DMB News April 2002
Diamond Mind Email Newsletter
April 26, 2002
Written by Tom Tippett
Welcome to the second edition of the Diamond Mind email newsletter for the year 2002. Through these newsletters, we will try to keep you up to date on the latest product and technical information about the Diamond Mind Baseball game, related player disks, and our ongoing baseball research efforts. Back issues are available on our website.
Topics for this issue:
On April 9th, we began shipping the second and final edition of the 2002 Projection Disk. This edition reflects trades, releases, and other roster moves that occurred during the last three weeks of spring training. It also includes twelve players who made the opening day rosters but were not on the first edition.
The updated disk was sent automatically to everyone who ordered the March edition, and is now being shipped to anyone who buys the 2002 Projection Disk for the first time.
We recently released a (relatively minor) patch for version 8. This patch can be downloaded free of charge from our web site and can be applied to any of the previous version 8 editions to bring your installed copy of the game completely up to date.
There's a link from our home page (www.diamond-mind.com) to the area of the web site that (a) describes the bug fixes that are included in version 8E and (b) provides instructions for downloading and installing the patch.
We have also updated the CDs that ship to new buyers of the game, so anyone purchasing version 8 from this point forward will NOT need to apply the patch.
In case you haven't already seen it ... on March 21st, we posted our annual Projected Team Standings article to our web site. It was also published on ESPN.com as part of their pre-season preview. The article includes projected standings based on the average of fifty simulated seasons using our 2002 Projection Disk and provides a few paragraphs of commentary on each of the thirty teams.
And in early April, we posted an article that looked at how much help a bad team really needs to become competitive. To shed some light on this question, we made a series of lopsided trades between New York and Tampa Bay, simulating the 2002 season three times after each deal to see how much better Tampa Bay would get with each new player added.
In our February newsletter, we talked of the impending release of more than 30 new park images that would extend our coverage to include all stadiums used from 1978 to 1999. Those images are now available for free download from our web site.
Certain things go with the territory. When you're the designer of a baseball game, one of those things is the occasional message from a customer (a) whose pitcher just tossed three wild pitches in a row and cost him a game, (b) is angry, and (c) insists that such a thing could never happen in real baseball so there must be something wrong with the design of the game.
For a long time, I've been curious about how often certain baseball events cluster together in a short period of time. So Tom Ruane and I (mostly Tom Ruane) wrote a program that looks through our play-by-play files and tracks how often certain things happened in one inning. In this case, when I use the term inning, I really mean a half-inning ... that is, an inning for one team, not both.
We analyzed play-by-play data from 1978 to 2001, a period that includes about 50,000 games and a little over 914,000 half-innings.
The program compiles two types of information. The first counts the number of half-innings in which the event occurred once, twice, three times and so on. The second is a list of interesting innings, where an inning is deemed worthy if an event occurred far more often than normal. A four-strikeout inning qualifies as interesting; a three-strikeout inning does not.
You could, of course, find some of this information by looking things up in the Sporting News record book. In a way, that would be better than what we're doing here because it would cover all of baseball history. But that wouldn't necessarily tell you how often you'd see innings that don't quite reach the level needed to make it into the record book.
So, without further ado, let's take a look at what we found.
From 1978 to 2001, there were ten innings in which a team banged out five doubles and one inning with six. The Mets had six doubles in the 2nd inning of their game in Montreal on July 22, 1999. Dustin Hermanson was on the mound for all of them, but was left in the game and retired fourteen in a row as soon as the doubles barrage ended.
Six of the eleven innings with 5+ doubles were on artificial turf, one in Colorado, and two more in doubles-friendly Fenway Park.
On seven occasions, a team had three triples in one inning, most recently on May 15, 1997. In the home half of the seventh, the Cubs got a triple from Brian McRae, another triple from Doug Glanville, a single from Mark Grace, and a third triple from Sammy Sosa. The Padres Tim Scott was the victim on all three.
Twenty-three four homer innings have been recorded in this stretch, four of them in 2001 and seven more in 2000. The most recent was on August 17, when the Blue Jays blasted four dingers in the 6th inning against that woeful Rangers pitching staff. Well, that's a bit too general. It's not fair to indict the entire group for the failures of one individual. Pat Mahomes came on in relief and promptly gave up four homers to the five batters he faced.
There have also been 431 innings featuring three homeruns in this stretch, and another 5946 frames with a pair of long balls.
