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Mike McGrath Jr.

Grantland Dictionary: Baseball Edition

From "#Analysis" to "xFIP," consider this your reference guide for Twitter spats, bar fights, and beyond

Over the course of a season, the Grantland staff pumps out a whole bunch of words about baseball. Some of them are analytical. Others could be loosely defined as inside jokes. A few are Montreal Expos–related (guilty!). Many are Simpsons-related.

In light of that, we figured it’d be wise to create a Grantland Baseball Dictionary. Think of this as a reference guide, one you can click on anytime Rany goes on a Darryl Motley rant, Charlie rhapsodizes about Dewey Evans, Shane shakes his fist at Vernon Wells, Baumann waxes poetic on Erik Kratz, or I do … whatever it is I do. It will also cover various baseball sayings and memes, old and new.


#analysis (n.) — making a statement about a player, team, or trend that is self-evident, e.g., “Miguel Cabrera is good at baseball.”

attendance (n.) — favorite subject of concern trolls and people with agendas. MLB officials will harp on attendance when discussing teams that don’t draw well like the Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays in an effort to con local governments and taxpayers into handing out half-billion-dollar checks for new ballparks. Bitter supporters of one team use it to try to denigrate fan bases of a rival with better records but lower attendance. Increasingly less relevant at a time when both local and national TV deals are becoming bigger drivers of revenue growth.

BABIP (n.) — Batting Average on Balls in Play. An offshoot of Voros McCracken’s DIPS theory, BABIP simply measures the batting average for a hitter (or against a pitcher) on balls that are put in play but don’t go for home runs. The theory is that by examining BABIP numbers — especially those that deviate from the 2013 MLB average of .297 — we can identify aberrant performances by hitters and pitchers and adjust future expectations accordingly. It is generally accepted that hitters have more control over BABIP results than do pitchers, who are largely at the mercy of their defense and, in some cases, ballpark effects.

banjo hitter (exp.) — a poor hitter. A derivative of this is Nichols’ Law of Catcher Defense, which states that a catcher who can’t hit will develop a positive defensive reputation, because why else would teams keep him around? Feel free to apply that principle to other positions, and to be equally skeptical about such claims.

BARVES (exp.) — catch-all term used by Atlanta Braves fans (and later adopted by others) to mock their own team, whether due to bad play or the often head-scratching tactics of manager Fredi Gonzalez. Over time, “BARVES” has become a term of endearment, especially when the team is playing well.

 

basecloggers (exp.) — derogatory term used by announcers to deride the talents of players who have high on-base percentages but limited speed. While it is true that it’s better having speedier runners than slower runners on base (see: Jim Rice’s off-the-charts double-play totals when he used to hit behind Wade Boggs), the general idea of baseclogging misses the point: Having runners on base is always a good thing.

baserunning runs (n.) — measure used to quantify the number of runs a player contributes based on both his stolen-base and caught-stealing totals and his ability to take the extra base/avoid getting thrown out. In addition to his vastly superior defense, one of the arguments for Mike Trout over Miguel Cabrera in the 2012 American League MVP race was Trout’s baserunning superiority: Trout led the majors with 12 Baserunning Runs added to the Los Angeles Angels’ ledger, while Cabrera cost the Detroit Tigers about three runs with his ineffective baserunning.

BB% (n.) — walk rate. Along with strikeout rate (and to some extent home run rate and ground ball rate), walk rate is one of the “peripheral” stats that analysts tend to look at when assessing the value of a pitcher, rather than using more team-dependent stats like ERA and especially win-loss record. For hitters, there’s no hard-and-fast rule for what constitutes a good walk rate, though 10 percent isn’t a bad place to start, if only because the human race has been enslaved by the base-10 mode of thinking.

beanball (n.) — tool used by overly sensitive/cowardly pitchers to police anything and everything. This includes but is not limited to: firing pitches at (defenseless) PED users/for getting snubbed at a party; teaching a rookie who has done nothing wrong some proper manners; slow trots around the bases; celebrating with teammates; smiling; and breathing. Some pitchers will drill a batter just for hitting a home run with no embellishment, because it’s better to endanger an opponent’s health and act like a ninny than it is to acknowledge that maybe you just suck.

