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15 Most Recent Questions

I’ve been a pretty big fan of baseball history for over 50 years, and I’m constantly learning new stuff.  Today I learned that Claude Passeau pitched a one hit, complete game shutout in the 1945 World Series.  Is this the least well known great performance in World Series history?
Asked by: evanecurb

Answered: 2/20/2020
 It's news to me.  

 

I don't think the real point has been made about Yaz. The two highest single season WARs by a position player (a non-pitcher) were by Babe Ruth in 1923 (14.1) and by the Babe in 1921 (12.9). Very few would guess the third highest WAR in history. It was by Yaz in 1968 (12.5). His 1968 season was better than any by the guy he replaced, Ted Williams, and better than any season by Wagner, Cobb, Hornsby, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Mays, Bonds, Trout, or anyone else in baseball history. In 1968 Yaz had an WAR of 10.5, the (tied) 32-38th best season ever, and in 1970 9.5, the 87-90th best in history. But virtually all of his other seasons ranged from just okay to good, that's all. That's quite different from Musial, as Maris61 pointed out, who had many more good seasons, and from Al Simmons, who never reached these peaks- probably different from anyone else. Yaz. had the proven potential to be one of the 6 or 8 best players in history, but went downhill. The question is why.
Asked by: wdr1946

Answered: 2/20/2020
 That illustrates the problems with WAR more vividly than it does Yastrzemski's greatness.  Which relates to an article that I should be posting within two or three hours here.    Win Shares agrees with WAR that Yastrzemski had a wonderful season in 1968 and probably was the Most Valuable Player in that season, but does not agree that his '68 season is greater than his '67 season, or that it is on a par with Williams' best seasons.
 
On "The question is why". .. no one has actually established that Yaz' decline pattern is unusual; therefore, the question is NOT why, but whether this is true.  

 

Maybe to add to the Yaz question: I wouldn't much go by "WAR" either, so immediately I checked how it looks by Win Shares (per the data on this site) -- and it shows similarly: Best 3 seasons are 42, 39, 36; the next best are 29, 26, and three 24's. (P) Musial shows a much smoother and more impressive pattern: (not chronological but from highest on down) 46, 44, 40, 39, 39, 38, 37, 33, 30, 29, 28, 26, 25.
Asked by: MarisFan61

Answered: 2/19/2020
 OK.  

 

On the issue of Bill Fitch relaying info that he saw on TV in the locker room in 1991 vs the Sixer - not only wasn't it against the rules, he didn't try to hide it.  From an article in the paper the following day.  (KC was an assistant coach at the time)  
 
------  
Fitch said he found some advantages to watching the game from the locker room.  
 
''When Billy Cunningham drew a play,'' he said, referring to the 76er coach, ''the cameras zoomed in and you could see everything that was happening and I could relay it to the bench. K.C. did a super job.''  
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Asked by: lidsky

Answered: 2/19/2020
 Thanks.  Not sure how you could convey that much information by pounding on a GatorAid can.. . .

 

As to the idea of a Red Sox book, I don't think (a) it has to be a book, or (b) you have to be unkind to anyone. About a week ago I flashed to the informative article you wrote about the arbitration process in This Time Let's Not Eat the Bones. I think maybe a slightly longer version of that would be something that the Sox could live with and would satiate the desire of your fans to get your mostly candid impressions of how a front office works. I hope you do it.
Asked by: wovenstrap

Answered: 2/19/2020
 Thanks. 

 

Following up on the question regarding the Astros and their sign stealing.  How would you construct an analysis to measure the benefit (if it exists).  I believe, and from your comments I think you agree, that the benefit was not significant  I did take a look at the Astros stats and noted from 2016 to 2017 their strikeouts  for non-pitchers dropped by 372 or 26% in one year which looks to be unusual.  When I took a deeper dive my, analysis indicated that half came from their change in rosters, elimination of 1800 PA from high K hitters (Rasmus, Castro, Valbuena and Gomez) with 2000 PA from better contact hitters (Reddick, Beltran, McCann and Aoki).  The rest was largely due to three hitters rate improving.  Gattis who went from 26% to 15% but then went right back up to 23% the next year.  Bregman who dropped from 24% to 16% but that was from a rookie year and his rate in the minors was 10%.  The only one I could see that dropped and stayed was Springer from 24% to 18%.  
 
