Old Ideas

August 22, 2014

                A long, long time ago, 1980s, I used to rely heavily on the concept of Secondary Average.    Secondary Average is

                Extra Bases on Hits

                Plus Walks

                Plus Stolen Bases

                Divided by At Bats.

 

                I like Secondary Average because it operates historically on the same scale as batting average, but focuses on the other things a hitter does, other than hit for average.  As is true of batting average, .260, .270 is the norm throughout most of baseball history, but the spread is wider than batting average.   Some players will hit .260 but with a Secondary Average of .120; others will hit .260 but with a Secondary Average of .450.    If a player hits .280 but with a Secondary Average of .150, he’s not really going to create many runs, whereas if he hits .250 but with a Secondary Average of .400, he’ll change the scoreboard.   I’ve demonstrated this before, many times, but not in the last five or six years, so I’m going to look at it again.

                Secondary Average doesn’t resonate the way that it used to because people don’t take Batting Average so seriously anymore.  When fans evaluated hitters primarily by their batting averages, Secondary Averages were a really useful concept.   Since fans no longer rely on batting averages in the way they once did, Secondary Averages are less relevant, so whereas I used to write about this every year, I no longer do.   The highest Secondary Average ever (400 or more plate appearances) was 1.088, by Barry Bonds in 2004, whereas the lowest ever was .034, by Mike Slattery in 1884.   Bonds in that one season was the only player over 1.000, and the lowest since 1900 was .062, by Hal Lanier in 1968.    Lanier, with 486 at bats, had 14 doubles, one triple, no homers, 12 walks and 2 stolen bases.

                The steroid era kind of ruined the stat, Secondary Average, because phenomenal numbers became commonplace.  Before 1990, if you had a .400 Secondary Average, that was terrific.  In 1989 there were 11 major league regulars (400 or more PA) who had secondary averages of .400 or higher, led by Jack Clark at .521; Clark and Rickey Henderson were the dominant Secondary Average guys of that era.   Then in 2000 you have 40 players over .400, led by Bonds at .648 and Giambi at .586. . ..Mark McGwire must have been hurt that year, because he was always in the .600-.700 range as well, sometimes higher.  When you destroy the norms you destroy the stat.  If there were 20 no-hitters in a season a no-hitter would lose its significance.   If a player hits .400 in the next decade that will be a wonder, but if 20 players hit .400 in the next decade that would be a travesty.   The steroid era made a travesty of the norms in Secondary Average.

                Anyway, as we are getting control of the PEDs, the norms are coming back to reality.   In 2013 there were eleven players who had secondary averages of .400 or higher—the same number as in 1989.   The leaders in 2013 were:

 

First

Last

AB

H

2B

3B

HR

BB

SB

Batting

Average

Secondary Average

Chris

Davis

584

167

42

1

53

72

4

.286

.478

Mike

Trout

589

190

39

9

27

110

33

.323

.477

Miguel

Cabrera

555

193

26

1

44

90

3

.348

.456

Carlos

Gonzalez

391

118

23

6

26

41

21

.302

.448

Paul

Goldschmidt

602

182

36

3

36

99

15

.302

.439

Edwin

Encarnacion

530

144

29

1

36

82

7

.272

.430

Joey

Votto

581

177

30

3

24

135

6

.305

.429

Shin-Soo

Choo

569

162

34

2

21

112

20

.285

.409

David

Ortiz

518

160

38

2

30

76

4

.309

.409

Jose

Bautista

452

117

24

0

28

69

7

.259

.407

Giancarlo

Stanton

425

106

26

0

24

74

1

.249

.407

 

                Jose Bautista and Giancarlo hit .259 and .249, but were productive players because they had secondary averages over .400.    On the other hand, J. B. Shuck and Marco Scutaro hit close to .300, but didn’t really do much to create runs:

 

First

Last

AB

H

2B

3B

HR

BB

SB

Batting Average

Secondary Average

Placido

Polanco

377

98

13

0

1

23

2

.260

.109

Jeff

Keppinger

423

107

13

1

4

20

0

.253

.111

Alcides

Escobar

607

142

20

4

4

19

22

.234

.133

Pete

Kozma

410

89

20

0

1

34

3

.217

.146

Adeiny

Hechavarria

543

123

14

8

3

30

11

.227

.147

Mark

Ellis

433

117

13

2

6

26

4

.270

.150

J.B.

