Bases empty, two outs, a 3-1 game, #8 hitter up. Nothing comes down to this.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Alex Anthopoulos: The Song

We (I) here at Bottom of the Fourth are (am) a big fan of Alex Anthopoulos, the young general manager of the Toronto Blue Jays. So we (I) made a superhero song about him! Enjoy.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Mármol Backpedals, Says He "Loves" Slider, Is Not "In Love" With Slider

CHICAGO (Bottom of the Fourth) - It seems the honeymoon is over for Carlos Mármol and his slider. The Chicago Cubs' closer, who recently admitted to the media that he was "in love" with his slider, retracted those sentiments in a statement Friday morning.

"Ned and I, well, I think we got caught up in the moment," Mármol intimated to reporters at a press conference, "and things were said that may have been a little... premature."

Further questioning revealed that "Ned" is Mármol's name for his slider.

Mármol insisted that he still "loves" Ned, in the same way he loves his sister or Nabisco Black Pepper and Olive Oil Triscuits. But he's having second thoughts on whether he wants to be in an intimate relationship with the pitch.

Mármol is now on the outside looking into the heart in which he was once fully immersed

Attempts to contact Mármol's slider Ned went mostly unanswered, though Ned's agent finally put out a press release this afternoon. It read: "Ned would like to thank everyone for their concern, but wishes to be left in private during this difficult time. He is still struggling with his emotions and would like peace and quiet to recover from this trauma. Further, Ned would like to vehemently deny any rumours that may be circulating that he is involved romantically with Carlos' fastball Alan."

While most of the reaction to the news has been supportive of Mármol and his slider through this difficult time, National League hitters on teams other than the Cubs and pitcher-pitch marriage counseling specialists are among those happy about the situation.

(Thanks to Texas Leaguers for the slider chart.)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Graph Infection: Distance From Kansas City

Today's graph is a map-based infographic showing the distance from Kansas City to all other Major League cities. The distance is shown by the colour of the arrows, where the colour is based on RGB values. The formulas for these values are given by:

where dist is the distance from the given city to Kansas City. The constants are shown below:

Given all the above, presented next is a set of instructions on how to use the maphographic. First, eyeball the RGB values of the desired arrow. Next, re-arrange the three colour formulas to isolate the variable dist. Input the constants given above, and solve for dist. Voila: now you can easily find the distance from Kansas City to any other city with a Major League Baseball team in just a few simple steps. Feel free to pass this handy tool along!

Note: Toronto's arrow colour is based on kilometres, and is therefore darker than one would expect for an American city with a similar distance.

Click to embiggen

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Ichiro Disciplined By Mariners After Tweeting During Diving Catch

SEATTLE (Bottom of the Fourth) - Is there anything Ichiro Suzuki can't do? Widely considered one of the most exciting players in baseball since bursting on to the scene in 2001, the Mariners superstar has outdone himself once again, this time establishing a Major League Baseball first by tweeting during a diving catch.

The right-fielder ranged into the right-centre gap during the play in question. Replay later confirmed that he composed the tweet blind while sprinting toward the ball, and sent it off just as he was going into his dive. The tweet itself read "Check this out!!!!!! #sickcatch", as shown below.

Ichiro tweeted the message milliseconds before making the catch

It should be noted that Ichiro was not actually a member of Twitter prior to this tweet. Therefore, it seems that in addition to composing and sending a tweet while tracking down a fly ball, Ichiro had to create an entire account in the time it took to run from his spot in the outfield to the eventual site of his catch. It is not currently known how the Japanese star was able to complete the reCAPTCHA required as part of Twitter's registration while keeping his eyes on the ball.

Despite the fact that he made the catch, the Mariners are not happy with Ichiro's actions. The team believes he's "setting a bad example" for the younger Seattle players like Justin Smoak and Michael Pineda who "have never known a world without Twitter", according to team spokesman Ben Golden. "If this keeps up, the youth of our team soon won't be able to distinguish between reality and Twitrality", said Golden.

The aforementioned inability to distinguish between reality and Twitrality is condition well-documented to not be real, based on the scientifically-established fact that Twitrality is not a thing.

