Hitting For The Cycle: FIP For Future Success, Bat Flips, Offensive Catchers, and Field of Dreams

Single: It’s All About the Strike Zone by Neil Paine (FiveThirtyEight)

FiveThirtyEight has had a rocky beginning with issues concerning their lack of minority hiring, and their poor reporting on Global Warming, but their baseball coverage has been a shining beacon of hope for them. Neil Paine goes against conventional wisdom (shocking, I know) and shows how teams perform in relation to their FIP and strike-zone-win-percentage as opposed to, you know, wins and losses or even Pythagorean Win-Loss (based on run differential).

Shockingly enough, a team’s FIP numbers are the best predictive measure of their future success; more-so than standard win-loss. Essentially, the better a team’s pitching staff is able to control the strike zone the more success we should expect from them. It should be noted that the Nats place ninth in baseball for this new predictive feature whereas the Braves place second.

Quote: “As the godfather of sabermetrics, Bill James, has noted, baseball is – at its core – a game of controlling the strike zone”

Double: Who Has the Best Bat Flip in Baseball by Steve Kinsella (Sports Talk Florida)

Last week, Nats fans were privy, once again, to some incredible Jayson Werth at-bats – prompting cries of Werthquake from all across the Natosphere. In these situations, Werth broke off one of the best bat-flips in recent memory – flinging the bat about 50 feet to the dugout. This piece has little to do with hardcore baseball analysis, and that’s okay, because it’s a ton of fun.

As we’ve discussed previously, there are a few things that are a lock for inclusion in this feature, like oral histories, and we are adding a new one – any mention of Rickey Henderson. He was my absolute favorite player growing up, and his bat flip included in this piece makes Yasiel Puig look like (insert white, blue-collar, gritty player here).

Quote: How to PIMP a Home Run – Rickey Henderson

Triple: The Rise of the Offensive Catcher by Dave Cameron (FanGraphs)

First off,  I would be remiss if I didn’t devote a sliver of Internet Ink to Dave Cameron and congratulate him on continuing to be cancer-free after being diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia back in 2011 – kudos!

Dave Cameron has written one of my favorite pieces of 2014 thus far. We are in a golden age of pitching in Major League Baseball. Offense is down across the board. Pitching stats are way up. However, there is one position on the diamond that continues to increase their offensive keep – catchers. For all of recent history, catcher has been one of those positions where you sacrifice offense for defense; center field, shortstop, and second base being the others. However, over the past three seasons into the first few weeks of 2014 (small sample size alert), catchers have caught up to the offensive skills of other field positions. We are seeing an unprecedented increase in the catcher profile – look no further than the Nationals own Wilson Ramos.

Cameron goes through the reasons as to why this could be the case – more focus on offense, framing, etc. – but one thing is for certain, this is something to keep an eye on in the future.

Quote: “The data certainly makes it look like the catcher profile is changing”

Home Run: Where it Began: ‘Shoeless Joe’ by W.P Kinsella (ESPN.com)

It’s amazing that in the span of a few months, two films came out that most baseball enthusiasts consider among the Best of All-Time: Major League and Field of Dreams. Much like we did a month ago with Major League, it is time for Field of Dreams to get its share of the limelight, and it starts with the author of the novel which inspired the film, W.P. Kinsella.

Firstly, you should not at all be shocked that Hollywood decided to make a movie from a book, it’s happened a few times before. Secondly, you need to go read this book.

Kinsella talks about the ins and outs of his writing process, the movie business, the screenings and, most importantly, the impact of the father-son dynamic that touches even the most hardened men. I cannot recommend this piece highly enough, it will touch you emotionally much like the movie.

Quote: “I wept when I read the finished screenplay. ‘This is my own work doing this to me,’ I said. ‘How can this happen?’”

Joe Drugan

About Joe Drugan

Joe is the Managing Editor of The Nats Blog and host of the Nats Talk On The Go podcast. He's been blogging about the Nationals since 2010 and with The Nats Blog since 2011.