Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Playoff Rotations, 2003-2007

Anyone who's been a regular reader here knows how I've already looked at rotation spots throughout MLB in terms of FIP and ERA. The numbers for each league in 2007 and data for 2003-2007 using both statistics can be found here. The methodology is also explained there.

I've noticed some people disparaging the notion of a pitcher putting up league average numbers having much value. After all, the reasoning goes, league average includes all the bad teams whereas the average rotation to make the playoffs would be more telling (because no mediocre teams make the playoffs). Snark aside, there's a certain logic in that line of thinking. Making the playoffs with a below average rotation is possible (see: 2007 Phillies), but rare.

With that in mind, I decided to crunch the numbers and find out the rotation numbers of playoff teams over the past five seasons. Treating all four teams each year as one giant staff starting approximately 648 games, I then figured out the FIP and ERA for each rotation spot. Below are the results compared to the relevant league average for each season. The numbers (#1, #2, etc.) correspond to each spot in the rotation.

FIP: AL Playoff Teams vs. AL Average, 2003-2007

2003AL Playoff Teams4.103.183.774.234.435.15
AL Average4.733.574.304.785.176.30
2004AL Playoff Teams4.383.423.934.344.955.55
AL Average4.803.754.404.775.196.11
2005AL Playoff Teams4.333.604.054.304.565.43
AL Average4.563.654.184.564.925.77
2006AL Playoff Teams4.493.314.194.474.816.03
AL Average4.663.554.184.635.086.31
2007AL Playoff Teams4.183.223.804.124.505.67
AL Average4.473.474.014.454.886.02
Last 5AL Playoff Teams4.293.313.964.284.615.63
AL Average4.643.604.214.645.056.13

Only in one spot in on year did the league out-perform the playoff teams. In 2006, the league average #2 starter had an FIP of 4.18 compared to the playoff teams' 4.19. Otherwise the playoff squads handily outpaced the rest of the league. The average playoff team's starter FIP was between 92.6% that of the league's. Note, however, that a league average starter (by FIP) still makes a good #4 pitcher for a playoff team based on the last five seasons.

ERA: AL Playoff Teams vs. AL Average, 2003-2007

2003AL Playoff Teams4.152.663.664.304.616.04
AL Average4.663.184.054.565.376.97
2004AL Playoff Teams4.473.224.034.584.996.27
AL Average4.833.574.354.845.226.93
2005AL Playoff Teams4.153.213.594.004.526.17
AL Average4.523.213.854.405.076.73
2006AL Playoff Teams4.383.163.804.194.816.58
AL Average4.733.364.174.625.107.06
2007AL Playoff Teams4.293.073.704.264.736.27
AL Average4.613.293.884.425.237.00
Last 5AL Playoff Teams4.293.023.774.264.746.29
AL Average4.673.324.064.565.206.93

Again the playoff teams sink to league average in only one spot: #1 pitchers on playoff teams in 2005 were league average. Of course, when the rest of your rotation outpitches everyone else, you can afford that. The average playoff team ERA was 91.8% that of the league, or about the same as the difference in FIP. Not surprisingly, then, a league average pitcher slots in at #4 on a playoff team using ERA again.

So now that it turns out a league average starter is generally a good #4 starter on a playoff team in the American League, let's turn to the senior circuit. Pitching in the NL is considered to have a positive effect on a pitcher's statistics since opposing pitchers bat for themselves and the NL FIP has been below that of the AL in four of the past five seasons (2007 is the exception). Similarly, the NL ERA was higher than the AL ERA only in 2007. Perhaps, then, this skews the importance of league average starters to NL playoff teams.

FIP: NL Playoff Teams vs. NL Average, 2003-2007

2003NL Playoff Teams4.133.083.824.144.555.42
NL Average4.553.424.134.524.956.15
2004NL Playoff Teams4.503.384.084.474.926.17
NL Average4.613.374.144.635.096.47
2005NL Playoff Teams4.203.113.684.364.725.48
NL Average4.453.354.054.434.955.85
2006NL Playoff Teams4.653.564.164.725.125.97
NL Average4.663.624.214.635.076.25
2007NL Playoff Teams4.663.644.344.705.015.90
NL Average4.603.484.174.665.046.04
Last 5NL Playoff Teams4.423.284.034.464.895.83
NL Average4.573.454.144.575.026.15

The past two seasons have been interesting in the National League. The general mediocrity of the starting staffs of the Cardinals and Mets in 2006 contributed the most to the #3 and #4 spots on playoff teams doing worse than league average (the Cardinals #3 starters had a 5.31 FIP!). Of course, each of those teams had better than average results from their fifth starters which no doubt helped them win enough games to get into the playoffs.

Last season is a different story. The Rockies (4.67) and Phillies (4.86) both had below average starting staffs overall. The Diamondbacks (4.58) and Cubs (4.54) were above average, but not by much. Cumulatively, this means the average playoff rotation was worse than league average overall. Only in the fourth and fifth starter spots did the playoff teams manage to outperform the league. There might be a moral in there (depth! depth! depth!). In any event, the National League in the past two seasons has shown that if you can run a half-decent staff out there and mash the ball, you've got a real shot.

The average NL playoff team rotation over the past five years put up an FIP that was 96.8% that of the league. Again, a league average starter slots in as a #4 overall, but in the past two seasons, playoff teams could use such a pitcher as a #3 guy. Maybe ERA will clear up the picture: perhaps these FIP-challenged teams were ERA-lucky.

