Team selection for 2008 ABL expansion

At the ABL Winter Meetings on the 16th I needed to select a team to bring into the league. Going in, I figured it would be between Boston & Philly. Here’s how I decided.

Fifteen players can be selected, so I made up lists of nine position players (eight from each non-pitching position plus a “DH”), three starters, and three relievers. Minimum requirements for the ABL are 175 ABs (125 for catchers), 70 IPs for starters, and 30 IP for relievers.

I used OPS+ to rate the hitters. For pitchers I started with WHIP, then added some arbitrary factors to get something that roughly mirrors OPS+, that is, higher is better and average is 100. I came up with (2.25-WHIP)*110. (It’s listed as “WHIP+” in the tables below.) I weighted starters twice as much as relievers, based on innings pitched (six-inning starts). I then averaged the position players and pitchers separately to get team hitting and pitching ratings. The lists for Philly & Boston are shown below.


Of course, you choose the wrong guys here, and the method suffers. Notably absent are Beckett & Schilling, who are already in the ABL. Philly has no one in the ABL.

I did not consider fielding.

In addition to Boston & Philly, I ran the numbers for a few other teams to see how they compared. The graph below shows the results.


So Philly & Boston come out equal. That was no help at all!

So the decision was down to hitting vs. pitching. I chose hitting. Also, Philly looks to have a very balanced lineup, and Utley & Rollins are a superior middle infield. The biggest temtations of Boston were Papelbon & Okajima, both of whom have sick numbers. Big Papi & Ramirez are pretty good too!

Go Phillies! Go Perfectos!

Krazy striKeout Krap

From a Newsweek article about an upcoming jounal article by a couple of psychologists:

If the preference for people, places and things that share one of your initials is conscious, then it shouldn’t work if the thing you’re choosing is basically undesirable. Strikeouts are undesirable. Yet based on data from 1913 through 2006, for the 6,397 players with at least 100 plate appearances, “batters whose names began with K struck out at a higher rate (in 18.8% of their plate appearances) than the remaining batters (17.2%),” the researchers find. The reason, they suggest, is that players whose first or last name starts with K like their initial so much that “even Karl ‘Koley’ Kolseth would find a strikeout aversive, but he might find it a little less aversive than players who do not share his initials, and therefore he might avoid striking out less enthusiastically.” Granted, 18.8% vs. 17.2% is not a huge difference, but it was statistically significant—that is, not likely to be due to chance.


This comment on the Newsweek site sums up my feelings:

If you survey enough sets of numbers you get random patterns that don’t always come out even. For example, the information about batters is really incomplete. It isn’t sufficient to just compare K against everybody else. Look at the entire alphabet and you will probably see variations of one or two percent between the letters. They won’t all come out the same. Does Q do better than F? Does C do better than M? If so, what does that really mean? Why aren’t they comparing S for strikeout? And what about the name of the pitcher? If it counts for the batter, why doesn’t it also count for the pitcher? This is not a question that can even be really addressed in isolation from everything else.


jose_cardenal_1975_toppsjpg.jpgI found a site with lots of small baseball-card pictures. The guy uses them for display in the Strat-O-Matic software.

For a lot of the old TPB cards I can’t remember the guys or have never heard of them. I thought it would be cool to have a searchable database of these photos, so I hacked together bbpix. It’s not a database, but it works.

card conversion

I’ve got a better idea. I can tile them ten to a page, baseball-card size, and I won’t need any guide lines. 2.5+2.5+3.5=8.5

Since there are different numbers of cards on the page, need to cut them all out first (, then paste them together in groups of ten (

Printing from Preview, the dpi is actually about 359.1 (not 360), which is imposed by specifying the resolution when converting to PNG.


I also tried 8-up, just like as-shipped. Worked out fine, but I still like 2.5×3.5.

To do:

  • Deal with odd numbers of cards at the end.
  • Write out as TIFFs instead of PNGs (pnmtotiff -lzw), cat them (tiffcp), & convert to PDF (tiff2pdf -z). Will need to specify resolution at some point.

scoresheet 27

For a while I toyed with the idea of using Metapost to create a custom scoresheet, after seeing this guy’s page. Metapost was hard to find documentation for, and seemed tough to figure out.

Then I really took to the Situational Scorekeeping card. But it’s not very compact, and requires two pages. I like the linear representation in the Chadwick narratives.

Top of the 2nd
Alex Rios             0- 0 (---0): S
Aaron Hill            0- 0 (--x0): K
Eliezer Alfonzo       0- 0 (--x1): WP.1-2
Eliezer Alfonzo       0- 0 (-x-1): 8
Reed Johnson          0- 0 (-x-2): D8.2-H
John McDonald         1- 0 (-x-2): 8

The linear representation of the baserunners would make the scoring box shorter, and would allow everything to be done with rectangles.

The result so far is scoresheet 27 (PDF file). I used NeoOffice to create it. The key is to export the file as DPF. Otherwise, the lines are printed much too thick.

The little box in the top right is for out number or run scored.

Instead of the Project Scoresheet columns for play numbers of subs, I’ll try a separate set of fields to list them in order.

I’d like to try a version that’s all cyan, but it’s a tedious process to change all the borders.

XBL: St. Cloud 5 Memphis 1

The St. Cloud Cyclones continued their improbable march towards the XBL crown Wednesday night against the home-team Memphis Dawgs. Ted Lilly went the full nine for the Cyclones, allowing only one run and five hits. Four of the five Cyclone runs came off the long ball. Eliezer Alfonzo hit two solo shots, both as a result of Park Effect Deeps! Jose Contreras also went the distance for Memphis. He nothced 11 strikeouts, but the three homers he gave up put the game beyond the reach of the anemic Memphis offense. So devastating was the loss for the Dawgs, that rumors were flying that team would be disbanded after only one season in the XBL.

