The Baseball Graphs Blog

Saturday, January 31, 2004

Great Fielding Teams

While commenting on Chris Dial’s Baseball Primer article on Defense Efficiency Ratio, I came up with a new, half-baked idea.  What if I looked at the data I ran for the baseball history graphs, and compared each team’s DER to the league DER at the time?

So I did.  I call this stat DER+.  It’s similar to OPS+ and ERA+, which are listed at Baseball Reference, but it doesn’t include an adjustment for park effect.  I don’t have historical park factors for DER.  This is very important, and it definitely undermines the validity of the stat.

Actually, this is really just a fun stat, anyway.  As Chris says, DER is a nice baseline, but it?s very rough as a descriptive statistic and very few conclusions should be drawn from it.  So let’s use DER+ to describe a few things in baseball history.  And let’s be careful with our conclusions.

Click for more...
Posted by Studes on 01/31 at 10:26 AM
Thursday, January 29, 2004

Relief Pitching Win Shares

Mike wrote a fascinating review of the history of relief pitching last year, and he’s added a 2003 installment for this year.  Included is a good summation of the issues inherent in Win Shares for relief pitchers.

Here’s the link.

Posted by Studes on 01/29 at 11:40 PM
Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Pitching/Fielding Table

Here is a table of the three pitching/fielding split systems, expressed as a percent of defensive Win Shares allocated to pitching.  The original James system is listed first, Charlie’s system is second and mine is third.

I’ve highlighted the teams that appear to vary the most, and I plan to look more closely at some of them soon.

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Posted by Studes on 01/28 at 05:04 PM

Pitching and Fielding, Part Three

Splitting Win Shares between pitching and fielding correctly is an elusive quest, like catching a shadow.  Hard to see, hard to imagine, and you’ll never know if you’ve actually done it.  At least not without play-by-play data.  Before this is all over, I intend to incorporate some of Pinto’s and MGL’s play-by-play fielding data into our Win Shares spreadsheets, just to see what we get.

In the meantime, I’ll offer you another shadow.

I’d like to come at this fielding/pitching thing a little differently, along these lines:

One, Fielding Independent Pitching, or FIP, is a perfect stat for allocating Win Shares to pitchers, because fielders have no impact on home runs, strikeouts or walks, the components of FIP.  I sometimes forget to mention this, but kudos to Tangotiger for inventing FIP.

Second, all the other runs allowed (non-FIP runs, if you will; I like to call them DRA) are basically determined by the team’s Defense Efficiency Ratio, or DER.  If you need convincing,  this article graphs the historic relationship between the two.

Third, DER is the responsibility of the pitchers as much as it is the responsibility of the fielders.  Maybe more so.  In other words, the state of a ball when it leaves the bat has as much, if not more, impact on DER than what fielders subsequently do.

You may gulp a bit at this one, because we’ve learned that pitchers don’t control the outcome of a batted ball as much as we thought.  But the pitcher is the man on the spot.  If a ball falls somewhere on a playing field where a great fielder cannot reach it, then the pitcher should bear that responsibility.

Fourth, and finally, pitchers may not impact DER very much, but they can make DER irrelevant.  As we’ve shown in this article, pitchers with low and negative FIP’s reduce the range of DRA.  If a pitcher has a FIP of -1.00, you just about know what his DRA will be.  Fielders won’t impact it as much.

With that in mind, here’s my system (warning, this is very technical and math-oriented.  Proceed at your own risk):

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Posted by Studes on 01/28 at 04:30 PM
Tuesday, January 27, 2004

AL West Win Shares

The Baseball Crank takes a Win Shares look at the AL West.

Posted by Studes on 01/27 at 01:26 PM
Sunday, January 25, 2004

Fielding and Pitching, Part Two

Charlie Saeger, who was one of the contributors to the Big Bad Baseball Annual, has done a ton of Win Shares research, particularly into the fielding side of the system.  He has developed his own methodology for assigning pitching and fielding Win Shares to players, and I think it represents a big step forward.

Charlie explained his methodology in an e-mail to me, and the detail is mind-boggling.  I’m not going to go over the whole thing, but here are the highlights:

- Charlie approaches this in the same basic way James did, with a numerator and denominator representing the percent of defensive Win Shares to be allocated to pitching.

- Charlie sets the initial denominator equal to innings pitched divided by four.  Charlie does this in order to have a baseline that can incorporate other events equal to their linear weights.  I don’t fully understand the math, though the basic logic makes a lot of sense.

By doing this, Charlie makes his methodology a lot more transparent than James did.  This is good.

