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Entries in Babe Ruth (3)

Tuesday
Jan142014

Big Papi Refuses to Get Old

Red Sox GM Ben Cherington recently said that "the door will be open" for the club to discuss a contract extension with David Ortiz, who will pull down $15 million next season during the last year of his current deal. For most 38-year-olds who don't contribute in the field and on the bases, the door would have slammed shut years ago. But Ortiz, fresh off a season in which he posted the best park-and-league-adjusted OPS (60 percent above average) among qualified hitters this side of Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout and Chris Davis, just won't get old. Forget slowing reflexes and declining bat speed -- Big Papi is too busy hoisting World Series trophies and sporting WWE championship belts.

In fact, Ortiz's lumber looks as quick as ever. He annihialated "hard" pitches -- fastballs, cutters and splitters -- in 2013, boasting the third-highest slugging percentage in this game against those high-speed offerings.

Baseball orthodoxy says that sluggers lose their quick-twitch fibers and prodigious power as they age. Not Ortiz, who is actually yanking more hard pitches to right field -- and launching them deeper -- as he creeps closer to forty. His pull percentage and average fly ball distance versus fastballs, cutters and splitters has increased three years running.

Ortiz's pull percentage and average fly ball distance vs. hard pitches, 2011-13

        

In addition to his World Series and pro wrestling gold, Ortiz can now claim his place as one of the all-time great batters among old dudes. Ortiz has the fourth-highest OPS+ ever for a hitter from age 35 onward (minimum 1,500 plate appearances). A chemically enhanced Barry Bonds, Ted Williams and Babe Ruth are the only batters who mocked Father Time more effectively than Big Papi, though those guys continued raking into their forties.

(Source: Baseball-Reference.com)

Should the Sox pony up one last time for Ortiz? History hasn't been kind to similar sluggers. The list of DHs who have thrived from age 38 onward is an awfully short one: Just Edgar Martinez (132 OPS+), Brian Downing (130 OPS+) and Harold Baines (111 OPS+) managed to be at least 10 percent above average with the bat while logging 1,500+ plate appearances. And keep in mind, these are guys who only contribute offensively. Still, are you going to bet against Big Papi at this point? Eventually, he's going to slow down. But if there's one thing we've learned while perennially writing his baseball obituary, it's that Ortiz cares little for typical aging curves.

Sunday
Jul072013

Fun With Baseball-Reference's Neutralized Stats

If you are a regular reader of this site, then you are no doubt, a regular visitor to Baseball-Reference. Which means you also know about Baseball-Reference's neutralized batting and pitching stat tables. If you don't, here's a rundown.

Baseball-Reference took the time to create a special, interactive-like, table where you can adjust a players stats to reflect what they could have been like had the player put up his stats in a different season. Want to change Babe Ruth's 1927 hitting line? See what it would have looked like had he played for the Montreal Expos in 1987? Go for it. Want to see what Jimmie Foxx's 1932 would have looked like had he and his back pocket flask been a member of the Miracle Mets in 1969? You can do that too. See? Fun.

This is fun.

So I was sitting around, doing what people normally do when they live in a town of 1,900 people (which is nothing), and said to myself: "Self. Let's go play around with Neutralized Batting on Baseball-Reference for a few hours. It's not like we are doing anything else today." Then I took my meds, and the voice stopped. But it had already given me a good idea.

And now, here we are.

So let's start with the aforementioned Babe Ruth and his 60 home run 1927 season. The original home run record. A year where the Bambino hit an astounding .356/.486/.772. Now, let's jump into our Dalorean with it's flux capacitor and take this season ahead in time. Add some extra competition. Ruth played in an eight-team American League in 1927 and without interleague play, had the chance to face each team 19 times.

The major league average for runs scored by a team during the 1927 season was a healthy 4.75. Thanks largely to a Yankees team that was stacked from top to bottom, and anchored in the middle by Ruth and fellow slugger, Lou Gehrig.

Now, let's take Ruth out of that season, and put him on the, oh, I don't know, the 1988 Dodgers. Ruth still gets a ring (even though Kirk Gibson reportedly blows up on him in Spring Training for his eating habits), but he now has to face 11 other teams. And the National league average for runs scored is nearly a full run lower at 3.881. What happens?