ERA: NL Playoff Teams vs. NL Average, 2003-2007

2003NL Playoff Teams3.902.753.453.904.245.66
NL Average4.402.973.814.244.927.04
2004NL Playoff Teams4.123.033.614.044.356.76
NL Average4.433.003.754.224.877.55
2005NL Playoff Teams3.792.423.093.784.455.66
NL Average4.232.813.704.234.706.23
2006NL Playoff Teams4.463.313.744.214.906.17
NL Average4.653.254.004.575.127.07
2007NL Playoff Teams4.473.434.004.304.786.51
NL Average4.643.293.974.505.127.03
Last 5NL Playoff Teams4.142.863.634.074.546.29
NL Average4.473.073.854.354.956.98

ERA makes recent playoff teams look a little better. Only the #1 and #2 (barely) starters last season were substandard, while only 2006 aces were below average. As long as most of your rotation outperforms their equivalents around the league, you can deal with a slightly below average top dog. The #1 pitchers in 2004 didn't get lucky in this table either, still finishing a little below the league average.

The playoff team ERA is 92.7% that of the league average over the past five seasons. That's close to the American League's numbers for FIP and ERA. League average starters are, yet again, good #4 starters on playoff teams.

I can see some people complaining that numbers like FIP and ERA don't get you into the playoffs: it's wins that count! With that in mind, I averaged the wins by each starting staff in each league in each season. In the American League, playoff teams could expect about 70 wins from their rotation each year. In the National League, that number drops to 65 wins. Either way, I think the moral of the story is it takes good defense combined with great offense to overcome a league average pitching staff and make the playoffs, but it's certainly possible.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Most SB in a Season with 0 CS

The National League didn't start recording caught stealings (CS) until 1951. The American League has recorded CS every season since 1920. It seems kind of odd that in an era when most catchers couldn't hit there wasn't any data (in the NL) on who was the best at throwing out would-be basestealers. Surely reputations were formed and there were guys you simply didn't run against, but I'd think the numbers would be there if only for owners to punish substandard throwers with another reason for a pay cut. In any event, it wasn't a big deal for a while: from 1931 until the end of World War II, no National Leaguer stole more than 28 bases in a season.

My last post was about a record for futility so I want to reach to the other extreme today. From 1920 to 2007 in the AL and 1951 to 2007 in the NL, only thirty-one players have stolen at least ten bases in one season without getting caught once. Note the number shrinks if you take strike-shortened seasons out. I haven't because I think it's a sort of cool accomplishment even in a shorter season, but any of the players on the list from those years could certainly have been thrown out if they had an extra couple months.

Most Stolen Bases in a Season, 0 Caught Stealings
  1. Kevin McReynolds, 1988, 21
  2. Paul Molitor, 1994, 20
  3. Gary Thurman, 1989, 16
  4. Jimmy Sexton, 1982, 16
  5. Davey Lopes, 1984, 15
  6. Terry Shumpert, 1999, 14
  7. Sean Berry, 1994, 14
  8. Carlos Beltran, 2000, 13
  9. Desi Relaford, 2000, 13
  10. Rex Hudler, 1995, 13
  11. Tim Raines, 1994, 13
  12. Lee Tinsley, 1994, 13
  13. Tom Tresh, 1964, 13
  14. Leon Culberson, 1943, 13
  15. David Dellucci, 2003, 12
  16. Paul Molitor, 1995, 12
  17. Fred Lynn, 1980, 12
  18. Miguel Dilone, 1977, 12
  19. Albert Belle, 1996, 11
  20. Joe Carter, 1994, 11
  21. Tony Bernazard, 1982, 11
  22. Johnny Bench, 1975, 11
  23. Jesse Hill, 1936, 11
  24. Mark Teahen, 2006, 10
  25. Miguel Tejada, 2003, 10
  26. Jim Eisenreich, 1995, 10
  27. John Jaha, 1992, 10
  28. Frank Duffy, 1976, 10
  29. Dan Meyer, 1976, 10
  30. Red Wilson, 1958, 10
  31. Charlie Gehringer, 1940, 10
Stephen Drew and Jacoby Ellsbury just missed out on joining the list last season. Each of them had nine stolen bases; Ellsbury reached that mark in just 33 games. I'd also be remiss if I didn't note that Carlos Beltran stole 28 bases without being caught in 90 games with Houston in 2004. Of course, he'd been thrown out three times with Kansas City earlier in the season, but still.

Pointless factoid: Barry Bonds is 21 of 22 in stolen base attempts in the last five seasons. That's the highest success rate (95.5%) of anyone to attempt 20 or more steals over that time span. I guess he picks his moments well. Second place belongs to Nate McLouth (34 of 36, 94.4%). After those two the percentage dips to 88.7% (Carlos Beltran, 141 of 159).

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Fewest XBH by a Batting Title Qualifier, 1988-2007

I am amused by records of futility throughout baseball history. If you've read some of the older posts you've likely figured that out by now. Even the last couple posts have been about futility in a way: either individual lack of overall power or team lack of health/scoring/what have you. Today I want to continue that with another post about guys with very little power.

For those unfamiliar with the abbreviation XBH used in the title, it stands for Extra Base Hits (2B, 3B, & HR). Instead of finding players with low slugging percentages and marveling at their slap-hitting ways, I thought using a counting stat like XBH might cause other players to jump out. I don't know if that happened since the list is still a bunch of shortstops and Otis Nixon, but I think it's neat anyway.

