Your guide to the 2008 election

This year, Americans will undertake one of their most sacred duties as citizens.  Millions of ballots will be cast, and this time, it really counts.  This year’s election will shape the very fabric of America.  (When did I become that writer?)  On a Tuesday night later this year, we will all gather together to watch the results of this momentous tallying play out on live television, and those results will have have effects that will be heard months, even years down the road. 
I ask all America to pause and consider what a great responsibility is being given to you.  Should you vote for the veteran who’s been doing it for years or for the new guy who might be a flash in the pan or might be the next big thing?  It’s a tough decision.  Maybe you vote for one of those other guys who probably won’t get elected anyway, but who you feel still deserve some support.  Now, it’s a tradition for media members to endorse candidates, and here at StatSpeak, we’re part of the new wing of the new new media.  I respect that you may have differing opinions on the candidates than I do, but perhaps my opinion means something to you.  Therefore, I’d like to endorse the following candidates in this 2008 election.  To the All-Star team.
(As for that other election going on this year, I have no clue.  I personally intend to flip a coin.  Or vote for Tommy Hinzo again.  And yes, I really have voted for Tommy Hinzo for President in the past.)
National League:
Catcher – Brian McCann.  Oddly enough, McCann’s currently losing in the balloting to a rookie from Chicago who might end up being amazing or might just be another in a long line of disappointments for the Cubs.  Sport is indeed a microcosm of life.  McCann gets my nod based on being atop the NL VORP standings for catcher and for being from Atlanta.  I could see an honest vote going to Russell Martin, and a good third place vote going to Soto, but there aren’t any third place votes on the All-Star ballot.
First Base - Lance Berkman.  Every once in a while, I wonder if people actually pay attention when voting.  It would be so easy for people just to punch the little chad by Albert Pujols’s name out of habit, but I’m impressed that the fans actually have Berkman up by a good margin.  After all, Terry Steinbach (!) actually started a couple of All-Star Games because people weren’t paying attention.  Can we change America?  Yes we can!
Second Base – Chase Utley.  He’ll win the actual vote in a landslide.  The thing that gets me is that a guy like Dan Uggla who is running a close second (not worthy of the same sentence as Utley, but worthy of the same paragraph), is right now running behind Mark DeRosa and Kaz Matsui?  Maybe all of Uggla’s votes in Florida have been locked away in a… are we still allowed to make Bush v. Gore jokes or is that too Michael Moore?
Third Base – Chipper Jones.  I know that David Wright is the wave of the future.  I know that batting average is a lousy stat.  But hey, Chipper at .400 at the All-Star break?
Shortstop –   Miguel Tejada.  He’s potentially been lying about his age and vitamin-taking habits, but thankfully, America has a history of voting for liars.  Hanley Ramirez is having a better year (although he plays horrid defense…), so if you vote on things like (hitting) ability, Ramirez is your pick.  But, Tejada is a better story.  Speaking of drugs, will someone tell me how Ryan Theriot is out-polling last year’s (ill-deserved and currently injured) MVP Jimmy Rollins?  Figure that Rollins would get some votes based on the fact that he won the MVP.  Oh right, this is the one election where they serve alcohol while you vote.  (Imagine whom America would elect if everyone went wasted to the voting booth.)  Now, that I think of it, Theriot plays for the Cubs.  And this is the third Cub who is strangely higher up in the standings than he deserves.  Maybe some of those dead people in the cemetaries are practicing with All-Star ballots.
Outfield – Pat Burrell, Jason Bay, Matt Holliday.  I’m not voting for Nate McLouth on GP’s.  Let’s see, the top three VORPers among NL outfielders are Ryan Ludwick, Jason Bay, and Pat Burrell (Matt Holliday is fourth).  The top three in WPA are Burrell, Bay, and Holliday (Ludwick is fourth…)  Holliday has been hurt, but I just can’t find it in my heart to punch out the little thing by Ryan Ludwick’s name.  It just doesn’t seem right.  The Indians had him for a while and figured he’d turn into a power hitting corner outfielder.  They were unfortunately right.  Plus, Holliday still has a little bit of that “you haven’t heard of him but I have” snobbery chic factor left, although not much.  That said, the fans are currently voting for the sentimental favorite (Ken Griffey, Jr.), the endlessly-talked-about-guy-who-signed-the-big-contract (Alfonso Soriano), and the he’s-Japanese-so-he-must-be-good guy (Kosuke Fukudome).  Two Cubs… weird…
American League
Catcher – Joe Mauer.  I opened the current vote totals to see what was going on in the actual voting and found a disturbing pattern.  The leaders: Varitek, Youklis, Pedroia, Jeter, A-Rod, and Manny (and Ichiro and Josh Hamilton.)  David Ortiz is winning at DH.  ESPN, what hath thou wrought?!  Since I’m the one writing this, I will no longer allow for the endorsing of any member of the Yankees or Red Sox.  In this case, it’s pretty easy as Mauer has been a better catcher (by VORP) than either Posada or ‘Tek.  Then again, so has Dioner Navarro.
First Baseman – Justin Morneau.  Oh great, the top two VORPers among AL first basemen are Jason Giambi and Kevin Youkilis.  Here’s why you should vote Morneau, other than to counteract the whole Yankees-Red Sox axis of evil.  Morneau is Canadian.  Now, what are the two most awkward moments on television all year?  The playing of the Canadian National Anthem at the All-Star game.  Why?  Because the camera guys have to ask ”What do we focus on for those two minutes?”  If we can get Jason Bay (also Canadian) and Morneau in there (plus whoever the token Blue Jay is), they can alternate between the two of them and Avril Lavigne, who will undoubtedly be called on to screech the anthem.  In other words, this election is all about foreign policy.
Second Baseman – Ian Kinsler and/or Brian Roberts.  The second base crop is pretty underwhelming this year.  Since we’re going a bit of political allegory here, this particular choice is like voting for the County Court of Appeals Judge, Third Circuit, for the term beginning on January 2nd.  You have no idea who any of the candidates are.  They’re probably all somewhat sleazy, yet competent enough lawyers.  And so you vote for the guy whose last name you like best.  This is why when I actually vote for the All-Star teams, I vote for all the Cleveland Indians and all the guys in the NL who won’t get many votes anyway.
Third Baseman – Alex Rodriguez.  Yeah, yeah, I know, no Yankees… but the game is in Yankee Stadium and he’s going to win anyway.  This is just a shrewd political maneuver on my part.  Plus, he’s the best hitter in the game and half of America votes just to say that they voted for the winner.  Besides, it’s not like we’ve never seen a broken promise in politics.
Shortstop – Michael Young.  Young’s probably wondering what it takes to get noticed around baseball.  His stats are superior to Jeter’s (and everyone else at the position) and he’s been to the ASG a few times before.  Heck, he was even the MVP in 2006.  But, the guy with the amazing resume doesn’t always get noticed when there’s a rock star around.  Just ask Bill Richardson.
Outfield -Josh Hamilton, Carlos Quentin, and B.J. Upton.  Hamilton’s story of putting his life back together is truly inspiring considering he was finally able to realize a lot of the potential he was supposed to have.  The guy he was traded for (Edinson Volquez) isn’t having a bad year either.  Carlos Quentin, where have you been hiding all this time?  You snuck up on everyone so much that I actually had to write your name in.  That means your own team didn’t think that you would be one of the best three outfielders on your team, much less the league!  B.J. Upton gets a nod based on the fact that he plays for the Rays, and the Rays are having the kind of year where they deserve to have a starter.  I should probably be suggesting that you vote for the ever-sublime Manny Ramirez (argh, there I am being that writer again) or the strangely-resurrgent Johnny Damon, but it’s my ballot.
Designated Hitter – Frank Thomas.  This is a snide vote on my end.  When Thomas was released by the Blue Jays, Sabermetricians everywhere shook their heads at how the Blue Jays could lack such a basic understanding of how to evaluate a small sample size (correct answer: don’t).  The A’s (gratuitous Moneyball reference!) picked him up and look what he’s done since.  He’s not the best DH in the league this year and he won’t win., but consider this a protest vote.
Then again, maybe I’ll just write in Barry Bonds.  How cool would that be?  He hasn’t retired.  He gets voted to start the game and is wearing just a plain gray uniform.  Hmmm… 
Anyway, go vote.


