Baseball Bits #6: How Sac Fly Rule Impacts Averages

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Did you know that if the current sacrifice fly rule were in effect in 1941, Ted Williams would’ve batted .417?  Instead, Williams batted .406 becoming the last player to bat over .400.  I have recalculated the top 5 batting averages in each league from the last 10 years if the current sacrifice fly rule wasn’t in effect.

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With the old rule, none of these guys would’ve even come close to what Ted Williams did.

The Research

Note: 

Average w/Sac Fly = Sac Fly Counts at At Bat

Average = Average as it is calculated today where the sac fly does not count as an at bat

NL

AL

The “Baseball Bits”

  • After the re-calculation, nobody has come closer to Ted Williams in the last 10 years than Joe Mauer, who batted .362.  He is .044 below Ted Williams.
  • Miguel Cabrera, who won the Triple Crown like Ted Williams, has been Top 5 in the AL 7 times.  After the re-calculation, his best batting average from the last 10 years was .341.  That’s .065 lower than Ted Williams
  • After the re-calculation, only 33 players had averages over .325.  That’s just 32% of the averages calculated and just 2.2% of players eligible for batting average.
    • Only 7 players had averages over .350, just 6.8% of the re-calculated players, and 0.4% of players eligible for batting averages
    • However, nobody had an average under .300.
  • The biggest decrease in average was a .006 decrease by Joe Mauer in 2008, Daniel Murphy in 2016, and Buster Posey in 2012.
  • These averages prove that nobody was even close to being as good as Ted Williams was since 1941.

The Verdict

You may have been amazed by some hitters with high batting averages that came close to .400 but what Ted Williams did was just amazing and it will be hard to beat, old rules or new rules.  No wonder he won two Triple Crowns in his career (nobody else has done that).  He is arguably the best hitter to ever play baseball.  Nothing matches up to the things he did.  Nobody has had an average over .400 since he did.  Nobody has ever won two Triple Crowns besides him.

Stay tuned for more baseball articles.  The trade deadline is coming up; will the Sox be shopping for a new third baseman?  Do they need another home run hitter?

Baseball Bits #5: Porcello Struggling, Is This Typical of First Time Cy Young Winners?

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Rick Porcello did not look good in his start on Friday.  He did not even make it out the 5th inning, pitching only 4.1 innings and giving up 8 earned runs.  This is disappointing because Porcello just won the Cy Young and we were expecting a good year.  Is it the pressure on him that’s causing him to struggle?  There was a lot of pressure on him in 2015 as a new member of the Red Sox and he struggled.  That might be the problem with all the first-year Red Sox pitchers.  On the Sox, the expectations are high and the pressure is on because the team spent has spent a lot of money on this roster.  I thought the pressure was all on Sale this year but Porcello is under pressure as well.


Porcello looked spotless last year though when the pressure was not on him as much.  He won the Cy Young.  But is it typical of a first time Cy Young winner to thrive the next year?  That gave me an idea for more research.  The question is, how many of the first-time Cy Young winners improved their ERA the next year?  I also researched how many had an ERA under 3.25 the next year: here are the results dating back to 1956, when the award was founded.
The Research



Prior to 1967, there was only one Cy Young winner for the entire MLB.


The “Baseball Bits”

