Friday, November 26, 2010

Lefty Grove's Peak Vs. Sandy Koufax's Peak

I used a 5-year period for each guy. For Grove, it was 1928-32. For Koufax, it was 1962-66. The table below has some comparisons:

RSAA means "runs saved above average." It comes from Lee Sinins' Complete Baseball Encyclopedia. The numbers are park adjusted. So Grove has a big lead here, both in total and per 9 IP. I will come back to these numbers later when I plug them into the Pythagorean formula.

Grove was 60% better than average at preventing HRs (that is what the 160 means). He gave up 49 HRs while the average pitcher would have allowed 78 (100*(78/49) is about 160). This gives him a pretty big edge over Koufax. But they are not park adjusted. If they were, Grove would have an even bigger edge. Here are the HR park factors for the Philadelphia A's from 1928-32 from the STATS, Inc. All-Time Baseball Sourcebook: 126, 165, 153, 104, 199 (the 126 means that Shibe gave up 26% more HRs than the average park). Now Shibe Park may have had some asymmetries, so that lefties hit alot more HRs. With Grove more likely to face righties (being a lefty himself), it is possible the park did not hurt him as much as these factors suggest. But A's righties Foxx, Miller and Dykes generally had much higher slugging percentages at home than on the road (from Retrosheet). So my guess is that Grove certainly was not aided by his park in preventing HRs.

Koufax allowed 89 HRs while the league average was 124 and had the following HR park factors in his years: 50, 63, 62, 49, 70 (meaning Dodger Stadium allowed fewer HRs than average). So he was helped quite a bit yet Grove still has the big edge here. He allowed 89 HRs while the league average was 124.

Relative SO/BB is each pitcher's strikeout-to-walk ratio divided by the league average. Grove had a 2.67 strikeout-to-walk ratio while the league average was 0.95. The 2.67/0.95 is multiplied by 100 to get 281. That beats the 225 of Koufax or 100*(4.57/2.03).

The ERA+ comes from Baseball Reference. It is ERA relative to the league average but also adjusted for park effects. Grove only has a slight edge here.

WAR comes from Baseball Reference (and they get it from Sean Smith at Baseball Projections). It is "Wins Above Replacement for Pitchers. A single number that presents the number of wins the player added to the team above what a replacement player (think AAA or AAAA) would add. This value includes defensive support and includes additional value for high leverage situations."

It is not clear to me how Koufax beats Grove here. Grove has alot more RAR or "runs above replacement." It might have something to do with the leverage adjustments. None are made for Grove since the play-by-play data has not been posted at Retrosheet. The WAR and RAR numbers imply that for Grove's years, it took 11 extra runs to win a game (441/40.1 = 11) and only 8.26 for Koufax (347/42).

Baseball Projections says that it normally takes about 10 extra runs to get a win. I wonder if they are using the formula which says it takes 10 times the square root of the number of runs scored per inning by both teams. For Grove's years I calculated that to be 10.7 and for Koufax got 9.54. That would give Grove a WAR of 41.21 (441/10.7) and Koufax 36.37 (347/9.54).

Pitching Runs is "Adjusted Pitching Runs." It comes from Baseball Reference. It is "A set of formulas developed by Gary Gillette, Pete Palmer and others that estimates a pitcher’s total contributions to a team’s runs total via linear weights." Lee Sinins told me it might also be based on decisions, but I am not really sure. Anyway, Grove has a big lead here, too.

Now to come back to RSAA and try to calculate the Pythagorean pct for each guy using RSAA per 9 IP. The AL of 1928-32 averaged 5.12 runs per game (yearly averages weighted by Grove's IP) and 5.12 - 1.98 = 3.14. So if Grove allows 3.14 while his team scored 5.12, he would have a winning pct of .727. Koufax would allow 2.78 while his team would score 4.05 runs per game. That gives him a pct of .679.

One thing I have not mentioned yet or tried to take into account is integration. Last January, I compared Grove's career to Randy Johnson's. See How Might Integration Have Affected The Lefty Grove/Randy Johnson Debate? I tried to estimate how much better the hitters would have been during Grove's time if the percentage of players who were non-white was about the same as during Johnson's. I also tried to adjust for the number of non-white pitchers and non-white fielders. I came up with Grove's ERA going up about 10%. What if I did that here?

