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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Who Are the Top Baserunners in Baseball? | Articles | Bill James Online

What’s going on with Martin Prado?

Worst Baserunners through May 22, 2013
Player Net Gain
Justin Smoak -17
Martin Prado -15
Allen Craig -12
Nelson Cruz -12
Albert Pujols -10
Chris Carter -10

Jim Furtado Posted: May 25, 2013 at 10:26 AM | 38 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: sabermetrics

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   1. The District Attorney Posted: May 25, 2013 at 11:45 AM (#4451961)
What’s going on with Martin Prado?
This deal is getting worse all the time.

(Yeah, I know Gregorius is hitting.)

Speaking of both Billy (non-Dee) Williams and Bill James, James has been writing more articles lately, rather than just doing the mailbag (not that that's a bad thing). His most recent one compared Billy Williams to Carl Yastrzemski. I enjoyed this quote:
Isn’t it possible, people will ask. . .people always say this as if they were the first person ever to think of such a thing, and you’re not allowed to kick them in the balls anymore. . ..isn’t it possible that Yastrzemski’s defensive ratings are hurt by the fact that he played left field in Fenway Park
Anyway, he has Yaz as an awful fielder (a 53-93 defensive won-lost record), but Billy as one too (45-74). Ultimately, he ends up with Yaz at a won-lost record of 413-240 (.633), and Billy at 324-180 (.643).

The funny part about this is that Joe Sheehan was freaking out the other week about Yaz's 1967 being tied for the 3rd best season ever according to bWAR, arguing that his LF defense must be overestimated. Yaz has 1.7 dWAR in that season, which is actually not his career high -- at least according to Baseball-Reference, he was a fielding fiend 1966-68, but below-average otherwise. Fangraphs agrees that those were his best defensive years, but has him better than B-R does in his other years.

In other articles, James shoots down a comparison of Dom DiMaggio to Richie Ashburn, and finds evidence that umps do call larger strike zones on "getaway" days.
   2. Tom Nawrocki Posted: May 25, 2013 at 12:07 PM (#4451971)
Anyway, he has Yaz as an awful fielder (a 53-93 defensive won-lost record), but Billy as one too (45-74).


I don't think this is necessarily the case. Here's how James describes it:

In my method, every fielder competes with the value of every other fielder. The left fielder competes with the shortstop—just as he does at bat. The left fielder usually wins the competition with the bat, usually loses the competition as to fielding value. Most left fielders have defensive winning percentages well below .500.

... It is almost impossible for a player who is a first baseman, a left fielder and a DH to make a defensive contribution equal to that of a shortstop, a catcher or a center field. It’s not 100% impossible, if you’re Keith Hernandez or somebody, but as a rule. ..a first baseman, a center fielder or a left fielder is not asked to match the defensive contribution of the second baseman or the right fielder. That’s what defensive wins and losses measure: the defensive contribution of this player compared to that of an average player. For a DH, that’s always .000, and for a left fielder or first baseman, it’s normally in the .400 range.


In other words, he's rolling up the positional discount along with the raw defensive numbers. So both Williams and Yastrzemski are not far from average for left fielder/first basemen.
   3. The District Attorney Posted: May 25, 2013 at 12:13 PM (#4451973)
You're right; I misunderstood on my skim. Thanks.

I guess, then, that when James talks about his method possibly underrating Yaz's defense (which he does think is what's happening), he mostly means that it shows a guy with a bunch of Gold Gloves nonetheless having a worse defensive W-L% than Williams, who was not known as a fielder.
   4. GregD Posted: May 25, 2013 at 12:15 PM (#4451975)
I missed the Hey Bills the last few weeks. What's the argument going on about The Gift of the Magi? I can only see what looks like the tail end of it.

He has a hilariously Jamesian overreach in the comment on heavy bats. Not content with saying that the heavy bats could still work, he has to elevate it to a social theory that is contarianism ad absurdum:
But when everybody agrees on something, they're usually wrong.


Slavery is bad?

Penicillin is good?

We actually landed on the moon?

The earth is not flat?

Thunder is not caused by Satan whipping his children?



It's such a reflex for him to take an interesting observation--sometimes consensus is wrong and prevents analysis of its own errors--and to make it a universal rule that is not only wrong but dumb.
   5. BDC Posted: May 25, 2013 at 12:15 PM (#4451976)
Most left fielders have defensive winning percentages well below .500

Which is OK as an abstraction to allow comparisons across positions, but not intended to have a very intuitive meaning as a statement about a player's value. Somebody has to play left field, and every team can't be giving away games in the standings simply because they have a left fielder.
   6. bobm Posted: May 25, 2013 at 12:21 PM (#4451978)
James on Ike Davis:

As a Mets fan since the Polo Grounds I try to be patient, and I am sure a lot of young players didn't get a fair shot, but looking at Ike Davis I wonder: has there been a study that suggests when patience runs out and the record can be believed?
Asked by: russelfe
Answered: 5/19/2013
1500 plate appearances usually does it for me.
   7. The District Attorney Posted: May 25, 2013 at 12:26 PM (#4451980)
Greg, that quote struck me as well.