- Next, the numerator changes based on the number of strikeouts achieved by the pitchers.  Charlie’s methodology is set so that a team that averages about 0.5 strikeouts an inning will have 67% of its shares allocated to pitching, and a team that averages 3 strikeouts an inning will have 100% allocated to pitching.

So, you see, Charlie assumes the same baseline ratio of Win Shares allocated to pitching as James did. 

However Charlie’s system differs from the original at this point.  He subsequently adjusts the pitching allocation in the same manner, but his adjustments have more weight.

- For instance, the percent allocated to pitching changes according to the number of home runs allowed by the pitching staff.  There is a change of 1.6% points for every ten home runs allowed vs. the league average (vs. 0.9% points change in James’ system).

- Walks and HBP also impact the allocation up and down, about 0.5% points for every ten (vs. 0.2% points in James’ system) vs. the league average.

- Charlie also calls for similar impact allocations based on errors, passed balls and caught stealing, outfield assists (which James doesn’t include) and double plays.  These are all similar to James’ approach, though the impact of each is larger.

Charlie does something really interesting with Defense Efficiency Ratio (DER), using a two-step process:

- First, Charlie calculates park-adjusted DER vs. the league average (exactly like James does), and allocates 100% responsibility for this to the pitching.

- Then he calculates a second park-adjusted DER factor, called ADER.  ADER is calculated in the same manner as DER, except that assists are included in both the numerator and denominator.  Charlie’s system then allocates 100% responsibility for this to the fielders.

These two separate DER calculations are included to offset the fact that groundball staffs tend to have lower DERs, which is no fault of the fielders.  Ground ball staffs tend to have more assists, so including assists in both sides of the DER equation helps balance this out.

Charlie explained it to me in this way: “I ran a sample of NL teams for the late 1970s (I run a lot of things on this sample, actually) and found that DER correlated with PO-SO-A at about r=0.41 or so. This jibed with the idea that folks had about the DIPS H$ being higher for a groundball pitcher. Adding assists to both sides made this go away.”

Here’s an example of how it works.  The 2003 Los Angeles Dodgers’ DER was actually a tiny below league average, once adjusted for ballpark.  In Charlie’s system, the pitching is given 100% responsibility for this, and so the pitching allocation decreases from 75.9% to 75.6%.

However, the Dodgers’ staff was an extreme groundball staff, so there were a lot of assists among the fielders.  When you add assists to both sides of the DER ratio, yielding ADER, you find that the Dodger fielders performed about 23 runs above average.

100% of this credit is allocated to the fielders, decreasing the pitching allocation to 72.0%.

I’m not 100% sure of the validity of this approach, but I give Charlie an A+ for inventiveness.

The net effect of Charlie’s approach, vs. the original James approach, is a few more defensive Win Shares allocated to fielding overall, and a wider variance in results by team.

Attached is a list of defensive Win Shares allocated to pitching in the original system and Charlie’s system (assuming I interpreted Charlie’s directions correctly).

Click for more...
Posted by Studes on 01/25 at 12:11 PM
Saturday, January 24, 2004

FIP and DER through History

I’ve spent a lot of time blabbing on and on about Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) and Defense Efficiency Ratio (DER).  In particular, I first explained them in this article, then I talked about my Christmas vacation with them, and I also spent some time picking one of them apart.  These two stats tell us a lot about pitching and fielding, but we’ve only looked at them over the past decade or two.  So I thought it would be fun to ask: how have FIP and DER behaved over time?

Well, fun for me, anyway.

So, I’ve created line graphs of FIP and DER throughout the twentieth century, in the tradition of this wonderful site, and I’ve learned a lot of Peabodyesque things along the way.  Here we go:

Click for more...
Posted by Studes on 01/24 at 12:48 PM
Friday, January 23, 2004

Williams’ Lost Years

There’s a nice article at Aaron’s Baseball Blog about Ted Williams’ lost years (always a good topic for amazement).  Here’s an excerpt from an e-mail I sent him in reply:

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Posted by Studes on 01/23 at 07:00 AM
Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Mike’s Hall of Fame Summary

In my book (not that I have one), this has been one of the highlights of the offseason.  What an awesome job by Mike.

Posted by Studes on 01/21 at 06:36 AM
Monday, January 19, 2004

The Pitching/Fielding Split

We’ve spent the offseason picking apart Win Shares, understanding it better, making some suggestions for improvement.  Up to now, however, we’ve primarily dealt with offensive Win Shares, which are pretty much based on runs scored and runs created.  A veritable piece of cake compared to the next step: defensive Win Shares.

I’ve spent some time circling around defensive Win Shares, checking them out, trying to figure how to approach them.  And I still haven’t figured it out.  But let’s at least start with the first step: allocating defensive Win Shares between pitching and fielding.

