Hey Bill

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Have you ever explained why it is you dislike Joey Gallo? His offensive numbers with Texas are well above average, he's considered an excellent fielder with a strong arm. I haven't seen him play much and I know he was terrible with the Yankees, but I don't understand. Thanks.
Asked by: manhattanhi

Answered: 10/22/2021
 I don't dislike Joey Gallo.  It started as a kind of an in joke with Mike Petriello, way back when Gallo was in the minor leagues.  Petriello always loved Joey Gallo, whereas I thought he would hit .190 in the majors, which he does, but I would say that I didn't really appreciate how much he could do with a .190 average.   Eventually I think I kept playing that line after the joke was worked out and it was just annoying Petriello, but anyway. . ..
There is an issue here that 1970s/1980s sabermetrics doesn't capture.  I developed the idea of Secondary Average to give appropriate credit to players like Joe Morgan, Gene Tenace, Mike Schmidt and others who had a low "base" of the batting average but a broad range of skills, and who thus were much better hitters than their batting average suggested.  Contemporary examples of that type would be like Juan Soto, Bryce Harper, Shohei Ohtani, Kyle Scwarber and Max Muncy.  Everybody knows that now, but the idea met a lot of resistance in the 1970s and 1980s.    A Matty Alou/Rod Carew type hitter is like a Pyramid shaped talent, with a .330 average at the base but very narrow skills on top of it.  The extreme types of that, like Alou and Carew, don't really exist anymore, but you still have players like that around, like Nicky Lopez and Jose Iglesias,   And then you have the George Brett/Stan Musial type of hitter, whose batting average is a fair representation of his overall offensive skills.  Contemporary examples of that group would be Kolten Wong, Trea Turner, Manuel Margot and Alex Bregman.  
So you could represent the Carew/Alou type hitter, of whom there used to be many, as a Pyramid Hitter, with a broad base and not much at the top. I suppose I should explain for younger readers that what Carew really did was just put the bat head on the ball and flip the ball over the infield.  He made it look simple, but he had no bat speed, but he handled a ball at the knees brilliantly by just getting the bat head out there quick enough to loft the ball onto the outfield grass.  The Brett/Bregman type hitter is like a square, and the Tenace/Morgan/Joey Gallo type of hitter is like an inverted pyramid.  
But there may be a problem with that type of hitter if you take that too far, or if you get too many of them.   The Houston Astros are the team that is ahead of the curve.  They don't want anything to do with that kind of player, the Joey Gallo type hitter.  But what they do so brilliantly is they balance the home run/walk skills with guys with the Rod Carew put-the-bat-head-on-the-ball type of skills.  They have a lot of "square" talents.  They're tough to beat.  


Wade Boggs sure seemed to go the other way to play pepper with the Monster.  His home park doubles totals don't do anything to dissuade this.  Which gets to the point of a player's statistics shouldn't be adjusted for what he did in his home park, but for the overall run environment that he faced.
Asked by: 3for3

Answered: 10/22/2021
 Well, I would agree with the second part of that.  But I was just reading the Wade Boggs entry in Joe Posnanski's "The Baseball 100" yesterday, and it would appear to me that that was just Boggs; that was just the way he played the game.  I don't think it had much to do with Fenway Park.  


I loved the franchise strength article! The  average franchise strength by decade got me thinking about the issue of measuring the improvement in quality of play. I wonder if one could use your average franchise strength as a quality of play index and adjust past palyers to the modern era in that way?  
An example:  
The average franchise strength in 1920 was 281, and in 2021 it is 458. That is a ratio of .6135 for 1920 to 458. If we apply that number to Babe Ruth's 1920 season:  
.231 AVG, .326 OBP, .520 SLG, .846 OPS, 33 HR  
That puts Babe 35th in the league in OPS above Manny Machado, Kris Bryant, and Jose Altuve.  
If this is viable logic, I'm certain you could tweak things to make the system much better, but to me, at least, that is a believable stat line if 1920 Babe Ruth was imported into the 2021 MLB.  
Do you think franchise strength could be used this way to unlock quality of play analysis?
Asked by: Josh

