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The Spectrum Club December 28, 2010

Posted by tomflesher in Baseball.
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This year, I get to induct two more players into the prestigious* Spectrum Club.
*not a guarantee

The Spectrum Club is the elite group of players who play, in one season, at both ends of the Defensive Spectrum. At the end of a season, a player is inducted if he pitches in at least one game and appears as designated hitter in at least one game. As it stands, that leaves about ten pitchers who only served as placeholder DHs but never made a plate appearance on the rolls, but that’s okay.

Three players have joined the Spectrum Club twice – Jeff Kunkel in 1988 and 1989 for Texas, Mark Loretta in 2001 for the Brewers and 2009 for the Dodgers, and Wade Boggs in 1997 for the Yankees and 1999 for Tampa Bay. Baltimore leads the club in inductees with six.

This year’s first inductee is Aaron Miles of the Cardinals, who actually pitched twice (August 3 in a loss to  Houston and September 28 in a loss to Pittsburgh). Making it more impressive, Miles DHed only once, in an interleague win over Kansas City on June 26. Miles is an experienced pitcher, having tossed twice in 2007 and once in 2008. Tony Larussa has quite the commodity there, and I bet he wishes he’d had Miles on hand for that crazy 20-inning game against the Mets on April 17.

The second player to join the club is Andy Marte of Cleveland. Marte DHed twice, once on July 10 in a loss to the Rays and once on September 7. His single inning pitched came as part of the Best Game Ever, a July 29 loss to the Yankees in which the Yankees lost their DH and Marte struck out Nick Swisher.

Who’s the smart money on for Spectrum Club inductions in 2011? Joe Mather and Felipe Lopez are both reasonable hitters and both pitched for Tony Larussa in the Mets-Cardinals game. If Lopez stays with the Red Sox, he might be called on to DH an odd late game, and Terry Francona has been known to use position players in emergencies. Ike Davis may well be asked to DH interleague games for the Mets, and he was a closer in college, so he’d be a solid emergency reliever. If I had to guess, though, I’d figure that the next Spectrum Club inductee will be Nick Swisher getting his second induction for the Yankees.

The Best Game Ever July 30, 2010

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Two of my favorite things about baseball happened during tonight’s game between the Yankees and the Indians.

First of all, in the top of the ninth inning, corner infielder Andy Marte pitched for the Indians. Marte pitched a perfect ninth and coincidentally struck out Nick Swisher, who was brought in to pitch for the Yankees in a similar situation last year and struck out Gabe Kapler of the Tampa Bay Rays. I can’t promise it’s true, but I think that puts Swisher at the top of the list for involvement in position player pitcher strikeouts.

Marte’s presence was necessary because the Indians used seven other pitchers. Starter Mitch Talbot went only two innings, and the Indians got another two out of Rafael Perez. Frank Hermann took the loss for the Indians during his 1 1/3 innings. Tony Sipp pitched another 1 1/3, and Joe Smith managed to give up four earned runs in 1/3 of an inning before being removed for Jess Todd for an inning. In the bottom of the 9th, Marte was all the Indians had left.

Not to be outdone, Joe Girardi gave up his designated hitter by moving his DH – funnily enough, it was Swisher – into right field as part of a triple switch. Swisher moved to right field; Colin Curtis moved from right field to left field; Marcus Thames moved from left field to third base;  finally, pitcher Chan Ho Park was put into the batting order in place of Alex Rodriguez, who came out of the game.

Finally, A-Rod is up to 33 plate appearances without a home run. Assuming his standard rate of .064 home runs per plate appearance, the likelihood of this happening by chance is .936^{33} = .113 \approx 11.3 \% . I stand by my belief that there’s something other than chance (i.e. distraction or other mental factors) causing Rodriguez’s hitting to suffer.

Appearances as Pitcher and DH June 17, 2010

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Earlier this year, Felipe Lopez pitched in relief for the St. Louis Cardinals in their 20-inning game against the Mets. Last year, he also played DH during an interleague game for Arizona. That made me curious how many players have at least one appearance each at DH and pitcher. I generated this table at Baseball Reference to check.

