Platoon Leveraging Data Dump (Starting Pitcher Leveraging, Part 6)

Hi and welcome back yet again to THT’s series on starting pitcher leverage. This is the paragraph those of you familiar with the series can skip. (Actually, you can skip the next one, too). For the rest of you: Starting pitcher leverage is when a team intentionally uses a pitcher against a rival club. In modern times, with a firmly regimented five-man rotation, it no longer exists, but it was common from the Gilded Age until the 1960s. For example, long time fans can recall how Casey Stengel intentionally started Whitey Ford as often as possible against the Yankees’ main rivals, the White Sox and Indians.

After looking at starters with the best and worst careers, single seasons, figuring out how much impact leveraging had on hurlers’ runs allowed, and answering one critic of this project, the most recent article focused on platoon leveraging. As the term implies, platoon leveraging existed when managers used their lefties against the most left-leaning lineups, or righties against the appropriate offenses. The first two articles on leveraging revealed that platoon leveraging was a crucial component in this phenomenon. To quantify this specific type of leveraging, I invented a stat, L#. Scroll to the very bottom of this article for a full description of it. Briefly, L# investigates how southpaws were used against a team, not by a team. A score of 100 means the team saw as many lefties as it should have, higher means it saw lefties more often, and lower indicates it saw less them often.

Last article, I showed only the highest L#s ever. In this one I’ll give you the 20 lowest. Then, since there’s no point just sitting on this info, the heart of this article will be a data dump: I’ll provide the L# for every team from 1892-1969 except (for reasons discussed last article) the Federal League.

Lowest L#s Ever

These are the teams that saw far fewer lefties than they should have. As mentioned in the previous article, none of this is based on a complete sample size. It looks only at lefties for whom I computed Average Opponent Winning Percentage, but since I AOWPd two-thirds of all starts from 1876-1969, that’s a large enough body to produce conclusions.

    Year  Team  	      L#
1.  1957  Dodgers       11
2.  1955  Dodgers       13
3.  1941  Reds          17
4.  1947  Pirates       26
5.  1909  Indians       31
6.  1957  A's           32
7.  1915  Reds          33
8.  1929  Reds          34
9.  1909  Yankees       35
10. 1907  A's           37
11. 1956  Dodgers       38
12. 1910  Reds          40
12. 1943  Reds          40
12. 1946  Reds          40
12. 1949  Pirates       40
16. 1908  Indians       41
17. 1948  Pirates       42
17. 1936  Red Sox       42
19. 1946  Philies       43
20. 1940  Red Sox       44
20. 1941  Philies       44
20. 1942  Reds          44

Duke Snider had to wait several years to get into the Hall of Fame because the writers thought he unduly benefited from the lineup around him. As the only dangerous lefty in a very dangerous lineup, he almost never had to face hurlers at a platoon disadvantage. (Look back up at the list.) Score one for the writers. Here are the Dodgers’ L#s from 1950-1962:

Year   	    L#
1950         104
1951          89
1952          55
1953          55
1954          52
1955          13
1956          38
1957          11
1958          71
1959          63
1960          59
1961          62
1962         116

Teams were a little slow pulling their lefties against the Dodgers. Dem Bums led the league in runs scoring in 1950 with only a young Snider and an injured Gene Hermanski swinging from the reverse side of the plate. Brooklyn traded Hermanski in mid-’51, leading to the first big downward step. As for their second, and more historic, drop between 1954/55, it’s a bit stranger. The Dodgers essentially had the same lineup in ’55 as they had in ’54. Actually, they added a lefty with the offensive middling Sandy Amoros. So why the heck the giant downturn?

My hunch is that the secret rests in the first month of 1955. Anyone over the age of 30 reading this can recall how the 1984 Tigers wrapped up the pennant race in April by spurting out to a 25-5 start. Brooklyn mocks those puny Tigers. The Dodgers began the year 22-2. They scored at least six runs in 15 of those games. Heck, even when they lost their third game, they scored eight runs. The rest of the league couldn’t help but notice how fearsome this unit really was.

The Dodgers already had been a team you hid your lefties from, but this brought the intensity up. NL managers quickly developed a mantra: Put a southpaw on the mound on Ebbets Field only when you’re the beneficiary of the pitcher’s life insurance policy. Strangely, the only time Brooklyn saw a lefty in that opening stretch, it lost. No foolin’. Oh sure, the Dodgers still scored 10 runs that game . . .

Aside from the Boys of Summer, the McKechnie Reds from the 1940s also dominate the list. They won back-to-back pennants in 1939-40 so even though they weren’t known for their batting, teams looked for an extra edge. The Reds had no dangerous lefthanded hitters. More importantly, they had a great park for righthanded pitchers. The fence in right field was 50 feet farther than the one in left.

Crosley Field really was the key. The Reds make up one-third of the above list. Cincinnati was so inhospitable to lefties you’d think it was one big conclave for the John Birch Society. Even Crosley Field’s predecessor had a deep right field. From 1892-1946, the Reds had an average L# of 76. That’s incredibly low for a half-century. Then they reconfigured the stadium, and in 1948 had a mark of 147.

Also, the 1947-9 Pirates three-peated on the list. Unlike the other teams, these guys sucked. But they made the mistake of going with an entirely righthanded lineup in 1947. They also moved in the left field fence by 30 feet that year. Next year they picked up a couple of lefthanded southerners from Branch Rickey’s squad— 37-year-old Dixie Walker and 23-year-old Ed Stearns, but it didn’t change things much. Pitt benched both in 1949, but traded for Johnny Hopp mid-season. The Pirates retained really low L#s until 1952-3, when they were so pathetic there was no reason to play them for the edge.

Highs and Lows

So when was platoon leveraging the most common and when was it the least common? That’s a fun one. There’s a simple way to figure it: Find the difference from 100 for every L#, add those together, and divide by total number of teams. Here are the 10 biggest years for platoon leveraging:

    Year       Avg Dif
1.  1908        36.5
2.  1936        35.1
3.  1955        34.9
4.  1940        31.9
5.  1957        31.5
6.  1892        31.4
7.  1895        30.6
8.  1942        29.4
9.  1941        28.5
10. 1909        28.3
11. 1910        28.1

I threw in the 11th best to show that 1908-1910 are all up there. There’s a little of a lot of different eras here. The late 1930s and early 1940s show up the most. 1937 is 12th and 1939 comes right after it.

Here’s when it was least common through 1969:

    Year      Avg Dif
1.  1968        8.7
2.  1905        9.31
3.  1969        9.63
4.  1918        10.1
5.  1902        10.6
6.  1967        10.9
7.  1920        10.9
8.  1928        10.9
9.  1966        12.5
10. 1961        12.8

Lotta teams from the 1960s. Sure, as pitching became more standardized in general, you saw less leveraging. Makes sense. By 1969, the only way platoon leveraging survived was that teams kept lefties out of Fenway and put them in Yankee Stadium. There also are years around 1920 in there. Offensive platooning reached its zenith then, dissipating the need for pitcher platooning.

Data Dump

A few comments. Some of this might make more sense at the end of the list, but it’s going to be so long that most readers won’t scan down and read any bits on the far side of the moon. Again, none of this is based on a full sample size. I’ll list each team by what town it usually played in. The Browns/Orioles will be in the “StB” column. Exception: Minnesota. Calling that franchise Washington would be confusing because another Washington shows up in the AL in the 1960s.

One key note: In the late 1960s, the sample size becomes a smaller percentage. I AOWPd pitchers with at least 150 GS (or 85 win shares) from 1876-1969. Now that means everyone with 150 starts in his career through 1960 got listed, but some guys were only partway through their careers in 1969, and still shy of the cutoffs, but later reached them. Result: The numbers for those years are a little shakier. Getting a score of 120 is easier because as the sample size goes down, it means a team saw 25 lefties instead of 20, which can be explained largely by random variation. The fact that teams had trouble scoring that high by the late 1960s is a telling sign of how little platoon leveraging occurred.

First I’ll give the first league with a notable number of lefties, the AA from 1885-1891. Then I’ll give the NL from 1892-1969, and finally the AL from its inception until 1969. To keep it as manageable-sized as possible, I’ll put the 1960s expansion teams in the same columns as the four 1890s liquidated teams. I’ll just put new headers in as needed. Since the late AA had so many collapsing teams, I’ll just tell you now the L# for their half-dozen one-year wonder franchises. In 1890, Rochester, Syracuse and Toledo score 92, 110 and 86 respectively. Next year Boston, Milwaukee and Washington earned 86, 82 and 118 L#s.

