Pull a chair up by your mailbox and set a spell, because The Hardball Times Annual 2006 will ship early next week. You won’t want to miss it.
There are several sections of the Annual, including a review of the 2005 season (divisions and postseason play), commentary on the 2005 season (such as Rob Neyer’s list of the biggest management mistakes of the year and Brian Gunn’s “GM in a Box” view of Walt Jocketty), a few articles dealing with the history of baseball (including two articles by Bill James, one of which focuses on Bert Blyleven’s record) and a rather large analytic section that includes many in-depth studies of the batted ball data we receive from Baseball Info Solutions, among other things.
That’s half the book. The other half consists of a passel of stats, including league, team and player stats, as well as graphs and leaderboards. And you can have it next week just by clicking here. After you’ve ordered the Annual, come on back because I want to tell you more about the batted ball data.
All done? Thanks. Back to what I was saying…
To prepare for the Annual, we ordered a special data set from BIS. Specifically, we asked for all types of batted balls (outfield fly, ground ball, infield fly, line drive and bunt) hit by every single batter and allowed by every single pitcher over the last four years. In addition, the data set includes the outcome of every one of those batted balls (such as outs, singles, doubles, triples and the like). There was so much data, we hardly knew where to begin, but we managed to pack a lot of info into the book you just ordered. There are five articles that review the batted ball data…
- “What’s a Batted Ball Worth?” which calculates the relative value of each type of batted ball.
- “They Play in Parks,” an analysis of the difference that each ballpark makes on batted balls, with some very interesting findings.
- “Batted Ball Fielding Stats,” which combines the batted ball data to assess the fielding prowess of each team in 2005, laying the groundwork for David Gassko’s Range stats, which are listed in the statistics section.
- “Do Players Control Batted Balls?” a joint effort by J.C. Bradbury and David Gassko, which may be the definitive study so far of how much impact individual batters and pitchers have on the outcomes of batted balls.
- “Giving Players their PrOPS,” a year-end review of J.C. Bradbury’s PrOPS, including the leading over- and under-performers of the year.
The articles in the Annual are just the beginning of what we will share with you from the BIS data. Today, just to kick things off, I’m going to list some batted ball leaderboards of the past four years.
For background, you might want to review Tom Ruane’s July Retrosheet article, which lists the run value of every type of plate outcome for each of the past gazillion years. For instance, from 2002 to 2004, the average value of a strikeout was -0.287 runs and the value of a walk (both intentional and non-intentional) was .304 runs. If you apply those values to the number of times each batter struck out or walked over the past four years, you have the following top 10 value “leaders and laggards” for non-batted balls:
Balls and Strikes Value Added Leaders Laggards ======= ========== Bonds Barry 144.49 Patterson Corey -108.94 Giles Brian 64.18 Soriano Alfonso -99.81 Helton Todd 50.77 Hernandez Jose -94.92 Kendall Jason 45.41 Jones Jacque -82.82 Pujols Albert 40.85 Wilson Preston -75.97 Sheffield Gary 36.06 Cameron Mike -75.74 Gonzalez Luis 26.10 Pena Carlos -71.68 Berkman Lance 26.02 Gonzalez Alex -69.16 Eckstein David 26.01 Sanders Reggie -68.86 Hatteberg Scott 25.77 Burnitz Jeromy -66.77
Mr. Bonds laps the field even though he didn’t play very much in 2005 (note: intentional walks are included in the totals), while the number-two guy is my favorite 2005 free agent: Brian Giles. At the other end of the list is Wrigley Field-whipping-boy Corey Patterson, who was over 100 runs in the hole before even getting the bat on the ball, even though he didn’t play full-time the entire four years in question.
Now let’s apply the same logic to batted balls, outfield flies up first. I calculated the value of each type of batted ball for each batter, based on how often he singled, doubled, homered, flew out, etc. etc. for each ball. For instance, here is a list of the leaders and laggards in value per outfield fly, in which we see that every outfield fly smacked by Bonds was worth a full half run more than an outfield fly plinked by Einar Diaz. Only players with at least 1,000 plate appearances appear on the list:
Outfield Fly Value Per Ball Leaders Laggards ======= ========== Bonds Barry 0.328 Diaz Einar -0.169 Edmonds Jim 0.279 Vina Fernando -0.155 Thome Jim 0.278 Palmeiro Orlando -0.145 Sexson Richie 0.271 Vazquez Ramon -0.139 Clark Tony 0.270 Kendall Jason -0.131 Ramirez Manny 0.263 Pierre Juan -0.120 Bay Jason 0.252 Hairston Jerry -0.120 Sosa Sammy 0.250 Perez Neifi -0.118 Dunn Adam 0.237 Izturis Cesar -0.117 Rodriguez Alex 0.234 Sanchez Rey -0.113
I should mention that I didn’t park adjust these figures, which can make a significant difference. For instance, the average value of an outfield fly in Coors Field is .112 runs, compared to -.021 in RFK (last year only). Said differently, for every 7.5 flyballs, a run scores in Coors that doesn’t score in RFK.
