The Greatest Living Ballplayer

I’ve been doing A LOT of reading this offseason and currently, I’m reading Richard Ben Cramer’s bio of Joe DiMaggio. The book reminded me on how, in 1969, he was voted as “The Greatest Living Ballplayer” and how he insisted on being announced as such. I immediately thought this wasn’t true. I don’t think there was any point in DiMaggio’s life where he deserved the title. In fact, you could argue that there was never a time where he was the “Greatest Living Center Fielder”.

So I decided to use Wins Above Replacement to take a chronological look of “The Greatest Living Player” from 1871-2013. WAR isn’t the be-all end-all in evaluating players, but it’s the best we have and it’s a fantastic starting point.

I separated Position Players and Pitchers into two different lists.

First, the position players:

Player WAR Start End Years
Ross Barnes 2.1 1871 1871 1
Davy Force 7.2 1872 1872 1
Ross Barnes 26.4 1873 1880 8
Cap Anson 93.8 1881 1908 28
Honus Wagner 130.6 1909 1922 14
Ty Cobb 151.2 1923 1929 7
Babe Ruth 183.8 1930 8/16/48 17+
Ty Cobb 151.2 8/17/48 7/17/61 13+
Rogers Hornsby 128.2 7/18/61 1/5/63 1+
Stan Musial 128.1 1/6/63 1965 3
Willie Mays 157.9 1966 2005 40
Barry Bonds 162.5 2006 Present 8

Now for the Pitchers….

Player WAR Start End Years
George Zettlein 16.4 1871 1872 2
Al Spalding 59.2 1873 1878 6
Tommy Bond 62.0 1879 1883 5
Jim McCormick 93.2 1884 1898 15
Kid Nichols 108.5 1899 1901 3
Cy Young 168.7 1902 11/4/55 53+
Lefty Grove 103.6 11/5/55 5/22/75 19+
Warren Spahn 100.9 5/23/75 1979 4+
Tom Seaver 121.4 1980 2002 23
Roger Clemens 140.3 2003 Present 11

A couple of notes
- If you want to exclude Bonds and Clemens for PED reasons, then Mays and Seaver would still be the “living leaders”.
- It’s pretty amazing that Cap Anson led all position players for 28 years. That span would be 3rd longest behind Cy Young and Willie Mays.
- Even if you want to credit DiMaggio additional “WAR” for the WAR (WWII), he’d still be well short of the leaders.
- If you credit DiMaggio for time lost to military service, you would also have to do the same for Ted Williams. He missed almost 5 years and finished with 123.2 WAR. He would need to average 7.5 WAR per season to pass Mays, which is actually not that outrageous considering his seasons during that time.
- On Old Timers Day at Yankee Stadium, as DiMaggio was announced as “The Greatest Living Ballplayer”, he wasn’t even the greatest ballplayer on the field at the time (see Mickey Mantle).

Posted in General, Historical, Statistical Analysis | Leave a comment

Pudge and WOWY

I came across this because I’m working on a simulation game with players rated based on their stats. In my attempt to rate each catcher’s throwing arm, I decided to use their caught stealing percentage, but I didn’t want their battery mates to have an affect on the ratings. That is why I decided to use the WOWY method (with or without you) which compares the caught stealing percentages of each battery mate with and without a particular catcher.

After finishing my queries, I like to check some of the All-Time greats to see where they stand. This is when I noticed that Ivan Rodriguez’s WOWY rating wasn’t as amazing as I expected.

Pudge’s peak in throwing out base runners lasted from about 1991 – 2001 where he consistently threw out 20+% more base runners than league average. During that same time, the WOWY method has him 10-15% better than average. That’s still a fantastic rate, but it shows that his overall numbers may be a little deceiving.

