Baseball Player Won-Loss Records
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The 1979 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 1979 season.

The Best of 1979

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
1Gorman Thomas22.915.13.7
5.2
1Gorman Thomas22.915.13.7
5.2
2Fred Lynn22.114.63.6
5.0
2Fred Lynn22.114.63.6
5.0
3Darrell Porter19.012.53.5
4.8
3Darrell Porter19.012.53.5
4.8
4Mike Flanagan17.811.83.3
4.6
4Mike Schmidt24.117.13.1
4.7
5Mike Schmidt24.117.13.1
4.7
5Mike Flanagan17.811.83.3
4.6
6J.R. Richard20.215.93.1
4.5
6J.R. Richard20.215.93.1
4.5
7Bobby Grich20.115.22.9
4.3
7Bobby Grich20.115.22.9
4.3
8Ron Guidry16.010.72.8
4.0
8Paul Molitor20.916.52.7
4.2
9Tommy John15.710.72.7
3.9
9Dave Concepcion21.717.82.6
4.2
10Paul Molitor20.916.52.7
4.2
10Ron Guidry16.010.72.8
4.0


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
1Darrell Porter18.112.92.8
4.1
1Fred Lynn20.614.72.8
4.2
2Fred Lynn20.614.72.8
4.2
2Mike Schmidt23.317.42.5
4.1
3George Foster19.012.72.6
3.9
3Darrell Porter18.112.92.8
4.1
4Dave Concepcion21.818.12.6
4.1
4Dave Concepcion21.818.12.6
4.1
5Mike Schmidt23.317.42.5
4.1
5Dave Winfield26.019.52.2
4.0
6J.R. Richard18.115.02.4
3.7
6Roy Smalley III23.120.82.2
3.9
7Tommy John15.811.42.4
3.6
7George Foster19.012.72.6
3.9
8Bobby Grich19.916.02.4
3.8
8Gorman Thomas21.216.12.4
3.8
9Gorman Thomas21.216.12.4
3.8
9Bobby Grich19.916.02.4
3.8
10Dave Winfield26.019.52.2
4.0
10J.R. Richard18.115.02.4
3.7


For many seasons, the top 10 lists at the start of these articles contain mostly players in the Hall of Fame or at least players in the Hall of Merit. The 1979 season is an exception. Of the 14 players who show up on one or more of the four tables above, only three of them are in the Hall of Fame and only three are in the Hall of Merit.

Based on Player won-lost records, the story of the 1979 season appears to be somewhat unheralded players having career years. I take a closer look at three such players next.

Darrell Porter
As measured by pWins over positional average, Darrell Porter has a case for having been the most valuable player in major-league baseball in 1979. Even measured against replacement level or using eWins, Porter was definitely one of the top 5 players in baseball in 1979.

The 1979 season was Porter's best season by far. In fact, measured by pWins over replacement level, Porter's 1979 season was twice as good as his next-best season.

Even so, Porter had a respectable career. He made 4 All-Star teams, finished in the top 10 in MVP voting twice (including 9th in 1979), and was the starting catcher for three World Series teams.

Darrell Porter's career, as measured by Player won-lost records, is shown in the next table.

Darrell Porter
Basic Player Won-Lost Records
Value Decomposition
Season Team Age Games pWins pLosses pWin Pct. pWOPA pWORL eWins eLosses eWin Pct. eWOPA eWORL
1971MIL19
22
1.71.70.4960.0
0.1
1.81.70.5090.00.2
1972MIL20
18
0.81.70.335-0.4
-0.3
1.01.60.381-0.3-0.2
1973MIL21
117
11.48.90.5601.4
2.4
10.99.10.5451.12.0
1974MIL22
130
12.511.30.5270.9
1.9
12.611.10.5311.02.0
1975MIL23
129
12.310.70.5361.0
1.9
13.511.20.5471.42.4
1976MIL24
119
9.710.90.471-0.3
0.5
9.310.60.467-0.40.4
1977KCA25
130
11.210.10.5250.6
1.4
11.710.90.5170.41.4
1978KCA26
150
15.113.20.5341.3
2.4
14.412.70.5311.22.2
1979KCA27
157
19.012.50.6033.5
4.8
18.112.90.5822.84.1
1980KCA28
118
10.59.40.5280.7
1.6
10.310.00.5080.31.2
1981SLN29
61
6.14.60.5720.8
1.2
5.25.00.5080.10.5
1982SLN30
120
11.09.20.5441.0
1.7
11.210.40.5170.41.3
1983SLN31
144
13.411.70.5331.0
1.9
12.610.90.5350.91.8
1984SLN32
127
13.111.50.5331.0
1.9
12.111.80.5060.31.3
1985SLN33
83
7.56.00.5560.8
1.3
6.56.40.5070.20.7
1986TEX34
64
4.23.40.5510.4
0.8
4.83.60.5700.61.0
1987TEX35
80
3.42.40.5850.5
0.8
3.43.00.5260.20.6
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
CAREER (reg. season)
1,769
162.9139.20.53914.3
26.5
159.2143.00.52710.522.7
------ ------ ------ ------ ------
PostSeason (career)
37
3.23.00.515 0.43.42.90.537 0.5
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
COMBINED
1,806
166.1142.10.539
26.9
162.6145.90.527 23.2