Shuck

437

128

20

3

2

27

8

.293

.153

Starlin

Castro

666

163

34

2

10

30

9

.245

.161

Marco

Scutaro

488

145

23

3

2

45

2

.297

.168

Ichiro

Suzuki

520

136

15

3

7

26

20

.262

.169

 

                The importance of secondary average, as opposed to batting average, can be demonstrated by focusing on the RUN columns of the batter’s record—runs scored, and RBI.   We can do this in two ways, which are Run Average and the Run/Hit ratio.      Run Average is (Runs + RBI)/ At Bats.   Run/Hit Ratio is (Runs + RBI) / Hits.     The norm in run average is essentially the same as the norm in Batting Average or Secondary Average, somewhere between .250 and .290, whereas the norm in the Run/Hit Ratio is about 1.00. 

                Alex Rodriguez in 1998 and Ichiro Suzuki in 2008 each had 686 at bats and 213 hits, but A-Rod had a secondary average of .382; Ichiro, of .213.

 

OldIdeas1

 

                Kenny Lofton in 1996 and Felipe Alou in 1968 each had 210 hits in 662 at bats, but Lofton scored and drove in more runs because he had a much higher secondary average:

 

OldIdeas2

 

                Bobby Bonds in 1973 and Frankie Baumholtz in 1947 each had 182 hits in 643 at bats, but Bonds had a secondary average of .443, whereas Baumholtz was at .198:

 

OldIdeas3

 

                Billy Williams in 1967 and Bill Russell in 1977 each had 176 hits in 634 at bats, but Williams’ secondary average was more than twice Russell’s.

 

OldIdeas4

 

                I have about a thousand more of those if anybody wants to see them.  These are the Run Averages and Run/Hit Ratios for the ten players who had the lowest secondary averages in 2013:

 

First

Last

Batting Average

Secondary

Average

Run Average

Run/Hit Ratio

Placido

Polanco

.260

.109

.149

.571

Jeff

Keppinger

.253

.111

.184

.729

Alcides

Escobar

.234

.133

.180

.768

Pete

Kozma

.217

.146

.193

.888

Adeiny

Hechavarria

.227

.147

.133

.585

Mark

Ellis

.270

.150

.217

.803

J.B.

Shuck

.293

.153

.227

.773

Starlin

Castro

.245

.161

.155

.632

Marco

Scutaro

.297

.168

.180

.607

Ichiro

Suzuki

.262

.169

.177

.676

 

Players who have secondary averages below .200 typically have Run Averages around .200, and always have Run/Hit Ratios less than one.  Players who have secondary averages over .400 typically have Run Averages over .300, and almost always have Run/Hit Ratios greater than one:

 

First

Last

Batting Average

Secondary

Average

Run Average

Run/Hit Ratio

Chris

Davis

.286

.478

.413

1.443

Mike

Trout

.323

.477

.350

1.084

Miguel

Cabrera

.348

.456

.432

1.244

Carlos

Gonzalez

.302

.448

.363

1.203

Paul

Goldschmidt

.302

.439

.379

1.253

Edwin

Encarnacion

.272

.430

.366

1.347

Joey

Votto

.305

.429

.299

.983

Shin-Soo

Choo

.285

.409

.283

.994

David

Ortiz

.309

.409

.361

1.169

Jose

Bautista

.259

.407

.343

1.325

Giancarlo

Stanton

.249

.407

.292

1.170

 

                When we look at these things over a period of years, we find that those hitters who have the highest secondary averages are also the most productive hitters in terms of the Run Average or the Run/Hit Ratio:

 

OldIdeas5

 

OldIdeas6

 

OldIdeas7

 

OldIdeas8

 

OldIdeas9

 

OldIdeas10

 

                In the same way, those hitters who have the lowest secondary averages tend also to score and drive in the fewest runs:

 

OldIdeas11

 

OldIdeas12

 

OldIdeas13

 

OldIdeas14

 

OldIdeas15

 

OldIdeas16

 

 

                Another thing I used to do, back in the dark ages, was to study the ratios of Wins to Strikeouts.   If you identify the pitcher who had the highest ratio of Wins to Strikeouts, you have identified a pitcher who has a very, very high chance of having a catastrophic failure the next season.

