Archive for the ‘Stat of the Week’ Category

Should Mike Piazza be in the Hall of Fame?

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

by John Dewan

It was not surprising that no one was elected this year to the Hall of Fame, but that doesn’t mean it was fair. The biggest snub was Mike Piazza. Piazza played 16 years in the major leagues, mostly for the Dodgers and Mets. In that time there was no question about his offense. Despite playing his entire career in pitchers parks, he was head-and-shoulders the best hitting catcher during that entire time. In fact, it is fair to say that Mike Piazza was the best hitting catcher of ALL time. Here are the all-time Runs Created leaders among catchers:

Player Career Runs Created
Mike Piazza 1,378
Carlton Fisk 1,378 Hall of Fame
Ted Simmons 1,283
Yogi Berra 1,265 Hall of Fame
Joe Torre 1,259
Johnny Bench 1,239 Hall of Fame
Gary Carter 1,184 Hall of Fame
Bill Dickey 1,164 Hall of Fame
Gabby Hartnett 1,161 Hall of Fame
Jason Kendall 1,112

Here are the all-time Runs Created Leaders at each position who are in the Hall or are eligible to be elected:

Pos Player Career Runs Created
C Carlton Fisk 1,378 (Piazza eligible, tied with Fisk 1,378)
1B Lou Gehrig 2,233
2B Rogers Hornsby 2,049
3B George Brett 1,878
SS Honus Wagner 1,890
LF Stan Musial 2,562 (Barry Bonds eligible 2,892)
CF Ty Cobb 2,517
RF Babe Ruth 2,718

These are the best hitters of all time at their positions and all of these men are in the Hall of Fame.

On the first list, six of the top nine leaders in career Runs Created by a catcher are in the Hall of Fame. The three who are not in the Hall—Piazza, Simmons, and Torre—have another thing in common. They do not have good defensive reputations at the position that is arguably the most important defensive position in the game, catcher.

If it was true that Piazza was not a good defensive catcher, I would be OK with him not getting into the Hall on the first ballot. I still think the best hitting catcher of all time should be in the Hall, but having to wait a few years wouldn’t be so bad. But, all the statistical measures suggest otherwise. In fact, they suggest that Piazza was an above-average defensive catcher.

The one thing that Piazza did not do well defensively was throw out basestealers. He allowed a 76.8 percent stolen base percentage in his career. Other catchers who caught the same pitchers as Piazza threw out 64.5 percent. However, nabbing basestealers is only a part of a catcher’s defensive responsibility and only a small part of Piazza’s overall game. It would be like saying that the best hitting second baseman of all time, Rogers Hornsby, shouldn’t be in the Hall because he didn’t steal a lot of bases in his time.

The most important part of a catcher’s job is handling his pitchers and in this area Piazza was superb. Here is one of the most telling statistics. In his career behind the plate, pitchers had a 3.80 ERA when Piazza was catching. If you look at all the other catchers who caught the same pitchers in the same year that Piazza did, they allowed a 4.34 ERA. That’s a major difference, much more important than a few extra bases stolen. (In fact, Piazza’s catcher ERA of 3.81 includes the run value of any extra stolen bases he allowed.)

Craig Wright wrote an excellent article in The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2009 called Piazza, Hall of Fame Catcher. He did a detailed sabermetric study that showed that hitters had a .723 OPS with Piazza behind the plate and a .748 OPS with other catchers. This 25-point differential is highly significant. In further studies that we did in The Fielding Bible—Volume II, we found that Piazza saved at least 20 to 70 runs more than an average catcher defensively, depending on the technique that we used.

I highly recommend checking out the Piazza article by Craig Wright in The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2009. My conclusion is the same as his from that article:

“Mike Piazza was not a defensive liability who made up for it with his bat. The greatest offensive catcher in the history of Major League Baseball was a good defensive catcher as well.”

Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week®, www.statoftheweek.com.

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The Best and Worst Defensive Teams in 2012

Monday, December 24th, 2012

by John Dewan

First and most important of all, many blessings to you and your families in this most joyous of seasons.

Back in May, we took a look at team defense a couple of months into the season. Then, the Blue Jays and Rockies were, respectively, the best and worst defensive teams in baseball at that point. They held those positions through the end of the season. Otherwise, there has been a fair bit of shuffling. Let’s take a look at the ranking of teams defensively for the full 2012 season.

