Come On, Baby!  Let’s Do the Splits!

Okay, so you think you’re smart, do ya? All right then, tell what stat line this is:

 AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG  OBP  SLG  OPS
466  27  90  17   4   1   25  42  70  14   5 .193 .261 .253 .514

So what do you think? Is that a typical Mark Belanger season? Or perhaps Steve Jeltz’s rookie year? Keep on guessing.

Or how about this one:

 AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG  OBP  SLG  OPS
333  55  94  15   3  26   54  29  66   3   0 .282 .349 .580 .929

One of Darryl Strawberry’s thunderous mini-seasons? What Sammy Sosa was hitting at the All-Star break in 2000? Wrong again.

Okay, one more:

 G  CG  SHO  SV   IP    H  HR   BB   SO  W   L   ERA
29   1    0   3  260  316  32  108  119  6  23  6.09

The ace pitcher of the 1962 Mets? The season Denny McLain had with the Senators?

You aren’t even close.

These three stat lines are, respectively:

(1) How the 1972 Texas Rangers batted, as a team, against the Oakland A’s.

(2) How the 1964 Minnesota Twins batted, as a team, while playing in Kansas City’s Municipal Stadium.

and

(3) The 2003 Detroit Tigers’ team pitching record for the month of August.

The Mother Lode

These pearls are just the tiniest sampling of the treasure to be found at the magnificent website Retrosheet.org. If you’re reading this—and you can’t deny that you are now, can you?—then you’re almost certainly familiar with Retrosheet, but in case you haven’t had the pleasure, then please allow me to make the introduction. This thing is an utter goldmine.

Retrosheet has been a collaborative project of dozens of volunteers over many years, but its inventor and leader throughout has been David W. Smith. His tremendous effort and remarkable achievement was honored by the Society for American Baseball Research this summer, when they bestowed upon him their highest honor, the 2005 Bob Davids Award. In Alan Schwarz’s terrific 2004 book on the subject of baseball statistics, The Numbers Game, Smith and the Retrosheet story are the subject of a five-page profile.

Splitsville

The Retrosheet site contains far more amazing stuff than can possibly be summarized here. It’s easy to lose entire afternoons there. (Believe me). For today, let’s mine just one of its stunningly rich veins: team split stats.

Among the myriad of split statistics that Retrosheet provides is one showing how each slot in the batting order performed for a team in a given year. In other words, the sum of all batters appearing in the leadoff spot, batting second, batting third, and so on. It’s fascinating.

The Anti-Murderer’s Row

Masochist that I am, I couldn’t help piecing together a nightmare scenario of really terrible batting order slots from some of the more notorious poor-hitting teams of the 1960s and early 1970s:

Year  Team       Slot  AB   R    H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB   SO  SB  CS   AVG  OBP  SLG  OPS
1969  Padres     1st  675  51  132  23   3   3   29  35  115  15  12  .196 .237 .252 .489
1968  Dodgers    2nd  648  74  138  15   6   2   33  44  102  16   5  .213 .262 .264 .526
1963  Colt .45s  3rd  624  51  128  18   5   5   51  55   87   5   2  .205 .270 .274 .544
1968  White Sox  4th  615  54  144  13   6   9   62  64   96   7   5  .234 .307 .319 .626
1972  Rangers    5th  569  58  116  18   0  15   46  58  126   8   7  .204 .281 .315 .596
1967  White Sox  6th  599  48  115  17   2   4   54  42  104   7   6  .192 .250 .247 .497
1971  Padres     7th  578  33  125  16   4   9   58  32   93   7   7  .216 .264 .304 .568
1968  Mets       8th  560  30  105   9   0   3   26  44  123   6   3  .188 .251 .220 .471
1968  Angels     9th  510  33   64   5   0   2   28  29  196   2   0  .125 .181 .147 .328

With Two Outs and the Bases Empty, The Batter is Willie Mays

The 1966 San Francisco Giants were the first team I followed really closely, on a daily basis, listening to most of the games on the radio, studying the box scores, and so on. Here is how the leadoff and number two spots in the batting order performed for that team:

Slot  AB    R    H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB   SO  SB  CS  AVG  OBP  SLG  OPS
 1st  707   85  176  25   4  12   54  23   74   9   4 .249 .275 .347 .622
 2nd  665  100  153  19   3  23   61  43  104   2   3 .230 .283 .371 .654

Yes, that’s right: .275 and .283 on-base percentages. Good grief. I tend to think that this alone explains much of the tendency toward insanity that has been so characteristic of my personality ever since.

3TO Alley

I wonder what fans who discovered baseball with the 1991 Detroit Tigers are like:

Slot   AB    R    H  2B  3B  HR  RBI   BB   SO  SB  CS  AVG  OBP  SLG  OPS
 4th  634  104  164  26   0  44  134   79  153   0   1 .259 .344 .508 .852
 5th  593   94  154  18   2  36   94  106  153   5   4 .260 .371 .479 .850
 6th  606   89  133  25   3  27   90   77  165   8   5 .219 .307 .404 .711
 7th  594   68  142  30   3  18   76   63  162  11  10 .239 .314 .391 .705

Perhaps they mutter the words “Three True Outcomes” each night to lull themselves into a peaceful slumber?

Another one of the cool splits Retrosheet provides is to show how all the batters appearing at each defensive position performed for each team. So, for example, here are the right fielders from these same 1991 Tigers:

 AB   R    H  2B  3B  HR  RBI   BB   SO  SB  CS  AVG  OBP  SLG  OPS
574  74  109  23   2  26   72  100  190   5   3 .190 .309 .373 .682

That’s mostly the signature handiwork of Rob Deer, of course. But the ’91 Tigers are the one team in history upon which Deer wasn’t really all that much of an outlier.

The Land of No Line Drives

And check this out. These were the center fielders for the 1965 Mets:

 AB   R    H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB   SO  SB  CS  AVG  OBP  SLG  OPS
613  64  119  25   4  18   61  40  175   8   4 .194 .246 .336 .582

Here are the pitchers for the 1968 Mets:

 AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB   SO  SB  CS  AVG  OBP  SLG  OPS
437  18  52   6   0   2   16  13  236   2   0 .119 .144 .146 .290

There was a whole lotta fannin’ goin’ on.

Speaking of offensive black holes, here are the shortstops for the 1968 Tigers:

 AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB   SO  SB  CS  AVG  OBP  SLG  OPS
541  41  88  12   4   5   32  46  126   3   3 .163 .233 .227 .460

That one has Ray Oyler’s fingerprints all over it, of course. Here’s how Oyler hit in April of that year:

 G  AB  R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG  OBP  SLG  OPS
17  50  2  11   3   0   0    5   5  11   0   0 .220 .281 .280 .561

He wasn’t exactly lighting it up, but he wasn’t really embarrassing himself, either. But let’s see how he did from May 1st onward:

 G   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG  OBP  SLG  OPS
94  165  11  18   3   1   1    7  15  48   0   2 .109 .181 .170 .351

Oh, yeah. That’s the stuff.

Rude Hosts

Let’s take a look at some teams that pitched really, really well at home:

Year  Team        G  CG  SHO  SV   IP    H  HR   BB   SO   W   L   ERA
1964  White Sox  81  29   12  16  768  588  42  219  493  52  29  2.13
1965  White Sox  81  11    9  26  761  622  51  217  454  48  33  2.53
1966  White Sox  81  22   18  12  760  577  36  186  429  45  36  2.07
1967  White Sox  82  19   15  18  783  582  38  230  448  49  33  2.07
1965  Dodgers    81  34   15  12  748  566  41  213  543  50  31  2.31
1966  Dodgers    81  29   13  15  761  616  36  178  610  53  28  2.27

That’s the sublime. Now for the ridiculous.

And Hospitable Ones

Check out the 1995-2001 Colorado Rockies’ pitching stat lines in Coors Field:

Year   G  CG  SHO  SV   IP    H   HR   BB   SO   W   L   ERA
1995  72   0    0  22  658  843  107  252  458  44  28  6.17
1996  81   5    2  16  738  903  122  314  457  55  26  6.17
1997  81   4    2  19  738  932  121  263  451  47  34  5.67
1998  81   4    0  16  741  885  101  273  467  42  39  5.70
1999  81   4    1  13  739  987  159  385  526  39  42  7.11
2000  81   3    0  13  739  896  133  303  522  48  33  6.06
2001  81   4    3  12  734  834  144  332  537  41  40  6.12

Yes, you’re reading that right: one year they were 55-26 with a 6.17 ERA at home.

