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Thread: Team On-Base Percentage and a Balanced Lineup

  1. #1
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    Team On-Base Percentage and a Balanced Lineup

    http://www.fangraphs.com/community/t...lanced-lineup/

    Teams that get on base often score more runs than those that donít. We know this, and it comes as no surprise. In 2013, the Red Sox had the highest team OBP (.349) and also scored the most runs in MLB. The Tigers had the second-highest team OBP (.346), and they scored the second-most runs. Team OBPs can tell us a lot about the effectiveness of an offense (obviously not everything), but they can also be misleading if proper context isnít applied.

    The Cardinals scored 783 runs in 2013, good enough for third in MLB. The rival Reds scored 698 runs, 85 fewer than the Cardinals. There are many reasons for this gap in runs scored, but I would like to examine just one of them. The Cardinals had a team OBP of .332 while the Reds had a team OBP of .327. On first look, it appears that the Cardinals and Reds got on base at a similar rate. But a major difference exists below the surface. Take a look at the chart below of the top eight hitters by plate appearance for both teams (Chris Heisey gets the nod over Ryan Hanigan as to not have two Redsí catchers on the list).




    The difference is quite evident. The average OBP in 2013 was .318. Seven of the top eight Cardinal hitters got on base at an above-average clip. Besides the pitcher, there is one easy out in that lineup. The Cardinals maintained a ridiculous batting average with RISP, but that matters much more because they always had people on base.

    On the other hand, the Reds had two on-base Goliaths. Joey Votto and Shin-Soo Choo camped out on the bases. They became one with the bases. The problem was that the Reds had only one more player with an above-average OBP, Jay Bruce at .329. The other five players struggled to get on base consistently. Three of them had OBPs under .300.

    So while the Cardinals achieve a high team OBP through balance, the Reds had two hitters who significantly raised the team OBP. Take Votto and Choo away, and the other six Reds on this list have a combined OBP of .305. That is a staggering low number for six of the top hitters on a playoff team.

    What does this teach us? Well, team OBPs do not provide insight into how balanced a lineup a team has. The Reds would be foolish to think they have a lineup that gets on base enough to be an elite offense. With the loss of Choo, the Reds offense may struggle to produce runs at a league-average clip as Votto and Bruce could be stranded on base countless times.

    A balanced lineup was a major factor in the Cardinals scoring the most runs in the National League. Their team may have had an excellent .332 OBP, but their top eight hitters by plate appearance had a .355 OBP. As a group they were excellent. The Red Sox were similar in that their top eight hitters by plate appearances all had above-average OBPs with Stephen Drew coming in eighth at .333. Think about that! The Red Sox eighth-best hitter at getting on base was 15 points above league average.

    Even though the Reds finished 6th in team OBP in 2013, their on-base skills were lacking. While the Cardinals had only a five-point advantage in team OBP over their rival, they were much more adept at clogging the bases. Team OBPs are great, they just donít always tell the whole story.

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    Member kpresidente's Avatar
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    Re: Team On-Base Percentage and a Balanced Lineup

    It seems to me, all else being equal, you'd rather have your OBP clumped together than spread out all over the lineup, since you're more likely to string together the hits you need to score a run before you make 3 outs.

    If I go to this lineup simulator...http://lineupsimulator.com/Default.aspx...and plug in 2 lineups, one with the OBP spread out over the lineup, and one with it clumped together, this is what I get:

    LINEUP #1 - SPREAD:
    Code:
    ORDER   AB   H (singles)
    #1      10   3
    #2      10   3
    #3      10   3
    #4      10   3
    #5      10   3
    #6      10   3
    #7      10   3
    #8      10   3
    #9      10   3
    TOTAL   90  27
    
    Runs Per Game: 1.71
    LINEUP #2 - CLUMPED:
    Code:
    ORDER   AB   H (singles)
    #1      10   6
    #2      10   6
    #3      10   6
    #4      10   4
    #5      10   1
    #6      10   1
    #7      10   1
    #8      10   1
    #9      10   1
    TOTAL   90  27
    
    Runs Per Game: 2.14
    Both have the same OBP, but the "clumped together" lineup scores more runs.

    Maybe the Cardinals did so well because of their BA w/RISP.

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    Ripsnort wheels's Avatar
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    Re: Team On-Base Percentage and a Balanced Lineup

    Looking at the numbers of those two teams side by side is disheartening.

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    Churlish Johnny Footstool's Avatar
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    Re: Team On-Base Percentage and a Balanced Lineup

    Quote Originally Posted by kpresidente View Post
    It seems to me, all else being equal, you'd rather have your OBP clumped together than spread out all over the lineup, since you're more likely to string together the hits you need to score a run before you make 3 outs.

