Finding Balance

December 26, 2015
 

Lessons from Mr. Miyagi

 

Mr. Miyagi to Daniel:

First learn balance. Balance good, karate good, everything good. Balance bad, might as well pack up, go home.

 

Later on…..

 

Daniel: I'm just scared. You know, the tournament and everything...

Mr. Miyagi: You remember lesson about balance?

Daniel: Yeah.

Mr. Miyagi: Lesson not just karate only. Lesson for whole life. Whole life have a balance. Everything be better.

 

Later on…..

 

Daniel: You're the best friend I've ever had!

Mr. Miyagi: You... pretty OK, too. Go, find balance.

 

 

Appreciation of "El Come Dulce"

 

Unbeknownst to me, Bobby Abreu’s nickname was "El Come Dulce".  I’m having trouble finding the exact translation, but it seems to roughly translate as "He eats candy" or "the sweet eats", or something like that.  I’m not sure if it’s a reference to his eating habits or his sweet swing.  Anyway, it’s a cool nickname.

 

====================

 

Quick Sidebar: The All-Venezuela Team

 

In honor of Abreu, here’s my All-time Venezuela team.  It’s a good squad, very deep in quality shortstops: Luis Aparicio, Omar Vizquel, Dave Concepcion, Ozzie Guillen, Chico Carrasquel, Elvis Andrus, Alcides Escobar, Carlos Guillen. 

 

I might be a little premature in putting Altuve as the #1 second baseman or Carlos Gonzalez as the left fielder, but I’ll take my chances.  It’s a good squad:

 

Pos

Name

c

Victor Martinez

1b

Miguel Cabrera

2b

Jose Altuve

3b

Edgardo Alfonzo

ss

Luis Aparicio

lf

Carlos Gonzalez

cf

Cesar Tovar

rf

Bobby Abreu

DH

Magglio Ordonez

Starter

Felix Hernandez

Starter

Johan Santana

Starter

Freddy Garcia

Starter

Carlos Zambrano

Starter

Anibal Sanchez

Closer

Francisco Rodriguez

Setup

Rafael Betancourt

Relief

Ugueth Urbina

Swing

Wilson Alvarez

Swing

Kelvim Escobar

Res C

Ramon Hernandez

Res IF

Andres Galarraga

Res IF

Omar Vizquel

Res IF

Dave Concepcion

Res IF/OF

Martin Prado

Res OF

Tony Armas

Mgr

Ozzie Guillen

 

Batting Order:

Slot

Player

Position

1

Jose Altuve

2B

2

Bobby Abreu

RF

3

Magglio Ordonez

DH

4

Miguel Cabrera

1B

5

Victor Martinez

C

6

Carlos Gonzalez

LF

7

Edgardo Alfonzo

3B

8

Cesar Tovar

CF

9

Luis Aparicio

SS

 

====================

 

Back to Abreu

 

Bobby Abreu was one of my favorite players.  I think it traces back to a connection I had with him dating back to my early fantasy baseball years.  I was already participating in one league where we held an auction from scratch every year, but I was invited into another league where they played what’s known as the "Ultra" version of Rotisserie….that is, you had a 40-man roster – 25 active players, and 15 on reserve, and the reserve roster could contain minor leaguers.  Then, from year to year, you could keep up to 15 players on your primary roster (although salaries would increase every year, so you couldn’t just keep players forever without paying the price) and up to 7 minor leaguers, so that your team was an ongoing concern that had continuity from year to year.  I really got hooked, because it made you study not just major leaguers, but also trained you how to look for good minor league prospects.

 

I joined the "Ultra" league in 1996, inheriting the team from someone that dropped out.  It wasn’t much of team, but one of his minor leaguers was Bobby Abreu, who at the time was in the Astros organization.  He had been in the organization since age 17.  By ’96, he was 22 and was Baseball America’s #29 prospect.  I was excited to have him.

 

He made a few appearances for the Astros in ’96 and ’97, but after the ’97 season it got pretty eventful for him.  One of the 2 new expansion teams (Tampa Bay) selected him with the 6th pick in the expansion draft, but then immediately traded him (the same day) to Philadelphia in return for SS Kevin Stocker.  That turned out to be one of the most lopsided "one for one" trades in history.  Here are some of the most lopsided one-for-one exchanges that I found:

 

Christy Mathewson for Amos Rusie
Jeff Bagwell for Larry Andersen

Pedro Martinez for Delino DeShields

John Smoltz for Doyle Alexander

Bobby Abreu for Kevin Stocker

 

Once Abreu settled in Philadelphia, he was fantastic.  He spent 9 seasons with the Phillies as their primary right fielder, and he contributed across the board…..power, speed, average, getting on base, even winning a Gold Glove.

