Thursday, January 31, 2008

First Basemen Hitting Both Ways?

This is related to the previous post about switch-hitting catchers. Given that first basemen have usually been guys who mash the ball and there haven't been all that many power-hitting switch-hitters, it perhaps makes sense there haven't been many first baseman who have hit both ways. Only twenty-four players in baseball history batted from both sides and spent over half their career games at first place. One is a Hall of Famer (Eddie Murray) and three are active players (take a guess before looking at the list).

Most Career PA by a Switch-Hitting First Baseman
  1. Eddie Murray, 12817
  2. Lu Blue, 7207
  3. David Segui, 5449
  4. Tony Clark, 4858
  5. Wes Parker, 4835
  6. Walter Holke, 4833
  7. Ripper Collins, 4205
  8. Dan McGann, 4101
  9. Mark Teixeira, 3246
  10. Todd Benzinger, 3106
  11. Candy LaChance, 2395
  12. Johnny Neun, 1083
  13. Myron Grimshaw, 979
  14. Orestes Destrade, 866
  15. Chuck Stevens, 844
  16. Kendry Morales, 341
  17. Joe Mack, 303
  18. Burt Hart, 233
  19. Dick Kauffman, 148
  20. Drew Denson, 44
  21. Bert Graham, 27
  22. John Smith, 17
  23. Sap Randall, 15
  24. Ron Allen, 14
Tony Clark is almost halfway to the home run record among switch-hitting first baseman (he has 244; Murray had 504). I didn't realize he even had that many. Teixeira is third with 170 career homers.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Switch-Hitting Catchers

Call this a punt post if you will, but "switch-hitting catcher" and "long career" are phrases that don't seem to go together very often. Of the twenty-nine switch-hitters to reach 1000 PA who spent over half their games behind the plate, eight of them played last season. Maybe teams are more willing today to have a switch-hitter for a backstop. Either way, here are the only twenty-nine switch-hitting catchers since 1901 to amass over 1000 career plate appearances. Active players are bolded.
  1. Ted Simmons, 9685 career PA
  2. Wally Schang, 6423
  3. Mickey Tettleton, 5745
  4. Jorge Posada, 5679
  5. Butch Wynegar, 5067
  6. Alan Ashby, 4691
  7. Jason Varitek, 4558
  8. Todd Hundley, 4305
  9. Buck Rodgers, 3353
  10. Gregg Zaun, 3341
  11. Chad Kreuter, 2932
  12. Victor Martinez, 2720
  13. Johnny Gooch, 2613
  14. Matt Walbeck, 2280
  15. Damon Berryhill, 2208
  16. Johnny Estrada, 2189
  17. Bob Stinson, 1905
  18. Pinky Hargrave, 1779
  19. Ben Davis, 1698
  20. Biff Pocoroba, 1674
  21. Boss Schmidt, 1592
  22. Javier Valentin, 1519
  23. Chris Bando, 1467
  24. Joe Sugden, 1381
  25. Josh Bard, 1269
  26. Frank Gibson, 1238
  27. Tim Blackwell, 1225
  28. Raul Casanova, 1140
  29. Mark Bailey, 1126
Barring injury, Tampa Bay Rays (that still sounds weird to me) catcher Dioner Navarro should join the list early next season. He currently has 942 career plate appearances.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

2007 NL LOB/RISP Data

I thought it'd be interesting to look at the numbers of baserunners (a guy that hits a home run doesn't count as a baserunner for this) left on base and in scoring position by each team in the National League. To do that, I'm going to use a table to show raw numbers for all of the teams and then a number of lists for some further percentages.

In the following table, LOB, as usual, stands for Left On Base, RISP stands for Runners In Scoring Position, RLISP is Runners Left In Scoring Position, and RISPR is Runners In Scoring Position Runs, my lingo for runs scored by guys who began the run-scoring play in scoring position. You'll note RLISP and RISPR values don't always add up to RISP values. This is because teams make outs on the basepaths - runners picked off second or third or thrown out at third or home plate may have started the play in scoring position but may not have made the final out of the inning. If they did make the final out of the inning, I considered them runners left in scoring position. Perhaps that's not the right way to interpret the term but I figure in most cases they could have pulled up a base short and not been thrown out or gotten picked off; either way, the risk they took hurt their team and I wanted to reflect this in the numbers. What's the difference between a guy absentmindedly being picked off third base and a guy who's too busy swinging for the fences to make contact with RISP and two outs in the long run?

