Saturday, November 19, 2011

11/19/11 Salt River Rafters 9, Surprise Saguaros 3

Scottsdale Stadium, Scottsdale, AZ
Arizona Fall League Championship Game

It’s a great day in Arizona every day during the Arizona Fall League season, but in the championship game this year, it was all Arizona…Arizona Diamondbacks, that is… This is Diamondbacks prospect David Nick, who went 4-for-4 with a HR for the Salt River Rafters in their Military Appreciation game victory over the Mesa Solar Sox on November 11 (scoresheet coming soon!).

The Rafters featured not one, but two Diamondbacks prospects in their pitching tonight; add Nick and fellow D-back Adam Eaton to their lineup and for this game at least, you’ve got a lock.

Brewer took the mound against Marlins prospect Alex Sanabia, whose only transgression was a 2-run 2nd inning and a solo HR for Nolan Arenado in the top of the 3rd. Brewer, on the other hand, yielded a 2-run tater with nobody out to my favorite Panamaian Christian Bethancourt. After 4 innings, Sanabia was lifted for hard-throwing Adam Liberatore and Brewer was replaced by Diamondbacks prospects Adam Woodall (2IP, 0H, 0R, 1K) and Kevin Munson (02.IP, 0H, 0R, 1K).

The Rafters had a barely comfortable 1-run lead to begin the top of the 7th, when the ball went to Jeremy Jeffress. I was happy to see him in the Rising Stars Game, but after all he’s been through…this wasn’t his best outing. He face 5 batters, only recorded one out, allowed 2H, 4R, 1BB and 1 wild pitch. In doing so, the Saguaros train was derailed and the Rafters earned nothing less than a modest victory.

The surprise for me (no AFL pun intended) was David Nick. The Military Appreciation game was the first I’ve heard of him, and now I’m very intrigued. He’s not an OPS beast per se, but he’s had a great run so far in 3 seasons of Minor League ball (.751 OPS in Missoula (Pioneer League), South Bend (Midwest League), and Visalia (California League)). With Visalia in 2011, in 132 games he struck out 80 times, hit for 253 total bases, and walked 30 times. By comparison, in South Bend the previous year he struck out 97 times, hit for 181 total bases, and walked 41 times. His performance has been fairly consistent, as in 2011 AFL his OPS was .756, with a modest 34 total bases in 22 games. He’s no Bryce Harper or Wil Meyers, but these numbers are comparable to the AFL stats of high-profile prospects such as Nick Franklin and Mike Trout (ahem!). David Nick is not stud prospect material (you probably won’t see him in any top 10 lists), but at 21 years old, he seems to have some spark and potential, and hey…he’s fun to watch on the field, which is an all-around win for fans like me.

SCOREKEEPER’S NOTE: Let’s talk about Fielder’s Choice plays with NO PUT OUTS!
From the rules, 2.00 “Terms and Definitions”:
FIELDER’S CHOICE is the act of a fielder who handles a fair grounder and,instead of throwing to first base to put out the batter-runner, throws to another base in an attempt to put out a preceding runner. The term is also used by scorers (a) to account for the advance of the batter-runner who takes one or more extra bases when the fielder who handles his safe hit attempts to put out a preceding runner; (b) to account for the advance of a runner (other than by stolen base or error) while a fielder is attempting to put out another runner; and (c) to account for the advance of a runner made solely because of the defensive team’s indifference (undefended steal).
A very common scorekeeping misconception for some is that a Fielder’s Choice play typically results in a put out…while this is true most of the time it certainly isn’t a “typical” situation. For me, the key element to consider in scoring a Fielder’s Choice play of any kind is that “fielder’s choice” is shorthand for “batter-runner reaches on a fielder’s choice,” anything else that occurs during the play or as a result of the play (a run scored, a PO, an error, etc) doesn’t determine the scoring of a Fielder’s Choice…the fact that the batter-runner reached a base and/or advanced is enough. For those who are new at scorekeeping, thinking in these terms makes the determination quick and easy as long as you consider that if a fielder exercises an option to make a play other than putting out the batter-runner, it’s a Fielder’s Choice, period.