 

Abreu’s been out of the game for a year now (he retired after the 2014 season), and I’ve been thinking about him a lot lately.  He appeared briefly in our Hall of Fame Tournament project as an "At Large" candidate, but didn’t get out of that round. 

 

He was one of my favorites, but he’s not exactly what I would call a strong Hall of Fame candidate.  I think he was an outstanding player, and he was very valuable.  His rWAR is right around 60, which is a kind of unofficial threshold that many use for consideration of a good Hall of Fame candidate.

 

The problem with Abreu is….he wasn’t a "star".  I don’t think many people think of him as a Hall of Famer.   He didn’t grab headlines. He had only 2 All-Star seasons.  He rarely led the league in anything.  His "Black Ink" score is only 5 (average Hall of Famer=27), and his "Grey Ink" score is only 88 (average Hall of Famer=144).  He had virtually no support in for any major awards (his highest MVP finish was 12th place, he won just one Gold Glove and one Silver Slugger).  I suspect when many fans hear his name, the first thing that pops into their minds is that he won the Home Run Derby in 2005, when he hit a then-record 24 home runs in the first round.  You may also recall that, in that season, he had 18 HR’s by the All-Star break, won the derby, then only hit 6 more HR’s in the 2nd half, and there was a lot of speculation that his performance in the derby affected him the rest of the year.

 

He was consistent, he had a broad base of skills, he was valuable…..but I don’t think he’s destined for the Hall of Fame.  Even when he does come up on the ballot in 2020, the focus will be on some other guy by the name of Jeter. 

 

So, this isn’t about making a case for Abreu for the Hall of Fame.  I don’t think he’ll get much support.  No, this is simply in appreciation of "El Come Dulce" for what he was…..one of the more balanced offensive players we’ve seen.  I wanted to find out who were the "best across the board" type of players.  He inspired me to do this study.

 

Finding Balance

 

I decided to approach this study by examining some of the more basic offensive categories, but I wanted to not just look at career totals, but also some "rate" stats.  I didn’t want to just look at players that played a long time and compiled large raw numbers, but rather wanted to see how strong they were on a per AB or per PA basis.  I wanted to capture power, speed, plate discipline, ability to hit for a high average, and ability to get on base.  I decided on the following 13 categories:

 

Career Counting Stats

Games Played (basic measure of longevity)

Home Runs

Hits

Non-Home Run Extra Base Hits (i.e., Doubles + Triples)

Walks

Stolen Bases

 

Rate (or Per AB/Per PA) Stats

Batting Average

On Base Percentage

Slugging Percentage

Home Runs per Plate Appearance

Non-Home Run Extra Base Hits per Plate Appearance

Walks per Plate Appearance

Stolen Bases per Plate Appearance

 

Why doubles plus triples?  Well, I wanted doubles, and I wanted triples, but triples by itself isn’t much of a stat anymore.  There just aren’t that many.  But, I didn’t want to lose the impact of them for those that have been good at hitting them, so I bundled them with doubles and called it "non-HR extra base hits".  I’ll use "XBH-NHR" for shorthand from here on out, but just think of it as "doubles plus triples"

 

I also considered runs and RBI (both career counting stats as well as per plate appearance), but I thought those would be too dependent on team and batting order position (for example, an outstanding leadoff hitter would be pretty disadvantaged when it comes to RBI opportunities).  So, I did 2 versions of this study….one including runs & RBI, and one without, although I’m going to focus here on the one without runs and RBI.

 

I downloaded data for 3,866 hitters from Fangraphs.com.  Next, took the 13 categories for each player and translated them into percentiles to gauge how well each player did, relatively speaking, within each category.  To use Pete Rose as an example, since he’s been in the news so much anyway, here’s how his percentiles come out:

 

Category

Figure

Percentile

Games

3,562

100.0

Hits

4,256

100.0

HR

160

88.2

Extra Base Hits-Non HR (XBH-NHR)

881

99.8

BB

1,566

99.6

SB

198

90.9

BA

.303

94.4

OBP

.375

93.3

Slug Pct.

.409

68.8

HR Rate (% of PA)

1.0%

43.1

XBH-NHR Rate (% of PA)

5.5%

79.3

BB Rate (% of PA)

9.9%

74.7

SB Rate (% of PA)

1.2%

52.7

 

As you would expect, Rose comes out much better on the "counting stats", where he accumulated large totals, than he does per plate appearance.  That’s no surprise.  Rose topped out in games and hits, where he’s the all-time leader (100th percentile), and he’s near the top in things like XBH-NHR (his 881 doubles plus triples is 5th behind Cobb, Speaker, Musial, and Wagner, good for 99.8th percentile), and walks (he’s 15th all time, 99.6 percentile). 

