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wovenstrap remarks: "One of [Win Shares's] most interesting results it gives is that it places Sandy Alacantra's 2022 ahead of every other pitcher in baseball, I'm almost sure nobody else has that."  
 
wovenstrap clearly did not bother to check Baseball-Reference, as it shows Sandy Alcantara as having more WAR than any other pitcher in baseball (in fact, he is 1.1 ahead of second place, which is greater than the WS gap between Alcantara and #2).  
 
One big difference between WS and WAR is that WS does not see pitchers as particularly valuable in comparison to hitters. If we ignore Ohtani, WS shows zero pitchers in the top 36 Win Share totals, whereas there are 9 pitchers in the top 36 of WAR.
Asked by: jgf704

Answered: 9/26/2022
 OK; I dunno.  When I created Win Shares, the top values were balanced between position players and pitchers.   But individual pitcher's share of the team has declined steadily since the 1870s, and since I developed the system, starting pitchers have fallen below the standard of the top hitters.  Interestingly, this happened about the time that starting pitchers mostly disappeared from the MVP voting.
 
I think the WAR estimates are frankly wrong.  I think they're placing a value on pitching that isn't actually there.  Let us generalize that teams now carry 13 pitchers and 13 position players.  Prior to. . .let us say prior to 1990, or prior to 2010, pitchers accounted for about 35-38 percent of value, but there were 10-11 pitchers per team, so the value of a pitcher and the value of a hitter were essentially proportional (although if you go back far enough in baseball history, back to before Babe Ruth, pitchers values were generally higher.)   But fielding is still important, so one can't realistically argue, I don't think, that pitchers (collectively) has as much value as position players.  The gross weight of pitching HAS increased, because of increased strkeouts, but it is still in the range of 40-42%, so it is difficult to see that the proportional impact of a pitcher is still on the same level as the proportional impact of a position player.   
 
In the 1960s, 1970s, starting pitchers faced 1200-1300 batters a season, whereas batters faced 650-700 pitchers in a season.  Robbie Ray led the American League in innings pitched last year; he faced 773 batters.  To have impact comparable to Drysdale, he has to have about 60% MORE impact per batter faced.  I don't see it.  
 
Of course, the impact of an individual pitcher COULD be more disproportionate to the other pitchers on the staff.  But in short, I think Win Shares is correct in saying that, in modern baseball, no pitcher has the impact of a top position player. 
 
 
Win Shares are created top down, from the team's win total.  You start with the wins of the team, and you attribute those wins to players based on their individual accomplishment.  WAR, I think, is created from the bottom up.  It adds together small events; a strikeout has this weight, a triple has that weight, and you pile them on top of one another.  It's inherently bad architecture.  If you try to build a brick wall from the ground up, with the brick wall not resting against anything stronger than itself, the small errors in the alignment of the bricks will cause the wall to topple to the ground, certainly over time if not immediately.  A brick wall 15 feet high, no matter how perfectly built, will not support itself over time.   It's the same problem.   WAR is a facade without structure.  Win Shares are braced against the performance of the team, as a brick wall is built against a building, or against the earth (in the case of a retaining wall) or against concrete or dirt which is piled inside of the bricks.  In my opinion it is an inherently flawed approach.  WAR is not braced against anything; the small errors in it accumulate, so that the wall leans to the left or to the right.  
 
Of course, I will allow Tom as much space as he might want or need to respond to this.   Tom--if you want to respond, just send me whatever you want and I'll publish it as written.   
 
 

 

Bill, before the season, in answer to a question, you suggested that the new playoff format, where the two division leaders with the best records get a bye in the first round would increase the probability of the "best" teams (ie, those with the best records) of making the World Series.  That makes sense to me, but do you think that there would be any concern about a team having several days off and, therefore, not being sharp when they play?  I'm sure the benefits of not having to play in the first round would outweigh that, but is that (ie, a layoff) potentially a factor that a team would worry about?  Of course, the layoff would only be two or three days.
Asked by: Marc Schneider

Answered: 9/26/2022
 Well. . . it seems like you are asking about a team worrying about something that isn't a real thing.   To which the answer would be, "Yeah, they do that all the time."  Not certain I am uderstanding the question.  

