First Pitch 07/04/13: Doubling Up

USA TODAY Sports

Manny is going to be Manny in Texas! Other more important things that will actually affect major-league baseball teams are happening! Baseball!

Happy Fourth of July, American baseball fans! There was a lot of baseball action last night, so let's get to it -- after a quick consideration on splits.

One Quick Thing -- Doubles and 1st / 2nd Half Splits

I was reading Joe Posnanski yesterday (Today, because I'm writing this in the past tense, I suppose. Time Travel!) because I like to read Joe Posnanski. And in his article on predictive midseason awards, there was something tucked away in the question about Manny Machado and the doubles record. Here's the quote:

Doubles are hard to come by in the second half. Even Webb himself slowed in the second half. I’d like to see Machado challenge the record, but I don’t think he will.

Whenever I see a comment like this, I have to pause. This is a little, off-handed remark that belies some serious data behind it. What do you mean it's harder to hit a double in the second half of the season? Is this a real thing with real causation? If so, is there a way teams can exploit it? This is what rushes through my head.

Now, the math here is relatively easy to check, right? You could look at the splits for each season and find out how many doubles are hit in the first half (per plate appearance) and look at how many doubles are hit in the second half (per plate appearance) and then compare. Here's what I found over the last ten years:

Year 2B PA 2B / PA Year 2B PA 2B / PA
2012 4432 97267 0.0455653 2012 3829 86912 0.044056057
2011 4643 104026 0.044633073 2011 3756 81219 0.046245337
2010 4730 101290 0.046697601 2010 3756 84263 0.044574724
2009 4805 101604 0.047291445 2009 3932 85475 0.046001755
2008 5224 110123 0.047437865 2008 3790 77508 0.048898178
2007 4899 101606 0.048215657 2007 4298 87017 0.049392647
2006 4916 102324 0.048043470 2006 4219 85747 0.049202888
2005 4825 100483 0.048018073 2005 4038 85811 0.047056904
2004 4844 101448 0.047748600 2004 4075 87091 0.046790139
2003 5217 108477 0.048093144 2003 3610 78972 0.045712404
TOTAL 48535 1028648 0.047183293 TOTAL 39303 840015 0.046788450

Joe's not wrong, per se, but he's not all that right either. While there's a slight overall propensity to hit fewer doubles in the second half over the past ten years, and that trend presented itself in six out of the ten seasons I inspected, there isn't a huge difference. At all. And looking at the wild variances from year to year, doesn't that look slightly more like randomness than any real organized pattern?

I wasn't doing this to check up on Joe as much as I wanted to see how large the spread was, and to see how consistent it was year-to-year. I haven't run the numbers for, say, all of baseball history, so I'm not playing with all the information here, but this is just one of those things that's too important to ignore if it's true.

If players did hit more poorly in the second half of the season, and it's a consistent, reliable trend, might that mean that trading for pitching at the deadline is less important than adding hitting, perhaps? Or if you're going to hold a pitcher to an innings limit, wouldn't you be better served to use him up in the first half (a la Strasburg) and give him a rest at the end of the season?

In the end, if you're going to throw out a fact like Joe did in his article, do me (and your other readers) a favor and explain it in a bit deeper, uh, depth so that the rest of us know what you're working with. If you came up with the data and it means something, that'd be really cool for the rest of us to know. And if it's one of those things that gets tossed out, off the cuff without research, well, that's kind of irresponsible, right? Stuff like this isn't exactly common knowledge, and lots of us want to know more about potentially startling revelations like this.

The Smallest Sample Size -- Game Results for 07/03/13

Photo credit: Patrick McDermott

Brewers 4, Nationals 1

Kyle Lohse, he of the long and winding offseason road, looked as sharp as he ever had in eight strong innings. He did give up a solo home run to Anthony Rendon, but he also posted seven strikeouts, one walk, and only four hits. On offense, Nori Aoki drove in two runs on three singles and Logan Schafer drove in two more on a timely triple.

