The Carters and the Cunninghams

February 19, 2019
 

            Just for the Halibut, I made up two teams of what appear to be different but equal players.   First, I sorted out all players in baseball history who had Win Shares Winning Percentages, for the season, between .590 and .610. ..that is, two teams of .600 players.  Good players, not MVPs or anything.   Second, I eliminated all players who (a) had less than 400 plate appearances, or (b) played before 1940.   

            This left me with a field of 690 players.  I ranked them 1 through 690 in two areas:

1)     The ratio of walks to plate appearances, and

2)     The ratio of on base percentage to slugging percentage.

Combining those two, I then had all of the high walk players on one end of the scale, and all of the low-walk players—but players of overall equal quality—on the other end of the scale.   Given that list, I then chose All-Star teams—the Joe Cunningham team, of players who walked a lot, and the Joe Carter team, of players who were good hitters but did not walk.  Although, as it happened, neither Cunningham nor Carter was on either team, as neither man happened to have a season that landed in the appropriate range.

Anyway, this is the Joe Carter team:

Player

G

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

SO

SB

CS

Avg

OBA

SPct

OPS

Juan Samuel, 1986, 2b

145

591

90

157

36

12

16

78

26

142

42

14

.266

.302

.448

.751

Alfonso Soriano, 2007, lf

135

579

97

173

42

5

33

70

31

130

19

6

.299

.337

.560

.897

Juan Gonzalez, 1997, dh

133

533

87

158

24

3

42

131

33

107

0

0

.296

.335

.589

.924

Adam Jones, 2013, cf

160

653

100

186

35

1

33

108

25

136

14

3

.285

.318

.493

.811

Jorge Cantu, 2005, 3b

150

598

73

171

40

1

28

117

19

83

1

0

.286

.311

.497

.808

Alexei Ramirez, 2008, ss

136

480

65

139

22

2

21

77

18

61

13

9

.290

.317

.475

.792

Lee May, 1973, 1b

148

545

65

147

24

3

28

105

34

122

1

1

.270

.310

.479

.789

Cory Snyder, 1986, rf

103

416

58

113

21

1

24

69

16

123

2

3

.272

.299

.500

.799

Salvador Perez, 2017, c

129

471

57

126

24

1

27

80

17

95

1

0

.268

.297

.495

.792

 

And this is the Joe Cunningham team:

Player

G

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

SO

SB

CS

Avg

OBA

SPct

OPS

Brett Butler, 1988, cf

157

568

109

163

27

9

6

43

97

64

43

20

.287

.393

.398

.791

Pee Wee Reese, 1950, ss

141

531

97

138

21

5

11

52

91

62

17

0

.260

.369

.380

.750

Don Buford, 1970, lf

144

504

99

137

15

2

17

66

109

55

16

8

.272

.406

.411

.816

Larry Walker, 2003, rf

143

454

86

129

25

7

16

79

98

87

7

4

.284

.422

.476

.898

Mickey Tettleton, 1994, c

107

339

57

84

18

2

17

51

97

98

0

1

.248

.419

.463

.882

Ferris Fain, 1947, 1b

136

461

70

134

28

6

7

71

95

34

4

5

.291

.414

.423

.837

Mike Hargrove, 1980, dh

160

589

86

179

22

2

11

85

111

36

4

2

.304

.415

.404

.819

Eddie Yost, 1952, 3b

157

587

92

137

32

3

12

49

129

73

4

3

.233

.378

.359

.738

Willie Randolph, 1985, 2b

143

497

75

137

21

2

5

40

85

39

16

9

.276

.382

.356

.738

 

The Joe Carter team, you have to construct the lineup by finding the two players who could possibly lead off, and then everybody else is a middle-of-the-order type hitter.   The Joe Cunningham team, you have to identify the few players who would naturally fit in the middle of the order, and then everybody else could hit leadoff. 

