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News Archive for November 15-30, 2002
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November 30, 2002

And the Beat Goes On: Derek Jeter and the State of Fielding Analysis in Sabermetrics
Mike Emeigh, Baseball Primer

Part 7: Details, Details: A Look at the Play-by-Play Data

 

November 28, 2002

Red Sox Have the Thinking Fan's Writer on Their Side
Tyler Kepner, New York Times

A couple of Saturdays ago, in a borrowed office at Fenway Park, Bill James realized what all his writing, theorizing, number crunching and head scratching were about. For six hours, Theo Epstein briefed James on potential trades and free-agent signings the Boston Red Sox could make this winter. James, baseball's ultimate outsider for 25 years, was suddenly very much on the inside. And he loved it. ...

James, 53, spawned an information revolution in baseball after he began writing the annual "Bill James Baseball Abstract" in 1977. ... James delighted in testing time-worn theories and reporting the surprising results. ... "The '`Baseball Abstract' is, if not quite anti-establishment, at least determinedly non-establishment," he wrote in 1986. "I like to re-examine my attitudes; I think it's fun, and occasionally I learn something. The essential work of the 'Abstract' is to challenge traditional wisdom about baseball." ... 

"When I was young and naive, I assumed that when you demonstrated that something was false, everybody would say, 'Oh, I didn't know that,' and stop doing what it was that had been demonstrated as being useless or counterproductive," James said. "Of course, the world doesn't work like that."

 

November 21, 2002

Positions of strength and weakness
Tom Tippett, espn.com

The numbers in the following table show how each team ranked in on-base percentage plus slugging percentage (OPS) at each position. If a player moved around, his stats are divided among those positions. (Stats were not park adjusted.)

Team    P    C   1B   2B   3B   SS   LF   CF   RF   DH   PH
ANA     9   13    8    3    3    6    2    9    3    3    4
BAL    10   10    9    7    7   13    9   12    9   14   14
BOS    11    5   14   10    6    2    1    6    2    2    5
CHW     7    9    7    4    5    9    8    8    1    4    8
CLE     6   14    1    8   12    7   13   10   11    1    9
DET     5   12   13   11   14   11   10   13    8   11    6
KC     13    6    2   13   10   14   11    3   14   12   10
MIN     2    3   11    9    9   12    4    2    4   10    1
NYY     1    2    3    1    4    4   12    1   12    6   12
OAK    12    8   12    5    1    3    3   11    5    7    3
SEA     3    4    6    2   13    8    7    5    6    5   11
TB      8    7   10   14   11   10   14    4   10   13    2
TEX     4    1    5    6    8    1    6   14    7    8   13
TOR    14   11    4   12    2    5    5    7   13    9    7

... Reading across, you can get a snapshot of each team's offensive strengths and weaknesses. The Red Sox, for instance, were very good in the outfield (first, sixth, and second) and DH (second), pitiful (14th) at first base, and below average at second base. In other words, they have an excellent foundation, and a couple of targeted moves could make a big difference. ... Here are the overall major league rankings, with teams listing in order of their 2002 finish to give you a slightly different look. Bear in mind that limited playing time makes the interleague comparisons largely meaningless at pitcher and designated hitter.

Team    P    C   1B   2B   3B   SS   LF   CF   RF   DH   PH
NYY     2    4    4    2    6    6   28    3   27   13   27
BOS    27   13   30   22   10    2    3   11    9    6    9
TOR    30   26    6   26    2    7   14   16   28   17   17
BAL    26   24   17   18   11   24   20   23   23   23   30
TBA    24   18   19   30   23   16   30    9   24   21    2

MIN     3    6   21   20   15   21   13    4   12   18    1
CHW    23   22   14    7    9   15   18   18    3    8   22
CLE    22   30    1   19   28   11   29   20   25    5   23
KC     29   17    3   29   18   30   27    7   29   20   25
DET    18   28   26   24   30   20   21   29   21   19   11

OAK    28   19   23   14    1    3   12   21   14   14    3
ANA    25   29   16    6    4   10    9   19   11    7    5
SEA     4   12    9    5   29   12   17   10   19    9   26
TEX     6    2    7   17   13    1   16   30   20   15   29

