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Thursday, February 05, 2015

Bill James Mailbag - 2/3/15 - 2/5/15

Trout Catcher Mask Replica!

Hey Bill, there’s an interesting article today about Ron Hunt on the 538 blog. It says that his feat of 50 HBP in one season is 13 standard deviations better than average, which is apparently off the charts. When people talk about unbreakable records you don’t hear much about that one. Thanks.

... since the minimum in the category is zero and there are 1,519 players [since 1900] who have had 8 or more, it is thus apparent that the distribution of this group is in no way similar to a bell curve, consequently the normal assumptions about the likelihood of something don’t apply. My judgment. . .if you’re a young person, you should probably live to see this record broken.

Jesse Barfield (best arm from my youth) in his first 6 years averaged 23 assists per 162 9-inning games. In his last 6 years, he averaged 19 (drop of 3.5 assists). Converting assists and holds to runs, Baseball Reference is showing him averaging +6 runs in his first 6 years, and +11 runs in his last 6 years (increase of 4.3 runs). Reasonable to conclude that runners held more often, but only affected his assists slightly…

Thanks. Yes, Barfield’s arm may have been as impressive as any I ever saw, certainly on long throws. Clemente threw QUICK, and Clemente threw rifle shots. Barfield threw cannon balls. His throws seemed to hang in the air for impossibly long distances. Greatest arms I ever saw. . .Clemente, Whiten, Barfield, Bo Jackson, Vladimir, Jackie Bradley, Ollie Brown. . .who am I missing here? Jackie last year took a ball at home plate (Fenway) and threw it over the center field wall—400 and some feet away and 25-30 feet high. I doubt if any of the other guys on the list could have done that. Maybe Barfield.

... Imagine if a team of nine Mike Trouts played a best-of-seven series versus a team of nine Clayton Kershaws… Who do you think wins the series?

... Pitchers specialize in one area and hitters in the other, but pitchers still have to hit; they still take batting practice, they still take at bats. Clayton Kershaw has 425 major league plate appearances (and it actually a better-than-average hitting pitcher, for whatever that is worth.) Anyway, pitchers specialize but they still hit; batters do NOT practice pitching, and do not pitch 20 or 30 innings every year just because they have to. It would thus seem to me that the extent to which the outfielder would be out of his comfort zone trying to pitch would easily exceed the extent to which Kerfield was out of his comfort zone trying to hit, and thus extremely likely that the Kerfields would not only win, but would dominate.

What was the best second place team in history? A choice for me would be the 1961 Tigers, who won 101 games and would probably have won 8 pennants out of 10, but had the 1961 Yankees to deal with. Thanks.

A good candidate. My usual answer to this question has been the 1942 Dodgers. The ‘42 Dodgers went 104-50, but finished 2 games behind the Cardinals. You know, mathematically, one team in 8,000 should be strong at all 13 positions (8 regulars, 4 starters, relief pitchers). Since there are only about one-third that many teams in baseball history, then probably there should be no team that is above-average at every position—and, in fact, there isn’t, although I think one can argue for one of the Yankee teams of the 1990s. Anyway, there isn’t, but the 1942 Dodgers are very close to being strong at every position, with Hall of Famers at second (Billy Herman), third (Arky Vaughan), short (Pee Wee Reese) and in left field (Medwick). Their first baseman was Camilli—1941 MVP. In center field was Pete Reiser, an outstanding player for a couple of years; in right field was Dixie Walker, who had something close to Hall of Fame ability, athough his career was broken up at the start by a serious injury and fouled at the end by his infamous role in the Jackie Robinson story. Anyway, 7 really good starters; the 8th was catcher Mickey Owen, who was a good player. Starting pitchers Kirby Higbe, Whitlow Wyatt, Curt Davis and Johnny Allen—all of whom had good careers and were effective in 1942, relief ace Hugh Casey. It’s as close to a perfect team as there has ever been. Larry French was the starter/reliever swing man; he went 15-4 with a 1.83 ERA. . ..he also had an outstanding major league career.

HeyBill, I’d take that bet. Mike Trout earned his first All-State honor in New Jersey in 2008 for his exploits on the mound as a sophomore. He was 8-2 with a 1.77 ERA in 2008, striking out 124 and walking just 40 in 70 innings. He was clocked at 92 mph at age 15… I don’t see anywhere that Kershaw played the field at a younger level, and he has slashed .157 .199 .180 .378 as a pro. With a return to even just his pitching form at 15, I think Trout would dominate Team All Clay.

I don’t. Pitching against 15 year olds is not in any way comparable to pitching against major leaguers. Do you think the kids Trout pitched against could hit .157 in the majors? I’ll guarantee you they couldn’t.. I still think the Kershaws would win easily.


 

 

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