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Bill's quote from the Abstract is that the 1986 Series was the best WS, not the playoffs that year (and the playoffs were great, though 1985's Championship Series were pretty darned good too).  Let's look at the competition for greatest 1980s WS:  
1980 - 6 games, lots of drama in games 1,2, 3, and 5.  And games 4 and 6 weren't blowouts either.  
1981 - 6 games, drama in games 3, 4 and 5, but Game deciding game 6 is blowout  
1982 - 7 games, game 2 the only one run game, games 1 and 6 blowouts  
1983 - 5 games, drama in games 1, 3 and 4, deciding game 5-0  
1984 - 5 games, game 1 the only one run game, deciding game 8-4  
1985 - 7 games drama in games 2 and 6, but game 7 blowout and games 3 and 5, 6-1 scores  
1986 - 7 games, drama in games 1 and 6, games 5 and 7 good games too  
1987 - 7 games, no one run games, game 7 4-2, blowouts in 1 and 6  
1988 - 5 games, Megadrama in game 1, drama in games 3 and 4  
1989 - earthquake, sweep, nothing remotely close.  
 
So either 80 or 86, but 86 is 7 games
Asked by: bhalbleib

Answered: 9/21/2021
 Thanks. 
 
Two questions to myself:  (1) can we quantify the degree to which a short series is dramatic, exciting, or "good", and 
 
(2)  is there any point to doing that, if we can do it?
 
 
As to whether we can do it; well, yes, obviously we can do it.  You place values on things like close games, swings in the chance to win, unusual or unprecedented occurences, and special occurrences which add interest, ie the emergence of a new superstar, a dramatic last hurrah for an old superstar (ie, Clemente in 1971), outside events feeding into the narrative (ie, the earthquake in 1989 in the very city where both teams played, or the 9-11 attacks in 2001 not long before the series in which New York played.   If you make an organized and intelligent evaluation of these things, of course you can quantify the degree to which a World Series in special.   
 
As to whether there is any point in doing that, there are very good reasons for doing it.  I remember when I was working on the first Historical Abstract, early 1980s, I wsa looking for the best World Series on the 1950s.    Reading through play-by-play of the 1953 World Series in some old book, I was absolutely astonished to discover what a great World Series in the 1953 series was.   It has no real impact on discussions; people don't talk about it like the 1955 series (Podres and the Dodgers win) or the 1956 series (Larson's perfect game), but it was just FULL of dramatic events.   
 
Or the 1985 series; not long after that series ended, I read a note from a national reporter saying that the series had lacked drama.  But I attended 4 games of that series, and it was PACKED with dramatic moments, chock full of them.  Even the game 7 blowout was anything by routine; the Cardinals imploded, and Saberhagen pitched one of the Greatest Game 7s of all time.  
 
Baseball does a fantastic job of saving its history.  Baseball does a better job of saving its history than almost anything else you can name.  It does this by film, by legend, and by literature--but it starts with documentation.   People still know Mickey Mantle and Sandy Koufax because we KNOW how great they were, because we documented it at the time.  Bob Gibson, Tim McCarver, Steve Carlton, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Harry Caray, Mickey Lolich, Denny McLain, Carl Yastrzemski, Rico Petrocelli, Frank Robinson, Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Casey Stengel, Ed Kranepool. . .I could spin off the names of 75 baseball players or managers or coaches from the 1960s who still have vivid, multi-dimensional images known to a very large community of baseball fans.   Let's see somebody name 75 scientists of the 1960s, or 75 educators, or 75 politicians, or 75 military leaders, or 75 architects or artists or engineers or economists or humanitarians.   
 
Baseball does a fantastic job of saving its history, and that starts with documenting, documenting what is great, what is good, what is interesting, and then filling in with the relationship to greatness of what is less interesting (Art Shamsky, Greg Goosen, Marv Throneberry, Ed Charles, Russ Snyder.)  So documenting, and evaluating as your are documenting, is a valuable and vital part of doing this job. 

 

chauncynnts writes "In your most recent Historical Abstract, you stated that the 1986 World Series was the best of the 1980's ..."  
 
Perhaps, Bill was discussing the play-offs or the post season in general.  
 
