Archive for the ‘Stat of the Week’ Category

Stat of the Week: Instant Replay

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

Before 2014, instant replays in baseball were restricted to disputed home runs, fair vs. foul, fan interference, and wall border calls. This season, the scope of replay expanded greatly with the introduction of a challenge system similar to the one in the NFL. Now, it’s possible for managers to challenge practically everything short of ball-and-strike calls, and they have taken advantage.

Between 2008 and 2013, the six years of the original replay system, only 384 replays were used and only 129 plays were overturned according to data collected by Baseball Info Solutions. With still a month to go this season, 1,056 replays have been used and 495 plays overturned. We are on pace for about 600 corrected calls that would previously have been missed.

Overall, replays are overturning calls at a higher rate than the previous system, but not all types of challenges have been equally successful.

Replay Type Total Overturned Rate
Tag Play 431 180 42%
Force Play 430 237 55%
Boundary Call (Over Fence) 67 18 27%
Hit by Pitch 43 21 49%
Fair or Foul 42 14 33%
Trap or Catch 26 21 81%
Record Keeping 10 2 20%
Missed Base 6 2 33%
Passed Runner 1 0 0%
Total 1,056 495 47%

More than 80 percent all of replays have been on either disputed tags or force outs, and they have collectively been close to a 50/50 proposition. Replay has overturned 417 of those 861 calls (48 percent).

Other types of replays have been far less common, but, even with limited sample sizes, a pattern emerges. For example, 21 of the 26 replays on trap or catch plays have been overturned (81 percent). In contrast, only 18 of the 67 boundary call situations—which include potential home runs, potential ground-rule doubles and fan interference plays—were overturned, only 27 percent.

The Instant Replay section of the Bill James Handbook 2015 will be expanded from last year’s edition to capture the increase in scope of replays. The book is available for pre-order here.

“Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week®, www.statoftheweek.com.”

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How Do Shifts Affect League-Wide BABIP?

Saturday, July 26th, 2014

by John Dewan

I was recently asked the following question [by Rob Neyer]: If infield shifts work so well, why aren’t league-wide BABIPs (Batting Average on Balls in Play) dropping? It’s a great question. Shifts are designed to to take hits away from certain pull-heavy hitters, and with the huge increase that we have seen in the number of shifts used across baseball over the last few years, intuitively we would think that this would affect the league’s batting average. And it does! However, the effect is almost imperceptible because the number of batted balls against a shift is still a small percentage of all batted balls put in play.

First, for reference let’s look at what the league-wide BABIP has been over the last 10 years, as well as the shifts data that we have been collecting at Baseball Info Solutions since 2010:

Season

BABIP

Shifts

2014

.299

13,789*

2013

.297

8,134

2012

.297

4,577

2011

.295

2,357

2010

.297

2,464

2009

.299

-

2008

.300

-

2007

.303

-

2006

.301

-

2005

.295

-

*Projected by year end

Based on research that we have done at BIS, we know that the shift lowers the batting average on grounders and short liners (the ball in play types most affected by the shift) by about 30 points. So far this season, the batting average on grounders and short liners on shifted plays has been .230, and on non-shifted plays it has been .265. That’s a significant difference. However, despite the shift being employed far more often this season than any previous season, it has still only been used about 10% of the time. Therefore, the overall batting average on all grounders and short liners in baseball has been .262, only a 3 point difference from the .265 average on non-shifted plays.

And that’s just grounders and short liners. If you factor in ALL balls in play, that 3 points gets diluted even further, because the infield shift has no effect on balls hit to the outfield. The league-wide BABIP this season is .299, but it would be .300 without the shifting. So, in general the shift is only going to lower the overall BABIP by about 1 or 2 points, and that gets lost in the noise when looking at year-to-year BABIPs.

However, just because it might be difficult to see the impact that shifting has had when looking at year-to-year numbers doesn’t mean that shifting hasn’t had a meaningful effect. So far this season teams have saved 127 runs throughout baseball by shifting. If we assume all those runs would have been earned, that means the league’s overall ERA of 3.80 would actually be 3.85 if teams weren’t shifting. So, the shift does make a difference.

On Tuesday, Tom Verducci published an article for Sports Illustrated supporting the idea that MLB should at least consider making the defensive shift illegal. The thought is that scoring in baseball has declined too much in recent years, so let’s regulate the options available to the defense to keep things more exciting for fans. However, as the data above shows, the shift is just a small part of run prevention. A difference of 1 or 2 points in league-wide batting average is nothing compared to, for example, when the pitcher’s mound was lowered after the 1968 season. While shifting definitely makes a difference, regulating it isn’t going to reverse recent run-scoring trends. In fact, by taking away the shift and limiting the strategies that teams can use to gain an edge, MLB would actually be making the game less exciting.

Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week®, www.statoftheweek.com.

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Super Bowl Predictor System

Friday, January 31st, 2014

by John Dewan

After correctly predicting the Super Bowl winner 90 percent of the time over a 20-year period, the Super Bowl Predictor System is ready for mothballs.

Why is that?

Just like many of you, I am a fan of a specific team. I haven’t missed a Chicago Bears game since the start of Walter Payton’s career. In January of 2007 the Bears were going to the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl Predictor System said the Bears were an overwhelming favorite. The Chicago media was all over this.

Except, Peyton Manning had something to say about it. Despite an opening kickoff return for a touchdown by the Bears’ Devin Hester, Manning led the Colts to an upset victory.

I should have quit while I was ahead. That Bears Super Bowl launched a performance slump where the Predictor System has missed five of the last seven Super Bowls. The overall record of the system is down to a 64 percent success rate. Not horrible, but with its recent record, here’s what I have to say: Sayonara.

For those of you who still want to know what the system says, it says that Manning is going to lose again. But I ain’t gonna bet against him a second time. The Seahawks won 7 of the 12 predictors, with two going to the Broncos, and three ties. The details:

Category

Win%

Team with Advantage

Points Scored

.553

Broncos

Points Allowed

.617

Seahawks

Point Differential

.617

Broncos

Fewer Net Passing Yards

.596

Seahawks

Rushing Yards

.532

Seahawks

Rushing Yards/Carry

.553

Seahawks

Opponent Net Passing Yards

.553

Seahawks

Opponent Rushing Yards

.596

Tie

Opponent Rushing Yards/Carry

.574

Tie

Opponent Total Yards/Game

.638

Seahawks

Turnover Differential

.574

Seahawks

Regular Season Record

.532

Tie

For old times sake, here’s how the system is designed to work. Each of the 12 predictors predicts the Super Bowl winner correctly 53 percent to 64 percent of the time. When taken together they have a greater success rate. However, now for the first time since we started the system, there is one stat that is just as successful as the 12 indicators put together. It’s Fewer Opponent Total Yards, which has predicted the winner 30 out of 47 times (64 percent). This too suggests that the Seahawks, the better defensive team, are going to win.

I’m picking the Broncos.

Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week®, www.statoftheweek.com.

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Making a Great Defensive Play Then Leading Off the Next Inning

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

Announcers are always saying, “Isn’t that amazing! Dokes just made that incredible play, and sure enough, here he is leading off the next inning. That sure seems to happen more often than not.”

Of course, the probability that the player who made a great play in the previous inning coming up to bat lead-off is one out of nine. There are nine lineup positions and there’s a one-in-nine chance his lineup position is due up first. But does it actually happen more often than that? I recently had an email conversation with Craig Wright on this subject where he said “We have the old adage that when you make a great play you often lead off in your team’s next at-bats. It seems like a false connection simply made up in our minds, but who really knows without actually checking it out? Maybe the more distant we are from our last at-bat the more focused on defense we are and likely to make a great play.”

We can check that! Baseball Info Solutions tracks plays defensively on a scale of one to five, with five being impossible plays (hits that fall in that no one could possibly have fielded) and one being the most routine of plays. The most difficult playable plays are scored a four. Last year, plays scored a four were only turned into outs about once per game. This is truly a great play.

Looking at our data, if we exclude plays made in the final half-inning of the game (where there was no opportunity to bat the next inning) and plays that occurred in the same inning as each other (such that one player could preclude the other from leading off the next inning), there were 2290 times during the 2013 season that a fielder made an out on a play scored a four. How often did that player bat lead-off the next inning? 233 times. That’s 10.2 percent, or a little less than the one out of nine (11.1 percent) chance he had of leading off the next inning anyway. If we limit ourselves just to plays that were scored a four and were the third out of the inning, there were 735 of those, after which the fielder that made the play led off the next inning 70 times. That’s 9.5 percent. So it doesn’t look like there is any truth to that old adage after all.

P.S. Craig Wright just came out with a really cool new book called Pages from Baseball’s Past. Even if you are not into baseball history, I assure you that you will love these stories. Check it out!

“Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week®, www.statoftheweek.com.”

