When Casey went to the mound to take a pitcher out, the pitcher said, "I'm not tired," and Stengel replied, "Well, I'm tired of you." Bob Cerv, the big outfielder, was sitting at one end of the empty dugout before a game when Stengel came down the runway from the clubhouse and sat down near him. He looked over at Cerv and said, "Nobody knows this, but one of us has just been traded to Kansas City." Of the clean-living pitcher Bob Turley, when Turley was in a slump: "Look at him. He don't smoke, he don't drink, he don't chase women, and he don't win.".....Watching the smooth-swinging Jerry Lumpe cracking out line drives in batting practice, Stengel said, "He looks like the greatest hitter in the world until you play him.".....
A reporter asked him a question, and Casey talked for forty minutes. The reporter said, "Casey, you haven't answered my question," Casey said, "Don't rush me."....One writer left the press room in Yankee Stadium to go down to the dugout to talk with Casey late in the afternoon before a night game. An hour later he returned. "Did Casey tell you who he's going to pitch tomorrow?" another report asked. "He started to," the first man said, "but he got talking about McGraw and the time he managed in Toledo and the Pacific Coast League and God knows what else. I think tomorrow's starting pitcher is Christy Mathewson."
2006-02-20T11:57:45.796-05:00This time it's John S. writing a book about his forty year career in baseball front offices. While this book will inevitably be billed as the anti-Moneyeball book of the new Millenium, Schuerholz says that it's not the focus of the book. Instead, he says that the book is more about the inner-workings of the general manager job in baseball.
2006-02-17T00:40:51.250-05:00This past summer I read Robert W. Creamer's excellent biography on Babe Ruth. This winter my attention turned to reading his second definitive baseball biography, Stengel: His Life & Times . Written in the mid-1980's and a little over ten years after the writing of his Ruth book the steady, detailed writing style of Creamer is still very apparent. The book is nearly as enjoyable an overall read as the Ruth book.Near the end of chapter seven there resides an enlightening passage where Creamer explains his take on Stengel teammate Jake Daubert's 1913 season. It stands out as an early sabermetric nugget, a precursor to one of the many strains of the present day new-school statistically based baseball scholarship.Daubert at first base was one of the stars of the league - he hit .350 in 1913 to win the batting championship - although he wasn't nearly as good as his reputation made him out to be. He was given the "Chalmers Award" (a new Chalmers automobile) for being the outstanding player in the National League, although in retrospect it's obvious that Gavvy Cravath, the hard-hitting outfielder of the Phillies, was a far more valuable player. Cravath hit .341 to Daubert's .350, batted in 128 runs to Jake's 52 and scored 78 runs to the Brooklyn star's 76. And the Phillies finished second, compared to Brooklyn's sixth. Daubert's reputation reflected baseball thinking: His high batting average year after year dazzled people. He looked good at bat, and he looked good in the field. He had quick hands, could bunt amazingly well, and very seldom made an error. But he had little power at bat and little range in the field. No one noticed. He was Brooklyn's captain, and it's star. Creamer singles out Daubert's batting average as being the statistic that overrated his individual offensive accomplishments. Behind the gaudy batting average was a player with "little power", Creamer's implication being that unlike the powerful Cravath, Daubert's hits did not create as many runs or positive game-altering events for his team. Up until the mid-1990's rarely had the use of batting average as a central signifier of a player's hitting contribution been questioned. New-school statistical thinking pooh-poohs the use off batting average as an important statistic and looks more to high on-base percentage and slugging percentage players such as Cravath as the offensive standard-bearers of baseball.On the fielding side Creamer mentions the low error rate of Daubert but immediately notes that he lacked the necessary range at first base to be considered a very good fielder. But it was the low error rate that old-school thinkers were drawn to when they supported the notion that Daubert was a fine fielder. Creamer seems to be implying (like new-schoolers) that perhaps Daubert's low error rate is due to the fact that he's not getting to many balls in the first place, therefore lowering his fielding chances and lessening his error total. I find Creamer's intuitive reasoning about Daubert to be quite impressive and an example of someone possessing high baseball intelligence. In all of my reading of baseball from the pre-Bill James period I can't remember another writer ever exhibiting strains of new-school statistical thinking like Creamer does here. Creamer's intuitiveness on the subject is made all the impressive by the fact that he was principally a writer, not a baseball statistician.[...]
2006-02-15T13:14:27.536-05:00I gotta link to a baseball interview that features Albert Belle actually....talking.
