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Nice guy.  Have some blogs.  Do baseball research.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

WAR, WADJ and actual human beings.

WAR: Wins Above Replacement

WADJ: Wins Above Derek Jeter

I recently wrote a couple of goofy posts about WADJ but they got me thinking about the fact that all great players were originally replacement players, i.e., someone who had just become a MLB player and who would replace a starter.

Jeter played 15 games in 1995 but was a 21 year old rookie in 1996.  Thirty-three year old Tony Fernandez played 108 games in 1995, his only season with the Yankees, as their starting shortstop.  However, Fernandez was injured and did not play in 1996.  Enter Derek Jeter, replacement player.

Now the replacement player in WAR is not a specific player but a statistically tweaked approximation of a marginal player at a position in a particular season.  In this case, probably a player not as good as Derek Jeter.

Jeter's WAR in 1996 was 3.0.  Fernandez's WAR in 1995 was .6, which is a bit misleading since Fernandez played in only 66% of Yankee games in 1995.  However, we can reasonably assume, to the extent that WAR is accurate, that Jeter added about 2.5 wins.  In 1996 the Yankees won their division with 92 wins, four more than Boston, and won the World Series for the first time since 1978.

Let's look at another Yankee shortstop from another era and the flesh and blood human being who replaced him on the field.  In 1961 Tony Kubek was 25 years old and had completed his fifth full season as a Yankee, the undisputed starting shortstop in 1960 and 1961.  The Yankees won pennants each of those seasons except 1959 and had won the World Series in 1958 and 1961.  Kubek was also fulfilling his mandatory military obligation as an Army reservist and his unit was activated because of the Berlin crisis.  The Yankees needed to replace Kubek at the start of the 1962 season.

In 1961 Tom Tresh had played 9 games for the Yankees.  In spring training 1962 Tresh competed for Kubek's open shortstop spot against Phil Linz; both were 23.  Tresh won the job, made the All Star team and was Rookie of the Year.   Tresh played shortstop until August 17 in Kansas City when he switched to left field.

Kubek returned from the Army and played his first game in 1962 on August 7 ... in left field.  He played left field in five more games and pinch hit in three others.  Kubek and Tresh essentially switched positions in that August 17 game.  Tresh did not play shortstop again in 1962 but became a starting Yankee outfielder for the next several seasons, primarily in left.  Kubek played only shortstop for the remainder of the 1962 season (Yanks won 1962 WS and 1963, 1964 pennants) and remained the Yankees starting shortstop through 1965 when he was forced to retire at age 29 because of injuries.  During the 1969 season the Yankees traded the often injured Tresh to Detroit after which Tresh retired at age 30.

There are probably other threads of such replacements, not only between Kubek and Jeter but for all teams.  It's interesting to note that the replacement player is not just a theory.  Baseball is a game of blood, sweat and tears.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Protect the Fans!

Last night I was watching multiple sporting events concurrently, really the only civilized way to do it.  I go to the two TV offense, which may evolve into a home sports bar type three TV offense.

- NBA playoff game: San Antonio v. Oklahoma City (Try finding two small markets in the MLB semi-finals)

- Mets v. Phillies

- Red Sox v. Verlander and Detroit

- later Yankees at wherever the Angels currently claim as home.

While cruising past the Red Sox game at Fenway Park I noticed that a man sitting in what is generally considered to be one of the best seats, near a dugout, had apparently been hit by a foul ball struck by Prince Fielder of Detroit.  There was some concern and the injured person was helped away for medical attention.

We've seen this many times.  So why don't we take corrective action, the type that would be considered basic common sense in any normal context.  Why isn't MLB considered negligent for not making its ball parks more safe for fans?  Why doesn't some municipality take action?  Why don't fans sue?

About 11-12 years ago Yankee coach Don Zimmer, about 70 at the time, was hit in the head by a batted ball while sitting in the dugout, I think during a World Series game; Zimmer was not seriously injured.  The Yankee players made fun of it my fashioning a military style helmet for Zimmer to wear in subsequent games.

