Gene Tenace > Jim Rice

December 11, 2008
 
In my last article, I wrote that people who advocate that Jim Rice should be in the Hall of Fame ought to fight for Gene Tenace instead.
 
It was an off-hand comment: a snarky remark made without too much consideration. When I wrote it I knew three things about Gene Tenace: he was a catcher for the A’s, he had a good World Series once, and he has a better OPS+ than Jim Rice.
 
By comparison, I know a lot about Jim Rice. He was one of the most popular players on my favorite team. He once broke his bat on a checked swing. He had over 400 total bases in 1978, which sure seemed like a damned big deal. And he was the leftfielder for the Red Sox, the guy who replaced the great Yaz.
 
Tenace over Rice: it was glib comment and the good readers at BJOL seemed content to let it pass. ChiSox wrote: “Some assertions just have to be let go without a comment.” Evan, taking the bait, wrote some thoughtful comments about Tenace and Rice before concluding: “You probably didn’t get a debate because it’s a preposterous assertion.”
 
Evan is correct: the suggestion that Gene Tenace was better than Jim Rice is preposterous. On the one hand you have one of the most prominent hitter of the late 1970’s, a player who was a legitimate Triple Crown threat. On the other hand you have Gene Tenace, a lifetime .241 hitter. There should be no comparison. 
 
The Golden Years
 
Let’s stick with 1975-1979. Five years in which the careers of Jim Rice and Gene Tenace overlapped.
 
1975-1979 is Jim Rice’s best five years stretch. He had another fine run between 1982 and 1986, but 1975-1979 represents the peak of Jim Rice’s career
 
These are not Gene Tenace’s best years: Fury’s best five-year stretch was 1973-1977. Tenace is seven years older than Jim Rice, and his peak years came a little earlier. So we’re comparing the best of Jim Rice with the not-quite-best of Gene Tenace.
 
Enough talk. Here are their numbers between 1975-1979:
 
 
G
R
HR
RBI
BA
OBP
SLG
OPS+
Jim Rice
778
509
147
570
.311
.360
.556
142
Tenace
726
334
102
342
.246
.396
.438
140
 
It doesn’t seem a fair fight, does it? Tenace has a 36-point edge in on-base percentage, but Rice has a 65-point edge in batting average and a 118-point edge in slugging percentage. He had 45 more homeruns, 174 runs scored, 228 RBI.
 
Just to pile on: here are their season-by-season Triple Crown numbers:
 
 
 
BA
HR
RBI
1975
Rice
.309
22
102
 
Tenace
.255
29
87
1976
Rice
.282
25
85
 
Tenace
.249
22
66
1977
Rice
.320
29
114
 
Tenace
.233
15
61
1978
Rice
.315
39
139
 
Tenace
.224
16
67
1979
Rice
.325
46
130
 
Tenace
.263
20
50
 
The only time Tenace beats Rice in any Triple Crown category is 1975, when he hit 7 more homers than Rice. Otherwise, Rice destroys Tenace. It’s never particularly close.
 
I’ll add that the consensus opinion of people who watched these players was that Rice was a far greater player than Tenace. Jim Rice finished 3rd in the 1975 AL MVP vote, 4th in 1977, 1st in 1978, and 5th in 1979, which means that four times in those five years, the people who watched him closely believed that Jim Rice was one of the very best players in the league. That counts for something.
 
For what it’s worth, Gene Tenace also had his best showing on the MVP ballots during this years, finishing 18th in both 1975 and 1976. Those were the only years he ever appeared on the MVP ballot.
 
Context Elements
 
We could stop there. The raw numbers give a decisive edge to Rice. The opinions of educated and thoughtful observers support this. So, too, does our common perception. No need to recount hanging chads: Rice is winning in a landslide.
 
But since we’ve gone this far, it can’t hurt to consider some contexts.
 
