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Worst 100 RBI seasons

Posted by Andy on August 26, 2010

We all know that not every 100-RBI season is a great one. You'd think, though, that any 100-RBI season is worth at least something positive for the team, right?

Well if you think that, you're wrong. Following is a list of 100-RBI seasons where the team would probably have been better off releasing the player and bringing up a minor-league replacement.

Here are the worst WAR totals for a player with 100 RBI in a season (1901-present):

Rk Player WAR/pos RBI Rbat Rfield Year Tm G PA R H 2B 3B HR BB SO GDP BA OBP SLG OPS Pos
1 Dante Bichette -2.8 133 -1 -34 1999 COL 151 659 104 177 38 2 34 54 84 15 .298 .354 .541 .895 *7/D
2 Ruben Sierra -2.4 101 -18 -25 1993 OAK 158 692 77 147 23 5 22 52 97 17 .233 .288 .390 .678 *9D
3 Joe Carter -1.4 115 -14 -29 1990 SDP 162 697 79 147 27 1 24 48 93 12 .232 .290 .391 .681 *873
4 Tony Armas -1.4 107 -15 -7 1983 BOS 145 613 77 125 23 2 36 29 131 31 .218 .254 .453 .707 *8D
5 Joe Carter -1.3 107 -12 -14 1996 TOR 157 682 84 158 35 7 30 44 106 12 .253 .306 .475 .782 *73D
6 Eddie Robinson -1.3 102 -10 -11 1953 PHA 156 685 64 152 28 4 22 63 56 13 .247 .322 .413 .735 *3
7 Joe Carter -1.2 102 -25 -3 1997 TOR 157 668 76 143 30 4 21 40 105 12 .234 .284 .399 .683 D379
8 Joe Pepitone -0.6 100 -8 0 1964 NYY 160 647 71 154 12 3 28 24 63 17 .251 .281 .418 .698 *38/9
9 George Bell -0.5 112 -5 0 1992 CHW 155 670 74 160 27 0 25 31 97 29 .255 .294 .418 .712 *D7
10 Bill Buckner -0.5 102 -3 -3 1986 BOS 153 681 73 168 39 2 18 40 25 25 .267 .311 .421 .733 *3D
11 Jorge Cantu -0.3 117 4 -26 2005 TBD 150 630 73 171 40 1 28 19 83 24 .286 .311 .497 .808 *45D
12 Ernie Banks -0.3 106 -4 -7 1969 CHC 155 629 60 143 19 2 23 42 101 15 .253 .309 .416 .725 *3
13 Del Ennis -0.3 105 13 -22 1957 STL 136 537 61 140 24 3 24 37 50 22 .286 .332 .494 .826 *79
14 Ray Pepper -0.3 101 -18 0 1934 SLB 148 598 71 168 24 6 7 29 67 0 .298 .333 .399 .732 *78/9
15 Rico Brogna -0.2 102 -9 4 1999 PHI 157 679 90 172 29 4 24 54 132 19 .278 .336 .454 .790 *3
16 Danny Tartabull -0.2 101 5 -17 1996 CHW 132 541 58 120 23 3 27 64 128 10 .254 .340 .487 .827 *9/D
17 Tony Perez -0.1 105 -1 -6 1980 BOS 151 635 73 161 31 3 25 41 93 25 .275 .320 .467 .786 *3D
18 Tony Batista 0.0 110 -22 5 2004 MON 157 650 76 146 30 2 32 26 78 14 .241 .272 .455 .728 *5
19 Fred McGriff 0.0 106 11 -17 2000 TBD 158 664 82 157 18 0 27 91 120 16 .277 .373 .452 .826 *3D
20 Rico Brogna 0.0 104 -5 2 1998 PHI 153 624 77 150 36 3 20 49 125 12 .265 .319 .446 .765 *3
21 Dante Bichette 0.0 118 -1 -6 1997 COL 151 601 81 173 31 2 26 30 90 13 .308 .343 .510 .853 *79/D
22 Ray Jablonski 0.0 112 -13 -8 1953 STL 157 640 64 162 23 5 21 34 61 15 .268 .308 .427 .735 *5
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/25/2010.

I have included batting runs and fielding runs so you can see the major contributions to negative WAR for each player.

Generally speaking, here is why these guys have such bad WAR totals:

  • Low BA and OBP leading to low overall offensive production in plate appearances that didn't result in RBI (and low run scoring totals for most guys)
  • Low SLG
  • High GIDP
  • Bad fielding runs totals (hello again, Dante Bichette!)

When I told Neil about this post while drafting it, the first thing he said was "Joe Carter must own that list." Yeah, Neil's right. This should be called the Carter list with 3 appearances in the 7 worst seasons. He benefited tremendously from playing on good-hitting teams but did the bare minimum with the bat to drive in 100 runs. Plus, he was really bad defensively.

To give you a firm idea on how bad a player Carter was, his career WAR of 16.5 is tied with Phil Bradley, Donn Clendenon, Hank Gowdy, Tony Kubek, Dots Miller, and Tony Taylor. Aside from Dots Miller (of whom I have never heard) I know that all those players did some good things in the big leagues, but all have reputations well short of Carter's.

Or how about  this: since 1901, 19 guys have amassed 1400 to 1500 RBI in their careers, including active players Chipper Jones and Vlad Guerrero. Guess where Carter ranks in terms of career WAR?

Rk Player WAR/pos RBI PA R H 2B 3B HR BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS Pos
1 Joe Carter 16.5 1445 9154 1170 2184 432 53 396 527 1387 .259 .306 .464 .771 7983D/45
2 Andres Galarraga 26.7 1425 8916 1195 2333 444 32 399 583 2003 .288 .347 .499 .846 *3/D5
3 Jim Bottomley 32.4 1422 8355 1177 2313 465 151 219 664 591 .310 .369 .500 .869 *3/4
4 Juan Gonzalez 33.5 1404 7155 1061 1936 388 25 434 457 1273 .295 .343 .561 .904 9D78
5 Dave Parker 37.8 1493 10184 1272 2712 526 75 339 683 1537 .290 .339 .471 .810 *9D/7834
6 Jim Rice 41.5 1451 9058 1249 2452 373 79 382 670 1423 .298 .352 .502 .854 *7D/98
7 Jose Canseco 41.8 1407 8129 1186 1877 340 14 462 906 1942 .266 .353 .515 .867 D97/81
8 Rusty Staub 45.2 1466 11229 1189 2716 499 47 292 1255 888 .279 .362 .431 .793 *9D3/78
9 Luis Gonzalez 46.3 1439 10531 1412 2591 596 68 354 1155 1218 .283 .367 .479 .845 *7/D9835
10 Billy Williams 57.2 1475 10519 1410 2711 434 88 426 1045 1046 .290 .361 .492 .853 *79D/38
11 Vladimir Guerrero 58.4 1409 8326 1254 2385 440 45 429 715 921 .320 .383 .563 .947 *9D/87
12 Yogi Berra 61.9 1430 8364 1175 2150 321 49 358 704 414 .285 .348 .482 .830 *279/35
13 Joe Cronin 62.5 1424 8838 1233 2285 515 118 170 1059 700 .301 .390 .468 .857 *6/5347
14 Mark McGwire 63.1 1414 7660 1167 1626 252 6 583 1317 1596 .263 .394 .588 .982 *3/D54967
15 Sam Crawford 74.0 1446 10037 1298 2821 440 287 89 730 104 .312 .364 .453 .817 *983/7
16 Robin Yount 76.9 1406 12249 1632 3142 583 126 251 966 1350 .285 .342 .430 .772 *68D/73
17 Chipper Jones 80.0 1491 9654 1505 2490 493 37 436 1404 1278 .306 .405 .536 .941 *57/6D9
18 Charlie Gehringer 80.9 1427 10237 1774 2839 574 146 184 1186 372 .320 .404 .480 .884 *4/35
19 Eddie Mathews 98.3 1453 10101 1509 2315 354 72 512 1444 1487 .271 .376 .509 .885 *53/7
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/25/2010.