#belted (exp.) — term used to describe a hard-hit ball. It has been adopted by San Francisco Giants fans in support of Brandon Belt, the team’s good and criminally underrated first baseman, who, according to certain ignoramus fans and talking heads, is responsible for every Giants loss, as well as all wars, the NSA surveillance program, stubbed toes, and Paula Deen.

#blameBeltran (exp.) — cousin of #belted; Mets fans use #blameBeltran to mock those who criticized former New York outfielder Carlos Beltran for the team’s woes. It’s not uncommon for shortsighted fans and especially jealous and clueless media members to make highly paid players become scapegoats for a team’s problems. A player like Beltran — who derived a good chunk of his value from underrated skills like on-base percentage, struggled at times with injuries, and doesn’t make a show of fake hustle or faux-emotion on every single play — is an especially attractive target for the idiot masses.

bunting (n. and v.) — lovely decorative touch for stadiums on occasions such as All-Star Games and World Series. Other than a few, rare exceptions, bunting has no other useful purpose in baseball.

can of corn (exp.) — a lazy fly ball or popup that’s easily catchable.

can’t predict baseball (exp.) — trite phrase used by New York Yankees announcers John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman whenever an even mildly unusual play occurs. Now it’s a widely used Twitter meme in which fans call out either unpredictable (#cantpredictball) or predictable (#canpredictball) plays. E.g., “The Astros, using ace reliever Guy Who Bags My Groceries At Safeway, just blew a lead to the Red Sox. #canpredictball.”

clown question, bro (exp.) — snarky response leveled by Bryce Harper at a reporter who asked if he was excited to be playing in Toronto, since the then-underage Washington Nationals outfielder would’ve been able to drink legally while in town. (This question isn’t all that dumb by reporter scrum standards.)

clutch (adj.) — the notion that certain players perform better in high-leverage situations. In large enough samples (i.e., multiple years or entire careers), very, very few players actually demonstrate an ability to put up better numbers in so-called clutch spots than otherwise. For example, Derek Jeter is widely considered to be a clutch player, but he has actually put up nearly identical numbers both with runners in scoring position and in the postseason as he has the rest of the time.

The myth of clutch hitting and clutch pitching remains alive and well — despite hard evidence to the contrary — for a few reasons. First, a player like Jeter will end up with many chances to produce in big spots because he has played for a highly successful team, so of course he’s going to have some big moments. Second, human beings are highly vulnerable to confirmation bias, a phenomenon in which we remember events that support our preconceived notions about people and events and ignore events that contradict what we already believe. Third, many fans, teams, writers, and broadcasters like to make declarative statements without the benefit of evidence, because they like to hear themselves talk and because mythmaking is fun/considered good business.

cost of a win (n.) — the going rate for a player, typically on the free-agent market, as measured by dollars per Win Above Replacement. As of 2013, the consensus is that buying a win on the open market will cost a team about $6 million. Since a player who adds two wins above and beyond what your typical 25th man or Triple-A veteran contributes to his team’s ledger is considered average, that implies that a player making the seemingly huge sum of $12 million a year is merely getting paid the going rate for league-average production. Many articles have been written about this concept, including these two excellent posts by baseball researcher Matt Swartz.

defensive efficiency (n.) — stat developed by Bill James that tracks the percentage of balls in play caught by different teams. For context, the best defensive efficiency rating for any team in 2012 belonged to the Los Angeles Angels, who converted about 72 percent of balls in play into outs. Ranking last were the Colorado Rockies, at around 68 percent. Former Baseball Prospectus writer James Click (now the Rays’ baseball research and development director) created a stat called Park-Adjusted Defensive Efficiency (PADE), which adjusts for the dimensions of different ballparks in evaluating teams’ ability to turn balls in play into outs.

Dirty Fuentes (exp.) — term coined by ESPN Fantasy Focus hosts Matthew Berry and Nate Ravitz that describes a save in which the reliever of record allowed multiple baserunners and/or earned runs. Named after notoriously shaky former MLB closer Brian Fuentes.

dome sweet dome (exp.) — an exclamation of gratitude from Rays fans that their team plays its home games in a domed stadium. Fans of rival teams often mock the Rays and their fans for playing baseball indoors, because they apparently have no idea that every day from May through October in the Tampa Bay area brings miserable weather that includes 98 degree heat and 98 percent humidity, violent thunderstorms, and full-on hurricanes. The expression gains traction when the Rays play on the road and the home team has to deal with crappy weather and no defense against the elements.

