Rotisserie Duck

Baseball Will Keep Us Together PDF Print E-mail
Rotisserie Duck
Written by Don Drooker   
Friday, 28 August 2015 00:00
Last week, the Old Duck posted this picture on his Facebook page with the comment, "This is what is known as personalized jerseys." Obviously, this beautiful couple has been sharing baseball memories for over 60 years, even if they might be rooting for different teams. She's a Giants fan, while he pulls for the Cardinals. They were at the ballpark celebrating their 63rd anniversary.

A similar reaction takes place when I cross paths with any long-time acquaintance after a decade or two and they find that I'm still the Commissioner of the same Rotisserie Fantasy Baseball league that started in 1984. They are genuinely surprised that in today's age of people drifting away from group activities (summarized brilliantly in Robert Putnam's book, "Bowling Alone"), this group has held together. Certainly, many of the participants have changed and just this year, we added a new owner, but in the end, the league is still strong and maybe even more competitive than ever.

Growing up as a prolific sponge of baseball statistics from books, magazines and baseball cards, I can still remember opening the March 1981 issue of the now defunct magazine called Inside Sports. The article by Daniel Okrent titled "The Year George Foster Wasn't Worth $36" was the first glimpse into what has become a vibrant industry intertwined with American sports. It outlined a baseball game developed by a group of New York writers that allowed fans to "own" their own team by having a pre-season auction and bidding on players whose stats would generate standings within the framework of the league. While the piece was exciting and interesting, Okrent and the others didn't really detail the rules until 1984, when they published the book "Rotisserie League Baseball."

Seeing that publication at the book store brought back the memory from the magazine article and I read the book cover-to-cover that night. The next day, I got on the phone and started calling friends, saying only "Go get this book and tell me if you're in." Within the next few days, they all said yes and we began this journey. That first season was so much fun, it can't really be described to people who don't play some form of fantasy sports, and I even had numerous phone calls with author Glen Waggoner in New York as we ironed out questions regarding rules interpretations. The result is that we are at least tied for the longest-running Rotisserie League in the country and when people ask about the longevity, I respond by saying that we have very seldom changed any of the rules.

The newer generation of fantasy players would probably feel that the book's "old school" rules are too restrictive or that they require too much of a commitment in time and effort. For us, that is exactly why we love the game as it was originally developed. As with the U.S. Constitution, we refer to those pioneers of the first Rotisserie League as "Founding Fathers" and it is incredible how often we look back at what they wrote 30 years ago and realize the wisdom they showed. For a brief summary, here are the basics.

> 23-man rosters chosen auction-style with a budget of $260.

> Position eligibility guidelines must be met at all times...1B, 3B, 1/3, 2B, SS, 2/S, C (2), OF (5), Utility and Pitchers (9).

> Trading available from Draft Day to August 31st.

> No initial reserve list, but injured or demoted players can be replaced from the free agent pool. Replacements are "linked" if the original player is reserved.

> Statistics based on eight (4x4) categories...BA, HR, RBI, SB, W, SV, ERA and Ratio (WHIP).

> With minor exceptions, FAAB (Free Agent Acquisition Budget) is only used after the All-Star break.

> Each team is allowed three Farm (minor league) players that do not count toward the 23-man roster.

> You can keep up to 15 players from season-to-season, but in most cases, contracts expire after three years.

Over the years, many fantasy players have asked me about our approach and the rationale behind rules decisions. Here are some of the things we haven't changed.

> "Linking" players is something most leagues don't want to deal with and there have certainly been a few complaints over the years about it being a pain in the posterior. The truth is that it's only a pain for the Commissioner and the reasoning behind the idea is one that we hold dear from the 1984 book - the decisions you make on Draft Day should be meaningful and the benefit a team might derive from an injury should be minimized. So, if you replace an injured player with a good performer in April, you can't just dump some bum you drafted when the injured player comes back.

> We've stayed with the 4x4 concept instead of going to the currently popular 5x5 because while adding Runs makes some sense, Strikeouts never seemed to belong with the other statistical categories. Even in a later edition of the book, the authors suggested using Innings Pitched instead of K's because it at least represented a pitcher getting outs.

