Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller banter about the three-year anniversary of the Effectively Wild outing to see the total solar eclipse at a minor league game in Oregon and whether the backlash to the kerfuffle over Fernando Tatís Jr.’s 3-0 grand slam made this week a watershed for MLB’s unwritten rules, then answer listener emails about whether a pitcher will (or should) start both ends of a doubleheader this season, what percentage of hit by pitches are intentional and how good we are at distinguishing those that are from those that aren’t, and whether any managers will be fired in 2020, plus a trio of listener-inspired Stat Blasts on a statistical quirk of the top of the Mariners’ career ERA leaderboard, the most pitches thrown in a 1-2-3 inning, and games with “half no-hitters” thrown by both teams.
- Could a pitcher start a doubleheader with a seven-inning complete game and then also throw the first inning of the second game?
- What percent of hit by pitches are intentional? Is there a way to know?
- Will any managers get fired this season?
- The Mariners top four all-time pitchers have the same ERA. How unlikely is this, compared to Khris Davis hitting .247 four years in a row? Is it as interesting?
- 1-2-3 innings with high pitch counts.
- Games in which neither team gets a hit through 4.5 innings, for a sort of "combined no-hitter".
- Three years ago, Sam, Meg, and Ben met at Jeff Sullivan's Oregon apartment to see the total solar eclipse the next day, as discussed in Episode 1100.
- Public response to Fernando Tatís Jr. hitting a grand slam on a 3-0 count.
- The Stat Blast theme is performed by Eric Gallipo. Sam likes it. "That is not exactly my jam, but it is a jam I respond to."
- Sam looks at the fact that the Mariners' four best all-time pitchers all have the same career ERA to two decimal places (3.42), something pointed out by his colleague David Schoenfield at ESPN some time ago, and which listener William also observed.
- Ben declares that this is "way worse" than Khris Davis hitting .247 four years in a row. Ben considers Davis's feat one of his favorite fun facts. You could anticipate it happening and root for each at-bat to take him closer to .247. The Mariners feat is not something you can watch develop. It's just there.
- Sam is shocked that Ben is not sure whether the Mariners feat is more unusual. "There's only 30 teams, Ben."
- Ben explains that Davis's achievement is more interesting because it's a single-person feat of consistency, as opposed to four different players happening to land at the same place. If four player happened all to hit .247 one season, that's equally unlikely, but doesn't say anything about consistency.
- Ben understands that the batting average feat is totally arbitrary and just a numerical coincidence. The only reason it's fascinating is that it's so unlikely.
- Sam agrees that the Mariners coincidence is not fun, unless a player is on the verge of joining the group.
- Ben guesses that a player's batting average over four years has a range of 40 points, and a franchise's best to fourth-best pitchers have an ERA range of 75 points. Sam concludes that this means that according to Ben, matching ERA is twice as rare as matching batting average.
- Sam looked at the 113 players who played all four years from 2016 to 2019. The batting average range was 38 points. Among all major league franchises, the ERA spread from best to fourth-best pitcher is 39 points.
- Sam concludes that the likelihood of the two coincidences is roughly the same if you focus on a single batter or franchise, but since the number of batters who play four consecutive years far exceeds the number of baseball franchises, the batting coincidence is more likely to occur.
- Sam notes that it's possible that a team in the past had achieved the same pitching coincidence for a period of time before eventually losing it. This diminishes the feat because it isn't lasting.
- Sam concludes that the Mariners pitching coincidence is less fun but more unlikely.
- Anthony (Patreon): During the Cubs-Cardinals game just now, Len Kasper off-handedly joked that Kyle Hendricks was pitching game one of a seven inning doubleheader like he wanted to start game two as well. I hadn't thought about it until then, but that actually seems pretty possible, right? The gap between games isn't very long. If an elite starter pitched seven innings in game one and still had a pitch count around 75 or 80, I would be very tempted to use them for the first inning of game two, if they were amenable to it. Do you think there's a chance any pitcher does that this season?
- Kevin: A buddy and I were having a pretty heated debate yesterday regarding the hit by pitch. This stemmed from a conversation about the unwritten rules, Tatís, etc. and I believe it has further reaching consequences with other situations in baseball. The question I pose is, without an actual statistic, is there a way to gauge a pitcher's intent on a hit by pitch? My buddy believes that somehow, 90% of HBP are unintentional, and 10% are. I however believe / lean on something like 45% intentional 55% unintentional. Obviously, we pulled these numbers out of thin air. I was a long time ball player (never really made anything of a career out of it) and had a lot more "dugout" knowledge than my buddy. My buddy watches a TON of baseball, just like I do. So that's the context.