 

On the other hand, while his raw HR’s are good for the 88th percentile, HR/PA are only good for a 43rd percentile.  And even though he had stolen more bases than 90% of the players in the data set, on a per-PA basis, he drops to 52.7.  Again, no surprise, as Rose was the master accumulator, in overwhelming with the total weight of the numbers, rather than being a great "rate" player.

 

Composite Sketches

 

In order to get at a number that would measure who was the best "across the board", I came up with two summary approaches for the 13 different categories:

 

1)      Multiply the 13 percentiles to come up with a composite number ("Composite Product")

2)      Find the harmonic means of the 13 percentile figures ("Harmonic Mean")

 

In either case, a really low performance in a category would really hurt your score, but wouldn’t necessarily kill it.  This rewarded players who were outstanding across the span of the categories.

 

For example, in the composite product measure, if you had 3 categories and you had the 80th percentile in all 3, that would score better than two 90th percentiles and a 60th.  Your "average would be the same in both cases (80), but in the first example, your "composite" score would be .80*.80*.80 = .512, where as the second example would yield .9*.9*.6 = .486.  I then multiply by 100 to get a more readable figure. 

 

If you do this for Rose, you get a figure of 6.5.  Where does this place him by this measure?  Well, it’s not exactly at the top of the list.  He comes in ranked #160, in a knot with Dustin Pedroia, Shin-Soo Choo, and Alan Trammell.

 

The second measure uses harmonic mean.  You’re probably familiar with Bill’s "Power-Speed" number, which is the harmonic mean of two figures: Home Runs and Stolen Bases.  That uses two figures, but you can use harmonic means with any number of figures.  The general formula for "n" number of things you’re measuring is:

 

Harmonic Mean = n / (1/ x1 + 1/ x2 + 1/ x3+……1/ xn)

 

Where, n = Total number of numbers or terms.
x1, x2, x3, .... xn = Individual terms or individual values. 

 

So, we can do it even with 13 different figures.  In our case, n would be 13, and the denominator would be the sum of the "inverses" of the percentiles. 

 

In Rose’s case, he comes up with a harmonic percentile figure of 78.1.  Where does that put him?  About the same as the first measure….he ranks 166th in this metric, basically tied with Harlond Clift and Leon Durham.

 

Again, this isn’t a measure of value or Hall of Fame worthiness or anything of the sort.  It’s intended to reward and classify players by how well they did across the span of the categories being measured.

 

Finally, I ranked players by those 2 metrics ("composite" and "harmonic"), and then averaged the two ranks to get an overall ranking.  Then, finally, I’ll show the final percentile ("Balance Percentile") to show how they compare to the full list.

 

Results

 

Let’s look at the top 50.  I’m not going to show all 13 categories for each player, because that would be a bit of an eye-chart, so this will just summarize everything without all the details:

 

