Todd's Takes: Adjusting for Zombies and Lobs

Todd's Takes: Adjusting for Zombies and Lobs

This article is part of our Todd's Takes series.

Extra, Extra, Read all About It

While lamenting a beautifully played scoreless game between the Yankees and Mariners being blemished by the Zombie runner, I was moved to pull up some data on extra-inning games. However, before sharing, while others may consider the consecutive TOOTBLAN from the Yankees as entertaining, it's not nearly enough to move me of my "get rid of the Zombie runner" stance. That said, as someone burdened with watching the Red Sox botch plays all season, as bad as it was for the Yankees to give up two outs on the bases in extra inning, the Mariners executed well, which is a rarity nowadays.

Anyway, here are some batting numbers in extra frames over the past decade.

Friend and colleague Joe Sheehan has tweeted about how comparing season stats needs to account for the extra inning rules. Offense is clearly up since the goofy rule was implemented in the pandemic season.

Clearly, it's easier to score with a head start, but some of the increases in the rate stats may not be as intuitive. In the aggregate, hitters' numbers are better with runners on, since most pitchers' skills dip a bit out of the stretch. That's not really applicable here, since almost every reliever almost exclusively pitches from the stretch. However, defenses adjust to having runners on, explaining the spike in BABIP the last two seasons. I'm surprised 2020's level wasn't higher. That said, some of this season's ballooning to .329 is likely small-sample luck.

Even

Extra, Extra, Read all About It

While lamenting a beautifully played scoreless game between the Yankees and Mariners being blemished by the Zombie runner, I was moved to pull up some data on extra-inning games. However, before sharing, while others may consider the consecutive TOOTBLAN from the Yankees as entertaining, it's not nearly enough to move me of my "get rid of the Zombie runner" stance. That said, as someone burdened with watching the Red Sox botch plays all season, as bad as it was for the Yankees to give up two outs on the bases in extra inning, the Mariners executed well, which is a rarity nowadays.

Anyway, here are some batting numbers in extra frames over the past decade.

Friend and colleague Joe Sheehan has tweeted about how comparing season stats needs to account for the extra inning rules. Offense is clearly up since the goofy rule was implemented in the pandemic season.

Clearly, it's easier to score with a head start, but some of the increases in the rate stats may not be as intuitive. In the aggregate, hitters' numbers are better with runners on, since most pitchers' skills dip a bit out of the stretch. That's not really applicable here, since almost every reliever almost exclusively pitches from the stretch. However, defenses adjust to having runners on, explaining the spike in BABIP the last two seasons. I'm surprised 2020's level wasn't higher. That said, some of this season's ballooning to .329 is likely small-sample luck.

Even so, the ensuing production is in the books, requiring some effort in the offseason to determine if player's numbers need to be adjusted before neutralizing for projection purposes.

Know Your Role

Joe has also tweeted about position players on the mound, and how that has also tainted player totals. This may be more of a factor in individual player baselines but harder to capture. Well, maybe not harder, but more tedious. I'll probably run some preliminary studies during the last week of the season to get a head start on 2023 projections. 

My initial plan is to back out stats accumulated against position players for a handful of batters, then treat the adjusted numbers as their actual production and put that into my projection engine, then compare the before and after projections to decide if it's worth the effort to do it for everyone. I'm sure this will be a topic of an offseason Z Files.

In the meantime, here's a fun means of visualizing the effect of hitters pretending they're pitchers. Note the huge jump in innings in recent seasons, as well as the decrease in performance as today's guinea pigs are directed to lob the ball somewhere near the plate and hope the hitters stay in the yard.

