Bill James On Mike Piazza

An article by posted on January 9, 2014 15 Comments

piazza

MMO reader Pete Sinapi, sent me a link to an article written by Bill James about a year ago in which he stated his case for Mike Piazza as a Hall of Famer. It was very compelling and worth sharing with the MMO community.

He uses Runs Created which he invented and has since evolved into other popular stats such as wRC.

In his Baseball Abstract, James explains that it is essential to quantify the number of runs that result from what an offensive player does with his bat and on the basepaths. In an example he says, “Willie McCovey hit .270 in his career, with 353 doubles, 46 triples, 521 home runs and 1,345 walks — but his job was not to hit doubles, nor to hit singles, nor to hit triples, nor to draw walks or even hit home runs, but rather to put runs on the scoreboard. How many runs resulted from all of these things?”

The following is a chart displaying baseball’s All Time Leaders in Runs Created.

Screenshot_4

James also dispels the notion that Piazza was not a good defensive catcher, saying that all statistical measures suggest that Piazza was an above-average defensive catcher.

“The one thing that Piazza did not do well defensively was throw out basestealers. He allowed a 76.8 percent stolen base percentage in his career. Other catchers who caught the same pitchers as Piazza threw out 64.5 percent. However, nabbing basestealers is only a part of a catcher’s defensive responsibility and only a small part of Piazza’s overall game. It would be like saying that the best hitting second baseman of all time, Rogers Hornsby, shouldn’t be in the Hall because he didn’t steal a lot of bases in his time.”

The most important part of a catcher’s job is handling his pitchers and in this area Piazza was superb. Here is one of the most telling statistics. In his career behind the plate, pitchers had a 3.80 ERA when Piazza was catching. If you look at all the other catchers who caught the same pitchers in the same year that Piazza did, they allowed a 4.34 ERA. That’s a major difference, much more important than a few extra bases stolen. (In fact, Piazza’s catcher ERA of 3.81 includes the run value of any extra stolen bases he allowed.)

James concludes with this:

“Mike Piazza was not a defensive liability who made up for it with his bat. The greatest offensive catcher in the history of Major League Baseball was a good defensive catcher as well.”

Well said… Well argued… Well done…

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