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Breaking down winning in 2012


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#1 DocPeterWimsey

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Posted 21 April 2012 - 02:52 PM

I told Luke and a few others that I'd try to do this, as time permits, this season. I've been keeping track of the games in terms of differences between winning and losing teams. As of Friday, we had about 200 games, so our sample size already is bigger than we'll get for any one team.

Each of the lots below shows how much better (or worse) the winning team did in some stat from each game. Because this is a Cubs site, I've separated the Cubs games in dark blue. The stats are not independent: I'm showing home runs, extra base hits (XBH), walks (BB), total bases + walks (TB + BB), left-on-base (LOB), and net stolen bases (NSB; = successful steals - caught stealings). The ∆ (delta) indicates that it's the difference: so, if both teams hit 5 HR, then ∆HR = 0. You can think of this as the difference between how well the offense did and how well the defense (mostly pitching but some fielding) did for the winning team.
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200 games into the season says that Earl Weaver was right and Gene Mauch was wrong. The team that hits the most HR is 115-31 so far. We cannot say much about what those 31 games have in common, but one trait stands out already: there, the winning team made up for homers by still getting more extrabase hits than the opposition. So far, they are 140-29. It also says that Dale Sveum is at least partially correct: half of outslugging is hitting, so the Cubs inability to slug has hurt them. (These numbers are highly significant based on any number of tests of the null hypothesis.)
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Dusty Baker was wrong: walks don't keep guys from scoring. The team that draws the most walks is 125-57.

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When we pool these (as OPS essentially does), then the results are very prominent: the team with the most total bases & walks is 173-19.
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#2 DocPeterWimsey

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Posted 21 April 2012 - 02:52 PM

Continued!



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I.e., Pat Hughes and most of the sports talk radio guys are wrong! The team that gets the most guys on base who fail to score still wins 60% of the time. (This is significant at p=0.002). This is very much an "old-school" vs. "new school" dichotomy. The former tends to look at baseball as a western shoot out, where each side has about the same number of bullets and it's the guys who shoot most accurately who wins. The latter views baseball as trench warfare, where the side with the most men and the most artillery tends to win. In other words, don't get better shooters, get more guns! :P
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Stolen bases are fun, but they don't associate well with winning. What is interesting is that if you look at either just successful steals OR caught stealings, then you do see significant distributions: the team that steals the most AND the team that is caught stealing the most both tend to win! That is, winning teams have more stolen base attempts than do losing teams. The actual correlate is between attempted steals and getting on base. However, at 79-55, losing teams are nearly as apt to outsteal the winner as vice-versa.

(If you restrict this to 1-run games, then the team with the most net steals is 30-23: but the teams with the most HR are 26-14 in the same games, and the team with the most XBH is 31-14.)

The final thing that should standout is that the Cubs do not stand out. Their games fit in the main distributions pretty well. (Again, the sample size is too small to say that any team deviates yet.)

So, if you are left feeling like the Cubs are always just a key hit or two away from winning, well... no, they rarely are. They are getting outperformed in the same way that losing teams typically are so far in 2012.


And, of course, it leads to the answer to the question: if my team is going to be constantly outslugged and out-OBPed, then how do we win? The answer? Get new players, because Mike Leake isn't going to pitch against you every day...... B)
Gods don't play dice with the universe, they are the dice of the universe: our job is to figure out how many sides and dice!

#3 rcleven

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Posted 21 April 2012 - 03:24 PM

Great work Doc.

#4 Drew

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Posted 21 April 2012 - 07:23 PM

Doc - thanks for all your hard work on this. I really wish more people would grasp this concept.

Unfortunately, in a time where most every Cub-fan has a chance to hear Bob Brenly or Pag Hughes, many will undoubtedly hang on to the belief that "scrappy" and "small ball" truely are what makes a winner.

In fact, I communicated this concept to the high school team Im coaching for. With only one or two guys with legitimate power, I said it was only a matter of time before all the singles we were using to score runs were gobbled up by infielders. Low and behold, that happened twice in one week (ruining a perfect conference record!). Needless to say they are actually buying into the fact that merely getting the bat on the ball isnt good enough!

