The Astros, sitting at 8-24 in last place in the AL West, have designated outfielder Rick Ankiel for assignment, tweets Houston Chronicle beat writer Brian T. Smith. It was one of a handful of moves the Astros made day, also designating Fernando Martinez for assignment, calling up Jimmy Paredes and Trevor Crowe, demoting Brandon Laird to Triple-A Oklahoma City, and activating J.D. Martinez from the disabled list.
Though Ankiel had five home runs and a .731 OPS in 65 trips to the plate, he was hitting .194 with a .231 on-base percentage, about as all or nothing as you can get at the Major League level. In late April, Cliff Corcoran of Sports Illustrated highlighted Ankiel’s “three true outcomes” approach:
In fact, it would be more accurate to describe Ankiel as a One True Outcome player. Yes, he has five home runs, but he has just one walk. Rather 28 of his 34 True Outcomes, a whopping 82 percent, have been strikeouts. Having struck out in his only two official at-bats on Thursday night, Ankiel has now struck out 28 times in 45 plate appearances, or 62 percent of the time he steps into the batter’s box. Not only would that be a record for strikeout percentage by a non-pitcher in a minimum of 45 plate appearances if the season (or Ankiel’s involvement in it) ended today, it means that Ankiel is striking out more often that Cust accomplished any of the Three True Outcomes in the most extreme TTO season in major league history.
Updating those figures as of today, Ankiel has the five home runs, three walks, and 35 strikeouts, representing 66 percent of his plate appearances. The Astros have been outscored by 75 runs in 32 games, so the decision to DFA Ankiel is quite understood.
It may be the 33-year-old’s last hurrah as he hasn’t shown any signs of improvement and teams have little use for a player who can’t get on base at least 30 percent of the time, particularly one that strikes out 12 times for every one walk.
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.