                In 1962, for example, Dick Donovan was 20-10 with a 3.59 ERA, but with only 94 strikeouts.  That’s a strikeout-to-win ratio of 4.70 to 1, which was the lowest in the major leagues in 1962 (among pitchers with 10 or more starts and 100 or more innings pitched.)  The next season Donovan was 11-13 with a 4.24 ERA; his ERA went up 65 points while the league ERA went down 42 points, so that’s a relative slide of more than a run.  In 1963 the lowest strikeout to win ratio (thus the highest win to strikeout ratio) was by Warren Spahn, who went 23-7 but with only 102 strikeouts.  Spahn’s long, long string of brilliant seasons skidded suddenly to a stop the next season.

                All of the following pitchers

a)      Had the highest Win to Strikeout Ratios in the majors, and

b)      Suffered catastrophic declines in the following season:

 

OldIdeas17

 

OldIdeas18

 

 

                But even if the pitcher with the highest win/strikeout ratio doesn’t suffer a catastrophic decline in performance ("catastrophic" meaning that his performance decline is such that it calls into question the pitcher’s ability to continue in the major leagues). . ..even if there is not a catastrophic decline, almost all pitchers who bear this tag suffer SOME decline either in won-lost record or in ERA, or both—in many cases very significant declines in performance:

 

OldIdeas19

 

OldIdeas20

 

 

                Since 1960 there have been ten pitchers who had the highest win/strikeout ratio in the majors, but did not suffer any real decline in performance the next season.

 

OldIdeas21

 

 

                More comment on those guys in a moment.  The trick works. . .that is, the "prediction" that this pitcher will suffer a serious decline in the following season is reliable. …because it combines two or three pieces of underlying knowledge into one.    The pitcher who has a high ratio of wins to strikeouts almost always has benefitted from good run support, consequently is vulnerable in the next season because his run support is more likely to be normal.  Also, a pitcher who has a low strikeout rate but is effective has probably benefitted from a low batting average on balls in play, which, in the same way, is likely to dissipate in the following season.

                Of course, everybody knows that now; the practice is not useful in the way it was years ago because people no longer take won-lost records seriously in the way they used to do.  When Pat Jarvis went 13-11 despite a high ERA in 1969, people actually thought that he was still a good pitcher; when Livan Hernandez went 13-11 with a bad ERA in 2009, everybody got it.

                The pitcher who had the highest win to strikeout ratio in 2013, Jake Westbrook, was released in spring training and has not pitched at all in 2014.   That would be the first time that has happened, which is consistent with the point I was just making.   Actually, if you look at the ten "exceptions"—the ten pitchers who did not suffer any declines in performance in the next season—five of them are pitchers who were actually useless in Season 1, and did not suffer declines in performance the next season, merely because they continued to be useless.   The five pitchers who had the highest win to strikeout ratios in a season and actually maintained or increased their value in the following season were Tommie Sisk in 1966, Jim Perry in 1973, Bill Lee in 1977, Rick Reuschel in 1988, and Chien-Ming Wang in 2006.  And of those five, four suffered catastrophic losses in effectiveness in the next following season. 

 

                Third bit. . ..the expression "BABIP" has to rhyme with the only two English words which are spelled the same except for the initial consonant:   Rapid, and Vapid.

 

                Fourth. . ..The question or event which triggered this particular bit of research was that a pitcher I follow had several consecutive games in which he pitched well but did not win.    This got me to wondering what the record was for consecutive starts like that.