 

Hey Bill,  
This falls into the category of stuff your readers and you and I have probably never seen before.  
I just watched a college football game, Arkansas v. Tx A&M.  Two good teams, close game, A&M up by2, 1:30 left in the game.  Arkansas tries a 42 yard field goal.  Ball hits the tip top of the right upright and shoots straight upward, the world watches as it comes down just inside the goal post, no good.  Aggies go on to win.  Got me to wondering, has anyone seen that happen on a home run or just missed home run. where the angle of impact could be so microspocic that it could be the difference between victory or defeat?  Or are the baseball foul (fair) poles set so high that no known human can hit a ball like that?  
Thanks!
Asked by: paulw112

Answered: 9/26/2022
 Don't have specifics but (a) I have definitely seen game-deciding field goals like that.  Didn't somebody hit a triple-doinker a few years ago?  Hit the upright, bounced up and hit the pole above the upright, bounced back down and hit the upright again, finally fell short.   
 
I don't understand why you brought up the foul pole in baseball.  If it hits the foul pole, it's a home run; that's the end of that series, doesn't matter if it bounces into outer space after that.  The more appropriate question would be balls bouncing off the top of a wall, which in some places is a home run and in other places isn't.  I was at a KC game earlier this year in which a ball passed the foul pole in fair territory, then curved foul.  It should have been ruled a home run, but the umpiring team blew the call and it was recorded as a foul ball.  Salvador Perez.  From memory; I could have it a little messed up.  

 

Looking at team-level Win Shares stats for 2022. Judge is currently at 44 which is a historic number. I was looking at some of the playoff contenders in the AL and how many guys they contribute to the top 22 AL players—the cutoff is 21 Win Shares. Houston and Cleveland each contribute 4, and so on down the line. The Yankees only have Judge above 21, at 44. The next-best Yankees are Gleyber, Trevino, and Rizzo at 14 WS. Is that delta between #1 and #2 on a team historic? We all remember Bonds getting walked all the time in 2001, and there's always Babe Ruth. Anyone else we're forgetting?
Asked by: wovenstrap

Answered: 9/26/2022
 Interesting question.  In the 19th century there were a lot of cases where pitchers, pitching essentially every day, had larger margins over any teammate.  Since 1900 I think the only wider gaps were Nap Lajoie, 1910 (47-15) and Babe Ruth in 1923 (55-24).  

 

Bill: Have you seen the new Nolan Ryan documentary, Facing Nolan? Here's a funny tracer. Early in the film, Rod Carew says something to the effect that he always knew he'd go 0-4 when facing Ryan; in 73 career AB, Carew hit .301 against Ryan, with 3 doubles, 2 triples, and 2 home runs (for a slugging pct. of .561).
Asked by: Phil Dellio

Answered: 9/26/2022
 See the source image

 

How many Win Shares for Steve Carlton in 1972?  He seems to be the ultimate test of whether they will give the MVP to a player on a bad team (he finished 5th behind two Reds, a Pirate and a Cub)  I guess he had the complicating factor of being a pitcher too.  But when he pitched he transformed his team from the 2003 Tigers (30-85 w/o Carlton = 26% winning percentage) into the 1998 Yankees (29-12 with Carlton = 70.7% winning percentage).  I decided to do my own research on the Win Shares:  Carlton 40, Morgan 39, Bench 37, Williams 32 and Stargell 26
Asked by: bhalbleib

Answered: 9/24/2022
(a) it is always difficult to generalize accurately from one player.  (b) The assertion that Carlton HIMSELF tranformed the team from 30-85 to 29-12 is untrue.  Carlton was fantastic, but it coincidentally happened that the team scored more runs in the games that Carlton started than in the games started for other players.  This happens sometimes, but no more often for the best pitcher on the team than for the worst.  
 
**********************
 
This question triggered a REALLY interesting line of inquiry for me, from which I learned all kinds of things I didn't know.   After research, Carlton in 1972 is 77% responsible for the team's performance being better in the games that he started than in the games started by others; the hitters on the team are 23% responsible for it.   How do we know this?
 
Well, in the games Carlton started, the Phlllies outscored their opponents 154 to 93, a margin that would probably lead to a 30-11 record in 41 starts.  It was actually 29-12, as you noted.  If the Phillies had performed in those games the same as in all of their other games, that ratio would have been 132 to 167.   The Philly opponents underperformed in those 41 games by 74 runs, and we can reasonably attribute that to Carlton, who was pitching like 90% of those innings.   But the Philadelphia offense ALSO overperformed by 22 runs in those games, scoring 154 runs against an expectation of 132.  Those 22 runs certainly cannot be attributed to Carlton, who was a good hitting pitcher, hitting .197 that season with a .501 OPS, but certainly creating nothing like 22 runs, let alone 22 runs more than an average hitting pitcher.   
 
