Contact, Speed, and the 2014 Royals

October 9, 2014
 
The Kansas City Royals, at the moment I am writing this, are nine outs away from punching a ticket to the 2014 ALCS. Having dispatched the Oakland A’s in one of the most unusual and exciting deciding games in baseball history, the Royals have won two extra-inning contests on the road in Anaheim. They’re at home in Kansas City now, and are up on the Angels 7-2.
 
The Royals are a strange baseball team. Their best offensive player in Alex Gordon, a player who hit 19 homeruns this year. He drove in 74 runners, walked 65 times, and tallied an OPS of .783. All of those tallies ledthe team.
 
The guy who threw the most innings for the Royals was James Shields, who posted a very good  3.21 ERA over 227 innings pitched. The guy who was second in innings pitched was Jeremy Guthrie, who allowed a 4.13 ERA in 202.2 innings. The guy who pitched the third-most innings was Jason Vargas, who pitched like Jason Vargas.
 
The Royals don’t have a good lineup. They have some talented started (Yordano Ventura should pitch Game 1 of the ALCS, if the Royals win today), but their starting pitching isn’t brilliant. No one’s confusing them with the (recently dispatched) Tigers, or the (still alive, though barely) Nationals.
 
The Royals do have positives. Most famously, they have an excellent bullpen, and a terrific defensive outfield. On the offense side of the coin, they’re the best team in baseball on the basepaths (153-for-189 in stolen base attempts), and they’re the hardest team in the majors to strike out.
 
Leaving aside the bullpen and outfield defense, let’s talk about those two offensive components: the Royals ability to avoid strikeouts, and their ability to steal bases.
 
*          *          *
 
This is one of those articles that builds on itself: we’ll start with one question, and see what we get for an answer, and then we’ll see what other questions come up. I don’t have an agenda here…I’m just fumbling around in the dark.
 
Here we go.
 
Question 1: Is the Royals strikeout rate actually rare, or are they just a few ticks below everyone else?
 
The 2014 Royals whiffed 985 times this year, the best mark in the majors. The next team on the list were the Oakland A’s, with 1104 strikeouts. The major league average was 1246 whiffs. The Cubs led with 1477 batting strikeouts.
 
We can determine the relative difference between the Royals strikeout total and the league average by subtracting the Royals tally from the league average, and dividing that by the sum of the Royals tally and the league average when divided by two. That works out to:
(1246-985) / ((1246+985)/2)
 
Which becomes 0.236. That’s the relative difference between the Royals strikeout tally and the league average.
 
Let’s put it in a nice table, so that we can read it.
 
 
Year
 
Team
 
Strikeouts
 
Lg. Avg.
 
Rel. Diff.
2014
KCR
985
1248
.236
 
Terrific….it’s nice to have a number that quantifies their ability to make contact. But we need some contexts to understand what that .236 mark means.  
 
The best contact team in 2013 was….cue the drumroll….the Kansas City Royals. The best contact team in 2012 was the Royals, too. They’ve been the best contact team in baseball for three straight seasons. Let’s get them on the spreadsheet:
 
 
Year
 
Team
 
Strikeouts
 
Lg. Avg.
 
Rel. Diff.
2014
KCR
985
1248
.236
2013
KCR
1048
1224
.155
2012
 KCR
1032
1214
.162
 
This is already interesting: thought the ’14 Royals are repeating what the team did in 2012 and 2013, we can see that they’ve gotten more contact-prone. While the league strikeout rate has increased, the Royals batting whiffs have decreased. Their relative difference to the league is a lothigher this year than it was in 2013 or 2012.
 
That still doesn’t give us a sense of these numbers. What’s .236, in a wider context? Going ten years back…..we’ll look at the best contact teams every year of the last decade:
 
 
Year
 
Team
 
Strikeouts
 
Lg. Avg.
 