 

DRS and UZR (n.) — Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating, two of the better-known advanced defensive metrics. The aim of both stats is to examine players’ defensive contributions based on ground covered and plays made, rather than merely focus on limited, negative events such as errors. Both stats are best observed in large batches, preferably multiyear samples. Both also have weaknesses even beyond the sample-size issue.

In the case of DRS, a situation like Mike Trout’s (in which he robs more home runs one year compared to the next) can have a disproportionately large effect on measured defensive value, even though a lot of that is simply a function of opportunity. UZR, meanwhile, credits or debits fielders based on how often batted balls hit to particular places are caught. The hope is that one day, play-by-play-based metrics like FIELDf/x will become widely available and also easily interpretable, such that we can better measure exactly where balls in play ended up, who should have been responsible for making the play, and whether or not the play was actually made.

Edinson Volquez Hat Angle Update (n.) — a status report on the positioning of Dodgers (and former Padres) pitcher Edinson Volquez’s hat. Could also apply to Rays closer Fernando Rodney.

Eephus pitch (n.) — pitch lobbed sky-high and very slowly that’s intended to be an extreme version of a changeup, catching hitters so off guard that they have no choice but to keep the bat on their shoulder and hope that it’s called a ball. It’s extremely rare, but really fun to watch when it happens.

Eephus

FB% (n.) — rate at which a hitter hits fly balls or a pitcher induces fly balls. All things being equal, you’d prefer hitters not to hit too many fly balls unless they also possess strong power, and for pitchers not to induce too many fly balls unless they are playing in a ballpark that doesn’t surrender many home runs.

Felix Day (exp.) — a day for Seattle Mariners fans to forget that their team stinks and rejoice that the great Felix Hernandez will be taking the mound.

FIP (n.) — Fielding Independent Pitching, a stat that attempts to strip out the impact of a team’s defense and focus on factors a pitcher can better control, such as strikeout, walk, and home run rates. FIP runs along a similar scale to ERA, making it easy to intuit what constitutes a good number vs. a bad one. FIP can in some cases wield predictive value: If a pitcher posts a FIP much lower than his ERA, that might indicate he’s suffering from some bad luck and could be in line for fewer runs allowed in the future. It can work the other way around, too.

#fisted (v.) — an inside pitch that’s weakly hit, often resulting in a bloop single. That and that alone is the only definition for this word.

GB% (n.) — rate at which a hitter hits ground balls or a pitcher induces ground balls. Generally speaking, this is a positive trait for pitchers, since ground balls obviously result in extra-base hits far less often than do line drives and fly balls.

Heath Bell Experience (exp.) — the terrifying ride that Arizona Diamondbacks reliever Heath Bell provides for viewers every time he comes into the game. Not to be confused with #CarlosMarmolGarbagefest.

#HIROK (exp.) — variant of Hiroki, as in starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, one of the best free-agent signings in Yankees history.

How Many Altuves (exp.) — a unit of measurement using 5-foot-5 Astros second baseman Jose Altuve as its baseline. For instance, Randy Johnson would be 1.26 Altuves.

HR% (n.) — home run rate. Along with strikeout rate, walk rate, and to some extent ground ball rate, home run rate is one of the “peripheral” stats that analysts tend to look at when assessing the value of a pitcher, rather than using more team-dependent stats like ERA and especially win-loss record.

#Hugs (n.) — phenomenon of a player widely rumored to be involved in trade rumors hugging his teammates after exiting a game. It’s supposed to be a telltale sign that a player is getting traded, only it doesn’t always work out that way, since players will sometimes get pulled for reasons ranging from injuries to a manager screwing with everyone (though he’ll never admit it).

Human Element (exp.) — defense sometimes used by instant-replay opponents, who claim that just as fans are captivated by the imperfections of players, we should also embrace mistakes by umpires. This stance is completely misguided and terrible, and justifiably gets mocked on Twitter when a bad umpiring call occurs, often with a taunt of #HumanElement.

