Lineups with Gaps
… which may be getting filled in the local nine


Dave Fleming, filling in for James, sez in Hey Bill:


Hello, my greets from the Dominican Republic. The Giants NEVER won a World Series with Marichal, Mays and McCovey, three HOF, while they were together. They only won a single Pennant. With Bonds and Kent, to me HOF caliber, they only won a single Pennant, even with them winning five MVPs in a row. They have won three World Series in the last five seasons... to me, Posey and Bumgarner could be HOF some day, but too early to say. So it's just luck? Bruce Bochy magic? Remarkable contrasts, right? More to the point, it's more difficult to win it all, with three rounds of playoffs plus a sudden death game this year...
Asked by: jbdominicano
Answered: 11/1/2014
Mays, Marichal and McCovey were a terrific core, but if you look at any of the Giants teams of those eras, you can see that they always had big gaps in their offense. Take the 1963 team: Mays, McCovey, and Marichal were terrific that year. So were Cepeda and Alou and Ed Bailey. But....their pitchers, outside the high-kickin' Dominican, were mediocre, and they gave a lot of at-bats to guys like Jose Pagan and Chuck Hiller and Jim Davenport, who weren't great.
The 1966 team was similiar: great years from the three M's, plus big seasons from Gaylord Perry and Jim Ray Hart, but a lot of gaps, too....a lot of places where the other team could take a breather. This year's Giants don't have the firepower of those teams, but they had no gaps on offense, and some good parts to slot into the half-dozen innings Madison Bumgarner wasn't pitching.  (PARAGRAPH)  
This is unrelated, but one of the reasons I remain skeptical about the current Dodgers becoming a powerhouse in the NL is the big gaps they have on their team. They have loads of superstar players, but they also had AJ Ellis and Olivo platoon at catcher, posting a weful .181/.283/.261 line between them. The guy with the best slugging percentage on the team wasn't Puig or Kemp or Adrian or was actually Scott Van Slyke. Dan Haren was the only other starter to cross 150 innings, and his innings weren't good. Their bullpen had an ERA (3.80) that was a half-run higher than their starter's ERA (3.20).
This is just my intuition, just a hunch based on nothing obective...but it seems like star-studded teams that have big, glaring flaws almost never win championships. A team might be better off have an entire lineup of guys with 110 OPS+'s, than having a lineup with two or three guys in the Mays/McCovey range, and two or three guys in the 50-70 range. A team might win more games with three good starters and three good relievers than with Kersahw, Greinke, Jansen, and no one else you trust.


1.  Bearing in mind this article and the Yogi Berra article ... the M's certainly have their superduperstar at the right position.  Robinson Cano allows the M's to get to work on finding some OF's, 1B's, and DH's who can hit.   Kyle Seager is also a big leg up this way.

Stars & Scrubs isn't about having two 140 OPS+ hitters and black holes.  It's about having two or three 140 OPS+ hitters so that you can find 90-110 OPS+ hitters in the corners of the cellar.


2.  The Cano/Seager situation is especially cool for M's fans in view of Zduriencik's minor league system.  Why he hasn't gotten anything out of Smoak or Montero or Ackley, or anybody else ... it's weird.

Most scouts will tell you Alex Jackson is comparable to Wil Myers or Bryce Harper.  He we go again :- )


3.  I wonder if it is true -- or more true -- that in the "tournament" era, teams with black holes get weeded out more easily.  The idea being that with all the computerized hyper-scouting going on, you can isolate 1-2 hitters and control them, if that's all you have to do.


4.  The M's worst holes last year were CF and DH.  The first half of the year, also 1B and SS.

One thing we'll say about the Smoak situation:  the M's have evidently bought in on Logan Morrison.  From June 23 to the end of the year, he hit 285/335/450.  From August 6th to the end, he was 320/370/525 and the M's were 27-19.

Remember, Logan came up as a minor star, OPS+'ed 123 as a 22-year-old rookie.


5.  It would be cool if somebody went back and checked whether most teams that won the World Series, in the last 20-25 years, were teams without black holes.


Dr D



James himself was incredulous regarding them, once asking if there ever was a team with more HOF talent yet with so little to show for it. The black holes then we're mostly in the bullpen, and SP in '95. Certainly the powerhouse 2014 Tigers reminded me of those teams. James once wrote a piece about a futile season from the Late 50's Braves: Matthews/Aaron/Spahn, all done in by the almost laughable futility of management to address a gaping hole at second base, a position you might think can be booted offensively. A train of applicants all season long (which included former M's manager Chuck Cottier) never solved the problem. I often thought of that article while watching the similar DH problem we had this past season. I also thought of that article while watching the A's never address their hole there, and similarly fall short. Like you said, Doc: Stars and Scrubs: you put a star at second base so you can easily fill a position like DH.


