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2014

A Defensive Record falls for the Renegades

All records are meant to be broken, right?  The Babe fell to Aaron.  Ty Cobb fell to Pete Rose.  Gehrig fell to Ripken.  The Renegades have some records as well and one of them fell in the 2014 season.  This record stood since the beginning of Renegade history.  Guy Zucarello likes to refer to the early years before Coach Rob Weissman as the “dead ball era”.  Its a fun analogy because the Renegades really did not have many stats prior to the 2003 season.  What is meant by this is there are no box scores to look at and for the few they have, there were not many runs scored or put outs made as the Renegades were going through a steep learning curve.  If we look at the career defensive leaders in Renegade history following the 2014 season we see the top five are as follows:

Name Stops Games played Years played
Darren Black 322 102 2002-2012
Guy Zuccarello 299 119 2002, 2006-current
Dino Vasile 177 97 2004-2010, 2014
Justen Cantan 133 41 2009-2011
Sengil Inkiala  95 104 2002-2006, 2008-current

Darren Black has been the staple on defense and has been the only person to make 300 stops in Renegade history.  Most of these stops were made when the Renegades played in a single shorty defense.  Though when the team converted to a double shorty, Darren made plenty of stops there and also moved to midfield where he held that role for a while as well.  Darren was named to two World series All-Star teams.  Guy Zuccarello won the defensive  MVP in 2012 and placed 3rd in 2013.  Justen Cantan was amazing in 2011 and Dino Vasile was named to the all-star team for a few hours in 2009 before a mistake was found…pushing him to 6th in the league.

In the NBBA, the league does not do a great job of keeping stats.  One thing it has is offensive stats.  People talk about their batting averages. the percentage of times they strike out and the amount of runs they score.  You only here a select few talking about defense.  Why is this?  First of all, each team has 1-2 players who play “up front” in their defense.  The Renegades call this the shorty of Garbage man position.  These players pick up all of the weak hits that a team has.  The skill needed here is to be able to run hard after a ball that may not be rolling very fast.  When the defense all-star teams are named its very rare for someone to make the “team” that does not play this position.

Speaking of position, here is where the NBBA has an opportunity to improve.  We don’t keep track of stats by a position in the league.  Most teams play their defense in layers.  The Garbage man is the 1st layer of the defense.  It’s much harder and less common for an out to be made in the 3rd layer of the defense.  Sherlock Washington, of the NJ Lightning may be one of the most productive deep men in the gamebut nobody ever talks of his defense because he will only record a few outs per tournament.

This season one of our all-time records finally fell.  A record that had stood since the “dead ball era”.  Defensively, Guy Zucarello held a little known record since 2002 when he made 11 defensive stops in the 2002 season (we only had World Series stats to look at) which is what we consider his rookie year.  He accomplished that in just 5 games.  It is VERY hard for a rookie to become a defensive wizard in their first year.  They have to learn the skills to stop the ball.  They have to learn the defensive schemes, they have to learn how to communicate and work with their teammates.  They need to learn the calls.  They need to put all of that together.  When that is accomplished, they have to earn the trust of the coaches to step up and be able to play a role in the defense and be put into the spots where the ball gets hit.  Remember, Garbage men make most of the outs for the defense,..so its rare for a rookie to get a lot of playing time there as that is the heart of the defense.  Lastly, a rookie needs to learn to play on different fields.  This is not an easy feat.   We practice on 1-2 fields all year.  The grass plays a huge role in the ability to play defense.  A scorched grass plays very fast and forces a player to hit the ground quickly.  A soft thick turf allows a player to hear the ball in the grass, giving them more audible cues to track the ball.  Teams don’t have the ability to practice on all type of fields during the year.  Learning this comes with experience.

Rob Dias makes a stop on defense

Photo by Brett Crawford, Brookline Tab

This season, Guy’s record of 11 stops in his rookie season fell.  Some great defensive players in Renegade history could not touch it.  Justen Cantan who ranks third in team history only had three defensives stops in his first year (which makes it amazing that he amassed 130 in his next two seasons – as he owns the Renegade record for making 77 stops in a season).  Joe McCormick who is one of the top defenders on the team today, spent much of his first season playing positions that do not see much action as he played 1st base and Rover. Dino Vasile who may be one of the team’s best two way players made just two stops in his rookie year.   The Record finally fell to a guy named Rob Dias who became a fixture on the field and won the trust of the Renegades coaching staff from the first month of practice in 2014.  We entrusted him to play one of the key positions on the field, Midfield.  Midfield is a spot for us that plays the center of the diamond at the 2nd level.  Imagine playing right on 2nd base in a baseball diamond and that is where he plays in the Renegade defense.  We have had many great players come through our system over the years, but Rob finally broke Guy’s 12 year record by making 20 stops in 2014.  Here is a look at the top 6 rookie defensive players in Renegade history and the stops they made on defense

