07 September 2016

Cup of jO's: Caleb Joseph is Nearing History

Caleb Joseph has had a remarkable year.  Accidentally, he has found himself challenging a better mark than Good.  That is, Gene Good.  Good carries the misfortune of logging the most plate appearances in a season for a positional player without managing a Run Batted In.  It is a mark that is rather astounding, but not exactly surprising as the dead ball era is littered with batters who hit poorly and do not appear to accomplish all that much.

As one might expect the second most plate appearances in a season without a Run Batted In belongs to another player of the dead ball era, Bobby Messenger.  While Good played for a miserable Boston team, Messenger actually player for a respectable White Sox club.  Both outfielders, Messenger was a speedy player who was capable of beating out groundballs and routinely scored whenever he was on base.  He is a kind of guy you simply cannot imagine would be unlucky enough to be without an RBI in some fashion.  Whereas Good was simply bad.

Joseph comes in at third most plate appearances without a Run Batted In.  He finds himself a little unique in that he is, more or less, a veteran.  Good and Messenger were both rookies given extended looks.  Joseph maintains his place because he has been able to be passable at the plate in years past and excel behind the plate.  He also is a manager favorite, which tends to play a role in how one finds job security as a backup catcher.

That said, Joseph must be making coaches and front office staff question whether he is an actual piece for the future.  Before this season, there was some talk that Joseph would be a fringe All Star catcher as long as he was physical enough to crouch behind the plate for more than 100 games a season (most scouts I have talked to think he cannot shoulder a starting catcher load).  As this season reaches an end, one might think that Joseph might actually have played himself off the active roster for 2017.

Yes, the defense is still there.  No, it is not quite as remarkable as it was in his first season.  Teams have quickly come to realize the value of a catcher who frames a pitch well and that has decreased his value.  If his bat fails to show any glimmer, then Joseph might find himself beginning the year in Norfolk or even another clubhouse.

Position Players with most PA in a Season without an RBI

Player PA RBI Year Tm BA OBP SLG
Gene Good 135 0 1906 BSN .151 .246 .151
Bobby Messenger 130 0 1909 CHW .170 .268 .196
Caleb Joseph 124 0 2016 BAL .188 .234 .205
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/7/2016.


Ken M said...

Why us PA to measure the streak as opposed to AB? Presumably the additional non-AB PAs are BB/HBP or some SH for the deadball era players.

I believe Joseph now holds the record as of today for ABs with 120 (through 6 innings), although I really thought he was going to sneak that ball over the CFs head.

Ken M said...

One more thing. Can you confirm Oscar Jones holds the record when pitchers are included with 137 ABs w/0 RBI in 1904?

I saw that cited as the answer, but that list did not have either Good or Messenger.

Jon Shepherd said...

PA is calculated the same for everyone, but AB has holes at times. PA is also the ultimate measure of opportunity.

Oscar Jones is at 150 PA.

If you count pitchers, Joseph is 7th with one guy in the 60s and everyone else from the deadball era.

Ken M said...

I'm not buying the PA over AB argument. ABs strip away opportunities removed by manager's decisions, like SH, plus opportunities denied by the pitcher/selection (BB/HBP).

I know complexity is an issue, but runners by base could also be a measure for this statistic, although I think we'd agree the HR has changed the nature of such opportunities since the DB era.

Jon Shepherd said...

By using AB, you are also stripping away batter abilities and decisions, fielding ability and decisions, etc.

PA keeps it level. AB is more of a stat people use because that is what baseball cards use.

Ken M said...

It seems obvious this has been discussed many times before, and I won't say I can't be convinced, but perhaps you can point me to an article that explains why PA is a better choice than AB. Complexity won't be an issue. I'm an applied mathematician who's been involved with sports modeling since the 1980's.

I think if I was defining opportunity sets for this, I'd consider using:

1. Outs used (but this is inflated by SH by pitchers and DB era players
2. Runners by base in AB (or perhaps PA if you can convince me)
3. AB, which to me is the stripped down opportunity set.

However, I'm interested in any literature you'd suggest on the topic.

Ken M said...
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Ken M said...
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Ken M said...

The language here may have confused me. Did you intend this to be "at any time during a season" (to start a season) or "for a full season"?

I manually confirmed Nyjer Morgan had 124 ABs (138 PAs) with 0 RBI before homering in his first AB of June, 2012. Here is a link with splits that demonstrates clearly he had 124 ABs/PAs in April/May:


This is a recent player that slipped through what I have seen written on the topic elsewhere. In addition, the DB era players you mention here both came before RBI became an official statistic in 1920. Does that present any risk of inaccuracy?

Can you explain the methodology that led to finding Good/Messenger? Not trying to bash, I'm just trying to determine if there is a consistently-applied method to answer this question by checking all season performances.

Jon Shepherd said...

yes, I have done modelling as well and the use of ab or pa or bip depends on what exactly you are trying to do. in this case I am interested in overall opportunity. impact of manager decisions really is a small component when considering rbis. rbis are more a function of bip, but that is not what I have an interest in. as in my interest is not at all in a players ability to get balls in play. my interest is what happens when a player gets in the box and only that for this query.

Jon Shepherd said...

I simply used play index.

Ken M said...

And when using play index, you used complete seasons only or does it include PAs to begin a season?