Saturday, November 09, 2013

The obscure batting awards of the 2013 MLB season

This is certainly award season on the baseball calendar and aside from all the rumors going on about who is going to sign where or get traded, there is not a whole lot else to talk about. I like to make up my own awards and apparently I have hit on something as my silly awards have led to unprecedented page views. I have covered the major categories such as the worst starting pitching, worst relief pitching and worst overall position player awards. What follows are some more obscure ones.

The Killing Two Birds with one Ball Award
Matt Holliday led both leagues in grounding into double plays. Since he plays on the Cardinals, the killing two birds thing works very nicely. Holliday created 62 outs with his 31 GIDPs. Martin Prado was second with 29 and Billy Butler led the American League with 28.

I like to put these kinds of things into percentages and Holliday also led the majors in GIDP as a percentage of his plate appearances. His rate turned out to be 5.1%. Erik Kratz of the Phillies had only 68 games with the Phillies and still managed to hit into 11 double plays for a 5.0% rate. David Freese was third with a 4.8% rate followed by the only other two over four percent: Prado at 4.4% and Butler at 4.2%.

The Crime Doesn't Pay Award
I forget what the prevailing wisdom is on what stealing success rate is acceptable. Was it 70%? Whatever it is, none of these dudes came close. I don't know if these players tried to steal bases on their own or were sent by their managers. Whichever the case, they should stop. My cut off line was five caught steals. After all, you cannot punish a guy for just trying a couple of times. But if we go by 30% as an acceptable fail rate, the following players, of course, go beyond unacceptable with their fail rates:
  1. 53.8% fail rate: Manny Machado - Six stolen bases in 13 attempts. Robbie Grossman of the Astros had the exact same numbers.
  2. 50% fail rate: Brandon Barnes (11, 22), Gerardo Parra (10,20) and Yoenis Cespedes (7,14)
  3. 47.6% fail rate: Adeiny Hechavarria (11, 21) Was there anything Adeiny did well in 2013??
  4. 45.5% fail rate: Anthony Rizzo, Andrelton Simmons, Todd Frazier (all 6, 11)
  5. 42.4% fail rate: Ian Kinsler (15, 26). Does Ron Washington have a don't steal sign?
  6. 42.1% fail rate: Yasiel Puig (11, 19). The man did run into some outs.
The Down and Outs Award
This award goes to the player who created the most outs with his plate appearances in 2013. Outs are recorded by the number of times a player gets himself out plus caught stealing, sacrifice flies and sacrifice bunts. Our winner is Starlin Castro of the Cubs with 530 outs created. Manny Machado was second with 500 and Mark Trumbo third with 495. 

The Swing Batter Batter Swing Award
Let's face it. There are some baseball players who go up to the plate hacking. They are not interested in working the count or anything like that. Life is short and they are going to swing the bat. The lowest walk percentages this season:
  1. A.J. Pierzynski - 2.1%
  2. Alcides Escobar - 3.0%
  3. Wilin Rosario - 3.2%
  4. Yuniesky Betancourt - 3.4%
  5. Adam Jones and J.P. Arencibia - 3.6%
The batters with the highest swing percentage at balls out of the strike zone were: 
  1. A.J. Pierzynski - 49.6%
  2. Pablo Sandoval - 45.5%
  3. Adam Jones - 44.9%
  4. Alfonso Soriano - 43.3%
  5. Nolan Arenado - 42.8%
The Woe is My wOBA Award
The worst five wOBA statistic recorded in 2013 with a minimum of 400 plate appearances:
  1. Pete Kozma - .241
  2. Alcides Escobar - .247
  3. Adeiny Hechavarria - .251
  4. Darwin Barney - .252 (555 plate appearances)
  5. B.J. Upton - .252 (446 plate appearances)
The Hey Your Infield Fly Is Open Award
The highest infield fly ball percentages were:
  1. Vernon Wells: 20.3%
  2. B.J. Upton: 19.7%
  3. Andrelton Simmons: 17.8%
  4. Jose Bautista. Josh Willingham: 17.6%
The Hit It Where There Are No Screws Award
The lowest line drive percentages in the MLB in 2013 were:
  1. Dan Uggla - 13.2%
  2. Kelly Johnson - 15.2%
  3. Juan Lagares - 15.7%
  4. Yuniesky Betancourt, Jose Bautista - 16.1%
The Hitting 'Em Where They Are Awards
The five lowest BABIPs of 2013 go to:
  1. Darwin Barney - .222
  2. Dan Uggla - .225
  3. Yuniesky Betancourt - .226
  4. David Murphy - .227
  5. J.P. Arencibia - .231

The Stirring the Breeze Award
These five players led the Majors in swinging and missing as rated by their swing and miss percentage:
  1. Yasiel Puig - 16.9%
  2. Pedro Alvarez - 16.4%
  3. Josh Hamilton - 16.2%
  4. Chris Carter - 15.5%
  5. B.J. Upton - 15.3%
The Calculator Not Needed to Total Bases Award
The three lowest total bases accumulated for batters with more than 400 plate appearances were:
  1. Pete Kozma - 112
  2. B.J. Upton - 113
  3. Placido Polanco - 114
Nobody else was under 130.

