BR Questions of the Week
Brilliant Reader JRoth has a question about my overwhelming dislike of errors in baseball:
“How many homeruns does Pedro Alvarez have? 32, which is the number that stubborn ignoramuses who believe in errors would claim, or 33, the *real* number, based on how many times he hit a ball and crossed home plate on the same pitch?”
Well, first of all, I do not think people who believe in errors are stubborn anything -- and I’m pretty sure I never said that. Errors are a part of baseball. Many people like that, and that’s great. I’m sure I’ve written this before: I remember once asking Bill James if he would get rid of errors if given the chance. I can’t find the email just now but I remember he basically said that even though he was one of the first strong voices to point out the absurdity of errors, he would not get rid of them. They are part of the game now.
So, I don’t want to overstate this. I have no illusion that the error is going anywhere I don’t know that I would change that if I was named king of baseball. I just think it’s fun to point out the absurdity of errors every chance I get so people will not take them so seriously.
But to get to JRoth’s specific point -- earlier this year, Pedro Alvarez singled to right field and the ball slipped under the glove of Chris Denorfia. Alvarez ran all the way around the bases to score. It was filled (correctly, I think) as a single and three base error. So, if my errorless world existed, how would we score that? As a home run?
OK, two thoughts. One, the Alvarez play is not the sort of error that troubles me. The reason: Alvarez was not credited with an out. He was credited with a single and then a three-base error followed. That may or may not be sloppy scorekeeping, but it has nothing to do with my beef with the error. My beef revolves around errors that punishes a hitter (or rewards a pitcher) by recording an out that NEVER HAPPENED. That just drives me insane.
I’m sure I’ve written the story about the probably apocryphal quarterback in the mountains of North Carolina many, many years ago -- I remember hearing this story when I first started at The Charlotte Observer. The kid apparently was putting up insane passing statistics, so much so that the Observer sent someone all the way out to this little town to watch the kid play.
On the first play of the game, the quarterback threw a pass to a receiver who dropped it. The reporter saw the statistician credit the quarterback with a 25-yard pass.
“You can’t do that,” the reporter said.
“Why not?” he said. “It wasn’t his fault the guy dropped it.”
That is the error stat keeping that I vandalizes our statistics. As far as how many bases Alvarez should be credited for, well, now we’re getting into a different kind of error, one that has its own vagaries and peculiarities and we can discuss at the another time.
But my second thought is this: While I don’t know if Alvarez should get home run credit for Denorfia’s mistake, I do know that if Denorfia had lost the ball in the lights or the sun and Alvarez ran around the bases that WOULD be an inside-the-park home run. I do know that if two fielders went after the ball and collided and the ball bounced away and Alvarez ran around the bases that also WOULD be an inside-the-park home run. If Denorfia mistakenly took a step in off the crack of the bat, and it sailed over his head and just out of his reach and Alvarez rand around the bases, that too WOULD be an inside-the-park home run.
This is why it drives me nuts when people say, “You shouldn’t reward a player for another person’s mistake.” We do it all the time, in every one of our sports. You could argue that every good thing that happens for one person in sports is due, at least slightly, to a mistake by another.
Many people like that baseball places judgment on its statistics. They want a game where a guy who should have been out is called out in his own personal stats. I get it. I just disagree. I’d rather count stuff.
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Brilliant Reader Ross asks: “Should MVP equal highest WAR in all cases?’
The clear answer here is no. WAR is not close to a perfect statistic -- there are no perfect statistics. There are different versions of WAR, different ideas about how to to measure a player or pitcher’s value, wildly different opinions about things as basic as how much a player actually contributes with his defense and how to value clutch performance.
That said, as an MVP voter I would like to give the award to the best player. I think WAR is helpful in identifying the best player. It’s not the only statistics. There are others like RE24, which I wrote about here, and various fielding independent pitching stats and cool defensive stats and, absolutely, the basics like strikeouts and walks, home runs and ERA, on-base percentage and slugging. So is watching a lot of baseball. So it talking to a lot of people around baseball. I don’t think voting for an MVP should be a one-step process.