2006-02-13T23:10:46.526-05:00Three years from baseball history roughly separated by forty years. A deadball era season that serves to represent the hardscrabble, knock 'em down play of baseball long ago. Another season set smack-dab in the middle of baseball's glory years. And a third season sitting just after baseball had reached it's lowest point of public approval since the you know what of 1919 had done it's dirty work.
Looks like 1915 and 1955 were pretty close using this metric while the 1996 players were about 10% less durable. A larger difference then I would've like to have seen but not the armageddon view that baseball old-timers ascribe to the durability of today's players.
One more thing I looked at was what percentage of their team's games did all of these players play aggregate in each of the years.
While 1996 had about 10% fewer players reach 90% of their team's games those players that did played at nearly the same rate as their 1915 and 1955 counterparts.
2005-12-23T11:23:26.290-05:00(Trying out some graphs today on the blog)
(image) There certainly are some peaks and valleys over the past forty years when using this measurement. But no overall downward trend. In fact, the 2.20 figure in 2004 is only the 12th lowest out of the thirty-nine seasons tracked in this analysis (1972, 1981, 1994 & 1995 were not counted due to the shortened seasons created by strikes and lockouts). The 1960's had two seasons lower than 2004. The 1970's had the most with four such seasons. The 1980's and 1990's each had three lower seasons while the aughts have had none so far. Based on past history it would appear that the average should begin to move back upwards over the next five or six years.
Sometimes a rolling average can help place better perspective on long-term trends. It takes the analyst away from the year-to-year herky jerky movement exhibited in the first graph and smooths things out for them visually. The graph below uses a five year rolling average that starts in 1966.
Interestingly, it's the early to mid-1970's era that really sticks out when using the rolling five year average as being the least durable time period for players when using the 150+ game measurement. Since then the players of the 80's, 90's and aughts have proven to be more durable and have not fallen down to those mid-70's levels of durability.
The measurement used in this analysis is merely one of hundreds that could be used to determine player durability. It's fun to see, though, that the first measurement I used exhibited no discernible difference between players of forty years ago and today's players. At least in this analysis it wasn't necessarily better back in the old days!
2005-12-18T21:17:05.753-05:00In the last six Hall of Fame elections the most dynamic pair of relievers of the late-70's through the mid-80's have slowly climbed their way up towards the magical 75% threshhold for enshrinement. Bruce Sutter, popularizer of the split-fingered fastball, was on the ballot for the first time in 1993. From that year up through the 1998 election Sutter grabbed between 23.90% and 31.08% of the votes.Then in 1999 Goose Gossage joined Sutter on the ballot with a 33.27% showing in the voting. Gossage's presence seemed to push Sutter up above the 30% mark to 38.48%. Since then Sutter has made very steady progress every single year on his climb to enshrinement. He moved from 38.48% to 47.57% to 50.42% to 53.63% to 59.49% and to 66.70% in 2005. Gossage has also moved up but not as well as Sutter has. From 33.27% Gossage then moved to 44.27% and then regressed for three straight years back down to 40.74% until rebounding nicely in 2005 with a 55.20 % showing. Classic Goose Both Gossage and Sutter are making consistent headway in the voting and I expect both to be elected by the end of the decade. Sutter has a very real chance for enshrinement in 2006. While Gossage will probably also be enshrined I think that he deserves to get in before Sutter. I don't quite understand why Sutter has always gotten more interest from the voters in the elections. My impression has always been that Gossage was the better reliever during his overall career and peak seasons.In terms of overall career Gossage had much greater longevity than Sutter. Over a twenty-two year career Gossage threw 1,809 innings. His lifetime ERA+ was 126.Sutter With His Third and Final TeamSutter's career was cut short by arm problems and the last good season he had was at the age of thirty-one. Over the span of a twelve year career Sutter threw 1,042 innings to the tune of a 136 ERA+. While Sutter didn't have the Goose's longevity he did pitch quality innings at a rate 8% better than Goose as measured by ERA+. How about some other statistical measures?Throughout their careers Sutter and Gossage both allowed hits per inning at nearly the same rate -- .84 hits per inning pitched for Sutter and .83 for Gossage. Sutter walked fewer batters (.30) per inning than did Gossage (.40). Both men struck out the same number of batters per inning with a .83 rate. In the home runs allowed department Sutter allowed slightly more with .07 as compared with Gossage's .06 per inning. So the per inning rate stats and ERA+ career stats give Sutter a slight edge over Gossage. But what if we look at their top ten seasons in a row during their careers? Their peak seasons of performance. For Sutter his peak was practically his entire career since he was done by age thrity-one. His peak years were from 1976 through 1984. For Gossage his peak years began during his sixth season in the major leagues. The year was 1977 and Gossage had been a starter the previous season and a below average one at that. Gossage's peak ran from 1977 with the New York Yankees through his 1985 season in a Padre uniform.This is where Gossage separates himself from Sutter in my opinion. First, Gossage's ERA+ during this period was an impressive 197. Sutter's was also impressive -- a 172. But a full 13% less impressive than Gossage's mark. That's a bigger ERA+ difference than their career difference of 8% in which Sutter leads.Sutter beats Gossage in walks per inning over their peak seasons with a .29 rate as compared to Gossage's .34 rate. They also are close in home runs per inning with .06 rates. It's in hits per inning and strikeouts per inning where Gossage separates himself a little from Sutter. Gossage allowed .71 hits per inning to Sutter's .81 and struck out .95 batters per inning as compared to Sutter's .85. So by these measurements Gossage had a more impressive peak period of his career than Sutter. In fact Gossage's peak career greatness exceeds Sutter mo[...]
