Saturday, November 16, 2013

Not all .300 batting averages are created equal

On a recent post, one of my most faithful readers with the great guest name of, "RichieAllen1964," did not understand what I meant by a batting average being somewhat meaningless. It is a fair question. Baseball fans like us who have been watching decades of games have been trained to think that if a batter hits .300 in a season or career, he is pretty special. While I cannot get past the old feelings that such a season or a career is pretty cool, not all .300 seasons or careers are the same.

My favorite example is the Tim Raines and Tony Gwynn career comparison. Gwynn was known as a magician with the bat and was an expert of hitting the ball "where they ain't." His career batting average after twenty seasons from 1982 to 2001 was .338. Along the way, he compiled 3,141 hits. Raines was never considered the hitter that Gwynn was. Raines finished his 21 year career from 1981 to 2001 (I am not counting two "cup of coffee" seasons) with a career batting average of .294. And Raines compiled 2,605 hits.

Most fans would look at those two careers and feel that Gwynn was a much better player than Raines. After all, Gwynn compiled 536 more career hits and had a batting average that was 44 points higher. But when you dig much deeper, the two players were worth about the same during their parallel careers.

Now you might jump to conclusions that I am including base running and fielding into this mix. And, yeah, if you want to look at the total valuation, Raines finished with an fWAR of 66.4 and Gwynn finished with an fWAR of 65. The two were so close (overall) that it is a wash. But I am not even talking about those overall evaluations. I am talking about just the offensive worth that does not include base running or fielding.

Raines compares with Gwynn offensively as well. Gwynn finished with a career wOBA of .370. Raines finished slightly behind him at .361. But that is not the full story. If we look at batting runs for their respective careers, Gwynn finished with 401.5 batting runs according to Fangraphs. That same site assigns Raines with 408.1.

Here is the statistic I really love. It is called Runs Created and was developed by Bill James and others and it "estimates a player’s total contributions to a team’s runs total." According to the career leaders in this statistic, both are exactly tied for 57th Place all time with 1,636 runs created!

In wOBA, Gwynn is slightly higher. In batting runs, Raines is slightly higher. In runs created, they are tied exactly. Gwynn's higher batting average means nothing to the equation. In this comparison, the batting average is moot. The two players are virtually tied when it comes to offensive worth.

Let's look at 2013 for a more recent example. Let's compare Torii Hunter and Josh Donaldson. Hunter had 652 plate appearances and Donaldson had 668. Hunter batted .304 and Donaldson, .301. The two batting averages are virtually identical. But the offensive worth of their seasons were anything but.

Donaldson's wOBA was .384. His batting runs according to were 37.3. His adjusted batting runs according to B-R were 40.64. Hunter's wOBA was .346. His batting runs were 12.5 and his adjusted batting runs were 10.67. Donaldson's season was a little better than three times greater offensively than Hunter which makes their batting averages the least important statistic when rating their offensive seasons.

And just for fun, I leave you with the "emptiest" .300 hitters since 1990:

Rk Player RC BA OPS+ PA BtRuns ▴ Year
1 Juan Pierre 101 0.327 89 683 -11.41 2001
2 Placido Polanco 70 0.307 88 610 -11.09 2001
3 Doug Glanville 60 0.300 88 510 -9.63 1997
4 Mike Caruso 68 0.306 90 555 -9.31 1998
5 Garret Anderson 80 0.303 92 662 -8.52 1997
6 Mark Grudzielanek 91 0.306 93 696 -8.16 1996
7 Tony Womack 80 0.307 91 606 -6.77 2004
8 A.J. Pierzynski 65 0.300 93 535 -6.56 2009
9 Gregg Jefferies 72 0.301 93 592 -6.51 1998
10 Joe Randa 89 0.304 94 665 -6.1 2000
11 Jordan Pacheco 66 0.309 94 505 -6.06 2012
12 Hal Morris 61 0.309 90 516 -5.95 1998
13 Darryl Hamilton 83 0.315 93 568 -5.46 1999
14 Ryan Theriot 81 0.307 93 661 -4.78 2008
15 Juan Pierre 97 0.305 94 747 -4.77 2003
16 Luis Castillo 77 0.301 94 615 -3.98 2007
17 Orlando Cabrera 91 0.301 95 701 -3.71 2007
18 Jamey Carroll 70 0.300 94 534 -3.41 2006

