Saturday, July 27, 2013

Giants Still Have The Will to Win


 Photo credit: SouthsideAsylum.com

It's often been said that there is no way to measure heart, grit, scrappiness, or any such intangible possessed by baseball players.  Earlier in the year, baseball lifer Hawk Harrelson told ESPN analyst Brian Kenny that baseball is not ready for sabermetrics and that TWTW (The Will To Win) trumps all metrics.  Various Bloggers have attempted to measure GRIT in the past with interesting results.  For instance, Chuck Dickens (linked above) determined that Craig Biggio and David Eckstein were the GRITtiest players of all time, which makes sense.

Just like everyone has their own WAR statistic, we can all have our own GRIT statistic too, but I'm going to call mine TWTW.  My goal is to create a metric which which will incorporate many of the things that fans, broadcasters and writers talk about when they praise players for having grit or heart or the will to win.  I want to keep it simple enough so the The Hawk can understand it.  So, I'm going to only use basic counting statistics with no fractional multipliers or any other fake made up stuff like ballpark factors or normalization.

A player gets one TWTW point for each of the following:
  • Hit - A hit is always good because it means the batter is putting the ball in play and making something happen.  A player does not get extra credit for extra base hits, because getting doubles, triples and home runs involves more talent than grit.  It some cases, a home run is even considered to be a selfish act.
  • Bunt hit - A player gets extra credit for a bunt hit because there are not too many things more scrappy than legging out a bunt.
  • Infield hit - A player also gets credit for an infield hit.  Hits are nice, but an infield hit shows that a player hustled to beat the throw to first base.
  • Hit By Pitch - Getting hit by a pitch proves that a hitter is a team player willing to risk injury to help his team win.
  • Sacrifice bunt - This might not seem as good as a bunt hit, but just bunting is a good thing and sacrificing yourself for the team is even better.
  • Sacrifice fly - This involves making contact with a runner on third and sacrificing yourself for the team, both admirable things.
A point is subtracted for each of the following:
  • Strikeout - A strikeout is a big negative because there is no chance to make anything happen when you whiff.  Also, players who strike out a lot often do so because they are swinging for the fences all the time.
  • Double play - When a player hits into a double play, it means he either hit the ball hard (which is talent rather than TWTW) or didn't hustle to get to first base (a definite no no).
Two events which you might be wondering about which are excluded:
  • Walks - Walks are not bad, but winning players don't stand at the plate waiting for a walk.  They put the ball in play.
  • Stolen bases - Stolen bases sometimes show a will to win, but the stolen base leaders are usually gifted speedsters and not necessarily gritty. Besides, players are already getting credit for bunt and infield hits which require more grit than stealing bases.
So, we have H + BUH + IFH + HBP + SH + SF - SO - GIDP.  Leaving the statistic like that without a denominator would make it slightly biased in favor of players with more playing time.  Gritty players are not necessarily full-time players, so I divide by at bats.  You could divide by plate appearances, but at bats is preferable because it makes it seem more like a batting average (a winning statistic) rather than an On-base percentage ( which includes those overrated walks).  So, the final formula is:

TWTW = (H + BUH + IFH + HBP + SH + SF - SO - GIDP)/AB

All teams are ranked by TWTW in Table 1.  Right away, we can see how useful this metric is as the last two world champions are right on top.  The Giants are not having a good year this year, but their batters still have more TWTW (.111) than any other team.  Surely, this explains how they dominated the Tigers in the 2012 World Series.  The team with the least TWTW is the Astros (-.001), so they have no talent and don't want to win, a deadly combination.

Who says the Tigers don't care? They are ranked fifth in the majors in TTTW.  They don't do a lot of the little things, but they hit for a high batting average and don't strikeout much which means they are always making things happen.  The only American league teams higher than them are the Royals and Orioles. 

