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Home runs and non-homer RBIs May 31, 2016

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Neil Walker. Photo: Arturo Pardavila III via Wikimedia Commons.

Neil Walker. Photo: Arturo Pardavila III via Wikimedia Commons.

While at yesterday’s Mets game, a friend of mine pointed out that Neil Walker had a surprisingly high ratio of home runs to RBIs – at the time, it was 12 homers to 23 RBIs, or a ratio of about .522 homers per RBI. That boils down to Walker hitting a ton of solo homers, including the only run scored in yesterday’s game. True, a lot of that is because Yoenis Cespedes tends to clear the bases before Walker gets a chance to drive in the runners, but that does beg the question – what does the typical hitter’s ratio look like?

Of players with 150 plate appearances or more, the surprise leader isn’t Walker, but Curtis Granderson. As a leadoff hitter, that makes sense: he gets more chances than Walker to hit homers with no one one, since he gets an opportunity every game. Grandy’s hit four homers to open the first inning and 5 midgame, including his walkoff against Pedro Baez.

As a curiosity, there are seven qualified batters who have no home runs this season: Cesar Hernandez, Billy Burns, Francisco Cervelli, Austin Jackson, Erick Aybar, Alcides Escobar, and Martin Prado. Escobar is bringing up the rear with 230 plate appearances. Of the top 10 players in HR per RBI, only Walker and Giancarlo Stanton are in the double digits for home runs (each with 12).

The home-run-to-RBI ratio of all batters with 150 plate appearances, as of May 30.

The home-run-to-RBI ratio of all batters with 150 plate appearances, as of May 30.

Unsurprisingly, there’s a strong correlation (ρ = 0.78) between HR/RBI and number of home runs; longball hitters tend to hit them whether there are runners on base or not. Probably the strongest statistical interpretation we can offer here is that RBIs are a pretty lousy way to evaluate hitters; they contain little information that simply measuring home runs, slugging average (ρ = 0.46) or OPS (ρ = 0.315) doesn’t offer.

It’s possible that a high HR/RBI ratio would indicate that a batter performs poorly in the clutch: the player doesn’t hit homers with men on base. In order to justify that interpretation, though, we’d need significantly more evidence and to do some statistical testing to see if he really did hit differently with runners in scoring position than without. It may be that, like Walker, there just aren’t that many opportunities. The only time this seems to be a red flag statistic would be for a hitter who plays with a team full of high-OBP, low-SLG hitters, indicating that there are usually men on base and he doesn’t drive them home. Otherwise, for guys like Walker and Stanton, it’s just a fun eye-bugging stat.

Two ends of the relief continuum September 21, 2015

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The Royals’ Danny Duffy nailed a three-inning save against the Tigers on the 20th. Now, it’s called a three-inning save, but Duffy did something about two to three pitchers do each year – he actually pitched four innings in relief. Recently moved to the pen, Duffy was still in shape to pitch four innings, allowing two hits and no runs while striking out six in relief of starter Kris Medlen. This year, only the Rays’ Matt Andriese has joined Duffy in the four-inning save club.

Four seems to be a soft limit under normal circumstances. There’s a handful of exceptions – Dick Hall recorded an eight-inning save in 1961, and 1920 was weird – but in recent memory, the longest save was a seven-inning effort by Joaquin Benoit in relief of Aaron Myette (who was ejected after four pitches and started the following day as well) and winning pitcher Todd Van Poppel. Ignoring Benoit, and Madison Bumgarner‘s brilliant five-inning save in the last game of the 2014 World Series, the last time a pitcher went 5 innings in a save was Blas Minor saving a game for the Pirates against the Mets in 1993.

On the other end of the spectrum, Huston Street recorded his 38th save for the Angels against the Twins on the 19th. He was called in to pitch only the last third of an inning – why would Mike Scioscia do that? Well, because Street had recorded his 37th save in a full inning pitched earlier that day in a 12-inning win. The Angels had used four other relievers to get to Street, and Los Angeles pitcher Garrett Anderson was crumbling in the ninth inning of game 2, so Scioscia waved for his closer. That doesn’t happen often; Jason Motte, Josh Collmenter, and Mark Lowe have all recorded saves on “negative” rest this year, but never two saves in one day. Jenrry Mejia came close on May 25 of last year, but as always, he was a disappointment; he saved game 2 after winning game 1. Joe Smith is the most recent one: he recorded saves 8 and 9 on July 1 of 2014, also for the Angels.

