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Reader Questions: Which teams do the worst in extra innings? July 28, 2014

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Occasionally the World’s Worst Sports Blog likes to answer reader questions, which come in either by email at TheBadEconomist@gmail.com or through search engine queries. Today’s reader question: Which teams do the worst in extra innings? There are three measures we can take to see which teams are really the worst in extra innings.

The first is to look at the bare number of extra-innings losses. The Miami Marlins, with an extra-innings record of 6-9, hold that honor. That gives them an extra-innings win-loss percentage of .400, which isn’t great, but it’s well within the realm of chance. In fact, if extra-innings games really are a statistical crapshoot, then margin of error for 15 games is about .130.

There are a few teams that do worse in extra innings than Miami, assuming you ignore the number of games played. Both the Texas Rangers and the Toronto Blue Jays are 1-3 in extras for a win-loss of .250, and the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers aren’t much better with records of 3-8 and attendant win percentages of .273. Those are still within the margin of error for such a small sample size. In fact, almost no teams are statistically better than chance in extra innings – only the Orioles, with a .786 win-loss mark in 14 games, are statistically outside the margin of error.

There are a few teams that are much worse than even their scores would lead us to expect. These are teams with really lousy pythagorean luck – that is, their runs allowed and runs scored predict they’d have a much better record than expected.

The unluckiest team so far has been the Chicago White Sox, with a Pythagorean expectation in extra-innings games of .450 and an actual win percentage of .286, for a mark of -.164. Texas and Toronto each come in at .159 and .156, respectively, with the Dodgers, the Nationals, the Reds, the Mariners, and the Cubs all coming in at -.100 or worse. The Giants are the luckiest team, with a luck number of .222.

What reader questions would you like me to address? Use the form below to make a request!

Everybody’s Stupid Except Me April 21, 2014

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Or, why is there a guy being paid to manage the team when I already do it?

There have been quite a few extra-innings games this year for the Mets. The pitching situation has been stressed a couple of times; thankfully, yesterday’s 14-inning monstrosity against the Braves worked out okay. This is due almost entirely to Dan Uggla‘s status as one big walking, talking error. His Jeter-esque defense ticked me off in the All-Star Game a few years ago, but it’s been hilarious since.

Poor Gus Schlosser took a bullet for the Braves, pitching nearly four innings before giving up the game-winning sac fly to Curtis Granderson (who can’t even get a hit when he’s playing hero) after a previous career-high 1.2 innings earlier this year. Schlosser was the Braves’ sixth pitcher of the night. Jose Valverde got the win for the Mets, their seventh pitcher of the night. Valverde was an odd choice to go to in a high-leverage situation, since Jeurys Familia hadn’t pitched the previous day. Gary Cohen speculated that Familia was simply unavailable, meaning that we’ll find out today that he’s healthy as a horse but was getting a drink of water when the phone call came. Gonzalez Germen had a rough third of an inning, but Scott Rice cleared it up for him.

Terry Collins did a few very strange things. First, he pinch-hit Andrew Brown for Omar Quintanilla and immediately used Ruben Tejada to pinch-hit for the pitcher, apparently counting on Brown to get on base and planning to use Tejada to bunt him over. Of course, using a pinch-hitter for your shortstop counting on the pinch-hitter to get on base is risky, and Brown didn’t, leaving Tejada to pinch-hit when Travis d’Arnaud and Kirk Niewenhuis were still sitting on the bench. Granted, it worked out okay, since Tejada hit a nice single to get on base, but Quintanilla has had a .375 OBP this year; unless he was injured or something, using Brown to hit for him is weird. Forcing Tejada into the game was weirder, since letting Quintanilla hit and then allowing the game’s situation to dictate the double switch would have allowed Terry a bit more control over the situation. As it is, Terry used Quintanilla in the top of the ninth, Brown to hit in the bottom of the inning, and then Daisuke Matsuzaka in the same slot to start the tenth. Considering that the Mets were at the end of their bench by the end of the game, keeping Brown around to hit for someone later in the game would have been a more conservative move with no smaller an upside.

