What Are “Sabermetrics” Part Six

Last week, in Part Five this series, we looked at statistic called Runs Created (RC) which attempts to illustrate the impact a specific player has on his team. The formula deals with the most important aspect in baseball, which is scoring runs! For example, our very own (for now) Jose Reyes created a total of 105.1 runs in 2011 (which was less then a full season, as we all know).
Jose’s contribution was 14.6 percent of the Mets’ entire season total of 718 runs scored. If Jose leaves, that is going to be a tall order for “Sandy and Company” to replace. The good news is that Lucas Duda created 54 runs in 2011, in just over one half of a season. So, it would stand to reason that with a full season of opportunities, he could be quite valuable and help offset the probable loss of Jose in 2012. It’s a start, right?

This week, I want to continue down the path of exploring runs scored, but I want to focus more on the team, versus the individual. There are several different ways to evaluate a teams’ performance, but one of the more simple, yet effective ways of doing so is to use a formula called Pythagorean Win Expectation, or simply Pythagorean Expectation (sounds like one of the monsters that Godzilla would fight with back in the old 70’s movies).

Like a lot of the Sabermetric formulas, this particular formula was developed by the legendary Bill James. The formula was an attempt by Mr. James to estimate how many games a baseball team “should” have won, based on the number of runs scored and the the number of runs allowed. Taking that figure, you can compare how a team did, versus how a team should have done.

That comparison can then be used to see if a certain team was fortunate or unfortunate in a particular season (which is exactly what sparks all kinds of arguments on talk radio and within baseball blogs, like this one).

The basic formula is as follows (RS equals runs scored and RA equals runs allowed);

Win = (RS)2 divided by (RS)2 + (RA)2
= 1 divided by 1 + (RA divided by RS)2

I know, I know, what the bloody hell does that mean? Basically, the formula generates a winning ratio, which when multiplied by the number of games played, gives you a raw number of wins that can/should be expected.

The neat thing about that, is you can use the formula for any sequence of games, although the reliability of the formula is suspect if you are using smaller sample sizes (think of using a 10 game stretch, versus an entire season of 162 games).

There were some arguments made about the specificity of the formula and a different gentleman (David Smyth) produced a more precise (and easier) method of arriving at the final conclusion. It was deemed more accurate over shorter periods of time. The original formula was seen as acceptable when using larger amounts of data, such as entire seasons played.

Smyth named the updated formula the Pythagenpat formula, which is expressed as follows (R means runs scored, RA equals runs allowed, G equals games played and 0.287 is an exponent);

((R + RA) divided by G)0.287

Side note, if you use this formula, remember the proper order of operations or you will arrive at a wildly different answer.

As with most statistical formulas, and math in general, there is usually more to the story. Since we are NOT teaching a math class, the representation of the formula is to show you, the reader, HOW these figures are developed. Once you have a grasp of that process, the larger goal is to use the formula/results to analyze what it means for our favorite team going forward.

In 2011, the Mets scored 718 runs and allowed 742 runs, a total deficit of of 24 runs, which was kind of surprising when I first saw that (it seemed like it should have been worse). The 718 runs scored was sixth best in the NL and it was the HIGHEST total in our own division. Five MORE then the “102 win” Phillies scored (odd, I know, but when you look at runs allowed, it all starts to make sense). The 742 runs the Mets allowed was fourth from the BOTTOM in the NL and easily the worst total in our division. That figure was 213 runs MORE then the Phillies allowed (yes, you read that right).

For grins, the Phillies had a positive run differential of 184 runs (713 runs scored and only 529 runs allowed, which using the listed formula, equated to approximately 104 wins). Compared to our aforementioned negative run differential of 24 runs, it is pretty easy to see the difference between 102 wins and 77 wins, right?

So, scoring runs was not the main issue in 2011, rather our run preventions (pitching and DEFENSE) was a much bigger problem. Looking at the formula we discussed earlier, based on the runs scored/allowed data, the Mets “should have” won approximately 78 games (an estimated win percentage of 0.483 multiplied by 162 games). We know the Mets won 77 games, so the formula is sound and the Mets were pretty much a lower division team.

The million dollar question should be “how do we get better”?

Well, if we continue to pitch (especially relief pitching) poorly and play horrendous defense, we will need to score about 900 runs per year to compete. For reference, not one team scored 900 runs last year (Boston came the closest with 875 runs scored). Our offensive total of 718 was solid, but remember, we may not have Jose’s bat next year.

A better strategy would be to make personnel moves that improve our team defense (detailed in a previous article), improve our pitching staff (bullpen please) and try to keep our offense in the 700 runs per season range. In other words, reduce the number of runs allowed significantly, while maintaining our runs scored.

It can be done! The Arizona Diamondbacks went from 64 wins in 2010 to 94 wins in 2011. They did this primarily by changing their run differential from a negative 115 in 2010 (699 runs scored, 814 runs allowed) to a positive 69 in 2011 (731 runs scored, 662 runs allowed). That may be an aberration, but it shows you how big a difference one season can make when you focus on reducing runs allowed (pitching and defense).

Looking at the facts, it seems clear to me what “Sandy and Company’s” goal should be going forward.

Random Thoughts

Anyone else irritated by the “new” Marlins? So far, they remind me of the loud mouth guy at a bar, flashing his money around and basically irritating everyone. By my count, they have been “in” on all of the big name free agents, so far (Pujols, Reyes, CJ Wilson, Mark Buehrle, Ryan Madson, etc).

Really Miami? Are you not getting enough attention? You may be able to sign one or two of those guys, but all of them? Give me a break! Ozzie Guillen has only been in town a few weeks and his loud mouth, irritating style has already infected the entire team. I get the feeling that they will be near the top of my “don’t like” list by the time the season rolls around.

Sorry to see Joe Nathan go to the Rangers. He was my one of the guys I thought would be perfect for our bullpen, but not at 2 years and 14 million dollars (plus an option). Scary contract for a guy with arm problems, who has yet to come all the way back. If we are spending that kind of cash, add a bit to it and bring Heath Bell home.


Mack Ade said...

THC (Thai Hot Chilis) = RC

Mack's Mets © 2012