Category Archives: Baseball

Cole Hamels, on the Full Season

The season is gloriously over, with the Phillies winning the World Series on the back of (among others, of course), Cole Hamels.  Hamels had an excellent season, and is expected to finish in the top 5 in Cy Young Award voting, likely falling behind Johan Santana, and Tim Lincecum, falling into the mix with Brandon Webb and teammate Brad Lidge. The numbers:

Player: Innings, ERA, HR/BB/SO

Hamels: 227.3, 3.09, 28/53/196
Santana: 234.3, 2.53, 23/63/206
Lincecum: 227.0, 2.62, 11/84/265
Webb: 226.7, 3.30, 13/64/183
Lidge: 69.3, 1.95, 2/35/92

Now, last season, while talking about the Beckett vs Sabathia Cy Young debate, Joe Posnanski wondered why we don’t count post-season numbers when considering candidates.  I happen to agree with him, and though it might not be entirely fair, here are the new number for the candidates, counting all their regular season, and postseason work:

Hamels: 262.3, 2.92, 30/62/226
Santana: 234.3, 2.53, 23/63/206
Lincecum: 227.0, 2.62, 11/84/265
Webb: 226.7, 3.30, 13/64/183
Lidge: 78.7, 1.83, 2/38/105

As neither the Mets, Giants, or Diamondbacks made the postseason, only Hamels and Lidge had the opportunity to augment or diminish their overall 2008 performances.  Both pitchers were better in the postseason than the regular season, so the race gets tighter.  Converting their counting numbers to rate stats, we can compare the pitchers on a per-inning basis:

Pitcher: HR/9, BB/9, SO/9

Hamels: 1.03, 2.13, 7.75
Santana: 0.88, 2.42, 7.91
Lincecum: 0.44, 3.33, 10.51
Webb:  0.52, 2.58, 7.27
Lidge: 0.26, 4.94, 11.94

Hamels shows by far the best control of the group, and posts a solid strikeout rate, but suffers from a bit of a home run tendency.  1.03 HR/9 really isn’t so bad–it’s about league average–but running with this group, Hamels is the clear trailer.  Santana is better, though not by a large margin, while Webb and Lincecum dual it out among starters, and Lidge laps the field.  It’s worth noting that Santana, Webb, and Lincecum all pitch in home run unfriendly home ballparks, though oddly Santana posted similar Home/Road homer splits, and both Webb and Lincecum were better on the road.  In fact, Lincecum was much worse in San Francisco than he was elsewhere.

In contrast to Hamels excellent control is Lidge’s wildness.  His walk rate is more than double both Santana’s and Hamels’, and is nearly double Webb’s.  Lincecum is wild in his own right, though his 3.33 isn’t quite in the same league as Lidge’s 4.94.  I’m not sure if walk rates tend to go up or down for starters and relievers (taking a quick and dirty scan of a few guys who have done both, I think walk rate drops somewhat), but needless to say, whatever trouble Lidge seems to ever find himself is likely self-produced.  5BB/9IP is just crazy.

In Lidge’s favor is that he counteracts his walk issues by striking out just about everyone he sees.  About 45% of the outs Lidge generated were by the K.  More than a third (36%) of the batters who came to the plate against him walked away after striking out.  The only starter who can even see Lidge’s K rate is Lincecum with a 10.51.

I’m no sabermetrician, obviously, but it seems to me that Hamels has a fairly compelling Cy Young case if one considers his substantial innings advantage.  Forgetting about Lidge for the moment, strictly on an inning by inning basis, Hamels is probably ahead of Webb, and pretty even with Santana.  Despite the walks, Lincecum seems to have a good claim to the prize.  Of course, weighted by innings advantage, Hamels closes the gap on Lincecum, but by how much, I cannot say.

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Watching the Game, Under Elvis Presley’s Glass-Encased Longjohns

It’s official.  This site has, for the time being, become the Shysterball Wide-Eyed Little Brother blog.  That is, we’ve got another post that comes from a topic brought here by Shysterball, so we’re kinda following the guy around, even though he’s all, “back off, I’m trying to make out with Lady Shyster”, but we’re still, “But Shy-STER, we want to play!”

It’s kind of awesome.

Anyway, Shyster informs us:

New Yankee Stadium is sounding increasingly awful:

A Hard Rock Cafe will open in the new Yankee Stadium.


You know, if you’re going to install a crappy, kitsch-filled barfatorium like Hard Rock, you should probably at least install a couple of windows so people can watch a ballgame while they eat their $17 Clapton-Burgers.