Name Year Games Stops Stops per game
Rob Dias 2014 14 20 1.4
Guy Zuccarello 2002 5 11 2.2
JJ Ward 2003 9 8 .89
Joe McCormick 2012 14 8 .57
Darren Black 2002 5 7 1.4
Shayne Cantan 2009 14 7 .50

Recently, the head coach of the World Champion Austin Blackhawks was quoted as saying that it takes five years to make a good defensive player.  In some ways, he is right as there is so much to learn.  In other ways he is wrong because a team has to make a commitment to work on their rookie players.  In 2014, the Renegades put that attention on the 4 rookies they had and all of them made an impact this season.  We could tell from early on that Rob Dias  had that special something needed to play.  He was very comfortable moving on the ground from his days as a wrestler.  We knew that we had to find a player to fill the mid field spot.  Coming into the season,  Evan silver was going to be unavailable for the World Series, Pam Love would not return from her knee injury and wrong Way Buizon would also be unavailable.  So, we had to find a mid fielder.  We made a strong commitment to focusing on our rookie players at every practice so they could grow and help us ASAP.

In the Renegade defense, the midfielder may be the hardest position to play.  They are the only man on the field who is surrounded by every player.  They have players in front of them, to their left, right and behind them.  Communication is paramount.  They must be able to make stops on hard hit balls.  They must be able to come in on slow hit balls.  They also have to take calls from two different callers.  It is no easy feat.  For Rob to have set this record playing the mid field position is an amazing accomplishment.  It shows how good of an athlete he is and also shows the hard work the Renegade coaches  put in this season.  If the Austin coach is right, Rob will only get better.

In 2009, the Renegades  started to track outs per position.  At this time we also created a stat called “chances”.  The intent of this stat is to provide a glance at how productive a player is on defense.  Making 3 stops may not sound great.  Making 3 stops on all 3 balls hit at you is fantastic.  That is the purpose of chances.  How many balls did we think you had a chance to make a stop on.  We want our garbage men to make outs in the 80% and higher range.  We do not have that same expectation of our 2nd and 3rd layer.  Rob Dias not only set a rookie record for most stops in a season with 20, he put in one of the finest efforts we have ever had at the midfield position. He made the 2nd most stops in a season at that position (since we started tracking it in 2009).  It’s important to note that Rob played two positions for Boston in 2014.  He played the Mid field position as his primary spot…but he also contributed a few innings at the Right Shorty spot where he collected two defensive stops.  If we look at our top mid field performances since 2009, we see that Rob Dias had the 2nd largest output of any one in recent team history

Name Year Stops Chances % stopped
Dino Vasile 2010 28 62 45%
Rob Dias 2014 18 47 38%
Shayne Cantan 2013 11 20 55%
Evan Silver 2011 8 19 42%
Rob Dias makes a stop against the PA Wolfpack

Photo by TNT Photography

Rob Dias was able to make his mark at the hardest position in the Renegade defense in his rookie year.  The opportunity for him improving is very high and we expect him to have an even better season in 2015.  With Rob holding down one of the top defensive spots on the field, the Renegade defense will get even stronger in 2015.  As Boston comes off its best world series finish in team history, it is exciting to think of what could happen next year when this amazing rookie class enters their sophomore season.  We expect growth and improvement.  With that will come success on and off the field.  When Rob Dias comes to the plate we cheer…”Give me a hell yeah”…for his love of wrestling…but when he is on the field we should be saying The “D” in Dias is for defense!

The Renegades Speak at SABR

Logo for SABR

The Society of American Baseball Research is an organization made up of baseball statisticians and baseball historians.  Many have heard of this organization through a team called SABR Metrics.  Bill James ( who is now employed by the Red Sox) helped make this group famous.

This year the current president of the Boston chapter, Joanne Hulbert reached out to us and asked if we would like to get involved and we jumped at the opportunity. They set us up as a speaker for their fall meeting in downtown Boston.  Their previous meeting had speakers such as Tommy Harper, Peter Gammons and Sox Skipper John Farrell speaking.  We were asked to follow that act…something that can’t be accomplished…but we accepted the opportunity and was given an hour time slot.

