Thanks to a new generation of analysts, baseball and math has never been so intertwined.
Ten years ago, James, now a senior advisor for the Boston Red Sox, wrote a formula to show which teams would be winners and which would be also-rans. Basically, the formula uses the number of runs scored per game and runs given up per game to estimate a team's winning percentage.
Kerry Whisnant, an Iowa State physicist, has taken this formula a step further by taking into consideration run distribution. He'll be talking about it this weekend at MIT's Sloan Sports Analytics Conference.
Simply, does a team that scores runs in bunches have a better chance of winning than a team that scores on a more consistent basis?
Whisnant took into account a team’s slugging percentage (total bases divided by at bats) and it’s RPG. He concluded that a team with a higher SLG had a narrower run distribution (scored more consistently.) If you take two teams with the same RPG, a team with a SLG of .080 higher will average one more win per year. If that same team’s pitching/defense RPG was the same but allowed a SLG .080 lower, you could add another win.
Your head hurt yet?
Basically, a team that consistently scores runs instead of scoring them in bunches has a better chance of winning. Ask any Red Sox fan that and they’ll point to last year’s team as an example.
I can make it even easier to understand: teams with good hitters who can get on base and get extra base hits will win more than a team without. Also, good pitching and defense with a good offense leads to even more wins.
So for all the new-fangled theories by baseball-obsessed scientists, it always boils down to three things. Three things that have been a constant throughout the years: Ya gotta hit, ya gotta throw and ya gotta catch if you want to be a good team.