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About Jon
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1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
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Another Backer for the 'Home Runs Are Rally Killers' Theory
2006-05-31 09:08
by Jon Weisman
Note: The Dodger Thoughts blog has moved to the Los Angeles Times.

Dodger announcer Steve Lyons has gained notorious notoriety for his theory that home runs can kill a rally all too soon. Recently, Rob McMillin of 6-4-2 published a sampling.

Steve Lyons: Well, you know, this is one of those things that I've talked a lot about this. Some people disagree with the philosophy, but I always feel like if you're gonna hit a home run, it either needs to tie or put you ahead. I would love to see a double in the gap, and my reason for that is you're gonna score two or three runs, and you're gonna keep the defense in the stretch, and you're gonna keep guys on base, keep pressure. If you hit a home run right now, you're still down by a run and you sort of have to start your rally all over again.

I think we all know what Lyons is trying to say, and I'll even go as far as to say it's well-intentioned, but he just gets lost along the way, failing to come to grips with the fact that if the batter hits the double Lyons is hoping for, odds are he is going to be stranded at second base no matter how much pressure you've put on the defense. So instead of being down by a run, you're down by two runs. Further, your chances of following the home run with a hit are, at worst, not sigificantly lower than your chances of following a double with a hit, much less following the double with a home run.

Home runs are good. As Charlie Steiner responded to Lyons, "That's like me presenting you with a million dollars in brand new bills, and you're complaining that the serial numbers are out of sequence."

Nevertheless, don't try reasoning this out with ex-Dodger pitcher Jeff Weaver, who according to Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times, has decided he thrives after allowing a home run.

"I don't know what it is, but a home run gets me going every time," said Weaver, who lowered his ERA to 6.64. "That part of it has been annoying, but it was something to build on."

Persuasive logic, huh? Until you realize that Weaver has allowed 15 home runs this season, and they haven't exactly gotten him going every time.

Update: In the comments below, Bob Timmermann examines the situations and is finding that hitting a homer instead of a double neither helps nor hurts the rally significantly - that the difference is negligible. So maybe Lyons' theory isn't quite as "Psycho" as it sounds?

Update 2: Taking this further, people are finding that yes, hitting a home run does help. Whew.

Comments (51)
Show/Hide Comments 1-50
2006-05-31 09:24:25
1.   Ken Arneson
The logic only makes sense if a pitcher is struggling out of the stretch, but is fine out of the windup. Which happens sometimes, but not enough to make a rule of thumb out of it.
2006-05-31 09:27:30
2.   Bob Timmermann
From the Win Expectancy Finder at
http://www.walkoffbalk.com

Home team's chances, down a run, with two outs and no one on: .036
Home team's chances, down two runs, with two outs and a runner on second: .04

2006-05-31 09:29:07
3.   Jon Weisman
2 - So you're Backer No. 3?

I don't see how those numbers are possible. How are those numbers possible?

2006-05-31 09:32:19
4.   Bob Timmermann
Those were just one particular specialized incident. If you go through and gather up all the possible situations, I think it would be a different story.

I will put an email in to a guy who covers this topic a lot.

2006-05-31 09:37:57
5.   Bob Timmermann
Let's go with this situation:

The home team is batting in the ninth with the bases loaded and down five. There is one out.

The Win Expectancy Finder spits out .037

Now, you clear the bases with a double and cut the deficit to two. The win expectancy is now .103

If you hit a grand slam and cut the deficit to one and there is still one out, the win expectancy is .104.

I think the differences are negligible and all of these chances of winning a game facing such a large deficit are pretty small.

2006-05-31 09:56:16
6.   Xeifrank
I have a different point of view. I believe that strike outs help rallies because they keep base runners on base and we all know that you need base runners in order to score. I'm sure that Mr Lyons would agree with me. Home runs, all they do is clear the bases and there goes your rally. What you need is a good few strike outs to keep the ducks on the pond. :) vr, Xei
2006-05-31 09:57:04
7.   scareduck
The one constant in which the Dodgers have been better than the Angels is in the broadcast booth. Once Scully retires I'm not so sure that will be the case.
2006-05-31 10:00:19
8.   Humma Kavula
5 Interesting. But that's the 9th inning. What about earlier in the game, when the home team could rally again?

