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Hall of Merit
— A Look at Baseball's All-Time Best

Monday, February 02, 2009

Barry Larkin

Eligible in 2010.

John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 02, 2009 at 09:51 PM | 58 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 02, 2009 at 09:59 PM (#3065999)
The best player on the field when healthy from the 2010 class.
   2. RJ in TO Posted: February 02, 2009 at 10:02 PM (#3066005)
The best player on the field when healthy from the 2010 class.


And what a glorious Tuesday that was.
   3. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 02, 2009 at 10:04 PM (#3066011)
Heh.
   4. RJ in TO Posted: February 02, 2009 at 10:10 PM (#3066020)
In all seriousness, if I actually voted in Hall of Merit elections, he'd probably be at the top of my ballot - great hitter (especially when compared against his position), great fielder, great baserunner. Even with a hit for his poor in-season durability (only 6 seasons with 140 games or more in a 19 year career? That's a lot of playing time for his backups), he's still overly qualified.
   5. OCF Posted: February 02, 2009 at 10:18 PM (#3066026)
only 6 seasons with 140 games or more in a 19 year career?

To be fair: he played 110 out of 114 team games in 1994 and 131 out of 144 team games in 1995. So at the threshold you're setting, make that 8 seasons at that level rather than 6. This is not to say that playing time isn't an issue, but let's not make it worse than it was.
   6. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 02, 2009 at 10:20 PM (#3066031)
he's still overly qualified.


No question, Ryan. The only question for me is if he should he go ahead of Alomar or not in our next election. There's no question that he should go in easily, however.
   7. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: February 02, 2009 at 10:45 PM (#3066057)
An all-time great. The only SS I would definitely take over him are Wagner, A-Rod, Lloyd, Ripken, and Vaughan. One notch below the inner circle. Given his baserunning and defensive value, he was so great when he played that even the missed games didn't stop him from being an MVP candidate year in, year out. I can't find enough good things to say about the guy.
   8. DL from MN Posted: February 02, 2009 at 11:02 PM (#3066071)
Wagner, Honus
Lloyd, Pop
Ripken, Cal
Vaughan, Arky
Dahlen, Bill
Davis, George
Appling, Luke
LARKIN, BARRY
Smith, Ozzie
Wells, Willie
   9. OCF Posted: February 02, 2009 at 11:08 PM (#3066080)
Brief rewind of actual MVP vote for 1995: (remember that it was about a 145 game season)

1. Barry Larkin: SS, 131 G, 133 OPS+, OBP-heavy, and 51-5 SB-CS.

2. Dante Bichette: corner OF, 139 G, 129 OPS+, SLG-heavy. You're kidding me, right? (But ... but ... but he had 40 HR! He had 128 RBI! Park factor - what's that?)

3. Greg Maddux: P. Insanely great, of course - I won't go into details.

4. Mike Piazza: C, 112 G, 172 OPS+. Interesting that for this year, Piazza is the one with the durability issue with respect to Larkin.

5. Eric Karros: 1B, 143 G, 145 OPS. Ho-hum.

....

12. Barry Bonds: corner OF, 144 G, 168 OPS+, OBP-heavy but also above-average in IBB; 31-10 SB-CS. But he wasn't doing anything he hadn't already done in previous years.

Right now I can't find my end-of-season writeup for a few friends from after that season. I do recall that I was surprised by the choice of Larkin - but after it sunk in for a moment, I started saying, "Yeah, I can see that."

Dan - what do your numbers say about this?
   10. Mike Green Posted: February 02, 2009 at 11:16 PM (#3066087)
Larkin and Appling next to each other is fitting. Old Aches and Pains did manage another 1000 PAs, by carrying on until age 43. I personally would have Larkin ahead of Appling.
   11. Mike Green Posted: February 02, 2009 at 11:20 PM (#3066093)
Maddux has to be the 1995 MVP, in fact.
   12. Obama Bomaye Posted: February 02, 2009 at 11:23 PM (#3066097)
Sorry Mike, he couldn't even win 20 games, as usual.
   13. DL from MN Posted: February 02, 2009 at 11:30 PM (#3066103)
Dan R NL Salary #s for 1995

1) Piazza $32.3M
2) Bonds $28.6M
3) Larkin $20.7M
4) Biggio $19.3M
5) Sanders $18.0M
6) Mondesi $15.4M
7) Bagwell $13.9M
8) Karros $13.6M
9) Matt Williams $13.4M
10) Gant $12.7M
   14. OCF Posted: February 02, 2009 at 11:31 PM (#3066104)
My RA+ equivalent record for Maddux rounds to 20-3; with a couple more digits, it's 19.92-3.38. This comes from an RA+ of 283 (slightly ahead of his ERA+ of 262).
   15. DL from MN Posted: February 02, 2009 at 11:34 PM (#3066105)
Dan R starting pitcher salary #s for 1995
1) Maddux $42.8M
2) Glavine $17.5M
3) Smoltz $13.4M
4) Navarro $12.9M
5) Neagle $12.8M
6) Wells $12.7M