In A Pinch July 7, 2015

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Much has been made of the Mets’ inability to hit, often with the tongue-in-cheek point made that Mets pitchers are hitting better than Mets pinch hitters. In fact, that’s true: Mets pitchers have made 178 plate appearances, owning a collective .165/.174/.213 slash line with a .255 BABIP, while pinch hitters get on base slightly more often but otherwise do worse. The pinch hitters have 118 plate appearances thus far, hitting .147/.248/.186 with a ,242 BABIP.

Of course, a big portion of the Mets pitchers’ abysmal slugging average is Steven Matz‘ .500/.500/.667 in 6 plate appearances. Even so, the pitchers are still hitting fairly well – even without Matz, the pitchers have a higher batting average than the pinch hitters.

John Mayberry, Jr., has taken the most plate appearances as a pinch hitter for the Mets. In his 30 PA, he’s hit – though I’m not sure ‘hit’ is correct – .080/.233/.080, although with a terribly unlucky .118 BABIP. Darrell Ceciliani, who was recently sent back down, had 20 plate appearances at .176/.263/.235, inflated by a .375 BABIP. The recently recalled Kirk Nieuwenhuis is 0-14 with a walk (.071 OBP) pinch hitting. Together, those 64 plate appearances make up about half of the Mets’ pinch hitting appearances.

For comparison, MLB pitchers are hitting .132/.156/.163 this year collectively, while MLB pinch hitters have a collective.211/.283/.316 line. That means the Mets pitchers are decidedly above average hitters, but the thin bench is hurting their run production when it comes time to lift a pitcher for a bat.

Jerry Blevins has some weird stats. April 27, 2015

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Poor Jerry Blevins.

He’s having a really rough season. I mean, there’s the obvious, in that he’s suffering from a fractured forearm that’s keeping him out of the best season he’d had yet. Blevins has pitched 5.0 innings – 15 batters up and 15 batters down (although they weren’t perfect – see below). Despite a meager career .042 platoon split, including a .025 BAbip platoon split, the Mets were using Blevins as a left-handed specialist (one right-handed batter faced in 2015), and he was rising to the occasion. Then, his pitching arm was broken by a comebacker.

Blevins’ record is currently 1-0, and that one win was pretty filthy. It came on April 14, when Blevins came in to face Dee Gordon and Christian Yelich with one out and Ichiro Suzuki on third base. The Marlins trailed 5-4 in the top of the 7th, so this was technically a save opportunity for Blevins. Blevins pitched to Gordon, who grounded into a fielder’s choice, but Ichiro came around and scored on an error by second baseman Daniel Murphy. That unearned run was charged to Rafael Montero. Blevins then pitched to Yelich, who obligingly grounded into a double play and ended the top of the inning.

For those keeping score at home, Blevins pitched to two batters and recorded two outs; one inherited runner scored an unearned run due to an error in the field. As a result, Blevins receives a blown save. Fortunately, the Mets scored two runs in the bottom of the 7th, and the tag team of Carlos Torres and Jeurys Familia tied up the win for Blevins. As a result, Blevins has the shame of his only win being a Vulture Win, and it even came out of an inning with no hits and no walks.

At least Blevins got the win – as it happens, Burke Badenhop managed to blow a save on no runs, no hits, and no walks in 2014. Twice.

The Giants are nothing if not consistent. May 6, 2014

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May 5, 2014: Giants 11, Pirates 10, in 13 innings. Wining pitcher: Jean Machi. Save: Sergio Romo.

April 23, 2014: Giants 12, Rockies 10, in 11 innings. Winning pitcher: Jean Machi. Game finished: Sergio Romo.

No earned runs to start the season April 9, 2014

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Fernando Rodney saved his second game for the Seattle Mariners last night, after being set up by the combined efforts of Danny Farquhar and Tom Wilhelmsen in the 7th and 8th innings. What really looked interesting about this box score is that all three relievers have yet to allow an earned run this year – Rodney (2 2/3 innings pitched) and Farquhar (4 1/3)  have each appeared in three games without allowing a run, and Wilhelmsen has appeared in four (3 1/3). (In the interest of fairness, Wilhelmsen was credited with an unearned run.) Mets closer Jose Valverde is in the same position, having pitched in four games and 4 1/3 innings without allowing the opposition to score. The Dodgers’ J.P. Howell has appeared in six games, mostly in the 8th inning setup role, without giving up a run in 5 1/3 innings (and in fact earned the win in extra innings last night), and he seems to be sharing that role with teammate Chris Perez, who matched that six-game streak over four innings. The two Dodgers share the longest streak, counting games; Chris Withrow (5 games) and Zach Britton (3 games) each have fewer games played but more innings without surrendering a run.

