2016 ABL Draft: Titusville Picks

The draft pool was quite weak this year, despite the fact that two extra pool teams were left in upon the Gangsta’s last-minute withdrawal. Titusville lacked a second-round pick this year, having traded it away for Yasmani Grandal.

    1/  5       Chris Sale         starter
    3/ 21       Will Harris        reliever
    4/ 29       Clay Buchholz      starter
    5/ 37       Kelly Johnson      infield/outfield
    6/ 46       Enrique Hernandez  outfield/infield
    7/ 55       Geovany Soto       catcher
    8/ 63       JJ Hoover          reliever
    9/ 72       Shawn Tolleson     reliever
   10/ 81       Travis Shaw        infielder
   11/ 90       Colby Rasmus       outfielder
   12/ 99       Eduardo Nuñez      infielder
   13/108       Brandon Maurer     reliever
   14/116       Adam Lind          firstbaseman
   15/124       Matt Thornton      reliever
   16/132       Scott Kazmir       starter
   17/140       Nick Martinez      starter
   18/148       Kyle Hendricks     starter

The list doesn’t look too impressive, but it seems to nicely complement the strong returning crew, which includes Harper, Cole, Cespedes, Encarnacion, and Machado.

The DH and Roster Composition

AL teams have the DH, so their rosters will have fewer pitchers than the NL, right? NL teams have more temptation to pinch-hit for pitchers, so they need more relievers on the roster, right?

As of May 1st, the average NL roster has 12.3 pitchers, while the average AL roster has 11.9. So, the average NL roster has 0.4 of a pitcher more. Simple histograms appear below.

            NNNNN 13 AA
                  11 A
                  10 A

BTW, it’s the Angels who have only ten pitchers.

Small sample size. Maybe I’ll gather more data later in the season.

Is Bingo Small for a AA Franchise?

Recently a Binghamton Mets fan commented that AA is a high level of ball for a community the size of Binghamton. Is that true? Let’s take a look at the populations of the metro areas in the Eastern League. The whole metro-area thing is not an exact science, but I think most of the EL cities are reasonably represented. I used a list on Wikipedia that has 2012 population figures. New Hampshire is represented by Manchester, and New Britain is represented by Hartford. The only real choice for Bowie is Washington. Bowie is a bit of an anomaly in the Eastern League, as it’s the only location that very close to an MLB city. The metro-area populations are shown in the chart below. Bowie is not included, because Washington’s nine million population is off the charts.


I’m surprised that New Britain/Hartford is the largest (apart from Bowie/DC). Anyway, the fan was correct: only Altoona has a lower population than Binghamton. I’ve been to Altoona, and not only is it fairly small, but it’s also pretty isolated. I can’t imagine that many people make the trek from Pittsburgh or State College. It’s a fairly new site for organized baseball (1999), and their attendance is relatively strong. Well done, Altoona!

Speaking of attendance, the average EL 2014 home attendance is shown in the chart below.


Binghamton’s place in the cellar may play a large role in the possible demise of the franchise, but it’s been fun while it’s lasted!

2015 ABL Draft: Titusville Picks

I expect to go from first to worst this season, as there wasn’t a good return from last year’s championship squad. In fact, I kept only 13, so had two extra picks, including the last of the entire draft. The strategy was to invest in young position players that might take major strides in 2015. Pitching was relegated to the later rounds. I was hoping to snag Starlin Castro and Mookie Betts, but LBI was clever enough to pounce before me.

