Baseball Player Won-Loss Records
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The 1980 Season as seen through the Prism of Player Won-Lost Records

It has been said that baseball fans tend to think that Major-League Baseball was at its best when the fan was twelve years old. Next in my continuing series of articles about individual seasons is the season when Major-League Baseball was at its best, or at least, it's the season during which I turned 12: 1980.

The Best of 1980

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
1George Brett18.610.24.1
5.2
1George Brett18.610.24.1
5.2
2Steve Carlton19.913.23.9
5.2
2Steve Carlton19.913.23.9
5.2
3Willie Randolph20.614.83.4
4.8
3Willie Randolph20.614.83.4
4.8
4Mike Norris17.611.03.3
4.5
4Willie Wilson26.019.22.9
4.7
5Dan Quisenberry11.95.83.1
4.2
5Mike Schmidt23.616.93.0
4.6
6Mike Schmidt23.616.93.0
4.6
6Mike Norris17.611.03.3
4.5
7Willie Wilson26.019.22.9
4.7
7Robin Yount21.718.02.8
4.3
8Robin Yount21.718.02.8
4.3
8Dan Quisenberry11.95.83.1
4.2
9Dale Murphy23.317.12.7
4.2
9Dale Murphy23.317.12.7
4.2
10Tommy John16.211.12.6
3.8
10Rickey Henderson26.620.52.4
4.2


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
1Mike Schmidt23.716.83.1
4.7
1Mike Schmidt23.716.83.1
4.7
2George Brett17.411.33.0
4.1
2Robin Yount21.917.92.9
4.4
3Robin Yount21.917.92.9
4.4
3Rickey Henderson26.620.52.4
4.2
4Steve Carlton18.514.52.6
3.8
4George Brett17.411.33.0
4.1
5Willie Randolph19.715.72.5
3.9
5Willie Randolph19.715.72.5
3.9
6Mike Norris16.711.92.4
3.7
6Willie Wilson25.220.02.1
3.9
7Rickey Henderson26.620.52.4
4.2
7Steve Carlton18.514.52.6
3.8
8Dale Murphy22.917.42.3
3.8
8Dale Murphy22.917.42.3
3.8
9Willie Wilson25.220.02.1
3.9
9Ben Oglivie25.019.82.0
3.7
10Gary Carter17.213.22.1
3.3
10Mike Norris16.711.92.4
3.7




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.

MVP Third Basemen: George Brett vs. Mike Schmidt
The Most Valuable Player in both leagues was the starting third baseman for the league's eventual pennant winner. In the American League, George Brett flirted with .400 all season, when he wasn't missing 45 games with injuries. Meanwhile, in the National League, Mike Schmidt led his league in home runs, RBIs, and slugging percentage.

Mike Schmidt and George Brett are the top two players in three of the four tables above.

Mike Schmidt's season was comparably excellent in or out of context. In contrast, Brett's performance led to about one more win than expected. For their careers, Brett earned a few more pWOPA and pWORL in his career than eWOPA and eWORL, while Schmidt's eWOPA and eWORL were a bit higher than his pWOPA and pWORL. These differences were quite modest, however, and Schmidt's career pWORL, while lower than his own career eWORL, was nevertheless higher than Brett's career pWORL (even though Brett's pWORL was higher than his eWORL). Their career statistics are compared below.

Games pWins pLosses pWin Pct. pWOPA pWORL eWins eLosses eWin Pct. eWOPA eWORL
Mike Schmidt, career
2,403
337.5257.50.56734.0
56.8
340.6254.30.57337.159.9
George Brett, career
2,706
328.1274.90.54422.4
47.3
324.9278.20.53919.244.1


Starting Pitchers: Steve Carlton vs. Mike Norris
The best pitcher in the National League, as measured by pWins, over either positional average or replacement level, was Cy Young Award winner Steve Carlton. The best pitcher in the American League, as measured by either pWins or eWins, over either average or replacement level, was AL Cy Young runner-up Mike Norris.

Both of these two pitchers look a little bit better in context, although context helps Steve Carlton out quite a bit more than it helps Mike Norris.

Looking at Carlton's pitching splits helps to show why he looks better in context. With the bases empty, batters hit .232/.283/.348 against Carlton. This is excellent, of course (it works out to an OPS+ of 81). But with runners in scoring position, batters hit .190/.265/.255 against Carlton, an OPS+ of 44. Opponents had only 15 plate appearances all season against Carlton with the bases loaded (which, in and of itself, speaks to how "clutch" he was) and managed one double, one walk, and a mere three runs scored - that's a batting line of .071/.133/.143 and an OPS+ of -24 (yes, OPS+ can go negative if the batting line is bad enough).

