Monday, January 01, 2007

Hitting by Position, 2006

This is another “recycled” piece from last year, and I will not go in as much detail this time, but I do find this stuff interesting if not particularly enlightening. As with the leadoff piece, data comes from STATS, via the Baseball Direct Scoreboard.

My opinion on one-year positional hitting data being used in any sort of analysis is similar to my view on one-year park factors: not a good idea. So these figures are presented for a look at what happened in 2006, not as harbingers of future trends or anything of the sort. The positional adjustments I use when calculating runs versus a hitter at a given position are based on a ten-year sample from 1992-2001. Ideally, I should update this for the five new years of data that we have since 2001, and someday I will get around to that. But I don’t believe that those are sufficiently flawed for today’s game, and I certainly place a lot more trust in ten year figures outdated by five years then I do in one year figures.

Here are the BA/OBA/SLG and RG for each position in 2006:
C: 269/323/421/4.65
1B: 285/359/488/6.07
2B: 276/330/409/4.63
3B: 276/344/458/5.43
SS: 277/330/410/4.65
LF: 278/350/464/5.62
CF: 269/329/427/4.82
RF: 277/342/460/5.43
DH: 263/345/463/5.52
P: 131/164/175/.18

Left field was finally able to outhit right field by a significant margin, while catcher, short, and second converged to the bottom together. Pitchers still can’t hit (take note Neanderthals). The top walk rate belonged to the DHs, while first baseman led in Isolated Power but just slightly over their DH cousins, allowing the DHs to better them .325 to .318 in Secondary Average. Pitchers, dynamic and exciting element of the offensive game that they are, hit for a .083 SEC.

I always like to consider 1B and DH a group, as well as corner outfielders:
1B&DH: 278/354/480/5.89
LF&RF: 277/346/462/5.52

Here is how the positions stack up as a percentage of the overall RG, with the 1992-2001 figure in parentheses:
C: 93 (89)
1B&DH: 118 (119)
2B: 93 (93)
3B: 109 (101)
SS: 93 (86)
LF&RF: 111 (112)
CF: 97 (102)

I would give you lists of the teams with the best and worst hitting and each position, but that would insult your intelligence. It would be very similar to a list of the best individual hitters at each position. Shockingly, Phillies first baseman hit pretty well, and so did Mets centerfielders. Don’t have a clue as to why.

For pitchers, though, the best production came from St. Louis, where they scorched the ball to the tune of 173/219/222. Of course I am throwing out the AL pitchers, didn’t get many chances and were often (relatively) very good or very bad in the limited samples. The worst was Milwaukee, 097/114/113. But Texas and Oakland hurlers deserve mention for going a combined 0-32 with no walks, the only AL teams to not get a baserunner from their pitchers, let alone a hit).

It is dangerous to use the ERP formula at extremely low levels of offense like pitchers, because negative runs become unavoidable, but compared to the pitcher average of .18 RG, the Cards were +16 runs and the Brewers -18. So that’s a 3 1/2 game swing in the standings of the NL Central based on pitcher’s offense, and of course that is the largest gap in the game.

The fun part of this article a year ago was when I took the correlation, for each team, between the ten-year PADJ and the actual RG they got out of each position. Last year, only the Indians and Orioles had a negative correlation, meaning that they got better hitting out of the positions that usually are poor. In the Indians’ 2005 case, they got great production at shortstop, catcher, and center field, but horrible production at the corner positions. Here’s how it turned out in 2006 (DHs are only considered here for AL teams, pitchers not at all):
HOU…+.91
WAS…+.85
COL…+.81
BOS…+.75
CHA…+.75
STL…+.73
KC……+.68
CIN…+.66
TOR…+.66
TB……+.65
PHI…+.60
MIL…+.56
CLE…+.53
PIT…+.53
OAK…+.50
CHN…+.47
ARI…+.44
SEA…+.40
All players…+.40
LA…+.33
LAA…+.32
SD……+.27
NYN…+.21
SF……+.19
MIN…+.15
FLA…+.11
TEX……0
ATL…-.16
BAL…-.27
DET…-.29
NYA…-.34

So four team had negative correlations, with Baltimore as a repeater. You can see that the correlations are not clearly correlated with team offense as the Yankees got an unusual positional distribution of offense but still had the best offense in the league. In Baltimore’s case though, it is frustrating when you get a lot of production out of shortstop (Tejada), and then are punchless at the right side of the defensive spectrum positions like first (Conine/Millar) and DH (Gibbons/Lopez).

I will chart three teams here, Houston with the strongest correlation (and most positive), Texas with no correlation whatsoever, and New York with the strongest negative correlation. What I have done is list the positional adjustments as a baseline, then expressed each position’s RG as a percentage of the composite team RG for the positions considered. Houston, for example, got a composite 4.95 RG out of the positions considered (C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, LF, CF, and RF, plus DH for AL clubs). Their first baseman had a 7.94 RG, so 7.94/4.95 = 1.61:
Houston
POS……PADJ……ARG
C……… 89…………62
1B………119………161
2B………93…………83
3B………101………114
SS………86…………69
LF………112………107
CF………102………84
RF………112………127
As you can see, ever position trended in the same direction as the PADJ (by this I mean either above or below average), except for CF. In fact, most of the positions are more extreme then PADJ would guess.

Then you have the strongest negative correlation, from the Yankees:
New York(A)
POS……..PADJ……..ARG
C………89…………92
1B………119………91
2B………93…………95
3B………101………119
SS………86……… 119
LF………112……… 90
CF………102……… 93
RF………112……… 97
DH………119………104
The Yankees top hitting position was shortstop, which is generally the weakest position. Their first baseman were poor, and other positions are pretty well clustered around 100. You can see that their offensive contributions by position were much more balanced then Houston’s.

Finally, the Rangers, for whom there is no correlation either way:
Texas
POS……PADJ………ARG
C……… 89………… 88
1B………119…………122
2B………93………… 109
3B………101…………99
SS………86………… 103
LF………112…………105
CF………102…………105
RF………112…………87
DH………119…………81
Here, many of the positions match expectations, but the RFs and DHs were well below what you would expect while shortstop was well above, and it adds up to very little correlation when considered as a whole.

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