Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Hitting by Position, 2008

Here is another mail-it-in annual post; this time I will look at offensive production by position, based on the data from baseball-reference.com. This is actually one of my favorite areas of inquiry, although the one-year data shouldn’t be overanalyzed.

First, here are the positional totals for 2008. “MLB” is the overall total for MLB, which is not the same as the sum of all the positions here, as pinch-hitters and runners are not included in those. “POS” is the MLB totals minus the pitcher totals, yielding the composite performance by non-pitchers. “PADJ” is the position adjustment, which is the position RG divided by the position (non-pitcher) average. “LPADJ” is the long-term positional adjustment that I used, based on 1992-2001 data. The rows “79” and “3D” are the combined corner outfield and 1B/DH totals, respectively:

Again, I don’t want to draw any conclusions from one-year of data, so I’ll let those figures speak for themselves.

Now, let’s take a look at the exciting and pivotal spectacle of pitcher batting. Here are the basic stats for the pitchers of each NL team. RAA is runs above the average pitcher, a RG of .35 according to the first chart. It should be noted that sacrifices, a major part of a pitcher’s batting responsibility, are not included in these figures in any way:

The Cubs’ pitchers were clearly the standouts, as they were the only ones that managed to crack Mendoza line, led in OBA, led by 60 points in SLG, and were 8 RAA ahead of their closest challenger, the Cardinals. Nonetheless, they still only created runs at 40% of the overall league average.

The Rockies bring up the rear at -8, which is even worse considering I did not apply a park adjustment to the pitcher figures.

Last year, Toronto pitchers turned in an excellent 5.1 RG in their 21 PA. This year, in 16 PA, Blue Jay hurlers failed to reach base. The Twins were the most productive AL pitching staff, compiling a .316/.316/.368 line in 19 PA that compares favorably to that of their center fielder, Carlos Gomez (.258/.289/.360).

Now, let’s take a look at the worst hitting positions in the majors, as measured by RAA (compared to the overall MLB average for 2008 at the position, with left and right fields considered together, and with park adjustment). It’s more interesting to look at the worst than the best, as the best are easy to figure out--they are generally teams with a star player who plays all the time. It’s no surprise that St. Louis first baseman or Minnesota catchers hit well. So first, a simple list of the best positions, and then a table for the worst:


The Astros have the unfortunate distinction of two sinkholes, which is a good news, bad news situation. The bad news is obvious; the good news is that it shouldn’t be that hard to improve at those positions. You can see why Mariner fans were fed up with Jose Vidro and the other players in their DH; wonder why Washington has horrid production out of left despite Jim Bowden’s love of collecting candidates for the outfield corners (Dukes, Kearns, Pena); and see that one really bad position can be overcome (Angels).

In the past I have concluded this piece by discussing those teams which had unusually strong, weak, and negative correlations between expected and actual production at the position. This time, I am going to instead present a series of charts showing the RAA at each position for each team, organized by division. Below average performances are in red; outstanding performances (arbitrarily defined as +20 RAA or more) are in bold; and each table is sorted by “SUM”, which is the sum of the RAA figures for the positions (no pitchers or pinch hitters). These ARE park adjusted:

Did you ever expect to see a team with below average production at every position except for the one largely manned by Cristian Guzman? The Mets are also interesting--three positions were at +20 or more, and the primary performer at each of those positions was in the top ten on my IBA ballot for NL MVP. The other five positions are a composite -16. While the Mets still led the division in RAA, it illustrates my contention in defense of my ballot that the Mets’ stars can hardly be blamed for the team’s failure to make the playoffs. Florida led the majors in combined middle infield RAA (+77) on the backs of Dan Uggla and Hanley Ramirez. Atlanta had the lowest combined outfield RAA in the majors (-62); they balanced this out by having the best infield RAA in the majors (+75) and solid catcher production (+19).

Pittsburgh had the worst combined middle infield RAA (-46). St. Louis had the top outfield RAA (+50); they also had the top combined corner RAA (+99 for 1B, 3B, LF, and RF). Eyeballing it, the Cubs may have gotten the most balanced contributions relative to positional norms for a team with a good offense. Cincinnati had only three positive positions, two of which were manned by favored whipping boys of what I consider the “Pete Rose idolizing” segment of their fan base (Encarnacion and Dunn).

San Diego got its best production out of center field, and the fourth highest RAA at that position in the majors. Extra credit to anyone who thought before the campaign that a Jody Gerut/Scott Hairston combination would pull that off. San Francisco had the lowest infield RAA (-87) in the majors, “besting” their neighbors, the A’s (-81). No other team was worse than -70.

Baltimore shortstops post-Tejada were certainly problematic, although excellent performance from Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis managed to keep the Orioles’ attack respectable. As I pointed out in a post a few weeks ago, Toronto was a team stocked with guys who hit like middling middle infielders. Only their center fielders managed to match the league average.

Is there any primary position holder for a +20 position who gets more grief from his hometown fans than Jhonny Peralta? (There may well be, but Peralta is a favorite whipping boy on Cleveland sports talk. While I freely admit that his fielding is subpar, he’s still at worst an average player. Yet there are a number of Indians fans who can’t wait to ditch him). The Twins offense defied all run estimators this year, finishing second in the AL with 5.1 R/G but only eighth in RC/G at 4.8. Only the Mauer and Morneau-manned positions managed above average performances.

Finally, sneaking in on the last table, is a team (Oakland) below average at every position. They were last in the majors in composite corner position RAA (-73).

You will note that the AL teams have a negative total; this is because I used the overall MLB average. Believe it or not, the AL with pitchers removed hit .268/.332/.421, while the NL with pitchers removed hit .267/.336/.426.

Here is a link to a Google spreadsheet with the positional data for each team.


  1. Texas certianly got great production from their RF by committee: Murphy, Hamilton, Byrd, Cruz, and Bradley. Murphy accumulated 28% of the innings in RF, Hamilton 20%, Byrd 19%, Cruz 19%, and Bradley 11%. They all peformed better offensively when they were in RF.

    If we remove Bradley from the group, since he only played RF for a short-stretch during the beginning of the season, Murphy, Hamilton, Cruz, and Byrd collectively batted .319/.382/.552 in RF. When they weren't in RF, they batted a collective .284/.354/.472.

  2. The pitcher's positional adjustment was 7. Pathetic. The time has come for the NL to adopt the DH.

  3. In fairness to the pitchers (*), there is some breakdown of the RC formula...many of the team pitching units get negative RC.

    Negative RC makes sense, as we know, but it also makes it problematic to look at ratios for those with negative RC. Of course, the difference between pitcher and league RAA/PA would be enormous as well.

    (*) I can't believe I'm making any sort of excuse for the pitchers, even if it is logical. I am definitely a DH supporter and love to needle the Neanderthal League.

  4. Patriot,

    What is the best method for dealing with pitcher hitting when calculating LW values. I was thinking of plugging a pitcher's hitting line into Baseruns, using a Baseruns equation for the NL that included pitcher's hitting and LW values that were reconciled to runs scored on the league level. I would then subtract the Pitcher's Baseruns from League Runs, and this would be the new total that I would reconcile the LW values to. Then when I figure R/PA, I would use the new reconciled Runs total divided by Plate appearances by position players. Is this an OK method for removing pitcher hitting.

  5. It would be better to just find the league runs (using BsR) with the pitcher's hitting removed, for the same reason that you use a differential or theoretical team approach when assessing an individual player.


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