What you need to know from the 2017 Bill James Handbook

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April 12, 2016: Los Angeles Dodgers opening ceremony before the game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Adam Davis/Icon Sportswire)

The Bill James Handbook 2017 is within reach on my desk right now, and that’s where it will be throughout the offseason. The folks at ACTA Sports make sure each year that this invaluable guide to the past season and the season ahead is available as soon as the World Series ends. This way, every fan and baseball mind has great, and unique, information at their immediate disposal.

One of my favorite sections each season, and for many the most valuable, are the estimable Bill James’ and the team from Baseball Info Solutions’ projections for the season ahead.

James takes pride in his successful projections from last year’s edition, such as:

  • Albert Pujols hitting 31 homers
  • Adam Jones hitting 29 homers
  • Chase Headley hitting 14 homers
  • Nolan Reimold hitting nine doubles, six homers, and walking 22 times

Those are just four of the examples that James nailed perfectly. But he is also honest about his failings:

  • Projecting 13 homers for Daniel Murphy (he hit 25)
  • Projecting a .258 season for Cameron Maybin (he hit .315)
  • And while the team correctly projected 552 AB for DJ LeMahieu, James thought he would have 157 hits and a .284 BA, while he had 192 hits and a .348 BA

As James writes, “So sometimes we’re mostly right about what a player will do, and sometimes we’re completely wrong. Take it for what you think it is worth.”

Nine to Know: 2017 Projections from the Bill James Handbook

There are projections for every big league player for 2017. With that in mind, let’s do what GMs are doing and look at nine projections for free-agents.

  • Yoenis Cespedes — In 2016, Cespedes hit 31 homers and drove home 86. James expects pretty much the same with 30 homers and 85 RBI in 2017. That means that many teams will be after him, including the Mets.
  • Justin Turner — Turner hit .275 with 27 homers and 90 RBI in 2016. James does not expect Turner to repeat his performance from his contract season: 17 homers, 73 RBI, and only a .228 BA.
  • Aroldis Chapman — Chapman now has a World Series ring to go along with his 36 saves and 1.55 ERA in 2016. James anticipates 37 saves and a 1.83 ERA in 2017.
  • Edwin Encarnacion — Encarnacion will be 34 in in the 2017 season. As usual, he was a beast in 2016 with a .263 BA, 42 HR, 127 RBI. Next season, James thinks he will hit .259 with 38 HR and 91 RBI. It’s a pretty safe bet that Dave Dombrowski has Edwin’s agent on his speed dial.
  • Ian Desmond — Desmond is in position to cash in on some money he may have left on the table in the past. Desmond hit .285 with a .782 OPS, 22 HR, 86 RBI, and 21 steals in 2016. Next season, he is expected to hit .261 with a .738 OPS, 20 HR, 79 RBI, and 17 steals.
  • Mark Melancon — In 2016, Melancon had 47 saves and a 1.61 ERA for the Pirates and Nationals. Projected by James of saving 45 with a 2.04 ERA next season, I have the feeling that Melancon will be a big winner this offseason.
  • Jose Bautista — Time is not on Jose’s side as he will be 36 for the 2017 season. Bautista hit 22 homers, drove home 69, and had a .234 BA in just 116 games for the Jays as he battled injuries. Bill James projects a return to form with 33 homers, 91 RBI and a .242 BA in 2017.
  • Rich Hill — Everybody knows how Hill went from pitching indy ball in 2015 to becoming an effective starter for the Dodgers. Now, his accountant is going to become aware of it as well. Last season, while battling blisters and other owies, Hill went 3-2 with a 1.83 ERA. Next season, James anticipates a 9-4 record with a 3.02 ERA. That’ll be just fine for teams looking for a middle-of-the-rotation starter.
  • Mark Trumbo — There was thunder in Trumbo’s bat this season for the Orioles. Mark hit 47 homers, drove home 108, and hit .256. For 2017, Bill James anticipates Trumbo will hit 36 homers (just like Mike Trout) drive home 81, and compile a .253 batting average. That should be enough for a good size contract for the 31-year old slugger
22 August 2016: Baltimore Orioles right fielder Mark Trumbo (45) hits a two run home run against the Washington Nationals at Orioles Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, MD. (Photograph by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire)

(Photograph by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire)

Projections are just a small part of the great book

The book is filled with items you will spend more time with than you can anticipate. For example, you will find it not at all surprising to see that Clayton Kershaw is on the top of the starting pitching rankings for 2016, but I was a little shocked to find that Felix Hernandez had dropped to #31 by the end of the season and that the 43-year old Bartolo Colon was #41.

How about this beauty? Dustin Pedroia’s singles produced 63.1 runs for the Red Sox, greater than any hitter produced with doubles, triples, or walks, and all but two home-run hitters. Pedroia was also the winner of John Dewan’s Fielding Bible Award for second base in 2016. There’s a chapter in the book all about those as well.

Dewan also has a chapter on shifts. A quick stat for you: In 2016, MLB teams shifted 28,074 times and saved 359 runs.

Speaking of saving runs, Lindsay Zeck’s chapter on 2016 Fielding Statistics quickly tells us that Mookie Betts, the right fielder for the Boston Red Sox, saved his team 32 runs in 2016, the most of any player.

Zeck’s chapter on base-running is another one where you will find you started comparing one player’s second-to-home ability to another, then another and time keeps on moving as you get engrossed in the numbers.

I just learned that 99.3 percent of balls hit 320 to 339 feet were outs; only 0.7 percent were homers. So, when you see ballparks with odd dimensions, you certainly can’t count on the shortest fence being the most likely home run destination.

