Author Archive

Introducing the Best Ways to Lose a Baseball Game

No one likes to lose, baseball players perhaps least of all. We’ve all heard ballplayers talk about the necessity of putting losses behind them, but I bet some disappointments stick in the backs of their minds. I sometimes wake up at 3am feeling badly about things I did in middle school; I imagine giving up seven runs in two innings could have a similar effect to when I was nasty to Charissa in French 2 because Laura was mean to me, and I wasn’t sure how feelings worked quite yet. Ghosts haunt their haunts at the oddest times.

But losing is also part of baseball, like spit and dust and strikeouts. Twelve teams have losing records this year. Baseball’s losingest team by win percentage, the Orioles, have as many wins (36) as the Red Sox (the winningest team) have losses. That’s a lot of losing! That’s losing days in a row. That’s losing weeks at a time. That’s the sort of losing you have to get used to if you’re going to carry on living. Which got me thinking about the best ways to lose. Losing stinks, sure, and baseball players hate doing it, but how can you lose and grin and bear it and avoid revisiting it at 3am on a Tuesday night? There are a great many ways to lose, but I believe I have arrived at the best five.

Beaten by God
Giancarlo Stanton hits a 453-foot walk-off homer.
The Mariners’ mistake was asking Ryan Cook to face God. There are whole books in the Bible dedicated to the various ways in which the Ryan Cooks of the world don’t prevail when forced to square off against the divine. And sure, Ryan Cook was angry when Giancarlo Stanton thwacked a dinger to end the game.

Here Cook is, being angry. Aw buddy! You messed up good.

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Meg Rowley FanGraphs Chat – 8/14/18

Meg Rowley: Hello! Welcome to the chat!

mike sixel: I’m sorry I had fun at work today….won’t happen again…..

Meg Rowley: I assume this is in reference to David Bote.

Meg Rowley: One thing is, bat flips are fine. Bat flips can be great! Bat flips when one has one on a walk-off grand slam are terrific.

Meg Rowley: Another thing is, we could collectively be more selective about who we give the time of day to.

Mike: Are DRA and DRA- ever coming to Fangraphs?

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Bruce Dreckman Had a Bug in His Ear

To be an umpire is to be something of a bad time. Umpires embody the same spirit that leads our mothers to force a helmet on us at the roller rink. They’re your friend Wanda, who just wants to remind you, because you did complain last time, that strong beers give you heartburn, so even though it’s your birthday and you just want to have some fun, you might want to lay off. Wanda isn’t wrong — your body doesn’t do well with all sorts of things anymore — but she could also be described as “harshing the vibe.”

Umpires stomp on our good time and get in the way of our boys and their wins, so we yell and squawk their way, but we’d be lost without them. They’re a very necessary bummer and they normally perform their bummering quite ably. You can tell, because we have baseball at all. They aren’t perfect, and they have their foul-ups and biases, but if umpires were much worse at their very hard jobs, even just some medium amount worse, we couldn’t have the sport. It would offend us; it would get us down. The action on the field would grind to a halt. We’d say baseball was stupid.

The calls, especially at home plate, have to be mostly very good mostly all the time, or the whole thing comes tumbling down. And so umpires do their very hard jobs mostly very well with very little thanks and a not small amount of jeering. And what’s more, they’re calm while they do it. That mellow is important. The job well done keeps us moving; the calm lets us believe it’s fair. The calm lets us trust it. And so they’re calm. Not perfectly so; not when the yelling and the squawking really pick up. But usually? Quite calm.

Case in point: on Wednesday evening, a bug flew into second base umpire Bruce Dreckman’s ear during the ninth inning of the Yankees-White Sox game. Here is Dreckman, running in from the infield as Jonathan Holder prepared to pitch to Nicky Delmonico. He calls for a trainer, looking vaguely stricken, but only vaguely. Greg Bird appears confused. What’s going on here? Well jeez, Greg, he has a moth in his ear.

Dreckman grasps the shoulders of Steve Donohue, head athletic trainer for the Yankees. It’s moving around in there, Steve. Oh god, it tickles.

Bruce and Steve descend into the dugout, with Bruce giving his ear the little dig-and-flick of a man who has just gotten out of the pool and is unable to shake that last. little. bit. of. water. Except it is not water. It is a bug.

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Meg Rowley FanGraphs Chat – 8/7/18

Meg Rowley: Hello, and welcome to the chat!

Meg Rowley: After a couple weeks of swapping stuff around this should (*should*) be the normal chat time now, which will avoid us having two chats at the same time.

