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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Keith Hernandez

Eligible in 1996.

John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 06, 2007 at 05:40 AM | 133 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 06, 2007 at 06:02 AM (#2307414)
Greatest first baseman that I ever saw. It was a pleasure watching him man his position, as well as at bat.
   2. vortex of dissipation Posted: March 06, 2007 at 06:56 AM (#2307440)
How much does a player's post-baseball career color our idea of him? I remember watching Keith Hernandez play, and he was indeed a great fielding first baseman. As the worst fielding first baseman in baseball history, I appreciate that, and we shared a birthday to boot.

Yet mention Keith Hernandez' name to me now, and all I can think about are 1) those absolutely horrible Just for Men TV commercials with Walt Frazier, and 2) his on-air rant about trainer Kelly Calabrese being in the Padres dugout (he was dead set against her presence in a MLB dugout, for those who don't remember), and his smarmy "apology".
   3. DavidFoss Posted: March 06, 2007 at 07:07 AM (#2307447)
Yet mention Keith Hernandez' name to me now, and all I can think about are 1) those absolutely horrible Just for Men TV commercials with Walt Frazier, and 2) his on-air rant about trainer Kelly Calabrese being in the Padres dugout (he was dead set against her presence in a MLB dugout, for those who don't remember), and his smarmy "apology".

Plus... he asked me to help him move! I hardly know the guy! Next thing you know he's going to start asking me to drive him to the airport!
   4. OCF Posted: March 06, 2007 at 07:22 AM (#2307449)
Here's how Hernandez looks in my scaled RCAA-based system:

Hernandez  58 58 53 52 41 40 36 34 34 24 22 18 18  2 ---9
Cash      100 45 45 38 37 33 33 31 29 29 23 21 17 17  5  4  0
Cepeda     70 63 55 45 43 42 38 30 26 20 13 12  7  4  3 
--6
Powell     64 59 50 50 42 33 30 30 23 21 18 11 10  1 
---5
Perez      64 52 44 43 27 27 27 26 25 21 15 15 14  5  2  0 
-------7
Chance     78 66 66 52 41 29 27 24 23 12  8  7  4  2  0  0 


His 1979 semi-MVP season doesn't stick out like I thought it would - it is one of those 58's, with 1980 as the other 58. The 53 and 52 were for 1984 and 1986, with the Mets. The main reason 1979 doesn't stick out is that it was an offensive spike year for the league, and the context-scaling I do pulls it back.

So with 1979 pulled back, he doesn't have a single top year like many of these others, but looking at his 3rd-4th-5th-6th best years he stacks up very well indeed in this company. I have several different ways of making career totals out of this - just add these numbers up, give extra benefits for really big season, use another column (not shown above) for RC above 75% of average. By those various sums he looks essentially identical to another many who won an MVP playing 1B for the Cardinals: Cepeda. And that's on offense alone. Claiming Hernandez as the offensive equal to Cepeda is non-obvious; it clearly reflects a system that puts a very high value on OBP.

If I accept the notion that Hernandez was the rough equal of Cepeda as an offensive player (which I do, mostly), and if Cepeda is on my ballot somewhere (which he is), then I'm going to have to have Hernandez rather high on my ballot. One does have to consider his defense, after all. Hernandez had the quickness, hands, instincts, and even throwing arm of a really terrific 3rd baseman, except for one problem: he threw left handed. The only way for Hernandez to play in the infield was for him to play 1B.

What about his character? What about the reasons why Whitey Herzog traded him away for pennies on the dollar? There's a lot to chew on there, but the 1982 and 1986 pennant-winning seasons offer hints that he wasn't destroying his teams, at least not in the short term. I'll take the Hall of Merit position of not trying to weigh those particular positives and negatives (not even the beard-dye commercial) and just concentrate on his playing record.
   5. ronw Posted: March 06, 2007 at 07:35 AM (#2307455)
Plus... he asked me to help him move! I hardly know the guy! Next thing you know he's going to start asking me to drive him to the airport!

Hey! He's Keith Hernandez! MVP in '79!
   6. ronw Posted: March 06, 2007 at 07:38 AM (#2307457)
Those Seinfeld appearances more than make up for the Just for Men commercials. Of course, this is all irrelevant to his HOM status. I'm not sure where he will wind up just yet.
   7. mulder & scully Posted: March 06, 2007 at 08:01 AM (#2307463)
I was surprised to find that I will probably be voting for Mr. Hernandez. My system sees him as similar to George Sisler and Bill Terry, two players at the top of my backlog list. The tight spread of standard deviations during his career versus the other two leads me to the conclusion he is a better choice.
Also, he does have an excellent prime which is the most important ranking in my system. Will be somewhere between 11th and 15th on my ballot as of right now.
   8. OCF Posted: March 06, 2007 at 08:38 AM (#2307484)
I'm in my mid-50's, I've had a beard my entire adult life, my hair is dark, and the chin-patch portion of my beard is gray. I see no reason why I should even consider dying it. Just had to say that.

My system sees him as similar to George Sisler and Bill Terry

In mine, Terry has a slight big-years offensive advantage with about the same career; I see both Terry and Hernandez ahead of Sisler. My guess is that Hernandez has a clear defensive advantage on both of them. Certainly I see both Sisler and Terry as fair comparisons.
   9. The George Sherrill Selection Posted: March 06, 2007 at 08:49 AM (#2307485)
RE-jected!
   10. OCF Posted: March 06, 2007 at 09:32 AM (#2307489)
Back in the late '70s I didn't know what sabermetrics was or would be, but I wanted something to figure from the Sunday newspaper statistics. I figured Runs Produced (you know, R+RBI-HR) and Runs produced per at bat. I was starting to notice that there were people with high numbers of RP/AB despite low BA, and people with low RP/AB despite pretty good BA (I remember Bill Russell as being in the latter category). And the particular thing I remembered about Hernandez, compared to every other midle-of-the-order hitter, was that he scored a lot of runs. No one talked about OBP, and batters walks were not in those Sunday-paper statistics - but somehow I suspected that there must be some kind of explanation. (A few year later, after I started reading Bill James, it all became clear.)

In hindight, I wonder if the highest and best use of Hernandez during most of his career would have been as a #2 hitter.
   11. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: March 06, 2007 at 01:10 PM (#2307499)
It seems to me that Hernández's case depends almost entirely on your assessment of the importance of 1B defense. Obviously, as a hitter, he doesn't meet the standard for 1B. How many runs would he need to have saved in the field to make up for his shortcomings (given his position) with the bat? It seems to me that if he saved 10 a year, on average, for his whole career, (15-20 in his greatest years) he's clearly in; 5 a year, on average, (10-12 in his greatest years) and he's clearly out. The PBP metrics definitely agree that no first baseman can average 10 FRAA a year based simply on range, throwing, and fielding percentage. My numbers suggest that Hernández's saved about 6 runs a year on those grounds, on average. However, those stats don't take into account "scooping," or reduction of throwing errors by teammates. Could Hernández really have saved 60 runs/7 wins over his career just by scooping? If so, he may be worth an elect-me spot; if not, he probably won't make my ballot. Has anyone seen/done research on the magnitude of scooping ability? And if we are going to credit Hernández for scooping sufficiently for him to make the HoM, must we not reconsider the abilities (or lack thereof) of all other 1B in that area as well?
   12. Dizzypaco Posted: March 06, 2007 at 02:38 PM (#2307520)
When I was growing up, I generally didn't have "favorite players." I liked everyone who played for my team - the Mets - equally. That changed when they got Hernandez.

Hernandez was not only terrific defensively in the normal ways, but there were two parts of his defense that I have never seen before or since. First, Hernandez, more than any other first baseman I have ever seen, was involved in calming down pitchers, and even pitch calling. This was especially true in 1984, when the Mets had a very young pitching staff and a rookie catcher - Hernandez took on the traditional role of the catcher in talking with the pitchers during an at bat. It helped immensely, and the team took a major leap forward. There's a famous incident before the last batter of the '86 NLCS (the greatest post season game in history in my biased opinion). Jessie Orosco had absolutely nothing left, and Carter and Hernandez went to the mound to discuss how to pitch to Kevin Bass. Hernandez said to Carter, "You call one fastball, and we're fighting."

The other memorable play was when an opposing player, usually pitcher, would be up in a clear bunt situation. The player would lay down a bunt a few feet in front of home plate, and Hernandez would come streaking across the diamond to throw out the lead runner at third. If Hernandez knew the guy was going to bunt, he'd coming creeping up toward the batter, so that by the time the pitch was thrown, it seemed like he was almost directly in front of the batter. Hernandez was once asked about if he was afraid the batter would swing away and kill him if batter hit the ball hard, and Hernandez's response was something like, (I'm paraphrasing) "I've got my glove to protect my face, I'm wearing my cup, and the ball can have the rest of me."