I don't have relief salary #s from Dan R
   16. OCF Posted: February 02, 2009 at 11:35 PM (#3066106)
Re 13: that high for Piazza even with 30 missing games? Wow. But I guess that's what a C with a 172 OPS+ gets you. Sanders was 6th in the actual voting, and Bagwell and Gant drew votes. Mondesi and Williams didn't get any votes. I'm not even sure it's worth asking how far down the list you have to scroll to get to Bichette.
   17. DL from MN Posted: February 02, 2009 at 11:38 PM (#3066109)
Bichette 1995 - $3.7M
   18. Obama Bomaye Posted: February 02, 2009 at 11:42 PM (#3066111)
Hey, $3.7M can still buy a lot of beer.
   19. Blackadder Posted: February 02, 2009 at 11:48 PM (#3066115)
It's worth mentioning that according to Dan's numbers Bonds was actually worth significantly more wins above replacement than Piazza in 1995: 8.2 vs. 6.6. Piazza pulls ahead in "salary" because DL is using the salary estimator which incorporated rate into salary. Dan is currently using a salary estimator which is monotonic in wins above replacement (it is just WARP2^1.5), so would rank Bonds ahead of Piazza, which honestly seems the more correct position, as 1.4 wins is an awful lot.
   20. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: February 03, 2009 at 12:02 AM (#3066126)
My salary numbers include a 58% catcher bonus for HoM purposes. Maddux would get my vote running away.
   21. OCF Posted: February 03, 2009 at 12:04 AM (#3066127)
[Bonds] 8.2 vs. 6.6 [Piazza]

And Larkin on that scale?
   22. Blackadder Posted: February 03, 2009 at 02:44 AM (#3066174)
Larkin is 6.6, tied with Piazza. And I agree with Dan, Maddux is clearly the MVP. Bonds seems to be clearly the best position in the league.
   23. Blackadder Posted: February 03, 2009 at 02:54 AM (#3066177)
Larkin is 6.6, tied with Piazza. The defensive numbers Dan uses did not like him that year (-0.6 wins), even though they are generally favorable over the course of his career. And I agree with Dan, I don't see how anyone could argue that Maddux was not the MVP. Most valuable position player is more interesting, although I think Bonds is still the pretty clear answer to that question, even if it is less obvious than Maddux as MVP.
   24. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: February 03, 2009 at 03:18 AM (#3066183)
1995 NL MVP (excluding relief pitchers)

Notes:

1. These numbers are not standard deviation-adjusted, since we are only comparing within the same league-season.
2. They are projected to 162 games.
3. I have changed my replacement level for starting pitchers. According to Tangotiger, the average non-closer reliever is a .500 pitcher in the bullpen, and a .410 pitcher in the rotation. If a starter goes down, he is thus replaced by a .410 pitcher, and then a .470 replacement reliever comes in to fill his innings, presumably at a leverage of around 0.6. So for every 200 innings, the reliever promoted to starter will be (.5-.41)*162*200/1458 = 2.0 wins below average per 200 innings, and the replacement reliever will be 0.6*(.5-.47)*162*200/1458 = 0.4 wins below average per 200 innings, for a new replacement level of 2.4 wins per 200 innings. (I was using 2.1 in the old spreadsheet).
4. I am assuming all pitchers are equal as baserunners, and am crediting all of their fielding in the pitching column.
4. Maddux throws these charts off a bit, because he was such an extreme player that he changes the run environment in his games, so that his individual above-average scores (8.9 pitching wins above, 1.0 batting wins below) leave him 0.2 wins short of where he is when the two are combined together. I have chosen to credit those "phantom" wins in the PWAA column.

Player    BWAA BRWAA FWAA PWAA Replc WARP
Maddux    
-0.8   0.0  0.0  8.9  -3.9 12.0
Bonds      6.9   0.2  0.5  0.0  
-1.2  8.8
Larkin     3.5   1.3 
-0.7  0.0  -3.0  7.1
Piazza     5.6   0.0 
-0.3  0.0  -1.8  7.1
Biggio     5.8   0.5 
-1.4  0.0  -1.8  6.7
Neagle    
-1.2   0.0  0.0  3.6  -4.0  6.4
Sanders    4.9  
-0.5  0.9  9.9  -1.1  6.4
Glavine   
-0.5   0.0  0.0  3.1  -3.6  6.2
Mondesi    2.9   0.3  1.4  0.0  
-1.2  5.8
Nomo      
-1.7   0.0  0.0  3.8  -3.5  5.8
Schourek  
-0.7   0.0  0.0  2.9  -3.4  5.6
Martínez  
-1.3   0.0  0.0  3.3  -3.6  5.6
Navarro   
-0.8   0.0  0.0  2.7  -3.7  5.5
Bagwell    4.3   0.1  0.7  0.0  
-0.3  5.4
MWilliams  3.7   0.1  0.8  0.0  
-0.8  5.4
Karros     4.8  
-0.4  0.5  0.0  -0.3  5.3
Smoltz    
-1.0   0.0  0.0  2.7  -3.5  5.2
Gant       3.5   0.2  0.5  0.0  
-1.0  5.1
Ritz      
-0.7   0.0  0.0  2.6  -3.1  5.0
Grace      4.4   0.3  0.0  0.0  
-0.3  5.0
Ashby     
-0.8   0.0  0.0  2.4  -3.3  4.9
Sosa       2.6  
-0.1  1.1  0.0  -1.2  4.8
Smiley    
-0.5   0.0  0.0  2.0  -3.3  4.8
Walker     2.2   0.2  1.0  0.0  
-1.1  4.5
Castillo  
-1.3   0.0  0.0  2.4  -3.4  4.5
Caminiti   3.8   0.0 
-0.7  0.0  -1.4  4.5
Valdés    
-1.6   0.0  0.0  2.4  -3.5  4.5 
   25. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: February 03, 2009 at 03:20 AM (#3066184)
Haha, that should be an 0.0 for Sanders' pitching, not a 9.9. Oops.
   26. HGM Posted: February 03, 2009 at 03:30 AM (#3066187)
Dan R, are your overall pitching numbers available anywhere?
   27. Wes Parkers Mood (Mike Green) Posted: February 03, 2009 at 03:33 AM (#3066190)
DanR, how does your new view of the increased disparity between average and replacement level for starting pitchers (2.4 wins per 200 innings instead of 2.1) affect the marginal medium vs. long career starters, e.g. Tiant vs. John?
   28. OCF Posted: February 03, 2009 at 03:58 AM (#3066200)
So how would I summarize where this discussion of the 1995 MVP has gotten us?

