For Carter, a big part of his case for the top 100 list is in his defense. To do some analysis on that, I bring back the tool I used for catcher defense in the Carlton Fisk post – namely generalized linear mixed effect models. Briefly, in the baseball context, it works as a sort of automated WOWY analysis, with regression to the mean.

The specific thing I want to look at for Carter is preventing stolen bases. This means both throwing runners out and causing them to not run in the first place. I start with retrosheet play-by-play data, from 1921 – 2017. In order to isolate steal situations, and also provide some standardization in the situational context, I take only cases where

- there’s a runner on first
- second and third are empty
- the score differential is 4 runs or less
- the inning is the 8th or earlier

For each of these I model whether a stolen base occurred, based on the identities of the catcher, the pitcher, and the runner on first. This means a catcher gets credit for the case a runner chooses not to attempt a steal, as well as the cases he throws the runner out. The output of the model is the estimated contribution to the probability of a successful steal due to each of the catcher, pitcher, and runner – which can be thought of as an estimate of the “true talent” for preventing (or allowing) steals. For analysis purposes, I translate this into a “probability added” over what the probability would have been with an average player instead. There’s a lot of context this is glossing over and it’s far from perfect – but I don’t believe in letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.

With this framework, the following are the top 20 catcher season in terms of reduced steal probability

nameAbbv | year | delta_steals | |
---|---|---|---|

1 | I.Rodriguez | 1997 | -27.9 |

2 | I.Rodriguez | 1998 | -22.2 |

3 | G.Carter | 1979 | -21.7 |

4 | B.Santiago | 1988 | -20.9 |

5 | I.Rodriguez | 1999 | -20.1 |

6 | C.Johnson | 1996 | -19.5 |

7 | J.Bench | 1972 | -17.4 |

8 | J.Bench | 1969 | -17.3 |

9 | T.Hall | 2003 | -16.0 |

10 | Y.Molina | 2014 | -15.9 |

11 | R.Hundley | 1968 | -15.8 |

12 | J.Bench | 1975 | -15.5 |

13 | T.Pena | 1983 | -15.4 |

14 | B.Boone | 1982 | -15.3 |

15 | J.Bench | 1970 | -15.3 |

16 | C.Cannizzaro | 1965 | -15.3 |

17 | B.Boone | 1986 | -14.8 |

18 | B.Ausmus | 2000 | -14.5 |

19 | D.Crandall | 1959 | -14.5 |

20 | G.Carter | 1978 | -14.5 |

We see Carter’s 1979 right there at number 3, with his 1978 at number 20. On a per opportunity basis, the list is as follows

nameAbbv | year | delta_steal_rate | |
---|---|---|---|

1 | I.Rodriguez | 1997 | -0.034 |

2 | I.Rodriguez | 1998 | -0.029 |

3 | B.Santiago | 1988 | -0.028 |

4 | C.Johnson | 1996 | -0.028 |

5 | C.Cannizzaro | 1965 | -0.027 |

6 | H.Blanco | 2000 | -0.027 |

7 | G.Carter | 1979 | -0.026 |

8 | I.Rodriguez | 1999 | -0.025 |

9 | Y.Molina | 2014 | -0.025 |

10 | I.Rodriguez | 2001 | -0.025 |

11 | K.Johjima | 2009 | -0.025 |

12 | G.Carter | 1976 | -0.023 |

13 | J.Bench | 1972 | -0.023 |

14 | S.Perez | 2012 | -0.023 |

15 | J.Bench | 1975 | -0.023 |

16 | R.Dempsey | 1974 | -0.023 |

17 | D.Ross | 2007 | -0.023 |

18 | S.Yeager | 1978 | -0.022 |

19 | T.Prince | 1997 | -0.022 |

20 | J.Mauer | 2007 | -0.022 |

And we see that limited-playing-time 1976 season joining the list at #12.

With these mixed effects models, where you control for the context, you necessarily end up measuring the context – in this case leading to some interesting observations about runners and pitchers as well. As one example, following is the list of pitcher seasons that allowed the most extra stolen bases – a bunch of fireballers and knucklers!

nameAbbv | year | delta_steals | |
---|---|---|---|

1 | D.Gooden | 1990 | 24.4 |

2 | T.Wakefield | 2007 | 21.3 |

3 | F.Youmans | 1986 | 21.1 |

4 | T.Seaver | 1983 | 21.1 |

5 | M.Scott | 1990 | 20.9 |

6 | L.Barker | 1980 | 20.8 |

7 | D.Gooden | 1988 | 20.3 |

8 | J.Juden | 1997 | 20.1 |

9 | N.Ryan | 1988 | 19.4 |

10 | N.Ryan | 1977 | 18.8 |

11 | C.Young | 2007 | 18.8 |

12 | J.Niekro | 1985 | 18.7 |

13 | B.Witt | 1987 | 18.7 |

14 | N.Ryan | 1978 | 17.6 |

15 | M.Soto | 1985 | 16.5 |

16 | H.Nomo | 1996 | 16.3 |

17 | D.Eckersley | 1976 | 16.1 |

18 | J.Juden | 1998 | 16.0 |

19 | N.Ryan | 1987 | 15.8 |

20 | B.Witt | 1986 | 15.7 |

As one more example, following is the top per-opportunity increase in stolen base probability for runners. The Terrance Gore 2016 season is fascinating – 11 steals in 17 G and 3 PA.

nameAbbv | year | delta_steal_rate | |
---|---|---|---|

1 | T.Raines | 1981 | 0.608 |

2 | R.LeFlore | 1980 | 0.596 |

3 | L.Brock | 1974 | 0.583 |

4 | T.Gore | 2016 | 0.570 |

5 | E.Davis | 1986 | 0.539 |

6 | A.Wiggins | 1982 | 0.522 |

7 | O.Moreno | 1980 | 0.519 |

8 | B.Hamilton | 2013 | 0.517 |

9 | R.Henderson | 1982 | 0.515 |

10 | C.Cedeno | 1978 | 0.514 |

11 | L.Lintz | 1976 | 0.484 |

12 | E.Miller | 1981 | 0.480 |

13 | A.Lewis | 1967 | 0.469 |

14 | B.Meacham | 1983 | 0.468 |

15 | M.Dilone | 1977 | 0.465 |

16 | H.Reynolds | 1987 | 0.463 |

17 | L.Lintz | 1974 | 0.456 |

18 | W.Wilson | 1979 | 0.449 |

19 | D.Hopkins | 1975 | 0.447 |

20 | D.Lopes | 1976 | 0.440 |