ISO (n.) — Isolated Slugging, a stat calculated by subtracting batting average from slugging average. It’s meant to be a more comprehensive gauge of power hitting than just home runs since it also accounts for doubles and triples, but without the redundant counting that occurs in straight slugging average, where singles are counted too.

JAWS (exp.) — Jaffe WARP Score, named after the stat’s creator, Jay Jaffe. The definition, from Baseball Prospectus: “A player’s JAWS score is the average of his career WARP total and his peak total [(Career WARP + Peak WARP) / 2], where Peak is a player’s best seven seasons. This JAWS score is then compared to a modified average of the enshrined Hall of Famers at each position, with a slight adjustment made for positional scarcity among enshrinees.” In other words, JAWS combines a player’s peak performance with his performance over the course of an entire career, then spits out one number that can be used to argue for or against his Hall of Fame case.

You can debate the merits of WARP vs. WAR and other catch-all stats. But the premise of evaluating Hall of Fame candidates based on both peak and career value, rather than, say, counting RBIs or wins or awards voted on by often misguided Baseball Writers’ Association of America voters, makes a ton of sense.

Joba Rules (n.) — the set of controls the Yankees put in place in an effort to manage the workload of former top pitching prospect Joba Chamberlain. Some critics of the plan argued that Chamberlain should’ve been free to work deeper into games as a starting pitcher, or at least that the Yankees should’ve been less rigid with pitch-count limits. Others said Chamberlain should’ve simply stayed in the bullpen, given the excellent results he put up early in his career as a relief pitcher. The Joba Rules became a hot-button topic beyond New York, as debates raged over teams’ usage of young pitchers and how best to keep those pitchers healthy and productive.

Whatever the Yankees did, it didn’t work, as Chamberlain became a glorified mop-up man by the end of his tenure in the Bronx.

K% (n.) — strikeout rate. Along with walk rate, and to some extent home run and ground ball rate, strikeout rate is one of the “peripheral” stats that analysts tend to look at when assessing the value of a pitcher, rather than using more team-dependent stats like ERA and especially win-loss record. Can be expressed as strikeouts per nine innings, or strikeout percentage, though strikeout percentage tends to paint a more accurate picture.

kitten face (adj.) — a term used to describe the punim of Texas Rangers outfielder Craig Gentry. So named by Rangers fan/Fox Sports Southwest and Dallas Stars employee Michael Gruber because Gentry’s face, especially when bearded, resembles that of a kitten. The meme has become so popular that Gentry himself has warmly embraced it.

laser show (exp.) — description of Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia’s hitting prowess, as narrated by Dustin Pedroia.

lava pit (n.) — the location where anyone who slides into first base for any reason other than trying to avoid a tag must be sent, immediately, and with prejudice.

LD% (n.) — rate at which a hitter hits line drives or a pitcher allows line drives. As you can probably guess, line drives tend to be the best batted-ball outcome for hitters and the worst for pitchers. In 2013, league-wide Batting Average on Balls in Play was .657 for line drives, .240 for ground balls, .095 for fly balls (source: Baseball-Reference).

lineup protection (n.) — the idea that hitters perform better when good hitters hit immediately behind them than otherwise. The concept has been studied multiple times. It has been found to be a myth.

LOOGY (exp.) — acronym for Left-handed One-Out GuY, meaning a lefty reliever who comes into the game usually for the express purpose of facing one left-handed batter. While that kind of matchup can help teams, it comes at a cost, with benches being shrunken to comically small sizes, thus limiting a manager’s options should he want to pinch hit, pinch run, or substitute defensively late in games.

Maddux (exp.) — a complete-game shutout requiring fewer than 100 pitches. Invented by baseball blogger Jason Lukehart, a Maddux is a start in which a pitcher shows both dominance and peak efficiency. As you can probably guess, the leader in Madduxes (which can be tabulated starting from only 1988, when pitch-count totals became widely available) is … Greg Maddux.

#MartePartay (exp.) — catch-all term meant to convey the greatness and party-inducing skills of Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Starling Marte (h/t @JonPgh).

