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The most runs scored per time on base over a career

Posted by Andy on January 10, 2011

This would make a heck of a good trivia question, but I've already given away the answer in the title of the post.

Check out the leaders (1901-present, minimum 2000 career plate appearances) in runs scored per time on base:

1 Joe DiMaggio 3050 1390 7671 1936 1951 21-36 2214 389 131 361 1537 790 369 46 30 9 .325 .398 .579 .977 *8/793 NYY
2 Tommy Leach 2784 1260 8401 1901 1918 23-40 1991 255 164 57 737 762 278 31 334 24 .270 .341 .372 .712 85/7694 PIT-TOT-CHC-CIN
3 Earle Combs 2553 1186 6507 1924 1935 25-36 1866 309 154 58 632 670 278 17 98 71 .325 .397 .462 .859 *87/9 NYY
4 Red Rolfe 1930 942 5405 1931 1942 22-33 1394 257 67 69 497 526 335 10 44 20 .289 .360 .413 .773 *5/6 NYY
5 Jack Smith 1657 783 5026 1915 1929 20-34 1301 182 71 40 382 334 348 22 228 67 .287 .339 .385 .724 897 STL-TOT-BSN
6 Pepper Martin 1609 756 4521 1928 1944 24-40 1227 270 75 59 501 369 438 13 146 0 .298 .358 .443 .801 589/71 STL
7 Tom Goodwin 1407 636 4315 1991 2004 22-35 1029 125 39 24 284 365 660 13 369 118 .268 .332 .339 .671 *87/9 LAD-KCR-TOT-TEX-SFG-CHC
8 Gerald Williams 991 474 3323 1992 2005 25-38 780 183 18 85 365 180 530 31 106 57 .255 .301 .410 .711 879/D NYY-TOT-MIL-ATL-TBD-FLA-NYM
9 Ian Kinsler 961 437 2723 2006 2010 24-28 668 142 12 92 318 262 348 31 106 18 .281 .356 .466 .822 *4 TEX
10 Woody Jensen 861 392 2869 1931 1939 23-31 774 114 37 26 235 69 100 18 20 0 .285 .307 .382 .689 *7/89 PIT
11 Nate McLouth 788 361 2363 2005 2010 23-28 517 128 12 77 254 226 405 45 83 13 .252 .337 .438 .775 *8/97 PIT-TOT-ATL
12 Miguel Dilone 678 314 2182 1974 1985 19-30 530 67 25 6 129 142 197 6 267 78 .265 .315 .333 .648 78/9D5 PIT-OAK-TOT-CLE-MON
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 1/9/2011.

As a reminder, Times on Base is hits plus walks plus HBP.

These guys all scored runs as least 45% of the time they got on base. The career leader (1901-present) is Red Rolfe, with 0.488 runs scored per time on base. Gerald Williams is #2 at 0.478.

At first guess I suppose that excelling in this stat is helped by having a good offense around you and being a good (and possibly fast) baserunner. Most of these guys were very fast--even Nate McLouth is a quick guy despite stealing only 83 bases in the equivalent of about 4 full seasons. Only Rolfe, DiMaggio, and Jensen didn't steal much, and they all played in high-powered offensive eras.

If you drop the requirement for R/ToB to just 0.42, the list includes 120 guys.

63 Responses to “The most runs scored per time on base over a career”

  1. Rick Says:

    Huh. I figured I would have seen Rickey on the shorter list.

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  3. Todd Morgan Says:

    Be careful -- I don't know if it's actually true of anyone on this list, but guys that pinch ran frequently could skew the results.

  4. dukeofflatbush Says:

    Couldn't getting on base via the error or the FC, then coming around to score skew the results as well.
    I guess all things being equal, over a long enough career, those things evened out, but still I'm sure there are discrepancies from player to player.

  5. Artie Z Says:

    @3 - Tom Goodwin scored 30 runs as a pinch runner, dropping him down to .4307. Miguel Dilone scored 56 runs as a pinch runner, which is over a sixth of his career total. It drops him down to .3805. Gerald Williams scored 42 as a pinch runner, dropping his percentage to .4359,

    Those are the only three I checked, but some of these players have their numbers inflated by pinch running appearances.

  6. Dvd Avins Says:

    Having a high SLG divided by OBP would help one get on this list. Or help one be at the top, as it turns out.

    Rose, despite having good hitters behind him, is only at .365.

