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Sunday, July 23, 2006

Tommy Davis

Eligible in 1982.

John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: July 23, 2006 at 10:49 PM | 29 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: July 23, 2006 at 10:55 PM (#2108900)
I always assumed he was the better Davis from the Dodgers as a kid, but I was wrong.
   2. DavidFoss Posted: July 24, 2006 at 01:04 AM (#2109053)
Tommy's 1962 & 1963 are better than anything Willie ever did, but its a steep dropoff from there. Willie had a nice long career.
   3. OCF Posted: July 24, 2006 at 02:18 AM (#2109108)
Here's a piece I wrote to amuse a few friends several years ago. I'll edit it down some, but it's still long.

Tommy Davis had 153 RBI in 1962. No one else had this many RBI in any year between 1949 and 1998, so it is a completely mind-boggling number. But how, really, does it compare to other seasons with a similar number of RBI’s? In the 20th century (meaning, in practice, since 1920) there have been 53 seasons of 145 or more RBI. That leaves 35 seasons of 145-159 RBI. Of these 35, 21 were in the years 1922 -1953, 13 were in the years 1970-1999, and Davis was the one in between. The man with 145 RBI in 1953 was Al Rosen, which I never would have guessed. The man with 148 RBI in 1970 was Johnny Bench.

Now, let me compare three "seasons": Tommy Davis's, 1962 season, the average of the 21 seasons of 145-160 before Davis, and the average of the 13 seasons of 145-160 after Davis.

.                  G   AB  H   2B 3B HR BB R   RBI Avg  OBP  Slg
Tommy Davis
1962  163 665 230 27  9 27 33 120 153 .346 .379 .535
1922-1953 152 579 200 36  8 41 91 135 152 .346 .435 .647
1970-1999 157 597 182 33  2 52 81 117 149 .305 .390 .630 

In addition, Davis was 18-6 as a basestealer, compared to 7-5 for the early ones and 8-3 for the late ones.

So Davis's year was not at all typical of years with about that many RBI. It's more games and more at bats than typical, it's only a little over half the home runs, it's barely a third of the walks. If you sort the list of 35 seasons by a number of attributes, Davis’s season is almost always extreme - it sorts to the bottom or the top. To be specific:
Games: No one else played as many as 163 games. The next 4 were 161, 159, 159, 157.
At Bats: Davis's 665 is second to the 670 of Al Simmons, 1932, followed by 652 for Don Mattingly, 1985 and 643 for Sosa, 1998.
Hits: Davis's 230 is third behind 250 for Rogers Hornsby, 1922, and 237 for Joe Medwick, 1937. Hornsby also had 229 in 1929.
Singles: Davis had 167, which is by far the most. The second highest was 148 for Hornsby, 1922, and the third highest was 144 for Simmons, 1932. The average number of singles was 115 for 1922-53 and 94 for 1970-99.
Doubles and Triples: Davis’s totals are not extreme, but the doubles are low.
Home Runs: Davis's 27 is easily the fewest. Next are Medwick and Ted Williams, 1939, at 31. (This was Williams as a 20-year-old rookie.)
Walks: Davis’s 33 is the second fewest, behind Simmons, 1929, with 31. Andres Galarraga, 1996 had 40, Medwick had 41, and Juan Gonzalez, 1998 had 46.
Batting Average: Davis's .346 matches the average of the 1922-1953 group but is higher than any of the 1970-1999 group. The highest of the latter group are Mattingly, 1985, and Rafael Palmiero, 1999, with .324.
On-Base Percentage: Davis’s .379 is below average in this group, but Bench, Galarraga, one of the Griffey years, one of the Simmons years, Ramirez, and Sosa are all lower.
Slugging Percentage: Davis’s .535 is the lowest. The next three are Stephens .539, Simmons, 1932, .548, and Mattingly .567. This is the one I'll focus on below.

