Sunday, October 26, 2008

Another Look At Consistency

Last week I had a post on which players had the most consistent careers. One measure I used was a player's yearly standard deviation in offensive winning percentage. Then I divided by the mean, thinking that high OWP hitters would fluctuate more. But Gerry Myerson suggested on the SABR-list that with an upper bound on OWP of 1.000, the best hitters won't fluctuate more than the worst. So I redid the list, which you can see if you click here. Actually, this time there are two lists, as there were last week. One ranks everyone just in standard deviation and the other is SD divided by number of years.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Which Players Had The Most Consistent Careers?

I don't know if anyone has ever proved that consistency has value. But I have compiled two lists which you can see here. I took all the players who had 10+ seasons with 400+ PAs through 2005 (there were 504 players). Then I found the standard deviation of their offensive winning percentage (a Bill James stat that says what a team's winning percentage would be if all 9 batters were identical and you gave up an average number of runs). Since I used data from the Lee Sinins complete baseball encyclopedia, OWP is also park adjusted. Then that SD is divided by the mean OWP. This is necessary because players with high OWPs will see bigger absolute year-to-year fluctuations.

But then I wondered if players with extra long careers would be penalized. The reason is that when you get older, your performance can tail off very quickly and those very low OWPs increase your SD. So you get penalized for longevity. Then also, your career OWP falls and your SD gets divided by a smaller number, raising my measure of consistency (the lower the SD/mean, the more consistent). So I created one more list where SD/mean was then divided by the number of years. For Hank Aaron, he jumped from 112th to 12th.

On the first list (SD/mean), Dom DiMaggio is first. He only had 10 400+ PAs seasons. Once I did the 2nd list, (SD/mean)/Years, Mel Ott jumped to first. Dom DiMaggio dropped to 8th. Guys that get hurt by the 2nd list are the guys who lost years to military service in WW II. They get divided by a smaller number.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Does Experience Affect Clutch Hitting?

In the Red Sox-Rays game yesterday, one of the announcers mentioned that Dioner Navarro batted .314 this year with runners in scoring position (RISP) while it was only .214 last year. He said that Navarro improved in the clutch due to experience. Maybe, maybe not. His overall average went from .227 to .295, also a big jump. Experience might make you a better hitter overall anyway.

But I had an article published on a similar topic in "By the Numbers," SABR's statistical bulletin several years ago. It was called Clutch Hitting and Experience (I know, not a real creative title). I only looked at one year, but I found that more experienced players did better, relative to their normal performance, in close and late situations than less experienced players. For example:

"ONE THING I DID NOT MENTION IN THE PAPER WAS THAT THE AVERAGE OPS FOR EXPERIENCED PLAYERS (2000 OR MORE PA) IN THE NONCLUTCH WAS .815 AND .808 IN THE CLUTCH, A DROP OF ONLY .007. FOR THE INEXPERIENCED PLAYERS, THEIR NONCLUTCH OPS WAS .792 AND NONCLUTCH WAS .741. A DROP OF .051, MUCH LARGER THAN FOR THE EXPERIENCED PLAYERS. THE DIFFERENCE IN DECLINES IS .044. THAT IS HIGH IN BASEBALL TERMS. THERE IS A RELATIVELY SMALL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO GROUPS OF PLAYERS IN THE NONCLUTCH BUT A MUCH LARGER ONE IN THE CLUTCH SITUATIONS."

So it is possible that experience affects clutch hitting. But it was just one study over one year. If you know of any other studies on this, let me know. Also, I have a page called Clutch Hitting Links. There are links to lots of good stories and research. If you know of any that are not listed there, please let me know about that, too.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Something New In Clutch Hitting? A Couple Of Recent Articles

One was called Analysts: Tough to determine if there is such a thing as clutch by Paul White. In discussing the issue of whether or not some guys are clutch hitters, Reggie Jackson was mentioned. "Mr. October" had the following AVG-OBP-SLG 27 World Series games .357-.457-.755 (data from Retrosheet). But what about in 45 league championship series games? He had .227-.298-.380. Combining the two he has a .276 AVG and .521. Still good numbers but hardly stunning and why did he hit so poorly in the LCS? Lucky for him his teammates were doing well enough for him to make it into the World Series.

The article also mentioned Derek Jeter. Nike even has a shoe called the "Jeter Clutch." But in his career his AVG in close and late situations is .286 while his overall AVG is .317 (both through 2007). Generally players hit more poorly in when it is close and late because you face ace relievers and the pitcher is more likely to have the platoon advantage. But his differential is probably bigger than normal.

To read lots of other good articles on clutch hitting go to Clutch Hitting Links. One thing that is important to ask when we talk about clutch hitting is do teams make personnel moves even partly based on it? Have you ever heard of a team trading a .300 hitter because he hit poorly in the clutch or trading for a .250 hitter because he was good in the clutch?

What about Barry Bonds in the post season? It appeared that he was a bad clutch hitter until 2002, based on his past post-season performances. His averages in the LCS in 1990-2 were .167, .148, and .261. Did Dusty Baker decide to bench him in the 2002 playoffs because he was a bad clutch hitter? No. Obviously Baker, a big league manager, does not buy into clutch. For more on this kind if argument, go to Please, no more clutch hitting statistics!

The other article is called Clutch hitting is no accident. Apparently, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire thinks you can teach it. From this article:

"The Twins' .311 batting average with runners in scoring position is so much higher than any other major league team's — runner-up Baltimore is 24 points behind, at .287 — that it seems like a statistical fluke. In the Twins' case, the manager said, they can shorten their swings, watch for particular pitches, and use the entire field as a target. Under batting coach Joe Vavra, Gardenhire said, every Twins hitter sharpens his run-producing skills every day.

"It's execution — getting them over, getting them in. I think that's definitely a skill," Gardenhire said. "You work at anything long enough, you get a mind-set for what you're trying to do." The Twins didn't have that last season, when they batted .276 with runners in scoring position, 14th best in baseball."

We will have to see if the Twins continue to do so well with runners in scoring position next year. If they do, maybe other teams will adopt what they do and we will see them hit better in these situations, too. But I am not holding my breath. Pitches might start pitching differently then.