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Friday, March 23, 2012

Neyer: Derek Jeter: Great Shortstop, Or Greatest Shortstop?

One where The Statue of Limitations finally gets his…

Whatever you might think of Derek Jeter—with 72 career Wins Above Replacement, averaging the two sources—he’s rarely been the best player in his league for even one season. In 1998 and ‘99, perhaps. And if you’re really careful, you might find another season in which he deserved the MVP Award. But even in his best seasons, he’s always had some competition, while Wagner usually didn’t. Strictly by the numbers, Wagner wasn’t just the greatest shortstop who ever played the game; he was one of the five greatest players, period. You can look it up.

...Still not ready to give up on Derek Jeter? Well, here’s how you get him past Cal Ripken and perhaps even Honus Wagner ...

First, you give him a big dollop of extra credit for the Yankees’ success since he arrived in the majors back in 1996. And he deserves some extra credit. There’s an intangible benefit to his steadiness over all those years, and his postseason numbers are right in line with his regular-season numbers ... which of course is impressive because he’s typically faced better pitching in the postseason.

Second, you assume that every single sophisticated defensive metric is just flat-wrong; that he’s been not a poor defensive shortstop for most of his career, but that instead he’s been average, at least.

If you want to award Jeter 10 extra Wins Above Replacement for his intangibles and his postseason play, and make him an average defensive shortstop, you’ve got him at roughly Cal Ripken’s level. And if you want to assume that the roughly 90 years separating Jeter from Wagner practically invalidates Wagner’s performance, then ... Well, then you can make the argument that Derek Jeter really is the best shortstop ever to play baseball.

I can’t make that argument. But to a lot of people you and I know, maybe even some of our friends, it’s not crazy.

Repoz Posted: March 23, 2012 at 01:10 PM | 319 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, sabermetrics, yankees

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   201. mrmacro Posted: March 24, 2012 at 01:08 PM (#4088261)
Interestingly, field goal percentage for centers is much, much higher now than it was in the 50's or 60's. Center 3 point shooting is similar to what it was in 1980. That the famous Mikan drill, still used today by big men, involves lay-ups and rebounds would suggest that the selection criteria for centers has not changed that much. As an aside, I'd suggest that you submit your own assertion of the absolute level of pitcher hitting to the same level of scrutiny that you focus on kicker punting or centers' FT.
   202. AROM, Instagram Gangsta Posted: March 24, 2012 at 01:31 PM (#4088268)
FT% for centers: without checking the data, I'll bet it took a nose dive in 1992-3 and is up a bit this year with Shaq's retirement.
   203. GuyM Posted: March 24, 2012 at 01:44 PM (#4088271)
I'm happy to scrutinize the assumption of static pitcher hitting ability. Rally pointed out long ago that pitchers used to get more PAs per season, and that likely gave them some advantage over current pitchers. I agree, and have experimented with a few ways of adjusting for it.

What I find interesting is the knee-jerk rejection coming from so many. Not "hmm, interesting, I wonder how we could determine more precisely whether and how much pitchers' hitting ability might have changed," but just a blanket rejection that there could be anything here (often accompanied with non-trivial degree of rage). Clearly, this is being treated by some as a threatening idea that must be "defeated," not something to be considered and engaged.

One easy example of that is Snapper/199's bad-faith invocation of the DH. Since I have pointed out many times that most of the increase in hitter performance relative to pitchers' took place before 1973 -- and the rate of increase actually slowed after that -- we know the DH is not the explanation.

Also interesting is that still no one has offered one shred of evidence (other than Rally's point on PA) that pitcher hitting ability has declined. Nor that pitchers' hitting ability was the basis of their selection to play anytime after 1900. (I believe Connie Mack called for the DH in 1906, suggesting maybe that pitchers weren't great hitters even then.)

   204. Mefisto Posted: March 24, 2012 at 02:15 PM (#4088288)
They can compose music as good as Mozart's? Please.


Technically, they can compose much better music. But technical skill isn't the only factor in great music. Similarly, today's painters learn brush strokes which Michaelangelo never knew of, but that doesn't make them better artists.

Then why isn't anybody doing it?


You missed the point about invention.

   205. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 24, 2012 at 02:22 PM (#4088292)
You missed the point about invention.

I'm not talking invention, I'm talking simple replication.

If someone could create operas of the same quality that were direct stylistic copies of Mozart, or Verdi, they would be popular. Same with Beethoven and Symphonies.

Opera's and Symphonies are looking to stage new works all the time, but they are limited b/c they are not commercially viable. i.e. people don't like the modern stuff. It's no good.

But they'll show up for the old stuff. If a composer could make new stuff that sounded like the old stuff, it would make his career.
   206. Tippecanoe Posted: March 24, 2012 at 02:36 PM (#4088310)

If someone could create operas of the same quality that were direct stylistic copies of Mozart, or Verdi, they would be popular. Same with Beethoven and Symphonies.


Monday, I attended a college orchestra presentation of a symphony composed by a 20-year-old at a middling state university. He freely admitted his debt to late romantic composers - Mahler, Strauss, Brahms. The music itself was listenable, if recognizably derivative. It surely lacks the subleties of the masters, but it seems very likely that 10 years from now this kid could write a Mahler knock-off with an equivalent level of technical sophistication, a full understanding of the artistic context, and of course zero originality. I doubt it would be popular.
   207. PreservedFish Posted: March 24, 2012 at 02:41 PM (#4088315)
re: #203

I want to say that I think the use of pitcher's hitting as a constant is really clever. I have no idea how to evaluate its utility, and I view the conclusions with skepticism. But I am also enjoying the efforts made on this thread (and the previous one) to refine the technique.
   208. GuyM Posted: March 24, 2012 at 02:52 PM (#4088327)
For anyone interested, here is Dan Fox's original article outlining the theory. He also shows the reduced variance in performance over time, consistent with the idea that much of the improvement in player skill comes at the bottom, closing the gap between the best and worst players.
   209. Dr. Vaux Posted: March 24, 2012 at 03:32 PM (#4088359)
Critics don't want to like anything, by and large (of course there are exceptions). For them, if something sounds like old music, it's derivative and unoriginal. The critics would castigate a new work that sounded just like late 19th-century music. On the other hand, if the new offering doesn't sound like old music, it "isn't natural" or "doesn't communicate," or some other such locution. Sometimes the critics are right--there are certainly things that just aren't very good. But often, it's simply a matter of expectations: not expectations of how "good" the music will be, but rather expectations of what it will be, period. Listening to atonal music, for example (though less and less new music is atonal nowadays) and expecting it to be tonal at every turn will yield a disappointing experience, indeed; it won't make sense, because it actually doesn't make sense within the framework you're trying to impose on it. It might make perfect and very beautiful sense within the framework the artist was actually using, which comes across quite clearly when listened to with an open mind. But unfortunately, listening to music with a truly open mind is something that seems to be extremely difficult for most people from what I've observed. It hardly needs to be said that those who define "good" as "sounds like Mozart" or "sounds like Brahms" are cutting themselves off from a lot of wonderful things. I don't know what to do about this, though as a music educator I try and try.

I myself, who likes to think I'm a good critic, am fond of examples both of new music that sounds like old music and new music that doesn't sound much at all like old music. There's plenty of room for both, and I count among my favorite current composers both quite conservative ones and, shall we say, much less conservative ones.

