Bill James, the stathead of all statheads, has a new book out called The Bill James Gold Mine 2009, in which he spews forth his usual stylings of statistical analysis and fascinating goodies.
Here are the some the highlights:
- Carlos Pena drew nine bases-loaded walks in 2008. To put that in perspective, that’s 50 per cent more than any hitter has had in a season over the past 20 years, with the only exception being D’Angelo Jimenez, who drew seven such walks in 2004. Pena, a a 46-HR man in 2007 who hit another 31 last year I can see, but D’Angelo Jimenez? Why the hell would anyone walk him with the bases loaded? In fact, what was he even doing up with bases loaded? Wouldn’t his manager have pinch-hit for him in that situation? Amazingly, Jimenez only had 17 bases loaded at bats that season, but he did seem to have a penchant for walking in 2004, drawing a career high 82 free passes.
- Grady Sizemore hit .202 on pulled ground balls in 2007 and he dipped to .172 last season. The reason? Teams are employing more infield shifts against Sizemore. He had a career high in homers in 2008, but hit 22 points lower than the career-best .290 he put up in 2006. If Sizemore is going to jack his batting average up to the point he will help fantasy owners, he’ll need to steer clear of the ground balls to the right side.
- The Florida Marlins made history last season when each of their regular infielders hit at least 25 home runs – a major league first. Shortstop Hanley Ramirez led the way with 33, while second baseman Dan Uggla and first baseman Mike Jacobs each jacked 32. Third baseman Jorge Cantu brought up the rear with 29 dingers, falling just one shy of giving the team a quartet of 30-homer infielders. Cantu started September like he planned to join them, smacking seven big flys in the first 14 games, but he failed to go yard over the final eight games.
- Met shortstop Jose Reyes was far away the major league leader by leading off 317 innings. He also led the majors by reaching base 118 times when leading off an inning. Can you please explain to me why Jerry Manuel considered shifting Reyes out of the lead-off slot? This dude is the best top-of-the-order hitter in baseball. You don’t mess with that.
- Apparently, Willie Harris – who again does not have a full-time role in 2009 – is one of the best defensive left fielders in the game. He played just 562 innings in left field last season, which is less than 40 per cent of the schedule, yet he was a +22, which means he made 22 plays that a LFer would not normally make. The major league leader among LFs was Carl Crawford, who was a +23. Harris was almost as good in 2007, when he recorded a +18 in 620 innings of work.
- The Seattle Mariners were the worst team in the AL in 2008, and were very close to scraping the bottom of the barrel in the entire majors. There were plenty of reasons why, but here’s a good one: they had a man on second base with no outs 116 times in 2008, but managed to score only 111 runs in those innings. No other major league team averaged less than a run per inning under those circumstances. The worst offenders? Adrian Beltre hit .216 with runners in scoring position. And he stuck around all season. At least the club had the sense to rid itself of Richie Sexson (.123) and Jose Vidro (.228) before they did too much damage.
- If the Royals are better this season – and I’m totally expecting them to make a big leap – how good is Joakim Soria going to be? He led all MLB relievers by recording 36 innings in which he retired the side in order. This dude is for real.