• Mariano Rivera is one pitcher who has excelled in this department.This data could also be useful in understanding pitcher injury and fatigue.In addition, we have observed that some pitchers change their arm angles or shift on the pitching rubber based upon the handedness of the batter they are facing.At the most basic level, we have learned the average dimensions of the zone.Umpires typically call strikes on pitches over the plate between about 1.75 and 3.4 feet high, on average.The height and stance of the batter also shifts the zone up or down slightly.In the horizontal dimension, batters of different handedness see different strike zones.Lefty batters, on the other hand, have a strike zone also about two feet wide but shifted toward the outside by two inches.This is due to the large influence on the umpire’s call at the edge of the zone by the location of the pitch relative to the target set by the catcher.The average pitch location to a lefty is about two inches farther outside than the average pitch location to a righty.Umpires typically set up in the slot between batter and catcher in line with the inside edge of the plate.When the catcher slides outside, calling for a pitch on the outside corner, the umpire also tends to shift outside very slightly.The effect is small, but it may be enough to influence his line of sight to the outside edge of the plate.In addition, catcher mechanics in receiving the pitch cleanly and without unnecessary glove or body movements have been shown to affect the likelihood of a strike call.This helps to explain why umpires are more likely to give strike calls to pitches that hit the catcher target, even if they are a couple of inches off the edge of the plate.Marv White, the former chief technical officer of Sportvision, talked of creating a complete digital record of a baseball game.It offers the promise of accurate fielding evaluation.Several clubs have installed TrackMan radar in their stadiums and are analyzing the resulting data.None of this data is currently available to the public.All of this new digitized information on pitch trajectories has greatly expanded our understanding of the craft of pitching.We know in detail how pitches move and how pitchers choose to use them.We know the repertoire of every pitcher in the majors to an amazing degree of certainty.We are in the process of a gaining a much better understanding of the battle between the pitcher and the batter.We are learning about the strike zone and its effect on that confrontation.The data has potential to teach us about pitcher mechanics and injury prevention, and it holds promise for improving our projections of future player performance.This avalanche of data has unleashed a transformation in our understanding of our beloved game of baseball, and what we know about players’ skills and the minute details of their game performances is only likely to increase over time.Challenges remain, not only in learning how to understand the data and what it says about the game, but also in learning how to present the information in formats that are useful to fan and player alike.Nonetheless, knowledge is power, and the power of a curious fan to understand how the game of baseball works has never been greater.We live in interesting times.Is Jack Morris a Hall of Famer?Enriching the narrative even further, this marked a chance for the hometown boy to prove a point.The two aces swapped zeroes for seven innings, with both teams stranding six runners.In the top of the eighth, the Braves missed a golden opportunity when Lonnie Smith, who had led off the frame with a single, was decked by Twins second baseman Chuck Knoblauch, who feigned a double play throw as Terry Pendleton doubled to deep left center field.Smith slid, and after dusting himself off was only able to advance to third base.The Braves would leave the bases loaded without scoring, as would the Twins in the bottom half of the inning, even as they chased Smoltz.The two teams went into the ninth still tied.Morris mowed down the Braves 1–2–3, striking out Mark Lemke to end the inning.The Twins led off with consecutive singles against reliever Mike Stanton but failed to get a run across.Morris came out for the 10th inning.Pitchers had thrown shutouts in Game Seven of the World Series before, with the Yankees’ Ralph Terry doing so in a 1–0 game to close out the 1962 World Series, but never before had a pitcher taken a shutout beyond nine innings in the deciding game.The right hander won 254 games pitching for the Tigers, Twins, Blue Jays, and Indians.That Seventies GroupOn the surface, Morris’s credentials might appear worthy of the Hall of Fame.Of the 46 pitchers with at least 250 wins, 33 are enshrined.Even so, it has become an uphill battle for such pitchers to gain entry.Blyleven and Morris spent the better part of their first decade on the ballot looking as though their candidacies would play out the string as well.The next two years saw that support erode slightly, but his candidacy slowly climbed up off the canvas.Blyleven fell below 50 percent the following year, but rebounded to 61.9 percent in 2008, and finally topped 75 percent in 2011, his penultimate year of eligibility, after falling a mere five votes short the year before.Like Blyleven, it took him three years to clear that initial showing.His climb has been more gradual, but in 2010 he reached 52.3 percent.Despite Morris’s high win total, his candidacy for Cooperstown may well have stalled.An additional penalty of 10 points is applied if a player threw with the opposite hand.Still, the fact that six of Morris’s 10 comparables are Hall of Famers is a point in his favor as far as a case for Cooperstown is concerned.Morris, who completed 33 percent of his starts and averaged 7.1 innings per start, is somewhere in the middle.Finley, whose 7.3 strikeouts per nine is tops in this