event in sports.
The main factor that I look for when predicting for the playoffs is just looking to see what brand of baseball a team plays. I call this “playoff baseball”. This basically equates with being edept at playing small ball when needed, having adequate starting pitching, and a very good bullpen. This test doesn’t always work, but it has been successful in recent history (White Sox, Angels, etc). On to the predictions;
Yankees vs Tigers
For all their power hitting, Joe Torre and the Yankees can still adopt a “playoff” type ball when needed. I’m concerned, like many, with the sharp decline of the Tigers over the past month. Continue reading →
2 summers ago I attempted to coach a pee-wee baseball team. After the first practice, I quickly realized that I was in way over my head. Not only did I not remember any drills from my days as a 12 year old, but I had trouble keeping the attention of a group of 15 boys and girls who were hyperactive and had no attention span. Luckily, while strolling through Chapters, I came across this coaching book by Hall of Fame Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. and his brother Bill Ripken.
This is a thoroughly illustrated instructional book that clearly explains proper baseball fundamentals and it is based on the teachings of Cal Ripken Sr. who was a player, coach and scout for the Baltimore Orioles for 37 years. The book is divided into 9 sections or “innings” if you will. Each inning covers a specific baseball fundamental such as hitting, baserunning, pitching, fielding, etc. Not only that, but the most valuable part of the book is the teaching philosophy and how to instruct kids, skills in which I was sorely lacking.
The Ripken baseball approach consists of the following principles:
1. Keep it Simple: Teaching that is too complicated is difficult to remember and can result in frustration. This is especially true with a pee-wee group of ball players.
2. Explain Why: A teacher who cannot explain why is not truly teaching. Lessons that make sense will stick with the players.
3. Celebrate the Individual: No two players are alike, so why treat them as if they are?
4. Make it Fun: The game gets serious enough quickly enough on its own. Drills and instruction should be structured so that players can enjoy themselves while learning.
I also found it extremely useful in helping me sleep at night, knowing that I was teaching kids how to throw, field and hit properly and not just giving them the same old advice a coach told me (how many times have we been told to keep our elbows up when hitting?) because “that is the way I was taught and thats how you should do it too.” Now when a player asks me why I am teaching them a certain way, I have Cal Ripken Jr. to help me answer.
When coaches are coaching, they quickly realize that they are not just teaching kids on how to play baseball the right way, but they are also teaching them how to grow into being young men. The Ripkens have this part covered too – including how to deal with tantrums, sulking and the like. The only thing I would have liked to had added to the book would be on how to deal with over-zealous parents. Other than that, this is a comprehensive guide to coaching and a must read for the first time coach to the veteran coach.
On the way to a Jays game a week or so ago, Daperman and myself were having a discussion on the “Baseball Names” article that I wrote and brought up a few names that I had left out. Daperman told me about Johnny Leonard Roosevelt Martin, a man with two nicknames. He was commonly known as Pepper Martin, but he was also known as the “Wild Horse of the Osage”. That nickname was branded into my brain and a few days later I investigated this Wild Horse.
Pepper Martin was born on Monday, February 29, 1904, in Temple, Oklahoma. Martin was 24 years old when he broke into the big leagues on April 16, 1928, with the St. Louis Cardinals. He played thirdbase and was an Outfielder for the “Gashouse Gang” – The St. Louis Cardinals in the 1930′s. I am not going to bore you with his stats, which were above average, or what his value is over a replacement player (I don’t care) or his Win Shares, because it doesn’t matter. Not even his Runs Created Above Average. What matters is that he was a colourful player who was a menace on the basepaths.
“A chunky, unshaven hobo who (Pepper Martin) ran the bases like a beserk locomotive, slept in the raw, and swore at pitchers in his sleep.” – Author Lee Allen in The National League Story (1961)”
In the 1931 World Series, Pepper Martin batted .500 and stole 5 bases as the Cardinals defeated the Philadelphia Athletics 4 games to 3. During the series Martin was asked how he had learned to run so fast; he replied “I grew up in Oklahoma, and once you start runnin’ out there there ain’t nothin’ to stop you.”
Pepper has the third highest World Series career batting average ever at .418, and is tied for ninth in stolen bases with seven
As part of the Gashouse Gang, Martin formed the “Mudcat Band”. The Mudcats played before and after games in the clubhouses of the National League and enlisted such members as Fiddler Bill McGee, Bob Weiland on jug, Frenchy Bordagaray on washboard. Martin played guitar. Not only was Pepper a hillbilly music aficianado, he also had a penchant for midget auto racing.