This Week in News and Sabermetrics: 4/6-4/12

Welcome to the first edition of TWINS – This Week in News and Sabermetrics.  This will be a weekly article recapping the goings on in the baseball world, ranging anywhere from top games of the week or oddest stats to frontrunners for awards based on my formulas and links to great articles.  Expect one of these bad boys every Saturday.  If anybody has suggestions for additions they would like to see feel free to post them in the comments.  Without further delay:
Interesting Bits of Tid
Well, the Tigers finally won a game after starting the season 0-7 and worrying the moustache off of Jim Leyland (not in a literal sense).  Unfortunately, any hope of a winning streak was put to rest when Tim Wakefield took the mound the next night.  Two weeks into the season the team expected to score 1,000 runs in 162 games (6.17/gm for anyone wondering) has scored 28 runs in 9 games (not 6.17/gm for anyone wondering).  To show how bad things have been Placido Polanco even made errors in consecutive nights.
Staying in the AL, Travis Buck of the Athletics started the season by going 0-21, with 9 strikeouts, and a .043 OPS… out of the leadoff spot.  He was about as effective as Travis Buckley–the other guy that appears when you type “Travis Buck” into Baseball Reference–but then remembered how to hit.  In his next three games Buck went 7-16, with 6 doubles, 4 RBIs, and a 1.284 OPS.
MVP Predictor
I came up with a pretty simple formula to see who would win the MVP should the season end at any given point.  The formula is: (OPS+ / 2) + VORP + VB.
OPS+ compares production to the rest of the league; VORP offers how important a player proved to be in accounting for runs than a replacement level player; VB is a Victory Bonus, just like in the James Cy Young Predictor, that awards points to a division leader.  In this case, +10 for first place and +6 for second place.  It’s simple but effective in determining how important a player statistically performed.  It does not take into account the more human factors of the game but the MVP is usually awarded to the best hitter on the best team; this formula measures that. 
I will be revising this throughout the season I am sure but for now it will work fine.  Here are the top five in the NL:

  1. Kendall, MIL, 135.7
  2. Ramirez, FLA, 130.9
  3. Burrell, Phi, 123.5
  4. Pujols, StL, 120.9
  5. Upton, Ari, 107.2

And the AL:

  1. Pierzynski, CHW, 131.4
  2. Scott, BAL, 126.7
  3. Crede, CHW, 123.2
  4. Dye, CHW, 120.0
  5. Drew, BOS, 114.8

Cy Young Predictor
In The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers Bill James presented a formula that could, with pretty good accuracy, predict the eventual Cy Young Award.  For a description of the formula, click here.  Though I altered his formula in previous articles to account for old-time players, his works great here.  Here are the top five in the NL:

  1. Jake Peavy, SD, 23.3
  2. Brandon Webb, ARI, 19.6
  3. Micah Owings, ARI, 18.8
  4. Ben Sheets, MIL, 18.6
  5. Jason Isringhausen, StL, 18.4

And the AL:

  1. Daisuke Matsuzaka, BOS, 23.2
  2. Zach Greinke, KC, 22.2
  3. Edwin Jackson, TB, 22.0
  4. Chien-Ming Wang, NYY, 20.3
  5. Brian Bannister, KC, 19.9

Beane Count
Over at Rob Neyer created a really cool stat I had never heard of until earlier this month, titled Beane Count.  The stat measures all of the contributions Athletics GM Billy Beane looks for in players and evaluates the teams that best fit his desires.  The total is found by adding the team rank in home runs hit, walks, home runs allowed, and walks allowed.  Interestingly enough, as of right now, both the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs lead their respective leagues–and by significant margins.
Cain Watch
Many readers here should know that I have some crazy manlove for Matt Cain, despite having no allegiances to the Giants, and really cannot stand how unlucky he gets on the mound.  In 2007 he went 7-16, though my Adjusted W-L system had him pegged at 16-7; my SP Effectiveness System even scored him a +50, just meeting the cutoff for a #1 pitcher.  Each week I will look at his starts and see if the unlucky trend continues.

  • #1, 4/1/08, 5.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 5 K, ND.  Records an AQND because it was an Adjusted Quality Start.  Game Score of 64.  From what I saw and heard he was squeezed and really should have only walked two batters.
  • #2, 4/7/08, 4.1 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 5 BB, 5 K. Loss.  Does not record an AQS and legitimately deserved to lose.  Unlike his first start he was not terribly squeezed and this was not a good start by any means.

Game Scores of the Week
Bill James created the Game Score statistic to measure the exact quality of a pitched game.  Info on the easy to calculate figure can be found here.  For the record, a GSC of 50 or higher is good.  Below are the top three game scores of the week of 4/6-4/12.

  • Ben Sheets, April 6th: 9 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 K – 85 GSC
  • Edwin Jackson, April 10th: 8 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 6 K – 80 GSC
  • Wandy Rodriguez, April 7th: 7.1 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K – 78 GSC

Weekly Oddibe Award
The Oddibe Awards are given to the hitter with the slash stats (BA/OBP/SLG) closest to the league average and are named after Oddibe McDowell, whom RJ Anderson of Beyond the Box Score determined to have the career slash line closest to the league average from 1960-2006.  As of this week the league average slash line is .257/.327/.403.  Should the season for some odd reason end today, the 2008 Oddibe Award recipient would be – Orlando Hudson, Ari: .270/.325/.405.
If the Season Ended Today
Speaking of whether or not the season ended today I think it will be interesting to look at the playoff matchups each week if it did end.  This way we can see which teams were in it all year as opposed to burning out or surging in. Note – this was done at 11:16 PM EST, so the As had played while the Angels were still playing.

