1958 AL Home Run race. Who "led the league in hitting" ... home runs? Thursday, March 31, 2016
In 1958 the batter who "led the league in hitting" was Ted Williams, who had the highest batting average (BA) with .328. But Nellie Fox, White Sox second baseman, had the most hits; Williams was not even in the top ten. So why wasn't Fox regarded as the best hitter? If the best rate or average of something defines the best, then why wasn't Rocky Colavito the Home Run King in 1958, instead of Mickey Mantle. The old phrase "led the league in hitting" has faded but not completely. But looking at HR rate has never taken hold. We still deal with HR as totals.
Today's smarties are into WAR (Wins Above Replacement) as a unifying theory. WAR is a total. So, how far have we come?
Qualifying for Batting Average makes no sense. It doesn't use the denominator. Sunday, April 3, 2016
Denominator. You know. The bottom of an equation...
Rule 9.22(a) Comment: For example, if a Major League schedules
162 games for each club, 502 plate appearances qualify
(162 times 3.1 equals 502) a player for a batting, slugging or
on-base percentage championship...
... at bats (AB) as the denominator, NOT plate appearances (PA). It's pretty basic...
... qualification should be based on opportunities (AB) or accomplishments (Hits, Total Bases, etc.) or some combination. However, opportunity qualification should NOT be based on PA.
Top ten? Ted Williams was number 19 in Hits and qualified for the BA championship in 1958 with only 517 PA. 154 games multiplied by 3.1 equals a measly 477 PA to qualify. Of the top 19 in Hits in the AL in 1958 Williams had by far the fewest AB (411), which should have been the qualifier and the required number of AB should have been a lot more than 411.
So by any common sense or fairness standard Ted Williams should not have qualified for the lead in BA or Slugging average. Lets see what might have made sense.
Pete Runnels was in his first season on the Boston Red Sox and a teammate of Williams. Officially, Runnels finished 1958 with the second highest BA. Runnels had 568 AB and 666 PA, numbers which dwarfed those of Williams. Runnels should have been considered the BA champion and the "league's leading hitter" using the logic and parlance of the time. Runnels would go on to have the highest AL BA in 1960 and 1962. Runnels played for three teams with these AB and BA:
Washington: 3,817 .274
Boston: 3,004 .320
Houston: 508 .246
George Brett is considered to have the highest BA since Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941. In 1990 Brett hit .390 but in only 515 PA and 449 AB. Brett played in 117 of 162 games. That's ridiculous. Cecil Cooper batted .352 in 687 PA, 622 AB, 153 games. However, Brett had 175 Hits, more than one per scheduled game. Brett was tied for number 15 in Hits.
1. Opportunities: The denominator should be used in any average stat. That's basic common sense. BA = Hits/AB. Let's consider the low threshold of 3.1 per game. That's applied to PA and it yields a threshold that's ridiculously low. In 154 games it would be 477 PA. I would use 500 AB even for 154 games and higher for 162.
2. Accomplishment: Looking at the 1958 table above Rocky Colavito had a lot more Hits (148) and AB (489) than Williams. But using only opportunities as the qualifier, Colavito would not be considered. What if we used the number of Hits, maybe the top 10 or 15? Maybe that in conjunction with AB? Maybe Hits relative to scheduled games.
I'd lean towards the top 15 in Hits. Using PA makes no sense. It's just lazy thinking that's a holdover from long ago when they simplified things by having the same standard for a bunch of average stats, some of which they incorrectly called percentages, such as On Base Percentage (OBP), which not show as a percentage but as an average. It's just lazy.