Baseball Player Won-Loss Records
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Context-Neutral Win Values Across Different Run-Scoring Environments: 1968 versus 2000

The win values of events are highly dependent on the run-scoring environment in which they take place. This is most strikingly observed if we compare net win values for the lowest-scoring and highest-scoring run environments of the Retrosheet Era. The lowest-scoring league for which I have estimated Player won-lost records is the 1968 American League, in which teams averaged 3.41 runs per game. The highest-scoring league for which I have estimated Player won-lost records is the 2000 American League (i.e., games played in American League ballparks in 2000), at 5.31 runs per game.

Positive Offensive Events
The first set of numbers for comparison is for positive offensive events: singles, doubles, triples, home runs, and walks. The numbers for ‘singles’ here include ROE (reached on error) and ‘walks’ include hit-by-pitches:

Base Hits / Batters safe on Balls-in-Play
Runs/Game HR T D S/ROE W/HBP IW
1968 AL 3.41 0.17100.09750.07340.04230.03220.0050
2000 AL 5.31 0.12580.06990.05110.03520.02990.0084


Not surprisingly, offensive events were more valuable in 1968 than in 2000. Runs were 55.7% more plentiful in the 2000 AL than in 1968. Home runs were 35.9% more valuable in 1968 than in 2000. Extra-base hits are similarly more valuable: 39.5% more valuable for triples, 43.7% more valuable for doubles. The difference in win values is a fair bit less for simply reaching first base, however. In fact, singles (and ROE) were actually slightly less valuable in 1968.

Why? Because runs were much rarer in 1968, the value of a guaranteed run – a home run – was huge, as was the value of getting into scoring position. The value of simply getting on first base, on the other hand, is relatively slight because, in 1968, if you walked, the odds were very strong that you weren’t going to get much farther than first base anyway.

The one offensive event here that was (more than trivially) less valuable (to the hitting team) in 1968 is the intentional walk. When hits are at a premium, there’s less downside risk to the pitching team of walking a batter because, as with an unintentional walk, the odds are very high that the next batter isn’t going to do anything to put any runs on the scoreboard.

Outs
Win values for outs in general as well as for different types of outs are shown next.
Batting Outs
All K Other
1968 AL -0.0232-0.0219-0.0236
2000 AL -0.0245-0.0225-0.0252


The average win value of an out is surprisingly constant between these two years. This is because the number of outs in a game does not change with the run environment – there are 27 outs in a 9-inning baseball game, no matter how many hits, walks, and runs are accumulated in those nine innings.

Baserunning
The next table shows net offensive values for stolen bases, caught stealings, and advancements on wild pitches and passed balls.

Stolen base numbers here include all baserunner advancements on stolen-base attempts, including defensive indifference, balks, and errors on pickoffs. Caught stealing figures include successful pickoffs as well.

Stolen Base Success Rates
SB CS WP Break-even Actual
1968 AL 0.0264-0.04450.034862.8% 64.4%
2000 AL 0.0146-0.03810.021872.2% 68.7%


As with earlier offensive events, the increased value of the positive offensive events – stolen bases and wild pitches – are greater than the increased negative value of negative offensive events – caught stealing. Put together, the break-even success rate for stolen bases was far lower in 1968 – 62.8% - than in 2000 – 72.2% . The actual stolen base success rate was actually four percentage points higher in 2000 than in 1968. Yet, because of the difference in run-scoring environment, stolen bases were a net positive offensive event in 1968 but a net negative offensive event in 2000.

Going back to the first table, with singles, doubles, triples, and home runs, one can calculate the net win value of advancing an additional base. Note that these differences should be greater than the value of stolen bases or wild pitches, since these would involve additional baserunner advancement as well (that is, part of the added value of a double over a single is that a runner on second is practically guaranteed to score on a double but is less likely to score on a single).

Marginal Win Values of Bases
1st 2nd 3rd Home
1968 AL 0.04230.03110.02410.0735
2000 AL 0.03520.01590.01880.0559


Not all bases are created equal. The value of reaching first base is relatively similar in 1968 and 2000. Advancing into scoring position, however, is 96% more valuable in 1968. And actually scoring a run is 31% more valuable in 1968 – when runs were rare and hard to come by – than in 2000 – when runs were more relatively plentiful.

Best Hitters
The best hitter in the 1968 American League (as measured by batting wins over non-pitcher average) was Carl Yastrzemski of the Boston Red Sox , who amassed a batting line of .301/.426/.495 with 23 home runs, 74 RBI, and 90 runs scored. The .301 batting average and .426 OBP led the American League that year, as did Yastrzemski's .922 OPS, 170 park-adjusted OPS+, and 119 walks. To really drive home how low the offensive levels were in 1968, Yastrzemski’s .495 slugging percentage was 4th in the American League and his 90 runs scored was good for 2nd. In fact, his 74 RBIs were good for 8th in the AL that year.

The best hitter in the 2000 American League was Jason Giambi of the Oakland Athletics , who put up a batting line of .344/.470/.664 with 41 HR, 137 RBI, and 115 runs scored. Delgado led the American League in times on base, total bases, and runs created; finished 2nd in batting average, OBP, SLG, and walks; was 3rd in park-adjusted OPS+; and placed 4th in home runs and RBIs.

Superficially, Carlos Delgado’s 2000 season is vastly superior to Carl Yastrzemski’s 1968 season. Delgado’s context-neutral batting won-lost record was an impressive 16.3 - 9.3, 3.48 batting wins over non-pitcher average. This ranks 40th all-time, among batting seasons of the Retrosheet era, as measured by batting wins over non-pitcher average. In context, however, Carl Yastrzemski’s 1968 was virtually identical, and, in fact, actually very slightly better, ranking as the 111th best of the Retrosheet era: 16.3 - 9.9, 2.96 batting wins over non-pitcher average.

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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