In the aggregate, both lineups have similar playing time—1,239 games, 4,866 at bats for the Joe Carter team, 1,288 games, 4,530 at bats for the Joe Cunningham team.   The Joe Carter team has huge advantages in home runs (252-102) and RBI (835-536), and also an advantage in batting average (.282-.273).   They have a good advantage in doubles (268-209).   The Joe Cunninghams have the edge in runs scored (771-692), triples (38-29), stolen bases (111-93), and also have a huge advantage in walks (912-219) and on base percentage (.399-.315).  Their OPS is about the same (.819-.802, Carters), although we probably all know that walks are under-valued in OPS.  Each set of nine players is credited with 176 Win Shares. 

 

No particular conclusion here; I just wanted to do that.   Maybe this would help to explain it. . ."it" being the general problem we were talking about earlier.    We have "knowns", "unknowns" and "game condition variables".  

The question posed by 337 was, Could you use a simulation to run a team with 16 position players/9 pitchers against a team with 12 position players and 13 pitchers, and thus decide which is the more effective strategy?  Well, no, because that introduces unknowns.   When you combine unknowns with game condition variables, you just produce more unknowns.  

The problem of the high-walk team against the low-walk team combines KNOWN elements with game condition variables.  In a simulation, I know for certain how that would work out.  The simulated game conditions WOULD alter the output.   They would alter it in favor of the players who walk.  I have run those kind of simulations: I know that is what happens.   You put a bunch of guys with high on base percentages together, the pitchers run out of bases on which to put them.  In a simulation, the Joe Cunningham team (above) would easily defeat the Joe Carter team, even though the teams are theoretically equal.   The teams are equal on their expected impact on a normal team context.   If you alter the context so that the walks can build up higher and higher, that neutralizes the weakness of the Cunningham types—their relatively weak ability to drive in runs—and maximizes their strength, which is their ability to create scoring opportunities.   There are only so many scoring opportunities that you can create before runs start scoring. 

Marisfan suggests that there is a DIFFERENT game condition variable at work there somewhere. . . .I don’t know exactly.   He suggests that there could be a "real life" variable which is not replicated in the simulation—like the advantage of pitchers pitching in short windows.  Hitters of that type lose effectiveness when they are stacked together.  It doesn’t really make any sense, and I don’t believe it, but there could be something there that we just don’t understand yet.   You can’t ASSUME that there is some unknown variable that would be at work; you’d have to prove it.   You’d have to articulate exactly HOW this real life variable occurred, and why it occurred, so that we could guess WHEN it would occur, so that we could search for evidence of it in real life.  But. . .can’t rule out the possibility that there is something there. 

 

 

 
 

COMMENTS (25 Comments, most recent shown first)

Brock Hanke
At the risk of obsessing over Joe Cunningham (one of my favorite all-time players), I want to mention that Joe's batter's box maneuvers are not part of my memory of him. What I remember was all the times he dove for fly balls while playing right field. This would be during the Solly Hemus years, 1959-61, where the Cardinals had an aging Stan Musial, Bill White, AND George Crowe all available to play 1B, so Joe was used as the starting RF. Joe was good at diving. He very seldom dove for a ball that got past him and went to the wall. But even I, at the age of 11, could tell that the reason he was diving was that, if he didn't, he didn't have the range to play RF, not even in Sportsman's Park, which had a very small RF territory. It occurs to me that 1) I am a little bit older than you (I'm 71), and 2) Joe was traded in 1962 to the White Sox, who put him primarily at first, where he belonged. I might guess that most of the Joe Cunningham that you saw would be during his later years in the AL, instead of earlier in his career in the NL. Or maybe not; that's just a guess. But it did seem to me that somebody ought to mention how odd he was as an outfielder. He didn't have the range, and he knew that he didn't, so he just trained himself to judge which balls he could get to by diving, and which ones he could not.
3:23 AM Feb 24th
 