Gorman Thomas
As measured by pWins over replacement level, Gorman Thomas has a case for having been the most valuable player in major-league baseball in 1979. Controlling for context, Thomas looks a little less impressive when looking at eWins, but still in the top 10 among major-league players in 1979.

The 1979 season was Thomas's best, but he had a solid 5-year prime from 1978 - 1982 for the Milwaukee Brewers which culminated with the only World Series appearance in Brewers history.

Gorman Thomas's career, as measured by Player won-lost records, is shown in the next table.

Gorman Thomas
Basic Player Won-Lost Records
Value Decomposition
Season Team Age Games pWins pLosses pWin Pct. pWOPA pWORL eWins eLosses eWin Pct. eWOPA eWORL
1973MIL22
55
3.95.40.417-0.8
-0.4
4.55.80.436-0.7-0.3
1974MIL23
17
2.11.40.5980.3
0.5
1.91.50.5600.20.3
1975MIL24
113
7.68.60.471-0.5
0.1
8.58.90.486-0.30.4
1976MIL25
99
8.88.00.5250.3
1.0
8.68.30.5090.10.7
1978MIL27
137
16.114.00.5341.0
2.1
16.113.00.5531.52.6
1979MIL28
156
22.915.10.6033.7
5.2
21.216.10.5692.43.8
1980MIL29
162
19.918.30.5210.7
2.1
19.217.40.5250.82.2
1981MIL30
103
13.511.10.5491.0
2.0
13.311.00.5481.01.9
1982MIL31
158
21.317.50.5491.9
3.3
20.317.50.5371.32.8
32
152
17.419.90.466-1.4
-0.0
17.818.80.486-0.60.7
1984SEA33
35
3.63.60.499-0.1
0.2
3.53.80.477-0.30.0
1985SEA34
135
12.512.00.5090.2
1.7
12.310.10.5491.12.4
35
101
6.28.00.437-1.1
-0.3
6.97.20.491-0.30.5
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
CAREER (reg. season)
1,423
155.9143.00.5225.2
17.4
154.1139.50.5256.118.1
------ ------ ------ ------ ------
PostSeason (career)
17
1.52.00.431 -0.11.31.90.409 -0.2
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
COMBINED
1,440
157.4145.00.522
17.3
155.5141.40.525 17.9


Fred Lynn
Measured by eWins over either positional average or replacement level, Fred Lynn was probably the best player in major-league baseball in 1979.

Fred Lynn's 1979 was not as extreme relative to every other season of his career as Porter and Thomas. But, as measured by Player won-lost records, 1979 was Lynn's best season, even slightly better than his Rookie-of-Year/MVP 1975 season. Through 1979, Fred Lynn's age-27 season, he had put up two MVP-caliber seasons in his five-year career, along with two other seasons that were at least All-Star level quality (1976, 1978). The future looked bright indeed. Unfortunately, Fred Lynn never had another season as good as his 1975 or 1979 season again. Nevertheless, he still had an excellent career.

Fred Lynn's career, as measured by Player won-lost records, is shown in the next table.

