I don’t get it? Help Me Understand

These are just thoughts about the game and other stuff.  Mix in if you like.

  • Why is the season 162 games long?  Don’t forget that Spring Training is a month and a half as well.
  • The NL West should go on alert now that Jed Hoyer and Jeff Moorad are in town.
  • Did the Astros really trade Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt?  I never thought Drayton would do it.
  • Looks like baseball might need to come up with the Darwin Awards.  Here are some of my picks.  Kendry Morales hits a homer and then hits the DL.  Coughlin goes on DL when he gets hurt throwing pies.  Pitchers are still getting hurt trying to beat up things likes doors who aren’t alive.  Grant Balfour goes on the DL after tickle fighting with the pitching coach.  What do you have?
  • Why does the All Star game give home field advantage in the World Series?  Must be a ton of money.
  • How come Brett Myers and Corey Hart signed extensions so soon after the trade deadline?  My guess is that they become more attractive to teams at the non-waiver deadline because of cost certainty.
  • Speaking of deals, I don’t know if I am into the 3 year deal anymore.  I definitely don’t like back-loaded deals for teams.   That just makes it more difficult for teams to deal a guy if he stinks in a couple years.
  • Seriously, why are there 162 games in a season?
  • Baseball bats that I used while I played cost $720/dozen.  That means that the piece of wood in my hands cost at least $60 a bat.  I think maple bats are closer to $80/bat.
  • How come Adam Dunn is a trade target in the media every single year of his existence and he never gets traded?
  • Why is base running so terrible in the big leagues?
  • Why do teams play “no doubles” defense late in the game when they are winning by 1 run.  Doesn’t that give the offense a better chance to get a base hit?
  • How come Joe West is always on Sportscenter?

Those are just some thoughts.  What are you seeing in the game that makes you scratch your head?


Trade Deadline Market and Who Will Win

What’s My Point?

Teams that understand the market and the value of a player can cherry pick players from those teams who misjudge what they have.

Why Does it Matter?

Trades can make a team a playoff and World Series contender or they can set a team back years from having any hope of post season.

Market

To fully understand any business we must first understand what is valued.  The old way was that “Big Market” teams would just buy players and the small market teams would acquire club controlled players.  Those are players who have more than 1 year away from free agency.  Everything was going great until smaller market teams started to compete and take down larger market.  Think of the A’s and Billy Beane as an example.  But then the Red Sox changed everything with John Henry.

John Henry was a futures trader and with that seemed to come a new disciplined philosophy.  Insert Theo Epstein.  The Yale grad became GM at age 28 and that must have shocked other MLB owners.  One would think that he would feel tremendous pressure to “make things happen.”  Instead, Epstein said this in the USATody on November 30, 2002:

“”There’s going to be a lot of pressure to go for the quick fix,” he said. “If that means sacrificing more of the future than we’re willing to do, we have to remain disciplined and pass on a potential quick fix.”

In my opinion, it is this discipline and clear vision that will determine if a team is going to win or loose in the short and long term.

Assets

In baseball, the players are the assets in this market.  Teams are free to trade players or cash as long as the player doesn’t have a no-trade clause.  A no-trade clause can be controlled by the player, or it can be a partial no-trade where the player can block the team from trading him to certain teams.

The value of the player has to do with performance on and off the field.  Off the field in terms of marketing the player with merchandise or publicity.  On the field, the player’s value is determined by how much he contributes to a team win.  A player may have value that we as fans cannot see in the form of leadership or special skills.

Value

In simplest terms, value in baseball is found when a team pays less than the output for a comparable player.  This has 2 factors.  The first is salary.  The second is the teams control of the player’s rights before free agency.  This is where we hear the term “Club controlled.”  Each player’s true value is at the intersection between salary, controllable years, and performance.  Of course that is not easily defined by each team.

Teams use different systems to evaluate these factors.  The team that clearly defines to their scouts what they are looking for in a player is the one who will spend money more efficiently.  Efficient spending and accurate evaluations are what get teams to the post season.

Today’s Trade Market

I have noticed a change in the way teams are assessing value.  In the past a team may pay for a “big name” they could market.  Now it seems like they are understanding that comparable players may provide more value.  The player may not produce as much, but they provide the team with more flexibility in controllable years (which will cost less than that same player in free agency) and salary.  By being more efficient with capital, the team is able to agile in a market allowing them to consistently adjust and compete.

