The head of our stats team dives into his favorite gems within this new world of data.
As we prepared for Catchella, I spent a fair amount of time sifting through the data—65 years of it, to be exact. There are many stories and analyses to run, but there are just a bunch of fun things that I noticed while playing in the sandbox.
Brad Ausmus is one of the most durable and valuable receivers on record: 1st in blocking runs, 2nd in framing runs, 11th in throwing runs, 1st in total runs...suddenly on the fringe of the Hall of Fame. Is he more Mark Belanger or Ozzie Smith? Either way, the man managing the Tigers these days hasn’t completely given up the tools of ignorance.
Just how valuable would the late Hall of Famer have been if fantasy leagues were around during his playing days?
Last Wednesday, most of us woke up to news that the larger-than-life Yogi Berra passed away, leaving behind one of the greatest on- and off-field legacies in baseball history. In the past week, you might have read about Yogi’s remarkably consistent production, the output of the quote machine residing between those big ears, the amazing fact that he caught both ends of a doubleheader 117 times, or the accomplishment of winning a World Series ring for all 10 of his gnarled fingers. As when any great, admired person leaves us, we honor him or her by gathering, recounting achievements, telling stories, and remembering the ways they touched our lives. It seems we could do that forever with Yogi.
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A.J. Pierzynski seems to be doing something unprecedented. Guess what: He is doing something unprecedented.
Sometime last week on the Effectively Wild podcast, either Sam Miller or Ben Lindbergh mentioned the great year that A.J. Pierzynski was having, and how interesting it was that he was having such a year at 35, and how further interesting it was that he was having such a year at 35 after never having hit even remotely like this in his major-league life. "Jason, old bean," I said to myself, "Jason, that sounds like a topic that the good readers of Baseball Prospectus, especially the ones who don't listen to podcasts, might want to hear about. Or about which they might want to hear. Either way, they're interested."
Now, if I believe in anything, I believe in a clear and readable structure, so the first fact to establish is that Pierzynski, who prior to this year was mostly noted as a rabblerouser, a part-time playoff announcer who hews closer to Eric Byrnes than Orel Hershiser, and the one-time object of Brian Sabean's early-century fetishes, is in fact having a fantastic year. Here are some numbers: Pierzynski has a .298/.347/.544 batting line that translates to a .306 True Average; he has accumulated 27.2 VORP (which, you'll recall, includes all the stuff you find in WARP except for FRAA, and is expressed in runs above replacement); and 23 homers in 393 plate appearances. (All stats are through Monday night's games.)
It is a time to say thanks to and reflect on the baseball players who contributed to war efforts over the years.
One reason often cited for the birth of the super-hero comic book fad in the late 1930s was that the gaudily dressed characters, gifted with miraculous powers, could solve the problems of the world with a punch, unlike everyone else, who had to sit around and endure the nerve-wracking wait for the rise of Fascism to evolve into World War II, and then for World War II to have a positive resolution for the democracies. The idea of Superman being able to punch out a tank, or even deliver a love-tap to Adolf himself (or failing that, Joseph Goebbels) was reassuring to the younger set and far easier to understand than the movements of massive armies in faraway places.
Geoff Young recently used a BP Unfiltered post to come clean about his unrequited man crush on David Eckstein, setting off a wonderful comment thread in which readers described the players that they consider "guilty pleasures" - those that may not be stars, but are fun to watch nonetheless. Reading through the comments, I was struck by the many different types of players that can catch a fan's fancy, but one variety seemed to be particularly popular: The Little Guy. Maybe it's the David vs. Goliath matchup of the smaller batter versus the hulking pitcher that appeals to us; maybe we just identify with a more normal-seeming scale of player; in any case, shorter players seem to have some level of curb appeal that can't be explained by their stats.
The first half of an extended conversation with an OBP fiend about coming up with the Senators, playing for Billy and Yogi, and more.
Toby Harrah has been in the game of baseball for over 40 years, and the long-time infielder for the Rangers and Indians has loved every minute of it. Currently the minor league hitting coordinator for the Tigers, Harrah debuted with the Washington Senators in 1969 before going on to earn All-Star honors four times while spending all but one of his 17 seasons with the Senators/Rangers franchise and the Cleveland Indians. A shortstop and third baseman known for his patient hitting approach, Harrah finished among the league leaders in walks nine times, and in OBP six times. A right-handed hitter who broke into the big leagues under the tutelage of Ted Williams, Harrah had five seasons of 20 home runs or more and 238 career stolen bases to go with an OBP of .365. Harrah talked about his love for the game, including what it was like to play for managers like Williams, Yogi Berra, and Billy Martin, and with teammates like Joe Charboneau, Curt Flood, and Denny McLain.
Jim ponders Frank Thomas' uniform change this offseason, and finds some famous comparables who played out their last year in a strange uniform.
In this case, it's a combination of two words: "relocate" and "coda." For those of you who didn't spend four years of your life missing baseball games because you were in the high school band, the latter is a musical term meaning the concluding passage of a movement of composition. I conjured this hybrid word in honor of Frank Thomas's move to Oakland after 16 years with the White Sox. I'm applying it to all the players who nearly made it through long careers with the same team only to find themselves elsewhere for their swan songs, finales and, in the case of the pitchers who have been down this road, gotterdammerungs.