Baseball, among all of the major sports, is the one most closely linked to statistics. There seems to be a stat for just about every circumstance one can imagine. Each year the game becomes more and more saturated with statistics.
The use of statistics in the greatest game of all is not new. The practice of keeping records of player achievements was started in the nineteenth century by Henry Chadwick. Based on his experience with cricket, Chadwick devised the predecessors to modern day statistics, including batting average, runs scored, and runs allowed. There is even a Dodger connection to the evolution of baseball statistics. During the early 1950s, Allen Roth, a statistician for the Brooklyn Dodgers, and Branch Rickey, developed the formula for on-base percentage.
We might say the modern era of statistics took off, beginning in the sixties. In 1964, Earnshaw Cook, a John Hopkins engineering professor, published, “Percentage Baseball”, one of the first sabermetrics essays. Then in 1977, the renowned baseball historian and statistician, Bill James, wrote his first Bill James Baseball Abstract in which he featured: “18 Categories of Statistical Information That You Just Can’t Find Anywhere Else”. Moneyball followed in 2003 and Fangraphs in 2005.
So what should we, as baseball fanatics, make of all this sabermetric invasion into the game we love? What are our own personal favorite statistics by which we measure players, one to another? I really don’t understand sabermetrics and have not read “Moneyball”. In fairness, I have not truly tried to engage with the more subjective, subtle statistics. However, I do have a few favorite stats that I think predate the sabermetric invasion.
On offense, if I could select just one statistic, I love on base percentage (OBP). It is so simple. If you got on base, then you didn’t make an out. The sole purpose of the hitter is to get to first base, hopefully beyond, but first base as a minimum. There is no other purpose to be standing at the plate. Every time the hitter gets to first base, he has the possibility of scoring a run. The greater his OBP, the greater chance he will score a run. In addition to that, being on base changes the dynamic for the pitcher. I understand that scoring a run depends on other factors on the field, but so do most, perhaps all other stat categories, so those factors are a constant with all statistics. I also appreciate batting average with runners in scoring position and two out runs batted in, but my top category is OBP.
On the mound I prefer ERA and WHIP as a measure of a pitcher’s performance. That is perhaps old school, but I still think ERA is important. It demonstrates how a pitcher battles during his innings, with so much happening around him, and ultimately what kind of a chance he gives his team to win the game – the lower his ERA, the better chance the game will be won while he is on the mound, or when he is replaced in the later innings by a reliever. The ERA is even more significant for the reliever, as he is pitching to very few batters, and the repercussions are greater as there is little time for his team to score more runs. WHIP is in essence a defensive statistic determined by a combination of walks and hits per inning pitched. Once again, it is simple. The fewer runners that the pitcher allows to get on base, the fewer possible runs there are to be scored against his team. WHIP too cannot stand alone, although the walks part of the statistic is about as close to standing alone as any statistic can be, since the walk is under the pitcher’s control, or lack of it, as is the strikeout.
In determining Cy Young awards, wins is a huge category. However, I submit wins is not a pitching statistic, but is a team statistic, garnered by a team, combining pitching, hitting, and defense. A win is arbitrary and can have very little to do with the pitcher’s performance. That is, a pitcher can pitch a Clayton Kershaw game and lose 1-0, or pitch very poorly and win 12-11. The win or loss is not a measure of either pitcher’s performance. That performance is more accurately measured by their ERA and WHIP. If wins are to be used as a pitching statistic, then a more accurate tally of wins might be how many wins the team secured in the games a given pitcher started. That would be a measure of how many games the pitcher gave his team a chance to win, depending on his ERA and WHIP, and they succeeded in doing so.
As mentioned, I am not a big sabermetrics fan. Just go out and play the game like they did in the good old days. I especially question the validity of WAR as a statistic that can even be calculated objectively.
“WAR measures a player’s value in all facets of the game by deciphering how many more wins he’s worth than a replacement-level player at his same position (e.g., a Minor League replacement or a readily available fill-in free agent).”
“For position players: (The number of runs above average a player is worth in his batting, base running and fielding + adjustment for position + adjustment for league + the number of runs provided by a replacement-level player) / runs per win.” Huh!