If we say that those 96 runs are +74 for Carlton, +22 for the hitters on the team, then that's 77% for Carlton, 23% for other players.  
 
The 96 runs by which the team with Carlton outperformed the team without Carlton is, as you could probably guess, the most for any pitcher in my data.  However, perhaps surprisingly, the 74 runs on the "pitching" side of the ledger is NOT the most in my data.  Pedro Martinez in 2000 was +76 runs, the Red Sox allowing only 57 runs in his 29 starts, against an expectation of 133 runs based on the team data.   Randy Johnson in 2004 was also +74, the same as Carlton; no one else in the data was better than +64.  

 

Readers might not know that there is plentiful Win Shares data under the "Stats" tab. There is a well thought out "League Win Share Leaderboard" that I consult often. You can also pull up 1972 and see the players listed out pretty clearly. The good bhalbleib missed a couple of names, Cedeno, Rose, etc. You can also get WS career numbers under "Batting Profiles"/"Career Win Shares."  
 
Around spring training 2022 I decided to stop using WAR. I don't know the exact voodoo behind WS (of course I read the book) but I trust it more and it has shown me some things I didn't know. One of the most interesting results it gives is that it places Sandy Alacantra's 2022 ahead of every other pitcher in baseball, I'm almost sure nobody else has that, and that is an interesting thing to know. It also makes the right call on Judge/Ohtani IMO. Judge's season is truly historic by WS reckoning. Judge is having the strongest non-steroidal season since Bonds 1993.
Asked by: wovenstrap

Answered: 9/24/2022
 Thank you very much.  I should put much more effort into making sure the readers know what data is hiding out there in that section of the site.  Appreciate your pinch hitting for me there.  

 

Keeping on the Win Shares theme. I wrote in earlier discussing Gimenez's impressive season. I stated then that he was on the short list of age-23 second basemen in the post-WW2 era. I'm happy to report that (as of last night, the third game against the White Sox) he has now TIED Carlos Baerga for the best season by an age-23 second baseman since 1950. They are both at 28 and the season still has a few games in it. I don't quite believe he is the 3rd best hitter in the AL but he is awfully good.  
 
The question I have for you, Bill, is this. I am a committed Guardians fan, watch almost every game. Gimenez's usual slot in the lineup is 6th or 7th. I might be wrong but I don't think he's hit above 6th in many many weeks except for leading off the other day when Kwan was sitting. Is there a historical parallel for this? The guy's an MVP candidate after all. Does Tito know how good he's been? What gives?
Asked by: wovenstrap

Answered: 9/24/2022
 Oh, it has always been common for young players to be assigned to hit down in the order for the first couple of years of their careers, even if they play well.   I don't think there is ANYTHING unusual in that.   You could check; I might be wrong.   Just the way it seems to me.  

 

Discussing Leverage Index (LI) by referencing Markov chains is something that would only appeal to a mathematician. Since I am a mathematician at heart, I'd be happy to discuss it, but probably best done in Reader Posts, if that reader would like to post there.  In layman's terms: you are in an existing state (inning, score, base, out) with its own win probability, and you have several future states possible after that plate appearance is over, each with its own win probability.  The spread in change in win probability, or win probability added (WPA), is what we are capturing.  And we index that so average = 1.  
 
The three articles that introduced LI, with some tangible examples, along with the complete chart, can be found here:  
Asked by: tangotiger

Answered: 9/24/2022
 Thank you.   
 
Interesting word, "leveraged".   In my youth, first of all, "leverage" was never used as a verb.  The only common usage of the word "leverage" was in discussions of things like ropes and pulleys and crow bars.  At some point "leverage" evolved into 'leveraged", and began to spread all over the landscape.  A house bought with a small down payment was said to be leveraged; a small object traded in partial payment for a larger object was "leveraged" into the larger object.  One business taking over another was a leveraged buyout; a person or a business carrying too much debt was said to be heavily leveraged.  A guy we had with the Red Sox was hired as a mail room clerk, did a super job as mail room clerk, leveraged that into a better job with the organization, and leveraged his Red Sox connections into a $200,000 a year executive position with another company--which he deserved, by the way; he was one of the most competent people in the company.   Jimmy Garoppolo filled in for Tom Brady for a couple of games and played great; the Patriots leveraged his good games into a package deal with the Giants, or, if you prefer, Garoppolo leveraged his short window into a full-time quarterback deal.   "Leverage" has leveraged its small foothold in the ropes-and-pulleys industry into a prominent and distinguished role in the English language.  