Mike from Tempe: Is there any chance of getting minor league splits into the Fangraphs stat pages? Only reason I still use BR, and I’d rather stick with FG.

Meg Rowley: I will ask. Also, B-R is great and very deserving of your clicks!

john cale: rougned odor has a 225 wRC+ in the second half. maybe 24 year olds can still figure things out, after all.

Meg Rowley: Sure they can! They’re bright young things full of promise! We’ve also seen Odor be good for a stretch and then just be dreadful before.

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Meg Rowley FanGraphs Chat – 8/3/18

Meg Rowley: Good afternoon from Boston, and welcome!

Meg Rowley: This should be the last week for a while where the schedule is wonky, so thanks everyone for being patient.

stever20: Is Bryce Harper officially back?

Meg Rowley: Was Bryce Harper ever really gone? I know this season has not gone the way that he or the Nationals wanted it to. I know that the increase in strike outs has worried some. I also don’t want to chalk it all up to BABIP.

Meg Rowley: But barring some injury we don’t really know about, I think this is a fluky, weird year, that we’ll look back on and think, “Huh, that was strange.”

Moelicious: Does Meg purchase overpriced stadium food or sneak in her own treats?

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FanGraphs Saberseminar Meetup: Tonight!

Saberseminar, the excellent annual baseball research conference, begins tomorrow and that can only mean one thing: it’s almost time for FanGraphs’ Saberseminar meetup at Meadhall in Kendall Square in Cambridge! As we have in years past, we’ve reserved space on the bar’s mezzanine level and ordered some tasty snacks to share. We’ll kick things off at 7 p.m., just in time to have a beer and watch the Red Sox and the Yankees continue their battle for the AL East.

Event Info
Today, Friday, August 3rd from 7 to 10 p.m.
Meadhall, Upper Mezzanine
90 Broadway, Cambridge, MA

In addition to many of Saberseminar’s presenters, there will be a number of FanGraphs folks in attendance, including David Appelman, David Laurila, Jeff Zimmerman, Sean Dolinar, FanGraphs alum Paul Swydan, and yours truly. Seminar organizers Chuck Korb and Dan Brooks generally make an appearance, as well. It should be a fun evening of good beer and good conversation, and we hope to see you there. Until then, please enjoy this GIF of the Red Sox outfield goofing around!

Let Us Like Baseball

On Sunday, I asked a few friends a question: what is your favorite sort of baseball play? One said a well-placed bunt for a hit on the third-base line. Another, preferring defensive highlights, elected for a smartly turned 6-4-3 double play with the shortstop going to his backhand, or else a home run robbed. One described the thrill of watching a pitcher who, after finding himself facing a bases-loaded, no-outs situation, manages to wiggle off the hook. Strikeouts swinging on a 100 mph fastball, and long balls that thump the batter’s eye, and outfield dances and coy smiles at a job well done, each answer was different, making up a tableau of the game’s joys.

For my part, I tend to be drawn to the interstitials between plate appearances, the little bits of tragedy or humor that bring alive the stats and those who make them, the funny faces that suggest a favorite passage from a book or that the pitcher has pooped himself. We can like so many different things, and baseball has room for all of them, the whimsy and rigor, the skill and struggle. It is your most compelling friend, your most interesting hang, a great, hard puzzle. It’s the best meal you’ve ever eaten, hearty and surprising. This is baseball’s greatest strength. It has so much to offer. But it also has some grumps.

I think we sometimes make the mistake of paying grumps too much attention. They’re so obviously grumps after all. When good fights present themselves, we should fight those good fights, but much of the grump’s grumping is so clearly just dumb, so plainly wrong, as to be beneath our sustained notice. This past Saturday, Braves broadcasters Joe Simpson and Chip Caray engaged in a bit of silly fuss over what the Dodgers wore during batting practice. They grumped. We chirped and rolled our eyes. We moved past it.

But on Monday, as we sifted through Sean Newcomb and Trea Turner’s tweets and subsequent apologies, and grappled with the Astros trade for Roberto Osuna, I kept thinking about Simpson and Caray. I thought about baseball, with all its room for what we like, also having room for hurt and pain. I kept thinking about how brittle our affection can be. I thought about that and those grumps, and I worried.

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Meg Rowley FanGraphs Chat – 7/27/18

Meg Rowley: Morning all, and welcome to the chat!

Meg Rowley: I am obviously not Jeff. We’ll be swapping chat times this week and next so that he can engage in various adventures.

CrashedDavis: more a Jaffe question, but you’re chatting: with statcast and the associated stats (plus future innovations) allowing us to much better judge over/underperformance, how are we going to evaluate that over full careers in HOF debates 15+ years from now?

