Back Page, 3.13.19
looks like 40 saves standin' still ... er, seated ... er, Diaz still makes less


From a Hey Bill in 2013:

Hi Bill. Have you ever done a study on the effectiveness of bringing in pinch runners late in close games to replace good hitting slow players? Do you know if it is generally worth it or not? 
Asked by: izzy24

Answered: 7/19/2013
Generally speaking, it is NOT worth it.   It's like most other strategies--the bunt, the intentional walk, calling in the infield, bringing in a left-hander to face a left-hander.   All strategies like that are used much more often than they logically should be, because of the "action bias" in decision making.   
Without running the numbers. . .I would be surprised if any pinch runner can increase the chance of scoring a run by more than 3%; that is, if a runner has a 30% chance of scoring anyway, using a fast runner won't make it 33%.   It might make it 32%.   But let's say you can gain 3% of a run by doing that--and, of course, gaining 3% of a run cannot be more than gaining a 1.5% chance of a win.   
But a good hitter creates maybe .18 runs per at bat, whereas an average hitter is more like .12.    If that spot in the batting order comes around again, you've lot 6% of a run, and potentially much more than that.    So. . .if you're going to pinch run, you've got to be pretty certain that the big hitter's spot isn't going to come around again in the 10th inning or something.  
In the first round of the playoffs, 2004, Game 3, Anaheim at Boston, David Ortiz singled with two out in the bottom of the 8th.   Tim McCarver, broadcasting the game, said that Terry Francona would pinch run for David.   My wife, watching the game on TV with me, was screaming at the TV "NO NO NO.   DON'T PINCH RUN FOR HIM.   DON'T DO IT.  WE NEED HIS BAT IN THE LINEUP."   Terry didn't do it, and McCarver openly second-guessed him for not doing it.   
But in the 11th inning, David dropped a bomb on them, and we won the game 8-6.    Up until that point, the issue you raise had been a discussion item with us, as Terry would pinch run for David sometimes.   But after that happened, he never would.     You pinch run. . .it's a 1-in-40 shot that it makes any difference.   If you get into extra innings, then and now, you want David Ortiz' bat in the lineup.   


"Action Bias" ... based on game theory, and chess strategy, and other things, there is a definite human bias towards DOING SOMETHING to CONTROL the game or year or career or whatever.  

It's one of the things that drives me crazy about those NFL coaches who want to play defense 1st, 2nd and 3rd; playing from the defensive side of the ball, it feels like you're in control of the game, choking the life out of the other team.  Hold them to 0 points and you can't lose.

Back in my day this "defense first" bias was unbelievable with the high school coaches there.  They just HAD to feel in control of the action.  (Are the Kansas City Chiefs less in control of the game than some more-defensive team?)

Anyway, "Action Bias" is a chuckle-worthy topic in Seattle in 2018-19.



The first post I started writing up, when returning this spring, was a Bullpen Candidates Power Ranking.  I dropped it when I realized I didn't have a clue who was making the club ... or, if they did, in what roles they'd pitch.  I still don't!

Hunter Strickland sounds okay until you realize that Dipoto won the bidding at [$1.3 to $2.7M] or whatever it was.

I don't get it.  Why, Jerry, why?  You slough off your 1-4 relievers (Diaz, Colome, Nicasio, Pazos) and then .... leave it at that?

Anyway, if you'd like to list your best understanding of the current roles below, I'd appreciate it.



Physically looks much better than expected.  Hold on, though:  why's he batting 3rd every game if Encarnacion is on 1B and Vogelbach is at DH?

Anyhow, BaseballHQ liked him before spring even began, based on the premise that in 2018, it was mostly just injuries that derailed him and says "Something left here.  Like in 2016-17, a bucketful of HR could come cheap."

Sho' nuff, Bruce had huge splits from 1H to 2H.  .212/.292/.321 vs. .243/.344/.467.  Denard Span was at .272/.329/.435; Kyle Seager at .221/.273/.400.  Also way below Bruce's 2H 2018 line -- much less his 2016 or 2017 -- Ben Gamel, Guillermo Heredia (of course), Dan Vogelbach in 102 PA's, Dee Gordon, Mike Zunino etc.

I'm not arguing for his enshrinement in the team HOF or in the T-Mobile lineup.  But like Bill James sez, most of a player's value consists of his being average.



In James' Twitter feed, he points out the performance that each team got out of its #8 slot in the order.

OAKLAND - .296 with 41 doubles and 20 HR 98 RBI.  This gave them a .846 OPS.

LAA - .191 with a .586 OPS

And it hit me.  Wham.  This is how you understand Oakland's 97 wins; their #8 slot in the lineup.  Does this strike anybody else as a mondo cool way to compare lineups?  By the production out of the 8 slot?  Not the #8 hitter.  The #8 SLOT, as you have to fill it week after week, month after month.

SEA - .239/.300/.399 with 28 doubles, 19 HR 57 RBI.  Resulting in a .744 OPS.


Bill only cherrypicked a little by selecting the 8 slot; here are Oakland's splits by number in the lineup.

Let's see, so what would we guess from Seattle's 8 slot?  Let's see, that would be either SS Beckham (.274/.366/.379 career; wouldn't we love that) or C Narvaez (only 100 pro AB's but supposedly can hit), right, with Dee Gordon at 9.

Of course you run the backups through the 8 spot, too.