The most obvious reason for the disparity would be that his battery mates were better than average, and this seems to be the case with Pudge. Here is the data from ’91-’01:

Year WOWY CS Att CS% Pitchers League
1991 -12.3% 89 176 51% 38% 33%
1992 -5.4% 140 290 48% 43% 33%
1993 -1.2% 130 278 47% 46% 34%
1994 -5.0% 108 241 45% 40% 32%
1995 -11.1% 102 215 47% 36% 31%
1996 -11.0% 127 242 52% 41% 30%
1997 -12.9% 138 253 55% 42% 32%
1998 -13.0% 134 239 56% 43% 32%
1999 -15.0% 104 191 54% 39% 31%
2000 -13.7% 93 165 56% 43% 31%
2001 -10.2% 65 129 50% 40% 31%

Take the 1998 season for example. From ’97-’99 (I use a 3-year average to increase sample size and smooth out seasons), Pudge threw out 134 of 239 runners, 56%. League average was 31.5% during that time. The pitchers he caught most frequently (Rick Helling, John Burkett, Darren Oliver, Bobby Witt, and Aaron Sele) combined for a 43.8% caught stealing rate with catchers other than Pudge. So while Pudge was 25% better than league average, he was just 12% better using the WOWY method.

While the pitchers changed over the course of his peak seasons, the story seemed to stay the same. He caught a bunch of pitchers who had better than average caught stealing percentages.

A couple of notes:
-I count double steals as just 1 steal since the catcher only has the opportunity to catch 1 runner. This is why there may be a slight difference in SB/CS numbers.

-One problem with WOWY in this case is the “WY” (without you) in that the other catchers may also be above or below league average. But this is why I use a 3-year average to increase the sample of battery mates. One could take an extra step and look at the other catchers in the “WY” data to see if/how they skew the numbers.

-This also works for pitchers, and a similar comparison is Chris Carpenter. From ’05-’07, he had a 75% CS%, about 45% better than league average. But his primary catcher was Yadier Molina. Using the WOWY method, Carpenter’s CS% was 28% better than average, rather than 45%.

Posted in General, Historical, Statistical Analysis | 3 Comments

Baseball Gauge Power Rankings

I’ve recently added a Power Rankings chart to the front page. The concept is quite simple but there is a lot that goes into the formula.

First off, I look at 3 different time periods and assign different weights for each.

1. Entire season (50% weight)
2. Last 25 games (33% weight)
3. Last 10 games (16.7% weight)

The “Last 10 games” actually have more impact on the final number than just 1/6th since the last 10 games are included in both the last 25 and entire season.

Four numbers go into each of the 3 time periods….

1. Team’s Winning Percentage
2. Team’s Pythagorean Winning Percentage
3. The average Winning Percentage of their opponents
4. The average Pythagorean Winning Percentage of their opponents

I then simply just find the average of these 4 stats for each of the 3 different time periods.

Let’s say a team goes 8-2 and in their last 10 games, while scoring 45 runs and allowing 45 (Pythagorean win % would be .500). Their opponents over the past 10 games have an average winning percentage of .463 and an average Pythagorean winning percentage of .455. Combining these 4 numbers would give them a .5545 rating over the past 10 games. Even though they won 80% of their games, they didn’t outscore their opponents and their schedule was weak, so their rating is not as high.

Posted in Announcements, Site Additions, Statistical Analysis | 1 Comment

Teammates Sharing Birthdays (Maddux, Justice, Avery)

If you are like me, then you are a child of the 90′s and you rooted for America’s Team, the Atlanta Braves. And you probably know that today, April 14th, is Greg Maddux, David Justice, and Steve Avery’s birthday.

Alright, you don’t need to be a child of the 90′s OR have rooted for the Braves to know this. But my point is that when I was younger, I thought it was very cool that three teammates shared the same birthday, with Maddux and Justice being born in the same year. So for the past 20 or so years, I am reminded of this whenever I see 4/14 on the calendar. This year I decided to see if there are any other groups of teammates sharing the same date of birth and with similar success as the 90′s Braves trio.

It turns out there are only six different foursomes to have played together. Note that the 1924 Cardinals played together again in 1925, and the 1952 Dodgers also played together in 1950.

Year Team Birthday WAR Players
1924 Cardinals 4/27 11.6 Rogers Hornsby (1896), Allen Sothoron (1893), Hy Myers (1889), Johnny Stuart (1901)
1952 Dodgers 12/13 9.4 Carl Erskine (1926), Billy Loes (1929), George Shuba (1924), Joe Landrum (1928)
1995 Rangers 10/4 5.3 Roger Pavlik (1967), Mark McLemore (1964), Dennis Cook (1962), Billy Hatcher (1960)
2007 Indians 8/30 5.3 Robeto Hernandez (1980), Mike Koplove (1976), Luis Rivas (1979), Cliff Lee (1978)
1990 Indians 10/4 2.3 Chris James (1962), Steve Olin (1965), Mark McLemore (1964), Mike Walker (1966)
1982 Pirates 10/24 -1.4 Rafael Belliard (1961), Junior Ortiz (1959), Reggie Walton (1952), Omer Moreno (1952)

