Ten Things I Didn’t Know Last Week

How the interleague schedule is affecting the Midwest.

imageIf you’d like one simple example of how the interleague schedule impacts your favorite team, look no further than the two Central divisions. Due to the sheer dominance the American League has enjoyed over the National, these two divisions have moved in totally different directions.

On the left, for instance, the American League Central shows how four of its five teams—including the lowly Royals—have been on the upswing lately. It’s made for a dynamic race in the Central, with the White Sox and Twins unable to catch up with the surging Tigers. The American League Central has gone 44-19 against the National League, a stunning total. Even the Royals have been 7-5.

image In the National League Central, on the other hand, the Reds and Brewers are gaining ground just by playing .500 baseball. In the left-hand graph, every other team in the division has been plunging downward, including the division-leading Cardinals. Same divisions, different leagues, totally different types of division races. As you can guess, the two Central teams have primarily played against each other in interleague games, and the American League Central holds a 43-19 advantage.

Through Tuesday’s games, the American League is 109-65 against the National. To put that in perspective, the National League makes the AL look almost as good as the 1998 Yankees.

The Diamondbacks have fallen from first to last.

imageMeanwhile, there’s been a unique development in the National League West. The Arizona Diamondbacks were on top of the division just a couple of weeks ago, but now they’re dead last. In fact, they went from first to last in just six days (tied for first on June 15, tied for last June 21). Last year, we marveled at the ups and downs of the Washington Nationals, who also went from first to last. But that took almost half a season; the Diamondbacks did it in less than a week.

Of course, this has happened primarily because the National League West is a stew of mediocre teams right now, all within a few games of each other. As SABR buddy Frank Vaccaro pointed out to me, Colorado did the same thing in May, and both the Dodgers and Giants did it in April (albeit over a few more days).

Try this on for perspective: the Mets are the cream of the National League right now, but if they manage to split their games with Boston and the Yankees the rest of the week, their record will be 50-31—the exact same record the Nationals had at the midpoint of last season (thanks Nats Blog).

It’s hard for outfielders to lead the majors in fielding Win Shares.

While I was browsing this year’s fielding Win Shares, I noticed that the Mets’ Carlos Beltran is the only player who is not a catcher or shortstop in the top 10. I know that fielding Win Shares are weighted to favor catchers, shortstops and second basemen, but I wondered how often an outfielder has cracked the top of the fielding Win Shares list?

Not very often, as it turns out. I looked at every year since the end of World War II and here’s what I found: Andruw Jones was in the top five from 1998 to 2002, but never first. Marquis Grissom actually led the majors in fielding Win Shares in 1994, the year the Expos were ripped off, and was third in 1993. Devon White ranked first in 1991. Kirby Puckett: third in 1984. Dwayne Murphy was third in 1980. Willie Mays was fourth in 1965. Curt Flood was third in 1962; Vada Pinson was second in 1961. Jimmy Piersall was first in 1955 and second in 1956.

And that’s it. No other outfielders cracked the top five in any other year. I’m not saying that fielding Win Shares are a perfect fielding metric; I’m sure they’re not. In particular, there is no solid way to “prove” that they’re accurate when comparing players across positions. But if you want to stop and appreciate some of the finest outfield performances of the past 60 years, they’re not a bad place to start.

Which pitchers have won the most games with their bat.

A reader recently sent an e-mail asking if I had ever looked at which pitchers had won the most games with their bats. Of course, I used Win Shares to research the issue, based on some totals I had researched a couple of years ago, and came up with this list of the pitchers with the most batting Win Shares after 1960 (notice that it includes most of the usual suspects).

Pitcher           Bat WS  Tot WS    Pct.
Rick Rhoden           8     149      5%
Gary Peters           7     130      6%
Bob Forsch            7     144      5%
Earl Wilson           6      93      7%
Bob Gibson            6     314      2%
Rick Wise             6     178      3%
Ken Brett             5      42     13%
Mike Hampton          5     131      4%
Don Drysdale          5     168      3%
Blue Moon Odom        5      66      7%

Pitchers were much better batters in the olden days, which is why I left them out of this analysis. But, if you’re interested, the all-time leader in batting Win Shares among starting pitchers is Jim Whitney, who pitched from 1881 to 1890, back in the days when pitchers were men and pitched most of their teams’ games. Whitney had a career OPS+ of 112 and accrued 51 batting Win Shares.

The Marlins owe nothin’ to nobody

While writing my weekly article for Heater magazine, I discovered an interesting fact: due to their long-term player contracts, the Yankees owe future salaries of $415 million, twice their current payroll. On the other hand, the Marlins have no salary obligatons beyond this year to any active player.