Meg Rowley: Just as we have a much better understanding of who is actually good now than we did 50 years ago, I would imagine it will continue to enhance how voters think about who is worthy of induction.

Meg Rowley: I think there is a limit to how much stats like xwOBA can change that process, because ultimately the Hall is concerned with the careers guys really had, but it’ll have an effect.

Meg Rowley: I imagine it will also force us to change how many guys voters can vote for at any one time as we better understand just how amazing a lot of these guys are.

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On Shin-Soo Choo and the Charity of a Hit

It’s so funny, the things that stick with us from when we were kids. I don’t remember learning to read, but I do vividly recall the time my father told me I shouldn’t eat raisins because they are actually roly-poly bugs. I’ve since come to learn that Dad was fibbing, but I still don’t care for raisins. I carefully pick them out of trail mix in favor of M&Ms and peanuts. Part of it is the taste and some of it is the little seeds, but at least a bit of it is a concern that one of them will start moving around in my mouth as I chew. I know I’m not appreciating raisins as I should, but I just can’t shake what my dad said. And I think baseball types, so long enamored with batting average, might be similarly stuck when it comes to on-base streaks, even though our tastes have matured past thinking we’re eating bugs.

Shin-Soo Choo has a 51-game on-base streak, and we aren’t really talking about it much. We are talking about it some, of course. Back on July 6, when Choo’s streak was 44 games long, Jay Jaffe checked in on the venerable company Choo could soon be keeping if he kept streaking. The Rangers have mentioned it on their broadcasts. But a search of MLB’s twitter account for “Choo on base” since May 13, when the streak began, doesn’t return any results. I don’t recall any At-Bat notifications about it. It seems to have gone largely unremarked upon, which suggests it isn’t thought to be that remarkable, and I’ve been trying to figure out why.

I should say, hitting streaks have a greater degree of difficulty. After all, there is only one thing you can do to extend a hitting streak — which, most obviously, is to get a hit. No player has really come close to challenging Joe DiMaggio’s famous 1941 56-game hitting streak; the next closest batter, Pete Rose, tapped out at 44 hits during in 1978.

But it’s more than just the degree of difficulty. I think it’s that we see too much charity in the walks and hit by pitches that find their way into on-base streaks. We tend to think of hits in terms of action and, importantly, in terms of having earned something. They’re about the hitter doing. Walks, or a pitch that plunks a guy in the ribs, on the other hand, seem to carry with them the generosity of strangers. Sometimes it’s the pitcher’s, for being unable or unwilling (undoubtedly the worst sort of charity in this calculus is the intentional kind) to locate. Sometimes it’s a fielder, who doesn’t get an error but really ought to have gotten that ball. Or else it’s the umpire’s, for balls that really ought to be strikes. Even though we know that patience is a skill — a skill we prize! — we can’t shake the sense that the batter has been given a little gift. Has done a little less doing. And while that’s partly fair, I would assert that how we seem to think of Choo’s streak suggests that we see too much of the charity in walks and hit by pitches (a rather mean sort of present!) and too little of the charity in hitting.

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Meg Rowley FanGraphs Chat – 7/17/18

Meg Rowley: Good morning all, and welcome to the chat!

Meg Rowley: As I mentioned last week, there is likely to be a bit of shifting around with the Tuesday schedule in the weeks to come so that we aren’t doubling up on chats.

Meg Rowley: But until then, here I am!

Waltharius: Why would LAD need Machado? They have enough hitting in Taylor at SS, and Turner at 3B

Meg Rowley: It allows them to move on from Forsythe. Heyman had a tweet on how they’d shift around the infield and I imagine it’s pretty close to what you’d see.

Rox Rox Purple Sox: Rockies have a ton of infield prospects in the pipeline (Bregman, Hampson, Welker). Do you think those guys factor into a decision to resign LeMahieu this year, or are they too far away?

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On Liking Jean Segura

There are few things that can make us feel more anxious than when we realize that people we consider our friends don’t enjoy the same things we do. Music, comedy specials, how much to go outside. There’s a little daring in liking things, especially when we like them deeply. By professing that we like something, we invite someone else to say that they don’t like that something, and then suddenly, there is one less thing that knits us to that someone.

Not liking the same little somethings is fine; I like eggplant and I have friends who don’t and it has never mattered, not even one time. But it can be hard to suss out in advance which little things, when pulled open, will lead to the bigger somethings that do matter. And so sharing the things we like can make us feel nervous. Perhaps you, the eggplant disliker, don’t care for its texture. That’s fine; eggplant has divisive mouthfeel. But maybe you don’t like it because you prefer the meaty taste of the human persons you have folded up in your basement freezer. That’s considerably less good! I went in liking eggplant and came out knowing you’re a murderer. Friendship can be dicey in this way, but I guess we have to risk it.

