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Keith Woolner 

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03-30

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5

The BP Wayback Machine: Baseball's Hilbert Problems
by
Keith Woolner

02-23

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The BP Wayback Machine: Randomness in Team Standings Predictions
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Keith Woolner

05-04

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Aim For The Head: Aim For the Front Office
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Keith Woolner

02-28

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Hope and Faith: How the Boston Red Sox Can Win the World Series
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Keith Woolner

10-09

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Completely Random Statistical Trivia
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Keith Woolner

06-21

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Aim For The Head: Customized Stat Reports
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Keith Woolner

04-10

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Aim For The Head: Lengthening Pitch Counts
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Keith Woolner

03-24

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Aim For The Head: New Relief Categories
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Keith Woolner

03-23

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2006--Setting the Stage
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Keith Woolner

03-08

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Aim For The Head: Quick-n-Dirty Base-Out Expected Runs Matrix
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Keith Woolner

03-07

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Why Edgar Allan Poe Couldn't Play Fantasy Baseball
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Keith Woolner

03-02

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Aim For The Head: Mailbag: Outcomes and Outrages
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Keith Woolner

02-02

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Aim For The Head: Five More Reasons to Hate the Hold
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Keith Woolner

01-24

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Aim For The Head: Three True Outcomes, 2005
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Keith Woolner

03-24

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2005--Setting the Stage
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Keith Woolner

03-04

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Aim For The Head: Three True Outcomes, 2004
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Keith Woolner

12-02

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Casey's Random Batting Trial
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Keith Woolner

10-08

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Aim For The Head: Rookies, RBI and Revamped Reliever Reports
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Keith Woolner

09-13

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Aim For The Head: Support-Neutral Pitching Reports, Revamped
by
Keith Woolner

08-31

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Can Barry Hit .400?
by
Keith Woolner

08-10

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Murderer's Row
by
Chaim Bloom and Keith Woolner

05-26

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Aim For The Head: Hidden Perfect Games Mailbag
by
Keith Woolner

04-27

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Aim For The Head: Hidden Perfect Games
by
Keith Woolner

04-01

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Aim For The Head: Discovering True Clutch Hitters
by
Keith Woolner

02-11

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Aim For The Head: Memory Lane
by
Keith Woolner

02-10

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Baseball's Hilbert Problems
by
Keith Woolner

01-21

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Aim For The Head: Three True Outcomes, 2003
by
Keith Woolner

09-17

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Aim For The Head: Reader Mail, and More New Stat Reports
by
Keith Woolner

08-15

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Aim For The Head: New Stat Reports
by
Keith Woolner

08-13

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Aim For The Head: Pete Rose and the Hall of Fame
by
Keith Woolner

08-04

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Aim For The Head: Supercycles
by
Keith Woolner

05-15

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Aim For The Head: Understanding MLVr
by
Keith Woolner

04-01

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Aim For The Head: A Big Change for OBP
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Keith Woolner

03-25

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Aim For The Head: Opening Day Starters
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Keith Woolner

11-22

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The Daily Prospectus: Balanced Lineups Redux
by
Keith Woolner

11-21

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Aim For The Head: Are Balanced Lineups Better?
by
Keith Woolner and Rodger A. Payne

08-30

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Aim For The Head: Quality Starts
by
Keith Woolner

08-20

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Greatest Living Pitcher
by
Keith Woolner and Jonah Keri

07-18

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Aim For The Head: Scoring Early and Often
by
Keith Woolner

07-12

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Aim For The Head: Long Plate Appearances Mailbag
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Keith Woolner

06-26

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Aim For The Head: More on Lengthy Plate Appearances
by
Keith Woolner

06-26

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Aim For The Head: More on Lengthy Plate Appearances
by
Keith Woolner

06-11

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Aim For The Head: OPS by Length of Plate Appearance
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Keith Woolner

06-11

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Aim For The Head: OPS by Length of Plate Appearance
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Keith Woolner

