News

Spring 2016 Awards!

Written by - Posted 2016-07-29 13:55 in News

The awards are now officially closed, so who won? Let’s find out below. No major surprises.

Gold Glove Award Catcher
No surprises here — congratulations to the hardest working catcher in the league, Will McNally. I’m sure “Skip” is proud.

Gold Glove Award Pitcher
Adriano DeSorrento is guaranteed to be on the ground at some point in a game, usually followed with a groundskeeping complaint. Either way – no errors and well deserved.

Gold Glove Award Fielder
The Wolfpack were 2 votes away from a sweep of the Gold Gloves, but Jim Shannon steals this one, seemingly everywhere on the field this year.

Manager of the Year
One could argue any of these managers deserved to win this year, all dealing with a lot of moving parts, new players, and beating the odds. But to the victor go the spoils, congratulations to John Hamlett!

Rookie of the Year
Was there ever any doubt who would get this? Brad Van Fechtmann was dominant in his rookie season and will go down as one of the best rookie seasons of all time.

Cy Young Award
This is another no brainer decision, Matt Gagnon had one of the most dominant pitching performances of anyone in the league in a long time. Go look at his stats.

Most Valuable Player
Each of these players brought something to their team, but no player provided the number of clutch hits Jim Shannon did. Helping to carry the Dupont Circle Jerks to their first ever Gallaway Championship title. Oh yeah, Jim also won the Triple Crown.

NWLA Pitching, Part 2: Let’s Do Some #SportsMath!

Written by - Posted 2016-07-29 09:47 in News

Guest Post by Jack Shannon

This is a follow up to my previous article on the NWLA Tournament’s pitching “controversy.” If you read my first article, I attempted to put NWLA Tournament stats into perspective by comparing it to the medium-pitch style of the PWL. Since the PWL, however, does not allow walks, it was not necessarily comparing apples to apples. So I went ahead and gathered data from 9 other leagues – all past or present NWLA Tournament participants – to see if the NWLA Tournament really is beset with abnormally volatile pitching. First, I’ll just look at the basic comparisons between the NWLA and its participating leagues. Then I’ll do some #SportsMath to see if I can narrow in on a solution.

NWLA versus Participating Leagues

First, some technical details. For purposes of #SportsMath, I had to quantify the “speed limit” for the leagues without a speed limit. I set it to 80 mph. Now, I know some of you claim to be able to throw upwards of 90 mph (lol), but you’re going to have to divorce yourself from that delusion for the time being. Likewise, I had to capture whether or not a league employs the “1st pitch strikeout” rule, so 1=yes and 0=no. Also, MNWA does not list their mound distance, so I pegged it at 45 feet, which is about the average for a fast pitch league. Finally, all league data is from the most current stats posted on the websites. So it’s only a season-worth of data for each league (which is why the PWL numbers are different from 1st article).

So what do we have here? Well, apparently all the walks are not uncommon when it comes to fast-pitch. The unlimited fast pitch leagues averaged a walk rate of 21.9%. Overall, the average walk rate among the 8 leagues not including the PWL is 17.8%. So it seems that if people wish to continue a fast-pitch style, they’re going to have to live with some (and by some, I mean a lot) walks. But is 21.9% decidedly better than 26.9%? Over the course of the average NWLA game (49 batters), that difference amounts to about 2.5 more walks a game. Which I’m not sure is significant since that’s 1.25 more walks per team. But it’s also no surprise that the slower the pitching, the fewer the walks. OCWA (who I never knew actually played slow-pitch) only walks 5.6% of batters. HRL, which has a speed limit of 60 mph, only walks 14.3% of batters. So from that perspective, there seems to be an obvious solution that no one (myself included) will want to embrace.

