SABR 40: day one, post three

In this post:
Resting the Pitcher: How Useful are Pitch Counts and Days of Rest?
Sean Forman and JC Bradbury
Where have You Gone, Tony Lazzeri?
Lawrence Baldasarro
Pitchers As Fielders: A Quantitative Analysis or… Why Kirk Rueter is the best-fielding pitchers of all time
John Knox
21 Facts You Didn’t Know About 1921
Steve Steinberg and Lyle Spatz

Resting the Pitcher: How Useful are Pitch Counts and Days of Rest?
Sean Forman and JC Bradbury
JC did the oral presentation of the data he investigated with Sean Forman of
JC’s own site is He has put the slides and a draft of the paper up on his site if you’d like to see more detail than I can provide in this liveblogging recap. Here.
How have pitch counts changed over time?
You hear announcers say that pitchers don’t pitch as much as they used to.
Good data goes back to 1988. Data shows that since then, anyway, pitch counts haven’t changed at all, really. Everyone tops out around 99-101 pitches. Median number around 99 all along. There isn’t this declining trend, or is there?
What about maximum pitch loads? Here we see a radical decline. In the 1990s pitchers exceeded 149 pitches 49 times. In the 2000s, only 3 times. Why? Injury concerns, performance concerns, “wuss factor” — exacerbated by financial stakes.
Frequency of high AND low pitch counts has declined. So there is a quick hook late, but there is also more patience early nowadays.
Effect of Pitch Count on Performance, looked at three situations
1) Immediate Effect: impact of previous game’s pitch count
2) & 3) Cumulative effect: impact of avg pitch counts from multiple preceding games (used previous 5 and 10 game average)
Data: game data 1988-2009, major league pitchers, who had fewer than 15 days of rest (those with over 15 days before a start were typically coming off the DL, or just called up, etc… would skew the data)
Measuring Impact of Pitch Counts
performance is a function of several explanatory factors
We’ll use ERA, plus DIPS components (defensive independent pitching statistics) — don’t have time to go into DIPS today but they are in the appendix to the paper online.
Explanatory factors: pitches thrown (immediate and cumulative, days of rest, ability (season ERA), age, year effects
Fractional polynomial regression estimation
-estimates hypothesized non-linear effects
PAP system assumes increasing impact (cubic)
These regressions take 5 to 15 minutes to run on modern computers, which is a lot of time and a lot of crunching. But nowhere near as bad as the days of punch cards.
Impact of Pitches Thrown on ERA
JC showed a graph of previous game, versus previous 5 games, versus previous 10 games
All the lines cross right around 99 pitches — they all look like linear relationships!
In other words, EVERY pitch you throw, increases ERA in the future.
It takes 38 extra pitches to raise a pitcher’s ERA 0.25 in terms of the previous game, but only 19 pitches in the 5 game mean, and only 11 pitches in the 10 game mean.
Divided by age, though, amazingly, the older pitchers are NOT bothered as much by a one game ramp up as the young guys. Maybe a selection bias problem. BUT in a cumulative effect in 5 or 10 game averaged, the older group suffers more.
Older pitchers may have more know-how on taking on one heavy game.
Impact of days of rest on performance:
Each day of rest improves performance by 0.015 ERA
Not statistically significant
Lower ERA by 1% for a 4.50 ERA pitcher
Impact on pitching on less rest is likely larger than estimated, but the impact is not picked up
There is a positive relationship between pitch count and future performance. Small, but real, effect.
The cumulative effect is greater than the immediate effect.
38 extra pitches in one game raises ERA by 0.25
10 extra pitches average over 10 games raises ERA by 0.25
Days of rest have little impact on performance. Heavily influenced by small variation.
Will look at relief pitchers next. This time only had time to look at starting pitchers.
Where Have Your Gone, Tony Lazzeri
by Lawrence Baldassaro
Lawrence says: I got interested in Tony Lazzeri when I was working on a book on Italian-Americans in baseball. This inevitably meant I had to study the New York Yankees, which at first I didn’t like, but I eventually came to appreciate the team’s history and the efforts that they made.
