Whys, wherefores and Win Shares

So, how many win shares was that Neftali Soto home run worth, smart guy?

今年のMVP、最優秀新人選手、ベストナインの投票について各NPB選手のWin Shares(ウィン・シェア)を計算しました。Win Sharesの日本語の説明はこちです。

I’ve written in the past that I use Bill James’ Win Shares methodology to generate my short list of candidates for my postseason award votes, the MVP, Rookie of the Year, Best Nine and Gold Gloves. It’s not an easy system to use, but has two very attractive features.

  1. The wins attributed to a team’s players cannot exceed the number of wins the team achieves.
  2. Because it works from the concepts of league defensive norms at different positions rather than raw fielding numbers — that are often skewed toward poor teams that have allowed more base runners.

The system also has many inherent flaws particularly the lack of loss shares — something James is ostensibly still working on — to account for defensive responsibilities and playing time.  The proposed new system would give every player a win-loss record, where the current system has to make do with a single figure.

This comes into play when you compare, for example, two DeNA BayStars outfielders, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo and Neftali Soto. Win Shares assigns Tsutsugo, the Japan cleanup hitter, with 22.5 percent of the club’s offense win contribution, and Soto — who also hit 38 home runs but in just five months and who was vastly more productive with runners on base and in scoring position — with 21.3 percent.

But here’s the catch, Soto made 7.7 percent of the BayStars’ batting outs, while Tsutsugo made 9.4 percent, a 20 percent increase. If we were assign the two loss shares to go with their win shares, I’m guessing Tsutsugo would be 22-11, while Soto was 19-7 and probably more valuable.

This sometimes creates disconnects for a variety of reasons. Two players with identical production on teams playing in similar offensive contexts can have quite different win share totals. If one team wins more games than its totals of runs and runs allowed would suggest, that team will have more wins to divide up among its players than a team that got fewer wins than expected.

A surprise from this year’s win shares calculations involved Yakult Swallows closer Taichi Ishiyama. He finished second in pitching win shares in the Central League behind Tomoyuki Sugano. How could that be?

Because the Swallows’ parks this year gave them the highest run adjustment — meaning runs were easier to come by in their games than in any other team’s in Japan this year — Yakult’s 658 runs scored — the second-highest CL total was not nearly as impressive as their CL-worst 665 runs allowed. Win Shares estimates the Swallows scored 297 runs more than the worst offense imaginable would score, but saved 416 runs more than the worst possible pitching and defense would allow.

That gives a huge amount of the credit for their 75-win total to the pitching and defense, and since the Swallows also won more games than expected given the number of runs scored and allowed — it means pitchers who excelled for them this season could potentially be credited with contributing to more wins than expected.

According to Win Shares, the top 10 CL pitchers this season were, in order:

1. Tomoyuki Sugano,
2. Taichi Ishiyama
3. Katsuki Azuma
4. Daichi Osera
5. Yasuaki Yamasaki
6. Onelki Garcia
7. David Buchanan
8. Yasuhiro Ogawa
9. Randy Messenger
10. Kris Johnson

I would never argue that’s right, but there are bits of truth that the system can illuminate.

Publishing award voting in NPB

The Twitterverse had a few things to say after I posted a photo of my ballot on Friday for the Central and Pacific leagues’ postseason awards .

2018 PL award ballot
2018 CL award ballot














In roman script my pics were:
Central League
1. OF Yoshihiro Maru, Hiroshima Carp
2. 2B Tetsuto Yamada, Yakult Swallows
3. OF Seiya Suzuki, Hiroshima Carp
Rookie of the Year
P Katsuki Azuma, DeNA BayStars
Best Nine
P: Tomoyuki Sugano, Yomiuri Giants
C: Tsubasa Aizawa, Hiroshima Carp
1B: Dayan Viciedo, Chunichi Dragons
2B: Tetsuto Yamada, Yakult Swallows
3B: Toshiro Miyazaki, DeNA BayStars
SS: Hayato Sakamoto, Yomiuri Giants
Yoshihiro Maru, Hiroshima Carp
Seiya Suzuki, Hiroshima Carp
Ryosuke Hirata, Chunichi Dragons

Pacific League
1. OF Yuki Yanagita, SoftBank Hawks
2. OF Shogo Akiyama, Seibu Lions
3. 1B Hotaka Yamakawa, Seibu Lions
Rookie of the Year
OF Kazuki Tanaka, Rakuten Eagles
Best Nine
P: Takayuki Kishi, Rakuten Eagles
C: Takuya Kai, SoftBank Hawks
1B: 1B Hotaka Yamakawa, Seibu Lions
2B: Hideto Asamura, Seibu Lions
3B: Nobuhiro Matsuda, DeNA BayStars
SS: Sosuke Genda, Seibu Lions
Yuki Yanagita, SoftBank Hawks
Shogo Akiyama, Seibu Lions
Masataka Yoshida, Orix Buffaloes
Designated Hitter
Alfredo Despaigne, SoftBank Hawks

岡本和真ではなく、ピシエドに入れのか?? – You picked (Dayan) Viciedo over Kazuma Okamoto?
平田よりソトじゃね?– You picked Hirata over (38-home run man) Neftali Soto?
みんなこういう風に公表すればいいのにね!–I wish everyone would publish their ballots this way!
パリーグで岸だけ防御率が2点台なんですよね。– Kishi was the only PL pitcher with an ERA under 3.00 wasn’t he?
127打点と.310打率の成績を残しながら、リーグ優勝にひっぱた選手(浅村栄斗)はMVP投票から外したの?–A guy that had 127 RBI and hit .310 in leading his team to the league championship is not on your (MVP) list?
こうやって全員が全員公表してくれたら謎GGとかなくなると思うんだよなぁ–I think that if all the members make public this way, mystery GG is gone
完全同意. 迷うとしたら3位を誠也か大瀬良かてところやな–I completely agree, but I’d prefer if the third-place MVP vote went to (Carp) pitcher Daichi Osera instead of giving a vote to Seiya Suzuki.

