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 Post subject: Re: An interview with Joe Kerrigan
PostPosted: Fri Apr 24, 2009 2:39 pm 
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No. 9 wrote:
jaybee24 wrote:
The mind is such a poor collector/analyzer of data because it is conditioned to recognize patterns, and it does so even when presented with a data set in which no discernible pattern exists. The current discussion topic is an excellent example.


But the "data set" presented is useless.

Let's take catchers out of the equation. If pitchers are the sole determiner of particular pitches, is it fair to describe a particular pitcher a good "game caller?"
Or, put another way, is there such a thing as a "good pitching game strategy?"
Does good "game calling" exist for pitchers?
Can a pitcher have an off night but still make the most out of the "stuff" that he has? Is this related to having a "good game strategy?"
Again, take catchers out of the equation . . . .
If "game calling" doesn't exist in some fashion . . . why do teams waste their time scouting, watching video, charting hitters and developing strategy before a game? It seems to me if there is no attributable value to these efforts then MLB's dugouts are full of idiots who have absolutely no understanding of the game.

No one is saying that game-calling does not exist; we're saying that it is not a skill. Certainly, developing a strategy or a pitching approach for certain hitters is valuable, but that does not mean that certain catchers are better at devising or executing such a strategy than others are.

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 Post subject: Re: An interview with Joe Kerrigan
PostPosted: Fri Apr 24, 2009 2:46 pm 
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No. 9 wrote:
jaybee24 wrote:
The mind is such a poor collector/analyzer of data because it is conditioned to recognize patterns, and it does so even when presented with a data set in which no discernible pattern exists. The current discussion topic is an excellent example.


But the "data set" presented is useless.

Let's take catchers out of the equation. If pitchers are the sole determiner of particular pitches, is it fair to describe a particular pitcher a good "game caller?"
Or, put another way, is there such a thing as a "good pitching game strategy?"
Does good "game calling" exist for pitchers?
Can a pitcher have an off night but still make the most out of the "stuff" that he has? Is this related to having a "good game strategy?"
Again, take catchers out of the equation . . . .
If "game calling" doesn't exist in some fashion . . . why do teams waste their time scouting, watching video, charting hitters and developing strategy before a game? It seems to me if there is no attributable value to these efforts then MLB's dugouts are full of idiots who have absolutely no understanding of the game.


The data set is sufficiently large to make the conclusion that BP drew from it. So to respond:

1. I agree that pitch selection is an extremely important part of the game. If a pitcher has the same performance regardless of his catcher, then yes, the ability to call a game skillfully rests with the pitcher alone.

2. I don't know why teams waste time on it. The fact that they do provides no evidence that the skill exists, hence the BP exercise. Conventional wisdom is sometimes wrong and should often be checked. This was the point of Moneyball and why Billy Beane was able to get a leg up on teams with far higher payrolls for so long. Teams were relying on the gut feel of their scouts in situations where they should have been relying on reliable data sets. Now almost every team is using this kind of analysis, and not just in baseball. Statistical analysis is huge in basketball and other sports as well. If you're not using it, your organization is falling behind.

I'm not saying major league dugouts are idiots, but their understanding of the game is based on their experiences alone, and that's the problem. Memory is selective and biased. If an organization is making decisions on long term trends that are recorded by the memories of its coaches, it has a problem.

Again, I'm not saying that coaches are useless. Their experience should be relied upon in situations where statistics cannot help, like improving mechanics. They see what is going on in the field and can help explain short term variances in data. But in the case of game calling, there is a sufficient amount of data to discount the conventional wisdom of coaches.


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 Post subject: Re: An interview with Joe Kerrigan
PostPosted: Fri Apr 24, 2009 2:59 pm 
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jaybee24 wrote:
Good game callers will allow fewer runs, hits, and walks compared to poor game callers. We're not comparing catching performance to an absolute standard, we're simply comparing catchers to each other.

In the situation you're talking about, if we replaced the good game caller with a poor game caller, the pitcher may have allowed 8 runs instead of just five, right? So then we should be able to compare the long term performance of a pitcher when he uses different catchers, call them A and B. We'd be using the pitcher as a control. If catcher A were a better game caller than catcher B, he'd have more situations over the long run in which he was inducing better stuff from this particular pitcher than catcher B, and the data will reflect this. Obviously the analysis of just one pitcher is going to have too much variance from which to derive a meaningful conclusion, so we'd have to do it with hundreds. This is exactly what BP did.

If game calling is a skill which only shows up on nights in which a starter is struggling mightily anyway, its value is extremely marginal, and seriously taking it into consideration with as much weight as a catcher's offensive performance will cost a team loads of wins in the long run.


Ryan Doumit caught Maholm's shutout of the Braves. Jason Jaramillo caught Maholm's last outing against the Marlins. Under your theory, Maholm would've thrown a shutout no matter who was behind the plate against the Braves and Maholm would've given up 4 runs no matter who was behind the plate against the Marlins, right? Honestly, I'm confused as to how this can be accurately quantifed or measured.

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Reflexively, obsessively and tastelessly submitted,
No. 9
Obsessive proponent of situational bunting and 2 strike hitting approaches, reflexively pro-catchers calling good games and tasteless proponent of the value of a RBI.


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 Post subject: Re: An interview with Joe Kerrigan
PostPosted: Fri Apr 24, 2009 3:18 pm 
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jaybee24 wrote:
1. I agree that pitch selection is an extremely important part of the game. If a pitcher has the same performance regardless of his catcher, then yes, the ability to call a game skillfully rests with the pitcher alone.