  •  Only 18 players (13 AL, 3 NL, 2 when only one MLB pitcher won) of the 75 first time winners had an ERA over 4.00 the next year (just 24%!).
    • Only 2 (Mark Davis and Bartolo Colon) had an ERA over 5.00 the following year
  • Only 6 players (1 AL, 2 NL, 3 when only one MLB pitcher won) of 75 first time winners have ever improved their ERA after winning their first Cy Young (just 8%!). They were:
    • Tim Lincecum (2008, improved from 2.62 to 2.48)
    • C.C. Sabathia (2007, improved from 3.21 to 2.70)
    • Brandon Webb (2006, improved from 3.10 to 3.01)
    • Sandy Koufax (1963, improved from 1.88 to 1.74)
    • Don Drysdale (1962, improved from 2.83 to 2.63)
    • Whitey Ford (1961, improved from 3.21 to 2.90)
  • 38 players (12 AL, 21 NL, 5 when only one MLB pitcher won) have held their ERA under 3.25 the next year. That’s 54.3% of the 70 players who were first-time winners that won with an ERA under 3.25
  • The last pitcher to have an ERA under 3.25 after their first Cy Young was Jake Arrieta in 2015
  • Not including Porcello, 2 of the first time Cy Young winners were on the Red Sox (Jim Lonborg and Roger Clemens). Lonborg was one of the 18 over 4.00, with an ERA of 4.29. But Clemens had an ERA of 2.97 the next year, which was not an improvement but was under 3.25.
  • No player has improved their ERA after their first time Cy Young year since 2008 when Tim Lincecum did it. The last time it happened in the AL was in 2007 when C.C. Sabathia did it.
  • The Cy Young was won 30 times by a multiple time winner. However, only 13 people have ever won the Cy Young multiple times.  That means that some of the 13 have won more than twice
  • No pitcher with an ERA over 3.25 when they won improved their ERA after their first Cy Young
  • If Rick Porcello turns it around and improves his ERA from last year, he would be the first first-time Cy Young winner on the Red Sox to do it. Right now that seems unlikely based on how he pitched on Friday.

The Verdict

Based on this research I would not expect Porcello to improve his ERA from last year, especially after his horrid Friday night performance.  But it is possible that his ERA will stay under 3.25.  That will be hard to do.  He put up an ERA of 3.15 last year when he won the Cy Young.  But it is possible.  Is Porcello at the level of those 38 pitchers who did keep their ERA under 3.25?  Maybe not when he’s under pressure because he has stunk under pressure.

Trading for Chris Sale helped strengthen the Red Sox rotation and you would think that would get the pressure off Porcello.  Maybe by winning the Cy Young Porcello has put more pressure on himself, especially now that David Price is injured.  With Chris Sale and David Price (who will be back in June) also in the rotation and Pomeranz doing well, the Red Sox should be able to allow Porcello time to adjust.  I think there’s a chance that we can see the kind of numbers we saw from him in 2016.  I don’t think his 22 wins will be repeated but I think his numbers can be at least respectable if he makes the adjustments necessary.

The research shows that most Cy Young first-time winners keep an ERA under 4.00 (76%).  I believe that Porcello can be part of this 76% because the Sox are one of the best defensive teams in the league and they should help steal a few hits and runs.

Stay tuned for my next Baseball Bits, where I will look at how top home run hitters impact their teams.  Thanks for reading.

Baseball Bits #4: Setting The Expectations for Chris Sale in 2017

 

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Hope you’re excited baseball fans because baseball is back in season! That means it’s time for another Baseball Bits. In the off-season, the Red Sox acquired Chris Sale from the White Sox. On Chicago, he was an ace, finishing as a Top 10 AL pitcher in ERA for the last 3 years. But historically, pitchers with a top 10 ERA in their league often don’t repeat their success the following season if they’re joining a new team. I did some research to prove it. So, don’t think Chris Sale will be the same in 2017 as he was the last two years.
What are the expectations for Chris Sale in 2017? That’s what I did the research for. What I looked for were top 10 pitchers by ERA in their league that changed teams the following year. What I wanted to find out is how many of them had an ERA under 3.50 on their new team. Pitchers that were on my spreadsheet were filtered by the following guidelines:

  1. The pitcher must be in the top 10 or tied for top 10 in ERA that year.
  2. They must have been on a different team the year after they made the leaderboard.
  3. They must have stayed on the team they join for the whole season.
  4. The team they joined must have been joined in the off-season after they made the leaderboard.
  5. The team they joined cannot be a team they left earlier in the year when they made the leaderboard.

