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Saturday, November 19, 2005
the wal con pow system
this is for those of you who may be new to my blog. or those of you who know me, but don't follow baseball. it is an explanation of my methods.

my primary interest is player value. i like to think like a gm. talk about team-building. so the crucial thing to know is how much does this player help you win.

i talk about defense but not in any systematic way. just my observations. mostly i bear in mind that middle players are better than corner players.

what does that leave? hitting and pitching. i talk more about hitting than pitching. less is known about hitting than pitching. this is funny, because historically there has been much more study of hitting, and sabermetricians basically think hitting is solved.

what is a sabermetrician? a sabermetrician will tell you that a sabermetrician is a baseball scientist. i will tell you that a sabermetrician is a certain kind of baseball scientist. sabermetricians tend to have the same biases. they overrate patience and power, and they underrate contact. on the pitching side, they overrate the abilities to limit patience and power, and underrate the ability to limit contact. but not as severly. it's hard to ignore the importance of strikeouts.

but the purpose of this article is to explain the wal con pow system. i've already used it, in the last paragraph. it really is that simple.

here we go. hitting in baseball requires three skills: the ability to take pitches, the ability to make contact, and the ability to crush. i said skills but i should have said talents. also, a better name than hitting would be batting. because the goal is not to hit the ball. the goal is to get on base.

i have devised simple measures that approximate these talents. wal is the ability to take pitches. it stands for "walk percentage". con is the ability to make contact. it stands for "contact percentage". finally, pow is the ability to crush. to hit the shit out of the ball. to monster. it stands for "power percentage".

which is the most important? they're all important. it's nice to have a mix of talents on your team. patience can be learned. contact is pretty much inborn. power tends to peak at 28, and fall off over time. the formulas are linked at the top of the page.

an average wal would be .100. good wals aproach .200. anything under .050 is terrible.

an average con would be .800. .820. anything above .850 is good. anything over .900 is retarded. .650 is about as bad as you can be and still play major league baseball. and if your con is .650, your wal and pow better be outta sight.

an average pow would be .100. the best pows approach .200. bonds and dunn surpass it.

a .100 .800 .100 player would be a major-leage replacement-level hitter. such a player would be valuable at shortstop, center, or catcher; useless at the corners.

few players are significantly above average in all three talents. albert pujols is a motherfucker.

many players have good numbers in two of the three skills. these are your useful players. it's much better to have two strengths and one weakness than three average numbers. or even one big strength and two small weaknesses. adam dunn has wal and pow. jorge cantu has con and pow. gary sheffield has all three.

here's the beauty of the system: the pitchers use the same numbers. just as it is important to bat with patience, contact, and power, it is important to limit these things when pitching. so we have a walk percentage for pitchers. a contact percentage. a power percentage. this time, it's good to be low.

brad lidge, for example, has retarded contact. david wells does it with wal. sinkerballers tend to limit pow. some of the best pows of all time are greg maddux in the mid 90's. note: we're talking relative to the time he played. the dead-ball era obviously has lower pow's all over the place.

averages for pitchers are the same as for hitters. it is the other side of the coin. bad hitter numbers are good pitcher numbers, and vice versa. thus, a .050 .850 .080 pitcher would be good with wal and pow, bad with con. a .080 .750 .120 pitcher would be good with wal and con, bad with pow.

this is how it goes. when you have a hitter and a pitcher, and you look at the wal con pow's, you can closely predict how the battle is going to go. maybe not the result, but the character of the matchup. that is the beauty of the system. there are many beauties to the system. but that's what we'll talk about next time. (see above)
a note about replacement level:

replacement level is the level at which there is freely available talent. it is the talent level of the best minor-league players.

the name comes from the idea that when someone goes down, you need a replacement. unless you spend a lot of money or make a big trade, you get a replacement-level player.
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