2005-12-18T00:37:06.236-05:00The Royals finally jumped into the free agent fray this week and on the whole their four signings were underwhelming.
2005-12-16T08:06:33.800-05:00Baseball America has placed information on their website that I’ve dreamed of having access to for years. This information that I am currently salivating over is housed in a section of their website named the ‘Baseball Executive Database’. In this database resides the name of nearly every General Manager and Scouting Director for every major league ball club going back to 1950. I have never seen such a comprehensive listing of front office personnel anywhere.
Clemente was a legitimately great player, but not as great as typically portrayed. He was a tremendous hitter for average, and his throwing arm was among the most amazing ever displayed. But his speed was insufficient to allow him to steal bases or even to play center field on anything more than a very occassional fill-in basis. His power was so-so, inferior to that of the average right fielder. And Clemente's strike zone judgement was, frankly, awful, inferior to that of the average utility infielder.
Zimmerman is a once in a generation defender at the hot corner, where his soft hands, good range to both sides and above-average arm make for a legitimate Brooks Robinson-like package.In my reading of BA over the years this is not a magazine given to hyperbole when evaluating players. They are a very measured group of writers and to see a statement like the one above opens one's eyes -- wide.
2005-11-20T01:46:28.993-05:00It's not often that you come across Reggie Jackson in an Oriole uniform. I came across a couple of them during a recent internet surfing session and just had to put 'em up on the blog.
But some of you out there may say, "But I thought Reggie was only an Athletic, Yankee and Angel throughout his illustrious career?" Well, for a brief twilight zone period in baseball history Jackson was indeed an Oriole. According to Jim Palmer he and Reggie had a brief talk when they became teammates. It went something like this according to the Oriole Ace:
Reggie: "Hey Ace, you get your twenty wins this season and I'll get my thirty homers and this team will be just fine."
Palmer: "Ok, sounds good"
Palmer did grab his twenty wins that year and if not for missing twenty-eight games Jackson probably would have pushed his total for the year from twenty-seven dingers to up over thirty. Oh, one observation -- How antiquated does it sound for the game's top slugger to say he's aiming to hit thirty home runs in the upcoming season and that he'll consider it a good year? I don't think anyone under the age of twenty could relate to that statement after living through the ridiculous 1990's power surge that continues in part today!
Here's some background on Reggie the Oriole. Jackson was traded to the Orioles just before commencement of the 1976 regular season. It was a three for three trade that featured some fairly big names at the time. Kenny Holtzman was coming off consecutive 19-21-19-18 win seasons for the A's when he, Jackson and minor leaguer Bill VanBommell were traded to the Orioles on April 2nd. In return the the O's moved Don Baylor (consecutive 119-124-111-115 OPS+ seasons), Paul Mitchel and 1975 twenty game winner Mike Torrez to the A's.
Oakland A's owner Charlie Finley moved Jackson because he was to be a free agent after the 1976 season and did not want to pay the big salary that Jackson would be demanding that fall.
The '76 season was Jackson's age thirty season. He only played in 134 games (his lowest total since his rookie year) but had an excellent offensive season. His .502 slugging average topped the American League and an .853 OPS+ placed him third. And he did this in Memorial Stadium -- a ballpark with Park Factor of 94. That's getting into Dodger Stadium offensive territory. He also stole a career high 28 bases in 35 attempts.
In 1977 Jackson went to the New York Yankees for his $3.5 million payday and the rest is history.
Ahhh, that's better. Back in a uniform we all recoginize Reggie in.
2005-11-17T10:09:28.033-05:00Relief pitcher Billy Wagner's agent is named Bean Stringfellow.