                I initially guessed, on intuition, that it might be 15 to 20 consecutive starts.    Working it through, I realized that that was unrealistic.   Let’s assume that a pitcher "Pitches Well" in a little more than 50% of his starts.   Probably 70% of the time a pitcher does win when he pitches well, I figured—not true, but that was just my starting point—so that would suggest that a pitcher pitches well but does not win in about 16% of his starts, or one in six.   If a pitcher pitches well/does not win one time in six, he would have consecutive such starts one time in 36, three in a row one time in 216, four in a row one time in 1300, five in a row one time in 7800, six in a row one time in 47000, seven in a row one time in 335,000, more or less.   Since there are about 240,000 starts in my data, that would suggest that there should be one sequence in there of seven consecutive such starts.

                The real math is more complicated, of course; it is less than one in 335,000 because there are thousands of different starting pitchers—thus, thousands of "breaks" in the sequence--but larger than one in 335,000 because the events will tend to form clusters.

                Of course, by this time I know it isn’t 16%, it is 23%, so all that math is out the window.   The actual record for consecutive starts in which a pitcher pitched well/did not win, within my data, is eight.   There are three pitchers in my data who had eight consecutive qualifying starts:

                Fred Norman, then pitching for the Padres, had eight consecutive qualifying starts between September 25, 1972 and April 28, 1973—three starts in 1972, five starts in 1973.    The Padres were terrible—58-95 in 1972, 59-101 in 1973.   In the eight starts he was 0-4 with a 3.25 ERA, 42 strikeouts, 23 walks in 55.1 innings.

                Jose DeLeon, pitching for the Cardinals, had eight consecutive PW/DNW starts between August 2, 1991 and April 6, 1992, the first seven of those in 1991.    That stretch has an asterisk, though, because DeLeon left one game after pitching two shutout innings, and another game after getting only two outs.    My process regards those as good outings, but. . ..you know; it’s not exactly what we mean by "pitched well".   I’ll explain that later.   In the eight starts DeLeon was 0-1 with a 1.73 ERA, but pitched only 42.1 innings.

                Tom Candiotti, pitching for the Dodgers, had eight consecutive PW/DNW starts between June 6 and July 11, 1993—the only pitcher in my data to have eight straight starts in a season.    Candiotti was 0-1 with a 1.87 ERA in the eight starts, pitching 53 innings.   In the eight starts, Candiotti was matched up against John Smoltz, Andy Benes, John Roper, Doug Drabek, Buddy Black, Chris Nabholz, Eric Hillman and Dwight Gooden.   The Dodgers scored 22 runs in the eight games, gave up 22 runs, and went 4-4 in the eight contests. 

 

                While I was figuring that, of course, I first had to establish a method.    "Pitched Well, Did Not Win" means a Game Score of at least 50;  Did Not Win is self-explanatory.  In my data there are 241,535 starts, of which 129,744 had game scores of 50 or above.    That’s 53.6%.   The 129,744 starting pitchers who "pitched well" had a won-lost record of 73,729 and 24,975, so that’s 56,015 starts in which a pitcher pitched well but did not win.   23% of total starts.

                The 73,729 pitchers who pitched well and DID win had a collective ERA of 1.53.    The 31,041 pitchers who pitched well/no decision had an ERA of 2.23.   The 24,975 pitchers who pitched well but lost had an ERA of 2.85.  

                Of course, this leads to a million other questions to which, by this point, we can easily find the answers.

                Who had the most PW/DNW games in a season?

                Nolan Ryan in 1987 had 20 starts in which he pitched well but did not win.  . . .that’s the famous tough luck season for Ryan; I am sure I don’t have to tell you which one it was.   Jose Rijo in 1993 had 19 starts in which he pitched well/didn’t win, and three pitchers have had 18 starts:   Roger Craig, with the Mets in 1963, Gil Meche, with the Royals in 2007, and Stephen Strasburg, with the Nationals in 2013. 

                Rijo in 1993 managed to go 14-9 despite having 19 starts in which he pitched well but did not win.   He led the NL in Starts (36) and strikeouts (227), and had a 2.48 ERA.   He finished fifth in the National League Cy Young voting, behind John Burkett, who had a 3.65 ERA, but went 22-7.  