- Max: Given the unique nature of this season combined with the high number of changes last season, do you think we'll see any managerial changes this season?
- William: I was scrolling through Seattle Mariners leader boards on baseball-reference and I noticed what I think is the most statistically unlikely coincidence I have ever encountered in my time as a baseball fan. Notice that the top four Mariners leaders in career ERA all have the same number: 3.42. Since Felix Hernandez, Randy Johnson, James Paxton and Hisashi Iwakuma all all retired or no longer on the Mariners, this figures to stand for quite some time. I'm not sure this is as individually impressive as hitting .247 four straight years, but it strikes me as more statistically unlikely. Is that correct? I guess there isn't any way of calculating that but this blew my mind and I felt like it needed to be shared.
- Nathan (Patreon): The Brewers radio crew was all over Adrian Houser's 1-2-3 inning vs the Cubs today. He threw 25 pitches and they were convinced that would be close to a record, which I doubt. However, Houser threw another 1-2-3 inning the next time on only 4 pitches. That might be a record? How would you even measure this? Largest difference in pitches thrown between consecutive 1-2-3 innings? Is this StatBlast material?
- Drew: I'm currently watching the Twins play the Brewers, and through 4.5 innings neither team has allowed a hit. At the start of the 5th inning, I found myself cheering for no hits in the top of 5th to complete what I considered a "no hitter" since neither team had allowed a hit through 9 half innings. Would you cheer for this like a no hitter? Is this more common than I think? Do teams frequently combine for no hitters to start games, or is this actually something amazing I am watching?
- The eclipse gathering is the only time Sam has met Jeff or Meg in person, and consequently the only time all of the Effectively Wild co-hosts have been together.
- Sam and Ben marvel at how they all stayed in close proximity for so long, a luxury lost to the coronavirus pandemic.
- Outside of weddings and other exceptional personal events, Sam considers the day of the eclipse to be the happiest day of his life.
- After initial uproar over Fernando Tatís Jr. hitting a grand slam on a 3-0 count, the tone changed over the next few days, and people were supporting Tatís. Ben considers it "a watershed week when the unwritten rules kind of died."
- Not only writers and other media members came to Tatís's defense, but other players also supported him.
- Sam thinks this was a perfect case for overturning this unwritten rule: Fernando Tatís Jr. is universally popular, and the rule didn't appear to be well-established anyway.
Pitching both games of a doubleheader
- Sam thinks it would be a great note in a biography. "I would love to see it happen," but he thinks it's pretty unlikely. A manager wouldn't want to disrupt his scheduled starter (unless he had planned to use an opener for the second game anyway). At best, you'll get one or two more innings out of your best pitcher, but it won't be his best innings, and it'll be his fifth time facing the top of the order.
- Sam assumes they won't use doubleheaders in the postseason, but he sees a possibility for this trick if a team is desperate to use their ace as much as possible.
- Sam thinks there may be a chance, not for any strategic reason, but because it's fun, the same way it is fun for someone to play all nine positions in a game. Ben thinks the most likely person to try might be Trevor Bauer, since he's entering free agency at the end of the season.
- Ben admits that the circumstances that would lead to the possibility are remote. The pitcher has to make it through seven innings with a low pitch count. Manager don't want to take the risk of the pitcher injuring himself in the second game.
- Sam thinks it's possible to have the previous game's closer start the next game. You would want to have the two outings continuous. But he admits that it's all just a goofy thing to do, with no real strategic advantage.
Hit by pitches
- Ben and Sam both think that over 90% of hit-by-pitches are unintentional. Ben notes that there are semi-intentional hit-by-pitches, for example, if you are trying to establish the inside of the plate, and you're willing to accept hitting someone once in a while as a side effect.
- Gauging intent by studying body language is misleading. For example, after Fernando Tatís Jr.'s grand slam, pitcher Ian Gibaut threw behind Manny Machado as clear retaliation. However, Gibaut looked at his hand as if to suggest that the ball had merely slipped.
- Ben suggests looking at the game situation. Is it a high-leverage situation? Was it a fastball or an off-speed pitch? Was it early in the plate appearance or late?
- Ben thinks that if we crowdsourced the decision as to whether the hit-by-pitch was intentional, it would be 85-90% correct.
- Sam believes that intentional hit-by-pitches are rare in high-leverage situations, but then realizes that in high-leverage situations, there may be more inside pitching, and the batter is more willing to get hit by a pitch.