#5 OCCubFan

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Posted 21 April 2012 - 08:54 PM

Thanks for your work on an important topic. What I found most useful was not the graphs---which show the characteristics of winning teams----but the info in the text about the winning percentage for teams that have, for example, positive net HRs. What I would like to see more of---as long as you do all the work :-) ---is a breakdown of the winning percentage for teams with net HRs of +1, +2, +3, etc. Also, for the other indicators. But thanks again for your valuable service and enlightening info.

#6 Ron

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Posted 21 April 2012 - 09:41 PM

Well I guess this is why teams are not built like the 80's Cardinals. It does make sense and seems pretty obvious, the team that hits the most effectively wins. Thanks for the work, it is nice to actually see it. Basically, though this all boils down to the players on the field. Teams like the Yankees and Rangers that have a very deep lineup that will slug up down will win a lot of games. What I think would be interesting would be a closer look at the middle tier teams that get to the playoffs via the wild card. The teams that have to "grind out' wins.

Anyway, thanks Doc, the new school of baseball is somewhat foreign to me as I don't fully understand sabermetrics and hate statistics.

#7 Luke

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Posted 21 April 2012 - 10:02 PM

That a high team LOB correlates with winning doesn't surprise me at all. Typically if a team is putting a ton of guys on base, they are doing something right, even if a lot of them never get off base. If ten men score, who cares that fifteen were left on base, provided the other team scores nine or fewer runs.

That said, I'm curious about two trends related to the delta-LOB.

1 - Does the distribution in 1-run games match the overall distribution? I can make a case that blow outs (wins by 3 or more runs, for instance) are skewing the results here. LOB doesn't matter when a team wins by five; that's logically intuitive. What about when a team loses by one? I suspect there is little to no change in the results, but I'd be curious to see if the data bears that out.

2 - Is there any correlation between batting in RISP situations and winning? Call it the clutch-iness factor. In particular, I'm curious if there is a correlation between a team outperforming/underforming their own in-game average in RISP situations and win-loss records. For example, if the Cubs as a team are 9 for 36 in a game, as a team they hit .250. Now, let's say there were 2 for 8 in RISP situations: that's an RISP AVG of .200, or less than than their team average for that game. Does that negative RISP Avg vrs Game Avg have any effect on their odds of winning? I suspect it won't have much of an effect due to a bunch of issues, but again, I'd be curious to see the results. If there is an effect here, we may have found a statistical measure for 'clutch.'

And if we have found a statistical measure for 'clutch', I'll be very surprised if it doesn't correlate very strongly with average pitches per at bat on an individual level. That check will take a lot more data, I think.

Very nice work, by the way.

#8 DocPeterWimsey

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Posted 21 April 2012 - 10:27 PM

Thanks for the comments: I'm glad that it's appreciated. I'll try to keep updating it as the year wears on.

Regarding 1-run games, those are the single most common (70 through tonight), but they still are a minority: half the games have been decided by 3 or more runs. As the sample size gets larger, then I'll talk about testing for how we can separate them.

In general, however, here are some additional breakdowns. In 1-run games, the team that:

leaves most men on base is 41-23

has most total bases + BB is 50-15

takes the most walks is 37-25

K's most is 24-37

So, even here, "chance" favors the opportunities: the team that makes the most opportunities (or that best limits the other team's opportunities: you can look at it either way) tends to win. Again, I think that the "commando attack" vs. "trench warfare" model applies.


I think that this does show the work that Theo & Hoyer as well as the FO's of many other teams have; getting a team that can consistently fall in the right side of those histograms is their job, after all. Juggling a lineup is just not going to affect things that much.


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#9 MichiganGoat

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Posted 22 April 2012 - 05:45 AM

Great job Doc! This supports a belief I've had for years: Speed does not win games. This data will be useful now that Campana is back and the scrappy love fest grows. People keep calling him a "game changer" because he is fast and can steal bases at will, but this data clearly supports that base stealing does not equal wins. I'm sure i'll be tweeting this out regularly in the next few weeks. Thanks Doc.