Two things jump out at me about this list. First, Roberto Hernandez was known as Fausto Carmona in 2007, and his birth date was 12/7/1983. This means that we didn’t know this team was a foursome until Hernandez’s real date of birth was discovered in January of 2012. Second, October 4th appears twice on the list. Even more incredible, Mark McLemore was a part of both foursomes. Not only was he versatile enough to play multiple positions, he was also able to make this list twice.

Maddux, Justice, and Avery didn’t make the previous list because they were unable to find a fourth player to join the team. Let’s take a look at players born on the same exact day (year included).

Year Team Birthday WAR Players
1969 Yankees 6/28/1941 -0.1 Al Downing, Fred Talbot, Len Boehmer

It turns out there has only been one team in history with three different players born on the same exact day. Since Talbot was traded to the Seattle Pilots in May, I even checked to see if the trio actually played together. Sure enough, they each played in the same game five different times.

As for pairs of teammates on the same team, there are 375 different instances in Baseball history. Instead of listing all of them, I’ll list those with combined WAR over 7.

Year Team Birthday WAR Players
1995 Braves 4/14/1966 13.4 Greg Maddux, David Justice
1997 Yankees 6/15/1972 10.8 Andy Pettitte, Ramiro Mendoza
1977 Dodgers 4/2/1945 10.6 Reggie Smith, Don Sutton
1977 Angels 7/3/1953 8.2 Frank Tanana, John Verhoeven
1959 Cardinals 6/2/1931 8.1 Larry Jackson, Marshall Bridges
1979 Royals 1/17/1952 8.0 Darrell Porter, Pete LaCock
1894 Phillies 2/16/1866 7.8 Billy Hamilton, Jack Scheible
1975 Cardinals 1/13/1950 7.7 Bob Forsch, Mike Tyson
1997 Braves 4/14/1966 7.6 Greg Maddux, Greg Myers
2011 Blue Jays 10/19/1980 7.3 Jose Bautista, Rajai Davis
1996 Brewers 11/24/1967 7.3 Ben McDonald, Cal Eldred

Maddux and Justice were teammates from 1993-1996. In 1997, Justice was traded to the Indians, but that didn’t’ stop Maddux from finding another teammate. Catcher Greg Myers (also born on 4/14/66) would be a teammate of Maddux’s in 1997 and 1999, meaning the Braves were one year away from inclusion on the previous list.

Posted in General, Historical | 2 Comments

All “Mickey” Team

One of my favorite things to do is compile All-Time Teams, as you can probably tell from the site. As Baseball fans in the internet age, we have access to all sorts of data, which allows us to come up with compilation teams based on Organization, League, Era, State, Country, College, High School, etc. To continue with that, I will be periodically coming out with All-Name Teams.

Back in December, my wife gave birth to twins, one boy and one girl. We named our son “Mickey” after Mickey Mantle, my father’s boyhood hero. So naturally, I’ll start off with the All-Mickey Team.

Before searching, I knew of a number of “Mickeys” throughout Baseball history. But I wasn’t sure if there would be enough to assemble an entire roster. Sure enough, there have been 40 since 1871, and 26 with significant big league time.

Catchers (first and middle names)
Mickey Cochrane (Gordon Stanley)
Mickey Tettleton (Mickey Lee)
Mickey Owen (Arnold Malcolm)

Cochrane was named “Mickey” from the derogatory Irish term “Mick”, even though he was of Scottish descent. Interestingly, both Tettleton and Owen’s name were inspired by Cochrane. Tettleton was named after fellow Oklahoman Mickey Mantle, who was named after Cochrane. Mickey Owen was nicknamed “Mickey” when he first reached the Majors because he reminded his teammates of Cochrane.

First Base
Mickey Vernon (James Barton)
Mickey Rocco (Michael Dominick)

First Base is a strength for this team because of Vernon, especially since guys like Mantle and Tettleton also spent time at the position. Vernon gets all the playing time here since Rocco was essentially a WWII replacement player.

