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April 3, 2008

Schrodinger's Bat

Reminiscing with SFR, the Sequel

by Dan Fox

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"Aw, how could he lose the ball in the sun, he's from Mexico."
--Harry Caray, on a Jorge Orta feat in the field.

Baseball season is finally underway, and that means multiple games every day to choose from, along with a neverending supply of story lines, intrigue, and just plain excitement from now to October. But at the same time, our quest for enlightenment never ceases, and so this week we'll take a second look at applying Simple Fielding Runs (SFR) to historical play-by-play data.

Regular readers will recall that last week we applied the algorithms for Simple Fielding Runs (at least for infielders) to the 1988 through 1998 seasons, and spent a few enjoyable moments thinking about the accomplishments of the defenders of yesteryear. I noted that SFR could be run in its original form against that particular data set because the two primary pieces of information that are required--fielder position and hit type (line drive, groundball, fly ball, popup)--are relatively intact and found in the same ratios as in the 2003 through 2007 data, as well as the minor league data to which SFR has been applied. Sadly, that is not the case for earlier seasons where hit type information is notably in shorter supply. However, the record of the fielder who fielded the ball is essentially complete for the vast majority of the seasons stretching back to 1957. So, just as the scientists at Jurassic Park filled in the missing dinosaur genetic code with that of a frog, we can adjust the SFR algorithm to do likewise when hit type data is absent. Let's just hope our results are a little more positive.

To be more precise, two main adjustments were made to SFR this week.

  • Pitcher Handedness. I'm sure some readers have wondered why pitcher handedness had not been considered in the basic contextual framework that already includes batter handedness, hit type, hit value (single, double, etc.), first base occupied, and bunt. My intuition was that it probably didn't add a great deal to what we already knew about batted ball distribution, but since I was in the midst of modifying the software, you can wonder no longer, since I threw it into the mix. At this point, however, I've not had a chance to see how its inclusion affects SFR's correlation with UZR or the Plus/Minus system.
  • Missing Links. As mentioned above, the algorithm has now been tweaked to account for events for which the hit type is blank. For the most part, we find that data is missing for singles and doubles fielded by outfielders, although there are a few instances of infield hits that go unrecorded in this way as well. In order to account for this, the basic idea is to assign a percentage of those unrecorded events as groundballs, since in measuring infield defense we're really primarily interested in grounders that get through the infield. To do this, I create a matrix of ground-ball percentages for those seasons for which full data exists, broken down by the various pieces of context mentioned above, and apply the percentages to the aggregated events for which no hit type is recorded. This allows the system to treat an appropriate subset of these events as groundballs and do so in proportion to the best information we have (data from other seasons). Although I had considered creating a matrix by pitcher in order to account for ground-ball versus fly-ball tendencies, I did not do both because of time constraints and because in looking at the data I was uncomfortable in vastly reducing the sample sizes that taking an individual pitcher approach would necessitate. Another idea that I did not follow through on--but that likely would be effective--is to adjust the aggregate percentages across the full range of context by the ground ball tendency of the pitcher. In any case, with the unrecorded hit types now safely accounted for, the system can run as normal.

Before getting into the results, it should be mentioned that I ran the new version for the data from 1957 through 1983. It turns out that 1984 and 1985, like 2000-2002, are missing significantly more fielder designations, while 1986 and 1987 are somewhat better. I simply didn't feel comfortable reporting results for those years without looking closer at how to account for the missing data. So what follows are the results for just that 27-year period from 1957 through 1983. For this reason, while this system appears to work, as you'll see below, suffice it to say that as with most software projects this one remains a work in progress and will likely undergo additional changes in the future.

As we did last week, let's start our look in Table 1 with the overall SFR leader from each season (for a single team), regardless of position.