Answered: 10/22/2021
 I wouldn't say "unlock" quality of play analysis.   I think it could CONTRIBUTE to the discussion.  
But I would emphasize that if you are going to use it in this way, you need to be sure that the Franchise Strength Indicator ITSELF is refined and re-evaluated as a part of the process.  I have had this problem over the years, that sometimes people pick up my projects and use them for other purposes--which I am very glad that they do, and I am proud that they do--but they don't refine them over time, so that those parts of the system get stuck in time.   To give you a couple of for-instances (and I promise you there are quite a few more). . . but, for example, "Replacement Level" was my idea.  But when WAR was developed it used Replacement Level, but locked the concept in place at a fairly primitive level, which damages WAR.   A more sophisticated concept of replacement level would lead to a better WAR.   Or another example; similarity scores.  I am glad that the idea survived and is used and is useful for people, but they use a very primitive Similarity Score process.  It would be much more useful if it used a more nuanced version of Similarity Scores.  


Last follow-up to kgh's question (Oct 4) about the Mets playing a whopping number of 1-run and extra inning games.  
The Mets did play 66 one-run games in 2021, going 31-35. The previous record for 1-run games was 58 by the '71 Astros and '93 Royals.  
The Mets played 84 one-run and extra inning games, also a record. Prior record was 77 ('68 ChiSox). The Mets went .500 in those games, 42-42.  
The 2021 Braves played 57 one-run games, good for 4th all-time percentage-wise. They only went 26-31 - even a worse WPct than the Mets (.456 to .470).  
The Braves played 71 one-run and extra inning games, 44.1%, tied for 10th all-time. They went 31-40 in those games.  
The Mets easily played the highest % of 1-run games and the highest % of 1-run + extra inning games ever. They broke even in those games, finishing 4.5 games AHEAD of the Braves in those games. Meaning in other games, the Braves finished 16 games ahead of the Mets.
Asked by: clayyearsley

Answered: 10/22/2021
 Thank you, sir.  I appreciate your research. 


It seems inevitable that baseball will go to computer calling of balls and strikes. It seems the technology is close. Any idea what issues remain before technology takes over?
Asked by: whc1999

Answered: 10/22/2021
 Can't say that I have thought about it that much.   Obviously negotiating with the umpire's union could be a significant problem.  I hope they do it the way I have been arguing for for the last 40 years, which is to have the umpire call the balls and strikes, but to have him get guidance from an electronic signal that will tell him whether the ball was in or out.  He can ignore the electronic signal if he wants to, but realistically, he's not going to want to very often.  


Hey Bill, to your knowledge, do Red Sox hitters swing any differently in Fenway compared to on the road because of the Green Monster?
Asked by: dfan

Answered: 10/21/2021
 I would think that would be a dangerous practice, to try to change what your doing for the park.  Hitting is really hard if you DON'T do stuff like that.  
I would guess that there are some veteran hitters who might be able to adapt their swing to the park, and I would guess that there are some hitters who, for example. . . a left-handed hitter might swat at an outside pitch in Fenway when he would let it go by in another park.  I don't think it is anything that you can do systematically or do as a team policy.  


Hey Bill, regarding the idea that a hitter should be able to decline a walk, there’s a fantastic clip of Albert Belle in extra innings flatly refusing to take first after being hit by pitch. It’s also a good intro to this youtube channel, if you’re unfamiliar, which does a wonderful job breaking down colorful baseball incidents with A+ lipreading skills  
Asked by: PB