Box Score Blitz - Wednesday August 10

  • NYM 10, CIN 2: The newly-acquired Daniel Vogelbach and Tyler Naquin continue to rake. It's clear both are occupying the strong side of a platoon with Eduardo Escobar and Darin Ruf relegated to playing strictly against southpaws. After two more punch outs, Jose Barrero has fanned in 14 of his first 25 at-bats this season. He does have two homers and a steal though. Barrero is playing more out of need rather than because he's earned the promotion, as Kyle Farmer has moved off shortstop with Mike Moustakas out. Barrero's struggles speak towards the Reds fortifying their middle infield via trades, but Elly De La Cruz, Edwin Arroyo, Noelvi Marte aren't likely to be ready until 2024.
  • MIL 4, TB 3 (F/10): Brandon Woodruff pitched seven innings for the first time this season. He did it eight times in 30 starts last season. With the Rays starting lefty Jeffrey Springs, Keston Hiura started at first, but Rowdy Tellez pinch-hit in the sixth against Jason Adam. In the ninth, Tellez had no choice but to face lefty Colin Poche, but he didn't care, tying the game with his 23rd homer, his third off a southpaw. The long ball was the ninth Poche has surrendered in only 38 frames. Poche leads the club in saves with seven, while Adams is tied for third with five. Tampa is known for its matchups, so it's not a surprise Adam followed Springs (righty after a lefty).
  • CHC 4, WSH 2: With nine strikeouts in six stanzas, Justin Steele has fanned 25 over his last 14.1 innings. It appears Nick Madrigal and Christopher Morel will play almost every game (Morel will sit against left-handers) with Zach McKinstry filling in for both. The trio will cover second and third, with Patrick Wisdom moving across the diamond to replace the demoted Frank Schwindel at first. Rowan Wick registered a four-out save, throwing 13 strikes in 15 pitches. Joey Meneses left the yard for the third straight game and fourth time overall since replacing Josh Bell. Meneses posted an .830 OPS with Triple-A Rochester, but he's 30-years-old. He doesn't have a set position but has moved between first, right field and designated hitter. So long as he's hitting, he'll stay in the lineup, but as a right-handed batter, he's a candidate to fall into the less busy side of a platoon.
  • LAA 5, OAK 4 (F/12): A couple of pitchers in the rotation due to openings from the deadline deals squared off, with neither JP Sears nor Touki Toussaint involved in the decision, but both pitched well enough to enter the streaming realm. Sears will be the main target with a two-step on docket next week. The first game is at Texas, but the weekend tilt brings the Mariners to Oakland. David Fletcher continued to bat leadoff for the Angels, where he could be fantasy-relevant in deeper formats.
  • SEA 4, NYY 3: After six innings, it appeared Robbie Ray and Nestor Cortes would nearly match Tuesday's duel between Luis Castillo and Gerrit Cole, but both hurlers gave up a pair of runs in the seventh before handing the ball to the bullpen. The Yankees' loss was their seventh in eight games. We're to the point where highlighting an Aaron Judge homer is superfluous, so just assume he hit another. Jarred Kelenic's 0-for-3 lowers him to 2-for-27 since rejoining Seattle on July 31.
  • SD 13, SF 7: The dormant-since-the-trade-deadline Padres offense snapped out of their funk, with all nine starters contributing at least one knock. J.D. Davis hit one out for the Giants, but he also showed why his best position is DH after struggling at third base, especially in the shift. Sean Manaea's swoon continued as he worked only five frames, surrendering three earned runs. Since mid-June, Manaea has posted a 6.48 ERA and 1.66 WHIP, though he's mostly avoided the Jose Berrios/Lucas Giolito/Trevor Rogers level of fantasy venom. 
  • PHI 4, MIA 3: Sandy Alcantara was nearly flawless through seven frames but fell apart in the eighth, with Brandon Marsh, Kyle Schwarber and J.T. Realmuto each driving in a teammate. Alcantara is up to 166 innings, averaging almost 7 1/3 innings a game over his 23 starts. That's a 231-inning pace, a total last achieved in 2015 by Clayton Kershaw, Felix Hernandez and Dallas Keuchel. At some point, Don Mattingly has to back off and preserve Alcantara for more competitive seasons. Seranthony Dominguez collected his ninth save but is still likely second fiddle to David Robertson, who had pitched an inning Tuesday.
  • ATL 8, BOS 4: Vaughn Grissom stole the show in his debut, clearing the Monster for his first homer, stealing a base and also playing solid defense at the keystone. He'll play a lot until Ozzie Albies is ready, which will likely come in a couple of weeks. Kyle Wright rebounded well after serving up four dingers to the Mets in his previous outing. Wright only fanned five in six frames, but they were all timely, as he had traffic on in every inning. The Red Sox bullpen continued to spring leaks with little relief in site, as Garrett Whitlock is the only trustworthy arm with Tanner Houck on the IL.
  • CLE 3, DET 2: Aaron Civale returned from the IL to throw four frames, allowing just two earned runs while fanning four with no walks. The Guardians' bullpen held the Tigers scoreless over the last five stanzas, with Emmanuel Clase collecting his 26th save, tying him with Edwin Diaz for third most in MLB. With his 2-for-5 effort, Riley Greene is hitting .270 in August, but beware he's also fanning at a 35 percent rate this month.
  • KC 8, CHW 3: Kris Bubic was lifted after 5.2 innings with the Royals down 3-1 (although he gave up just one earned run). His offense tied the game in the sixth, took the lead in the seventh then blew it open in the eighth with four runs off Jimmy Lambert, raising his ERA from 1.98 to 3.21. MJ Melendez has been pounding the ball since the break without much to show for it. Perhaps his 3-for-4 evening is a signal Lady Luck will get off his case.
  • TEX 8, HOU 4 (F/10): The Rangers took advantage of a rare Astros bullpen collapse, as Phil Maton must have been shaken when he allowed the ghost runner to reach second to begin the tenth frame. The big blow was a bases-clearing double by Leody Taveras, giving him five RBI for the game, the same number he collected over his prior 19 contests. Justin Verlander was touched for three runs, the most he's yielded since June 18, but he still managed to record his eighth consecutive quality start.
  • STL 9, COL 5: Albert Pujols wished Coors Field a fond adieu in his final start in the venue with a 4-for-5 evening, including a homer. Paul DeJong also collected four hits as he's continued to sting the ball since being called back up. Jose Quintana escaped with a solid six stanzas, fanning six while allowing just two runs. Elehuris Montero notched a pair of hits for the fifth straight game.
  • PIT 6, ARI 4: Mitch Keller labored through 5.1 frames, throwing 97 pitches, but it was enough to keep the Pirates in check while his teammates got to Madison Bumgarner for five tallies over six frames. Wil Crowe was tasked with securing a two-inning save but fell an out short, with Eric Stout retiring the final hitter for the vulture save,
  • LAD 8, MIN 5: The good news is Max Muncy hit his fourth homer this month (he's been punishing the ball since the break). However, he had to leave the game after taking a grounder off the hand. The club doesn't feel it's serious, but Muncy may miss some of the Dodgers' weekend excursion to Kansas City. Ryan Pepiot struggled in his first start filling in for Clayton Kershaw, but the Dodgers bullpen clamped down on the Twins, with only Craig Kimbrel letting them score a run in a non-save situation as the team had a four-run lead to open the ninth.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Todd Zola
Todd has been writing about fantasy baseball since 1997. He won NL Tout Wars and Mixed LABR in 2016 as well as a multi-time league winner in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship. Todd is now setting his sights even higher: The Rotowire Staff League. Lord Zola, as he's known in the industry, won the 2013 FSWA Fantasy Baseball Article of the Year award and was named the 2017 FSWA Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year. Todd is a five-time FSWA awards finalist.
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