Category Archives: MLB history

Spring Training is Almost Here and Video

This is our dull period, baseball fans. We have some basketball and some hockey to tie us over, but let’s be honest, both do nothing.

In its stead, I offer the following.

Click this link: http://youtubedoubler.com/3dNz

Mute the video on the left.

Enjoy wherever.

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A Great (Fake) Q&A About HGH and HGH Testing From IIATMS

I’m in the middle of a great conversation with my brother-in-law (a scientist) about steroids, PEDs, and the effects they have on baseball players. I think this may become a blog post (summer project!), but in the meantime, here’s this.

It’s About the Money, Stupid covered the subject of Human Growth Hormone: what it is, what “synthetic” HGH does to a human body, and why most tests on it are impotent (pun intended). Although Larry really didn’t treat his questioner nicely.

Q: Why would an adult athlete want to take HGH?

A: Depending on who you believe, HGH may make adults bigger and stronger.

Q: You mean, HGH works like steroids?

A: Well, it’s not exactly clear. Some sources report that HGH works like anabolic steroids and testosterone to help build muscle. However, there’s no proof that HGH actually increases athletic performance.

Q: That doesn’t make sense. HGH MUST enhance athletic performance if it helps make you bigger.

A: That’s the strange thing. The studies seem to indicate that HGH might promote muscle gain, but HGH doesn’t seem to make you any stronger.

One thing in this argument with my brother-in-law is that there’s a common minsconception that steroids are the same as HGH and testosterone–at least in the public eye. The three are completely different from one another. We’re not even talking about what BALCO did yet.

Q: re: exogenous (created externally) and endogenous (created internally) HGH, if there’s no difference between the two, how can you devise a test to catch the athletes doping with HGH?

A: Well, like I said, a molecule of HGH is a molecule of HGH, no matter whether it’s exogenous or endogenous. But there might be a statistical difference between a population of exogenous HGH molecules and a population of endogenous HGH molecules.

Q: You’ve lost me.

A: Let’s say I have a bunch of yellow M&Ms in my pocket. Without your knowing it, I take my yellow M&Ms and put them into your bag of M&Ms. My yellow M&Ms are exogenous, because they come from outside of your bag. How can you tell that you have exogenous M&Ms in your bag? Well, you can’t tell by testing any single M&M – they’re all genuine M&Ms. But if you empty the entire bag and count the number of M&Ms of each color, you’ll notice that there are too many yellow M&Ms. The M&M candy people wouldn’t put so many yellow M&Ms in the same bag. There has to be some other explanation.

Well-said.

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Now That the Dust Has Settled, Here’s Why Kemp’s B-R/FG WAR Is Higher Than Braun’s

Now that most of the back and forth is over, Kemp’s WAR wasn’t higher than Braun because of defense, it was higher because Kemp played in 161 games to Braun’s 150. That’s 11 more games, 60 more PAs, and a little under 1/10th of the season.

Here’s the total WAR. In parentheses, Kemp’s WAR at Braun’s games played/PA total

Kemp’s B-R WAR: 10.0 (9.2)
Braun’s B-R WAR: 7.7

Kemp’s FG WAR: 8.7 (8.0)
Braun’s FG WAR: 7.8

B-R likes Kemp’s offense and positional adjustment more, FG is negligible if not for the games played. FG I think values baserunning more than B-R and Braun did a better job of not getting caught stealing, so there’s that. Even with that, Kemp’s still got a big edge in B-R and a minor edge in FG. As it stands, I’d be a lot cooler with Braun winning if Kemp had only played in 150 games, but that didn’t happen.

Yes, it’s this simple. It doesn’t have to do with defense or positional adjustments, but that Kemp performed at an elite level for 161 games to Ryan Braun’s 150.

Alors, c’est la vie. This isn’t anything like Juan Gonzalez winning the MVP in 1996 or anything, but I would’ve rather seen it go to the guy who deserved it more.

Congratulations to Brewers fans and to Ryan Braun, representing the Valley Jews.

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A Brief Look at Young Relievers Who Gave Up Walk-Offs in the Playoffs

Buster Olney tweeted the following today:

History tells us that young closers who blow postseason leads in big moments rarely recover…

Well there haven’t been a whole lot of closers to give up walk-off home runs, so here’s just a selection of relievers (a number of whom were relievers) to give up major home runs in the playoffs.

