April 23, 2012

Leadoff walks

It's well established that leadoff walks are no worse than leadoff singles.

The pre-eminent research is by David W. Smith (of  http://www.retrosheet.org/ fame), whose paper "Does Walking the Leadoff Batter Lead to Big Innings?" (published in SABR's The Baseball Research Journal in 2007 (#35, pp.23-24) answered the question with an emphatic "NO". Smith looked at game records from 1974 to 2002, and found that just under 40% of hitters who reach first base, regardless of method of getting there (single, walk, or hit-by-pitch) scored a run.

More recently, plen's "The Leadoff Walk" looked at a longer time frame (starting in 1952 and ending perhaps in 2009), and John Dewan wrote about "The Dread Leadoff Walk" (also here). Both found roughly the same thing as Smith. plen's assessment was a couple of percentage points lower than Smith's, reflecting the lower run scoring environments in the years on either side of Smith's analysis.

Miguel Cabrera
Miguel Cabrera. Taking a pitch doesn't make a dramatic photo.
Which brings us to today. "An in-depth look at the leadoff walk in 2011" was written by Guy Spurrier (at the National Post). Spurrier references Smith's work and then goes on to use baseball-reference.com data to give us a look at the season just passed. In addition to providing some nifty graphics, it also provides details about the best and worst players in this category.

Miguel Cabrera led the Majors in 2011 with 23 leadoff walks -- not a surprising result, given that he was third overall with 108 walks on the season, trailing only Jose Bautista (132) and Joey Votto (110).


April 13, 2012

Mariano Rivera in 3D

Mariano Rivera, 1993

We already knew that Mariano Rivera has been consistently amazing for a long time (16 seasons and counting), and with what appears to be a confoundingly limited arsenal -- he only throws two pitches, a straight fastball and the infamous cutter. Tom Verducci's Sports Illustrated feature from 2009, "The Sure Thing", remains one of the best written summaries of Rivera's success.

Also from 2009, iamawesomer published an article on Beyond the Boxscore, "Mariano's Gonna Cut You, Everybody Knows It, And Nobody Can Do Anything About It" that used PitchFX data to analyze Rivera's pitches -- notably the location and movement.

But this great New York Times 3D video goes a long way in demonstrating the effectiveness of his pitches by giving us a batters-eye-view of the pitches, from when the swing has to start to where the ball will eventually be when it gets to the batter.

Wonderful stuff.


April 9, 2012

Will academic journals change?

At the end of January I wrote a short post with the title "The bizarre world of academic journals", with a link to an article at The Atlantic.

Today The Guardian published an article "Academic spring: how an angry maths blog sparked a scientific revolution", which tells about Tim Gowers, a Maths professor at Cambridge University, who has sparked a widespread protest of the largest publisher of academic journals, Elsevier. This article, like the earlier piece in The Atlantic, takes a critical view of the business model that the academic publishers have relied on.

For those of us outside The Academy, the trend toward more accessible research papers is nothing but a good thing.


April 6, 2012

The end of new ballparks?

Writing as part of the New Yorker "Sporting Scene" blog, Reeves Wiedeman points out that we have likely seen The End of the Retro Ballpark.

The architecture firm Populous has designed 18 of the last 23 new ballparks, both retro (starting the whole trend with Camden Yards in Baltimore) and thoroughly modern (Marlins Park). But both trends may be at an end, since it is unlikely there will be any new ballparks built in the near future. Wiedeman notes that there are three groups of MLB ballparks: the historic icons (Wrigley, Fenway), the newer parks, and the clubs that are having a struggle getting funding for a new park (Oakland, Tampa Bay).


April 2, 2012

Ballparks via Google Maps

Mike Fast, an analyst who used to write for Baseball Prospectus but who is now employed by the Astros, put together a Google Map of the Astros organization -- the location of the team's minor league affiliates.

I liked the idea so much I spent a few minutes plotting the same thing for the Seattle Mariners and their minor league affiliates.

For a more complete view of the Mariners affiliates, visit the wikipedia entry on the topic (which includes a historic timeline of the changing affiliations) or the team's affiliates news page.


April 1, 2012

On retro ballparks

Mark Byrnes in The Atlantic: Cities argues that the wave of retro ballparks that began 20 years ago with the construction of Camden Yards in Baltimore is over.  Byrnes states that Citi Field might be the last (and arguably the most forced) of the retro movement, the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati bucked the trend, and ushered in a new wave of ballparks with contemporary design elements.