2007 NL Raw Numbers for Baserunners

New York203211961221672519
Los Angeles201912001209666508
St. Louis199611671157639494
San Francisco190111411099612453
San Diego188911521098604472
NL Sums315661883318542103477743
NL Averages197311771159647484

You can see every team was within 330 baserunners of each other; that's a little over two per game. Alone, these numbers don't say much: so what if Arizona left the fewest runners on base, they had the fewest opportunities to leave guys out there. With that in mind, here's the list of teams ranked by lowest to highest LOB%:
  1. Colorado, 58.02% of baserunners left on base
  2. St. Louis, 58.47%
  3. Pittsburgh, 58.80%
  4. New York, 58.86%
  5. Atlanta, 59.21%
  6. Los Angeles, 59.44%
  7. NL Average, 59.66%
  8. Cincinnati, 59.66%
  9. Arizona, 59.69%
  10. Chicago, 59.71%
  11. Milwaukee, 59.96%
  12. San Francisco, 60.02%
  13. Philadelphia, 60.20%
  14. Washington, 60.54%
  15. Houston, 60.56%
  16. Florida, 60.71%
  17. San Diego, 60.98%
The fact playoff contenders and non-contenders are all jumbled up is a pretty good clue that LOB numbers don't have much bearing on a team's overall success. The fact all teams are within 3 percentage points of each other is another -- given the league average number of baserunners, 3% is 59 baserunners. That's about 1 every three games; hardly a huge number.

If you get on base, your ultimate destination is home plate. It's much easier for your teammates to bring you home if you are on second or third base--they only need to hit a single in most cases--so I want to look at which teams had the highest percentage of baserunners who got into scoring position.
  1. Philadelphia, 60.25% of baserunners got into scoring position
  2. New York, 60.09%
  3. Atlanta, 60.00%
  4. Colorado, 59.93%
  5. Chicago, 59.91%
  6. Los Angeles, 59.88%
  7. Pittsburgh, 59.01%
  8. NL Average, 58.74%
  9. Milwaukee, 58.19%
  10. San Diego, 58.13%
  11. Houston, 58.10%
  12. St. Louis, 57.97%
  13. Arizona, 57.94%
  14. Florida, 57.87%
  15. San Francisco, 57.81%
  16. Cincinnati, 57.32%
  17. Washington, 56.90%
Good and bad teams are still jumbled up, though perhaps not as much as before. It's kind of intuitive that if you get more runners into scoring position, you'll likely have a better offense anyway. One other thing to note: teams that knock out a bunch of extra base hits don't need runners in scoring position as much. If you're hitting home runs a lot, you can score runners from first just fine.

So, of all those guys to get into scoring position, which team was best at not stranding them there?
  1. Pittsburgh, 54.41% of RISP stranded
  2. Atlanta, 54.63%
  3. San Diego, 55.01%
  4. New York, 55.04%
  5. Los Angeles, 55.09%
  6. St. Louis, 55.23%
  7. Chicago, 55.36%
  8. Colorado, 55.42%
  9. San Francisco, 55.69%
  10. Philadelphia, 55.71%
  11. NL Average, 55.80%
  12. Arizona, 55.95%
  13. Florida, 56.49%
  14. Milwaukee, 56.64%
  15. Cincinnati, 57.38%
  16. Washington, 57.55%
  17. Houston, 57.63%
If you thought Pittsburgh was the best at not leaving runners in scoring position, congratulations. The fact the league average is below ten teams underscores just how out of whack the five bottom teams were. Of course, and I don't know if this is true, it's possible those were the most conservative teams - if you don't try and take extra bases with less than two outs, you can't get thrown out doing it. Similarly, maybe teams near the top were more reckless than others.

Finally, which teams were the best at bringing their RISP around to score?
  1. Pittsburgh, 43.10% of RISP scored
  2. Colorado, 43.03%
  3. Atlanta, 43.00%
  4. San Diego, 42.99%
  5. St. Louis, 42.70%
  6. New York, 42.51%
  7. Philadelphia, 42.13%
  8. Los Angeles, 42.02%
  9. NL Average, 41.76%
  10. Chicago, 41.37%
  11. Arizona, 41.30%
  12. San Francisco, 41.22%
  13. Florida, 40.79%
  14. Milwaukee, 40.77%
  15. Washington, 40.35%
  16. Cincinnati, 40.21%
  17. Houston, 40.16%
I guess Pittsburgh wasn't reckless after all; I didn't realize they scored the highest percentage of runners in scoring position. Be that as it may, again there's about a 3% difference between the top and bottom teams. Given the league average number of runners in scoring position for a team, that's about 35 runs per season, or one every four games. Teams near the bottom of this can mitigate their lack of RISP conversion by hitting a lot of home runs; you'd be hard pressed to say Milwaukee and Cincinnati didn't have good offenses last season.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

It's Better To Be Lucky Than Good

In my last post I looked at pitchers who were exceedingly unlucky. The guys I listed all had an ERA+ of 120 or above but won one-third or fewer of their (at least 15) decisions. Today I want to look at pitchers who did the opposite: had a low ERA+ but won two-thirds or more of their decisions. The criteria again are 15+ decisions, a winning percentage of .667 or above, and 50% or more of appearances as a starter.

