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The Sidney Awards for April 2014 May 4, 2014

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That sleeveless shirt is so disappointing.

That sleeveless shirt is so disappointing.

Once again, it’s time for the World’s Worst Sports Blog’s favorite monthly recognition: the Sidney Ponson Memorial Awards for Disappointing Performance in Baseball! The awards commemorate the Major League Baseball career of Sir Sidney Ponson, Knight of the Netherlands, who has made many bad choices in the realm of behavior, clothing, and hairstyle.

The most prestigious Sidney is the coveted Cheapest Win of the Month, which goes this month to the Twins’ Ricky Nolasco. Ricky pitched an April 24th game against the Tampa Bay Rays and nailed a game score of 27 with 6 innings pitched, 10 hits, 6 runs (all earned), 2 walks, 1 strikeout, and one home run given up to David DeJesus. Nolasco is still in competition with Cliff Lee and his pace-setting game score of 13.

On the other end of the line, Atlanta’s Alex Wood takes home the award for Toughest Loss of the Month. On April 22, Wood pitched 8 innings, allowing only one run on four hits, walking none and striking out eleven for a game score of 81. The Braves’ run support was nonexistent; only three Braves even got on base. As good as Wood was, Jose Fernandez was better, pitching 8, allowing no runs on three hits, and striking out 14 for a game score of 90.

The Sidney for Disappointing Starting Pitching goes to Felipe Paulino of the White Sox for his dazzling April 18th performance. In only 3 2/3 innings, Paulino allowed an incredible 10 earned runs on 13 hits, walking 3 and striking out 3; this led him to the first negative game score (-5) of the season, although that may have had something to do with the rotator cuff inflammation that landed him on the disabled list a few days later.

Grant Balfour is the proud1 recipient of the April Sidney for Disappointing Performance in Relief following his April 25th blown save against the White Sox. Though several pitchers blew more saves than Balfour during the month of April, Balfour managed to give up a grand slam after walking three batters in the process of allowing five earned runs for the biggest blown save of the month.

The Sidney for Disappointment by a Batter goes undoubtedly to Greg Dobbs of the Marlins, who managed to avoid getting on base at all during the month of April. His last time on base was March 31, and he managed to avoid walking, hitting, being hit by a pitch, or even reaching on an error in twelve at-bats as a pinch hitter. He hasn’t played since April 26th and was designated for assignment on April 29.

Finally, the special Sidney for Disappointing Statisticians goes to Albert Pujols. Although the World’s Worst Sports Blog was excited about the prospect of reviving the Choke Index for Albert’s 499th to 500th home runs, Albert managed to hit his 500th home run only two plate appearances after #499. This blogger didn’t even have time to crunch the numbers before Pujols, who paused only to strike out in the second inning before taking Taylor Jordan deep on his second home run of the game, had managed the milestone. Congratulations, Albert!

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1Not a guarantee

Cueto sits on bench, sobs April 6, 2014

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Johnny Cueto is having a tough year so far. In yesterday’s game against the Mets, he pitched to a game score of 65, allowing two earned runs in seven innings; he left with a lead, followed quickly with a hold by Sam LeCure and a blown save by J.J. Hoover, who surrendered a pinch-hit grand slam to professional pinch hitter Ike Davis1. 65 is a solid game score; the sabermetric definition of a quality start is a pitcher who adds value to his team by pitching to a game score above 50. In his first start of the year, Cueto threw seven innings of three-hit ball and struck out eight, pitching to a 74 game score and surrendering only one run. Unfortunately, that day, Adam Wainwright threw seven innings of three-hit ball and struck out nine, pitching to a 76 game score and surrendering no runs. Neither bullpen surrendered much, and so Wainwright took the win and dealt Cueto one of the toughest losses we’re likely to see this year.

Let’s give the devil their due – although it’s been easy to criticize the Mets’ bullpen, Scott Rice and Carlos Torres combined for a perfect inning and two thirds yesterday, keeping the score close enough that Ike was able to knock in the winning home run.

Meanwhile, Juan Lagares‘ slugging percentage is still up at .765, and with 13 total bases on 21 plate appearances he’s averaging about .62 bases every time he steps to the plate. Lagares’ slide into second yesterday was important for Ike’s hit to be a grand slam; if he’d been out, Ruben Tejada could easily have grounded into a double play and kept Ike out of the batter’s box. Still, Tejada’s OBP is at .389, and if he can keep that up, a shortstop who gets on base almost eight out of every 20 plate appearances is a valuable person to have on your roster.

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1Davis’s first pinch-hit home run, and, according to Greg Prince via Twitter, the first come-from-behind walk-off grand slam in the history of the Mets.

Quickie: R.A. Dickey Does It Again September 13, 2011

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Last night’s Mets game offered a familiar situation: R.A. Dickey started the game and pitched seven strong innings. He allowed only three runs. He was also the losing pitcher.

