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Thursday, January 09, 2014

Mike Piazza’s Greatness | FanGraphs Baseball

If only he had a better dermatologist…

Jim Furtado Posted: January 09, 2014 at 03:10 PM | 40 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: hof, mike piazza

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   1. BDC Posted: January 09, 2014 at 03:46 PM (#4634956)
Piazza does seem to me (on this year's ballot) in a class with Maddux (and Clemens and Bonds, of course): one of the very best at his position, ever; top 10 or better. Glavine and Thomas are easy HOFers (as are Biggio and many others), but Piazza had an inner-circle career. The dermatology is probably an issue in his still being outside the HOF, but there might also be that factor of how absurdly good his record is: c'mon, no catcher hits home runs like Bench and bats 60 points higher. Unpossible!
   2. Davo's Favorite Tacos Are Moose Tacos Posted: January 09, 2014 at 04:01 PM (#4634974)
I haven't read the article.

But in the decade from 1993-2002, Piazza hit .322/.389/.579 with 346 homers, and never missed over 32 games in a season.

The guy was just unreal.
   3. Davo's Favorite Tacos Are Moose Tacos Posted: January 09, 2014 at 04:06 PM (#4634980)
(I also have to say, though I really love the stat, I find Piazza's WAR totals very confusing. For example, in 1996, this catcher hit .336/.422/.563 in 631 plate appearances. That's just 5.4 WAR--a "typical" all-star season??? What the hell else could he do?!?!?!)
   4. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: January 09, 2014 at 04:19 PM (#4635003)
In Dodger Stadium no less.
   5. CFBF Is A Golden Spider Duck Posted: January 09, 2014 at 04:21 PM (#4635007)
Does WAR hate his defense?
   6. Ron J2 Posted: January 09, 2014 at 04:22 PM (#4635012)
#3 Be at least average against the running game.

Yeah it's easy to make too much of it, but there is a tangible cost to being that bad (18% CS -- 155 stolen bases against, only 1 pickoff) against the running game.

There's also the league leading passed ball totals, but:

a) it's minor and
b) Nomo was pretty wild -- and then there's the Tom Candiotti factor
   7. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: January 09, 2014 at 04:26 PM (#4635015)
mike piazza should have been awarded the 1997 nl mvp
   8. zonk Posted: January 09, 2014 at 04:30 PM (#4635023)
Does WAR hate his defense?


bb-ref's dWAR is pretty ambivalent towards it -- exact +1 for his whole career -- but my recollection is that most people think dWAR is bullocks for catchers anyway.

There seems to be this movement among some to rehabilitate Piazza's defensive reputation, or at least, sequester it solely as a function of below average CS%

RonJ2 in 6 notes PBs (but Nomo + Candiotti... once he left that staff -- the PB number look normal).

I don't know... I claim no great vision in determining catcher defense via the eyeball, but I think I'm comfortable saying that Piazza was below average.... but perhaps more C- below average than barely passable D below average.

   9. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: January 09, 2014 at 04:30 PM (#4635024)
mike piazza should have been awarded the 1997 nl mvp


What a stacked year. Piazza, Larry Walker, Barry Bonds, Craig Biggio, and Pedro all put up 8+ WAR years with Maddux and Bagwell just under 8.

Piazza probably should have finished closer in MVP balloting his rookie year too. His 7 WAR is behind only Bonds and Jose Rijo, but he finished 9th in balloting, behind guys like Marquis Grissom and Darren Daulton.
   10. McCoy Posted: January 09, 2014 at 04:33 PM (#4635028)
#3 Be at least average against the running game.

Well, that is the flaw of WAR not really a major flaw of Piazza's. Piazza overall defensively was at least an average to good catcher. The problem is that WAR only measures the running games and PB/WP for catchers. Other metrics that measure pitch framing, fielding, and such have him being rather good at those things. Piazza, as sort of noted when you brought up pitchers, had some godawful preventers of stolen base pitchers on his team. For the most part runners run on the pitcher and not on the catcher. I posted it once before but there was a game in which Piazza was behind the plate and 10 Rockies stole on him but they did it all before the 6th inning. After the 5th inning no one tried to run and the reason no one tried to run was because Nomo left the game after the 5th.
   11. AROM Posted: January 09, 2014 at 04:33 PM (#4635029)
For example, in 1996, this catcher hit .336/.422/.563 in 631 plate appearances. That's just 5.4 WAR--a "typical" all-star season??? What the hell else could he do?!?!?!


