Ten Things I Didn’t Know Last Week

The third oldest major league stadium, where the parking stinks.

I was sitting around chatting with my brother the other day when he asked me a baseball trivia question: What’s the fourth oldest major league stadium? Now, I know that Fenway and Wrigley are the two oldest stadiums, but then there’s a big gap in years. I guessed Dodger Stadium, which it turns out is the third oldest major league stadium. The fourth oldest is Anaheim Stadium, we think.

Anyway, my brother (who has been attending Dodgers games for over 30 years) then proceeded to tell me how Frank McCourt (a parking lot magnate) has ruined the parking at Dodger Stadium. It used to be that parking was logical and manageable. You were assigned parking near your gate, it was easy to get in and out (if you knew the system) and parking was affordable.

I guess it’s hard to leave a good thing alone. On Opening Day, the Dodgers announced that all general admission attendees would now have to use just one entrance, and that you might not be able to park anywhere near your gate. And, to top it off, they raised the price from $10 to $15. This ridiculous move has been a nightmare for Dodgers fans and my brother has since refused to attend another Dodgers game.

You can read more about the Dodgers parking debacle at 6-4-2. Let’s hope the Dodgers admit their mistake and fix this PR snafu quickly.

By the way, here’s an article about the oldest ballpark in the world.

The Royals are raking it in.

I’m not talking about the Royals on the field, but the Royals in the business office. Forbes released its annual survey of baseball franchise valuations last week, and found that the average franchise value has increased 15% from the previous year. Last season’s free agents surely aren’t surprised by that increase, though our own John Beamer has some questions about the manner in which Forbes conducts their estimates.

But I mostly enjoyed reading about the Kansas City Royals. Why? Because the Royals’ valuation is a compete contrast with its on-field lack of success. The Royals are now worth $282 million, according to Forbes, three times as much as owner David Glass paid for it a mere seven years ago. This despite a decrease in ticket sales of 18% during that time.

How have the Royals pulled this off? Two words: revenue sharing. Last year, for instance, the Royals collected $32 million from other teams in revenue sharing. This isn’t really a bad thing, because Major League Baseball had to address the issue of competitive balance. The increase in the Royals’ valuation shows that the strategy has “worked.”

But it also shows how being in the right place at the right time can make a lot of money for a baseball owner. I just hope that the pressure to spend all that money on the franchise doesn’t result in more signings like the Gil Meche deal.

Some teams stink at close games.

The Cubs are off to a lousy 7-13 start, but they’ve actually outscored their opponents by seven runs (as of Wednesday). As you might guess, the Cubs are 0-8 in games decided by two runs or less, a big reason for their poor start. The culprits appear to be their batters, who have averaged 4.4 runs a game (about the league average) but have a cumulative -3.5 WPA total.

In the American League, the Yankees are 2-10 in close games. In New York’s case, you might want to point a finger at the bullpen. Yankees relievers have a respectable 3.67 ERA but a -1.28 WPA (I think only Kansas City’s is worse). The normally spectacular Mariano Rivera has compiled a WPA of -1.34, third worst in the majors.

The three best bullpens in the majors, according to WPA, are San Diego’s, Milwaukee’s and Atlanta’s. I guessing you’re not surprised that the Padres are at the top of this list, but the Brewers and Braves might have your eyebrows raised. Last year, the Braves and Brewers were second and third worst in the league, respectively.

Adrian Gonzalez is our early-season Mr. Clutch.

Have you noticed the fine start of San Diego’s first baseman? Adrian Gonzalez is batting .329/.389/.600, which is pretty darn impressive for someone who plays half of his games in PETCO Park. He’s tied for fourth in home runs and 13th in GPA in the majors. But he’s also excelled in “clutch” situations, batting .600 (!) with runners in scoring position and he’s second in the majors in “Clutch,” a statistic calculated by Fangraphs using WPA statistics.

By the way, guess who’s first in Fangraphs’ “Clutch?” The Marlins’ Cody Ross, that’s who. Ross is batting a spectacular .333/.381/.692 in only 42 at-bats and he’s managed to lead the Marlins in batting WPA in each of the last three games he’s played.

At this stage of the season, of course, these stats are meaningless. But they’re still lots of fun.

Tim Hudson is off to a pretty good start.

Speaking of meaningless early season stats, you have probably noticed that Tim Hudson has a 0.62 ERA so far in 29 innings. I thought it might be interesting to break down his early season stats to find an explanation for his short-term improvement over last year:

  • His strikeout rate is up to 6.8 a game, from 5.7 a game, but his walk rate is also up to 4.0, from 3.2. Mixed results.
  • He’s only given up one home run so far. Key.
  • He has left 98% of the men on base who have reached base against him. That’s a remarkable number, helped in part by the fact that he’s a groundball pitcher. Fifty-nine percent of his batted balls have been ground balls, up slightly from last year, which has resulted in six double plays (tied for the major league lead).
  • His DER has been .805, which means that 81% of the balls hit against him have been turned into outs (not including home runs, not that it really matters in Hudson’s case). The league average is .699. This is partly the result of a somewhat low line drive rate (15%) and high groundball rate, but only partly.

I thought I’d go through all of these stats to give you a feel for what you can deduce for any major league pitcher. Due to the uncertainty of Hudson’s stats, such as LOB% and DER, I think you can safely say that his xFIP of 3.73 is much closer to his “real” talent so far this year. Of course, that’s also a pretty good improvement over last year’s ERA of 4.86. For more information on how to evaluate pitching stats, I suggest you read David Cameron’s post from last winter.

