April 27, 2003

Kevin Millwood of the Phillies throws a no-hitter!: On the exact one-year anniversary no less of Derek Lowe's no-hitter against the Devil Rays, Philadelphia's "new guy" Kevin Millwood throws a 10K no-hitter... against the NL-leading San Francisco Giants. Wow! I'm sure you'll see a little something about this mentioned on the sports news tonight. :)

posted by hincandenza to baseball at 05:17 PM - 26 comments

just watched a recap on SportsCenter. Good times. It's kind of amazing how many no-hitters have been thrown on 4/28.

posted by jerseygirl at 11:22 PM on April 27, 2003

Whoa- jerseygirl, are you psychic? Is someone going to throw a no-hitter tomorrow?! :D Actually, I suspect (though I don't know for sure) that more no-hitters come in April or September than in the other months- April because not every hitter has hit their stride, and September because more rosters have late-season AAA call ups in the lineup, for an early look at a future prospect. But I might be surprised- maybe there's a trend in June, or maybe there's no clustering at all. I also wonder what, if any, single date, is the most popular for no-hitters, and if two no-hitters have ever been thrown on the same day.

posted by hincandenza at 01:02 AM on April 28, 2003

Oop- Sports center just said it. April 27th has 6 no-hitters, the most, tied with April 30th I believe and another date I didn't catch. So there may be something to that April thing, but yes the 27th seems to be the date.

posted by hincandenza at 01:44 AM on April 28, 2003

Yes yes, the 27th. Sorry was up late watching the Red Sox get a W in the 14th and being highly distracted by [game attendee] Jennifer Lopez's jacket. I believe the other tie date was in September, but it's too early in the morning for me to play Nancy Drew for you, Hal. :)

posted by jerseygirl at 06:16 AM on April 28, 2003

Two no-hitters have been thrown the same day, back in 1990 or 1991. I believe the pitchers were Dave Stewart and Fernando Valenzuela. (1990 was "The Year of the No-Hitter", when there were something like eight of 'em...but I think a few of those may have been "disqualified" after MLB decided that you had to pitch nine innings to get credit for a no-hitter. I think there were a couple of rain-shorted no-hitters that year that were eliminated.)

posted by Jaquandor at 07:39 AM on April 28, 2003

...and we Braves fans are rueing the day he was traded for a 3rd string catcher!

posted by trox at 08:33 AM on April 28, 2003

Goddamn, I loves me a good no-hitter. I thought it was funny how many batters watched strike 3 after the fifth or sixth inning, and at least a couple of them bitched about the calls. Here's a news-flash for you. You know how no defensive player wants to be the one who kills their pitcher's no-no? Well the same goes for umpires. If a guy is carrying a no-no into the seventh inning that strike zone is just going to get bigger and bigger. Milwood couldn't find the strike zone with a road map facing Ray Durham in the ninth and still the ump looked reluctant to call a ball. What a sweet outing.

posted by vito90 at 10:39 AM on April 28, 2003

Anyone ever seen a no-hitter in person? I've only watched two on TV, basically end-to-end (not counting that anyone near a tv will see the endings because ESPN cuts to the last inning of a bid) both from the Red Sox (Hideo Nomo's debut no-hitter in 2001, and Derek Lowe's from last year; I've since dumped my satellite dish, though, so I only rarely seen Sox games :( ). I was also watching with a national audience when Carl Everett broke up Mike Mussina's Yankee bid for a *perfect game* at Fenway with two outs in the 9th on a clean, hard line-drive single into left center. It might have even been a two-strike count if I recall. Tough to watch, because I was both rooting for a perfect game, and rooting for someone, especially the much-loathed (unfairly, I think) Everett, to prevent another Yankee perfect game and all the usual overblown media fellation that comes along with the Yankees doing anything well. Countless other candidates I've watched in surprise as the blossomed from a 1-2-3 first into a 6th inning or later event, where you're hanging on every pitch, only to see them fall apart in the 7th or 8th. It's a wonderful surprise to sit down for an ordinary game, and have it turn into a momentous event; if it's still going in the 7th inning, you're calling all your friends to tell them to turn on the TV, although it seems I'm one of the only people left who believes in the tradition that you never mention what's happening by name; broadcasters don't follow this rule anymore, which as silly as it is, is still a tradition.

posted by hincandenza at 11:23 AM on April 28, 2003

I watched the Nolan Ryan 7th no-hitter against the Jays (on TV), but the best one I ever experienced was listening to Dave Stieb FINALLY get his first no-hitter against Cleveland in 1989. He held the record for most one-hitters and reaching the 9th inning with a no-hitter without actually getting one. The Cleveland crowd was supporting him (since the Indians were in their "Major League" phase then) and I remember Tom & Jerry (the Jays long-time radio announcers) getting more and more excited every inning. By the 9th, I was pretty much ignoring customers (I worked as a bartender at a marina for a pre-university summer job) and just listening to the radio.

posted by grum@work at 11:40 AM on April 28, 2003

I don't mind broadcasters not following the "don't say anything" tradition. What bothers me is the ones who try to make it clear they're flouting it (I'm looking at you Sean McDonough), as though overcoming this superstition is as important for humanity's advancement as the Scopes trial.

posted by yerfatma at 11:41 AM on April 28, 2003

For the record, here is one opinion about no-hitters that goes against the grain: It's from Lee Sinins, a noted sabrematician and founder of the Sabremetric Encyclopedia. This snippet comes from his daily newsletter (which I highly recommend for baseball fans with a statistical slant..as long as you can get over the occassional spelling/grammatical error). Phillies P Kevin Millwood started against the Giants yesterday. The most impressive and important thing about his start was he didn't give up any runs. In the interesting, but unimportant category, he didn't give up any hits. In the maybe as impressive as the last one category, he held Barry Bonds off the bases in 4 plate appearances. To recycle a couple of paragraphs I wrote a year ago today, after Derek Lowe's no hitter (see Redsox fans, I told you that my comments have nothing to do with a bias against your team)-- No single game accomplishment is more overhyped than a no hitter. It's an interesting, and a noteworthy, statistical fluke for a pitcher to not give up any hits. A no hitter is a fun thing to watch. However, it is also an item whose hype value far exceeds its actual value. But, avoiding hits isn't a pitcher's job. His job is avoid giving up runs. I'll say it again--Preventing hits and base runners are merely a means towards the end, but the end is all that matters. So, a perfect game or no hitter's hype value is far greater than it's actual value, when compared in both regards to a typical shutout. I will now add that, considering the importance of preventing baserunners, I am more impressed with a perfect game than a typical shutout. But, I'm also more impressed with 2 hit/0 walk and 1 hit/1 walk shutouts than a 0 hit/3 walk shutout like Millwood's. Millwood's performance also shows the ridiculousness of the "wins" stat, aka "the pitcher in the game when his team scored a particular run", aka "pitcher in the game when a really stupid, discredited and abandoned hitting stat was accomplished by his offense." When we look at the rulebook for how to determine the "winning pitcher", here's the procedure--locate when the game winning RBI (which was a really stupid, discredited and abandoned hitting stat) and then assign credit to the pitcher in the game at that moment (except for when that pitcher is a starter who doesn't last 5 innings and an exception for an ineffective relief pitcher that is actually invoked maybe once in a decade). So, why was Millwood was the "winning pitcher"? It was merely because he was the pitcher at the time Ricky Ledee hit a HR that would be the GWRBI. I'm not saying I agree with it, I'm just presenting an interesting viewpoint on the idea of no-hitters (and wins).

posted by grum@work at 12:20 PM on April 28, 2003

Grummie...that guy sounds a little bit grumpy. I bet he wishes he was a big leaguer. Of course the pitcher's main job is to prevent runs and not hits. But if he gives up no hits then he decreases the likelihood of runs scoring, no? No single game accomplishment is more overhyped than a no hitter What. The. Fuck?

posted by vito90 at 12:34 PM on April 28, 2003

What strikes me as ironic, is that a lot of Yanks say the reason soccer is "boring" is because there aren't enough goals, and you lot are all raving about a game that finished 1-0. ;-) Just to clarify, this no-hit thing means that nobody gets on base yes? I couldn't really tell from the article.