Look at 1997 for what else he could do. Apparently 1996 was an off year for him.
   12. PreservedFish Posted: January 09, 2014 at 04:37 PM (#4635032)
Does WAR hate his defense?


Nope. Good when young, bad when old, average overall.
   13. zonk Posted: January 09, 2014 at 04:41 PM (#4635038)
Well, that is the flaw of WAR not really a major flaw of Piazza's. Piazza overall defensively was at least an average to good catcher. The problem is that WAR only measures the running games and PB/WP for catchers. Other metrics that measure pitch framing, fielding, and such have him being rather good at those things. Piazza has sort of noted when you brought up pitchers had some godawful preventers of stolen base pitchers on his team. For the most part runners run on the pitcher and not on the catcher. I posted it once before but there was a game in which Piazza was behind the plate and 10 Rockies stole on him but they did it all before the 6th inning. After the 5th inning no one tried to run and the reason no one tried to run was because Nomo left the game after the 5th.


So that would cover him leading the league in PBs while in LA while also being well below average CS...

But he wasn't a world beater in NY, either -- and without digging too deep, those staffs look pretty nominally average in holding runners and wildness.

I can accept that PB/WP and CS overstate PIazza's lack of defensive ability, but I'm just not sure I see the counter evidence that he was actually good defensively.
   14. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: January 09, 2014 at 04:47 PM (#4635051)
zonk

i remain adamant that piazza was a good defensive catcher until, like most catchers, he began breaking down around age 30. piazza seemed to have a really strong year behind the plate in 2000 and in early 2001 he looked different.

cannot remember if there was an injury involved or what but he just didn't have the same movement and of course his arm was getting steadily worse

   15. Ron J2 Posted: January 09, 2014 at 04:49 PM (#4635057)
#5 He really was pretty bad against the running game and that's mostly what totalzone is concerned with, and 1996 was one of his worst against the running game.

He grades out as a -5 runs per year catcher, but until the tail end of his career his DWAR was in the general range of +0.5 per year (after positional adjustment)

   16. McCoy Posted: January 09, 2014 at 04:53 PM (#4635068)
I can accept that PB/WP and CS overstate PIazza's lack of defensive ability, but I'm just not sure I see the counter evidence that he was actually good defensively.

Take a look at Max Marchi's pitch framing articles.

So that would cover him leading the league in PBs while in LA while also being well below average CS...

Most metrics, including WAR, I believe view Piazza at above average in terms of preventing PB and WP. In WAR it gets drowned out by the stolen bases.

But he wasn't a world beater in NY, either -- and without digging too deep, those staffs look pretty nominally average in holding runners and wildness.

I'd have to look at the numbers again but I remember one guy who wasn't very good at holding runners was Armando Benitez and Hideo came over for half a season as well.
   17. BDC Posted: January 09, 2014 at 04:56 PM (#4635074)
dWAR is bullocks for catchers anyway

Piazza may not have been a very good catcher, but Rpos for catchers in the mid-'90s is about the same as Rpos for shortstops. That might be mathematically viable in the model, but it's counterintuitive at the very least; I mean, strap some catching gear on Royce Clayton and see how far you get with that :)
   18. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 09, 2014 at 05:00 PM (#4635082)
Piazza may not have been a very good catcher, but Rpos for catchers in the mid-'90s is about the same as Rpos for shortstops. That might be mathematically viable in the model, but it's counterintuitive at the very least; I mean, strap some catching gear on Royce Clayton and see how far you get with that :)

I don't think you want to see Mike Piazza at SS either. It's pretty easy to believe SS is equally valuable defensively as C.

The overall issue with Piazza, I think, is the same as all catchers. They can't play often or long enough to compile the jaw dropping first ballot kind of career stats.

Given his debut, barring some massive PED revelation, Piazza is as good as in. The only question is if it's next year, or takes 2 or 3 more.
   19. Davo's Favorite Tacos Are Moose Tacos Posted: January 09, 2014 at 05:03 PM (#4635088)
To me--and to I think most General Managers--if you have a catcher who finishes in the top 5 in OPS+ (and plays 140+ games a year while doing it), that guy is the most valuable player in the league, regardless of his defensive ability.

