By In Stuff

Some Baseball Stuff

Five fun baseball stats from 2013 to impress your friends:

1. The league is hitting .184 against Clayton Kershaw this year.

That’s one … eighty … four. To give you a little perspective:

— The league hit .184 against Bob Gibson in 1968 when he had a 1.12 ERA.

— The league hit .186 against Mike Scott in 1986 when he seemed about as unhittable as anyone.
— The league hit .189 against Vida Blue in 1971 when he won the MVP Award.

— The league hit .193 against Ron Guidry in 1978, when he had his extraordinary 25-3, 1.74 ERA season.
— The league hit .201 against Dwight Gooden in 1985, when he had the season of his generation.
— The league hit .203 against Nolan Ryan in 1973, when he threw two no-hitters.
— The league hit .205 against Sandy Koufax in 1966, when he went 27-5 with a 1.73 ERA.

— The league hit .206 against Greg Maddux in 1994 when he had a 1.56 ERA.

Not that batting average against is a particularly great statistic. But it’s interesting. Kershaw’s .184 average would be the ninth lowest total since 1950. The Top 8 have pitchers you would expect (Pedro in 2000, Koufax in ’65, Ryan twice), players you might expect (Luis Tiant and Dave McNally in that crazy pitching season of 1968), and a couple of fun ones (Sid Fernandez in 1985 was thoroughly unhittable, Hideo Nomo in 1995).

2. According to Fangraphs, Mike Trout (6.1) passed Miguel Cabrera (6.0) in WAR.

And here we go again. So far, Cabrera maintains a WAR lead over Trout according to Baseball Reference (5.6 to 4.8) but — and I’ve been telling friends this for a while — I think Trout will once again have a decent lead over Cabrera in WAR when the season ends. It feels inevitable to me because (and no, I don’t want to get this argument started again) I think Trout is just a better player than Cabrera. He’s not a better hitter than Cabrera, nobody is as good a hitter as Cabrera right now, but Trout is a spectacular hitter, and he’s a much faster base runner, and to the eye he’s a much more valuable defensive player. I say, “to the eye” because right now Baseball Reference has Trout as a pretty severe defensive liability, which is why he’s still trailing Cabrera in WAR.*

*Right now, the Fielding Bible — who I think do a great job of measuring defense — has Cabrera playing brutal third base (minus-10 runs saved), which, I have to be honest, is how he usually looks to me when I watch him play. But the Bible also shows Trout playing pretty poor defense this year (minus-12 when you count his time in left and center) and that doesn’t really match my eye. But I don’t see either of them enough, nor do I trust my eye enough, to disagree with the numbers. I do think by year’s end the defensive numbers will give Trout the edge, which is why I think he will lead in WAR. But I could be wrong on that.

I predicted that Cabrera would win the Triple Crown again, and even though he has been passed by Chris Davis in RBIs for the moment, I still think that will happen. And I still think Mike Trout will have the higher WAR. And I still think that Cabrera will once again get the MVP Award. And I still think commenters on this blog and others will have a lot to talk about.

3. The Reds’ Shin-Soo Choo and Joey Votto are both on pace to reach base more than 300 times this year.

The last team to have teammates reach base 300-plus times? The 1999 New York Yankees, with Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams. Before that, it was the 1997 Houston Astros with the Hall of Fame waiters Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell. And before that you have to back to the 1930s.

4. Chris Davis is slugging .701 at the moment.

Only 35 players have slugged .700 in baseball history and a lot of them were named Ruth and Bonds. Nobody slugged .700 in a full season between 1956 (Mickey Mantle’s triple crown year; Ted Williams did it the next year in 98 games) and 1996 (Mark McGwire that year … Frank Thomas, Albert Belle and Jeff Bagwell all slugged .700 in 1994, the strike season).

Barry Bonds, in case you want to get angry, slugged .700 or better FOUR SEASON IN A ROW.

Babe Ruth, in case you want to be wowed, slugged .700 or better NINE TIMES IN 12 SEASONS.

5. Adam Wainwright has 137 strikeouts and 17 walks.

It’s not QUITE the insane strikeout-to-walk ratio he had a few weeks ago, but it’s still 8-to-1, which would rank as one of the 10 best ratios among starters in baseball history.

Let’s just say this: Adam Wainwright has had some tough luck when it comes to recognition in his career. The guy led the league in wins in 2009 with a sparkling 2.63 ERA and had the misfortune of coming up at a time when many of us realized how pointless the win statistic is — he lost the Cy Young to 15-game winner Tim Lincecum (who I think had the better year, but go with me on this).

