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Julio Urias’ debut and a full Mets bullpen (Mets Game 47 Preview) May 27, 2016

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Urias in 2014 spring training. Photo: Dustin Nosler via Wikipedia.

Urias in 2014 spring training. Photo: Dustin Nosler via Wikipedia.

Friday night, the Mets host the Dodgers for the home portion of their season series. The teams split their early May series with wins for Mets starters Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard, Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen, and the Koufaxian Clayton Kershaw. The Mets will start Jacob deGrom against the debuting Julio Urias.

deGrom started against the Dodgers on May 10; he pitched seven innings, allowing two runs on 8 hits, 4 strikeouts, and no walks. He was lifted after 103 pitches, and a ninth-inning home run by Trayce Thompson off Hansel Robles won the game for Kenley Jansen. In two starts since, deGrom has had a confusing set of numbers – he’s held opponents to a .220 batting average and a .313 OBP, along with a luckier-than-average .233 BAbip, but allowed 7 earned runs in 11 1/3 innings pitched for a 5.56 ERA. Current Dodgers have hit deGrom fairly well; first baseman Adrian Gonzalez has hit a monstrous .375 against deGrom in 18 plate appearances, plus a walk for a .389 OBP; though he’s struck out 8 times, he’s hit two home runs for a .750 slugging average. In 14 plate appearances, Justin Turner (3B) has hit .357/.357/.571 with two doubles. Likely leadoff hitter Chase Utley (2B) is hitting .267/.353/.333, followed up by shortstop Corey Seager at .333/.333/.556. With Gonzalez, and then Turner, following up, there’s a huge chance (about 57%) that Gonzalez will come up with at least one man on base and 0 or 1 out. On the other hand, deGrom tends to strike out opposing hitters at an alarming KBB of 4.33 (13 Ks, 3 walks) the first run through the order. The second time through, the strikeouts stay high but the walks climb (2.00, 12K to 6 BB). In the 3rd, 4th, and 5th innings, though, deGrom’s ERAs are 1.29, 2.57, and 1.29; deGrom shows the confusing trend of having stronger batting-against stats but allowing more runs in the early innings. As long as he can get through that first run through the Dodgers infield, deGrom can serve as a strong bridge to the bullpen with Hansel Robles, Addison Reed, and Jeurys Familia.

Note that Familia is tied for second in the NL with 16 saves, behind only the Phillies’ Jeanmar Gomez.

The 19-year-old Urias is making his MLB debut. He’s been filthy at AAA this year, with a .780 WHIP, a 1.10 ERA and a 9.7 K9 in 41 innings pitched. Young pitchers have mixed success moving to the majors – you’ll always have your Clayton Buchholz types who take advantage of their unfamiliarity to opposing hitters, but you’ll also have young pitchers who need development to grow into their roles – so it’s tough to predict how Urias will do. When he was bumped from AA to AAA last season, for example, he started two games but allowed 9 runs in only 4 1/3 innings, leading to an unsightly 18.69 ERA. Mets fans can hope Urias has some difficulty adjusting tonight, considering the volume of the Citi Field crowd.

Dodgers numbers against deGrom are below:

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP ▾ SLG OPS HBP
A.J. Ellis 5 3 1 0 0 0 0 2 1 .333 .600 .333 .933 0
Alex Wood 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0
Adrian Gonzalez 18 16 6 0 0 2 6 1 8 .375 .389 .750 1.139 0
Justin Turner 14 14 5 3 0 0 1 0 1 .357 .357 .571 .929 0
Chase Utley 17 15 4 1 0 0 0 2 3 .267 .353 .333 .686 0
Joc Pederson 12 9 1 1 0 0 0 3 2 .111 .333 .222 .556 0
Corey Seager 9 9 3 2 0 0 1 0 4 .333 .333 .556 .889 0
Yasmani Grandal 9 8 1 1 0 0 0 1 3 .125 .222 .250 .472 0
Yasiel Puig 9 9 2 0 0 1 1 0 3 .222 .222 .556 .778 0
Carl Crawford 11 9 0 0 0 0 0 2 4 .000 .182 .000 .182 0
Howie Kendrick 10 10 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .100 .100 .100 .200 0
Enrique Hernandez 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0
Clayton Kershaw 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0
Total 121 109 25 8 0 3 9 11 33 .229 .298 .385 .683 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/27/2016.
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San Diego has lost three straight shutouts. April 7, 2016

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Dodgers pitchers Clayton Kershaw, Scott Kazmir, and Kenta Maeda each have a win against the Padres to start the year. After the Kershaw-led 15-0 blowout, the Dodgers followed up with a 3-0 and a 7-0 win. It looks like we’re in for another Padres season, alright.

