Lost in the Numbers

As Dave Studeman and Bryan Donovan work tirelessly behind the scenes to improve our stats section here at The Hardball Times, it is becoming easier and easier to get lost in the numbers. Sometimes I head over to the stats section to look up, say, Joe Mauer‘s line drive percentage, and before I realize it, I’ve been there clicking and sorting for an hour.

Our most recent additions are individual player pages, which allow you to search for the last name of a player and watch as everything you could ever want to know about his season pops up. On Mauer’s player page, for instance, you can look at all the basic stats like plate appearances, runs, RBI, hits, doubles, triples, homers, total bases, walks, strikeouts, stolen bases, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS. And I even left out some of the boring stuff, like sacrifice flies and intentional walks, which are also on the page.

But wait, there’s a whole lot more. Each player page also includes what we call “THT stats,” which is the stuff that goes beyond the basics. You’ll find Runs Created, RC/G, Gross Production Average, Pitches/PA, Line Drive Percentage, Ball in Play AVG, Ground Ball-to-Fly Ball Ratio, Infield Fly-to-Fly Ball Ratio, Home Run-to-Fly Ball Ratio, and AVG with Runners in Scoring Position. And if you don’t know what some of that stuff means, you can look it up in THT’s Stats Glossary.

Oh and those are just the stats for hitters. A search for a pitcher, say Roger Clemens, reveals a whole new set of numbers to gaze at. Clemens’ player page includes the basics like games, starts, wins, losses, ERA, saves, save opportunities, innings, hits, strikeouts, walks, batters faced, pitches thrown and homers allowed. And then there’s the fun stuff—Pitching Runs, Runs Allowed/9 IP, Fielding Independent Pitching, Expected FIP, LD%, GB-to-FB Ratio, IF-to-FB Ratio, HR-to-FB Ratio, Strikeouts/Game, Walks/Game, Strikeout-to-Walk Ratio and Pitches/Start.

And when you’ve soaked up all you can soak up with Mauer and Clemens, just type another name in the search box. Or, if you’re interested in more than examining individual players, take a look at the sortable batting and pitching stats for all players, the team stats and graphs, and the sortable Win Shares. We are also in the process of adding more information—like Win Shares and salary data—to the individual player pages.

Here are just some of the many interesting things I discovered while looking through THT’s stats section this weekend…

  • I wrote about Ivan Rodriguez‘s disappearing walk rate in early June, and since then he has drawn exactly one free pass in 164 plate appearances. Rodriguez now has five walks this season, and two of those were intentional. He has never been much for walking, but this is a sudden and extreme change for a guy who drew a respectable 84 non-intentional walks over the previous two seasons.

    Rodriguez is on pace to draw an astoundingly low five non-intentional walks in 583 plate appearances this year, which is a total that could probably be topped without ever bringing a bat to the plate. In fact, if Rodriguez can stay on his current pace he would set the all-time record for fewest non-intentional walks in a season with at least 550 plate appearances. Here’s the all-time leaderboard, along with Rodriguez’s current pace:

                        YEAR     BB      PA
    IVAN RODRIGUEZ      2005      5     583
    Art Fletcher        1915      6     599
    George Stovall      1909      6     576
    Candy LaChance      1901      7     564
    Tito Fuentes        1966      8     564

    When you have a chance to sit atop an all-time leaderboard ahead of three guys from before 1920 and one of them is named Candy LaChance, you know you’re on the verge of accomplishing something really special. Of course, the most amazing thing isn’t that Rodriguez has stopped drawing walks—it’s that he has remained a productive hitter while doing so. Here’s how his current pace ranks among the all-time leaders in Runs Created in a season with fewer than 10 total walks:

                        YEAR     BB     RC
    Candy LaChance      1901      7     71
    Shawon Dunston      1997      8     70
    Mariano Duncan      1996      9     66
    IVAN RODRIGUEZ      2005      8     65
    Rube Oldring        1907      7     63

    That Candy LaChance must have been one hell of a ballplayer.