7th inning, home team down five. Bases loaded. One out. Win expectancy: .133.

Clearing the bases with a double (now down two, one out, man on second): .243

Hitting a home run (now down one, one out, man on second): .308

Is .65 significant?

2006-05-31 10:01:37
9.   Eric Enders
I have a question that it will probably take Bob about 5 seconds to answer. Let's say Lyons is right and that a double is better than a home run when you're several runs behind.

What happens if Jeff Kent hits the ball over the fence and decides to stop at second base? Just stands on the base and refuses to run any further. Is he out or is he allowed to stay there?

2006-05-31 10:01:57
10.   s choir
Scenario: Home team down by 3, no outs, bottom 9, runner on 1st

Win expectancy .096

Next batter hits a home run, bases empty, home team down by 1, no outs

Win expectancy .184

If that batter hits a double instead, runners on 2nd and 3rd, home team down by 3, no outs

Win expectancy .111

That's a pretty big difference, even though in both cases the tying run is coming to the plate. The home run is better.

2006-05-31 10:05:35
11.   Jon Weisman
8 - "Hitting a home run (now down one, one out, man on second): .308"

That should be bases empty. Does that change the .308?

2006-05-31 10:06:17
12.   Steve
The threshold event is always the "not-out." As long as you don't get out, it really doesn't matter what you do. Lyons can't grasp even that basic precept, and it renders the rest of his "analysis" meaningless.
2006-05-31 10:08:30
13.   Humma Kavula
How much are we getting into sample size problems with the Win Expectancy Finder? How many games have to occur before we can trust these numbers?

For example: my example -- 7th inning, home team at bat down five, bases loaded, one out -- has occurred 60 times since 1979. The WEF spits out .209, but that seems unreliable.

2006-05-31 10:09:19
14.   dianagramr
"I don't know what it is, but a home run gets me going every time," said Weaver, who lowered his ERA to 6.64. "That part of it has been annoying, but it was something to build on."

Persuasive logic, huh? Until you realize that Weaver has allowed 15 home runs this season, and they haven't exactly gotten him going every time.

================

OK ... I'm a stats geek, so I tracked down Weaver's performance in the completion of every inning in which he gave up a homer this season (figuring the homer would have the biggest "impact" in the next few batters only).

4/11: 1st HR) Single, Popout, Popout
2nd) Lineout
4/17: Popout
4/22: Single, Popout
4/28: Single, Flyout, Triple (relieved)
5/3: Triple, BB, Lineout, GIDP
5/8: Flyout, Single, HR, Groundout
5/14: 1st HR) Lineout, Groundout
2nd) Flyout, Lineout
3rd) Single, Groundout, K, HR (relieved)
5/24: BB, K/CS [DP], Popout
5/30: 1st HR) K
2nd) Groundout, Groundout, Single, Groundout

Summary:
1st batter after HR: 5-12 plus BB (.417 BA)
Till end of inning: 10-32 incl. 2 HR, plus 2 BBs (.313 BA)

Methinks Jeff is mistaken :-O

2006-05-31 10:09:31
15.   Humma Kavula
11 - No, I mistyped. 8 should have said bases empty. It's still .308.
2006-05-31 10:12:48
16.   Humma Kavula
16 Another mistype -- the WEF spits out .133 (not .290) for bottom 7th, bases loaded, one out, home team down five.
2006-05-31 10:12:52
17.   Jon Weisman
14 and 15 - Thanks.
2006-05-31 10:18:22
18.   Bob Timmermann
The Rules of Baseball appear to be silent on the matter of a batter who hits a home run and pulls a Bartleby once he gets to second.

There are rules in place if you refuse to talk first on a walk or HBP or if you a runner on third refuses to touch home when forced to by a walk, balk, or HBP.

Perhaps the rulesmakers need to close the Steve Lyons loophole.

2006-05-31 10:21:34
19.   Disabled List
I think Lyons was just trying to point out that if your next two batters are going to hit a homer and double, it's always better to have the double come first, so as to maximize the run-scoring. The problem is, of course, that neither Lyons nor anybody else knows what the next two batters are going to do, so his logic fails the sniff test.

