November 1, 2014

Fun With Retrosheet: Do Only Slow Runners Ground into a Lot of DPs?

December 16, 2011 by · 6 Comments 

There was a discussion recently on SABR-L about whether we can reliably determine that a player was slow from his offensive statistics. Several markers were proposed: low stolen base totals, a poor SB success rate, and few triples were some of those that were mentioned. So was a high number of grounded into double-plays (GIDP). During the discussion that followed, one of the contributors mentioned that Jackie Jensen had set the major league record (since broken) when he grounded into 32 DPs in 1954, but also hit seven triples and had a league-leading 22 stolen bases with an above average (75.9) success rate. Someone else then suggested that perhaps Jensen simply had an extraordinarily high number of GIDP opportunities that year, what with Ted Williams (an OBP machine) hitting in front of him much of the year. Mike Lynch (of Seamheads fame) then contacted me and suggested that it might be nice if we had some, you know, actual data on the subject.

So here’s what I did: for each player’s season from 1952 to 2011, I computed his total plate-appearances (PA), the number of those where a GIDP was possible (GPA), the number of ground-outs in those situations (GO), and the number of times he grounded into a double-play (GIDP). I also computed the percentage of plate-appearances in situations where a GIDP was possible, the percentage of those plate-appearances that resulted in a ground-out, and the percentage of those ground-outs that resulted in a GIDP.

So let’s start with Jackie Jensen’s 1954 season:

Player             Year Team   PA GPA   Pct  GO   Pct GDP   Pct
Jackie Jensen      1954 BOS A 674 179  .266  53  .296  32  .604
League Rank                     7   3     4   1     5   1     2

In the percentage categories, a minimum of 500 plate appearances was used.

So it seems that the record was a combination of Jensen being among the league leaders in all three risk factors:

1) He was fourth in the league in the percentage of plate appearances with a man on first and less than two outs. The players ahead of him:

Player             Year Team   PA GPA   Pct  GO   Pct GDP   Pct
Ted Williams       1954 BOS A 526 145  .276  27  .186  11  .407
Minnie Minoso      1954 CHI A 676 183  .271  45  .246  20  .444
Mickey Vernon      1954 WAS A 674 180  .267  37  .206   9  .243

2) He was fifth in the league in the percentage of ground-outs in these situations. Again, those ahead of him:

Player             Year Team   PA GPA   Pct  GO   Pct GDP   Pct
Al Kaline          1954 DET A 535 137  .256  50  .365  21  .420
Dave Philley       1954 CLE A 522 125  .239  40  .320  16  .400
Spook Jacobs       1954 PHI A 565  72  .127  23  .319   7  .304
Jim Finigan        1954 PHI A 547 108  .197  34  .315  17  .500

And perhaps most importantly:

He trailed only one other player in the league in the percentage of those ground-outs that resulted in double-plays:

Player             Year Team   PA GPA   Pct  GO   Pct GDP   Pct
Harvey Kuenn       1954 DET A 696 111  .159  30  .270  19  .633

So I’m not sure how to reconcile his obvious speed with his lack of success in beating out potential double-play grounders. I mean, 36-year-old first-baseman Mickey Vernon, with one stolen base in five attempts that season (although he did have fourteen triples), was doubled-up only 9 out of 37 times, a huge improvement over Jensen’s rate.

Here are some historic extremes in this data. Let’s start with the players from 1952 to 2011 with the highest percentage of ground-outs in these situations that resulted in double-plays:

Player             Year Team   PA GPA   Pct  GO   Pct GDP   Pct
Mark McGwire       1996 OAK A 548 106  .193  15  .142  14  .933
Mike Piazza        2004 NY  N 528  97  .184  16  .165  14  .875
Rocky Colavito     1966 CLE A 614  97  .158  28  .289  24  .857
Dale Murphy        1990 2 tms 629 103  .164  26  .252  22  .846
Jim Edmonds        2003 STL N 531 105  .198  13  .124  11  .846
Carlos Lee         2010 HOU N 649 121  .186  24  .198  20  .833
Bobby Darwin       1972 MIN A 562 121  .215  29  .240  24  .828
Dave Kingman       1975 NY  N 543 100  .184  16  .160  13  .812
Manny Ramirez      2002 BOS A 518  91  .176  16  .176  13  .812
Mike Piazza        2002 NY  N 541 121  .224  32  .264  26  .812