In this game, we see two examples of a Fielder’s Choice play without a put-out; one of them is strictly textbook, the other not so much.

In the top of the 7th, with Adam Eaton on first, Jake Goebbert on third, and 1 out, Tim Wheeler hits a sharp grounder to Leury Garcia. Garcia fields the ball quickly and has 3 options:
• Field the ball to 1B, put out Wheeler, then Goebbert may score
• Field the ball to 2B, put out Eaton, then Goebbert may score
• Field the ball to C, put out Goebbert if he tries to score, or keep him at 3B to load the bases
The Rafters are only up by one, there’s only one out, and Jeffress hasn’t really started the meltdown on the mound that’s yet to come for him, so any of these options are viable as long as he can make the assist, which also assumes that the receiver can make the play. Garcia decides to prevent the run from scoring and fields the ball to Bethancourt. Unfortunately, Bethancourt doesn’t make the tag; Goebbert scores and nobody is out. This is a textbook “fielder’s choice, no PO” play. If you charge a batter for a groundout on a fielder’s choice when another baserunner is PO, you wouldn’t do it here since there is no out. The batter does get an RBI, and the run is earned by the pitcher.

An earlier Fielder’s Choice play with no PO in the top of the 2nd inning isn’t really a textbook example. Ben Paulsen is on second base, David Nick is on first; with 1 out Jason Castro hits a chopper to Leury Garcia. Garcia fields the ball a few steps away from the bag at 2nd and has a real opportunity to make the play unassisted at 2nd to force out Nick. He dives toward the bag, extends his arm painfully, but Nick reaches the bag as Garcia is unable to make the tag and Castro reaches first base on the play. I emphasize this to further illustrate the scoring thought process I elaborated on in the previous example. Novice scorekeepers may observe this play as, perhaps, a hit(*) for Castro; however, the way the ball is hit and the speed of the runners gives Garcia one option for a play with two outcomes, this is the “non-textbook” aspect of this play and how it’s scored. In the previous example there were more options and even more outcomes, so the Fielder’s Choice ruling is a bit clearer. Here, the fielder made a decision and the decision allows the batter-runner to reach base regardless of the outcome, as it were, without a PO. Think about it this way: if Garcia had made the tag successfully and Nick was out, it would still be a Fielder’s Choice…if Garcia had been more than a few steps away from the bag, probably deeper in the field, and didn’t have an unassisted play option, you would probably rule that a hit. If the ball wasn’t a chopper and was, for instance, a sharp ground ball that was fielded cleanly with enough time and space for Garcia to make the play and he couldn’t do so, then the situation is more arbitrary and based upon Garcia’s effort, you could rule a hit or even an error.

(*)Of course, as I’ve said before, this is your scoresheet, you can do whatever you want –especially if you are ruling on an error- but in this case, I strongly recommend that you consider the rules as they pertain to Fielder’s Choice. Ruling this a hit probably wouldn’t result in an appeal or something of that nature, but when an error isn’t a factor you want to make your best effort to be consistent in your interpretation of the rules in your ruling.

On my scoresheet, I made notes next to each player in the lineup as to what MLB parent organization they belonged to.

If you enjoy my work, I encourage you to spread the word via Twitter
(I am @yoshiki89), and also please leave a comment!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

11/5/11 AFL East 2, AFL West 11

Surprise Stadium, Surprise, AZ
Arizona Fall League Rising Stars Game

The battle of the CENTURY!! Number ONE faces Number TWO!!

The “big deal” leading up to the 2011 AFL Rising Stars game (aside from Bryce Harper scheduled to participate this year, having missed the 2010 contest due to a ‘taxi squad’ technicality) was certainly the slated SP for each team. If you are living under a rock in Guatemala, #1 pick Gerrit Cole is starting for the East Division, and #2 pick Danny Hultzen is starting for the West Division.

For most of us, this would be our very first time seeing both of these guys in action, even if only for a few innings. For a majority of baseball fans and prospect watchers, it would be our very first time seeing lots of these guys in action for the first time.

