2013 Weird and Wacky Team Highlights – NL Edition

Following up from the AL version, here’s a collection of statistical tidbits for last year’s NL teams that you probably won’t find anywhere else.


Braves – Atlanta became the 9th franchise in the expansion era (but all have come since 1996) to have consecutive seasons with only one pitcher (Craig Kimbrel) recording multiple saves. San Francisco is the only franchise to do this with two different pitchers (Rod Beck 1995-96, Robb Nen 2001-02). Roberto Hernandez  is the only pitcher to do this with two different franchises (Devil Rays 1998-99, Royals 2001-02).

Brewers –  Milwaukee had its first pitcher (Brandon Kintzler) since 1980 to record HR/9 under 0.3 in 75 or more IP. 2013 was the twenty-first consecutive season with fewer than 5 such pitchers in the majors. Previously, the longest such streak of seasons was 9 years, from 1955 to 1963.

Cardinals – For the first time since World War II, St. Louis had 7 players (Carlos BeltranMatt CarpenterAllen CraigDavid FreeseMatt HollidayJon JayYadier Molina) qualify for the batting title in consecutive seasons. Of the original 16 teams, the Cubs, Pirates and Tigers still have not had back-to-back post-war seasons with 7 players qualifying for the batting title. The Rockies, Rays and Diamondbacks still have not had even one such season.

Cubs – For the second time in franchise history, Chicago had two players (Starlin CastroAnthony Rizzo) with 125 strikeouts who slugged under .425. The first time was in 2002 when the Cubs became only the fourth such team ever. This year’s Cubs brought that total up to 16 teams, including two clubs with 3 such players.

Diamondbacks – For the first time in its history, Arizona had 4 relievers (Heath BellWill HarrisJ.J. PutzBrad Ziegler) with a .700 winning percentage in 4 or more decisions. The D-Backs were just the eighth such team since 1901, but the 6th since 2004, including three in 2013 (this one’s got me stumped – can anyone think of an explanation?).

Dodgers – For only the second time in its history, Los Angeles posted a .750 winning percentage in two different months (min. 25 games in month), joining the Cardinals (5), Yankees (4) and Athletics (3) as the only franchises with at least two such teams. The Dodgers were the 17th team since 1916 with such a season, but only the fourth to also have a month with a winning percentage below .400.

Giants – San Francisco was the first team ever with two pitchers (Barry ZitoRyan Vogelsong) having an ERA+ below 60 in 15+ starts. For only the second time in franchise history, the Giants had 3 pitchers (add Tim Lincecum) with ERA+ below 77, and 4 pitchers (add Matt Cain) below 84, both also in 15+ starts.

Marlins – Miami became the first NL team since 1942 with only two players (Giancarlo StantonChristian Yelich) having an OPS+ over 95 in 100 PA. In contrast, there have been 7 such AL teams over the same period, including the 1943 Athletics and 1948 Senators who each had only one such player.

Mets – New York was the first NL team since 1980 to get 10 saves and 70 IP from a 40+ year-old reliever (LaTroy Hawkins). Hawkins matched the profile of 16 of the 17 such earlier seasons (all since 1944, and none by Mariano) by posting an ERA+ of 119 or better.

Nationals – For the first time in franchise history, Washington had 5 players (Ian DesmondBryce HarperAdam LaRocheJayson WerthRyan Zimmerman) with 20 home runs, and also marked a franchise first by having 4 players with 20 home runs in consecutive seasons. Since the Expos/Nats franchise began in 1969, 5 franchises (Pirates, Mets, Royals, Padres, Rays) still have not had a season with 5 players having 20 homers.

Padres – San Diego became the 10th team of the expansion era (including 3 teams in the 1971 season) to have an outfielder (Chris Denorfia) record 502 PA while playing at least 40 games at each of the outfield positions (only four pre-expansion teams had such a player with 477 PA). Detroit is the only one of the expansion era teams to do this more than once, both times with Jim Northrup (1967 and 1971).

Phillies – For the first time since 1925-27, Philadelphia had 3 consecutive seasons with 3 or more players aged 33 or older having 300 PAs (enough 3’s for you?). The Phillies also had 5 such players (Ryan HowardJimmy RollinsCarlos RuizChase UtleyMichael Young) in back-to-back seasons, only the 17th such team (5th in the NL) since 1901, but all of them since 1983.

Pirates – Pittsburgh was the first team since 1992 to have 5 pitchers (A.J. BurnettGerrit ColeFrancisco LirianoJeff LockeCharlie Morton) with HR/9 under 0.667 in 100 or more IP. It was the first time for a Pirate team since 1976.

