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You ask:  
 
> Why, then, do people not expect the TEAMS to use the rights that THEY have, under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, to the full extent that the system expects them to do?  Why do people refer to this as "shenanigans"?  
 
Would you expect 2020 Tampa Bay to be a better team with Taylor Walls at short, or with Wander Franco at short, in May and June?    
 
 
 
Asked by: MarkBernstein

Answered: 11/27/2021
Well, the Rays were not even playing games in May and June of 2020, so I am guessing that you meant 2021.  Your logic, then, if we assume that you meant 2021, is that the Rays management had a responsibility to do what was in the best interests of the 2021 Rays, rather than what is in the LONG TERM best interests of the organization.  You apparently assume that the Rays had a responsibility to place a higher value on 2 months of 2021, rather than a full season of 2027.  They don't.  It's the responsibility of the MANAGER to look out for the immediate future of his team, but the responsibility of the General Manager and the ownership to prioritize the long term value of the franchise.   
 
 
As I recall, Tampa Bay has done alright, by calculating the risks and benefits the way they do.  Do I think they should let YOU and people like you calculate the costs and benefits, and tell them what they should do?   
 
No, I don't.   I think that they are doing a brilliant job of turning limited $$$ into successful teams, and that you should respect what they are doing and try to learn from it, rather than trying to impose your talk-show expertise on them.  

 

To ramble on about hitters success as PH vs rest of their PAs .... There are at least six more who did about the same under both conditions and maybe in terms of overall effectiveness (depending upon your favorite measure and significance tests) a little better as a PH--Cliff Johnson, Matt Stairs, Merv Rettenmund (but not a lot of PH PAs), and Gates Brown are four.Then there are Lenny Harris, the all time PH hit leader who managed to have almost the exact same rate stats (BA/OBA/SA) but in each case a tiny bit lower as a PH and #2 Matt Sweeny who had the reverse, a tiny bit higher for his rate stats (except SA).  
Asked by: guyarrigoni

Answered: 11/27/2021
 But, of course, that SHOULD happen at random, if in fact every player has a 20-or 25-point decline in true ability as a pinch hitter, then some few players will have random good fortune as a pinch hitter wihich will offset that.  
 
In other words, assume that there are 750 players who pinch hit 100-500 times each, but each of whom is 20 points better when not pinch hitting than when used as a pinch hitter.  In real-life data, 5 of them will hit 85 points worse as a pinch hitter, 25 of them will hit 65 points worse, 100 of them will hit 45 points worse, 500 of them will hit expectation, 25 points worse, 100 will hit 5 points worse, 20 of them will hit 15 points better as a pinch hitter, and 5 of them will hit significantly better as a pinch hitter.   
 
So the fact of these few outliers is 100% consistent with the theory that all hitters hit better when not pinch hitting.  
 
 
 
 

 

Not a question but random longevity stat:  
 
In the seventh game of the 1960 World Series, the most remembered play (before the walk-off) was Bill Virdon's sharp bad-hop grounder to Kubek.  Shantz was pitching and Richardson was the first one on the scene as Kubek writhed.  As everyone knows, the Series ended with Maz's home run off Ralph Terry.  The amazing stat is one of longevity: until gentleman Virdon's death the other day at age 90, every one of these players was still with us.  
Shantz (age 96)  
Terry (85)  
Kubek (86)  
Richardson (86)  
Mazeroski (85)  
And with Dick Groat (91), both keystone combinations live on.  Right living?
Asked by: TadMyre

Answered: 11/27/2021
 Interesting.  Thank you.  

 

I have noticed that when comparing assists to expected assists for infielders you have used assists as a percentage of team assists. Because a team’s job is to prevent hits, would it not make more sense to calculate it as assists as a percentage of ground ball balls in play? This could crudely be figured as assists divided by po-k times the teams balls in play. You used this approach in one article in your Win Shares book.
Asked by: Dr.G74

Answered: 11/26/2021
 Sometimes it is appropriate to do one; sometimes it is appropriate to do the other.  It depends on teh exact question that you are trying to find the answer to.  You'd have to give me a more specific example of what it was that I actually said, rather than a generalization about it.  
 
**********************
 
Let me give you a different answer.   In evaluating a fielder's performance, you have to deal with three things:
 
1)  The quality of the individual's fielding stats (ie, 350 assists are presumptively better than 300), 
 
2)  The quality of the individual's fielding stats relative to the team (ie, 350 assists on a team which has 1500 assists are presumptively better than 350 assists on a team which has 1800), and
 
3)  The quality of the team's overall defensive performance; ie , a team which allows 1200 hits on balls in play is presumptively better than a team which allows 1400 hits on balls in play.  
 