Let’s start with parks. Most of us know that Fenway Park is a terrific hitter’s park. Most of us know that Jim Rice benefited from playing in that park. Here are his home/road splits, 1975-1979:
 
Rice
 
BA
OBP
SLG
 
BA
OBP
SLG
1975
 Home
.313
.357
.520
Road
.304
.343
.464
1976
Home
.299
.339
.509
Road
.266
.291
.455
1977
Home
.321
.375
.683
Road
.319
.377
.509
1978
Home
.361
.416
.690
Road
.269
.325
.512
1979
Home
.369
.425
.728
Road
.283
.337
.472
 
We all know that Rice benefited from playing in Fenway Park. What is misunderstood is just how much Rice benefited from playing there. Take Rice’s MVP year, 1978. He wasn’t just better at Fenway: he was a completely different hitter:
 
 
G
R
HR
RBI
BA
OBP
SLG
1978 Home
82
69
28
75
.361
.416
.690
1978 Road
81
52
18
64
.269
.325
.512
 
That’s not cherry-picking, either: the same thing holds true for 1977 and 1979. In those three years, Rice hit 124 homeruns. Of those, 82 were hit in Fenway Park, while only 42 came on the road.
 
Gene Tenace played in some terrible parks. The Oakland Coliseum, where Tenace played until 1977, was a lousy hitter’s park. San Diego’s Jack Murphy Stadium, where he moved in 1977, was even worse.
 
Tenace
 
BA
OBP
SLG
 
BA
OBP
SLG
1975
 Home
.254
.405
.467
Road
.256
.385
.461
1976
Home
.218
.368
.389
Road
.277
.377
.518
1977
Home
.205
.412
.300
Road
.260
.417
.511
1978
Home
.247
.389
.468
Road
.204
.395
.355
1979
Home
.256
.402
.332
Road
.271
.403
.550
 
In 1977, his first year in San Diego, Tenace posted a .511 slugging percentage on the road, but only a .300 slugging percentage at home. Same hold true for 1979 (though his home/road splits flip in 1978). 
 
Let’s compare Rice’s road numbers with Tenace’s road numbers:
 
Rice
BA
OBP
SLG
Tenace
BA
OBP
SLG
Road
.304
.343
.464
Road
.256
.385
.461
Road
.266
.291
.455
Road
.277
.377
.518
Road
.319
.377
.509
Road
.260
.417
.511
Road
.269
.325
.512
Road
.204
.395
.355
Road
.283
.337
.472
Road
.271
.403
.550
 
Rice has the higher batting average, but Tenace laps him in on-base average. What’s more, Gene Tenace outslugs Jim Rice on the road in three of the five seasons.
 
Positions on Positions
 
Gene Tenace was a catcher/first baseman during these years. Jim Rice was a leftfielder and designated hitter. How do we measure across positions? How much credit do we give Tenace for playing a little over half his games behind the plate? How much should we penalize Rice for playing a position that is low on the defensive spectrum?
 
To step back a moment: there are a number of things that statistics are really good at quantifying, and a number of things that statistics are still trying to understand fully. We can easily quantify how many balls go over the fence, or how many runs are driven in. It’s harder to determine how many balls an average shortstop would get to, and compare that to Ozzie Smith or Derek Jeter.  
 
One of the reasons that Jim Rice will probably be elected to the Hall of Fame is that he excelled at those measures that are easy to quantify. He hit a lot of homeruns. He drove in a lot of runs. A high percentage of his at-bats turned into hits.
 
It’s harder to give accurate value to something like a walk. It’s a positive result by way of non-action: the batter isn’t acting to draw a walk: instead, he is resisting the impulse to act. The pitcher is the catalyst for the walk: the pitcher has to throw the ball outside of the strike zone.  
 
Jim Rice had one specific talent, and I think guys who have one specific talent are more likely to get elected to the Hall of Fame than guys with a diversity of skills. Alan Trammell could hit for power and average, he was a fine baserunner, and he played a key defensive position very well, but it’ll be some time before he gets into the Hall of Fame. Jim Rice was a good hitter: that’s the most you can say about him. And in reality, he wasn’t that good: his park inflated his numbers dramatically.
 
To compare Tenace to Rice, we need statistics that measure a player’s full range of skills. There are two statistics that do a thorough job at capturing a player’s full talents and drawbacks. One is ‘Win Shares,’ invented by Bill James. The other is ‘Wins Above Replacement Player,’ or WARP, created by the good folks at Baseball Prospectus.
 
Win Shares measures a player’s contribution in relation to its team’s wins: a team that wins 100 games will have 300 Win Shares to distribute among its players. WARP measures the number of wins a player adds to his team when measured against a replacement-level player. Both metrics strive to measure the entirety of a player’s contribution to his team, within the contexts of the league and park. Because both measures consider defensive contribution, position is accounted for.
 
Sorry….a tad boring there. Hope you’re still with me.
 
