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Monday, January 27, 2014

Gary Sheffield

Eligible in 2015

DL from MN Posted: January 27, 2014 at 12:41 PM | 73 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. EddieA Posted: January 27, 2014 at 09:21 PM (#4647043)
Worst defender of all time?
   2. AndrewJ Posted: January 27, 2014 at 10:01 PM (#4647049)
Compare and contrast Gary Sheffield with Dick Allen.
   3. Booey Posted: January 27, 2014 at 10:08 PM (#4647052)
Dude's got 80 oWAR and a 140 OPS+ over almost 11,000 PA's. If you ranked him as merely a bad defender rather than a historically awful one, he'd be an easy choice. Even ranking him as the worst defender of all time, he's still right on the borderline. I'd give him the benefit of the doubt.

He's sort of the anti-Andruw. Both have similar WAR, but Jones needs to be credited as one of the best defenders ever to get UP to borderline, whereas Sheff needs to be discredited as one of the worst ever to get DOWN to borderline. Considering the uncertainty many have with defensive metrics, I'd choose Gary if I had to pick between the two.*

* and of course you don't have to pick between the two; I just was giving an example
   4. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 27, 2014 at 10:28 PM (#4647057)
Dude's got 80 oWAR and a 140 OPS+ over almost 11,000 PA's. If you ranked him as merely a bad defender rather than a historically awful one, he'd be an easy choice. Even ranking him as the worst defender of all time, he's still right on the borderline. I'd give him the benefit of the doubt.

But he's really not being ranked as "historically awful", at least by BRef. He's got -195 Rfield, which is a very large total, but it's only -11 per 650 PA. He doesn't have any Adam Dunn disaster seasons. He was just a poor OF for a long, long time. Most poor OF don't maintain the offense to make people keep running them out there; he did.

I don't find his defensive numbers unbelievable at all.
   5. NJ in DC (Now with Wife!) Posted: January 27, 2014 at 10:30 PM (#4647058)
I don't vote on these things but I just wanted to say that Gary Sheffield is the first player of my lifetime who all throughout his playing career I mentally assumed this guy was a clear HOFer/HOMer and then when I actually looked at the numbers it's very muddled. It blows my mind that his defense was considered THIS bad.
   6. Arbitol Dijaler Posted: January 27, 2014 at 10:33 PM (#4647060)
   7. frannyzoo Posted: January 27, 2014 at 11:03 PM (#4647072)
Looking over the BR page, one almost gets the impression the Brewers moved Yount to CF in order to have Sheffield play SS. The dates don't quite jibe, but it makes for a wonderful narrative. If someone knows more specifics/anecdotes/nightmares about Sheffield's SS adventure, I'd love to hear them.

   8. Howie Menckel Posted: January 27, 2014 at 11:14 PM (#4647076)

"Harvey Wallbangers, please pick up the white courtesy phone, Harvey Wallbangers...."
   9. Baldrick Posted: January 27, 2014 at 11:41 PM (#4647085)
But he's really not being ranked as "historically awful", at least by BRef. He's got -195 Rfield, which is a very large total, but it's only -11 per 650 PA. He doesn't have any Adam Dunn disaster seasons. He was just a poor OF for a long, long time. Most poor OF don't maintain the offense to make people keep running them out there; he did

Well, his 1993 IS historically terrible. It's just hidden because it's split in two pieces. Combined, that year is a -30, which, yikes.

But in general I agree. He isn't being slaughtered by the numbers. He just loses some value every year on defense. He was an occasionally mediocre but often terrible defender. That absolutely comports with my experience watching him over the years.

I do tend to think that beyond a certain point, a guy shouldn't be punished for taking the field (as opposed to being the DH). Particularly toward the end of a career, I am inclined to zero out a guy's defensive contribution and just give him the DH positional penalty. But as bad a defender as Sheffield was, he still doesn't actually benefit ALL that much from this adjustment. By BB-Ref, he'd gain about 50-60 runs over his career, which is certainly not nothing - particularly given how close he otherwise is to the in/out line. But that's less of a gain than I expected.

He's a strange case, though, because it's not like his terrible seasons were clumped together. His worst years were 1993, 2005, 1996, and 2001. And surrounding those years he was able to accrue some (small) positive value compared to the DH penalty. So it's not really that he declined into being an obligatory DH. He was always terrible, but never quite bad enough that shifting him off the field was a true necessity.
   10. zonk Posted: January 27, 2014 at 11:55 PM (#4647090)
Is there any particular the Yankees didn't DH him more in 2004 and 2005?

Did Sheffield particularly insist on playing the field? In 2004, it looks like the primary DH was Ruben Sierra, who was no great shakes. 2005, it was Giambi (with the corpse of Tino at 1B). Sheffield got a dozen or so DH starts in each - was Torre just that asleep at the wheel?

As much as we chide managers, that's just another thing that causes me to cast at least some doubt on the raw defensive numbers... A manager watching him play every day, it's hard to believe something that looks so obvious by the numbers didn't factor more in the lineup card.
   11. DL from MN Posted: January 28, 2014 at 12:01 AM (#4647094)
zero out a guy's defensive contribution and just give him the DH positional penalty


That's not exactly a settled argument
   12. OCF Posted: January 28, 2014 at 12:06 AM (#4647098)
Things I remember about Sheffield:

When I was doing a lot more processing of raw stats than I do now, back in the mid 90's, I remember one year looking and saying, "Wow, his batting stats look a lot like Barry Bonds!" I hadn't been paying much attention to him before that. Of course, there were things I was missing then, and defense would certainly be one of those things. But he did have a couple of years in there with OBP > .460.

