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August 22, 2002

From The Mailbag

Greatest Living Pitcher and Sadaharu Oh

by Baseball Prospectus

We plan on making the Mailbag a regular BP feature, but we can't do it without your input. If you've got questions about any article on the site, click the e-mail link at the bottom of the page to write to the author and we'll do our best to reply. If you've got a general question and aren't sure who to write, buzz us at info@baseballprospectus.com.


We'd like to see more data in your Greatest Living Pitcher debate. For instance, can you adjust for defense in your rankings?

--Several people

Here's some more data for the Greatest Living Pitcher debate:

          TotRAR  PRAR   DRAR  DERA   WARP   
Clemens    1723   1253    470  2.68   141.9  
Maddux     1539   1009    530  2.93   116.5  
Martinez    807    593    214  2.50    66.8  
Johnson    1187    896    291  2.88   101.1  
Spahn      1995   1235    760  3.46   147.0  
Gibson     1571   1045    526  3.24   125.7  
Koufax      993    714    279  2.99    80.8  
Seaver     1931   1244    687  3.20   144.2  
Carlton    1856   1173    683  3.61   137.8  

TotRAR is the total runs above replacement for the team while a given pitcher was in the game. PRAR and DRAR break that into the pitching and defensive portions of runs above replacement.

Note that Greg Maddux already has had more runs contributed by his defense than Roger Clemens, despite having a three-year disadvantage. And it would appear that Clemens passed both Warren Spahn and Tom Seaver last year for the most career PRAR by a living pitcher.

Pedro Martinez currently has the better defense-adjusted ERA than Clemens, but in a lot less innings and without post-30 work. We'll see later; note that Clemens was at 2.55 just three years ago. Maddux is fourth.

Clemens currently trails Spahn and Seaver in overall WARP, as both were able to add some Batting Above Position to bolster their totals (70 runs for Spahn, 36 for Seaver).

Maddux had the misfortune to have his best seasons in 1994-95, when the strike held down his season WARP scores, so his best seasons don't quite measure up to everyone else's here. So I see it as Clemens, hands down. Maddux has a very tough road ahead to pass him.

--Clay Davenport


A friend of mine e-mailed me telling me about your Player of the Day. Since Andy Van Hekken is my cousin I thought I would go to your website and check it out.

It was very nice of your website to write a little on him, but I would like to let you know that all the stats are very wrong. I know Prospectus takes pride in what they do, so please make sure you and your fellow writers pay close attention to correctness. This is not a big deal, but come on, there are a few people who care about doing things right.

If you're going to make someone a Player of the Day, you should make sure you've got your facts right. It just makes you look like you know what you're doing a little more.


It's not often we get a note about the Player of the Day, and since it takes me 5-10 minutes every day to make a selection, I'm happy you took the time to write.

The stats that you see are "translated stats", a system that is best explained in our annual book. In a nutshell, players' numbers are adjusted for the league and ballpark in which they played and are their "major league equivalent" or our best guess as to how a player would have performed in an offensively neutral major league ballpark. That is why Andy's translations look worse than his real statistics. However, compared to other pitchers in the leagues in which he played, they are actually quite good.

As a Seattleite, I've been pulling for your cousin ever since Woody Woodward made the boneheaded move of sacrificing him to acquire an out machine like Brian Hunter. Despite lacking big-time velocity, he knows how to pitch. Maybe we'll get a chance to see him wear the Olde English "D" in September.

--Jeff Bower



I'd be very interested in hearing Baseball Prospectus' opinion on this.


My opinion is that this is Jim's personal vendetta, and that he's wrong, but you'll never convince him of that.

He has this in his note:

"I encourage anyone who finds these analyses convincing to spread the word about Oh in his/her baseball-related newsgroups and mailing lists. This is especially true for you fans of Ichiro and Kazuhiro Sasaki. Putting Oh in the HOF for his exploits in Japan will provide a precedent both Ichiro and Sasaki would need to be inducted--namely that performance in Japanese baseball can and should be considered in determining a players' worthiness for induction."