2011 — Neftali Feliz (23)
The jury’s still out on this one, but almost definitely he’ll be fine. There’s way too much evidence that a talented young pitcher can rebound.

2009 — Jonathan Broxton (25)
This one doesn’t make much sense. Broxton blew a game in the 2008 playoffs and dominated in 2009, so clearly this isn’t the case. In the 2009 playoffs, he blew another game. Then he was amazing in the first half of 2010, until he was abused and could no longer pitch. Playoffs has nothing to do with this and every Dodgers blog has beaten this horse to a bloody pulp.

2005 — Brad Lidge (28)
I imagine this guy and the guy two below are who Buster Olney is thinking of. Lidge gave up a huge dinger to Albert Pujols in the ’05 playoffs in the top of the 9th. He then gave up a big walk-off homer to Scott freaking Podsednik in the World Series. Lidge had a tough year the next year, but recovered with some good BABIP in the following seasons. He never repeated his 2004 season, but his 2005 season wasn’t his 2004 season, so who knows what Olney is thinking of.

2003 — Jeff Weaver (26)
This is an odd case. Weaver was dumped by the Detroit Tigers to the Yankees in 2002. Though he was decidedly average in Detroit, he was pretty awful in New York in 2003. Then, in the World Series, he gave up a walk-off dinger to Alex Gonzalez in Game 4 of the World Series. (Really? College was a blur). Weaver was traded to the Dodgers in the off-season and, get this, had two decent seasons. The problem here is Weaver wasn’t a particularly good pitcher, so “decent seasons” means he kept his hits rate low enough and wasn’t rewarded for it (his ERAs were league average). Weaver bounced around a couple of times, had another good season with the Dodgers in 2009 and was out in 2011.

2001 — Byung Hyun Kim (22)
I think this is the other guy Olney is thinking of. Kim was a nubile 22 when he pitched against the Yankees in the 2001 World Series. He gave up a couple of extra-inning losses in the 2001 World Series, though the D-Backs eventually won it. Kim was amazing in 2001, as he was in 2002 and 2003. The problems began in 2004, though, as his hit rates had progressively risen every year for three years. That’s usually a very bad sign. As you can imagine, 2005-2007 weren’t good years for him and he was out of MLB before the age of 29.

1993 — Mitch Williams (28)
A lot of 28-year-olds. Williams gave up a walk-off to Joe Carter in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series. Before we get inT. Williams after the fact, check this out: Williams AVERAGED giving up 6.9 walks per 9 innings between 1986 and 1991. That was balanced by a 6.6 hits/9 ratio. So when he started giving up more hits in 1992 and 1993 … his ERA somehow remained somewhere in the same range. Reliever fluctuations!! Anyway, Williams absolutely stunk after the 1993 season, and somehow even worse than before. Amazing.

1975 — Pat Darcy (25)
Darcy gave up the walk-off to Carlton Fisk in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. Although he was decidedly average (3.58 ERA, 101 ERA+) in 1975, he gave up 9.2 hits per 9 innings and walked 4.2 in 130 innings. That’s a recipe for disaster. Darcy blew up the next year (6.23 ERA) in 39 innings and never reached the majors again.

1960 — Ralph Terry (24)
You know this one. Ralph Terry gave up the walk-off to Bill Mazeroski in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series. It was maybe the greatest moment in baseball history. Terry wound up pretty decent. He pitched about 1000 innings over the next five years with a 107 ERA+ (which is a 3.47 in the mid-60s). In 1962, he pitched 298 innings with a 3.19 ERA and won the World Series MVP. Pretty dang good. His career ended in 1967, I’m guessing because of injury because it wasn’t like he was bad at the time.

1957 — Bob Grim (27)
In 1957, Grim was a Yankees pitcher with a few years under his belt. He was about league average, sometimes better than, but had injuries after pitching 199 innings in his first year. In the 1957 World Series, he gave up a walk-off to Eddie Mathews in game 4–a game that changed the series to 2-2 and an eventual Milwaukee Braves win. Grim had a few years where he was able to play again, but he was never very good after that. Strangely, it wasn’t anything psychological, it was just that his numbers caught up to him. For most of his career, Grim had the same pitcher he always was, but a small bump in his hits/9 numbers registered with the same number of walks/9 at that time and that was pretty much all she wrote.

1949 — Don Newcombe (23)
Newcombe gave up a walk-off home run to Tommy Heinrich in Game 1 of the 1949 World Series. In 1956, seven years later, he won the MVP and Cy Young in the same year.

