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It’s been a while…

I haven’t made a contribution here in a while, somewhat because life has been a touch too much in the way, and moreso because it’s just been too depressing to contemplate Tiger thoughts since the collapse that began with the trip west right before the trading deadline.

I’m firmly in the Alan Trammell camp. Would I have left in Nate Robertson a couple games back? Yeah, I probably would have. But a manager has to manage the egos on the team, too. My dad hated Sparky Anderson‘s “captain hook routine”, which is what he called it when Sparky would pull a pitcher who was throwing perfectly fine for a fresh arm out of the bullpen. Even in Game 5 of the ’84 Series, he wondered why Sparky wouldn’t trust Dan Petry past 3-2/3 innings, after all, the Pads had only tied the game… But then, once you bring on Bill Scherrer, why, oh why, do you replace him with Aurelio Lopez after one lousy single among his 3 outs? Then you trust Senor Smoke for 2-1/3 perfect innings — that’s 7 up, 7 down — but you bring on Willie Hernandez for the final 2 innings? Let’s just say that the homer Willie gave up to Kurt Bevacqua to draw the Pads to just a 5-4 deficit was not greeted well. I wasn’t as vocally anti-Sparky as my dad was, because I took the big picture into account. You can’t argue with results. Ask my dad about the Willie Hernandez-for-Aurelio Lopez move today, he’ll get a bulging vein in his forehead over it, I guarantee you.

Well, I spent far more words on that than I intended, but part of that was the nice surprise of finding the fantastic play-by-play of Game 5 of the ’84 World Series available from the fine folks of retrosheet.

What I really wanted to comment on today was the demise of Rondell White to a separated left shoulder. I had noticed several times already that Rondell was among the league leaders in batting average, a stat that surprised me. I had not been under the impression that Rondell was the 8th-best hitter in the AL. Then I set out to create a chart that might show why I had that perception. But let me explain something first. Bill James sometimes talked about how much a player’s batting average represented his total offensive output, which got me to thinking about Rondell’s batting average versus his OPS. Now, remember that OPS consists of batting average twice plus a player’s walk rate, plus his extra bases (or isolated power). For instance, let’s say it’s Opening Day, and the top 4 players of your lineup come up 5 times each. If player A goes 3-for-5 on all singles, he has a 600 batting average, 600 OBP and a 600 SLG, for a 1200 OPS. If player B goes 2-for-5 with a home run, he has a 400 batting average, a 400 OBP and a 1000 SLG for a 1400 OPS. If player C goes 2-for-4, both singles, plus a walk, he has a 500 batting average, a 600 OBP and a 500 SLG for an OPS of 1100. If player D goes 1-for-3 with a triple and 2 walks, he has a 333 batting average, a 600 OBP and a 1000 SLG for an OPS of 1600. In that situation, the man with the worst batting average has the team lead, rater surprisingly to some, in OPS. However, the guy who just had 3 singles isn’t so shabby, either, because those singles count toward both his OBP and his SLG, so they are essentially counted twice. Anyways, that is how I came up with the following chart (of the top 25 batting averages in the American League), with the final stat being the percentage of the player’s OPS coming from his batting average (for the formula-friendly, that’s 2xBA divided by OPS).

1. J. Damon – BA 332, OPS 852 – 77.9%
2. P. Polanco – BA 329, OPS 817 – 80.5%
3. M. Young – BA 327, OPS 886 – 73.8%
4. V. Guerrero – BA 326, OPS 975 – 66.9%
5. B. Roberts – BA 319, OPS 918 – 69.5%
6. M. Tejada – BA 317, OPS 911 – 69.6%
7. A. Rodriguez – BA 314, OPS 1013 – 62.0%
8. R. White – BA 313, OPS 836 – 74.9%
9. T. Hafner – BA 309, OPS 974 – 63.4%
10. I. Suzuki – BA 308, OPS 794 – 77.6%
11. J. Varitek – BA 305, OPS 939 – 64.5%
12. D. Jeter – BA 304, OPS 831 – 73.2%
13. D. Ortiz – BA 303, OPS 993 – 61.0%
14. J. Peralta – BA 302, OPS 906 – 66.7%
15. G. Sheffield – BA 302, OPS 925 – 65.3%
16. S. Hillenbrand – BA 301, OPS 835 – 72.1%
17. H. Matsui – BA 299, OPS 861 – 69.5%
18. M. Sweeney – BA 297, OPS 864 – 68.8%
19. J. Mauer – BA 297, OPS 805 – 73.8%
20. C. Crisp – BA 296, OPS 788 – 75.1%
21. R. Ibanez – BA 295, OPS 819 – 72.0%
22. J. Lugo – BA 295, OPS 745 – 79.1%
23. B. Mueller – BA 294, OPS 809 – 72.7%
24. I. Rodriguez – BA 290, OPS 752 – 77.1%
25. D. DeJesus – BA 290, OPS 791 – 73.3%

There you have it, Placido Polanco has the least offensive contribution outside of his batting average among this group, and since this is the top 25 batting averages in the league, he’s likely also the leader in that category league-wide. Other players coming in at worse than White are Ichiro, Coco Crisp, Julio Lugo and the Tigers’ own Ivan Rodriguez, mainly due to his precipitous drop-off in the walk department (just 6 in 386 at-bats… far worse than his career average). Or, in other words, the Tigers are owners of (quite likely… again, I haven’t calculated these for all American Leaguers) 3 of the top 6 emptiest batting averages in the league. Small wonder why we’re having problems scoring runs.