Visually, I remember the bat waggle. He'd get the fat end of the bat facing directly towards the pitcher, and then SNAP! it was suddenly back upright. Sure, there were other people (like Edgar Renteria) who sort of gently waved their bats around in a somewhat similar arc, but it was that SNAP! that gave Sheffield's version such a sense of menace. And the menace was real, if you ever saw one of his line drives.

Then there was what Dodger fans thought of him during his L.A. years. What was striking was how few fans ever seemed to credit that he was actually the best hitter on the team. No, it was always Karros or Green or someone. It was like his actual offensive accomplishments were invisible.
   13. Baldrick Posted: January 28, 2014 at 12:09 AM (#4647102)
As much as we chide managers, that's just another thing that causes me to cast at least some doubt on the raw defensive numbers... A manager watching him play every day, it's hard to believe something that looks so obvious by the numbers didn't factor more in the lineup card.

But that's the thing: you have to be pretty bad to NECESSITATE becoming a DH. Sheffield was rarely so bad that it significantly hurt the team to put him in the field - and usually managed to follow terrible seasons with mediocre ones, too.

That's part of what makes me think the DH penalty is pretty reasonable as it's currently set. Even a genuinely terrible defender like Sheffield was (apart from 1993) basically always half a win of the value he'd have had as a full-time DH.
   14. Blackadder Posted: January 28, 2014 at 01:27 AM (#4647127)
Visually, I remember the bat waggle. He'd get the fat end of the bat facing directly towards the pitcher, and then SNAP! it was suddenly back upright. Sure, there were other people (like Edgar Renteria) who sort of gently waved their bats around in a somewhat similar arc, but it was that SNAP! that gave Sheffield's version such a sense of menace. And the menace was real, if you ever saw one of his line drives.


The great Jim Rice debates makes me hesitant to use this phrase, but Sheffield is probably the scariest hitter I have ever seen. I don't mean this in the sense that opposing fans are scared of a great player, under which Bonds obviously wins; Sheffield was scary to watch even when he was on your team.
   15. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: January 28, 2014 at 10:27 AM (#4647194)
I once saw Gary Sheffield hit a line drive that skipped once and hand cuffed the fielder. In left field. He's a "yes."
   16. Booey Posted: January 28, 2014 at 01:11 PM (#4647373)
When I was doing a lot more processing of raw stats than I do now, back in the mid 90's, I remember one year looking and saying, "Wow, his batting stats look a lot like Barry Bonds!" I hadn't been paying much attention to him before that. Of course, there were things I was missing then, and defense would certainly be one of those things. But he did have a couple of years in there with OBP > .460.


I remember noticing that too. It went largely unnoticed since he played for a forgettable Marlins team (and he had an off year the next season when Florida actually won the WS), but Sheff's 1996 was virtually identical to Bonds' (at the plate). He didn't steal 40 bases or win a GG, obviously.

He also had a mostly forgotten run at the Triple Crown in his breakout season of 1992. I think he was leading or tied in all 3 categories as late as the last week of August. Ended up losing it by only 2 homers and 9 rbi's.

And I know this last part is more an argument for the HOF rather than the HoM, but he also had 9 AS appearances and cracked the top 10 in MVP voting 6 times (with 5 different teams!), including a 2nd place finish and two 3rd's. His high career totals in HR's, RBI, hits, and runs kinda seemed to sneak up on us a bit since he rarely led the league in anything, but the AS and MVP voting suggests that he really was recognized as one of the game's greats during his prime.
   17. Biff, highly-regarded young guy Posted: January 28, 2014 at 02:35 PM (#4647447)
The great Jim Rice debates makes me hesitant to use this phrase, but Sheffield is probably the scariest hitter I have ever seen. I don't mean this in the sense that opposing fans are scared of a great player, under which Bonds obviously wins; Sheffield was scary to watch even when he was on your team.

Yeah. Somehow I don't think the "fear" argument will get applied to Sheffield like it did to Rice, though.
   18. Davo's Favorite Tacos Are Moose Tacos Posted: January 28, 2014 at 02:45 PM (#4647455)
Two questions.

1) How does the HOM handle guys like Joe Torre / Don Mattingly who have both playing credit and managerial credit?

2) Should Gary Sheffield's current baseball job (he's an agent, repping Jason Grilli among others) receive even an iota of consideration?
   19. DL from MN Posted: January 28, 2014 at 02:47 PM (#4647456)
HoM does not consider credit outside of the playing career.

I have Gary Sheffield about even with Larry Walker. Totally different ways to provide value but similar end results.
   20. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: January 28, 2014 at 02:54 PM (#4647462)
The great Jim Rice debates makes me hesitant to use this phrase, but Sheffield is probably the scariest hitter I have ever seen.


I was gonna say this, too. If anybody other than Bonds ever embodied TEH FEAR, it was Sheff. It wasn't just that he was a great hitter -- he was, but there were those (few) who were better --, but how his demeanor, his body, and most of all, his swing made an impact on the viewer.* He had that nasty bat waggle, and then just unbelievably murderous batspeed through the zone: if someone else hit more dingers just foul of the LF pole, I don't know who it would be.

Sheff was a great athlete. Small for a pro jock (only 5'11", officially, but I stood next to him on the field at Safeco as part of a media boondoggle and he wasn't any more than an inch taller than me & I'm 5'8"), but built like a bull and fast, even as he approached 40. He was a pretty decent base-stealer for a slugger who never played a premium position well, and I think that's a testament of his pure speed; all Sheff ever really cared about was hitting. I think that this actually works against him, defensively; if some team had just moved him to 1B and left him there, he probably would have been a league-average fielder there for years, but because he was so fast, so strong, and had such a powerful arm, it seemed to most people that he needed to be playing a much more difficult position.