WAR does not seem to reflect this, at least with Piazza.
   20. zonk Posted: January 09, 2014 at 05:15 PM (#4635101)
Look -

I'm not saying Piazza should have been moved out from behind the plate.

I'm just saying that I think he was slightly subpar - but if you have a guy that can post Piazza's line without really costing you much if anything on defense, you keep him behind the plate.


I'd have to look at the numbers again but I remember one guy who wasn't very good at holding runners was Armando Benitez and Hideo came over for half a season as well.


Come on... a closer? If we're going to use that excuse, then every catcher in the league can say the same... Piazza also caught a ton of lefties -- the Mets seem at a glance to have a lot more LHSP than most teams -- and awful lot of Rick Reed (who had really good control).

Again - I'm willing to believe that the CW about Piazza being a poor defensive catcher is wrong... but I just think we need a hell of a lot more evidence to say that the CW was 180 degrees wrong and that Piazza was actually a good defensive catcher.

   21. Mickey Henry Mays Posted: January 09, 2014 at 05:34 PM (#4635122)
Piazza may not have been Johnny Bench behind the plate but he was a great handler of pitchers. The list may be somewhat archaic but as you can see he had a knack for getting the best out of his pitchers. The 1st row is with Mike catching and the second row is the teams total ERA for that year. The actual difference is muted here because it only shows how much the others added to the team ERA as opposed to what the raw ERA's were when Piazza wasn't catching.

1993 3.45 3.50 -05
1994 3.95 4.17 -22
1995 3.68 3.66 +02
1996 3.31 3.41 -10
1997 3.50 3.62 -12
1998 4.13 3.81 LA+32
1998 3.94 3.76 NY+18
1999 4.40 4.27 -13
2000 3.86 4.16 -30
2001 4.08 4.07 +01
2002 3.86 3.89 -03
2003 3.97 4.48 -51
2004 3.94 4.09 -15
2005 3.88 3.76 -12
2006 3.50 3.87 SD-37
   22. BDC Posted: January 09, 2014 at 06:00 PM (#4635141)
I don't think you want to see Mike Piazza at SS either. It's pretty easy to believe SS is equally valuable defensively as C

Right, I should have made this clearer (after I immediately envisioned Piazza at SS!) But the thing is, you can envision Matt Williams at shortstop. You can envision Scott Rolen there, easily. You can envision Mickey Morandini at SS, or envision Mark Grudzielanek – heck, you don't have to; Grudzielanek played SS. You can envision a horde of utility men there, because they play there every year: but almost any of those guys at catcher is a nightmare.

It makes a lot of sense to see C as just a separate fraternity, not easily fungible with other positions in dWAR terms. (Catchers may or may not move easily "down" the spectrum, Piazza himself being an example of one who didn't; but almost no SS, 2B, or CF can move "up" to C.)
   23. McCoy Posted: January 09, 2014 at 06:17 PM (#4635158)
Come on... a closer?

Come on what? I said I'd have to look at the numbers again but that I did recall two guys. I'm sorry I shared some information.
   24. McCoy Posted: January 09, 2014 at 06:19 PM (#4635162)
Catchers may or may not move easily "down" the spectrum, Piazza himself being an example of one who didn't; but almost no SS, 2B, or CF can move "up" to C.)

Problem with Piazza is that as a kid he was horrible defensively. He had no real position and he couldn't even really play first base well which is a big part of the reason he wasn't really on anyone's radar until after high school and he decided he was going to try to be a catcher.
   25. McCoy Posted: January 09, 2014 at 06:29 PM (#4635167)
Again - I'm willing to believe that the CW about Piazza being a poor defensive catcher is wrong... but I just think we need a hell of a lot more evidence to say that the CW was 180 degrees wrong and that Piazza was actually a good defensive catcher.

The view for the longest time was that Piazza was brutal with the running game but other than that was decent behind the plate. This was the common inside baseball view of Piazza. Then he got old and worse and then he retired and stuff like WAR came along and just dinged the hell out of him. Consequently the view became that he was an atrocious catcher. Because after awhile all we have left is the numbers.
   26. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: January 09, 2014 at 06:32 PM (#4635172)
(I also have to say, though I really love the stat, I find Piazza's WAR totals very confusing. For example, in 1996, this catcher hit .336/.422/.563 in 631 plate appearances. That's just 5.4 WAR--a "typical" all-star season??? What the hell else could he do?!?!?!)


