Sunday, October 31, 2010

Have The Rangers And Giants Discovered A New (Old) Way To Win?

That is what a recent Wall Street Journal article says. See Hitting Baseballs, Just Not as Far: Giants and Rangers Win With Contact Hitting, Bunts and Baserunning; the 'Lost Arts'. But I don't think that they are doing anything so different from other teams that it helps them score extra runs. Here is an excerpt:

"San Francisco was 17th in runs scored and 13th in slugging percentage this season. But they ranked fifth in strikeouts and third in sacrifice bunts in the National League and fourth in all of baseball in sacrifice hits.

Texas was only ninth in slugging percentage, but the team had the most sacrifice bunts in the American League, the second-most sacrifice flies and the fourth fewest strikeouts. The Rangers were also seventh in the majors in stolen bases."

Both teams, however, are actually scoring just about the number of runs you would expect based on their OBP and SLG. From 2007-2009, the relationship between runs per game and those stats in MLB was:

R/G = 16.04*OBP + 11.595*SLG - 5.52

The Rangers had an OBP & SLG of .338 & .419. The equation predicts they would score 4.76 runs per game while it actually was 4.86. So just about what you would expect, meaning all those sacrifices and SBs are not making much difference.

The Giants had an OBP & SLG of .321 & .408, projecting to 4.36 runs per game while it was actually 4.3. Just like the Rangers, all these "small ball" strategies are not making much difference. (the equation comes from a linear regression analysis of all 90 teams from 2007-09-the r-squared was .904 and the standard error of the regression was .137 runs per game).

Another regression, based on all teams from 1989-2002, shows the relationship between team winning pct and OPS differential. Here it is:

Pct = .5 + 1.25*OPSDIFF

The Rangers hitters had an OPS (OBP + SLG) this year of .757 while they allowed an OPS of .709. The Giants had .729 & .683. So the two team's differentials, respectively, were .048 & .046. The numbers below show each team's predicted pct, and predicted wins, followed by their actual wins in parantheses:

Rangers) .560-90.72 (90)
Giants) .558-90.32 (92)

Each team won just about the number of games expected (each within two of the prediction). There are no extra wins due to using "lost arts." In fact, they have done well by some combination of hitting for power and getting on base and generally preventing their opponents from doing so. This is a time honored way of winning, as Branch Rickey explained back in 1954. I posted something about that earlier this year. See Scouts vs. Statheads: What Might Branch Rickey Say?.

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