I tested this theory today.
Do gappy clubs that make the post-season do worse than clubs that are not gappy?
For each playoff team, I did the following:
I took the position splits for each position on the diamond including DH and PH but excluding P on offense and, for every position that was below average in OPS+ compared to the league split for that position, I gave points based on the formula (PA / 600) * delOPS+ (the difference between 100 and the split OPS+)
I took SPs 1 through 4 by innings pitched and then all of the remaining starters with at least 5 starts lumped together as well as the entire bullpen lumped together and found their OPS+ allowed and used the same formula as above (except that now delOPS+ is split OPS+ minus 100)
I did this for every playoff team from 1990 through 2014
I then broke the playoff teams up by "loser's bracket" (all teams eliminated before the WS), "runner up" (WS runner up) and champion.
Using my scoring system the average loser's bracket playoff team had a gap index of 87.4, most heavily concentrated on the bottoms of rotations, the bullpens and the skill positions (SS/CF/C/3B/2B)...and oddly...DH (seems AL clubs are having a devil of a time finding good DHs)
The average gap index score for runners up is 69.6
The average gap index for champions is 68.8
Implication: in tournament baseball, gappy clubs are easier to eliminate than non-gappy clubs (that is statistically significant, that difference, I tested with student t-test), in aggregate, but once you hit the WS, the difference is negligible...possibly implying that teams with gaps that can be "played into losses" by better clubs get knocked out quickly, but teams with gaps that are less of a factor (like 2014 SFG who had gaps at the bottom of their rotation, but didn't use much of that bottom), once they hit the WS, are not impacted.
Some points of caution:
This uses regular season aggregate scoring, and obviously, contending teams make moves to try to plug their gaps before the post-season. So the team you face in the playoffs may not be as gappy as their score indicates (but I suspect this is just as true for all contending clubs on average).
Also, post-season games are played different than regular season games and bullpen gaps that get cancelled by top performances in the regular season averages might wind being more important or less important depending on the series and opponent.
Food for thought.


The 1997 Mariners had a gap index of 108 (of which 61 was the bullpen...and ZERO was the offense...LOL)
The 1995 Mariners had a gap index of 79 (of which a good 22 or so was in CF because Griffey got hurt and the rest was the bottom of the rotation, pretty much)
And...the 2014 Mariners had a gap index of 149 (eeeeeww!)...of which all 149 was offense (LOL) and about 95 of it was CF and DH
So...if the Mariners can fix CF, DH, and get 1B/RF up to average...we'd be rather un-gappy.


I just did a quick perusal of every LCS AL team going back to '00.  All but three of those 28 different teams had at least two RH or Switcher bat with more than 70 RBI's.  The exceptions were the '08 Rays, the '05 Angels and the '02 Twins. 
The '08 Rays had Loongoria with 85 and Upton with 67.  The '05 Angels had Vlad with 108 and Molina with 69.
So if I had lowered the standard to 67 RBI's, then only one team wouldn't make it.
The '02 Twins had only Torii Hunter with 94.
Most of those LCS teams had three+.  Some had 5.  Seattle had 3 and 4, respectively, in '01 and '00.
The clear evidence is you need two (or more) RH RBI guys if you want to get to the LCS.
We need our two.


Gappiness studies and gap indexes?  This is some epic new baseball shtick.
Here's a question:  What are the Gap splits on the Orcs during 2014?  Did losing His Blingness increase gappiness to an unsustainable level, or did it cause an equally devastating collapse of spirit?   


I put the answer in the shout box (my loose answer anyway), but I'll repost it here.
The As' gap index increased by about 15 points after the Lester for Cespedes deal. Gomes was having a lousy year and Fuld was no help. With injuries to guys like Vogt, they ended up with a massive gap in LF worth +28 prorated to full season. Lester, Samardzija and Hammel erased their gap at SP5 (Hammel was +5...but close enough). The gap at SP5 was worth 15 points prorated before the trades.
And most of the positive benefit of the moves was the Samardzija trade, not the Lester trade.
But the change in gap score moved them from +82 to +95...not critical mass level changes here...but moved them in the wrong direction. They'd have been better off keeping Cespedes and trading for either a 2B upgrade or another bat to help at 1B (they acquired Dunn who was no real help). Another takeaway...if they're smart...they will not go into 2015 counting on Moss.

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