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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Baseball 601 (Or whatever I said I'd call this)

So almost two months ago, the good folks here at 162+ put together a baseball glossary of sorts.  You know...the stuff we reference all the time and assume you know, but you might actually not know.  Like 5-4-3 double plays, 5-tool players, and Leo's personal favorite Ducks on the Pond.

In case you forgot...
Well...that wasn't even half of it.  So...here we are again.  Baseball 601 - I think that's what I called the "advanced" version of the glossary when I ended the last one.  Here we go...get your spikes on:

Save Situation - There are a couple of rules here.  To qualify as a save situation, the pitcher in the save situation must enter the game later, in other words, he cannot be the starter or the winning pitcher.  It doesn't have to be the 9th inning, it can be the 8th, or even the 7th, etc.  BUT, he MUST obviously record at least one out.  Also one of the following must apply:

1.  His team cannot have a lead of more than three runs when he enters the game.
2.  He enters the game with the tying run either on base, at bat, or on deck.  Regardless of the count when he enters the game.
3.  He pitches for at least three innings.

That was a long explanation wasn't it.  I told you this was the advanced class.  Now, before you start name-calling, nobody here is a Yankees fan.  I swear.  But, you can't define save without this dude's picture:

Oh that cutter.
The dude does have SIX HUNDRED THIRTY ONE saves after all.  And he's STILL pitching...going on his 51st season.

Hold.  So what about the guy that comes in before the closer?  To get a 'hold', almost everything is the same as with a save situation, except, the reliever only qualifies for a hold if he leaves before the game ends and doesn't give up the lead.  Thereby "holding" the lead for the closer.

WHIP.  We covered ERA last go round, which is the number of earned runs a pitcher gives up in an average nine innings.  Well, WHIP is another pitching sabermetric that basically gives you a measure of a pitcher's ability to keep hitters off the bases.  It is walks + hits per inning pitched.  How many baserunners, of any kind, does this guy allow per inning on average?  

Alright...enough with the pitchers.  Let's talk hitting.

On Deck.  This is just the guy next in line to come up to bat.  There's an "on deck circle" that is this guy's place to stand until he's up...but they rarely stand IN the circle.  They mill around, take swings, etc.   My favorite on deck story involved Pudge Rodriguez.  As most of my favorite stories of any kind do.  He was once in the on deck circle for like 7 extra minutes because he was attempting to take the donut off the fat part of the bat.  The broadcasters were dying laughing.  I didn't say he was smart.  I said he was a GREAT ballplayer.  Sadly, I can't find a picture of this.  But, at least I'll show the on deck circle:

Kitten Face on deck and outside the circle.
And, as you can see, there's NO WAY to get that donut off the fat end of that bat.
In the hole.  Do NOT say "That's what she said".  Just don't. This is the guy that's hitting after the guy who's on deck.  He usually parks himself on the top step of the dug out until it's his turn to move into the on deck circle.   

Slugging Percentage.  (SP) We know that Batting Average tells us how often a guy gets a hit; hits divided by at bats.  Well, Slugging Percentage is a measurement of power.  Total bases divided by at bats, with each multi-base hit getting multiplied by the number of bases the hitter got at that time; a single is one base, a double is two bases, and so on...then you divide the sum of all of that by the number of at bats:

SLG = (1B) +  (2 X 2B) + (3 X 3B) + (4 X HR)/AB          


Let's up the ante now.

On Base Average.  (OBA) Exactly what it sounds like.  A measurement of how often a hitter is on base by almost any means; hits, walks, and even hit by pitch.  (almost because it doesn't include when a runner is on because of errors, or fluke stuff like catcher's interference).  Take the sum of all of those and divide them by the sum of hits, walks, hit by pitch, and sacrifice flies.  Sac bunts don't count because they are considered strategic.  That'll give you a pretty good idea of how often a guy is on base.

I'll see your OBA and raise you a:

OPS.  On Base Plus Slugging.  Also exactly what it sounds like, the combo of Slugging Percentage and On Base Average.  This just gives you a great idea of how well a guy gets on base AND hits for power.  

