Monday, December 27, 2010

Least & Most Run Support

So, on Christmas, I went to Madison Square Garden for the Knicks/Bulls matinée game.  One of my very good friends invited me to the game by scalping a couple of tickets off craigslist, but they turned out to be a counterfeit scam.  Can you believe it?  On Christmas Day?  In an unrelated note, the good people at MSG really need to do something about the long line to get to the suites.

I'll pick Leo and Bale in Oscar our pool
Later in the day, I went to see the Joel and Ethan Coen's True Grit, and wound up seeing The Fighter.  The movie was pretty good.  At times, I was not really liking it, but performances by Christian Bale, Melissa Leo really stood out.  Although there are many movies from this year I still have to see, there should at least be Oscar nominations for Bale and Leo.

Before this turns into a pseudo ghost of siskel post, who wants to talk about run support?  More like who doesn't?, right?

A pitcher's run support has always been a bit hazy to me.  First and foremost, it is plain to see that the best offensive teams provide the best run support, by definition and common sense.  For pitchers on average offensive teams, or for pitchers on the same team, we could attribute variances in run support to luck.  Is that correct, however?

Big-Z's the best hitter
Is it mostly luck?  How much does a pitcher's ability to hit affect run support?  Even then, how much of a pitcher's hitting "ability" is actually a function of luck.  Many, many hits for pitchers are bloopers and bleeders.  I like to think that luck will even out in the end, and anyone who's been unlucky for a season, or longer, should be able to reasonably expect a rebound in the future.

Let's forget about hitting right now.  How about a pitcher's ability, or inability, to bunt?  Sorry, but this is going to get very personal in about a minute.  As a fan, I get infuriated when the Cubs' pitcher cannot successfully lay down a sacrifice bunt.  Call me unreasonable, a curmudgeon, or worse, but unless the pitcher is throwing the ball at your Major League pitcher in the upper 90's, a professional baseball player should be able to lay down a clean sacrifice bunt almost every time.  It's the lack of fundamentals that's really sickening and saddening because they are very easy to learn.  Again, we aren't talking about you and me, these are professional athletes, coordinated enough to pitch for a Major League baseball team.  They get paid lots and lots of money to play a game we all love.

Brett Butler is the best
bunter I've ever seen.
The fundamentals are so precise and clear that a deviation from them drives me up the wall.  Basically, you are supposed to keep the barrel of the bat up high near the letters on your jersey; try to keep the bat level and always on the top part of the ball, so you don't pop it up.  Hold your arms out in front of the plate, so that the ball lands in fair territory, and during the moment of contact, you move the bat backwards as if you were catching the ball with soft hands.  Just like generations before me, I will never believe that professional pitchers should be excused from being able to do this because the rarely practice it.  I feel similarly about shooting below 66% at the free throw line.

Even if you are a 7'9" Encino Man who's sole purpose on the floor is to block shots, a professional player should practice enough to at least make 2 out of 3.

Okay, that probably weeded out any casual readers at this point.  Getting back to a pitcher's run support, how much does his bunting ability matter?  Has someone already figured this out?  How about his ability to inspire his teammates?  That could be a big one, but I doubt that hitters are actually trying to score more runs because they're more friendly with tonight's starting pitcher than last night's.  That sounds really silly; I would buy the argument that maybe they could be more alert on defense if they like the pitcher a bit more.  People say all the time that pitchers who work quickly get better defense behind them.  Does liking the starter get the guys more fired up on the bench, which may increase all the batters' focus just enough to start more rallies?  I'm open minded to that argument.

There is also the superstar pitcher shutdown psychology thing that I don't know what it's called thing going on.  I'm refering to the psychological feeling that goes something link, "Well, our Ace is pitching today, so we really only need to score 1 or 2 runs to win."  That could happen in someone's sub-conscience, I guess.

I'm willing to take a relatively irresponsible leap, more like a skip, and say that run support could be a function of luck.

Anyone who had a bad season, on a "not-terrible" team, should expect much better support in future games.  Let's look at the 2010 numbers.  In the "Worst Rus Support" categories, some of these players were just on lousy teams, and may still be on those lousy teams in 2011.  We're looking for guys on good teams, who just had bad years of run support.  Either that, or they're Zack Greinke, moving from the Royals to the Brewers.  If there is time, and I don't think there will be (!), we'll look back at the last 3 years, and stuff like that.  The statistic quoted below is RS/9 (Run Support per 9 innings) per Fangraphs.

2010 Least Run Support (NL)
Lilly pitched well last year, but he
needs more than 2.9 runs/9 IP.
2.88: Ted Lilly
3.16: Roy Oswalt
3.17: Johan Santana
3.43: Randy Wells
3.49: Cole Hamels
3.57: Livan Hernandez
3.68: Barry Zito
3.92: Jon Garland
3.95: Mat Latos
3.99: Chad Billingsley

Seeing Randy Wells on this list, and mentioned in our last post about missing bats in the strike zone, makes him seem like we could have a bit more confidence in his future than we've been feeling lately.

Cole Hamels is the name that should be jumping off this list.  He was fourth in all of baseball last season at creating swings and misses in the strike zone.

2010 Least Run Support (AL)
How many games would Felix win
with Phil Hughes's run support?
3.26: Kevin Millwood
3.46: Jason Vargas
3.60: Dallas Braden
3.80: Zack Greinke
3.83: Jeremy Guthrie
3.84: Doug Fister
3.94: Gavin Floyd
3.97: Brad Bergesen
3.98: Fausto Carmona

With his move to Milwaukee, Greinke looks assured to not be on this list next season.  Braden and Floyd should see better days next spring, too.

Max Scherzer was right behind Fausto Carmona, with 4.05 RS/9.  He was also mentioned last night as a player with rare swing and miss ability.

Besides the ten pitchers from each league listed above, all other starting pitchers, who qualified for the ERA title last season received at least 4.0 RS/9.  Which brings us to our lists of pitchers with the best run support.

2010 Most Run Support (NL)
The '11 Brewers will score runs.
6.01: Randy Wolf
2010 Most Run Support (AL)
Adrian Gonzalez will keep
Red Sox pitchers happy
6.13: C.C. Sabathia
5.41: Matt Garza

Most of these teams are actually good, and maybe even getting better offensively.  We don't expect players on these lists to have their luck reversed much because these teams will be good again.

These numbers reinforce the idea that Detroit's Scherzer and Philly's Hamels should probably bounce back a bit in the run support column next season.  We'll be targeting them in rotisserie baseball 2011.

If your area was hit with this Boxing Day blizzard, try to stay inside and stay warm.

2 comments:

  1. Black Swan is going to clean up at the Oscars. Best Director, Actress, and probably picture, too.

    ReplyDelete
  2. HOORAY !!!
    I have been a coach/umpire for over 45 years and I feel like "The Old Geezer" from "Small Ball," when I try to teach the pitchers (and also the non-HR hitter types) to bunt...ARGH!

    In MLB, my rule: fail to execute a sac bunt,
    pay a MAJOR fine and take bunting practice in the cage after the game, until I am satisfied.

    Wonder if any of these mopes can bunt?
    2010 Least Run Support (NL)
    Lilly pitched well last year, but he
    needs more than 2.9 runs/9 IP.
    2.88: Ted Lilly
    3.16: Roy Oswalt
    3.17: Johan Santana
    3.43: Randy Wells
    3.49: Cole Hamels
    3.57: Livan Hernandez
    3.68: Barry Zito
    3.92: Jon Garland
    3.95: Mat Latos
    3.99: Chad Billingsley

    "Dr. Bill"

    ReplyDelete