Any individual's potential for driving in runs is most simply evaluated by giving that player’s slugging percentage. We controlled for RBI total in this study, giving everyone about 150. As a result, we got many slugging percentages in the mid-.600's. To be specific, of our 35 seasons, we had 19 slugging percentages between .610 and .690, with 9 below .610 and 7 above .690 (7 seasons but only 4 players: Gehrig, Hornsby, McGwire twice, and Ruth three times). This isn't symmetric. If we found a bunch of players with slugging percentages in the mid-.600’s, the average RBI would be well below 150 - probably in the 130's. There are three other things that a player could be or do to enhance his RBI totals. The first is to be durable and to play as many games as possible (which is certainly true of Davis’s 1962 year). The second, which is actually a negative attribute, is to be an impatient hitter who draws few walks. Davis was certainly that, and I’ll expand on it in a moment. The third is to be a "clutch hitter," that is, to hit better with runners on base than with the bases empty. Davis must have been that in 1962. Is it a real skill? See a thousand other arguments.
What about this business of about nonselective, low-walk hitters getting more RBI's but it's a negative trait? It’s certainly a real phenomenon. For the decade of the 1990's, per 162 games played, Juan Gonzalez had the highest RBI rate at 141. Barry Bonds, Frank Thomas, and Jeff Bagwell had "only" 122, 123, and 118. [excised digression about 1987, Jack Clark, and Andre Dawson.]

There are only a few things that a player can do himself to drive in runs, with the most important measured by slugging percentage, but the context around him can also make a big difference. I often talk about ballpark context, but that’s irrelevant to the issue I’m pursuing here. Andres Galarraga's 1996 season, played in a joke ballpark, is an inferior accomplishment compared to the others I'm studying, but he did hit 47 home runs and slug .601, which make his 150 RBI’s plausible. For the raw stats, the RBI totals depend in their own way on context. One aspect is general team context. A team like the 1930 Cubs or 1932 A's or 1999 Indians on which everyone hits scores so many runs that the innings keep turning over and everyone in the lineup gets more plate appearances and more chances with runners on base. You need a team like that to have a year like Hack Wilson's 1930 or Manny Ramirez's 1999. But specific lineup position matters, especially the one or two players in front of the batter in question. Popular myth always looks at the player behind, the "protection", which is just nonsense, while ignoring the real issues in front. It is very bad for RBI's to bat immediately behind a low-OBP home run hitter, but it is quite good to bat behind a Ted Williams - Babe Ruth type with an extremely high OBP. It can be even better to bat just behind a player with a high OBP who never hits home runs. For a singles hitter to have a high number of RBI's - and face it, in this context, Tommy Davis is a singles hitter - you need for the batters ahead to not just be on base but to already be in scoring position. For the singles hitter, it helps greatly to bat behind an extreme base stealer, but preferrably not immediately behind because being the batter during a stolen base attempt is usually ruinous for the batter’s own averages.
What was the overall team context for Davis, the 1962 Dodgers? Dodger Stadium was brand-new and had just opened. I suspect a number of adjustments were made on the stadium during its first year. Quite possibly, it didn't start out as anything like the extreme pitchers park it would become. During the 165 game season (which included a losing three-game playoff with the Giants), the Dodgers scored 842 runs (second in the league). Everyone on the team seemed to be having a good year at the same time. From 1962 to 1963, the league batting average dropped from .261 to .245 and the league ERA dropped from 3.94 to 3.29. The Dodgers offense fell off a cliff, all the way to 6th place at 640 runs scored, while the team ERA fell from a 3rd place 3.52 to a league’s best 2.85. Not coincidentally, Sandy Koufax began the 4-year run on which his legend is based. I’ll get to the batting order context next.
Of the 35 seasons I profiled, Davis had the lowest slugging percentage. Let me show you the next three, two of which count as the two most similar seasons to Davis’s.

.                   G   AB  H   2B 3B HR BB  R   RBI Avg  OBP  Slg
Tommy Davis
1962   163 665 230 27  9 27  33 120 153 .346 .379 .535
Vern Stephens
1949 155 610 177 31  2 39 101 113 159 .290 .391 .539
Al Simmons
1932    154 670 216 28  9 35  47 144 151 .322 .368 .548
Don Mattingly
1985 159 652 211 48  3 35  56 107 145 .324 .379 .567 

Davis batted either 3rd or 4th in the order. The leadoff hitter, Maury Wills, had an extreme stolen base year of 104-13. His OBP of .349 wasn’t great but it was good enough in context. Wills scored 130 runs. The #2 hitter was Junior Gilliam. On the one hand Gilliam shielded Davis from having to bat during stolen base attempts, but also Gilliam himself had an excellent OBP of .372 while hitting fewer than 5 home runs.