Regardless, the team has suspended Ichiro's Twitter privileges until such time as he has completed a Twitter Sensitivity Training course. Ichiro reacted to the news by twtng: "scks tht cn't twt ntl fnsh ths crs, bt fllw m n Twttr fr ll th ltst chr nws!!!"

Ichiro will be joined in the sensitivity training course by White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who recently tweeted, while making a double-switch, that Latinos are underrepresented on Twitter.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Right Fielders Threaten Strike Over Lack of Work

PHOENIX (Bottom of the Fourth) - Two and a half months is long enough. At least, so say Major League Baseball's right-fielders, who are threatening to strike over lack of work. With offense down across MLB and teams increasingly looking for ground-ball pitchers, right-fielders say they're simply "bored out of [their] friggin' minds".

Spokesman for the Union of Right-Fielders (URF) Justin Upton spoke to the media on Monday morning. "Well-met, good sir. Well, us chaps in the urf, see, we've amassed just a pip of ennui, see, lallygagging out there in the pitch, see. It's not more than a trifle, and I wouldn't care to beget a whole hullaballoo, but if the fellas down there on Wall Street threw us a few more bones, y'know, to catch, so to speak, well, that would just be cuter than a bug's ear."

MLB was dismissive of the right-fielders' complaints. "See, usually when unions threaten strikes over lack of work, they're really striking because they aren't getting paid," explained MLB spokesman Dan Kricke. "It seems the right-fielders fail to understand that they're still getting millions of dollars for standing there doing nothing."

Notably absent from the right-fielders' petition was Blue Jays star José Bautista. When asked why he wasn't supporting his right-field counterparts, Bautista responded "because I'm f&*%ing killing it this year."

The initiative of the right-fielders has propelled other groups to speak up and take action for their own causes. Third-base umpires have officially joined the right-fielder strike over concerns related to "boredom" (though it should be noted that since umpiring crews operate on a rotating basis, the Organization for Third-Base Umpires completely turns over its membership every day), while the AAAA Tweeners' Society is considering action "just as soon as we get the call".

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Foul Poles in Dubai Baseball Stadium Now Tallest Structures in World

DUBAI (Bottom of the Fourth) - It was only a year and a half ago that the Burj Khalifa in Dubai officially opened and became the tallest structure in the world at 828 metres. But its reign was short-lived, as Dubai has already bettered itself.

On Wednesday morning, the ribbon was cut on the new Dubai Stadium of Base Balls, a massive project years in the making. The stadium is enormous: it will seat over 150,000 fans, roughly triple what most MLB stadiums can handle, and significantly more than even NFL stadiums. But what stood out at the ribbon cutting were the foul poles, which stand many times the height of the stadium itself.

The poles are 905 metres tall, with the left-field pole about 8 mm taller (a grievous error that resulted in the imprisonment of several labourers), according to stadium architect Farank al-Lloyd Wright. But while this may seem to be an act of pure indulgence, Wright says there is practicality behind the poles' extreme height. "The height of the poles is a safeguard in case José Bautista ever plays in our stadium," said Wright, "how will we be able to judge his home runs if he keeps hitting them over the foul poles?"

(Bautista famously hit the first ball to ever leave the Rogers Centre, the Toronto stadium that is, coincidentally, right next to the former tallest building in the world, the CN Tower. It is believed that Bautista's foul ball actually entered the CN Tower through the glass floor on the observation deck.)

In addition to breaking records for height and seating capacity, the Dubai Stadium of Base Balls has many other record-breaking directives in the pipeline. Namely, it plans to host the world's longest baseball games at 50 innings (though it hasn't specified which teams will play, since Dubai has no baseball teams), record the world's fastest pitch with their custom-built pitching robot, and serve the world's longest stadium hot dogs (2 feet).

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Graph Infection: BABIP vs. Vegetarianism

Today's graph reveals a previously-unknown relationship between a player's batting average on balls in play (BABIP) and their diet. Based on a sample of 20 Major Leaguers, it appears that BABIP increases linearly as a player incorporates a higher percentage of vegetarian food into their diet.

