[This is the first official post for Patrick Jeter, long-time commenter here as JDX19, at Redleg Nation, but it won’t be his last. Patrick will write a regular column for us this season. Welcome aboard! – SPM]

Every baseball fan is likely to have a certain set of statistics they trust above all others. For some fans, the traditional grouping of batting average, home runs, and runs batted in provide solace in analysis. For other fans, rate stats like BB% and HR/FB% reign. Yet another group of fans stakes their reputation on indexed and valuation stats like wRC+ or WAR. Every statistic has its own merits. Knowing which tool to use in varying situations is half the battle. Today, however, I want to explore an idea on which we can all agree; being completely and utterly dominant in any particular stat is good thing. This should not be a contentious statement.

With that in mind, let us look at the most accomplished player in each of a few selected statistics among current MLB players with at least 1000 plate appearances:

Chart1

Many of these stats should be familiar to the loyal readers of Redleg Nation. A few, however, may need some explanation. Feel free to explore and then come back. You’ll be glad you did.

I chose these stats because they are the kind of stats I value. Batting average is not particularly important to me, but it was included because it is one of the most common stats and everyone understands it. I avoided counting stats (like HR) in favor of rate stats (like HR/FB) because playing time affects counting stats. Likewise, I avoided WAR because of the same playing time concern.

What can we tell from looking at the chart alone? Well, not a lot. We see that players such as Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, and Votto have been very good over their careers in relation to their peers. We see that Ryan Howard and Giancarlo Stanton have a lot of power. We see that Mike Trout is, by one measure at least, the best active offensive player. None of these statements should come as a surprise.

Now, let’s take a look at a chart showing the league average of each of these statistics from 2015, as well as their standard deviation.

[Quick Primer for Standard Deviation: In any normally distributed population (baseball is fairly normal), about 68% of samples fall within 1 standard deviation of the mean (league average, in our case), 95% of samples fall within 2 standard deviations of the mean, and 99.7% of samples fall within 3 standard deviations of the mean. If you look both positively and negatively, the entire population, shown as a bell curve, encompasses about six standard deviations.]

Now, onto the chart!

Chart2

Given the idea introduced in the “quick primer for standard deviation” above, let’s look at what the range of each of these statistics becomes when we both subtract 3 standard deviations (low) and add 3 standard deviations (high) to the 2015 league average:

Chart3

Given what we know about standard deviation and normal distributions, this information tells us that we can expect just about every major leaguer to fall somewhere between a .236 OBP and a .398 OBP for their career, to fall between a 43 wRC+ and a 157 wRC+, and for their batting average to be no lower than .188 and no higher than .320. Based on these numbers, a theoretical “worst hitter of a generation” would be something like a .188/.236/.243 sort of hitter, also known as a pitcher. The “greatest hitter” would be something like a .320/.398/.567 hitter, also known as Miguel Cabrera. Seriously. His career line of .321/.399/.562 is eerily close to an exact match.

But, this post is not about Cabrera. By now some of you may have wracked your brains and deduced it’s about Joey Votto. Other clever readers may have simply read the title of this article! I recommend the latter. Nevertheless, now that we have all the above established, let’s go back to our initial graph of the career leaders in each category and substitute in “standard deviations above-average” for the actual measure. This measure is a proxy for what I’ll call “dominance.” The more you are above the average, the more dominant you must be. We will sort the chart in descending order with the highest standard deviations above-average (SDAA) at the top:

Chart4

How should we interpret this information?  The statement “Joey Votto is better at getting on base than anyone else is at any other offensive baseball skill” is how I would put it.

At nearly 4 SDAA, Votto is what we like to call an “outlier.” At 3 standard deviations you’ll recall a normally distributed population will have accounted for around 99.7% of all samples. Votto is nearly a full standard deviation above that point. Here is a histogram as a visualization aide for his deviance:

Chart5

The vertical axis represents the number of players in the group, while the horizontal axis represents the OBP of the group.

I don’t have to tell you who the single data point on the far right belongs to. His peers aren’t close, statistically speaking. For fun, the unfortunate soul on the left of the histogram is Mike Zunino, who should be on a short rope in Seattle this season.

