Fun With Almanacs

In February 2006, the Globe ran a little-noticed article questioning whether Fenway would become a harder place to hit home runs because of the construction of nearby skyscrapers.

Now, thanks to the Bill James Handbook 2007, we have our answer. And that answer is, "Absolutely."

Fenway Park was the hardest ballpark in baseball out of which to hit a home run, suppressing longballs by an amazing 27 percent — 31 percent for righties. No AL park suppresses any stat as much as Fenway did homers in 2006, and no AL park enhanced any stat more than Fenway enhanced doubles in 2006 (by 37 percent). Doubles and homers are flukey things, and it’s often luck that turns one into the other. But consider: Fenway from 2004-06 averaged an 86 percent homer rate. If I’ve done my math right, that means it suppressed home runs by an average of merely eight percent in 2004 and 2005.

More interesting tidbits from a stats-lover’s must-buy after the jump.

  • The revlutionary plus-minus system — in which players receive and lose points for plays they do and don’t make that other players at the same position don’t and do make — ranks Kevin Youkilis as third in baseball, behind Pujols and Malphabet. Mike Lowell is ninth. Jeter, A-Rod and Alex Gonzalez all are outside the Top 10.
  • Daisuke Matsuzaka’s component ERA — essentially a pitcher’s ERA based only on his own performance, subtracting the defense, relievers, etc. — shows he was actually unlucky when he posted his sick 2.13 ERA in Seibu last year. His ERC was actually 1.77, the sixth straight decline since a high of 3.48 in his second season (2000). Likewise, Pedro was unlucky in 1999. His 1.90 ERA being higher than his ERC of 1.78. Poor guy.
  • The similarities between Randy Johnson and Josh Beckett continue to amaze. They appear within a few spots of each other in several leaderboards, and rarely does one appear without the other. Their ERCs are significantly below their season-ending ERAs (Beckett should have been at 4.28 based on his pitching, RJ at 3.80).  Both were among the leaders in lowest BAA. Random: Beckett led the league in lowest OBP allowed by leadoff hitters (.231). and had the third-fastest average fastball and third-lowest BPS (batting plus slugging) against his curveball. Johnson threw more sliders than anyone in the AL.
  • A look at various manageral "stats" shows that Grady Little is actually a quick hook (you’d never know it, based on 2003), averaging 53 "quick hooks" versus 30 "slow hooks." A quick hook is the bottom 25 percent of a number figured by adding the number of pitches to 10x the number of runs allowed in a game. Not surprisingly, Terry Francona is considered a "slow hook." Joe Torre’s numbers vary all over the place, but he consistently orders sacrifice bunts, intentional walks, pitches out and sets runners in motion far more than Francona.
  • Only player in the Top 10 in BA, OBP and SLG for 2006? Manny Ramirez.
  • Youk really was a revelation — Third in plus/minus, second in leadoff OBP, fifth-lowest first-swing percentage, 10th-highest OPS among first basemen, second-most pitches taken (next to Giambi), most pitches per pate plate appearance, second-most pitches seen, seventh in walks, . Is it too late to keep hm leadoff and put Lugo at No. 2?
  • Longest average home-run hitter in the AL? Wily Mo Pena, 411 feet. Second?  Alex Rodriguez, 410 feet. Eric Hinske, Jason Giambi and David Ortiz also in the top 10. Pena, who had the top two longest homers in the NL in 2005, had the second- and ninth-longest in the AL in 2006 — 475 feet and 451 feet. A-Rod was first, a 480-foot bomb. To see Pena’s longest, go here (although it’s disappointing because he hit the ball so hard it never shows up on camera). MLB didn’t save A-Rod’s homer, which was overshadowed by the first career dinger from Melky Cabrera.

There are also win shares standings and stats, as well as projections for most players and pitchers and, of course, complete career stats for all current active players (plus several foreign players, like Matsuzaka, who will or might be playing in 2007). I’ll save the projections for when we get closer to predicting how out respective teams will perform. Anyway, I highly recommend the handbook if any of this stuff interests you. Great stuff.

13 comments… add one
  • Nice compilation of stats there, Paul.

    Devine January 13, 2007, 4:11 pm
  • I guess this means Josh Beckett’s HR totals are paticularly bad considering how Fenway suppresses the HR. The HR being a stat that has nothing to do with luck and everything with pitching.

