Monthly Archives: August 2010

Ike Davis on Strike Three

Rant: Hey, Ike? That pitch on the outside corner? Right. It’s technically not a strike; big league umpires almost always call it that way. They set up over the inside shoulder of the catcher so that they can call the inside corner accurately, but the outside corner becomes stretched as they aren’t directly over it. So that pitch off the plate becomes a strike. Umpires have been doing this for as long as I’ve watched baseball — which admittedly isn’t that long — but it’s about as long as you, Ike, have been watching baseball. So maybe get used to it being a strike and stop pouting.

And: end rant.

One more thing, actually: Davis might want to consider investing in eyedrops or something, because it always looks like he’s got sand in his eye when he’s hitting. That can’t help.

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Ted Berg: Don’t Trade the “Core”

I have one minor quibble here. Berg says, “The Mets have gotten the second-worst production in the National League out of their first basemen in 2010, the worst out of their second basemen, and the worst out of their right fielders.” — I would change that to read “offensive production,” particularly with regards to the first basemen, who have somewhat compensated for their average hitting with decent defense. The second basemen and right fielders have been so awful offensively that it really doesn’t matter what they do defensively, since they’re still going to be miserable regardless.

Otherwise, exactly what he said. Trading Reyes for Felix Hernandez might be reasonable; trading Wright or Reyes just to trade them is how nightmare, franchise-crushing deals are made.

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Bradbury on Revenue Sharing

Despite the good intentions behind revenue sharing, doling out money to baseball’s have-nots has the unintended consequence of creating a disincentive to win. Though the correlation is not perfect, winning tends to attract fans, which increases local revenue. But a healthier bottom line means drawing less from the revenue-sharing pool. The quandary faced by poor-and-losing teams is that using the added wealth to improve their clubs increases local earnings, but these gains may be offset by reducing revenue-sharing payments.

J.C. Bradbury, a sports economist at Kennesaw State University and author of the blog “Sabernomics,” addressed the issues surrounding revenue sharing in Saturday’s New York Times. I suppose he would be the expert on these sorts of things, and it’s the best take I’ve read on the leaked financial documents. As far as I can tell, Bradbury knows his stuff.

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Koufax on Koufax

. . . I know sometimes people’ll say, “Well, you’ve done everything possible, what’re you gonna do next? You can’t pitch a better ball game.” And I say to myself, “Well, why not? Why can’t I do more, why can’t I do a better job?” There’s nothing to stop me—except the hitters. You can always try to pitch a better ball game, the best you possibly can.

- Sandy, I’ve seen you after you’ve pitched and you sit at your locker and you look like World War II. At this stage of your career isn’t there any tendency on your part to jake it a little, not to put out quite so much?

- I can’t. I can’t. Sometimes you get enough runs and you try to take it easy and all of a sudden you’re in trouble.

- Yes, but you go out there and work like a guy who’s expecting to be cut right after the game.

- You’ve got to put out on every pitch. How do you know what the other pitcher’s going to do? He’s out there trying to get your team out, too. People say, doesn’t it make you a better pitcher because your team doesn’t score runs, doesn’t that make you bear down? Well, the Dodgers score more runs than people think, but even if your ball club scores a lot of runs I don’t think you can take the attitude that you can give up two or three runs and still win. You’ve got to say to yourself, “I don’t know how many I’m gonna get, but if I can keep the other side from scoring any I have a lot better chance.” So you put out on every pitch.

This is Sandy Koufax in a lengthy interview he did with Sports Illustrated back in December of 1965. There’s a lot of good stuff in there, especially Koufax’s self-deprecation with respect to his hitting.

I’ve always been curious about what makes professional athletes tick — what’s going on inside their heads that makes them the best in the world at what they do? Is there something off about them? I think that right there, the “I can’t. I can’t,” that he couldn’t take a single inning off, even with a swollen elbow, even in blowouts — I think that’s a big part of why Koufax was so good at what he did.

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The Clutch and the Shifted

Now picture this: David Ortiz is leading off the ninth inning. He rips
the same line drive toward right field, but with no one on base, the
shift is on. The second baseman is halfway into right field, the
shortstop is on the right side of second base and playing shallow
right-center field and the third baseman is playing where the shortstop
normally plays. What happens to that batted ball? Frequently, it gets
caught by the second baseman.

However, with runners on base, the second baseman is playing closer to
second base and the ball gets through. For most hitters, the difference
is small between the kind of defensive alignment that prevents hits and
the kind that guards against double plays or holds runners on. However,
for left-handed sluggers who routinely face “The Shift,” the defense is
severely limited against them with runners on base. As a result, hitters
like Ortiz are actually “clutch,” and not because they have the mental
fortitude to come through in big situations, but simply because higher
leverage situations occur when there are runners on base and that is
when it is easier for them to shoot a base hit through the infield.

Makes sense. BillJamesOnline.net keeps track of clutch hitting in their own way, and they have Ortiz as a .292/.394/.605 hitter in the clutch since 2002. That’s somewhat better than his .284/.382/.567 line over the same period of time. This Baseball Prospectus article does a nice job explaining why that might happen. (Via The Good Phight)

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Mastering the Knuckleball

This is just one of the many charts in a cool look at R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball from Beyond the Box Score. The article compares Dickey’s knuckler to Tim Wakefield’s, and answers why Dickey has been more successful this season. As you can see above, his ability to change speeds with the pitch probably has something to do with it. Check it out if you’re into heat maps.

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Ike Davis’ Rookie Season

Is Ike Davis having a good rookie season?

His name is brought up in rookie of the year discussions, but not as a serious contender. Davis is mostly mentioned just to be part of the conversation — as in, Keith Hernandez will say on air, “. . . but Ike should be in the conversation.” I suppose that’s just a polite way of saying Davis shouldn’t win, but he’s allowed to participate and gets an “honorable mention” ribbon at the end.

San Francisco’s Buster Posey and Atlanta’s Jason Heyward are in a class above Davis, and that all seems to be pretty clear to everyone. But while he clearly shouldn’t be rookie of the year — he’s not even the best rookie on his own team — is Davis having a good first season otherwise? Click to Continue Reading

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