                Ryan is also the career leader in games Pitched Well//Did Not Win.   The top ten are:

 

First

Last

GS

PW/DNW

Nolan

Ryan

773

239

Don

Sutton

756

222

Bert

Blyleven

685

204

Tom

Seaver

647

196

Greg

Maddux

740

193

Roger

Clemens

707

190

Phil

Niekro

710

186

Gaylord

Perry

690

185

Steve

Carlton

709

175

Randy

Johnson

603

168

 

                All ten of those pitchers had

a)       600 or more career starts, AND

b)      A higher-than-average percentage of games in which they pitched well but did not win.  

 

Among the ten, Nolan Ryan has both the most starts and the highest percentage of starts in which he pitched well but did not win (31%).

The highest career percentage of Games Pitched Well/Did Not Win, however, is Jose DeLeon, 39% (102 of 264)—but Matt Cain (going into 2013) was 102 of 265, almost the same.   DeLeon was very much a tough-luck pitcher—86-119 in his career, although he was really a good pitcher.

 

On the other end of the scale, Jerome Robertson with the Astros in 2003 had 31 starts, but NONE in which he pitched well/did not win, and 32 in his career, both of which are records for a guy with no such starts.  Robertson in 2003 went 15-9 despite a five-plus ERA.

Among pitchers with 100 starts, the lowest percentage of PW/DNW games was Chuck Rainey, early 1980s, at 11 out of 106, or 10%.    Among pitchers with 200 starts, the lowest percentage was 14%, by Scottie McGregor, 43 out of 306, and among those with 400 starts, the lowest percentage is Mike Flanagan, at 17%.     Tells us something about Earl Weaver’s Orioles:  when the starting pitcher pitched well, they didn’t waste the effort.

At this point you should be saying to yourself "I don’t see a lot of 1960s references here."    You’d figure in the 1960s there would have been a lot of games in which both pitchers had Game Scores over 50, so the 1960s pitchers might head up the lists of pitchers who had the most games of this type.  Why don’t they?

The bias in that direction isn’t large enough to have much impact, except in 1968.   In 1968 31% of all pitchers’ starts were Pitched Well/Did Not Win, which is the highest percentage for any season in my data.  But other than ’67 and ’68, the data for the 1960s is fairly normal, and those two seasons just aren’t enough to make any noticeable dent in the data.     The percentage of starts which were PW/DNW was 21% in 1952 (a pitcher’s year), then 17 to 19% from 1953 to ’56, 20 to 22% from 1957 to 1962.   In 1963, when the strike zone was expanded, the percentage jumped to 25%, and was 23 to 26% from 1963 to 1966, then 28 and 31% in 1967-68.   After the mound was lowered in 1969, the percentage dropped back to 23 to 26% from 1969 through 1974.    From 1975 to 1987 it stayed in the range of 19 to 24%, then was a little higher from 1988 to 1993, 23 to 26%.  From 1994 to 2004 it was 20 to 23%, from 2005 until 2010 most commonly 24%.  In recent years, with run-scoring levels down, we’ve edged back up to 29%.

 
 

COMMENTS (14 Comments, most recent shown first)

jdw
If I wasn't clear on the point: Alou lead off 140+ games for the Braves in 1968. Millan and Jackson hit #2, Aaron #3 and Torre #4.
3:14 PM Aug 25th
 
jdw
No need for a quick scan of Retrosheet. BR uses their data to create Batting Order Position splits:

www.baseball-reference.com/players/split.cgi?id=aloufe01&year=1968&t=b

I wouldn't be surprised if Retrosheet's splits do as well.
3:10 PM Aug 25th
 
KaiserD2
Dear Bill,

I appreciate the time you put in responding to me.

There are two issues here. The first is whether secondary average gave a misleading impression of the relative value of Kenny Lofton in 1996 and Felipe Alou in 1968. The second has to do with where runs and RBIs come from.