MLB took action.  After 100 years of neglect it erected screened fences in front of all dugouts in MLB parks.  This was to protect those in the dugouts, most of whom are or were world class athletes.  However, no such protection was extended to the fans sitting in the same area.

Maybe someone can corroborate this but I seem to recall that a Japanese ball park in which the Yankees opened the regular season about a decade ago had the protective screen behind home plate extend down each line, maybe to the foul poles but I cannot recall.  MLB needs to do that.  Extend that screen as far as is necessary to protect fans who are unable or unwilling to protect themselves and   to protect minor children who cannot make informed decisions.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Free substitution: caddy, designated runner, courtesy runner.

I have been advocating free substitution in baseball for a while.

Here are some silly examples of how managers have tried to creatively substitute.

1. Caddy: Ross Moschitto played in 96 games (28 PA) in 1965 and 14 games (11 PA) in 1967 for the Yankees and never started.  He was known as Mickey Mantle's caddy, often replacing the aging Mantle in center field in 1965.  Moschitto never attempted to steal a base. Wouldn't it have been better if Moschitto could have shared the duty with Mantle, playing the field with Mantle batting?

2. Designated Runner:  Herb Washington (1974 92 games, 1975 13 games) was a sprint champion hired by the Oakland As as a pinch running specialist, a designated runner (DR).  Boston started it's historic comeback against the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS by having pinch runner Dave Roberts steal second base in the ninth inning against Mariano Rivera and score the tieing run on a single; it was the only steal attempt by Roberts in that series.  The Yankees had their own pinch runner specialist in Homer Bush in 1998 and briefly in 2004.

3. Courtesy Runners (retrosheet.org):

Until 1950, a courtesy runner was allowed for a player if that player had been injured and at the moment couldn't continue. The original player then stayed in the game defensively in the next inning, although sometimes the injured player did not return. If the replacement runner was already in the game, we still count this as a courtesy runner. Most often the courtesy runner was already in the lineup.

This one is amazing.  MLB players actually left games and were allowed to return.  And the earth continued to rotate on its axis, the sun stayed where it belongs and baseball did not explode.

So what the heck?  Obviously, free substitution is a viable reform.  Baseball fans and MLB, Inc. need to leap into the current millenium and transform baseball into a much more dynamic sport with rules more in line with those of football and basketball.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

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Friday, May 25, 2012

WADJ: what about some other players?

WADJ: Wins Above Derek Jeter.

To see the data click the link.  Thanks to Eric Weiss for the data on Williams, Schmidt, Mantle, Dickey, Berra and A-Rod.  The Jeter breakdown is from a SABR-L post by Andrew Milner.  Eric, how about starting your own blog?  It would be great.

Odd that Derek Jeter is the only one of seven famous players who had no impact on his team's on field bottom line.  The Yankee winning percentage is the same both with and without Jeter.

Mike Schmidt had the biggest impact: .078.

So what's the deal with Jeter?

Pitcher may only be replaced by a player already in the game.

This would make the pitcher more of a regular player, not such a specialist.  Anything to decrease the dominance of pitching, which is the single biggest problem with baseball.  It causes almost all of the dead time.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

WADJ: Wins Above Derek Jeter

Recently a friend mentioned that the Yankee winning percentage with Derek Jeter playing was the same as without Derek Jeter playing.  This prompted me to consider that there might be such a thing as Wins Above Derek Jeter: WADJ, pronounced the way it's spelled for the comic effect.

For the Yankees to improve they need to replace Jeter with a player who has WADJ.

Many years ago Bill Deane manually researched the runs allowed by the Yankees with and without Joe DiMaggio in center field: it was about the same.

The WADJ guy has also told me that the Yankee record in save situations in the 1950s was about the same as during the Mariano Rivera era.  Between bookend relief specialists Joe Page (1949-1950) and Ryne Duren (1958-1960) Yankee manager Casey Stengel used a different pitcher the most in relief each season and none of them were household names.