BBREF War has him as being -6 as a baserunner, -2 in avoidng DPs, -8 defensively, if he wee simply average in all three categories he'd be at 7 WAR for the year

Does WAR hate his defense?

bb-ref's dWAR is pretty ambivalent towards it -- exact +1 for his whole career -- but my recollection is that most people think dWAR is bullocks for catchers anyway.

no +1.0 for a career is virtually replacement level, that's not ambivalent, that's saying BBREF WAR thinks his dee sucked -63 runs overall, that's the 3rd worst career total ALL TIME on BBREF, by contrast IROD has +146, Gary Carter +112
   27. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: January 09, 2014 at 06:34 PM (#4635174)
Right, I should have made this clearer (after I immediately envisioned Piazza at SS!) But the thing is, you can envision Matt Williams at shortstop. You can envision Scott Rolen there, easily. You can envision Mickey Morandini at SS, or envision Mark Grudzielanek – heck, you don't have to; Grudzielanek played SS. You can envision a horde of utility men there, because they play there every year: but almost any of those guys at catcher is a nightmare.


Hell I can envision Kevin Mitchell playing SS- of course that's because I actually saw him do it, if I hadn't I don't think I could envision it.
   28. Sunday silence Posted: January 09, 2014 at 06:37 PM (#4635179)
For the most part runners run on the pitcher and not on the catcher.


Do you have any reference for this? I am not saying you're wrong, you could very well be right, but i'd like to see the evidence first.

My gut feeling is that SB/CS tends to be under stated because of the leveraged effect of SB. But I've not done a study.
   29. McCoy Posted: January 09, 2014 at 06:48 PM (#4635189)
The Overrated Value of Catcher's Throwing Arm

In short, when it comes to the timing variables within the running game and the reputation of the battery mates, our study refutes the conventional wisdom that the catcher’s arm is primarily responsible for caught stealing. While there are other lurking variables at play — like pitch location and handedness of the batter — surface value says that a pitcher’s quickness to the plate is a whole lot more influential than a catcher’s arm in the battery dynamic. Said lurking variables will be topics for future installments and will help us dive deeper into assigning credit to one of the two battery mates. When it comes down to the timing variable, the need for speed is on the pitcher’s side of the rubber.


Who Deserves Credit for Throwing Out Baserunners?

Given our findings, it is reasonable to say, at the least, that the pitcher is more responsible than we conventionally think when it comes to catching base-runners stealing -- largely due to the fact that we know that a pitcher's CS%, isolated or overall, correlates highly with CS% for the battery as a whole and twice as much as a catcher's CS%.

As it turns out, the pitcher, and not the catcher, is the player with the higher propensity to influence the running game, whether in a positive or negative way.
   30. McCoy Posted: January 09, 2014 at 06:52 PM (#4635191)
Also here is Max Marchi's column from BP where he has Piazza as the 9th best pitch frame in baseball since 1988 and has him at +78 runs as a pitch framer. Which if true would wipe out all of the runs he lost in dWAR and then some. Turning him into a slightly above average fielder for his career.
   31. Ray K Posted: January 09, 2014 at 10:41 PM (#4635389)
I accept that Piazza was the best-hitting catcher in history, but it still grates to call someone an "inner circle HOFer" at a key defensive position (arguably THE key defensive position) when he was barely average defensively. Piazza did not have a good defensive rep at all when he was playing.
   32. Morty Causa Posted: January 09, 2014 at 10:55 PM (#4635399)
Piazza scores high on calling a game according to what was linked on the Lance Parrish for HOF thread.
   33. Ray K Posted: January 09, 2014 at 11:45 PM (#4635422)
Is that Pitch Frame data estimated from Retrosheet PBP data? What are the error bars on that?
   34. Ron J2 Posted: January 10, 2014 at 08:11 AM (#4635488)
#10 I've been discussing catcher vs the running game for quite some time. While it's generally true that the pitcher is about twice as important as the catcher vs the running game it's probably not true at the extremes. Piazza was the worst against the running game of any catcher to have a long career -- it wasn't just Nomo. (Nomo's CS% was 17%, Piazza was at 18% for the year)



   35. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: January 10, 2014 at 08:21 AM (#4635494)
Piazza did not have a good defensive rep at all when he was playing.