There’s something else here too, something that often gets overlooked: There is a point where a difference in statistics is basically meaningless. If one player has a 7.2 WAR, and another has a 7.0 WAR, choosing the higher based on a 0.2 difference is, in my view, a copout. I think even a half a win -- even a whole win, even more -- certainly can be within the margin of error.
What has made the Mike Trout-Miguel Cabrera thing so compelling is that Trout has had a HUGE advantage in WAR while Cabrera has had a HUGE advantage in the Triple Crown numbers. That’s an anomaly, I think. In the National League right now, Andrew McCutchen has a 7.5 WAR, Clayton Kershaw has a 7.2 WAR. I think picking McCutchen based solely on that is a disservice to the award and to what WAR attempts to do.
In the end, WAR is a tool. It’s flawed and controversial, but it’s also fascinating and, as of right now, among the the best tools we fans have for measuring the all-around contributions of a player. It’s a pretty good starting point for, what I hope, is always a much longer thought process.
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Brilliant Reader Sean writes in not so much with a question but to talk a bit about Robinson Cano’s amazing numbers at Camden Yards.
Up to the minute:
Cano at Camden: .360/.405/.578 with 27 doubles and 13 homers in 73 games.
Not bad. I thought it might be fun to look at some great numbers in every ballpark. Because, well, I’m crazy.
Angel Stadium (Los Angeles Angels): Mike Piazza: .438 average, .734 slugging in 15 games.
Ballpark at Arlington (Texas): Let’s go with Carlos Delgado: .316 average might not wow you, but his 15 doubles and 19 homers in 41 games get the job done.
Turner Field (Atlanta): Barry Bonds, of course. .352/.482/.800 with 14 homers in 34 games.
Camden Yards (Baltimore): Cano is impressive, but I’d go with Josh Hamilton -- .362/,408/.723 with 10 homers in 23 games. He might have considered going East instead of West as a free agent.
Fenway Park: Written about it before -- Dave Kingman might have been a Hall of Famer had he played his whole career at Fenway . In 18 games there, he hit 13 home runs.
Wrigley Field: Mike Schmidt hit 50 home runs in just 138 games. The wind always seemed to be blowing out when Schmidt came to town.
U.S. Cellular Field (White Sox): How do you explain Karim Garcia? .410/.422/.951 with 10 home runs in 16 games. He played for seven different teams, but never the White Sox -- no idea why.
Great American Ballpark (Cincinnati): Troy Tulowitzki is hitting .413 with seven homers in 19 games. Lance Berkman always mashed in Cincinnati -- he has hit 23 homers in his 61 games.
Progressive Field (Cleveland): I was just on a podcast with Will Leitch, and I was trying to explain to him just how popular Albert Belle was in Cleveland. It’s kind of a hard thing to explain. I’m sure there were many, many people in Cleveland who did not like Belle, but I have to be honest: I NEVER met any of them. Belle -- more than MannyBManny, more than Jim Thome, more than Kenny Lofton, more than Sandy Alomar, more than any other player -- seemed to represent to the people I knew the resurgance of Cleveland. He was tough, angry, under appreciated, ripped by the press, and he just kept hammering baseballs -- even as the Browns bolted out of town. He was a sure thing. He was especially good at home, where every game sold out. He hit .325/.417/.681 in more than 200 games at what was then Jacobs Field. He banged 77 doubles and 69 homers. And everyone I knew in Cleveland loved him and wished the media would shut up and leave him alone.
Coors Field (Colorado): Hey, how about Eric Karros? In 46 games, he hit .370/.419/.740 with 21 homers.
Comerica Park (Detroit): Albert Pujols has only played 14 games in Detroit. In those 14, he has hit .464/.559/.768 with four homers.
