Baseball traditionalists often argue that managers have a great deal of control over how their teams perform. Sabermetricians have typically been skeptical of claims of this sort, arguing instead that what influence managers have is at the margins, perhaps on the order of one or two wins over the course of a season. But one thing managers certainly have control over is filling out the lineup card. Today's box score honors this small but important aspect of managing.
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There are few managers who are a more common target for rants from subterranean maternal abodes than Dusty Baker. This year, it seems as though he's trying to draw the ire of not just stat-heads, but baseball writers of all stripes. For example, Willy Taveras has 360 PAs as the Reds' leadoff hitter, and his OPS+ in that slot is a whopping 50. Think that's bad? It's actually better than his overall OPS+ of 45. But Dusty just kept running him out there.
Finally, it seems to have gotten to the beat writers. Here's John Fay a few days ago:
I thought Balentien would be in the lineup every day for the rest of the year. He’s 25. He was a big-time prospect at one time. He seemed worth an extended look with a Reds on a slow train to nowhere.
"He’s playing tomorrow," Reds manager Dusty Baker said before Saturday’s game. "You can’t play everybody."
Baker went into an explanation about how left-handed hitters hit Washington’s starter J.D. Martin better than right-handers like Balentien. Laynce Nix got the start.
Right, well, okay. Balentien's no world-beater (.294 wOBA on the season). But you know when you've angered Hal McCoy, things are starting to get bad for you as a Reds manager.
"I talk to the players about all this, but as manager I don’t have to talk to anybody about anything," Baker said. "It’s just I’ve always done as a manager. As a player you always like to know why things were done.:
Uh, well, OK. Is it really that complicated[?] I’m no manager (my card expired in 1982), but it just doesn’t seem THAT complicated, especially when you’re 156 games under .500 and 14 games out of first place on August 15.
Redleg Nation noticed that the beat writers were cottoning on to Baker's shenanigans ("I swear to God, I'll pistol whip the next guy to say shenanigans"):
Welcome to the club, gents. It’s been this way all summer.
Well, the good news in all this for Reds fans is that your prayers have at least partially been answered. As of today, Willy Taveras has hit the DL and Drew Stubbs has been called up. Let's see Dusty keep Balentien AND Stubbs out of the lineup at once.
The Los Angeles de Los Angeles de Anaheim have accomplished a rather impressive feat. As of the fifth inning of yesterday's game against the Indians, every member of the Angels lineup is hitting above .300. Of course, the last man past the post was Scioscia family black sheep Mike Napoli (who, for the record, has a .385 wOBA but has spent 71 PAs in the eight hole--eat your heart out Matt Kemp).
The feat, however, was as rare as you would expect. From the LA Times:
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, you'd have to go back to the 1930 New York Giants and St. Louis Cardinals to find lineups in which each player hit .300 or better and had at least 200 at-bats.
In 1934, the Tigers finished a game with each hitter in the lineup batting above .300 100+ games into the season. Here is their lineup:
Sept. 9, 1934 (5-4 win vs. Boston)
Jo Jo White, cf .307
Mickey Cochrane, c .328
Charlie Gehringer, 2b .364
Goose Goslin, lf .306
Billy Rogell, ss .303
Hank Greenberg, 1b .337
Marv Owen, 3b .322
Gee Walker, rf .301
Schoolboy Rowe, p .302
A sophomore Hank Greenberg batting sixth? Sigh, it's the same old arguments over and over. For a somewhat off-the-wall take on the Angels' feat, Halos Heaven invented a stat that only they could:
The concept of "hit efficiency" is pretty simple: how many hits do the Angels need to score a run? Teams that hit lots of HR would seem to need fewer hits to score a run. Thus, runs/hits tells you how many runs the team scores for each hit; hits/runs tell you how many hits it takes the team to score one run.
The Angels have scored 666 runs thus far, on 1167 hits. Thus, they are scoring .571 runs/hit; it takes the Angels 1.752 hits to score a run.
The Yankees, with 657 runs on 1145 hits, score .574 runs per hit. The Yankees need only 1.743 hits to score a run. Thus, the Yankees score only .003 runs more per hit (i.e., for every thousand hits, the Yanks manage only three more runs). This is despite the fact that the Yankees have 52 more home runs.
So, does that make them better or worse than the Yankees?
The Marlins have accomplished a pretty nifty feat as well. Over their last 14 games, the Marlins have tallied at least 10 hits in each contest. How rare is this? Well, it turns out it's harder than you might think to figure it out. The Miami Herald's Fish Bytes blog asked around. According to Bowling Green stats professor Jim Albert:
A naive computation would say -- since the Marlins have a 47% chance of getting 10+ in a single game, then the chance of getting 10+ in 14 consecutive games is
(.47)^14 = 0.00003 (pretty small)
But this is not really right, since there are many baseball teams and there is a long season and it is much more likely that SOME team in the majors will have a streak this long this season. The number .00003 is understating the probability by a lot.
His reasoning is that we would view it as just as unlikely if any team had done. He comes up with a 3% chance that some team would accomplish the feat each year. However, this particular feat has not been accomplished since 1937.
Can you think of an effective way to calculate the odds of a team collecting 10 hits in 14 or more consecutive games? Feel free to use the Marlins team batting average (.267) or some generic figure. In any event, be sure to explain your reasoning.