Thanks
Asked by: willibphx

Answered: 2/19/2020
 It is inherently difficult to measure the impact of something which is done in secret.  There are dozens of books with book jackets claiming that so and so is "America's worst serial murderer", and when we published The Man from the Train, the publisher was going to put that on the cover.  It's impossible to know who the worst serial murderer was, because murder is done in secret; in fact, that is one of two traditional definitions of murder (1. An unlawful killing, 2. A killing done in secret.)  You can't measure what is done in secret; you can only make rough estimates.  This is the same problem.  

 

BBref has his name as "Stanley Frank Musial" and his SABR-bio has it  "Stanislaus Francis Musial." Where'd you get "Stanislaw Franciszek Musial" from?  Just curious.
Asked by: 337

Answered: 2/19/2020
 That's not what I had, I don't think; I think I had Francezek or something.   I googled Stan Musial birth name, and several sources came up with that name.  

 

Hey, Bill--Carl Yastrzemski came up today in Joe Posnanski's excellent project counting down the 100 greatest baseball players. Yaz is rightly regarded as an all-time great, but his career always struck me as unusual. He posted three of the greatest seasons ever, showing his greatness wasn't an outlier like 2011 Jacoby Ellsbury, etc. But the rest of his long career seems very solid, though not spectacular. It seems unlikely that someone who played 23 seasons, and was capable of posting multiple 10+ WAR seasons, never once had a 9, 8, or 7 WAR season, and only one 6 WAR season. If you removed his 3 best seasons and, based on the rest of his career, had to guess how he performed in those missing seasons, I'd probably guess 5-6 WAR--but instead he essentially doubled that performance. Is this as unusual as it seems to me? Thanks.
Asked by: Jaunty Rockefeller

Answered: 2/18/2020
 Every player. ..well, every good player.  Every good player's career is unique in one way or another.  You may be focusing on the way in which Yastrzemski's career is unique; I don't know.  I don't think in terms of WAR, so I can't confirm or deny that the WAR pattern is unusual.  My guess would be that there are other players who have three great seasons and a dropoff after the third, but I can't say that I could demonstrate that. 
 
I have written about this before, but I've been struck by how many similarities there are between Yastrzemski and Musial.  Both were left-handed hitting outfielders, essentially; Musial also played a lot at first base, and Musial also played quite a bit in center and right, but both were essentially left-handed hitting outfielders.  Both had Eastern European names, Polish or Czech or something; Musial's birth name was Stanislaw Franciszek Musial.  Both had famously unusual batting stances, Musial with a very closed stance and spinning his upper body with his swing, Yaz with the bat held very high.  Both came to the majors young, Musial briefly at age 20 but really at 21, Yaz at age 21.  Musial won his first batting title at age 22, his second at age 25; Yaz won his first at age 23.  At age 25 he was second in the league in hitting, but led in both on base percentage and slugging percentage.  
 
Through age 26 both hit lots of doubles, but not too many home runs.  Through age 26 each man had led the league in doubles three times, but Musial's career high in home runs was 19, Yastrzemski's was 20.  But both had power explosions at the age of 27, Musial hitting 39 home runs, and Yastrzemski 44.   Both had their greatest seasons at that age, but both played well into their 40s, Musial hitting .330 when he was 41 years old.  
 
Al Simmons (born Aloysius Harry Szymanski) has much of the same fact pattern, and I noticed within the last year that there is actually a fourth player who has pretty much the same fact pattern, but being old and prone to forget things I don't write down, I don't remember now who it was.  

 

Hey Bill,  
 
      Sometime around 2005 or 2006 we had lunch in Toronto during the SABR convention.  You mentioned that your contract with the Red Sox did not prohibit you from writing a book about your tenure with them at some point.  I am wondering, do you plan to write that book now?  I'm sure it would sell a lot of copies in New England! Thanks.  
                           David Kaiser
Asked by: KaiserD2

Answered: 2/18/2020
 It's kind of on the list.  I need to write up my book ideas, decide what I want to do, get to New York and find a publisher for one.  That's one possibility.   But. . .well, there's a line in Ball Four, Jim Bouton quotes somebody who had written a book (I forget who) as saying "I'd better read that thing and make sure I didn't say anything about anybody."   That's kind of where I am. I'm too old to be making enemies.  

