UPDATE (Feb. 25, 2016): MLB has informed us that they will be updating Brach's 2015 holds total to 15 (matching us). MLB's Cory Schwartz commented: "We do credit Holds whenever the pitcher enters in a Save situation and leaves with the lead intact, so this was an oversight on our part."
It recently came to our attention that for the 2015 season, we credited Brad Brach with 15 holds. MLB, meanwhile, credited Brach with just 14 holds (NOTE: After reading this post, MLB has agreed that 15 is the correct number of holds for Brach in 2015). It was discovered that the difference was in the handling of the Orioles 5-4 win over the Mariners on May 21. Before we jump into the details, let's examine MLB's definition of a hold (bolding is ours, for emphasis):
"The hold is not an official statistic, but it was created as a way to credit middle relief pitchers for a job well done. Starting pitchers get wins, and closers -- the relief pitchers who come in at the end of the game -- get saves, but the guys who pitch in between the two rarely get either statistic. So what's the most important thing one of these middle relievers can do? "Hold" a lead. If a reliever comes into a game to protect a lead, gets at least one out and leaves without giving up that lead, he gets a hold. But you can't get a save and a hold at the same time."
UPDATE (Feb. 26, 2016): Please see MLB's updated Holds definition here
As you can see, this isn't really much of a definition at all. There's little in the way of criteria here, and it's also pointed out that the statistic isn't even official, anyways. In fact, there's enough confusion that MLB.com credits Cory Rasmus with 2 holds in 2015, but Elias (MLB's official statistician) credits him with 1 hold in 2015. We credit him with 2, for what it's worth. This "definition" provides enough room for interpretation that variance in recorded totals is not uncommon.
Being that the statistic is unofficial, explaining all of this might be a pointless exercise, but in an effort to be transparent, we at least want to point out what standard we are using to assign holds.
Our standard is to give a pitcher a hold any time they protect a lead in a save situation (meaning they could have been eligible for a save if they finished the game). Brach presents an interesting study in that May 21 game. Starter Chris Tillman pitched 3 innings and left with a 4-1 lead. Obviously, he was not eligible for the win due to Rule 10.17(b), as he did not complete 5 innings. Tillman was relieved by Brian Matusz, who allowed 2 runs in the 4th, but completed the inning of work and left the game leading 4-3, when Brach took the mound for the 5th inning. Brach completed 2 scoreless innings, but the Mariners tied it up in the 7th after Brach left the game. The Orioles eventually won the game.
With the benefit of hindsight, you could say that Brach would have been in line for the win (not the save) if he had finished the game, since he ended up being more "effective" than Matusz, which would make it nearly a lock that the official scorer would have given him the win. But, hypothetically, Brach could have given up 20 runs in relief, but maintained the lead, and earned the save (with Matusz getting the win). As unlikely as that scenario is, the point here is that we're not using hindsight in assigning holds. In our opinion, the opportunity for a hold is defined when you enter the game and is only removed retroactively if you are given the win.
To be as clear as possible: our policy is to credit a hold when a pitcher enters the game in a save situation and leaves with the lead (and is not later given the win by the official scorer).
As we bolded in MLB's definition of a hold, "If a reliever comes into a game to protect a lead, gets at least one out and leaves without giving up that lead, he gets a hold." It would sure seem to us that Brach's May 21st appearance fits that criteria.
Did you write or read an excellent story, research paper, or book about baseball in 2015? If so, the window is open to submit that piece for consideration for this year's Greg Spira Baseball Research Award! Click this link to submit a piece for consideration.
The nomination period opened today, January 21, and will run through March 6. Any piece containing original analysis or research that was published between January 16, 2015 and January 15, 2016 is eligible to be nominated. Articles, papers, and books eligible for consideration include those published in print or in e-books, those published or posted on the Web, academic papers or dissertations, and papers presented at professional or public conferences. Winning entries must display innovative analysis or reasoning by an author who was 30 years old or younger at the time of the entry’s publication.
Anyone is free to nominate a qualifying piece for the Spira, and authors may self-nominate, but note that only one entry per author will be considered. The winner of the Spira Award will receive a cash prize of $1,000, with additional awards of $200 for second place and $100 for third place.