Ruth is still a monster, but is not as historically monstrous.

He hits 53 home runs instead of 60. Drives in 135 runs instead of 164. And his slash line takes a hit as he now hits .321/.448/.692. If Ruth played his entire career under the circumstances only playing in Dodgers Stadium, and every year the league average for runs scored during a game was at 3.881, he wouldn't hit 714 home runs. He wouldn't hit 700 home runs. He actually falls below Willie Mays and finishes his career with 652.

Which speaks more to the testament of how otherwordly talented Ruth was as a hitter.

Even if you place him in an enviroment where he faces more competition, and where less runs are being scored, and all of his games are being played in a pitchers park. Babe Ruth is still a sure-fire Hall of Famer. Amazing. 

Let's go contemporary.

In Baltimore, Chris Davis is having a season for the ages. He has already matched his career highs for home runs and RBI, and the Orioles haven't even reached the 90 game mark. But what if we took Chris Davis into that same Dalorean, maybe this time with Michael J. Fox driving (I get tired from driving. I'm sure you understand), and place him in an even more favorable hitting environment? Like, oh, I don't know, pre-humidor Colorado in the year 2000.

The 2000 Colorado Rockies scored 968 runs. Baseball-Reference's much-better-at-the-math-than-me stat heads figured out that if they only played games in Colorado, they would have score 1,013 runs. But how would the 2013 version of Chris Davis fare in the middle of a lineup that sported a breakout season from a young Todd Helton?

He would already have 42 home runs and 127 RBI to go along with a slash line of .381/.459/.846. Or roughly Todd Helton's entire 2000 campaign. That's how neutralized batting says he would fare.

So, in summation...

Congratulations to every era of baseball that didn't include Babe Ruth. No matter when he played, there stands a good chance he would have owned that time in baseball history.

And congratulations to the 2000 National League. You didn't have to face what Chris Davis has turned into. A ferocious lefty with power for days weeks months eons. Yeah, that sounds about right.

Check back in next time when I play around with Neutralized Pitching. We'll do some flip-flopping of Christy Mathewson and Pedro Martinez.

We'll have all kinds of fun.

I'll even bring some dip.

Thursday
Oct252012

Sandoval Hacks His Way Into History

Babe Ruth. Reggie Jackson. Albert Pujols. And now, Pablo Sandoval. The Panda joined those legendary sluggers last night by hitting three home runs in a World Series game, hacking the Giants to an 8-3 win over the Tigers in Game 1.

Sandoval punched two 95 MPH fastballs from Justin Verlander over the fence, chasing an 0-2 pitch high out of the strike zone in the first inning for a 421 foot center field shot and then going the opposite way in the third frame when the reigning AL Cy Young and MVP tried to hit the outside corner. In the fifth, Sandoval clubbed an Al Alburquerque slider 435 feet to center.

  Location of Sandoval's HR in Game 1

Sandoval has now gone deep six times during the postseason, and four of those shots have come on pitches thrown outside of the strike zone. The Panda has long been a free swinger, chasing the third-highest rate of pitches (41.7%) during the regular season. But he has expanded his already Bay-sized zone in October, chasing half of pitches thrown off the plate. That is, by far, the highest mark among hitters with at least 30 plate appearances during the playoffs:

       Highest Chase Rate in 2012 Playoffs

BatterChase Pct.
Pablo Sandoval 50.0%
Robinson Cano 41.5%
Derek Jeter 40.3%
Prince Fielder 40.2%
Angel Pagan 40.0%
Miguel Cabrera 37.0%
Matt Holliday 36.8%
Delmon Young 36.7%
Curtis Granderson 35.0%

 

Sandoval's three homers last night came on two of the game's toughest pitches. Verlander limited batters to a .389 fastball slugging percentage during the regular season, sixth-lowest among AL starting pitchers. Alburquerque held hitters to a .094 slugging percentage on his slider, fifth-lowest among AL relievers.

If Sandoval goes deep twice more during the World Series, he will tie Barry Bonds, Nelson Cruz and Carlos Beltran for the most homers ever hit during a single postseason. Pitchers beware: ball or strike, Sandoval's coming up swinging.