We have arrived at our final chart. Aren’t you glad you stuck with me?! No? Ok, we’re almost done, then! Here are the same stats, but this time showing the difference between the player in first and the player in second, again sorted in descending order:

Chart6

From this perspective, we see that Votto’s OBP is nearly a full standard deviation above the player in 2nd; the aforementioned Cabrera. This represents the largest gap for any of these stats between the player in first and the player in 2nd.  Not only does Votto hold the mark for most SDAA of any statistical leader, but he also holds the mark for largest margin between the leader and the player in second place.

We know Joey Votto is a great hitter. Some of us may even realize he has been historically good. However, I hope we can now all realize there is another word that aptly describes Votto …

Deviant.

Join the conversation! 112 Comments

  1. Really great article and very enjoyable read.

  2. I don’t live that far away from pedophile Jared from Subway here in Indy so Joey Votto Deviant made me feel kind of queasy at first? I’m all better now although Lamb was my fav pitching prospect to watch being a lefty as well so hope he gets back fast!!

    • Dude, really? I live in Broad Ripple, don’t throw our city in with that sick-o

  3. The problem I see with the new influx of stats is the overvalue placed on a walk. The stats place the same value for a walk as a hit. Not accurate. A base hit is always good, but an out is sometimes better than a walk. I realize this blog promotes sabermetrics in a big way and I am not against it.

    • Can you give some examples of the times an out is better than a walk?

      Maybe a sac fly or a run-scoring groundout – but that’s all I can think of.

      • All through my playing days, I would hear coaches say “a walk is as good as a hit.” In terms of just getting on base, they are right, but “driving in runs” and advancing runners the walk pales in comparison. I’m sure there has been statistical analysis somewhere done on the value of a single vs. the value of a walk, I’m going to search for that…

        • Steve mentions weighted On Base Average (wOBA) below, which is basically your one-stop-shop for accurate weighting of events occurring during an at-bat.

          Here are the run values of each event:

          Walk: 0.69 runs
          Single: 0.88 runs
          Double: 1.27 runs
          Triple: 1.62 runs
          HR: 2.10 runs

          wOBA then takes all those things and scales them to be on the same scale as OBP for ease in understanding.

          For example, as seen in the first chart above, Votto is still the active leader in wOBA at .410. The fact that this is lower than his .423 OBP is indicative of the fact that walks are less valuable than hits.

          I’ve got a future post lined up talking about RE24 (Run Expectancy for the 24 Base-Out States), which is a metric that is the sum of all positive and negative things you do while at-bat in a non-context neutral environment. It uses the same principles as wOBA but goes a step further. For example, RE24 weights a walk and a single with the bases empty the same.

        • Very cool, thanks!

    • OBP does treat a walk the same as a hit, but other common advanced stats don’t. Examples of that include wOBP, wRC+, WAR etc. That’s no different than the notion that batting average treats doubles the same as singles, even though the former are better. Yet how many broadcasters and old-school analysts use batting average as the be-all, end-all way to tell whether a hitter is having a good year?

      In 2015, a walk produced .687 of a run. A single produced .881 of a run. Those numbers are not based on theory, they are calculations from all the actual games played in MLB over the season. Singles are worth more than a walk by two-tenths of a run. That backs up your claim.

      But it also shows why OBP is a better single indicator of offensive production than AVG. Walks may be less valuable than singles, but they are much closer in value to singles than outs. So AVG is more incomplete because it ignores walks altogether, compared to OBP.

      Better yet, if you’re going to look at just one stat, use ones like wOBA and wRC+ that weight each plate outcome based on its average run production.

      • Well stated!

      • I think the argument with Votto is that there are times when he takes a walk when putting the bat on the ball might be more productive, especially given that:
        1. The Reds’ offense has been so inconsistent at scoring runs (i.e. He should take opportunities to drive in runs when he can, as opposed to taking a walk) and
        2. He is more likely to be successful at putting the ball in play than the guys behind him, who have had a tendency to strike out much more (Frazier and Bruce, in particular)

        Sometimes I wonder how much players and coaches are informed about situational probabilities, and how many of them use this data to adjust their approach for a given situation. I know there have been studies done on these types of things, many revolving around the effectiveness of the sac bunt.

        Votto seems to be receptive to analytics. I don’t know the numbers, but I wonder if he is cognizant of the probabilities of scoring a run given the situation. Does he use data to inform his approach in an at-bat with a runner on second and one out, or does he simply think, “I need to get on base”?

        • Very good question, Jason. I haven’t started research yet, but I’m planning on an RE24 article that will look to shed some light on these types of topics.