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#10 DocPeterWimsey

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Posted 22 April 2012 - 08:14 AM

Great job Doc! This supports a belief I've had for years: Speed does not win games.

I think that a better way to phrase it is that speed (alone) does not win many games. After all, teams do sometimes win while being outslugged and out OBPed. It's just that for every time you win a game that way, you lose 4-5 others that way: and that's 1962 Mets' territory!

I think that these plots illustrate what I call the "ESPN Highlight Myth": i.e., that the game revolves around 1-2 cinematic plays. Say that you have 8.5 innings of shutout baseball. In the bottom of the 9th, the leadoff batter scores right away: be it a homer, a double followed by single (or grounder & SF), or by flatout stealing his way around the bases. People point to that and say "it won the game." However, if that guy's pitcher had allowed a homer or more than a couple of doubles, then this effort would have (at best) tied the game. Had that guy's fellow fielders (assuming he wasn't a pinch hitter) not handled the plays, both routine and spectacular, then the effort (at best) ties the game. (That gets to Drew's comment about how yesterday's groundball singles often are today's groundball outs.)

What these data show (and I expect will continue to show) is that the winning team usually is outperforming the loser by more than a play or two. So, if you want to win 90+ times, then you'd better be prepared to outperform your opponents by multiple plays 90+ times.
Gods don't play dice with the universe, they are the dice of the universe: our job is to figure out how many sides and dice!

#11 MichiganGoat

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Posted 22 April 2012 - 09:08 AM

Right there with you concerning the highlight reel confusing people about what is "great.". This is even more true with defense, a guy dives and makes a great catch and he is immediately consider great at defense. No one discusses that he might have made a bad jump or ran a poor route, it's just that he made a diving catch. I think the same mind is at work with steals- they are fun to watch but in the course of the season that don't really impact the game as much as someone who can double or homer everytime they are at the plate.

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#12 Brett

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Posted 22 April 2012 - 09:42 AM

This is awesome.

#13 Caleb

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Posted 22 April 2012 - 10:16 AM

Yeah, Doc. Way impressed! Some of these are very not-surprising.

But I'm with Luke on the LOB number. It's not so much the absolute value of men left out there (obviously if you're hitting and walking, you're getting more men on) but rather what percentage of men who get on base score? Or maybe that's not it, either. Maybe it's the percentage of men LOB who get knocked in when you're down by 2-4 runs and your third best pitcher is in? Or maybe... no. This rabbit hole doesn't end.

There's still something to be said for LOB though. And in games where you just feel like your team SUCKED, they're usually 1 for 16 or something like that. It correlates emotionally.

#14 CubChymyst

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Posted 22 April 2012 - 12:00 PM

Doc,

Love the post and all of the graphs, kind of shock by that outlier that is -9 for deltaTB and BB. Have you seen the power rankings on SI.com? It is being done by fangraphs, and had the cubs ranked at 17 (as of 4/15). Right in the middle of the pack, and as your analysis shows cubs do not deviate fare from the norm. Could be a good sign showing the cubs are not as far behind the the MLB norm as the record suggests. Just out of curiosity what are you a doctorate of?

#15 T C

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Posted 22 April 2012 - 09:28 PM

Hey, Doc, this is pretty cool and all, but I'm not a fan of that LOB graph. Its misleading to say "The team that gets the most guys on base who fail to score still wins 60% of the time, therefore those radio guys are wrong", cause that number isnt reflecting left on base numbers, but rather total runners reaching base. The team that is leaving more men on base is winning because they're simply getting more men on base.

Also, those "radio guys" always use LOB as a proxy for "squandering chances", and the general consensus is that if you fail to plate guys in a large amount of your chances, you're going to lose. The data you've provided doesn't show that sentiment to be wrong. I think a much more honest graph would be a dLOB% (LOB/Total Baserunners) graph




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