The comments generally display the kind of disdain for both Hard Rock and the Yankees that you’d expect.  We even lead things off in that department, but as always, got distracted talking about the Phillies and streakers.  People get focused after that, and everyone gives the big Thumb Down to the parties involved.

Honestly, I don’t think the issue here is really that a Hard Rock is going in, though the big name does put the situation into sharp relief.  Many, if not all, of the new ballparks are putting this kind of trashy, money-grabbing crudpub into their stadiums.  In this sense, it’s only appropriate that the Yankees would jump on what is easily the most famous of the available options.

To me, at least, the larger issue is that this isn’t something the Yankees need to be doing.  The Hard Rock will attract upwards of zero people to Yankee stadium, ESPECIALLY during baseball season, when the area will already be crazy crowded.  The Yankees, as others have noted, like to tout their history whenever possible.  Or, at the very least, they enjoy a certain level of esteem as other people tout said history.  More appropriate, I think, would be something with an inherent sense of history and class of its own, that might attract non-ballfans on its own.

My proposal?  Put a jazz club in there.  Open the place up to the stadium with a porch.  Put all those black-and-whites of Babe and DiMaggio and Yogi and the grainy color shots of Guidry and Reggie and, hell, even Jetes, and put a little stage in there for cats both local and famous to bop all night.  Give the bands explicit orders to “lively” stuff.  If you wanna go really crazy with it, look into the local jazz scenes of your opponents, and see if you can book bands from the city the Yanks are playing.  The Reds are coming to Yankee stadium this weekend.  How cool would it be to hang out on a porch at the game, eat a burger, and listen to Petra Van Nuis instead of Cotton-Eyed Joe?  Personally, if the Phillies got rid of McFaddens and allowed us to combine this with this, we might force Mrs Thursday to bury us under the stadium.  Just sayin.

At the very least, it couldn’t be worse than the fucking Hard Rock.

Oh, and thanks to Osmodious for the title.

Maybe if we keep this nonsense up, Shyster will as us to do weekends over there, so we don’t keep ripping him off during the week.  Probably not.

Shysterball: Yankees… Hard Rock… Why, God, Why?


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Cleveland and Philadelphia: Bosom Buddies

So, yesterday, I linked to a post on ShysterBall, which featured the deranged rantings of yours truly.  Shyster had written a post earlier in the day about championship futility.  I wanted to chime in with my two cents, but, in typical Curious Mechanism fashion, my two cents turned into 8.95, and I had to email the comments to Craig (that is, Shyster hisself), who later posted them.

Well, in the comments on the post, there can be found this comment:

Blogger Peter said…
Dear Philadelphia,

Call me in 2024, when you’ve gone 44 years without a championship in a major sport.


So, Peter, this post is for you, mostly.
They say that misery loves company, and thus, I ask, why must you belittle my misery?  I don’t know you, but I know I can understand your pain, as no Philadelphia teams have won a championship in my lifetime.  Let us commiserate together.

Obviously, there’s a high degree of subjectivity in talking about the “most futile” franchises.  Cleveland has seen (I think) 137 seasons pass since its last championship, between the Tribe, the Browns, and the Cavaliers.  That hurts.  Philadelphia, between the Sixers, Phils, Eagles, and Flyers have suffered 100 losing seasons.  I don’t think any other cities are particularly close to us.

I wouldn’t want to argue which town’s sporting life is more worthy of mourning and pity.  That kind of thing seems to me more life a cry for attention–we’re not arguing over the respective glories of a team.  We’re arguing who’s had the rougher fan-life.  Any victory would be, undoubtedly, Pyrrhic.  I don’t knock the suffering of Cleveland or Boston or any other fans in my email.  The closest I come to it is a bit of a knock on Dan Shaughnessy, but I don’t mean that to say that Red Sox fans weren’t suffering.  I’m sure they did.  I meant to belittle the idea of a “curse”.

To me, the idea of a curse is to glorify a lousy team, or many years of lousy teams.  It’s a device to make fans feel better about their lot by throwing undue attention about the pale basement dwelling team to which they’ve given their time, money, lungs, and spirit.  While Boston might have been gloriously cursed (by Babe Ruth, no less), and the Cubs have long been the Lovable Losers, the Phillies, and by extension, their fans, have mostly lived in either anonymity, or in the enmity of other fans.

From where I sit, Cleveland’s had plenty to be upset about, even aside from the number of years and seasons of losing.  I can only imagine what it’s like to hear the ESPN talking heads pontificate on how native son LeBron James will someday soon leave his hometown team for the Big Money, Big Market, Big Fame.  It must sound like a reminder that Cleveland Just Isn’t Good Enough.