Then Grove would allow 3.45 runs per game and his pct would fall to .688. That is still higher than Koufax.

But if we use the adjusted pitching runs, Grove allows 3.32 runs per game (5.12 - 1.8). He would have a pct of .704. Koufax would allow 2.63 runs per game (4.05 - 1.42). He would have a pct of .703. That would make the two about even. Grove would get the edge due to more IP.

But if we raise Grove's runs per game by 10%, to 3.65, his pct would be only .663. That would put Koufax ahead.

Finally, if we knock down Grove's ERA+ from Baseball Reference of 172 by 10%, he would be at 155, below Koufax's 167. The 10% adjustment for integration is just an estimate. It is the same one I used when comparing Grove to Johnson. The % of players and pitchers who were non-whites during Koufax's time was probably lower than during Johnson's time. So adding 10% to Grove's ERA is probably too much. I don't think I know the right adjustment to make. But this gives us some idea of what the effect of integration might be.

If I lowered Grove's strikeouts per 9 IP by 10% from 5.91 to 5.32 and raised his walks per 9 IP from 2.21 to 2.43, his new strikeout-to-walk ratio would be 2.19. That divided by 0.95 would be 2.30. So his relative SO/BB would be 230, still higher than Koufax's 225.

If I raised Grove's HRs by 10%, he would have allowed 54 HRs. Then 78/54 = 1.45. That times 100 is 145. That is still higher than Koufax's relative HR rate of 139.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Indispensable Seasons Go To WAR! (Or Did Willie Mays Have The Greatest Season Since 1950 in 1962?)

If you are still reading, thanks. I will try to explain.

Suppose a team comes in 1st place, finishing 1 game ahead of the 2nd place team. John Smith had a WAR (wins above a replacement player) of 6. Then is "INDWAR" would be 5 or 6 - 1. His team needed 5 of his WAR to get them into at least a tie for first.

My first post on this was The most indispensable seasons. In that case, instead of using WAR, I used what Pete Palmer calls "Total Player Rating" or TPR (more recently it has been called "Batting + Fielding Wins" or BFW). Here I used WAR from Baseball Reference to find the most indispensable seasons since 1900.

The table below shows the top 25.

When you see a "0" in the games ahead column, it means that player's team tied for first place with another team. Then they had a playoff. Their season's WAR included what they did in the playoff game(s). I tried to estimate their WAR from any playoff games. Probably the most anyone got was about .4 by Boudreau in the one game (he went 4-for-4 with 2 HRs). Some cases are teams that were wild cards, like the 2002 Giants. So they would have been so many games ahead of the next best team. Some 1st place teams in the wild card era were either compared to the 2nd place team in their division if that team was not the wild card or the team that finished 2nd in the wild card if their division's 2nd place team was the wild card.

It probably does not surprise anyone that Yaz is first. But Willie Mays 1962 is not far behind. Guidry 1978 is the highest pitcher. But he probably got a very small amount of WAR in the playoff game (he pitched well but not great). The 1980 Phillies needed great years from both Schmidt and Carlton just to eke out a 1 game victory.

Many of the players are Hall of Famers. Ruth also has the 37th best season in 1916, as a pitcher!

I wondered how well some of these guys did in the clutch that year. So I looked at the top 10 since 1950 when Retrosheet has stats like hitting with Runners in Scoring Position (RISP) and in Close and Late Situations (CL). The table below shows how well the top 10 hit in all situations.

Now with Runners on Base (ROB)

Now with RISP

Now Close and Late.

Now Sept/Oct

If you examine those numbers closely, you will see that the only player to have a higher AVG, OBP, and SLG in all the "clutch" cases than he did in Total was Mays. Click here to see all of these stats grouped by player. It might be easier to see that only Mays did better in all the clutch situations.

