Category Archives: Records

‘Runs’ is a Bad Statistic

Runs scored is not a good individual statistic. It is often cited by announcers, given a prominent position in the box score, and even mentioned during MVP debates. A triple digit number under the ‘R’ column-header can propel a player from “deadweight” to “table setter.”

Fans and analysts assume that a player’s runs reflect his own skill. They reason that a player has to successfully get on base, and then he has to run well. However, it’s not an efficient way of measuring either of those things. First, as far as getting on base, it’s much better to measure that with… times on base. Second, a player does not have to run well in order to score a bunch of runs. A much larger factor is his team.

In 1910, Ed Lennox of the Brooklyn Dodgers scored 19 runs despite getting on base 136 times (including 3 homers, where he obviously brought himself in). That’s a miserable 14% clip. Somebody could conclude that he must have been as slow as molasses, but that isn’t true. He stole 7 bases and legged out 4 triples this season, and two seasons later he stole 19 bases with 10 triples. He might not have been a speed demon, but he move reasonably well. The bigger culprits were his teammates, who combined for -5 WAR (that’s a negative!). They had just 3 players with more than 35 RBIs. So, Ed Lennox was not to blame for getting on base without scoring, he was just a victim of circumstance.

OK, maybe Ed Lennox was pretty bad.

On the other side of the coin there is Al Simmons. In 1930, for the Athletics, he scored 152 runs in 251 times on base. Compared to the 14% clip of Lennox, his 61% is monumental. Simmons’ lifetime stolen base numbers in 20 seasons were 88-for-153 (57%), or in layman’s terms, not good. Simmons has his teammates to thank for his runs total. The two men directly behind him in the order, Jimmie Foxx and Bing Miller, drove in 156 and 100 runs respectively.

Should Al Simmons get credit due to his good fortune of being on the 1930 Athletics? Should Ed Lennox get blame for being unlucky enough to get stuck with the 1910 Dodgers? Of course not, on both fronts. Now, don’t get me wrong, on the team level, the game is all about scoring runs. Feel free to evaluate teams based on their runs scored. But don’t give 20% of the credit to a player who’s scored 20% of the runs. It is lineup dependent, teammate dependent, and opposition dependent. Don’t compare two players’ run totals and make a talent judgement between them.

Al Simmons, a Hall of Famer, had tremendous fortune in addition to his copious skills.

Most Bases from Errors in a Game

Errors hurt a team. By definition, they are mistakes that have hurt the team. If the center fielder makes a bad throw to home, it doesn’t count as an error unless something bad happened that shouldn’t have happened. That being said, some errors are more harmful than others.

Chuck Knoblauch knew a little something about errors. He has nothing else to do with this article, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity.

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Most Baserunners Allowed Without a Run

The job of a pitcher is to prevent runs from being scored by his opponent. Preventing baserunners is so closely tied to this job that they are often considered dual responsibilities. However, every once in awhile there is a pitcher who manages to do one of the two jobs well while doing the other poorly.

J.R. Richard pitched 10 seasons for the Houston Astros from 1971-1980. He was a fairly good pitcher, even considering the era of depressed offense and his park. The Astrodome was notoriously killer on hitters, being as pitcher-friendly as Petco Park in San Diego is now, per Baseball-Reference’s park factors. Still, he eclipsed 200 innings in 5 straight seasons, passed 300 strikeouts in 2 seasons (leading the league both times), and had a career ERA of 3.15 (8% better than league average over that time, adjusted for the park). He had 3 top ten Cy Young finishes, including a 3rd-place in 1979. Continue reading

Most Career 10+ ER Starts

Everyone has a bad day every once in awhile, but fortunately for most, they can forget about them easily enough. If you’re a Major League baseball player, it’s not so simple. Your bad days are in the record books for good, and there are plenty of people like yours truly to scour those books. Evaluating statistical excellence is like watching an Oscar-winning social commentary, but finding the worst of the worst is like the gory slasher. Nobody confuses it with something of substance, but we can’t look away nevertheless. This is the story of a handful of pitchers who are not too different from the victims of a violent movie. Continue reading

Vander Meer Wasn’t Perfect

Don Larsen’s during the 1956 World Series, Dave Stewart’s and Fernando Valenzuela’s on the same day in 1990, and Dock Ellis’on acid in 1970 are among the most famous no-hitters in MLB history. However, Johnny Vander Meer’s 2nd consecutive no-hitter in June 1938 also has a claim on that title. His feat is remembered and admired by casual baseball fans and diehard ones alike. Whenever I see a countdown of the “most unbreakable records” in either baseball or sports in general, I can count on Johnny making the list. And with good reason, because this combination of skill, luck, and opportunity doesn’t come along very often. Continue reading