In 2010, Wainwright won 20 games, was second in ERA, pitched 230 innings … and lost the Cy Young to a fabulous season from Roy Halladay.

This year, he’s leading the league in wins, he has this preposterously good strikeout-to-walk ratio, he leads at the moment in starts, complete games, shutouts and innings pitched … and because the aforementioned Clayton Kershaw is having another season for the ages and Matt Harvey is basically doing a spine-chilling impersonation of Tom Seaver, Wainwright will probably not win the Cy Young Award again this year. Timing, it seems, is everything.

29 Responses to Some Baseball Stuff

  1. Can’t let the Trout/Cabrera thing go? Do I have to point out that you can’t have it both ways — you either go with your “eye” on defense, or stats. But you can’t say the defensive stats bring Cabrera down, while your “eye” keeps Trout floating on gossamer wings.

    • Ed says:

      He addressed this specifically: “But I don’t see either of them enough, nor do I trust my eye enough, to disagree with the numbers.”

      Regardless, if they actually are equally bad at defense, Trout would still probably be the better player overall because he’s almost as good at hitting and much MUCH better at baserunning.

    • Dinky says:

      There is no sane way in the world that Trout is a minus defender. None. Part of it is probably that Bourjos (who is even better) pushed Trout to left field, and reduces the range rating of both corner outfielders and probably the shortstop and second baseman as well. But it’s not fair to reduce Trout because he doesn’t catch balls Bourjos calls him off on. Also, BR ranks him as better than league average OF in range factor overall (much better in left, slightly worse in center), as well as better than league average fielding percentage, so how can he be so much negative in WAR? OTOH, Trout would have to be better than he was last year on the basepaths to make up the difference in hitting, and he’s not nearly as good.

    • Martin F. says:

      I do watch Trout a lot, almost every game. He looked terrible in left field earlier this season. Once he moved to center he looked much better. He doesn’t look great, but like a good CF. Mark Trumbo was better in left field than Trout was to start the season.

    • John Gale says:

      I wouldn’t say Trout is “almost” as good a hitter. His OPS+ right now is 170, which is really good. But Cabrera’s is 197, which is a big difference. He’s hitting .358/.454/.666 (1.120 OPS) with 31 homers, 96 RBI and 76 runs. Trout is hitting .324/.402/.563 (.965 OPS) with 16 homers, 61 RBI and 67 runs. Honestly, that’s not even all that close. As good a hitter as Trout is, Cabrera is much better. As for the defense, I’m not really sure how it works. But Joe does seem a bit biased when he says Cabrera’s -10 is “brutal,” while Trout’s -12 is “pretty poor.” Last I checked, -12 is worse than -10, though I’m not an expert on the defensive numbers, so I’m not sure if positional differences mean that -12 in the outfield is actually better than -10 at third base (though Cabrera’s negative defensive value–according to Baseball Reference–isn’t as bad as Trout’s is, so maybe not). Either way, it’s not a good number for Trout. Clearly, Trout is a much better base runner. That’s not even worth debating. But I think Cabrera’s hitting advantage more than makes up the difference on that front and makes him more valuable overall, especially if their defense (or lack thereof) continues to be a wash.

    • Ed says:

      I agree that Trout’s hitting this season, while still excellent, as not almost as good as Cabrera because Cabrera has been other-worldly so far. But last year they were essentially equal as hitters, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Cabrera fall off a bit to merely phenomenal as opposed to world-destroying.

    • Dodger300 says:

      I think Dinky just made a great case for why WAR is so defective when it comes to rating defense.

      There are way too many variables, starting with handing out bonus points for where one stands before the first pitch of the game is thrown.

      Hopefully some day we will have valid, reliable, and consistently meaningful metrics for defense, but we aren’t even close yet.

  2. olderholden says:

    Next time I’m in Cooperstown, I think I’ll have lunch at the Hall of Fame. It’d be a kick to be served by either of the Killer Bees.

  3. Devon Young says:

    I love the Kershaw thing you brought up. His ERA currently stands at 2.01, while having the same BA against, that Gibson & his 1.12 ERA did. Since Kershaw’s home games are in a great pitchers park, I had to go check his splits. I’m a bit shocked to see that he’s actually allowing just .167 on the road. That includes 2 starts in Colorado.

    • Ian R. says:

      It depends somewhat on whose park factors you use, but Dodger Stadium isn’t as much of a pitcher’s park as you’d think. It does suppress home runs quite a bit, but as far as hits are concerned (which matter more for BA against), it plays pretty neutral.

    • Dinky says:

      Dodger Stadium is no longer the great pitcher’s park it used to be. Twice they have moved home plate closer to the outfield, and they added more field level seats to reduce the foul area.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Back in the 60s the fences were up against the pavillion. And higher. Impossible in those days.

