Author Archive

The Overrated Value of Catcher’s Throwing Arms

If you are familiar with my previous studies on the battery, I have often struggled with preconceived notions regarding the relationship between the pitcher, the catcher and the running game. I have previously concluded that it is the pitcher who has more influence on the caught stealing percentage of the battery than the catcher. In addition, I’ve concluded that it is the pitcher who has more of an impact on the passed ball. Meanwhile, in box scores and in broadcast booths all around the country we continue to reward caught stealing and responsibility for the passed ball to the catcher. Fact is, there are many variables at play and as a result, there is a battery effect that must be considered.

In my continuing study on the relationship between the pitcher and the catcher, this article addresses one specific area of the battery effect and will question the conventional wisdom that the catcher’s arm is the determining factor in the outcome of a would be base stealer.

While there are many variables in play, for today we will solely look at timing of the battery and the past success of the battery, the pitcher, and the catcher in controlling the running game.
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Is the Change of Scenery Effect a Real Thing?

Last year, Dan Uggla hit .179 and was worth +0.5 WAR, eventually getting left off the Braves playoff roster. He’ll turn 34 next March. He is due $26 million over the next two years. And this winter, the Braves are going to try to convince another organization that he just needs a fresh start in a new location to salvage his career. Take him out of Atlanta, and maybe the bat speed will come back. Maybe he just needs a change of scenery.

In reality, it is much more likely that any observed change of scenery effect is really just positive regression to the mean, since you only really need new “scenery” when you’re coming off a bad year, leaving nowhere to go but up. Players who change teams in these situations likely underperformed in the prior year, leaving plenty of opportunity for improvement after they arrive in their new city.

Of course, it can go deeper than that as well. Sometimes, when going from one team to another, a pitcher or hitter acquires park dimensions that better fit their game or a clubhouse that might better fit their demeanor. Or maybe they’re a pitcher and they move to a better defensive team. Or they finally get platooned in their new city, allowing them to only play when they have the advantage. There are plenty of reasons why a player could be more effective on one team than another.

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A Prelude to a Study: Caught Stealing Variables and Assigning Responsibility

Pitcher-catcher batteries are unpredictable and fickle beasts. The mundane statistics that are commonly used to evaluate batteries — SB, CS, PB, WP — only help to confuse the already fine line between the responsibilities and influences a pitcher and catcher have on each other. Simply, a stolen base does not give us enough information to identify which of the battery mates is responsible. There are many underlying variables, lurking ever so quietly just beneath the box score, that become more muddled over the course of time.

Baseball in its purest form, is a matter of safe or out. Same rule applies for a stolen base and caught stealing. The difference between the two may be a matter of milliseconds, a conjunction of a handful of hidden variables coming together all at once. Yet in the end, it is as simple whether or not the baserunner was safe or out.

However, analytically speaking, I want to know why. I want to know why the outcome occurred, more so than the end result. In doing so we would have more information to predict further outcomes and assign responsibility to who influenced the outcome more — the pitcher or the catcher?

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2013’s Top Batteries at Preventing the Running Game

Over the last two months, I have been working on quantifying which of the two battery mates deserves credit — or rather blame — for the running game and the passed ball and wild pitch. Note: It’s not dire that you read those articles to comprehend and enjoy this one.

The main take away from my research is that I have found a pitcher has more statistical correlation, with the caught stealing percentage, wild pitches, and passed balls of a battery, than the catcher. While none of this is revolutionary, it is important to note that neither the pitcher nor the catcher is solely to blame for any outcome in a battery, rather it is a combination of both. However, considering the strong correlations we discovered in the pitchers favor, we can now recognize that conventional wisdom underestimates the impact a pitcher can have on the outcomes of a battery — especially in regards to the running game.

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Exploring the Battery Effect

Today’s article will concern the “battery effect” and its far reaching influences on passed balls and wild pitches. However, before we delve in, I will fill you in on the details of my previous research as a reference point for today’s research.

The “Battery Effect”

The “battery effect” is most easily explained as the relationship between the pitcher and the catcher and how they affect each other. The effect is often subtle, but still significant in the big picture.

Let’s dive into the details. My previous study on battery combinations included investigating which of the two battery mates — the pitcher or the catcher — deserved the credit for catching a runner. The basic take away from this research was, surprisingly, that the pitcher had more of  a profound effect on the caught stealing percent of the battery. To measure this effect I ran a regression of the pitcher’s CS% — caught stealing percentage — on the battery’s CS%, and vice versa for catchers.  

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