Category Archives: Season 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.

Longest Team SB Droughts

On July 20th, Yadier Molina, the catcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, stole a base. While uncommon, this is not noteworthy in and of itself. However, this particular stolen base ended a drought of 33 games without a steal for any of the Cardinals. A team with Ryan Theriot (28 SB in 2007), Albert Pujols (16 SB in 2009), Matt Holliday (28 SB in 2008), Lance Berkman (18 SB in 2008), Nick Punto (16 SB in 2008), and Colby Rasmus (12 SB in part-time in 2010) went over a month without a successful steal. They had been caught in each of their last 9 tries. Continue reading

It’s Hot as Halladay Out Here

Halladay got a dose of the heat he deals to hitters.

On Monday, sitting in my air conditioned house, I watched the 91 degree heat of Wrigley Field from safety. In a more vulnerable position, though, was Roy Halladay. The venerable ace labored through 4 innings, cutting curveballs through the heat and humidity. And for the first time since May 23, 2010, Halladay failed to complete 6 innings. That was an impressive span of 42 consecutive starts. Continue reading

Best 0 Home Run Seasons

A couple of baseball adages, when thought of together, can create a puzzling scenario. If the ladies just love the long ball, and everybody loves a winner, then where does that leave guys who help their teams win but don’t hit homers? The answer is that they get glossed over- both by the fans and in the history books. However, they deserve more.

There are many ways a batter can contribute to his team’s offense. Obviously, hitting home runs takes care of everything at once and is thus the most efficient. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other useful functions. The following 5 guys put together the best seasons without a single home run, as ranked by batting WAR (just the component of WAR from hitting, which doesn’t include fielding, baserunning, or positional scarcity). These guys got on base a ton, got plenty of extra-base hits, and stole bases at an effective rate. I used 1910 as a cutoff, because prior to that the league “replacement level” was so bad that many average hitters were far “above replacement level.” Without further ado, I give you the list: Continue reading