Archive for Teams

Sunday Notes: Will Flemming is Next Up in the PawSox Pipeline

Gary Cohen (Mets), Dave Flemming (Giants), Andy Freed (Rays), Aaron Goldsmith (Mariners), Dave Jaegler (Nationals), Jeff Levering (Brewers), and Don Orsillo (Padres) share something in common. Each began broadcasting for a big-league team after honing his play-by-play skills with the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox. The pipeline runs deeper still. Dan Hoard (Bengals) and Bob Socci (Patriots) came to the NFL via the PawSox radio booth.

There’s a good chance that group will grow in the not-too-distant future. Will Flemming — Dave Flemming’s younger brother — has been calling PawSox games for the past four seasons, and many in the industry feel he’s of MLB quality.

He passed an important test this summer. Filling in for Tim Neverett, who was away for his father’s funeral, Flemming was alongside Joe Castiglione when the Red Sox hosted the Phillies on July 30. The game was a thriller, with Boston winning 2-1 in 13 innings.

“There were no low lights,” Flemming.said of his MLB debut “Not one. All of us in this profession dream of that moment, and to have it realized in that ballpark, with this Red Sox team against a good Philadelphia team — Price versus Nola — it was more than I ever could have dreamt of.”

He’s been imagining the moment for years. Despite his relatively young age — Flemming has yet to reach the big 4-0 — he’s no neophyte. His journey has included stints in Lancaster, Potomac, and Indianapolis. At each stop along the way — this is something all minor-league broadcasters can attest to — the frills have been few and far between. Read the rest of this entry »


Those Left Behind With a Piece of the Journey

Here is one list of names: Matt Albers, Chase Anderson, Jett Bandy, Jacob Barnes, Ji-Man ChoiOliver Drake, Eric Sogard, Brent Suter, Eric Thames, and Jonathan Villar.

Here’s another: Scott Alexander, J.T. Chargois, Tony Cingrani, Kyle Farmer, Josh Fields, Logan Forsythe, Wilmer Font, Corey Seager, Ross Stripling, and Chase Utley.

These are the 20 men — ten Dodgers and ten Brewers — who appeared on their clubs’ 2018 Opening Day rosters but will not — for one reason or another — appear in any of the seven games of this year’s National League Championship Series. One of the two teams they played for this year will advance to the World Series tonight, and will do so without these men. And yet, for some portion of the season at least, there they were, willing their teams along. And so, let us celebrate a few moments in which these guys were glorious, before the inevitable offseason cries of “That guy was a Dodger?” and “Oh! I’d forgotten about him!” set in.

Villar Takes Harvey Deep (+.238 WPA)

Unless you’re a Milwaukee fan, you might not even remember that Jonathan Villar was a Brewer this year. I’d understand. He spent the second half of the season toughing it out for the Orioles, who are best forgotten, and in my mind he is still most closely associated with the Astros. But the fact is that, yes, Villar was indeed a Milwaukee Brewer until July 31st, and on April 14th he was tasked with playing second base for the Crew against the New York Mets at Citi Field.

Harvey, brilliant in his home whites, set down Lorenzo Cain, Eric Thames, and Ryan Braun in order in the first, but then ran into trouble almost immediately in the second, yielding a double to Travis Shaw, before walking Domingo Santana ahead of an Eric Sogard strikeout. That brought Villar — then the owner of a .298 batting average (and a .298 OBP, but let’s pay that no mind) — to the plate. Harvey’s first pitch, a slider, missed badly down and in, and Villar wisely didn’t offer at it. On Harvey’s second pitch, however, Villar flicked his bat out and, almost apologetically, took Harvey deep down the left-field line. Here it is:

I think we can all agree that that was a nice moment for Jonathan Villar.

Chase Utley up past his bedtime in the desert (+.350 WPA)

It feels a little odd to include a guy like Utley on a list like this, which is meant to celebrate the little guy, but he meets all the criteria so I suppose we’ll let him in on a technicality. On April 2nd, which was the Dodgers’ first road game of the season, they played 15 innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks. They were a good 15 innings, too — the Dodgers went up 3-0 in the top of the first, only to see the Diamondbacks tie it with runs in the first, third, and fourth; then the Dodgers added on in each of the sixth, seventh, and eighth to make it 6-3, only to have Arizona tie it in again the ninth and send it to extras. The game proceeded at 6-6 for five innings of taut bonus baseball, until — in the top of the 15th, and presumably somewhat less fresh than he’d been five hours before, when the game began — Chase Utley came to the plate with Cody Bellinger on second, and proceeded to do this:

The Dodgers went on to lose 8-7. But that was nice, Chase.

Scott Alexander shuts it down (+.372 WPA)

Scott Alexander had kind of an anonymous season, as far as seasons by 6’2″ lefties go. His ERA was 3.68. His FIP was 3.57. Both numbers were fine. Scott Alexander was fine. Scott Alexander is not on the Dodgers’ NLCS roster. But on July 13th, he was asked by his manager to go out in the ninth inning of a one-run game against the Los Angeles Angels of Angel Stadium in Anaheim and close things out. Being presumably in search of something to get the ol’ heart moving, he proceeded to allow a double to Shohei Ohtani, which was understandable, and then a single to José Briceño, which was not. That single brought the Dodgers’ win expectancy down from 91 percent at the start of the inning, to 63 percent, when David Fletcher stepped up to the plate with one out. Which made it rather relieving for reliever Alexander that David Fletcher promptly did this:

Ji-Man Choi has a good night (+.463 WPA)

Sometimes you get a lot of WPA because you come to the plate with the game on the line in late innings and do something ordinary, like hit a single or draw a walk. And sometimes you get a lot of WPA because you come to the plate in some random anonymous middle inning and do something very good, like drive in four runs with one swing of the bat. That latter thing is what Ji-Man Choi did against Luis Garcia in the sixth inning of an otherwise unexciting game between the Phillies and the Brewers. This was Choi’s final swing as a Milwaukee Brewer–he was traded to Tampa Bay the next day:

Bonus Jake Arrieta Is Mad content in the above.