Lowest ERA+, .667 or above W-L%, min. 15 decisions, 1901-2007

NameYearERAERA+W-L RecordRun Support*League Runs
Per Game**
Santo Alcala19764.707511-46.343.98
Rip Collins19215.447811-56.205.12
Mike Lynch19053.797917-84.464.11
Ed Wells19305.208312-36.905.41
Jim Coates19604.288313-37.814.39
Rube Benton19162.878516-83.853.45
Storm Davis19894.368519-75.814.29
James Baldwin19985.328613-65.195.01
Guy Bush19314.498616-85.314.48
Tommie Sisk19664.148610-55.784.09
Chuck Dobson19713.818815-55.963.87
Roxie Lawson19375.268918-76.035.23
Johnny Allen19334.398915-76.105.00
Lefty Williams19172.978917-84.213.65
Ralph Works19113.879011-55.404.61
Hooks Dauss19193.559021-94.414.09
Jack Coombs19113.539028-125.664.61
Kevin Tapani19984.859019-95.374.60
Adam Eaton20054.279011-55.494.45
Rube Foster19163.069014-73.533.68

*Runs scored by the pitcher's team's offense in games in which he pitched; if prior to 1957, the team's runs per game. If more than one team, a weighted average based on innings pitched.
**League refers to the league (American/National) the pitcher was in. Any pitcher in both leagues gets a weighted average of the two league values based on innings pitched.

These were the only twenty pitchers who had an ERA+ of 90 or less. The complete list of all 88 seasons with an ERA+ of 100 (league average) or below can be found here.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Anything for a Win

In 1987, Nolan Ryan placed fifth in the NL Cy Young voting while pitching for the Houston Astros. He had an impressive 270 strikeouts in 211 2/3 innings and won the league ERA title by 27 points (2.76 vs. Mike Dunne's 3.03). Unfortunately for Ryan, the Astros as a team scored 648 runs that season, or 4 per game. When he took the mound, he was only received 3.28 runs of support from his offense -- the league average runs scored by a team per game was 4.52. Despite his many strikeouts and ERA title, Ryan only went 8-16 on the year. Imagine being possibly the most dominant pitcher in the league and only winning one-third of your decisions. Sometimes life just isn't fair. I should note that Orel Hershiser, who finished fourth in Cy Young voting could complain as well - he went 16-16 with a 3.06 ERA and 190 strikeouts for the hitting-challenged Dodgers.

With Ryan's season in mind, I want to find starting pitchers (i.e., 50+% of appearances were starts) who pitched well but had no luck in gathering wins. To do this, I'm going to use ERA+, defined as "the ratio of the league's ERA (adjusted to the pitcher's ballpark) to that of the pitcher. -- found by lgERA/ERA" Thus since Nolan Ryan played in a ballpark that favored pitchers in 1987, the league ERA used to derive ERA+ will be slightly higher than the actual average to reflect the slightly easier conditions (the exact process behind park adjustments is described here). Since Ryan's 2.76 was still much better than the adjusted league ERA, his ERA+ is an excellent 142. Using ERA+ also allows you to make judgments across time since it compares pitchers to others in their same league in the same year. For example, in 1918 Allen Sothoron put up a sterling 1.94 ERA in 209 innings. Though Sothoron's ERA looks much better than Ryan's, using ERA+ we see they were about equal in relation to the league they played in (Ryan's ERA+ was 142, Sothoron's was 141).

The second part of finding these unlucky guys is deciding which winning percentage to look under. Looking for guys with a losing record makes sense, but first I want to see guys who were really unlucky. To that effect, I'm going to look for pitchers who had a .333 or below winning percentage. Finally, a guy that goes 1-2 in 5 excellent starts is certainly unlucky, but I want to find pitchers who were unlucky for most of a season. Thus I'm going set the minimum for decisions at fifteen. It would be hard to start games all season and not get fifteen decisions somehow: only 35 pitchers since 1901 have started 25 or more games in a year and wound up with fewer than fifteen decisions. The only pitcher who might be excluded by this is John Dopson: he went 3-11 with a 118+ ERA for Montreal in 1988.

