Leverage is a tricky concept. On the one hand, it is essential to accurately value contributions to win probability when looking backward. However, over-reliance on leverage can under- or overstate a player's true value. For example, a player who has pitched very well in low leverage situations (but perhaps nevertheless faced good hitters) would appear not to contribute much to his team's wins. But there can be no doubt that pitching well in high-leverage situations is valuable.
So here's a trivia question: who has the highest career leverage index of all time? Sean Smith has the goods, but before you look, remember that it would probably be someone who pitched only a handful of innings, all of them at high leverage. That means it's not K-Rod, Rivera, or Hoffman...
What is it about left-handers, anyway? Southpaws are crafty, odd, and temperamental (at least by reputation). When two young lefties match up, as David Price and Derek Holland did yesterday, people take notice (even if the game didn't live up to its billing). WUSTL professor David Peters argues that lefties are Naturals:
Why such a tilt? Most important is that left-handed batters get a better look at the pitch from a right-hander, since that hand is hurling from an angle more straight-on to their eyesight. A right-handed batter, on the other hand, sees the ball coming from over his shoulder, the reason batters switch-hit.
Then there's running to first base: When a right-hander swings, his momentum carries him the wrong way toward third base; a lefty already stands some five feet closer to first, with his swing and spin carrying him in the correct direction. So a lefty gets to first base about 1/6th of a second faster, translating into more hits and a higher batting average. For lefty pitchers on the mound, they stand automatically facing a runner on first, making a pickoff far easier.
Never mind for the moment that the Latin root of the word "sinister" means "on the left, unlucky."
Some pitchers aren't quite Naturals, but rather diamonds in the rough. Or needles in a haystack. Or baseball players in a billion-person cricket country. Indian pitchers Dinesh Patel and Rinku Singh made their professional debuts yesterday for the Pirates' GCL affiliate.
Patel, the right-hander, pitched a scoreless inning with a strikeout, and needed just nine pitches, seven of which were strikes.
Singh, the left-hander, allowed a run on two hits with a strikeout. He needed 20 pitches.
Patel and Singh were the winners of a contest, held by the Pirates, to find a million-dollar arm on the subcontinent. You can follow these guys at their blog. Of the day, Patel wrote:
I trowing 9 pitch, 7 strike and 2 ball. I getting 1 ground out to 2B, 1 fly out to RF and 1 strike out. One more batter hitting ball and get to 1st, but they saying error only.
He also added:
Only thing matters is win.
These guys are going to be in for a surprise when they make the big league club! (Hey, that low-hanging fruit doesn't pick itself.)
Finally, we travel from India to Japan, where Scott Boras has threatened to take Stephen Strasburg in an effort to establish international residency if the Nationals do not make an offer to his liking. With international residency, Strasburg would be eligible for free agency, and an even bigger payday. Do you think Boras could pull it off, or is this just another high-wire negotiating tactic?