Statistics, statistics, statistics! Charting patterns, amassing totals,
calculating ratios… statistics are read, studied and followed by
fans, players, coaches, everyone who has anything to do with the game
itself. They are the window we look through to rate the level of success or
failure of the players and teams we love and hate.
In the best light, statistics can help create the story-lines that
entrance fans all year long, they can help coaches and managers
strategize, they give the announcers and writers themes to opine about
in between pitches and games, they help create an historical context, a
way for us to compare and contrast. In the worst light, statistics can
distort, distract, mislead and sometimes just be plain esoteric.
But, regardless of how one views the numbers one is looking at,
statistics are and will always be an important fabric in the game of
baseball. So, as we settle into the post-season, let’s take a look
inside some numbers. Some might give us good insight on what kind of
performances to expect, and some might be just anomalies that explain
nothing more than just how quirky a game baseball can be.
Inside The Numbers
about parody! For the first time since baseball divvied up the two
leagues (MLB in 1969 went to 4 divisions, and in 1994 went to 6
divisions), a team from each division has won a World Series in
consecutive years. In other words six champions in six years, all
representing a different division.
2001– Diamondbacks (NL West)
2002– Los Angeles Angels (AL West)
2003– Florida Marlins (NL East)
2004– Boston Red Sox (AL East)
2005– Chicago White Sox (AL Central)
2006– St. Louis Cardinals (NL Central)
Until the Diamondbacks this year, 1906 is the last year in which a team
had the best record in their league while posting the worst batting
average. The Chicago White Sox of 1906 were known as the "Hitless Wonders". And for good reason, they hit .230 as a team and didn’t have one regular hit higher than .279. The D’Backs hit .250
as a team this year. But don”t fret too much D’Back fans, even with
their low average the 1906 ChiSox and their vaunted pitching staff
would go on tho beat the Cubbies in six games on their way to win the
third ever World Series.
100– This is how many runs Daisuke Matsuzaka
of the Boston Red Sox gave up this year. Now I want you to guess how
many of those runs were UR (unearned runs). If you guessed ZERO,
It was only the fourth time in the history of baseball that a pitcher has given up at least 100 runs and all of them were ER (earned runs).
**** Ruthven of the Atlanta Braves was the first to accomplish this feat in 1976 (112 R, 112 ER). In 1990, Frank Tanana of the Detroit Tigers became the second man to do it (104 R, 104 ER). But, it was righthander Joel Pineiro in 2005, then pitching for the Seattle Mariners, who gave up the most runs without any of them being unearned (118 R, 118 ER). Dice-K became the fourth member of this group (100 R, 100 ER) on the second to last day of the 2007 season when he gave up 2 runs in a victory over the Minnesota Twins.
The main reason this esoteric accomplishment has been so rare,
especially since the 1940’s, is that teams are much better at fielding
than they were in the past. While a .975 Fielding Percentage
(FPCT.) will get you in the bottom of the league nowadays, that same
FPCT. would have been a top the leader board 60 or 70 years ago. And
thankfully Dice-K wasn’t pitching pre-1920 when a third of all runs
scored were unearned. Heck, if he were pitching alongside Al Spalding in the 1870’s, having less than 60% of your runs unearned meant you were on a pretty good fielding team.
Matsuzaka having such a high strikeout total, plus being on the third best fielding club (Red Sox had a .986
FPCT.) might have contributed slightly to this strange accomplishment,
but the most likely contribution to Dice-K’s lack of UR is just plain
old dumb luck. This rare statistical feat truly falls under the anomaly
For any of you box score mavens who might have missed this little tid-bit, Derek Jeter’s 22-game hitting streak lives on (1 for 5 tonight), even though he went hitless Tuesday night at the Stadium, because of an obscure rule in MLB’s rulebook.
Rule 10.24 (b) states that "a consecutive-game hitting streak shall not be terminated if all the player’s plate appearances (one or more) results in a base on balls (BB), hits batsman (HB) or a sacrifice bunt (S). The streak shall terminate if the player has a sacrifice fly (SF) and no hit…." .
So, as far as the streak is concerned, Tuesday night never happened. For the record, Jeter officially had 4 plate appearances in yesterday’s game- 3 walks, 1 hit by pitch and 0 hits before Torre lifted him in the 7th inning. I guess Joltin’ Joe’s spirit will have to look over his shoulder for at least one more game.
