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Commenter questions: 1) Starting pitching and 2) That pop-up that fell between Derek Jeter and Rafael Soriano

Derek Jeter #2 of the New York Yankees

Derek Jeter #2 of the New York Yankees connects on a second inning single against the Chicago White Sox at Yankee Stadium. (April 27, 2011) Credit: Jim McIsaac

Don't know if we'll make this a regular feature, but a couple of questions generated some interest on the part of myself and others.

First, let's go to Sandy who, surely after devouring a hearty breakfast at IHOP - despite surely complaining to his buddies about the quality of the syrup - asked this:

"Ken, how much is run scoring down this year? And have you noticed that starting pitchers seem to be going at least one inning deeper in games so far, thus eliminating one pitching move per night/team? And that is a very good thing which might explain why run scoring is down, if it is like I think. "

NaOH interrupted his search for the Yeti - I believe he's currently in Nepal - with some answers.

--Through Saturday's games - through April play, in other words - we had an average of 8.58 runs per game. Through a comparable point last year: we had 9.07 runs per game. That's .49 runs fewer - combined from both teams, remember - per game.

The entire 2010 schedule produced 8.76 runs per game, a difference of .18 runs per game from this year's March/April games. That means that, even if two teams partook in a four-game series, they wouldn't combine to produce even one more full run than in a similar game last year.

So scoring is down, but not by an appreciable amount.

As for starting pitchers going at least one inning deeper? Through April, MLB starters averaged exactly 6.0 innings per start. For all of 2010? The same 6.0.

For that matter, if we look back to 1950, only once in that period - 1963 - have starting pitchers averaged more than seven innings per start. The average in 61 seasons, from 1950 through last year, was 6.3 innings.

--OK, now let's turn the floor over to Islander505 who watched the April 25 White Sox-Yankees game, saw the odd play in which Alex Ramirez reached base on a dinky pop-up that fell just behind Rafael Soriano and well in front of Derek Jeter and - we have no choice but to assume - shotgunned a Miller Genuine Draft or two before posting his comment here:

"And I can't WAIT to see whose 'range' numbers take a hit from that flare behind Soriano in the 9th tonight.

Soriano? Nah....he's a pitcher. They're not supposed to catch those (really?)

A-Rod? Eh, normally yes, but in the 9th inning of a 1 run game he should have been hugging the line and deep in that situation....too far away.

JETER? Sure, why not....never mind that he was at deep short on the edge of the grass (where he belonged--Ramirez has average speed) and the ball barely got beyond the regulation arc of a slow pitched softball, but Jeter was DEFINITELY in the TV screen of the pajama-clad guy compiling stats in Boston.

Yep...can't go to his left, can't go his right, now he can't charge, either."

With I-505 as my unlikely inspiration, I reached out to Mitchel Licthman, the man who invented UZR. I presented our question. Here is his answer, although not before I clarify that these plays are all tracked in person, almost always by people who are not wearing pajamas:

"All the BIS (and STATS) “stringers” do is record objective information about each batted ball. Where on the field it landed (vector and distance) if it is an air ball, and what “vector” (angle) it took if it is a ground ball, as well as the “speed” (hard, medium, and soft) and type (ground, bunt, pop fly, line drive, fliner fly and fliner line drive).

BIS also now records hang time and STATS might also. STATS also records whether the fielder who made the play (if it was made – i.e. turned into an out) made a medium, easy, or difficult play. They may record other things as well. Dewan describes some of them (for BIS) in his Fielding Bible books.

As far as how batted balls are handled for defensive evaluation purposes, that is not in the purview of BIS, STATS, etc. That is up to the people who design and implement the defensive metrics, like UZR, Dewan’s plus/minus, etc. Most of them, including UZR, completely ignore infield pop-ups because they are almost always caught, and if they are not, as in the play you described, it is difficult from a written record only, to assign credit or blame.

Some of the metrics - again, including UZR - also disregard line drives to and through the infield. So any air ball that is less than a certain distance from home plate, say around 150 feet, would be ignored by most of the advanced defensive metrics."

So there's your answer. The answer to "Whose range numbers took a hit from that play?" is "No one's."

--Contest coming up, and then I'll check in later from Citi Field before Giants-Mets.

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