Friday, August 05, 2005

Scoring Runs - The Good, The Efficient and The Ugly

I thought it might be interesting to compare the American League when it came to how efficient various teams are when it came to scoring the runners they get on base and, obviously, how efficient they were at keeping their opponets from doing the same. Below is a table, in order by won-loss record, reflecting those numbers.

TeamTotal Base RunnersPct Runners ScoredOpp BaserunnersOpp Pct Scored
CHI1308 40.3%128233.6%

Although, it is not suprising to see all the teams with a shot at the post season to be among the most proficient at scoring their runners and generally (with the exception of the Yankees) much better at keeping their opponets from doing the same, here are some very interesting tidbits:

Chicago and Anaheim (yes, I said Anaheim intentionally) rank 11th and 12th in total number of baserunners - ahead of only mighty Tampa Bay and Kansas City. Yet, those two teams have dramatic spreads in the percentage of runners they score versus the percentage they allow to score. Chicago is second only to Texas in scoring 40.3% of their baserunners and Anaheim is well above average at 38.2%, but they both are at the top of the league in allowing less than 34% of their opponets baserunners to cross home plate.

Why is Minnesota fading in the wild card race? Well, look no farther than a league low 34.8% rate of baserunners scored. Although no one will confuse Minnesota with Texas offensively, the Rangers are putting less than one extra baserunner on base per game than the Twins. The Rangers, however, score their baserunners at a league leading 41% rate, fully seven points better than Minnesota. Why aren't the Rangers better (and they are over .500 anyway)? Well, the allow opponets to score 38.6% of their runners, identical to Boston and much better than New York, but at 1,432 baserunners allowed, the Rangers let too many guys on base (only Tampa Bay and Kansas City allow more).

These number reveal nothing earthshaking. After all, good hitting teams get guys on base and generally will hit more in. Good pitching teams will limit runners on base and pitch out of trouble when they do. Still, I believe that the above percentages do provide a glimpse into which teams combine good pitching with good defense and solid fundamental play which translates into low percentages of opponet baserunners scoring. On the offensive side, I think it reflects not only who can hit the ball, but hit the ball when it matters, move runners along when they need to, and run the bases efficiently.

For a recap of a dismal Royals' weekend, remember to check us out over at The Royals Authority.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Defensive Rating Inefficiencies

Baseball was seemingly invented for statistical purposes. One can absolute be buried by batting and pitching stats. There are batting stats to overule batting stats to disprove other batting stats. Yet, when it comes to analyzing defense, statistical analysis is still somewhat scant.

Sure, you have the old reliable - fielding percentage - widely regarded as highly inaccurate. We have range factors and zone ratings, which surely give us a better picture of defensive performance. Then there is Defensive Efficiency, essentially the percentage of balls in play that a team turns into outs.

Does this translate into accurately reflecting a team's defensive prowess? Take a look at the Top 5 A.L. defensive teams according to defensive efficiency the last three years (2005 to date):

2005 - Oakland, Chicago, Cleveland, Seattle, Anaheim
2004 - Tampa, Seattle, Oakland, Chicago, Boston
2003 - Seattle, Oakland, Tampa, Chicago, Anaheim

Interestly, two of the top five in 2005 (Chicago and Anaheim) are also in the top five in fielding percentage. In 2004, Chicago and Oakland managed top fives in both categories, while in 2003 Chicago and Seattle managed the feat (Seattle actually leading the league in both categories).

I was not suprised to see Seattle number one in 2003, when they had essentially three centerfielders in the outfield (Winn, Cameron, Ichiro) and Tampa Bay, too, for all its faults, has speedy and proficient defensive players. Given their successes, Anaheim and Oakland being regular top fivers is not all that eyeraising. However, isn't interesting that the White Sox, a team that supposedly just committed to speed and defense this spring, have been solidly in the Top 5 in both Defensive Efficiency and Fielding Percentage all the way back to 2002?

Once adjusted for diffences in ballparks (courtesy Baseball Prospectus) the range in Defensive Efficiency from first to last is roughly .720 down to .670, year in year out. What does that translate into? Basically, it is five balls in play out of 100 that the best defensive team converts for outs that the worst team lets fall in for hits. Or, more to the point, one ball per game. What does one out mean? Not much in a 7-2 loss, probably a lot more in a 2-1 loss.

Still, is Defensive Efficiency the be all and end all in ascertaining defensive prowess? How do we account for missing the cutoff man, for an outfielder cutting off the gap and turning a probable double into just a long single? Or maybe even more importantly, keeping the runner on first from going first to third on a single. I imagine many, if not most, teams are intricately tracking evey ball in play, every exchange, every misstep, and attempting to compile this mountain of data into some usable measure, but they are not sharing that with the public.

Until such a time as the major leagues do provide this data, we may all be left trying to cobble together a clear picture of defensive worth from a myriad of old and new statisical measuring devices.