Brock Hanke
Yeah. I could not find the passage in Win Shares, and had to rely on memory. I've finally found it (pp.92-93). Bill does phrase his example as McGwire's homers interacting with his walks. That's on p. 92. On page 93, Bill discusses 1970s sabermetrics, using a concept that Dick Cramer, a brilliant sabermetrician, had come up with. Bill's comment was that Cramer was taking the player's singles, doubles and triples, and acting as if they interacted with the singles, doubles and triples in the whole league. In other words, it's not just a homers and walks concept. Acting on memory, I remembered that the discussion included most offensive events, and guessed that he was using Mac's walks as if they interacted with his team's other walks. I'm actually not sure whether Bill would be happy to include walks and walks. I mean, if singles can interact with other singles, and walks are, essentially, singles where nobody advances any bases unless forced, then walks might interact with walks. It could not be a DIRECT interaction, where one of Mac's walks (or homers, for that matter) drove in a walk that Mac took earlier in the inning, but the same is true of singles, doubles and triples. There aren't enough bases and outs in an inning for a hitter to come up with his own self on base. In any case, the actual method involves figuring out a league-average player in your ballpark for all the 8 lineup slots except for the batter in question. The average player means average player walks. You can make a case either way, I suppose.
11:03 PM Feb 22nd
 
MarisFan61
Aren't you conflating "each others" incorrectly?

Bill was talking about HR's interacting with walks.
You're talking about walks interacting with walks, and HR's interacting with HR's.

I'm not saying it's wrong what you're saying (I don't know if you are or not), just that it looks like you're making a false connection or derivation from Bill's thing.
11:39 AM Feb 22nd
 
Brock Hanke
Regarding context: I just remembered a chapter in Win Shares the Book where Bill explains a change in the Runs Created calculation (I think it was at that point), by bringing up the example of Mark McGwire in 1998. His previous formula, it turned out, tended to overrate Mark's RC, because that method acted as if Mark's homers and walks were interacting with each other, when in real life they most certainly were not. Bill developed a new method which, essentially, placed McGwire (and all hitters) in a context of 8 other league average hitters. This reduced McGwire's RC some, but it was obviously justified. The Cunningham vs. Carter teams illustrate what happens if the actual context is so extreme that McGwire's walks (even if he hit no homers all year) might as well be interacting with each other, because they are in fact interacting with walk rates just as high as his are. In an extreme Carter team environment, though, the homers don't interact with each other because they are self-contained. They both score and drive in the run. If you put the actual McGwire, complete with 70 homers, into a Cunningham lineup, the number of runs scored by the team might not change very much, but McGwire himself would set a new season record for RBI. The guys behind him, though, might have low RBI totals, because a McGwire homer doesn't set the table up for anyone after McGwire.
12:34 AM Feb 22nd
 
shthar
Is it so hard to look at two numbers?

what is this constant need to combine multiple stats into one perfect stat?


7:24 PM Feb 20th
 
MarisFan61
(Steve: I know that you know this but it looks as though you didn't; just to help make sure nobody gets a wrong idea: That issue of OPS isn't involved in anything here.)
11:12 AM Feb 20th
 
steve161
..."any of y'all ever heard "just for the Halibut" before?"

When I was in high school, I knew a guy who used the phrase about six times a day. He thought he was getting away with something, because 60 years ago, any four-letter word got you sent to the principal's office.

It's pretty generally acknowledged, isn't it, that OPS undervalues the walk. That's why Tom Tango invented wOBA. And then there's WPA, which is all context.
6:55 AM Feb 20th
 
MarisFan61
Matt: We were typing at the same time! As it happens, you addressed some of what I was asking.