Monday, I attended a college orchestra presentation of a symphony composed by a 20-year-old at a middling state university. He freely admitted his debt to late romantic composers - Mahler, Strauss, Brahms. The music itself was listenable, if recognizably derivative. It surely lacks the subleties of the masters, but it seems very likely that 10 years from now this kid could write a Mahler knock-off with an equivalent level of technical sophistication, a full understanding of the artistic context, and of course zero originality. I doubt it would be popular.


I'm glad to hear that such a presentation took place. College orchestras (let alone professional ones) play new music far too infrequently; students and young composers usually have to write chamber works to get their music played (not that chamber music isn't wonderful). The question of what use it would be to write music that was a direct copy of the style of Mozart or Brahms or anyone from the common practice period is one that has, as might be expected, been discussed to death in the 20th century among practitioners of composition. The consensus--which I'm not so sure of myself--is that to "merely" copy (e.g.) Brahms would be nothing but a technical exercise, since the composer who did it would not be devising new procedures, and would thus be unoriginal.

It is possible that originality for its own sake is fetishized, or at least overly valued, since sheer originality won't make good art all by itself. At the same time, there is something more satisfying about good art that feels "original" than about art, good though it may be, that feels more derivative. In any case, I can guarantee anyone reading this that every composer of reasonable academic repute could write a well conceived and put together symphony in Brahms's style. They don't do it (some of them do do it, but we're talking about the ones that don't) because they don't think it would be a productive use of their time, not because they can't do it. They want to be "original."

. . . it would make his career.

I doubt it[.]


Not only professionals, but also audiences, seem to crave originality. At the same time, they rebel when it appears. It is a paradox, which is why most composers have felt it best to write what they, with their knowledge of the literature that has gone before them and of its theoretical underpinnings, think is the best music for them to write, without worrying too much about what a projected audience or projected critics (or even their academic colleagues) will think. They have always done that, by the way--it's not a new thing by any means.

There are ways to be original that don't involve the kinds of textural complexity and/or dissonance that lay audiences have continuously seemed to reject (though if only, as I've said, they would listen with an open mind, they would find themselves exposed to untold wonders). One can achieve originality in the realm of quite harmonically traditional music by means of idiosyncratic harmonic spice, by means of form, by means of orchestration, by means of rhythm, of phrase structure, and of anything else. And there have always been, as there continue to be, composers who pursue those avenues (which are the ones our 20 year-old friend will most likely go on to pursue). There is room for everything, and everything is being pursued heartily by members of the current generation. We are, in fact, contrary to popular belief, living in a golden age of concert music.
   210. Tippecanoe Posted: March 24, 2012 at 03:51 PM (#4088380)
I participated in the music digression, but lets face it, the arts are not an especially good analogy for baseball. Justin Verlander is a hell of a pitcher, but he has little in the way of originality. His fastball is far too reminiscent of Ryan, and that slider seems ripped off from Gossage.
   211. PreservedFish Posted: March 24, 2012 at 03:57 PM (#4088384)
Mariano Rivera is the Thomas Kinkade of pitchers. BORING!
   212. Lassus Posted: March 24, 2012 at 04:03 PM (#4088390)
Opera's and Symphonies are looking to stage new works all the time, but they are limited b/c they are not commercially viable. i.e. people don't like the modern stuff. It's no good.

Like Bach, until about 80 years after his death.
   213. michaelplank has knowledgeable eyes Posted: March 24, 2012 at 05:28 PM (#4088423)
If we consider the punting statistics of players listed as placekickers over the past 40 years (all the single platoon guys were gone by 1970), what do we observe?


Serious question, not trolling: Is there any way to account for the complete change from straight-on to soccer style placekicking, which pretty precisely coincides with this time period?
   214. mrmacro Posted: March 24, 2012 at 06:19 PM (#4088456)
@ 202: This year's crop of centers are the worst I've looked at, shooting just 63.8% from the stripe.

@ 212: I don't know how you'd account for it, but I'm not sure you'd need to. Rugby placekicks are done from an angle, a la soccer style field goals, and they still manage to punt the ball pretty far. (Granted, they train to do so, but that's sort of the whole point, isn't it?) In any event, even soccer-style placekicking if a heck of a lot closer to punting than pitching is to hitting.
   215. cardsfanboy Posted: March 24, 2012 at 08:45 PM (#4088538)
The pitcher comparison falls apart b/c, as many, many people have said, there's very good reason to believe that pitchers have become much worse at hitting. Just the fact that every league except the NL and Japan's Central league uses the DH should explain that one to you. Pitchers don't get to hit in the minors.


No matter how many times this is repeated, he just refuses to hear it.

Also interesting is that still no one has offered one shred of evidence (other than Rally's point on PA) that pitcher hitting ability has declined.


The exact same evidence you use for your argument, is much more likely to be evidence that pitchers hitting has declined. That is the reason I'm taking you to task with this absurdity.

Pitchers today bat worse relative to the position players in comparison to how they did in the old day. The logical, almost inescapable conclusion from that statement is "pitchers are worse hitters than they were in the past". It takes evidence to support anything else. Not the other way around.
   216. tshipman Posted: March 24, 2012 at 08:51 PM (#4088542)
No matter how many times this is repeated, he just refuses to hear it.


Because it's not relevant to the pre-DH period. The bulk of the change in pitcher hitting happened before 1972. Even if all change in ability since 1972 is a mirage due to reduced repetition, how do you explain the pre-DH decline in pitcher hitting.
   217. cardsfanboy Posted: March 24, 2012 at 08:57 PM (#4088543)
I wonder how we could determine more precisely whether and how much pitchers' hitting ability might have changed


Well start with similar level of experience and practice. Eliminate all pitchers from your study who have more than 70 plate appearances in 154 game season or 80 in 162 game season. To even get more critical, of the remaining pitchers, use pitchers hitting stats from the first half of the season, say the first 70 or so games. This is going to give you a better grasp of what the baseline of non-selected hitters.

   218. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 24, 2012 at 09:03 PM (#4088549)
Because it's not relevant to the pre-DH period. The bulk of the change in pitcher hitting happened before 1972. Even if all change in ability since 1972 is a mirage due to reduced repetition, how do you explain the pre-DH decline in pitcher hitting.

Increased specialization, earlier in their careers.

As things like MLB owned minor leagues, scouting, bonus babies, etc. developed, players were specialized at an earlier age. So, pitchers never learned to hit like they used to when they were scuffling through semi-pro ball, independent minor leagues etc.
   219. cardsfanboy Posted: March 24, 2012 at 09:11 PM (#4088552)
Because it's not relevant to the pre-DH period. The bulk of the change in pitcher hitting happened before 1972. Even if all change in ability since 1972 is a mirage due to reduced repetition, how do you explain the pre-DH decline in pitcher hitting.


You missed the part where he said that Mantle would have a 144 career ops+. Mantle retired in 1968, it's not like he missed the dh by that much. If that is only the tip of the iceberg and not the bulk of it, that is a humungous timelining.


The pre-dh decline is because pitchers don't bat as much, 154 game starting pitchers in the 20's and 30's got 110 plus at bats a year, in the 1960's they are lucky to reach 100, and that was the best of the best. Cy Young was getting 200 at bats in a season, Walter Johnson was 150's, Feller 130's, Gibson 110 range, Maddux 90. Add in that there are fewer percentage of bats nowadays going to the star pitchers as the rise of the four man rotation and relievers has put more plate appearances in the hands of guys who don't play as frequently.


plus what Snapper said.
   220. GuyM Posted: March 24, 2012 at 09:45 PM (#4088570)
This is amusing: So many posts, so little evidence. The idea that the pitchers of Gibson's generation were materially worse hitters than the guys who pitched in 1905 is just laughable. The 1960s pitchers were bigger, stronger, and much better athletes, and they had been hitting their whole life. The idea that 30 or 40 fewer PA over the season outweighs all that and makes the 1960s pitchers much worse is, well, ludicrous. If this didn't have implications for timelining, no one would think those old pitchers were likely to be better at the plate.

