LINK: How Have Pitch Counts Changed Over the Years?

I read somewhere that since the earliest days of baseball pitchers, on average, through on average 100 pitches per start. Seems that pitchers would mix up very long and very short starts, and end up at 100 pitches generally.

Today, I found at the Sabernomics website, actual data on pitch counts over the years from 1988 to 2009, which shows much the same thing. Pitchers used to throw many more pitches in a game back then than they ever do today, but they also sometimes threw far fewer. And on average, the results are pretty similar.

Read all about it here.

Of course, this is all the era of the five-man rotation, long after the days of pitchers throwing both games of a doubleheader. That’s when pitchers were men.

LINK: What Makes A Fan?

Screenshot 2014-04-22 23.12.43This NY Times story digs deep into Facebook Like data to discover what teams Facebookers are fans of, then maps that to the Facebooker’s ages when their teams won World Series.

When I was eight the Yankees lost the World Series to the Cardinals, then spent the next 15 years in CBS and Steinbrenner hell. It was hard not to like Horace Clark, but it was in those years when I was nine to 17 that my love affair with the Mets took hold.

Over at I think we see constant evidence that the bands we fell in love with when we were 15-25 or so are the ones that stick with us forever. Baseball seems to ring a somewhat earlier chord.


The Future of Sabremetrics

I’m sure the SABR Analytics conference would be great fun.

For one, Phoenix in March is baseball heaven, if you can get tickets.

Plus, as this story by Christina Kahrl makes clear, there are lots of smart baseball analysts in one place talking about the game and the analysis of its numbers. But two things struck me about the answers Christina got about sabrementrics, evolution or revolution?

First, that this year’s big story was pitch framing. I don’t know what was presented at the conference, but what I like about much of the pitch framing work I’ve seen is just how teased out it is. Like a detective story or  a bit of counterhistory, the idea has existed for a long time. The PitchF/X numbers don’t obviously lead to framing data, but when churned and cleaned, new information emerges. That’s neat.

The other is more important. A few of the respondents talk about the importance of the PitchF/X data and some mention the BIS fielding data, the importance of which cannot be overestimated. To the extent that data is available and more eyes see it and are inspired to work with it, the more real information is developed.

Which is why MLB’s VP of Stats Cory Schwartz’s statement seems like the most significant in the piece: “I think once we are able to roll out the complete field-tracking system and start to introduce some of that data into public space to whatever extent it might be, I think that will further increase the pace of evolution and perhaps bring about what we would consider revolutionary turning points.”

Emphasis mine. Some of that data, to whatever extent it might be, these qualifiers are going to make a huge difference to the future of the analytic community in the coming years. MLBAM surely recognizes the incredible dynamic force they unleashed by making the PitchF/X data available, something we should not fail to remind them every chance we get.

LINK: Strength of Schedule is a Little Thing.

soslightsAs the editor of a fantasy football magazine, I’m aware that schedule strength is a big thing in the make believe pigskin racket. But we don’t talk about it much in baseball because it is a little thing.

But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter.

Jeff Sullivan, at FanGraphs, took a look at the relative strength of the divisions today. That’s a little interesting, especially the historical chart, but really, didn’t we all know that already?

Commenters also pointed out that division strength is meaningful but unevenly distributed. The best team in the division plays the four weaker teams, it doesn’t have to play itself. And the worst teams plays the four stronger teams, it doesn’t get to play itself.

So Jeff did some math stuff, I’m not sure what, and came up with a strength of schedule for each team. Assuming he got the math stuff right, we get a little more granular on the way strength of schedule affects baseball teams.

Some folks in the comments created and posted images that add info, like hitting/pitching splits to the graph.

This summary of team WAR in the site’s Depth Charts pages could be a good way to find systemic imbalances that might affect fantasy value and is worth checking out, too.

I’m pretty sure we’ve got most of these things priced in, but it can’t hurt to have more information.


Coming Soon! More baseball stats!

Screenshot 2014-03-02 13.48.20Major League Baseball Advanced Media announced yesterday that starting in 2015 every major league ballpark will have a system in place to measure placement and speed of all objects on the ballfield. Now, if only they would do something about the lines to buy food. (Kidding. Actually they seem to have.)

It is unclear whether the new system will replace Pitch F/x. It is being tested this year in Minnesota, Milwaukee and at Citi Field in New York.

The story has a video clip showing Jason Heyward making a diving catch on a fly ball into the gap, then on the replay shows how hard and high the batter hit the ball and tracks Heyward has he runs, showing his distance run, speed and acceleration.

The promise of a system like this is that, once aggregated, the data will help us learn all sorts of new things about defensive abilities, defensive strategies, the value of speed and in all likelihood stuff we can’t even imagine now.

