What we're watching – June 3

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– With not nearly as many intriguing pitching matchups on the schedule
as on Tuesday, it will be easy enough to key in on the potential
history-making event tonight.

Game of the Night

San Francisco vs. Washington – Randy Johnson’s first try for win No.
300 will come against the Nationals, the team he beat for win No. 298
on May 11. It’s also the franchise he pitched for when he earned his
first three career victories in 1988. He went on to spend part of 1989
with the Expos, going 0-4 with a 6.67 ERA before being traded to the
Mariners. Since then, he pitched against the ExpoNats 10 times, going
4-3 with a 2.99 ERA.

If Johnson does pick up the victory, he’ll be the 24th pitcher to
300 and he’ll join Lefty Grove and Early Winn in a three-way tie for
22nd place on the all-time list. At 45, he’d be the second-oldest
pitcher to get to 300 wins, behind only Phil Niekro.

The Nationals will go Jordan Zimmermann, who has been looking for
career win No. 3 for five weeks now. Since winning his first two major
league starts, he’s 0-2 with a 7.27 ERA in six outings.

Must-Click Link: Sherri Nichols, Sabermetic Pioneer

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If you are old enough and lame enough as I am, you may have lurked around on sabermetic message boards in the 1990s. If you did, you may have heard of Sherri Nichols, who back in the day, was a significant contributor to the advancement of statistical analysis, particularly defensive analysis.

While it’s probably better that not everyone is as old and nerdy as me, the downside of it is that most people haven’t heard of Nichols and know nothing about her contributions. That changes today with Ben Lindbergh’s excellent analysis of Nichols and her work over at The Ringer, which I recommend that you all read.

The short version: Nichols is the one who planted the seed about on-base percentage being valuable in the mind of Baseball Prospectus Founder Gary Huckabay, back in the late 80s. She’s also the one most responsible for the rise of zone-based defensive metrics in the 1990s, such as Defensive Average, which she created and which served as the basis for other such metrics going forward. She also played a critical role in the development of RetroSheet, which collected almost all extant box score and play-by-play information going back to the turn of the 20th century, thereby making so much of the information available at Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs possible. A key contribution there: making the information free and available to everyone, rather than closing the underlying data off as proprietary and either charging for access or keeping it in-house like some recent data collectors have chosen to do. Ahem.

A larger takeaway than all of Nichols’ contributions is just how loathe the baseball community was to listen to a woman back then. I mean, yeah, they’re still loathe to listen to women now, as indicated by the small number of women who hold jobs in baseball operations departments, but back then it was even worse, as evidenced by Lindbergh’s stories and Nichols’ anecdotes.

A great read and a great history lesson.