Baseball Player Won-Loss Records
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The 1978 Season as seen through the Prism of Player Won-Lost Records



Next in my continuing series of looking at individual seasons through the prism of Player won-lost records is the 1978 season, which had a regular season so good they decided to play an extra game.

The Best of 1978

I calculate Player won-lost records two ways: pWins, which tie to team wins and eWins, which control for context and the ability of one's teammates. For players with more pWins than eWins, their Player wins contributed to more team wins than one might expect; for players with more eWins than pWins, just the opposite is true: their Player wins translated into fewer team wins than expected. Or more briefly: a player with more pWins than eWins was better in context, a player with more eWins than pWins was worse in context.

The top 10 players in pWins above Positional Average and Replacement Level were as follows.

pWins over Positional Average
Top 10 Players
          pWins over Replacement Level
Top 10 Players
Player pWins pLosses pWOPA pWORL           Player pWins pLosses pWOPA pWORL
1Ron Guidry18.69.64.6
5.9
1Ron Guidry18.69.64.6
5.9
2Jim Rice26.117.14.1
5.9
2Jim Rice26.117.14.1
5.9
3Amos Otis23.315.23.9
5.4
3Amos Otis23.315.23.9
5.4
4Mike Caldwell18.011.13.5
4.9
4Mike Caldwell18.011.13.5
4.9
5Carlton Fisk18.413.13.0
4.3
5Phil Niekro22.218.82.6
4.3
6Bob Knepper16.812.62.7
3.9
6Carlton Fisk18.413.13.0
4.3
7Gaylord Perry16.112.02.6
3.8
7Dave Winfield24.818.62.4
4.0
8Phil Niekro22.218.82.6
4.3
8George Foster24.918.72.4
4.0
9Dave Winfield24.818.62.4
4.0
9Bob Knepper16.812.62.7
3.9
10George Foster24.918.72.4
4.0
10Steve Garvey22.415.92.3
3.8


The top 10 players in eWins above Positional Average and Replacement Level were as follows.

eWins over Positional Average
Top 10 Players
          eWins over Replacement Level
Top 10 Players
Player eWins eLosses eWOPA eWORL           Player eWins eLosses eWOPA eWORL
1Ron Guidry16.69.83.5
4.7
1Jim Rice25.218.52.9
4.8
2Jim Rice25.218.52.9
4.8
2Ron Guidry16.69.83.5
4.7
3Mike Caldwell15.911.22.4
3.7
3Phil Niekro20.817.92.4
3.9
4Phil Niekro20.817.92.4
3.9
4Roy Smalley III22.519.82.3
3.9
5Carlton Fisk17.813.92.3
3.6
5Mike Caldwell15.911.22.4
3.7
6Amos Otis19.714.82.3
3.7
6Amos Otis19.714.82.3
3.7
7Roy Smalley III22.519.82.3
3.9
7Carlton Fisk17.813.92.3
3.6
8Jon Matlack16.312.12.2
3.5
8Jon Matlack16.312.12.2
3.5
9Lary Sorensen15.611.72.0
3.3
9Jack Clark24.819.21.9
3.5
10Dave Parker23.617.91.9
3.5
10Dave Parker23.617.91.9
3.5


Some seasons, it seems that almost all of the best players are Hall-of-Famers and some seasons not so much. The 1978 season appears to be one of those "not-so-much" seasons: of the 16 players in the four tables above, only 4 are in the Hall of Fame, and one of them barely made it.

AL MVP: Jim Rice vs. Ron Guidry
The 1978 season saw two American League players put up historical traditional numbers. Ron Guidry was the unanimous choice as AL Cy Young winner for posting a 25-3 record and a 1.74 ERA in 273.2 innings with 248 strikeouts. He finished second in AL MVP voting to Jim Rice whose Triple Crown stats were .315/46/139. Rice was also the first player to rack up 400 total bases (Rice had 406) since Hank Aaron in 1959 and the first American League player to do so since Joe DiMaggio in 1937.

The sabermetric consensus has generally been that Ron Guidry was better than Jim Rice in 1978 (and that Jim Rice is overrated in general).

Player won-lost records, however, see their two seasons as much closer in value with the choice between them coming down to what you prefer to judge them against: average or replacement level (or something in between). Guidry beats Rice in wins over positional average but comparing them against the lower replacement level gives the edge to Rice. Their seasons are compared in the next table.