  • Baltimore Orioles (AL East) vs. Chicago White Sox (Wild Card)
  • Kansas City Royals (AL Central) vs. Oakland Athletics (AL West)
  • Arizona DBacks (NL West) vs. Winner of Tiebreaking Game between CHC/MIL
  • Florida Marlins (NL East) vs. St. Louis Cardinals (NL Central)

In Case You Missed It
Here are some great sabermetrics articles from this past week:

The Santana Hypocrisy

Before getting into the article I wanted to mention that my personal website, is now back up and running. The site holds information for all of my endeavors, including sabermetrics, magic, and my professional screenwriting.
DISCLAIMER: This will not truly be a statistical piece but rather more along the lines of psychology and opinion. And yes – the title sounds like a Matt Damon movie title.
I was watching Freaks and Geeks the other day and an incident in the episode sparked a metaphor in my mind. In the show, Sam really liked Cindy Sanders, a girl who was dating a jock and only wanted to be his friend. At dinner Sam told his mother about Cindy’s lack of interest. His mother, trying to keep her son optimistic, told him she was making a mistake/dumb decision and that it would be “her loss.”
I wondered, though, would Sam’s mother have been as “down” on Cindy if Sam came home with news that Cindy did like him?
As in, is it okay to “diss” or find flaws in something not yours if you would be ecstatic if said thing was yours?
Even though I would love to continue talking about one of my favorite television shows the purpose of this post is to direct the above question towards the recent trade of Johan Santana.
Unequivocally, I am a die-hard Phillies fan. Though I seem to adopting the Rays as a second team the Phillies are the sole owners of the baseball-area in my heart. Even though they are my favorite team, and the Mets are in their division, I am really excited about the Johan trade.
Yes, a Phillies fan excited that the Mets improved their team.
Johan has been a favorite of mine since 2002 when, via the MLB digital cable package, I watched him routinely make relief appearances. I always noted how “cool” or “funky” his windup and delivery were and loved watching him on the mound. He has also been the only non-Greg Maddux player that I like to exclusively follow.
Now he is in the same division as the team I root for and I cannot wait to see these games. I cannot wait to see a Hamels/Santana battle of the changeups, or Santana facing off against Jimmy Rollins in the 8th inning of a (hopefully) meaningful September game. I am greatly anticipating a Santana/Peavy Sunday Night Baseball matchup or even just simply watching the guy bat!
Unfortunately, I am mostly alone in my thoughts when it comes to non-NYM NL East fans. You see, a stark contrast exists between the definitions of “die-hard fans” and that is the main reason I am mostly alone in my thoughts. There are fans whose personal lives are so effected by sports that it borders on sick obsession, and there are fans like me, fans who give so much of their heart and mind to the game but can continue their regular lives when the game ends.
I am a die-hard Phillies fan but, when the Mets landed Johan, I did not cry, pop pills, seek therapy, or curse on message boards. I grinned. I grinned as if to say – “Oh, you rascal Metropolitans!” I grinned because this is going to be a very exciting season.
In an initial reactive conversation with my brother Corey, though, he caught me doing the same thing I had been complaining about to him – falling into The Santana Hypocrisy.
I made a comment to him along the lines of – “I mean, honestly, how many games is he going to personally improve?”
Corey called me on it and I admitted fault. After all, this is such an easy hypocrisy to fall victim to but it becomes a problem when fans become so entrenched in it that they lose touch with reality.
DISCLAIMER 2: This is not means to bash any fan of any team, so Mets, Phillies, Braves, and Twins fans, please do not scream down my throat. I am merely investigating the human nature and seemingly programmed response that falls into this hypocrisy.
I have read a plethora of reactions on this trade and, while most are valid or provide some semblance of a reasonal response, some are ridiculous in their hypocritical nature. The hypocrisy does not stem from the reactions, themselves, but rather the fact that these reactions would be completely reversed if the circumstances were different (IE – if Santana was on their team).
The reactions to this trade seem to come in three forms – excited, disappointed, and angered. You’ll never guess which bunch are excited.
The disappointed department houses some Twins fans, Phillies fans, Braves fans, Manny Acta and Felipe Lopez, 12 of the 32 Marlins fans, some Red Sox/Yankees fans, and one Royals fan (Joe Posnanski). The angered department holds the rest of the Twins fans and some very opinionated Phillies and Braves fans.
Some of those in the angered department have lost some sense of reality. I have read so many posts that point out flaw after flaw after flaw about Johan, be it his home run total of last year, his decline in W-L record (useless stat), his high ERA (yeah, 3.33 in the AL is ridiculously high, right?), his potential arm troubles, how “overrated” he is, or anything else along those lines. These fans are finding everything they can to serve the dual roles of –

  • Raining on the parade of Mets fans
  • Making themselves feel better about not acquiring Johan

There is no way in hell these fans would search for these flaws if their teams landed Santana. If the Twins signed Johan to an extension he would have a great year and would be applauded for staying. If the Phillies got him then it would seem very likely that a team with the NL’s best offense, the MLB’s best pitcher, and arguably the best young pitcher would perform VERY well. If the Braves were able to line him up alongside Smoltz and Hudson, something tells me that his “flaws” would be forgotten more quickly than Mark Lemke’s pitching career.
Why do we all allow ourselves to criticize someone we would shower with love if in our presence? It is jealousy? Fear? Ignorance? Probably all three.
Johan is the best pitcher in baseball and makes a significant difference on any team he plays for. He did not single-handedly will the Twins to the playoffs during his tenure there but I would love to see how many of those Twins teams would have made the playoffs without his services.
To not acknowledge the difference he makes is to be an ignorant baseball fan.
To go as far as to say he is not that great, has a ton of flaws, or is overrated is to be a fan completely detached from reality. I can guarantee that every other pitcher on the teams that these fans root for has many more flaws than Johan.
There are reasons this guy has finished either #1 or in the top five in Wins, ERA, ERA+, WHIP, K, K:BB, SHO, GS, and IP over the last four years. The primary of those reasons is that he is extremely dominant and talented. In my SP Effectiveness System, where you need a +50 or higher to be considered a #1 SP, Johan has averaged a +71.3 in in the last four years. That is clearly the most from 2004-2007 and the only four-year spans since 2000 that were higher were the 2000-2003 seasons of Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson, both of whom are at the end of their careers now.
He has made 134 starts since 2004, and 97 of them have been AQS, which is 72 %, more than anyone else in that span.
Looking even further, if we want to use W-L records as a barometer, we are going to use my Adjusted W-L. Johan has gone a recorded 70-32 in the last four years (an average of 18-8 per season), but by my calculations, his Adjusted W-L would be 78-24 (an average of 20-6 per season).
I have no problem with people being upset that Johan now plays for the Mets. I have no problem with people not personally liking Johan Santana. I have no problem with people not personally liking the Mets (hey, I don’t like them!). I also have no problem with fans questioning the opinions of other fans.
I do, however, have a problem with no middle ground of opinion existing.
It seems that Mets fans believe they have already won the world series and, based on numerous message boards I have read, Phillies and Braves fans think Johan stinks. The Mets fans overexaggerate and the other fans have to do the polar opposite to compensate. There are very few people, relative to those who express opinions, who can be fans of other teams effected by the trade and be able to acknowledge that the Mets did something positive by gaining a great player. It’s either Johan is the messiah or Johan is overrated.
If a player, who when on your team, would increase a bulge in your pants worthy of Ron Burgundy’s thumbs-up, there is absolutely no justifiable reason to legitimately criticize said player and point out his flaws just because he is on another team. It is equivalent to really wanting a toy truck and, when you find out you can’t have it, calling that truck stupid or pretending like you don’t want it. In other words, it’s very childish.

