Monday, July 17, 2006

Saves - Big Hoopla!

I'll go on the record and say this. "Saves are Bullshit!" No! No bullets at the end of it, Sayee. Just plain BS!

Well, as I was prepping myself over the last 2 weeks to blog this mess out of Baseball, in comes a phenomenal day in Baseball history. Its amazing that this went completely under the radar too. Saturday, July 15th 2006. The scorecards across the MLB full schedule included 11 blowouts and 4 walkoffs. Yep, that meant no saves credited in the majors across the board. The last time this happened was on Sep 15, 1978. Twenty Nine Years. 4700 days of Baseball when someone got a save. Wow! So much for a stat that I don't even like. Let me explain.

In my opinion, no other stat in Baseball, or any sport for that matter, has such a game changing effect on the outcome. Saves affect the way managers think. You'll never see a closer come in to pitch the 9th inning in a 4 run game. No matter if the opponents are the Yankees or Royals. But the moment a lead off batter gets on base, "Wild Thing" starts to play on the PA systems. All this simply owed to the fact that the 'book' identifies this new development as a save situation.

Let us say that its a tie game in the 8th inning with Jeter-ARod-Giambi-Sheffield coming up. We don't need a book to call it a close game. But still, you'll only see a Kiko Calero come in and not Huston Street. If I were managing, I'd rather have my best pitcher out of the bullpen try and mow down the heart of the line up, and keep my 2nd best option to beat Posada-Bernie Williams & Cano in the 9th. This doesn't even cross the managers mind. He'll promptly send in Kiko in the 8th and end up giving up the go ahead RBI to one of the mighty sluggers. Well, the closer is of no use now and he will just sit in the freaking bullpen and rot, while the 9th inning is taken over by the 3rd best pitcher out of the bullpen.

Very rarely a closer is used in non save situations. Its either that a closer hasn't pitched in the past 3-4 days and hence gets a workout in a blow out affair, or its extra innings. Extra innings are a bit dicey. Depending on when the game was tied, a closer might have already got his work done in regulation. If not, a home team closer is used only in non-save situations and an away closer more often than not is not reserved for saves no later than the 11th inning. I don't condone the closers usage in such rare occurances.

The role of the best relief pitcher in a team would have been different had it not been for the category 'Saves'. That is wrong. Stats could aid in planning strategies, but not directly affect a playcall. The Rivera's and the Hoffman's are still very highly rated in my ranks. Its the managers that I have a problem with.

Some other categories are also guilty of this, although to a lesser extent. Wins, chasing milestones like "Hitting for the Cycle", sitting out the final AB to ensure a .400 batting average for the season (I'll detail that story in another blog) etc.

Also, 'Saves' has made millionaires out of relief pitchers. Not that its bad, but I bet this whole thing was a creation of Rollie Fingers' agent, who saw the big picture many years ago. The end result was that the stat got its popularity, the closers and agents got their money, Dennis Eckersley went into the Hall of Fame, and everybody is happy. Except the fan who would have liked Huston Street to pitch the 8th inning.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Baseball Nugget Jul 10 '06

I thought it might be fun to share some interesting Baseball news, stat, event etc with ya'll. Here's a few to kick it off, and as I find more stuff, I'll continue to post them here.

* Willie Mays, once led off and hit an infield single off the first pitch of the game, stole 2nd base on the next pitch and stole 3rd on the 3rd pitch. Ty Cobb was probably the best at this though, stealing, 2nd, 3rd and home in the same inning 5 times in his career. "He did everything except stealing 1st base", someone quoted.

* Twins turned 2 triple plays in the same game (4th and 8th inning), against Red Sox on July 17th 1990.

* Today and the Day after tomorrow (The days before and after the MLB All star game) are the only 2 days in any calendar year when there are no major American games (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL, NCAA) scheduled.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Third base

A’s third baseman Eric Chavez’s batting average against Yankee starter Randy Johnson is 0.320. But when playing at Oakland, in day games, in the 9th inning, with runners in scoring position, his average against southpaws drops to 0.163! The whole world knew this.

The only person who thought differently was Yankees’ third base coach Larry Bowa. Owed to his bad knees, Bowa typically does not walk all the way back to his dugout between innings. From his seat in the third base foul territory, he frantically began to signal the Yankee dugout, rubbing his behind once, blinking twice, hopping thrice, and wiping the sweat off his forehead. Joe Torre, who plays a hell of a charades, understood the message and ordered his pitching coach, Ron Guidry, to dig up the stats for the situation. In an effort to buy time, Jorge Posada walked up to Johnson and continued their conversation from the previous inning about the badly cooked beef they had had for lunch. “George Costanza is in deep shit", Posada quipped.

As the umpire walked up to break the chit-chat, Guidry approached the mound carrying a #41 long sleeve shirt. He explained that Chavvy's average went up to .400 when pitchers wore short sleeves. A’s manager Ken Macha stood at the footsteps of his dugout and sneered. He knew how to counter the Yankees’ move. According to ESPN, Johnson always starts out 2 balls & no strikes, after changing uniforms in the middle of an inning while facing third basemen. Common knowledge! He signaled Chavez to wait for the third pitch before taking a swing.

Statisticians everywhere were cracking up. They knew that the two managers had forgotten that this was a doubleheader day. Chavez was 0-16 facing lefties on the first game of a doubleheader.

The umpire was impatient because of the hold up. Pressed for time, Johnson changed his clothes right on the mound. Disgusted by the sight of the Big Unit’s hairy torso, Chavez forgot all about Macha’s command and swung at the first pitch. He popped up weakly to the foul territory on the third base side. A-Rod ran a few steps outside the diamond, and while looking up for the ball, failed to notice Larry Bowa standing there. It was Bowa's responsibility to move away from the play, but he was busy dreaming about his promotion after calling a heck of a strategic play. A-Rod collided with Bowa and dropped the ball. Chavez ended up launching the next pitch to the right field stands for a game winning home run.

Bowa’s brainwave had far-reaching consequences. Guidry was sacked for not realizing that it was a doubleheader. Bowa ended up in hospital. A-Rod twisted his ankle and went on a 15-day DL. Posada ended up with food poisoning. Steinbrenner got mad and fired George Costanza for putting them up at a cheap Ramada. Statisticians were disappointed that the perfect 0 for 16 stat had been corrupted. Chavez was benched that night for missing a sign for the third straight game. At the end of the day, Johnson faced the worst of it. He was fined and sent to jail for indecent exposure in front of 35000 fans in broad daylight.