Brandon Wood is in the midst of yet another disappointing season at age 27. What other players have bottomed out when they were supposed to be peaking?
You couldn’t ask for a better place to hit than Colorado Springs. Last year, the hometown Sky Sox batted .305/.366/.489 as a team and allowed a 6.49 ERA as a team. It’s the craziest place to hit in the craziest league to hit, and it’s where Brandon Wood is hitting .253/.289/.418, with 19 strikeouts and three walks. It’s his age-27 season.
It’s wrong to say that age-27 is the magical year when everybody sets new personal bests. Some hitters peak in their 30s and some in their early 20s and some when they’re 25 and some when they’re 29. Twenty-seven is just a number, and when it starts a sentence, a hyphenated word. It’s only as significant as you make it.
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As we head for the season's home stretch, Nate reminds us that even comfortable leads late in the season aren't sure things.
While looking toward the future with our comprehensive slate of current content, we'd also like to recognize our rich past by drawing upon our extensive (and mostly free) online archive of work dating back to 1997. In an effort to highlight the best of what's gone before, we'll be bringing you a weekly blast from BP's past, introducing or re-introducing you to some of the most informative and entertaining authors who have passed through our virtual halls. If you have fond recollections of a BP piece that you'd like to nominate for re-exposure to a wider audience, send us your suggestion.
There's no such thing as a lock, as Nate discovered in his research on late-season collapses, which originally ran as a "Lies, Damned Lies" column on September 27, 2007.
Pitchers, unlike hitters, have no discernible pattern for reaching their peaks but they do often flame out quickly.
Last week, I looked at the question of when hitters hit their peak and came away with the very unsatisfying answer of "it depends." Good hitters peak later. Even leaving aside the usual cries of "treat everyone as an individual!" there are different peak ages in the aggregate among different groups. The details matter. Now we are left with this question: What happens with pitchers?
The old assumption that players peak around the age of 27 has long been the accepted standard, but should it be?
Recently, there's been a decent amount of chatter regarding how baseball players age, and I have to admit that it's mostly my fault. In a study that was recently published in Journal of Sports Sciences, I find that players tend to peak around the age of 29; this finding has been met with resistance from some individuals in the sabermetric community, where 27 has long been considered the age when players peak. Will Carroll and Christina Kahrl graciously asked if I would be willing to defend my findings on Baseball Prospectus. I agreed, and I thank Will and Christina for the opportunity to do so.
Due to the length of the explanation, I have broken the analysis into two parts. Part I explains the empirical problems faced when estimating aging, and examines why past sabermetric studies have failed to properly measure player aging; Part II explains my recent study.
JAWS gapes for the Hall candidacy of Tim Raines, but finds the other eligible outfielders not quite so tasty.
Picking up where we left off last week, we turn JAWS loose on the outfielders of the 2008 ballot, a mercifully smaller crop than last year's 13 outfielders, but one about which we have much to discuss.
Which teams blew the best possible shots at making the postseason, and where do the ill-fated teams on this year's NL slate stand to land?
Today's article represents an update of Clay Davenport's piece from two years ago that described the biggest collapses in playoff chase history (spoiler alert!), as defined by the teams that had the highest percentage chance to reach the playoffs at some point during the regular season who then failed to do so. I have a comprehensive set of playoff odds reports that Clay prepared for us in connection with It Ain't Over, and was therefore able to identify a couple of races that Clay had missed during his spot-checking. In addition, I will be looking all the way back to the start of the season, rather than limiting things to August 1st as Clay did; it's surprisingly easy for teams to establish a stranglehold on a playoff spot relatively early in the season in the Wild Card era, and if they're a bit less dramatic as narratives go, those collapses still deserve discussion. In addition, Clay has made some improvements to his methodology since the time his article was originally published, so all of that goodness is incorporated herein.
There's breakout potential from some surprising sources in the lower rungs of the minors.
Kevin Goldstein is doing a great job presenting the subplots of the 2007 minor league season for the 30 organizations, identifying the players who took a Great Leap Forward and those who took Two Steps Back. Between those poles, however, there's plenty of space to talk about additional players who've helped themselves. Bland seasons can look far more interesting when placed in the right context. In that vein, I want to look at the players that merely took Two Steps Forward in 2007.
With the Hall of Fame announcement coming later today, Jay concludes JAWS' take on who should make it in by sizing up the pitchers.
