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## Thursday, June 05, 2014

#### Bill James Mailbox

Regarding Tangotiger`s question about fielding luck, I have heard many times that a defence plays well if the pitcher is pitching quickly. So, could Verlander, (and others) be “creating” fielding luck by pitching quickly?

Yeah, well. . .I’d be surprised if you could prove that either true or false. All policemen know that crimes increase during a full moon, only it isn’t true.

HeyBill, in looking back at the 70’s 20-game winners, I wondered if the managers back then weren’t more sympathetic to the drive to win 20, and maybe helped the pitchers by bumping them up in the last couple of weeks. I couldn’t see direct evidence of that, but I did notice this: In 1969 there were nine pitchers that won exactly 20 games, and only two that won exactly 19. In 1970 there were four pitchers that won exactly 20 games, and zero that won exactly 19. In 1971 there were eight pitchers that won exactly 20 games, and only two that won exactly 19. Over those three years that is 21 20-game winners and only four 19-game winners. My premise that managers cut corners more back then didn’t hold up on spot checks, but those numbers seem unlikely to be random, no? And, again at a spot check, I didn’t see evidence that many were shut down, either, accounting for the exactly 20 figure.

Right. In 1964 Tony Cloninger won 19 games. With the Braves leading in the early innings on the last or next-to-last day of the season, his manager—I think it was Bragan—offered to put him in the game to pick up the win, but Cloninger declined, saying that when he won 20 games he wanted it to be legitimate. I once did a study which confirmed your thesis. I looked at the number of pitchers (over a long period of years) winning 23 games, 22 games, 21 games, etc. The number goes down with every step up (that is, fewer 7-game winners than 6-game winners, fewer 8-game-winners than 7-game winners etc.) EXCEPT that there are more 20-game winners than 19-game winners. You can see the same effect at a few other markers. . .for example, more hitters will end up the season at .300 or .301 than at .299, and more hitters will drive in 100 runs than 99. There is some effect such as you speculated.

Looking at Baseball Reference, Willie Randolph and Derek Jeter have pretty comparable career value. Randolph is 36 Wins Above Average and 66 Wins Above Replacement. Jeter is 32 Wins Above Average and 72 Wins Above Replacement. Given that Randolph played 17% fewer games, his per-162 game Wins Above Average is actually 2.6 to Jeter’s 1.9. Randolph was better at getting on base and his lack of power relative to Jeter is more than made up for by his defense. Do you agree with the idea that the two players are/were of roughly comparable value? Virtually all Yankee fans would tell you that this argument is insane, but I fail to see why that is true. It seems like Randolph was a highly underrated player.

I certainly agree that Randolph was a tremendously underrated player. To say anything about Jeter touches a nerve, so. . .you always want to double-check your assumptions before you get into that. But Willie was a terrific player.

Thanks to Elio.

Repoz Posted: June 05, 2014 at 09:13 AM | 17 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
Tags: sabermetrics

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1. Moeball Posted: June 05, 2014 at 06:15 PM (#4720001)
Is there anything to the idea that singles hitters are not as affected by park effects? Parks have all kinds of effects, but the distance of the fences is surely a major one. If you're a slap hitter and you never reach the fences anyway, are you less affected by them?

I would assume so, yes. But I don't think I have ever actually studied it.

The thing is, there is more to a park's effect than just how it impacts HRs. For example:

1)Tiger Stadium had a weird feature that I never really realized until I went to a game there - the outfield upper deck actually hung over the field. This had multiple effects:

A)If you were a high-fly hitter (Mark McGwire comes to mind)it was relatively easy to reach the upper deck since you didn't even have to hit it as far as the wall
B)Outfielders could play shallower than normal, even with deeper than normal fences - if someone hit a high drive over your head it was going to wind up in the upper deck anyways, so there was little chance of getting burned. It was quite difficult to actually hit a ball to the fence - it would have to be a relatively low line drive but hit really hard to carry all the way to the wall. Not many balls are hit like that, so doubles and triples were often down in Detroit, whereas HRs were usually up compared to the average.

2)Coors Field has historically helped all types of hitters, not just power guys. There is more outfield space for the fielders to cover there than in the typical park, so this leaves more room for balls to fall in, increasing singles, doubles and triples as well as HRs. Even a slap hitter can take advantage of this park.