        • I think part of what’s missing in that argument about Votto taking walks when putting the ball in play would be better, is Votto getting a good pitch to hit. Votto has an elite eye and we all know that there is a strong correlation between swinging at balls outside of the zone and making weak contact. If he’s not getting a good pitch to swing at what helps the team more? That he walks or that makes *potentially* poor contact at a pitch he tries to put in play? Protection certainly plays a role in it as pitchers will simply not allow Votto to hurt them and take their chances with Bruce, Byrd, Frazier or whoever was behind him.

          Situational probability would still need to consider that swinging at a pitch that the percentages state will lead to weaker contact is less likely to produce a good outcome.

        • Someone can probably find it, but I remember once Votto saying something like there are 27 different possible at bat situations. I used to sit in the camp that he should swing too, but that comment by Votto did a lot to change my mind.

        • Janish, Votto was probably referring to “RE24,” which is a table of the 24 base-out states (i.e. – man on 1st 2 outs, or bases empty 1 out) that shows run expectancy from that point until the end of the inning. By comparing the difference with where you started (bases empty, 1 out) to where you end up, say, with a Votto walk (man on 1st, 1 out) you get the RE24 stat, which is the additive measure of all base-out changes you made occur while on the field.

      • Based on this very informative info I have a bold prediction…….. this year votto will have an increase in hr’s and rbi’s but a decrease in avg. This year votto predictions = 35 hr’s, 110rbi’s, 295avg.

  4. Well, as long as that word isn’t “Elite,” it should keep some people happy.

    Great write up!

    • Thanks, Jesse. I intentionally avoided using “elite!” Perhaps in the future we’ll explore such things! 😉

      • Really good column, Patrick. Even for a math dunderhead like me. “Elite” would be fine with me: It’s an appropriate adjective for Joey.

  5. Great stuff Patrick. More reason to feel good about rooting for Votto, and more reason to expect that he’ll be a deviant in terms of the aging curve. The skills that make him stand out are skills that should age (relatively) well. Thanks!

    • I agree 100%. I think many years from now we’ll all be looking at Votto’s contract as a bargain because he’ll likely have aged so well.

      Regarding Votto’s own views on aging, a piece Eno Sarris did is up for a SABR award where he interviewed Votto on the same topic. A fantastic read for any Reds fan. Just search for “Eno Sarris Votto” and you’ll get the article.

      • Great article man. I had seen those aging comments from Votto before. What a professional. He is obsessed with his craft and wants to be exceptional for as long as possible. In today’s age of superstars checking into rehab, going bankrupt, demanding trades or worse, having the best player on your team obsessed with excellence is a gift not all franchises in major sports receive. Let’s hope our team can eventually do something with it.

  6. Excellent write up. Walking us through the charts was very informative. Big Votto fan here.
    This article just helps to forge my belief in Votto’s hitting approach. “Historically good” as you say, is spot on. We are very privileged to witness Votto’s greatness 162 times a year. This article also shoots holes like a Gatling Gun in the argument that Votto’s contract, as many say, is a bad contract for the Reds. Unless Votto has another serious injury, the Reds will never be upside down during the length of that contract.

    • Totally agree, WV. I’m personally very happy that Votto will likely be a Red his whole career.

  7. As far as first columns go, this was a dandy. Great stuff. I expect that all future columns from you will also have >2 charts and >=1 graph. If not, maybe retire on a high note….

    • This one made me laugh! I’m just hoping Steve doesn’t boot me out for taking up tons of space in the photo repository with charts and graphs.

      Thanks for reading!

  8. Like many, I’ve long wondered why other Reds hitters simply don’t try to be like Joey. After seeing these numbers and the extent of his dominance across all of MLB I’m convinced that Joey Votto is simply an all-time-great outlier in OBP. It’s no longer a matter of “won’t” for other Reds, but “can’t”. Joey is amazing.

    Excellent write-up and welcome aboard!

    • Thank you, I-71! Much appreciated!

    • To think a couple years ago the Reds general manager said in public that the organization was going to talk to Votto about changing his approach.

  9. Can we make this all a bit more simple? Can we just talk about a player’s weight instead of his weighted averages?

    • Jumbo Diaz. Future HOFer?

      • Nice! Actually, Jumbo started with a weighted weight average close to +300.. But as seen last season, it shrunk, an indicator of the the diminishing dimensions of his performance.

