One of the amazing things about the internet is following links on articles. When you find one article to read, it can lead you to click on another one or two or three...and each of those articles can link you to more articles. And people wonder how I can waste an afternoon on the internet. This article is about one such meandering path on the internet's yellow brick road. And I'm going to try going backwards on this path.
Did Tim Pupura really say this?
Tim Purpura, COO of Minor League Baseball, went as far to indicate that he would have been willing to sign a little person to draw walks if major league baseball would have allowed during his tenure as general manager of the Houston Astros.
Wow, I know Berkman said Adam Everett was an amazingly accurate thrower, but he would have to be really accurate if the first baseman is, say, 3 foot tall. This comes from a story about a minor league team inviting a 3 foot- two "on base machine" to spring camp in a throwback to Bill Veeck's experiment. And that story was linked in The Book blog, as a bunch of sabermetric bloggers discussed the possible win value of a pinch hitting little person in baseball. I got there because the discussion was linked in this Baseball Analysts' article about controlling the strike zone.
The Baseball Analysts article by Jeremy Greenhouse is interesting, because it explores the way that umpires may give the benefit of the doubt to players who appear to control the strike zone and perhaps the opposite effect for players who don't have good plate disciplline. Or perhaps it's not the umpires, and certain players are just better at understanding which ball locations on the edges are more likely to be called balls.Or maybe some players are just better at taking pitches. Or maybe there is some other cause. His research uses F/x to identify pitches which should have been called strikes, but are instead called balls.He then studies the distribution of those gift non-strike calls among hitters. He then develops probabilities for each hitter accumulating these "extra" ball calls. It turns out that these extra balls give Michael Young a 20 run advantage over Carlos Beltran (at the opposite end of the spectrum). Now turning to the Astros connection (and the reason for the photo above), it turns out that Hunter Pence is one of the bottom five in below average probability of taking a strike which is called a ball. OK, Hunter, quit swinging at the slider in the dirt and maybe you will get a few more gift calls.
How did I arrive at this article. Well, Beyond the Boxscore is holding a contest for a sabermetric writing award, and some of the nominees are linked in the BtB article. And Greenhouse was nominated and his article was linked as an illustration of his writing. All 12 nominated articles linked at the BtB site were fascinating. It surprised me (I'm not sure why), but many of the articles took up more of my time than I expected. BtB picked out some good nominees. (I have to admit I had already read some of the articles previously, though.) Just to pick one out that I hadn't seen before, this article is a fascinating attempt to use hit tracker to enhance projections of baseball player performance.
Okay, to finish off this path, I found the link to the BtB article at Baseball Think Factory's newsstand discussion, which will give you numerous links to each day's baseball articles. Have fun.