The Gift of the Magi thing is interesting. In his "true crime" writer guise, James discusses murders committed in Salisbury, North Carolina in 1906. Then he points this out:
William Sydney Porter, better known as O. Henry, was a native of Greensboro, 50 miles from Salisbury.   In 1906 he published his most famous story, The Gift of the Magi.   The falsely accused woman in this story was named Della (Young) Dillingham.    The name of the young woman in The Gift of the Magi, the young woman who sells her hair to buy a gift for her husband—you all know that story?—is Della Dillingham Young.   

The Gift of the Magi, however, was originally published on April 10, 1906—three months before the murders of the Lyerly family.    This means that either:

a)  Porter knew Della Dillingham somehow unconnected to this famous crime (which is certainly possible, since they were from the same area),

b)  The use of her name or the elements of her name is just a weird coincidence, or

c)  The commonly cited publication date for The Gift of the Magi is incorrect.
Reader "iramatetsky" then establishes that the story was in fact originally published in a newspaper in December 1905 (the April 1906 date was when it was published in a book), leaving us with one of the other two theories.
   8. The District Attorney Posted: May 25, 2013 at 12:29 PM (#4451982)
1500 plate appearances usually does it for me.
Wow, Ike needs to have one hell of a plate appearance the next time he comes up.
   9. GregD Posted: May 25, 2013 at 12:42 PM (#4451986)
Thanks, District Attorney!
   10. GregD Posted: May 25, 2013 at 12:57 PM (#4451990)
On a) 50 miles was a long way in those days so often the only people with close connections in towns that far apart were 1) those with extended family, 2) lawyers who rode circuit, and 3) preachers who belonged to circuit organizations. But Salisbury and Greensboro had been connected since the 1850s by the North Carolina Railroad , by far the best-run railroad in the state, so there was likely more interaction between those towns than comparable ones elsewhere in the state. Since Porter had been gone from Greensboro so long by 1906 (more than 20 years since he lived there), and since it is a woman's married name that is at play, presumably he would have known of her solely through a cousin or something back in North Carolina.
   11. Brian White Posted: May 25, 2013 at 01:05 PM (#4451993)
This deal is getting worse all the time.

(Yeah, I know Gregorius is hitting.)


Gregorius was the main haul of the Trevor Bauer trade. The Atlanta deal was Prado, Randall Delgado and a few other sorta prospects for Justin Upton and Chris Johnson.

Chris Johnson is hitting really well as a part-time 1B and the short side of a 3B platoon. Justin Upton is second in the majors in home runs. On the Diamondbacks side, Prado isn't hitting and is also apparently screwing up on the basepaths, and Randall Delgado has a 7.43 ERA (in Reno, but still).

That trade really isn't working out for Arizona so far.
   12. bobm Posted: May 25, 2013 at 01:06 PM (#4451994)
Porter knew Della Dillingham somehow unconnected to this famous crime (which is certainly possible, since they were from the same area)

Porter was born in 1862 and moved to Texas at the age of 20, then New Orleans, Honduras, an Ohio penitentiary, Pittsburgh and New York. The Dillinghams from the crime were apparently black sharecroppers and Porter was white. What are the odds, given these facts and the time and place in question, that Porter and the Dillinghams were acquainted?

ETA: In Troubled Ground: A Tale of Murder, Lynching, and Reckoning in the New South by Claude Andrew Clegg, the author writes on page 101, "[T]he relationship between Dillinghams and Lyerlys is hazy at best, blurred further by an accelerated murder investigation that promptly produced competing stories. Jack and Della Dillingham had moved to Rowan County from Rocky Mountain, Virginia. Jack had very recently started working for Isaac Lyerly, but apparently was not completely satisfied with the arrangement."
   13. The District Attorney Posted: May 25, 2013 at 01:16 PM (#4451996)
Gregorius was the main haul of the Trevor Bauer trade.
Oh. Whoops. Yeah, that's a worse deal than trading your gold watch for combs!
   14. KT's Pot Arb Posted: May 25, 2013 at 01:40 PM (#4452005)
The Gregorius trade has worked out well for Towers so far, Didi is hitting the snot out of the ball and BBref loves his defense, while Bauers peripherals stink both in AAA and the MLB this year despite his dancing through raindrops in 3 MLB starts.