In fact, Willie Mays was the best of the ten in Tom Tango's clutch rating, which involves WPA or Win Probability Added. All plate appearances are rated for how much they affect the outcome based on score, inning, etc. Here is the definition from the Fangraphs cite:

"Clutch: A measurement of how much better or worse a player does in high leverage situations than he would have done in a context neutral environment."
Here is how well the top ten did:

Willie Mays 1.4
Jackie Robinson 0.5
Hank Aaron 0.3
Adrian Beltre 0.1
Alex Rodriguez -0.1
Mike Schmidt -0.3
Barry Bonds(98) -0.5
Robin Yount -0.8
Carl Yastrzemski -1.1
Barry Bonds(02) -1.3

This means that Mays' extra good hitting in high leverage situations added 1.4 wins. Seeing as how the Giants finished in a tie with the Dodgers in 1962, that is very important. Mays did well in the 3-game playoff series, too. In game 1, he went 3-for-3 with 2 HRs and a walk. One HR was off of Koufax, in the first inning with one on to get the scoring started. Giants won 8-0. In game 2, he was 1-for-5 and the Dodgers won 8-7. In game 3, he was 1-for-3 with 2 BBs. Giants won 6-4, getting 4 runs in the top of the 9th. Mays singled in a run in that rally and scored another.

When it was all said and done, a great player had to have one of his greatest seasons just to get his team into a playoff. Mays had to hit much better than usual in the clutch and come through in the playoff. What could be a more fantastic year than that?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Rick Reuschel for the Hall of Fame (Revisited)

See my first post Rick Reuschel for the Hall of Fame .

Here is a brief summary (skipping the more advanced stats I used):

-His strike-out-to-walk ratio was 31% better than the league average

-He gave up 21.6% fewer HRs than average (pitching mainly in Wrigley Field!)

I am doing this again because when I looked at Halladay and the Cy Young award, I noticed that Reuschel is 30th in career Wins Above Replacement (WAR) among pitchers at Baseball Reference. His WAR is 66.3. That seems like a high enough rank in terms of career value. The Hall should have room for 30 pitchers. He had good longevity, pitching over 3500 innings in 19 seasons.

The only pitchers ahead of him in career WAR not in the Hall are: Clemens, Maddux, Randy Johnson, Bert Blyleven, Pedro Martinez, Mussina, Schilling and Glavine. Most, if not all, of them will make it. I counted about 26 Hall of Famers behind him, just in the top 100. He is ahead of Jim Palmer, Juan Marichal, Whitey Ford, Don Drysdale, Jim Bunning, just to name a few.

He had a pretty decent peak value, too. He was in the top 5 among NL pitchers in WAR each year from 1977-80 (1-5-3-4). He also had two other top 5 finishes in his career. He was the 2nd best pitcher in the NL over the 1977-80 period, according to WAR. Here is the top 10:

Phil Niekro 27.6
Rick Reuschel 24.8
Steve Carlton 20.6
Steve Rogers 19.3
J.R. Richard 18.1
Tom Seaver 17.4
Burt Hooton 16
Bruce Sutter 15.6
John Candelaria 15.3
Don Sutton 13.7

He beats Carlton, who had 2 Cy Young awards in those years.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Halladay And The Cy Young Award

It was unanimous. That seems a little surprising. No doubt among the voters. Here are the NL leaders in WAR for pitchers according to Baseball Reference:

1. Jimenez (COL) 7.1
2. Halladay (PHI) 6.9
3. Johnson (FLA) 6.4

Seems like these other two guys could have gotten some first place votes.

Halladay is the one of only 4 pitchers since 1980 to have 3 or more straight seasons with a strikeout-to-walk ratio greater than 5 while qualifying for the ERA title. The others are Maddux (4), Schilling (4) and Wells (3). Data from the Lee Sinins Complete Baseball Encyclopedia.

Halladay is one of only 6 pitchers since 1980 to have 3 or more straight seasons with an ERA less than 2.80 while qualifying for the ERA title. The others are Maddux (7), Rijo (4), Johnson (4), Clemens (3) and Brown (3).