I only looked at the past twenty seasons and set the minimum plate appearances to the batting title qualifier of 502 (hence the title). This cuts out all of 1994 and many players in 1995, but with a counting stat like XBH it's not really fair to penalize players for not having the same opportunity to raise their numbers. Really I guess you could say I'm only looking at the past eighteen-plus seasons, but that's all the fans got, right? :)

Fewest XBH by a Batting Title Qualifier, 1988-2007
  1. Felix Fermin, 1989, 562 PA, 10 XBH
  2. Jose Lind, 1992, 506, 15
  3. Alfredo Griffin, 1990, 502, 15
  4. Eric Yelding, 1990, 559, 15
  5. Gary Pettis, 1989, 536, 15
  6. Otis Nixon, 1993, 532, 16
  7. Mike Caruso, 1999, 564, 17
  8. Otis Nixon, 1996, 575, 17
  9. Rey Ordonez, 1996, 530, 17
  10. Darren Lewis, 1995, 527, 17
  11. Walt Weiss, 1993, 591, 17
  12. Willie Randolph, 1991, 512, 17
  13. Rafael Santana, 1988, 521, 17
  14. Brad Ausmus, 2003, 509, 18
  15. Tom Goodwin, 1998, 608, 18
  16. Omar Vizquel, 1993, 630, 18
  17. Otis Nixon, 1992, 502, 18
  18. Jose Oquendo, 1988, 518, 18
  19. Brad Ausmus, 2006, 502, 19
  20. Tom Goodwin, 1996, 587, 19
  21. Carney Lansford, 1990, 564, 19
These twenty-one players are the only ones to finish a full season with fewer than twenty extra base hits while qualifying for the batting title in the past twenty years. I guess it works out to an average of about one per year but only one player has joined (twice) since 2000 so it's getting rarer.

Another player almost joined this list in 2007, but Reggie Willits knocked out 21 extra base hits in 518 PA. Futile offensive player Nick Punto managed to rap out 23 XBH with a slugging percentage of only .271, which is just sad. Jason Kendall, Luis Castillo, Omar Vizquel, and Mark Loretta were the only other qualifying players with fewer than thirty.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Fewest RBI by a Team Leader, 1988-2007

E-mailer Ken sent me the idea for this post. He noted that Emil Brown of the Kansas City Royals led his team last season with only 62 RBI. He thought that seemed pretty low for a team leader and was interested in a list of the lowest totals to lead a team in the last two decades. It turns out his suspicions were well-founded: Brown had the lowest total of a team leader in that span.

One potential obstacle in this list is the handling of the 1994 and 1995 seasons. In 1994, teams played approximately 115 games each before the players' strike. In 1995, teams played a shortened 144 game schedule. It wouldn't be fair to penalize teams for playing fewer games, so I merely re-calculated RBI totals based on a 162 game schedule. Thus Frank Thomas's 101 RBI in 1994 becomes 101*(162/115) = 142 RBI and his 111 RBI in 1995 becomes 111*(162/144) = 125 RBI. I realize not every team played the exact same number of games and this method isn't exact, but I think it's close enough. Any time a 1994/1995 team appears on the list, I've noted the raw total next to the adjusted total.

With all of that in mind, let's turn to the list over the last twenty seasons:

Fewest RBI by a Team Leader, 1988-2007

RankTeamRBITeam Leader
12007 Kansas City Royals62Emil Brown
21996 Kansas City Royals67Craig Paquette

1988 Philadelphia Phillies67Juan Samuel
41988 Detroit Tigers69Alan Trammell

1988 Seattle Mariners69Alvin Davis
61999 Minnesota Twins70Marty Cordova

1995 Montreal Expos70Mike Lansing
(62 RBI in 144 team games)

1988 San Diego Padres70Tony Gwynn
92003 New York Mets71Ty Wigginton

1999 Florida Marlins71Preston Wilson

1990 Houston Astros71Franklin Stubbs
122003 San Diego Padres72Mark Loretta

1994 Pittsburgh Pirates72Orlando Merced
(51 RBI in 114 team games)

1992 California Angels72Junior Felix

1990 California Angels72Dave Winfield
161992 San Francisco Giants73Will Clark

1990 Philadelphia Phillies73Von Hayes
181997 Pittsburgh Pirates74Kevin Young

1992 Boston Red Sox74Tom Brunansky

1990 Chicago White Sox74Ivan Calderon
212003 Cleveland Indians75Jody Gerut

2002 Tampa Bay Devil Rays75Randy Winn

2001 Detroit Tigers75Tony Clark

1993 Kansas City Royals75George Brett

1992 Kansas City Royals75Gregg Jefferies

1991 Montreal Expos75Ivan Calderon

Some of the names on the list as team leaders surprised me (Ty Wigginton? Mark Loretta? Jody Gerut?). I'm sure their respective front offices and managers weren't counting on them to lead their team in driving in runs, but injuries and other quirks of fate conspired to put them there. It's strange that certain years like 2003, 1990, and 1988 have more teams on the list but maybe run scoring overall was down in those seasons.

Do you think Emil Brown had any sort of incentive in his contract giving him a bonus if he led the team in RBI? If so, do you think he, or the team, ever thought he'd actually get it?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Most Home Runs, SLG < .300

It's getting harder to have a slugging percentage under .300 and play a lot in a single season. Only four players since 2000 have qualified for the batting title (502+ PA) with a slugging percentage under .300; only twenty-one got as many as 300 plate appearances. That makes it unlikely these records will be broken anytime soon, but you never know.

I thought it would be interesting to see the highest home run totals among players with slugging percentages of .300 or below. It's obvious that there's no way to increase your slugging percentage faster than to hit a home run, so anyone who hits a decent number of home runs would have to be pretty bad at getting any other hits to qualify. The guys below certainly hit badly.

Most HR in a Season, SLG < .300

1Don Wert196812.299
Dave Valle19918.299

Roger Repoz19698.288
Jose Oliva19957.284

Mike Pagliarulo19897.299

Barry Foote19757.295

Mike Andrews19727.297

Jimmy Wynn19717.295

Ray Oyler19697.267

Dave Duncan19687.293

Bill Robinson19677.281

Sam Bowens19657.296

Bobby Knoop19647.280

Roy McMillan19617.293

Harry Chiti19607.296

Jack Dittmer19527.291

Travis Jackson19367.297

In his twelve home run season, Wert had 107 hits in 536 at bats, for a .200 batting average. He had 15 doubles and 1 triple to go with his dozen homers. To me, the most impressive season on the list is Ray Oyler's 1969 for the Seattle Pilots. I already knew he was an incredibly bad hitter, showing up three times on this list of futility. In 1969, however, he reached a career high in home runs while putting up a .165/.260/.267 line in 255 at bats.

