Closure for Lester (he finally gets a hit)

As the season opened I reported on Jon Lester’s potential to break the record for most hitless at bats to start a career this season, now that he’s batting regularly as a National League pitcher.  Later, I reported on his breaking that record.  Now, at last, there is closure.  On Monday Jon Lester got his first career hit, and it was off former teammate John Lackey (literally – it ricocheted off Lackey).  He tallied 30 AB and 30 plate appearances this season before getting that hit, adding to his prior career totals of 43 PA and 36 AB without a hit.

Here is the new top 10 list:

Name Team(s) Pos PA AB First hitless game Last hitless game Hitless Games RBI SO BB HBP SH SF
Jon Lester BOS-OAK P 73 66 6/16/2006 7/1/2015 30 1 37 1 0 5 1
Joey Hamilton SDP P 66 57 5/24/1994 6/3/1995 24 1 34 2 0 6 1
Ron Herbel SFG P 63 55 5/6/1964 5/11/1965 27 0 36 2 0 6 0
Marv Breuer NYY P 57 to 60 47 to 49 4/27/1940 9/4/1940 20 1 22 or 23 4 or 5 0 6
Luke Walker PIT P 56 48 4/18/1966 4/18/1970 27 2 29 2 0 6 0
Don Carman PHI P 53 48 9/13/1984 5/11/1987 28 0 21 0 0 5 0
Fred Gladding DET-HOU P 49 47 7/1/1961 7/5/1969 40 0 27 0 0 2 0
Chris Short PHI P 45 44 4/19/1959 6/24/1961 26 0 19 0 0 1 0
Randy Tate NYM P 47 41 4/14/1975 9/18/1975 23 0 22 1 0 5 0
Pat Jarvis ATL P 45 41 8/13/1966 6/12/1967 18 1 24 2 0 2 0

Congratulations, Jon. You’ve hit some balls pretty hard to this point in your career, and streak records like this one always involve some luck, either bad or good. Now forget about hitting, because you’ve got more important concerns.

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Mookie Betts challenge to a Red Sox record may have been ruined by a bad call

Mookie Betts is closing in on a Red Sox team record.  Or at least he should be.  The record would be for consecutive multi hit games, and Mookie should now have 7 of these in a row, two shy of the team record of 9.  However on June 17 in Atlanta, Mookie was called out on a bunt hit in the second inning that replays clearly show was an unmistakably bad call.  The Red Sox had blown their challenge in the first inning, however, so the call stood, despite manager John Farrell’s pleadings to the umpire to review the call.  The play went as a sacrifice, so it didn’t cost him an at bat; Betts would finish the game with one official hit.  Officially, his multihit streak now stands at 4 instead of 7 because of this. Here are his official stats over these 7 games:

Name

Dates

Year

Games

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

SO

BB

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

Mookie Betts

6/15-6/21

2015

7

31

8

18

3

2

2

7

1

1

0.581

0.594

1.000

1.594

Where would he be on the Red Sox all time list had this call been corrected?  The chart below shows all Red Sox multiple-hit game streaks of 7 or more since 1914, courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.  Betts’ numbers as they would have been are added in here.  (Though there are likely a few more from before 1914 that should be added to this list, we know none of those missing streaks exceed 9 games, thanks to this SABR article.)