For more information on the Greg Spira Baseball Research Award, go to SpiraAward.org.
Today, we finalized the purchase of basketballreference.com from the folks at Rotowire (thanks guys!). This really doesn't do much for you as an end user, but I thought I'd also mention that there are some domain name tricks that can help you.
The main one is that each site has a shortened url of 5-6 characters that can save some typing on your end. This is especially useful on your phones.
It's a universal sports fan moment: the first time you realize that you're older than the player you're watching. Of course, as time goes on, the ratio flips. Eventually, its more of a surprise when you realize a player is older than you are. No matter where you fall on that spectrum, our newest tool will almost certainly make you feel old.
We've added a page that shows players born before and after whatever date you pick. You can also see their WAR and, thanks to the numbers in the left-most column, how many players in MLB were born before or after that date. For example: Read the rest of this entry
You may have noticed a recent addition to our player pages: an italicized stat line for 2016. These are projections for 2016, which were generated using the Marcel the Monkey Forecasting System.
The Marcel projection system was originally developed by Tom Tango as the "minimum level of competence that you should expect from any forecaster." Let's let him describe it:
Actually, it is the most basic forecasting system you can have, that uses as little intelligence as possible. So, that's the allusion to the monkey. It uses 3 years of MLB data, with the most recent data weighted heavier. It regresses towards the mean. And it has an age factor.
I do not stand behind these forecasts. Consider me only a trustee of the system. For me to stand behind a forecasting system, I'd have to spend a multitude of hours to get it right. And, the difference between doing it right, and doing it with the Marcels.... well, I'd rather continue spending my time working on other baseball research.
As you explore Baseball-Reference, you may notice a bit of a re-imagining of how we are now presenting non-MLB statistics on the site. Where we once had fragmented sections for player stats in various non-Major leagues (minors, Japan, Cuba, etc), we have now combined everything into a single page showing the player's professional history. This new page presents all of a player's career statistics on one page and makes it easier than ever to track a player's career trajectory and journey in one place. On player pages where is used to say "minors" it now lists a variety of levels at which the player played (like in the below image from Minnie Minoso's page). Clicking that link will lead you to a listing of that player's career at every level of play.
Through these pages, you can now find statistics for the following levels of play:
MLB since 1871
Complete affiliated Minor Leagues back to 1877
Negro Leagues from 1902-1960
Japanese baseball from 1936 to present
KBO baseball since 1982
Cuban National Series from 1961-2014
Arizona Fall League since 1992
Coverage of various Winter Leagues back to 2003 (and also 2000, 1999 and 1997)
Various independent leagues as far back at the late 19th century
As an example of how this all works, let's take a look at the all-levels career of the well-traveled Minnie Minoso: As you can see, the stat tables look like the ones you've grown comfortable with on our site. But instead of just being for a specific level of play, you can see Minoso's stats from MLB, the minors, the Negro Leagues, foreign leagues and independent leagues. Using the "show/hide" buttons atop the stats table, you can isolate or exclude statistics from various levels of play. Additionally, levels at which Minoso played more than one season will be summed beneath the table (as well as his all-level totals). Below you will see an abbreviated version of the table layout, displaying Minoso's long career. If you're wondering what some of the columns represent, hold your mouse over the column header and a description will pop up.
Minoso provides a good example due to the variety of levels he played at. You'll also notice that for more obscure leagues there are sometimes empty rows of data. These are instances where we know a player was on a team in a given season, but we simply don't have the statistics. As a result, incomplete totals will be underlined in the tables (or just left blank when there is no data).
While the most obvious change may be to the player pages as demonstrated above, we've also created a new Professional Baseball History landing page, which will provide navigation to a wealth of non-MLB content. On this page, you'll see the left side of the page is dedicated to minor league data, while the center column directs to Japanese leagues and the right column contains links for Negro Leagues, Cuban National Series and the Korean Baseball Organization. Underneath this section you'll also find quick links to many of the minor leagues (broken down by level), as well as various fall/winter leagues and independent leagues.
