Pedro Martinez Was A Great Pitcher

Last week FiveThirtyEight posted a nice article about the best pitchers in baseball. Turns out Pedro Martinez rates pretty highly among them. The late 90s and early 00s were great for Red Sox pitching.

Pedro was great
Pedro was great

Credit for the piece goes to Neil Paine and Jay Boice.

Nova Beats the Buzzer

As you may know, while I presently live in Chicago, I hail from Philadelphia. I grew up there and most of my best mates did too. And some of them attended a small school called Villanova. And as you may know, their men’s basketball programme just won the national championship in dramatic fashion. So today’s post shares with you a graphic from the Wall Street Journal that explains how Villanova won the game in the final few seconds.

The final shot won it all
The final shot won it all

Credit for the piece goes to the Wall Street Journal graphics department.

Boston Bruins New Breakout Play

If you guys have not yet figured out, I am a baseball guy. But that is pretty much my only sport. And so maybe you can help explain to me just what is going on in today’s piece from the Boston Globe. I think it is attempting to explain hockey formations for the Boston Bruins.

A breakout play
A breakout play

Credit for the piece goes to Joe Moore.

David Ortiz Still Has 500 Home Runs

So what I was saying yesterday about there not being a new Boston Globe piece about David Ortiz’s 500 home runs. I was wrong. I missed it. But, here you go, in its semi-splendour (not digging the illustration of the baseballs /quibble). There are some merits to the piece in terms of the filtering—you can by season, opponent, or the teams for which Ortiz played (only 58 for the Twins)—but let us not lose fact of the fact that this is all about No. 500.

I have seen a few in my years, including that one.
I have seen a few in my years, including that one.

Credit for the piece goes to Patrick Garvin.

David Ortiz Has 500 Home Runs

This past weekend, David Ortiz hit his 500th home run, a significant milestone in Major League Baseball attained only by a handful of players. This piece from the Boston Herald commemorates the feat—with too many photographs and embellishment for my liking—by putting his season totals on a timeline while putting Ortiz at the bottom of the 500+ home run club.

The timeline of the home runs
The timeline of the home runs

The following piece dates from April 2015 and was about the impact of defensive shifting on Ortiz, but it has a nice graphic on his home run output. It’s just outdated by most of this season. But, from a data viusalisation standpoint, I find it a far more useful and telling graphic.

A look at Ortiz's home runs
A look at Ortiz’s home runs

Credit for the Boston Herald piece goes to Jon Couture.

Credit for the Boston Globe piece goes to the Boston Globe graphics department.

Pedro Martinez Was Amazing

So the Red Sox in 2015 are godawful, terrible, bloody bad baseball. But, go back 11 years and they were amazing, fantastic, great and awesome baseball. 2004 was, of course, the year the curse was broken and that was in no small part due to the pitching efforts of Pedro Martinez, who would head down to Flushing in the off-season to end a seven year run of Pedro pitching for Boston. Well, this weekend, after being elected in his first year of eligibility, Pedro enters the Hall of Fame and then will have his number retired at Fenway.

The Boston Globe looked at Pedro, his arsenal, his career, and his best game ever: the 1999 17-strikeout, one-hit performance against the Yankees in Yankee Stadium. The whole piece is worth a looking. But this screenshot shows just how devastating his changeup was, especially in the context of an upper-90s fastball.

Pedro's circle change
Pedro’s circle change

 

Who’s your daddy?

Credit for the piece goes to

High Strikeout Games

Baseball has changed in the last twenty years or so. (And I’m old enough to recognise it.) Gone are the days of the high strikeout/high pitch count starts from the likes of Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, and Kerry Wood. In are high strikeout/low pitch count games…

What does that mean? You can read this article from FiveThirtyEight to make the most sense of it. But this chart explains part of it:

More strikeouts per game
More strikeouts per game

Basically, baseball is played with a lot more data than it used to be. We now know empirically that pitchers are most effective the first time through the lineup. Less so the second time. Even less so the third. The great pitchers, obviously, lose less effectiveness, but everybody does. So, if you can maximise your strikeouts (which come at a great cost of pitches thrown per arm—separate story that) by limiting a start to, say, twice through a lineup, you do so. Because then you can plug in hard-throwing relievers who, in their first and often only time through the lineup, can rack up a few strikeouts. So the result from that is higher strikeouts, lower pitch counts.

And that means that it is highly unlikely you will see games where a starting pitcher throws 120, 130, 140 pitches in a start and strikes out 16+ batters. Which is a shame, because I’m clearly old as those were my favourite ball games to watch.

Credit for the piece goes to the FiveThirtyEight graphics department.

LeBron James in the NBA Finals

I really do not know much about basketball. I did not realise that the finals had been going on. But, rest assured, they were. The Washington Post looked at whether or not LeBron James had the best finals match performances since 1985. It turns out, not so much. For those of you from the Chicago area, you may instead take solace that one of those guys from that Chicago team represents well.

The top five performances since 1985
The top five performances since 1985

Credit for the piece goes to Todd Lindeman and Richard Johnson.

FIFA’s Revenue and Spending

If you did not hear about it the other day, the head of FIFA resigned. That is kind of a big deal because football (in the rest-of-the-world sense of the word) is kind of a big deal. But the organisation that runs it is generally seen as wholly corrupt. So this BBC piece takes a look at the revenue and spending—at least so far as we know about it.

Sort of a Sankey diagram
Sort of a Sankey diagram

Credit for the piece goes to the BBC graphics department.

Baseball vs. Basketball vs. Hockey

There was an interesting article in Forbes on Monday that looked at baseball’s popularity. In short, the commonly believed argument is that baseball is becoming less popular vs. sports like football, basketball, &c. Hence, one of the reasons for the pace of play changes. However, last Wednesday, there were three nationally televised playoff games—two in basketball and one in hockey—and one nationally televised baseball game, Mets at the Cubs. The logic of the common argument would have non-playoff baseball falling behind the playoff games. But, in 14 of 24 media markets, the local baseball games drew more television viewers than playoff basketball or hockey, or even national baseball games. Unfortunately, the article in question used some really poor graphics to communicate this story. So, I decided to spend my Monday night making it clearer for you. Compare a snippet of the original to mine. You make the call.

The original chart
The original chart
How the local baseball game did against the national sports games
How the local baseball game did against the national sports games

Credit for the original piece goes to the Forbes graphics department.