Answered: 10/21/2021


This is really a comment rather than a question, but others do it, so...  
I remember reading in one of your books about the "decline a walk" rule. I like the concept somewhat, but would go for the "weaker" version you gave as an alternative, where if the walk is declined the balls go down to zero but any strikes remain.  
As you'd said, usually that would force the pitcher to give the hitter one good pitch as almost no one would turn down the walk to hit behind in the count. I think reverting to 0-0 is not fair to the pitcher, who might have walked the batter on a 3-2 pitch, so he was pitching to him and he loses those strikes.  
Aesthetically, I'd also have the batter be the one who must decline the walk instead of the manager. Generally the manager would make the real decision, by sign. Rarely a player might refuse, but then it's like any other such conflict.  
A declined walk stat would be needed so a declined walk followed by an out could be different stat-wise than just an out.
Asked by: Anyone

Answered: 10/21/2021


One of the great mysteries of my life concerns the dust jacket of the first Historical Abstract. An issue of the weekly very small-town newspaper, "The Boyertown Times" shows up with the headline "Town is Buzzing with Baseball" in the lower part of the book's back, stretching onto the spine. I am sure this is a late August 1983 edition and the reference is to Boyertown, PA hosting the American Legion World Series.  
I cannot piece together how anyone selecting baseball-related material for that cover display would have had an issue of that newspaper laying around.  
I would love to know the story.  
Asked by: mathias2

Answered: 10/21/2021
 I don't know.  I didn't have anything to do with the cover art.  I just know that the cover designer found some guy who had a lot of baseball memorabilia and staged an array of it.  


Hey Bill:  re offense accepting a walk. I really like the idea that the offense can decline a walk, with possible more severe outcomes if the defense continues to refuse to pitch strikes to the current batter. In co-ed slo-pitch men and women bat alternately. If a man is walked then the offense team can either let the following woman bat or the walked man goes to second and the woman to first ..... I know many/some would complain about your rule taking strategy away from the defense but I think it would make the game more exciting.
Asked by: FrankD

Answered: 10/19/2021


I've been following Mookie Betts since he came to the Dodgers.  It seems to me that he is always in the middle of things when something good happens to the Dodgers.  He'll steal a base, make a smart running play, get a hit, a walk, hit a homer and make a great defensive play, or a throw to get the job done.  He's a winner.  I'm impressed.  I don't think you should call him clutch, but I want him on my team.  In the must win game against the Giants, he went 4-4, with a stolen base and a run scored.  Almost enough to win the game.  
Asked by: mauimike

Answered: 10/19/2021
 Not sure what the question was, but. . . Mookie is about as good a player as you are likely to see in one lifetime.  


Hey Bill, is it just my personal misperception that there are not as many really great outfield throwing arms as there were decades ago? My perception is that even many of the guys broadcasters tout as having cannons don't actually throw nearly as well as Barfield or Whiten or Bo or even a Ruben Sierra. Am I just succumbing to the same fallacy that made old timers claim Walter threw much harder than Feller? Is the more conservative baserunning of modern baseball just creating fewer opportunities for outfielders to kill baserunners? Jackie Bradley, though, that's the one guy that can REALLY uncork one.
Asked by: Zeth

Answered: 10/19/2021
 It's just your perception, yes.  Mookie Betts throws as well as Roberto Clemente.  Hunter Renfro has an absolutely fantastic arm.  Joey Gallo, Aaron Judge, Bryce Haper, Ronald Acuna. . .these guys have tremendous arms.  Just my perception, perhaps.  


Hey, Bill. I know you have strong feelings about Charlie Finley. Who doesn't? But what do you think the chances of the Athletics would have been remaining in Kansas City even if Finley had NOT bought the team?  
The A.L. expansion team in Los Angeles for 1961 was nearly all set to go to Hank Greenberg and Bill Veeck. Veeck would have had to sell his shares in the White Sox. And who had purchased an option to buy his shares? Yes, Charlie Finley. But the Dodgers Walter O'Malley demanded too many concessions; Greenberg's group pulled out and Gene Autry stepped in. So Finley then set his sights on the Athletics.  
It's my understanding the other offers to the Arnold Johnson Estate for the Athletics were much weaker than Finley's and the club would have been in a poor financial state. Lou Perini wasn't really desperate to sell the Braves, so the Athletics might have been even more at risk than the Braves for a group like William Bartholomay's to swoop in and move the franchise to Atlanta.
Asked by: DefenseHawk