> By not having FAAB bidding early in the season, we assist the parity of the league because free agent call-ups are in reverse order of the standings and the lower teams have a chance to bolster their rosters.

> There are no restrictions on trading other than the salary cap of $305 for the active 23-man roster. That allows teams to replace low-cost draftees who get hurt or sent down and to make reasonable trades, but puts a damper on "dump" trades. We don't have a committee to approve trades (how can anyone be objective when they have a team in the league) and even though every trade solicits whining from somebody, the Commissioner doesn't pass judgment. The closest I came to voiding a deal was in 2003 when a team fighting for the pennant seemed to be taking advantage of a team that had just joined the league, but after speaking to the new team and getting perspective on their re-building plan, I backed off. The decision was verified when that new team won the league championship in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

So, what rules have we tweaked or added and have they been positive?

> The original book suggested paying four (4) places - 50%, 25 %, 15 % and 10%. We expanded that years ago so that finishing in the first division of our 12-team league was worth something - 45%, 22.5%, 13.5%, 9%, 6% and 4%. In other words, we took 10% from each of the first four spots to add 5th and 6th.

> If a team activates one of their Farm players during the season and he doesn't exceed the rookie status levels (130 AB's or 50 IP), the team can put him back on the Farm the following year if he isn't on a major league roster. They do lose one year of his eligibility, but we didn't want teams penalized when they had nurtured a prospect over time.

> The worst decision ever made in our league was to allow the trading of future Farm picks. While it seemed like a fun idea at the time, the rule has unintended consequences. In 2009, a longtime member of the league let it be known on Draft Day that he was not going to be able to participate beyond the current season. Needless to say, he played to win that year and made bold moves along with countless trades. Early in the season, he indicated that he wouldn't be making any trades, as he didn't want to "leave the cupboard bare" for a prospective new owner. Less than week later, he proposed a couple of trades that were to include his team's Farm picks for the following year. I ruled that he couldn't do that because those assets were being taken away from a future owner and weren't really his to trade. My ruling applied to all teams and didn't need to be retroactive, as no other trades of that nature had transpired since the draft. He pontificated to all the owners about how selfish I was and that my decision was made to help my team (which was never in the pennant race and finished 6th). Of course, one could argue that he didn't need to tell us he was quitting in the first place and while that's true, it just confirms that the rule was a bad idea. He also made some outrageous FAAB bids late in the season, knowing that he wouldn't be around to pay the penalties the following April. He did win the league and I made a deal with him. I would pay the penalties myself for his promise to never speak to me again. 15 years earlier, I should have been smart enough to re-read the original book and the comment about trades..."Unless you want knife fights to break out among owners, prohibit all trades involving cash, players to be named later or future considerations. Trust us." We no longer allow the trading of future picks.

> Another area that the book doesn't cover is what happens in September. This has been a problem for many leagues across the country and of all the ideas we've developed, this one has been shared the most. The problem arises when major league teams are allowed to expand their rosters as of September 1st. For fantasy purposes, the main area of consternation has to do with injuries. If a player gets hurt on 9/2, there's a reasonable chance his MLB team won't even bother to put him on the DL because they're no longer limited to 25-man rosters. If that player is on your fantasy team, what do you do? With today's proliferation of baseball information on the Internet, you'll see conflicting reports and inaccurate speculation. For a Commissioner, it is essential that the league have clear guidelines to handle these situations. Here are our guidelines for replacing a player in September.

1) Currently on the DL
2) Gets placed on the DL
3) Hasn't played for at least 15 days
4) Is reported by MLB, ESPN or a team's official website as being "out for the season" - this must take place at least 15 days before the end of the season

If a league doesn't have something like this in place, the Commissioner will get e-mails with ten (or nine, or eight, or four) days left in the season from owners wanting to replace an "out for the season" player. Also, teams will get upset because some "report" on the Internet says a player is "probably out for the season" even though the writer has no specific knowledge of the injury. Having guidelines usually (but not always) keeps the rhetoric within reason. In the meantime, the Old Commish is the final arbiter.

