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"Lou is not talking about mechanics when he goes out to the mound,"
~Chicago Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Sabermetrics 101

I read an ESPN poll asking which of the following baseball statistics is the most overrated: On-base percentage, Slugging percentage, Batting average, Homeruns, and RBI's. America voted in this order: Slugging percentage, HR, BA, OBP, and RBI.

Obviously, the general public is either unaware or not buying into sabermetrics. To say that of those stats, RBI is the least overrated and slugging percentage is the most overrated is absurd. My order looks like this: RBI, BA, HR, slugging pertentage, OBP. So why isn't America seeing it the way I (and Graham and many of you) see it. Maybe it's because they haven't read Moneyball. Maybe it's because they haven't heard of Bill James. It's also because there are very few sabermatricians in the media. All the average fan hears is the stupidity of Joe Morgan and other people of his ilk. (insert firejoemorgan.blogspot.com plug here. We've got a link.) So I've decided to give a brief summary on the sabermetric's philosophy. If you are already in the know, please move on. However, if you have no idea what sabermetrics is, read this carefully and then research more about it. It will change the way you look at baseball.

Philosophy #1

The most precious resource in baseball is an out. Therefore, on base percentage is the most important statistic for a hitter. A low batting average can be made up for by a high OBP. Suppose a team had a perfect OBP of 1.000, the number of runs they would score would be unlimited because no player would ever make an out. Therefore, a player like Jason Giambi with a .277 avg/.445 OBP is far more productive to his offense than a player like Jose Guillen with a .302 avg/.349 OBP. Even though Giambi's BA is 25 points lower tha Guillen's, he makes one less out per every 10 at bats which allows the inning to continue.

Philosophy #2

Do not sacrifice outs. Sacrifice bunts give up an out in order to move a runner over one base. Over the course of a season, a team can score more runs by not sacrificing that out, but rather choosing to accept what ever other possibility could happen from allowing a player to swing away. Basestealing can contribute to run production, but is also risky. Although the number change based on the scenario, generally speaking a runner must successfully steal bases 70% of the time for the act to improve run production. Sabermetricians don't advocate never sacrificing or stealing. They just think it should be used very minimally.

Philosophy #3

Power over Speed. Slugging percentage is one of the best indicators of power. If a team has power, every at bat could be a run producing one. That is what makes sacrificing an out a mistake. The more at bats a team can get, the more oppotunities they have for home runs or doubles that lead to big innings. Because of the importance of both OBP and SP, the best indicator for how many runs a team will score is OPS or on base percentage plus slugging percentage.

Proof: The top 10 MLB teams in slugging percentage are Boston, NY Yankees, Texas, Cincy, Chicago Cubs, Cleveland, Baltimore, Atlanta, St Louis, and Tampa Bay. All of these teams except the Cubs and Orioles are also in the top 10 in runs scored. The top 4 OPS also happen to be the top 4 runs scored.

That's the meat of the sabermatricians hitting philosophy. I'll save the pitching for another day, or for Graham.

I'm watching ESPN and I just saw that the Colts signed Corey Simon. I didn't get the terms, but I already consider them one of the favorites for the Super Bowl. This is only going to make them better. How do they fit that team under the cap though? I'd have to look at the numbers, but they could be in trouble in a couple years. I hope the signing bonus wasn't too big.

If anyone has any comments or questions about sabermetrics, please feel free to express them.

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