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Thoughts on Relative Stats

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  • Thoughts on Relative Stats

    Relative stats, as far as I have been able to tell, were designed to account for changes in the game over the years. Some years had conditions that were more favorable to hitters, others more favorable to pitchers. We create relative stats by comparing a player's production to the league average in that stat, park adjusted, of course. But let's say we're comparing an AL player to an NL player today. The park effects are the same for both hitters. The AL player will almost certainly be playing in a higher run environment, or a higher OBP and SLG environment, for those who like OPS+. But what we don't account for is the effect of the DH. While the AL may still be more conducive to offense, the difference between the two leagues is not expressed entirely in the conditions making it easier for hitters in the NL. Part of the reason AL offense has been higher over the years is that we have a player whose job is to do nothing but hit replacing a pitcher who will most likely be very weak at the plate.
    Why don't we account for the DH now? Is it a matter of difficulty? Or is it a value concept? That is, no matter the reason for the run environment being higher, the player who creates 100 runs in the AL simply doesn't produce as many games worth of offense as a player who does the same in the NL. Still, if the AL was equal to the NL in offense, and the only difference was the DH, wouldn't we be cheating AL players by downgrading their accomplishments more, even though they were competing in an environment every bit as difficult (or easy, if you prefer) for hitters as NL players?
    Continuing with the relative stats theme, is there an effective way to tell when some years had low offense because of a dearth of hitting talent those years, and when low offense was truly created by the conditions of the game? Or when high offense is created by depth of hitting talent or the conditions? Maybe every year the hitting talent is about the same, and the averages are merely the result of rules changes, equipment changes, and the like. But maybe some years the league's pitching is simply a lot better than the league's hitting, and the low offense has nothing to do with conditions. You get the point. Do you have a preferred method of accounting for this possibility?
    "Any pitcher who throws at a batter and deliberately tries to hit him is a communist."

    - Alvin Dark

  • #2
    When I do it (and I think Forman at b-r.com), I remove all hitting totals of pitchers.

    Does that solve your dilemna?
    Author of THE BOOK -- Playing The Percentages In Baseball

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    • #3
      I will admit to forgetting that pitchers are removed (and I do that too when I make my own calculations). But it would still seem to me that the DH rule would affect offense in the AL, because you've got nine hitters to deal with in the AL, and one in the NL. Now you might say that regardless of whether it's nine average hitters or eight average hitters, it still comes out to average. But that ninth hitter isn't an average hitter. He's a player whose sole job is to hit, and who can focus entirely on that task. That makes it easier for him to be successful at hitting. So we've got 8 average hitters in the AL and the NL, but the AL has a ninth guy who's better than average, and who drives the offensive averages up. Even when you take the pitchers out of the equation, if the conditions are equal in both leagues, and the talent level of the non-DH players are equal, we should still expect the AL to produce more offense as a result of having that better than average hitter fill that ninth spot.
      "Any pitcher who throws at a batter and deliberately tries to hit him is a communist."

      - Alvin Dark

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      • #4
        Actually, I've noticed that a huge amount of Designated Hitters who are bad at hitting. Yes, they're probably better than the pitchers they're replacing, but they're worse than league average. I haven't done any sort of analysis to find out for sure how DHs stack up to the rest of the league, but I'm not sure you can just assume that they're better than average.
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cDxgNjMTPIs

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        • #5
          110.2.

          That's the average OPS+ of the DH from 1973-2007. I assume it fluctuates from year to year, but that just further illustrates my point that the DH should be accounted for.
          "Any pitcher who throws at a batter and deliberately tries to hit him is a communist."

          - Alvin Dark

          Comment


          • #6
            So, what you are saying is that if you have 8 guys in the AL with a .340/.420 line, and a 9th guy with a .355/.445, for an overall average of .3417/.4228, and 8 guys in the NL with a .340/.420 line, then:
            the 8 NL guys will have an OPS+ of 100
            the 8 AL guys will have an OPS+ of 99

            I'm not necessarily disagreeing with you, but, with such a crappy stat like OPS+, do you really care of the difference between 100 and 99?
            Author of THE BOOK -- Playing The Percentages In Baseball

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            • #7
              Well, that's what I was wondering - whether or not it makes a difference. Going through the calculations myself, I see your point - the impact on the relative stats is too small to be important. I thought 1/9 of a team might have a larger impact, but I guess not.

              Let's move on to the second issue. Do you believe that low offensive eras can sometimes be explained by there being more pitching talent than hitting talent, and high offensive eras by there being more hitting than pitching talent? I just find it hard to believe that talent is evenly distributed on both sides of the ball consistently throughout history. Surely the talent pendulum swings, and it's not just changes in the game that is the cause. And for those who agree with me here, do you have a method that attempts to account for this?
              "Any pitcher who throws at a batter and deliberately tries to hit him is a communist."

              - Alvin Dark

              Comment


              • #8
                Nothing in anything is always in equilibrium, baseball or otherwise.

                But, until you show otherwise, you are safer presuming so.
                Author of THE BOOK -- Playing The Percentages In Baseball

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