Just think when somebody has the audacity to put Carter on a list with Eddie Mathews. Their RBI totals differ by only 8 and yet Mathews was worth more than 80 additional wins over his career.

This entry was posted on Thursday, August 26th, 2010 at 7:30 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

89 Responses to “Worst 100 RBI seasons”

  1. joseph taverney Says:

    A disclaimer:
    I love Joe Carter.
    Sorry.
    I know he is overrated, but I liked Denise Pizzi in 1st grade and she had cooties... real bad.
    I once brought this up, but still think t is a pretty telling stat.
    Sierra and Carter are the only players to have < .300 OBP & < .400 SLG in a season with 100 RBIs.
    I'm not sure of the raw numbers, but Dennis Pizzi stank up kick ball.

  2. "To give you a firm idea on how bad a player Carter was, his career WAR of 16.5 is tied with Phil Bradley, Donn Clendenon, Hank Gowdy, Tony Kubek, Dots Miller, and Tony Taylor. Aside from Dots Miller (of whom I have never heard)"

    Getting away from the Joe Carter discussion, but first -- I was 12 in 92 when the Jays won it, but he always appeared to me to look like a football player in baseball clothing. Anwyay, the Dots Miller mention had me interested - Dots in 1913 is one of 32 seasons in which a player had at least 20 doubles, 20 triples & 20 steals. Ty Cobb is on that list a bunch and the best season on that list is Mays in 57.

  3. Don't be slamming Joe Carter! He made Thriller!

  4. I know its Coors Field 1999 but I dont think it is possible to put up .298/.354/.541 33/133 and have your defense be so bad that it not only cancels that out but is also 33 runs worse.

  5. Walewanderer Says:

    "where the team would probably have been better off releasing the player and bringing up a minor-league replacement"

    Bill Buckner, 1986, LOL.

  6. Bichette hit .278/.322/.517 14/51 on the road that year. Extrapolating out his raw numbers would give him 167 hits, 78 runs, 36 doubles, zero triples, 29 HR, 108 RBI. A pretty average year for the late 90s, but it seems that that difference is not 33 runs worse than the average MLer. It is fun to Coors-down those crazy home stats however...

  7. Joe Pepitone...what he could have accomplished. The Marvin Barnes of Major League Baseball.

  8. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    As was noted by somebody in the thread about Bichette's '95 season where he came second in MVP voting, and B-R has him barely above replacement level, the fielding stats are iffy. Bichette was not good fielder by any stretch, but the -34 from that year was a real outlier. His worst fielding year was -18 other than that, and 1998 and 2000 have him with -4 and -2 respectively playing effectively the same position as 1999.

    It's possible he played through some nagging injury or something which really hurt his normally just mediocre-poor fielding and made him stink up the joint something fierce. It's also possible it was just statistical artifact of TZ and the variance in it.

    It is notable that his Rbat that year was a -1, so he was basically average with the bat.

  9. I forgot to mention in the post that a reader named Drew brought the Pepitone season to my attention, which was the inspiration for this post.

  10. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    Going to look at Bill Buckner has me even more intrigued. I remember a post a while back about guys with the most hits not in the hall.

    I was shocked looking at Buckner's page how close he came to getting 3k hits while being barely better than a replacement player for his career. 2751 hits. Which puts him 8th in hits for guys not in the hall, and 5th on the list of guys who are neither banned, nor likely to get in on future ballots (i.e. scratch rose, biggio and alomar). Now I'd say none of those 5 deserves to make it, and none are even close. But at least most of them are better than some of the classic hall mistakes. Nobody in that group is anywhere near as bad as Bill Buckner.

    He came damn close to getting 3000 hits. If he'd actually made the hall (and the way hall voters work, if he'd scraped out 3000, there's a decent chance he would have), he'd probably be the #1 worst player enshrined.

  11. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    I know it's been brought up before, but I am suspicious of those large negatives for fielding runs; I'm not doubting that for example Dante Bichette, Joe Carter, and Jorge Cantu were below-average, but I doubt that they were Adam Dunn-level bad. I think the negative batting runs figures are more relevant to this discussion. Joe Carter lived off of his legitimately outstanding 1986 season for pretty much the rest of his career.

    I AM glad to see my opinions of Tony Armas' 1983 season verified - way back in the sabermetric Dark Ages of late 1983, people were saying "yeah I know he hit only .218, but he had 36 HR and 107 RBI, so he must've had a decent season." Well, no - not only was it the .218 average, but also the total lack of walks (29), which led to a .254 OBP, the LOWEST of anyone who had 100 RBI or more...

  12. joseph taverney Says:

    I'll put WAR to rest in this scenario.
    In 1995 the Redsox won the AL East. John Valentin was not only their best WAR player, but the 'best' WAR player in the League. The MVP that year was the HIT DAWG Mo Vaughn, followed by a very close Albert Belle.
    Valentin had a WAR of 8.5 that year.
    Albert Belle (who had 50 doubles & homers) had a 6.6 WAR.

    The Indians had Vizquel at SS (who won the GG that year) come in at a 1.3 WAR.
    The Redsox's left fielder that year was Mike Greenwell, whom had a 2.6 WAR.

    So in a hypothetical trade, If the Indians swapped Greenwell and Valentin for Belle and Vizquel, The Redsox would have been loser of the trade, having them lose 3 more games.
    History shows us, even in the '95 shortened season, Cleveland had one of the best winning percentages ever.
    WAR tells us they could of been better without Belle and Vizquel.
    I think we all know better.

  13. joseph taverney Says:

    And whoever 'neutralized' Bichette's stats, really should give that some more thought. You called 28 homers - 'pretty average'.
    I'd love to have 8 guys having 28 homer seasons.
    The 1998 Yankees had a team high of 28HRs.
    Also saying that he would of doubled his road numbers is a bit of a stretch. I know you are just coming up with numbers, but every player, Coorsfield or not, is more comfortable at home, and usually has a slight bump.
    Bitchette was not a great player, I'll give you that. But to put him in negatives is preposterous.
    WAR is a great concept, but we really have to tweek it a bit before it makes more sense.

  14. I'm not a Dante Bichette fan or anything resembling one, but still, it's something like the chart above that makes me question the accuracy and usefulness of WAR in relation to reality. It says that Bichette was -2.8 WAR in 1999. Who was in the Rockies' AAA farm system at the time? It seems unlikely that even the very best replacement-level player at their AAA level was nearly three full wins better than Bichette.

    Feel free to enlighten me and counter my intuition on this.

  15. @Joseph Taverney

    A year later, here were their WAR numbers:
    Valentin 2.9
    Greenwell -0.1

    Belle 4.9
    Vizquel 3.0

    Anyone can cherry pick one season of stats to make their argument work. Valentin was that good in 1995 and Vizquel was that average, so I wasn't even surprised with your argument in the first place. But pretty clearly, even a year later, the Indians had the better players in this discussion.

    As for the 1995 argument, aka if you replaced Vizquel with Valentin in 1995, would the Indians have been better? I'd say very much so having seen a lot of Valentin games in 1995 and given his WAR. I'm glad they didn't have Valentin though, as I loved Fred McGriff growing up, and was happy to see him with a World Championship with the Braves!

  16. It's all about the context Joseph. You can look at it two ways: You can make the argument that his stats were ridiculously good and him being a -33 runs produced is outrageous. You can also make the point that his stats were overinflated and the -33 is still too large, but Bichette was --as you say "not a great player" and his defense neutralized his offense.

    There were 4 Rockies who hit more than 30 HR that year. Jay Bell hit 38 that season. The 37 hit by teammate Larry Walker (438 AB) put him 10th in the NL. Bichette's contributions were indeed overvalued - he hit cleanup all year -- and its hard to say that there isn't someone else who wouldn't have had similar numbers had he been 4th in that lineup all season. But who? Lenny Harris? Angel Echevarria?

