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Tuesday, October 09, 2018

“By now I’m entirely consumed with it, and only marginally able to do anything else”: Bill James can’t stop dreaming about baseball – The Athletic

I know exactly how he feels. I also know I wouldn’t be making this post without ever finding and reading his books.

“The more you know about the game, the more enjoyable — the more fun it becomes,” James says. “And this cycle has been running in me for 50 years, so that by now I’m entirely consumed with it, and only marginally able to do anything else.

“And I’m up in my dirty little office upstairs, just obsessively studying this and that. Not because I have to … I just can’t stop doing it.”

“I dream about baseball every night,” Bill James says, one day earlier this year. He doesn’t know if people will believe this. It sounds apocryphal, a charming anecdote. James is not trying to be charming. He lays down. He dreams about the game. He wakes up.

“It’s true,” he says.

Jim Furtado Posted: October 09, 2018 at 01:47 PM | 129 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: bill james, pay site

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   101. McCoy Posted: October 11, 2018 at 04:52 PM (#5764815)

That is assuming you have a full knowledge of the methodology of his system, I'm fairly certain Bill's system incorporated some clutch stats into the win shares so that someone like Eddie Murray, who was by all accounts one of the more consistently clutch players in the game, might have received a bit of bonus beyond the stats we look at.

Edit: mind you, it's been near a decade since the last time I looked at the win shares book... so I can be completely and utterly wrong here.


As I recall WS incorporated some RISP data into its calculations. But like you it has been a decade or more since I last seriously looked at it.
   102. PASTE, Now with Extra Pitch and Extra Stamina Posted: October 11, 2018 at 06:19 PM (#5764853)
There's a wonderful description James wrote of a multi-rundown play the Giants got into in 1963, in the Tony Taylor comment in the NHBA, the highlight of which is this passage:

Mays sees the ball rolling behind him and figures that he can make third on the throw to first, so he heads for third. Tony Taylor, however, has seen Willie Mays play baseball before, so he holds the ball a second before throwing to first. When Mays heads for third, Taylor throws across the infield, Mays is out at third by 40 feet.

Mays, however, decides to stay in a rundown long enough to let Capeda make second. Catching Willie Mays in a rundown is like trying to assassinate a squirrel with a lawn mower, so this goes on for some time, and Capeda races down to second base, while Don Hoak (Philadelphia third baseman) chases Mays back to the same base.
   103. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: October 11, 2018 at 07:02 PM (#5764866)
It's systemic. James gives pitchers only 35% of Win Shares (fielders get 17%, hitters 48%), compared to c. 40% for WAR systems. And starters probably get less than their fair share of the 35%, as James doesn't make an adjustment for the reliever advantage in runs allowed. So WS undervalues starting pitchers in general.

I came here to make a similar point -- James says that pitching accounts for 35% of Wins, fielding 17%, and Hitting 48%. I don't remember how this even works in a system like Win Shares that doesn't have a baseline; but it's a somewhat arbitrary division. WAR-based systems work off a different framework -- batting, pitching, and fielding are measured against an average baseline and then the difference between average and replacement level is added to that based on playing time. WAA for the entire league should theoretically add up to zero so the division between position players and pitchers is all baked into that replacement level adjustment. And there isn't really an allocation between fielding and hitting, it's all just baked into the replacement level adjustment for position players. But GuyM is right, if you add up all the WAR for the league it comes out to roughly 60/40 for position players vs. pitchers. (Another way to say it is that an 81-81 team, where all the players were average, would be getting 60% of its value from position players and 40% of its value from pitchers.)

IIRC, James did some other things with fielding stats that impact the rankings -- he put a cap on the amount of fielding value a player could create in a season because he didn't fully trust his fielding numbers. He also set a floor of zero for fielding value (again, I'm not sure against what baseline). So fielders who are very highly rated will be disadvantaged and those who are very negatively rated will benefit under Win Shares vs. WAR.

I'd be curious whether certain positions rank systematically higher or lower in WAR vs. Win Shares (other than pitchers or catchers, which have already been mentioned).
   104. Rally Posted: October 12, 2018 at 09:09 AM (#5765004)
So, Murray might be getting a boost based on these things (although, honestly, I'm not sure those are the clutchiest of Murray's stats - he batted .292 w/ RISP vs. .287 overall; 1 HR per 26.4 PA w/ bases empty vs. 1 HR per 24.5 PA w/ runners on base).


Yeah, Murray gets a tiny boost for those things, but it's just not a big enough deal to move him very far in the rankings. Bill could have left those two adjustments out and the difference to Eddie's WS total would not be noticeable.

One check I thought of for Eddie is how does he rank compared to Rafael Palmeiro? Similar career length, Oriole 1B who had 3000 hits and 500 homers.

Murray has 216 WSAB, 53rd. Raffy has 207, 57th. WAR has Raffy ahead, 72-69. Weird coincidence that Murray's WSAB lead is also 72-69 when you divide by 3.

Raffy hit .279 RISP, .288 overall, homered once per 17 AB with bases empty, once per 20 with men on.

OK, might have to reconsider, perhaps the slight change by the clutch stats is responsible for flip flopping Eddie/Raffy between the two systems. Still, the difference between 69 and 72 is not especially meaningful in either system.
   105. Rally Posted: October 12, 2018 at 09:17 AM (#5765011)
From the glossary, "Bench level is set at 75% of league average for all players except Starting Pitchers, whose bench level is 60%"

WAR is set so that a replacement level team wins 48 games. 48/81 = .59. So if you divide WSAB by 3 you should expect lower numbers than WAR across the board.
   106. Rally Posted: October 12, 2018 at 09:51 AM (#5765030)
I took the top 250 from the Baseball Gauge link Kiko provided, and matched them up. There are 193 players in both the top 250 WAR and WSAB. In general WARs are higher for reasons explained in 105.

Even for starting pitchers, while bench is set to 60% and replacement level 59% seems equivalent, WS allocates 35% to pitchers so they are going to be lower.

The guy who WAR rates highest in comparison to WS is Walter Johnson, 165-108. For purposes of comparison, I am dividing WSAB by 3 in each case. Cy Young is right behind, and 11 of the top 14 are starting pitchers. The 3 non pitchers in there are Cal Ripken (96-51), Adrian Beltre (96-52) and Roberto Clemente (95-62). All guys with significant fielding runs above average, in fact they combine for 65 fielding wins.

The typical player on the list will have about 12 more WAR than WSAB, by design. But there are a few players who actually have more WSAB. 6 players have between 10-15 more WSAB: McCovey, Sheffield, Mantle, Stargell, Thomas, Allen. Five of the 6 are guys who everyone will acknowledge made a living with their bats. Mantle was a center fielder and the original 5 tool superstar, but he did rate below average in CF by Totalzone.

Some of the best players that are on the WAR top 250 but not on WSAB 250 are Brooks Robinson and Ozzie Smith. Mostly pitchers and good fielding infielders. Also Ivan Rodriguez.
   107. Rally Posted: October 12, 2018 at 10:03 AM (#5765040)
By position, 193 players on both lists, WS-(WSAB/3)

1B 3
2B 15
3B 10
C 11
CF 15
DH 4
LF 2
RF 6
SP 20
SS 21

For relief pitcher, Rivera has 56 WAR, 65 WSAB. Wilhelm is at 49/50. Those are the only 2 relievers who make either list.

In general, corner guys who make a living with bats will rank better by WS. Up the middle defenders and starting pitchers will rank better by WAR.

3B is in the middle, gold gloves like Beltre and Brooks do better by WAR but stone gloves like Dick Allen much better by WS.
   108. GuyM Posted: October 12, 2018 at 10:28 AM (#5765050)
But there are a few players who actually have more WSAB. 6 players have between 10-15 more WSAB: McCovey, Sheffield, Mantle, Stargell, Thomas, Allen.

Probably the biggest conceptual error in Win Shares is forcing players to have only positive values in each category, including fielding. This had the paradoxical result of forcing James to devote too many total WS to fielders -- and thus badly shortchanging pitchers -- while at the same time not giving him enough space to properly distinguish between great and poor fielders. Couple of quick comparisons in terms of difference in fielding wins in WSAB vs. WAR:

Mays vs. McCovey:
WSAB: 37 vs 4, difference of 33 WS or 11 wins
WAR: 18 vs. -20, diff of 38 wins

Schmidt vs. Rose:
WSAB: 38 vs. 23, diff of 15 WS or 5 wins
WAR: 17 vs. -12, diff of 29 wins

(In fact, WAR probably understates the actual gaps here, but comes far closer than WS.)

There is simply no way to capture such large differences in fielding performance using only positive values, without stealing far too much value from other categories. James made the best compromise he could, but there was no good answer given the constraints he imposed.
   109. McCoy Posted: October 12, 2018 at 10:39 AM (#5765055)
Barry vs Ted. 13.5 to 10.9
   110. Rally Posted: October 12, 2018 at 11:22 AM (#5765088)
Jeter vs. Ozzie

WAR - 52 wins (And I know Guy thinks that is way too low)

WS - 56-5 = 51 = 17 wins
   111. PreservedFish Posted: October 12, 2018 at 11:31 AM (#5765094)
17 wins? That's absurd.
   112. GuyM Posted: October 12, 2018 at 11:42 AM (#5765098)
Clemente vs. Sheffield:
WSAB: Clemente +6 wins in the field
WAR: Clemente +37 wins in the field

This is fun!
   113. GuyM Posted: October 12, 2018 at 12:10 PM (#5765118)
Bonds vs. Adam Dunn:
WSAB: Bonds +6 wins in field
WAR: Bonds +35 wins

Keith Hernandez vs. Frank Howard
WSAB: Hernandez +5 wins in field
WAR: Hernandez +22 wins

Lou Whitaker vs. Juan Samuel:
WSAB: Whitaker +8 wins in field
WAR: Whitaker +23 wins

   114. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: October 12, 2018 at 12:13 PM (#5765122)

From the glossary, "Bench level is set at 75% of league average for all players except Starting Pitchers, whose bench level is 60%"

Is this 75% in terms run production or is it saying that a team of bench players would win .75 * 81 = 61 games? Because a team that scored 25% fewer runs than average and allowed 25% more than average would win 43 games, which is actually below the 48 baseline that WAR uses. Seems based on your subsequent posts that it's the latter.
   115. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: October 12, 2018 at 12:17 PM (#5765125)

I assume the main reason why Palmeiro and Murray rank higher in WS vs. WAR lists is that 1B/DH are treated better in WS relative to other positions, including pitchers.
   116. Rally Posted: October 12, 2018 at 01:47 PM (#5765186)
I assume the main reason why Palmeiro and Murray rank higher in WS vs. WAR lists is that 1B/DH are treated better in WS relative to other positions, including pitchers.


This is true regarding their rank among all players. I think the clutch hitting adjustments might (at least partly) explain their rank relative to each other.
   117. Rally Posted: October 12, 2018 at 01:49 PM (#5765187)
Is this 75% in terms run production or is it saying that a team of bench players would win .75 * 81 = 61 games? Because a team that scored 25% fewer runs than average and allowed 25% more than average would win 43 games, which is actually below the 48 baseline that WAR uses. Seems based on your subsequent posts that it's the latter.


It's 75% of average win shares. So a guy has 20 win shares. League average given his playing time is 10. So take 75% of the 10, and he's 12.5 win shares better than a bench player.
   118. GuyM Posted: October 12, 2018 at 02:26 PM (#5765208)
I assume the main reason why Palmeiro and Murray rank higher in WS vs. WAR lists is that 1B/DH are treated better in WS relative to other positions, including pitchers.

This is related to the problem of Win Shares not recognizing the full range of defensive value. This is not just true within positions (Bonds vs. Sheffield), it's also true *between* positions. Win Shares isn't assigning enough value to players at key defensive positions relative to less challenging positions.

Example: Steve Garvey was an average fielding 1B over the course of his career (according to WAR), and Jimmy Rollins was about average at SS (slightly above average). And Win Shares treats their defensive value the same: 6 fielding wins for Garvey and 7 fielding wins for Rollins. But WAR gives Rollins 25 more wins, due to the different value of their positions. Now, I'm sure Win Shares assigns a bit more defensive value to SS than to 1B (WS may think Garvey was an above-average 1B). But it has to drastically shrink the position differences, in order to give positive value even to weak 1B and corner OF.
   119. dlf Posted: October 12, 2018 at 02:34 PM (#5765217)
Has James finished writing about Win & Loss Shares? There have been a bunch of sporadic posts going into some of the details as he went through new positional discussions (third base, I think) but I don't see they he has rolled it out all the way.
   120. FrankM Posted: October 12, 2018 at 03:22 PM (#5765249)
Example: Steve Garvey was an average fielding 1B over the course of his career (according to WAR), and Jimmy Rollins was about average at SS (slightly above average). And Win Shares treats their defensive value the same: 6 fielding wins for Garvey and 7 fielding wins for Rollins. But WAR gives Rollins 25 more wins, due to the different value of their positions. Now, I'm sure Win Shares assigns a bit more defensive value to SS than to 1B (WS may think Garvey was an above-average 1B). But it has to drastically shrink the position differences, in order to give positive value even to weak 1B and corner OF.