“For pitchers: Different WAR computations use either RA9 or FIP. Those numbers are adjusted for league and ballpark. Then, using league averages, it is determined how many wins a pitcher was worth based on those numbers and his innings pitched total.”
In calculating WAR someone is having a slow day and the pure guess work of the WAR statistic makes it questionable at best. I fully expect I do not understand WAR in all its facets and have not really tried to do so when there are so many other objective statistics that change with each at bat or inning pitched.
Another statistic that I call into question is the “save”. In many instances the reliever (closer) enters the game when it is not in jeopardy. For instance, the closer comes on in the ninth inning with a two run lead and no one on base. How is the game at risk with more that a one-run lead and the bases empty? It is not in need of being saved, just preserved. The game with a one-run lead is always at risk as any hitter on any given day can hit a home run to tie the game. Perhaps the “save” is just a misnomer.
For relievers, my favorite statistic has to do with how many inherited runners are stranded. I would suggest that games are often truly saved well before the ninth inning by stranding runners already on base. Walter Alston, back in the fifties, used right-hander Clem Labine at various points in the game to strand inherited runner. Those were the days before “saves” were “saves”. A recenty example would be Joe Broussard entering the game for the OKC Dodgers with the bases loaded in the seventh inning and none out. He did give up a run on a double play but closed out the inning with that lone run on five pitches.
MINOR LEAGUE REPORT by AlwaysCompete
We finally got back to four affiliate games, but the results weren’t as hoped. Three out of the four affiliates lost, with only OKC winning.
OKC – 8-4 win over the Round Rock Express (Rangers)
The OKC Dodgers won for the 9th consecutive game, moving to 10-1 and 2.5 games ahead of the Colorado Springs Sky Sox (Brewers) in the PCL American North Division. Manny Banuelos started and pitched well for the third time. This time he went 6.0 innings (89 pitches), allowing 1 run on 6 hits, with 1 walk and 7 K’s. His ERA is now 1.69 for his three starts and 16 innings. He has allowed 3 walks against 14 K’s. Guillermo Moscoso relieved Banuelos and made things interesting by allowing 3 runs on 5 hits in 1.0 IP. Edward Paredes came on in the 8th to close it out for his 1st save of 2018.
Offensively the OKC Dodgers had 9 hits by 9 different players, including 4 HRs and 2 doubles. Tim Locastro hit his 1st (solo shot), Rob Segedin hit his 2nd (2 run shot), Henry Ramos hitting his 3rd (solo), and catcher/DH Alex Burg getting his 1st HR of the year (solo). Travis Taijeron and Angelo Mora each had a double.
Tulsa – Shutout by Midland RockHounds 1-0
On the same night that Alex Wood had a very good start seemingly wasted, so did fellow LHSP Caleb Ferguson. After a nervous start to his AA season in his 1st game, Ferguson has been stellar ever since. Last night in 5.0 shutout IP (73 pitches), he allowed 2 hits, 1 walk, and 9 K’s. This was more of the Caleb Ferguson I began to religiously follow from his outstanding Great Lakes days 2 years ago. I can still recall the discussions DC and I had in that great 2nd half 2016 Loon season featuring Caleb Ferguson. His ERA is down to 0.87 in his three starts. 4 walks against 15 K’s in his 10.1 IP. Caleb is 21 and pitching well in AA. He has gone from a 38th round draft pick to a legit prospect. I could not be happier for him.
Okay…back to the game. Going into the 9th tied at 0-0, Dylan Baker got 2 quick outs, but then gave up 3 consecutive singles and the sole run on the night. In the bottom of the 9th, the Drillers loaded the bases with 3 walks and Errol Robinson coming up. Errol already had 2 hits on the night, but meekly grounded into a force out to end the game.
Following Ferguson, Karch Kowalczyk and Corey Copping combined to pitch 3.0 shutout innings allowing 1 hit and 1 walk.
The Drillers dropped to 7-5 but still have a 1 game lead in the Texas League North Division.