The Ultimate Sacrifice Award
The most total combined sacrifice bunts and sacrifice flies were:
  1. Zack Cosart - 23 (13 sacrifice bunts plus 10 sacrifice flies)
  2. Elvis Andrus - 22 (16 sacrifice bunts plus 6 sacrifice flies)
The RC Coda Award
RC stands for Runs Created and it is a Bill James statistic for estimating a players contribution to the overall runs a team scored. These two players created the least amount of runs for their team according to B-R:
  • Darwin Barney - 37 in 555 plate appearances
  • Adeinny Hechavarria - 38 in 578 plate appearances
The Punching Judy Award
Pete Kozma became only the third player in this century to record a slugging percentage under .275 with more than 400 plate appearances. The other two were Cesar Izturis in 2010 (.268) and Nick Punto in 2007 (.271).

The At Least I Jacked One Award
This was the first season since 2008 where every batter over 400 plate appearances hit at least one homer. But two guys only hit one homer in 2013. Those would be Pete Kozma and Placido Polanco

The Three Outcome Heroes Award
The following players had the highest percentage of their plate appearances being walks+strikeouts+homers:
  1. Chris Carter - 53.2%
  2. Dan Uggla - 50.3%
  3. Mike Napoli - 49.8%
  4. Adam Dunn - 49.2%

Friday, November 08, 2013

The most accurate shortstop arms

When I was a kid, my brother and I made up this game called, "Ground ball to first." We would stand on opposite sides of the street about 70 to 90 feet apart and each half inning of a nine inning game consisted of us taking turns playing shortstop and first base. The first baseman was on "offense" and would throw grounders to the other. An out required a perfect field of the baseball and a perfect throw back to the first baseman. Errors were the only way to score. It was from that game that I have always appreciated the strong, accurate throw from the shortstop position.

I had the idea to go through the list of shortstops in the last fifty or so years who are on's assist leaders. I also took a look at those with the top fielding percentages and zone ratings. Please note that I am not looking for the best fielding shortstops here. I am only looking for the most accurate arms. If you dig down enough for each player, you can find out how many of his total errors were throwing errors and then it is a simple case of dividing the throwing errors by throwing errors plus assists.

I know this is not perfect because some of the throws might have been relay throws and some benefited from year to year by who played first base and that first baseman's scooping ability (or height!). But I would assume all of that stuff evened out over the length of each player's career. I also know that I did not get everyone. I added to my list at least four times and am sure I missed a couple.

But the list became interesting as it is and gives a pretty good snapshot of what shortstop's arm was accurate or not. Here are my numbers from best to worst:
  1. Larry Bowa - .0022
  2. Dave Concepcion - .0037
  3. Mark Belanger - .0041
  4. Bill Russell - .0046
  5. Bucky Dent - .0048
  6. Don Kessinger - .0053
  7. Leo Cardenas - .0057
  8. Bert Campaneris - .00596
  9. Robin Yount - ..00599
  10. Bud Harrelson - .0067
  11. Roy McMillan - .007105
  12. Cal Ripken, Jr. - .007108
  13. Omar Vizquel - .00711
  14. Chris Speier - .007198
  15. Ozzie Smith - .007199
  16. Alan Trammell - .0073
  17. Garry Templeton - .0075
  18. Luis Aparicio - .008638
  19. Rey Sanchez - .008647
  20. Tony Fernandez - .0090
  21. Jimmy Rollins - .0104
  22. Ed Brinkman - .0119
  23. Ozzie Guillen - .0126
  24. Alex Rodriguez - .0134
  25. Royce Clayton - .0144
  26. Barry Larkin - .0158
  27. Miguel Tejada - .0164
  28. Edgar Renteria - .0167
  29. Derek Jeter - .0178
Larry Bowa was amazingly accurate and tops our list of modern shortstops with the most accurate arm. Eight of his sixteen full seasons at shortstop had zero throwing errors. Zero! And five others included only one throwing error. He made only 15 throwing errors his entire career. Eight of those were in the first two seasons he played. He went from 1974 to 1980 without a single throwing error. Amazing.