Besides it’s relationship to Pitch F/x, which has produced a lot of innovative research because it was available, and Hit and Field F/x, which were not, is the availability of the data to the baseball research community.

No doubt MLBAM will look for the system to pay for itself through team and media licenses, but the widespread distribution of data will help improve the system initially and spur innovative uses after that.

Exciting stuff.


RESOURCE: The Hardball Times Correlation of Every Batted Ball Tool

I sure hope I linked to the Hardball Times Correlation of Every Pitched Ball Tool last year. It is a web app that helps you compare two stats and see how they correlate, either in one year or compared to the next or preceding years.

It is an easy way to quickly test ideas, to see whether the data supports that one stat is a leading indicator of another.

Steve Staude has just released a hitting version of the tool.

Accompanying the two tools (and an accompanying spreadsheet with all the data) he explores some fundamental issues about batted ball data and strike zone data that point to all sorts of evidence to support or crush conjectures.

I happen to like this chart, which shows various rates on batted ball types.

Screenshot 2014-03-01 15.27.07

Steve points out that BABIP on Fly Balls compared to Ground Balls makes it look like Ground Balls are better, but reminds us that since Home Runs aren’t included in BABIP, it is misleading. All the other stats give a better idea of the relative value of Fly Balls and Ground Balls.


Patton $ Online: New Update is Out February 22nd.

pattonlogoThis week’s update includes more batting order and pitching role info, a listing of the MLB Top 100 Rookies, updated projections and team assignments, and the ever evolving bid prices of Rotoman and Mike Fenger in 5×5, and Alex Patton in 4×4. Updates will continue through April 3.

Subscribers can update at the secret download page.

For more information about the software, spreadsheet and text files, visit

In The News: Lord Zola Proclaims 2-20-14

Todd Zola and I were members of the usenet group back when George Clinton was president. We knew what was coming.

And now, today, umpteen years later, we both published charts linking draft order to auction prices, which seems to be the new orange. Make of it what you will.

I think Todd’s story does a fine job pointing out that using ADP for your mixed draft analysis is not enough. And I’m happy to embrace Todd’s perfectly independently concluded idea that draft value is akin to auction value.

FWIW Todd and I are talking about sharing data and working on some new ideas, too.


Dear Rotoman:

Jose Abreu gets hit by a TON of pitches.  How much more valuable does that make him in a OBP-instead-of-Avg league?


Dear A:

José_Dariel_Abreu_on_March_9,_2013One thing we don’t know is how many pitches Jose Abreu will be hit by in the major leagues. In 2010-11 he was hit 21 times in Cuba, which ranked fourth in the league. Considering he led the league in hitting and slugging and tied for the most homers (with Yoenis Cespedes), fourth doesn’t seem like a lot.

But let’s look at what it means to be hit a lot by major league pitchers. Last year the leader in the category was Shin-Soo Choo, who was plunked 26 times, followed by Starling Marte (24) and  Shane Victorino (18).

But as a percentage of plate appearances Marte led all of baseball last year, getting hit in 4.2 percent. He made a hit in 25.2 percent of his plate appearances and walked in 4.4 percent, so getting hit by a pitch represents one seventh of his on base value.

This compares with the average batting title qualifier, who made a hit in 24.4 percent of his appearances, walked 8.5 percent of the time, and was hit by a pitch 0.8 percent of the time (or about one thirty-third of his on base value).

There are two ways to look at this.

One seventh is 14 percent, a small but measurable part of a player’s value. Let’s say a hitter was worth $20, $4 in each of the five cats. One seventh of $4 would reduce his value in OBP from $4 to $3.42, or $3. His total value would be $19, not $20, which seems small but represents a five percent decline.

The other way is to note that the average player is hit about one percent of the time. Someone who gets hit like Marte is hit about five time more often, so he gets five times more value than players who don’t get hit. For someone like Marte, who doesn’t walk that much, the HBP boosts his OBP up to the average level for a batting title qualifier.

Either way, it matters, but isn’t a game changer.

One final thought about those HBP. In discussing them above, I treated them as if the choice was between a HBP or an out, but clearly some HBP would lead to bases on balls, and some bases on balls for a regular player might become a HBP for a player who crowds the plate or tends to dive in on the delivery. That narrows the difference some, and reduces the expected value of our most prolific guys with a talent for getting hit (not hits).

ron-hunt-hitWe don’t know if Juan Abreu is going to be Starling Marte or Shin-Soo Choo. He probably won’t be Mark Trumbo, who had the most at bats with no HBP last year in the major leagues, and he could turn out to be Ron Hunt, who holds the modern record for most HPB in a season. That would be 50 in 1971, which represented 7.8 percent of his plate appearances!

That was 20 percent of his on base value that year. Let’s consider that the ceiling, at least until we get to see Abreu play regularly.