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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Sacrifice Fly should be removed to normalize historical data.

Sacrifice Hit:

For most of baseball history the sacrifice has followed essentially the current rule: a sacrifice was awarded only on a bunt that was not an obvious attempt to bunt for a hit...

     1908. A sacrifice is now awarded if the batter succeeds in driving in a run with a fly out.
  • 1909-1919. A sacrifice is now awarded if the batter drives in a run with a fly ball that results in an error but would have driven in the run if the error had not been committed. Although sacrifice flies were included in the sacrifice hit total, they were also counted separately.
  • 1920-1925. The scoring distinction between sacrifice bunts and sacrifice flies is abolished.
  • 1926-1930. A sacrifice is awarded on any fly out that advances a runner, or on a fly ball resulting in an error that would have advanced a runner had the out been recorded.
  • 1931-1938. No sacrifice is awarded for a sacrifice fly.
  • 1939. Sacrifice flies are again counted as sacrifice hits, but only those that result in a score.
  • 1940-present. Sacrifice hits are awarded only on bunts that advance a runner and result in an out, or would have resulted in an out but for an error or unsuccessful fielder's choice.
Because the rules on exactly what constituted a sacrifice hit varied considerably during the early game, sacrifice totals from the early game can't necessarily be compared directly with modern ones.
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sacrifice fly is a fly ball out that scores a baserunner. While typically a long fly ball to the outfield, a sacrifice fly can be recorded on any fly ball, whether fair or foul. The runner usually scores from third base, but there have been cases of runners scoring from second or even first base on a sacrifice fly; it is also possible for more than one runner to score on the play. The batter is charged with a plate appearance but not with an at bat, and is credited with an RBI for each run scored as a result. No sacrifice fly is credited if a baserunner advances one or more bases as a result of a fly ball that is caught but does not score.
The sacrifice fly is a recent statistic, dating back to 1954 in its present form, although it has always been possible for a runner to advance after a fly ball is caught for an out.
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Sacrifice fly rule and the last two .400 hitters: Bill Terry, Ted Williams. Plus Joe DiMaggio. Sunday, June 12, 2011

Beginning with the 1926 season, a more liberal version of the sacrifice fly rule was instituted. The basic provision was that any players who hit fly balls advancing runners to second and third were credited with sacrifices; no time at bat was charged for a sacrifice. After the 1930 season, during which the collective batting average of the major leagues exceeded .290, the sacrifice fly rule was eliminated... The elimination of the sacrifice fly rule reduced the number of sacrifices from 1317 in 1930 to 789 in 1931 in the National League, and from 1283 to 650 for the same two seasons in the American League. In 1939 the scoring sacrifice fly, exempting a batter from a time at bat when a runner scored after the putout on a fly ball, was restored to the game. This lasted for a single season. after the 1953 season ... restored the sacrifice fly ... unchanged to the present day (no date on this SABR article) ... Beginning with the 1954 averages, sacrifice bunts and sacrifice flies were listed separately in the official averages (AL pitching statistics did not separate SF from SH yielded until 1955)... SABR member Pete Palmer has determined that the three sacrifices credited to Ted Williams in 1939 were all SF.
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Sacrifice fly is a dumb scoring rule. Dump it and normalize historical data. Tuesday, June 14, 2011

It's difficult enough to compare players from different eras without having the scoring rules and qualification criteria change. The data should be normalized for these two things. Eliminate the sacrifice fly scoring rule. It never made sense and it's erratic application increases confusion.
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I recently ran a query for seasons 1901 through 2014: on base percentage (OBP) >= .490 and qualified for league "batting title" sorted by OBP.

OBP: ((H+BB+HBP)/(AB+BB+HBP+SF)

OBP bugs me as it is not a percentage but an average but for purposes of this post I will use the standard abbreviation.

I was really looking for batters with OBP >= .500 but expanded it to see if there were some who were close.  That expanded the list from 14 to 23 seasons but added only one more player: Arky Vaughn.


