One of my larger goals with this series is to evaluate player performance over time to get a better idea of how individual players will evolve as they age. The discussion two weeks ago regarding a player’s prime was one example of this.
To this end, analysis of historical data suggests there are at least two ways to increase the number of doubles hit: one is to hit with more power and the second is to have more speed. Backing up this interpretation, while these two variables both have an impact on the number of doubles hit, speed does not impact the number of home runs hit and power does not impact stolen bases.
This finding leads to an interesting question: do fast guys and power hitters see differences in how their doubles evolve over time? To test this, I used the data set with every individual season since 1945 and broke the players up into power hitters and speed guys. (I need to take this moment for a hat tip to my brother’s wife, Tanya, who wrote the code that allowed me analyze power hitters and speed guys. While I’m worrying about important things like who wins the World Series, she and her husband deal with minutiae like how the universe came into being and where it’s going.)
First, I look at home runs between the two different groups. These can be seen in the chart below:
The difference is pretty stark. Power hitters gradually grow into their “peak years” and then slowly descend. The speedsters, meanwhile, maintain a fairly steady (lower) level of production throughout their career.
Interestingly, the same is not true of doubles. As the chart below demonstrates, what is remarkable is how close the two lines resemble one another. The notable exception is during peak years when the power hitters tend to separate themselves.
This result was surprising to me. I was expecting to see a larger differential down the back side of a career as power hitters had balls that used to go for home runs go for doubles instead and speed guys could no longer leg out a double. These results suggest that if power does have an impact, it’s in the ability to produce at a higher level during the prime years. It suggests, once again, that Theo knew what he was doing when he attempted to put together a team that will have the major pieces enter their prime at the same time.
Hey, I finally get to update one of these things!
John suggested that some of the doubles that speed players get in later years may be coming from hits that they can no longer leg into triples. There’s a reason he’s in charge of this place. The data suggests that he may be on to something.
For speed players, number of triples peaks at age 23 at roughly 5.7 triples a season (if that seems low, consider that Billy Hamilton, one of the fastest players of all time, has only 7 so far this season) and then tails off by almost 2 triples a year by age 30. For Power Hitters, triples maxes out at age 22 at 3.8 per year and drops by only 1 per year by age 30. This is a bit of an extreme assumption, but if we assume that all the fall-off in triples is due to decreased speed and those triples become doubles, we can then calculate an adjusted number of doubles hit, excluding those the player gets from triples. When we do this, we do see the results closer to what we initially expected, with power hitters hitting more doubles throughout their later years.
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