None of the players I researched and wrote about impressed me as much as Lazzeri, not even DiMaggio. He was an interesting study as one of the first ethnic superstars in baseball. He was the third most dangerous hitter behind Ruth and Gehrig, and only Charlie Gehringer ranks as an infielder of equal offensive prowess. Why is he forgotten? The infamous strike-out in the World Series haunts his legacy, even mentioned on Alexander’s hall of fame plaque, the only failure of another player mentioned on any Hall of Fame plaque. He was one of the elite sluggers of his era. He once hit two grand slams in a game and was the only infielder in a list of RBI leaders for his era that included Ruth, Gehrig, Goslin, and Foxx.
Lazzeri was recognized by writers of the time as a leader and a sharp baseball mind. Some called him both “mental and instinctive” (Jeterian, perhaps?) and a key leader on the team that won 5 World Series and 6 pennants in the 12 years he played.
He also played his entire career while suffering from epilepsy.
He was brought to the Yankees as part of a concerted campaign to recruit a player who would appeal to the United States’ largest Italian-American community. When he debuted with the Yankees, he had never even seen a major league game before. His role was to be not just a promising rookie, but to live up to the hype of being the first major Italian player. Italians of the time were discriminated against, stereotyped, et cetera… as in 1915 president of the United States saying in a speech “there is no room for hyphenated Americans.”
Lazzeri had considered boxing as a career. But if he got into fights during baseball, he’d be reinforcing negative stereotypes of Italians as dangerous thugs. Writers dubbed him the “walloping wop” and “the wonderful wop,” as well as “the swarthy Italian” and “Italy’s favorite sun.”
Lazzeri was almost as big a drawing card as Ruth, and everywhere the Yankees played, the local Italian-American clubs would fete him.
Lazzeri was also a calm, soft-spoken person, counter to stereotypes of Italians being loud, expressive, passionate types. One writer said trying to get great, colorful quotes out of him was like mining coal with a nail file. (Another quality Jeter-like?) Lazzeri’s photos resemble those of immigrants of the time, doleful eyes and serious, perhaps insecure, expressions. Very different from the flamboyant Ruth.
Lazzeri was supposedly a clubhouse prankster, but that side did not come through to the public. Lazzeri’s stoic demeanor, and being a prominent and respected figure in a quintessentially American pursuit, helped to overcome the fact that anti-immigrant sentiment was still rampant and the most famous Italian-American of the time was Al Capone.
Lazzeri came along 10 years too early. He came too quickly after anti-immigrant laws and sentiment to gain the kind of fame that would belong to Joe DiMaggio. He deserves to be remembered for more than being a footnote on Alexander’s plaque.
(Questions from the audience.)
How did his epilepsy affect his career?
The Yankees kept it quiet, the writers either didn’t know about it or didn’t write about it. He tended to have them in the morning, and his wife told his roommate to take care of him and just make sure he didn’t swallow his tongue. But it never affected him on the ballfield.
Where did the nickname Push ‘Em Up Tony come from?
Supposedly a restaurant owner in Salt Lake City (where he was playing in the minors) with a loud voice shouted out, in his Italian accent, “Poosh Em Up Tony!” and one of the writers there latched onto it.
What did he do after baseball and how did he die?
He managed in the minor leagues for about four years. He died at age 42 of a heart attack. I’ve seen reports that say it was an epileptic seizure, but the actual medical report says heart attack.
Pitchers As Fielders: A Quantitative Analysis or… Why Kirk Rueter is the best-fielding pitchers of all time
John Knox
Knox is a meteorologist and teaches geography at the University of Georgia, but worked on this on nights and weekends
Fielding is hard and relatively unappreciated.
Many pitchers don’t work on fielding much although there are the athletic pitchers
Does pitcher’s fielding matter?
