Saturday, June 04, 2005

Game 54: Braves at Pirates

Seven o'clock again. Kyle Davies, the young B+ pitching prospect, and Mark Redman.

Friday, June 03, 2005

No respect

The Braves dialed up the whining after the game. First Bobby Cox and Julio Franco blame the umpiring. Maybe it was a bad call, but it's fair to expect better from the old men. There's nine innings in the game.

Then Hudson disses Jose Castillo, a.k.a. "that guy."

"I get that guy (Castillo) out 19 out of 20 times," Hudson said. "He just got a good knock on it. I have to make a better pitch, that's all it is."

All hail Kip Wells.

Game 53: Braves at Pirates

Seven o'clock, Tim Hudson and Kip Wells.

Two outs, runner on second

In the recap of last night's game, McClendon offered this summary:

With the Marlins holding a 2-1 lead in the sixth, Damion Easley doubled with two outs and Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon opted to intentionally walk Alex Gonzalez to face Willis, who made the move backfire with a first-pitch RBI single to right field.

Luis Castillo followed with a single, giving the Marlins a 4-1 cushion.

"The sixth inning was the ballgame," McClendon said. "We have two outs and nobody on, and they end up scoring two runs. You make your own breaks and we just weren't able to do it tonight. You have to give Dontrelle credit. He made some quality pitches when he had to and pretty much shut us down."

Willis also doubled and scored in the eighth to notch his second multi-hit game this season and raise his career batting average to a respectable .220 (36-for-164).

Baseball Prospectus just published a study of these situations, where managers walk the number eight hitter to face the pitcher, by James Click. He concludes

in the average situation of eighth-place hitter and pitcher, walking the eighth-place batter makes the slightest bit of sense with men on second and third with two out and a man on third and two out, but not so with a man on second with two out or men on second and third with one out. Again, these differences are very, very slight, meaning teams are likely not doing wrong either way and the individual batters involved deserve high consideration. If a good hitting pitcher is coming up or the eighth-place hitter is someone like Matheny, walking the eighth-place hitter is probably not a good idea, but the converse is also true.

Both Gonzalez and Willis are better than your average eight-hitter and pitcher. With a left-hander on the mound, however, the difference between Gonzalez and Willis was magnified. Gonzalez, a right-handed hitter, has an 815 OPS with a 492 SLG the last three years against left-handers. In other words, were he a Pirate, maybe he bats fourth when we face a pitcher like Willis. Willis is a good hitting pitcher but, as a left-handed hitter, has not been effective against left-handers. Coming into tonight's game, he was two-for-37 against lefties. Clearly the difference between Gonzalez and Willis, against the lefty, looked huge.

McClendon probably saved the team a hypothetical tenth of a run with the decision to walk Gonzalez. The Marlins got two from the situation.

Baseball is like that.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Game 52: Marlins at Pirates

Seven o'clock, Dontrelle Willis and Dave Williams. Wigginton has five hits off Willis. Think we'll see him tonight?

To top .500

The Bucs would need to play .525 ball the rest of the year to finish with 82 wins. The early hole - they went eight wins under .500 - means that, should they play .525 ball the rest of the year, the odds are they won't get to .500 until sometime around Game 111.

They could do it the easy way, of course, and win four straight starting tonight. They could play .600 ball and finish the year like a 97-win team. Yep. The trend of things the last few years, though, has been to get hot enough to pull up a few games under .500, and then cool off to fall, say, eight under. It's pretty maddening if you pay much attention to it.

But, whatever. The easiest thing for the fan is to take one game at a time. They look good pounding the Marlins. I'd like to see them keep this roll going through the homestand and into New York and Boston. Winning, say, four of those six games would generate some fun momentum.

Draft preview

From Paul Meyer. Looks like Wilbur will play Littlefield in John Sickels' off-Broadway production.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Sanchez a starter for now

That news and more in Ed Eagle's notebook.

Game 51: Marlins at Pirates

Seven o'clock. Scuffy Moehler and Josh Fogg. Now we get to see for ourselves what Moehler has done to revive his career.

Today's Q & A

A lot of news, insight, and even some rant in today's Kovacevic Q & A. I don't read it so you don't have to; go see it for yourself.

Two things, though, that I'd highlight. One is ongoing disconnect between players and some fans on the issue of "patient." Kovacevic:

Of course, I share your view that being more selective at the plate would serve the hitters better. That applies to everyone.

Rob Mackowiak is a fine example, I think, of someone who has become much better at pitch recognition and is making the most of it. I had a long talk with him about it the other day, and the thrust of his point was that, in the past, he was looking merely to make contact. If it was a low-and-outside slider, he would try to get a bat on it just to see if he could. Now, he is laying off that slider. He is waiting for a pitch he can cream.

I asked him if this meant that he was more patient at the plate, and he bristled.

"Patient? No way," he said. "If I see a first-pitch fastball over the heart of the plate, believe me, I'm swinging that bat. I'm not more patient. I'm just smarter."