But reversion to the mean says at seasons end when Didis OBP is near .300, his SLG under .400, and Bauer is a serviceable starter for the Tribe, conclusions will change.
   15. GregD Posted: May 25, 2013 at 01:46 PM (#4452008)
Very interesting, bobm
   16. gehrig97 Posted: May 25, 2013 at 01:47 PM (#4452009)
Gosh, the decline in all phases of Albert's game is pretty scary... for years he was considered one the game's smartest, most accomplished base runners -- and a plus defender at his position. He's now basically avg or below avg in all facets of the game (ok, at 110 OPS+ he's a touch above league as a hitter... but man). Obviously, his foot issues are contributing to everything -- here's hoping we see more than a dead-cat bounce from Albert one of these days.
   17. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: May 25, 2013 at 01:47 PM (#4452010)
"Everything everyone accepts as true is wrong" was Bill James' shtick right from the very beginning. Maybe he carries it too far declaring it a universal rule like that, but I'm glad some intelligent people are in the world that are willing to at least ask "are we sure this is right? Can we prove it?" about things that 99% of people accept on the same level as "the sun rises in the east". Which for example included things like "walks are unimportant non-events" and "Wins are how you measure pitcher value" in 1975.
   18. GregD Posted: May 25, 2013 at 02:27 PM (#4452038)
Zeth, I agree that questioning is right, but of course thinking "everything" is "wrong" isn't an attitude conducive to open-ended questioning. You seem to be arguing for, "it is wise to feel some uncertainty about even things that most people feel certain about." And that is an extremely useful attitude. But thinking everything everyone else believes is wrong is both not useful and much worse than simply blindly following the herd.
   19. Sunday silence Posted: May 25, 2013 at 02:33 PM (#4452045)
"we really cant measure defense as well as offense."
   20. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: May 25, 2013 at 02:35 PM (#4452046)
Gosh, the decline in all phases of Albert's game is pretty scary... for years he was considered one the game's smartest, most accomplished base runners -- and a plus defender at his position.


I had the same thought. He was never a burner, but for years he picked his spots well, almost never got thrown out doing something stupid, and even stole a few bases at an excellent rate. His legs but be totally shot.
   21. Graham & the 15-win "ARod Vortex of suck" Posted: May 25, 2013 at 03:01 PM (#4452057)
I think James was exaggerating some with that quote. I don't think he honestly believes that everything everyone believes is wrong.
   22. GregD Posted: May 25, 2013 at 03:48 PM (#4452072)
I'm sure you're right, Graham. No one could function if one believed that. Everyone thinks this plane will fly? How can I climb aboard? Everyone thinks my car won't spontaneously combust?

It's still an idiotic thing to say.
   23. Morty Causa Posted: May 25, 2013 at 05:15 PM (#4452151)
When or where did Bill James say that? I seem to remember him in the early year stating often that he didn't think statistics were the last word, and that the opinions and impressions of writers and scouts and managers and coaches should not be discounted unless there was actual objective evidence contradicting them. In the HBA, he relies, and admits he relies, on the observations and impressions and assessments of people actually were witnesses to the game. I think it was that he saw that many opinions were unthinking opinions, and that these opinions, this conventional wisdom, didn't seem in accord with other evidence.
   24. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: May 25, 2013 at 05:32 PM (#4452158)
I had the same thought. He was never a burner, but for years he picked his spots well, almost never got thrown out doing something stupid, and even stole a few bases at an excellent rate.

Also, he was occasionally known to give his team the lead in the ninth inning by scoring from second on infield groundouts.

Seriously.
   25. The District Attorney Posted: May 25, 2013 at 08:32 PM (#4452243)
As Greg mentioned, the quote was in Bill's recent mailbag, discussing the possibility of batters using heavier bats.
[Question (in part):] The modern view seems to be that the extra weight just slows bat speed. And of course the 35 or 36 ounce bat of old seems to have completely disappeared.

[Answer (in part):] If a strategy is not in use, it is impossible to be confident whether or not it is still viable. My intuition is that it IS still viable; that you still COULD use a heavy bat successfully. Pitchers DO throw harder now, and a batter now has many, many more plate appearances facing a 95-MPH heater. This would cause some problems for a heavy bat.

But when everybody agrees on something, they're usually wrong.
I'll take both sides here and agree both that a) what Bill means is "always double-check received wisdom that people have come to take for granted", and that b) phrasing it the way he did turns his good point into a bad point, with no apparent gain to make up for it.

