Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Expanded Postseason and its Impact on True Champions

SABR member Steve Fall presented his research on this at the Hornsby Chapter annual meeting. Very interesting.

Click here to read more about this and there is a link to the power point presentation Steve did. There are 24 slides. Here is the conclusion:

"While other factors have had some impact on the results, the most successful regular season teams have a much tougher time prevailing as World Series Champions due to the extra round of playoffs they must survive."

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

An Attempt To Measure Park Effects From 1934

I heard about this from the South Texas Chapter of SABR (Hornsby Chapter). Jan Larson said that author and chapter member Norman Macht, author of many books on baseball and other topics including Connie Mack and the Early Years of Baseball, came across a Baseball Magazine article from 1934 that looked at park effects. Here is the link A New Way to Compile Batting Averages (1934). The article is below anyway. The big idea was to calculate the batting average for each park and see if a player did better or worse than that.

The article was by FLETCHER PRATT. Jim Baker pointed out that he was very interesting. He was a science fiction and history writer who created some type of popular naval war game. Go to

Fletcher Pratt Wikipedia article

The World's Most Complicated Game: Fletcher Pratt, a historian and naval expert, invented a complex pastime that used ballroom floors and up to 120 players (from Sports Illustrated)

Here is the article:

The Present System of Computing Batting Averages Has Long Been Criticized and it Has Many Defects. Many Schemes for Improving the Records Have Been Advanced From Time to Time. Here is One That May Have Some Merit.

Does it seem right that Chick Fullis, who didn't hit hard when he was with the Giants, should suddenly develop a batting average thirty points higher than Mel Ott's at Philadelphia? Does it seem fair that Chick Hafey, one of the best hitters in baseball, should be getting the Bronx cheer for weak hitting, when the only trouble is that at Redland Field he was in a park where he had to drive the ball a mile to get a single?

Averages to show how well a player should hit in a park would straighten out these in¬consistencies. They would also give a lot of other information. They might tell us, for example, whether the Braves' pitching staff is really good, or merely look good because they have a lot of room to work in, and they might give us a real line on how well Chuck Klein should hit when he gets into a uniform with "Chicago" written across the chest.

But how will you get the batting average for a ball park? Simply by taking all the at bats in that park during a season, no matter what teams were playing, and dividing by the hits. The result will be the park's batting average, and it will be very accurate, for it will be an average compiled from the work of all the players in the league. This composite percentage will show, with reasonable certainty, how well the average player, if there were any such thing as an average player, ought to hit in a given park.

Trying this process with the National League parks for 1933, what results do we get? Here's the list, with all the games played during the year included:

There's a. lot of information in this table. Note that there is more than 73 points’ differ¬ence between Baker Bowl and the Polo Grounds. When one analyzes these figures they become even more important. They mean, for instance, that any team will hit over .300 in Philadelphia, and that the poor Philly pitchers have to face solid line-ups of .307 hitters from the beginning to the end of the season. But, of course, the visiting pitchers are up against the problem of curbing the clouting teammates of Dick Bartell and Don Hurst.
On the other band, take a look at the batting averages compiled at the Polo Grounds and at Braves' Field. No wonder Terry and McKechnie have good pitching staffs; they couldn’t have anything else in parks where the batters can hit no better than .244 and .232. It will be noted that 47 more runs were made at the Polo Grounds than at Boston during the 1933 season. This may mean that part of the low batting averages at the New York park is due to the ability of the Giants' pitch¬ing staff rather than to the park.

But that brings up another point. What is a good hitting team? Not just a team that makes a big batting average. The Phillies have been up near the top of the batting averages in the National League for years, and for just as many years they have been down near the bottom of the standing of the clubs. The usual reason given for this is that the Philly pitching staff has been weak, which is just another way of saying that the Phillies, although they pounded the ball, didn't hit quite as well as the teams they stacked up against—not well enough to beat them, any¬way. The Yankees in the days of their glory were a really good hitting team; that is, they consistently made more hits than the oppo¬sition in the same parks and under the same conditions. A hitting team, then, is not a team with a good batting average, but a team that can hit better than the opposition; that is, better than the average.