Rel. Diff.
2014
KCR
985
1248
.236
2013
KCR
1048
1224
.155
2012
 KCR
1032
1214
.162
2011
TEX
930
1150
.212
2010
KCR
905
1144
.233
2009
NYM
928
1120
.188
2008
SEA
890
1096
.207
2007
MIN
839
1073
.245
2006
MIN
872
1055
.190
 
While the 2013 and 2012 Royals didn’t quite match the 2014 team in making-contact-over-the-league-average, a few recent teams have matched our current Royals. The 2010 Kansas City team managed to post a relative difference of .233, which is very close to this year’s team. The 2007 Minnesota Twins were actually a bit more contact-prone than the current Royals.
 
We’ve had twenty seasons of Wild Card baseball now…let’s list the top contact teams, year-by-year, for the Wild Card era. And let’s rate them by their relative difference, just to see where the 2014 Royals stand:
 
 
Year
 
Team
 
Strikeouts
 
Lg. Avg.
 
Rel. Diff.
2002
ANA
805
1046
.260
1999
CHW
810
1037
.246
2007
MIN
839
1073
.245
 
2014
 
KCR
 
985
 
1248
 
.236
2010
KCR
905
1144
.233
2005
OAK
819
1021
.220
2000
KCR
840
1045
.218
1996
CLE
844
1047
.215
2011
TEX
930
1150
.212
2008
SEA
890
1096
.207
2003
ANA
838
1027
.203
2004
SFG
874
1061
.193
2006
MIN
872
1055
.190
2009
NYM
928
1120
.188
2001
KCR
898
1080
.184
1997
CHW
901
1069
.171
1995
CLE
766
908
.170
1998
BAL
903
1063
.163
2012
 KCR
1032
1214
.162
2013
KCR
1048
1224
.155
 
Our current Royals, now up 8-2 in the seventh inning of Game 3 of the ALDS, are the fourth-best contact team in baseball since the start of the Wild Card. So that’s one question answered: the Royals are very much a high-contact team relative to their league contexts. They are really good at avoiding the whiff.
 
And they’re not absolutely unique: there have been a few other teams that have had contact rates about as high as the 2014 Royals.
 
Who’s number one on the list? The 2002 Angels. For those who don’t remember 2002, the Angels won the World Series.
 
This gives us our second question.
*          *          *
 
Question 2: Do teams with low strikeout rates do well on a season-by-season basis? Are these typically playoff teams, or championship teams?
 
The Royals have a low strikeout rate, and they’re now in the ALCS. The 2002 Angels had the lowest strikeout rate of any team in the Wild Card era, and they won the World Series. Is there a pattern here?
 
Looking at those twenty teams, with their regular-season win-loss records:
 
 
Year
 
Team
 
Rel. Diff.
 
Wins
 
Losses
 
Playoffs?
2014
KCR
.236
89
73
ALCS
2013
KCR
.155
86
76
No
2012
 KCR
.162
72
90
No
2011
TEX
.212
96
66
Lost WS
2010
KCR
.233
67
95
No
2009
NYM
.188
70
92
No
2008
SEA
.207
61
101
No
2007
MIN
.245
79
83
No
2006
MIN
.190
96
66
Lost LDS
2005
OAK
.220
88
74
No
2004
SFG
.193
91
71
No
2003
ANA
.203
77
85
No
2002
ANA
.260
99
63
Won WS
2001
KCR
.184
65
97
No
2000
KCR
.218
77
85
No
1999
CHW
.246
75
86
No
1998
BAL
.163
79
83
No
1997
CHW
.171
80
81
No
1996
CLE
.215
99
62
Lost LDS
1995
CLE
.170
100
44
Lost WS
 
Totals
 
Teams
 
.203
 
1646
 
1573
 
6 of 20
 
Nope…there’s no hint that low strikeout teams have a tendency to do much better than any other teams. This group, cumulatively, is a little above .500. The presence of the mid-1990’s Cleveland teams, a near-historic collection of hitting talent, sways the group above .500, but there’s no strong correlation between avoiding the strikeout and winning games.
 
A savvy person might point out that the current Royals and the World Champion Angels are on the far end of the spectrum, posting relative differences of .260 and .236. Maybe the benefit lies with the extremecontact teams?
 