Second Base
Mickey Morandini (Michael Robert)
Mickey Witek (Nicholas Joseph)

Not a strength here. I would platoon the two with Morandini facing Righties and Witek vs Lefties. Witek would also be used as a utility infielder since he spent some time at 3B and SS.

Third Base
Mickey Klutts (Gene Ellis)

Easily the weakest position on the team. Klutts was never a full time player, amassing just an 85 OPS+ in 579 career PA’s. Outfielder Mickey Hatcher spent 125 career games at 3B, so he could see some time there. It looks like I’ll have to teach my son to play the “hot corner”, although that would contradict my plan on having him throw with his left hand.

Mickey Doolan (Michael Joseph)
Mickey Haslin (Michael Joseph)

Interestingly, both players have the same given first and middle names. Doolan had a weak bat, but was fantastic with the glove. Defensive Regression Analysis (DRA) has him leading the league in 4 separate seasons. Haslin would join Mickey Witek as more of a utility infielder. Outfielder Mickey Stanley could also spell Doolan, as he was the starting SS in the World Series for the 1968 Tigers.

Mickey Mantle (Mickey Charles)
Mickey Rivers (John Milton)
Mickey Stanley (Mitchell Jack)
Mickey Hatcher (Michael Vaughn)
Mickey Brantley (Michael Charles)

The Outfield is full of Center Fiedlers, which would allow them to cover a lot of ground. I would keep Mantle in Center and put Rivers in Left and Stanley in Right (purely due to arm strength).

The Lineup
1. Mickey Rivers (L / LF)
2. Mickey Cochrane (L / C)
3. Mickey Mantle (B / CF)
4. Mickey Vernon (L / 1B)
5. Mickey Tettleton (B / DH)
6. Mickey Stanley (R / RF)
7. Mickey Morandini (L / 2B)
8. Mickey Klutts (R / 3B)
9. Mickey Doolan (R / SS)

Mickey Welch (Michael Francis)
Mickey Lolich (Michael Stephen)
Mickey McDermott (Maurice Joseph)
Mickey Haefner (Milton Arnold)
Mickey Harris (Maurice Charles)

The rotation is full of southpaws, except for “Smiling Mickey” Welch, who would be the ace of the staff. Lolich is a formidable “number 2″ and the only other pitcher with more than 100 career victories. McDermott, Haefner, and Harris were all roughly league average pitchers, making a decent 3 through 5.

Mickey Scott (Ralph Robert)
Mickey Hughes (Michael J.)
Mickey Callaway (Michael Christopher)
Mickey Mahler (Michael James)
Mickey Storey (Mickey Charles)
Mickey Weston (Michael Lee)

The Bullpen is weak, so they’d have to hope their starters go as deep as possible. Storey, with the same given name as Mantle, is the lone active player on the team. Last year, he took this line drive off his head. He is currently in the Blue Jays organization.

Picking Cochrane as the manager would be an easy decision. In fact, Vernon is the only other manager in history with the name.

Overall, this is a pretty good team. Especially since it was essentially derived from a nickname, having only three players with actual given names of “Mickey”. Mantle, Cochrane, and Welch are the lone Hall of Famers.

Soon, I’ll be releasing more All-Name Teams as well as some other name-themed teams.

Posted in General, Historical, Site Additions | 4 Comments

Piazza catches Chavez stealing

The Mike Piazza book, Long Shot, was released recently. He, along with the help of Lonnie Wheeler, goes through his childhood and career in Baseball while tackling all the issues (bacne, steroids, sexual orientation, etc). Really, he was trying to validate his Hall of Fame credentials and explain his side of all the issues.

But this isn’t a book review. There have been plenty written, and probably much better than I could do. I wanted to bring up one small, mostly forgettable incident during his season with the Padres. In August of 2006, the Padres visited Shea in his first trip back to New York. This is an excerpt from that chapter….

Before the first game, the scoreboard guys played another video of me, to the tune of the Beatles song “In My Life,” which was nice but a little schmaltzy, and the fans did a singsongy “Mike Pee-OTS-a” cheer when I got to the on-deck circle for the first time, which was also nice and not too schmaltzy. Then the Mets swiped four bases on me and beat us, 3–2. The next night, I threw out Endy Chavez trying to steal second in the second inning and he immediately jumped all over the umpire, as though there was no conceivable way the call could be right. His body language said, “What the hell? Are you kidding me?” I’m thinking, come on, I can’t throw anybody out? Get the fuck off the field.

