DiMaggio vs. Williams

I just finished reading an essay in George Will's book, "Bunts" concerning
the '41 season and the rivalry between Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio. Will,
along with most other historical and modern analysts of the '41 season,
clearly feels that Dimaggio's 56 game hitting streak was a "greater"
achievement than Williams's '41 season (when he hit .406 and I believe won the
triple crown).

I thought it might be a good exercise to see based upon the modern analytical
tools, like EQA, EQR, etc..., which player actually had a better year.


It was statistically more difficult, but Williams was probably a more valuable
hitter even over the same 56 games. It just wasn’t spread as evenly as

Anyway, Ted Williams‘s 1941 season is very close to the best offensive season
ever. He had a .420 equivalent average that year. Babe Ruth beat that in 1920,
by hitting .423, and that’s it (unless you want to pretend that the Union
Association was a major league in 1884, and say Fred Dunlap hit .431). He had
157 equivalent runs, which is “only” 26th all-time; its only the second-best of
his own career, since he’d come back in 1942 with 165. His batting was 10.9
wins to the Red Sox above what an average player would have generated in
Fenway park, and that stands as the seventh best ever, behind four Babe Ruths,
a Mickey Mantle, and a Lou Gehrig.

And yet…

I’m not sure DiMaggio didn’t have the better year. He certainly did not hit as
well as the Splinter, but with a .363 EQA, 139 EQR, and 8.0 WAA, he definitely
outhit everyone else in the league (Joe’s teammate, Charlie Keller, was a
distant third in all three categories at .338, 120, 6.0). The issue is

The best measure I have on fielding right now, which looks at the overall team
fielding statistics as well as individual totals, show that, prior to leaving
for WWII, Joe was every bit as good a center fielder as the legends portray
him, worth about 25 runs more than an average outfielder. The Yankees had
terriffic overall defense, and that hurts DiMaggio and Phil Rizzuto in the Total
baseball fielding runs. Ted’s numbers, by contrast, are somewhere around -5,
making for a 30 run difference between the two in the field.

30 runs is about three wins–compared to a 2.9 win advantage for Williams at
the plate. That’s why I have to say that the choice of DiMaggio for MVP in
1941 is in no way outrageous, as other analysts have written before. With the
caveat that I have far more confidence in the batting numbers than in the
fielding numbers, I rate it as essentially even; the freak numbers (56-game
hitting streak vs .400 batting average) are essentially even from today’s
perspective, but the hitting streak was clearly seen as a bigger
accomplishment then (no one knew that it would be the _last_ .400 batting
average for 58 years and counting; and DiMaggio’s team won the pennant.)


The Mets. Again.

You said in your Transaction Analysis that
the Mets rotation is bad.
The Mets rotation is bad?!? Reed, Hampton, and Leiter will combine for 45-50
wins, at a minimum. And by what measure is Mulholland better than Rick Reed.
And what has Bruce Chen ever done, exactly? Glenndon Rusch is the Mets'
fifth starter, by the way. And it's 50/50 that he has a better year than Chen.
Book it.

But it is fun imagining you kids running around your offices in your pajamas
spouting this and other ridiculous anti-Mets rhetoric (like Rey Ordonez not
being a good fielder; Mike Hampton not having as good a 2000 as Octavio
Dotel; Roger Cedeno as the second coming of Paul Blair in center). What a

--Randomly generated Mets fan

Let’s take each point in turn.

  1. The Mets rotation is bad. Is it? This depends on your point of view.
    If you labor under the misconception that everyone’s going to be as good
    as their best year this year, then you’re expecting a lot. Rick Reed and
    Al Leiter aren’t young, and both have health problems. Reed has gotten worse
    in each of the last two years since his excellent 1997. Leiter has been
    hurt two of the last three years, and above average in terms of his ERA
    relative to the rest of the league once in those three while pitching in
    good pitcher’s parks. If the Mets get Leiter’s 1998 and Reed’s 1997 and
    Mike Hampton‘s 1999, then that’s a really good 1-2-3, no doubt about it. But
    Hampton won’t have the Astros’ offense scoring runs for him in 2000,
    he’ll have a Mets offense featuring several aging players and serious
    downgrade of Todd Zeile from John Olerud. Neither Reed or Leiter are
    great bets to match their best seasons in recent years. That’s why they
    call them best seasons, and the number of pitchers who outperform those
    at 34 or 35 is very few indeed.

  2. 45-50 wins? Shame on you for measuring starters in terms of wins,
    because wins from starting pitchers are dependent on much more than just
    their performance. If they had the 1999 Indians offense scoring runs for
    them in 2000, and all they matched their best years, even then all you’d
    get from me is a definite maybe on 45 wins. By
    Michael Wolverton’s SNWLP,
    these three didn’t get to 40 support-neutral wins on the basis of how
    well they pitched.

  3. Terry Mulholland outpitched Reed in 1999. You could look it up. Could Reed
    outpitch Mulholland in 2000? Sure. But Mulholland is less important to
    the Braves than Reed is to the Mets, considering Mulholland has Kevin
    , Greg Maddux, and Tom Glavine on his team.

  4. What has Bruce Chen ever done? Pitched better than Glendon Rusch over
    the course of his professional career. Could Rusch pitch better this
    year? Again, very possibly. Is he a better pitcher? With pitchers, you
    never can know for sure what the future holds, so again, maybe. Is Chen
    the better bet to have a better career? If how you pitch is supposed to
    tell any of us anything about how well you will pitch, the answer is yes.