So how do Rice and Tenace compare on the Win Shares and WARP measures? Let’s go year-by year:
 
 
Win Shares
WARP
WARP Rank
1975
Rice
20
3.9
178th
 
Tenace
32
10.5
13th
 
Remember, this is the year Rice came in 3rd in the MVP vote. Tenace came in 18th. Rice’s numbers (.309/22/102) are pretty, but WARP tells us that 177 other players contributed more wins to their teams than Rice. Win Shares agrees: Tenace was far more valuable than Jim Rice.
 
 
 
Win Shares
WARP
WARP Rank
1976
Rice
17
3.8
212th
 
Tenace
22
6.4
74th
 
This was Rice’s worst year of the five, and Tenace beats him in both Win Shares and WARP. In 1976 Rice wasn’t one of the 200 best players in baseball.
 
 
 
Win Shares
WARP
WARP Rank
1977
Rice
26
6.5
82nd
 
Tenace
25
8.6
30th
 
 
 
 
 
Rice posted a .320/29/144 Triple Crown line and finished 4th in the MVP vote. Tenace finished at .233/15/61, and received no votes.
 
Win Shares narrowly gives the season to Rice, 26 to 25. WARP says Gene Tenace was overwhelmingly the better player.
 
 
 
Win Shares
WARP
WARP Rank
1978
Rice
36
9.6
9th
 
Tenace
22
7.5
49th
 
This is Rice’s MVP year, and both metrics says he was the better player.
 
 
 
Win Shares
WARP
WARP Rank
1979
Rice
28
7.1
56th
 
Tenace
24
9.4
19th
 
Again we have a split. Rice wins the Win Shares tally, Tenace wins in WARP.
 
I don’t know the reason for this, but I’ll speculate that Rice does better in Win Shares because it is measuring his contributions against his team’s success, while WARP measures players against replacement-level players. I don’t know if that’s a completely accurate explanation, so I won’t take it any further.
 
Their totals over the five-year period between 1975 and 1979:
 
 
Win Shares
WARP
Jim Rice
127
30.9
Gene Tenace
125
42.4
 
Win Shares is a dead-heat, and WARP gives a considerable edge to Tenace. I’m willing to call it: between 1975-1979, Gene Tenace was a better player than Jim Rice.
 
Fine: Tenace was more valuable than Rice over those five years. But Jim Rice played 500 more games than Gene Tenace. How do we account for that?  

Win Shares gives Jim Rice an edge in career value: Rice has 282 Win Shares to 231 for Tenace.
 
That said, Win Shares recognizes that when they played Tenace was the better player. Per 162 games, Tenace averaged 24.07 Win Shares, while Rice averaged 21.86.
 
And even with those 500 extra games, WARP still gives the career edge to Tenace: 77.5 to 73.0. The reason? WARP is a position-adjusted metric, and Rice’s contributions are set against a replacement-level DH. Because it’s easy to replace a DH, Rice doesn’t earn a lot of points.
 
There is still that pesky problem of Rice’s 51 more Win Shares. But that’s a deceptive count: to be fair, one would have to add the Win Share contributions of a replacement-level player for the three years Rice played when Tenace did not. That is to say, the Red Sox had Rice for fifteen years: the A’s/Padres had Tenace for twelve years, plus a replacement-level player for those three extra years of Rice’s career.
 
The Whole > The Sum of Its Parts
 
I think the Tenace or Rice debate is fascinating because it delineates, in stark terms, two distinct ways of measuring baseball players. One is atomistic: the events of player’s career exist in isolation. A .315 batting average means someone is a good player. 46 homeruns are 46 homeruns, context be damned.
 
The other way is a holistic approach; an effort to understand the events of a player’s career within a broader context. How did that .315 batting average help his team win? How many of those 46 homeruns mattered in games? What position did the player play? Was he a good defender? Did he ground into double plays?
 
We are moving towards the second, more holistic approach. We are beginning to place a player’s contributions within larger contexts. Stats like ‘WARP’ and ‘Win Shares’ as complicated as they are, as foreign as they may seem, they are attempting to do merely that: consider a player’s contributions against larger contexts.
 
Atomisticly, Jim Rice was better than Gene Tenace. Rice had a better batting average. He hit far more homeruns. He drove in and scored more runs. He played more games. He won more awards, played on more All-Star games, and had more articles written about him in the press. His rookie card is worth more money, and someday he will make the Hall of Fame.
 