Second, and much less sinfully, he benched Anthony Recker as part of a double switch in the 13th to 14th to make room for Papa Grande. Recker was exhausted, certainly, and was in the ideal spot to allow for the double switch. However, suppose Granderson hadn’t hit his sac fly but had grounded out to leave Eric Young and Kirk Niewenhuis at second and third, respectively, with two outs. That requires David Wright to get on base, and then (if Schlosser made the reasonable decision to walk Wright and pitch to Daniel Murphy) you’re counting on Murphy to make a clean hit. At that point, you have a choice – either you ask Valverde for a second inning, you ask Familia to pitch even though he seemed to be unavailable, or you ask a starter to pitch. Leaving Recker in at first base and removing Lucas Duda would have put Valverde in the #4 slot instead of the #5 slot, but would have maintained Recker’s eligibility to pitch. Granted, that still involves moving an outfielder to first and having a starter play the corner a la Kyle Lohse and Roy Oswalt a few seasons ago; on the other hand, if Quintanilla had been allowed to bat for himself, you then also have either Ruben Tejada or Andrew Brown on the bench, in which case Brown has experience at first and Tejada has experience at second, allowing Daniel Murphy to take over at first.

I did, however, love using DiceK in the long-reliever role in extra innings. I’m glad Terry had him on hand, and I’m thoroughly impressed with Matsuzaka’s ability to adjust to the relief role.

Side note: the Mets have actually been outscored game for game in extra innings, 23-22, leading to a weird .480 Pythagorean expectation. Small sample sizes and walkoffs make that a bit difficult to draw real conclusions from.

Conflicts April 14, 2014

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You’re trying not to smile, aren’t you?

– My wife on Saturday morning

Although the Dodgers are currently my favorite California team, it’s tough – I’m a huge Angels fan. It all started in 2004, when Josh Paul forgot to tag A.J. Pierzynski …. but I prattle on. Suffice to say, I was a terrible Mets fan this weekend.

Bartolo Colon took one for the team yesterday, going 5 innings but allowing nine earned runs (four of them home runs). After two extra-inning games, it was nice to get some length out of Colon, even if it will destroy his stats for the rest of the month. Although this would have been an excellent time to allow professional pinch hitter Ike Davis to show off the stuff that made him Arizona State’s closer, Terry Collins opted to allow Scott Rice, Jeurys Familia, and John Lannan each toss an inning. Familia was a bright spot, since he doesn’t seem to be taking his loss on Saturday too hard.

I was really pleased to see Lannan used as a potential long man on Saturday night. Although both Lannan and Rice pitched in the night game Saturday and the day game Sunday, Rice had been used in the left-handed specialist role before being asked to eat up an inning on Sunday. Lannan was finally used in extra innings as a second starter; he ended up only needing to go two innings, but I’m sure Terry was glad to have a sixth starter on the bench for his second straight extra-innings game. Gonzalez Germen is also doing some excellent work these days. Hopefully we won’t be on the hook for Kyle Farnsworth in the setup role for too much longer. I’m not sure what kept the Professor out of the high-leverage game on Saturday night – I’m glad, don’t get me wrong, but he had only tossed a third of an inning the night before, and Terry seems to think he’s useful.

Jose Valverde finally blew a save. It’s been almost a year since he did – he blew three saves in 2013 for Detroit, all within a one-month span starting on May 12th. Of course, June 12th was his last save opportunity.

Big Doin’s This Week July 27, 2011

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Michael CuddyerWhen I was a baby sports economist, my father used to refer to busy days as ‘Big Doin’s.’ Well, Major League Baseball has been doin’ big things since my last entry, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t try to mention at least a few of them.

The Braves and the Pirates slugged out a marathon game last night. (Well, maybe not a marathon, but 19 innings is pretty close to 26.2 miles.) I can’t weigh in on the obviously blown call that ended the game, but I was thoroughly impressed with Cristhian Martinez, who pitched a career-high 6.0 innings in relief for the Braves. Martinez had previously pitched 4 innings twice. Scott Proctor got the win when converted starter Daniel McCutchen ‘allowed’ the winning run in the 19th during his 6th inning of work. Fifteen pitchers combined for both teams to get the 37.1 innings covered, all of whom pitch as their primary position.

That’s distinct from Michael Cuddyer, who pitched a scoreless eighth inning for the Twins in their blowout loss (20-6) to the Rangers on Monday. He allowed two hits but maintains his career 0.00 ERA (since this was the first time he pitched professionally, even counting the minors). Since Cuddyer has DHed a couple of times for the Twins, he joins Mike McCoy and Don Kelly as a 2011 inductee into the prestigious* Spectrum Club (for players who play at both ends of the defensive spectrum in the same season).