There’s a lot of other pitchers that have given up walk-offs in major games throughout history and a surprising number of them are recognizable names. Ralph Branca (1951), Dave Stewart (1981), Jarrod Washburn (2004), Francisco Rodriguez (2007), just to name a few. They’re not recognizable for the home runs they allowed, but for their overall talent. Even in the names posted above, some are recognizable because they had amazing talent. The ones you recognize only because of their name didn’t have as much.

In 2010, Ryan Madson gave up a home run to Juan Uribe in the 8th inning of a 2-2 game in Game 6 of the NLCS. It cost the Phils the series. Dude’s doing pretty dang good and will be paid like he’s worth it this off-season.

So no, talent reigns supreme and Feliz has a lot of it.

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Your International Free Agent Primer (updated)

Now that Yu Darvish is finally going to be posted from the NPB to MLB, let’s take a look at how international free agency works.

First, 95% or higher of all players entered MLB by signing a standard minor league contract (team-friendly, low annual pay) with a bonus at a young age, grew up in the organization and played for that team.

By the time they hit the majors, they’re under what’s called a rookie contract:

-3 years of league minimum pay.
-3 years of arbitration.

“Super 2” players are the exception to this; they get arbitration with less than three years service, but it’s usually like 2.8 years service.

At the end of their final year of arbitration, they’re free to test the free agent market unrestricted, so long as they didn’t agree to any extensions.

Players in the minors can be traded, DFA’d, etc., but the contract remains the same. As soon as their service time clock starts, they’re all getting paid the same (unless they agreed to a major league contract).

If you’re wondering why this is so common when there are so many players in MLB with so many different backgrounds, it’s because MLB is meticulous about scouting. Very few players slip through the cracks. There are academies in virtually every country in the world now. The Dominican Republic has its own developmental league. Japan has its own fully functioning professional league and independent league. MLB has, in the past 20 years, made a very strong, concerted effort to revive baseball in inner cities in America.

On top of that, as opposed to the NFL or NBA, maybe one player a year, if that, is prepared to make the jump from college to the pros. It takes years to learn the sophisticated movements for pitching and batting and make them repeatable.

Because of this, MLB gets them young. Most international players, and especially ones in the latin countries, are signed at VERY young ages (16 or 17) in order to give them more sophisticated coaching and develop them in time to be ready for the majors.

That said, the two biggest international free agent spots are Japan and Cuba.

Japan benefits from having a competitive league of its own and the league is autonomous, though Nippon Professional Baseball and MLB do have a lot of crossover. Japanese players need to accrue nine years of service time before they can hit international free agency. At that point, they can sign with any MLB or NPB team they want.

If the player wants to go to America before the service time is over, he must ask his team to put his negotiating rights up for bidding to MLB teams. This is called posting, as in “The Nippon Ham Fighters posted Hideki Matsui and the Yankees won the rights to exclusively negotiate with Matsui on a contract.”

Most NPB teams refuse to do this until eight service years are accrued because, well, why would you ship out a talent that’s MLB worthy when it’s any earlier? This is what’s happening with Yu Darvish right now.

His NPB team may decline to post him, but if they approve, MLB teams bid for the exclusive negotiating rights.

After MLB Team X wins the posting rights, Team X then signs him to a contract. Yes, Team X has to pay twice over, though the posting fee is usually taken into consideration in the contract. Every once in a while, the MLB team will pay the posting fee and be unable to reach a deal on the contract. (EDIT: This is incorrect; the team doesn’t pay the posting fee if a deal isn’t reached.) In that case, Japanese player then returns home and plays for his team again. Iwakuma and the Oakland A’s is the most recent example of this. However, this is very rare. Almost every player who’s been posted from NPB has signed to an MLB team. Because the player was already active in Japan, he almost always makes the jump directly to the majors.

Ichiro and Daisuke Matsuzaka were both posted; Hideki Matsui and Hiroki Kuroda both signed with MLB teams after accrued service time.

Only three Japanese players in history have dodged the NPB and jumped straight to MLB’s minor league system via international free agency–Junichi Tazawa was the most recent and he signed a 3-year/3 mil deal with the Red Sox in 2009. Tazawa, who went undrafted out of high school, played a year in Japan’s corporate league (junior circuit) and asked NPB teams to not draft him the following year so he could play in MLB. They all complied. Kazuhito Tadano was another, but he was disgraced by being in a gay porno. The Cleveland Indians signed him.