posted by squealy at 01:45 PM on April 28, 2003

squealy: It means no one got on base by hitting the ball into fair territory. You can still get on base by either drawing a walk (four balls before 3 strikes), by error (a fielder misplay), hit batsman (batter hit by pitched ball), or catcher interference (catcher's glove interferes with the swing of the bat). By making sure no one reaches base in any fashion, you are credited with the very rare "perfect game".

posted by grum@work at 01:59 PM on April 28, 2003

Thanks for clearing that up grum. Did anyone actually get on base due to those other reasons you gave then? Whilst I can see that a fielder misplay or catcher interference shouldn't spoil a pitcher's "perfect game" surely giving away a walk or hitting the batter are mistakes by the pitcher? Forgive me my ignorance but they never explain anything properly on the baseball programme on Channel 5 here. (And it's always on too late. Damn time zones).

posted by squealy at 02:42 PM on April 28, 2003

He walked three batters, hence no perfect game. I agree that errors (except by the pitcher) shouldn't be held against a pitcher since they are usually decisions made by an official scorer in the press box (an error vs a hit) or by an umpire (catcher interference), the idea of a "perfect game" means 27 batters come to the plate and 27 outs are recorded. Of course, a true PERFECT game would be 27 strikeouts, but that has never happened in major league baseball history (there have been cases of it happening in LOW minor league/independent baseball leauges...the closest I can recall of that happening is when a local pitcher for the Frontier League struck out 25 batters in one game (see quote about halfway down about Brett Gray)).

posted by grum@work at 03:09 PM on April 28, 2003

Of course, a true PERFECT game would be 27 strikeouts, but that has never happened in major league baseball history While he didn't throw a perfecto, minor-league legend and Orioles prospect Steve Dalkowski struck out 27 in a game at least once, although he also walked 16 in that game and threw about 280 pitches. He averaged something like 18K's per 9 innnings, nearly two an inning, over his infamous but ultimately fruitless minor-league career. Unfortunately, he was a chronic alcoholic who was IQ tested at the request of his manager Earl Weaver, Sr., and found to be borderline retarded. With no control or baseball savvy he walked near as many as he struckout, if not more, and he did throw at least one no-hitter... striking out 24 and walking 18. Almost made the majors when Weaver finally realized he was too confused by all the baseball advice, and got him to just focus on throwing the ball for strikes. Dalkowski put it all together and finished the '62 season with a 52-inning stretch in which he had 104K's to 11 BB's, with only 1 earned run. Poised for greatness in the spring training the following year, after 6 scoreless inning in spring training he found out he'd made the team. Then in a spring training game against the Yankees his arm popped throwing to first after fielding a ground ball, and that was that: he drifted around until 1966, when he was let go by San Jose and saw his baseball career end at age 27. One of the most fascinating characters in baseball history, he was the model for fictional character Nuke Laloosh in Bull Durham, as writer/director Ron Shelton was on Dalkowski's team in 1960 (Laloosh's stats, 262K's and 262 walks, are the same as Dalkowski's in 1960). Another teammate of his at one time was Pat Gillick, current GM of the M's, incidentally. It is estimated by some (although I don't believe it) that he threw as hard as 110mph, and legends abound of him throwing a ball through the outfield fence from the pitcher's mound. Ted Williams faced him in an exhibition game and called him the fastest he'd ever seen, and said he'd never face him again except when he had to, in a real game. Certainly he topped 100mph and probably had among the fastest stuff ever. Even after the arm injury, he could still top 90mph, but with no real control or skill other than his blazing speed, and the pain involved in throwing, his career ended ungraciously. He descended further into alcoholism, getting odd jobs picking grapes as a migrant farm worker (where he was said to have the fastest hands in the fields), and I believe he is last known to be in a nursing home, suffering from dementia due to his lifetime of heavy drinking. Anyway, just wanted to share a little about old Steve, one of those minor league legends you don't hear much about; he was even referenced in George Plympton's novelization of his famous Sporting News April fool's joke about the Curious Case of Sidd Finch, the zen monk pitching prospect for the Mets who could throw 168mph with perfect control. In the book, he does throw a truly perfect game, 27k's on 82 pitches (one strike pitch was called for a ball, since the umpire didn't want people to think he wasn't paying attention anymore). Ah baseball. Truly the greatest game... :)

posted by hincandenza at 06:33 PM on April 28, 2003

Great comment, Hal. Where can we read more about Steve Dalkowski? You've got me hooked!

