I saw this linked at Baseball Musings, but on the off chance anyone is reading here who doesn’t read there, I wanted to share it. Flip Flop Fly Ball has the most amazing graphs about baseball. This one, showing the flight paths the Kansas City Royals will be taking this season, is probably my favorite.
Tag Archives: baseball
Let me state at the outset that there’s no conclusion to be had in this post, I’m just thinking out loud here.
A friend and I were talking during Sunday night’s game between the White Sox and the Rangers. Steve Phillips had just said that the Rangers had made a mistake trading a bunch of good pitchers for hitters, because they were already the best offensive team in the AL, but they still were a losing team. Joe Morgan responded by saying that a hitter plays for you every day, a starting pitcher can’t win more than one out of five games for you.
My friend was saying how Phillips way outclassed Morgan in that booth. I was surprised to hear that because I think Phillips is even worse than Morgan, and that in this case, Morgan is right. A position player plays almost every game. A pitcher pitches maybe 7 innings every five games.
The more I think about it, the more sure I am that position players are more important than pitchers, at least in the regular season. The playing time imbalance might be part of the reason, but maybe there’s something else. Conveniently, there was a post that was sort of related on Beyond the Box Score a few days ago. Basically, of the top 100 players ever, in wins about replacement, 73 are hitters and 27 are pitchers. So pitchers tend to accumulate less value over their careers. Now, this could be because of any number of things – pitcher careers could be shorter, too, so I don’t want to give the impression that this proves anything, just that it reinforced my view a little.
But I wonder if one of the reasons hitters might be more valuable is that hitting isn’t bounded the way pitching is. A pitcher can’t allow fewer than zero runs. On the other hand, there’s no theoretical maximum. You can win a game 15 to 14, but you can’t win 0 to -1. In other words, at some point, better pitching simply doesn’t make your team any better – if you give up two runs a game but still have a losing record, you’re probably not going to be that much better off only giving up one run a game – you have to score runs to win.
This is probably not a particularly original line of thought – I would assume the people who do serious statistical analysis of baseball have already considered and either rejected or accepted it. But it’s interesting to me nonetheless.
The Cubs go on the road for three are at home for three games against the Reds (I don’t know why I thought this was the start of the road trip). This is the one place we might really miss Mark DeRosa, since if memory serves, he just destroyed the Reds every time the two teams played in the last two seasons. But the current Cubs hitters have done alright against the pitching they’re going to face. First up for the Reds is Micah Owings, who no Cub has had 10 PA against. He could certainly put together a good game, but I fear his 129 OPS+ at the plate more than I fear him as a pitcher. The other two scheduled to go in this series are Johnny Cueto and Aaron Harang, who do have several Cubs who’ve accumulated 10 PAs against them:
This might be a good chance for Soto to break out – he’s done really well against the Reds’ starters in the past, and he’s got to start hitting some time. Lee has been hitting well over his last few games, too, and he’s a good candidate to continue that trend. Note that Z has pretty good numbers of Harang, too. I’m sure there will be comparisons between him and Owings, so I bet he’ll be looking to get that first home run on Thursday.
Harden, yet again, hasn’t faced many of the Reds very often. The whole team only has a handful of appearances against him, with Laynce Nix as the sole Red who qualifies for listing here. The smattering of appearances Reds batters do have against Harden, though, favor Harden. There’s more data for Lilly and Zambrano, who’ve been in the NL Central slightly longer than Harden.
The Reds who are not Brandon Phillips have hit Lilly rather hard, and you have to figure that’s the game the Cubs are most likely to lose. Zambrano has handled the Reds pretty well, holding their current players well below where their team OPS has been over his career.
The Reds are 7-5 right now, so they’re right there with the Cubs and the Cardinals so far. They’re not hitting very well as a team. Hopefully the Cubs starters can keep their bats cold for another three games and get a few wins to before they start the road trip.
Sorry for the lack of content, I’ve been a little busy the last couple of days. In the mean time, this is kind of entertaining:
For several innings of tonight’s game vs. the Florida Marlins at Nationals Park, Nationals players Adam Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman sported uniforms with the word “Nationals” misspelled (the “o” was missing, making it “Natinals”). Both players switched jerseys mid-game after the error was noticed.
Up next: four games against the Cardinals. Would be nice to see the Cubs take the series. Would also be nice to see Aramis and Milton Bradley healthy for the series, since neither of them played at all against the Rockies.
Here are the current Cubs versus the Cardinals’ starters who are going in this series. The graph only shows those Cubs with 10 PAs against the Cardinals’ starters. The “total” line includes all plate appearances by current Cubs against the Cardinals’ pitchers.
The Cubs have done very well against Wainwright and especially Lohse, with Ramirez in particular putting up cartoonish numbers against Lohse. Lee has had the worst success of any of these hitters against any of these pitchers, with a .334 OPS versus Wellemeyer, but he seems to be getting hot in the last few days, so maybe he can turn that around.
On to the Cubs’ starters versus the Cardinals.
The most noticeable thing to me is how the Cubs starters have fared against Pujols. Pujols has a career 1.050 OPS. In other words, even Dempster, against whom he’s OPSing .788, has handled him fairly well. Meanwhile, Yadier Molina has done better than his career average against every Cub except Marshall, so he’s picked up some of the slack.
No matchup graph for this one to compare starter ERAs versus the other team – with Carpenter on the DL I’m not sure exactly how the Cardinals are managing their rotation, so I don’t know who’s starting which days.
Nick Swisher came in and pitched the last frame of the Yankees’ blowout loss tonight. Let’s just say that in spite of way better results than Wang had tonight, this is not going to be how Swisher gets an every-day starting job. Pitch f/x says Swisher threw 21 changeups and one fastball. I’m pretty sure they were all supposed to be fastballs. And yet, he did manage to strike someone out. Gabe Kapler managed to strike out waving at what was literally Swisher’s only pitch that missed a bat. I sort of hope that was charity, but I think Gabe might get to resume his managerial career soon.
Paul Sullivan wrote a column the other day on the nine things the Cubs need to worry about. Most of the things are things about which one could fairly worry, although none of them strikes me, alone, as a season-killer.
But one of those things is “Fukudome’s head.” What about it? Sullivan seems to be talking about how Fukudome got worse as the season went on, but why does that have anything to do with his head? The guy was an excellent player in Japan, but MLB is a harder league than NPB, and isn’t it possible that once the league adjusted to Fukudome, he wasn’t good enough to catch up? That he got a little lucky early in the season and it made him look better than he was?
If there’s one thing that drives me nuts about baseball writers – and there’s more than one – it’s the need to assign character faults to bad on-field performances. Why does it have to be anything more with Fukudome than that he’s just not as talented as we’d hoped? Isn’t it enough that he’s just not a great baseball player, does it have to mean there’s something actually wrong with him, too?
Apparently, for Paul Sullivan, yes.