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BillFacts: American League East

BillFacts: American League East
Apr. 27, 2009 (Kansas City Star delivered by Newstex ) --

I just returned from the SABR Seymour Medal Conference in Cleveland, and there is much Baseball to discuss. Well start with our run through of the always amazing Bill James Gold Mine. Well put a couple of great Bill facts from the book for each of your teams, along with the usual assortment of absurd tangents and such.

Normally, we would doing all of this in one, long, ridiculously rambling post. But having read ahead, I can tell that these seem to be a bit more rambling. So were going to do it division by division, starting with the American League East.

Baltimore Orioles

BillFact: In 2007, Nick Markakis swung at 31% of all pitches high and out of the strike zone (74 of of 241). In 2008, he swung at only 16% of those high pitches (43 of 267). That might help explain why Markakis walked 38 more times in 2008 than he did the year before.

BillFact: In 2008, Daniel Cabrera was 8-10. In his eight victories, he was (of course) 8-0 with a 2.29 ERA and had a sparking 29-8 strikeout to walk ratio. In his ten defeats, he was 0-10 with a 6.88 ERA and a not so good 36-32 strikeout to walk. It is interesting to me that Cabrera actually struck out more batters per nine in his defeats (5.4) than in his victories (4.4), but neither strikeout total is impressive and anyway, as they used to say on the Riverfront Stadium scoreboard, ?Walks Will Haunt.

*They always had the wimpiest ghost on the scoreboard to go along with the ?Walks Will Haunt prophecy.

Boston Red Sox

BillFact: In 2008, two players had more doubles than strikeouts. One was Dustin Pedroia (with 54 doubles and 50 strikeouts). The other might take some guessing ? It was Mike Sweeney (with 8 doubles and 6 strikeouts in 136 plate appearances). Michael always had a fabulous ability to avoid strikeouts without giving up power. It seems like Michael is ancient and has been around since the Dead Ball era, but the truth is hes younger than Chipper Jones, Raul Ibanez, Melvin Mora, MannyBManny, Jason Varitek, Jorge Posada, and hes one day older than Nomar.*

*That doesnt exactly make him a young Baseball man ? he is 35 ? but it does remind me that there was a time when Sweeney and another 35-year-old, Magglio Ordonez, were almost interchangeable. Look:

Season 1: .322/.387/.520 with 22 homers, 102 RBIs, 101 runs.Season 2: .315/.371/.546 with 32 homes, 126 RBIs, 102 runs.Season 3: .320/.381/.597 with 38 homers, 135 RBIs, 116 runs.Season 4: .333/.407/.523 with 29 homers, 144 RBIs, 105 runs.Season 5: .304/.374/.542 with 29 homers, 99 RBIs, 96 runs.Season 6: .317/.370/.546 with 29 homers, 99 RBIs, 95 runs.Season 7: .340/.417/.563 with 24 homers, 86 RBIs, 81 runs.Season 8: .305/.382/.533 with 31 homers, 113 RBIs, 97 runs.

And so on. For the record, I believe seasons 1-4-5-7 are Sweeneys, and Oh-wee-oh Magglios are 2-3-6-8. But it doesnt really matter ? Mags hit with a touch more power, Sweens got on base a touch more, they both hit like crazy and both dealt big injuries when they reached 30. Magglio, of course, has found a second life, and from 2006-2007 he hit .326/..386/.523 with an average of 24 homers and more than 100 RBIs. Sweeney, meanwhile, has not had even 300 plate appearances in a season since 2005.

BillFact: There were only two American Leaguers who had a .400 on-base percentage and a .500 slugging percentage (more than 400 at-bats). You can try to guess the two ? first this pozterisk*.

*One of the things Bill points out in the book is that, if you think about it, the Triple Crown in Baseball is really random. Why those three statistics ? batting average, home runs, RBIs? Why isnt it runs, RBIs and hits? Or doubles, triples and homers? Or any other three stats?

In there, Bill threw out the idea of a Triple Crown for what we here call the three core stats: Batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage. He threw out a name for it ? The Golden Fork ? but frankly Bill has come up with enough names for things in Baseball. So Ive come up with my own name in honor of this weeks ?Im getting to that part blog posts: The Katie Krown.

