Over the past month or so, I've been emailing back and forth with Craig Messmer, who is the author of the book, Stat One.
You can get it here: www.StatOneBaseball.com -- and you can purchase through the links there to Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Now, let me explain it to you. Messmer basically creates a stat called P/E Average that breaks down hitters through history. He is able to use this number to help list the all-time greatest players at every position. (Pitchers -- you have no place here!)
For stat lovers like me, and for baseball history lovers like me, it's a really fun book to read. Seriously, it's fun! I like to try and guess the rankings as I move from position to position. I'm a dork like that.
So I asked Messmer a few questions and tried to see what kind of Fantasy information our readers could glean from this book.
1. First, give us a quick explanation about the P/E Average and why it’s a better measurement against other stats.
P/E Average stands for Production & Efficiency Average. The idea behind my stat is that traditional measures only focus on either production (runs) OR efficiency (bases); P/E Average looks at both, which gives a more complete picture of a hitter’s success.
Looking at only production statistics is faulty because those numbers are often dependent upon teammates. The better your team, the more likely you will score and drive in runs. This creates an unequal playing field when comparing players. Looking at only efficiency statistics is faulty because they don’t have anything to do with scoring runs, which is the ultimate goal of an offense.
Consider the following example from last season that illustrates how P/E Average is vastly superior to OPS (on-base plus slugging), a statistic that is often quoted despite the fact that it is flawed:
- Alex Rodriguez - 1.415 P/E Average
.314 batting avg., .422 on-base %, .645 slugging %, 1.067 OPS
143 runs, 156 RBI, 54 home runs, 245 net runs (r + rbi - hr)
- David Ortiz - 1.280 P/E Average
.332 batting avg., .445 on-base %, .621 slugging %, 1.066 OPS
116 runs, 117 RBI, 35 home runs, 198 net runs (r + rbi - hr)
A-Rod generated 47 more runs for his team's scoreboard than Ortiz, yet he only had a 1-point advantage in terms of OPS because that statistic doesn't measure production. When looking at P/E Average, however, it is apparent that A-Rod had the much better season (135-point edge). P/E Average takes into account measures of both production and efficiency, thereby giving a complete picture of each hitter. In my opinion, it is the single most telling statistic currently available for analyzing offensive performance.
P/E Average combines measures of production and efficiency into a single, easy-to-understand score that is equitable in design and applicable to every hitter in history. It can be used to evaluate players at any level, and it has specific application to Fantasy leagues in terms of general score tracking, drafting ‘hidden gems,’ and recognizing potential busts.
2. Just how impressive was Jeff Bagwell’s big P/E season in 1994?
In 1994, Bagwell finished the strike-shortened season with a P/E Average of 1.549. That is the ninth-best single-season score of all-time, and it’s the highest score in baseball history since 1931 (Babe Ruth = 1.563). Only five players (Ruth, Al Simmons, Rogers Hornsby, Lou Gehrig and Nap Lajoie) have ever posted better seasons in terms of P/E Average. It is also the only time since 1941 (Ted Williams - 1.517) that a hitter reached 1.500 in his season P/E score. According to my research, a P/E of 1.500 or higher has only been attained 23 times in Major League history. It’s also the second-highest score in NL history (behind Hornsby’s '25 campaign - 1.557).
Since P/E is an average based on total number of chances (plate appearances), it provides a very accurate and definitive mark. While Bagwell’s '94 season was cut short, my statistic is able to clearly communicate in a simple fashion how truly dominant he was that year.
3. In your book, you separate the outfielders by left, center and right. In Fantasy, we combine them all into one position, can you give me your top five outfielders overall?
All my top 10 lists and my top 100 list were determined through carefully analyzing statistics and factoring in postseason success, defense, MVP resume, leadership, uniqueness, and the era in which he played. For a top-5 OF, I’d put them in this order:
- Babe Ruth
- Joe DiMaggio
- Ted Williams
- Barry Bonds*
- Ty Cobb
- Willie Mays
*Bonds’ rating doesn’t consider the issue of steroids. All ratings and rankings in Stat One are based solely on statistics and on-field accomplishments. Since I don’t know exactly who took what, how long they took it, what effect it had, or what their competition was taking, I chose to ignore the issue of steroids and performance enhancers. In my heart, however, I’d drop Bonds lower based on his history and move Mays into the top 5.