    Ted January 13, 2007, 4:12 pm
  • I remember when ARod knocked a shot into the batter’s blind at Yankee Stadium. I also think YF and SF were at that game. That ball seemed to go forever. It is no surprise that he’s one of the longest long hitters in the game.
    Anyway, even though James is employed by the Sox, I guess I have to pony up. This is fun stuff to think about. I wonder what Manny would do with a short porch in left. I am about to go look up his split HR stats to see.
    Regarding Youk, I really look forward to seeing the soxfan perspective on Lugo out of the 1-slot once we start playing games when Kevin was so good there last year.

    attackgerbil January 13, 2007, 4:20 pm
  • Well, you also have to consider that Beckett gave up a third (12) of his home runs at home and two-thirds (24) on the road.
    Though the ratiot IS still bigger than some (Schilling–5 HR at home, 23(!) on the road…almost as many as Beckett on the road).

    Devine January 13, 2007, 4:28 pm
  • Ted, the makers of the handbook would disagree with your generalization about home runs. And many in the sabermetric community have described Beckett’s 2006 home run rate as extremely unlucky (that is, far above what one should expect from a ptcher with his fly ball percentages) and due for a regression next season. FWIW, the handbook projects his HR to drop to 24 (from 36) in 2007, and his ERA to likewise drop by nearly 1.5 runs. That’s all I’m gonna say about it because I think all our opinions on Beckett are well known and have been discussed ad nauseum.

    Paul SF January 13, 2007, 4:37 pm
  • I love the not so subtle comparison between DM 2006 and Pedro circa 1999. But that was completely unintentional, right?

    Andrews January 13, 2007, 7:32 pm
  • In fact, it was, Andrews. They are similar only in that they both posted amazingly low ERAs and actually were unlucky in doing so. In that sense, they were similar.
    Do you think it does the Red Sox or their fans any good to make comparisons between Matsuzaka and Pedro? What would be the point of that, except to set a standard nearly impossible to reach? If Matsuzaka is the next Roger Clemens, he will never have a season like Pedro had in 1997, 1999, 2000 or 2002.

    Paul SF January 13, 2007, 8:03 pm
  • “Do you think it does the Red Sox or their fans any good to make comparisons between Matsuzaka and Pedro?”
    That would be a no. My advice, FWIW, is to be extra careful not to hype expectations for this guy, which would include not mentioning the two in successive sentences like those in your post. Dangerous.
    And, btw, I must say I really appreciate the amount of time you must put into your posts. Even though they piss me off from time to time, thanks.

    Andrews January 13, 2007, 8:38 pm
  • And also fwiw, because James seems, from what i’ve read about him, to be such an arrogant ass, i’m going to buy ron shandler’s “baseball forcaster” and bp instead, as a matter of principle. I have little tolerance for legends in their own mind.

    Andrews January 13, 2007, 9:00 pm
  • lol, thanks, Andrews. I noticed when I was writing the paragraph that I was inviting accusations of comparing them and actually thought of putting a paranthetical disclaimer — “(This is not a comparison!)” — but decided against it. I have enough parenthetical phrases in my posts as it is without throwing in more. Maybe I should have.
    Anyway, I agree. Putting Matsuzaka on a level with Pedro before he even throws a pitch is foolish from a Red Sox fan’s perspective. There’s not much to gain (how do you get better than that?) and a heckuva lot to lose (anything less than 20 wins and a 2 ERA is filure). Rest assured, I am not doing that. I’ll be happy with 15 wins and ERA below 4. I think that’s a reasonable guesstimate, considering the adjustments he has to make. He could easily better; he could be worse. I think that’s kind of a middle ground.

    Paul SF January 13, 2007, 9:05 pm
  • i think i saw somewhere that the yankees have been unlucky in not winning the world series since 2000, so they are projected to win it for the next 3 years…thanks lady luck…

    dc January 15, 2007, 5:02 pm
  • I didn’t realize that “signing aging, past-their-prime, former superstars” counted as bad luck, dc.

    Paul SF January 15, 2007, 5:42 pm
  • like arod?…anyway, that’s my story, and i’m sticking with it…
    seriously though, luck is a non-entity, mythical really…referring to stuff that happens as “luck”, like beckett’s home run totals, or any other baseball event, seems facetious, and attempts to ignore the possibility that he may have had something to do with those homers…rather, call it the unpredictability of random events, or the law of averages, or rules of probability…unless that is, you’re willing to concede that the sox ’04 win may have had more to do with “luck” than anything else…hmmm…

    dc January 15, 2007, 8:34 pm

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