So here’s what I like. I like watching Jean Segura play baseball.

I liked this single, on a ball just above the zone.

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Meg Rowley FanGraphs Chat – 7/10/18

Meg Rowley: Good morning, and welcome to the chat!

Meg Rowley: Carson has some away from his computer business to attend to, so I’ll just be going an hour so as to ensure that FanGraphs does not burn down in his absence. But for now? Chat!

Zonk: The contract is a sunk cost, but is Albert Pujols even worth a roster spot at this point into next season?  If the answer is no, how does this play out for the Angels and Albert?

Meg Rowley: He’s a marginally better hitter than last year? Pujols has not been good, and the feel good milestones are pretty much behind him now, but also, he isn’t the real reason the Angels aren’t in a Wild Card spot.

Meg Rowley: Given how the org has dealt with big, bad contracts in the past, I’d be surprised if they cut him outright.

Meg Rowley: In my own life, I once faced a decision between making finance money and being happy and satisfied, and decided to make a lot less, but I also wasn’t making Pujols’ salary. I imagine a time will come when it isn’t worth it for him anymore, but I wonder if that will be more a function of physical discomfort (he looks like running isn’t fun for him) than pride.

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Meg Rowley FanGraphs Chat – 7/3/18

Meg Rowley: Happy baseball chat from the mountains, friends!

Meg Rowley: I’ll probably go a bit shorter than usual today in an effort to do some editing (read: go on a hike before it gets too hot).

Meg Rowley: But for now? Chat!

Brad Johnson: Does Justin always chat at the same time as you? (I swapped shifts with him)

Should I forward all the fantasy questions to you? You can direct the poop and farts to me I suppose.

Meg Rowley: He does I think? Everyone, go ask Brad your fantasy baseball questions.

Meg Rowley: Don’t you dare take the poop/farts beat away from me, Brad.

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Let’s Use Reason to Deduce When Archie Bradley Pooped Himself

I don’t know how exactly I came to occupy this particular beat, but it sure seems to be at least a little mine. One piece dedicated to wondering not if but why Adam Lind maybe visibly farted might be dismissed as a fluke, but this entry is likely sufficient to constitute a pattern. So here I am, the person who scrutinizes baseball players’ various public excretions. Today? Pooping!

On the June 26 episode of the Yahoo Sports MLB Podcast, Archie Bradley recounted a funny – if gross – story to Tim Brown. Per Mike Oz’s transcript:

“I was warming up to go in a game. I knew I had the next hitter. I knew he was on deck. The at-bat was kinda taking a little bit. As a bullpen guy in these big situations, I call ’em nervous pees, where like I don’t have to pee a lot, but I know I have to pee before I go in the game. I can’t believe I’m telling you this,” Bradley said to Yahoo Sports.

So it’s a 2-2 count, and I’m like, ‘Man, I have to pee. I have to go pee.’ So I run in our bathroom real quick, I’m ready to go. I’m trying to pee and I actually [expletive] my pants. Like right before I’m about to go in the game, I pooped my pants. I’m like ‘Oh my gosh.’ I know I’m a pitch away from going in the game, so I’m scrambling to clean myself up. I get it cleaned up the best I can, button my pants up, and our bullpen coach Mike Fetters says, ‘Hey, you’re in the game.’ So I’m jogging into the game to pitch with poop in my pants essentially.

It was the most uncomfortable I’ve ever been on the mound. And I actually had a good inning. I had a clean inning, and I walked in the dugout and I was like, ‘Guys, I just [expletive] myself.’ They didn’t believe me, then the bullpen came in and they’re like ‘Oh my God, you had to see this.’”

Bradley’s story contains a great many details — too many, it could be argued. But after listening to the podcast and reading the abundant coverage that followed (baseball writers: we love pooping!), I was struck by what was missing. For all his detail, Bradley never specifically told us when this incident occurred. Sure, he gave us clues. A bunch of clues, even. But he left the “when” of it as a little mystery, and I love mysteries. And yes, I’ll acknowledge I could have just tried to ask him. I’m a professional baseball writer. I could have contacted the Diamondbacks and said, “Hey, get Archie on the phone, will you?” But I didn’t. Despite his candor, it somehow felt overly familiar to ask a stranger when it was exactly that he suffered this (now) public indignity. So I began an investigation of my own; I set out to solve an icky mystery.