Friday, November 15, 2013

My brother swallowed a jawbreaker and other baseball stories

My brother, Mike, was born in the spring of 1958, about twenty months after I entered this world. And while I was never a bully to him, there were times that I could have been kinder. From the earliest days of my memory, we did everything together. One of my earliest play memories was playing football with him in our front yard. To his misfortune, I tackled him beyond the grass and onto the driveway. When I got off of him, he turned around and two of his front teeth were missing. Things like that always seemed to happen to him.

Apparently, one time my dad was walking Mike in a baby carriage and somehow spilled him. Mike dented his head from that episode.

We were playmates and that lasted all through our childhood. Even when other friends were introduced, he and I were together. My older sister and I were planned children, or so we were told. My brother was sort of an oops and surprised the heck out of my parents. They were so stunned that they never gave him a middle name.

A little knowledge like that is never a good thing for children. We never let him forget his mistake status. If he ever complained that he did not have a middle name, we would point out that he was a mistake and lucky he had any names at all. We would tell him to point to his head and say his initials. He would diligently repeat back, "MT." He never understood until years later why we were laughing so hard.

But being the youngest did have some advantages. For example, I knew from an early age that I was not allowed to hit him. Thus, when we had arguments, which were frequent, he could get in a few shots at me and I was not allowed to retaliate. The only thing I could do was wrestle him to the ground and sit on him, which I would do until my long-suffering sister would hear his shouts and come in to rescue him.

My poor sister could not win for losing. My mom was a full-blooded Sicilian-Italian. And in that culture, the male offspring were young gods and female children were slaves. Well, it wasn't that bad, but it was close. She was older than me by four years and spent most of her childhood looking after Mike and me. 

And our little spats drove her crazy. She would come running in and Mike would be crying under my butt and she would slug me hard until I got off of him. That would make me cry and I would bellow that Mike started it. When she asked him, he would always agree. She couldn't win.

One time, I got my sister so mad that she chased me all over the house trying to get a hold of me to throttle me. She couldn't quite get to me and she chased me out the front door. I ran into the garage and the door inside was always unlocked. But this one time, it was not. I was trapped. So I burst out crying. She asked me if I was crying because I felt bad about what I did or because I was scared. I cried out, "Because I'm scared!" She started crying too. She couldn't win.

Anyway, Mike and I, despite our arguments, were playmates. We always seemed to like the same things and I feel badly for the children of today. We spent our entire young lives inventing our own entertainment. If the weather was not raining, we were outside doing something. If it was raining, we made up games or played inside. I can never remember being bored. Ever.

As soon as we could wear baseball gloves, Mike and I would play ball in the backyard. If we weren't doing that, we built our own Matchbox car cities in the clay on the side of the house. We made garages and houses and roads and everything for our cars. New Jersey clay is great stuff. Not only did it pack real good, but we found out early that if you threw a dried clump of it and it hit the ground, it made this poof like thing that looked just like a bomb hit. That was perfect for playing with our army men. 

Naturally, I reached the age of organized ball first. My mom smartly avoided Little League. In our town, you had to try out and it was a status thing. I was "husky" before the sixth grade and the Police Athletic Leagues, or PAL, let everyone play no matter the ability level. That was more my speed. 

With my husky stature, I caught or played first base. I remember being fairly good at either and I hit well in those early days. I remember the kids being waved back when I got up. I liked that.

Mike became the team mascot. He was always there at the practices and I cannot ever remember a game that he was not in the dugout. I guess we called him the batboy, but he did not do very much when it came to chasing bats around. 