Here are the best defensive teams from last season:

The best defensive teams in 2012

Team

Defensive Runs Saved

Toronto Blue Jays

70

Atlanta Braves

70

Los Angeles Angels

55

Boston Red Sox

50

Cincinnati Reds

38

The five best defensive teams found several different ways to make it on the list. The Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox played excellent infield defense. For the Blue Jays this included 20 Defensive Runs Saved by Brett Lawrie at third base and 14 by Yunel Escobar at shortstop. The Red Sox benefited from 14 runs saved by Mike Aviles at shortstop, 11 by Dustin Pedroia at second base, and 16 by Adrian Gonzalez at first base.

The Braves and the Angels played excellent outfield defense. The Braves saw a combined 55 Defensive Runs Saved from Martin Prado, Michael Bourn, and Jason Heyward—each of them either first or second at their position in baseball—while the Angels saved 32 of their 55 total runs in center field because of Mike Trout and Peter Bourjos.

The Reds had the best defensive pitching staff. Reds pitchers saved the team 23 runs defensively, which was seven runs better than the Diamondbacks, the closest team to them.

In 2012, we changed the way we account for defensive shifts, giving credit to teams rather than individuals. Here are the teams that gained the most from shifts:

Most runs saved by shifts in 2012

Team

Shifts Runs Saved

Toronto Blue Jays

12

Tampa Bay Rays

10

Cleveland Indians

8

Baltimore Orioles

8

Boston Red Sox

7

The defensive shift is more popular in the American League, especially in the East, where four of the top five top teams reside. Some of that is specific to players. The Indians played in a division with Adam Dunn and Prince Fielder, and the Blue Jays, Rays, Orioles, and Red Sox used a lot of defensive shifts against Carlos Pena, David Ortiz, and Mark Teixeira. Those five hitters were the most heavily shifted players in baseball. Still, there are players on every team that should be shifted, and certain teams are taking advantage more than others.

Here are the worst defensive teams from last season:

The worst defensive teams in 2012

Team

Defensive Runs Saved

Colorado Rockies

-87

Houston Astros

-66

Miami Marlins

-47

Cleveland Indians

-43

New York Mets

-42

The Rockies’ defense cost the team 87 runs, the most in baseball by a good margin. They were especially poor on the left side of the infield without a healthy Troy Tulowitzki. A collection of players including Jordan Pacheco, Chris Nelson, and Josh Rutledge combined to cost the Rockies 56 runs at third base and shortstop. Despite their good use of shifts, the Indians were the only American League team in the bottom five.

Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week®, www.statoftheweek.com

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Bill James Handbook 2013 Leaderboards (Part II)

Monday, December 17th, 2012

by John Dewan

Last week in the Stat of the Week we shared a few of the Hitter Leaderboards from The Bill James Handbook 2013. This week, let’s take a look at a few leaderboards for pitchers.

% Pitches In Strike Zone

(minimum 162 IP)

Cliff Lee

Phi

51.9

R.A. Dickey

NYM

49.3

Matt Moore

TB

47.1

Matt Harrison

Tex

46.9

Wandy Rodriguez

Hou-Pit

46.6

Phil Hughes

NYY

46.5

Henderson Alvarez

Tor

46.2

Wei-Yin Chen

Bal

46.1

A.J. Burnett

Pit

46.0

Chris Sale

CWS

45.9

  • Cliff Lee is the only qualifying pitcher in baseball with over half his pitches thrown in the strike zone.
  • It is remarkable to see a knuckleballer second on this list. Given how the break of a knuckleball is so unpredictable, knuckleball pitchers have historically had control problems. But not R.A. Dickey. This is a very good indication of why he is so successful.
  • In three seasons with the Mets, Dickey has not exceeded 2.33 walks per nine innings in a season. In contrast, fellow knuckleballer Tim Wakefield only once walked fewer than 2.72 batters per nine innings in his 19-year career.
  • Seven of the 10 pitchers had an ERA below 4.00.
  • Five of the 10 pitchers were also on the Highest Fastball Percentage Leaderboard.

