About Me

I am a long time baseball fan who became interesting in documenting the "missing" batter strikeouts a few years back as an outgrowth of my interest in the 1899 Cleveland Spiders. Grew up w/ the Big Red Machine. I now follow them and my new hometown, Detroit Tigers. Member of SABR off and on since 1979.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Keeler v Sewell

For awhile I had been wondering who was the better "strikeout avoider" - Willie Keeler or Joe Sewell.

Sewell's numbers have been fairly well known in stat circles for awhile, 114 strikeouts over 13 seasons, including 9 straight seasons of under 10 k's - 2 with 3 (1930, 1932) and 3 with 4 (1925, 1929, 1933).

Willie Keeler has always had a reputation as a tough player to strike out and his up until recently partial totals gave an indication of that (6 in 1894 & 9 in 1896).  Now that all of Keeler's missing seasons have been added to B-R, we can now get a more complete picture of Keeler's ability to avoid the whiff.

First of all, one can go to B-R and look at the AB/K career leaders and see that Keeler & Sewell are neck and neck.

Keeler - 63.17
Sewell - 62.56

Career Leaders - At-bats per K

But this raises the inevitable dispute that Keeler hit in an era that had less strikeouts per ab anyways;  Afterall, Sewell played during the era of big hitters.

Well, I wanted to see which player was a better strikeout avoider relative to their eras.

I first went and calculated the K/AB ration for all of the seasons that Keeler and Sewell played in:


Sewell's ERA







AB K
k/AB
1920 AL
41,982 3,615
0.086
1921 AL
42,796 3,579
0.084
1922 AL
42,296 3,570
0.084
1923 AL
42,016 3,613
0.086
1924 AL
42,225 3,235
0.077
1925 AL
42,573 3,292
0.077
1926 AL
41,753 3,418
0.082
1927 AL
42,117 3,398
0.081
1928 AL
42,144 3,689
0.088
1929 AL
42,180 3,517
0.083
1930 AL
42,878 4,086
0.095
1931 AL
43,673 4,032
0.092
1932 AL
43,419 4,021
0.093
1933 AL
42,663 3,916
0.092



594,715 50,981
0.086



Keeler's ERA







AB K
k/AB
1892 NL 
63,876 5,972
0.093
1893 NL 
56,898 3,341
0.059
1894 NL 
57,578 3,333
0.058
1895 NL 
56,788 3,621
0.064
1896 NL 
55,577 3,523
0.063
1897 NL 
56,663 3,730
0.066
1898 NL 
62,661 4,237
0.068
1899 NL 
62,846 3,852
0.061
1900 NL 
39,132 2,691
0.069
1901 NL 
38,967 4,249
0.109
1902 NL 
38,273 3,921
0.102
1903 AL 
37,434 4,196
0.112
1904 AL 
41,479 5,028
0.121
1905 AL 
40,622 5,099
0.126
1906 AL 
40,412 4,579
0.113
1907 AL 
40,967 4,490
0.110
1908 AL 
40,602 4,939
0.122
1909 AL 
39,975 4,916
0.123
1910 NL 
40,615 4,415
0.109



911,365 80,132
0.088



Some observations:

1. Despite playing in completely different eras, the overall league averages for Keeler's and Sewell's K/AB is nearly identical (0.86 vs. 0.88).

2.  While the league K/AB in Sewell was relatively stable (narrower variance), 0.77 to 0.96, Keeler's career is distinctly divided into 3 separate periods:  1892, 1893-1900, 1901-1910.

3.  1892 represented the last year of the 50 foot pitching box distance and had a 0.093 K/AB league average

4.  With the lengthening of the pitching distance to 60 ft 6 in in 1893, the league average for K/AB went down to 0.059 and averaged 0.063 through the period up through 1900.

5.  In 1901, the National League instituted the foul strike rule (1903 for the AL) and as a result, the K/AB jumped up from 0.069 in 1900 to 0.109 in 1901.  For the remainder of Keeler's career (1901-1910), his league averaged 0.115 K/AB.  This era actually had higher strikeout rates than any season during Sewell's era.

Because of the fluctation in K/AB in Keeler's career, I wanted to compare each to their league average by season and overall career.  In order to do that, I adapted the BK+ stat that I had used in my previous research from K/G relative to the league to K/AB relative to the league

Here is Sewell's numbers:


Sewell







Year  Age  Tm  Lg  AB  SO  k/ab bk+(ab)
1920 21 CLE  AL  22 70 4 0.057 151
1921 22 CLE  AL  154 572 17 0.030 281
1922 23 CLE  AL  153 558 20 0.036 235
1923 24 CLE  AL  153 553 12 0.022 396
1924 25 CLE  AL  153 594 13 0.022 350
1925 26 CLE  AL  155 608 4 0.007 1175
1926 27 CLE  AL  154 578 6 0.010 789
1927 28 CLE  AL  153 569 7 0.012 656
1928 29 CLE  AL  155 588 9 0.015 572
1929 30 CLE  AL  152 578 4 0.007 1205
1930 31 CLE  AL  109 353 3 0.008 1121
1931 32 NYY  AL  130 484 8 0.017 559
1932 33 NYY  AL  125 503 3 0.006 1553
1933 34 NYY  AL  135 524 4 0.008 1202



14 Seasons  1903 7132 114 0.0160 536



Here are Keeler's numbers:

Keeler







Year  Age  Tm  Lg  AB  SO  k/ab bk+(ab)
1892 20 NYG  NL  14 53 3 0.057 165
1893 21 TOT  NL  27 104 5 0.048 122
1894 22 BLN  NL  129 590 6 0.010 569
1895 23 BLN  NL  131 565 12 0.021 300
1896 24 BLN  NL  126 544 9 0.017 383
1897 25 BLN  NL  129 564 5 0.009 743
1898 26 BLN  NL  129 561 4 0.007 948
1899 27 BRO  NL  141 570 2 0.004 1747
1900 28 BRO  NL  136 563 4 0.007 968
1901 29 BRO  NL  136 595 5 0.008 1298
1902 30 BRO  NL  133 559 13 0.023 441
1903 31 NYY  AL  132 512 12 0.023 478
1904 32 NYY  AL  143 543 12 0.022 549
1905 33 NYY  AL  149 560 13 0.023 541
1906 34 NYY  AL  152 592 4 0.007 1677
1907 35 NYY  AL  107 423 10 0.024 464
1908 36 NYY  AL  91 323 10 0.031 393
1909 37 NYY  AL  99 360 6 0.017 738
1910 38 NYG  NL  19 10 1 0.100 109



19 Seasons  2123 8591 136 0.0158 555


Again, as stated before, their career K/AB are nearly identical.  What is interesting is their BK+ numbers.

1. Career-wise, Keeler holds the edge 555 to 536  (5.5 times better sitrkeout ratio than the league average).

2. Keeler has the 2 best BK+ seasons - 1747 in 1899 and 1677 in 1906.

3. Sewell has more BK+ seasons over 1000 - 5 (1925, 1929, 1930, 1932, 1933) versus "only" 3 for Keeler (1899, 1901, 1906).  Keeler did have 2 more seasons over 940 (1898, 1900).

4.  Keeler did play 6 more seasons than Sewell, but only 200 more games.

5.  If we only look at "core" seasons (120+ games) for each, the numbers tell us a slightly different story:

Keeler core, 1894-1906 - BK+ - 819
Sewell core, 1920-1929, 1930-1933 - BK+ - 748

These are arbitrary groupings of course, and either way, these two hitters were easily the best at avoiding the whiff.

3 comments:

  1. So, your work is being carried by Baseball-Reference.com now. Very cool. Congratulations on that, and thanks for all the work you've done filling in the missing numbers.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The pitching distance in 1892 was 55.5 feet from the middle of the plate; in 1893 it was 60.5 feet from the rear of the plate.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Jonathan, nice work added to the numbers! Found this after I had seen Sewell's ridiculous feat heading an AB/K list in a 1980s book and wanted to find out more. Joe and Wee Willie should impress the friend with whom I was just grousing about the high strikeout rate in this postseason, for example the Yankees and the Cubs both only 3 AB/K in the ALCS and NLCS (219/70, 154/53).

    ReplyDelete

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