What do you think?

It is important to me to get your opinions and ideas.  Do you feel like certain teams are better at the trade deadline?  What do you think the Astros are going to do with Oswalt?  How about the Brewers with Hart?  Now is your time to teach me!  What do you think?


They’re Bunting!!!! What do we do?

Situation:

You are the manager for the visiting team, The Dudes.  The score is 4-3 and you just took the lead in the top half of the 9th inning on a solo homer by the owners kid, Dude Johnson.  It is now the bottom of the 9th inning and 0 outs.  Lead-off hitter and “Plus” runner, Ricky Henderson just hit a single up the middle.  Up next is left handed bunting specialist Juan Pierre who is also a “Plus” runner.  As soon as pitcher, Sandy Koufax comes set, Pierre shows that he is sacrifice bunting.

As manager you have decided to call time out and talk over defensive assignments with your infielders on the mound.

Your assignment:

Tell each infielder what their responsibilities if the ball is bunted.

1st baseman positioning choices:

  • Hold runner on 1st base or
  • Stand on the inner cut of grass to be closer to a bunted ball

Decision choice:

  • Charge or
  • Wait until ball is bunted

If the ball is bunted to the 1st baseman what should he do with the ball?

  • Throw to 1st base or
  • Throw to 2nd base

Second Baseman positioning choices:

  • Double play depth or
  • Stand in the hole between 1st and 2nd base.

Decision choices if ball is bunted:

  • Cover 2nd base or
  • Cover 1st base

Short Stop positioning:

  • Double play depth or
  • Cheat a few steps towards 2nd base

Decision choices:

  • Cover 2nd base or
  • Cover 3rd base

Third Baseman position choices:

  • Double play depth or
  • Stand in baseline grass or
  • Inside cut of grass

Decision choices:

  • Start walking towards the bunter or
  • Charge or
  • Hold your ground until ball is bunted

If the ball is bunted to the 3rd baseman what should he do with the ball?

  • Throw to 1st base or
  • Throw to 2nd base

Pitcher Coverage choices to field a bunt:

  • Cover area in front of the mound or
  • Run to the 1st base line on bunt or
  • Run to 3rd base line on a bunt

As you walk back to the dugout you are confident that each guy understands their assignments.  Now we are going to find out if you understand the best defensive alignment.  If you are wrong and lose this game you will probably lose your job.  No pressure!

Oh and by the way….You’re playing at Minute Maid Park in Houston.  The roof is shut and there was a special 7th Game World Series promotion sponsored by Red Bull.  43,000 Red Bulled Texans are stomping their Lucchese boots and screaming at the top of their lungs.

In other words, the players on the field will not be able to hear each other even if they are 5 feet from each other.

So what are you going to do?


Go Partway!

Scenario: You are the runner on 2nd base and there is 1 out.  The score is 3 to 3 and it is the 4th inning.  A fly ball is hit to right center field and the right fielder will attempt to catch the ball.  As a runner you have average Major League speed.  If you choose to tag, you will be safe at 3rd base, but you will have to slide.

The next batter up hits in 7th in your lineup and he is a career .250 hitter with 10 HR’s and 60 RBI’s.

What Do the Readers Think?

In my unofficial tally, it looks like 40% of the readers think they should go “Partway” and 60% believe that they would tag up.

The Answer:

The runner on 2nd base should go “partway.”

Why?  Let’s ask “Disco!”

Tom Tango doesn’t know this, but my name for him is Tom “Disco” Tango!  He is someone who really has helped me put numbers to strong beliefs that I have about the game.  Disco has an amazing explanation to this situation and we would benefit by reading it.  So here it is from Tango aka Disco, Lichtman, and Dolphin’s site called The Book: Playing the Percentages

By Tangotiger (aka Discotiger)

Here are the possible outcomes:
a. RF catches ball, you tag up, you make it to 3B, 100% of the time
b. RF catches ball, you are somewhere between 2B and 3B, you need to get back to 2B, and will be thrown out there proportionate to how close you were to 3B
c. RF just misses getting the ball, you tag up, you make it to 3B, 100% of the time
d. RF just misses getting the ball, you round 3B, the RF throws it in, and you attempt to score proportionately to how close you were to 3B when the ball dropped in, and you will be thrown out a fixed percentage of your attempt rate (say 10%)

Now, give me about 10 minutes to look into my WE charts, and I’ll give you my answer.