posted by qbert72 at 07:53 PM on April 28, 2003

I remember Sidd Finch. As an 8 year old kid, I fell hard for it.

posted by corpse at 08:36 PM on April 28, 2003

I have no idea what Sinins is trying to say about wins. RBIs are a stupid, abandoned, discredited hitting stat? Huh?

posted by kjh at 09:20 PM on April 28, 2003

Game Winning RBI's are a stupid, abandoned, discredited hitting stat. Stupid : A solo home run in the third inning (to make the score 6-0) has more value than the 3-run double the inning before, just because it was the 6th run of the game in a 6-5 win? Abandoned : They used to be printed in the newspapers all the time in the 80s, but you'll be hard pressed to see them in print nowadays. Discredited : RBIs (and runs) are generally products of team performance and lineup positions, not player performance. Take for example these two lines:

  • 556 AB 86 Runs 179 Hits 46 Doubles 1 Triple 29 HR 102RBI .322/.429/.565 314 Total Bases
  • 556 AB 100 Runs 180 Hits 31 Doubles 0 Triples 37 HR 145 RBI .324/.423/.579 322 Total Bases
Virtually identical statistics, except for RBI and Runs. (the lower HR total is offset by the much higher doubles) By the way, those two lines are for the same player on the same team: Edgar Martinez in 1998 and 2000. I think what Sinins is trying to say is that artificial statistics (ones that are based on team performance or the performance of other players) should not be used to judge players. RBI, runs, wins, and (especially) saves don't really reflect the true ability of a player and are just slices of team performance. If I tell you someone had 100 RBI, you don't know if they were really good or just average and happened to have batted behind a couple of on-base-machines like Olerud and Henderson. Not all 20-win seasons (Jack Morris in 1992) are alike (Pedro Martinez 2002) either. But if I tell you a batter had an OBP of .582 and a SLG of .799 (Bonds 2002), or that a pitcher struck out an average of 13.2 batters per 9 inning game (Martinez 1999), you'd have a pretty good idea that he did well. What Sinins proposes is comparing true stats like hits, home runs, walks, strikeouts, and measuring stats like OBP, SLG, and K/9 and K/BB for pitchers. To be fair, Sinins goes a step further and compares the results (counting or rate stats) to the league averages, making it a better comparison over different seasons/eras.