  7. Tmckelv Says:

    I would have never believed there could be any list (of 12 or less players) that included both Gerald Williams and Joe D. 🙂

  8. John Autin Says:

    Thinking out loud ... The players on the first list, taken as a group, have a fairly ordinary OBP. I can't quite make the connection, but is it possible that it's easier to maintain a high rate of R/TOB at lower OBPs?

  9. Andy Says:

    John, I've been trying to make sense of it too. It's quite a mixed group, at least at first glance, as far as where they bat in the lineup, what kind of hitters they were, etc. The single-biggest factor has got to be overall run-scoring environment. The only guy outside of a high-offense era is Dilone, and as #3 and #5 pointed out, his total is artificially inflated. I got to wondering if these guys are all exceptional baserunners.

    Let's look at Nate McLouth.

    Year Age Tm XBT%
    2005 23 PIT 59%
    2006 24 PIT 49%
    2007 25 PIT 39%
    2008 26 PIT 49%
    2009 27 TOT 41%
    2009 27 PIT 46%
    2009 27 ATL 40%
    2010 28 ATL 40%
    6 Seasons 45%
    Provided by View Original Table
    Generated 1/10/2011.

    There are his extra base taken averages for each year.

    2005 NL average was 39%
    2006 NL 41%
    2007 NL 40%
    2008 NL 39%
    2009 NL 39%
    2010 NL 40%

    So McLouth seems to be generally above average. The main factor may simply be his speed, which contributes to being an overall above-average baserunner. For all the guys on the list, I'm guessing there's some reason why they are above-average baserunners (which also probably explains why many of these were used as pinch-runners with some frequency.)

  10. John Autin Says:

    Re: "Rose, despite having good hitters behind him, is only at .365."

    Rose played his entire career in a low-scoring environment. From 1963-86 combined, NL teams averaged 4.04 R/G.

    Of the top 14 in career runs scored (1901-present), Rose is the only one who didn't play several years or more in an above-average scoring context. Even Cobb, Speaker and Collins each lasted 7 full seasons into the live-ball era.

  11. Morten Jonsson Says:

    A couple of observations. First, this statistic generally rules out home run hitters--only DiMaggio and, to a lesser extent, Kinsler and McLouth hit a significant number of home runs (note that both of them mostly batted leadoff in their best power seasons).

    And second, the players on this list tend not to take a lot of walks. And that makes sense if you think about it, because the more walks you take, the less often, as a percentage, you're starting from scoring position and the less often, as a percentage, you're going to score--even though the total number of runs you score will probably be much higher. That's why Gerald Williams is on this list and Rickey isn't.

    What this list selects, basically, is players who run well enough to hit at the top of the lineup, but who aren't especially good at getting on base. It's an interesting category, but I wouldn't take this in any way as a metric that indicates how good a player is.

  12. Jimbo Says:

    Pinch Running might be a factor here. I think Tom Goodwin had a fair number of PR appearances which are a freeroll for this stat.

  13. John Autin Says:

    Andy -- Good thought-provoking topic you've hit on.

    Taking my cue from your XBT% check of McLouth (I'd better not misspell that!), I thought of Jeff Bagwell, who of course scored a lot of runs and (from what I've read) was a good baserunner.

    Bagwell's career XBT% was 48%, which is better than McLouth. I'm a little too lazy right now to check the NL average for his career, but since he was semi-contemporary with McLouth, I'm guessing that Bagwell's XBT% was further above the league average than McLouth's.

    But Bagwell's ratio of R/TOB was 0.395.

    Now, Bags spent almost his whole career hitting 3rd or 4th, which I suspect is at least some impediment to making the R/TOB leader board. And he had the Astrodome as his home field for the majority of his career.

    Too many variables for me to draw any intelligent conclusions. But fun to think about, so thanks.

  14. deal Says:

    There is also the flip-side of the Pinch Runner issue - if the player gets lifrted for a PR, this will deflate his numbers. Of course I am not sure any of these guys were ever lifted for a runner.

  15. Jimbo Says:

    This kind of makes me wonder who holds the record for most times "setting up a pinch runner to score." I suspect an old Barry Bonds might lead in this as he took many late inning walks before being replaced.

  16. John Autin Says:

    @11 Morten Jonsson --
    "I wouldn't take this in any way as a metric that indicates how good a player is."
    -- Agreed. But it's a good thought exercise, and may give us insight applicable to some more meaningful metric.

