Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Simple stats to evaluate teams, players
By Jim Bowden
Most Major League Baseball teams have their own statistical systems that blend complex formulas, algorithms, sabermetrics and old-school statistics. Several clubs are also in the process of inventing complex GPS-driven fielding statistics that will eventually measure first-step quickness, angles and range at levels never accomplished before, and they will bring together defensive metrics, statistical analysis and scouting.
The Boston Red Sox have a proprietary statistical system that GM Theo Epstein named “Carmine.” "Carmine" is occasionally used as a nickname for the Red Sox and is a specific shade of red. The details of this system have never been divulged publicly, but with Bill James working for them, and the Red Sox collective intellectual brain trust, it would be fair to assume that "Carmine" iss cutting edge. Many teams have their own systems, while some clubs subscribe to outside services, others use online websites available to the public, and a few still fight the concept of technology and new-wave statistical analysis.
Most teams hire graduates from Ivy League schools, Stanford, MIT or other top-notch colleges to make sure they have the latest and most brilliant young minds to always look for better ways to analyze, scout and assess talent. Clubs can’t hire enough creative and innovative minds.
Due to confidentiality agreements and proprietary rights, I can’t share my experiences with advanced statistical systems during my years as a general manager. However, as much as the public is aware of and embraces statistics like Wins Above Replacement (WAR), WHIP, and OPS, many clubs have algorithms that are much more complicated and helpful.
Baseball also has a simple to side to it. I get asked all the time which two or three common statistics I would pick to evaluate a team or players. My quick answer would be the following:
1. For a team: Run differential
2. For a hitter: OPS + RBIs, or OPSBIs
3. For a pitcher: ERA, WHIP, SO
Let’s take a look at the leaders in baseball for these categories:
Often, this quick-glance statistic can allow you to delve deeper in terms of studying club's deficiencies and strengths that could lead to trade discussions. Every club needs to lower its ERA and produce more runs; the question is always this: How much is needed to win more games?
The key for me is breaking down the RBIs to differentiate the ones that came against pitchers who throw with the most velocity, change in velocity, late-breaking action, change in planes or deceptive deliveries. How often do the RBIs occur in one-run games against Mariano Rivera in the ninth inning as opposed to a 12-0 blowout in the fourth inning against a mopup reliever. It is essential to break this down in detail.
Statistics can be misleading unless you blend them with the scouting aspect of baseball. When you get to October, hitters need to hit Jon Lester, CC Sabathia, Roy Halladay or Tim Lincecum, so you need to have hitters who can hit the best pitchers in the game rather than hitters who put up good numbers against mediocre or below-average pitching. Still, OPS + RBIs gives me a general feel for the level of player. (Of course, with leadoff hitters, OBP+R+SB would be a better barometer, so you have to know the type of hitter your looking at).
These are my three favorite quick-look pitching statistics. Combined, they give me a snapshot of their abilities and talent, although statistics are best analyzed in concert with video and scouting reports in a complex system.
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