Martin retired at the age of 40 and became a minor league manager. While managing Miami of the International League he was suspended and fined for choking an umpire. When brought before the league chancellor, Pepper was asked if he really intended to harm the umpire. Pepper replied “I meant to kill the buzzard”.
Pepper didn’t like to be called Pepper, so instead teammates called him “Johnny”.
This is a follow-up inspired by K-Man’s article on BJ Ryan and specifically the discussion about use of relief pitchers and the statistics used to measure their usefulness.
Relief pitcher’s appearances in games that their team is losing are treated marginally by statistics. The major categories to measure a reliever’s success are traditionally W/L, K, ERA SV% and the Games Held% and Inherited Runners Scored.
Now, relief pitchers do not take as many decisions as starters for obvious reasons. There is also a trend of current relievers not taking as many decisions as relievers in the 1960-1980s. This is a result of the use of a higher quantity of relief pitchers. I cannot say that all relief pitchers, on average, have more or less appearances but they do average less innings pitched. The below graphic shows that while, games and GF have remained as a very comparable ratio across the ages usually between 75-85%, IP and W+L have been diminishing in the last dozen years.
For sake of ease I chose the leading relief pitchers based on saves since 1960, we can see that how the trends in diminishing IP, W+L are present but we are not so interested in those players as we have saves to measure relievers by. However, the same trend is present in non-closing relief pitchers without the benefit of measuring a meaningful amount of GF, and Svs. Within the middle relievers we have no hard stat to measure their success.
Games IP W+L GF Svs
Hoffman 68 74 8 56 39
Rivera 66 82 8 55 38
Franco 68 76 10 47 25
Henke 68 83 8 58 32
Reardon 68 87 10 53 28
Smith 67 85 10 53 31
Quisenberry 68 105 8 55 24
Sutter 68 107 13 52 30
Gossage 66 116 14 44 20
Campbell 67 118 13 43 12
Fingers 65 117 15 49 23
Lyle 68 105 12 47 18
Marshall 65 126 18 49 17
Face 65 106 15 44 14
In the last decade we have seen Holds and Blown Saves introduced. However, this truly marginalizes the games that a relief pitcher does not come in with a lead. A middle reliever on a bad team will always get fewer save and hold opportunities than a good team.
Also, non-closers can receive quite a few BS as he is put in situations where it is a save opportunity by rule but not by intent by the manager. If someone saves the game he will get a hold. Any reliever put into the game after the fifth inning with his team leading is in a SVO, but if he loses the lead he is charged a BS.
Yes, the hold and blown hold is a good measure of a reliever’s ability to hold the lead. But what about games in which a reliever comes in with his team trailing? Are the results of his pitching of lesser value while his team is losing a game rather than winning? It seems so. With a reliever taking about 50% less decisions today than in the 1970s they have less a chance to win a game. However, their actions during an appearance in a losing situation should not be marginalized for the fact they cannot get a SV, or Hold. A good appearance from the bullpen in a losing cause is buried in averages, ERA, WHIP, IRS etc and is not available unless a nerd like me wants to go and look through game logs. For example, a pitcher who picks up the pieces when his starter gives up 5 early runs, goes 6 innings of scoreless 2-hit ball. If his offense does not tie or take the lead his efforts are buried in his ERA, WHIP etc.
This is why I want to investigate adding a stat called the Ensured Loss (EL) as a good reflection of middle-reliever’s ability to keep their team within striking distance.
How the EL would work is almost a reverse save or reverse hold.
1) An EL situation is when a reliever who is not the pitcher of decision in which his team is down 3 or less runs. When the pitcher gives up a run to put his team down by 4 runs he is given an EL.
2) This next situation is up for revision but in close games the pitcher who gives up the losing run in a game is awarded an EL. A random example, Joe Blownsave comes in the eighth inning with His Team down 2-1, he gives up 3 runs and His Team go down 5-1. In His Teams half of the inning they put up a 3-spot to go down 5-4 and the game ends with that result. In this case the starter would get the decision, an L, but the reliever did not hold the score to give his team a real chance to win. Hence, he ensured the loss.
Such a stat, coupled with a similar stat called a “Win Chance” in which a reliever holds a reachable lead would help statistically define middle relief pitchers where their averages and save ops and holds do not do the trick.
This week’s MP3 is the treasured theme song for the Toronto Blue Jays, “OK Blue Jays (Let’s Play Ball)”.
It is sung by a fictional group “The Batboys” and has been around since the 1985 ALCS. Ever since then, it has been played during the 7th inning stretch and currently has been remixed into some sort of dance song, but expect nothing but the best old school original version from your boys at Mop Up Duty. This baseball “fight” song exemplifies the politeness for which Canadians are known for. Some things to note: