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Saturday, June 01, 2019

Bill Buckner: I Sing the Body Glyptodon

Like the glyptodon, Buckner was an odd specimen of a player who had few professional antecedents and no descendants. He too went where he wanted to go and did what he wanted to do, never thinking much about the consequences. Throughout his career he was lauded as an ultimate gamer who had made a celebrated commitment to playing hurt—after a severe ankle injury suffered in April 1975 he was always playing hurt. This invited the question of whether playing hurt is always a good thing, and why we celebrate the kind of self-sacrifice that also sacrifices the good of the team.

Bill Buckner was not a very good player.

Hank Gillette Posted: June 01, 2019 at 07:30 AM | 21 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: bill buckner, replacement level, sabrmetrics

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   1. Bug Selig Posted: June 01, 2019 at 08:10 AM (#5847293)
I reflexively wanted to take issue with the "not a very good player" assertion. Players who aren't very good seldom bat 10,000 times in the big leagues. He was unique, but it looks like he was fantastically good at things that don't have much to do with winning.
   2. Fernigal McGunnigle Posted: June 01, 2019 at 08:15 AM (#5847295)
TFA has the wrong idea about glyptodons. They were a highly diversified group that came in a lot of different sizes, were widespread, and lasted for 20 million years. Unlike a lot of South American animals, they successfully spread north after the land connection with North America. Humans eventually ###### it up, but until then they were a widespread genus with a large range of body sizes that were successful in a fairly varied set of environments. Go to enough natural history museums and eventually you'll see a lot of different kinds of them. (Though in the US admittedly you often only see the big one that became common in North America.)

Echoing TFA -- Buckner would've been a much better player if the team had DL'd him when he was hurt, and if the Red Sox (and his later employers) had recognized that he was no longer useful after 1985.
   3. weiss-man Posted: June 01, 2019 at 11:43 AM (#5847320)
Buckner had 101 post-season plate appearances, and zero walks.
Great article.
   4. Omineca Greg Posted: June 01, 2019 at 11:55 AM (#5847325)
Humans eventually ###### it up...


You see, that's the problem with you hippies. There's no way you'd ever say "Short-faced bears eventually ###### it up" (and they ate more than their fair share of glyptodons) but as soon as humans get involved, you add all sorts of value judgements. It's "Survival of the fittest" and those fat #### glyptodons just didn't have it. If God wanted them to make it he would have armoured them better. Hey Glyptodon, you know what part of you isn't armoured?...YOUR FACE!!!

Ohh, sick burn! But let me wait to hear their comeback...waiting...still waiting...OH SNAP! I guess we're going to wait for a long time because you know what?...they're extinct! Tends to limit the opportunity for witty repartee, being extinct like that. For the love of God, even those sloths made it, and they're so pathetic they've named a sin after them.

And while I'm at it, think of the hypocrisy of these hippies. Humans only had to migrate to Central and South America, and other ######## countries because of the Ice Age. And now that hard working industrialists (they work so hard, it's right in their name) have ensured there's never going to be an Ice Age again, all sorts of species are going to be saved. You can count on it. I've never heard anybody thank them for that; sure, you'll pad out your retirement fund by holding energy stock, but after that nobody cares, it's all ME ME ME! with you people. Ironically, they're using long extinct animals to do all these great things, let's face it, no extinct species, no gas, no oil, no airplanes, no fast cars, even an alternative lifestyle Marxist hippie like Tracy Chapman loves herself some fast cars. I don't think those glyptodons have been in the ground long enough to be petroleum yet, but one day they will, and Big Oil is going to be ready to frack those fat tubs of goo right out from between the sedimentary layers, "I DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE". Yep! Glyptodon's milkshake, one day dodo's milkshake, and when dodo's milkshake is all gone, probably, I don't know, panda's milkshake, and thankfully there's species that are seemingly doing great and aren't even on the shortlist of species we expect to go extinct, but that's the great thing about nature, nothing lasts forever (no matter how hard we work at keeping the next Ice Age at bay), and we'll always be right there to keep our automobiles running.