The Tribe is a team that has seen more than its fair share of awful squads, and if you go back in history, you can’t help but notice the 1899 Cleveland Spiders, who sported, I believe, the lowest winning percentage in baseball history (an unnecessarily brutal .130 mark).  Over the past decade, things have more or less been looking up, teamwise, though the amount of flak the team takes for Chief Wahoo seems to be gradually increasing.  I can only guess at what it’s like to reminded that you’re rooting for a team whose founding racism is so front and center at all times.

The Browns…  Okay, I’ll be honest.  I don’t follow the NFL very much, and I especially don’t really follow the AFC, so I can’t speak much to the mind-numbing experience of rooting for the Browns.  But, from my distant perch, the Browns have always seemed to me to be football’s Cubs–that is, the Lovable Losers.  You’ve got the Dawg Pound, right?  And the teams have had a few outstanding players since 1964, but not enough good ones around them to do much.  Of course, there are those legendary losses, and I imagine that “John Elway” tastes sour on your lips.

I’m 24 years old.  I was a fetus when the Sixers won Philadelphia’s last championship.  I don’t know if my sporting experience would be more infuriating and depressing and relentlessly addicting in Cleveland than in Philly.  Honestly, I don’t.  My best guess is that it wouldn’t be harder or easier, just different.

I’ve long felt a kinship to the sports fans in Cleveland.  No other city, I think, understands the drowning feeling of rooting for losing teams year round.  Boston had the Patriots, and before them, the Celtics to keep things happy while the Red Sox lost.  Chicago had the Bulls.  But Philly and The Cleve, Peter, they only have each other.

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Shameless Self-Promotion

Shyster says nice things about us, and then we go and spoil the mood by saying nasty things about, well, you know who.

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Poor Man’s Analysis: Uggla and Utley

We here at the Curious Mechanism are no analysts.  We’re dabblers, certainly, and we understand the analysis of others, even when the Baseball Prospectus crew starts tossing around acronymlike candy at a small town parade.  We’re also no critics, nor metacritics, as FireJoeMorgan, and others, have done that work admirably.

However, we recognize bullshit when we see it, and as passe as it may be to point out flaws and dummy-work at ESPN, it’s late on Friday night, Mrs Thursday and I just got back from a Phillies game which saw the hometown team clobber the Marlins to take over first place in the NL East, and, damnit, I need to defend my guy.

On ESPN’s Three Things (Insider, sorry) today, Inside Edge, which is some kind of scouting service, compares Dan Uggla favorably to the new Jeebus, Chase Utley.

To quote:

1. Uggla chasing Utley

The Marlins and Phillies open a key three-game series in Philadelphia tonight. Not only are the two teams a half-game apart and contending for first place in the NL East; their second basemen are waging a close statistical battle. Even casual baseball fans have been made aware of the season Chase Utley has been putting together in Philly. Marlins fans are quick to point out, though, that Dan Uggla‘s stats are nearly identical across the board, from homers, RBIs, and batting average to runs, slugging percentage, and OPS. However, a quick comparison of the data behind those stats shows that Uggla has been the more “hit or miss” of the two.

Strikeout % Miss % of swings In-play % of swings % of swings chased Well-hit avg.
Uggla 30.2 29.8 34.1 21.1 .281
Utley 15.7 14.0 44.6 21.4 .333

The table shows that Uggla holds his own against Utley in percentage of pitches chased out of the zone, which is a little surprising since his strikeout rate is so much higher. But Utley has clearly missed less, put more swings in play, and gotten the barrel of the bat on the ball more often. Still, it is worthwhile to applaud Uggla’s overall improvement. He has always demonstrated power, but has really increased his batting averages by getting good wood on fastballs:

Well-hit avg. BAVG SLG OPS
2007 .274 .269 .583 .955
2008 .333 .342 .730 1.153

Utley is no slouch against hard stuff himself, batting .324 with a .647 slugging percentage and 1.060 OPS, but Uggla betters him in all three measures. Since batters typically see more fastballs than other pitches, Uggla should have a good chance of going toe-to-toe statistically with Utley all season long.

This, from what I can tell, is crazy sloppy analysis.  They look at some numbers–that first chart there, and determine that Utley misses pitches half as often, strikes out half as often, puts the ball in play more often, and hits it hard way more often–and comes to the conclusion that Uggla should “[go] toe-to-toe” with Chase all year.

Now, Uggla is a fine player.  He slugs the hell out of the ball, especially for a second basemen, and he keeps his on-base high enough that he’s not exactly an Incredible Out-Machine.  Reports vary as to the quality of his defense, but I’d guess that he’s about average.  But, he’s no Utley.  Let’s compare a few more numbers, shall we?