Of course, every league will have members who try to push the envelope on rules and lobby for new interpretations. We have one original franchise that prides themselves in finding loopholes, but our youngest owner has thrown down the gauntlet in an attempt to take away their title. His questions are almost always about something that can't possibly happen and usually require at least five or six e-mails to answer. After I'm long gone, this 20-something will probably be a very rich man once he conjures up a super-hero called "Hypothetical Man." Earlier this season, however, he needed to be more active than hypothetical when Kirk Nieuwenhuis was on his reserve list the day he hit three home runs.
Last Updated on Thursday, 27 August 2015 22:02
Mickey Mantle Versus Davy Crockett PDF Print E-mail
Rotisserie Duck
Written by Don Drooker   
Friday, 21 August 2015 00:00
For boys of the Baby Boomer generation, opening packs of Topps baseball cards was a rite of passage. Not only did we get that delicious bubble gum, we also had the chance to randomly pull the card of our favorite player. In the 50's and 60's, that could have been Mickey Mantle or Ted Williams. How about Roberto Clemente, Willie Mays, Pete Rose, Sandy Koufax or Ted Kluszewski? Or Jackie Robinson and the other "Boys Of Summer" from Brooklyn. What most of us didn't know was that other kids our age were also opening packs and looking for Fess Parker, Elvis Presley, James Arness, Guy Williams and three funny guys named Curly, Moe and Larry.

Long before the term "Pop Culture" became part of the lexicon, youngsters were fascinated about celebrities and fictional characters from every walk of life. Topps, Bowman, Fleer and a number of lesser companies manufactured "non-sports" cards during this era and looking back today, it gives us a glimpse of what society embraced in the culture of "Happy Days." As with most historical items that are scarce, the value of these cards has also increased dramatically over the years and the prices listed reflect a card in "Near Mint" (NM 7) condition.  

Television was becoming America's fascination in the early-to-mid 50's and a number of the sets produced during this time used the stars of the new medium as the draw.

> 1952 Bowman NBC Radio / TV Stars - This set included many of the pioneers of TV including Jimmy Durante, Pinky Lee, Paul Winchell and Dinah Shore. The two most valuable cards (at $75) are Bob Hope and Groucho Marx. The set was offered again in 1953 and the issue increased from 36 to 96 cards.

> 1956 Topps Davy Crockett - This show from Walt Disney (and starring Fess Parker) was one of the most popular of the time and the 80-card set is one of the best in this category. As with baseball cards, kids held their possessions together with rubber bands, so the top card (#1) and the bottom card (#80) are the most difficult to find in nice condition. #1, known as "King of the Wild Frontier", books for $150.

> 1958 Topps TV Western - Westerns were all over the TV schedule in the 50's and this set included many of the cowboy stars of the day. Included were James Arness from "Gunsmoke", Steve McQueen from "Wanted Dead or Alive", Richard Boone of "Have Gun Will Travel" and Ward Bond of "Wagon Train". Some of the other series highlighted in the set will test your knowledge of trivia. How about "Boots and Saddles", "Wells Fargo" and "Yancy Derringer"? The average card books for about $25.

> 1958 Topps Zorro - Another TV series for Disney, this one starred Guy Williams as the masked man of mystery. The 88 cards in the set are valued at about $35 each except for #1 and #88, which are $80.

> 1959 Fleer Three Stooges - The highest demand set produced in this time frame, the set has 96 cards and is very difficult to find in nice condition. The #1 card is of Curly and it will set you back over $600. #'s 2 and 3 are Moe and Larry and their book value is over $200 each. Interestingly, there were three checklist cards included in the set and they're very hard to find in unmarked condition. The current value of the checklists is $400 each.  

In the 60's, you could find cards from "The Beverly Hillbillies", "The Adams Family", "The Munsters" and "Gilligan's Island".

Another category covered by the card issues of the era is historical figures and events.

> 1950 Topps Freedoms War - This set included the likes of George Patton and Dwight Eisenhower.

> 1952 Topps Look 'N See - A very popular set, it focuses on more than 150 years of famous figures from American history. You'll find cardboard of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Charles Lindberg, Amelia Earhart and many others. Even common cards book for $40.