But Gene Tenace did more to help his teams win baseball games than Jim Rice did. He was more important to the success of his teams than Rice was, and he offered more diverse skills than Rice did. Considering the whole of the player and the contexts that surrounded him, looking at it from a holistic, all-encompassing perspective, Gene Tenace was a better player than Jim Rice. 
 
(Dave Fleming is a writer living in Iowa City, Iowa. He welcomes comments, questions, and arguments from SOSH’ers here and at dfleming1986@yahoo.com.)
 
 
 

COMMENTS (37 Comments, most recent shown first)

mikeclaw
I don't know that I buy the conclusion, and I certainly don't buy that Tenace had "more diverse skills than Rice did." Seems to me they were both fairly one-dimensional -- Rice hit for a good average and with power, Tenace drew a lot of walks and hit for power. Neither one was a great baserunner, but if you had to give an edge on the bases, it would have been to Rice. Neither one was a great defensive player, and neither one was awful, but Rice was probably a better glove in left than Tenace was behind the plate, so when you acknowledge that catcher is a more critical defensive position, maybe defense is even between the two.

At any rate, we can agree or disagree with the conclusion, but the idea that Tenace had "more diverse skills" doesn't make sense to me. Earlier in the piece you cited Trammell as a player whose broad base of skills leaves him underrated, and that makes sense. But that's the kind of player Tenace was. He didn't have "diverse skills," but rather, he had one major identifiable skill that is/was often overlooked and undervalued.
10:04 AM Jun 1st
 
Kev
Just a quick question: You have 2 teams each with identical players, except Team A has no catcher, and Team B has no left-fielder. Plugging Tenace into Team A, and Rice into Team B, it would seem your article demonstrates that Team A would benefit more. Does leaving out an analysis of the positions in the batting orders change things for you? Rice would presumably bat 4th, Tenace 6th to 8th. Given each player's skills as described by you, it seems to me that Rice, with so many more AB(derived from his skill set which dictates his position in the order) would beat Tenace by a much greater margin in the triple crown areas, aa well as in runs. Do you feel the skill set (and the Rice flaws) sustain over a period of time which keeps increasing? Who contributes more to his team's success? Thanks.
6:43 PM Jan 13th
 
DaveFleming
"Much like the early 2000's Red Sox, who made a good decision hiring a certain guy from Kansas..."

I hardly think signing Tony Clark was a 'good' decision.
12:30 PM Jan 8th
 
ventboys
The 1969 Mets were pretty bad, but that was a fluke team, anyway. I remember that the early 1980's Tigers kept losing because they couldn't put a team around a nice group of stars; much like the early 2000's Red Sox, who made a good decision in hiring a certain guy from Kansas...
1:23 AM Jan 8th
 
evanecurb
Ventboys:

Thanks for reading and commenting. I also discuss these five OF's plus Winfield and Oglivie in a post under reader posts. Singleton was SLOW... I remember Weaver batted him leadoff one year (I think Bumbry was hurt?). I like the way you compare the ABs to runs scored. Two things, in addition to lack of speed, that hurt Singleton in Runs scored were the low run scoring environment in O's games and the incredibly awful bottom half of the O's lineup during Singleton's later years, when he batted fifth or sixth. Look up the offensive stats of Dempsey, Todd Cruz/Wayne Gross, and Dauer during the '82-'84 period. Has there ever been a world championship team with weaker hitters in the seven through nine spots?
12:28 AM Dec 28th
 
ventboys
My reasoning in putting Evans well above the others is not about defense, it's the fact that he was about their equal offensively by the ratios, but in 3-5 more years of playing time. Any one of the others could be 2nd and I wouldn't argue, they all have their advantages and disadvantages. Lynn, had he been able to stay healthy, would probably be at the top, but he wasn't. Otis has every advantage in speed and percentage play, but was a tick below with the bat. Singleton might have been the most productive guy in the batters' box, but he was even worse than Rice once he left it, and Rice is the poster boy for his weakness once he puts the bat down.