What you are in essence asking is, "shouldn't you ALWAYS try to deal with ALL of these issues?"  
 
Well, no; you shouldn't; in fact, trying to deal with every issue in every context is a terrible, terrible, terrible idea which can single-handedly prevent you from accomplishing anything in life.  The reason that is true is, THERE IS ALWAYS SOMETHING ELSE THAT YOU COULD HAVE TAKEN INTO CONSIDERATION.   Having dealt with all of the issues above, you could THEN go on to study the park's effects on fielders at that position, or you could then go on to adjust for the left-handed/right-handed effects from the pitching staff, or you could then go on to adjust for the effects on the fielding stats or the team being most often behind in the game vs. most often ahead in the game.  There is always SOMETHING that you didn't deal with--always, ALWAYS, ALWAYS.  
 
SOMETIMES you try to deal with everything you can find, every bias you can find within the data, but 90% of the time, you don't.  All you accomplish by doing that is to make the study so complicated that (a) you can't finish it, and (b) if you do finish it, nobody will understand what you're saying.  
 
The wiser policy is to study what seems most relevant, and assert what you believe to be true.  If someone else can then pick up the study and identify a MEANINGFUL or significant bias in the approach, then you deal with the implications of that and move forward.  But trying to avoid all bias in a study is a fool's errand, because it can never be done.  

 

I know this won't happen because of financial concerns, but do you believe that MLB could blow up in popularity if it went to a model like college baseball with only weekend games? Each team would play a 3 game series on Friday-Sunday. One issue I see with MLB is that lack of scarcity of games devalues the regular season. The NFL is popular because it plays only 1 game per week. If the NFL was playing 4 games per week, they would not be as popular as they currently are.
Asked by: Taylor

Answered: 11/26/2021
 I don't buy the theory, no.  Things that are on every day, like soap operas and baseball games, become addictive.  I don't have any evidence one way or the other, but I think the everyday schedule favors baseball.  And the idea of using college baseball as an example of how to increase your audience seems bizarre, since college baseball has a phone booth audience.  

 

Hi Bill,  
I was going to bring up Jerry Lynch as a consistently reliable/productive pinch hitter, but in the course of assembling a case I discovered that you were already aware of him . . .  
 
Jerry Lynch finished 22nd in voting for the 1961 National League Most Valuable Player Award. Historian Bill James suggested in the The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract that Lynch could have won, "He hit over .400 as a pinch hitter (19-for-47), with power and played 44 games in the outfield. His slugging percentage of .624 and 50 RBI in 181 at-bats was a far better rate than Roger Maris had that same season, hitting 61 home runs. More than that, Lynch had big, big hits; game after game, when the Reds were in danger of falling short, Lynch came up the big hit to put them back in front, and the Reds, picked to finish sixth, won the pennant."  
 
(Courtesy of baseball-almanac.com)
Asked by: LoradoTaftWright

Answered: 11/26/2021
 Further investigation, there's no real argument to make him the MVP.  He did have a hell of a year.  He was a consistently good pinch hitter, in part because he was SUCH a good hitter that even if you knock off 20, 25 points for pinch hitting, he was still good.  As an everybody player, he would probably have hit around .300 with 20-30 homers a year.  But his defense was a liability, and the Reds had other outfielders who could hit.   Reds and Pirates. 
 
I play in a Ballpark League, you know.  At that time I had a partner, and we had Jerry Lynch on our team for years.  He was magic.  In Ballpark the number 42 left (42, with a left-handed hitter at the plate) is almost always a double, and the number 31 Left (31, with a left-handed hitter at teh plate) is very often a home run, maybe 50% of the time, depending on the park.  Lynch would just POUND 42 and 31.   I think his career batting average for us, in around 400 at bats, was .377.   We never had anybody else who over-achieved to the same extent.  
 
This isn't why I'm aware of him; all of that was AFTER I wrote teh paean to him in whatever book that was.  

 

HeyBill re: books on Minor League Baseball .... how about Standing the Gaff?
Asked by: FrankD

Answered: 11/26/2021
 I thought that was 19th century baseball? 

 

Books about the minor leagues: John Feinstein wrote an excellent one a few years back called "Where Nobody Knows Your Name." It's about the 2012 season, mostly in the International League. In some ways it's sad, since it shows how far the top minor leagues have fallen since their heyday. (I guess they've changed quite a bit in just the last couple of years, too, so even this snapshot is now out of date.) Anyway, it's a really good book. I've read it twice, and I can't guarantee I won't go back to it again.
Asked by: BobGill

Answered: 11/26/2021
 Thank you. 