The voters did miss the boat in giving insufficient credit to the starting pitcher, as they similarly missed the boat in 1985. But once get past the SP/position player thing and just focus on the position players, it is far from obvious who deserved to win. Yes, the whole "winning team" and "but we've already honored you, what have you done lately" prejudices are vastly overdone - but I'm not going to object too terribly much to a light touch of those. Cincinnati won their division going away, and the Giants were in last place in theirs.

So Larkin's MVP was well within reason - it's certainly not one of the awards that we point at and snicker or wail. (We save the snickering for Bichette in 2nd place.) And we're also not talking about a Ken Caminiti or Zoilo Versalles VMP. This year does not stick out from Larkin's career. It was one of his good years, primarily because it was one of his healthy years, but he had other years that were roughly that good. (In fact, I don't really know what his best year was.)

If a player can win at least an arguably justified MVP in a personally good but not outlier year - that's a good thing for an HoM candidacy.

In the NLDS that year, Larkin hit pretty well. In the NLCS, he single-handedly accounted for 1/4 of Cincinnati's total hits and 1/2 of their extra base hits. Unfortunately, if you think about that for more than about 3 seconds, you'll realize that the real story was what Glavine, Smoltz, Maddux, and Avery did to every other Red batter.
   29. Howie Menckel Posted: February 03, 2009 at 04:29 AM (#3066217)
I look forward to the "Larkin vs Alomar" debate.

For those new to Hall of Merit, we have to elect 3 in 2010, and Edgar Martinez is probably more competition than anyone on the leftovers list.
So both middle infielders skate right in, rightly so given we're accepting the size of the current Hall (and we've already elected Blyleven and Raines and Santo and Torre et al).
   30. OCF Posted: February 03, 2009 at 04:57 AM (#3066229)
I did find my own post-season all-star writeup from 1995. (Circulated only among a few friends.) I was using raw WS without systematic park adjustments and anecdotal fielding assumptions. In any case, I came up with this for my MVP ballot:

1. Maddux
2. Piazza
3. Bonds
4. Larkin
5. Biggio

For all the 14 year difference in time and the cruder methods, that's still quite close to the information in Dan's post #24.

After Maddux, the next four pitchers listed in post #24 are Neagle, Glavine, Nomo, and Schourek. I had Nomo, Glavine, Joey Hamilton, and Schourek - so the difference is Hamilton instead of Neagle.
   31. Obama Bomaye Posted: February 03, 2009 at 05:20 AM (#3066237)
I was using raw WS without systematic park adjustments and anecdotal fielding assumptions.

Unless you're tighter with Bill than you've let on, I'm not sure how you had access to WS in '95. Unless that stands for something else?
   32. OCF Posted: February 03, 2009 at 05:25 AM (#3066240)
For good measure, from the same document, my contemporaneous 1995 AL MVP picks:

1. Edgar Martinez
2. Albert Belle
3. Randy Johnson
4. Tim Salmon
5. John Valentin

The actual MVP was Mo Vaughn, and I thought that each of Martinez, Belle, Frank Thomas, and Salmon were better offensive players than Vaughn, with Palmiero, Tino Martinez, and Manny Ramirez being comparable as offensive players (and with McGwire better on rate stats but short on playing time). And what value did Vaughn have other than as a hitter?
   33. OCF Posted: February 03, 2009 at 05:26 AM (#3066241)
#31: sorry, I meant to type RC (Runs Created) - which was always very much open-source.
   34. CFBF Is A Golden Spider Duck Posted: February 03, 2009 at 05:34 AM (#3066245)
Unfortunately, if you think about that for more than about 3 seconds, you'll realize that the real story was what Glavine, Smoltz, Maddux, and Avery did to every other Red batter.