Nothing too important. He’s just defending his throwing arm, which was pretty bad in his final year behind the plate. But since the internet is a wonderful thing, and has released a bunch of old clips, I decided to see if I could find the video. Sure enough, had the exact play…..

The first thing I notice, and you probably do as well, is that Chavez shows very little emotion after being thrown out. Granted, the video cuts away from Endy and there are a few seconds that we don’t see. But there is no way that he can “jump all over the umpire” in that time. He even slaps at his helmet, looking more disappointed in himself than the call.

Like I mentioned earlier, this play (and his account of the play), are of little importance. My problem is that this type of thing happens a lot in these types of autobiographies. For some reason, I continue to be surprised whenever I spot them. In an era of retrosheet, baseball-reference, and the abundance of available data, how could the author/editor/fact checker not spot these before publication? I suppose it’s because a lot of these don’t cause much uproar, even when they are spotted. No one is going to care that Piazza either misremembered or used a little artistic license, except for maybe Endy Chavez himself.

Rob Neyer goes through a number of these stories in his book “Rob Neyer’s Big Book of Baseball Legends”. It opened my eyes to how often stories can be embellished and the ease that they can be verified.

As for Piazza, it’s not surprising, since he seemed to paint a lot of people as an enemy in order to make himself the protagonist. I just think it was unnecessary, because we all know how good he was. If I had a vote, I would have put him in the Hall, and I imagine he’ll get in at some point in the next few years.

Posted in General, Historical, Miscellaneous | 2 Comments

Brooklyn Dodgers, Jackie Robinson and the 1946 Pennant

I’m currently in the middle of reading a handful of Jackie Robinson/Branch Rickey/Brooklyn Dodger themed books. The reason being is that I am pumped to see the movie “42″ next month. After watching this trailer, how could you not get excited?

Recently, one of the books went through Robinson’s 1946 season with the Montreal Royals and how he absolutely dominated the International League where he had a .349/.468/.462 slash line. On top of that, he stole 40 bases, and led the league in runs with 113. But what is most impressive was his 92/27 BB/K ratio. This was all accomplished in just his second year of Professional Baseball (played for KC Monarchs in ’45).

But it was Montreal’s parent club that got me thinking. After 154 games, the ’46 Dodgers finished in a tie with the Cardinals, which led to the first tiebreaker in Modern Baseball. At the time, the National League rules stated that a best of 3 game series would decide the Pennant. But as you can see from the graph, Brooklyn lost in 2 games and would never have more than a 54% chance of winning the series.

1946 NL Tiebreaker

My initial thought was “Could the Dodgers have won Pennant, had they brought up Robinson in 1946″? I decided to dig a little deeper.

The first question is, what position would Jackie play in Brooklyn? In college and in the Negro Leagues, he served mostly as a Shortstop. In Montreal, he was the Royals primary Second Basemen. But Pee Wee Reese and Eddie Stanky had those positions locked down for the Dodgers (both were 5+ win players in ’46).

Third Base was a possibility, where the veteran Cookie Lavagetto was getting most of the playing time down the stretch. “Cookie” had a fine first half slash line of .287/.405/.396 and the Flatbush faithful would have been in an uproar to see him relegated to the bench.

That leaves First Base as the only real possibility, where Jackie would go on to play in 151 games the following season. Down the stretch, Manager Leo Durocher was platooning Howie Schultz (vsL) and Big Ed Stevens (vsR). Neither were established stars, nor did they have a ton of potential be stars.

The problem was that by 1946, Robinson had never played the position. In fact, he didn’t even own a First Basemen’s glove until the following spring. But suppose Branch Rickey had Robinson play the position in Montreal to prepare him for a late-season call-up. Could Jackie have been the difference between the Pennant and a second place finish?

Brooklyn was in first place for the majority of the season, but they were overtaken by St. Louis in August. By September, they were 2.5 games back. With the Cardinals surging, the Dodgers would have very little room for error. In fact, they didn’t error much by going 21-8 in the final month.

In September, Schultz and Stevens combined for a .250/.313/.379 slash line. This is nothing spectacular, especially at First Base. For Robinson in AAA, he would record a .323 Batting Average in September for Montreal in 102 at bats, with just 1 extra base hit. Also, Robinson’s first month in the big leagues the following season would produce a .225/.354/.325 line. September ’46 and April ’47 are different environments for sure, but it shows how he struggled in his first taste of the big leagues.