 

Books about the minors... Frank Dolson of the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote a great one, BEATING THE BUSHES. Explained why Jim Bunning never advanced from managing in the Phillies system (where he was very good) to managing in the bigs. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.
Asked by: ajmilner

Answered: 11/26/2021
 Thank you.  

 

Bill,  
 
What do you believe would be a better system to handle Free Agency during the next CBA?  
 
Age 28 Free agency  
 
or  
 
5 years of team control. 3 arbitration years  
 
I do believe it's in MLB's best interest to: #1 cut down on service time shenanigans and #2 redistribute money from the older players to the younger more productive players.
Asked by: Taylor

Answered: 11/26/2021
 I don't really have any answer to your question; I just don't know.  
 
Service time manipulation is not "shenanigans"; it is entirely legitimate, and entirely appropriate.  I will tell you that with the Red Sox, we never did that; we never worried AT ALL about the arbitration eligibility effects of calling a player up on this date or that date.  It's like saying "we can't have a baby because we can't afford to send them to college."  
 
But the players are expected to use their rights under the Collective Bargaining Agreement to their full limit.  No one expects a player to say "Oh, well, I won't file for free agency yet because I just made the eligibility by 3 days and I have spent four months of major league time on the injured list, so I don't really deserve to be a free agent yet."  Nobody expects a player to do that with arbitration time.  If he has the right to file, he uses that right in his contract negotiations.  
 
 
Why, then, do people not expect the TEAMS to use the rights that THEY have, under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, to the full extent that the system expects them to do?  Why do people refer to this as "shenanigans"?
 
The ONLY reason for that is media bias in regard to player salaries.  Many sportswriters are so convinced that employees being paid $10 million a year are somehow being taken advantage of that they will represent anything done by the team as somehow unethical or improper.  It isn't.  It is entirely appropriate if the team chooses to do that.  

 

Regarding books about the minor leagues, I thought The 26th Man by Steve Fireovid was very good. It turned out that his roommate that season was Scott Anderson,who was a high school classmate of mine.
Asked by: jonfel14

Answered: 11/26/2021
 Thank you. 

 

Sometimes WPA (wins probability added) reflects the right story. In the case of Jerry Lynch, we have him 10th in 1961 NL with +3.3 wins added (above average), compared to his +1.1 WAA (wins above average) without consideration of the game state (inning, score, base, out).  So that's a whopping +2.2 wins added due to timing.  You can call that clutch if you want.  I just call that timing.  Timing is not necessarily a skill; it's just picking up the winning lottery ticket at the right place at the right time.  And real wins or money materialize.
Asked by: tangotiger

Answered: 11/26/2021
 Right; thanks, Tom.  I would agree with that 100%.  A great deal of the timing boost for Lynch, 1961, is in the WAY he was used.  His team played a lot of close games with several not-very-good hitters in the lineup, and his manager used him to pinch hit IN KEY GAME SITUATIONS.  So he had a leverage index for his plate appearances.  We have learned to track that for pitchers, based on your research, but we don't routinely track it for hitters.  That, I think, was the point of my original comment about Lynch.  

 

Well, since someone brought up Ron Hunt, his first professional team was the 1959 McCook Braves. That was also the first team for Phil Niekro and Elrod Hendricks. And just so that low minors team would not be forgotten, it’s the setting for A False Spring, by teammate and future sportswriter Pat Jordan.
Asked by: Rallymonkey5

Answered: 11/25/2021
 Thank you.  Ten best books about the minors. . .anybody?  Slouching Toward Fargo, Good Enough to Dream. . .what else?  

 

There might be one guy who hit basically as well as a pinch hitter as he did overall--Smoky Burges:  143 hits in 501 at-bats--an entire season worth of pinch-hitting.  
(.295).  His overall BA was .290.  
Asked by: doncoffin

Answered: 11/25/2021
 Yeah. . .of course he was a catcher, and catching ALSO drives your batting average down, so there is some sort of effect there as well.  

 

Regarding deGrom's no-hitter chance of 44%: I see, I took it as the chance he'd throw a no-hitter in 2022, not at some point in his career.  "Nevermind" -- Emily Litella
Asked by: tangotiger

Answered: 11/25/2021
 Thanks.  I kind of thought you had.  Love Emily Litella/Gilda.  

 

 
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