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Put Down The Pitchforks! (Mets Game 1 Commentary) April 4, 2016

Posted by tomflesher in Baseball, Economics.
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In last night’s 4-3 loss to the Royals, Matt Harvey consistently pitched better than Edinson Volquez. Volquez’ control wasn’t where he wanted it to be; it was clear he was laboring as early as the third or fourth inning. Harvey, meanwhile, was fairly stellar through 5. He gave up a single run in the first inning, one in the fourth, and then two in the sixth (one allowed by Bartolo Colon in relief).

Matt Harvey shows a noticeable uptick in batting stats after the fifth inning.

Matt Harvey shows a noticeable uptick in batting stats after the fifth inning.

The first run was produced by a combination of a Yoenis Cespedes error in left field and a Travis d’Arnaud passed ball which allowed Mike Moustakas to get on base and advance to third; an Eric Hosmer single brought Moustakas home. In 262 chances in left field in 2015, Cespedes made 5 errors (so he has an error rate of around .019). d’Arnaud had 1 passed ball in 845 plate appearances with a runner in position to steal (a rate of .001). The confluence of those two events is extremely low-probability, and really wasn’t Harvey’s problem. (That’s leaving aside some difficult defense allowing Hosmer’s single.)

Harvey’s control was good – he walked Lorenzo Cain twice, but also struck out two. In 21 at-bats, Harvey allowed 8 hits, for a BAbip of about .380. His second and third innings were perfect; his fourth and sixth innings were plagued by smart, scrappy play from the Royals. When given any opportunity, Kansas City converted it.

Harvey, though, does have visible difficulty when he gets into the late game. Keep in mind, he’s still young and spent last year recovering from Tommy John surgery; however, the line graph above shows four statistics that measure Harvey’s effectiveness, all of which show an upward jump in the sixth. Although his BAbip was lower in the fourth, we’d expect that to be relatively stable; it rises above .300 in the fifth and stays there. There is a drop in the seventh and eighth (and his sole ninth inning appearance was strong), but that presents an endogeneity problem – he stays in when he’s pitching well, but he almost always enters the sixth inning (26 appearances in 29 starts). Similarly, opponents seem to “figure out” Harvey as the game progresses: his OBP and SLG allowed rise sharply after the second appearance:

Harvey's opponent "figure him out."

Harvey’s opponent “figure him out.”

Harvey didn’t have a “bad” game. He was left out longer than he should have been for confidence-related reasons, and he got a little unlucky. So stop playing the Family Guy clip, stop making urine-related jokes, and support the team.

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