The cause for this correlation, if one exists, has not yet been confirmed, though Bottom of the Fourth scientists are currently working on the theory that meat carries a special BABIP-dampening hormone known as Molinagen.

The only outlier in this data set is Bengie Molina, who has gone 100% vegetarian, reportedly in an effort to lose weight (though it's possible he had a jump on this research and is trying to improve his production), but is still a laggard in terms of BABIP.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Target Field Collapses Due to Resonant Frequency of The Wave

MINNEAPOLIS (Bottom of the Fourth) - It has not been a good year for Minnesota's stadium engineers. First, the Metrodome's roof collapsed because of a large snow build-up, reportedly because engineers had "failed to account for the fact that sometimes there is snow in winter".

Now, just a few months later, the Minnesota Twins' less-than-two-year-old stadium Target Field has also collapsed, much more devastatingly. Last night in a game against the Texas Rangers, fans were frightened when the stadium began to rumble in the bottom of the 7th inning.  The oscillations grew in size for about 20 seconds before the foundations of the stadium began to crumble, and not long after the upper decks collapsed in on themselves, crushing countless hot dogs, beer cans and Twins hats in the process.

No footage was captured in the panic, but the collapse could have looked something like this

Scientists say the collapse was a result of The Wave, which had been started by drunk frat boys (as is generally the case) in the 7th inning. What made this wave unique, however, was its speed (or lack thereof). Last night's wave had a period of 1 minute and 26 seconds, meaning it took that much time to complete one revolution of Target Field.

(For reference, the average period of The Wave at the Metrodome was about 48 seconds, as documented here.)

As it happens, 1:26 is also the period of resonance of Target Field. This was a problem.

For the uninitiated, all structures have a natural frequency at which they vibrate as a result of their material structure. This vibration amplifies when an external action is performed at the same frequency - like pushing a child on a swing - and can cause major disasters when affecting large structures. Famously, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapsed because of wind-induced resonance, and the Angers Bridge collapsed when soldiers marched across at its resonant frequency. (The soldiers were French, obviously.)

Target Field lead engineer David Ruggiero was distraught, and dumbfounded. "The Wave was part of my calculations... I accounted for this... It shouldn't have happened..." Ruggiero had never imagined, apparently, that The Wave could circumnavigate the stadium at such a slow rate.

Ruggiero's team is now working to figure out how a Wave could be so slow. They had previously worked out a theoretical maximum of 1 minute and 10 seconds, but clearly there was a flaw in their calculations.

Ruggiero's colleague, Alessandro Ariza, believes the coefficient λ, or "lethargy factor" needs to be revamped for an appropriate population. "λ (the Greek letter lambda) was calculated by Arvydas Sabonis, a Lithuanian sociologist," explains Ariza, "but his number was based on a Lithuanian sample. We should have reworked the constant for our decidedly lethargickier populace."

Unfortunately for the Twins, given the aforementioned destruction of the Metrodome's roof, they will have to keep playing at Target Field while repairs are underway. The debris strewn about foul territory, suddenly uneven terrain, and lack of an outfield fence will be, like the hill in the outfield in Houston's Minute Maid Park, "just part of the game".

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Introducing Graph Infection

Today, Bottom of the Fourth is proud to announce a new feature: Graph Infection. Every now and then, we'll bring you a graph that will reveal some fascinating tidbit about the great game of baseball in the intuitive way only a graph can.

Today's graph focuses on the AL Player of the Month award. Have you ever wondered how many AL Player of the Month awards are given out each season? And, after having wondered that, have you ever proceeded to wonder how many have been given out cumulatively at any given point in the season? If so, today's graph should be enlightening.

You'll never wonder again. We hope you've enjoyed this first edition of Graph Infection!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Jeter Opts to Let Appendix Burst, Play Through Pain

NEW YORK (Bottom of the Fourth) - Cases of appendicitis spring up a few times per year among Major League baseball players. It's a fairly minor ailment that is by definition a one-time affliction, but it does usually sideline the player for 4-6 weeks.