Finishing Strong

Those Dodger teams were at their best coming down the stretch. (Yes, it pains me to recall this.) These are the performances of the Dodger staffs in September of 1965 and 1966:

Year   G  CG  SHO  SV     IP    H  HR  BB   SO   W  L   ERA
1965  27   8   10  10  249.2  188  12  64  170  20  7  1.59
1966  29   9    6  10  262.0  199  14  64  172  20  9  2.03

Ten shutouts in September of 1965. Criminy.

How about some other legendary September performances by great pitching staffs:

Year  Team      G  CG  SHO  SV     IP    H  HR  BB   SO   W  L   ERA
1969  Mets     30  15   10   4  272.1  210   3  82  186  23  7  2.15
1974  Orioles  29  13    8   4  278.2  219  11  82  131  23  6  2.07
1978  Yankees  30  11    4   7  267.2  212  22  90  163  22  8  2.52

That’s right: the 1969 Mets staff allowed just three home runs in the month of September.

Speaking of great pitching months, how about the Oakland A’s of August 2002?

 G  CG  SHO  SV   IP    H  HR  BB   SO   W  L   ERA
28   3    4  12  257  193  17  71  184  24  4  2.17

Is It Over Yet?

Meanwhile, some other staffs have suffered through some truly miserable months:

Year  Team       Month       G  CG  SHO  SV     IP    H  HR   BB   SO  W   L   ERA
1996  Tigers     April      27   1    0   2  237.2  288  50  138  174  9  18  7.31
1982  Twins      May        29   2    0   2  250.0  278  47  141  149  3  26  6.08
1979  Athletics  June       29   5    0   2  257.2  292  22  115  121  5  24  5.03
1962  Mets       July       29   9    1   2  251.0  290  49  101  130  6  23  5.70
1977  Mariners   August     28   3    0   2  243.1  284  55   95  135  6  22  6.58
2000  Cubs       September  28   2    1   4  239.1  273  42  137  192  6  22  6.24

Setting a Pace

Here is pretty much all you ever need to know about great starts and terrible starts:

Year  Team     Month   G  CG  SHO  SV     IP    H  HR  BB   SO  W    L   ERA
1984  Tigers   April  20   4    1   5  191.0  137  13  66  118  18   2  2.50
1988  Orioles  April  23   2    1   1  195.1  234  23  69  105   1  22  5.58

Mismatchups

It was really not fair for the early Mets to have to face the Dodgers. This is how the Dodger pitching staff fared against them in the Mets’ first six seasons:

Year   G  CG  SHO  SV     IP    H  HR  BB   SO   W  L   ERA
1962  18   7    2   5  165.0  119  15  79  142  16  2  3.16
1963  18   7    5   7  165.0  112   8  45  138  16  2  2.07
1964  19  10    4   2  165.0  122   8  34  115  15  3  1.75
1965  18   6    3   6  167.2  121   8  54  104  13  5  1.83
1966  18   7    3   5  160.2  148   5  46  122  12  6  2.46
1967  18   6    4   3  160.0  150   3  33  114  12  6  2.42

Some other staffs haven’t fared so well against particular opponents:

Year  Team       Versus      G  CG  SHO  SV     IP    H  HR  BB   SO  W   L   ERA
1962  Mets       Cardinals  18   5    1   1  156.0  203  30  58   82  5  13  6.23
1977  Blue Jays  Red Sox    15   2    0   0  129.0  161  24  51   79  3  12  6.28
1964  Red Sox    Twins      18   1    0   2  155.0  171  32  72  125  5  13  6.62
1979  Blue Jays  Twins      12   2    0   0  102.1  132  19  53   43  1  11  7.39
1999  Rockies    Giants     13   0    0   2  111.0  153  18  68   79  4   9  7.86
1996  Tigers     White Sox  13   0    0   2  112.0  162  24  68   69  3  10  9.56

Here are a few notable feasts from the hitters’ point of view:

Year  Team       Versus     AB    R    H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB   SO  SB  CS  AVG  OBP  SLG   OPS
1996  White Sox  Tigers    471  125  162  28   4  24  121  68   69   6   3 .344 .427 .573 1.000
1975  Reds       Cubs      447   99  162  23   4  12   93  62   87  16   3 .362 .439 .512  .951
1961  Yankees    Red Sox   626  106  185  26   5  35  103  70   85   2   2 .296 .368 .521  .889
1962  Cardinals  Mets      653  129  203  27   6  30  117  58   82  15   6 .311 .370 .508  .878
1964  Twins      Red Sox   617  126  171  35  11  32  119  72  125   6   3 .277 .352 .525  .877
1962  Giants     Mets      636  117  200  17   6  29  110  63   70  10   6 .314 .378 .497  .875
1977  Red Sox    Blue Jays 522   95  161  24   2  24   91  51   79   7   4 .308 .366 .500  .866

Bad Trips

And some famines in particular ballparks:

Year  Team       At            AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB  CS  AVG  OBP  SLG  OPS
1986  Cardinals  Los Angeles  186   8  30   4   0   0    6  10  41   2   3 .161 .204 .183 .387
1966  Senators   Chicago      272   6  44   1   2   2    6  22  51   3   1 .162 .229 .202 .431
1972  Rangers    Oakland      187  10  32   5   3   0   10  10  26   6   1 .171 .211 .230 .441
1965  Mets       Los Angeles  277  15  44   9   1   4   15  22  68   2   2 .159 .225 .242 .467
1972  Rangers    California   248  16  45   3   0   1   13  27  61  10   2 .181 .264 .206 .470
1963  Dodgers    Houston      309  23  61   8   5   0   21  19  52  10   2 .197 .244 .256 .500
1964  Senators   New York     286  20  51  10   1   2   18  34  76   3   2 .178 .270 .241 .511
1963  Senators   Baltimore    294  23  59  11   1   2   22  20  50   2   0 .201 .249 .265 .514

The Hot

Some torrid months:

Year  Team     Month       AB    R    H  2B  3B  HR  RBI   BB   SO  SB  CS  AVG  OBP  SLG  OPS
1962  Giants   April      670  137  197  34   4  29  121   82   98   9   5 .294 .370 .487 .857
1964  Twins    May       1052  165  271  42   7  55  159   98  208   7   5 .258 .324 .468 .792
1961  Yankees  June      1130  184  298  44   6  53  173   97  166   6   3 .264 .322 .454 .776
2003  Braves   July      1021  189  318  58   6  39  184  105  149  12   4 .311 .378 .495 .873
1998  Yankees  August    1158  222  367  69   3  54  208  129  211  16  11 .317 .383 .522 .905
2000  Astros   September  987  195  307  60  11  46  190  111  190  22  10 .311 .383 .534 .917

And The Not

And some oh-so-tepid ones:

Year  Team       Month       AB   R    H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO   SB  CS  AVG  OBP  SLG  OPS
2003  Tigers     April      741  54  136  21   2  11   49  69  163   5   8 .184 .258 .262 .520
1969  Angels     May        856  58  181  28   1  11   53  80  163  11   8 .211 .281 .285 .566
1963  Colt .45s  June       970  45  195  21   7   8   40  72  184   6   4 .201 .259 .262 .521
1971  Padres     July       927  68  194  33   5  15   63  64  150   8  11 .209 .264 .304 .568
1968  Indians    August    1144  86  237  36   4   8   76  99  194  27  12 .207 .276 .267 .543
1972  Rangers    September  814  53  149  22   5   5   48  65  158  22  11 .183 .243 .241 .484
1972  Rangers    October     88   4   13   1   0   0    4   7   17   9   1 .148 .211 .159 .370

That 1972 Ranger team was managed by, of all people, Ted Williams. That September/October performance of theirs was in the final few weeks of Williams’s managing career. It’s no wonder he voluntarily terminated his contract at the end of that season; what’s remarkable is that Teddy Ballgame didn’t go off to Tibet to live as a monk for the rest of his days.

You Get the Idea

The informational jewels unearthed here represent but an infinitesimal fraction of what’s ready for the taking at Retrosheet. Before exploring it yourself, may I remind you to always practice safe data mining: pack plenty of food and water, and make sure you let someone know before you go, because it’s likely you won’t return for a very long time.

References & Resources
Alan Schwarz, The Numbers Game, New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2004, pp. 249-254.

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