Kyle Farmer Drives in Barnes (+.678 WPA)

Kyle Farmer was, before the 2018 season began, featured in articles on this site that referred to him as, variously, one of “seven scrubs” and a “fringe prospect.” Neither of those characterizations are necessarily untrue, but they also failed to anticipate this one wonderful moment from June 19th, when Farmer came to the plate with runners on first and second in a game his team trailed by a run. It was the first game of a doubleheader the Cubs and Dodgers played that day, and Cubs pitcher Justin Wilson was a little bit rattled. After battling to a 2-2 count, and with an almost-casual delivery, Wilson left a 90 mph cutter just a little bit too far over the plate, and within seconds the Dodgers were ahead, as it turned out for good:

Eric Thames Sinks Wade Davis (+.822 WPA)

Here it is: The single most impactful moment by a Dodger or Brewer not featured in tonight’s game, and it’s a classic. The Brewers entered the bottom of the ninth inning of their August 3rd game against the Colorado Rockies down 3-2. They trailed the Cubs in the NL Central standings by one game. The Cubs had won that afternoon behind a José Quintana dandy, and a loss would have put the Brewers two games back headed into the long month of August. Which all made this ninth inning rather important for Milwaukee. Wade Davis managed to retire Mike Moustakas swinging, then walked Jesús Aguilar and Travis Shaw in order before retiring Jonathan Schoop on a pop fly. That brought Thames to the plate — still struggling, as he had been all season, and about to enter a spiral that would pull his average from .244 that day to .219 on September 30th. He did, however, have one more good swing in him:

Villar, Utley, Alexander, Choi, Farmer, and Thames. I’d wager they’ll be watching the game tonight. They helped these teams get to where they are right now. They’ll own a little bit of whatever celebration comes next.


ZiPS Updated Playoff Probabilities – 2018 NLCS

Updated through Game Six of the NLCS.

The ZiPS projection system will update these charts after every game and as the starting pitcher probables change. They are based on the up-to-date ZiPS projections of the strengths of the teams and the projected starting pitchers. They are different than the playoff odds that appear elsewhere at this site. The FanGraphs playoff probabilities are based on 10,000 simulations using the updated projections in the depth charts. Where ZiPS differs is guessing the game-by-game starting pitcher matchups and using the ZiPS projections, including split projections.

First, here are the game-by-game probabilities:

Game-by-Game Probabilities, NLCS
Game Home Team Milwaukee Starter Brewers Win Los Angeles Starter Dodgers Win
1 Brewers Gio Gonzalez 100.0% Clayton Kershaw 0.0%
2 Brewers Wade Miley 0.0% Hyun-Jin Ryu 100.0%
3 Dodgers Jhoulys Chacin 100.0% Walker Buehler 0.0%
4 Dodgers Gio Gonzalez 0.0% Rich Hill 100.0%
5 Dodgers Wade Miley ‘n’ Friends 0.0% Clayton Kershaw 100.0%
6 Brewers Wade Miley 100.0% Hyun-Jin Ryu 0.0%
7 Brewers Jhoulys Chacin 45.1% Walker Buehler 54.9%

And here are the overall series probabilities.

Overall NLCS Probabilities
Result Probability
Brewers over Dodgers in 4 0.0%
Brewers over Dodgers in 5 0.0%
Brewers over Dodgers in 6 0.0%
Brewers over Dodgers in 7 45.1%
Dodgers over Brewers in 4 0.0%
Dodgers over Brewers in 5 0.0%
Dodgers over Brewers in 6 0.0%
Dodgers over Brewers in 7 54.9%
Brewers Advance 45.1%
Dodgers Advance 54.9%

Adventures in Playoff Leverage and Win Probability Added

Playoff baseball is interesting as a concept. After a regular season of 162 games to determine the game’s best teams, the sport’s champion is then determined by a few best-of-five and best-of-seven series. It’s not unlike asking the top 10 finishers of a marathon to run a 5K in order to decide who should receive first place. The sprint-like nature of the postseason is baseball’s Theatre of the Absurd (especially where small sample sizes are concerned): entertaining and a bit preposterous at the same time.

One of the areas where the effect is most pronounced is in the realm of Win Probability Added (WPA) and Leverage Index (LI). Championships are on the line and the lens of the postseason only serves to magnify what would be tense moments even on a quiet night in July. A big WPA day turns a player into a legend, while going the opposite direction turns a player into the goat. But not every intriguing event with a high WPA or LI is a starring turn. With that in mind, let’s look at a few of the stranger WPA- and LI-related things we’ve seen during the League Championship Series.

Caleb Ferguson and Playoff Stress

Caleb Ferguson was a 38th-round pick out of high school for the Dodgers in 2014. A starter through his whole minor-league career — he recorded only three relief appearances in the minors prior to this year — he found a home in the Dodgers’ bullpen this year. While he doesn’t have an incredible arsenal — Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel graded his fastball as a 50, curveball as a 45, and changeup as a 45 — he put up solid numbers as a reliever, striking out over 30% of batters and produced a 2.55 xFIP. After that solid rookie season, Ferguson joined the playoff roster as one of three lefties — the other two being Alex Wood and Julio Urias — in the Los Angeles bullpen.

Generally speaking, he didn’t pitch in high-leverage situations this season. With an average leverage index of 1.08 (Overall average is 1), he ranked 123rd in baseball for relievers with at least 30 innings pitched. In the League Championship Series, however, things have been a little different.

