Monday, January 7, 2013

Did Good Hitters Behind Jim Rice Prevent Him From Being Intentionally Walked?

Probably not. This is a follow up on a post I did a few years ago. See Was Jim Rice A Feared Hitter?

Someone on Twitter suggested that he had good hitters behind him that kept him from being intentionally walked. But it seems like his IBBs were pretty low for a slugger like him.

One thing I should check is if Rice came up with a man on 1st more than average. That would tend to lower IBBs.

But here is a brief analysis. It looks like Rice's best years were 77-79 and 83. The numbers below show the AVG-OBP-SLG of how the slot behind him did on the Red Sox for those years. Then I show it for the league average in those years. I don't think the differences are that great.

Red Sox

1977(5th) .274-.345-.486
1978(4th) .271-.358-.417
1979(5th) .283-.346-.474
1983(4th) .224-.260-.440

Look at how weak the hitters did behind Rice in 1983 and yet he had only 10 IBBs (tied for 9th). Singleton led with 19.

League Average for those slots, same years

1977(5th) .272-.337-.450
1978(4th) .271-.342-.440
1979(5th) .280-.349-.454
1983(4th) .280-.347-.460

Again, it does not look like Rice was followed by unusually good hitters compared to the league average.

In 1978, Ben Ogilvie had 10 IBBs and Rice had 7. Remmber, this was Rice's best year, with 46 HRs. The guys batting 6th on Milwaukee that year had AVG-OBP-SLG of .301-.359 -.448, far better than the guys behind Rice. Ogilvie batted mostly 5th that year and had 18 HRs and a .303 AVG. Rice hit 46 HRs with a .315 AVG. Rice had more impressive stats and weaker hitters behind him yet he had fewer IBBs. Carew actually led the league with 19.

Here are the numbers on the percentage of time Rice came up with a man on 1st (but not 1st only), then followed by the league averages.

1977 31.1%
1978 30%
1979 36.3%
1983 40.8%

League average

1977 30.5%
1978 30.7%
1979 31%
1983 30.7%

So in two of these years, Rice was at the league average. That would not stop him from getting walked intentionally. The other years he did have a man blocking an IBB on 1st more than average. But again, in 1978 he had his best year, the guys behind him did not hit very well and he only had an average number of guys on 1st. Yet he had only 7 IBBs.

Take Don Baylor in 1978. He had 9 IBBs with 34 HRs and a .255 AVG. Less fearsome than Rice's numbers. He batted mostly 5th, but a good chunk came 4th, too. The 6th place hitters on the Angels had a .423 SLG, only .049 below Baylor's .472. So if you walk him, you don't gain much. Rice had an SLG of .600, so walking him saved you .183. Big incentive to give him a walk.

Now Baylor did bat 4th a good bit, too. So how did the 5th place hitters do? Some of that includes him. But if you take that out, they slugged .453. almost as good as Baylor. So again, IBBing him is no big gain.

28.5% of the time was there a man on 1st with Baylor up. That is less than Rice (30%) but not that much. With 1st base open, you will IBB a guy more. But gain the difference is not that great and with Rice you had a huge gain in SLG.

In 1979, Wayne Gross of the A's had 9 IBBs. He batted .224 with 14 HRs in 138 games. Jim Rice who batted .325 and had 39 HRs had 4 IBBs (and surely he had a fearsome reputation after winning the MVP award the year before). Gross tended to bat 3rd or 5th. The 4th place hitters on Oakland had a SLG of .406. 6th place hitters slugged .332. Gross slugged .367. It was hardly any advantage for A's opponents to walk him. Yet he more than double Rice's total.

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