All I want for Christmas is …

In the spirit of the season, here’s a rundown of some of the more notable transactions occurring on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Possibly the most important Christmas signing occurred in 1964 when the woeful Kansas City A’s began putting together the pieces of a future dynasty, acquiring an undrafted 18 year-old pitcher with the unlikely name of Rollie Fingers. That 1964 season also saw the A’s debuts of Dave Duncan and Blue Moon Odom, two other teenagers who would figure prominently in the first of Oakland’s three 1970s championship seasons.

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MVP Elections – 1981 AL

rollie-fingersDr. Doom here (via Doug), back for more MVP re-voting!

If your jam was 1970s baseball… well, I’m sorry that we were only there one year.  It’s not that the ’70s didn’t have their share of interesting MVP races.  They certainly did!  What they didn’t necessarily have was the years I was looking for:  the ones with multiple good candidates, any of whom could be called the MVP.

Thankfully, if you’re a fan of ’70s baseball, you’re probably also a fan of ’80s baseball.  And if you are, boy oh boy are you in for a good few posts.  This is the first of SEVEN posts in which we’ll be examining 1980s baseball.

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2016 Year in Review – Records You Didn’t Hear About

Scanning baseball’s statistical leaderboards for the 2016 season will tell you the players who turned in the best or worst performances last year. But, for some context, I’ve looked at some of those leading players to consider the significance of their accomplishments over a longer period than just last season. For example, you probably weren’t aware that Bryce Harper‘s .243 batting average last year was the lowest by a player leading his league in IBB, breaking the old mark of .249 by White Sox catcher Ed Herrman in 1972.

More on last season’s statistical leaders after the jump.

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Homering in both ends of a double-header on your birthday

On August 31 of this past season, the Rockies’ Stephen Cardullo homered in both ends of a doubleheader AND it was his birthday. He’s just the 4th guy to accomplish this feat since 1913, and there’s a good chance nobody else did it before then.

Players to HR in both ends of a double header on their birthday since 1913:

Stephen Cardullo 8/31/2016
Tony Perez 5/14/1972
Joe Rudi 9/7/1970
Eddie Joost 6/5/1949

Double headers are so rare right now (the Rockies/Dodgers one this year was likely because of a rainout on a Tuesday as both games were played on a Wednesday) that it seems pretty unlikely anybody will ever again achieve this–although I would have said the same before this season 🙂

Mookie Betts’ remarkable season

Mookie Betts had a 2016 for the ages. Since 1901, here are the only guys to post 29+ fielding runs and 29+ batting runs. As with Mookie this year, most of these guys didn’t win their league MVP award.

Rk          Player Year Rbat Rfield Age  Tm     Pos
1     Mookie Betts 2016 29.8   32.0  23 BOS    *9/H
2      Chase Utley 2008 30.0   31.0  29 PHI    *4/3
3    Albert Pujols 2007 51.3   31.0  27 STL    *3/H
4      Scott Rolen 2004 40.2   30.0  29 STL      *5
5    Ichiro Suzuki 2004 35.7   30.0  30 SEA   *9/DH
6      Ken Griffey 1996 39.8   32.3  26 SEA    *8/D
7        Al Kaline 1961 39.3   29.2  26 DET *98/H75

Website should be up and running again

Go ahead, post a comment here just to prove that you can!

I’ve been quite busy with my day job and unable to pay any attention to things here. Doug has done a good job of keeping me apprised and nudging me periodically to get things fixed. It appears something got corrupted in the old theme, and so switching over to a different theme has resolved the issue. I’m going to make some minimal changes to this new theme to make it prettier but do as little as possible to help ensure that it stays running smoothly and quickly.

Apologies for all the downtime.

World Series Game 7

It comes down to one game for all the marbles tonight. Mother Nature is cooperating with a second night of almost summer-like weather in November, so it figures to be a showcase evening that will see one long world championship drought ended … and another extended.

More after the jump.

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MVP Elections – 1974 NL

steve-garveyHey HHS folks! Dr. Doom here. I love Captain America – an odd thing for the REAL (fictional) Dr. Doom to say, perhaps, but true nonetheless. In fact, as I type this, I’m wearing a Captain America t-shirt. And you, Steve Garvey, are no Captain America. But Captain America or not, Mr. Garvey is at the center of this next post.

Well, that’s my opinion anyway. Whether you share it or not, it’s time to dig in on the 1974 NL MVP race!