22-Games and Counting
* This rule did not exist in Joe DiMaggio’s day.
You wouldn’t need more than both hands to count how many runners have stolen a base on Ivan Rodriguez this
year. Even at his advanced age, I-Rod continues to be the premier
gunslinger among catchers in the major leagues. His reputation is so
feared that only 29 men have even attempted to steal on him this year
and 19 have returned to the dugout shaking their heads. I-Rod’s 66%
ratio of catching basestealers is by far the best of the best. If you
consider the opposite end of the pole and realize that 93 men have
attempted a swipe on the much maligned arm of Mike Piazza, you can easily see the extreme caution runners take when Rodriguez is behind the plate.
When I-Rod finally retires, the title of quickest trigger in the majors will most likely fall to the Cards’ Yadier Molina. Yadier and his brother Jose Molina
continue to carry the Molina mantle as a basestealer’s nightmare.
Yadier has pegged 21 of 48 would be thieves (44%) while brother Jose
has caught 19 of 41 (46%).
Runners might also want to take extra precaution when facing a few
other backstops with small cannons attached to their shoulders. Ramon Hernandez in Baltimore has thrown out 34 of 79 (43%), Florida’s Miguel Olivio has been anything but sunshine for mad-dashers by catching 27 of 68 (40%) and Yorvilt Torrealba in Colorado has nabbed 21 of 50 (42%) would be stealers.
When are runners going to finally take heed and stop running on Jorge Posada.
Posada might still have difficulty blocking the occasional ball in the
dirt, but he has been one of the best all year at throwing out runners,
34 of 90 (38%). Runners are also becoming aware of the fact that Joe Mauer
is about a lot more than hitting. Mauer has thrown out 17 of 46 for a
nifty 37%. And here’s a word to the wise, even though Texas no longer
is the home of I-Rod, one should still be very careful when setting
their sites on second base. Starting catcher Rod Barajas has nailed 19 of 49 (39%) while back-up Gerald Laird has converted on a sizzling 18 of 33 (55%).
On the opposite end of the spectrum, runners should by all means
continue to take liberties with reckless abandon when facing the likes
of Mike Piazza, 11 for 93 (12%); Benji Molina, 14 for 76 (18%); Michael Barrett, 21 for 106 (20%); and A.J. Pierzynski, 19 for 93 (20%). Even if Piazza has the day off in San Diego, a runners chances are pretty good as back-up Josh Bard
is almost as pitiful, 9 for 55 (16%). Fantasy owners might also want
to make sure their speedsters are in the lineup when facing the Red Sox
or the Nationals (on days Brian Schneider isn’t catching). Boston’s Javier Lopez
has only hit on 5 of 37 (14%) while injured Jason Varitek is just 12
for 52 (23%). The worst of the worst though might be the Nationals
catchers on days Scneider is not behind the plate. Matt Lecroy has thrown out only 1 of 21 (5%) while Robert Fick is 1 for 12 (8%).
As of Aug. 27,2006
Here are the best of the best and the worst of the worst when it comes to throwing out runners in 2006 (Minimum 25 SBA):
CS (Caught Stealing) SBA (Stolen Base Attempts) CS % (Percentage Of Runners Caught Stealing)
Gunslingers CS SBA CS %
Ivan Rodriguez (Tigers) 19 29 66%
Gerald Laird (Rangers) 18 33 55%
Matt Treanor (Marlins) 15 32 47%
Jose Molina (Angels) 19 41 46%
Yadier Molina (Cardinals) 21 48 44%
Henry Blanco (Cubs) 13 30 43%
Yorvit Torrealba (Rockies) 21 50 42%
Jason Larue (Reds) 13 32 41%
Miguel Olivio (Marlins) 27 68 40%
Rod Barajas (Rangers) 19 49 39%
Jorge Posada (Yankees) 34 90 38%
John Buck (Royals) 16 42 38%
Ronny Paulino (Pirates) 31 83 37%
Joe Mauer (Twins) 17 46 37%
Mike Lieberthal (Phillies) 16 43 37%
Toreadors CS SBA CS %
Mike Piazza (Padres) 11 93 12%
Javier Lopez (Red Sox) 5 37 14%
Josh Bard (Padres) 9 55 16%
Victor Martinez (Indians) 16 94 17%
Benji Molina (Blue Jays) 14 76 18%
Michael Barrett (Cubs) 21 106 20%
A.J. Pierzynski (White Sox) 19 93 20%
Sal Fasano (Yankees) 8 40 20%
Doug Mirabelli (Red Sox) 9 42 21%
Chad Moeller (Brewers) 6 28 21%
Paul Lo Duca (Mets) 20 90 22%
Brad Ausmus (Astros) 14 65 22%
Jason Varitek (Red Sox) 12 52 23%
Todd Pratt (Braves) 7 30 23%
Josh Paul (Devil Rays) 10 42 24%
In 1961, during their Ruthian home run chase, Yankee sluggers Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle were dubbed the M&M Boys. 46 years later we might have to redefine that term to refer to catchers Joe Mauer and Brian McCann.
