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November 26, 2003

Something for the Holidays

The New 2003 BP Player Cards

by Clay Davenport

Here they are, all new...the 2003 BP player cards, the best statistical summaries of baseball players to be found anywhere.

There is still some work to be done for them, mostly in terms of links, cross-references, and expanded descriptions of the statistics you'll find here. A quick overview of the cards:

  • Complete player statistics through the 2003 season.

  • Offensive ratings using Equivalent Runs and Equivalent Average. As always, EqA and EqR are fully adjusted for park effects, league offensive levels, and the distortions caused by not having to face your own team's defense. No other run estimation system out there can match EqR's performance over all of baseball history.

  • Complete translations for all players. In addition to the player's actual encyclopedic statistics and BP evaluations, the cards now contain a section which translates all batting performances to a common standard. All batting statistics have been converted to a neutral park in a league with a .260/.330/.420 AVG/OBP/SLG line, as well as a (by definition) .260 EqA. The player's translated EqA must equal their all-time adjusted EqA from the batting section. This is a high level of offense, historically speaking, especially for power (all of the leagues that have had a .160 isolated slugging did it since 1987), but it does correspond to the levels seen in the last five years. As a result, there are a lot more players who translate to 3000 hits and 500 home runs than actually achieved those marks. I hope, in the future, to make this a customizable feature, where the user (you) can select the offensive level for the translation.

  • Pitchers are also translated. For them, the baseline season is one whose nine-inning totals amount to 4.50 earned runs, nine hits, one home run, three walks, and six strikeouts. Innings have been adjusted according to the average of the top five pitchers for each year in innings pitched, which keeps the 19th-century pitchers in line. The preserved stat for the translation is PRAA, even though the innings total may be radically different, which leads to some large disparities between translated ERA and actual/adjusted ERAs.

  • The defensive scheme has undergone substantial revision, and the results are better than ever before and easier to describe. The key advance from the previous player cards--a procedure for breaking down the team's total defense into pitching and fielding components--is not only retained, but expanded. In the last set of player cards, each player was evaluated against the league average. A slew of adjustments for team tendencies--ground/fly, left/right, men on base--was also included, but the team total defense rating was not included in those adjustments. Only at the end, when all the individual players of a team had been rated, was there a Procrustean process to make all the individual numbers add up to the team total. It was still a bottom-up process.

    No longer. The entire process has been converted into a strict top-down hierarchy, starting with the team pitching/fielding breakdown. The team's total fielding is then broken down into catching, infield, and outfield components. Those components are then broken down into team totals for each position. Only then, when the team rating for a position is known, is an individual player rated, by comparison to the team performance.

  • Team pages are coming soon. Every team in history will have a page, just like the ones for the players.

  • Pitchers are now included in the defensive scheme. (Pitcher's fielding statistics were used in the past to calculate team ground/fly ratios, for instance, but there were no individual or team ratings for pitchers). I still feel that the fielding ratings for them are largely a function of their own ground/fly tendencies, but I've decided not to let my own misgivings about their utility stop me from listing them at all. Greg Maddux is the clear lifetime champion in this category.

  • A variety of minor bugs (minor, that is, unless they happened to the player you were looking for), have been fixed, most related to errors in the data files. One that might be most noticeable will be in the listings for the 'Other' position (a catch-all for games played beyond what positional games tell us, mostly pinch- and designated-hitting), where a game played outside of a DH league will generally result in only one plate appearance per game played.

  • Thanks to the hard work of the people at Retrosheet, we were able to add a considerable amount of new data to our database, which has been of particular benefit to our fielding routines. The most notable examples are innings played in the field data for all positions in the Retrosheet era, stolen base and caught stealing data for more catchers and seasons than before, and games played at DH. My hat goes off once again to Dave Smith and Tom Ruane for their efforts in making this information available to everybody.
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