Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Is there a secret reason why this guy is so damn relaxed? Could it be
that he's a god in some uncharted alternate universe???
Forman et fil just keeps hitting 'em out of the park. A little tear always forms in our left eye as we write this: Sean F. began his career with us and has gone on to bigger and better things. (Of course, that tearing might actually be due to a bout of hay fever...)

Anyway, a recent innovation over at the House of F is the ability to play with player splits data. Any and all of that information can now be parsed into a series of leaderboards that do justice to that old mysterious phrase "six ways to breakfast" (in fact, Brock Hanke always used to say "six ways from breakfast," but he's never up early enough in the day to eat breakfast, which probably explains his odd prepositional shift...).

And, as the title of this little ditty strongly implies, one of those categories that can parsed along with your scrambled eggs is--you guessed it!--the mysterious world of interleague play. There are now seventeen years of this oddly endearing abomination to add up, and adding it up is a snap (you don't even have to go out for coffee any more, Rany my boy, you can just coat that sugar cube with your favorite lysergic substance and dream of those Royals in the post-season!).

Aside from the various leaderboards, though, Sean has created another breakout for all of the split data that allows us to peek into an even more secret world. Along with the information for the split data, he brings over the players' overall OPS to compare with the OPS for the individual split.

For interleague play, that allows us to see which hitters have been gods or bums relative to their overall performance level. Turns out that there is some variance to be found here, and it's fun if not absolutely fab or fascinating:

Would you have expected that the batter with the most improvement in interleague play from his lifetime performance turns out to be--Brennan Boesch? (The above list shows batters with 200 or more plate appearances in interleague play. We've shaded the players with 500+ PAs in light blue to show where the leaders would be if the playing time requirement was made more stringent: it shows you how much the leaderboard would tighten up.)

It's a great list because the players on it (with a few exceptions) aren't great. If nothing else, it will give baseball announcers something else to talk about when any of the active players on this list come to the plate. (And doubtless annoy those who are overly infected with the "small sample size" syndrome.)

So those were the "interleague improvers." Now let's look at the "interleague decliners."

So was it his scary-bad performance performance in interleague play that prompeted Giancarlo Stanton to change his name? (By the way, these figures are a few days old: Stanton, who hasn't changed his name in a while, is actually now up to a -.255, so he might well leave this bottom-dwelling region to your friend and mine, Randall Simon.

We've again shaded players with 500+ PAs in blue, so you can see that it's actually Bret Boone who stunk up interleague play over nine years while accumulating a season's worth of data.

Now you might be wondering who hit the absolute best and absolute worst in interleague play. The best? A boring answer (and a vexing one, for those still raging about 'roids): Barry Bonds (1.153 OPS). The worst? He's on the above list of "decliners" (we're tempted to say recliners, but we've been watching a bit too much of late-night TV and their silly commercials--and by the way, do not buy the "Forever Comfy"... on day 91, the damn thing will break open and you'll have the gelatinous goo that the damn thing is stuffed with all over your car and your posterior: stick with foam dice).

Oh, sorry: the answer is Gary Bennett (.509 OPS). We did want to note, however, that our old pal Yuniesky Betancourt is #12 on this list. Lowest interleague OPS for an active player: Cesar Izturis (.525 OPS), currently ranked 5th worst.

Now, of course, we can also sum up interleague play in terms of counting stats. One problem with these lists, however, is that they tend to have Alex Rodriguez at or near the top of them. (This will no doubt create more consternation for our chum Tyler Kepner at the NYT, who had to be put back on some of our spare meds after his ferocious screed about A-Rod the other day. This was something akin to the weeks-old whipped cream on top of a dubious dessert that often gets served up when libel and slander are allowed to run amok; but, let's face it, there are times when all one can do is keep the customer satisfied.) 

But what the hell...let's look at 'em anyway. We have the HR leaders (Jim Thome), the RBI leaders (gasp! A-Rod), the R leaders (Derek Jeter, with A-Rod third), the BB leaders (Thome again, inching ahead of Bobby Abreu and Bonds), and the XBH leaders (Torii Hunter, slippin' ahead of A-Rod).

Of course, these lists tend to more closely mirror other, more conventional leader lists that could be constructed starting in the mid-1990s.  But on each of them there are at least a few surprises to be found.

And we hope that when Johnny Damon starts his inevitable self-promotion for the Hall of Fame, he will remember to give proper credit to the first source for his high standing on several of these interleague leader lists. (Nothing like a few extraneous lines of statistical pattern to fatten what is, alas, a  rather meagre HOF resumé...)

We also took the time to compile the yearly interleague HR leaders.

Why did we do that, you ask? Well, two reasons...

First, it easy to do, thanks to Sean F. (See the "go out for coffee" jibe above.)

Second, we were still hunting for some unusual names. There was some hope that the earlier compressed nature of the interleague schedule (which only went by the bye in 2012) would create what  seasoned professionals in this field call an anomaly.

And we found one. It was just by what used to be called "the skin of one's teeth," however.

It took sixteen years for the interleague HR leader to produce what today is known as a "WTF moment."

That's when Trevor Plouffe stepped up and slammed his ninth interleague HR during what we used to called the "in-season off-season" (before BS took that away from us by dribbling it out like a colic-stricken baby).

When Plouffe made that ball go poof, he tied an actual, bonafide slugger (Jose Bautista) for the '12 IHC (that's Interleague Homer Crown).

Trevor is the only guy on this list with a season-high HR total of less than 25 who has the single-season lead in interleague homers.

Fear not, however: this has not led us into determining who has the highest ratio of interleague homers to overall homers.

Even we know when we are going too far.

[EDIT: We have even smaller sample sizes to explore in those "interleague improvers" and "interleague decliners." (Though "decliners" is not quite the right word--makes it sound as though these guys are refusing to play against the other league.)

But in the mysterious case of Buster Posey, he might want to consider doing just that. The 2012 MVP might well be wearing a Superman suit under his jersey, because there is no doubt that the American League (at least in the regular season...) is his version of Kryptonite. See for yourself...

Well, it's only 38 games, right? Time for the hissing from the "SSS" police, n'est-ce pas? But it's dramatic nonetheless. And these stats are no longer up-to-date, for that matter: Posey has had three more interleague games since we ran them.

And you'll be interested to know that his "Diff" total is now... -.333 (!!). He's gone 0-for-10 in those games.

You can bet we'll be keeping an eye on this one.]