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September 25, 2007

Prospectus Toolbox

Doubled Up

by Derek Jacques

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Welcome back to Prospectus Toolbox-our weekly look at the statistical tools we use to analyze baseball. This week, we're taking a quick look at an event that can completely change the outcome of an inning, wrecking rallies or bailing out the pitcher, depending on your point of view. It's the double play, also known as the twin killing, or the pitcher's best friend.

To start things off, let's look at the league leaders in double plays batted into for 2007:


Player           Team   Lg  DP  GDP  LDP FDP KDP
Ryan Zimmerman    WAS   NL  30   25   3   0   1
Mark Teahen       KCA   AL  29   23   1   1   4
Brandon Phillips  CIN   NL  29   26   1   0   2
Carlos Lee        HOU   NL  28   25   2   0   1
Albert Pujols     SLN   NL  28   24   2   1   1
Matt Holliday     COL   NL  27   23   1   0   3
Michael Young     TEX   AL  25   21   3   1   0
Nick Markakis     BAL   AL  24   22   1   0   1
David Ortiz       BOS   AL  24   17   3   3   1
Paul Konerko      CHA   AL  23   20   2   1   0

One of the complaints we sometimes get from readers is that our double play statistic doesn't match up with stats from other sources. That's because most other outlets only give you groundball double play (GDP) data; our double play stat includes all of the double play varieties, including lineout double plays (LDP), flyout double plays (FDP), popouts (PDP), and strikeout/throw out double plays (KDP). GDP have made up about 86.6 percent of all double plays in 2007, LDP 6.5 percent, KDP 3.3 percent, FDP 3.2 percent, and PDP only 0.4 percent. That distribution doesn't necessarily apply on a player-by-player basis, however. Ichiro Suzuki only grounded into two double plays all year, but he led the majors in non-groundball double plays, with eight (two flyouts, six lineouts), so he was listed as having hit into 10 double plays total.

Although the raw list of double plays is helpful, it lacks context. When we think about batters that are a risk to hit into double plays, we generally think of batters that are slow, and perhaps give extra consideration to those with known groundball tendencies. We rarely consider a batter's opportunities to hit into a double play-after all, a player who always comes to bat with two outs or with no one on base won't ever hit into double plays, not because of any particular skill, but because he never had the opportunity.

To look at that context, we can turn to the Double Play Rate for Batters sortable report on our Statistics page. In that report, you'll find two key statistics that are based on the batter's opportunities. First, you have the double play rate (DP%). Unlike other "rate" statistics, we are not measuring the batter's double plays against his total plate appearances or at-bats; DP% is measured in terms of double plays turned per double play opportunity, or more simply, any plate appearances in which the batter comes to the plate with less than two outs and a man on first base.

The other statistic is net double plays (NetDP), which measures a player's double play performance against what an average player would have done, given the same opportunities. The average player would have a NetDP of 0.0, with higher numbers indicating that a person hit into more double plays than average, and negative numbers if they hit into fewer double plays. So, let's take a look at the leaders and trailers in NetDP, for 2007:


2007 NetDP Leaders
Player          Team   DP   DP%  NetDP
Yadier Molina    SLN   21  26.3  10.93
Ryan Zimmerman   WAS   30  18.9   9.99
Brandon Phillips CIN   29  19.1   9.87
Yorvit Torrealba COL   20  24.7   9.81
Mark Teahen      KCA   29  19.7   9.68
Orlando Hudson   ARI   22  22.2   9.54
Carlos Lee       HOU   28  18.9   9.38
Matt Holliday    COL   27  18.9   9.00
Miguel Tejada    BAL   22  22.2   8.99
Paul Lo Duca     NYN   20  22.5   8.80


2007 NetDP Trailers
Player           Team   DP  DP%   NetDP
Jonny Gomes       TBA    0  0.0   -7.89
Corey Patterson   BAL    5  5.2   -7.62
Carlos Beltran    NYN    8  6.5   -7.60
Adrian Gonzalez   SDN    9  6.9   -7.49
Hideki Matsui     NYA   12  8.1   -7.45
Edwin Encarnacion CIN    5  5.1   -7.33
Gary Sheffield    DET   11  7.9   -7.27
Mark Ellis        OAK   12  8.3   -6.93
Eric Byrnes       ARI    9  7.1   -6.86
Jack Cust         OAK    7  6.8   -6.54

The Leaders list gains a mass of National League catchers (Molina, Torrealba, and LoDuca) but also adds a couple of not-too-slow middle infielders (Orlando Hudson and Miguel Tejada); on the trailers side the big surprise is Hideki Matsui, who earned the nickname "Groundzilla" when he hit into 28 double plays in his rookie season. Since then, Matsui's double-play levels have been at or below average given the sheer number of opportunities the Yankee offense gives him.

