Tag Archive | "Plate Appearances"

Pass the Cannoli! Italy is here to play some Baseball!

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Pass the Cannoli! Italy is here to play some Baseball!

Posted on 11 March 2013 by Trish Vignola

I write this article as Italy is prepared to go up 2-0.

TeamItaly

Che?

They beat the spaghetti out of Mexico and are about to beat the manicotti out of Canada.

Chi poteva aspettarselo? (Who saw that coming?)

The Italian contingency is feeling pretty good. They did not advance past the first round in the first two World Baseball Classics. However, this time around is different. They scored an early upset this year by rallying for two runs in the ninth inning Thursday to defeat Mexico, 6-5, in their WBC opener at Chase Field in Phoenix. Now, they invaded Canada.

Is it ironic that their uniform is Dodger blue? A franchise whose origin is beset in Italian-American lore (i.e. Brooklyn)? A couple of Dodgers — and another with a Dodger connection — were right in the middle of the action of Italia’s 2013 WBC journey.

Dodgers utilityman Nick Punto ignited Italy’s rally with a one-out double against Mexico (and San Francisco Giants’) closer Sergio Romo. However, even in the loss, Mexico (and Dodgers) first baseman Adrian Gonzalez had a big game. He reaching base in all five plate appearances with two hits, a pair of walks and by getting hit with a pitch. Gonzalez’s older brother, Edgar, didn’t fare as well. Playing left field, he got a poor jump on Punto’s double, which should have been caught. Anthony Rizzo‘s game-winning, two-run double also should have been caught, going off Gonzalez’s glove.

Mexico Manager Rick Renteria lamented to the Associate Press afterward that both plays “would have just been typically fly-ball outs.” Edgar Gonzalez had a hit in four at-bats, but also struck out three times. He wasn’t the only one to blame. Mexico (and Dodgers) third baseman Luis Cruz was 1 for 4 with a walk hitting third, in front of Adrian Gonzalez.

Italy wasn’t that much better for most of the game. Punto was 1 for 5 batting lead-off for Italy, which has former Dodgers slugger Mike Piazza as its hitting coach. However, they still eeked out the win. This afternoon, Italy played Canada at Chase Field. (Mexico will try to seek redemption against the United States later on today.) Nevertheless, Italy came out swinging even stronger. With folks like Pat Venditte, born in the beautiful Italian Villa of Omaha, Nebraska, Canada (Italy’s opponent) was looking straight into the barrel of a mercy rule. Let’s face it. Even with the controversial home run turned ground-rule double call, it was still a certainty.

I wonder if Russell Martin is sitting in Pirates’ camp somewhere, pretty excited…excited he missed out on this mess.

Somewhere, even Joe DiMaggio is pretty excited. My family lineage is finally in the news for something more than the lack of Pope or “Big Ang” from Mob Wives.

Seriously, Italy deserves credit. It wasn’t like they were knocking off Team France. (Sorry, they didn’t make the preliminary round. If any country is rife to be made fun of, it’s France.) Team Canada isn’t a bunch of stiffs. This might not be hockey but Canada is pretty good at our national past time. Canada features strong major-league talent, including the Reds’ Joey Votto, Justin Morneau of the Twins, and pitchers John Axford, Philippe Aumont and Shawn Hill. However, this time around, Italy was just a little better.

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The Next Knuckler Reports To Camp

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The Next Knuckler Reports To Camp

Posted on 24 February 2013 by Trish Vignola

Josh Booty may have won the MLB Network’s “The Next Knuckler,” but his work has just begun.

JoshBooty

Booty showed up to camp on Thursday and worked a bit in the bullpen with former Major League knuckler and current Arizona Diamondbacks broadcaster Tom Candiotti. “He’s got the best fastball of any knuckleballer I’ve ever seen,” Candiotti told MLB. “He can flat out throw it.” He threw 88-89 mph during the bullpen session with his fastball.

Are you asking yourself, what’s “The Next Kunckler”? With the Knuckleball quickly becoming an extinct pitch, the MLB Network aired a reality show about the search for the pitch’s heir apparent. Think “American Idol”…but with Kevin Millar.

“With the knuckleball, he can throw it,” Candiotti said. “He’s got the ability to be able to take the spin off the ball. It’s a constant battle for him right now with his mechanics right now, being able to repeat his delivery, because he drifts a little bit.” “In my mind, I’m taking it serious,” Booty said to MLB. “I don’t want to come in here and goof off.”