One time, we were in the middle of a game and my brother was sucking on a jawbreaker. If you do not know what those are or were, they were about the size of a pinball and the only way to eat it was to put the entire thing in your mouth so you looked like a chipmunk. I think a sadist must have invented them.

My brother had this big old thing in his mouth in the middle of a game and in the heat of some action, he sucked in and the entire thing went down his throat. We all stopped in the dugout because these strange noises were coming from my brother. It was sort of this gurgling, "Ah Ah Ah," kind of thing. Some of us laughed and some of us looked nervous.

Suddenly, he burped and the jawbreaker shot out of his mouth and crashed in pieces against the other dugout wall. We all laughed uproariously, totally unaware that he could have died choking on that thing. Later, either that season or the next one, he was sucking on a large ice cube and the entire thing repeated itself, including the conclusion. Mike was a good mascot. SMH.

My coach, Tom, was terrific with us kids. He was a handsome young Italian guy and we looked up to him. One season, he took us to Yankee Stadium (that would have been Yankee Stadium I) for a game and treated us all. I asked if I could take Mike and he said yes, as long as I kept track of him and he didn't get lost.

Sure enough, the game gets over and we are all getting on the bus and Mike is nowhere to be found. An aggravated Tom had to take me back inside the Stadium and we eventually found him nonchalantly talking to some guy about the game. Tom wasn't pleased with me and I was none too pleased with Mike.

Mike was a better natural athlete than me. He had a much stronger arm and looked smoother and better doing things than me. For example, bowling became a big part of our lives and we joined this Saturday morning bowling league. I remember the head of it being one Mrs Finn. She was a mighty fine looking woman with her miniskirts and perfect hair. We loved to bowl, but she was a big reason for us showing up every week. Her son, M.G. Finn bowled on our team. He was a nice kid. I wonder what ever happened to him.

I had to work hard at bowling and learn how to use the arrows on the lane to set up my shot. Nothing came naturally to me. But my brother always had this smooth delivery with this beautiful and natural curve to his shot. I usually beat him because he might have been a natural, but I was more thoughtful about it.

The same thing with baseball. Once he started playing organized ball, he became a shortstop and was always very good and he hit really well. Once pitchers learned to throw curves, I was toast. Once I lost my baby fat and got my legs under me, I could fly and was the fastest kid on the field. I became the center fielder in the older leagues and I was terrific. But I could not hit because of that curve. One consistent memory was striking out and the third base coach bellowing, "What are you looking at me for?"

I think one year, I had three hits all year in the Pony League and they were all bunts. The only time I remember all year actually hitting the ball with a swing, it went foul. But when I got those three hits on bunts, or when I walked, I was on second because there wasn't a catcher who could throw me out.

It was my brother who was a star in Pony League and he made All Star teams.

There are distinct things I remember. We played just about every kind of ball game we could think of. There was stoop ball in which a rubber ball was thrown against the steps by the player on offense and the other would try to field the rebound. A ground ball past the defender was a single, a fly ball over his head was a double.

There was, of course, Whiffleball, of which we became masters. There was a game my brother and I invented called, "Ground ball to short," which I described in a recent post. And of course, there were the neighborhood stickball games. All you needed were a glove, a Spalding Red Rubber Ball and a broom stick. Two manhole covers were a home run. Those games were epic.

When the weather wasn't good, we made up our own dice baseball game. I remember a seven was a strikeout and a two or a twelve were homers. We would play entire seasons and have statistics and everything. And then we discovered Strat-O-matic Baseball and played entire seasons of that over and over.

We also loved playing Frisbee. I was more accurate. My brother was more fancy. It was so funny how we loved the same things. We lived and died by the Yankees and the Knicks. We kept score on both whenever we watched on television. We liked the same television programs: Star Trek, I Dream of Jeannie, Beverly Hillbillies, Mannix. We liked the same sweet treats.

My brother and I had our spats and I certainly played the older brother role ruthlessly at times, but my entire childhood was spent with him just about every hour of every day we weren't in school. He was my constant day in and day out until I went off to college and he found a new group of friends.