Decidedly, the hype is all about Gerrit Cole. In this game, the hype went into a heap and was jumped on by Danny Hultzen and the West Division squad. It’s only a small sample size, and to be fair, Cole looked pretty good on the mound. However, Cole got into trouble early, was touched for 2 HR in the very first inning and was unable to retire a batter in 3 PA after 3 runs scored. Cole stayed in the game after only getting 2 outs and facing 7 batters; 4H 5R (all earned), a BB and a K. I agree with the consensus that this was an ‘exhibition’ game, and that his velocity and profile was great overall, just having a bad time with location.

On the other hand, tell that to Danny Hultzen. In 2 innings, he allowed no hits, no runs, walked one batter and struck out the side in the very first inning. If Cole “didn’t do too bad, showed some promise,” well, OK…that means Hultzen was triple-fantastic, then!! Seattle Mariners fans should have no trouble loving this guy, he looks and feels as major-league ready as he can on the mound.

The stud of the game offensively was, without a question, another Mariners prospect; SS Nick Franklin. Franklin had a stellar day in the batter’s box, 4-for-5 with a HR (courtesy of Gerrit Cole), 2 doubles and a single. Defensively, Franklin was charged with a hard-luck error that allowed Robbie Grossman to reach base in the 7th inning with 2 outs.

Honorable Mention goes to Marlins hotshot Kevin Mattison, but mostly for his fantastic facial hair and refreshing plate attitude.

I’m always happy to see Royals fireballer Jeremy Jeffress in action; he had some location issues this past season but struck out the side (3 batters faced, 3 batters down, 12 pitches total, all swinging strikeouts) in his 1 inning of work.Jeffress was one of the “oldest” players in draft age, having been drafted in the first round in 2006 by the Brewers. Royals pitcher Nate Adcock was selected in the 5th round of the 2006 draft by the Mariners.

First time seeing Cleveland Indians prospect Preston Guilmet, I love his outrageous delivery…he reminded me quite a bit of Josh Collmenter, but a little less effective. You can tell a great deal about his delivery by this photo…

It was also great to see a prospect I’ve been keeping my eyes on, the Atlanta Braves’ athletic Panamanian catcher Christian Bethancourt. I’ve only been able to follow him on paper until today.
Another Braves’ prospect I need to keep an eye on was Joe Terdoslavich, who was 3-for-3 with 3 RBI. Joe’s 1st inning HR was the second offered by Gerrit Cole.

Oh yeah…and Bryce Harper played today. He was 0-for-2 in 4 plate appearances; walked by Danny Hultzen, struck out swinging twice (once by Jeffress, once by Reds prospect Brad Boxberger), and credited with an RBI on a SAC fly.

On my scoresheet, I made notes next to each player in the lineup as to what MLB parent organization they belonged to. For posterity, here is a list of players that made appearances in the game, with their organization and their current draft information. 2011 draft picks are in boldface.

There were 5 MLB parent organizations for whom players did not participate in the game; not surprisingly those organizations were the Cardinals, the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Tigers, and the Mets. All players on the East Division roster appeared in the game; there were 5 players listed on the roster that did not appear in the game at all:

Cory Burns (Cleveland Indians)
J.J. Hoover (Atlanta Braves)
Taylor Whitenton (New York Mets)
Matt Adams (St Louis Cardinals)
Mikie Mahtook (Tampa Bay Rays)

This leaves the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox, and the Detroit Tigers as organizations who had no talent on the 25-man roster for either team in the Rising Stars game. The Colorado Rockies led the number of talent with 5 prospects, the Kansas City Royals saw 4 prospects on the roster, and 5 teams tied with 3 prospects from each club (Cubs, Marlins, Angels, Padres, and Nationals).

The actual roster released on November 1 seems to have had a few scratches in the West Division lineup; I was unable to confirm who replaced who and why, but Kevin Mattison and Jedd Gyorko did not appear on the official roster released by AFL, yet they showed up as starters in the AFL notes released the day of the contest.