The fundamental point here is selection. Hitting ability plays no role in selecting pitchers now, and as best I can tell that's been true since at least 1900. I'm no baseball historian -- if someone has evidence that pitchers used to lose their jobs because of poor hitting, or marginal pitching talents kept their jobs because of fine hitting, I'm all ears. But assuming this premise is true, that establishes a very strong presumption of roughly stable hitting ability - pitchers provide the level of hitting you get when a good athlete has played baseball all their life, but has no particular hitting talent.

It comes down to which you find more credible: 1) that pitchers have become vastly worse hitters over time, for no obvious reason than a modest reduction in PA, while position players have -- uniquely among sports -- failed to improve, or 2) pitchers are roughly the same hitters they've always been, while position players have become steadily better (as they have also become taller, faster, and stronger). If you find #1 more plausible, you have a much more fertile imagination than I do....
   221. cardsfanboy Posted: March 24, 2012 at 09:50 PM (#4088574)
This is amusing: So many posts, so little evidence. The idea that the pitchers of Gibson's generation were materially worse hitters than the guys who pitched in 1905 is just laughable.


The stats back it up. They hit worse than the everyday players today in comparison to in the past therefore they are worse.

Your theory has zero evidence to back it up and you keep espousing. The lack of evidence is laughable.
   222. AROM, Instagram Gangsta Posted: March 24, 2012 at 09:53 PM (#4088576)
It doesn't have to be #1 or #2. It could be a combination.
   223. McCoy Posted: March 24, 2012 at 09:55 PM (#4088577)
The importance of hitting for pitchers seems like it should be easy to spot. First set of data is the % of pitchers that played other spots on the diamond while they were still mainly pitchers plus any PH appearances they might get. This should be rather easy to find. Next set of data would be harder but could still be done which is to find out how many players were either pitchers in the minor leagues or in the majors before they made the switch to full time positional player.

I would think that now that we have minor league data to a certain degree we can look into the minor league data to see how many pitchers played other positions either while primarily a pitcher or as a switch.

The fundamental point here is selection. Hitting ability plays no role in selecting pitchers now, and as best I can tell that's been true since at least 1900. I'm no baseball historian -- if someone has evidence that pitchers used to lose their jobs because of poor hitting, or marginal pitching talents kept their jobs because of fine hitting, I'm all ears.

I'm willing to bet at the lower levels that at the very least it was somewhat true. Obviously if you could pitch like Walter Johnson and 18 years old they didn't really care what you batted. But if you were Joe Schlub with so-so stuff and you were in a semi-pro or class D or worse league you might very well find yourself cut if they didn't find you useful in other areas of the diamond.
   224. cardsfanboy Posted: March 24, 2012 at 10:01 PM (#4088579)
Your point is based upon assuming only one thing, and one thing only affected the performance of pitchers as hitters over the years, and that one thing isn't the obvious thing, which would be they have gotten worse for whatever reason. But instead a complicated reasoning that doesn't stand up to even the most minor historical analysis.

1. Pitchers used to coast through the order, that is how they were able to survive in the old days with their massive innings pitched. Coasting through the order means trying less against the weaker batters.

2. practice, more reps you get of something, the more likely you will be good at it.

3. frequency, shorter days rest meant shorter times between seeing ml pitching.

4. improved equipment expands the difference, bigger gloves meant weaker hit balls were fielded, lesser hitters are going to be the victims here

5. changing style of play. Homeruns became more vogue, and have a higher value than any other hit, making the gap difference between those who can and those who can't more noticeable.

And there are dozens of other reasons. All of which leads to pitchers aren't as good of hitters as they were in the past.



   225. tshipman Posted: March 24, 2012 at 10:07 PM (#4088582)
1. Pitchers used to coast through the order, that is how they were able to survive in the old days with their massive innings pitched. Coasting through the order means trying less against the weaker batters.


This is an argument for timelining.


4. improved equipment expands the difference, bigger gloves meant weaker hit balls were fielded, lesser hitters are going to be the victims here


This is an argument for timelining.

5. changing style of play. Homeruns became more vogue, and have a higher value than any other hit, making the gap difference between those who can and those who can't more noticeable.


This is an argument for timelining.
   226. McCoy Posted: March 24, 2012 at 10:15 PM (#4088585)
Did a really quick PI search for the years covering 1901 to 1920 sort by most AB for pitchers in that time frame. Only 9 of the names in the top 40 had only been a pitcher exclusively. From 1951 to 1970 there were 32 pitchers in the top 40 that only ever manned the mound. From 1991 to 2010 there were 38 pitchers that show up in the top 40 as just pitchers. The two pitchers that played other positions were Roy Oswalt in 2010 where he got 1 PA as a LFer and Randy Johnson played left field for an inning. Pitchers from 1991 to 2010 played a grand total of 3 innings in the field at positions other than pitcher.
   227. cardsfanboy Posted: March 24, 2012 at 10:27 PM (#4088588)
This is an argument for timelining.


Not with his methodology it isn't.

I have no problem with a logical timelining argument. His argument isn't logical.



None of my examples support his assertion that pitcher hitting is a static constant. In fact that fairly obviously refute that absurdity.

His argument is pitchers hitting hasn't changed one bit from 1900 until today. Which makes it a good baseline to use to show the changing of the quality of players. The problem is that it's obvious pitchers hitting has changed.

My first point alone could pretty much cover up the entire distance, that pitchers as hitters, weren't thrown the best stuff, so their numbers are inflated in the past. But unlike Guy, I wouldn't stupidly think that there is one cause for everything.

   228. mrmacro Posted: March 24, 2012 at 10:39 PM (#4088593)
George Blanda played quarterback. Jim O'Brien, who kicked the game winning field goal in SB V, caught 11 passes two years later. That doesn't happen any more. And as PK have become completely specialized, their ability to perform even closely related tasks have gone down, as I noted above. There is zero evidence that increased specialization does not erode ancillary skills, and at least some evidence from other sports that it does. Ergo, it seems appropriate that the latter should be the null hypothesis, not the former as in Guy's framework.
   229. GuyM Posted: March 24, 2012 at 11:12 PM (#4088602)
The stats back it up. They hit worse than the everyday players today in comparison to in the past therefore they are worse.

A classic. The theory in question is that the growing gap in hitting performance between position players and pitchers demonstrates a rising level of competition. And your "rebuttal" is that the gap beween position players and pitchers has been growing!? IOW, after all this time, you literally have no idea what this discussion is about. Don't stop being you, CFB.

Mrmacro: I don't see the parallels you see. In your examples, atheletes used to have multiple responsibilities but increasingly have just one. As a result, their performance in the other areas suffers. Makes sense. But here pitchers have always had only one responsibility -- to pitch -- and hitting played no role in their selection. They are guys who really have no business hitting, but are forced to hit anyway. Very different situations than you describe. And as has been noted before, the decline of multi-tasking athletes is itself very strong evidence of improved quality of play. How do you think Blanda would fare today?
   230. cardsfanboy Posted: March 24, 2012 at 11:31 PM (#4088609)
A classic. The theory in question is that the growing gap in hitting performance between position players and pitchers demonstrates a rising level of competition. And your "rebuttal" is that the gap beween position players and pitchers has been growing!? IOW, after all this time, you literally have no idea what this discussion is about. Don't stop being you, CFB.


