Comments on: Shane Victorino batting with the bases loaded This and that about baseball stats. Tue, 16 Jul 2013 17:01:55 +0000 hourly 1 By: BSK Thu, 07 Oct 2010 22:41:27 +0000 Mistertmo-

I'd love to agree with you, but see far too many useless stats.

My personal favorite? Before Super Bowl 41 (I believe... I could be wrong), they showed that the coin toss had previously landed heads 20 times and tails 20 times. Really???

By: BSK Thu, 07 Oct 2010 22:40:02 +0000 Tom-

I disagree. I remember originally being impressed when I saw guys with RBI totals approaching the number of ABs they had with the bases loaded. I thought, "Wow, this guy gets an RBI nearly every time up!" Then, as I thought more about it, I realized this might not be as impressive as it seems. An out will often score a run with the bases loaded. And any hit with the bases loaded is likely to score more runs than the same hit with a different baserunner situation. But, I didn't know for sure and couldn't know for sure without context.

The tricky thing is we have to define what "good" is. Hitting .360 is good hitting in the sense that the batter is getting a lot of hits. He is likely hitting the ball well. But, in terms of value, it might not be very much if everyone else is doing better. Context is always important. The only reason we think of .360 as good is because we have the context of what BA typically ranges from.

By: Phil Haberkorn Thu, 07 Oct 2010 22:08:54 +0000 Here's my take on the Victorino bases-loaded stats. "Context" should include his BLAB/PA ratio (bases-loaded at bats over plate appearances) compared to the league-widee average, and how many years he's been playing ball. How many times he walked is irrelevant, because the pitcher is obviously trying to throw strikes - Victorino isn't trying to work a walk out of the guy, because with the count at three balls and however many strikes, Victorino is looking to swing at a hittable pitch. Averaging almost an RBI per BLAB over a five-year career, and BLAB totals of 50 or more (10 times a year), is something I would consider a workable sample size on which to judge his consistency. After all, focus groups are as small as five to ten people and they can predict national elections with that. (So how come the national weather service doesn't use focus groups instead of radar, seems like their 30-day forecasts would be more accurate? But I digress....) The guy has a earned a reputation for hitting with ducks on the pond. That's another stats RBI/DOP, which in Victorino's case comes out to 54/180 = 30% (60 at-bats with bases loaded = 180 runners on base). How many players drive in 30% of all runners on base across total career or season plate appearances? And that doesn't take into account the 4th RBI when he hits a grand slam, so there's another stat (GSRBI) to plug into the formula somehow.

By: mistertmo Thu, 07 Oct 2010 21:34:11 +0000 The thing about the context is - and I'd have to watch to see - I don't think they put stats up there unless they actually tell a story. The network doesn't put up someone's stats when they hit .260 with the bases loaded because there's nothing significant about the number. The fact that Victorino hits .367 with the bases loaded - somebody said it earlier... It says he hits well given the opportunity. The fact that they're even putting a statistic up on the screen IS the context.

I honestly have to say I can't remember ever seeing them post a situational stat on the screen that was mediocre. I could be wrong - maybe I just notice the telling ones.

By: Andy Thu, 07 Oct 2010 21:30:59 +0000 I wrote about bases-loaded walks back here:

This year's total isn't all that different from the totals for the last few years.

By: John Autin Thu, 07 Oct 2010 20:57:46 +0000 @22
Jimbo -- 319 bases-loaded walks this year sounds high, right? I kept noticing bases-loaded walks this year and thinking, too many pitchers just can't throw a strike when they need to.

But my conclusion was based on a false assumption. The bases-loaded walk rate this year, 6.8% of PAs, is perfectly normal compared to years past. For example, in 1960 -- after integration, before expansion, theoretically the point at which the ratio of top pitching talent to MLB roster spots was at its highest -- the bases-loaded walk rate was 6.9%. I've checked it for several years in between, and there's not much variance.

The walk rate in all other situations this year was 8.5%. It still seems to me that MLB pitchers should be able to do better than a 20% reduction in walk rate when a walk means a run. But the simple fact remains: Today's bases-loaded walk rate is not unusual in historical context.

By: John Autin Thu, 07 Oct 2010 20:45:19 +0000 @21
Andy -- Great reply. I was about to cite the example of the 3-0 count, then saw you'd nailed it.

One of my "aha!" moments in understanding baseball stats in context came a few years ago when I first found the splits on B-R. I had been noticing, anecdotally, that when a baseball announcer mentioned a player's BA with the bases loaded, it was usually over .300. When I finally had a chance to look at the MLB splits, I saw that the MLB average with bases loaded was consistently 20 to 30 points higher than with bases empty. (This year: .252 with bases empty, .281 with bases loaded.)

So I realized that bases-loaded BAs were often deceptive. In reality, if a guy is a .290 hitter overall and hits .300 with the bases loaded, he's doing *worse* than should be expected.

Once I saw that the rise in bases-loaded BA was an MLB-wide phenomenon, I naturally wondered why. I couldn't believe that the majority of hitters simply thrive in such pressure situations, nor that the majority of pitchers struggled. So what could be driving up the BA so much in that situation?

I kept looking at the Bases Occupied splits and thinking, and it finally hit me: It was nothing but the silly rule that sacrifice flies don't count as at-bats! When I added the sac flies as ABs and ran the True BA (as I call it), it was very close to the bases-empty BA. This year, True BA with bases loaded was .259.

So, by understanding the context, I was able to see that what seemed to be a higher frequency of hits with the bases loaded was just a mirage, an accounting trick.

Now, it happens that Victorino has hit just 1 sac fly with the bases loaded, giving him a .361 True BA in that situation. But the audience wasn't told that; nor were they told that you can expect BA to be about 25 points higher with the bases loaded. They were just given a number that sounds like a batting champion.

All numbers need context.

By: Jimbo Thu, 07 Oct 2010 18:58:22 +0000 Wow, 319 RBI walks this year in MLB?

By: Andy Thu, 07 Oct 2010 18:37:43 +0000 I disagree, completely. You guys think the Victorino one doesn't need context because .367 sounds like a good number. I just gave an identical example, albeit it in the other direction. A .260 average sounds like nothing all that good, except that it turns out to be way above average. You guys are making the assumption that .367 is a good number and while you're right, you didn't really have a great basis for assuming that.

Let's say a given team's starters batted .285 this year. Is that good? Overall batting average was .257 so it seems good. But all starters hit .297, so .285 isn't all that good.

Let's say a guy hit .350 when the count reaches 3-0. Is that good? Well league average was .409. But .350 sure sounds good, doesn't it? But it's below average.

A guy on my favorite team hit .305 with a runner on 3rd, less than 2 out. He hit .285 the rest of the time. Pretty good, right? Nope. League average was .318 in those situations.

There's a right-handed batter who hit .380 this year when he hit pulled the ball into left field. Really great right? Nope. League average was .434 in those cases this year.

All of these stats are available from the 2010 MLB batting splits page.

Need I go on? ALL of these numbers need context.

By: Tmckelv Thu, 07 Oct 2010 18:30:22 +0000 @15 Travis,

thanks for the well thought-out theory. the only problem is I like Yul Brynner.

"et CETera, et CETera, et CETera"

maybe that will help me to like Victorino better, though. 🙂