Saturday, December 20, 2008

Was Jim Rice A Feared Hitter?

This issue came up on the SABR list this week. Someone suggested that batters in the lineup slot ahead of him were helped by his presence. That is, since pitchers knew Rice was up next, they gave good pitches to the current batter. Did batting in front of Rice actually help anyone? I address this below but first I discuss Rice and intentional walks.

My recollection is that Rice was very feared and he was very imposing. So many HRs (and so many long ones) were probably the reason. But he only finished in the top 10 in IBBs 3 times in his career (thanks to Lee Sinins Complete Baseball Encyclopedia). A 5th a tied for 10th and a tied for 9th. Also, he was only tied for 12th in the AL in IBBs from 1975-89. Here are the leaders:

1 George Brett 187
2 Eddie Murray 131
3 Rod Carew 111
4 Ben Oglivie 95
5 Harold Baines 89
6 Wade Boggs 87
T7 Reggie Jackson 85
T7 Ken Singleton 85
T9 Don Baylor 82
T9 Don Mattingly 82
11 Carlton Fisk 78
T12 Kent Hrbek 77
T12 Jim Rice 77

I would expect a feared hitter to rank higher. There are lots of factors that go into IBBs. Maybe he always had someone good behind him (but these other guys might have, too). The guys ahead of him tend to be lefties or switch hitters. Maybe that is the reason (I think there is another interesting issue here about IBBs that I address below after I discuss if batting in front of Rice actually help anyone).

As for how batters in front of him did, I looked at 4 seasons, using Retrosheet, 1977-79 and 1983, arguably his 4 best years. I threw out 1979 since Rice batted 4th all year and Lynn pretty much was the only 3rd place hitter and Lynn did not bat anywhere else.

Let's start with 1977. Rice pretty much batted third. Below are the players who had a significant number of ABs batting both 2nd and in other slots. I show there ABs, AVG, SLG. First I show there stats batting 2nd (in front of Rice) and then the others (combining all ABs not in front of Rice)

Doyle (137-.219-.285) (318-0.248-.318)
Lynn (364-.253-.453) (133-0.278-.428)

Now 1978 (Rice was pretty much 3rd)

Burleson (76-.197-.263) (550-.255-.349)
Lynn (80-.275-.463) (461-.302-.497)
Remy (418-.280-.349) (165-.273-.352)

Now 1983 (Rice was pretty much 3rd)

Boggs (315-.352-.470) (267-.371-.506)
Evans (258-.225-0.419) (212-.255-.458)
Stapleton (54-.259-.352) (488-.246-.365)

It does not look like hitters did alot better in front of Rice than they did elsewhere.

I mentioned the leaders in the AL in IBBs from 1975-89 in my last post. I also just checked the NL. Below are the top 20 in each league. It looks like the AL only had 5 righties while the NL had 10. Also, the top 2 in the NL were righties while in the AL the highest ranked righty was tied for 9th. Seems like a big difference between the two leagues. Also looks like all 10 righties in the AL had more IBBs than the highest ranked AL righty (Baylor). Maybe it is jut a fluke. My apologies if I miss labeled anyone below. I put in R for the righties and nothing for lefites and switch hitters.


1 George Brett 187
2 Eddie Murray 131
3 Rod Carew 111
4 Ben Oglivie 95
5 Harold Baines 89
6 Wade Boggs 87
T7 Reggie Jackson 85
T7 Ken Singleton 85
T9 Don Baylor-R 82
T9 Don Mattingly 82
11 Carlton Fisk-R 78
T12 Kent Hrbek 77
T12 Jim Rice-R 77
T14 Cecil Cooper 73
T14 Fred Lynn 73
16 Mike Hargrove 68
T17 Alvin Davis 67
T17 Robin Yount-R 67
19 Bruce Bochte 65
20 Buddy Bell-R 62


1 Mike Schmidt-R 184
2 Dale Murphy-R 141
3 Dave Parker 139
4 Garry Templeton 134
5 Keith Hernandez 127
6 Ted Simmons 124
7 Jose Cruz 123
8 Bill Madlock-R 112
9 Tim Raines 110
10 Jack Clark-R 104
11 Andre Dawson-R 103
12 Steve Garvey-R 100
13 Gary Carter-R 98
T14 Ron Cey-R 96
T14 Pedro Guerrero-R 96
T14 Leon Durham 96
T14 George Foster-R 96
18 Darryl Strawberry 93
19 Ron Oester 92
20 Dan Driessen 91

Monday, December 15, 2008

Maybe Joe Gordon Does Belong In The Hall Of Fame

Gordon had 242 career win shares. Through 2001, that was tied for 334th among all players including pitchers. But he did miss two seasons due to the war. He missed 1944 and 1945. The two previous seasons he had 28 and 31 (although the competition in 1943 was not so good). In 1946 he only had 9, must have been hurt. In the next two years he had 25 and 24. Suppose we give him 50 for the two years missed. That brings him up to 292. That would be tied for 187 through 2001. Not too bad of a ranking. Good enough for the Hall? I don't know.

But in general, 2B men have an average wins shares per PA that is lower than other positions. Win Shares is supposed to allow us to compare players across positions. Gordon might deserve even more win shares. Maybe he deserves another 10-20. To see the data on win shares per PA for different positions, go to (Update Jan. 10, 2016: Here is the new, correct link

If we do give him all these extra win shares he gets close to the top 150 through 2001. I really don't know what type of adjustments to make for him, but I guess a good case could be made for him.

One other thing I thought of is that he was a right handed batter in Yankee Stadium. Win Shares uses runs created get offensive value. Runs created are adjusted for park effects but to the extent that I understand them, no adjustemt is made if a park favors lefties over righties. Gordon hit 69 HRs in home games at Yankee stadium and 84 in road games. You would expect more at home. In his Cleveland years, he had 50 both home and away. Perhaps, on balance, over his career, he was hurt by his parks.

I was a little surprised by his, and his only, selection. But it may be okay. Joe McCarthy said Gordon was the best all around player he ever saw.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Two Follow Ups: Underpaid Second Basemen And What Happens When Players Cut Down On Strikeouts

A recent report called Increase in MLB salary slowed in 2008 shows that only relief pitchers get paid less than second basemen. Here is the key exerpt:

"Among regulars at positions, designated hitters had the highest average at $7.5 million, followed by first basemen ($7.1 million), third basemen ($6.6 million), shortstops ($5 million), outfielders ($4.8 million), catchers ($3.7 million), second basemen ($3.5 million) and relief pitchers ($1.9 million)."

So second basemen are only half as valuable as designated hitters? Hard to believe. A few months ago I posted a study called Have Second Basemen Been Underpaid?. I found in regressions that, holding hitting performance constant and accounting for free agent/arbitration status, that being a second baseman had a negative effect on salaries.

For the other issue, two weeks ago, I posted Should Ryan Howard Try To Strikeout Less?. The basic idea was that from year to year, there was a positive correlation between player's change in strikeout frequency and change in contact average.

But a commentor named Vince at the The Sabernomics blog said:

"Could this just be a selection effect? If your strikeout rate rises and your contact rate falls, then you might get benched and not show up in the sample."

My response was:

"There were 267 players in 2005 who had 300+ ABs. 200 of them also had 300+ ABs in 2006. So it is possible that those 67 who did not make it to 300 in 2006 were benched for poor performance (which would include a low contact average).

But I took those 67 guys and found the ones who had atleast 100 ABs in 2006 (I think anything less is a small sample size). That left 41 guys. The correlation between their change in strikeout frequency and change in contact average was .037. So it was still positive for the ones who were “selected out” but not as strong an effect."