The two guys who jump off this list to me are Jim Edmonds, second to only Bonds in value per outfield fly, and Jason Kendall, one of the worst of all at getting value from his flyballs. Kendall’s strength, obviously, comes when he doesn’t hit the ball at all (fourth on the strikeout/walk list) while Edmonds offsets his power somewhat by his plate judgement (-43 strikeout/walk runs).
You probably won’t be surprised to see who the leader is in value per ground ball:
Ground Ball Value Per Ball Leaders Laggards ======= ========== Suzuki Ichiro -0.019 Phillips Jason -0.176 Baldelli Rocco -0.025 Piazza Mike -0.165 Figgins Chone -0.027 Diaz Einar -0.163 Byrnes Eric -0.030 Miller Damian -0.156 Crawford Carl -0.031 Lowell Mike -0.154 Lofton Kenny -0.032 Pierzynski Anthony -0.152 Byrd Marlon -0.034 Johnson Charles -0.152 Mench Kevin -0.039 Choi Hee Seop -0.150 Ellis Mark -0.040 Griffey Jr.Ken -0.148 Damon Johnny -0.041 Mayne Brent -0.147
Ground balls are a negative event for even the great Ichiro, but he manages to squeeze more value out of them than anyone else. Most of the other leaders on this list are speedsters, while the laggards are catchers and other slow guys.
I was a little surprised to find Ken Griffey Jr. on a list with players like Jason Phillips and Charles Johnson, but this ranking corroborates the poor fielding rankings Griffey received this year. Both imply that Junior has gotten tremendously slow. Also, the Great American Ballpark has the lowest value per ground ball of any park in the majors. It’s just not the place to hit a ground ball.
How about value per line drive?
Line Drive Value Per Batted Ball Leaders Laggards ======= ========== Thomas Frank 0.495 Sanchez Rey 0.256 Branyan Russell 0.492 Castillo Luis 0.267 Thome Jim 0.457 Scutaro Marcos 0.269 Pujols Albert 0.452 Mayne Brent 0.273 Walker Larry 0.451 Ausmus Brad 0.283 Floyd Cliff 0.449 Diaz Einar 0.285 Delgado Carlos 0.434 Olerud John 0.286 Bonds Barry 0.432 Pierre Juan 0.288 Sheffield Gary 0.430 Surhoff William 0.290 Hunter Torii 0.428 Counsell Craig 0.291
While there is a correlation between strong outfield fly batters and strong line drive batters (R squared of .28, where 1.00 is perfect), this list of leaders is substantially different from the outfield fly list. Only Bonds and Thome make both lists, and a comparison between the two lists allows you to start to categorize batters.
For instance, Floyd and Sheffield are only slightly above average in value per outfield fly; they’re categorized as line drive batters. On the other hand, Richie Sexson, Tony Clark, Jason Bay and Manny Ramirez are all about average in value per line drive; they’re categorized as power fly ball batters.
Getting value for your line drive is very important, but so is hitting a line drive in the first place. Here are the leader and laggard lists for line drive percentage:
Line Drives Per Plate Appearances Leaders Laggards ======= ========== Loretta Mark 21.5% Dunn Adam 10.5% Polanco Placido 20.2% Dellucci David 11.0% Young Michael 19.8% Branyan Russell 11.3% Lo Duca Paul 19.7% Bellhorn Mark 11.4% Grudzielanek Mark 19.6% Johnson Charles 11.6% Garciaparra Nomar 19.3% Pena Carlos 11.8% Karros Eric 19.2% Jones Jacque 12.0% Mayne Brent 19.1% Ventura Robin 12.0% Diaz Einar 19.1% Stairs Matt 12.1% Vizcaino Jose 19.1% Crosby Bobby 12.1%
Mark Loretta has been the purest line drive batter in the majors the last four years, although his value per line drive is slightly below average. In the other extreme, Russell Branyan, who has the second-highest line drive value, is third-worst at hitting them.
As I said, these leaderboards are the tip of the iceberg. Over the next month or two, I will post pitching leaderboards and I will also set up a system to categorize batters based on the value of the batted balls they hit. If you have any suggestions or comments for what you’d like to see from the data, or other areas of investigation, drop me an e-mail.
One of the things that surprised me was how effective the bunt can be, in the hands of the right hitter and when used in the right situations. Here is a list of leaders in batting average on bunts (minimum of 20 bunts; sacrifice bunts are included):
Batting Average on Bunts Last First Bunts BA Terrero Luis 21 .524 Aurilia Rich 31 .516 Beltran Carlos 34 .500 Baldelli Rocco 26 .500 Suzuki Ichiro 57 .491 Taveras Willy 66 .455 Ellison Jason 23 .435 Punto Nick 30 .433 Johnson Reed 51 .431 Renteria Edgar 48 .417
And here is a list of the performance among batters who have bunted most often in the past four years.
Guys Who have bunted the most Last First Bunts BA Pierre Juan 283 .339 Sanchez Alex 195 .385 Roberts Dave 166 .325 Furcal Rafael 141 .312 Perez Neifi 126 .310 Podsednik Scott 104 .346 Wilson Jack 103 .223 Womack Tony 100 .410 Crisp Covelli 96 .281 Eckstein David 96 .250
Why is Jack Wilson bunting???