First, let’s review what we know. We know this occurred during a home game. We know the hitter up to bat immediately before Bradley entered the game was in a 2-2 count when the nervous pees struck, which suggests another pitcher or pitchers appeared in the inning prior to his outing. The podcast confirms he was wearing white pants. We know that, despite his plight, he threw a “clean inning.” We know all that — and also that he had some amount of poop in his pants. We assume he is a reliable narrator. What choice do we have?

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Meg Rowley FanGraphs Chat – 6/27/18

Meg Rowley: Good morning! As you might have guessed, I am not Kiley. We will return to our regularly scheduled programming next week, but for now, a Wednesday Meg chat!

yojiveself: imagine if you could start MLB all over again.  No history, no records.  How many games a season do you want?  To me, a 100 game season would be perfect.  Start mid-April, WS in late September.  Thoughts?

Meg Rowley: Dropping all the way down to 100 feels very drastic. Now you might say, hey, that’s because you’re used to baseball as it is, and this is meant to be a question about baseball as it should be.

Meg Rowley: To which I would say, well yeah, but 100 is too few.

Meg Rowley: I think something in the 150s allows you to skirt some of the really yucky weather on the front end, but keeps October the same.

Meg Rowley: There’s something about crisp air during playoff baseball I’d be loathe to do. Also, the sample size is nice.

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FanGraphs Meetup: Denver, Today!

FanGraphs is coming to Denver, and since few things are better than talking about baseball with your friends over a drink, we’ll be hosting a meetup while we’re in town. So come join us Friday, June 22 from 6 to 9 pm at the Wynkoop Brewing Company. We’ll have appetizers for everyone to enjoy. It’s a great chance to meet other baseball fans and chat with a bunch of your favorite FanGraphs writers. And while we won’t be attending the Rockies game that evening, Wynkoop is a convenient walk to the ballpark for those hoping to grab a drink before taking in Colorado’s 6:40 start against the Marlins.

If you plan on joining us, we would appreciate you RSVPing using this handy Google form so that we know how many snacks to order.

We hope to see you there!


Friday, June 22 from 6 to 9 pm
Wynkoop Brewing Company
1634 18th Street

We’ve reserved the upstairs Landing area for our revelry. Please note that this event is for those age 21 and up.

FanGraphs Attendees

David Appelman
Carson Cistulli
Sean Dolinar
Craig Edwards
Jay Jaffe
Eric Longenhagen
Kiley McDaniel
Al Melchior
Nick Pollack
Meg Rowley
Travis Sawchik
Paul Sporer
Jeff Sullivan
Jeff Zimmerman

It’s Time to Talk About the AL Playoff Picture

It might seem a bit premature, but I think it’s time to talk about the American League playoff picture. Even though we’re only in the middle of June, the field might already be rounding into its final form, so we ought to at least entertain the conversation. During the preseason, we thought we had this all figured out; the preseason is when we feel our most clever. And for the most part, things in this sortable table don’t look terribly different than we expected them to before Opening Day.

American League Playoff Odds
Team Preseason
Win Div Win WC SOS Pyth.
Astros 98.8% 100% 98.1% 1.9% 0.491 -5 -2
Indians 96.6% 95.9% 95.4% 0.5% 0.477 -1 -1
Yankees 89.7% 100% 74.8% 25.2% 0.489 +3 +1
Red Sox 84.2% 99.5% 25.2% 74.3% 0.509 +1 +2
Blue Jays 37.1% 2.7% 0.0% 2.7% 0.506 0 +2
Twins 28.7% 7.0% 4.4% 2.6% 0.484 -2 0
Angels 27.1% 14.0% 0.1% 13.9% 0.510 -1 0
Mariners 9.4% 74.9% 1.8% 73.0% 0.516 +8 +7
Athletics 9.2% 5.6% 0.0% 5.5% 0.508 +1 +1
Rangers 7.7% 0.1% 0.0% 0.1% 0.504 +1 +2
Orioles 4.9% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.523 -4 -3
Rays 4.9% 0.2% 0.0% 0.2% 0.515 -1 -5
Royals 0.9% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.501 0 -2
Tigers 0.7% 0.2% 0.1% 0.1% 0.506 +2 +1
White Sox 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.505 -2 -6

The Astros, Yankees, and Red Sox are the class of the league, with all three teams projected to win at least 100 games and the first two of those each projected to win 103. The Indians are worse than we thought they would be, but the presence of the Royals, White Sox, Tigers, and even the Twins means their pursuit of another division championship likely won’t be imperiled.