There have been 39 winners of the Katie Krown ? 12 of those since World War II ended. Pre World War II the big highlights are that Rogers Hornsby won the KK a ridiculous seven times. Heres a quick list or those winners:

Katie Krown WinnersRogers Hornsby, 7-time winner (1920-25 and 1928).Honus Wagner, 4-time winner (1904 and 1907-1909)Ty Cobb, 3-time winner (1909, 1914, 1917)Nap Lajoie, 2-time winner (1901 and 1904)Ted Williams, 2-time winner (1941-42)George Stone (1906)Sherry Magee (1910)Tris Speaker (1916)Babe Ruth (1924)Chuck Klein (1933)Lou Gehrig (1934)Arky Vaughan (1935)Jimmie Foxx (1938)Stan Musial (1943)

And since World War II ?

1947: Ted Williams (.343/.499/.634). One of five times the Splendid Splinter won the Katie.

1948: Ted Williams (.369/.497/.615).

1948: Stan Musial (.376/.450/.702). Musials epic year, he led the league in hits, runs, RBIs, doubles, triples and he had 113 more total bases than anyone else in the National League. He finished one home run behind Johnny Mize and Ralph Kiner, otherwise it would have been the most perfect season ever by a player. It probably was the most perfect season anyway.

1957: Ted Williams (.388/.526/.731). And then I remember this year, by a man who had been to war twice and turned 39 in the middle of the season. And I think, no, THIS YEAR might have been the most perfect season ever. We need to do some sort of 9,000-word blog post on Ted Williams 1957 season.

1966: Frank Robinson (.316/.410/.637). We were having a discussion the other day about who is the most underrated all-time great in Baseball history ? that is the most underrated player who is probably one of the 15 or 20 best players ever. The consensus answer was Musial, though Joe Morgan was discussed (I wonder why) and Henry Aaron and so on. But I think Frank Robinson is the right answer. Why? His name didnt even come up in THAT conversation.

1967: Carl Yastrzemski (.326/.418/.622).

1979: Fred Lynn (.333/.423/.637). Speaking of underrated, Ive long thought that this is perhaps the most underrated great season in Baseball history. Of course, theres the Fenway Factor to consider (Lynn hit .386/.470/.798 at Fenway) but to win the Katie AND win a Gold Glove in center field AND finish fourth in the MVP voting while not getting a single first-place MVP vote ? yeah, thats tough. And lets remember that in 1979, the guy who won the MVP in 1979, Don Baylor, hit .296/.371/.530 and played DH 40 percent of the time.

1980: George Brett (.390/.454/.664). I know an agent who, for fun, simulated what an arbitration case for George Brett in 1981 would have looked and sounded like. Suffice it to say that George would have walked away a pretty rich man.

1999: Larry Walker (.379/.458/.710). At the mini-SABR convention there was a a presenter who was already lobbying for Larry Walker and the Hall of Fame. Sure, that 1999 season is Coors-Field-Saturated ? but the year is as close to Musials ?48 as anything in National League history.

2000: Todd Helton (.372/.463/.698). Another Musial-esque season.

2002: Barry Bonds (.370/.582/.799). Steroids or no, is this the best season in Baseball history?

20004: Barry Bonds (.362/.609/.812). Or do you prefer this preposterous season? This was the year Bonds was intentionally walked 120 times.

I told you Id get to this part: The two American Leaguers to on-base .400 and slug .500 were Milton Bradley and, ahem, J.D. Drew.

New York Yankees

BillFact: Mariano Rivera has already had allowed multiple-run inning in 2009. The remarkable thing is he did not have a single 2-run or more inning in all of 2008. He started 66 innings, allowed a single run in 10 of them (15%) and never once gave up the crooked number.*

*Mariano Riveras statistics are a smorgasbord of great numbers, by the way. Like this one: Rivera has pitched in 41 games against the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers are hitting .139/.182/.187 against him with 1 home run and 48 strikeouts.

BillFact: Nobody got busted inside in 2008 more than Alex Rodriguez. Gold Mine stats show that pitchers threw off the plate and inside on A-Rod 353 times ? thats about 15.4% of the time or one every 6 1/2 pitches or so. Thats about normal. In 2007, pitchers busted A-Rod inside 337 times, and in 2006 they busted him 327 times. My suspicion is that thinking is two-fold. (1) As Baseball announcers like to say, you dont want to let A-Rod ?get his arms extended. (2) A-Rod is just the sort of guy you kind of feel like you need to bust inside.