The strikeout rate in the NWLA is also extremely similar to the strikeout rates in other unlimited fast pitch leagues. The K rate in the 4 unlimited speed leagues averaged 40.8% compared to the 44% in the NWLA. Over the course of a game, that amounts to 1.4 more strikeouts in NWLA games than other fast pitch league games. This seems to be the nature of the beast when you opt for a fast pitch style. You’re going to get a lot of walks and you’re going to get a lot of #nightnights. Also – can that WSEM figure really be correct? Do 73.5% of official at bats end in strikeouts? GOO! Regardless, even in the medium pitch league (PWL), 31% of at-bats end in strikeouts (or only about 4.7 fewer than an average NWLA game). And 15% of at-bats in a slow pitch league end in K’s. This is wiffleball, folks. The ball is going to curve in the air. That makes it hard to hit. But that doesn’t mean we should all go up there with tennis rackets.

But what about the ding-dongs? Ahh yes, the almighty ding-dong. What we all play for. Well, it turns out that the hardest league to hit a home run in is the PWL. OHHH BABY! GRANDMA PITCH IS THE HARDEST TO HIT (or maybe we’re just a league full of terrible hitters?). But on the whole, it does seem harder to hit ding-dongs in the NWLA than home leagues. The fast-pitch leagues averaged a home run every 14.5 at-bats compared to the 17.6 in the NWLA’s. Meanwhile, batting averages in the fast pitch leagues averaged 0.332 compared to the 0.244 in the NWLA’s. So yes, hitting is harder at the NWLA Tournament. But it’s important to note that you’re essentially facing all-star teams in the NWLA Tournament. Your average and home runs are supposed to drop. You’re facing Ryan Bush and Stephen Farkas, not the guy from your league who talks about all the hot chicks at his 16 year old daughter’s volleyball match.

Proposed Solutions and Some #SportsMath

The perceived “excessive” number of walks seem to drive the debate surrounding whether the NWLA needs to adapt its rules. A number of solutions have been proposed to help minimize the walks. They include, among others:
• Instituting a “1st Pitch Strikeout” rule to incentivize pitchers to throw strikes immediately and hitters to get the bat off their shoulder
• Tinkering with the playing dimensions – specifically the distance from the pitching rubber to the strikeboard
• Instituting a speed limit on pitching
• Tinkering with the numbers of balls & strikes per at bat. (Note: NWLA site claims that OCWA does not have balls because they do not have walks. Well, they do have walks, so this data may get a little weeeiiirrrd)
Since these rules are all implemented in some shape or form in the leagues above, I’m going to attempt to see if I can draw any meaningful conclusions from the data. I’m not including the bigger bat solution because out of these leagues, I believe WSEM is the only one that allows it. If other league(s) do it, someone let me know and I’ll throw it into my mixing bowl.

Alright, this is where the #SportsMath comes in and I run a few silly little regression analyses to get a clearer picture on what is driving the Walk Rates, Strike Out Rates, and Batting Averages. I won’t actually include the actual regression results in this article – that would be much too boring and would just distract from the point (“Bro, can I check those p-values?”). I’ll provide the highlights:

In terms of improving the walk rate:

None of the variables (ie, the proposed changes) showed any statistical significance. If you remove the balls and strikes variables, however, the speed limit becomes highly statistically significant. Nothing wrong with back-fitting the data to find a solution you like, right? But it seems to make the most logical sense. And if you look at the leagues with speed limits, their walks rates are generally lower. Do we want that, though?

In terms of the strikeout rate:

The only variable that showed statistical significance was the “strikes per at-bat.” Not surprising. The lower the amount of strikes a pitcher needs to throw, the more strikeouts you’ll get. This was clearly driven by WSEM’s strikeout totals. That means that the NWLA would need to raise the strikes per at-bat to lower strikeouts. I don’t even need to say why that would be a horrible idea, do I? Tinkering with balls per at bat doesn’t seem to affect much of anything.

In terms of batting average:

Two variables here showed significance: “strikes per at-bat” and “1st pitch strikeout” – but again, this is being weighed down heavily by WSEM’s data. My issue with the 1 pitch strikeout– it doesn’t have a significant effect on the walk rate, only on the strikeout rate (by raising it) and the batting average (by lowering it). So it’s doing the exact opposite of what we’d want it to do. And it would consolidate power in the hands of a few elite pitchers.