    1/ 10        Carlos Gomez       CF
    2/ 21        Marcell Ozuna      OF
    3/ 32        Ian Desmond        SS
    4/ 41        Travis d’Arnaud    C
    6/ 61        Tyson Ross           SP
    7/ 71        Rougned Odor       2B
    8/ 81        Eduardo Escobar    IF
    9/ 91        Oswaldo Arcia      RF
   10/101        Casey Fien           RP
   11/111        Danny Salazar        SP
   12/121        Scott Atchison       RP
   13/131        Dustin Ackley      LF
   14/141        Yovani Gallardo      SP
   15/151        Jonathan Broxton     RP
   16/161        Jared Hughes         RP
   17/171        David Buchanan       SP
   18/181        Justin Wilson        RP

Goodbye R, Hello L

During the 2014 ABL season everyone noticed the increase in pitcher cards with the R symbol. I wrote about it in
the 2014 ABL Yearbook. Now that my 2015 card data is in the computer, it’s a good opportunity to see if the Rs are still as numerous. I did a simple count of the pitchers in recent seasons that have each symbol. Starters and relievers are all grouped together. The data is from only the pitchers with ABL eligibility; not all Triple Play cards are represented. I don’t think I’ve missed too many eligible players over the last few seasons, but the first couple of seasons considered here are probably missing a few, especially for the 2008 season. The years listed refer to the ABL season, so the 2015 data is from the 2014 Triple Play cards that we’ll be using in the upcoming 2015 ABL season. OK, enough of the fine-print bullshit, let’s go to the graphs.


Well, it looks like 2014 was a blip for the R symbol. The frequency has dropped down to the previous level.

The H symbol continues to occur infrequently. (To the relief of all ABL managers!) It’s interesting that the level of the H symbol seems to follow that of the R from year to year. I didn’t notice that before, probably because the yearbook study weighted the symbols by how many innings were pitched in the ABL, and nobody likes to give an H pitcher a lot of innings. In 2014, when the R frequency doubled, the H frequency doubled too, from 4.5% to 9.5%! In 2015 it’s back down to 4.5%.


The L symbol is back with a vengeance! Lots of shorts have the L this year, and it looks like every single qualified closer has one. In the yearbook I speculated that the combination of B & L might be constant. It sure doesn’t look like that in 2015. This season should see more walks than ever before erased from batter cards, because the frequency of Bs is up too.


And finally, the F symbol (found on relievers’ cards only) has not fluctuated much over the years.

In summary, compared to last season, expect fewer homers & deeps to be re-rolled, and expect to lose more walks off the batters card.

Errors at Different Levels of OB

Commish & I were discussing the standards for official scorers giving errors. Should the same standard be applied regardless of the level, or should the standards be higher at the higher levels?

Commish made the excellent point that throwing errors (especially to first) are going to be automatic and are not really subject to any subjective standard. Since these types of errors are obviously made more frequently at the lower levels, we expect the number of errors to go up as the level goes down.

So, I can’t answer my original question with stats, but I still thought it would be interesting to look at the fielding percentages at the different levels of OB. I used 2013 stats and excluded leagues south of the border.

Screen Shot 2014-06-18 at 9.36.42 PM

The trend is clear. Actually, it’s clearer than I expected! When you get down to A ball, errors are twice as likely compared to the Bigs.

Baseball in Stockholm

The worst thing about going abroad during baseball season is missing baseball. So when I had to go to Sweden on business, I had resigned myself to a break from baseball. The weather in Stockholm was crap anyway. But I did a little search for the hell of it and found that there’s an active Baseball and Softball Association, and that there was a “match” scheduled for Saturday in the top division, the Elitserien. Well, the rain was coming down pretty good Saturday morning, so I figured it would be rained out for sure. Then I checked the web site, and the game was on, as evidenced by live scoring. So I ran to the subway and took the number 17 to Skarpnäck, a suburb south of town. There’s a big public sport park (idrottsplats) with football fields, tennis courts, a baseball field, and a softball field.

