What Might Work in the World Series, 2010 Edition
Last year I found out that What Works in the World Series is not the same thing that works in the playoffs. To summarize briefly, what we learned was that in the smaller sample of World Series match-ups, the advantage that pitching has in earlier rounds of the playoffs vanishes altogether, and hitting dominates, with fielding staying about the same.
This year, I took all the World Series since 1989’s Oakland vs San Francisco match-up, and using Vinay Kumar’s categories from 2004, looked at who had the advantage in each one. I then did exactly what Vinay did six years ago, and adjusted some categories in order to weed out roughly half the winners in each one, so that only those teams with a clear advantage in that category are counted in order to determine its ‘winning percentage’. The minimum gaps I came up with were very different from Vinay’s larger data set, because it seems that the good-hitting teams win about two-thirds of the time. And I mean that category sabermetrics has devalued a little, Batting Average.
Batting Average 10 - 2 .833
Batters' Strikeouts (fewer) 10 - 3 .769
Slugging Percentage 9 - 3 .750
Batters' Walks (more) 10 - 4 .714
On-Base Percentage 11 - 5 .688
Doubles 10 - 5 .667
Errors 10 - 6 .625
Caught Stealing 11 - 7 .611
Runs Scored 10 - 6 .588
Triples 11 - 8 .579
Double Plays 10 - 8 .556
Net Stolen Bases 11 - 9 .550
Closer Saves 10 - 9 .526
Runs Scored/Allowed ratio 10 - 10 .500
Stolen Bases 10 - 10 .500
Pitchers' Strikeouts (more) 10 - 10 .500
Saves 9 - 9 .500
Complete Games 9 - 10 .474
Defensive Efficiency Rate 9 - 10 .474
Shutouts 8 - 9 .471
Home Runs 9 - 11 .450
Stolen Base Attempts 9 - 11 .450
Hits Allowed (fewer) 9 - 11 .450
Bullpen ERA 8 - 11 .421
Won/Lost Record 8 - 12 .400
Home Runs Allowed 8 - 12 .400
Stolen Base Average 7 - 12 .368
Runs Allowed 6 - 14 .300
Pitchers' Walks (fewer) 6 - 14 .300
ERA 5 - 15 .250
It’s a bit of a through-the-looking-glass world once we get into the championship. Putting it together, it looks like the playoffs do test all aspects of a team, demanding pitching and defence within one’s league, and hitting prowess once you take on the other league.
Or is the designated hitter rule an advantage to the American League?
The fact is that since 1989, the American League has won thirteen times, the National League only seven. A National League team is most likely to win if it can get close enough in the hitting categories to negate the Americans’ likely advantage in Batting Average. (Only the 1990 Cincinnati Reds managed to having a higher batting average than its American-League opponent in all twenty of these seasons. It would be interesting to compare this period to the World Series’ era when the use of the DH rule alternated year to year.
So what does this mean for 2010? (Italicized advantages are treated as ‘strong’. The two teams split the ‘weak’ advantages like ERA, with two apiece.)
Texas Rangers' Advantages
Runs Scored/Allowed Ratio
Batter Strikeouts (fewer)
Stolen Base Attempts
Net Stolen Bases
Stolen Base Average
Pitchers' Walks (fewer)
San Francisco Giants' Advantages
Earned Run Average
Pitcher Strikeouts (more)
Home Runs Allowed
Predictor Pick: TEXAS RANGERS
Although San Francisco actually has more advantages, history suggests that in all playoff series a significant advantage in stronger categories outweighs any advantage in all categories.
Hedging My Bets: One other World Series since 1989 saw an AL team that dominated all the hitting categories the way Texas does facing an NL team that dominated all the pitching categories. In fact, matching category to category, it is almost an exact fit. That NL team was the 1997 Florida Marlins.
Posted: October 27, 2010 at 01:56 PM | 5 comment(s)
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