June 5, 1963 in Baltimore Mickey Mantle broke his foot trying to catch a Brooks Robinson home run in a 4-3 Yankee win and did not play again until he pinch hit a home run against Baltimore at Yankee Stadium in an 11-10 win.  During his absence and despite losing the first three games the Yankees record was 40-20 (.666).  Before Mantle's injury the Yankees record was 27-18 (.600).  For the season the Yankees were 104-58 (.642).

The Rivera anecdote just confirms that the closer role is vastly overrated.  And maybe DiMaggio's defense is also overrated.  But the main lesson is that baseball is way too dominated by pitching.  Even great players can be marginalized.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Is baseball being outsourced?

Click this link to see the data and chart, which show a trend that has reduced the percent of AL and NL players born in the USA from consistently above 92% from 1901 through 1959 to as low as 71% in 2006.

1923 through 1941 greater than 98%.

1934 was the high: 99.2%.

1960 was the first year below 90%: 88.7%.

1962 and 1963 back to 90% but never again.

1997 was the first year below 80%: 78.3%.

1997 78.27%
1998 78.93%
1999 78.51%
2000 77.10%
2001 74.96%
2002 73.98%
2003 74.37%
2004 72.53%
2005 72.51%
2006 71.26%    low
2007 74.16%
2008 72.92%
2009 73.51%
2010 73.75%
2011 73.89%

All this should not be surprising.  Just check out your local baseball fields and you'll generally see them empty.  I won't go into why but it's clear that we don't play enough to produce enough MLB quality players.

It's great that baseball is played in enough other countries for more foreign born players to participate at the highest level but it's still a bit disconcerting that Americans are becoming more indifferent to what has traditionally been described as our national pastime.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Most days between first and last game.

Click the link to see the list.

Someone asked who had the most time between first and last game.  The list contains the 50 players with the most days.  Source: Lahman database.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

baseball-reference.com math: confusing, convoluted, elitist.

Radical Baseball: The Art Of WAR 2.0, 2.1, … May 9th, 2012

You really need to read about WAR 2.0 for yourself.  There’s a lot to it and Sean Forman and his staff at baseball-reference.com are to be commended for making a real attempt to explain WAR to it’s subscribers.


But I have some suggestions.

1. Parenthesis.  Many equations seem to lack parenthesis that would make them correct.
2. One equal sign per equation.
3. No greater than sign in an equation.
4. Define terms in each document.
5. Explain everything.

There's a tendency to explain relatively easy stuff at 5mph and then the complex stuff at 100 mph.  Leaving the reader with that "what the heck?" feeling.

WAR 2.01: Renaming ndWAR to afWAR Posted by admin on May 4, 2012

The change from oWAR and dWAR to ndWAR and dWAR is confusing folks, so I'm making an additional change.

dWAR was confusing to begin with since I think it dealt with fielding.  Defense to me is fielding and pitching.  Why isn't it fWAR, f for fielding?

ndWAR, I guess is non-defense WAR?

afWAR => Average-Fielding-WAR.

This is a definite "Say what?".  What's with the greater than sign?  And what the heck is to the right of that?  Are those dashes?  Subtraction signs?  And what does fielding have to do with what very recently had been oWAR, offensive Wins Above Replacement?

afWAR = batting + baserunning + DP's + replacement + position

I'm guessing that the word position means that players are compared to other players at their same position but I still don't see the fielding in the term Average-Fielding.

afWAR + dWAR does not equal WAR as you'll be double counting the position adjustment.

Too bad, just when my common sense might have kicked in.  Argh!


Baseball-Reference.com WAR Explained

an equation should explain what we are doing here.

Players Runs over Replacement = Player_runs - ReplPlayer_runs = (Player_runs - AvgPlayer_runs) + (AvgPlayer_runs - ReplPlayer_runs)

This gives us runs above replacement (RAR).

An equation might explain it but not that equation.  Why are there two equal signs?

Pythagorean win-loss records

I happen to know this one but a link or simple explanation should be included.  Same with PythagenPat.  Come on, give the average fan a fighting chance.

