Hey Bill

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15 Most Recent Questions

Regarding the attainment of your 300-day "Hey Bill" goal, I'd like to thank you.  It's my favorite part of the site.  When I started reading your work in the early 80's, the possibility of a forum wherein I could ask questions of Bill James (and receive answers!) so easily would have been unthinkable. You've provided countless hours of entertainment in my life, as well as being a monumental influence on the manner in which I think.
Asked by: LanceRichardson

Answered: 11/28/2020
 Thank you.  Very nice of you to say.  


HeyBill re: '53 Yanks.  Since you consider them the best Yankee team of this era I assume the you think they are also the best team of the '50s?  Without doing an in depth analysis, just a quick response: who do you think are/were the best team of each decade?
Asked by: FrankD

Answered: 11/28/2020
 Frank, the difference between me and a talk show host is that, unless I happen to know the answer, I do research before I weigh in.  


Hey Bill!  
 Congrats and thanks for making good on your goal of answering questions 300 days this year. It is very much appreciated. The questions here and your answers are always informative and entertaining. Quick question: Now that Santo is in, do you see anyone (other than the guys being penalized for PED rumors) who is an obvious Hall  of Fame omission or "snub?" It feels to me like there are plenty of guys for whom you could make a compelling case, but none who I think are glaring omissions. Curious as to your thoughts.
Asked by: mikeclaw

Answered: 11/28/2020
 Thanks.  In basic training they had us fire live ammunition at targets in an open field, and then had us cease fire, and a dozen people who were hiding in the field in front of us stood up.  The field looked flat, but it was actually uneven.  People could hide safely in the low parts of the uneven ground.  
In Hall of Fame voting, the ground doesn't even LOOK flat.  It's very uneven; the standards are nowhere near consistent.  So what you're really asking, I think, is "OK, there are lots of people who have been left out compared to other people who are in, but is there one who is MORE obvious than the others?"  
I had an idea for a new way to write about this, but I don't know if I'll get it done.  Thanks again for your kind words.  


I have looked for defensive stats with your new format, but cannot find them. Have you dropped them?
Asked by: davesiglin

Answered: 11/27/2020
 They're not here right now.  They will be back soon.   There's a little glitch.  
Last year (2019) I had kind of let the daily answering of Hey, Bill questions lapse.  I set a goal of answering "Hey, Bill" questions on 300 days this year, and as of today I have met the goal; 331 days so far this year, and I have answered Hey Bill questions on 300 of them.  I'll continue doing it (almost) every day, but. . .I've met my goal for the year.  Just wanted to make a note of that.  


For djmedinah:  If you leave BJOL on your browser too long, it will ask you to log in again.  If you just ignore that request, you will be ok.  
Asked by: 3for3

Answered: 11/27/2020


I was thinking about your convincing article from the Historical Abstract about why the 1961 Yankees were not a great team.  
And so I got to wondering what the best postwar Yankees team was, excluding the 1998 team, that is the 1947-1964 era when the franchise was ubiquitous in the World Series.  
The 1960-1964 teams either lost the Series, or won it by a hair, excepting 1961. The Giants seem like a better team in '62.  
They lost the Series in 1957, won it in 7 in 58 (why do these two Series seem forgotten by Baseball History?). Lost in 1955 and won in 7 in '56, in each case against the team that had beaten them the year before. In '53 they beat a great Dodgers team, but they probably were not as good as Brooklyn.  
What would you say was the best Yankees team of that era? And would any of the 1976-78 teams stand higher than the postwar ones?
Asked by: MidnighttheCat