One-Hit Wonders

A “Perfect Game” is the pinnacle of all pinnacles for a starting pitcher.  Reaching this feat has been nothing short of rare as there have only been eleven Perfect Games since 1957 (not including two shortened perfect games).  These games are so special because the pitcher allows a total of zero baserunners. 
After that, we consider a “no-hitter” to be the most special game.  These occur, as the name suggests, when a pitcher does not allow a hit.  Runners can reach base via error, walk, hit-by-pitch, catcher’s interference, etc, but no batter safely reaches base via a hit.
What I began to wonder is why we consider a no-hitter to be so special.  Why are these games categorized in record books and in the minds of fans if they are potentially worse than other games?
On May 12th, 2001, A.J. Burnett tossed a no-hitter against the Padres.  He did not allow a hit however he walked nine batters.  Nine!  On September 28th, 1974, Nolan Ryan tossed a no-hitter against the Twins.  Though he struck out fifteen batters he also walked eight.  Sure, it is harder to prevent hits than walks, but since 1957 there have been 69 no-hitters wherein the pitcher allowed three or more baserunners.
If the key to a Perfect Game involves not allowing any baserunners, why are no-hitters like this broadly categorized if the pitchers give up anywhere from 3-11 baserunners?  Jim Maloney, in 1965, pitched a 10 inning no-hit shutout in which he struck out twelve, hit a batter, and walked ten
It seems as if we are leaping from Point A to Point E and skipping everything in between.
Since Perfect Games call for no baserunners, the next best games have to involve only one baserunner.  There are two types of these games and, to be fair, a no-hitter with one walk will be ranked higher than a one-hitter with no walks.  After that come the games with two baserunners.  There are three types of these games.  The rank of these games, in order, is below.

  1. PERFECT GAME:  0 R, 0 H, 0 BB, 0 Baserunners

  2. NO-HITTER A:      0 R, 0 H, 1 BB, 1 Baserunner

  3. ONE-HITTER A:    0 R, 1 H, 0 BB, 1 Baserunner

  4. ONE-HITTER B:    0 R, 1 H, 1 BB, 2 Baserunners

  5. NO-HITTER B:      0 R, 0 H, 2 BB, 2 Baserunners

  6. TWO-HITTER A:  0 R, 2 H, 0 BB, 2 Baserunners

Since hits are harder to prevent than walks, a No-Hitter with one walk should be considered the second best type of game, while two different types of One-Hitters are actually better than another type of a No-Hitter.  I only wanted to use games involving two or less baserunners so let’s look at some good ‘ole data.
First, we will look at the eleven legit perfect games. Nobody has more than one in their career.



Randy Johnson 5/18/04
David Cone 7/18/99
David Wells 5/17/98
Kenny Rogers 7/28/94
Dennis Martinez 7/28/91
Tom Browning 9/16/88
Mike Witt 9/30/84
Len Barker 5/15/81
Catfish Hunter 5/8/68
Sandy Koufax 9/9/65
Jim Bunning 6/21/64

Next come the games in which a pitcher allows 0 hits, 0 runs, and only 1 baserunner. There have been 21 of these games and nobody has done it more than once. The recent no-hitters that qualify here include –

  • Mark Buehrle, 4/18/07
  • Derek Lowe, 4/27/02
  • Kevin Brown, 6/10/97
  • Ramon Martinez, 7/14/95

Looking a bit further, of those 21 No-Hitter A games, five of them involved an error accounting for the only baserunner.  Kevin Brown’s is the only one listed above that qualifies for that.
Additionally, there have been eight games where a pitcher has not allowed a hit or a walk, but allowed baserunners via errors.  Kevin Brown heads the club that includes – Terry Mulholland, Bob Forsch, Jerry Ruess, Dick Bosman, Bill Singer, Joe Horlan, and Lew Burdette.
After the first type of no-hitters comes the first type of one-hitters.  These games are ranked ahead of the next best no-hitter because they allow less baserunners.  There have been 49 of these games and only two players have recorded multiple ones – Mike Mussina and John Smiley have recorded two One-Hitter A games in their career.
The next best game involves a pitcher allowing only two baserunners, one via a hit and one via a walk.  Four players have recorded multiple One-Hitter B games.  Cory Lidle, Nolan Ryan, Steve Carlton, and Ray Culp have each recorded Two One-Hitter B games.
Moving back to the world of no-hitters, these next games involve no hits, no runs, and 2 walks.  There have been 13 of these games and only Nolan Ryan and Warren Spahn have recorded multiple ones.  Each recorded Two No-Hitter B games.
Lastly, we have games in which a pitcher allows two baserunners, both via a hit.  There have been 100 of these games and 10 pitchers have recorded multiple ones.  The ten pitchers who each have Two Two-Hitter A games in their career are:

  • Rick Wise
  • Bill Stafford
  • Curt Schilling
  • Bret Saberhagen
  • Jim Merritt
  • Jimmy Key
  • Catfish Hunter
  • Tommy John
  • Ron Guidry
  • John Candelaria

The point of this post was really just to shed some light on games that are technically better than others just generally classified as “no-hitters.”  I’m not really trying to debunk anything.  I was fooling around with the Baseball-Reference Play Index, which is probably the most amazing resource I have ever encountered, and I strongly suggest you pay the nominal subscription fee if you are a fan of stats.
Fun Fact – Nolan Ryan had seven No-Hitters in his career but only three of them involved three or less baserunners.
Just some updates from my end.  If you haven’t seen it yet I have been providing sabermetric previews for Tampa Bay Devil Rays players over at Rays Anatomy.
Additionally, I recently began a weekly column titled Nerd-onomics over at MLB Front Office wherein I apply my sabermetric knowledge to aid fantasy baseball enthusiasts.
Before I go I just want to leave you with a trivia question. I am going to add a trivia question at the end of all of my articles, from now on, and those who answer correctly will receive a hug from me.
TRIVIA – There is only one ACTIVE starting pitcher who has been around for 10+ years and has never had a losing W-L record. It is not Pedro Martinez, as he went 0-1 in his very first season and it is not Roy Oswalt as he has only been around for 8 seasons. Answers go in the comment box.