  17. For clarification, obviously Jay Bell was not a Rockie. Just really enjoyed that guy popping more than 35. He was a modern-day Brady Anderson!

  18. Rfield / TZ are obviously broken, which completely breaks WAR and makes the stat a joke. For example, Gwynn's Rfield in '89 was -23, two years later it was +28. In '89 he averaged more putouts and assists per inning. That's a difference of 51 runs, which significantly impacts his rating in the career WAR leaders.

    BR / Sean's response to this is "some of the TZ numbers are off for the Mets / Padres for some years but we publish them anyways." I followed up and the response was "sometimes players have down years". So I asked for some examples of hitters going from the best in the league to the worst in the league, and I didn't hear back.

    Robby Alomar has a -32 career Rfield. Really?

    Bichette had 17 assists in '99. How many would an average AAA replacement have had? 30? Oh wait, Kotsay led RF's with 20.

  19. @joseph taverney again (for the Bichette post)

    Yes 28 homers is still pretty nice, but it would have dropped Bichette's HR total from 13th in the league to 24th in one fell swoop. The point wasn't as much that 28 homers were average though. It was more than Bichette didn't do a whole lot else to differentiate himself besides homers and rbis, meaning that those totals needed to be pretty impressive to give him a great WAR. In a year when multiple guys hit 60+ homers, 28 doesn't look like too much.

    As for the doubling numbers/park effects thing, I don't think anyone actually assumes that Bichette would put up exactly double his road stats, but it's all hypothetical. Even if you increased Bichette's road production, you would then have to increase everyone else's road production to keep the stat equal, at which point Bichette would still end up with the same final WAR. Now you can say too much weight is thrown into defense with BR's WAR calculation, or that defensive statistics need more tweaking before they're included as such a major part of WAR. But their is little doubt, given his huge home/road split in 1999, about how much Bichette loved playing in his home stadium. A lot of players do get "slight bumps" at home. But Bichette's 1999 was not a slight bump, it was a huge bump, and that's why we're talking about him here.

  20. @16
    Yup. I think years of the humidor have caused memories of the "1990s Coors Field" to fade. The Rockies pitching staff had an ERA of over 6.00 which got adjusted to a "not that bad" ERA+ of 97. It took a ton of runs to win ballgames in Coors Field back then. They led the league in OPS, which got adjusted to a brutal OPS+ of 86. Their offense was the liability. The Rockies were not a good team, they lost 90 games.

    And the Rockies actually agreed. They traded Bichette in the offseason for Jeffrey Hammonds.

  21. Rico Brogna's 1999 is another curiosity. He actually has positive fielding runs, but negative batting runs, despite having above-league-average OPS (that's above average, not replacement level). Veteran's Stadium in Philly was a bit of a hitters park, but not that much.

    Doesn't replacement level factor in position? That might be part of why some of these players have low batting runs. Brogna was 1B, so maybe he was below replacement batting for a first baseman. A lot of the people on the list played 1B or LF.

    I also am skeptical sometimes of total zone ratings and how park corrections are applied. But the league-average slash stats at Coors in 1999 were .327/.395/.555 (the park factor had a 3-year average of 127!), so Bichette was clearly below average (mainly in AVG and OBP). In a high-scoring environment, I could see how not getting on base would hurt your value, so maybe he really wasn't above replacement, especially for a LFer (the positional factor again).

  22. Look at Alex Rodriguez's stats this season. He's bidding to make the list.

  23. Ill give you that considering Coors his offense was around average (-1), but there is no way his defense could have been that bad. How many balls do you need to miss than an "average" fielder would have gotten to before you allowed 34 runs below average!? He had a 1.87 RF/9 and the league average for LF was 2.0 RF/9. So over Bichette's 1233 innings in LF he got to 17.8 balls less than average(including assists), and somehow that translates to 34 runs below average???

  24. @1 Joseph T. - very funny!

    I too love Joe Carter - The man could drive in some runs - I guess if he walked 40 more times per year people would throw him a parade. Oh wait, they did that in 1993.

    You would think managers would have stopped batting him 3rd/4th if he was so bad. Especially a manager who won 2 World Series.

  25. Here's where I guess I don't really get WAR. Out of all the years listed, it looks like Bichette in 99 was the best, yet he has the all time worst WAR. His OPS isn't bad - 895. What made Dante so bad that year? Was it all because it's adjusted for Coors? Help me out. Thanks.

  26. @ 23

    We know he got to .13 less balls than average, but we don't know how many he didn't get to. If Rockies' opponents hit more balls towards left than the average team, then Bichette would have had more chances, increasing the penalty for having a below-average Range Factor.

  27. Cam Winston Says:

    Even if you increased Bichette's road production, you would then have to increase everyone else's road production to keep the stat equal

    Actually, such a proposition would take away all of Bichette's Coors' stats while including them in the overall league average, since you're counting the homers Sammy, Mcgwire & Caminiti hit there to come up with those ridiculous 90's figures.

    BTW, the Rockies' top prospect that season was Derrick Gibson, who washed out when given the opportunity. In short, as much as I love this site, the figures presented are crap. Bichette was a smaller version of a latter Barry Bonds, great hitter & horrible fielder (anyone who doesn't have Bonds as the worst defensive player in MLB during his last 4 or 5 seasons, twice as bad as Manny, is delirious). Sorry, you can't argue that Derrick Gibson would've been better than the guy who rang up 134 RBI. Ya just can't.

  28. Cam Winston@27:

    Thanks for answering my query. Though RBI is an overrated, overused stat, I tend to agree with you. I can't imagine that Bichette was worse, much less 2.8 Wins worse, than the best player the Rockies had in AAA at the time.

    This is why it disturbs me that many on these blog threads seem to have a WAR fetish, to the exclusion of other modes of analysis. The complete picture of any player is never told by one method or statistic.

  29. @28
    I actually agree with you on the WAR fetish. I think the intention is to immerse us in the stat and stimulate discussion.

    A bunch better version of this same discussion is listed in the links above "Worst OPS+ in a 100-RBI season":

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/blog/archives/300

    Its basically the same list here but with the "Rbat" column sorted.

  30. I think this whole "RBI is overated" arguement is ridiculous. So Joe Carter SHOULDN'T of knocked in runs?
    Nobody evers thinks that if a batter scores 4 RBIs and the pitcher gives up 10 runs AND the rest of the team doesn't do squat than somehow it reflects negatively on the gut doin the run production, and as far as the whole WAR aspect, in 1999 Dante Binchette scored, in 151 games, 133 RBIs while having 13 errors in LF. It's true DB wasn't Willie Mays with the glove by any means but how does 13 errors make 133 RBIs insignifigant? I think people are reading into the whole WAR thing way too much. Besides the whole stat is based on the assumption that the replacement would be better than who it is being compared to. Pure stats are what matters. NOT something that could or couldn't be!

  31. BTW I meant guy when I typed gut. Proofreading was never my strong point!

  32. This is what came out of the Dante Bichette post if I remember correctly.

    Coors field was such an odd paradox of a ballpark unlike any in major league history and it caused the "Bichette Conundrum". On the one hand it was one of the all time great hitter's parks, but it was a great hitter's park because of the high altitude not because from small dimensions. Unlike typical hitter's parks with small dimensions, Coors had expansive outfields that required very good defensive outfielders.

    Normally a slugger like Bichette could play in a hitter's park and take advantage of the small dimensions and be a limited liability in the Field. But because Coors was so huge, his poor defense negatively impacted and outweighed his overinflated offensive stats. And again paradoxically, Coors Field was one of the toughest outfields to play in the majors.

    The only way you could take advantage of a slow slugger at Coors would be to put him in the infield at First or Third.

  33. @30, errors done really matter on defense, lack of range matters. The reason he was bad at defense is not becuase he maybe had 5 more errors than average (which is negligable), it is because he got to 20 or 30 less balls that a better defender would have turned into an out.

    But hey, Bichette happens sometimes.

