February 6, 2003
A little more Randy versus Koufax, some Justice and yet another picture of a beautiful woman
I was hesitant to use reader mail for a second straight day and to focus on the Randy Johnson/Sandy Koufax talk for a third straight day (click here for day one and click here for day two), but I got an email from Lee Sinins, the creator of the Sabermetric Encyclopedia and the man behind the wonderful "Around the Majors" newsletter, so I just had to include it:
I'd like to respond to what you wrote in your blog about Randy Johnson and Sandy Koufax. I disagree with the idea that just a case could be made that Johnson's past 4 years were better than Koufax's last 4. I don't think there's any doubt that Johnson's years were better.
In order of RSAA--
1) Johnson, 2002, 62
2) Johnson, 1999, 60
3) Johnson, 2001, 59
4) Koufax, 1966, 58
5) Johnson, 2000, 57
T6) Koufax, 1963, 40
T6) Koufax, 1965, 40
8) Koufax, 1964, 35
All it takes is 1 RSAA, taken away from Koufax's 1966 and given to Johnson's 2000, and the worst of Johnson's seasons are ahead of the best of Koufax's.
During those 4 years, Koufax's ERA was 1.64 better than the league average. Johnson didn't have a single year in which his ERA above average was that "low". And, Koufax got to do that in an extreme pitcher's park. Twice during those 4 years, Dodgers Stadium reduced scoring by more 20%, with a 86 park factor being its high point.
Johnson led the league in RSAA 4 out of 4 years. Koufax led the league only 2 out of 4 years. And in one of the years he didn't lead, he was beaten out by a margin of 17 RSAA. To show you what kind of landslide loss that was for Koufax, put into 2002 terms, that's 1 RSAA more than the difference between Pedro Martinez and Tim Wakefield.
If you want lower Johnson's performance level, then we talk about a comparison to Koufax.
One more stat about Johnson vs. Koufax--
From 1963-66, Koufax beat Marichal, 173-155, for the NL lead in RSAA.
That's an 18 run margin.
Over the past 4 years, Johnson beat Maddux, 238-131, for the NL lead in
RSAA. That's a 107 run margin over those years.
So, Koufax's margin of victory is 18 runs, spread out over 4 years.
Johnson's margin is just under 27 runs every year.
Thanks for the email Lee.
For those of you wondering, "RSAA" stands for "Runs Saved Against Average."
You can learn more about that stat and some others that Lee uses by clicking here.
Here is what I originally said about Koufax versus Johnson:
A case could easily be made that Randy Johnson's last 4 years have been better than the final 4 seasons of Sandy Koufax's career.
And that is truly saying something!
After I said that, I got a lot of very good emails from various readers, some of whom disagreed with that statement.
Basically, I starting thinking about what I had said and, quite simply, "chickened out" and said this yesterday:
I want to stress that I didn't mean to imply that I thought Randy's 1999-2002 was better than Koufax's final 4 seasons.
I just wanted to point out that the argument could certainly be made.
What I should have said is that I did not mean to imply that Johnson's 4 seasons were, without a doubt, better than Koufax's, just that I personally believe that they were.
There, how's that?
As much fun as all this Koufax/Johnson and Pedro/Gibson talk has been this week, I think it is time to move on to a new subject...
David Justice called it a career yesterday, retiring from the game of baseball after 14 seasons in the Major Leagues.
David Justice was one of the first players that I really knew about.
I started following baseball fairly closely right around 1991, when the Twins were winning their 2nd championship in 5 years.
The Twins played the Atlanta Braves in the World Series that year, so I became familar with a lot of the Atlanta players.
I vivdly remember Mark Lemke, who was simultaneously referred to as "The Amazing Lemke" by most people during the 1991 WS and "F@#%ing Lemke" by all Twins fans (he hit .417/.462/.708 in the 7 game series, after hitting .234/.305/.312 in the regular season).
They also had guys like Sid Bream, Ron Gant and, of course, Lonnie Smith, to whom I will forever be grateful to for being a complete moron on the basepaths.
The Braves also had Glavine and Smoltz and Avery.
And, the 1991 NL MVP, Terry Pendleton.
Despite Pendleton's MVP award, their most feared hitter that year was, arguably, none other than David Justice.
Justice and I got off to a bad start, simply because I was forced to root against him and his teammates during my first exposure to him.
Since then, perhaps not-so-coincidentally, I have never really been a fan of Justice's. He always struck me a very good, but not great player. Looking back on his career right now, it seems to me that he is one of the more underrated players of his era.
Glancing at his career stats, one possible reason for his underratedness (is that a word?) jumps out at me: he almost never played a full season's worth of games.
In 14 Major League seasons, Justice played as many as 150 games 1 time, 1993, when he played in 157.
In fact, his career breaks down like this:
I should point out that 2 of those 14 seasons were "strike years" (1994 and 1995) so Justice couldn't have played in a normal full season's worth of games in those 2 seasons no matter what.
Anyway, two major reasons for his being underrated come from the above chart:
1) Guys that consistently miss a lot of time tend to lose a little luster in the eyes of fans and the media too.
2) His "raw" offensive totals are hurt because he simply didn't play nearly as many games as he could have.
When you miss about 20 games per season in your prime, that is gonna end up hurting your career totals quite a bit.
When he was playing, he was a very good hitter for a lot of years.
His best season was likely 1997, when he hit .329/.418/.596 with 33 homers, 31 doubles and 101 RBIs in 139 games for Cleveland.
That was good for an OPS+ of 157, which was the highest of his career and ranked 4th in the AL that year.
More recently, Justice split the 2000 season between Cleveland and the Yankees and hit a combined .286/.377/.584 with a career high 41 homers, 31 doubles and 118 RBIs in 146 games.
In total, Justice played in 100+ games in a season 12 times...
.400+ = 3 times
.370+ = 7 times
.350+ = 11 times
.550+ = 2 times
.500+ = 6 times
.450+ = 9 times
150+ = 1 time
140+ = 4 times
130+ = 5 times
120+ = 8 times
100+ = 12 times
Those are some very impressive numbers when you disregard the games played factor.
David Justice is not a Hall of Fame baseball player, he simply doesn't have enough games or homers or any of the other "counting stats" a HoF needs.
That said, he was one of the better players in baseball throughout the 1990s and he had one of the sweetest swings I have ever seen.
If he could only have managed another 20 games in a few of those seasons, we'd be looking at his career in a whole different light.
For as many games as Justice missed in the regular season, he sure tried to make up for it in the post-season.
Justice appeared in the post-season every single season from 1991-2002, except for one, 1996, when he was injured and couldn't play for the Braves, who did make the playoffs.
However, while Justice played in a tremendous amount of playoff games, his actual performance in them was very sub par.
Justice's career playoff stats:
G AB AVG OBP SLG HR 2B BB RBI RUN
112 398 .221 .329 .387 15 17 64 63 55
The totals get even worse when you only look at his numbers in the World Series:
G AB AVG OBP SLG HR 2B BB RBI RUN
36 124 .194 .333 .339 5 3 26 21 17
Justice played in almost enough post-season games to make up for an entire extra season, which is pretty amazing in itself, no matter how badly he played in them.
He's the all-time leader in post-season games played, with 112, which is almost 20% more than the next best total.
Finally, no article about the career of David Justice would be complete without mentioning the fact that he was once married to this woman...
...which may be a more impressive accomplishment than all of those post-season appearances put together.
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****