Throw It Like a Ballplayer

providing baseball commentary and ponderings since April 2010

Lies, Damn Lies and Sombreros

Posted by dannmckeegan on April 10, 2010

The Golden Sombrero.  If we called it Le Chapeau D’Or, former fans of the former Expos might believe it to be a Southwestern film festival’s top prize.  But Juan Francisco, who spelled Reds regular Scott Rolen at third base Saturday, would be able to tell them otherwise.  On his way to a four-strikeout game against the Cubs, though, a funny thing happened on the way back to the bench.  And it’s the kind of thing that should cause sabermetricians to lose sleep at night.  Juan Francisco lies in the face of Truth…in outcomes.

There’s nothing uncommon about a team striking out 10+ times in a game, especially when eight of the nine innings are pitched by Carlos Zambrano and Carlos Marmol of the Cubs.  The Reds hitters were sent down today as follows: 12 via strikeout; 1 via sacrifice bunt; 5 via groundout; 3 via fly out; 2 via line-outs to the infield; 2 via GIDP; 1 via GIFC; and 1 caught stealing.  Chicago only allowed 9 balls out of the infield, and both of Carlos Zambrano’s bases on balls were erased by the defense (the double play and caught stealing).

If you look at the box score (see the “four-strikeout game” link above), though, you’ll see 13 thirteen strikeouts.  That’s where Juan Francisco comes in.  In the second, fourth, sixth and ninth innings, Francisco came up to bat and struck out swinging each time.  He saw 18 pitches, fouled off three, and was 0-2 on balls in play.

Lose you yet?  I’d expect I have.  We’ve all been introduced to the concept of the three true outcomes (TTO) – home runs, walks and strikeouts – as a measure of quantifying a pitcher’s control over a game through using only data on balls not in play.  TTO also is used on the offensive side of things to build a more empirical picture than simply calling Adam Dunn an “all or nothing hitter.”  Unfortunately, only one of the TTO is actually true, that being the base on balls.  The home run, obviously, is qualified by the inside the park (IPH) variety.  And the strikeout, likewise, has exceptions.

The strikeout is “untrue” because of wild pitches and passed balls.  Any third strike a catcher fails to bring in cleanly before it hits the ground is a live ball unless there’s a man on first with less than two out.  And Juan Francisco lied today.  Twice, in fact.  In both the second and fourth innings, he swung at and missed a pair of balls in the dirt for a pair of third strikes.  The first strikeout was completed as a 2-3 putout, Geovany Soto assisting Derrek Lee.  Two innings later, though, Soto was unable to corral the wild pitch in enough time to make the play at first base.

Francisco made it safely to first.  Then second on a Chris Dickerson single.  Then third on Aaron Harang’s sacrifice bunt.  Zambrano struck out Drew Stubbs (himself the recipient of a silver sombrero today) to end the threat, but Francisco’s lie allowed the Reds to move a man over to third with two out.  This won’t show up anywhere in a box score outside of the Team LOB number or in Francisco’s season stats – no total bases, no slugging, and no nothin’ in any advanced stat I’ve seen.  Carlos Zambrano picks up an additional scratch in the strikeout and wild pitch columns, but by season’s end no one will remember how close Juan Francisco came to lying his way into the run column.

Three true outcomes.  Truth in advertising?  Not quite.  And we can thank Juan Francisco’s 50% strikeouts-in-play rate from Saturday, April 10, 2010, for allowing us to see through the error of inclusion.  Sometimes, untruth will set you free.

Game Log:

Chicago 4 (2-3), Cincinnati 3 (2-3)

WP – Zambrano (1-1), LP – Rhodes (0-1)

Achieved Baseline Bullpen Standards: CHC: Grabow (2/4), Marmol (2/2); CIN: Masset (2/3)

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