July 11, 2016

Review: Incredible Baseball Stats: The Coolest, Strangest Stats And Facts In Baseball History, By Kevin Reavy And Ryan Spaeder

From the never-dull and often-amazing Twitter feed of the Ace of MLB Stats comes Incredible Baseball Stats: The Coolest, Strangest Stats And Facts In Baseball History, a new book by Kevin Reavy and Ryan Spaeder. (I received a copy of the book from Sports Publishing.)

I have posted tweets from AoMLBS in the past, including one post listing some still-hard-to-fathom achievements of Babe Ruth. I have also had issues with Spaeder possibly cherry-picking data to make a specific statistical point. Regardless, I am a big fan and as someone who is also intensely curious about various odd statistical achievements, I'm likely the ideal reader for this book.

And Incredible Baseball Stats is a tremendous amount of fun. You will, as promised in the introduction, discover astounding facts and see many players in a new, improved statistical light. The wonderment that Reavy and Spaeder have about the glorious game of baseball shines through. There are seemingly as many ways to look at the game, to study and appreciate it as there are fans. In this case, "We scoured the records for untold tales, and looked at familiar ones from new statistical contexts." This book is probably not meant to be read linearly from cover to cover, but it is fantastic to dip into randomly.

Incredible Baseball Stats is arranged by team. Reavy and Spaeder offer a brief history for each franchise, then provide a few subsections with stats on the team's greatest players, moments, or achievements, and end with a collection of their favourite statoids.

In the recap of the Red Sox's history, we learn that in 1918, Babe Ruth struck out 170 batters and did not allow a home run, which remains a team pitching record. We get a section on newer stars Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, and David Ortiz, and longer entries on Cy Young, Ted Williams, and Wade Boggs.
Ted Williams's on-base percentage during the worst 162-game stretch of his career was .404. Many Hall of Famers - Cal Ripken Jr., Ernie Banks, Yogi Berra, and Jim Rice among them - never had even one season with an OBP as high as .404.

Wage Boggs had two seasons with Boston in which he collected 150+ singles, 50+ extra-base hits, and 100+ walks. No other player in baseball history has achieved those totals even once.

In 2004, Curt Schilling went to an 0-2 count on 240 batters without surrendering a single walk.

Pedro Martinez's ERA in 2000 was 1.74. If he had been charged with a run every time he walked or hit a batter that year, he would still have led the American League. Even if his ERA had been doubled, he still would have been #1 in the AL.
Some of the book's other cool statoids:
Nolan Ryan pitched more no-hitters (seven) than no-walkers (four).

14.7% of Lou Gehrig's 102 career stolen bases were steals of home.

In 2001, Alex Rodriguez had 200+ hits, 50+ home runs, and 15+ stolen bases, the first player to post those numbers since Babe Ruth (1921).

Barry Bonds had 102 games in which he hit a home run and stole a base (38 with the Pirates and 64 with the Giants), a major league record.

Over a six-year stretch, from 1943-49, Stan Musial batted .350, averaging 211 hits and 44 doubles per season. Hall of Famer Willie Mays never had a single season with either a batting average, hits total, or doubles total that high.
I suppose that either this kind of baseball information interests you or it doesn't. If it does, treat yourself to Incredible Baseball Stats. And follow the Twitter feed.


Zenslinger said...

Nice review.

My occasional rant below:

This article does a "best six years in a row", find Maddux the only one to rival Kershaw's last six.


I still don't think Kershaw touches Maddux. His ERA over the chosen period is 2.15 to Kershaw's 2.08, but Maddux did it in the Steroid Era. That's reflected in his ERA+, in which Maddux smokes Kershaw 195 to 176.

It's beyond me why this writer decided to spend time in the article educating the reader about ERA+ only to ignore it in the stats so he could come to a conclusion that they're neck and neck. Maddux: probably my favorite pitcher of my life as a fan since Big Boy Texas inexorably douche'd his way out of the honor.

allan said...

Likewise, don't get me started on Pedro/Koufax!

Pedro's ERA+ for his entire Red Sox career: 190
Koufax's best single-season ERA+: 190

Pedro 2000 285
Pedro 1999 245
Pedro 2003 212
Pedro 2002 196
Koufax 1966 190
Pedro 2001 189
Koufax 1964 187
Koufax 1963 161
Pedro 1998 160
Koufax 1965 160
Koufax 1962 143
Pedro 2004 125
Koufax 1961 124

Zenslinger said...

It gets to be rare air. If you're trying to put together the best four-year run (as I think was done on this blog 7-8 years ago), Pedro's "mediocre" 2001 really got in the way. Pedro's short of having the best career by those who lasted longer, but overall stands with Maddux. Guess it has to do with how much you value the long career.