Entries Tagged as 'pitching'

Changes in how we keep score

Piggy-backing on my last post about Cy Young winner King Felix and his dearth of wins, I thought I’d pass on this link to an article by Joe Posnanski entitled Talkin’ Baseball (Stats).  Here Joe suggests some changes on how we score the game of baseball.  In his view, let’s simplify them.

Number One on his list:  Wins

Simplify. I’ve never hidden my disdain for pitcher wins as a statistic, especially in modern times, when hardly anybody pitches a complete game, but if you’re going to use this stat anyway (and let’s be honest, it ain’t going away), fine. Just keep track of how often a team wins the game when the pitcher starts. That’s all. Eliminate the no-decision, which, if you stop to think about it, is actually a bizarre concept. There are no “no-decisions” in baseball. Somebody wins. Somebody loses.

Crazy idea and I’m not sure if even I agree but I like anyone who thinks out of the box. 

Really you should read his article.  His section on RBIs is quite interesting.  Actually come to think of it, Bud Selig should read it.

Breaking down pitchers’ homers

Chris Jaffe of The Hardball Times breaks down the gopher ball pitchers of all time.  He ranks those pitchers who have given up homers of every type. 

It’s a fun read.  Don’t go in expecting to find low caliber pitchers on his lists.  These are hurlers who have gotten on these lists because they were good enough to last a long time in the bigs.  Similar to Pete Rose, who has the most hits all time but also has the most outs.  You’re out there long enough, you’re going to manage enough negative stats.

The most interesting to me was Roy Face.  He leads all pitchers in both walk-off homers and extra-inning homers.

Al Hrabosky the Mad Hungarian

Bruce Markusen has a very well-researched piece The Hardball Times all about a player I remember from one of my favorite era of baseball, the 70s- Al Hrabosky.

I remember the Mad Hungarian well.  What I didn’t know was how he got his nickname:

The unusual routine prompted a nickname from the Cardinals’ front office. The team’s public relations director, Jerry Lovelace, began calling Hrabosky “The Mad Hungarian.” The name, which accurately reflected his heritage, caught on with writers, broadcasters and fans, giving Hrabosky one of the most identifiable alter egos of his time, or any other for that matter.

Just think, the club front office not only approved but capitalized on Hrabosky’s behavior.

No doubt I’ve said this before but I wonder if Al’s stomping around the mound and talking to the ball would be tolerated in today’s world.  The 70s were a more colorful time (in more ways than one… you’ve seen the uniforms) and probably a little more tolerant of differences and eccentricities.  

Sadly, if Hrabosky tried to pull what he did in 2010, someone would complain, there would be an investigation by an appointed MLB committee and a 50-page policy written up detailing what is acceptable and not acceptable. 

Miss you. Al.

Effective use of closers

Lee Panas of Tiger Tales makes a good case for better use of MLB’s premier relievers.  He uses his Tigers’ Jose Valverde as a case study but it goes for all closers of high talent. 

This is the basic crux of his argument:

Instead of having Valverde enter a dozen or more games in very low impact situation just to get work, wouldn’t it be better if Leyland picked his spots using him only when the game was on the line?  I’d rather see him enter a tie game in the eighth inning or with the bases loaded in the seventh than see him get a three out save with nobody on base and three run lead.

I’ve pleaded similar arguments to my baseball friends to no avail.  There’s something simple about the “save” rule and there’s no getting around managers desire to saving their best guy for the ninth inning regardless of the actual impact the closer will have. 

I know Lee isn’t the only one exploring this issue.  Is the Save a dying stat?  Perhaps not.  But once we stop relying on it as the sole value of a closer, maybe they will be used in a more effective manner.

2009 last time we saw a pitcher with 100 career CG (ever?)

It’s nothing new even to the casual fan that complete games have taken a drastic dip in the last 15-20 years.  But it just occurred to me that statistically, 2009 was a landmark year.  With the retirement of Randy Johnson at the end of the year, we no longer will have an active pitcher who has at least 100 career complete games. 

Johnson retired at the end of 2009 with 100 complete games on the nose.  With his departure, Roy Halladay became the heir of the CG active leader throne.  Even at that, Halladay has a ways to go.  At this point in the season, Roy has 54 complete games in 13 seasons.  If you look to the second man on that list, it’s Livan Hernandez with 48. 