And the truth is, that's probably his own fault. He obviously had the physical ability and mental acuity to play well in the field, and though he may not have had the lateral movement to play SS long-term, there's a world in which he was a good 3B or CF, and we're not having this discussion because he'd be a complete no-brainer. But like I said above, all Sheffield cared about was hitting. And he was perfect at it, pretty much. He got every ounce of production out of his small, powerful body that he could. If he had applied that focus to becoming a great fielder, I have no doubt that he could have. But he didn't do that. Why not? I decline to speculate specifically. There are a lot of possibilities -- maybe, in order to be as great a hitter as he was, he had to ignore defense.** Maybe he was a total megalomaniac and perceived that there was more glory in dingers than in putouts. Maybe he made the erroneous assumption that his incredible athleticism would make him a great fielder naturally. Maybe he's just a monomaniac, only able to concentrate on one thing at a time, and hitting was that thing. Maybe a dozen other things. But I have no doubt that Sheffield had the ability to be a good fielder, if he had brought to the table the laser-sharp focus he obviously trained on his hitting.


*I also think that this is a major problem with the TEH FEAR argument: that which frightens overweight 30-somethings sitting at home probably doesn't scare a MLB pitcher much at all.

** This was one of the things they used to say about Williams, too. He was skinny and, at least as a youth, fleet of foot; but all he wanted to do was chase Babe Ruth.
   21. OCF Posted: January 28, 2014 at 02:55 PM (#4647463)
Torre is in the HOM strictly as a player.
Mattingly does not appear to have a reasonable chance to be in the HOM, although he has some supporters. As a player, it doesn't seem to be enough.
Red Schoendienst never received a single HOM vote. We didn't consider his managerial career, and we're not buying what he's selling as a player (mostly BA in a long career).
Frank Chance has been long, long debated and has his supporters, but isn't in the HOM. Obviously, if we had given any consideration to his managerial career, that would have put him over the top - but we didn't.
John McGraw is in the HOM strictly as a player. It's an extreme peak case.
   22. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: January 28, 2014 at 02:57 PM (#4647467)
one almost gets the impression the Brewers moved Yount to CF in order to have Sheffield play SS. The dates don't quite jibe, but it makes for a wonderful narrative. If someone knows more specifics/anecdotes/nightmares about Sheffield's SS adventure, I'd love to hear them.


franny, yount had to move off shortstop because he hurt his right shoulder and the strength never really returned. Sheffield was never part of that decision. Sheffield played 57 games in rookie ball the year robin moved to centerfield.

Sheffield played shortstop in the minors on the little league premise that your best athlete plays shortstop. he was completely overmatched in the majors. it was most evident on the double play where his footwork was dreadful. it was a miracle in '89 that he didn't get himself seriously injured turning a double play as he was regularly late to the bag, using the wrong foot and having to take the runner's slide full on because he couldn't move fluidly around the bag and had to muscle through the turn

spiers was far superior on the double play and on defense in general. billy wasn't phil rizzuto but relative to Sheffield he was the obviously better option
   23. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: January 28, 2014 at 02:59 PM (#4647468)
I have Gary Sheffield about even with Larry Walker. Totally different ways to provide value but similar end results.

an intriguing comparison. certainly understand the point on divergent paths.

   24. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: January 28, 2014 at 03:08 PM (#4647475)
Sheffield was infuriating because he HAD the skill set to play defense and run the bases extraordinarily well.

he was a 70 percent base stealer and had the savvy and speed, especially early, to be better. he had the arm and speed to be at least an average defender. he could have been a plus defender.

Sheffield focused on hitting and that was that.

this isn't old man crankiness or latent racism. gary Sheffield is one of the rare guys who fit what was often a canard about a guy who could have done it if he wanted to. Sheffield liked to hit and he was outstanding at hitting. he did the other stuff because it was part of the job but didn't exert himself to get better at it. to his credit he didn't loaf that often. so his double play totals are low for a guy who cranked such hard hit balls for so long. jim rice wishes he had been gary Sheffield.

he was and likely remains one of the more immature baseball players of the last 40 years. even at age 40 hitting well he got himself prematurely retired because folks just ran out of tolerance for his silliness.
   25. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: January 28, 2014 at 03:13 PM (#4647480)
I have Gary Sheffield about even with Larry Walker. Totally different ways to provide value but similar end results.


Jim Edmonds has .1 less WAR than Sheff - 60.3 to 60.4. Another example of similar value but very different ways of getting there.
   26. zonk Posted: January 28, 2014 at 03:14 PM (#4647483)
I have Gary Sheffield about even with Larry Walker. Totally different ways to provide value but similar end results.

an intriguing comparison. certainly understand the point on divergent paths.


Ditto... and actually, if I think long and hard about it, that sounds about right.

I think I always considered Sheffield HoF/HoMer material, but certainly bottom half while I'm on the fence on Walker... goes to show either the greater ease in calculating batter value over fielding value, the prominence of one versus the other in terms of the discussion or probably both.

I'll be interested to see where they both shake out on the HoM voting lists.
   27. SoSH U at work Posted: January 28, 2014 at 03:15 PM (#4647484)
*I also think that this is a major problem with the TEH FEAR argument: that which frightens overweight 30-somethings sitting at home probably doesn't scare a MLB pitcher much at all.


I assume all but the spryest third-base coaches, some camera well occupants, all ballgirls and ballboys, catchers in foul-ground bullpens who didn't have 100 percent faith in their protector and ticket holders with third-base box seats and inattentive children all had a very fitting sense of FEAR when it came to Sheff in the batter's box.

   28. DL from MN Posted: January 28, 2014 at 03:32 PM (#4647500)
I'll be interested to see where they both shake out on the HoM voting lists.


