by Asher B. Chancey, BaseballEvolution.com
May 11, 2010
An Actual E-mail from Actual Reader Josh S.:
Asher, I'm sure you have boats to represent but if you get a spare moment, can you use your skillz to come up with the percentage of times that Wilson Valdez has converted on GIDP opportunities? That guy is responsible for oodles of outs.
Actual Answer from an Actual BaseballEvolution.com Writer:
Actually, Josh, you’ve really nailed this. This morning you commented that it seems like if Valdez wasn’t in the lineup the Phillies would never stop batting. This is closer to true than it has any right to be. You also said during last night's game that Valdez hits double play balls even when it isn’t a double play situation. Also dead on.
I know you’re joking for the large part about how Wilson Valdez always hits into double plays, but consider: Valdez is currently on a streak in which he has hit into a double play in five straight games. Over that stretch, he has gone 2-for-23, and his hitting .105 with an OPS of .263.
Baseball-Reference.com has a feature called “Streak Finder”, which is what it sounds like. Just for shoots and googles, I decided to find out how frequent a five-game double play streak is. Check this bomb out: according to my calculations (and I may have missed something), since the early 1950's (which is pretty much the limit of Baseball-Reference.com's play-by-play data), there have only been SIX streaks of five consecutive games with a double play by one player:
Wilson Valdez, 2010 Phillies
Mike Lowell, 2004 Red Sox
Greg Norton, 1998 White Sox
Nomar Garciaparra, 1998 Red Sox
Ken Singleton, 1982 Orioles
Joe Lis, 1973 Twins
No one has ever done it six games in a row. You have managed to discover that Wilson Valdez has tied an incredibly rare major league record! And, Valdez may set a major league record tonight!!!!
But Wait, There's More
Five double plays in five games is rare, but it doesn't paint the whole picture. For example, here’s a fun stat for you: the Phillies have hit into 23 double plays in 1247 plate appearances this season. Five of those have come from Valdez in 34 plate appearances.
Here’s another: Valdez has five double plays and seven total bases. In the worst double play season of all time – Jim Rice 1984 – Rice had 36 double plays and 307 total bases. If a 1:10 DP:TB ratio is considered bad, then approaching a 1:1 ratio would be historically awful.
Here’s another: Valdez is currently tied for 17th in all of Major League Baseball with five double plays. Of the other guys he’s tied with, only Delmon Young (96) and Nolan Reimold (92) have fewer than 100 plate appearances, and Marco Scutaro has 151 plate appearances. Again, Valdez has 34 plate appearances.
Here’s another: in 1984, Rice hit into 36 double plays, the all time single season record. In 1985, Rice had the second highest total with 35. There have only been 13 seasons in which a player has hit into 30 or more double plays. If you projected Wilson Valdez’s current double play rate out to a standard 650 plate appearance season, he would end up with 95 double plays.
How did we get here?
Humorously, the only reason Valdez has only five double plays in the last five games is because he has only been in slightly more than five double play situations. He's probably hit ten double play balls over that time that couldn't be double plays because of the number of outs or the number of guys on base.
Here are some play-by-play highlights for Valdez over the last five games:
May 6th: Phillies send eight men to the plate in the 1st; Valdez ends the rally by hitting a grounder to third with two on that would have been a double play if there had been only one out. In the 5th, Ibanez homers followed by a Ruiz single. We’re rallying again! But Valdez comes up and promptly hits into a double play.
May 7th: Phils lead off the 2nd with singles by Ibanez and Ruiz. On a 3-1 pitch Valdez hit the ball back to the pitcher for a classic 1-6-3 double play. In the 4th, Valdez hits a ground ball to short that would have been a tailor made double play if a man had been on first. For what its worth, Valdez was the eighth batter to come to the plate in the fifth inning, and he hit a single to center that scored Howard and Ibanez. In the 7th, he hits into a 4-3 groundout with two outs that could have been two.
May 8th: in Valdez’s 1st at-bat, with a runner on first and one out, he merely strikes out, keeping the inning alive. The runner eventually scored. In the 4th, when the Phillies started the inning with consecutive singles, Valdez merely flies out to center. In the 6th, the Phillies take two walks to put men on first and second with one out. Valdez hit the 1-0 pitch for a double play to end the inning.
May 9th, the Phillies sent eight men to the plate in the 1st. Following a walk to Ruiz to load the bases, Valdez hit a 1-0 pitch to short for the forceout at second (which could easily have been turned into a double play if necessary) to end the inning. (Keep in mind, when Valdez ends an inning, it means the next inning begins with the pitcher batting leadoff.)
Valdez ended the third inning with a strikeout with Ibanez on second. He ended the sixth inning with a double play to third base after Ruiz hit a one-out single.
On May 10th, Ruiz led off the fourth with a single and Valdez hit the first pitch of the next at-bat to the shortstop for a double play. Kyle Kendrick struck out to end the inning. In the sixth, following a Ruiz homerun, Valdez hit a grounder to third on a 3-2 pitch that would have been a double play if Ruiz had hit a single. Valdez led off the eighth with a double play grounder to short. In the ninth, of course, Charlie Manuel decided he’d seen enough and pinch-hit Ross “He was in a nuclear accident and he” Gload with two men on and one out and the score tied, and Gload hit a three run bomb off Manny Corpas (giving rise to the funniest moment of the night, when Gload went over to talk shop with Howard and Werth).
Make no mistake about it – if you were going to draw up a recipe for double plays, you would be hard pressed to match what the Phillies have: a seven-spot hitting catcher who has simply caught fire for two weeks being followed in the lineup by your third-string shortstop who is a light-hitting defensive specialist. If Chooch were hitting .260 like most catchers, and either Rollins or Juan Castro was in the lineup, this would not be happening.
Still amazing though. And very well done by you.
Questions? Concerns? Comments? Asher lives in Philadelphia, PA, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.