They make for an interesting comparison, I thank the previous poster (sorry, I am not smart enough to write down your name) for suggesting it. Look about 3 posts up, that's the guy...
5:58 AM Dec 27th
 
ventboys
Just a cursory look, regarding the previous post:

Dwight Evans- 10,569 pa, 127 ops+, 221 dp, 78-59 as a basestealer, 8 gold gloves and very good defensive stats

Ken Singleton- 8558 pa, 132 ops+, 248 dp, 21-36 as a basestealer, average to poor defensive stats

Jim Rice- 9058 pa, 128 ops+, 315 dp, 58-34 as a basestealer, fairly good defensive stats other than very poor assist totals (I am skeptical of his range factors with no corraboration, as he stood in front of a very inviting target for most of his career)

Fred Lynn- 7923 pa, 129 ops+, 149 dp, 72-54 as a basestealer, good defensive stats with Boston, average to poor later on

Amos Otis- 8246 pa, 114 ops+, 158 dp, 341-93 as a basestealer, good defensive stats, that actually improved late in his career

I don't give too much credence to the defensive stats that I looked at they are just raw numbers compared to the league averages on BBR.com. I would guess that the Red Sox tended towards a high fly ball to ground ball ratio given the dimensions of Fenway, which would explain the high range factors of their outfielders.

Ken Singleton, if anything, might have been even more of a base clogger than Jim Rice. Despite an extremely high walk rate, he hit into a double play about every 35 plate appearances, and stole only 21 bases in his career while being caught 36 times. He reached base (not counting homers) 3063 times and scored 739 runs. Rice's numbers were 2804 and 867. Otis was 2584 and 899, Lynn 2541 and 757, Evans 3505 and 1035.

My own rank, for their career value:
Evans
Rice
Lynn
Otis
Singleton

Evans, to me, is well ahead of these guys, but 2 through 5 are pretty close, really....

5:47 AM Dec 27th
 
chisox
Birtlecorn,

Not sure why you would be surprised that this kind of analysis would be new to some people. Not everyone who reads this site has been reading Bill James since the 1970s. Further, people who read this site still disagree about the relative value of Rice vs. Tenace so it's not even a settled issue here. So, to some extent, it is a new way of thinking, and not necessarily bought into 100% by everyone.
12:07 PM Dec 23rd
 
evanecurb
One other factor that needs to be built into the analysis: Rice missed few games. During his first twelve seasons, Rice played in 153 or more games seven times, 140 or more games three times, and 108 games during the strike year. By comparison, Tenace appeared in 151 games or more four times, 140 games twice, and 128 and 133 in two other seasons. All other seasons he played fewer than 100 games. In order to establish the value of one player to his team, it would seem to me that this needs to be factored into the analysis. Perhaps any games not appeared in would be at a replacement level? For example, in 1975, Rice's 144 games would be counted as is, but the other 18 games would be at the level of a replacement level left fielder / DH (OPS+ of 90 or so). The combination of the two would be the theoretical performance of Rice's position with the Sox that year.

Or maybe win shares already covers all of that. In the words of Emily Litella, "Never mind."

I still think Jim Rice was more valuable to his team than Gene Tenace was to his. I am not convinced that Rice was more valuable than Dwight Evans, Fred Lynn, Ken Singleton, or Amos Otis. I remember at the advent of free agency, the O's signed Palmer and Singleton to multi-year deals and allowed Reggie and Grich to slip away. Both Reggie and Grich were probably out of Baltimore anyway, but it is a testament to the way Singleton was valued at the time. I think Dave himself wrote an article about Lynn, and of course Bill James has commented many times on Otis' prowess. Anyone want to do the comparison?
12:24 PM Dec 20th
 
birtelcom
One thing I find surprising here, given that this is "Bill James Online" is that the analysis demonstrating the stregth of Tenace over Rice seems to be considered by some here as some sort of "new" thinking. This very analysis -- the importance of paying attention to on base percentage, secondary average and park factors, and the degree to which "conventional wisdom" mistakenly overlooked these critical elements -- has been at the very core of Bill James' writing since the late 1970s/early 1980s, and of work by Pete Palmer and others from around the same time.
4:56 PM Dec 19th
 
ventboys
If Gene Tenace is Mickey Tettleton, how about Jim Rice is Carlos Lee? The one main problem with this is that Lee never hit the peak that Rice did. I would say, though, that most of their careers fit very well. Another that might fit, even fit better, is Andres Galarraga. He had an even more extreme home field advantage, and park effects were commonly accepted in his time, so we don't think of them together, but Gal's #2 comp in bbr.com is...

Jim Rice.
4:51 PM Dec 19th
 
ventboys
I just got done posting a long response elsewhere (the Dick Allen debate), and I'm not in the mood to repeat that. My one bone of contention is regarding the relative defensive values of these two guys. It's reasonable to give Tenace extra value as a bat that could catch, but it has to be part of the argument that he wasn't a GOOD catcher, and that he was only a regular catcher in a couple of seasons. When he wasn't catching, he was on the polar opposite end of the defensive spectrum.