ATL    11   25   15   28   25   13    4    5    7   22   18
MON    13    5   29    4   22   14   26   14    1   29   14
PHI    10    3   27   11    7   17    5   22    4    4   12
FLA    21    8   10   13    5   25   10   17    8   27   24
NYM    16    1   22   12    8   27   22   12   30   24   10

STL     7   20   18   21   12    5    6    1   15   25    7
HOU    20   16    5    9    3   19   19    2   17   11   19
CIN    17   10   20    8   24   22    7   13   13   12   16
PIT    15   14   25   25   26   26    2   24   26   28   20
CHC    19   15   13   10   19    8   24   28    2   10   13
MIL    14   27   11   27   16    4   23   26   16   30    6

ARI    12    9    8    3   17   23    8    6   10   16   15
SFO     5    7   28    1   21    9    1   27   22    1   28
LOS     8   11   24   16   20   29   15   15    6   26    4
COL     1   21    2   15   14   28   11   25    5    2    8
SDN     9   23   12   23   27   18   25    8   18    3   21

... As Bill James has pointed out on a number of occasions, many teams have failed to win a title because they lacked enough average players. Twenty-nine of the 30 teams had at least one key position (leaving aside P and PH for the moment) at which they ranked 20th or worse. ...

Slicing the Stats 
Dan Werr, Baseball Primer

When looking at a player's performance, my favorite thing to do is break it down into small pieces ... Two statistics that are useful for this purpose are batting average on balls in play and home runs on contact. ...

Batting average on balls in play isolates the component of batting average (and on-base percentage) that comes on balls are put into play by the batter--balls that fielders can make plays on. While hitters do exert a great deal of influence on the outcome of balls in play, a lot of other factors affect the outcome as well, including the skill of the fielders and simple chance. BABIP is calculated with the formula (H-HR)/(AB+SF+SH-SO-HR).

2002 BABIP Leaders (Min 300 PA)
1. Jose Hernandez, MIL     .404
2. Jim Edmonds, STL        .375
3. Manny Ramirez, BOS      .373
4. Bernie Williams, NYY    .372
5. Austin Kearns, CIN      .370
6. Quinton McCracken, ARI  .357
7. Adam Kennedy, ANA       .356
8. Bobby Abreu, PHI        .354
9. Larry Walker, COL       .353
10. Dan Wilson, SEA        .350

1913-2002 Single Season BABIP Leaders (Min 500 PA, SF not included)
1. Babe Ruth, 1923         .419
2. Rod Carew, 1977         .411
3. Rogers Hornsby, 1924    .411
4. George Sisler, 1922     .411
5. Manny Ramirez, 2000     .408
6. Jose Hernandez, 2002    .406
7. Andres Galarraga, 1993  .405
8. Roberto Clemente, 1967  .405
9. Ty Cobb, 1913           .403
10. Willie McGee, 1990     .400

Home runs on contact provides a very pure measurement of a player's home run power by removing non-home run opportunities such as strikeouts. The question HR/Contact answers is this: if a hitter hits a ball, how often does he hit it hard enough to hit a home run? HR/Contact is calculated with the formula HR/(AB+SF-SO).

2002 HR/Contact Leaders (Min 300 PA)
1. Jim Thome, CLE          .150
2. Barry Bonds, SF         .128
3. Sammy Sosa, CHI         .118
4. Alex Rodriguez, TEX     .113
5. Russell Branyan, CIN    .104
6. Manny Ramirez, BOS      .094
7. Rafael Palmeiro, TEX    .094
8. Jeremy Giambi, PHI      .091
9. Lance Berkman, HOU      .091
10. Jason Giambi, NYY      .091

1913-2002 Single Season HR/Contact Leaders (Min 500 PA, SF not included)
1. Mark McGwire, 1998      .198
2. Barry Bonds, 2001       .191
3. Mark McGwire, 1999      .171
4. Mark McGwire, 1996      .167
5. Jim Thome, 2002         .152
6. Sammy Sosa, 2001        .151
7. Jim Thome, 2001         .144
8. Babe Ruth, 1920         .143
9. Sammy Sosa, 1998        .140
10. Sammy Sosa, 1999       .139

And the Beat Goes On: Derek Jeter and the State of Fielding Analysis in Sabermetrics
Mike Emeigh, Baseball Primer

Part 6 -- Building a Better Mousetrap - Zone-Based Rating Methods (ZR and UZR)

 

November 20, 2002

Sox won't go after Glavine
Gordon Edes, Boston Globe

It may have been a childhood dream for Billerica's Tom Glavine to pitch for the hometown Red Sox, but even though the 36-year-old lefthander can now choose his next employer as a free agent, it won't be Boston. The Sox aren't in the bidding for Glavine, who is expected to choose among the Phillies, Mets, and his current team, the Braves, the clubs that already have offers on the table. The Sox placed a call to Glavine's agent, Greg Clifton, on Monday, but it was little more than a courtesy, signaling no real interest. ... The Sox have targeted Cuban defector Jose Contreras as their No. 1 pitching priority ... 