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The 2013 Fielding Bible Awards

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

THE 2013 FIELDING BIBLE AWARDS have been officially announced. Six new players and three returning players have been deemed worthy of the honor of being named the best fielder at their position for the 2013 season.

Andrelton Simmons set a single-season record (since we started tracking Defensive Runs Saved in 2003) by saving 41 runs at shortstop for the Atlanta Braves. And Simmons had company breaking the record. Gerardo Parra saved 36 runs in right field for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2013. But with four more runs saved in center field and one run saved in left, Parra also had 41 total Defensive Runs Saved and joined Simmons with the highest runs saved performances on record. They were, without a doubt, the best fielders last year at their position, regardless of league. On top of those two, Carlos Gomez saved 38 runs for the Milwaukee Brewers playing center field. And Manny Machado had 35 runs saved for the Baltimore Orioles at third base. They, too, deserved singular recognition.

All four of those players were rewarded with their first Fielding Bible Awards. In addition, we chose Paul Goldschmidt of the Arizona Diamondbacks at first base and R.A. Dickey of the Toronto Blue Jays at pitcher—both for the first time as well.

Repeat winners this year include Dustin Pedroia of the Boston Red Sox at second base (his second in three years), Alex Gordon of the Kansas City Royals in left field (his second in a row), and Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals at catcher (for an amazing sixth time).

A panel of 12 analysts, listed below—including Peter Gammons, Bill James, Joe Posnanski, and Doug Glanville—examined the 2013 seasons of every defensive player in Major League Baseball and then used the same voting technique as the Major League Baseball MVP voting. First place votes received 10 points, second place 9 points, third place 8 points, etc. A perfect score was 120.

One important distinction that differentiates THE FIELDING BIBLE AWARDS from most other baseball awards, such as the Gold Gloves, is that there is only one winner at each position instead of separate winners for each league. The goal of THE FIELDING BIBLE AWARDS is to stand up and say: “Here is the best fielder at this position in Major League Baseball last season.” Another key feature of the system is that it also recognizes the runners-up for each position. A complete record of the voting can be found in The Bill James Handbook 2014.

Here are the results of THE 2013 FIELDING BIBLE AWARDS:

Position Winner

Points

First Base Paul Goldschmidt

110

Second Base Dustin Pedroia

118

Third Base Manny Machado

120

Shortstop Andrelton Simmons

120

Left Field Alex Gordon

112

Center Field Carlos Gomez

119

Right Field Gerardo Parra

117

Catcher Yadier Molina

114

Pitcher R.A. Dickey

105

The Panel

  • Bill James is a baseball writer and analyst and the Senior Baseball Operations Advisor for the Boston Red Sox.
  • The BIS Video Scouts at Baseball Info Solutions (BIS) study every game of the season, multiple times, charting a huge list of valuable game details.
  • As the MLB Network on-air host of Clubhouse Confidential and MLB Now, Brian Kenny brings an analytical perspective on the game of baseball to a national television audience. He also won a 2003 Sports Emmy Award as host of ESPN’s Baseball Tonight.
  • Dave Cameron is the Managing Editor of Fangraphs.
  • Doug Glanville played nine seasons in Major League Baseball and was well known for his excellent outfield defense. Currently, he is a baseball analyst at ESPN, primarily on Baseball Tonight, ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine.
  • The man who created Strat-O-Matic Baseball, Hal Richman.
  • Named the best sports columnist in America in 2012 by the National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame, Joe Posnanski is the National Columnist at NBC Sports.
  • For over twenty-five years, BIS owner John Dewan has collected, analyzed, and published in-depth baseball statistics and analysis. He authored The Fielding Bible and The Fielding Bible—Volume II, and co-authored The Fielding Bible—Volume III.
  • Mark Simon has been a researcher for ESPN Stats & Information since 2002 and currently helps oversee the Stats & Information blog and Twitter (@espnstatsinfo). He is a regular contributer on baseball (often writing on defense) for ESPNNY.com and ESPN.com.
  • Peter Gammons serves as on-air and online analyst for MLB Network, MLB.com and NESN (New England Sports Network). He is the 56th recipient of the J. G. Taylor Spink Award for outstanding baseball writing given by the BBWAA (Baseball Writers Association of America).
  • After nearly fifteen years with ESPN.com, Rob Neyer joined SB Nation as National Baseball Editor in 2011. He has written six books about baseball.
  • The Tom Tango Fan Poll represents the results of a poll taken at the website, Tango on Baseball (www.tangotiger.net). Besides hosting the website, Tom writes research articles devoted to sabermetrics.
  • Our three tie-breakers are Ben Jedlovec, vice president of Baseball Info Solutions and co-author of The Fielding Bible—Volume III, Dan Casey, veteran Video Scout at BIS, and Sean Forman, the founder of Baseball-Reference.com.