I think he's missing one huge point: Oh never played in the U.S., while Sasaki and Suzuki have. Given an American link, their play elsewhere becomes a legitimate part of their candidacy; without it, it doesn't. I think the precedent for that has already been set by Martin Dihigo, a much bigger star in Cuba and Mexico than the U.S. Negro Leagues - although, like Ichiro so far, he excelled in the U.S. as well.

Oh has no connection to U.S. baseball, and should not be inducted - any more than Ty Cobb or Babe Ruth (touring once isn't enough) should be inducted into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame. I'll note that Lefty O'Doul recently became the first American (OK, I guess Wally Yonamine was the first American, but he was ethnically Japanese and played baseball entirely in Japan) inducted into Japan's HoF - not for his play in the U.S., but for his repeated efforts to build Japanese baseball by touring, training, and coaching - what we'd list in the U.S. Hall of Fame as a pioneer.

--Clay Davenport


I realize that you've become pretty good at tooting your own horn but sensibility seems to be the least of your worries.

Case in point #1: Your chart of R/capita is almost completely dependent on market size. No team in the top 13 is over 4 million adj. MSA, only the Canadian teams are less than 5 million adj. MSA in the bottom 9. And it makes sense. Stadiums have a finite capacity, therefore the only way to raise revenues is to a) build a Tokyo Dome-sized concrete behemoth, or b) increase the ticket prices. And I don't think either or those are grand ideas. I suppose you could get a great TV deal, but that's still not going to make up the difference of 9 million people. So you are punishing teams simply for being in large markets, and forcing them to see how much money they can squeeze from the locals.

Case in point #2: Oakland vs. San Francisco. Three of the top five richest counties in the U.S. are located west of the SF Bay. None of the top five are located on the east bay. Yet you treat SF and Oakland as equals. And so with your scheme Oakland and San Francisco stay the exact same dollar amount apart. Except that I would argue that Oakland has done much more with less than any team in the country. The only thing SF should be rewarded for is an owner who was willing to build a stadium with his own milk money. Oakland/Alameda County allowed the stadium to be ruined (at least worse than it was) for Al Davis. While you aren't helping the A's, you aren't hurting them either.

Case in point #3: The Mets and Angels are NEVER, EVER going to draw 50% of their populace. EVER. The Yankees and Dodgers are two of the most historic, popular, competitive teams in all of sports. There are whole families who have lived and died with the Yankees and the Dodgers. To expect, and punish, the Mets and Angels for not living up to the revenue streams of their cross-town brothers is idiotic at best, and downright disrespectful of history. No individual in the world will ever be able to pull the Mets or the Angels even with the Yankees or Dodgers.


Case 1: You're entirely right, stadiums have finite capacities and abilities to draw on metro populations. So in New York, for instance, the Yankees aren't ever going to draw 240,000 a game, even if they get that new stadium they want.

Which is why they should toss more teams in, so those under-served fans can attend more games. If you do some quick math, if the Mets/Yankees allowed a team in Jersey, their burden goes down substantially but, as you note, it wouldn't hurt their attendance or probably even their other related revenues at all.

Case 2: There's certainly more to be done with affluence levels, and I looked into doing some per-capita income/cost of living adjustment work, and particularly at where the income quartiles broke out. But for purposes of throwing out a simple-to-understand plan that ran under 10 pages, I didn't run with those.

Case 3: Partially related to Case 1, but the Angels and Mets aren't being punished for not living up to the standards of their brothers, and I'm not sure where you got that impression. They're being forced to share money because they're in gigantic markets that could house additional teams. How much they make, and how much their sister teams make, doesn't enter into any of the calculations.

I wrote this up to make people think about how revenue sharing could be implemented, and look outside payroll and revenue numbers for solutions that improve baseball. If you're interested in reading an extremely long, detailed version of this article, maybe we'll go ahead and post that.

--Derek Zumsteg

I noticed the Red Sox are a whopping seven games below their expected Pythagorean record. What's the largest ever deviation from the expected in a single season?

--Jason Phair

On the plus side:

EW=expected wins, using a modified version of the Pythagorean theorem (the exponent is variable, according to runs per game)

             R    RA   W    EW    Del
1905 DET-A  511  608   79   65   14.0
1955 KC_-A  638  911   63   51   11.7
1984 NY_-N  652  676   90   78   11.7
1954 BRO-N  778  740   92   81   11.3
1970 CIN-N  775  681  102   91   11.2
1972 NY_-N  528  578   83   72   11.1
1924 BRO-N  717  675   92   81   10.6
1917 STL-N  531  567   82   72   10.3
1961 CIN-N  708  653   93   83   10.2
1894 NY_-N  940  789   88   78   10.0
1932 PIT-N  701  711   86   76   10.0
1936 STL-N  795  794   87   77    9.9
1997 SF_-N  784  793   90   80    9.9
1913 WAS-A  596  566   90   81    9.5
1946 WAS-A  608  706   76   66    9.5
1974 SD_-N  541  830   60   51    9.4
1977 BAL-A  719  653   97   88    9.4
1981 CIN-N  464  440   66   57    9.4
1886 PHI-A  772  942   63   54    9.3
1998 KC_-A  715  899   72   63    9.2

And on the down side:

             R    RA   W    EW    Del
1993 NY_-N  672  744   59   73  -14.3
1986 PIT-N  663  700   64   77  -13.0
1911 PIT-N  744  558   85   97  -11.9
1984 PIT-N  615  567   75   87  -11.7
1967 BAL-A  654  592   76   88  -11.6
1975 HOU-N  664  711   64   75  -11.4
1907 CIN-N  524  519   66   77  -11.1
1935 BOS-N  575  852   38   49  -11.1
1924 STL-N  740  750   65   76  -11.0
1946 PHI-A  529  680   49   60  -11.0
1905 STL-A  509  608   54   65  -10.8
1937 CIN-N  612  707   56   67  -10.8
1905 CHI-N  667  442   92  103  -10.7
1999 KC_-A  856  921   64   75  -10.6
1993 SD_-N  679  772   61   71  -10.3
1917 PIT-N  464  595   51   61  -10.0
1970 CHI-N  806  679   84   94  -10.0
1932 NY_-N  755  706   72   82   -9.9
1955 DET-A  775  658   79   89   -9.9
1972 SF_-N  662  649   69   79   -9.9

Notice the '84 and '86 Pirates in spots 2 and 4; the '85 Pirates were 7.8 games below expectation, which is the worst three-year stretch ever.

--Clay Davenport


I am contacting you to ask for help in rectifying the terrible injustice being visited upon fans of the Tour de France.

Since 1983, this race has been won by an American seven times. That's right: seven times! And those seven wins went to just two riders. Furthermore, six of the remaining 13 Tour titles went to two cyclists from Spain. Three of the remaining seven winners were from France, leaving four oppressed, small-market nations (including tiny Germany) to pick up the crumbs.

For too long we fans of international cycling have been forced to suffer through year-in, year-out Tour dominance by a handful of overpaid athletes from a tiny elite of high-revenue nations. Every summer, the vast majority of the world's long-distance cycling fans look forward to the Tour knowing that their nations' representatives don't have a snowball's chance of wearing the yellow jersey at the conclusion of the final stage.

What can we do? It seems only fair that the Lance Armstrongs, Miguel Indurains and Greg LeMonds of the world be stripped of their respective citizenships and forced to resettle in nations that have yet to produce a Tour winner. This would inject some fairness -- some balance, as it were -- into the Tour. Nations that otherwise lack the ability to succeed in cycling would finally be able to bring home a title or two.

I ask that you use you connections and influence in the world of sport to help me make this plan a reality.


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