Table 1. SFR Leaders by Position and Team 1957-1983


Year  Player              Age    Pos    Balls Runners    Diff     SFR    Rate
1957  Roy McMillan         27  Short      608     124      28    21.0    1.22
1958  Johnny Logan         31  Short      623     117      38    28.9    1.33
1959  Ernie Banks          28  Short      709     135      38    28.9    1.28
1960  Ernie Banks          29  Short      673     137      36    27.0    1.26
1961  Roy McMillan         31  Short      669     131      37    27.8    1.28
1962  Brooks Robinson      25  Third      542      72      30    23.3    1.41
1963  Dick Groat           32  Short      619      62      68    51.3    2.11
1964  Eddie Kasko          32  Short      557     103      31    23.6    1.30
1965  Ron Hansen           27  Short      721     102      41    31.2    1.41
1966  Dal Maxvill          27  Short      591     108      30    22.8    1.28
1967  Brooks Robinson      30  Third      578      65      41    32.5    1.64
1968  Luis Aparicio        34  Short      734     119      49    36.7    1.41
1969  Brooks Robinson      32  Third      570      73      33    25.7    1.45
1970  Bobby Wine           31  Short      656     120      32    23.9    1.26
1971  Tommy Helms          30 Second      584      89      33    25.0    1.37
1972  Bert Campaneris      30  Short      716     122      33    24.7    1.27
1973  Bert Campaneris      31  Short      710     129      35    26.4    1.27
1974  Tim Foli             23  Short      556      97      40    29.6    1.41
1975  Rick Burleson        24  Short      644      74      65    48.8    1.88
1976  Mark Belanger        32  Short      787     161      27    20.0    1.17
1977  Mark Belanger        33  Short      608     119      25    18.7    1.21
1978  Ozzie Smith          23  Short      788     155      30    22.8    1.20
1979  Ozzie Smith          24  Short      792     159      30    22.9    1.19
1980  Bucky Dent           28  Short      699     149      27    20.2    1.18
1981  Buddy Bell           29  Third      389      58      26    20.2    1.44
1982  Ozzie Smith          27  Short      746     155      22    16.7    1.14
1983  Ryne Sandberg        23 Second      704     104      54    40.4    1.52

Passing the smell test is always the first hurdle to get over when looking at a new metric, and by a reasonable assessment of history the list in Table 1 passes that test. Quite fittingly, Ozzie Smith and Brooks Robinson led the majors three times apiece, with Roy McMillan, Mark Belanger, and Bert Campaneris doing so twice. In this list we also find Rick Burleson, Luis Aparicio, Ryne Sandberg, Buddy Bell, and Dick Groat, all of whom were known for their defensive prowess. Here we also see that Ernie Banks took the crown twice, and it should be noted that SFR rates him highly in 1958 (+21) through 1961 (+9) at shortstop before his move to first in 1962. At first base he had one outstanding season in 1964 (+9) and one poor one in 1965 (-7), but he otherwise rated as average defensively.

As we did last week, we'll now examine each of the four infield positions in a little more detail.

Shortstops

Last week, we introduced a rate statistic that is simply calculated as the ratio of expected to actual baserunners for the chosen time period. Once again we'll use that rate statistic to develop the leaderboards with the difference that since we're looking at a longer time period we'll include only those players who were assigned 1,500 or more balls to field.

Table 2 shows the top and bottom shortstops of the period:

Table 2. Top and Bottom Shortstops by Rate, >= 1,500 Balls 1957-1983


Player                Span       Balls Runners    Diff     SFR    Rate
Bob Lillis          1958-1967     2053     373      74    55.8    1.25
Rick Burleson       1974-1983     5296    1065     167   125.9    1.20
Ernie Banks         1957-1961     2916     619     115    87.4    1.19
Mark Belanger       1965-1982     8468    1704     262   198.3    1.16
Eddie Kasko         1957-1966     2195     466      50    38.3    1.15
Hal Lanier          1964-1973     3056     627      90    68.1    1.15
Roger Metzger       1970-1980     5059    1032     138   103.7    1.15
Dick Groat          1957-1967     6739    1488     109    83.9    1.14
Ozzie Smith         1978-1983     4586     977     133   100.1    1.14
Ron Hansen          1958-1972     5099    1051     114    87.0    1.13
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Dick McAuliffe      1960-1974     2784     700     -74   -54.8    0.92
Mario Guerrero      1973-1980     2304     594     -49   -36.2    0.92
Toby Harrah         1969-1982     3649     927     -80   -59.3    0.92
Zoilo Versalles     1959-1971     5759    1436    -127   -93.6    0.91
Chico Fernandez     1957-1963     3535     927     -94   -68.5    0.91
Gene Michael        1966-1975     3953    1046    -105   -77.8    0.91
Mike Tyson          1972-1975     1623     414     -40   -29.7    0.90
Frank Taveras       1972-1982     4903    1299    -144  -106.7    0.89
Ruben Amaro         1958-1969     2909     757     -91   -66.3    0.88
Roberto Pena        1965-1971     1673     471     -75   -55.8    0.88