We drifted apart after that and he lived a thousand miles away from my grown up life. But I would not trade my childhood with him for anything. He was the best childhood playmate anyone could have ever asked for. Unlike my brother, my son has a middle name. It is his uncle's.

The awards season is over - How did I do?

Now that the MVPs have been announced and Twitter has been through a day of name-calling ("Stupid" and "Moron" the most common), we have our full slate of awards for the season. I wanted to take a second to look back at my choices and see how I came out next to the BBWAA and the BBA. So I took a look at my picks and all in all, there was not a whole lot of disagreement.

The BBA differed from the BBWAA in two areas. The BBA had John Farrell for its best manager in the American League for 2013 and had Mike Trout as the best player in the American League. I differed from both organizations on two accounts each, which is sort of weird.

I had Yasiel Puig as my rookie in the National League and I had Mike Trout as the best AL player. But my manager picks both agreed with the BBWAA manager picks. Both the BBWAA and BBA had Jose Fernandez as the NL's best rookie so there was a disconnect for me with both organizations. I differed on Trout with the BBWAA and on Farrell with the BBA.

There was some division caused by the NL rookie voting, but nothing like the vitriol caused by the Trout versus Miguel Cabrera camps. The passion displayed by both sides is really heated and frankly, I find the name-calling distasteful. There is some disconnect out there on how to rate players that many have dubbed an old-school versus new-school debate.

That is unfortunate because it is divisive. Yes, Trout has not received the ultimate recognition but he did win the Silver Slugger Award and came in second in the BBWAA voting, so that is hardly sheep dip. I believe he is the best player in the American League for the second season in a row. But the fact is that 99.8% of those who voted in either organization do so because they write about a sport they love. There are simply some who disagree on how to value players and what is important in doing so.

There is one area of agreement and that is that Miguel Cabrera is the best offensive player of this generation. He might even be the best hitter I have seen in my lifetime. So the arguments have been about the best pure hitter in baseball versus the best all-around player in the game today. I worry a bit about Cabrera's rise in slugging since 2010 because of the times we live in and I have not forgotten his alcohol-related incidents earlier in his career. I still consider those egregious and thought he got a pass by baseball.

But those are side issues and do not take away the greatness of his offensive exploits. I find the argument an interesting one on how to value Cabrera versus Trout. I just hate the name calling.

We have our awards and we have our winners. They are etched in stone for the rest of baseball immortality. Debates about the winners have been going on forever. The tone is just different. I am glad my choices were made and stick with them and am somewhat pleased that I was dead on in most of them. Of course, neither the BBA or the BBWAA have come around to adopting the Dan Meyer and Kyle Davies Awards. That is there problem. Heh.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

BABIP wanderings

I was wandering through some 2013 statistics this morning looking for anything that might be interesting. What I came upon was some interesting BABIP statistics. I fully admit that they interest me and might not interest anyone else. And I also admit that these numbers have nothing to do with a player's worth/value or anything on that side of the equation. The only thing it might indicate in the end is my lonely hatred of strikeouts. But these are guys who had a batting average on balls in play of .300 or better and yet still hit below .250. 

I grind my teeth when it comes to strikeouts. So many people tell me to get over it. An out is an out they all say. Strikeouts mean nothing when a guy still slugs over .500 and has a wOBA over .330. I get it. I really do. I understand. But I hate them. I hate when I watch baseball and there are runners on second and third and a strikeout-prone guy does what he normally does 25% of the time or higher. It becomes a totally useless at bat. I scream at the screen, "Just put the ball in play and you can score!"

There were 27 players with more than 200 plate appearances whose BABIPs were .300 or better and yet whose batting averages were .250 or worse. In other words, when these players put the ball in play, they can contend for the batting title. But these 27 players averaged a strikeout percentage of 26.87%. So more than a quarter of the time, they do not put the ball in play.