The OPS king*.  (Yes, he also get asterisks from 162+)
Hit & Run.  This is a risky offensive strategy involving the guy on base and the guy at bat.  The thought process is that if the guy on base attempts to steal a base, it'll open a hole between the bases for the hitter to put the ball through.  The reward if you succeed?  A two base advancement or even a run scored, depending on which base the base stealer was originally on.  The risk if you fail?  The strike 'em out, throw 'em out double play.  

Fielder's Choice.  For the 3rd time, I will say...exactly what it sounds like.  If a guy is on base and the batter hits a ground ball to an infielder, the infielder can choose to throw to first to get the hitter.  OR, he can choose to try to get the lead runner (the guy that was already on base) out instead.  The at bat for the hitter is scored as a Fielder's Choice and even if the hitter's now on first base (because the infielder chose to get the lead runner out), he is not credited with a hit.  

And now for the RULES.  

The game of baseball is over 160 years old.  I think we covered that.  Part of being that old is having about 35248412318454 rules.  I'm going to venture to say that baseball has the most complex rules of any professional American sport.  I mean...this blog post could go on for days just on rules.  But don't worry, it's not nap time yet.  We're just gonna hit three.  But, just in case you thought I was kidding...click here (and that's not even all of it).

Defensive Indifference.  Super simple.  If a guy steals a base and no gives a crap on the other team...BAM...defensive indifference.  It's usually really easy to pick this one out because the catcher will barely even look at the runner and will definitely make no attempt to throw him out.  In this case, the runner is NOT credited with a stolen base.  And this usually happens in blowout games because the stolen base and the run it could help produce, doesn't really matter in the outcome of the game.

Catcher's Interference.  After about 20 years of this never happening, it's been called...like...5 times  in the last couple of years.  Ask Leo.  I'm not making that up.  Basically, the catcher is not allowed to make any contact with the batter, not him nor his equipment.  Interference is usually called when the catcher's mitt makes contact with the hitter's bat.  It  normally happens when the catcher gets overzealous about throwing a guy out attempting to steal a base and he gets up too soon, but that's not always the case.  The result is that the hitter is awarded first base (with no official at bat) and the catcher is charged with an error.  The caveat is if the hitter still manages to get a hit after his bat hits the catcher's mitt, the umpire can wave off the interference call.  

And now...I present to you...the granddaddy of all rules:

The Infield Fly Rule.  I'm deeming this one the granddaddy because Leo and I have decided that only roughly 3-5% of a sold out Rangers Ballpark in Arlington can explain this one to you.  And I still think we're being generous.  I mean that's about 2400 people...I don't buy that.

Anywho...here it goes.  The point of the rule is to prevent an infielder from intentionally dropping a routine pop up so that he can easily double up or even triple up (!) runners already on base.  This is multiple runners.  If there's only a guy on first, the infield fly rule will not be invoked because it's not really advantageous for the infielder if he chose to intentionally drop the pop up.

When the rule is invoked by the umpire, he'll do this:

I got it!  I got it!
And that signal means the rule is in affect and no matter what the fielder does, the hitter is out and no one on the bases can be forced out.  The runners can attempt to tag up like they would with a fly ball, but that's at their own risk just like a regular tag.  And they almost never do that because...well..because the guy with the ball is RIGHT THERE.  

So what's the big deal?  That's easy to understand.  Well...the difficulty comes in when discussing when the rule can be invoked.  This is totally at the umpire's discretion.  There's no point on the field where it cannot be called.  The only guidelines are that the ball must be "catchable" with "ordinary effort" by an infielder, which is totally subjective.  

Last year during the Cardinals/Braves Wild Card playoff game, umpire Sam Holbrook made a really late infield fly call on a ball that was hit into the outfield, practically, by the Braves' Andrelton Simmons.  And at the time, the Braves had men on first and second with one out in the 8th.  They were also down by three runs. Well, the infield fly call meant that Simmons was automatically out and the runners couldn't advance, EVEN THOUGH no Cardinals player caught the ball.  Short story long, the Braves lost that game and their playoffs and Chipper Jones' career were over.  You make the call:

That ain't "ordinary effort".
Ok class...time for summer break, that was a lot to take in.  Stay tuned for more on other fun topics like the Rule 5 Draft, Minor League Contracts, and more in your graduate course coming later this summer.

38 Wins, 27 losses.  1 game back of Oakland.  

On the bright side, it's Yuesday and Kins is rehabbing in Frisco tonight.