Unappreciated Greatness
The 1980 season was the finest season in Willie Randolph's career. Willie Randolph was a six-time All-Star, but only received scattered MVP votes twice (with a high finish of 15th). Surprisingly (to me), he never won a Gold Glove, and when he appeared on a Hall of Fame ballot for the first (and only) time, in 1998, he received 5 votes.

In contrast, Willie Randolph was elected to the Hall of Merit in "2001" (the Hall of Merit elected their "2001" class in July, 2007). At the time, I thought of this as a great example of how the Hall of Fame is too big (the Hall of Merit was designed to be the same size). I certainly never thought of Willie Randolph as a Hall-of-Famer when I watched him play.

But having constructed Player won-lost records and looking at Willie Randolph's career with them, I am reconsidering. The fact is, Willie Randolph had a terrific career and is, I believe, deservedly in the Hall of Merit.

Willie Randolph
Basic Player Won-Lost Records
Value Decomposition
Season Team Age Games pWins pLosses pWin Pct. pWOPA pWORL eWins eLosses eWin Pct. eWOPA eWORL
1975PIT20
30
1.52.00.426-0.2
-0.1
1.42.10.399-0.3-0.2
1976NYA21
125
14.513.50.5180.9
1.9
14.613.40.5210.92.0
1977NYA22
147
18.516.60.5271.5
2.9
17.917.10.5111.02.4
1978NYA23
134
18.014.90.5472.0
3.3
17.315.60.5251.32.6
1979NYA24
153
20.417.40.5402.0
3.4
20.017.80.5301.63.0
1980NYA25
138
20.614.80.5813.4
4.8
19.715.70.5572.53.9
1981NYA26
93
12.611.90.5140.7
1.6
12.512.10.5070.51.5
1982NYA27
144
17.517.20.5040.5
1.8
17.717.10.5090.72.0
1983NYA28
104
13.712.20.5281.0
1.9
13.412.60.5150.71.6
1984NYA29
142
17.917.00.5130.9
2.2
17.517.40.5010.51.8
1985NYA30
143
16.716.00.5110.5
1.7
16.815.80.5150.61.8
1986NYA31
141
16.415.70.5110.8
2.0
16.515.60.5140.92.1
1987NYA32
120
17.213.50.5592.3
3.5
16.614.10.5421.72.9
1988NYA33
110
12.612.00.5110.5
1.5
12.112.50.4920.11.0
1989LAN34
145
19.317.00.5311.0
2.3
18.817.50.5180.51.8
35
119
12.411.40.5210.6
1.5
11.612.20.489-0.10.7
1991MIL36
124
16.213.70.5411.2
2.4
15.714.20.5250.81.9
1992NYN37
90
9.59.80.491-0.2
0.5
9.89.50.5070.10.8
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
CAREER (reg. season)
2,202
275.2246.70.52719.4
39.3
269.8252.20.51713.933.8
------ ------ ------ ------ ------
PostSeason (career)
47
4.84.70.505 0.55.25.30.495 0.5
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
COMBINED
2,249
280.0251.40.527
39.8
274.9257.50.517 34.3


The 1980 Postseason

The story of the 1980 postseason was one of redemption. The Kansas City Royals finally beat the New York Yankees after losing to them in three previous postseasons. The Philadelphia Phillies also won after losing three previous LCS's, although not all to the same team, and none to their 1980 opponent.

The 1980 World Series featured two teams who had never previously won a World Series. I believe that this was the first such meeting since 1920. The 1980 postseason culminated in the Philadelphia Phillies winning their first World Series in their then-98-year history.

The best of the 1980 postseason in table form:
1980 Postseason: Total
pWins pLosses pWORL
Willie AikensKCA1.50.40.6
Steve CarltonPHI1.71.00.5
Tug McGrawPHI1.51.00.4
Pete Rose Sr.PHI1.60.80.4


Top postseason players by round were as follows.

1980 Postseason: World Series
pWins pLosses pWORL
Willie AikensKCA1.20.30.5
Tug McGrawPHI1.00.60.3
Bake McBridePHI1.10.50.3
Steve CarltonPHI1.00.60.3

1980 Postseason: League Championship Series
pWins pLosses pWORL
George BrettKCA0.80.20.3
Jose Cruz Sr.HOU1.20.70.3
Willie WilsonKCA0.80.30.3
Frank WhiteKCA0.70.30.3
Pete Rose Sr.PHI1.00.50.3
Greg LuzinskiPHI0.80.40.2
Joe NiekroHOU0.60.30.2
Steve CarltonPHI0.70.40.2
Dan QuisenberryKCA0.60.40.2
U L WashingtonKCA0.50.20.2
Terry PuhlHOU0.90.60.2
Larry GuraKCA0.60.40.2
Dennis LeonardKCA0.60.30.2
Amos OtisKCA0.50.20.2


Best of 1980 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 1980 in eWOPA by factor were as follows.