To me 1986 will be the year when the play-offs were the most exciting of all-time in relation to the regular season. There were no pennant races in any of the divisions that year. The Mets won by over 20 games that year. The Astros over 10. Boston won by only five, but they coasted over the last two weeks as they had a 10 game lead on September 18. Similarly, the Angels only finished 5 over, but had a 10 game lead on September 26th. Yet, it seemed every game of those play-offs was a nail biter - you needed someone to remind you to breathe.  
 
Then the World Series was one we, who are old engouh, all remember. David Letterman added to the fun, having a bet with the mayor of Boston I think it was, who ended up having to hang a gigantic picture of Mookie Wilson in the town hall.
Asked by: hotstatrat

Answered: 9/20/2021
 Well, it is certainly true that the playoffs that year were fantastic.   The ALCS I think was regarded by many as one of the two most exciting playoff series ever at that time, with the Houston/Philadelphia playoff in 1980. 

 

Bill:  
When I was a kid in the 1980s, if I asked people who the greatest pitcher of all time was, the answer among adults (anyone who was over 10 in 1963) was Koufax 100% of the time.  
I think it's fascinating that he keeps showing up in these little studies you do. I think younger fans don't appreciate him because modern metrics that compare modern pitchers to league averages underrate him and must, to some extent, overrate post-1980 pitchers. Pedro was obviously GREAT, but Koufax is pitching so many more innings that that's providing enormous value. Using a stat like ERA+ or WAR overlooks the fact that teams in 1965 are using many fewer pitchers per game and per season, and yes I think this is another area where Win Shares is going to be more effective than WAR.
Asked by: baudib1

Answered: 9/20/2021
 Yes, I would agree with most or all of that.  

 

It's not the extra day of rest; starting Jim Beattie (!) in game one of the ALCS has to be demonstrably worse than starting Guidry. His ERA was 2 full runs higher than Guidry.  The real life sample size for these events would be too small, but I'd think a simulation would show a meaningful difference in win probability for the series.
Asked by: 3for3

Answered: 9/20/2021
It would make a lot bigger difference if you had to pitch Ned Beatty.   
 
Yeah, but here's the reason those things don't work the way you think they will.   There isn't ONE variable operating in a real-life test; there are hundreds and hundreds of random variables that are also operating.  ONE change in a context of hundreds of random variables becomes almost impossible to detect.   Guidry DID pitch in that series; he pithed the fourth game, and won the game 2-1.  If he had pitched the first game, he wouldn't have been able to pitch the fourth.  The effect Guidry isn't Guidry pitching or not pitching; it is Guidry pitching one game as opposed to a different one.  Yeah, it is conceivable that Guidry could have made a second start in the playoff, but that's a crap shoot; that kind of thing very rarely happens.  
 
I rode in an elevator with Ned Beatty one time.  It was a hot day, a nice hotel in Chicago.  I don't remember why I was there or exactly when it was, maybe 1990 or 2000; no idea.  It was a hot day and Beatty was carrying was wearing a suit and carrying his own luggage.  He was sweating very profusely and his face had turned beet red.  He saw from my reaction that I had recognized him and nodded politely and said "Hello".   I knew he was short, but I didn't realize he was THAT short.   Wikipedia lists him at 5-8, but he looked much shorter.  

 

Hey, Bill,  
Talking about fastball velocity. Does it really matter from which point the pitch is measured? 
Asked by: DanaKing

Answered: 9/20/2021
 Yes, it certainly matters. 

 

Question about the velocity issue.   Why would it be more "accurate" to measure velocity from the pitcher's hand rather than when it crosses the plate?  Wouldn't it be more relevant how fast the pitch is when it crosses the plate and the hitter has to swing at it?  Maybe I'm missing something.
Asked by: Marc Schneider

Answered: 9/20/2021
The speed of the pitch at the moment it exits the pitcher's hand is a fixed point.   It's speed some distance from the hand is a constantly changing variable.    It's speed if measured HERE is different from its speed if measured 10 feet from here.   That is obviously not as desirable.  
 
On the Red Sox, probably Rafael Devers throws as hard as many of our pitchers do, or almost as hard.  Certainly Hunter Renfro does.  But if you measure the velocity of Devers throws when they reach first base and the speed of the pitcher's throws when they cross home plate, they would be different.   Two guys throwing the same speed, it is better to measure them as throwing the same speed rather than to measure them as throwing different speeds.
 
It's not really a matter of "accuracy" as much as it is of consistency.  If you compare Goose Gossage' radar readings to Aroldis Chapman, you need to be comparing the same thing, rather than using Gossage's reading as the ball crossed the plate and Chapman's when the ball came out of his hand.  
 