This is the longest streak for a team being shut out to start a season in MLB history. The Padres have lost three consecutive games with 0 runs; midseason, there were three similar streaks last year (St Louis losing a shutout sweep to Atlanta, Baltimore to Boston, and [funnily enough] the Dodgers to the Giants). 8 teams, most recently the 1992 Cubs, have had a season with four shutout losses.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers are starting the season on three consecutive shutouts (though no single pitcher was credited with one – they were all combined shutouts). Only one other team has managed that – the 1963 St Louis Cardinals. Three teams have 5-game midseason shutout streaks (Baltimore in 1995 and 1974, and the Cardinals in 1962); 14 have 4-game streaks, most recently the 2012 Giants.

The Padres head to Colorado on Friday for a three-game series. The thin air may help open up their scoring, particularly if Yangervis Solarte (who has the team’s only extra-base hit and one of two walks) can engage a bit more. Rockies pitcher Jordan Lyles (Friday) had a 5.14 ERA in 2015 and recorded his only career shutout in 2012.

The Dodgers head to San Francisco today, starting Alex Wood and Ross Stripling. Wood was 12-12 with a 3.86 ERA in 2015; Stripling started 14 games at A and AA last year and is making his MLB debut. Wood has no career shutouts.

Mets’ Magic Number For Home Field: 5 (Game 158 Preview) September 30, 2015

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Photo: slgckgc

Photo: slgckgc

Following a masterful one-hit performance by Clayton Kershaw and a 4-1 loss by the Mets, the Dodgers still remain within a few games of home field advantage. The Mets are 89-68; the Dodgers are 88-69. The Mets could thus clinch home field advantage by winning 5 games.

Bartolo Colon‘s stiff neck and Wilmer Flores‘ “little bit” of strep throat (according to Gary Cohen) kept the game close – Ruben Tejada got the start at shortstop and went 1-3 with a walk. If Wilmer really does have strep, he’ll sit again tonight; if he just has a lingering sore throat from cigar smoke, he may be back in the lineup. I was surprised not to see Kelly Johnson stay in the game at short after pinch-hitting, but Terry Collins will probably try him out there again in this series. This can’t be make or break for Johnson, since he’s valuable as a utilityman, so I can only presume that Ruben Tejada’s status on the bench is in question. That’s also surprising, considering Tejada’s reputation as a strong defender, but Ruben has been below average this year at short (his fielding percentage was high but he made 5 errors in 76 games and his range factor is eh). Flores is also below average, but his bat is consistently better than Tejada’s. Having Johnson as a defensive option would allow Tejada to be pulled off the lineup if necessary.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers will face the Giants again today. Sophomore Mike Bolsinger starts for the Dodgers against Mike Leake for the Giants. Bolsinger has a respectable 3.48 ERA but that jumps to 6.88 since his September callup. Leake has a 4.86 ERA since being traded to the Giants; in 5 games with Buster Posey, it’s only 3.41, but in 9 innings with Trevor Brown behind the plate he’s allowed 7 earned runs. (A bit of that is likely due to a huge BAbip split: .222 with Posey, .343 with Brown.) With the Dodgers 5 games away from home field advantage, Don Mattingly is unlikely to put out a day-after lineup. Expect to see closer (and birthday boy) Kenley Jansen, who hasn’t worked since back-to-back games on the 23rd and 24th. Jansen has 34 saves this year.

 

The Giants Are Playing to Win (SF Game 156 Recap) September 29, 2015

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With the Mets idle on Monday, the focus turned to west coast baseball and our likely opponents in the Division Series. Entering the evening, the Mets sit at 89-67 and the Dodgers were at 87-69. With 6 games remaining, the Dodgers would need to go 3-3 with the Mets losing every game in order to keep home field advantage in the division series.

Photo: SD Dirk

Photo: SD Dirk

San Francisco denied the Dodgers an opportunity to clinch the National League West last night. Although the Dodgers’ magic number is 2, the Giants are the second-place team, so any win for the Dodgers is simultaneously a loss for the Giants.