Batting
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Mike Schmidt17.310.63.1

Positional Average excludes pitcher offense



Baserunning
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Ron LeFlore3.81.51.1

Positional Average excludes pitcher offense



LeFlore's and Wilson's 1980 seasons both rank among the top 10 baserunning seasons for the seasons for which I have calculated Player won-lost records (1921 - 2018). The top 10 such seasons are shown below.

Top 10 Single-Season Baserunning Totals
(Wins over non-Pitcher Average)
Player Season eWins eLosses eWOPA
Maury Wills19624.01.41.2
Rickey Henderson19884.01.71.2
Ron LeFlore19803.81.51.1
Rickey Henderson19853.51.41.1
Tim Raines Sr.19853.51.50.9
Willie Wilson19803.01.20.9
Bobby Bonds19722.50.70.9
Rickey Henderson19833.41.60.9
Vince Coleman19853.82.00.8
Bert Campaneris19693.11.30.8


The relative importance of baserunning varies over time. The time period around 1980 was one in which baserunning was a more significant aspect of the game than time periods just before (e.g, the 1950s and 1960s) and after (e.g., the 1990s and 2000s).

The biggest differences in baserunning across seasons are those associated with what I call Component 1, basestealing. In 1980, Rickey Henderson stole 100 bases, Ron LeFlore stole 97 bases, and Omar Moreno stole 96 bases. At the time, these were 3 of the top 6 single-season stolen base totals of the 20th century. In 2012, Mike Trout led the major leagues with 49 stolen bases; in 1980, 10 players stole at least 50 bases.

Even beyond Component 1, however, baserunning was a larger part of the game in 1980 than most seasons either before or after.

The table below shows how the percentage of total offensive Player decisions that were baserunning compares in 1980 relative to the average for all of the seasons over which Player won-lost records have been calculated.

Percentage of Total Offensive Decisions
Attributed to Baserunning
Percentage
Season(s) Total Basestealing Other
1921 - 2018 8.4% 2.2% 6.2%
1980 9.3% 2.9% 6.4%


Now, back to the leading players of 1980.

Pitching
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Steve Carlton16.212.43.8
Mike Norris14.611.43.3


Next, we look at the major-league leaders in net fielding wins in 1980 by fielding position.

Fielding, P
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Doc Medich0.90.40.5


Fielding, C
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Gary Carter2.81.81.0


Fielding, 1B
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Ron D. Jackson1.91.60.3


Fielding, 2B
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Manny Trillo6.15.30.8
Glenn Hubbard5.24.40.8


Fielding, 3B
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Ron Cey4.73.70.9


Fielding, SS
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Rick Burleson7.36.01.3


Fielding, LF
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Paul Hodgson2.10.31.7


Fielding, CF
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Omar Moreno7.96.31.5


Fielding, RF
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Tony Armas Sr.6.75.31.5


Best by Position
Next, we look at 1980 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
Gary Carter16.913.12.0


First Base
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Cecil Cooper17.513.51.6


Second Base
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Willie Randolph19.515.72.4


Third Base
eWins eLosses eWOPA
George Brett17.911.92.9


Shortstop
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Robin Yount20.016.72.5


Left Field
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Rickey Henderson24.219.21.9


Center Field
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Dale Murphy17.813.61.8


Right Field
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Tony Armas Sr.20.517.11.3
Terry Puhl17.113.51.3
Reggie Smith12.69.41.3
Ellis Valentine12.49.11.3


Starting Pitcher
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Steve Carlton16.612.52.0
Mike Norris15.111.41.8


Relief Pitcher
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Doug Corbett7.55.01.2


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 1980 in context, in terms of pWins and pWOPA.

Top Relief Pitchers of 1980, based on pWORL
Player pWins pLosses pWin Pct. pWOPA pWORL
Dan Quisenberry11.95.80.6743.14.2
Rich Gossage9.04.50.6692.33.1
Tom Burgmeier7.93.50.6912.22.9
Doug Corbett9.56.20.6061.72.7
Tug McGraw6.52.90.6911.92.4


Taking context into account, Dan Quisenberry's 1980 season generated the 7th-most pWins and the 3rd-most pWins over replacement level (pWORL) of any pitcher who did not start a game for all seasons for which I have calculated Player won-lost records. The top five seasons by a pitcher who did not start a game, as measured by pWORL, are shown in the next table.

