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  • Statistical anomaly or new norm?

    I just made a spreadsheet of BA this millennium in mlb and found some really interesting stats and a SUDDEN drop in BA.

    232. Only 2 teams had a team batting average in last 20 years before this year beneath 232. This year there were 8 teams beneath that.
    Since 2000, there have been 36 teams below 240, 10 of them were from this year
    Since 2000, only 9 teams below 230, 8 of them were from this year, including the first teams this millennium under 220.
    Is this the new norm or has there been more going on? Was there a lot more cheating going than just beating on a trash can. Having no fans might have meant no pressure on pitchers to perform better or inspired hitters to be worse? Or did it mean no ability to hide cheating with light bulbs, trash cans, etc.

  • #2
    Originally posted by 34rancher View Post
    I just made a spreadsheet of BA this millennium in mlb and found some really interesting stats and a SUDDEN drop in BA.

    232. Only 2 teams had a team batting average in last 20 years before this year beneath 232. This year there were 8 teams beneath that.
    Since 2000, there have been 36 teams below 240, 10 of them were from this year
    Since 2000, only 9 teams below 230, 8 of them were from this year, including the first teams this millennium under 220.
    Is this the new norm or has there been more going on? Was there a lot more cheating going than just beating on a trash can. Having no fans might have meant no pressure on pitchers to perform better or inspired hitters to be worse? Or did it mean no ability to hide cheating with light bulbs, trash cans, etc.
    Might have been a blip due to the shortened season also or players might have been swinging from the heels even harder this year because every game meant so much more and they wanted to make a more dramatic impact, but the trend is power over average so it may well continue.
    Riding Shotgun on the Sox Bandwagon since before there was an Internet...



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    • #3
      I dived into the season last night and found the batting averages disturbing. What I see is a trend from previous seasons, perhaps amplified by this short season, but continuing trends nonetheless. There are several contributing factors, sometimes working in combination. Hitters are trying to make pitchers throw more pitches because pitch counts determine how long they stay in the game. They are trying to draw walks to get on base, and they are looking for the optimum launch angle. They are being scouted and judged (and paid either at arbitration or the threat of arbitration) according to statistical analysis that fails to place importance on their offensive batting average and strikeouts.

      The Cubs had offensive leaders who hit near .200 or under for the season and failed to get any hits in their wild card series. They White Sox (typically) had a DH hitting well below .200 with more strikeouts than games played. (You could get that from Matt Davidson, or maybe even Madison Bumgarner, both of whom have had multi-homer opening days, and apparently the Cubs got that from Kyle ".188" Schwarber.) From what I've seen from them in the past, Anderson and Abreu, who seemed to be the consistent bats in the lineup, simply focus on hitting. Abreu, leading the league in RBIs without leading the league in home runs for the second straight year, seems to be focused on getting runs home. Nick Madrigal looks like he comes to hit as well. He only played half the shortened season, but while hitting .340, he managed to hit .321 with two strikes. It wasn't that he struck out in fewer than 1 percent of his plate appearances. Hitting with two strikes, he was more than twice as likely to get a hit than strike out. Other than Madrigal, the White Sox still struck out too much, but it looks like they could grow into a fun team to watch. In a league where both teams had their pitchers in the lineup, and the Sox didn't feel obligated to inserve a sub-.200 hitter among the good hitters, their offense might be more fun to watch. That's not going to happen, so I hope that when Abreu eventually gets the DH role full-time, he continues to be a real hitter who drives in runs.

      This was a season devoid of April cold. July and August tend to be hitting months. Pitchers typically take over again in September, but part of that is the grind of the long season. Hitters shouldn't be feeling the grind of the season after just 60 games. These April-like averages, especially in the Cubs lineup, simply can't be producing baseball that people would want to watch. This isn't small ball where players are manufacturing runs with limited hitting. It's baseball through the dull machine, walk, strikeout, home run. Only the pitcher breaks a sweat, unless it's an especially hot day. Meanwhile, MLB celebrates the launch angles and velocity.