We can also use NetDP to see which teams are performing better or worse with regard to double plays:


Team  Lg    G     PA     R     OBP   DP   NetDP
CLE   AL   155   6,084  779   .344  135   -23.64
FLO   NL   156   6,121  758   .336  124   -22.10
NYA   AL   155   6,220  916   .364  157   -20.27
PHI   NL   156   6,320  861   .355  137   -18.05
SDN   NL   155   5,973  688   .320  120   -16.19
LAN   NL   156   6,053  708   .337  138   -12.89
NYN   NL   155   6,062  767   .342  128   -10.93
DET   AL   156   6,142  853   .344  144    -9.77
BOS   AL   156   6,186  832   .361  158    -6.68
TBA   AL   156   6,043  755   .336  139    -5.05
TOR   AL   155   5,929  710   .326  139    -2.41
TEX   AL   156   5,997  782   .328  145    -2.04
MIL   NL   155   5,958  753   .329  126    -1.49
ARI   NL   156   5,865  690   .320  127    -0.61
CIN   NL   156   6,117  761   .337  154     1.60
OAK   AL   157   6,179  727   .339  168     1.74
ATL   NL   156   6,148  785   .341  153     1.95
COL   NL   156   6,201  813   .353  157     4.69
CHN   NL   156   6,043  728   .334  147     6.56
ANA   AL   156   5,986  805   .347  168     7.03
BAL   AL   155   5,983  712   .333  155     7.03
SEA   AL   155   5,941  765   .338  172     7.47
CHA   AL   156   5,891  664   .317  148     8.30
HOU   NL   156   6,098  696   .330  159     8.60
PIT   NL   156   6,002  704   .324  148    10.34
WAS   NL   156   5,958  636   .323  155    12.78
SFN   NL   156   5,973  648   .319  150    15.45
MIN   AL   155   5,927  698   .331  160    17.77
SLN   NL   155   5,936  690   .337  172    19.09
KCA   AL   155   5,891  686   .324  169    20.61

The spread from best to worst in the majors isn't huge-about 43 outs (as opposed to the usual measures we prefer here, wins or runs). Still, every edge counts.

We can also look back at the best/worst performances by NetDP since 1959:


Player           Team   Year  DP    DP%   NetDP
John Bateman      MON   1971  33   30.3   18.18
Sherm Lollar      CHA   1959  31   28.4   17.02
Harmon Killebrew  MIN   1970  35   25.0   16.91
Brad Ausmus       HOU   2002  31   29.0   16.69
Aramis Ramirez    CHN   2004  31   27.0   16.30
Tony Armas        BOS   1983  35   26.1   16.17
Paul Konerko      CHA   2003  29   28.7   15.91
A.J. Pierzynski   SFN   2004  31   26.3   15.91
Dale Murphy       ATL   1988  30   26.8   15.55
Cal Ripken Jr.    BAL   1985  36   24.0   15.36

By 1971, John Bateman was heading toward the end of his career after long stints with two expansion franchises, the Astros and Expos. You also have some great hitters in this group (Killebrew, Ripken, Murphy, Armas) although most of them were not exactly fleet of foot. The person who's probably best associated with double plays, Boston left fielder Jim Rice, doesn't crack the top 50 of NetDP, even though he set the record for most GIDP in a single season (36 in 1985, when he had 12.47 NetDP).

As for the single-season leaders since 1959 in terms of being the least likely to hit into a double play?


Player           Team   Year  DP   DP%    NetDP
Joe Morgan        CIN   1976   3   2.2   -15.35
Ken Griffey Sr.   CIN   1976   4   3.0   -13.82
Joe Morgan        CIN   1972   7   4.4   -13.74
Leon Wagner       LAA   1962   6   3.8   -13.67
Johnny Callison   PHI   1965   9   5.3   -13.31
Mickey Mantle     NYA   1961   3   2.3   -13.07
Joe Morgan        CIN   1975   6   4.1   -13.02
Travis Fryman     DET   1993  11   6.0   -12.91
Mike Lum          ATL   1973   2   1.8   -12.71
Kirk Gibson       DET   1984   5   3.8   -12.66

This chart is dominated by the Big Red Machine, and perhaps most notably by Hall of Famer Joe Morgan. It's also worth noting that Travis Fryman is the only member of this group who did not bat left-handed, at least most of the time (the Mick's the lone switch-hitter).

Derek Jacques is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Derek's other articles. You can contact Derek by clicking here

Related Content:  Joe Morgan,  Double Switch,  Nl

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