Archive for May, 2008

Hit me once, hit me twice

May 9, 2008

By now, if you’re a Rangers fan, you’ve seen and heard about the big fight tonight, which was mostly just a bunch of handbag swinging.  The clear exception was Richie Sexson, who I would expect to get at least a 10 day suspension.  You want to throw punches, that’s one thing, but throwing a helmet can cause serious injury.  The guys on the Rangers broadcast said he’s well-liked and this was out of character.

The ridiculous part is that the Rangers were completely innocent on this.  They had been hit twice by Felix Hernandez (whose reaction during the fight was way over the top), Kinsler looked like he was going to start something when he was hit but didn’t, and Gabbard’s pitch was a long way away from Sexson.  I know there will be people who will defend the Mariners in this, because I’ve been on the other end and defended the Rangers in similar situations (Frankie Francisco in Oakland, for example), but I fully expect most neutrals to side with Texas.

The video wasn’t completely clear on the location, so here’s what Gameday showed:
Sexson fight

This shows the pitches in Gameday during the full at-bat. The one at the top is the one to Sexson, the others were to Cairo after Sexson was ejected.  Now, I may be biased (yeah, may be), but this shows pretty much what we saw on tv, that this was a high pitch, not inside.  Admittedly, Sexson is a giant freak of nature, and his head sticks out like a pelican, so maybe he thought it was closer than it was.  But really, it’s on the edge or maybe slightly off the plate.

Curiously enough, the Gameday data logs don’t show it.  Sexson is simply missing from Gabbard’s data at that point, then you have Cairo’s at-bat and it is three pitches long.  If you didn’t know better, I think you’d probably just assume it was a glitch of some kind.  In Sexson’s batter data, it appears he only batted in the second inning.  My guess is that they didn’t program for this situation, not that they are trying to hide something.  The pitch existed at some point, because they made the chart from it.

Ahh, okay, I found it.  It doesn’t exist under the individual players, but it does exist in the inning data, which means it’s probably a programming oversight that didn’t get it into the players’ logs.  But the inning data has errors too though, because it shows all four pitches to Cairo.  Here’s what the data has:  px=”-0.879 pz=”5.362.  5.3 feet high (pz), so about eye height for a crouching Sexson.  0.879 feet inside.  That’s about 10.5 inches, which with the ball diameter is right on the edge of the strike zone.  If it was lower, it would just as likely been called a strike as a ball.

I love that Gameday called it an “On-field Delay”.  Someone out there was imagining a streaker, surely.

Sexson’s just mad because he can’t hit any more.

Took a while, but I finally saw Ichiro on the video, coming out at the back.  For a while I thought he wasn’t there at all, which would have been a major faux pas on his part.

It occurred to me a little later that my three year old was asleep at the time, but would probably have been watching if this game was in Arlington.  Josh loves to mimic the players in great detail, down to pulling on his gloves, stepping out of the box (not that he knows what the box is, he just knows that the players step back a little after each pitch), or even trying to break his bat over his knee after Milton Bradley did that the other day (plastic bat, and no, he didn’t really try very hard).  But if not today, one day, he will see players fighting.  And even though we’ll tell him that was a bad thing (just as we did with Bradley), and they’re not being nice, I am right now imagining the moment when he is going to throw his bad down and charge at me, and throw his helmet at me, “just like the Rangers did”.  That’s a bit of an uncomfortable feeling, when you’re the cause of your son being hooked on the Rangers.

Other notes:  Ben Broussard DFA’d.  Should have happened a couple of weeks ago, and given the job fulltime to Botts.

Edinson Volquez had a quote in today’s Star-Telegram, I can’t find it in the online edition.  He said something like the difference between last year and this is that last year he was just throwing pitches, but this year he is throwing them for a reason, and he understands why he’s throwing them.  I wish I had the exact quote.  Point is, the moment I read it, I of course thought that the difference is that this year he has a pitching coach who knows what he’s doing.

Jon Daniels says Ron Washington’s job is safe at least until the All-Star break.  Roll on All-Star break.

We’re going to try and get out to Saturday’s game, weather permitting, and get our budding superstar the Michael Young poster.  Hopefully it won’t be the only sighting of Michael Young we have.

Correct somewhere between 0 and 100% of the time

May 8, 2008

Padilla is dealing. If my math is right, he went from 20 quality starts in 33 starts in 2006, to 7 in 23 in 2007, and now 5 out of 7 in 2008. He’s on a pace for 20 wins, and for his best ERA+ since 2002. Can he keep it up? As long as I don’t jinx him again he will.

Ponson is dealing. After his second start the media was all over the Sir Sidney thing again, which I thought was pretty silly, since he’d had two starts, one of which he gave up five runs (only one earned, but still) and the other of which he’d beaten Kansas City. Then yesterday he did it to Seattle. It’s a case of the more he does it, the more confident he will be, and maybe he can stick with it. You have to wait and see what adversity will do though, like with Padilla – he had a bad start but came back strong next time. Will Ponson do that too? Or is he a flash in the pan, the Sammy Sosa of 2008? Better yet, can he keep it going through July, so we can trade him to some desperate playoff bound team?

I was looking at Ponson’s Pitchf/x for his first couple of starts. I wanted to compare them to last year, to see if there was a difference from when he was going bad, but unfortunately he pitched so little none of his games were recorded by Pitchf/x. Shame.