The Name Game

Growing up in Philadelphia, and raised in an extreme sports environment, Jayson Stark has always been an idol of mine. In fact it was reading his Philadelphia Inquirer column every week that eventually propelled me into sabermetrics. His columns always combined humor and statistics in order to show all of the hilarious or newsworthy baseball happenings that could not be seen on an ESPN show. Not shocking in the least, ESPN eventually brought him onboard. That being said, I thought I would do my sports-writing idol proud by writing an article in a style similar to his.
The idea for this came to me when the Phillies signed Chad Durbin to be their: (circle the correct answer)

  • A) 5th Starter
  • B) 6th Starter
  • C) Mop-Up Reliever
  • D) Waste of Space
  • E) Who cares, we have Adam Eaton!?

Regardless of the answer you selected, this now gave the Phillies Chad Durbin and J.D. Durbin – two completely unrelated Durbins. Now, it isn’t as if we’re talking about two guys with the last name of Smith. I never knew “Durbin” was a last name until a couple of years ago and now there are not only two in major league baseball but two on the same team?
More interestingly enough, there have only been four Durbin’s in the history of major league baseball and the other two ended their careers during, or before, 1909. The only two Durbin’s in the last 98 seasons of major league baseball are now on the same team – and have no relation to one another.
The Phillies acquired J.D. Durbin after the Diamondbacks placed him on waivers in April. Durbin had appeared in one game for Arizona and surrendered 7 hits and 7 runs in 2/3 of an inning. For the Phillies, Durbin was somewhat serviceable, even throwing a complete game shutout against the Padres.
J.D. Durbin made his Phillies debut on June 29th during the first game of a double-header against the Mets.
At the time of acquiring J.D. Durbin, the Phillies had a minor league prospect with the name J.A. Happ. Due to rotation injuries, Happ made his first major league start on June 30th, against the Mets.
Now that would be odd enough, on its own, however the Phillies also acquired J.C. Romero from the Red Sox. Romero also made his Phillies debut on June 29th, during the second game of Durbin’s double-header.
So, to recap, not only did the Phillies have three pitchers with the first names of J.A., J.C., and J.D., but all three of them made their Phillies debuts within the span of 48 hours from June 29th-June 30th!
And, speaking of the Phillies, they acquired Tad Iguchi from the White Sox towards the end of the season. Since he would not have been able to play for the Phillies until May 15th, if he re-signed with them, he went elsewhere (Padres). The Phillies, in need of another bench player, decided to sign So Taguchi. I guess this way the transition will be easier for the players.
Or how about the Twins deciding to replace Luis Castillo with Alexi Casilla.

  • Believe it or not, the American League had an Ellis, an Ellison, and an Ellsbury.  And no, they were not Dale, Pervis, or Doughboy.
  • The Athletics had Dan Haren and Rich Harden.
  • The American League also had a Joakim, a Joaquin, and a Johan.  That’s never happened before with different players.
  • Lastly, there was the Rays’ Delmon Young and the Dodgers’ Delwyn Young, who sadly never got to face each other.

Speaking of “Young’s,” the NL West not only had two of them, but two Chris Young’s.  They could not be more different, either, as one is a 9-ft tall, white, former ivy-league pitcher and the other is a 6-ft, black, college-less outfielder.  Pitcher Chris Young (PCY for those keeping track) won the 2007 battle as his younger counterpart went 0-10, with a walk and 4 K’s against him.

  •  Orlando Hudson went 2-11, with an RBI and 4 BB, against his “River” counterpart Tim Hudson.
  • Unfortunately, Reggie Abercrombie never got to face Jesse Litsch.  I wonder what Sportscenter would call that matchup.  Reggie and Jesse?  Reggie and Litsch?  Abercrombie and Jesse?  Ugh, who knows…
  • Aaron Rowand and Robinson Cano didn’t face each other this past year either.
  • Somehow, the Blue Jays and Rockies have played nine times and we are still waiting on a Halladay/Holliday matchup.
  • Scott Baker didn’t pitch against, or to, Paul Bako in 2007, though my fingers are crossed for 2008.

Mike Lamb is 3-9 in his career against Adam Eaton (who isn’t?) as well as 1-7 off of Todd Coffey.
Coffey and Lamb usually don’t go well together, though, but Felix Pie is also 0-1 off of the caffeinated one.
Eaton has never gotten to face Pie yet.  I’d like to put a pie in Eaton’s face.  3 yrs and 24 mil worth of pies!
In what would probably cause the universe to crumble, I am patiently awaiting a Rick VandenHurk vs. Todd Van Benschoten matchup.  I’m feeling 2008 or 2009.
In the long-name department, Jarrod Saltalamacchia went 1-2 against Andy Sonnanstine.  Salty also went 0-2 against Mark Hendrickson.  He went 1-1 against Ryan Rowland-Smit, but Ryan had two last names to reach eleven letters and therefore had an unfair advantage.
Easily the most hypocritical name award goes to Angel Pagan.  You can figure that one out.  Did you know, though, that the National League had “Two Wise Men”?  That’s right – Matt and Dewayne.
Though Matt Wise surrendered a hit to Angel Pagan, he struck out Dewayne Wise, proving what we already knew – Matt Wise is the smartest pitcher ever.
On a sad note,  2007 proved to be a disappointment in the generic name field (not Nate Field or Josh Fields).  Combined, there were only four Smith’s.  Jason, Joe, Matt, and Seth.
Even sadder, we only had three Williams’ – Dave, Jerome, and Woody.  Scott Williamson tried his hardest but that does not count.  Could be a cool sitcom title – Three Williams and a Williamson.
Major League Baseball spanned the endpoints of the life cycle this year.  On one side we had Alan Embree (embryo) and Omar Infante (infant) and on the other there were Jermaine Dye (die) and Manny Corpas (corpse).
Dye has never faced Corpas but is 2-7 in his career off of Embree.  Infante has also never faced Corpas but has doubled in 4 at-bats against Embree.
Jorge de la Rosa and Eulogio de la Cruz did not face each other this year despite being the only two “of-the” names.  And, just to clarify the none of you who asked, Valerio de los Santos would not qualify for this category since de los would technically be “of-them” or “of-those.”
Miguel Cairo has long been the MVP of this group but he welcomed two additions this year in the forms of Ben Francisco and Frank Francisco.  I had always thought of Francisco as a Spanish first name but was very surprised to find it as an American last name.  In fact, if you say Ben Francisco really quickly and in front of a drunk, it could even sound like San Francisco.
I recently got an original NES and could not help but notice that two major leaguers sound like items from a Zelda game.  Don’t both of these sentences make sense?

