The Pirates aren’t known as one of the more Sabermetrically-savvy teams like the Rays and Athletics, but they do have Dan Fox (formerly of Baseball Prospectus) as the director of baseball systems development. Thanks to Fox and others, the Pirates are able to use stat reports to prepare lineups and pitching match-ups with greater specificity. SB Nation Pirates blog Bucs Dugout talked to manager Clint Hurdle, who provided more details about the way he utilizes the tools at his disposal despite not being a number-cruncher himself.
We have a system analysis that is so unique that what we do is, we have player batting averages, swing and miss rates, on base percentage, OPS, it is all laid out for that pitcher and 15 comparables. So truth be told, at times you can get a player that is 10-for-20 off a guy in real time and he doesn’t rank maybe in the top of your batting order if you were constructing one sabermetrically over the long haul. But also you can get a pretty good feel on what that kind of guy can do against those kinds of pitchers. It’s tool. It’s a useful tool. I’ll say that.
I’ve grown in the time I’ve been here by being open-minded, knowing I have some people upstairs that are really, really smart. But you have to mesh the two.
Many statistically-oriented writers have criticized managers’ tendency to give — to use an example — a bench player a start because he is 4-for-9 against the opposing starter. The reasoning behind that is nine at-bats is a terribly small sample size, making any information gathered from those nine at-bats largely meaningless. However, the Pirates’ method of grouping similar pitches together is quite interesting and makes sense. Grabbing, say, Andrew McCutchen’s performance against Cole Hamels won’t tell you much since it’s only 17 plate appearances. But grouping together left-handed starters with a 91-93 MPH fastball and an 82-84 MPH change-up would expand your sample size to a level where you can start to make conclusions about a player’s performance level.
The story of Rick Ankiel is well known by now. He was a phenom pitcher who burst onto the scene with the Cardinals in 1999 and into the 2000 season as one of the top young talents in the game. Then, in the 2000 playoffs, he melted down. He got the yips. Whatever you want to call it, he lost the ability to throw strikes and his pitching career was soon over. He came back, however, against all odds, and remade his career as a solid outfielder.
It’s inspirational and incredible. But there is a lot more to the story that we’ve ever known. We will soon, however, as Ankiel is coming out with a book. Today he took to the airwaves and shared some about it. Including some amazing stuff:
On drinking in his first start after the famous meltdown in Game One of the 2000 National League division series against the Braves:
“Before that game…I’m scared to death. I know I have no chance. Feeling the pressure of all that, right before the game I get a bottle of vodka. I just started drinking vodka. Low and behold, it kind of tamed the monster, and I was able to do what I wanted. I’m sitting on the bench feeling crazy I have to drink vodka to pitch through this. It worked for that game. (I had never drank before a game before). It was one of those things like the yipps, the monster, the disease…it didn’t fight fair so I felt like I wasn’t going to fight fair either.”
Imagine spending your whole life getting to the pinnacle of your career. Then imagine it immediately disintegrating. And then imagine having to go out and do it again in front of millions. It’s almost impossible for anyone to contemplate and, as such, it’s hard to judge almost anything Ankiel did in response to that when he was 21 years-old. That Ankiel got through that and made a career for himself is absolutely amazing. It’s a testament to his drive and determination.
A couple of weeks ago our president wrote one of his more . . . vexing tweets. He was talking about immigration when he whipped out the phrase . . . “Easy D”:
No one was quite sure what he meant by Easy D. Was it the older brother of N.W.A.’s founder? The third sequel to that Emma Stone movie from a few years back? So many questions!
Baseball Twitter had fun with it, though, with a lot of people wondering how they could work it in casually to their commentary:
It wasn’t a scout who did it, but twelve days after that, a player obliged Mr. McCullough:
I have no more idea what Turner was talking about with that than Trump was. We’ll have to wait for the full story in the L.A. Times. But I am going to assume Turner was doing McCullough a solid with that one rather than commenting on the president’s tweet. Either way, I’m glad he made the effort.
And before you ask: yes, it’s a slow news day.