We expected the Indians to win, and it looks like they will. We expected the Yankees and Red Sox to kick the snot out of each other on their way to sterling records, and for one of them to end up a quite overqualified Wild Card teams, and that looks overwhelmingly likely, too. And despite their currently narrow two-game lead on the Mariners, we expected that the Astros would run away with the West. That still looks probable, as well. It all still mostly looks probable. We (or at least the projections) were pretty clever.

Except for one thing, that is — namely, that the Mariners are currently in sole possession of the second Wild Card and that the Mariners are 7.5 games up on the Angels.

This isn’t a post about the Mariners, per se, but it is useful to think about how they got to this point. As Jay Jaffe wrote, they’ve been both ridiculously successful in one-run games (currently 23-10) and ridiculously clutch in high-leverage situations. (Their current 7.17 Clutch Score still leads the AL.) Their bullpen is quite good (fourth in the AL). Mitch Haniger has taken a big step forward, Marco Gonzales a more modest one. James Paxton has a FIP in the twos. Jean Segura would deserve to be an All-Star if shortstop weren’t such a crowded position.

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Meg Rowley FanGraphs Chat – 6/19/18

Meg Rowley: Good morning and welcome to the chat!

BFreeman123: How does the Boston rotation shake out when Pomeranz back? Thanks

Meg Rowley: Without any special knowledge, I wouldn’t be surprised if the less effective of him or Steven Wright ended up throwing some relief innings.

Rockie Dangerfield: Lemme tell you a joke.
“The Rockies’ bullpen.”
Get it?

Meg Rowley: We can tell the truth about things, be funny, and resist the temptation to be mean for no reason. It just requires us to embrace a higher degree of difficulty in our humor.

Outta my way, Gyorkass: Why do I feel like the Brewers are headed for a complete dogshit 1-15 type stretch where they completely blow their playoff chances? That offense is either scoring in double digits or 0/1.

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Replay Is Fine, Everyone

We spend a lot of time fretting about baseball. Baseball games take too long; teams use too many pitchers and make too many visits to the mound. There are too many strikeouts; there aren’t enough balls put in play. These complaints are dressed up in anxiety over the game’s future, but I think the real worry is closer to home. It’s about us. I think what’s really at the center of it is a gnawing concern that these slowdowns will make us want to watch something else entirely, that we might come to find baseball boring.

But there are worse things than being bored. Wednesday night, in the fourth inning of the Dodgers-Rangers game, Adrian Beltre scored on a close play. It appeared that Austin Barnes had tagged him out, but home-plate umpire Sean Barber disagreed. A man in the crowd was inspired to make a face.

Dave Roberts challenged and it went to a replay, which began at 2:02:25. The home broadcast showed some slo-mo.

The broadcast was confident the replay would go the Dodgers’ way. Enrique Hernandez, whose throw looked like it had nabbed Beltre, seemed confident. Beltre looks pretty out.

But at 2:05:00, the call on the field was upheld. The crowd booed. They’d spent more than two-and-a-half minutes waiting around — only to lose out. It didn’t end up mattering: the Dodgers won in the 11th inning after Hernandez evaded a tag of his own. But for those few minutes in the fourth, Dodger fans were something worse than bored. They were bored and angry. It’s a terrible combination of things to feel, and one that replay seems to inspire often, which is understandable, though I’ll admit it makes me worry about how passionate we are for justice. And so, in all our fretting about the game, I thought I’d check in on replay and see how it is going so far this season.

Baseball Savant maintains a handy replay database, but it doesn’t include 2018 replays yet, so it’s Retrosheet to the rescue. Retrosheet’s data also includes the duration of each replay — an indispensable data point for those concerned with the dull and enraging. They update their data every two weeks; the replays I’m analyzing are through May 31.

Two quick notes. First, the time listed for each replay is from the beginning of the review until New York’s decision is announced. That might seem like an obvious point, but it may, in some cases, undersell the length of the delay on the field. Last year, I wrote about an 18-minute long replay at Dodger Stadium. It was a rules check and the longest replay of 2017. Retrosheet has it taking 8:34. So there’s a bit of squishiness here.

Second, in case you’ve forgotten (and honestly, why would you remember?), before the 2017 season, MLB released new guidance that, with a few exceptions, the Replay Operations Center in New York has two minutes to render a decision on a play. That’s what they’re driving toward. It’s part of keeping us from feeling bored and angry.

Now, some observations.

You might ask, “When is replay most likely to occur?” Maybe you’re naturally curious about things. As you might imagine, challenges become more common the later into a game a team gets.

