Author Archives: Andy

The 10 best offensive seasons among the worst hitters of the last 30 years: #8 Jeff Francoeur 2011

frenchyOh, Frenchy. When you were 23, in 2007, it seemed like you might be a star. You posted a whopping +20 fielding runs while playing right field for the Braves. Your hitting was good enough and would probably improve. Right?

Wrong.

Despite early promise, the bat of Jeff Francoeur didn’t develop as hoped. Since his rookie year of 2005, he’s put up -86 batting runs, including 7 different seasons of at least -10. But in 2011, his first year with the Royals, he put it all together on offense. He had career highs in OBP and SLG, and also stole more than twice as many bases as in any other season.

Even that year, he didn’t walk enough and struck out too much, but his 71 extra-base hits in 153 games made a big difference. Unfortunately, his days of being an above-average fielder were behind him, and his total WAR for the season was “only” 3.1. Had he played the field as well as in past years, he could have posted the only 5+ WAR season of his career.

The 10 best offensive seasons among the worst hitters of the last 30 years: #9 Greg Myers 2003

This is part of a series of posts. Please read our methodology here

Greg Myers spent 18 gregmyersyears in the majors. He mostly played as a backup catcher, and he mostly hit as a backup catcher too. Before 2003, he appeared in 100 games in a season just twice (107 games in 1991, -4 batting runs and 108 games in 1993, -11 batting runs.) Through the 2002 season, Myers averaged 65 games played a year and amassed a total of -80 batting runs.

Then, in 2003, something weird happened. Myers became the Blue Jays’ starting catcher. Ken Huckaby was expected to hold the job (you might recall this was the year he injured Derek Jeter in spring training) but Myers was the starter from the beginning of the regular season.

And you know what? Myers hit. In a career-high 121 games, he posted career highs of 15 HR, 52 RBI, 51 runs, 101 hits, 37 walks, plus career highs in all 3 slash line categories, coming in at .307/.374/.502. His +13 batting runs was second in the AL among catchers, though well behind leader Jorge Posada with +37. Next best were A.J. Pierzynski with +10 and Jason Varitek with +9.

Even more impressive, Myers’ 2003 was the 5th-most batting runs ever by a catcher in his Age 37 season. bested only by Ernie Lombardi (1945, +21),  Mike Piazza (2006, +14), Earle Brucker (1938, +14) and Posada (2009, +14).

That was Myers’ last hurrah, though, as he played in just 14 games over the next 2 years before retiring. He finished with -83 batting runs in the rest of his career outside of his +13 2003.

The 10 best offensive seasons among the worst hitters of the last 30 years: #10 Charlie Hayes 2003

This is part of a series of posts. Please read our methodology here)

Charlie Hayes played 11993 Stadium Club - 1st Day Production #743 Charlie Hayes Front4 years in the majors and was liked enough to do two tours of duty with 3 different franchises–the Giants (1988-89 & 1998-99), the Phillies (1989-1991 & 1995) and the Yankees (1992 & 1996-97). By virtue of playing an important position, third base, and being a consistently above-average defender, he turned out a career WAR of 10.5 despite being a below-average hitter for a corner infielder.

Hayes posted by far his best offensive season when he joined the Rockies in their inaugural season of 1993. And this season wasn’t just a “Coors effect”–his 118 OPS+ was 4th in the NL among 3Bs, just behind Gary Sheffield (120) and Dave Hollins (119), who all trailed leader Matt Williams (137) by a good chunk.

In 1993 Hayes had career bests in all of his slash-line categories, posting .305/.355/.522 vs career numbers of .262/.316/.398. He posted career highs in just about every offensive statistic, including hits, HR, 2B, SB, RBI, and R.

All this translated to +12 WAR batting runs that season. In his 13 other seasons, he totaled -92 batting runs, with every season being negative save a +3 in 1998.

Like many players on this countdown, Hayes is probably remembered as a better offensive player than he actually was, thanks to substantial value in his defense and his deserved longevity in the majors.

The 10 best offensive seasons among the worst hitters of the last 30 years

In this upcoming series of posts, we look at great batting seasons by players who were otherwise among the worst of their contemporaries, at least with the bat.

Before we dive in, let me explain the methodology and the meaning.

