Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Statistical analysis

The other night at Fraser, I got into an argument with a nice but misguided older gentleman over the value of various baseball statistics; when I said that I'd rather have a pitcher who went 3-7 with a 2.60 ERA than one who went 7-3 with a 5.50 (Duh???) he told me that I "obviously don't watch baseball games," I just "look at box scores on my computer." Oh, OK. I don't watch baseball? Coulda fooled me :)

He also told me that Manny Ramirez is less valuable than Kevin Youkilis... I love Youk, but come on.

That argument reminded me that I've never posted links here to some of my favorite baseball stat websites.

This website
is home to much of the empirical evidence used to complete The Book - Playing the Percentages in Baseball, which, for my money, is the best book about baseball strategy and stats ever written.

Some of my favorite tables and charts:

The classic run expectancy chart, which shows the average # of runs per inning based on how many runners are on base and how many outs there are

This chart is where it gets really interesting: run expectancy broken down by how many times exactly 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5+ runs scored based on the situation. This chart is friendlier toward people who like sacrifice bunting all the time (but not much friendlier).

This one shows how many runs on average each result is worth based on the situation. I.E., a home run with nobody on and nobody out is always worth 1.000 runs and a strikeout with 2 outs is always worth 0.000 runs. It's kind of thick, but this page explains the methodology.

I got linked to The Hardball Times two years ago when they had a debate on the value of 'productive outs' (some interesting and mixed findings there, feel free to explore) and I have kept up with that site ever since.

Sadly, it's not really possible to find really detailed statistics on the CanAm League unless you have extensively [and I mean extensively] scored every game yourself.


Grant Salzano said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Grant Salzano said...

the thing with your argument about the 3-7 2.60 v. 7-2 5.50 (or whatever they were) is that you would want that PITCHER with the 2.60 era, but you would clearly much rather have the overall TEAM that had the 7-2 5.50 ERA pitcher - including the pitcher himself.

but then again, that wasnt the argument.

wooden said...

The old man is right about the pitcher, but wrong about Manny Ramirez.

A pitcher with a 2.60 ERA is more than twice as good as a pitcher with a 5.50 ERA in preventing runs from scoring, which is a pitcher's job. Nolan Ryan, for example, led the NL in K's, ERA, H/9, K/BB ratio, ERA+, and was 3rd in WHIP. But all voters saw was an 8-16 record and ignored that the Astros scored just 3.32 runs per game for him.

Youkilis v. Manny is disingenuous because the old man isn't aware that the difference in OBP isn't as great as the difference in slugging percentage, not to mention that Manny is just as selective.

Joe Grav said...

Grant: Correct. I'd rather have a team of 14 A-Rods and 11 Pedros (in his prime) but that's just not gonna happen

Wooden: we are agreeing on this one, I think, unless I'm reading what you wrote incorrectly. The old man said he'd rather have the guy who was 7-3 with a 5.50.

Anonymous said...

This argument depends on when the decision(s) are made. At the end of the season, I'll take the 7-3 record over the ERA of 2.60. If I am looking for talent in a trade or evaluating pitchers' performance to BUILD a team, I'd go for the guy who allows the fewest runs.
These 4 runs could -- in the example of this years A.L. East race-- mean the differnce in Winning the Division and missing the Wildcard altogether.
As always, #'s can be made to win BOTH sides of almost every argument.
Ask any GM in MLB who they would rather have, for the same salary.. Manny vs. Youkilis, and You're sure to see a shutout vote. Ramirez' obvious lack of baserunning skills, middle -of-the-road defense (particularly on the road) and quirky hitting habits and streaks still don't hide the fact that he is one of the 3 or 4 best righthanded hitters in the game.


Joe Grav said...

Actually, I bet there would be one retard GM (my bet: Bowden) who would say Youkilis

Just like the people who would rather have Wakefield than Santana because Wake has 15 wins

Anonymous said...

Santana is the SHIT Yo.
Place him on a squad that puts up some runs and can throw a little leather....

Joe Grav said...

No kidding...

COCO!!!! red sox 5-2

wooden said...

Joe G - You're right, I misread who was on what side.

Sparky - There is no arguing that a pitcher with a 5.50 ERA is better than a 2.60 ERA. The former is merely luckier. In a playoff series, I'll take the latter and I'll be right more than not.

There is an argument to be made in favor of Youkilis from the GM standpoint in that the difference in his performance and Youk's isn't as great as the difference in their salaries. Let's not forget the Red Sox put Manny on waivers and nobody -- not even the Yankees -- was willing to take on that contract. Bowden might argue that if he had Manny and traded him for Kevin Youkilis, he'd have enough money left over for several free agents.

Santana is the best lefthanded pitcher since Randy Johnson, but as good as he's been this year, it's still short of Pedro's 1997 or 1999 seasons, both of which are considered to be the best since Walter Johnson toed the rubber.

Anonymous said...

Who would you rather have?
Lester 5.67 ERA, or DelCarmen 2.57 ERA.
As I said, the #'s can be made to APPEAR to win any argument.