Highest ERA+, .333 or below W-L%, min. 15 decisions, 1901-2007

NameYearERAERA+W-L RecordRun Support*League Runs
Per Game**
Ned Garvin19041.721585-163.273.89
Jim Abbott19922.771447-152.484.32
Nolan Ryan19872.761428-163.284.52
Harry Brecheen19533.071375-133.604.46
Dummy Taylor19021.721325-163.194.11
Brandon Webb20043.591297-164.084.64
George Mogridge19162.311256-123.703.68
Turk Farrell19623.0212410-202.674.48
Buster Brown19102.671239-233.154.03
Matt Cain20073.651227-163.204.71
Dennis Lamp19783.301227-153.653.99
Howard Ehmke19253.731219-204.205.20
Ed Durham19323.801206-133.685.23
Bill Piercy19233.411208-173.794.78
Erv Kantlehner19152.261205-123.573.62
Jumbo Elliott19273.301206-133.514.58
Eddie Smith19373.941204-174.545.23

*Runs scored by the pitcher's team's offense in games in which he pitched; if prior to 1957, the team's runs per game. If more than one team, a weighted average based on innings pitched.
**League refers to the league (American/National) the pitcher was in. Any pitcher in both leagues gets a weighted average of the two league values based on innings pitched.

Poor Matt Cain, stuck on a team that couldn't score for him. Of course, it's perhaps harder to feel for him with his contract that makes him set for life than it is to feel for a guy like Erv Kantlehner who was out of baseball at the age of 24 and who probably didn't get paid real well when he was in the game. But from a strictly baseball sense: poor Matt Cain. I always figured Nolan Ryan was the best recent example of good pitching wrecked by anemic offense, but Jim Abbott's 1992 is even better: Abbott's Angels even got a designated hitter to help spur offense. I cut the chart off at 120 simply for brevity's sake, but you can find the list of all 126 better than average losers meeting my criteria here.

A final note about George Mogridge and Kantlehner: as noted, their "Run Support" number reflects their team's average runs per game. They very well might (and probably did) have had even fewer runs scored behind them.

Getting Worse as the Game Goes On

As mentioned yesterday, there are always exceptions to the rule in baseball. Though the majority of players improve the more they see a pitcher in a certain game, some unlucky few actually do worse. A lot of this is because of the BABIP concept I brought up yesterday: if you're not getting bloop singles, your batting average, OBP, and slugging percentage will all go down. Thus a number of the players on the list below may simply have had a big downturn in their BABIP causing their OPS to drop. A few, whom I'll note after the list, actually have seen this sort of drop, though not as dramatic, throughout their careers. I've kept the last column of the table as "OPS Increase" just so it's not confusing switching between this post and the last one; that's why there are a bunch of negatives.

Facing Opposing Starters in a Game
Largest Decrease in OPS, 1st to 3rd (or greater) Time

RankName1st Time vs. SP2nd Time vs. SP3rd+ Time vs. SPOPS Increase
(1st to 3rd+)
1Jack Wilson131 PA, 1.014 OPS127 PA, .772 OPS92 PA, .571 OPS-.443
2Morgan Ensberg74 PA, .940 OPS62 PA, .834 OPS59 PA, .528 OPS-.412
3Gary Matthews
136 PA, .889 OPS133 PA, .716 OPS131 PA, .526 OPS-.363
4Adam LaRoche148 PA, .920 OPS145 PA, .884 OPS135 PA, .585 OPS-.335
5Jim Thome124 PA, 1.104 OPS118 PA, 1.041 OPS126 PA, .821 OPS-.283
6Yunel Escobar77 PA, 1.004 OPS73 PA, 1.040 OPS60 PA, .726 OPS-.278
7Matt Diaz81 PA, 1.235 OPS75 PA, .844 OPS52 PA, .967 OPS-.269
8Alex Gonzalez103 PA, .916 OPS96 PA, .824 OPS66 PA, .647 OPS-.268
9Bobby Crosby92 PA, .773 OPS89 PA, .674 OPS65 PA, .505 OPS-.268
10Jason Kendall131 PA, .625 OPS124 PA, .848 OPS77 PA, .360 OPS-.264
11Hideki Matsui143 PA, .999 OPS139 PA, .921 OPS114 PA, .739 OPS-.259
12Adam Kennedy75 PA, .702 OPS73 PA, .809 OPS57 PA, .443 OPS-.259
13Barry Bonds116 PA, 1.219 OPS114 PA, 1.084 OPS116 PA, .963 OPS-.256
14Luis Gonzalez131 PA, .939 OPS126 PA, .831 OPS103 PA, .684 OPS-.255
15Kevin Millar135 PA, .960 OPS132 PA, .773 OPS121 PA, .706 OPS-.254
16Chad Tracy63 PA, .928 OPS59 PA, 1.084 OPS55 PA, .681 OPS-.247
17Frank Catalanotto92 PA, 1.095 OPS87 PA, .495 OPS89 PA, .849 OPS-.246
18Rob Mackowiak82 PA, .823 OPS73 PA, .726 OPS51 PA, .592 OPS-.231
19Mike Redmond72 PA, .740 OPS71 PA, .715 OPS53 PA, .512 OPS-.228
20Jack Cust115 PA, .977 OPS108 PA, 1.039 OPS98 PA, .757 OPS-.220
21Nick Markakis158 PA, .983 OPS157 PA, .833 OPS175 PA, .773 OPS-.210
22Gary Sheffield131 PA, .985 OPS128 PA, .967 OPS137 PA, .777 OPS-.207
23Bengie Molina126 PA, .913 OPS124 PA, .647 OPS98 PA, .706 OPS-.207