  34. JDV this is the third comment you've made in the last year that really annoys me. He point of this post is to provide fodder for debate on WAR and RBI, as it has done. Taking a position against WAR is fine with me, but questioning the credibility of the site, when all I am doing is providing a platform for debate, is taking it way too far.

  35. #33 OK, but think of it like this-Garry Maddox and Paul Blair were great fielders but rather average hitters. Let's say if they could have made the 20-30 plays that Dante Bichette couldn't make yet but couldn't produce 60-70 or more RBIs that he could, which in the end would be of more value. I'm not saying fielding is not important, but if its a matter of 20-30 plays, what trade off would you take?

  36. RBI is an extremely overrated stat mainly because it's so arbitrary but I don't know if WAR necessarily is a good counter-stat in this study. I think using OPS+ like David RF mentioned or using Runs Batting would give a better description of the "Worst 100 RBI Season".

    The problem with using something like "WAR" is that it incorporates Defense. Del Ennis actually was a good hitter in '57 with a 117 ops+, Tartabull had a ops+111 in '96 and Mcgriff had a 110 ops. Mcgriff and Tartabull should have played DH in those seasons and Ennis should have played another position.

  37. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    Let's go back to Andy's first sentence: "We all know that not every 100-RBI season is a great one." OK, so what seasonal RBI total WOULD BE a great one? In other words, how high an RBI total do you have to have, before every RBI total at that level is considered great?? My first inclination was "120 or so" -then I started checking:

    -Joe CARTER, 121 RBI in 1993: 6 batting runs
    too obvious? - OK, how about...
    -Jim Rice, 122 RBI in 1984: 5 batting runs
    still too obvious??
    - Garrett ANDERSON, 123 RBI in 2002: -5 batting runs (yes, -5; he had a .314 OBP)
    OK, let's speed this up...
    -Irish MUESEL, 132 RBI in 1922: 17 batting runs (17 is good but a long way from "great")
    -Bob MUESEL, 138 RBI in 1925: 13 batting runs (must run in the family...)
    -Preston WILSON, 141 RBI in 2003: 9 batting runs (led the league in Coors Field)
    -Matt WILLIAMS, 142 RBI in 1999: 16 batting runs (.344 OBP, actually his best in a full year)
    -Walt DROPO, 144 RBI in 1950: 26 batting runs (had to get a Red Sox player on here)
    -Ryan HOWARD, 146 RBI in 2008: 16 batting runs (second in MVP voting that year - surprised?)
    are we there yet?? - NOOOO
    -Andres Gallaraga, 150 RBI in 1996: 22 batting runs (1997 would also make this list)
    and finally...
    -Juan Gonzalez, 158 RBI in 1998: 43 batting runs - OK, I think this IS "great", though this is probably about 700/800th or so on the leaderboards for "batting runs" (it only goes down to 48 batting runs for the Top 500)

    Conclusion - so it appears that above 150+ RBI/season is a totally unequivocal indication of a truly great season; if you eliminate some of the guys fortunate enough to have Coors Field as home (Castilla, Bichette, etc...) you can knock it down to 145 or so RBI/season. That doesn't tell you much, since only 73 times has there been 145 or more RBI in a year... I gotta admit, I was surprised how useless RBI is to indicate great batting performance.

  38. @30

    Matt, I agree. If RBIs aren't important, then that should be the last we ever hear about "not getting timely hits," i.e. not getting hits with runners in scoring position which leads to runs scored for your teammates and RBIs for you. "Barney, you left the bases loaded three times tonight with strikeouts. Your thoughts?" "'S not important. RBIs are overrated."

    And speaking of the 1999 Rockies, Neifi Perez, with 193 hits, 278 extra bases, and 108 runs scored, had one of the worst, if not worst, offensive season in the last 50 years. "Heck, Neifi, we could have pulled someone up from Triple-A and he'd be good for 135, 140 runs. What were you doing out there?"

    Sabermetrics are fun and all - hey, I love crunching numbers as much as the next guy, but let's keep it real, shall we? If we're to believe these run-replacement numbers, then in the late innings of a close game I'm putting in Johnny Lemaster for Derek Jeter. (But some things you just know, right?)

  39. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Rfield / TZ are obviously broken ... Gwynn's Rfield in '89 was -23, two years later it was +28. ... I asked for some examples of hitters going from the best in the league to the worst in the league

    Darin Erstad batted .253, .355, .258
    Freddie Sanchez went from .291 to .344 and two years later .271
    Ichiro Suzuki went .312, .372, .303
    Chipper Jones went from .364 to .264
    Magglio Ordonez went from .298 to .363

    Is batting average broken?

    There is going to be more variance in defensive numbers because (a) the number of chances is smaller, and (b) a high percentage of chances are routine, so the number of plays by which great defenders differentiate themselves from poor ones is even smaller. And yes, (c) the numbers are estimates, whereas BA is "real."

    I wouldn't be at all surprised if there is some "mistake" in Gwynn's '89 TZ. For whatever reason, the estimate of how many catchable balls were hit in his direction could be off. He was surprisingly healthy that season, missing only 4 games. But I also wouldn't be surprised if the number has some validity. Gwynn played a lot of CF that year, the last time he would do that for any extended period. He was probably overmatched in center, and perhaps didn't feel as comfortable when he was back in right. Maybe playing so many games meant he was playing through a lot of nagging injuries, the type which would bench him in later years, and this slowed him down in the field. I'd say at this point there is no one, Gwynn himself included, who could specifically remember how well he played the field in 1989 vs how well he played it in 1991, without subconsciously dredging up memories of all the surrounding years. If you sat down and watched all the Padres games in both seasons, you may very well find that Gwynn made more plays in '91. Was the difference worth 50 runs? I have no idea, it doesn't seem likely, but I can't dismiss the possibility because the numbers look weird.

    Sean's response to this is "some of the TZ numbers are off for the Mets / Padres for some years but we publish them anyways."

    I'd really like to know what this means. It is concerning.

    So Joe Carter SHOULDN'T of knocked in runs?

    Not sure where you come up with that. Of course driving in runs is always good. It's good for his teammates too. In those three seasons above, Carter scored about 80 runs per year, pretty bad for a middle-of-the-order hitter playing every game. So he knocked in some runs, but didn't give his teammates much chance to knock in any. It's about team scoring.

  40. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Matt, I agree. If RBIs aren't important, then that should be the last we ever hear about "not getting timely hits," i.e. not getting hits with runners in scoring position which leads to runs scored for your teammates and RBIs for you. "Barney, you left the bases loaded three times tonight with strikeouts. Your thoughts?" "'S not important. RBIs are overrated."

    "RBIs are overrated" does not equal "RBIs aren't important." RBIs are always good, but an RBI total does not give you a good measure of how much the player contributed to his team, for all the reasons which have been discussed and which I am sure you are well aware of. Even in your silly example, Barney's teammates are the ones who loaded up the bases three different times. Why should Barney get all the credit if he did manage to finally get the ball in play?

    And speaking of the 1999 Rockies, Neifi Perez, with 193 hits, 278 extra bases, and 108 runs scored, had one of the worst, if not worst, offensive season in the last 50 years. "Heck, Neifi, we could have pulled someone up from Triple-A and he'd be good for 135, 140 runs. What were you doing out there?"

    That's really your example? Look at the rest of Perez's career after he left Colorado. Yes, he was obviously one of the worst hitters in the majors. Yes, I believe any AAAA player batting at the top of that lineup could have scored 100 runs. 108 runs in Coors was worth about 80 in a neutral park. If someone leading off every day in 1999 scored 80 runs, would you be impressed?

    Andy/34 who are you talking to? I don't see any comments by JDV in this thread, am I blind?

  41. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    #30/"Matt: "I think this whole "RBI is overated" arguement is ridiculous. So Joe Carter SHOULDN'T of knocked in runs?"