What I have failed to mention to this point is the biggest factor of all, which is the impact of breaking the color barrier during a pennant race instead of on Opening Day. It would have helped that the Dodgers played 22 of their final 29 games in Brooklyn, where Robinson received less abuse than on the road. But how would his teammates have reacted to his call-up mid-season? For the same players who signed petition refusing to play, would they have done so in a pennant race? We’ll never know for sure, but let’s “assume” he would encounter the same environment that he actually did in the following season.

So could Robinson have made a difference in the 1946 National League Pennant Race? My guess is probably not. There are too many assumptions and unknown variables to ever know for sure. But the 1946 Dodgers were already playing very well down the stretch, and an improvement on a .724 September winning percentage would have required a big difference.

For further reading on Jackie’s 1946 season with the Montreal Royals, has a game log with day-by-day accounts.

Split stats were obtained from Baseball-Reference and Retrosheet

Posted in General, Historical | 3 Comments

Postseason Series Win Probability

I would have liked to add this in October, but I had some things to tweak and I wanted to make sure the 2012 data was included at launch.

Thanks to Retrosheet, every single postseason play, game, and series is included. I’ve also added postseason tiebreakers. Before I get emails about the tiebreakers, I realize they are technically regular season games. I just wanted to include them since they are a “loser goes home/winner advances” format.

What I’ve done is incorporate single game win probability into postseason series, to show how each play impacts the team’s probability of winning the series. I’ve set the Home Field Advantage at .559. 55.9% is simply the Home team’s winning percentage throughout postseason history. The reason I included a home field advantage is to show the importance of having an extra home game during a series.

One of my favorite features is the Top Plays list. I’ve tried to include as many filters as possible to narrow down searches. According to my WPA database, Francisco Cabrera’s game winning single in the 1992 NLCS is the biggest series changing play in postseason history. The Braves chances of winning the series before the play was 27%, jumping to 100% afterwards.

But if you apply the “World Series Probability” filter, Hal Smith’s 3-Run HR in the 1960 World Series is the biggest play in history. This filter shows the team’s change in probability of winning the World Series, not just that particular series. Bill Mazeroski’s homerun an inning later is the only Game 7 walk-off in World Series history, but it was Smith’s homerun that is by far the biggest series changing play.

Some other notes from this database….

–The biggest comeback in postseason history was in the 1986 World Series by the New York Mets. In Game 6, with 2 outs and no runners on, the Red Sox had a 99.3% chance of winning the series.

–The second biggest comeback in history was in the same season’s ALCS. This time the Red Sox came back from the Angels’ 99.1% chance of winning.

–The least eventful series, in terms of average change in win probability per play, was the Giants 4-game sweep in the 1989 World Series. All the “excitement” occurred off the field that year.

–Babe Ruth’s caught stealing to end the ’26 World Series was a 10% swing, which is the largest for a caught stealing in World Series history.

–Dave Roberts stolen base in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS was just the 10th biggest in the 2004 postseason and the 2nd biggest in that season’s ALCS. It only increased the Red Sox chances of winning the series by 1%.

–Derek Lowe recorded the top 2 postseason strikeouts of all-time, both from the 9th inning in the deciding game of the 2003 NLDS. With a 4-3 lead, Lowe struck out Adam Melhuse and Terrance Long, increasing the Red Sox chances by 28% and 26%.

–There have been 46 postseason walk-off homeruns. 9 of those have been series clinching.

–The first postseason walk-off homerun happened in Game 1 of the ’49 World Series (Tommy Henrich).

–Of the 46 walk-off homeruns, the smallest increase in series win probability was Nelson Cruz’s Grand Slam in the 2011 ALCS, just a 2% increase.

–In the “2-2-1 Format” for a 5-Game Series, the home team is just 5 for 15 (.333 Win%) in game 5′s.

Game 6 of the 2011 World Series has 3 of the top 4 plays from all Non-Clinching World Series games. (1)Freese’s 9th Inning triple, (2)Berkman’s 10th Inning single, (4)Hamilton’s 10th Inning Homerun. David Freese’s 11th Inning walk-off is 22nd on the list.

