Kiner's problem was not really that he was unclutch. Looking at his batting splits
, he performed about equally well in various measures of "clutch": high-leverage (OPS of 1.138) v. low-leverage (1.073); 2-outs, RISP (1.084) vs. Bases Empty (1.287); Late & Close (1.015), Tie Games (1.244), vs. Margin > 4 R (1.219).
Kiner's problem, in terms of his performance translating into team wins was, to be blunt about it, that the rest of the 1951 Pittsburgh Pirates
weren't very good. Going back to Kiner's batting splits, he played in 87 games that the Pirates lost. In those games, he batted .283/.422/.543 (OPS of .965) with 19 home runs, 42 RBI, and 54 runs scored. And, at the end of those days, all of those hits and walks and RBIs just didn't translate into team wins because the rest of the Pirates' hitters didn't get enough of their own hits and walks and RBIs and the Pirates' pitchers couldn't stop the other teams from scoring enough runs.
Is it Ralph Kiner's fault that he had lousy teammates? No, not at all. But as a simple matter of accounting for team wins and team losses, Kiner's performance in 1951 (and actually, in most years of Kiner's career
) just didn't account for as many team wins as it probably should have.
The 1951 World Series
After the excitement of the National League pennant race, the 1951 World Series
might have seemed somewhat anti-climactic. The New York Yankees
beat their crosstown rivals, the New York Giants
, in six games. Players who earned at least 0.1 pWins over replacement level (pWORL) in that World Series are shown in the next table. Not surprisingly, more Yankees show up here than Giants.
Best of 1951 by Factor and Position
Next, let's look at the top players in (context-neutral, teammate-adjusted) eWins over Positional Average
in various aspects of the game.
Best by Factor: Batting, Baserunning, Pitching, Fielding
There are four basic factors for which players earn Player won-lost records: Batting
, and Fielding
. The top players in 1951 in eWOPA by factor were as follows.
Positional Average excludes pitcher offense
Positional Average excludes pitcher offense
Best by Position
Next, we look at 1951 Major-League leaders in eWOPA by position. The figures shown here only include Player decisions earned while playing this particular position, and include no contextual adjustments (expected or actual).
This is one of the
top 10 seasons
by a second baseman ever (since 1947) as measured by eWins over positional average.
The top two players here, both of whom are Hall-of-Famers, might warrant a closer look. Raw pitching wins are converted into overall player wins by incorporating context (expected in the case of eWins, actual in the case of pWins), as well as pitcher offense. The results for Spahn and Roberts are shown next.
The 1951 season pre-dates the introduction of the Cy Young award (in 1956). It seems pretty clear, however, that the two most deserving contenders for such an award in 1951 if it had existed would have been Robin Roberts
and Warren Spahn
(not necessarily in that order). Although, it's worth pointing out that the top two pitchers in NL MVP voting
that year were Sal Maglie
and Preacher Roe
(no doubt on the strength of (traditional) pitcher won-lost records of 23-6 and 22-3, respectively).
Relief pitching was much less prominent in 1951 than it is today. Nevertheless, Jim Konstanty
won the 1950 NL MVP Award
on the strength of 74 games and 152 innings pitched, all in relief.
For relief pitchers, context-neutral records may not be the best measure of how good they are, as context
can matter a great deal, depending on how a pitcher is used. Here are the top relief pitchers of 1951 in context, in terms of pWins and pWOPA.
Kinder pretty well lapped the field. While the role of relief pitchers was very different in 1951 than in 2012 - Kinder led the major leagues with 14 saves in 1951 (although the save statistic hadn't been invented yet) - in terms of Player won-lost records, Kinder's 1951 season actually stacks up reasonably well with the best relief seasons of 2012.
Finally, here is the best at and oft-forgotten positions that can nevertheless matter: pitcher offense.
had a noteworthy 1951 season. He actually finished second in voting for the AL MVP award
. That was probably an overbid, but Garver did have an excellent season.
One particularly noteworthy feature of Ned Garver's season is that he had a winning Player won-lost record in all four factors: batting, baserunning, pitching, and fielding.
The next table shows every player since 1947 who has had a winning record in all four factors with at least 1 batting eWin, 10 pitching eWins, and 0.1 baserunning and fielding eWins. It's a fairly exclusive group (although Garver wasn't the only player to do it in 1951).
And finally, two more (somewhat obscure) positions: pinch hitter and pinch runner.
Look at Me, I Can Be, Centerfield
Finally, the city of New York welcomed two rookie centerfielders in 1951 - although one of them
played mostly right field in 1951 because there was already a living legend
in center field in Yankee Stadium. And what a pair of centerfielders they turned out to be!
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All articles are written so that they pull data directly from the most recent version of the Player won-lost database. Hence, any numbers cited within these articles should automatically incorporate the most recent update to Player won-lost records. In some cases, however, the accompanying text may have been written based on previous versions of Player won-lost records. I apologize if this results in non-sensical text in any cases.
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