Games pWins pLosses pWin Pct. pWOPA pWORL eWins eLosses eWin Pct. eWOPA eWORL
Ron Guidry
36
18.69.60.6604.6
5.9
16.69.80.6303.54.7
Jim Rice
163
26.117.10.6044.1
5.9
25.218.50.5772.94.8


Taking a weighted average of pWOPA and pWORL, Rice and Guidry end up with the same value using weights of -3.4% for pWOPA and 103.4% for pWORL. Using eWOPA and eWORL, Rice and Guidry are equal using weights of 8.8% for eWOPA and 91.2% for eWORL.

Mike Caldwell
As I noted above, 1978 seems to have been something of the year of the non-Hall-of-Famer. The player on the above lists who perhaps best personifies "non-Hall-of-Famer" is Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Mike Caldwell.

Mike Caldwell entered the 1978 season having spent seven seasons in the major leagues with four different teams compiling a pitcher won-lost record of 40-58 with 16 saves and a 4.02 ERA. Seemingly inexplicably, Caldwell pitched 293.1 IP in 1978, including 23 complete games (4 more than he had in the previous seven seasons combined) and 6 shutouts (1 more than he had in the previous seven seasons combined), with an ERA of 2.36. He remained solid, if not quite that good, in 1979 (16-6, 3.29 in 235 IP, 16 CG, 4 ShO), slipped back to mediocre in 1980 and hung around for four more seasons as a somewhat below-average starting pitcher. He did last long enough to appear for the Brewers in their only World Series appearance, where he pitched quite well (3 games, 2 starts, 2-0, 2.04 ERA in 17.2 IP).

The next table presents Mike Caldwell's career in three acts: Act I, journeyman; Act II, ace; Act III, past his prime.

Games pWins pLosses pWin Pct. pWOPA pWORL eWins eLosses eWin Pct. eWOPA eWORL
Act I: Journeyman (1971 - 1977)
257
46.550.70.479-1.0
3.7
49.252.40.484-0.54.4
Act II: Ace (1978 - 1979)
67
31.420.50.6045.7
8.1
29.522.50.5673.86.2
Act III: Past His Prime (1980 - 1984)
151
50.855.20.479-1.3
3.6
51.357.80.470-2.32.7
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Career
475
128.7126.40.5043.4
15.4
130.1132.80.4951.013.3


NL MVP: Dave Parker
The National League MVP winner in 1978, and deservedly so looking at eWins over replacement level, was Dave Parker (note: the top 10 in eWOPA and eWORL were dominated by American Leaguers in 1978). In 1978, Dave Parker was in the midst of a 5-year peak where he led all major-league players in pWins and eWins from 1975 through 1979.

The top 10 players in pWins over replacement level from 1975 - 1979 are shown in the next table.

Top 10 Major-League Players: 1975 - 1979
(measured by pWORL)
Player pWins pLosses pWOPA pWORL eWins eLosses eWOPA eWORL
Joe L. Morgan102.271.816.3
23.1
97.672.813.520.1
Jim Palmer84.357.914.0
20.7
84.562.811.718.7
Mike Schmidt110.781.512.8
20.3
108.880.112.619.9
Tom Seaver84.266.112.4
18.7
80.266.810.016.1
George Foster110.181.711.1
18.5
106.680.410.117.3
Reggie Jackson106.981.310.4
18.0
96.278.86.513.5
Amos Otis98.575.011.1
17.8
94.078.07.314.0
Dave Parker118.890.79.7
17.8
115.489.98.416.4
George Brett102.381.410.2
17.3
100.184.57.514.7
Dave Concepcion98.786.79.5
16.7
97.989.67.714.9


1978 Postseason

The 1978 postseason saw the same four division winners as 1977: New York, Kansas City, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles; the same two pennant winners: New York and Los Angeles; and the same World Series winner: the Yankees. In fact, the NLCS and World Series lasted the same number of games as in 1977; at least the Yankees beat the Royals in four games instead of five (as they had the two previous seasons) or things might have been really boring.

The postseason stars for the Yankees this season included their biggest regular-season star: Ron Guidry, along with Thurman Munson and Roy White. Davey Lopes and Steve Carlton had strong postseasons in losing causes.

1978 Postseason: Total
pWins pLosses pWORL
Davey LopesLAN2.31.30.6
Ron GuidryNYA1.40.60.5
Steve CarltonPHI1.20.30.5
Thurman MunsonNYA1.71.00.5
Rich GossageNYA0.90.20.4
Roy WhiteNYA1.71.10.4
Tommy JohnLAN1.30.80.4
Reggie JacksonNYA1.20.60.4


Top postseason players by round were as follows.

