Walks and HB

June 19, 2020
  

Walks and Hit Batsmen

            Because walks have not fluctuated greatly over time, the math on Walks plus Hit Batsmen is not a lot different now than it was when we went through this before.   The worst team ever for walking people was the 1915 Philadelphia A’s.  

            In 1914 there was an upstart league, the Federal League, which had lured a good number of players out of the American and National Leagues.   Connie Mack in 1914 had the best team in the American League, but he was not able to pay his players what they could earn in a competitive market.  He didn’t really make a "decision" to sell his star players; he had no choice.  He didn’t have the money to keep them.  Mack was not all that rich.  He was kind of operating on a shoestring. 

            Mack’s star players almost all liked Mack or loved him, but they also liked money.  His players were going to go to the Federal League to get paid.  Mack sold his best players to the other teams in the American League to protect his investment in an American League team.  

            This left Mack, in 1915, with a team that finished 43-109.  It was barely a major league team, and a lot of the players there were not major league players.  He had a bunch of teenagers and young players with little minor league experience.  They were bad at everything, generally, but one of the things they were REALLY bad at was, they gave up a lot of walks.  His pitchers walked 827 batters and hit 57 with pitches, a total of 884 free passes.

            The theory of this measurement system is that 5 standard deviations worse than the average is such a terrible performance level that no team would reach it, but the 1915 A’s actually did.   The average number of walks + hit batsmen per batter faced is .084 022; essentially, one batter out of every 12 will draw a walk or be hit with a pitch.  The standard deviation is .012 209.   Five standard deviations worse than the norm is .145 067, or essentially one batter in seven. 

            The 1915 Philadelphia Athletics faced 5,777 batters.  If you multiply that by .145 067—the zero-value level—you get 838.  Their walks + hit batsmen was 884.  They "walked" 46 batters MORE than the zero-performance level.  They are the only team in major league history which was worse than five standard deviations below the norm in walks.

            That should not happen, but I can’t move to six standard deviations above  the norm just to avoid this one weird case; that would cause bigger problems than it would solve.  What I did instead was, I created a rule that any team, no matter what their data is, is credited with at least 50 "walks not issued". 

            The reason that you have to have that rule is that, while the overall quality of the team’s control was sub-zero, not EVERY pitcher on the team would be sub-zero.   SOME pitchers on the team would still, individually, have some control, get some credit for not walking batters.  Later on, we’ll divide up the credit for the team to individual pitchers.  Those pitchers have to get credit for what they have done.  If you don’t leave anything on the ledger, then there is nothing to be assigned to the individual pitchers later on.   So we have to put in a minimum.

            It’s just a weird situation; it only applies to three teams in the history of baseball.  The three teams which stray over the zero-value line in one category or another were all more than 100 years ago—the 1915 A’s, the 1900 New York Giants, and the 1901 Baltimore Orioles.  There are 2,550 teams in the study and 7 categories; we’ve got 18,000 category measurements.   One in 6,000 is a case like this, where we will have to bend our rules.

 

            On the other end of the walks scale is a team that wasn’t very good, either; the top two teams for NOT walking anybody are the 1932 Cincinnati Reds (60-94) and the 1933 Cincinnati Reds (58-94).   That team played in a huge ballpark where there were basically no home runs, so they just put the ball in the strike zone and let people hit it. 

            In general, good control DOES correlate with team success.   Good teams walk fewer batters than bad teams.  That Cincinnati team is an exception to the rules.  It’s a wild animal; that’s why we have the cage. 

 

 
 

COMMENTS (6 Comments, most recent shown first)

bhalbleib
The 1914 A's were actually not really that great of a pitching team (their team ERA+ was in the low 90s), so the loss of two adequate pitchers like Bender and Plank (and that is really all they were at that point in their careers, adequate) did hurt, but not as much as the regression noted willibphx of the younger pitchers (some of whom turned out to be very good to great pitchers later in their careers). Frankly, the dead ball era kind of hides the fact that the A's had been winning with their everyday players, not their pitching. It was the loss of Collins and Baker (and then Barry halfway through 1915) that really hurt them in 1915.
7:34 AM Jun 22nd
 
willibphx
Interesting team. The loss of Chief Bender and Eddie Plank were huge losses from the 1914 team (combined for 32-10, 364 IP and and 2.56 ERA). Mack and the team also got crushed by a group of young pitchers who regressed mightily. Shawkey, Bush, Wyckoff, Pennock, Bressler and Davies went from 65-36, 935 IP and a 2.70 ERA to 29-69, 766 IP and an ERA of 4.37 which was higher than the team ERA. To the point of this article their BB/9 also went from 3.7 to 5.4
7:29 AM Jun 20th
 
evanecurb
Relating to nothing that you have said, but I just happened to read it today in an article in 538.com. Ron Hunt's hit by pitch total in 1971 was 13 standard deviations from the mean.
2:32 PM Jun 19th
 
trn6229
I thought that perhaps the 1962 Mets would be bad in this area. I checked on Baseball-Reference and Mets batters walked 616 times. Chacon and Ashburn walked a lot, the other players were ok. Mets pitchers walked 571 batters, so they were 45 walks to the good.

When the AL expanded for the 1961 season, the Angels were able to pick up some decent young talent such as Jim Fregosi, Dean Chance and Bob Rodgers. When the NL expanded in 1962, the NL magnates made sure that young talent would not be plentiful, although the Mets were able to draft Al Jackson, a good young pitcher.

Take Care,
Tom Nahigian
1:29 PM Jun 19th
 
MelParnell
There should absolutely NOT be any team 5 standard deviations from any mean, ever. There shouldn't really be any teams 4 standard deviations from the mean. The 1915 A's were really, honestly, not a major league team, they clearly were in a different context. It is kind of amazing they won 43 games. Then again, maybe it was only walking people, otherwise perhaps they were just a bad ML team. They just couldn't hit the side of a barn.
12:13 PM Jun 19th
 
Gfletch
Wow.

Looking at what you've just written about the 1915 Philadelphia A's, I'm really impressed that they managed to win a single game.
10:59 AM Jun 19th
 
 
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