Lead-Off Hitters

Looking at Retrosheet data for the 2000s, the lead-off hitter on the visitor’s team was the center fielder 32% of the time. For the home team, the center fielder led off 31.9% of the time.  Yes, I will check my numbers and data, but that seemed very interesting to me. (Second place for lead-off was the short-stop.) 

For the statistics-minded, I looked at the position field for the first batter of the visitor’s team and the home team, and took the mode. I think that’s how it’s done, but I haven’t done real statistics since I had a slide rule. 

Dog Senses

So, dogs have a better sense of smell than humans. They have better eyesight than believed before, as they may be able to discern some colors, which is probably why our Cocker Spaniel barks at the HDTV almost constantly and the Chihuahua watches it while sitting on one of the humans. However, while dogs also may have a better sense of hearing, they do not have any real comprehension, although the previously mentioned Cocker Spaniel hates most current pop music (“Good dog, Murphy!”).

Most dogs do have a limited vocabulary (“Sit”, “Stay”, “Dammit!”), but that’s about it. This explains why two of my dogs could get into  a major snarling match while “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding” was playing this afternoon. Irony, anyone?

Moral Victories

Moral victories don’t count in the statistics, which is unfortunate, but they are a beautiful moment in time when they happen. 

Last night, the AirHogs lost to the Larado Lemurs 12-11 in twelve innings. However, they were left for dead by the end of the seventh – mainly due to the constantly moving strike zone of an incompetent home plate umpire. (Both managers complained – ours got ejected, which means his complaints were better.) 

So, in the bottom of the ninth, with an eight-run lead, Laredo sent their third baseman to the mound to pitch. 

Yes, the third baseman.

Now, this may seem like cockiness, but I don’t think so. You have two teams that had played a double-header the night before, they had used three pitchers already, there was another game the next day and the home plate umpire wouldn’t know a strike or a ball, so you’re going to have to rely on your defense. You’ve got an eight-run lead, what could possibly go wrong? 

You might come up against a team that finally decided it was time to play baseball. 

Ryan Pineda hits a single on a 2-1 pitch. Let’s not get excited, but at least somebody is on base. 

Angel Flores hits a 1-2 pitch and gets on. Men at first and second. 

Fraizer Hall walks on four straight pitches. Bases loaded. At this point, I began wondering how many runs Laredo would give up before a real pitcher came in. My guess was five. 

Kenny Held hits a sac-fly to score Pineda. One run in, long way to go. One out. The “play defense” strategy may be working. One grounder and it’s probably over. 

Keanon Simon singles on an 0-1 pitch. Flores scores. Two runs. One out. Hmm. 

Brandon Pickney doubles on an 0-2 pitch. So much for the pitcher getting ahead in the count. Another run scores. Interesting. 

Brian Myrow walks on six pitches. Bases loaded. Why look! Laredo has found a pitcher just sitting around. So, my five-run estimate was low, although there are four runs potentially on base. 

Andres Rodriguez gets hit by a pitch. Ouch. Another run crosses the plate. Not a good start for a reliever. Still, we need four to tie, five to win and there is one away.

Juan Richardson strikes out on seven pitches. Damn. Double damn. Two outs. 

Ryan Pineda (Hey! Didn’t we see him earlier in the inning?) looks at ball one and puts the next pitch over the left-field wall. Grand Freakin’ Slam. Tie Freakin’ game. This was the first curse of joy of the evening. This one hit may be why Laredo doesn’t have the manager of the year. 

Flores struck out to end the inning, but a message had been sent. We can beat you, in spite of the umpires. We can torch your pitchers, given a chance.

So, we lost the game in the twelfth, 12-11. We lost the game, but I think we won the battle. If you can get eight runs in the bottom of the ninth on the team leading your division, you can beat them. A message has been sent. I don’t think we’ll see any more fielders pitching unless the bullpen is dry. 

Tonight should be interesting. 

 

 

Time to think

Attendance seems lower at the AirHogs games this year – not a lot, but noticeable. Part of the issue is their schedule sucks – the season started with a three-game home stand and then they left town for ten days. Not exactly a momentum builder. 

Perhaps the reason baseball is being touted as “going away” or “fading” is that in order to enjoy a game, you have to think. This is contrary to football (big guys hitting each other), basketball (tall guys in shorts running around) and hockey (figure skaters with sticks.) 

Baseball does not have a time limit. You play nine innings, no matter how long it takes, unless it rains. You can’t run out the clock. 

There actually is strategy in baseball, even though at first glance, it’s just a guy swinging a bat at a ball. You can change pitchers. You can change hitters. You can change runners. You can try to steal. You can bunt or swing away. You have to think about it. If you can’t think, the manager or coach will tell you what to do. 

Baseball is a statistician’s dream because everything is a number. How many pitches have been thrown? What’s the pitcher’s ERA? What’s the batter’s batting average? slugging average? 

I’m surprised baseball isn’t more popular just because there are so many items you can wager on. 

The AirHogs played two seven-inning games in less than five hours last night. The Super Bowl can take longer than that. 

I’ve never seen the point of basketball – it was invented to have something to do on a rainy day, and it shows. The winner is the team that shoots the best because you basically just tramp up and down the court, trading shots. 

Hockey would probably be more enticing if we had ice around here. Since I never skated, I never saw the point. 

I was rattling off statistics to a guy next to me last night, and he asked if I had played baseball growing up. I think he was surprised I didn’t (I played soccer – which is great exercise, but is also tramping up and down the field, shooting and missing. I played soccer for eight years, but I don’t really like watching it.) 

You can get into baseball without having played it. You can progress from watching to scoring to keeping statistics and doing predictive modeling in less than a 100-game season. 

There’s just one problem with baseball – you have to think. Strategy, statistics and math require the use of your brain. 

That may be baseball’s problem. Perhaps it’s really our problem.