The growing gap is because --drumroll---pitchers are worse hitters than they were in the past. It's not rocket science.

I'm not sure what I'm saying that is proof that I literally have no idea of what this discussion is about.


Here is what I think this discussion is about.

1. You have a pet theory that pitchers hitting has never wavered since the 1900. (don't care the reasons for the theory, that is not necessary for the discussion)
2. you then say that since your theory is correct, that the gap in position players batting relative to pitchers can be used to determine the baseline for timelining purpose.
3. basic math you come up with a formula that says Wagner was a lesser player than Omar Vizquel.


Of course rational people start with the data and look backwards. The data shows that pitchers today have a larger gap in their offense than pitchers in the past. Occam's Razor says That means pitchers today are lesser hitters than they were in the past.

It's your job to prove the complicated reasoning, not the job of the people with the simplest and most likely theory.


To prove your theory you would have to eliminate the arguments against it. Simply start with the easiest argument to discredit. For your pitchers offensive stats, do not include any single season sample size over 80 plate appearances.
   231. McCoy Posted: March 24, 2012 at 11:33 PM (#4088611)
Did another search. 1901 to 1930 Pitchers that had at least 5% of their PA as a pitcher. Top 5 names are Babe Ruth, Rube Bressler, Jimmy Callahan, Walter Johnson, and Smokey Joe Wood.

So now my question is how much are those 4 former pitchers influencing the numbers? Babe had 1328 PA in Boston. Rube had 436 PA when he was a pitcher. Callahan had 1238 PA as a pitcher, and Joe Wood had 562 PA. Babe had an OPS+ of 191 and I think the other guys' OPS+ were 80, 84, and 90. I don't have the pitcher splits for this era but I do know that the 9th batter in the order had a 44, 45, 45, 37 OPS+ from 1919 to 1922.

Joe Yeager and Lefty O'Doul show up in the top ten. Joe had 520 PA and Lefty had only had 78 PA which is good because he was awful. Posting a 22 OPS+ during that time.

Walter Johnson had a 76 OPS+ for his career. Pete Alexander had the second most PA for players who pitcher their entire time and he had a 43 OPS+.

So like I said above what would pitcher's line look like if you took out the guys who ended up playing other positions?
   232. McCoy Posted: March 24, 2012 at 11:35 PM (#4088613)
Occam's Razor says That means pitchers today are lesser hitters than they were in the past.

But aren't you simply arguing the reverse of what you are claiming he is arguing? Aren't you by comparing pitchers to hitters using hitters as your baseline and assuming that they have stayed the same?

Wouldn't the logical opinion be that hitters have gotten better, pitchers have gotten worse at hitting and better at pitching?
   233. McCoy Posted: March 24, 2012 at 11:45 PM (#4088618)
I did one more search. This time it is 1901 to 1930 with pitchers being at least pitchers 25% of the time and sorted by OPS+. 8 pitchers are league average or better. They had about 5200 PA during that timeframe. Doc Crandall had the best OPS+ with a 119 OPS+. Doc played 84 games in the field during his career.

Jake Thielman is 4th on the list and in his first year in professional ball he was an outfielder. He would also play the outfield later on in the minors as well.

   234. cardsfanboy Posted: March 24, 2012 at 11:59 PM (#4088625)

Did another search. 1901 to 1930 Pitchers that had at least 5% of their PA as a pitcher. Top 5 names are Babe Ruth, Rube Bressler, Jimmy Callahan, Walter Johnson, and Smokey Joe Wood.


I wish I had my Pi still. Will make do.
Number of players who pitched at least 20 games and had over 100 plate appearances. (I probably should have used the percentage instead, especially for the earlier years)

1901-1911 373
1911-1921 270
1921-1931 202
1931-1941 149
1941-1951 121
1951-1961 93
1961-1971 160(expansion and 162 game season)
1971-1981 91
1981-1991 26
1991-2001 5
2001-2011 1


Number of players who have pitched at least 20 games and over 80 plate appearances(and less then 100)
1901-1911 220
1911-1921 250
1921-1931 281
1931-1941 260
1941-1951 214
1951-1961 221
1961-1971 284(expansion and 162 game season)
1971-1981 196
1981-1991 132
1991-2001 123
2001-2011 87

I would think that the second data pool would be your best bet to use. Eliminate the guys in the early going that had a ton of plate appearances for whatever reason. Not perfect, sample size gets pretty tiny in the modern era, but you still could start a study with this sample size. I still think it's too generous as I think that's still too much practice, but at least you would be comparing similar experienced players who "were not selected because of their bats" while reducing the impact(just love using that word on this website) of practice from the numbers.


Wouldn't the logical opinion be that hitters have gotten better, pitchers have gotten worse at hitting and better at pitching?


Yes.
   235. Foghorn Leghorn Posted: March 25, 2012 at 12:00 AM (#4088626)
Look, I know that I don't write much or whatever, but come the flip on. I did a TON of this work eight years ago (and a year before Nate's work) and I posted a shitload of data and graphs and the discussions were substantive. Why you guys cannot remember or link to them is beyond me.

Hell, I'm known for saying "we did this on USENET 10 years ago", but now we did it 10 (8) years ago *on this site*.

Read this, this, and this.

   236. cardsfanboy Posted: March 25, 2012 at 12:31 AM (#4088639)
Look, I know that I don't write much or whatever, but come the flip on. I did a TON of this work eight years ago (and a year before Nate's work) and I posted a shitload of data and graphs and the discussions were substantive. Why you guys cannot remember or link to them is beyond me.

Hell, I'm known for saying "we did this on USENET 10 years ago", but now we did it 10 (8) years ago *on this site*.

Read this, this, and this.


And your links flies in the face of Guy's pet theory. He's saying that Mantle is a 144 ops+ hitter in todays game, your work indicates that there is no significant difference between 1940 and now. Of course you both are somewhat attacking different issues. You started looking for the ability to dominate an environment, while Guy is looking for the raw quality of play. Guy is saying that if you took 1907 Honus Wagner and dropped him on the Yankees, that he probably produces a 93 ops+ or and doesn't wrestle the job away from Jeter. Not saying take Honus Wagners talent, but take the fully formed player as is and putting him on the roster. Contrary to my hostility to his argument, there is some validity to it, I don't agree with it for various reasons, and I'm really against the methodology, and of course it doesn't really give us much useful information, but the point has a couple of merits. (of course who knows how it works it you reverse it, would Ryan Braun and his utter lack of defense be able to find a job in 1907 since he would become a defensive liability at any position.--choose Braun due to skin color, not any other reason)
   237. McCoy Posted: March 25, 2012 at 12:42 AM (#4088644)
Well, the only one that had a lengthy conversation was the one in which I think you were wrong on.
   238. cardsfanboy Posted: March 25, 2012 at 12:56 AM (#4088651)
Well, the only one that had a lengthy conversation was the one in which I think you were wrong on.


Who is that directed at? And about what?