Stephens was in an excellent team context - a Red Sox team that scored a large number of runs playing in Fenway Park - and he must have been batting directly behind Ted Williams. Williams drew 162 walks (tied with McGwire for the second highest of all time) and had an on base percentage of .490. Stephens had one very important difference from Davis, namely that he drew many walks.

Simmons's A's scored 981 runs in 154 games, second only to the Ruth-Gehrig Yankees and 140 runs more than any other team in the majors. The three highest on base percentages in the league were all Philadephia players - Cochrane .459, Foxx .449, and Bishop .446. Simmons must have been batting behind one or two of them.

Mattingly batted 3rd for the Yankees. The leadoff hitter was Rickey Henderson. Rickey played only 143 games but scored 146 runs. Rickey was the greatest leadoff hitter of all time and this might have been his best year. I don’t know who the Yankees had batting in the #2 "Junior Gilliam" position, but if it was Willie Randolph, then Randolph had a .385 on base percentage and no power at all. Mattingly got voted the MVP and that was terrible choice. The best Yankee candidate for the award was surely Henderson, but the award itself probably should have gone to George Brett.

[I finished with evidence that the 1962 NL All-Star outfield should have been the "usual suspect": Robinson, Mays, and Aaron.]
   4. DavidFoss Posted: July 24, 2006 at 02:36 AM (#2109120)
Tommy had 213 AB with RISP and hit .376/.410/.540
Bench had 179 AB with RISP and hit .318/.390/.682
Mattingly had 175 AB with RISP and hit .314/.384/.463
   5. OCF Posted: July 24, 2006 at 05:10 AM (#2109202)
I wrote that in 2000. Since then, we've had another candidate for a 150-RBI year that closely resembles the Tommy Davis model: Miguel Tejada, 2004. 162 games played. Just 34 HR and 48 BB. .311/.360/.534.
   6. Cblau Posted: July 24, 2006 at 08:58 PM (#2110061)
Randolph hit second only 27 times in 1985. That surprises me, but then that's why I try not to rely on my memory. Ken Griffey, Sr. batted second 62 games. Mattingly actually hit second 58 times. Slugged .674 in those games. (All data courtesy of Retrosheet.)
   7. OCF Posted: July 24, 2006 at 09:24 PM (#2110111)
Thanks, Cblau. Obviously, anything I wrote in 2000 didn't have the benefit of Retrosheet - perhaps several of these years could be reexamined.
   8. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: July 25, 2006 at 08:55 PM (#2111779)
I always assumed he was the better Davis from the Dodgers as a kid, but I was wrong.

in my callow ute, I always thought there were 2 NL players who were vastly underrated

one was Vada Pinson, the other was this Davis

(I was wrong, though)

but Tommy had a couple killer years in there--he also comes off as a good guy in Bouton's book
   9. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: July 26, 2006 at 07:55 AM (#2112749)
I want to say that while Mattingly probably wasn't the best player in the AL that seasons or even on his own team, he did have an MVP level season, so 'awful' choice is a littel strong. This isn't Juan Gone or Dawson territory here.
   10. sunnyday2 Posted: July 26, 2006 at 11:22 AM (#2112769)
But clearly Ricky shoulda been the MVP that year. Still Donny Ballgame had a pretty good year.
   11. yest Posted: July 26, 2006 at 02:35 PM (#2112898)
But clearly Ricky shoulda been the MVP that year. Still Donny Ballgame had a pretty good year.
I would've gave it to Boggs
   12. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: July 26, 2006 at 05:30 PM (#2113182)
I would've gave it to Boggs

I would have given it to either Rickey or Brett, but Wade's season was as good as Mattingly's, IMO.
   13. Dizzypaco Posted: July 26, 2006 at 05:35 PM (#2113193)
Don Mattingly won the MVP because of one number alone - RBI's. And the reason he had so many RBI's was that he batted behind Rickey Henderson. George Brett drove in more runs per opportunity than Mattingly did, but that was beyond voters comprehension in 1985.