We hope you find this new layout helpful. Please let us know if you have any questions or feedback.
What is your favorite kind of baseball play? I imagine a lot of people would go with a classic like the dinger. Or perhaps you prefer the swinging strikeout? I imagine Red Sox fans who were in Fenway for Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS may be partial to the stolen base. No matter what it is, I'm very jealous of you, because your favorite play has an easily understood definition and mine does not: Read the rest of this entry
Jonah Gardner joined the Sports Reference crew (working out of Philly) a few weeks ago as our Social Media Coordinator bringing SR's head count to seven full-time staff. Jonah brings experience working in social media for The Human Solution in Austin and also for several musical acts and record labels. He's an Atlanta Braves fan, backs Everton FC (the Braves of the EPL), and is a big NBA fan (see his Kevin Garnett Trade Voltron). Jonah will be leading our change on social media for Sports Reference and you'll see us on much more active on twitter and joining additional platforms in the near future.
Over the course of their Major League careers, Craig Biggio, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz were involved in over 55,000 plate appearances spread over most of three decades. Today, to join in this weekend's festivities, we're going to look at 228 of those -- the rare moments in baseball history where two members of the Hall of Fame Class of 2015 saw their careers intersect.
When John Smoltz and Craig Biggio made their Major League debuts in 1988, the Braves and Astros were still in the same division and both were on the precipice of long runs of relevance. As a result, these two squared off a lot. John Smoltz was Craig Biggio's 2nd most-faced pitcher, behind Greg Maddux, but he was the hitter that Smoltz saw the most of. Unlike Maddux, against whom Biggio battled as evenly as one could reasonably expect to battle Greg Maddux, Smoltz got the slight upper hand. Biggio's OBP was 40 points lower and his batting average was 20 points lower than his career averages, looking at just their regular season matchups. But where Smoltz truly dominated him was in the postseason. In four postseason games and 13 plate appearances, Biggio managed only one hit and no walks. And despite striking out 14% of the time over his career, Biggio was fanned on over 21% of his postseason plate appearances against Smoltz and 22.6% of all plate appearances vs Smoltz in both the regular season and postseason.
It's probably random, but the Braves also happened to win all 4 postseason games where Smoltz pitched against Biggio, including two series clinching victories in 1997 and 1999 (as a Braves fan, I'd rather not get into what ultimately happened in the 2004 or 2005 series). But, because Biggio is still an all-time great, he still managed to inflict some damage on Smoltz.
Here we have a more modest, but more clearly one-sided battle. Though Johnson also debuted in the NL in 1988, the Big Unit never pitched to Biggio before being shipped off to Seattle. Johnson retured to the National League in 1998 as Biggio's teammate in Houston, and ultimately wouldn't pitch to him until 2000, Johnson's second year on the Diamondbacks. By that point, Biggio had begun his decline, posting a 1.4 WAR season and hitting a light .268 (he would bounceback in 2001 with a 3.2 WAR season, his only 3+ WAR season in the 21st Century), but 2000 was the only year he managed to have any success at all against Johnson. Johnson, of course, was in the midst of his early 2000s run of complete dominance. Over the 3 years that these 16 plate appearances occured, Randy Johnson was worth 29.1 WAR, pitched 758 1/3 innings, and struck out 1053 batters (including Biggio in 5 of the 16 times he pitched to him). The strikeout totals and WAR are the highest by any pitcher in their age 36-38 seasons in MLB history.
It's a shame that a prime Craig Biggio never got the chance to hit against Randy Johnson, but keep in mind, not only did that they debuted the same year, but Biggio was two years younger. If nothing else, the total one-sidedness of this contest shows just how impressive and rare Randy Johnson's performance in his late-30s was.