2005-11-15T11:52:20.120-05:00I don't know that I'll post all of the upcoming articles that Steve Treder has planned in his study of the third base position but article number two has some good information in it and I thought I'd pass along the link. It looks like his subsequent articles in this series will be along the same lines as today's article.
2005-11-14T21:16:10.756-05:00Please enjoy this quick essay on Earl Weaver's rise to the major leagues. Discussion within the comments section (which comes after the article) brings up one of the peculiar ways that Weaver used ultra-weak hitting shortstop Mark Belanger in his lineups. I'll let you read that for yourself but I'll mention another Belanger offensive tactic that Weaver would use. Sometimes when the Orioles were on the road and therefore were batting first, Weaver would start the game with a strong hitter in the leadoff position and pencil him in at the shortstop position. It didn't matter whether this hitter (we'll call him Terry Crowley for instance) never played a day at shortstop in his life. Weaver just wanted to get Crowley's good bat going at the top of the order for that all important first at-bat of the game. Once the Oriole turn at bat in the top of the first inning was over Weaver would substitute Belanger for Crowley, thus saving the Oriole offense from one extra Belanger at-bat and getting his fantastic glove in the game before the Orioles even took the field.
2005-11-12T18:13:43.556-05:00With the Arizona Fall League season now over Gerry posts his Blue Jay centric wrap-up at Batter's Box. While Gerry goes in-depth in his report by conducting interviews regarding the Blue Jay organization's six players these two themes about the AFL in general caught my eye.
This years AFL set a record for offense, in part due to very weak pitching. Major league clubs are reluctant to send their top pitching prospects to Arizona for fear of overwork. Most of the pitchers in the AFL are either starting pitchers recovering from an injury that limited their innings in 2005, or relief pitchers.
I find the contrast in talent between the pitching and offensive quite interesting. Will this hurt the AFL over the long-term? In other words will the league begin to suffer in the eyes of the fans because the game's balance will be so skewed as to have the appearance of beer-league softball? Or perhaps fans will be reminded of the 1999 major league season and enjoy the show.
The hitters in the AFL are the cream of the crop...some of the best hitting prospects in the game. Most of these players will appear in the major leagues sometime next year, both of this years rookies of the year were in the AFL last year.
2005-11-12T18:14:52.113-05:00In 2004 Strat-O-Matic released its game discs of the 1911 season and the 2003 season. This was Strat-O-Matic's first "deadball" era deluxe season in its history. A deluxe season is defined as Strat-O-Matic's most precise statistical interpretation of a past season. Those seasons that are non-deluxe have not been statistically researched with nearly as much intensity as the deluxe seasons.On the Strat-O-Matic Fanforum posting site an excellent post gave a nice description of how the 1911 season plays. It was left by a poster named Ribman during the winter of 2004. Ribman's post conveys a very real sense of what it's like to be inside the mind of a Strat-O-Matic gamer. He called his post "A Whole New World". Here is that post in its entirety.Posted 2/21/2004 at 11:26pmPlayed my first 1911 games tonight- tourny of course and must admit I have to reprogram my mind- this was as challenging a first 2-3 games I've ever had trying to figure out how to play the 1911 game. I started managing both teams but I finally needed some guidance and let Hal take visitors. Everyone runs and everyone gets the lead like all the time- it's a wild mix of strong hitters with most last 3rd of lineups makes Ray Oyler look like Bonds ( there are starters who hit .132)- so the strategy can change pretty fast. The pitchers are ironmen as expected but Hal "Deadball" era settings areother worldly- does deadball mean a starter goes until the game is over or dead? I had an 11 ing game and The Braves lost the upset of the Cubbies as Hal let the starter - the legendary Buster Brown (1st shoe contract) pitched way tired last 3 innings- I expected a full 9 but after 9 and tired surely it was cool to pinch hit- relieve- guess not. Keys to winning- a catcher with an arm is a must (thus even a .132 average is worth stopping the non stop running game), the better teams are the ones who had (comparatively) best d up the middle- a lot of E-50's etc but the bad teams have 4-88's at SS and such - killer. There is more power than I thought-Wildfire Schulte- 21 dingers- I had no idea I thought the 1st 20 tater guy was later and named Ruth. The nicknames are just the best and deserve a separate thread. The history is awesome and anyone who has not read the 1911 review in the Replay section- it's a must- priceless info on how the SI of the times forecast the season.Right now the guy who most has caught my attention is Highlander SP Russ Ford. He just bested Big Train 2-0 for me and in the review he's listed as a young rookie phenom is 1910 (something like 27-3) and they are speculating if he can keep it up in 1911- he did (22-11 2.27) not a bad 1rst 2 seasons and I have never heard his name once. I know a fair amount of history and read Glory of Their times - more obscure books and never heard of this guy nor what happened to him obviously not the HOF) He was basically Mark Prior of his time and I'll be researching his career soon.note: just looked him up on Baseball Reference.com and he pitched 2 additonal years- was mediocre (but better than league avg era) in 1912 and very good again in 1913 on a bad NY team that didn't win. He then went Federal League for it's 2 years and I'm guessing was banned from baseball for life. Wow a guy that maybe was a HOF'r and he signed the wrong contract. Similar pitcher for him was listed Gary Peters.[...]