 

OBP vs. Leadoff Hitter

(minimum 150 BF)

Johnny Cueto

Cin

0.234

Bartolo Colon

Oak

0.236

Homer Bailey

Cin

0.236

Bronson Arroyo

Cin

0.244

Jered Weaver

LAA

0.255

Stephen Strasburg

Was

0.256

Wade Miley

Ari

0.265

Matt Harrison

Tex

0.266

Jake Westbrook

StL

0.267

Kyle Lohse

StL

0.267

  • Three of the top four pitchers are from the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds clearly make it a priority to keep that first batter of the inning off base. Their staff allowed the third fewest total of walks per nine innings in 2012, and they were tied with the Dodgers for the third-lowest ERA in baseball behind the Rays and the Nationals.
  • Isn’t it amazing to see Bartolo Colon second on this list?

 

Pitches 100+ Velocity

Aroldis Chapman

Cin

242

Kelvin Herrera

KC

162

Andrew Cashner

SD

104

Henry Rodriguez

Was

58

Justin Verlander

Det

44

Carter Capps

Sea

43

Nate Jones

CWS

33

Bobby Parnell

NYM

28

Trevor Rosenthal

StL

12

Fernando Rodney

TB

10

  • Aroldis Chapman comfortably led all pitchers in baseball throwing 242 pitches with a velocity of 100 mph or greater, though Kelvin Herrera’s total of 162 blazers was not too shabby. It will be interesting to see how Chapman’s velocity changes as he transitions from reliever to starter.
  • Justin Verlander is the only full-time starter from 2012 to make the list.
  • Everyone on the list had at least 8.00 strikeouts per nine innings.
  • Seven of the 10 pitchers had an ERA below 3.00.

 

Win Shares

Justin Verlander

Det

23

Aroldis Chapman

Cin

21

Johnny Cueto

Cin

20

David Price

TB

19

Fernando Rodney

TB

19

Chris Sale

CWS

19

R.A. Dickey

NYM

19

Clayton Kershaw

LAD

19

Matt Harrison

Tex

18

Cole Hamels

Phi

18

Craig Kimbrel

Atl

18

Kris Medlen

Atl

18

Win Shares is a calculation of the number of wins a player contributed to his team and is adjusted for park, league, and era.

  • Aroldis Chapman led all National League pitchers with 21 Win Shares. It’s impressive to see a reliever as the top pitcher in the NL in this category.
  • Fernando Rodney and Craig Kimbrel are also full-time relievers on this list of pitchers who produced 18 or more Win Shares. Mariano Rivera in 2008 was the only other reliever to exceed 17 Win Shares in the last five seasons.
  • Justin Verlander led all pitchers in 2012 with 23 Win Shares. He topped the 2011 list has well.

 

Cheap Wins

Clay Buchholz

Bos

5

Nick Blackburn

Min

4

Kevin Correia

Pit

4

Wade Miley

Ari

4

Ricky Nolasco

Mia

4

Barry Zito

SF

4

A Cheap Win happens when a starter wins a game where his Game Score was under 50. Game Score measures the quality of a pitcher performance by adding points for outs, strikeouts, and pitching deep into games and by subtracting points for hits, walks, and runs allowed. Basically, a Cheap Win is a win that is not the result of a strong outing.

  • Nick Blackburn finished 4-9 on the season. He did not record a win that wasn’t a Cheap Win.
  • Collectively, these pitchers finished 70-60. If you take away all of their Cheap Wins (and to be fair, their Tough Losses), their records would be a combined 45-54.
  • Wade Miley was the only pitcher on the list with an ERA under 4.00.

 

Tough Losses

Josh Johnson

Mia

7

Jeff Samardzija

ChC

7

Travis Wood

ChC

7

Jake Peavy

CWS

6

Gio Gonzalez

Was

6

Clayton Kershaw

LAD

6

A Tough Loss happens when a starter loses a game where his Game Score was over 50. Game Score measures the quality of a pitcher performance by adding points for outs, strikeouts, and pitching deep into games and by subtracting points for hits, walks, and runs allowed. Basically, a Tough Loss is a loss that is not the result of a poor outing.

  • Six of Gio Gonzalez’s eight total losses were Tough Losses. Six of Clayton Kershaw’s nine total losses were Tough Losses.
  • Collectively, these pitchers finished 69-69. If you take away all of their Tough Losses (and Cheap Wins), their records would be a combined 61-30.

The Marlins and the Cubs scored the second and third-fewest runs in baseball and were responsible for the top three names on the list. The Astros scored the fewest runs, but none of their pitchers were singled out for run support punishment.

Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week®, www.statoftheweek.com.