Does anyone keep track of how many assists by a first baseman were to a position other than first base? Is that part of the metrics?
   13. 'zop sympathizes with the wrong ####### people Posted: March 06, 2007 at 04:26 PM (#2307583)
Jessie Orosco had absolutely nothing left, and Carter and Hernandez went to the mound to discuss how to pitch to Kevin Bass. Hernandez said to Carter, "You call one fastball, and we're fighting."

If you're going to quote that, get the quote right.
   14. Juan V Posted: March 06, 2007 at 04:41 PM (#2307590)
Back when I was collecting baseball cards, I had a Keith Hernandez one from his time with the Indians, which makes him the first player of whom I have a playing memory (sort of) to be considered for the HOM.
   15. Dizzypaco Posted: March 06, 2007 at 04:44 PM (#2307592)
If you're going to quote that, get the quote right.

So what's the right quote?
   16. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 06, 2007 at 04:48 PM (#2307595)
So what's the right quote?


Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him well, Horatio.
   17. Guapo Posted: March 06, 2007 at 05:14 PM (#2307606)
My three fun Keith Hernandez facts:

He was a 42nd round draft pick.

He hit for the cycle in what Mets fans during the 80's will remember as the "July 4" game, or alternatively, the "Rick Camp" game. He finished the night 4 for 10.

Daryl Strawberry took a poke at him at Photo Day in Spring Training 1989. It was observed that this was the first time in Strawberry's career that he had ever hit the cutoff man.
   18. sunnyday2 Posted: March 06, 2007 at 05:26 PM (#2307617)
Someday people will no longer have any idea whether Hernandez was a great fielder or not. And everyone who remembers his coke-snorting and horsebleep TV commercials will be 6 feet under or scattered across Fenway Park. And we'll be able to value him just for his hitting, like god meant for 1B to be valued.
   19. DL from MN Posted: March 06, 2007 at 05:36 PM (#2307631)
crosspost:

Keith Hernandez - I've been wanting to go over this one for weeks. I've gone over the numbers in detail and the spreadsheet keeps throwing him up on the top of the heap. I'm puzzled by this because I never once thought while following Keith Hernandez' career that he was a clear 1st ballot top of the heap HoM player. Heck, I never voted for him for all-star balloting. The bat isn't quite as good as Norm Cash but I believe Keith's defensive value is much higher and I have Cash #4. As I look down the ballot I can see that Hernandez is clearly worth voting for considering the other players I have on there. But still, #1?!
   20. Mike Green Posted: March 06, 2007 at 06:13 PM (#2307661)
Chris Dial has Olerud at +6 RS/150 over his career with peaks in the 10-15 range. Hernandez was a little better than Olerud. And that doesn't, AFAIK, include anything for scooping.

Similar issues will arise when it comes time to consider Will Clark's candidacy. Hernandez, Clark and Olerud are a nice trio to compare.
   21. Juan V Posted: March 06, 2007 at 06:19 PM (#2307668)
Good that Dial is mentioned, since we're entering a phase were Zone Rating is available for a decent chunk of the new candidates' careers.
   22. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: March 06, 2007 at 07:33 PM (#2307710)
If Hernandez knew the guy was going to bunt, he'd coming creeping up toward the batter, so that by the time the pitch was thrown, it seemed like he was almost directly in front of the batter.

I saw a lot Hernandez in the 1986-1989 seasons, though I was still under 15 so my memory may be unreliable. I concur with Diz, and the creeping Hernandez is my fixed, eternal memory of him in the field. Just as with Mattingly my memory is of him crouched at first on a pickoff throw. Hernandez, indeed, was fearless not only with the bunt but in throwing. As John Sterling used to say about Mattingly "He had unerring faith in his arm."

At bat, my memory is of Hernandez mooshing down his pine-tar stained helmet with his right hand, then wiping his palm on his pants along the hip. Then he'd slowly windmill his bat, then when taking his stance, I remember him being kind of fidgity (hmmm), occasionally pumping his hands upward a bit and shifting his weight on his feet. I think I also remember him saying that his father would call him with swing analysis, and that he'd always remind Keith that if he (the father) could't see the z on his (keith's) uniform, then he wasn't keeping his front shoulder in far enough. I don't remember Hernandez wearing batting gloves, but I do recollect him typically having rings of tape on a least one or two fingers.

There are two other things I recollect about Keith Hernandez:
1) He was frequently among the GWRBI leaders.
2) He was frequently at bat when the airliners went over Shea, and he always backed out of the box when they did and made sure they had passed well over.

He was an interesting and in many ways idiosyncratic player to watch.

I have him a little above the in/out line, below Terry above Cash. Depending on what my upperbacklog looks like, he could sneak on. Darrell Evans's election is a boon to his candidacy in terms of being on board my ballot.
   23. vortex of dissipation Posted: March 06, 2007 at 07:34 PM (#2307711)
12. Dizzypaco Posted: March 06, 2007 at 08:38 AM (#2307520)
Does anyone keep track of how many assists by a first baseman were to a position other than first base? Is that part of the metrics?


Bill James speaks to this at length in the Bill Buckner comment of the NBJHBA. He doesn't have play-by-play data to provide completely accurate stats, but agrees that the ability to throw out runners at a base other than first is a crucial part of evaluating first basemen's fielding, and comes up with a simple way to estimate the data, at least for teams, if not individual players.

His comment about the effectiveness of the method is that "Keith Hernandez' teams, both in St. Louis and New York, had huge, huge numbers of assists by the first basemen other than to the pitcher."

The specific example he gives is 1979, where the league average was 22. The Cardinals, primarily Hernandez, had 44, which led the league; the Dodgers, primarily Garvey, had 10.
   24. Exploring Leftist Conservatism since 2008 (ark..) Posted: March 06, 2007 at 07:52 PM (#2307719)
Great post, 'tex. Any thoughts on how many runs those 22 (or so) "assists by the first basemen other than to the pitcher" might translate into? I'm not sure how to break it down except to make a vague guess that most of them nailed a runner going to second...
   25. OCF Posted: March 06, 2007 at 08:02 PM (#2307726)
Someday ... And we'll be able to value him just for his hitting, like god meant for 1B to be valued.

My contention in #4 above is that he can stand up to that. Oh, we know he doesn't hit at a Gehrig/Greenberg/McCovey level, but how many of those are there, anyway? But at a Terry/Sisler/Cash/Cepeda level - in other words, at the hitting margins of the HoM - he doesn't look bad at all. Of course, he's not a slugger (<200 HR, barely 1000 RBI), and he only had 2000 games played (last good season at the age of 34). Appreciating his offense requires an appreciation of OBP.
   26. Mike Green Posted: March 06, 2007 at 08:14 PM (#2307731)
You can't really tell from a first baseman's non-pitcher assists how many runs have been saved. There's a huge difference between a 3-6 and a 3-6-3, and you need pbp for that. A simple measure would be 3-6-3 (or 3-6-1) DPs turned as a percentage of opportunities. I remember seeing published data on that, which I believe included Hernandez' rates.
   27. TomH Posted: March 06, 2007 at 08:25 PM (#2307740)
The drug thing works agianst Keith in my book.

I tend to look at players as a GM would. Keith Hernandez's off-the-field behavior forced the Cards (well, according to Whitey) to move him for very little, to the detriment of their team (altho it helped the Mets!).

If I looking to choose a player's csreer, but I highly suspected he would ruin the team's chemistry and thus their performance, that is relevant to my attempt to build a winning team, isn't it?

I'm not saying we ought to dismiss his accomplishments after June of 1983. But it IS one factor I put a small bit of stock in. YMMV.
   28. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: March 06, 2007 at 09:31 PM (#2307768)
I'll just post here comments from Michael Humphreys, the creator of Defensive Regression Analysis (DRA), on Hernández (hope that's OK, Michael) which suggest he should deserve extremely strong HoM consideration. I myself probably won't be voting for him, but food for thought...

"First baseman can definitely save more than 5 runs...UZR shows some guys +/- 15 or 20 runs. Considering his fielding, his demonstrable skill at getting the lead baserunner, turning double plays, soft hands that probably reduced throwing errors, plus whatever calming effect he had on the Mets pitching staff '84-'86, I have no trouble pencilling in 20 runs per season for several of Keith's seasons."

