Baseball Toaster Mike's Baseball Rants
Monthly archives: June 2008


Take My Interleague Play Please
2008-06-30 22:38
by Mike Carminati

Well, the results are in and the twelfth year of interleague play has been a landslide victory for the American League. So much for the pendulum swinging back to the senior circuit.

The three NL division leaders are a collective 16-29 against the AL. The three AL leaders are 34-20. Only three NL teams had winning records in interleague play (New York, Atlanta, and Cincinnati). Only two AL teams, both cellar dwellers (Toronto and Cleveland), had losing records against the NL.

Collectively, the AL was 149-102 against the NL for a .594 winning percentage. To put that in perspective, over a 162-game schedule that translates to a 96-66 record. That is equal to the best record in baseball in 2007 (Boston and Cleveland). That means that the average AL team is equal to the World Champs when they play the average NL team.

Consider that the NL has not won the interleague battle since 2003 and has only won it four out of 12 seasons. The best winning percentage for the NL in interleague games was .547 back in its first year, 1997. The AL has registered a .540 winning percentage or better in five seasons, including the last four straight.

The worst mismatch was .611 winning percentage for the AL in 2006. That equates to a 99-63 record over 162 games. No team has matched that record since 2005 (St. Louis & the White Sox).

And the mismatch is just getting worse.

The first eight seasons of interleague play witnessed four winning seasons for each league. From 1997 to 2004, the NL actually led the overall interleague series, 988 to 960, a .507 winning percentage.

It's the last four years that have skewed the results so badly. In that stretch the AL has had a .540, .611, .544, and .594 winning percentage in interleague play. They are leading the overall series, 576 to 431. That's a .572 winning percentage, or a 93-69 record over 162 games. That's a record that most teams would teams would drool over for a four-year run.

So does interleague suck worse now? If you ask me, it always has. It's fundamentally unsound. Forget the unbalanced schedule, the inelegance of arbitrarily applying the DH rule. Interleague play represents the last link in the chain that MLB has been building against such niceties as scheduled doubleheaders and in-season exhibition games.

Baseball crows over the Mets playing the Yankees, the White Sox playing the Cubs, and the other handful of same-city rivalries. Those series constitute the cherry on top of the sh*t sundae that is interleague play. However, historically same-city teams did play in-season exhibition championships, but those series got squeezed out as baseball went to 162-game schedules and tried to pry every dime out of every regular-season game.

Oh, and interleague play has impacted a ton of playoff races. I have to run the data but from 1997 to 2002, 19 playoff races were affected. And that was both leagues were on equal footing.

Venditte Become Such a Problem?
2008-06-22 22:39
by Mike Carminati

If you missed it, last Thursday Yankee prospect Pat Venditte pitched a scoreless ninth to finish off a 7-2 Staten Island win over cross-borough rival Brooklyn Cyclones. But the big story in this rather lopsided loss was the last at-bat, which was nothing more than a four-pitch strikeout, with the last strike coming on a curveball a good half-foot outside of the strike zone.

Sounds like a pretty boring AB in a pretty boring game, but it was a breathtaking piece of baseball history, the like of which may not have been seen since 1888 and the glory days of "Ice Box" Chamberlain.

The final batter switch-hitter Ralph Henriquez came up to bat with two out and one on in the ninth, was batting lefty in the on deck circle, but came up to the plate batting righty. The ambidextrous Venditte—oh, did I mention that?—switched his Greg Harris-esque six-fingered glove to his left hand and prepared to throw right-handed. Henriquez switched to the left side of the plate. Venditte switched his glove to his right hand. Henriquez switched. So did Venditte. And so on, and so on.

After a six-plus minute delay and much deliberation among the overmatched umps, Henriquez was told to get in the box and quickly surrendered to Vindette's breaking stuff.

It's here in all it's glory.

Now, the New York-Penn League has instituted a new rule so that this monumental waste of time is not repeated:

"The new rule," (SI Yanks manager) McMahon said, "dictates that the batter will determine which side of the plate he wants to hit from, if he's a switch-hitter; and after that, Pat can address the rubber. The batter can switch one time, and Pat can switch."

Of course, this rule was entirely unnecessary. The plate ump in the June 19 game botched the call so badly that he lost all control of the game. No new rule was needed since it was already in the rules.

It's called rule 6.02(b):

The batter shall not leave his position in the batter's box after the pitcher comes to Set Position, or starts his windup.

PENALTY: If the pitcher pitches, the umpire shall call "Ball" or "Strike," as the case may be.

Rule 6.02(b) Comment: The batter leaves the batter's box at the risk of having a strike delivered and called, unless he requests the umpire to call "Time." The batter is not at liberty to step in and out of the batter's box at will.

Once a batter has taken his position in the batter's box, he shall not be permitted to step out of the batter's box in order to use the resin or the pine tar rag, unless there is a delay in the game action or, in the judgment of the umpires, weather conditions warrant an exception.

Umpires will not call "Time" at the request of the batter or any member of his team once the pitcher has started his windup or has come to a set position even though the batter claims "dust in his eyes," "steamed glasses," "didn't get the sign" or for any other cause.

Umpires may grant a hitter's request for "Time" once he is in the batter's box, but the umpire should eliminate hitters walking out of the batter's box without reason. If umpires are not lenient, batters will understand that they are in the batter's box and they must remain there until the ball is pitched. See Rule 6.02(d).