The career list for home runs while slugging below .300 is more interesting. There are a lot of pitchers on the list, which makes sense because they tend to have longer careers than position players who don't hit well. The names of the players on the list who weren't pitchers are written in red text.

Most Career HR, SLG < .300

1Warren Spahn35.287
2Bobby Wine30.286
Don Drysdale29.295
Mike Ryan28.280
Julio Cruz23.299
Johnnie LeMaster22.289

Tom Egan22.299
Dick Schofield21.297
Mark Belanger20.280

Milt Pappas20.197
Bruce Benedict18.299

Hector Torres18.281
12Early Wynn17.285
Jim Kaat16.267

Billy Hunter16.294
Gene Michael15.284

Don Cardwell15.216

Ray Oyler15.251

Pedro Ramos15.240

Joe Nuxhall15.292

Dick Donovan15.248

Johnny Antonelli15.271

Claude Passeau15.274

Al Glossop15.291

Hal Schumacher15.287

Lefty Grove15.207

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Today's DUH! Fact

Ladies and gentlemen, baseball players are getting heavier. This shouldn't be a surprise to, well, anyone who is a fan of the sport. It's mentioned all the time now that Americans are getting larger, so it follows that players of the only major sport that allows you increase your bulk over the length of its season are also getting heftier. Let's start by looking at a simple chart of the total number of players overall and players who were listed at 200 or more pounds. If you think about it, that's not too heavy these days; for some taller players, that weight doesn't look bad on them: Derrek Lee is listed at 205 pounds and he doesn't look that heavy (his height helps). In any event, last season 574 players out of 1174 total (i.e., played in at least one game) were listed at 200 pounds or heavier. In 1901, only 28 of 371 total players were that heavy. Here is the full chart:

(Click to enlarge in a new window)

As you can see, the percentage of players weighing over 200 pounds seems to increase over time. I would guess if you had a graph of all Americans it's not too far off from that, but oh well. What happens if we look at the true thunderfooted types: the guys who are listed at 250 pounds and above?

Well, there haven't been many of those guys in baseball history since 1901. Forty of them, to be exact. The first was the original Bill Hall in 1913 and he was followed five years later by a guy I can only assume became a traveling country musician after he retired: Garland Buckeye. Since there have been so few heavy players, the chart of the total number per year is pretty boring:

(Click to enlarge in a new window)

A couple things to note. One, I know Babe Ruth was active some of the years zero players were above 250. I've seen pictures of him, so I question his listed value (just like most of the values printed in programs should be). Two, obviously the number of heavy guys has taken off like a rocket recently, but you didn't need a chart to show you that. What I find interesting is the percentage of players at 200 lbs. or above and 250 lbs. or above. The chart showing that is below (blue is 200 lbs. or heavier, red is 250 lbs. or heavier).

(Click to enlarge in a new window)

It's kind of hard to see, but the red line is finally creeping upwards at the right side of the graph. I guess it's kind of like an overloaded plane climbing off the ground ever so slowly...okay, maybe that's mean - sorry. I do think it's curious that even during the heyday of the steroid era, 1994-1998, the percentage of players above 200 pounds actually dropped! Maybe some of that is explained by aging, hefty guys deciding it wasn't worth it to try and come back after the strike, however. Regardless, MLB is expanding, not only to new countries and markets but also in belt size. Walter Young was the first MLB player to be listed at over 300 pounds when he stepped on the field September 6, 2005 in Baltimore, but I'm guessing he might not be the last.

Curt Flood Would be Proud

As I was wandering around the web this morning, I came across an article at The Hardball Times that I think gives an interesting view of free agency from a different perspective. I liked it, so I figured it was worth a link. Head here: Who Wants to Subsidize a Billionaire? My favorite part is below:
It was this set of circumstances caused that Jim Pohlad [son of Twins' owner Carl Pohlad] to utter the statement: “There's loyalty and wanting to stay in Minnesota, and it varies from player to player.” What did Pohlad mean by this? In all practical terms in meant that Santana’s loyalty should translate into accepting less money than he is worth in baseball’s marketplace.

If Santana accepted this route, what would happen in the grand scheme of things—who benefits? Will the savings cause prices to watch Twins games to go down?


Will it reduce the costs of going to games in the new park?


Will your cable/satellite package that carries Twins games go down?


Will the extra money be ploughed back into the roster?

Possible, but the Pohlad family’s track record indicates otherwise.

What then happens to the money Santana forgoes?

It goes right back into the pockets of the Pohlad family.

What the Pohlads are saying in effect is that the loyalty means that a kid from Venezuela who worked at his profession for 14 years to get to this point in his life should subsidize one of the wealthiest men in one of the richest countries on the planet.
The rest of the article is worth a read if for no other reason than to think about exactly what might go into your favorite team not re-signing a star player.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Nick Punto & Associates

I'm not sure it's very newsworthy outside of Minnesota, but Nick Punto was really, really bad last season. His batting line in 536 total PA was .210/.291/.271, meaning he had a .562 OPS. For some perspective, that's a bit below Carlos Zambrano's career numbers. To be fair, however, Punto hasn't always been that horrible. In 2006, he put up a decent OBP (.352), albeit with little power. His career numbers are .245/.314/.321 which, while still bad, are perhaps palatable for a guy who can play every infield position. Unfortunately for Punto and the Twins, he was a starting third baseman for much of the season. Beyond the Box Score has a post about third basemen last season, including a chart of starting third basemen against the league average. If you look at the chart, you'll notice the line for third basemen drops off the graph before hitting the right edge. That's because of Nick Punto.