Somewhat surprisingly (to me anyway) Bob Lillis--an original member of the 1962 Houston Colt .45's and later coach and manager for the Astros--finds himself at the top of the list in terms of Rate on the strength of over five seasons as the regular shortstop. What's less surprising is that Belanger comes out on top in total SFR at +198 runs, leaving Campaneris well behind at +143 runs (13th and not shown in Table 2, with a rate of 1.12). It should be noted that Sean Smith, in discussing his very similar TotalZone system has Belanger at +232 runs. Belanger's career breakdown is shown in Table 3:

Table 3. Mark Belanger


Year  Pos       Balls Runners    Diff     SFR    Rate
1965  Short         2       0       0     0.3    4.08
1966  Short        27       3       4     2.6    2.23
1967  Second       57       8       3     2.3    1.39
      Short       162      38      -4    -3.0    0.89
1968  Short       643     112      31    23.6    1.28
1969  Short       664     135      21    15.8    1.15
1970  Short       616     129      12     9.5    1.10
1971  Short       721     143      17    12.8    1.12
1972  Short       437      83       9     6.7    1.11
1973  Short       745     149      24    18.4    1.16
1974  Short       790     164      30    22.2    1.18
1975  Short       696     120      34    25.6    1.28
1976  Short       787     161      27    20.0    1.17
1977  Short       608     119      25    18.7    1.21
1978  Short       556     116      20    14.8    1.17
1979  Short       281      62       4     2.7    1.06
1980  Short       391      86       8     5.9    1.09
1981  Short       254      60       2     1.8    1.04
1982  Short        88      23       0    -0.1    0.99
                 8525    1712     265   200.6    1.14

Other notable names that don't make the top ten include Alan Trammell at number 26 (+43/1.08), Larry Bowa 39th (+28/1.04), Luis Aparicio 42nd (+47/1.04), and Dave Concepcion 43rd (+41/1.03). The epitome of an average shortstop during this period would be my boyhood hero, Ivan DeJesus, whose total SFR was +0.36 with a Rate of 1.01. On the bottom we find Roberto Pena, who played primarily for the Phillies, Padres, and Brewers in the late '60s; he was no better offensively, putting up a career .245/.290/.310 line. Pena also has the distinction of recording the lowest SFR total for a season (-54 in 1968), a season in which he committed 32 errors in 133 games at shortstop. Although Frank Taveras stands out among the bottom ten with his -107 runs and rate of 0.88, Don Kessinger actually recorded the lowest overall total of -116 by recording negative totals in 11 of 17 seasons at shortstop, and three times (1966, 1974, 1975) finding himself at less than -20 runs.

Before leaving shortstops, we should also take a look at the first few years of Ozzie Smith's career:

Table 4. Ozzie Smith


Year  Pos       Balls Runners    Diff     SFR    Rate
1978  Short       788     155      30    22.8    1.20
1979  Short       792     159      30    22.9    1.19
1980  Short       905     206      18    13.8    1.09
1981  Short       592     142       8     6.2    1.06
1982  Short       746     155      22    16.7    1.14
1983  Short       764     160      24    17.7    1.15
                 4586     977     133     100    1.14

As mentioned last week, Smith recorded some impressive SFR totals in his age-33 through age-35 seasons, and now we see that in his age-23 through age-28 seasons that he was no slouch then either. Taken together, those two spans approach 200 runs, and when the mid-1980s are eventually added, there's little doubt that he'll surpass Belanger and challenge Cal Ripken for the top spot in total SFR.

Second Base

Moving on, Table 5 lists the top and bottom second basemen in terms of Rate, once again looking only at those fielders who've been assigned 1,500 or more balls.

