Have you heard? The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2017 is now available for sale. You can check out the table of contents and read some excerpts from the book here. When you finish that you can purchase it Amazon in either print or Kindle form.
But wait, there’s more! Because we’re giving folk, and since it’s the beginning of the holiday season and all, we want to give you a chance to win yourself a free copy of the book. So today, tomorrow and Friday, I’ll be running a trivia contest based on one of the articles in the book. The first person to post the correct answer in the comments will win a free physical copy of the book (sorry, no free Kindle version). It’s just that simple!
Today’s question comes from Neil Weinberg’s piece, entitled “The Year in Back Picks.” In it, Neil details his year-long quest to find every back pick (when the catcher throws behind the runner at first base) in the majors. Neil detailed his process early in the piece:
At the start of the season, I asked my Twitter followers for help identifying back picks as they occurred throughout the year. I also asked them to share the request with their followers so that I would have multiple fans of every team on the lookout for these plays and I followed up the request multiple times throughout the season to ensure it stayed fresh in people’s minds. I have no way of knowing exactly who saw the request and how many people internalized it, but the response was significant.
Over the course of the 183-day season, I received tweets from baseball fans alerting me to back picks, totalling 218 data points in all. MLB Advanced Media also agreed to share data with me that pointed me to another 150 back picks that I didn’t find via the crowd. While the two methods complemented each other, Statcast didn’t capture every back pick, leaving open the possibility that the combined data set is incomplete. Finally, Baseball-Reference was kind enough to provide the play-by-play data for its catcher pickoff statistic, which pointed to five successful back picks I didn’t find using the other two methods.
When comparing the Baseball-Reference list to the list I developed using the crowd and MLBAM, I discovered that whether something is coded as a pickoff, caught stealing, or “out on advancement” is not an exact science. In reviewing the play-by-play data from Baseball-Reference, I learned that official scorers are not always consistent on these kinds of plays. For this reason, I cannot say for sure that I have every successful pickoff from 2016. In total, we have a sample of 373 back pick attempts for this analysis. As with any potentially incomplete data set, please take all of the following numbers as estimates of the truth rather than a perfect accounting of the 2016 season.
As is his custom, Neil does so much with this data to make it presentable and meaningful. One of the first tables he presents is “Back Pick Attempts and Successes By Catcher (Min. 10 Attempts).” So the question before you today, dear reader, is this:
Can you name five of the top 13 catchers in terms of 2016 back pick attempts?
Note: If you name more than five players, your entry will be automatically invalid.