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Summary[]

Ben Lindbergh and Jeff Sullivan banter about how teams project the outcomes of matchups between batters and pitchers, the perils of second-guessing well-informed managerial decisions, and why teams still make mistakes, then answer listener emails about start-to-start strikeout variance, limiting the number of pitchers used per game, a potential problem with pitcher-catcher headsets, the four Wander Francos, the MLB players with the most-ever teammates, and the legality of getting a running start when tagging up, plus a Stat Blast about a new way to think about how often the best batters fail.

Topics[]

  • Reliability of strikeout totals
  • Capping total pitchers in a game
  • Mic’ed up problem
  • MLB record for most number of teammates
  • Purposefully tipping pitches
  • Many Wander Francos
  • Headstart tag ups

Banter[]

  • Second guessing
  • Projecting matchups
  • Boston attendance variation follow up from episode 1287

Email Questions[]

  • Henry Clarke (Patreon): In your brief discussion of Clayton Kershaw's game-to-game postseason strikeout variance (episode 1285), Ben noted that you usually discount, or don't really trust, a great start with a very low strikeout total. Hard to be consistently excellent without striking guys out. I buy that. But how reliable is a strikeout total from a single game? Is it possible, for example, that Kershaw had a 15K true talent level in that game against the Braves, and 12 times the batters foiled the most likely outcome, grounding or popping or tapping softly into the first quartile? In other words, how wide can the gap be, do you think, between how many strikeouts a pitcher's stuff should warrant in a particular game, and how many strikeouts he records?
  • Hector: After listening to your discussion about how the role of pitchers are changing and how you guys feel like it is less interesting to watch games where there are constantly new faces on the mound. I thought of an idea to combat this. What is stopping MLB from putting a cap on total pitchers allowed in a game? I was thinking three or four pitchers allowed so that teams are still encouraged to let the starter go deep into the game but are still allowed to use relief pitchers if needed, but you have to do it smartly because you only have so many pitchers you can use in a game. I was even thinking that if a team was able to play a game under the set limit, then the next game they would be able to use more pitchers. Say for example, that the limit for pitchers in a game is set to three, and you have your starter pitch a complete game; the next game you would be allowed five total pitchers. Of course you would need specific rules for extra innings, but I think that this would reward teams for having pitchers that can go deep because they are not able to pull the plug immediately and make it a bullpen game and there is extra excitement to watching a pitcher go deep into the game knowing that he could have impacts on the following games.
  • Andrew: Love the idea of the pitcher and catcher being miked up. But couldn't the batter hear the pitcher and catcher talking. Does this mean they'd speak in code? Would we get amazing situations like a QB in football? Omaha, Omaha, pitch.
  • Cy: I think anyone who has played baseball has heard the trope "even the best batters fail 7 out of 10 times," referencing the fact that .300 is an all-star level batting average. Following the Moneyball era, it may be more appropriate to reference OBP and a threshold of failing 6 out of 10 times instead. However, it seems that in order to properly asses failure/success a context dependent stat such as WPA is needed. My question is, what percentage of the best hitters' plate appearances result in a positive WPA? I have been unable to find this information on Fangraphs but suspect that it may be possible to determine with the play index. I'm curious how closely it matches OBP, and if it is consistent from year to year.
  • Joseph (Queens): I’m watching the Knicks opening game of the season and Knicks' announcer Mike Breen lets everyone know that there is a new record holder for most number of teammates in an NBA career: 240, Vince Carter; surpassing Juwan Howard, 236(?). I thought that this was an awesome fun fact and obviously raises the question.... Who do you guess is the MLB record holder? Who is on the all-time leader-board?
  • Cameron: I just listened to episode 1282 and was intrigued by essentially the opposite of what Ross Stripling did re pitch tipping. Instead of talking about apparently-invisible pitch tipping, what if teams kept mum about intentionally obvious pitch tipping? Could a team like the Red Sox who had very little in September for which to play tell their pitching staff to start obviously tipping their pitches, and would it have a meaningful effect come October if they just stopped tipping their pitches? Would it be more helpful to return to one's normal pitching motion or to continue with the various pitch-tipping motions decoupled from their corresponding pitch types? Could a team use an intentionally obviously pitch-tipping reliever in mop-up situations all season or multiple seasons and then use him for high-leverage situations in the postseason to catch opponents by surprise?
  • Steven: here are three(!) Wander Francos in minor league baseball. Three! They are all brothers and two of them are the Giants' system (and both play a fair amount of third base!!). Those two are in High-A and Low-A, respectively, and could totally end up on the same team in the future. The third one is probably the most well known because he tore up the Appy League this year as a 17-year-old shortstop for the Rays. Their uncles are the Aybars. So much baseball in the blood, yet just one name (thank goodness for different middle names!) I don't really have a question so much as I wanted I'd bring this to people's attention if they don't already know.
  • Mark: A friend of mine is a high school umpire, and this is a thing that happened in one of his games: There was one out and a runner on third. The batter hit a fly ball to left, and suddenly the runner started running down the third base line into left field. Just before the ball was caught he turned around and ran back towards third, tagged up just as the ball was caught, and continued on to home with a big running start. My questions: 1. Is this legal? I think it is. If I read the rules correctly, you only have to stay on the base path when someone is trying to put you out. 2. Would this give you an advantage? I'm pretty sure it would, if you timed it just right. 3. If I'm right about 1 and 2, why don't we see this, ever? FWIW, in this game the runner beat the throw home, and my friend the ump called him safe.