  10. Votto is so good, he can walk on only 3 balls every now and then.

    I do think Votto walks a bit more than can be expected simply because the opposing teams don’t fear the hitter behind him. Why not nibble at the plate with Votto, if you aren’t worried about Jay Bruce behind him, or Frazier after his production had declined at mid-season. The strategy of “Don’t let Votto beat you” has been fairly easy to execute lately.

    It would be interesting to see what numbers Votto would put up in GABP with a real solid, consistent guy behind him. I would think it would be fewer walks but more line drives.

    My guess is that the reason other Reds don’t copy Votto is pretty much the same reason other guys don’t shoot like Stephen Curry.

    • I couldn’t agree more with your post. Who in their right mind would give him something to hit when no one else can beat you? I’d walk him every time.

      Votto’s legendary second half coincided with one of the worst 80 game stretches in Reds history. I don’t think that was a coincidence. Barry Bonds at least had Jeff Kent.

      On the flip side, It’s amazing how great Joe Morgan became when he had Bench, Perez and Foster batting behind him.

      Having plate discipline sounds easy in theory, but difficult to actually do.

    • Totally agree with your post as well. Who would you rather pitch to Votto or the rest of the clowns on that team last year? He will see even more walks this year. On any team with good hitters that put the ball in play ( not the strikeout machine we call the Reds) Votto would clean up. I would love to see him on the Bluejays. My God his numbers would be astronomical.

  11. Nice first article and gratz on being included into this talented bunch of writers. I always enjoyed you commnets before.

    • Thanks a ton, Citizen. I’ve appreciated your comments over the years, as well.

  12. I just read an article where Bryce Harper suggested that the notion of a 400 million dollar contract would be “selling him short”. He didn’t rank 1st or 2nd in any of these categories. Has he not met the 1000 plate appearance threshold?, or is he just completely insane.

    • Harper is only 23 and is just reaching his potential. He may not rank tops of these categories for his career now, but if he has another year or two like 2015, he will.

      Beyond the Box Score recently did an article comparing Harper and Votto saying they have comparable plate discipline. The two had very similar BB and K percentages last year with Harper’s ISO being 91 points higher. He had an incredible year.

    • Must be nice to live in a world where earning $400 million is being “sold short”.

    • Harper had “pretty good” seasons as a 19, 20, and 21 year old while also fighting some nagging injuries. Last year, in his age 22 season, he had the best non-Bonds season in over 50 years. Unfortunately for him, he’s judged against Mike Trout, who has had the best 4 year start to a career ever.

      Harper, if he can prove that last year’s changes are real, will be better than Trout going forward since Trout has some additional value tied up in speed and defense.

      Also, Harper will hit FA as a 26 year old, I think? That’s pretty uncommon.

      • Patrick: I assume that you don’t mean to imply that speed and defense are not legitimate values?

        • Nope, I guess I should have finished that sentence.

          Speed and defense deteriorate quickly as you age, while hitting does not. So, IMO, Harper will be the more valuable player when they are both in their mid-20s through the rest of their careers because I believe Harper to be a more talented hitter.

          Since they are both so young, though, I expect Trout to still be a perennial 8+ WIN player for another 3 years or so before he starts tailing off. The guy is amazing, really.

        • Thanks for the clarification, Patrick. Makes sense.

  13. The last time opposing teams had to pitch to a healthy Joey Votto, was from April through June of the 2012 season. The results Joey put up during those 3 months were nothing short of extraordinary (.350/.471/.632) with 33-2B and 14-HR in 266 AB. Votto was on pace to shatter the record for doubles during a season. He had a .409 BAbip and a .282 ISO and was well on his way to his 2nd MVP in 3 seasons. Votto hit 3rd during the 2012 season and Reds fans know all too well what happened to derail his MVP season, but coincidently, Votto had production behind him in the 4th and 5th positions of the lineup during the 2012 season so opposing pitchers could not afford to pitch around him…

    4th=> 0.875 OPS by Ludwick
    4th=> 0.848 OPS by Bruce
    4th=> 0.804 OPS by Phillips

    5th=> 1.121 OPS by Ludwick
    5th=> 0.823 OPS by Bruce

    Compare Votto’s healthy 3-month 2012 season (.350/.471/.632) with Harper’s much-ballyhooed 2015 season (.330/.460/.649). Of course Votto then lost two of his prime-productive seasons to the knee and quad injuries. The 2016 season represents another opportunity for a healthy Joey Votto to step up for another MVP run with support from the #4 and #5 holes in the lineup if Mesoraco and Bruce(?) can put up 0.800+ seasons. Of course if the #1 and #2 holes are again consistent outs, that will minimize the effectiveness of the big bats in the middle of the lineup.