These twenty-three players were the only ones to see a 200 (or more) point decrease in their OPS over the course of a game. Guys like Molina and Catalanotto actually did the worst in their second times to the plate while Chad Tracy, Adam Kennedy, and Jason Kendall improved before crashing downward.

Kendall is a good case study again of the effects of BABIP. He can't hit in the first place, and this is borne out by his .625 OPS with a .252 BABIP in the first column. That .252 is kind of low (again, the MLB average was .305), but .625 is also a little below what you would've expected him to hit anyway. Then in the second time against the same pitcher, his BABIP jumps to .353 and his OPS hops up to .848 - more balls were falling in and, when they did, they went for extra bases. Finally, in the last column, his BABIP fell to an awful .164 and his OPS crashed to an anemic .360. When you look at his career splits (scroll down about 2/3 of the page), you can see that he's usually a normal player, improving slightly against pitchers as the game wears on. This season, however, BABIP wreaked havoc on his numbers.

Only two members of the list saw their BABIP actually increase while their OPS went down. Rob Mackowiak's went from .269 to .360 to .308 and his OPS fell at every step. Gary Sheffield had a barely noticeable .259 to .277 to .260, and his OPS also fell at every step. Kind of strange, but both players' slugging percentages also went down through the game so perhaps they hits they were getting didn't go for extra bases.

Finally, a few players from this list have seen dips in their OPS across their careers. I'm going to express their numbers in the form OPS/BABIP for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd+ time facing an opposing starter.
  • Morgan Ensberg: .924/.307 to .779/.287 to .893/272
  • Adam LaRoche: .819/.315 to .884/.321 to .810/.307
  • Yunel Escobar, though 2007 was his first season.
  • Hideki Matsui: .884/.302 to .836/.304 to .850/.305
  • Adam Kennedy: .776/.329 to .760/.326 to .677/.288
  • Rob Mackowiak: .768/.332 to .669/.286 to .717/.310
  • Mike Redmond: .755/.318 to .732/.321 to .747/.329
  • Most of Jack Cust's numbers are fueled by 2007.
  • Nick Markakis: .841/.330 to .888/.347 to .806/.295
  • Gary Sheffield: .945/.290 to .953/.288 to .904/.282
Now, most of these changes are almost unnoticeable. Frankly, is it going to bother you that Hideki Matsui dips to a still-good .850 at the end of games? Ditto Adam LaRoche, Ensberg, Markakis, Sheffield, etc. Adam Kennedy and Rob Mackowiak are kind of weird, but perhaps not incredibly so since they're not power threats and their BABIP fluctuates as well.

Of course, in the end, you just look at the fact there's not many plate appearances to work with for a lot of guys and decide this all doesn't mean anything anyway. :)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Getting Better as the Game Goes On

It's kind of intuitive that as a baseball game goes on, batters will hit the opposing starter better. This is a mixture of seeing the guy's arsenal on that night and perhaps being able to judge a little more accurately what he's going to throw you next, as well as the simple fact that after 80, 90, 100 pitches, a pitcher will be tired. This is borne out in league numbers:

National League, Times vs. Opposing Starter in a Game, 2007
  • 1st: .259/.323/.412, .735 OPS
  • 2nd: .270/.334/.433, .767 OPS
  • 3rd or greater: .293/.357/.480, .837 OPS
American League, Times vs. Opposing Starter in a Game, 2007
  • 1st: .269/.333/.421, .754 OPS
  • 2nd: .276/.337/.432, .769 OPS
  • 3rd or greater: .286/.346/.454, .800 OPS
Today I want to list the players who benefited most from seeing starters more and the players who were actually hurt by seeing pitchers a second and third time. Sample sizes will be pretty small (you can only face a starting pitcher for the first time in a game 162 times per year), but I'm making the minimum requirement 50 plate appearances in each situation. Still a drop in the bucket overall, but it's harder to get on base 40 out of 50 times than it is 8 out of 10 times.

