As Poz, and brilliant reader
invitro, highlight, Johnny Damon had a very high number of runs-above-replacement – and thereby WAR – due to avoiding grounding double plays. In the baseball-reference nomenclature this measure is called `Rdp` (or `runs_dp` in the daily WAR export ). So to follow this thread a little further let’s see which players lead in this category.
Hmm, no Rickey Henderson. I wonder what the breakdown of opportunities to ground in to a double play look like? i.e., maybe Henderson just didn’t have opportunities to ground in double plays since he batted leadoff? And on that same note, how about the fraction of opportunities converted?
For this I use the retrosheet event data. This is mostly complete for 1955 and later and I limit the analysis to those years. To count double plays I use the event text – anything that has the code GDP in the event text is a double play. This excludes the weird events where maybe an outfielder makes a catch and doubles up the runner who didn’t tag up and things of that nature. As far as I can tell this is the same definition that baseball reference uses. For double play opportunities, I count anything where there’s a man on first and there are 1 outs or less.
First, here’s the top 10 lowest-fraction of double play opportunities
Henderson comes in at #24 with 13.6% and Damon at #174 with 17.3%. Top in terms of highest fraction of PAs that were DP opportunities are Duke Snider (remember, 1955 and later only), Don Mattingly, Stan Musial,Gene Woodling (?), Jim Rice, Albert Pujols, Yogi Berra, all at around 23%.
How about lowest fractions of converting DP opportunities into GIDP?
There’s Damon at #8! Rickey is at 9.5%, good for number 308. Worst percentages – and by a fairly high margin – are Jerry Adair, Billy Butler (that’s Billy, not Brett), and Yunel Escobar at about 19% each. Bengie and Yadier Molina are #5 and #7, respectively, at about 17.5%.
On that top 10 list of lowest number of DP opportunities converted, we see speedsters (Rivers, Bourn, Joe Morgan, …) but also high strikeout guys (Rob Deer). So maybe the more pertinent question to ask is which players, given the ball was in play, and it was a double play opportunity, succeeded in avoiding double plays?
Here I show exactly that list – the top 10 in avoiding DP, given it was a BIP.
Again, Damon is right there at #7! Rickey comes in at #389 with 13.2%, which seems remarkable. It might be interesting to see how that changed over his career – maybe he just played so long that as he slowed down in his late 30s – early 40s he started generating double plays?
Probably my favorite part of the top 100 analytics and of these baseball trivia exercises in general is learning about players I hadn’t known about. There are two perfect examples in this “top-at-avoiding-double-plays-bips” list – Don Blasingame and Don Buford! How about that 1959 season for Blasingame, 15 steals and 15 caught stealing! Not a great success rate for so many attempts! Buford had a similar line in 1969, 19 steals 18 caught, not to mention he led the leasgue in CS 3 of 4 years in the 1666 – 1969 range. Could it be that CS correlates with avoiding DP, because the players are moderately fast, but also are extra aggressive?
Certainly one piece that’s missing here is controlling for who the runner is, as they surely have an influence in whether the DP succeeds. But that’s a detail for another day!
p.s. I checked the Rickey Henderson trend on DP BIP over his career. Long stroy short, he did generally have low DP BIP numbers pre-1982, but overall they’re higher than would be expected based on his speed and base-running prowess. When we get to the Rickey post in about 75 or 80 entries from now, there will be much more to say!