    • You are certainly right about that. The #4 and #5 holes will be important. But who among Phillips, Cozart, Suarez, Hamilton, Duvall, YorRod, or Cave are going to hit #1 and #2????? This is where your darkhorse candidate, Tyler Holt, could play an immense role if he has a good spring. Holt and Suarez might have to hold that down. But something tells me that BHam and BP will be those 2 spots. Oh well.

      • I actually wouldn’t mind Phillips in the #2 hole (as a temporary option for 2016) with his aggressive, singles approach he utilized last season and I agree, this may be the last, best opportunity for Holt to plead his case for a major-league roster spot and playing time. I’m still holding out a miniscule, faint hope that the comp pick tied to Fowler causes him to hold out until June and then the Reds bag him without the lost of a draft choice and finally have a multi-season, top-of-the-lineup option available for a reasonable cost. With Fowler, Winker and Votto in the same lineup, the Reds team plate approach might finally get away from the all-or-nothing approach. I Bruce comes out the the gate like a blockbuster, he might be tradeable around the same time, bringing back some real prospect(s) and salary relief cover the aquisition of a top-of-the-lineup hitter.

        • If,if,if…. Bruce does this or that. Chances of Bruce doing anything is doubtfull. Bruce would need somebody behind him that would make pitchers pitch to him. Unless its,Votto I don’t see Bruce putting up big numbers.

    • Wait a minute, are you saying protection is not a myth?

  14. I still find it amazing that nobody on the Reds has tried to mimic what Votto does at the plate.You would think being around him and watching him play everyday that something would rub off just by accident.This really tells me that the organization does not value what Joey does at the plate at all.Mind boggling isn’t?Great article Patrick.

    • How would you mimick him? He’s a great hitter so teams rarely challenge him. He swings at something he can drive or he takes the walk. Teams throw strikes to Billy Hamilton and he can’t hit strikes.

      I appreciate your point….but there’s a reason most players fail 75% of the time

      • Agree with your point. Most hitters cannot consistently and effectively discern which borderline pitches to take and which ones need to be spoiled, let alone consistently get their bat on the those needing spoiled to foul them off. Votto is a fusion of mental talent, physical talent, and an effective mental game plan.

      • Ain’t that the truth!

    • If it were that easy, the whole league would mimic Joey.

  15. wish he could do something more useful like driving in runs at that rate. You should be driving in 100 in you’re sleep at 200M.

    • If the hitters in front of him got on base about 22% more often (given some solo HRs turn into 2-run HRs from men on 1st)… so a .360 OBP instead of around .300 OBP, Votto would have had 100 RBI last year.

      • If you’re paid 250M, you should be able to create runs….and he didn’t hit as well with RISP and preferred to walk than hit

        • sorry that you apparently think 29/80 is good enough for 25m/yr

        • John, I’m not going to try and convince you that RBIs are a useless stat. The mountains of evidence and research and evidence out there should have already done that.

          But, Votto made $14M last year and won’t make $25M until 2018. So at least please state the facts correctly instead of intentionally getting them wrong to try and aide your argument.

        • okay so we’ll be paying a guy who hasnt driven in 100 runs in 5 years 25m at 35…how does that supposed to make me feel better about him again?

        • Why the preoccupation with the money? It isn’t your money. Obviously the owner felt comfortable giving his money to Votto. By every measure in the world except RBI, Votto is one of the best hitters of the last 25 years. Like, top 5.

          If your argument is based on opportunity cost, who would you rather have that was available? You can’t just go out and sign great hitters. You know, Matt Kemp had 100 RBI last year. Would you rather have had Matt Kemp (0.4 WAR) than Votto (7.4 WAR)?

          If the only stat you understand is RBI we can’t really have a conversation about why you should feel “better” about one of the best hitters of his generation.

          If you want to hang on RBIs, that’s your prerogative. But don’t try and deride Votto because his teammates can’t get on base in front of him and his managers are ignorant of correct lineup construction.

        • Did he tell you that he prefers walks over hits? He makes more outs than walks so I assume outs are his ultimate preference?