Red Sox ended up with Bill of goods
Art Martone, Providence Journal 

If I were employed by a major-league team, what are the basic things that I know from the research I have done which would be of use to me in helping that team? Bill James asked himself that rhetorical question, in print, in 1988. From that one question sprung 15 answers, 15 things which he'd learned from his years of studying and analyzing baseball. "I still believe in all those principles," James says now. ...

 

November 19, 2002

James to offer perspective to Sox -- Baseball author, historian now a senior adviser to club
Brita Meng Outzen, mlb.com

Red Sox principal owner John W. Henry, who spearheaded the hiring of Bill James, sees a strong parallel between what he's done in the financial world and what James has done in baseball. "The key in quantitative analysis is the ability to distinguish or discern between statistics and data that's significant and data that isn't significant," Henry said. "[James] has been the master of that in the baseball community, [my] having read his books over the last 20 years."

James has already submitted his first report to the Red Sox -- a 70-page discussion of trade possibilities, minor league free agents, Major League free agents, a review of the 2002 team and a look ahead to the 2003 team. Although he declined to discuss specifics, Henry said that certain portions of the report were controversial enough that there were some eyebrows raised in the front office.

Defense lawyer: 'Stinking drunk' Wells started fight
Samuel Maull, Associated Press

A security videotape made inside the diner, along with a 911 call from David Wells after the fight, will demonstrate the pitcher was incoherent on the night when he lost two teeth, defense attorney Henry Mazurek told the jury in his opening statement. ... ''David Wells was stinking drunk,'' Mazurek said, acknowledging his client was drinking, too. ... The only way Graziosa avoided a beating was because Wells ''was so drunk that he was unable to carry out his code of physical violence,'' Mazurek said.

 

November 18, 2002

End-of-season awards becoming irrelevant
Rob Neyer, espn.com

I don't claim to speak for every baseball fan, nor even for all of you reading this. But what I really want to know is, who was the best player this year? Who was the best pitcher? Who was the best defensive shortstop? And to answer those questions, one of the last things I'm going to check are the voting results for the various awards. ... why should we spend a lot of time worrying about what they tell us? We shouldn't. We should care less and less with each passing season, because most of us are getting smarter faster than the voters are getting smarter. Yes, the voters are getting smarter. They're just not getting smarter fast enough to avoid their coming irrelevance.

And the Beat Goes On: Derek Jeter and the State of Fielding Analysis in Sabermetrics
Mike Emeigh, Baseball Primer

Part 5 - Bill James Win Shares
Part 4 - Context-Adjusted Defense
Part 3 - Davenport Fielding Translations
Part 2 - First up on the chopping block: Pete Palmer
Part 1 - The terrain to be covered

Hot and Cold Streaks
Mitchel Lichtman, Baseball Primer

We are all aware of how much stock baseball announcers, commentators, fans, managers, coaches, and players put in the significance of a player (or team) being "hot" or "cold." You cannot watch or listen to a game without the commentator at some point mentioning that "so-and-so is red hot or ice cold," presumably referring to the fact that said player has recently (e.g., the last game, week or month) had a very good or very bad spate of performance, measured by whatever statistic is convenient for the commentator or the fan who is listening, or in some cases, no particular statistic at all.

 

November 16, 2002

Noted analyst James joins Sox as senior adviser
Sean McAdam, Providence Journal

[Bill] James said his primary goal is to "try to help the Red Sox make good decisions. . . . I hope to be involved in all talent decisions where there'a role for my contributions. (But) I'm not going to tell the manager how to do his job. I'm not going to get involved." ... James has already prepared a 70-page report on the current Red Sox roster, the contents of which has already fostered some interesting internal discussions, according to [principal owner John] Henry.

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