The Gray-Ink Test

Happy New Year and all of that. I spent New Year’s Day sitting courtside at the Villanova/Marquette game, which was pretty awesome. My whole weekend wasn’t quite that exciting, though.

Yesterday, I finally spent the time necessary to get the single season Gray-Ink Test leaders. As I mentioned in my original post, the Black-Ink and Gray-Ink Tests are stats included over at Baseball-Reference that measure how often a player led the league in certain categories. In the Black-Ink Test, players get points only for leading the league in those certain categories, while in the Gray-Ink Test players get points for finishing in the top-10 in those same categories.

Before I post the Gray-Ink Test single-season leaders, I should mention a couple of things:

  • While running these numbers yesterday, I noticed a couple of errors in my original Black-Ink Test calculations. Somehow, the Innings Pitched and Games Played by batters leaderboards weren’t quite giving the proper lists. See the original post for an update on the numbers.
  • The leaderboard over at Baseball-Reference for rate stats (like batting average or slugging percentage, etc) includes players who don’t have enough plate appearances to qualify for the title that year, but only if, by adding in the appropriate number of hitless at-bats to qualify, they are still in the Top 10. A good example of this would be Ryan Braun leading the NL in slugging in 2007. However, the lists that I have generated so far do not take these players into consideration. I can probably run the lists again with these players considered if it’s really wanted.
  • The leaders are broken down by league (i.e., AL vs NL), so players who change leagues during the season are penalized. Think Mark McGwire in 1997, who led the majors with 58 home runs, but led neither the AL nor NL individually. This, I believe, is consistent with MLB’s record books, so I don’t feel too bad about this.
  • The list I provided is only since 1901. It’s already top-heavy with dead-ball era players, and it didn’t seem worth including players from the 1880s as well.

The Gray-Ink Test, as defined by Baseball-Reference, gives everyone the same amount of points for finishing 10th on the list or finishing 1st. Here is the list of the top 150 single-seasons for the Gray-Ink Test.

However, I’m not sure how much I like that version of the Gray-Ink Test. For example, should someone who finishes 10th in 3 categories be ranked the same as someone who finishes 2nd in the same 3 categories? And should someone who finishes 10th in RBIs get more points than someone who finishes 1st in Runs Scored? I suspect that this unweighted Gray-Ink Test works well when looking at a player’s entire career, but it definitely doesn’t work when comparing players within a single season.

Because of that, I also ran the numbers for a weighted Gray-Ink Test. In this ranking, I gave players points depending on their ranking in the top 10. If, for example, they led the league in Home Runs, then they were given the full 4 points. If they finished second, they received (0.9 * 4pts) = 3.6pts. If they finished third, they received (0.8 * 4pts) = 3.2pts and so on, all the way down to the tenth-place player receiving (0.1 * 4pts) = 0.4pts. Here is the list of the top 150 single-seasons for the Weighted Gray-Ink Test.

A few seasons of note:

Babe Ruth, 1918: In the Black-Ink Test, this season of Ruth’s doesn’t even come close to finishing in the Top 150, as he only led the league in Home Runs and Slugging. However, when you expand it to the unweighted Gray-Ink Test, it becomes the best single season ever. This is because Ruth finished in the top 10 in 12 different categories, including 3 pitching categories. It’s a pretty impressive feat, as I don’t think any one else was ever able to do it.

Christy Mathewson, 1908: This is probably the next most impressive season in history, when looking through the Black-Ink and Gray-Ink lenses. In this year, Mathewson was in the top three in all twelve pitching categories, and only didn’t finish first in two of those categories (he finished second in Win Percentage and third in Hits per 9 Innings).

Stan Musial, 1948, and Ted Williams, 1949: Tied for 23rd in the weighted Gray-Ink Test, these are the first two post-World War II seasons to appear on the list.

Greg Maddux, 1994: Tied for 48th on the weighted Gray-Ink Test, this is the first season of any player who has played in the last 5-10 years to appear on the list. Maddux finished first in six different categories, including Wins and ERA, and finished in either second or third in 4 others.

Bret Saberhagen, 1989, and Greg Maddux, 1995: Only two spots lower on the list than Maddux’s 1994 season, his 1995 season was nearly identical, finishing first in 7 categories and second or third in two others. However, it’s Saberhagen’s appearance so high on the list that I found intriguing. In his 1989 campaign, he finished first in five different categories and between second and fourth in five others. This season is higher than any season from Roger Clemens (highest season: 61st), Randy Johnson (also 61st), or Pedro Martinez (not in the top 150).

Larry Granillo

About Larry Granillo

Larry Granillo has been writing Wezen Ball since 2008 and has dealt with such touchy topics as Charlie Brown's baseball stats and Ferris Bueller's day off. In 2010, he got the bright idea to time every home run trot in baseball; he has been missing ever since.

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