          He rarely comes to bat with RISP and no one in their right mind throws him strikes in those situations.

        • He’s stated that he prefers to walk than to drive in runs with an out, yes

        • Source, John?

  16. I would probably rather have Kemp than Votto at their respective price tags, yes. Kemp is more athletic, is signed for 4 years cheaper not 8 more (!!!) and can drive in a lot of runners. He would have had 30+ jacks and 110+ RBIs if he played in GABP not the biggest pitching park in baseball.

    • You can’t drive in people who aren’t on base.

      • That wasn’t the only issue last year with Votto. He hit much worse with RISP, preferring to walk. Walking does not drive in runs

        • So, for his career Votto hits .327 with men in scoring position. What is the issue?

          I don’t get it. You are so stuck on the number “100” for seemingly arbitrary reasons.

        • In all probability Votto was pitched to differently with runners in scoring position.Pitchers rarely want to challenge him, less so when there are men on. He’s not hitting in a vacuum. On a team with other formidable hitters and lots of baserunners, he’d drive in a lot of runs. He prefers walking to making an out, as any sensible hitter would.

    • Well, if you’d rather have a replacement level player than an MVP-candidate, we’re done with this conversation. Well, at least I am. 🙂 Thanks for reading, though. For real.

      • “replacement level” yet he hit 20/100 in the hardest park to hit at in baseball, whereas Votto drove in 80 in GABP. This is why WAR is silly.

        • Matt Kemp made 445 outs last year. Joey Votto made 376 outs.

          Joey Votto played 158 games. Matt Kemp played 154 games.

          Votto: 2.38 outs per game, 0.51 RBI per game
          Kemp: 2.89 outs per game, 0.65 RBI per game.

          Put another way, do you really think each RBI is worth 3.5 OUTS?

          That’s ludicrous. If a team sacrifices 3.5 outs for every run they scored, they’d more than half their runs per game… easily being the worst team in history.

          Votto avoids outs better than any player. Avoiding an out is the #1 thing you can do. If everyone on a team avoided outs you’d score infinite runs.

        • Would the Padres trade Matt Kemp for Votto? Yes.

          Would the Reds trade Votto for Kemp? No.

        • My eyes are bleeding that this even has to be explained any more.. Patrick, I salute you for your patience.

        • Ok, so if we want to look at a team dependant counting stat like RBI to state a particular case we should also be able to use another team dependant counting state like Runs scored. So, my point countering yours is that Votto scored 15 more runs than Kemp last year. If it’s aLloyd about runs then those 15 scored by Votto offset 15 RBI.

        • So the 15 more runs scored offset 15 of the additional RBI that Kemp had and in a Reds lineup that was much worse than the Dodgers lineup. Nevermind that Votto is a much, much better hitter in general.

        • Patrick, I believe this John Templeton guy is just trolling you. There’s no way anyone with a shred of baseball knowledge or experience would put Kemp anywhere in the same ballpark with Joey Votto.

          Players like Kemp are a dime a dozen. Players like Votto are very rare; maybe 4-5 other players in the league are on his level.

        • Thanks for the vote of confidence, Doc.

          One of the best things about this site, compared to many others, is the lack of trolls. I wouldn’t put John in that category quite yet. RBI certainly has a powerful hold on part of the baseball world.

      • Patrick you have shown using JV as an example just why the RBI is of limited use as a stat. Would I like to see JV “expand” the zone sometimes with a runner on, yes I would but it is because the man on deck isn’t likely to drive them in. Great hitters hit strikes and being able to lay off the marginal pitches is what makes Votto the hitter he is. The other Reds are not going to be able to match his ability but I do wish they would at least adopt his approach.

    • I believe John has officially reached troll status… Can’t even believe this is being argued. Votto had the best second half since Ted Williams last year, and a fantastic all-around year in general. Matt Kemp helped the Padres accomplish what they’re best at: missing the playoffs despite a great team on paper

  17. To me, the best part of this post is that Patrick is offers explanations and links to help demystify the “stats” and where they come from, and that’s not intended to depreciate the actual content. Sort of like the difference between giving a hungry person a fish and sending them on their versus teaching them how to fish for their self.

    I look forward to the ensuing articles in this series.

  18. Very nice first article Patrick!

  19. Welcome to the team, Patrick. Great start. Always enjoyed your comments and am glad to see you writing for the site now.