It'll take some work for me to digest it, but one thing right off the bat:
I don't think the softball example applies very well, because in that kind of softball (the kind I imagine you're talking about -- it sounds like the softball games I'm in), there's not much of a "geometric" aspect, even though sometimes there seems to be, while in major league baseball, there is. So, I don't think it's at all clear that (for example) "if you have a team of .210 hitters you gain more by adding 1 or 2 Carters than Cunninghams" (btw it's a little hard to deal with the example without knowing anything about on-base and power; I'll assume we're talking about average .210 hitters) -- because I think that if you add a couple of Cunninghams to such a lineup, they'll have the effect of somewhat raising the production of the .210 hitters (while adding a couple of Carters either wouldn't or would raise it less), because hitting is better with men on base than without. I think adding Cunninghams rather than Carters to such a lineup would increase the chance of "long sequence" innings to an extent that might well outweigh whatever advantage the Carters might give.
3:04 AM Feb 20th
 
MattGoodrich
That context thing gives me problems sometimes. Scenario 1: leadoff hitter singles, next 3 hitters make outs, inning over. Scenario 2: leadoff hitter singles, next hitter homers. In both cases the leadoff hitter did the exact same thing. Most analytical tools would give them the same value. But in the second scenario, the leadoff single was clearly more useful in a team win. Does that make it (and the hitter) more valuable?

It's not unusual in my softball to have a guy with superior RC or OPS, but he was only involved in 6 runs (R + RBI). Another guy with lesser stats was involved in 18 runs. You could argue it was just luck, but it sure was useful luck. Was the guy with the highest RC/PA more valuable or the guy involved in 18 runs?

I can't completely reconcile this in my own head. If I'm picking guys for the next season I want the player with the best analytics. If I'm handing out an award for who had the best season, I might go with the other player.

2:52 AM Feb 20th
 
MarisFan61
Bill: Thanks very much for that answer. I've actually often talked about how walks have differing values in different contexts, and some of what I said earlier was based on that (although I was making something of it that wasn't right).

Might this article and discussion be the first time we've had such highlighting of differing values of walks?
And, have we ever seen anything about any given type of offensive player being ever more valuable when more and more of his kind are added to a lineup?
(I'm taking a small leap there, but, I'm figuring it follows from Bill's answer to what Brian said, that introducing a Carter into an otherwise-all-Cunningham lineup makes it worse than keeping the Cunningham, despite the Carter having the same usual value and even though the Carter would be adding diversity.)
I hope I'm not misrepresenting or mis-extrapolating what Bill has indicated. I'm not meaning to.

I would have thought it's a general principle that when there's a choice between adding either of two equal-value but different types of offensive players to a lineup that's already heavy in one or the other kind, it's better to add the one that diversifies the lineup more, i.e. the one who is the other kind from what's already predominant.
That is at least a pretty good principle, isn't it? At least usually applicable?

It seems this is an exception, and I'm figuring that as per a thing I mentioned in an earlier comment, this might be a 'threshold' thing, that it only applies after the lineup gets to some "critical mass" of high-walkers -- because otherwise, if it's ALWAYS better to add a high-walker than a low-walker of equal usual value, then the players don't really have equal value, and it would mean there's something wrong about how the metric considers walks.

So: Is it perhaps a "threshold" thing? If so, I wonder what's the amount of such a player that's needed before they start becoming more and more valuable in the lineup. This would seem to be a useful thing to know, because obviously anything that can be known about contexts that make a certain kind of player more valuable than his 'value' can be useful.
2:46 AM Feb 20th
 
MattGoodrich
Here's a simple example that demonstrates the Carter vs Cunningham argument. I've used it in many discussions after softball games. Imagine you have two players: one hits .500 with every hit a HR. The other hits .750 with every hit a single. Carter goes 2/4 with 2 HR, Cunningham goes 3/4 with 3 singles. By most any measure (WAR, runs created, OPS, total bases) Carter seems the better player. And if you have an average team and add one of these players, adding a Carter has way more impact. And subjectively, which player would you rather have?

But if you make an entire team of each player, the Carter team has 3 HR and 3 outs each inning (3 runs). The Cunningham team has 9 singles and 3 outs each inning (6 runs). So the Cunningham team actually scores TWICE as many runs.

It's kind of a tipping point thing. If you have a team of .210 hitters, you gain more by adding 1 or 2 Carters than Cunninghams. But if you have 8 Cunninghams, you're far better off adding 2 more Cunninghams than adding 2 Carters.