Now if the batting average of all the teams in the league at a certain park is .260 and the team whose home park it is, smacks the ball for a team batting average of .280, that team will be consistently hitting better than the opposition. So that if we compare the team batting averages in the league with the bat-ting averages of the parks they play in, we will be in a fair way to finding out what teams hit better than the opposition they encountered.

First let's take the clouting Phillies, who had three of the National League's six leading hitters and ranked third in team batting, with a figure of .274. The average for their park was .307, as we just saw. That is, all the teams playing in the Phillies' park hit .307 in 1933. But the Phillies themselves hit only .274, so their average was 33 points under what it should have been if they had hit as well as the rest of the teams in the league.

This shows that in spite of that .274 average, the Phillies were a weak-hitting outfit, which may help to explain why they finished in seventh place.

Now compare the figures in the same way for the Giants. In 1933 they hit only .263 and ranked down near the bottom of the league in hitting, while people compared them to the old Hitless Wonders of Fielder Jones. But the park averages we just compiled show that all the teams in the league hit only .232 at the Polo Grounds. This means that the Giants were hitting 31 points better than the opposition they met all season. They look like light hitters because they were play¬ing in a light-hitting park, but when they got into a batter's park, you couldn't get them out, as the Senators discovered. It doesn't matter whether it was because the Giants' pitching staff always kept the enemy in check, or whether it was because Bill Terry and his merry men could always find the opposing pitchers in the pinch. The Giants looked like weak hitters in the averages, but on the ball field they were a better-hitting team than any they faced.

Suppose we go right through the list of the teams in the league then, and make new averages. The team batting average will be one element; that will show how each team actually hit. The park batting average will show how all the teams in the league hit in that team's park; and the difference will be the amount each team hit better or worse than the teams it played against. Here's what we get:

Note how this list brings the teams out almost exactly in the order they finished in the Standing of the Clubs. This shows why the rank of the teams in the team batting averages doesn’t mean much. It’s not how hard a team hits the ball that counts; it’s how much better it hits than the other teams. On this basis, it appears that the Braves, who seemed to be a punchless outfit, actually hit just as well as the Pirates, who were rated the leading hitters of the league. It also shows that the Cards didn’t get so much good out of their wonderful pitching staff because they themselves weren’t hitting. Sportmen’s Field shows up as one of the best batting parks in the league.

But if you can subtract the park averages from a team’s batting average and get a good line on the team’s hitting, why can’t you do the same thing with individual batting averages and get a very accurate judgment on how good they are as hitters? If all the players in the league compile a general average of .280 at Sportsmen’s Field and Pepper Martin hits .316 there, then Pepper Martin is hitting 36 points better than the average and deserves to rank high up among the batters of the league. And if a player hits .305 at the Phillies’ .307 park, he is a -2 hitter in spite of his good-looking average.

So when we apply the same system to the individual batting averages we begin to understand why Chick Fullis fattened his batting average by 50 points when he moved from New York to Philadelphia and why Chick Hafey’s average fell when he changed over from St. Louis to Cincinnati. Sportsmen’s Field is a .280 park, Redland Field a .258 park. This would normally take about 22 points off the Chick’s average. Now Hafey hit .303 in 1933. If you give him back the 22 points he lost by switching a Cardinals uniform for a Redlegs one, his average comes back to .325, which is just about right, allowing for the dead ball in the National League last year.

When we go right down the line and apply the same system to the ranking batters of the league, we get a lot of interesting results. The leaders come out as follows:

Look what this does to the individual batting averages. For one thing, the Phillies no longer have three of the six leading hitters. Klein and Virgil Davis, who would be hot hitters in any company, are still up near the top, but the others have melted away. And Wally Berger, a fine hitter, who breaks up many a ball game and doesn’t get enough credit for the good hitting he does, is placed up there where he belongs.

Incidentally, with Klein in the fold this means that the Cubs are going to have the hardest-hitting outfield in baseball, and it also gives us a line on the vexed question of how Klein and Virgil Davis will hit in their new monkey-suits. The averages show Klein hits about 61 points better than his park. In Chicago, he will be batting in a .257 park. Add 61 points to this, with about 20 more for the livelier ball he will be batting in 1934, and you have .338 for his average if he does as well as last year. Virgil Davis will be batting in a .280 park at St. Louis. Add the 42 points he hit over his park average at Philadelphia, and make the same allowance for the lively ball and you have .342 for his probable average in 1934. So that both Klein and Davis will be found somewhere around .340 when the 1934 World’s Series rolls around, and if they aren’t the writer of this article will eat an arithmetic book with cream and sugar.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Does Clutch Pitching Persist Year-To-Year?