      There are people who post here who don't care about the game's aesthetics. They see a statistical correlations with winning that have nothing to do with batting averages and RBIs (although RBIs are runs that someone needs to step up and drive in. (I can only image the pain of losing a season-elimination game by two runs after leaving 12 on base, including eight in scoring position.) I think the low batting averages this season were the result of the continued degradation of the science and art of hitting.

      Maybe there would have been fewer qualifying sub-.200 averages in a full season. Still, the numbers would have to be a lot higher to make baseball more fun to watch. The problem with baseball's pace is that too many hitters are taking too many pitches and making too little contact when they swing. That's been true for awhile. Baseball, especially the current incompetent commissioner, has been tearing the fabric of the game, destroying its geometry instead of making hitters swing the bat.

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      • #4
        Sample size too small and corrupted this year. Teams did not face everyone in their league to see the full range of pitching and with only 60 games, you cannot project what 162 games would have produced. This season is, and always be, an asterisk.

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        • #5
          Batting average is about as valuable as Prussian francs or Confederate dollars. Nick Madrigal hit .340 and was a replacement-level player.

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          • #6
            This is exactly what I would expect, given the focus on "three true outcomes"

            Even a lot of scoreboards now show OPS rather than AVG
            "Hope...may be indulged in by those who have abundant resources...but those who stake their all upon the venture see it in its true colors only after they are ruined."
            -- Thucydides

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            • #7
              Nick Madrigal was not a replacement-level player. His OPS+ was 108. His defense and baserunning brought him down to 0.4 bWAR (> 1 WAR over a full season) but his batting average wasn't the issue.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Mohoney View Post
                Batting average is about as valuable as Prussian francs or Confederate dollars. Nick Madrigal hit .340 and was a replacement-level player.
                This doesn’t even merit a debate.

                Let’s not forget - Nick is still technically a rookie in 2021. I’m glad I got to see him play. I like him, warts and all.

                To answer OP. A weird season with not much ST with a lot of green/fringy players combined with too much going for broke as a trend, notably more so with two strikes than any time I’ve watched baseball. I’m not really considering stats from this shortened season too heavily - trends be damned.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by A. Cavatica View Post
                  Nick Madrigal was not a replacement-level player. His OPS+ was 108. His defense and baserunning brought him down to 0.4 bWAR (> 1 WAR over a full season) but his batting average wasn't the issue.
                  And he missed 3 weeks or something?
                  Riding Shotgun on the Sox Bandwagon since before there was an Internet...



                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by voodoochile View Post

                    And he missed 3 weeks or something?
                    He appeared in 29 games. A .4 WAR would translate to a 2+ WAR over a complete season, yes? And like you said, he's a rookie.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Mohoney View Post
                      Batting average is about as valuable as Prussian francs or Confederate dollars. Nick Madrigal hit .340 and was a replacement-level player.
                      OPS and WAR, on the other hand, are junk bonds of baseball states, never having anything real to back them up and overvalued by people who mistakenly believe it gives them greater insight to a game they don't, in the final analysis, understand. There were those here that argued Adam Dunn had a solid season in 2012 because he recorded an .800 OPS, although those of us paying attention to the actual games were frustrated by the fact that he hit just .204 and struck out 222 times. If that's an old argument, it only shows how long OPS has been discredited. That anyone would rather have the 2012 Dunn in the lineup than the 2020 Nick Madrigal is beyond comprehension, even though Madrigal had an OPS of .just .745. That Madrigal was only 44 OPS points ahead of Kyle Schwarber this year (Schwarber hit .188 and struck out just under once for ever three at bats -- Dunn in 2012 struck out a bit over once for every three at bats) also shows how vague, if not useless, an OPS is in evaluating a hitter when he comes to the plate.

                      Madrigal's .340 batting average meant he had a very good chance of getting a hit. He had a better chance of getting a hit than Dunn had of getting on base. With two strikes. If you dig deeper into the stats, something that OPS and WAR only give the illusion of doing, you see that Madrigal with two strikes was three times more likely to get a hit than strike out. With two strikes, his on-base percentage was within 11 points of Dunn's .800-OPS-season on-base percentage. If you're going to judge Madrigal on just the part of the short season he didn't miss by injury, give him some credit. You can argue that he had a small sample size, but if you're going to criticize him for what he wasn't in that small sample size, at least give him credit for what he was.