06-06

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Aim For The Head: PAP^3 FAQ
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Keith Woolner

06-05

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Aim For The Head: PAP^3 FAQ
by
Keith Woolner

05-29

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Aim For The Head: Simulating Catcher's ERA
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Keith Woolner

05-22

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Prospectus Feature: Analyzing PAP (Part Two)
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Keith Woolner

05-22

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Analyzing PAP (Part Two)
by
Keith Woolner

05-21

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Prospectus Feature: Analyzing PAP (Part One)
by
Keith Woolner

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The defining moment of my Red Sox fandom must have been the first major league game I ever attended--naturally it was at Fenway. It was 1979, we were going to a game to celebrate my birthday, and the Sox were playing the Angels. Someone had mentioned to me that it was really rare for your team to win the first time you go to see them in person, and therefore it would be really unusual if the Sox were to pull it out that night. For some reason, I believed him--I was young, and much more easily swayed by faulty reasoning then. It's funny the things you remember. At the ballpark, I had a slice of what was to me at the time, the greatest slice of pizza I'd ever had--which upon reflection probably meant it was a greasy mess. But the fact that I was eating it at Fenway Park made it great.

Wow, Nolan Ryan started the game. I'm surprised I didn't remember that, but I guess he really wasn't the legend he later became just yet.

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February 10, 2004 12:00 am

Baseball's Hilbert Problems

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Keith Woolner

"Who of us would not be glad to lift the veil behind which the future lies hidden, to cast a glance at the next advances of our science and at the secrets of its development during future years? What particular goals will there be toward which the leading sabermetric spirits of coming generations will strive? What new methods and new facts in the wide and rich field of sabermetric thought will the new years disclose?" Here at Baseball Prospectus, we're not completely immune to the general fascination with the recent turn of the world's odometer. So, with this edition marking the final year of the second millennium, let's take a look forward at what the third holds for us seamheads. Our inspiration comes from a similar effort nearly 100 years ago. In 1900, a mathematician named David Hilbert addressed the International Congress of Mathematicians in Paris and delivered what was to become history's most influential speech about mathematics. Hilbert outlined 23 major problems to be studied in the coming century. In doing so he expressed optimism about the field, sharing his feeling that unsolved problems were a sign of vitality, encouraging more people to do more research. The above quote is, in fact, a bastardization of the opening statements of Hilbert's speech. Hilbert referred to mathematics instead of sabermetrics and spoke in terms of "centuries" instead of "years." Given the relative youth of sabermetrics and baseball analysis compared to math, it's appropriate to use a period of smaller scope than Hilbert. The quotes that appear periodically throughout this essay are similarly taken from Hilbert's speech and altered to refer to baseball analysis.

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Periodically, Baseball Prospectus pays homage to the "Three True Outcomes" and those players who excel at creating them. A long-time inside joke at rec.sport.baseball, discussion of the Three True Outcomes (or TTO) has appeared on the pages of BP for years. In short, the Three True Outcomes are plate appearances that end with events that do not involve the fielders: the home run, the walk, and the strikeout. Somewhat ironically, the TTO have gained prominence in recent years with Voros McCracken's controversial (and oft-misstated) theory that pitchers do not differ significantly from each other on their ability to prevent hits on balls in play; thus making their primary differentiators of value the rates of strikeouts, walks, and home runs they allow. But the Three True Outcomes are, at their core, a celebration of hitters, epitomized by the patron saint of the TTO, and the prototype for early BP book covers, Rob Deer. With that in mind, we start with a list of the top hitters for 2003, according to the percentage of their plate appearances that ended with a True Outcome.

In short, the Three True Outcomes are plate appearances that end with events that do not involve the fielders: the home run, the walk, and the strikeout. Somewhat ironically, the TTO have gained prominence in recent years with Voros McCracken's controversial (and oft-misstated) theory that pitchers do not differ significantly from each other on their ability to prevent hits on balls in play; thus making their primary differentiators of value the rates of strikeouts, walks, and home runs they allow.