If you like innings that never seem to end, we've got one for you. On August 3, 1989, Cincinnati recorded 19 official atbats in the bottom of the first. Here's how it went: walk, stolen base, single, single, three-run homer (by Ken Griffey Sr.), single, single, single, pitching change (Bob Forsch relieving Jim Clancy), double, wild pitch, ground out (Bronx cheer!), double, single, single, single, single, double, single, single, single, fly out, fly out. If this was chess, not baseball, I'm sure the Astros would have resigned before this 14-run inning was over. Instead, they played it out and lost 18-2.
If you happened to be counting, you already know that the Reds had 16 hits in that inning. That's the high since 1978, easily outdistancing the 13 hits posted by the Expos in a May 7, 1997, game against the Giants.
But this wasn't the biggest inning of this period. It was second behind a 16-run outburst by the Rangers on April 19, 1996. And this was against a good team; the visiting Orioles won 88 games and the wildcard that year.
But it was not a good day for the Baltimore staff. They were already down 10-7 when Armando Benitez came on to start the eighth. Benitez promptly gave up a single, a stolen base, a walk, a wild pitch, and another walk. Thinking they might still have a remote chance, the Orioles pulled Benitez and gave the ball to Jesse Orosco. He managed to retire one of the nine batters he faced. At this point, infielder Manny Alexander was summoned to finish up, and he walked the first three hitters. After a sacrifice fly and another walk, Kevin Elster capped it off with a grand slam before Darryl Hamilton recorded the final out on a (sympathy?) ground ball to second. Texas residents would have been forgiven if they thought the final score of 26-7 was really from a Cowboys game.
In that inglorious effort, the Orioles issued eight walks. Five were given up by a shortstop, however, so it doesn't really qualify as one of the worst control failures of this period. That honor goes to the Oakland A's of 1979, who walked 8 Angels in one inning on the fourth of July and managed to do so without using any non-pitchers.
It was 7-6 for the home team when the Angels came to bat in the bottom of the 8th. Mike Norris was the first Oakland pitcher of the inning. He walked 96 men in 146 innings that year, so it's not surprising that he was part of this story, even if he wasn't the lead actor. His part of the inning went strikeout, walk, wild pitch, error, single, single, passed ball, stolen base, intentional walk.
Enter Craig Minetto, who gave up a run-scoring single to the first hitter, with an extra run coming home on an error by the center fielder. Then walk, single, passed ball, walk, walk, walk, walk. (Are you sure this wasn't a Little League game?) With most of the damage done, Jim Todd came on to mop up, and he got out of the inning with a sacrifice fly, one last walk, and a strikeout.
In addition to these two eight-walk innings, this period also saw 7 seven-walk innings, 33 six-walk innings, and 193 five-walk innings. I honestly can't remember if I saw any of them, but I'm glad I didn't have to sit through them all.
The latest seven-walk effort took place last October 5th. Florida starter Ryan Dempster had been staked to a 3-0 lead over the Braves before taking the mound in the bottom of the first. But he began that frame by going walk, walk, wild pitch, walk to load the bases. When he got the next two hitters on a strikeout and a sac fly, it seemed he might escape with the lead. But after a walk, a single, and another walk, Dempster walked the opposing pitcher with the bases full to force in the fourth run of the inning. Benito Baez came on and walked in another run before giving up a single and a grand slam. The inning ended with Atlanta up 10-3, and they went on to a 20-3 win.
Before leaving the subject of walks, let me point out that fourteen teams elected to issue three intentional walks in one inning. It's fair to say that this strategy didn't work all that well, because if it had worked, it wouldn't have been necessary to do it more than once (or twice at the most).
The most recent example occurred in Milwaukee last July 29th with the visiting Padres batting in the top of the 6th. Bubba Trammell led off with a hard-earned eight-pitch walk. A single put runners on first and second, and both runners moved up on a fly ball to deep center field off the bat of Damian Jackson. With first base open, Davey Lopes opted to walk #8 hitter Alex Arias and bring up the pitcher.
Kevin Jarvis spoiled the plan by hitting a sacrifice fly to center. Rickey Henderson singled in another run before Mark Kotsay drove in two with a double. With first base open and righty Chad Fox on the mound, lefty Ryan Klesko was walked to get to the right-handed hitting Phil Nevin.