Mendoza Line (exp.) — a .200 batting average. Named after light-hitting infielder Mario Mendoza, the Mendoza Line was conceived as a way of shaming players who hit less than .200. You can gain a more accurate view of a player’s ability (or lack thereof) by comparing him to replacement level.

mystery team (exp.) — term often floated by agents, teams, and other interested parties, often to drive up the price of a player involved in trade or free-agency rumors, then dutifully reported by (some) writers covering the beat. On the rare occasion when a Mystery Team actually does land the player in question, it can be both jarring and kind of awesome.

Natitude (exp.) — the act of playing baseball for or otherwise representing Washington, D.C.’s Major League Baseball team, while doing so with the right attitude. Bryce Harper crushing a ball over Matt Kemp’s head at Dodger Stadium, sprinting around first, throwing off his helmet, and cruising into second for his first major league hit was a perfect example of Natitude. The term can also be used ironically/derisively. For example, when GM Mike Rizzo decided to pitch Stephen Strasburg every five days in 2012 without significant rest, then suddenly shut him down for the rest of the season in early September because of an educated guess that limiting his innings count might help his future health and that the Nationals would surely have another shot at the playoffs soon, that was a big, honking case of Natitude.

Operation Shutdown (exp.) — threat issued by former Pirates outfielder Derek Bell regarding what he’d do if he were forced to compete for a job in spring training, rather than earn one by merit. “I ain’t going out there to hurt myself in spring training battling for a job. If it is [a competition], then I’m going into ‘Operation Shutdown.’ Tell them exactly what I said. I haven’t competed for a job since 1991.” This quote is more than a decade old, but we’re reviving it here because it’s amazing, and more outrageously self-entitled players need to use it for comedic purposes.

OPS (n.) — stat derived by adding on-base percentage and slugging average. Has little analytical use other than for quick-and-dirty looks at players, or if more advanced and more accurate metrics are not available. There are many reasons for this, the biggest being that scoring runs (and winning games) is more closely correlated to higher OBP than to higher slugging average.

PADMY (exp.) — Past A Diving Michael Young, a reference to the limited defensive range displayed by infielder Michael Young.

 

PADMY

 

park effects (n.) — the impact that different stadiums have on various outcomes. For instance, it’s much easier to hit a home run at Coors Field than it is at AT&T Park. By keeping those differences in mind and adjusting accordingly, we can gain a better understanding of a given hitter’s, pitcher’s, or team’s contributions. Note that the study of park effects remains imperfect: They’re far more reliable over longer stretches (say, three years) than shorter ones, the same ballpark can play very differently to left field as compared to right field, and so on. Still, the general consensus is that recognizing and trying to adjust for park effects does more good than harm.

PEDs (n.) — performance-enhancing drugs, substances meant to improve a player’s performance. Taken by a wide array of players over the years, ranging from known amphetamine users Willie Mays and Hank Aaron to Alex Sanchez, a 5-foot-10, 180-pound former major league outfielder who hit six career home runs.

pitch framing (n.) — the act of pulling a pitch into the strike zone to fool umpires into calling strikes, because #HumanElement. The catchers who fare best at pitch framing can save their teams tens of runs per year.

pitching to the score (exp.) — the claim that pitchers can and do allow more runs when way ahead in a game than otherwise, because they supposedly possess some magical ability to control opponents’ run-scoring based on whatever it says on the scoreboard. Often used as an argument in favor of Jack Morris as a Hall of Fame candidate, even though that idea was debunked a decade ago.

proven closer (exp.) — a pitcher who has received and converted multiple save chances in the major leagues, thus making him a better candidate to close games in the future, even if others have better stuff and put up better numbers in every other way. This concept ignores the fact that many top closers are nothing more than mediocre, repertoire-limited, or injury-prone starters (Dennis Eckersley, Mariano Rivera, Billy Wagner, Eric Gagne) who excel in short relief, because it’s infinitely easier to throw harder, use fewer pitch types, and succeed when required to throw 10 or 15 pitches a night instead of 100-plus. The fetishizing of closers and the supposed closer mentality also leads managers to make counterproductive moves, such as saving their closer for when the team has a lead, especially on the road. That’s how we end up with games going 15 innings and every scrub in the bullpen being used except the closer, with the end result being a loss.