Slash Stats

Utley: .310/.394/.638
Uggla: .307/.386/.667

Those numbers are through yesterday.  As we can see, they are pretty similar, with Utley having a slight edge in OBP, and Uggla with a modest one in slugging.  The edge, overall, so far, probably goes to Uggla, as he’s done his work in a tougher park for hitters than Utley has.

But the question here is to who is more likely to continue hitting this way, or, at least, who is likely to drop off more.

Here are Utley’s numbers for the past three years:

2005 – .291/.376/.540
2006 – .309/.379/.527
2007 – .332/.410/.566

So, at the moment, Utley is slugging above his head, but the rest of his numbers are in line with a reasonable expectation of performance.  Tangotiger’s Marcel the Monkey projected Utley to sport a .383 OBP and a .526 slugging.  So, again, he’s slugging higher than expected, but otherwise, he’s okay.

Meanwhile, however, here are Dan Uggla’s slash stats over the past two seasons, as he didn’t play 2005:

2006 – .282/.339/.482
2007 – .245/.326/.479

Marcel expected a .334 OBP and .469 SLG from Uggla.  Uggla is over any sort of reasonable expectation in any department.  So, either Uggla has gotten lucky, or he’s developed a new skill.  Let’s look at one of my favorite luck indicators: BABIP.

Now, your average major leaguer will sport a BABIP just over .300.  Uggla’s career average is .302.  Utley, however, registers a somewhat astonishing .323 BABIP for his career, over nearly 2700 plate appearances.  Let’s look at this season:

Utley BABIP: .293
Uggla BABIP:  .358

Now, .358 is a crazy high BABIP, but it’s not unheard of.  Last year, for instance, Ichiro and BJ Upton a plenty of other regular and semi-regular players posted higher numbers.  However, it’s well above Uggla’s established norm.  Ichiro and Upton also have something in common.  They both hit more  grounders than anything else, and they hit a lot of line drives.  Line drives become hits more often than any type of batted ball, followed by grounders, and then finally fly balls.  Generally, the more flyballs you hit, the more outs you’ll make, unless your hits are leaving the park.

This graph shows Uggla’s batted ball data for the past two years, as well as 2008.  The graph comes from the remarkable Fangraphs website, so thanks to those guys.

While Upton and Ichiro hit line drives about 20% of the time (and Utley even higher than that), Uggla’s down at a pedestrian 15%.  He also hits a lot of flyballs.  So far, this season, a great number of them have left the park, and a great number more have found creases in the outfield defense, and gone for hits.  Of course, the balls that leave the park aren’t counted in BABIP, so that means Uggla’s numbers, similar to his 2007 digits, are likely a product of luck so far.  A hot streak, certainly, as he’s been hitting homers left and right, but the official prediction of this blog is a serious cool-off sometime soon, while Utley continues to leave all the other major league second basemen in his considerable wake.

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Jones Gets Night Off, Grammar Suffers

We’re here in the top of the first, and Chipper Jones, who’s hitting like crazy this year, has received the night off.  Chris Wheeler’s comment, expressing what SP Cole Hamels must be thinking about it:

“There’s not a lot of pitchers who would not be unhappy to not have him in the lineup.”

Uh, thanks Chris.

Phils Box Score, on


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Like a Robot Made of Nails

Paul DePodesta, former LA Dodgers GM, and current Padres front office mensch, has a blog.  It’s notable, more or less, because it’s the first time a front office type has started a public blog, and DePodesta is a smart guy, and Padres fans are going to have the chance to have a fascinating insight into the way their club works, thanks to DePodesta.

Now, Depodesta is just getting started, so it’s possible he’ll play hard to get and his blog will never give fans the kind of insights into decisions they wish for, but even if the blog is a failure in that sense, it will succeed on other levels as long as DePo finds things like this to share:

DePodesta: It Might Be Dangerous…

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Men With Balls

Paul Nyman, at THT, breaks down what makes fastballs fast.

The piece is a bit lengthy, but very interesting for anyone who is interested in pitching.

Mechanical analysis (especially of pitchers) has become somewhat popular over the past year or two, really starting with Carlos Gomez’ work at The Hardball Times.  Gomez has moved on to be a minor league pitching coach somewhere, and so The Hardball Times has filled the void with Nyman, who appears to be some kind of mad scientist of pitching mechanics.  Lots of charts, a few technical terms, and an overwhelming sense wonder–Nyman is a good writer with an impeccable understanding of his subject matter.  I could ask for nothing more.

The Hardball Times: Workin’ It Out With That Northsoutheastwest Movement

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