Appreciating TOOTBLAN & other new baseball lingo
I’ve got a love-hate relationship with lingo, or jargon. I love it when it’s shared amongst my friends, family, and followers. I hate it when it’s used in a discussion that seems to exclude me. But I love it that jargon exists, because it makes language so much more interesting. So I guess I’ve got a love-hate-love relationship with it. And if that’s not “like,” I don’t know what is!
I bring all this up because I kinda love some of the new jargon, especially when it’s highly specific and shows some sign of real creativity. Today, five of the best examples!
LOOGY – John Sickels: In the fall of 1998, I was working on the 1999 edition of the STATS Minor League Scouting Notebook, the predecessor to the current series of Baseball Prospect Books I have been writing since 2003. The old scouting notebooks included a section devoted to one-line scouting reports on marginal prospects who didn’t merit full reports given our space limitations, but had a chance to sneak into the majors.
While writing these reports one afternoon, I noticed that many of these marginal prospects were quite similar. Looking for a way to save space and add some tongue-in-cheek humor, I came up with a couple of acronyms to describe certain classes of pitchers: HGSBDKHTP (Has-Good-Stuff-But-Doesn’t-Know-How-To-Pitch) and LOOGY (Lefty-One-Out-Guy). The first HGSBDKHTP was a pitcher named Corey Avrard in the Cardinals system. The first pitcher denoted as a LOOGY was Robert Dodd in the Phillies system, at the time a 26-year-old Triple-A reliever. Other LOOGYs in that book were Radhames Dykoff of the Orioles, Sean Fesh of the Phillies, and Aaron Fultz of the Giants.
HGSBDKHTP was obviously too awkward to catch on, but LOOGY was easy to remember and use. By 2000 I was using it in my ESPN.com columns, and it gradually caught on in the broader baseball world.
Maddux – Jason Lukehart: The Maddux was created at my family’s breakfast table during the week I graduated from high school, back in 1998. I was looking at box scores while eating cereal, as was my ritual, and noticed that Greg Maddux had thrown a shutout with only 99 pitches. I couldn’t know for sure, but it felt rare. Special. After that I started searching for them, occasionally writing one down in a notebook long since lost to history. If Maddux hadn’t also been my favorite pitcher, I might have chosen a different name for it. Baseball-Reference.com’s Play Index eventually changed everything, allowing me to find every one of them dating back to 1988, when MLB began tracking pitches. Only then did I learn that Greg pitched 13 Madduxes, far more than any other pitcher, making my choice of moniker for the accomplishment especially apt.
Three True Outcomes (TTO) – Christina Kahrl: This goes back to the old days of rec.sport.baseball in the old pre-internet usenet days, but back then, a small gaggle of us delighted in preaching the benefits of what was effectively the Rob Deer suite of skills at bat: homers, walks, and strikeouts. We started up the Rob Deer Fan Club, which included about eight of us (including eventual Baseball Prospectus co-founders Gary Huckabay and Rany Jazayerli, as well as BP’s Dave Pease), and we basically trolled people over how this was a guy playing the game the right way, because he was generating runs and avoiding double plays. I wrote a silly Conan/Robert E. Howard sort of backstory about how "The Deer" was inspired by the "ur-Deer" (Gorman Thomas, of course), and since we were already steeping it in our semi-ridiculous absolute faith in our hero, I referred to his delivering "the Three True Outcomes." So that caught on, and it helped that we were using that kind of reference to this kind of skill set from the outset at Baseball Prospectus, but we should never forget it all started with Rob Deer.
TOOTBLAN – Tony Jewell: Short for Thrown Out On The Basepaths Like A Nincompoop, TOOTBLAN was created on May 7, 2008, to settle an acrimonious dispute among Cubs fans about whether shortstop Ryan Theriot was any good at baseball. Theriot supporters pointed to his high on-base percentage (.406 at the time), while detractors pointed to his lack of range in the field and his propensity to run into outs after getting on base.
TOOTBLAN is part of a larger statistic known as the Ryan Theriot Adjusted On-Base Percentage (RTAOBP or aOBP, for short), which adjusts OBP for on-base, non-force outs. Here is the formula: RTAOBP = (Hits+Walks+HBP-CS-Thrown Out On The Basepaths Like A Nincompoop)/Plate Appearances (AB+BB+HBP+SF).
The TOOTB is the important part of TOOTBLAN, but it was arguably popularized by the inclusion of “Like A Nincompoop” … which was included in a pique of whimsy. Examples of TOOTBLANs include pickoffs, getting thrown out taking an extra base, runner’s fielder’s choice, oversliding a base, getting doubled off, and even being hit by a batted ball.
We began tracking all TOOTBLANs in 2013. In the TOOTBLAN Era, Jose Altuve leads baseball with 38, including an MLB-best 10 this year (through Friday’s games). He’s followed by Carlos Gomez (35), Yasiel Puig and Starling Marte (33), and Ian Kinsler (32)
#umpshow – Keith Law: I think it was in 2013. We’d had a little rash of umpires putting themselves at the center of the action – such as provoking further arguments or making egregious calls that seemed likely to shift the attention from the players to the umps. Joe West is the king of this, but hardly the only one to, say, walk out of position to argue with someone in the dugout. Umpires should be almost invisible, and leaving their positions to provoke or continue a dispute is unprofessional, in my opinion. That’s an #umpshow. It’s not for a bad call or a tough night calling balls and strikes. It’s for any umpire – like Fletcher on Thursday – who puts himself ahead of the game, with the implication that he’s trying to steal the show. Hence, umpshow.
#smrtbaseball was another one of mine, although I don’t think that’s extended beyond my fan base to the same extent.
Disaster Start – Rob Neyer: Okay, so I actually have no idea if I invented the term, which actually seems impossible. But as far as I can recall, I was the first to attempt a definition, which wound up being incredibly simple: finishing with more runs allowed than innings pitched, in a game your team loses.
I used it for a couple of years, maybe, then forgot all about it. Or maybe guys just stopped having them. You know. Because #StrikeoutScourge.
UPDATE: Jay Jaffe points out that Jim Baker first defined "disaster start," in 2007 or earlier, as any start in which the pitcher "allows as many or more runs than innings pitched."
Well, apparently I completely forgot about Jim’s definition — which is sort of embarrassing, since we talk on the phone like three times every day — when I came up with my own definition in 2010. Which was not what I described above. My definition was "as many or more runs than innings pitched, if fewer than five innings pitched." And later I amended the definition to include only games his team ultimately loses.
Anyway, sorry, Jim.