2018 LCS Leverage Index Leaders
Player pLI WPA/TBF
Kenley Jansen 2.48 0.031
Caleb Ferguson 2.14 0.017
Jeremy Jeffress 2.09 -0.026
Junior Guerra 1.87 0.004
Ryan Brasier 1.66 0.018

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The Astros’ Doomsday Scenario

The Houston Astros won the World Series last year. They had a really good chance of winning it again this year. Unfortunately for the team, a really good chance in the playoffs still topped out below a 50/50 shot, and they ran into a really good Red Sox team that played well. Winning back-to-back championships is hard. No team has done it since the Yankees won three in a row from 1998 to 2000. Even making it to the World Series in back-to-back seasons is difficult. Since that Yankees’ team made it to the series again in 2001, only the Phillies in 2008 and 2009, the Rangers in 2010 and 2011, and the Royals in 2014 and 2015 have participated in the World Series in back-to-back years. The odds were in the Astros’ favor and simultaneously stacked against them. Always take the field.

The Astros are incredibly well set up for the future. In Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, and Carlos Correa, the team has not only three legitimate stars but potential MVP candidates. This 2018 season was not a good one for the 24-year-old Correa, whose lower-back problems sidelined him at times and rendered him an average player when he was in the lineup. Consider how well the Astros persevered, though, despite lacking the services of six-win player. Kris Bryant of the Cubs had a similar season, for example, and the Cubs’ offense struggled to score runs, eventually losing in the Wild Card Game and firing their hitting coach. The Dodgers were huge favorites in the National League West. Without Corey Seager, however, they struggled to 90 wins and a 163rd game for the division after acquiring a similar player for half the season in the form of Manny Machado.

Alex Bregman emerged as a star, Jose Altuve put together a very good season despite his own injury issues, and George Springer turned in another good season. On offense, the team took a step back from its MLB-best 123 wRC+ in 2017, but still put together the fourth-best offense (110 wRC+) in the majors. The downturn in offense made little difference, as the pitching stepped up. A full year of ace Justin Verlander plus a trade for co-ace Gerrit Cole paced the team with 13 combined WAR, while Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers Jr., and Charlie Morton all put together above average seasons. Those five pitchers made 152 of the team’s 162 starts. The rotation’s 22.5 WAR placed them just behind Cleveland’s and meant the bullpen had to cover just 499.2 innings. Houston didn’t have a problem with middle relievers because they never had to use them.

Read the rest of this entry »


David Price Sheds an Albatross

To date, there have been 71 pitchers who have thrown at least 60 postseason innings in their careers. Entering Wednesday, David Price owned a 5.42 ERA, the second-highest of the bunch:

Highest Career Postseason ERAs
RK Player Yrs IP HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 ERA FIP
1 Tim Wakefield 1992-2008 (9) 72.0 1.6 4.8 6.8 6.75 5.63
2 David Price 2008-2018 (9) 79.2 1.7 2.5 8.1 5.42 4.67
3 Al Leiter 1993-2005 (5) 81.2 1.0 4.0 7.5 4.63 4.29
4 Charles Nagy 1995-1999 (5) 84.2 1.5 3.2 5.8 4.46 5.11
5t Vida Blue 1971-1975 (5) 64.2 0.8 3.2 6.5 4.31 4.02
5t CC Sabathia 2001-2018 (9) 129.1 1.0 4.4 8.4 4.31 4.30
7 Kevin Brown 1997-2004 (3) 81.2 0.9 3.4 7.8 4.19 3.87
8 Clayton Kershaw 2008-2018 (8) 140.0 1.2 2.6 9.8 4.11 3.66
9 Matt Morris 2000-2005 (5) 73.1 1.1 4.2 5.4 4.05 4.99
10 Zack Greinke 2011-2017 (5) 67.0 1.2 2.0 7.9 4.03 3.86
11 Livan Hernandez 1997-2007 (4) 68.0 0.8 4.8 6.2 3.97 4.55
12 Andy Pettitte 1995-2012 (14) 276.2 1.0 2.5 6.0 3.81 4.16
13 Jack Morris 1984-1992 (4) 92.1 0.9 3.1 6.2 3.80 4.12
14 David Cone 1988-2000 (8) 111.1 1.0 4.7 7.6 3.80 4.48
15 Don Gullett 1970-1977 (6) 93.0 0.5 3.7 5.8 3.77 3.83
SOURCE: Stats LLC
Minimum 60 innings. Numbers in parentheses are years appearing in postseason games.

There are some very good pitchers in the above group, including one who’s already in the Hall of Fame for his, uh, postseason reputation and a few more who have a very good shot. The best of them, Clayton Kershaw, has been dogged by inconsistent performances in the postseason, but he’s had big moments as well, including Wednesday’s NLCS Game Five performance against the Brewers.

Read the rest of this entry »


Job Posting: Blue Jays Baseball Research Analyst

Position: Analyst, Baseball Research

Description:
The Toronto Blue Jays are seeking a highly motivated and creative Baseball Research Analyst to conduct baseball research and contribute to ongoing departmental research. Additionally, the analyst will create tools that incorporate data into the decision making process, as well as learn how decisions are made in all areas of Baseball Operations and work to improve those processes.

Please note that this is a full-time position.

Responsibilities and Duties:

  • Design, test, implement and maintain advanced baseball metrics and predictive models using statistical techniques in order to contribute to strategy and decisions across all departments within Baseball Operations.
  • Conduct empirical research related to baseball strategy and player evaluation, with an understanding of how findings would apply to better decision making and increased operational effectiveness.
  • Collaborate with the front office, coaches and scouts to develop best practices for analyzing and displaying baseball data, including the creation of reports, charts, graphics, and other tools to deliver information to end users. Results of this work should help those within the organization better understand, consider and apply the use of information and data to their decisions and operation on a daily basis.
  • Collaborate with members of the Research and Development Department to provide constructive feedback on their projects.
  • Complete ad-hoc database queries and analysis as dictated by circumstances.
  • Recommend new data sources for purchase and/or new techniques to gather proprietary data.
  • Work to integrate new information into existing Baseball Operations processes and infrastructure.