Fred Lynn
Basic Player Won-Lost Records
Value Decomposition
Season Team Age Games pWins pLosses pWin Pct. pWOPA pWORL eWins eLosses eWin Pct. eWOPA eWORL
1974BOS22
15
1.91.50.5600.2
0.3
1.91.30.5970.30.4
1975BOS23
145
22.216.40.5762.7
4.3
20.715.30.5752.53.9
1976BOS24
132
17.016.10.5140.3
1.6
19.415.70.5531.73.0
1977BOS25
129
15.115.00.502-0.0
1.2
15.415.50.498-0.21.1
1978BOS26
150
20.116.30.5521.8
3.2
20.618.70.5240.82.3
1979BOS27
147
22.114.60.6033.6
5.0
20.614.70.5842.84.2
1980BOS28
110
15.012.50.5461.2
2.2
15.012.50.5461.22.2
1981CAL29
76
8.410.00.457-0.9
-0.2
8.08.60.482-0.40.3
1982CAL30
137
18.614.90.5561.8
3.1
17.814.50.5511.62.9
1983CAL31
117
14.814.90.498-0.2
0.9
15.014.20.5140.31.4
1984CAL32
142
17.916.20.5260.5
1.8
19.315.60.5531.42.8
1985BAL33
124
14.513.90.5110.1
1.2
14.013.00.5180.31.3
1986BAL34
112
15.612.50.5561.5
2.5
14.012.00.5370.91.8
1987BAL35
111
11.912.70.483-0.6
0.4
12.212.30.498-0.20.8
36
114
12.714.20.472-0.9
0.1
13.212.10.5220.41.4
1989DET37
117
10.712.10.469-0.8
0.1
10.310.30.498-0.20.7
1990SDN38
89
5.66.80.452-0.7
-0.2
6.06.30.488-0.30.2
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
CAREER (reg. season)
1,967
244.2220.50.5259.5
27.5
243.2212.50.53413.130.7
------ ------ ------ ------ ------
PostSeason (career)
15
2.12.10.498 0.12.31.90.552 0.4
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
COMBINED
1,982
246.2222.50.525
27.6
245.5214.40.534 31.1


1979 Postseason

The 1979 postseason was my first crushing disappointment as a baseball fan. I was an 11-year-old fan of the Baltimore Orioles in 1979. My Orioles won 102 regular-season games, beat the California Angels 3-1 in the ALCS and led the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-1 in the World Series with the final two games of the Series being played in Baltimore. The Orioles proceeded to score 2 runs on 17 hits in the final three games of the Series and the Pittsburgh Pirates were World Champions. The song "We Are Family" still makes me scowl.

The top postseason performers in 1979, as measured by Player won-lost records, are presented next.

1979 Postseason: Total
pWins pLosses pWORL
Bert BlylevenPIT1.30.60.5
Dave ParkerPIT1.81.00.5
Tim FoliPIT1.71.20.4
Willie StargellPIT1.70.90.4
Mike FlanaganBAL1.61.10.4
Phil GarnerPIT1.61.10.4
Bill MadlockPIT1.30.80.3
Scott McGregorBAL1.51.20.3
Kent TekulvePIT1.00.60.3


Top postseason players by round were as follows.

1979 Postseason: World Series
pWins pLosses pWORL
Mike FlanaganBAL1.40.90.4
Dave ParkerPIT1.20.70.3
Bert BlylevenPIT0.60.30.2
Bill MadlockPIT0.90.60.2
Tim FoliPIT1.10.90.2

1979 Postseason: League Championship Series
pWins pLosses pWORL
Willie StargellPIT0.80.30.3
Phil GarnerPIT0.60.10.2
Tim FoliPIT0.60.30.2
Bert BlylevenPIT0.60.30.2
John LowensteinBAL0.60.20.2
Doug DeCincesBAL0.70.30.2
Jim PalmerBAL0.50.20.2
Eddie MurrayBAL0.70.40.2
Dave ParkerPIT0.60.30.2
Scott McGregorBAL0.60.30.2
H. Pat KellyBAL0.50.20.2
Jim BibbyPIT0.40.10.2


Best of 1979 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 1979 in eWOPA by factor were as follows.

Batting
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Dave Winfield17.010.92.8
Fred Lynn14.89.32.7

Positional Average excludes pitcher offense



Baserunning
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Willie Wilson2.81.20.8

Positional Average excludes pitcher offense



Pitching
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Tommy John14.010.63.4
J.R. Richard15.412.33.1
Jim Kern8.15.32.8
Mike Flanagan14.411.82.6


Fielding, P
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Jim Todd0.40.10.3
Rick Waits0.50.20.3
Tom Seaver0.40.20.3
Vida Blue0.50.20.3


Fielding, C
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Gary Carter2.61.80.8


Fielding, 1B
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Eddie Murray2.31.70.6


Fielding, 2B
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Willie Randolph5.94.61.3


Fielding, 3B
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Buddy Bell5.54.11.5


Fielding, SS
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Rick Burleson6.55.41.2


Fielding, LF
eWins eLosses Net Wins
George Foster5.74.51.3


Fielding, CF
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Amos Otis6.04.81.1


Fielding, RF
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Ellis Valentine5.85.00.8


Best by Position
Next, we look at 1979 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
Darrell Porter16.312.22.3


First Base
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Keith Hernandez20.515.41.7


Second Base
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Bobby Grich19.916.22.3


Third Base
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Mike Schmidt23.217.52.4


Shortstop
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Dave Concepcion21.618.52.3


Left Field
eWins eLosses eWOPA
George Foster18.712.92.3


Center Field
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Fred Lynn20.314.82.6


Right Field
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Dave Winfield26.019.72.1


Starting Pitcher
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Tommy John14.311.01.8
J.R. Richard15.812.51.8
Mike Flanagan14.911.81.8


Relief Pitcher
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Jim Kern8.46.00.9


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 1979 in context, in terms of pWins and pWOPA.

