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One-Third of an Inning Pitched, 6 or More Earned Runs June 1, 2011

Posted by tomflesher in Baseball.
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Carlos Marmol came in last night to close a fine performance by Carlos Zambrano, who had pitched 8 innings and allowed one earned run on 7 hits, no walks, and 7 strikeouts for a game score of 71. (Zambrano went 0-2, dropping his batting average to a paltry .346.) Marmol had allowed 3 runs in 23 innings pitched prior to last night, with 10 saves, two blown saves, and a record of 1-1.

Then came last night.

On one third of an inning pitched, facing the 6-7-8 part of the Astros’ lineup, Marmol first allowed Brett Wallace to single, followed by Chris Johnson doubling and sending Wallace to third. Matt Downs hit for catcher Robinson Cancel and doubled, sending both Wallace and Johnson home. (Two earned runs.)

At this point, I’d have been willing to let pitcher Fernando Rodriguez hit for himself, but Angel Sanchez came in and sacrifice bunted Downs to third base. Credit Marmol with one-third of an inning pitched. Michael Bourne singled to bring Downs home from third (three earned runs), then stole second to put the winning run in scoring position. Clint Barmes walked, followed by Hunter Pence homering (six earned runs). Mercifully, Sean Marshall came in to finish off the inning, allowing one more single but getting the two outs to end the inning.

It’s surprisingly common to have at least 6 earned runs in one-third or less of an inning pitched. Ryan Dempster even managed to allow seven earned runs in .1 IP to start the game and his team bravely held on for the loss, and Jason Marquis once allowed seven earned runs in NO innings pitched (although in Marquis’ defense he left the bases loaded and Miguel Batista allowed all three inherited runners to score).

So, buck up, Marmol, and buy Mr. Zambrano a steak dinner.


Hit Batsman Roundup, 2010 December 26, 2010

Posted by tomflesher in Baseball.
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There’s very little more subtle and involved than the quiet elegance of a batter getting beaned. In fact, that particular strategy was invoked 1549 times in 2010, with 419 batters getting plunked at least one.

The absolute leader this season was not Kevin Youkilis or Brett Carroll but Rickie Weeks, who led with 25 HBP in 754 plate appearances. Put another way, Weeks got hit in 3.32% of his plate appearances.  That’s almost once every 30 plate appearances, or nearly four times the MLB-wide rate of 0.83% of the time. (Incidentally, that’s total HBP divided by total plate appearances. The more skewed mean percentage is 0.58%.) What leads to such a high number of plunkings?

I would assume that a few things would go into the decision to hit a batter intentionally:

  • Pitchers are less likely to be hit by other pitchers.
  • If a hitter is likely to get on base anyway, he’s more likely to be hit – you don’t lose anything by putting him on base, and you control the damage by limiting him to one base.
  • If a batter is likely to hit for extra bases, he’s more likely to be hit.
  • If a batter is likely to steal a base, he’s less likely to be hit, but there is an offsetting effect for caught stealing.
  • American League batters are more likely to be hit because of the moral hazard effect of pitchers not having to bat.

With that in mind, I set up a regression in R using every player who had at least one plate appearance in 2010. I added binary variables for Pitcher (1 if the player’s primary position is pitcher, 0 otherwise) and Lg (1 if the player played the entire season in the American League, 0 otherwise), then regressed HBP/PA on Pitcher, Lg, BB, HR, OBP, SLG, SB, and CS. The results were somewhat surprising:

lm(formula = hbppa ~ Pitcher + Lg + BB + HR + OBP + SLG + SB + 
       Min         1Q     Median         3Q        Max 
-0.0154027 -0.0059081 -0.0018096  0.0001845  0.1397065 
              Estimate Std. Error t value Pr(>|t|)    
(Intercept)  6.847e-03  9.815e-04   6.975 5.77e-12 ***
Pitcher     -5.399e-03  9.136e-04  -5.909 4.81e-09 ***
Lg          -1.614e-03  7.054e-04  -2.289   0.0223 *  
BB          -1.412e-05  3.257e-05  -0.434   0.6647    
HR           1.122e-04  7.956e-05   1.411   0.1587    
OBP          8.570e-03  3.477e-03   2.465   0.0139 *  
SLG         -3.451e-03  2.468e-03  -1.398   0.1624    
SB          -6.749e-05  8.693e-05  -0.776   0.4377    
CS           1.770e-04  2.646e-04   0.669   0.5036    
Signif. codes:  0 ‘***’ 0.001 ‘**’ 0.01 ‘*’ 0.05 ‘.’ 0.1 ‘ ’ 1 
Residual standard error: 0.01042 on 935 degrees of freedom
Multiple R-squared: 0.08839,    Adjusted R-squared: 0.08059 
F-statistic: 11.33 on 8 and 935 DF,  p-value: 2.07e-15

Created by Pretty R at inside-R.org

That’s right – only Pitcher, Lg, HR, and SLG are even marginally significant (80% level). BB, SB, and CS aren’t even close. Why not?

Well, for one, the number of stolen bases and times caught stealing are relatively small no matter what. There probably isn’t enough data. For another, there simply probably isn’t as much intent to hit batters as we’d like to pretend.

Second, American Leaguers are less likely to be hit. This baffles me a little bit.

Also, keep in mind that this model shouldn’t be expected to, and cannot, explain all or even most of the variation in hit batsman. The R-squared is about .09, meaning that it explains about 9% of the variation. It ignores probably the most important factor, physics, entirely. (That is, the model doesn’t have any way to account for accidental plunkings.) As a side note, other regressions show there might be an effect for plate appearances, meaning you’re more likely to get hit by chance alone if you take enough pitches.

Finally, there are some guys who manage to do the opposite of Weeks’ feat. Houston outfielder Hunter Pence went 156 games and 658 plate appearances without getting plunked at all. Honorable mentions go to Raul Ibanez, Scott Podsednik, Victor Martinez, and Omar Infante, all of whom went over 500 plate appearances without a beaning. Now THAT’S plate discipline.