  4. Joe says:

    Forget about timing; I think you can blame Keith Law for Wainwright not being a Cy Young winner. That aside, Wainwright has two World Series titles since 2006 and I don’t believe he would change that for five Cys. Wainwright is everything you would want in an ace; team leader, wise older counsel to young guns, dynamite every fifth day…
    Dark Side of the Mood

    • Adam says:

      He was completely justified in not voting for him that year and the degree to which so many Cardinals fans still can’t let that go is really embarrassing as someone who roots for the team.

    • Vidor says:

      I was about to say, Wainwright’s chances of winning the Cy Young will be limited if Keith Law still has a vote.

    • Theo says:

      As a Cardinals fan, this is getting embarrassing. Wainwright still finished third that year. Law would have had to have more or less totally left Lincecum. And if I recall, his big split on Carpenter versus Lincecum was their difference in innings pitched. Given that, and since FIP has Wainwright and Harvey close this year (0.13 off, 1-2 in the majors), I would think he’d fall in line with Waino this year since he already has a 18 inning advantage that will likely only grow (especially if Harvey gets shut down).

  5. iusig says:

    I sure hope Choo and Votto aren’t getting on base with walks. Dusty Baker hates walks – they just clog the bases.

  6. Brendan says:

    I think the most amazing current stat is that the Nationals have six hits in their last 79 at bats with runners in scoring position. That has to be bad in some kind of historic, absurd way.

  7. steak says:

    Another fun baseball stat. The Royals suck at baseball. Wait. That is not fun at all.

  8. The Big Red Machine in 1975 came oh so close to your two teammates with 300 times on base (I have checked before because I never believe it when you give this stat, but you always turn out to be right) Charlie Hustle was on 310 times (210 + 89 + 11). Little Joe was on 298 times (163 + 132 + 3). Of course, I expect Morgan reached base at least a couple of times on opponent’s error, but we don’t count that as really reaching base (not sure why not, other than it would be pretty annoying and difficult to count historically)


  9. Dan Shea says:

    There’s a bit of a rounding error in the Alex Rodriguez polling question at the moment resulting in the percentages listed adding up to 98%.

    Votes Listed Actual
    Yes 1120 49 49.58%

    No 835 36 36.96%

    Need time 304 13 13.46%

    Total 2259 98 100.00%

  10. JRoth says:

    Sid was often unhittable: he had 5 different seasons with at least 18 GS and a batting average against below .200, including .188 in 31 starts in 1988. Sadly, he just wasn’t that durable: only 3 seasons above 190 IP, and he was never both healthy and effective after his age 31 season.

  11. Corey says:

    The interesting question with Trout’s WAR is how much he will play LF vs CF, and if he plays more LF, whether will slow his WAR accumulation. The replacement level in LF is a lot higher than in CF (it’s a lot easier to find good-hitting LFs than CFs), so his WAR for the same offensive output will be significantly higher the more CF he plays.

  12. Chad says:

    The whole Cabrera vs Trout WAR argument is what makes so many people not trust WAR. I think, generally speaking, that pitching and hitting will be pretty variable over time, but defense is more consistent. It makes no sense that Trout would have a dWAR of 2.1 which ranked 7th in the American League (and he missed a whole month!!!). This year, however, by that metric, he is at -1.1 … meaning he’s worth 3.2 Wins less on defense than last year?? Either Trout has regressed amazingly on defense, or the metric itself is pretty flawed. I would say the truth is somewhere in-between … he wasn’t that good last year, and he’s not that bad this year. Either way, I don’t fully trust WAR to tell me who is the best player. As a starting point, sure, but not as the end-all, be-all.

    • Jesse says:

      Hm. I have a hard time believing that defense would be any more or less variable than hitting or pitching performance over the same time frame. In fact, for an outfielder, I would be not at all surprised to discover that fielding performance was more volatile than hitting performance. To wit: Trout has appeared at the plate 457 times, but only has 243 putouts. If I assume that Trout successfully fields 70% of the balls in his range, that leads to an estimate of about 347 balls in play in his range. The rules of sample size alone require that his fielding performance is likely to be more subject to randomness than his hitting performance.

      That’s not definitive by any means, but I would keep an open mind about it.

    • Chad says:

      I don’t think I follow your reasoning. To me, you will still encounter far more variability in hitting results year over year than you will an outfielder getting to a ball, catching it, making throws, etc.

  13. Jesse says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. evan lowe says:

    I think that Cabrera is still a much better hitter than Trout no matter the stats.

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