Name

Dates

Year

Games

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

SO

BB

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

Kevin Youkilis

5/20-5/29

2007

9

40

11

19

8

0

3

8

6

2

0.475

0.500

0.900

1.400

Jim Rice

5/1-5/9

1978

9

35

11

20

3

2

5

17

3

2

0.571

0.590

1.200

1.790

Roy Johnson

6/17-6/23

1934

9

39

11

22

7

0

0

11

0

2

0.564

0.585

0.744

1.329

Ted Williams

4/28-5/6

1940

8

34

12

18

5

2

1

11

1

3

0.529

0.568

0.882

1.450

Dale Alexander

6/19-6/25

1933

8

36

11

18

3

1

1

6

4

2

0.500

0.526

0.722

1.249

Dick Hoblitzell

8/3-8/19

1914

8

26

4

17

3

0

0

5

4

2

0.654

0.679

0.769

1.448

Mookie Betts

6/15-6/21

2015

7

32

8

19

3

2

2

7

1

1

0.594

0.606

1.000

1.606

Adrian Gonzalez

7/24-7/31

2011

7

32

7

17

2

0

1

10

3

2

0.531

0.556

0.688

1.243

Johnny Damon

7/3-7/10

2004

7

38

12

22

1

0

3

8

1

0

0.579

0.579

0.842

1.421

Mo Vaughn

5/15-5/22

1996

7

33

8

15

1

0

5

11

7

3

0.455

0.500

0.939

1.439

Billy Hatcher

5/22-5/29

1993

7

29

7

16

1

1

2

5

3

1

0.552

0.548

0.862

1.410

Marty Barrett

9/7-9/14

1987

7

28

5

16

2

0

1

3

0

1

0.571

0.567

0.750

1.317

Fred Lynn

8/10-8/17

1979

7

26

11

15

2

0

6

13

0

3

0.577

0.621

1.346

1.967

Carl Yastrzemski

6/22-6/27

1965

7

29

6

16

6

0

2

6

3

4

0.552

0.606

0.966

1.572

Billy Goodman

9/6-9/12

1954

7

33

5

14

0

0

0

1

0

1

0.424

0.441

0.424

0.865

Ted Williams

6/21-6/27

1951

7

28

11

16

5

1

0

10

0

5

0.571

0.636

0.821

1.458

Vern Stephens

5/2-5/7

1950

7

30

8

14

2

0

2

7

1

2

0.467

0.500

0.733

1.233

Johnny Pesky

9/5-9/12

1942

7

35

10

18

5

1

0

6

1

2

0.514

0.541

0.714

1.255

Doc Cramer

8/26-8/31

1939

7

32

6

16

1

0

0

3

1

1

0.500

0.515

0.531

1.046

Doc Cramer

6/16-6/24

1939

7

33

10

15

0

2

0

2

0

1

0.455

0.471

0.576

1.046

Ben Chapman

9/2-9/6

1938

7

27

8

17

1

1

1

7

2

6

0.630

0.697

0.852

1.549

Earl Webb

9/14-9/18

1931

7

29

6

15

6

0

1

8

1

1

0.517

0.533

0.828

1.361

Buddy Myer

6/27-7/1

1928

7

30

7

17

4

1

1

5

1

2

0.567

0.594

0.867

1.460

Del Pratt

7/4-7/10

1922

7

32

2

14

1

1

1

6

0

0

0.438

0.438

0.625

1.063

Larry Gardner

8/8-8/16

1916

7

29

4

16

1

1

0

1

1

5

0.552

0.618

0.655

1.273

Tied for 7th, and possibly still counting.

Especially interesting are his overall offensive totals during this run.  Only Jim Rice in 1978 (his best offensive year) and Fred Lynn in 1979 have higher OPS’s.  And this brings a note of consolation.  The best streaks on this list, going by OPS, came from players in the primes of their careers.  Mookie, on the other hand, is just starting his career.  In other words, he’s likely to get a few more shots at topping this list in the years to come.

His official streak of 4 is still going, and based on the above, Mookie Betts is about as hot a hitter right now as any Red Sox player has ever been.  I’ll be watching tonight.

You should be out if your broken bat interferes with fielding a ball in play

I have long been troubled by the sight of an infielder in baseball trying to field a ball when pieces of the hitter’s bat are flying out onto the baseball field. Usually things end up the way they should, with the routine outs becoming outs, and the hits becoming hits. But just the same I often see a fielder hesitating to approach the ball in these cases, and I don’t think they should have to. The fielder shouldn’t have to choose between assuring his safety from being injured by flying wooden shards and making the play. That’s why I’d like to see a rule change to prevent having to make that choice.