Larry Walker was already elected so they won't get a head to head comparison.
   29. Davo's Favorite Tacos Are Moose Tacos Posted: January 30, 2014 at 08:02 AM (#4648481)
Quoting Pasta-Diving Jeter (jmac66) without permission, from an Adam Dunn thread:

one of the things that is always a red flag for me to doubt the validity of a stat (like dWAR) is if there is a serious "era skew"

here are the worst lifetime dWAR:
1 Gary Sheffield -28.4
2 Adam Dunn -27.5
3 Frank Howard -24.0
4 Dave Winfield -23.8
5 Frank Thomas -23.5
6 Don Baylor -23.1
7 Manny Ramirez -22.2
8 Willie McCovey -21.8
9 Rusty Staub -21.2
10 Greg Luzinski -20.6
11 Harold Baines -20.3
12 Jason Giambi -20.2

they are ALL since 1960--and most much later

are you telling me there were NEVER any completely horseshit fielders until then?


Using the ultra-sophisticated tool of "Guys Who Retired Over 50 Years Ago And Had Reputations As Awful Fielders," a few select dWAR figures:

* Ted Williams: -13.3
* Jimmie Foxx: -5.5
* Hack Wilson: -7.2
* Chick Hafey: -5.6
   30. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: January 30, 2014 at 09:22 AM (#4648499)
davo

I think what jmac may be missing is that there different ballparks in use which dampened the impact of poor defensive players. that and teams were not keen on playing terrible defenders unless they were truly excellent offensive players. hank sauer didn't stay in the minor leagues until age 30 because of bad breath. he stayed there because his team's manager couldn't stand the idea of sauer playing the outfield.

or bob nieman. bob nieman would be an everyday left fielder today. he was a truly good hitter. but he was poor outfielder thanks to no speed and no arm and only bad teams would put him on the field with any regularity.

expansion pushed teams to play guys regularly who previously would have been bench players and the advent of newer stadiums further exposed those guys deficiencies.

it's a cousin to the homer explosion of the 90's. a confluence of factors versus the measuring being skewed against a population of players.

I hope this helps
   31. Misirlou was a Buddhist prodigy Posted: January 30, 2014 at 10:09 AM (#4648508)
davo

I think what jmac may be missing is that there different ballparks in use which dampened the impact of poor defensive players. that and teams were not keen on playing terrible defenders unless they were truly excellent offensive players. hank sauer didn't stay in the minor leagues until age 30 because of bad breath. he stayed there because his team's manager couldn't stand the idea of sauer playing the outfield.

or bob nieman. bob nieman would be an everyday left fielder today. he was a truly good hitter. but he was poor outfielder thanks to no speed and no arm and only bad teams would put him on the field with any regularity.

expansion pushed teams to play guys regularly who previously would have been bench players and the advent of newer stadiums further exposed those guys deficiencies.

it's a cousin to the homer explosion of the 90's. a confluence of factors versus the measuring being skewed against a population of players.

I hope this helps


And the other factor I alluded to is focusing on Dwar and not fielding runs. Of Baines's -208 defensive runs, only 12 come from fielding runs. the other -196 come from positional adjustments, mainly DH. If Ted Williams had DH'd 63% of his career, his Dwar would be a lot worse.

Rusty Staub had -57 fielding runs in 2100 games in the field. Ralph Kiner had -40 in 1400. Dick Stuart had -59 in 1000. I'm confidant that Staub was no worse than Kiner, and far better than Stuart despite his huge deficit in career Dwar.

Dave Winfield had -91 defensive runs, the vast majority of which came after age 32 when the Kiners and Stuarts (and Hack Wilsons and Chick Hafey's) of the world were long retired. Through age 32, Dave Winfield had -25 fielding runs, a far better rate than Kiner. To call him a worse fielder is ridiculous.
   32. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: January 30, 2014 at 10:37 AM (#4648521)
misir

the point about guys accruing negative runs well after other players left the game at some point is well taken and certainly needs to be mentioned in any such discussion. good call
   33. Rants Mulliniks Posted: January 30, 2014 at 10:45 AM (#4648525)
Davo, did you type [ignored comment] in #29 or is that what happens when you have someone on your ignore list......because I've never had anyone on ignore.

Nevermind, I can see your post now. Not sure what that was all about.
   34. Misirlou was a Buddhist prodigy Posted: January 30, 2014 at 10:55 AM (#4648533)
Davo, did you type [ignored comment] in #29 or is that what happens when you have someone on your ignore list......because I've never had anyone on ignore.


Davo can ignore you, but he can't make you ignore him. It's a bug popping up now and then. Happened to me WRT Sam a few days ago, and then went away. It was also in a HOM thread.
   35. Morty Causa Posted: January 30, 2014 at 11:07 AM (#4648544)
I believe Winfield early in his career was considered a fine fielder. I'm pretty sure Bill James made this specific point in one of the early abstracts. Had a similar view wrt Dave Parker.
   36. Morty Causa Posted: January 30, 2014 at 11:19 AM (#4648555)
As far Sheffield, no, not if his defense is as bad as metrics say, which fully supports his reputation. Ted Willaims was never anything that bad. Moreover, check out Williams's WAR after the dWAR discount. It's 123. (Jeez, Willaims has as much value almost as the very very great Musial in 3000 fewer PAs.) Sheffield is 60, down from oWAR of 80. That's a fist to the solar plexus.
   37. Ron J2 Posted: January 30, 2014 at 01:26 PM (#4648675)
Further to #22, Sheffield felt entitled to the SS job when it eventually opened up and accused the Brewers of being racist for giving the job to Bill Spiers.