  • One the most interesting stats we track here at THT is Strikeouts/Game, which goes beyond the typical Strikeouts/Nine Innings you see listed most places. Instead, Strikeouts/Game is based on the number of strikeouts a pitcher has divided by the number of batters he faced, and then multiplied by the average number of batters per game in the league.

    The advantage the stat has over a simple strikeout rate is that it accounts for pitchers who give up lots of hits and walks, and thus have to face more batters to get their strikeouts. In other words, while their strikeout rates don’t show it, there is a difference between a pitcher who strikes out one batter in a 1-2-3 inning and a pitcher who strikes out one batter while giving up three hits and two walks in one inning. Strikeouts/Game accounts for that.

    Which pitcher with at least 35 innings pitched this season has the most Strikeouts Per Game? Brad Lidge? Francisco Rodriguez? B.J. Ryan? All good guesses and all averaging over 13 K/G, but all wrong. The leader is Rudy Seanez, who has struck out 62 of the 165 batters he has faced this season, for a strikeout rate of 14.4/G. Sadly, as has been the case far too often during his career, Seanez is currently on the disabled list with a strained shoulder and hasn’t pitched since July 7. Another injured reliever, Eric Gagne, leads all pitchers with 10 or more innings this season with an amazing 15.9 K/G.

  • Milwaukee lefty Chris Capuano leads all of baseball with 10 pickoffs, which is pretty impressive considering just three other pitchers—Mike Maroth, Mark Buehrle and Doug Davis—have as many as five pickoffs this year. All four of those guys are southpaws, which isn’t surprising. In fact, the only right-handed pitcher with as many as three pickoffs this season is Jamey Wright, who has four.

    As you might expect from a guy with 10 pickoffs, Capuano has been nearly impossible to run on this year, allowing just one stolen base in nine attempts. Maroth, who ranks second with six pickoffs, has yet to allow a single stea,l and eight runners have been thrown out trying (no doubt in large part to his catcher, who has not forgotten how to throw even if he’s forgotten how to walk). Along with Maroth, Jarrod Washburn (another lefty) is the only other pitcher who has thrown enough innings to qualify for the ERA title without allowing a stolen base this season.

    Kevin Millwood has been the worst at holding runners, with zero pickoffs and an MLB-leading 24 steals allowed in 26 attempts (92.3%). Millwood has bounced around among three different teams over the past four years, but has remained consistently awful at keeping runners in check. For his entire career he has allowed 152 steals at an 84.4% success rate, including 98 steals in 106 attempts (92.5%) since 2002.

  • Despite his strange outburst a few days ago that involved talk of needing knee surgery, Livan Hernandez leads baseball in batters faced with 642. As I wrote last month, Hernandez has long been one of the biggest workhorses in baseball. This year is no different, as he leads the second-ranked Roy Oswalt in batters faced by nearly 10% (although Oswalt holds a 0.1-inning lead in innings pitched).

    Hernandez also leads baseball in pitches thrown with 2,460, tossing nearly 200 pitches more than the next guy, Barry Zito. Hernandez ranks just second in hit batters with 11, trailing Casey Fossum, who has plunked an MLB-leading 13 batters despite throwing just 89.2 innings (40% fewer than Hernandez). Among the 106 pitchers who have enough innings to qualify for the ERA title, only Mark Redman, Ben Sheets, Johan Santana, Cliff Lee, John Smoltz, and Chris Carpenter have yet to hit a batter.

  • Carlos Silva leads all pitchers with 34 double plays turned behind him in 130.2 innings this season, for an average of one double play every four innings or so. Over 17% of Silva’s outs have come on double plays, while just 12% have come on strikeouts. The interesting thing about Silva’s huge double-play total—he has 42% more than the next guy—is that he hasn’t been setting up many double plays with walks. Silva has just seven walks all year for an MLB-low 0.5 Walks/Game. His rotation-mate, Brad Radke, ranks second with 0.7 BB/G, while Scott Kazmir brings up the rear in 106th place at 4.9.
  • The toughest pitcher to hit a homer against this season has been San Francisco rookie reliever Scott Munter, who has yet to allow a long ball in 29.2 innings. Not surprisingly, Munter is an extreme ground-ball pitcher, with a GB-to-FB ratio of 5.15-to-1 that leads all pitchers with 25 or more innings this season. The easiest guy to take deep this season has been Houston rookie Ezequiel Astacio, who has served up 13 homers in just 31.2 innings. With 149 batters faced on the year, that means 8.7% of the batters who have stepped to the plate against Astacio this season have taken him deep.

