Welcome to my web log, published via Blogger Pro. Below are some links to recent baseball-related articles I found of interest, with my own two cents thrown in. Feel free to chime in via the comments link at the bottom of each post (powered by YACCS), or use my Contact page, or my email address, email@example.com.
Here are the weekly archives of this blog, assuming Blogger hasn't screwed up again. If an archive appears to be missing, you can try hunting for it via the subdirectory. Please note that because of repeated difficulties I've had with Blogger, I no longer recommend their service and will be taking steps to switch to a new one in the near future.
I live in the East Village of Manhattan and have borne witness to this tragedy at fairly close range. Fortunately, I am okay and able to account for all of my nearest and dearest friends and family. For that I am deeply thankful. The period of uncertainty and concern I felt in the early hours after the attack before I could account for all of my loved ones is something I will never forget.
I have been watching convoys of emergency, rescue, and salvage vehicles stream down Second Avenue in front of my apartment, sirens blaring, intermittently for the past 36 hours. I've seen the same ambulances and official vehicles drive past me multiple times. Apart from the reports on TV and the Internet, that is the way my understanding of the events has unfolded--in stages, based upon which vehicles were being rushed to the scene. Yesterday it was ambulances and fire trucks, this morning it was 20 Mack trucks bearing names like Diamond Point Excavation or half a dozen tankers full of nitrogen coolant, tonight it's Verizon trucks parked up and down the block across from one of their offices.
As I sort through my own grief and confusion, I find my thoughts returning especially to the firefighters. There's a fire station around the corner from me that I've walked past for most of the past three years. Rarely does it occur to me how these brave men risk their lives on a daily basis. Today I made a point of walking by there, to pay my respects and let myself have a healthy sob. Dozens of flower bouquets had been placed there, along with cards and drawings. The garage door was open, and the firemen sat or stood at the perimeter, somber and somewhat dazed. Their equipment was strewn randomly behind them--a helmet here, empty fireman suspenders and boots there, all of it covered with soot. I spoke to a couple of the firefighters and tried, tearfully, to express my gratitude for their heroic efforts. These were men who when all Hell was breaking loose were headed straight into the heart of it. My prayers are with them, their colleagues, and their loved ones.
I have been attempting to assemble my thoughts into a longer report. I would like to relate my experiences to better aid my own coming to terms with this, if nothing else. I will do so in the near future.
Tonight I was supposed to be at a baseball game between the Yankees and the White Sox. I look forward to a time when such mundane concerns will provide me with a few hours of relief from all that has gone on around me.
My best wishes to everyone else out there who may be reading this. I hope you're all as lucky as I am, and that you and your loved ones are safe.
I'm no Roger Clemens fan. I hated the trade which exiled David Wells to Toronto, and have booed many a Rocket fizzle at Yankee Stadium. I argued with my friends until I was nearly blue in the face over the Mike Piazza bat incident during last year's World Series.
I've come around on Rajah this season. I don't really like the man very much, at least to the extent that his personality has seeped through the beat reports and press conferences. But I do enjoy his byproducts. For starters, there's the 19-1 thing--I have a standing policy that anybody who does that for my team is my New Best Friend.
Then there's the Red Sox factor. Knowing that Roger is likely bound for a sixth Cy Young award (the third in what Boston GM Dan Duquette assumed would be "the twilight of his career") while the Sox bleed to death at the madman Duquette's hand--priceless. As is the shocked look on the Sox fans' faces.
But the real beneficiaries are the other Yankee pitchers who have taken to Clemens' fitness regimen and seen their own results improve--Andy Pettitte and Mike Stanton. Both have increased their stamina through better conditioning and added several miles per hour to their fastballs; Pettitte reportedly by 4 or 5 mph. On Sunday, Pettitte reversed a personal four-game slide by dominating the Red Sox, and in doing so marked the first time all season the Yanks' big four starters had won back-to-back-to-back-to-back. He credited a pep-talk from Clemens aimed at raising his level of concentration to the reversal of his fortunes. Whatever it was, it worked, as Pettitte dominated the Sox, beating them for the fourth time this season.