Geez, but you're not kidding.

Maddux: Eight innings, one run, four strikeouts, two walks.
Smoltz: Seven innings, two runs, two strikeouts, two walks.
Glavine: Seven innings, one run, five strikeouts, two walks.
Avery: Six innings, zero runs, six strikeouts, three walks.

The Reds hit .209/.282/.261. Poor Reggie Sanders hit .125/.222/.125 in 16 at-bats. With 10 strikeouts. (How'd he draw two walks?)
   35. Obama Bomaye Posted: February 03, 2009 at 06:03 AM (#3066254)
I calculated BaseRuns for the '95 MVP candidates mentioned. I adjust them for team (e.g., if the BaseRuns formula overestimates how many runs the player's team scored, I have decreased each individual player's BsR by that percentage). They are NOT adjusted for park. They are not adjusted for hitting with RISP.

Apologies in advance for formatting...

...........BsR...Outs
B. Bonds....122...383
C. Biggio...119...418
D. Bichette.112...414
B. Larkin...102...356
E. Karros....99...409
J. Bagwell...91...338
R. Gant......88...322
M. Piazza....88*..295
R. Mondesi...86...401
M. Williams..63...199

* On the spreadsheet I use to calculate BsR, I simultaneously calculate wOBA runs. wOBA was the all-encompassing offensive stat introduced in The Book -- like EQA, but on an OBP scale. I have converted it into runs. Anyway, for most players I calculate, they have a few more wOBA runs than BsR. I assume this is because, like most runs-created formulas, wOBA overestimates the runs created by a top player because it assumes that their slugging and on-base abilities are interacting, which obviously cannot happen in real life (a Bonds HR cannot drive in a Bonds BB). BsR does not have that problem. ANYWAY, I have Piazza with 100 wOBA runs, which is quite a bit higher than his 88 BsR total. I really haven't looked close enough to have an idea why there is such a discrepancy in his case -- both stats use essentially the same inputs. BsR are calculated by removing a player's production from his team and determining the difference in runs created. It would seem that whatever Piazza did, perhaps it didn't complement his surrounding lineup in some way. I didn't notice a similar difference for Karros and Mondesi.
   36. Obama Bomaye Posted: February 03, 2009 at 06:19 AM (#3066259)
In the '95 AL, I recall that a lot of people thought Belle should have won. I remember arguing at the time that early in the season, people were mentioning Lofton and Baerga (I think) as the Indians' MVP candidates. Belle did almost all his (considerable) damage in the last couple months, when Cleveland already had a 50-game lead. I don't remember as clearly how well Vaughn leveraged his production, but I thought he had more pennant race impact. I haven't studied it so I'm not sure who I'd pick now. But I would still consider the context more than most HOMies/Primates do.

FWIW:
Belle 133 BsR, 403 outs
Vaughn 112 BsR, 410 outs
Martinez 143 BsR, 347 outs

Jeez...I'd have a hard time overlooking the DH factor, but that's some season for Edgar.
   37. Paul Wendt Posted: February 03, 2009 at 03:51 PM (#3066355)
DanR #24
3. I have changed my replacement level for starting pitchers. According to Tangotiger, the average non-closer reliever is a .500 pitcher in the bullpen, and a .410 pitcher in the rotation. If a starter goes down, he is thus replaced by a .410 pitcher, and then a .470 replacement reliever comes in to fill his innings, presumably at a leverage of around 0.6. So for every 200 innings, the reliever promoted to starter will be (.5-.41)*162*200/1458 = 2.0 wins below average per 200 innings, and the replacement reliever will be 0.6*(.5-.47)*162*200/1458 = 0.4 wins below average per 200 innings, for a new replacement level of 2.4 wins per 200 innings. (I was using 2.1 in the old spreadsheet).

- What is the time period covered by TT's research?
- Are you using this replacement level for 1893-2008?

4 [should be 5]. Maddux throws these charts off a bit, because he was such an extreme player that he changes the run environment in his games, so that his individual above-average scores (8.9 pitching wins above, 1.0 batting wins below) leave him 0.2 wins short of where he is when the two are combined together. I have chosen to credit those "phantom" wins in the PWAA column.

evidently in the BWAA column. Maddux -0.8, +8.9
   38. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: February 03, 2009 at 04:43 PM (#3066476)
HGM--I have preliminary starting pitcher numbers that I can send to you, but they have a ton of flaws. The figures I've posted here are much more reliable, but I'm still calculating them by hand.

Mike Green--clearly, it would benefit the Johns of the world substantially at the expense of, say, the Deans. But that's assuming that starting pitcher replacement level has held steady across time, which I highly suspect it hasn't. I just have a lot more research to do on this subject.

OCF--I have Larkin's best as '88 on the strength of 1.0 baserunning wins and 1.2 fielding wins, plus the fact that SS was much scarcer then than it would be once ARod/Nomar/Jeter/Tejada hit the show. Obviously, his best hitting year was 1996. What I find remarkable about Larkin was his consistency--he was a legitimate MVP candidate (which I would define as over 6.5-7 WARP) in nine different seasons! He just did so many things well that he would always compensate for, say, a poor year with the glove with a good year on the basepaths.