And before you go all gonzo on me, I know that batting average is a fairly meaningless statistic. And yet, it does make up a component of on-base percentage, which is meaningful and OBP is a part of OPS, which again holds meaning. While a batting average by itself is fairly meaningless as a statistic, if it is low, it does drag down the OBP and OPS. So it matters. It does not matter enough to make Tony Gwynn more valuable than Tim Raines, but that is not what this post is all about.

This post is about guys who have very good success when they put the ball in play, but don't put the ball in play enough.

Take Jonathan Villar of the Astros for example. He had a BABIP of .362. Yeah, that sounds a bit lucky. But when he hit the ball, he was phenomenally successful. But he batted .243. His 118 point swing between BABIP and batting average was the highest in baseball in 2013 of all players with more than 200 PAs. His strikeout rate was 29.46%.

The second highest disparity was Jordan Schafer of the Braves. He had a BABIP of .348 and a batting average of .247. That is a 101 point difference. Rad. He struck out over 27% of the time.

Five of the 27 players were Houston Astros: Villar, Brett Wallace, Brandon Barnes, J.D. Martinez and Chris Carter

Jason Kubel was interesting. He was the guy that chased Chris Young away from the Diamondbacks. That did not work out so well. Not only did you lose a ton of defense, but Kubel had a .311 BABIP with a .216 batting average. To be fair, Young was awful with the A's.

Drew Stubbs was another one with a BABIP of .319 and a batting average of .233. 

I will leave you will my list below, but I just thought it was interesting. The list feeds my hate of strikeouts. But I know, I know: Get over it, William

Player PA BAbip BA difference Tm SO SO%
Josh Hamilton 636 0.303 0.25 0.053 LAA 158 24.84%
Chase Headley 600 0.319 0.25 0.069 SDP 142 23.67%
Eric Young 598 0.301 0.249 0.052 TOT 100 16.72%
Chris Carter 585 0.311 0.223 0.088 HOU 212 36.24%
Giancarlo Stanton 504 0.313 0.249 0.064 MIA 140 27.78%
Drew Stubbs 481 0.319 0.233 0.086 CLE 141 29.31%
Emilio Bonifacio 461 0.312 0.243 0.069 TOT 103 22.34%
Brandon Barnes 445 0.327 0.24 0.087 HOU 127 28.54%
Juan Lagares 421 0.31 0.242 0.068 NYM 96 22.80%
Juan Francisco 385 0.314 0.227 0.087 TOT 138 35.84%
Alex Avila 379 0.305 0.227 0.078 DET 112 29.55%
Jose Lobaton 311 0.3 0.249 0.051 TBR 65 20.90%
J.D. Martinez 310 0.319 0.25 0.069 HOU 82 26.45%
Kyle Blanks 308 0.317 0.243 0.074 SDP 85 27.60%
Derek Norris 308 0.301 0.246 0.055 OAK 71 23.05%
Jayson Nix 303 0.321 0.236 0.085 NYY 80 26.40%
Andres Torres 300 0.31 0.25 0.06 SFG 61 20.33%
Darin Ruf 293 0.324 0.247 0.077 PHI 91 31.06%
Jason Kubel 290 0.311 0.216 0.095 TOT 92 31.72%
Ronny Cedeno 288 0.323 0.242 0.081 TOT 73 25.35%
Brett Wallace 285 0.31 0.221 0.089 HOU 104 36.49%
Jordan Schafer 265 0.348 0.247 0.101 ATL 73 27.55%
Hank Conger 255 0.307 0.249 0.058 LAA 61 23.92%
Curtis Granderson 245 0.302 0.229 0.073 NYY 69 28.16%
Jonathan Villar 241 0.362 0.243 0.119 HOU 71 29.46%
Chris Nelson 227 0.313 0.227 0.086 TOT 66 29.07%
Sean Rodriguez 222 0.323 0.246 0.077 TBR 59 26.58%
9946 2672 26.87%

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Should Manny Machado ever be a shortstop?