Who has hit the most home runs in 1-0 games.

Over on the SABR-L mailing list, David Vincent posted this list of batters with the most home runs in 1-0 games.

Ted  Williams            5 
Jim  Wynn                4 
Bobby  Bonds             4 
Dwight Evans             4 
Bobby  Grich             4 

I don’t know why, but I find this list fascinating. It made me wonder which teams have played and won the most 1-0 games, so I wandered on over to Baseball Reference and came up with the following list (for the years 1950-2007):

Team            1-0 Wins
Dodgers          147
Cards            115
White Sox        113
Mets             111
Angels           107
Orioles          106
Phillies         104
Astros           103
Giants           101
Braves           100

The Red Sox are further down the list, with 80 1-0 wins. Note that the Mets didn’t even exist until 1962, which makes their total particularly impressive.

Red Sox pitchers are special.

Red Sox pitchers are apparently special, anyway. As this rant points out, pitchers who have spent significant time on the Red Sox currently rank second, third and fourth in active leaders in hit batsmen.

Also, Red Sox pitchers have exceeded their “expected” number of no-hit games more than any other team. According to David Gassko in last week’s Heater supplement, Boston has thrown six more no-hitters than you’d expect based on their underlying pitching stats (primarily overall outs per nine innings). No other team has exceeded their expected total nearly that much.

Naturally, the one team that significantly misses its expected total is the aforementioned Mets, by seven hypothetical no-hitters.

1-0 winners and losers

So, the next thing I wondered is which teams have won the highest percentage of 1-0 games. Once again, Baseball Reference came to my rescue:

Team       Games    Wins  Losses    Win%
TBD           18      11       7   0.611
LAN          252     147     105   0.583
ATL          181     100      81   0.552
BAL          193     106      87   0.549
SFG          185     101      84   0.546
TOR           74      40      34   0.541
HOU          192     103      89   0.536
STL          215     115     100   0.535
LAA          201     107      94   0.532
MIL          108      57      51   0.528
TEX          145      76      69   0.524
NYM          213     111     102   0.521
SDP          153      78      75   0.510
NYY          190      96      94   0.505
CLE          182      92      90   0.505
COL           16       8       8   0.500
CHW          230     113     117   0.491
PHI          217     104     113   0.479
DET          175      83      92   0.474
FLA           38      18      20   0.474
MIN          181      84      97   0.464
OAK          184      85      99   0.462
CIN          186      85     101   0.457
BOS          175      80      95   0.457
PIT          190      86     104   0.453
SEA           71      32      39   0.451
KCR          105      47      58   0.448
WAS          141      61      80   0.433
CHC          196      83     113   0.423
ARI           25       7      18   0.280

It’s no surprise that there are a couple of expansion teams at the top and bottom, but it seems as though the Cubs have quite a history of not winning the close ones, doesn’t it?

Lots of things about Jackie Robinson.

Retrosheet has published a page dedicated to Jackie Robinson’s stats, including year-by-year splits and how he performed against every pitcher. Some highlights:

  • Jackie was clutch: He batted .311 overall, but .341 in late innings when the score was close. Even in 1955, the year that Brooklyn finally won the Series (but Jackie was near the end of his career), he batted .311 in late and close situations, compared to .256 overall.
  • His favorite month was June, when he batted .346/.428/.531
  • He owned Gerry Staley of the Cardinals, batting .432/.485/.580 against him in 88 at-bats. Staley wasn’t a bad pitcher. He finished second in ERA in 1949 and was named to the All Star team three times.
A-Rod is off to a hot start.

Yeah, you knew that one. But here’s a new angle for you: A-Rod has compiled 2.16 WPA in less than a month. Over a full year, that would equal 18 WPA, or 36 games above .500. That is truly a phenomenal start. So phenomenal, in fact, that Baseball Prospectus’s Joe Sheehan thinks A-Rod has a legitimate chance to drive in 200 runs this year, beating the major league record of 191.

Finally, consider Dan Heisman’s comments on SABR-L:

The past six years Alex Rodriguez has broken the record for “Most HR by Age N” where N is the player’s age on July 1.

ARod turns 31 this year and his record for age 30 is 464, the number with which he finished last season. Interestingly, Jimmie Foxx holds the records for ages 31, 32, and 33 at 464, 500, and 519 respectively (for comparison, Ruth had 470 at age 33, Aaron and Ken Griffey Jr. had 481, Sosa 499, and Barry Bonds 411).

That means that A-Rod’s first home run this year broke Foxx’s record for age 31; if he hits 37 he will surpass Foxx’s record for age 32; if he hits 56 this year, the record for age 33 as well—even if he does not play the next two years!

Barry Bonds will receive a lot of attention in a couple of months, but this has been A-Rod’s year so far. When all is said and done, those two guys may well be two of the five greatest players ever.

References & Resources
I didn’t do my research on ballparks, but several readers have. Here is a list of ballparks by age, available from http://www.ballparksofbaseball.com/yearopened.htm:

1 Fenway (1912)
2 Wrigley (19140
3 Yankee Stadium (1923)
4 RFK in DC (Oct, 1961)*
5 Dodger Stadium (1962)

In my defense, Yankee Stadium was pretty much completely rebuilt in the 1970′s (remember when the Yankees played at Shea?) and RFK went a long time without being used. So perhaps I should call Dodger Stadium the third-oldest ballpark that has been continuously played in, without being rebuilt. Close enough, anyway.

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