  • The “worst hitters of the last 30 years” were the 200 batters, excluding pitchers, with the worst WAR batting runs totals from 1986 to 2015. To give you a sense, the first 3 in this list are Ozzie Guillen (-279 runs), Neifi Perez (-278 runs), and Omar Vizquel (-244 runs) and the last 3 are Tom Foley (-63 runs), Rafael Santana (-63 runs), and Peter Bergeron (-63 runs.)
  • These players are, of course, not the worst players to play MLB during that time. The worst players all had much shorter careers and were, in most cases, even worse hitters but didn’t have enough time to accumulate a negative enough batting runs score to make the list. In other words, most of the 200 players had at least 500 games in the majors and the median number of games was about 990. These are all guys who were at least perceived as “quality major-leaguers”.
  • For one thing, my analysis doesn’t include anything about defense or any of the other components of WAR, such as base running or positional scarcity. It’s no coincidence that Guillen, Perez, and Vizquel all played a lot of shortstop (and mainly played it well). Much of their overall value as ballplayers was in their defense and is not considered in this study.
  • Among that list of 200 players, I found the best individual WAR batting run seasons, tweaked it a bit using my opinions, and created the top 10 list.

We’ll start with entry #10 on the list in a few minutes.

Note from Game 4 of the ALCS

Another day, another crazy ALCS game. Here are some notes:

  • Cliff Pennington became the first position player in post-season history to pitch in a game. This excludes, of course, 3 games by Rick Ankiel and 3 by Babe Ruth, all coming before their careers primarily as position players.
  • RA Dickey became the first Blue Jays’ starting pitcher to fail to go at least 2 IP in a playoff game. The previous shortest outing was 2.0 IP, by Todd Stottlemyre in the insane Game 4 of the 1993 World Series.
  • Dickey’s Game Score of 28 was only the 6th-lowest by a Blue Jay in a playoff game. The 5 lower scores were all in the 1991-93 postseasons.
  • The Blue Jays are now 25-25 in 50 all-time playoff games. They are 17-10 in games in which they homered and 8-15 in games without a homer.
  • The Royals’ 14 runs in a franchise high for the playoffs, besting by 3 runs their total of 11 from the Game 7 drubbing of the Cardinals in the 1985 World Series. Interestingly, the Royals went more than 4 years between regular-season games of 14+ runs until finally breaking the mark twice in September of this year.
  • Alcides Escobar set the single-game playoff record for RBI by a Royals’ leadoff batter, with 4. The only other leadoff Royal to have even 3 in a game was George Brett, in Game 3 of the 1978 ALCS.
  • LaTroy Hawkins is closing in on the worst playoff ERA in history. He has a 6.75 ERA over 22 career postseason appearances. Among pitchers with at least 20 games, only Tom Gordon (7.06 in 21 games) and Rick Honeycutt (6.93 in 30 games) are worse.
  • I don’t have good stats on this, but the Royals had 5 hits in 5 plate appearances from the 9-hole last night. That was 3 PAs by Alex Rios and 2 by Paulo Orlando. No single batter has ever had more than 4 hits in 4 PAs from the 9-hole (done by Adam Kennedy, Game 5 2002 ALCS & Spike Owen, Game 6 1986 ALCS) but I’m not sure about 2 combined batters from the 9-hole.
  • Liam Hendriks’ 4.1 IP relief appearance is now the longest in Blue Jays’ post-season history, topping two different 3.2 IP appearances by Dennis Lamp in the 1985 ALCS and one by Todd Stottlemyre in the 1992 ALCS.
  • If you’re paying attention, until yesterday Todd Stottlemyre held (or co-held) the Blue Jays’ post-season records for both shortest starting effort and longest relief effort. AND he saw both records broken in the same game. Weird.

Notes from Game 3 of the ALCS

(Note: we’re still updating the theme on HHS, so please ignore all the silly formatting issues. They will get resolved in the coming days.)

2015 ALCS Game 3: Blue Jays 11, Royals 8

That was quite a game. Here are a bunch of stats:

  • The Royals had lost 31 previous post-season games in franchise history, but none while scoring more than 6 runs (until last night).
  • The Royals were also involved in the last AL playoff game in which the losing team scored 8+ runs–that was the crazy ALWC card last year vs the Athletics that the Royals won 9-8.
  • Teams that hit for a team cycle (all players together have a cycle) are now 144-44 (.766) with this loss by the Royals.
  • Alcides Escobar is just the 8th leadoff batter in post-season history to post 4+ hits in a game his team lost.ALCSG31
  • Teams are now 22-8 in the post-season when their leadoff batter has 4+ hits.
  • Ben Zobrist is just the 4th batter in post-season history to post 3+ doubles in a game his team lost.ALCSG32
  • Teams are now 12-4 in the post-season when one of their players hits 3+ doubles.
  • Toronto’s 11 runs is their most scored in a post-season game, except of course Game 4 of the 1993 World Series, in which they beat the Phillies 15-14.
  • In 41 franchise playoff games before 2015, the Blue Jays had never hit 3 homers in a game. Now they’ve done it twice in 8 playoff games this year.
  • Yesterday’s win put the Blue Jays back above .500 all-time in the post-season, with a record of 25-24.
  • Johnny Cueto is the first starting pitcher in MLB playoff history to allow 8+ ER while pitching 2 innings or less. Two relievers have done it: Steve Reed (CLE, Game 4 1999 ALCS vs BOS) and Jay Witasick (NYY, Game 6 2001 WS vs ARI).
  • The Royals won all 3 Game 3’s they played last year. They’ve lost both Game 3 they’ve played so far this year. Until this year, they hadn’t lost a Game 3 since the 1984 ALCS vs the Tigers.
  • Marcus Stroman’s 12 baserunners is the 2nd-most allowed by a post-season Blue Jays’ winning pitcher. The most was 15, by Juan Guzman in Game 1 of the 1993 ALCS vs the White Sox. Guzman allowed just 2 ER in 6 IP but also walked EIGHT.
  • Incredibly, Kris Medlen’s 5-inning relief appearance was just the 4th-longest post-season relief stint in Royals’ history.ALCSG33
  • Ryan Goins is the first player in Blue Jays’ history to play both 2B and SS in the same playoff game. For all teams, that’s happened only 16 times, although that includes twice this season by Starlin Castro for the Cubs.
  • Liam Hendriks’ 40.50 ERA is the worst for all 36 pitchers to appear in the playoff for Toronto. That includes Gary Lavelle, who has an undefined ERA by facing one batter and giving up a walk but no runs.
  • If you’re curious, most post-season appearances by a Blue Jays pitcher belongs to Duane Ward who had a 4.74 ERA over 19 playoff games. Tom Henke is next, with a 1.83 ERA in 15 games.
  • Cueto recorded only 5 swing strikes in yesterday’s game, but that’s not even the fewest in a game by a Royals’ pitcher this year. Yordano Ventura got just 2 in Game 1 of the ALDS vs the Astros. The Royals have not been good and getting swings and misses this year in general.
  • In the 2015 regular season, the Blue Jays went 4-15 in games when they allowed 8+ runs. Their .211 W-L% was 3rd-best in MLB behind the Giants (5-16, .238) and the Cubs (3-11, .214).
  • The Blue Jays have now had two different starting shortstops (Troy Tulowitzki and Goins) drive in 3+ runs in a playoff game. The only Blue Jay to do that before 2015 was Tony Fernandez, in that infamous Game 4 of the 1993 World Series.

Woodcut T206 Honus Wagner

wagner

I made a woodcut T206 Honus Wagner replica. I’m considering making a limited number of these available. Interested? What do you think is a fair price? This is a single solid piece of wood, stained and then cut to make the reveal.

 

Website update, new writers, and more changes

Hi folks.

Sorry for the site outage. I don’t know the cause but our ISP has fixed things.

Going forward, we are going to change some things here. Within the week, I will be changing to a new streamlined theme that will eliminate ads and other bells and whistles that slow things down.

Without ads, the site will no longer pay for itself. If someone has a good no-cost hosting option, please let me know. Otherwise, I’ll have to revisit options down the road to cover costs.

In the next several months, I will be adding new writers to the site. These will be different voices than we’ve heard from in the past and should lead to some new interesting conversations.

Sorry again and thanks for your patience.

Even Hotter High Heat Stats

Great news!

I am about to change over the website to a new theme that will run substantially faster and resolve some of the bugs that folks have been seeing. I will be getting rid of advertisements and also using fewer plugins.

Please bear with me on Monday evening as I get these changes in place.

Breaking down Danny Graves @dgravy32

Yesterday, I got to talking to former MLB pitcher Danny Graves on Twitter. He’s part of the team at the newly-launched 120Sports, a brand new sports network. It’s a cool concept, focusing on video analysis that is typically about 2 minutes long for each story, getting you up-to-the-minute updates on everything that’s going on.

Anyway, I asked Danny about his unusual career:

He did, in fact, average 3.41 pitches per plate appearance over his career, during which time MLB had an average of 3.73. That’s an 8% difference.