Conclusion

The ugly truth is that there is no magic fix. To me, I think instituting a speed limit is the best hope the NWLA has in lowering the walk rate and creating a more balanced game. However, I am also vehemently against that idea because I think the NWLA should remain a battle of alphas vs alphas. And I don’t want to see any alphas getting fettered down by the chains of a speed limit. Guys have homered off the best pitchers in this tournament. You should go out and try it, too. Frankly, I think any argument saying that hitting is too hard should be thrown out on pure cowardice alone. The walk issue, I admit, isn’t going away. But you know what the best way to limit them is? Bring pitchers who throw strikes.

Disclaimer: This was a very limited analysis done by a person of limited intelligence with access to limited data. Take with a dump truck of salt.

NWLA Pitching, Too Good and Too Bad?

Written by - Posted 2016-07-28 11:34 in News

Guest post by Jack Shannon

While lurking through the NWLA Tournament’s Twitter mentions on the flight home from Columbus, I couldn’t help but see a number of outsiders criticizing the rules of the tournament. The main issue in their eyes: pitching. They complained that the pitching was too hard to hit and contained too many walks. I wouldn’t say either of those claims are all that controversial. I invited family to come watch the NWLA Tournament in 2013 and they left for a bar after a couple hours because they said it was the most boring form of wiffleball they’d ever seen. I don’t blame them (I mean, I do blame them for voluntarily giving up a weekend to go to Dublin, Ohio, but that’s neither here nor there), but I don’t think things are as bad as they seem.

But rather than dismiss these complaints out of hand, I think that we should look at some data and examine whether or not there is a legit grievance. I took NWLA data from the last 5 years and compared it to data from the last 5 years of the PWL. Since the PWL is a medium-pitch league (colloquially referred to as “Granny Pitch” in Southern Michigan), it should serve as a good proxy for what a “balanced” – i.e., good combinationn of pitching and hitting – format would look like.

Is NWLA Pitching Too Hard?

Let’s first examine the basic claim that it’s just too hard to hit NWLA pitching. Here are the 5 year averages from the PWL and NWLA Tournament for a selected number of basic hitting metrics. This should give a very simple look at pitching difficulty.

First, it does not appear that it is any more difficult to hit a home run in the NWLA than it is in the PWL. It’ll be claimed that the NWLA numbers are inflated in pool play when the best pitchers usually don’t pitch. But I’ll counter that by pointing out that half of the PWL teams don’t have serviceable pitchers at all. And as the all-time PWL home run king, I’ll fully admit that I racked up home runs against bad pitching. Bottom line: it is hard to hit good pitchers. Anecdotally, this year’s NWLA Tournament also saw 3 “elite” pitchers each give up home runs for the first time in their NWLA careers (Farkas, Harley, and Shannon).

The all-time batting average of .245 (note: the weighted average is actually .244 – in case someone wants to get picky with the methodology here) is not all that low. Sure, it’s decidedly lower than the .307 average of the PWL, but this is where I point out that we have a 27 mph speed limit. All of a sudden, that .307 average looks pretty pathetic, huh? The MLB league-wide batting average for the past 5 years averaged .253. “Are you seriously comparing wiffleball to the MLB?” Yes. If the NWLA wants to be seen as showcasing the best of the best in wiffleball, surely we can’t complain if our batting averages roughly mirror the MLB average, right? I mean, we are the best in the country at this “sport,” right? Right? RIGHT?!

NWLA players strike out in 43.8% of their at-bats compared to 30.2% in the PWL. I say again, the difference may seem large at first glance. But remember that we’re talking about 27 mph in the PWL, here. I imagine that if we bumped our speed limit up to 30 mph, strikeouts would rise fairly significantly. By the way, this is wiffleball – the ball was invented to move all over the place. A good pitcher is supposed to throw pitches that are hard to hit. There should be a lot of strikeouts in wiffleball. So I’m not sure the NWLA strikeout rate is anything to worry about. Go look at your bat on the bench.

Since we do not have walks in the PWL, I’m not going to even attempt to put that number in perspective. Someone with data from a league with walks will have to tackle that one.

Is NWLA Pitching Getting Better or Worse?

