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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

First six seasons: what batter was best?

See the data.  I used OPS+ to rank the batters for seasons 1903-2011.

From 1903 to 2011, from 1st season to 6th season, (requiring onbase_plus_slugging_plus >=150 and At least 3000 plate appearances)

Twenty batters found, most in the Hall of Fame.

I know this old guy who really likes Joe DiMaggio.  He often says that DiMaggio had the best first six seasons of all time.  Actually, DiMaggio is tenth, still pretty good.

Using the first six seasons is obviously arbitrary.  DiMaggio fell off in season seven, which is why his fans exclude it.  Also, other players may have played partial seasons, especially the first.  Mickey Mantle is saddled with his weak rookie season (one month in minors) but still finished sixth.  The Mick would have been higher if this started with his second season, when he led AL in OPS at age 20.  Mantle got OPS+ 165; career 172.  Willie Mays is similarly impacted because of his military service.  And, of course, Babe Ruth did not even make the list because he was busy pitching before setting the season home record in 1919, his sixth season, .

DiMaggio's old nemesis came in first: Ted Williams for seasons 1939-1942, 1946-1947; military service did not slow him down.  Williams was aided by the Red Sox shortening a long stretch of right center field in Fenway Park in Williams second season.

What if we look at the first seven seasons of batter's careers?  Seven seasons fits DiMaggio's career perfectly (1936-1942) before he, too, entered the military 1943-1945.  Why don't DiMaggio's fans suggest that?  Aside from being tech and knowledge phobic, they have no criteria for their claim.  I suggest OPS+.  What do they suggest?  Testimonials from well known non-baseball people.  Maybe batting average.  The data for the first seven seasons produces 29 batters with OPS+ >= 150.

Williams (OPS+ 195) is still number one.  Mantle (OPS+ 173) slides up to number 5.  DiMaggio (OPS+ 159) drops from 10 to 15.

First six seasons: 25 batters since 1903 had BA at least .325 based on 3,000 PA.  See data.  DiMaggio was 8th with .345.

Chuck Klein .359.
Simmons .356
Boggs .354
Waner .353
Williams .352
Sisler .347
Cobb .346

Joe DiMaggio definitely did NOT have the best first six seasons of all time.

OPS+ >= 150, batters >= 37: were they all on steroids?

Bad news for Jim Bunning and all farts, young and old, who pathologically become hysterical about steroid use among MLB batters (not pitchers) in recent seasons.  Barry Bonds is not the only batter in MLB history with high OPS+ in his late 30s.

See the data.

I found 23 seasons for 15 batters.  On the list three times: Ruth, Williams, Bonds.  Twice: Mays and Edgar Martinez.

These old batters led the league in OPS+ (and other stuff):

Bonds (37) 268 BA, OBP, SLG, OPS
Bonds (39) 263 BA, OBP, SLG, OPS
Williams (38) 233 BA, OBP, SLG, OPS
Bonds (38) 231 OBP, SLG, OPS
Aaron (37) 194 SLG, OPS
Bob Johnson (38) 174 OBP, OPS
Cobb (38) 171 OPS
Cy Williams (38) 155 SLG, OPS

Part of why Bonds is so prominent is that opposing managers become really really nervous about being criticized for pitching to him so they walked Bonds an absurd number of times, bloating his OBP and OPS.

In 1997 Tony Gwynn, whose body type never caused suspicion, led NL in hits (220) and BA (.372) at age 37 (OPS+ 156).  Others who led in BA: Honus Wagner (and OPS) OPS+ 156; George Brett (and doubles) OPS+ 153; both were 37.

The oldest guy on this list is Willie Mays, 40: led NL in BB and OBP (OPS+ 158).

Ted Williams led in BA, OBP, OPS at 39 (OPS+ 179).

Most HR:
Aaron (37) 47
Bonds (37) 46
Bonds (39) 45
Bonds (38) 45
Galarraga (37) 44
Ruth (37) 41

Highest BA:
Speaker (37) .389
Williams (38) .388
Cobb (38) .378

As mentioned in previous posts, Aaron had personal bests at advanced baseball ages:
HR 47 (37)
OBP .410 (37)
SLG .669 (37) led NL
OPS 1.079 (37) led NL
OPS+ 194 (37)  led NL

At age 40 in 1973 Aaron hit 40 HR in 392 AB.  That's aging gracefully.  See this post:


Those 1973 Atlanta Braves: was there something in the water?

100 RBI with fewer than 500 AB

>= 100 RBI, < 500 AB: 140 occurances since 1903

Also led league in RBI:
Honus Wagner 495 100 1909
Babe Ruth 432 114 1919
Babe Ruth 458 137 1920
Babe Ruth 495 146 1926
Roger Maris 499 112 1960
Jim Gentile 486 141 1961
Willie McCovey 491 126 1969
Darren Daulton 485 109 1992
Jeff Bagwell 400 116 1994
Kirby Puckett 439 112 1994

Three occurances under 400 AB:
Barry Bonds 373 101 2004
Rudy York 375 103 1937
Frank Thomas 399 101 1994

Fewer than 10 homers:
Honus Wagner 495 100 1909 - 5 homers
Pie Traynor 497 119 1930 - 9 homers

Median number of homers: 32.  Max: 73.  Four >= 50 homers.

BA high low (median .306):
Ted Williams 456 120 1941 - .406
Carlos Pena 471 100 2009 - .227

Slugging average high low (median .576):
Barry Bonds 476 137 2001 - .863
Sal Bando 498 103 1974 - .426

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Mays v. Aaron OPS on road against the other teams 1954-1968 v. OPS+

See supporting data.

The 15 seasons 1954-1968 cover both players peaks.  In 1969 Mays started to decline, probably because he was three years older, although Aaron inexplicably perked up at age 37 in 1971, three years later.  Curious.  Or suspicious.

Aaron 4,399
Mays 4,400

OPS+ 157 (career 155), OPS on road against the other teams .97054387704517.

OPS+ 163 (career 155), OPS on road against the other teams .97908857970998

OPS+ home and road against all teams 1954-1968: Mays 3.77% higher

OPS on road against the other teams: Mays .88% higher

If my method is accurate, Mays and Aaron may have been closer than OPS+ would suggest.  See previous posts on this with Ted Williams v. Joe DiMaggio ten seasons (1939-1942, 1946-1951) and Ted Williams v.Mickey  Mantle seven seasons (1954-1960).

With my method:

Williams 6.39% higher than DiMaggio
Williams 11.16% higher than Mantle

Eliminate the catcher, outlaw the collisions or properly equip the fielders.

A few days ago Giant catcher Buster Posey was seriously injured when a runner smashed into him standing near home plate.  I thought it was revolting, the kind of thing that is becoming unacceptable in the NFL.

MLB fans and pundits produced the usual expected drivel about this being baseball, blah, blah, blah.  Also, revolting.  Even Posey's manager, Bruce Bochy, a former part time catcher for nine seasons, affirmed this with a wimpy suggestion that maybe MLB should look at it.  Look at it?  How about eliminating the barbarism?


Everyone should wear catcher's gear.

OK, the outfielders probably don't need it, especially if MLB implements my suggestions about padding the walls. However, the infielders, certainly the pitchers need this protection. I can remember when Eddie Giacomin tended goal for the New York Rangers hockey team with nothing on his head. Even the NHL (National Hockey League) woke up. Today all players wear helmets and face masks. Infielders are taught to get in front of ground balls to block them in case of a bad hop. Bad hops happen often. Have you seen the rockets that batters blast at these unprotected players? Catcher's gear is exactly what they need. Yes, including the face mask. If they do not start wearing this gear, pitchers will need the screen that is used in front of the pitcher during batting practice.


Catcher: position of ignorance.

Cather's gear is called the tools of ignorance. That's putting it mildly. Baseball catcher is easily the stupidest position among the three American team sports. Only football center comes close. Catcher could be eliminated if MLB had any imagination.


Fool Proof Strike Zone

It's back to basics. Years ago a kid on a farm would practice pitching by throwing at a tire hung on the side of a barn. In cities improvised baseball games like stick ball had strike zones drawn on the wall behind the batter. No catcher needed as the ball would bounce back to the pitcher if not hit. Everyone facing the batter could see if the pitch was in the strike zone. These concepts can be applied to MLB. Move the plate umpire behind the pitcher. Place something behind the plate that would be a target for the pitcher. Ideas: - barrel - whole in a netting - whatever works...

The catcher could be deployed elsewhere. The umpire could hand the pitcher a new ball. Ball boys/girls could keep the batting area free of loose balls. The metaphor for a catcher is backstop. A backstop is a wall. Who wants to play wall? It's easily the most ridiculous position in team sports. Most baseball players want no part of catching. Put that player in fair territory where he can do some good. How about next to the pitcher where he could field balls hit up the middle and still be close enough to cover home plate? I have already advocated that base runners may not take a lead until the ball is hit.

MLB rules:

OBSTRUCTION is the act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball, impedes the progress of any runner.

Rule 2.00 (Obstruction) Comment: If a fielder is about to receive a thrown ball and if the ball is in flight directly toward and near enough to the fielder so he must occupy his position to receive the ball he may be considered “in the act of fielding a ball.” It is entirely up to the judgment of the umpire as to whether a fielder is in the act of fielding a ball. After a fielder has made an attempt to field a ball and missed, he can no longer be in the “act of fielding” the ball.

It appears that any fielder may block any base.  If that is the case, then MLB managers are dumb for not having their infielders wear catchers equipment and block all bases.  In other words, if MLB managers had more imagination, there could be even more collisions.

If MLB won't do any of my other suggestions, then at least outlaw the particular barbarism that caused the injury to Buster Posey.

And put a damn screen in front of the pitcher before one gets killed with those blasts up the middle.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Ted Williams victimized Yankees to hit .406 in 1941.

In 1941 Ted Williams went 185 for 456: batting average (BA) .405701754386.

His highest BA was against the Yankees: 32 for 68: (BA) .470588235294.

If the Yankees had held Williams to three fewer hits: 29 for 68 (BA) .426470588235, it would have been slightly higher than Williams against the St. Louis Browns: .426229508197 and second only to Williams against the Philadelphia Athletics .444.

Without those three hits Williams would have been 182 for 456: BA .399122807018.

Williams v. DiMaggio/Mantle: on road against the other teams v. OPS+

My recent posts about comparing Ted Williams against two Yankees, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle, used an alternative to OPS+.  I compared their batting on the road excluding their numbers against each other's teams.  Let's call my method "my road OPS".  Here is a summary of percents higher.  Click this to see the detailed data.

Williams v. DiMaggio 1939-1942, 1946-1951:

1939 DiMaggio OPS+ 15%, my road OPS 18.8%
1940 DiMaggio OPS+ 7.45%, Williams my road OPS 9%
1941 Williams 27.17% 8.47%
1942 Williams 46.94% 20.25%
1946 Williams 51.41% 17.46%
1947 Williams 33.12% 32.49%
1948 Williams 15.95% 9.13%
1949 Williams 7.30% 3.83%
1950 Williams OPS+ 10.60%, DiMaggio 12.26%
1951 Williams  42.61% 8.04%

Williams wins 16 of 20.

Total for 1939-1942, 1946-1951:
Williams  OPS+ 8.09%, "my road OPS" 6.39%

Not surprisingly,  DiMaggio does better with "my road OPS"  than using OPS+ but Williams still beats him in both.

Total plate appearances (PA) for "my road OPS":
Williams 2,759
DiMaggio 2,435

Williams OPS+ for those seasons was 190.8; for his career 190.  DiMaggio's OPS+ is 176.5; for his career 155.  The number of PA is a pretty good sample size.

"my road OPS":
Williams 1.08597357535022
DiMaggio 1.02070026785414

Williams v. Mantle 1954-1960:

1954 Williams OPS+ 27.22%, my road OPS 18.28%
1955 Williams OPS+ 15.56%, my road OPS 24.84%
1956 Mantle OPS+ 22.81%, Williams my road OPS 0.48%
1957 Williams 5.43%, 14.18%
1958 Mantle OPS+ 5.03%, Williams my road OPS 2.96%
1959 Mantle 32.46%, 4.59%
1960 Williams 15.85%, 4.23%

Mantle is more competitive than DiMaggio but Williams still wins 9 of 14.

Total for 1954-1960:
Williams OPS+ 6.54%, my road OPS 11.16%

Mantle does worse with "my road OPS" than DiMaggio, which makes sense given DiMaggio's disadvantage as a right handed slugger in Yankee Stadium.

Total plate appearances (PA) for "my road OPS":
Mantle 1,964
Williams 1,385

Williams OPS+ for those seasons was 188.9; for his career 190.  Mantle 's OPS+ is 177.3; for his career 172.  The number of PA is a pretty good sample size.

"my road OPS":
Williams 1.0086860445351
Mantle 0.9074127620888

With my road OPS Williams is 11.16% better than Mantle and 6.39% better than DiMaggio.  Wow!

Williams beats Mantle on the road against the six other teams, too! Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Williams beats Mantle on the road against the six other teams, too!

Ted Williams beat Joe DiMaggio in my new comparison: on the road against the six other teams.  See my two previous posts.

I then decided to try the same technique with Williams against Mickey Mantle: 1954-1960.  I knew that Williams had very good seasons late in his career but I figured that Mantle was in his prime and, though it might not be fair to Williams, it might be interesting.  See the Mantle tab in the data.

Williams beat Mantle as he had beaten DiMaggio.

BA .321 .295
OBP .453 .423
SLG .556 .484
OPS 1.009 .907

Williams even beat Mantle in 1956, Mickey's triple crown season in "my road OPS": 1.135 1.129, although Mantle had a bid edge in 1956 over Williams in regular OPS+: 210 to 171.

Williams v. DiMaggio/Mantle: on road against the other teams v. OPS+ Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Williams v. DiMaggio on the road against the six other teams, Part 2.

See previous post:
Williams v. DiMaggio on the road against the six other teams. Sunday, May 22, 2011

Also, see the support data.

In my devilishly clever comparison, I isolated batting stats, eliminating the need for ball park factor.  Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio are compared season by season by their road numbers in the six other American League parks.  On Base Plus Slugging (OPS) is sufficient.  No need for OPS+, which takes into account park and season.

For the ten seasons (1939-1942, 1946-1951) Williams kicks DiMaggio's ass:

OBP .469 .416
SLG .617 .605
OPS 1.086 1.021

However, as mentioned in the previous post for the 1941 season, DiMaggio beats Williams in batting average (BA): .335 .333.  Odd.

It was a good exercise.  I never really trusted OPS+ to properly differentiate these two.  Now I know based on hard understandable numbers.

Williams v. DiMaggio on the road against the six other teams.

I just started comparing Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio year by year from 1939 through 1951.  The main thing I want to look at is their numbers on the road against the six other teams.  The data is from baseball-reference.com.  It's just a bit tedious to extract it and figure the results in a spreadsheet.

Basically, I'm taking their road data and subtracting their data against each other's team on the road.  That leaves road stats against the other six teams.  For instance for DiMaggio, it's his road data minus his data in Fenway Park.  For Williams, it's his road data minus his data in Yankees Stadium.

This seemed like the most objective way to compare their batting: against the same teams in the same parks.  I thought DiMaggio would generally have an advantage batting against Boston because I thought that Yankee pitching would usually be better than Boston's since the Yankees won more often.  So I eliminated how they batted against each other's pitching and I eliminated their home parks where Williams would have an advantage.

I just learned some startling things about their famous 1941 seasons.

Williams highest batting average (BA) was against the Yankees: .471 (.485 in Yankee Stadium, .457 in Fenway Park).  Without his success against the Yankees, Williams might not have batted .406.

DiMaggio had his lowest BA against Boston: .268 (.364 in Fenway Park, .184 in Yankee Stadium).

As a result, in 1941 against the other six teams on the road their BA were: DiMaggio .370, Williams .361.

Williams still led in in 1941 in:

OBP .510 .456
SLG .722 .681
OPS 1.233 1.1366

I happened to notice that in 1939 when DiMaggio batted .381, DiMaggio had only one at bat in May and batted only .303 in September.  His next lowest month was July: .398.  DiMaggio entered September at .405.  On September 3 DiMaggio was batting .410 and .401 as late as September 10.

In 1941 when Williams batted .406, Williams entered September at .407 and batted .397 in September. Williams peaked at .413 September 10 and dropped to a shade under .400 September 27.  July 24 was the latest date Williams BA with rounding was below .400: .397.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Non-uniform playing area: Fenway Park in the 1960 and 1962 BA races.

Pete Runnels played MLB 1951-1964.  His batting average (BA):

Washington .274 seven seasons
Boston .320 (led AL twice in five seasons)
Houston .246 two seasons
career .291

Suspicious, right?  Let's look at his home/road splits with Boston when he played his home games in Fenway Park:

1958: .365/.279 .322 second to teammate Ted Williams (.328)
1959: .335/.294 .314 third behind Tigers Kuenn (.353) and Kaline (.327)
1960: .338/.300 led AL with .320
1961: .326/.306 .317
1962: .332/.319 led AL with .326

In 1960 Runnels beat Al Smith of Chicago .320 to .315.  Smith's 1960 splits were: .321/.308.

In 1962 Runnels beat Mickey Mantle .326 to .321.  Mantle's 1962 splits were: .327/.316.

The differences home over road:
1960: Runnels 38, Smith 13
1962: Runnels 13, Mantle 11.

I had expected to find that Runnels had led in BA those two seasons because he played his home games in Fenway Park but his advantage, while significant, does not seem to be as aberrant as I had thought and his beating of Mantle was not impacted much.

However, Runnels beat Mantle, in part, by not playing his team's final games in 1962.  Yankee manager Ralph Houk tried to help Mantle lead the AL in BA by batting him first instead of fourth in the Yankee's final four games.  This may have been done both to help Mantle get enough plate appearances (PA) to qualify (Mantle had missed a month due to injury) and also to give him more opportunities to raise his BA.  Mantle finished with 502 PA, exactly enough.

In 1962 Boston played 160 games, two short of the maximum 162.  The final four games were played in Boston, so the Red Sox had control over whether those games were played if weather became an issue.

157 Tuesday, Sep 25 against Chicago
158 Wednesday, Sep 26 against Chicago - Runnels final game of season
159 Sunday, Sep 30 against Washington
160 Sunday, Sep 30 against Washington

It appears a game was not played against Washington on Saturday.  Boston played one fewer games against both Washington (in Washington) and Detroit in 1962.

Through Boston game 156 Runnels BA was .328.  Runnels did not play in game 157 when Boston faced tough lefty Juan Pizarro; Runnels was a lefty batter and was 1 for 6 (.167) against Pizarro in 1962.  Runnels went 0 for 4 in game 158 dropping his BA to .326.  Runnels did not play again in 1962.  See Runnels game log.

See Mantle's game log.

On Sept. 25 Mantle went 4 for 4 raising his BA from .312 to .320.  Runnels .328.

Sept. 26 Mantle went 2 for 4: .322.  Runnels .326.

With Mantle closing in, Runnels sat on his lead.  It worked.  By the time Boston played that season ending doubleheader on Sept. 30 Mantle had dropped to .318.  Still, Runnels sat.  Mantle finished 2 for 3 including his 30th home run, raising his BA to .321.  Runnels played it safe and led the AL in BA for the second time in three years.  Mantle won his third AL MVP award and the World Series.

MLB, Inc. is not baseball.

When referring to professional football or basketball media types use the terms National Football League (NFL) or the National Basketball Association (NBA).  But for baseball, they never use Major League Baseball (MLB).  MLB has become synonymous with the game itself, despite it being aberrant.  Baseball is a game of hitting, fielding and base running, not the pitching dominant bore that MLB has devolved into.

The essence of baseball is best represented by slow pitch softball, which I am guessing is played by far more Americans than hardball.  This is similar to most regular people playing touch football and half court basketball.

MLB, Inc. is a business that represents franchise owners and its corresponding players association.  MLB is NOT baseball.  Media people should finally realize that and act accordingly.  That is why I use the term MLB in my posts here when I am referring to the professional organization it represents.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Length of games.

I stumbled onto the game log for the 1961 Yankees in baseball-reference.com.  The column with games times, i.e., the length of the games can be sorted.  I compared the list with that for the 2010 Yankees.

Number of games at least this long (see graph):

hours  1961 2010
1-1:59 5 1
2-2:59 140 64
3-3:59 17 88
4-:459 1 8
5-5:59 0 1

86% of Yankee games in 1961 were 2-2:59.  In 2010 that was 39.5%.

54% of Yankee games in 2010 were 3-3:59.  In 1961 that was 10.4%.

And there are more strike outs (SO) and bases on ball (BB) now:

2010 Yankee batters: 1,136 SO, 662 BB.

1961 Yankee batters: 785 SO, 543 BB.


Re-alignment would make more money for MLB.

It's ironic that it's very likely that the re-alignment plan that I described in my last two posts would increase revenue for MLB.  Here's how:

1. reduced travel expense;
2. increased TV revenue: playing most games no more than one time zone away from home; this could have a huge impact on TV advertising: east coast fans won't have their teams playing on the west coast with the games ending at 1AM;
3. increased attendance.

So why does MLB continue to jerk around with it's sloppy and inefficient structure?  This weekend is a big one of inter-league play: Yankees-Mets, Reds-Indians, Nationals-Orioles, etc.  You'd think the interest in these games would inspire MLB to consider nurturing the natural rivalries that exist because of geographic proximity.  Too many of them are limited because the teams are not in the same league.

MLB is not even good at increasing its profits.  It does so many stupid things that are obviously driven by money but shows no imagination in creating new ways to improve the game and also make MORE MONEY.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


The previous post indicated that Major League Baseball (MLB) intends to increase the number of teams that qualify for the playoffs from 8 to 10.  That's a 25% increase but still only 33% of all teams qualifying, which would be less than the National Football League (NFL) or the National Basketball Association (NBA).

This is a rare opportunity for MLB to do what it failed to do in 1994 when the number of playoff teams was doubled from four to eight and the number of divisions was increased from four to six: re-align.  At the time I had hoped that the cancellation of the 1994 playoffs because of the labor strife, which aborted the regular season, would give MLB pause but it plunged ahead with the new playoffs in 1995 and the re-alignment mess that currently exists.

My original 2006 Radical Baseball document, which is now the first post on this blog, dealt with this subject by trying to revert back to the original American and National Leagues circa 1960, i.e., before modern expansion, to the extent that could be accomplished after the wave of team re-locations that occurred between 1953 and 1958:

1953: Braves from Boston to Milwaukee
1954: Browns from St. Louis to Baltimore and changing into the modern Orioles
1955: As from Philadelphia to Kansas City
1958: Dodgers from Brooklyn to Los Angeles
1958: Giants from New York to San Francisco.

I also tried to re-create the old Pacific Coast League to some extent, at least in name.

I now think the key is to eliminate the names American and National.  This would remove the stigma from re-alignment and help to mollify the old fart inclination of the constipated traditionalist thinking ... maybe.  Anyway, it's a good idea.

There should be four divisions.  Since there are 30 MLB teams, each of these divisions would have 7 or 8 teams.  It's very important to reduce the number of divisions and increase the number of teams in each division from 4-5 to 7-8, making them meaningful again as they were from 1969 through 1993 when the old American and National Leagues split into east and west divisions because expansion had increased the number of teams in each league to 12.

The important criteria should be geographic and natural rivalries.  Geographic proximity has these important elements:
1. reducing the expense and danger of travel
2. playing most games no more than one time zone away from home; this could have a huge impact on TV advertising: east coast fans won't have their teams playing on the west coast with the games ending at 1AM.

1. Seattle Mariners (Washington)
2. Oakland As (California)
3. San Fransisco Giants (California)
4. Los Angeles Dodgers (California)
5. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (California)
6. San Diego Padres (California)
7. Arizona Diamondbacks
8. Colorado Rockies

1. Milwaukee Brewers (Wisconsin)
2. Chicago White Sox (Illinois)
3. Chicago Cubs (Illinois)
4. Cincinnati Reds (Ohio)
5. Cleveland Indians (Ohio)
6. Minnesota Twins
7. Pittsburgh Pirates (Pennsylvania)
8. Detroit Tigers (Michigan)

1. Texas Rangers
2. Houston Astros (change the name back to Colt45s, already) (Texas)
3. Florida Marlins (Florida)
4. Tampa Bay Rays (Florida)
5. Atlanta Braves (Georgia)
6. Kansas City Royals (Missouri)
7. St. Louis Cardinals (Missouri)

1. New York Yankees
2. New York Mets
3. Boston Red Sox (Massachusetts)
4. Philadelphia Phillies (Pennsylvania)
5. Toronto Blue Jays (Canada)
6. Washington Nationals (District of Columbia)
7. Baltimore Orioles (Maryland)

The West seems the most natural.

The two city pairings, New York and Chicago, must be kept together and, of course, the five California teams.  Washington and Baltimore should be together.  Boston must be with the Yankees.  The only traditional rivalry that is broken is Cubs-Cardinals but I don't see how that can be avoided, given the imperatives.  State pairings are preserved for Missouri, Ohio, Texas and Florida, all but the two Pennsylvania teams but I think they each fit best where I placed them.

You can move a marginal team here or there, but I think this is a structure that would be embraced, if it ever saw the light of day, i.e., mainstream old fart MLB media: Bob Costas, Tim Kurkjian, ... the guys who do not know how to use computers.  They are probably overwhelmed trying to fit those extra playoff teams into the stupid wildcard structure of the 4-5 team divisions that has corrupted MLB since that playoff system was first implemented in 1995.

My re-alignment plan is the answer to a question that, unfortunately, is not even being asked by MLB fans, media or MLB, Inc.  Too bad.  It's the right question and the right answer.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

With more teams in MLB playoff, it's time to re-align.

MLB commissioner Bud Selig has been running his mouth about what a rocket scientist he is because he doubled the number of playoff teams in 1994,  Unfortunately, he also created those stupid 4 and 5 team divisions and a schedule in which teams play most of their games against non-division teams and also play different teams from the other conference or league as the American and National conferences were traditionally known before they melted into one league: Major League Baseball.

Now Selig is indicating that two more teams in each conference will qualify for the playoffs.  I have no doubt that Selig intends to mess up this too.  However, MLB has an opportunity to re-organize itself into a much improved form as it increases its playoff teams to ten of thirty.

Re-align into four 7-8 team divisions.  Put two in each conference.  Go to geographic groupings while maintaining traditional rivalries and creating new ones.

Put the Yankees and Mets in the same division.  And the Cubs and White Sox.  I could spell this out in more detail but the big issue is to create these new divisions and play at least 132 games (6*22) in division.  The new playoff system would naturally stem from this and it would be much more understandable and fair: the four division winners would be the top teams to qualify and have home field advantage plus, six wildcard teams


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

DiMaggio's hitting streak: part 2

See previous post and supporting data:

DiMaggio's hitting streak.  Tuesday, May 3, 2011

As I understand the simulations mentioned in the previous post, DiMaggio was far from the most likely batter to set the record for a hitting streak: getting at least one hit in consecutive games.  Ty Cobb was most likely.  No kidding.  Who wouldn't suspect that?  Ichiro Suzuki was the most likely to have a long hitting streak in the last decade: lots of AB and hits, few walks, speed, many ground balls, lefty batter.   Ichiro, didn't do it.  Jimmy RollinsLuis Castillo and Chase Utley did.  Go figure.

Why DiMaggio?  Joe hit the ball hard, often (only 13 strike outs in 1941) and he seldom walked, although in 1941 he walked 76 times, second only to his 80 in 1950.  Joe's next fewest number of strike outs were 20 in 1939 when he had his highest BA: .381, tops in AL.

Here are the longest MLB streaks:

1. Joe DiMaggio 56 1941
2. Willie Keeler 45 1896-1897
3. Pete Rose 44 1978
4. Bill Dahlen 42 1894
5. George Sisler 41 1922
6. Ty Cobb 40 1911
7. Paul Molitor 39 1987
8. Jimmy Rollins 38 2005-2006
9. Tommy Holmes 37 1945
10. Gene DeMontreville 36 1896-1897
11. Fred Clark 35 1895
11. Ty Cobb 35 1917
11. George Sisler 35 1924-1925
11. Luis Castillo 35 2002
11. Chase Utley 35 2006
16. George McQuinn 34 1938
16. Dom DiMaggio 34 1949
16. Benito Santiago 34 1987

However, even though Cobb and George Sisler are the only two batters to have two MLB streaks of at least 30 games, it was Joe DiMaggio who set the record here on planet earth.

Joe DiMaggio 1936 at-bat while Hank Erickson is catching
by (National Chicle) (National Chicle) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I'm a numbers guy.  I'm not smart enough to do regression analysis but I'm pretty good with arithmetic and I understand and appreciate the type of study that attempts to deal with such an unusual record.  However, sometimes the people who do them lose their common sense.  It makes me wonder if they have ever played baseball or only watched.

They deny that protection in the batting order exists using the same type of method: running 10,000 simulations, including all batters in the order when simple common sense dictates that protection only applies to the 3 and 4 batters, maybe to 5 as when rocket scientist Jim Leyland batted Barry Bonds fifth in Pittsburgh in 1990, 1991, 1992 (28%), 1993.  Who thinks 5 protects 4?  Maybe but not that much.  After 5 batters become increasingly less efficient, especially against the opposing starting pitcher that day.

They deny that clutch and choke exist.  Here on planet earth it's pretty obvious, especially in individual sports like golf and tennis whose former athlete TV analysts like Johnny Miller and John McEnroe can hardly conceal their contempt when a player is CHOKING!  In 1978 Red Sox first baseman George Scott famously stated that choke is not his vocabulary as the Red Sox blew a 14 game lead to the Yankees.  CHOKE!  Everybody chokes.  The merit is in not letting it get the better of you and conquering it more times than not.  Same with clutch: overcome adversity more often than succumbing.

If there is nothing heroic in sports, why watch?  Just to see which random event occurs that day?  Just watch for car crashes outside your window or if you can't wait, watch NASCAR.  How pathetic.  Just do it the old fashion way: retreat to Strat-O-Matic and roll dice in your room all day.

In real life it's Joltin' Joe DiMaggio who holds the record.  Give the man credit for doing something that by your own reckoning he was not likely to do.

Now some analysis.

Among the top 18 streaks listed above we can toss out those in the Bronze Age, i.e., before 1903 when AL joined NL and made foul balls strikes, a rule I think should be eliminated.  That leaves:

1. Joe DiMaggio 56 1941

3. Pete Rose 44 1978

5. George Sisler 41 1922
6. Ty Cobb 40 1911
7. Paul Molitor 39 1987
8. Jimmy Rollins 38 2005-2006
9. Tommy Holmes 37 1945

11. Ty Cobb 35 1917
11. George Sisler 35 1924-1925
11. Luis Castillo 35 2002
11. Chase Utley 35 2006
16. George McQuinn 34 1938
16. Dom DiMaggio 34 1949
16. Benito Santiago 34 1987

I would also ignore Tommy Holmes because it was during World War II and many players were in the military.

As mentioned in the previous post, note Joe's younger brother Dom, tied for number 16.  Maybe there's something in their upbringing.  NoteAugust 9 - Dom DiMaggio's 34-game hitting streak is on the line against Vic Raschi and the New York Yankees. Hitless in his first four at bats, Dom hits a sinking line drive in the eighth inning that his brother Joe catches at his shoetops. The Boston Red Sox win 6–3 to move 5½ games behind the Yankees. Dom had started his streak after going hitless against Raschi.

Dom DiMaggio's 34 game hitting streak went from June 29 through August 7 1949.  Dom pinch ran but did not bat in Cleveland July 18.  Dom was hitless in one game following his streak and then hit in each of the next nine games.  Dom was hitless in one game preceding his 34 game streak following hits in four games.  Dom DiMaggio hit in 47 of 49 games.

The earliest game logs in baseball-reference.com are for the 1919 season, so I cannot do much with Cobb's two streaks in 1911 and 1917.  I decided to look at four of the top seven hitting streaks:

1. Joe DiMaggio 56 5/15 - 7/16 1941
3. Pete Rose 44 6/14/ - 7/31 1978
5. George Sisler 41 7/27 - 9/17 1922
7. Paul Molitor 39 7/16 - 8/25 1987

Molitor's streak started the same day of the year that DiMaggio's ended.  They provide a pretty nice spread in time.  Plus, DiMaggio and Molitor were righty batters with similar spread stances and quiet hands, Rose was a switch hitter and Sisler a lefty.

Rose and Molitor (34 of 39) batted leadoff.  Sisler batted third.  DiMaggio batted fourth

Defensive positions:
DiMaggio CF
Sisler 1B
Rose 3B 41 of  44, LF in one, 3B-OF in two
Molitor DH

DiMaggio, Sisler and Rose each struck out 5 times; Molitor 22.  Sisler has six sacrifice "hits" (back then stats did not differentiate between bunts and flies), Rose and Molitor two each; DiMaggio, of course, had none.  Rose had the only sacrifice flies: two.

Sisler  .45402298850575
Molitor  .41463414634146
DiMaggio .40807174887892
Rose  .38461538461538

Sisler  4.24390243902439
Molitor 4.2051282051282
Rose  4.13636363636364
DiMaggio 3.98214285714286

Sisler  1.92682926829268
Molitor 1.74358974358974
DiMaggio 1.625
Rose  1.59090909090909

Sisler seemed the most likely to continue his streak, Rose the least likely.

BA season (career):
Sisler .420 (.340)
DiMaggio .356 (,325)
Molitor .353 (.306)
Rose .302 (.303)

DiMaggio's streak is 27% longer than Rose's.  How many records are that much greater than the runner up?

DiMaggio played 139 games in 1941.  His  56 game hitting streak was 40.3% of those games.  During DiMaggio's hitting streak Joe had  these percentages of doubles (37.2% 16 of 43) , triples (36.3% 4 of 11), home runs (50% 15 of 30), total bases (46% 160 of his AL leading 348).  Here are his streak and non-streak averages:

BA: .408 .320
OBP: .459 .420
SLG: .717 .591
OPS: 1.177 1.012

Since randomness and luck have been attributed to DiMaggio's streak, what about these streaks being even longer?  I looked at the games preceding and following each of the four streaks examined for one game interruptions that could have extended them.

Sisler previous 1 hitless game following a four game streak.
Sisler followed with two hitless games.  Sisler's streak could have been 46.

Rose previous: 2 of 3 hitless games.
Rose followed: 2 of 3 hitless games; 4 hits in that game.  Could have added two games: 46.

Molitor previous: 1 game following a three game streak.
Molitor followed: 3 of 4 hitless games.  Molitor's streak could have been 43.

DiMaggio previous: two hitless games.
DiMaggio followed with one hitless game, then hits in the next 16 games, then hitless in an August 3 doubleheader loss to the St. Louis Browns.  A big fat go figure.