Dr D



I think Bill James is selling the value of the pinch runner a bit short there.  Compare David Ortiz to say, Dave Roberts, I did this with stats before, but I don't want to look them up again so I'll use generalities; Ortiz could score from second on a single ~44% of the time vs. Roberts' 69%, and Roberts moves first to third and scored from first on doubles at about twice Ortiz' rate.  So 69 / 44 = 1.56 means that Roberts was roughly 56% more valuable on the bases when a single is hit.  Roberts' Run Scored % was around 44% compared to Ortiz' 27%, about 63% better.  So that would seem to indicate that Roberts is ~60% more valuable as a runner...but then I realized virtually all of this value relates to singles, which occur in roughly 16% of plate appearances so...60%x16%=9.6% and 9.6% of 30%= 2.9% and did I seriously just manage to prove has dag blamed point???

I don't quite think so, I still think he's over-qualifying Ortiz as a baserunner to assume he scores 30% of the time (as noted, for his career it was 27%, and for 2004 it was 25% and those numbers include the plate appearances where he stands on 2nd and 3rd base).  And while Tim McCarver was certainly wrong then (I looked up the play, there were two outs when Ortiz reached base, a pinch runner would have been ludicrous), this was the 2004 playoffs that made Dave Roberts a household name when he was given credit for saving the Red Sox season against the Yankees when he moved first-to-third, stole bases, and scored runs while pinch hitting for Kevin Millar (a decent but far inferior hitter to David Ortiz but a similar runner) with, importantly, zero outs when he pinched in.  It was also important that the Red Sox were trying to score runs off of Mariano Rivera in those situations, further devaluing the run environment.

By the way, it's great to see you back Doc! 


Last game in the desert, correct?


Encarnacion looks fairly terrible.  Well, terrible terrible.   Bruce doesn’t.  Bishop can play.  Ichiro, Ichiro, wherefore art thou?  

For two games in Japan, both vs. RHP, can we please see:

Santana, Bishop, Haniger

Healy, Beckham, Gordon, Vogelbach

Bruce & Narvaez

But I know we have to give Ichiro two starts, one for Bishop, one for Vogelbach, I suppose.

I have become a Never Encarnacion-er.  


I guess there aren't a lot of teams with a Dee Gordon or an Ichiro in his prime. I know clearly neither of those guys would be sitting on the bench to run for the DH in a playoff game. There are situations in a season though when you have Dee Gordon who was given a day off sitting on the bench. EE gets a base hit or walks and takes his post on 1B. 

Gordon changes the game at the point. He's going to go stand at 1B, take 2B on the next pitch and then take 3B the pitch after that. How many times did we see, what appeared to be a pissed off, Ichiro in his prime do exactly that? 

I know that's an outlier and maybe after having a few players like that over the years might skew my view on a rare outlier of a situation. 

But heck, if I'm gonna sit at home to watch a game on TV to entertain myself, then I want to see action! 



That is all :)


Encarnacion clearly is checked out and ready to be traded. It shows in every at-bat I've seen this spring. Now it's certainly possible that this is juat a veteran going through the motions of spring traning, and he'll turn it on once the regular season begins. His best chance of being traded is a good start to the season.


That will hit 3 out in Tokyo.  I was thinking Dom Santana.  Get EE a 2 game head start on his new team for a 164 game season. 


1. Is it OK if I start rooting for Ryon Healy now? I'm pleased that Vogs is on the 25/28/30-man roster; I was all ready for Healy to be sent down. Now... how convenient that he can just fit into Kyle Seager's 3B glove! (And, that he has started to swing the bat- 2HRs in his last three games!) Will we remember Seager as the modern-day Wally Pipp? (We can dream!) 

2. If Mallex Smith keeps one of the 28-man places, then we have to not suit up 3, and then cut six to save him a place. I expect the six will include Ichiro, Bishop, Lobaton (although they're not giving up on him just yet), Rumbelow, Festa, and Milone (my biggest 31-man roster surprise!) 

3. Does Ichiro play in the OF- 1 or 2 games- 0r content himself with DHing? I hear the Tokyo Dome has a small OF. (Could that have factored into their planning, about playing there in March, and making this Ichiro's "swan song"?) 

4. I'd like to see Braden Bishop get a runaround- even if he comes in only to play defense for Ichiro. 

5. Along with Healy, Jay Bruce's bat has picked up, big time, in the past few days. 

6. Agreed- still waiting to see "vintage" Edwin. He has to play himself into a trade- we can't expect the Yankees to offer to take him off our hands, if he's not hitting!

7. The Mariners are setting themselves up to have a really strong group of LH starting pitchers- Marco, YK, with Sheffield on the way, and Elias looking great. And Leblanc is holding his own. Which was the last MLB team to include 4 southpaws among their starting five? Has any MLB team ever started five (5) leftys?

8. After Smith, we have three injured RPs and a 3B coming back. Who goes to make way for them? If our bullpen looks really srong in April and May, do we use 1-2 RPs as "sweetners" for someone taking Edwin's or Bruce's contract (as, perhaps, we did with Nicasio and Pazos)? (Is it possible that our bullpen could "look really strong in April and May"?!)

9. Will be very interesting- to me, who follows these things- to see where each of our "stud" milb players is allocated. We keep hearing about the super outfields in West Virginia (still snow in the outfield?) and Arkansas (Lewis, Fraley, DTW). Who ends up in Modesto and Tacoma? (Tacoma outfield looks like Bishop, Miller and Polo; infleid includes Negron, Crawford, Long and Curletta? Catchers are Lobaton and Nola; rotation must include Sheffield, Swanson, Milone, and who else?) 

10. With Gamel traded for Santana, Haniger still on the roster, Seager out for 2-3 months, Beckham filling in for Crawford, and Santana traded for Encarnacion- suddenly the batting order looks a lot less left-handed than it seemed around Christmas. We're up against RHSPs in Japan, so perhaps we start Vogs at 1B and Bruce at DH- or, vice versa- but we'll have a fair mix of LH (Narvaez, Gordon, Ichiro) and RH (Healy), bats to draw from. 

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