   239. McCoy Posted: March 25, 2012 at 01:07 AM (#4088655)
To Chris and about players being bigger, stronger, and faster.
   240. cardsfanboy Posted: March 25, 2012 at 01:15 AM (#4088657)
Forgot to edit my comment in 236 and Ryan Braun. The comment about his lack of defense would be because of the change in gloves. I'm not even sure peak Ozzie Smith, Vizquel or Brooks Robinson would be an average defender if you plopped them straight into 1907 baseball with no experience with the gloves or fields(assuming that Ozzie or Vizquel survive the race baiting).
   241. alilisd Posted: March 25, 2012 at 01:29 AM (#4088663)
But that's just it -- the extra 20 lbs. doesn't make them better athletes. It just makes them bigger athletes.


Actually, assuming it's added muscle through an appropriate training methodology, it does make them better athletes. Two athletes of similar skills but one has an extra 20 lbs. of muscle, the bigger one is going to be stronger and more powerful, faster and more explosive. IOW, a better athlete.
   242. McCoy Posted: March 25, 2012 at 01:34 AM (#4088666)
If I did this right here is a weighted by playing time OPS+ chart based on a pitcher getting 80 to 100 PA in a season and was a pitcher at least 70% of the time.

Years       Players  wOPS+
1901-1911    219     31
1911
-1921    243     29
1921
-1931    270     28
1931
-1941    250     19
1941
-1951    207     21
1951
-1961    216     17
1961
-1971    280     6
1971
-1981    195     11
1981
-1991    132     4
1991
-2001    123     10
2001
-2011    87      19 
   243. cardsfanboy Posted: March 25, 2012 at 01:36 AM (#4088668)
Actually, assuming it's added muscle through an appropriate training methodology, it does make them better athletes. Two athletes of similar skills but one has an extra 20 lbs. of muscle, the bigger one is going to be stronger and more powerful, faster and more explosive. IOW, a better athlete.


The country has an obesity epidemic, coincendently the rise of the large athlete has followed that trend. Maybe it's not about them being bigger because they are in better shape, maybe it's about them being bigger, because they, like the rest of the U.S. has gotten fatter.
   244. cardsfanboy Posted: March 25, 2012 at 01:41 AM (#4088671)
If I did this right here is a weight by playing time OPS+ chart based on a pitcher getting 80 to 100 PA in a season.


I'm not sure what to make of that chart. I figured the first drop would have been sometime after 1920 with the death of the dead ball era, you see that in the dip in the 1931 time frame(again the changing philosophy of the live ball era would have more than likely meant that those who can't, such as pitchers, would fall farther behind those who can) . But assuming this is correct, it basically says that ultimately nothing has changed from 1931-2011, with a 'golden' age I guess of the best athletes playing in the 60's-90's.



   245. Foghorn Leghorn Posted: March 25, 2012 at 05:07 AM (#4088692)
mccoy, i think the others got damaged in the migrations. search for like conversations.
   246. Ron J Posted: March 25, 2012 at 05:22 AM (#4088693)
Just dawned on me that there's a very simple sanity test of the hypothesis that pitcher's hitting carries signal as to league quality.

Does it correctly identify that the AL 1901 was a vastly weaker league than the 1900 NL (and that the 1900 NL was considerably stronger than the 1899 NL)?

How about the war years? Or expansion years? All sorts of league quality shocks that can be looked at.
   247. GuyM Posted: March 25, 2012 at 08:16 AM (#4088712)
Great thought, Ron. Let's look at the war years. Here is OPS+ for #9 hitters in those years (B-Ref doesn't include position played in their splits, but this should be a good proxy).

Year OPS+
1941 28
1942 32
1943 40
1944 36
1945 40
1946 31
1947 31

Exactly what we'd expect: a big increase in OPS+ in 1943-45, then back to the prior level. This would imply that the average talent level in the war years declined about 23%.
   248. AROM, Instagram Gangsta Posted: March 25, 2012 at 09:38 AM (#4088718)
Why you guys cannot remember or link to them is beyond me.

Hell, I'm known for saying "we did this on USENET 10 years ago", but now we did it 10 (8) years ago *on this site*.


Really? I have trouble enough remembering last week and you're surprised I can't remember 8 years ago? But thanks for the links. It's nice to have someone who can remember.
   249. GuyM Posted: March 25, 2012 at 09:48 AM (#4088721)
Chris: I'll give you credit for being consistent. Not only are the old players the best, but the old analysis is also the best!

On the issue of shrinking variance, you really need to use the coefficient of variation. See Dan Fox's piece for the results. You are right that the dramatic reduction in variance ends in the 30s, but it does continue to decline after that. You also need to account for intergration, which almost certainly increased variance for a time.
   250. McCoy Posted: March 25, 2012 at 10:50 AM (#4088744)
Here are the war years using retrosheet. Note that the league average of which OPS+ is based off of includes the pitchers' lines.

Years  OPSLgOBP   LgSLG    POBP    PSLG
1940   23   0.334   0.392   0.219   0.224
1941   21   0.334   0.375   0.214   0.212
1942   23   0.323   0.350   0.206   0.207
1943   31   0.323   0.344   0.221   0.215
1944   29   0.326   0.358   0.220   0.219
1945   32   0.329   0.355   0.224   0.228
1946   23   0.328   0.360   0.213   0.210
1947   22   0.336   0.377   0.215   0.218
1948   26   0.341   0.382   0.228   0.225 
   251. Mefisto Posted: March 25, 2012 at 10:54 AM (#4088746)
I disagreed with Chris at the time (my comments are under the name Mark Field) and still do, even though I'm the one who suggested using compressed variance as the test (he did all the work). The reason I decided it didn't work was that it fails to account for defense.

This is a HUGE issue. Linear weights-type measures drastically overstate the value of dead ball era hitters and the overstatement continues even in later eras. That's a radical statement so I'll try to explain.

What all linear weights-type measures do is add up the run values of the various offensive events (BB, S, D, T, etc.). The flaw in this is that offensive events are not the only way runs score. By definition, many runs score because of errors. If we say that a BB is worth .25 runs, what we mean is that it's worth .25 runs in the context of the number of errors made by the defense.

Errors were a huge factor in dead ball baseball. They accounted for roughly 30% of all runs. Today they account for about 7%. What this means is that a single in 1903 wasn't actually worth the value it has in today's game. It was worth much less. The only reason the values appear similar is that dead ball players committed so many errors that they scored enough runs to make up the difference.

In my view, we need to correct this problem as part of the timeline issue.
   252. GuyM Posted: March 25, 2012 at 11:35 AM (#4088767)
McCoy/250: How did you define pitchers?
   253. McCoy Posted: March 25, 2012 at 11:42 AM (#4088769)
Retrosheet splits by position.
   254. McCoy Posted: March 25, 2012 at 12:03 PM (#4088780)
Schoolboy Rowe had the highest single season OPS+ of anyone who had pitched in at least 5% of their games with a 148 OPS+ in 1943. Nobody else was even close including Jimmie Foxx.
   255. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 25, 2012 at 12:15 PM (#4088784)
Errors were a huge factor in dead ball baseball. They accounted for roughly 30% of all runs. Today they account for about 7%. What this means is that a single in 1903 wasn't actually worth the value it has in today's game. It was worth much less. The only reason the values appear similar is that dead ball players committed so many errors that they scored enough runs to make up the difference.


Don't understand this point. Given a huge number of errors, wouldn't getting a hit be worth more, not less. There are more likely to be error-based baserunners in front of you, and you're more likely to score via an error.
   256. McCoy Posted: March 25, 2012 at 12:38 PM (#4088789)
In looking at the war years what puzzles me is that if pitchers' OPS+ improved during the war that means positional players' OPS+ declined during the war years. Why would that happen? If pitching declined to the point that the worse pitchers could hit better in the league then why didn't the hitters hit better in those leagues as well?
   257. Mefisto Posted: March 25, 2012 at 12:45 PM (#4088791)
Don't understand this point. Given a huge number of errors, wouldn't getting a hit be worth more, not less. There are more likely to be error-based baserunners in front of you, and you're more likely to score via an error.