The Career Register is the heart of the book and includes the career stats of every active major league player. I will be honest, I wish the book would eliminate this section that has data that can easily be found on Baseball-Reference and expand some the other chapters both in terms of content and point size. The book is packed with stats with tiny type.

When you reach page 371 of this over-600-page opus, you feel that you have reached the chapter that GMs are studying like crazy this offseason. Joe Rosales’ chapter on relief pitching is filled with data about usage, inherited runners, saves, and relief results. After seeing the success of the Royals, Indians and Cubs, you are missing out if you don’t truly study this chapter.

Scott Spratt has a great chapter on pitchers hitting, fielding and holding runners, and hitters pitching with all sorts of great stuff.

Now do you see why GMs are reading this?

I didn’t include every chapter that’s in this book. You will find so much more when you order it from Amazon or wherever you get great baseball books. And do me a solid, email with some of the great nuggets you find from your perusals.

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Do you remember these Cubs who didn’t win?

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Leon Durham Chicago Cubs circa 1983

Ernie Banks would have loved the moment. As the 2016 World Champion Chicago Cubs celebrated their amazing seven-game victory, I could not help but think of Mr. Cub and all the other great (and not so great) players this franchise has seen wear the Cubs uniform.

What follows is a collection of just some of the players and just some of the reasons to remember them. To get on this list, you must have played for the Cubs and never won a World Championship.

I will update this list during the offseason, hopefully with your help. Send me a Cubbie or send me a moment to remember about a player and I will expand the list.

If you know someone from the Cubs family, give them a big smile from the rest of us.

12 May 1970: Ron Santo batting in game action in a MLB game pitting the Chicago Cubs against the Atlanta Braves at Wrigley Field, Chicago, Il

12 May 1970: Ron Santo batting in game action in a MLB game pitting the Chicago Cubs against the Atlanta Braves at Wrigley Field, Chicago, Il

Here’s to Ernie Banks and all the Cubs players who played so many games and never experience the joy of winning it all:

Billy Williams – Hall of Famer

Ryne Sandberg – Hall of Famer

Andre Dawson – Hall of Famer

Lou Brock – Hall of Famer

Ron Santo – Hall of Famer

Phil Cavarretta

Stan Hack

Gabby Hartnett – Hit the legendary “Homer in the Gloamin” in 1938 – Hall of Famer

Mark Grace

Don Kessinger

Ken Hubbs – NL ROY in 1962; killed in plane crash in 1964 Bill Nicholson

Billy Herman – Hall of Famer

Charlie Grimm

Shawon Dunston

Glenn Beckert

Aramis Ramirez

Augie Galen – Became first Cub to homer from both sides of the plate in a game in 1937

Woody English

Richie Ashburn – Hall of Famer

Hank Sauer – 1952 MVP

Jimmie Foxx – Hall of Famer

Jerome Walton – 1989 ROY

Frank Schulte

Chuck Klein – Hall of Famer

Tony Lazzeri – Hall of Famer

Billy Jurges

Dale Long – In 1955, Cubs run out of catchers and first baseman Long becomes first left-handed catcher since 1905

Jody Davis

Ralph Kiner – Hall of Famer

Starlin Castro

Rogers Hornsby – Hall of Famer

Monte Irvin – Hall of Famer

Rabbit Maranville – Hall of Famer

Riggs Stephenson

Geovany Soto – 2008 ROY

Bill Buckner

Heinie Zimmerman – had a 9 RBI game in 1911

Fred Lindstrom – Hall of Famer

Andy Pafko

George Kelly – Hall of Famer

Alfonso Soriano

Kiki Cuyler – Hall of Famer

Randy Hundley

Leon Durham

Derrek Lee

Hack Wilson – Drove home 191 runs in 1930 – Hall of Famer

15 May 2005: Greg Maddux, starting pitcher for the Chicago Cubs, on the mound against the Washington Nationals, as the Nationals defeat the visiting Cubs 5-4, to take the 3-game series three games to two, at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC.

Icon Sportswire

Here’s to the Cubs pitchers who started so many games:

Ferguson Jenkins – Hall of Famer

Rick Reuschel

Greg Maddux – Hall of Famer

Bill Lee

Charlie Root – He was the pitcher for Babe Ruth’s alleged “called shot”

Carlos Zambrano

Jon Lieber – Won 20 games in 2001

Hippo Vaughn

Don Cardwell – Pitched a 1960 No-hitter

Guy Bush

Dick Ellsworth

Sam Jones – Pitched a no-hitter in 1955 that ends with him walking the bases loaded and then striking out the side

Claude Passeau

Dizzy Dean – Hall of Famer

Pete Alexander – Hall of Famer

Jaime Moyer – Most strikeouts by a Cubs lefty in a game (12)

Bill Hands

Ken Holtzman – Pitched two no-hitters

Dennis Eckersley – Hall of Famer

Pat Malone

Burleigh Grimes – Hall of Famer

Steve Trachsel

Robin Roberts – Hall of Famer

Rick Sutcliffe – CYA winner

Lon Warneke

Burt Hooten – Pitched a 1972 no-hitter

Larry French

Sherriff Blake

Kerry Wood – Struck out 20 Astros in a game in 1998

Paul Minner

Glen Hobbie

Johnny Schmitz

Ted Lilly

Frank Castillo

Milt Pappas – Pitched a 1972 no-hitter

Bill Bonham

Ryan Dempster

DEnnis Eckersley Chicago Cubs circa 1984

Dennis Eckersley Chicago Cubs circa 1984

Here’s to the Cubs pitchers who relieved in so many games:

Carlos Marmol

Lee Smith

Don Elston

James Russell

Kyle Farnsworth

Willie Hernandez

Bruce Sutter – 1979 CYA winner

Paul Assenmacher

Terry Adams

Michael Wuertz

Hoyt Wilhelm – Hall of Famer

Dick Tidrow

Bob Howry

Phil Regan

Turk Lown

Les Lancaster

Lindy McDaniel

Guy Bush

Turk Wendell

Ted Abernathy

Dutch Leonard

Zip Zabel – Pitched 18.1 innings in relief in a 19-inning game in 1915

April 16 2010: Broadcaster and former Arizona Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenly (right) is interviewed prior to the game Friday at Wrigley Field, Chicago, Illinois.