There’s been a lot of press about the Twins’ Joe Mauer becoming the
first catcher in 64 years and the first AL catcher ever to win the
batting title. But, it’s time to realize that an even more rare feat
could be accomplished this season. If Braves’ catcher Brian McCann can
manage another 170 plate appearances (PA) in the Braves’ final 46
games, the major leagues could experience the first ever instance of
two catchers winning the batting title in the same season.
While Mauer, at .361, currently has a commanding .020 lead in the AL,
McCann at .350 would have a .004 lead in the NL if he had enough plate
appearances to qualify. Presently, McCann is taking off about only one
game a week, so the probability of him qualifying by the end of the
season is pretty good. If McCann were to play in 40 of the Braves’
final 46 games, which would keep with his recent pattern of games
played, he would have to average 4.25 plate appearances per game. If
you consider that McCann has averaged 4.18 plate appearances in his 77
game starts so far, and you add in a few pinch-hitting appearances, his
shot at qualifying is definitely within reach.
If McCann should fail, another NL catcher who is in the running for the batting title is the Cubs’ Michael Barrett.
Like McCann, Barrett is a little short of having the necessary plate
appearances required to qualify, but he is closer than McCann. To date,
Barrett would need 143 more plate appearances. The Cubs have 45 games
remaining, so barring another injury Barrett should have no problem
qualifying. His .330 average would presently rank 4th in the NL.
When you consider the history of catchers winning a batting title,
there aren’t many places to look. Cincinnati has been the benefactor of
this rare feat two of the three times it has been accomplished. And
neither time was the player’s name Johnny Bench. The only two catchers
who have ever won a batting title since 1900 are Bubbles Hargrave and
Ernie Lombardi (Photo to the left). Hargraves was the first, winning in 1926 for the
Cincinnati Reds (.353). Lombardi also won a batting title for the Reds
when he led the NL in 1938 (.342). Lombardi became the last catcher to
top the batting charts in 1942 (a war year when many of the best
hitters were out of the league because they had joined the U.S. armed
services) when he again led the NL, hitting .330 for the Boston Braves.
To further bolster the proclamation that this is truly the year of
the catcher here are a few other backstops batting over .300 in 2006:
Through August 13th
Starters AVG PA
Paul Lo Duca (Mets) .316 402
Victor Martinez (Indians) .315 471
Ronny Paulino (Pirates) .312 341
A.J Pierzynski (White Sox) .308 404
Johnny Estrada (D’Backs) .303 344
Mike Redmond (Twins) .346 136
Gerald Laird (Rangers) .340 158
Chris Coste (Phillies) .340 103
Josh Bard (Padres) .330 207
On The Cusp
Russell Martin (Dodgers) .299 310
Kenji Johjima (Mariners) .297 383
Ivan Rodriguez (Tigers) .295 411
Mike Piazza (Padres) .291 321
* A player needs 502 PA (Hits, Walks, SF, SH, HBP) to qualify for the batting title.