We can split our twenty teams into two groups: those with the higher relative difference in strikeout rates, and those with the lower relative difference. Let’s see if that makes a difference: 
 
 
Year
 
Team
 
Rel. Diff.
 
W-L
*
 
Year
 
Team
 
Rel. Diff.
 
W-L
2002
ANA
.260
99-63
*
2003
ANA
.203
77-85
1999
CHW
.246
75-86
*
2004
SFG
.193
91-71
2007
MIN
.245
79-83
*
2006
MIN
.190
96-66
2014
KCR
.236
89-73
*
2009
NYM
.188
70-92
2010
KCR
.233
67-95
*
2001
KCR
.184
65-97
2005
OAK
.220
88-74
*
1997
CHW
.171
80-81
2000
KCR
.218
77-85
*
1995
CLE
.170
100-44
1996
CLE
.215
99-62
*
1998
BAL
.163
79-83
2011
TEX
.212
96-66
*
2012
 KCR
.162
72-90
2008
SEA
.207
61-101
*
2013
KCR
.155
86-76
 
Totals
 
 
.229
 
830-788
*
 
Total
 
 
.177
 
816-785
 
Nope. The teams with the higher relative difference in strikeout tallies have a winning percentage of .513. The teams with the lower relative difference have a winning percentage of .510. No difference, really.
 
This is a bummer. There’s no evidence that teams that have low strikeout rates have done particularly well over the last twenty years.
*          *          *
 
Question 3: Okay, so making contact doesn’t seem to help a team reach the playoffs. What about when they’re IN the playoffs? Do high-contact teams tend to do well in October baseball?
 
I should note here that the Royals have won: they're advancing to the ALCS, to tangle with the Baltimore Orioles.
 
We’re dealing with a small sample size: just six teams. It’d be useful to go through all of the baseball teams ever and get a broader sample, but it’s hard enough looking at a small spreadsheet when there are so many amazing games happening every day.
 
Sticking to our six playoff teams:
 
 
Year
 
Team
 
Rel. Diff.
 
Playoff W-L, by Series
 
Postseason W-L
2014
KCR
.236
1-0, 3-0
4-0
2011
TEX
.212
3-1, 4-2, 3-4
10-7
2006
MIN
.190
0-3
0-3
2002
ANA
.260
3-1, 4-1, 4-3
11-5
1996
CLE
.215
1-3
1-3
1995
CLE
.170
3-0, 4-2, 2-4
9-6
 
Of the thirteen playoff series our high-contact teams have played, they’ve managed to win an impressive nine of those. They have a cumulative W-L record of 35-24 in playoff baseball, an impressing .59 winning percentage.
 
This might be something….there is at least a suggestion that teams with low strikeout rates tends to do pretty good in the postseason.
 
From that, we can speculate why this might be true. It’s possible that most playoff teams have good pitchers, pitchers with higher-than-average strikeout rates. Maybe high-contact teams frustrate good pitchers more than high-walk teams.
 
Maybe it’s a weather thing….October games are cold, and cold weather dampens offense. That means less homers and more fly-outs from the big boppers. Maybe singles-punching teams like the Royals do well because an offense that plays for one run does better in cold weather.
 
Lots of possibilities. Lots of roads to go down.
 
*          *          *
 
Question 4: You said you were going to mention speed, didn’t you? Do the Royals have a high relative difference on the base paths?
 
Sure they did. Of course they did. The Royals led the majors in steals, with 153. If you lead the league in a category, you’ll also lead the league in the relative difference between your total and the league average.
 
The relative difference between their stolen base total (153) and the major league average (92) was .498, the highest in baseball.
*          *          *
 
Question 5: Is their rate of stolen bases, relative to the league average, particularly high?
 
Here are the top teams every year of the Wild Card era, by relative difference in stolen bases:
 
 
Year
 
Team
 
Stolen Bases
 
Lg. Avg.
 