Few of us who witnessed or saw on replay the Manny Machado injury in the latter part of 2013 will ever forget it. Legs simply are not supposed to go in the direction that ended his season as his was on the ground behind first base. It was gruesome. I thought of that scene recently when I heard some analyst state recently (I cannot remember who or where) that Manny Machado will some day be the Orioles' shortstop. Is that still a realistic possibility?

I went to do some reading on his injury and the surgery required to fix it. I think this article is pretty much the definitive reading resource. And after reading the piece, I did not come away with all kinds of warm fuzzies that Machado was going to be totally fine after his rehabilitation. The feeling I received was that Machado has an anatomical predisposition to having further kneecap problems. According to the article, this is Machado's second event and this time it took out the tendons with it.

It looks like he is in for a major rehab process and it sounds to me like mid-April is a somewhat safe guess on when he will be back. You do not have to worry about this year because J.J. Hardy is signed through 2014 and will be a free agent in 2015. But what then? Do you really want to take this young talent, this former third overall pick in the draft and put him at further risk making pivots at second base with runners barreling into him all season long? Would not third base be a safer way to keep him as healthy as possible?

2014 will also tell a lot about Machado's flexibility and maneuverability after he comes back to play. If he has the sure signs of losing some range of motion and loss of speed, then the decision might be made for the team. If that is the case, then the Orioles might want to think about extending Hardy or look for other options such as Adrian Marin, another kid from Miami like Machado who could make a similar early leap into the Majors.

But let's look at this another way. What if Manny Machado comes back from his rehab perfectly fine and looks to be the same player he was before the injury? Why would you move him from third? According to both and, Machado just completed the second best fielding season ever for a third baseman. If you look at B-R's leaderboard for zone runs for a season, there his 2013 season sits sandwiched between Brooks Robinson's 1968 (the best ever) and the Hall of Fame player's 1967 season.

In other words, nobody has played third base that well in 46 years! Why would you then move him? Because a shortstop is hypothetically more valuable to a team than a third baseman? I get the notion. And perhaps the lead guitarist in a band is the most valuable band member and perhaps Paul McCartney could have been that guy. Instead, McCartney became one of the best bass players in history. Maybe that analogy is a stretch, but it sort of makes my point here.

Whether the guy is playing short or third, if we already know that he can play third better than anyone else since Brooks Robinsion, it seems that you have found something you shouldn't mess with.

Ideally, you would like your third baseman to have some pop in the lineup. At least that is the prevalent theory. And I am not quite yet sold on Machado offensively. Machado has lost any sense of patience at the plate he displayed in the minors and his second half of 2013 was abysmal. He batted under .200 in two of his last three months with an OPS under .600 in those months.

But if you add up his season in total, his 51 doubles and 12 homers could turn someday soon into 31 doubles and 32 homers and then you have your ideal. Even so, most teams in baseball would have taken the offensive output that Machado put out in 2013 for their third the Yankees for example.

The Orioles and perhaps many baseball analysts still might look at Manny Machado as the Orioles' future shortstop. Such a notion seems too big a risk to him physically long term and illogical considering how valuable a third baseman he has become. Machado might some day play short for the Orioles, but that won't mean it will be the right call.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

How did that pace thing work out for the Red Sox?

When John Farrell took over as the manager of the Red Sox and Juan Nieves came on board as the pitching coach, the early stories out of Spring Training were that the Red Sox pitching, which had crashed and burned in 2012, was going to pick up the pace. I was one that had applauded the notion as the Red Sox pitchers were notoriously slow workers. After the season is all said and done, how did that work out? Did the Red Sox pitchers work more quickly?

No matter what answers are found here, you cannot complain about the results. You cannot improve upon winning the World Series. So give Farrell and Nieves all the credit in the world and nobody can argue with you. All I am interested here is whether their goal was met when it came to pace.

Let's take a look:

Pitcher:  2013, 2012, 2011 (in seconds)
Team: 23.4, 24.1, 24.7  - sixth slowest, first slowest, first slowest

The final results do see a slight quickening of pace for the Red Sox over 2012. After being the slowest pitching staff for two years in a row, they tied for the sixth slowest in 2013. Buchholz and Doubront seemed to get the message the clearest and were markedly improved. Others, not so much. And pitchers like Lackey and Dempster worked with a much quicker pace (both around 20 seconds) before they came to the Red Sox. So take that as you will.

