Friday, May 6, 2011

Friday Baseball Post

Happy 80th Birthday, Willie Mays!

The Greatest Living Players Lineup:

C  Piazza (or Bench, or Berra)
1B Musial
2B Morgan
SS Rodriguez
3B Schmidt
LF Bonds
CF Mays
RF Aaron
P   Clemens
P   Seaver
P   Johnson
P   Maddux
P   Marichal

OK, that last pick might be pushing it.

I'm proud to say that I did see Mays hit a home run (in San Diego, of all places; I probably saw him hit a few in spring training, but I have neither memory nor evidence of it). I also have a great memory of watching Mays, Fuentes, and others hanging out in the lobby of the Francisco Grande hotel lobby; we used to drive down for a day every spring, to watch the Giants intersquad game just before spring training games started.

Happy Birthday.


  1. I second this good wishes. I saw Mays once too, in a game against the Cardinals at Busch stadium. He didn't hit a home run that time, though, I don't think.

    Reminds me, maybe someone who knows baseball stats better than I do would know this: Is there any way to find out how rare it is for both the first AND last pitch of a game to be hit for a home run? Because I was at such a game at Wrigley Field in about '87.

  2. P.S. Hah! The capcha word I was just given for verification was "trump." Coincidence?! (And I thought I'd already seen the "dirtiest" word it would ever give me with "turdstop." But I guess capcha has sunk to new lows.)

  3. I believe that Ivan Rodriguez is still among the living, and that he has a higher career WAR than Piazza or Berra...

  4. BP has Piazza about 20 wins ahead of Rodriguez. Not that any particular system is has I-Rod 24 wins better than Piazza over their careers. I don't know; that seems implausible to me.

  5. I add my own birthday wishes for Mr. Mays. I saw him live-and-in-person only once, at Crosley field in Concinnati, in maybe 1960 or 1961. My memore of the game is that he got no hits and made two errors, and I was thoroughly disappointed...

  6. Sean Smith breaks WAR down into component parts. Very useful as a sanity check.

    Batting: Piazza +316
    Other offense: Rodriguez +24
    Defense: Rodriguez +269
    Durability: Rodriguez +103

    Now Piazza played in a lower offensive context so his runs went further.

    What it really boils down to is this. In a discussion about greatness how much does a long stretch of useful mediocrity add to a player's case. To my mind, roughly nothing.

    Piazza's case is built on the ~53 WAR he put up between 1993 and 2001 while Rodriguez was really a top notch player between 1996 and 2004 (where he piled up ~46 WAR)

    And they're really tough guys to compare. Rodriguez in his prime was death to the running game. Piazza started out OK but overall he's the worst against the running game of any catcher with a substantial career. In their respective primes the difference was somewhere in the 20-25 runs a year (and closer to 25) against the running game.

  7. I will add that BP's defensive metrics are pretty terrible, which is particularly important here.

  8. Scott -

    I tend to be loyal to BP but agree with you about the fielding, but I would assume that catcher throwing is about the easiest part of fielding to quantify, no?

    Linkmeister --

    Koufax is clearly not in the same conversation as Clemens, R. Johnson, Maddux, and Seaver. I don't think he's really in the mix for the next spot, either, although I'm aware I'm mostly pushing it with Marichal.

  9. No Ricky Henderson? Hmm

  10. If you go by career peak, Pedro Martinez finishes ahead of both Marichal and Koufax. Here's a WAR/IP breakdown:

  11. "Koufax is clearly not in the same conversation as Clemens, R. Johnson, Maddux, and Seaver." Clearly?

  12. Paul,

    Yeah. Obviously Koufax's only case is peak, right? So top five seasons by ERA+

    SK: 190, 188, 160, 159, 142
    RC: 226, 222, 213, 178, 176
    GM: 271, 262, 189, 187, 166
    RJ: 197, 197, 193, 188, 186
    TS: 194, 175, 165, 150, 146

    So he's nowhere near the first three, and not clearly better than Seaver -- but of course Koufax had little more than those seasons, while Seaver had a long, great career.

  13. Assuming they also tested for juice I'd pick Berra over Ivan at C. Despite the numbers Piazza would still be 3rd overall. Clemens would be out too if you filter for juice. F Bonds sideways.

  14. Continuing to argue this, pointlessly, Martinez's ERA+ from 1997 to 2003: 219, 163, 243, 291, 190, 202, 211. That 291 in 2000 with the Sox is the highest adjusted ERA in MLB history. As you said, if you want to talk up Koufax, you have to do it by peak, and it seems perfectly credible that Martinez's peak was better than Koufax's peak once you take Dodger Stadium into account. (It depends how you run the analysis, of course; in Koufax's lower-scoring environment, a run prevented was more valuable, so I think he comes out better if you look at WPA or some other stats.)

    I find it hard to argue with Johnson being above him on your list for longevity reasons -- although the career gap between Johnson and Martinez is smaller than you might think, due to Johnson's early period of wildness and mediocrity.


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