But Nevin walked and Bubba Trammell doubled home two more runs. First base was open again, so Ben Davis was walked to get to Damian Jackson. It worked this time, as Jackson struck out to end the rally, but the damage was done. The Padres had turned a 5-3 lead into an 11-3 rout.
Four strikeout innings, as you all know, can result when one of the third strikes gets away from the catcher and the batter ends up safe on first. There have been 29 four-strikeout innings since 1978.
In addition to dropped third strikes, other sloppy plays often lead to these interesting innings.
You may recall that baseball decided to crack down and strictly enforce the balk rules in 1988. In the years leading up to this change in policy, the total number of balks per season (combining both leagues) was usually in the mid-200s. (Despite the increase in the number of teams, the total is usually in the mid-100s today.) But that number spiked up to 924 balks in 1988, so it's not surprising that both of the three-balk innings occurred during that season.
The winner of the passed-ball competition is Geno Petralli of the 1987 Texas Rangers. I'll bet a lot of you can guess who was pitching, but I'll let you ponder that for a moment before I tell you. Fortunately for Petralli, his team beat the White Sox 8-6 that day, so his struggles in the top of the seventh inning weren't costly. Here's how the inning went:
passed ball, runner to second
passed ball, runner to third
strikeout, batter retired, runner to second on a PB on strike three
passed ball, runner to third
By the way, the pitcher was knuckleballer Charlie Hough. It surprises me that all four were scored as passed balls, but it seems the official scorer was pretty tough. According to the boxscore on retrosheet.org, Petralli had five passed balls that day and Hough wasn't charged with a single wild pitch.
The same boxscore lists Hough as having had 45 passed balls occur while he was pitching through that date. By the time the season was done, Petralli had 35 passed balls, Don Slaught 20, and Mike Stanley 18, for a team total of 73. It's clear that Hough was on the mound for most of them, so he should bear a lot of the responsibility. But the scorers attributed the blame to the catchers almost every time, as Hough was charged with only 12 wild pitches that year. None of these three catchers were known for their defense, but that ratio still seems out of whack.
NOTE: Before a bunch of you write to us, let me say that we are quite well aware that Diamond Mind Baseball would be a better game if we found a fair way to avoid punishing catchers who catch guys like Hough and Tim Wakefield. Our game has a wild pitch rating for pitchers and a passed ball rating for catchers, and it was designed that way because the official scorer isn't supposed to give the catcher a passed ball unless it's his fault. But it's clear that passed ball rates are much higher with knuckleballers on the mound and that we cannot rely on the official scorers to shift a fair share of the blame to the pitcher.
So we're considering adding a passed ball rating for pitchers. That way, we could give Petralli, Slaught, and Stanley a passed ball rating that better reflects their true ability and give Hough a rating that would cause more passed balls to be generated when he's pitching. The passed balls would still be charged to whoever was catching him at the time, but guys like Petralli wouldn't be as prone to passed balls when catching somebody else.
Wrapping up our review of passed balls, there were five other innings with three passed balls. Two of them were Texas games from the late 1980s, and, you guessed it, Hough was the pitcher both times.
We mentioned wild pitches just now, so let's do them next. There were two innings with four wild pitches, 56 with three, and 1322 with two. On August 4, 1979, knuckleballer Phil Niekro tossed six wild pitches, with four of them coming in the fifth inning.
Nineteen years later, on September 11, 1998, two Cubs pitchers combined to match that total. Terry Adams came on in relief to start the sixth inning in a game that visiting Milwaukee was leading 10-9. Adams gave up a single, got an out on a liner to second, botched a pickoff throw for an error, wild pitched that runner to third before getting the second out on a strikeout, walked a batter, gave up an RBI double, wild pitched a run home, and then failed to get out of the inning when the next batter struck out but reached first on a wild third strike. Terry Mulholland was summoned from the pen and tossed a harmless wild pitch before getting the third out.
Another form of wildness occurs when a batter gets hit by a pitch, assuming the hitter wasn't plunked intentionally. Since 1978, we recorded 11 innings in which three hitters got a free pass to first base the hard way.
It last happened on September 26, 2000, in a game between the Padres and the Cardinals. And, no, Rick Ankiel was not pitching at the time. The Cards were batting. Dave Maurer had just come on in relief, and he produced an alternating sequence of strikeout, hit batsman, strikeout, hit batsman before being lifted for Heathcliffe Slocumb. Slocumb gave up two doubles and then hit Mark McGwire before getting out of the inning.