    If I go to this lineup simulator...http://lineupsimulator.com/Default.aspx...and plug in 2 lineups, one with the OBP spread out over the lineup, and one with it clumped together, this is what I get:

    LINEUP #1 - SPREAD:
    Code:
    ORDER   AB   H (singles)
    #1      10   3
    #2      10   3
    #3      10   3
    #4      10   3
    #5      10   3
    #6      10   3
    #7      10   3
    #8      10   3
    #9      10   3
    TOTAL   90  27
    
    Runs Per Game: 1.71
    LINEUP #2 - CLUMPED:
    Code:
    ORDER   AB   H (singles)
    #1      10   6
    #2      10   6
    #3      10   6
    #4      10   4
    #5      10   1
    #6      10   1
    #7      10   1
    #8      10   1
    #9      10   1
    TOTAL   90  27
    
    Runs Per Game: 2.14
    Both have the same OBP, but the "clumped together" lineup scores more runs.

    Maybe the Cardinals did so well because of their BA w/RISP.

    Your second lineup has 3 players in a row who get on base at an otherworldly .600 clip. Doesn't that skew the results?
    "I prefer books and movies where the conflict isn't of the extreme cannibal apocalypse variety I guess." Redsfaithful

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    Re: Team On-Base Percentage and a Balanced Lineup

    The main reason the Cards scored more runs than other teams in the NL was an unsustainable average with RISP.

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    757690 (01-17-2014)

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    Re: Team On-Base Percentage and a Balanced Lineup

    Quote Originally Posted by kpresidente View Post
    It seems to me, all else being equal, you'd rather have your OBP clumped together than spread out all over the lineup, since you're more likely to string together the hits you need to score a run before you make 3 outs.

    If I go to this lineup simulator...http://lineupsimulator.com/Default.aspx...and plug in 2 lineups, one with the OBP spread out over the lineup, and one with it clumped together, this is what I get:

    LINEUP #1 - SPREAD:
    Code:
    ORDER   AB   H (singles)
    #1      10   3
    #2      10   3
    #3      10   3
    #4      10   3
    #5      10   3
    #6      10   3
    #7      10   3
    #8      10   3
    #9      10   3
    TOTAL   90  27
    
    Runs Per Game: 1.71
    LINEUP #2 - CLUMPED:
    Code:
    ORDER   AB   H (singles)
    #1      10   6
    #2      10   6
    #3      10   6
    #4      10   4
    #5      10   1
    #6      10   1
    #7      10   1
    #8      10   1
    #9      10   1
    TOTAL   90  27
    
    Runs Per Game: 2.14
    Both have the same OBP, but the "clumped together" lineup scores more runs.

    Maybe the Cardinals did so well because of their BA w/RISP.
    *BB includes HBP.

    Cardinals




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  11. #7
    Stat Wanker Hodiernus RedsManRick's Avatar
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    Re: Team On-Base Percentage and a Balanced Lineup

    I decided to take a closer look; I don't think the guy's argument holds up under scrutiny. I know the hypothesis feels right, but the data don't seem to bear it out.

    You'll see in the chart below, that blue regression line in the middle is flat. That means that as you get a higher standard deviation in OBP (the x-axis), the run residual, the difference between expected runs and actual runs (y-axis) doesn't tend to change at all. In other words, they aren't correlated.

    Here's my post on Fangraphs.
    So if I'm understanding correctly, your argument is this: Teams that have less variation among their primary hitters' OBP will score more runs than we might expect based on their aggregate performance (and vice versa). Is that fair?

    Because I tested that and I don't see it.

    Firstly, I calculated the residual of a team's actual runs scored compared to the number of runs we would have expected them to score given their team OBP. (obviously other factors affect run scoring, but introducing them would be questions about their correlations with OBP). The Cards scored 36 runs more than their OBP predicts; the Reds 24 runs fewer.

    Secondly, I then took the Standard Deviation of OBP, by team, for all batters with 300+ PA with that team. The cards were more or less average, with a SD of .038 compared to the league average of .034. The Reds were off the chart, perhaps historically so, at .063.

    So, the question is: Is there a correlation between a team's OBP variation and it's run scoring residual. If yes, it would mean that more (or fewer) variation produces more (or fewer) runs than we would think based on their aggregate performance.

    So I then regressed that OBP Standard Deviation against the OBP-Predicted Runs residual. The result? Essentially zero correlation (an R2 .0009). And even removing the Reds, since they're such an outlier, leaves an R2 of .0044.

    Here's the full chart.


    Now, we could certainly run the SD against a better runs estimator, but I don't think you're going to see the numbers change much. Using OPS as the runs estimator, the R2 skyrockets to a still paltry .0243.

    Let me know if I'm doing something I shouldn't here, but unless I really missed something, there's no detectable effect here. We could run it with more data, but I'd be shocked if a significant effect reared it's head. If the Reds, one of the least balanced teams of this generation don't under-perform by much, it seems unlikely to be a real thing.