That Spiers was the better defensive player doesn't seem to have entered into the equation for Sheffield. If you are going to play the two of them it's pretty obvious who should be playing short.

And he got pretty insulting to Spiers as well as the organization as a whole. This was the lead in to the whole "consumed with rage" time when he was dedicated to forcing a trade. (I don't believe he actually intentionally made errors, but I am quite certain that he was doing all he could to get out of Milwaukee)
   38. AROM Posted: January 30, 2014 at 02:53 PM (#4648790)
Using the ultra-sophisticated tool of "Guys Who Retired Over 50 Years Ago And Had Reputations As Awful Fielders," a few select dWAR figures:

* Ted Williams: -13.3
* Jimmie Foxx: -5.5
* Hack Wilson: -7.2
* Chick Hafey: -5.6


For one, the defensive numbers before 1950 or so are heavily regressed, because I didn't have play by play data to go on.

As to the specifics:

Ted wasn't bad most of his career, just at the end. I generally hate the DH, and the Red Sox, but I kind of wish it had been around back then just in case Ted decided to see if he could still hit through age 47 or so.

Foxx - Don't think he was considered a bad fielder. A great athlete, came up as a catcher, played over 100 games at third. Tremendous arm and was used as a pitcher in his final season.

Wilson - Can't have been that bad. He was a center fielder. Maybe not a good one, but almost by definition he was only the 3rd worst defensive OF on his team.

Hafey - Not good, the data is likely off here.

One more - Babe Herman, dWAR of -9.7. If we could go back in time and record all the batted ball stuff, he'd probably be a -15 to -20 per year defender instead of a -5.
   39. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: January 30, 2014 at 03:41 PM (#4648843)
Using BBREF, 3000+ PAs, worst fielders (Def Runs per 650 PAs):

1 Ricky Gutierrez -18.43
2 Jorge Cantu -15.70
3 Wes Covington -15.01
4 Jerry Lynch -14.67
5 Mark Lewis -14.49
6 Chris Gomez -14.39
7 Rickie Weeks -14.28
8 Mark Teahen -14.14
9 Felix Mantilla -13.74
10 Adam Dunn -13.72

Jeter is 18th, Sheff 27th

If you drop the PA requirement down to around 2000, you get Brendan Harris at -21.5 and Vic Harris at -20.9
and the immortal Rudy Hulswitt at -19.3
given that Hulswitt played 100+ years ago and as AROM notes, there is no play by play data for way back then, and so the #s are heavily regressed, the query is, how bad are Rudy's unregressed numbers? And would it have been physically possible for a player to have been that bad? (FWIW both his range factor and fielding % were right at league average)
   40. AROM Posted: January 30, 2014 at 04:07 PM (#4648872)
Infielders were regressed by a third, so if he's showing -20, the unadjusted would be -30. Never heard of him before, and I can't say how he rated so bad. Usually if you see a league average RF and F%, you'll see an average fielding runs.

One thing I can see is he played for very bad Philly teams near the bottom of the league in DER. So his chances per inning might look Ok, but with all the hits from opposing batters, his chances per ball in play are not so good.

Also, maybe his RF is putout heavy, Assists matter more in my defensive formuli.
   41. The Anthony Kennedy of BBTF (Scott) Posted: January 31, 2014 at 01:48 AM (#4649138)
Davo can ignore you, but he can't make you ignore him. It's a bug popping up now and then. Happened to me WRT Sam a few days ago, and then went away. It was also in a HOM thread.


Even worse, I could edit someone's post earlier today. Weird bug.

I want to be convinced on Sheffield. He seems like the sort of player who should be HoM just by the numbers but at the same time he doesn't strike me on first impression as that much different than HoVG hitters like Delgado. Even starting off at a premier defensive position he loses a lot of value on defense and he's got shockingly little black ink. He doesn't give much for a peak voter* to hang onto, his peak was stretched across a whole bunch of above average seasons, with a 7 consecutive year peak bWAR score of ~33.

* from following the HoM for years I'm pretty sure I'll end up being a peak voter, but I haven't done enough work to be sure about that yet.
   42. Ron J2 Posted: January 31, 2014 at 01:53 PM (#4649310)
#40 I'd be leery about the defensive rating of any player who spent substantial time in the Baker Bowl. Weird park that was likely the most extreme in history in terms of its effect on balls in play. Not that easy to hit a HR to RF because although the fence was quite close it was also roughly twice as high as the Monster (68 feet IIRC) and not everybody could get the required loft on the ball.

Also partially explains (for instance) Chuck Klein's monster assist totals. A lot of those had to be 9-3 plays made possible by being able to play so shallow.
   43. gehrig97 Posted: February 02, 2014 at 02:17 PM (#4650099)
One of the more impressive displays of hitting I've ever witnessed (in person) came courtesy of Gary Sheffield. 2003, with the Yankees. He came up to the plate 5 times and collected zero hits. He hooked three or four "foul HRs" down the leftfield line; the balls he put into play were HOWLING line drives, far and away the hardest hit balls of the game (including HRs). More than a decade later, that game stays with me. It was just a stunning exhibition of hitting (with nothing to show for it).