Facing Opposing Starters In a Game
Largest Increase in OPS, 1st to 3rd (or greater) Time

RankName1st Time vs. SP2nd Time vs. SP3rd+ Time vs. SPOPS Increase
(1st to 3rd+)
1Ben Broussard59 PA, .390 OPS55 PA, .757 OPS50 PA, 1.337 OPS.947
2Jason Kubel115 PA, .567 OPS109 PA, .914 OPS92 PA, 1.233 OPS.666
Milton Bradley59 PA, .491 OPS56 PA, .924 OPS53 PA, 1.157 OPS.666
Gregg Zaun93 PA, .467 OPS86 PA, .741 OPS60 PA, 1.048 OPS.581
Joe Mauer106 PA, .529 OPS104 PA, .786 OPS112 PA, 1.048 OPS.519
Juan Encarnacion74 PA, .560 OPS71 PA, .861 OPS56 PA, 1.044 OPS.484
Carl Crawford140 PA, .639 OPS136 PA, .829 OPS146 PA, 1.114 OPS.475
Jeremy Hermida113 PA, .662 OPS110 PA, .920 OPS91 PA, 1.123 OPS.461
Nate McLouth83 PA, .594 OPS67 PA, 1.024 OPS67 PA, 1.055 OPS.461
Chase Utley131 PA, .706 OPS129 PA, .922 OPS118 PA, 1.151 OPS.445
Jose Lopez141 PA, .430 OPS137 PA, .742 OPS98 PA, .866 OPS.436
Jason Varitek122 PA, .493 OPS117 PA, .841 OPS81 PA, .901 OPS.408
Ronny Paulino121 PA, .556 OPS116 PA, .823 OPS72 PA, .962 OPS.406
A.J. Pierzynski117 PA, .536 OPS112 PA, .762 OPS95 PA, .941 OPS.404

I have a few things to note about that list. I stopped at fourteen because those were the only guys matching the criteria to see a 400 point increase in their OPS. A number of those low OPS's in the first column are due to a low Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP). If you're in a slump, it might be because bloop hits that were falling in last week are suddenly being caught more often or ground balls that used to sneak through the hole are finding their way into the shortstop's glove instead. This isn't really the batter's fault; it's just one of the vagaries of the game. BABIP is useful for quantifying those things.

I bring this up because Gregg Zaun's .467 OPS in the first column is affected by his very low .157 BABIP (the ML average last season was .305). Once his BABIP got to a more normal .279 in the second column, his numbers look more like his career numbers. It works the other way, as well. In the last column, Zaun's BABIP was .350; his OPS spiked upward as a result.

I find it interesting, however, that not everyone on the list saw their BABIP go up to such a degree across all the columns. Sure, Ben Broussard's BABIP jumped .276 from the first column to the last and subsequently he leads the list, but Sammy Sosa's BABIP only went from .317 to .338 to .323; for whatever reason the balls he did hit late in the game went for more bases, driving his OPS up.

Brad Wilkerson isn't one of the fourteen guys listed above, but he is another weird case. He had a .715 OPS when facing starters for the first time with a .357 BABIP. His second time up, those numbers changed to .826 and .217 -- by the third time, he was at 1.004 and .250, respectively. He managed to increase his OPS while getting hits to fall in less. Other players with a 200 (or more) point increase in OPS but an overall decrease in BABIP were Carlos Beltran (.278/-.051), Khalil Greene (.249/-.019), and Miguel Cabrera (.235/-.067).

Tomorrow I plan on looking at guys who bucked the trend and managed to hit worse as games wore on. A hint: of the four guys at the top (bottom?) of that list, one has been a mediocre hitter for most of his career, one was designated for assignment in the middle of the season, one was a big free agent signing, and the last was a big part of a trade last offseason.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Three True Outcomes per Plate Apperance

Baseball Prospectus has an article (well, many of them) about the "Three True Outcomes" (TTO) that you can read here. The long and short of it is that strikeouts, walks, and home runs are "true outcomes" in the sense that fielders don't have to get involved at all in the play (Jose Canseco excepted). That article details hitters from 2003 and normalizes the rates of each statistic to determine the guys who fit the mold of TTO guys perfectly, but I just want to put the raw career numbers out there. If a guy is good enough to draw a fantastically high number of walks or lasts forever swinging and missing, so be it.

