Friday, April 27, 2012


In case you're new around here, here's something you should know: I love fast-pitch softball. I love playing it, I love watching it, I love doing statistics concerning it, and I love writing about it.

Some folks find my posts about softball dreadfully boring. I understand. One person's extremely enjoyable activity is another person's drudgery. I think MY WIFE would attest to that.

(Cooking, wise guy. I like to cook, she doesn't. If you thought I meant something else, shame on your dirty mind.)

So, softball season is here again. I'm playing on two teams this year, as I've done for most of the many years I've played the sport. One team plays on Sunday mornings, the other plays on weeknights.

This will be my 18th season with my Sunday team, The Bombers. My other team, Quencher Tavern, plays in the M Street Softball League, one of the premier fast-pitch leagues in the city. It's my first year with them, although I've had eight seasons in that league with other squads.

Anyway, I was going through a file folder full of softball photos and I decided it would be nice to run a post with my favorites. That way, I could get my softball blogging fix while not completely wasting the time of those people who can't stand it when I write about the subject. Everybody likes pictures!

Although it's not an action shot, and was taken in a parking lot, this might be my favorite softball photo of them all. It's just Fast Freddy Goodman and me, following the final doubleheader of the 2007 Sunday season. I love playing ball, but when I look back on what I've enjoyed about my time on a field, it's usually the camaraderie that I recall most fondly. Freddy has been my teammate for over 25 years. I'd trust that New York Jewboy with my life.

Bombers, following our loss in the 2010 championship. It was the closest I've ever come to being on a championship team, and I'm extremely proud to have been their teammate. We had a 14 and 2 regular season, just smoked other teams all year, and then swept the two opening round series. For the championship, though, we were undermanned. Five players were unable to make the games, for various reasons, and that included at least three definite starters. I have no doubt we win the championship if they were there. Still, we held a 1 - 0 lead through six complete innings in game one (games are seven innings) and Big Jay Atton almost dragged us across the finish line by himself, tossing the shutout through six and accounting for the lone run with a solo homer. We lost it in the seventh, then dropped game two, also. The guys pictured all had loads of heart. Despite the smiles, those hearts were a bit broken when this photo was shot.

L to R:

Front Row - Big Jay Atton, Joey Baszkiewicz, Fast Freddy Goodman, Tom Resor
Middle Row - Jack Atton, Jim Sullivan, Pat Atton, Ben Czarnecki
Back Row - Ron Johnson, Drew Atton, Danny Espinosa, Josh Lebron, Manny Hernandez

Me just prior to the 2010 Championship. Being at the field and anticipating the upcoming game is great. The day is always full of heroic promise.

This is just a shot of the field at M Street. I particularly like the evening sun, with shadows from the triple decker apartment buildings to the left encroaching on the field, and the way the various players are reacting to the ball (which appears to be a pop-up to left.)

Another group shot of Bombers, from an earlier year; possibly 2005. The dress code didn't appear to be too stringent then. This shot was taken at Cleveland Circle.

Front - Stu Stone, Jim Sullivan, Matt Widiger
Rear - Jack Atton, Charlie White, Ron Johnson, Matt Stone, Pete Maczkiewicz, Mike Martin, Andy Angelone

You should recognize this one. It's basically my avatar from this blog. The avatar is a baseball card with some airbrushing of the background, while this is the original shot from the 2004 season at M Street with the Sidewalk Cafe team. That was the most talented squad I've ever been a part of, man for man. We lost in a very exciting semi-finals series that year. For the record, it was while I was a part of that team that I hit my most recent home run. Yeah, it's been eight seasons since my last dinger. I was 47-years-old then, and I'm positively ancient now, so the prospects of me hitting another one are growing dim, but hope springs eternal.

Here I'm not quite so ancient. This is me from 1996, my second season with the Bombers, age 39. The shot is at Smith Field, Brighton, where we play the majority of our games. Notice the mullet hair. Also, compare to the previous photo. What can I tell you? Catchers like to squat.

Now back to being 54, from last season at M Street. Not too shabby for a fossil. I like the (almost) squared off lines between my forearm, my front shoulder, and the bat. Notice my rear foot. It's about four inches deeper than my front foot. That's the kind of stuff you have to adjust for when you play on city fields. I'd like to see what A-Rod would do if you gave him a batter's box like that.

