The Mockingbird

Posts Tagged ‘Richard Griffin

Shutdown Innings Join the Wall of Statistical Shame

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Just a quick pillory of ‘shutdown innings’, a concept that is sadly making its viral way into Baseball’s consciousness despite having all the validity of ‘pitching to the score’, ‘clutch hitters’, and the rest of that baseball folklore that sounds plausible at first, but then less and less the more you learn and the more you use your brain. Let’s go to Richard Griffin for a sweeping introduction to the idea:

There are two sets of circumstances when you should step up if you’re a No. 1 starter. First is when your team scores runs for you. The shutdown inning is imperative to winning and to leading. Romero failed in those situations, miserably.

This is followed by a long stream of numbers, without any real explanation as to exactly why this is true. I mean sure, yeah, it sounds great to ‘keep the lead’, and ‘not let them back in it’, etc, etc — but obviously if the opposing team scores three runs in the first inning, nobody gives a crap if your starting pitcher allows runs in the second and then none the rest of the way or spreads them out over his remaining innings. What we’ve got here is really a ham-fisted attempt to statify a pitcher’s performance in high-leverage situations (those cases where the game is late and close and your team scores to go up by one), but there’s so much irrelevant data thrown into this method of collecting it that anything read out of such a “stat” is just a mirage.

Because the whole concept is wonky…just for fun, imagine there was a guy who for some freakish reason only allowed runs immediately after his team scored. So the worst example of this supposedly lead-killing, win-stealing phenomenon. Compared to other pitchers with the same ERA, this choke artist would actually have the lead much more often, since he would never give up a lead before the offence got going — and get more wins, since he would never give up leads when his offence went cold (i.e. he would pitch better in higher-leverage situations).

That’s a ridiculous example, but illustrative of the fact that there isn’t anything to the numbers or the logic behind ‘shutdown innings’ being an important factor to your overall effectiveness. Really, it’s a slightly-hidden form of the old momentum-and-emotions-heavily-influence-the-game theory — that somehow ‘giving the lead right back’ deflates your team to the point that they go up to the plate hating you as a pitcher and a person and fail at hitting out of spite and/or a sudden lack of confidence mystically tied to your performance in the last half-inning. Which is silly twaddle long disproven, if you want to get into it.

Incidentally, Griffin’s argument that “There is statistical evidence that even within his starts, Romero’s primary issues were mental, not physical” is garbage as well. Griffy makes the classic mistake of presenting inflated numbers (to support his preconceived notion) without anything to compare them to or any kind of idea of what a reasonable amount of deviation is. Taking into account that Romero’s ERA after May 23rd overall was 6.85, the fact that his ERA in a much-smaller sample size of ‘shutdown innings’ was 9.77 is not at all significant, let alone conclusive proof of a “mental block” caused by Joe Maddon. But at least those numbers come to a non-redundant point, unlike his “throwing more balls than strikes with two strikes leads to a higher ERA” followup…

Written by halejon

October 1, 2012 at 7:48 pm

Broken Record

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There’s already been a drunken remark and a little ranting directed at Griffin’s latest mailbag, but did anyone notice that the first question:

My question is, where’s the plan?

So we re-sign Johnny Mac, then you trade for Marco Scutaro, then you go get David Eckstein?…

Is the conclusion to an old Griffin article read backwards.

Here is how the Jays have gone about building an ’08 contender. First, they traded for super-sub Marco Scutaro from the A’s, to fill the McDonald super-sub role. Then they signed Eckstein to a one-year deal, returning McDonald to his super-sub role. One of them is obsolete. You don’t need two of them. It’s why the Jays finish third every year. Ricciardi needs to formulate a plan and stick to it for more than a year.

And his diatribe on why improving the hot corner over time is a bad thing:

The Ricciardi philosophy of ratcheting up his instant gratification can best be seen at third base. His first season, J.P. had slickly traded for the rookie-of-the-year, third-baseman Eric Hinske. He quickly signed him to a five-year deal. Two years later, he bailed on Hinske and signed Corey Koskie to a three-year deal, talking about clubhouse influence and veteran (Canadian) leadership. One year later, he dumped Koskie, eating major money and traded the best second baseman in the league for Troy Glaus, a veteran with three years left and an option at the hot corner, who had more power than Koskie, supposed clubhouse presence and had won a World Series MVP…

Is also completely recycled from an old mailbag:

Ricciardi and his treatment of the third base position have constantly been a mystery. No matter who he has had at that position he has tried to upgrade, even if it meant diminishing at another position – like second base.