Rel Diff. (SB)
2014
KCR
153
92
.498
2013
KCR
153
90
.519
2012
MIL
158
108
.376
2011
SDP
170
109
.437
2010
TBR
172
99
.539
2009
TBR
194
99
.648
2008
TBR
142
93
.417
2007
NYM
200
97
.694
2006
LAA
148
92
.467
2005
LAA
161
86
.607
2004
LAA
143
86
.498
2003
FLA
150
86
.542
2002
FLA
177
92
.632
2001
SEA
174
103
.513
2000
FLA
168
97
.536
1999
SDP
174
114
.417
1998
TOR
184
109
.512
1997
CIN
190
118
.468
1996
COL
201
116
.536
1995
CIN
190
105
.576
 
The Royals are pretty good, but by no means are they historic: of the twenty teams listed above, the Royals rank just 13th in their relative difference of stolen bases. The 2007 New York Mets, who stole 200 bases during a year when the major league average was 97, rate as the best stealing team of the Wild Card era.
 
(A quick note: I used the Major League average each season, instead of the individual league’s average. While someone will point out that it’d be more accurate to use separate league averages, using the major league average probably doesn’t skew the math terribly. In 2007 the Major League average was 97 steals per team….and the NL average was 98 steals.)
 
You’ll note, on the above table, that the tallies for relative difference in stolen bases is higher each year than the relative difference in strikeouts. This makes sense: the difference between 153 and 92 (the 2014 Royals stolen base tally and the major league average) is relatively greater than the difference between 945 and 1248 (the 2014 Royals strikeout total, and the major league average).
*          *          *
 
Question 6. What about that original list of teams? Are there any crossovers? Do any of the teams who had low strikeout rates ALSO have high stolen base totals, relative to their league?
 
Looking at our original list of high-contact teams, and adding their relative difference in stolen bases:
 
 
Year
 
Team
 
Rel. Diff. (K's)
 
Team SB's
 
Lg. Avg.
 
Rel Diff. (SB)
2014
KCR
.236
153
92
.498
2013
KCR
.155
153
90
.519
2012
 KCR
.162
132
108
.200
2011
TEX
.212
143
109
.270
2010
KCR
.233
115
99
.150
2009
NYM
.188
122
99
.208
2008
SEA
.207
90
93
-.033
2007
MIN
.245
112
97
.144
2006
MIN
.190
101
92
.093
2005
OAK
.220
31
86
-.940
2004
SFG
.193
43
86
-.667
2003
ANA
.203
129
86
.400
2002
ANA
.260
117
92
.239
2001
KCR
.184
100
103
-.030
2000
KCR
.218
121
97
.220
1999
CHW
.246
110
114
-.036
1998
BAL
.163
86
109
-.236
1997
CHW
.171
106
118
-.107
1996
CLE
.215
160
116
.319
1995
CLE
.170
132
105
.228
 
There a few teams in the negatives….a few high-contact teams that stole fewer bases than the league average:
 
 
Year
 
Team
 
Rel. Diff. (K's)
 
Rel Diff. (SB)
2001
KCR
.184
-.030
2008
SEA
.207
-.033
1999
CHW
.246
-.036
1997
CHW
.171
-.107
1998
BAL
.163
-.236
2004
SFG
.193
-.667
2005
OAK
.220
-.940
 
Totals
xx
 
0.197
 
-0.224
 
These teams aren’t logical comparable to the 2014 Royals: though they matched the KC’ers in contract abilities, they don’t compare on the bases.
 
These thirteen teams do have a high relative difference in strikeouts, and a high relative difference in stolen bases. They are the logical comparable to the 2014 Royals:
 
 
Year
 
Team
 
Rel. Diff. (K's)
 
Rel Diff. (SB)
2013
KCR
.155
.519
 
2014
 
KCR
 
.236
 
.498
2003
ANA
.203
.400
1996
CLE
.215
.319
2011
TEX
.212
.270
2002
ANA
.260
.239
1995
CLE
.170
.228
2000
KCR
.218
.220
2009
NYM
.188
.208
2012
 KCR
.162
.200
2010
KCR
.233
.150
2007
MIN
.245
.144
2006
MIN
.190
.093
 
Totals
xx
 
.206
 
.275
 
*          *          *
 
Question 7: We know that teams who avoid strikeouts alone aren’t great. Is there any evidence that teams who BOTH avoid strikeouts AND steal lots of bases do well?
 
