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Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Bill James Mailbag - 10/2/12 - 10/3/12

After walking 14.5% of the time or more for five straight years, Albert Pujols’ walk rate has fallen to 9.4% in 2011 and 7.9% in 2012. Is this typical?

It’s quite uncommon.    Albert is 32.  Normally when a great hitter is 31-32-33, his walk rate will be 10-20% HIGHER than his career norms.  . ..70% of the time or more.  When it isn’t higher, it is generally just a little bit lower, and when it is NOTABLY lower, that is usually because the player has had an injury that has reduced his effectiveness as a hitter (like Ralph Kiner or Duke Snider.) ...

Pujols had extraordinary numbers of intentional walks in 2008-09-10.  But this doesn’t seem very relevant.  I compared Pujols’ walk rate to the other greatest hitters in history, MANY of whom presumably had very high intentional walk rates at ages 28-29-30, and I don’t see a similar pattern.  Also, if you leave the intentional walks out of it, his walk rate has still dropped very significantly.

does anyone understand what happened to Daniel Bard?...

...if we knew what was wrong we would fix it.  But Bard’s season is a good stand-in for the Red Sox’ season.  Bard really wasn’t bad as a starting pitcher, early in the year; he wasn’ t great, but he wasn’t bad… But rather than getting better as he made more starts, he got worse.  When we moved him back to the bullpen to get him on familiar ground, he got worse.  When he went to the minors to get straightened out, he got worse yet. 

In the past—not speaking of Bard so much as the Red Sox—in the past we have been able to build from small successes to larger successes.  But this season we haven’t been able to do this; we have gone from small successes to smaller successes to struggles to failures, failure building on failure rather than success building on success.  It’s been difficult.

I noticed that Chris Carpenter will enter the post-season will 0 wins. How rare is it for a playoff team to start a pitcher who finished the regular season with 0 wins?

I don’t BELIEVE that has ever happened, although I’m a couple of years out of date with my research.  I remember researching the worst won-lost records for starting pitchers in post season play. . .over the years there have been a fair number of pitchers who started post-season games despite won-lost records like 5-7 and 6-9.    My study found that those pitchers almost always LOST when they pitched in post-season play.  Obviously there were ‘stenuatin’ circumstances; somebody felt that they were better than their won-lost record, they pitched well late in the season, whatever.  But they lost.

On October 2, Tampa’s James Shields struck out 15 in a complete game 1-0 loss to Baltimore. His game score of 94 was the highest of any losing pitcher in a non-extra inning game…

Wow. ..thanks.

With a couple of games to go, Mike Trout has 37 win shares, and Miguel Cabrera has 32… Is a five win shares difference generally enough to clearly define one player over another as the MVP?...

A six win share leads ORDINARILY is enough to make a player an obvious MVP.  In 1999 Ivan Rodriguez won the AL MVP with 28 Win Shares although three players had 35 Win Shares, but that is the point:  THREE players had 35 Win Shares, not one (and numerous others had 29-34 Win Shares.)  I believe that the last time a player led by 6 Win Shares and did NOT win the MVP Award was 1998, when McGwire led Sosa 41-35, but Sosa got the trophy.

The District Attorney Posted: October 03, 2012 at 01:29 PM | 12 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: albert pujols, awards, bill james, chris carpenter, daniel bard, history, james shields, playoffs, sabermetrics

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. Dr. Vaux Posted: October 03, 2012 at 02:57 PM (#4252614)
And if a guy who sets the all-time home run record doesn't win MVP, why can't a guy who gets the measly triple crown not win?
   2. esseff Posted: October 03, 2012 at 03:06 PM (#4252619)
I noticed that Chris Carpenter will enter the post-season will 0 wins. How rare is it for a playoff team to start a pitcher who finished the regular season with 0 wins?