2005-11-10T23:24:53.770-05:00In the winter of 2002 Bill James released a book named "Win Shares". In this book James put forth the idea that all baseball players could be assigned one number that would quantify their overall value. For instance, in 1982 Cesar Cedeno hit .289ba/.346obp/.413slg/.759ops/+110 OPS+ in 138 games and around 550 plate appearances. James's intricate Win Shares formula (it took 119 pages to explain) assigned a value of 13 to Cedeno that year. So a very ordinary year by a regular would garner value of around 13. As James ran Win Shares on all major league players ever to play the game it was realized that the 30 win share per year threshhold could be considered MVP caliber. On the flip side part-timers and bit players were scattered throughout the neighborhood of single digit Win Share values.But it was James's theory that his Win Shares system leveled the playing field between all players that gained it currency with the public. The system cut through differences between players in positions, eras, ballparks and a whole host of other intricacies within the game. In other words, Houston Astro great Jimmy Wynn's career .250 batting average and 291 homeruns were recognized by Win Shares as having been deflated by a) the era Wynn played in and b) the home ballpark he played in. Likewise Albert Belle's punishing offensive statistics of the mid to late 1990-'s were to be deflated in the Win Shares system. Belle's devestating 1994 season when he hit .357ba/.438obp/.714slg earned him 30 win shares. But Wynn's 1968 season when he hit .269/.376/.474 generated 32 win shares. Win Shares at its very heart is a contextual system and Jimmy Wynn in the context of 1968 was one of the great hitters during that season. Wynn's numbers in the context of the 1994 season, though, would've been much less impressive.So there's a brief synopsis of Win Shares. I went to the Hardball Times website today and pulled up their Win Shares statistics for 2005. They say on their site "that THT's (The Hardball Times) Win Shares calculations are slightly modified from Bill James's original formula". We can assume that these Win Shares figures from THT's are very close to what James's original system would've wrought.I wanted to evaluate the four infield positions in baseball and see where the positional balance of power resided this past season. In this study I pulled from both leagues and pulled the top twenty Win Share earners for each of the four infield positions. I wanted to get a true feeling for the talent depth at each position without reaching too far down into the world of part-time players.First, I simply added up each position's top twenty and arrived at the following results:First Basemen ---------- 476 win sharesShortstops -------------- 398 win shares ---- 84% of first basemen totalSecond Baseman ------- 381 win shares ---- 80%Third Baseman --------- 368 win shares --- 77%First baseman come out on top by a large margin. What if we were to look only at the offensive outputs at each position? Since Win Shares compiles seperate "shares" for batting, fielding and pitching this is possible.First Basemen ---------- 446 offensive win sharesThird Basemen --------- 296 offensive win shares -- 66% of first baseman totalSecond Basemen ------- 287 offensive win shares -- 64%Shortstops -------------- 282 offensive win shares -- 63%As one would expect first basemen generate much of their value in their offensive output and leave the other positions in the dust. Now we can turn to defensive figures. Those of you who can do th[...]
2005-11-10T21:47:40.723-05:00Brandon Wood hit his 14th homerun of the Arizona Fall League season this afternoon. Last Saturday the twenty year-old broke Tagg Bozied's record of 12 homers in an AFL season when he jacked number thirteen.
2005-11-09T19:35:04.520-05:00After the franchise's most successful season in its history the Houston Astros have brought back all six members of their coaching staff for the 2006 campaign.
2005-11-08T18:40:50.080-05:00I greatly enjoyed part one of Steve Treder's series on the third base position and its place in history. The piece on Jimmy Collins' place in third base history was of particular interest.
2005-11-08T09:43:59.266-05:00Bruce Markusen envisions the Yankees coming up with around $30 million for a new setup man to bridge to closer Mariano Rivera in his most reccent installment of the Rumor Mill. That man is the nastiest left-handed reliever in the American League -- B.J. Ryan. The addition of Ryan would help take some of the workload off Rivera as well as place the Yankees right in the middle of the 2006 playoff hunt.