Not to be outdone, Mitch Maier of the Royals (a career outfielder who’s also done time at first base and designated hitter) pitched a scoreless ninth against the Red Sox. Mitch has taken two at-bats as DH this year, so welcome to the Spectrum Club!

So, what do Maier and Cuddyer have in common with Reds starter Johnny Cueto? Neither of them allowed an earned run in their last appearance. Unfortunately for Cueto, while Mitch and Michael both had decent defense behind them, Cueto allowed SIX unearned runs in his start against the Mets. Errors by Joey Votto (1B, 1st inning), Brandon Phillips (2B, 3rd inning), and Miguel Cairo (3B, 6th inning) contributed, although Cueto plunking Daniel Murphy didn’t help.

Appendix A: 2011’s Spectrum Club, as of today

Appendix B: All starters since 2002 who have allowed at least 6 runs, all of them unearned

Photo credit: Keith Allison. Used under ShareAlike license.

* not a guarantee

Wilson Valdez, Utility Pitcher Extraordinaire May 26, 2011

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Interested in position players who pitched? Check out The Best Game Ever and a previous post on what I like to call Utility Pitchers.

So, the Phillies and the Reds went into extra innings last night and Wilson Valdez was the winning pitcher. His line: 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 0 HR, 4 BF on 10 pitches. He did have a hit batsman – Scott Rolen – but that’s not surprising, since Valdez has never pitched professionally at any level.

First of all, let me say that I’m thoroughly impressed with the way both managers managed the game. Ordinarily, a 19-inning game is full of spot relievers going a few innings each and at some point the managers seem to lose control of the situation and start panicking. The most common solution is to throw starters in on their throw day, which is how Mike Pelfrey got his save last year. Instead, Reds manager Dusty Baker seemed to know that Carlos Fisher, who has never started a game at the Major League level, had 5 2/3 innings of starter-quality stuff in him. Similarly, the Phillies’ Charlie Manuel relied on Danys Baez, who hadn’t pitched more than four innings since the Bush administration, for five innings that would have made any manager happy. To offer some perspective, if Baez had pitched his five innings at the beginning of the game and been lifted, his game score would have been 67; Fisher’s would have been 58 had he been removed from the game at the moment he gave up his run. That’s not only a quality start for each pitcher, but both of the relievers put together a higher game score than their team’s starter.

Oh, yeah, and the Phillies’ starter was Roy Halladay.

Also, Wilson Valdez had an incredible night. In addition to becoming the first position player to be the winning pitcher since 2000, Valdez started the game at second base and went 3 for 6 with a walk. To compare, when catcher Brent Mayne was the Rockies’ winning pitcher in 2000, he came in off the bench and didn’t bat at all.

Hats off to Charlie Manuel and Dusty Baker for managing a smart game, and bravo to Wilson Valdez for solid inning pitched and a great night at the plate.

At the other end… June 22, 2010

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Although AJ Burnett had a bad first inning last night, the Oakland As had a bad tenth inning. After taking a 2-2 game into extra innings, the Cincinnati Reds knocked three out of the park against pitchers Michael Wuertz and Cedrick Bowers. The first was hit by Ramon Hernandez; Joey Votto and Scott Rolen went deep back to back. Although extra-inning home runs aren’t very rare (there have been 35 so far this year), only three pitchers have surrendered more than one, and neither of the other two (Chad Durbin and Matt Belisle) gave them both up on the same night.

Last year, everyone’s favorite balk-off artist, Arizona’s Esmerling Vasquez, gave up two home runs in extra innings against the Texas Rangers on June 25th. Those were two of 83 free-baseball homers in 2009. Extra-innings home runs are more common in the tops of innings, because in a tied game a home run for the home team is a walk-off whereas the road team will get the chance to capitalize on their momentum, but I would have expected the proportions to be much more different than they are. In 2009, for example, of those 83, only 44 were hit by the away team with 39 hit by the home team (and 33 of those were game-enders).

So far, no batter has more than one extra-innings home run this year, but last year there were several. Andre Ethier led the pack with 3, with a bunch of batters who had 2.