Of course, you don't need me to tell you what was going on in Boston while Randy Johnson was finding the Fountain of Youth in Phoenix. Pedro Martinez never faced Craig Biggio during his electrifying stint in Fenway, but he did pitch to Biggio in three of the four uniforms he wore as a National Leaguer, in what turned out to be a back-and-forth battle. Their first showdowns came when Biggio was entering his prime, while Martinez was just getting started. However, Pedro was still a 3 win pitcher in 1993, and a 4 win pitcher in 95 and 96. It's just that Biggio was out of his mind. Things took a course correction in 1997, Pedro's last year as an Expo and the true start of his era of domination. In 1997, Pedro would post his 2nd best career ERA, his 3rd best career ERA+, and his 2nd highest strikeout total. However, 1997 was also Biggio's best year by WAR (9.4) and OBP (.415). While 1997 is a clear loss for Biggio, it is worth noting that he managed to post just a single strikeout in 14 plate appearances against one of the most dominant strikeout pitchers of all time. In total, Biggio's strikeout rate against Martinez, 14%, was more than 13 points lower than Pedro's career rate of 27.7%.
Biggio's matchups show that even an all time great hitter can be victimized by great pitching and a small sample size. But what about people who are somewhat less talented as hitters? Since all three pitching inductees spent time in the NL, we wanted to see how they fared against each other. Unfortunately, Randy Johnson actually never faced Martinez or Smoltz. But, before moving on, I wanted to show one pitcher we found that he actually kind of owned.
Yes, for two games in 2008, Randy Johnson posed a question that Adam Eaton simply couldn't answer. In their first matchup, Eaton walked Unit in the bottom of the 4th with the bases loaded. In their second game, Johnson slugged a double deep into LF, scoring two more.
Now this is what we came here to see: two NL East rivals who went head to head a combined 30 times. Smoltz never even put a ball in play against Pedro when the latter was an Expo, striking out 3 times and walking once. Pedro changed leagues for a while and, upon his return, joined the Mets. In 2005, as Smoltz and Pedro were both making late career All-Star runs (Smoltz at age 38!), the two squared off in 19 plate appearances (counting Pedro's in the chart below) over four games. 2005 was probably the last year Pedro was still dominant, posting games like a 9 strikeout, 1 run complete game masterpiece in Atlanta. Two of the strikeouts came against Smoltz, one of which is actually online in its entirety, albeit in somewhat low quality video. We apologize for that, and for the crimes against batting that you're about to witness.
To be fair to Smoltz, he actually does a decent job of battling back after going down 0-2, but this is what happens when a career .159 hitter faces a pitcher who would finish his career with over 3100 Ks. Speaking of Smoltz's hitting, he finished his career a .159/.226/.207 hitter in over 1100 PAs, meaning his totals against Pedro are actually not as far below his career averages as you might think. Those numbers are helped, though, by the game they played in 2006, when Smoltz scored a sacrifice bunt and a single off of a clearly declining Martinez. Pedro would make an All-Star team again in 2006 and post a 2.57 ERA in 2007, but after 2005, he never posted a WAR above 1.0.
But if Smoltz did about as expected, Pedro did...well, take a look
That's right, in 15 plate appearances vs Smoltz, Pedro never reached base. That includes their one matchup in 2006, Smoltz's payback game for 2005, where he struck out 10 batters over 7 innings, including Martinez 3 times. In total, Smoltz is the pitcher that Martinez faced the most as a batter. Of course, the bulk of their matchups came after Martinez's stint in the AL, so is it possible whatever hitting skills he did have simply decayed? Well, in LA and Montreal, he hit .102/.145/.130 in 299 PA and on his return, he was a .107/.127/.124 hitter in 198 PA (as a member of the Red Sox, Pedro actually reached base twice, once on a walk in a 2002 interleague game and again on a walk in the 2004 World Series).
So what did we learn from this, besides the fact that weird things can happen in small sample size and pitchers are bad at hitting? Despite joining the Hall of Fame at the same time, these players very rarely crossed paths at their true peaks. Despite 33 All-Star game appearances between them, only 4 of the matchups (Biggio vs Smoltz in 92, Biggio vs Martinez in 96 and 97, and Smoltz vs Martinez in 05) happened in years when both players all All-Stars. Even for the most talented athletes among us, it seems, true greatness is fleeting.
How We Found This
You can find any batter or pitcher's entire matchup history in the Play Index. Just type their name in the box and select "Batter vs. Pitcher" or "Pitcher vs. Batter". From there, you'll get the history of every matchup for that player.