Despite a Greinkish start by Zack Greinke (7 innings, 4 hits, 2 runs, 3 walks and 7 Ks for a game score of 65), the Dodgers couldn’t get the job done. Chris Hatcher, Juan Nicasio, Luis Avilan, Pedro Baez, and J.P. Howell combined for four scoreless innings of relief after Greinke left with a 2-1 deficit. Andre Ethier grounded out off of Santiago Casilla to bring Corey Seager home in the bottom of the 9th. In the bottom of the 12th, Dodgers reliever Yimi Garcia allowed hits to Marlon Byrd and Kelby Tomlinson, who singled Byrd from first to third. Don Mattingly lifted Garcia for left-hander Adam Liberatore to face lefty pinch hitter Alejandro De Aza, who promptly sacrifice flied Byrd home for the win. Garcia takes the loss; Hunter Strickland was the pitcher of record for the Giants.

Alejandro De Aza started the year with Baltimore but was traded to Boston for cash and a prospect after being DFAed in May after hitting .214 in 112 plate appearances. Boston then flipped De Aza to San Francisco for a minor-league pitcher after De Aza hit .292 in 178 plate appearances; the Giants needed his left-handed bat off the bench.

Today’s game will pit Madison Bumgarner against Clayton Kershaw. Despite Bumgarner’s vaunted bat, he’s 2 for 12 against Kershaw, although one of those hits is a home run; Kershaw is 3 for 12 against Bumgarner. Current Dodgers hit .199/.242/.294 against Madison, and current Giants hit .191/.229/.244. Though both pitchers are consistently good, Bumgarner’s numbers tend to be more thinly spread – beyond Scott Van Slyke‘s shocking .483 (9 for 24) against Bumgarner, no one else with 10 appearances has gotten on base at a greater than .273 clip (Justin Turner and A.J. Ellis, both with 33 PAs).

Although a significant amount of Bumgarner’s variance is due to Van Slyke’s surprising success against him, this battle of the pitching titans is difficult to predict. A desire to win the division will likely propel Kershaw to the win, but I’ll be rooting for Madison.

The Mets’ Home Field Magic Number is 6 (Game 157 Preview) September 28, 2015

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Bartolo Colon starts Tuesday against the Phillies’ David Buchanan. Despite some noise about moving Bart to the bullpen, he is 13-2 in-division and 4-0 against the Phillies this year. Colon has posted a 5.80 KBB ratio and a 2.33 ERA in 27 innings against Philadelphia, so it would be foolish not to start him. (Both Philadelphia and the Mets are idle tonight.)

Colon has the chops to go for a complete game. However, Jonathon Niese is moving to the bullpen effective today, so Terry Collins may be looking for an opportunity to get Niese into the game. With rookies Steven Matz, Logan Verrett, and Noah Syndergaard all trying to go as deep into games as possible, it may make more sense to plan to pitch Bart for 6 innings and bring Niese into a clean 7th. Let him pitch 2, see what he can do, and use Jeurys Familia or Hansel Robles depending on the situation in the 9th.

The Mets can clinch home field advantage for the National League Division Series with any combination of 6 wins by the Mets and losses by the Dodgers. The magic number is defined (in MLB) as (163 – Wins by the Mets – Losses by the Dodgers); currently, the Mets are 89-67 and the Dodgers are 87-68. Since the Dodgers have played 155 of 162 games, they could conceivably finish 94-68 by winning every remaining game. That means the Mets could clinch just by getting to 95 wins (6 more). The Mets could lose all 6 of their remaining games and end up at 89-73, but the Dodgers would have to win three games to finish 90-72 (losing no more than 4). The Mets own the tiebreaker (4-3 season series), so it would be incumbent on the Dodgers to win more games than the Mets.

With all of the Mets’ starters rested, they can head into Philadelphia ready to nail down 2 of 3. Of active, qualified players, the Phillies’ OBP leader is rookie Odubel Herrera with an anemic .333. Three players have slightly better OBP and enough plate appearances, but they are Maikel Franco, Cesar Hernandez, and Ben Revere – on the 15-day DL, the 60-day DL, and the Blue Jays roster, respectively. Switch-hitting Andres Blanco has too few plate appearances to qualify for rate stats but is rolling a .356 OBP. OPS leader Aaron Altherr has a .513 slugging average, meaning that he averages slightly over half a base per at-bat. (Walks don’t contribute to SLG.)

Expect this series to continue the trend of trying out players at different positions. Kelly Johnson will likely see work at shortstop, and with Juan Uribe out I’d also love to see Daniel Murphy take a few innings at third. Although Anthony Recker played the hot corner in an emergency earlier this year, Recker likely won’t make the postseason roster anyway, and in any situation in which we need to lift David Wright, playing Murphy at third and Kelly Johnson or Wilmer Flores at second would be a net defensive upgrade.

