Lost in the Numbersby Aaron Gleeman
July 25, 2005
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...
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 564When 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 63That Candy LaChance must have been one hell of a ballplayer.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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%.
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
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 and Resources
All of this and lots more can be found at The Hardball Times' 2005 Baseball Stats.
Aaron Gleeman is a freelance writer whose work can also be found regularly at AaronGleeman.com, Fox Sports, Rotoworld, and Insider Baseball. He welcomes comments, questions, and suggestions via e-mail.
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