UPDATE:
Presuming bottom of the 4th, the chance of winning to start that plate appearance is .5832.  Let’s do it:

a. Tag up: Runner on 3B, 2 outs makes it .5466 win probability

b. Take a lead:
(i) Runner on 2B, 2 outs makes it .5412 win probability
(ii) DP makes it .5000

c. Base hit: Runners on corners, 1 out makes it .6384 win probability

d. Base hit:
(i). You stick at 3B, so same as c. above
(ii). You try to score, the batter-runner holds at 1B, and you are:
1. Safe at home: Up by 1, runner on 1B, 1 out: .6824
2. Out at home: Runner on 1B, 2 outs: .5291
(iii). You try to score, the batter-runner goes to 2B on the throw, and you are:
1. Safe at home: Up by 1, runner on 2B, 1 out: .6983
2. Out at home: Runner on 2B, 2 outs: same as b(i) above

Ok, you need to have all those numbers in your head when you have to make your decision!

The difference between a. and b. above is so small that on a play that you think is a sure out, that it doesn’t really matter if you tag up or not.  That is, being on 2B with 2 outs and being on 3B with 2 outs is almost the same thing.  (That’s because the SF is now out.) So, tagging up is not really an option, not unless you are 100% sure that the RF will make the out.

Now, the tougher part: you are not sure if the RF will make the out.  If you take a big enough lead, you will score easy, and your win probability is around 68% to 70%.  If you take a good lead, but not big lead, you might get thrown out at home, in which case the win probability is 53% to 54%.  If you play “station-to-station” ball, the win probability is 64%.

So, let’s try to work it out, presuming it’s a 50/50 play (you are not sure if the RF will make the out or not).  You take a good lead (say halfway), but not big lead.

Batter is out, you make it back 45% of the time, and are doubled up 5% of the time.
Base hit, you score 40% of the time, and are thrown out 10% of the time.

That’s a .595 win probability.

If you simply played station-to-station (half the time a., and half the time c.), it would have been .593.

As you can see, you have to take a lead such that you have at most a 10% chance of being doubled up on a catch, and at most a 20% chance of being thrown out at home.  Sounds therefore that you should be about one-third to half-way to 3B.

That’s on a 50/50 play.

Conclusion

Many of the best base runners I have seen in the game will go partway in this situation no matter what.  It was amazing watching Jeff Bagwell do this almost every time.  I never remember him making a mistake on the base paths and that was because he followed this rule.

Instincts are born out of an understanding to preserve outs.  In other words, by sticking to this rule, a player positions himself (or herself Lisa, Gayle, or Karen…I hear you guys!) to take advantage of a defenses misplay while still giving the offense another chance to score.

I Can’t Tell You How Proud I Am of You Guys!

What amazed me the most about your comments was that you formulated a plan. To be honest with you, I have zero problem with those of you who chose to tag because you acted on your plan and stuck to it!  The vast majority of big league players have no plan when they are on the base paths.  That is why base running is so bad in the Big Leagues.  I myself have messed up so many times that it reminds me just how important it is to obey this rule.  Great job to everyone!

I’m proud of you guys!  I’m smiling right now!!!!


You’re the Base Runner at 2nd and There’s 1 Out

So what are you going to do?

You just hit a double!  That was a great piece of hitting you had right there.  I didn’t think you would be able to hit a Ubaldo Jimenez fastball.  The radar gun said it was 98 mph.  That’s moving huh?  Well get over it.  It is your job and if you make the right decisions here we can go up a run.  Of course, if you mess up, it could mean the difference between winning this game and going to the playoffs or losing and missing the post season by a game.

Enjoy thinking about your responses and if you feel like asking a question then go for it!  It really doesn’t matter what you say because our goal is to learn.  We are trying to learn about the process and not the outcome.  If you feel like simply saying your opinion (notice that this is an opinion) that is good.  If you want to try and explain your reasoning then I think you may get more out of this exercise.