Of these four DiMaggio alone could have extended his streak substantially: to 73 games ... with a little luck in that famous game in Cleveland when he was robbed on two bullets hit to third.  I guess that didn't come up in the simulations, all 10,000 of them.  DiMaggio's stats in those 73 games, including the one that was hitless, included 73 Runs, 73 RBI,  20 homers, 120 hits, 33 BB, 6 SO, .408 BA.  Joe always said he was lucky to be a Yankee.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

DiMaggio's hitting streak.

Andre Ethier is half way there.  Ethier has at least one hit in 28 consecutive games.  Joe DiMaggio hit in 56 consecutive games in 1941.  That's the MLB record and, odd as it is, that record made DiMaggio the most famous baseball player in America less than six months before our entry into World War II.  For baseball's centennial in 1969 it helped get him named baseball's greatest living player, to the great consternation of some who while brandishing their credentials on racial tolerance of Jackie Robinson, could never quite accept the Big Dago, the guinea, the greaser, the wap.  They love pointing out that Ted Williams hit for a higher batting average during DiMaggio's streak, overlooking which player lifted his team into first place.

Joe DiMaggio December 15, 1941 Sporting News (Library of Congress) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
There are 53 MLB hitting streaks of at least 30 games.

Some attribute DiMaggio's achievement to chance:

A Journey to Baseball’s Alternate Universe By SAMUEL ARBESMAN and STEVEN STROGATZ
Published: March 30, 2008 The New York Times

The Triumph of the Random By LEONARD MLODINOW JULY 16, 2009 The Wall Street Journal

Obviously these people are either Communists or Yankee haters if not both.  Probably also Red Sox fans.

I will address this in a future post but three observations here:

1. Joe DiMaggio set the MLB record, not Ty Cobb, not Willie Keeler.

2. Joe DiMaggio set the minor league record, also: 61 games in 1933 in the highly regarded Pacific Coast League; even if you accept Joe Wilhoit hitting in 69 consecutive games in the Western League in 1919, Joe D. still has at least the second longest streak in the minors, too.  Why can't people accept that there was something special going on with this guy?  Maybe he did concentrate more than most day in and day out, at least during those streaks.

3. Joe's younger brother Dom hit in 34 consecutive games just eight years later (1949) playing with the Red Sox.  Dom is tied for number 16 with two others.  What are the odds of brothers having two of the 18 longest streaks in MLB history?

DiMaggio's hitting streak: part 2  Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Monday, May 2, 2011

Grand Slams: more.

See this post:

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 27, 2011 Bases loaded home runs, aka, grand slams.

Players listed in the title link for this post include career leaders in bases loaded home runs and batters with at least 500 career home runs.  And Roger Maris.

At bats with bases loaded is still missing for Lou Gehrig and other old timers.  It exists for most seasons for Gil Hodges but I did not include his partial data.

Every player I looked at and for whom there were bases loaded at bats had better home run rates with the bases loaded than with the bases not loaded.

I also broke down Barry Bonds by season in a separate tab.

Robin Ventura hit home runs at a rate 2.35 times better when he batted with the bases loaded than when he batted when the bases were not loaded.  Here are the tops:

Robin Ventura 2.35
Carlos Lee 2.04
Eddie Murray 1.78

The batters second and third to Lou Gehrig's record 23 grand slams, Alex Rodriguez (22) 1.44 and Manny Ramirez (21), 1.27 times better.

Worst rate (HR/AB) difference between loaded and not loaded:

Barry Bonds .69
Jim Thome .56 (worst)

Dave Kingman has the best rate with the bases loaded: 8.8 (141 AB/ 16 HR).  Sexson, McCovey, McGwire, Rodriguez are next in that order, all better than one homer every 10 AB.

Mark McGwire has the best rate when the bases are not loaded: 9.85 (5,604 AB / 569 HR).  Barry Bonds, Jim Thome, Harmon Killebrew, Sammy Sosa, Rodriguez are next in that order, all better than one homer every 14 AB.

Remember, we do not have such data for Gehrig and the other old timers.

Highest percentage of AB with the bases loaded:

Manny Ramirez 2.89%
Richie Sexon 2.78%
Robin Ventura 2.66%
Jim Thome 2.56%
Alex Rodriguez 2.39%

Lowest percentage of AB with the bases loaded:

Eddie Mathews 1.37%
Willie Mays 1.45%
Mickey Mantle 1.52%
Frank Thomas 1.61%

Most AB with bases loaded:

Eddie Murray 238
Manny Ramirez 238
Hank Aaron 224
Alex Rodriguez 213
Rafael Palmeiro 210

Fewest AB with bases loaded:

Roger Maris 83
Eddie Mathews 117
Mickey Mantle 123
Mark McGwire 130
Richie Sexson 137
Dave Kingman 141

Highest percentage of home runs with bases loaded:

Ventura 6.12%
Sexson 4.90%
Gehrig 4.67%
Carlos Lee 4.49%
Ramirez 3.78%
Hodges 3.78%
Murray 3.77%
Kingman 3.62%
Rodriguez 3.56%

Lowest percentage of home runs with bases loaded:

Eddie Mathews 1.17%
Willie Mays 1.21%
Frank Robinson 1.37%
Mel Ott 1.37%
Barry Bonds 1.44%
Sammy Sosa 1.48%
Mickey Mantle 1.49%
Jim Thome 1.52%