The Baseball Analyst Issue 6: a review

Bill James published 40 issues of The Baseball Analyst in the 1980s. All are available on SABR’s website.

James edited this issue, which includes five articles (one apparently frivolous); James added an editorial comment at the end. Three of the articles are followups to articles in earlier editions.

Paul Schwarzenbart completes the ballpark study he began in the first issue of the Analyst by documenting the American League parks. He again concludes that the main playing impact of artificial turf is that it reduces infielder errors, but conceded Craig Wright’s argument (Issue 2) that Schwartzenbart’s data also shows a similar, albeit lesser, impact in the outfield. The infielder impact is a strong effect, but the author points out that a superior fielder can be shown to overcome the effects of a difficult infield. He also comments on the best of the then-current crop of A.L. infielders. The numbers in this article are interesting.

Dan Heisman’s contribution is not so much a research report as a contemplation of the relative merits of long careers vs. high-peak careers. Some of the discussion is provocative, though James’ concluding editorial comment takes issue with one of Heisman’s main points. The note concludes with a tabulation of five-year peaks for some notable players.

Dallas Adams follows up on his first-issue study of run scoring distributions by demonstrating that his summary data correlates highly with won/lost record. He incidentally supplies three ways to calculate a team’s winning percent based on runs-per-game/opponent’s-runs-per-game data. This essay’s decidedly less ambitious than Adams’ previous efforts, but it’s presented well.

Pete Palmer extends the Jim Reuter essay, on park factor calculations, from the previous issue of the Analyst. Palmer’s first extension demonstrates that Reuter’s method works better if the calculations are based on innings rather than games, and shows how to make the necessary adjustments. He also suggests a further, individual-player, version of the factor which he doesn’t fully describe. The second extension begins with the observation that a team’s offensive “park effect” is partly the product of not facing the local pitching staff; he adds adjustments to allow for that. James’ editorial comment takes issue with some of Palmer’s assumptions, pointing out that James and Palmer differ on the implicit meaning of context as applied to calculating park effects.

Finally, someone claiming the name Cuthbert Magnolia offers a method for comparing pitchers, apparently intending to create a measure similar to Runs Created. I’m not sure I understand the method, and the essay itself is deliberately insulting. But the results seem to make sense.