The only other 3-HBP inning of the year 2000 was quite similar. Both occurred in the 8th. San Diego pitchers were the culprits both times. And both involved a reliever entering the game to start the eighth (it was Kevin Walker this time), hitting two batters, being relieved by Slocumb, and watching Slocumb hit a third batter. This time it happened against Atlanta on August 16th.
While we're on the subject of sloppiness, let's talk errors. We found 23 innings in which a team made four errors. (We didn't track errors by the same fielder, only team errors, but maybe we'll extend the program to look at individual errors some day.)
The Tigers pulled this off last September 26 against Kansas City. The home half of the third began with an error by shortstop Deivi Cruz. The runner moved up a base on a wild pickoff throw by Victor Santos. The next hitter reached when Shane Halter booted a grounder at third. Next was a triple on which Bobby Higginson made an error that allowed the batter to come all the way home. Those unearned runs proved to be the losing margin for the Tigers, who squandered a 4-0 lead in the process.
A special case of the four-error inning occurs when all four errors allow the batter to reach base. Those are the most costly because they represent an out not made, while some other errors merely cost you a base. The only team to allow four batters to reach on an error in one inning was the 1990 Atlanta Braves, who granted the Padres four extra outs in the second inning of their game on September 16th. This was a bad Braves team, of course, and they got good in a hurry after that.
On sixty other occasions, a defense allowed three runners to reach via error in the same inning, and there were another 1504 innings with two reach-on-error plays. That's a lot of extra outs to be giving up.
Two innings, both with the Yankees batting and both in 2000, saw the very rare total of three sacrifice flies in the same inning. That's tough to do, of course, since the third fly ball usually ends things.
On August 19, 2000, Glenallen Hill walked to lead off the third inning and Tino Martinez doubled him to third. Jorge Posada lifted a fly ball to left. Ron Gant dropped it for an error, but Posada was credited with a sac fly when Hill scored from third. With runners on second and third, Scott Brosius brought Martinez home with a scoring fly ball. Then Clay Bellinger hit a fly ball to the deepest part of left center. Gant made the catch, but Posada scored all the way from second, and Bellinger was awarded the third sac fly of the inning.
Similarly, there have been four innings in which three sacrifice bunts were handed out. Again, errors played a part, but we've talked enough about sloppy play, so I won't go into details on these innings.
Turning our attention to the running game, we found 8 innings with five stolen bases, most recently by the Twins against Kansas City on August 26, 2001. In a scoreless game with Blake Stein pitching and Brent Mayne catching, David Ortiz walked to lead off the inning and then stole second on a pitch that struck out Brian Buchanan. A.J. Pierzynski singled Ortiz home and then was thrown out trying to steal.
With two down, the pace picked up. Luis Rivas walked and stole second. Jacque Jones walked. Cristian Guzman singled Rivas home, sending Jones to third. Guzman stole second. Doug Mientkiewicz walked to load the bases before Corey Koskie singled in two runs, leaving men on the corners. Torii Hunter hit an RBI single. The Royals brought Cory Bailey in to face David Ortiz, and on Bailey's first pitch, Koskie led a double steal that put him on third and Hunter on second. Ortiz struck out to end the inning (and was ejected for arguing the called third strike).
The final tally: five steals in six attempts and a 5-0 lead for the Twins. By the way, the Twins attempted no other steals in the game.
On August 6, 1982, the Dodgers tried to put some pressure on the Atlanta defense in the bottom of the 5th inning. LA had a 3-0 lead against Phil Niekro entering this frame. Steve Sax led off with a single and was thrown out stealing second by Bruce Benedict. Ken Landreaux walked and was gunned down at second by Benedict. Dusty Baker singled, and he lit out for second base and was charged with a CS when because he would have been out had second baseman Glenn Hubbard not dropped the throw.
This was the only inning we found in which three runners were charged with a caught stealing. The Dodgers won the game 5-4 in ten innings, so this bit of recklessness didn't cost them.
An even more remarkable series of events took place a little over a year later. On August 24, 1983, Baltimore hosted the Blue Jays. Jays fans will recall this as the first good Toronto team, one that held the division lead into the first week of August. Going into this game, the division standings looked like this:
W-L GB Milwaukee 71-53 - Baltimore 69-52 0.5 Detroit 69-54 1.5 Toronto 70-55 1.5 New York 67-56 3.5
So there was a lot at stake, and Baltimore manager Joe Altobelli pulled out all the stops. Trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the 7th, the O's used a pinch runner and two pinch hitters, one for starting catcher Rick Dempsey. Toronto added an insurance run in the eighth, and with the score 3-1 going into the home half of the ninth, Altobelli used two more pinch hitters, again pulling his catcher for a guy with a better bat.