Low correlations indicate that pitchers tend not to be clutch one year and again clutch the next year.

I looked at all pitchers that had at least 250 plate appearances against opposing hitters in both 2009 & 2010 both with and without runners on base. There were 76 such pitchers. Data from David Pinto's "Day by Day Database" which is based on Retrosheet.

I found the differential between the batting average they allowed with runners on base (ROB) and the batting average they allowed with no runners on (NONE). I did the same for SLG. So if a pitcher allowed a .240 AVG with ROB and a .260 AVG with NONE, his differential was -.020. That means he did better in the clutch than otherwise.

Did pitchers maintaing about the same clutch performance in each year? Probably not. The correlation between their differentials in each year was just -.064. A zero correlation means no relationship and this is very close to that.

It was higher for SLG, though. But it was -.196 . That means if a pitcher was good in the clutch one year, he tended not to be good the next year, although the effect is weak.

This is just one year. More years need to be looked at. I will try to do more when I can.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

FC Lane on the Batting Order

The post below is the few pages from FC Lane's book called "Batting" that dealt with the batting order. Whether or not it matches up with some of the recent analysis on lineups I will leave up to readers. One expert mentioned that it was a good idea to bat Cy Williams 2nd. FC Lane was a great baseball writer and editor of Baseball Magazine in the early part of the 20th century.

How the Batting Order "Colors" Batting

JOHN McGRAW once said, "Every ball team is capable of being arranged in a way to produce the maximum batting punch. You need a fast man who is a good waiter for lead off, another fast man good at the bunt and the hit and run in second place, then a massing of your heavy artillery in the next three or four positions so as to deliver the hardest blow with the least possible slowing down in speed. A slow footed runner, for example, will often cripple an attack. He must hit uncommonly well to be placed high on the list. Naturally your pitchers come last, for even if they are good hitters, they change too frequently for a settled batting order."

Jack Coombs said, "Every manager models his batting order on a scientific basis. He has so many batters at his disposal. He wishes to align those men so that their combined efforts will appear to the best advantage. How can he do this? Few managers agree on the precise details, but all agree on certain essential points. For example, number one should be a good hitter, but above all a good waiter. If he is short of stature so much the better for he will be harder to pitch to. All managers agree that the second man on the list must be a foxy hitter and fast on his feet. They agree also that third, fourth and fifth positions should be filled by good hitters who are preferably sluggers. I believe the three most important positions on the line-up are first, fourth and seventh place. First is obviously important. He is the entering wedge of your attack. Fourth is the logical clean-up man, the fellow who drives home that entering wedge. Seventh is a kind of clean-up man, but I cannot afford to put too good a hitter there. If I do, the opposing pitcher will pass him to take a chance at the tail of the batting order. Rather I must station a hitter at seventh who is not easily excited but is cool and always likely to come through with a hit."

Miller Huggins said, "An attack which is distributed through six or seven men rather than centered in one or two is much more effective. The team with a bunch of good hitters is usually consistent in its stick work. It is the steadiness of the pace which counts. On some clubs the batting punch is supplied by a renowned hitter like Hans Wagner or Nap Lajoie. On other clubs there is no such individual star but a better balanced attack of several men who are all good hitters. I prefer such a batting attack for your one or two stars may have an off day. The average work of six or seven men doesn't vary so widely. Besides, it is difficult for the pitcher to side step such an attack. In a pinch he can pass one or two men, but he can't pass half a dozen in succession. Furthermore, the strain of pitching to a number of men who are always dangerous is cumulative. The pitcher gets no breathing space as he would when he had retired one or two formidable stars and then faced mediocre batters."

