BILL JAMES ONLINE

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15 Most Recent Questions

"As of January 26 I had responded to Hey, Bill questions on only 4 of 26 days, or 15.4%, which would mean that I would have to do 296 of 340 days the rest of the year, or 87.1%.   But now I have increased my percentage to 72.6%, and I have to do 85.2% for the rest of the year."  
 
I hereby dub this HBRR--or, because you don't like acronyms, Hey Bill Response Rate. If, harkening back to RC/27 outs, you factor in the number of days in a month, it becomes HBRR/30 days. You can also make adjustments for the room you happen to be in when you respond, the quality of the questions, the working condition of your computer, etc. HBRR+.  
 
Sabermetrics marches forward (or maybe just I Have Way Too Much Time on My Hands Right Now).
Asked by: Phil Dellio

Answered: 4/5/2020
 I think we may be marching backward here.  

 

At this point this is more personal correspondence than Hey Bill post, but here's an interview with Feller conducted by the military.  It is pretty clear he did not go to Europe during the war.  Indeed, I am not certain he had any time off the Alabama from 42-44.  
Asked by: Michael P

Answered: 4/5/2020
 Thanks. 

 

Any mention of Oquendo always makes me remember how he had a pretty normal stance against RH, but a really open stance vs lefties.  He was almost facing the pitcher.    
 
My dad always said he would of hit better in high school if he'd hit like that, more open that is.  But back then (early 60s) the coach made everyone take a straight up and down stance.    
 
Asked by: shthar

Answered: 4/5/2020
 Stan Lopata, 1950s catcher, had a completely open stance. . . other players of course as well, but anyway, Lopata had a very open stance and a low crouch, like Bagwell.  He came up with a "normal" stance, but Rogers Hornsby, who I think was a coach on an opposing team, not sure of that. . .anyway, Hornsby told him that he wasn't seeing the ball well; he was swinging and missing at pitches way off the plate, which told Hornsby that he was not seeing the ball.  Hornsby worked with him for just a few minutes one day, and completely revamped his swing and his hitting stance.   

 

hey bill,  
 
can you or can you direct me to a reference that would explain the invention of WAR,  
the development of WAR, and the seemingly unquestioning acceptance of WAR as THE stat above all other stats?  
Thanks.
Asked by: cummerow@fuse.net

Answered: 4/5/2020
 No. 

 

On Bob Feller, he was my Dad's hero growing up. About 20 years ago he was doing an autograph signing about an hour away from my Dad's home. He found out late about it and drove there just as it was ending and Bob was walking out. He handed his Rawling ball to Bob and got a "well let me get my special pen out and signed it". My Dad was in seventh heaven and showed it to me when he got home. To make a long story short he used invisible ink and it faded away. After listening to Bob say things like I knew Willie had it all the way, and he use to lose his hat on every catch any way, and it wasn't that hard of a catch......amongst many other digs over the years. Do you think he was just a bitter person, one who felt he never got enough credit or was he just a prick?
Asked by: ksclacktc

Answered: 4/5/2020
 I don't think it would be helpful to generalize about him; he was who he was.  He had a pretty big case of entitlement syndrome, I think.  I remember when the Macmillian Baseball Encyclopedia came out, Feller used to go on rants about how wrong it was that they just left out the war years for the players (like him) who didn't play in the war.   Some older publications used to have a line for 1942 (In the Navy) and a line for 1943 (In the Navy, or in the US Army, or In Military Service) or something.   Feller was offended that the Macmillan didn't do that, and I remember that in his rant he would say "So they tell me that it would have been very inconvenient to have to insert those lines.  Well let me ask, don't you think it was pretty inconvenient for the ballplayers, to have to give up several years of their careers to serve their country."   Which was actually a good point, but that was Bob Feller; he wanted what was rightfully his, and he had a kind of expansive view of what was rightfully his.   Like Justin Verlander.  

 

Hey Bill,  
 
Thanks for answering my sometimes-obscure questions. Two responses regarding my most recent ones, in reverse order.  
 
1. Your answer about Tversky is just hugely significant. For real, I do hope that biographers of you both pick up on it. Do you recall why you were led to write to him in the first place? My suspicion is that it was 1971's "Belief in the Law of Small Numbers." Is that right?  
 