BillFact: Mike Mussina since 2001 was 123-72. C.C. Sabathia since 2001 was 117-73.*

*In addition to the some good BillFacts, there is a fabulous essay in the GoldMine about Mike Mussina. Bill and I both idolized the great Los Angeles Times columnist Jim Murray. The thing is that neither one of us often writes like Murray; his was a style that you cannot recreate. But we were influenced by him. Murray was funny and brilliant in a rat-tat-tat machine gun sort of way, one great line after another, like when he wrote about the Evander Holyfield-Buster Douglas fight ?One looked like a Greek God, the other like a Greek restaurant.

Well, I got this right away: Bills Mussina column is an homage to both Moose AND Jim Murray. Its unmistakeable. ?He should have been on the mound wearing a top hat and a big cloak, with a rabbit in his underwear and the seven of spades in his hat. ? His curveball was a sugary confection; anybody could hit that thing ? usually a mile high and 250 feet deep ? Hell have the only plaque in Cooperstown that cites the influences of Harry Houdini, Albus Dumbledore and Milton Friedman.

Pure Murray.

Tampa Bay Rays

BillFact: Carlos Pena had NINE bases loaded walks in 2008. Most by far in 20 years.

BillFact: When you see Evan Longoria pull a fly ball to left field ? thats is usually a really good thing. Longoria has hit 52 fly balls to left field in his career ? 26 of those went over the fence for home runs. Pitchers might want to avoid pitching inside to Longoria.*

*And, in fact, pitchers HAVE tried to avoid throwing inside to Longoria ? they have thrown only 11 pitches to him inside and off the plate so far this year. Longoria is like the anti-A-Rod.

BillFact: For reasons that are not entirely easy to figure, the Rays are now 15-19 in games started by Matt Garza. He has pitched better than that, but for some reason they cant win Garza games.

Toronto Blue Jays

BillFact: You can do all sorts of great things when you start to sort Baseball statistics. However, it is true that only three pitchers in Baseball history have won 20 or more, allowed 20 or fewer homers, struck out more than 200 and walked fewer than 40 in a season.

Those three are:

1. Walter Johnson 1913: 36 wins, 9 homers allowed, 243 Ks, 38 walks.2. Pedro Martinez, 1999: 23 wins, 9 homers allowed (!), 313 Ks, 37 walks.*3. Roy Halladay, 2008: 20 wins, 18 homers allowed, 206 Ks, 39 walks.

*Not to make this into a Pedro thing but ? Im not convinced that he should not go to the Hall of Fame for 1999 alone. How about being smack-dab in the middle of the Steroid Era and going 23-4, with a 2.07 ERA, 313 Ks in 213 innings, an 8.46 strikeout to walk ratio, an 0.923 WHIP and a 243 ERA+.

And, of course, he was EVEN BETTER in 2000 (18-6, 1.74 ERA, 284 Ks, 32 walks, an 8.88 strikeout-to-walk, a .737 WHIP and a ridiculous 291 ERA+. Hall of Fame? They need to invent a new building for this guy. You will have your own chance to vote, but I gave Pedro No. 45 in our uniform discussion over Bob Gibson and the reason is this: Gibson was great. But Pedro for his seven-year prime was the best there ever was.

The beautiful thing about this statistic is how its worded. Notice I said struck out MORE than 200 while walking FEWER than 40 wins. By saying MORE THAN 200, I cut out Cy Young, who struck out precisely 200 in 1904. By saying walked FEWER THAN 40, I cut out Pedros 2002 season and Gaylord Perrys 1966.

And by adding the 20-home run qualification, I cut out three Curt Schilling seasons, Juan Marichal in 1966 and another Roy Halladay season.

And, finally, you saw that I wrote ?won 20 or more. If I had said ?more than 20, than Halladay himself would have been out. Words ? you have to watch closely when it comes to words.

BillFact: This probably belongs in the Padres one but well put it here because its so good: Last year, pitchers threw strikes to David Eckstein 57.3% of the time. That was the highest percentage in Baseball. You can say: ?Well, what does that really mean? Does that really mean that pitchers were just thoroughly unafraid to throw strikes to Eckstein. Yes ? yes it does. And how do I know this? Because second on the list was ? Joey Gathright. Pitchers threw strikes to him 55.7% of the time.

Others of note:

Tony Pena, 54.1%Juan Pierre, 53.7%Nick Punto, 54.6%Albert Pujols, 46.2%Miggy Cabrera, 49%MannyBManny, 47.1%

Newstex ID: KC-3053-34456912

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: April 27, 2009

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