Dodgers 2, Giants 3: Baseball is a dumb sport and we’re all dumb for watching it.

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at San Francisco Giants
Apr 8, 2016; San Francisco, CA, USA;  John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Baseball is a game of anticipation. Players eagerly watch pitchers move across the mound as they run through their pitch sequence in their heads. As the pitcher takes the mound and places his toe on the rubber, the batter runs through the possible pitches he might see, having already expertly studied his opponents repertoire. The catcher and other seven position players’ muscles twitch as the ball is released from the hurler’s hands and glides towards one of two destinations: the catcher’s glove or the batter’s bat. Meanwhile, the fans, merely observers of the sport, are left on edge wondering what the outcome of each subsequent pitch will be. On nights like tonight, as each inning’s end tacks on another zero in the hit column, the fans’ anticipation builds into anxiety.

Every baseball fan is superstitious. It is around the fifth inning when we really start to notice opponents getting blanked across the board, yet we remain silent. We never want to be the one to say, “Hey guys, Stripling has a no-hitter heading into the sixth.” And if we do say it, we brush it off as “Jinxes are fucking stupid.” I mean, jinxes really are hokie stupid crap, but again, baseball fans are superstitious. Come the seventh, we can feel the stakes of a singular, non-postseason, beginning-of-the-season, game get higher and higher. Everyone starts thinking about history. We already start thinking how our stories will start, “I was at home doing….” The sentence will end with, “when so-and-so got the no-hitter.”

But baseball, as beautiful as she is, she is not easy. She will make you work for your exhilaration. On a night like tonight, if baseball were a hussy, she would have given Stripling his no-hitter, in his major league debut, on the road, against the Dodgers historic rivals. If baseball were easy, though, every young pitcher would have that and it would mean nothing. Instead, we will forever be left with, “Why?” after a down-by-one, extra-inning loss, in rainy San Francisco.

Despite the loss, there is still hope, should you choose to continue this terrible relationship with baseball. Ross Stripling looked amazing against a healthy Giants lineup. While the offense only scored two runs, it was able to muster nine hits against Matt Cain and the Giants bullpen.

***

Even better news, Clayton Kershaw will toe the rubber against Madison Bumgarner in the penultimate game of the series tomorrow. In his last start, Kershaw fanned nine batters and gave up only one hit over seven innings of work against the Padres. In his last start against the Giants, he struckout thirteen batters, gave up one hit – Oh yeah, the Dodgers also clinched the division.

Game time tomorrow is at 1:05 PM

Game One-Hundred Nineteen Recap: Dodgers 4, Athletics 5

I have been doing a lot of writing for places other than this barren wasteland I call a blog. Don’t worry, Tio Piazza Parlor is here to stay. Now on to the game recap.

What Went Right

Demigod, Clayton Kershaw pitched seven innings and tallied seven K’s while holding the Oakland A’s to one-run ball. He did give up five hits – I mean, I guess you can call tonight a struggle. The lone run that came across the plate was the result of Oakland small-balling the crap out of the second inning.

The Dodgers managed to score in the fifth after some small-ball of their own. A.J. Ellis started the inning off with a walk. Joc Pederson followed with a walk of his own. One wild pitch and Jimmy Rollins single later, the Dodgers scored, tying it up 1-1. The scoring continued in the top of the eighth when Ellis crushed a three-run dinger, giving the Dodgers the lead, 4-1.

What Went Wrong

Pedro Baez, J.P. Howell, and Yimi Garcia could not close it down. Baez was given the nod in the eighth and promptly put men on base. Danny Valencia singled to center, Josh Phegley doubled to left, and Mark Canha doubled to right. It took just seven pitches for this game to go from good to, “Jesus fucking christ!” For funsies, let’s see if you can find where that is on this Fangraphs chart. http://www.fangraphs.com/graphframe.aspx?config=0&static=1120062&type=wins&num=0&h=450&w=800&date=2015-08-18&team=Athletics&dh=0
Source: FanGraphs

Mattingly pulled Baez for Howell and the 32-year old southpaw wasted no time in giving up the tying run. In fact, it only took the A’s three pitches to tie the game. Garcia came in to pitch the ninth and the tenth. Despite retiring the side in the bottom of the ninth, Garcia earned the loss after giving up back-to-back doubles to Canha and Billy Butler.