All this talk of mediocrity got me thinking: who have the worst starters (offensively) of the last ten seasons been? It's pretty easy to look that sort of thing up: I simply looked for guys with an OPS+ of 60 or below (Punto's was 52) and who qualified for the batting title between 1998-2007. Seventeen mediocre players came up. Most of them are middle infielders, so I suppose it's a little more forgivable, but the corner outfielder on the list is just disturbing. Finally, I realize a lot of horrible hitters would be pulled from their team's lineup before qualifying for the batting title, so this list commemorates the players who persevered.

<= 60 OPS+, Batting Title Qualifiers, 1998-2007
No word on whether that was before or after Neifi Perez started taking performance-enhancing drugs. I think this list also points out an important part of OPS+: it's adjusted to the parks and leagues guys play in. That's why Jose Hernandez has a 60 OPS+ the same year Cesar Izturis had a 60 OPS+, even though their numbers are far apart. It's harder to hit in Dodger Stadium than it is in the three stadiums Hernandez played in so that's factored in to the OPS+ calculation. More details are available at the OPS+ explanation in the B-R.com glossary (I know I've linked to it a bunch of times, but one more can't hurt).

Friday, February 8, 2008

More Pre-Free Agency Movers

When I started making my list of players who moved around a lot before free agency, I originally planned to include the guys who played for eight different franchises before realizing it would make the post too long. Since I got through about five players anyway, I figured I might as well post about them today. Below is the list of the thirteen players who played for eight different franchises between 1901 and 1975.
  • Jim Delahanty - 1901-1915
    Franchises: Cubs, Giants, Braves, Reds, Browns, Senators, Tigers, Tip-Tops (Federal League)

    One of five brothers to make the major leagues, Jim spent time as a starting second baseman and an all-around utility player, appearing everywhere except catcher. He was pretty good with the bat during the deadball era, posting an OPS+ of 122. He was released at least twice and traded at least four times (transactions data that far back is sketchy).
  • Jack Quinn - 1909-1933
    Franchises: Yankees, Braves, Terrapins (Federal League), White Sox, Red Sox, Athletics, Dodgers, Reds

    Most players who play in four decades debut as teenagers. Not so with Mr. Quinn, who played his first major league game at the ripe old age of 25. Showing incredible longevity for a righthander, he transitioned from starter to reliever at the age of 46 and even garnered MVP votes in 1931 at the age of 47. He was traded at least twice, waived at least once, jumped leagues once, and released at least twice.
  • Babe Dahlgren - 1935-1946
    Franchises: Red Sox, Yankees, Braves, Cubs, Browns, Dodgers, Phillies, Pirates

    Primarily a first baseman, Dahlgren spent time at third base, shortstop, and catcher during World War II. A generally underwhelming hitter (career OPS+: 92), he nonetheless did well against wartime pitchers and received MVP votes three times. He was an all-star in 1943, which did nothing to keep him in Philadelphia. He was purchased (traded for cash) six times, traded for players twice, and released at the end of his career.
  • Bob Kuzava - 1946-1957
    Franchises: Indians, White Sox, Senators, Yankees, Orioles, Phillies, Pirates, Cardinals

    A nondescript lefty, Kuzava saw time as a starter and reliever during his career. Unfortunately, he wasn't particularly good in either role. There's something to be said, however, for doing just well enough to make your career last ten seasons. He was traded three times, purchased twice, and waived two times.
  • Bill Wight - 1946-1958
    Franchises: Yankees, White Sox, Red Sox, Tigers, Indians, Orioles, Reds, Cardinals

    Another lefthander, Wight spent most of his career as a starter. His career ERA+ was 103, so he literally was quite average. Perhaps the weirdest thing about his statistics is the fact he issued 714 walks against 574 strikeouts and still did well. Of course, he pitched in the late 40's and 50's in the American League, and it wasn't uncommon to see high walk totals. Wight was traded five times, waived once, and released twice.

  • Dave Philley - 1941-1962
    Franchises: White Sox, Athletics, Indians, Orioles, Tigers, Phillies, Giants, Red Sox

    I must admit I was glad to see Philley was a member of Philly teams twice in his career. A switch-hitting outfielder, he also briefly spent time at first base and third base. Not a particularly good hitter overall (career OPS+: 91), he nevertheless had a few good seasons with the bat and received MVP votes three times. More interesting to me is the fact he led the league in three categories once in his career: he had the most GIDP (29) in the AL during 1952, was caught stealing the most (16) in the 1947 AL, and made the most outs (499) of any American Leaguer in 1950. But hey, you can't win if you don't play, right? Philley was traded five times, purchased (traded for cash) four times, waived once, and released three times.

  • Johnny Klippstein - 1950-1967
    Franchises: Cubs, Reds, Dodgers, Indians, Senators, Phillies, Twins, Tigers

    Klippstein followed a relatively common career path: start out as an underwhelming starter and morph into a pretty decent reliever. Once he became a full-time reliever, he was apparently in high demand around the league: he played for seven different teams from 1958-1964. He was traded three times in his career, purchased three times, drafted from other teams three times, and released twice.

  • Ted Savage - 1962-1971
    Franchises: Phillies, Pirates, Cardinals, Cubs, Dodgers, Reds, Brewers, Royals

    I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Ted Savage's given name, Ephesian, is unique in baseball history. Savage was essentially a fourth outfielder, playing in more than 100 games three times in his nine seasons. That's right, he played for eight franchises in only nine seasons. His best season came in 1970 for Milwaukee: he hit an out-of-character .279/.402/.482 with 12 home runs in 276 at bats. Unfortunately, he was 34 and washed out of the league the very next season. Savage was traded five times and purchased twice.