Good news… Sort of.

Add these to the list of players equal to or higher than Rondell’s 74.9% mark:

Scott Podsednik – 82.3%
Jason Kendall – 81.2%
Angel Berroa – 78.5%
Darin Erstad – 78.1%
Edgar Renteria – 77.2%
Robinson Cano – 76.9%
Scott Hatteberg – 76.8%
Garrett Anderson – 76.7%
Jeremy Reed – 76.7%
Shannon Stewart – 76.7%
Aaron Rowand – 75.7%
Randy Winn – 75.0%
Kevin Millar – 74.9%

These are just from the ranks of AL players who have enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title.

Other Tigers, regardless of qualifying at-bats:

Kevin Hooper – 100.0%
John McDonald – 86.5%
Bobby Higginson – 81.9%
Nook Logan – 81.0%
Alexis Gomez – 80.9%
Carlos Guillen – 79.3%
Jason Smith – 79.3%
Magglio Ordonez – 73.6%
Craig Monroe – 73.0%
Brandon Inge – 70.3%
Chris Shelton – 70.3%
Omar Infante – 70.1%
Vance Wilson – 69.0%
Dmitri Young – 66.8%
Tony Giarratano – 63.8%
Carlos Pena – 61.4%
Curtis Granderson – 59.9%
Marcus Thames – 56.4%

Posted by jeff k on August 18th, 2005 at 1:02 pm

Question: What is the league average or baseline of percentage of percentage offense from batting average alone?

Without this context, the idea that Rondell isn’t effective is still left open.

Posted by Mike on August 18th, 2005 at 6:53 pm

Funny you should mention that… I took the easy way, and looked up team stats, figuring them for each team:

Reds – 66.50%
Rangers – 67.08%
Yankees – 68.24%
Diamondbacks – 68.42%
Brewers – 68.72%
Braves – 69.07%
Red Sox – 69.34%
White Sox – 70.07%
Indians – 70.07%
Orioles – 70.26%
Cardinals – 70.28%
Astros – 70.31%
Dodgers – 70.51%
Cubs – 70.54%
Phillies – 70.67%
Mets – 70.81%
Padres – 70.96%
Nationals – 70.97%
Pirates – 71.39%
Blue Jays – 71.50%
A’s – 71.89%
Rockies – 72.04%
Twins – 72.22%
Mariners – 72.37%
Devil Rays – 72.39%
Royals – 72.75%
Marlins – 72.78%
Tigers – 73.16%
Angels – 73.47%
Giants – 73.76%

If you just average those 30 numbers (and any differences in number of plate appearances probably comes out in the wash), you get 70.75%

I also found league-wide numbers and went 3 years back:

AL 2004: 70.50%
NL 2004: 69.95%

AL 2003: 70.54%
NL 2003: 70.43%

AL 2002: 70.31%
NL 2002: 70.28%

Considering that somewhere in the neighborhood of 80% will have you at or near the league lead and 70% is the average, I’d say Rondell’s 74.9% is pretty bad.

Though I must say, this certainly puts some perspective on the alleged contributions of Scott Podsednik and “smart ball”… Seems all of his teammates must be excelling in this in order for the WSox to be 8th in all of baseball, but there is their leadoff man topping the list of the worst of them all…

Posted by jeff k on August 19th, 2005 at 9:24 am

Thanks. That answered a few questions, but I’m not convinced that this is a true measure of a players quality. When I first read it in the Bill James Abstract, I was not impressed with it as a measure of quality. A .400 hitting singles hitter who never walks will still create just as many runs as a .250 hitter with a OBP of .400 and a .400 slugging percentage. At best it is a way to discribe how a player behaves offensively.

Note that most of the players on the BA leaders list are near the league average on one side or the other within the same range as White (+/-5). Also, according to the stats at the Hardball times, two of the Tiger “best” have negative win shares above baseline (Pena, -2; Thames -1) while White has 6 shares above baseline and ties Bonderman for the team lead (tied for 45th in the AL, for comparsion Thames is tied for 403rd).

Also according to the stats at The Hardball Times, White has 6.9 Runs Created per game vs 3.3 for Pena and 3.8 for Thames.

So in measures that look at the whole performance of a player White looks pretty good.

Posted by Mike on August 19th, 2005 at 10:36 pm

Whoops, I did a sort on batting win shares. White ranks at 26th in the AL total win shares with 11.8. Just behind Soriano and ahead of Chavez.

Posted by Mike on August 19th, 2005 at 10:40 pm

Yeah, upon further analysis, it’s more of a tool that tells you what type of a hitter a certain player is, moreso than a good/bad stat.

For instance, the 2005 HOF induction class had career numbers that looked like this:

Wade Boggs – 328 BA, 858 OPS – 76.5%
Ryne Sandberg – 285 BA, 796 OPS – 71.6%

Actually, that Sandberg figure is telling… Though Sandberg’s claim to fame is “retired with the most HR of all time as a 2nd baseman” (Jeff Kent has since passed him), he was hardly the power hitter he was often made out to be.

Posted by jeff k on August 23rd, 2005 at 9:53 am

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