In 2009, NPR’s Morning Edition did this short report on Henry Chadwick and the creation of what many consider to be the first box score:
The box score, as well as the various statistics that exist in the game, have evolved tremendously over the years. But it’s pretty commonly accepted that Chadwick is the man we have to thank for getting the ball rolling on the mathematical record-keeping side of the game.
You can find the full NPR story, including the text portion, here.
This parody of Ernest Lawrence Thayer’s “Casey At the Bat” was published in 2019 by Mitchell Nathanson, author of A People’s History of Baseball. Not only does it incorporate modern-day metrics like WAR, PitchTrax, and exit velocity, the poem also paints a frighteningly accurate picture of today’s in-stadium crowds. The piece is very well done, and in spite of shaking my head in recognition, I find that I rather enjoy it.
The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day;
The score stood four to two with but one inning more to play.
And then when Cooney whiffed again, the eighteenth K that night,
A sickly silence fell, for somehow baseball wasn’t right.
A straggling few got up and left, annoyed they even came;
And most who stayed were kind of drunk or wagered on the game.
Yet still to come was Casey, whom the fans had long extolled,
Though at the age of 31 the metrics deemed him old.
But first ahead was Flynn, a player much accursed;
His BABIP was atrocious, and his WAR was even worse.
Another guy came up as well, his name recalled by few;
Confusion sowed by double switches made in hour two.
But Flynn defied the numbers, making contact with the ball;
And sent it on a mighty arc — it caromed off the wall.
—The guy should be on third,— a salty graybeard spat and cursed,
As Flynn removed his batting gloves, a jogger still at first.
The other guy, as well, reached base, a waiver-wire addition;
Dropped by a last place club dumping salary without contrition;
And when the blaring music stopped, fans noticed what occurred,
Instead of crossing o’er the plate, young Flynn just jogged to third.
As Casey stepped into the box, the scoreboard roared “Make Noise!”;
Which the crowd most surely would’ve done, if not for all their toys.
About 5,000 hometown fans were checking in on Twitter;
So most remained oblivious to Casey as the hitter.
Ten thousand eyes were somewhere else as he scratched upon the dirt;
And Velcro-strapped his batting gloves and touched six places on his shirt.
And kissed his bat, then tapped the plate nine times or maybe 10;
Then from the box did Casey step, and start it all again.
The pitcher’s antics on the mound were also quite a show;
Whole seasons seemed to pass before he hinted at a throw.
Yet here it came, the cowhide sphere, arriving at great speed;
‘strike one,— the umpire firmly called. But PitchTrax disagreed.
The fans who watched upon their phones could see it plain: outside;
Unless their phones had zero bars, or batteries had died.
“Kill him! Kill the umpire!” the fans all stood and roared;
At least so roared the older ones, the younger ones seemed bored.
Two strikes remained. The oldsters, fretting, began to wring their hands;
While younger fans, in hour four, sped toward concession stands.
Then Casey dug in once again; the second spheroid flew,
But Casey still ignored it, and the umpire said, ‘strike Two.’
“Fraud!” cried the maddened few at all the blue-clad, rulebound fools,
While waving off the heady clouds sent up from nearby Juuls.
Now Casey’s face grew stern and cold, the fans all rose as one;
As midnight neared their hope was clear: just let the game be done.
As Casey runs the metrics, and adjusts his swing for lift;
The fielders check their little cards, and drift into a shift.
And now the pitcher fires a rocket off, despite his ample gut;
And now the air is shattered by great Casey’s uppercut.
Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sport is as it used to be;
And fans still hang on Casey’s fate, not exit velocity.
But that era’s gone — don’t cry into your $15 beer;
While all the laughing children shout, “Football season’s here!”
The Baseball 101 series is one that I started a long time ago with a vague idea that it’d be nice to sprinkle in some posts for folks who aren’t familiar with the game, but would like to learn more. This has, admittedly, fallen a bit by the wayside. As someone who has been a fan of the game for years, and knowing that much of my audience have the same kind of familiarity, the idea of writing about something as fundamental as a base hit seems like unnecessary overkill.
However, while visiting family this weekend, I learned that my sixteen-year-old nephew is not familiar with the rules of baseball (the real irony here being that his father had once played college baseball — that affinity for the game evidently didn’t get passed on). This discovery has me thinking again that there might be some value in this after all.
Therefore, today we shall define the base hit. In baseball score keeping, a hit is credited to a batter when that batter safely reaches base after hitting the ball into fair territory. The batter must reach first base before any fielder can either tag him with the ball, throw to another player protecting the base for a force out, or tag first base while carrying the ball. The batter must also reach base without the benefit of an error or a fielder’s choice in order for the at-bat to count as a hit.
The hit is scored the moment the batter reaches first base safely. A hit may be classified as a single (reaching first base), double (second base), triple (third base), or home run (making it all the way around the bases to score), depending on how far the batter makes it around the bases safely. If he is put out while attempting to stretch his hit into a double, triple, or home run on the same play, he still gets credit for a hit, based on how far he made it safely.
Doubles, triples, and home runs are also called extra base hits. All four types of hits are counted equally when figuring a player’s batting average, though other statistics may be impacted differently.
Baseball fans love numbers. They love to swirl them around their mouths like Bordeaux wine.
I’m not sure what the original intention was behind this graphic by Hartwell. If the idea was to use it for comparisons, it seems like an awkward way to lay it out. If does look cool, though, so if that was the whole point, well… mission accomplished.
This infographic appears to have been published in March 2017, based on fans surveyed during the 2016 season. While I’m curious about the methodology behind the survey itself (e.g. how do you define “baseball fan”?), the results below are interesting.
I posted another graphic several weeks ago that included the same information that can be found in this one. I do think that this chart is easier to read than the last one, however, which is what makes it worth the added share. I think this one better depicts things like the dip in runs scored through the Dead Ball era and the relative leveling-off of run production in more recent years.
I’m not sure of the author of this chart, other than it is posted somewhere on a statistical software site, JMP.com. Click on the image below to link to a larger version.
Someone (unknown) once commented, “Baseball is an island of activity amidst a sea of statistics.” There’s no doubt statistics drive the game. Here’s a good general timeline on how that has played out over the years.
A pitcher’s Earned Run Average (or ERA) is the average number of earned runs that a pitcher gives up per nine innings pitched (as the typical game lasts nine innings).
An earned run is a run that is not scored as the result of a defensive error, such as a fielding error or a passed ball.
A pitcher’s ERA is calculated by dividing the number of earned runs he has allowed by the number of innings he has pitched, then multiplying by nine. For example, if a pitcher is charged with 21 earned runs over the course of 90 innings pitched, his ERA would be 2.10.
(21/90) x 9 = 2.1
An ERA under 3.00 is generally considered to be excellent. The lower a pitcher’s ERA, the better.
The lowest all-time career ERA in baseball history was 1.82, by Ed Walsh, who pitched from 1904 to 1917. The lowest career ERA during the live-ball era (that is, post-1920), belongs to Mariano Rivera, who pitched from 1995-2013 and posted an ERA of 2.21.
A player’s batting average is determined by dividing the number of base hits a player has by the total number of at-bats. For example, if a player has 500 at-bats and collects 150 hits in those at-bats, his batting average would be .300 (150/500 = .300). Keep in mind that walks and sacrifice plays (i.e. sacrifice bunts and sacrifice flies) do not count as at-bats, and therefore, do not factor into a player’s batting average.
A batting average of .300 or above is considered an excellent batting average, and an average of .400 for a season is deemed nearly impossible. The last player to hit .400 for a season was Ted Williams, who finished the 1941 seasons with a .406 batting average.