  5. Pajamas? Me, an ex-Teamster in my thirties, wearing pajamas? Talk
    about a vivid imagination. Holy Prospectus Cave, Batman, we’ve got to get
    downtown and stop Ed Lynch from trading Corey Patterson to King Tut! Fire
    up the Prospectusmobile! [Ed. note: like the Popemobile, but with wider seats.]

  6. Is Rey Ordonez a good fielder? I don’t think I’ve ever claimed he
    wasn’t. However, the objective evidence is overwhelming: Ordonez hasn’t
    turned up as a great (not good) shortstop by any worthwhile defensive
    statistical measure yet. Does that make him bad? No, but it does make me
    distrust any claims of all-time greatness. I’m willing to believe he’s a
    good shortstop who gets seriously overrated by provincial New Yorkers and
    a SportsCenter mentality that flips anything he does up on the screen a
    lot more quickly than it would for somebody like Rey Sanchez. I’ve seen a
    lot of baseball, and I’ve seen a lot of shortstops make a lot of great
    plays. Hell, I’ve seen Archi Cianfrocco spear a screamer over the bag
    going to his left, which I wouldn’t have thought possible until that
    moment. I wouldn’t trust my eyes, your eyes, or anyone’s eyes to tell us
    everything we need to know about defense. Anecdotes about seeing a player
    make a certain great play is just that, an anecdote. Its about as
    valuable as your average SportsCenter highlight. It tells you nothing
    about how well a player plays his position over the course of the season,
    but it does tell you somebody made a great-looking play that night.

  7. Mike Hampton versus Octavio Dotel. Who’s going to have the Astros
    scoring runs for him, and who’s going to have one of the oldest lineups
    in baseball trying to score runs for him? Which one of them has a great
    handler of pitchers managing him? Admittedly, by all rights and on the
    basis of experience, you’re correct to expect Hampton to have the better
    year in 2000. But when you give a great handler of pitchers one of the
    best arms in the game, there’s reason to expect great results. Keep in
    mind that barring injury, the issue isn’t going to be one of who’s going
    to have the better career from here on out. Dotel should, and what’s
    exciting about his talent is that it isn’t inconceivable that he could
    break out big this year. There’s more than just a new ballpark to get
    excited about down in Houston.

Buck up, kiddo. Chances are the Mets won’t finish behind Philly or the


Davenport Translations

You guys do a great job--maybe the best--at overall organizational
perspective, especially from the all-important financial aspect. (though we
could, and maybe will debate your theories on 'small market' baseball) But
then you go and ruin it all by coming out with some nonsense like Homer Bush
hit .260 (EqA), when in the REAL world he hit .320!!

Then some knucklehead
comes out and says that Roger Cedeno was the best RF in baseball???!!! 'A
dominant defensive force'??!!! He had the highest BS avg. in the league.
Watch some baseball kid! At least 50% of all Met fans (I'm a Dodger fan) knew
that Cedeno would be long gone after his repeated siestas in the OF, not to
mention that Cedeno was the laundry lady's dream.

C'mon guys, trying to 'standardize' everything cheapens your insights into
the game. Homer Bush got a hit 32% of the time last year, and you can take
that to the bank.


We know Homer Bush hit .320 in 1999. Look at his DT line–it has a
column for batting average, and it lists him as being close to .320 (at
.314, actually; he got a little help from playing in Skydome).

But that is only batting average, and not all .320 hitters are created equal.
Some guys hit .320 and still draw walks, getting themselves onbase to score in
front of the next guy. Bush doesn’t. Some guys hit for power, and get doubles,
triples, and home runs instead of singles. Again, not Bush. So if you looked
at the player’s total contribution to team offense, you could have Bush, with

506 PA, 120 singles, 26 doubles, 4 triples, 5 homers, 21 walks, 32-8
basestealing, and a .320 batting average,

Or you could have a league average player for those same 506 PA, and get

506 PA, 84 singles, 24 doubles, 2 triples, 15 homers, 49 walks, 9-4

The second player only has a .274 batting average, but his offensive value is
just as high as Bush’s; 10 homers and 28 walks just about cancel out the 35
singles. Look at it this way:

           1st   2nd   3rd   Home   Out
Bush       101    58    4     5     338
Average    120    33    2    15     332

That’s assuming all the basestealing is from first to second. Bush has the
higher batting average, but still has to walk back to the dugout more often
than Joe Average. Why? Because he never reaches base via the base on balls.
And you can guesstimate runs scoring by figuring 100% for each home run, 75%
for each time on third, 50% for second, and 25% for each time on first. Bush
comes out to being worth about 62 runs this way, while Joe Average will get 63.

What it all means is that, looking at total offense, Bush was a league average
performer last year. And
Equivalent Average,
which is a measure of total offensive production, defines a league average player
as .260. Any league, any time. So that’s the rating Bush got.

Hopefully, this will put a final rest to the Homer Bush–Davenport Translations
confusion: just as you can take Bush’s .320 batting average “to the bank”,
Bush’s hits were less valuable than average, another bankable fact.

As for Roger Cedeno,
I saw him fall asleep in the field a few times. I also saw him use his speed
to catch balls on the fly that Tony Gwynn would have played on the fourth
hop. Speed is all-important in the outfield, and I’ll take a daydreaming
gazelle over an attentive sloth eight days a week.

People see the same thing, and draw different conclusions. You’re welcome to
yours, but I think the Mets are going to wish they had Cedeno in the field,
rather than Derek Bell.


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