I have used this research to set expectations for Chris Sale in 2017, and compare his expectations to the rest of the rotation. I have also projected stats for Sale compared to the rest of the rotation based on the research. Pitchers with ERAs under 3.50 on their new team are highlighted below.
The Research since 1960
AL


NL

The Baseball Bits

  • 95 Pitchers who were in the top 10 in ERA for the AL or NL switched teams the following year.  Of those 95, only 17 (13 AL, 4 NL), improved their ERA. That’s 17.9%!  1 of them did not have an ERA under 3.50 in either year (Tim Hudson, 3.53 Year 1, 3.52 Year 2).
    • Only 37 out of the 95 pitchers (20 AL, 17 NL), just 38.9% had an ERA under 3.50 in their first year with the new team!
    • Only 16 (8 in each league) of these 37 had an ERA under 3.00 (43.2%)
  • Pitchers that changed teams but not leagues actually performed better than those that switched leagues
    • 23 out of 47 pitchers that changed teams but not leagues that were in the top 10 ERA had ERAs under 3.50 in their first year with their new team. That is 48.9%
    • Only 14 of the 48 pitchers that changed teams AND changed leagues that were in the top 10 ERA had ERAs under 3.50 in their first year with their new team. That is 29.1%
  • John Lackey was the last pitcher to have an ERA under 3.50 on a new team, with his 3.35 mark in 2016. Max Scherzer in 2015 was the last from the AL in their Top 10 year. Scherzer changed leagues but Lackey stayed in the same division.
  • Not many Top 10 pitchers League-wide switched teams back in the early 1900s. Between 1900 and 1960, only 9 top 10 pitchers by League ERA overall switched teams the following season.
    • However, 6 of those 9 had an ERA under 3.50 on their new team.
  • The Red Sox have signed/acquired 7 pitchers (David Price, Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez, John Burkett, Danny Darwin, Zane Smith, Dennis Eckersley) that were Top 10 in ERA in their league the previous year. Of those 7, only Martinez (2.89), Eckersley (2.99) and Schilling (3.26) have had an ERA under 3.50 in their 1st year. The other 4 averaged a 4.82 ERA in their first years in Boston, Price (3.99), Burkett (4.53), Smith (5.61) and Darwin (5.16).  Only Eckersley improved his ERA.  Sale is the 8th acquisition but we don’t know how he’ll do.
  • 6 active pitchers have had an ERA under 3.50 on a new team after their Top 10 year. However, the lowest ERA on their new team by an active pitcher is 3.34 (Jon Lester in 2015).
  • Only one pitcher has ever changed teams after a Top 10 year and had an ERA under 3.50 more than once in their career, Kevin Brown.
  • Pitchers that changed teams but not leagues actually performed better than those that switched leagues

The Verdict

Repeating a top 10 ERA year on a new team does not happen very often. It’s hard to do. A lot of big name players have done it, but I’d say there’s probably one Hall-of-Famer on the spreadsheet that hasn’t done it for every Hall-of-Famer that has.  Is Chris Sale a future Hall-of-Famer and is he as good as the Hall-of-Famers that have succeeded in year one with their new team?  We’ll find out this season. What I can tell you is that I’ve found a reasonable expectation level for Chris Sale based on the research. Typically, pitchers on the spreadsheet that didn’t do well are at least somewhat better in their second year with their new team.  I hope David Price follows that trend despite his elbow issues that will keep him out early in the year.  Sale staying in the same league might help his success this year not hurt it as one would expect facing new players. But, interleague play, better defense, and changing divisions might also be a factor that my research did not include.

Okay, so here are my expectations & predictions for Chris Sale in 2017 based on the research. I’ve compared the predictions to my thoughts on the rest of the Red Sox rotation

For Chris Sale, I’m not expecting him to have an ERA under 3.00. He is pumped to be on the Red Sox though, so I’m expecting a winning record and an ERA between 3.00 and 3.75. He won’t be as good as he was in his best seasons in Chicago but he will be a big help to the Red Sox rotation. The rotation actually looks really good this year. Now here’s my prediction for Sale. Below I’ve also included stat predictions for Price, Porcello, E-Rod, Drew Pomeranz and Steven Wright.

  • Chris Sale: 18-8, 3.57 ERA, 216 K, 1.26 WHIP
  •  David Price: 11-5, 3.66 ERA, 148 K, 1.34 WHIP
  • Rick Porcello: 19-9, 3.28 ERA, 174 K, 1.17 WHIP
  • Eduardo Rodriguez: 16-9, 3.42 ERA, 151 K, 1.32 WHIP
  • Drew Pomeranz: 14-9, 4.04 ERA, 143 K, 1.36 WHIP
  • Steven Wright: 12-6, 3.64 ERA, 117 K, 1.28 WHIP

I expect all the Red Sox pitchers to have decent years, with Sale, E-Rod and Porcello among the best. Price would be up there too, but his injury is holding him back a little bit.

Baseball is back! Get excited, Sale makes his debut today!  And get excited for more post from me!

Baseball Bits #3: Could Red Sox have 3rd MVP/Cy Young Pair?

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The regular season is over and it’s the perfect time to consider the MVP and Cy Young winners.  The Red Sox have some good candidates.  The Red Sox have several MVP candidates starting with Mookie Betts who showed he is an all around 5-tool player.  David Ortiz in his final season performed better than any player in his final season is also considered a frontrunner for the AL MVP.  Rick Porcello is my top choice to win the Cy Young.  He’s 22-4 with a 3.11 ERA!

 

The Sox have a good chance to have both the AL MVP and AL Cy Young winners this year, I decided to do some research on the MVP and Cy Young award winners.  How many teams had both the MVP and Cy Young award winners and what happened to their teams?  Read on to find out.  

 

The Research

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The “Baseball Bits”

 

  • Since 1956 when the Cy Young award began (it was split into 2 awards (AL and NL) in 1967), 28 teams have had an MVP and Cy Young winner in the same year (MVP/Cy Young pair)

 

  • From 1956 to 1966, there were 7 teams that had MVP/Cy Young pair in the same year

 

  • The last team to do it was the 2014 Dodgers (Clayton Kershaw won both awards)

 

  • 8 of the teams who had MVP/Cy Young pair in the same year had pitchers who won both

 

  • The last team to have different players who won MVP/Cy Young in the same year was the 2013 Tigers

 

  • 15 of the 28 Cy Young/MVP pairs came from the AL

 

  • The Red Sox only had a Cy Young and MVP Winner twice: in 1967 (Carl Yastrzemski & Jim Lonborg) and 1986 (Roger Clemens won both awards).  The Sox lost the World Series in both of those years

 

  • The Indians and Blue Jays, who could also achieve this in 2016, have never done it before

 

  • The Cubs, who are also candidates have done it once (1984, Ryne Sandberg & Rick Sutcliffe).  They lost in the NLCS.

 

  • Only one team who had an MVP/Cy Young pair in the same year missed the playoffs (the 1962 Dodgers)

 

  • 16 of the 27 (59%) who made the playoffs made the World Series, and 8 of the 16 teams won the World Series

 

  • 23 of the 27 teams (85%) made it past the ALDS/NLDS

 

The Verdict

 

One thing that this research proved is that MVP and Cy Young voters place value on players from playoff teams.  It’s not common (especially since 1968) for a team to have an MVP/Cy Young pair but it’s even less common to have that team not make the playoffs.  This year the Sox made the playoffs by winning the division so I think it increases the Red Sox’s chances to have their third MVP/Cy Young pair, especially since they dominated down the stretch to pull away from the pack.  

Below are my picks for who wins the AL and NL MVP and Cy Young:  

 

AL MVP Prediction: Mookie Betts

Mookie Betts has been on fire this year and the fact that he’s a 5 tool player just makes him more worthy of the award.  Betts and the Red Sox lineup have just been really impressive this year.  I also think even though guys like Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera would be good candidates, that the MVP and Cy Young should come from a playoff team and my research shows that voters do as well.  Betts is one of the best of this great Red Sox lineup and the Red Sox have been one of the best offensive teams in the league.  Betts has not only been a top offensive player but his defensive statistics show he’s a top gold glove candidate as well.  Big Papi may be a candidate too since it’s his last season but if voters focus purely on overall numbers, their vote will be for Betts.  