posted by grum@work at 10:43 PM on April 28, 2003

qbert72: no really good resources, like a biography, but if you search on "steve dalkowski" you'll find a fair number of mini-bios and write-ups. Baseball Library has a nice collection of anecdotes by players who saw him. Grum: another good post from the gruminator! While I agree with others that Sinins is a little too grumpy about no-hitter hype (where's the fun in that?!), I think Grum summarizes his basic thesis well- which is also the basic thesis of sabermetric analysis, that we shouldn't get caught up in gaudy but secondary stats like RBI, which are largely influenced by context, and instead should focus on numbers that reflect more accurately the genuine value of a player. As his Edgar stat line shows, the same player had nearly identical years, but the difference was entirely in how many people got on base in front of him, and how many hit well behind him. While those factors are in a GM's control, in terms of asking whether Edgar did his job, or how much he's worth (both in terms of debates like MVP or HOF and in actual hard salary negotiations), it's only valuable to look at the numbers Edgar alone can control. Unlike the other major US sports- basketball, football, hockey, etc- baseball is the only team sport that so thoroughly isolates a player- pitcher or hitter- into very discrete quanta that can be measured. It's why baseball is the most statistical sport: it can be. The whole point of sabermetric exercises is to devise a way to scientifically define a player's performance. This means that- to pass the scientific test- we can somewhat accurately predict future performance, as well as retroactively explain their prior performance. The value of this, as Billy Beane has shown, is that if you can subtract out the hype stats- like RBI- and get a "real" picture of a player, you can find the solid performers who because they didn't post big secondary numbers come cheaper than the "stars", yet when you put a whole lineup of these performers together they all have, happily enough, great secondary numbers. Here's a fun stat/formula most fans aren't aware of: For statistical reasons that make intuitive sense when you think of it, if you take the total runs scored (RS) and the total runs allowed (RA) by a team in the season, you can plug those into the thumbnail "Pythagorean formula" invented by Bill James like so: RS^2 / (RA^2 + RS^2) (runs scored squared, divided by the sum of runs scored squared and runs allowed quared) ... to generate an expected winning percentage, which is remarkably accurate. For example, looking at last year's results, the 2002 Seattle Mariners scored 814 runs and allowed 699. Plug that into the formula, and you get a winning percentage of .5755, which translates to an expected 93-69 record. The actual record for the 2002 Mariners? 93-69. I can tell you from watching this stat for a few years that 2002 was surprisingly turbulent; most of the time, the vast majority of teams fall within 1-2 games of their expected wins, such as in 2001, with only a couple of outliers like the 2001 M's (who won 116 but performed at a level of winning 111 wins) or Colorado Rockies who won an unusual 10 less than expected. As those links show, by the way, ESPN.com conveniently has in their standings page for MLB an "Expanded" option that will show you the Pythagorean expectations through the course of the season. While the season is still very young, and thus these numbers are subject to the curse of a small sample size, teams that through say May/June remain well under or over their statistical expectations (the Cubs -3 and Giants +4, for example) are either killing/dying in one-run games, or due for a "regression to the mean" (just like a hitter who hits .400 in April in May is almost certain to come waaaaay down to earth for the rest of the season). The 2002 Red Sox, for example, *should* have won 101 games with their pitching and hitting, but were also-rans. This tells us that the Sox didn't need to significantly retool, and that they should probably have a season, for better or worse, much closer to expected than was last years. The point of this, and it's a *very* cool thing to impress your less statistical baseball-loving friends, is that if we can predict a team's runs scored from their lineup, and their runs allowed from their rotation, bullpen, and defense, we can get a reasonable estimation of how good they'll be. Too many factors prevent us from knowing exactly how good they'll be, and players are known to have horrible seasons, get injured, or bust out a career year like they've never had, but in general when building a team- or just watching your own team- you can ask these questions. You score runs by getting on base and driving in base runners; combining great leadoff mean with .400+ OBP with great hitting machines like Edgar and their .400/.500 numbers, means the runs pour in. Forget how many RBI that guy has had; if you put the right people before and after him, and he will drive the leadoff guys in and then come around to score later in the inning. If you as a team consistently get runners on, you may occasionally strand the bases loaded, but over a long season those runners will score. And those runs scoring... well, you saw the Pythagorean Theorem yourself. This was the genius of the Billy Beane A's: focus on OBP when other teams didn't even know it was a stat; they stressed walks and plate discipline, even requiring a certain number of walks per month before one could advance to the next level, and the result was a team of mashers who came cheap and scored a ton of runs. Baseballprospectus.com (who publish a print version every year) has running stats that blow the doors of what most "experts" think about baseball, and show how to more accurately evaluate a player based on his actual contributions, and thus determine how much he really contributed to his team winning. It helps us better find those diamonds in the rough who, because of lousy supporting casts, don't get the attention they deserve, and overhyped players who put up great numbers thanks to the quietly consistent efforts of those around them, but aren't really worth the money they'll demand at negotiating time. Beane, and other teams that have succeeded, realized this and would quickly dump an overhyped player making too much money for an equally good one who doesn't have the Sportscenter hype to propel his name.

posted by hincandenza at 11:57 PM on April 28, 2003

Holy fuck I'm verbose. I need to get me one a them Sportsfilter regular columns. A low-rent Rob Neyer, if you will. :)

posted by hincandenza at 11:57 PM on April 28, 2003

Hal, grum, et.al. Good, good stuff. Now I command you to go outside and smell the freshly cut infield grass and take a whiff of pine tar!

posted by vito90 at 08:18 AM on April 29, 2003

Grass smelled, check. Pine tar whiffed, check. Crotch scratched (gratuitously), check. Alright, now as I was saying before about Equivalent Average... :)

posted by hincandenza at 01:54 PM on April 29, 2003

For those of you who disagreed with Lee Sinins about wins being a useless stat, here is an example for Lee's side of the argument: a pitcher who got a "win" without throwing a single pitch.

posted by grum@work at 03:58 PM on May 01, 2003

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