If we focus down on just one year, we can see a bit more detail. Take 2000, when Danny averaged 3.65 pitches per batter. He was the Reds’ closer that year, and one of 24 pitchers to save at least 20 games that season. The other 23 closers averaged 3.85 pitches per plate appearance, about 5% more than Graves. In fact, John Rocker, Armando Benitez, Troy Percival, and Dave Veres all averaged over 4 pitches per batter, while only 4 of the closers averaged fewer pitches than Danny (Antonio Alfonseca, Jeff Shaw, Jose Jimenez, and Steve Karsay).

So, it’s clear that Danny’s assertion that he tried to pitch to contact and limit pitches per batter is correct. This had another effect, though, which was first pointed out to me yesterday by Adam (@baseballtwit). Throwing fewer pitches per batter allowed Graves to face more batters and pitch more innings. Looking again at 2000, Graves threw the most pitches among those 24 closers. He tossed 1418 times against 388 batters. Compare that to Benitez, who tossed 1313 times against 304 batters. That’s only 105 fewer pitches, but against 84 fewer batters, which explains why Benitez averaged about 2/3 of a pitch more per batter.

In that 2000 season, the 388 batters that Graves faced produced 274 outs, meaning that he pitched 91.1 innings, and these were spread over 66 games. Benitez (who, remember, threw nearly as many pitches as Graves), produced only 234 outs. His 78 IP were spread over only 77 games. Benitez was the very model of the modern closer, tossing exactly one inning per appearance just about as surely as the sun came up every day. Graves, though, was used frequently in the 8th inning to record a 4, 5, or even 6-out save.

Did Graves’ desire to pitch to contact lead to more hits? Not in 2000, no. He allowed 7.98 H/9, whereas the other 23 closers allowed 8.06 H/9, and NL-wide average in 2000 was 9.20. So Graves was similar to other closers, who as a group were a lot better than league average. It did, however, affect his walks. In 2000, he issued 4.14 BB/9, as compared to 3.45 BB/9 from the other 23 closers. And if you throw out John Rocker, who issued 48 walks in 53 innings himself, the other 22 guys averaged 3.29 BB/9, putting Graves 25% above their average. This had a dramatic effect on his FIP, which was 4.59 as compared to his actual ERA of 2.56. That difference of 2.03 was by far the largest of the 24 closers, with the other 23 averaging a 0.44 difference (3.35 ERA, 3.79 FIP).

What, then, was Graves’ formula for success? For starters, in 2000, only 19% of the balls put in play vs. him, were line drives, as compared to the NL average of 25%. This is consistent with the notion that he tried to pitch to contact, presumably trying to be on the edge of the strike zone. This would tend to lead to poorer contact, but also more walks, both of which were true for Danny. He also induced double plays in 13% of opportunities, well above the NL average of 10%. The lack of good contact by batters also limited his extra base hits allowed to just 28% of total hits, as compared to 35% NL-wide and 30% among the other 23 closers.

It’s interesting that come 2001, Graves dropped his walk rate considerably, from 4.1 per 9 in 2000 to 2.0 in 2001 and 2.3 in 2002. The cost? More hits. His strike percentage jumped from 59.4% in 2000 to 68.1% in 2001 and 67.7% in 2002. As he was around the strike zone more, batters made better contact, with their line drive percentage climbing to 24% each season, and his H/9 rose from 8.0 in 2000 to 9.3 in 2001 and 9.0 in 2000. Thanks to the reduction in walks, his FIP over 2001-2 was 3.66, much closer to his actual ERA of 3.62, as opposed to the huge gap in 2000.

In his final years of 2004-2006, Graves was used like a modern reliever, averaging exactly 1 inning per appearance (121 games, 121 IP). He kept his walk rate down at 2.8 per 9, but his K rate stayed low, at 4.7 per 9. His extra-base hit percentage soared to 38% as a lot of balls left the yard (11.6% of his fly balls allowed were homers, well above league average). I’m not sure why Danny’s approach changed. In might have been out of necessity, but clearly as he threw more strikes, he was hit harder. Issuing fewer walks did not benefit him, and in fact led to more hits and a higher overall WHIP.

As Adam pointed out to me, Graves was pretty much the last MLB closer who consistently averaged over 1 inning pitched per appearance. In his prime, he wasn’t afraid of walking people and made up for it by getting double plays and not allowing extra-base hits very often. By the end of his career, when he pitched more like a modern closer (strictly 1 inning pitched, low walk rate) he was actually less successful. Maybe this is a sign that today’s relief pitching isn’t as optimized as many folks think.