Wednesday, October 18, 2017

By the numbers

We are knee-deep in the baseball playoffs, which look to be yielding a potentially classic Yankees/Dodgers World Series. The games have been good, if rather long-averaging about half an hour longer than the regular fact no game has been less than three hours (ALCS game two was exactly three hours).

Here, though, I wanted to talk about some regular season questions. We baseball fans like numbers. We argue about which ones matter, when if ever they should take second place to intangibles like the evergreen notion of the "veteran clubhouse presence", and whether "statheads" are universally guys who couldn't play (in my case, yes).

I just wanted to take a quick look at a few correlations between wins (ranging from the Dodgers' 104 to the Giants' and Tigers' 64), and factors like payroll, batter age, pitchers' strikeouts, etc. Nothing too sophisticated here. And yes, correlation is not causation. This is quick and dirty stuff. Anyway...

The highest positive correlation I found was between wins and pitcher strikeouts per nine innings: 0.76. Think teams like Cleveland, the Dodgers, Houston. Baseball is more and more about power arms, and numbers like this one will only encourage the trend.

The highest negative one was between wins and runs against per game, not surprisingly, at -0.86. The correlation for runs scored per game was 0.72.

There is a decent sized positive correlation for pitcher age, at 0.32, and a tiny negative one for batter age. The former figure would seem to contradict the number above on the value of young flamethrowers.

And with modest-payroll teams like the Astros and Diamondbacks making the playoffs, it's not a shock that while payroll is an important factor in success, it isn't necessarily central-the positive correlation here is 0.37

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