The A's on Top Again Out West?! How Sabermetrics Predict Oakland Atop AL West
All right, so I did it. I finally broke down and tried to figure out what all the fuss was about. Boy, was I surprised at my first little stats experiment. I mean, I am not Dr. Frankenstein. But who is?
Well, Bill James I guess.
Who is this Bill James guy, and what can he tell me that I didn’t already know as it relates to building the perfect beast—or starting lineup anyways.
Well, while I am sure there is more to life than simple (or complicated) math, he did give me one very interesting set of stats.
We now know them as runs created. Now why does that matter? Well, I’ll tell you why, because with that stat I am going to prove why the Oakland A’s are going to be your American League West Champions.
Let’s not start there though. Let's look at the reasons people are going to tell me that there is simply no way that the A’s can pull this off.
I mean, the Angels were the only team to win 100 games in 2008. The A’s, on the other hand, managed a measly 75 wins, one less than their counterparts in Texas. Good for third in a very sad division if I do say so myself.
So where do I see the A’s making up a 25-game difference in 2009?
I feel like to compare the Oakland A’s to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (I still can’t say that five times fast), we have to look at pitching and offense. Could we compare defense? Sure we could, but is a long and drawn out process, and here is what I know.
The Angels will look a lot the same. Their biggest question is, can Kendry Morales give you the same solid defensive presence at first that you got from both Casey Kotchman and Mark Teixeira? I don’t think he can, and if people think that a Gold Glove first baseman is worth his weight in...well, gold, I’d say take a look at Steve Garvey. Start by searching 193-game errorless streak; it will help.
It’s not accident that the players around Garvey were also picking up Gold Gloves when he was on the bag.
Now in Anaheim you are asking a relative unknown to fill the place of a two-time Gold Glove infielder.
The A’s, on the other hand, to be honest aren’t exactly known for their ability to “go get it.” But they’ll have Travis Buck and Ryan Sweeney in an improved outfield and a perennial Gold Glove winner in Eric Chavez back at the hot corner after two injury-plagued seasons.
Are they equal? Not by any stretch, but I think that the A’s are going to be better defensively, while the Angels are going to do well to maintain their lofty status as a good defensive team.
Let’s look at pitching for a minute. Clearly the Angels have the advantage here with names like John Lackey, Jered Weaver, and Joe Saunders—or at least that’s what you would be led to believe. But here is where my research takes an interesting turn.
Running the Angels' starting rotation, top five bullpen options, and closer vs. the A’s through a formula for Fielding Independent ERA, you find out something very interesting. For all the names the Angels have, when you look at home runs allowed, walks, hit by pitch, strikeouts, and innings pitched, they are not any better than what the A’s are going to trot out there this season.
Now I did this research based on last year's pitching numbers, and that being said, the A’s pitchers only combined for 778 2/3 vs. the 1,005 logged by the Angels.
But as innings pitched is the divisor in the equation, it should adjust the stats accordingly. So I am not simply interested in the fact that the A’s gave up a mere fraction or 54 percent of the Angels' home run total while logging 77 percent of the innings.
Although interesting, the Fielding Independent ERA for both squads show us that the A’s pitching staff is better by 0.34 runs per game. Not much, you say; I agree. Not much indeed, and if Kendry Morales can contribute the defense of a Mark Teixeira, maybe it’s even a wash when we go fielder by fielder.
Then let’s say it is and flip to the other side of the coin. We know that Billy Beane’s obsession began with finding out how to create as many runs as possible. Beane became famous for paying for attributes which he deemed “valuable” and passing on players that had other gifts that traditionalist saw “value” in, but that Beane saw as irrelevant. He also says how these irrelevant skills drove the price of a player up.
He wasn’t looking for five-tool players. He was looking for players with one tool, and the less of the other ones they had, the better. It allowed him to compete for less.
Well, he has done it again. Billy Beane is looking at a number of things, but at the end of the day, he’s looking at Runs Created. We can debate whether it works or not all day, but the fact of the matter is, his teams have made five playoff appearances since 2000.
More importantly, what do the numbers of this year's team say? Well, it says the A’s will score 816 runs, or about 170 more than a year ago. That 816 would’ve been the fifth highest in the major leagues last year.
What about the Angels? Glad you asked—their Total runs created is 738. Or about 25 less runs than a year ago. Kind of looks like the loss of production of an All-Star first baseman to me. People can talk about adding Bobby Abreu, but you also must factor in for the loss of a very productive Garrett Anderson.
I will preface that the above numbers are based on players' 162-game major league averages, so it does not account for the decline of certain players like Abreu, Vladdy, or Jason Giambi, or the increase in productivity from the likes of a Mike Napoli or Matt Holliday over their averages so far.
But if distribution is equal, by my estimates anyways, the A’s are ripe to take back the West and pull off what many would consider a huge upset.
You heard it here first...
FYI - How I figured out the Runs Created and Feilding Independent Pitching ERA
Runs Created = (H+BB-CS+HBP-GIDP) + (TB+(.26x(BB-IBB+HBP))) + (.52x(SH+SF+SB) / AB + BB + HBP + SH + SF
(information used was projected starts 162 game career averages)
AB = At bats
H = hits
BB = Walks
SB = Stolen Bases
CS = caught stealing
HBP = hit by pitch
GIDP = Grounded into Double Play
TB = total Bases
IBB = Intentional Walk
SH = sacrafice hits
SF = sacrafice flies
Defense Independet Ptiching = 3 + (((13xHR) + 3(BB + HBP) -2K))/ IP) (
Information used was pitchers raw numbers from 2008)
HR = homerun
BB = walks
HBP = hit by ptich
K = Strikeout
IP = Innings pitched.
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