    "...this statistic generally rules out home run hitters...."
    -- It's true that only DiMaggio has over 100 HRs (on the first list). But is there any logical reason that a high HR rate, per se, would have an inverse correlation to R/TOB? HRs do count as times on base, so a high HR rate in and of itself should increase the R/TOB. The only indirect inverse correlation I can imagine between HR rate and R/TOB would be that HR hitters generally don't bat in the top two spots in the order.

    "the players on this list tend not to take a lot of walks. ... the more walks you take, the less often, as a percentage, you're starting from scoring position.... That's why Gerald Williams is on this list and Rickey isn't."
    -- I could buy the first part of this, but not so much the second. Rickey did walk 2,000 more times than Gerald, but he also stole 1,300 more bases; Rickey swiped more than 3 times as many bags per PA as Gerald, and at a much higher success rate. So Rickey got himself into scoring position a lot more often than a high-walker such as the late-career Barry Bonds.

  17. Morten Jonsson Says:


    Regarding home runs, batting order position would appear to be an extremely strong factor. But I can think of a couple others. One is that home run hitters might draw more walks than other hitters. Another is that they might be slower than average. Obviously even if both of those generalizations are true, there are many exceptions--Willie Mays is one obvious example. ARod is another. But with all of those factors together, it might be enough to explain the reverse correlation. (And as for Mays, remember that he spent most of his career in a low-scoring era.)

    It is a good question about Rickey. All I can suggest is that even though his stolen base percentage was excellent (over 80%), getting caught even 20 percent of the time was enough to reduce his percentage of runs scored per times on base. And that even though he played on some good teams, it was mostly in a relatively low run-scoring era and in parks that favored the pitchers.

  18. Morten Jonsson Says:

    Sorry--I should have thought of a better example than ARod, who does draw quite a few walks.

  19. kds Says:

    Nobody noticed deadball era Wee Tommy Leach 2nd on the list. 2 factors that I can think of that helped get him there in spite of the low scoring environment were; 1) batting in front of Wagner, and 2) at that time there were many more errors than today. In 1908 the NL averaged 253 errors per team. A century later that wa down to 99. So ROE may not be a big factor today, but it most probably was back in that era and even more so earlier.

  20. Tmckelv Says:

    I think we finally have a stat where walks hurt, in general. I think batting lead-off and stealing a lot of bases would be the only case where a lot of walks would help (like Rickey Henderson as mentioned above in this thread).

    Or having Ruth/Gehrig bat behind you, where your chances of scoring (from anywhere and for any reason) are better. (i.e. Combs, Rolfe, and even Dimaggio to a lesser extent - because he helped himself a lot, but batting in front of Gehrig probably caused his #1 ranking).

  21. Tmckelv Says:


    "Dimaggio to a lesser extent ... caused his #1 ranking"

    Sorry, I thought the list was sorted by R/TOB, but it was sorted by TOB.

    Joe was actually 8th on the R/TOB list.

  22. barkfart Says:


    I'm not sure about your angle about speed. Are you suggesting that they were good at going; "single, stolen base, knocked in. Can you sort out runs after a stolen base?

    My own angle on this stat is many of these guys were lucky enough to have good RBI guys batting behind them.

  23. Andy Says:

    Bark (I would really like you to change your screen name as I find typing the second half unpleasant)

    Independent of stolen bases, faster base runners are going to score more often. These guys tend to, for example, go 1st-to-3rd on a single more often and then can score on a sac fly or ground ball that would have a runner and 2nd needing to stay there.

    It's also true that certain runners are just better--for example judging more quickly and accurately whether a fly ball will be caught or not, giving them an advantage in getting to 3rd base or home on a ball dropping in the outfield. These guys will also tend to score more often. Mark Teixeira, at least according to scouting reports I've read, is an example of an extremely good base runner who is not particularly fast.

  24. Morten Jonsson Says:

    Andy, the point I'm trying to make is that this metric doesn't necessarily measure baserunning ability at all. If it did, it wouldn't be so strongly skewed toward light-hitting leadoff types who draw a below-average number of walks. Combs and DiMaggio are the only career .300 batters on the list, and the only ones with an OBP anywhere near .400. Of the nearly 200 career .300 batters since 1901, and the dozens with an OBP over .400, don't you think at least a few were as good as running the bases as the players on your list?