The West division used 11 pitchers total; this is the first time I’ve used all 8 slots for pitchers on my scoresheet, so you’ll note that I ran the last three directly underneath the pitchers faced section.

If you enjoy my work, I encourage you to spread the word via Twitter
(I am @yoshiki89), and also please leave a comment!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Scoresheets for YOU!

For your use and enjoyment, free of charge, here are 3 scoresheets you can print and use to score baseball games.

These are the same forms I am currently using today. There are many internet resources with scoresheets available for download that are no longer current. Some current resources want to charge money for a scoresheet template…I won’t have any of this. My mission is to share the joy of scorekeeping with everyone, sharing doesn’t mean “it’s yours at a price,” so why not distribute freely?

I designed these myself, utilizing many existing scoresheet designs and implementing some of my own criteria to build “my own” form…now, I’m sharing them with readers of this blog.

One of the reasons “why” will make itself known very soon…more on that later!

For now, feel free to download and print these templates, from my Google docs repository:

Version 1 – the MASTER
This one is my mainstay; with pitch-count boxes, outs and runs ovals, a free-floating diamond, and a supplemental ‘field boundary’ outline arc in case you want to track where balls in play land. There are enough slots for 10 batters (sure, there are only 9 in a typical baseball game, but YES you can use this for softball and also YES there are times when pinch-hitters will spill downward into this slot), and enough for 10 innings (more than 11? Use another scoresheet!). There are also columns to track pertinent in-game stats, slots for 8 pitchers, and room at the bottom to tally the game info noted, or add your own notes.

Version 2 – the MASTER LIGHT
This one is the same as the MASTER, only without pitch-count boxes and ‘field boundary’ outlines. This one is great for scoring games on the radio, as there aren't blanks for jersey numbers (lineup slots are pre-populated...they seldom call jersey numbers on the air) or any game where you don’t want to track pitches, jersey numbers, and/or don’t care where the ball lands.

Version 3 – the MASTER LIGHT PLUS
This one is the same as the MASTER LIGHT, no pitch-count boxes, lineup slots pre-populated, etc...but it does have ‘field boundary’ outlines.

So why share these now? For starters…I never really thought of it. However, there is some importance in timing. In an effort to focus more on scorekeeping as the special purpose of this blog, I’ve decided to make an offense-oriented stand in my mission to promote the Scorekeeping Revolution.

I’ve tinkered enough with deviation from my usual “game recap with scoresheet attached” (don’t worry, I’m still sticking with that) and have decided to supplement those posts with two kinds of scorekeeping education features:

A basic instructional series called “Scorekeeping 101” that will walk through the basics on scorekeeping, from how the scorecard works to how players get on base to how players make an out to how it all balances at the end of the game…and all points in between. I will present this series using my scoresheet templates and will lean more toward the way I score games…

A advanced, use-case series called ”For Those Keeping Score at Home” where on a case-by-case basis, I will present examples of actual plays, how they are scored, and why they are scored that way. Thanks to Benjamin Hill for the great title!

This way, I will be doing more in contributing to keeping the art of Scorekeeping vibrant and alive, and maybe someday be able to pass on my enthusiasm to other baseball fans worldwide. I welcome and encourage any ideas or topics you would like to see covered here, you can follow me on Twitter (I am @yoshiki89), or please leave a comment on any post!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

2011 World Series - Best Pitchers*

* according to Bill James' Game Score


Another entry into the DUH! Column during my Postseason Game Score review, but this quaint exercise wasn’t intended to overstate the underobvious…Holland’s performance in Game 4 was nearly “Carpenter-worthy,” by these numbers alone.

Before we start this round of jousting, let’s review Bill James' Game Score real quick.