2:23 AM Feb 20th
 
bjames
Joe Cunningham was famous while active for changing his batting stance. Several times a season he would completely re-invent his batting stance.

At a SABR convention in St. Louis about 1983 or 1984 (somebody can check what year the SABR Convention was in St. Louis) Cunningham appeared on a Player Panel with Stan Musial, and was asked about changing his stance like that. He tried to explain why he did that, but after his explanation Stan Musial said. . . this is very nearly a direct quote, as much as I can remember after all these years. . . ."I just used one stance my whole career. Maybe that was the difference between us, Joe." The room laughed, but the quip stuck with me because it was rather a nasty thing for the famously nice Musial to say.

Trying to explain (in response to Maris). . . suppose that you start with two walks. In the first walk the team is ahead 11-0 in the 6th inning, there is a runner on second, a good hitter comes to the plate and is semi-intentionally walked. The next hitter is retired, no run scores, and the team goes on to win the game, 14 to 2.

In the second situation the bases are loaded. . .well, I'll use an actual situation. Early in my career there was a game in which I was in the press box, Baltimore at Kansas City. The bases were loaded in the ninth inning, score tied. Amos Otis at the plate. The reliever missed on his first two pitches, making the count 2-0. I knew then that "we"--Kansas City--had the game. Amos Otis could turn those two balls into a walk, and he did. He fouled off several 3-2 pitches; eventually the reliever missed badly, and the winning run came home on the walk.

Del Black or Sid Bordman, forget which, reporting on the game in the paper the next day, began with the words "Amos Otis won a game for the Kansas City Royals Thursday night by doing nothing more than the xx,xxx paying customers." In my mind it remains the absolute standard for oblivious journalism.

But my point here is this. . .that obviously these two walks have widely different values. The one walk had no value whatsoever; the other walk had tremendous value. The actual value of the walk depends on the context.

Value systems like WAR and Win Shares, which rely on aggregate totals, rely on the assumption of a "neutral context". . .a context that averages out over the course of the season. A normal context; a normal number of close games, a normal number of bases-loaded situations, a normal number of good hitters on deck.


If you change the context, of course you change the value. If you create an abnormal context, then the value assumptions are no longer accurate, and the evaluation is no longer accurate. This is implicit in the construction of value systems. Whether it makes those value systems "inaccurate" or not is a semantic issue. They're not perfectly accurate. We do the best we can to make them perfect, but those of us who construct value systems are very well aware that they AREN'T perfect, and they can't be.

1:39 AM Feb 20th
 
Brock Hanke
I was a Joe Cunningham fan back in the late 1950s, when he first came up. He was, IMO, the best leadoff man in the league (a board game - All-Star Baseball - clued me in as to the value of walks), but the only defensive position he could play was 1B, and the Cardinals had Bill White, a Gold Glove, and Stan Musial showing up out of shape for the only time in his career. So, the Cards put Joe in RF whenever they could, and just sat him down otherwise.

One thing I noted, even back then, was that a Cunningham Plate Appearance usually took a long time to come to a resolution, because Joe took a lot of pitches. If you're comparing the Cunningham Team to the Carter Team, one huge advantage the Cunninghams have is that the opposing pitcher is going to rack up a really high pitch count before he can get 27 outs. The pitchers against the Carter team can, therefore, pitch more innings before their arms get tired.

I tried the Cunningham strategy on the board game. In a league where Ruth, Williams, Kiner, Mantle, Gehrig, Mays and such were available, my cleanup man was Lefty O'Doul. But my leadoff man was Ferris Fain, followed by Stan Hack and Honus Wagner, and I had Rogers Hornsby hitting behind O'Doul. So I had sucked up a huge amount of the league value in the middle infield, in return for having no homers. The team went 11-3 before the league collapsed. One guy, sending in his stats for the series he had played at home against my team, said, "I thought you were crazy when you didn't pick up any homers, but every game, there is this one inning where your guys just DON'T GO OUT and they score 6 or 7 runs and that just decides the game."
8:13 PM Feb 19th
 
MarisFan61
Answering (I should say trying to answer) what Bill just said....