Certainly, by the end of 2010, we will end up with a active career leader in complete games under 100 games for the first time in major league history. 

If you want a good visual on the decline of complete games through baseball history, Baseball Reference’s Progressive Leaders page might be of help. 

Carlos Silva: 7-0 record coming out of nowhere

Is Carlos Silva really this good?  I hope so.  He just pitched seven shutout innings against the Cardinals to up his record to 7-0 for the year.  His season ERA is a decent 3.52.

Not that I’m complaining as a Cub fan, mind you but it does rather surprise me.  In his past two years, Silva was 5-18 with a 6.81 ERA.  Don’t get me wrong but I just don’t think the Cubs coaching staff can work miracles like this. 

Historically, Carlos Silva has had his strengths and his weaknesses.  He’s had a penchant for giving up the longball even leading the AL in homers allowed in 2006 with 38.  That said, he helps himself by his extremely low walk count.  For his career, he has allowed only 1.7 walks per nine innings (again, he led the AL in that category with a miniscule 0.4 figure).  This year, he’s right on track with that stat… he’s giving the free pass at a 1.8/9 IP pace.

But the wins.. seven wins.. Run support has been key, I suppose.  The Cubs have scored 45 runs in the seven wins for an average of 6.42 runs per game.  No pitcher has gotten off to such a good start for the Cubs since Illini graduate Ken Holtzman in 1967.  Silva will have a couple more wins to go to match Holtzman… he started out 9-0.

The Cubs have done all right in those games that Silva had started but didn’t get the decision too.  They are 2-1 in those games.  Their only loss in a game which he started was his very first in April 9th in Cincinnati when they lost 5-4. 

Let’s look at it from one more angle.  How would the Cubs be doing without Silva and his 7-0 record?  Even if we assume that his replacement won roughly half his games (I’m being generous), the Cubs would be at 21-29 instead of 24-26.  That’s a wide difference this early in the season considering how much ground they would have to make up.

Whatever it is… whatever they’re doing.. let’s keep it up.  It’s keeping the Cubs in it as much as they are.

Go Cubs!

Oswalt anglin’ for some offense

Ok, Roy Oswalt has made news by surprising some people and making a trade request.  Surprising, I guess but the gist behind it was that the Astros aren’t going anywhere and he wants to play on a postseason team. 

Since that request, Oswalt pitched a dynamite game which he won against the Brewers.  Fox Sports Houston had an interesting twist on that game as it pertains to Oswalt in their opening sentence:

Roy Oswalt made a convincing argument for the Houston Astros to keep him in his first start since the team publicly acknowledged the ace’s trade request.

Funny, I saw it differently.  If I was a reporter and looking for an angle, maybe Oswalt was showcasing his talents for any takers out there in the market for a quality starter.  The cynical side of me, I guess.  In either case, both sides are downplaying the trade thing at the moment anyway.

In related news (maybe more related than we think) Andy from Baseball Reference has a post on how little support Oswalt is getting from the Astros’ offense.  Here’s the gist of it:

According to his neutralized pitching stats, Roy Oswalt deserves a .731 winning percentage this year, which projects to a 19-7 record for the season. Instead, he’s actually 3-6 with a .333 winning percentage.

He’s got the numbers to back it up on his post. 

I think good ol’ Roy wants some decent offense.  Maybe this is his way making his wished heard.


Book Review: High Heat by Tim Wendel

This book review is written by guest author CLuke who despite being a White Sox AND a Northwestern Wildcat fan, is a pretty cool guy.

image002 In his new book High Heat: The Secret History of the Fastball and the Improbable Search for the Fastest Pitcher of All Time (2010) author Tim Wendel has gone on a quest for speed. His speed obsession is very specific and as a matter of fact coincides with one of my favorite obsessions- baseball. Tim has traveled on an enjoyable literary journey to find one or in this case the fastest pitcher of all time.

The true baseball fan will recognize the paths that Mr. Wendel will take you down must include such names as Walter Johnson, Bob Feller and of course the Express- Nolan Ryan. What many fans may not expect are hearing names such as Rusie, Dalkowski and yes even Wagner and Zumaya contained in this elite group.