  25. Mike Felber Says:

    The lead off & few walks help is additive, like base running, & of course especially a high run scoring environment, & who bats behind you. I am surprised that nobody has mentioned career length as a major factor here: whether the rate stats reflects well what you do or largely your environment, as shorter career allows you to do better because of less decline/incline years, & you are more likely to have more of the above contextual factors apply than a long, or even moderate, length career.

    It does not say much about overall offensive contributions.

  26. Mike Felber Says:

    How about "Barkfar", or "Bartfark"? We would all know what it was.

    I suppose Barffar woould be no improvement. 🙂

  27. barkfart Says:

    I'll think about changing the handle, but it's linked to my hotmail addie and it's one of the oldest names on the internet. I even had it back at Univ of Mich when they were hammering out the conversion to the internet on an old system called Telnet or something. So it actually predates the internet.

  28. barkie Says:

    OK, I've changed barkfart to Barkie.

    But I'll still keep Barkfart, and that will be my late-at-night/had too much to drink/obnoxious buttwipe alter ego.

  29. BSK Says:

    "This would make a heck of a good trivia question, but I've already given away the answer in the title of the post."

    ...why am I not seeing the answer in the title...? What am I missing?

  30. Raphy Says:

    I assume the question is "What do these players have in common?"

  31. Andy Says:

    Yeah, Raphy got it. It's such a weird list of players...would have been quite tough to get.

  32. Johnny Twisto Says:

    I'll still keep Barkfart, and that will be my late-at-night/had too much to drink/obnoxious buttwipe alter ego.

    I hope so, and am somewhat dismayed you gave up on a 30-year-old(?) screenname so easily.

  33. barkie Says:

    Again, my think was these were probably #3 hitters with RBI machines batting behind them.

    Any way to check that?

  34. barkie Says:

    Johnny Twisto

    I still keep barkfart for a million other things

    John Austin

    In another thread you gave me food for thought about the pitcher's role in defense and then cited the connection between BaBip and BA allowed. You then supported it by bring up ERA+.

    Were you saying there is a direct link between BABip and BA allowed. If so, it would seem to poke a hole in my "all ground balls are not equal" argument.

  35. John Autin Says:

    @34, Barkie, re: BAbip --
    I was referring to the fairly recent theory -- whose name escapes me, if there is one; maybe "Three True Outcomes"? -- which essentially says this:

    A pitcher can control (or influence) only three things: strikeouts, walks, and home runs. Everything else is a "ball in play"; and, assuming equivalent defensive support, the results of balls in play, as measured by batting average, tend for all pitchers towards a mean of roughly .300.

    This theory, derived from statistical evidence, directly contradicts the common assumption that different pitchers generate widely disparate rates of weakly-hit balls. This may run contrary to our intuitive sense of things, but the proof is in the pudding:

    Any given pitcher's BAbip may vary significantly from year to year -- for example, Carl Pavano had a .330 BAbip in 2009, .283 in 2010. But over a period of years, absent a significant change in his context (park, league, defensive support), it will tend towards his career average, which in turn tends towards the mean.

    This is often used predictively, the implicit assumption being that (absent a change in context) an extreme variation in BAbip in one year basically reflects random luck. For example, in 2010, James Shields had a .344 BAbip, the highest of any qualifying pitcher; he allowed a MLB-high 246 hits in 203 IP, and this was a big reason why his ERA rose to 5.18. Shields in 2010 did allow a slightly higher rate of HRs than in years past, but he also increased his K rate, and his BB rate held about the same. He didn't change leagues or even home parks, and most of his defenders were the same as in recent years. Therefore, we should expect that his 2011 BAbip will be much closer to his career average (.310) than to last year's .344 mark.

    I think that's about as well as I understand it. I'm sure someone else could put it better, as well as mentioning the subtleties that I've left out. But that's it in a nutshell.

  36. ChrisBCritters Says:

    Any chance of getting the complete list for this. I am wondering two things, first where do the base stealers ( Henderson, Brock, Raines) full on the list and how they compare to their peers that did not run. I was thinking power hitters with good OBP would be high on the list, because each homer meant they scored.

    Also I was wondering where Wade Boggs fell on this list. For years he had 200 hits and 100 walks. Great OBP but I always thought he clogged up the basepaths. Any help would be appreciated.

  37. John Autin Says:

    @36, ChrisBCritters --

    Using the same 2,000 PA standard as the original list, Boggs ranks somewhere around # 1,400. Yes, I said # 1,400. That's out of a total of 2,182 players with at least 2,000 (1901-present).