  • Moe Drabowsky - 1956-1972
    Franchises: Cubs, Braves, Reds, Athletics, Orioles, Royals, Cardinals, White Sox

    Maybe it was all the pranks that led to his being moved around the league so much. His career is similar to Klippstein's: a righthanded starter with middling results who was moved to the bullpen and proved a durable reliever. In the grand scheme of things, he might not be a particularly notable player, but someone has to be the best product of Connecticut's Trinity College. Drabowsky was signed as a bonus baby, traded three times, drafted three times, purchased twice, and released twice.

  • Juan Pizarro - 1957-1974
    Franchises: Braves, White Sox, Pirates, Red Sox, Indians, Athletics, Cubs, Astros

    Pizarro was a lefthanded starter turned lefthanded long reliever. He was actually a pretty good starter, being selected as an All-Star in 1963 and 1964. In 1965, he only made 18 starts due to what looks like recurring injuries. He never was a full-time starter again but muddled along as an average reliever for almost another decade. Pizarro was traded five times, purchased three times, and released twice.

  • Orlando Pena - 1958-1975
    Franchises: Reds, Athletics, Tigers, Indians, Pirates, Orioles, Cardinals, Angels

    Pena is another righthander shifted from the rotation to the bullpen after a couple seasons. He has a pretty nice career ERA+, 102, considering he spent a lot of time as a middle reliever. He was traded three times, waived once, purchased four times, and released three times.

  • Deron Johnson - 1960-1976
    Franchises: Yankees, Athletics, Reds, Braves, Phillies, Brewers, Red Sox, White Sox

    Johnson was a power-hitting third baseman/first baseman/outfielder during his career. He had over thirty home runs twice, but never put up very appealing batting averages and struck out a lot. His career line is a pedestrian .244/.311/.420 (career OPS+: 102), but he had 1447 career hits, 245 of them home runs. Nothing to sniff at, surely. He was traded five times, purchased three times, and released twice.

  • Tommy Davis - 1959-1976
    Franchises: Dodgers, Mets, White Sox, Pilots/Brewers, Astros, Athletics, Cubs, Orioles, Angels, Royals

    Alright, alright, he actually played for ten teams, but two of them were in 1976, the year after free agency was recognized. I'm including him anyway because a) it took a while for guys to actually become free agents around the league and b) he was outright released by the Orioles during the 1975-1976 offseason rather than becoming eligible for free agency. In any event, he played for eight franchises before 1976 even started. Davis was a solid outfielder in his career. He led the National League in batting average, hits, and RBI in 1962 and followed that performance up with another batting title in 1963. He didn't walk often, however, so once his batting average started to dip, so too did his on base percentage and slugging percentage. He finished with 2121 career hits in 1999 games, as well as a .294/.329/.405 line, good for a 108 OPS+. Davis was traded four times, drafted in an expansion draft, purchased three times, and released five times.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Moving Around In Pre-Free Agency Times

With the advent of free agency and the increase in number of major league teams over the past fifty years, it has become easier for players to change teams. Mike Morgan isn't a particularly memorable player aside from having a very long career, but he does hold the record for being on the big-league roster of the most different franchises. In his 22 big-league seasons, he played for the Athletics, Yankees, Blue Jays, Mariners, Orioles, Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals, Reds, Twins, Cubs again, Rangers, and Diamondbacks. Todd Zeile, Terry Mulholland, Kenny Lofton, and Royce Clayton are all second with eleven different teams on their resume. Perhaps free agents Lofton and Clayton can tie Morgan next season - if the rumors about the Mets signing Lofton are true, that would do it.

In the days of major league baseball before the appearance of the original Los Angeles Angels and re-incarnation of the Washington Senators in 1961, players could change teams only through trade, waivers, or outright release. The infamous reserve clause still held sway, player salaries were generally low enough players couldn't afford to rock the boat, and teams had no reason to let good players go. This isn't to say every player spent his entire career on one team. There were 4111 players who appeared in at least 100 career games from 1901-1975. The distribution of total franchises played for looks like this:
  • 1 franchise: 800
  • 2 franchises: 1136
  • 3 franchises: 1042
  • 4 franchises: 617
  • 5 franchises: 313
  • 6 franchises: 133
  • 7 franchises: 50
  • 8 franchises: 13
  • 9 franchises: 6
  • 10 franchises: 1
This gives an average of 2.8088 franchises per player. Using the same criteria for players after free agency (1976-2007), we find there are 3261 players and the distribution looks like this:
  • 1 franchise: 498
  • 2 franchises: 655
  • 3 franchises: 743
  • 4 franchises: 567
  • 5 franchises: 348
  • 6 franchsies: 217
  • 7 franchises: 126
  • 8 franchises: 68
  • 9 franchises: 28
  • 10 franchises: 6
  • 11 franchises: 4
  • 12 franchises: 1
This gives an average of 3.4164 franchises per player. Of course, there are more franchises now than in the past, but players are also moving among them more.

The whole point of this post is to look at the guys who moved the most before free agency. In the interest of keeping this at a somewhat reasonable length, I'll only look at the players who spent time with nine or more franchises prior to free agency.
  • Bobo Newsom - 1929-1953
    Franchises: Dodgers, Cubs, Browns, Senators, Red Sox, Browns again, Tigers, Senators again, Dodgers again, Browns again, Senators again, Athletics, Senators again, Yankees, Giants, Senators again, Athletics again

    I write all those out just to emphasize how often this guy switched teams. He wasn't a bad pitcher, putting together an career ERA+ of 107. He won 211 games against 222 losses and, in 1938, set a record for the highest ERA (5.08) among 20-game winners. He was a pretty colorful character, which might explain why he moved around a lot. He had some pretty good quotes too:

    "When the president comes to see Bobo pitch, Ol' Bobo ain't a-gonna disappoint him." - Bobo Newsom, explaining why he stayed in a game Franklin Roosevelt had come to see, in spite of Newsom suffering a fractured jaw from a throw during the game (BR Bullpen)

    Newsom was purchased (traded for cash) six times, drafted from other teams twice, traded five times, and released five times.