    Matt, I think you're creating a false strawman to set up and then knock down. No one is saying that it's NOT good to drive in runs; it's that the RBI part is only HALF of offensive production, and the other half of offensive production is the "getting on base" part (measured by OBP), which is just as important as the RBI total for a team to score runs. Players such as Joe Carter, Juan Gonzalez, and Garrett Anderson were very good at driving in runs and piling up impressive RBI totals, but not very good at getting on base, to allow other players to drive them in. Until very recently, the big round 100+ RBI season totals got most of the attention, and the high OBP seasons got almost none (unless they were also high batting averages's).

  42. The sport being played at Coors Field in 1999 was only barely recognizable as majopr league baseball, and the traditional, non-adjusted stats generated there that year simply cannot be given their ordinary understanding. Sure 133 RBI sounds like a lot under almost any normal circumstance. But 1999 was one of the highest scoring years in MLB history and Coors at that time was perhaps the most run-friendly park in MLB history. The combination made traditional baseball stats almost meaningless. In 2010, there have been, on average, about 8.8 runs per game scored in games involving NL teams. At Coors in 1999, the average game had 14.8 runs scored (Rockies games in 1999 not played at Coors averaged 9.1 runs per game). If baseball rules changed to allow hitters four strikes instead of three, the traditional statistical benchmarks we use would no longer mean what they used to mean, and 133 RBI from a corner outfielder would mean something completely different to us than they do now with the current three-strikes-and-you're-out rule. In a park where 8 runs a game is needed to win, the game being played is fundamentally different than one where four to five runs a game is needed to win. It is almost always true that 133 RBIs is an indication of a valuable hitter -- it may be that the only exception to that was the extremely unique setting of Coors Field in the late 90s-early 00s.

  43. What I'd love to see is 100-RBI seasons sorted by lowest WPA. That would give the clearest sense of which supposedly "clutch" seasons really weren't.

  44. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Good thought DavidJ. This is just since 1950 of course:

    1. Tony Armas 1983: -2.9
    2. Bobby Thomson 1953: -2.5
    3. Rico Brogna 1999: -2.2
    4. Garrett Anderson 2000: -2.2
    5. Vinny Castilla 1999: -1.7

    Of Bichette's five 100-RBI seasons, his worst is #109 on the list, 0.7. As I noted in his Bichette for MVP thread, he did tend to hit well with RISP, meaning that he was a somewhat more valuable player than his context-neutral WAR would indicate.

    Joe Carter's worst is #14, 1997, -0.8. He has six of the worst 44 on the list. Nine of his ten 100-RBI seasons are among the bottom 163 in WPA (out of 1,144 total 100-RBI seasons).

    51 100-RBI seasons have had a below-average (0.0) WPA. Most recent was Bobby Abreu 2007.

  45. Lowest WPAs for 100 RBI guys:
    Tony Armas '83, -2.9 WPA
    the late Bobby Thompson '53, -2.5 (apparently karma's response to the greatest clutch homer ever)
    Rico Brogna '99, -2.2
    Garrett Anderson '00, -2.2
    Vinny Castilla ,99, -1.7

    Bichette gets a +2.0 WPA for 1999, but keep in mind that WPA itself is not park-adjusted. WPA will look at a Bichette homer that puts the Rockies up 1-0 in the first inning and consider it as having improved the Rockies' chances of winning by a certain percentage, based on league-wide averages. But in fact that first inning solo homer improved the Rockies' chances much more modestly than league averages would suggest.

  46. Johnny Twisto Says:

    During the mini-deadball era 1963-1968, only Joe Pepitone's 1964 had a below-average WPA. 62 of the 67 100-RBI seasons (93%)in that time were at least 2.0 WPA. 31 of them (46%) were at least 5.0 WPA.

    During 1993-2009, 33 seasons were below average WPA, over 5%. Only 69% were at least 2.0 WPA. Only 17% were at least 5.0 WPA.

  47. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Birtelcom, WPA is park-adjusted.

  48. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    #44: Johnny Twisto Says: Good thought DavidJ. This is just since 1950 of course:
    1. Tony Armas 1983: -2.9" (lowest WPA for 100 RBI guys)

    ...Further confirmation that Armas had a crappy season in 1983(see #11), thanks!

    Scanning the WPA single-season leaders, they look very solid; mostly guys who were (at worst) in the top three/four in RBI and/or MVP voting, with some wacky exceptions, like Mike Epstein in 1969.

  49. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Maybe I misunderstood you, but Epstein was only 4th in WPA in 1969. But he hit the hell out of the ball that year, albeit in limited playing time. 176 OPS+.

  50. Mark Twain

  51. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    #49/"Johnny Twisto Says: Maybe I misunderstood you, but Epstein was only 4th in WPA in 1969. But he hit the hell out of the ball that year, albeit in limited playing time. 176 OPS+."

    JT, what I meant was that Epstein has his 1969 season listed as the #80th best single-season in WPA, surrounded on the list by "recognized" great seasons such as Hank Aaron/1963, Rod Carew/1977, and Sammy Sosa/2001, yet Epstein's 1969 has never been considered on par with those, or even close. He was 3rd in OBP, 6th in SLG, 9th in HR, and overall 7th in batting wins, so he did have an excellent year. However, no one has ever placed that season on the same level as the three others I referred to.

  52. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Gotcha. Well, as best we can measure it, he was very clutch that year. His WPA/LI was only 4.7, while his raw WPA was 6.7, so he was really hitting in the big spots. .347 BA and .733 SLG with RISP, which I'm sure matches up with any widely acknowledged great seasons. .830 SLG with 2 outs, RISP.

    There's probably an influence of the expansion year too; we wouldn't expect the 4th best WPA in the league one season to be the 80th best overall in the past 60 years. A lot of AL hitters put up huge numbers that season, even though scoring was still pretty low.

  53. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Epstein is 16th on the opposite of the list posted at 44-45: highest WPA for someone with fewer than 100 RBI. 3rd highest during the '60s. (#1 is Mickey Mantle 1957 -- OPS over 1.100 and 94 RBI). Unsurprisingly there's a lot of BB at the top of that list.

  54. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    #52: "Johnny Twisto Says: Gotcha. Well, as best we can measure it, he was very clutch that year."

    Thanks, it's good to have a civil discussion with a really knowledgeable baseball fan. One more thing about Epstein's 1969 - even though his Triple Crown stats were good but not great, and the A's finished second, someone must have recognized his "clutchiness", as he finished 25th in the MVP voting; perhaps an 8th and also a 10th-place vote (?).

  55. Johnny Twisto Says:

    He was still with the Senators at that point -- 4th in the AL East (10 games over). Frank Howard (4th overall) and Ed Brinkman and Del Unser (barely) got more votes among Senator batters.

  56. Johnny Twisto:

    Strong example with Erstad: his Rbat in '99 was -25 (78 OPS+), followed by +33 (137). Career years are real, and players definitely get hot and cold with the bat. Anyone who's ever hit understands this.

    However, let's take a look at some Rfield numbers, to help explain this:

    Take Manny Ramirez as our baseline for a "horrible" fielder. His worst years he's at -18 (twice); for his career he's a -111.

    Gwynn was -23 in '89, which is far worse than Manny ever was. Gwynn's high, two years later, is +28.

    So let's take a look at the high Rfield of "great" fielders: Ichiro (27), Willie Mays (21), Clemente (24). So Gwynn's +28 mark in '91 was better than any of these fielding legends.

    So it clearly makes no sense that in '89 Gwynn had one of the worst defensive seasons ever (far worse than Manny has ever been), and then two years later had one of the best (far better than Mays or Clemente ever had). This is why I say it's broken. Ersted didn't have an OPS of 60 one year, and then 230 the next.

    You questioned mobility possibly due to injury impacting the numbers: Gwynn stole 40/56 bases in '89, and was 8/16 in '91. If anything, he was hurt in '91 and not '89.

