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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Additional criteria in judging performance: who was the opponent?

What's the most impressive no-hitter in MLB history?  The easy answer is Don Larsen's perfect game against arch rival Brooklyn in pivotal game five of the 1956 World Series.  The aging Dodgers still had a potent lineup with 4.7 runs scored per game in the regular season, second only in the NL to Cincinnati's 5.0.

However, a better way to judge how difficult those Dodgers were to keep off base would be to look at the cumulative on base percentage (OBP) of the batters in the game weighted by the number of plate appearances (PA).  Better yet would be to include reaching base on errors.

Brooklyn led the NL in OBP with .342.  Brooklyn was only fourth in batting average (BA) with .258; St. Louis led in BA with .268. and was third in OBP with .333.

In my previous post about Duke Snider I concluded that Snider was a very well protected left handed home run hitter in a powerful Brooklyn Dodger lineup dominated by right handed batters who intimidated opposing managers into pitching left handed pitchers against the Dodgers only about 10.5 % of the time for seasons 1953-1957 while for MLB overall left handed pitchers worked to 27% of batters.  This was an advantage for Snider who in 1953-1957 hit 95.65% of his homers off righties and had much better AB/HR ratios against righties.  However, it was a disadvantage for his right handed batting teammates, including Robinson, Campanella, Reese, Hodges and Furillo.

Shouldn't that be factored into the stats of those players, diminishing Snider but enhancing the others?  Borderline Hall of Famer Gil Hodges would especially benefit, possibly getting him elected.

This concept should be applied elsewhere.  For instance, win shares (WS) applied to relief specialists, especially closers, seems silly on its face in giving the closer more credit for his performance in the 9th inning than he would receive in the 1st inning.  Compounding that is the fact that none of the performance is weighted by the stats of the batters actually faced as alluded to in the opening of this post.  The closer gets as much credit for facing the bottom of the order as for facing the top of the order, as much credit for facing St. Louis SS Brendan Ryan (OPS+ 57) as for facing his teammate Albert Pujols (OPS+ 173) .  OPS: On Base Plus Slugging, adjusted for year and park.

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