AL Cy Young Prediction: Rick Porcello

I really don’t think there are many good options besides Rick Porcello.  Corey Kluber could compete with him but I’m giving Porcello the edge.  Kluber has won before and was expected to do well this year.  He just won in 2014!  On the other hand, Rick Porcello was not expected to that well this year.  Instead, he’s top 5 in every key pitching category and first in wins so I don’t know how he does not win.  The fact that Porcello along with Hanley Ramirez, have had such great second seasons unexpectedly, vindicates Ben Cherington a bit.

NL MVP Prediction: Anthony Rizzo

Nolan Arenado would be a better candidate if team performance did not matter.  But have the Rockies done anything this season?  I was thinking of making an exception to picking MVPs and Cy Youngs from just playoff teams but there are other candidates that come from the 102-58 Chicago Cubs.  Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant would also make good candidates.  I picked Rizzo because he had a better average and more RBIs despite less home runs.

 

NL Cy Young Prediction: Max Scherzer

There are a lot of good NL pitchers that are worthy of this award.  But if anyone has proven all around excellence in pitching, it’s Max Scherzer.  Scherzer was a candidate last year but didn’t quite make it to the final 3 despite 2 no-hitters (1 that was almost a perfect game).  This year his ERA is good again (2.82) and he has a huge lead in strikeouts (277).  He also has an unbelieveable WHIP (0.94), and leads the NL in wins tied with Jon Lester.  All of those stats are Cy Young worthy.  

 

The Red Sox actually have a pretty good chance of an MVP/Cy Young pair.  I don’t see many players who can beat out Rick Porcello and the Sox have such a good lineup that I’m more than 50% sure a Red Sox player will win the MVP.  The chances are looking good but the winners would need to be really good because this has only happened 28 times.  Are the Red Sox a realistic candidate?  We’ll find out soon and hopefully that means they also have a good chance to win it all.

 

Baseball Bits #2: Four 40/100 Duos this year?

 

 

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Welcome to the 2nd edition of Baseball Bits.  Since the 2006 White Sox only the 2015 Blue Jays have had 2 players with 40 homers and 100 RBI (40/100 duo).  However this year, 4 teams including the Red Sox have a chance to have a 40/100 duo which my research shows is very rare (especially if you don’t count the “Steroid Era”).  The Blue Jays have Josh Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion, the Red Sox have Mookie Betts and David Ortiz, the Mariners have Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz and the Orioles have a trio of Mark Trumbo, Manny Machado and Chris Davis!  The Orioles have never even had two players in the same season reach the 40/100 milestone!  Below is my research and my “Baseball Bits” summary findings.

My Research: 40-100-duos-playoff-status-sheet1-1

The Bits

  • Only 22 teams have ever had two players with 40 HR, 100 RBI (40/100 duo)
  • 15 teams with 40/100 duos missed the playoffs
  • Only the 1927 and 1961 Yankees won the World Series with a 40/100 duo
  • In the “Steroid Era” (1991-2003), 9 teams had a 40/100 duo but only 1 of the 9 made the playoffs, the Seattle Mariners but did not win the World Series or even make it
  • In the years when 8 teams qualified for the playoffs, 9 of the 12 teams with a 40/100 duo missed the playoffs
  • The only team with a 40/100 duo before 1950 was the New York Yankees; Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig did it 3 times together
  • Only 1 team has ever had two 50 HR hitters, the 1961 Yankees
  • The Red Sox made the playoffs the 1 time they had a duo in 2005, Manny and Big Papi
  • The Orioles have never had a duo, let alone a trio
  • The Blue Jays have had a duo 3 times, making the playoffs once, and missing the playoffs in the two times they had 40/100 duos in the “Steroid Era”
  • Only 5 of the 22 teams with a 40/100 duo are from the NL
– The 2004 St. Louis Cardinals
– The 1970 Cincinnati Reds
– The 1955 Cincinnati Redlegs
– The 1954 Brooklyn Dodgers
– The 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers
  • Only the 1969 Red Sox have had two players with 40 HR but not 100 RBI, when they missed the playoffs.  Rico Petrocelli came close to making a duo with Carl Yastrzemski but only had 97 RBI
  • The 2006 White Sox were the last team to miss the playoffs with a 40/100 duo but there has been only 1 other duo since, the 2015 Blue Jays who lost in the ALCS
  • Of the 13 teams that achieved this outside of the “Steroid Era”, 7 made the playoffs, and 5 of the 6 that missed the playoffs did it before the playoffs expanded beyond 2 teams