that was a combination of his obvious throwing challenges, the default position in baseball that good hitting catchers are poor defensively and writers being resentful of a guy being really good/good looking/articulate

piazza was a down and dirty catcher who blocked pitches, worked with his pitchers well and hustled his 8ss off

if you want to accept the malarkey feel free but it's just that, bullsh8t

I am hopeful folks here are better than that
   36. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: January 10, 2014 at 08:23 AM (#4635495)
as a follow up mike piazza's hustle is completely forgotten because hustle seems to be exclusively tied to people who run to first base with flair

mike piazza busted his 8ss behind home plate. he may have been regarded as a 'pretty boy' but he played with plenty of 'grit'
   37. JE (Jason) Posted: January 10, 2014 at 08:58 AM (#4635521)
On the issue of the importance of preventing your opponent from swiping bases, Rob Neyer asks, "What difference at this point does it make?"
Now I'll throw a team out there, and you can guess how many runs they saved by controlling the running game.

Ready? Dodgers: How many runs did they save!

Eleven.

That doesn't seem like a lot. Eleven runs, everything else being equal, is one W.

Here's the punchline, though: The Dodgers were the best at controlling the running game. The Dodgers were the only team that saved more than seven runs that way. All that effort was rewarded with an extra victory ... but that's without accounting for all the slide-steps that might have made things easier for the hitters, or the fastballs thrown to make things easier for the catcher in obvious steal situations. Almost makes you wonder if teams just shouldn't worry much about the running game at all.

On the other side of the ledger, the Tigers lost 16 runs and the Athletics 12 ... and this is where I'm contractually obligated to mention that both of those teams won division titles. Which, again, makes you wonder ...
   38. zonk Posted: January 10, 2014 at 09:59 AM (#4635583)
Digging through the numbers a bit more -- I'm willing say "average" defensively.... straight 'C'. Javy Lopez level.

Let me be clear, I'm not trying to denigrate Piazza. I think he's top 5 all-time behind the plate -- and off the top of my head, only Bench and Berra jump to mind as immediately superior... In fact, based off what I've read -- Piazza sounds like a pretty good Josh Gibson comp (IIRC, Gibson was generally considered pretty average defensively). I'm really, really, really trying not to put too much into CS% -- but the numbers everywhere else simply aren't there to say that he was great at other aspects. His PB/WP numbers are OK - but not great. I suppose it sounds like CERA likes him, but well, we've been there before... I can buy pitch framing... I can buy handling of pitchers... I'll even buy those two without numbers.

He's an inner circle Hall of Fame Catcher. What's wrong with that?

   39. McCoy Posted: January 10, 2014 at 12:04 PM (#4635760)
#10 I've been discussing catcher vs the running game for quite some time. While it's generally true that the pitcher is about twice as important as the catcher vs the running game it's probably not true at the extremes. Piazza was the worst against the running game of any catcher to have a long career -- it wasn't just Nomo. (Nomo's CS% was 17%, Piazza was at 18% for the year)

In 1996 Nomo allowed 52 runners to steal a base. Piazza was behind the plate for 43 of them and Tom Prince was behind the plate for 9 of them. Piazza got 9 baserunners out and Prince threw no one out while behind the plate for Nomo. Tom started four games where Nomo was the starting pitcher and in all 4 games runners ran on him. When Nomo left the game runners attempted to run on Piazza only 5 more times for the rest of the game. Nomo pitched 228.1 innings while the relievers in the games he started threw 68.2 innings. Runners ran on Nomo at 2 attempts per 27 outs while runners attempted to run on the relievers at a .65 attempts per 27 outs. Also it should be noted that Todd Worrell was the reliever on the mound for 2 of Piazza's 5 non-Nomo in the game stolen bases and Todd Worrell historically was a terrible preventer of stolen bases. So with Nomo on the mound a team was 3 times more likely to try to steal on him than on his relievers after he left the game with Piazza behind the plate. It would seem the data is showing pretty strongly that Nomo was the main factor in whether or not a team would try to steal on that particular day.
   40. McCoy Posted: January 10, 2014 at 12:19 PM (#4635779)
Who else was on that team? Tom Candiotti was on that team and historically he wasn't very good at preventing stolen bases either. In 1996 with Candiotti on the mound and Piazza behind the plate runners tried to run .75 times per 27 outs and were successful 86% of the time. After he left the game runners attempted to run .35 times per 27 outs and were successful 75% of the time.

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