Sabermetrically Analyzing Futility - Part I

Ben watches as Carlos Martinez runs from the bullpen to the mound. The reliever slips and falls in the slick grass saturated with Lance Lynn's sweat. The FS Midwest score box shows that the game has stalled in the top of the 4th. The broadcasting team, made up of two mediocre pitchers, share irrelevant factoids about Tom Pagnozzi.

Why, Lance? Five days ago you pitched like an ace. Where did you go wrong?

Suddenly and unexpectedly, Ben feels his stomach begin to tingle. A fever sweeps over him and visions rush through his consciousness. He sees pitcher after pitcher raise their arms triumphantly into the air, their catcher running to embrace them. Then he sees into the future, their future. He sees the pitcher throw pitch after pitch, with only a handful finding the strike zone. The few that are over the plate seem to move in slow motion, growing to the size of a watermelon. They seem to hover in the air for an eternity, until finally they are violently ejected from the atmosphere by a flick of the batsman's wrist.

What could this mean?

He feels his wife grow restless next to him, aching to change the channel from yet another Helitech commercial to House Hunters International. He flings the remote in her direction and sulks for 6 to 7 hours at the unfortunate turn of events that has befallen his favorite sports team.

Later that night, he tosses and turns, unable to fall asleep due to the heavy amounts of caffeine consumed through half a Cherry Coke and some Excedrin. A theory begins to form in the part of the brain in which theories begin to form.

It often seems that when a pitcher has a dominant outing, his next turn in the rotation will end disastrously. It's already happened this year with Wainwright and Lynn! What if the high pitch counts that generally occur in complete games and other dominant outings cause a larger than normal amount of fatigue on a starting pitcher, causing him to pitch poorly in his next appearance? Perhaps I can find data to back up this notion!

He decides to take all the pitching performances in history with a Game Score above 80 and graph the difference in Game Score between that game and their next start as a function of pitch count.

This is my first ever attempt at any kind of statistical analysis. Where do I even get the data for this? Fangraphs? Baseball Reference? I better Google it.

He finds something on Baseball Reference called the "Play Index" that allows him to search historical games based on Game Score. All of a sudden, he is stopped in his tracks by some sort of pay wall.

"Pay 36 dollars and you shall have your data!" Baseball Reference cackles maniacally. Ben, imagining the look on his wife's face when he tells her what exactly he spent that money on, decides to try a different method. Finally, he finds ESPN stat pages that list the 40 most dominant pitching performances of the year, including pitch count and Game Score. Realizing that the lack of exportable spreadsheets and his desire to also find the Game Score of each pitcher's follow up start will cause him to sink hours into entering information in Microsoft Excel by hand, he decides to downsize his planned dataset from "all of history" to "so far this year".

At last, the sweet sweet data stands before him, ready to be gently caressed and brought to a sabermetrically significant climax. All that remains is for him to click "Insert → Chart" and specify which data should be used.

And thus, a sleepless night's work can be summed up with this statistical fart:



Ben is wrong. So, so wrong. The decrease in performance after a dominant start is in no way related to the number of pitches it takes to get there.

He begins to post his miserable lack of findings online. He realizes he has no idea how to do even the most basic thing like posting his chart, so instead he posts a screenshot of his chart.

He crawls back into bed as the dawn approaches. His wife rolls over and mumbles, asking where he was.

"I couldn't sleep so I painstakingly researched the statistical impact of pitch counts on performance in what was probably a silly and misguided way, not to mention the fact that anything I was doing as probably been done to death and would be useless no matter what my findings were," he considers saying, but doesn't. Instead he says "bathroom" and drifts off to sleep, his mind's eye fixated on Adam Wainwright's disapproving stare.

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