Chone Figgins is below the Mendoza line, so why has he earned his spot? May 7, 2014

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It’s no secret to regular readers, if any, that I’m a fan of Chone Figgins. The Dodgers picked him up as a free agent and kept him on the roster this year. He’s hitting abysmally – in 15 plate appearances, he’s mustered only a single hit, and that was way back on April 12th – and at age 36 he isn’t getting any younger. Nevertheless, I think he’s earned his spot.

First, the Dodgers knew what they were getting. The last time Figgins hit above the Mendoza Line (.200) was 2010, and he sat out 2013 entirely. No one brought him on expecting him to be an everyday player with a high batting average. What they had a right to expect was a player who reliably walks 10% of the time – well above the league average of 7.7% – and who won’t strike out very often1. Thus far, Figgins has given them exactly that.

Although he has only hit once in his 15 plate appearances, he’s walked 5 times, with those walks spread out fairly evenly throughout the season. Those walks give him a tiny slugging percentage but an enormous OBP – hitting one out of every 15 isn’t bad if you’re walking five more, yielding an OBP of .400 (even with a SLG of .100). Figgins is low-variance – you can put him in to pinch-hit knowing that he’ll regularly walk. He may never hit a home run (and he hasn’t since April of 2012), but he’ll definitely walk regularly. (This is probably due to his being 5’8″ and it being impossible to locate a pitch in his strike zone.)

I have no delusions that Figgins is going to continue to walk 1 out of every 3 times he comes to the plate, but I also don’t think he’ll continue hitting quite so badly. He may not stay at .400 OBP all year, but he also won’t stay at a .100 batting average.

Just for fun, I dug up some other players who had seasons below .200 BA and above .375 OBP. Matt Stairs is the king here, getting 129 plate appearances in 99 games for Philadelphia in 2009. Tyler Flowers got around my “no pitchers and no catchers” restriction in 2009 by appearing in more than 50% of his games DH or PH. Otherwise, it would be easy to find catchers who are kept on the roster not for their hitting but for their defense, and since light-hitting catchers hit 8th, they’ll earn a lot of walks just based on position in the batting order.

 

Rk Player Year OBP BA PA Age Tm Lg G AB BB SO OPS Pos
1 Chone Figgins 2014 .400 .100 15 36 LAD NL 13 10 5 3 .500 *H/75
2 Nick Johnson 2010 .388 .167 98 31 NYY AL 24 72 24 23 .693 *D/H3
3 Tyler Flowers 2009 .350 .188 20 23 CHW AL 10 16 3 8 .600 /*2HD
4 Matt Stairs 2009 .357 .194 129 41 PHI NL 99 103 23 30 .735 *H/97D
5 Dallas McPherson 2008 .400 .182 15 27 FLA NL 11 11 4 5 .764 /*H5
6 J.J. Furmaniak 2007 .364 .176 22 27 OAK AL 16 17 3 8 .599 /HD46957
7 Michael Tucker 2006 .378 .196 74 35 NYM NL 35 56 16 14 .700 H7/93
8 Brian Myrow 2005 .360 .200 25 28 LAD NL 19 20 5 8 .610 *H/3
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/7/2014.

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1Probably due to being 5’8″ and it being impossible to locate a pitch in his strike zone.

The Dodgers Roll The Dice April 2, 2014

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The Dodgers are quickly overtaking the Giants on my “Favorite Teams Formerly of New York City” list. First of all, they grabbed Brian Wilson, and the audacity of using a World Series closer who saved 48 games in 2010 to set up a converted catcher rubbed me the right way. (Kenley Jansen is easily at the top of my “Favorite Converted Catchers” list.) Plus, watching Don Mattingly grow up and do less stupid stuff has been one of the best parts of Joe Torre‘s retirement.

The Dodgers have a couple of lotto tickets on the bench right now. Wilson, who sat out most of the last two seasons following his oblique injury, is a major risk as a power pitcher, but if he’s healthy again, the combination of a confident Wilson in the eighth and a Jansen whose ERA has dropped in each of the last two seasons could be the surprise bullpen of the year, especially if you consider Adrian Garcia’s argument at Lasorda’s Lair in favor of Paco Rodriguez as a potential set-up man.

But wait! There’s more!