  • Dick Littlefield - 1950-1958
    Franchises: Red Sox, White Sox, Tigers, Browns/Orioles, Pirates, Cardinals, Giants, Cubs, Braves

    Littlefield spend nine seasons in the majors and played for nine different franchises. Since he was lefthanded, it's kind of surprising he didn't stick around past age 32, but then again, he wasn't that great. He went 33-54 with the majority of his appearances coming as a reliever. He was traded nine times (once for Jackie Robinson, who failed to report and thus voided the trade) and purchased once.

  • Ron Kline - 1952-1970
    Franchises: Pirates, Cardinals, Angels, Tigers, Senators, Twins, Giants, Red Sox, Braves

    A righthanded pitcher, Kline began his career as a started and shifted to the bullpen at the age of thirty. He lasted nine seasons as a reliever and finished his career with a 114-144 record and career ERA+ of 101, probably qualifying him for the pitching staff of my Average Joes team. He was traded four times, purchased three times, waived once, and released twice.

  • Tito Francona - 1956-1970
    Franchises: Orioles, White Sox, Tigers, Indians, Cardinals, Phillies, Braves, Athletics, Brewers

    Father of former player and current manager Terry Francona, Tito was an outfielder and first baseman for fifteen seasons. He finished second in Rookie of the Year voting in 1956 (losing to Luis Aparicio), fifth in MVP voting in 1959, and was selected to the All-Star team in 1961. He was a fairly decent hitter, finishing with a career OPS+ of 107. Francona was traded four times and purchased four times before being released to end his career.

  • George Brunet - 1956-1971
    Franchises: Athletics, Braves, Astros, Orioles, Angels, Pilots/Brewers, Senators, Pirates, Cardinals

    His Baseball-Reference.com sponsorship claims he's the only player from Michigan's Keeweenaw County to play in the big leagues and, since I'm too lazy to verify that, I'll just go with it. In addition to that, he was a run-of-the-mill lefthander for sixteen years. There's something to be said for being just good enough to keep getting major league jobs, I suppose. He was traded five times, purchased four times, and released to end his career.

  • Hoyt Wilhelm - 1952-1972
    Franchises: Giants, Cardinals, Indians, Orioles, White Sox, Angels, Cubs, Braves, Dodgers

    The only Hall of Famer on the list, Wilhelm racked up 227 saves in his career. An all-star five times, he finished twice in Rookie of the Year voting in 1952 (losing to...Joe Black?); that same year he placed fourth in the MVP balloting. He had a career ERA+ of 146 and the one year he was a starter he put up a 173 ERA+, so it's fair to say he was dominant no matter what. He was traded five times, waived three times, released twice (once to end his career), and drafted once in an expansion draft.

  • Bob Miller - 1957-1974
    Franchises: Cardinals, Mets, Dodgers, Twins, Indians, White Sox, Cubs, Padres, Pirates, Tigers (the only player with ten)

    Born Robert Lane Gemeinweiser, Miller was one of two pitchers with the same name on the 1962 Mets. This Miller went 1-12 for the Amazin's that year, but had a pretty decent career thereafter. Usually a reliever, he managed to appear for ten different teams (six franchises) in a four-year period from 1970-1973. A career record of 69-81 belies his 106 career ERA+, but relievers aren't supposed to win many games. He actually got 51 saves, as well, so he wasn't always a middle reliever. Miller was a bonus baby, traded five times, purchased twice, waived once, drafted in the Mets expansion draft, and released three times (once to end his career). Quite a lot of traveling for a guy who presumably changed his name to fit in.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Revisiting Rotation Spots

Earlier this offseason I had a few posts talking about the average ERA and FIP for each rotation spot in 2007. Now, one season isn't a whole lot of context in baseball: depending on what you're looking at, there can be a lot of fluctuation from year to year. That's why I thought it would be interesting to look at FIP and ERA by rotation spot over the past five seasons.

The methodology is the same as in the previous posts. A team's starts are broken up into quintiles, based on the FIP or ERA of their pitchers, and a weighted average is taken in each quintile based on the starts and FIP of each pitcher in it. For example, a team with a normal 162-game schedule would have their rotation spots looking like: #1 - 33 starts, #2 - 33 starts, #3 - 32 starts, #4 - 32 starts, #5 - 32 starts. If Pitcher A made 20 starts with a 3.30 ERA and Pitcher B made 15 starts with a 3.40 ERA and everyone else on the staff had higher numbers, Pitcher A's 20 starts would be combined with 13 of Pitcher B's starts to yield an average ERA of 3.34 in the top 33 starts. The remaining two starts from Pitcher B would be combined with Pitchers C, D, etc., to figure out the average ERA of the other rotation spots.

The numbers below in the tables are found by combining all the starts in the league for each season (~2490 for the NL and ~2268 for the AL), separating them into fifths, and using the process described above. The "Average" row is the average of the five numbers above. Also remember that rather than adjusting the constant added to the FIP number every season like The Hardball Times does, I just use 3.2 across the board.

NL Rotations by FIP, 2003-2007


NL Rotations by ERA, 2003-2007


Note: NL defenses must have taken some sort of hit in the past two seasons to have ERA's jump the way they did without FIP being similarly affected. 2005 is a kind of fluky season, but the FIP from before then are similar to 2006-2007 and yet ERAs are lower. Maybe it's an injury issue, as well.

AL Rotations by FIP, 2003-2007


AL Rotations by ERA, 2003-2007


Now for the fun part: finding an average team rotation (using ERA) over the last five seasons. Players included must have started 60% of their games and had 500+ innings pitched in their league over the last five seasons.