Some years ago in an online forum I suggested that in such situations, the batter should be called out for interference. Specifically, if the batter’s bat or any portion of his bat interferes with or impedes a fielder’s ability to field a ball batted in fair territory, this by the judgement of the umpires, then the batter is out. There are already interference rules in the books; this would just extend them in what I think is a sensible way, which in my view is consistent with the existing interference rules. I’m making the call for this change again. Hopefully it will not only help fielders stay safe, but may also reduce the brittleness of some bats in use, so that we see fewer broken bats in the first place. Right now, there really isn’t a deterrent to using bats that are prone to breaking; it’s time to create one.

Jon Lester breaks record for hitting futility

Until today, nobody had ever gone more than 57 at bats into their career without a hit (at least in the last 101 years).  Having gone 0 for 2 today, Jon Lester has now gone 59 at bats without a hit; he’s 0-for-59 on his career.

Here’s the new top 15 list, by at bats, of hitless streaks to begin a career since 1914.

Name Team(s) Pos PA AB First hitless game Last hitless game Hitless Games RBI SO BB HBP SH SF
Jon Lester BOS-OAK-CHC P 66 59 6/16/2006 5/27/2015 25 1 35 1 0 5 1
Joey Hamilton SDP P 66 57 5/24/1994 6/3/1995 24 1 34 2 0 6 1
Ron Herbel SFG P 63 55 5/6/1964 5/11/1965 27 0 36 2 0 6 0
Marv Breuer NYY P 57 to 60 47 to 49 4/27/1940 9/4/1940 20 1 22 or 23 4 or 5 0 6
Luke Walker PIT P 56 48 4/18/1966 4/18/1970 27 2 29 2 0 6 0
Don Carman PHI P 53 48 9/13/1984 5/11/1987 28 0 21 0 0 5 0
Fred Gladding DET-HOU P 49 47 7/1/1961 7/5/1969 40 0 27 0 0 2 0
Chris Short PHI P 45 44 4/19/1959 6/24/1961 26 0 19 0 0 1 0
Randy Tate NYM P 47 41 4/14/1975 9/18/1975 23 0 22 1 0 5 0
Pat Jarvis ATL P 45 41 8/13/1966 6/12/1967 18 1 24 2 0 2 0
Miguel Batista CHC-MON P 43 41 8/11/1997 9/25/1998 24 0 26 0 0 2 0
Steve Stone SFG P 50 40 4/8/1971 5/16/1972 24 2 22 6 0 4 0
Roberto Hernandez CLE-TBR-PHI P 47 40 6/12/2007 6/18/2014 22 0 21 0 0 7 0
Denny Neagle PIT P 47 40 4/21/1992 5/16/1994 25 0 11 0 0 7 0
Mike Cuellar CIN-STL-HOU P 42 40 4/18/1959 4/25/1966 21 0 20 1 0 1 0

I do have posts on things other than Jon Lester’s hitless streak in the works, I promise.

 

Jon Lester on verge of record for hitting futility

In a post I made on opening day, I showed that, going back as far as Baseball-Reference.com has records (1914), Jon Lester was tied for the 22nd longest string of at bats to start a career without a hit at 36 (and tied for 19th when going by plate appearances at 43).  Now in the national league, he has quickly ascended these lists, going 0-for-18 on the season to take sole possession of third place on the list.  His 54 at bats and 61 plate appearances without a hit are exceeded only by second-place Ron Herbel , at 55 AB and 63 PA (in 1964 and 1965), and first-place Joey Hamilton, at 57 AB and 66 PA (in 1994 and 1995).

Jon Lester pitches tonight for the Cubs.  A hitless performance tonight puts him in second place, and may tie him for first.  I’m sure it’s not a record he wants, but perhaps it speaks to his high value as a pitcher.