2018 Manager Replays by Inning
Inning Confirmed Overturned Stands % of Total Success Rate
1 0 19 8 6.19% 70.37%
2 2 22 7 7.11% 70.97%
3 5 23 12 9.17% 57.50%
4 5 21 18 10.09% 47.73%
5 7 29 16 11.93% 55.77%
6 6 30 18 12.39% 55.56%
7 10 22 15 10.78% 46.81%
8 21 20 27 15.60% 29.41%
9 13 25 14 11.93% 48.08%
10 4 3 4 2.52% 27.27%
11 3 2 0 1.15% 40.00%
12 1 3 0 0.92% 75.00%
15 0 0 1 0.23% 0.00%

Through May 31, managers initiated 436 challenges, a full half of which have came between the sixth and ninth innings; indeed, since replay expanded in 2014, close to 49% of the replays in nine inning games have come between the sixth and ninth innings. The eighth inning saw the greatest number of challenges, but also the lowest success rate, among non-extra innings frames. That makes a certain amount of intuitive sense. Late in games, I would imagine, managers are more inclined to challenge borderline calls, both because the stakes are higher and because why the heck not? You can’t take those challenges with you. More borderline calls also means more calls on the field that stand or are confirmed, but why not try? Maybe that runner in scoring position is actually out on the tag!

And speaking of tags, you might also wonder, “What is getting reviewed, and for how long?” The below table shows all 2018 replays by type, along with the average and median duration of the replay in minutes, and the success rate for challenges of each type.

2018 Replays by Type
Type of Replay Number of Replays Total Minutes Average Minutes Median Minutes Success Rate
Tag Play 197 288 1.46 1.32 47.21%
Force Play 174 213 1.22 1.15 57.47%
Home Run 35 49 1.41 1.37 25.71%
Hit by Pitch 35 42 1.19 1.00 40.00%
Catch/No Catch 15 23 1.51 1.47 46.67%
Fair/Foul (outfield) 7 14 1.99 1.35 42.86%
Rules Check 5 9 1.76 1.98 0.00%
Stadium Boundary 4 9 2.16 2.25 50.00%
Slide Rule 4 5 1.17 1.20 0.00%
Runner Placement 3 6 1.92 1.68 66.67%
HP Collision 3 4 1.41 1.35 0.00%
Fan Interference 2 4 1.84 1.84 50.00%
Passing Runners 2 4 1.82 1.82 50.00%
Record Keeping 1 1 1.35 1.35 0.00%
Touching a Base 1 1 1.10 1.10 0.00%
Timing Play 1 1 0.80 0.80 0.00%
Tag-up 1 1 0.68 0.68 0.00%
SOURCE: Retrosheet
Rules check and record keeping replays are not given a ruling of stands, confirmed, or overturned.

Fans have, for the most part, stayed out of the way. Despite recent dustups, the slide rule that caused so much controversy in years past hasn’t been much of an issue, or at least has merited little investigation. Umpires mostly know what a catch is. Force plays seem a bit trickier, though they didn’t take long on average to sort out. Stadium boundary replays took the longest, both by average and median length in minutes, though there weren’t many of them. With the exception of the boundary plays, replay officials are, on average, adhering to their two-minute guidance. Of the 490 total calls, 377 have been two minutes or under in length.

But I think the most common category of replay underscores the enterprise’s greatest challenge (no pun intended). Now, I haven’t watched all 197 tag replays, but I would hazard a guess that some portion of them — perhaps a significant portion — involve runners coming off a base ever so slightly for just a teeny tiny touch of time. We’ve seen this sort of replay play out, sometimes in big moments of important games, resulting in a guy who would have been safe for the 100 years prior suddenly being out. We can’t exactly blame managers for asking that tags be reviewed; we’ve told them there might be an out hiding in there. And some portion of these allow us to examine swim moves and close plays, and that isn’t a terrible use of time. But we’ve spent some part of 288 minutes peaking under guys’ fingers and toes. Avengers: Infinity Wars, for sake of comparison, was only 160 minutes and involved a bunch more people. I submit that this is when we are at our most bored, and certainly our most angry.

And of course, fans of some teams should be angrier and perhaps more bored than others.