Reds – Cincinnati became just the fourth team ever with two players (Shin-Soo ChooJoey Votto) having 110 walks, a .420 OBP and an OPS+ higher than walks. The only one of those teams to win a pennant was the 1993 Phillies, the only team ever with 3 players (Darren DaultonLenny DykstraJohn Kruk) having 110 walks and a higher OPS+.

Rockies – For the first time in its history, the Rockies had 3 starting pitchers (Jhoulys ChacinTyler ChatwoodJorge De La Rosa) with a 125 ERA+ in 100+ IP. Over the 21 seasons of the Rockies’ existence, there have been 23 other such teams, including 8 Braves’ teams (the Athletics and Expos/Nats, each with two teams, are the only other franchises to do this more than once in the period).


2013 Weird and Wacky Team Highlights – NL Edition — 31 Comments

  1. Re: the D-backs relievers — Just thinking out loud: The modern trend of reliever usage tends to create a group of them who mostly pitch when the team is behind, which gives them a better shot at good winning percentages. Not saying that applies specifically to those 4 Snakes, but … Will Harris pitched 61 times and pitched well, yet he only had 5 save/hold chances.

  2. That Mets stat got me wondering.
    Though maybe Hoffman might have come close.
    But he got his saves in very few IP.

    Looking at Lee Smith’s career shows how the closer role changed.
    His first full season getting saves was 1983

    29 saves in 103 IP

    His last two full seasons were 1994-1995

    33 saves in 38 IP
    37 saves in 49 IP

    The 1st sets the record for fewest IP with 30 saves.
    The 2nd sets the record for most saves with under 50 IP

  3. Doug, following up on your note on the Blue Jays having 4 players with 125 OPS+ and 450 PA: the 2013 Cardinals had 5 players turn the trick this year (Holliday, Carpenter, Molina, Craig, Beltran). St. Louis also had 5 such players last year.

    The only team to have 6 players with 125 OPS+ and 450 PA is the 1933 Yankees (Gehrig, Ruth, Dickey, Combs, Lazzeri, Chapman).

  4. LaTroy Hawkins’ career serves as a sort of textbook example of how pitchers are able to be more effective in relief than as a starter. His first 5 years in the bigs he was a starter, with only one game in relief, and the results weren’t too tasty:

    1995-1999 521.1 IP, 11.7 H/9, 1.5 HR/9, 3.3 BB/9, 5.2 K/9, ERA+ 79, 0.3 WAR

    Since then, he’s been used exclusively as a reliever, and the results have been far more palatable:

    2000-2013 853.0 IP, 8.8 H/9, 0.7 HR/9, 2.6 BB/9, 6.5 K/9, ERA+ 134, 16.0 WAR

    • Indeed. You can also add a 1.67 WHIP to the 1995-99 line.

      Among 104 starters with 500+ IP in those seasons, these are Hawkins’ ranks:
      – 103rd in ERA+
      – 102nd in WHIP
      – 103rd in W/L%
      – 102nd in HR/9
      – 104th in H/9
      – 103rd in WAR

      Luckily, he was still only 26, otherwise he may not have had a second chance as a reliever.

      • Lucky indeed. His 1999 season was really quite awful – his 6.66 ERA was the 5th worst since 1901 for a pitcher qualifying for the ERA title. ERA+ wasn’t quite so horrific, but still falls in (roughly) the bottom 1.5% of such seasons.

  5. The Cubs factoid, coupled with your Cleveland factoid from your last post (7 players with 100+ strikeouts and fewer than 25 home runs) has me wondering if we’re going to see at least an attempt made to turn some of these guys into contact hitters. I just don’t see a lot of value in more than 10 strikeouts for every home run you hit.

    I also saw another fact that also surprised me about an American League team in your National League list and that was the Tigers not having back-to-back seasons with 7 players qualifying for the batting title- especially surprising when you think about how stable their rosters were all thru the 60’s and into the early 70’s and again in the early to mid 1980’s.

    • I too was surprised by the Tigers and for the same reason. But, here’s the list.

      Haven’t had 7 qualified batters in consecutive seasons since 1936-37, and only 4 of the 7 repeated in the second year.

  6. I want to drag up some discussion about pitch counts and rather than talk in the older thread I’ll post it here to get more attention so as to not just talk to myself. Sorry Doug.