Bryce Harper decided (I assume he decided, the guy is pretty infallible) to be the goat during this game, striking out twice and not doing anything of worth on offense, while also dropping a line drive that eventually led to two runs. Aside from Rendon's homer, the Nats couldn't do much of anything at all on offense.

More on the Brewers at: Brew Crew Ball More on the Nationals at: Federal Baseball

Phillies 5, Pirates 6

The Pirates, and starting pitcher Jeff Locke, cannot be stopped. Despite not being a sabermetric darling, Locke has led the Pirates to a win in all of his starts since his first outing of the season. Locke went five and two-thirds, struck out two, and gave up three runs before turning things over to the capable Bucs bullpen. Andrew McCutchen ran the offense going three-for-three with a triple, two singles and two walks. Pedro Alvarez also hit his 21st homer of the year.

Philadelphia didn't just roll over, despite another shaky performance from John Lannan. Domonic Brown took Pirates closer Jason Grilli yard in the ninth inning to cut the game's deficit to one run. Delmon Young added three singles in five plate appearances.

More on the Phillies at: The Good Phight More on the Pirates at: Bucs Dugout

Tigers 6, Blue Jays 2

The Jays and Tigers made this one interesting after Colby Rasmus used a takeout slide at second base to really take Omar Infante out -- he had to leave the game with an injury. After Torii Hunter was hit by a pitch in the sixth inning, Hunter walked to the mound and benches were cleared. But in the end, Max Scherzer and the Tigers won again, in part due to Scherzer's six-and-a-third innings of eight strikeouts, one walk, and just two runs. Current and former catchers provided the offense, as Victor Martinez and Alex Avila hit homers for Detroit.

Josh Johnson gave up six runs, sure, but five were unearned thanks to an error by second baseman Emilio Bonifacio. And in the department of weird stuff, 37-year-old Mark DeRosa legged out a triple in the second inning. I'm not sure anyone saw that coming.

More on the Tigers at: Bless You Boys More on the Blue Jays at: Bluebird Banter

Padres 1, Red Sox 2

The Red Sox walked it off on a Jonny Gomes home run in this low-scoring affair in Boston. Both starters were effective, with Boston's Jon Lester pumping out seven innings of one-run ball, while Edinson Volquez matched him with one run in six for the Friars. But Gomes, who entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the ninth, took Luke Gregerson deep to end the game. Mike Carp and Dustin Pedroia both went 2-for-4 with a double, while Pedroia added a stolen base as well.

On the Padres side, Carlos Quentin went three-for-four with a double and his team's only run scored. This is the team's fifth-straight loss, and they've lost nine of their last 11 games.

More on the Padres at: Gaslamp Ball More on the Red Sox at: Over The Monster

Marlins 6, Braves 3

Ricky Nolasco might not be a Marlin for much longer, but if that's the case, he's leaving with a bang. He threw down seven innings of solid work, fanning seven and giving up two runs on six hits and no walks. Justin Ruggiano was the offensive catalyst, stroking a double, a homer, walking and stealing a base. Jeff Mathis has turned into a bizarro version of himself, making an error and continuing to succeed on offense.

As for the Braves, Brian McCann continued his hot hitting by stroking another homer, while Mike Minor gathered up nine strikeouts but offered up four runs in his six innings.

More on the Marlins at: Fish Stripes More on the Braves at: Talking Chop

Giants 2, Reds 3

It took 11 innings, but Beyond the Box Score All-Star Shin-Soo Choo was able to lead the Reds to a walk-off victory against the faltering Giants. Choo hit a two-out single to score teammate Todd Frazier, and send this one away. The Reds' center fielder also added a single and a stolen base in his six plate appearances. Tony Cingrani struck out five and walked four en route to giving up two runs in his five-and-two-thirds, but also helped his own cause with a double. Chris Heisey homered and drove in both other Cincy runs.