By any measure, his 7 innings, 3 runs (2 earned), no walks and 7 strikeouts were a quality start. (They gave him a game score of 58, and matched the 6-inning, 3-run criterion MLB uses for a quality start.) Three innings was enough, though, to give the Mets the loss. The Mets have given up an average of 4.57 runs per game this season, putting them .39 above the NL average and 13th in the league. That’s not too bad – except that they only score 4.44, and that extra 13% of a run adds up over time. (Note that when I crunched numbers for home field advantage, the Mets’ home advantage was quite high, at 1.4 more runs scored at home, so last night’s performance was quite a letdown.) The Mets weren’t running a September callup lineup, either – Mike Nickeas was at catcher, but the rest of the lineup was pretty consistent.

Dickey’s had a rough year. A loss in a quality start is called a Tough Loss, and he’s had six of them. That doesn’t lead the league – Hiroki Kuroda and Jeremy Hellickson split that honor with eight each – but it’s tough to pin all of the blame on Dickey when he’s pitched to six tough losses. Worse, he has seven Quality No-Decisions, which are, predictably, no-decisions in quality starts. Those are more common, but it means that of Dickey’s 30 starts, with 19 of them quality starts, a whopping 13 of them haven’t gotten him a win. By contrast, of his 8 wins, only 2 came in non-quality starts. (We call those Cheap Wins.) That kind of breakdown shows a lack of support from the team.

It’s not like the Mets are this unsupportive all the time, though – Dickey’s six Tough Losses were over one-third of the 17 Tough Losses earned by the team this year, and his seven Quality No-Decisions are around one-third of the Mets’ 22 quality starts with no-decisions for the pitcher. His two Cheap Wins? The Mets have sixteen.

Dickey just can’t get lucky this year.

Weird Pitching Decisions Almanac in 2010 December 24, 2010

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I’m a big fan of weird pitching decisions. A pitcher with a lot of tough losses pitches effectively but stands behind a team with crappy run support. A pitcher with a high proportion of cheap wins gets lucky more often than not. A reliever with a lot of vulture wins might as well be taking the loss.

In an earlier post, I defined a tough loss two ways. The official definition is a loss in which the starting pitcher made a quality start – that is, six or more innings with three or fewer runs. The Bill James definition is the same, except that James defines a quality start as having a game score of 50 or higher. In either case, tough losses result from solid pitching combined with anemic run support.

This year’s Tough Loss leaderboard had 457 games spread around 183 pitchers across both leagues. The Dodgers’ Hiroki Kuroda led the league with a whopping eight starts with game scores of 50 or more. He was followed by eight players with six tough losses, including Justin Verlander, Carl Pavano, Roy Oswalt, Rodrigo Lopez, Colby Lewis, Clayton Kershaw, Felix Hernandez, and Tommy Hanson. Kuroda’s Dodgers led the league with 23 tough losses, followed by the Mariners and the Cubs with 22 each.

There were fewer cheap wins, in which a pitcher does not make a quality start but does earn the win. The Cheap Win leaderboard had 248 games and 136 pitchers, led by John Lackey with six and Phil Hughes with 5. Hughes pitched to 18 wins, but Lackey’s six cheap wins were almost half of his 14-win total this year. That really shows what kind of run support he had. The Royals and the Red Sox were tied for first place with 15 team cheap wins each.

Finally, a vulture win is one for the relievers. I define a vulture win as a blown save and a win in the same game, so I searched Baseball Reference for players with blown saves and then looked for the largest number of wins. Tyler Clippard was the clear winner here. In six blown saves, he got 5 vulture wins. Francisco Rodriguez and Jeremy Affeldt each deserve credit, though – each had three blown saves and converted all three for vulture wins. (When I say “converted,” I mean “waited it out for their team to score more runs.”)

Cheap Wins July 16, 2010

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The opposite of the Tough Loss discussed below (which R.A. Dickey unfortunately experienced tonight in a duel with Tim Lincecum) is a Cheap Win. Logically, since a Tough Loss is a loss in a quality start, a Cheap Win (invented by Bill James) is a win in a non-quality start – that is, a start with a game score of below 50 (or, officially, a start with fewer than 6.0 innings pitched or more than 3 runs allowed).

The Chicago White Sox’ starter, John Danks, picked up a Cheap Win in Thursday’s game against the Twins. Although he pitched six innings, he gave up six runs (all earned) in the second inning, leading to an abysmal game score of 33. Danks had two of last year’s 304 Cheap Wins. Ricky Romero led the pack with six, and Joe Saunders and Tim Wakefield were both among the six pitchers with five Cheap Wins. Even Roy Halladay had two.

Through the beginning of the All-Star Break, there have been 136 Cheap Wins in 2010. That includes one by my current favorite player, Yovani Gallardo. John Lackey is already up to 5, and Brian Bannister is knocking on the door with 4.

It’s hard to read too much into the tea leaves of Cheap Wins, since they’re not all created equal. In general, they represent a pitcher sliding a little bit off his game, but his team upping their run production to rescue him. To that end, Cheap Wins might be a better measure of a team’s ability than Tough Losses, since, while Tough Losses show a pitcher maintaining himself under fire, Cheap Wins represent an ability to hit in the clutch (assuming that run production in Cheap Wins is significantly different from run production in other games). That’s hard to validate without doing a bit more work, but it’s a project to consider.