Tag Archive | "Fielding Percentage"

Stolen Base Champion Passes Away

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Stolen Base Champion Passes Away

Posted on 21 February 2013 by Bill Ivie

Pop quiz: Who holds the record for most stolen bases in a professional baseball season, ranks second among all professional base stealers, and averaged 150 stolen bases a season?

If you answered Rickey Henderson, you couldn’t be more wrong.

Her name is Sophie Kurys (pronounced “curries”).  A young woman from Flint, Michigan, she was a founding member of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League and a second baseman for the Racine Belles.


Kurys signed her first contract, for $50 a week, one day shy of her 18th birthday.

Kurys would play for eight seasons for the Belles, including rejoining them a year after they left Racine and moved to Battle Creek.  Her best season would come in 1946 when she was named player of the year after gathering 215 hits and stealing 201 bases in 203 attempts, a professional record that still stands today.  She would hit .286 that season with a .434 on base percentage, score 117 runs, walk 93 times and collect a .973 fielding percentage, leading the league in each category.  Her walks and fielding percentage marks in 1946 would go down as league records.

She wasn’t done with just the regular season, though.  She would lead all hitters in the post-season that year and have one of the most amazing games in professional baseball history in the sixth and deciding game of the league championship.

The game itself was a bit of an enigma   Carolyn Morris, the Rockford ace, had thrown a no-hitter through nine innings before surrendering the first hit of the game in the 10th.  Meanwhile, Racine’s pitcher, Joanne Winter allowed 19 base runners through 14 innings, stranding them all.  The game had gone 14 innings without a run, despite Kurys four stolen bases up to that point.  She would single and steal her fifth base of the game in the bottom of the 14th inning, putting her at second base with Betty Trezza, her double play partner and shortstop for Racine, at the plate.

As Kurys broke for third as Trezza singled through the right side.  As the throw came home from right field, Kurys would hook slide around the catcher’s tag and provide Racine with the 1946 championship.  It was easy to see that the young lady had earned the nickname “Flint Flash”.

“A hook slide away from the tag by a player wearing a skirt – how about that?  Sophie was certainly one of our best,” stated Lois Youngen, former AAGPBL Players Association President.

Many managers and players credit Kurys for her ability to read a pitcher and her attention to the detail for her base stealing prowess.  While she was certainly fast, she would get an incredible jump off the pitcher and was a “master of the slide”.

She played her first few years in the league as the clean up hitter for the team but new manager Leo Murphy, who took over the reigns of the Belles in 1945, identified her base running abilities and moved her to the leadoff spot where she flourished for her team.

She would finish her career with 1,114 stolen bases.  That mark would stand as a professional record until Rickey Henderson would eventually surpass her, finishing his career with 1,406.  Her 201 stolen bases in 1946 remains a record in professional baseball today.  She would also steal 166, 142, 172, and 137 bases in a season during her career, all more than Henderson’s modern-era record of 130 and three of which were higher than Hugh Nicol‘s 1887 total of 138.

Kurys passed away on February 17, 2013 at the age of 87 years old in Scottsdale, Arizona due to surgical complications.

Read more about Sophie in this comprehensive article, Playing Hardball In The All-American League at aagpbl.org

Bill Ivie is the editor here at Full Spectrum Baseball
Follow him on Twitter here.

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Official Scoring Change

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Official Scoring Change

Posted on 20 August 2012 by Dennis Lawson

Eye chart for official scorer’s eye exam…

That ball that bounced 14 times before being booted by the guy playing 3rd base?  Base knock.  Oh, he booted the ball into the 2nd deck where it caromed off of 2 nuns before dropping on the head of a baby 25 feet below?  Base knock plus 1 base error.  The bunt that the pitcher fielded cleanly off his noggin after 3 hops?  Infield hit.  At this point, a defender must basically kick a ball at rest into the opposing dugout and hit a camera operator to earn an actual error.

Honestly, baseball’s official scorers probably deserve to be classified as “invertebrate” for the lack of backbone shown in the face of overwhelming pressure to improve batting averages while simultaneously inflating fielding percentages.  The double laced down the left field line may show up as a line drive in the box score the next day, but all the credit really goes to the third baseman/matador who practically turned 2-dimensional while watching the ball shoot over/under/through his glove.

The problem with a lax attitude about scoring only covers the distance between “correct” and “no integrity”.  Batting averages (and subsequently OBP, OPS, and OPS+) get inflated artificially by E10′s which represent errors on the official scorer.  Sure, fielding percentage represents an outdated means of gauging defensive performance, but the statistic becomes entirely meaningless when officials err on the side of stupid.  More importantly, any defensive metric that uses an algorithm or formula that includes fielding percentage or errors becomes basically useless as well.  Bring rational thinking and a consistent approach back to official scoring, and watch fielding percentage gain back a modicum of respect.