In case you didn't know, "Game Score" is a neat and easy and FUN way to look at a starting pitcher's line in a Box Score and apply a basic formula on the stats to come up with a fundamental 'score' that "determines the strength of a pitcher in any particular baseball game.
To determine a starting pitcher's game score:

1.Start with 50 points.
2.Add 1 point for each out recorded, so 3 points for every complete inning pitched.
3.Add 2 points for each inning completed after the 4th.
4.Add 1 point for each strikeout.
5.Subtract 2 points for each hit allowed.
6.Subtract 4 points for each earned run allowed.
7.Subtract 2 points for each unearned run allowed.
8.Subtract 1 point for each walk.
The maximum possible score in a 9-inning game with no baserunners allowed is 114, but of course this is possible only if the starting pitcher goes nine innings, strikes out every single batter he faces, and faces no more than 3 batters per inning. The exception to this gets a little hairy mathematically, but is never impossible...because this is baseball.

FYI, the highest game score for a 9-inning game in the history of baseball happened on May 6, 1998, when Kerry "Kid K" Wood famously struck out 20 Astros at Wrigley Field. Yowsah, that Game Score was 105.

So I thought it would be a "hoot" to compile Game Score for all SP during the postseason; I started this at the close of the League Division Series; you can review the LDS results at this post. I then continued with the League Championship Series; you can review the LCS results at this post. The fall classic is over…now begin the DARK TIMES!! Let’s look at Game Score for the 7 games of the WORLD SERIES then…the top 5 winners:

Derek Holland (82) 10/23/11 STL @ TEX WS G4
Jaime Garcia (77) 10/20/11 TEX @ STL WS G2
Colby Lewis (64) 10/20/11 TEX @ STL WS G2
Chris Carpenter (59) 10/24/11 STL @ TEX WS G5
Chris Carpenter (57) 10/19/11 TEX @ STL WS G1

Here we see more variation among the top 5 than in the LCS. Also, observing that the median (51.5) and mean (53.1) in all WS Game Scores is similar to the same values found in the LDS (median: 50, mean: 50.6), right around the 50-53 range. In the LCS, the median (41.5) and mean (41.4) were nearly ten points below this baseline. What we know now is that the LCS really didn’t feature as much stud pitching strength as the WS and LDS did.

In the World Series, 14 starting pitchers worked an average of 5.45 innings (in baseball math, a little closer to 5.1 innings), closer to the average innings of the LDS (5.2) than the LCS (4.2). I attributed the drop in innings (and, in some statistically weighted hindsight, the overall Game Score values) during the LCS to ‘clutch pitching change’ strategy. Did we see this in the World Series? Sure thing…but with less games as a sample, I suppose the difference didn’t impact the overall score.

What’s interesting to note is that if Holland had stayed in for just one more out, he would have usurped Chris Carpenter’s LDS-topping performance according to Game Score by only one point…that’s how damn good he was!

Other interesting notes I made, regarding the top 5:
Chris Carpenter occupied 2 of the top 5 slots (3 of the top 6), for his highest score he was not awarded a decision and the Cardinals lost the game.
The 2nd highest score in the top 5 also got a “No Decision” and the Cardinals lost the game (Garcia).
The top 2 pitchers earned their scores at home (Holland, Garcia).
3 of the top 5 earned “No Decisions” as SP (Garcia, Lewis, Carpenter).
2 of the top 5 scores occurred in the same game (Garcia, Lewis; WS G2).
The NL dominated the top 7 games scored out of 14, with 4 of the 7…which also happens to be the line on the NL Cardinals’ World Series win; 4 games to 3.

Apparently, bullpen strength prevailed where Garcia and Carpenter did not in Game 2 and Game 5 (but they still were strong as SP, according to Game Score).

In general (all 14 pitchers with starts in the WS):
Lowest score – Matt Harrison (35) 10/22/11 STL @ TEX WS G3
Lowest score, 4 innings minimum – Matt Harrison (39) TEX @ STL WS G7
Lowest score by a winning pitcher – Chris Carpenter (55) 10/28/11 TEX @ STL WS G7
Average Game Score by SP in the 2011 World Series: 53.1

You can review my work on the spreadsheet on Google Docs.

This was a fun exercise from me. I’m hoping I’ve encouraged some of you to try Game Score at home or at the ballpark on your own sometime.

If you enjoy my work, I encourage you to spread the word via Twitter
(I am @yoshiki89), and also please leave a comment!
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