Even setting that aside, the speed when the ball crosses the plate is obviously NOT the most relevant instant.  The batter doesnt swing when the pitch gets to home plate.  If a batter could swing when the pitch gets to home plate, the league batting average would be.700.   The batter has to make the relevant decisions about whether to swing and where to swing when the ball is 30-40 feet in front of the plate, or more.  Unless you're Gary Sheffield and or Andrew McCutchen and can generate bat speed in some fantastically short period of time.  

 

I'm among those bothered by something significant (as in, a spot in the "real" playoffs) being decided by a one game play-in.  
 
I recognize baseball is a game, and any game design- I've done casual game design- doesn't set out to try to make sure the best (in this case) team must win. It's made to be fun/interesting. If the best team winning as much as possible were the only goal, it would be better to have NO playoffs: Have just one league, all teams play each other an equal number of times, the best record over a long season wins.  
 
Nearly no one would like that: I sure wouldn't. Playoffs are far more exciting and interesting, even though the best team wins the championship less often.  
 
The better team will win 2 of 3 only slightly more often than a one game playoff, anyway. That isn't the kind of fairness I think people mean. I can best call it aesthetics: It feels wrong for a long season that isn't tied to come down one game rather than 2 of 3, in baseball, a game of series.
Asked by: Anyone

Answered: 9/20/2021
 OK. 

 

If the Dodgers (only two games back) end up winning their division, I'm sure they'll be more than happy with a system that makes the Giants play the Cardinals in a one-game play-in.  
Asked by: Joe_Start

Answered: 9/19/2021
 I fall back on:  it's a sport.  Lots of pennants have been determined by one game.  The 1964 Phillies and also the 1964 Cincinnati Reds lost the pennant by one game to the 1964 Cardinals.  It's a sport; those are the rules.   Were the Phillies somehow ENTITLED to a three-game playoff against the Reds so that they could then have a 5-game playoff against the Cardinals, because they only lost by one game?   Would that have been only fair?  In 1967 Detroit and Minnesota won only one game less than Boston.   So what?  Them's the rules.   You win or you lose.   If you lose a game 7-6, you're not entitled to a 10th inning because you only lost by one run.  
 
The notion that the second-place team in that division is somehow entitled to a longer playoff series, because they won 100 games. . ..so what?  Doesn't have anything to do with anything.   Imbalance, inequity, bad breaks, a lack of opportunity.  .these are a part of every sport.   That's what MAKES it a sport.  You cannot pound all of the inequity out of it, and still HAVE a sport.   When you try to do that, you make the season longer, you make the games longer, and eventually you're going to wind up before a judge, with lawyers arguing about who actually won the series.  

 

OK, you make a good argument to keep the wild card at one game (I'm a big proponent of division winners having an advantage over wild cards), but wouldn't a tight best of 3 series put whoever wins that series at an even greater disadvantage in the next round than a 1 game winner?  Based on the assumption that those teams would have to use their 1-3 best starters, and if the LDS started the next day, those starters wouldn't be readily available, while the #1 seed would have a few days of rest/preparation.
Asked by: jimmybart

Answered: 9/19/2021
 I don't believe in the whole theory.  It seems like nonsense to me.  Perhaps my thinking was unduly shaped by the 1978 Bucky Dent game.  I was a Royals fan at the time; the KC media was ecstatic when the Yankees lost on the last day of the regular season, which meant that they had have a one-game playoff against the Red Sox, which meant that Guidry would have to pitch that game, which meant that Guidry would not be available early in the ALCS, even if the Yankees beat Boston.   It was like the Royals had already won the ALCS, because Guidry was out. 
 
But it didn't make any difference.   It seems to me that it NEVER makes any difference that you could measure.   I did a study of a related issue one time; I am sure it is posted here somewhere.   The issue was, how much do teams lose when they have to play a long series of games without a day off.   THe answer was:  NOTHING.    You can compute each team's chances of winning a game based on their season's won-lost record and which is the home team, so I figured that and set that as the baseline.   How much do teams drop off the baseline if they play on six consecutive days, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11. . . .
 
The answer is, THEY DON'T.   It doesn't make any measurable difference if one team is rested and the other is not.   Unless you have some different way to measure it which shows something different.  