Overall

Name

"Balance" Percentile

Avg. Rank of the 2 Metrics

Rank by Harmonic Mean

Rank by Composite Product

Harmonic Mean of 13 Percentile Categories

Composite

Product of 13 Percentile Categories

1

Barry Bonds

100.0

1.0

1

1

95.6

58.56

2

Larry Walker

99.9

2.0

2

2

94.0

46.24

3

Bobby Abreu

99.9

3.0

3

3

94.0

45.87

4

Willie Mays

99.9

4.0

4

4

92.8

40.76

5

Jeff Bagwell

99.8

5.0

5

5

92.2

37.48

6

Babe Ruth

99.8

6.0

6

6

90.5

35.57

7

Chipper Jones

99.8

7.5

7

8

90.2

31.15

8

Rogers Hornsby

99.7

8.5

8

9

90.1

30.27

8

Lou Gehrig

99.7

8.5

10

7

89.6

32.98

10

Carlos Beltran

99.7

10.5

9

12

89.9

26.31

11

Frank Robinson

99.7

11.0

12

10

89.2

27.08

12

Hank Aaron

99.7

13.5

13

14

88.8

25.65

13

David Wright

99.6

14.5

11

18

89.5

24.04

14

Alex Rodriguez

99.6

15.0

19

11

88.5

26.50

15

Roger Connor

99.6

16.0

16

16

88.7

24.57

16

Goose Goslin

99.6

17.5

15

20

88.7

23.93

17

Barry Larkin

99.5

18.0

14

22

88.8

22.78

18

George Brett

99.5

19.0

17

21

88.6

23.84

19

Charlie Gehringer

99.5

19.5

20

19

88.5

24.03

20

Albert Pujols

99.5

20.0

27

13

88.0

25.94

21

Roberto Alomar

99.4

20.5

18

23

88.6

22.64

22

Paul Molitor

99.4

23.0

22

24

88.2

22.58

23

Jimmie Foxx

99.4

24.0

33

15

87.1

25.53

24

Brian Giles

99.4

25.0

25

25

88.1

22.44

25

Ray Lankford

99.3

26.5

21

32

88.3

20.89

25

Dick Allen

99.3

26.5

24

29

88.2

21.29

27

Ellis Burks

99.3

27.0

23

31

88.2

20.95

27

Bernie Williams

99.3

27.0

26

28

88.0

21.29

29

Dan Brouthers

99.2

28.0

29

27

87.4

21.49

29

Tris Speaker

99.2

28.0

39

17

86.8

24.20

31

Vladimir Guerrero

99.2

30.5

31

30

87.3

21.05

32

Tim Raines

99.1

31.5

30

33

87.4

20.69

33

Ken Williams

99.1

33.0

28

38

87.8

19.21

34

Bob Johnson

99.1

34.5

35

34

87.1

20.56

35

Matt Holliday

99.1

36.5

34

39

87.1

18.85

36

Tony Lazzeri

99.0

37.0

32

42

87.2

18.07

37

Mike Tiernan

99.0

38.0

36

40

87.0

18.82

38

Ty Cobb

99.0

39.0

52

26

85.4

21.60

39

Ken Griffey Jr.

99.0

39.5

42

37

86.7

19.50

40

Craig Biggio

98.9

40.0

37

43

86.9

17.97

40

Lance Berkman

98.9

40.0

44

36

86.5

19.88

42

Jackie Robinson

98.9

43.0

38

48

86.9

16.92

42

Luis Gonzalez

98.9

43.0

45

41

86.5

18.66

44

Hanley Ramirez

98.8

44.5

40

49

86.8

16.79

45

Gary Sheffield

98.8

45.0

55

35

85.3

20.13

46

Minnie Minoso

98.8

46.0

41

51

86.7

16.53

47

Paul O'Neill

98.7

46.5

43

50

86.6

16.78

47

Duke Snider

98.7

46.5

48

45

86.0

17.77

49

Scott Rolen

98.7

47.0

47

47

86.3

17.17

50

Ed Delahanty

98.7

48.5

53

44

85.4

17.79

 

The next 10 who just missed the cut are Shawn Green, Harry Stovey, Johnny Damon, Kiki Cuyler, Reggie Smith, Moises Alou, Harry Heilmann, Joe Morgan, Albert Belle, and Derrek Lee.

 

By the way, it’s a happy little coincidence that Jackie Robinson came out as #42 in the ranking (actually tied for 42).  I promise I didn’t do anything special to make that happen.

 

Also, I don’t know if Babe Ruth is considered a surprise on this list or not.  Obviously, he’s high 90’s in most hitting categories, but even in stolen bases he’s in the 82nd percentile with 123 career steals.  His one weak category is SB per PA, where he’s about in the 50th percentile, but that wasn’t enough to make too much of a dent in his overall showing.

 

As you can see, you don’t have to be a Hall of Famer to do well on this list.  About half of the names on the list are Hall of Famers.  Leaving aside cases like Bonds, who’s obviously qualified and not in for other reasons, and players like Chipper and Griffey Jr. who will certainly get in but just haven’t had their votes completed yet, there are several top performers who aren’t Hall of Famers that do well by this measuring stick:  Larry Walker, Jeff Bagwell (although he may get in soon), Brian Giles, Ray Lankford, Ellis Burks, Dick Allen, Bernie Williams, Bob Johnson, Minnie Minoso, Paul O’Neill, and others rate well by this approach.

 

Some of the top names are likely not a surprise.  Barry Bonds as #1 is probably one that many would have guessed (Barry’s dad, Bobby Bonds, by the way, comes in at #107…..still in the top 3% in the study).  Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Rogers Hornsby, Frank Robinson, A-Rod….they all rank very highly.

 

A few surprised me.  I didn’t expect Larry Walker to be at #2.  Now, I should mention, that nothing in here is adjusted for time or place, so we need to take Walker’s performance with a grain of salt.  But, I’m not sure I much I’d knock him down.  Walker was a good all-around player even before he went to Colorado.  He flashed a lot of that promise with Montreal – good power, good speed, hitting for average.  He ended up in the 90th percentile or better in every measured category except for Walks per PA (86.9 percentile) and Stolen Bases per PA (78.6).   Anyway, I didn’t include any adjustments for time or place.

 

And our man, Bobby Abreu?  He checks in at #3 on our list.  He really doesn’t have a bad category.  He’s basically 93rd or above in every category except batting average (88th), SB Rate (88th), and HR per PA (79th).

