Thursday, August 23, 2007

sportswriter agrees with baseball manager; both are wrong

sometimes looking on the bright side of things is the same as looking on the stupid side.'s scott miller wants to trot out some "conventional wisdom" in this piece about how it might be a good thing that brandon webb's scoreless innings streak got snapped. he ends up trotting out some "terrible analysis" instead.

A gassed Webb got to say so long after seven stressful innings against a rugged Milwaukee lineup. And what could become one of the most lethal weapons this October, Webb's right arm, got a jump on a few extra innings of rest before his next start, Tuesday in San Diego.

Just maybe, as the first-place Diamondbacks begin a 34-game sprint toward the finish line with Friday's game against the Chicago Cubs, Webb's checking in with the fifth-longest scoreless innings streak since 1940 -- instead of pushing it higher and longer -- is just about right.

you see what he's getting at, right? phew! what a relief! good thing webb had his streak broken, because he got more rest. and hey, d-backs manager bob melvin agrees.

"It's been incredible to the point of getting uncomfortable," Melvin said during a conversation in his office about an hour before Webb took the mound. "How many nine-inning games am I going to run him out there?"

ok, thank you bob, you've just accidentally touched on the first HUGE problem with your/scott miller's analysis. that is: webb doesn't have to pitch a complete game every time he goes out in order to break the record! i know that once he got to 42 innings, the math was very convenient- two more complete games would have him breaking hershiser's record by 1 inning. and when hershiser set his record, granted, he did it with 6 straight complete games (one was 10 innings, plus the last 4 innings of the start before the streak of shutouts, thus 59 total). but no one said it had to be broken that way. webb could have done so with three straight starts of 6 scoreless innings. or two of 5 innings and one of 8. see? those are "consecutive" "scoreless" "innings", just acquired differently. hell, webb even started this streak with two straight 7 inning outings, so it's not like he was going exclusively with CGs up to this point anyways. there's problem #1. problem #2 is almost worse.

"There is some discomfort with making a guy throw five consecutive complete games," Melvin said.

as we just discussed, HE DIDN'T HAVE TO THROW 5 CONSECUTIVE COMPLETE GAMES. besides that- really? when it comes to measuring stress placed on a pitcher's arm, are you sure there's not a hidden statistic that matters more than innings, bob? for example- if they were the same price, would you rather buy a used car that was made in 1998, or a used car that was made in 2004? but WAIT- what if i told you the car from 1998 had 25,000 miles on it, and the car from 2004 already had 75,000 miles? would that change your answer? pitch counts, bob, pitch counts. it doesn't matter how many innings a guy throws. it matters how many times he had to strain his tendons, ligaments, and muscles in order to do so. i'm going to go way out on a limb and postulate that a 85 pitch complete game is easier on a pitcher's arm than a 110 pitch outing that lasts 6 innings. but wait! bob's got that angle covered... or does he?

"In Atlanta (last Friday) in the extreme heat, he did it in 102 pitches."

i just went on, broke out my trusty slide rule, and spent 45 seconds figuring out how many pitches per start webb has averaged this year. the answer: 103.25. his pitch totals in the 3 consecutive shutouts prior to last night's outing? 102, 119, 102. so 2 of those 3 outings were actually below average for webb! granted, the 119 was a season high, but not by much. he's also gone for 118, 116 (twice), and 115 (twice). it's not like he was livan hernandez circa 1997 out there. don't be an idiot.

so use your imagination and rewind to last night. pretend prince fielder's 1 out RBI single in the first turns into a shallow fly out, and then webb strikes out ryan braun to end the inning. then pretend gabe gross's leadoff double in the 6th turns into a lineout to center, so he's not on base when craig counsell subsequently doubles. take the extra pitches webb had to throw to get out of those innings (in reality), which he now didn't have to throw because of the 2 extra outs in imaginary land, and scatter them around to other assorted 2 out fouls and such at various points during his 7 innings of work. well, looky there. ta-da! webb has now thrown the same number of pitches over the same number of innings, and his streak is still going strong. it's at 49. holy crap espn, get your people on the phone to arizona and buy up the rights to his next 2 starts! it's baseball history in the making! if you ran this thought experiment past miller and melvin, they would probably just stare blankly at you and blink a few times before walking away.

basically, although i did a terrible and disjointed job in attempting to do so, what i am saying is that these two guys are both very stupid. not smart, like me. all this time i spend down here in my parents' basement looking at wikipedia makes me way more intelligent than professional baseball writers and managers.


Anonymous said...

You're a loser! Who cares? Who has time to think about this stuff?

larry b said...

you, evidently. don't hate.