   44. Chris Cobb Posted: February 03, 2014 at 11:21 AM (#4650648)
Although agreement that Gary Sheffield was a bad fielder is universal, there's a range of views of just how bad he was, and the view of him as historically bad is reinforced by the most popular go-to on-line data site, Baseball Reference, taking the dimmest view of his fielding quality. Here are the views of Sheffield's defensive value in fielding runs below average at his positions from four different fielding evaluation systems:

BB-Ref -195 runs
Davenport WAR -129 runs
DRA -108 runs
BP -76 runs

   45. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: February 03, 2014 at 02:41 PM (#4650879)
gary Sheffield was not as bad kevin reimer

i doubt that helps. but it's true
   46. Misirlou was a Buddhist prodigy Posted: February 03, 2014 at 02:59 PM (#4650893)
gary Sheffield was not as bad kevin reimer


Reimer's stats look...interesting. For his 3 seasons of 125 games or more, his defensive runs go (in chronological order) -3, -23, 0
   47. Ron J2 Posted: February 03, 2014 at 03:08 PM (#4650901)
The difference between Reimer and Sheffield is that Reimer seemed to be giving his level best. Didn't seem to be able to read the ball until it got fairly close. And if the ball was hit right at him he could catch it.

I'd imagine he'd be more positioning sensitive than most.
   48. Morty Causa Posted: February 03, 2014 at 03:33 PM (#4650918)
Yeah, Sheffield seem to take personal affront with any ball that came within his vicinity.
   49. AROM Posted: February 03, 2014 at 03:37 PM (#4650920)
Reimer is responsible for the only triple of Sam Horn's career. That should tell you all you need to know.
   50. alilisd Posted: February 03, 2014 at 04:54 PM (#4650962)
He seems like the sort of player who should be HoM just by the numbers but at the same time he doesn't strike me on first impression as that much different than HoVG hitters like Delgado. Even starting off at a premier defensive position he loses a lot of value on defense and he's got shockingly little black ink.


I don't think it should be all that shocking a guy who played through age 34 in the NL, with guys like Bonds, Bagwell, Gwynn, Chipper, Vlad, Wallker, Piazza, and Sosa, wouldn't have a ton of black ink. What I was surprised by was that his grey ink was below the average HOF! OPS+ puts him in, perhaps, his best light: 1st, two 2nd, two 4th, 7th, 9th, and 10th, 75th overall in nearly 11K PA's.

It's not that hard to differentiate him from Delgado though. Best 10 seasons of OPS+ with at least 500 PA's (Delgado first):

181, 161*, 160, 151, 147, 146, 138, 131, 129, 128

189*, 176, 168, 164, 162, 155, 141, 140, 138, 137

* = Led league

From ages 21 to 36 Sheff had 8,900 PA's with a 149 OPS+, quite a bit better than Delgado in comparable playing time.
   51. Lars6788 Posted: February 03, 2014 at 05:14 PM (#4650974)
I bet BBTF can make Reimer's reputation a little better that it is, maybe some revisionist opinions of how he really wasn't that bad - probably from seeing random highlights, I thought the guy had no clue out there and even as a part time player was really bad.

I don't see where Sheffield was historically terrible except on defense that he gets some sort of penalty for some numbers that maybe untrustworthy and some grumblings that may or may not support those numbers.

   52. AROM Posted: February 03, 2014 at 05:22 PM (#4650983)
Reimer is a -19 Rtot per season, while playing about 80% of his OF innings at ages 27-28, and none after age 30.

Sheffield is a -9 per season guy, while moving to the OF at age 25 and staying there to age 40. He was a bad outfielder, but nowhere near on the same level as Reimer.
   53. AROM Posted: February 03, 2014 at 05:26 PM (#4650985)
Sheffield's defense was like a frog jumping into lukewarm water, slowly heated, and staying there for a long time. Reimer's defense was the frog jumping into a boiling pot. It was so bad, there was no way it would be there for a long time. Had Reimer been a great hitter instead of a decent one, he still couldn't have stayed in left. He would have ended up playing first or DH.
   54. toratoratora Posted: February 03, 2014 at 05:30 PM (#4650988)
Sheffield only scores a 4 on the black ink test,not a great total for a man who made his living with a stick. The next lowest among the 500 HR is Raffy with 8,then Murray with 11.
For a guy who has essentially breaks even on base-running and is considered either an mediocre or world class terrible defender, that's not the sort of dominance you'd like to see.

That said,his 1996 is a thing of beauty. He was almost dead even with Bonds across the board and that's a heckuva compliment. 95 isn't far behind.

I'm not sure I'd want him on my team but the man could flat out mash.

I see Sheff getting into the HoM pretty easily.
The HoF-not so much.
   55. Misirlou was a Buddhist prodigy Posted: February 03, 2014 at 05:47 PM (#4650998)
That said,his 1996 is a thing of beauty. He was almost dead even with Bonds across the board and that's a heckuva compliment. 95 isn't far behind.


Except in 95 he played only 63 games. And that's a big part of his lack of ink. During his prime he had trouble staying in the lineup. He does fine on rate stats, but it's hard to compete on counting stats when you are missing 20-30 games a year. He had a real shot at the triple crown in 1992, but he missed 16 games and fell short by 9 RBI and 2 HR.
   56. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 03, 2014 at 06:10 PM (#4651009)
I don't see where Sheffield was historically terrible except on defense that he gets some sort of penalty for some numbers that maybe untrustworthy and some grumblings that may or may not support those numbers.

No one is saying he's historically terrible. No historically terrible guys play long enough to be on the "leader boards" for negative Rfield.