RE24 (n.) — a stat derived from looking at hitter and pitcher contributions across the 24 base/out states (i.e., first and second, two outs, etc.).

re-mouth (exp.) — the act of sticking a piece of gum in your mouth after it has hit the ground. The term was coined by pitchers Burke Badenhop and John Axford (Jonah Keri Podcast, July 30, 2013) in reference to a game they invented to pass the time during batting practice. In that game, Badenhop chews a giant wad of gum, spits it out of his mouth, then kicks the wad toward Axford, who’s standing about eight yards away. Axford must then hit the wad of gum out of midair with a water bottle, back toward Badenhop, who then attempts to catch it. When Badenhop fails in his initial attempt to kick the gum, he may then pick the gum off the outfield grass and reinsert it into his mouth for another attempt, hence “re-mouth.” The game itself does not have a name, and Grantland readers are highly encouraged to suggest candidates.

replacement level (n.) — the level of performance a team can expect to get from a player acquired for the lowest possible cost. The concept, popularized by former Baseball Prospectus writer (now Cleveland Indians director of baseball analytics) Keith Woolner, asserts that a class of freely available talent exists in baseball, represented by the 25th man on a typical major league roster or a Triple-A veteran. The goal for major league teams, then, is to find players who are better than the fictitious “replacement-level player” to fill the roster. By defining the concept of replacement-level players, teams can then evaluate how many more runs or wins a player contributes to his team above that level, which in turn can better allow them to hash out the appropriate salary to pay those players. (See also: WAR.)

RSNs (n.) — Regional Sports Networks. One of the key drivers of revenue growth in baseball has been the huge deals that teams are signing with local TV providers, sometimes called RSNs. That growth has fattened teams’ profit margins and also fueled a recent jump in salaries that far exceeds what you’d expect from normal inflationary trends alone. In May 2013, senators Richard Blumenthal and John McCain introduced a bill that would aim to wipe out regulatory barriers against à la carte programming. In other words, people who don’t want to pay to watch their hometown baseball team’s games on the local RSN wouldn’t have to, since they’d now be free to pick and choose which channels they want and which ones they don’t, rather than paying for large, impossible-to-separate packages. If efforts by McCain and other à la carte supporters are successful, the number of paid subscribers for RSNs could drop, which could in turn result in lower advertising rates, which could prompt RSNs to pay less for broadcast rights in the future. The bill looks unlikely to pass, however.

#RTJR (exp.) — Raise The Jolly Roger, the standard celebratory exclamation when the Pirates win a game. The Pirates have actually been good in 2013, for the first time in more than two decades, so we’ve seen various Pirates memes (#RTJR, #BUCN, #MartePartay) weave through social media a lot lately.

Scioscia Face (exp.) — a look of anguish displayed by Angels manager Mike Scioscia. The frequency of Scioscia Face increased dramatically in 2012 and especially in 2013, as the Angels spent ungodly amounts of money on player salaries only to disappoint on the field.

 

shrimp alert (exp.) — a notice to fans to be on guard, since a team is approaching a potential walk-off walk. In the rare instance when a walk-off walk occurs, the traditional form of celebration is to watch a shrimp running on a treadmill, with the theme to The Benny Hill Show playing in the background. This tradition was made popular by baseball blogger Kris Liakos and the crew at the site WalkoffWalk.com (R.I.P.).

#smrtbaseball (exp.) — derisive term meant to mock various forms of not-smart baseball. These scenarios may include but are not limited to: suboptimal use of bullpens by managers, bunting in situations when bunting is more likely to hurt than help a team, and various miscues by players, ranging from overthrowing the cutoff man to an ill-advised attempt to take an extra base (or not take an extra base), etc.

shutdowns/meltdowns (n.) — stat based on Win Probability Added (see below) that evaluates whether a relief pitcher helped his team win (shutdown), or contributed to a loss (meltdown). The idea behind it is to improve upon the arcane save rule and more accurately measure exactly how a relief pitcher performed. It’s applicable to long men, middle relievers, and setup men as well as closers, thus pulling away from the excessive emphasis placed on a closer’s performance.