Well, the Tigers would say so. Five pitcher errors led to seven unearned runs including the deciding runs in the final two games of the 2007 World Series, which the St. Louis Cardinals won. (Or you might say Detroit lost.)
Knox reviewed his methodology, using RF9 (range factor standardized to 9 innings) and then that standardized to the league factor lgRF9.
Some challenges to correct for:
Fielding percentage is skewed to the top because even horrible fielders still get it right 90% of the time
Career RF9 not available for all pitchers in all eras
Typical values of FP and RF9 may chance over time
Neither FP nor RF9 seem to capture all aspects of pitchers fielding
Any way to account for bias of ground ball versus fly ball pitchers?
Invented two new metrics, DP/E double play to error ratio, and DPd9, Double Plays Turned per 9
Ended up with three different grades:
Range Bias Score (60% RRF9R + 30% RCFR +5% DP/E = 5% DPd9)
Sure-Handedness Score (30% + 60% + + )
No-Bias Score (45% each plus 5% + 5%)
Pitchers had to have over 1500 innings pitched, and one of four different accolades that could include them.
Pitchers range monotonic going down over time. Range shrinking.
The Top 30 All Time Fielding Pitchers
no matter what metric used, Kirk Rueter comes up every single time
Maddux comes up #2. Maddux got 18 Gold Gloves. Reuter none.
Reuter is way up in fielding percentage, DP/error ratio, DPd9, etc.
Also no bigger gap than between Reuter and Maddux!
Full list of top 100 is in the paper available for download.
Where is Jim Kaat? Where is Bob GIbson?
Well, in the list of 287 eligible pitches, both those guys are near the bottom. Kaat #272, Gibson #277
Some surprising trends: range factor went UP at end of their career: Rueter, Maddux, and Bobby Shantz
Gene Garber at #34 was surprising because he tends to face away from the batter in his delivery.
Jim Abbot made the list #73, despite having only one hand.
Ground ball versus fly ball? Did not have room to include that.
How about errors? Can now start looking at that — Maddux let 30 men on in his career by bad throws, which is a lot. Rueter did not put people on. Also Maddux bad at fielding bunts while Rueter was death to bunts.
Fielding by pitchers historically under-researched
Simple statistical aanalysis of 287 good-fielding pitchers using FP, RF9, and DP mettrics
Key result: Reuter the best
Unable to determine why Kaat and Gibson were considered so good or

There are so many presentations on Yankees history here this year I actually decided to skip some. After the Tony Lazzeri presentation came one on Bobby Richardson which I skipped so I could see John Knox’s one on pitchers fielding, and then I was falling asleep so I ran to get some tea and a snack and missed Steve Krevisky’s talk on Spud Chandler. Hopefully I can get a recap of it from Steve later. Coming up next in this room is another Yankee-centric talk by Steve Steinberg and Lyle Spatz on 21 facts about 1921.
Speaking of the Yankees. First place, baby. Minnesota pwned the Rays today (although the Rays did have a 6-run uprising in the 8th) and the Yankees are off, so we are now in first place by half a game.
And now the presentation, based on their new book 1921: The Yankees, The Giants & The Battle for Baseball Supremacy in New York (which, by the way, is on sale at Amazon for 32% off…)
1921 hasn’t been written about a lot. Decided to concentrate on 1921 for the book because it was the first Yankee pennant, it was the clash of titans in terms of Babe Ruth versus John McGraw, the clash of the styles of baseball, small ball versus long ball, and the change of Rosie O’Grady New York to Jazz Age New York. And here are 21 surprising things Steve and Lyle learned:
1. People usually think Babe Ruth was slim when he was younger and got fat later. But no. Babe Ruth was heavy in 1921 and was often called “fat.” “He is a large fat man and growing fatter.” “Ruth can run faster than any fat man in the country since Taft ran for president.”
2. US President Warren Harding had a personal connection to the 1921 pennant race. He was rooting for Pittsburgh, because of their number one pitcher Wilbur Cooper. Harding had been part owner of a minor league team that Cooper played for and he had gotten him a tryout with the Indians. The Indians didn’t take him but he ended up being the best pitcher in the World Series in 1921.