He was a poor defender who stayed out there for a long, long time, because his bat could carry his glove.
   57. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: February 03, 2014 at 06:17 PM (#4651011)
gary Sheffield was not as bad kevin reimer


Kevin Reimer was drafted in the 1993 expansion draft. Chris Berman (I think) was hosting it and said "Offensively Kevin Reimer is a good hitting outfielder, defensively...he is a good hitting outfielder." One of the better descriptions of a poor defensive player I've ever heard.
   58. jdennis Posted: February 03, 2014 at 06:42 PM (#4651034)
#29 and others, talking about era skew in fielding metrics

I've been examining fielders from old timey days, haven't gotten to modern times, and here's a list of some that I found who were crappy:

Mike Tiernan, RF (worst of all time so far)
Bambino, LF/RF/P
Jim O'Rourke, OF
King Kelly, UTIL
Cal McVey, UTIL
Jack Manning, RF
Buck Freeman, RF/1B
Willie Keeler, RF
Sam Crawford, RF
John McGraw, 3B
Ed McKean, SS
Mickey Welch, P

And here are some of the best:

Tris Speaker, CF (best of all time so far)
Ty Cobb, CF
Ned Hanlon, CF
Mike Griffin, CF
Paul Hines, CF
George Gore, CF
Roy Thomas, CF
Dummy Hoy, CF
Bill Lange, CF
Clyde Milan, CF
Tom Brown, CF
Richie Ashburn, CF
Dave Eggler, CF
Jack Remsen, CF
Jimmy McAleer, CF
Dick Johnston, CF
Steve Brodie, CF
Johnny Mostil, CF
Billy Hamilton, CF/LF
Ed Delahanty, LF
Jimmy Sheckard, LF
Fred Clarke, LF
Tom York, LF
Sam Rice, RF
Jimmy Collins, 3B
Jerry Denny, 3B
Bob Ferguson, 3B/SS
Ross Barnes, 2B
George Wright, SS
Fred Pfeffer, 2B
Bid McPhee, 2B
Jim Fogarty, CF/RF
Honus Wagner, SS
Nap Lajoie, 2B
George Davis, SS/3B
Hughie Jennings, SS/1B
Bill Dahlen, SS
Dave Bancroft, SS
Rabbit Maranville, SS
Travis Jackson, SS
Ed Konetchy, 1B
Ossee Schrecongost, C
Tommy Bond, P
Al Spalding, P
John Clarkson, P

And finally some guys who were basically exactly average:

George Van Haltren, CF
Jesse Burkett, LF
Monte Cross, SS
Germany Smith, SS
Claude Ritchey, 2B

So maybe this can serve as a guide.
   59. AROM Posted: February 04, 2014 at 10:58 AM (#4651312)
Bambino, LF/RF/P


BBref has the Babe at +79. That is probably too generous to him. But what source has him as a crappy fielder?
   60. bookbook Posted: February 04, 2014 at 01:55 PM (#4651461)
It's sounds like it's mostly regression from the time before batted ball data, but I do think there are times when the conditions do allow greater variance.

E.g., it's easier in a big run-scoring era for the few best pitchers to deliver ERA+ ratings of greater than 200. (You can still make an occasional mistake and be twice as good as the other guy.)

If defense has been advancing, as I think it has, indifferent defenders who aren't trying too hard will trail the defensive superstars by a greater margin. If many of the worst defenders have an outlet at DH, those few who do not will be just that much further below average.

having said that, it appears the metrics overrated Luzinski defensively. I've never seen any out fielder as bad, short of 40-year-old Ibanez,
   61. OCF Posted: February 04, 2014 at 02:31 PM (#4651486)
E.g., it's easier in a big run-scoring era for the few best pitchers to deliver ERA+ ratings of greater than 200.

Before making that claim, check two things:

# of ERA+ > 200 (or maybe > 190) between 1901 and 1910. Any names you're not even particularly familiar with?

# of ERA+ > 200 (or maybe > 190) between 1930 and 1939. After you take out Grove, what's left?
   62. AROM Posted: February 04, 2014 at 02:36 PM (#4651489)
having said that, it appears the metrics overrated Luzinski defensively. I've never seen any out fielder as bad, short of 40-year-old Ibanez,


He had Garry Maddox covering for him. If a catchable ball is hit into the left side of left center, and it drops, then the left fielder gets dinged. If the center fielder comes over and catches it, then there are no negative runs to dole out.

Remember, water covered 2/3 of the earth, and Garry Maddox covered the other third.
   63. AROM Posted: February 04, 2014 at 02:47 PM (#4651494)
Before making that claim, check two things:


It's really inconclusive. The ERA+ of 200, for pitchers qualifying for the ERA title, are extremely rare anyway, but they are clustered into vastly different time periods.

1871-1899: Only 4 pitchers in 29 years
1900-1919: 15 pitchers in the pitcher friendly deadball era
1920-1939: Only 2 pitchers did it in the live ball era
1940-1959: Nobody. In general this period did not have extremely high or low run scoring.
1960-1969: 2 pitchers in the pitcher's decade
1970-1989: 2 Guidry and Gooden
1990-2009: 12 pitchers in the "sillyball" or steroids era.
2010+: Nobody yet

So 37 times total, 27 concentrated into 2 decades of extreme pitching or 2 decades of extreme hitting.
   64. Ron J2 Posted: February 04, 2014 at 03:39 PM (#4651537)
#63 I think the simple way to look at this would be to see how offensive context affects the standard deviation of ERA+ (and OPS+ for batters)

I recall doing a study and finding a weak relationship between the standard deviation of ERA+ (for pitchers qualifying for the ERA title) and RS/G, but it was nothing major. (This supposes that my memory can be trusted. Can't find the study)
   65. bookbook Posted: February 04, 2014 at 03:44 PM (#4651539)
It looks like I'm wrong. I've always thought the almost-unprecedented dominance by Maddux/Pedro/Randy/Clemens was aided by comparison to the high offense era.
   66. AROM Posted: February 04, 2014 at 05:01 PM (#4651599)
I wouldn't say it's wrong, just inconclusive. There could be something fundamentally different about the recent offensive era (lots of power and strikeouts) and the one starting in the 20's (super high batting averages) that affects elite pitchers differently.