Complete results and voting on THE 2013 FIELDING BIBLE AWARDS are presented in The Bill James Handbook 2014, published on or before November 1 every year. For more information on THE FIELDING BIBLE AWARDS, visit www.fieldingbible.com.

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Opponent OPS and Why It Should Be Used For Pitcher Evaluation

Saturday, August 17th, 2013

by John Dewan

Over the last several years, it’s been clear that pitching in Major League Baseball has become more dominant. In fact, it has been over 20 years since the league ERA has been as low as it has been so far this year. This year’s MLB ERA is 3.88, the lowest since the 3.75 mark in 1992.

Some of the high points in ERA in that time were 4.71 in 2000, 4.77 in 2001 and 4.53 in 2006. Since 2006 ERA has been trending downward as seen in this chart of MLB ERAs:

Season

ERA

Opponent OPS

2006

4.53

.768

2007

4.47

.758

2008

4.32

.749

2009

4.32

.751

2010

4.08

.728

2011

3.94

.720

2012

4.01

.724

2013

3.88

.714

ERA is a useful summary statistic, but my favorite stat for pitchers is Opponent OPS. For MLB, overall, Opponent OPS is pretty consistent with ERA, but for an individual pitcher, it is much more indicative of his true pitching performance than ERA. ERA has many biases that Opponent OPS does not have. For example, ERA rewards pitchers who allow most of their home runs with no runners on base or are able to strand runners at the end of innings, even though those events are generally believed to be random and out of the pitcher’s control. Another example is the effect a relief pitcher has on his predecessor’s ERA when it comes to stranded runners.

Here are the MLB leaders in Opponent OPS in 2013:

Best Opponent OPS (qualified starters)

Pitcher

Opponent OPS

Clayton Kershaw

.502

Matt Harvey

.509

Jose Fernandez

.534

Max Scherzer

.564

Madison Bumgarner

.566

And here are the MLB leaders in ERA this season:

Best ERA (qualified starters)

Pitcher

ERA

Clayton Kershaw

1.88

Matt Harvey

2.23

Felix Hernandez

2.28

Hiroki Kuroda

2.33

Jeff Locke

2.43

As you can see, the OPS leaders are bit different. Clayton Kershaw and Matt Harvey have been tremendous by any measure. However, that is where the similarities end. Opponent OPS prefers the rookie phenom Jose Fernandez, major-league win-leader Max Scherzer, and Madison Bumgarner while ERA prefers Felix Hernandez, Hiroki Kuroda, and Jeff Locke.

Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week®, www.statoftheweek.com.

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Who’s Shifting and Who’s Not

Saturday, July 27th, 2013

Over the last few years, the use of The Shift Defense has increased dramatically in baseball. Here are the Major League Baseball totals of the number of shifts in baseball, as tracked by Baseball Info Solutions (BIS).

2010 2011 2012 2013 Projected
2,465 2,358 4,577 7,586

Note: These are the number of plate appearances when a shift was in effect when a ball was put in play.

For many years now, most teams have employed The Shift, but only against a handful of players (David Ortiz, Ryan Howard, Adam Dunn, Jim Thome, etc.). Research done by BIS in recent years has shown there are as many as 100 batters against whom The Shift is likely to be effective. More and more teams are now shifting on more and more different players. Here are the teams shifting the most this year:

Team Number of Shifts Shift Runs Saved
Orioles 344 10
Pirates 335 7
Yankees 302 0
Rays 299 9
Red Sox 291 8

Overall, BIS estimates that teams have saved themselves 89 runs by using The Shift this season.

But even as often as these teams are shifting, they are still not shifting against anywhere near the 100 players suggested by Baseball Info Solutions. The most aggressive (and progressive) teams are now up to about 30 different players against whom they use The Shift Defense. We believe that there is still room for even better results by shifting against as many as 100 different players in MLB.

The Shift Defense. Think of this terminology like you would a special defense in football. Like the Goal Line Defense, the Nickel Package, and the Cover Two. Baseball’s Shift Defense is a special defense to be used in a special situations.