Minute Maid Park (Houston): Carlos Delgado is at or near the top of numerous ballpark lists. In his 14 games in Houston, Delgado hit .442 and slugged .769.
Kauffman Stadium (Kansas City): Adrian Beltre has always blasted the Royals. He’s hitting .374/.408/.640 with eight home runs in 36 games in Kansas City.
Dodger Stadium: Miggy Cabrera has eight home runs in 18 games and a .742 slugging percentage -- he’s about the only guy out there who could hit with that kind of power in that cavernous place. Ryan Braun is hitting .365/,444/.667 in his 16 games.
Marlins Park (MIami): Too early to get much data yet, but Giancarlo Stanton is hitting .307 with 30 homers in 116 games.
Miller Park (Milwaukee): Shawn Green had 11 homers in just 19 games.
Target Field (Minnesota): Again, like Miami, it’s too early, but Robbie Cano is hitting .382 in Minnesota. Kansas City’s Salvador Perez is hitting .411 with five homers in 19 games.
Stad Olympique (Montreal): Well, I’m including it to honor Jonah Keri’s upcoming book on the Expos. Sean Casey hit .470 in Montreal in 18 games. Barry Bonds blasted 30 homers in 96 games.
Citi Field (New York Mets): Joey Votto is hitting .350 with six homers in 17 games.
Yankee stadium: Miggy again, no question: .417/.493/.967 with 10 homers in 16 games. Yikes.
Real Yankee Stadium: Here’s a fun one for you -- Geronimo Berroa (.729) and Jose Guillen (.707) both had higher slugging percentages at Yankee Stadium than a guy named Babe Ruth (.697). Of course, it was a different Yankee Stadium. Still, Berroa’s 10 homers in 31 games -- as well as his .383 batting average -- is impressive.
Oakland Coliseum: Remember Larry Parrish? He hit 14 homers in 36 games. It pleases me to now end that the highest batting average at Oakland Coliseum, 50 at-bats or more, is the one and only Neifi Perez, who hit .394 there.
Citizen’s Bank (Philadelphia): Give it up to Luis Gonzalez, who hit .433 in 19 games. Pujols has hit 10 home runs in 26 games.
Chase Field (Arizona): MannyBManny hit .471 in 17 games -- Richie Sexson hit 12 home runs in 27.
PNC Park (Pittsburgh): Pujols. Again. He’s hitting .376/.452/.718 with an amazing 29 homers in 89 games.
Petco Park (San Diego): Andruw Jones loved the big dimensions of Petco. He hit .319 with nine homers in 19 games.
Safeco Field (Seattle): Got to tell you, Carlos Delgado’s name seems to come up at virtually every stadium. Delgado was an excellent road hitter -- his home/road split are very, very close -- and in Seattle he hit .386/.476/.792 with nine doubles, a triple and six homers in 19 games.
AT&T Park (San Francisco): Usually the players with the crazy impressive stats are road players for obvious reasons -- small sample size. But at AT&T Park only one player -- Ryan Braun in 16 games -- has a higher slugging percentage than Barry Bonds. In almost 500 games, Bonds hit .335/.526/.763 with 160 home runs and a ridiculous 552 walks.
Busch Stadium: Ryan Howard was born in St. Louis, grew up in St. Louis -- he’s hitting .368/.512/.695 with nine homers in 26 games in St. Louis.
Tropicana Field (Tampa Bay): Chris Richard played for four teams in 280 big league games -- he sure loved Tropicana Field. He hit .463 with 13 extra bases hits in 18 games (13 starts) in Tampa Bay. He slugged .907 in Tampa Bay, .415 everywhere else.
Rogers Center (Toronto): Adrian Gonzalez is hitting .356 with 17 extra base hits in 18 games.
Nationals Park (Washington): Give it up to Giancarlo Stanton -- .343/.426/.818 with 11 doubles and 12 homers in 26 games. Yeah, Washington could use a guy like him.