Howie Menckel--I don't see that as a "debate" at all. I see Larkin as just short of an inner circle type player, and Alomar as just barely over our in/out line. Clearly if you credit Alomar for the anecdotal/reputational accounts of his defense, he moves from being slightly above a borderliner to a solid Hall member, but still is nowhere close to Larkin's stratosphere. Alomar has two more years' worth of hitting at the same rate, but Larkin more than compensates with even better baserunning, much better fielding (+65 vs. -50 per the stats), and, of course, a whole career spent at shortstop rather than second base, in an era after 2B and 3B had completed their convergence. The 2B/SS gap was particularly large when Alomar and Larkin were getting their starts--2B deepened rapidly in the mid-1980's, while SS didn't really start beefing up until the mid-1990's, Ripken/Yount/Trammell/Ozzie aside.

Here is the same chart for the 1995 AL:

Player    BWAA BRWAA FWAA PWAA Replc WARP
Johnson    0.0   0.0  0.0  7.8  
-2.9 10.7
Salmon     6.0   0.1  0.6  0.0  
-1.8  8.5
Valentin   3.5   0.0  1.1  0.0  
-3.7  8.3
Cone       0.0   0.0  0.0  4.5  
-3.1  7.6
Thome      4.8  
-0.1  0.9  0.0  -1.8  7.3
Mussina    0.0   0.0  0.0  4.1  
-3.0  7.0
Belle      5.6  
-0.2 -0.3  0.0  -1.8  6.9
McGwire    5.9   0.0  0.2  0.0  
-0.6  6.8
EMartínez  7.4  
-0.3 -0.3  0.0  -0.1  6.8
Thomas     7.4  
-0.3 -1.0  0.0  -0.6  6.7
Rogers     0.0   0.0  0.0  3.7  
-2.8  6.5
Edmonds    2.7   0.1  1.4  0.0  
-2.1  6.3
Wakefield  0.0   0.0  0.0  3.7  
-2.6  6.3
DMartínez  0.0   0.0  0.0  3.8  
-2.5  6.3
Leiter     0.0   0.0  0.0  3.5  
-2.5  6.0
BWilliams  2.7   0.2  0.8  0.0  
-2.2  5.9
Knoblauch  3.2  
-0.3  0.6  0.0  -2.3  5.8
Palmeiro   3.8  
-0.1  1.1  0.0  -0.9  5.7
Ventura    3.1  
-0.1  0.7  0.0  -1.7  5.4
Gubicza    0.0   0.0  0.0  2.1  
-2.9  4.9
TMartínez  2.9  
-0.2  1.2  0.0  -0.9  4.8
Appier     0.0   0.0  0.0  2.1  
-2.7  4.8
Brown      0.0   0.0  0.0  2.4  
-2.3  4.7
Ramírez    3.8  
-0.2 -0.6  0.0  -1.6  4.6
Abbott     0.0   0.0  0.0  2.0  
-2.7  4.6
Ripken    
-1.0  -0.1  1.8  0.0  -3.7  4.5
Boggs      1.9   0.1  0.9  0.0  
-1.7  4.5
AFernández 0.0   0.0  0.0  1.7  
-2.7  4.5
Vaughn     3.2  
-0.4  0.6  0.0  -0.9  4.3 
   39. DL from MN Posted: February 03, 2009 at 04:45 PM (#3066482)
Dan R's 1995 AL numbers

I only have the stdev adjusted numbers for the pitchers.

Randy Johnson 9.0 WARP
Salmon 8.5
Valentin 8.3
Thome 7.3
Belle 6.9
Edgar 6.8
McGwire 6.8
Hurt 6.7
Edmonds 6.3
Cone 6.1
Mussina 5.9
Bernie 5.9
Wakefield 5.9
Kenny Rogers 5.8
Knoblauch 5.8
Palmiero 5.7
   40. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: February 03, 2009 at 05:00 PM (#3066509)
Jim Thome was 9 runs above average at third base in 1995? I always figured he just ended up there because they had Murray and Sorrento taking up the positions he should have been playing.
   41. OCF Posted: February 03, 2009 at 06:33 PM (#3066632)
Pitchers for MVP in both leagues that year!

It looks to me that the biggest differences between Dan's #38 and my #32, besides me not being bold enough to go for the pitcher, lie in the "Replc" column and the "FWAA" column. When I did this back in 1995, I don't think I was making that much of the positional difference between a DH (Martinez) and a RF (Salmon). And while I did allow that a SS was different than a RF (and I thought at the time I was going out on a limb putting Valentin in the top 5), I don't think I was giving Valentin credit for being a good fielding SS. (Or giving Thome credit for being a good fielding 3B, either.) And it looks like there was a considerable defensive difference between Salmon and Belle - I knew there was some difference, but I probably wasn't thinking it was that big.

My writeup at the time did mention that one of the factors helping Vaughn's RBI total was Valentin's OBP in front of him. Vaughn as the elected MVP wasn't one of the BBWAA's finer moments - but there's something depressingly ordinary about it. They've done essentially that many different times.