Let’s move onto the subject of whether NWLA pitching is getting harder or easier to hit.

At first glance, it’s easy to see two main trends: strikeouts are going up and home runs are going up. You would think those would head in opposite directions. More strikeouts would seem to imply harder pitching. Harder pitching would seem to imply less home runs. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ is all I can say.

The walk rate has remained very steady at the 25%-28% range. I would’ve expected the walk numbers to decrease generally each year. For leagues like the PWL who don’t play fast-pitch, it would appear logical that they would get better at fast pitching the more they play. But apparently we need to practice more than the 3 hours a year we usually do. I will say that I don’t think the amount of walks is due to the fast-pitch style of play. We see soft-tossers have trouble hitting the board. At 47 feet, it’s not tremendously easy (although it’s not tremendously difficult, either) to keep a wiffleball on target. Any discussion on widening the strike zone or moving up the mound will just further drive up strikeout totals, lower batting averages, and increase whining.
When combining the walk data and the strike-out data, the downward trend of the batting averages seems obvious. The walk rate is remaining constant while the strike-out rate is climbing. And since everyone knows that you have a better chance of getting a hit when you put the ball in the play, that trend is about what you’d expect.

Overall, pitching is probably getting better each year. But the home run totals (and who they have been hit off of) are also proving that even the best pitchers in the tournament are not infallible.

Bottom Line (from a pitcher’s perspective)

“I know I’m gon get got. But I’m gon get mine more than I get got tho”

PWL Spring 2016 Award Ballot

Written by - Posted 2016-07-19 14:27 in News

Get your votes in players. The award ballot is LIVE!

CLICK HERE TO VOTE NOW

We’ve Got Old Faces & New Faces, But We Probably Ain’t Getting One of the Top Four Places

Written by - Posted 2016-07-14 11:19 in News

The PWL has been a part of the NWLA tournament for every year of its existence. Yet, we’ve never played anything more than the spoiler role. Never quite as good as WSEM (except the time we eliminated them), OCWA (except the time we beat them), or TBW (we’re still trying to beat them). But never quite as bad as the team West Virginia or the Keg Crushers (until we lose to them this year).
So what’s different about 2016? Not much.

We have a new manager, though! Greg Hudson – who is the only person alive to manage a team to a playoff series victory over the greatest wiffleball franchise in history (do we need to say its name?). So he’s well-trained in the art of giant slaying. Can he equal or surpass Gallaway as a manager? One word answer – Yes. Greg can also play. Not saying Gallaway couldn’t – just ask him what his career batting average in the PWL is (is it above .300, Chris?) – but Greg provides a different level of athlete. Whereas Gallaway was a “my-way-or-the-highway” kind of a coach, Greg is much more receptive to player feedback and believes clubhouse culture is as important as on-field talent. We believe that those who drink together, clink together.

Other new faces include Colin Gannon, a wiffleball journeyman who has finally got the call to the big show. Gannon spent the majority of career racking up world series rings in the PWL, but he has never been able to parlay his PWL pitching success into NWLA success. In fact, in his first outing in the 2015 regionals, he set the NWLA record for walks allowed. Word out of PWL camp is that Gannon has found some consistency from the NWLA mound. His bat has shown signs of life against fast pitch, as well. While management is wary given his hitting performance in the PWL this year…who knows, maybe it is easier to hit Ryan Bush than a 27 MPH looper.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Dan Lockbaum is another new face for the PWL. Like Greg, he is one of the few people on Earth to have beaten the Barnburners. Dan was the main power source behind his team’s victory, hitting .428 with 3 ding dongs in the 2014 PWL World Series. He led the PWL in OBA in the 2016 regionals in NYC, and he’ll put both his bat and discerning eye to good use in Ohio. He’s also a great clubhouse fit in that you won’t find him arguing that we need a curfew in order to wake up rested (I can’t believe you did that, WSEM).

