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Friday, November 4, 2016

Did Tito Francona miss leading in batting average by one at bat? No, but general confusion persists about changing qualifying standards.

Tito Francona is the father of the manager of the Cleveland Indians, Terry Francona. Tito is a nickname, which is also sometimes applied to son Terry. Tito is 83 years old today. Happy birthday, Tito.

John Patsy Francona
PositionsOutfielder, First Baseman and Pinch Hitter
Bats: Left, Throws: Left
Height: 5' 11", Weight: 190 lb.
Born: November 41933 in Aliquippa, PA (Age 83.000) HAPPY BIRTHDAY!
High School: New Brighton HS (New Brighton, PA)
 by the St. Louis Browns as an amateur free agent in 1952. (All Transactions)

Debut: April 17, 1956 (Age 22.165, 8,923rd in MLB history)   vs. BOS 4 AB, 1 H, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 SB
Rookie Status: Exceeded rookie limits during 1956 season [*]
Teams (by GP): Indians/Braves/Orioles/Cardinals/Athletics/... 1956-1970
Last Game: September 29, 1970 (Age 36)

1959 Totals 122 95 443 399 68 145 17 2 20 79 2 1 35 42 .363 .414 .566 .980 226 12 3 1 5 3 8 .365 100 172
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/4/2016.

Note the plate appearances (PA) and at bats (AB), along with Francona's batting average (BA) of .363. American League (AL) leaders in 1959:

Batting Average  s c a p y
1.Kuenn (DET).353
2.Kaline (DET).327
3.Runnels (BOS).314
4.Fox (CHW).306
5.Minoso (CLE).302
6.Richardson (NYY).301
7.Tuttle (KCA).300
8.Woodling (BAL).300
9.Power (CLE).289
10.Cerv (KCA).285

Why isn't Tito Francona listed as the leader? Francona did not have enough times at the plate (vague by intention). First the incorrect explanation, then the correct.

SABR bio by Joseph Wancho (no date)

John Patsy Francona was born on November 4, 1933, in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, on the Ohio border. He was the second son (older brother David) born to Mr. and Mrs. Carmen Francona. He was given the nickname Tito (“little one” in Italian) by his father...

... a leg injury cost him some playing time at the end of the (1959) season. As a result, despite his .363 batting average, he fell one at-bat shy (399) of qualifying for the batting title, which was won by Detroit’s Harvey Kuenn, who batted .353.



What are the minimum requirements to lead a Rate Stat?
This is a bit of a dicey proposition, because the standards have changed quite a bit throughout time. Here is how we computed them for the website. Thanks to Bill Deane, Gerry Myerson and Total Baseball for clarifying some of these issues.
Batting Average, OBP, Slugging Percentage, OPS
  • Prior to 1920, a player must have appeared in 60% of the team's games to qualify for a title. This number was rounded to the nearest integer.
  • From 1920-1937 (unclear, and previously thought to be until 1944), a player must have appeared in 100 games.
  • From 1938-1944, the AL used 400 at bats and the NL stayed with 100 games, as discovered by Paul Rivard of SABR.
  • From 1945-1956, a player must have 2.6 at bats per team game. Note, however, that from 1951-1954 a player could lead if they still led after the necessary number of hitless at bats were added to their at bat total.
  • From 1957 to the present, a player must have 3.1 plate appearances per team game. Note, however, that from 1967 to the present a player could lead if they still led after the necessary number of hitless plate appearances were added to their at bat total.

The mistake of the SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) bio author is known because of research by another SABR member.

The hard 400 AB standard had ended in 1944 and was long gone by 1959 when Tito Francona had 399 AB.

3.1*154=477 PA. Francona had 443 PA, 34 short. What if we applied the 1945-1956 standard 0f 2.6 AB per team game?

Even if we added the 34 hitless PA to Francona's AB, which was not allowed until 1967, he would have too low a BA: 145/433=.335 BA. Under the previous rule that ended in 1956, adding just one AB would leave Francona at .3625. Francona would have qualified and led the AL in BA.

2.6*154=400 AB. So that was basically a more flexible version of the 400 AB, probably to allow for a short season.

If applied to 162 games: 2.6*162=421 AB. That seems reasonable. AL expanded and increased the schedule from 154 to 162 games in 1961, NL in 1962.

The qualifying standard applies directly to three averages for batters: Batting Average, OBP, Slugging Percentage, OPS (On Base plus Slugging).

Neither On Base, nor Slugging are ever presented as percentages but as averages, like BA. Consequently, OPS is also shown as an average.

Why the switch from AB to PA, which is basically AB+BB+HBP+SF+SH? My guess was laziness. It allowed for the same standard for all three averages even though only On Base actually uses PA to calculate. Both BA and SLG use AB.

So, Tito Francona failed to qualify in 1959 by 477-443=34 PA. Had the previous two standards been applied, Francona would have missed by one AB.

Ted Williams in 1954 did not qualify for Batting Average (BA). Tuesday, April 5, 2016

In 1954 Ted Williams played in 117 games: 526 plate appearances (PA), 386 at bats (AB), American League (AL) leading 136 Bases on Balls (BB) and 133 Hits.


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