The Monsta

We were reading Mark Newman’s discussion of MLB’s 2017 relievers of the year and we came across this:

Kimbrel led Major League relievers in strikeouts per nine (16.43) and WHIP (0.68), and tied for first in strikeouts (126). That whiff total was the most by a Boston reliever since Dick Radatz struck out 183 in 1964.

Dick Radatz was The Monster (or Monsta in New England) because he was 6’6″, 230, and had a sidearm fastball that completely terrorized right-handed hitters.  From 1962 through 1964 he had three of the best years by a reliever.  His burnout is also exhibit A of why we treat relievers differently now.  He was 40 and 21 with 76 saves while pitching over 400 innings during that period.  The Red Sox were eighth, seventh, and eighth (out of ten) in those three years.  The Red Sox won 224 games and the the Monsta won or saved 116 of those or 52 percent.  Kimbrel will likely be the AL Reliever of the year for winning or saving 43 percent of the Red Sox games.  Some time around the All-Star break next season in his third season with the Red Sox Kimbrel will pitch as many innings for the Red Sox as The Monsta did in 1964.  Radatz had three great years but the abuse of pitching double to triple the innings that closers do now caught up with even a Monsta.

Manager Johnny Pesky’s abuse of the Monsta in “64 led to him being less effective in ’65 and the Red Sox lost 100 games.  Kimbrel’s line of 1.43 ERA, 67 games, 51 games finished, 35 saves and five wins looks similar to the Monster’s 1964 season of 2.29, 79, 57, 24, 29 and 15 wins.  The difference is that the latter pitched 157 innings while the former pitched just 69.  There is much discussion about how to use closers but Radatz was over used, especially in 1964.


This Day In Baseball- Part 3

October 1, 1967 dawned with the Red Sox, Tigers, and Twins all controlling their own destiny. If the Tigers won both games of a double header with the Angels then they would have a playoff versus the winner of the Twins versus Red Sox. If the Tigers lost either game then the winner in Fenway would be in the World Series against the mighty Cardinals who has already won 100 games and would win one more later that day to cruise in 10.5 games in front of the National League. Besides the team glory there was some hardware at stake in Fenway. Jim Lomborg, 21-9, started for the Red Sox against Dean Chance 20-13. The winner would likely clinch the AL Cy Young award while Carl Yastremski’s MVP seemed assured but the Triple Crown was not yet won as he and Harmon Killebrew were battling it out for the home run crown. Those of you with time on your hands can figure out how many homers the Killer would have hit if he played half of his games in Fenway.

Speaking of Yastremski’s MVP, he was obviously the dominant player all year as indicated by winning baseball’s Triple Crown and a golden glove. If you prefer Sabermetrics, he had 12.4 WAR according to Baseball, that had only been exceeded by a position player twice.  That position player was Babe Ruth and the years were 1921 and 1923.  No position player in almost 100 years has been as dominant as Yaz was in 1967.   The stat guys say players cannot be clutch but he was even better for those last two days. Yaz went 7 for 8 with 2 runs and 6 RBIs in those two games.

In the game, the Twins scored unearned runs in the first and third and held a 2-0 lead going into the bottom of the sixth when both teams stuck with their aces. For the Red Sox it meant sending Lonborg to bat in the top of the sixth. He bunted to the left side for a hit. Then Adair and Jones singled to load the bases for Yastrzemski. The Twins stuck with Chance and Yaz delivered a two run single to tie the game. Harrelson drove in a run with a fielder’s choice to give the Sox the lead and end Chance’s day. Al Worthington came in and uncorked two wild pitches to score a run. A walk and an error gave the Sox a 5-2 lead.

It wasn’t over. In the Twins eighth, Allison scored Killebrew and sent Oliva to third but Yaz threw out Allison trying for second to end the inning. Yaz had his Triple Crown and MVP while Lonborg was odds-on for the Cy Young but the pennant was still in doubt. In Deroit, Joe Sparma went seven and this time the Tigers let Fred Gladding pitch the eight and ninth and he stopped the Angels as the Tigers won 6-4. Gladding had only pitched to one batter in the Tigers’ bullpen debacle the previous night.