The Diamondbacks agreed to have Booty in camp and will allow him to at least throw one inning during a Major League game. Past that, he will need to earn anything else he gets. It is possible if he impresses enough that he could wind up getting a spot in the Minor Leagues.

Convinced I am the only one that watched this show, is anyone shocked that the team in question is the Arizona Diamondbacks? Has Kirk Gibson gone Hollywood?

To be fair, Josh Booty has a history on the diamond. He was actually drafted fourth overall out of high school as a shortstop by the Marlins in the 1994 First-Year Player Draft. The Marlins inked him to a then-record $1.6 million signing bonus with the stipulation that he not play football.

“I cried the night that I signed the contract,” Booty said to MLB about having to give up football.

Booty spent 1994-98 in the Marlins system, where he hit .198. He got 30 plate appearances in the big leagues from 1996-98 and hit .269. In 1999, he left baseball and went to Louisiana State University, where he played quarterback for two seasons.

In 2001 he was taken in the sixth round of the NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks and bounced around a few organizations, mainly on the practice squads. Nevertheless, at age 37, he’s hoping for one more shot.

“It’s kind of writing the last chapter,” Booty said to MLB. “I’ve been close a few times. This is like I’m a rookie for the third time. If I was able to get on the field, I mean it’s crazy. I’m just going to have fun with it to be honest with you and get myself in shape so that I have a chance and keep it simple.” Not many players attempt comebacks at his age, but his athletic prowess and ability to throw a knuckleball mean he can’t totally be counted out. After beating out former NCAA Division I quarterbacks John David Booty (his brother), Doug Flutie, Ryan Perrilloux and David Greene, Josh Booty now finds himself back at Spring Training, this time as a non-roster invitee.

“Yeah, I’m 37 years old, but I don’t have any wear and tear on my arm and my shoulder and I never got hurt because in the NFL I was a backup the whole time,” Booty said. “I feel comfortable and my arm is healthy and I think I can get it back to where I was when I was in my 20s.”

When MLB Network pitched the idea of the reality show at a Major League Baseball owners meeting, Diamondbacks team president/CEO Derrick Hall immediately volunteered to be the team that gave the winner a non-roster invitation. It was a chance for national brand awareness for their new look, tougher franchise. (Ask Justin Upton.)

Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson (who I did not pin for one who would participate in the trappings of our new realty show culture) threw Booty into a pitching group right away on Friday. He said the organization wants to make sure that he’s able to handle himself on the mound before sticking him in a game.

While the show finished taping three weeks ago, the final episode aired Thursday night. Ever since he knew he won the competition, Booty has been throwing long toss and trying to get his body in better shape. Two weeks ago, he spent a week with former knuckler Charlie Hough in California and last week he was in Florida working with Tim Wakefield, another longtime Major League knuckleball pitcher.

“I know my pitching is a lot better now than it was on that show three or four weeks ago,” Booty said. “I’ve come crazy far in three weeks and if I can get another 10-15 opportunities to throw sides, bullpens, work with [pitching coach Charles Nagy], do some things here with Candiotti … I think the sky would be the limit.”

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A New York Met Has Found His Way To The DL…In November

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A New York Met Has Found His Way To The DL…In November

Posted on 09 November 2012 by Trish Vignola

Really?!

Oh, for the love of God! It’s November 6th and a New York Met has found a new and exciting way to get hurt. Seriously? It’s Election Day. What can you do to conceivably cause yourself harm? Are you pressing the voting lever too hard?

According to the Associated Press, Outfielder Lucas Duda broke his right wrist while moving furniture at his apartment in Southern California last month. (Immediately, Mets fan collectively thought “Who Saw that Coming?” upon reading this statement.)

The team announced that Duda had surgery Monday. They expect him to be ready for Spring Training in February. I hope he’s not on the Johan Santana calendar to recovery. If that’s the case, Lucas Duda won’t see a diamond until David Wright is on a Hall of Fame ballot.

Dr. Andrew Weiland at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York operated on Lucas Duda. The Mets expected Duda to be discharged from the hospital today. The 26-year-old slumped to a .239 average with 15 homers and 57 RBIs in 459 plate appearances this year. That is down from a .292 average with 10 homers and 50 RBIs in 347 plate appearances in 2011.