    BTW, since the Play Index does not allow a direct sort by Runs per Time On Base, I use an indirect two-step method: (1) calculate Boggs's R/TOB (which is 0.3404), then (2) search for all players with R>.3404*TOB.

    Boggs's highest season rate of R/TOB was 0.37, which he reached twice.

    Although his R/TOB is below average, I would still refrain from drawing conclusions. Of course, we know that Boggs was not fast, nor was he considered a good or aggressive baserunner. But there are so many other variables involved in a player's R/TOB.

  38. John Autin Says:

    Aside to Barkie -- Did you attend the U. of Michigan, or teach / work there? I ask b/c I grew up in Ann Arbor, partly; I went to 1st-3rd grade in A^2 (1969-72), and all of high school (1977-81).

  39. John Autin Says:

    This is entirely off-topic, but I just had to share it:

    I'm reading "The Unforgettable Season," G.H. Fleming's account of the 1908 NL pennant race (from the point of view of the NY Giants), as told through the newspapers of the day. This quote from John McGraw really caught my eye:

    "It's hitting that wins. They say the White Sox won a flag without hitting [he refers to the '06 'Hitless Wonders'] , but I know better. Their grounds prevent anyone from hitting heavily, and as they played 77 games there, it made their averages look very small. On the road they hit as hard as anybody." (emphasis added)

    Think about that for a minute. In 1908, presumably without any kind of formal split data, McGraw not only understood park effects, but also had no qualms about expressing his proto-sabermetric views.

    My hero!

  40. John Autin Says:

    P.S. about the 1906 "Hitless Wondwers" White Sox:

    We still don't have home/road splits from that era, so I can't confirm what McGraw said about them (see #39 above).

    But I can still make at least one sabermetric observation about the 1906 White Sox: Yes, they were last in the league in batting average, at .230, 19 points below the AL average. BUT ... they were #1 in walks drawn, by a huge margin. The other seven teams drew between 298 and 385 walks; the Hitless Wonders drew 454.

    That raised their OBP to nearly the league average (.301,.303). Their R/G was a hair above the league average (3.68, 3.66).

    So, despite the legend about how the 1906 White Sox were so adept at "small-ball" tactics -- which, after all, were heavily used by virtually every team -- it looks to me like their walk total is the biggest single factor in their scoring enough runs to win.

    (BTW, I'm not supposing that this is an especially original thought, but I just wanted to follow up on my McGraw tangent above.)

  41. John Autin Says:

    (Final P.S. on my tangent:)

    ... And which team do you suppose led the majors in walks drawn in 1906, and by an enormous margin -- 110 walks more than even the AL-leading White Sox?

    McGraw's Giants, of course.

  42. Johnny Twisto Says:

    The '06 Sox had a single-season park factor of 92, multi-year of 98. They actually scored nearly as many runs at home as on the road, but they allowed almost 40% fewer runs at home, and had a dominant home record.

    They did seem to score with mirrors. They were last in the AL in BA, SLG, and OPS. They did lead in BB by a large margin and thus were 5th in OBP. Yet they were 3rd in runs scored (albeit way behind the top 2 teams, just over league average). They didn't steal a ton of bases. We don't have CS numbers and I wonder if they had a better percentage than other teams. Maybe their league-leading 226 sacrifices were the key.

    John, have you read Crazy '08 about that same season?

  43. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Well, I was way too slow there....

  44. Johnny Twisto Says:

    John A, I think your #35 covers BABIP pretty well. One thing I would add is that pitchers *do* have some ability to control BABIP. However, the seasonal variance is greater than the difference in the true talent, so it can appear that they don't have the ability. We can't tell which pitchers are the best at it until they've pitched many innings. So it is easier to predict their performance by assuming their BABIP will be around .300 (maybe better or worse depending on their defensive support) and focusing on the K, BB, and HR rates.

    Anyone who's watched Mariano Rivera pitch would say he allows a lot of softly hit balls, and indeed his career BABIP is just .263. Over 1150 IP, I'd say that's representative of skill, not good luck. Still, in '07 it did jump up to .325. And then in '08 it was right back down to .219.

  45. John Autin Says:

    Johnny Twisto:

    @42: "They actually scored nearly as many runs at home as on the road, but they allowed almost 40% fewer runs at home...."
    -- Are you getting that by tallying their game-by-game results, or is there a more direct source?

