Casey at the Stat

This article was written by Russell Frank

This article was published in the Fall 2015 Baseball Research Journal


A whimsical statistical analysis of Ernest Thayer’s famous baseball poem.The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day:[fn] Mudville’s Win Probability (WP) was 36.7% at game time.[/fn]
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play,[fn]A home team coming up in the bottom of the 9th trailing by two runs has a Win Expectancy (WE) rate of 7.92%.[/fn]
And then when Cooney[fn] Cooney’s slash line (batting average/on-base average/slugging average) was .272/.360/.361.[/fn] died at first, and Barrows[fn].192/.292./.212.[/fn] did the same,
A pall-like silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair.[fn] With two outs, Mudville’s WE had fallen to 1.34%.[/fn]
The rest Clung to the hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought, “If only Casey[fn].302/.367/.447.[/fn] could but get a whack at that—
We’d put up even money now, with Casey at the bat.”[fn]Casey’s Win Probability Added (WPA) mark for the season stood at 1.31.[/fn]

But Flynn[fn].313/.328/.363.[/fn] preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,[fn].252/.336/.324.[/fn]
And the former was a lulu,[fn]Flynn was also said to be a hoodoo, that is, a bringer of bad luck.[/fn] while the latter was a fake;[fn]Blake was also thought to be a cake, that is, an easy out.[/fn]
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey getting to the bat. 

But Flynn let drive a single,[fn]Flynn attained a maximum speed of 20.4 mph running from home to first.[/fn] to the wonderment of all,
And Blake, the much despisèd, tore the cover off the ball;[fn]Blake’s drive had an exit velocity off the bat of 99.5 mph, a launch angle of 15.4 degrees and a maximum height of 30.9 feet.[/fn]
And when the dust had lifted, and men saw what had occurred,
There was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.[fn]Mudville’s WE had now risen to 14.13%.[/fn]

Then from five thousand throats and more there rose a lusty yell;[fn]Peak stadium crowd noise is typically 130 decibels (dBA).[/fn]
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It pounded on the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.[fn]Casey has a career slash line of .290/415/.552 with runners in scoring position (RISP).[/fn]

There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Casey’s bearing and a smile lit Casey’s face.[fn]Studies show that smiling relieves stress.[/fn]
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt ’twas Casey at the bat. 

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt;[fn]A metric that would quantify the sound of applauding tongues is “in development,” according to the Acoustical Society of America.[/fn]
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance flashed in Casey’s eye, a sneer curled Casey’s lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,[fn]The pitcher achieved a 5.8-foot extension of his body toward home plate at the end of his delivery.[/fn]
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped—[fn]The Spin Rate of the pitch, a fastball, was 2,490 revolutions per minute (rpm). Its perceived velocity was 93.3 mph.[/fn]
“That ain’t my style,” said Casey.[fn]Casey swings at 65.1% of pitches inside the strike zone.[/fn] “Strike one!” the umpire said.

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore;
“Kill him! Kill the umpire!” shouted someone on the stand;[fn]The only known case of umpicide occurred in 1899 in Lowndesboro, Alabama, when a player named Frank McCoy killed umpire Samuel Powell when Powell ruled his home run a foul ball. The call was not reviewable.[/fn]
And it’s likely they’d have killed him had not Casey raised his hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Casey’s visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the dun sphere flew;[fn]Extension, 6.5 feet; Spin Rate, 2345 rpm; Perceived Pitch Velocity, 94.5 mph.[/fn]
But Casey still ignored it and the umpire said, “Strike two!”[fn]The average player’s batting average with a two-strike count is .160.[/fn]

“Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered “Fraud!”
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold,[fn]The average temperature of the human cheek is 32C.[/fn] they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn’t let that ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Casey’s lip, his teeth are clenched in hate,
He pounds with cruel violence his bat[fn]Casey’s bat was a 34-inch, 31-ounce Louisville Slugger.[/fn] upon the plate;
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey’s blow.[fn]Mudville resident Grace Satterley, rocking on her front porch 1.37 miles from the ballpark, reported feeling the breeze from Casey’s swing.[/fn]

Oh, somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright,[fn]The Mudville forecast called for gloomy skies with a 46% chance of depressing afternoon showers.[/fn]
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;[fn]The lower end of the weight range for a human heart is about 8 ounces.[/fn]
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout,
But there is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey has struck out.[fn] As a result of Casey’s whiff, Mudville dropped below Youngstown, Ohio, as the unhappiest place in America in the latest Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.[/fn]

 

RUSSELL FRANK’s baseball career began in the New York City suburbs, where he was a Mickey Mantle worshiper and a no-field, no-hit second baseman/rightfielder for Milk Maid Ice Cream, a Peewee League team. It ended 25 years later in Sonora, California, with Live Theatre, a slow-pitch softball team. While playing third base, he failed to get his glove up fast enough to catch a line drive, which caught him below his left eye, breaking the zygomatic arch. Asked by a concerned teammate if he knew his own name, the prostrate Frank said, “Well, it isn’t Brooks Robinson.” He has since retreated to the safety of the Pennsylvania State University’s Department of Journalism. And yes, he’s still a Yankees fan.

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