The music of the day and the emergence of Rock n' Roll were also captured in trading cards.

> 1956 Topps Elvis Presley - A 66-card set of the "King" in his early days. "Don't Be Cruel" (#11) is worth $55, as is "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You" (#19).

> 1957 Topps Hit Stars - A combination of singers and other celebrities weaves through this 88-card set. You'll find Bobby Darin, Little Richard and Fats Domino as well as James Dean, Jerry Lewis and Elizabeth Taylor. Cards book from $25-$35.

Science Fiction was also a mainstay of the card companies during these years.

> 1962 Topps Mars Attacks - This 55-card set is still in high demand as even common cards book for $100. The #1 card (The Invasion Begins) and the #55 checklist both have a current value of $800.

> 1964 Outer Limits - Common cards from this 50-card set are worth $60.

> 1966 Topps Batman - This top-rated TV show motivated the card manufacturer to put out five separate sets, some in black and white and others in color. The key cards are worth $75-$150.

> 1967 Leaf Star Trek - Kirk, Spock and all the other iconic characters are in this 72-card set. Common cards book for $40 while card #1 (No Time For Escape) is worth $250.

Other recognizable SciFi story lines can be found in the '66 Donruss "Green Hornet" set, the '66 Topps "Lost In Space" offering and the '67 "Planet of the Apes" set.

In a future visit, we'll take a look at Wrestling cards from the 50's and then jump to the 70's and see what "Star Wars" has to offer.
Last Updated on Thursday, 20 August 2015 22:35
Heinie Manush and Hy Tech PDF Print E-mail
Rotisserie Duck
Written by Don Drooker   
Friday, 14 August 2015 00:00
Henry Emmett "Heinie" Manush first crept into my consciousness in 1954, when he was a coach for the Washington Senators and his baseball card (#187) was part of the Topps set. He was 53 years old at the time, but the man on the card appeared to be at least 70. The back of the card said that he was "One of the best hitters of his day, batting over .300 in 11 of his 15 major league seasons." For a youngster just learning about the history of the game, this was where information was found and the unusual name always stuck in a far corner of my brain as part of old school baseball.

Today, of course, a quick click at will tell you that Heinie made his major league debut at age 21 with the Detroit Tigers in 1923. He led the AL with a .378 batting average in 1926 and hit .378 again in 1928, finishing 2nd to Mickey Cochrane in the MVP voting. With over 2,500 hits and a lifetime BA of .330, he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1964 by the Veteran's Committee.

One of my closest friends is a technology geek. He loves having all the gadgets but somehow can't get them to function properly. Invariably, his smart phone, laptop, iPad or wi-fi connection isn't working and he diligently labors to fix them himself. Just a week or two ago, his e-mail system wasn't delivering the messages from his fantasy league's commissioner and the only way he could figure out who was on the waiver wire was to have the commish send updates to his three different e-mail addresses and hope that one of them would work. Based on this history, he's been nicknamed "Hy Tech".

As baseball evolves into the technological age and discussions among friends lead to disagreements between old-school fans and stat heads, you can't help but wonder how the change in the game would be embraced by the likes of Heinie and Hy.

Starting this season, MLB has state-of-the-art video technology (called Statcast) available in every ballpark. If you watch the MLB Network, the new numbers are being rolled out to the viewers. Included in the new process is data about pitching, hitting, baserunning and fielding. Just last week, the panel was reviewing "route efficiency" of outfielders.  Route efficiency is defined as "Divide the distance covered by the fielder by a straight-line distance between the player's position at batted ball contact and where the ball was fielded." In other words, more conclusive data for Gold Glove voters.

While some of the statistics are still proprietary, does provide a glimpse into what we have in store. Here are some category leaders through August 8th.

> Only eight batters have hit a home run this season that went at least 475 feet: Nelson Cruz (483), Josh Donaldson (481), Hanley Ramirez (480), Giancarlo Stanton (four times with 479 being the longest), Kris Bryant (477), Joc Pederson (477), Mike Trout (477) and Brandon Belt (475).

