clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Wally Holland Stats Leaderboards

Because the MLB players are locked out and we need fun content

Twins radio voice John Gordon as Wally Holland in Little Big League | Castle Rock Entertainment | Columbia Pictures

I keep a small whiteboard where I jot down ideas for articles and research topics when they occur to me. This past December, we hosted my immediate family for Christmas — thirteen of us in all and five under age four — for four-plus days of holidays under one roof. Given that we had not all been in the same place since the Christmas before the pandemic began, it was a hugely enjoyable (and chaotic, as you would expect) time.

The room with my whiteboard doubles as a guest bedroom thanks to a Murphy bed, so I spent no time in there while my family was visiting. To the surprise of perhaps no one, when I returned I found several new topics had been scribbled onto the board. My two brothers and my sister had done their best to make the script look like my handwriting and the new ideas were mostly mocking in nature.

Little could they have known two-plus months ago that acrimonious labor negotiations would extend the owners’ lockout of the players well into the scheduled Spring Training, leading to the cancellation of regular-season games, and leaving baseball writers everywhere in need of things to write about that are at least tangentially related to baseball.

Twinkie Towners are likely to be quite familiar with the 1994 family baseball movie Little Big League which was released just before the last time Major League Baseball suffered through a work stoppage. The sports comedy follows the story of 12-year-old Billy Heywood as he inherits ownership of the Twins following his grandfather’s passing and subsequently appoints himself to the position of team manager. The hijinks typical of this genre of movie ensue and the climactic ending is of the underdog Twins eventually losing a twelve inning, winner take all Game 163 to peak-of-their-prime Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson, and the Seattle Mariners.

Some of the most memorable comedic moments of Little Big League come courtesy of the character Wally Holland, the cinematic Twins’ radio play-by-play voice that is played by the real-life Twins’ iconic radioman John Gordon. Gordon’s Holland was an excellent spoof of baseball announcers, especially their incessant reliance on reporting obscure and arbitrarily-selected statistics throughout their broadcasts. Such as:

An interesting side note; that’s the 14th one-run game for the Tigers already this season. Tops for any team north of the Mason-Dixon Line, whose home games are not played in a dome.

My siblings, knowing my long-standing affinity for exactly the types of stats the movie makes fun of and my data analysis role here at Twinkie Town, sarcastically thought it would be entertaining if I wrote about the real-life stats that come from Holland’s inane criteria.

Since there is no Major League Baseball currently, now is as good a time as any to get in on the joke and make this exercise a reality. And, thanks to Statcast search, Baseball-Reference, and some simple assumptions, that task was pretty straightforward and fun. Hopefully, you’ll find it entertaining.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Holland issues three of his random stats observations throughout Little Big League, beginning with this one:

Last year though, he was 6th in the American League in hitting right-handers he was facing for the first time, after the seventh inning, at home.

Finding the real-life data for this one was surprisingly simple thanks to Statcast search. I had to make an assumption regarding how to interpret the “he was facing for the first time” part. I decided to go with “he was facing for the first time in that game” because that made for a much easier search than “he was facing for the first time ever in MLB.”

Here is the link to the query and full American League results for batters with at least five such plate appearances last season.

It turns out that outfielder Starling Marte, who was traded to the Oakland Athletics from the Miami Marlins midseason, led the American League in late-game, home batting against right-handed pitchers he was seeing for the first time.

Here’s the AL top ten, which includes old friends Danny Santana and Jason Castro, and current Twin (and 2022 breakout candidate) Alex Kirilloff:

2021 AL Batting vs. RHP, at home, facing pitcher 1st time, after 7th inning

Rank Name PA AB Hits AVG SLG OBP wOBA
Rank Name PA AB Hits AVG SLG OBP wOBA
1 Marte, Starling 12 12 8 0.667 1.250 0.667 0.801
2 Long Jr., Shed 11 9 5 0.556 1.333 0.636 0.763
3 Santana, Danny 6 6 3 0.500 1.167 0.500 0.688
4 Mendick, Danny 5 4 2 0.500 0.750 0.600 0.562
5 Kirilloff, Alex 13 12 6 0.500 1.000 0.538 0.627
6 Valera, Breyvic 6 4 2 0.500 0.500 0.667 0.524
7 Wade, Tyler 8 6 3 0.500 0.667 0.625 0.548
8 Robert, Luis 15 13 6 0.462 0.923 0.533 0.589
9 Mercedes, Yermín 16 13 6 0.462 0.538 0.563 0.482
10 Castro, Jason 23 16 7 0.438 0.813 0.609 0.574
2021 American League Top 10 Data from baseballsavant.mlb.com | LINK

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The next instance is the one from the video embedded above in the introduction:

An interesting side note; that’s the 14th one-run game for the Tigers already this season. Tops for any team north of the Mason-Dixon Line, whose home games are not played in a dome.

This one was a little more complicated to chase down because it requires an understanding of the history of the Mason-Dixon line, which dates back to the mid-seventeenth century. In the 1760s, after generations of border conflict between the Pennsylvania and Maryland colonies, the Penn Family and the Calvert Family hired English surveyors Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon to establish the official border between the two colonies, in addition to the borders for what would become Delaware and West Virginia.

Fast forward fifty-plus years and the Mason-Dixon line — set at a northern latitude of 39 degrees and 43 minutes between Pennsylvania and Maryland — together with the Ohio River, became a key point in the Missouri Compromise of 1820 that established the United States would accept new states south of the line as slave-holding and north of the line as free. That continued until the American Civil War in the 1860s.