    Re: Sean saying there was a problem with the numbers that messes up TZ, here's a link to his comments:

    http://apps.baseballprojection.com/blog/?e=52097&d=07/25/2010&s=Evaluation%20of%20Defensive%20Projections#comment

    Here's his comment: "It's bad data. Those were some of the first years retrosheet had project scoresheet batted ball data. It looks like they had some trouble scoring consistently year to year in San Diego. I choose to use it for the league, for most teams the additional detail in the data gives you better ratings than not using them. And I will always use the same system for every team in the league, so I have to live with San Diego ratings that don't make sense. I think the Mets and Braves, to a lessor extent, have some data issues as well. In Gwynn's case, ignore the fluctuations. His career rating is OK."

  57. My problem is that people are parading around WAR data like it's some definitive metric. BR lists it as the #1 stat in the leaders section, and some of it is wrong and just makes no sense. As many people have pointed out, Rfield / TZ makes no sense half the time.

    Another issue with WAR: why is "avoiding grounding into double plays" counted? To GIDP there can't be two outs, and you usually need a guy on first. GIDP is a lot more situational than RBIs. You can get an RBI any time.

    How many more opportunities does a cleanup hitter have to GIDP than a leadoff hitter? A lot. So why is the cleanup hitter penalized? If you took GIDP as a percentage of opportunities, OK - sure. But then I'll argue that performance with runners in scoring position should be looked at.

  58. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Thanks for sharing that Jason. (BTW, just in case you didn't know, that Sean is not the same as B-R's Sean Forman.) So I guess that's an issue we need to keep in mind. As I've written before, for assessing current players I look at TZ, UZR, +/-, Fans' Scouting, general perception, my own personal opinion if applicable, and yes even Gold Glove voting. Unfortunately we don't have all those options available going back even just 10 years. I think that overall TZ does a pretty good job, especially considering the limitations of the data. Most players perceived as good defenders rate well over a career, and most perceived as poor do not. There are probably some surprises in there (e.g. Roberto Alomar), and for some of them the general perception probably missed something, and for some of them TZ is probably missing something. (Who can say which is which however.) But yes, for any individual season there is a lot of potential error in the numbers, so that needs to be taken into a account when citing TZ or WAR numbers.

    But it's also important to remember that "good" defenders can have average/bad defensive seasons, and vice versa. It's hard to accept, because we are not used to having reputable season-by-season defensive stats, so we identify fielders as good/average/bad, and leave them in that category year after year. But their performance can fluctuate, just as it can with the bat.

  59. Johnny Twisto Says:

    I'm pretty sure WAR does account for opportunities in rating GIDP runs.

  60. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    #55: "Johnny Twisto Says: He was still with the Senators at that point -- 4th in the AL East (10 games over)."

    Wow, that's embarrassing - I looked at his 1972 season, when he also got MVP votes. Finishing 25th in 1969 for the Senators is actually MORE impressive, then.

    #56/Jason VE - Great points about the inconsistency of fielding WAR. It's a shame, because despite all the legit criticism, I believe WAR has great usefulness to be the great "Unified Theory" so-to-speak, for serious analysis of a player's total value, OFFENSE + DEFENSE. I did a quick check of a player at each position who is acknowledged to be amongst the best fielders, to see if it helds up to the consensus view:
    Bench/ Hernandez/ Maz/ Brooks/ Wizard/ B.Bonds/ Say-Hey/ Roberto

    They do, for the most part, showing an early/mid-career progression toward greatness, then a decline at the end of their career (tho Maz and Clemente bounced around a bit).

    I trust offensive WAR, but take defensive WAR with a few grams of salt.

  61. Johnny Twisto Says:

    So it clearly makes no sense that in '89 Gwynn had one of the worst defensive seasons ever (far worse than Manny has ever been), and then two years later had one of the best (far better than Mays or Clemente ever had). This is why I say it's broken. Ersted didn't have an OPS of 60 one year, and then 230 the next.

    Also, while Sean Smith's explanation of the data problems is probably the best explanation, don't forget what I wrote in #39. The sample sizes of defensive chances are smaller. Erstad did have a 1.041 OPS from 4/3/00 to 6/7/00, and a .601 OPS from 6/22/01 to 8/31/01. Maybe not equivalent to best/worst of all time, but close to best/worst hitter at that time.

  62. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Bench/ Hernandez/ Maz/ Brooks/ Wizard/ B.Bonds/ Say-Hey/ Roberto

    I wonder if it is meaningful that 7 of these 8 players played in the '70s, and five of them were probably near their defensive peak some time from 1960-1970. (Not criticizing your choices, as they seem very reasonable to me.)

  63. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    #62, "Johnny Twisto Says: {best defensive players at each position}:
    Bench/ Hernandez/ Maz/ Brooks/ Wizard/ B.Bonds/ Say-Hey/ Roberto
    I wonder if it is meaningful that 7 of these 8 players played in the '70s, and five of them were probably near their defensive peak some time from 1960-1970. (Not criticizing your choices, as they seem very reasonable to me.)"

    J/T, I choose these because I thought that Retrosheet data was only available from 1950 to the present, and I wanted players whose entire careers fell under that time period, and those that reflected the "common wisdom". I could also choose:

    Yogi/ Fred Tenney/ Frankie Frisch/ Jimmy Collins/ Rabbit Maranville/ Willie Wilson/ Paul Blair/ Paul Waner

    That should cover from the 1890s to the 1990s, but they are not as "consensus".

  64. @Johnny Twisto: Thanks for the response. I would expect fielding performance to be a lot more consistent than hitting or pitching. I think fielding metrics will vary tremendously because of a lot of other factors, such as pitching staff, who's playing next to you, what park you're playing in, whether the league is playing small ball or big ball, etc. But if you can get to a ball one year, you're probably going to get to it the next year. Sure, you're going to have the "look what I found (in my glove)" moments, and you're going to drop a few, but neither of those situations happen very often. To be worth -34 runs than an average AAA outfielder one year, and average the next..I just don't see it.

    Like Lawrence observed with the fielding gods, you see an early rise, consistently high numbers, and then a decline. Seems like with the older players, the data is more consistent and realistic. But with the more recent Rfield/TZ numbers that are based on retrosheet data, it's all over the place and in some cases, ridiculous.

    From what I understand, Sean from baseballprojection.com is responsible for the TZ ratings, which are then used by BR to compute Rfield. Correct me if I'm wrong - thanks!

  65. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    #64/"Jason VE Says: @Johnny Twisto: Thanks for the response. I would expect fielding performance to be a lot more consistent than hitting or pitching."

    Intuitively, I agree, although even the most consistently outstanding hitters, such as Hank Aaron, frequently had changes in offensive performance of 15/20 runs from year to year, sometimes more. In Aaron's case we don't notice it as much, since he varied from great, to really great, to really really great, and back down again.

    As noted upthread, "small sample size", park factors, and team factors such as pitching styles will also affect defensive stats and their interpretation.

  66. The description of these as "seasons where the team would probably have been better off releasing the player and bringing up a minor-league replacement" may be a bit anachronistic in the case of #14 on the list, Ray Pepper of the 1934 Browns. I'm not sure the Browns had a farm system back then. If they did, then, judging by how bad the major league team was, the minor league teams probably didn't have anyone who was any good, either.

  67. Well, yumpin' yiminy, as me old uncle Ole said. (For the record I'm of Irish decent and if an uncle of mine ever said yumpin' yiminy, another uncle would have clonked unc #1 on the head with an (empty) bottle of Jameson's).

    Anyway, I do have a point here. WAR, or WS or Rbat or Rfield or any of these "stats" are simply estimates of the individual contributions that go into the overall success (or not) of a team. In 1999, Dante Bichette had 34 HR's, 133 RBI and a .354 BA. Rico Brogna was 24/102/.278. The difference in WAR was 2.6 (in favor of Brogna). I don't pretend to understand the intricacies of WAR, but I will hazard a guess that even the most ardent supporters of WAR will argue that if the Rockies and Phillies were to have swapped these two players, the Phillies would NOT have declined by 2.6 wins and the Rockies improved by the same number of wins. ("Breaking news on SportsCenter, the Rockies today traded Dante Bichette to the Phillies for Rico Brogna. This move will improve the Rockies record to 74.6-87.4, vaulting them over the Padres by .4 games into 3rd place").