  1. Link, to defeat Ganon, you must hit him in the lower Velandia.
  2. Use your Verlander to blow up the stones blocking the entrance.

One of my favorite movies is Sinbad’s Houseguest, and whenever I hear the name of Giants’ 2B Kevin Frandsen I am reminded of Sinbad’s character Kevin Franklin.  Something tells me Frandsen never impersonated a dentist.
In addition to everyone else we had six players with job names.  Chris Carpenter and Lee Gardner maintained the stadiums and fields, Scott Proctor made sure they didn’t cheat, Skip Schumaker supplied them all with cleats, while Matt Treanor helped rehab Torii Hunter.
Schumaker did not face Carpenter, Gardner, or Proctor.  Treanor is 1-3 off of Carpenter in his career.  Hunter was 3-6 with a HR and 2 RBI off of Carpenter (career), as well as 2-6 with an RBI off of Proctor.
Clearly, a Hunter is more valuable than a Proctor and a Carpenter.
Point blank – the following names sound incredibly made up and fake:

  • Frank Francisco
  • Dave Davidson
  • Emilio Bonifacio
  • Rocky Cherry

When primitive men first began to speak it was easiest to combine two words together without any intermediates.  Thousands of years later we still have names like Grady Sizemore, Jarrod Washburn, Mark Bellhorn, and Chris Bootcheck.
Speaking of Chris Bootcheck, I wonder what he and Jon Knotts would talk about.
In the anatomy field, Rick Ankiel and Brandon Backe were in the same division, with Ankiel going 0-3 with an RBI off Backe.

  • DIRTY NAME AWARD – Rich (Dick) Harden
  • ACADEMY AWARD – Sean Henn
  • LED ZEPPELIN AWARD – Scott Kazmir
  • FUTURE PIZZA SHOP NAME AWARD – Doug Mirabelli (hon. mention – Mike Piazza)
  • FICTIONAL SERIAL KILLER AWARD – Mike Myers (as usual)
  • NAME TYPO AWARD – Jhonny Peralta
  • MOST FUN TO SAY AWARD – Jonathan Albaladejo
  • IMPERVIOUS AWARD – (tie) James Shields and Scot Shields

And there you have it.  We covered the life cycle, the entertainment (regular and adult) industry, jobs, cities, the bible, and more.
We can only hope that 2008 will finally bring us a VandenHurk/Van Benschoten or a Holliday/Halladay.
Keep your fingers crossed.

Adjusted W-L: A Study of the Unlucky

If you have read any of my work on Starting Pitchers and SP Effectiveness it will come as no surprise that I strongly dislike Win-Loss records. 
In the 2005 season, Johan Santana posted the following numbers-

  • 16-7 actual W-L
  • 2.87 ERA
  • 7.02 IP/gm
  • 231.2 IP
  • 0.97 WHIP
  • 5.29 K:BB
  • 3 CG/2 SHO
  • 33 Games Started

In 2005, Bartolo Colon won the AL Cy Young Award.  Any idea of how many of the above categories, which we all intuitively equate to pitching effectiveness, Colon outranked Santana in? 
One.  One category.  Colon beat Santana in only one category in 2005.  Care to venture a guess to which it was?  Combine my sarcastic tone with the title/first line of this article if you need help.  That’s right.  The one category he outperformed Santana in was WINS, 21-16.  Santana outperformed Colon in every other statistical category in 2005 and somehow lost the Cy Young.  Not to take anything away from Colon’s season but he clearly did not perform better than Santana in any category other than wins and they had the same number of starts.  And to say that the Angels made the playoffs strictly because of Colon is just slightly over borderline ridiculous. 
For reasons unbeknownst to me, W-L has become an extremely significant barometer when measuring the quality of a season and of a career.  We invest a ton of stock into a statistic that paints us half of a whole portrait.  Ask yourself this – what does a W-L record tell us?
Does it provide a ratio of how often someone pitched well to how often he didn’t?  No, because a Win does not always equate to a well-pitched game and a loss does not always equate to a poorly-pitched game.
Does it take into account the fact that some teams score more than others?  No, because you get credited with a win if you last at least five innings and your team never relinquishes the lead once you leave.  It does not matter if you give up six runs in seven innings as long as you meet that above criteria.
A few weeks back I introduced my statistic, AQS – Adjusted Quality Start, which refers to when a pitcher either goes 6+ IP while surrendering 3 or less earned runs or 7.2+ IP while surrendering no more than 4 earned runs.  Using the AQS allows us to find the ratio, mentioned in the question above, of how often a pitcher performed well in comparison to not performing well.  Regardless of whether or not you received the deserved decision, or whether or not you even received a decision, if you meet the criteria of an AQS it means you pitched well and, in theory, deserve to win.
Springboarding off of the AQS, I began to separate W-L records into what they really were – a combination of Cheap Wins, Tough Losses, Legitimate Wins, and Legitimate Losses.  The legitimate decisions refer to games that a pitcher either recorded an AQS, and won, or did not record an AQS and lost.  The reverse can be said for the Cheap Wins/Tough Losses.  Failing to record an AQS and getting a win really should not happen and the same can be said for garnering a loss while recording an AQS.
I will use the 2007 season of John Smoltz to put this to use.  By all accounts he had a great year but he often gets lost in the Peavy/Webb shuffle when discussing the best in the NL this past season.  Peavy won 19 games, Webb won 18, and Smoltz only won 14.  Something deep down tells us that Smoltz had a better season than his 14-8 record would indicate, but how much better?
Looking more closely at his 14-8, we see that he had 0 Cheap Wins, 5 Tough Losses, 14 Legit Wins, and 3 Legit Losses.
If we take the Cheapies and Toughies out, Smoltz is left with a 14-3 record of legitimate decisions.  I want to go a bit further, though, because he recorded 22 decisions no matter how we look at it.  He legitimately deserved to go 14-3, but there were five games he lost that he pitched well enough to win.
With that in mind, I began to adjust the W-L records of pitchers and see what would happen if they were credited with a Win for every Tough Loss and a Loss for every Cheap Win, on top of the Legit Wins and Legit Losses.
When we apply that to Smoltz, his 2007 Adjusted W-L would be 19-3.  When we do the same to Peavy and Webb we get a 21-4 record for Peavy and a 20-8 record for Webb.
Essentially, Smoltz should have won 19 of his 22 decisions, Peavy should have won 21 of his 25 decisions, and Webb should have won 20 of his 28 decisions. 
If we are going to use W-L record as a barometer of quality, then we should use this Adjusted W-L instead since it actually does give us the ratio of how many times a pitcher performed well relative to the decisions he received.
Below is a table featuring the Actual W-L records and the Adjusted W-L records of some NL pitchers from 2007.





