Carleton: The most important player on the field

From Russell Carleton at Baseball Prospectus on March 31, 2015:

In any one baseball game, there are 50 players who are eligible to play. Which of them is the most important? On any single play, there can be up to 13 players who can directly impact the outcome (the nine fielders, the batter, and potentially, three runners). Which one of them will have the biggest effect on what happens? Even if we zoom in on the batter and pitcher (because the answer is probably going to be one of them), should we worry more about what the batter brings to the at bat or the pitcher?

About five years ago (and two kids ago), I started a project to try to revamp how we give out credit for things in baseball. We have plenty of research on a lot of things in the game, but when it comes to stats like win probability added or even some linear weights based systems, we just sort of assume that just about everything that happens in a baseball game is the fault (or credit) of the pitcher and batter. A pitcher might induce a double play grounder directly to the shortstop, but then watch in horror as he realizes that his WPA for the play will suffer because the shortstop decided to try to turn a 6-9-4-3 double play. Although that leaping catch that the second baseman made to snare that line drive that was headed toward the gap. Totally the pitcher. Totally.

The problem is that I really haven’t done anything with it in… five years. So let’s pick that up again and take a look at what can happen when you look a little deeper into who is responsible for what in a baseball game.

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Originally published: March 31, 2015. Last Updated: March 31, 2015.