UPDATE:  Jon Lester went 0 for 3, tying the record for most at bats to start a career without a hit.

Hitless wonders: Where Jon Lester stands among the leaders in complete futility at the plate

This year we will find out whether Jon Lester will set a new standard for all players. Not in greatness, though, but in futility. And not in pitching, but in hitting.

Jon Lester now has more plate appearances than any active player without a career hit. His 43 plate appearances dwarf the next longest streak of 28, held by Odrisamer Despaigne in his one season thus far pitching for the San Diego Padres. He is also tied for the longest ever stretch of seasons with a plate appearance without a career hit, a record shared with Justin Verlander of the Tigers. Both went hitless in their first 8 seasons of play in which they had a plate appearance. With Verlander getting his first career hits last season though, the record could become Lester’s alone in 2015. But now that he has switched from the American League to the National League by signing with the Cubs, and given how deep into games he pitches, he’ll get a few plate appearances every time he pitches, and a lot more plate appearances on the season than he’s ever had before. The consequence being that he is almost certainly going to end both strings in this coming 2015 season.

It’s not just the increased number of chances, as numerous as they will be (he is bound to match his previous career total of 43 plate appearances by July, and potentially double that total by the end of the season, tripling his career total in the process). He should also have a better chance of getting a hit each time he comes to the plate, due to increased practice time; even if he didn’t put any added emphasis on hitting in preparation for this coming year to avoid having his bat become a much bigger liability to his team, he’ll get more practice in the games themselves, and with greater frequency.

So it seems a good assumption that he won’t set a new mark for seasons at the start of a career with a plate appearance but no hits. But perhaps he could set the mark for the longest string of hitless plate appearance to begin a career. This speculation brought me to the questions, just what is that mark, and how much longer will Lester’s hitless streak have to continue to for him to break it? The answer has not been so easy to come by.

The answers for complete careers without a hit are easier to find. Baseball-reference.com’s Play Index provides that quite easily. If Lester’s career ended today, here is where he’d place on that all-time list:

Name Team(s) Pos PA AB Hitless Games SO BB HBP SH SF
Randy Tate NYM P 47 41 23 22 1 0 5 0
Bo McLaughlin HOU-ATL P 45 37 25 20 3 0 5 0
Tony McKnight HOU-PIT P 44 37 20 16 2 0 5 0
Jon Lester BOS-OAK P 43 36 16 22 1 0 5 1
Daryl Patterson DET-OAK-STL-PIT P 37 35 29 23 2 0 0 0
Armando Galarraga DET-ARI-HOU P 36 31 18 16 3 0 2 0
Charley Stanceu NYY-PHI P 34 31 18 16 2 0 1 0
Ted Davidson CIN-ATL P 34 31 22 19 1 0 2 0

Note that this only counts games from the last 101 years (beginning with 1914).

He’s squarely in fourth place, and not far off the lead. Were Lester to retire after two more games played, he just may well top this list. But that’s not likely to happen.

Getting the list of longest hitless stretches to begin a career proved to be more difficult. I got quite far by making liberal use of the “First to nth seasons” fields in Baseball-reference.com’s Play Index, but that only provided totals for hitless full seasons. To determine exactly how long a given player’s career-opening hitless streak went, I had to add to their prior career total how far into the next season their first career hit came. This let some players slip through the cracks, when their first career hit came deep into a season with a lot of plate appearances in it. I later discovered their streak finder for games, and was able to get a list of hitless games at the start of a career, and sort by number of at bats. This has made things much easier. Adjustments from this list have always proven to be small, and it gives me confidence that I now have a complete list – at least back to 1914.