Pettitte, who turned 29 in June, came into this season having won an even 100 games in his career. He is a classic example of what Bill James called (in his 1984 Baseball Abstract) the "Tommy John family of pitchers," meaning not that he is a candidate for ligament replacement surgery but that he's a pitcher who exhibits the following characteristics, as did John and several others:
1. they are left-handed 2. they are control-type pitchers 3. they cut off the running game very well 4. they receive excellent double-play support 5. they allow moderate to low totals of home runs, lower than normal for a control pitcher 6. they are able to win while allowing an unusually high number of hits per game 7. their won-loss records tend to be very team dependent, often more exaggerated than their teams'--that is, a higher winning percentage than a winning team's or lower than a losing team's
Basically, Tommy John-family pitchers put the ball in play a lot; they give up a lot of hits, but erase a substantial portion of them via DPs and by shutting down the running game, and they don't give up many HRs either. They're not as flashy as your Randy Johnsons or Pedro Martinezes, but it's a pretty decent model for success.
Pettitte meets all of these criteria, though his strikeout rate is a higher than most in the Tommy John family (TJ struck out 4.29 per 9 innings; Pettitte is at 6.19):
• He's allowed only 11 SB all year, with 5 caught. Over the course of his career, he's allowed 0.53 steals per nine innings, at a 64% success rate; for comparison's sake (and since I don't have the time to run the numbers for every year back to 1995), this year the major league rate of steals per 9 is 0.64 and the success rate is 68%.
• He's currently tied for fourth in AL in the number of double plays turned behind him, and his rate of 1.0 double-plays per 9, while slightly below his career average (1.11) is still well above the current major league average (0.76).
• His career home run rate (0.72 per 9) and his season rate (0.62) are both significantly lower than the current major league average (1.14).
• His level of 9.49 hits per 9 innings is higher than the major league average of 9.14. He's never allowed less than one hit per inning pitched.
• His winning percentage (.625) is higher than his team's this year (.601), and has been over the course of his career (.642 vs. .595).
But Pettitte has undergone a transformation this year into more of a power pitcher. He's working more efficiently and more effectively, controlling the strike zone better, striking out more while walking fewer.
I used 1997-2000 data for IP/GS, since I didn't have the data to weed out Pettitte's relief appearances before then and he's done nothing but start in that span. P/IP is pitches thrown per inning; G/F is his groundball-to-flyball ratio. The rest you should be familiar with.
Basically Pettitte is lasting longer while putting the ball in play less--a good idea given the Yanks' questionable defense. The 2001 numbers would be even more favorable if they didn't include his recent dip, which saw him get hit hard in four straight starts (24 IP, 43 H, 23 ER). He's giving up slightly more hits per inning this season, but overall, his number of baserunners per 9 has dropped, from 12.7 to 11.7. And his K/BB ratio is almost two and a half times better than before. THAT is an improvement.
As is Pettitte's consistency. Twenty-two of Pettitte's 28 starts (79%) have been Quality Starts (traditionally defined as pitching six or more innings and allowing three or fewer earned runs; I expand this slightly by counting 8 innings with 4 earned runs as Quality). Only 4 of his starts (14%) have been Disaster Starts (as many or more runs as innings pitched; I lop off partial innings so that a 5.2 inning start with 5 runs counts, figuring that help from the bullpen probably played a part in preventing further disaster). Last year, in 32 starts using the same definitions, he had only 18 Quality Starts (56%) and 8 Disasters (25%). Another welcome improvement.
One of the interesting things that James noted about the Tommy John family of pitchers is that many of them don't peak until their thirties. But Pettitte's already achieved a great deal before reaching 30 and now he's starting to morph into a power pitcher. He may break out of the Tommy John mode yet. But since power pitchers traditionally last longer than control pitchers, that might not be such a bad thing. Either way, the Yanks have a very solid pitcher on their hands, and it wouldn't be surprising at all to see him continue to develop into one of the game's best.