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Morning News: Cubs Rumors

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Top Stories

  • Apparently the Cubs are interested in some non-tender names. – Looking at the list, I’d be interesting in at least kicking the tires and seeing what the cost is on Jair Jurrjens, John Lannan, and Ian Stewart. You may remember that Jurrjens was a name that was rumored to be coming to Chicago in the deal for Ryan Dempster, so there may be smoke there.
  • Rumors that Cubs are also looking at Brandon McCarthy as well. – We already signed the poor man’s McCarthy in Scott Feldman, so why not sign the rich man’s McCarthy as well, right?
  • Odd story on Cubs.com about how Dale Svuem has spent his winter vacation so far. Apparently he decided to go out and get himself shot.
  • Yesterday was the 10 year anniversary of a great trade in Cubs history. Chris Jaffe of the Hardball Times has the story.

Stat of the Week

by John Dewan

Most of the public discussion of ballpark effects is of the extremes. We know that Coors Field in Colorado sees a lot of home runs because of the altitude and we know that Safeco Field in Seattle and PETCO Park in San Diego see fewer home runs because of their dimensions. The perception of those bookends is correct, but it is not comprehensive. They are not the only parks that have dramatic effects on the run environment.

We measure park factors in indices that compare statistics compiled by both teams in a specific home park and then in all other parks. If a park has an index of 110 in home runs, for example, it allows 10 percent more home runs than average. If a park has an index of 90 in home runs, it allows 10 percent fewer home runs than average. The Bill James Handbook 2013 has a variety of park indices for all 30 teams. Let’s look at a few interesting examples.

Here are the most hitter-friendly ballparks since 2010:

Park

Runs Index

Rockies (Coors Field)

143

Rangers (Rangers Ballpark in Arlington)

122

Red Sox (Fenway Park)

115

White Sox (U.S. Cellular Field)

113

Diamondbacks (Chase Field)

112

Yankees (Yankee Stadium)

110

It is little surprise to see Coors Field on top of the list for runs. Colorado sees 21 percent more runs than the next closest park, which is Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. The rest of the list is less differentiated and features a pair of AL East venues, Fenway Park in Boston and Yankee Stadium in New York, as well as U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago and Chase Field in Arizona.

Here are the parks that have allowed the most home runs since 2010:

Park

Home Runs Index

Rockies (Coors Field)

138

White Sox (U.S. Cellular Field)

138

Reds (Great American Ballpark)

134

Brewers (Miller Park)

129

Yankees (Yankee Stadium)

128

Rangers (Rangers Ballpark in Arlington)

124

Home runs are a large part of the high overall run environment in Colorado, but Coors Field is not the only park to play to that extreme. In fact, U.S. Cellular Field has been its equal in home runs for the past three years, with both parks surrendering 38 percent more home runs than average. A couple of NL Central parks, Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati and Miller Park in Milwaukee, are close behind. Yankee Stadium and Rangers Ballpark in Arlington round out the top-six.

Here are parks that have allowed the fewest foul outs since 2010:

Park

Foul Outs Index

Rockies (Coors Field)

77

Red Sox (Fenway Park)

78

Angels (Angel Stadium of Anaheim)

79

Rangers (Rangers Ballpark in Arlington)

83

Cubs (Wrigley Field)

83

Giants (AT&T Park)

86

Royals (Kauffman Stadium)

86

New to The Bill James Handbook 2013 is the Foul Outs Index, which generally corresponds to those parks that have the least and the most foul ground in which to convert extra outs on foul popups and flyballs. Once again, Coors Field is on top. Home runs and foul outs represent two of the three biggest hitter advantages in Colorado by percentage, with triples being the third. Fenway Park is famous for having stands up against the foul lines, but Angel Stadium of Anaheim is not much roomier. Rangers Ballpark in Arlington and Wrigley Field in Chicago are tied for fourth-friendliest for hitters, and AT&T Park in San Francisco and Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City are tied for sixth-friendliest.