                      As for WAR, all you need to know can be found on the 1969 Cubs, Billy Williams recorded a 2.8 WAR playing in all 163 games (a rained out tie game had to be made up) and Dick Selma recorded a 2.7 WAR. This was a tragic team, of course. The core was solid, but the team had a thin bench, wearing down the regulars. It had fourth-starter issues in the days when teams had four-man rotations. Selma in started 25 games, and eight pitchers started at least one but no more than five games. Pitching issues necessitated Ferguson Jenkins and Bill Hands each starting more than 40 games. Jenkins started 42, pitched 23 complete games and picked up a save in a relief appearance. Williams had a pretty solid year offensively, playing every day, often twice on Sunday, but his WAR was barely ahead of Selma's, not something one who actually watched the games would expect, and not something you would see if WAR could be taken seriously.

                      Low batting averages and high strikeout rates among hitters (even pitchers having bad days are striking out more hitters), are a problem in baseball. The problem is escalating, or spiraling if you prefer. (Think of the William Butler Yeats poem, The Second Coming. Things fall apart. The centerfielder cannot hold the ball that hit in the pocket of his glove.) Not taking batting averages and contact hitting seriously is part of the reason baseball itself is in that spiral.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by A. Cavatica View Post
                        Nick Madrigal was not a replacement-level player. His OPS+ was 108. His defense and baserunning brought him down to 0.4 bWAR (> 1 WAR over a full season) but his batting average wasn't the issue.
                        His point was that Nick Madrigal hit .340, which sustained over an entire season would be one of the best batting averages in the league any year in the last 100 years, but nevertheless this did not make Madrigal an exceptionally valuable player.

                        It may be the case that Nick Madrigal was actually slightly better than average, or that he's a rookie and we should cut him some slack, but the broader point being made, that batting average alone does not make a player good, is well-taken and irrefutable. Nick Madrigal may have been the least valuable .340 hitter in history.
                        "Hope...may be indulged in by those who have abundant resources...but those who stake their all upon the venture see it in its true colors only after they are ruined."
                        -- Thucydides

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by TDog View Post

                          OPS and WAR, on the other hand, are junk bonds of baseball states, never having anything real to back them up and overvalued by people who mistakenly believe it gives them greater insight to a game they don't, in the final analysis, understand. There were those here that argued Adam Dunn had a solid season in 2012 because he recorded an .800 OPS, although those of us paying attention to the actual games were frustrated by the fact that he hit just .204 and struck out 222 times. If that's an old argument, it only shows how long OPS has been discredited. That anyone would rather have the 2012 Dunn in the lineup than the 2020 Nick Madrigal is beyond comprehension, even though Madrigal had an OPS of .just .745. That Madrigal was only 44 OPS points ahead of Kyle Schwarber this year (Schwarber hit .188 and struck out just under once for ever three at bats -- Dunn in 2012 struck out a bit over once for every three at bats) also shows how vague, if not useless, an OPS is in evaluating a hitter when he comes to the plate.

                          Madrigal's .340 batting average meant he had a very good chance of getting a hit. He had a better chance of getting a hit than Dunn had of getting on base. With two strikes. If you dig deeper into the stats, something that OPS and WAR only give the illusion of doing, you see that Madrigal with two strikes was three times more likely to get a hit than strike out. With two strikes, his on-base percentage was within 11 points of Dunn's .800-OPS-season on-base percentage. If you're going to judge Madrigal on just the part of the short season he didn't miss by injury, give him some credit. You can argue that he had a small sample size, but if you're going to criticize him for what he wasn't in that small sample size, at least give him credit for what he was.