    I think there is a lot of truth that pitchers are conditioned to pitch in different ways than they used to be and in that conditioning are physically unable to complete games at the same rates as they used to. The common thought here is that this is a bad thing, that we are somehow holding pitchers back. Is it possible though that we are looking at this wrong?

    The modern reliever has shown us that shortening up the workload can take a below average starter and make him into a very valuable part of the team. Reliever’s ERA’s have long since passed starter’s ERA’s. We then see starters getting fewer and fewer innings but is this a bad thing? Doesn’t the same logic hold that shortening THEIR workload also helps their stuff?

    I think there’s a strong case to be made that old timers are still pining over the complete game start and the single game value a starter can have and cutting short their career value by using them in such conventional ways. I would point to what the rockies tried to do a couple years back as the future. Starters need less workload then they have now, not more. We’re in a transitional period if anything. Starter ERA’s being higher than Reliever ERA’s points to too much of a burden on the starter, not to starters being improperly prepared to go the distance.

    How can we complain bitterly that Kimbrel et al get used so sparingly without also listing one of the main reasons why: Their managers are trying to milk as much out of their starting staff as possible. Also, bullpen “saving” is the new main occupation of the modern manager. What a turn it would be if they had arm strength back there to SPARE rather than hoard for important Moments. I say we need more long reliever types and a lot of our current starters would be better off in that role. A lot of the remaining starters would benefit from having their workloads further curtailed.

    Stepping back, you have a 5 game period with an average amount of 45 innings and a pitching staff of 12 guys. If you have a staff full of guys who could go 4 or 5 but not really handle 6 or 7, you’d have a lot more flexibility. You could cycle guys based on shorter trends, incorporate more arms from the minors more easily into your rotations with less disruption, and the whole time getting more out of your “best” guys (I say that under the premise that a reliever is a failed starter, even the best reliever).

    I agree with the Rockies too that this type of thing would make the most sense on a 4 game cycle with two guys set to pitch no matter what on that day. Your 8 starters would have a shorter bullpen, 4 instead of 7, but should be calling on it a lot less.

    I think Kimbrel, just as an extreme example, is under-used in a 1 inning role. You shouldn’t stretch him out like that to use for just a couple outs. Also, warming him up and not using him is criminal. The situational value of his use is significant but your team needs good innings throughout. If kimbrel could put up say 2 innings say every 4 games “starting” at basically his current production you’d be getting 20% more innings a year out of him. If you could get 3 innings every 4 games, that’s 123 innings a year! Double his current workload. I’m not sure how the situational value of innings compares on 1-3 a random 25% of time vs 9 in the most relevant 40% of games but I bet we’re getting close.

    Every pitcher has a balance between workload and effectiveness. Some guys are only great for a few pitches, some guys don’t get much better when you shorten their leash. Mixing and matching though you could find more natural workload fits for each pitcher rather than this 100 pitches vs 15 pitches type of world we live in today.

    • One thing that I was stuck by on the stats that someone put up a little while back was how much more inefficient pitchers were starting the 3rd time thru the lineup- if memory serves the relative measure of a pitchers effectiveness (I don’t remember what actual measurement was used) was something on the lines of 96 the first time thru, 104 the second and then above 110 the third time around with the higher numbers meaning the harder they we being hit. From that perspective I can understand limiting your non-top-tier starters to 4 innings or so (figuring an average of 1.5 baserunners per inning + 3 outs x 4 innings= 18 batters) to prevent that third trip thru the lineup.

      The problem, of course, is coming up what would effectively be four #5 starters for each team that are not going to be worse their first time around than a decent pitcher would be on his 3rd. I’m not sure that’s possible, at least with out either spending a ton of money or getting extremely lucky with some combination of reclamation projects and marginal prospects. Maybe you could do it with a couple and then hope your #1 & #2 starters are good enough to at least get you into the 6th inning or later & then use your relievers for more than a inning at a stretch.

      Still with pitch counts being what they usually are I really don’t understand why we can’t go back to 4 man rotations. It might mean that someone like Kershaw or Verlander or Sabathia sees a couple fewer batters per start but you also get as much as 6 or 7 more starts out of them. And I really don’t see whey every one of your relievers- used properly- couldn’t easily give you at least 100 IP’s and 60 appearances per year so I’m in agreement with you there as well.

      • Another way of looking at it. OPS per each time through the batting order. I’m posting just a single year here to see how the columns line-up.

        Year 1st PA 2nd PA 3rd PA 4th+ PA

        1974 0.671 0.698 0.699 0.731

      • Here’s the list from 1974 to 2013, OPS against the starting pitcher each time through the batting order.