Big Papi and the BoSox are in town as they attempt to draw first blood in this fierce and fabled rivalry. But, if numbers mean anything, the Yankees should be more concerned with Jason Varitek than David Ortiz. The current Red Sox roster has had limited exposure to the Johnson Express, but when they have faced him their track record isn’t so hot. Here are the Career Batting Records of the Red Sox hitters vs. the Big Unit. Alex Gonzalez and Varitek are the only hitters who have an average over .200 (Min. 5 AB):
AVG AB H HR RBI BB K
Alex Cora .333 3 1 0 1 0 0
Coco Crisp .333 3 1 0 0 0 2
Alex Gonzalez .250 20 5 1 3 0 6
Mark Loretta .079 38 3 0 1 3 14
Mike Lowell .167 30 5 1 3 3 11
Doug Mirabelli .083 12 1 0 0 1 7
Trot Nixon .000 3 0 0 0 0 1
David Ortiz .167 18 3 0 0 0 4
Wily Mo Pena .000 4 0 0 0 1 3
Manny Ramirez .194 36 7 3 11 2 11
J.T. Snow .154 26 4 0 0 4 11
Jason Varitek .278 18 5 2 3 1 4
Kevin Youkilis .500 2 1 0 0 1 0
Dustan Mohr .000 10 0 0 0 1 5
*Gary Sheffield, the only current Yankee with any regular season at bats against Red Sox starter Josh Beckett, was put on the 15 day DL today.
Thanks to early baseball pioneer Albert Spaulding, many fans stillthink of Abner Doubleday as the inventor of baseball. In truth, baseball
was born through the alchemy of many efforts by men who contributed
far more than the story of Abner Doubleday. In the first of a series here at INSIDE PITCH we will look at some of the ‘fathers’ of baseball who unduly lie in the shadows of General Abner- who should be more properly honored in his remembrance as a great leader during the Battle of Gettysburg (Civil War) rather than for his contributions to baseball.
In it’s early beginnings, as baseball or base ball (pre-19th century spelling) evolved from a series of games between social clubs into professional sporting leagues, a man known as Sir Henry Chadwick was busy putting pen to paper recording many of the first stories and statistics of this new professional game. Chadwick would become what most baseball historians consider the first ‘American Sportswriter’ or the ‘Father of Base Ball’.
While there were articles written about professional sporting events (boxing, cricket, chess, billiards…) before Chadwick, there had never been any continual coverage of a professional sport in this country. Professional sports in America were just bubbling in their infancy when Chadwick, a writer and amateur statistician, began to enlighten readers about this fanciful new game called base ball- a game he was impassioned to make into America’s pastime.
In the 1850’s he began submitting scores and stories to local Brooklyn newspapers. By 1862 he had every New York newspaper including the New York Times reporting on baseball. In the 1860’s as a scorekeeper for the National Base Ball Club of Washington D.C. he developed new ways for measuring the value of a pitcher and a hitter. Earned Run Average (ERA) and Batting Average (AVG) were two of the many statistics first employed by Sir Henry. He was also an integral member and contributor to the earliest rules committees in baseball and wielded strong influence on rule changes through his columns which were often pointed and severly critical of the powers that be. A weekly rant about his abhorrence for gambling and the need for temperance in baseball was a common theme in many articles.
The first hard-cover book about baseball was penned by Mr. Chadwick in 1868, "The Game of Base Ball?". His popularity as a writer began to blossom when he edited the first public baseball guides of the day, The Beadle Baseball Player and the annual Spalding and Reach Guide, where he taught readers how to develop their skills and play the game. His newspaper column, "Chadwick’s Chat", was one of the most read columns in New York City. His weekly articles helped shape the format for modern day sportswriting. A usual "Chat" would combine commentary with a game-recap and a boxscore. The modern day baseball boxscore can also be credited to Mr. Chadwick. Having grown up an avid cricket and rounders fan in England, Chadwick used the cricket boxscore as a template. A boxscore (Photo Below) from an 1876 game between the Boston Red Caps and the Philadelphia Athletics may look quite different from today, but it does show how baseball was beginning to stamp its own identity. The term home-run was already in use and scorekeepers had begun to differentiate between earned and unearned runs.
Henry Chadwick was more than just a sportswriter, he was also an accomplished pianist, a songwriter, a drama critic and during the Civil War- he spent a short time as a news correspondent. He was elected to the baseball Hall of Fame in 1938 and remains the only writer elected into the Hall itself (as opposed to the Writers Wing). He will forever be remembered as one of the true forefathers of the game of baseball.
"The great National Game of Base Ball which he founded and fostered so steadily, firmly and conscientiously, as it now stands, is a monument to his memory. It is doubtless the only monument he would have wished. That is an imperishable as any statue of granite or marble."
—Sam Crane, 19th century Washington statesman and professional second baseman, posthumously talking about Henry Chadwick.
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