Answered: 11/26/2020
 1953, beyond question.   It's hard to explain, but. . people remember the 1953 Dodgers as a fantastic team, which they were; they finished 105-49 and have a lot of great individual stats.  But the 1953 Yankees beat them in the World Series, and also, the 1953 Yankees had a better record until late August.  The Yankees were 82-38 on August 21; the Dodgers were 81-38, but the Yankees had a far better run/opposition run ratio at that time, 1.54 - 1 for the Yankees, 1.375 -1 for the Yankees.  Neither team had a serious challenger.  Stengel completely took his foot off the gas at that time, coasted in; Charlie Dressen continued to push until the end, so the Dodgers pulled a few games ahead although the Yankees still had a better run ratio.   The 1953 Yankees BACKUP team--guys NOT in the regular lineup--would be C--Gus Triandos or Charlie Silvera, 1B--Johnny Mize on Don Bollweg; 2B--Jerry Coleman, 3B--Andy Carey, SS--Willie Miranda, OF--Bill Renna, Irv Noren, Bob Cerv.    Their backup team was at least a .500 team.   Bollweg had 155 at bats with an .887 OPS.  Catchers, Silvera hit .280 and was a career .282 hitter as Berra's backup; Triandos was a really good catcher when he got a chance to play, in 1957 threw out 42 of 63 baserunners, 2/3.   It may be the highest percentage ever for that many chances.  Coleman was a terrific player in 1950, went into the military for two years and never got his job back.  (Like Ted Williams, Coleman was a World War II pilot who was recalled for service in Korea.)  Andy Carey was a Gold Glove quality third baseman and hit .321 with a .900+ OPS in a backup role in 1953.  Miranda was a glove wizard, was later a regular for several years.  Bill Renna got into 61 games, 121 at bats and hit .314.  Irv Noren was a good defensive center fielder who in 1950 had hit .295 with 98 RBI for Washington, had another pretty good year in 1951; the Yankees traded Jackie Jensen to get him.   Cerv hit 38 homers one year for Kansas City.  That was the team that WASN'T the team; that was the backup team.  
At first base, if Joe Collins and Johnny Mize and Dan Bollweg weren't good enough, in Triple-A they had Moose Skowron and Vic Power.   Skowron in 1952 hit hit .341 with 31 homers, 38 doubles, 11 triples, 134 RBI in the American Association, but did not get called up, got sent back to the minors for 1953, and had another great year, not quite AS great.  Vic Power on the same team hit .349 with 34 doubles, 10 triples, 19 homers, 93 RBI, 215 hits, and the best defensive first baseman of his time.   He didn't get called up, either.   Skowron had to play the outfield, which probably kept him in the minors an extra year.  That team (in the minors) also had Elston Howard, Alex Grammas and Bill Virdon, all of whom were ready to play, just biding their time in the minor leagues.  Grammas was 27 by then; he was later a regular for several years in the National League, and I believe won a Gold Glove one year.  


Happy Thanksgiving, Bill, to you and Suzy.  (Guess the kids are all scattered.)  Hope that it will be a good one, and that everyone is doing well and staying safe.  
Bought a copy of the 2020 Handbook today, and am saving it for dessert tomorrow.
Asked by: Davidg32

Answered: 11/26/2020
 Thank you, and I am hoping that you meant the 2021 Handbook.  


I was looking at recordings of bench-clearing brawls on Youtube, from the 1990s on- fun to watch, of course. Most of course occurred because the pitcher has deliberately thrown at the batter, or seemed to. I was wondering if there are more bench-clearing brawls nowadays than in the distant past. The 1890s, the Ty Cobb era, the Gashouse Gang of the 1930s- they were all famous for players who punched first and asked questions later. Are there really more such brawls today than in the distant past? If so, why should this be?
Asked by: wdr1946

Answered: 11/26/2020
 There were far, far, far more in the past than there are now, and the further back in time you go, the more there are.   But there were many more in the 1960s and 1970s than there are now, and it is my understanding that there were many more, particularly in the dead ball era, than there were in the 1960s and 1970s. 


Hi Bill,  
The other day you posted a question I had regarding using "Reader Posts." I haven't been able to access that part of the site, and just checked again—and nope. You asked if I had gotten it sorted out. Nope.  
Thanks for following up!
Asked by: djmedinah

Answered: 11/25/2020
 When you click on the box that says reader posts, what do you see? 


Hi Bill,  
This month in response to two questions about defense, you observed a) that a team of hitters will always beat a team of glovemen, and b) that "I have noted before that IN ALL SPORTS it requires much more energy to play defense than to play offense, because you always have to prepare for the unknown." Both comments reminded me of the IRA’s response to the Brighton Hotel bombing in October 1984 (the one that missed Margaret Thatcher): "Today we were unlucky, but remember we only have to be lucky once. You will have to be lucky always." So would you say that defense is not only less effective than offense, but also inherently "pricier?" To put this another way: the distribution of defensive ability ought to be more skewed than the distribution of hitting talent, so that there should be a smooth continuum between hitters but a sharp inflection point between defensive specialists and the rest of the league. Do you find that proposition reflected in the data?
Asked by: djmedinah

Answered: 11/25/2020
 (a) I'm not following your logic, and (b) If I did follow it, I'm not sure how I would determine whether it was true or false.    I agree that the insight that an attacking force only needs to be lucky once is relevant here, and I have heard Homeland Security officials say the same thing, perhaps picking up the language of the IRA, but I have heard them say that the terrorists only have to be lucky once; we have to be perfect.  I agree that is relevant to the general subject.   But I don't really see how you're getting from that to the distribution argument.
The reason that a team of offensive players would probably beat a team of defensive specialists in baseball is that, in baseball, a significant portion of the workload of defense is done by the pitchers.  Let's say that defense is 70% pitching, or that baseball is 50% hitting and baserunning, 35% pitching, 15% fielding.   It is very difficult for fielders, controlling only 15% of the "outcome territory", to match the impact of hitters who are controlling 50%.  