    Sorry for the sarcasm, but (a) it's who I am and (b) it is deserved here. Any of these metrics (including the traditional counters of BA, HR, RBI) are only an attempt to understand and place players in historic context. Certainly all of us understand that the we've moved beyond the triple crown stats as the be all and end all to a players value.

    Each of these measures is only another tool for us to evaluate players place in history - and I think it's a positive step forward.

    If you want trade away the bigger picture of how to refine and define these discussions to argue that Dante Bichette made wonderful contributions to a 72-90 team (and I'll remind you his OPS + was 111 in Colorado, about the same as his 106+ carrer number...basically replacement value as a HITTER), then, as the old saying gos, that is a you problem, not a me problem (or, in this case, bbref problem).

    Is Eddie Mathews 80 runs better over his career than Joe Carter? I'm not sure. All I know is he was a buttload of runs better than Carter, and I if I had 4 Eddie Mathews and 4 guys from AAA, I'd score more runs about every damned year than an entire team of Joe Carters, even if they had Sid Finch pitching. Was Roberto Alomar 4.3 wins better than Joe Carter in 1990? Hell if I know. But he was a better player and probably by a LOT.

  68. I get that people have problems with the fielding aspect of WAR--I too find it unreliably impacts a player's WAR for a given year, though I assume that a fielder who gets to fewer balls year after year during his career is properly assessed as being a bad fielder, however, I find it hilarious that people can't understand that what looks like a great season on paper can be merely average in the context of pre-humidor Coors. Do you guys not realize that whether or not the Rockies actually had someone in the minors who could come up and drive in 133 runs and score 104, that those traditionally good totals are absolutely pedestrian for that park?

    Like I said, I absolutely understand the problems with fielding metrics, especially for individual seasons, but to crow about batting metrics which pummel the actual value of a perceived good offensive season is silly. All the numbers are there and valid and we can absolutely determine how valuable (or not valuable) a batter was in a certain park in a certain year.

  69. Andy,

    "To give you a firm idea on how bad a player Carter was, his career WAR of 16.5 is tied with Phil Bradley, Donn Clendenon, Hank Gowdy, Tony Kubek, Dots Miller, and Tony Taylor. Aside from Dots Miller (of whom I have never heard) I know that all those players did some good things in the big leagues, but all have reputations well short of Carter's."

    Dots Miller was an infielder who played with the Pirates, Cardinals and Phillies from 1909-'21. Having played the 1911 season of Strat-O-Matic baseball, I was familiar with him.

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/m/milledo02.shtml

    Real or apocryphal, I love the story of how he received his nickname:

    "Miller earned the nickname "Dots" after Honus Wagner was asked by reporters in spring training, "Who is the new player?" Wagner responded "That's Miller", but due to his heavy accent, the reporter, Jack Lennox, heard "Dot's Miller". The name took awhile to receive regular usage, as the Pittsburgh newspapers often carried stories of Jack Miller, the Pirates' infielder."

    Decent ballplayer. Got top-10 MVP ranking in 1913-'14.

    Just thought I'd toss that in there. ;)

  70. LJF, that's exactly what I think would happen if Brogna and Bichette had switched places. In Coors, Brogna's numbers would have been even better while his defense would have remained excellent. In the Vet, Bichette's numbers would have gone way down while his defense would probably not have been as bad.Big advantage to the team with Brogna.

  71. JeffW, excellent story, even if not true.

    I wonder why colorful nicknames are used so much less often these days and in days gone by....theories anybody? Is it political correctness? (Well that accounts for nicknames such as "Nig" and "Superjew"...)

  72. Im sorry but, WAR ruins so much of the fun and nostalgia of the game. Get the scientists outta the game... I love how so many of you bash Bichette. He was fun to watch. Joe Carter was too. WAR is so laughable. See the ball...Hit the ball.

  73. There is an excellent bio of Dots on the SABR Bio page:
    http://bioproj.sabr.org/bioproj.cfm?a=v&v=l&bid=899&pid=9657

  74. re #71, I would like to know that too. I was complaining to my girlfriend that almost nobody has a good nickname anymore. My guess is that some if it came from newspapers in the old days trying to drum up interest- now we don't need someone to tell us that Carl Crawford is fast or that Albert Pujols is incredible, we can just watch on DVR or SportsCenter or youtube. That's the only theory I had, anyway. Part of it might be that it would be hard to call a guy making $19 million a year "Rabbit" or "Patches" or something, too.

    Also the only way fielding stats would make sense for WAR would be to somehow incorporate a three- or five-year average for fielding into the calculation, if that's even possible, because an outfielder might only see 150 balls hit his way the entire season, for example.

  75. Miller contracted tuberculosis, and went to the Trudeau Institute at Saranac Lake for treatment.

    That's the facility where Christy Mathewson stayed while he fought his illness. They specialized in the study of tuberculosis, for which there was no "real" cure at the time.

    The facility was built by Dr. Edward Livingstone Trudeau, the grandfather of Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau, though the doctor had passed (1848-1915) by the time Miller and Mathewson became patients.

    That SABR Bioproject write-up also featured a great line by Ring Lardner on the Miller's all-around skills:

    In 1915 Ring Lardner picked Miller as the utility man on his personal all-star team. "When you're picking utility guys, you want fellas that does that for a livin'," wrote Lardner. "The best utility infielder I know anything about is Jack Miller. You can't call him a regular. He's in the game everyday, but he don't never play the same place two days in succession. They're a'scared he might get thinkin' the game was monot'nous and quit."

    Honus Wagner was known as much the same, for many years. He did everything but catch, at one time or another. He might have been the greatest player of his era at any of several positions.

    Jiffy, considering their predilection for "green stuff", Rabbit might be an appropriate nickname for almost any player today. :D

  76. joseph taverney Says:

    @ spastikmoose

    I know we're pretty far along this thread now, but my hypothetical trade of belle and vizquel for greenwell and valentin, was purely to point out some of the obvious holes in WAR.
    I know Vizquel and Belle went on to better careers, so i wasn't theorizing the trade long term. I was comparing contributions made by valentin and belle, and thought it would be fair, since they play very different positions, swapping their teammates whom had similar WAR years in comparison to eachother.
    My complaint was Vizquel, in my opinion, is a little better than replacement with the bat. And i say that meaning that he knows his part, his potential, his strengths, etc. He never swang for the fences. He went the other way with a guy on second. He, shall I dare say - sacrificed well. He complimented a high powered offense, in all the ways a hitter of his caliber should, all things a AAA player might have trouble with.
    But his fielding was not only above replacement, it was the best in baseball.
    So him replacing Valentin's glove, is in my opinion, a step up.
    And Belle's bat is far superior to Valentin's.
    I was just trying to say, I can't imagine that hypothetical trade, with those identical numbers, making the Redsox worse.
    WAR is flawed.
    A guy doesn't go from second to home on a single when there are no outs and he is down by 5. He shouldn't be punished.
    Someone mentioned earlier, doubleplays are more situational than RBI chances.
    A thirdbaseman cuts off a shortstop on a slow roller to throw out the runner at first, you know what, that SS's range just went down.
    A second baseman is playing behind the runner on second because his pitcher is going to give up a stolenbase. The next pitch is hit in the hole vacated by the secondbaseman, his range goes down, but the runner doesn't score. How does this effect his value?

  77. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    joseph Taverney @76: "I was just trying to say, I can't imagine that hypothetical trade, with those identical numbers, making the Redsox worse."

    You're thinking in terms of Belle and Vizquel versus Valentin and Greenwell. You need to think in terms of Bell in 1995 and Vizquel in 1995 versus Valentin in 1995 and Greenwell in 1995.

