Ichiro Suzuki vs. John Olerud: True Measure of ClutchEven within a single team, significant differences exist between Player Wins and Win Shares for individual players. For example, for the 2001 Seattle Mariners, Ichiro Suzuki earned 36 Win Shares but only 25 pWins, while John Olerudís Win Shares (21) and pWins (19) were much closer. So, Bill James says that Ichiro was worth 15 more Win Shares than Olerud, while I measure the difference between these two as less than half that. The difference here is due to a difference between the expected production and actual production of these two players. Let me try to explain.
In 2001, Ichiro Suzuki batted 0.350, which led the American League. With runners in scoring position, he was even better, batting 0.445 in 137 at bats.Why are hits with runners in scoring position worth more runs created than regular hits? Well, because hits with runners in scoring position drive in runs. So, how many runs did Ichiro Suzuki drive in as a result of his 0.445 batting average in 137 at-bats with runners in scoring position?
By my calculation, Bill James would credit Ichiro with 13 additional runs created because of this.In 2001, John Olerud batted 0.302. With runners in scoring position, this dropped to 0.262 in 183 at bats.
By my calculation, Bill James would deduct 7 runs created from Olerudís total for this.
The answer turns out to be 55 RBI or 0.401 RBI per at-bat.And what did John Olerudís 0.262 batting average with runners in scoring position produce?
A total of 73 RBI or 0.399 RBI per at-bat.So, the actual production of Ichiro Suzuki and John Olerud with runners in scoring position turned to be just about the same.
Well, Olerudís 48 hits included 12 doubles and 6 home runs, plus he managed another 7 sacrifice flies.So, while adjusting runs created based on batting average with runners in scoring position probably improves runs created estimates in most cases, in these two cases, it appears that this difference of 20 runs created (+13 for Ichiro vs. -7 for Olerud) may not have been appropriate. In his Win Shares book, Bill James indicates that 1 Win Share for the 2001 Seattle Mariners had a cost of 3.03 runs, so 20 runs created would translate into nearly 7 Win Shares, which would push the 15 Win Share difference between Ichiro and Olerud down to only 8 Win Shares, which is much closer to the difference I find between these two players of 6 pWins.
In contrast, 52 of Ichiroís 61 hits with runners in scoring position were singles with only 6 doubles, 2 triples, and one home run. He also only hit 4 sacrifice flies.
Finally, about one-third of Ichiroís singles with runners in scoring position were infield singles, making it that much more difficult to drive in runners from second base.
Overall, 21 of 39 runners on second base scored on a single by Ichiro (53.8%), while 17 of 24 runners on second base scored on a single by Olerud (70.8%).
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