Games » Tampa Bay RaysMay1
What I’ve learned so far… is that Ron Polk’s a pretty smart guy. He’s created an evaluation system that reflects not only results, but also effort. It’s got the obvious stats that we’re all used to, and a few “inside baseball” stats that we usually don’t record.
It’s taken me awhile to get my mind around what he’s created here, and it’s a very interesting look into how a great coach thinks about the game.
Take losses, for instance … they’re not here. Neither is blown saves, or giving up runs or hits. Being a genius, I decided to fix his system. I wanted to add 6 points for a loss. Hey, if you get +6 for a win, you ought to get -6 for a loss, right?
I scored one game and managed to prove that a pitcher who threw six excellent innings had the same outing as a guy who threw one lousy inning. At that point, I called Ron. He couldn’t have been nicer.
He explained that the system was designed to reward good baseball, hustle and effort while punishing giving away free bases through walks and errors. He said he was going to live with whatever happens when a pitcher throws strikes. He wants them to throw strikes, he encourages them to throw strikes, but he knows that if they throw strikes, they’ll give up hits.
He’ll live with that.
He doesn’t mind a home run as much as a walk. He’s focused on effort and approach, not results, because he knows if the effort is correct, over time, the results will be there.
Look at our highest-rated pitcher as of this writing: Joakim Soria. He’s absolutely relentless about throwing strikes. Going into Friday’s game, he had one walk and 15 strikeouts. He gave up that crushing home run in the second game of the season to Miguel Cabrera in his first appearance, which blew a save and a win for Luke Hochevar. Then, instead of becoming timid and beginning to nibble, he threw nothing but strikes to the next two hitters to get out of the inning.
Coach Polk knows that if a pitcher is around the zone he’ll eventually get hit, but he’ll keep the damage to a minimum if he doesn’t walk anyone.
The system is also excellent at breaking the game down into the most important parts and recognizing players who excel at the things that might go unnoticed in a box score.
Jason Kendall has blocked difficult pitches in the dirt, preventing a runner on third from scoring three times. Two of those games were won by one run. The system allows us to recognize that.
Billy Butler has made some mental mistakes that caused someone else to receive an error. The system allows us to recognize that.
Rick Ankiel has made difficult plays look easy…and the system allows us to recognize that.
I showed this to a couple of ex-major-leaguers, and both had the same reaction: By the time the season was over, we would have excellent profiles of individual players. Profiles that go beyond their stats to record how they actually played the game.
So have fun, poke around and tell us what you think works and what doesn’t. This is new to all of us, and we consider it a work in progress. If you have suggestions for improving the system, we’d like to hear them…but I’ll run them by Ron Polk first.
Now from Saturday night’s game:
The game went into extra innings tied 2-2. The Rays’ two runs were scored by batters Davies walked. Throw strikes and the odds say the Royals would’ve won in nine.
Strange lineup from Hillman for the second night in a row: Getz in the 9-hole, DeJesus batting leadoff and Podsednik hitting second, are all left-handed. This allowed the Rays’ one left-handed reliever, Choate, to face all three. The same thing happened the night before. Break it up with a right-hander (they’re hitting .750 off the Rays reliever) and you get deeper into the Rays bullpen faster. There might be some reason for Hillman doing it this way, but whatever the reason, is it worth letting Choate make .190 hitters out of three batters late in the game?
Bruce Chen came into the game in the 8th, score tied. The same Bruce Chen that said maybe he should’ve challenged Griffey when he walked him with the bases loaded in his last appearance against the Mariners. This time he issued a leadoff walk to the fastest man in baseball, Carl Crawford. He then painted himself into a corner by going 3-2 to Zobrist and gave up a base hit. Fortunately, Tejeda came in and saved his bacon with a strikeout and a very lucky lineout double play.
Cormier got the first two batters in the 11th and then gave up a single to Podsednik. Having a base runner on makes a big difference for some pitchers. They have to pitch from the stretch, which takes a few miles per hour off. They sometimes use a slide step (not raising their front foot as high, so they can get it to the plate quicker) and this can also knock velocity down a notch. They throw more fastballs in order to get the ball to the catcher quicker. In short: they become less effective pitchers. Whatever the reason, after Podsednik got on, Cormier came apart and the Royals scored two.
Joakim Soria came into the 11th and gave up two straight hits. After the first one, the game changed. The Royals had a two-run lead so the first batter couldn’t hurt them, but once Zobrist got his single, the tying run was at the plate. If you’d looked into the Royals dugout, you probably would’ve seen a coach signaling to the outfielders by putting his hand behind his head. This is called ‘no doubles’ and serves to remind the outfielders they have to do everything they can to keep the ball in front of them. No risky diving plays, no long throws home to get a runner that’s meaningless, no decisions that might let the run at the plate, the important one, into scoring position. Fortunately for everyone, Soria continued to throw strikes and struck out the side.