Also, I'm going to keep asking for data on what % of major league regulars were fighting in 1918, 42, 43, 44, 45, and 46 until someone answers me!
   29. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: March 06, 2007 at 11:59 PM (#2307850)
About nailing lead runners. I got this chart from the Baseball Analysts website after a quick googling. It's a run probability table for NL 1977-1992:
NL        0        1        2
-------------------------------
---     
.455     .239     .090
x
--     .820     .490     .210
-x-    1.054     .650     .314
xx
-    1.402     .863     .407
--x    1.285     .907     .358
x
-x    1.650    1.123     .466
-xx    1.864    1.320     .566
xxx    2.188    1.487     .715 


So, let's say you are the 198something Mets and playing the Padres. The opponent has a runner at first with the pitcher up and no one out. Right now, if I'm reading the table correctly, they are likely to score .820 runs. The pitcher is bunting. If Steve Garvey is your 1B, he gets the sure out, and a successful bunt lands the runner at second with one out and moves the likely run output to .650 runs. But you've got Hernandez; he's practically on the plate as the ball is coming off the bat. He zings it to second, nailing the lead runner. Now the opposition is only likely to score .49 runs. He's shaved off .16 runs from Garvey's likely decision.

First and second, pitcher's up again with no outs, opposition likely to score 1.4 runs. Garvey takes the out, and the new likely run total is 1.32 runs. But not Hernandez; he nails the guy at third, leaving the opponent likely to score .863 runs. That's .457 runs better than Mr. Nice.

Let's play Mr. Nice versus Mr. Met with a runner at first again. Hard grounder to Garvey, he takes it to the bag, and the other guys will score .65 runs. Hernandez takes the same grounder and goes to second for one, back to first for the deuce---the other team now likely to score .090 runs. The difference is more than half a run between them.

What's all this add up to?

Given Garvey and Herandez are the likely extremes of 1Bs throwing, let's split the difference on the double plays and say Hernandez is picking up about a quarter run per 3-6-3/1 DP over the typical 1B. However, without PBP, it's not unreasonable to believe that the vast majority of 1Bs will not make a throw across the diamond; let's say that Hernandez gets 75% of the difference between himself and our example typical 1B.

Let me line these up:

Outs at second: ~.12 runs
Outs at third: ~.30 runs
3-6/1 DPs: ~.25 runs

I'm guessing there are generally fewer than 30 3-6-3/1 DPs a year in reality. But how many of those outs at second and third is he getting, especially compared to other 1Bs? I have no idea of the actual numbers here, but let's say they are dispersed this way: 5, 15, 30. That's
.6
4.5
7.5

for a total of 12.6 runs. Now add your scoopilage, your great hands and extra good range, and that's possibly impressive.

It's just thinking out loud, and PBP is really needed, but if the approximations are kind of like reality, it's possible to see how Keith H. could save an awful lot of runs.
   30. Chris Cobb Posted: March 07, 2007 at 01:08 AM (#2307878)
It seems worthwhile to sum up what we know so far about Keith Hernandez's defensive value:

1) Great Reputation
2) Reputation as extraodinary defensive player corroborated by comments from posters who saw him play
3) Testimony that UZR shows that a top-notch defensive 1B is capable of saving 15-20 runs above average in a season
4) Back-of-Napkin calculations from Eric that suggest how cutting down lead runners and turning double plays in situations where most 1B-men get the out at first can result in 10+ runs saved above average.

We should continue examining the evidence, of course, but that's what has been reported so far.

To this I'll add some comments on the comprehensive metrics.

BP's WARP1 agrees with Hernandez's reputation and the range of values suggested so far: it has Hernandez at 182 FRAA for his career, and 10 FRAA or more above average every year from 1977-87, with peak values of 19, 20, and 21 FRAA. Those totals seem in line with what other calculations view as possible for a great defensive 1B and with Hernandez's reputation as a great defensive 1Bmen.

If the information so far presented is correct, then win shares is substantially undervaluing Hernandez's defense, because of small range into which it forces 1B defensive value. A top defensive 1Bman in win shares will earn 2.0 to 2.33 fws/1000 innings. An average defensive 1Bman will earn 1.67 fws/1000 innings. In a 4.5 r/g environment such as BP WARP uses, 9 runs saved = 1 win. so, an A+ (2.3 fws/1000 innings) 1bman would earn about 1 win share more than an average 1Bman in a 162-game season, which would imply that he saved about 3 runs more than the average 1B did.

In Keith Hernandez's best defensive season according to win shares (1985), he earned 4.0 fws. An average 1Bman would have earned 2.4 fws, so WS has Hernandez the equivalent of 5 FRAA for that season. WARP1 has him at 20 FRAA for that year.

So, if you are using win shares, you might consider that there is a considerable likelihood that win shares is underestimating Hernandez's defensive value quite a bit.

For his career, win shares sees Hernandez as an A- first baseman, 2.02 ws/1000 innings. Not quite in line with his reputation, but not wildly at variance with it, either.
   31. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: March 07, 2007 at 01:52 AM (#2307908)
Back-of-Napkin calculations from Eric

Understatement of the year, Chris! Back of a ketchup-and-mustard-stained napkin with chunks of a chili-cheese-dog hanging off it.... ; )

But in all seriousness, if anyone is a whiz with parsing PBP stuff from retrosheet event files, it would be awesome to know how often Hernandez throw across the diamond on bunts or started 3-6-3/1 DPs. And even awesomer to know how often his NL league mates did the same.
   32. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: March 07, 2007 at 03:06 AM (#2307950)
Actually, looking at retrosheet myself...

I took the P's POs, 1B A, and defensive innings for hernandez, his teams, and his leagues. I figured "discretionary assists" as 1B's A - P's PO as a proxy. Then I figured the league average per inning, prorated to KH's innings, and finally turned that into a +/- figure. Skipping 974 because he only had one assist and 76 innings....

YEAR DISA+
------------
1975  6
1976  27
1977  25
1978  11
1979  22
1980  28
1981   8
1982  15
1983  20 
(4/16)
1984  26
1985  16
1986  10
1987   8
1988   8
1989 
-11
1990  
-2
=========
TOTAL 217 


Here it is on a per inning basis. Hernandez had 481 discretionary assists in 17279.67 innings, for .25 per game. 27.8 per 1000 games in a notation WS uses. His leagues averaged 264 discretionary assists in the same time, or .14 per nine. 15.5 per 1000.

So that's plays where we can estimate that Hernandez threw to second, third, or home. This does include 3-6-3/1 DPs, I don't think. He wouldn't get an A and a DP, right? Just the DP? If not, then it includes DPs.

One thing worth noting, however, is that I was eyeballing things as I went along, and Hernandez's teams also tended to be among the league leaders in P POs. I'm unclear as to whether that's a result of his own range/adventurousness or his choice to flip to the bag instead of taking it himself. My own memory is that he frequently took it himself, touching his right toe to the bag and sort of pirouetting out of the way of oncoming runners. But I could be remembering style instead of substance.

Oh, one other thing, I don't know the left/right and gb/fb composition of his staffs. That could very well influence this a lot.
   33. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: March 07, 2007 at 04:22 AM (#2307990)
By the by, I currently have Hernandez mostly likely getting onto my ballot at either 9th or 10th.
   34. vortex of dissipation Posted: March 07, 2007 at 04:31 AM (#2307991)
So that's plays where we can estimate that Hernandez threw to second, third, or home. This does include 3-6-3/1 DPs, I don't think. He wouldn't get an A and a DP, right? Just the DP? If not, then it includes DPs.

On a 3-6-3 double play, the first baseman would receive credit for one assist, one putout, and one double play.
   35. Cabbage Posted: March 07, 2007 at 05:38 AM (#2308021)
On a 3-6-3 double play, the first baseman would receive credit for one assist, one putout, and one double play.

the baseball version of one bourbon, one scotch, and one beer!