Tenace was certainly an unusual player, and the research that I have done has led me to believe that this insane comparision might be correct. Tenace was a guy that took what they would give him, and as such intuitively I would guess that his post season record would be poor. Of course, he was a World Series hero. I took a look....

Wow. Take out the 1972 WS, and his career PS record:

91 AB, 5 R, 10 H, 0 HR, 2 RBI in 35 games. He did take 28 walks.

Including his heroic 1972 WS, his career PS record is .158-.338-.289 in 42 games.
3:26 PM Dec 19th
 
chisox
Cunegonde,

Either that or there's a fundamental flaw in the new type of analyis somewhere. I appreciate that mass perception can be wrong, but when there is such an overwhelming difference between that and the New Reality, then one can only wonder. Remember what's attributed to Twain: There's lies, damn lies, and statistics. Not especially origninal on my part, but it does give me pause.
10:29 AM Dec 19th
 
cunegonde
I'm not sure if I agree that Tenace was more valuable than Rice. God knows that no one this side of Gene Tenace's mother would have thought that 30 years ago. But I agree with the consensus that Dave is on to something here, something important. Look at it this way: do we buy the Moneyball argument? If so, we know that Tenace is the kind of guy that Billy Beane would have grabbed (think Scott Hatteberg) and Rice is the kind of guy he would have stayed across the country from.

If you believe that there are (or were) deep-seated ineffiencies in the market for baseball talent, ones that can help a club like the Oakland As of 2001-2007 compete with teams that spend 5-6 times as much, then you have to believe that certain types of players are heavily overvalued and undervalued. That seems unarguable to me. Scott Hatteberg was always as valuable as Raul Mondesi, but no one believed that until 2002. And it's probably just as true that Gene Tenace was as valuable as Jim Rice -- of, if he wasn't, he was a helluva lot closer in value than any of us would have been believed in the 1970s.
9:30 PM Dec 18th
 
chisox
Dave,

I already froth at the mouth whenever the Hawk says ANYTHING. I used to love him but he's worn very thin the last few years. However, I am really looking ofrward to Steve Stone being back in the TV booth; he's the best in the business. I'm just not sure how he and the Hawk will mesh.
4:30 PM Dec 18th
 
DaveFleming
Ah, chisox, I can tell we're close to breaking you. Pretty soon you'll start frothing at the mouth every time Hawk Harrelson complain that Jim Thome should bunt more often.

What's interesting is how easy it is to see Rice and Tenace in a new light. I mean, take just 1979: Rice posted Triple Crown numbers of .325/46/130, while Tenace posted a line of .263/20/50.

Yet their road stats obviously favor Tenace: .283/.337/.472 for Rice, .271/.403/.550 for Tenace.

That's one factor: park effects. That's it. It doesn't even take into account position or outs made or quality of pitching faced.

And thanks, birtelcom, for the website.
1:22 PM Dec 18th
 
chisox
I just can't buy it......Call me a flat-earther....Don't confuse me with the facts....Whatever....But I just can't buy it. I will concede Rice isn't HOF material, but I'm going down fighting on Gene Tenace being as good as or better than Rice. 50,000,000 Elvis fans can't be wrong. It's like Lucy said to Charlie Brown: "Tell your statistics to shut up."

As long as I'm letting it all out: I don't care what Bill says about Ron Santo, I don't think he belongs in the HOF either. And I'm a fan of his. There. I said it........Ahhhhhh, the medication is starting to work..........
5:57 PM Dec 17th
 
birtelcom
For a Win Shares database through the 2007 season, go to this site http://www.baseballgraphs.com/main/index.php/site/article/new_historical_win_shares_file/, which has a link to Dave Studemund's Win Shares data. Note that for years 2002 and later this database uses The Hardball Times formula for Win Shares, which is slightly different than Bill's original formula, so for those years, the Win Shares numbers in this database will be a little different than those you will see here at BJO.
5:20 PM Dec 17th
 
