Friday, August 17, 2007

LA Chicks Dig the Small Ball...

or, A Difcufsion of the Home run in 2007 Baseball offenfes, As of Auguft 16.

I've seen the Milwaukee Brewers criticized for relying too much on the home run to power their offense, resulting in weaker numbers overall. Let's look at the data.

Alright, that table is sorted by the percentage of runs scored on home runs. The Brewers are atop the list and the Reds are the only team anywhere close. Surprisingly, the team with the second-fewest runs in all of major league baseball is third in relying on the home run to provide what runs they do get. Conversely, it's interesting that the Dodgers, Angels, and Royals are all so far below the rest of the teams. I guess small ball is en vogue in Los Angeles.

To underscore how it doesn't really matter how a team scores runs as long as they do score runs, let's look at a scatter plot of total runs scored vs. HR runs %:

Click to enlarge in new window.

There is no correlation between HR R % and total runs scored.

You'll notice the final column in the table is R/HR. Interestingly, while the NL relies more on home runs for runs than the AL does, they also score less per home run. The best team in the majors at hitting home runs with runners on is Baltimore, by a fairly large margin (1.78 to Washington's 1.72). The worst teams are Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh with 1.46 and 1.45, respectively. Knowing that, it would behoove us to presume there's not much correlation between R/HR and total runs scored, but let's get a chart to make sure.

Click to enlarge in new window.

Once again, there's no correlation between runs scored and runs per home run.

So what does this mean? Basically, as long as your team scores, it doesn't matter how they do it. So the Angels have scored 600 runs on only 84 home runs; they wouldn't be any better (or worse) off if they'd taken Atlanta's approach and hit 124 home runs. Similarly, if the Brewers bunted guys over and used all the other small ball tactics to amass their 571 runs, they wouldn't have used any better of an approach than what they have actually done.

The next time you want to berate your favorite team for failing to play small ball, keep in mind they might just be playing to their strengths rather than limiting themselves.


Josh Kalk said...

Good stuff as always TheJay but what about the variance? The big issue with teams being reliant on the home run is that the variance of runs/game goes way up. At the extreme, it is far better to score 5 runs every game then 10 runs one game and 0 runs the next. It does matter how you get to your 575 runs if you have a high variance game to game that will lower your teams overall winning percentage.

TheJay said...

Good point. Once again I show my fallibility in analysis. :)