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Messrs. October

A World Series Most Valuable Player has been named each year since 1955, except of course in 1994, when no World Series was held. The World Series MVP originated as an invention of the old Sport magazine (which had developed the entire genre of mass market general sports magazines several years before Time, Inc. began producing Sports Illustrated). The League Championship Series in each league began in 1969, but there were no formal MVPs named for this new round of post-season play until 1977 for the NL and until 1980 for the AL. And there remains today no formal MVP process for earlier rounds of MLB’s post-season.

It may be that the Major League Baseball post-season has now grown so substantial that it is appropriate to treat the post-season as a whole entity deserving its own over-arching Most Valuable Player process. In 2013, for example, there were 38 post-season games, which makes 76 team games, almost half a regular season for an individual team.

There is no Wins Above Replacement for the post-season; the nature of post-season play isn’t really amenable to the kind of calculations that go into WAR. But we do have Win Probability Added (WPA) numbers for the post-season. Indeed, because we have play-by-play records for every post-season game from the first World Series in 1903 and onwards, we can look at WPA numbers for any and all post-season games back to the earliest post-season games.

Just to give a flavor for how WPA can be applied to help inform the identification of MVP-type candidates for post-season play, I’ll list below in this post some recent post-season WPA leaders. If you need an introduction to Win Probability Added, you can check out glossaries at Fangraphs or Baseball-Reference; but the basic concept is relatively simple. WPA looks at every plate appearance during a game and determines the probability that, as that plate appearance begins, the hitter’s team will win the game, based on the inning, the score, the outs and the men on base. Then WPA determines whether the outcome of that plate appearance increased or decreased the probability of the hitter’s team winning, and by how much. The amount of such change in probability, positive or negative, is assigned to the hitter, and the reverse amount to the pitcher. The change in probability amounts for each hitter’s, and each pitcher’s, plate appearances for the game are added up (netting the positive and negative plate appearance results) and the resulting number is that hitter’s or pitcher’s Win Probability Added for that game. WPA game numbers can then be added for a series, season, career, and so on.

Thinking about recent post-seasons, a few names jump out as leading their teams at critical moments. David Freese in 2011, Raul Ibanez in 2012, Madison Bumgarner in 2014, all seem to jump out as high-value performers of their respective post-seasons. Does Win Probability Added reflect these recollections? Let’s see. Highest WPA totals for the postseason periods in each of the last six years:

Brian Wilson 1.3
Tim Lincecum 1.2
Matt Cain and Cody Ross 1.0

David Freese 1.9
Lance Berkman 1.3
Mike Napoli 1.0
Chris Carpenter 0.9

Raul Ibanez 1.2
Darren O’Day 1.1
Justin Verlander and Marco Scutaro 0.9

Carlos Beltran 1.5
David Ortiz 1.2
Justin Verlander 1.1

Madison Bumgarner 1.7
Eric Hosmer 1.4
Wade Davis 1.1
Alex Gordon, Greg Holland and Yusmeiro Petit 0.9

Wade Davis 1.0
Jose Bautista 0.9
Eric Hosmer and Curtis Grandson 0.8

David Freese’s 2011 World Series Game 6, in which he tripled with two outs to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth inning, to keep the Cardinals alive in the series, and then hit a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 11th to send the series to a seventh game, is the highest single WPA game by a hitter in MLB post-season history. The second-highest is Kirk Gibson’s walk-off pinch-hit homer game in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, even if Gibson gets no extra WPA credit for hobbling around the bases in that famous home run trot. The highest post-season WPA of all, higher even than Freese’s Game 6, was the epic pitching performance by the precocious 21-year old Boston Red Sox pitcher Babe Ruth, who threw a 14-inning complete game in Game 2 of the 1916 World Series, allowing Boston to defeat Brooklyn 2-1. Although Ruth hit like a typical pitcher that day, going 0 for 5 with two strikeouts and a batter WPA of -.191. Just wasn’t fated to be a big contributor with the bat in the majors, I guess.

At the moment of publication of this post, just before Game 3 of the World Series begins, the leaders in WPA for the 2016 post-season so far have been the Cubs’ starter Jon Lester and the Cleveland relievers Cody Allen and Andrew Miller, all at at WPA of 1.0, and Indians starter Corey Kluber just behind at 0.9. Who ends up as the 2016 WPA post-season MVP remains very much up in the air at the moment. Now I’ll settle in to watch Game 3.