It does seem likely that O. Henry just happened to name a character "Della Dillingham Young" a few months before someone from near his hometown named Della Young Dillingham was involved in a murder case. But holy crap, is that one hell of a coincidence. At least given a complex and unusual name like Della Dillingham Young, anyway. (I suppose it's at least appropriate that if such a one-in-a-bazillion event should come about, it should involve the master of irony.)
   26. Steve Treder Posted: May 25, 2013 at 08:36 PM (#4452245)
if such a one-in-a-bazillion event should come about, it should involve the master of irony

Indeed.
   27. GregD Posted: May 25, 2013 at 08:52 PM (#4452255)
Wait a minute I didn't know that the story also involves Alanis Morisette too?
   28. bobm Posted: May 25, 2013 at 09:40 PM (#4452270)
[25] "Della" was a lot more popular in the past, and so less unusual than it now seems to be.

From http://www.ssa.gov/cgi-bin/babyname.cgi

Popularity of the female name Della (by year of birth)
 YoB Rank
1977  832
[...]
1906  112
1905  109
[...]
1880   66


"Note: Rank 1 is the most popular, rank 2 is the next most popular, and so forth. Data are not shown for some of the years you specified because the name Della was not in the top 1000 names for those years or because the number of years specified was too large. Name data are from Social Security card applications for births that occurred in the United States."
   29. Rob_Wood Posted: May 26, 2013 at 05:38 AM (#4452327)

I think we may have uncovered the subject of countless future college term papers.
   30. GGC don't think it can get longer than a novella Posted: May 26, 2013 at 09:52 AM (#4452355)
TDA, James does player W-L records again like he did 30 years ago in his annuals? Do you have to subscribe to get them?
   31. GGC don't think it can get longer than a novella Posted: May 26, 2013 at 09:58 AM (#4452357)
Googling Joe Sheehen Yastrzemski didn't turn up whjat TDA mentioned, but it did uncover this not so prescient article.
   32. Long Time Listener, First Time Caller Posted: May 26, 2013 at 11:03 AM (#4452376)
I think James was exaggerating some with that quote. I don't think he honestly believes that everything everyone believes is wrong.


Your point seems pretty defensible given that James used the word "usually" which certainly doesn't denotatively mean "all the time" as it seems to have been glossed in this thread.

"The weather in June is usually warm"

"But what about slavery!"
   33. The District Attorney Posted: May 26, 2013 at 12:25 PM (#4452413)
bob: Makes sense. The odds of matching three names (one of which is "Dillingham") have still gotta be pretty astronomical ;-)

Sheehan's thing about 1967 Yaz was from a podcast a couple weeks ago. That article is pretty funny, though. (I'm not gonna get on him too badly... his points made sense... but the odds were nonetheless defied.)

I think these player W-L records represent a very long-term project to improve Win Shares, as James has realized (correctly) that Win Shares by themselves are giving too much credit for simply breathing. It seems like he is dipping his toes in the water by occasionally writing about specific players and how the method ranks them. I wouldn't expect anything comprehensive or searchable until he writes a book about the new method.
   34. GregD Posted: May 26, 2013 at 01:05 PM (#4452423)
Your point seems pretty defensible given that James used the word "usually" which certainly doesn't denotatively mean "all the time" as it seems to have been glossed in this thread.
There's this amazing word I'd like for you and James to meet. It's called "occasionally."
   35. GGC don't think it can get longer than a novella Posted: May 26, 2013 at 02:30 PM (#4452455)
Thanks, TDA. I wouldn't go to hard on Sheehan for that article myself. He was right in that it is tougher to get the Triple Crown in modern baseball. Bill James wrote about that himself in one of his post-Abstract Baseball Books.

Too, I think I did hear that about the W-L system. People think James is past his prime, but I enjoyed Popular Crime and would buy a print copy of another baseball book of his; provided it isn't a Gold Mine. Those were disappointing to me.
   36. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: May 26, 2013 at 02:53 PM (#4452473)
What is the unit of measurement in those baserunner numbers? It can't be runs.
   37. Long Time Listener, First Time Caller Posted: May 26, 2013 at 08:46 PM (#4452745)
#34: I'm not sure what I have to do with this. Did James use a hyperbolic word? Almost certainly. That still doesn't make usually a synonym for always.
   38. Ron J2 Posted: May 27, 2013 at 02:18 PM (#4453041)
#36 It's measured in bases.

And James has been talking about loss shares for a long time. I think Win Shares Above Base handles the matter adequately with a minimum of fuss, but ... well James and "not invented here" isn't exactly a new topic of discussion.

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