So suck on that, hippie! It's so easy to own you guys, it makes me laugh. Well, actually, it kind of hurts to laugh right now because of all the wildfire smoke, but don't take solace in that hippie, the Omineca used to be a forest, but more and more of it is becoming a meadow every Summer, and that's great! Burrowing owls are doing fantastic, and even if they don't end up making it, just more milkshake for us.
   5. Itchy Row Posted: June 01, 2019 at 11:58 AM (#5847327)
Why must every baseball death turn into an argument about glyptodons?
   6. bobm Posted: June 01, 2019 at 02:35 PM (#5847353)
FTFA:

There are few players like him in the baseball lexicon. Baseball-Reference uses James’ similarity scores to compare players. Each pair begins with a score of 1,000 and then differences are noted by subtracting points. A pair is substantially similar if they have a score in the high 900s. Most players have at least one “twin” with a 900+ score in his list of comparables. It’s only the truly great and the truly odd who register as outliers. Buckner’s comparable scores are all in the 800s—he was as much like other players as a glyptodon was like an armadillo, which is to say the resemblance is superficial, the degree of relationship distant.


Similar Batters

Mickey Vernon (876.6)
    Al Oliver (866.7)
 Steve Garvey (855.5)
   Mark Grace (853.7)
 Willie Davis (850.0)
 B.J. Surhoff (839.0)
   Buddy Bell (838.7)
  Vada Pinson (833.1)
    Jose Cruz (828.5)
 Julio Franco (826.3)


NB Through age 34 Buckner had at least one player each year with career similarity score greater than 900.
   7. Rennie's Tenet Posted: June 01, 2019 at 03:06 PM (#5847367)
Yeah, not that unusual of a player except for longevity, and longevity exerts a strong influence on most of the inputs to similarity scores.
   8. Greg Pope Posted: June 01, 2019 at 04:16 PM (#5847410)
TFA has the wrong idea about glyptodons...

Please tell me you knew that off the top of your head. Because I'd never heard of a glyptodon before now.

Holy crap! An armadillo the size of a Volkswagen Beetle?
   9. GGC Posted: June 01, 2019 at 07:41 PM (#5847464)
Great article.


I had no idea that Steve Goldman was still writing.
   10. Fernigal McGunnigle Posted: June 01, 2019 at 09:30 PM (#5847494)
Please tell me you knew that off the top of your head. Because I'd never heard of a glyptodon before now.
Many years ago I worked summers at the local natural history museum where among other duties I got to hang out in the room of Miocene fossils and tell people how cool glyptodonts, macrauchenia, and terror birds were, and how the worst thing South America ever did was link up with the North. Best job ever!
   11. Hank Gillette Posted: June 02, 2019 at 07:12 AM (#5847529)
I reflexively wanted to take issue with the "not a very good player" assertion. Players who aren't very good seldom bat 10,000 times in the big leagues. He was unique, but it looks like he was fantastically good at things that don't have much to do with winning.


You are right that it seldom happens. In fact, Buckner is unique. No other major league player with over 10,000 plate appearances had less than 20 career WAR (assuming I did my search correctly). The next lowest WAR total for anyone with greater than 10,000 PA is Harold Baines, with 38.7.

Doc Cramer just barely missed this achievement. He had 8.4 career WAR in 9927 plate appearances.

Bill James recognized back in the 1980s that Buckner had little value other than batting average, but a number of baseball executives did not.


   12. Swoboda is freedom Posted: June 02, 2019 at 07:24 AM (#5847531)
Doug Flynn got over 4000 PA with a cool 58 OPS+ or his career. Negative 5.8 WAR for the career. But he played nice defense and the Mets and other teams threw him out there.
   13. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: June 02, 2019 at 08:17 AM (#5847533)
Doug Flynn got over 4000 PA with a cool 58 OPS+ or his career. Negative 5.8 WAR for the career. But he played nice defense and the Mets and other teams threw him out there.


