In Baseball Between the Numbers: Why Everything You Know About the Game is Wrong, Nate Silver and Dayn Perry tackled a question that had mystified fans and analysts for more than a century: What are the most important qualities for a team to have in the playoffs?
Through the magic of statistics, Silver and Perry found that only three aspects of the game had any correlation with teams doing well once they got to the postseason. The results: good defense, a lights-out closer, and a pitching staff’s strikeout rate.
After re-reading their essay last week, I started to wonder how this year’s best teams stacked up in terms of these core qualities. So I did a bit of research and found some interesting results.
I ranked each of the eight playoff teams in all three categories, using FanGraphs’ ultimate zone rating for fielding and Baseball Prospectus’ win expectation above replacement to measure closers. Then I took each team’s average rankings and sorted them that way.
The results are by no means conclusive—I certainly don’t advocate using this list as the end-all be-all—but it’s interesting to see what the math has to say instead of just waiting to hear Joe Morgan’s idiotic rant du jour.