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Ryan Smith writes: I'm a Cubs fan, and one of the more interesting stats that I remember about their promising 2001 campaign was Eric Young's 43 doubles and 42 RBI. I thought it would be near impossible for a player to have as many as 25 doubles and fewer RBI than doubles. However, after a bit of research (nothing extensive), I learned that there had been a few guys to do it. Indeed, it is rare. Since 1901, there have been only 45 players with 300+ AB who had more doubles than RBI. The record for most RBI with more doubles is held by Mark Grudzielanek, who had 54 doubles, but just 51 RBI in 1997. Grudzielanek also holds the record for most AB in such a season with 649. Three other players have had 600+ AB and more doubles than RBI: Don Blasingame for the 1959 Cardinals (615 AB, 26 2B, 24 RBI), Sparky Adams for the 1931 Cardinals (608 AB, 46 2B, 40 RBI), and the aforementioned Eric Young. The fewest doubles that exceeded a player's RBI total was done by Dick Howser playing for the 1965 Indians. In 307 AB, he hit just eight doubles, but had just six runs batted in (one of them on a home run). J.L writes: Interesting new statistical reports. I'm piqued by Pitchers Counterpart Profile. Why should I care how the opposing pitcher has pitched all season when looking at my pitcher's record? All that matters is how opposing pitchers performed on the particular day they "faced" my pitcher. Unlike PQBF and BQPF, the two pitchers do not really "face" one another, therefore the results need not be filtered by considering their average performances. Counterpart quality is interesting to investigate questions like whether teams juggle their rotations to get their aces facing each other, or whether good run support came from a pitcher's teammates having an unusually good day (better than you'd expect given who they are facing), or if a team was beating up on weak pitching. It may not have predictive value, but it has some explanatory power.

You (and several other astute readers) are absolutely right. I inadvertently left off 2001 and 2002 when compiling the list of supercycles and pedicycles, and missed Olerud as a result.

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For those of you who haven't noticed, we are debuting several new statistical reports this week that will be updated daily throughout the season. All of these reports are currently available as a free preview at our Statistics page. Some of these reports, however, will be offered as part of Baseball Prospectus Premium in the coming weeks and months.

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If Pete Rose is, in fact, reinstated after the season, as previously reported, he becomes eligible to be placed on the Hall of Fame ballot. For many fans, his on-the-field qualifications are a foregone conclusion. As baseball's all-time hits leader, 17-time All Star, the 1973 MVP, and key member of the Big Red Machine, it's hard to deny that Rose has some impressive credentials. And indeed, baseball fans voted him onto the All-Century Team as one of the finest players of the 20th century. However, there's been a reassessment of Rose's value as a player over the past 15 years, as sabermetrics has advanced our understanding of how offenses work, and how teams win. As the importance of On-Base Percentage has been recognized, and measures such as OPS (On-Base Percentage Plus Slugging average) have become popular, Rose has become a poster boy for the overrated star--one whose game consisted of hitting a lot of singles, and posting a high but empty batting average. Some have gone as far as to say that Rose doesn't deserve to be in the Hall of Fame on the merits of his playing career, even excluding any gambling controversy. But is this a revisionist history by the statheads, or an honest, updated assessment of a former star?

However, there's been a reassessment of Rose's value as a player over the past 15 years, as sabermetrics has advanced our understanding of how offenses work, and how teams win. As the importance of On-Base Percentage has been recognized, and measures such as OPS (On-Base Percentage Plus Slugging average) have become popular, Rose has become a poster boy for the overrated star--one whose game consisted of hitting a lot of singles, and posting a high but empty batting average.