As a first stab:
If what Brian ISN'T true, wouldn't that mean that players who seem to have the same value, one of them a high walker and one of them a low walker, don't really have the same value, because you'd always get a better overall lineup result by adding the high walker?

I guess it could be just that this applies mainly with there already be a certain 'critical mass' of high walkers in the lineup (which is the case in the example Brian gives). But I'd think that such a thing is a continuum, and that if it's true with a lot of walkers already in the lineup, it would start being somewhat true at any point -- which leads to what I said up there.

.....which would seem to mean that current valuation methods undervalue high walkers and overvalue low walkers.
4:30 PM Feb 19th
 
bjames
OK - So a team of Cunninghams are superior to a team of Carters. Yet overall the players are equal. So it must follow, to even things out, that in other contexts it would be better to introduce a Carter than a Cunningham. I'm assuming if you have a team of 8 Cunninghams, you would be better off adding a Carter as your 9th player?



Why would this be true? I'm not following you.

The Carter player is equal to the Cunningham player when the number involved is "1". As the number increases, the Cunningham type player gains the advantage. So the number at which at Carter would be better than a Cunningham would be about -3 or -7 or something. They're better when you get rid of them.
4:08 PM Feb 19th
 
MarisFan61
......that's along the exact lines of my parenthetical paragraph down there.
It just about has to be doesn't it?
4:02 PM Feb 19th
 
Brian
OK - So a team of Cunninghams are superior to a team of Carters. Yet overall the players are equal. So it must follow, to even things out, that in other contexts it would be better to introduce a Carter than a Cunningham. I'm assuming if you have a team of 8 Cunninghams, you would be better off adding a Carter as your 9th player?
3:50 PM Feb 19th
 
shthar
That Carter team is going to destroy any left handed pitching.


1:54 PM Feb 19th
 
jgf704
FWIW, I took a look at the Carters' performance with bases empty.

Only 3 of the 9 hitters had a higher OPS with bases empty (vs. their overall OPS).

The arithmetic mean of the lineup's overall OPS was 818, but their OPS with bases empty was only 780.
12:32 PM Feb 19th
 
MarisFan61
BTW, any of y'all ever heard "just for the Halibut" before?
I see it's the name of restaurants here and there....
11:59 AM Feb 19th
 
chuck
Just playing further with those 2 lineups presented ...
The Carters hit into 126 DP and were caught stealing 36 times in 93 attempts.
Cunninghams hit into 93 DP and were caught stealing 50 times in 161 attempts.

The Carters had 3,658 outs, combining batting outs, caught stealing and extra outs for the DPs. The Cunninghams had 3,435 outs. So the Carters had the equivalent of 135.5 games (3658 / 27) and the Cunninghams 127.2 games.

The Carters scored 690 runs and the Cunninghams 771; but give the Cunninghams another 8.3 games' worth of outs to work with, and their runs scored comes up to 821.

I also looked at the percentages of bases taken when given the opportunity to do so on singles and doubles. This group of Carters averaged 48% and these Cunninghams 46%.
11:49 AM Feb 19th
 
jgf704
I like Bill's expression, which I'll put in the form of a question:

Do hitters of a certain type change effectiveness when stacked together in the same lineup?

Looks like MF61 did a small study which showed, indeed, that his "walkers" did were just as good with a runner on first as they were overall. Which provides an inkling that (as MF61 said) that they would not lose effectiveness when stacked in a lineup.

Actually, I wonder if the Carters (i.e. the low OBP power hitters) would be the ones who would lose effectiveness when stacked. My hypothesis:

* Carters get stoked for men-on-base situations, but otherwise are "meh".
* A lineup full of Carters would not have as many men on base as an "average" lineup.
* So the Carters would be "meh" relatively more often, and thus would perform even worse when stacked in a lineup.
11:39 AM Feb 19th
 
MarisFan61
BTW the referable material on Reader Posts is in posts #19-20 on that page. I see that the link seems to go to the top of that page rather than to those posts.)
11:14 AM Feb 19th
 
MarisFan61
Well, of course I think it did make sense, but because really I like to know that you're smarter about baseball than I am :-) I'm glad to be able to say that I did a thing to check it out a little and my notion didn't hold up. (I was going to say this in a Hey Bill; glad we have this better place for it.)