These are the top 5 outfielders of all-time in terms of career P/E Averages:
- Babe Ruth (1.436)
- Ted Williams (1.346)
- Joe DiMaggio (1.295)
- Barry Bonds (1.264)
- Manny Ramirez (1.234)
Also: Hack Wilson (1.209), Ty Cobb (1.204), Al Simmons (1.199), Earl Averill (1.179), Mickey Mantle (1.178), and Vladimir Guerrero (1.175)
4. You also mention multi-positional players, which players do you think were ultimately hurt in their rankings because of a position switch?
I’m not sure how to answer this one. Players in Stat One had to have at least 60% of their games played to be at one specific position on the diamond to be included in that chapter. If not, they went to the multi-position/DH chapter. The only exception was for outfielders; as long as 60% of their games were played in the outfield, they were included at the outfield position they played most often (example: Manny Ramirez still has more career games played in RF than LF).
Ernie Banks actually played more games at first than he did at short. If he were included with the shortstops, he would have been No. 3 all-time behind Wagner and A-Rod and ahead of Ripken and Derek Jeter. Musial is a guy that just makes the cut as a left fielder. Thome is a current guy who is on the fence, and A-Rod will soon be considered multi-positional once his percentage of career games at shortstop drops below the 60% threshold I established in the book.
5. Looking at baseball players now, entering the 2008 season, can you tell us some surprises that you think could come out near the top of the P/E averages at their positions?
Here are a few guys that could be poised for breakout years:
- Brandon Phillips (2nd Base-CIN): Phillips had a very good year last season on a bad team. The Reds should be much better thanks in part to a weak division. Phillips is in a great spot if he hits cleanup behind Griffey and in front of Dunn. He should see a lot of work against lefties. His P/E in 2006 was .918, and then it jumped to 1.034 in 2007. I think he could be in line for a big season, maybe with a P/E score in the 1.200s or higher.
- Garrett Atkins (3rd Base-COL): Atkins is a guy I see as ‘bounce-back’ material. In `06 he finished the season with a 1.210 P/E, but his average fell to 1.028 last year. He should have a lot of guys on base in front of him, and I think the Rockies will battle for the division throughout the summer. The only thing that should scare fantasy owners is the quality of pitching in the NL West.
- Robinson Cano (2nd Base-NYY): I have a feeling that by season’s end Cano will be hitting in a prime position in the Yankee lineup (spots 2-5). Regardless, he’ll be surrounded by great on-base and RBI players. He’s just coming into his own, looking to me like a young Rod Carew with more power and less experience and opportunity. While his P/E dipped slightly from 2006-2007 (1.035 to 1.030), his production went up markedly. He generated 125 net runs (runs + RBI – home runs) in `06 but 171 in `07. Expect 200 net runs or more and close to 350 total bases.
Messmer has promised me that he's going to keep in touch throughout the season with thoughts on some current players and their P/E numbers.
Here are the early leaders in P/E Average through just a couple weeks. (Each player's current P/E is listed with his career P/E in parentheses):
- Lance Berkman, 1B/OF, HOU: 1.540 P/E in 2008 (1.172 career P/E)
- Pat Burrell, OF, PHI: 1.462 (1.027)
- Mark Reynolds, SS, ARI: 1.456 (1.102)
- Vernon Wells, OF, TOR: 1.383 (1.001)
- Joe Crede, 3B, CHW: 1.380 (.914)
- Nate McLouth, OF, PIT: 1.373 (.985)
- Manny Ramirez, OF, BOS: 1.322 (1.235)
- Chipper Jones, 3B, ATL: 1.296 (1.161)
- Raul Ibanez, OF, SEA: 1.295 (1.013)
- Carlos Pena, 1B, TB: 1.271 (1.009)
I want to thank Craig so much for answering my questions. If you readers have some questions, please feel free to post them on this blog as a comment, and I'll make sure he sees them.
Don't forget that you can buy the book here: www.StatOneBaseball.com.