For those of you who appreciate the details, here is my estimate of how much each major league team owes in future salaries:

NYA        $414,583,333
BOS        $238,700,000
NYN        $226,923,810
CHA        $209,400,000
TOR        $205,443,000
STL        $197,550,000
LAA        $190,841,666
LAN        $189,650,000
OAK        $162,550,000
CHN        $151,149,999
DET        $150,740,000
SEA        $143,291,666
ATL        $136,666,667
PHI        $136,508,333
COL        $134,800,000
BAL        $133,400,000
CLE        $128,033,335
SF         $101,955,001
HOU        $101,800,000
ARI         $95,966,667
CIN         $95,483,333
TEX         $83,775,000
SD          $78,333,334
PIT         $66,916,667
MIL         $66,224,666
TB          $65,550,000
MIN         $63,500,000
KC          $55,150,000
WAS         $40,225,000
FLA                  $0

Maybe New York ranks so highly because it is the most courteous city in the world, according to recent research. Someone should tell that to Ed Whitson.

Base running facts and figures

I’ve read a few interesting posts about baserunning recently. The Crank posted a list of teams that have done the best (and worst) job of keeping base runners on base and advancing them with stolen bases and sacrifice bunts. Contained in the list is another reason the Mets have been playing well and the Cubs haven’t.

Rob, of Batter’s Box, timed each player during a recent Met-Blue Jay game and found that the fastest player running to first was Russ Adams—at least for one play. Actually, it looks like the most consistently fast runner was Carlos Beltran, who was even faster than Jose Reyes when sprinting to first on a grounder. Bringing up the rear, literally, was Bengie Molina.

And Tangotiger posted some simple math debunking the notion that slow runners clog the bases to any significant degree. If you’re interested in baseball sabermetrics at all, you ought to be reading The Book Blog on a regular basis.

Which pitchers have 100 more wins than losses.

On the SABR-L mailing list, it was noted that Tom Glavine now has 100 more wins than losses. Bill Deane responded: “One hundred wins over .500 is indeed a notable milestone. Since the current pitching distance was implemented in 1893, only 20 pitchers have won 100 more games than they lost. Fourteen are in the Hall of Fame, and the other six are still active:”

185  Christy Mathewson (373-188)
168  Roger Clemens (341-173)
165  Grover Alexander (373-208)
164  Cy Young (439-275; also 72-41 before 1893)
159  Lefty Grove (300-141)

137  Walter Johnson (416-279)
134  Eddie Plank (327-193)
130  Whitey Ford (236-106)
129  Greg Maddux (325-196)
129  Randy Johnson (271-142)

118  Warren Spahn (363-245)
117  Pedro Martinez (204-87)
116  Jim Palmer (268-152)
113  Kid Nichols (269-156; also 92-52 before 1893)
106  Tom Seaver (311-205)

104  Bob Feller (266-162)
103  Joe McGinnity (247-144)
103  Mike Mussina (233-130)
101  Juan Marichal (243-142)
100  Tom Glavine (286-186)

Frank Robinson has the most walk-off hits of anyone since 1957

David Ortiz has been hitting a lot of walk-off hits and home runs lately, but Sean Forman looked at the data from 1957 to 2004 and found that he still has a ways to go to catch Frank Robinson, who had 26 walk-off hits in his career.

It’s a very interesting list. Manny Mota is ninth, presumably because of his great pinch-hitting prowess. Rickey Henderson had six more walk-off plate appearances than hits, probably due to walks and being hit by pitches.

The grass grows high in Denver.

I’ve mentioned the Coors Park factor in a few columns, and a couple of other baseball analysts have been following the same issue. In the Book Blog, MGL lists the average length of flyballs in Coors over the past few years and notes a definite drop this year. And Baseball Prospectus’ Dan Fox has analyzed the issue again and found that the grass is apparently longer at Coors.

From Dan’s article, here is the Coors Park hit rate on groundballs over the last four years:

        GB  GBH    PCT
2003  2100  474   22.6%
2004  2037  468   23.0%
2005  2108  497   23.6%
2006   828  158   19.1%

That’s a big drop, isn’t it?

There have been no no-hitters

I hadn’t even thought about this, but Rob Neyer recently noted that we haven’t seen a no-hitter in the major leagues for more than two years, since Randy Johnson’s perfect game on May 18, 2004. That’s a drought of two years and 37 days, the longest drought since World War II. And when you consider that we play many more games per day than the old eight-team leagues did, you’ve got to admit that this has been an impressive streak.

I have to start collecting Twin compliments.

Less than a week before Albert Pujols was injured, Aaron Gleeman and I made a bet that Pujols would collect more than 50 Win Shares this year. I said he would just because I want to see it happen, and Aaron said he wouldn’t just because he’s more logical than I am. The stakes? I’ll write a fawning article about the Twins if I lose the bet, and he’ll write a fawning article about the White Sox if he loses.

Now that Albert’s missed a couple of weeks, his Win Share total is only 20 as we near the midseason. I won’t concede defeat until the very end, but oy. Anyone have anything good to say about the Twins?

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