The word "terrible" is pretty close to being accurate. Brett and Henderson were clearly the best players in the league that year. I don't think Boggs has much of a case.
   14. yest Posted: July 26, 2006 at 07:31 PM (#2113480)
led in
I'm more of an inside game person
-------Boggs-------next best
t on b-340---------290
finished top 10
   15. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: July 27, 2006 at 06:13 AM (#2114342)
Maybe we have different definitions of terrible. To me giving it to one of the three or four best players in the league isn't 'terrible', espeically if that player had a season worthy of an MVP in other seasons, a la Mattingly in 1985. He didnt' deserve in that he wasn't the best player, that was Henderson to me, but would it have been 'terrible' if Boggs had won? I am pretty sure Mattingly had something like 32 or 33 WS that year, that is a worthy season.

To me 'terrible' is Marion, Dawson, and Juan Gone, definite non-MVP type seasons. You could make a case when someone misses out and has an historic seasons like when Williams lost out to Gordon to Clark missed out in 1989 (if you believe WS, that was an historic season) then the decision was 'terrible'.
   16. DCW3 Posted: July 27, 2006 at 06:24 AM (#2114351)
For what it's worth, here are the WAA leaders (RCAP and RSAA converted to wins above average) for the 1985 AL:

name        rsaa  rcap  waa  

Brett        0.0  67.6  [b]6.48[
Henderson    0.0  61.4  [b]5.91[
Stieb       50.6   0.0  [b]5.25[
Boggs        0.0  52.7  [b]5.10[
Leibrandt   38.6   0.0  [b]3.97[
Mattingly    0.0  39.1  [b]3.82[
Ripken       0.0  37.8  [b]3.70[
Blyleven    34.7   0.0  [b]3.57[
Saberhagen  33.5   0.0  [b]3.44[
Gibson       0.0  34.1  [b]3.34[
   17. DCW3 Posted: July 27, 2006 at 06:26 AM (#2114353)
Bah, those bold tags didn't work. One more time:

name        rsaa  rcap  waa  

Brett        0.0  67.6  
Henderson    0.0  61.4  <B>5.91</B>
Stieb       50.6   0.0  <B>5.25</B>
Boggs        0.0  52.7  <B>5.10</B>
Leibrandt   38.6   0.0  <B>3.97</B>
Mattingly    0.0  39.1  <B>3.82</B>
Ripken       0.0  37.8  <B>3.70</B>
Blyleven    34.7   0.0  <B>3.57</B>
Saberhagen  33.5   0.0  <B>3.44</B>
Gibson       0.0  34.1  <B>3.34</B
   18. DCW3 Posted: July 27, 2006 at 06:27 AM (#2114354)
Oh, screw it. You can still read it.
   19. sunnyday2 Posted: July 27, 2006 at 12:26 PM (#2114425)
>Maybe we have different definitions of terrible. To me giving it to one of the three or four best players in the league isn't 'terrible', espeically if that player had a season worthy of an MVP in other seasons,

I would agree with that, given the history of MVP voting. In '85 nobody among Ricky, Donny, Wade and Brett woulda been a "terrible" choice.

Speaking of MVPs, whatever happened to DanG's idea of doing MVP votes after the HoM is caught up to the present? That will be great great fun.
   20. sunnyday2 Posted: July 27, 2006 at 12:28 PM (#2114426)
And since we're into the mid-'80s, how about 1984? DCW3, I'd be curious to see the numbers for '84, and to know who people thought the AL MVP in '84 shoulda been? Did Guillermo have a case? I always thought Jack Morris was the Tiggers best player but that nobody on that team really stood out. Kinda like the Tigers of '06.
   21. yest Posted: July 27, 2006 at 12:47 PM (#2114439)
And since we're into the mid-'80s, how about 1984?
since we're on that year that choice was terrible
   22. DavidFoss Posted: July 27, 2006 at 03:06 PM (#2114544)
I'd be curious to see the numbers for '84, and to know who people thought the AL MVP in '84 shoulda been? Did Guillermo have a case?