Table 5. Top and Bottom Second basemen by Rate, >= 1,500 Balls 1957-1983


Player                Span       Balls Runners    Diff     SFR    Rate
Dick Green          1963-1974     4281     743     135   102.0    1.20
Rob Wilfong         1977-1983     2156     438      24    18.0    1.19
Lou Whitaker        1977-1983     3482     654      79    59.5    1.12
Nellie Fox          1957-1965     4921     939      84    64.9    1.11
Jim Gilliam         1957-1965     1855     366      31    23.6    1.11
Bill Mazeroski      1957-1972     8050    1603     165   127.5    1.11
Tim Cullen          1966-1972     1542     305      25    19.0    1.11
Tom Herr            1979-1983     1584     313      31    23.4    1.10
Glenn Hubbard       1978-1983     2843     567      51    39.0    1.10
Charlie Neal        1957-1962     2146     435      37    28.2    1.09
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Chuck Hiller        1961-1968     2063     450     -32   -22.9    0.94
Duane Kuiper        1974-1983     3562     812     -70   -51.5    0.94
Mike Andrews        1966-1973     2983     674     -58   -42.1    0.91
Pete Rose           1963-1969     2440     498     -46   -33.0    0.91
Len Randle          1971-1982     1810     428     -47   -34.8    0.90
Bobby Richardson    1957-1966     4976    1196    -150  -109.9    0.88
Tony Taylor         1958-1976     5735    1443    -208  -152.6    0.88
Jake Wood           1961-1967     1577     356     -48   -35.3    0.87
Cookie Rojas        1962-1977     5594    1402    -214  -157.3    0.87
Jorge Orta          1972-1979     2567     644    -107   -79.4    0.84

Dick Green and Rob Wilfong take the top two spots, while the rest of the top ten is littered with good fielders including Bill Mazeroksi, who recorded the highest total at second base at +127 runs, and whose career is shown in Table 6. It's also interesting to note that Fielding Runs (FR) superstar Glen Hubbard ranks ninth but doesn't record a total SFR value close to the +63 FR he shows in the latest Baseball Encyclopedia. His biggest years in FR, unfortunately, come in 1985-87, when we don't SFR data yet, seasons in which the Encyclopedia has him at +60, +40, and +28.

Other names that didn't make top ten include Joe Morgan at number 20 (+71/1.06), Bobby Grich 26th (+32/1.05), Frank White 29th (+25/1.04, who is another favorite of TotalZone), and Willie Randolph 41st (+11/1.02).

Table 6. Bill Mazeroski


Year  Pos       Balls Runners    Diff     SFR    Rate
1957  Second      525     106      12     9.4    1.12
1958  Second      616     110      31    23.7    1.28
1959  Second      517     118      -3    -1.6    0.98
1960  Second      598     125       6     4.9    1.05
1961  Second      647     132      11     8.8    1.09
1962  Second      649     133       3     2.4    1.02
1963  Second      612      94      35    26.1    1.37
1964  Second      714     149      19    14.6    1.13
1965  Second      507      85      13    10.1    1.15
1966  Second      617     123       9     6.9    1.07
1967  Second      641     134       2     1.4    1.01
1968  Second      558     116       8     6.0    1.07
1969  Second      204      43       4     3.3    1.10
1970  Second      412      81      15    11.2    1.18
1971  Second      176      37       2     1.8    1.06
      Third        10       3      -1    -1.0    0.57
1972  Second       57      16      -2    -1.6    0.86
      Third         5       1       0    -0.1    0.88
                 8066    1608     164     126    1.11

Apparently Jorge Orta couldn't always blame the sun, as he took the bottom spot with a rate of 0.84 and -79 runs in eight seasons at the keystone. Cookie Rojas, however, outdid him in total SFR at -157 runs, just edging out Tony Taylor.

As with Ozzie Smith, it's interesting to look at the early career of Lou Whitaker. Last week we said that Whitaker and Ryne Sandberg were neck and neck, with Whitaker edging Sandberg in Rate but Sandberg playing significantly more, resulting in 17 additional runs saved (80 to Whitaker's 63). Table 7 shows the early part of Whitaker's career, when his rate was excellent, as he contributed another 59 runs:

Table 7. Lou Whitaker


Year  Pos       Balls Runners    Diff     SFR    Rate
1977  Second       33       9      -2    -1.8    0.74
1978  Second      618     114      14    10.8    1.13
1979  Second      487      93      10     7.5    1.11
1980  Second      627     121      10     7.4    1.08
1981  Second      490      92      14    10.9    1.16
1982  Second      612     110      18    13.3    1.16
1983  Second      614     115      15    11.3    1.13
                 3482     654      79      59    1.12

However, Sandberg's +40 in 1983 was the second-highest single season total to Dick Groat's +51 in 1963. In addition, Sandberg was at +9 at second in limited time in 1982 and also +10 at third base in his rookie campaign that same year to add another 59 runs to his total during this time span.