Unless they're named Derek Jeter. After feeling a twinge in his lower abdomen and removing himself from the Yankees' game against the Red Sox on Tuesday night, Jeter was diagnosed with the disease. However, instead of opting for surgery to remove the inflamed appendix, Jeter decided to simply "play through the pain". Sometime in the next two weeks, the Yankee captain's appendix will rupture, possibly during a game, and will likely cause severe pain and vomiting. A burst appendix also carries a not-insignificant chance of death. However, Jeter says it's "worth the risk".

"With the Red Sox caught up and the Rays nipping at our heels, we can't afford to take any time off," Jeter told reporters. "I don't care if it's a paper cut or a life-threatening illness, we've gotta keep ourselves on the field."

Dr. Andrew Wakefield, a specialist in Jeter-related Medicine, says that the captain should be able to deal with the affliction better than most. "Overlooked in this whole thing has been Derek's extremely high levels of Jetogen." Jetogen, Wakefield went on to explain, is a hormone present in nearly 90% of Derek Jeters, and carries special appendicitis-soothing properties. The scientist predicts that Jeter will experience what feels less like a "rupture" and more like a "gentle breeze".

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Reyes Makes Great Play Deep in the Hole, Giggles About Phrase "Deep in the Hole"

NEW YORK (Bottom of the Fourth) - José Reyes is known as a bit of a jokester around the Mets' clubhouse, and sometimes he even makes himself laugh. Until last night, though, he had never amused himself to the point of doubling over laughing during a game.

In the fourth inning, a hard ground ball was hit to Reyes' right, and the Mets' infielder ranged deep into the hole to make a great snag. However, before he could complete the play by throwing to first base, Reyes fell over, clutching his stomach. Mets trainer Ray Ramirez rushed out, only to discover that Reyes was unhurt, and laughing uncontrollably.

After the game, Reyes explained to reporters that he hears the game broadcast as an internal monologue at all times, and when Ben Nicholson-Smith (Reyes' imaginary play-by-play man) uttered the phrase "and Walker fists the ball deep in the hole", the shortstop couldn't contain his mirth.

Reyes added that he had already been loosened up by an earlier play, when a shattered bat prompted Nicholson-Smith to quip: "wow, look out for that renegade wood!"

"Haha, deep in the hole, oh man," Reyes said, chuckling. "Walker fisted the ball... deep... in the...." At this point, Reyes fell into a fit of hysteria, prompting reporters to pack up for the day.

The Mets, for their part, have ordered Reyes to put an immediate halt to his internal monologue and have threatened selective lobotimization should he fail to comply.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

MLB Introduces "Going to See Coldplay List" For Players Who Need Time Off to Go See Coldplay

NEW YORK (Bottom of the Fourth) - Earlier this season, MLB unveiled two new lists by which players can briefly leave their teams without being placed on the disabled list: the paternity list and a shorter, concussion-specific disabled list. However, these weren't the only new lists MLB introduced. A whole slew of new options flew under the radar, getting dwarfed by the more noteworthy paternity and concussion lists.

Chief among them is the "Going to See Coldplay List", which allows players to leave their team for one day to see Coldplay. The team may then recall a minor league player without making a disabled list move, providing the recalled player is not also on the Coldplay trip.

Several hours after the announcement, baseball statistics website GranPhaphs posted an article analyzing players' walk-up music, and found that, not coincidentally, the Coldplay song "Viva La Vida" accounts for nearly 65% of the walk-up songs of white MLB players.

MLB spokesperson Erika Hagen said that the "Coldplay problem" has gotten out of hand in recent years, and this measure is an attempt to provide teams with a backup plan whenever Coldplay is in the area. Last year the problem reached epidemic levels when teams would regularly lose up to 40% of their active roster on nights when Coldplay was playing a concert.

Pittsburgh Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan remembers one such game with not-so-fond memories. "We lost our entire infield," Hanrahan told Bottom of the Fourth. "The whole bullpen had to play the field. When we got to the later innings, we would just bring in a reliever from somewhere on the diamond, and then when they were done pitching they'd go back into the field."

Other lists introduced along with paternity, concussion and Coldplay (along with their respective lengths) include the "Just Needs Some Time to Think List" (4 days), the "Caught in a Wikipedia Link Maze List" (3 hours) and "Really Needs To Go To The Bathroom List" (5 minutes).