We started the talk off with showing our movie trailer to the audience to give them a feel for the sport.  a few “oos’ and “ahs” came from the crowd.  Coach Rob made them laugh when he  followed the clip saying, “I’m not that mean”.  Joey Buizon took the stage next and talked about his story and talked about our ball, the base and the blindfold.  Joe McCormick then took center stage to discuss his story and the basic rules of the game. Next up was Justin Manjourides who discussed defense…the side of the game that wins championships.  He chatted about how we coach it, the role of the spotters.  Justin was in his element as a statistician himself and he brought with him a few of our charts to explain things to the crowd.  Lastly, Rob presented hitting to the crowd and talked about how the offense works and the roles of the pitcher and catcher.  We had a very long Q&A afterwards and the crowd was clearly very interested and engaging.

We had hopes that some of the SABR members would be interested in getting involved.  Many of them purchased a copy of our film and signed up for our news letter.  To date we have signed one new volunteer from this meeting.  Her name is Yuki Ara.  Yuki is from Japan and a huge baseball fan who resides in Brookline.  Yuki is very excited to take part in our program.  She was a doctor in Japan and is willing to join our medical team.  We also plan to have her work with Lisa Andrews to help the team with the stretching to help minimize injuries.  Yuki is also eager and willing to work on some off the field projects as well.

Joanne has approached us with a bunch of ideas recently and we hope to cultivate this relationship more in the near future.  The SABR members are very well connected to the Boston baseball community.  We think with their involvement some doors could be opened for us with the Red Sox, NESN and maybe more.  The exposure they could help us with could help us draw more coaches, more players and hopefully some sponsors along the way.

We are excited about the opportunity SABR is giving us.  Many of the renegades are true baseball fans and this relationship could benefit both parties well.  SABR day is January 24, 2105 and we hope to have more plans for the future.  SABR is always looking for new members.  If you are interested in joining check out their membership page here.  Or you can just attend the local Boston events and give a $10 donation when you come.

 

Wrong Way shows the crowd the blindfold we use to play the sport

Joe Mac discusses his story and the basic rules of the game

Justin shows the crowd our defensive strategies and the role of the spotter

Rob talks about hitting and how we teach it and the role of the pitcher/Catcher in beep baseball

The Renegades at center stage taking questions

 

2014 World Series Breakdown

The Boston Renegades recently spoke in front of an organization called SABR (Society for American Baseball Research).  Many readers may know them from SABR Metrics.  Die hard baseball fans will know Bill James and his influence on the game.  We listened to them talk about wins above average amongst other topics and this got us to thinking about some analysis on the 2014 World Series.

Statistics do not tell the whole story of the tournament because not everyone plays an equal schedule and not everyone played the same amount of games.   There are plenty of blow out games played during the week (and some of these game do not even play the a full six innings as a team can mercy rule a team and only hit for one inning of a game).  Some teams play very weak schedules while other teams have a tougher ride.  The strength of schedule will have an impact on the overall stats and the seeding at the end of the week.  Boston had its best World Series ever but there are some interesting things to be seen when we dig into the stats

Batting Average

The League average was .276 BUT only 7 of the 19 teams hit above the average.  The teams closest to the league average were the Southwest Slammers (.258), Indianapolis thunder (.253) and Renegades (.306).  Austin was .306  points above the average mark and Athens was .306 below the average mark.  These teams finished 1st and last respectively.  In 2015, the ranking of batting average was strongly correlated to the actual finish in the World Series.  The team that bucked that trend the most was the Minnesota Millers who had the 12th best Batting average at .232 but finished 7th in the final seeding.

Batting Avg rank Final WS finish Team At bats Runs Avg
1 1 Austin 165 96 .582
2 2 RHI 233 107 .459
3 4 Bayou City 213 87 .408
4 3 Colorado 281 110 .391
5 5 Chicago 213 78 .366
6 8 Carolina 201 65 .323
7 6 Boston 216 66 .306
8 9 Southwest 190 49 .258
9 10 Indianapolis 166 42 .253
10 13 Wichita 198 47 .237
11 11 Long Island 180 42 .233
12 7 Minnesota 203 47 .232
13 12 Tyler 157 34 .217
14 14 New Jersey 175 35 .200
15 16 Lonestar 182 26 .143
16 17 Columbus 165 21 .127
17 15 Atlanta 153 19 .124
18 18 Iowa 155 15 .097
19 19 Athens 143 3 .021
League Avg .276

Strike outs

Putting the ball into play is important.  There is no such thing as a routine ground ball to short stop in the game of beep baseball.  The teams with the higher averages do strike out less.  Some interesting things here include

