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Monday, November 05, 2012

Panas: Who Do You Want Up When You Need to Get a Run Home?

Certainly not Dick Howser (uhh…besides that) with 5 shrively ROBI’s in 307 AB’s in 1965.

Fans and baseball insiders have long been enamored by the RBI statistic.  While it is a team statistic which can be deceptive when used for evaluating players, it is easy to see why players are more interested in RBI than numbers such as slugging average or OPS.  When a batter comes up with a runner in scoring position, he is not thinking about improving his wOBA, rather he is focused on getting the run home.

Fans like the RBI metric because it is concrete, something they can easily see while watching games.  It doesn’t involve weighting offensive events or theoretical runs scored or anything abstract or complex. 

...One of the most interesting names in the table is the much maligned Delmon Young.  Among 234 qualifiers, he finished 23rd with a 17.1 OBI%.  Your first reaction might be that it is all due to his 2010 season where he had a robust 20.4 OBI, but he also finished at 17.2 in 2011.  If you want to go back another year, then it’s 18.8 in 2009.  So, it does seem as if he has had a knack for getting runners home.

One reason for the high OBI% is that Young is a free swinger, who hits for a reasonably good average. One of the few benefits of not drawing walks is it gives a player more chances to drive in runs as walks don’t usually do the trick.  Another explanation is that Young has hit a lot better over the course of his career with runners in scoring position (.793 OPS)  compared to bases empty (.716).

It all adds up to Young being successful at getting runners home with his at bats.  This doesn’t make up for his general propensity to make outs and not get on base or his poor defense.  It might, however, justify his batting fifth all year behind two of the best hitters in the game.  It didn’t work this year as his OBI% was only 13.5, but he does seem to have an “RBI ability”.

Repoz Posted: November 05, 2012 at 06:11 AM | 20 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: sabermetrics, tigers

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   1. TomH Posted: November 05, 2012 at 08:15 AM (#4293090)
surely you don't want Bonds 2002-2004. That bum always got walked with runners on and so his OBI thingy percentage was lousy.

or maybe a better metric would be
--runners driven in
......divided by
--outs made times runners on (if one runner was on when the batter made an out (incl SF), that's one OUT; if sacks full, that's three; this compenstaes for how many ops to drive runners in he had)

(broken URL? I cannot link to the article to see how OBI% was done)
   2. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: November 05, 2012 at 08:59 AM (#4293100)
Who you gonna call? Ghostbuster Posey.
   3. BDC Posted: November 05, 2012 at 09:55 AM (#4293117)
It's certainly obvious to Primates, but the higher imperative for virtually any batter in virtually any situation is do not make an out. Coupled with the fact that you always want to get runs (plural) home, a batter with a higher OBP is always better, even if his tendency to walk (or alternatively his skills as a singles hitter) make him somewhat less likely to deliver an RBI right now.

I would guess, anyway – obviously there are walkoff sacrifice-fly situations where the out is irrelevant. But prizing a hitter for that RBI "ability" when he might be making more outs than a better offensive player is a very partial view of things. Ultimately it's a team game. If the guy behind you can't make more of a two-on situation than you can make of a one-on situation, your team will fail anyway.
   4. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: November 05, 2012 at 10:22 AM (#4293131)
It's certainly obvious to Primates, but the higher imperative for virtually any batter in virtually any situation is do not make an out. Coupled with the fact that you always want to get runs (plural) home, a batter with a higher OBP is always better, even if his tendency to walk (or alternatively his skills as a singles hitter) make him somewhat less likely to deliver an RBI right now.

I would guess, anyway – obviously there are walkoff sacrifice-fly situations where the out is irrelevant. But prizing a hitter for that RBI "ability" when he might be making more outs than a better offensive player is a very partial view of things. Ultimately it's a team game. If the guy behind you can't make more of a two-on situation than you can make of a one-on situation, your team will fail anyway.


What's obvious among Primates is the urge to aggregate, which has the unfortunate effect of blinding them to unique situations and unique players. The higher imperative is not to make an out in the same way that the higher measure of a restaurant is the cheap production of calories.
   5. tiger337 Posted: November 05, 2012 at 10:42 AM (#4293144)
You guys are right that it's almost always best to not make an out, although at the end of the game, I'd rather see a run score to win the game rather than depend on probabilities. Anyway, Young's surprising OBI% is not just a product of not walking, but also his extreme on base/bases empty split. Over the course of his career, he has been far better with men on base (especially with RISP). It could be a fluke, but his sample size is getting to the point where I might theorize that he is more focused in situations where he can drive home a run.

The real motivation for the article though is that people love the RBI stat and always will and I'm always trying to get more people engaged into thinking about the game analytically. I think the RBI opportunity stats help get them into the discussion.
   6. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: November 05, 2012 at 11:20 AM (#4293181)
The fact that something is, is far more interesting than whether that thing that is, is a "fluke." Doctrinaire sabermetrics has this important ranking reversed.
   7. tiger337 Posted: November 05, 2012 at 12:06 PM (#4293258)
I'll add that I definitely do not want Delmon Young up at the plate over Albert Pujols in any situation. In fact, I don't like Young very much at all. However, it's possible that OBI% might help identify unique players that provide something that our preferred stats don't tell us.
   8. TDF, situational idiot Posted: November 05, 2012 at 12:16 PM (#4293264)
The fact that something is, is far more interesting than whether that thing that is, is a "fluke."
Generally, no it isn't.