Here is the list of the longest few hitless stretches to start a career, ordered by number of plate appearances (and please note that strikeout totals in a few cases may be low by 1 or 2 strikeouts):

Name Team(s) Pos PA AB First hitless game Last hitless game Hitless Games RBI SO BB HBP SH SF
Joey Hamilton SDP P 66 57 5/24/1994 6/3/1995 24 1 34 2 0 6 1
Ron Herbel SFG P 63 55 5/6/1964 5/11/1965 27 0 36 2 0 6 0
Marv Breuer NYY P 57 to 60 47 to 49 4/27/1940 9/4/1940 20 1 22 or 23 4 or 5 0 6
Luke Walker PIT P 56 48 4/18/1966 4/18/1970 27 2 29 2 0 6 0
Don Carman PHI P 53 48 9/13/1984 5/11/1987 28 0 21 0 0 5 0
Steve Stone SFG P 50 40 4/8/1971 5/16/1972 24 2 22 6 0 4 0
Fred Gladding DET-HOU P 49 47 7/1/1961 7/5/1969 40 0 27 0 0 2 0
Randy Tate NYM P 47 41 4/14/1975 9/18/1975 23 0 22 1 0 5 0
Roberto Hernandez CLE-TBR-PHI P 47 40 6/12/2007 6/18/2014 22 0 21 0 0 7 0
Denny Neagle PIT P 47 40 4/21/1992 5/16/1994 25 0 11 0 0 7 0
Dick Drago KCR P 47 36 4/11/1969 8/30/1969 21 1 17 2 0 9 0
Darryl Kile HOU P 46 38 4/24/1991 4/8/1992 21 1 23 4 0 4 0
Curt Raydon PIT P 46 36 5/7/1958 9/3/1958 20 1 24 6 0 3 0
Chris Short PHI P 45 44 4/19/1959 6/24/1961 26 0 19 0 0 1 0
Pat Jarvis ATL P 45 41 8/13/1966 6/12/1967 18 1 24 2 0 2 0
Bo McLaughlin HOU-ATL P 45 37 7/20/1976 7/29/1979 25 0 20 3 0 5 0
Brandon McCarthy CHW-TEX-ARI P 44 39 5/22/2005 9/7/2013 19 0 14 2 0 3 0
Tony McKnight HOU-PIT P 44 37 8/10/2000 10/6/2001 20 0 16 2 0 5 0
Miguel Batista CHC-MON P 43 41 8/11/1997 9/25/1998 24 0 26 0 0 2 0
Alex Wood ATL P 43 38 6/18/2013 7/6/2014 21 0 25 2 0 3 0
Jon Lester BOS-OAK P 43 36 6/16/2006 8/17/2014 16 1 22 1 0 5 1
Tom Gorzelanny PIT P 43 36 9/20/2005 5/9/2007 19 1 21 2 1 4 0
Mike Cuellar CIN-STL-HOU P 42 40 4/18/1959 4/25/1966 21 0 20 1 0 1 0
Greg Hibbard CHC P 42 37 4/7/1993 8/3/1993 19 0 9 2 0 3 0
Mark Lemongello HOU P 41 38 9/14/1976 7/4/1977 20 0 15 1 0 2 0
Ted Power LAD-CIN P 41 33 9/14/1981 8/1/1986 32 0 27 3 0 5 0
Brian Moehler DET-CIN-HOU-FLA P 40 36 6/15/1997 5/1/2005 21 0 14 3 0 1 0
Claudio Vargas MON P 40 35 4/26/2003 4/18/2004 20 0 18 1 0 4 0
Vic Harris TEX 2B,3B 39 36 7/21/1972 8/3/1972 12 1 10 3 0 0 0
Manny Sarmiento CIN-PIT P 39 34 7/30/1976 5/10/1982 30 0 10 1 1 3 0
Hideo Nomo LAD P 39 35 5/2/1995 7/5/1995 13 0 19 0 0 4 0
Wilcy Moore NYY P 38 or 39 31 or 32 4/14/1927 7/4/1927 16 1 16 3 0 4 0

Though it’s probably fairer to sort by at bats instead of by plate appearances. Here’s that list:

Name Team(s) Pos PA AB First hitless game Last hitless game Hitless Games RBI SO BB HBP SH SF
Joey Hamilton SDP P 66 57 5/24/1994 6/3/1995 24 1 34 2 0 6 1
Ron Herbel SFG P 63 55 5/6/1964 5/11/1965 27 0 36 2 0 6 0
Marv Breuer NYY P 57 to 60 47 to 49 4/27/1940 9/4/1940 20 1 22 or 23 4 or 5 0 6
Luke Walker PIT P 56 48 4/18/1966 4/18/1970 27 2 29 2 0 6 0
Don Carman PHI P 53 48 9/13/1984 5/11/1987 28 0 21 0 0 5 0
Fred Gladding DET-HOU P 49 47 7/1/1961 7/5/1969 40 0 27 0 0 2 0
Chris Short PHI P 45 44 4/19/1959 6/24/1961 26 0 19 0 0 1 0
Randy Tate NYM P 47 41 4/14/1975 9/18/1975 23 0 22 1 0 5 0
Pat Jarvis ATL P 45 41 8/13/1966 6/12/1967 18 1 24 2 0 2 0
Miguel Batista CHC-MON P 43 41 8/11/1997 9/25/1998 24 0 26 0 0 2 0
Steve Stone SFG P 50 40 4/8/1971 5/16/1972 24 2 22 6 0 4 0
Roberto Hernandez CLE-TBR-PHI P 47 40 6/12/2007 6/18/2014 22 0 21 0 0 7 0
Denny Neagle PIT P 47 40 4/21/1992 5/16/1994 25 0 11 0 0 7 0
Mike Cuellar CIN-STL-HOU P 42 40 4/18/1959 4/25/1966 21 0 20 1 0 1 0
Brandon McCarthy CHW-TEX-ARI P 44 39 5/22/2005 9/7/2013 19 0 14 2 0 3 0
Darryl Kile HOU P 46 38 4/24/1991 4/8/1992 21 1 23 4 0 4 0
Alex Wood ATL P 43 38 6/18/2013 7/6/2014 21 0 25 2 0 3 0
Mark Lemongello HOU P 41 38 9/14/1976 7/4/1977 20 0 15 1 0 2 0
Bo McLaughlin HOU-ATL P 45 37 7/20/1976 7/29/1979 25 0 20 3 0 5 0
Tony McKnight HOU-PIT P 44 37 8/10/2000 10/6/2001 20 0 16 2 0 5 0
Greg Hibbard CHC P 42 37 4/7/1993 8/3/1993 19 0 9 2 0 3 0
Dick Drago KCR P 47 36 4/11/1969 8/30/1969 21 1 17 2 0 9 0
Curt Raydon PIT P 46 36 5/7/1958 9/3/1958 20 1 24 6 0 3 0
Jon Lester BOS-OAK P 43 36 6/16/2006 8/17/2014 16 1 22 1 0 5 1
Tom Gorzelanny PIT P 43 36 9/20/2005 5/9/2007 19 1 21 2 1 4 0
Brian Moehler DET-CIN-HOU-FLA P 40 36 6/15/1997 5/1/2005 21 0 14 3 0 1 0
Vic Harris TEX 2B,3B 39 36 7/21/1972 8/3/1972 12 1 10 3 0 0 0
Wes Stock BAL P 38 36 4/23/1959 6/13/1964 29 0 26 2 0 0 0
Ramon Ortiz ANA-CIN P 38 36 6/9/2001 6/1/2005 15 0 13 1 0 1 0
Billy McCool CIN P 37 36 5/8/1964 8/17/1965 29 0 20 0 0 1 0

That puts Lester in a tie for 19th place overall when going by plate appearances, and tied for 22nd overall when going by at bats. However, after his first two starts of the season, he could very likely reach 6th and 8th on these lists respectively. Barring injury, we should know no later than June whether he takes the overall record of 66 PA and 57 AB away from Joey Hamilton.