Of course, throwing accurately is only part of a shortstop equation. B-R also tracks something called Percentage of fielded balls that turned into outs. Throwing is only a part of that equation. Release and simply catching the ball cleanly also play a part. During all seasons I looked at, 89 or 90% was the league average.
  1. 95% - Mark Belanger
  2. 93% - Leo Cardinas, Rey Sanchez, Bud Harrelson, Roy McMillan
  3. 92% - Larry Bowa, Bert Campaneris, Alan Trammell, Cal Ripken, Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Luis Aparicio, Bucky Dent, Robin Yount
  4. 91% - Conception, Templeton, Speier, Jeter, Ozzie Smith, Omar Vizquel, Brinkman, Guillen
  5. 90% - Tejada, Russell, Rollins
  6. 89% - Clayton, Renteria, Fernandez
  7. 88% - Kessinger
So the old saw would apply that most of these long-time shortstops "made all the plays."

For 2013, the top five in throwing accuracy from shortstop were:
  1. Stephen Drew - .0030
  2. Jose Iglesias - .0057
  3. Asdrubal Cabrera - .0095
  4. Jhonny Peralta - .0101
  5. Troy Tulowitzki - .0104
Please remember that I am not saying this makes the best shortstop. Good old Asdrubal points that out in this list. But it is interesting to see who has the most accurate arms from the shortstop position. Larry Bowa should be smiling at Stephen Drew.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Yankees' catchers in 2014

I wrote a piece about who should catch for the New York Yankees in 2014. You can find that piece here at It's About the Money. So who did I go with? Austin Romine? Brian McCann? A.J. Pierzynski, J.R Murphy? Jarrod Saltalamacchia? Click the link and find out.

Monday, November 04, 2013

The Gasoline Award - the least successful relief pitchers of 2013

Since 1976, Rolaids has sponsored an award for the best relief pitchers of the year for both the American League and National League. I was going to name my awards the Tums Award, but figured I would get sued. So I figured I would name my award for the least successful relief pitchers of 2013 the Gasoline Award because the following list of pitchers did not put out any fires. Instead...say it with me...they poured gasoline on the fire.  

It is difficult judging relief pitchers because they could have ten good performances in a row and then get poached for an inning and have an ERA that balloons to five in a hurry. And often times they will put a base runner on only to have another guy from the bullpen come in and make sure that runner scores. That is the life of a relief pitcher.

Noting all of that, I based my award on not only ERA, but on inherited runners scored, rWAR, WHIP and WPA. Doing so seems to cover all the bases. And here are my results:

Mike Gonzalez - Gonzalez is a LOOGY, a left-handed specialist who pitched 75 times this past season to log fifty innings. He makes his living one lefty batter at a time. After a mostly successful career doing so, 2013 did not go well. His WHIP was 1.660, his homer per nine rate was 1.8, his WPA was -2.000 (the highest on our list). He allowed 47.7% of his inherited runners to score and this was pitching mostly to get lefties out. Lefty batters had a .780 OPS against him. Not a good season.

Brandon League - I love this guy's name. It sounds like a collection of super heroes. League has never been able to hang on to a closer's role and this year was his worst. He had a WHIP of 1.546 and allowed 50% (!) of inherited runners to score. Opposing batters had this triple slash line against him: .305/.354/.464. His rWAR was -1.4 and his WPA was -1.838. Nothing good to see there. Oh yes, his ERA+ was 64.

Anthony Bass - I almost hate to put Bass in here as he was one of those guys that was the last guy out of the bullpen--the mop-up guy. He only had 29 appearances, but pitched 42 innings. But I have to put him in there because he allowed an .829 OPS against and allowed 66.67% of inherited base runners to score. That is unbelievable in the gasoline department. His WHIP was 1.690. His ERA was 5.26 and tied League with an ERA+ of 64. Bass had a WPA of -0.538.

Hector Rondon - Rondon's stats don't look as bad as the first three. His ERA and WHIP are better. But he allowed 50% of his inherited base runners to score. His WPA was -0.434. I suspect that he had some days where he pitched quite well and had other days where he could not get anyone out. His high walk rate probably did not help him.

Jose Mijares - This is our second LOOGY on the list and if you do not get that one guy out that you are supposed to get out, things get ugly. Mijares had the highest OPS against on our list at .844, a terribly bloated WHIP of 1.776. The trouble with LOOGYs are that the other manager will pinch hit for the lefty Mijares had to face and that spelled trouble as his OPS against from right-handed batters was almost one (.961). Mijares allowed 41.30% of inherited runners to score (30% is about average) and his WPA was -1.234.

Honorable mention: Joba Chamberlain, John Axford (he did better in St. Louis)

Based on all that information, who would you give the award to? I think Mike Gonzalez gets the nod, though League gave him a run for his money. The good news for all of these pitchers is that most will probably still be employed in 2014.