1978 Postseason: World Series
pWins pLosses pWORL
Bucky DentNYA1.00.60.3
Davey LopesLAN1.30.90.3
Roy WhiteNYA1.10.70.3
Ron GuidryNYA0.70.30.3

1978 Postseason: League Championship Series
pWins pLosses pWORL
Steve CarltonPHI1.20.30.5
Davey LopesLAN0.90.40.3
Bill RussellLAN0.80.40.3
Rich GossageNYA0.60.10.3
Thurman MunsonNYA0.80.40.3
Ron GuidryNYA0.70.30.3
Amos OtisKCA0.80.40.3
Steve GarveyLAN0.70.30.2
Ron CeyLAN0.70.30.2
Tommy JohnLAN0.60.30.2
Reggie JacksonNYA0.60.30.2
Dusty BakerLAN0.60.20.2
Graig NettlesNYA0.60.30.2


Best of 1978 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, Baserunning, Pitching, and Fielding. The top players in 1978 in eWOPA by factor were as follows.

Batting
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Jim Rice18.112.72.7

Positional Average excludes pitcher offense



Baserunning
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Ron LeFlore2.71.50.6
Davey Lopes2.41.10.6
Terry Puhl2.51.40.5
Julio Cruz2.31.30.5

Positional Average excludes pitcher offense



Pitching
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Ron Guidry14.69.45.2


Fielding, P
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Jack Billingham0.80.30.5


Fielding, C
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Rick Dempsey2.51.80.7


Fielding, 1B
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Jason D. Thompson3.32.21.2


Fielding, 2B
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Bob Randall4.23.11.0


Fielding, 3B
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Buddy Bell5.24.11.1


Fielding, SS
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Larry Bowa6.24.91.3


Fielding, LF
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Joe Rudi5.74.11.5


Fielding, CF
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Andre Dawson6.85.31.4
Amos Otis5.74.31.4


Fielding, RF
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Ellis Valentine7.75.52.2


The Montreal Expos' starting outfield in 1978 was Warren Cromartie in left, Andre Dawson in center, and Ellis Valentine in right, all of whom started at least 146 games, had at least 17 outfield assists, and, as shown above, led the major leagues in net fielding wins at their position.

Player won-lost records are divided into nine components. Components 8 and 9 are baserunner outs and baserunner advancements. The 1978 Montreal Expos were among the best defensive teams in Components 8 and 9 of any team for which I have calculated Player won-lost records. The top 10 teams in net fielding wins for Components 8 and 9, combined, are shown in the next table.

Net Fielding Wins, Components 8 and 9
(Top 10 Teams)
Team Season Wins Losses Net Wins
Cleveland Indians194417.713.73.9
Montreal Expos197815.211.83.4
Toronto Blue Jays198711.99.03.0
Cincinnati Reds197412.49.52.9
California Angels197113.510.72.8
Montreal Expos198312.59.92.6
Toronto Blue Jays198412.29.72.5
St. Louis Browns194615.412.92.5
Chicago White Sox195510.37.92.5
Houston Astros197013.511.02.5


Best by Position
Next, we look at 1978 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).



Catcher
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Carlton Fisk17.513.92.2


First Base
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Jason D. Thompson18.614.31.7


Second Base
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Bill Madlock16.413.71.6


Third Base
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Doug DeCinces16.913.71.5
Ron Cey20.216.51.5


Shortstop
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Roy Smalley III22.420.02.1


Left Field
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Jim Rice17.213.01.7


Center Field
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Amos Otis19.414.92.2


Right Field
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Dave Parker23.718.01.9


Starting Pitcher
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Ron Guidry14.99.72.7


Relief Pitcher
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Kent Tekulve7.65.90.7
Rollie Fingers5.94.40.7


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 1978 in context, in terms of pWins and pWOPA.

Top Relief Pitchers of 1978, based on pWORL
Player pWins pLosses pWin Pct. pWOPA pWORL
Kent Tekulve9.56.00.6141.72.6
Doug Bair8.95.80.6041.52.3
Rollie Fingers9.36.50.5911.42.3
Terry Forster6.23.10.6691.62.1
John Hiller7.24.30.6251.32.0


Designated Hitter
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Rico Carty14.211.01.5


Finally, here are the best at three oft-forgotten positions that can nevertheless matter: pitcher offense, pinch hitting, and pinch running.

Pitcher Offense
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Steve Carlton1.61.60.5


Pinch Hitter
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Jerry Turner1.80.90.5


Pinch Runner
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Bobby Thompson0.30.10.1
Bert Campaneris0.20.00.1


Noteworthy Players of 1978

Finally, let's take a look at some players who had noteworthy 1978 seasons.

Notable Debuts
The 1978 season saw the major-league debut of two middle infielders who would go on to be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame: Paul Molitor and Ozzie Smith.