Rk Player OBP Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB IBB SO HBP SH SF GDP SB CS BA SLG OPS Pos
1 Barry Bonds .609 2004 39 SFG NL 147 617 373 129 135 27 3 45 101 232 120 41 9 0 3 5 6 1 .362 .812 1.422 *7/HD
2 Barry Bonds .582 2002 37 SFG NL 143 612 403 117 149 31 2 46 110 198 68 47 9 0 2 4 9 2 .370 .799 1.381 *7/DH
3 Ted Williams .553 1941 22 BOS AL 143 606 456 135 185 33 3 37 120 147 27 3 0 10 2 4 .406 .735 1.287 *7H/9
4 Babe Ruth .545 1923 28 NYY AL 152 697 522 151 205 45 13 41 130 170 93 4 3 17 21 .393 .764 1.309 97/83
5 Babe Ruth .532 1920 25 NYY AL 142 616 458 158 172 36 9 54 135 150 80 3 5 14 14 .376 .847 1.379 *978/3H1
6 Barry Bonds .529 2003 38 SFG NL 130 550 390 111 133 22 1 45 90 148 61 58 10 0 2 7 7 0 .341 .749 1.278 *7/DH
7 Ted Williams .526 1957 38 BOS AL 132 547 420 96 163 28 1 38 87 119 33 43 5 0 2 11 0 1 .388 .731 1.257 *7/H
8 Babe Ruth .516 1926 31 NYY AL 152 652 495 139 184 30 5 47 153 144 76 3 10 11 9 .372 .737 1.253 *79/H3
9 Barry Bonds .515 2001 36 SFG NL 153 664 476 129 156 32 2 73 137 177 35 93 9 0 2 5 13 3 .328 .863 1.379 *7/DH
10 Ted Williams .513 1954 35 BOS AL 117 526 386 93 133 23 1 29 89 136 32 1 0 3 10 0 0 .345 .635 1.148 *7/H
11 Babe Ruth .513 1924 29 NYY AL 153 681 529 143 200 39 7 46 124 142 81 4 6 9 13 .378 .739 1.252 *97/8H
12 Mickey Mantle .512 1957 25 NYY AL 144 623 474 121 173 28 6 34 94 146 23 75 0 0 3 5 16 3 .365 .665 1.177 *8/H
13 Babe Ruth .512 1921 26 NYY AL 152 693 540 177 204 44 16 59 168 145 81 4 4 17 13 .378 .846 1.359 *78/13
14 Rogers Hornsby .507 1924 28 STL NL 143 642 536 121 227 43 14 25 94 89 32 2 13 5 12 .424 .696 1.203 *4
15 Ted Williams .499 1947 28 BOS AL 156 692 528 125 181 40 9 32 114 162 47 2 1 10 0 1 .343 .634 1.133 *7
16 Ted Williams .499 1942 23 BOS AL 150 671 522 141 186 34 5 36 137 145 51 4 0 12 3 2 .356 .648 1.147 *7/9
17 Rogers Hornsby .498 1928 32 BSN NL 140 621 486 99 188 42 7 21 94 107 41 1 25 5 .387 .632 1.130 *4
18 Ted Williams .497 1948 29 BOS AL 137 638 509 124 188 44 3 25 127 126 41 3 0 10 4 0 .369 .615 1.112 *7/H
19 Ted Williams .497 1946 27 BOS AL 150 672 514 142 176 37 8 38 123 156 44 2 0 12 0 0 .342 .667 1.164 *7
20 Babe Ruth .495 1931 36 NYY AL 145 663 534 149 199 31 3 46 162 128 51 1 0 5 4 .373 .700 1.195 *97/H3
21 Babe Ruth .493 1930 35 NYY AL 145 676 518 150 186 28 9 49 153 136 61 1 21 10 10 .359 .732 1.225 *97/1
22 Arky Vaughan .491 1935 23 PIT NL 137 609 499 108 192 34 10 19 99 97 18 7 7 5 4 .385 .607 1.098 *6
23 Ted Williams .490 1949 30 BOS AL 155 730 566 150 194 39 3 43 159 162 48 2 0 22 1 1 .343 .650 1.141 *7
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/12/2014.

At this point I intended to make insightful observations to relieve readers from making less insightful ones on their own.  But the null values in fields SH and SF again drew my attention.  I wondered about the results if I could somehow fill in the missing data.  That seemed like too much work and it only continued silly scoring rules that have varied over many decades.
Ted Williams back cover Baseball Digest May 1949
[Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons

Then I thought instead about my original idea of removing the offending data from all seasons and achieve these improvements:
1. make the data consistent
2. make the data make more sense.

The easy one to attack is the Sacrifice Fly (SF).  A batter should not get two credits for making an out: RBI and no at bat (AB).  The batter should certainly be charged with an AB.  That was done in many seasons as I will document below.

Sacrifice Hits is misnamed by today's rules as it means only sacrifice bunts.  But in some olden years it also meant sacrifice flies to advance a runner, some of which may have also scored a runner, like the current sacrifice fly.

It makes for a mess but it's also pretty interesting.  For instance, Ted Williams is the most recent batter with a batting average (BA) >+ .400: .406 in 1941.  Williams did that with zero SH and null SF.  I think several years ago someone did the research and determined that with the SF rule Williams would have had .414 BA.  Ironically in 1958 when Williams hit .388 and the SF was in effect, he had only two SF, so it made little difference: .386.

What I am suggesting would reduce averages as follows:

BA (H/AB): lower since SF would be added to AB and SH reduced and added to AB in years when it included advancing runners on a fly out

OBP (H+BB+HBP)/(AB+BB+HBP+SF): lower since SH reduced and added to AB in years when it included advancing runners on a fly out

SLG (TB/AB): lower since SF would be added to AB and SH reduced and added to AB in years when it included advancing runners on a fly out

OPS (OBP + SLG): lower

When I was considering a title for the original intent of this post I thought of simply writing about batters who reached base at least half the time but that would have required the stat reaching on an error, which is not part of OBP, so I dumped that idea.  Again, too much work.

Among the 23 seasons examined only Ted Williams (1954 and 1957), Mickey Mantle and Barry Bonds have non-null values in SF

In the 1920s Babe Ruth has many SH.  I'm guessing that none are bunts.  Same for Rogers Hornsby for 1924.

Oh, and while we're at it, use the same qualifying standard for averages for all seasons and base them on the denominator.  For BA, use AB, not PA.  Give Jimmie Foxx the highest BA (.364) in 1932 and another triple crown.  Dale Alexander in 1932 had 16 AB for Detroit, then 376 for Boston: .367 BA in 392 AB.  Ridiculous to consider Alexander the 1932 leader in BA.

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