Sports Beat – Baseball Deadline Edition

August 3, 2010

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Saturday marked the passing of baseball’s trade deadline.  From now through the end of the season, players must pass through waivers before being traded.  The waivers process is to complex to fully explain in the midst of this article – suffice it to say that others team can claim the players during the process in order to mess up a trade. 

The Houston Astros went into full dismantle mode, crippling their offense and pitching by sending Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt away in trades.  Berkman went to the Yankees, in a classic case of the rich getting richer.

The Oswalt deal was a head scratcher for me.  I don’t blame the Phillies for targeting Oswalt – lots of teams were pursuing the Astros ace at the deadline.  The aspect that had me scratching my head was that they had just dealt away Cliff Lee at the time they acquired Roy Halladay.  Why jumping through all the hoops of trading Lee away and then acquiring Oswalt when they could have just retained Lee.  At the time that the Phillies were rumored to be acquiring Halladay, I was very intrigued at the thought of Halladay and Lee in the same rotation, and was a bit puzzled when Lee was shipped out.  I wonder if this game of musical pitchers is going to end up costing them a playoff spot?  How many more wins could the Phillies have had in the first half with Lee in the rotation?  Having said this, I do think that Oswalt is the better pitcher.

The Yankees made a couple smaller moves, picking up veterans Austin Kearns and Kerry Wood for the stretch run.  Both are players who were once rising stars whose stars are now fading.  Nonetheless, the mention of Wood’s name always begs the question: How much wood could Kerry Wood carry if Kerry Wood could carry wood?  And that other question – did Dusty Baker ruin the acreers of Wood and Mark Prior by overextending them in games?

The Rangers were a team that pushed all their chips into the middle of the table.  Texas acquired the aforementioned Cliff Lee earlier in July to bolster their rotation.  At the deadline, they firmed up their infield by picking up Jorge Cantu and Cristian Guzman.  The Rangers might not play in the AL East, but look for them to be a tough out in the playoffs.

On Friday night, my Rockies hammered the Chicago Cubs 17-2.  The margin was just 5-2 entering the bottom of the 8th inning.  The first two Rockies got hits.  The next two hitters made outs.  Then the floodgates opened.  The Rockies got eleven straight, then two walks, before finally making the third out.  Eighteen batters came to the plate and the Rockies scored twelve runs.  The eleven straight hits were an all-time Major League record – and bear in mind that Major League Baseball has been around since 1876.

You may ask yourself – what are the odds of this happening in a game?  Well, with Kosmo in the house, you don’t need to ponder the answer.  Well, if you have a team consisting entirely of .300 hitters (which is virtually impossible), the odds of turning two consecutive at bats into hits is just 9%, or .3^2.  The odds of eleven straight hits would be .3^11 – or one chance in 564,503.  If your team consist of all .260 hitters (much more likely), the odds are just one in 2,724,540.

This does, of course, assume that each at bat is an independent event, which isn’t the case.  Subsequent batters may learn from the experience of the first batters, and pitchers may lose confidence in their breaking pitches and throw more fastballs.  This would cause these odds to shift a bit more in the favor of the hitters.

Of course, these are just the odds at bats turning into hits.  An at bat in a trip to the plate that results in either an out or a hit (statisically, a defensive error counts as an our for the hitter, which sucks).  The thing that made the Rockies hit parade even more unlikely was that it was not interrupted by any walks – the walks came later (a trip to the plate that results in a walk is not charged to the batter as an at bat, but is merely included in the more broad classification of plate appearances).  I can’t even calculate the odds of this happening – because the pitcher can easily stop such a streak by intentionally walking a batter.

On Saturday night, Carlos Gonzalez hit for the cycle against the Cubs.  This means that he had a single, double, triple, and home run in the same game.  Gonzalez completed the cycle in dramatic fashion – bashing a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 9th.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Evan @ 40Tech
    Aug 03, 2010 @ 10:47:35

    I’m not going to pretend to understand the nuances, but the reasoning I’ve heard for the Oswalt trade is that they got him for 2, possibly 3, years, while they would have only had Lee for this year before he became a free agent. Still, I cringe when I think of the boatload of prospects they’ve lost for Halladay, Lee, and Oswalt. They did get some back in return for Lee, but they’re far from a sure thing.

    SI had an interesting article, arguing that the Oswalt trade shows that the Phillies were now in the same “Feed the Beast” mode that the Yankees and Red Sox have been in for years ( Interesting, but I don’t think you can put them in the same class yet. Can you name the last big free agent the Phillies signed? Raul Ibanez? You probably have to go all the way back to Jim Thome. Generally, it will still be the Red Sox and Yankees bidding on the top tier free agents, with other teams like the Phillies trying to build through trades and the farm system.


  2. kosmo
    Aug 03, 2010 @ 15:41:21

    That’s true – Lee was locked up just through 2010 and Oswalt through 2012. However, they have 32M tied in in Oswalt in 2011 and 2012. You’d think they could have thrown some money at Lee and gotten him signed to a similar deal – or signed him for perhaps a bit less.

    Yeah building via trade and building via free agency are two completely different things. You can build via free agency by giving up only money, rather than money and players.


  3. Evan @40Tech
    Aug 04, 2010 @ 19:58:01

    The word on Lee is that he wanted a longer deal, and Sabathia type money. The Phillies generally don’t give pitchers longer than 3, maybe 4, year contracts, so their thinking was that they’d only have Lee for this year, and would never have been able to sign him past this year.


  4. kosmo
    Aug 04, 2010 @ 22:04:30

    That makes sense. There’s no way on earth he’s worth Sabathia money.


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