                          As for WAR, all you need to know can be found on the 1969 Cubs, Billy Williams recorded a 2.8 WAR playing in all 163 games (a rained out tie game had to be made up) and Dick Selma recorded a 2.7 WAR. This was a tragic team, of course. The core was solid, but the team had a thin bench, wearing down the regulars. It had fourth-starter issues in the days when teams had four-man rotations. Selma in started 25 games, and eight pitchers started at least one but no more than five games. Pitching issues necessitated Ferguson Jenkins and Bill Hands each starting more than 40 games. Jenkins started 42, pitched 23 complete games and picked up a save in a relief appearance. Williams had a pretty solid year offensively, playing every day, often twice on Sunday, but his WAR was barely ahead of Selma's, not something one who actually watched the games would expect, and not something you would see if WAR could be taken seriously.

                          Low batting averages and high strikeout rates among hitters (even pitchers having bad days are striking out more hitters), are a problem in baseball. The problem is escalating, or spiraling if you prefer. (Think of the William Butler Yeats poem, The Second Coming. Things fall apart. The centerfielder cannot hold the ball that hit in the pocket of his glove.) Not taking batting averages and contact hitting seriously is part of the reason baseball itself is in that spiral.
                          If you watch baseball, don't you also notice that there's no situation where an extra-base hit isn't superior to a single? Or that walks also matter?

                          All OPS is is an acknowledgement that whether you hit a lot of extra-base hits vs singles matters, and that walks matter. Yes, it's entirely rational to prefer somebody who hits for more power but lower average over Nick Madrigal. Anyone who gave the "eye test" to the 2020 White Sox were familiar with situations where Madrigal came up with 2 outs and a runner on first, lifted a single over the infield to create a 1st and 3rd situation, and then TA made an out and no run scored. (No knock on TA, but even he makes an out a majority of the time). A double or home run in those situations would have been far preferable.
                          Last edited by HomeFish; 10-05-2020, 09:08 AM.
                          "Hope...may be indulged in by those who have abundant resources...but those who stake their all upon the venture see it in its true colors only after they are ruined."
                          -- Thucydides

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                          • #14
                            Anything you look at over the 60-game sample has to be taken with a grain of salt, however I assume the trend that is being referenced regarding BA is not just a one-year blip. If you look at the past 20 years I suspect it is heading in this direction.

                            I think most of us can agree that, all else equal, a game with more hits and fewer strikeouts is more entertaining to watch. The problem is that it has been proven that selling out for more power, at the expense of an increase in strikeouts, leads to a more productive offense in terms of runs scored. This is really not up for debate - we have over 100 years worth of data to support this notion. Unfortunately, the "aesthetic beauty" of small ball is in direct conflict with maximizing run production and winning games.

                            So the question is for teams, what is their #1 responsibility - to put out a more entertaining product, or to win more games? I think most fans would agree that winning the most games should be the top priority. And honestly if the goal is to maximize attendance and the interest of their own fans, I would think that a less aesthetically pleasing team that wins more game will draw more fan interest than a more aesthetically pleasing team that wins fewer games.

                            I'm sure TDog (and others) will counter this to say that these are short-term gains, and long-term, the fact that the game is less aesthetically pleasing is driving fans away. That is probably true. However, what do you think is going to happen if some rogue team tries to buck the trend, and emphasize a brand of baseball that we know is less conducive to winning, in an effort to get kids in their city to be more interested in the game and then become lifelong fans? I would think kids that live in that city would see a team that is losing, and they wouldn't pay attention. Any effort from a single team to put out a more aesthetically pleasing brand of baseball at the expense of wins is just going to end up with that team being disappointed, despite their noble crusade.

                            There is only one way to promote change, and that is for all teams simultaneously to start to emphasize small ball. That will only happen if small ball starts to correlate more strongly with wins, which is only going to happen through changes to the rules/competitive environment coming from the commissioner's office. Deadening the ball would be the easiest and most obvious place to start.
                            Last edited by ChiTownTrojan; 10-05-2020, 10:10 AM.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by TDog View Post