/return to lurking
   36. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: March 07, 2007 at 05:59 AM (#2308033)
How did that guy ever sneak "Furt4do" past the cybernanny?
   37. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: March 07, 2007 at 06:08 AM (#2308037)
While I think it's interesting to study what kind of impact Hernandez's ability to get the lead runner out as opposed to someone like Garvey, it would seem to be kind of meaningless without knowing how often the decision failed to get the lead runner. A few times failing to get anyone out (as opposed to the sure play, which almost always will) would undo a lot of the value of those assists.
   38. rawagman Posted: March 07, 2007 at 07:08 AM (#2308053)
I've always felt that most sabermetrics as well as saberheads seriously underrate the defensive importance of almost all positions.
For example, from what I've read about the Fielding Bible, it does a very good job of analyzing the difficulty factor of batted balls. But I am not aware of any work done on the difficulty of thrown balls.
One does not need to be a major leaguer to know one of the differences between a ground ball and a thrown ball. I ground ball coming in your general direction will fairly quickly establish a "flight path" based on its speed, exact direction, and hieght of hop. Without a freak incident (uneven ground, pebble, etc...) the path will be readable and the infielder will have a chance to maneuver himself into position to make the play.
Having made the play, he then (usually) has to fire to first. If the grounder was routine and he didn't eed to move too much, he will hopefully be able to set his feet and make a square throw to the firstbaseman. On such square throws, most of us will be able to ably substitute for the firstbasebman and make the catch.
What if the infielder is rushed, or fails to properly set his feet. The arm strength will still be there - the throw will be a hard one - but it'll move. The 1B will need some of the skills of being a catcher - but without the gear. The throw could tail, could sail, could drop, could put the 1B directly in line with the speeding runner.
Going beyond that. An infield that has confidence in its 1B plays better. If the SS knows that his 1B will catch any halfway reasonably thrown ball to him, the SS won't waste any superfluous motion in the setting of his feet and will gain an extra step or half step on the runner. Extra outs on plays that would be singles. Extra outs that don't seem to be credited to the 1B.
In real baseball, there is a psychic plus for all teammates when a player is defensively reliable. A psychic minus (fear factor) for defensive liabilities.
For the purposes of this institution, I urge anyone voting for, or thinking of voting for Keith Hernandez, to take a fresh look at Ben Taylor. Known as the best fielding 1B in Negro League history - especially skilled as a scooper.
I also urge you to re-examine Pete Browning (who seems on the cusp). His poor defense - how much extra stress did it place on the other fielders and on his pitching staff?
   39. rawagman Posted: March 07, 2007 at 03:51 PM (#2308110)
I will admit to putting my vote where my mouth is, Hernandez will be mid-ballot for me and in my PHOM, barring any changes to the high backlog, who I plan on reexamining before the election starts.
   40. sunnyday2 Posted: March 07, 2007 at 07:41 PM (#2308252)
Wow. If Keith Hernandez flies into the HoM, I will be amazed. And I have him preliminarilarilyarily at #16. I thought I would be one of his best friends. But I cannot imagine that he goes to the head of the class. Is it really that easy to be a HoMer just by playing after 1970?

Position players after 1970 who were on average approximately as good as Darrell Evans and Keith Hernandez:

Bench, Carter, Fisk, Munson, Simmons, Torre
Murray, Perez, McGwire, Rose, W. Clark, Mattingly
Morgan, Carew, Sandberg, Grich, Whitaker
Yount, Ozzie, Ripken, Trammell
Schmidt, Brett, Boggs, Molitor
Yaz, Stargell, Brock, Raines, Rice, Belle, G. Foster
Puckett, Dawson, Murphy
Reggie, Gwynn, Oliva, Parker, Reggie2, Dw. Evans, Bonds

I said approximately. A finer analysis would put them in their proper order. But by definition Da. Evans and Hernandez are near the bottom of this list. They fly on in? There's really nobody in the backlog that is better? Are we asking ourselves that question anymore or is that part of the project over with?
   41. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: March 07, 2007 at 07:53 PM (#2308269)
I don't think you'll get much agreement on that list, sunnyday2. You have inner-circle players like Morgan and Schmidt guys who can't sniff a ballot like Brock as "approximately" comparable? I mean, they both played major league baseball, but that's about where it ends. Evans is near the bottom of a list with Reggie Jackson, and atop a list with Tony Oliva.

I'm sure we can all agree that Hernández's candidacy depends entirely on voters' assessment of the magnitude of 1B defense. If you think he added 150+ runs over his career with the glove, 20 per season at his peak, he's well over any reasonable in/out line; if you think he only added 50 or so, he won't make your ballot.
   42. TomH Posted: March 07, 2007 at 08:39 PM (#2308295)
I assume sunnny's list was "guys who were AT LEAST as good as".

----
Tony Perez, Lou Brock, Jim Rice, Thurman Munson, Reggie Smith, Dave Concepcion, Bobby Bonds, Griag Nettles, Luis Tiant, Rusty Staub, Orlando Cepeda, Luis Aparicio.

Fine eligible post-1970 players who aren't going in to the HoM anytime soon.

I don't think we're gonna be all THAT kind to the modern guys. Yes, The HoF has been overly restrictive of moderns. I DO think we'll be much kinder to Keith H than history has, mostly because history in general
a. ignores walks, and, particularly in his case,
b. believes defense only 'matters' at 'glove' positions

I'm sorry that Jeff Burroughs and Don Baylor and George Bell and Greg Luzinski won MVP awards. Doesn't mean we have to follow said logic. First base defense does matter some, and Keith's was outstanding. Again, I ping him for the drug-influence-on-his-team thing, so he won't make the top of my ballot, but so far I haven't seen anyone else follow me down that path.
   43. Dizzypaco Posted: March 07, 2007 at 08:55 PM (#2308305)
drug-influence-on-his-team thing,

How much influence did it have? It didn't have any influence post-trade (June 1983). The year before the trade, the Cardinals won the world series, and it seems a little strange to dock a guy for negative influence on his team when the team won the world series. The year before that, the Cardinals had the second best record in baseball Maybe Herzog was afraid it would start to have an influence, but do we know it actually did? Was the problem pre-1981? If so, why did it take so long to trade him?
   44. OCF Posted: March 07, 2007 at 09:19 PM (#2308324)
In 1982, Lonnie Smith was the return of Lou Brock, only with more walks - an outstanding season, with 120 runs scored. In 1983, Smith started the season and played nearly every day until June 10. He next appeared in the lineup on July 9, having spent the intervening month in a rehab clinic dealing with an admitted cocaine habit.

Smith disappeared from the lineup in early June; Hernandez was traded less than a week later. I don't know how much Whitey had been biding his time, building a case against Hernandez and how much it was a snap decision.

The offense was fine, mostly, and the team still had above average players at every position. The pitching tanked in 1983, with no starter (except for the half-season rookie Cox) having a 100 ERA+ and with Sutter having a off year. Smith hit OK after he came back, then tailed off sharply in 1984, and was replaced by Vince Coleman for the 1985 pennant team.

It might well be the the biggest thing the Cardinals lost was Hernandez himself, and that to some extent the apparent decline in the pitching has something to do with a weaker infield defense with George Hendrick at 1B instead of Hernandez. Getting from there to the 1985 team involved a great creative juggle: Hendrick for Tudor, a lesser LHP plus a blocked-in-the-minors SS for Jack Clark, getting both a big bat at 1B and a #1 starter.
   45. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: March 07, 2007 at 09:37 PM (#2308337)
Greg Luzinski didn't win any MVP award I'm aware of.
   46. TomH Posted: March 07, 2007 at 10:26 PM (#2308361)
sorry, he did not. He finished 2nd twice. And he may well have been the 2nd best HITTER in the league both of those years. The fact that he was 2nd in 78 and teammate Schmidt was 10th is, well, inexcusable.

How can you say the Hernandez trade had no influence after June of 83? The team lost a great player, and got virtually nothing in return.
   47. Dizzypaco Posted: March 07, 2007 at 10:37 PM (#2308365)
How can you say the Hernandez trade had no influence after June of 83? The team lost a great player, and got virtually nothing in return.

Becuase he had a lot of value on the team that got him - and that's all that matters. Are you saying that we should deduct from Babe Ruth's value on the Yankees because the Red Sox got virtually nothing in return? I remember reading that Ruth's behavior on the Red Sox was part of the reason for the sale.

There are lots of players in the HOM who were traded for less than they were worth at some point in their careers. Sometimes, those players forced the trade due to their own actions. Since when have we started deducting from a player's value every time their off the field behavior leads to a trade?
   48. Dizzypaco Posted: March 07, 2007 at 10:40 PM (#2308366)
The fact that he was 2nd in 78 and teammate Schmidt was 10th is, well, inexcusable.

Luzinski wasn't just a better hitter than Schmidt in '78 - he was much better (OPS+ of 153 to 122, for starters). You can argue that Schmidt was still more valuable due to defense, but selecting Luzinski over Schmidt in that one year was not inexcusable.
   49. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: March 07, 2007 at 10:53 PM (#2308377)
Luzinski did win the Roberto Clemente award that year, though!
   50. jingoist Posted: March 08, 2007 at 12:57 AM (#2308448)
I cannot fathom how "No play for Mr Gray" is appearing so high on peoples ballots in his initial year. Seems to me to be to be "a rush to judgement".
I gotta believe 20 or 25 backloggers would be better choices than Keith; I always thought of him as "Mark Grace light".
Actually it might be useful to compare Keith with Joyner and Grace moving forward; that is, if you guys don't elect him right away.
   51. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: March 08, 2007 at 02:06 AM (#2308478)
I got to disagree Jingo. Hernandez was probably a better fielder than all three, but certainly was a better hitter.

Career OPS+
Hernandez 129
Grace 119
Joyner 116

Best 10 OPS+s (more than 400 PA)
Hernandez  152 148 143 142 141 131 130 127 127 126
Grace      143 140 130 127 127 126 124 119 118 114
Joyner     137 135 133 125 122 120 119 117 114 112 


Hernandez isn't Babe Ruth, but he's manifestly better than Grace and Joyner. Any liteness is due to the difference in their respective run environments.
   52. Chris Cobb Posted: March 08, 2007 at 02:19 AM (#2308484)
I cannot fathom how "No play for Mr Gray" is appearing so high on peoples ballots in his initial year. Seems to me to be to be "a rush to judgement".