Here are the seasonal records of the seven low-strikeout, low-stolen base teams…the teams that posted an excellent relative difference in strikeouts, but a negative relative difference in stolen bases: 
 
 
Year
 
Team
 
Rel. Diff. (K's)
 
Rel Diff. (SB)
 
Wins
 
Losses
 
Postseason
2001
KCR
.184
-.030
65
97
No
2008
SEA
.207
-.033
61
101
No
1999
CHW
.246
-.036
75
86
No
1997
CHW
.171
-.107
80
81
No
1998
BAL
.163
-.236
79
83
No
2004
SFG
.193
-.667
91
71
No
2005
OAK
.220
-.940
88
74
No
 
Totals
xx
 
.197
 
-.224
 
539
 
593
 
0-for-7
 
They have a winning percentage of .476. More significantly, they never made the playoffs.
 
Here are the teams who have positive tallied in the relative difference of strikeouts and stolen bases:
 
 
Year
 
Team
 
Rel. Diff. (K's)
 
Rel Diff. (SB)
 
Wins
 
Losses
 
Postseason
 
2014
 
KCR
 
.236
 
.498
 
89
 
73
 
ALCS
2013
KCR
.155
.519
86
76
No
2003
ANA
.203
.400
77
85
No
1996
CLE
.215
.319
99
62
Lost LDS
2002
ANA
.260
.239
99
63
Won WS
2011
TEX
.212
.270
96
66
Lost WS
2000
KCR
.218
.220
77
85
No
1995
CLE
.170
.228
100
44
Lost WS
2009
NYM
.188
.208
70
92
No
2007
MIN
.245
.144
79
83
No
2010
KCR
.233
.150
67
95
No
2012
 KCR
.162
.200
72
90
No
2006
MIN
.190
.093
96
66
Lost LDS
 
Totals
xx
 
.206
 
.275
 
657
 
621
 
6 out of 13
 
These teams, which include our current Royals, tallied a winning percentage of .531, and reached the postseason a little less than half the time. They won most of their postseason games, as we’ve already discussed.
 
So there does seem to be evidence that teams that have the ability to a) make contact, and b) steal bases tend to do pretty well.
 
 
Way back at Question 3 we discovered that high-contact teams have done pretty well once they get into the post-season, going 35-24 in postseason matchups and winning 9 out of 15 playoff rounds they’ve been in.
 
Well….all of those teams had high stolen base totals relative to the league average. So while each factor, viewed individually, seems to have only a marginal effect on team performance, having both factors contribute significantly to a team’s success in the regular season, and in the post-season.  
 
*          *          *
 
Question 8: Are the 2014 Royals in any way unique? Can their combination of avoiding strikeouts and stealing bases be viewed as at all historic?
 
Sure. Absolutely.
 
While the 2014 Royals don’t have an uniquely low strikeout rate or a uniquely high stolen base total, the combinationof those two poles on the 2014 Royals is historic, at least in the twenty years of the Wild Card era.  
 
Here are those thirteen teams with low strikeouts and high stolen base tallies, ranked by their total Relative Difference….their relative differences in strikeouts, added to their relative difference in stolen bases:
 
 
Year
 
Team
 
Rel. Diff. (K's)
 
Rel Diff. (SB)
 
Rel Diff. (Total)
2014
KCR
.236
.498
 
.734
2013
KCR
.155
.519
 
.674
2003
ANA
.203
.400
 
.603
1996
CLE
.215
.319
 
.534
2002
ANA
.260
.239
 
.499
2011
TEX
.212
.270
 
.482
2000
KCR
.218
.220
 
.438
1995
CLE
.170
.228
 
.398
2009
NYM
.188
.208
 
.396
2007
MIN
.245
.144
 
.389
2010
KCR
.233
.150
 
.383
2012
 KCR
.162
.200
 
.362
2006
MIN
.190
.093
 
.283
 
The 2014 Royals come out on top. No team in the Wild Card era has managed to avoid strikeouts and steal bases to the degree that the 2014 Royals have. The closest team to them was last year’s version of the team, the 2013 Royals. We’re seeing the greatest contact/speed team of the Wild Card era.
 
