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The Best Game Ever July 30, 2010

Posted by tomflesher in Baseball.
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Two of my favorite things about baseball happened during tonight’s game between the Yankees and the Indians.

First of all, in the top of the ninth inning, corner infielder Andy Marte pitched for the Indians. Marte pitched a perfect ninth and coincidentally struck out Nick Swisher, who was brought in to pitch for the Yankees in a similar situation last year and struck out Gabe Kapler of the Tampa Bay Rays. I can’t promise it’s true, but I think that puts Swisher at the top of the list for involvement in position player pitcher strikeouts.

Marte’s presence was necessary because the Indians used seven other pitchers. Starter Mitch Talbot went only two innings, and the Indians got another two out of Rafael Perez. Frank Hermann took the loss for the Indians during his 1 1/3 innings. Tony Sipp pitched another 1 1/3, and Joe Smith managed to give up four earned runs in 1/3 of an inning before being removed for Jess Todd for an inning. In the bottom of the 9th, Marte was all the Indians had left.

Not to be outdone, Joe Girardi gave up his designated hitter by moving his DH – funnily enough, it was Swisher – into right field as part of a triple switch. Swisher moved to right field; Colin Curtis moved from right field to left field; Marcus Thames moved from left field to third base;  finally, pitcher Chan Ho Park was put into the batting order in place of Alex Rodriguez, who came out of the game.

Finally, A-Rod is up to 33 plate appearances without a home run. Assuming his standard rate of .064 home runs per plate appearance, the likelihood of this happening by chance is .936^{33} = .113 \approx 11.3 \% . I stand by my belief that there’s something other than chance (i.e. distraction or other mental factors) causing Rodriguez’s hitting to suffer.

Leadoff Home Runs June 19, 2010

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Jose Reyes led off today’s Mets-Yankees game with a home run off Phil Hughes. That’s the eleventh leadoff home run of the year. That’s a little over half as many as there were last year on June 19, when Nate McLouth hit the 19th leadoff home run of 2009.

Last year, there were 51 leadoff home runs over roughly 6 months (early April through the first week of October), which puts uniformly distributed homers at  8.5 per month (so McLouth’s #19 on June 19 was about 2.25 behind pace). So far, with eleven over 2.5 months, that puts us on pace for 26.4, or, to be generous, about 30 leadoff home runs.

The change probably isn’t indicative of anything other than chance, but in 2008 #24 of 52 came on June 20, and in 2007 they were already up to 28 of 59 by June 19. Over the past few years there’s been a slowing of leadoff home runs which may be due to chance or may be due to some other factor. Who knows? It’s way too small a sample to say anything about.

Three Catchers, Four Starters, and Other Playoff Thoughts October 26, 2009

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Last night, the LA Angels lost Game 6 of the 2009 ALCS to the New York Yankees. Mike Scioscia started left-handed pitcher Joe Saunders; he carries, as is becoming the norm, three catchers including light-hitting third catcher Bobby Wilson. Joe Girardi also carries three catchers, although his array includes defensive specialist Jose Molina, sometime-DH Jorge Posada, and Francisco Cervelli, who hit .298 in 94 at-bats this season. Though Mike Napoli was hot during the postseason, Scioscia’s group of catchers wasn’t as specialized as it was in 2005, when he carried big-hitter Bengie Molina, Jose Molina for his glove, and Josh Paul for emergencies. Here, he appeared to be carrying three catchers solely because none of them are big hitters. In retrospect, although Napoli and Mathis are both a big part of the Angels clubhouse, Scioscia should have made a move during the regular season to replace one of them with a catcher who was more of the Bengie Molina or Jorge Posada mold – someone whose glove or arm is slightly defective, but who can hit the ball when necessary. Instead, Scioscia was forced to burn two pinch hitters and a second catcher in his attempt to win the game last night, whereas Girardi has in previous games been able to use the traditional approach of starting Molina and using Posada to pinch hit, or starting Posada and using Molina as a defensive replacement late in the game. In a perfect world, Scoscia could have traded Kendry Morales away and acquired Victor Martinez to use mainly at first base and as an emergency third catcher, replacing Wilson’s more or less dead weight with a big bat but not forgoing any real utility.

In addition, Scioscia started Joe Saunders. This isn’t a crime in and of itself. However, in the ALCS, he started John Lackey, Saunders, Jered Weaver, and Scott Kazmir. Girardi, meanwhile, is using Joe Torre’s time-honored trick of carrying only three starters (CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, and AJ Burnett) and using traditional long-relief men like Dan Robertson in addition to standard situational relief like Joba Chamberlain, Damaso Marte, and Mariano Rivera. In Game 6, Saunders went only 3.1 innings. Weaver performed well in relief and, frankly, should have been left there for the duration of the series. Instead, Scioscia spread his men too thin and was left making an all-hands-on-deck call in the late games where he used both Weaver and Kazmir in relief. Saunders pitched brilliantly in Game 2, and Scioscia should have been prepared to maximize his usage of Lackey, Saunders, and Kazmir while leaving Weaver in the bullpen. Granted, Saunders pitched like crap last night, but all pitchers have their off nights.

Finally, Girardi will probably do quite well in the World Series, as he’s experienced in managing under National League rules. Hideki Matsui, with his legs in bad shape, will be almost entirely useless in the Phillies’ park. In a perfect world, Girardi would be able to dump fifth-outfielder Freddy Guzman and use Matsui in the field. However, that seems unlikely, so Matsui will remain an overpaid pinch-hitter. With Jerry Hairston, Jr., on the bench, Guzman’s utility as a pinch runner is moderate at best. It would be a gutsy move, but I think Girardi would do best to dump Guzman and bring Shelley Duncan in as a pinch hitter and emergency outfielder.

Still, Girardi gets paid the big bucks to do his job, so I’m sure every move he makes is well-considered.

So why doesn't Nick Swisher pitch every night? April 15, 2009

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Nick Swisher pitched for the first time in the major leagues on Monday night during the Yankees’ 15-5 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. As you can see from the box score, Swish pitched pretty well. In fact, in 22 pitches, he gave up only one hit and one walk, threw 12 strikes, and struck out a major-league batter (left-fielder Gabe Kapler). So, will Yankees manager Joe Girardi tap him in relief again soon?

No, of course not. Find out why behind the cut.

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Things I spend a lot of time thinking about August 3, 2008

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Baseball generally, the New York teams specifically, applied economics, sabermetrics (wait, those two are the same thing), Canada, Canadian politics, rational choice theory in professional sports, homebrewing, the hop shortage, torbie cats named Samantha, US politics, Brewery Ommegang.