Jake Peavy




John Smoltz




Cole Hamels




Brad Penny




Tim Hudson




Ted Lilly




Matt Cain




Ian Snell




Dontrelle Willis




Adam Eaton




As we can see, Brad Penny had the best Adjusted W-L of any NL pitcher as he truly deserved to lose only one of his decisions.  If he received proper run support and was a bit luckier in the games he recorded decisions, he would have posted a 19-1 record.  I wonder if it would have been a different Cy Young picture if he did. 
Look at the cases of Matt Cain, Dontrelle Willis, and Adam Eaton.  Cain finished the season with an actual W-L of 7-16, even though he deserved to go 16-7.  That means he was unlucky nine times.  Dontrelle Willis should have been 15-10 even though he ended up 10-15, meaning he was unlucky five times.  Yes, by all accounts Dontrelle had a down season, but he did really deserve to win 15 of his decisions. It was just how bad his 10 deserved losses and no-decisions were that turned his season upside down.
On the flip-side, Adam Eaton finished the season 10-10, even though he deserved to be 6-14.  While Cain and Willis were very unlucky, Eaton turned out to be lucky four times.
When we look at the number of Cheap Wins and Tough Losses, we can subtract the difference, express it as a + or – number and detail which pitchers were the luckiest and unluckiest.  This is a bit different than the Pythagorean Formulas used to determine what a team’s record should be.  The team formulas look at the season, as a whole, and provide estimates as to what an overall record should be based on how many overall runs are scored and given up.
It does not make sense to use that here, because if a pitcher gives up 10 runs in Game 1, and 1 Run in Game 2, the average would come out to two bad starts, even though the starts are completely separate and the damage was done in one game.  The team formulas evaluate the entire forest without looking at each individual tree.
Looking at each individual tree needs to be done to really show which pitchers were luckiest and unluckiest.
In the case of Cain, he had 0 Cheap Wins and 9 Tough Losses.  Net Luck = 0 – 9, meaning that Cain had a Net Luck Rating of -9, or in other words was very unlucky.  There were no recorded Wins that he should have lost but there were nine recorded losses he should have won, or at least not recorded a loss.
Adam Eaton had 5 Cheap Wins and 1 Tough Loss.  5 – 1 = 4.  Eaton’s Net Luck was +4, meaning he was lucky four times.  Positive numbers correspond to being lucky, negative numbers correspond to being unlucky, and 0 corresponds to receiving exactly what you should have received.
Aaron Harang was 16-6 with 0 Cheap Wins and 0 Tough Losses.  He had a great season and deserved to go 16-6 in his decisions.  He would have a Net Luck Rating of 0, since he was not lucky or unlucky.
When pitchers tie in either luck or lack of luck the statistic we should look to is AQS %, which refers to the percentage of times a pitcher recorded an AQS.  With lucky pitchers, a lower AQS % tells us they pitched well less, and so they are luckiest because they recorded the most amount of Net Luck while pitching well the least amount of time.  For unlucky pitchers we look at the highest percentage because it tells us that the pitcher was not only unlucky enough to lose games he should have won but that he also pitched well a higher percentage of times.
For instance, Scott Olsen, Adam Eaton, and Byung-Hyun Kim all tied with a +4 Net Luck Rating, meaning they were the luckiest NL pitchers.  Olsen had an AQS % of 33.3, Kim at 27.3, and Eaton at 26.7.  Therefore, Adam Eaton was the luckiest NL pitcher because he received four positive decisions that were unmerited and pitched well the least amount of time.
Though Cain, Bronson Arroyo, and Derek Lowe all ranked higher than Dontrelle and Smoltz, the latter two finished at -5.  Dontrelle had an AQS % of 57.1 and Smoltz at 84.4 %.  Therefore, Smoltz was unluckier than Willis because he received five negative decisions that were unmerited and pitched well way more often.
When we apply Net Luck to every pitcher in 2007, in both the NL and AL, we get the following results –

  • Luckiest NL SP = Adam Eaton (PHI), +4
  • Luckiest AL SP = Odalis Perez (KC), +4
  • Unluckiest NL SP = Matt Cain (SF), -9
  • Unluckiest AL SP = Dan Haren (OAK), -6

Though Haren pitched well and still finished 15-9, he should have been 21-3.  Odalis Perez actually tied Felix Hernandez of the Mariners at +4, but Hernandez’ AQS % was 57.1 whereas Perez came in at 30.8.
Honorable Mentions for Luck in 2007 go to:

  • Scott Olsen, +4
  • Byung-Hyun Kim, +4
  • Paul Byrd, +3
  • Boof Bonser, +3
  • Jeremy Bonderman, +3

Honorable Unlucky Mentions in 2007 go to:

  • Bronson Arroyo, -7
  • Derek Lowe, -6
  • John Smoltz, -5
  • Mark Buehrle, -5
  • Gil Meche, -5
  • Dontrelle Willis, -5

Though I do not have all of the data compiled right now, something I am going to investigate over the next few weeks are which pitchers, from 2000-2007, have been the luckiest and unluckiest.
Another usage of Net Luck that fascinates me, and that I am currently researching for my book, involves an application to 300 game-winners, as well as those who are close.  Something tells me that I will find some guys with 300 wins who maybe should not have 300 wins, as well as some guys who are short of 300 that really should have it.  After all, if we are going to use 300 wins as a Hall of Fame barometer, we should at least make sure the wins are deserved.
I am currently involved in conducting this research and if anyone would like to help, please get in touch with me.

A Closer Look at Closers – Part Two

A couple of weeks ago I began my oddyssey into the inconsistent world of Closers.  I discussed what they are, what they do and how we currently evaluate them, as well as introducing my statistic – Save Rate
To recap, Save Rate measures and properly proports the number of individual saves, individual opportunities, and team opportunities, in order to give us a much more tangible idea of how effective a Closer is in any given year.  To find the Save Rate we need to know three things:

  1. How many Saves for the Closer?
  2. How many Opportunities for the Closer?
  3. How many total games were saveable for the team of the Closer?

The goal with Save Rate is to compare Closers in different situations.  Since certain teams play more close games than others it would not be fair to say that Closer A (40-45 in saves) had a better season than Closer B (25-32) if all we are basing that on is the total number of saves or blown saves. 
The team of Closer A had 60 total saveable games whereas Closer B’s team only had 35.  Clearly, Closer A should have more saves, since his team had so many (25) more chances in which to record them.  Save Rate takes that into account, as well as numerous other factors, and levels the field of play.
In the examples above, Closer A would have a Save Rate of 67%, because he successfully saved 40 of the 60 games that could have been saved for his team.  The Save Rate of Closer B would be 71% because he successfully saved 25 of his team’s 35 saveable games.  Closer B was more effective for his team.  After all, it’s not his fault that his team had that many less saveable games.  He did what his team asked him to do better than Closer A did for his team.
Essentially, to finish the recap, Save Rate measures how effective a Closer was in a given season by measuring his individual success relative to the team need.  The raw total of Saves means nothing if we cannot compare it to the needs of the team.
To read Part One of this article, click here.
As mentioned in part one, including the situation at hand and what the pitcher actually does, there are 144 different ways to record a ninth inning save.  If we wanted to get really crazy we could take into account the possibility of a closer being replaced mid-inning, due to injury or ineffectiveness, and add more ways.  Fortunately for everyone here I do not want to get any crazier.
144 is way too high of a number to keep track of, when measuring and weighting saves, so a more interesting approach would be to break them down into three groups.  The categories I am going to look at from now on are –