Rancho Cucamonga – Lost 11-7 to Lancaster JetHawks (Colorado)
Jordan Sheffield started and continues to struggle with consistency. He pitched 2.2 shutout innings before walking 2 and then a 3 run HR in the 3rd. He follows that with a scoreless 4th, but was completely undone in the 5th. He allowed a double and walk, which were followed by a sacrifice bunt putting runners on 2nd and 3rd. A passed ball and sacrifice fly plated both those runners and Sheffield was done. In 4.2 IP, Sheffield allowed 5 runs (4 earned), 4 hits, 3 walks, and 5 K’s.
23 year old RHP, Jeremiah Muhammad, made his 2018 debut, and it did not go as he would have hoped. In his 1.0 inning of work, he allowed 3 runs on 2 hits and 2 walks and 2 K’s. Sven Schuler followed and finished with 2.1 innings allowing 3 unearned runs on 3 hits and 1 walk. He was credited with a blown save with Muhammad getting the loss.
Offensively, the Quakes had 9 hits, led by Cristian Santana who went 3-4 with 2 doubles and 2 RBI’s. Gavin Lux went 2-3 also with 2 doubles and 2 RBI’s. Hamlet Marte was 2-5 with a double. Seeing Cristian Santana and Rylan Bannon in the lineup defensively at the same time gave notice to perhaps one of the reasons and side benefits of the Ariel Hernandez trade. 1B Ibandel Isabel, who may have stalled at High A, was included in the trade which opened up 1B for Santana, allowing 3B Bannon and Santana to now be in the same defensive lineup. I am sure that Santana will get continue to get his games at 3B, but I would rather he play than DH.
Great Lakes Loons – Lost 7-5 to the Fort Wayne TinCaps (Padres)
Walk, single, walk, wild pitch, single, single, K, HBP, walk…that is how Melvin Jimenez’s game went last night. He was finally pulled leaving the bases loaded for Marshall Kasowski. Kasowski promptly walked his first two batters giving the TinCaps 6 runs before the 1st inning was finished. The Loons never recovered but did make a game of it with 3 run HR by Zach McKinstry (SS) and a 2 run HR by Nick Yarnall (1B) before finally succumbing 7-5.
Kasowski finished his 2.2 innings allowing 2 inherited runners to score with his two walks. But after those two walks, he settled down and proceeded to retire the next 8 batters, 6 by strikeout. Zach Pop followed going 2.0 innings allowing the 7th run on 1 hit and 2 walks. Devin Hemmerich pitched the final 3.0 innings allowing no runs on a single hit, and 1 K.
Offensively the Loons had 12 hits. Besides the HR’s, both Yarnall and McKinstry had 3 hits each. Moises Perez (2B) had a 2 hit night, including his 1st triple.
It is good to see Zach McKinstry not take his apparent demotion personally. Last year he played at Great Lakes (17 games), RC (82 games), and Tulsa (15), and did not play that poorly. But he found himself back at GL and is slashing .429/.556/.619/1.175. He was obviously sent back down so he could play, as it seems he is blocked by Gavin Lux and Omar Estevez at RC. He turns 23 at the end of the month, and he is not considered a top prospect (33 round draft pick from Central Michigan in 2016). I am now pulling for him. Maybe Mark can get a word when he gets to a Loons game. It would be nice to get his perspective.
Finally, the Dodgers received their 1st 2018 award as Justin De Fratus was named the Texas League Pitcher of the Week. Below is a write up By Daniel Strickland of Dodger Blue:
The Los Angeles Dodgers were represented in Minor League weekly honors to begin the 2018 season, as Justin De Fratus of Double-A Tulsa was named the Texas League Pitcher of the Week for games played April 5-15.
The Drillers hurler had a very successful first week, not giving up an earned run in either of his two starts. De Fratus’ his outing start of the season came on April 7, when he tossed six shutout innings against the Frisco RoughRiders.
He gave up up just three hits while striking out four and walking one. De Fratus then allowed two unearned runs in a second outing against the RoughRiders, giving up four hits while striking out five and walking two in 5.1 innings.
In his two outings combined, De Fratus has only yielded seven hits in 11.1 innings, striking out three times as many batters as he has walked.