Hello there! I'm writing this guest post from Caracas for all of you guys who never seem to have enough of the baseball world.
You do know where Caracas is, right? You just have to Google "most dangerous city in the world," and you will find "cute little pictures" of my "cute little hometown." But besides that, Caracas—and Venezuela as a whole—are known for many things less negative than violence: Beautiful people, ridiculously cheap gas prices aaaaandddd baseball.
First of all, let me just clarify that Winter Leagues, such as the Venezuelan, are a little a bit more important than foreign fans might think. Granted, they used to be a lot bigger. The Venezuelan League, for example, saw Greg Maddux, Bob Gibson and Rollie Fingers all pitch, and enjoyed the shows that Pete Rose and Rod Carew displayed in their early years. Clayton Kershaw and Mike Trout aren't traveling south for the winter these days. But they are still kind of big…
Weeeell, at least over here they are. Because even if the foreign players don't have the "MLB star" status—they come mostly from Double-A, Triple-A and independent leagues—the local players have much better résumés than their counterparts in the 1980s did. After all, there have never been more Venezuelan players in major-league baseball than there are today, and a good chunk of that group tends to play regularly here.
I say all of this because I'm about to show you a couple of toys that we—and when I say "we" I mean journalists who look for numbers in this desert—use to get stats for and from our league, and I don't want you thinking this has no use in your part of the baseball world. That being said, let’s begin.
In winter leagues, I'm afraid to tell you, we don't have PITCHf/x or Trackman. We don't have heatmaps, and we don't have spray charts. Shoot, we consider having splits a freaking luxury! It's a hellhole for sabermetrician wannabes. There are, however, at least three ways you can get basic leaderboards of basic stats (AVG, OBP, SLG /ERA, BB, K).
First, you have the official page www.LVBP.com. This didn't exist until this year, but they finally put together some leaderboards that give a bit of light in the darkness. This site will show you Regular Season and Playoffs leaderboards and collective starting/relief pitching splits. No other site offers this, and it's very useful to see, for example, how much managers relay on their bullpen over here. (It's crazy!!!).
Second, you have your MLB.com official website for the Caribbean. It's pretty handy, but even more basic than the LVBP official page. This site offers you collective stats from all winter leagues. You can find hitting and pitching leaderboards, but you can't get game logs or anything like that. This site feeds itself from an MLB private service. If you manage to get the password for this site you will have a flashlight to work in this obscure cave called WINTER LEAGUES, but even this flashlight will get you only as far as 2006.
But lastly we have the Venezuelan version of Baseball-Reference. This is, if you ask me, the Jewel in the Crown.
The site is www.purapelota.com, and the creators of it are my friends José Montilla (@datobinario) and Moisés Díaz (@Purapelota). Here you can find a profile of every single batter or pitcher who played in Venezuela since 1946. You can get, for example, the number of homers that Barry Bonds got in this league in 1985 playing with Navegantes Del Magallanes.
I know, I know. That example doesn't have walks and strikeouts. I hate to take the wind out of your wings, but walks and strikeouts for hitters are only available since 2005 on this website. Home runs allowed, shutouts, and runs allowed (not to be mistaken with earned runs), are also missing for pitchers until 2005.
But putting that aside, this portal has incredible stuff. The best one? Inspired by Sean Forman's baby, these guys created a search engine modeled on the world famous "Play Index." To go there you just have to click on the upper right window called "Eventos," or just click here. You will find five categories:
1. Fielding searches
This is the most recent addition. It brings a little help to the defensive data discovery quest here in Venezuela. The downside is that is super limited because it's only since 2013.
2. Regular season batting searches
Here you can play with a lot of things. Anyone who has been "Play Indexing" for a while will have no trouble working with this search engine. There are, however, a couple of tricks: A) If you only want results for one season you have to check the little square that's right beside the phrase "Una temporada." This is how you switch from career results to season results. B) When you see in the criteria specifications the initials "MLBg" don't raise your eyebrows. This is only a tool that these guys developed to identify the players that had major-league games in the same season that they played here in Venezuela.
Using this engine, I can tell you that 47 batters that had at least one game in MLB in 2014 also played in Venezuela during the 2014 regular season. For an eight-team league, that's not a bad number, right?
3. Postseason batting searches
You might not know this, but in Venezuela a foreign player who never played in the regular season is allowed to participate in the postseason. So you have weird cases like Alfredo Marte, who only has postseason stats.
4. Regular season pitching searches
Basically the same as Regular Season Batting Searches, but for pitchers.
5. Postseason pitching searches
Again, kind of the same as Postseason Batting Searches, but for pitchers. With this you can find that Dave Evans, a former sixth-round pick of the Mariners who topped out at Triple-A, had a second life as the Venezuelan League's Mariano Rivera: He went 4-0 with six saves in 19 career postseason relief appearances, with an ERA (1.08) that was lower than his WHIP.
And if you don't understand a single word in Spanish let me help you with a couple of things:
- Pais de nacimiento = Country of birth
- Desde = Since
- Hasta = Until
- Edad del pelotero = Age of the ballplayer
- Lanza = pitches
- Zurdo = lefty
- Derecho= righty
- Temporada debut= Debut season
Well, I think this is it. I really hope you enjoy these new toys and share with me any kind of questions that you may have regarding this subject. (You can as me on Twitter @octaviolider.) Meanwhile I'll be over here trying to get this league to the next level, pushing the right buttons and stalking the right people to finally install some PITCHf/x camera in my cute little baseball obsessed town.
Thank you for reading
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