  • Austin scored on 63% of the balls they put into play
  • RHI and Bayou City are the only other teams to score on more than 50% of the balls they put into play
  • Carolina finished 8th in the series but had the third lowest strike out ratio in the league at just 13.4%
  • Indianapolis was 4th in strike out ratio at just 14.5% but only hit .296 on balls hit into play
  • 4 teams struck out more than 50% of the time (3 of them from Georgia)
  • Boston hit just .386 on balls hit into play, which was below the league average
Strike out rank Final WS finish Team At bats K’s K Rate Batting avg Balls in play
1 1 Austin 165 13 7.9% .632
2 2 RHI 233 27 11.6% .519
3 8 Carolina 201 27 13.4% .374
4 10 Indianapolis 166 24 14.5% .296
5 3 Colorado 281 45 16.0% .466
6 5 Chicago 213 39 18.3% .448
7 4 Bayou City 213 40 18.8% .503
8 6 Boston 216 45 20.8% .386
9 13 Wichita 198 55 27.8%. .329
10 11 Long Island 180 62 34.4% .356
11 14 New Jersey 175 61 34.9% .307
12 7 Minnesota 203 74 36.5% .364
13 9 Southwest 190 71 37.4% .412
14 12 Tyler 157 60 38.2% .351
15 16 Lonestar 182 85 46.7% .268
16 19 Iowa 155 80 51.6% .200
17 15 Atlanta 153 88 57.5% .292
18 17 Columbus 165 104 63.0% .344
19 19 Athens 143 102 71.3% .073
League Avg 30.7% .398

Fielding Percentage

They say defense wins championships.  That is true, but the defensive stats do not hold up well to that theory and maybe its time for the league to devise a new way to categorize defense.  Though the games were played on slow grass for most of the week the scores were lower.  Also with the invention of the 12 run mercy rule strong offensive teams can’t score loads of runs on weak defenses because they are limited in the amount of plate appearances they have.   That said the defensive rankings do not strongly correlate to the final finish of the team.

The 2nd ranked defense this year was Iowa as they stopped 67.4% of the balls hit into play.  The key thing to note is that Iowa played the 2nd easiest schedule and did not have to face many power house offenses.  This greatly skews the defensive rankings.   Columbus ranked 5th in defense and finished 17th overall as well.  It should be noted that only one team was more than 9% away from the league average, the Tyler Tigers.   Tyler had one of the toughest schedules in the league and this ranking reflects the teams they had to play.  This is also why the defensive rankings are not as telling.  The RHI Extreme ranked 12th in fielding but finished 2nd overall.  Their road to the championship game forced them to face the best offense in the league, twice in Austin.

Boston ranked second in the league in defensive stops allowed.  Both Boston and Colorado were the only teams to make over 100 stops during the week.  Of course part of that is that Boston played 9 games while Colorado played 10 games over the time period.  A combination of games played and who the opponent is will make a difference to these stats.  It would be interesting to determine a new way to measure defense that can take the opponent into account or that looks at how effective the different layers of defense are.  What is meant by this layering idea is that many teams struggle to make plays in the deeper layers of the defense.  For Example, Atlanta’s Isaiah Wilcox made 44 of his teams 71 stops.  How many balls made it by Isaiah and how well did the other layers perform?

 

Fielding Rank Final WS Finish Team Chances Stops Fielding %
1 1 Austin 122 85 69.7%
2 18 Iowa 86 58 67.4%
3 3 Colorado 174 114 65.5%
4 8 Carolina 132 86 65.2%
5 17 Columbus 103 67 65.0%
6 5 Chicago 119 77 64.7%
7 11 Long Island 133 86 64.7%
8 13 Wichita 139 89 64.0%
9 16 Lonestar 136 84 61.8%
10 10 Indianapolis 115 71 61.7%
11 7 Minnesota 150 90 60.0%
12 2 RHI 161 96 59.6%
13 6 Boston 172 101 58.7%
14 19 Athens 94 53 56.4%
15 15 Atlanta 127 71 55.9%
16 14 New Jersey 117 65 55.6%
17 4 Bayou City 149 80 53.7%
18 9 Southwest 136 73 53.7%
19 12 Tyler 122 52 42.6%
League Average 60.2%

 

Strength of Schedule

Here is an unofficial stat that we made up.  What it attempts to do is look at the final ranking of the teams each team played.  Remember in the world Series each team played 2-3 games on the first day in a round robin.  The round robin bracket this year had (as it always does) improper seedings based on previous year results.   Carolina would earn the 5 seed and on the round robin day of the tournament would play nobody lower than a 10 seed.  However the Bayou City heat would be seeded 2nd but would have to face a beefed up Colorado Storm team ranked 7th and whose roster would surely get them into a top 5 finish.