 

Category

Figure

Percentile

G

      2,425

       98.0

H

      2,470

       97.3

HR

        288

       96.0

XBH-NHR

        633

       99.0

BB

      1,476

       99.5

SB

        400

       98.1

BA

.291

       88.4

OBP

.395

       97.7

Slug

.475

       93.4

HR Rate (% of PA)

2.9%

       79.8

XBH-NHR Rate (% of PA)

6.3%

       93.4

BB Rate (% of PA)

14.6%

       98.0

SB Rate (% of PA)

4.0%

       88.0

 

In fact, I thought I’d see, out of all players in the data, who had the "best" lowest category.  In other words, if you take everyone’s worst category of the 13 being measured, who had the highest of those?  Here’s who fared the best:

 

Name

Worst Percentile Figure  in the 13 Categories

Category

Bobby Abreu

79.8%

HR per PA

David Wright

78.8%

SB per PA

Larry Walker

78.6%

SB per PA

Carlos Beltran

77.8%

Batting Average

Ken Williams

77.0%

BB per PA

Minnie Minoso

73.7%

HR per PA

Barry Bonds

73.6%

XBH-NHR per PA

Cliff Floyd

73.6%

SB per PA

Jackie Robinson

73.1%

HR per PA

Ray Durham

71.8%

HR per PA

 

So, our man Abreu had the "best" worst category, or the "highest floor", if you will, which was one of the reasons he rates so well.   If your "weakest" category is essentially in the 80th percentile, you really don’t have a weak category at all.  You could actually make an argument that these players exhibited the best balance, or at least had the greatest "absence of weakness" across the categories measured.

 

It was interesting to see Cliff Floyd do so well.  I don’t usually think of him having much of a career, because it always seemed like he was hurt, but he did do very well across the board in both career and rate stats.  He came in at #73.  And, Jackie Robinson I’m sure would have finished further up the list than #42 if he had had a longer career.

 

So who didn’t do particularly well?  Out of players with long careers, here are a few selected notable players outside the top 50:

 

Cal Ripken

Cal got killed by a few categories – 51st percentile in career steals, and 13th percentile in SB per PA.  In addition, his percentiles for Batting Average OBP, and BB rate were all in the 60’s and 70’s.  And, even though he’s in the 99th percentile in career XBH-NHR, he’s only in the 59th percentile in that category on a per PA basis.  So, he’s well down the list, all the way down at #712.

 

Mickey Mantle

Mantle comes in at #117, which really isn’t that bad, although I thought maybe he’d be higher.  As with some of the others here, his XBH-NHR Rate (doubles and triples per PA) was really low, 29th percentile.  He just didn’t hit many doubles.

 

I can’t remember if this has been published before, but here’s a little freak-show stat for you.  In my data set, I’m showing that there are about twice as many doubles as HR’s.  However, there are some players that hit significantly more HR’s than doubles.  Here are the highest HR/2B ratios among players with 5,000 or more PA’s.  McGwire dominates this one…..

 

Name

PA

HR

2B

HR/2B

Mark McGwire

7,660

583

252

2.31

Harmon Killebrew

9,831

573

290

1.98

Dave Kingman

7,429

442

240

1.84

Ralph Kiner

6,256

369

216

1.71

Sammy Sosa

9,896

609

379

1.61

Cecil Fielder

5,939

319

200

1.60

Norm Cash

7,910

377

241

1.56

Frank Howard

7,353

382

245

1.56

Mickey Mantle

9,909

536

344

1.56

 

 

Rickey Henderson

Well, Rickey did make the top 100 at #99, which isn’t bad, but I thought he would rate higher.  One category that hurt him a lot was the XBH-NHR Rate category, where he was only in the 34th percentile.  Which, if you look at his record, makes sense.  He really didn’t hit that many doubles or triples.  That wasn’t his game.  He had an awful lot of years where he didn’t even reach 20 doubles, and he averaged about 2-3 triples a year.  His HR rate, Slug Pct, and Batting Average percentiles were all only in the 70’s.

 

Brooks Robinson

Well, we didn’t really expect him to do well on this, did we?  The career stats are pretty high up except for steals, but the rate stats did him in.  Poor OBP, poor average, poor speed.  He’s way down at #1219.

 

Eddie Collins

Collins does pretty well on most categories, but the power (especially the HR’s) killed his chances.  He’s at #282.

 

Honus Wagner

Wagner came in at #83, which really isn’t bad.  Some of that is surely era-related, as Wagner played in an era of few HR’s, so he doesn’t fare well in those categories, and he probably would have done better if I tried to adjust for that.  His Walks per PAwas only in the 55th percentile.

 

Andre Dawson

Dawson was certainly a good all-around player, but he only comes in at #408 here, as low OBP and BB rates hurt his overall score.  His Walks per PA of 5.5% was only in the 18th percentile.

 

Well, I could go on forever, but this seems like a good time to wrap it up. 

 

Curious about others?  Just post your query in a comment below, and I’ll respond.

 

Wrapping it Up

 

In any event, our man Bobby Abreu does quite well by this approach.  I doubt there’s a Hall of Fame plaque in his immediate future, but he should take comfort in knowing that he rates well here.  It’s a tough standard to do well across all 13 categories.  Even great players tend to have a few categories in which they are less than stellar.

 

Congratulations, Bobby – you achieved balance.  Mr. Miyagi would be proud.  Now you just have to work on that "crane kick"…..

 
 

COMMENTS (16 Comments, most recent shown first)

mauimike
Gfletch, as a Pope in the Universal Life Church, you are forgiven. You don't have to kiss my ring or ....
4:02 AM Jan 1st
 
MarisFan61
.....and, I have to say, I learned something about baseball from this.
I hadn't had any idea of what's a normal or average percentage of double-plus-triples per plate appearance, or per anything.

And now I know. At least for the '50's and '60's in the American League. :-)
(about 4%)

I gather that it's generally been a bit higher, perhaps sometimes a lot higher.​
5:38 PM Dec 27th
 
Gfletch
Forgive me for my ignorance...just wondering about your methodology / use of percentiles. My understanding is that percentiles are a way of ranking things, which is no doubt useful, but would tend to hide the measurable distances between specific numbers, right?

I would have wanted to define minimum levels of productivity in the categories you listed, giving positive scores for achieving those levels. I think this would have the positive effect of not reducing the score of a player who perhaps was good at everything, but also at the extreme ends of performance in one or two categories.

Good idea, in any case. As Bill once wrote, if you want to be a star it is better to be really good at one or two things rather than just pretty good at lots of things. Whatever the methods it's good to think of a way to push those kinds of players into the spotlight.
4:48 PM Dec 27th
 
shinsplint
By the way, Abreu is the only player to get 100 BB, 45 2B, 30 SB, and 20 HR in a season. And he did it 3 times! In 2001, 2002, and 2004.
11:10 AM Dec 27th
 
shinsplint
Daniel, I'll assume you're right on Mr. Miyagi. But from my perspective I would have thought that combining rate and career
numbers using either of your techniques would have produced something incoherent, but it looks like your list has a good *ahem* balance of valuing both. I noticed my own subjective discomfort in seeing Ray Lankford there, but in fact he checks all the boxes. And it was reassuring to see my own 'contrarian' favorite Dick Allen up there.

As for OBP, wouldn't Miyagi say something like 'hit as good as walk'? I suppose it depends on what kind of player you're trying to shake out of the bag of offensive granola. If you want players who can work the count, then I guess you're right. I see it differently.
Eddie Yost has a slightly better OBP than Rod Carew due to his walks, and that already puts him ahead with your formula. It seems unnecessary to add in a walks-per-plate-appearance that would give Yost even more of a leg up than he has now.

And as I said, and Maris also, adjustments could be made for eras. It is much harder to figure perecentile rates and career totals that correspond to the career of each player, so I can see the appeal of comparing everyone to all-time highest percentiles.

Having said that, the results you got look like they are in line with a reasonable person's idea of offensive balance. I like the results using the composite product rather than the harmonic mean, as it seems to value career much more.

Anyway, it was fun to do my critique inside of a hypothetical Daniel/Miyagi conversation. Thanks for the feedback.
10:59 AM Dec 27th
 
DMBBHF
MarisFan,

OK. Fair enough. I understand where you're coming from on Mantle now. It's a valid point, and it does look like most of Mantle's career coincides with a valley on doubles+triples per PA.

Thanks for clarifying.

Dan
7:50 AM Dec 27th
 
DMBBHF
Shins,

I agree with MarisFan. That was some pretty good writing. And, it was pretty funny.

However, as a member of the Daniel-son club, I can tell you that your Mr. Miyagi was a bit of an imposter. You see, the real Mr. Miyagi wouldn't have an issue with looking at both cumulative/career numbers as well as rate stats. He would consider looking at both to be consistent with the goal of achieving true balance in the study. To have used one without the other would be the same as teaching "wax on" without the "wax off", or "paint the fence" without "sand the floor". He would say "look at both, otherwise miss whole picture".

And he would also realize that walks and OBP are not measuring the same thing. Ty Cobb and Paul Waner, for example, didn't have high walk rates relative to the others in the data, but had high OBP's, mostly because of their batting averages. He would want me to look at it all.