Wilson isn’t the only player to make the squad after sitting out 2013. Chone Figgins was on the Marlins’ minor league squad last year but was released early in the season. The 5’8″ switch hitter came out of his involuntary retirement to sign as a bench option for the Dodgers, putting up a .340 OBP in spring training despite a .200 batting average. Figgins is continuing his trend into the regular season, since he’s appeared twice as a pinch hitter and walked each time (probably due to his minuscule strike zone). Figgins won’t start much this year, but if he can maintain his spring OBP into the regular season he’ll be a true asset for the club.

Skip Schumaker, Darnell McDonald, and Wesley Wright in a Utility Pitcher Roundup September 6, 2011

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August was a busy month for the occasional movement from the field to the mound and back. Occasionally, it even happened in the opposite order. Skip Schumaker, Darnell McDonald, and Wesley Wright each had a hand in a weird outing.

On August 23, Skip Schumaker took the mound for his St. Louis Cardinals in a blowout loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Though Schumaker has started the majority of his games this season, he was on the bench that night and Tony La Russa used him in relief. Kyle Lohse, who ironically has played a bit of left field himself, only managed three innings as the starter and allowed eight runs, all of them earned. He was relieved by Mitchell Boggs, who allowed two earned and one unearned in two innings, followed by the competent Marc Rzepczynski for two scoreless innings on two hits, and a one-hit, one-K inning from Octavio Dotel. Skip came in to an 11-0 deficit, then promptly struck out Trent Oeltjen, walked Andre Ethier, and gave up a home run to the light-hitting infielder Aaron Miles. Rod Barajas flied out to deep center and relief pitcher Blake Hawksworth, batting for himself, struck out looking. The Cardinals scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth, but that wasn’t enough to save Skip. He hadn’t pitched since college.

Three days later, the Oakland As were visiting the Boston Red Sox and the game wasn’t going well for the home team. Journeyman outfielder Darnell McDonald had started the game at right field, as is his custom. In the top of the ninth, the Athletics were leading 13-4. Terry Francona had only gotten four innings out of starter Tim Wakefield, followed by three competent innings from Scott Atchison and a painful four-earned-run inning from Matt Albers. Since Albers wasn’t really a good option to stay in the game, McDonald moved from the field to the pitcher’s mound. Of course, this being the American League, that meant the team had to give up its designated hitter, so David Ortiz had a seat and Josh Reddick came in to play right. McDonald finished the game, giving up two runs, both earned, on one hit and two walks. Unsurprisingly, a game started by a knuckleballer had two wild pitches; surprisingly, one was Wakefield’s and one was Atchison’s. The position player and the guy who gave up four earned runs? No wild pitches at all.

Finally, Wesley Wright did things a little backwards. On the 23rd, manager Brad Mills called on the left-handed Wright to pitch to the Rockies’ lefty outfielder, Carlos Gonzalez. Gonzalez popped out to catcher Humberto Quintero and was followed in the linup by right-hander Troy Tulowitzki. This season, Troy is hitting .288/.361/.518 against right-handers and .345/.415/.634 against left-handers, so Mills was faced with a strategic decision: after Tulowitzki came first baseman Todd Helton, whose splits are in the opposite direction (.314/.402/.491 against right-handers, .292/.356/.438 against left-handers), so it was nonoptimal to lift Wright for a right-hander and then have the righty face Helton. The only other lefty in the bullpen was starter Wandy Rodriguez. Mills took Brian Bogusevic out of right field, moved Wright to right, and put in right-hander David Carpenter to face the right-handed Tulowitzki. Troy grounded out to the middle infield, and then Mills brough Wright back in to face Helton (putting J.B. Shuck in right field to complete the switch). That’s mainly notable because of the density of words pronounced like ‘right’ in that description.

Chad Billingsley’s Home Run June 6, 2011

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Chad Billingsley had what was by all accounts an unremarkable start on the mound last night: 5 IP, 8 H, 4 R, all of them earned, 3 walks, 3 strikeouts, 1 HBP. Considering that the Dodgers have seven tough losses already (only the Rays and the Nationals have more), this would ordinarily be a short entry commenting on how Billingsley needs some work.

Actually, scratch that. I wouldn’t make that entry – the folks over at Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness would.

Billingsley managed to earn a mention last night by hitting the second home run of his career (solo in the second) and going 2 for 2 with a walk. Billingsley’s Win Probability Added (WPA) from the plate was a team-leading .215 (Matt Kemp was second with .168). Of course, he evened that out with actually subtracting WPA as a pitcher. Still, his walk in the third forced Casey Blake in for a second RBI, and his double in the fifth brought James Loney home and ultimately pulled Reds starter Travis Wood out of the game.