- Sam's new idea is to look at the pitcher's historic rate of hit-by-pitches with fastballs in low-leverage situations.
- Bill James tweeted about the likelihood of being hit by a pitch if you homered off them in your previous plate appearance in the same game. According to James, the rate was higher in the 1940's and 1950's, but is lower now. Sam thinks that pitchers were more retaliatory back then, and that nowadays pitchers are on a shorter leash and are less likely to face nine more batters.
Can chairs be wobbly in 2020?
- Ten out of 30 teams started the season with new managers.
- Sam thinks that you're less likely to be fired for a losing record in 2020. But it's also harder to hold a team together, so it's possible that a general manager would think that the manager has lost control of the team. He doesn't think GMs will be fired, but managers are still at risk.
- Ben thinks the short season will make it less likely for managers to lose their jobs.
- Sam acknowledges that "this is a year where a lot of our expectations for ourselves and each other are on pause." He feels the bar for deciding that someone has failed at their job is higher this year.
High pitch counts in 1-2-3 innings
- Ben and Sam ignore the question of the largest spread in pitch counts for consecutive 1-2-3 innings on the grounds that it is uninteresting.
- They focus on looking for high pitch counts in 1-2-3 innings. The average plate appearance is 4 pitches. Sam guessed that the record would be around 34 (14+11+9). Ben also thought it would be high.
- Pitch data is available going back to 1988. Lucas Apostoleris found that the record is 28 pitches, which occurred three times, most recently Rafael Betancourt in 2011. (Spreadsheet linked below.) Apostoleris included three-batter innings as well as 1-2-3 innings.
- Sam thinks that it's great that the record is within reach. If the first batter has a long at-bat, you can start watching for it.
- Sam's theory as to why the record is so low: Long at-bats tend to go to full counts, and OBP on full counts is around .500, so you have a 7/8 chance of getting a baserunner, who would have to be retired via a double play.
- Brandon Belt's 21-pitch plate appearance (discussed in Episode 1207) was sandwiched between 7-pitch and 6-pitch plate appearances, so those three batters combined soaked up 34 pitches. If Andrew McCutcheon had grounded into a double play instead of hitting a single, it would have been a 34-pitch 1-2-3 inning.
- Sam concludes, "I think I will see it [a 34-pitch 1-2-3 inning] happen."
- Sam notes that long plate appearances (10 pitches or more) have been increasing.
- Editor's note: The record was broken the very day this episode was recorded, as discussed in Episode 1582.
Half no-hitters through 4.5 innings
- Listener Adam Ott found 106 "half no-hitters" in the Retrosheet database, most recently Noah Syndergaard (Mets) and Stephen Strasburg (Nationals) in 2019. (Spreadsheet linked below.)
- It happens about half as often as regular no-hitters. Ben and Sam try to guess why.
- Adam's theory is that a no-hitter requires a good pitcher and a poor-hitting team. But a "half no-hitter" requires two good pitchers and two poor-hitting teams. Another way of looking at it is that each game has two opportunities for a no-hitter (home team or visiting team), but only one opportunity for a "half no-hitter".
- Ben wonders if "half no-hitters" are actually more likely because both pitchers are fresher and haven't gone through the order a third time.
- Sam like's Adam's theory. Sam also notes that a no-hitter is more likely to be thrown by a pitcher on a good team, and that good team is less likely to be a victim of a no-hitter. Also, home field advantage favors one team, which doesn't help a "half no-hitter". Finally, Sam recalls that pitchers taking no-hitters deep into the game actually get better, perhaps because the defense tries harder or (as Ben notes) strike zones get more generous. Sam notes that nobody pays attention to "half no-hitters", so these effects are nonexistent.
- Ben is now enamored of the "half no-hitter" and will get more excited about them than real no-hitters.
- Ben defers the discussion of Thom Brennaman's use of a homophobic slur to the next episode, so he can discuss it with a guest.
- Episode 1580: Meet Me Halfway
- Ben on the eclipse game
- Ben on Tatís Jr. and unwritten rules
- Ringer MLB Show on Tatís Jr. and unwritten rules
- Bill James on home runs and hit batters
- Eric Gallipo’s Stat Blast Song cover
- Mariners career pitching leaderboards
- Episode with discussion about defining 1-2-3 innings: Episode 866
- List of 1-2-3 innings with most pitches thrown
- List of games with “half no-hitters” by both teams
- Ben on the strike zone at the end of no-hitter attempts
- Ben on umpire perfect games