One thing to note, however: since strikeout data is unavailable prior to 1913, I'm just going to look at statistics from 1913-2007, as I did with the SO/PA post a few days ago. It shouldn't have a big effect on the list of the top players since hardly anyone was hitting home runs prior to 1913, but the bottom of the list would be skewed badly by including the pre-1913 hitters.

Most Career TTO/PA, 1913-2007, min. 3000 PA

1Rob Deer45121409575230.4907
2Adam Dunn40981092675238.4893
3Jim Thome842720431459507.4757
4Mark McGwire766015961317583.4564
5Mickey Tettleton57451307949245.4353
6Pat Burrell47431137683218.4297
7Jay Buhner59271406792310.4231
8Brad Wilkerson3444879457118.4222
9Gorman Thomas54861339697268.4200
10Troy Glaus52031165701277.4119
11Danny Tartabull58421362768262.4094
12Don Lock3116776373122.4079
13Jose Canseco81291942906462.4072
14Mickey Mantle990917101733536.4016
15Reggie Jackson1141625971375563.3972
16Darryl Strawberry63261352816335.3957
17Gene Tenace5525998984201.3951
18Pete Incaviglia46771277360206.3941
19Eric Davis61471398740282.3937
20Jim Edmonds73071587919362.3925

It's crazy to think that almost half the plate appearances of guys like Dunn, and Thome are ones during which the defense can rest.

Fewest Career TTO/PA, 1913-2007, min. 3000 PA

1377Emil Verban3110741081.0588
1376Stuffy McInnis732518929713.0681
1375Lloyd Waner832617342027.0745
1374Eddie Brown312610912716.0806
1373Homer Summa33188816618.0820
1372Don Mueller459414616765.0823
1371Charlie Deal309112112611.0835
1370Ivy Olson549822223012.0844
1369Everett Scott637328224320.0855
1368Burgess Whitehead356213815017.0856
1367Johnny Cooney36751072082.0863
1366Buddy Hassett380711620912.0885
1365George Cutshaw580822626925.0895
1364Hughie Critz641525728938.0910
1363Jimmy Brown38321102319.0913
1362Felix Millan632524231822.0920
1361Bobby Richardson578324326234.0932
1360Art Fletcher496628315230.0936
1359Nellie Fox1034921671935.0937
1358Glenn Beckert557224326022.0942

A rare day indeed saw Nellie Fox not put the ball in play.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Bah! Who needs Home Run Percentage?

To complete the trifecta of offensive outcomes per plate appearance, I thought it'd be a good idea to look at home runs. Home run percentage is, I guess, the usual rate statistic used and that's found by taking home runs per every 100 at-bats. Rather than presenting a list you can easily find online, I'll present one that may take a little more digging. The HR/PA columns are expanded beyond three decimal places in order to show more clearly the value for each player.

Most Career HR/PA, 1901-2007, min. 3000 PA

1Mark McGwire7660583.0761
Babe Ruth10616714.0673
Sammy Sosa9896609.0615
Alex Rodriguez8482518.0611
Juan Gonzalez7155434.0607
Barry Bonds12606762.0604
Jim Thome8427507.0602
Dave Kingman7429442.0595
Albert Pujols4741282.0595
10Ralph Kiner6256369.0590
11Manny Ramirez8352490.0587
12Ron Kittle3013176.0584
13Ken Griffey10167593.0583
14Harmon Killebrew9831573.0583
15Adam Dunn4098238.0581
16Albert Belle6673381.0571
17Jose Conseco8129462.0568
18Richie Sexson5277294.0557
19Jimmie Foxx9670534.0552
Mike Piazza7745427.0551

For the curious, Hank Aaron is 24th with .0542 HR/PA between Hank Greenberg and Mickey Mantle.

Fewest Career HR/PA, 1901-2007, min. 3000 PA

1Duane Kuiper37541.00027
Emil Verban31101.00032
Al Bridwell49282.00041
Tommy Thevenow44842.00045
Jimmy Slagle44382.00045
Frank Taveras43992.00045
Johnny Cooney36752.00054
Mike Tresh36372.00055
Nemo Liebold48633.00062
10Bill Bergen32282.00062
11Lee Tannehill41843.00072
12Muddy Ruel52924.00076
13Charley O'Leary35813.00084
14Matty McIntyre45124.00089
15Ossie Vitt44864.00089
16Ralph Young43364.00092
17Tom Jones42894.00093
18Eddie Foster63176.00095
19Spike Shannon30153.00100
Donie Bush87349.00103

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Take Your Base

Yesterday I posted about the highest and lowest career strikeout rates in baseball history (at least since 1913). Today I want to look at the other thing a pitcher can do to a batter: give him a base on balls. Walks have been recorded for batters since the beginning of baseball history, but I'm only to look at players since 1901 because of the change in playing rules during the nineteenth century. As with yesterday, players on the list must have 3000 or more career plate apperances; any stats before 1901 are not counted.