Not saying there is a connection, just something that might be an area for further research. Or it could be that we just had a group of pitchers born right around the same time who were vastly better than anyone since Seaver, and anyone debuting since they left the scene (pending the full career arc of Kershaw, King Felix, etc.)
   67. DL from MN Posted: February 04, 2014 at 05:02 PM (#4651600)
There is a difference between a high offense era and a high standard deviations / variance era. Offensive production can be driven by the ball/stadiums/strike zone/equipment or it can be driven by differences in talent. There is a difference between 8-6 games and 12-2 games even though they both score 14 runs.

Baseball expanded twice in the Maddux/Clemens/Johnson/Pedro era.
   68. toratoratora Posted: February 04, 2014 at 05:58 PM (#4651661)
It looks like I'm wrong. I've always thought the almost-unprecedented dominance by Maddux/Pedro/Randy/Clemens was aided by comparison to the high offense era.

I think a lot of it,especially with Pedro,is only going 7 innings at a time.
When pitchers went deeper,they didn't go all out on every pitch. Some of this, era dependent, had to do with larger parks. There also used to be lots more easy outs in the standard lineup than there tend to be now (Think middle IF from the 60's and 70's).
Now pitchers throw their best stuff 100% of the time and don't have to hold back, knowing they'll get pulled at the first sign of stress. I can't help but suspect that allows them to leverage better pitching for less innings.

Maddux, the king of the 85 pitch CG is of course an exception to this thought




   69. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: February 04, 2014 at 06:06 PM (#4651666)
Not saying there is a connection, just something that might be an area for further research. Or it could be that we just had a group of pitchers born right around the same time who were vastly better than anyone since Seaver, and anyone debuting since they left the scene (pending the full career arc of Kershaw, King Felix, etc.)


Also, whenever we are talking about the very elite in sports I think we always have a small sample size issue.

The very best player who ever lived and played could have lived and played at any time, the odds are better that he lived and played when the talent base was largest, but he literally could have lived or played any time.

It's possible that one era's 5 best players were all better than another era's best- without the overall talent level differing much from one era to another.

   70. Baldrick Posted: February 04, 2014 at 08:18 PM (#4651746)
Now pitchers throw their best stuff 100% of the time and don't have to hold back, knowing they'll get pulled at the first sign of stress. I can't help but suspect that allows them to leverage better pitching for less innings.

But that should apply to every pitcher.

Is the claim that all-time great pitchers somehow benefit from this change more? If so, why and how?
   71. OCF Posted: February 04, 2014 at 08:20 PM (#4651751)
There could be something fundamentally different about the recent offensive era (lots of power and strikeouts)

I think it's the reduction of IP, both per game and per season.
   72. Ron J2 Posted: February 05, 2014 at 05:16 PM (#4652234)
I've just started the peak lists for corner outfielders. Peak Sheffield can sensibly be compared to Frank Robinson with the bat. His 5 best years (by adjusted batting wins) come to a 172 OPS+ -- same for Robinson (Aaron is at 178 and Musial us 184).

Now that's the start of a good HOF case. But everything else is working very powerfully against Sheffield.


Player           AOW   WAR  Owar  Dwar  OPS+  at     CO WAR 7WAR 5
Stan Musial     35.7  47.4  45.3  -1.3  184   32.9%  RF    9     14
Hank Aaron      33.4  41.9  42.3  
-3.9  178   75.8%  RF   13     17
Frank Robinson  29.6  39.4  38.1  
-2.6  172   78.1%  RF    5     11
Gary Sheffield  26.3  29.5  34.0  
-7.1  172   42.2%  RF    0      6 


Of course failing to measure up to Musial, Aaron and Robinson's peak doesn't mean you aren't a HOFer, but I think it does validate the view that Sheff had a HOF bat, but ...

And of course the other three have breadth of prime. Sheffield threw in a fair number of down years (often due to injury, but health is a skill too)

And the reason for listing corner OF can be seen here. In his best 5 offensive season Musial spent 32.9% in right, 24.7% in left, 22.6 at first and 19.7% in center. (And Babe Ruth spent more time in left than right in his 5 best offensive seasons)

In case it's not clear AOW is Adjusted Offensive Wins (above average and with no positional adjustment) and At CO is the percentage of time in those season at their primary defensive position.

   73. Moeball Posted: February 07, 2014 at 06:24 PM (#4653425)
Is there any particular the Yankees didn't DH him more in 2004 and 2005?

Did Sheffield particularly insist on playing the field? In 2004, it looks like the primary DH was Ruben Sierra, who was no great shakes. 2005, it was Giambi (with the corpse of Tino at 1B). Sheffield got a dozen or so DH starts in each - was Torre just that asleep at the wheel?

As much as we chide managers, that's just another thing that causes me to cast at least some doubt on the raw defensive numbers... A manager watching him play every day, it's hard to believe something that looks so obvious by the numbers didn't factor more in the lineup card.


Wondering about something - the type of player Torre was - good hit, not much field, but still able to basically function at more difficult defensive positions such as catcher - maybe his self-evaluation was that it is more important to have guys who can just plain hit even if they aren't that great in the field. Maybe he felt the hitting benefit almost always outweighed the defensive shortcomings.

It would explain a lot about his managing the Yankees. Posada, Jeter, Bernie - key defensive positions with big bats but poor defensively, although clearly a net positive when combining offense and defense. Maybe Torre just wanted a lineup full of net positives, figuring that would be enough to get the job done. That would explain Sheffield being out in the field as much as he was, too.

Kind of an interesting contrast to historical Yankee thinking. Much of the McCarthy and Stengel dynasties were focused on having great defense up the middle, although it should be noted that a lot of those supposedly great defenders (Dickey, Berra, Gordon, Rizzuto, McDougald, DiMaggio, etc.) were also pretty good with the stick as well.

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