Now II was primarily commenting on the specific case of Lofton v. Alou, which is an extreme one, since the difference in overall offense between those two eras could hardly be greater. There can't be many, if any, of your examples in which one player's team scored more than 400 runs than the other. In the examples where you gave the data the difference was nowhere near that great. And what that means, to me at least, is that, all things being equal (which they nearly were, except for stolen bases), one would expect that Alou would score/drive in a little more than half as many runs as Lofton. And in fact that's exactly what you do find with respect to runs scored (72 vs. 132), and with respect to RBIs, Alou did much better than that (57 vs. 67). (And I'm very surprised to find that Alou was also batting lead-off, by the way, at least in the games I saw on a quick trip to retrosheet.)

Perhaps I should have focused more on the two eras than on the two teams.. You state in your comment that Lofton created 121 runs in 1996 and Alou created 103 in 1967. That presumably reflects his 12 additional total bases, his ten additional walks, and his 63 additional stolen bases. But as I pointed out, when the eras are factored in, this doesn't make Lofton a more valuable player in 1996 than Alou was in 1968--on the contrary. That's because the NL league average runs in 1968 was 558, and in 1996, the AL league average was 872 runs. That's why Alou was worth a full win more to his team. When you start, as you did, with raw batting average and secondary average, without any park or league adjustments, you are bound to get some anomalous results in cross-era comparisons, and that, I continue to believe, ios what happened in this case.

Now as for the broader point, I am convinced based on recent research of my own that the influence of team and league context on RBIs is much greater than is generally assumed, especially in extreme cases. This is probably less true of runs scored. The guy who scores the run has to do something important--get on base--every time he scores a run. On the other hand, the same hit can drive in anywhere from 1 to 4 runs, depending on factors (other people on base) over which the hitter has no control. Let me cite two extreme examples.

Don Baylor in 1979 drove in 139 runs for the California Angels and was awarded the AL MVP. But according to baseball-reference.com he created only 36 batting runs above average, compared to 55 for Fred Lynn, 48 for Sixto Lezcano, 47 for Jim Rice, and 40 for George Brett.

A similar but even more extreme case--which you wrote about extensively at the time--was Andre Dawson, who also won his league's MVP in 1987 with 137 RBI, even though baseball-reference shows him with only 23 batting runs above average that year, the 7th highest total of his career.

Junior Stephens drove in 137, 159, and 144 runs from 1948 through 1950, tying for the league lead in the latter two years. But baseball-reference shows him with 31 batting runs above average in 1949, 9 in 1948, and 9 in 1950. I certainly think it would be fair to say that three other men named DiMaggio, Pesky and Williams were more responsible for his extraordinary RBI totals than he was.

Another interesting example that recently came up on the SABR list was Tommy Davis's 153 RBIs in 1962, which seemed partly to reflect good clutch hitting but were way out of proportion to his overall hitting contribution.
i
In short, yes, I do think RBIs can be so heavily influenced by team contributions--as well as luck--as to be extremely misleading.

DK
8:58 AM Aug 25th
 
jimgus
"The B-A-B-I-P
Yes, that's the stat for me.
I stand alone on a lot of luck,
The B-A-B-I-P."

:-)
JimmyG

8:31 AM Aug 25th
 
chuck
On the pitcher Win/strikeout ratio and 2nd year decline in performance...

One of the things contributing to the decline in W/L pct and also the run support swing for many of the pitchers cited may be strength of opponent. I started going through some of them, looking at their games (or starts) vs teams above and below .500. The 1st number given is the games against sub-.500 teams, the 2nd the games vs +.500 teams.

Bob Welch, 1990: 27/8
Bob Welch, 1991: 8/27 (No sh*t... exactly the opposite in '91).
Bob Welch, 1992: 15/5
Bob Welch, 1993: 12/18

Bob Shaw, 1960: 30/6
Bob Shaw, 1961: 19/21

Lew Burdette, 1964: 17/19
Lew Burdette, 1965: 9/17

Al Jackson, 1967: 6/5
Al Jackson, 1968: 3/6 (starts only, both years)

Joe Niekro, 1968: 16/18
Joe Niekro, 1969: 6/35 (Jeez!)