Although drafted in the seventh round, Lucas Duda was always a prospect the Mets took seriously. Former Mets manager Jerry Manuel watched Duda during batting practice when he was first called up. He noted that Duda reminded him of Magglio Ordóñez or Moisés Alou. In 2010, Lucas Duda was named the Sterling Organizational Player of the Year.

Yes, in 2011, Lucas Duda came out like gangbusters. 2012 was a different story though. After a season of dwindling numbers and being demoted to Buffalo in favor of Matt Harvey, Duda now falls victim to what seems to be a stupid, senseless injury in this writer’s humble opinion. I’ve begun to think. Is Lucas Duda just another Aaron Boone (without actual timely hitting, of course)?

In other New York Mets news, reserve catcher Mike Nickeas and outfielder Fred Lewis each rejected outright assignments to the organization’s new Triple-A Las Vegas affiliate and elected for free agency. The Mets signed a two-year Player Development Contract in September with the Las Vegas 51s professional baseball team of the Pacific Coast League. Nickeas only played in 47 games and hit one home run. He wasn’t an impact player. However, current Mets’ backup catcher, Anthony Recker, is only slightly better. Fred Lewis? I didn’t even know he was on the team, which says a lot about his impact with the team. Frankly, it also says a lot about my patience with watching the team past the 4th or 5th inning, where I would see a player like Lewis come off the bench. He played in 18 games with the club.

On a far more positive note for the organization, R.A. Dickey took home Outstanding Pitcher honors in the National League. Voted on by his peers, it’s a promising sign for Dickey leading up to the Nov. 14 announcement of the NL Cy Young Award. Four of the National League’s last five Outstanding Pitchers went on to win the Cy Young.

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Melky Cabrera Does Something Right…For Once.

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Melky Cabrera Does Something Right…For Once.

Posted on 23 September 2012 by Trish Vignola

Melky Cabrera, serving a 50-game suspension for testing positive for testosterone, a performance-enhancing substance, will not win this year’s National League batting title.

You think?

At Cabrera’s request, the Commissioner’s Office and the Major League Baseball Players Association announced an agreement on Friday to suspend, for this season, part of a rule that might have resulted in the Giants outfielder winning the league’s batting title despite being one plate appearance shy of automatically qualifying for it. Believe it or not, according to Rule 10.22(a), Cabrera still could have been crowned batting champion.

Cabrera asked not to be considered under the circumstances. “I have no wish to win an award that would be tainted,” Cabrera said in a statement on MLB.com. “I believe it would be far better for someone more deserving to win. I asked the Players Association and the league to take the necessary steps to remove my name from consideration for the National League batting title.”

Where was this moral fortitude this spring?

Cabrera continues. “I am grateful that the Players Association and MLB were able to honor my request by suspending the rule for this season. I know that changing the rules mid-season can present problems, and I thank the Players Association and MLB for finding a way to get this done.”
Cabrera had 501 plate appearances and .346 batting average at the time of his suspension on Aug. 15. The requirement to win a batting title is 502 plate appearances, a total based on 3.1 plate appearances per game. The issue in question was Rule 10.22(a). That allowed for an exception by adding one or more hypothetical at-bats to a player’s statistics in order to reach 502 appearances. I don’t get it, but if the player maintained the league lead after such a calculation, he would be named the league champion.

Apparently, Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn won the NL batting title in 1996, via such a calculation. He finished the season with 498 plate appearances. He had a .353 average.

“After giving this matter the consideration it deserves, I have decided that Major League Baseball will comply with Mr. Cabrera’s request,” Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement to MLB.com. “I respect his gesture as a sign of his regret and his desire to move forward, and I believe that under these circumstances, the outcome is appropriate, particularly for Mr. Cabrera’s peers, who are contending for the batting crown.”

Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates, batting .339 entering play Friday, currently has the next highest average in the National League. Buster Posey of the Giants follows with a .335 average. Cabrera made his request to Michael Weiner, the executive director of the MLBPA. Weinter brought it to Commissioner Selig’s attention. The parties then worked to clarify the rule, and collectively agreed the rule would be amended this season.

“Melky Cabrera, through a written request to me, asked for the union’s assistance in removing him from consideration for the 2012 National League batting title,” Weiner said in a statement on MLB.com. “We complied with Melky’s wish and brought the matter to the Commissioner’s Office, which agreed to suspend the rule. We commend Melky’s decision under these circumstances.”

Yeah, he’s the epitome of righteousness.

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Sabermetric Mining: K-BB Metrics – The Simpler The Better?