Some interesting observations I made along the way in tabulating these lists:

As one might expect, all the top positions on these lists are held by pitchers. Vic Harris leads position players with 39 PA and 36 AB.

My list goes out to about the top 45 or so players. Of these, most got a single for their first hit, but about 10% got doubles. The only one to break through with a home run was Stephen Vogt, a catcher and outfielder for the Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland A’s who did so in 2013.

About 10% got two hits in the game in which they ended their streak. Highest on the list to do so was Marv Breuer, who went 2 for 4 with a walk and double and scored 2 runs in the game in which he ended his streak. I don’t have game details for his breakthrough game, so I can’t tell if the hits were consecutive. Pat Jarvis, at around 9th place on these lists, did get a hit in the next plate appearance after his first hit, having going 0-for-41 before his first hit.

Most players on these lists struck out more than half the time.

Previously I mentioned that Lester and Verlander were tied for most seasons with a plate appearance without a career hit. It is notable that they are both American League pitchers playing in the era of the designated hitter and also in the era of interleague play. This affords the best chance at such a streak, giving each only a few plate appearances per year; not enough for them to care about their hitting all that much, and of course meaning a “string of bad luck” can go a long way by lasting over several seasons.

My previous mathematically-oriented baseball posts

I’ve been away for a while.  But I’m returning.

Where have I been the past year?  Mostly over here, and sometimes commenting over here.  But during that year, I’ve done a lot of mathematics to study questions I had about the baseball I was reading about and following, and some of that has filtered into some of those posts.  I thought I’d provide a selection here of some of the more interesting ones.  Some of these contain hints to posts I plan on putting up here in the coming weeks, posts that will include discussions of the math of streaks, and just how much a small sample size actually tells us.  There will be other new topics too, not previewed in any of these posts.  Stay tuned.

Here is that selection of my mathematically-oriented posts of the last year or so:

A post from August 2014 explaining why batting 15 points above league average is sometimes actually hitting at league average. This in the context of examining one upcoming player.

A comment titled “Expected frequency of reverse platoon splits exceeds the actual numbers” to the article “Are reverse platoon splits sustainable?” on Beyond The Box Score. In this comment (scroll to the bottom of the comments section) I used binomial theory to come up with what would be the expected number of players, based on random chance alone, having a reverse platoon split in on-base percentage for the years 2012 and 2013. I show that the actual numbers were less than the numbers you’d expect by random chance, seeming to indicate that reverse platoon splits are unsustainable.

A comment titled “No, because starters face more batters” to the article “The Hidden Perfect Games of Relievers” on Beyond The Box Score. In this comment (scroll to the next-to-last comment), after making two points about the right way to compare starters and relievers for the purpose of the article, I discussed my first attempts at producing an expected number of “wrap-around” perfect games that will occur in a given season for starters and relievers, to help clarify any meaning that might be attached to the reported results. I did complete that work, which I plan to publish later on this blog, in a post about the math of streaks.

A post from September 2014 that argues that a certain young player is better than his overall numbers say he is, by analyzing his advancement as a hitter at each new level he played at.

A post from September 2013 explaining why one baseball team’s chances of making the playoffs were ridiculously close to, but not quite exactly, 100%.

A post from later in September 2013 which explains (in more detail than anyone probably cared to read) why that same baseball team’s chances of having home-field advantage were about 7 out of 11 (washing dishes at night gave me a lot of time to listen to baseball and think about this stuff).

Predictions for all the division series

So far of the 3 predictions I’ve made this October that have been tested, 2 ended up being correct:

  1. Rays beat Rangers on the strength of David Price’s performance: correct.
  2. Pirates beat Reds because it’s just the right ending: correct (the Pirates fans pretty much willed them to win).
  3. Indians defeat Rays: incorrect.

So, not bad so far.  I am emboldened to make some division series predictions now!