Data Coverage: This link is useful except the headings disappear as you page down and baseball-reference didn't even have the sense to repeat them at the bottom, which would have helped somewhat.  Those helpful popup definitions that are elsewhere on baseball-reference.com are missing here.


wRAA For Position Player WAR Explained

we also exclude IBB's from the count of BB's. Our view (and those of the creators of these stats) is that SH and IBB's are managerial decisions, and in general the best way to handle these is to exclude them from the rate stat (wOBA)

I don't get excluding IBB.  The team derives the same benefit as a regular BB but it's a minor point.

wOBA = (0.70 x uBB + 0.73 x HBP + 0.89 x 1B +1.27 x 2B +1.61 x 3B + 2.07 x HR +0.25 x SB + 0.50 x CS) / (AB+BB-IBB+HBP+SF)

Two things about this mess:
1. Shouldn't there be parenthesis around each two items multiplied?
2. Wouldn't the whole thing be more readable if items were placed on a separate line?

wOBA =
((0.70 x uBB) +
(0.73 x HBP) +
(0.89 x 1B) +
(1.27 x 2B) +
(1.61 x 3B) +
(2.07 x HR) +
(0.25 x SB) +
(0.50 x CS))

There.  Much better.  And why exactly are stolen bases (SB) and caught stealing (CS) included in weighted On Base Average (wOBA)?

There's too much that's too confusing here but one more item deserves mention: wRAAA.  What the heck is that and where did it come from?  It suddenly appeared in:

Top 30 Seasonal Increases from wRAAA to wRAA_adv

There's no mention of wRAAA  prior, nor of wRAA_adv for that matter.

You see the problems.  Even if an average fan tries to learn this stuff it quickly becomes overwhelming.  It does not need to be this confusing, convoluted and elitist.  Fix it.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Fewer fastballs but faster. Why?

I was fiddling with fangraphs.com.  I noticed that it does not provide definitions if you let the cursor hover over an abreviation as is done at baseball-reference.com.  So I'm guessing about terms.

I noticed that the percent of pitches that are fastballs from 2002 through 2011 has steadilly declined from 64.4% to 57.8% even though the velocity of fast balls has increased from 89.9 miles per hour (mph) to 91.5.

So far in 2012: 57.1% fastballs at 91.3 mph.

Why would pitchers throw fewer fastballs, especially when they could throw them faster?

Sliders have increased, curves declined:
2002 12.1% 81.9 mph    11.2% 76.4 mph
2011 14.6% 83.4 mph     9.4% 76.7 mph (curves had dropped to 8.3% in 2008)

To see data and graph, click link.

Bagwell got a break in 1994

Wally Fish May 08 04:51PM -0500  

Jeff Bagwell was having one of the greatest offensive seasons ever, was
just shy of a 60 HR pace & would likely have finished with over 160 RBI
EXCEPT he broke his hand right before the strike hit. Had the season played
out Bagwell would have missed the rest of the season and by extension
probably would not have won the NL MVP

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Pitch Counts

Click link to read my 2008 research.

Tom Tango developed a pitch count estimator for seasons when pitches were not counted. 

I have used these equations  to produce spreadsheets.  The data was derived from the Lahman database using Microsoft Access.  It is based on AL & NL pitcher season from 1903 through 2007.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

WAR 2.0: WAR Upgraded on Baseball-Reference.com


Holy cow, I would have completely missed this if a friend hadn't casually mentioned it yesterday afternoon.

See comment 3:

Dr. Doom Says: 
May 4th, 2012 at 11:34 am

I'm also intrigued that Matt Kemp now led Ryan Braun by only .1 WAR last year... that's a HUGE difference from what the old calculation did... which I believe had them separated by 2.5 WAR.

I wonder how it will impact a couple of things I've written about recently:

THURSDAY, APRIL 26, 2012 Willie Mays and NL CF WAR Fielding Runs 1951-1968

War On WAR.

Next time you hear someone on TV mention WAR ask yourself whether that person has any idea what the heck he/she is talking about.

Baseball-Reference made a change later in the day:

WAR 2.01: Renaming ndWAR to afWAR

Yeah, right.  I'll make a point to remember that next time ndWAR comes up.

