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Which teams make frustrating plays the most frequently?

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Stephen Dunn

It's extremely frustrating to watch a player from a team you care about strike out with a man on third and one out in a high-leverage situation. Perhaps even more annoying is a fielding error in a high-leverage situation. TOOTBLANs are always irritating, and so are giving up walks after 0-and-2 counts.

Somewhere in the middle of Sunday's interminable four-hour game, I started to think about frustration. Specifically, what are the most frustrating plays fans can see their team commit? I jotted down my own list of seven plays, and then immediately became curious about what team was committed them most often. Thus is the origin of the Total Frustration Index.

Before looking at each of the seven plays and the Total Frustration Index, here's what I mean by frustrating plays. For example, a throwing an error by your team's third baseman in a high-leverage situation is close to inexcusable. A major league third baseman should be able to throw a ball to the first baseman without too much trouble. On the other hand, allowing a game-winning home run to Ryan Braun in the ninth inning is certainly heartbreaking, but hardly inexcusable, and therefore not as frustrating. The plays I'm focusing on are so frustrating exactly because they seem to be incredibly avoidable for players with such elite skills.

Below are each of the seven plays I selected, with teams ranked worst-to-best for each.  In the final section, I simply add together each team's rankings for each category to derive a Total Frustration Index.

Error in a high-leverage situation

I've ranked the teams according to their error rate in high-pressure situations. Click any graph to enlarge it.

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A closer look at the extremes, the Pirates, and league average:

Teams Error Rate
KC 2.4%
League 1.3%
PIT 1.1%
TB 0.3%

Striking out with runner on third, one out, high leverage

The idea here is that a batter needs to be able to make contact of any kind in these situations. Striking out is the worst thing a hitter can do.

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Team Strikeout Rate
HOU 28.5%
PIT 21.9%
League 18%
TOR 7%

Pitcher allows walk after being ahead 0-and-2

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Team Walk Rate
MIL 4.6%
PIT 3.4%
League 2.7%
WSN 1.5%

Batter strikes out after 3-and-0 count

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Team Strikeout Rate
SFG 11.1%
League 5.7%
PIT 3.8%
NYY 2.3%

TOOTBLANs (from Tootblan Tracker)

TOOTBLANs are are boneheaded baserunning errors.

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Team TOOTBLANs
PIT 47
COL 47
League 36
SFG 20

Pitchers giving up HBPs, balks, and wild pitches

I debated including this, since pitching inside can lead to hit batsmen. But it is frustrating watching a game and seeing your pitcher just give the opposition a base without them doing anything.

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Team Frequency
PIT 2.6%
LAA 2.5%
League 1.9%
MIL 1.3%

Bases-loaded walks

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Team Walk Frequency
MIA 10%
League 6.1%
PIT 5.2%
SDP 1.2%

Total frustration

I ranked the teams 1 through 30 for each of the seven plays, with 30 being most frustrating. Then I added up all the rankings to derive the Total Frustration Index.

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.A closer look at the extremes, the Pirates, and league average:

Team Total Frustration (210 possible)
MIA 165
CHW 164
PIT 134
League 108.5
WSN 51

So the Pirates rank fourth on my personal frustration index, which doesn't mean much more than that they do a lot of things I find really annoying and avoidable. Their pitchers hit a lot of batters, they make a lot of mistakes on the base paths, and they walk too many hitters after 0-and-2 counts.

Obviously, this is just a fun exercise and doesn't tell us too much about about winning and losing. I would be interested in developing this idea further, however, with some community input. First, I'd like to refine frustrating events by coming up with firm list of 10 such plays. Then, an interesting next step might be to balance most frustrating with most unexpected. Say, home runs on 0-and-2 counts, or getting strikeouts after falling behind 3-and-0.

Below are the results for every category, every team: