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My apologies, I didn't mean to imply that Jeter and Bowa were terrible fielders. I know that's what I said, but it wasn't really what I meant.  
The point I was trying to get to is they are both known for not having much range, a statistical fact, which limits their fielding numbers, but that they did others things very well, which aren't necessarily counted in the statistics.  
The non-play play.  
Problem is, to ask the question here that I asked on Readers Post would have taken about 10 Hey Bills, and I don't think that was the best way to go about it.
Asked by: 77royals

Answered: 3/30/2023
 Don't worry about it. . .we all write things that don't come out the way that we meant for them to.   As long as it doesn't run astray of cancel culture, we're OK.  


I agree with what you write in Popular Crime that the purported prerequisite of medical training for the Kingsrun Butcher is overblown. But I have read most of the published works, and I think Sweeney's background as an army medic, medical school standout scholar, and surgical resident protege of a famous surgeon are unchallenged.  
Asked by: OldBackstop

Answered: 3/30/2023


As to Bowa as fielder -- the (indispensible) Win Shares Digital Update has League Leaderboards for fielding by position through 2001.  
The data suggests Bowa's fielding performance was good for the 1970-78 period, mediocre after, and somewhat inconsistent generally. In 1970, he's 2nd among NL shortstops with a very respectable 8.2 WS.  In 1972, he's 1st in the NL with 7.3 WS, voted a Gold Glove. In 1976, he was 2nd with 8.9 WS, Concepcion dominating the league at 10.3 WS. In 1978, Bowa earns 8.8 WS, 2nd to rookie phenom Ozzie Smith (10.4 WS), the new NL leader . .  but Bowa was handed the GG.  
In two other years, Bowa was among the top five NL shortstops in fielding Win Shares. But those came before 1978 -- so his performance relative to to his peers diminished, by this metric, in his last three years at Philly and his Cubs period.  
Asked by: garywmaloney

Answered: 3/30/2023
 OK, thanks.  


Hiya! A few decades back, I read (from you, I think) that the toughest move up the baseball ladder is from Hi-A to AA. What is your opinion now?
Asked by: JohnPontoon

Answered: 3/30/2023
 I don't think anyone really knows what the consequences of the minor league re-organization are or will be.   If anyone does, it isn't me.  


Looking again, I see your point, there was no eyewitness or forensic evidence against Sweeney. It was more that he was a mad surgeon fitting the profile who lived and worked at Ground Zero. Clearly, though, Elliott Ness made him as the Butcher after extended personal interrogations, which included Sweeney failing an early polygraph test (for what that is worth, which is little.) The murders ended with his institutionalization, and Ness was said thereafter to tersely say "the case has been solved" when asked.
Asked by: OldBackstop

Answered: 3/30/2023
 I don't think I knew that.  For all I know he may have been the Butcher; I'm was just saying the evidence hasn't been assembled.   
It is common for speculation about murderers OF THIS TYPE to identify them as surgeons or medical doctors.   


I remember the days when we struggled to get batter walks into a boxscore. So I'm amazed that a metric like OPS is now mainstream.  
But dang it, if they managed to get OPS accepted, why wasn't it in the form of adjusted OPS (1.8 X OBP + SLG), which you long ago demonstrated provides a significantly more accurate valuation of batting performance?  
I don't hear anybody speak or write about adjusted OPS anymore. Certainly, one additional math operation (multiplying OBP by 1.8) wouldn't be enough to frighten mass media away, would it? Seems like a missed opportunity.
Asked by: JamesFM

Answered: 3/30/2023
 Conceptual simplicity is very much a key to wide popular acceptance.  


Do you follow women's college basketball too?
Asked by: Publius

Answered: 3/30/2023
 Some.   We had women's season tickets for many years, particularly when Susie's mother lived with us; she particularly enjoyed going to the games.  When we started buying women's tickets they were like $25 a season.   You could go and sit anywhere in Allen Field House; easy to get in, easy to get out.  You couldn't take your Mom to a men's game because of the difficulty of access. 
I think the point of the cheap tickets was to build the fan base, but it never really worked; if the crowds grew at all in the 25 or so years that we went to most of the women's games, it was small, slow growth, not really noticeable.   And the teams didn't get better; they got better around the league, the league got stronger, but we couldn't keep up.  There were a lot of frustrating experiences.  I remember an early one, about 1992-1993, when Colorado came in ranked in the top 5, top 10 maybe, and they had a "fill the fieldhouse day", heavily promoted, and drew about 6-7,000 fans.  They led Colorado by 6 points with less than 10 seconds to play--and lost.   No followup.  The next couple of years they repeated "fill the fieldhouse day", but got smaller crowds and gave it up.   
I don't remember all of the coaches.  I remember one year Kansas State came in here, Nationally ranked, with an entire team of small-town Kansas girls, athletically not that gifted, but they REALLY knew how to play.   KU played this entire team of black, inner-city kids from back east, and K State came in a whipped our butt pretty bad with local talent.  Our coach at that time--and I can't remember his or her name--but he was so committed to the idea that the best basketball talent was in the big cities of the east that he couldn't see what was going on right in front of his face.   
When we got back from Boston the coach, whoever he was, liked these BIG girls; we would always have some 6-foot-4-inch center with another 6-2 girl flanking her or a 5-11, 220-pounder.   But they weren't ATHLETES; they were just big.   I can remember a couple of their names, obviously not helpful here.  
Then we got Bonnie Hendrickson, who came in with a really good resume, having coached somewhere further east; I think maybe Maryland?   She was fun for a while, a really good recruiter.  There were two problems.  First, she had the worst case of Coach Speak that I ever heard.   I mean, you literally could not decipher what in the hell she was talking about in the post-game shows. . .just strings of jargon piling up one on top of another. . .she beat the switch to the head and executed a nice 3-1-3 curl pattern after the left-side trap, but the shot tailed.   Huh?   
The bigger problem was that she always had a great recruiting class, but everybody transferred after a year or two.   She could not keep her players in the house.   I remember there was a local girl, can't remember the name, but she was  a decent player and a colorful, quotable figure, somebody you could remember and focus on.  Just before the season started one year she quit the team, leaving them with like two experienced players and a bunch of recruits.   I happened to run into her, out and about in a neighborhood where I don't usually go, and realized she was about 8 months pregnant.  
It's not like we never had good players and never won any games.   Well, some years they didn't win any big 12 games, but we did have some good players.  We had a big girl, like 5-10 or 5-11, a center named Johnson (I think) who could plant her foot, pivot and spin and score or anybody; she was fun, and we a point guard named Angel something who was sensational, just a joy to watch.  That was in a period when the KU men's team didn't have a good point guard, and we would use her to explain what a point guard was SUPPOSED to be doing.   But we could never sustain it, and the magic just never grew.  
For several years the color man on the broadcast was Chuck Woodling, who was a good friend of mine; I'd stop by to say hello to him during a commercial, and the broadcaster on the women's games now is Steven (or Stephen) Davis, who is also a friend of mine; had lunch with him a couple of weeks ago.   New coach a year or two ago, and we had a decent season this year and are now going to play the championship game of the NIT, in ALlen Field House, this Saturday; my wife and I are going.  They are (in tne NIT) drawing the best crowds they have ever had for women's games, so maybe we have something going finally.   Let's hope.  
One more memory while I'm here. . . one time Mom was in the hospital for something, which she was quite a bit from 2012 to 2017.  Anyway, she was in the hospital, and the entire women's team visited the hospital and came into her room.  A couple of the players remembered her from the hospital visit and would see her at courtside, in her wheelchair, and would wave to her and even come over and say hello.  That was great.  And you'd get more free stuff, more T-Shirts and posters.   


Hey Bill!  
 Happy Opening Day. You have been enhancing and informing my enjoyment of baseball for more than 40 years now. So thank you for that, and I hope you're watching some good games today.
Asked by: mikeclaw

Answered: 3/30/2023
 Thanks.  Enjoy the season.  


HeyBill, in re-reading the utterly re-readable Popular Crime, I'm curious why you skipped over the frontrunning suspect for Cleveland Torso Murderer, Francis Sweeney?  
Sweeney seems to check most of the boxes you list in terms of birth (1894), size, strength, medical training (Army medic) and was born and raised in the Kingsrun neighborhood. He was said to be Elliott Ness's prime suspect, interrogated by him personally for days, and the canonical murders stopped after he committed himself to a mental institution.
Asked by: TonyClifton

Answered: 3/29/2023
 There is no reason that I am aware of to regard Sweeney as a serious suspect.   There's no REAL evidence of any medical training by the murderer; it's just something people like to say.  The rest of this is just generic stuff that would describe many thousands of people.  