Ok, it's more interesting if the Loch Ness Monster exists than if it's the only one, but in general life you're wrong. Flukes can't be counted on, and thus shouldn't be interesting. What is interesting (or at least should be) is discovering what is new and what is just a fluke.
   9. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: November 05, 2012 at 12:22 PM (#4293268)
Flukes can't be counted on, and thus shouldn't be interesting

What does whether something can be "counted on" have to do with it being interesting? When you hear a song or see a great movie, who cares whether the band or the director will produce great works in the future? It's entirely irrelevant.
   10. Greg K Posted: November 05, 2012 at 01:56 PM (#4293411)
Flukes can't be counted on, and thus shouldn't be interesting

I think "meaningful" might be a better word than "interesting" here.
   11. Fernigal McGunnigle has become a merry hat Posted: November 05, 2012 at 04:05 PM (#4293559)
I think "meaningful" might be a better word than "interesting" here.


Seconded. Unique things are often interesting simply for being unique. Things can be interesting even if they have no predictive value (and things with lots of predictive value can be dull as tombs).

I'd like the bring up what I've said a couple of times, that I think that Delmon Young is going to have a surprisingly long career and a surprisingly high career hits total despite being nearly useless for his whole career. I think that weird non-stats like OBI% will go along with his performance in the OLCS and WS (and the continued perception that he has talent that he might some day tap into) and will help keep him in MLB a long time and give him vastly more ABs than he deserves. He's 26 and has 955 career hits and 0.6 career WAR. I can imagine him improving a bit at the plate in his late 20s, enough that he becomes something of a poor man's Joe Carter and retires with something close to 1800 or 2000 hits and 5 or fewer career WAR.
   12. TVerik, the gum-snappin' hairdresser Posted: November 05, 2012 at 05:58 PM (#4293685)
You guys are right that it's almost always best to not make an out, although at the end of the game, I'd rather see a run score to win the game rather than depend on probabilities.


With my team at bat and runners at second and third with none or one out, I sometimes actually root for an out (particularly towards the end of a close game). I don't believe the run expectancy chart bears this out, but scoring chances (for the Yankees in particular) seem to get much worse if there's a "traditional" double-play possibility.
   13. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: November 05, 2012 at 06:17 PM (#4293709)
I think we all do that Erik and I suspect it's based on selective memory. Regarding the Yanks specifically given the high strikeout/high flyball hitter types they have I'd expect them to be a low DP team...checking...checking...BBRef says they were 8th among the 14 AL teams in DP rate (not sure how to find the breakdown in late/close situations).

Obviously 1 run from a situation as you described is better than 0 runs but equally obviously it's not as good as 2 or 3 runs in that same situation. I think team structure is a big part of it. If I were rolling out Mariano Rivera for the last two decades then yeah, gimme one more run and give Mo the ball. Of course if you're rocking Alfredo Aceves there is no number big enough.
   14. BDC Posted: November 05, 2012 at 08:06 PM (#4293803)
With my team at bat and runners at second and third with none or one out, I sometimes actually root for an out (particularly towards the end of a close game)

An out as opposed to a walk? This would seem to me the inverse of the defensive strategy of walking anybody to set up the double play. Indeed, in a walkoff situation the defense often walks the bases full after a leadoff triple: sets up the force at the plate and then the DP, if it works (and I'd guess all of us have seen it work). It's a special category of things where the defense gladly allows a baserunner, so the offense hates to see it. But then you don't root for your next batter to make out :)
   15. Walt Davis Posted: November 05, 2012 at 10:34 PM (#4293905)
his extreme on base/bases empty split. Over the course of his career, he has been far better with men on base

DY career: 772/716 men on/nobody on
AL 2012: 758/711

DY doesn't seem extreme ... higher than average but nothing radical. In 2011, with his high OBI% (whatever that is) his split was just 714/680. In 2010 it was pretty extreme at 890 vs 759.
   16. Sunday silence Posted: November 06, 2012 at 01:49 AM (#4294094)
thought it said "Pandas: who do you need..."
   17. tiger337 Posted: November 06, 2012 at 09:32 AM (#4294202)
thought it said "Pandas: who do you need..."

That is one of many things I have been called over the years!
   18. BDC Posted: November 06, 2012 at 10:02 AM (#4294236)
The numbers in #15 are very interesting, Walt. As always, context helps. I would have assumed that everybody hits somewhat better with men on, because by definition the pitching is going to be better when there's nobody on. But it's interesting to see it confirmed with facts :)
   19. alilisd Posted: November 08, 2012 at 02:01 PM (#4298052)
You guys are right that it's almost always best to not make an out


So when would it be best to make an out?
   20. TomH Posted: November 08, 2012 at 02:26 PM (#4298073)
the last at bat of the 1912 World Series

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