Baseball is a game obsessed with numbers. We calculate, analyze, interpret, and critique every little statistic in order to choose all stars, vote on awards, and determine hall of famers. In the modern world of computing an entirely new concept of statistics past batting average, ERA, and strike outs has come to help fans, writers, and geeks (All 3 right here) look at baseball. Here, we look at old and modern statistics to bring some interesting facts of the 2013 season to light.
Scoring Position Batting Average
Being efficient when you have the ability to score in baseball is huge. Timely base knocks lead to your team winning games. The St. Louis Cardinals, who are struggling right now, though they are still in playoff position, understand this concept. When it comes to the top 12 in batting average with runners in scoring position the Cardinals possess five of the twelve players in baseball.
1. Allen Craig .476
4. Matt Carpenter .395
5. Yadier Molina .383
9. Carlos Beltran .375
12. Matt Holliday .355
These guys happen to hit 1-5 in the Cardinal lineup, so it's no wonder their run differential is +142, which leads all of baseball. These guys get timely hits, a skill necessary to win. It is no wonder the Cardinals are a definite contender, especially with their pitching, to bring home another World Series title.
Wins Above Replacement is a sabermetric statistic used to put a numerical value on a player's total value to a team in terms of wins. Batting, baserunning, fielding, and pitchign all come into play when it comes to looking at WAR. If you had to guess who is leading the league in WAR out of these players who would it be?
The answer is actually none of them. Cabrera is second, McCutchen is third, Trout is fifth, and Davis is tenth when only taking position players into account. The answer is actually Carlos Gomez of the Milwaukee Brewers with 6.5 wins above replacement.
Gomez is an elite defender who is having a breakout year at the plate with an increase in power numbers, a near .300 batting average, and the speed to lead the league in triples with 9. The combination of his above average speed, fielding, and batting have allowed sabermetrics to make him the most complete player in the game so far this season. It hasn't helped the Brewers much though, who sit in last in the tough NL Central. They have some other problems too (See Braun, Ryan).
Wins are still looked at as a major statistic for pitchers in this league. The 300 win club is even the elite accomplishment that we talk about for pitching in this league. To me, the statistic is overvalued. A guy like Andy Pettitte has over 250 wins, but he has never played on a single sub .500 team in his career. Playing for good teams might carry him into the Baseball Hall of Fame, and I don't think he belongs. Let's look at some curious win/loss statistics this season.
Chris Tillman is 14-3 for the Baltimore Orioles this season, and O's fans love that record, especially in the tight AL East. Tillman is tied for second in the league in wins as of today. Chris Sale is 6-11 on the season for the Chicago White Sox, who are out of the playoff race, especially after trading Jake Peavy to the Red Sox. If you asked me who I would want to start Game 7 of the World Series, a must win game, based on wins you would think I would say Tillman, but Sale is the much better pitcher.
Sale is 18th in the league in ERA at 2.92. Tillman is almost an entire run above this at 3.89, yet is 14-3 while Sale is 6-11. Tillman is fifth in run support in the AL, at 6.41 runs per 9 IP. It is no wonder that his record is 14-3 when your team produces for you like that. Three of the top four in run support per 9 IP play for Detroit, as Max Scherzer is having an exceptional season, but his team also gives up over seven runs per start. Just look at Clayton Kershaw, who is only 10-6 with a 1.87 ERA. Makes you rethink wins doesn't it.
Adjusted ERA, like WAR, is a sabermetric statistic that takes the player's ballpark into consideration, as pitcher who throws in Colorado is different than one who throws in San Diego. I like this statistic because it allows pitchers in "hitter's parks" to be more fairly evaluated for their performance. The NL leader is none other than the best pitcher in baseball, Clayton Kershaw. Let's do some trivia again. The AL leader is
A. Felix Hernandez
B. Max Scherzer
C. Hiroki Kuroda
D. Justin Verlander
E. Matt Moore
F. Yu Darvish
If you went with A, well you're wrong. The answer is C, Hiroki Kuroda of the New York Yankees. Kuroda's 2.38 ERA in Yankee Stadium is extremely impressive considering the short porches down the line. It is also amazing considering he pitches in the brutal AL East. Kuroda is quietly having an outstanding year and has been one of the AL's best pitchers, and most don't even know though he's a Yankee.
Baseball is a world of amazing statistics. Some explain, some surprise, and some hide, but under close examination, they can explain this game we call baseball.