Third Base

As we move to the hot corner, consider Table 8, which lists the top and bottom third basemen, once again in terms of Rate:

Table 8. Top and Bottom Third basemen by Rate, >= 1,500 Balls 1957-1983


Player                Span       Balls Runners    Diff     SFR    Rate
Brooks Robinson     1957-1977     9686    1404     372   293.0    1.29
Jim Davenport       1958-1970     2917     444      86    68.3    1.21
Aurelio Rodriguez   1967-1983     6266    1045     170   133.7    1.20
Ed Charles          1962-1969     2934     450      66    52.6    1.18
Buddy Bell          1972-1983     5514     925     143   113.2    1.16
Pete Ward           1963-1969     1819     298      39    31.0    1.16
Rico Petrocelli     1966-1976     2278     398      30    24.5    1.16
Bob Aspromonte      1960-1971     3129     485      53    42.4    1.15
Sal Bando           1966-1981     5959     967     125    99.1    1.15
Don Money           1970-1983     3286     570      46    36.9    1.12
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Wayne Gross         1977-1983     1993     403     -25   -18.9    0.95
Charley Smith       1960-1968     2097     439     -41   -30.5    0.94
Eddie Yost          1957-1962     1903     389     -32   -24.0    0.94
Tony Perez          1967-1971     2487     519     -42   -31.5    0.93
Butch Hobson        1976-1981     2041     432     -38   -29.6    0.92
Pete Rose           1966-1979     1826     389     -42   -32.4    0.90
Bill Madlock        1973-1983     3186     748     -95   -73.2    0.88
Carney Lansford     1978-1983     2232     518     -74   -57.1    0.86
Harmon Killebrew    1957-1971     2256     533     -98   -74.9    0.82
Dick Allen          1964-1972     2252     591    -154  -118.4    0.75

Brooks Robinson is way out on top with a rate eight percent higher than Jim Davenport and a total SFR of +293 runs (TotalZone has him at +269), almost 100 runs better than Belanger, and 180 runs better than his nearest third base competitor in Aurelio Rodriguez. His career totals are shown in Table 9.

Table 9. Brooks Robinson


Year  Pos       Balls Runners    Diff     SFR    Rate
1957  Third       115      21       1     0.9    1.05
1958  Second        8       3       0    -0.3    0.86
      Third       487      88       3     2.3    1.03
1959  Second        0       0       0    -0.1    0.26
      Third       314      53       6     4.6    1.11
1960  Second        1       0       0     0.0    0.86
      Third       545      74      24    18.9    1.32
1961  Third       538      91      14    10.9    1.15
1962  Second        2       1       0    -0.3    0.52
      Third       542      72      30    23.3    1.41
      Short         1       0       0    -0.1    0.30
1963  Third       514      59      29    22.9    1.50
1964  Third       526      82      15    12.1    1.19
1965  Third       468      62      11     8.6    1.17
1966  Third       512      74      11     8.7    1.15
1967  Third       578      65      41    32.5    1.64
1968  Third       557      63      34    26.4    1.53
1969  Third       570      73      33    25.7    1.45
1970  Third       536      89      11     8.7    1.12
1971  Third       534      81      22    17.4    1.27
1972  Third       517      73      22    17.5    1.31
1973  Third       531      76      24    19.0    1.32
1974  Third       596     102      17    13.5    1.17
1975  Third       460      61      22    16.9    1.35
1976  Third       206      35       2     1.9    1.07
1977  Third        38       8       0     0.2    1.03
                 9699    1408     371     292

Much of the rest of the top 10 is populated with familiar names, while Jim Gilliam at number 14 (+26/1.11), Eddie Matthews 18th (+47/1.08), and Graig Nettles 26th (+33/1.05) all come out looking respectable; Ron Santo disappointingly finished a distant 40th, at -22/0.99.

The Wikipedia entry for Dick Allen simply says "His uncertain and often disinterested defensive play led to his leading the league in errors four times--twice each at third and first base," which pretty much sums up what SFR thought of his effort. He took the bottom spot both in rate and total SFR at third base, finishing at -118/0.75. When you add his work at first base he ends up at an eye-popping -151 runs, worth 15 wins (FRAR has him at -98 for his career). The rest of the group isn't much better, and here we find Pete Rose making his second appearance in the bottom ten. What is somewhat remarkable, as shown in Table 10, is that Rose managed to score negatively at all three infield positions he played during this time span (he played left field primarily from 1967 through 1974) with the only exception being three balls cleanly fielded at first base in 1978.