A recent question led off with the premise that "we all know" Larry Bowa (among others) was a "terrible fielder."  Is that a common view these days?  
I was a baseball fan(atic) throughout Bowa’s career, and I always understood that he was a good glove man.  He kept a big league starting job for 15 years (granted, that was on some wretched Philllies teams) made 5 all-Star games and got MVP votes 4 times, finishing as high a 3rd, despite having one of the weakest bats in the majors.  That says SOMEONE must have thought he was a good fielder.  
Your database shows Bowa with 87.7 fielding win shares.  I don’t have a strong sense whether that is a lot or a little for a career of that length.  
I think Bowa was known as a holler guy, which may have contributed to overestimation of his on-field merits.  But I’m curious to know if you view him as a bad fielder.
Asked by: DavidHNix

Answered: 3/29/2023
 No, I certainly don't view him as a bad fielder.   I know from the time that he played that his fielding stats were not as good as his reputation, but I think the reputation has to be given serious consideration, at least, in addressing that issue.  


Hey Bill--  
Tactical question: Late innings, tie game, one out, runner on third. Pop foul down the first base line fairly deep; do you catch it and cede the run, or do you let it drop and trust your pitcher to get the out(s) without the run scoring? Or is this a case of many more factors than these involved in the decision?
Asked by: taosjohn

Answered: 3/28/2023
 In a tie game, I let it drop.  There isn't much upside to catching it.  Once you're behind in the late innings, the odds are against you, unless it's that extra-innings gift runner.  


I have not been following sabermetrics closely since the publication of The New Historical Baseball Abstract (paperback edition) in 2003. I thought the system you described in that book for rating players across eras was quite comprehensive and made a lot of sense.  
If you were updating the Historical Baseball Abstract today, what, if any, changes would you make in your methodology for rating players? Would you consider any rating systems developed by others to be as valid as your own?  
In attempting to catch up on the last 20 years, I've seen references to ideas such as loss shares, combining win shares with Baseball Reference's career WAR, etc. but I haven't found anything close to a definitive synthesis of today's state of the art. What do you believe, as of March 27, 2023, is the very best system for rating players across eras?
Asked by: JamesFM

Answered: 3/28/2023
If you were updating the Historical Baseball Abstract today, what, if any, changes would you make in your methodology for rating players?

A very large subject.  There's a million things that could be done different. 


Would you consider any rating systems developed by others to be as valid as your own?  

Certainly there are new systems that take information from modern data sources that I don't use and don't really understand.  For older players, there are many competing systems and I wouldn't want to generalize about them.  



Hi Bill, I posted this on Readers Posts as well, so no need to post the entire question if you do answer. Sorry for the multiple questions, but the only way to get it to fit.  
The Non-play Play  
I think almost everyone agrees that accurately capturing defensive ability is hard, due to the lack of statistics available, and what they actually mean. We know Larry Bowa and Derek Jeter and Mike Piazza were all terrible fielders. But what does that actually mean, and is it true? This might take a little bit for me to get to the point I'm trying to make, but it does need the background information.  
In a recent Hey Bill, I asked this question:  "On the subject of Amos Otis, I don't remember him every really making great plays. He made them all look routine.  
To me, this shows me that Amos Otis was very fundamentally sound player. He knew when to be where he was supposed to be and what was happening with the play at all times:  
Asked by: 77royals

Answered: 3/28/2023
 Well. . .certainly not everyone agrees that Jeter was a below-average fielder, let alone a terrible fielder.  That is still a subject of legitimate debate.  


You commented recently about things changing in baseball because people challenged the status quo and won, specifically talking about Babe Ruth showing you could hit home runs and win.  But how much of that had to do with the movement toward the lively ball, ie, a change in conditions?  I know Ruth set the record in 1919 with, I believe 29 home runs and then, the next year with the lively ball, hit 54.  Would his challenge to the system have worked without the lively ball?
Asked by: Marc Schneider

Answered: 3/28/2023
 Absolutely.   Here's just a couple of facts.   In 1919, when Ruth his 29 home runs, it was 9 at home and 20 on the road.  In 1920, with New York, it was 29 at home and 25 on the road.  His home runs on the road increased only from 20 to 25--and that with a pretty significant increase in plate appearances (542 to 617).   In 1918, when I think he tied for the league lead in homers with 11, he didn't hit ANY in Boston, so two-year totals, 9 at home, 31 on the road with the Red Sox, 61/52 with the Yankees (1920-1921).  It's MOSTLY a park and playing time difference, not a dead ball/lively ball. 


Hi Bill,  
I caught a spring training game in Bradenton (oldest park in Grapefruit League, it’s claimed), & the Bucs have the tallest shortstop I’ve ever seen (Cruz at 6’7"!). Previously I had the belief that mid infielders were not tall guys … What, if any, role does height have on infielder performance (both off & def)? Are players getting taller in general? Do some positions benefit more?  
Asked by: djmedinah

Answered: 3/28/2023
 Why don't you pick one of those and get back to me? 


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