The group has been very careful with new arrivals: there's little likelihood we will be precipitous with Hernandez.

I gotta believe 20 or 25 backloggers would be better choices than Keith; I always thought of him as "Mark Grace light".
Actually it might be useful to compare Keith with Joyner and Grace moving forward; that is, if you guys don't elect him right away.


Stepping into my time machine, I come up with the following career lines:

Keith Hernandez, 2088 g, 129 OPS+
Mark Grace, 2245 g, 119 OPS+
Wally Joyner, 2033 g, 116 OPS+

Mark Grace and Wally Joyner were "Keith Hernandez" light, not the other way around. They would clearly be below the current backlog if they were eligible.

We have another week and half to chew over the defensive statistics. The backloggers that we elect now are going to be among the bottom 5-10% of the Hall of Merit; they are all candidates with some drawback, and nobody making much more than half the ballots. Just to give a reminder of what the backlog really looks like, here are the top 25 candidates for whom hitting is a significant part of their argument. I list them in order of votes, giving games played and OPS+:

Jimmy Wynn, 1920 g, 128 OPS+
Charlie Keller, 1170 g, 152 OPS+
Edd Roush, 1967 g, 126 OPS+
Pete Browning, 1183 g, 162 OPS+
Jake Beckley, 2386 g, 125 OPS+
Charley Jones, 894 g, 141 OPS+
Tony Perez, 2777 g, 122 OPS+
Bob Johnson 1863 g, 138 OPS+
Hugh Duffy, 1737 g, 122 OPS+
Gavvy Cravath, 1220 g, 150 OPS+
Alejandro Oms, 2178 g, 125 OPS+
George Van Haltren, 1984 g, 121 OPS+
Tommy Leach, 2156 g, 109 OPS+
John McGraw, 1099 g, 135 OPS+
Lou Brock, 2616 g, 109 OPS+
Rusty Staub, 2851 g, 124 OPS+
Graig Nettles, 2700 g, 110 OPS+
Reggie Smith, 1987 g, 137 OPS+
Norm Cash, 2089 g, 139 OPS+
Larry Doyle, 1766 g, 126 OPS+
Bob Elliott, 1978 g, 124 OPS+
Ken Singleton, 2082 g, 132 OPS+
Bobby Bonds, 1849 g, 130 OPS+

This list provides a very superficial view of these candidates, but I hope that a casual perusal will show that a 129 OPS+ that is OBP-heavy, in a 2000-game career that featured strong in-season durability, all-time great defense at a low-defense position, and play in an era with very strong competition level certainly isn't obviously outclassed by this group. Pure career voters will obviously find a half dozen superior candidates; pure peak voters will obviously find four or five obviously superior candidates. Extended prime is hard to eyeball, but I think that Hernandez's 12-year run from 1976 to 1987, with 149+ games played every year except his first year as a regular, an OPS+ of 120+ in every year but one, and outstanding defense every year, is strong: again, I'd guess you'll find a half-dozen players who stack up well against him, and a lot of others who don't. So Hernandez has a shot at making most ballots, and voters who look at peak, prime, and career may well see nobody who tops him in all three measures. And for that kind of voter (and that's the kind I am), Hernandez looks like a highly meritorious player. I am being cautious about where I will rank him, but my system puts him at the top of the ballot. That's not a rush to judgment: that's what I get from crunching the numbers. The question for me is, are there reasons not to trust the numbers, and that's what I'm looking to see as the discussion continues.
   53. GGC don't think it can get longer than a novella Posted: March 08, 2007 at 02:29 AM (#2308488)
I have no idea what this is worth but, IIRC, in 1984 Hernandez took over part of the catcher's pitcher-handling responsibilities fro the wet behind the ears Mike Fitzgerald. It probably doesn't count for much, but I don't recall other first basemen do ing it. Maybe Frank Chance, but that was before my time.
   54. phredbird Posted: March 08, 2007 at 02:31 AM (#2308489)
hernandez' departure is more about whitey herzog than keith hernandez. herzog was determined to keep control of the team, and his modus was preemptive. as soon as he percieved trouble, you were out. he got rid of simmons early on for that reason; he was lucky to get ozzie for templeton, but he would have forced templeton out no matter what. and he was old school about drugs. so there was no chuck tanner-ish ignore it maybe it will go away, when he had heard/seen enough about keith, he had to go. i read his book a while back, and it's not a great book, but reading his words does give you insight on why those things went down.
   55. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: March 08, 2007 at 02:56 AM (#2308501)
Since Hernandez is generating a lot sparks in some ways and a lot admiration in others, I thought I'd run down the players occupying similar spots at all the positions for comparison's sake.

I have Hernandez above the in/out line. Currently, he's 16th among 1B candidates we've seen. That sandwiches him between Terry and McVey on one side and Start on the other.

So, I'll list all the positions like this, with the / being where the Hernandez analog at each position falls.

C: Mackey /Shang/ Bresnahan and Munson
1B: McVey and Terry /Hernandez/ Start
2B: Childs /Richardson/ Doerr
3b: Traynor /Nettles and Rosen/ Beckwith
SS: Glasscock /Jennings and Sewell/ Wallace
LF: Sheckard /Clarke, Burns, Kelley, Stargell/ F Howard and Galan
CF: Doby /Roush and Duffy/ Hill
RF: Cravath /Goslin and Bonds/ Dihigo
P: Vance, Galvin, and McGinnity /Faber/ Coveleski

That feels pretty much right to me (duh, it's my system). The guys in these lineups are all borderline in nature and often have complex cases. Many of them are unelected, many controversial (in as much as candidates are), and most have a fatal flaw that kept them in the backlog a while or have kept them from election altogether thus far. It's fair to say that my system agrees with the consensus that suggests Hernandez is part of the backlog more than he's sure-fire HOMer---but the flipside is that it sees that entire group (the upper backlog, if you will---or frontlog?) as part of a group of electable candidates for the bottom end of the HOM.
   56. OCF Posted: March 08, 2007 at 03:05 AM (#2308505)
so there was no chuck tanner-ish ignore it maybe it will go away, when he had heard/seen enough about keith, he had to go.

Yes, but let's not oversimplify matters. He was willing to give Lonnie Smith another chance. The fact that Lonnie publicly admitted the problem and was willing to go into rehab probably earned him that chance. That, and Herzog probably didn't see Lonnie as the center of the problem, the one who set the tone, while he did see Hernandez in that light.

As for the 1985 decision to dump Lonnie? I'd say that was business, not personal, and motivated more by a desire to clear a space for Coleman then by any particular thing about Smith. Of course, had Smith been producing like he had in 1982 or would in 1989, that might have played out differently.

I see the decision to trade Simmons as being about authority, about establishing who was in charge. Hernandez stayed at that point because he wasn't as direct a threat to Whitey's authority as Simmons was.

he was lucky to get ozzie for templeton,

That I agree with - as marvelous as that trade turned out to be as an exchange of talent, I'm not all that sure that Whitey saw it that way at the moment he made it.
   57. TomH Posted: March 08, 2007 at 03:06 AM (#2308506)
The fact that he was 2nd in 78 and teammate Schmidt was 10th is, well, inexcusable.

Luzinski wasn't just a better hitter than Schmidt in '78 - he was much better.


Either I can't read, or I can't type. Or both. Either way, I meant 1977, not 1978.
   58. TomH Posted: March 08, 2007 at 03:15 AM (#2308509)
How can you say the Hernandez trade had no influence after June of 83? The team lost a great player, and got virtually nothing in return.

Becuase he had a lot of value on the team that got him - and that's all that matters. Are you saying that we should deduct from Babe Ruth's value on the Yankees because the Red Sox got virtually nothing in return?

There are lots of players in the HOM who were traded for less than they were worth at some point in their careers..... Since when have we started deducting from a player's value every time their off the field behavior leads to a trade?

--
I disagree that that is "all that matters". And so would your GM!

Does Billy Martin get complete credit as a great manager for improving his teams a lot (which he did!) but get no penalty for maybe ruining some of them after he left? Who would want Billy Martin to manage their team for 10 years?

The Red Sox did not get nothing for Babe Ruth - they got a fistful of money. Which the owner needed. Yeah, they still got fleeced, but in theory that cash could have found them some fine players.

If a player's off-field behavior forces a team to trade him for pennies, I'll take credit off every time. I don't know whether Gary Sheffield or Tony Gwynn was a better hitter; but I sure can tell you which one I'd take if I were starting a team. Is that irrelevant?
   59. Cblau Posted: March 08, 2007 at 03:18 AM (#2308512)
Re #44:
I've just read Davey Johnson's book on the 1985 season, and am reading Hernandez' now. Both say essentially that the trade came about because of a personality conflict between Herzog and Hernandez (and Hernandez vetoed a trade a couple of weeks earlier.)

