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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

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
Runs Scored
Batting Average
On-Base Percentage
Slugging Percentage
Batter Strikeouts (fewer)
Stolen Bases
Stolen Base Attempts
Net Stolen Bases
Stolen Base Average
Pitchers' Walks (fewer)
Complete Games
Double Plays

San Francisco Giants' Advantages

Won/Lost Record
Doubles
Triples
Caught Stealing
Runs Allowed
Earned Run Average
Pitcher Strikeouts (more)
Hits Allowed
Home Runs Allowed
Shutouts
Saves
Closer Saves
Bullpen ERA
Errors
Defensive Efficiency

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.

fra paolo Posted: October 27, 2010 at 02:56 PM | 5 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Home Run Teal & Black Black Black Gone! Posted: October 27, 2010 at 05:53 PM (#3676947)
Woo Marlins number uno!
   2. Sunday silence Posted: November 12, 2010 at 09:06 AM (#3688672)
are we really supposed to believe that baseball changes from the playoffs to the world series? E.g. they change the ball or the mound is closer to the plate? Maybe some other reason for these supposed advantages??
   3. fra paolo Posted: November 12, 2010 at 02:12 PM (#3688699)
Sunday Silence, the point is to find out whether certain types of team are more likely to win the playoffs than others. For example, we know that the 'current Billy Beane model' is good pitching, good defence and not worry about offense. The traditional 'Sabermetric model' would emphasize good offense, at least league-average pitching and avoid really bad defence.

At the moment, the results of this ongoing survey suggest that you need good pitching and good defence to get through the divisional and league championships, and good offense to win the World Series. So actually that's pretty heartening — MLB's championship tends to be won by a team that needs to be strong in all three areas.

Isn't that what we want?
   4. Sunday silence Posted: November 12, 2010 at 03:02 PM (#3688719)
so what I am asking is: "Why would the criterion for a winner change between the championship series and the world series?" The rules of the game dont change. Is it the weather? The larger crowds? The annoucing of Buck and McCarver? What's different? "
   5. fra paolo Posted: November 12, 2010 at 03:27 PM (#3688729)
Well, it's not a question of criteria, exactly, but of balance. We already have seen evidence that it seems to be harder for teams from ballparks that provide good hitting environments to make the post-season than teams from ballparks that provide good pitching environments. Some teams have more emphasis on, say, pitching, than an offense. They stand a good chance of making the final, but then it comes down to how good their offence is. Obviously a team that has good offence, good defence and good pitching is likely to do well. But what happens when a better-hitting team meets a better-pitching team? The answer seems to depend on whether this happens in the first two rounds or the World Series, which suggests there is a winnowing process.

For a time it was thought that teams better able to 'manufacture runs' through good baserunning and productive outs were better-suited to the playoffs. Actually, it seems the keys are hit prevention, making contact and a bit of power. In other words, a Dave Dombrowski model, although he's 1 for 2.

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