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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Willie Mays and NL CF WAR Fielding Runs 1951-1968

NL CF WAR (Wins Above Replacement) Fielding Runs 1951-1968

Willie Mays and Roy Campanella 1961
By New York World-Telegram and the Sun
via Wikimedia Commons
Click the link above to view a matrix with the leaders from baseball-reference.com based on 50% of games in  center field (CF) and qualified for BA title. Maybe I should have used more than 50% but I've already run the numbers year by year and don't want to do it again.  It produces some anomalies.

Three prior seasons:

In 1948:
Ashburn 4
Lockman 4
Jeffcoat 2

In 1949:
Snider 10
Thomson 8
Ashburn 6

In 1950:
Thomson 8
Ashburn 4
Pafko 4

In addition to 1948 when he was 21 Richie Ashburn of the 1950 NL pennant winning Phillies led NL CF in 1951, 1952, 1953, 1956, 1957.  What happened in 1954?  Willie Mays got out of the U.S. Army and rejoined his New York Giants; Mays played 34 games in 1952 and none in 1953.

In 1953 Ashburn had 19 Fielding Runs above a replacement CF and 18 in 1954.  Mays had 21 in 1954.

In 1955 at age 28 second baseman Eddie Miksis played his only season in CF.  He led the NL with 12.  Mays was second with 7, then Ashburn and Snider 6.  Miksis played 75 games in CF (7 Fielding Runs), 42 RF (3 Fielding Runs), 18 3B (3 Fielding Runs).  His Range Factor (RF) per nine innings at 3B (4.18) was considerably higher than in CF (2.59) or RF (2.14).  The real question: why did Mays plummet from 21 to 7?

1956: Ashburn 16, Mays 13.

1957: Ashburn 20, Virdon 13, Ken Boyer 12, Mays 4.

In 1961 Hank Aaron is listed as the CF leader with 23 (Mays third with 14).  Aaron played 83 games in CF (9 Fielding Runs) and 78 in his normal right filed (RF) (15 Fielding Runs), plus 2 at 3B.  That's 163 in a 154 game season (NL went to 162 in 1962; AL in 1961).  So, there must be some overlap.  Aaron's play in RF elevated his overall numbers and he happened to barely qualify as a CF.  Mays had 14.

In 1963 the Phillies had two CF qualify: Don Demeter and Tony Gonzalez.

Mays continued to dominate CF through 1968 when he was 37 and tied for the NL lead at 2 with Felipe Alou.  Mays per year Fielding Runs (FR) and rank among NL CF:

year FR rank
1954 21 1
1955 7 2
1956 13 2
1957 4 4
1958 15 1
1959 4 2
1960 14 1
1961 14 3
1962 20 1
1963 12 2
1964 17 2
1965 15 2
1966 18 1
1967 2 3
1968 2 1

Notice the up down pattern 1954-1959 for Mays.  Why?
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War On WAR.  by Kenneth Matinale

Then there’s Defensive Wins Above Replacement (dWAR).
I recently heard Brian Kenny on his MLB network Clubhouse Confidential TV program (apparently only an off season program) describe multiple defensive metrics that come to opposing conclusions about Yankee center fielder (CF) Curtis Granderson.
Here’s an historical puzzle for me – Willie Mays dWAR, Plate Appearances (PA) and home park:
1954 2.1 641 NY Polo Grounds
1955 0.7 670 NY Polo Grounds
1956 1.3 651 NY Polo Grounds
1957 0.6 669 NY Polo Grounds
1958 1.7 685 SF Seals Stadium
1959 0.4 649 SF Seals Stadium
During his physical prime the pattern for Mays is up, down, up, down, up, down.  Why?  PA suggest that he was not injured in these seasons.
Starting in 1960 Candlestick Park was Willie’s home park.
1960-1966 (age 35) dWAR for Willie Mays is between 1.3 (1963) and 2.0 (1962).
Did the fielding of Willie Mays improve with age?  How likely is that?  Stuff like this make me suspicious of fielding stats.
Here’s an interesting link:
Year-by-Year Top-Ten Leaders & Records for Defensive WAR
Request to baseball-reference.com: include the player’s position.
There’s a pretty cool matrix.  Number one in 2011: Yankee left fielder (LF) Brett Gardner (3.2), a CF playing out of position.  Compared to other LF Garner should look a lot better.  This introduces another bias: position.

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