DaveFleming
Bistelcom: where is this Win Shares database? I usually have to pester the other writers on the site for Win Share counts.
10:58 AM Dec 17th
 
birtelcom
Evan: One thing to keep in mind in looking at home/road splits is that the baseline is that players hit better at home. For example, overall in the majors in 2008, OPS at home was .769 and .730 on the road. So a player hitting in a pitcher-favorable home park may well show an even split in his home and road lines. Tenace over his career had an .825 OPS on the road and an .807 OPS at home -- that is significantly different than what normally shows up in a hitter's home/road split and well reflects the difficult home parks in which Tenace played. Jim Rice had a career OPS at home of .920, but only .789 on the road -- a huge difference.
8:35 AM Dec 17th
 
evanecurb
Regarding Tenace's position, the thing that is amazing in retrospect is the fact that the A's gave so many at bats to Dave Duncan, who wasn't a terrible hitter (he became that later in Baltimore), they traded for Ray Fosse, who actually WAS a terrible hitter. Seems like it would have made more sense to trade for a first baseman instead of for Fosse
11:44 PM Dec 14th
 
evanecurb
Matthew:
Right, 3 things, walk rate, park factor, position, power -- no wait that's four. OK FOUR things, walks, parks, position, power, double plays, ok 5 then...
I think this was a bit from Monty Python
11:34 PM Dec 14th
 
enamee
Evan, the positional difference is quite relevant. Tenace was primarily a catcher. Rice was a LF/DH with little to no defensive value.
4:20 PM Dec 14th
 
evanecurb
Everyone:
Are we really so confident in the statistical methodology available that we can draw the conclusion that Tenace was a more valuable player to his teams than Rice was to his? Ultimately the entire case centers on two tools used in the analysis: park factors and walk rates. If you believe these tools are accurate measures in the case of these two specific players, then Tenace was more valuable.
1:36 AM Dec 14th
 
evanecurb
Rice was much better in Fenway than on the road. Tenace had fairly even home/road splits. What I have concluded from this is the following: If Rice had played for the A's and Padres instead of the Red Sox, his numbers would have been a little below his road numbers. If Tenace had played his home games in Fenway, he would not have been as valuable as he was in Oakland and SD.
1:30 AM Dec 14th
 
evanecurb
birtlecom:

I think it is actually a high Walk guy who is more valuable in a low scoring environment instead of all high OBP guys. Presumably, batting average is lower in pitchers' parks than in average parks, while walk rates don't fluctuate. If you look at Tenace and Rice's home / road splits, you will see that Tenace's splits over the course of his career were fairly even. This struck me as odd because he played in two home parks (Oakland and San Diego) that were below average run scoring environments. One would think (at least on the surface) that his road numbers would be superior to his production in home games, but that wasn't the case. Why? because he generated a tremendouse percentage of his value from walks.
1:27 AM Dec 14th
 
birtelcom
My comment above should have specified that it was Rice with 282 WS, 236 Expected Win Shares and thus 46 net Win Shares above average.
8:58 PM Dec 13th
 
birtelcom
From studes' Win Shares database, I get 282 Win Shares compared to 236 "Expected Win Shares" (Win Shares that, as studes says, "an average player would have accrued, given that specific player’s times at bat, innings in the field and batters faced from the mound"). That's a net of 46 Win Shares above average. Tenace had 231 Win Shares and 150 "Expected Win Shares", a net of 81.

Dave Fleming: I'm not sure why one would assume that an OBP guy is more valuable in a park where it is harder to score runs. Might it not be harder to put together a sequence of hits in a pitcher-favorable park, which would make it more useful to have a home run slugger who can score a run without the need to have more guys get hits?




8:55 PM Dec 13th
 
enamee
You might try to get the Win Shares Above Average (and/or Above Bench) for Rice and Tenace. That would accomplish something along the lines of Win Shares/Loss Shares (though I'd still like to see those, too).
3:44 PM Dec 13th
 
DaveFleming
The only defense for Rice that I can think of would be that Tenace's value is actually increased because of the park he played in, and Rice's value is actually lowered by the park he played in.

The arguement would go something like this: Tenace was a high-OBP guy, which is better to have in a pitcher's park than having a powerful slugger. Thus Tenace had more value in a pitcher's park than he would have had in a hitter's park.

Rice, meanwhile, would've been a great hitter in any park, but becuase he played in Fenway, his abilities were dimmed somewhat by the fact that the park made average players look like stars. Basically, Rice was a real star, with real ability, surrounded by wannabe stars who dimmed his brilliance.

Does it hold water? I dunno. But it's an interesting possibility.