Doug Flynn was -20 Rfield for his career, though nobody knew that at the time.
   14. bobm Posted: June 02, 2019 at 08:25 AM (#5847535)
Spanning Multiple Seasons or entire Careers, From 1871 to 2019, (requiring At least 10000 plate appearances), sorted by smallest Adj. Batting Runs

                                        
Rk              Player BtRuns OPS+    PA
1         Omar Vizquel   -262   82 12013
2        Luis Aparicio   -261   82 11230
3    Rabbit Maranville   -246   82 11255
4          Ozzie Smith   -132   87 10778
5           Nellie Fox    -80   93 10351
6        Jimmy Rollins    -77   95 10240
7         Bill Buckner    -25  100 10037
8         Steve Finley     39  104 10460
9      Brooks Robinson     57  104 11782
10        Johnny Damon     59  104 10917
11      Ivan Rodriguez     69  106 10270
12       Ichiro Suzuki     94  107 10734
13           Lou Brock    110  109 11240
14         Vada Pinson    111  111 10403
15          Buddy Bell    112  109 10009
16       Graig Nettles    120  110 10228
17           Max Carey    122  108 10768
18      Frankie Frisch    135  110 10099
19         Bill Dahlen    141  110 10411
20            Sam Rice    158  112 10252
21        Harry Hooper    191  114 10255
22      Cal Ripken Jr.    199  112 12883
23        Andre Dawson    219  119 10769
24         Robin Yount    219  115 12249
25        Craig Biggio    222  112 12504
26        Luke Appling    223  113 10254
27      Roberto Alomar    234  116 10400
28         Dave Parker    245  121 10184
29       Adrian Beltre    246  116 12130
30         Ernie Banks    260  122 10395
31         Derek Jeter    262  115 12602
32        George Davis    263  121 10185
33       Luis Gonzalez    275  119 10531
34      Carlos Beltran    276  119 11031
35          Tony Perez    279  122 10861
36       Darrell Evans    282  119 10737
37       Harold Baines    291  121 11092
38        Jake Beckley    294  125 10517
39          Tim Raines    334  123 10359
40          Zack Wheat    336  129 10006
41        Paul Molitor    353  122 12167
42   Charlie Gehringer    356  124 10244
43         Rusty Staub    358  124 11229
44    Roberto Clemente    361  130 10211
45        Dwight Evans    370  127 10569
46           Pete Rose    393  118 15890
47      Billy Williams    415  133 10519
48         Bobby Abreu    419  128 10081
49           Rod Carew    420  131 10550
50          Tony Gwynn    440  132 10232
51       Dave Winfield    443  130 12358
52        Fred McGriff    447  134 10174
53        Eddie Murray    464  129 12817
54        Sam Crawford    474  144 10610
55          Wade Boggs    478  131 10740
56           Al Kaline    488  134 11596
57          Paul Waner    491  134 10766
58          Joe Morgan    496  132 11329
59     Rafael Palmeiro    500  132 12046
60        George Brett    509  135 11625
61     Ken Griffey Jr.    511  136 11304
62      Reggie Jackson    520  139 11418
63    Carl Yastrzemski    540  130 13992
64         David Ortiz    544  141 10091
65    Rickey Henderson    548  127 13346
66       Eddie Mathews    550  143 10100
67          Nap Lajoie    579  150 10460
68        Mike Schmidt    580  147 10062
69           Cap Anson    587  142 11331
70      Gary Sheffield    590  140 10947
71       Chipper Jones    592  141 10614
72       Eddie Collins    631  141 12078
73      Alex Rodriguez    636  140 12207
74           Jim Thome    636  147 10313
75        Honus Wagner    669  151 11746
76       Albert Pujols    749  148 11885
77        Frank Thomas    756  156 10075
78      Frank Robinson    778  154 11742
79             Mel Ott    794  155 11348
80        Tris Speaker    845  157 12011
81         Willie Mays    846  156 12496
82          Hank Aaron    922  155 13941
83         Stan Musial    959  159 12718
84             Ty Cobb   1039  168 13099
85         Barry Bonds   1307  182 12606
86           Babe Ruth   1382  206 10623


Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/2/2019.
   15. AndrewJ Posted: June 02, 2019 at 09:01 AM (#5847537)
Whereas [Buckner] had the 19th-best batting average from 1971-1987, he had only the 101st-best on-base percentage (...) His isolated power during those same years ranked 91st.