The Steve Bartman Incident Game 6 of 2003 NLCS
Prior to the play, the Cubs had a 96.0% chance of winning the pennant. Had Moises Alou caught the foul ball, their chances would have increased to 97.6%. Instead, Mark Prior walked Luis Castillo, making their chances 93.6%, a 4% difference. Steve Bartman didn’t walk Luis Castillo, nor did he allow the 8 runs in the inning.

Two batters later, Alex Gonzalez committed an error on a possible double play ball. Before the play, the Cubs chances were 89.7%. Had Gonzalez turned the double play, the inning would have ended with a 97.1% chance. But he committed the error, making the Cubs chances 84.7%, a 12.4% difference.

The Game 6 loss isn’t entirely the fault of Alex Gonzalez, but he had a lot more to do with it than Steve Bartman.

Also, I want to apologize about some of the play descriptions. Most of them are fine, but it’s very difficult to write code for rare plays.

Finally, I don’t currently have data for individual player’s cumulative series WPA. Mainly because I’d like to divide the credit amongst all players without just crediting the batter for offensive plays and pitcher for defensive plays. Unfortunately, I do not have a method for that at the time.

Posted in Announcements, General, Historical, Site Additions, Statistical Analysis | 1 Comment

Orioles and Run Differential

I’ve noticed a lot of talk recently about the Orioles and how they continue to outplay their Run Differential. As of today, they have a record of 60-51 with a run differential of -47, and have outplayed their pythagorean record by almost 10 games! I wanted to take a look at why, so I made this graph….

2012 Balitmore Orioles

The red line shows how many games the average MLB team would have with that run difference. The Orioles are just about in line with the MLB average in terms of their losses, EXCEPT for their 1-run losses. While the average team would have 16 1-run losses, the O’s have just 6.

Looking at their victories, they have far more 1 and 2 run wins than average, but are slightly below average in victories of 3 runs or more (except for 6).

It also doesn’t help that they have just one victory of 9 or more runs, while they have lost by that deficit a total of 5 times.

Even with a superb bullpen, is this sustainable?

Posted in General, Statistical Analysis | 3 Comments

Teams and Star Power

Recently, I was looking at a list of the worst teams in history (’99 Spiders, ’62 Mets, ’16 A’s, etc). I agree that these teams were terrible, but they each had stars on their rosters. The Mets had Ashburn and Hodges, the A’s had Lajoie, and even the Spiders had Lave Cross.

So I took a look at each team’s top career WAR earner to see which team had the lowest. I narrowed the search to 1901-2007 and also took out the Federal League. As a side note, I understand that Career WAR is not the only factor in determining a player’s “superstar” level, but this is the term I decided to use.

Here are the Top 10 teams with the lowest career WAR leader.

# Year Team WAR Top Player W-L
1 1902 SLN 15.0 Patsy Donovan 56-78
2 1906 BRO 15.1 Doc Gessler 66-86
3 1972 SDN 15.9 Mike Caldwell 58-95
4 1969 KCA 18.0 Jim Rooker 69-93
5 1962 KC1 19.0 Norm Siebern 72-90
6 1963 KC1 19.0 Norm Siebern 73-89
7 1921 BSN 19.5 Billy Southworth 79-74
8 2001 DET 20.3 Bobby Higginson 66-96
9 1999 DET 20.3 Bobby Higginson 69-92
10 1977 SEA 20.6 Ruppert Jones 64-98

The above list was originally peppered with teams from 2011/12, but I took them out since their players are still active. The lowest current team is the Royals, whose leader is Alex Gordon with 13.6 WAR. I’d bet good money that Hosmer, Moustakas, or even Wil Myers will end up with far more than 13.6.

Since the ’21 Braves are the only team to finish above .500, I decided to take a look only at the teams with more victories than losses…..

# Year Team WAR Top Player W-L
1 1921 BSN 19.5 Billy Southworth 79-74
2 1938 BSN 32.1 Tony Cuccinello 77-75
3 1914 SLN 33.8 Miller Huggins 81-72
4 1962 PHI 35.4 Johnny Callison 81-80
5 1901 DET 35.6 Kid Gleason 74-61
6 2000 ANA 37.1 Tim Salmon 82-80
7 2005 OAK 37.7 Jason Kendall 88-74
8 1971 KCA 39.2 Amos Otis 85-76
9 1950 NY1 39.4 Alvin Dark 86-68
10 1933 BSN 39.8 Wally Berger 83-71

Save for the ’21 Braves, I was quite surprised that no other team has had their top player with less than 30 career WAR. You would think there would be another .500+ team over the course of a century.