Barry Zito only gave up one run for the Giants, but also only threw four innings of work and gave up seven hits. And second baseman Tony Abreu was all-or-nothing at the plate, with a double, a homer and four strikeouts, but he was responsible for driving in both of the Giants' runs. Also, a baby giraffe (Brandon Belt) hit his 20th double of the season.

More on the Giants at: McCovey Chronicles More on the Reds at: Red Reporter

Diamondbacks 5, Mets 3

Something very strange happened at Citi Field last night: Matt Harvey lost. The Diamondbacks couldn't muster up any runs until the sixth, and Harvey was still able to strike down nine Arizona hitters, but Cody Ross hit a critical three-run blast off Harvey, and Miguel Montero reached base in four of his plate appearances with two singles and two walks. Randall Delgado did his own Matt Harvey impression, striking out nine in seven innings and limiting all his runs to two solo homers.

A couple of Mets had solid batting lines, as David Wright had a solo homer and a double in four plate appearances, and Mets 1B John Olerud Josh Satin hit his first career home run to keep his blazing hot start going. David Murphy hit a solo home run in the eighth as well.

More on the Diamondbacks at: AZ Snake Pit More on the Mets at: Amazin' Avenue

Photo credit: Rick Yeatts

Mariners 4, Rangers 2

The criminally-underrated Kyle Seager took ace reliever Robbie Ross yard in the 10th inning of this tilt to give the Mariners the win in Arlington. Seager, who gets overlooked due to the Machados and Cabreras and Longorias at third base in the American League, went three-for-five on the eve. Leadoff hitter (what!?) and right fielder (what!?) Jason Bay hit his 11th homer (WHAT!?) of the season. Felix Hernandez dealt, as usual, with seven strikeouts and two runs over seven innings.

David Murphy and Ian Kinsler both homered for the Rangers, and Derek Holland was pretty sharp opposite King Felix. Holland struck out 10 in just six innings of work, and gave up two runs of his own.

More on the Mariners at: Lookout Landing More on the Rangers at: Lone Star Ball

Orioles 4, White Sox 2

cHRis Davis hit his majors-leading 32nd homer of the year off of Hector Santiago. Davis also added a double, while Nick Markakis went 2-for-3 with two walks in support of brand new Oriole Scott Feldman. Feldman was pretty good, striking out six and offering up two runs in six innings of work for his new team.

Hector Santiago was pretty sharp himself, striking out nine and giving up two runs in seven full innings of work. And Gordon Beckham, who is has been banging since returning to the Sox, hit his first home run of the season for the Pale Hose.

More on the Orioles at: Camden Chat More on the White Sox at: South Side Sox

Indians 5, Royals 6

You expect most Indians-Royals contests to be ugly, but not like this one. First there was a rain delay. Then the power went out. Finally, the Royals used an Eric Hosmer home run in the seventh inning to top their divisional rivals. Unfortunately for Kansas City, they may have also lost their best player, as Alex Gordon hit the bullpen fence and sustained a possible concussion.

On that play, Jason Kipnis was credited with an inside-the-park home run, his 13th dinger of the season. Kipnis, who has been truly elite this season, also was part of a three-error performance by the Tribe, joining Nick Swisher and Matt Albers in botching balls. However, when you're hitting .301/.386/.539 on the season, you can be forgiven an error or seven.

More on the Indians at: Let's Go Tribe More on the Royals at: Royals Review

Yankees 3, Twins 2

Where does the time go? C.C. Sabathia won his 200th game (wow) as the Yanks topped the Twins yet again. Sabathia didn't just vulture this win -- he shoved it. Nine strikeouts over seven strong innings with his biggest miss being a Trevor Plouffe solo jack in the fifth. The Yankee offense was driven by who else than the red-hot Robinson Cano, who banged a two-run double and reached base two additional times in four plate appearances.