In today's game there are very few errors, therefore it takes more getting on base and/or more power to score a run. In the deadball era, it took less on base/less power to score because the defense was giving away runs. In order to make comparisons about offensive performance, we have to hold the defense constant. Because of all those deadball errors, we're giving more credit to singles back then than they'd have if we held errors to today's levels. In order to compare offense, we need to hold defense constant, but current measures don't do that.

   258. Blackadder Posted: March 25, 2012 at 12:52 PM (#4088792)
In looking at the war years what puzzles me is that if pitchers' OPS+ improved during the war that means positional players' OPS+ declined during the war years. Why would that happen? If pitching declined to the point that the worse pitchers could hit better in the league then why didn't the hitters hit better in those leagues as well?


Looking at pitcher hitting during the war is a way of testing the assumption that relative pitcher hitting serves as a reasonable proxy for league quality. We know that league quality went down over those years, so if relative pitcher hitting improved--as, indeed, it seems to have done, quite dramatically--this should count as evidence for the assumption.

One thing I would be curious to see: how well does the pitcher hitting approach track the (known, and as far as I know independently estimated) divergence in league quality from the late 1940's to the DH? If it provides estimates of that divergence in line with other methods, that would serve as a pretty strong data point in its favor.
   259. McCoy Posted: March 25, 2012 at 12:55 PM (#4088796)
BRef doesn't split out non-pitchers as a whole group. Instead Sean splits it out based on batting order groups. So I had to take those groups and weight their OPS+ based on PA to get a whole average.

Years   WOPS+
1940   107.2
1941   107.3
1942   106.9
1943   106.2
1944   106.4
1945   106.0
1946   106.6
1947   106.6
1948   106.6 

   260. McCoy Posted: March 25, 2012 at 01:02 PM (#4088800)
Looking at pitcher hitting during the war is a way of testing the assumption that relative pitcher hitting serves as a reasonable proxy for league quality. We know that league quality went down over those years, so if relative pitcher hitting improved--as, indeed, it seems to have done, quite dramatically--this should count as evidence for the assumption.

If league quality went down why would the pitchers as a group improve their hitting but not hitters? For this to be true one would have to assume that pitchers were of better quality during the war years than hitters. Why would that be true? Why would it be easier to find someone who can pitch than it is to find someone to hit? Secondly if it was easier to find pitchers that could pitch than hitters that could hit then why did pitchers' raw OPS increase as well despite playing with an inferior and deader ball? How were pitchers able to defy the environment but not positional hitters?

Major League pitchers facing themselves were able to do better than replacement pitchers facing themselves. If this is true shouldn't we also assume that replacement hitters would do better against replacement pitchers? If they can't even get themselves out how can we expect them to get out hitters? Yet this appears to be the case.
   261. Misirlou has S.C.M.O.D.S Posted: March 25, 2012 at 01:21 PM (#4088811)
If league quality went down why would the pitchers as a group improve their hitting but not hitters? For this to be true one would have to assume that pitchers were of better quality during the war years than hitters.


The assumption is that pitcher hitting is a constant, be it 1901 NL, 1915 FL, 1943 AL, 1960 PCL, or 2010 NL. The assumption thus is that if you put Bob Feller in uniform, his replacement is just as good (or bad) a hitter. Therefore, if the population of pitchers improve their hitting relative to the league, it must mean that the rest of the league has come down a notch.
   262. Drew (Primakov, Gungho Iguanas) Posted: March 25, 2012 at 01:48 PM (#4088832)
The DH killed the chances for pitchers to develop their hitting ability coming up through the minors.


Why not get rid of the DH in the minors?
   263. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 25, 2012 at 01:51 PM (#4088834)
Why not get rid of the DH in the minors?

Because it's much more useful to development for teams to get extra ABs for their position players than for pitchers.
   264. Drew (Primakov, Gungho Iguanas) Posted: March 25, 2012 at 02:04 PM (#4088846)
It wouldn't be, if teams took pitcher batting seriously.
   265. Harold can be a fun sponge Posted: March 25, 2012 at 02:18 PM (#4088853)
In looking at the war years what puzzles me is that if pitchers' OPS+ improved during the war that means positional players' OPS+ declined during the war years. Why would that happen? If pitching declined to the point that the worse pitchers could hit better in the league then why didn't the hitters hit better in those leagues as well?

Because OPS+ doesn't tell us whether hitters hit better or worse. It's a relative measure, and of course is going to be 100 for the league as a whole every year. The only thing it tells us is the differences between groups of players, like between pitchers and position players in this case. OPS+ tells us the gap grew smaller during the war years, but it doesn't tell us who got better or worse.

We have no reason to believe that the pitchers' hitting would improve, so this implies that the position-players hitting got worse. It's also likely that overall pitching was worse.
   266. GuyM Posted: March 25, 2012 at 02:55 PM (#4088887)
One thing I would be curious to see: how well does the pitcher hitting approach track the (known, and as far as I know independently estimated) divergence in league quality from the late 1940's to the DH?

Another great question. If we look at pitcher hitting in the AL vs the NL, you can see a clear gap that appears to close by the early 70s:
Pitcher-as-Hitter OPS+
AL / NL
1947-49: 17 / 30
1957-59: 10 / 22
1969-71: 8 / 9
Ideally, I think you would look only at white pitchers here. If black pitchers were somewhat better hitters, that would serve to understate the league gap somewhat. But probably not a big deal.

BTW, NL pitchers were still at the same level in the late 1970s (9 OPS+ for 1978-90), but then dropped to -4 in 1990-92.
   267. GuyM Posted: March 25, 2012 at 02:59 PM (#4088891)
McCoy 260: think of it as transporting a group of players to a lower level of competition. Say you took 40 MLB regulars and had them play at AAA this year. You would expect their OPS+ to rise considerably (compared to the prior year in MLB). The mean OPS+ in AAA will of course remain 100 (by definition), but the returning AAA players will see their numbers drop on average because they are now in a better league.

The overall OBP/SLG numbers in the war years don't change a lot because the pitchers, fielders, and hitters all got worse simultaneously.
   268. McCoy Posted: March 25, 2012 at 03:04 PM (#4088893)
We have no reason to believe that the pitchers' hitting would improve, so this implies that the position-players hitting got worse. It's also likely that overall pitching was worse.

Which is why I mentioned raw OPS. Pitchers' OPS rose while hitters' OPS declined. Somehow replacement pitchers could get replacement hitters out but they couldn't get themselves out as well as major leaguers did.

If pitcher hitting is a constant then if pitchers' OPS rises then that means that the pitching ability of pitchers has slumped and or the environment changed. We know the ball got worse so that doesn't help their OPS. I just don't see how pitchers' hitting can improve without the hitters line also improving and have that mean something that we can rely on.
   269. McCoy Posted: March 25, 2012 at 03:06 PM (#4088894)
The overall OBP/SLG numbers in the war years don't change a lot because the pitchers, fielders, and hitters all got worse simultaneously.

And again pitchers' OPS went up while hitters OPS went down. That shouldn't happen if pitchers' hitting ability was a constant and especially not in that environment.