Then we have the old guard. The Shannon twins return determined to stamp themselves as the best set of brothers in wiffleball. Jack has the explicit goal of carrying over his perfect K’s per 6 from the regionals. Go ahead and homer off him, just don’t ground out. Jim believes he can be just as devastating as his brother on the mound. We have our doubts, but if he’s able to pitch decently well, PWL should be able to earn a Top 8 finish. Matt Gagnon makes a triumphant return after being left off the roster last year (in what has been described as a “f***boy of a managerial mistake”). His arm will be employed in pool play and if we need someone to draw a big walk against OCWA, we’ve got just the guy. Kevin Higman is set for his 5th year at NWLA. The God Particle will continue to pound pitching and play stellar defense while everyone at the tournament wonders, “how can he stand those guys he plays with?” Finally, we arrive at our secret weapon we showed off last year… Nick West The quintessential leadoff hitter with hands that would make Brooks Robinson blush. Nick will once again set the table for a top 5 hitting unit in the tournament.

So how can the PWL make the jump from pretender to contender? It all rests on the arm of Jim Shannon. The batting lineup is good enough to win the tournament. The ace of the staff has proven he can beat elite teams. But our #2 pitchers have never been the equality arms you see out of top 4 teams. Jim believes he has the goods this year. If not, we’ll be happy with our early exit, and you can find us at that bar by the highway with a pool and sand volleyball.

Guest post courtesy of Jack Shannon

NWLA 2016 - Regionals Recap

Written by - Posted 2016-07-08 11:57 in News

One of the inaugural eight teams of the NWLA tournament, largely because league founder and Wiffleball hero Chris Gallaway created and funded the tournament, Potomac Wiffleball League found itself in unfamiliar territory in 2016. Due to what can only be described as a piss poor performance in the double elimination tournament round in 2015, the PWL Nationals had to earn their trip to the annual tournament this year.

So PWL “trudged” up I-95 (in a cushy tour bus) to play in a regional tournament for the first time where the results mattered, in the shadow of Yankee Stadium, on the grounds where Babe Ruth used to drink beer, eat hot dogs, and play baseball, in that order. Thankfully, no one on the team is a Yankee fan so there’s that.

This was also the first tournament without Chris Gallaway managing the team. So leadership was entrusted to 2-time NWLA pitcher, Crawf-dog (Career 2-2, 8.20 ERA). Fortunately his managing skills far surpassed his pitching performances and the PWL Nationals posted their best ever offensive production at NWLA (.398, 10 HR) and secured a spot in Ohio. Of course most of the team is inspired by a steak dinner, but nonetheless, PWL will be back, attempting to do something they couldn’t under Gallaway – make a deep run in the double elimination tournament.

NWLA 2016 - Roster is Set

Written by - Posted 2016-07-08 11:53 in News

It’s official, the NWLA roster is set and the PWL Nationals are ready to make some noise in 2016.

The team has the strong core intact, minus one key loss – Stephen Crawford. “Crawf-dawg” will unfortunately be unable to attend to provide pitching depth for PWL. With that in mind, Commish Hudson kept an eye on players throughout the year to see their pitching techniques and how they might be utilized in a post-Gallaway managed team. Let’s go through the roster now.

• Kevin Higman
• Greg Hudson
• Jack Shannon
• Jim Shannon
• Colin Gannon
• Matt Gagnon
• Dan Lockbaum
• Nick West

You’ll notice there are two new faces on the team, Greg Hudson and Dan Lockbaum – both of the DC Twits. Each player will lend themselves to specific roles, Hudson doing pitching while Lockbaum handles the hitting. Higman and Hudson will handle the managerial duties.

PWL is coming off a strong showing in New York, finishing with some of the best hitting stats in the regionals. Now it’s a matter of if they can put it all together and make a run in Ohio.

As always, PWL will be sending a team to compete in the London Tournament nearby. Coming off great runs with Hudson as manager, they also look to make a deep run in a massive tournament.

The roster is dominated by 3 Wolfpack members, complimented by Nitto and Filides, both able to play any position and hit.

• Michael Burns
• Adriano DeSorrento
• Will McNally
• Jeff Nitto
• Alex Filides

2016 Spring World Series Champions: Dupont Circle Jerks

Written by - Posted 2016-06-14 14:40 in News

Congratulations to the Dupont Circle Jerks on winning the World Series this past Sunday.