Those are interesting numbers the WEF is spitting out.

2006-05-31 10:23:29
20.   FirstMohican
14 - Has anyone considered if Jeff's quote should've read "I don't know what it is, but a home run gets me going [off of the mound] every time"?
2006-05-31 10:26:01
21.   Bill Crain
18 I prefer not to think about this.
2006-05-31 10:26:36
22.   Bob Timmermann
I want to know why the "Penalty" section in Rule 4.09 (b) exists.

(b) When the winning run is scored in the last half-inning of a regulation game, or in the last half of an extra inning, as the result of a base on balls, hit batter or any other play with the bases full which forces the runner on third to advance, the umpire shall not declare the game ended until the runner forced to advance from third has touched home base and the batter-runner has touched first base.
Rule 4.09(b) Comment: An exception will be if fans rush onto the field and physically prevent the runner from touching home plate or the batter from touching first base. In such cases, the umpires shall award the runner the base because of the obstruction by the fans. PENALTY: If the runner on third refuses to advance to and touch home base in a reasonable time, the umpire shall disallow the run, call out the offending player and order the game resumed. If, with two out, the batter-runner refuses to advance to and touch first base, the umpire shall disallow the run, call out the offending player, and order the game resumed. If, before two are out, the batter-runner refuses to advance to and touch first base, the run shall count, but the offending player shall be called out.

Just who would refuse to walk across home with the winning run?

2006-05-31 10:35:33
23.   Jon Weisman
22 - Hal Chase?
2006-05-31 10:36:06
24.   s choir
What's going on is, the difference between hitting a homer and just getting another baserunner diminishes as the losing team runs out of outs.
2006-05-31 10:37:09
25.   Johnson
22 "Pete, you refused to cross home plate on a game-winning, bases loaded walk. Are you sure you're not betting on baseball?"
2006-05-31 10:38:53
26.   Johnson
24 What's going on is, the difference between hitting a homer and just getting another baserunner diminishes as the losing team runs out of outs.

And it should theoretically diminish to zero if the losing team has only one out to give and the tying run is not yet at the plate.

2006-05-31 10:41:57
27.   Icaros
22 I think you answered that question earlier with your Bartleby comment.

Would it be too late for the manager to pinch run with Nippers or Ginger Nut instead?

2006-05-31 10:42:07
28.   Jon Weisman
I believe it was Nate who proposed this contest on Inside the Dodgers:

http://insidethedodgers.mlblogs.com/my_weblog/2006/05/draft_day_comin.html

2006-05-31 10:43:26
29.   Eric Enders
22 Mexico had a game in the WBC in which they would only have advanced if they won by a score of 1-0 in exactly 13 innings. So if that situation happened in the ninth inning, they might have refused to score the winning run.
2006-05-31 10:44:15
30.   s choir
26 -

And it should theoretically diminish to zero if the losing team has only one out to give and the tying run is not yet at the plate.

Theoretically, yes. But the win expectancy numbers are not theoretical. They are empirical. And they show that with two outs in the ninth, with the tying run not yet at the plate, teams have won more often by getting a single than they have by getting a home run. (.041 to .036)

2006-05-31 10:54:01
31.   bigcpa
When Lyons says "if you're gonna hit a home run..." it does sound like he thinks you can choose when to hit them. So maybe he's advocating that down 2 runs, no one on, the leadoff hitter cut down his swing to make contact. That is Lyons would prefer a 25% chance of a single/double over a 5% chance of a solo homer. Of course I'll side with Steve 12 and take the 37% chance of reaching base any which way.
2006-05-31 10:55:36
32.   Bob Timmermann
29
I posted the question to the SABR-L list so one of the 19th Century guys will likely have a long explanation.

Which will be followed by a passionate disagreement.

And then there will be a third person who can't believe someone didn't know about some obscure play in an NA game in 1873.