Click for more...
Posted by Studes on 01/19 at 08:36 PM

Rotational Metrics

Jason Moyer has written a nice article about 2004 starting rotations, using Win Shares and Win Shares above average.

Posted by Studes on 01/19 at 03:29 PM
Friday, January 16, 2004

Baseball’s Entertainers

Nothing to do with Win Shares, but this is a fun piece by Brian over at Redbird Nation.

Posted by Studes on 01/16 at 06:18 AM
Monday, January 12, 2004

DER Responsibility

During the offseason, David Pinto has conducted a series of very good defensive analyses called the Probabilistic Model of Range (that’s a mouthful), and MGL has also finished his Ultimate Zone Ratings for 2003   .  These are two excellent reviews of individual fielding skills, based on play-by-play data.

I’ve been spending some time with Pinto’s analysis, because it focuses on Defense Efficiency Ratio (DER), which can also be applied to Win Shares.  In fact, DER is a key component of the Win Shares calculation for splitting runs allowed reponsibility between pitching and fielding.

Click for more...
Posted by Studes on 01/12 at 08:58 PM

“Morgan and Those Who Followed”

At the excellent Toronto Blue Jays’ site, Batters Box, Robert Dudek has posted a review of Joe Morgan’s career, using Win Shares as his criterion.

I particularly like some of Robert’s modifiers, which address some of the Win Share issues we’ve talked about on this site:

- A seeming bias against starting pitchers, which we’ve taken some steps to address.
- An issue in leagues with the designated hitter.  I’ve suggested some steps to address this issue, such as the Win Shares baseline, crediting pitchers and batters with negative Win Shares when warranted, and pulling pitchers’ batting Win Shares out into the open.  These may not be enough to address the DH problem, however.  I need to do some more research.
- A historic issue in strike-shortened seasons, when evaluating player’s careers (which I hadn’t thought about).

Robert also talks about the use of Win Shares replacement level, which I hope to address as a continuation of the Win Shares baseline concept.  A great article.

Posted by Studes on 01/12 at 07:10 AM
Sunday, January 11, 2004

The Best Players In Baseball 2004

Another one of the best blogs around is The Baseball Crank.  In his latest entry, he reviews the established Win Shares of all major league players, by weighting each of the last three years.

As he notes, the absence of Vladimiar Guerrero from the list is surprising, so I did a little research into Guerrero’s Win Shares.

Click for more...
Posted by Studes on 01/11 at 01:50 PM
Friday, January 09, 2004

Top Historic Keystone Combos

Bill James’ research assistant, Matthew Namee, has a couple of great articles about the best and worst keystone combinations of all time, using Win Shares as his criteria.  You can read Matthew’s review over at Aaron’s Baseball Blog.

Posted by Studes on 01/09 at 07:06 AM

A’s Win Shares review

Another blog looks at 2004 Win Shares.  This time it’s Andrew Koch’s blog “Everything is AOK”, reviewing the Oakland A’s.

The one thing Andrew didn’t address, and the trickiest thing about projecting Win Shares, is the bullpen.  Keith Foulke had an awesome year in 2003, but someone will step in and make up for a lot of his Win Shares next year, just by racking up some of the innings and saves Koch won’t.  I think you can conservatively add ten to fifteen Win Shares to Andrew’s total.

Posted by Studes on 01/09 at 06:58 AM
Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Mike’s Baseball Rants

Over at Mike’s Baseball Rants, one of the best baseball blogs on the Web, Mike has been running an excellent series on Hall of Fame elections.  In his most recent article, Mike reviews the Win Share totals of those elected to the Hall, and concludes that 300 Win Shares is a good historic threshold at which a player can be seriously considered Hall of Fame material.

Mike’s Baseball Rants

I encourage you to read the entire series.

Posted by Studes on 01/06 at 11:55 PM
Monday, January 05, 2004

Aging Yankee Win Shares

Jason Moyer has made another good use of Win Shares, analyzing the aging of the Yankees.  Highly recommended.

The Fall of the Holy Yankee Empire

He also followed up with a bit more Win Share aging research at this Baseball Primer discussion thread:

Posted by Studes on 01/05 at 11:04 PM
Sunday, January 04, 2004

Redbird Nation’s MVP Review

Here’s a nice little review, over at Redbird Nation, of the historic precedence of Albert Pujol’s non-MVP season, using Win Shares as the measure.  IMO, this is an excellent use of Win Shares.


He also has a follow-up review on his main blog page.

Posted by Studes on 01/04 at 08:39 AM