  20. Great article! It made me appreciate JV even more.

    I especially liked the stats you used to illustrate your point. I’m somewhat familiar with the new stats, thanks in large part to reading RN since discovering it a couple of years ago, but I’ve been trying to learn more about them in the past few weeks to prepare for the upcoming season, so I think I got more from your article because of that. 🙂

    To give an example of the different perspective new stats can bring, Steve, in his “Tuesday afternoon Reds news” post from 02/09/2016, wrote the following about John Lamb: “In 10 starts for the Reds last year, he had an impressive 26.4 percent strikeout rate (would have been 11th best among all major league pitchers) and 3.56 SIERA.” I’d rather be given those stats (that’s why I’m here!) as opposed to the traditional ones, like, for example, he was 1-5 and had an ERA of 5.80 (sourced from Fangraphs), as they much better represent JL’s performance and give me more hope that he can contribute something positive to the pitching staff if he makes the team out of spring training.

    I hope I haven’t been too long as I kind of “deviated” (pun intented) from the topic at hand.

    • I’m glad you posted this, I had missed Steve’s article. I watched all of John Lamb’s starts for the Reds and was impressed by him, as were many others at RLN. It’s no surprise that his won/loss record does not reflect how well he pitched, but it’s interesting that SIERA captures the “eye test” much better than ERA in his case.

      I don’t believe that ERA is a useless stat, I expect his ERA to fall considerably with a larger sample size.

      Too bad abut the surgery, I hope he’s OK.

      • Thanks for mentioning sample size. Being new at this, I overlooked this key concept.

        I don’t believe that ERA is a useless either, but just thought at this point in time the difference between SIERA and ERA was striking, and personally I’d rather be presented with SIERA now that I know it it better reflects a pitcher’s performance.

        I certainly hope JL is OK, as I’d love to see him and at least one other lefty in the rotation.

  21. This is great stuff. I have enjoyed your comments as JDX19 (insightful, sometimes humorous and always civil) and am happy to learn you’re one of the new writers.

    On another topic, has anyone seen this fangraphs article: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/the-historically-bad-clutch-hitting-of-the-2015-reds/
    It wasn’t just some of us imagining that the 2015 Reds were bad at hitting in “high leverage” situations, they were the worst team at it since the stat has been recorded (1974). The chief culprits were Todd Frazier and Jay Bruce.

    This IS a Fangraphs article, they point out that this clutch measure has no little or no predictive value, teams and players vary widely at clutch hitting from season to season.
    It’s actually good news for the 2016 Reds: if they’re just average (which is as good a guess as any) in the clutch in 2016, that gives then an 8+ win advantage over the 2015 Reds.

    • Thanks for posting this link. It got old being told we weren’t seeing what we were seeing just because the one guy in particular (TF) was so good in nonclutch situations. There was nothing wrong with what he accomplished, it is just that batting behind Votto he had so many opportunities to do much more.

    • Thanks for that Pinson…for once my old eyes weren’t deceiving me. It got to the point where I was expecting Bruce and Frazier to fail, which was not fair to do. (since there was a 70% chance of failing anyway)…It was just frustrating to watch though.

    • Thanks, Pinson!

      That FG article was pretty interesting. Un-clutch hitting can certainly doom a season! Fortunately (unfortunately?) for the Reds in 2015, it didn’t really matter, as they were going to be bad anyways!

    • Cool article. I’ve argued before and I’ll argue again – I do believe there is something measurable about clutch performance (pitcher vs hitter and verse vice-a) that is tangible, measurable and reproducible. I suspect we do not know what that is, or how to measure it. Bill James admitted in original work that there likely was value in defensive performance but that he lacked the tools to measure it… and now here we are. I suspect the same applies to Clutch Performance. Here’s hoping our industry-leading, robust statistics department on Pete Rose Way figures it out first ;).

      • I’m with you right down the line on this issue. Hopefully the relationships will be discovered and the Clutch Performance will be publicly defined sooner rather than later because with the proprietary efforts being made by the various orgs, at this point, we don’t even know what we don’t know that they know.