12:17 PM Dec 13th
 
PeteDecour
terrific, careful job. WARP is important because when you have a big-hitting catcher, as Tenace often was, you are replacing the Carlos Ruizes and Tom Pagnozzis of earth with a real hitter, whereas with Rice, if you dont have him, Deron Johnson or Cliff Johnson or Lamar Johnson (I was trying to name as many 1970s 1B/DHs named Johnson as I could) or Jay Johnstone or someone is always available and often you can put two of those guys together (say Johnstone and Ollie Browne or Eisenreich and Inky many years later) and get a Jim Rice year out of two guys.

But a lot of catchers just stink at hitting, so getting a guy like Tenace is a big deal, and WARP is also nice, since as I understand it, the more he moved to 1B, the more it measures him against the 1Bs of earth, a tougher standard, and the less against the Steve Lakes of earth.

Anyway, terrific piece
4:39 PM Dec 12th
 
ksclacktc
Dave. I figured the speed scores from 1975-79. Rice GIDP were 89, and Tenace was 32. Using the Speed Score formula, the lowest of the 6 is thrown out. And, in Rice's case that is his DP score, for Tenace it is his 1.0 for being a catcher. I get Rice at 5.7 aided by his huge number of 3B, and Tenace at 3.9. These numbers are not park adjusted.
1:58 PM Dec 12th
 
DaveFleming
I wish I could see the new Win & Loss Shares, which, once they're out, will be really cool to see.

Thanks, ksclacktc, for your look-through of the numbers. Lineup/teammate considerations are a huge factor: Rice played in the middle of a stacked lineup: at any time he had Lynn, Yaz, Fisk, Dewey, Boggs, Armas, Easler. After Reggie left the A's, Tenace was playing in a slightly less stacked lineups, both in Oakland (Bando & Rudi) and San Diego (Winfield & George Hendricks).

I was curious: did you count Rice's GIDP rate when considering speed? 'Cause Rice hit into 315 DP's, to Tenace's 77. Which I meant to throw into the article, but forgot.
1:36 PM Dec 12th
 
Richie
Re 'Win Shares', are you using the newer version that I believe also includes 'loss shares'? If not, my guess is that would show Rice 'losing' more games than Tenace also. And thus even up that metric.

Also, very good work!
10:46 AM Dec 12th
 
ksclacktc
I enjoy and always read your column. After reading this article, I was troubled. For one, I grew up during this time and remember both very well. And, there was no way anybody would have traded Rice for Tenace (backed up by the huge edge in MVP shares that Rice had). Secondly, I have always been a SABR guy and completely understood how you reached the conclusion. I set out therefore to try and reach the conclusion Rice really was better and that you were missing something. I decided to use the translated/neutralized stats from BP/B-R to do a skills analysis. And, you know what? It is really hard to make an argument that they are any more than closley matched.Checkout the following:
Batting Eye(BB/K)Rice.34 Tenace.95 Big edge Tenace
Hit for AvG Rice.299 Tenace .268 Big edge Rice
Power (ISO) Rice .250 Tenace .253 even
Speed Rice has the better numbers edge Rice
Defense Both were adequate but Tenace played CA edge to Tenac

I also tried rationalizing Rice as better by an old school notion, and that things were valued at the time differently. And, thus Rice deserves some credit for the fact that in this time they were valued differently. So,I tried looking at adjusted RP (R+RBI-HR)to see if the fact Rice batted in a more important lineup position and produced Runs at such an amazing rate he deserved an extra bonus. You know what Rice has an edge of 826 to 674, but Tenace averages 10.7/27 outs to 10.3 for Rice. A more recent way of looking at this is FanGraphs WPA/LI. Rice has 17.73 WAA to Tenace 17.13 over the period 1975-79 (pretty darn close), without any consideration of Defense.

Rice's best arguments are all really old school. He produced more unadjusted Runs Produced (R+RBI-HR)than anyone in Baseball between 1975-79. Whereas, Tenace ranked 74th. We all now know that this can be debunked by the fact Rice played alot, his Lineup position, park factors, value of different batting events etc.
Keep up the good work Dave.


10:30 AM Dec 12th
 
THBR
I looked forward to reading this, and I think you've made your case without beating it to death. I'll buy it. Good job!
9:36 PM Dec 11th
 
77royals
I'm with you 100%. The fact the Rice will go into the Hall while another LF'er in Minnie Minoso was virtually ignored shows that perception is badly flawed.
1:04 PM Dec 11th
 
 
©2018 Be Jolly, Inc. All Rights Reserved.|Web site design and development by Americaneagle.com|Terms & Conditions|Privacy Policy