I’ve already called the Red Sox and A’s as winners.  Let’s add the Pirates and the Dodgers to the mix.  But let’s also get a little more specific.

Red Sox’s “rust” from not having played live baseball since Sunday could cost them game 1 against the Rays, despite their efforts to create some game-like intensity for Wednesday’s scrimmage, including letting fans come watch, a move I have publicly encouraged.  We’ve seen the effects of this many times before; perhaps none so clear as in the 2004 ALCS (also notable in my memory is the 2007 World Series).  So I won’t call game 1 either way, despite the Red Sox having home field and having their pitching lined up the way they like.  I’ll just say that neither team scores more than 5 runs in the first 9.  I will predict that the Red Sox will take every game starting with Game 2.

Rust won’t be a factor for A’s and Tigers who’ve had equal amounts of rest.  It’ll be a good matchup, so A’s in 5 games.  I won’t call specific games except as implied by the series going 5 games … so basically games 1-3 will be split, game 4 will be taken by whoever trails in the series, and game 5 will be taken by the A’s.

The Pirates will have a better chance against St. Louis than some may think, and I don’t think they can lose at home in this series with the best “10th Man” going in their very enthusiastic fans.  I think they can take 1 of 3 in St. Louis, so it’s just a question of which one.  I’ll play the rust card here again (hmm, but “rust” and “cardinal” are shades of red … interesting) and say Cardinals take game 2, and Pirates take games 1, 3, and 4.

The Dodgers and Braves: the Dodgers’ injuries make them vulnerable, but their 1-2 punch of Kershaw and Greinke makes them favorites.  Starting pitching is huge in the playoffs, and these two ought to be able to handle the Braves’ lineup.  In this series, the road team may be the victor each time.  I’ll go with that bold prediction: the road team wins each game.  Dodgers in 5.

So, if I count correctly, that’s 14 or 15 distinct predictions, depending on whether the Rays win game 1 against the Red Sox (15) or the Red Sox win (14).  We shall see how it goes!

Prediction: Pirates take NL wildcard

Why am I predicting that the Pirates will take the NL wildcard?  Because I’ve studied and compared the two teams carefully?  Because I’ve considered all the pitcher-batter matchups, factored in injuries, fatigue, home field advantage, etc.?

Nope.  I’m predicting this because it’s just too soon for the Pirates’ incredible season to end.  Baseball has been getting the pennant race drama right this year, so the Pirates must win.  Simple as that.

And perhaps logically flawed as that, too …

Nobody backed into this wildcard spot!

Wow, what a finish in the AL wildcard race.  The Indians winning their last 10 games, and needing every one of those wins to take the top wild card spot, as the Rays and Rangers both went 8-2 at the end (the Rangers with a 7-game winning streak of their own).  This is the way you want to see a playoff race finish … lots of winning!

Reminds me a bit of the Rockies’ mad dash to the playoffs at the end of the 2007 season.  They had to win, I believe, 13 of their last 14 to tie for the wildcard spot.  It was exciting to watch!

Predictions:  The Rays are a stong team, but weaker on the road.  The Rangers have been impressive how they’ve turned things around at the end of the season, turning a big slump into a big winning streak.  I’m inclined to give the Rangers the edge here given their home field advantage and momentum, but the fact that the Rays have David Price pitching gives me pause.  At times this season he’s been lights-out, and though lately he’s been just consistently good, I have to think for a big game like this you’ll see him pitching well.  Slight edge to the Rays because of Price.  Should Price get injured before he’s done, edge goes back to the Rangers.

As for the following matchup with the Indians, I give the edge to the Indians.  They’re a good team with a manager that knows about getting into and through the postseason, in Terry Francona.  They’re on a roll and they’ll have a very partisan crowd in their favor, as their Wednesday wildcard game is already sold out, and their opponent is yet to be determined.

But in the end, the ALCS will be between the Red Sox and the A’s.  Let’s just hope for a lot of fun baseball to watch on the way there!