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seabol hitbol

can anybody tell me what's up with retrosheet? i haven't been able to raise it since early last week, and i'm noticing the lack big-time -- in this case, my desire to properly rank scott seabol on stl's all-time list of lowliest hitters of big dingers. his gw blast yesterday was in my estimation the unlikeliest since kerry robinson's walkoff vs mike remlinger and the cubs on aug 28 2003, the finale of the series featured in 3 nights in august. that was only robinson's 3d career hr and 1st of the season; and he was already established as a bad player, whereas seabol (530 ops notwithstanding) hasn't logged enough playing time to rate as certifiably incompetent. he hit 30+ hr at memphis last year, so we probably shouldn't be as shocked as we are. then again, per the birdwatch's salvo, maybe our jaws should be cracking the floorboards: "Seabol was the 1,716th player selected in the 1996 draft, and if that sounds like a late pick, well, it was: no player selected that low (88th round) had ever played a day in the major leagues."

another longshot longballer of rec't note was so taguchi, whose fifth career homer erased the last vestige of an 8-1 cub lead last july 20; pujols and sanders subsequently went deep and the cards won 11-8. and then there was the fluke that flew (also against the cubs. hmmm . . . . ) off the bat of wilson delgado, who took kerry wood deep late in 2002 for his 2d career homer.

the two most dumbfounding stl dingers in my fading memory were hit within a few days of each other: jose oquendo's three-run shot off atlee hammaker to bust open game 7 of the 1987 nlcs, and tom lawless's reason-defying three-run tater off frank viola in game 4 of that year's world series. lawless had previously hit just 1 hr in 384 career at-bats; oquendo, just 2 in 903 career abs (altho the sec't weapon would muscle up for 7 hr in 1988.) i would lov feedback on this --- perhaps even create an official list of freak four-baggers, upon which seabol's name will ever burn with inscribed glory.

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yesterday's game provides an opp'ty to roll out a new feature i want to use here periodically: win expectancy charts. (if you don't know what win expectancy is, read about it here.) this is the latest "thing" in the SportsBlog Nation; jeff and devin at Lookout Landing have been using them almost daily, and they say they stole the idea from The Cheat at South Side Sox. josh at Crawfish Boxes is a recent convert, and so now am i. so here's the chart; click on the image below to enlarge it to a readable size.

i will freely admit that the numbers and lines and point plots don't even begin to capture the drama of this particular game. but not ev'y close game is as fraught w subplots as this one. in general i think these graphs do provide some useful context, a frame of ref'nce for comparing the relative impact of particular plays or sequences thereof. no surprise, the steepest line on the chart corresponds to seabol's homerun (as i ref'nced in an excited post yesterday, seabol's dinger buoyed the cards' win expectancy from .338 to.798) -- but check out the sharp incline assigned to pujols' diving stop with two out, two on in the sixth. that play raised stl's w.e. from .461 to .599 -- and the impact was really bigger than that, because if the ball gets through and two runs score the cards are looking at a w.e. of just .258. so in reality .341 worth of win expectancy hinged on that grounder -- nearly as much as on seabol's hr. reggie's gidp in the bottom half of that inning had almost as big an effect in the oppo direction: a sac fly puts the cards ahead by one, with a w.e. of .785; instead the double play left them tied and put w.e. at basically 50-50 (.517), a spread of .278.

check out, too, the larger segments of this chart. innings 1-4 the cards were comfortably over .500, facing only one moment of peril -- cano's at-bat in the second, when morris discovered his command at just the right moment. they climbed steady through the first four innings, then saw the game just as steadily slip away -- track the dwindling w.e. from edmonds' leadoff double in bottom 4 through the yanks' two-out rally in the bottom of the 6th. here's another thing that strikes me: in the space of two batters -- sanders' gidp ending the 6th, and jeter's double leading off the 7th -- the cards' w.e. free-fell from .714 to .398. the other thing to note -- and this is important -- is how much steeper the inclines get in the late innings, when a single swing can literally turn a loss into a win.

which leads me into why i find these charts interesting: they're another tool with which to scrutinize bullpen management. during my ongoing wet dream about billy wagner last month, i referenced an article published at baseball analysts that explained:

Managers need to understand the win probability or expectancy when considering pitching changes. Choosing your best reliever to come in and close out an inning during a threat in the seventh or eighth--even if it means using a lesser option in the ninth--is generally a more prudent use of your bullpen than calling upon your so-called closer for the last three outs of the game when nobody is on base.

the cardinal pitchers called upon to quash 7th- and 8th-inning threats -- often the biggest threats of a game, according to baseball analysts -- are reyes, flores, king, and tavarez. are they the guys we want out there in those situations? do they project as the guys we want out there for the postseason? every season is a learning process; an occasional chart, i am hoping, may help us understand these end-of-game situations with a little more insight.

and if they teach us nothing . . . .well, they still beat the hell out of another screen full o text.

credit and caveat: this w.e. chart is based on figures generated by walkoff balk's win expectancy finder, one of the great time-wasting inventions of the new century. the winexpfinder's major flaw is that it utilizes somewhat stale data from 1979-1990 -- they didn't play quite the same game then as they do now. studes at baseball graphs has a more up-to-date set of figures, which i will start using as soon as i can get this piece-a-shit computer to read the files.