もちろん今季の成績だけで選ぶなら丸山田菅野の三強だと思います。 しかし2016年のように優勝に強く貢献した選手が選ばれる傾向があるので大瀬良にも票がかなり入るんじゃないかと思います– Of course, I think that the three strongest this season in the CL were Maru, Yamada and Sugano–if one chooses only by the season’s results. However, I think that the final award vote will favor Daichi Osera because there is a tendency that the player who contributed a lot to the championship gets in — (as they did in 2016, when Takahiro Arai was MVP

成績が大差ないなら優勝チーム優先でいいと思いますが私もMVPはその年に最も勝ちに貢献した選手が取るべきだと思います–You aren’t selecting the player who most contributed to the year’s championship, but voting for the player who contributed most to wins during the season. 👏 If players’ production is close, I think the MVP vote should go to the player who contributed to a championship.

投票用紙初めて見たよ。ちゃんと社名氏名も書くんだね。NPBがこれをファンに公表してくれたら不可解な投票やふざけた投票はかなり減るだろう。–This is the first time I’ve seen a ballot. If NPB made this public to the fans, it would reduce the number of inexplicable or throw-away votes.

優勝した西武を押し退けてMVP1位に選ばれる柳田凄スギィ–You pushed aside players who won the championship with Seibu to give your first-place MVP vote to (SoftBank’s) Yuki Yanagita, amazing.

A few people also asked whether publishing ballots was allowed. I couldn’t find any rules against it, but it’s less common in Japan than giving your No. 1 MVP vote to a player whose team didn’t win the pennant.

Is Tomoya Mori the PL’s most valuable catcher?

i. value
So often the postseason awards are pretty routine. Evaluate a player’s contribution one way or another, and vote for the players you think contributed the most wins to their team’s record over the season. Sure, there are people like my buddy John Gibson who, from my standpoint, complicates matters by asking whether those games played are meaningful and whether that player was essential to the team’s success. I don’t really understand the concepts he is arguing so, I’ll leave them there.

Once on our podcast, I posited the question of who is the most valuable? Well, I’m no economist, but it seems one way to measure value is the resources one is willing to expend to acquire something. In that mind, I thought if you knew everything about a player except their age and what they had done in previous years — how well they fielded, how hard they hit the ball, how well they threw and ran, their leadership and makeup. Then ask yourself, if you were an owner trying to fill your roster and could choose from all the available players that season and had to buy them in an auction with other owners, who would you spend the most money on for your team? Wouldn’t that player be your choice as most valuable? If you said, ‘not necessarily, because a player who didn’t contribute as much was more valuable’ then you are arguing that your team would be better with people who do less to win.

That doesn’t mean we have to agree. How do you understand and value leadership, versatility? I doubt anybody sees those things the same way.

ii. Tomoya Mori
I use Bill James’ win shares as kind of a pickax to answer these questions. It’s not really definitive for reasons anybody who uses them knows, but its a nice way to eyeball disparate seasons by players at different positions.

This brings us to the Seibu Lions’ slugging catcher Tomoya Mori. By win shares, Mori is by far the most valuable catcher in Japan — because of his huge offensive value. He also gets points for being really good at throwing out would-be base stealers. He gets 21 win shares, 18.5 from his bat, 2.2 from his fielding — the worst total of any team’s No. 1 catcher. His closest PL rival this past year was Tatsuhiro Tamura of Lotte with 9 win shares, most from defense.

The first issue is Mori the DH. He spent half of his at-bats for the league champs as DH. but he was a lousy DH. As a catcher, he had a .396 OBP and a .497 slug over 341 plate appearances — better than most teams get from their DH. Ignoring his DH offense, he’s still more valuable just from the time he spent in his 81 games behind the plate than any other catcher in Japan. But that’s win shares.

If you look at how opposing hitters performed against different Lions catchers, Mori, Ginjiro Sumitani and Masatoshi Okada, it sure looks like Mori is costing the Lions runs every game he catches. We can throw out the games pitched by Seibu’s two top starters, since Yusei Kikuchi pitched almost exclusively to Sumitani, while Shinsaburo Tawata threw all his pitches to Mori. Lefty Daiki Enokida was caught by Mori and Sumitani in even ammounts, while Ken Togame split his workload between Mori and Okada. The rest of the pitchers were fairly mixed between the three.

The image below shows the batting results for each pitcher and catcher — ignoring stolen bases and caught stealing — with the runs created and the outs from those results.

When Mori caught Ken Togame, opposing batters created 6.25 runs per 27 batting outs. With Okada catching, that figure was 3.93.

When Mori caught Daiki Enokida, opposing batters created 4.64 RC per 27 outs. With Sumitani catching it was 2.94.

Against other pitchers, mostly relievers, opposing batters had 5.40 RC per 27 outs, 4.92 against Okada, and 5.12 against Sumitani.

There may be reasons why these results occurred. If Mori WAS the reason opposing hitters created a half a run more per 27 batting outs against him than they did when his teammates were catching, the value of his offense as a catcher comes close to being a wash.

We don’t know that IS true, but I believe it might be. That being said, Mori is really, really valuable, because A, he can really, really hit, he throws out base stealers and can catch the ball, and the same can’t be said for lots of players. This might be an anomaly or there might be a cause for it that can be addressed and might learn to be a better receiver. But I’m not going to give him my Best 9 vote this year.