Here’s to the Cubs announcers who brought the fans the games:

Keith Moreland

Judd Sirott

Cory Provus

Bob Brenly

Joe Carter

Dave Otto

Andy Masur

Chip Caray

Josh Lewin

Thom Brennaman

Ron Santo

Dave Nelson

DeWayne Staats

Steve Stone

Harry Caray

Jim West

Vince Lloyd

Lloyd Pettit

Lou Boudreau

Jack Quinlan

Milo Hamilton

Gene Elston

Harry Creighton

Marty Hogan

Bud Campbell

Joe Wilson

Bert Wilson

Jack Brickhouse

Charlie Grimm

Ronald Reagan

Bob Hawk

Pat Flanagan

Bob Elson

Hal Totten

Quin Ryan – broadcast first Cubs game on WGN in 1925

May 20, 2005; Chicago, IL, USA; Umpire, Fieldin Culbreth Chicago White Sox manager, Ozzie Guillen against Chicago Cubs manager, Dusty Baker on May 20, 2005 in Chicago, Ill.  The White Sox won 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Jay Drowns/TSN/ZUMA Press. (©) Copyright 2005 by TSN *****USA SALES ONLY - USA SALES ONLY ****

Jay Drowns/TSN/ZUMA Press/Icon Sportswire

Here’s to the Cubs managers who tried to bring the W to Chicago:

Rick Renteria

Dale Sveum

Mike Quade

Lou Piniella – 2008 Manager of the Year

Dusty Baker

Bruce Kimm

Rene Lachemann

Don Baylor

Jim Riggleman

Tom Trebelhorn

Jim Lefebvre

Jim Essian

Joe Altobelli

Don Zimmer – 1989 Manager of the Year

Frank Lucchesi

Gene Michael

John Vukovich

Jim Frey – 1984 Manager of the Year

Charlie Fox

Lee Elia

Preston Gomez

Joe Amalfitano

Herman Franks

Jim Marshall

Whitey Lockman

Leo Durocher

Bob Kennedy

Charlie Metro

Lou Klein

Elvin Tappe

Harry Craft

Vedie Himsl

Lou Boudreau

Bob Scheffing

Stan Hack

Phil Cavarretta – 1945 MVP

Frankie Frisch

Roy Johnson

Jimmy Wilson

Gabby Hartnett

Charlie Grimm

Rogers Hornsby

Joe McCarthy

George Gibson

Rabbit Maranville

Bill Killefer

Fred Mitchell

Joe Tinker

Roger Bresnahan

Hank O’Day

Johnny Evers

19 December 2007: Kosuke Fukudome newly signed right fielder of the Chicago Cubs shakes hands with Jim Hendry (right) after Fukudome is introduced to the media at The Stadium Club at Wrigley Field, Chicago, Il.

19 December 2007: Kosuke Fukudome newly signed right fielder of the Chicago Cubs shakes hands with Jim Hendry (right) after Fukudome is introduced to the media at The Stadium Club at Wrigley Field, Chicago, Il.

Here’s to the GMs who tried to do what only Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein could

Randy Bush

Jim Hendry

Andy MacPhail

Ed Lynch

Larry Himes

Jim Frey

Dallas Green

Herman Franks

Bob Kennedy

E.R. Saltwell

John Holland

Wid Mathews

James Gallagher

Charles Weber

 

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Three rules that must be changed this offseason

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October 19, 2016: Cleveland Indians Pitcher Ryan Merritt (54) pitches during ALCS Game 5 between the Cleveland Indians and Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre in Toronto ON. (Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire)

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” – George Bernard Shaw

So here we are, on the last day of October, celebrating Halloween, and enjoying a magnificent World Series. I’ve always felt that the perfect Series for Halloween, with its orange and black colors, should be between the Orioles and Giants and their orange and black colors.

Today we recover from what the website fivethirtyeight.com pointed out was a “sports equinox” as the NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB all played games on the same day yesterday for just the 16th time in history. However, I can’t imagine though that there was any event that equaled the excitement of last night’s 3-2 Game 5 win by the Cubs that gave the fans at Wrigley a reason for joy and all of us a reason to celebrate that we have at least one more game of baseball to bask in this postseason.

The story of the game last night was Aroldis Chapman, the “other” former Yankee reliever to dominate this postseason. His eight-out performance was just the latest rationale for three changes in baseball rules that must be made this offseason.

It is with Chapman, Miller and the other relievers in mind that I really encourage baseball to make the following rule changes:

1) Relievers must face a minimum of two batters or pitch to the end of an inning

Both Chapman and Andrew Miller have shown us what great relievers are capable of doing. As outstanding pitchers, they have faced both lefties and righties at the plate and have found success. Overall, batters are hitting .140 (8-for-57) against Miller and .167 (7-for-42) against Chapman. No one is getting really good at bats against these guys whether they come to the plate from the right or the left. However, there is no reason to not use these two as exemplars to argue the case that we need relievers to stay in a game beyond one batter.