 

With the new roster limit taking effect, what do you consider to be the optimal use of roster spaces? I appreciate that it will vary with specific circumstances and available personnel, but in the general case, should you max out the number of pitchers permitted? Should you prioritize bats off the bench, platoon opportunities, versatility...?
Asked by: Rich Dunstan

Answered: 2/18/2020
 That would be more along the lines of an 8,000-page study, rather than a "Hey, Bill" question.  

 

In your twitter feed you asked if there had ever been an NBA cheating scandal.  Back in 1981 the NBA let the networks show the teams' huddles during timeouts.  In a game against the 76ers, Celtics coach Bill Fitch was ejected late in the third quarter.  The Celtics were ahead at the time.  Fitch watched the game in the locker room and relayed the 76ers plans to his team's bench.  The Celtics won by 5 points.  They won the tie-breaker.  With the home court advantage they rallied to beat the 76ers in 7 games.  Did this move justify disciplinary action?  Would there be disciplinary action if it happened today?
Asked by: LesLein

Answered: 2/18/2020
 Kind of depends on whether or not it was a violation of a rule, doesn't it?  

 

Hey Bill,  
 
This question is about tanking in baseball.  It's specifically about what the Orioles are doing, which I believe is modeled on the 2011-13 Astros model.    
 
Is this type of strategy good for baseball in the long run?  I know as an Orioles fan, I hate it in the short run.  There were four 100 loss teams last season, which is reminiscent of 1930s baseball in terms of competitive balance.  
Asked by: evanecurb

Answered: 2/16/2020
 (a) it is obviously terrible for baseball.   It's actually more of a problem in the NBA than it is in baseball.
 
(b)  I don't think it works, at all. 
 
(c)  I don't agree that that is how the Astros got to be powerhouse.  

 

Hey Bill, still love the site. What the Astros did for three years was absolutely wrong and against the rules of the game at that time. In 2017 and 2018, they scored significantly fewer runs at home and won 16 fewer games at home.  In 2019, they scored more runs at home and won more games at home.  It doesn’t seem this system they used, helped them in a significant way.  Do the dodgers and Yankees have a case for vacating the results of the 2017 season?
Asked by: hammer2525

Answered: 2/16/2020
 No; if you go down the road of vacating championships, you will never reach the end of the road.  Only the NCAA does stupid shit like that.   Sensible people don't.  
 
There isn't a lot of reason to believe that the Astros--or any other team--derived large benefits from stealing signs.  But as you say, it is wrong whether you derive large benefits or not.  

 

What was your first choice re: rule changes for pitching changes mid-inning?  For what it's worth, mine was no warm-ups on the mound (didn't they warm up in the pen?) and giving the first batter an automatic 2-0 count.
Asked by: jimmybart

Answered: 2/16/2020
 I've written about it many times.  

 

Your comment that the US may eventually split up is striking; I remember the first time you mentioned it, and it's also in Gore Vidal's writings (it struck me then, too). Two points: (1) you've got vegans driving around in Volvos in Dallas while there are guys driving pickup trucks and listening to country music in dense Nassau County, New York. That's why both blue AND red states, save for a half-dozen or so, are only 60/40 split voting between parties, max. Texas was 52/43 for 2016. Are these ratios enough for secession/splitting? I don't know. (2) the US has a shared culture that is not MAINLY based on ethnicity or religion. Where else, sans Canada (maybe Russia?) can you can drive 3000 miles and get out of your car, and everyone will be speaking the same language, shopping in the same stores, and generally caring about the same things (sports, taxes, gas prices, schools, etc.). We barbecue in the summer and ski in the winter, and watch football whenever it's on. We ARE Americans.
Asked by: rtallia

Answered: 2/15/2020
OK, but don't blind yourself to the issues.  The sectional splits are getting worse.  You may enjoy driving cross-country, but to many people, the center of the country is just a void that you have to fly over.  The voting spli,ts are not 80/20, but they have the effect of paralyzing the political process, making it impossible to solve problems that would be relavtively easy to address with some shared values.   Organized minorities are attempting to force some populations to accept things that they have never voted for, and in some cases absolutely will not accept.  It is not self-evident that WalMart will hold us together forever.  

 

 
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