And the other end of the spectrum:

Player             Year Team   PA GPA   Pct  GO   Pct GDP   Pct
Dick McAuliffe     1968 DET A 658  78  .119  14  .179   0  .000
Rob Deer           1990 MIL A 511  87  .170   8  .092   0  .000
Craig Biggio       1997 HOU N 744  78  .105  13  .167   0  .000
Richie Ashburn     1953 PHI N 604 117  .194  34  .291   1  .029
Ichiro Suzuki      2009 SEA A 678  93  .137  25  .269   1  .040
David Justice      1992 ATL N 571 106  .186  24  .226   1  .042
Curtis Granderson  2009 DET A 710 106  .149  24  .226   1  .042
Michael Bourn      2009 HOU N 678  80  .118  23  .287   1  .043
Carl Crawford      2010 TB  A 663 132  .199  37  .280   2  .054
Kenny Lofton       2002 2 tms 611  86  .141  18  .209   1  .056

With the exception of Rob Deer, who hit only eight ground-outs all year with a man on first and less than two outs, all of the people on the second list are a lot faster than those on the first.

Here are the players who were at risk of grounding into a double-play in the highest percentage of their plate-appearances:

Player             Year Team   PA GPA   Pct  GO   Pct GDP   Pct
Paul O'Neill       1995 NY  A 543 169  .311  41  .243  25  .610
Ted Williams       1958 BOS A 517 160  .309  40  .250  21  .525
Minnie Minoso      1953 CHI A 657 198  .301  46  .232  24  .522
Earl Torgeson      1954 PHI N 544 162  .298  29  .179  11  .379
Jim Rice           1983 BOS A 689 201  .292  51  .254  31  .608
Ted Williams       1956 BOS A 503 144  .286  31  .215  13  .419
Jim Rice           1984 BOS A 708 202  .285  58  .287  36  .621
Frank Thomas       1996 CHI A 649 183  .282  33  .180  25  .758
Stan Musial        1953 STL N 512 144  .281  35  .243  10  .286
Jim Rice           1985 BOS A 608 171  .281  45  .263  35  .778

Since major league baseball started keeping track of GIDPs, there have been eleven seasons of more than thirty. Jim Rice is responsible for three of them (including the top two) and all three show up on this list.

The players with the fewest GIDP opportunities:

Player             Year Team   PA GPA   Pct  GO   Pct GDP   Pct
Tim Foli           1980 PIT N 540  33  .061  10  .303   5  .500
Luis Castillo      2001 FLA N 612  52  .085  16  .308   6  .375
Juan Pierre        2006 CHI N 750  65  .087  17  .262   6  .353
Don Kessinger      1967 CHI N 628  55  .088  10  .182   3  .300
Fernando Vina      2001 STL N 690  63  .091  17  .270   7  .412
Bill North         1980 SF  N 500  46  .092  12  .261   4  .333
Matty Alou         1969 PIT N 746  70  .094  22  .314   5  .227
Willie Wilson      1979 KC  A 640  61  .095  10  .164   1  .100
Pete Rose          1971 CIN N 709  68  .096  20  .294   9  .450
Pete Rose          1978 CIN N 731  70  .096  19  .271   8  .421

All of these players hit leadoff except for Tim Foli. But he hit second behind Omar Moreno, a player whose low on-base percentage and 129 steal attempts kept first base unoccupied for Foli most of the season.