Replay Results by Team (Team Initiated Review)
Challenging Team Total Challenges Confirmed Stands Overturned Success Rate
Braves 23 4 11 8 34.78%
Diamondbacks 19 1 6 12 63.16%
Twins 19 6 4 9 47.37%
Yankees 19 3 3 13 68.42%
Mariners 19 7 5 7 36.84%
Angels 18 3 6 9 50.00%
Cardinals 18 1 9 8 44.44%
Blue Jays 18 3 8 7 38.89%
Phillies 17 1 4 12 70.59%
Pirates 17 2 8 7 41.18%
Red Sox 15 4 4 7 46.67%
Tigers 15 2 3 10 66.67%
Royals 15 0 2 13 86.67%
Giants 15 2 3 10 66.67%
Rays 15 3 5 7 46.67%
Nationals 15 5 2 8 53.33%
Cubs 14 2 4 8 57.14%
Indians 14 1 6 7 50.00%
Marlins 14 2 5 7 50.00%
Rangers 14 2 6 6 42.86%
Rockies 13 2 3 8 61.54%
Athletics 13 4 3 6 46.15%
Dodgers 12 4 3 5 41.67%
Mets 12 4 3 5 41.67%
White Sox 11 0 5 6 54.55%
Padres 11 4 5 2 18.18%
Brewers 9 2 4 3 33.33%
Astros 8 1 3 4 50.00%
Orioles 7 1 4 2 28.57%
Reds 7 1 3 3 42.86%
Grand Total 436 77 140 219 50.23%
SOURCE: Retrosheet

None of these samples are large enough to tell anything definitive, but as an indication of efficacy so far, we can learn a few things. The Royals, Phillies, and Yankees have fared the best in their challenges. The Braves have challenged more times than any other team, but have a middling success rate. They are still doing better than the Padres, who (in admittedly fewer attempts) have a league-worst success rate. The Orioles fare only marginally better.

Baltimore did initiate the longest challenge of the year, a review of a fair/foul call that lasted 4:32 they ultimately won.

Everyone looked thrilled as they waited.

Just a great day at the office.

We can also see something interesting when we look at the distributions of how long reviews take, grouped by their result.

The graph isolating 2018 is a bit rougher, but retains the same general shape.

From 2014 to -18, a “stands” call took about 40 seconds longer than “confirmed” or “overruled” calls did, which I think shows that replay is generally working how you would want it to when you consider that the standard for overturning calls made on the field is having “clear and convincing evidence” that the call was incorrect. One would hope that if a call were obviously right or obviously wrong, it wouldn’t take very long to reach that conclusion. Absent some bit of striking evidence, best to leave it be.

I think it is worth adding a small bit of perspective to this analysis. We’ve all had the experience of seeing a replay go the “wrong” way. We’ve all felt like our boys have gotten jobbed. We’ve been Wednesday night’s Dodgers’ fans. We begin to question the whole endeavor.

But we might benefit from recalling how frustrating it was, in the era of slo-mo and hi-def, to know that a call on the field was wrong, to be able to see it right there, and then have to watch as a baserunner trudged back to the dugout when he should have been on base, or as a pitcher was left to contend with a runner who should have been erased by a tag. It felt unfair. It felt silly. It felt like an injustice. We’re sometimes bored and angry now, but we were also bored and angry then! And it isn’t costing us that much. The season isn’t done, but so far, 2018 is following a trend of replay times decreasing as the years go on.

These aren’t huge numbers to begin with; I doubt even a close observers could perceive the difference between 2015’s average replay time of 1.85 minutes and 2017’s 1.46. But it isn’t ballooning out the other way, either. Through May 31, MLB was on pace for 1,285 replays, which would be the lowest number since replay was expanded in 2014. That could change, of course, but it hasn’t been so bad so far. It’s an attempt to get things more right more often.

I calculated how much time each team had spent under replay review, including both those reviews they had initiated and those initiated by their opponents or by umpires, and compared that time to their total game minutes in 2018. I’ll spare you another long table, but the team that has spent the most time in replay as a percentage of their total playing time is the Blue Jays at… 0.57%. That’s a little more than 58 minutes across all their games, and theirs is the worst of it.

That isn’t so bad. Replay gets things wrong from time to time; we all have bad days at work, after all, and humans remain fallible, even with slo-mo. But I’m not sure the game is well served by putting too strict a clock on justice. Not even when we’re bored and angry.

Meg Rowley FanGraphs Chat – 6/12/18

Meg Rowley: Good morning, and welcome to the chat!

Meg Rowley: There are a lot of Mariners questions in the queue, but I will do my best to pepper in others!

Luke Basewalker: Who’s the next big prospect to get the call now that Adames is up?

Meg Rowley: Apart from A Pitcher Needed for injury, I’d think probably Senzel if he’s healthy

Brendon: How has Edwin Diaz been this season?

Meg Rowley: Brendon, he’s been very good!

Read the rest of this entry »