On the left just next to the year, I’m including the total number of GS by LHP in the study, so you know how large the sample size is each time. Here’s the AA:

Year    GS  Bal  Brk   Cin   Cle   Col    KC   Lou    NY   Phil  Pit    StL
1885    107 87   137   98                       79   116    86    95    98
1886    246 126  117   92                       98   100    85   103    85
1887    211 108  96    115    76               133    98   103          86
1888    120 114  129   105    79    94          88         105          88
1889    147 82   90    101         110   100    92         100          112
1890    137 41   109                     112   122         110          65
1891    147 119        56                118    94          86          84

And the NL:

Year GS    BoB    Brk    ChC   Cin   NYG   PhP   Pit    StC    Bal    Clv   Lou   Wsh
1892 164   81     101    74     82    54    96   141    50     98     174   161    65
1893 165   54     81     92     67   107   121   123    107    121    134   103   102
1894 158   90     104    98     77    76   104   127    122    89     139    93    83
1895 156   63     49     85     60    79   202   144    95     134    100   110    92
1896 171   77     58     110    67   126   131   118    95     73     129   116    90
1897 173   83     64     57     74   144   108   124    100    119    115   115   115
1898 276   92     76     75     78   139   106    97    98     98     124   106   119
1899 258   85     60     85     71   114    90    99    136    117    85    126   129
1900 165   81     89     110    83   115    68   146    114
1901 148   81     76     94    152    89    64   126    135
1902 116   108    108    108    96    78   103   109    90
1903 118   88     101    83    100    83    83   109    112
1904 123   108    108    81     94   118   108    90    85
1905 128   106    98     100   117    90    83   111    98
1906 201   114    125    98     61    92    84   107    111
1907 216   119    120    123    63   100    94   100    85
1908 244   93     122    111    53   167    88    96    77
1909 208   135    100    119    54   112    95    90    100
1910 163   77     124    145    40   151    94    84    100
1911 190   66     98     121   122   132    66    78    122
1912 257   86     119    124    87   100    80    89    113
1913 237   100    120    119   112    97    51    74    132
1914 243   134    114    111    74   103    49   104    115
1915 230   122    120    164    33    90    51   107    121
1916 269   107    109    135    86   116    56   100    96
1917 300   98     110    117   104   117    50   108    97
1918 235   93     89     89    102   133    95    98    101
1919 310   87     85     102   136   124    66   119    88
1920 321   96     74     104   102   126   102   107    93
1921 285   101    72     113    89   127    69   123    108
1922 225   108    74     118    86   122    81   116    90
1923 252   100    106    106    70   109    96   113    96
1924 169   77     147    104    83   127    78    73    106
1925 193   106    148    105    92   117    71    72    89
1926 153   88     146    111    61    91   126    68    96
1927 162   109    73     92     56   117   121    91    147
1928 239   81     133    96     55   129   100   103    101
1929 277   96     116    93     34   105   126   117    108
1930 302   102    114    68     72   102   102   124    115
1931 317   63     145    69     79    84   122   135    100
1932 245   66     80     54    114   119    94   156    116
1933 222   86     123    60     93    95    77   172    99
1934 172   92     88     110    74    98    98   121    127
1935 216   84     70     71     97   107   100   159    100
1936 202   52     71     80     66   107   150   152    107
1937 199   88     92     98     76   112   116   158    60
1938 187   81     96     82     58   134    97   142    115
1939 140   85     114    78     88    92    86   132    119
1940 135   83     114    107    55    98    63   124    168
1941 154   109    155    148    17    98    45    70    150
1942 158   90     136    114    45    96    58    95    173
1943 158   115    129    103    40    64    66   146    115
1944 146   120    108    110    48    93    67   115    157
1945 67    115    115    167    52   104    56    56    106
1946 302   117    139    114    40   110    43    92    157
1947 315   98     126    129    90   108    71    26    155
1948 338   118    100    94    147    89    77    42    146
1949 366   112    102    101   131    76    98    40    157
1950 337   104    104    108   123   120    74    46    129
1951 250   98     89     59    165   108    88    52    146
1952 284   129    55     100   106   121    80    77    144
1953 296   56     55     86    130    76   137   114    146
1954 233   85     52     61    109    93   119   129    148
1955 209   55     13     58    139   116    82   154    176
1956 214   70     38     96    142   139    61   121    130
1957 223   91     11     103   125   112   104   119    125
1958 283   97     71     102   116    95   109    94    114
1959 276   96     63     96     92    88   118   105    136
1960 365   98     59     106    95   132    99   100    112
1961 334   91     62     113   108   108   110   109    95     Hou    NYM
1962 361   94     116    107   105   111   105    87    109    80     83
1963 379   86     100    95    108   111    97    83    127    93     97
1964 329   84     105    110   104    96   115    96    113    101    79
1965 374   77     123    101   110    82   116   102    115    102    81
1966 396   95     114    85    109    79   123    71    109    100    111
1967 334   80     104    99     94    92   113    82    121    110    103
1968 356   88     98     89     93   120   103   100    100    105    106   Mtl   SDP
1969 342   96     124    98     79    81   101   104    103    112    96    113    92

And the AL (remember, 1969’s the Seattle Pilots, not Mariners):

