Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Sweet Swings or Garbage Kings?

I was going to write a post as a farewell to Jay Gibbons similar to ones that I wrote about Miguel Tejada and Erik Bedard. It was just to be a quick note to show the highlights of his Orioles career.

Unfortunately, highlight material was pretty lacking for Jay. What was his biggest moment? In 2002 he hit a solo shot off of Ugueth Urbina in the bottom of the 9th to tie the game against the Red Sox (a game that the O's would eventually lose in 15). That's it. A nice moment to be sure but there's no more like it.

I liked Jay Gibbons as a player. Excepting the injuries, I thought he was a useful player for a few years for the Orioles. (And he was a good guy...) But for a slugger, he had few moments when his contributions resulted in big plays that changed the course of the game. A lot of his extra base hits came during "garbage time".

Ben at Oriole Central got me thinking more about this when he posted an Ode to the Garbage Home Run and correctly identified Jay Gibbons as a man who did not have many big moments with the long ball during his major league career.

And all that got me thinking about a way to quantify that.

Now I have. It's a new stat called the Big Homer Index (BHI). I was going to call it the GHI (Garbage Homer Index) but the stat gets bigger as the "clutchness" of the homers increase. You'll see what I mean in a minute.

(For any of you who hate or love stats when it comes to baseball, understand that this is just for fun! It's completely unscientific and the numbers are based purely on my own preferences. Something created for diversion and discussion, nothing more.)

If you don't want to know how I established each player's index, scroll down until you see Jay Gibbons' name.

Each component is based on a percentage of each player's career home runs. This way, a marginal slugger who hit 100 home runs can be compared to a player who hit 400. Homers hit when the team is up by at least 3 runs or down by at least 4 runs count against the player. Also a high percentage of solo shots can count against the batter too. The average solo home run rate for the American League is typically just over 57% so any percentage above or below 58% (divided by 2) will count against or for the batter respectively.

Go ahead and tying home runs count for the batter as do walk-offs. Walk-offs count 8 times the value of the other types.

So the formula is:

((% Go-Ahead Homers)+(% Tying Homers)+((Game Ending Homers)*8)+((.58-(% of Solo Homers)/2) - (% Homers When 3+ Ahead) - (% Homers When 4+ Down)) * 1000 = BHI

I am so happy I will never have to try to explain that again...

Jay Gibbons - 121 Career Home Runs

Surprisingly, Jay doesn't have a huge percentage of his homers coming in "garbage time" (up by 3+ runs or 4+ runs down) but he clearly falls short when it comes to homers to tie the game or put the team ahead. Zero walk-off homers also hurts his case.

Jay hit solo shots at an almost 60% rate which didn't help his BHI either.

Gibbons lived in the middle. He hit a lot of solo homers when the score was 5-3 or 3-5. Contributions to be sure but nothing much in the clutch or in game changing situations.

BHI: 42

Cal Ripken - 431 Career Home Runs

A man with the flair for the dramatic, Cal gets a big boost from 4 walk-off home runs. Ripken had a larger percentage of homers during "garbage time" than Jay Gibbons but he also hit a much higher percentage or go ahead and tying homers during his career. He also hit fewer solo shots than the league average.

Put it all together and Cal laps Jay Gibbons as would be expected. These two numbers should give us a couple of nice reference points for future evaluations.

BHI: 197

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