For the purposes of identifying the current MLB teams north of the line that do not play their home games in domes, I referred to this map:

Encyclopædia Britannica | LINK

From there, it was simple enough to identify each team’s location relative to the line and then filter by which stadiums have roofs. I made a couple of assumptions. First, all teams west of Missouri’s border with Kansas, north of Oklahoma’s northern border, and west of the western borders of Oklahoma and Texas were considered north of the line. That means the Kansas City Royals, by virtue of Kauffman Stadium being in Missouri, were counted as south of the line. Second, I counted retractable roofs as domes, which means the Seattle Mariners were left out.

That resulted in a list of seventeen teams. Their number of one-run games played last season, led by the New York Mets, is detailed below, courtesy of Baseball-Reference. The San Francisco Giants, who surpassed all pre-season expectations, led the way in terms of performance in such games. Our Twins played the 11th-most one-run games and had the fifth-best winning percentage among these teams.

2021 one-run games by teams north of the Mason-Dixon line whose home games are not played in a dome

Team 1 Run Games Rank 1 Run W-L 1 Run W% 1 Run W% Rank
Team 1 Run Games Rank 1 Run W-L 1 Run W% 1 Run W% Rank
New York Mets 66 1 31-35 0.470 13
Philadelphia Phillies 55 2 30-25 0.545 t-6
Chicago Cubs 51 3 24-27 0.471 12
Oakland Athletics 50 4 23-27 0.460 14
Colorado Rockies 49 5 24-25 0.490 10
San Francisco Giants 48 t-6 31-17 0.646 1
Los Angeles Dodgers 48 t-6 24-24 0.500 t-8
New York Yankees 48 t-6 28-20 0.583 4
San Diego Padres 47 9 21-26 0.447 15
Detroit Tigers 46 10 23-23 0.500 t-8
Boston Red Sox 44 t-11 26-18 0.591 3
Cincinnati Reds 44 t-11 24-20 0.545 t-6
Minnesota Twins 44 t-11 25-19 0.568 5
Chicago White Sox 42 t-14 18-24 0.429 17
Pittsburgh Pirates 42 t-14 20-22 0.476 11
Cleveland Indians 39 t-16 17-22 0.436 16
Los Angeles Angels 39 t-16 25-14 0.641 2
Data from baseball-reference.com | LINK

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

And finally, Holland gave us this one:

Lou has hit .416 lifetime versus Hanley in the month of September in even years.

This last one required a little more creativity. “Lou” is referring to Lou Collins, the fictional Twins’ lefty-swinging first baseman played by Timothy Busfield and “Hanley” is referring to a fictional Detroit Tigers’ relief pitcher.

I started by looking to see if there had been previous matchups between a pitcher named Hanley and a batter named Collins. A quick search of the Baseball-Reference player database reveals that there has been one pitcher with the last name Hanley. Jim Hanley pitched in one game for the 1913 New York Yankees against the Philadelphia Athletics on July 3, 1913. In Hanley’s only appearance, he faced twenty batters in working four innings and allowing three runs in relief. As luck would have it, the A’s second baseman that day was Hall of Famer Eddie Collins, who went 1-5 with a run scored. Given the number of batters faced, we know Hanley and Collins must have faced off at least twice. Unfortunately, the play-by-play of this game has been lost to history, so there is no way to know for sure how those matchups played out.

With that approach closed off, I decided to look at the performance of Twins’ first baseman against Detroit pitching in the month of September in even years in recent history. Thanks to a handful of Statcast search queries like this one, I was able to pull together a data set that covered the even years from 2008 through last season.

Unsurprisingly, Joe Mauer — who might be the real-life Twins’ closest comp to Lou Collins — had the most trips to the plate that met the criteria and delivered his usual .300+ batting average.

Twins 1B vs. Detroit, September, Even Years 2008-2021

Year(s) Name PA AB H AVG
Year(s) Name PA AB H AVG
2020 Wade Jr., LaMonte 4 4 2 0.500
2018 Austin, Tyler 8 6 3 0.500
2014, 2018 Mauer, Joe 51 48 15 0.313
2016 Vargas, Kennys 26 24 7 0.292
2010 Cuddyer, Michael 26 24 6 0.250
2008, 2012 Morneau, Justin 36 30 7 0.233
2020 Sanó, Miguel 25 23 4 0.174
2016 Beresford, James 3 2 0 0.000
2012 Parmelee, Chris 4 4 0 0.000
Data from baseballsavant.mlb.com

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

So there you have it. Vital baseball content (and a history lesson!) that you didn’t even know you needed (or wanted). Hopefully, you found it fun. I certainly had fun introducing my sons to this classic baseball movie. The timing was perfect, just before they begin their first season of tee-ball.

Perhaps more than anything else, though, I appreciated the reminder about baseball being fun. In the scene where young Billy Heywood is being introduced to the media as the new manager of the Twins, he begins with the famous Bob Lemon quote: “Baseball was made for kids, grown-ups only screw it up.”

That sentiment certainly has rung true this offseason.

But it does not have to be that way. I mentioned in a comment below Zach’s article last week that baseball and MLB are not one and the same. The grown-ups (and to be clear, I primarily mean the owners when I say that) are doing their best to screw up MLB. But they cannot ruin baseball writ large. The kids' game of baseball is bigger than MLB. My sincere hope this spring, with all forms of amateur baseball at all age levels getting underway, is that we all have the opportunity to re-connect with the kid’s game we first fell in love with while we wait for the return of MLB.


John is a writer for Twinkie Town and Pitcher List with an emphasis on analysis. He is a lifelong Twins fan and former college pitcher. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnFoley_21.