> Over the years, we've heard scores of broadcasters say, "The ball sounds different coming off his bat." For stat geeks, this translates to "Exit Velocity", the speed that the ball comes off the bat. Not surprisingly, Giancarlo Stanton has eight of the top 11 balls exceeding 117 mph (including the #1 ranking at 120 mph). The only other hitters in this tier are Nelson Cruz (119), Mike Trout (118) and Carlos Gonzalez (117). Amazingly, Gonzalez's was the only one that ended up being an out.

> Needless to say, Stanton also leads the way in "average hit velocity" at 98 mph, but some of the other guys with exceptional contact might pique your interest. #2 is Cubs rookie Kyle Schwarber at 97 mph, followed by Cardinals rookie Randall Grichuk at 95 mph. A few more traditional names are also in the top ten with Miguel Cabrera (95), Ryan Braun (95) and Mike Trout (94).

> In one of the strangest statistical tables you'll ever see, Statcast lists the 50 fastest individual pitches of 2015. All 50 were delivered by Aroldis Chapman!

> How about average pitch velocity with a four-seam fastball? If you took a wild guess and said Chapman would lead the way, give yourself a gold star. He's the only major league hurler to average better than 100 mph (100.2). Some on the list may seem logical while others might be a surprise. #2 is Pirates middle reliever Arquimedes Caminero at 98.5 followed by the Royals' Kelvin Herrera at 98.3. Others exceeding 98 mph are Trevor Rosenthal, Carter Capps and Bruce Rondon. Of course, relievers only need to pitch in short stints, so the 97 mph averages of starting pitchers Nathan Eovaldi and Noah Syndergaard are very impressive.

All this is just an introductory lesson. As time goes on, you'll be hearing about the "arm strength" of fielders (wonder what Shawon Dunston's velocity was from shortstop), the "acceleration" of baserunners and the "spin rate" of a pitch. Not sure how Heinie would react to all of this, but Hy is chomping at the bit.
Last Updated on Friday, 14 August 2015 07:24
Deadline Deals In The Fantasy World PDF Print E-mail
Rotisserie Duck
Written by Don Drooker   
Friday, 07 August 2015 00:00
Some people love the holiday season and others would just as soon say "Bah Humbug" and hunker down until it's over. Or, you could just embrace Jerry Seinfeld's non-religious holiday of Festivus (for the rest of us). It seems that MLB General Managers approach the final days of July in the same manner. Some embrace it, others ignore it and many just can't wait for it to end. Should they be a buyer or seller? In the era of the "Wild Card", the decisions aren't easy.

Last week's feeding frenzy had premiere players going all over the place. Think about the Fantasy Baseball lineup that could be fielded with individuals involved in deadline deals. Cole Hamels and David Price top your rotation while Jonathan Papelbon closes after Joakim Soria and Jim Johnson set up. Ben Revere could lead off and steal some bases, Gerardo Parra moves him over and then Troy Tulowitzki and Yoenis Cespedes (rhymes with "Festivus") bring him in to score. Or you could opt to hit Revere at the bottom of the lineup and have Jose Reyes at the top. Carlos Gomez brings the tantalizing assets of power plus speed while Jose Peraza and Hector Olivera wait in the wings.

For historical perspective, let's look at some deadline deals over the last 20 seasons and see how the players' stats would have looked on your fantasy roster.

> As "The Big Unit" just entered the Hall of Fame, let's start with Randy Johnson. On 7/31/98, the Mariners traded Johnson (in his walk year) to the Astros for Freddy Garcia and Carlos Guillen. In the last two months of the season, he went 10-1 with a 1.28 ERA and led Houston to the post-season.

> For all true Red Sox fans, the trade made on 7/31/04 will always be memorable because it helped bring the first title to Fenway Park since 1918. Nomar Garciaparra was dealt to the Cubs in a four-team deal that brought back Doug Mientkiewicz and Orlando Cabrera. They also swapped a player named Henri Stanley for Dave Roberts and these three acquisitions were instrumental in the Sox success.

> Unsuspecting Dodgers fans created "Mannywood" in the Summer of '08, when Manny Ramirez was acquired from the Red Sox on July 31st. The slugging left fielder had two months that were other-worldly (.396 BA, 17 HR, 53 RBI) as he led the team to the NLCS. Of course, he was cheating but nobody cared. Today, he could take those female hormones and just call himself Manuela.

> On 7/26/00, the D'Backs acquired Curt Schilling from the Phillies. In the next two seasons, he posted records of 22-6 and 23-7 while being named Co-MVP of the 2001 World Series. Who did the Phillies get in the deal? Omar Daal, Nelson Figueroa, Travis Lee and Vicente Padilla.

> Cliff Lee was a back-to-back deadline contributor. On 7/29/09, he was traded to the Phillies and won seven games down the stretch. In the post-season, he was even better as he went 4-0 with 1.80 ERA. In the off-season, he was dealt to the Mariners but the following July, he moved again, this time to the Rangers and helped them to the World Series.

> Scott Rolen had worn out his welcome in Philadelphia when the Phillies traded him to the Cardinals on 7/29/02. He had 14 homers and 44 RBI in the last two months of the season and then proceeded to make four consecutive All-Star teams with the Redbirds. The Phillies return on investment? Bud Smith, Mike Timlin and Placido Polanco.

> The Cardinals also had a somewhat successful trade on 7/31/97, when they dealt Blake Stein, T.J. Mathews and Eric Ludwick for a tall, muscular first baseman named Mark McGwire. You might recall his 70 home runs the following year.

Many other top-shelf players have moved in late-July, including Fred McGriff ('93), Roy Oswalt ('10), CC Sabathia ('08) and David Cone ('95).

As the old baseball clich├ę says, it takes years before a trade can be properly judged. The 2015 deals are too new to rate, but fun to watch.
Last Updated on Friday, 07 August 2015 00:27
Chasing Plate Discipline PDF Print E-mail
Rotisserie Duck
Written by Don Drooker   
Friday, 31 July 2015 00:00

In the irresistible baseball movie "A League of Their Own", Geena Davis' character Dottie chastises her younger sister Kit (played by Lori Petty) by saying "Lay off the high ones!" The sister, like thousands of Little League players of the last six decades, responds by saying, "I like the high ones!" If we went through a time portal and the girls were having this conversation in 2015 instead of 1945, Dottie would be a SABR member and her critique of Kit's hitting style would be more like, "You have lousy plate discipline and your chase percentage is much too high."

Last week on the MLB Network, the usual suspects on the panel were discussing the resurgence of Albert Pujols this season at age 35. It was agreed that health was a major factor and that he had more stability in his swing without the impact of plantar fasciitis and a sore knee. Then they flashed some statistics on the screen and indicated another important factor was the reduction in his "chase percentage." Intuitively, fans have figured out by merely watching Pujols since he joined the Angels that his plate discipline was significantly worse than during his Cardinal days. However, with today's advanced metrics, we now have actual evidence of how often any individual hitter swings at a pitch out of the strike zone. calls it "O-Swing Percentage" (O representing out of the zone), but we'll use chase percentage because even the most old school fan understands what it means to "chase" a bad pitch.

The Old Duck had the privilege of seeing both Yogi Berra and Vladimir Guerrero play and they were certainly two of the greatest "bad ball" hitters in the history of the game. The real issue, however, is that for every hitter like Yogi or Vlad, there are hundreds who never succeed with that approach. Ted Williams once said, "the only thing dumber than a pitcher is two pitchers" but a genius IQ isn't needed to figure out that if a hitter swings at pitches that aren't strikes, you don't need to throw strikes to get him out. Pitching is dominating the game at the moment and one reason could be today's information age. In the 50's, the adage was that once a hitter got around the league, pitchers would figure out his weakness. Today, video of every at-bat from every MLB game is at the fingertips of pitchers and coaching staffs.

Another interesting factor that improves modern pitching is that teams are much more careful with their investments and the game now embraces pitch counts and innings limits. This also leads to fresher arms being in the game in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings. Veteran fans point out great hurlers from their youth who pitched every fourth day and accumulated 300 IP in a season, but for every Robin Roberts or Jim Palmer, there are hundreds who had their careers ruined by over-use. Think about these two examples.

