Nobody From Nowhere (@i8dc)

Occasional Common Sense

How Much Does It Matter When An Umpire Calls A Pitch Wrong?

leave a comment »

With two outs in the 8th inning of the Reds’ 1-0 victory against the Nationals yesterday, Reds closer Aroldis Chapman was brought in to face Adam LaRoche with runners on first and second.

The matchup was good for the Reds; the flame-throwing lefty Chapman has a FIP (fielding-independent pitching) of 0.59 — far better than any other pitcher in baseball this year, and is particularly brutal on left-handed hitters, holding them to an OPS (on-base plus slugging) of just .344 this year. LaRoche was 0-2 against Chapman in his career, and has an OPS against lefties this year of .647, vs. .894 against righties.

Chapman missed with his first two two fastballs, at 101 and 99.5 mph. With his third, he throttled back a little more and got a called strike on the outside corner. But this pitch was clearly a ball, and was indeed the worst pitch call umpire Jeff Nelson made on this day. 

chapman-laroche bs2

chapman-laroche bs3

PITCHf/x data from

PITCHf/x data from

So the ump blew the call. So what? Well, the difference in situations and odds is significant.

Over his career, with a 2-1 count, batters have gone on to reach base safely against Chapman 39% of the time; with a 3-0 count, this number leaps to 72%.  Over LaRoche’s career, with a 2-1 count his on-base average is .405 with an OPS of .861; with a 3-0 count LaRoche gets on base 74% of the time and his OPS jumps to 1.338.

If Nelson had correctly called the pitch a ball, LaRoche’s odds of getting on base would have been more than 80% higher. 

Note, I’m not saying that the Nats would have come back against Chapman if this pitch had been called correctly, because he has been off-the-charts sick this year. 

But I am saying that it’s an unfortunate and unnecessary problem that umpires are so often wrong calling the edges of the strikezone. There’s really no reason to not automate this function in Major League Baseball. 

Written by David Clayton

July 27, 2014 at 8:45 am

Posted in Debunkery

The One Place I’d Like To See On Each Continent

leave a comment »

I think these likely change from day to day.

North America – Antelope Canyon, Arizona

South America – Machu Pichu, Peru

Europe – St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome

Africa – Victoria Falls

Asia – The Treasury at Petra, Jordan

Australia – Great Barrier Reef

Antarctica – Nowhere. Nowhere at all.

Written by David Clayton

July 9, 2014 at 12:02 pm

Posted in Debunkery

How much does Ted Cruz save taxpayers by using his wife’s gold-plated health insurance?

leave a comment »

“FYI: We already have a subsidized health care system. It just subsidizes Ted Cruz’s $40k
policy more than a family trying to get out of poverty.”  — @LOLGOP

Ted Cruz has very publicly and proudly that he doesn’t take the health insurance offered to members of Congress by the United States government, with the clear implication that he doesn’t think it’s right for Congressmen to take such a lavish benefit at taxpayers’ cost. Then news came out that not only does Cruz have another option, as do many married 2-earner families, but his family rationally takes his wife’s employer-supported insurance, which is a far more expensive plan than the one Cruz would get through Congress. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by David Clayton

October 30, 2013 at 10:31 am

Posted in Debunkery

Here’s what’s going to happen. Or not.

leave a comment »

This morning the House GOP pissed all over the emerging deal between Senate Democrats and Republicans. So now this scenario gets closer: Congressional Democrats suing the President for breaking the debt ceiling law. Right, Democrats.

I expect there will be a deal, but whether the technical stuff gets done in time to pay the bills — that’s where the question is.  We may have a deal in place that needs to work its way through the government gears and won’t be done in time for Treasury to legally pay all of the bills, in accordance with both the debt ceiling law and the various Congressional appropriations that are in effect.

So, rather than allowing some obligation to go unmet for a day (or two, who knows), Obama should direct Treasury to go ahead and pay everything, issuing new debt if necessary. Ben Bernanke, lame duck Federal Reserve Chairman, will intervene if necessary, using a broad interpretation of the Fed’s mandate to maintain full employment. What are they gonna do, fire him?

The President will explain these extraordinary actions as necessary due to the idiots in the House GOP, similar to what I described here. And then the law will catch up to reality and everything will go along swimmingly until we hit the next moronic debt limit showdown.

Then there would be discussion about what can be done about the president breaking the letter of the debt ceiling law. And Congressional Democrats should take the President to court.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by David Clayton

October 15, 2013 at 2:49 pm

Posted in Debunkery

Debt limit leverage benefits Obama, not tea party (take 2)

with one comment

When we get to the debt limit, which I think we will, here’s what won’t happen. We won’t get a trillion dollar coin, and the Fed won’t issue premium bonds. In other words, no gimmicks. Obama will have a single choice: violate the debt limit or don’t. And he’ll choose to violate it, because the alternative is worse in every way.

Violating the debt limit means continuing to spend as directed by appropriations, and continuing to borrow as needed. It’s likely that the market would demand higher returns in these auctions, but if the auctions were really going badly, the Federal Reserve could buy a lot (or even all) of the issued securities.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by David Clayton

October 9, 2013 at 11:29 pm

Posted in Punditry

Tagged with , , , ,

Why debt ceiling leverage is on Obama’s side

leave a comment »

The government is shut down, the House won’t vote on the Senate’s clean continuing resolution, and the Senate won’t vote on the House’s piecemeal attempts to fund 2.5% of the government. And next week, on or about October 17, the U.S. Treasury will be unable to pay all of the government’s bills because the debt ceiling will be reached.