Hernandez liked to do crossword puzzles before the games. Herzog thought he should have been talking baseball, showing leadership. Also, Hernandez said he had stopped using cocaine by that time, that he used it 1980-82.
   60. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: March 08, 2007 at 03:29 AM (#2308517)
Hernandez liked to do crossword puzzles before the games.

F*cking crossword puzzles. Let's see goddam Will Shortz anagram a 90 MPH fastball to the noggin. I've got a clue for Merle Reagle, A Place to Stay Out of...answer: My frickin' clubhouse!

Sincerely,

Whitey
   61. phredbird Posted: March 08, 2007 at 03:32 AM (#2308519)
ocf, yea, my memory of what happened with lonnie is fuzzy, thanks for that.
i agree with what you wrote.
cblau, maybe so, but it seems funny that it took that long for whitey to let personality differences drive his decision. i don't think keith is being entirely truthful, but that's just my opinion.
   62. rawagman Posted: March 08, 2007 at 08:14 AM (#2308607)
As some of you know, I'm not a WS user. BUt I have a question about how it values 1B defense. I was rereading the Bill Buckner comment in THBJHBA last night - the one where he goes on for a bit about the relative value of different actions taken by the 1B. It seems to me that he basically is saying that there is almost no value whatsoever in 1B assists, especially ones to the pitcher who is presumably covering 1B. He gives some value to those throws the first baseman makes to second, third and home, but none to first.
To me, this seems to be saying that all of the value in an assist is in the throwing of the ball; there is no value in the act of fielding the batted ball itself. Does the same hold true for the rest of the infield. Is the defensive value gained from making plays only in the put-out and the throw? If so, I wholeheartedly disagree.
The skill required to field a batted ball is much the same throughout the infield. The middle infielders will have to (often) move more to get to those balls than will the corner guys, but 1B-men, in general will have to move around as much, and as often as 3B-men to field those grounders. Bill James uses a dribbler to Buckner as his example of the typical play made by the firstbaseman. I don't think that a dribbler is all that more likely to go to 1B than to any other part of the infield. We've all seen middle infielders rack up assists on easy, two-hop grounders, travelling a fair bit more slowly than a hard nubber down the line to 1B or 3B.
The bottom line is this - it looks to me that assist value, by WS, is given for the throw, not the play. I think it should be about 50/50. If that is the case, then an assist by the 1B-man (throwing to first) would have half the value of an assist by the SS instead of negligble value. An assist by the 1B to any other bag would have the same "play" value as the throw from short to first.
So my question is - am I wrong about how WS values infield defensive plays?
   63. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: March 08, 2007 at 03:28 PM (#2308697)
I'm curious about your assertion regarding the relative difficulty of fielding grounders at the various positions. I would that that the toughest grounders would be at 3B and 1B, due to the tendency of MLB batters to pull the ball very hard. And when you're that far out in front, you're probably also putting a lot of topspin on a ground ball, due to uppercutting. As an opponent of Andre Aggasi would tell you, topspin and pace are a difficult combination. You would think that grounders to the middle of the infield would be more difficult in the sense that they require more range to cover a large space, but as to the actual nature of the batted ball, you'd think 3Bs and 1Bs would have the worst of it...esepcially 3Bs.
   64. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: March 08, 2007 at 04:03 PM (#2308718)
I am not sure that is what James is saying. Much like 3B PO he found out that 1B A have so much noise that it is much more accurate to count them than to not count them. Whether a 1B gets an A or a PO on a groundball to him is as much a matter of preference as it is skill. The Buckner/Garvey piece shows this. I guess the way that i foudn it is that a 1B A going to the pitcher gets the same value as a play that reads a '3' in the book. Maybe I am wrong here, but to give 1B A more value would be mistaken.
   65. sunnyday2 Posted: March 08, 2007 at 04:16 PM (#2308728)
Having played all 4 IF positions--not well mind you but having played them--and in the following order: SS-3B-1B-2B....

It is hard to worry the difficulty of picking up a ground ball as an isolated skill. SS is clearly the most difficult position because you are fielding the ball on the move more than at any other position and that presents more difficulty than any spin on the ball IMO. And you're picking the ball in a whole wide range of varying body positions and different places on the field. Not to mention you've then got the relatively long throw.

1B is probably the next most difficult--I realize this is not conventional wisdom and may not apply to MLB--but for me and for others at my level it was not always easy to field throws. I suppose we got more wild throws than they get in the MLs. So along with fielding ground balls you've got that.

3B was easier than 1B in the sense that the 3B is fielding ground balls a lot like the 1B is, but not doing all the other stuff that 1B do. As to the "long throw," the ground ball gets to the 3B so quickly--not always but often--that you've got plenty of time to set up, in fact to wait for the 1B to get into position, that a strong throw (a strong arm) isn't always really needed.

Because the ball gets to 1B and 3B so quickly, you have relatively little chance to move and so picking on the move is less of an issue. The spin on the ball is less of an issue than the speed of the ball, IMO.

2B is of course the easiest with on average the lowest ball speed, and also the shorter throw. The really tough thing at 2B is the DP. Much harder IMO than executing a DP from the SS position, regardless of 6-4-3 or 4-6-3. For a 2B of course 6-4-3 is the toughest. Also at SS a 6-3 DP is not uncommon and very easy. 4-3 is also fairly easy when you get it but pretty unusual.

In summary, SS is by far the hardest because you're on the move and you're making plays from a very wide range of different places on the field. Difficulty is also a function of expectations. Nobody at my level ever really expected you to pick a very hard hit ball at the corners, so no criticism if it goes through. When you pick one it's kudos all around. SS is expected to be a miracle worker.
   66. rawagman Posted: March 08, 2007 at 04:40 PM (#2308748)
Mark - my point is that there is a lot more to 1B than simply crouching for nubbers and catching the throws from the other infielders. James has done a lot for the forward motion of baseball thinking, but his results weren't always correct. And unless he simply isn't mentioning things he is taking into account, his reasoning seems to be very flawed for 1B defense.
As Eric pointed out, the middle infielders have longer to go to get to the ball but mroe time to do so, while corner men generally don't have to move as far, but need to do their moving faster. Also, a missed grounder in the mdidle will more often than not result in a single, while one missed by the corner guy will be far more likely to lead to extra bases.
   67. TomH Posted: March 08, 2007 at 05:04 PM (#2308763)
Thought experiment: should there be more or less variation among fielders at 1B ("easy" position) or SS ("hard" position)?

My natural inclination is that Of Course there's more variation at short; after all, more batted balls go that way, right?

But consider: when a GM/manager puts together a lineup, he KNOWS that defense at SS is important, because the SS will typically have 3-4 ground balls per game hit somewhere in his direction. So, if there IS a player who is a good hitter but a very poor shortstop, what happens? He gets moved somewhere else. There ARE no "lousy" defensive shortstops. I suspect if you were to construct a graph of def rating for SS's (career), it would look more like the tail of a bell curve than a whole bell curve.

But (sans DH) a player who can mash has to play Somewhere. And it's probably 1B. Or maybe corner OF. So you have both superb (Hernanadez) and rotten first sackers who play MLB. You get BOTH ends of the bell "tail". As a result, the variation among MLB 1Bmen may be as big as SS - if the data actually showed that, I wouldn't dismiss it.
   68. Chris Cobb Posted: March 08, 2007 at 05:12 PM (#2308770)
rawagman,

You are missing the point of what James is doing. His whole fielding system isn't about trying to assign a run value to particular fielding events. It's about trying to find reliable indicators of fielding quality, and then measuring the broad impact of a player's fielding quality on the team's defense, for which the player gets a share of the team win shares. Thre are a lot of problems with this system, and it's my view, argued above, that it systematically undervalues excellent defense at first base by limiting a first baseman's fielding value to a very narrow range: the cap on first base win shares is very low.

That is a problem that is unrelated to James's analysis of first base assists. He is trying to measure throwing skill as _one_ part of a first baseman's defensive arsenal. A raw assist total is not a good indicator of whether a first baseman can throw or not, because so many first-base assists are discretionary and are very easy: the 1B might flip to the pitcher, or he might run the ball to the bag himself. The quicker and more agile the 1B is, the more likely he is to run to the bag himself. So it is likely that assists and defensive skill to be inversely related for first basemen. James is thus trying to isolate the plays that show the first baseman is really able to throw the ball effectively to other bases to discover how much the first baseman's assists at other bases add to his team's defense. James _is_ interested in a first baseman's ability to _get to and field_ the ball as well as throw it, but he uses other measures to try to isolate that aspect of first base defense.