StatBlast[]

  • Percentage of plate appearances that result in positive WPA.
  • Of the top 10 ten players this year in wRC, 42% of their plate appearances resulted in positive WPA, and 45% resulted in non-negative WPA.
  • Conclusion: Positive WPA is similar to OBP.

Notes[]

  • Teams can gather much more and better information than the public. Teams are studying swing planes and pitch planes to find comparable players in order to build more accurate projections. They also aren't going to reveal which players have hidden injuries.
  • Jeff imagines a manager responding to a tweet in a post-game press conference by showing a half dozen visual aids with graphs and charts supporting his in-game decision.
  • Jeff notes that anybody who demonstrates a great insight with public information will get snapped up by an organization. "You're basically left with idiots like us."
  • Jeff trusts swinging strikeout rates more than called strikeouts. Swinging strikeouts are more stable because called strikes are more dependent on external factors like the umpire and catcher.
  • Ben would rather the mound be moved back, than pitching changes be limited, which he feels is too intrusive.
  • During the recording of the episode, Manny Machado was accused of stealing signs from second base (which is legal) during the World Series.
  • Ben feels that the catcher is far away enough from the batter, and "unless it's a Rays game", the stadium is noisy enough that the batter won't be able to hear anything the catcher says. Even so, the catcher could whisper, or the catcher could use buttons on a watch to convey signs to the pitcher.
  • Eric Kratz would deke the batter by pounding his glove inside, then setting up outside.
  • Dan Hirsch estimated total teammates by assuming every player was teammates with every other player who played for the team that year.
  • Terry Mulholland has the most all time teammates (791), Edwin Jackson is second (772).
  • Most of the players on the list are from recent years, because there are more teams nowadays.
  • In the 19th century, Joe Gerhardt played on 11 teams, which is impressive given that there were not a lot of teams back then.
  • There are a variety of ways to get to the top of the list. One is to be a generic player (especially a relief pitcher) who bounces around a lot. Another is to be a Hall-of-Fame player with a long career.
  • Jeff wonders if a player would have more teammates in the major leagues or in the minors, since player movement is much higher in the minors.
  • Jeff likes the idea of the pitch-tipping long con, but doesn't think it would be worth it because you'd be able to pay off in only one game, after which everybody will realize that the pitcher has stopped tipping. Changing a pitcher's mechanics itself comes with risk.
  • Ben and Jeff are amused by the multiple Wander Francos. Jeff wishes the Wander Francos all the best, but sort of hopes only one of them makes the majors. It was confusing when MLB had Alex Gonzalez and Álex González at the same time. Ben says that it messes up database searches.
  • Taking a running start on a tag-up is not allowed: "A runner is not permitted to take a flying start from a position in back of his base. Such runner shall be called out on appeal." This rule would reappear in the Stanky Draft of Episode 1813.

Links[]

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