Experiences and Job Requirements:

  • Passion for baseball and excellent reasoning, problem-solving, creative thinking, and communication skills.
  • Demonstrated ability to successfully design and execute rigorous quantitative research projects.
  • Published quantitative research about baseball (either online or print), related experience with sports teams or facilities, and/or open source code to review is a plus.
  • Strong understanding of current baseball research.
  • Proficiency with R, Python or other similar mathematical language is required.
  • Proficiency with SQL and relational databases is required.
  • Understanding of Python, Perl, Ruby or other similar scripting language is a plus but not required.
  • Demonstrated experience with machine learning methods, including clustering, random forests, boosting, and neural networks is a plus but not required.
  • Experience with web design is a plus but not required.
  • Strong interpersonal skills to communicate effectively with a wide range of individuals including members of the front office, scouts, and field staff.
  • Ability to read, speak and comprehend English effectively.
  • Ability to work evening, weekend and holiday hours.

To Apply:
Please email a copy of your resume to baseballresumes@bluejays.com and answer these 3 prompts in the body of the email. Please limit your answers to no more than one paragraph per question.

  • Describe in detail a time when you used your analytical and research skills to answer a research question, ideally about baseball.
  • What experience of yours do you feel has best prepared you for this opportunity?
  • In addition to FanGraphs, what baseball websites do you read and why?

The Red Sox Do Have an All-Time Outfield

Let’s try, for a moment, to forget all about Game 4’s fan-interference controversy. It was a moment that looms incredibly large, absolutely, but it was also just one moment of the game, a moment that occurred in the bottom of the first. Maybe Jose Altuve was robbed of a home run by Joe West. Maybe Jose Altuve was going to be robbed of a home run by Mookie Betts. It didn’t resolve itself cleanly, but, what can you do? The rest of the game played out. The Astros even took the lead. It wound up as one of the longest nine-inning games in baseball history, but it didn’t feel like it dragged, because it included so much action.

We should consider some of that other action. And we might as well start at the very end. With two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, Alex Bregman swung at Craig Kimbrel’s first pitch and sent a shallow line drive into left. Andrew Benintendi charged, and he laid it all on the line. Benintendi made a do-or-die dive attempt. The Red Sox did. The Astros died.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Red Sox’ Unsung Heroes

During his tenure as an MLB executive, Dave Dombrowski has earned a reputation for failing to build quality bullpens. Currently the president of baseball operations with the Red Sox, that reputation grew during his time with the Tigers and has followed him to Boston. Dombrowski took over Detroit in 2002. In 2003, the team lost 119 games. From 2004 to -15, Dombrowski’s Tigers won an average of 83 games per year, made two World Series appearances, qualified for the ALCS four times, and reached the playoffs five times overall. Those teams routinely had the worst bullpen in baseball, however.

The graph below shows average wins per year and reliever WAR from 2004 to -15.

At the end of the 2015 season, when Dombrowski came to a Boston organization with a great farm system, he shored up at least one inning’s worth of bullpen by trading for Craig Kimbrel. Dombrowski’s reputation might have come with him to Boston, but the Red Sox have gotten solid performance from their relievers the last few seasons.

Read the rest of this entry »


David Price’s Playoff Problem Might Be a Cutter Problem

It’s perhaps easy to forget, given his postseason woes and the presence of a dominant left-handed rotation mate, but David Price remains, at age 33, among the premier starting pitchers in baseball. Price, in his career, owns a 3.34 FIP, 80 ERA-, and 82 FIP-. (For comparison’s sake, Justin Verlander is at a nearly identical 80 and 81, respectively.) Even in his injury-shortened 2018, Price still approached three wins, and his 24.5% strikeout rate in 2018 remains among top-25 marks in the major leagues.

Though he’s now a couple of years removed from his prime — during which he rattled off seven seasons of 4 WAR or more — he retains a five-pitch arsenal, three of which (fastball, cutter, and sinker) posted positive run values this year. He doesn’t throw as hard as he used to — Father Time is, after all, undefeated — but a 93 mph fastball and an above-average cutter and sinker should still be enough to get hitters out. They were, after all, during the regular season.

Except that, in his postseason career, David Price has posted a 133 ERA-, 115 FIP-, and -0.92 WPA. In 2018, in the postseason, Price has a 222 ERA- and 259 FIP-, “good” for a -0.38 WPA. In other words, David Price, regular-season ace, makes his teams worse in the playoffs. Price’s failures in the postseason are by now a well-known narrative. The Wall Street Journal‘s Brian Costa and Jared Diamond called Price’s playoff misery one of “the Great Mysteries of October Baseball.” After the Sox’ October 6 loss to the Yankees in the Division Series, Bob Nightengale openly wondered if Price would even start again in the playoffs.

Let me start by saying that I am very much a lawyer, and not what one might term a “sabermetrician.” In other words, I profess no great or singular skill, unlike Dan Szymborski or Jeff Sullivan or Jay Jaffe. What I do have, on the other hand, is a healthy curiosity for this game we call “baseball,” and more specifically why things happen the way they do. Lawyers like patterns and predictability. We dislike anomalies. David Price is an anomaly.

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The Gambit Versus the Ace

Early in this NLCS, when the defining feature of it seemed to be the randomness of Brandon Woodruff’s Game One homer off Clayton Kershaw and Wade Miley’s Game Two double off Hyun-Jin Ryu, it was easy to scoff at the hype equating the series to a chess match between managers Craig Counsell and Dave Roberts. As the series has unfolded, however, watching Counsell handle the Brewers’ pitching staff in a fashion largely without precedent in postseason baseball and Roberts use the Dodgers’ roster’s depth and versatility to counter with “line changes” (in the hockey sense) to secure the platoon advantage in as many spots as possible has made for a compelling accompaniment to the action on the field.