We'll dispense with the introductory formalities (you can read last year's pieces here and here) and cut to the chase. As with the hitters, we'll consider career WARP and peak WARP--the adjusted for all time flavor, WARP3--with the latter defined as a pitcher's best seven years. Just as we eliminated the worst elected Hall of Famer at each position in determining the JAWS standards, we'll exclude a similar percentage of pitchers--four out of the 60, in this case. In examining these pitchers, we'll also use Pitching Runs Above Average (PRAA) because it forms a reasonable secondary measure for "peak" in conjunction with PRAR's "career" proxy. A pitcher with many PRAA but fewer PRAR likely had a high peak and a short career, while one with the same number of PRAA but more PRAR likely had a longer career. Although durability should not be confused with excellence, league average has value, as anybody who's ever suffered through a fifth starter's pummeling knows.
This year's pitching segment has one more wrinkle. On the advice of WARP creator Clay Davenport, the pitching portion of this year's edition of JAWS includes a downward adjustment for pitchers in the AL after 1973 to counteract the negative hitting contributions of their non-DH brethren. This prevents the system from overly favoring recent AL pitchers, but the consequence is that the career and peak JAWS scores won't match what you can pull from the DT pages on our site. I'd prefer the transparency, but in terms of evaluating the cases on the current ballot, the need for this "tax" wins out.
Jay Jaffe uses JAWS to look at the newly eligible hitters on this year's Hall of Fame ballot.
Clay Davenport's Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP) figures make an ideal tool for this endeavor because they normalize all performance records in major-league history to the same scoring environment, adjusting for park effects, quality of competition and length of schedule. All pitchers, hitters and fielders are thus rated above or below one consistent replacement level, making cross-era comparisons a breeze. Though non-statistical considerations--awards, championships, postseason performance--shouldn't be left by the wayside in weighing a player's Hall of Fame case, they're not the focus here.
Election to the Hall of Fame requires a player to perform both at a very high level and for a long time, so it's inappropriate to rely simply on career WARP (which for this exercise refers exclusively to the adjusted-for-all-time version, WARP3). In past years I identified each player's peak value by his best five consecutive seasons, with allowances made for seasons lost to war or injury. That choice was an admittedly arbitrary one, and for the 2006 ballot I've revised the methodology to instead use each player's best seven seasons without concern as to whether they're consecutive or not. It's a subtle change that doesn't have a huge impact, but it does require less manual labor to determine the injury and war exceptions, a welcome development from where I sit. Effectively, we're double-counting more of a player's best seasons, but given what we know about pennants added and
the premium value of star talent, individual greatness can have a nonlinear effect on a team's results both in the standings and on the bottom line.
The results of the second election by the latest version of the Veterans Committee will be released today. How do the candidates stack up?
Should a player not gain entry through the front door, his only chance for admission is through the institution's freight elevator, the Veterans Committee vote. Evolving out of an older voting body, the Old-Timers' Committee (which also served as the institution's Board of Trustees), the first VC was appointed in 1953, consisting of baseball executives and writers. Over the years, the VC--a 15-member voting body which gradually came to include former players--swept up the ashes with far less discrimination than the writers had exercised. Voting was done behind closed doors, cronyism abounded, mistakes were made (legend has it that the VC elected the vastly inferior Waner brother, Lloyd, in a case of mistaken identity) and the honor of election was somewhat diluted.
The attrition of aged VC voters and the controversies generated by their selections led to an overhaul in 2002. The new Veterans Committee now includes all living Hall of Fame members, Spink Award recipients (writers), Frick Award recipients (broadcasters) and "old VC" members whose terms have not yet expired. Currently there are 83 eligible voters: 60 Hall of Famers, 14 broadcasters, eight writers and one "old VC" member. They vote on players every two years, and on nonplayers (managers, umpires, executives) every four years.
Along with the three hitters he named last week, Jay Jaffe sees three qualified pitchers among the 11 on the Hall of Fame ballot.
The 2004 election saw the writers tab just the third reliever for induction, as Dennis Eckersley joined Hoyt Wilhelm and Rollie Fingers among the bronzed legends. While Eckersley's dominance and his usage pattern ("Just the Saves, Ma'am") contributed mightily to his election, his decade as a starter and the stats he garnered in that role mean that his ascension offers us little insight on the writers' view of what makes a Hallworthy reliever. The standards for starters may be somewhat easy to discern, if lately a bit unrealistic, but with a growing number of quality relievers on the ballot, the continuous evolution of the closer role, and the paucity of standards to measure them by, sorting out the bullpen elite poses a hefty challenge to voters.
One of the great lessons of the sabermetric revolution is the idea that the pitcher doesn't have as much control over the outcome of ballgames (as reflected in his win and loss totals) or even individual at-bats (hits on balls in play) as he's generally given credit for. Good run support and good defense can make big winners of mediocre pitchers on good teams, and .500 pitchers of good hurlers on mediocre teams. As such, it's important to examine the things over which a pitcher has control and account for those he does not.