2. My other ? was about "fat tailed" distributions. Most people are familiar with the normal distribution, which tends to cluster around the mean. Alternately, each event or observation is independent of others, so the average can tell you something about what can happen in the future.  But other kinds of distributions have "fat" tails: meaning that they do NOT tend to cluster towards the mean—& so each obsv. is dependent on others. (This is Nassim Taleb/Benoit Mandelbrot's schtick.) Anyway, I did look and DP data is "fat-tailed," connecting DPs to a whole truckload of academic studies.
Asked by: djmedinah

Answered: 4/5/2020
 1.  I didn't write to Tversky originally; he wrote to me.  I had never heard of him and didn't have any idea who he was, and you have to remember, this is before the internet; you couldn't just go to the Internet and figure out who this was, as we do now.  My memory is that he was in Israel at the time, and I think he wrote maybe a two-page letter on that onion-skin paper that we used to use for international correspondence; I suppose that some people still do.  I didn't have any idea who he was, but I recognized that this was a highly intelligent person raising very good questions, and I tried to respond as appropriately as I could. 
 
2.  THe question about the DP distribution does not explain WHAT DP data you looked at.   The distribution of double plays between teams is largely determined by two variables:  How many runners they have on base against them, and how many ground balls the pitching staff throws.  The ABILITY of the team to turn double plays is a smaller variable.  Double plays aren't like Home RUns or Doubles or Walks, in which the primary variable is the ability of the team in this area.  

 

Hey Bill,  
 
Back on April 8, 2013 in an article on this site, you wrote,  
 
"Whether the defensive shifts we see so often now are a fad or a permanent change in the game of baseball is yet to be determined, but here is one sure thing about them.  This is going to bring the bunt back into the game. It has to."  
 
Has the bunt come back into the game to the extent you thought it would over these last seven years?  
 
Thanks  
 
Asked by: kgh

Answered: 4/5/2020
 It is coming back, but it's just taking a lot longer than I expected it to.  

 

I was re-reading "The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract" this morning and on pages 894-897 discussing Bucky Walters, you list a set of families of pitchers by the name of the best or best known of the group by various characteristics.  
 
Would Satchel Paige be in the Juan Marichal Family? It seems so by the characteristics you list for the members, which includes others like Luis Tiant (to refresh your memory).  
 
Also, is there a family for a pitcher like Mel Stottlemyre? (I know, I know, with his sons having pitched in the majors I have lobbed one into you at the plate...).  
 
Thanks. Hope you and your family are keeping safe and well in the midst of this crisis, here in Italy we are in week 6 of lockdown. Having your (voluminous) books on my shelf is a comfort and provides a pasttime.  
 
Oh, sorry, one more question: have you seen the documentary "The Battered Bastards of Baseball" about the 1970s Portland Mavericks? I liked it very much.
Asked by: MidnighttheCat

Answered: 4/5/2020
 1)  I also enjoyed that video very much.
 
2)  The thought about Paige being a member of the Juan Marichal Family is good one.  I see a lot of similarities there--superb control, working hard on upsetting the batter's timing, etc.
 
3)  Mel Stottlemyre.. . .we always believed that Stottlemyre got a lot of ground balls, and would put him in a Ground Ball family, but we don't have (historically) good systematic records, commonly available, on Double Play Support, which would limit our ability to form those families.  
 
4)  I've tried the "families" thing several times, but here was my failure.  When you think about "real" families, there are all kinds of different relationships, which fade gradually from 100% (Identical twins) to brothers, siblings, fathers and sons, cousins, second cousins, nephews and nieces, etc., and there is never a point at which two people are clearly not in the same family.  
 
THe same is true in "baseball families", and I never built that in.  I always used a system in which two players either were in the same family or were not, and that doesn't really work.   I realize now that the way to make it work is to better define the relationships. 

 

HeyBill: given our lock-up due to COVID, are you seeing an increase in questions, responses to your articles,  and/or an increase in User Posts? I know I've been babbling more on all three areas. You too, it seems to me, have been way more active on your website. Could be an interesting data collection: activity on your site plotted vs date. Seasonal swings?  Crisis swings? Could be a fun plot to see.
Asked by: FrankD

Answered: 4/4/2020
 I set a goal this year of answering Hey, Bill questions 300 days on the year.   In January I did not do well, but I have not missed a day since (checks the record). . .I wasn't doing well through January 26, and then starting January 27th I have been doing it every day, except that I missed February 1 and February 14 for some reason.   That's not connected to Covidity.   I assume that most of the increase in questions is due to the fact that I'm on here and responding regularly.  
 
