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September 26, 2005

From The Mailbag

No Power, FRAA, AgeGate, and Ballooning ERAs

by Baseball Prospectus

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The Big Whiff

Scott Podsednik, the White Sox left fielder, is about to go homerless with more than 500 at bats for the season! Does anyone know if a regular left fielder has ever done this before?

--R.H.

R.H.,

Not as rare as you might think, though unusual for a LF. Here's all the HR-less seasons since 1980 with at least 500 PA. Apparently, having a first name that starts with "O" is a good way to ensure an "0" in the HR column.


       YEAR NAME                         PA         AB
 ---------- -------------------- ---------- ----------
       2005 Jason Kendall               632        562
       2005 Scott Podsednik             525        468
       2001 Rey Sanchez                 579        544
       1999 Luis Castillo               563        487
       1995 Otis Nixon                  656        589
       1993 Lance Johnson               579        540
       1992 Omar Vizquel                527        483
       1992 Jose Lind                   507        468
       1992 Ozzie Smith                 590        518
       1992 Luis Polonia                635        577
       1991 Lance Johnson               624        588
       1991 Willie Randolph             512        431
       1989 Alvaro Espinoza             544        503
       1989 Al Newman                   521        446
       1989 Felix Fermin                562        484
       1989 Gerald Young                620        533
       1989 Harold Reynolds             677        613
       1989 Alfredo Griffin             546        505
       1988 Ozzie Guillen               606        566
       1988 Scott Fletcher              609        515
       1988 Gerald Young                655        576
       1988 Jim Gantner                 596        539
       1987 Ozzie Smith                 706        600
       1986 Vince Coleman               670        600
       1986 Ozzie Smith                 609        514
       1986 Steve Jeltz                 510        439
       1984 Kirby Puckett               583        557
       1984 Jack Perconte               689        612
       1984 Marvell Wynne               702        653
       1983 Jerry Remy                  647        592
       1983 Pete Rose                   555        493
       1983 Alan Wiggins                585        503
       1982 Larry Bowa                  549        499
       1982 Tom Herr                    561        493
       1982 Jerry Remy                  716        636
       1982 Manny Trillo                595        549
       1981 Ozzie Smith                 507        450
       1980 Ozzie Smith                 712        609
       1980 Miguel Dilone               566        528
       1980 Rodney Scott                655        567
       1980 Frank Taveras               598        562

--Keith Woolner

Things that end in -AR

I was looking at the respective DT cards for Mike Young and David Ortiz and I noticed something that concerned me. It seems that WARP is based on BRAR, FRAR, and PRAR (which neither of them pitch, so that doesn't matter). Is WARP based on BRAR or BRARP?

Also, on a more philosophical matter. Which hurts a team more, running a .300 EqA out in a middle infield position when that person is at -20 FRAR, or having that same player DH for the season? As far as I'm concerned the average .300 EqA DH is much worse than -20 FRAR at either middle infield position.

--I.B.

I.B.,

BRAR. The fielding runs is the only place a positional adjustment comes in. Ortiz has 74 BRAR and 2 FRAR for a net of +76 RAR, while Young is +56 and +3 for a net +59.

If you worked from positional averages instead, Ortiz would get a +41 (using 1B EqA of .282 instead of average .260) and +1 for +42, while Young would get +42 (SS EqA .252) and -26 for +16.

-20 FRAR is Frank Thomas at third base territory. I'm pretty sure you meant FRAA, as that roughly corresponds to Young; a -20 FRAR at short would be -50 FRAA. Being a shortstop instead of a DH gives Young an advantage of about 29 runs, which show up in the FRAR (29 for an average SS, 0 for a DH). The batting runs are the same for all positions; an average DH will have an EqA of about .282 (using the 1B EQA), which would be about +16 BRAR over 400 outs; an average SS (.252 EqA) scores -5 BRAR, a difference of 21.

A .300 EQA, for 400 outs, has about 30 BRAR. A full-time average shortstop will have about 30 FRAR. So if our hypothetical SS can do better than a -30 FRAA, he'll be worth more to the team than he would be as a DH.

Clearly there is a breakeven point where the value of the lost fielding outweighs the gained hitting. I think Young is close to that point.

--Clay Davenport

Prospectus Game of the Week

First teenager to crack the majors since Todd Van Poppel? What am I missing here? Edwin Jackson? Matt Riley? Rick Ankiel?

--L.V.

L.V.,

Ankiel was 20--it was an August game vs. the Expos, not long after his July 19 birthday.

Riley made his MLB debut on Sept. 9, 1999, a month after his 20th birthday.

Jackson came closest: He made his MLB debut on Sept. 9, 2003, right on his 20th birthday.

So Todd Van Poppel's 1991 debut stands as the last teenage pitcher to crack the majors until Felix Hernandez did it this year, albeit just barely.

--Jonah Keri

Bottom of the Ninth

The question was put to me recently: Has any pitcher ever seen his ERA rise from under 3.00 in one season to over 6.00 the following season (assuming minimum of 100 IP each year)?

The reason for the question is that Oliver Perez is about to do it, assuming he throws 8 more ugly innings this year. I looked up some pitchers who have come close, but found no one that has actually done it. Steve Blass, David Cone, Jose Lima, and Esteban Loaiza are the closest cases I could find.

--Casey Coneway

Casey,

There have been a few who've had such a rise...


NAME                  YEAR     IP    ERA IP_NEXT ERA_NEXT   DIFF
-------------------- ----- ------ ------ ------- -------- ------
Bohanon,Brian         1998  151.7   2.91   197.3     6.20  3.295
Jackson,Danny         1988  260.7   2.97   115.7     6.07  3.100
Hassler,Andy          1974  162.0   2.61   133.3     6.01  3.396
Hargan,Steve          1970  142.7   2.90   113.3     6.19  3.290
Vaughn,Hippo          1920  301.0   2.54   109.3     6.01  3.470
Duryea,Jesse          1892  127.0   2.41   117.0     7.54  5.130

Duryea at least had the excuse of the pitching distance being changed in 1893 to help explain his rise. Bohanon is interesting in that he pitched more innings in his 6+ ERA year than his 3- ERA year.

--K.W.

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