And it worked. Baltimore tied the score on a pair of two-out singles, one by the guy (Benny Ayala) who batted for the catcher, and the game went into extra innings. Problem was, the O's were out of catchers and were forced to move utility infielder Lenn Sakata behind the plate. For the first and only time in his big-league career.
Cliff Johnson put the Jays right back on top when he led off the tenth with a homerun off Tim Stoddard. When Barry Bonnell singled, Altobelli called on lefty Tippy Martinez. Martinez picked the speedy Bonnell off first base. Pinch-hitter Dave Collins, another base-stealing threat, worked a walk. Martinez picked him off first. Not-so-speedy Willie Upshaw reached on an infield single. And Martinez picked HIM off first, too. According to a note in the Retrosheet play-by-play file, only six pitches actually reached Sakata's glove.
It's the only three-pickoff inning we found in the past 24 years, and it was a very big deal. Baltimore rallied for a 7-4 win when Cal Ripken tied the game with a solo homer and, you guessed it, Lenn Sakata blasted a three-run shot to end it.
The young Blue Jays blew another tenth-inning lead to the Orioles the next day, then lost in ten to the Tigers, picked up a win, then blew a ninth-inning lead and lost to the Tigers again. Meanwhile, Baltimore got hot. Eight days after the three-pickoff inning, Toronto was in fifth place, six and half games back of the Orioles.
So there have been lots of wild and crazy innings in the big leagues since 1978. But there's no guarantee that you won't see something in a Diamond Mind Baseball game (or any other simulation game) that is even more unusual.
A real-life season consists of 2430 games these days, and as I pointed out at the beginning of this piece, our 1978-2001 period covers about 50,000 games. That's a pretty big number, but it's a small fraction of the number of Diamond Mind Baseball games that are played each year. More games equals more opportunities for unusual sequences of events, so there's a pretty good chance that you've seen something in a Diamond Mind game that nobody has seen in real life, at least not in the past 25 years.
Compared with real life, and allowing for the differences in the number of games, I honestly don't know if these rare events happen more often, less often, or with the same frequency in Diamond Mind Baseball. We haven't done any formal studies to do this comparison. We're working on some new testing tools that would make these types of large-scale studies easier to do for simulated games, so perhaps we'll revisit this topic in a year or so and see if we can answer this question.
I've mentioned Retrosheet before, and while the basic aim of the organization hasn't changed since the last time, there has been a large increase in the amount of information available from their web site.
First, for those of you who are not already familiar with Retrosheet, it's a non-profit organization that is devoted to the collection and computerization of play-by-play accounts for big-league games played prior to 1984. From 1984 to the present, Project Scoresheet, STATS, The Baseball Workshop and others have compiled complete play-by-play accounts, and Retrosheet is trying to do the same for the pre-1984 period.
Retrosheet is doing a remarkable job of finding and coding old game accounts. The 1978-81 Deluxe Past Seasons that we released last fall are much better as a result of their work, and as Retrosheet releases their play-by-play files for other historical seasons, we plan to upgrade the corresponding Classic Seasons to Deluxe status.
In researching the games I wrote about above, I found the Retrosheet web site to be extremely valuable. There's a section of their site that you can reach from the "Boxscores, narratives, other goodies" link on their home page (www.retrosheet.org), but that name vastly understates what you'll find there.
For each season from 1900 to 2000, you'll find a page with the final standings and a calendar. Click on a team in the standings and you'll get a breakdown of their win-loss record by opponent and on a home-road basis. From that page, you can get a log of every game the team played that year and a page with the final batting and pitching stats for every player on the roster.
But it gets even better. Going back to the main standings page for the season, you can click on any day of the calendar and get all of the scores from that day's games plus the standings as of that day.
If you're looking at a season for which Retrosheet has released play-by-play data, you can also view a boxscore and textual play-by-play account for any game. And you can click on any player name in the boxscore to see a career register for that player.
It's a great way to relive a pennant race, find a boxscore for a memorable game you attended or saw on television, or gather information for an article. For the piece I just wrote on rare events, it usually took me less than 15 seconds to find a boxscore I was interested in.