group, never led the league in either total or rate, but had years when he struck out more than 8.0 per nine.The highest of the group is Ruffing, whose teams scored 12 percent more runs than average overall, albeit in a fairly drastic split.Ruffing went 231–127, for a .645 winning percentage.Ruffing has the best support and the most wins, followed by Grimes, Feller, and Morris, with Finley, who has the worst support, bringing up the rear, and Bunning, whose support was almost exactly average, near the bottom.Still, it should be apparent from this the extent to which offensive support drives those win totals.Via the Pythagorean theorem, each extra percentage point difference in run support translates roughly to a .005 gain in winning percentage, or an extra win for every 200 decisions.All else being equal, Morris’s 6.3 percent advantage would translate to a record of 233–207 over the course of 440 decisions, and again, we have not yet delved into run prevention.An Ounce of Prevention Is Worth a Pound of WinsRun prevention is where Morris’s problem relative to the Hall of Fame really begins.Deadball era hurler Rusie was the furthest ahead of his leagues at 29 percent better, followed by Gibson, who pitched when scoring was at its low ebb in the 1960s, at 27 percent better.Scoring levels have fluctuated widely throughout baseball history.This is hardly unique among pitchers, Hall of Famer or otherwise.Niekro was lit for a 6.30 mark in his final year while pitching for three teams.All of them elevated their win totals by hanging on, but with the possible exception of Blyleven, none enhanced their Hall of Fame cases.And I did that, I won more than anybody else when I was there.I don’t know how to put it any other way.Over the years, researchers have sought this white whale of pitching to the score.Morris went 27–64 in those games, for a .296 winning percentage, while his teammates went 47–324 for a .127 winning percentage.Sutton, Frank Tanana, Ryan, Carlton, Perry, Blyleven, Moyer, John, and Jenkins.Morris’s 27 wins under such circumstances are nine more than anybody else’s.A pitcher’s job isn’t to collect wins, however.Far from measuring an individual pitcher’s brilliance or intestinal fortitude on a given day, wins are simply statistical cookies owed in large part to teammates for the confluence of adequate offensive, defensive, and bullpen support on a given day.On those days when Morris got the win despite allowing five or more runs, he owed more of those cookies to his teammates.A pitcher’s job is to prevent runs, and the vast wealth of raw data we have says that Morris wasn’t particularly special at doing so.That’s lower than all of the other positions, because pitching and defense together share the responsibility for the other half of the game that’s not offense.It makes no attempt to account for postseason performance, awards won, leagues led, milestone plateaus reached in significant categories, or historical importance.Both had the occasional dud of a start to offset some gems.He never finished higher than sixth in strikeouts, and while he never won a Cy Young, he finished an extremely close second to Pat Hentgen in 1996, losing by four points.Jack Morris was a very good pitcher for a very long time, a durable workhorse who ate a ton of innings, racked up a heap of wins, helped multiple teams win championships, and produced some indelible moments on the field.Superficially, his statistics bear a resemblance to many a Hall of Famer, but the more one places his performance in the proper context with advanced metrics, the less convincing his case becomes.That’s a level of immortality that Cooperstown can’t even top.It should be enough.Seemingly the only area in baseball exempt from this fastidiousness has been fielding, which has ever lagged behind other areas of study.Many were, and are, content to evaluate fielders based on little more than putouts, assists, and errors made.Much of our system of baseball scorekeeping has been handed down to us from sportswriter Henry Chadwick, whose plaque in Cooperstown reads the father of baseball. It’s not at all surprising that we inherited our most basic fielding stats from his efforts.The best player in a nine is he who makes the most good plays in a match, not the one who commits the fewest errors, and it is in the record of his good plays that we are to look for the most correct data for an estimate of his skill in the position be occupies.Aside from the silliness of having a formula to measure fielding prowess that is identical for each fielding position, the fundamental problem behind fielding percentage is that it only considers times when a fielder gets to a ball as an opportunity.Utterly worthless as a yardstick.They are not only misleading, but deceiving.Take Zeke Bonura, the old White Sox first baseman, generally regarded as a poor fielder.The fielding averages showed that he led the American League in fielding for three years.Zeke had good hands!Anything he reached, he held.But he was also slow moving and did not cover much territory.Balls that a quicker man may have fielded went for base hits, but the fielding averages do not reflect this.Rickey’s conclusion?There is nothing on earth anybody can do with fielding. For years, that was the state of the art of fielding analysis.It should surprise no one that Bill James was one of the first to come up with a novel system of fielding analysis.For teams, he came up with the idea of measuring defensive efficiency, which was simply the number of fielding outs divided by the number of balls in play.Range factor wasn’t without its problems, of course.The largest problem is that range factor was utterly worthless for teams, because it used games and innings as its measure of playing time.For a team season, those quantities are fixed.

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