                              OPS and WAR, on the other hand, are junk bonds of baseball states, never having anything real to back them up and overvalued by people who mistakenly believe it gives them greater insight to a game they don't, in the final analysis, understand. There were those here that argued Adam Dunn had a solid season in 2012 because he recorded an .800 OPS, although those of us paying attention to the actual games were frustrated by the fact that he hit just .204 and struck out 222 times. If that's an old argument, it only shows how long OPS has been discredited. That anyone would rather have the 2012 Dunn in the lineup than the 2020 Nick Madrigal is beyond comprehension, even though Madrigal had an OPS of .just .745. That Madrigal was only 44 OPS points ahead of Kyle Schwarber this year (Schwarber hit .188 and struck out just under once for ever three at bats -- Dunn in 2012 struck out a bit over once for every three at bats) also shows how vague, if not useless, an OPS is in evaluating a hitter when he comes to the plate.

                              Madrigal's .340 batting average meant he had a very good chance of getting a hit. He had a better chance of getting a hit than Dunn had of getting on base. With two strikes. If you dig deeper into the stats, something that OPS and WAR only give the illusion of doing, you see that Madrigal with two strikes was three times more likely to get a hit than strike out. With two strikes, his on-base percentage was within 11 points of Dunn's .800-OPS-season on-base percentage. If you're going to judge Madrigal on just the part of the short season he didn't miss by injury, give him some credit. You can argue that he had a small sample size, but if you're going to criticize him for what he wasn't in that small sample size, at least give him credit for what he was.

                              As for WAR, all you need to know can be found on the 1969 Cubs, Billy Williams recorded a 2.8 WAR playing in all 163 games (a rained out tie game had to be made up) and Dick Selma recorded a 2.7 WAR. This was a tragic team, of course. The core was solid, but the team had a thin bench, wearing down the regulars. It had fourth-starter issues in the days when teams had four-man rotations. Selma in started 25 games, and eight pitchers started at least one but no more than five games. Pitching issues necessitated Ferguson Jenkins and Bill Hands each starting more than 40 games. Jenkins started 42, pitched 23 complete games and picked up a save in a relief appearance. Williams had a pretty solid year offensively, playing every day, often twice on Sunday, but his WAR was barely ahead of Selma's, not something one who actually watched the games would expect, and not something you would see if WAR could be taken seriously.

                              Low batting averages and high strikeout rates among hitters (even pitchers having bad days are striking out more hitters), are a problem in baseball. The problem is escalating, or spiraling if you prefer. (Think of the William Butler Yeats poem, The Second Coming. Things fall apart. The centerfielder cannot hold the ball that hit in the pocket of his glove.) Not taking batting averages and contact hitting seriously is part of the reason baseball itself is in that spiral.
                              You can't blame the statistics and the use of statistics for ruining the game, when all they are doing is helping a team reach their #1 goal (maximizing wins). Statistics like OPS and WAR, though you may think they are "lazy" and "junk", are very good at showing the overall value of a player (or hitter, in the case of OPS) towards scoring runs and winning games. Again, this is not up for debate. Teams with a higher team-wide OPS win more games than teams with a higher team-wide batting average (unless a team has both of course). While this might seem obvious to some, I have still checked the numbers to confirm. If you look at all seasons that have been played in MLB since 1900, team batting average has a correlation with runs scored of 0.73, while team OPS has a correlation of 0.90. If you just look since the year 2000, those correlations are 0.81 and 0.96. These differences are highly significant. If your outcome is winning percent, batting average correlates at 0.39 (0.37 since 2000), whereas OPS correlates at 0.44 (0.49 since 2000). Obviously neither BA or OPS take into account pitching/defense/baserunning, all of which are important for winning games. WAR does, and it correlates with winning at 0.82 (0.75 since 2000).

                              Nobody is arguing that OPS or WAR tell the whole story of how a team can be most successful. There are certainly other things that are important, and two teams can have the exact same OPS but one team scores more runs for reasons like situational hitting, baserunning, etc. But as far as one-number summaries go, OPS and WAR are the best we have and are highly predictive of scoring runs and winning, respectively. If you want to get more detailed and look at situational hitting or performance with two strikes in the 7th inning or later with a man on second and two outs, those stats exist (they're just harder to find because they are not as important for winning games).

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