Most Career BB/PA, 1901-2007, min. 3000 PA

1Ted Williams97912021.206
Barry Bonds126062558.203
Max Bishop57761153.200
Babe Ruth106162062.194
Ferris Fain4904904.184
Eddie Stanky5435996.183
Roy Cullenbine4787853.178
Gene Tenace5525984.178
Eddie Yost91751614.176
10Mickey Mantle99091733.175
11Jim Thome84271459.173
12Mark McGwire76601317.172
13Eddie Lake3199546.171
14Charlie Keller4604784.170
15Frank Thomas97851628.166
16Mickey Tettleton5745949.165
17Adam Dunn4098675.165
18Joe Morgan113291865.165
19Rickey Henderson133462190.164
Earl Torgeson6037980.162

Fewest Career BB/PA, 1901-2007, min. 3000 PA

1Bill Bergen979188.027
Jesus Alou4577138.030
Deivi Cruz4375132.030
George Stovall5596172.031
Hobe Ferris5111161.032
Damaso Garcia4124130.032
Shawon Dunston6276203.032
Tommy Corcoran3117102.033
Bill Killefer3400113.033
10Ozzie Guillen7133239.034
11Art Fletcher6039203.034
12Otto Miller3049104.034
13Hal Lanier3940136.035
14Buck Weaver5292183.035
15Emil Verban3110108.035
16Hal Chase7939276.035
17Ken Reitz5079184.036
18Red Dooin4271155.036
19Don Mueller4594167.036
Hy Myers5316195.037

Friday, January 18, 2008

Cooling Off The Crowd

Fans that remember power hitters who didn't strike out much (where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?) often complain about the high number of strikeouts in today's game. Players like Dave Kingman and Rob Deer were disparaged for the damage they did to their teams by not making contact. Of course, a strikeout is not always the worst outcome of a trip to the plate: a double play is even worse.

I want to find the players with the highest and lowest career strikeout rates (SO/PA). I'm going to use's minimum requirement for career rate stats: a player must have 3000 or more PA in his career. Also, strikeouts weren't recorded for batters in both major leagues until 1913 so I'm not going to look up players before then. Any players who played before and after this time will only have their plate appearances from 1913 forward counted.

Most Career SO/PA, 1913-2007, min. 3000 PA

1Rob Deer45121409.312
2Jose Hernandez50891391.273
3Pete Incaviglia46771277.273
4Adam Dunn40981092.266
5Brad Wilkerson3444879.255
6Cory Snyder3933992.252
7Don Lock3116776.249
8Steve Balboni3440856.249
9Ron Kittle3013744.247
10Preston Wilson44361085.245
11Dave Kingman74291816.244
12Gorman Thomas54861339.244
13Jim Thome84272043.242
14Dean Palmer55131332.242
15Henry Rodriguez3343803.240
16Pat Burrell47431137.240
17Jose Conseco81291942.239
18Mike Cameron62991500.238
19Jay Buhner59271406.237
20Nate Colbert3863902.233

Fewest Career SO/PA, 1913-2007, min. 3000 PA

1Joe Sewell8329114.014
2Lloyd Waner8326173.021
3Nellie Fox10349216.021
4Tommy Holmes5565122.022
5Tris Speaker9365220.023
6Emil Verban311074.024
7Stuffy McInnis7325189.026
8Andy High4969130.026
9Homer Summa331888.027
10Sam Rice10246275.027
11Frankie Frisch10100272.027
12Dale Mitchell4357119.027
13Charlie Hollocher339094.028
14Jimmy Brown3832110.029
15Johnny Cooney3675107.029
16Billy Southworth4927148.030
17Frank McCormick6207189.030
18Buddy Hassett3807116.030
19Ossie Vitt4188131.031
20Eddie Collins9052286.032

Joe Sewell Not-So-Fun Fact: He was installed at shortstop for the Cleveland Indians following Ray Chapman's death during the 1920 season. Chapman died after being hit in the head by a pitch from Carl Mays. Some people believe that pitch has been the major factor keeping Mays out of the Hall of Fame.