In a recent SI piece about the Mets and their staff, Tom Verducci told the story of pitching coach Dan Warthen. He reached the major leagues at age 22 with Gene Mauch's Expos in 1975 and in mid-July with the team already 15 games out of first place, Mauch allowed Warthen to throw 142 pitches in 10 innings. Two days later, Warthen was brought to pitch in relief in a game the Expos were losing. His arm never felt the same. Over the next six weeks, Warthen exceeded 130 pitches four times, including once where he threw 164 pitches in 11 innings. By age 26, he was out of the majors and by age 29, he was out of baseball.

Current MLB staff member John D'Acquisto was the Giants' first-round pick at age 18 in the 1970 draft. In his first full minor league campaign (1971), he compiled 233 IP with 14 complete games in the Midwest League. The following year, it was 209 IP and 17 complete games in the California League and then in '73, 212 IP and 14 complete games in the PCL. 700+ IP by the time he was 21! In his rookie season with the Giants (1974), he made 36 starts and pitched 215 innings and, essentially, was never the same. His lifetime record was 34-51 with 15 Saves. Fortunately for today's young pitchers, the 1970's are just baseball history and not a blueprint for success.

With that as our backdrop, let's look at today's hitters and see which ones have the poorest plate discipline. Or if you're being optimistic, which ones are most aggressive. Through games of July 24th, here's the bottom ten in relation to swinging at pitches out of the strike zone.

1) Adam Jones, Orioles OF - 48.3%
2) Pablo Sandoval, Red Sox 3B - 47.9%
3) Avisail Garcia, White Sox OF - 46.1%
4) Jimmy Paredes, Orioles DH - 43.3%
5) Marlon Byrd, Reds OF - 42.7%
6) Evan Gattis, Astros DH - 42.4%
7) Kevin Pillar, Blue Jays OF - 42.2%
8) Salvador Perez, Royals C - 41.9%
9) Nolan Arenado, Rockies 3B - 41.5%
10) Josh Harrison, Pirates 3B - 41.1%

That group probably includes some players you expected to see and others who are surprises. Another interesting component to this analysis is that all free swingers aren't created equal. It isn't just swinging at bad pitches that matters, it's how often you swing and miss. For example, Sandoval has the best contact rate on bad pitches at 76% while Perez and Pillar come in under 55%.

On the flip side, let's look at the most disciplined hitters this season.

1) Curtis Granderson, Mets OF - 20.5%
2) Joey Votto, Reds 1B - 20.9%
3) George Springer, Astros OF - 21.3%
4) Matt Carpenter, Cardinals 3B - 21.4%
5) Carlos Santana, Indians 1B - 21.7%
6) Dexter Fowler, Cubs OF -22.0%
7) Alex Gordon, Royals OF - 22.1%
8) Russell Martin, Blue Jays C - 22.5%
9) Paul Goldschmidt, D'Backs 1B - 22.8%
10T) Michael Brantley, Indians OF - 23.0%
10T) Jose Bautista, Blue Jays OF - 23.0%
10T) Brett Gardner, Yankees OF - 23.0%

Your baseball experience would lead you to think that the second list would be made up of leadoff hitters, line-drive hitters and slap hitters. Looking at the list, Carpenter, Fowler and Gardner might fit that criteria but certainly not Springer, Goldschmidt and Bautista. Possibly the most impressive stat from the research is that even when Brantley does occasionally swing at a ball outside the zone, he makes contact 86.1% of the time. No one else on the list is above 72%. When he swings at pitches that are strikes, his contact rate is 97.3%, the best in baseball.

And, how about the leading MVP candidates? Bryce Harper is more disciplined than you think at 29.3% and Mike Trout is even better at 28.0%.

Just to validate that the numbers aren't fluky, Sandoval had the worst number in baseball last year (48.1%) followed closely by Perez at 46.2%. Byrd and Jones were also in the bottom ten for 2014. Last year's best was Carpenter at 19.3% while Santana and Gardner were also in the top ten.

In the modern age, there are no longer any secrets in baseball.

Last Updated on Thursday, 30 July 2015 23:18
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