As of January 26 I had responded to Hey, Bill questions on only 4 of 26 days, or 15.4%, which would mean that I would have to do 296 of 340 days the rest of the year, or 87.1%.   But now I have increased my percentage to 72.6%, and I have to do 85.2% for the rest of the year. 

 

In regards to the Royals story, I remember it well for some reason. They were in Milwaukee at the time, and on Saturday night, after the game, someone broke into the Royals locker room and stole a bunch of uniforms, equipment and other items.  
 
Some of the Royals wore their regular road jerseys, but a few others wore the Brewers road jerseys.  It was a Sunday day game on television in Kansas City, and one of the weirdest things I ever seen in a game was Al Cowens wearing a Brewers uniform for Royals. I think because it was his number 18. Maybe there was a rule about wearing an assigned number or something. Or maybe they didn't carry any extra uniforms on the road.  
 
 
Asked by: 77royals

Answered: 4/4/2020
 Thanks.  

 

Your comments about Reggie Jackson reminded me of my favorite Gene Mauch story.  
 
When Reggie was with the Angels, he was taking batting practice and saw a sportswriter near the cage who had been critical of Jackson in a recent article.  With each swing, Jackson yelled obscenities at the writer, embarrassing him in front of a group of people.  Mauch, the Angels manager, saw what was going on and quietly walked over to the cage and stood next to the writer.  Jackson saw Mauch, shut his mouth, took a few more swings, and walked away.  Mauch then turned to the writer and said, "There's one on every team."    
Asked by: Riorunner

Answered: 4/4/2020
 Thank you.   Thank you so much.  That's a story that belongs in a book.  

 

The first time I ever noticed Bob Feller appearing in a news story was when Dwight Gooden was at his peak, so around 1985/86. In 1985 Gooden was 21, very lithe with that wicked curve.... I still think Gooden at that moment was the best pitcher I ever saw. Anyway some journalist went to Feller, the OTHER super-famous star pitcher who had a dominant early phase, and solicited a comment about all the career records Gooden might break and Feller's comment was something like, "I'll believe it when I see it." Which at the time seemed like an impossibly churlish answer, a bit as if you said today Pat Mahomes is probably not going to make the All-Star team next year. But obviously, Feller knew what he was talking about and the journalist didn't -- Gooden didn't break any records. And more to the point, I think you can see that "Reggie Jackson" side of him coming out there. He just was not going to play the "Gosh, Gooden is So Great" game.
Asked by: wovenstrap

Answered: 4/4/2020
 That's right.  Thanks.  

 

Hi Bill. In your Popular Crime book, you provided a small paragraph on Lawrencia Bembenek (aka Bambi). Have you looked into the case in depth? Just curious. Being from Milwaukee, I've always been fascinated by the case.
Asked by: tommyr

Answered: 4/4/2020
 Depends by what you mean "In Depth".  I have read at least one book about the case; if there are two books about the case I'm sure I would have read them both.  I've read anything that is easy to find on the web about the case, and I have seen probably a dozen true crime shows about the case.   It's an extremely unusual and extremely interesting case.  
 
My impression is that she was framed for the murder, that she was innocent of it.  But I would not claim to know enough about it that I am certain of the facts one way or the other, and I couldn't really site any facts about the case off the top of my head. . . .couldn't tell you whether something happened in 1975 or 1985.   

 

Feller returned Stateside in March of 1945 (Great Lake Naval Training Center) and coached ball there, where he likely posed for a great many photos with men going TO Europe for the remaining few months of the war.  However, it does not appear that he ever set foot in Europe during the war.  Until '43 the Alabama served as a convoy in the North Atlantic.  After that, it was all Pacific theater.  The Navy (and Feller) were justifiably proud that the Alabama never lost a man to hostile action during the war.  
The tour is well-worth it, if you find yourself on the Gulf.
Asked by: Michael P

Answered: 4/4/2020
 THanks.  Obviously, the fact that the USS Alabama did not go to Europe is not proof that Bob Feller did not go to Europe, but I appreciate your information.  

 

About Bob Feller’s late-in-life controversy: Might it have been the time in 2005 he told a radio interviewer "A lot of the players coming from the Caribbean, they don’t even know the rules," which led to an argument and Feller hanging up? That would seem to have fit the bill.
Asked by: DaveNJnews

Answered: 4/4/2020
 That actually is NOT the one I was thinking about, but that illustrates the syndrome perfectly.   He said things that he would have been better off not to say, and he did that consistently for 80 years.   He wasn't a BAD person; in many ways he was a remarable person.   But he could be inconsiderate.  

 

 
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