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Sabermetric Mining: K-BB Metrics – The Simpler The Better?

Posted on 21 September 2012 by Blake Murphy

Over the past few weeks, I’ve done a weekly Sabermtric Mining piece attempting to provide utility for fantasy owners using more advanced statistics. But is it possible that when it comes to predicting in-season pitching performance that it’s one of the simplest “advanced” metrics that you should be using?

For my first Sabermetric Mining piece, I had looked at FIP, xFIP, and SIERA as ERA predictors, highlighting SIERA as the favourite but identifying the benefits of each. Earlier this week, though, Glenn DuPaul of The Hardball Times put the estimators to the test in terms of their ability to predict in-season performance.

His conclusion?

At the same time, I think these results should be taken as both a lesson and a cautionary tale. The ERA estimators that were tested (xFIP, FIP, SIERA and tERA) all did a better job of predicting future ERA than actual ERA; which was to be expected and is the normal assumption in the sabermetric community. But although they did better than ERA, simply subtracting walks from strikeouts did a better job of predicting ERAs for the second half than any of the advanced statistics.

In other words, for all the advancing ability of ERA estimators to predict future ERA, it is still this simple formula that does the best as it pertains to in-season ERA prediction:

(K-BB)/IP

Tom Tango of Inside The Book reflected on Glenn’s work, suggesting:

I also seem to remember that in terms of forecasting 2, 3, 4 years down the line that kwERA did better than anything else out there.  Basically, for all our sabermetric advances, simply relying on K and BB (differential, not ratio) is just about the best we’ve been able to come up with.

He also noted that (K-BB)/PA (plate appearances) is preferable to using innings pitched as a denominator, but that the results would be more or less the same. Further to that notion, he indicated he uses FIP and kwERA but not really xFIP. He goes into detail on why, but basically it’s because we know for certain what these two are measuring.

For the record, kwERA is an ERA estimator with K and BB as its sole inputs. I didn’t identify it in my original piece, but it is another tool you can utilize when it comes to predicting pitcher performance, and it seems it may be both the simplest and the easiest. Again, though, using (K-BB)/IP or (K-BB)/PA would tell you the same story, just not on an ERA scale (rather, it would be a ratio).

Pursuant to that, I found a 2011 post from Tango that summed up some research as follows:

Overall, we see that while the ratio may have some additional information for us, a simple and straight strikeout minus walk differential per PA is a great indicator of performance.

Not to over-link, but I thought Eno Sarris’ piece at Getting Blanked did a nice job summing up this week’s saber-community discussion on this topic:

If you make a simple sauce, it’s easy to evaluate the ingredients. The more complicated the sauce, the more likely you’re left wondering which input was the spoiled one. Everything we needed to know about pitching we learned in the kitchen, it seems.

Here, of course, K and BB are the simple ingredients he is referring to.

None of this is to say that FIP, xFIP, SIERA and others don’t have a place or value, because they definitely do, especially for offseason analysis. Anything that improves your understanding of the components of pitcher success has value, this new research simply reinforces that scanning the xFIP leaderboard is not sufficient.

In addition, further research could be done on how the components of strikeouts and walks, for example swinging strike percentage or first pitch strike percentage, do in predicting future ERA, perhaps letting us improve on K-BB metrics.

Beyond just this K-BB analysis, you can expand your research to include components of strikeouts, as I outlined in August, and perhaps look for pitchers due to improve or decline in the strikeout category, and thus, K-BB metrics.

Candidates
On the odd chance you’re still streaming pitchers to try and win a fantasy title at this point, the chart below shows pitchers available in more than 60% of Yahoo leagues and their ERA, FIP, (K-BB)/IP and (K-BB)/PA.

The higher the (K-BB)/PA, the better, obviously, as it indicates a greater ability to generate outs and a decreased propensity to allow free baserunners and thus scoring opportunities. Since those two things are the core components of ERA, it makes sense that a ratio that indicates increased outs and decreased runners (and therefore scoring opportunities) is a strong predictor of ERA. What’s even more appealing is that strikeouts and walks are generally considered the elements most within a pitcher’s control, so there are less situational mitigating factors at play than with some other metrics.

It will certainly be an interesting offseason in the statistical community, as I’m sure Glenn’s findings will encourage further research on ERA estimators, their efficacy, and how the components of K and BB work to predict ERA as well.

Follow me on Twitter @BlakeMurphyODC.

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