I got there during the fourth inning with Stockholm leading 1-0. They were playing Sölvesborg from Blekinge in the south of Sweden. The rain had recently stopped, and the field was in quite good shape. It was a nicely manicured field with an outfield fence (didn’t notice any distances) and a chain-link backstop. They even had lights, but the guy said they weren’t very powerful. The dugouts were rather improvised, but there was a nice set of bleachers behind home plate, as well as a little press box where the guys were scoing the game on the internet. I asked them for a roster, but they didn’t have any spare copies. They had a speaker set up in the bleachers, which they used to announce the batters and even play walk-up music for the home team. (Unlike in Binghamton, the volume was tolerable.) Of course, they played TMOTTBG during the seventh-inning stretch. Not surprisingly, no one was singing. It is Sweden, after all.

There were about a dozen folks in the stands for the whole game, and a few others wandered by to watch from time to time. I talked to one guy who was wearing a Stockholm team jacket and cap. He told me about the Stockholm club, which has quite a few teams: seniors, juniors, cadets, and a few more kids’ teams. Saturday was a double header for the senior team, and they had some of the kids’ games scheduled for Sunday. All the Stockholm players are native Swedes, but the manager is an American guy named Trevor Rooper. (Nope, he’s not in baseball-reference!) Most of the guys looked like they were in their teens and 20s, but there were a few older guys too. There was a girls softball game going on next to the baseball field, but their game was over by the time I wandered over for a closer look.

I talked to a group of folks watching their first game. They live in the area and walk by the sports fields all the time, but this was their first time checking it out up close. I had to explain a sac fly and an intentional walk. They asked me to let them know when they should root on their team!

The level of play was probably a bit below high-school level. There was not much solid contact. Saw lots of weak ground balls and strikeouts. The pitching was much better, however, at least in terms of control. I think I saw only two walks. It looked like mostly BP-type fastballs, but I did see Stockholm’s pitcher throw a couple of off-speed pitches. Fielding was hit-and-miss. I really noticed it during the throws. Not much zip at all. I think even I could have stolen second off the catchers!

The equipment looked top-notch. No names on the back, but a few of the Stockholm guys had a URL (www.frozenrope.se), which was a baseball supply store that looks to have gone under since. I was surprised that they used wooden bats. Not many balls were fouled out of play (lack of contact), and they did not spark frenzied scrambles as in the States. One of the kids would just retrieve it and give it back. Two umps worked the game. Everything I heard them call was in English.

The final was 2-0 Stockholm, which was an unusually low-scoring game. [BOX SCORE] I had to leave after the first game, but Stockholm took the second game 20-5. Mercy rule. Stockholm is the best team in the country. They’ve won something like four of the last five national club championships.

So, who knows, maybe baseball in Sweden is where golf was 30 years ago. They’ve got a long way to go before they can think about the World Baseball Classic, but you never know.

R & H Symbols

A few guys have mentioned that there are a lot more R symbols out there this season. Commish & I were talking about it and speculated about how the symbols are calculated. I guessed that the R & H symbols depend solely on how many home runs a pitcher gave up with runners on base relative to the total number of homers he surrendered.

I collected some stats from Baseball Reference to see how they compared to the symbols. I initially selected the 43 starters currently on the ABL active rosters. I later added some H-symbol starters from Taxi Teams and the free-agent pool, because the H symbols were underrepresented. I didn’t look at any relievers, but I don’t expect they would have rules different from the starters. I looked at the 2013 MLB stats and the TPB cards we’re using for the 2014 ABL season. In B-R you can find the relevant stats under the “Splits” menu in the “Standard Pitching” section on the particular pitcher’s page. Scroll down to the “Bases Occupied” table. Strasburg’s stats are shown below: 7 homers with the bases empty, 9 with runners on.