It was pretty funny, though. And your Miyagi did have some good points about ways it could have been better.

Thanks,
Dan
7:38 AM Dec 27th
 
MarisFan61
.....what the heck, I went and did the years that I skipped before.
As long as I did all that other stuff, I didn't want there to be any appearance of cherry-picking, nor a possibility that by chance I was coincidentally skewing the data.

As luck would have it, the findings remain exactly the same.
The 4 missing years also had an average of 0.041, exactly.

1960 42
1962 42
1964 40
1966 40
2:06 AM Dec 27th
 
MarisFan61
OK, did it -- and it's totally 100% in line with what I said before.
(I'll be showing the details, below.)

Maybe it's that we looked at different things. Pardon that I didn't look at all the inner details of what you did, so I don't know: I figure that you used all-of-baseball figures as the standard, rather than players' own leagues; and perhaps also you used all-time to figure the standard rates, rather than the rates during a player's own time.

In fact, I'm guessing that's exactly it -- that what you said is accurate if we compare Mick's rates to the all-time rates in both leagues combined; I was talking about his rates relative to his own league in his own time -- which I think is more relevant if we're going to characterize a player's rate of doing or not doing something. (Although, taking another look at how you put it, there's nothing wrong with it -- but I'd offer the view that if indeed you set about creating lists and rankings of players according to the indicated stats, it would be far, far more relevant to compare each one to his own league and his own time than to all of baseball and all-time.)

My data:

I calculated the A.L.'s rate of [doubles + triples] per plate appearance year-by-year for Mick's whole career. Well actually after a while I started cheating a little and skipping years, because I saw that the rate was so consistently in the same narrow range that it felt like a waste of time to do each and every year. I rounded off each result to the 3rd decimal, i.e. to the nearest 1000th. BTW I did the adding of doubles and triples mentally, with some rounding, then did the division by calculator. I'm very confident that all these figures are accurate to that 3rd decimal, because none of the results were close to where they'd be rounded off to a different 3rd decimal.

Here's the year-by-year A.L. rate of [doubles + triples] per plate appearance.
The 1st column is the year.
The 2nd column is the rate, in 1000th's -- like, "45" means 0.045.
The blank years are the ones I decided to skip.

51 45
52 44
53 45
54 42
55 40
56 42
57 41
58 41
59 41
60
61 42
62
63 40
64
65 40
66
67 38
68 37


I didn't do the math to get whatever is the average of those figures.
We can tell easily enough, and accurately enough, by looking.
The league average is clearly just about 0.041,

MANTLE
Number of [doubles + triples]: 416
Plate appearances: 9907
Rate: 0.042

1:37 AM Dec 27th
 
MarisFan61
Dan: I did a rough determination based on:
-- Mantle's career rates, and
-- the A.L. rates for what I thought was a representative year.

.....and the result was what I said.

In view of your reply, I'll look in more detail and show what I find.
BTW I'm comparing him only to his league, which I think is more indicative that to all of baseball. I don't know if that makes a difference for this, but it might.
12:55 AM Dec 27th
 
DMBBHF
MarisFan,

I'm showing Mantle's doubles+triples as a % of PA is in the 29th percentile, so it's well below the midpoint in the data I have. Or, looking another way, his % of doubles plus triples vs. plate appearances is 4.2%. The overall rate for the players in my data is 5.0%, so he's below average that way. So, I'm not sure what you mean when you say he's just about average. Do you show something different.

P.S. - Even though I liked him, I agree that Abreu was "boring" :) That's certainly part of his "problem".

Steve,

Thanks for the comment about respecting what I've done on the site, but I have to comment on a couple of your observations.

First, I'm sorry that you think this isn't interesting, but I choose to write about what I think is interesting and hope others find it interesting as well. I happen to think it's interesting to examine players that have a broad base of skills, as those are often players that are under-appreciated. But, you certainly have the right to not take an interest in it.

Second, I'm not trying to come up with a "Great Stat". But, if I'm going to go through thousands of players and try and identify which ones did well across a spectrum of different categories, how else would you approach it rather than trying to quantify it with some kind of methodology? Should I just do it off the top of my head?

And just to be clear, I'm not claiming that the #1 guy is better than the #2 guy who is better than the #3 guy. I was trying to sift through the thousands of players to see who emerged near the top. Maybe I would have been better off not producing a final "ranking", because that can get interpreted a certain way. I was mostly interested in seeing who bubbled to the top. That's why those players are within "tenths" of each other....I'm only showing the top 50 out of nearly 4000, so they're separated by "tenths" of a percentile. It's not a "great stat" at all.