In sum, he's not saying that assists to first have no defensive value: he's saying that, in themselves, they are not a useful measure of defensive skill. Off the top of my head, I don't remember exactly how he goes about assessing range, but I'm pretty sure it's something like (total putouts by first basemen)-(infielder assists)+(putouts by pitchers). That view gives a rough measure of the grounders that the first basemen successfully field, combining their unassisted putouts with their assists to pitcher.

Someone with the Win Shares book handy can correct me on the details.

Let me repeat: I think win shares undervalues excellent first base defense by capping 1B fws at too low a percentage of team fielding win shares. But the problem does not lie in his analysis of first-base assists.
   69. Willie Mays Hayes Posted: March 08, 2007 at 05:26 PM (#2308780)
Other than the fact Beckley played a bit (approx. 2 seasons) longer, isn't it fair to compare the two? Both played superb defense and didn't have the peak you look for in a first baseman. I'm having a heck of a time differentiating the two, and I'm curious if it's just me.
   70. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: March 08, 2007 at 05:40 PM (#2308801)
I think you can actually construct a compelling argument that the difficulty level of throwing for 1Bs is very high (aside from flipping to pitchers). 1Bs throwing to second must always negotiate a baserunner between themselves and the bag that is moving away from them and toward their target. On such throws, the 1B's throw must be precise and to the side of the bag he's throwing from, or else he puts the SS in the way of the runner, also blocking a potential return throw to first. Obviously, throwing to third is tough because it's across the diamond, but I would guess that players at second base lead further off the bag than at first too: the pick off to second is a very awkward play and it's a fairly rare play to see executed (usually just a step off). So it's likely the runner gets a step or two toward third. And on a bunt they are probably moving on contact. So 1B has to make a long throw to get a guy with an extra step. It's little wonder that Hernandez's adventursome throwing is the stuff of legend, most 1Bs, trained to minimize the number of throws they make and concetrate on hitting, are probably cautious about throwing through traffic and across the diamond for very good reason.

In a way you could say that third baseman have simpler throws to make overall: fewer obstacles between them and second, batters likely get a little worse jump than baserunners. Obviously arm strength is the issue here but a 1Bs elective throws are just dicey, and I don't know that a 3B's are as much so.
   71. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: March 08, 2007 at 05:43 PM (#2308803)
Ummm...Hernández had two and a half times as many FRAA as Beckley, and in a shorter career. Hernández may be the best-fielding 1B *evar*; Beckley isn't even in that discussion. This particularly matters for peak voters, because Hernández did have about six seaons with HoM-level offense for a 1B (Beckley had one or two), and if you add 20 fielding runs onto his best hitting seasons, you have MVP-caliber performances in '79 (which he won), '80, and '84.
   72. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: March 08, 2007 at 05:43 PM (#2308804)
I don't think Hernandez and Beckley are worlds apart. Just far enough that one's over my line and the other isn't.
   73. TomH Posted: March 08, 2007 at 06:04 PM (#2308826)
Beckley and K Henrnadez are very different. Keith hit better. Keith fielded better. But.... Jake played 27% more.
It's a tough call.
By the way, karlmagnus, Beckley's bb-ref page is open for sponsorship at a mere $15. Go for it, dude!
   74. rawagman Posted: March 08, 2007 at 09:24 PM (#2308978)
Chris - thanks for your response. If you're right about James, in that he was referring only to the value of 1B assists in terms of throwing ability and not as it shoudl reflect on his true fiedling ability/range, then I think we are in agreement.
I guess my point is that 1B defense tends to be grossly underrated because of the failure to account for the type of batted balls the first basemen are fielding.
I wonder what the research done by the folks working on the fielding bible would have to say about the skill needed to be a good fielding firstbaseman.
   75. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: March 08, 2007 at 09:50 PM (#2309005)
Ini post 74, though, I think wagaman hits on why WS is giving players such a small cap.

I wonder what the research done by the folks working on the fielding bible would have to say about the skill needed to be a good fielding firstbaseman.

Most baseball people will say, Who cares how good he fields, can he hit? (Unless the player can't hit, in which they refer incessantly to how many errors he saves other infielders.)

Most analysts will say, First basemen are not selected for defense, if so they'd be 3Bs or LFs. They are selected because they can mash, and defense, provided it isn't awful, is a small bonus. (And then they talk about how we can't prove how good a scooper a 1B is anyway.)

In this way, analysts and baseball people are in agreement that defense comes second for 1Bs. The expectation is low for 1Bs because the defensive responsibility invested in 1Bs mirrors the CW and the expectation is that 1Bs will do no harm. For WS to put a low cap on 1B defense may not be ideal, but it's understandable in that way. And I'd be curious to know whether real first base defense has a lot variation or not. You'd think less, but who really knows.
   76. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: March 08, 2007 at 10:04 PM (#2309023)
Good discussion on 1B defense. Going into this project I would have probably not liked a player like Hernandez, decent hitter, great fielder, so-so peak. But now I think that with WS underrating 1B defense (karl couldn't haev been right all along could he?) I may like Hernandez AND Mattingly for my PHOM. Mattingly to me seems like a carbon copy of George Sisler and Hernandez is similar but with a longer career. Keith is going to be in the 10-15 range of my ballot this year, if enough other voters agree he could make it in this year.

BTW, I think that James concurs that WS underrates some 1B defense. I think this is the reason why Mattingly rates so high in his rankings. I am not talking about hwo he ranks above Connor and Brouthers, that is the timeline, but how he ranks above guys like Palmeiro, Clark, and Allen. Jaames thinks that WS was underrating hsi defense. I am nto sure about the Mattingly/Hernandez ranking and James has been ever so coy on that one since the rankings were released.
   77. sunnyday2 Posted: March 08, 2007 at 11:03 PM (#2309066)
How will Will Clark fare then? Not enough glove?
   78. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: March 08, 2007 at 11:36 PM (#2309100)
Clark will get my vote, I've got him as better than Hernandez. Mattingly below the line, nearer to Beckley than Hernandez.

bb-ref doesn't say so, but I recollect Hernandez as having the very un-PC nickname of Mex during his career. Does anyone else recall this?
   79. OCF Posted: March 09, 2007 at 12:01 AM (#2309126)
First basemen are not selected for defense, if so they'd be 3Bs or LFs.

They'd be 3B if they were right-handed. At an individual level, the defensive spectrum is different for southpaws. Hernandez was prohibited by handedness from playing 3B and without even asking what kind of LF or RF he could have been, I'd say his defensive impact was greater at 1B anyway.
   80. vortex of dissipation Posted: March 09, 2007 at 12:21 AM (#2309137)
bb-ref doesn't say so, but I recollect Hernandez as having the very un-PC nickname of Mex during his career. Does anyone else recall this?

Yes. I also remember him disliking the nickname, and pointing out that his heritage was Spanish, rather than Hispanic.
   81. rdfc Posted: March 09, 2007 at 12:52 AM (#2309144)
Yes, Hernandez was known as Mex

As others who watched the mid-80s Mets have testified, Hernandez' defense was extraordinarily impressive. He was simply far more aggressive in regularly attempting plays that few other first basemen would try to make, and he usually succeeded. He was extraordinarily fun to watch.

I think Herzog was right to trade Hernandez. How was Herzog to know that Hernandez was going to successfully rid himself of his drug problem in a way that almost never works?

The Mets, on the other hand, were right to trade for him.

Hernandez's book If At First is unique in that it paints the author as a rather poor human being; I sure wouldn't want to be his friend. But he was a heck of a baseball player, and just good enough to get my vote.
   82. KJOK Posted: March 09, 2007 at 01:27 AM (#2309160)
he was lucky to get ozzie for templeton, but he would have forced templeton out no matter what. and he was old school about drugs.


Templeton, as far as I know, did NOT have a drug problem. He was treated for 'mental health issues', which I'm almost sure were legitimate, not some code word for hiding a drug problem.