      • At this point, the prevailing thoughts about clutch seem (to me) to be that 1) it exists to some extent, mostly revolving around the idea that some guys handle pressure better than others, and 2) it’s not a repeatable skill. If it WERE a repeatable skill, and Player A has a .950 OPS in clutch situations, and a .900 OPS in unclutch situations, then why isn’t the player trying to be a .950 OPS guy in every situation? The idea that a hitter can get better in tough spots is a fallacy, unless that hitter is not trying his hardest in non-tough spots. I’d guess we’ll be more likely to discover in the future that some guys drop performance, but none can magically increase performance.

        • I wouldn’t say some batters don’t try as hard in non-clutch situations; but, I do think many change their approach depending on the situation which could yield a similar effect on stats. How many times do we hear a guy say after getting a “clutch” hit, that he was just looking to put the ball in play or just make contact? The statements infer that other times they are more focused on doing something else (typically I suspect elevate and hit the ball as hard as possible or jerk a center in pitch deep to their pull field)

          Going back to the Fan Graphs data, given that the players were evaluated by comparing their own non-clutch versus clutch performances, when you see extreme numbers like Frazier and Bruce over an entire season, it is hard to just write it off as random.

          Or maybe it will turn out to be the same principle you suggest but on the pitching side of things; i.e. that some pitchers habitually make mistake pitches in clutch situations.

        • You hit on an important topic, Jim. The pitchers. Most high leverage situations occur late in baseball games. During this time, a hitter is more likely to be facing a fresh flame-thrower and is more likely to have the platoon split against him. Because of this, many batters should be expected to do worse in innings 7-8-9 by facing tougher competition alone. Of course, there are times where you really need to get the man in from 3rd in the 5th inning, and it sucks to fail in those situations as well. But, this is a zero-sum game. If you have the most clutch pitcher and the most clutch hitter of all-time facing off in the deciding game of the World Series, one of them is going to have to fail, right?

          Regarding Bruce and Frazier, in our case “over an entire season” is less than 200 at-bats, right?

          By some smart math folks, batting average requires 910 at-bats before it ‘begins’ to stabilize, meaning that’s the point where the signal-to-noise ratio crosses 50%.

          It’s really tough to ignore what you see, and I’m not asking you to. It is an irrefutable fact that the Reds, and a few in particular, were very bad in clutch situations last year.

          All I ask is to keep in mind that “small sample size” means different things based on the situation. After all, a young Mike Trout hit .220/.281/.390 in his first September call up in 135 PAs. Now he’s the next Mickey Mantle.

        • Patrick, Understand what you are saying. I’m basically a self taught ordinal trend spotter. Unless and until I get around to learning more about micro crunching, I’ll defer on the significance/ whys 🙂

        • I really don’t know about clutch, though I have always tended to buy the concept. I wonder if it might turn out to be comparative: Some guys performance doesn’t drop off in those situations. Also, I think (but don’t know) that some people may concentrate, focus, etc. more effectively than usual in clutch situations, whether they should or not.

  22. Very nice article JDX. Now the important question, What baseball cards do you collect? 🙂

    • Thanks, VA!

      Well, I started getting back into it in 2013 after collecting as a kid in the early-to-mid 90s during the build up to the bubble burst.

      I have mostly just been buying a few boxes of Bowman when it comes out in April to start getting a nice supply of rookie cards. I’ve also been doing some buying/selling on eBay, trying to parley my knowledge of real baseball into an economic advantage. Not a ton of luck, so far!

      I enjoy the hobby, but it’s certainly economically (and time) prohibitive for me to go out and buy cases and cases at a time like some folks!

      • I started wayy back in 1978…Kept buying through the 90’s and the 2000’s. Finally got fed up with the over-produced new stuff, and went back to collecting vintage HOF players from the 60’s through 1990 graded by PSA. Tuo’re right about the economics…if only I had won the Powerball!!

        • I actually recently bought a PSA 9 1990 Frank Thomas Leaf RC for about $15. I wanted one as a kid (around $50 then) and could never afford it. Now it is mine!

      • Last year I really collected was 95 and I have the complete Bowman set and several duplicates from that season. Let me know if you need some commons to fill out anything you’ve got.

        I don’t have anything newer than 95.

  23. Interesting thing I stumbled across while playing with my new Play Index subscription… there are 3 lefties in MLB history that have a .395+ OBP and .500+ SLG against left handed pitching… Ted Williams, Barry Bonds, Joey Votto.

    It’s fun to have a guy like Votto on the team for a stat-head such as myself. “Stumbling” across stuff like this is almost a daily occurrence.

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Joey Votto is Perfect

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