The first day of the double elimination brackets would pit many blow out games as top teams would play bottom teams in blow out or meaningless contests such as Austin beating Columbus 14-2 and Chicago beating Minnesota 11-1.  Once the double elimination ends many of the teams end up playing teams of their caliber in placement games.  For example four teams would make a 13-16 placement bracket and this  allows teams to play teams of similar records.

All of this leads to an imbalance in the stats because a team like Iowa which ranked 2nd defensively would have Chicago as their toughest opponent (they ranked 4th coming into the dance and finished 5th) while a team like Boston ended up playing the teams that would finish 1st, 2nd,3rd,5th,7th, 8th and 9th.  The worst seed Boston would face would finish 13th.

Strength of Schedule or SOS is calculated by adding up the final ranking of all the teams played and dividing that figure by the number of games played.  For an example Athens played Chicago (5th), Southwest (9th), Iowa twice (18th), Columbus twice (17th) and Wichita (13th) giving them a score of 97.  97 divided by 7 games gives them an average SOS of 13.86.  Or in easier terms, the average team Athens played finished with a seed of 13.86 in the World Series.  One thing SOS does not take into consideration is the quantity of games played.  Its much harder to play 9-10 games in a 4 day period than it is to play 7.  Playing 7 often means a team never had to play three games in a day while a team playing 9-10 games has to play three games twice in a week.

Being the head coach of the Renegades and scouting so many opponents throughout the week, we knew we had one of the toughest schedule when we faced a very tough Wichita team and they were supposed to be the weakest team in our bracket as an 18 seed.  Wichita would go on to have one of their best World Series and it was no surprise to us.  But many would be shocked to see the Renegades ending up with the toughest schedule and such a high finish in the Series (best ever).  This likely effected many of the Defensive stats for Boston as they played some of the best offenses in the league in Austin, RHI, Bayou City, Chicago and Carolina.

Another shock is the Tyler Tigers.  Tyler won just one game all week but faced some tough competition as they were forced to play Austin (1st) and Indianapolis (10th) on day one (they had a bye and did not have to play a 3rd game).  In a quirk of the schedule they would have to play Indianapolis again on the 1st day of double elimination and would beat them getting to play the 2 ranked RHI Extreme.  They would then have to face a tough Minnesota team (7th) in the losers bracket.  In the placement brackets they would play a tough Southwest Slammer team (9th) and the Long Island Bombers (11th).  A team that would finish 12th had to play both Austin and RHI.  Only two teams in the league would have to play the two teams that played in the championship game.  The Boston Renegades and the Tyler Tigers.

The Renegades can be very very proud of the season they had.  They faced so many obstacles from their head coach being hospitalized for three weeks and being unable to do his normal duties, to having a shortage of coaches through much of the season, to having 4 rookies play such an important part of their season and being forced to play the toughest schedule at the World Series.

SOS Rank Final WS Finish Team Record SOS Off Rank Def rank avg Field %
1 6 Boston 5-4 6.67 7 13 .306 58.7%
2 2 RHI 7-2 7.00 2 12 .459 59.6%
3 12 Tyler 1-6 7.14 13 19 .217 38.2%
4 4 Bayou City 5-3 7.38 3 17 .408 53.7%
5 1 Austin 7-0 7.71 1 1 .582 69.7%
6 3 Colorado 8-2 7.90 4 3 .391 65.5%
7 5 Chicago 6-2 8.88 5 6 .366 64.7%
8 7 Minnesota 5-4 9.11 12 11 .232 60.0%
9 15 Atlanta 2-5 9.71 17 15 .124 55.9%
10 10 Indianapolis 3-4 9.86 9 10 .253 61.7%
11 16 Lonestar 1-7 10.00 15 9 .143 61.8%
12 13 Wichita 4-5 10.22 10 8 .237 64.0%
13 11 Long Island 4-4 10.50 11 7 .233 64.7%
14 8 Carolina 5-3 10.63 6 4 .323 65.2%
15 9 Southwest 5-3 10.88 8 18 .258 53.7%
16 14 New Jersey 3-5 12.88 14 16 .200 55.6%
17 17 Columbus 3-5 13.00 16 5 .127 65.0%
18 18 Iowa 2-5 13.14 18 2 .097 67.4%
19 19 Athens 0-7 13.86 19 14 .021 56.4%