The ’05 Athletics may climb off this list before it’s said and done, since they have a few active players with some good years left in them (most notably Dan Haren).

While I’m at it, I’ll take a look at each team’s average career WAR weighted on playing time (plate appearances and innings pitched). This should give us a good overall view a team’s “star power”, not just their top player. I also added each team’s attendance rank in their league.

# Year Team Avg WAR W-L Attendance
1 1954 PHA 2.6 51-103 8 / 8
2 1902 SLN 3.1 56-78 4 / 8
3 1943 PHA 3.4 49-105 6 / 8
4 1972 SDN 3.4 58-95 12 / 12
5 1910 BSN 3.8 53-100 8 / 8
6 1977 SEA 4.4 64-98 8 / 14
7 1973 SDN 4.5 60-102 12 / 12
8 1906 BRO 4.7 66-86 7 / 8
9 1971 SDN 4.8 61-100 12 / 12
10 1948 SLA 4.8 59-94 8 / 8

The ’54 A’s were truly an awful team. They did have Gus Zernial and Vic Power (playing CF), but they also had a bunch of negative career WAR players. Their attendance also reflects their “star power”, finishing dead last in the AL. The 3,957 per game average was just 31% of the league average. To compare that to today, the Indians have the worst attendance at under 20,000, but it is still 65% of the league average.

We’ll give the ’43 Athletics a break because of The Second World War. The talent pool was severely limited.

Just off the list at 13, the 1964 Mets had an average career WAR of 5.3 and still finished second in the league in attendance. With a shiny new stadium, those New Yorkers sure were happy to once again have National League baseball!

Now let’s take a look at the highest average career WAR…..

# Year Team Avg WAR W-L Attendance
1 1933 NYA 45.8 91-59 1 / 8
2 1928 PHA 45.2 98-55 2 / 8
3 1932 NYA 44.8 107-47 1 / 8
4 1918 BOS 43.5 75-51 3 / 8
5 1927 PHA 43.5 91-63 4 / 8
6 1931 NYA 43.4 94-59 1 / 8
7 1904 BOS 42.7 95-59 1 / 8
8 1926 NYA 42.3 91-63 1 / 8
9 2005 NYA 42.1 95-67 1 / 14
10 1902 BOS 41.8 77-60 2 / 8

It doesn’t hurt to have Babe Ruth on your team, seeing as how he played for half the teams on the list. The ’33 Yankees had 9 Hall of Famers, while the ’28 A’s had 7.

The 1927 Athletics finished just 4th in the league in attendance. I guess Ty Cobb, Zack Wheat, Eddie Collins, Al Simmons, Lefty Grove, and Mickey Cochrane weren’t enough to bring the fans to the park. In fact, their attendance dropped over 2k per game from the previous season.

The list is dominated by the Yankees, Red Sox, and Athletics. They actually took the top 19 spots. Other top teams were the mid-1920′s Senators, late 90′s Braves, and late 50′s Braves.

And finally, I’ll take a look at the lowest average career WAR of all the Pennant Winners……

# Year Team Avg WAR W-L Attendance
1 1944 SLA 10.0 89-65 6 / 8
2 1914 BSN 13.9 94-59 1 / 8
3 1990 CIN 15.9 91-71 4 / 12
4 1943 NYA 16.7 98-56 1 / 8
5 1993 PHI 16.7 97-65 4 / 14
6 1917 NY1 16.9 98-56 1 / 8
7 2002 ANA 17.2 99-63 7 / 14
8 1945 DET 17.9 88-65 1 / 8
9 1967 BOS 18.4 92-70 1 / 10
10 1987 SLN 18.5 95-67 1 / 12

As you might imagine, the list was dominated by recent pennant winners, so I removed the teams with active players who have years ahead of them. As before, we’ll give the World War teams a break due to talent pool restrictions.

Some history buffs may have been able to peg the ’14 Braves to top this list. Their roster contained two Hall of Famers (Maranville and Evers), but their star pitchers either had career years in 1914 or flamed out due to injury.

This was a long post, so thanks for your patience.

Posted in General, Historical, Statistical Analysis | 1 Comment