Clyde Wright, 1970: 20/19
Clyde Wright, 1971: 16/21

The case I saw where it seemed related much more to ball in play results was Mel Stottlemyre in 1969-70. He actually faced +.500 teams twice as often in 1969, yet had a .249 ball in play average. In 1970 he faced weaker teams 22 out of 37 games, but had a .270 ball in play average. The Yankees had a terrific defensive efficiency record in '69; good but not as good in '70. And it's not like his 2nd year (15-13) was terrible.

But I'd suspect strength of opponent has a lot to do with many of the pitchers that declined. It would combine getting better run support (in the 1st year) with getting a predictably better result on balls in play in the 1st year, if he's just facing fewer good hitters.

1:31 AM Aug 25th
 
bjames
Responding to DK. …

1) ALL stats have to be adjusted for the era when making overall comparisons—batting average, secondary average, anything. Secondary average is less vulnerable to these issues than are most other statistics.

2) In an individual case, such as comparing Lofton and Felipe Alou, it is entirely impossible to explain why one player drove in and scored more runs than the other. There are certainly dozens of factors involved and could be hundreds, and these factors interact with one another over a period of time, so that untangling them after the fact is a problem very similar to figuring out which twinkie caused the heart attack. The relevant issue has nothing at all to do with 1968 compared to 1996; it has to do with the run creation elements of Secondary Average compared to Batting Average.


3) Kenny Lofton in 1996 created 121 runs; Felipe Alou in 1968 created only 103. It is true that Alou’s runs, in context, were more valuable one to one than Lofton’s, but this has no relevance whatsoever to my article, since I was talking merely about run creation.

4) Inferring from what I THINK you are saying. . .and I apologize if this is attributing to you things you don’t believe, but I think what a reader would take from your comment is that the number of runs scored and driven in by the hitter have more to do with offensive context than they do with the secondary skills of the hitter. That is just complete nonsense. It is not true that the runs scored and driven in by the hitter have more to do with offensive context than with secondary skills; it is not even CLOSE to being true, and it is not a reasonable thing to suggest.

5) One can illustrate this truth by looking at Henry Aaron, several seasons. In 1959 Henry Aaron had 223 hits in 629 at bats; Lloyd Waner in 1927 also had 223 hits in 629 at bats. Aaron’s secondary average was .375; Waner’s was .137—but Waner played for a much better offensive team, a team that scored almost 100 more runs than Aaron’s team. By your theory, Waner should have driven in/scored more runs, because he played for a better offensive team. But in fact Aaron destroys Waner in the “Runs” count, 239 to 160.

In 1960 Aaron had 172 hits in 590 at bats; in 2006 Jermaine Dye had 172 hits in 590 at bats. Dye played in an era when many more runs were scored, and Dye’s team scored more runs (and more runs per game) than Aaron’s team. Aaron had a higher secondary average, .403 to .329. By your theory, Dye should have come out ahead in the run categories—but he didn’t; not even close. Aaron drove in and scored 228 runs; Dye, 192.

In 1963 Aaron had 201 hits in 631 at bats. Three other players have had identical totals—Moose Solters in 1935, Nellie Fox in 1954, and Dick Groat in the same year as Aaron, 1963. All three of these other players played for teams that drove and scored significantly more runs than Aaron’s 1963 team. By your theory, one would think that at least One of the three might have thus driven in and scored more runs than Aaron—but they didn’t. Aaron had the highest secondary average in the group—and Aaron drove in and scored far more runs than any of the other players (Aaron 251, Solters 206, Groat 158, Fox 158).

In 1966 Aaron had the same number of hits and at bats as Norm Cash, but we’ll skip that one because there’s no split in the indicators (Aaron had a higher secondary average, drove in and scored more runs, but his team also scored more runs.)

In 1967 Henry Aaron had 184 hits in 600 at bats; so did Carl Crawford in 2010. Crawford’s team (the Rays) scored far more runs than Aaron’s (171 more) and of course played in a much higher-scoring era. Aaron, of course, had a higher secondary average (.400 to .343). By your theory, Crawford should have driven in and scored more runs, but of course he did not.