Answered: 10/18/2021
 The chance they would have stayed in KC was 100%.  I don't see any relevance here to the Angels side story or speculation about the the Braves. 
There were other groups and other individuals who could have bought the A's after Arnold Johnson went to his grave.  Johnson's estate, naturally but not inevitably, was really just interested in getting as much money as they could.   Finley made the highest offer. 
 It was Charles Finley's personal choice to get out of Kansas City.  He was determined to do that, and he was talking about moving the team SOMEWHERE, anywhere, as soon as his initial efforts to be a Bill Veeck-type showman failed. In this, he was vigorously opposed by the American League, which repeatedly told him that he could not move the franchise.  At one point the American League voted to take the franchise away from him over this issue, but there was a court fight over that, and the American League lost.  
Finley was determined to move the team.  He disliked KC, and blamed KC city leaders and KC fans for failing to see his genius.  He never made any effort to work with the Kansas City community.  It's 100% his doing that the A's failed in KC, and Finley himself said later in lilfe that moving the team out of Kansas City was a huge mistake.  


I guess with the news that the Yankees fired (excuse  me, won't renew the contract of) Phil Nevin, we can presume that Aaron Boone did not stick his neck out for Nevin as far as Howser did for Mike Ferraro those many years ago.  Still cannot believe The Boss fired a man after he won 103 games in his first season as a manager.
Asked by: bhalbleib

Answered: 10/18/2021
 Right.  Steinbrenner always believed that short-season success should be a controllable event.  When he actually ENJOYED short-season success in his early years, he thought that that should be  a repeatable thing.  
To Steinbrenner--like Charley Finley--the success of his team was his image in the mirror.  If the team didn't win, he just couldn't stand it.  It's the same thing. . . and I don't mean this to be hateful, because there are positive things about personalities of this nature. . . .but Steinbrenner was a Trump-like personality.   He fired Howser for the exact same reasons that Trump could not accept defeat in the 2020 election.  That kind of personality often just cannot handle setbacks in a mature way.  In history, those kind of personalities have started many wars for the same reason.  


I've been thinking a lot about how Barry Bonds at his peak hit 73 HR's against pitchers who were actively avoiding him. He was consistently drawing 150-200+ walks because pitchers were scared to throw him anything hittable. He could easily get just 1 hittable pitch in a 3 game series which surely depressed his home run totals.  
In a hypothetical world where pitchers pitched to Bonds like he was a regular average lefty slugger like Joc Pederson, do you believe he could hit 100 Home Runs in a season? I don't see why a player like Bonds, McGwire, or even Ruth couldn't even achieve that feat in a world where pitchers looked at them as average players and never adjusted that belief.
Asked by: Taylor

Answered: 10/18/2021
 Yes, such a player could hit 100 or more home runs if not pitched around.  
i believe that baseball would benefit from a rule that allows a manager to decline a walk on behalf of a player--any player, any time.   The manager can simply say  "No, I don't want the walk.  Pitch to him."   The count reverts to 0-0.  If you walk him again, a second time, it becomes a different type of event, either an "advance walk" if there is are runners on base (that is, the batter walks and all runners advance) or a two-base walk if there are no runners on (that is, the batter goes to second base.)  
The strategy of pitching/not pitching to a hitter becomes more interesting if the offensive team has a response available to them, rahter than being forced to comply with the pitching team's strategic choice.  
THe intention of the walk rule, obviously, was to allow the batting team to declare victory if the pitcher failed to make hittable pitches.   The intent of the rule is to force the pitcher to pitch to the batter.   If you don't throw him three hittable pitches, he wins; he gets to take his base. 
But this rule fails if the pitcher would CHOOSE the walk, rather than pitching to the hitter.  Thus, the offensive manager needs to be able to respond to the defensive manager's choice.  


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