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Sunday Morning Odds and Ends

The big news in Rayland over the past couple days has unfortunately all been injury-related, so while we wait for more information on Howell and Navarro, I've got a couple little "fun facts" to share.  Hopefully this can provide a five minute reprieve from depressing injury thoughts, especially since we still don't have enough information to know exactly what's going on with Howell (thankfully Navarro sounds okay).  It's a Sunday morning, so kick back, relax, and enjoy a couple stray thoughts of mine.

As a result of my post on catcher defense last week, I now have a giant Excel document that has the UZR data for every player in baseball that has played more than 500 innings at a position in a season going back to 2002.  Since I love looking at leader-boards, I figured I'd create an all-star defensive team using the players that have posted the best single-season UZR score at their position.  The final team is a bit surprising...





Albert Pujols




Chase Utley




Adam Everett




Adrian Beltre




Carl Crawford




Andruw Jones




Franklin Gutierrez



Carl Crawford may be the only Ray to make the list, but there were a couple other near misses.  Longoria's past season came in at 8th overall at third base, while Zobrist currently has the 10th best season at second base.  Also, believe it or not, Julio Lugo's 2004 season on the Devil Rays ranks 5th overall among shortstops.  Bartlett has never reached numbers like that during his time with the Rays, although he did post the 10th best season for shortstops in 2005. 

Crawford is quite the special case, though.  The person with the next highest UZR score in left field?  Carl Crawford in 2008 at 19.6 UZR.  Overall, Crawford has four of the top ten defensive seasons for left fielders.  The only player to accomplish something like this is Andruw Jones (5 top ten seasons), and there are five players tied with two top-10 seasons (Alex Rios, Austin Kearns, Adrian Beltre, Scott Rolen, and Chase Utley).  Crawford is the man.


Leaving men on base stinks.  From what I remember, the Rays did this a lot last year and it frustrated me to no end.  How are you going to win if you can't drive runners in?  Apparently, according to Joe Posnanski, you still can:

Fewest Left on Base: 951 wins, 1322 losses, .418 winning percentage (Also: 157 ties).

I guess this shouldn't be too surprising ... after all, leaving men on base means that you are GETTING people on base. But when I ran these numbers, I was surprised. I was really surprised. Maybe it's because we have it jammed down our throats that you can't win when you are leaving players on base. You have to take advantage of your opportunities!

But what this stat tells me is that scoring runs more about creating opportunities than cashing in on them - I think this takes us back to the whole RBI discussion. The RBI is a tempting stat to love because it feels tangible and heroic - to score runs, you usually need to someone to drive ‘em in. But what the numbers consistently seem to show is that if you create enough opportunities, SOMEONE is going to drive in those runs.

And if you don't create as many or more opportunities as your opponent - no player and no team is consistently clutch enough to make up for that gap. Not over a long season. My evolving theory about baseball is like my evolving theory about life. Sure, there are heroics in baseball and in life. But you can't count on ‘em. You're better off banging on a lot of doors.

Five teams in 2009 left 17 men on base - that was the most in a game. Four of those teams won.

Last season, the Rays left over 11 runners on base nine times.  Their record during those nine games?  8-1.  I'm not claiming that we should ignore if the Rays are leaving men on base; after all, teams still lost more often than they won last season when they left more men on base than their opponents.  However, it's not cut-and-dried like I, and I'm sure many others, have been led to believe.  Leaving men on base is bad, but you'll also never leave a man on base if you never get anyone on base to begin with.

It would be interesting to see how the Rays performed last season with runners on base.  What was their on-base percentage?  How many RBIs did they get out of all the potential RBI opportunities?  Answering these questions could be more telling than simply looking at the number of players the Rays left on base.