Here are the most pitcher-friendly ballparks since 2010:

Park

Runs Index

Mariners (Safeco Field)

78

Giants (AT&T Park)

80

Rays (Tropicana Field)

83

Angels (Angel Stadium of Anaheim)

84

Padres (PETCO Park)

85

Mets (Citi Field 2012)

87

On the other end of the spectrum, Safeco Field allows the fewest runs in baseball. Seattle, San Francisco, and San Diego were the easy guesses on the list. Tropicana Field and Angels Stadium of Anaheim are lesser known as pitchers parks, and yet both have been more pitcher-friendly than even PETCO Park. The Index for Citi Field includes just the numbers from 2012, after they moved in the fences. Surprisingly, the run environment became more depressed after the changes despite the increase in home runs. From 2009 to 2011, Citi Field had a Runs Index of 91 and a Home Runs Index of 83. In 2012, Citi Field had a Runs Index of 87 but a Home Runs Index of 109. We like to look at three years of data to get a handle on a park’s true tendencies. This drop in the Run Index at Citi Field may be a one-year aberration.

Here are parks that have allowed the fewest home runs since 2010:

Park

Home Runs Index

Giants (AT&T Ballpark)

69

Marlins (Marlins Park)

73

Mariners (Safeco Field)

75

Pirates (PNC Park)

75

Padres (PETCO Park)

77

Angels (Angel Stadium of Anaheim)

80

Athletics (O.co Coliseum)

80

Marlins Park opened in 2012 and fell short of only AT&T Ballpark in home run prevention. The old Sun Life Stadium was much closer to neutral with a Home Run Index of 94 from 2009 to 2011. One wonders how many home runs that could cost Giancarlo Stanton over his career. Safeco Field, PETCO Park, and Angel Stadium of Anaheim make this list, as well. PNC Park in Pittsburgh and O.co Coliseum in Oakland tie for third and sixth, respectively.

Here are parks that have allowed the most foul outs since 2010:

Park

Foul Outs Index

Rays (Tropicana Field)

139

Athletics (O.co Coliseum)

136

Tigers (Comerica Park)

121

Mariners (Safeco Field)

120

White Sox (U.S. Cellular Field)

118

Cardinals (Busch Stadium)

111

Finally, Tropicana Field in Tampa Bay and O.co Coliseum in Oakland are the clear leaders in foul outs allowed. They allow 39 percent and 36 percent more foul outs than average. No other ballpark exceeds the 21 percent of Comerica Park in Detroit. List frequenter Safeco Field is just behind with an index of 120. U.S. Cellular Field is next, and Busch Stadium in St. Louis rounds out the list as the only NL park with a Foul Outs Index greater than 10 percent above average.

These and many other park indices for all parks can be found in The Bill James Handbook 2013.

Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week®, www.statoftheweek.com.

Joe’s iPod Song of the Day

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

by John Dewan

Life is short and we should always be thankful for all that we have. Those of us who work on Stat of the Week are thankful for all of you, our loyal readers. Here are some numbers in the baseball world that we are also thankful for.

42,990 – That is the number of games played in Major League Baseball since the last labor dispute ended in 1995. MLB is enjoying its longest stretch without a work stoppage since the MLBPA formed in 1953.

6,200,000 – That is what perennial backup catcher David Ross will earn with his new two-year contract with the Boston Red Sox. In four seasons with Atlanta, Ross accumulated close to a full season of at-bats and produced well offensively. His .816 OPS is comparable to some of the better hitting catchers including Carlos Santana and Miguel Montero, albeit in a third of the plate appearances. However, it is defensively where Ross stands out. Ross has saved the Braves 11 runs with his defense, buoyed by throwing out 47 of 127 potential basestealers. His 37.0 caught stealing percentage barely trails five-time Fielding Bible Award winner Yadier Molina, who threw out 37.6 percent of runners over the same time period. Hopefully, his new contract is an indication of an increase in playing time. Ross definitely deserves it.

45 – That is the number of years it had been since a batter had won a Triple Crown before Miguel Cabrera managed the feat in 2012. From 1922 to 1967, also 45 years, there were 11 Triple Crown seasons turned in by nine different players: Rogers Hornsby (twice), Chuck Klein, Jimmy Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Joe Medwick, Ted Williams (twice), Mickey Mantle, Frank Robinson, and Carl Yastrzemski. Cabrera is between a couple of his Triple Crown predecessors, Mickey Mantle and Frank Robinson, with 3,177 total bases before age 30, which is eighth-best all-time. With continued health and production, Cabrera is on track to be one of the best hitters in baseball history.

1 – That is where I rank the team that helps bring you Stat of the Week. These articles may have my name on them, but they would not be possible without all of their hard work. Thank you Charles Fiore, Ben Jedlovec, Amanda Modelski and Scott Spratt. You guys are fantastic!

“Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week®, www.statoftheweek.com.”

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