    @44: Thanks for adding details on BAbip. And definitely, there some outliers, such as the Great Mariano. (BTW, Trevor Hoffman is at .266.)

  46. John Autin Says:

    P.S. Johnny Twisto -- I did start on "Crazy '08," but to my surprise, it didn't grab me as much as I expected, based on all the rave reviews. And since I had a bunch of other baseball books waiting, I moved on. I'll probably go back to it now after I finish this one.

    How did you like it?

  47. barkie Says:

    John Austin

    Grew up in Oakland County.

    2 U of M degrees (I'm very fortunate), teach in Wayne County.

    Have a son who was born at home in Ann Arbor (someone once said; "how granola"). Lived in A2 a while, not too much granola though.

    BTW, I'll chew the BABip theory you floated. If someone has the more solid link, I'd love to read it. I hate to say how much it would change my former notions if true.

  48. barkie Says:

    So wait a minute, Johnny Twisto and John Austin-

    You're both comforted by the idea that the BABip tends to mellow out over the years, you didn't say what accounts for the yearly variations. Were the variations due to pitchers actions or not?

  49. kds Says:

    #35, #44.

    You covered it well. This is often called DIPS theory, for Defense Independent, Pitching. It was created by Voros McCracken and first published about 1999. There is debate about how much influence pitchers have on BABIP, but the sabermatric community seems to agree that it is not a lot. A low BA for a pitcher's career almost certainly comes from a high K%, not a great ability to induce weak contact. Short term, including year to year variation is mostly luck.

  50. Dvd Avins Says:

    @44 and 45,

    I wonder how much BABIP varies by time through the lineup. Would even a mediocre closer be expected to give up a low BABIP, or is the first-time-through effect only apparent in DIPS rates.

  51. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Were the variations due to pitchers actions or not?

    It's hard to say for sure, but mostly not. Consider this. Pedro Martinez had amazing seasons in both 1999 and 2000, two of the best in history. But in '99 he allowed a BABIP of .325, only 33rd of 37 qualifying pitchers, and in '00 he allowed .237, best in the league. What can we take from this?

    First of all, his BABIP just didn't matter much. Whether he was at the top or bottom of the league, he was still clearly the best pitcher, and the few extra hits that fell in in '99 didn't make much difference because he struck out so many guys and didn't give up many BB or HR.

    Second, we know Martinez wasn't getting hit hard in '99, because he was so dominant and only allowed 9 HR. So a high BABIP is not necessarily evidence that a pitcher is getting smacked around.

    Third, a great defense will turn more balls into outs than a poor one. This past season, the A's converted 71% of balls in play into outs, the Royals only 68%. This will obviously affect the pitchers' BABIP. But Martinez had most of the same defenders supporting him both seasons, and both years Total Zone says they were a good defense. Maybe the Sox defense just happened to play better for Martinez in '00 than '99. Maybe more bloops just happened to find holes in '99. Maybe Martinez made more mistakes in '99, but this seems hard to believe based on all his other numbers. Maybe if you went back and watched all of his starts both seasons, you could make a better guess. I don't know the reason for the discrepancy, but it seems very unlikely that Martinez himself was the main cause.

    Now, all this is not to say that any schmo can go allow about a .300 BABIP in MLB. Among *major league caliber* pitchers, there is very little difference in their ability to limit BABIP, because they have already been selected for that ability by virtue of reaching the bigs.

  52. Johnny Twisto Says:

    John, I liked Crazy '08, it didn't blow me away. I never remember books as well as I'd like so I can't give a more informed review. It was certainly interesting to read about a very different time in baseball. One thing that really sticks in my head is how most games were umpired by just one man, a few big games by two. Obviously the one ump couldn't see everything so cheating was rampant, especially stuff like guys cutting the corner short when rounding third base.

  53. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Dvd, good question. I only checked the 2010 AL, and the answer is Not much.

    Let's see if this table will work, I'm using the tags automatically added on the B-R page:

    Split BAbip
    1st PA in G as SP .292
    2nd PA in G as SP .294
    3rd PA in G as SP .296
    4th+ PA in G as SP .289
    1st PA in G as RP .292
    2nd PA in G as RP .305
    3rd+ PA in G as RP .240

    Provided by View Original TableGenerated 1/11/2011.

  54. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Well, not really, but hopefully you can read it.

  55. barkie Says:


    well explained. I'm going to go back to the original article cited so I can speak a little more solidly. But this topic is super important to me. My own feeling is that defense is the most intangible aspect of the game. If I'm to be swayed by the sabreheads I have a feeling it'll come thru a series of small battles like this.