In the nightcap it looked like the Tigers had the edge with Denny McClain versus Rickey Clark, a rookie. McClain won 20 in ’66 and had won 17 so far in ’67. Neither starter had it. Clark left in the second inning while giving up three runs. McClain left in the third after giving up three runs and was replaced by Hiller who gave up three more. The Angels’ bullpen had the answers. Especially when Minnie Rojas got star pinch hitter Gates Brown for the last out of the seventh inning with the score 8-5 and a Tiger on base. One positive outcome for the Tigers is that Mickey Lolich got the last five outs after pitching a shutout on Saturday. His demonstrated ability to pitch on very short rest would lead to a much more satisfying result for the Tigers in 1968.

What would the pitching matchup on Monday have been if the Tigers had of comeback and beat the Angels? The Red Sox had only used three pitchers over the weekend but they only had two quality starters and they used them both. They would have probably gone with Gary Bell who was 12-8 with a 3.16 ERA but failed in game three of the World Series. It was the era of the four-man rotation and the four Tigers starters over the weekend had started 142 games. The Tigers had no starter and challenges in relief as the Tiger relief pitchers had worked twelve and a third innings over the weekend. With the season on the line they had to bring back Lolich one day after pitching a complete game. The score of the playoff game might have been 14-12.

When a double play ended the Tigers game, throngs filled the streets of Boston to celebrate the impossible dream. They had gone from ninth to first. No other team had ever done that and unless the structure of MLB is substantially changed, no other team will ever do it. On Monday they would worry about the Cardinals.

This Day In Baseball- 50 Years Ago

September 29, 1967 is the antepenultimate day of the last and perhaps greatest pennant race in history. Four of the ten teams in the American League (AL) still have a chance to win the AL pennant: Red Sox, Tigers, Twins, and White Sox.

First, we need a little league history. From the first World Series in 1903 until 1968, the American League and National League (NL) pennant winners faced off in the World Series. There was no World Series in 1904 and 1994. There were no other levels of playoffs until 1969. From 1901 through 1960 there were eight teams in each league. In the early sixties the AL added the Angels and the new Senators. The new Senators would be come the Rangers in 1972. The erstwhile Senators became the Twins. The NL added the Mets and the Astros (who are now in the AL).

Second, we need a little team history. The other three teams were expected to contend for the pennant in 1967 but the Red Sox were not. Since moving from Washington six years ago the Twins had been near the top of the AL most years. Most recently they lost an epic World Series to Sandy Koufax and the Dodgers in 1965 and finished second in the AL in 1966. The Tigers finished fourth in ’65 and third in ‘66. The White Sox finished second in ’65 and fourth in ‘66. The Red Sox had not been above 500 since 1958 and even worse lately. They finished ninth in 1965 and tied for ninth in 1966. When Vegas offered odds of 100 to 1 to win the pennant it seemed like a sucker bet.

Third, scheduling 162 games for ten teams led to weird stuff. No AL team played on September 28. Only four of the ten AL teams (Athletics, Senators, White Sox, and Yankees) played on September 29. Then after two days off for the Angels and three days off for the Tigers they played doubleheaders in Detroit on both Saturday and Sunday.

On Friday morning, September 29, 1967 four teams, Red Sox, Tigers, Twins, and White Sox could still win the pennant and go to the World Series. The White Sox had led the AL for most of the summer, 91 days, but were now a game-and-a half back. The Red Sox, Tigers, and Twins had spent 24, 41, and 39 days in first, respectively. On Friday Pale Hose lost to Senators 1-0 as Phil Ortega made an unearned run in the first inning stand up.   This was the third loss in a row for the White Sox as they had lost a double header to the last-place Kansas City (they moved to Oakland next year) Athletics on Wednesday. The White Sox were eliminated from the race because they were two games behind with two to play and the Twins and the Red Sox were both ahead of them and playing each other. The Red Sox and the Twins enjoyed their second day off in a row while the Tigers were on their third day of rest.

At the end of the day the Twins were one game in first place and the Red Sox and Tigers were one game back but the Tigers had four games to play against the Angels while the Twins would visit the Red Sox for two so the Twins and the Tigers controlled their own destiny. The Red Sox could beat the Twins twice and still lose to the Tigers. If the Twins and the Tigers both won all their games they would have finished tied for the pennant. We are ready for Saturday.