Here’s the good news: In 2016, there were “only” 1182 games in which a reliever faced just one batter and was either pulled or the game ended. I say this is good because that number is down from the record 1398 times it happened in 2015 and the 1265 times in 2014.

Take a look at the trend:

  • This season, relievers made 15,307 appearances and faced 67,736 batters; that’s an average of 4.42 PA per appearance.
  • In 2006, relievers made 13,836 appearances and faced 65,115 batters, an average of 4.70 PA per appearance.
  • In 1996, relievers made 11,060 appearances and faced 59,617 batters, an average of 5.39 PA per appearance.
  • In 1986, relievers made 7554 appearances and faced 50,068 batters, an average of 6.62 PA per appearance.

There were 598 LOOGY appearances and 586 ROOGY appearances in 2016. Would it kill of the careers of these guys to pitch to a batter that hits from the opposite side? I don’t think so. I don’t think Randy Choate, for example, would be out of work. In 2016, the southpaw Choate appeared in 51 games in which he faced only one batter. Those 51 games totaled 11.1 innings pitched. All told, Choate made 71 appearances and faced 117 batters.

If we are generous, let’s presume that a pitching change takes just five minutes from the time the manager walks to the mound, has a little conversation, signals for the reliever (who rushes one more warm-up throw before entering), who then trots to the mound, is handed the ball as the situation is discussed (or given two “Go get ‘ems”), then takes his warmup pitches, and then the batter finally steps to the plate. After all this is finished, we probably spent about six hours this season watching left-handers go 22-for-83 (.265) versus Choate, while righties went 7-for-21 (.333).

We need relievers to either pitch to the end of an inning, or a minimum of two batters.

This is an idea that will both speed up games and increase offense. By the way, I’m not suggesting anything new or radical, I’m just encouraging the change to take place. In fact, uber-genius Theo Epstein threw out the idea at the general managers meeting last November and Ken Rosenthal, another person in my book of baseball Mensa members, endorsed the concept as well.

Kenny wrote in regard to changes that would improve the pace of play, “Fewer delays caused by pitching changes. New strategies as managers decide how to best deploy their relievers. A reduction in the importance of same-side specialists. An increased number of opportunities for the best hitters to decide games.”

Another Mensa member, Tom Verducci, wrote, “Pitching changes stop the game and depress offense, neither of which is good for the future of baseball as an entertainment option.”

So the benefits would be improved pace of play, improved offense as pitchers might likely have to face batters from both side of the play, more strategic thinking by managers, and more second guessing by fans.

August 28, 2015: LHP Randy Choate (36) comes in relief during the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants game at AT&T Park in San Francisco, CA. The Giants defeated the Cardinals by a score of 5-4.

(Larry Placido/Icon Sportswire)

2) Change the “save”and “hold” rules

More than once, managers, teammates, and fans have heard Andrew Miller state that he’d pitch anywhere for the betterment of his ball club. He made the adjustment when Chapman joined the Yankees to the delight of manager Joe Girardi and he has done the same for manager Terry Francona while pitching in front of Cody Allen. Now, Miller is a selfless guy, but don’t be fooled; he’s also not an idiot. He has expressed his willingness in part because, as he has said, he’d already signed a four-year, $36 million contract for closer money.

Closers get paid big bucks; holders don’t.

Brian Kenny of the MLB Network is one of the alums of the Bill James School of Baseball Brilliance (which is of much greater value than a degree from Trump University, believe me). Kenny was an early proponent of the “Kill The Win” movement, which diminishes the importance of won-lost records for pitchers (an assertion that I believe is correct). Kenny has also been outspoken on not saving your best reliever until a ninth inning save situation and using that pitcher at a critical point in a game when the situation dictates. Kenny also writes about “Bullpenning,” which replaces the concept of a starter with an “opener” who pitches two-to-three innings and then have the bullpen take over for the rest of the game.

“Sprinters are faster than milers. Pitchers are more effective in shorter spurts. Use them that way.”

My proposed rule change starts us in that direction.

Last night, Aroldis Chapman recorded the last eight outs of the game and earned a celebrated save. After he had repeatedly faced the best that Cleveland had to offer, and had gotten out of jams, suppose, for one reason or another, Joe Maddon removed Chapman with two outs in the ninth and brought in Hector Rondon to pick up the last out. The result would have been that Rondon earns the save and Chapman gets a meaningful, but meaningless, hold.

Official scorers need to award a “save” to the pitcher who is on the mound when the game is actually saved.

For some reason, baseball stats sites still track “games finished.” Well, now give that some value. Four stat variables should be kept for each game: W/L, saves, holds, and games finished. Awarding a save to when the game is actually saved will enable relievers to earn the stats that earn the big bucks at any time during the game. It will start to break managers out of the limited thinking process of holding out your best reliever until the ninth because he is the closer and he is paid for that reason.

I have so much respect for him and I hate to throw him again under the bus, but are there any Orioles fans who disagree with me on this and agree with Buck Showalter as we still await Zach Britton coming into the Wild Card Game this year?

In a brilliant column by Sam Miller for ESPN.com, he examined all the various times that Buck could have, should have, brought in Britton. Miller concludes, “Showalter has managed many great games, has made many great moves, is one of the titans of his generation. But refusing to use his best pitcher for even a single out in an all-or-nothing game wasn’t a moment of weakness; it was a mistake that he made from first pitch to last. The power of a bad heuristic to completely undo a manager’s reasoning and imagination is an amazing thing to watch.”