2006-05-31 10:58:48
33.   bigcpa
On a side note last night Kevin Kennedy did one of my pet peeves proclaiming "I'm not a big stat guy" and then rattling off a bunch of stats to support his argument. How can these "analysts" have it both ways? Adande's column a few days ago was the same stuff. "Stats take all the joy out of the game..." now excuse me while I cite a bunch of stats to make my point.
2006-05-31 11:00:57
34.   Jon Weisman
33 - I never cease to be amazed by that.
2006-05-31 11:13:39
35.   Johnson
30 True. I don't want you to think that I am arguing against win expectancy numbers - I'm quite fond of them myself. But I don't know if that .005 difference is real or a statistical blip. For instance, if you look only at the data from 1979-1990, this trend is reversed, so I'm inclined to think it's a blip. What's odd is that the win expectancy does seem to go up if that runner is on third instead of second. I don't know what that means.

One might suggest that the triple is better than the home run, but since the win expectancy numbers are blind to how the situation arose in the first place, I'd guess that the manner in which that runner got to third with two out is rarely a triple (more likely to be a ground out with a man on second or a 2-on, no out double play) and these particular scenarios may correlate with the effectiveness of the pitcher.

2006-05-31 11:14:33
36.   Bob Timmermann
Everybody knows statistics can lie, Kent. 59% of all people know that.
2006-05-31 11:19:36
37.   dianagramr
Bob writes:
Everybody knows statistics can lie, Kent. 59% of all people know that.

===================

"Statistics don't lie, people using statistics lie."

2006-05-31 11:30:57
38.   s choir
37% of statistics are completely made up.
2006-05-31 11:35:36
39.   s choir
35.

I don't know if that .005 difference is real or a statistical blip.

The difference between a 93-win season and a 94-win season is about .006. That one game may be a statistical blip, but it could be the difference between making the playoffs and not.

2006-05-31 11:49:38
40.   Icaros
My new favorite DT alias:

dianagramr

2006-05-31 12:00:55
41.   Johnson
39 The difference between a 93-win season and a 94-win season is about .006. That one game may be a statistical blip, but it could be the difference between making the playoffs and not.

I'm not sure I understand what you're getting at. Certainly one game can make the difference in getting to the playoffs, and in the case where it does, we probably aren't 100% sure that the team that made the playoffs is the "better" team. My point is that .005 difference may not have any real predictive power. Is the team that hits the "rally-killing" home run more likely to lose than the team that hits the "rally-preserving" double? The stats suggest maybe - but if so, it looks like only once every 200 times you do it will it help.

2006-05-31 12:04:48
42.   dianagramr
40

ummm ... should I be happy or worried about this? :-)

2006-05-31 12:11:21
43.   brandesh
I wonder if Steve Lyons was manager and his team hit a rally preserving triple, would he tell the runner not to go home on a passed ball/wild pitch? Additionally, if he was the opposing manager and the other team hit that same triple (or double) would he have his pitcher balk them home? Steve Lyons needs to pull his pants up because he looks like a fool.
2006-05-31 13:00:16
44.   Icaros
42

Like most things, it depends on your perspective.

2006-05-31 13:20:15
45.   Bob Timmermann
Just check to make sure nothing is missing from your home. Icaros tends to break into the homes of people on this site that he likes. His favorite things to steal are collectible plates.
2006-05-31 13:30:04
46.   Icaros
I only steal from those who make empty promises.
2006-05-31 14:00:41
47.   Andrew Shimmin
I've been dying to know the backstory on the whole Icaros breaking in to Bob's appartment thing, for the better part of a year. Or is this like a secret handshake for charter members?
2006-05-31 14:18:44
48.   s choir
41 -

My point is that .005 difference may not have any real predictive power.

The .005 is misleading. When the difference is between, say .040 and .045, you're talking about a 12.5% difference. There's some real predictive power there.

2006-05-31 14:38:56
49.   Icaros
47

I certainly don't want you to feel excluded, Andrew, but telling you the backstory would be like the scene in The Wizard of Oz where Dorothy finds out that the emperor is just some powerless little guy.

I care for you as a fellow Dodgers fan too much to force you into that level of disenchantment.

2006-05-31 15:27:32
50.   Andrew Shimmin
49- Ah ha! I understand. Or, rather, I don't; but I understand why I don't, sort of. Which, well, there you go.
Show/Hide Comments 51-100
2006-05-31 20:18:01
51.   Steve
Icaros wrote that from Bob's Apartment.

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