This is cherry-picking, but the eightteams with the highest total Relative Difference were exceptionally good baseball teams….they were great in the regular season and great in the post-season:  
 
 
Year
 
Team
 
Rel Diff. (Total)
 
Wins
 
Losses
 
Postseason
2014
KCR
 
.734
89
73
ALCS
2013
KCR
 
.674
86
76
No
2003
ANA
 
.603
77
85
No
1996
CLE
 
.534
99
62
Lost LDS
2002
ANA
 
.499
99
63
Won WS
2011
TEX
 
.482
96
66
Lost WS
2000
KCR
 
.438
77
85
No
1995
CLE
 
.398
100
44
Lost WS
 
This group averages a 91-win season. Three of the eight won 99 or 100 games.
 
Of these eight teams, all in the Wild Card era, three managed to advance past the Division and Championshop Series, reaching the World Series. One managed to win the World Series.
 
And another team, a team that ranks as the best contact/speed offense since the Wild Card started, has a good chance to play deep into October. I wouldn’t bet against them.  
 
David Fleming is a writer living in Wellington, New Zealand. He welcomes comments, questions, and suggestions here and at dfleming1986@yahoo.com. 
 
 

COMMENTS (23 Comments, most recent shown first)

steve161
Is it new? I seem to remember Keith Hernandez doing pretty much the same thing, except that he moved rather more gracefully than Pearce.
8:01 PM Oct 16th
 
DaveFleming
It's interesting how much Showalter's weird new way to keep runners on neutralized the stolen base game of the Royals during the ALCS. Smart man, that Buck.
11:40 PM Oct 15th
 
MarisFan61
.....and, except for my having no illusion about knowing better than Ned Yost (not to mention Dyson scoring the winning run, which sort of matters) :-) I still don't get it!

I'm lovin' it.​
12:59 AM Oct 15th
 
MarisFan61
....Dyson AGAIN pinch runs for Aoki.....

I'm puzzled.
Unless Aoki isn't as fast as he looks from his numbers, not to mention from how he seems to run.
9:06 PM Oct 14th
 
DaveFleming
They also have a surprisingly low number of players having good individual seasons. Alex Gordon leads the team in WAR and Win Shares....he has 26 Win Shares, followed by:

Escobar - 20
Cain - 19
Perez and Aoki- 17
Davis, Shields, Holland - 15
Hosmer - 14
Ventura - 13
Duffy & Butler -12
Vargas & Herrera - 10

That doesn't scream World Series to me.

Looked at slightly differently, who on the team has a shot at making the Hall of Fame? Maybe Gordon...but probably not. Maybe Holland or Perez, but probably not. They might be the first championship team that doesn't have significant contributions from a Hall-of-Fame caliber player.

The 1984 Tigers, somewhat famously, don't have a Hall-of-Famer, but they had Whitaker and Trammell (and Jack Morris), whom a lot of people consider Hall-of-Fame level players.
12:33 AM Oct 14th
 
sprox
Per BB Reference the 2014 Royals had 2 position players with OPS+ over 100, Alex Gordon at 117 and Lorenzo Cain at 108. Many of their starters were significantly below average (Moustakas 74, Infante 76 ugggghhh). Probably close to the worst hitting team in the history of the ALCS.

The starting pitchers were fair - led by Danny Duffy at 157 and with Shields and Ventura in the mid 120s, and then with Vargas and Guthrie about average

The top 3 bullpen arms were ridiculously good with ERA+ of 277, 399, and 282 wow. But this was a total of 200 innings or only about 14% of the team total.

They play solid defense and are good on the basepaths, but would anybody have been surprised if this team went 70-92?

What argument can anyone make that this team is superior in any way to the Cubs, Blue Jays, Padres, Marlins or any other mediocre club?

If the Royals win the 2014 World Series they might be the single worst team to accomplish the feat, and I'm guessing its not particularly close?