Dan's comment about Larkin's best year being '88 just emphasizes the point I was making about the non-outlier status of his '95 season.
   42. Famous Original Joe C Posted: February 03, 2009 at 07:08 PM (#3066668)
Jim Thome was 9 runs above average at third base in 1995? I always figured he just ended up there because they had Murray and Sorrento taking up the positions he should have been playing.

Based on one season of a non-PBP metric. I wouldn't read much into it.
   43. tjm1 Posted: February 03, 2009 at 09:15 PM (#3066817)
My recollection of the AL MVP race in 1995 is that the widespread perception was that Albert Belle was the most deserving by the numbers. It's true that he probably wasn't, because OBP is more important than SLG, but Belle led the league in homers by 10, and tied for the leads in RBI and runs, and hit for a good batting average. He was second in OPS. The OBP heavy players with good numbers like Edgar and Thome were probably more valuable in reality than Belle was, but the perception, at least among the mainsteam media, was the Belle was the best hitter in the league by a wide margin, and an adequate left fielder.

Now, a lot of the old timers weren't going to vote for Albert Belle. Rather than talk up OBP and vote for Thome or Martinez or Salmon, or talk up an across-the-boards contribution and vote for Valentin, or vote for a pitcher, what they did was talk about leadership non-stop. Vaughn was widely regarded as a first-rate clubhouse guy. Albert Belle was clearly regarded as a jerk. Plus there was the issue that the Indians were so good that year that they weren't really in a pennant race.

Now, as a Red Sox fan, I have to say it was pretty clear to me at the time that Valentin was more valuable. In fact, I think John Valentin is probably the best player Bill James left out of the Historical Abstract. Yes, his career was a bit short, but he did have a couple MVP caliber seasons, which is more than you could say for the guys at the bottom of the lists at most position other than pitcher in that book.

Anyways, on the main point, if you had asked me if Barry Larkin would make the Hall of Fame while he was active, I would have been fairly certain that he would. In hindsight, seeing how some other players have been treated, I don't think he's a sure thing for the first ballot.
   44. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: February 03, 2009 at 11:09 PM (#3066964)
Paul Wendt--I believe it is the modern game (no idea what the exact time period is). The preliminary numbers I have distributed use 2.1 rather than 2.4, but all you have to do is add on 0.3 WARP2 per 200 translated IP and you're golden. Yeah, batting wins, pitching wins, whatever. :)

DL from MN--you definitely don't want to use stdev-adjusted numbers for this, since pitchers and hitters are being adjusted at different rates. Whenever I can come up with a genuinely integrated version of my WARP, I will need to address this.

Eric J--I mean, who knows, of course. But it certainly fits with what we know about defensive aging curves that a guy might start out as above-average at a mid-spectrum position, drop down to below-average, and then be shifted down-spectrum by his mid-20's. They're not *true* PBP metrics, but these numbers (a weighted average of Chris Dial's Zone Rating-based RSpt and Dan Fox's Retrosheet-based Simple Fielding Runs) do show a phenomenally high correlation (.92) with a weighted average of modern PBP metrics for the years we have all sets of data available, so I'd regard these figures as pretty reliable. (The pre-1987 numbers are muuuch less trustworthy, by contrast, since there is no Zone Rating or Retrosheet hit type data available). The two measures disagree in the case of Thome in 1995, with Dial seeing him as an outstanding +14 and Fox as a pedestrian +1, so my equation splits the difference and gives him +8.

OCF--a 9-run fielding difference between Salmon and Belle isn't thaat big, although it's certainly significant. But then there's a further three runs of baserunning.

A few further notes:

1. I am not sure that these pitcher numbers are on target. The 2.4 replacement level does "feel" a little low; then again, the average 5th starter really is quite putrid, so maybe it just takes some getting used to. But more importantly, I think there is a big conceptual issue to address in terms of how to apply the Pythagenpat equation for starting pitchers.

Let's look at Maddux in 1995, who after adjusting for park and defense "should" have allowed 41 runs in 209.7 innings in 1995, while adding his bat to a league-average offense would subtract 9 runs, in a 4.65 RA environment. There are two ways to apply Pythagoras here. One is to look at the team total: there should be 1,296 innings in a 144-game season. Maddux threw 209.7 innings, allowing 41 runs; his teammates would thus allow (1296-209.7)*4.65/9 = 561 runs, for a total of 602 runs allowed. The lineup would score (4.65*1296/9) - 9 = 661 runs. 661 runs scored and 602 runs allowed in 144 games yields an exponent of 1.86, and a team winning percentage of .543, or an 88.0-74.0 record when extrapolated to 162 games, 7.0 wins above average.

The other approach is to consider Maddux's innings separately from those of the rest of the team, since they are not evenly distributed among the club's games but concentrated into his starts. In that case, in his innings the team would allow 41 runs, and would score (209.7*4.65/9)-9 = 99 runs, which in 209.7/9 = 23.3 full games' worth of play produces an exponent of 1.67 and a winning percentage of .813. An .813 winning percentage in 209.7/1296 = 16.2% of the team's schedule, plus a .500 winning percentage in the remaining 83.8% of the team's schedule, produces a team winning percentage of .551, a record of 89.2-72.8, 8.2 wins above average--a very significant difference. This is the figure you see above.