I'm afraid Carpenter isn't going to get the chance to start a playoff game.
   3. John DiFool2 Posted: October 03, 2012 at 03:19 PM (#4252627)
Pujols has company in the form of AGon. The latter's BB rate, 2009-present:

17.5
13.4
10.4
6.2

   4. salvomania Posted: October 03, 2012 at 04:03 PM (#4252672)
unintentional walk rates, Pujols and AGon

____Pujols AGon
2001 9.4
2002 8.9
2003 10.0
2004 10.6
2005 10.4
2006 10.5__6.9
2007 11.7__7.8
2008 11.5__8.2
2009 10.8__14.7
2010 9.8___8.8
2011 7.2___7.7
2012 5.5 __5.5

Pujols and AGon both have a similar arc, but AGon really had one very high outlier season in there, before his current very low outlier.

Pujols' walk rate climbed over four years and then remained between 10.5-11.7% for six seasons, although it did decline every year after 2007. That decline has accelerated the past two years to the point where he's now become a guy who simply doesn't walk a lot (he's 42nd in 2012 in walks in the AL).

Much of Albert's value was in OBP, but these days, with that walk rate, he's in the .340s--not horrible but certainly not among the elite.

After finishing in the top 10 in the NL in OBP in eight straight seasons through 2010 (including seven top-three finishes), Pujols is currently 28th in the AL in OBP in 2012, despite still having the third-most intentional walks.
   5. Walt Davis Posted: October 03, 2012 at 05:11 PM (#4252790)
The Pujols thing is weird, I blame myself.

And if a guy who sets the all-time home run record doesn't win MVP, why can't a guy who gets the measly triple crown not win?

Because Sosa's victory was in defense of "tradition" (the Cubs made the playoffs, the Cards didn't) and also a consolation prize for helping make the writers feel like 12-year-olds again but losing out on the record.
   6. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: October 03, 2012 at 06:42 PM (#4253005)
Progression of the single-season HR record:
George Hall, 1876: 5
Charley Jones, 1879: 9
Harry Stovey, 1883: 14
Ned Williamson, 1884: 27
Babe Ruth, 1919: 29
Babe Ruth, 1920: 54
Babe Ruth, 1921: 59
Babe Ruth, 1927: 60
Roger Maris, 1961: 61
Mark McGwire, 1998: 70
Barry Bonds, 2001: 73

Only Maris and Bonds won the MVP in their years. No extenuating circumstances may be considered.
   7. Voodoo... Posted: October 03, 2012 at 10:23 PM (#4253314)
George Hall, 1876: 5
Charley Jones, 1879: 9
Harry Stovey, 1883: 14
Ned Williamson, 1884: 27
Babe Ruth, 1919: 29
Babe Ruth, 1920: 54
Babe Ruth, 1921: 59
Babe Ruth, 1927: 60
Roger Maris, 1961: 61
Sammy Sosa: 1998: 66
Mark McGwire, 1998: 70
Barry Bonds, 2001: 73



Fixed that for you, as Sosa was alone as the all-time single season home run king for about an hour in late September 1998.
   8. Voodoo... Posted: October 03, 2012 at 10:27 PM (#4253320)
I'm sure you knew that -- and I can see the argument for not including that on the list -- but he was the all-time single season home run king when he hit #66. It made me wonder if there is another instance of this happening somewhere on the list, like if someone else led Stovey at some point in the season in home runs in 1883 with more than nine and was thus, for a time, the all-time home run king (single season). Anyone know?
   9. Monty Posted: October 03, 2012 at 10:32 PM (#4253328)
There could be people before George Hall, too. Who hit the very first home run?
   10. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: October 03, 2012 at 10:41 PM (#4253337)
Who hit the very first home run?

Julio Franco
   11. Voodoo... Posted: October 03, 2012 at 10:44 PM (#4253342)
A quick search tells me that Ezra Sutton hit the first home run "major league history" on May 8, 1871. He hit the second home run the same day. But this list leaves out the old National Association (why?). The first National League home run was hit by Ross Barnes on May 2, 1876.
   12. dr. scott Posted: October 03, 2012 at 10:45 PM (#4253343)
It's true, it's a pitch Moyer really wanted back.

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