    Among ERA qualifiers, Eric Milton has been the easiest to homer against, as his 2.13 HR/G is nearly 24% higher than the next guy, Jose Lima (1.73). When you’re beating Jose Lima handily in a home run-throwing contest, you know you’re having a rough year. Not surprisingly, Milton also has the lowest GB-to-FB ratio among ERA qualifiers at 0.62-to-1, which basically means everything he throws gets hit in the air. With an MLB-leading 4.28 grounders for every fly ball, Brandon Webb is at the other end of the spectrum.

  • In addition to leading baseball in the traditional Triple Crown stats (AVG, HR, RBI), Derrek Lee also leads everyone in what I’d call the “Sabermetric Triple Crown” numbers: batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. He of course also ranks first in OPS and GPA, and sits atop the Runs Created rankings with 104 (Albert Pujols is second with 95). Interestingly, Lee ranks just eighth in Line Drive Percentage at 25.7%, looking up at Brian Roberts (28.7%) and David Wright (28.2%), who lead their respective leagues.

    The lowest LD% in baseball belongs to Torii Hunter at 14.2%, whom I’ve always thought of as a “line-drive hitter.” Of course, Alex Rodriguez ranks 152nd out of 156 batting title qualifiers in LD% at 15.8%, so it’s not the end of the world. Their low LD% rankings likely just mean that Hunter and Rodriguez have been hitting more fly balls (which often end up as home runs) than line drives (which often end up as singles and doubles).

    Oh, and we of course track home run-to-fly ball ratios as well. Rodriguez ranks tied for second in baseball with 25% of his fly balls leaving the ballpark, behind only Travis Hafner (26%). Hunter is in the middle of the pack in 45th place, with 15% of his fly balls going for homers. The worst HR-to-FB ratios? Well, those belong to the only two batting title qualifiers without a homer—Jason Kendall and Scott Podsednik.

  • When the ball is put in play (read: not a homer, walk or strikeout), Miguel Cabrera leads baseball with a .396 batting average. Lee is second at .387, with Nick Johnson (.378), Johnny Damon (.372) and Brian Roberts (.365) rounding out the top five. There is a strong correlation between LD% and AVG/BIP, so it’s not surprising to see Cabrera, Lee, and Roberts in the top 10 for both. The worst batting average on balls in play belongs to Richard Hidalgo at .233. Hidalgo also ranks second-to-last in baseball in LD% at 15.0%, ahead of only Hunter.

    BA/BIP is a little trickier for pitchers, because there is a lot of debate over how much control they really have over whether or not a pitch becomes an out or a hit once it leaves their hand. Zito has had Oakland’s defense turn an MLB-best 76.6% of the balls put in play against him into outs. Put another way, his opponent’s batting average on balls in play is .234, which is right in line with Hidalgo’s MLB-worst .233 AVG/BIP for hitters. Bringing up the rear for pitchers is Sidney Ponson, who has had just 64.8% of the BIP against him turned into outs by Baltimore’s defense.

  • While line drives usually lead to hits, infield flies usually lead to outs (as anyone who has seen a hitter slam his bat into the ground in frustration after popping a pitch up can attest to). Twenty-eight percent of Florida shortstop Alex Gonzalez‘s fly balls this season have been of the infield fly variety, which leads baseball. Wright and Mauer, two of the brightest young stars in baseball, have been the best at avoiding infield flies at just 2%.

    On the pitching side—where infield flies are a positive thing—Arizona starters Brad Halsey and Javier Vazquez have been the best in baseball at 25% and 21%, respectively. Interestingly, their rotation mate with the Diamondbacks, Shawn Estes, has been the worst at 2%.