3)The parks in Oakland and Boston have also illustrated another way that batters can be impacted besides just HRs. For years Oakland had a huge amount of foul territory whereas Fenway hardly had any - as a result, there was a measurable increase in foul popouts in Oakland that wouldn't exist in Boston. Even slap hitting singles guys would get more chances to hit per AB in Boston than they would get in Oakland.
2. dr. scott Posted: June 05, 2014 at 07:41 PM (#4720039)
Also i would assume turf vs. grass could have an impact on singles, though maybe not that much.
3. Tom Nawrocki Posted: June 05, 2014 at 07:47 PM (#4720042)
2)Coors Field has historically helped all types of hitters, not just power guys. There is more outfield space for the fielders to cover there than in the typical park, so this leaves more room for balls to fall in, increasing singles, doubles and triples as well as HRs. Even a slap hitter can take advantage of this park.

They knew the thin atmosphere would cause fly balls to travel farther, so Coors actually has the largest playing surface in the majors.
4. Ulysses S. Fairsmith Posted: June 05, 2014 at 11:23 PM (#4720153)
The rightfield overhang was the best thing about Tiger Stadium. I miss it.
5. Tubbs is Bobby Grich when he flys off the handle Posted: June 05, 2014 at 11:36 PM (#4720163)
Looking at Baseball Reference, Willie Randolph and Derek Jeter have pretty comparable career value. Randolph is 36 Wins Above Average and 66 Wins Above Replacement. Jeter is 32 Wins Above Average and 72 Wins Above Replacement. Given that Randolph played 17% fewer games, his per-162 game Wins Above Average is actually 2.6 to Jeter’s 1.9. Randolph was better at getting on base and his lack of power relative to Jeter is more than made up for by his defense. Do you agree with the idea that the two players are/were of roughly comparable value? Virtually all Yankee fans would tell you that this argument is insane, but I fail to see why that is true. It seems like Randolph was a highly underrated player.

While I think that Randolph is a distant third behind Bobby Grich & Lou Whitaker in second basemen overlooked by HOF voters, it is interesting to see the Bill James Online reader bring him up. Despite playing on some great NY teams during the first half of his career, Randolph never placed higher than 15th in the MVP, nor did he win a Gold Glove
6. bjhanke Posted: June 06, 2014 at 12:04 AM (#4720174)
Test (new computer)
7. Jack of Hearts Posted: June 06, 2014 at 12:08 AM (#4720175)
I think visibility is often overlooked as a factor when people assess park factors. Parks without seats in center field (Forbes, Wrigley, Fenway) tend to be good hitters' parks regardless of their dimensions.
8. bjhanke Posted: June 06, 2014 at 12:09 AM (#4720176)
OK, me and my new computer just figured out how to submit a comment. The actual comment is that I do believe the comparison to Randolph, because Jeter is a truly horrid shortstop. Those of you who have the old Win Shares book (2001) can see Bill's defensive grades on players there. Derek Jeter had only played 6 seasons at the time, and defense is a young man's game. His grade, after only 6 years? D+. That's lousy beyond imagining. To be honest, I have no idea why his manager as a rookie ever sent him out at SS, much less kept him there. But that defense is SO bad that it really is a drag on the hitting economy, so to speak. It drops Jeter, for me, down out of the Inner Circle of any Halls, and maybe out of the Middle Circles, too. It's just hard to internalize how bad a D+ shortstop is. Also, of course, Randolph is very underrated in general. But still, yes, Derek Jeter's glove really does affect his career placement, and by a lot. - Brock Hanke
9. catseyepub Posted: June 06, 2014 at 10:00 AM (#4720280)
Having seen both their careers in their entirety, I do feel that Randolph was as good a player as Jeter.

Randolphs perception as a lesser player was due to the fact that those 70's and 80's Yankee teams were always padded with these mega contract Superduperstar players and Willie was always lost in the shuffle due to his consistency and less than eye popping stats which went unappreciated by the sportswriters in that era.

10. Tulo's Fishy Mullet (mrams) Posted: June 06, 2014 at 10:47 AM (#4720313)
The rightfield overhang was the best thing about Tiger Stadium. I miss it.

Me too, I went there a few times, but my first game was the day Griffey made that incredible catch (I think his best) over the RC wall at quite a clip.
11. Davo's Favorite Tacos Are Moose Tacos Posted: June 06, 2014 at 10:53 AM (#4720319)
Also i would assume turf vs. grass could have an impact on singles, though maybe not that much.

Billy Butler knows how.
12. Walt Davis Posted: June 07, 2014 at 01:26 AM (#4720839)
On Coors ...

I'll let somebody else dig out the H/R for those years, but Pierre had BABIPs of 333 (219 PA), 341 and 314 in his three years in Coors. His first two years in Fla he hit 320 and 340. Little if any different. From age 27 on, he only averaged a 302 BABIP so something was clearly different by then but he still put up a 331 in his good LA year and a 327 in his good Phi year.

Neifi put up a 300 BABIP in CO and only 287 in Wrigley and worse than that elsewhere. But his CO numbers are only that high due to two half-seaons of about 750 PA. He had full seasons of 294, 288 and 301 there.

Those are the only two no-power Rox hitters who come easily to mind. A quick check of their starters:

Taveras was 338 in Hou and 329 in Co and sucky elsewhere.
Barmes was 281 in CO and about 272 elsewhere but then was past 30 by that time.
McCracken was 356 in CO but only about 320 in AZ and TB.
Weiss was terrible in Oak (who isn't?) but 302 in CO, 300 in Atl and 307 in Fla.

This year the NL is hitting 242 on GB and the Rox are hitting 254 while the Marlins are hitting a ridiculous 291. In 2013, it was 245 for the Rox vs 236 league. Those aren't park numbers so presumably Coors GB might be closer to 255-260.
13. Justin T drives a crooked hoss Posted: June 07, 2014 at 01:40 AM (#4720841)
The thing is, there is more to a park's effect than just how it impacts HRs.

The other thing is, the guy's question said

Parks have all kinds of effects, but the distance of the fences is surely a major one.
14.  Posted: June 07, 2014 at 07:31 AM (#4720851)
I think visibility is often overlooked as a factor when people assess park factors. Parks without seats in center field (Forbes, Wrigley, Fenway) tend to be good hitters' parks regardless of their dimensions.

This was especially the case during Sunday doubleheaders and World Series games back when all the games were played in the afternoon. The combination of white shirts and no restrictions on CF bleacher sales gave a big disadvantage to players without specially constructed hitting backgrounds. Between those white shirts in the background, the overhanging shadows from the third deck, and Death Valley, the original Yankee Stadium could be absolutely brutal on hitters whenever they had a large walkup crowd. By contrast, the Polo Grounds had a huge green wall facing the batters, and Briggs/Tiger Stadium had the lower deck in CF totally in the shadows. Ted Williams often said that this made Detroit the best hitters' park in baseball.

Sometime in the 60's they passed a rule mandating a solid background view for hitters, which now means that centerfield bleachers have mostly been eliminated, or blocked off with a wall in front. If we were still playing nothing but day games with today's crowds, that rule would've been just as important as batting helmets in preventing major injuries.
15. shoewizard Posted: June 07, 2014 at 09:44 AM (#4720862)

They knew the thin atmosphere would cause fly balls to travel farther, so Coors actually has the largest playing surface in the majors.

I've always felt they should have just had normal dimensions, but basically a green monster size wall all the way around the outfield.
16. Cyril Morong Posted: June 10, 2014 at 02:47 PM (#4722662)
Regarding Tangotiger`s question about fielding luck, I have heard many times that a defence plays well if the pitcher is pitching quickly. So, could Verlander, (and others) be “creating” fielding luck by pitching quickly?

Chris Dial did a study on this back in 2004

http://www.baseballthinkfactory.org/dialed_in/discussion/dial083004
17. Cyril Morong Posted: June 10, 2014 at 02:54 PM (#4722668)
I have tried to figure out who were the most underrated players ever by compatin their WAR to mvp votes and Hall of Fame votes. Willie Randolph usually is near the top.

http://cybermetric.blogspot.com/2014/01/was-willie-mays-most-underrated-player_6.html

http://cybermetric.blogspot.com/2014/01/using-players-war-to-predict-first-year.html

http://cybermetric.blogspot.com/2014/01/was-willie-mays-most-underrated-player.html

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