Ouch.
   16. bobm Posted: June 02, 2019 at 11:13 PM (#5847725)
[15]. Same list in [14], sorted by OBP:

                                                 
Rk              Player    PA   BA  OBP  SLG   OPS
1        Luis Aparicio 11230 .262 .311 .343  .653
2    Rabbit Maranville 11255 .258 .318 .340  .658
3         Bill Buckner 10037 .289 .321 .408  .729
4      Brooks Robinson 11782 .267 .322 .401  .723
5         Andre Dawson 10769 .279 .323 .482  .806
6        Jimmy Rollins 10240 .264 .324 .418  .743
7          Vada Pinson 10403 .286 .327 .442  .769
8        Graig Nettles 10228 .248 .329 .421  .750
9          Ernie Banks 10395 .274 .330 .500  .830
10        Steve Finley 10460 .271 .332 .442  .775
11      Ivan Rodriguez 10270 .296 .334 .464  .798
12        Omar Vizquel 12013 .272 .336 .352  .688
13         Ozzie Smith 10778 .262 .337 .328  .666
14       Adrian Beltre 12130 .286 .339 .480  .819
15         Dave Parker 10184 .290 .339 .471  .810
16      Cal Ripken Jr. 12883 .276 .340 .447  .788
17          Tony Perez 10861 .279 .341 .463  .804
18          Buddy Bell 10009 .279 .341 .406  .747
19         Robin Yount 12249 .285 .342 .430  .772
20           Lou Brock 11240 .293 .343 .410  .753
21          Nellie Fox 10351 .288 .348 .363  .710
22      Carlos Beltran 11031 .279 .350 .486  .837
23        Johnny Damon 10917 .284 .352 .433  .785
24       Dave Winfield 12358 .283 .353 .475  .827
25       Ichiro Suzuki 10734 .311 .355 .402  .757
26      Reggie Jackson 11418 .262 .356 .490  .846
27       Harold Baines 11092 .289 .356 .465  .820
28         Bill Dahlen 10411 .272 .358 .382  .740
29        Eddie Murray 12817 .287 .359 .476  .836
30    Roberto Clemente 10211 .317 .359 .475  .834
31      Billy Williams 10519 .290 .361 .492  .853
32       Darrell Evans 10737 .248 .361 .431  .792
33        Jake Beckley 10517 .308 .361 .436  .797
34           Max Carey 10768 .285 .361 .386  .747
35         Rusty Staub 11229 .279 .362 .431  .793
36        Sam Crawford 10610 .309 .362 .452  .814
37        George Davis 10185 .295 .362 .405  .767
38        Craig Biggio 12504 .281 .363 .433  .796
39       Luis Gonzalez 10531 .283 .367 .479  .845
40          Zack Wheat 10006 .317 .367 .450  .817
41        Harry Hooper 10255 .281 .368 .387  .755
42        George Brett 11625 .305 .369 .487  .857
43        Paul Molitor 12167 .306 .369 .448  .817
44      Frankie Frisch 10099 .316 .369 .432  .801
45     Ken Griffey Jr. 11304 .284 .370 .538  .907
46        Dwight Evans 10569 .272 .370 .470  .840
47     Rafael Palmeiro 12046 .288 .371 .515  .885
48      Roberto Alomar 10400 .300 .371 .443  .814
49          Hank Aaron 13941 .305 .374 .555  .928
50            Sam Rice 10252 .322 .374 .427  .801
51           Pete Rose 15890 .303 .375 .409  .784
52       Eddie Mathews 10100 .271 .376 .509  .885
53           Al Kaline 11596 .297 .376 .480  .855
54        Fred McGriff 10174 .284 .377 .509  .886
55         Derek Jeter 12602 .310 .377 .440  .817
56    Carl Yastrzemski 13992 .285 .379 .462  .841
57         David Ortiz 10091 .286 .380 .552  .931
58        Mike Schmidt 10062 .267 .380 .527  .908
59      Alex Rodriguez 12207 .295 .380 .550  .930
60          Nap Lajoie 10460 .338 .380 .466  .846
61       Albert Pujols 11885 .301 .381 .552  .933
62         Willie Mays 12496 .302 .384 .557  .941
63          Tim Raines 10359 .294 .385 .425  .810
64          Tony Gwynn 10232 .338 .388 .459  .847
65      Frank Robinson 11742 .294 .389 .537  .926
66        Honus Wagner 11746 .328 .391 .467  .858
67          Joe Morgan 11329 .271 .392 .427  .819
68      Gary Sheffield 10947 .292 .393 .514  .907
69           Rod Carew 10550 .328 .393 .429  .822
70           Cap Anson 11331 .334 .394 .447  .841
71         Bobby Abreu 10081 .291 .395 .475  .870
72        Luke Appling 10254 .310 .399 .398  .798
73       Chipper Jones 10614 .303 .401 .529  .930
74    Rickey Henderson 13346 .279 .401 .419  .820
75           Jim Thome 10313 .276 .402 .554  .956
76   Charlie Gehringer 10244 .320 .404 .480  .884
77          Paul Waner 10766 .333 .404 .473  .878
78             Mel Ott 11348 .304 .414 .533  .947
79          Wade Boggs 10740 .328 .415 .443  .858
80         Stan Musial 12718 .331 .417 .559  .976
81        Frank Thomas 10075 .301 .419 .555  .974
82       Eddie Collins 12078 .333 .424 .429  .853
83        Tris Speaker 12011 .345 .428 .500  .928
84             Ty Cobb 13099 .366 .433 .512  .945
85         Barry Bonds 12606 .298 .444 .607 1.051
86           Babe Ruth 10623 .342 .474 .690 1.164


Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/2/2019.

and sorted by ISO:

                                 
Rk              Player  ISO    PA
1          Ozzie Smith .066 10778
2           Nellie Fox .075 10351
3         Omar Vizquel .080 12013
4        Luis Aparicio .081 11230
5    Rabbit Maranville .082 11255
6         Luke Appling .088 10254
7        Ichiro Suzuki .091 10734
8        Eddie Collins .096 12078
9            Rod Carew .101 10550
10           Max Carey .101 10768
11            Sam Rice .105 10252
12           Pete Rose .106 15890
13        Harry Hooper .106 10255
14         Bill Dahlen .110 10411
15        George Davis .110 10185
16           Cap Anson .113 11331
17          Wade Boggs .115 10740
18      Frankie Frisch .116 10099
19           Lou Brock .117 11240
20        Bill Buckner .119 10037
21          Tony Gwynn .121 10232
22          Buddy Bell .127 10009
23          Nap Lajoie .128 10460
24        Jake Beckley .128 10517
25         Derek Jeter .130 12602
26          Tim Raines .131 10359
27          Zack Wheat .133 10006
28     Brooks Robinson .134 11782
29        Honus Wagner .139 11746
30    Rickey Henderson .140 13346
31          Paul Waner .140 10766
32        Paul Molitor .142 12167
33      Roberto Alomar .143 10400
34        Sam Crawford .143 10610
35         Robin Yount .145 12249
36             Ty Cobb .146 13099
37        Johnny Damon .149 10917
38        Craig Biggio .152 12504
39         Rusty Staub .152 11229
40       Jimmy Rollins .154 10240
41        Tris Speaker .155 12011
42          Joe Morgan .156 11329
43         Vada Pinson .156 10403
44    Roberto Clemente .158 10211
45   Charlie Gehringer .160 10244
46      Ivan Rodriguez .168 10270
47        Steve Finley .171 10460
48      Cal Ripken Jr. .171 12883
49       Graig Nettles .173 10228
50       Harold Baines .176 11092
51    Carl Yastrzemski .177 13992
52         Dave Parker .181 10184
53        George Brett .182 11625
54       Darrell Evans .183 10737
55           Al Kaline .183 11596
56         Bobby Abreu .184 10081
57          Tony Perez .184 10861
58        Eddie Murray .189 12817
59       Dave Winfield .192 12358
60       Adrian Beltre .194 12130
61       Luis Gonzalez .196 10531
62        Dwight Evans .198 10569
63      Billy Williams .202 10519
64        Andre Dawson .203 10769
65      Carlos Beltran .207 11031
66      Gary Sheffield .222 10947
67        Fred McGriff .225 10174
68       Chipper Jones .226 10614
69         Ernie Banks .226 10395
70     Rafael Palmeiro .227 12046
71      Reggie Jackson .228 11418
72         Stan Musial .228 12718
73             Mel Ott .229 11348
74       Eddie Mathews .238 10100
75      Frank Robinson .243 11742
76          Hank Aaron .250 13941
77       Albert Pujols .251 11885
78     Ken Griffey Jr. .254 11304
79        Frank Thomas .254 10075
80      Alex Rodriguez .255 12207
81         Willie Mays .255 12496
82        Mike Schmidt .260 10062
83         David Ortiz .266 10091
84           Jim Thome .278 10313
85         Barry Bonds .309 12606
86           Babe Ruth .348 10623


Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/2/2019.

   17. bobm Posted: June 02, 2019 at 11:19 PM (#5847727)
Same list, not a HOF member, sorted by least WAA


                                       
Rk            Player WAA/pos    PA   To
1       Bill Buckner   -17.1 10037 1990
2       Omar Vizquel     5.3 12013 2012
3        Dave Parker     6.5 10184 1991
4        Rusty Staub     7.4 11229 1985
5       Steve Finley    12.3 10460 2007
6        Vada Pinson    16.6 10403 1975
7      Jimmy Rollins    16.7 10240 2016
8       Johnny Damon    19.4 10917 2012
9      Luis Gonzalez    19.9 10531 2008
10      Fred McGriff    19.9 10174 2004
11       David Ortiz    20.2 10091 2016
12     Ichiro Suzuki    23.9 10734 2019
13     Darrell Evans    24.3 10737 1989
14    Gary Sheffield    26.0 10947 2009
15       Bobby Abreu    28.1 10081 2014
16         Pete Rose    29.1 15890 1986
17   Rafael Palmeiro    30.3 12046 2005
18       Derek Jeter    31.0 12602 2014
19        Buddy Bell    32.6 10009 1989
20     Graig Nettles    32.8 10228 1988
21      Dwight Evans    33.0 10569 1991
22    Carlos Beltran    33.8 11031 2017
23       Bill Dahlen    39.7 10411 1911
24     Adrian Beltre    54.7 12130 2018
25     Albert Pujols    62.6 11885 2019
26    Alex Rodriguez    76.1 12207 2016
27       Barry Bonds   123.9 12606 2007


Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/2/2019.




   18. Esmailyn Gonzalez Sr. Posted: June 03, 2019 at 10:06 AM (#5847761)
I had no idea that Steve Goldman was still writing.

He also has a podcast that can be very good (if you like Steve Goldman)
   19. PreservedFish Posted: June 03, 2019 at 10:23 AM (#5847765)
I remember very well where I was when I first learned about the extinct American megafauna. I was gathered with my freshman class during the first week at my tony liberal arts college, attending a speech by a professor that specialized in poetry about nature. He mentioned the subject as an aside, but it was mindblowing to learn that the native people of the hemisphere - who I had previously understood lived "in harmony with nature" and "used every part of the buffalo" - had probably precipitated an extinction of such unimaginable size. I think that the speech was generally somewhat about living in harmony with nature, but my takeaway was that all humans are equally cruel and short-sighted. And also that the Giant Beaver should be the school mascot.
   20. Itchy Row Posted: June 03, 2019 at 10:26 AM (#5847766)
Whereas [Buckner] had the 19th-best batting average from 1971-1987, he had only the 101st-best on-base percentage (...) His isolated power during those same years ranked 91st.


Ouch.
#100 on the OBP list was Andre Dawson.
   21. Zach Posted: June 03, 2019 at 08:04 PM (#5847966)
There were other things going on when humans first came to the Americas, like the end of the Ice Age.

Ice Ages can actually be good for megafauna. Seasonality isn't as strong because of the cool summers, and there are large areas with very similar plant life.

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(91 - 5:20pm, Jul 23)
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