Guys…remember to put your favorite number next to your name.  You are on base and baseball players uniforms have numbers.  Is your helmet on?  It better be on because you are standing on second base.  Look at the 3rd base coach and check the signs.  Ok…nothing is “on” so it’s time to check the infielders and outfielders.  Take your lead….here we go….

Scenario: You are the runner on 2nd base and there is 1 out.  The score is 3 to 3 and it is the 4th inning.  A fly ball is hit to right center field and the right fielder will attempt to catch the ball.  As a runner you have average Major League speed.  If you choose to tag, you will be safe at 3rd base, but you will have to slide.

The next batter up hits in 7th in your lineup and he is a career .250 hitter with 10 HR’s and 60 RBI’s.

What do you do and why?


Base Running with No Outs

What is my point?

With no outs a base runner should tag up on a fly ball if he is on second or third base.  If he is on first base, he needs to make a decision based on the distance of the fly ball.

Why does it matter?

The goal of a base runner is to preserve outs while taking advantage of opportunities to reach the next base. These rules provide a framework helping a runner make better decisions.

Do Your Homework Before a Pitch is Thrown

Check the Defense
Base runners must identify the location of each defensive player before taking their lead.  This information helps make decisions once a ball is put in play.

Step Back on a Line Drive
Line drives are the most difficult ball to read.  They are the biggest cause of “doubling off” runners.  “Doubled off” is when a batter flies out to a fielder and the fielded ball beats the runner back to the base the runner occupies.

Many coaches will say that a player should “Freeze” on a line drive, but that doesn’t give the runner the best opportunity to preserve outs.   There are some examples where a player who freezes will be out when a player who steps back will be safe.  That example is for another time.

Now that we have a general understanding, it is time to discuss the first rule.  Put your helmets on!

Rule Number 1
With no outs, players should “Tag up” at second and third base if a ball is hit in the air.    There are some exceptions based on the location of the fly ball and what base you occupy.

Let’s Look at Some of the Most Common Examples.

Situation 1: Runner is on first base and no one is out.  Fly ball is hit in fair territory.

Base runner: The base runner should get off as far as he can and still be able to get back to first base should the ball be caught.  Remember, we said that the runner should automatically tag up at second and third base, not first base.

Why? The runner should not tag up because he could be forced out if the ball drops.  That is not possible on second or third base since there is no force.

Situation 2: Man on second base and no outs.  Fly ball is hit anywhere on the field fair or foul.

Base runner: “Tag up” and choose to stay or advance to the next base after a catch is made.

Why? With zero outs, a runner’s priority is to preserve the out.  It is better for the runner to remain at the occupied base then it is for the runner to move too far off the base and become “Doubled off.”  By tagging, the runner gives his team 2 additional outs to score.

Situation 3: Man on third base with no outs.  Fly ball hit at least 200 feet away. (200’ is a generic number I am using to describe a distance where the base runner can beat a throw home)

Base runner: Base runner should tag up.

Why? The likelihood is that the ball will be caught.  The fielder will also be in a location where the runner can beat the throw to home plate.  If the runner tags up, he will have a high probability of making it home unless he trips or slips.  Even if the fielder drops the ball, the runner will still beat the throw home.

Situation 4: Man on third base.  Fly ball is hit in the short outfield where either an infielder or outfielder has a chance to catch a ball.

Base runner: Since the fly ball is now close enough to throw the base runner out, the runner should no longer tag, and instead get off the base.  The runner needs to be close enough to get back to third base if the ball is caught.

Why? By going part way, the runner is able to get back to third base if the ball is caught.  He will also be able to score should the ball be dropped.  Remember that the ball is not deep enough for the runner to tag up.

First and Third base coaches

The runner should not pay any attention to the third base coach.  It is the job of the runner to make decisions. Remember that in a big league game, a player probably won’t be able to hear so the decision is on them.

Baseball IQ

I believe that a player’s understanding of baseball lies largely with how they run the bases.  Speed is secondary to understanding the value of your out.  Down the road we will look to see how the score of the game helps determine decisions on the base paths.

Viewers Job

It is now your turn to watch the base runners when there are no outs and a fly ball is hit.  If you see a runner tag up then you know he has played correctly.  If you see the runner lead off the base then you have identified a player who has made a mental mistake.   Watch some games and see how you do!