Finally, why are we worried about Stan Musial and Ted Williams not being on the list? They didn't make the top 50 for a simple reason: they didn't meet the criteria. Actually Musial was fairly close (he was down around 70), but Teddy wasn't anywhere near the top for a simple reason: he only stole 24 bases in his career. He didn't meet the criteria of what I was looking at. If we excluded stolen bases and were just looking at "hitters" who did well across hitting categories, without regard to stolen bases, Musial and Williams would both be top 5 (yes, I went ahead and verified it without the stolen base category) :)

So, in this particular study, Ken and Bernie Williams are listed, while Ted is not. I don't see the issue with that. They met the criteria. Of course they're not "better" than Ted was. I never said they were.....they just fit the criteria that I was looking for. Ted's lack of speed (or at least lack of steals) dropped him out of the scope of this. That's all.

Thanks,
Dan
12:32 AM Dec 27th
 
MarisFan61
(those question marks were supposed to be ARROWS, pointing to Shin's post)
9:41 PM Dec 26th
 
MarisFan61
? That's some amazing writing there! ?
9:40 PM Dec 26th
 
shinsplint
Daniel: Here's the list of players with the most balance of their offensive numbers
Miyagi: What about defense? Defense bad, balance bad, team bad.
Daniel: I'll do that later, but for now can we just look at balanced offensive players?
Miyagi: Better to have peace than honor.
Daniel: What?
Miyagi: Sorry,wrong sequel. Yes, good job Daniel, but balance career and rate like balance wife and mistress. Choose one and you be happy. Choose both, you get nothing.
Daniel: OK, but which one should I choose?
Miyagi: Father knock down 100 trees in a year, but son knock down 1000 in 20 years.
Daniel: Ah, so use career numbers only. Anything else?
Miyagi: Chop through 2 sheet of ice easy, 4 sheets hard.
Daniel: I see. We should make allowances for the fact that players in the Dead Ball era don't have a high home-run percentage compared to the moderns.
Miyagi: You are becoming master. And what else do you do?
Daniel: Well, I'm basically factoring in some things twice, like walks and on-base-percentage.
Miyagi: Action follow thought. All walks intentional.
Daniel: OK, I've fixed my list. The most balanced offensive player is still Barry Bonds.
Miyagi: Balance key to hitting. PEDs not bad too.
Daniel: After all this,I'm having second thoughts. I'm thinking of just using another metric that covers everything a player does anyway.
Miyagi: WAR not the answer.
Daniel: What's wrong with it?
Miyagi: Replacement value make my grandma be good player.
Daniel. How does a player balance hitting, hitting for power, speed, and run production?
Miyagi: Home run hitter drive Cadillac, but RBI man drive in run.
7:21 PM Dec 26th
 
MarisFan61
A couple of unrelated notes:

-- As Bill just said in "Hey Bill," it's not true at all that Mantle hit very few doubles. Actually what Bill said was a milder negation that it could have been: He said Mantle's doubles and triples "are very normal as a percentage of balls in play." Actually his totals are very normal no matter what we use as the reference point, even without taking account of his high numbers of walks, strikeouts, and HR's and therefore putting it in terms of "balls in play" rather than at-bats. His doubles-plus-triples rate is above average per at-bat, and just about average per-plate-appearance -- notwithstanding his low rate of balls-in-play.

-- About Abreu: This has nothing to do with how good a player he was, nor (in most people's minds, although it might in mine) how much of a Hall of Famer he is, but: He was absolutely the most boring good hitter I've ever seen. It seemed to me that there was nothing at all dynamic or even mildly interesting about him, despite the good results (which of course do count for something). :-)
It's not just that he took so many pitches and so his at-bats went on forever; lots of guys take a lot of pitches. It was the way he was usually totally motionless when he took a pitch. Most hitters, when they take a pitch, you can see some thought process and physical process going on. If I'm going to be watching a guy take pitches, I want to see some outward evidence of life up there. :-)
7:14 PM Dec 26th
 
steve161
Dan, I have a lot of respect for what you've done on this site, and I'm trying as hard as I can to say this as gently as possible. I think you've measured something that is not interesting.

I gripe about Great Stats that, by labelling two very different players with the same number, tell us nothing about either of them. Taking a section of this list more or less at random, do we learn anything at all by the fact that Ty Cobb, Ken Griffey, Craig Biggio and Lance Berkman are within a tenth of each other?

Nor does your list of omissions include all of the most striking cases. Stan Musial was a pretty good all-around player, for example. And a list of hitters that includes Ken and Bernie but not Ted Williams is for my money just not an informative list.
1:35 PM Dec 26th
 
 
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