Table 1: Teams Ranked by TWTW

Team
AB
TWTW
Giants
3470
.111
Cardinals
3416
.109
Royals
3207
.101
Orioles
3586
.098
Tigers
3604
.097
Rangers
3526
.096
Dodgers
3342
.095
Angels
3465
.094
Brewers
3366
.090
Rockies
3296
.086
Rays
3509
.079
Cubs
2730
.077
Diamondbacks
3576
.072
Reds
3550
.072
Yankees
3251
.071
Red Sox
3547
.069
Blue Jays
3468
.068
Phillies
3474
.066
Padres
3472
.056
White Sox
3361
.052
Indians
3436
.049
Marlins
3388
.047
Nationals
3433
.040
Athletics
3499
.038
Twins
3442
.034
Braves
3361
.032
Pirates
3396
.027
Mariners
3513
.021
Mets
3225
.017
Astros
3328
-.001
Multiple teams
2507
-.031
 Data source: FanGraphs.com

Table 2 shows that the individual TWTW leader is Norichika Aoki of the Brewers at .361.  Aoki is an exciting five-Intangibles player (hits, bunt hits, infield hits, hit bastsmen and sacrifice bunts) who does everything he can to will his team to victory.  It's not surprising to see the scrappy Marco Scutaro and Ichiro Suzuki also among the leaders.

While players with a lot of TWTW are not necessarily super talented, there are some well known stars among the leaders such as Yadier Molina and Dustin Pedroia.  We already knew those two men had heart and this confirms it.

The only Tiger among the top twenty is Omar Infante ranked 12th in MLB at .220.  I'll do a complete analysis of the Tigers Will To Win in the next couple of days. 

Table 2: MLB TWTW Leaders

Player
Team
AB
TWTW
Norichika Aoki
Brewers
385
.361
Marco Scutaro
Giants
338
.281
J.B. Shuck
Angels
232
.259
Ichiro Suzuki
Yankees
351
.256
Jean Segura
Brewers
406
.254
Matt Carpenter
Cardinals
385
.249
Ben Revere
Phillies
315
.244
Yadier Molina
Cardinals
349
.244
Shane Victorino
Red Sox
269
.230
Ian Kinsler
Rangers
302
.228
Erick Aybar
Angels
308
.224
Omar Infante
Tigers
291
.220
Dustin Pedroia
Red Sox
403
.218
Adrian Beltre
Rangers
407
.216
Juan Pierre
Marlins
269
.208
Buster Posey
Giants
347
.205
Michael Brantley
Indians
354
.203
Mark Ellis
Dodgers
260
.200
Alberto Callaspo
Angels
283
.198
Placido Polanco
Marlins
278
.198

Data source: FanGraphs.com

8 comments:

  1. Same list as if you rank them by shoe size. It's a small man's game for this contest. Give Aoki the Golden Shoe String.

    ReplyDelete
  2. In Weinstein's article linked above Chris Davis was the least grittiest player in MLB. Sure wouldn't want him on your team dragging things down with selfish plays like hitting home runs. Expecting a punch line here... Cheers, Kevin.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Kevin, the lowest TWTW went to Chris Carter. Davis was below average, but not near the bottom. I just checked Cabrera and he actually did pretty well. I guess there are no statistics which can make him look bad this year.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Lee: I was referring to Weinstein's GRIT stat not your TWTW. And his article covered 2012 when Davis *only* hit 33 HR. Do you plan, in the follow up article providing any data correlating wins with TWTW or GRIT or what have you? It seems like you're always right about these things, but in this case I'm mighty sceptical. Anyway, nice to see the Tigers winning some laughers. Cheers, Kevin.

    ReplyDelete
  5. AnonymousJuly 29, 2013

    I think you should ad a point for every Hit-by Pitch. and give catches a Bonus, for every 10 times being hit by a foul ball equal to 1 point. other defensive grit, 1 point for making a catch while leaning into the stands (stealing Home runs would count as well)

    ReplyDelete
  6. I actually did add a point for HBP. I would add the other stuff if it was easily available!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Lee,
    Please tell me this is a put-on, a satire of the sort of mindless "character-is-destiny-is-won/lost percentage" garbage that passes for so much sports journalism. Drawing a walk displays a lack of will to win? Really? How many rallies did David Eckstein or, back in the day, Dick MacAuliffe start by willing their way on base with a walk, fouling off countless pitches? I guess those guys didn't want to win, huh? I'm assuming this is a joke; if so it isn't a bad one.

    ReplyDelete
  8. yes, nocyinc, this was satire. Any post that starts with a photo of Hawk Harrelson should never be taken seriously. :-)

    Eckstein would have done great on this stat though (maybe one of the all-time best) because he had a lot of sacrifices and HBPs and didn't walk much. McAuliffe would not have done very well on this stat, but was a better player than Eckstein.

    ReplyDelete

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