Great article. (may be the first and last time ever Steel and I will agree)
Pulled out a few snippets:
I found that, indeed, Anaheim and Florida did very well in making their outs productive
in the past two postseasons. Anaheim's POP in 2002 was .388,
while Florida's was .369 in 2003. Both teams,
however, ranked third in this category among all playoff teams each season, Anaheim
behind St. Louis (.526) and San Francisco (.393) in 2002, Florida behind Atlanta (.500) and
San Francisco (.450) in 2003.
What does this tell us? Nothing conclusive, only that the past two World Champions made
productive outs at a good rate. It doesn't tell us that's why
they won, and the fact that two teams with astonishingly great productive out rates
were knocked out in the first round last season casts some doubt on that theory.
I have to disagree with his concluding paragraph. He gives Anaheim and Florida credit for making their productive outs - then says other playoff teams did even better. He continues "the past two World Champions
made productive outs at a good rate." But then CONCLUDES, "what does
that tell us? nothing conclusive
". Maybe not "conclusive" but it does tells us that ALL of the aforementioned "playoff teams" did well with their productive outs and implies there were 20+ other non-playoff teams out there who do relatively worse .
Atlanta only got on base 20% of the time in their opportunities,
so that could explain their defeat, but San Francisco had an on-base
percentage of .444 in those opportunities. The reasons for San Francisco's
defeat can probably be found in their ability to drive home runners rather
than just get on, and in making two-out hits, two things that go beyond the
scope of this study.
That passage, points out one of the many "additional variables". If a team (or player) does well with getting hits in "productive out" opportunities, then the productive outs themselves become relatively less important.
Again, (truly just for an easy example) that is where a guy like Dunn or a team like the Reds really struggle. If not driving in runs (hitting with RISP) well and NOT making productive outs well and NOT able to bunt that is kind of triple whammy in a bad way for situational hitting.
This last statistic indicates that making productive outs is not an
important part of winning ballgames. The correlation to winning
percentage drives the nail in the coffin: POP has a .463 correlation to
winning percentage, OBP in those situations has a .750 correlation,
while the rate of productive outs has a mere .283 correlation.
Overall, OBP, SLG, OPS and GPA correlate even better:
OBP -- .841, SLG -- .855, OPS -- .874, GPA -- .877. Of course,
these are in very small samples, but if the strategy of making
productive outs doesn't work in a small sample, then how is it a useful
substitute to the "Moneyball" style of play, which emphasizes
playing in a fashion that will be more effective over the long haul?
There is a very small value to tracking productive outs,
I like how he correlates all his variables with WINNING. I don't think any of us would expect that ability to make "productive outs" is MORE important than OBP, SLG or OPS. Nor would would we expect that it would be more highly correlated. But again, (as with the Baseball Prospectus) study when comparing a RELATIVELY MINOR (to OPS) attribute (like productive outs) to WINNING, OPS should be held constant. He makes no mention of holding OPS constant. He just tosses out the .283 correlation and dismisses it. Not surprising that there isn't a stronger correlation - OPS smothers it.