Uh, Rob, we call that patient, but maybe "smarter" is a better word. Patient doesn't mean passive. And it never has. Waiting because you like to wait is not patient.

The other news: Kovacevic says no way the Pirates deal Mark Redman. If they trade a pitcher - and everyone would have to stay healthy, I suspect, for that to make a whole lot of sense - they will trade Kip Wells or Josh Fogg. Of the two, I think Kip has made it more clear that he wants out of Pittsburgh.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Game 50: Marlins at Pirates

Seven o'clock. A.J. Burnett and Oliver Perez. Both these guys have struggled to pitch to their potential this year. I'd love another one-run win tonight. But of course, I'd much prefer a ten-run win.

Pirate defense

The Pirates are #2 in the National League at turning balls in play into outs. Numbers here, from Baseball Prospectus. (Defensive efficiency glossed here).

Apparently, this is more than luck. From BP basics article by James Click:

When analyzing defensive performance, the most important mental adjustment to make is to hold the defense accountable for every hit on balls that could have been fielded. Initially, this does not seem fair--defense and pitching are almost inseparably entangled. Determining if the causality lies with the pitcher or the fielders is even more perplexing than drawing conclusions about the play itself. This approach certainly requires some refinement, but it removes the decisions of the official scorer from the equation. Bill James suggested this approach in one of his Abstracts in the 1980s, calling the new metric "Defensive Efficiency (DE)." It is, quite simply, the percentage of balls in play fielded by the defense. The best teams are usually around .7300 with the worst around .6900.

So the Bucs look good up there at .716.

They finished last year at 0.687; 2003, 0.693. So what the hell is going on here? Are all the soft-tossing lefties making life that much easier for the defense? Or are these guys (Wilson and Castillo aside) better than they seem?

Nothing wrong with Jack Wilson

Jack Wilson is fine. You start the year hitting .150, it's going to take several months, even if you hit .300, to get your batting average up to a good place.

On May 16 I analyzed the hitting performance of the second three-week period of the season. Looking at Jack I wrote, "all he needs now is a little luck. I expect he'll hit .275 the rest of the way."

In the last two weeks, Jack has hit .283 / .309 / .434. He's only had a few strikeouts in that period (3 in 53 at-bats). He's not going to hit for a lot of power or be an on-base machine (since there's little reason to pitch around him; he has little home-run power and his stature is not, shall we say, as intimidating as Adam Dunn). And he's probably not going to hit .400 for a month and raise the batting average dramatically. The odds are against that. So get over the low batting numbers, I say, and focus on the recent performance. He looks OK to me. I would keep running him out there with a day off here and there against the kinds of pitchers that really give him trouble.

If he keeps that strikeout rate at 5% or so, he's a fine contact hitter. He's qualified to hit near the top of the lineup if one believes, as some do, that a #2 hitter should be able to make contact on demand (for hit-and-runs, for example). He's not the perfect #2 hitter, but he remains a good contact guy with some power (actually, bravery hustle baserunning bravado foot speed: he legs out a good share of doubles and triples). With his defensive ability, he's an asset. Not a superstar, but not an inferior player, either. Bat him seventh or eighth if you can, but I don't think he's so inept with the bat that he needs to be benched or targeted for verbal abuse.

Unless a somewhat-muscular 740 OPS with excellent defense is not good enough, there's no good reason to call him out as part of the problem.

Stats Geeks does number two

Article here. I've also been thinking Mackowiak would make a good no. 2 hitter against righties. Then he's gone and shown some power in the last week, though, making me think No. 5 or No. 6 would also be good.

Hitting, not scoring

Dejan Kovacevic on the carnival of stranded runners. I agree with Mac, this is nothing to worry about. So long as they keep getting on base, sooner or later they will score in big bunches. The only worry is that they stop getting on base. Since I don't see too many Pirates putting up gaudy, unbelievable hitting numbers, I'm not concerned. It's strange to think that they played pretty good baseball but still went, with the help of many one-run losses, something like 3-8 at a stretch.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Game 48: Pirates at Reds

1:15pm. Kip Wells and Brandon Claussen. Claussen is another one of the Reds' pitch-to-contact guys. Few Ks, fewer walks. Problem is (for the Reds, at least), hitters have managed about a 900 OPS on that contact. He's coming off one mediocre start against the Nationals that looks good compared to the string of awful starts preceding it.

Dejan reports that Mac said he'll use the same funky lineup he used yesterday. I'd like to see Wigginton continue to show how hot he can get when he's on a streak. All that has looked decent in his 2003 and 2004 final numbers came in short, intense bursts of productivity.

And how does Wigginton look at first base? Last January, I thought we might see him there. To some extent I buy into the argument that, as a converted second baseman, he ought to be at least decent at a corner, once he learns the position.

As good as he's been, Lawton needs regular rest. I like the idea of Sanchez as our lead-off man against left-handers.