Rich Marazzi in "The Rules and Lore of Baseball" points to a number of instances in which the rule was invoked. Frank Robinson got called out on strikes after stepping out of the box to argue a previous call on Jun 1, 1956. Dave Philly was called out on similar circumstances. And Ray Chapman in 1920, the year he became the first and only major-leaguer to die in a game, was called out after he walked to the dugout with two strikes while facing Walter Johnson's heat. Ump Billy Evans yelled to Chapman, "You got another strike coming." To wit Chapman responded, "You can have it. It wouldn't do me any good."

So once Henriquez stood in a batter's box—pick 'em, any box'll do—and Venditte came to a set position, which he did each time Henriquez switched. Once Henriquez stepped out of the box, the ump should have forced him back in the box.

If Venditte pitched while Henriquez was playing ring around the rosey, the pitch should have counted. If the pitch hit him while he was in the strike zone, the batter would have been out.

The new rule is silly and unnecessary.

So the only question remaining is why the league and the umps were not ready for Venditte's unique situation prior to the game? In the minors, adjudicating dizzy bat contents clearly takes precedence.

So instead of doing a bit of research, the league invented an unnecessary rule that will surely follow Venditte as he progresses to various leagues and levels in his nascent pro career.

Hey, but at least it beats interleague play. By the way, the AL is clobbering the NL with a .580-something winning percentage (excluding today's games).

Quien Es Moyer Macho?
2008-06-13 08:46
by Mike Carminati

Jamie Moyer saved the Phils from a what would have been an early-season, cringe-worthy sweep at the hands of the pesky Florida Marlins, and he did it in dramatic fashion, allowing two hits in eight innings.

Moyer now joins a short list of pitchers who have won at least seven games in a season after turning 45. His projected win total of 17 would be the most be any such pitcher:

PlayerYrAgeWL ERA IP
Jamie Moyer-proj200845177 4.12 198.0
Phil Niekro198445168 3.09 215.7
Phil Niekro1985461612 4.09 220.0
Satchel Paige1952451210 3.07 138.0
Phil Niekro1986471111 4.32 210.3
Jack Quinn192945119 3.97 161.0
Jack Quinn19304697 4.42 89.7
Tommy John19884598 4.49 176.3
Charlie Hough199345916 4.27 204.3
Phil Niekro198748713 6.30 138.7
Hoyt Wilhelm19694677 2.19 78.0
Jamie Moyer20084573 4.12 83.0

If Moyer does hit that 17-win mark this year, meaning he would garner ten more in 2008, and let's say that he has another 15 wins left in his soft-tossing arm, that would put him at 262 for his career. This begs the improbable question of whether Jamie Moyer is a Hall-of-Fmaer.

Jamie Moyer, a pitcher who did not win 15 wins in any season until he turned 35, how can he be a Hall-of-Famer? Moyer, a pitcher who never struck out more than 158 in a season, how could his face adorn the walls of Cooperstown? To quote Schoolhouse Rocky, how can a zero be a hero?

Moyer will be in very company. Twelve of the twenty eligible pitchers who won at least 250 but no more than 300 games are in the Hall, and Randy Johnson who has 288 and may not make 300 is an extremely good bet. All eligible pitchers with at least 2000 wins are in the Hall and the three who are not in (Maddux, Glavine, and Clemens) are locks at least for their on-field performance (Clemens will have other problems of course).

That's an extremely blunt instrument, but it does indicate that Moyer has a fifty-fifty chance or better of making it should he be able to hold up for another couple of seasons, admittedly not a great bet for an aging pitcher. That's not that bad for a pitcher who took over a decade at the beginning of his career to find himself.

Here are all the 250-299 win pitchers:

Bobby Mathews18711887297N
Tommy John19631989288N
Randy Johnson19882008288Ineligible
Bert Blyleven19701992287N
Robin Roberts19481966286Y
Fergie Jenkins19651983284Y
Tony Mullane18811894284N
Jim Kaat19591983283N
Red Ruffing19241947273Y
Burleigh Grimes19161934270Y
Jim Palmer19651984268Y
Bob Feller19361956266Y
Eppa Rixey19121933266Y
Jim McCormick18781887265N
Gus Weyhing18871901264N
Ted Lyons19231946260Y
Mike Mussina19912008259Ineligible
Jack Morris19771994254N
Red Faber19141933254Y
Al Spalding18711877253Y
Carl Hubbell19281943253Y
Bob Gibson19591975251Y

Incidentally, Jimmy Rollins is on a pace to set a new record for most stolen bases in a season without being caught. He stole his twelfth yesterday in their 3-0 win, and projects to 38. The current record-holder is Kevin McReynolds with 21 nabs without being caught. Here are the most:

2008Jimmy Rollins-proj380
1988Kevin McReynolds210
1898John Anderson200
1994Paul Molitor200
1899Hughie Jennings180
1899Ossee Schreckengost180
1982Jimmy Sexton160
1989Gary Thurman160
1984Davey Lopes150
1994Sean Berry140
1999Terry Shumpert140
1902Hal O'Hagan130
1943Leon Culberson130
1964Tom Tresh130
1994Lee Tinsley130
1994Tim Raines130
1995Rex Hudler130
2000Carlos Beltran130
2000Desi Relaford130
1871Denny Mack120
1910Art Kruger120
1977Miguel Dilone120
1980Fred Lynn120
1995Paul Molitor120
2003David Dellucci120
2008Jimmy Rollins120
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