Which strategy is right? My initial guess would be to take a weighted average of the two methods based on innings per start. Since Maddux averaged 7.5 innings per start, I'd weight the higher estimate at 6.5/8 and the lower at 1.5/8, giving a combined value of 8.0 wins above average. But that does seem like a rather half-baked solution...if anyone has any guidance on this, I'd really appreciate it.

2. I'll break down the batting wins for the players where they differ substantially (over 5 points) from what OPS+ would suggest:

Belle: His actual OPS+ was 177; his BWAA suggest it "should" have been 161. First, he hit into 8.55 double plays more than a league-average player would have in his opportunities, which is worth 6 points of OPS+. Second, his OPS was *extremely* SLG-heavy (116 OBP+, 161 SLG+), in a high run scoring environment where the relative importance of OBP to SLG goes up. If I were to replace 30 of his HR and 43 outs with 73 singles, his line would become .396/.469/.604, leaving his OPS+ at the same 177 ((.469/.345)+(.604/.429)-1)*100, but he would add a full 7 points to his "fair" OPS+. Just as a final spot-check, I ran his line through the BaseRuns estimator rather than through the XR estimator, and it gave him 0.2 wins above average more than XR, so if you want to put him at 7.1 WARP instead of 6.9, go right ahead.

Vaughn: His actual OPS+ was 144; his BWAA suggest it "should" have been 134. 7 double plays above league average in his opportunities account for 4 of these points, an above-average intentional walk rate generates another 2, and SLG-heaviness (111 OBP+, 133 SLG+) is responsible for the missing 4.

Biggio: His actual OPS+ was 141; his BWAA suggest it "should" have been 152. He hit into 9.61 fewer double plays than a league-average player would have in his opportunities, which is worth 7 points; he only drew one intentional walk and had three sac flies above average, which are worth another point, and his OPS+ was quite OBP-heavy (123 OBP+, 118 SLG+), accounting for the rest.

Walker: About as SLG-heavy as you can get (101 OBP+, 129 SLG+), in a psycho run environment where OBP is king. Again, if I replace 26 HR's and 37 outs with 63 singles, he'd have hit .381/.447/.524, the same 130 OPS+, but 6 points more valuable in terms of "fair" OPS+. A high IBB rate accounts for another point, and I think the rest is probably due to a slight systematic overrating of Colorado sluggers by OPS+ due to the non-linear nature of run scoring and the extremity of the environment.
   45. OCF Posted: February 04, 2009 at 03:19 AM (#3067112)
About as SLG-heavy as you can get ... in a psycho run environment where OBP is king

I had to double-check to make sure you were talking about Walker and not Bichette in this paragraph. You were; change the name to Bichette and you just get to put some extra hot sauce on what you said.

But what does that make Walt Weiss's roythomasian line of .260/.403/.321 (76) ?
   46. hokieneer Posted: February 04, 2009 at 03:52 AM (#3067119)
Not sure I can add much to the 1995 NL MVP discussion, but I can give you my perspective. I've been playing Strat-O-Matic baseball since 1995 (when I was a teenager), almost every year. Before I knew about OPS+, ERA+, WARP, VORP, etc; I had the yearly Strat-O-Matic cards to use in player comparisons. It's not an exact science, or even a good attempt, but for a young kid who understand the importance of not making outs and pitchers just getting outs, it was great for me to have some kind of tool to rate players besides their ERA, HR, RBI.

Maddux's 1995 card was absolutely ridiculous. I can remember it clearly. At the time I thought it was the best card in the NL. I have been playing since 1995, and that card has made my "OMG, what a card" list for starting pitchers along with: Randy Johnson's 1997, Randy Johnson's quick stint in Hou (to be fair his overall card was amazing, but not unbelievable), Randy Johnson's 2004 card, Pedro's 1999 and 2000 card. I can remember a few others being close, but not quite that level: Maddux 1997 & 1998, Liriano 2006, Clemens 2 years in TOR, Santana 2004.
   47. Ned Garvin: Male Prostitute Posted: February 11, 2009 at 12:44 AM (#3073728)
1995: I am pretty sure the consensus of the fans (that I knew anyway) regarding the MVP voting was that Vaughn won the MVP because he was a really nice guy that everyone loved, while Belle was a jerk and Martinez was a DH playing for the Mariners. Of course, being a teenager from Seattle, you know what I was thinking, but later on I convinced myself Belle was a bit better than Edgar due to playing a position. Maybe I was right in the first place...

