Pudge and WOWY

I came across this because I’m working on a simulation game with players rated based on their stats. In my attempt to rate each catcher’s throwing arm, I decided to use their caught stealing percentage, but I didn’t want their battery mates to have an affect on the ratings. That is why I decided to use the WOWY method (with or without you) which compares the caught stealing percentages of each battery mate with and without a particular catcher.

After finishing my queries, I like to check some of the All-Time greats to see where they stand. This is when I noticed that Ivan Rodriguez’s WOWY rating wasn’t as amazing as I expected.

Pudge’s peak in throwing out base runners lasted from about 1991 – 2001 where he consistently threw out 20+% more base runners than league average. During that same time, the WOWY method has him 10-15% better than average. That’s still a fantastic rate, but it shows that his overall numbers may be a little deceiving.

The most obvious reason for the disparity would be that his battery mates were better than average, and this seems to be the case with Pudge. Here is the data from ’91-’01:

Year WOWY CS Att CS% Pitchers League
1991 -12.3% 89 176 51% 38% 33%
1992 -5.4% 140 290 48% 43% 33%
1993 -1.2% 130 278 47% 46% 34%
1994 -5.0% 108 241 45% 40% 32%
1995 -11.1% 102 215 47% 36% 31%
1996 -11.0% 127 242 52% 41% 30%
1997 -12.9% 138 253 55% 42% 32%
1998 -13.0% 134 239 56% 43% 32%
1999 -15.0% 104 191 54% 39% 31%
2000 -13.7% 93 165 56% 43% 31%
2001 -10.2% 65 129 50% 40% 31%

Take the 1998 season for example. From ’97-’99 (I use a 3-year average to increase sample size and smooth out seasons), Pudge threw out 134 of 239 runners, 56%. League average was 31.5% during that time. The pitchers he caught most frequently (Rick Helling, John Burkett, Darren Oliver, Bobby Witt, and Aaron Sele) combined for a 43.8% caught stealing rate with catchers other than Pudge. So while Pudge was 25% better than league average, he was just 12% better using the WOWY method.

While the pitchers changed over the course of his peak seasons, the story seemed to stay the same. He caught a bunch of pitchers who had better than average caught stealing percentages.

A couple of notes:
-I count double steals as just 1 steal since the catcher only has the opportunity to catch 1 runner. This is why there may be a slight difference in SB/CS numbers.

-One problem with WOWY in this case is the “WY” (without you) in that the other catchers may also be above or below league average. But this is why I use a 3-year average to increase the sample of battery mates. One could take an extra step and look at the other catchers in the “WY” data to see if/how they skew the numbers.

-This also works for pitchers, and a similar comparison is Chris Carpenter. From ’05-’07, he had a 75% CS%, about 45% better than league average. But his primary catcher was Yadier Molina. Using the WOWY method, Carpenter’s CS% was 28% better than average, rather than 45%.