I noticed some patterns and figured out an easy rule that predicted all the actual symbols. It’s best understood by looking at the grid shown below. There are two measurements that figure in. The first is the number of homers hit with runners on base divided by the total number of homers. Call this HRonbase. My initial thought was that the symbols would depend on this number only. The average value of this measurement in my sample is 40%. The second measurement is the overall home-run rate: the total number of homers surrendered divided by the batters faced. Call this one HRt. The average value in my sample is 2.2%. So here’s the table showing how the combination of these measurements determines the symbol:


When the overall home-run rate is greater than 2%, the symbols act like I expected them to. If the percentage of home runs with runners on is large, the guy gets an H. If that percentage is small, he gets an R. But it’s a different story when the overall home-run rate is less than 2%. In that case, it doesn’t matter what the stats are for on-base and bases empty; the guy gets an R, period. The clearest example is Henderson Alvarez, who had guys on base every time a home run was hit against him. But that was only two homers in 418 plate appearances, a very low rate of 0.48%. That low rate earned him an R, despite the fact that he gave up zero solo shots.

So it’s obvious that the R symbol is used to reduce the number of homers from the batter’s card when the pitcher gives up fewer than average home runs in general. With power becoming scarcer recently, it’s not surprising that more Rs are required. On the other hand, although there were 273 fewer home runs in 2013 compared to 2012 (as Commish pointed out), there were even fewer in 2011.

I wondered why the overall homer rate couldn’t instead be handled via the Deep ranges. I think the answer is that if you lose the Deeps, then you lose the park variation that forms such an important part of the game. If a guy has no Deep ranges (and there are some, of course), then it doesn’t matter what park he’s pitching in or what Power the batter has (except for the Deeps from Park Effects, of course).

So, my conclusion is that the R & H symbols are based more on the overall home-run rate of the pitcher, and not so much on the state of the bases when the home runs were hit.

2014 ABL Draft: TV Picks

Round/Overall  Player             Position

   1/  5       Gerrit Cole          SP
   2/ 15       Clay Buchholz        SP
   2/ 17       Hisashi Iwakuma      SP
   2/ 21       Luke Hochevar        RP
   3/ 26       Geovany Soto         C
   4/ 37       Matt Adams           1B
   4/ 40       Tanner Scheppers     RP
   5/ 47       Justin Masterson     SP
   6/ 57       Caleb Thielbar       RP
   8/ 77       Ed Lucas             IF
   9/ 87       Jeanmar Gomez        RP
  10/ 97       Santiago Casilla     RP
  12/117       Brian Dozier         2B
  14/137       Joe Kelly            SP
  15/167       Ryan Flaherty        IF
               Brandon Phillips     2B
               David Freese         3B

Phillips & Freese weren’t really draft picks, but were picked up shortly afterwards.

World Series Day & Night Games

The first World Series night game was Game Four of the 1971 series at Three Rivers Stadium, a 4-3 victory for the Pirates over the Orioles. I checked Retrosheet to learn how quickly things transitioned to an all-night-game series. I went by the “day/night” flag in the info section.

Screen Shot 2013-10-20 at 7.59.57 PM


By 1974 more than half the games were being played at night. For the next decade, about a third of the games were still played during the day. The 1985 series between the Cardinals and Twins was the first series without a day game. A day game was played in 1987 at 4pm local time on a Saturday afternoon in Minnesota. Of course, since it was played under the dome, there was no direct sunlight.

The graph shows day games played in 2010. That happened because the Giants were hosting games in the Pacific Time Zone. In order to hit the magic 8pm Eastern Time spot, those games started at 4:57pm and 4:59pm local time, according to Baseball Reference. Retrosheet’s day/night discriminator is apparently 5pm, so those games count as day games. The local sunset was around 6:18pm, which means about an hour and 20 minutes in the daytime. Those start times still look a little strange to me. I thought the 8pm start times dictated first pitches at about seven minutes past the hour. That’s what happened in 2012 when the starts were 5:08 & 5:09 Pacific Time, again in San Francisco.

However you classify these “twilight” games, it’s safe to say that we won’t see a real World Series day game for a long time, if ever. Too bad.

New Retrosheet Modifiers

Saw a note about new Retrosheet modifiers on the Chadwick mailing list.

