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Classic Player Info - Tidbits and Ditties


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O.k. - so here goes...

In his book "Win Shares" - baseball statistics guru Bill James takes on one of the most perplexing and complex areas of player evaluation: Assessing player fielding. You can't just look at fielding percentage - things like range, arm strength and anticipation all go into makeing a player a good - or a bad - fielder.

For first baseman James evaluates players on the following criteria via formula's that James himself calls obscenely complex:

Plays made (40%) - btw the unassisted putout plays a big role in this

Error Percentage (30%)

Arm Rating (20%)

Errors by the teams shortstop and third baseman (10%)

He also takes into account items such as the teams pitcher's ground ball tendencies and predominance of left handed pitchers.

The best (A+ rating):

Tino Martinez

John Olerud

Wes Parker

Vic Power

Bill Terry

Almost great (A rating):

Jimmie Foxx

Steve Garvey

Mark Grace

Frank McCormick

Wally Pipp

The failing grade (F rating):

Dave Kingman

Pedro Guerrero

Carlos Martinez

D*ck (Dr. Strangeglove) Stuart

Frank Thomas (White Sox)

Ron Blomberg

Brad Fullmer

Nick Etten

Others of note - Marvelous Marv Throneberry (D)

Bill Buckner (B)

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Where is Jeter on that scale?

I'm only looking at first baseman now and will cover shortstops in a later post - however since you asked Derek Jeter is a D+. In other words, well below average to poor. Jeter rates in the same class as Mark Grudzielanek.

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PaulW --- I always remember Mike Hargrove in the '70s as an excellent first baseman. What's his grade ?

Cepeda was often considered a fairly good 1st sacker as well --- not great but steady.

I would personally rate as some of my top tier defensive 1st sackers of the '60s:

Bill White

Norm Siebern

George Scott

Boog Powell

Orlando Cepeda

Lower tier guys might be:

Don Mincher

Donn Clendenon

Harmon Killebrew

Dick Stuart

Lee May

Not sure how that stacks up with Bill James take on it all ..........

Good stuff you are presenting here --- Thanks,


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Don - Believe it or not Hargrove rates a C+. Just slightly above average. Here's your others:

Bill White A-

Norm Siebern B

George Scott C+

Boog Powell C-

Orlando Cepeda C+

Don Mincher B-

Harmon Killebrew B (at 3b D)

Donn Clendenon C-

D*ck Stuart F

Lee May B-

This is an interesting validity study - your top group has a GPA of 2.6, your bottom group 1.87. I'm suprised myself at Killebrew and Mincher.

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Darn - I remember Strat-O-Matic having Hargrove as a # 1 defense rating and on occassion a # 2 but never lower. Looks like there's a little disagreement on that front.

Of course I don't think anyone ever factored in errors by the teams shortstop and third baseman and weighting it at 10% of a players defensive ability. That does make sense to me since it somewhat reflects a potential for a high degree of good accurate throws or bad throws to first from those positions.

But that Arm Rating factor weighted at 20% for a firstbaseman's defensive ability is a bit of a stretch for me to agree with. A first baseman's arm strength isn't that big of a deal in my opinion. Of course a strong arm helps on the seldom seen 3-6-3/1 double play situations as well as the very infrequent need to throw across the infield to 3rd and probably even more seldom throws home. A 20% weighting factor assigned for a 1st baseman's arm strength is out of whack in my opinion. But I know I am not qualified to argue with Bill James so I will accept him being correct on his rating system but I personally just don't feel that totally comfortable with it.

I might have to start reading some of his stuff. I buy his books for my sons but have never really sat and tried to understand his approach to things.

But tell me you opinion on wheather all Major League Managers buy into his rating system and his phylosophy on how the game should be played. I think he is the one that states that a sacrifice bunt is seldom the appropriate thing to do since available outs are more valuable in almost every situation versus moving a runner up even in a close late inning game. That really goes against the grain in my book - of course a team's make up certainly effects bunting as the appropriate thing to execute at certain points within a game.

This would be great conversation over a few cold ones ------ !

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But that Arm Rating factor weighted at 20% for a firstbaseman's defensive ability is a bit of a stretch for me to agree with. A first baseman's arm strength isn't that big of a deal in my opinion.