What To Look For

Andre Ethier went 1-2 as the designated hitter tonight. So far, though, he is having a renaissance season. Thus far, he is hitting .291/.369/.487 with a .369 wOBA and 140 wRC+. Interestingly, in his last 100 AB (arbitrary endpoint), he is hitting .350. His platoon splits are still atrocious as he can’t hit left-handed pitching worth a damn, but even more concerning are his home/away splits.

Home vs. Away Avg/OBP/SLG wOBA wRC+
Home .336/.422/.587 .431 186
Away .252/.320/.399 .311 96
Home (vs. RHP) .350/.444/.634 .459 202
Home (vs. LHP) .250/.273/.300 .249 57
Away (vs. RHP) .264/.337/.419 .326 110
Away (vs. LHP) .133/.133/.200 .143 -16

Ethier’s issues with lefties is no surprise, but his platoon splits on the road are troublesome. Really, -16 wRC+, how is that even possible! You have to be running the basepaths backwards.

What Is Next

Alex Wood will face off against Jesse Chavez. Dave Cameron wrote an interesting piece on Wood’s increasing strike rate since coming to the Dodgers. The Athletics are not a team that strikes out a lot. In fact, their offense ranks 28th in the league in K%. If the Dodgers are looking to capitalize on Wood’s increasing K-rate, it will likely happen after their series in Oakland.

First pitch is at 7:10 PM PST.

Game 3: Dodgers vs. Giants

Ricky Nolasco will hopefully lead the Dodgers to victory with yet another superb outing. The Dodgers lost last night 2-4, with the only runs coming off a two-run dinger from The King, Juan Uribe. If there was ever a time to earn a contract extension, I guess it’s now. I’m not too bummed over last night’s loss. Kershaw wasn’t as dominant, as he gave up 8 hits. However he did have 6Ks and no walks. Also, take into consideration that he gave up only three runs over seven innings. The game was lost thanks to a less than stellar lineup, weak offense, and a solid Madison Bumgarner. Not because of Kershaw.

Ethier left last night’s game after hitting a double in the bottom of the 8th. Apparently, he aggravated a sprained ankle. “But wait… When did he sprain his ankle?” is what you’re probably asking. He sprained it in Colorado, of all places. Fuck you Coors Field, you’re a fucking hellmouth. The injuries are really starting to concern me and other Dodgers fans. September is coming to a close and the biggest kick in the gooch would be if the injuries hamper the Dodgers during the playoffs.

Game time tonight is at 6:10 and on Primeticket.

Just a side note, I know I’ve been saying to expect certain posts soon. If you’ve been looking forward to those posts, I apologize. Work has been nuts lately, but I promise tonight you’ll see some more analysis, and hopefully a new podcast will be up.

Game Two: Dodgers vs. Giants

After winning in dramatic fashion last night, the Dodgers look to future Cy Young winner, Clayton Kershaw , to seal a victory. The Dodgers will be without Hanley Ramirez, Carl Crawford, and Adrian Gonzalez. Expect Michael Young to go 4-4 and lead the offense because of course he will. And it will be a night like that that will give Colletti enough reason to give him a disgusting contract. Game time is at 7:10 and on Primeticket.

ERA and why 0.00 ERA over three wins does not matter.

The next few posts will be sabermetric focused and provide some insight into why some stats are great for the layman, but are highly misleading. First up, ERA and what are some better ways to analyze a pitcher’s talent.

From time to time, especially when talking about my favorite player, Clayton Kershaw, I’ll gush about or bemoan a pitcher’s ERA. It just happens. Deep down I know ERA is a bad stat, but when it’s the one pitching stat that will forever be seared into baseball lore, it’s hard not to discuss Kershaw’s historically low ERA. And while Earned Run Average provides a glimpse into a pitcher’s effectiveness or ineffectiveness, it is through a heavily blurred lens. To explain why ERA is flawed, we have to examine what an earned run is.