St. Cloud: Gomez (0 games)
Memphis: none

The Commish avenged his previous 1973 loss to the Cardinals, when his 1972 Yankees won a nail-biting victory over the ’72 Cardinals at Yankee Stadium. Johnny Callison hit a walk-off solo homer with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to lead the Yanks to a 5-4 victory.

Continue reading XBL: St. Cloud 5 Memphis 1

single with man on first (part 3)

This time I looked at how often runners on first were thrown out at third on a single. Again, no other baserunners. Not counted:

  • Error on the play at third. (Errors allowing the batter to advance past first are OK.)
  • Runner on first out at second or home.
  • Runner safe at home.
  • Baserunner hit by batted ball.

The percentage I’m interested in is the number of times the runner is out at third divided by the number of times the runner is out or safe at third. Again, I counted all the years available in the Retrosheet event files. Graph below. The line is the least-mean-squares linear fit.


I’m surprised how seldom the runner is out at third. There’s a clear downward trend, which indicates that runners and/or third base coaches have become more conservative. Perhaps stronger arms in the outfield are also a factor.

The whole exercise makes me question the role of TPB’s “sending runners” in these situations. (TPB out of the box, not ABL rules.) Why is this a manager’s decision? Runners will try for the extra base on their own, or take guidance from the third base coach. Would it be more realistic to roll for an advancement that is explicitly specified on a chart? Such a chart should be roughly:

  • 26%: runner safe at third
  •  2%: runner out at third
  • 72%: runner holds at second

Then you could sprinkle in some potential errors & such. Of course, there would be a dependency on where the single was hit (as there is now).

mystery bunt

At the Cardinals-Pirates game last Saturday, Nyjer Morgan led off in the top of the eighth. He bunted right in front of the plate, hesitated a moment, and was called out. I figured he must have run into the ball in fair territory. That doesn’t make sense, as he’s a left-handed batter.

Baseball Reference scored it: “Bunt Groundout: C unassisted.” So, maybe he thought it was going foul, and while he was thinking, the catcher picked the ball off the plate & tagged him. That would be simply 2/BG. (That’s how Retrosheet has it.)

Then I checked Gameday on “Nyjer Morgan bunt grounds out to cathcer Gary Bennett. Nyjer Morgan out on batter interference.” OK, that would be 2/BG/INT. (There were 11 plays scored like this in 2006.) Rule 6.06 says:

A batter is out for illegal action when —
(a) He hits a ball with one or both feet on the ground entirely outside the batter’s box.
(b) He steps from one batter’s box to the other while the pitcher is in position ready to pitch;
(c) He interferes with the catcher’s fielding or throwing by stepping out of the batter’s box or making any other movement that hinders the catcher’s play at home base.
(d) He uses or attempts to use a bat that, in the umpire’s judgment, has been altered or tampered with…

I guess all these would be considered “interference,” but what happened in this instance? I’m guessing (a): he was starting for first and had his right foot completely outside the box when he made contact.

Now to the hypothetical case: right-handed batter bunts and accidentally kicks the ball in fair territory as he heads for first. How would you score it? I’m pretty sure the catcher gets the putout. Project Scoresheet defines /BR for “runner hit by batted ball.” Maybe 2/BR/BG? Well, I can’t find any play like this in the Retrosheet event files. All of the /BR plays are of the type “S/BR/G6.2X2(6).”

I just listened to the replay on the archive. Rooney & Shannon called it as the batter running into the ball in fair territory. The Pittsburgh announcers called it the same way, but questioned the call after watching the replay. So maybe my first answer was right! I guess it is possible for a left-handed batter to run into a batted ball. Must have had a “wide stance.” 😉 I still lean towards 2/BR/BG as the way to score it.

single with man on first (part 2)

Previously I looked at the frequency of runners advancing from first to third on a single during the 2006 & 1973 seasons. I extended the analysis by looking at all seasons available from Retrosheet (1957-1998, 2002-2006). A slight change: now I’m counting plays during which the batter went to second on the throw (error or not).

OK, so the chart below shows the percentage of times the runner on first reaches third successfully as a result of:

  • runner on first,
  • no other baserunners,
  • the batter singles, and
  • neither runner put out.


There’s a big spike during the late sixties, then it’s pretty constant from 1970-1995. Since 1995 there’s been a steady decline. Strange!

Next: When runners try for third on a single, how often are they thrown out?

154/162-game seasons

The Commish & I were complaining about the MLB schedule and we wondered about the significance of 154 & 162. Pretty simple, really.

Before 1961, 154 was 22 games against each of the seven league opponents (11 home, 11 away).

154 = (11+11) * 7

In 1961 the AL went to ten teams. To keep the symmetry, 18 games were scheduled against each of the nine league opponents, for a total of 162 games.

162 = (9+9) * 9

They could have gone to a 153-game schedule with 17 games against each opponent, but the number of home & away games would have been unequal.

The NL didn’t go to ten teams until 1962, so in 1961 the NL & AL played 154- & 162-game schedules, respecitively.

In 1969, with the addition of two teams to each league, the 162-game schedule was preserved by scheduling 18 games with each of the five division opponents and 12 games with each team in the other division. Again, the number of home & away games was equal.

162 = (9+9) * 5 + (6+6) * 6

When the AL expanded in 1977, the symmetry was broken, when the number of games within the division became an odd number (forcing unequal numbers of home & away games) and the number of games against the other division was ten for some teams and 11 for others. All symmetry was lost when the NL expanded again in 1993.

I didn’t bother to figure out what the situation is today. I’ll wait until Selig dies and the Brewers get sent back to AL where they belong.

Trivia questions: Which MLB team changed it’s home town three times without moving? Which MLB team’s name contained a decimal point?