P.J. Walters, another completely fungible Twins starting pitcher, was rather fungible in performance as well, giving up three runs in five innings with three Ks and 3 walks. Joe Mauer hit a double. Aaron Hicks stole a base. Pedro Florimon made outs. The universe continues to unfold as it should.

More on the Yankees at: Pinstriped Bible More on the Twins at: Twinkie Town

Rays 1, Astros 4

Chris Carter is a boom-or-bust hitter, so happy Boom Day to you, Astros. Carter went deep twice driving in each of the Astros' four runs as they topped the Rays. Trade target Bud Norris was effective against the Rays' lineup, going seven innings while only giving up one run on a Ben Zobrist sacrifice fly.

The Rays did very little of note in this game. Evan Longoria struck out three times, Desmond Jennings stayed hot with a hit, a walk, and a stolen base, and James Loney added a double. Meh.

More on the Rays at: DRays Bay More on the Astros at: The Crawfish Boxes

Dodgers 10, Rockies 8

Finally, some offense! Hanley Ramirez had four hits -- including a homer and a double -- and the Dodgers combined for four homers as the bats came out in Colorado. Matt Kemp went yard, Adrian Gonzalez went yard, heck even Juan Uribe took one out of the park.

The Rockies were able to punish Dodgers pitching as well, as Carlos Gonzalez hit his 23rd homer of the season. Nearly every Rockies player reached base at least twice, save Corey Dickerson and D.J. LeMahieu.

Zack Greinke and Tyler Chatwood were pretty awful. Greinke even walked seven. And Yasiel Puig got -- well, we'll get to that later.

More on the Dodgers at: True Blue LA More on the Rockies at: Purple Row

Cardinals 12, Angels 2

Shelby Miller was very effective for the Cardinals. Jerome Williams was basically the opposite for the Angels. That's about as simple as it gets.

More on the Cardinals at: Viva El Birdos More on the Angels at: Halos Heaven

Cubs 3, Athletics 1

Matt Garza! Bartolo Colon! CLASH OF THE TITANS! Both teams' starters were effective, but Garza much more so, posting just one run over eight innings and closing down the Athletic offense. Garza gave up a solo shot to Brandon Moss (yes, he's still hitting home runs), but Luis Valbuena did the same thing for the Cubbies, while every hitter save Anthony Rizzo and Darwin Barney reached safely for Chicago.

Colon pitched a weird game, striking out none but still limiting the Cubs to two runs on nine hits in his seven innings. Other than Moss's dinger, no Athletic knocked an extra-base hit. But John Jaso stole a base, which is kind of interesting, right?

More on the Cubs at: Bleed Cubbie Blue More on the Athletics at: Athletics Nation

Lineouts

  • Manny Ramirez signed a minor-league deal with Texas Rangers, and will reportedly also cut his hair. I think the odds of him making the big league team are pretty unlikely, but we'll at least get to see a photo of Manny with short hair. And Texas just got even weirder. The future Hall of Famer will report to Triple-A.
  • You know what I love most about the Fourth? Day baseball. I mean, freedom from tyranny's pretty great, but I could be oppressed pretty hard and not complain if it meant that I got to watch baseball at 1:00pm. I'm a simple man.
  • text

Photo credit: USA TODAY Sports

Puig Watch

Opposing Starter: Tyler Chatwood, Colorado Rockies

Daily Stat Line: 1-for-3 with a "hustle double" a run scored, an RBI, and a strikeout. And one terrifying moment for Puig Watchers.

2013 Season Stat Line: .440/.466/.743 -- 8 HR -- 240 wRC+

Today's Puig Status: After leaving the game in the sixth inning, Yasiel Puig is down. Down, but never, ever out.

So that's it! Don't forget to follow up with feedback, and we'll see you tomorrow!

. . .

All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.

Bryan Grosnick is the Managing Editor of Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter @bgrosnick.

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