Here are the players who grounded out the most in these situations:

Player             Year Team   PA GPA   Pct  GO   Pct GDP   Pct
Roberto Clemente   1968 PIT N 557  81  .145  39  .481  13  .333
Rey Ordonez        1996 NY  N 530  96  .181  46  .479  12  .261
Billy Ripken       1988 BAL A 559  88  .157  41  .466  14  .341
Willie McGee       1993 SF  N 519  86  .166  40  .465  12  .300
Enos Cabell        1979 HOU N 630  94  .149  42  .447  18  .429
John Wathan        1982 KC  A 502 101  .201  45  .446  26  .578
Maury Wills        1960 LA  N 559  70  .125  31  .443  11  .355
Roberto Clemente   1963 PIT N 642 143  .223  63  .441  23  .365
Julio Franco       1987 CLE A 560 116  .207  51  .440  23  .451
Davey Lopes        1974 LA  N 613  66  .108  29  .439  10  .345

And the least:

Player             Year Team   PA GPA   Pct  GO   Pct GDP   Pct
Rob Deer           1986 MIL A 546 117  .214   8  .068   4  .500
Howard Johnson     1989 NY  N 655 127  .194  10  .079   4  .400
Jose Valentin      1996 MIL A 628 139  .221  11  .079   4  .364
Mark McGwire       1998 STL N 681 137  .201  11  .080   8  .727
Ellis Burks        1987 BOS A 606  72  .119   6  .083   1  .167
Jonny Gomes        2010 CIN N 571 132  .231  11  .083   4  .364
Chris Young        2011 ARI N 659 114  .173  10  .088   3  .300
Reggie Smith       1978 LA  N 531 100  .188   9  .090   4  .444
Rob Deer           1988 MIL A 556  98  .176   9  .092   4  .444
Rob Deer           1990 MIL A 511  87  .170   8  .092   0  .000

Of course, neither of these last two lists tell us much about the speed of the players, only about their tendencies to strike, ground or fly out. Fast players are often encouraged to make contact and hit the ball on the ground, so the first list contains a somewhat faster group of players than the second.

The seasonal data (in csv format) for all players from 1952 to 2011 with at least 200 plate appearances can be found here.

Comments

6 Responses to “Fun With Retrosheet: Do Only Slow Runners Ground into a Lot of DPs?”
  1. David says:

    What if you limited the study to balls in play? Wouldn’t that give us a better indication of the speed of the runners? If you just use PAs as the denominator, extreme TTO guys like Deer are going to show up. But if you use (PA-BB-HBP-HR-SO) you’ll get a much, much better denominator, if what you’re trying to find is a player’s speed. I would strongly recommend running the study again with this adjustment, as I think the results would be much more instructive.

  2. Tom Ruane says:

    @David – This is already taken care. There are three risk factors at play here: 1) how often do players get up in DP situations (using plate appearances), 2) how often do players hit ground-outs in these situations (which takes care of the TTO guys), and 3) how often do those ground-outs result in DPs (which is the only indicator that really focuses on speed).

  3. rob says:

    Dick McAuliffe did not hit into a DP in 1968. In 1967 he hit into just one, with two men on base and one out in the ninth innning of the last game of the year. He had a chance to win the game for the Tigers which would have forced a playoff game for the AL pennant. This is according to my memory, so don’t bet on it please.
    r

  4. Tom Ruane says:

    @rob – Actually, he hit into two, both in the last five games of the season. His game-by-game batting log for 1967 is at:

    http://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/1967/Imcaud1010081967.htm

    And his second GDP was exactly as you described.

  5. Joe Taxiera says:

    @Tom Ruane – Tom, where are you finding the GO by these batters with a runner on 1st and less than 2 outs? When I look at the splits in baseball-reference.com, I can see the TPA with a runner on 1st and less than 2 outs, but not the groundouts in that circumstance.

  6. Tom Ruane says:

    @Joe Taxiera – Joe, I parsed the event files available from retrosheet. baseball-reference uses the same source files, but perhaps they don’t make the ground-out/fly-out data available.

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!