Mariano Rivera, who will want you in 2013?

This is my third consecutive post about Mariano Rivera and I hope it's the last for a long while.  I don't want Rivera's departure to turn into a soap opera or worse.

The latest news is that Rivera announced that he intends to come back from his torn ACL and pitch in 2013 ... at the age of 43.

Rivera was born November 29, 1969.  He will reach 43 this year.  After the 2012 MLB season Rivera will be a free agent.  Even though injured Rivera will receive $15,000,000 for the 2012 season.  Do you think the Yankees will offer Rivera another $15,000,000 to attempt his comeback in 2013?  They'd be nuts to make that offer and I'm guessing that Yankee GM Brian Cashman is already squirming at the prospect.

At the time of Rivera's injury the Yankees were 13-11.  Do you think that they will do worse without him?  My guess is that the Yankees will not miss Rivera at all.  Not that he doesn't do his job well but his job, as stated multiple times here, is not that significant.

Rivera's Yankee teammates, especially Alex Rodriguez, have already expressed their feelings that they will miss Rivera but I think that is based more on emotion than analysis.  In addition to Rivera's closer role being vastly overrated the Yankees have two other relief pitchers who can capably fill that silly role: David Robertson and Rafael Soriano.

For some perspective: in 2011 Yankee pitchers threw 1,458 innings.  Rivera threw 61.  That's 4.2%.  Come on, how much impact can possibly be exerted in 4.2% of innings?  CC Sabathia led the team with 237 innings, 16.3%.

Mariano Rivera was paid $245,901.64 per inning in 2011.  There is no justification for that expense.  Mariano Rivera has led a charmed baseball life earning that kind of money for so long and he should enjoy the fruits of his labor but the Yankees should spend that $15,000,000 in 2013 on a player who can have much more of an impact.

Mariano Rivera was paid $10,000,000 each season from 2003 through 2007 and $15,000,000 each season from 2008 through 2012.  Career to date for 18 seasons: $144,441,825.  For 1,220 innings. Enough already.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Mariano Rivera was not wearing baseball shoes when injured.

Prior to last night's Yankee loss in Kansas City Yankee one inning relief ace Mariano Rivera injured himself trying to shag a fly ball near the outfield wall.  Shag is the baseball term for casually chasing flies in practice.  Supposedly Rivera had been doing this for many years and enjoyed it as part of his training regimen.

Rivera suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), which is a very serious injury, and for the 42 year old Rivera it is likely to end his pitching career.

It appears clear to me from viewing the moving images several times that Rivera was wearing running shoes, not baseball shoes.  This may have caused or contributed to the injury and as such that injury could have been prevented.

I jogged for many years and I wore running shoes when I did because they are great for straight ahead simple running.  They do not, however, provide support for lateral movements, which are typical in sports like baseball, football or basketball.  Rivera should have known this.  Certainly the Yankees should have known this.

I still engage in some softball activity with three friends on Sunday mornings: infield practice and batting practice, which involves running in the outfield when others are batting.  I would never wear running shoes for those baseball activities.  NEVER.  I wear high cut baseball shoes.  ALWAYS.

Both Rivera and the Yankees should have been aware of the recent torn ACL injuries suffered in recent days by two much younger NBA players:
- Derek Rose (born October 4, 1988) of the Chicago Bulls
- Iman Shumpert (born June 26, 1990) of the New York Knicks.

Shagging flies in the outfield is a very different activity from jogging in a straight line.  It is apparent that Rivera was attempting to change direction slightly as he approached the wall chasing a fly ball when his right leg gave out causing him to collapse.

Would baseball shoes have prevented Rivera's injury?  Who knows?  Baseball shoes would have made that injury less likely.  That's something that the Yankees and other teams need to consider.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

wOBA v. OPS+

To see data click link.

My layman's first take.  Top 30 batting seasons.

I used the Lahman database to derive wOBA (weighted On Base Average) with fixed values and wOBAScale with different values for each season through 2010.  I used seasons with at least 500 PA.  Some concessions had to be made to the DBMS (database management system) I was using as null values negate a calculation: SF and IBB were omitted.