Taking the Parrot for a Walk/Edwing (exp.) — a move performed by Toronto Blue Jays slugger Edwin Encarnacion in which he hits a home run, then runs around the bases with his arm up. The arm-up pose prompted a brilliant meme in which a parrot is affixed to Encarnacion’s arm, like so:

Edwin

Texas Leaguer (exp.) — a blooper that falls to the ground between the infield and outfield, resulting in a hit. Also known as a Duck Snort.

three true outcomes (n.) — a strikeout, walk, or home run. When a ball is put in play by a hitter, it becomes subject to many external factors, such as team defense and luck. The so-called three true outcomes are thus said to be the three events a hitter (and pitcher) can best control. Some of the most prolific three-true-outcomes hitters in recent baseball history include Adam Dunn, Jack Cust, and Russell Branyan.

TINSTAAPP (exp.) — There Is No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect. Coined by Baseball Prospectus founder Gary Huckabay, TINSTAAPP isn’t meant to be taken literally. Rather, it’s a cautionary phrase meant to remind us that young pitchers often lose effectiveness or break down, even when labeled as top prospects. (See: Brien Taylor, Todd Van Poppel, Ben McDonald, Mark Prior, many others.)

#Toomanyhomers/Rally Killers (exp.) — a theory put forth by some misguided broadcasters and pundits, who argue that a team hitting too many homers can hurt an offense since home runs wipe baserunners off the basepaths and thus kill a rally. That’s just … let’s move on.

TOOTBLAN (exp.) — Thrown Out On The Basepaths Like A Nincompoop. Pretty self-explanatory.

#TRAID (exp.) — a form of mockery in which rational people mock those who start screaming that a team should trade a player for unjustifiable reasons that don’t justify a trade. Often leveled at histrionic fans who take aim at a team’s best players. The Mets blog Amazin’ Avenue and its followers have frequently used #TRAID to make fun of those who’ve believed the team should trade excellent players such as Carlos Beltran (see: #BlameBeltran) and David Wright.

True Yankee (exp.) — the idea that not all members of the New York Yankees are equal in stature, some of them being honored with the True Yankee label, others not. The criteria for True Yankeedom are arbitrary and fickle. Players who come up through the farm system are often but not always considered True Yankees. Players acquired via trade or free agency are often denied the True Yankee label until they can prove their True Yankeedom. For instance, Paul O’Neill, acquired in a trade with the Cincinnati Reds in 1992, is considered a True Yankee, because he was a very good player who was an integral part of four World Series–winning teams and also … something. Alex Rodriguez, an even better player who was acquired in a trade with the Rangers, was not only part of the 2009 World Series–winning team, he put on one of the most dominating displays of postseason hitting in baseball history that fall. However, he is widely considered not to be a True Yankee, because of his links to PEDs and … something. Savvier Yankees fans will sometimes use the “True Yankee” tag sarcastically, such as in congratulating Vernon Wells for a rare big hit, despite his overall 2013 performance being abysmal.

TWTW (exp.) — The Will To Win. Interviewed by MLB Network anchor Brian Kenny, longtime White Sox play-by-play man Ken “Hawk” Harrelson was asked what kind of measures he uses to evaluate a player’s contributions on the field. Taking the bait set out by the sabermetrically inclined Kenny, Harrelson replied that the most important metric to follow isn’t a stat at all, but instead “the will to win.” The statement has been widely picked apart since then, including in a New York Times profile of Harrelson.

#umpshow (exp.) — an occurrence in which an umpire goes above and beyond officiating a game and makes an overly aggressive ruling or gesture that disrupts the game and draws attention to himself. A thousand sportswriters working around the clock couldn’t possibly document every example of this, so here’s one you can use as a representative example. (Credit for #umpshow, #smrtbaseball, and #belted to Keith Law.)

#UptonHere (exp.) — play on the DMX song “Party Up (Up in Here),” honoring the Braves’ acquisitions of brothers B.J. and Justin Upton after the 2012 season. It was arguably one of the best memes in the history of baseball on the Internet, though it would probably resonate a little better if B.J. Upton were hitting above the Mendoza Line (or, more relevantly, producing at better than replacement level).