Top Relief Pitchers of 1979, based on pWORL
Player pWins pLosses pWin Pct. pWOPA pWORL
Jim Kern12.46.70.6482.53.7
Aurelio Lopez10.05.10.6632.23.1
Kent Tekulve9.85.70.6341.92.8
Bruce Sutter9.96.00.6241.82.8
Sid Monge11.27.80.5871.32.5


Jim Kern fits in well with the earlier theme of non-HOF-level players having career years. You probably have to be a pretty fanatic fan of a certain age, probably of at least the American League if not of one of Kern's teams (mostly the Indians and Rangers) to even recognize his name. His 1979 season was an excellent season: 13-5, 29 saves, 1.57 ERA in 143 IP, all in relief. Even in the fireman era, Kern's 1979 season stood out.

The next table shows the top 10 seasons by relief pitchers, sorted by pWins.

Player Season Team pWins pLosses pWin Pct. pWOPA pWORL
Mike G. Marshall1974LAN13.912.30.5300.42.0
Dick Radatz1964BOS13.08.30.6102.23.6
Jim Kern1979TEX12.46.70.6482.53.7
Bill Campbell1977BOS12.38.20.6001.73.0
John Hiller1973DET12.25.20.7043.24.3
Rich Gossage1975CHA12.16.80.6402.43.6
Dan Quisenberry1980KCA12.05.80.6742.84.0
Mike G. Marshall1973MON11.99.20.5641.22.4
John Hiller1974DET11.49.40.5460.51.8
Joe Page1949NYA11.39.00.5591.32.7


Designated Hitter
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Don Baylor8.14.91.6


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
Mike Krukow1.11.30.3
Rick Sutcliffe1.41.80.3
Larry Christenson0.80.60.3
Dan Schatzeder1.01.20.3


Pinch Hitter
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Del Unser1.50.90.4


Pinch Runner
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Miguel Dilone0.40.00.2


Noteworthy Players of 1979

The 1979 season was the final season for St. Louis Cardinals great Lou Brock. Brock retired as the single-season and career record holders for stolen bases.

Unknown at the time, the 1979 season was also the first season for the player who would break both of those records: Rickey Henderson.

The next table compares the careers of Lou Brock and Rickey Henderson, as measured by Player won-lost records.

Lou Brock Rickey Henderson
Age Games pWins pLoss pWOPA pWORL Games pWins pLoss pWOPA pWORL
20
 
8912.312.3-0.20.8
21
 
15826.620.42.44.2
22
30.10.5-0.2
-0.2
10817.713.71.62.9
23
11911.114.3-1.9
-0.9
14922.119.01.22.7
24
14817.516.8-0.6
0.8
14520.517.41.22.6
25
15421.719.20.3
2.0
14222.517.32.13.6
26
15521.719.70.2
1.8
14223.015.93.34.7
27
15621.920.6-0.1
1.6
15320.818.51.02.4
28
15924.620.60.9
2.9
9513.410.81.12.2
29
15925.619.51.9
3.7
13922.516.72.64.0
30
15723.520.10.9
2.8
15022.617.32.13.5
31
15520.322.5-2.2
-0.4
13623.814.54.25.6
32
15722.721.7-0.4
1.4
13319.215.41.73.1
33
15319.319.1-0.7
0.9
11517.912.12.73.8
34
15922.820.70.1
1.9
13419.116.51.02.5
35
15323.020.70.3
1.9
8711.38.91.01.9
36
13618.219.8-1.3
0.2
11214.912.21.12.2
37
13315.716.9-1.2
-0.0
14616.014.10.41.6
38
14014.515.8-1.2
0.1
12011.812.2-0.40.7
39
927.811.4-2.1
-1.4
15218.118.4-0.31.1
40
12010.813.0-1.5
-0.6
12114.714.0-0.11.0
41
 
12013.914.3-0.60.6
42
 
12213.212.5-0.11.0
43
 
616.66.7-0.20.4
44
 
301.92.1-0.2-0.0
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
CAREER RECORDS2,608343.0332.9-8.8
18.3
3,059426.7353.328.759.4




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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