Never was that more true than in Game Five, when Counsell’s shockingly quick hook of Miley in favor of Woodruff — echoing a tactic from a World Series nearly a century ago — and Roberts’ persistence in sticking with Kershaw made for the series’ starkest contrast yet. Ultimately, the Dodgers outlasted the Brewers for a 5-2 win and a 3-2 series edge.

The wily, left-handed Miley had pitched brilliantly in Game Two, retiring 17 of the 19 Dodgers he faced while helping to keep the Dodgers scoreless through six. Only after he departed did Los Angeles’s offense show signs of life, ultimately breaking through for a 4-3 win. When Counsell announced that Miley would start Game FIve on three days of rest, the choice seemed logical given the team’s loose definition of a “rotation,” because nobody expected seven innings or 100 pitches. Four innings, give or take, made perfect sense, even with the staff having been stretched for 13 innings in their Game Four loss.

Roberts, whose all-righty starting lineup from Game Two floundered against Miley, sensed an early move might be afoot and guarded towards an early change to a righty by starting two lefties and rejiggering his outfield:

Dodgers NLCS Lineup Comparison
# Game 2 Bats Game 5 Bats
1 Chris Taylor, CF R Cody Bellinger, CF L
2 Justin Turner, 3B R Justin Turner, 3B R
3 David Freese, 1B R David Freese, 1B R
4 Manny Machado, SS R Manny Machado, SS R
5 Matt Kemp, LF R Max Muncy, 2B L
6 Enrique Hernandez, 2B R Chris Taylor, LF R
7 Yasiel Puig, RF R Enrique Hernandez, RF R
8 Austin Barne,s C R Austin Barnes, C R
9 Hyun-Jin Ryu, P R Clayton Kershaw, P L

Muncy, who hit for a 141 wRC+ against southpaws, was starting at second base for the first time since September 11 and just the 14th time all season. Bellinger, Tuesday night’s hero, managed just an 88 wRC+ against southpaws this year.

As it turned out, Miley threw just five pitches, walking Bellinger and getting the hook — not for injury or performance reasons, but because that had been Counsell’s plan all along — to switch to the right-handed Woodruff, who had thrown two impressive, perfect innings in Game One. The idea to bring Miley back to start Game Six in Milwaukee. It was a plan so secret that only the two pitchers, Counsell, and his staff knew ahead of time; Woodruff couldn’t even tell his family, and players such as Lorenzo Cain professed to be caught off guard.

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The Fan Interference Call Was Probably Good

Let’s just get this out of the way now: That sucked. I mean, the game between the Astros and Red Sox was great, and it couldn’t have ended in a more dramatic fashion, but ultimately, the Red Sox won by two runs. And, in the bottom of the first inning, a controversial call and replay review might well have cost the Astros two runs. Yes, you’re right, the game would’ve played out differently had that call been made differently. We have no idea what that alternate game would’ve looked like. But the Astros have been pushed to the brink now, and a two-run homer would’ve been a pretty big deal. No one ever wants to think a game and season were damaged by umpires. It’s a very unsatisfying kind of disappointment, when the outcomes aren’t solely determined by the players themselves.

I don’t think we’re ever going to know for sure whether the right call was made. As such, it’s the sort of thing that’s going to linger, at least if the Astros fail to advance. Immediately, this has turned into a great What If?, and a target of Astros fan rage. Yet having reviewed all the evidence, I’ve come to the conclusion the call was good. And by that I mean, I think it was more good than bad. In the absence of anything conclusive, some amount of mystery is everlasting. But if you are to render judgment, you go whichever way you’re leaning. I’m leaning toward fan interference.

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Job Posting: New York Yankees Baseball Operations

Please note, this posting contains multiple positions.

Position: SQL Developer

Position Overview:
The New York Yankees organization is accepting applications for an experienced SQL developer in their Baseball Operations department. This position reports to their senior Baseball Operations executives and will assist in the development of database systems. Their goal is to integrate these systems with existing baseball analytics tools and web-applications as part of their player information and evaluation platform.

Primary Responsibilities:

  • Analyze business requirements and design reports using stored procedures to support Yankees front office baseball applications
  • Perform data integrity checks between systems to identify discrepancies
  • Set up ETL operations to import and normalize data from different data providers
  • Performance tuning of SQL objects and queries
  • Work with major and minor league pitch, hit and player tracking datasets, college and other amateur data, international baseball data, and many other baseball data sources

Qualifications and Experience:

  • Must have 3-5 years experience developing in T-SQL
  • Proven experience developing stored procedures, CRUD operations and advanced data manipulation skills with T-SQL (CTEs, pivots, temp tables, XML)
  • Ability to design and layout a database schema from scratch, including table objects, constraints, indexes, foreign keys, and triggers
  • Experience in ETL operations, specifically loading data via different techniques, including bulk loading using BCP operations
  • Experience performance tuning of queries and database objects, including things like table partitioning, index tuning, query hints, locking, schema normalization
  • Ability to utilize SQL Profiler and a thorough understanding of execution plans
  • Excellent communication and problem-solving skills – must be able to breakdown a complex task and put together an execution strategy with little guidance
  • Proven understanding of typical baseball data structures, basic and advanced baseball metrics, and knowledge of current baseball research areas

Job Questions:

  • How did you hear about this job?
  • Do you have 3+ years experience writing in T-SQL?
  • Describe techniques you have used for performing data loading operations.
  • How you would approach the identification of a performance issue in a SQL query?
  • Have you ever worked with any baseball datasets before? If so, please describe which ones and how you used them.