Player Season Team pWins pLosses pWin Pct. pWOPA pWORL
John Hiller1973DET12.25.10.7043.54.7
Willie Hernandez1984DET9.93.10.7623.44.2
Dan Quisenberry1980KCA11.95.80.6743.14.2
John Smoltz2002ATL10.03.90.7233.14.1
Dick Radatz1964BOS13.08.30.6102.64.0


Designated Hitter
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Jason D. Thompson4.82.80.9
Otto Velez8.66.80.8
Champ Summers5.43.80.7
Reggie Jackson4.63.00.7


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
Bob Forsch1.61.50.5
Don Robinson1.31.00.5


Pinch Hitter
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Terry Crowley2.41.70.4


Seeing Terry Crowley's name always reminds me of this classic question-and-answer session from Earl Weaver: warning, strong language, definitely NOT safe for work.

Pinch Runner
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Matt Alexander1.10.70.2


Matt Alexander is one of 6 players for whom I have calculated Player won-lost records with at least one full Player decision to amass a majority of his Player decisions as a pinch runner. Alexander is also the best pinch runner over the seasons for which I have calculated Player won-lost records - by a lot.

The top five players in career Player wins over positional average as a pinch runner are shown in the table below.

Career Leaders in Pinch Runner WOPA
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Matt Alexander6.04.01.2
Otis Nixon3.42.20.6
Miguel Dilone3.12.30.5
Chris Singleton0.90.20.3
Dewayne Wise1.10.40.3


Notable Beginnings and Endings of Careers

The Best Players to Debut in 1980
There were no players who made their major-league debut in 1980 and went on to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. There were also no players who made their major-league debut in 1980 and went on to be elected to the Hall of Merit. Nor are any players who debuted in 1980 particularly close to being elected to either of these institutions.

There were three players who debuted in 1980 who did, however, amass 25 or more career pWORL.

Games pWins pLosses pWin Pct. pWOPA pWORL eWins eLosses eWin Pct. eWOPA eWORL
Harold Baines
2,822
278.2259.60.5173.8
30.7
279.2258.50.5194.831.7
Lee Smith
1,021
111.378.20.58716.9
28.6
101.288.30.5346.818.6
Fernando Valenzuela
474
188.4182.00.5099.3
25.8
185.3185.10.5006.222.7


2 Players: 45 Seasons
As I said above, there were no players who have been (or are likely to be) elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame who made their major-league debut in 1980. There is one Hall-of-Famer, however, for whom 1980 was his first season as a big-league regular, Rickey Henderson, who appeared in 89 games and amassed 398 plate appearances in 1979, before bursting onto the scene in 1980 with 158 games, 722 plate appearances, 117 walks, 100 stolen bases, and 111 runs scored.

The 1980 season was the final season in the Hall-of-Fame career of Willie McCovey.

Between McCovey and Henderson, their major-league careers spanned 45 seasons, from 1959, when Willie McCovey won the NL Rookie of the Year by hitting .354 with 13 home runs in only 52 games at the age of 21, through 2003, when Rickey Henderson appeared in 30 games for the Los Angeles Dodgers (his 9th major-league team), at the age of 44.

Willie McCovey Rickey Henderson
Age Games pWins pLoss pWOPA pWORL Games pWins pLoss pWOPA pWORL
20
 
8912.312.3-0.20.8
21
527.34.51.2
1.6
15826.620.52.44.2
22
1019.16.90.7
1.4
10817.713.71.62.9
23
10610.38.50.3
1.2
14922.219.11.12.7
24
899.26.61.0
1.6
14520.517.41.12.5
25
15222.016.61.8
3.3
14222.517.32.13.6
26
12913.211.40.4
1.4
14323.115.93.34.8
27
16021.113.13.0
4.4
15320.818.50.92.4
28
14919.512.42.7
3.9
9513.410.81.12.2
29
13518.511.52.6
3.9
14022.516.82.54.0
30
14821.514.42.5
3.9
15022.617.32.13.5
31
14922.112.13.8
5.3
13623.814.54.25.6
32
15221.612.73.4
4.9
13419.215.41.73.0
33
10512.38.21.5
2.3
11617.912.12.63.8
34
816.57.6-1.1
-0.5
13419.116.51.02.5
35
13014.610.51.4
2.4
8711.38.91.01.9
36
12811.49.70.4
1.2
11214.912.21.02.2
37
12211.512.1-1.0
-0.0
14816.014.10.41.6
38
826.16.8-0.6
-0.1
12011.812.1-0.30.7
39
14113.812.8-0.2
0.9
15218.118.4-0.31.1
40
10811.49.90.3
1.1
12114.714.0-0.11.1
41
1179.19.5-0.6
0.2
12313.914.4-0.60.5
42
483.23.0-0.0
0.2
12313.312.5-0.11.0
43
 
726.86.7-0.10.5
44
 
301.92.1-0.2-0.0
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
CAREER RECORDS2,584295.2220.823.4
44.5
3,080427.2353.628.359.1


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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