Anyway, the point was that many of us believed that Belle would have won except he had bad press, so Vaughn, the guy with good press, got those votes.
   48. Alex Vila Posted: February 12, 2009 at 04:48 AM (#3075225)
Wow - the difference between Edgar and Albert was a hair. Amazing.
   49. David in Toledo Posted: February 14, 2009 at 01:46 AM (#3076837)
There has been talk over the years about how playing on artificial surface harmed Andre Dawson. What about Barry Larkin? Were all his career home games played on the semi-concrete? (He's HoF anyway, but perhaps this would help to explain the little nagging "durability" question?)
   50. Howie Menckel Posted: February 22, 2009 at 05:45 AM (#3082965)
Has Edgar gotten his own thread yet?
   51. Howie Menckel Posted: November 10, 2009 at 02:47 AM (#3383643)
bump
   52. Howie Menckel Posted: November 10, 2009 at 03:00 AM (#3383654)
116 career OPS+ in 9057 PA, to Trammell's 110 in 9375. Barry had a little left when he quit (101 OPS+), too.

Larkin does have to be dinged for durability, certainly - only reached 600 PA in 6 seasons.

But compare to Joe Cronin - ranks 10th in our all-time HOM SS voting of 25 SS HOMers, 119 OPS+ in 8838 PA.
   53. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: November 10, 2009 at 03:04 AM (#3383660)
Nothing much to offer, though I will say that the 1995 NL MVP may be one of the best mistakes the BBWAA ever made, if it gives Larkin a HoF boost that he otherwise shouldn't need. Neither Maddux nor Bonds nor Piazza would need it (at least I don't think Piazza would need it. Obviously, both he and Bonds could be snubbed come HoF voting time, but if they do, it won't have anything to do with 1995, but visions of bacne).
   54. OCF Posted: November 10, 2009 at 05:21 PM (#3384042)
- only reached 600 PA in 6 seasons.

Howie - don't forget to extrapolate out the strike years. (The point I made in post #5 above.)
   55. Guapo Posted: November 11, 2009 at 12:36 AM (#3384455)
From Sports Illustrated, October 2, 1995:

Though he is SI's clear choice for baseball's Most Valuable Player, [Mo] Vaughn wasn't the only major leaguer who made the most of the strike-shortened season. He was just the one who meant the most to his club. Albert Belle was formidable at the plate for the Cleveland Indians, but Albert Brooks could have been hitting cleanup for the Tribe and it still would have waltzed to its first postseason berth in 41 years. Edgar Martinez of the Seattle Mariners is quietly wrapping up one of the most productive seasons by an American League righthanded hitter in half a century, but he's a DH who doesn't lead even the Mariners in home runs or RBIs. In July, California Angel centerfielder Jim Edmonds was an MVP favorite; in September, Dave Gallagher pinch-hit for him. In the National League, Dante Bichette had belted most of his 38 home runs into the thin air of Coors Field, but correct us if we're wrong: Everyone in the Colorado Rockies' lineup hit at least 30. Righthander Greg Maddux was magnificent, as always, and without him the Atlanta Braves probably wouldn't have clinched their division until, oh, the third week of September.

"It's more than the RBIs, it's more than the homers, it's more than anything you can see on the field," says Boston third baseman Tim Naehring of Vaughn. "It's his presence. He brings a confidence and an attitude to this team that is hard to explain."

Without Vaughn the Red Sox right now probably would be slugging it out for a wild-card spot, at best. They were coming off three straight losing seasons, and they were expected to finish fourth in their division....
   56. Jeff K. Posted: November 11, 2009 at 01:05 AM (#3384480)
To summarize that SI blurb:

cliche cliche cliche wrong cliche unsupportedanecdote quote presence intangibles cliche overvaluedindividualcontribution cliche fear
   57. Howie Menckel Posted: November 28, 2009 at 05:26 PM (#3398064)
I was discussing the Larkin-Cronin comp elsewhere, and the massive RBI discrepancy was noted.

The difference in league offense levels is a key piece, as is batting order (Larkin hit 1 or 2 half the time and 3rd about one-third of the time, compared to Cronin 4th more than anything), and for in-season RBI peaks, durability comes into play. Anything I missed?

We are talking 1424 RBI vs 960, in comparable PA.
   58. OCF Posted: November 28, 2009 at 08:07 PM (#3398162)
Larkin scored 1329 runs and drove in 960 in 9057 PA. That's 2289 R+RBI or 152 (R+RBI)/(600 PA).

Cronin scored 1233 runs and drove in 1424 in 8838 PA. That's 2657 R+RBI or 180 (R+RBI)/(600 PA).

About scoring levels - just looking at the scoring levels of their own teams:

Larkin's teams averaged 701 runs per season in the years Larkin was a regular.

Cronin's teams averaged 829 runs per season in the years Cronin was a regular. Multiply that by 162/154 to get 863.

Divide the (R+RBI)/(600 PA) by the (extrapolated) team R/year and get .216 for Larkin and .209 for Cronin.

So yes, what Howie was saying is basically correct. Using R+RBI instead of just RBI compensates for the different batting order positions, and after that, the scoring levels seems to make up the rest of the difference.

In my context-adjusted RCAA system, Larkin comes out even with - in fact, slightly better than - Cronin. But that system's blind spot is that it really doesn't penalize that much for in-season durability problems. For instance, it really likes both Frank Chance and John McGraw. On the other hand, Larkin compensates for that issue by having a longer career than Cronin.

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