3. The Yankees had every AL home run leader of the deacde of the 1920s on their 1921 squad. Babe Ruth led in several years, but Braggo Roth led in 1915 with 7, Wally Pipp, et cetera.
4. Baseball may have been the second best sport for Frankie Frisch, an All-American football in college.
5. Yankees manager Miller Huggins wistfully wished for what is now the Designated Hitter rule, as a way to have a big bat in the lineup (Bob Meusel) even though he had trouble fielding. Huggins suggested it to the press.
6. Two of the games’ best outfielders in 1921 would die in the next few years, of a McHentry of a brain tumor and Ross Youngs of Wright’s Disease.
7. Ruth pitched two games in 1921, one as a starter and one as a reliever, and both had fascinating stories behind them. He started one game wanting to beat Ty Cobb, winning 13-8. He also won 7-6 in 11 innings when Waite Hoyt had handed him a 6-0 lead. It would have been Hoyt’s 20th win and he would have had a nice bonus if he had gotten that one, but Ruth squandered it.
8. For the first month of the 21 season, the Giants’ George Kelly and Babe Ruth ran neck and neck in the home run race. (Kelly had 8 after only 15 games, after hitting only 11 all of 1920. But he fell back to Earth by the end of the 1921 season.)
9. Tris Speaker’s success as a manager is one of the overlooked stories of 1921, perhaps a greater achievement than winning the World Series in 1920. Speaker overcame injuries to many key players.
10. Despite his gruff exterior, John McGraw’s loyal, caring side came out in 1921. There were numerous players he kept on the payroll out of the goodness of his heart.
11. Arliss Taylor pitched only two innings in his major league career, and struck out only one man, Joe Sewell, the hardest man to strike out by far in all of major league history.
12. Auto pioneer Henry Ford’s anti-semitic newspaper, the Dearborn Independent, accused the Jewish owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates of letting the Giants win the N: pennant in exchange for money.
13. Carl Mays’s controversial and suspicious meltdown in Game Four of the World Series can be understood in light of his regular season performances, including several late season meltdowns and several late-inning meltdowns all year long, but relief pitchers just were not in use. He had a large lead in 9 different games but would lose it in the 8th and 9th innings.
14. Amos Rusie looks into the past and compares Babe Ruth to part sluggers. “The game surely has taken soe strides… none of them could hold a candle to Ruth, and I mean Waner, Lajoie, [etc]”
15. Tens of thousands of fans would gather to see the games on “player boards” on the buildings of the newspaper companies. Some considered it more exciting then watching the games at the ballpark.
16. With virtually no film of games, key plays were seen but once, and seen differently by different observers, including veteran reporters. Mike McNally’s steal of home in Gae One of the 1921 World Series was reported quite differently by each man.
17. 22-year old Waite Hoyt’s pitching performance in the 1921 World Series was arguably the greatest ever in the history of the postseason. No earned runs at all in 27 innings against the best offense in the game, and only two unearned runs kept him from equaling Christy Mathewson. Holding the 1921 Giants down was amazing, but largely forgotten because the Yankees lost the series.
18. John McGraw was altering his approach to go for the big inning, recognizing that the game was changing.
19. Carl Mays exhibited the incredible control to not give up a walk in three complete games in the World Series.
20. Contemporary accounts say that John McGraw signaled every pitch from the dugout in the 1921 World Series.
21. Frank “Home Run” Baker looked into the future and compared the Babe to future sluggers. “There never has been anybody like him and I don’t think there will be. Sometime, someday, the ballparks will be smaller than now… but if you put the Babe in there he would average a homer a game.”
I’m looking forward to reading Steve and Lyle’s book, and I am considering excerpting a chapter for the Yankees Annual this year. What I’ve seen so far is top notch and deserves to be shared with more Yankees fans.

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