Several of these – for example, the bottom two in the list – were pitchers who started games at DH to allow their managers to insert hitting specialists when the DH came up. This led to a rule that the DH has to come to bat at least once unless the opposing team changes pitchers.

More interesting are the three at the top of the list – Jeff Kunkel, Wade Boggs, and Mark Loretta – all of whom have two seasons in which they both DHed and pitched. Loretta pitched an inning in 2001 and a single out in 2009, with Kunkel pitching for Texas in 1988 and 1989 and Boggs pitching for the Yankees in 1997 and the Rays in 1999. Hopefully the Cards will find an excuse to DH Lopez at some point this year just to even things out.

Trends in DH use June 11, 2010

Posted by tomflesher in Baseball, Economics.
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Last night, Keith Hernandez was talking about how the Mets are scheduled to play in American League parks starting, well, today. He pointed out that the Mets will be in a bit of a pickle because they aren’t built, as AL teams are, to carry one big hitter to be the full-time DH. Instead, an NL team will be forced to spread the wealth among lighter hitters who are carried for their defensive acumen as well as their offensive prowess. Keith then corrected himself and said that AL managers are using the DH differently – to rest individual players instead of having an everyday DH.

That pinged my “Stuff Keith Hernandez says” meter, and so I decided to crunch some numbers and see if that’s true. I interpreted Keith’s statement as implying that the number of designated hitters should be increasing, since managers are moving away from an everyday DH and toward spreading the DH assignments around a bit more. The crunching also needs to account for interleague play, which should obviously increase the number of DHes. So, after controlling for interleague play, does DH use show an increasing trend with time?

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The DH Redux: Japan June 7, 2010

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In an earlier post, I analyzed team-level data from Major League Baseball to determine the size of the effect that the Designated Hitter rule has on on-base percentage. The conclusion I came to was that, if the model is properly specified, the effect of the designated hitter rule is about .008 in on-base percentage. If the reasoning was correct, then when there are no other confounding variables, the effect should be similar in size for any other professional league.

Of course, the other major professional league is Nippon Professional Baseball, the major leagues of Japan. Since it produces players at a level similar to MLB, and the other factors are similar – the DH rule was adopted in 1975 by one, but not both, of the two major leagues – NPB is an ideal place to try to test the model I specified in this post.

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Does the DH Rule Cause Batters to be Hit? June 2, 2010

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In an earlier post, I crunched some numbers on the Designated Hitter rule and came to the conclusion that the DH adds about .3 extra trips to first base per game after accounting for trend. I’m going to play around with another stat that a lot of people seem to think should be affected indirectly by the DH rule.

The Conventional Wisdom™ is that the DH should increase hit batsman. The argument is that pitchers don’t bear the costs of hitting a batter with a pitch because they don’t bat, so they’ll be less careful to avoid hitting a batter or more likely to plunk a batter out of malice. Do the numbers bear that out?

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What is the effect of the Designated Hitter? May 30, 2010

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Intuitively, the designated hitter rule seems like it should increase scoring. By getting on base more often than the pitcher would have, the designated hitter helps produce runs by hitting, by being on base so that other players can drive him in, and by not accumulating outs by bunting or striking out as often as the pitcher does. However, there should be a corresponding effect from having pitchers left in the game longer: a better pitcher who remains in the game might get more outs than a reliever who came in simply because the manager pinch-hit for the starting pitcher because he needed offense.

Behind the cut, I’ll explain the testing I did to determine whether the effect of a DH is positive (hint: it is) and look at how big an effect is actually there.

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Quickie: The World Series NL DH October 23, 2008

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Things are fairly busy – it’s midterm time, and in my spare time I’ve been crunching numbers on the Canadian federal election. I’ve also been following Theron over at Recondite Baseball, who did a very interesting post about pitchers responsible for a high percentage of their team’s wins. I’d like to take a look at something that I consider to be the opposite: the poor guy who ends up playing DH for the National League team.

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