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August 4, 2003 12:00 am

Aim For The Head: Supercycles

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Keith Woolner

Apologies for my absence as of late, especially to those adoring fans who actually noticed that I was gone (both of you... Hi Mom! ... ah, who'm I kidding, my mom doesn't read Baseball Prospectus). That said, unlike the majority of AFTH columns, this edition isn't prompted by a reader question, but rather my own interest in a baseball anomaly. I've been interested in "hitting for the cycle" for some time. Though it's primarily a novelty achievement (having each of the four specific types of hits), it does represent a an admirable feat. It has happened 79 times between 1972 and 2002 by 74 different batters. Five batters managed to do it twice: George Brett, Cesar Cedeno, Frank White, Bob Watson, and Chris Speier. The novelty aspect of hitting for a cycle has led to interesting situations, such as whether a batter who already has a double, triple, and home run should stop at first on a would-be double to get his name in the footnotes of baseball history. Clearly, a game with two doubles, a triple and a home run is a more valuable accomplishment than a cycle, and so, while acknowledging the uniqueness of hitting for a cycle, I'd like to introduce a term for having a game at least as good as hitting for the cycle.

I've been interested in "hitting for the cycle" for some time. Though it's primarily a novelty achievement (having each of the four specific types of hits), it does represent a an admirable feat. It has happened 79 times between 1972 and 2002 by 74 different batters. Five batters managed to do it twice: George Brett, Cesar Cedeno, Frank White, Bob Watson, and Chris Speier.

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In Baseball Prospectus 2003, we introduced a new rate metric in lieu of Equivalent Average (EqA), which graced the pages of previous editions. This metric, Marginal Lineup Value Rate (MLVr), measures how much offense a player produces compared to an average player. Since the publication of BP 2003, one of the most common questions I've received concerns what the scale of MLVr is, or in other words, what a "good" MLVr is. As a new and unfamiliar metric, MLVr lacks the built-in recognition factor that something like EqA had, which was designed to follow the familiar batting average scale. The tradeoff, however, is that the "units" of EqA don't measure anything--one point of EqA doesn't equate to one run, or a tenth of a run, or a fraction of a win, or anything else that's tangible. Equivalent Average is essentially a dimensionless index that follows offense production, but does not, by itself, measure it. Instead it's made so that the "installed base" of baseball fans can understand it. MLVr takes the opposite tack, choosing to express results in terms of runs per game, (and more specifically, runs per game above or below a league average player), rather than a more familiar scale. This makes it more useful for quantitative analysis, at the expense of being more opaque to casual baseball fans.

As a new and unfamiliar metric, MLVr lacks the built-in recognition factor that something like EqA had, which was designed to follow the familiar batting average scale. The tradeoff, however, is that the "units" of EqA don't measure anything--one point of EqA doesn't equate to one run, or a tenth of a run, or a fraction of a win, or anything else that's tangible. Equivalent Average is essentially a dimensionless index that follows offense production, but does not, by itself, measure it. Instead it's made so that the "installed base" of baseball fans can understand it.

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Keith Woolner takes a second look at OBP, righting a big wrong in the process.

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March 25, 2003 12:00 am

Aim For The Head: Opening Day Starters

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Keith Woolner

First, I want to apologize for the long absence of AFTH from the web site. In addition to the usual off-season book-writing duties, I spent the winter relocating to the east coast from California as well as welcoming a new baby to the family. But I'm getting settled now, and hope to be writing AFTH and doing other research again in between feedings and diaper changes.

Onto the question. If we assume that the "best" pitcher is the one with the highest VORP, we can look at the Opening Day starter's eventual full-season VORP to see if it led the team.

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Soon after yesterday's installment of "Aim For The Head" appeared on the web site, my e-mail starting getting reader comments.

Soon after yesterday's installment of "Aim For The Head" appeared on the web site, my e-mail starting getting reader comments like the following:

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November 21, 2002 5:02 pm

Aim For The Head: Are Balanced Lineups Better?

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Keith Woolner and Rodger A. Payne

Based solely on offense, expected runs created - given the scenario that your total starting lineup team OPS was fixed at a certain number. Would you be better off building a team with a few superstars, balanced off with some truly horrible players or a team of mostly mediocre players?

This week's question comes from J. M., who writes:

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