Halladay has the most WAR over the last three years, 20.2. The last pitcher to have 20+ WAR over three years was Santana, 2004-6. Here is the top ten from 2008-10:

Roy Halladay 20.2
CC Sabathia 16.8
Tim Lincecum 16.7
Cliff Lee 16.6
Felix Hernandez 16.3
Jon Lester 16.2
John Danks 16.1
Zack Greinke 15.6
Ubaldo Jimenez 15.3
Johan Santana 14.4

Halladay now ranks 10th in Cy Young Award Voting Shares. Besides his two wins, he has four other top 5 finishes. He joins Gaylord Perry, Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson as the only pitchers to win the award in both leagues. Here is the top 10 in award shares:

Randy Johnson (5 wins) 6.5
Greg Maddux (4 wins) 4.92
Steve Carlton* (4 wins) 4.29
Pedro Martinez (3 wins) 4.26
Tom Seaver* (3 wins) 3.85
Jim Palmer* (3 wins) 3.57
Tom Glavine (2 wins) 3.15
Sandy Koufax* (3 wins) 3.05
Roy Halladay (2 wins) 2.91

*Hall of Famer

Halladay has finished first in WAR 2 times and has 5 second place finishes. His career WAR is no 54.3. That is 62nd best ever. In a year or two he will be in the top 40. Maybe he will end his career in the top 25.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Players Who Won The Triple Crown Over A Two-Year Period Since 1920

I got started on this because I wanted to see if Albert Pujols did it for the last two years. He just missed. More on that later. I set the plate appearance (PA) minimum at 800. The tables below show the winners. Data came from the Baseball Reference Play Index.

What is interesting to me is that in some cases, the winners were far ahead of the other players in all three stats, that Al Rosen was the only guy to do it twice in a row, and that Albert Belle is the only guy to do it since 1954. Rosen was probably only able to do it because Ted Williams was in the Korean War. And Williams is the only other guy to do it twice.

Now back to Pujols. The table below shows the leaders over the 2009-2010 seasons with a 1,000 PA minimum. He's just a bit beind Votto and Ramirez in batting average (BA). I hate it when mere mortals get in the way. May the Gods show them no mercy.

Then I thought "what about a 3-year triple crown for Pujols?" No luck there either, since Ryan Howard beats him out in RBIs. This is the next table. 1500 PA minimum.

Not having the RBI lead is certainly not Pujols' fault. The next two tables show how both he and Howard hit with Men On and with Runners in Scoring Position (RISP). Pujols ends up walking alot more in those cases. In all cases, Pujols walks 13.5% of the time while it is 12.4% for Howard. But with Men On, Pujols' walk rate is about 21% while Howard has 12%. With RISP, those numbers are about 29% & 16%. So, even though Pujols hits alot better with Men On and with RISP, as you can see below, he ended up with fewer RBIs.

But Pujols gets the last laugh. He has won the 10-year triple crown, with a 2,000 PA minimum. This is the last table.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Weather Was Nice For The World Series But How Was It In Some Other Major League Cities?

I have wondered what things would have been like if the Twins had made it to the World Series. Imagine night games, outside, in Minnesota, in the last week of October and the first week of November. So while I watched the series, I checked the temperatures in various cites using Accu Weather. The data I collected can be seen at World Series Weather 2010.

The first column gives the temperature and the second column says "wind ch" for wind chill. I think that is what Accu Weather means by real feel. I also recored the local time (they were all PM, inspite of my typos). In the last column I mention any description that Accu Weather gave, like showers if it was raining at that time or if showers were on the way. In some cases they said something about wind gusts. On Nov. 1 at 7:11 pm, it was 47 degrees in Minneapolis with wind gusts over 40 MPH. That would have made for a fun game as the night went on (I don't know why Accu Weather showed a "real feel" of 46 degrees with such strong winds-I also don't know why the real feel was sometimes higher than the stated temperature).

There were some low temps out there but probably not anything we have not seen in recent years. October 28 in Cleveland had a temp of 43, wind chil of 30 and showers. That would have been no fun to play in. So it seems that no city realized my worst fear of sub-freezing weather and snow when a game was supposed to be played.