While MLB considers this recommendation, maybe Emperor Bud and JT (Joe Torre) can rethink the way fielding errors on pitchers get treated as well.  If a pitcher fields a ball and proceeds to launch it into the right field bleachers, he gets charged with a fielding error, but then he basically gets a pass on earned runs for the remainder of the inning.  Why not rule the error an error but leave the “earned run” potential intact?  Who really gets hurt by this?  The pitcher who committed the heinous error, of course.  In that case, maybe he will spend a bit more time focusing on his fielding practice instead of starting on that 3rd bag of sunflower seeds in the shady dugout.

While Bud and Joe do that, maybe they can have a word with the rules committee about assuming the double play.  Maybe some broadcasters can’t make the determination about whether a double play should be assumed, but the thought that a good, impartial official scorer cannot differentiate remains an asinine, arcane approach.  Keep it simple, though.  If the runner at first base tackles the guy who touches 2nd base or violates any treaties with his slide, then all bets are off.  If the runner on first base barely makes it halfway to 2nd and the batter trips over his bat or home plate, the defender who receives the throw and bounces it off the first baseman and into the popcorn vendor deserves an error.

Maybe it is time for an official scoring change, and by that I mean change the official scorer.

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Point and Grunt Baseball: The Scrap Factor

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Point and Grunt Baseball: The Scrap Factor

Posted on 19 July 2012 by Dennis Lawson

Schumaker, Skip – Professional diver

With the continued growth of sabermetrics, baseball has a way of quantifying nearly everything that lends itself to being broken down to a single number.  UZR, TZR, total runs saved, dWAR, and even to a certain extent fielding percentage provide what some might consider empirical data-driven tools for evaluating a players performance in the field.  ISO, wOBA, oWAR, and OPS+ create a statistical image of a player’s performance on offense.  Finally, ERA+, xFIP, BAbip, game scores, and different split data sets tell us more than we ever need to know about what pitchers do when throwing a round ball at relatively high speeds.

None of these tools in the analytical tool box can tell you about the most important factor in baseball, and that just happens to be the “sCRAP” factor.  To fully understand and appreciate the sCRAP factor, you must be familiar with the qualitative, albeit subjective components which constitute sCRAP.

  • The basic component for sCRAP is the amount of dirt that appears on a player’s uniform.  Since the sCRAPpiest players on a team tend to be oft-injured or bench players, the percentage of the uniform covered in dirt is divided by the number of innings a player plays in a given game.  If a player has 90% of his uniform covered in dirt and plays exactly half the game, then the dirt component = .2.
  • So “dIRT” = (% of uniform covered / IP)/100.  The dIRT component is technically a cumulative one used later to help calculate sCRAP
  • E” equals the number of true errors made during a season.  This encompasses both errors scored by the official scorer as well as mistakes made in the field that should not be made by a sCRAPy player.  In this way the “true error” deviates from the traditional error in that the “true error” allows the assumption of the double play.
  • Another component for sCRAP is the “GRIT” component which is a “counting stat”.  This means that the final value is arrived at by adding the following together:  Unnecessary slides for any reason + running out a line drive all the way to 1st base despite the ball being caught by an infielder + headfirst slides + hit by pitch + collisions with another player + crotch grabs per at-bat.
  • As is the case with WAR, the sCRAP factor includes a poorly conceived and completely arbitrary position adjustment (POS).  If the number of games started is greater or equal to the number of pinch hit appearances, then the player’s position adjustment is set to “1″.  If the number of games started is less than the number of pinch hit appearances, then the player’s position adjustment is set to “1.000001″.
  • The final piece of the sCRAP puzzle is the “tough out” or “TO” component which is equal to the number of plate appearances in which the player fouls off 5 or more pitches.  Ideally, this would only count foul balls that an average hitter would be expected to put in play.  The problem most frequently associated with this ideal case primarily consists of a really detailed discussion about the concept of “BA+” which is loosely defined as the points below the league average that a player with a high sCRAP factor is hitting.  This necessarily must include both a park factor and a dynamic league factor value broken into slices based on position played.  The calculation of BA+ becomes quite tedious, so naturally the laborious process of putting random numbers together for a “TO” component in complex form becomes non-trivial.

In basic form:  sCRAP = dIRT * E * TO * GRIT * POS

While this relatively simplistic approach to evaluating sCRAP has not gained substantial traction with mainstream baseball people, it has several groups of regional supporters.  Eventually, sCRAP may gain widespread acceptance as a way of differentiating “sCRAP” from “CRAP” which post altogether.

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