I copied OPS+ (On Base Plus Slugging adjusted for parks and era) leaders from http://www.baseball-reference.com/leaders/onbase_plus_slugging_plus_season.shtml

The summary tab has seasons sorted by:

The top ten seasons match exactly between wOBA and OPS for seasons 1903-2010:

And they are very close with OPS+:

wOBAScale is generally the same seasons among the top 30 (especially if you overlook those from the 1800s).  However, the order is changed and Ruth takes the top three:

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Is Walking Hitting?

Click this link.

I'm catching up on my reading: "The Book" circa 2007.  I noticed something interesting.

Weighted On Base Average (wOBA) has Non Intentional Bases on Balls (NIBB) , Hit By Pitch (HBP) and even Reached Base On Error (RBOE) but it does not have Intentional Bases on Balls (IBB).

I find this curious.  The batter receives no credit for an IBB.  Why not?  Doesn't the team get the same benefit as a NIBB?  The IBB is considered a non event, similar to what I described in the thing I wrote January 21, 2009 unaware of the mysteries of wOBA, much as I remain today.

We can dig up Babe Ruth's remains, place it in the batters box and eventually the Babe will get credit for yet another walk.

I was born the year the Babe died and still he reaches from the grave.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A-Rod: where's the love?

THURSDAY, JUNE 9, 2011 Derek Jeter v. Álex Rodríguez

Jeter is about to become the first player to get his 3,000th hit as a Yankee ... Jeter is getting more attention from media and fans here in New York than teammate Álex Rodríguez got for hitting his 500th home run as a Yankee.  More than Rodríguez got for hitting his 600th home run as a Yankee ... it's pretty obvious that Álex Rodríguez is a much better player than Derek Jeter ... I love Jeter but all this 3,000 hit thing has got to tone down.  It's not that big a deal.  Let's pay more attention to Rodríguez.

THURSDAY, JULY 7, 2011 Derek Jeter v. the big boys.


Earlier this season Alex Rodriguez passed Ken Griffey, Jr. for fifth place on the career home run list and is currently 27 behind Willie Mays.

A couple of days ago Rodriguez passed Mays for tenth place on the RBI list.  48 more RBI will move  Rodriguez past Eddie Murray, Jimmie Foxx, Ty Cobb and Stan Musial into sixth place.  93 more RBI will move  Rodriguez past Lou Gehrig and Barry Bonds into fourth place.  96 more RBI will give Rodriguez 2,000.  Hank Aaron leads with 2,297.

Rodriguez is number 14 on the list for Runs scored.  Scoring another 50 runs will move  Rodriguez past Craig Biggio, Mel Ott, Tris Speaker and Lou Gehrig into tenth place.

So by the end of the 2012 season Alex Rodriguez should be #4 in home runs, #6 in RBI and #10 in Runs.

Derek Jeter's claim to offensive fame is that he gets on base, runs the bases well and scores.  Jeter is #17 in Runs (1,785) 53 behind Rodriguez and unlikely to ever catch him, especially considering that Jeter is 13 months older than Rodriguez:
Jeter born: June 26, 1974
Rodriguez born: July 27, 1975

Jeter         .314 .383 .450 .834 118
Rodriguez .294 .390 .548 .937 144

Rodriguez even has a higher OBP than Jeter and his SLG is almost 100 points higher.

Even on the Hits list Jeter is #19 (3,125) and Rodriguez #48 (2,795).  Rodriguez will probably get his 3,000th hit during the 2013 season.  Rodriguez may get his 700th home run during the 2014 season.

So where's the love, even from Yankee fans?  If not affection then how about some respect?  Is it his personality?  What has he said or done with the Yankees, for whom he has played his most games, that may have offended Yankee fans?  Nothing that I know of.

Is it his steroid use before he joined the Yankees?  Hasn't that stuff gotten stale yet?

Yankee fans, show some class and treat Alex Rodriguez the way he deserves to be treated: like an all time great baseball player who hustles at least much as Derek Jeter.