The Verdict

40/100 duos are rare especially since the Steroid Era.  About half the players from the era have been publicly accused of steroid use.  The fact that 4 teams could potentially have 40/100 duos this year could be indicative of thinning pitching talent across the league.  Or maybe there is a new undetected PED or a “live ball”.

The Orioles could be the first team ever to have a trio of 40/100 players!  That’s just unbelievable!  All of these teams are in playoff contention but have struggled on the mound.  Will their pitching fail them or will they propel through October?

My bet is on the Red Sox to win the ALCS but they may end up being the only AL East team without a 40/100 duo of the 3 AL East teams with a chance to reach the milestone.  But Ortiz and Betts have already reached a different 40/100 milestone with 40 doubles and 100 RBI.

I think the Sox boosted by the best AL pitching since the All-Star break plus a trio of 30/100 players in Ortiz, Betts, and the surging Hanley Ramirez, will show that pitching/hitting balance is still what is needed to go far into the postseason.

Go Sox!

Baseball Bits #1: Only Four Teams To Win World Series with Higher ERA than 2016 Red Sox

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The Red Sox have finally had a strong record, but with a tough schedule coming up, can they stay in contention?  They have scored plenty of runs this season, but the pitching has struggled.  They didn’t make a move at the deadline beyond Drew Pomeranz (who can’t find his groove), and relievers Fernando Abad (who struggled) and Brad Ziegler (who surprisingly has thrived).  The Red Sox have put up a 4.33 team ERA this season.   Only four teams have won the World Series with a higher ERA.  If the Red Sox don’t improve their pitching, could they be in trouble, or could they be the next team.  Well I’ve done research to prove my point, and in this post, I will show you what I came up with and what we can conclude about the World Series hopes of this year’s Red Sox team.

Below is a PDF with all my research.  I have put together the World Series winning and losing teams’ ERAs and runs per game.  Below the PDF are some “Baseball Bits” I found after the research.

Baseball Bits (Update) — World Series Team Stats from 1903 to present — Year Descending — 2016-08-03

 

World Series Teams ERA and Runs Per Game (RPG)

  • Only 4 Teams (that’s just 3.6%!) have won the World Series with an ERA over the Red Sox’s 2016 ERA to date:

o    2006 Cardinals (Last To Do It)

o    2000 Yankees

o    1996 Yankees

o    1987 Twins (First To Do It)

  • Last team to win WS with ERA over Red Sox’s current 4.33: 2006 Cardinals
  • Last team to win WS with ERA over 4.00: 2009 Yankees
  • Only 6 teams have made the WS with ERA over 4.33
  • Only 12 teams have Won the WS with ERA over 4.00, the first being the 1929 Cubs
  • 21 teams have made the WS with ERA over 4.00, just 9.4%!
  • 3 teams have won the WS with ERA under 2.00:

o    1910 Philadelphia Athletics

o    1907 Cubs (1.73 ERA is lowest by WS winner)

o    1906 White Sox

  • 76% of the teams that made the WS with ERA over 4.00 had 5.00 or more RPG and many others were close to 5 RPG
  • Typically teams that made the WS with an ERA over 4.00 did it in a hitter favored baseball year

 

The Verdict

In conclusion, good team pitching beats good team hitting when it come to the World Series.  If the Red Sox score enough runs per game in this hitter friendly season, they could have a chance to win it all.  However, it would’ve helped to trade for a pitcher and it will also help to have pitching improvement, especially David Price and Clay Buchholz.  You never know because in the 4 occasions when teams have won the WS with a higher team ERA, it’s been in the last 30 years.