His first trade as Jays GM was for Eric Hinske that turned into a rookie-of-the-year season at third base in 2002. After rewarding Hinske with a multi-year deal at spring training ’03, he quickly lost patience after two more seasons and went and signed Corey Koskie as a free agent, moving Hinske to first. Then, with Koskie already in tow under a long-term deal, he went and traded away his best defender and most popular player, Orlando Hudson, for another third baseman under a huge multi-year deal. He dumped Koskie to Milwaukee and ate a significant part of the contract…

You probably already knew Dick writes his own questions in a pinch, but rehashing his own weak-ass argument is so incredibly lazy it has left me completely uninspired to rip into the insanity of complaining about “losing patience” in Hinske and/or going with the “plan” of staying pat in the AL East. Just read my old post on his original article, from back when we both still had fire in our bellies.

Written by halejon

March 6, 2008 at 7:41 am

Barajas Take Two

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Do not adjust your calendar. The Blue Jays have signed Rod Barajas after he left them at the altar last year. Now it makes sense why the club confirmed a lack of interest in the few catchers left (Barrett, Lieberthal), but didn’t even hint at who they might be signing until the deal was done. Hopefully the contract is signed in blood this time because that was just stupid last year.

Ironically, the picture from the Jays home page (ripped off at right) is Rod pulling his apparently patented (ripped via DJF) move on a play at home where he has the ball but bends over at the waist to swipe the runners upper body instead of getting down to block the plate and hopes the ump gives it to him because the ball was there first. I saw maybe 2 Phillies’ games last season and I swear I saw this exact moment and Ramirez scored for no particular reason. And you thought it was fun to whine about Zaun’s arm…

I’m sure a lot will be made out of the about-face this represents, and J.P. certainly sounded ticked after being publicly embarrassed, delivering as un-mealy-mouthed-as-he-gets quotes such as:

“Where I come from, your word means something and your handshake means something and we had more than a handshake,” Ricciardi said. “I’ll leave it at that.”

Ricciardi later noted that he only wants players that are eager to play for the Blue Jays.

“If your word doesn’t mean anything any more, and your signature don’t mean anything, what kind of world do we live in,” Ricciardi said. “It’s all right. It worked out for the better. … If he feels uncomfortable, we don’t want him here. I was disappointed in the fact that the player would go back on his word and a new agent just came in and said we have no deal.”

But as usual if you really want to know what’s going on, follow the money. Barajas weaseled out last season because either he or the MLBPA didn’t think his agent was getting him enough money, not because his wife didn’t like Toronto or whatever. Now the Jays are getting him for 1.2 million for one year with an option instead of 2.6+ for two, which makes him a quality backup/platoon rather than a poor (and first-time) starter.

I can almost write the article Griffin is going to write about “what message this sends”, and it’s stupid. The message is the Jays need a backup catcher whose name is not Sal Fasano, and Barajas was above-average even last season and comes cheap compared to the ridiculous contracts handed out to guys like Kendall and Torrealba. He has a little power, swings at everything, and has an arm that’s good enough we’ll really get to see how impossible it is to throw out someone with Dustin McGowan or A.J. Burnett on the mound.

And think about it- he’s basically come crawling back to the club. We were ready to make him a starter for two years and he ended up falling out of favour in Philly and riding the pine. Now we’re paying him half what he turned down, he’s gone back to being a backup and the Jays even have a team option for once. Talk about greed blowing up on your face…it’s almost sweeter that he ended up coming to the club after all under much less favourable terms.

I would also like to take this moment to do the opposite of the classic blissfully-moving-right-along technique they teach in journalism school. BOY WAS I WRONG about why J.P. didn’t want to get into who/what they were looking at beyond mumbling something about the bench. Turns out it was just another brush-off of a bunch of hacks. I love that man.

Written by halejon

January 25, 2008 at 12:40 am

Meme Me Up

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Just when it looked like there was a chance the Blue Jays would field a healthy lineup for the first time since the 7th game of the season, at the end of yesterday’s “Off the Record,” Paul Godfrey mentioned that Aaron Hill will be going on the 15-day DL with a knee problem. So Johnny Mac will shift over to second for the time being, Royce Clayton will be getting playing time again at SS, and a AAA infielder will be called up. Could this be the long-awaited return of Russ Adams?! Despite all the talk about Thigpen being converted, he’s not ready- he only played a couple games at 2b in the minors and looked pretty terrible.

Also during the segment, Warren Sawkiw said (and Landsberg picked up and repeated) that the Blue Jays had not won more than 4 games since May 2004. I thought I’d heard this particular inaccurate stat bite before (the Blue Jays won 5 last year between June 27 and July 1), and sure enough- it’s from the Star (under “Streaks”) this week!

This is what happens when you write for a major paper and don’t fact check (I’m looking at you, Richard Griffin): pretty soon all the talking heads in the city are recycling your mistake and it becomes common knowledge. If Jamie Campbell quotes this as fact the next time we get to 4 games, I am muting the TV and turning on the radio for the rest of the season (which other than the delay, is not such a bad idea anyway- Alan Ashby is amazing.)

Written by halejon

July 11, 2007 at 4:37 pm

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