        Year/ 1st PA/ 2nd PA/ 3rd PA/ 4th+ PA

        1974/ 0.671/ 0.698/ 0.699/ 0.731
        1975/ 0.672/ 0.706/ 0.729/ 0.724
        1976/ 0.663/ 0.682/ 0.702/ 0.697
        1977/ 0.710/ 0.737/ 0.760/ 0.762
        1978/ 0.676/ 0.708/ 0.719/ 0.718
        1979/ 0.701/ 0.737/ 0.739/ 0.766
        1980/ 0.702/ 0.709/ 0.740/ 0.762
        1981/ 0.661/ 0.697/ 0.704/ 0.747
        1982/ 0.693/ 0.726/ 0.754/ 0.758
        1983/ 0.694/ 0.717/ 0.750/ 0.760
        1984/ 0.680/ 0.714 0.747/ 0.763
        1985/ 0.688/ 0.725/ 0.741/ 0.755
        1986/ 0.687/ 0.731/ 0.742/ 0.790
        1987/ 0.717/ 0.756/ 0.786/ 0.800
        1988/ 0.665/ 0.697/ 0.728/ 0.736
        1989/ 0.679/ 0.714/ 0.715/ 0.728
        1990/ 0.696/ 0.711/ 0.738/ 0.747
        1991/ 0.683/ 0.716/ 0.741/ 0.764
        1992/ 0.670/ 0.706/ 0.743/ 0.734
        1993/ 0.711/ 0.743/ 0.768/ 0.764
        1994/ 0.737/ 0.772/ 0.795/ 0.759
        1995/ 0.736/ 0.766/ 0.783/ 0.767
        1996/ 0.742/ 0.774/ 0.810/ 0.827
        1997/ 0.724/ 0.764 0.798/ 0.772
        1998/ 0.720/ 0.770 0.816/ 0.786
        1999/ 0.749/ 0.787 0.835/ 0.791
        2000/ 0.762/ 0.789 0.824/ 0.822
        2001/ 0.727/ 0.777 0.822/ 0.804
        2002/ 0.728/ 0.764 0.788/ 0.774
        2003/ 0.732/ 0.769 0.797/ 0.804
        2004/ 0.734/ 0.777 0.821/ 0.797
        2005/ 0.731/ 0.758 0.786 0.754
        2006/ 0.745/ 0.787 0.816/ 0.805
        2007/ 0.743/ 0.768 0.819/ 0.822
        2008/ 0.725/ 0.762 0.801/ 0.793
        2009/ 0.727/ 0.766 0.806/ 0.782
        2010/ 0.699/ 0.742 0.771/ 0.754
        2011/ 0.700/ 0.729 0.774/ 0.743
        2012/ 0.709/ 0.745 0.774/ 0.722
        2013/ 0.699/ 0.730 0.760/ 0.729

    • I think the other factor to consider is why starters are less effective the 4th time through the order. Is it only because of fatigue or in-game batter adjustments, or might mental preparation also be a factor?

      If pitchers are conditioned to thinking they’re only going to go 6 innings or maybe into the 7th, that’s what they prepare for mentally. If the manager “throws them a curve” (so to speak) and leaves them out there for the 8th when they suddenly go to pieces, did they lose it in the 8th because they were tired or because they weren’t ready mentally to go another inning?

      I don’t know the answer (and there is certainly more than one answer), but one way to investigate is to find out if pitchers were better the 4th time through the order in bygone days than they are now. That assessment will likely be inconclusive because of selection bias in the current group of pitchers (that is, those pitchers who do see a fourth time through the order today are more likely to be really on their game as opposed to the past when pitchers would be more likely get that extra time through the order as a matter of course, unless they were really off their game on that day).

      • I know I’ve always put a lot of credence into what Jim Kaat said about his fastball turning into a pumpkin after 2 hours as an explanation for why he worked so fast on the mound. In the summer heat even a well conditioned athlete has to lose a little something at that point. Plus I think you keep your defense more in the game by doing that as well.

        Problem with that particular thought however is if it takes you 2 hours to get thru 4 innings you’ve got to be a really slow worker on the mound.