  • Perfect Saves – saves in which nobody reaches base
  • Medium Save – save in which baserunners reach but no runs score
  • Suspense Save – save in which runs score

1-RUN, 2-RUN, 3-RUN
Tom Tango’s THE BOOK has a fascinating chapter on the 3-run save and I highly suggest fans of statistics get ahold of it.
You might wonder why I broke down the saves into categories that do not include these run differentials.  The major reasoning, consistent with most of this study, is that the Closer has absolutely no effect on that.  The team does. 
The Closer cannot control how often his team plays a 1-run game.  That is up to virtually everyone except him.
All he can do is control what he does in his appearances – NOT what types of appearances he gets brought into.  And, if you are a fan or advocate of the DIPS theory, then the Closer does not even have much control over what happens during his appearances.  Closers have no control when they are brought in and, unless they are pure strikeout pitchers, little control over what happens while they are in.
It would not be accurate to say that Closer C, 17 for 21 in 1-run saves, is better under pressure than Closer D, 13 for 19 in 1-run saves, because there are too many types of 1-run saves.  What if C’s blown 1-run saves were with bases empty whereas D’s blown 1-run saves were all with the bases loaded when he entered?
These are situations reliant on what the team does prior to his entrance and cannot be accurately used to compare Closers on different teams.
We can, however, compare them by examining individual compiled statistics regardless of when they were brought in – IE – if a Closer enters with the bases already loaded it is much different than a bases loaded situation caused by him walking batters or giving up hits.
An extremely fascinating statistic, WPA measures the percentage of a game that a player contributes for both wins and losses.  The most it can amount to in a single game is 0.5 and the least is -0.5.  The way it works relies on probabilities and percentages of games won based on certain situational circumstances.  Below is an example of WPA put to use in terms of Closers.
From 1998-2006, home teams won 94.5% of games in which they led by 2 runs at the start of the 9th inning, with no outs and bases empty.  Let’s say that Francisco Cordero enters the game with this exact situation.  He strikes out the first batter he faces.  His team now has a 97.9% likelihood of winning, meaning that he just accounted for +.034.  He gets the next batter to ground out.  His team now has a 99.4% likelihood of winning, meaning he accounted for an additional +.015.  So far, Cordero’s WPA is +.049.  The next batter hits a double off of him.  His team’s likelihood of winning decreases to 97.3%, meaning he will lose +.021 of his +.049, leaving him at +.028.  He then strikes the next batter out to end the game, giving his team a 100% likelihood to win (since they won) and giving him a final WPA of +.055 for the game.
Now, when we look at the same number of recorded outs but have the runner on second base before Cordero entered the game (meaning he entered the 9th inning with a 2-run lead, a runner already on second, and no outs), the results are slightly different.  Instead of a +.055, the WPA would be +.119 – over two times that of the previous situation.
Though it makes sense, because he entered into a tougher situation, he had no control over when he was brought in.  Therefore, WPA can be very misleading when evaluating Closers.
While WPA is a tremendous statistic to use when evaluating the contributions of players during individual games, or a series, I have strong reservations about using it as the end-all tool to evaluate an entire season of a Closer – the major reservation being the aforementioned point that Closers have no control over when, or in what situation, they are brought in.
Additionally, there are the situational discrepancies mentioned here and in part one, and the fact that some teams simply have more opportunities for saves than others.  WPA is a great tool to use when differentiating between 1-run, 2-run, and 3-run saves, but since I am not terribly interested in that, I am going to stick with Save Rate.
The table below shows the percentages of Perfect, Medium, and Suspense Saves of the nine Closers used in my study, from 2007.  Due to the Save Rate being included we can look at percentages and not raw numbers.  The Save Rate already accounts for some Closers having less chances to make appearances.

Francisco Cordero





Jose Valverde





Billy Wagner





Trevor Hoffman





Jason Isringhausen





Chad Cordero





Ryan Dempster





Brad Lidge





Brian Fuentes





By using the numbers in this table we can compare Closers in different situations and determine which were better and/or more effective.  Since it generally came down to Cordero or Valverde in the NL in 2007 we will use the table to compare them.
In 2007, Cordero had a higher percentage of Perfect Saves than Valverde, as well as a higher Save Rate.  This explains that Cordero was not only more successful in saving games relative to the needs of his team than Valverde, but also that more of that success stemmed from Saves in which he did not allow a baserunner. 
Yes, some of these Suspense Saves resulted due to entering the game with baserunners and some sort of momentum factor going for the other team, but that was when the team decided to bring the Closer in.  I am trying to measure effectiveness relative to the team need here.  If they decide to bring you into that circumstance and you cannot get the job done, you are ineffective relative to the team need.
Essentially, Cordero had better numbers relative to his team than Valverde had to his team, and gave opposing teams less of a chance, so we can say that Cordero was a better Closer in 2007.  We could even make a case for Billy Wagner as being almost equally effective as Valverde.  Their Save Rates were very close, and even though Wagner gave up runs in a higher percentage of his saves, it gets canceled out by his higher percentage of Perfect Saves.
I introduced the Save Rate in part one and, no matter what other ways I try to quantify effectiveness with, I keep coming back to it.  If we really want to determine which Closer was the best, given the circumstances that –

  • Some teams win more than other teams
  • Some teams have more save opportunities than others
  • The Closer has no control over when, or in what situation, he is brought into
  • We can only really measure the statistics a Closer puts up in each appearance, regardless of situation, due to this lack of control

– the best way to reach our goal is to measure individual success relative to the needs of the teams.  In other words, exactly what the Save Rate tells us.
The bottom line is that, regardless of the situations or save types, if your team has 65 games that need to be saved, you want the Closer to not only appear in as many of those 65 as possible but also to successfully convert as many of those appearances.  Save Rate gives us those measurements and proports it into a neat percentage of effectiveness.
In the next, and final, post of this article I will present all of my data and findings.  I will also discuss some of the important statistics that tend to translate into better Closers and why they tend do make that translation.
When all three parts are completely said and done I will combine it into one solid PDF document and provide a downloadable link.  Since some parts are repeated in other parts, this PDF will bring everything together in order to give you my reasoning and methods for evaluating Closers.
I am not presenting this as the “end-all” method, by any means, but if I was a GM and aware of the circumstances I mentioned above (lack of control, situational discrepancies, good/bad team discrepancies) and in need of a proven Major League commodity, I would want to know how durable and how successful in that durability a Closer was – exactly what the Save Rate tells me.