Most talk about the debt ceiling is that Republicans get leverage through it, just as a ticking bomb gives a hostage-taker leverage. But I think this is wrong; the approaching debt ceiling actually gives Obama leverage.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by David Clayton

October 8, 2013 at 3:24 pm

Posted in Debunkery

To John Feinstein on Stephen Strasburg: your argument is dishonest

leave a comment »

I see the Washington Post has seen fit to give John Feinstein a platform from which to proclaim that not only was the Washington Nationals’ decision to limit Stephen Strasburg’s innings the cause of their playoff loss to the St. Louis Cardinals last year, but also the cause of their failure to make the playoffs this season.

I’m surprised Feinstein didn’t also blame Nats management for the dysfunction of Congress.

There are two things wrong with the arguments of Feinstein and his ilk. Yes, such is my disdain that I use the word ilk.

First, they claim that Mike Rizzo made a foolish decision, by saying (a) that Strasburg was not at risk medically and (b) that even if he was, they could have managed his workload to enable him to pitch into the playoffs. Second, they claim that it would have mattered (a claim now unfortunately joined by Davey Johnson). I’ll take these arguments in turn.

First, the medical argument.

Do a web search for “Rizzo Strasburg shutdown doctor” and you get lots of hits basically saying the same thing: Dr. Lewis Yocum, who performed Strasburg’s surgery, recommended the innings limit. Dr. Frank Jobe, who invented the surgery, said the shutdown made sense, but that the Nats might have been able to shut him down earlier to enable Strasburg to pitch in the playoffs. Dr. James Andrews is referenced by Rizzo as approving the shutdown.

Rizzo said “(Dr. Yocum’s) the one who set up the rehabilitation schedule, which we followed to the T, and he’s the one that kind of guides us through how to get these guys back on the mound effectively. Who better to listen to than the world renowned surgeon whose deal is to do these and rehab these kind of players?”

Apparently John Feinstein thinks the answer should be John Feinstein, who has behind him the medical advice of… nobody. I have yet to see a Feinstein article on Strasburg where he references the opinion of any doctor, whether it’s a recognized expert on Tommy John surgery or Dr. Oz. Feinstein’s medical argument has no weight whatsoever;  the subject matter requires expertise, and Feinstein hasn’t bothered to get any experts to back him up — or he can’t find any.

Next is the argument about manipulating Strasburg’s outings to make him available for the playoffs by putting him on the DL mid-season or putting extra days between starts.  The 160 innings limit is really about 5 starts short of a full season’s worth.  How many playoff starts does Feinstein think he should have been available for? Two years ago, Chris Carpenter started six playoff games for the Cardinals, who played one game less than the maximum. I think four postseason starts is a reasonable expectation of a World Series pitcher.  So that makes NINE starts the Nats would have had to take out of Strasburg’s normal season of 32-33 starts.  At four days between starts, that’s about seven weeks. Does ANYBODY think it would be a good idea to shut down a high-performance machine for that long during a recovery period and then fire it back up again at full speed for the playoffs?  This sounds at least as dangerous as not shutting him down at all, but I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV.

Or maybe the argument is that the Nats should have disrupted their starting rotation by having Strasburg always pitching on an extra day (or two) of rest all season?  Seriously?

And imagine the uproar and second-guessing if the Nats had restricted Strasburg’s innings in anticipation of a playoff run and then didn’t make the playoffs. Oh sweet Jesus.

Now let’s move on to the assumption that Strasburg pitching would have mattered against the Cardinals. This is where Feinstein makes a complete hash of it.

In his column after the Nats crushing loss to the Cardinals last October, Feinstein makes two patently incorrect assumptions.

“Do you honestly believe the Nationals would have wasted a 6-0 lead Friday night had Strasburg been the starting pitcher?” wrote Feinstein, apparently believing that Strasburg would have been the Nats’ Game 1 and Game 5 starter. Did he miss the season that Gio Gonzalez (21-8, 2.89 ERA, 3rd in Cy Young voting) had last year? There’s ZERO chance Stras would have started ahead of Gio, though he may have started ahead of Jordan Zimmermann (2.94 ERA, 24 quality starts).  But Gio would have been pitching Game 5, Strasburg or no Strasburg.

Next Feinstein error: “Does anyone really think they wouldn’t have been better off with Strasburg in the rotation instead of [Edwin] Jackson? Johnson surely would have pitched [Ross] Detwiler had he had to choose one or the other.” This was obviously wrong to seamheads everywhere at the time. The Cardinals killed left-handed pitching last year, hitting .287 against lefty starters compared to .265 against righties, with an OPS more than 100 points higher.  Combine this with Jackson’s playoff experience and Detwiler was the clear tradeoff for Strasburg.

And how did Detwiler do in his start, in place of the missing Strasburg?  Six innings, three hits, three walks, zero earned runs.  Tough to say how Strasburg would have made a difference there.

Feinstein has admitted he was wrong on this point, saying on WJFK: “The fact that they were going to pitch [Jackson] ahead of Detwiler was ridiculous. Because Detwiler was a much better pitcher last year.” True, but by admitting that Detwiler was the Strasburg replacement, Feinstein should no longer say that the Strasburg shutdown cost the Nats the series, since Detwiler threw a great game in that role.

Feinstein’s argument, were he being honest, would be “the Nats may have won if they hadn’t shut down Strasburg and he replaced Jackson in the playoff pitching order; but since this wasn’t going to happen, the Strasburg shutdown can’t be pinpointed as the cause of the loss.”

Instead: “Now it can be said, with almost no doubt, that the decision to shut down Stephen Strasburg last September didn’t cost Washington one chance to win a World Series, it cost the team and the city two chances.” Emphasis added.

Often wrong, almost no doubt.

Talk about hubris.

Written by David Clayton

September 26, 2013 at 1:32 pm

Posted in Debunkery


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 130 other followers