So, it would seem Baseball Reference has a beta version of it’s play index going, specifically for splits. It's honestly ridiculous how much information this gives. The splits include home/road, platoon, first half/second half, months, batting order, count, bases occupied, defensive position, clutch, leverage, and more.
Yeah, I didn’t want to do anything this week either, so it is good timing.
What follows is random stuff I found while poking around in the new Batting Split Finder. Most of these have a minimum number of plate appearances, to sift out the riff raff.
Who had the greatest pinch hitting season of all time? Well, I don’t know, because that depends on how exclusively you define "pinch hitting" and whether you try to account for park and era and all that.
But surely one of the greatest belonged to Joe Cronin in 1943. He had largely removed himself from the playing field, having been both the manager and the shortstop for the Red Sox since 1935. He could still hit, though, and had put up an OPS of .914 in his last regular season in 1941, and .909 in 95 plate appearances the following year.
He continued to be his own secret weapon in 1943, giving himself 50 pinch hitting appearances in which he collected 18 hits, 8 walks, 5 home runs, and 25 RBIs. In his 9 starts, he went 6 for 35 with 3 walks.
In total, his pinch hitting that season resulted in a .429/.520/.881 line, easily one of the best in history. Despite his Red Sox finishing 7th that year, Cronin’s performance was good enough to get him recognized, as he finished 27th in the MVP voting.
Home Field Advantage
You might think this category would be dominated by people who played in Coors field, which isn’t terribly far off. Vinny Castilla, Andres Galarraga, and Todd Helton all rank among the top 20 or so seasons with a huge home/road split. And if you thought Mel Ott might show up on the list, well, you’d be right. But you know who REALLY took advantage of his home park? Chuck Klein.
In 1933, for example, Klein may well have made the best use of home field advantage ever, posting a .467/.516/.789 line in 314 plate appearances at home. On the road he only managed a .280/.338/.436 line in 353 plate appearances. Still good, but...yeah.
Of course, the main reason for this was the Baker Bowl. As a left-handed hitter, Klein thrived on the ridiculous short porch in RF, a mere 280 feet or so down the line, and only 300 to right center. He batted an astonishing .395 over more than 2000 at bats there during his career, and hit 164 of his 300 career home runs.
Speaking of Mel Ott, he was also a beneficiary of the Baker Bowl advantages, even if he only visited it a few times a year. Ott managed to hit .415 with 40 home runs there in 460 at bats.
Greatest Rally Killer?
Tim Foli, never a great hitter in the best of times, was the Black Death of clutch hitters in 1977. Despite getting a reasonable 113 plate appearances with men in scoring position, Foli only managed 14 hits and 4 walks, resulting in a meagre .321 OPS. Most of it for the Giants, no less, who traded for him early on in the season. The best part is, one of those walks was intentional. Somebody out there (I looked it up - it was Bob Apodaca), thought to himself "No, not Tim Foli! He could blow this game wide open! Gotta put him on base, and hope we can get the next guy"
The next guy, in this case, was Gary Alexander, NOT the pitcher as you might have thought. Gary Alexander, with a .900 OPS. Granted, Tim Foli had collected one of his 14 hits with runners in scoring position earlier, but Gary Alexander had doubled in two runs with the next at bat.
Well, as these things can sometimes go, Apodaca walked Alexander. With the bases loaded. Whoops! Kinda missed the boat there, Bob. That proved to be the end of Apodaca’s outing, but not the inning. Montefusco, the pitcher, was the next hitter, and he reached on an error by shortstop Bobby Valetine, which brought in another run.
The lesson here, in case you missed it, is don’t intentionally walk Tim Foli.
My Favorite Players With Two Strikes are Todd Helton, Albert Pujols, and Barry Bonds
No, seriously. Albert Pujols was amazing. I sorted this multiple ways. At bats with an 0-2 count (meaning it ended with the next pitch). At bats after the batter went into an 0-2 hole. All at bats with 2 strikes.
You know who was at the top of every single list? Pujols.
I should mention this data only goes back so far, otherwise I’m sure guys like Williams and Ruth would top the list.
Also amazing with two strikes: Tony Gwynn hit .302. Nobody else (with at least 500 PAs with 2 strikes) hit better than .263.
Sorting by all these splits, you quickly finding most of the best hitters in a given split turn out to be the best players around. Lots of Ruth, Williams, and Bonds. No surprise there. So I like sort by tOPS as well, which compares the player's results in that split to his regular OPS.
Using that method, you know who was money down the stretch, nerds? Juan Uribe.
Career OPS: .715
Career OPS in Sept/Oct: .877
Is This Willie Upshaw’s Year?
I’m guessing there were probably a lot of articles that started that way. Upshaw wasn’t a bad hitter: a .754 OPS was at least average during his career, though perhaps not for a first baseman.
With the exception of 1984 (which WAS Upshaw’s year, as it turned out) Willie put up a higher OPS in the first month of the season than the OPS he ended the season with.
Worst Leadoff Hitter Ever
Ed Stroud. Career .306 on base percentage. Only .255 as a leadoff hitter.
Best Ninth Place Hitter Ever
Wes Ferrell. Look it up.
Greatest DH Season Ever?
Probably Edgar Martinez, 1995. .360/.480/.640 as a DH, with 29 HR and 50 2B in a strike shortened season.
Worst DH Season Ever?
George Bell, 1993. .217/.243/.363 line, and this despite offense being way up across the league.
I looked up a ton of other stuff, but I can’t remember half of it, and not all the categories are working properly. I wanted to see who hit best and worst against the Giants, for example, but can’t seem to get any results on that search. In time, I’m sure.
This ends my random exploration of stuff on Baseball Reference. There’s still the Pitching Split Finder, but I’ve blown the majority of the evening on this already. Maybe this weekend or something. I dunno.
Grant, if you steal ideas from this for your job, well, that’s cool, I guess. Just say you like me better than GiantPain and we’ll call it even.