The “save” mentality of managers, agents, and GMs must stop so that the game can improve. Allow official scorers to award saves both by existing rules and at their discretion.

Cleveland Indians Pitcher Andrew Miller (24) delivers a pitch to the plate during the seventh inning of the American League Championship Series Game 2 between the Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field in Cleveland, OH. Cleveland defeated Toronto 2-1. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)

(Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)

3) Award a win to a starter even if he doesn’t go 5.0 innings

In many ways, the managers in this postseason have been working backwards, figuring out when he can pull the starter and start going to the bullpen. The changes I have proposed thus far have both increased and changed the roles played by relievers. The impact of these changes could affect starters as well.

Rule 9.17 states that the official scorer shall credit as the winning pitcher that pitcher whose team assumes a lead while such pitcher is in the game, or during the inning on offense in which such pitcher is removed from the game, and does not relinquish such lead, unless (1) such pitcher is a starting pitcher and Rule 9.17(b) applies;

Rule 9.17 (b)states that if the pitcher whose team assumes a lead while such pitcher is in the game, or during the inning on offense in which such pitcher is removed from the game, and does not relinquish such lead, is a starting pitcher who has not completed (1) five innings of a game that lasts six or more innings on defense, or (2) four innings of a game that lasts five innings on defense, then the official scorer shall credit as the winning pitcher the relief pitcher, if there is only one relief pitcher, or the relief pitcher who, in the official scorer’s judgment was the most effective, if there is more than one relief pitcher.

Okay, this is more than you need to know. A starter can earn a loss no matter how long or short of time he is in the game, but can earn earn only if he pitches five full innings. Why? I don’t know. Third base, to quote Abbott & Costello, who may have made this rule.

The only rationale I can come up with for this arcane rule is that a game becomes official after five innings and thereby the starter becomes the pitcher of record. But even that seems like a stretch.

One of the Indians heroes this postseason is Ryan Merritt. But the only reference you can see of him is that he has thrown 4.1 innings. In Game 5 of the ALCS, Merritt made his second major league start. He indeed threw 4.1 innings allowing two hits, striking out three and allowing no runs before he was pulled by Francona, who brought the bullpen brigade in to stifle Toronto.

To recap: In that game, Merritt went 4.1 innings and allowed two hits and left the game leading 3-0. He was followed by Bryan Shaw, who entered the game with one runner on base and pitched 1.0 inning and allowed two hits. Shaw was followed by Miller, who entered the game with one runner on base went 2.2 IP and allowed one hit. Miller was followed by Cody Allen, who pitched the ninth inning and allowed one hit. The Indians won, 3-0.

The winning pitcher, as determined by the official scorer, was Shaw; Allen earned a save, and Miller got a hold.

Under my proposed rule changes, Merritt gets the win, Shaw gets a hold, Miller gets the save, and Allen gets a game finished.

Merritt was the best pitcher who pitched the longest and quite effectively in the game, he left with a winning score, his only “fault” was that his manager was thinking protectively and progressively and pulled him two outs shy of five complete inning. Francona put the team win ahead of the personal achievement. Good for the Indians, good for baseball, bad for Merritt.

Who cares how long a starter goes? If he is an effective pitcher, he deserves a chance to earn the win, even if it’s by the official scorer’s ruling. This backward thinking of five innings minimum is bad for the game that too often is bound by tradition at logic’s expense.

Baseball needs to be bold and make the changes now.

To review:

  • Make relievers face a minimum of two batters
  • Change the save and hold rules
  • Award a win to a starter even if he doesn’t go 5.0 innings

I began with a quote and I’ll end with one:

“It’s been a long time, a long time coming but I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will” – Sam Cooke

Please leave your comments on the site or tweet them to me at @BillyBall

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Nine Goodies, stats, and facts to share during the World Series

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24 October 2016: Members of the media surround the field as the Indians workout in preparation for the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field in Cleveland, OH. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)

Nine to Know from the Bill Chuck Cubs/Indian Files:

  1. Lonnie Chisenhall, Rajai Davis, and Brandon Guyer led the Indians with two pinch-hits each during the regular season. Matt Szczur led the Cubs with 12. You won’t see Szczur on the Cubs roster this postseason, but you have seen the Szczur effect. When Anthony Rizzo was slumping, he used Szczur’s bat and he started hitting. Addison Russell started wearing Szczur’s compression underwear, and Russell started hitting.
  2. These 17 players spent their entire careers playing for the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians exclusively: Milo Allison, Cliff Bartosh, Heinz Becker, Paul Carter, Sumpter Clarke, Jason Dubois, Rip Hagerman, Clarence Maddern, Scott Maine, Karl Pagel, Ken Penner, Paul Reuschel, Dan Rohn, Dave Rosello, Joe Schaffernoth, Riggs Stephenson, Chick Tolson.
  3. There have been 205 players who spent at least part of their careers playing for both the Indians and Cubs. Some of them, like Hoyt Wilhelm, Ralph Kiner, Johnny Vander Meer, Ted Abernathy, Joe Carter, Rico Carty, and Jose Cardenal you probably heard of.  Some like Bunk Congalton, Jumbo Brown, Owen Friend, Elmer Yoter, and Greek George you probably have never heard of. Some are now broadcasters like:  Todd Hollandsworth, Rick Sutcliffe, Mark DeRosa, and Dennis Eckersley. Some are even managers like Terry Francona.
  4. Speaking of Indians manager Terry Francona, we can’t avoid the Red Sox factor in this World Series. Next to Terry in the Tribe dugout, Red Sox fans will see Brad Mills, now the Indians bench coach. Terry worked as the Boston manager for the current Cubs VP Theo Epstein. Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod worked for Theo in Boston and work for Theo now in Chicago. The battery for the Cubs in Game 1: Jon Lester and David Ross, played catch together in Boston as well. John Lackey can also be found in the Cubs rotation after pitching for the Sox. Anthony Rizzo, the star first baseman for the Cubs, was drafted by Boston in the sixth round of the 2007 draft. Eric Hinske, who earned a ring in 2007 with Boston, is on the Cubs coaching staff and Darnell McDonald, little-known but still a Red Sox Nation favorite, works in the Cubs organization as well. Mike Napoli, Andrew Miller, and Coco Crisp are Indians who were Red Sox.
  5. Average age for the players on each team: Indians – Batters 28.9, Pitchers – 28.1; Cubs – Batters 27.5 Pitchers – 29.9
  6. Last Hall of Famer to play for each team: Cubs – Greg Maddux (2006); Indians – Roberto Alomar (2001)
  7. Here are the retired numbers for each of these proud franchises: Cubs – 10- Ron Santo, 14- Ernie Banks, 23- Ryne Sandberg, 26- Bernie Williams, 31- Ferguson Jenkins, 31- Greg Maddux, and of course Jackie Robinson’s #42. Indians – 3- Earl Averill, 5- Lou Boudreau, 14- Larry Doby, 18- Mel Harder, 19-Bob Feller, 21- Bob Lemon, 455- The Fans honoring their sellout streak, and of course Jackie Robinson’s #42
  8. Don’t despair if your team is losing: the Indians had 38 come-from-behind wins, with four runs the largest deficit, and the Cubs had 33 come-from-behind wins with six runs the largest deficit. The Tribe were 11-9 in walk-off games and the Cubs were 7-5.
  9. Here are a few people to be thinking about: Travis Hafner who played 1078 games for the Indians, the most games of any former player since Cleveland was last in the World Series. Omar Vizquel played 1478 games for Cleveland, the most for any Indian since the last time they won the World Series. Do I need to tell you? Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks played 2528 games in Chicagoland, the most of any Cubbie since the Cubs last appeared in or won the Series. Somehow, I get the feeling that Ernie will be looking down tonight with such a level of excitement that he will want to play two.

Just to let you know: It’s expected to be around 46 degrees tonight for the first pitch with it feeling like it’s 40 degrees and will get colder as the game progresses. Then a chilly rain will make you glad you are on your couch watching Game 2 in Cleveland on Wednesday.

Friends share goodies while watching the World Series. Here’s how it works: I share them with you, you share them with your friends and we make everybody happy.

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The worst pitchers in baseball in 2016

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18 June 2016: Chicago White Sox Starting pitcher James Shields (25) [6104] leaves the field after allowing 8 runs during the second inning of the Major League Baseball game between the Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field in Cleveland, OH. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)

We are seeing some of the best pitching in baseball this postseason, and this follows a season of pitching highlights. But if there are the “bests,” there also needs to be “worsts.” While you are enjoying watching the four best teams in baseball, take a look at 25 stats from the worst pitching performances of the 2016 regular season:

  1. Among those qualified for the ERA title, the worst ERA belonged to James Shields, who allowed 118 ER in 181.2 IP and had an ERA of 5.85. After compiling a 4.28 ERA for the Padres, Shields went to the White Sox, where his ERA was an astounding 6.77.
  2. The holder of the worst ERA in baseball before the All-Star break (min. 80 IP) was Ubaldo Jimenez, who had a 7.38 mark. After the break, it was Shields (6.39). Shields was followed by Trevor Bauer (5.36) who had a 5.79 ERA in his start against Boston in the ALDS.
  3. James Shields wasn’t the only former All-Star pitcher who had a rough season. The pitchers who allowed the most hits this season were David Price (227) and Adam Wainwright (220).
  4. The pitcher with the worst batting average against this season was Jered Weaver. Batters went 209-for-704 against him, which was a .297 BAA.
  5. Chris Archer and James Shields led the majors each with 19 losses. The last season in which two pitchers had at least 19 losses was 2003, when Jeremy Bonderman (19 losses) and Mike Maroth (21 losses) fit the bill.
  6. The most losses for pitchers who were winless was seven, totaled by Cody Reed and Joel De La Cruz.
  7. With the bases empty, batters hit .262 against Dillon Gee (98-for-300), the highest average for any pitcher with at least 300 PA with the sacks clear. Jon Niese (89-for-277) had a .321 BAA, and was the only other pitcher above .320 in those circumstances.
  8. With the runners on base, batters hit .317 against Edinson Volquez (108-for-341), the highest average for any pitcher with at least 300 PA with the runners on. Robbie Ray had a .303 BAA and Kendall Graveman had a .302, and they were the only other pitchers above .300 in those circumstances.
  9. With runners in scoring position, batters hit .348 against Anibal Sanchez (47-for-135), the highest average for any pitcher with at least 150 PA with RISP. Gio Gonzalez had a .333 BAA, Wade Miley .329, and Tyler Duffey had a .321, and they were the only other pitchers above .320 in those circumstances.
  10. With runners in scoring position and two outs, batters hit .375 against Gio Gonzalez (27-for-71), the highest average for any pitcher with at least 50 PA with RISP and two down. Batters hit .333 against Wade Miley and .322 against Dallas Keuchel, making those three the only pitchers above .320 under those circumstances.
  11. James Shields was this season’s leading gopher ball pitcher; he permitted 40 homers (nine for the Padres/31 for the White Sox). The last pitcher to allow at least 40 homers in a season was Bronson Arroyo, who allowed 46 in 2011. The last to allow 40 in a season in which was traded was Bill Gullickson, who permitted 40 in 1987 (33 for the Reds/7 for the Yankees).
  12. No pitchers allowed more grand slams than Clay Buchholz and Bud Norris who allowed three each.
  13. No pitcher faced more batters with the sacks filled than Yordano Ventura (26) and Brad Ziegler (25). No pitcher allowed more hits with the bases loaded than Jon Gray, Jose Urena, and Trevor Bauer, with eight each. No pitcher allowed more bases-loaded walks than A.J. Griffin, Miguel Gonzalez, Steve Delabar, and Chris Tillman, with four apiece.
  14. No pitcher allowed more three-run homers than Anibal Sanchez, who gave up seven; Patrick Corbin was next with six. No pitcher allowed more two-out homers than Anibal Sanchez and Justin Verlander, who each permitted 15.
  15. Shields had the highest slugging percentage against at .527, and Jered Weaver had the second-worst at .511. The last season when there were two pitchers with a slugging percentage against over .500 was in 2008: Brandon Backe (.544), Livan Hernandez (.520), Nate Robinson (.518), and Aaron Harang (.509).
  16. It should come as no surprise that Shields had the highest OPS against at .891. The batting equivalent of Shields season would be Brian Dozier and Edwin Encarnacion (.886) and Mookie Betts (.897).
  17. No pitcher allowed more walks than the 86 permitted by Jimmy Nelson; Francisco Liriano (85) and Brandon Finnegan (84) were right behind him. As for walks per nine innings, Liriano led at 4.69, followed by Finnegan 4.40, and Nelson at 4.32.
  18. Amongst pitchers who qualified for the ERA title, Jered Weaver and Martin Perez struck out the fewest batters with 103 each. Perez had the worst strikeout-to-walk ratio at 1.36.
  19. No pitcher allowed more runs in innings 1-3 than James Shields, who permitted 76. There were 18 pitchers who qualified for the ERA title who did not allow as many as 75 runs for the entire season.
  20. The highest batting average against when a pitcher had three balls on a batter belonged to Mike Pelfrey; batters went 25-for-66 (.379) against him. Jeff Locke (.369) and R.A. Dickey (.356) were pretty bad as well.
  21. The worst two-strike pitcher in baseball was Alfredo Simon, who allowed batters to go 33-for-112 (.295 BAA) when he had two strikes them. Colin McHugh and James Shields each allowed 13 two-strike homers this season. Interestingly, allowing 12 were Chase Anderson, Jake Odorizzi, and one Mr. Madison Bumgarner.
  22. No pitchers allowed more baserunners leading off an inning than the 80 permitted by Adam Wainwright (69 hits, 10 BB, 1 ROE) and Martin Perez (58 hits, 14 BB, 2 HBP, 6 ROE).
  23. No pitcher allowed more steals than Noah Syndergaard, who allowed 48 steals. Jimmy Nelson was next permitting 30 steals. No reliever in the majors allowed more stolen bases than Dellin Betances, who permitted 21 steals.
  24. Amongst full-time relievers (min. 40 games), none had a higher batting average against than Tom Wilhelmson (.321), followed by Kevin Jepson (.315), and Michael Blezak (.311).
  25. No closer blew more saves than Nate Jones and Santiago Casilla, who blew nine apiece. Tyler Thornburg had eight blown saves. No reliever lost more games than Joakim Soria, who lost eight. There were eight relievers who had seven losses.
  26. Extra Innings – Yasmiero Petit allowed 16 extra-innings hits, including five extra-base hits, both the most in the majors. He also allowed eight runs, the most of any pitcher. Kevin Quackenbush allowed three homers in extra innings, the most of any pitcher. David Robertson walked 10 batters in extras, the most of any pitcher.

 

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The worst hitters in baseball in 2016

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25 SEP 2016: Washington Nationals Shortstop Danny Espinosa (8) during the MLB baseball game between the Washington Nationals and Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pa. (Photo by Mark Alberti/ Icon Sportswire)

The Worst Hitters in Baseball 2016

As we revel enjoying the best teams in baseball this season, I thought it would be enlightening to take a look at 25 stats from the worst hitters of the 2016 regular season:

  1. Among those qualified for the batting title, the lowest batting average belonged to Danny Espinosa (108-for-516) who hit .209. To his credit, Espinosa was the only player this season to have 20 homers and 20 times hit by pitches.
  2. Then again, only two batters who qualified for the batting title had under 100 hits: Alex Gordon had 98 hits in 506 PA (he hit .220) and Jose Bautista had 99 hits in 517 PA (he hit .234).
  3. The worst hitter in baseball before the All-Star break (min. 200 PA) was Ryan Howard, who hit .154. After the break, it was Espinosa (40-for-232).
  4. With the bases empty, Espinosa hit .190 (57-for-300), the lowest average for any batter with at least 300 PA with the sacks clear. Coco Crisp (59-for-308) hit .192, and was the only other batter under .200 in those circumstances.
  5. Billy Burns was this season’s worst home run hitter; he went 332 PA without going deep. Amongst batters who qualified for the batting title, Ender Inciarte hit three homers in 578 PA and Adeiny Hechavarria hit three homers in 547 PA.
  6. Hechavarria had the lowest slugging percentage at .311; it should be noted that Jason Heyward had the second-worst at .325.
  7. Hechavarria had the lowest OPS at .594, followed by Alexei Ramirez at .610, and Heyward at 631.
  8. The worst batters at drawing a walk this season were Brandon Phillips, who walked just 18 times in 584 PA, and Josh Harrison, who walked 18 times in 522 plate appearances.
  9. The worst two-strike hitter in baseball was Ryan Howard, who was 14-for-179 (.078), striking out 114 times.
  10. Alcides Escobar recorded the most outs of any batters this season. Escobar was the only batter retired over 500 times, recording 506; George Springer was a close with 499 outs. Baseball-Reference.com calculates this by subtracting hits from at bats and adding caught stealing, grounding into double plays, sac bunts, and sac flies.
  11. Alexei Ramirez was the worst run producer in the majors, recording just 80. That’s determined by his 48 RBI + 38 R – 8 HR.
  12. Chris Carter was the worst batter with runners on bases by quite a bit for batters with at least 300 PA in that setting. Carter hit .211 (52-for-246) and he was followed by Ben Zobrist and Mike Napoli, who each hit .253.
  13. Amongst batters who led off an inning at least 200 times, Alcides Escobar was the worst, hitting .249 (53-for-213). Perhaps a better way to judge in this category would be to look at on-base pct, and Escobar’ .266 was the worst there as well.
  14. The worst batter with runners in scoring position (at least 100 PA) was Derek Norris, who was 12-for-95, an average of .126. He was followed by Curtis Granderson, who hit .152.
  15. Another way to determine the worst with RISP, would be to see who had the the fewest RBI; that honor went to Alex Gordon, who had just 20 in 103 PA, and while Jace Peterson had 23 in 109 PA, you could argue that Curtis Granderson and his 23 RBI in 130 PA made him the worst with RISP.
  16. Derek Norris was also the worst hitter in baseball facing a starting pitcher for the first time in a game (at least 100 PA). Norris hit .117 (12-for-103).
  17. Norris was overall the worst hitter in baseball facing starting pitching (200+ PA), hitting just .185 (48-for-260) making him the only batter in baseball to hit under .200 against starters.
  18. Brian Dozier was the worst hitter in baseball against relievers (200+ PA), going 38-for-199, hitting .191, making him the only batter in baseball to hit under .200 against relievers.
  19. How’s this for a worst? Evan Gattis had 20 plate appearances with the bases loaded and drove home only eight runs (he went 3-for-17).
  20. Mitch Moreland came to the plate 21 times with a runner on third and fewer than two outs; he had five RBI. Derek Norris had seven RBI despite going 0-for-16 with a runner on third and less than two down.
  21. The worst slugger amongst clean-up batters who came to the plate at least 400 times in the #4 slot was Adrian Gonzalez. Overall, A-Gon had 18 homers, but only 13 came when he was a clean-up batter.
  22. Of course, the clean-up batter is supposed to clean the bases, right? The fewest RBI for a #4 was Chris Davis, who had just 56 in 434 PA.
  23. The batter who had the fewest RBI in a tie game (at least 200 PA) was Brett Gardner, who in 214 PA had just eight RBI. Surprisingly, next on the list was Dustin Pedroia with just 10 RBI in 210 PA in a tie game.
  24. Miguel Cabrera was on base 270 times in 2016 and he had no stolen bases.
  25. Miggy didn’t even attempt to steal base, so perhaps Brandon Belt and Matt Carpenter were the worst base-stealers; neither stole a base but each of them were caught stealing four times. Each qualified for the batting title. John Jaso, on the other hand, had only 432 PA and he had no steals but was was caught four times.
  26. Extra Innings – Who do you think was the worst hitter in extra innings in 2016: Was it Ryan Zimmerman, Maikel Franco or Devon Travis, who each went 0-for-11? Or Paolo Orlando or Eduardo Escobar, who each went 0-for-10 AB? Then again, maybe it was Jay Bruce who hit .063, going 1-for-16.

Next Monday, the worst pitchers in baseball.

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The Cubs, with the best record in baseball, are back to 0-0

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September 26, 2016: Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant (17) celebrates after hitting a homer during a MLB game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, PA. (Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire)

This is the 48th season in which we have an expanded postseason. In actuality, it is the 47th being played because of the owners’ lockout in 1994. In 1995, baseball added a third tier to its postseason, as divisional play and a wild card became the standard. In 2012, MLB brought in the second wild […]

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The Case for Mookie Betts – 2016 AL MVP

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Boston Red Sox's Mookie Betts reacts after hitting a single during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I’m about to lay out what I consider a very strong case asserting that, without a doubt, Mookie Betts is the 2016 American League Most Valuable Player. While you may consider my technique “fishy,” I have chosen not to compare him to any of the two or three other […]

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Leaders and losers for the ‘Boys of Summer’ 2016

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20 August 2016: New York Yankees Catcher Gary Sanchez (24) rounds second base after hitting a home run during the game between the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim in Anaheim, CA. (Photo by David Dennis/Icon Sportswire)

Ever since the classic book by Roger Kahn was published, baseball players are often referred to as “The Boys of Summer.” While that was an apt title, in actuality the sport begins in the spring and ends in the fall. This year, the Summer Solstice, the start of summer, began on June 20, 6:34 p.m. […]

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Red Sox find their mojo (and learn how to win the close ones)

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Teammates douse Boston Red Sox's Hanley Ramirez after the Red Sox defeated the New York Yankees 5-4 during a baseball game in Boston, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

A funny thing happened in Boston Thursday night; the Yankees lost their will to live and the Red Sox learned how to be winners. Entering the ninth inning of Thursday’s game, Boston trailed 5-2; an eighth-inning solo homer by David Ortiz had made it that close. The Yankees envisioned themselves not just moving closer in the […]

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