Not all experts agree on the relative importance of the various positions on the line-up. Most of them would rate the lead-off man as important, and the clean-up sluggers as even more so. Hugh Jennings, however, thought differently. He said, "The neck moves the head and what the lead-off man accomplishes depends pretty much on the follow-up assistance he gets from the second man in the line-up. I believe it is a bigger job to locate a man who can play second properly than it is to find a good lead-off man. The talents which the lead-off man must possess are well understood and everybody realizes that the clean-up man must be a slugger. But the second place man hasn't been studied so thoroughly. This batter must be a good bunter. Good bunters ought to be common, but they are really less numerous than good hitters. The second place man must have a good batting eye and be a good waiter. Above all, he must use his head. In general he should hit to right field for his main object is to advance the lead-off man who has presumably reached first either through hit, pass or error. By driving the ball to right field he can send the runner to third base. I f he hit to left field, that runner would be held at second. Above all the second place man must have the peculiar knack of knowing whether the second baseman or short stop is going to cover the bag. Then he must be able to hit in a manner to break up their defensive play. This is very important. In fact I consider it the prime qualification for the man playing second position on the line-up. Moreover, the second place hitter should be fast. Then he won't get snarled up ina double play. There are times when he will retire the base runner in spite of himself. Then his thoughts are bent on saving his own scalp. That's largely a matter of speed in getting to first base."

Arthur Fletcher once played Cy Williams, his heaviest slugger, in second place. He said, "Cy isn't much of a bunter, I will admit. But he has some qualifications that you can't overlook. First of all, he's a right field hitter. That's what you want, a man to advance the runner. Then Cy seldom strikes out. You can generally depend upon him to hit the ball and hit it hard. Thus he advances the runner even though he is thrown out himself. And that's as good as a sacrifice. Besides, Cy is always likely to come through with a hit which may be a homer. Placing him high in the batting order you get more of his work. He'll go to bat five times in many a game where he would appear but four times if he batted farther down the list."

Even the despised tail of the batting list may be a source of strength. Wilbur Cooper said, "I am convinced that a pitcher adds much to his effectivness by his own good hitting. I believe that my batting and fielding have won seven or eight games a season for me that would otherwise have been lost."

Bill McKechnie said, "In all my experience I have known just one batter who liked to play the lead-off position." Bill thought this an inexcusable attitude, but it's not difficult to fathom. Batters don't like the lead-off position because it interferes with their hitting. It cuts their batting average many points. For example, John Tobin said, "The man who bats number one on the list and hits for .280 is doing well. He must forget his own hase hits in an effort to get on and of course his average suffers. How much it suffers I couldn't say, but I believe it will drop twenty to thirty points. Of course, some one has to play that position, but I think the records ought to make some provision for lead-off man and not rate his batting on the same basis as that of the slugger who comes fourth or fifth on the list."

Max Carey said, "In fairness to myself, I shall claim special consideration for my batting. I would have done much better had I not been lead-off man for several seasons. It is well known that lead-off man can not expect to have as high an average as he could get lower down the list. There are two reasons for this. In the first place he often has to wait out the pitcher and try to work him for a pass. In the second place, the pitcher, when he faces the lead-off man, usually has no one on bases to bother him. He is able to take lis full wind up and concentrate on the batter."

Batting languishes at the tail of the list. The catcher is out of the game frequently while the pitcher appears only once in three or four days. As Babe Ruth says, "No man can get in the games twice a week and do himself justice at bat as he would do were he getting daily practice."

Some managers shift their batting lists infrequently, even though one or two positions are open to criticism. They prefer to suffer this disadvantage rather than the greater disadvantage of a general disorganization. Not a few managers, however, particularly on losing clubs, shake up their batting lists rather often in the effort to hit upon a better working combination. When they do, the batting of the various players on the list is apt to fluctuate widely, for there is a definite connection between a batting average and the particular position in the batting order which a player is called upon to fill. In general lead-off man is handicapped by orders to wait out the pitcher, second position is handicapped by orders to sacrifice. The tail of the batting order is handicapped by a variety of adverse conditions among which infrequency of batting practice ranks rather high. Only at the clean-up positions does batting flourish at its best, for those players are usually called upon to "hit it out." There is also a noticeable psychology in a batter's position on the list. Let the man, for example, who has hit seventh, be raised to fourth or fifth place and his new responsibilities often act as a tonic on his batting average.