 

In your most recent Historical Abstract, you stated that the 1986 World Series was the best of the 1980's. I feel the first 5 games were average at best. Of course, game 6 was epic and game 7 was entertaining. Why did you think this was the best of the 80's? (Assuming you still feel this way) Do you have a system that determines what makes a good or great World Series?
Asked by: chauncynnts

Answered: 9/19/2021
 I have no memory of writing that, and no understanding whatsover of why I would have said that.   I'm sure I must have believed it at the time. 

 

A follow up to Taylor’s question in Hey Bill about the velocity of Ryan’s fastball vs. today’s pitchers.  In the documentary "Fastball," which I believe is available on Netflix, the film makers estimated that Ryan’s fastest pitch ever as recorded by 1970s technology, registered 101 in the 1970s, but would have registered 110 by today’s methods.  The difference?  1970s pitch velocity was measured as it crossed the plate.  Pitches today are clocked very close to their release point.
Asked by: evanecurb

Answered: 9/19/2021
 Right; I have not seen the documentary you refer to, but i wanted to make the same point in answering the original question, but I had something else I had to do, so I rushed through it.  
 
I don't know that I would go so far as to assert that Ryan threw 110; that seems to me to be pushing the evidence to Ryan's advantage.  If he threw 101 on the radar guns available at that time, that was probably one pitch, you know?  Next pitch might have been 98. 
 
This is my understanding of it. ..and those who made the documentary you refer to probably had a tighter grip on some of this than I do, and I encourage you to watch it if you are interested in the subject.   
 
But TV networks got radar guns about 1977 or 1978, and we started to see radar readings then.  Ryan (and Goose Gossage) would throw 97 and 98, sometimes 99, on those guns.  There was a key moment in the post-season, 1980 or 1981, when one of the networks was using a NEWER model of radar gun. . . .I kind of half-remember the brand names, so i won't get into that. . . but one of the networks had been provided a new radar gun which was getting faster readings, 2 or 3 MPH faster.   Jim Palmer said something about not believing the gun, which triggered backlash from the company which had provided the new guns, and they explained that it was the OLD readings that were wrong; THEIR readings werre actually the first ones that were right, because they were picking up the ball sooner, and, since it decelerates as it travels, they got higher readings.  I believe that they threatened to sue, the network had to apologize for Palmer's comment, and the newer radar guns, which got faster readings, took over the market, by 1983. 
 
BUT THIS STORY THEN REPEATED ITSELF TWO MORE TIMES.  When I joined the Red Sox in late 2002 and started sitting in the scout seats, there were two styles of guns that the scouts used, so that you would look to your right and the scout there would have a reading of 94, and then you would look to your left and the scout would have a reading of 91.   So you would look to see whether it was a JUGS gun or the other one, Pro-something.  
 
Well, the scouts unified around the faster guns within a year or so.  But ten years later, this happened AGAIN; the guns got faster again.  They got faster readings because they were picking the ball up sooner, closer to the pitcher's hand.  
 
So Ryan's 97-98, sometimes 99 in 1977 and 1978. . .what is that now?   It's AT LEAST 104, maybe 106, not sure I'm going to buy 110.  
 
But Ryan by 1978 was past 30, and he had thrown more than 2,000 major league innings, and his biggest strikeout seasons were behind him.   So is it possible he was a couple of MPH faster in 1972?  Sure.   
 
As I say, I have not seen the documentary, but I have not seen the evidence that would justify pinning Ryan's pitch at 110.   But suggesting that today's pitchers throw harder than anybody did in the 1970s.. . . .I don't see the evidence for THAT, either.   

 

Do you have any estimate on the fastball velocity of pitchers from previous generations? I think we can safely assume that today's 100 MPH pitchers are the fastest throwers in history. How does Nolan Ryan's velocity compare to that? Could the 1920's pitchers like Walter Johnson throw over 90 MPH?
Asked by: Taylor

Answered: 9/18/2021
 Oh, absolutely not.  Ryan threw MUCH harder than any active pitcher who is clocked at 100; there is NO doubt about that.   A guy like Aroldis Chapman who throws 103, 104; you can argue that he might be as fast as Ryan.  Walter probably threw about 92-95 average, topped out at 97 occasionally.  That's my guess.  

 

Any time I hear complaints about one game determining a team’s playoff future, my response is that there is a simple way to avoid that. Win your division.  
 