Here are the teams who haven’t yet fully bought into the concept and are shifting the least in baseball:

Team Number of Shifts Shift Runs Saved
Phillies 23 -1
Cardinals 27 0
White Sox 31 -1
Nationals 32 1
Dodgers 38 0

Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week®, www.statoftheweek.com

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Stat of the Week: Shifting Into High Gear

Saturday, April 20th, 2013

by John Dewan

Baseball Info Solutions has been tracking shifts comprehensively since 2010, and teams have shifted more and more over the last few seasons. From 2010-11, teams averaged less than one shift on a ball in play per game. In 2012, that number jumped to 1.9 shifts per team per game, and so far this season, it has increased again to 2.4 shifts per team per game.

In particular, there are a handful of teams that have shown a marked increase in team shifts on balls in play this season. Keep in mind that the 2012 column includes data for a full season while the 2013 column includes between 13 and 15 games. If these teams continue at their pace, they will fly way past their total shifts from last season. See 2013 Pace column.

Team Shifts by Season

Team

2012

2013

2013 Pace

Astros

138

52

562

Cubs

157

44

548

Pirates

105

33

382

Reds

78

33

356

Red Sox

199

26

301

The Astros, Cubs, and Red Sox have compelling narrative regarding their new shift-heavy tendencies. Both the Astros and Cubs feature newly installed front offices that are heavily emphasizing analytics. The Red Sox, meanwhile, have replaced manager Bobby Valentine with John Farrell, who shifted more often in 2012 with the Blue Jays than any team except the Rays. The reason for the increase for the Pirates and Reds are less obvious, but it may be as simple as the fact that shifts have proven to be effective. Here at Baseball Info Solutions we have been suggesting to our major league team clients that they shift more frequently since 2005, and we publicly went on record with this recommendation in The Fielding Bible—Volume II in 2008.

It is still too early to draw definitive conclusions about Shifts Runs Saved based on 2013 shift data. However, analytics from Baseball Info Solutions show that teams combined to save 75 runs last season by shifting.

Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week®, www.statoftheweek.com.

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Best Defensive Players of the Decade (Part I)

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

by John Dewan

In the last Stat of the Week, we kicked off our celebration of 10 years of Defensive Runs Saved analytics with a look back at the best defensive teams of the decade. This week we continue our retrospective with individual defenders, broken down by position. We’ll start with the middle infield: second basemen and shortstops.

First, here are the ten best second basemen of the last 10 years according to Defensive Runs Saved:

Most Defensive Runs Saved at 2B, 2003-2012

Player

Innings

DRS

DRS/1000

Chase Utley

9,809

138

14

Mark Ellis

9,531

113

12

Orlando Hudson

10,440

99

9

Placido Polanco

7,489

69

9

Dustin Pedroia

7,312

62

8

Chase Utley has a 25-run lead on the second-place second baseman Mark Ellis. Given the similar number of innings played by Utley, Ellis and Orlando Hudson—the only other players within shouting distance of Utley in Runs Saved—Utley is the definitive champion. His defensive excellence is built predominantly on his range and positioning, and that, remarkably, has not declined substantially despite his degenerative knee condition. Utley has played at least 81 games each season since 2005, and he has never had fewer than eight Plus/Minus Runs Saved in one of those seasons.

Next, here are the ten best shortstops of the last 10 years according to Defensive Runs Saved:

Most Defensive Runs Saved at SS, 2003-2012

Player

Innings

DRS

DRS/1000

Adam Everett

6,505

119

18

Jack Wilson

8,762

115

13

Brendan Ryan

4,608

91

20

Clint Barmes

4,907

77

16

Troy Tulowitzki

6,430

68

11

Compared to second base, shortstop is a little less differentiated at the top. Adam Everett beats out Jack Wilson by just four Runs Saved for first place. When you consider that Wilson played more than 2,000 extra innings in the time frame, Everett looks like a clear winner, but using that same criteria, Brendan Ryan makes a compelling case to be the best defensive shortstop. Ryan has 91 Runs Saved in 4,608 innings, a slightly better pace than Everett’s 119 Runs Saved in 6,505 innings. I’ll give Everett the nod, mostly because of timing. The 10 years of Defensive Runs Saved data happen to match his playing career nearly perfectly. Before it is all said and done, Ryan may have the better career defensive resume.

Our holistic Defensive Runs Saved metric is made up of several runs saved components. Two primary components of Defensive Runs Saved include the Plus/Minus System, which evaluates the range of fielders at every position except for catcher, and Good Fielding Plays and Defensive Misplays. Defensive Runs Saved for second basemen and shortstops also includes Double Play Runs Saved.

Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week®, www.statoftheweek.com.

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