The career Player won-lost records of Molitor and Smith are shown in the next table.

Paul Molitor Ozzie Smith
Season Games pWins pLoss Win Pct. pWOPA pWORL Games pWins pLoss Win Pct. pWOPA pWORL
197812416.114.90.5201.1
2.3
15921.121.60.4940.42.1
197914020.916.50.5592.7
4.2
15617.418.90.479-0.21.2
198011115.514.00.5261.2
2.4
15821.321.00.5040.92.5
1981647.07.10.496-0.2
0.5
11013.115.50.459-0.70.4
198216022.417.90.5572.1
3.7
14019.616.80.5381.83.2
198315117.417.30.501-0.1
1.1
15920.217.80.5311.52.8
1984121.11.20.461-0.1
0.0
12417.915.50.5371.93.1
198514017.516.70.5110.4
1.7
15822.518.10.5532.84.3
198610514.211.70.5491.1
2.1
15318.916.70.5311.62.9
198711815.210.30.5952.4
3.7
15823.017.40.5703.34.9
198815420.916.20.5642.3
3.9
15322.617.80.5602.74.3
198915519.416.80.5361.3
2.7
15520.718.60.5271.52.9
199010311.911.80.5030.0
0.9
14316.317.20.485-0.11.1
199115818.815.10.5551.3
3.1
15020.717.70.5391.83.3
199215818.013.40.5741.8
3.5
13218.516.80.5241.32.6
199316018.512.80.5912.6
4.4
14018.618.20.5060.62.0
199411511.49.60.5440.6
1.9
9810.912.30.469-0.50.5
199513010.710.80.498-0.5
0.9
444.65.60.453-0.40.0
199616116.814.30.5400.7
2.6
827.56.80.5240.51.1
199713513.013.10.499-0.4
1.2
199812611.211.70.490-0.7
0.7
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
CAREER RECORDS2,680317.9273.00.53819.8
47.4
2,572335.3310.10.52020.845.5


Team Comparison: Which Team was Better, the New York Yankees or the Boston Red Sox
The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox ended the regularly scheduled portion of the 1978 season tied with 99 wins apiece. The Yankees won Game 163 and the A.L. East division title, from which they went on to win their second straight World Series.

Player pWins are tied to team wins. Hence, the players on the New York Yankees ended up combining for exactly one more pWin than the players on the Boston Red Sox, by construction. I also calculate eWins, however, which are context-neutralized and not tied to team wins. So how did the 1978 Yankees and Red Sox compare in eWins? The next two tables make that comparison.

The first table compares eWins for the Yankees and Red Sox by factor: batting, baserunning, pitching, and fielding.

Basic Decomposition of eWins, eLosses
Batting Baserunning Pitching Fielding
eWins eLosses eWinPct eWins eLosses eWinPct eWins eLosses eWinPct eWins eLosses eWinPct
New York Yankees 112.8110.6
0.505
11.010.0
0.524
75.968.7
0.525
41.442.90.491
Boston Red Sox 121.6113.7
0.517
11.211.8
0.487
78.177.1
0.503
50.348.80.507


The Yankees had a fairly average offense and excellent pitching - e.g., Ron Guidry. The Red Sox had fairly average pitching and excellent hitting - e.g., Jim Rice.

The next table compares the Yankees and Red Sox by position.

eWins, eLosses, eWOPA by Position
New York Yankees Boston Red Sox
Position eWins eLosses eWOPA eWins eLosses eWOPA
Catcher 14.416.8
-0.8
18.315.22.0
First Base 15.915.2
-0.1
16.215.8-0.3
Second Base 19.919.5
0.8
21.123.0-0.3
Third Base 19.717.5
1.0
17.618.8-0.7
Shortstop 15.917.7
-0.2
20.222.6-0.2
Left Field 19.720.0
-0.6
26.421.71.8
Center Field 20.120.6
-0.4
23.020.51.1
Right Field 22.519.8
0.7
22.919.31.2
Designated Hitter 13.212.0
0.5
13.413.5-0.1
Pinch Hitter 2.52.2
0.2
1.31.20.1
Pinch Runner 0.00.0
0.0
0.10.2-0.0
Starting Pitcher 55.449.5
3.4
59.959.70.5
Relief Pitcher 22.421.0
0.2
20.919.70.2
Total 241.6230.9
5.2
261.6251.05.5


Great starting pitching in New York supplemented by an above-average bullpen beat out an outstanding outfield supplemented with an All-Star catcher. In this case, the old adage held true (barely): good pitching beat good hitting.



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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