Last year’s mark was set by Arizona’s Matt Reynolds, who opened the season with 19 games and 17 2/3 innings of scoreless relief; Alex Torres (20 innings in 10 games), Louis Coleman (21 innings in 18 games) and Juan Perez (22 innings in 14 games) each had more innings but fewer games.

Though he looked shaky last night in his non-save situation, we can all hope that Jose Valverde outdoes himself from last year – only five games and five innings before giving up his first run.

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

A fifteen-inning offensive drought July 18, 2011

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Last night’s ESPN game, between the Red Sox and the Rays, was a pitchers’ duel of the highest magnitude. John at Baseball Reference already looked for other games where both starters had game scores of 85 or higher, and neither team had to call on a position player to pitch, but I thought one of the most interesting things to happen was offensive in nature.

Neither team scored until the sixteenth inning, at which point Dustin Pedroia followed up a John Reddick walk, a Jason Varitek sacrifice, and a Marco Scutaro infield single (to move Reddick to third) with a single to right field. Every batter up to that point was productive and helped manufacture that run… except Jacoby Ellsbury, who flied out to left between Scutaro and Pedroia. In fact, every lineup spot had either a hit, a walk, or a productive out except for Ellsbury, who led off. (Granted, Varitek’s only productivity was his sacrifice, but that’s enough.) Ellsbury had 8 plate appearances, all of them at-bats, and didn’t reach base at all.

Even getting 8 plate appearances is rare. Since 2002 (and through July 7), only 403 batters have had 8 plate appearances, including a handful with 10 and quite a few with 9. All five of the 10-plate-appearance games took place on April 17, but some of them took place in 2008 and some in 2010. (Just an odd coincidence.) Of those 403, only 12 failed to reach base at all. Corey Patterson and Trot Nixon share the record for most plate appearances without reaching base, with 10.

Ellsbury’s streak of 8 plate appearances without reaching base is especially weird because he’s so talented. Ellsbury has a .370 OBP, meaning that on average he reaches base 37% of the time (or, he only gets sent back to the dugout 63% of the time). If we assume last night’s plate appearances were random draws, the probability of 8 times without reaching base would be

.630^8 \approx .025

or, in English, vanishingly rare.

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

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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.

Complete Game Shutout… PSYCH! May 30, 2011

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Jered Weaver pitched a brilliant game Saturday night for the Angels against the Twins. He’s had a strange opening to the season, starting with six straight wins and then beginning May with four straight losses followed by a no-decision. Saturday, on four days rest, he pitched nine scoreless innings with 2 hits, 0 runs, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts, no hit batsmen, a Game Score of 88, and a career-high 128 pitches. It’s a good thing he grabbed another win… wait, no he didn’t. The game went into extra innings, the Angels lost, and Weaver walked off the mound with a no decision.

Put another way, if anyone had managed to hit a home run, or if Hank Conger had singled instead of popping fly to third in the eighth, Weaver would have a two-hit complete game shutout, and we’d be talking about how he still had it. Instead, he gets a no decision, and the Angels lost the game.

That doesn’t happen a whole lot, but it does happen enough to take notice. For example, on May 12, a 2-1 win for the Orioles over the Mariners was 0-0 into the 12th. So, both the Mariners’ Jason Vargas (9 IP, 7 H, 0 R, o ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 76 GSc) and the Orioles’ Zach Britton (9 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 86 GSc) left with complete game shutouts that weren’t.

Similarly, last year, on July 10, Roy Halladay was outpitched by the Reds’ Travis Wood in an 11-inning 1-run loss. Wood managed a game score of 93 on one hit, no walks, and 8 strikeouts, whereas Halladay had a paltry 85 on 5 hits, 1 walk and 9 strikeouts. Neither man got the win, which went to Phillies reliever Jose Contreras.


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