WAR (n.) — Wins Above Replacement, a stat that combines a player’s hitting, fielding, baserunning, and positional value to produce a number that reflects his overall value. (It’s simpler for pitchers.) A 0-WAR indicates a baseline, replacement-level player, a Triple-A veteran or 25th man on a major league roster. A 2-WAR player is considered average. A 3-to-4-WAR player is a very good regular. Above that, you’re into All-Star territory. Anything higher than 6 Wins Above Replacement and you’ll likely get some MVP votes.

WAR is a controversial stat for multiple reasons. First, the defensive component used by FanGraphs to calculate the stat (UZR) is an estimate rather than a play-by-play-based metric, and is most reliable when viewed through multiyear samples. Second, there are multiple versions of replacement-level-based metrics, including FanGraphs’ version of WAR, Baseball-Reference’s version of WAR, and Baseball Prospectus’s WARP (Wins Above Replacement Player). Third, WAR is more abstract than, say, home runs or strikeouts, which are black-and-white events that are easily identifiable in watching a game.

Still, as noted in the section on replacement-level players, the idea with WAR (and similar stats) is to establish a baseline value for an easily replaceable player, then judge others according to how much better (or worse) they are than that scrub. This makes it easier for teams (and fans, and writers) to evaluate talent, and for teams to figure out how much to pay for talent. WAR also looks beyond the Triple Crown stats (for hitters) and wins and saves (for pitchers), painting a more complete picture of what a player actually did for his team.

#weirdbaseball (exp.) — phrase coined by former Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, and ESPN contributor (now Astros pro scouting coordinator) Kevin Goldstein. Used to describe any baseball game that goes past midnight local time. According to #weirdbaseball customs, everyone watching such a game is encouraged to eat ice cream after the clock strikes midnight.

wormburner (exp.) — term that can be used to describe a ground ball or a pitcher who induces lots of ground balls. If we’re talking in pitcher terms, the biggest wormburner since batted-ball outcome stats began being tracked is Dennis Springer, who posted a career 75 percent ground ball rate.

WPA (n.) — Win Probability Added, a stat that measures a player’s contributions to his team, while also considering context. For more on WPA and its uses, see FanGraphs’ detailed description.

WRC+ (n.) — Weighted Runs Created Plus. Early in Bill James’s career, he came up with a stat called Runs Created, which attempted to improve on runs scored and runs batted in (both highly context-dependent stats) and more accurately measure what a player truly produced for his team in terms of runs. Think of wRC+ as the next step. It gauges a player’s offensive contributions in terms of runs, with 100 being league average, anything lower being worse than average, and higher being better than average. A player with a 120 wRC+ is thus creating 20 percent more runs for his team than the average player; Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera tied for the major league lead in 2012 with a 166 wRC+, meaning they created 66 percent more runs than the average major league player. The “+” in wRC+ means the stat has been adjusted for park effects and league run-scoring environments. So if you want to compare what Ty Cobb did playing most of his career in the dead ball era vs. what Ken Griffey Jr. did playing during the PED era, this stat lets you do that. It’s a personal favorite and one of the most oft-cited advanced offensive stats at Grantland.

xFIP (n.) — a cousin of FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), xFIP also adjusts a pitcher’s line to regress his home run rate toward league average. The theory behind xFIP is that sometimes pitchers will allow more (or fewer) home runs per fly ball than league norms might suggest. By regressing that number toward the mean, you’re supposedly stripping out statistical noise to get a clearer picture of how many runs a pitcher would’ve allowed under more typical circumstances. The stat has its limitations, in that some pitchers tend to post unusually high (or low) home run per fly ball rates year after year. For instance, Angels starter Jered Weaver has earned a reputation as one of the best pitchers in baseball, thanks in large part to his ability to induce so many weak, playable fly balls.


Thanks to @steveslow for creating the FanGraphs Sabermetric Library, a terrific resource for learning about analytically based terms that we consulted frequently for this piece. Thanks also to the Baseball Prospectus glossary and to the Twitterverse.

Filed Under: Baseball, Jonah Keri, People, Grantland Dictionary

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Jonah Keri is a staff writer for Grantland. His book The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team From Worst to First is a national best seller. His new book Up, Up, and Away, on the history of the Montreal Expos, is now available.

Archive @ jonahkeri