And in hindsight he was lucky, but at the time it did not appear to be a good trade - Templeton was the "Jose Reyes" of his time, and trading him for the light hitting Ozzie Smith, who was just a few months younger than Templeton, seemed like a terrible deal.
   83. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: March 09, 2007 at 01:40 AM (#2309164)
One of the things Dewan does is use video to assess fielders. In all MLB history which players fielding-only careers might I be interested in watching on video? Hernandez is probably one to see how aggressive he was. Tris Speaker is another, to see how shallow he played and whether balls went over him. Jackie Robinson, because he moved around so much and yet comes out as very good at many positions. Derek Jeter's another for reasons best left unsaid. Hal Chase and George Sisler are two more I'd be interested in seeing for very different reasons. Honus Wagner, Larry Doyle, Johnny Evers. Anyway, that's just a few that I think would be fascinating (assuming I even knew what to look for).
   84. vortex of dissipation Posted: March 09, 2007 at 01:43 AM (#2309167)
I'd love to see a montage of Roberto Clemente's assists...
   85. AJMcCringleberry Posted: March 09, 2007 at 02:09 AM (#2309175)
Darling calls Hernandez "Mex" during games sometimes.
   86. Howie Menckel Posted: March 09, 2007 at 02:17 AM (#2309181)
Hernandez doesn't speak Spanish, but people always assume he does.
   87. sunnyday2 Posted: March 09, 2007 at 02:22 AM (#2309183)
Dave Parker's assists look a lot like Roberto's. Heresy, but true.
   88. phredbird Posted: March 09, 2007 at 02:52 AM (#2309197)
KJOK, i only brought up the templeton thing to illustrate herzog's forceful management style. he simply didn't want anyone around that he couldn't control, whether it was because of drugs or behavior or whatever.
   89. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: March 09, 2007 at 02:58 AM (#2309199)
KJOK, i only brought up the templeton thing to illustrate herzog's forceful management style. he simply didn't want anyone around that he couldn't control, whether it was because of drugs or behavior or whatever.

Or crosswords!!!!!
   90. Chris Cobb Posted: March 09, 2007 at 03:51 AM (#2309219)
In tracking down the WS formulas for assessing first base defense in response to rawagman's query above, I happened across some new info about Hernandez's defense in _Win Shares_ that's worth adding to the thread, with a nod to an eminent Primate.

On p. 83 of _Win Shares_, James explains the basic rationale for developing an "arm" rating for a first baseman, which involves subtracting 2B double plays from SS double plays (as a way of estimating 3-6-3 and 3-6-1 DPS), subtracting pitcher put outs from first base assists, and adjusting for the lefty-righty ratio of a team's pitchers.

AFter running through the rationale for that, James notes:

"Just days before this material went to the publisher, information was distributed to the SABR-L list about this subject. Mike Emeigh, studying data from Project Retrosheet, reported that, in the years 1979-1983, Keith Hernandez fielded a ground ball with a runner on first/less than two out 206 times, and started 49 3-6-3 or 3-6-1 double plays--twenty more than any other first baseman. Hernandez started double plays in 24% of those situations, while Steve Garvey, fielding 113 ground balls in that situation over the five years, started only three 3-6-3 double plays--2.7%. Pete Rose, at 7%, was near the bottom of the list, consistent with our data here, while Perez and Murray were both perched in the middle of the list, over the five year period. I think this is quite wonderful data, and I am looking forward to more such information emerging over the next five years."
   91. OCF Posted: March 09, 2007 at 04:03 AM (#2309225)
I think Herzog was right to trade Hernandez. ...
The Mets, on the other hand, were right to trade for him.


That makes sense to me. Without the hole left by the departure of Hernandez, the Cardinals wouldn't have acquired Jack Clark, and without Clark's bat, I don't think the 1985 and 1987 pennants would have happened. Of course it took an act of highway robbery - double highway robbery, when you pair it with the Tudor/Hendrick trade - to to get Clark. (The Giants and Pirates could simply have dealt with each other - Tudor for Clark - and left St. Louis holding the bag.)
   92. Rob_Wood Posted: March 09, 2007 at 05:55 AM (#2309260)
I too loved to watch Hernandez field. Often he would wind up on the 3rd base side of the mound after fielding and throwing a runner out at third base. He is right on the border of my ballot.
   93. Jim Sp Posted: March 09, 2007 at 06:51 PM (#2309504)
Worth noting I think that the HoF case for Gil Hodges (often derided by statheads) rests to a significant extent on his defensive value.

I didn't see Hodges play, but Hernandez absolutely did add significant value with his defense at first.

I've got Hernandez #2 on my ballot. Quiz #29, Lemon #34, Reuschel #42, Lynn #63.

I personally never thought much of Chet Lemon as a near-HoM quality player, do I have an error in my calcs or is anyone else drawing the same conclusion from the stats?
   94. Mike Green Posted: March 09, 2007 at 07:12 PM (#2309523)
Chris Cobb,

I think that's the data that I was referring to earlier. Did Mike E's research reveal what percentage of 3-6-3 or 3-6-1 DPs were turned on ground balls to the average first baseman with a runner on first and less than two out? The other thing one needs to know is how many times all runners were safe...much like evaluating bunt strategy, you need a scattergram. You also need to suss out park effects; playing on fast turf might increase the possibility of turning the DP.

Still, the raw numbers are so extreme that it seems a safe bet that Hernandez saved his teams at least a couple of runs each year by starting the DP more often than other first basemen.
   95. KJOK Posted: March 09, 2007 at 07:51 PM (#2309550)
I usually post 'statistical' arguments, but having seen lots of Hernandez games from 1974 thru 1983, I can second many of the 'visual' comments:

1. Hernandez was the most agressive fielding 1Bman I have ever seen. He would range far to his right for grounders, and he was fearless in charging bunts.

2. Hernandez had a GREAT arm. Not only would he throw out lead runners at 2nd, 3rd or home, he was also always the cutoff man on throws from CF or RF.

3. He spent a LOT of time going to the mound, talking with pitchers and catchers. Not necessarily a big plus, but it was mentioned above, and I certainly remember noticing that too.

4. He was one of the first guys I remember who would play just off the bag, just behind the runner, when holding a runner on first, and would get a big jump towards being back to his 'normal' fielding position by the time the batter swung.
   96. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 09, 2007 at 08:10 PM (#2309561)
I didn't see Hodges play, but Hernandez absolutely did add significant value with his defense at first.

I can remember my grandfather being floored over Hernandez's play at first with the Mets, even after seeing Terry, Hodges, Power, etc. years before.

Same thing with Ozzie at short. As far as he was concerned, he was the king.
   97. Dizzypaco Posted: March 09, 2007 at 08:15 PM (#2309567)
1. Hernandez was the most agressive fielding 1Bman I have ever seen. He would range far to his right for grounders, and he was fearless in charging bunts.

Joke around the Mets locker room in the mid 80's (as reported somewhere) -- groundball up the middle, pitcher covers first.
   98. pip72 Posted: March 09, 2007 at 09:31 PM (#2309659)
Regarding Herzog's decision to trade Hernandez: It is highly dubious that Hernandez was traded because of his drug use. Hernandez was the team's highest-paid player ($760,000, with Templeton right behind at $650,000) when Herzog took over in 1980. Herzog tried to trade Hernandez every winter after that, more likely because a) Hernandez wasn't Herzog's "kind of player" (e.g., in order to save his legs for September games, he didn't slide hard to break up DPs, and did crossword puzzles during batting practice) and b) he (along with Templeton) represented a big percentage of the team's payroll. The team was under pressure from ownership (then the Anheuser-Busch brewery) to cut costs, even commissioning a think-tank to analyze the best course of action for dealing with a then-new marketplace of spiraling salaries (the recommendation was to develop talent from within).

The Cardinals had other drug users who remained with the team long after their use was made known to Herzog (and it's not even clear that Hernandez's was). For example, Lonnie Smith told Herzog on June 9, 1983 that he had a drug problem and was scared it might kill him if he did not get help. Herzog referred him to the team's substance-abuse counselor, and Smith entered rehab for 30 days. Smith wasn't traded to the Royals until May 1985.
   99. KJOK Posted: March 10, 2007 at 08:23 AM (#2309885)
Joke around the Mets locker room in the mid 80's (as reported somewhere) -- groundball up the middle, pitcher covers first.


That's a pretty good representation right there...

Regarding Herzog's decision to trade Hernandez: It is highly dubious that Hernandez was traded because of his drug use.


I agree 100%.

..more likely because a) Hernandez wasn't Herzog's "kind of player" (e.g., in order to save his legs for September games, he didn't slide hard to break up DPs, and did crossword puzzles during batting practice) and b) he (along with Templeton) represented a big percentage of the team's payroll.


I think it was almost all a). One of the things I remember Herzog saying - and it may have even been at his hiring press conference - when asked about whether he would name either Simmons or Hernandez as "Captain", which was a popular thing for teams to do with their veteran 'leaders' back then, he said (paraphrasing) "I'm the leader - if the Manager's doing his job, there's no need for any Captains - the Manager is the Captian." Herzog felt there could be no fuzziness about who was in charge. Both Simmons and Hernandez were intelligent, and somewhat outspoken, players who could possibly sway other player's loyalties away from Herzog. Herzog rightly initially concluded that Simmons was the biggest threat to his authority, and signed Darrell Porter, then traded Simmons. But after a few years, Hernandez pretty much inherited the 'veteran leader' role, and with the season going sour in 1983 causing some team tension, he felt it was time to shake things up and re-assert his authority.
   100. rawagman Posted: March 10, 2007 at 10:37 AM (#2309900)
bump.
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