To Apply:
To apply, please complete the following application.

Position: Web Application Developer

Primary Responsibilities:

  • Assist in the design and implementation of web-based tools and applications for senior baseball operations personnel
  • Migrate and adapt existing web applications for mobile devices and various hardware platforms
  • Interface with all departments within Baseball Operations (scouting, player development, coaching, analytics) to build tools and reporting capabilities to meet their needs
  • Work with major and minor league pitch, hit and player tracking datasets, college and other amateur data, international baseball data, and many other baseball data sources

Qualifications and Experience:

  • Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science or related field
  • 3-5 years experience with data-driven web application development using:
    • ASP.NET/C# using MVC and WebAPI
    • nHibernate or other O/R framework
    • AngularJS and Bootstrap
  • An understanding of CSS, cross-browser, and responsive web development, including a strong understanding of desktop vs. mobile UI/UX design techniques
  • Familiarity with Microsoft Visual Studio and source code management tools (Subversion, Git, TFS/VSS)
  • Proficient in SQL databases and various database design principles (Microsoft SQL Server a plus)
  • Knowledge of the software development lifecycle (requirements definition, design, development, testing, implementation, verification), Agile, and industry best practices
  • Excellent communication and problem solving skills – must be able to breakdown a complex task and put together an execution strategy with little guidance
  • An understanding of typical baseball data structures, basic and advanced baseball metrics, and knowledge of current baseball research areas a plus

Job Questions:

  • How did you hear about this job?
  • Do you have experience writing database-driven web applications, using ASP.Net/C#?
  • Describe one data-driven web application you’ve developed and how you’ve utilized ASP.NET/C# and an RDBMS in its development?
  • Do you have experience with AngularJS or other client-side Javascript framework?
  • List any active websites or mobile applications you have developed (and the technologies they use) that might showcase your work.

To Apply:
To apply, please complete the following application.

Position: Data Engineer

Description:
The New York Yankees Baseball Operations department is accepting applications for an experienced data engineer with a focus on data quality analysis. This position reports to the senior Baseball Operations executives and will assist in the development and maintenance of the Yankees data processing pipelines.

Primary Responsibilities:

  • Prepare, clean, format analytical datasets for processing by data scientists
  • Become an expert in the team’s datasets, their strengths and weaknesses, and write code to pull and verify data in response to data scientist requests
  • Using R, visualize complex, multi-source data to pinpoint data quality issues
  • Build automated pipelines for processing and cleaning data
  • Conduct database feature engineering to support ongoing quantitative research
  • Work with developers to create and deploy systems for anomaly detection
  • Interface with data scientists, software developers, and other baseball operations staff as needed
  • Design department-wide principles and workflow for data quality management
  • Serve as the main point-of-contact for questions about data structures, definitions, and quality

Qualifications and Experience:

  • Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science or related field
  • 3+ years of experience developing in SQL (preferably T-SQL)
  • 2+ years of experience with data profiling, data modeling, and data pipeline development
  • 2+ years of experience developing in R (or a similar statistical programming language), including experience with data manipulation and visualization in that language
  • Ability to write succinct code with optimal performance and simplicity
  • Excellent communication and problem-solving skills – must be able to break down a complex task and put together an execution strategy with little guidance
  • An understanding of typical baseball data structures, basic and advanced baseball metrics, and knowledge of current baseball research areas

Job Questions:

  • How did you hear about this job?
  • Describe your experience writing in T-SQL.
  • Describe your experience writing in R. What packages do you use most?
  • Describe your experience with data engineering and the specific techniques you’ve used.
  • At a high-level, describe briefly what steps you would take to identify data biases or inconsistencies in an unfamiliar/new dataset?
  • Have you ever worked with baseball data sets before? If so, please describe which ones and how you used them.

To Apply:
To apply, please complete the following application.

Position: Associate, Quantitative Analysis

Description:
This position is a rigorous 12-month program geared to prepare entry level candidates for a career within the Baseball Operations industry.

Responsibilities:

  • Assist in research and analysis of various baseball topics
  • Design, test and implement predictive models using advanced statistical techniques
  • Prepare, manage, and visualize large-scale data sets
  • Develop processes for monitoring and ensuring data quality across multiple data sources
  • Responsibilities may also include data collection and entry, running database queries and administrative tasks

Qualifications:

  • Bachelor’s degree or higher in a Mathematics, Statistics, Computer Science or related field required
  • Experience building predictive models, preferably in R
  • Computer programming experience
  • Experience using SQL
  • Familiarity with current baseball research
  • Understanding of fundamental concepts in statistics and probability

Job Questions:

  • How did you hear about this job?
  • When are you available to start?
  • What classes have you completed in math, statistics, probability, and/or computer science?
  • Describe any previous experience building statistical models.
  • Which programming languages are you proficient in and what is your preferred language? If applicable to the language, please describe any libraries/packages you use.
  • Describe any previous experience using SQL, if any.
  • Please list any previous baseball/softball experience. This can include playing experience, research experience, coaching experience, writing experience, and more.
  • Will you now or in the future need visa sponsorship status to lawfully work in the United States?

To Apply:
To apply, please complete the following application.

Position: Associate, Baseball Operations

Description:
This position is a rigorous 12-month program geared to prepare entry level candidates for a career within the Baseball Operations industry.