    Valentin may not have hit like Belle in 1995, but he hit very, very well -- *far* better than Vizquel ever has, and almost as well versus his positional average (+42 runs versus avg SS) as Belle did versus *his* positional average (+47 runs vs average LF). And he also had a great fielding season, perhaps not as good as Vizquel often did, but very very good (and I can tell you as someone who watched a lot of Red Sox games that year, I don't need TZ to tell me he had a great fielding season). In fact, Valentin might have been about as good as Vizquel defensively, but for his much shorter career. TZ gives him 48 fielding runs over 5 years playing SS (and another 28 for 6 years of 3B), versus Vizquel's 142 over 22 with no 5-year period as good as Valentin. In any case, Vizquel is the better player in the long run, but over the 6 years of JV's peak, he was much better overall (almost as good in the field and above average at the bat as well). Valentin's peak was overshadowed by the great SS's who debuted in the middle of it (A-Rod, Jeter, and Nomar, whose debut in 1996 kicked him over the third), but he was a very good player for 6-7 years. Also note that unlike ARod, Valentin made the move from SS to 3B without missing a step defensively. Arod is pretty mediocre in the field at 3B, while he was above average at SS. Valentin was a great defender in both spots.

    He's nowhere near hall consideration, but John Valentin was a very solid guy to have on your team in the mid 90s.

  78. "Nobody evers thinks that if a batter scores 4 RBIs and the pitcher gives up 10 runs AND the rest of the team doesn't do squat"

    Well, unless this batter hit four solo HR, the rest of the team didn't "do squat." How did the batter drive in runs in the first place? Cause his teammates were on base for him.

  79. Andy, my point is that I don't believe that if there were two identical teams, only one with Brogna and one with Bichette, that the team with Brogna would win EXACTLY 2.6 games more than the team with Bichette. It's a measurement, like any other,but it is not exact.

  80. #72: "Im sorry but, WAR ruins so much of the fun and nostalgia of the game."

    Speak for yourself. I enjoy stats like WAR, and I also enjoy the fun and nostalgia of the game. It's not an either/or.

  81. I completely agree that WAR is the best single metric we have, but with that said, it is seriously flawed and is only an estimate of ones entire package. Defensive numbers should be taken with some very big grains of salt, hitting context, particularly situational hitting, is far too distilled, and it seems clear to me that BB are overvalued a bit too much. Great debate.......as long as some of the WAR pontificates don't beat their drum like WAR is some gospel. Even WAR is a number based on a formula that is man-made and therefore it only gives us estimates. It provides us with another, likely better way, to evaluate players. For every Jim Rice writers induct, sabermetricians would induct a Willie Randolph or Darrell Evans. I respect different approaches to evaluating players, and so I understand I/we have to live with a few players that are anomalies getting inducted every once in a great while.

  82. #78 While yes, they are on base, the fact of the matter is that there needs to be a batter to drive them in. So lets say someone like Joe Carter, since there's so much debate about him here, and has a game where he goes 3 for 4 and drives in the 4 runs. Sure there were batters who got hits, and maybe walks, but didn't get the key hits to drive in the runs then how does it fall Joe Carter or whoever drove in the runs? Maybe Joe Carter didn't walk as much as he should have. He did, however, drive in runs. It would be nice if every player is a 5-tool player but that doesn't happen on a regular basis. He drove in runs. What more does anybody want?

  83. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    #82/"Matt #78 While yes, they are on base, the fact of the matter is that there needs to be a batter to drive them in. So lets say someone like Joe Carter, since there's so much debate about him here, and has a game where he goes 3 for 4 and drives in the 4 runs. Sure there were batters who got hits, and maybe walks, but didn't get the key hits to drive in the runs then how does it fall Joe Carter or whoever drove in the runs? Maybe Joe Carter didn't walk as much as he should have. He did, however, drive in runs. It would be nice if every player is a 5-tool player but that doesn't happen on a regular basis. He drove in runs. What more does anybody want?"

    What more do I want? Well, I want someone like Joe Carter to GET ON BASE MORE, so that other players besides Joe Carter also have an opportunity to drive in runs. Think of it as bookkeeping- someone is credited for the RBI's, and Joe Carter mostly batted cleanup on good-hitting teams, so that HE got the RBI. However, he didn't get on base as often as the guys he drove in, so he DECREASED the chances for the guys batting behind him to get RBI. Now, you may think this is good trade-off; I do not.

    Looking at Carter's breakdowns, he didn't hit any better in any of the so-called "clutch" situations (he actually hit noticeably WORSE in "close and late") ,so it's not like he "rose to the occasion"; he simply got a lot of chances to drive in runs. That may have helped Carter look like a better hitter, but that doesn't mean his team scored more runs over a season.

  84. Nice explanation Lawrence...I strongly agree. Carter was the beneficiary of being in the right place at the right time. He did the bare minimum to achieve the counting stat totals that he did. (Don't misread...I'm not trying to say that he was terrible--just not nearly as good as every other player with similar counting stat totals.)

  85. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    #85/"Andy Says: Nice explanation Lawrence...I strongly agree."

    Yes, it's not that Joe Carter was a total stiff; it's just that he had some positives and also some negatives. Positives were hitting for power, being a decent defensive outfielder and decent baserunner. Negatives included not hitting for average and (especially) not drawing walks. Problem is those two negatives pretty much canceled out his positives. Since he got to bat cleanup for good teams most of his career, he piled up lots of RBI, and the general public though of him as some clutch-hitting god and great offensive force. He wasn't (either one; except in 1986, when he WAS great).

  86. Buckner Rules Says:

    The post about Bill Buckner being barely better than a replacement player shows how ignorant seamheads can be, especially when they can manufacture numbers to make a non-existent point.

    Buckner has a batting title. Before his knee injuries, he was a player who possessed speed and the ability to hit for average. His power numbers were a little low for someone who played in hitters' parks, but they were not terrible for the era in which he played. Clearly the person who made the anti-Buckner comment never saw him when he played for the Dodgers in the 1970s. Probably never saw him play at any time.

    I see your list of players with 1400-1500 RBIs includes Andres Galarraga, a player who also won a batting title. Dave Parker won two batting titles and had a cannon for an arm in the outfield. This "summary" is a prime example of how to misuse statistics -- you gather the 19 people with a superior quality (RBIs), then rank them with a sketchy formula and bash the people who don't pass muster.

    These FACTS lead me to conclude a couple of things:

    * Your list makes little sense, regardless of what magic you used to create it.

    * You are seamheads without much knowledge of the game.

    Go back to Strat-O-Matic, seamheads. The Jose Valentins, Joe Carters, and even the Dante Bichettes of the world fall into this category. People with batting titles don't.

  87. #86: My opinion about Buckner is that he was a very talented player who was slowed by injuries. His final career numbers are A) better than most people remember them and B) not nearly as good as they would have been if not for his injuries.

    However, when looking just at raw numbers, that season of his that makes the list above was definitely on the stinkier side. It's not a condemnation of his entire career, his effort, or him as a person. Obviously Buckner's legs were in very bad shape that year, which contributed significantly to his performance with the bat as well as the famous play for which he is remembered.

  88. Buckner Rules Says:

    Post #10 says: "I was shocked looking at Buckner's page how close he came to getting 3k hits while being barely better than a replacement player for his career."

    That is a condemnation of his entire career. It is ignorant.

    Regarding his 1986 season: I am not going to try to decipher the cryptic stats for a non-credible list, but the worst part appears to be the 25 GIDP. The guy had maybe half a good leg at that time. He also had only 25 Ks -- far fewer than anyone else on the list. I would bet that means he advanced quite a few runners on groundouts or fly balls. Does this cryptic, non-credible list take that into account? If not, it should.

    The all-time list also has at least two people who won batting titles. Parker won more than one batting title. Robin Yount finished second in batting one season. I seem to recall Chipper Jones doing quite well in BA at least one season.

    In summary, these lists are horribly flawed. Time to get a new list.

  89. Dude....you are mixing my post with what commenters said. I don't agree with the sentiment of #10 either, which has nothing to do with my original post. You and I actually seem to agree for the most part.