Table 10. Pete Rose


Year  Pos       Balls Runners    Diff     SFR    Rate
1963  Second      605     122     -15   -10.7    0.88
1964  Second      458     103      -5    -3.7    0.95
1965  Second      625     112      -4    -2.4    0.97
1966  Second      613     131     -19   -13.9    0.85
      Third        59      12      -3    -2.2    0.77
1967  Second      135      27      -2    -1.5    0.93
1968  Second        2       1      -1    -0.4    0.49
1969  Second        1       1      -1    -0.5    0.26
1975  Third       397      92     -23   -18.0    0.75
1976  Third       486     101      -6    -4.4    0.94
1977  Third       430      85       0    -0.1    1.00
1978  First         3       0       0     0.3    2.67
      Third       441      95      -9    -7.3    0.90
1979  First       307      38      -2    -2.1    0.94
      Third        14       4      -1    -0.5    0.84
1980  First       291      43      -2    -1.9    0.94
1981  First       212      30       0    -0.2    0.99
1982  First       339      47      -4    -3.1    0.91
1983  First       201      30      -1    -0.9    0.96
                 5620    1076     -98     -73

First Base

Finally, we'll wrap up with a look at first basemen, as shown in Table 11:

Table 11. Top and Bottom First Basemen by Rate, >= 1,500 Balls 1957-1983


Player                Span       Balls Runners    Diff     SFR    Rate
Tommy McCraw        1963-1975     1601     166      46    35.1    1.37
Carl Yastrzemski    1968-1982     1767     184      47    36.1    1.36
Bill White          1958-1969     3006     330      38    28.5    1.22
Wes Parker          1964-1972     2237     233      34    23.1    1.18
Mike Jorgensen      1968-1983     1556     183      22    17.4    1.18
Nate Colbert        1968-1976     2004     256      31    20.2    1.17
Eddie Murray        1977-1983     1914     214      32    25.5    1.16
Orlando Cepeda      1958-1972     3893     468      38    24.5    1.15
Ron Fairly          1961-1978     2405     284      30    21.6    1.15
George Scott        1966-1979     4431     524      66    51.1    1.15
----------------------------------------------------------------------
John Mayberry       1968-1982     3008     448     -31   -23.8    0.97
Lee May             1966-1982     3099     404     -21   -19.9    0.97
Willie McCovey      1959-1980     4115     562     -34   -29.1    0.97
Donn Clendenon      1962-1972     2584     376     -28   -23.1    0.95
Deron Johnson       1961-1976     1523     210     -24   -19.6    0.93
Willie Montanez     1970-1982     2539     374     -39   -29.7    0.91
Dick Allen          1969-1977     1550     237     -38   -31.6    0.88
Mike Epstein        1966-1974     1501     249     -39   -32.4    0.88
Willie Stargell     1963-1982     1605     246     -44   -34.2    0.85
Dick Stuart         1958-1969     2104     359     -76   -59.4    0.80

Here we find another surprise, in that Tommy McCraw takes the top spot with a rate of 1.37 in his 13 seasons (primarily time spent with the White Sox). He was certainly no great shakes with the bat, recording a lifetime .246/.309/.362 line, so one would certainly hope he was contributing with the glove. I was also surprised that Keith Hernandez wasn't on the list; in fact, Hernandez finished 19th at +18/1.02, whereas he led all first baseman at +110 in Sean Smith's metric (given that it also includes 1984 through 1990). Steve Garvey also ranks fairly poorly, coming in 21st (+16/1.05). However, both metrics liked George Scott, although SFR has him at +51 runs (and does cover his entire career) while TotalZone is at +85.

Dick Stuart once said, "One night in Pittsburgh, thirty-thousand fans gave me a standing ovation when I caught a hot dog wrapper on the fly", apparently deserved his reputation as Dr. Strangeglove, since he's at the bottom both in terms of overall SFR at -59 runs and a rate of 0.80. He has plenty of company, though, notably Willie Stargell (-34/0.85) and Mike Epstein (-32/0.88), and also the ubiquitous Dick Allen (-32/0.88).

The Journey Continues

As in many of life's endeavors, our quest for knowledge about baseball never ceases. Refining and extending ideas like SFR is only very small part of that bigger picture. For those of us who study the game, the sentiment reflected in this question and answer from Bill James in a recent New York Times interview is prescient:

Q: Has sabermetrics pretty much squeezed the last drop of new insights out of traditional counting statistics? If so, what data ought to be collected to improve our understanding of the game? If not, where can the boundaries be pushed?

A: We haven't figured out anything yet. A hundred years from now, we won't have begun to have the game figured out.

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