The intrinsic weights allocated to SS and 1B are 18% and 6% respectively; that's a bigger gap than a bit more defensive value.

There's a section in the Win Shares book that assigns defensive letter grades, and Garvey gets an A. I don't know about Rollins, he came along after the book was published.
   121. GuyM Posted: October 12, 2018 at 03:30 PM (#5765255)
The intrinsic weights allocated to SS and 1B are 18% and 6% respectively; that's a bigger gap than a bit more defensive value.

18% and 6% of what? A team's fielding WS?
   122. GuyM Posted: October 12, 2018 at 04:34 PM (#5765300)
The top 100 first basemen in career WSAB averaged 7 fielding WS each (2.3 wins), which translates to 0.2 wins per season. In comparison, the top 100 shortstops average 20 fielding WS (about 7 wins), or just 0.7 wins per season. That's incredibly low for the greatest shortstops in history: just 7 runs in fielding value per season! And that means the value gap between 1B and SS is just 5 runs per season (half a win), which is very narrow. I think the difference in positional value in WAR would be more like 17-18 runs for two full time players.

Bottom line: friends don't let friends use fielding Win Shares.
   123. Rally Posted: October 12, 2018 at 04:54 PM (#5765319)
So to set up WAR to match the scale of WS, we'd have to do a position adjustment something like +2.5 runs per year for shortstops, -2.5 for 1B. All the other positions would fit within that range, except maybe catcher.

If we had done that I don't think the concept would have ever gotten off the ground.
   124. PreservedFish Posted: October 12, 2018 at 05:01 PM (#5765322)
It almost squares with turn of the century stathead thought, when it was common to argue that a team of 9 John Jahas and Ben Grieves was the way to go.
   125. Hank Gillette Posted: October 12, 2018 at 05:23 PM (#5765338)
I think it depends on what you think James was saying about Griffin. I didn't read his comment as saying Griffin was necessarily a good base runner, but an insanely aggressive one (which might well make a guy a bad base runner).


IIRC, he also called Babe Ruth a very aggressive base runner. This was one of the few areas, I think, where Ruth played bad percentage baseball. When he started playing the outfield, someone said that he never threw to the wrong base.
   126. FrankM Posted: October 12, 2018 at 07:38 PM (#5765383)
18% and 6% of what? A team's fielding WS?

Yes, that's the conceptual starting point, on a team that can be higher or lower depending on the individuals and their stats.

So an average defensive shortstop would get about three times the fielding win shares of an average firstbaseman, given equal playing time.
   127. BrianBrianson Posted: October 12, 2018 at 10:14 PM (#5765476)
The last pitcher to complete a game with more than 9 innings was Roy Halladay in 2007.


Well, if there was a post-Halladay pitcher who could enter the tenth with less than 100 pitches thrown, they might well be allowed. He did need 107 pitches to get through ten.
   128. cardsfanboy Posted: October 13, 2018 at 09:02 AM (#5765556)
Well, if there was a post-Halladay pitcher who could enter the tenth with less than 100 pitches thrown, they might well be allowed. He did need 107 pitches to get through ten.


Porcello had a 9 inning, 86 pitch complete game this year. Price and Marco Gonzales are the only other pitchers with a 9 inning complete game this year with less than 100 pitches. (although Jacob Nix was pulled from a game after 8 1/3rd of an inning having thrown just 79 pitches)
   129. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: October 13, 2018 at 05:13 PM (#5765732)

Porcello had a 9 inning, 86 pitch complete game this year. Price and Marco Gonzales are the only other pitchers with a 9 inning complete game this year with less than 100 pitches. (although Jacob Nix was pulled from a game after 8 1/3rd of an inning having thrown just 79 pitches)

Syndergaard came close, throwing a 9-inning, 101-pitch complete game on the last day of the season this year.
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