  • Finally, here are some of the more interesting leaderboards …
    Hitting Leaders
    WIN SHARES                  RUNS CREATED/27 OUTS         RUNS CREATED
    Derrek Lee           26     Derrek Lee          12.6     Derrek Lee           104
    Albert Pujols        25     Albert Pujols       10.6     Albert Pujols         95
    Gary Sheffield       22     Gary Sheffield       9.7     Gary Sheffield        87
    Brian Roberts        20     Travis Hafner        9.5     Alex Rodriguez        82
    Brian Giles          20     Nick Johnson         9.4     David Ortiz           80
     
    GB-TO-FB RATIO (HIGH)       GB-TO-FB RATIO (LOW)         LINE DRIVE PERCENTAGE
    Luis Castillo      4.26     Pat Burrell         0.62     Brian Roberts       28.7
    Derek Jeter        2.91     Carlos Lee          0.65     David Wright        28.2
    Juan Pierre        2.89     Richard Hidalgo     0.66     Chase Utley         28.0
    Jacque Jones       2.62     Mike Lowell         0.66     Joe Randa           26.6
    Royce Clayton      2.44     David Ortiz         0.66     Geoff Jenkins       26.6
     
    GROSS PRODUCTION AVG        PITCHES/PA (HIGH)            PITCHES/PA (LOW)
    Derrek Lee         .388     Bobby Abreu          4.5     Vladimir Guerrero    3.2
    Albert Pujols      .349     Jim Edmonds          4.3     Neifi Perez          3.3
    Alex Rodriguez     .349     Adam Dunn            4.3     Garret Anderson      3.3
    Miguel Cabrera     .348     David Dellucci       4.3     Jimmy Rollins        3.3
    Brian Giles        .344     Brad Wilkerson       4.3     Shea Hillenbrand     3.3
    Pitching Leaders
    WIN SHARES                  PITCHING RUNS                FIELD. INDEP. PITCHING
    Mark Buehrle         18     Roger Clemens         45     Pedro Martinez      2.51
    Roger Clemens        17     Chris Carpenter       37     Roger Clemens       2.64
    Jon Garland          16     Roy Halladay          35     Chris Carpenter     2.68
    Roy Halladay         16     Roy Oswalt            34     Dontrelle Willis    2.90
    Kenny Rogers         15     Pedro Martinez        31     Jake Peavy          2.94
     
    STRIKEOUTS/GAME             WALKS/GAME                   HOMERS/GAME
    Jake Peavy         10.5     Carlos Silva         0.5     Roger Clemens        0.4
    Pedro Martinez     10.4     Brad Radke           0.7     Dontrelle Willis     0.4
    Johan Santana      10.3     David Wells          1.1     Victor Zambrano      0.5
    Chris Carpenter     9.4     Roy Halladay         1.2     Mark Buehrle         0.5
    John Lackey         9.0     Paul Byrd            1.2     Tom Glavine          0.5
     
    GB-TO-FB (HIGH)             GB-TO-FB (LOW)               LINE DRIVE PERCENTAGE
    Brandon Webb       4.28     Eric Milton         0.62     Jason Marquis       13.8
    Jake Westbrook     3.68     Hideo Nomo          0.62     Joe Blanton         14.3
    Derek Lowe         3.05     John Patterson      0.62     Daniel Cabrera      14.5
    Roy Halladay       2.83     Scott Elarton       0.74     Pedro Martinez      14.6
    A.J. Burnett       2.77     Chris Young         0.77     Johan Santana       15.1
     
    BATTERS FACED               PITCHES THROWN               AVG ON BALLS IN PLAY
    Livan Hernandez     642     Livan Hernandez     2460     Barry Zito          .234
    Roy Oswalt          603     Barry Zito          2280     Roger Clemens       .235
    Mark Buehrle        597     Doug Davis          2191     Pedro Martinez      .238
    John Smoltz         596     Roy Oswalt          2166     Jose Contreras      .240
    Randy Johnson       589     John Smoltz         2157     Carlos Zambrano     .251
  • References & Resources
    All of this and lots more can be found at The Hardball Times’ 2005 Baseball Stats.

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