HeyBill: interesting on averaging some players to get a composite that may not perform as well as in MVP voting as the any of the constituent parts. They've done the same with people - average a bunch of pics together and the averaged 'person' is judged better looking in tests but in real life those deemed most attractive people seem to have one or two unique features that make them standout: Kirk Douglas with the cleft chin, Marilyn Monroe with two ...., Jimmy Stewart (and Tom Hanks) with an aw-shucks Americanism, etc. Is this because people use only a few things to focus on to make comparisons? Like HRs, RBI, batting average, any unique attribute stands out and usually makes us overrate or at least over-recognize that person. I guess Ernie Lombardi, slow and with the big Schnozz would fit this.
Asked by: FrankD

Answered: 11/24/2020
 I think it is because the first act of the mind is always to simplify.   Reality is overwhelmingly complex.  We instinctively reduce the flood on information coming toward us to small bits of information.  We do that by throwing away 90% to 99% of the information and filing the event/person/ entity under a label based on the remaining portions.  A non-baseball fan might file "Rod Carew" under "Baseball Player".  A passing fan might file him under "Baseball Player--Great Batting avearges".  A more interested fan might file him under "baseball player--great batting averages--Minnesota Twins", and then, as the fan gets more interested, under "Baseball Player--great batting averages--Minnesota Twins--Second Baseman--Panamanian--poor at turning Double Play--hit .388 on year", etc.  If you're at our level you might remember 200 facts about Rod Carew, but there aren't 200 facts available about him; there are 200,000.   We always discard most of the facts in order to keep track of the others, unless you're like Rain Main and keep all of the facts on file but can't organize them to make sense of them.  
Anyway, the more complex a player's skills are, the more difficult it is to get a grasp of what he does.  There is no easy hook to file it under, no easy label to put on it.  The two facts that are kept are not that impressive. . .whereas for Rod Carew, hitting .388 is REALLY impressive, although Carew was probably no better player than Abreu.  


While I have been unpersuaded by your antagonism towards Harry Truman as a great president, a bit of evidence for it has emerged this week: Joe Scarborough has come out with a book entitled SAVING FREEDOM: TRUMAN, THE COLD WAR AND THE FIGHT FOR WESTERN CIVILIZATION, which argues for Truman's unparalleled leadership. Scarborough has, in my estimation, never been correct about anything in his life, so this makes me re-consider your argument against Truman. You, at least have been correct about baseball many a time, so now I'm open again to your views about Truman. Unless you're willing to consider Scarborough's case for Truman--are you?
Asked by: 337

Answered: 11/24/2020
 I would be, but it's pretty far down the list of books I might read.  I don't have any opinion about Scarborough. . .don't watch him or have any understanding of what he believes.  


I was on Team Snell until I came upon this youtube clip of the Baseball Rabbi, kennehora, arguing rather persuasively that Snell, even at his best, doesn't do well the third time through the batting order:    
Have you seen what happens to Snell's OPS starting with the 19th batter he faces, and you think that's a sound reason for removing him from a 1-0 game?
Asked by: 337

Answered: 11/23/2020
 No, I haven't seen it, and no, I don't think it is a sound reason for removing him from a 1-0 game.  But its a doorway to an interesting question if we can figure out how to open the door.  


Hi Bill,  
Recently you pointed me to "Reader Posts" as a way to post some research findings. However, for the past week or so I have received a message that that section of the site is undergoing maintenance. I sent an email pointing this out using "Contact Us," but have yet to receive a reply. Is there something I'm missing?  
Asked by: djmedinah

Answered: 11/23/2020
 Did you get this sorted out?   Sorry for the inconvenience. 


I would do the Abreu-comp with Tim Raines, always choosing Tony Gwynn and someone (I don't remember who now, might have been Paul Molitor).  Raines took 10 years to make the HOF, while the other two did it their first try.  
Anyway, let me offer as "pretty close" to Abreu: 1/4 each of Dave Winfield, Vlad Guerrero, Tony Gwynn, and Ichiro.  Tough part is that Abreu has tons of walks and it's really hard to match that up.
Asked by: tangotiger

Answered: 11/22/2020
 Copied from you tweet.   Thanks.  
Bobby Abreu scored 1453 runs. Player "X" scored 1450
runs. Bobby Abreu had 1363 RBI. Player "X" had 1312 RBI. Bobby Abreu hit 288 HR. Player "X" hit 292 HR. Bobby Abreu stole 400 SB. Player "X" stole 308. Abreu and "X" were predominantly RF. X=AVG(Winfield, Vlad, Gwynn, Ichiro)


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