An earned run is any run for which the pitcher is held accountable. For example, if Kershaw allowed Batter A to reach base on a hit and that Batter A came around to score, it is an earned run against Kershaw. Makes sense, right? It seems intuitive. But in a different scenario, say Kershaw allowed Batter A to reach base and then he was pulled from the game and was replaced by Brandon League. If League allowed Batter B to get a hit and Batter A scored, the earned run still goes against Kershaw because he allowed Batter A to get on base. You might be thinking, “But it shouldn’t count against League because it’s not his fault Batter A is on base.” And you’re right. But League was the reason why Batter A scored. The other problem with ERA is that some pitchers with a high ERA are backed by a lousy defense. Balls that get by slow or inept infielders, or drop in because the outfields are lazy schlops go against the pitcher who is normally lights-out. On a more analytic level, ERA does not account for league differences – American League pitchers are more likely to have higher ERAs since they face a designated hitter – nor does it consider differences in parks, the umpire, the scorer, and just random luck in general. So ERA doesn’t limit the amount of variables that can affect a pitcher in a single game. 

If you’re one who would just like to look at a stat and not have to put much thought into it, K/BB is a great ratio to measure a pitchers efficiency. It simply looks at a pitcher’s strikeout rate over walk rate. Kershaw has a 8.6/1.9 K/BB. So for every one walk, he has about 4.6 strikeouts. Brandon League has a 4.66/2.56 K/BB, or 1.82 strikeouts for every walk. Another quick stat to look at is WHIP, which is Walks + Hits per Innings Pitched. This stat will tell you how many walks and hits a pitcher allows per inning. A WHIP rate of 1.32 is about average, with 1.00 being excellent and 1.60 being awful. This season, Kershaw is sitting on a nice 0.86 WHIP rate. League is at 1.42

If you simply cannot let go of ERA, then I suggest you take a look at FIP. FIP stands for Fielding Independent Pitching. FIP looks at strikeouts, walks, home runs, hit-by-pitch pitches.  Yes, some variables that affect FIP are the umpire, the park, and some luck, but it does a great job at examining over which events a pitcher has control. FIP is scaled to ERA, so a person interested in this stat can easily understand the stat at first glance. A variant of FIP is xFIP and it is a slightly more accurate calculation of FIP – it doesn’t assume that home runs are the fault of the pitcher, so instead it looks at fly-ball to ground-ball ratio instead of home runs allowed. To have an idea of what is a good FIP or xFIP and what is awful: an average FIP/xFIP is 4.00, with excellent being at 2.90 and awful being 5.00. Clayton Kershaw has a 2.47/2.97 FIP/xFIP this season. League has a 4.78/4.17 FIP/xFIP.

Now, if you’re suspect of ERA, but K/BB, WHIP, FIP, and xFIP haven’t convinced you, perhaps tERA is a better stat. Again, like FIP and xFIP, it is scaled to ERA so looking at it is intuitive for any baseball fan. tERA does not differentiate between earned and unearned runs. How a ball is hit can determine how a ball is fielded or not fielded. Since how a ball is hit is determined by the pitcher, we can extend the logic and conclude that how a ball is fielded is also determined by the pitcher. A groundball is expected to be an out more so than a line drive is. A fly ball is more likely to lead to runs scored than a ground ball is. With that said, a fly-ball pitcher is more likely to have a higher expected run to expected out ratio. With that ratio, tERA can be determined and we can gauge how hard a pitcher is being hit and what exactly a pitcher is doing. For reference, an average tERA is 4.20, with 3.20 being excellent and 5.50 being awful. This season, Clayton Kershaw is at a 2.78 tERA. League, poor poor League is at a 4.86 tERA.

So there you have it. The next time you hear that Brandon League has found his groove with three wins and a 0.00 ERA over those three wins, take a look at his peripheral stats and let them guide you to a more accurate discussion.

TL;DR: Kershaw good, League bad.