Oddly, Wood himself managed a three-RBI night back on May 9, as did the Diamondbacks’ Zach Duke on May 28. Like Billingsley, both of them took the win in those games.

The most stylish home runs by pitchers happen when the player doesn’t even know he’s a pitcher, though – on April 13, 2009, Nick Swisher hit a home run in the top of the fourth inning while playing first base and then was called on to pitch the bottom of the 8th in a 15-5 loss to the Rays. He’s the only player in the last 10 years to start the game as a position player, hit a home run, and pitch. Admittedly, that’s a weird set of conditions. Luckily, there’s another instance that almost fits, so I don’t feel like I’m cheating. Keith Osik didn’t start on May 20, 2000, but came in as part of a triple-switch in the top of the 8th to play third base. Osik hit a two-run homer to bring Mike Benjamin home in the bottom of the 8th, then gave up 5 earned runs on 5 hits in the top of the 9th.

Hopefully Billingsley will repeat his performance at the plate and will continue cleaning up on the mound. Last night was his first Cheap Win of the year, and he already has two Tough Losses. Not a bad showing as far as ability goes.

600 Home Runs: Who’s Second? July 25, 2010

Posted by tomflesher in Baseball, Economics.
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Alex Rodriguez is, as I’m writing this, sitting at 599 home runs. Almost certainly, he’ll be the next player to hit the 600 home-run milestone, since the next two active players are Jim Thome at 575 and Manny Ramirez at 554. Today’s Toyota Text Poll (which runs during Yankee games on YES) asked which of those two players would reach #600 sooner.

There are a few levels of abstraction to answering this question. First of all, without looking at the players’ stats, Thome gets the nod at the first order because he’s significantly closer than Driving in 25 home runs is easier than driving in 46, so Thome will probably get there first.

At the second order, we should take a look at the players’ respective rates. Over the past two seasons, Thome has averaged a rate of .053 home runs per plate appearance, while Ramirez has averaged .041 home runs per plate appearance. With fewer home runs to hit and a higher likelihood of hitting one each time he makes it to the plate, Thome stays more likely to hit #600 before Ramirez does… but how much more likely?

Using the binomial distribution, I tested the likelihood that each player would hit his required number of home runs in different numbers of plate appearances to see where that likelihood reached a maximum. For Thome, the probability increases until 471 plate appearances, then starts decreasing, so roughly, I expect Thome to hit his 25th home run within 471 plate appearances. For Manny, that maximum doesn’t occur until 1121 plate appearances. Again, the nod has to go to Thome. He’ll probably reach the milestone in less than half as many plate appearances.

But wait. How many plate appearances is that, anyway? Until recently, Manny played 80-90% of the games in a season. Last year, he played 64%. So far the Dodgers have played 99 games and Manny appeared in 61 of them, but of course he’s disabled this year. Let’s make the generous assumption that Manny will play in 75% of the games in each season starting with this one. Then, let’s look at his average plate appearances per game. For most of his career, he averaged between 4.1 and 4.3 plate appearances per game, but this year he’s down to 3.6. Let’s make the (again, generous) assumption that he’ll get 4 plate appearances in each game from now on. At that rate, to get 1121 plate appearances, he needs to play in 280.25 games, which averages to 1.723 seasons of 162 games or about 2.62 seasons of 75% playing time.

Thome, on the other hand, has consistently played in 80% or more of his team’s games but suffered last year and this year because he hasn’t been serving as an everyday player. He pinch-hit in the National League last year and has, in Minnesota, played in about 69% of the games averaging only 3 plate appearances in each. Let’s give Jim the benefit of the doubt and assume that from here on out he’ll hit in 70% of the games and get 3.5 appearances (fewer games and fewer appearances than Ramirez). He’d need about 120.3 games, which equates to about 3/4 of a 162-game season or about 1.06 seasons with 70% playing time. Even if we downgrade Thome to 2.5 PA per game and 66% playing time, that still gives us an expectation that he’ll hit #600 within the next 1.6 real-time seasons.

Since Thome and Ramirez are the same age, there’s probably no good reason to expect one to retire before the other, and they’ll probably both be hitting as designated hitters in the AL next year. As a result, it’s very fair to expect Thome to A) reach 600 home runs and B) do it before Manny Ramirez.