Brandon Boggs is only here for a short time. Know how I know? Because they didn’t even bother to get him a batting helmet that fits. Come on, the guy has to push it out of his eyes after every pitch. After his 4-4 career start, he’s now 6-28, which means pretty much any day now they’re going to give up on him. How come on Opening Day we had about ten outfielders in line, and this guy is suddenly a starter? They have some odd priorities, I tell you.

What can I say about Jason Botts? In the last few days we saw that the Mariners brass have, well, brass ones, but the Rangers brass have none. The Mariners took the bull by the horns and released Brad Wilkerson, eating his contract, as they should have. The Rangers did the stupid thing, by moving out Botts. They could have gotten rid of Broussard, who hasn’t done anything. Instead down goes Botts and up comes Shelton, who has also done nothing. It’s so bad at first they’re trying Frankie Cat there again. Come on guys, basic sabermetrics says if you have two players who are similar (and I’m talking Botts and Broussard, although they’re not similar), keep the young one. Instead they bring in a never-will-be like Shelton. They should have dumped Broussard (who was a dumb pick-up in the first place) and given Botts the full-time job. Let him have half a season doing it every day, and prove whether he can hit in the big leagues or not. Tell Ron Washington to get stuffed when he tries not to play him.

Actually I don’t think the Rangers sent Botts down. I think Shelton ate him.

Last time I said to fire Ron Washington. I still say that. He’s become a little more animated since the Rangers have won a few games, almost lifelike lately. That’s a bad thing, because it kind of proves he was sinking into a deep morass, pretty much just waiting for the axe to fall. It’s still hanging over his head, just a little further away. Recent wins against the Royals (terrible team), and the A’s and Mariners (bad teams both, but not if you believe the media) aren’t really a good indicator of improvement, it’s just the pendulum swinging the other way.

I agree with the recent poster who said to fire Jon Daniels with him. The front office needs a clean sweep, from the owner on down. The owner especially, but where are you going to find a billionaire to buy the team? Mark Cuban wants the Cubs, or the Pirates. (Great Jay Leno joke the other day: “Miley Cyrus is now the richest child in the world. Except for Mark Cuban”). Not too many other rich folk around here that want to suffer the indignity of owning the Rangers.

Pleased to tell you I have a new job, starting next week, doing stuff I really enjoy doing. Can’t wait.

I’m starting to like Josh Hamilton, although it’s still early. Player of the month is good. He won’t win the MVP though, if A-Rod couldn’t because the team sucked, he won’t. Maybe in a few years, if we’re lucky. The way things are going though, he’ll be an MVP contender and Edinson Volquez will win a Cy Young. Is that a good trade? You’d probably say yes… but in the back of your mind will be that nagging feeling that the Rangers haven’t had a good starter since, ummm… (fill in the blank).

Surprised that Hit Tracker only gave the Hamilton home run into the restaurant area yesterday a distance of 422 feet. I would have said 450 easily, but they seem to think it was the wind.

Final thought is on the umpires (again). Here’s a chart:
Strike Zone 5-7-08

What this shows is the strike zone from today’s game, showing just the balls and called strikes (i.e. the pitches that the umpire was involved in calling). Josh Lewin kept going on today about how the umpires had released some kind of stats or study showing that they were right 95% of the time. Personally I automatically think that means they’re wrong one in twenty times, or given today’s 290 total pitches, they were wrong about fifteen times (but then, I’m a glass half empty kind of person).

The problem is that I don’t think they’re counting just the close decisions, I think they’re counting all of them. A pitch that’s two feet outside, and they call it a ball – does that count as a correct decision, or a duh decision? Or one that’s right down the middle of the strike zone?

Watching today’s game, with umpire Mark Wegner in charge, it was interesting to note that he threw out the Mariner’s manager for arguing balls and strikes, and had a lot of complaints from players. Do you think he said “but I’m right 95% of the time”?

Look at the chart above. The box is the strike zone I use as a default, over a group of players. One foot either side of home, and from 1.8 feet to 3.3 feet in height. It’s a rough analog for a major league strike zone, as shown by Pitchf/x studies. Red dots should be inside the box, blue dots outside. Look at the bottom left corner, you see several blue dots inside. Compare it to the red dots outside on the left and below, and you have to ask how those blue dots were called balls – they obviously were closer to the center of the plate than the red ones to the left, and had enough height compared to the red ones below.

When I count this chart, I get seven reds outside and eight blues inside – coincidentally for a total of fifteen “wrong” calls, exactly what we guessed at above. But in reality, that math is not correct. 15 over 290 is close enough to 5%. But they didn’t make the call on all the balls that were hit, or fouled, or swung at (except on appeals on swings going around), so you shouldn’t count all those. Counting just the balls and called strikes, there were 157 pitches, which means we’re closer to 10% (15 over 157).

But that also counts a lot of balls that were nowhere near the strike zone. Let’s narrow it down to a six inch area around the zone – in Pitchf/x terms, from -1.5 to 1.5 pfx_x, and 1.3 to 3.8 pfx_y. Six inches seems reasonably close, if you’re outside by that much in any direction, you’re hardly going to get much argument unless you really blow the call.

In that narrowed area around the strike zone, there were 111 pitches called ball or strike. We’re now at 13.5% of calls on balls and strikes that could have been considered bad tonight. That’s about one in every seven and a half pitches that they have to call. Granted, over the course of a game, it’s still only 15 pitches, about one every half-inning or so, but it’s still nowhere near the utopia those guys like to present.

I’ve said it too many times to repeat it, but I will. Baseball should use technology. Instant replay at the very least – and there are arguments against, mostly due to the outcome of a particular play, but those can be dealt with. It is more important to get the call right than to feed the egos of the men in black.