Newer pitchers such as Steven Strasburg and David Price are mentioned as well as sometimes overlooked pitchers like J.R. Richard, Sam McDowell and Pud Galvin (an often forgotten Hall of Famer).

Wendel interviews great fastball pitchers, batters who’ve faced them and other baseball intelligentsia in what is a pleasant celebration and quest for one of the most dangerous elements in the sport of baseball- a horsehide flung at speeds up to and over 100 mph!

One of the more fascinating aspects to Wendel’s book is his comparison of how the speed of a fastball has been measured down through the years.

In the closing days of the 1912 season Baseball magazine convinced the two fastest pitchers at the time Washington’s Walter Johnson and Brooklyn’s Nap Rucker to travel to Bridgeport Connecticut and there at the Remington Arms Company bullet-testing range measure the speed of a fastball for the first time. A tunnel that was intended to be used for testing the speed of bullets was used in an attempt to measure the fastballs of each of the two hurlers. After considerable effort and a consequent loss of speed (per the book quoting Baseball Magazine) Johnson clocked in at 86.6 mph and Rucker only 76 mph. The test probably had some significant flaws however.

Later Bob Feller had to fling a baseball past a speeding motorcycle in attempt to measure the speed of his pitch. Even today with the apparent sophistication of measuring devices Wendel notes that there are discrepancies between radar guns in different stadiums.

All in all an enjoyable book that took me to a few places that I’ve never been before. I particularly enjoyed hearing once again the story of Steve Dalkowski a Baltimore farmhand in the 1960’s who never made it to the big time but may have had the fastest fastball of all. Wendel depicts a fascinating story about Dalkowski and HOF manager Earl Weaver. “In 1962 with Weaver instructing him to throw only his fastball and his slider Dalkowski went on to have his best year ever. In the final 57 innings pitching for Weaver at Elmira, the left hander gave up only one earned run and struck out 110 batters and walked only 21”. He would go to spring training the next year with the Orioles but I’ll leave it for the author to tell the rest of this tale.

I would recommend High Heat as a pleasantly readable and enjoyable romp through the history of the fastball and many of the men who threw it. With this meaty of a topic however, I was a little bit disappointed that the book was only a little over 200 pages and it did seem to be lacking on serious stats for all of the sabermeticians out there.

Still in all this, is a worthwhile read and a nice addition to the library of the true baseball fan.

I’m giving it 3 and a half bats.

bat bat bat 12bat

You can pick up High Heat: The Secret History of the Fastball and the Improbable Search for the Fastest Pitcher of All Time at any fine book store near you or order it from Amazon.  You can also check out the book’s blog site.

As an aside, I was intrigued to learn that Mr. Wendel has written a book on the long forgotten Buffalo Braves of the NBA. This one may also be worth checking out if I can find a copy.


Animated short about Dock Ellis’ drug enhanced no-no



This animated short about Dock Ellis’ no-hitter while he was on LSD definitely has its elements of humor.  But creator James Blagden from No Mas, a NY-based repository of sport and cultural art, did his homework, too. Doc Ellis and The LSD No-No was fueled by research done by Blagden. 

He scoured interviews done with Dock Ellis a year before he passed away last year.  In those interviews, Ellis pretty much a moment-by-moment account of his infamous no-hitter.  Apparently, Blagden used much of this info in this animated short. 

Oh, Dave Cash is quite the funny in the video, in my opinion. 

Three Finger Brown born 133 years ago today

Mordecai_Brown_Baseball_Hand Happy Birthday Three Finger Brown! 

Mordecai Peter Centennial Brown would have been 133 years old today. 

As a kid, I learned a little about baseball history from an old-timers bubble gum baseball cards I bought at the dime store.  Of course, Three Finger Brown was one of them.  As a Cub fan, I had an affinity for him. 

Some interesting (and perhaps lesser-known) facts about Brown.

  • Made his major league debut at age 26 in 1903.
  • Brown accumulated 239 wins in his career but also led the league in saves four years in a row (1908-1911, unrecognized at the time of course).
  • Known primarily as a Cub, Brown did get picked up by the Reds later in his career and even played in the Federal League.  In 1916, he was purchased by the Cubs for his last year where he pitched in 12 games.
  • Broke and held for many years, the record for number of chances handled by a pitcher without an error in 1908 with 108.

Here is his obituary that was in the New York Times when he passed in 1948