To sum up, a batter's work is colored to a considerable degree by the particular position he is called upon to fill in the batting order.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Trevor Hoffman Retires With Highest Strikeout-to-Walk Ratio

The table below shows the top 15 pitchers in strikeout-to-walk ratio since 1955 with 1000+ IP. For walks I used BB + HBP - IBB (which is called BB*). Data from Baseball Reference and the Lee Sinins Complete Baseball Encyclopedia.

In 1089 IP, Hoffman only hit 9 batters. The average pitcher would have hit about 4 times as many. And about 19% of his walks were intentional. For the average pitcher it was about 9%. Now for the guys who had 2000+ IP.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Ted Williams, Pedro Ramos, Dizzy Trout And Autographs

This is a post about trying to get to the bottom of some mythic stories. Stories that sound good but don't seem to stand up to scrutiny. The following site

Has a passage from the book "The Teammates: A Portrait of a Friendship" by David Halberstam. Here it is:

"When [Ted] was generous there was no one more generous, and when he was petulant there was no one more petulant, and sometimes he was both within a few seconds. Once in the mid-1950s, Pedro Ramos, then a young pitcher with Washington, struck Ted out, which was a very big moment for Ramos. He rolled the ball into the dugout to save, and later, after the game, the Cuban right-hander ventured into the Boston dugout with the ball and asked Ted to sign it. Mel Parnell was watching and had expected an immediate explosion, Ted being asked to sign a ball he had struck out on, and he was not disappointed. Soon there was a rising bellow of blasphemy from Williams, and then he had looked over and seen Ramos, a kid of 20 or 21, terribly close to tears now. Suddenly Ted had softened and said, “Oh, all right, give me the goddamn ball,” and had signed it. Then about two weeks later he had come up against Ramos again and hit a tremendous home run, and as he rounded first he had slowed down just a bit and yelled to Ramos, “I’ll sign that son of a bitch too if you can ever find it.”"

Now a writer at Baseball Think Factory wrote a refutation of this. It is at

Tracer: The Ted Williams-Pedro Ramos Story

My problem is that "The Biographical Encyclopedia of Baseball" has almost the same story about Ted Williams and Dizzy Trout. Page 1145, the entry on Trout. It does not say which year. It is the one edited by Pietrusza, Silverman and Gershman. Does anyone know anything about these stories? Any of them true? Are they told about other players? When was the first one reported? I doubt they are all true!

In the Dizzy Trout version (the Biographical Encyclopedia quotes his son, Steve), he strikes out Williams to preserve a 2-1 victory. I could find no game even remotely close to something like this for Trout vs. Boston using the Baseball Reference and Retrosheet game logs.

Update January 9: Rob Neyer discussed both the Ramos story and the Trout story in his book on baseball legends (pages 127-130). The Ramos story, he says, comes from Hy Hurwitz of the Boston Globe. The Trout story, he says, comes from Bruce Nash and Allan Zullo.

There is something plausible about the Trout case. On August 29, 1946, the Tigers beat the Red Sox 9-8 in 14 innings. Trout pitched the last 6.2 innings to win the game (allowing no runs on 3 hits and 3 walks). He struck out 2 batters but neither was Williams since the Baseball Reference boxscore shows no K's for him in that game. It is possible that Trout retired Williams in a key situation with runners on base. But the boxscore does not show that and the only news stories I found did not describe much about the game.

The Red Sox sent 64 men to the plate in the game, meaning that the leadoff man made the last out of the game. So Trout certainly did not get Williams out in the last inning.

But on Sept. 11, 13 days later, Williams did hit a HR off of Trout. So the story is not that far off at least as far as the events on the field are concerned.

Update January 9, 2016: Trout walked Williams both times he faced him in that August 29th game. One was intentional. Williams did not bat in the last inning. The play by play is now at Retrosheet

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Rob Neyer Asks: Does Kevin Brown have Cooperstown case?

Click here to read what Rob has to say. He lays out a good case for Brown. Here is some info on Brown I posted recently at Baseball Think Factory. I was surprised by how good the case for Brown is.

I have not thought too much about Kevin Brown one way or another but looking at his Baseball Reference page seems to show he deserves it. 34th in career WAR among pitchers despite the lower usage of starters in recent times.