I would agree with that if winning the division was a fair contest.  But it's ridiculous, imo, to say that a team that could win over 100 games (ie, the Dodgers) should have simply "won the division" when a team like the Braves will likely win their division with less than 90 wins.    
 
It's one thing that say that randomness is a feature of sports.  We all know that the best team doesn't always win the championship, that bloop hits fall in, teams get hot, etc.  It's another thing to structure a system that is inherently unfair.  The idea, I always thought, behind the playoffs was to have the best teams in and to give the teams the win the most games the better chance to win the championship.   In my view, if two teams in the same division win the most games, they should be seeded 1 and 2 regardless of who wins the other divisions.
Asked by: Marc Schneider

Answered: 9/18/2021
 Right; I agree with SOME of that.  But sports are inherently unfair, and the only way to make them absolutely fair is to make them not a sport.  

 

I think the biggest complaint on the wild card game is that it is just a game, and not a series.  I'd rather it be best of 3, but I also don't want baseball in November, nor a long delay for the #1 seed.  So my idea is start the postseason with a "wild card weekend", with possible Game 3 on a Sunday afternoon, and the winner traveling to the #1 seed for Game 1 of the NLDS on Monday night.  Would teams/networks be up for such a tight schedule, or would it not work logistically?
Asked by: jimmybart

Answered: 9/18/2021
 Well, I am OK with two wild cards in a league AS LONG AS IT IS JUST A ONE-GAME PLAYOFF.  If it becomes a 3-game playoff, then I'm totally opposed to it.  I'm OK with it as long as the wild card teams are put at a competitive disadvantage.   
 
You. . . and I apologize for speaking "for" you when I don't have an in-depth of your personal opinion. . .but you think we need to be fair to those wild card teams, give them a fair chance in the post-season.   Well, shit, they HAD a fair chance.  It is called "Winning your division".  They're not entitled to ANOTHER full and fair opportunity.  
 
And again, sports CANNOT be fair, and be sports.   It can't be done.  Sometimes you get 15 hits and lose; sometimes you get 3 hits and win.  Is that fair?
 
It is fair, because THOSE ARE THE RULES.   And the same with the one-game wild card; it is fair because THOSE ARE THE RULES.   And I'm OK with it as long as the rules say that some second-rate pretend champion DOESN"T get a full and fair shot to win the World Series; he just gets a little crack of an opening, and if he can hit that crack of an opening hard enough, then he wins.   But he doesn't deserve anything more than that.  
 
 
 

 

HeyBill, two notes on your recent article on true outcomes and Javier Baez.  
 
In Readers Posts we were discussing Baez. Here it is -- thanks to jgf  
 
 
Baez is the only MLBer since 1901 to have three games in his career with 5 Ks in 5 plate appearances. In fact, only four guys have done it twice.  
 
More recently -- the Mets are said to have sat Baez down last week and showed them their book on pitching against him as a Cub, i.e.: watch him chase bad pitches and strike out. It is said to have been a come-to-Jesus moment, and in the last 8 games Baez has 8 walks and only 4 ks, while batting over .400. To put that in perspective, in the preceding 8 games he had zero walks and ten Ks, and year-to-date to that point had 18 walks against 169 Ks.  
 
 
Asked by: OBS2.0

Answered: 9/18/2021
 Wow.   Thanks.  
 
He will relapse, but with luck he will derive some permanent benefit from it.   His short-term walk rate is not representative of what will happen in the future.  He is drawing a ton of walks in the short run because people still think they can get him out by throwing crap four inches outside the zone.  Once they realize they can't do that anymore, they'll start to come in; he'll have a hot streak, but he'll fall into a slump at some point, he'll start pressing, and his instincts will take over and he'll regress back into swinging at everything.  I've seen it happen 100 times: i know that is how the story goes.
 
But that is not to say that he won't derive permanent benefits from experience, and won't be a better hitter going forward.   He might very well do that.  
 
In psychology there is something called "instinctive drift".   All animals have behaviors that cannot be trained out of them, because that's just who they are.   Some animals, for example, instinctively "wash" things by rubbing them; not just food, they just do that.  If you punish them when they do that, they'll do MORE of it, rather than less.   
 
I noted many years ago that free swingers are like that.  When they fall into a slump, they fall back on their first impulse, which is to hit the first thing they see.   But that's good information about Baez; thanks.  

 

 
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