If pitch selection is important (with which I agree) and that falls upon the pitcher alone, what measure do you believe can be used to determine whether a pitcher is doing a good job of calling a game? Is it ERA; is it H/9; is it BB/9; is it WH/IP? Is it easy outs versus hard outs? Ks? Solid contact versus weak contact? Did Paul Maholm call a better game against the Braves than he did against the Marlins? Did he have better pitch selection agaisnt the Braves than he did against the Marlins? Would it be fair to say that Zach Duke's pitch selection against the Braves was awful?

Again, if pitch selection is important (and you note that it is "extremely" important), how does one measure a pitcher's particular pitch selection to any given hitter, any given inning or any given night?

_________________
Reflexively, obsessively and tastelessly submitted,
No. 9
Obsessive proponent of situational bunting and 2 strike hitting approaches, reflexively pro-catchers calling good games and tasteless proponent of the value of a RBI.


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 Post subject: Re: An interview with Joe Kerrigan
PostPosted: Fri Apr 24, 2009 3:44 pm 
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No. 9 wrote:
jaybee24 wrote:
Good game callers will allow fewer runs, hits, and walks compared to poor game callers. We're not comparing catching performance to an absolute standard, we're simply comparing catchers to each other.

In the situation you're talking about, if we replaced the good game caller with a poor game caller, the pitcher may have allowed 8 runs instead of just five, right? So then we should be able to compare the long term performance of a pitcher when he uses different catchers, call them A and B. We'd be using the pitcher as a control. If catcher A were a better game caller than catcher B, he'd have more situations over the long run in which he was inducing better stuff from this particular pitcher than catcher B, and the data will reflect this. Obviously the analysis of just one pitcher is going to have too much variance from which to derive a meaningful conclusion, so we'd have to do it with hundreds. This is exactly what BP did.

If game calling is a skill which only shows up on nights in which a starter is struggling mightily anyway, its value is extremely marginal, and seriously taking it into consideration with as much weight as a catcher's offensive performance will cost a team loads of wins in the long run.


Ryan Doumit caught Maholm's shutout of the Braves. Jason Jaramillo caught Maholm's last outing against the Marlins. Under your theory, Maholm would've thrown a shutout no matter who was behind the plate against the Braves and Maholm would've given up 4 runs no matter who was behind the plate against the Marlins, right? Honestly, I'm confused as to how this can be accurately quantifed or measured.


My understanding of what BP did was to compare the performance of pitchers who had used the same catchers. So let's say we were interested in comparing the game calling ability of Paulino and Doumit. We would compare Maholm's performance when Paulino was his catcher to his performance when Doumit caught him. We'd do the same for Ian Snell and Zach Duke. If either Paulino or Doumit were a significantly better game caller, the peripherals of each pitcher would be better when one or the other were catching. For example, if Doumit was a much better game caller, he'd coax a lower ERA out of the staff than Paulino.

BP found that within a single season, certain pitchers would in fact do much better with certain catchers. At first glance, it looks like this may indicate that game calling is a valuable skill for catchers (that catcher A was better than catcher B over a single season). The problem is, they'd look at the next season, and the trend would be the complete opposite for the same catchers (catcher B was now better than catcher A). Over the course of the study, which I think encompassed twenty seasons, the ranking of best game calling catchers was totally random. This indicates that the wide variance between catchers is not due to skill, but only due to small sample size within a season. If game calling by a catcher were a skill, we would expect particular catchers to be at the top of the league every year with only gradual changes, like we see with batting and pitching statistics.


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 Post subject: Re: An interview with Joe Kerrigan
PostPosted: Fri Apr 24, 2009 3:50 pm 
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No. 9 wrote:
jaybee24 wrote:
1. I agree that pitch selection is an extremely important part of the game. If a pitcher has the same performance regardless of his catcher, then yes, the ability to call a game skillfully rests with the pitcher alone.


If pitch selection is important (with which I agree) and that falls upon the pitcher alone, what measure do you believe can be used to determine whether a pitcher is doing a good job of calling a game? Is it ERA; is it H/9; is it BB/9; is it WH/IP? Is it easy outs versus hard outs? Ks? Solid contact versus weak contact? Did Paul Maholm call a better game against the Braves than he did against the Marlins? Did he have better pitch selection agaisnt the Braves than he did against the Marlins? Would it be fair to say that Zach Duke's pitch selection against the Braves was awful?

Again, if pitch selection is important (and you note that it is "extremely" important), how does one measure a pitcher's particular pitch selection to any given hitter, any given inning or any given night?


Skills aren't measured on one particular night, they're measured over the long haul. By your argument, a pitcher who is good at changing speeds and keeping a hitter off balance (which is what good pitch selection does) should strike out more batters and induce more weakly hit balls. Therefore, K/9 and line drive percentages can be used in part to determine how good the pitcher has been at calling a game. Pitch counts would be another valuable tool; a pitcher picking his pitches wisely could be expected to get ahead in the count more often. By comparing one pitcher against another in these categories over the long run, you should be able to tell who is best keeping hitters off balance.

In order to determine whether Maholm selected his pitches more wisely against the Marlins or the Braves, I'd have to see the relevant statistics from each game, including hit trajectories, pitch counts, total strikeouts, and defensive performance.


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