7:53 PM Oct 13th
 
MarisFan61
I didn't think any Yost decision (except maybe pinch running Dyson for Aoki) :-) was as odd as Showalter (who I consider brilliant) leaving O'Day in to pitch to a good lefty hitter.

That's not a second guess; I was screaming it at the TV when it happened, not so much because I was upset (I loved it) but because I couldn't believe the announcers weren't saying anything about it and I wanted to hear what they might have thought of it. I think it was from something Bill wrote, years ago, that I learned that you can't let most of those kind of pitchers pitch to a lefty. And especially when the count got to.....whatever it was (I think 2-0 or 3-1), I was getting giddy. Actually, after the fact I looked up O'Day's record this year vs. righties, and it is superb, although with too many HR's (4 in 106 PA's; only 2 in 165 vs. righties).

I assume Showalter wasn't eager to leave him in against Gordon (even though righties were up next) but figured he needed to stretch his pitchers in an extra-inning game.
9:25 AM Oct 11th
 
DaveFleming
I agree with everything in your aside, Maris...I'm rooting for the Royals, too, and a big part is how damned entertaining their style of play is. Even with Ned Yost making head-scratching decisions on nearly an inning-by-inning basis, it's been a really enjoyable run.
12:33 AM Oct 11th
 
MarisFan61
WOW -- was this an unusual move or what.....
Showing how much they're emphasizing speed, Dyson comes in to pinch-run for AOKI!
Unless Aoki is hurt or something, it's odd because Aoki is (from anything I can tell) very fast too. But Yost must think the difference is worth going for.
P.S. Dyson out stealing! (overslid the bag, so they said; wasn't clear to me)
10:03 PM Oct 10th
 
MarisFan61
.....BTW, they might be headed for extra innings yet again..... (7th inning, 5-5)
9:56 PM Oct 10th
 
MarisFan61
Dave: This is great. I love it. I love how you take this current fascinating question and take us through the step-by-step process of looking at it, with each finding leading to the next -- and with some nice little surprises along the way, and eventual confirmation of what we might have suspected.

As an aside: I've been glad to sort of 'adopt' this Royals team for the playoffs, for so many reasons.....They're small-market, their wins have been so exciting, and the way they play the game is so interesting and so much fun to watch, including these aspects that you studied here. I've been glad to hear how many other people (on call-in radio and elsewhere) have said likewise, including how their kids have been interested to watch games more than ever before. I've always felt that this kind of baseball -- contact, and running -- is simply more interesting to see, and so, even realizing it wasn't necessarily intelligent, I've been in favor of it on that basis, almost regardless of whether it is also of value for winning. I've been thrilled to be seeing these games where those things have seemed of such value, and thrilled to see the results of your study. But even besides the results, the process you take us through is great.
9:50 PM Oct 10th
 
DaveFleming
Alcides Escobar notches the first run of the ALCS with a solo homer....
8:01 PM Oct 10th
 
shinsplint
Dave, good job, and fun post to read. I was intrigued by the postseason success of the low-strikeout teams, as well as the overall success of the low-strikeout/high SB teams. As a result of the strikeout post-season results, I'm thinking of expanding on my Playoff Hitting thread, and showing BA/AVG/SLG for different levels of SO relative to league. If what you infer is right, then I would expect the low-strikeout teams to have a lower decline in the post-season relative to the more whiff-prone teams.
9:28 AM Oct 10th
 
chuck
Escobar’s splits this season for when he bats leadoff:
.362/.397/.478 in 73 PA (not including the playoffs).
He obviously enjoys it up there, so why fix it until it breaks?
1:55 AM Oct 10th
 
DaveFleming
And although it's a small sample size, it's worth noting that the Royals are 13-6 since they moved Escobar to the top of the batting order.
12:13 AM Oct 10th
 
DaveFleming
They were doing Aoki/Infante, with Escobar batting 8th or 9th.

I'd rather see the 27-year old Escobar (.285/.317/.377, 31 steals) hitting near the top of the order than the 32-year old Omar Infante (.252/.295/.337, 9 steals).
9:44 PM Oct 9th
 
shthar
Forget the bunts and the steals.

What the heck is Escobar doing leading off?