The other story line from Spring Training was pounding the strike zone more. Again, there was only slight improvement:
  • First pitch strikes: 60.0% (2013), 59.8% (2012), 59.1% (2011)
  • Zone percentage: 44.3% (2013), 44.7 (2012), 45.1% (2013)
  • Walks per nine: 3.24 (2013), 3.30 (2012), 3.33 (2011)
As I look at these numbers, I see where Nieves had an effect on two of his starting pitchers and a slight, but largely insignificant improvement on "attacking the strike zone." I guess the moral of the story is not to get too wrapped up in stories out of Spring Training.

The other moral of the story is not to complain about success because the Red Sox had it in abundance.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The obscure pitching awards of 2013

I have spent about a week now covering the darker side of baseball statistics encompassing the 2013 season. Call it a balancing of the books when it comes to the regular Awards Season that spends most of our time celebrating the greatness of players during this past season. For every Gold Glove, there are iron ones. For every Rolaids Relief Pitchers there were those that gave the heartburn. What follows are some of the more obscure pitching awards that will not be celebrated when they hand out the trophies.

The Lack of Deception Award
These starting pitchers did not make a living fooling anybody. Cole Hamels led starting pitchers by getting batters to swing at 37.7% of pitches outside the strike zone. These pitchers? Not so much. The four starting pitchers (minimum 100 innings) who least enticed batters to swing at pitches out of the strike zone were:

  1. Sam Deduno - 24.1%
  2. Jason Marquis - 24.5%
  3. Felix Doubront - 24.9%
  4. Nathan Eovaldi - 25%

The relief pitchers with the least amount of swings out of the strike zone were:

  1. Sam LeCure - 25.4%
  2. Kevin Gregg - 25.5%
  3. David Robertson and Dale Thayer - 25.8%

The Starting Off With the Left Foot Award
Everyone makes a big deal out of first pitch strikes. "Get ahead on the count," the adage goes. Throwing a first pitch strike would be getting the at bat off on the right foot. These pitchers are not listening. The relief pitchers with the lowest percentage of first pitch strikes were:

  1. Ryan Pressly - 45.7%
  2. Jim Henderson - 48.6%
  3. Josh Roenicke - 50.4%
  4. Yoernis Medina and Tim Collins - 51.9%

The starting pitchers with the lowest percentage of first pitch strikes were:

  1. Matt Moore - 50.9%
  2. Samuel Deduno - 51.4%
  3. Zack Wheeler - 52%
  4. Ivan Nova - 52.7%  (pronounced, "Nover," if you are Jerry Remy)

Not that the opposite guaranteed success. Phil Hughes led the Majors in first pitch strike percentage (over 70%!) and that did not exactly lead him to a good season.

The Here It Is, Hit It and Hit It and Hit It Award
Everyone loves a pitcher that can miss bats. Francisco Liriano missed more bats than anyone in the Majors in 2013, followed closely by Yu Darvish. These starting pitchers did not miss many bats at all. The starting pitchers with the lowest percentage of swinging strikes were:

  1. Jake Westbrook and Jeremy Guthrie - 5.1%
  2. Lucas Harrell - 5.2%
  3. Mike Pelfrey - 5.3%
  4. Ryan Vogelsong - 5.4%

The relief pitchers with the lowest swinging strike percentages were:

  1. Burke Badenhop - 5.9%
  2. Seth Maness - 6.6%
  3. Kevin Gregg - 7.0%

The Duck for Cover Award
The relief pitchers with the highest line drive percentages allowed were:

  1. Robbie Ross - 28.4%
  2. Jim Henderson - 28.3%
  3. Greg Holland - 27.3%
  4. Junichi Tazawa - 27.2%

The starting pitchers with the highest line drive percentages were:

  1. Wade Davis - 28.6%
  2. Ryan Vogelsong - 27.1%
  3. Corey Kluber - 26.3%
  4. Barry Zito - 25.5%

The Confound the Fielding Scouts Award
How do you set your defense when your pitcher's offerings always seem to find a hole in that defense? The starting pitchers with the highest opposing BABIPs were:

  1. Wade Davis - .376 - which makes sense with his LD percentage.
  2. Joe Blanton - .351
  3. Barry Zito - .347

The relief pitchers with the highest BABIPs allowed were:

  1. Jose Mijares - .410    Holy smokes!
  2. Carter Capps - .365
  3. Oliver Perez - .361

No one else was close!

The Outfielder Whiplash Award
Everyone loves the long ball...unless you are a pitcher. The relief pitchers with the highest percent of their fly balls going over the fence were:

  1. Chris Perez - 20%
  2. Brandon League - 19%
  3. Carter Capps - 18.8%
  4. Heath Bell - 18.5%
  5. Kelvin Herrera - 18%

The starting pitchers with the highest percentage of fly balls going over the fence were:

  1. Roberto Hernandez - 21.1%  (!)
  2. Esmil Rogers - 18.5%
  3. Jason Marquis - 18.2%
  4. Joe Blanton - 18%

The Conga Line Award
These pitchers gave up the most base runners of any starting pitcher

  1. Joe Saunders - 308
  2. Jeff Samardzija and Jeremy Guthrie - 307
  3. CC Sabathia - 304

These relief pitchers (90% or more appearances were in relief) with the most base runners were:

  1. Anthony Swarzak and Josh Collmenter - 116
  2. Adam Warren and TJ McFarland - 114

The Cannot Be Blocked Award

These starting pitcher led all of baseball with wild pitches:

  1. Matt Moore and Trevor Cahill - 17
  2. Edinson Volquez - 16

The Pitching From the Stretch Award

  • Three Colorado Rockies' players tied for the lead with the most balks at three: Rex Brothers, Edgmer Escalona and Wilton Lopez. I think the Rockies need to hold a seminar on this thing as they easily led the Majors with 15 balks. No other team had more than eight. Stephen Strasburg also had three.

The Free Pass Award

  • I don't know if this award should go to the manager or the pitcher...probably the manager. But Ronald Belisario walked the most batters on purpose with ten. Three others tied with eight.

The Aren't Walks and Strikeouts the Same Award
These starting pitchers (100 IP minimum) had the lowest strikeout to walk ratios in the Majors:

  1. Jake Westbrook - 0.88  The only pitcher with more walks than strikeouts.
  2. Lucas Harrell - 1.01
  3. Jason Marquis - 1.06

The relief pitchers (40 IP minimum) with the lowest strikeout to walk ratios were:

  1. Sandy Rosario - 1.20
  2. Josh Roenicke - 1.25
  3. Bryan Morris - 1.32
  4. Tom Wilhelmsen - 1.36

The Let's Not Turn Two Award

  • Aaron Harang gets special mention here. Despite allowing 199 base runners via hit, walk or HBP, Harang only induced four double-plays all season. Amazing.

The Run at Will Award

  • Yovani Gallardo, Matt Moore, Brandon McCarthy, Joe Blanton, Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez pitched a combined 807.2 innings and not a single base steal attempt was stopped while they were pitching. At least Gallardo and Eovaldi picked one guy off.
  • John Lackey led all of baseball with 36 successful base steals against. Scott Feldman was second with 30.

The Not Left On Base Award
Five starting pitchers ended up having 35% or more of all the base runners they put on base score. That could be bad luck, bad pitching, bad fielding, whatever. But it is what it is. The lowest left on base percentages for starters were:

  1. Jordan Lyles - 62.8%
  2. Edwin Jackson - 63.3%
  3. Lucas Harrell - 64.3%
  4. Edinson Volquez - 64.4%
  5. Ryan Vogelsong - 64.7%

I probably could go on all day here, but after a couple of hours, my stomach is grumbling. Happy Veterans Day!