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

Friday, October 07, 2005

White Sox Advance

Congratulations to the White Sox, fresh off a 3 game sweep of the defending champs. To be honest, I didn't think they could do it. I thought Boston had too much offense, but the White Sox pithching shut them down. They held the best offense in MLB to 9 runs over the 3 game series. This is why they won 99 games in the regular season. This is why they are in the ALCS.

But I don't hear that from the announcers or analysts. Well, most of them that is. There are still some good broadcasters that look at numbers before they make judgements. The rest of them form opinions and then try to find numbers to back them up. That's why you hear that the reason for the White Sox success is their new offensive approach. Yes, it is true that the South Siders now play small ball rather than waiting for the big inning. Yes, it's true that they won more games this year than in recent history. But correlation is not causation. I learned that in junior high. Some people still don't get it.

Here's the facts:

In 2005 the White Sox scored 745 runs. In 2004 they scored 865. Which is better? Ozzie's new players and new style of offense was 120 runs less productive than it was a year ago.

In 2005 the White Sox pitching staff allowed only 645 runs over the course of the season. They allowed 831 in 2004. That's a 186 run difference.

It seems pretty clear to me and anyone who understands numbers that the reason the White Sox have been successful is because of their dominant pitching. Not only did they not win because of their offense, they won inspite of it. So why baseball analysts continue to ignore obvious information like this is beyond me.

Just for fun I'm going to run Bill James' Pythagorem formula for winning percentage based on runs scored and runs allowed. I'm going to use the Sox 2005 pitching and their 2004 hitting to see what their win total would ahve been had there been no change to the offense, but still had the pitching improvement. If you're not familiar with the formula, here it is. Runs scored squared/runs allowed squared. Average out the ratio over 162 games and you get the expected win total. Go back to the databases and essentially "predict the past" using this formula. It's very accurate, typically with 3 wins either way.

Here we go:

2004 runs scored: 865
2005 runs allowed: 645

Chicago White Sox 2005 expected win total-104

It seems to reason, that had the White Sox not changed the offense they would have been 5 games better. So was this Lee/Podsednik trade really that valuable? Or did it hurt the team? That's a whole different question that maybe I'll explore later. I'd have to calculate defense into that one. My point was simply this: The Sox aren't winning because of "small ball". They're winning because of pitching.

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