With this in mind, where does Bagwell fall?

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Bagwell rates as a B-. Mickey didn't play enough games at first to be rated by James. Here's a few other guys just for fun that are in TC:

Ernie Banks B (C as a shortstop); Norm Cash A-; Gordy Coleman A-; Ferriss Fain B-; Hank Greenberg A-; Lou Gehrig B-

James has an entire article on arm ratings for first baseman. It's too much to summarize other than James states that "almost all 1b assists that AREN'T 3-1 tend to be significant plays".

There are guys besides James who are even more into game theory and rate events like sacrifice bunt value, etc.. I personally don't buy into much of that. Research is made of two components - quantitative and qualitative. The qualitative (i.e. subjective) part is usually more important. Numbers are only a part of any analysis.

Now, I can't wait to get going on some of the other positions. I think third base is going to be *real* interesting. I'll probably start that next. Lots and lots of other stuff I want to cover.

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Back in business! Sorry I've been away for a bit - my personal life is rather "complex" these days. Also I had a minor Tiger Woods 2007 distraction - I love that Augusta National that was released on coursedownloads.com.

Third baseman:

50% - Assists vs. Expected Assists

30% - Errors

10% - Sacrafice hits allowed

10% - Double plays vs. expected double plays.

All alone at the top: Clete Boyer A+

The next best thing: Mike Schmidt A; Tim Wallach A;

The upper class (A-): Buddy Bell, Scott Brosius, Billy Cox, Darrell Evans, Gary Gaetti, Wayne Garret, Greg Nettles, Terry Pendelton, Brooks Robinson, Robin Ventura, Bill Werber

The lower class (D): Bob Dillinger, Butch Hobson, Dave Hollins, Chipper Jones, Harmon Killibrew, Pinky Higgins

At the bottom (D-): Dean Palmer, Paul Schaal.

Kind of interesting that Brooks doesn't make it to the top *via the numbers*. However, from other sources I've read the fact that Clete Boyer at his prime was the best ever at third becomes a very real possibility. I'd love to hear your comments.

One more quick comment on Billy Cox vs. Brooks Robinson. Casey Stengel was quoted after seeing Brooks Robinson play that he's got the range that Billy has but his arm just doesn't match up to Billy C..

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He does have Joe Torre listed in the numbers but not in his list. Torre has a numeric rating of 2.12. This is identical to Harmon Killebrew so Torre would rate a D. C. Boyer rates a 4.97. ARod just doesn't have enough data when this was published to rate. My guess is very, very good.

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Here's just a little bit on a different subject - Roger Maris. Maris had a career .218 batting average against lefties. He was also strictly a pull hitter with only 5 career homeruns going to left field. His pull numbers are similar to Ted Williams - considered the "all-time" pull hitter.

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I've often heard and believe to some degree that during a span of 5-6 years Clete Boyer was one of the best 3rd sackers ever to play that position defensively. His brother wasn't all that bad either but probably didn't have the range that Clete had.

Now Brooks Robinson had a longer career and excelled in the range and hands/release departments as well plus had a few spectalular years and inparticular shined brilliantly in key post season games.

It really would be hard for me to place Cletus above Brooks but perhaps during a certain span in his career it would be justified for defensive purposes. Now if I were to have the pleasure of drafting either of these guys I would select Robinson without hesitation due to his longivity and more important because of his bat.

What struck me as peculiar was Paul Schaal being so lowly rated because I do recall he had a couple really good years at 3rd but I never followed him that closely to really know his stuff.

Also I seem to recall that Terry Pendleton had a really rough beginning at 3rd defensively but learned to almost master it later in his career as your findings support.

Aurelio Rodriguez was one I remember as being a standout defensive 3rd sacker as well.

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I want to definetly research this one some more, Don (eg. Boyer vs. Robinson). I put in the Casey Stengel remark because it seems to indicate Robinson's arm was not outstanding (like Cox). I'm going to spend some time watch hoops tonight down in my library - it'll give me a good opportunity to check some other sources besides James. Marquette (our home town team - although I went to UW-Milwaukee) is getting *crushed* right now. It started out 14-0 MSU.

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