In 1969 Henry Aaron had 164 hits in 547 at bats. So did Frankie Frisch in 1928 and Ivan Rodriguez in 2006. Both Frisch and Rodriguez played for teams that outscored Aaron’s team by more than 100 runs; both teams scored over 800 runs, Aaron’s team less than 700. By your theory, Frisch and Rodriguez should thus have driven in a scored more runs than Aaron, although Aaron had a higher secondary average. But, of course, it didn’t happen that way; Aaron drove in and scored 197 runs, Frisch 193, Pudge 143.

The Lofton-Alou example is consistent with your theory—but it is also consistent with mine. One of the OTHER four examples I gave, however, was Billy Williams, 1967, vs. Bill Russell, 1977. Russell’s team outscored Williams’ 1967 team 769 to 702—yet Williams outscored Russell in the runs categories, 176 to 135. Why do you think that was?

9:10 PM Aug 24th
 
trn6229
Nice article, as usual. I always like Darren Daulton as a player, he had an excellent secondary average, but low batting averages. He walked often and hit with power.

Tom Seaver is my favorite baseball player. The Mets were not very good for much of his time with them. He would have had a better record with just average run support.

Take Care,
Tom Nahigian
8:28 PM Aug 24th
 
BobGill
Rapid and vapid end with -pid, and BABIP ... well, it doesn't. I'd suggest pronouncing it ba-BIP, with the accent on the second syllable, so it sounds kind of like the beeping on a heart monitor. Heart monitor sounds are always classy.
7:13 PM Aug 24th
 
dejesus54
Or "rabbit" or, for any Sinclair Lewis fans, "Babbitt" (it CAN happen here).
9:07 PM Aug 23rd
 
packbringley
Hat, cat, and bat also rhyme with BABIP.
12:51 PM Aug 23rd
 
shinsplint
I would think that batting average correlates closer to overall production than secondary average. After all, the first base of any base hit is the most important base gained. From your data, we can see the difference in run average (and run/hit ratio) between two players with the same average and different secondary averages. I would guess if we reversed that, and instead used two players with the same secondary average and similar difference in batting average, that the difference in run average and run/hit ratio would be even more dramatic.
12:48 PM Aug 23rd
 
KaiserD2
I think you would agree, Bill, that mixing relatively sophisticated stats with highly team-dependent stats like wins, losses, runs scored, and RBI is always a dangerous practice. I see one very striking example of this in the first part of your article, when you write:

"Kenny Lofton in 1996 and Felipe Alou in 1968 each had 210 hits in 662 at bats, but Lofton scored and drove in more runs because he had a much higher secondary average."

Unfortunately I can't make the stats paste into my comment. However, i would argue that that statement is false. To begin with, the reason Kenny Lofton had a much higher secondary average than Felipe Alou was that he had 63 more stolen bases. (He also had 13 more walks and 8 more total bases, but that would make his secondary average only a little bit higher.) Those stolen bases may have added a bit to his runs scored, but they certainly didn't add to his RBIs.

The reason that Lofton had many more runs and RBIs than Alou, I would argue, is that Alou's team scored 514 runs (this was, after all the year of the pitcher, 1968), whereas Lofton's team scored 952. Compared to that difference of overall offensive performance, the difference in their secondary averages was a trivial factor. And indeed, because of the different eras these years took place in, Alou was, despite his lower figures, the more valuable player. Felipe Alou had 4.1 Wins Above Average in 1968 according to baseball-reference.com; Lofton had 3.2 WAA. I would mail out secondary average with a sticker on the package, "Not to be used for cross-era comparisons."

DK



10:06 AM Aug 23rd
 
sansho1
I love revisiting these old Abstract stalwarts. On the other hand, the "third bit" is wrong on multiple levels....
8:12 AM Aug 23rd
 
FrankD
Interesting article. An obvious and at first asinine (and maybe last too) comment is the obvious one that each pitcher who exceeded k/wins and then crashed was older that next year..... the subtlety here is that maybe these pitchers were getting by on reputation the year of the quirky stat, with batters not hammering them like they would the 2nd year after the 'magic' was gone .......
8:58 PM Aug 22nd
 
 
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