Today In Baseball

By today we mean today compared to 19 games ago.  On August 23 (MLB uses the end of the day) the Cleveland Indians were 20 games behind the Dodgers in the race for the best record in Major League Baseball (MLB).  Today, 19 games later, the Indians are four games behind the Dodgers in the race for the best record in baseball.  It matters because the team with the best record will get home field advantage in the World Series.

It is amazing that the Indians have won 19 in a row.  It is perhaps as amazing that the Dodgers have lost 16 of 19.

Sidebar: Excel has a binomial function.  Since ties are extremely rare in MLB, the binomial function works well for explaining baseball streaks.  One problem is determining the true winning probability for a team.  Should we use the winning percentage before or after the streak?  A second problem is the independence of consecutive baseball games.  Baseball, like almost all sports, has momentum so it doesn’t fully meet the independence requirement of the binomial function.  On the other hand, the list of winning streaks suggests that the binomial function is a pretty fair approximation.  In about 140 seasons with, say, 20 teams per season the longest winning streak without a tie is 21 games.  The probability of (21,21,.6) is 0.0022 percent.  One event out of 140 times 20 is higher, 0.0375 percent, but both numbers are tiny.  End Sidebar.

For the Indians the probability is 0.0061 percent assuming that they are a club that wins 60 percent of its games.  Assuming the Dodgers are a club that wins 60 percent of its games the probability of wining three or less out of 19 is 0.0101 percent.  If you think the Dodgers are a 70 percent team (they were .712 before the bad times) then the probability of winning three or less is 0.0002 percent. If you think that these events are independent then the probability of them both happening is the product of the two probabilities.  Independence is not unreasonable because the Indians didn’t play the Dodgers and they are in different leagues.  That product would be a truly tiny number.

Kimbrel Amazes

Whoops, I wrote this on a timely basis but it didn’t publish.

Craig Kimbrel is having an amazing season as the Red Sox closer.  He has converted 23 of 25 saves, has an ERA of 1.19, and a WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) of 0.50.  A WHIP of under 1.00 is very impressive but a half is off the charts.

Tonight against the Rays he was at his best.  He pitched one inning and threw eleven pitches.  Nine were strikes and he struck out all three batters.  Corey Dickerson managed a foul ball for strike two and Evan Longoria stuck out on a foul tip.  That was all they could manage.  He is averaging 1.8 strikeouts per inning.

Closers are rarely considered for the Cy Young award but if Craig keeps this up then he deserves serious consideration.  It also depends on how the starters do.  In the NL, Kershaw and Scherzer had a great first half.  In the AL only Chris Sale (11&4, 2.75 ERA and 0.90 WHIP), Craig’s teammate, is close having a starting season that would eliminate any closer.  Craig has a chance.

Baseball Oddities In Toronto

The Red Sox 15-1 victory at Toronto today had at least three oddities in it.

First, Fernando Abad got a save in the blowout.  Usually it has to be a close game but the save rules allow one when pitching three innings which Abad did.

Second, Glenn Sparkman had a bad day on the mound.  In his second appearance, his ERA went from zero to 63 by giving up seven hits to eight batters.  All seven runners scored an earned run.  He was not the only Blue Jay pitcher to give up seven runs in the game but it took Biagini five-and-a-third innings to do it.

Third, Mookie Betts, the Bosox lead-off hitter had eight RBIs.  We doubt that is a record but, it appears, according to MLB, to set a Sox record and tie an MLB record:

Betts became the first leadoff hitter in Red Sox history to amass eight RBIs, and the first in MLB since Ronnie Belliard for the Rockies in 2003. Only five players including Betts have accumulated eight RBIs while batting first.

The ninth place hitter had two RBIs making a total of ten for the first and ninth hitters.  Go Sox!

Tie The Record

Craig Kimbrel of the Red Sox became the 72nd or 73rd (Wikipedia is inconsistent from paragraph to paragraph) pitcher to strike out four in an inning today.  Check the line here.  One inning with four strikeouts and the rest zeros looks strange.  Of additional note, Red Sox pitchers struck out 20 Rangers.  It has to be cool to own a record that will never be broken although it will often be tied.