 

The book I'd recommend for any baseball reader is Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame (nee Politics of Glory), as perhaps the ideal combination of baseball history and sabermetric insight.  It's the kind of book where the reader basically gets sucked into sabermetrics without even realizing it.  
 
Was the reason for the title change simply about what the publisher figured was marketing?  If so, how did you get to push thru the original hardcover title in the first place?
Asked by: tangotiger

Answered: 9/24/2022
 Well, everything possible happened to that book.  My original editor for the book, Bill Rosen (as I recall. . .apologies to Bill if this isn't right). . . but Bill left the original publisher to go to another publisher before book was delivered, making the book an orphan at the publisher.   I was assigned another editor, who was fired before the book was delivered.  THen that publisher went bankrupt/into receivership, and their assets, including my book, were sold to another publisher where, as I recall, it re-united with Bill Rosen after the book was delievered but while it was in process.  
 
Do you understand the role of a publicist in the success of a book?   The publicist sends out notices to the press saying that the book is coming out, then arranges interviews for you with radio and TV stations and newspapermen, and sometimes buys advertising to support the book.   
 
In THE VERY WEEK when the book came out, my publicist quit without giving notice. 
 
And baseball went on strike.  Summer of 94.  That was actually a month or two later; I think the book came out at the All Star break, and the strike was early August.  
 
So the book did not thrive in the market. and the publishing company asked itself, "Why did this book not do well?"  Do you think it was the fact that it bounced from editor to editor, the bankruptcy of the original publisher, the fact that it came out with no publicity campaign, or the fact that baseball was on strike and baseball fans were annoyed about that, or do you think it was the title.   MUST HAVE BEEN THAT TITLE.   So they insisted on changing the title for the paperback.   

 

Not really a question, but in asking about "league records", I think that Taylor has it precisely backwards.  It's only in very recent years that people don't think/talk about league records as separate things.  Bill has talked a lot about how the leagues used to have more distinct identities, etc, and it is also worth noting that "major league baseball"(lower case m, lower case l) has existed since the 19th century, but "Major League Baseball" has only existed as a single, wholly unified organization for 22 years since 2000.
Asked by: msandler

Answered: 9/24/2022
 Thank you.   I think that's essentially right.  

 

Bill, have you thought about updating the Managers Handbook? Do chapters on the 00s and 10s? it has been almost 30 years. I would buy a copy.
Asked by: Stevez9753

Answered: 9/24/2022
 No; I hadn't thought of it.  I'll add it to my list of 728 books I want to write before I die. . . .

 

Bill, I know you wouldn't sell, but have you ever been offered to sell a World Series ring?
Asked by: Stevez9753

Answered: 9/24/2022
 No. 

 

I know you are a huge fan of Frank White.  I think you once mentioned in one of your articles that he was a shortstop in the minor leagues and was moved to 2nd base to accommodate Freddie Patek.  Do you think White could and would have had an even more valuable career if he had stayed at shortstop?
Asked by: Poincare

Answered: 9/24/2022
 Maybe.  Possibly.  He could certainly have played short, and his bat would compare more favorably at short than second.   But I don't think we know enough to assert that he would have been a GOOD defensive shorttop, a top-level guy. 

 

Hey Bill, when using the Favorite Toy do you have a recommendation for how to handle the 2020 season when inserting the numbers from that season into the Toy?  
 
Thanks as always!  
Asked by: ForeverRoyal

Answered: 9/24/2022
 No right answer, but you can multiply the number from 2020 by 2.7; works for some things.  It is probably better. . .well.
 
The favorite toy relies on the Established Performance Level.  There are different ways to figure the Established Performance Level.  One way to do that, post-2020, and using the generic term PL for performance level. . . one way to do that is 2018PL + 2*2019PL + 3*2020PL, divided by 6.   For 2020, though, you cut the "6" down to 4.11, and you can figure the Established Performance Level that way.   Then, doing the same for 2021, you cut the "6" down to 4.74, and post-2022, you would use 5.37.  

 

 
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