(Well, of course, he'd still croak the ball, but he'd piss and moan about it first. We just play.)

This is my all-time hero on a softball field, the ageless wonder, Bobby Ripley. This was taken in 2007 during my final year with the Flames in the Fenway League (I played with them from 2005 to 2007.) Bobby is 78-years-old in this shot. And he wasn't a coach. He played. He's probably still playing. Every time I start complaining about some age-related hurt, somebody should smack me on the back of the head and say, "Bobby Ripley!"

Probably my favorite batting stance photo, from a game at Cleveland Circle, 2010, versus the Reds. I have no idea what sort of pitch that catcher is expecting, though. He looks like he's checking for rain.

Another nice shot of Fast Freddy and me, with bonus of Big Jay Atton. Notice how the bench area slopes toward the field? And Big Jay is standing on the low end of it? And he still towers over Fast Freddy and me? That's why he's BIG Jay.

Guys, in general, don't mind showing off their battle scars, but softball guys, for some reason, seem particularly gleeful about it. This is my good buddy, Jack Atton, showing the aftereffects of being hit in the bicep by a batted ball.

Finally, a shot taken by MY WIFE, following my final game with the Flames. Dirt, Sweat, Knee Brace, Moody Lighting... What's not to love?

Soon, with more batter stuff.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Total Average

Another new stat I've come up with, and which I'll be keeping this year, is what I like to call "Total Average".

(I think Tom Boswell came up with something similarly-named, but his formula was different.)

Anyway, here's how you figure Total Average:

(H + BB + RBI + R - outs) divided by (AB + BB)

In other words, every hit is a point, every walk is a point, every run batted in is a point, every run is a point. For every out, you subtract a point. Then you take that total and divide by the number of at-bats plus walks.

Take Jay Atton's numbers from last season...

H - 21

BB - 5

RBI - 22

R - 15

The total of those four is 63. Then you subtract his total outs, which were 18. This leaves 45.

Then you divide that 45 by the total of his at-bats and walks, which was 44.

Jay's Total Average for 2011 comes to 1.023

As you can see, the number can work out to higher than 1.000, but you can take my word for it that a 1.000 or better is rare and excellent. I've done the figures for all 17 seasons of the team's existence (I'll post all of it someday when I have the time) and in those 17 seasons there have been only 22 individual years of a .900 or better.

It is also possible to have a negative number. If a batter has had more plate appearances than the total of his good contributions, it will work out to a negative percentage. Rather than waste time figuring it exactly, I just list it as a zero. That's easy shorthand for a pretty bad year. As with the 1.000 or better year, a zero year is not easy to accomplish. There have been about the same number of them throughout the team's history.

The strength of this statistic, versus other stats, is that it takes into account not just simple numbers of hits or walks, but also how valuable those times reaching base were in context. By including the RBI and R numbers in the total, it gives an expression of clutch hitting as well as discounting 'empty' walks and hits that didn't result in any runs being scored (which is, after all, the point of the game.)

After going back and doing this stat for every season in the club's history, I've come to the conclusion that it's an extremely valuable tool for a manager. I'd say it's the single best snapshot concerning the overall value any player brought to his team, as a batter, that season - better than AVG, OB%, SLG%, OPS, or any other percentage stat. It tells you how much of those four categories (H, BB, RBI, R) you can expect, on average, from any single at-bat by that player.

It's somewhat possible to predict a score for your team if you add up the Total Averages of the guys in your line-up that day, then multiply by 2.1 (Trust me on that figure. It's basically derived from total outs in a 7-inning game, then the historic OB% for our team.) A team of ten Jays would score, on average, between 21 and 22 runs, all other things being equal.

(Of course, all other things aren't equal and that's why we actually play the games instead of just doing math on Saturday night and staying home watching the Three Stooges Sunday morning.)

Here are the Total Average numbers for 2011, for those players with at least 15 plate appearances. Of course, this is JUST one year, and a guy's TA for his career may vary significantly higher or lower. One year can always be an aberration.

Jay Atton      1.023
Fred Goodman .920
Bill Davis .789
Drew Atton .731
Pat Atton .714
Eric MacDonald .645
Jim Sullivan .450
Ron Johnson .407
Emilio Zirpolo .341
Jack Atton .256
Joe Baszkiewicz .114
Bobby Fallon 0