Cubans are usually the only ones that hit the international free agent market without restrictions because they defect. Because Cuba has such an advanced national team and development system, Cubans are usually better prepared for, and old enough to play in, the majors when they defect, though some come raw-er than others.

A Cuban player will play with his national team for however long and then, on a road trip in another country, will abandon his team. This is how he defects. After the player gets some time to adjust to living away from home, the player usually does a public workout for teams. The player sets a deadline and teams have that many days to offer a contract. The team that offers the highest-paying contract is usually the winner.

Aroldis Chapman is the most famous international free agent in recent years. Adeinis Hechevarria (another Cuban) was another international free agent, though he flew under the radar because his skills weren’t as highly valued.

These are the very few exceptions. Almost everyone else goes the scout-bonus-develop-rookie contract route.

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Sometimes Baseball Finds A Way To Rope You Back In (some notes and links on Game 6)

First, new National song.

This has been a hell of a baseball season. This site’s been on hiatus for a while since we’re still doing the Scorekeeping Project and it’s taking most of my free time, but I have to post today. (A little update: most of the stuff is now down to Adam and I, since a number of the freelance viewers have dropped out; Adam is also a Cards fan and is going completely nuts right now).

Game 6 was an amazing game. I hope all of you got to watch it with someone you loved (or twitter). I got to do both.

Here’s the Win Expectancy chart from the game, via fangraphs:

Can’t Predict Baseball has a pretty nice wrap-up of the insanity.

From The Captain’s Blog, this is a neat little fact:

The returns are in…David Freese now owns the highest WPA in a WS game. His .953 beats Kirk Gibson’s.870.

Goddamn. What a game.

Jeff Passan tweeted this:

Just heard this listening back over tape. Scott Feldman broke Lance Berkman’s bat on the game-tying single. Gets more amazing by the second.

Passan also posted this:

Among all the cool things I’ve seen tonight, here’s another: Joe Buck emulating one of his dad’s signature calls. http://bit.ly/s8yP25

A few people didn’t like emulating the call, but I honestly loved it.

As I said on twitter last night, this has easily been the greatest season I’ve ever witnessed. If you’re not happy with this, get your pulse checked.

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Ted Lilly’s Homerless Allowed Streak–You’re Gonna Want to Read This

I don’t know what to call it. No Homer Streak? Whatever, let’s do this.

Ted Lilly has literally never gone a month in his career without giving up a home run. In 2002, he had only two starts in July and didn’t allow a home run, so there’s that. But September 2011 is the first time in his career he went a whole month without giving up a home run.

That was six consecutive starts without allowing a home run.

His longest homerless streaks before this:

1999: 4
2001: 5
2002: 4
2003: 3
2004: 4
2005: 3
2006: 3 (2)
2007: 3 (2)
2008: 2 (3)
2009: 3
2010: 3
2011: 6

Not only did he break his personal best for most non-homer-allowed games, he did it at the end of the season when he needed to allow only two home runs to join the 30/30 club.

Lilly has started 318 games in his career, appeared in 343 total. He’s given up 286 homers in that time; with multi-home run games, he’s had 193 games where he’s allowed a home run.

For averages, his HR/9 rate is 1.4 for his career, but since he averages 6 IP per start, it’s more like 0.933 per start. Yes, averaged out, he gives up a home run per appearances.

—Betting Odds—

Since he’s had 193 games with a homer allowed, 193 divided by 342 is 56; 56% of the time he made a MLB appearance he allowed a home run. That leaves you with 44% of the time he was in a game and didn’t allow one. That’s even on the lighter side, since we’re including non-start appearances (fewer innings, fewer chances to allow a HR).

You have better odds betting on the brightly colored spots on a Craps table and winning six times in a row than betting Lilly not giving up a homer.

So what are the official chances? The chances of Lilly not giving up a home run in six consecutive games are slightly less than 1% (about 0.73%; h/t @jeffersonlives). And he did it solely to prevent himself from entering the history books.

That’s pretty cool. We saw a >1% odd happen tonight.

The 30/30 pitcher season is rarer than Lilly’s homerless streak. There are about 17 seasons I think of a pitcher giving up 30 homers and 30 stolen bases in tens of thousands of eligible pitching seasons. But instead of Lilly breaking a negative record, he created a positive one–and a personal one at that. Good for him.

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