As to why I thought it did make sense, i.e. suspecting that in a lineup full of 'themselves,' the high-walkers would do less well. Anyone who doesn't care to read further about a thing that's wrong, you can stop here.

The central idea was that in a lineup of themselves they'd be hitting more often with a runner on 1st, that in such a situation pitchers are more averse to throwing balls because they're more averse to walks, that this would reduce the amount of pitching approaches in which such hitters most thrive, and that therefore they'd be relatively less productive than in a regular lineup. I was figuring (yes, it was a guess/assumption) that players who walk a lot, as a group, are less relatively good at hitting hittable pitches than they are at taking walks, which I thought seemed reasonable, although I didn't fail to realize there was a whole bunch of guesswork in there.

(An additional aspect was the assumption, presumably true although I don't know if it's been proved, that baseball offense is most efficient when there's a mix of types of players, including a mix of different "run element ratios," and therefore that any kind of homogeneous lineup would do less well than what is suggested by the batters' usual valuations. I do still suspect that this part of it is so, and that therefore the idea of answering whether a "walkers" lineup would be pennant-caliber by looking at the batters' individual 'winning percentages," which was what I was addressing to begin with, doesn't necessarily tell the story. This consideration of course would apply to the "Carter"-type lineup as well as to a "walkers" lineup, and so, the fact of the "Cunningham" lineup being superior [which is no surprise to me] doesn't negate the other possible concern.)

BUT ANYWAY: Something else negated it. I looked at the players who had been listed for the theoretical 1949 "walkers" team, to see how they actually performed in runner-on-1st-base situations. Cutting to the chase, as a group they did right fine (some did worse with runner-on-1st than overall, some did better, and the average differential was about the same as MLB average for the year; a little less good but close enough, especially considering the small sample) -- including, to my greatest surprise, that they maintained their walk rates. (MLB overall didn't; players in general walked less with a runner on 1st.)
Here are the details, in Reader Posts, for anyone interested. It's in this post and the one following it:
boards.billjamesonline.com/showthread.php?10800-The-1949-Walkers-All-Star-Team&p=173898&viewfull=1#post173898

I realize that such a small study doesn't come close to proving anything, but if there's nothing at all in the direction I suspected (and there isn't), that's enough for me. Also, while "runner-on-1st" is just one kind of situation, it's the main single thing that I thought would demonstrate what I was looking for, and it didn't.
11:11 AM Feb 19th
 
rwarn17588
I love this:

"You put a bunch of guys with high on base percentages together, the pitchers run out of bases on which to put them."

It's as good of an explanation as any of why I hate intentional walks as a strategy.

This is just an anecdote, but illustrative. A baseball fan I knew with an APBA game set played the 1927 Yankees against the 2016 Cubs. He thought the Cubs *might* be competitive because of their superb pitching staff and more balance across the diamond.

But the Yanks won in five games, mainly because of walks. Sure, you'd have Ruth and Gehrig doing damage, as you'd expect. But you also had guys like Pat Collins, Joe Dugan and Mark Koenig driving in big runs -- simply because they had so many opportunities to do so with runners seemingly always clogging the bases. Close games would turn into 8-3 blowouts really quickly.

It's just one series. But I'd bet the farm with a whole bunch of simulated series, the 1927 Yankees would win at least 60 percent of them against the 2016 Cubs. I had a pretty good simulator where I'd play teams 162 games against the 1927 Yankees. The only team I found in the simulator that competed well was the 1939 Yankees, and they basically were .500 or slightly below against them.
8:17 AM Feb 19th
 
 
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