On Wednesday, I wrote about measuring the runs a player costs his team by grounding into (or avoiding) the double play. If you haven’t, I recommend taking a look at that post if you’re interested in the methodological details. Today I’ll discuss the players who have been the best at avoiding the double play ranked by the runs they’ve cost saved their team relative to average (0.35 runs above/below average per GiDP opportunity — average is around 11%) in 2010, then go over a few interesting points in conclusion to both discussions.*
* For today’s post I’m using the most recent data from Baseball-Reference’s situational leaderboards, so things “on top” (or bottom, depending on your perspective) have changed since then, although not much.
There are a number of hitters at around +1.4 runs, and between no double plays (in fewer oppportunities than the leaders below) and four percent grounded into per opportunity. In no particular order: Adam Dunn, Curtis Granderson, Hideki Matsui, Justin Morneau, Carlos Pena, Cody Ross, Josh Willingham, and Chris Young.
The second best player in GiDP runs saved is Carl Crawford, who is 0-45 in DP situations so far, +1.75 runs. He’s been excellent at it throughout his career, but this is also a a bit ironic given that Crawford is perceived as a great leadoff man (although he hasn’t always been used that way). It is well-established that, on average the lead off spot sees the fewest DP opportunities (runner on first with less than two outs). Of course, Crawford has been seen as a lead off man because of his speed, particularly his basestealing ability. But as The Book also notes, having a great basestealer leading off is a bit of a flawed strategy, since most teams have good hitters (usually with good power) hitting behind him; does Evan Longoria really need Crawford’s help in moving along the basepaths? As with most things batting-order related, it’s a tiny difference over a season (and in 2010, Crawford hasn’t led of at all, maybe Joe Maddon read something co-authored by his biggest fan?), but it is interesting to note. As an aside, The Book also mentions that the third spot sees the most GiDP chances on average, which is why good hitters like Joe Mauer and Billy Butler might not fit well in that spot in the order.
Josh Hamilton leads the league in GiDP runs saved so far this season, at +2.1, and over his career, he’s been about as good as Crawford. It’s a nice addition to the mini-comeback season he’s had. I’m guessing it’s the tattoos.
Three (promissory?) notes in conclusion two these two posts:
a) I don’t think it needs to be said (but I’ll say it anyway) that these are just “leaderboards” for the current season, not estimations of true talent (“projections”), although the leaders/trailers so far have been players one would expect give past performance (Billy Butler and Joe Mauer having problems, Hamilton and Crawford doing well). I might mess around with projections after the season, right after I finish all that other stuff I want to do but don’t have time to do.
b) It is interesting, but not entirely surprising, that low-strikeout players not known for their wheels (Butler, Mauer, Pablo Sandoval, Ivan Rodriguez) have been the worst so far these season, and while there are some speedsters up top (Crawford, Granderson) there are also some slow guys who strike out a lot like Dunn and Pena (Granderson and Young, among others, also strike out a good deal). This small sample with regard to both time and number of players doesn’t prove anything, but it suggest to me that while speed is an important factor in double play avoidance, taking pitches might also be a factor. Of course, to get the full measurement of cost/benefit here, we’d have to also measure the linear weights of productive outs and groundouts in general above and below average to see what the strikeout guys might be missing out on, too.
c) It is also curious that the handedness of the leaders and trailers is in line with some initial findings by MGL (who shouldn’t be blamed for anything I write here, obviously). Of the players having the most problems so far from Wednesday’s post, all are right-handed hitters except for Pablo Sandoval and Joe Mauer, who are themselves atypical hitters (Sandoval for his success while swinging at everything, Mauer for his preference for the opposite field). Almost all of today’s leaders are left-handed. This requires much more study, but it suggests that handedness matters, and that when projecting GiDP skill, that regression by hitter-handedness might be a good idea.