Year  GS   BoX   CWS   Cle   Det    MN   NYY   A's   StB
1901  163  95    121    99    91   116   118    67    86
1902  154  124   113    93   112    76   100   103    86
1903  257  117   117    96   106    78    84    54   109
1904  304  103   138    90   114    66    92    98   105
1905  272  105   119    99   113    68    90    96   100
1906  254  120   115    87   118    76    88    80   118
1907  260  123   144    80   120    82    86    37   124
1908  172  123   155    41   165   162    53    58    62
1909  140  185   107    31   150   121    35    72    99
1910  178  115    90    48   154   122    50    96   117
1911  175  120   110    66   141   100    98    97    87
1912  184  83    107    98   137    92    88   115    75
1913  247  96     83    99   127    96    88   114    93
1914  281  118    81    86   140    83    87   106   107
1915  243  107    90    66   137    78   106    95   114
1916  330  111   128    66   105    90   111    69   120
1917  246  121   116    74   109    78   117    91   101
1918  157  121    77   103   116    86   102    91   102
1919  196  127    67   104    97    93    79   107   126
1920  189  77    125   115    95    97    81   100   106
1921  137  79     97   107   133    99    82    92   112
1922  85   83     99    76   124    75    99    99   124
1923  131  75     91   106   115    97   114    98   107
1924  194  83    101   101   109   122   118    84    94
1925  244  95     95   110   101   112   105    71   113
1926  230  76    103   120   101    78   120    91   116
1927  219  93    115    85    89    89   126   106   100
1928  194  97    101   103    85   103    98   111   103
1929  198  95     96   129    74   126   124    66    82
1930  180  89     99    89    75   146   116    83   100
1931  223  63     85    94   104   150   118    84   111
1932  230  72     67   112   116   122   106    97   110
1933  208  92     61    99   125    95   126    92   104
1934  168  92     50   135   138   116   135    50   100
1935  165  99     64   126   114   140    93    72   104
1936  146  42     53   138   110   166   145    68    81
1937  168  47     78   134   108   141   147    77    63
1938  152  75     75   141   101   123   111    82    92
1939  152  51     90   157    56   127   161    78    74
1940  177  45     86   160    54   134   150    83    79
1941  197  80    102   119   103   121   120    79    82
1942  128  59     76   148    80   142   122    93    73
1943  140  62    131   112    85   110   112    95   102
1944  137  71    129   107    82   115   102    92   110
1945  157  80    113   115    69   120   116    80   114
1946  127  88     93   110    92   140    92    77   110
1947  122  106    75    80   122   127   135    63    98
1948  173  96     90   113   103   128   102    73    97
1949  303  76     85    99   105   103   101   104   120
1950  311  106    80   131   105    86    95   105    86
1951  266  98     89   129    88   108   118    73    90
1952  292  50     84   125    83   115   129    93   107
1953  316  67    101   126    53    91   142    97   115
1954  262  74    117   123    67   130   136    72    95
1955  310  83    116   160    57    97   113    76   105
1956  292  85    147    99   100    86   109    80    96
1957  248  73    182   150    70    74   122    32   113
1958  176  60    155   110    88   129   110    66    92
1959  178  73    159    62    96    62   126   106   127
1960  186  98     89   102    58    81   121    99   150    Cal   Was
1961  267  94     91    83    89    76   119   128   106    101   109
1962  249  79     95   111    81    56   119   112   108    123   103
1963  364  79    129   115   100    49   130   109    85    124    83
1964  395  64    119   113   110    85   125   107   105    95     88
1965  422  81    111   114    94    92   120   100    97    102    92
1966  423  72    102   108   107    94   130    89   108    107    94
1967  388  67    106   110   119    98   121   100    95    105    88
1968  364  75     95    88   111    90   100   126    96    111   104    KCR   Sea
1969  385  89     89   110   117   106   109   113   104    91     97    91     86

So much for that. Next time, I’ll look at a subject of considerable interest to me: managers and leveraging. Who did the most and who (prior to the 1960s) did the least?

References & Resources
What the heck is L#?: It’s a stat that tells you if a team faced as many lefthanded starting pitchers as it would have if all southpaws were used evenly against opposing teams. The numerator is the number of starts by LHP against a given team. The denominator is how many starts southpaws should’ve had if they’d been used evenly. Divide it out, multiply by 100, and round to the nearest integer. That’s L#. One key snag: it’s not based on all LHP starts, but only on those pitchers I’ve looked at for this entire series on leveraging. Then again, those 659 pitchers combined for more than two-thirds of all starts from 1876-1969, so I feel pretty confident that these L#s, while imperfect, are generally accurate. For a more detailed account of how I calculated L#, read this article.

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