Responsibilities:

  • Coordinate and prepare advance scouting material for the New York Yankees
  • Support the Baseball Operations and Pro Scouting staffs with daily logistical tasks
  • Chart select games from video, as well as execute additional video projects
  • Introductory level player evaluation
  • Assist with various research tasks
  • Data collection and entry
  • Administrative tasks as assigned

Qualifications:

  • Bachelor’s degree required
  • Experience working with BATS coaching system
  • Must be able to recognize pitch types and know how to score a baseball game
  • General understanding of MLB rules and regulations
  • Detail oriented and organized
  • Strong verbal communication and collaborative skills
  • Experience working with video and in baseball

Job Questions:

  • How did you hear about this job?
  • What is the earliest date that you are available to start the Associate program?
  • What are your favorite statistics for evaluating baseball players?
  • What are your favorite baseball-related websites, books, or podcasts?
  • Who do you think are the five best starting pitchers in MLB right now?
  • Do you have any previous baseball or softball experience? Please provide specific examples.
  • Will you now or in the future need visa sponsorship status to lawfully work in the United States?

To Apply:
To apply, please complete the following application.

These descriptions are intended to describe the type of work being performed by a person assigned to these positions. They are not an exhaustive list of all duties and responsibilities required by the employee. The New York Yankees is an Equal Opportunity Employer. The company is committed to the principles of equal employment opportunity for all employees and applicants for employment.


Manny Machado Gets Dirty

Last night, Manny Machado scored the decisive run in an extra-inning walkoff victory to tie the NLCS at two games a piece and put the Dodgers within two wins of the World Series. When discussing Machado and last night’s game, we’d ideally be focusing on his key hit, his smart and aggressive take of second base on a wild pitch, and his impressive dash from second to home on a single to right field that barely beat a strong throw from Christian Yelich.

We aren’t talking about that, though. We’re talking instead about a play in the 10th inning of last night’s game on which Manny Machado made contact with Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar:

In real time, it looked really awkward, but not necessarily malicious. After the game, the Brewers said the play was dirty or insinuated as such by questioning Machado’s general attitude about playing hard. From the MLB.com story:

“It’s a dirty play by a dirty player,” Brewers right fielder Christian Yelich said.

“It looked like it,” Aguilar said. “I’ve known Manny for many years and I don’t know why he would act like that.”

Brewers manager Craig Counsell threw shade at Machado when asked if the play went beyond the grounds of hard play.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I guess they got tangled up at first base. I don’t think he’s playing all that hard.”

Machado didn’t really back down either:

“If that’s dirty, that’s dirty,” Machado said. “I don’t know, call it what you want. I play baseball. I try to go out there and win for my team. If that’s their comments, that’s their comments. I can’t do nothing about that.”

Let’s start by giving Machado the benefit of the doubt and assume, for sake of argument, that it was just a weird play. In that spirit, let’s take a few closer looks at it to see what kind of determinations we might be able to make. Here’s another angle from directly behind Machado.

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Cody Bellinger Wasn’t Clutch Until He Was

Postseason baseball has not come easily to Cody Bellinger. After setting an NL rookie record with 39 home runs in 2017, the then-22-year-old endured ups and downs last October, coming up big in the Dodgers’ Division and League Championship clinchers but going 4-for-28 with a record setting 17 strikeouts in the World Series. Those struggles had continued this fall, in the form of a 1-for-21 skid through Game Four of the NLCS and a spot on the bench for Game Four, as lefty Gio Gonzalez started for the Brewers. Nonetheless, in a five-hour, 15-minute slog that he didn’t even enter until the sixth inning, Bellinger played the hero, first with a diving catch on a potential extra-base hit off the bat of Lorenzo Cain in the 10th inning and then a walk-off RBI single in the 13th, giving the Dodgers a 2-1 victory.

The hit was actually Bellinger’s second of the night. His first came in the eighth inning, when he countered the Brewers’ defensive shift with an opposite-field single off the nearly unhittable Josh Hader, a Nice Piece of Hitting.

Bellinger, despite his pull tendencies, ranked ninth in the majors on grounders against the shift during the regular season, with a 98 wRC+. His 111 wRC+ overall on balls in play against the shift ranked 24th among the 123 hitters with at least 100 PA under such circumstances, which is to say that he’s fared well in this capacity — among the many other ways he’s fared well — despite this October slump.

Paired with Max Muncy’s leadoff single earlier in the inning, it was the first time all year that the Brewers’ fireman yielded multiple hits to left-handed batters in the same outing. The Dodgers couldn’t convert there — more on which momentarily — but Bellinger would only come up bigger.

Here’s Bellinger’s catch off Cain’s liner, which led off the 10th inning against Kenley Jansen. According to Statcast, it had a hit probability of 94%:

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Where It Went Wrong for Clayton Kershaw Last Time

Five years from now, when we think about Game One of the NLCS between the Dodgers and Brewers, I’m guessing we’ll probably think about the ninth inning: taut, suspenseful, and fundamentally baseball-y in the best way. If the Brewers go on to win the World Series, completing the job the 2008-11 versions of the club never could and exorcising some of the demons still haunting the area formerly occupied by County Stadium (which is actually just the parking lot right outside Miller Park), that ninth inning will be remembered as a key step along the way. I hope it is. The ninth inning was The One Where the Brewers Hung On. But I hope that fond memory is not eclipsed, at least today, by our shared memory of the third inning: The One Where Clayton Kershaw Couldn’t Hit His Target.

For the sake of narrative appeal, it would have been ideal for Kershaw to have entered the inning all youth and innocence, grown in stature by vanquishing a series of increasingly insalubrious foes, and then fallen to an antagonist at the dramatic climax of the tale.

That is not what happened, however. What happened instead is that Kershaw just began the inning by allowing a home run to Brandon Woodruff. Here is a picture of where Yasmani Grandal wanted the pitch that Woodruff ended up hitting out:

And here is a picture of where the ball ended up right before Woodruff blasted it into Toyota Territory™:

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One Simple Fix for Rich Hill’s Pitch-Tipping

There’s been a tiny little surge of pitch-tipping content. Ben Harris identified credible evidence that Luis Severino was tipping some of his pitches. And Fabian Ardaya wrote about Ross Stripling tipping his pitches. Now, within the Stripling article, there’s also a brief point made about Rich Hill. Chase Utley is apparently a wizard at looking for pitch signals. Utley saw that Stripling was doing something, but Utley also saw that Hill was doing something. Being a good teammate, Utley let the pitchers know. Hill already folded in a quick fix. One you’re probably able to spot, and spot easily.