Here are his ranks in WAR in the NL from 1996-2000: 1, 3, 1, 3, 2 (also a 3 in 2003). The only pitcher with more WAR from 1996-2000 was Pedro Martinez, 36.6 vs. 34.6. He was in the top 7 in IP in all those years.

He was in the top 6 in ERA+ every year from 1995-2000 with one 1st place. 53rd in career ERA+.

He was in the top 10 in strikeout-to-walk ratio 7 straight years (94-2000) with 5 top 5 finishes. His ratio relative to the league average is only 69th all-time among pitchers with 2000+ IP (through 2009). But that includes 406 pithers, so he is in the top 17%.

Using that same group of pitchers he is 5th all-time in HRs allowed relative to the league average. I know he pitched 5 years in Dodger stadium (and maybe some other tough HR parks), but look at the top 15. Data from the Lee Sinins Complete Baseball Encyclopedia.

Jack Taylor 200
Eppa Rixey 200
Tim Keefe 180
Addie Joss 174
Kevin Brown 172
Ed Morris 170
Eddie Plank 166
Dean Chance 165
Ed Walsh 165
Pete Donohue 161
Eddie Cicotte 161
Cy Falkenberg 157
Harry Howell 156
Tim Hudson 154
Roger Clemens 154

The 172 for Brown comes from the fact he gave up 208 HRs while the average pitcher would have given up 358. 208/358 = .581. 1/.581 = 1.72. That gets multiplied by 100. Taylor, Keefe and Joss all pitched in the dead ball era or earlier. If we only look at 1920-2009, Brown is 2nd only to Rixey who pitched alot in Cincinnati and that park in those days was really hard to hit a HR in.

Here is the top 15 from 1920-2009

Eppa Rixey 202
Kevin Brown 172
Dean Chance 165
Pete Donohue 161
Tim Hudson 154
Roger Clemens 154
Mark Gubicza 153
Danny Jackson 152
Derek Lowe 150
Greg Maddux 149
Hoyt Wilhelm 147
Mike Garcia 146
Roy Halladay 145
Dizzy Trout 144
Andy Pettitte 144

Pretty impressive rank for Brown.

Brown's HR rate (HR/PA), home, road

H 1.57%
R 1.50%

So his HR prevention excellence is not due to pitching in pitcher friendly parks. Brown seems to have very high career value and very high peak value. He was also very good at preventing runs and homeruns. He was good at striking batters out and not walking them. All that covers quite a bit of what we expect pitchers to do.

To analyze how good Brown is just using walks, strikeouts and HRs, I ran a regression in which a pitcher's ERA relative to the league average was the dependent variable and walks, strikeouts and HRs (all relative to the league average) were the dependent variables (in this case being over 100 is better than average like with HRs allowed, as discussed above). I looked at all pitchers from 1920-2009 with 2000+ IP. Here is the regression equation:

ERA = 35.23 + .235*HR + .264*SO + .176*BB

Here are Brown's rates for each stat:

HR 172
SO 106
BB 140

Plugging those values into the equation gives him a relative ERA of 128.27. Here is the top 10

Dazzy Vance 140.23
Lefty Grove 134.04
Pedro Martinez 133.46
Roger Clemens 129.85
Eppa Rixey 128.72
Kevin Brown 128.27
Greg Maddux 127.80
Nolan Ryan 127.32
Bret Saberhagen 126.97
Roy Halladay 125.27

Brown is 6th. That is very, very good. Just based on HRs, BBs, and SOs, Brown was 28.27% better than the league average.

But none of this is park adjusted. I also found RSAA per 9 IP (that is Runs Saved Above Average and is park adjusted, from Lee Sinins). Here is the top 20

Pedro Martinez 1.579
Lefty Grove 1.526
Roger Clemens 1.340
Roy Halladay 1.152
Randy Johnson 1.147
Hoyt Wilhelm 1.126
Greg Maddux 0.992
Tim Hudson 0.961
Tommy Bridges 0.958
Curt Schilling 0.955
Hal Newhouser 0.929
Whitey Ford 0.911
Urban Shocker 0.901
Carl Hubbell 0.890
Lefty Gomez 0.866
Gro. Alexander 0.857
Sandy Koufax 0.852
Bret Saberhagen 0.846
Kevin Brown 0.840
Mark Buehrle 0.838

Brown is 19th. Still pretty good.