First, the National League:
  1. Average #1, 3.31 ERA: Carlos Zambrano (3.30 ERA)
  2. Average #2, 3.91 ERA: Tom Glavine (3.97 ERA)
  3. Average #3, 4.40 ERA: Chris Capuano (4.39 ERA)
  4. Average #4, 4.96 ERA: Claudio Vargas (4.96 ERA)
  5. Average #5, 6.68 ERA: Eric Milton (5.54 ERA) - he was the worst qualifier under my criteria. You'd have to go down to a 100 IP minimum to find guys who actually put up a 6.68 ERA in the NL, which tells you how often guys are shuffled in and out of the #5 spot due to injuries.
Second, the American League:
  1. Average #1, 3.57 ERA: C.C. Sabathia (3.61 ERA)
  2. Average #2, 4.19 ERA: Kenny Rogers (4.18 ERA)
  3. Average #3, 4.61 ERA: Jose Contreras (4.57 ERA)
  4. Average #4, 5.13 ERA: Joel Piniero (5.05 ERA)
  5. Average #5, 6.66 ERA: Sidney Ponson (5.37 ERA) is the worst qualifier. You again have to go down to a minimum of 100 IP to find guys at 6.66 or worse.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

All-Time Average Joes

I know I've talked about ERA+ plus before, but I can't remember if I've done the same for OPS+. The link explains it fully if you scroll down a little, but this statistic takes OPS, on base percentage plus slugging percentage, and essentially normalizes it to the league and ballpark(s) a certain player played in. For example, in 2003 Alex Rodriguez had a .996 OPS for the Texas Rangers. Compared to the rest of the American League that year, he was 47% better than an average player would have been in his place and his OPS+ is therefore 147. In 1931, Rogers Hornsby had a .996 OPS for the Chicago Cubs and, compared to the National League in that season, he comes in with an OPS+ of 163. Even though Hornsby and Rodriguez put up the same numbers, the average player in the 2003 AL was a better hitter than the average player in the 1931 NL, so Hornsby's numbers stand out higher relative to when he played. You can do the same thing over multiple seasons to find a player's OPS+ over his whole career.

I mention all this because I want to find guys that were average hitters for their careers (an career OPS+ of 100). The All-Time Average Joes may not be all that memorable, but there's something to be said for having even an average career: you can take pride in the fact you were better than half the other guys in the league. The minimum requirement for making the ATAJ team is 3000 career plate appearances. Also, the player must have spent over half of his career games at the defensive position he occupies on the ATAJ squad. Beyond that, the selection process among multiple qualifying players is just my personal take; I will try to avoid still-active players who may jeopardize their averageness in future seasons.

1901-2007 All-Time Average Joes

Starting Lineup
  • Catcher: Frankie "Blimp" Hayes - 1931-1947
    • Career AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS: .259/.343/.400/.743
    • Teams: Philadelphia Athletics, St. Louis Browns, Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox, Boston Red Sox

  • First Base: Walt "Moose" Dropo - 1949-1961
    • Career AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS: .270/.326/.432/.758
    • Teams: Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Baltimore Orioles

  • Second Base: Tony Bernazard - 1979-1991
    • Career AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS: .262/.339/.387/.726
    • Teams: Montreal Expos, Chicago White Sox, Seattle Mariners, Cleveland Indians, Oakland Athletics, Detroit Tigers

  • Shortstop: Art Fletcher - 1909-1922
    • Career AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS: .277/.319/.365/.684
    • Teams: New York Giants, Philadelphia Phillies

  • Third Base: Hank "Heeney" Majeski - 1939-1955
    • Career AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS: .279/.342/.398/.740
    • Teams: Boston Braves, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Athletics, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Baltimore Orioles

  • Left Field: Jack Graney - 1909-1922
    • Career AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS: .250/.354/.342/.696
    • Teams: Cleveland Indians

  • Center Field: Willie McGee - 1982-1999
    • Career AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS: .295/.333/.396/.729
    • Teams: St. Louis Cardinals, Oakland Athletics, San Francisco Giants, Boston Red Sox

  • Right Field: George Browne - 1901-1912
    • Career AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS: .273/.318/.339/.657
    • Teams: Philadelphia Phillies, New York Giants, Boston Braves, Chicago Cubs, Washington Senators, Chicago White Sox, Brooklyn Dodgers
Bench Players
  • Utility Infielder: Carlos Baerga - 1990-2005
    • Career AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS: .291/.332/.423/.755
    • Teams: Cleveland Indians, New York Mets, San Diego Padres, Boston Red Sox, Arizona Diamondbacks, Washington Nationals

  • Utility Infielder: Rich Aurilia - 1995-2007*
    • Career AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS: .276/.330/.439/.769
    • Teams: San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners, San Diego Padres, Cincinnati Reds

  • Outfielder: Curt Flood - 1956-1971
    • Career AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS: .293/.342/.389/.731
    • Teams: Cincinnati Reds, St. Louis Cardinals, Washington Senators

  • Outfielder: Garry "Secretary of Defense" Maddox - 1972-1986
    • Career AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS: .285/.320/.413/.733
    • Teams: San Francisco Giants, Philadelphia Phillies

  • Catcher: Ron Hassey - 1978-1991
    • Career AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS: .266/.340/.382/.722
    • Teams: Cleveland Indians, Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox, Oakland Athletics, Montreal Expos
*I know Aurilia is still active, but he's the only true utility infielder who has a 100 career OPS+.

I'm going to assume the manager for the All-Time Average Joes team will want a lot of relievers to protect the slim leads his guys might eke out from time to time, so I'll leave the active roster with 13 players. A few of the guys on the list had plus defense to make up for their average offensive skills, so I would guess there'd be a number of defensive switches late in games as well.