Here’s Hill throwing a pitch on September 22:

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NLCS Game Three Turned on Decision to Let Buehler Hit

With his stellar performance down the stretch — including in the Game 163 tiebreaker that won the NL West — Walker Buehler may have supplanted Clayton Kershaw as the Dodgers’ ace. In Monday night’s Game Three of the NLCS, manager Dave Roberts nonetheless went a bridge too far with the 24-year-old fireballer. For five innings, the young righty had pitched brilliantly, if not flawlessly, against the Brewers, allowing just a lone run. But that run loomed large. For the third time in the series, the Dodgers had failed to put a dent in the Brewers’ starter, and so they entered the bottom of the fifth trailing 1-0 against Jhoulys Chacin, who to that point, had allowed just two hits and two walks (one intentional) himself.

On Chacin’s fourth pitch of the inning, Yasmani Grandal — who has had a rough series on both sides of the ball — dunked a slider into left field for a ground-rule double. Enrique Hernandez lined out to bring up Buehler, who to that point, had thrown 78 pitches and struck out eight while yielding just two hits and one walk. The Brewers had done their damage in the first inning, when Ryan Braun followed a six-pitch walk to Christian Yelich with a scorching double to left field for the game’s only run. From there, Buehler had settled down, striking out the next four hitters and retiring 14 of 16. He was dealing.

Nonetheless, the Dodgers offense was gasping for air, and Roberts had a full and rested bullpen thanks to the off day. He’d stacked his lineup with lefties — Joc Pederson, Max Muncy, and Cody Bellinger — against Chacin, who struggles without the platoon advantage. That left Roberts with a bench full of righties, namely Brian Dozier, David Freese, Matt Kemp, Chris Taylor, and, if necessary, backup catcher Austin Barnes. No doubt the skipper had his eye on using some of those righties to combat lefty Josh Hader later in the game. Still, Freese, Kemp, and Taylor all posted a wRC+ of 113 or better against righties this year, though only Taylor had been that strong last year. Of that trio, both Freese and Taylor handled sliders from righties well this year, with wOBAs of .388 and .336 according to Baseball Savant; over the past three years, however, only Taylor (.350) has been above .300 among that trio.

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Job Posting: Boston Red Sox Analyst

Position: Boston Red Sox Analyst

Location: Boston, MA

Description:
The Boston Red Sox are seeking an Analyst for the team’s Baseball Analytics department. The role will support all areas of Baseball Operations while working closely with the SVP/Assistant GM, Director of Baseball Analytics, and the department’s team of analysts.

This is an opportunity to work in a fast-paced, intellectually curious environment and to impact player personnel and strategic decision making.

Responsibilities:

  • Statistical modeling and quantitative analysis of a variety of data sources, for the purpose of player evaluation, strategic decision-making, decision analysis, etc.
  • Effectively present analyses through the use of written reports and data visualization to disseminate insights to members of the Baseball Operations leadership.
  • Maintain working expertise of leading-edge analytics, including publicly available research and novel statistical approaches, in order to recommend new or emerging techniques, technologies, models, and algorithms.
  • Other projects and related duties as directed by the Director, Baseball Analytics, and other members of Baseball Operations leadership.

Qualifications:

  • Bachelor’s degree in an analytical field such as statistics, predictive analytics, data science, engineering, applied math, physics, quantitative social sciences, computer science, or operations research.
  • Demonstrated experience with baseball data analysis.
  • Advanced understanding of statistical methods or machine learning techniques.
  • Proficiency with modern database technologies including SQL.
  • Demonstrated experience with programming languages (e.g., R or Python).
  • Demonstrated ability to communicate technical ideas to non-technical audiences using data visualization.
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Office (Excel, PowerPoint, Word).
  • Demonstrated work ethic, passion for baseball, and strong baseball knowledge, including familiarity with current baseball research and analysis.
  • Attention to detail while also having the ability to work quickly and balance multiple priorities.
  • Experience working for a major league club preferred.
  • Ability to work evening, weekend, and holiday hours is a must.
  • Other programming and database skills are a plus.

To Apply:
To apply, please send an email to analyticsresume@redsox.com with the subject “Office Analyst”. Please include the following items/answer:

  • Updated resume
  • Example of analysis you’ve done, preferably related to baseball.
  • What is a project that you believe would add substantial value to a baseball team? Please describe the project and provide an overview of how you would complete it.

How Do You Feel About This Ball Down the Middle?

I just polled you all about something last Thursday. I asked you how you feel about the diminishing role of the starting pitcher in the modern game. I don’t know what I expected, which meant I’d be surprised by *any* results, but here’s where things stand — 23% of you are neutral. Yet 57% of you have a negative opinion, while just 20% of you have a positive opinion. That’s almost a 3-to-1 ratio. We’ll see how things evolve over time, as we become increasingly accustomed to how pitching staffs are used, but there’s clearly a collective sense of loss. The audience likes to think of the starter as the protagonist. The protagonists shouldn’t be killed off in the fourth or fifth inning. Leaves too much of the story.

Now I’m going back to the well again. I have another question for you all. This isn’t about some sort of trend within the game. Rather, this is about one call. But really, it’s about how calls are made in general. It’s about how you prefer that judgment be rendered. We’re going back to Saturday’s Game 1 of the Red Sox/Astros ALCS. Let’s all watch Joe Kelly throw a curveball down the middle.

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