    I'll read up.

  56. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Let us know your thoughts after you've read more.

  57. John Autin Says:

    Barkie -- It's not that I'm comforted, exactly, by the fact that BAbip tends to regress to the mean; I merely accept what the data shows. And I certainly don't mean to sound smart about it; I still have the gut sense that inducing weak contact is a trait of the better pitchers. But I just can't square that with the data.

    Randy Johnson's career BAbip was .295. In his 5 Cy Young seasons, his BAbip averaged .309 (ranging from .291 to .335). Two points about this:

    1. Randy Johnson had nasty "stuff." Of course he got a million Ks, but wouldn't he also seem likely to induce weak contact? And yet, his BAbip is absolutely ordinary, about 2 points below the league mean for his career.

    2. If inducing weak contact really were a major factor in MLB success, wouldn't it seem very strange that Johnson's 5 Cy Young seasons had a combined BAbip 14 points above his career average?

    As far as bridging the gap between our gut sense and what the data show, I can think of a few factors that would help; I'm sure others could name more.

    -- HRs are excluded from the BAbip equation; they're not "in play." Obviously, HRs are among the hardest-hit balls off a pitcher; thus, we should not think of BAbip as somehow measuring the frequency of hard-hit balls.

    -- The correlation between hitting the ball hard and getting a base hit is, I think, much weaker than our gut sense. A lot of hard-hit balls are caught, and a lot of bloops and bleeders fall safely. If this is so, then this is another sense in which BAbip is not a measure of hard-hit balls, per se.

    -- It may seem hard to accept sheer random luck as such a major factor in large year-to-year BAbip variations for the same pitcher, with no change in context. But why? After all, we see pitchers have year-long lucky/unlucky streaks all the time, in terms of run support, bullpen support, score distribution, etc. Why can't we believe that a pitcher can be very lucky one year with "at'em" balls, and unlucky the next with every broken-bat flare finding a hole?

  58. Mike Felber Says:

    Luck runs rampant. Though I understand that the knuckle-ball is suppose do be the 1 pitch that players hit worse. If so, I wonder if the weaker contact is freflected in Babip, or the weaker shots fall in almost as often...

    It does seem that some knucklers have better ERA + than their other stats would suggest. Just my impression.

  59. kds Says:

    "The correlation between hitting the ball hard and getting a base hit, ..." They do now have data describing all hit balls as one of; Ground Ball, Fly Ball, Line Drive. These determinations are done by human observers and are almost certainly biased, but they are all we have. BABIP by contact type gives us something like this; LD = .730, GB = .240, FB = .150. Remember, this does not include HR, which are mostly FB, with a few LD. But it does seem that while pitchers can have an effect with their GB/FB ratio, they don't have much of an effect on their LD%, by far the greatest determinant of BABIP. Lots of data and studies related to this area at, including numbers for each batter and pitcher.

  60. ChrisBCritters Says:

    Thank you for pulling the info JA #37.

    Yes there were many factors, but still it does point out his inability to score once he was on base.

  61. KJOK Says:

    John Austin:

    -- Are you getting that by tallying their game-by-game results, or is there a more direct source?

    White Sox played 79 Home games in 1906, scored 275 runs, gave up 180. Played 75 Road games, scoring 292 and giving up 280. So yes, there was a big difference in run environments.

    Data courtesy of ballparks database (updated version coming soon...)

  62. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Oh yeah, I think I forgot to answer Autin's question before. I actually took the Sox numbers from Retrosheet, because I was over there seeing if they had batting splits which hadn't been imported to B-R yet (they don't). But the numbers I cited are also available here.

  63. John Autin Says:

    Thanks, KJOK and Twisto, for the Hitless Wonders home/road run data.

    Kds @59 -- Yeah, I know about the GB/FB/LD splits, which are available here on B-R, though I haven't done much analysis with them. I'm not sure how directly they go to the question of "hard-hit balls," though; of the three categories, only LD would, by definition, have a known correlation with hard-hit balls, and I have no intuitive sense of what the hard-hit rate might be for GB or FB. We might infer something about that from a pitcher's BA allowed on GB or FB as compared to the league average, but we'd be presuming that all defenses are equal, which they aren't, by a long shot.

    I'd love to have a source for hard-hit ball data, but it would be highly subjective.