Are we going back to 1952 to make up our lineups now?
8:57 PM Oct 9th
 
DaveFleming
Chuck's research, for anyone who hasn't gandered at it, is fascinating. Thanks for linking to it, Chuck!​
7:54 PM Oct 9th
 
steve161
Interesting stuff, as usual.

Another curious fact about the Royals, as the TBS crew never tires of pointing out, is that they were last in the AL in drawing walks. So they are even more contact-prone than the strikeout rate suggests. Not sure if this means anything, but it reinforces your argument, at least.

Hawthorn are the Australian Football League champion, having annihilated Sydney in the Grand Final. As a Swans fan, I am devastated.
6:23 PM Oct 9th
 
chuck
I should add that for many of those things listed, I came up with a minimum difference between teams in order to really view them as factor. If it was just a matter of one team having 5 more net singles than the other, it doesn't mean much of anything.
But at certain levels, the winning percentages ramped up, and then increased even more at larger differences.

The picture the data painted to me was essentially: teams won that hit the ball more consistently, hit it hard (line drives), that prevent the other team from doing so, and field the batted balls better.
Teams won whose staffs were good at striking batters out but also who seem stubborn about not giving in (more walks), who pitch inside more, or who were otherwise hard to make good contact off of.
4:21 PM Oct 9th
 
chuck
Dave, in the event you didn't read the thread I started here:
boards.billjamesonline.com/showthread.php?3863-What-Won-in-the-Postseason-1995-2013&highlight=​postseason

it's a study I did of the postseason series matchups since 1995. A number of interesting things come out of it- that winning teams in those series were the ones who had a profile of:
1. limiting opponents' hits, via strikeouts and good defense,
2. being more contact-oriented on offense, with more singles.
Those were the big things- there are many others. Among them:

A higher rate of walks and for the pitchers (higher than their opposing staff),
More hit batters by the staff,
A lot more stolen base attempts,
Fewer misplays (E+WP+PB),
Slightly older main pitchers (starters and closer); 1-3 years older.
or, much younger main pitchers (5 years younger, on average),
Older regular position players.
Better performance in batting average with men in scoring position (both on offense and/or by the staff), and
Better performance in slugging average with men on base (by offense and/or by staff).
Winning percentage,
Road winning percentage,
Run differential,
ERA+,
Shutouts thrown,
and a somewhat lower HR rate differential. That is, the offense's rate compared to what their staff allowed. This seems counterintuitive, but the teams that were much more powerful- or had the much bigger HR rate differential- did not fare well in these series.

One can look at the above and see those things reflected in the 4 remaining teams this year- especially KC, St Louis, and the Giants.

4:12 PM Oct 9th
 
rgregory1956
Hey Dave, something you might do to expand the sample size is to take a closer look at the yearly playoff teams, rate them as above or below average in the two categories, and see who does better in the playoffs when an above average team faces a below average team. This year, for example, not only were the Royals above average in stolen bases and contact percentage, but so too were the Tigers. Conversely, the Orioles and Angels were below average in both categories. This year the Orioles beat the Tigers, but the Royals beat the Angels. And now, the Orioles and Royals are about to meet. (The NL this wasn't so obliging; the Pirates and Dodgers were both above average in the two categories, but there were no NL teams that were below average in both.)

Something I might have done differently, not that it would make that big a deal, would be to take strikeouts as a percentage of plate appearances. I might have done something different with stolen bases as well, but I'm not sure what I would have done. Probably factored in caught stealing somehow, maybe making a Fibonacci score out of steals and caught stealing.

But critiquing aside, another fun and educational post from the mind of Dave Fleming. Thanks, dude.
11:39 AM Oct 9th
 
mrbryan
So, of the 13 teams with the highest relative difference in strikeouts and stolen bases, one team won the World Series. Not the strongest predictor, from my point of view. I think the traditional strength of power over speed will see the Royals ending their run very soon.
10:29 AM Oct 9th
 
 
©2017 Be Jolly, Inc. All Rights Reserved.|Web site design and development by Americaneagle.com|Terms & Conditions|Privacy Policy