The Jerks beat the Besley Bashers 2-0. Both teams were in the World Series for the first time in their franchise history.

Stay tuned for details regarding Summer season soon.

World Series Preview: Spring 2016

Written by - Posted 2016-06-09 10:50 in News

Quick recap on the DCS then on to a comprehensive World Series preview. If you haven’t RSVP’d for Sunday’s festivities please do so . Bring your families and friends, all are welcome and it’s free we just need to know how much food to order.

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The defending champs fell, but did anyone hear a sound? Swept quietly by the Besley Bashers the Wolfpack never really mounted a threat. You beat them by limiting base runners and hitting homers which is exactly what happened. Great performance by the entire Bashers squad, they were the better team Sunday.

Since we’re great at being wrong, we must acknowledge the Janitors coming within a game of a World Series berth. They held the Jerks to two hits and kept chugging around the bases for a walk off win in Game 2 before falling short in the rubber match. Great season, we look forward to seeing how they build on their surprising success. Now for the big show –

World Series – #1 Dupont Circle Jerks vs #3 Besley Bashers
*We had a different, more detailed breakdown until word got out that Matt Gagnon will miss the World Series

There have been three ace pitchers in the PWL this season, two of them faced off last week and in a perfect world we’d see another showdown for the title. Losing Matt Gagnon is a major blow to the Circle Jerks title hopes but let’s not engrave the trophy just yet.

How the Bashers win – Nitto is on, hitting the bottom of the board while the roster flexes its power at the plate. Top notch fielding and a true “next man up” mentality have the Bashers lifting the trophy to cap their first playoff run

How the Jerks win – Jim Shannon tees off on a less than perfect Nitto, Filides befuddles a Bashers lineup unfamiliar with facing him and Hamlett/Schwarting get the key hits and free outs behind the plate.

How we see it – The Bashers are prone to offensive slumps; it’s the pro and con of power hitting. All it takes is one swing but if the wind is blowing in or they get down and tighten up, can they manufacture runs other ways? Thing is, the Jerks are built in the same vein. The Filides pickup now not only looks genius but absolutely necessary. He provides great hitting to all parts of the field. They’ll need Jim Shannon to play like a Hall of Famer and get early leads to force the Bashers to perform under pressure.

Prediction – We’ll take the team with their ace on the mound, the Bashers take home their first title in three games.

RSVP TODAY!

Spring 2016 DCS Preview

Written by - Posted 2016-06-01 11:02 in News

DCS 1 – #1 Dupont Circle Jerks vs #4 Janitors
As mentioned, DCJ getting the one seed was huge. Assuming the NWLA regionals aren’t rained out they should handle the Janitors. No disrespect meant but there are three contenders this season and two of them are playing in the other series. The Jerks are loaded top to bottom. Could the Janitors keep balls in the park and squeak out with a few breaks? Sure, that’s why we play the game, but don’t bet the house on it.

Prediction – DCJ in 2 then stick around to root for the Bashers.

DCS 2 – #2 Wolfpack vs #3 Besley Bashers
Now this is a series. Teams split 2-2 in the regular season with three of those games decided by a single run. The Bashers no longer have holes in their lineup, brought back former All Star Alex Cohn and everyone can hit for power. Pitching behind Nitto is a huge concern but ROTY favorite Van Fechtmann has emerged serviceable in relief. The Wolfpack haven’t looked quite like themselves and lost a couple close games they would’ve won in the past. Their lefties need to put together some of those innings that drive opponents up a wall while Keeven and Adriano continue their resurgences at the plate. There are rumblings of them not having the entire pack this weekend but details have yet to emerge. Depending on who is there Sunday the lineup decisions could make or break this series, especially if the Bashers take Game 1.

Prediction – Wolfpack in a very close 3. They show up with something to prove for the first time since the Barnburners left, have loads of playoff success against Nitto and have experience in every type of close game. The Bashers will need the long ball and razor sharp fielding to win their playoff debut, both of which they’re capable of. Will be fun to watch.