Friday, May 9, 2008

Hitters' Performance in Team Wins and Losses

In the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal's regularly updated baseball blog, beat writer Tom Haudricourt recently noted slugger Prince Fielder's performance seemed to be an integral part of the team's wins and losses (link). This idea was later put into a print article (web version). It fell to fellow slugger Ryan Braun to debunk the idea that Fielder was mostly responsible for the team winning and losing. Braun said,
"When you lose close games, you're facing better pitchers in the bullpen, the set-up guy, the closer," he said. "Whereas when you're squaring balls up and scoring runs, you might get the last guy in the bullpen.

"It would be almost impossible for it to be the other way around."
Indeed, it is rare to find a regular player who managed to hit better in team losses than he did in team wins. In fact, of the 280 players who had 300 or more plate appearances in 2007, only six had a higher OPS in team losses. Twenty-six players had a drop of .400 or more in their OPS from team wins to team losses.

If you look at all players who had at least 200 plate appearances in team wins, the composite hitter put up a .319/.392/.527 line, good for a .919 OPS. Pretty darn good when you consider that's about what David Wright has done in his career. Part of that can be explained by the .343 BABIP for those hitters (more on BABIP can be found here). Given that the MLB BABIP in 2007 was .303, this means hitters on teams that won games had hits fall in more often than usual. This makes sense - how many games can you recall turning on bloop hits here and there? Similarly, players with 200+ PA in team losses had worse luck: their BABIP was only .276. Those hitters put up a composite .242/.307/.373 line, good for a .681 OPS - about the same level of production as Endy Chavez.

So which players declined (or, in the case of the aforementioned six, improved) the most when going from team wins to team losses? Below is a table of the players with the twenty largest drops in OPS from wins to losses along with their corresponding BABIP. Beneath that table is another showing the twenty smallest declines in OPS from wins to losses (negative numbers correspond to OPS and BABIP increases).

20 Largest OPS Differences (Wins-Losses), 2007
Minimum 300 Plate Appearances
Miguel CabreraFLA680.599.178
Matt HollidayCOL713.577.137
Kenny LoftonTEX/CLE559.521.341
Xavier NadyPIT470.497.143
Matt KempLAD311.482.134
Chris DuncanSTL432.476.057
Josh WillinghamFLA604.465.169
Bobby AbreuNYY699.462.159
Hunter PenceHOU484.451.087
Magglio OrdonezDET679.450.128
Jack CustOAK507.449.135
Mark GrudzielanekKCR486.448.130
Marlon ByrdTEX454.448.105
Brad HawpeCOL606.447.090
Jim ThomeCHW536.439.097
Chase UtleyPHI613.429.081
Gary Matthews Jr.LAA579.425.149
Vernon WellsTOR642.423.125
J.D. DrewBOS552.421.123
Travis BuckOAK334.418.094

Many of the players on that list are pretty good hitters overall. I think it's interesting to see guys like Marlon Byrd and Mark Grudzielanek up there, too, since they're not anyone's idea of great hitters. Nevertheless, they raked whenever the Rangers and Royals won.

I just want to note one final time that negative numbers in the table below actually indicate an increase in OPS or BABIP from team wins to team losses.

20 Smallest OPS Differences (Wins-Losses), 2007
Minimum 300 Plate Appearances
Miguel OlivoFLA469-.068-.028
Greg DobbsPHI358-.042.030
Shawn GreenNYM491-.024.027
Nate McLouthPIT382-.013-.009
Andre EthierLAD507-.008-.073
Mike JacobsFLA460-.003.030
Ryan TheriotCHC597.006.002
Jose VidroSEA625.022-.015
Aaron HillTOR657.023.064
Wily Mo PenaBOS/WSN317.028-.014
Lyle OverbayTOR476.031.028
Placido PolancoDET641.033.022
Ryan GarkoCLE541.042-.041
Josh BardSDP443.044-.003
Ron BelliardWSN557.046.029
Brian GilesSDP552.051.026
Dave RobertsSFG443.055.012
Melvin MoraBAL527.057.037
Casey BlakeCLE662.060.038
Corey PattersonBAL503.067.032

Nothing seems to have fazed Nate McLouth or Ryan Theriot last season. They just kept on putting up their regular numbers regardless of whether the team won or lost. Dobbs, Green, and Jacobs are interesting because their OPS increased while their BABIP decreased. All in all, the second list doesn't seem as impressive as the first list in terms of hitter quality. It's kind of cool that Florida had the guys with the largest and smallest declines in OPS from team wins to team losses.


Anonymous said...

Awesome blog!

There's obvious selection bias here. I don't think it has that much to do with the pitchers the players face. When Prince Fielder has a good day, the Brewers score more runs, and it's a lot less likely that they lose the game. No?

Theron Schultz said...

That's true, but you could say something like that about almost any player. Of course, it's because you score more runs that you get to face lesser pitchers anyway.