Does a one legged pitcher really hit better against his fellow pitchers than some 25 year old pitcher in 1940?
   270. McCoy Posted: March 25, 2012 at 03:07 PM (#4088895)
How do minor leaguer pitchers fare against their fellow pitchers back then?
   271. Mefisto Posted: March 25, 2012 at 03:12 PM (#4088899)
I just don't see how pitchers' hitting can improve without the hitters line also improving and have that mean something that we can rely on.


It's impossible for us to see both of those things because LgOPS+ must equal 100. Because it's definitional, it's independent of league quality. The only things we can see are relative changes among groups, as is the case here.

I think it's likely that Guy's explanation is the right one for the war years. If pitcher hitting really is a constant, then poor pitchers would hit just as well as good ones. Taking out the presumed good pitchers via the military draft therefore wouldn't change the pool of pitchers-as-hitters. In contrast, taking out the good hitters would change the pool for the worse. The relative performance of pitchers would therefore increase.

There could be other explanations, but that seems like a very plausible one.
   272. alilisd Posted: March 25, 2012 at 03:17 PM (#4088902)
The country has an obesity epidemic, coincendently the rise of the large athlete has followed that trend. Maybe it's not about them being bigger because they are in better shape, maybe it's about them being bigger, because they, like the rest of the U.S. has gotten fatter.


Yeah, just look at the lard asses populating MLB these days.
   273. Foghorn Leghorn Posted: March 25, 2012 at 03:18 PM (#4088903)
Chris: I'll give you credit for being consistent. Not only are the old players the best, but the old analysis is also the best!
I didn't say either of those things. I was simply saying there is lots of work done that shows different things.

In this VERY THREAD, the following arguments addressed in those pieces were advanced: Pedro being small/the size of old-timers, the health status of foreign countries, working out vs working on farms etc, the actual differences in size from 1950 to today.

In addition, you were asked not for anecdotes but datasets, so I provided some.

Unlike most of the people doing research that you chat with, I try to learn from critique of my work and adapt the research to fit new processes and practices for looking at data. For instance, I cut the data differently based on feedback from readers in an effort to identify what was correct - not "old players were better, so I'll make sure the data says that".

Yes, I am crabby, but mostly my dander gets up about suggestions that I make the data go somewhere rather than I go where the data says. Even with a preconceived notion, if the data says something else, I present it, and will present it in the manner my debate opponent would like to see it.

The old research isn't the best, but it is data and not anecdote.
   274. McCoy Posted: March 25, 2012 at 03:19 PM (#4088905)
Secondly how do major league pitchers fare when they go back to the minor leagues? Do they hit as well as other minor league pitchers or do they do better or worse?
   275. McCoy Posted: March 25, 2012 at 03:20 PM (#4088908)
It's impossible for us to see both of those things because LgOPS+ must equal 100. Because it's definitional, it's independent of league quality. The only things we can see are relative changes among groups, as is the case here.

Again, raw OPS for pitchers went up while raw OPS went down for hitters.
   276. Foghorn Leghorn Posted: March 25, 2012 at 03:21 PM (#4088910)
In today's game there are very few errors, therefore it takes more getting on base and/or more power to score a run. In the deadball era, it took less on base/less power to score because the defense was giving away runs. In order to make comparisons about offensive performance, we have to hold the defense constant. Because of all those deadball errors, we're giving more credit to singles back then than they'd have if we held errors to today's levels. In order to compare offense, we need to hold defense constant, but current measures don't do that.
The problem is that the *scoring* of errors is what changed, not that fewer "errors" are made. I mean, there are from 1910, but since the invention of the A2000, error rates held steady until about the early 1980s, and then they dropped again. That also coincides with million dollar contracts and players' investment in stats (think Juan Gone looking for RBIs, which don't come off errors)
   277. Foghorn Leghorn Posted: March 25, 2012 at 03:26 PM (#4088915)
On the issue of shrinking variance, you really need to use the coefficient of variation. See Dan Fox's piece for the results. You are right that the dramatic reduction in variance ends in the 30s, but it does continue to decline after that. You also need to account for intergration, which almost certainly increased variance for a time.
My view, Guy, is that that improvement leveled off so that a timeline isn't linear. Dramatic improvement to the mid-thirties, unevenness until 1960, and very slow/little change since. Now, it's been a decade since I looked at it, but I would be surprised if the change is as linear as your suggest.
   278. Foghorn Leghorn Posted: March 25, 2012 at 03:31 PM (#4088918)
I know the gloves have made a big difference in what becomes a hit and not. I also know that better quality fields have made a difference. I am pretty sure the changes in parks have made it easier to get hits.



One thing I generally hear is that Camden Yards is a "pitchers? parks". That?s clearly nonsense. It can be called a "pitchers? park" compared to the other parks in the AL today, but it is a massive hitters? park compared to the park it replaced, Memorial Stadium. What does that also mean? That means the other AL parks have gotten significantly easier for hitters. Enough to drive OPACY from a 104 park factor (1993) to a 95 park factor (2003) (The Baseball Encyclopedia, 2004 ed. Palmer, Gillette, et al).
These are other factors that throw the timelining off, and don't receive attention.
   279. Mefisto Posted: March 25, 2012 at 03:43 PM (#4088924)
Again, raw OPS for pitchers went up while raw OPS went down for hitters.


Sorry, I misunderstood your point.

The problem is that the *scoring* of errors is what changed, not that fewer "errors" are made.


Doesn't matter for purposes of evaluating what linear weights-type formulas are telling us. One way or the other, we have to hold errors constant in order to make comparisons across eras.

   280. McCoy Posted: March 25, 2012 at 04:06 PM (#4088938)
Took a look at the 1940 Eastern League. It was a high level minor league with players that were basically the same age as the major leagues. Unfortunately they did not keep track of enough stats for us to do OBP so we are left with AVG and SLG. Pitchers in that league batted .193 and slugged .235. That year in the majors pitchers hit .181 and slugged .224. The top 99 batters in the EL hit .287/.412. Those 99 batters account for something like 80 to 90% of positional players' AB. For similar amount of league's PA it would be the top 136 players in the majors for that year. That group of players batted .282/.421
   281. Foghorn Leghorn Posted: March 25, 2012 at 04:25 PM (#4088947)
Doesn't matter for purposes of evaluating what linear weights-type formulas are telling us. One way or the other, we have to hold errors constant in order to make comparisons across eras.
Right for that, but there was an earlier discussion about BABIP.
   282. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: March 25, 2012 at 04:26 PM (#4088949)
I just don't see how pitchers' hitting can improve without the hitters line also improving and have that mean something that we can rely on.

It's impossible for us to see both of those things because LgOPS+ must equal 100.


I thought pitchers were excluded from the calculation of league OPS so that we were judging hitters against each other rather than against an artificially depressed average.
   283. AROM, Instagram Gangsta Posted: March 25, 2012 at 04:39 PM (#4088957)
The country has an obesity epidemic, coincendently the rise of the large athlete has followed that trend. Maybe it's not about them being bigger because they are in better shape, maybe it's about them being bigger, because they, like the rest of the U.S. has gotten fatter.


There is a connection here. More calories in general mean a fatter population, and that's not good for most of us. But for the elite athletes, a lot of these guys can eat absolute crap and still maintain low body fat percentages. At least while they are young, if they want to stay in the game past their early 30's they usually have to starting eating better. I remember hearing about Michael Jordan eating mostly McDonalds drive through food while he was winning slam dunk contests.

"Yeah, just look at the lard asses populating MLB these days."