      • Doug poses the argument that has never sat well with me. Summarized as “It’s mental conditioning. If we prepared them to go longer, they would go longer and they should go longer because they’d be more valuable”. I hold that pitchers do what they are conditioned to do. Train them to go 15 pitches, they’ll give you the best they got in 15 pitches. Do it for 100, they’ll give you 100. Their productivity in those two roles may be a natural fit, it may not. You may be under-utilizing Sabathia by limiting him to 100. You may be over-utilizing Tim Lincecum by trying to get him to 100. There may be relievers that are really most effective in a 15-pitch role, there may be others who are most effective in a 3 or 4 inning role.

        I guess I’m pointing out the absurdity of a 2-size fits all approach to what a pitcher should do. To put some more modern examples on the list, I think the Yankees have two pitchers who would work extremely well in a 3-5 IP role in David Phelps and Adam Warren. Both have shown problems with longer starts, both are not effective enough for single inning relief. Both are young and adaptable and cheap and could easily give you 100-150 innings of flexible long relief and spot starts. I’d give em both the #5 “starter” role and pitch em both on that time through the order too. Better yet, tell that hot shit Japanese guy who’s used to pitching every 6th day to stick with the 6th day thing.

        It’s not hard to sequence a schedule with pitchers on different rest cycles. You’re allowed to pull from the minors for a double header in this era amazingly, and minor league option years are best used by abusing the hell out of em to act like extra pitchers spots on your 25 man roster.

  7. The Reds just committed 100 million dollars to a pitcher named Homer.

    His high water WAR mark is 3.2.
    Also with a top seasonal WAR of 3.2: Taylor Douthit.

      • I dunno… that may be the case for a while, but once this current batch of TV deals expires, I’m not sure this level of contract will continue.

        Three reasons:
        – Baseball is losing popularity among youth. This has been happening for a while now and whoever the new commish is must make this the game’s #1 priority.
        – TV viewership in general. Cable and satellite companies see the writing on the wall; look at the TWC/Comcast merger and read up on some of the reasons. They realize people are getting their entertainment via streaming services and other internet-based technology. Yes, sports are more “DVR-proof” than other shows, but are these regional TV networks going to continue to flourish?
        – Ticket / game attendance cost: Look what happened to NYY in their new stadium. It’s hard to price people out of going to games, but MLB/NFL for sure are making fans think twice.

        Now I could be totally wrong and everyone might have multi-billion dollar TV deals, or teams will find alternate revenue sources (e.g. watch our team on our paid/sponsored app, merch, etc.), but to guarantee this money waterfall teams like the Dodgers got from big TV money will continue is hard to say.

        • I don’t see this picture at all. I see Football starting to emerge from the denial that the foundation of it’s game doesn’t cause permanent harm to it’s players at all levels. I see Hockey dropping off the US purview (at least outside of Minnesota) and basketball unable to market itself as a team game. Baseball is a great TV sport for our new easily distracted world. Sports bars love the scheduling baseball offers providing local entertainment every day for roughly half the year.

          I see parents saying “I don’t want my son to play football” and barring a huge uptick in professional curling I think baseball’s the biggest benefactor of that. I think I’d be remiss to point out the racial piece too of watching the trouts and harpers of the game inspire a new generation of wasps.

          Baseball is no longer an inner city sport, stickball is dead. Basketball has mostly filled that role. That said, baseball still resonates. We watch the little league world series on ESPN for god’s sake. The suburban game of choice is now baseball, as is the international game of choice for those without fancy footwork. That gives plenty of talent and local marketing dollars will love the uniquely regional nature of the sport. I think baseball’s future is very bright.

          • I think the biggest benefactor with regard to youth play if America’s version of football loses popluarlity is the world’s version of football. I see it all the time where I live. Where I live, soccer and football are both fall sports and kids must choose between them, and increasingly they are choosing soccer, especially if Mom has anything to say about it.

        • @27/mosc,

          Baseball is regional, football is national. Just look at the nature of their respective contracts, where the big TV money is in each sport. That’s why football almost always buries baseball in what are the games that gets the highest TV ratings.

          I see fooball eventually losing top players due to injury concerns from parents, but this probably won’t show up at the NFL level for 8-10 years. Some of these players will go to baseball, but not most. Baseball has its own problems, in that it is not appealing as much to the younger geerations.

          I see the two sports sustaining the ratio of their popularity to each other, but declining in their overall ratio in the market, as there are so many other entrtainment optins (that’s beengoing on for a long time, I know).

    • Voomo, FWIW — Over the last 2 years combined, Homer Bailey is #7 in road ERA (min. 150 IP).

      I’m not a huge fan of Homer or of 6-year deals for non-elite pitchers, but his improvement in the last 2 years doesn’t seem flukey.

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