New modifiers as of December, 2012
/FINT – fan interference
/BINT – batter interference
/RINT – runner interference
/UINT – umpire interference
/OBS  – obstruction
/NDP  – no double play
/AP   – appeal play
/REV  – play reviewed
/PASS - runner passed another runner
/BOOT - batting out of turn

Unfortunately, these are not documented on the Retrosheet site, and it makes me wonder what else is missing.


This spam comment made me LOL.

of course like your website however you need to check the spelling on several of your posts. A number of them are rife with spelling problems and I find it very bothersome to tell the truth however I will surely come back again.

The Worst Hitting Pitchers in MLB History

Baseball Reference has a free trial for their Play Index, so I’m giving it a whirl.

Who are the worst hitting pitchers of all time? I’ve got no magic criteria, but it’s easy find some guys who were epic fails at the plate.

Rob Herbel pitched in 332 games in the 60s and early 70s, mostly for the Giants. He managed only six hits in 227 plate appearances for an anemic .029 batting average. He struck out 125 times (55% of PAs) and walked only eight times. Actually, one third of his hits were doubles, which raised his OPS to .104. I bet a few of those doubles were hit to sleeping outfielders.

Dean Chance won the AL Cy Young in 1964 and accumulated 759 plate appearances in 406 games. He recorded 44 hits (.066 BA), all but two of which were singles. He struck out 420 times (55%) and walked only 30 times. With 128 wins and a 2.92 career ERA, he’s probably the best pitcher ever who was useless with a bat in his hands.

Of the active guys, Tommy Hanson & Ben Sheets are notable. Hanson is 11 for 187 (.059) with 92 strikeouts, 5 walks, and zero extra-base hits. Sheets is 34 for 449 (.076) with 212 Ks and 19 walks.

hanson           sheets

Although Randy Tate was in the bigs for only one year, he holds the distinction of having the most career plate appearances (47) without a hit. He did manage to draw one walk, though! In six minor league seasons he hit .113, so I guess ’75 was just a down year for him. Tate had an unusually symmetric career: three years in the minors, followed by one full season with the Mets (He pitched in every month of the ’75 season.), followed by three more years in the minors. He was never called up during his minor league seasons, and wasn’t sent down during his only major league season!

And, finally, of the pitchers with the dubious distinction of never having reached base safely ever, the guy with the most plate appearances (33) is none other than Justin Verlander. I think I’ve heard that he’s a decent pitcher, though. Verlander did not reach base during his three post-season PAs, and he never went to the plate during his 20-game minor league career. Let’s hope that the increase in interleague play will give Justin the chance to get off the schneid in 2013.

2013-09-30 UPDATE Verlander got only two plate appearances during the 2013 regular season, and they both came in the 162nd game. He went hitless, but so did the rest of the Tigers, as this was Henderson Alvarez’ no-hitter!

2014-06-18 UPDATE On April 12, 2014 in San Diego, California, in the top of the second with two outs, Justin Verlander reached base safely for the first time in his professional career when he grounded a single up the middle against Ian Kennedy. When he next came to the plate in the fourth… he hit another single!!! He would later score his first run. As of today Verlander has a .069 batting average. He is still looking for that first walk.

2012 ABL Pitching Stats

I took the regular season stats from last season, identified each pitcher with his role (starter/reliever) and his arm (righty/lefty), then tabulated the results. The basic findings:

  • Righties pitch 80% of innings.
  • Righties start 80% of games.
  • Starters pitch 73% of innings.
  • The average start lasts 6.35 innings.
  • The average relief appearance lasts 1.45 innings.

The surprise to me was that, apart from the fact that they’re used in different amounts, righties and lefties are used very similarly. Lefty starters stay in the game as long as righties. (A bit longer in fact!)

The biggest difference seems to be that the average relief outing is longer for righties, 1.48 innings vs. 1.33 for lefties. That’s the LOOGY factor, but I thought the difference would be even greater.

The totals are shown below, grouped into a few different comparison pairs.

Screen Shot 2013-02-23 at 10.18.42 AM