    Ultimately, I agree, team OBPs don't tell the whole story. But if you're looking for the rest of the story, your next stop should be SLG. "Balance", as it were, is likely pretty far down that list.
    Games are won on run differential -- scoring more than your opponent. Runs are runs, scored or prevented they all count the same. Worry about scoring more and allowing fewer, not which positions contribute to which side of the equation or how "consistent" you are at your current level of performance.

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    Stat Wanker Hodiernus RedsManRick's Avatar
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    Re: Team On-Base Percentage and a Balanced Lineup

    Turns out I was late to the game. The original author was primarily interested in the simple fact that there was a fair degree of variance within team offenses that can be obscured if you look just at the aggregate team performance.

    His hypothesis regarding the relationship between balance and run scoring was discussed by another posted relatively soon after the initial post back in December: http://www.fangraphs.com/community/t...e-of-variance/

    That author came to the same conclusion I did:
    Being balanced is nice. Being consistent is nice. It’s something we have a natural inclinations towards as humans–it’s why we invented farming, civilization, the light bulb, etc. But when you’re building a baseball team it’s not something that’s going to help you win games. You win games with good players.
    Ultimately, his basic point strikes me as irrelevant in light of the follow-up, as it is both somewhat obvious and relatively meaningless. Some teams are balanced. Some teams are top heavy. But what really matters is just who has the most.
    Last edited by RedsManRick; 01-17-2014 at 01:28 PM.
    Games are won on run differential -- scoring more than your opponent. Runs are runs, scored or prevented they all count the same. Worry about scoring more and allowing fewer, not which positions contribute to which side of the equation or how "consistent" you are at your current level of performance.

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    Re: Team On-Base Percentage and a Balanced Lineup

    Quote Originally Posted by RedsManRick View Post
    I decided to take a closer look; I don't think the guy's argument holds up under scrutiny. I know the hypothesis feels right, but the data don't seem to bear it out.

    You'll see in the chart below, that blue regression line in the middle is flat. That means that as you get a higher standard deviation in OBP (the x-axis), the run residual, the difference between expected runs and actual runs (y-axis) doesn't tend to change at all. In other words, they aren't correlated.

    Here's my post on Fangraphs.
    A very good post that I agree with every word.

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    Re: Team On-Base Percentage and a Balanced Lineup

    The title of this thread reflects my hopes for the upcoming season...

    An improved team OBP, which would have to mean it's more balanced by quite a lot since Choo is gone.

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    Re: Team On-Base Percentage and a Balanced Lineup

    Quote Originally Posted by PuffyPig View Post
    The main reason the Cards scored more runs than other teams in the NL was an unsustainable average with RISP.
    Right but they also had men on base all the time to accomplish that feat. People often comment here "well look how bad their batting average was with nobody on base". Their batting average may have been bad without runners on base but they always had guys who were able to get on base simply because of a balanced OBP throughout the lineup. Watching almost all the Cards game last season, it seemed as if there was always someone on base during the innings they were batting.
    Last edited by MikeThierry; 01-17-2014 at 02:35 PM.
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    Re: Team On-Base Percentage and a Balanced Lineup

    Quote Originally Posted by PuffyPig View Post
    The main reason the Cards scored more runs than other teams in the NL was an unsustainable average with RISP.
    Likely aided by sign stealing that teams will be more on the look out for.
    They don't think it be like it is, but it do.
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    Re: Team On-Base Percentage and a Balanced Lineup

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeThierry View Post
    Right but they also had men on base all the time to accomplish that feat. People often comment here "well look how bad their batting average was with nobody on base". Their batting average may have been bad without runners on base but they always had guys who were able to get on base simply because of a balanced OBP throughout the lineup. Watching almost all the Cards game last season, it seemed as if there was always someone on base during the innings they were batting.
    Cardinals had a .236/.297/356 slash line with no one on base in 2013.

    Reds had a .248/.316/.402 slashline with no one on base in 2013.

    Csrdinals were actually worse than the Reds at getting runners on base in the first place in 2013.
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    Re: Team On-Base Percentage and a Balanced Lineup

    Quote Originally Posted by Johnny Footstool View Post
    Your second lineup has 3 players in a row who get on base at an otherworldly .600 clip. Doesn't that skew the results?
    Well, that was the point...to draw the sharp distinction. My first lineup was also ridiculously balanced, everybody had exactly .300 OBP. The same holds if you plug in more realistic lineups but the effect is obviously smaller. I played around with it some more and you can simulate a lineup where the more balanced team does better, but most of the time the "clumped" lineup does better.

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    Re: Team On-Base Percentage and a Balanced Lineup

    This isn't exactly the same thing, but I do believe, without any hard data to back it up, that it's more important to not have a hitter who sucks in the lineup than it is to have a great hitter in the lineup.

    In other words, I think having a Willie Taveras in the lineup hurts a team more than having a Joey Votto in the lineup helps a team.
    "Man, the pitch looks fast, even in slow motion." Thom Brennaman on Chapman's fastball.


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