Guillermo pitched 140 IP which is a lot compared to closers of today. I don't usually use WS for pitchers, but its all I got this morning. :-) With 24, he's second behind Steib (25) and ahead of Quiz, Boddicker & Alexander. Certainly he has a decent case for the CYA depending on what starter/reliever balance you prefer.

For MVP, Win Shares really likes Ripken 37 with Murray in second with 33. There is a gap between them and the ganag of runners-up at 28-29 WS (DwEvans/Mattingly/Trammell/Boggs/RHenderson). Using Win Shares -- If you had to pick a Tiger I guess it would be Trammell. If you simply like the best player, it out be Ripken.

Other metrics (WARP, etc) may vary.
   23. sunnyday2 Posted: July 27, 2006 at 03:18 PM (#2114551)
If Ripken leads Trammell 37-29 the fact that the Tiggers won the pennant doesn't make Trammell better.

I remember thinking Hernandez was a pretty bad choice, and this at a glance confirms it.
   24. DCW3 Posted: July 27, 2006 at 07:27 PM (#2114754)
DCW3, I'd be curious to see the numbers for '84, and to know who people thought the AL MVP in '84 shoulda been?

name       rsaa  rcap  waa

Ripken      0.0  62.8  6.22
Mattingly   0.0  43.7  4.39
Trammell    0.0  41.9  4.21
Winfield    0.0  41.2  4.14
Murray      0.0  39.8  4.00
Stieb      37.1   0.0  3.94
Yount       0.0  38.1  3.84
Henderson   0.0  34.6  3.50
Boddicker  32.6   0.0  3.45
Blyleven   32.2   0.0  3.41 

Hernandez, however, finished 11th with 3.36 WAA, which is very impressive for a reliever.

I wrote this in another thread last week:

That 1984 AL MVP is one of the ugliest MVP votes ever. In 1983, Cal Ripken hit .318/.371/.517 with 27 HR and 102 RBI, and won a well-deserved MVP. In 1984, Ripken hit .304/.374/.510 with 27 HR and 86 RBI (and his OPS+ actually improved from the previous year). By basically every advanced metric, Ripken was the best player in the league by a significant margin. He received one tenth-place MVP vote. Of the 28 MVP voters, 27 of them did not believe Ripken was among the league's ten best players, and the one exception only placed him tenth.
   25. sunnyday2 Posted: July 27, 2006 at 07:45 PM (#2114766)
Can't argue too much with that.

Who was the best Tiger?
   26. Paul Wendt Posted: July 28, 2006 at 03:07 AM (#2115146)
My recollection of TDavis is that he was considered a great hitter, so the new DH job was almost made for him, but he couldn't run so he couldn't be a great batter-baserunner. I recall reading/hearing that he saves baserunners by fouling off a pitchouts but I don't know that he did it even once.
   27. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: July 29, 2006 at 03:34 PM (#2116636)
Can't argue too much with that.

Who was the best Tiger?

I always got the NIMpression that they gave it to Hernandez because there was no one else on that Tiger team that had a particularly outstanding year

no one had 100 RBIs (the magic # for MVP voters), Parrish had 33 HR's but only hit .237, no one won 20 games

Willie was the default choice (and a terrible one)
   28. Boots Day Posted: July 29, 2006 at 04:04 PM (#2116655)
Clark missed out in 1989 (if you believe WS, that was an historic season) then the decision was 'terrible'.

But Kevin Mitchell had a tremendous season himself in 1989, piling up 38 win shares (to Clark's 44). That's in the category of Mattingly beating out Brett, rather than a Dawson situation. Mitchell did have an MVP-worthy year.
   29. The Honorable Ardo Posted: May 11, 2017 at 07:21 PM (#5453833)
no one had 100 RBIs (the magic # for MVP voters), Parrish had 33 HR's but only hit .237, no one won 20 games

The Tigers got a lot of attention at the time for that tidbit. They led the majors with 829 runs scored (the Red Sox had 810; no one else was above 800), but no one scored or drove in 100 runs. Parrish's 98 RBI came closest.

Gibson and Lemon were, IMO, the best position players. Trammell suffered a shoulder injury that compelled him to be the team's DH for nearly a month; he played only 114 defensive games at shortstop.

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