Leave Prince Fielder alone.
   284. Misirlou has S.C.M.O.D.S Posted: March 25, 2012 at 04:39 PM (#4088959)
Again, raw OPS for pitchers went up while raw OPS went down for hitters.


Why would that be a problem? It might just indicate that the quality of hitters went down more than the quality of pitchers. Quality of pitching goes down, pitchers hit better. Quality of hitting goes down more than the pitching, hitters hit worse.
   285. McCoy Posted: March 25, 2012 at 04:42 PM (#4088962)
I don't think it was Michael Jordan or if it was it was very very early on in his career and didn't last for very long.
   286. McCoy Posted: March 25, 2012 at 04:47 PM (#4088963)

Why would that be a problem? It might just indicate that the quality of hitters went down more than the quality of pitchers. Quality of pitching goes down, pitchers hit better. Quality of hitting goes down more than the pitching, hitters hit worse.


So MLB uses a ball that was scientifically proven to be extremely dead and helps suppress batting lines for positional players and yet somehow pitchers hit better?

What is the actual evidence that pitchers were better than hitters during the war? Are there comparisons that have been done?
   287. Kiko Sakata Posted: March 25, 2012 at 04:48 PM (#4088964)
Again, raw OPS for pitchers went up while raw OPS went down for hitters.


Pitchers were worse pitchers in the war years. Hence, all other things being equal, you'd expect to see raw OPS's go up. That raw OPS went up for pitchers is entirely consistent with the idea that war-era pitchers were as good at hitting (in an absolute sense) as the better pitchers who went to war, which is Guy's hypothesis. Hitters (position players) were also worse hitters in the war years. The fact that raw OPS went down for hitters (position players) could mean, then, that the decline in hitting quality in the war years was greater than the decline in pitching quality. Or it could be a function of changes to other conditions (the "balata ball", I think they called it). (Or both, of course)
   288. AROM, Instagram Gangsta Posted: March 25, 2012 at 04:48 PM (#4088965)
Here's an experiment I tried to simulate the effect of expansion. Assume that the MLB talent pool is 10x greater today than it was 100 years ago. We also have twice as many teams, so each team is drawing from a talent pool 5x as large.

To see what effect this would have, pretend that MLB expanded from 30 to 150 teams. They can fill the extra roster spots with guys in the minor leagues, who we have projections for. Assuming all those guys get to play and the projections are accurate, here's what happens:

A superstar 150 OPS+ player becomes a 190
An average player (100) becomes a 130
A well below average (74 OPS+) player becomes league average 100.

That is assuming that players to fill the new spots come from the current minor leagues. This is not exactly what would happen. Players who retired instead of taking low contracts or minor league spots would stay in the game - think Jermaine Dye. But I thought it was worth looking into.
   289. Misirlou has S.C.M.O.D.S Posted: March 25, 2012 at 05:02 PM (#4088967)
So MLB uses a ball that was scientifically proven to be extremely dead and helps suppress batting lines for positional players and yet somehow pitchers hit better?


I never said anything about the balata ball. One would think it would affect everyone equally, but perhaps not. It could affect one type of hitter more than the rest, just like Omar Vizquel likely wouldn't get as much as a boost from Coors Field as Andres Galarraga did.

But getting back to the point:

Balata ball - all hitters get worse
Lesser pitching quality - all hitters get better
hitter quality drop is more than pitcher (pitching) quality - hitters get worse

I'm not saying that is what happened, but it is a logical explanation.
   290. GuyM Posted: March 25, 2012 at 05:03 PM (#4088968)
Chris: I'll give you credit for being consistent. Not only are the old players the best, but the old analysis is also the best!
I didn't say either of those things. I was simply saying there is lots of work done that shows different things.

I thought about adding a smiley face, but figured it wasn't necessary after all these years. But for the record, I was just teasing. I understand neither of those are your actual positions. I obviously think the rate of improvement has been faster since the 1960s than you do, but I certainly concede it's been slower than the increase from, say, 1900 to 1930. I've never claimed the change is linear, nor is that what Fox's data seem to show.

   291. McCoy Posted: March 25, 2012 at 05:10 PM (#4088971)
Tango did a study a number of years back and part of that study was looking at American born players vs foreign born players. What the numbers showed was that American and foreign born positional players are largely identical in their BABIP throughout history but foreign born pitchers have declined much more rapidly than American born pitchers based on BABIP. If hitting for pitchers is a constant how can this be?
   292. McCoy Posted: March 25, 2012 at 05:17 PM (#4088975)

Balata ball - all hitters get worse
Lesser pitching quality - all hitters get better
hitter quality drop is more than pitcher (pitching) quality - hitters get worse

I'm not saying that is what happened, but it is a logical explanation.


A weaker ball should also make the pitchers hit worse as well but that doesn't happen.
   293. smileyy Posted: March 25, 2012 at 05:29 PM (#4088978)
[285] I'm recalling Vince Carter eating fast food on game days.
   294. Foghorn Leghorn Posted: March 25, 2012 at 05:40 PM (#4088982)
I thought about adding a smiley face, but figured it wasn't necessary after all these years.
Yeh, my bad.
   295. Mefisto Posted: March 25, 2012 at 05:51 PM (#4088984)
Right for that, but there was an earlier discussion about BABIP.


Ah, ok.

I thought pitchers were excluded from the calculation of league OPS so that we were judging hitters against each other rather than against an artificially depressed average.


Someone else can correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure pitchers are included.
   296. GuyM Posted: March 25, 2012 at 05:57 PM (#4088987)
McCoy: I don't understand where you're getting hung up. The theory predicted that pitchers-as-hitters would see their relative performance improve when the overall talent level declines. And that is exactly what we found in the war years. Then the regulat talent comes back, and pitcher performance reverts to the old level. What result would satisfy you?
   297. Misirlou has S.C.M.O.D.S Posted: March 25, 2012 at 06:06 PM (#4088990)
A weaker ball should also make the pitchers hit worse as well but that doesn't happen.


Unless the effect of weaker pitching is stronger.

balata ball - decreases everyone's hitting by 5%
weaker pitching - increases everyone's hitting by 10%
worse hitters - decreases hitters hitting by 10%

net effect - Pitchers go up by 5%, hitters go down by 5%
   298. McCoy Posted: March 25, 2012 at 06:07 PM (#4088993)
And that is exactly what we found in the war years.

Which doesn't mean it happened for the reasons you think it did.

What result would satisfy you?



Let's look at minor league data. Let's compare that to the majors. Let's try and figure out why foreign born pitchers decline in ability faster than American born pitchers. Let's try and figure out the quality level of positional players in the wars vs the quality level of the pitchers. So on and so on.
   299. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: March 25, 2012 at 06:13 PM (#4088996)
[285] I'm recalling Vince Carter eating fast food on game days.

Kobe Bryant, a few years ago now, said something like, "I see these young guys pounding down the burgers and fries and pizza after a game, but I know I can't do that anymore and still go 48 minutes the next day."
   300. GuyM Posted: March 25, 2012 at 07:18 PM (#4089036)
Let's try and figure out why foreign born pitchers decline in ability faster than American born pitchers.

Why should we worry about a small difference in the rate of decline for foreign-born pitchers? How large can these samples be? Why would we want to look only at BABIP, especially when rising K rates change who is putting balls in play?

Let's try and figure out the quality level of positional players in the wars vs the quality level of the pitchers.

We just did that. But apparently, you didn't like the answer.

So on and so on

Ah, now I see the game....
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