World Series Champs Highlight Conflict Over Sabermetrics
November 1, 2005 16 Comments
Hey, there folks. I’m the new writer around these parts. You may know me as one of the writers on Off the Facade or as one of the extinct columnists from MVN’s podcasting site 360 The Pitch. I’ll be writing regularly here now as well, providing the Yankee Ying to David’s Red Sox Yang when as the rivalry heats up. I’ll be looking at Hot-Stove moves and anything else that may come down the pike. It’s a bit of a tough time for the stats folks these days as two key players in the sabermetric revolution won’t be returning to their jobs, and a supposed smallball team just won the World Series. So without further ado….
The White Sox are a sabermetricianís worst nightmare.
They just finished in improbably season capped by an astounding 11-1 run through the postseason with an awful offense. The team had an on-base percentage of .322, good for 11th in the American League, six points below the league average. Yet, they also had a slugging percentage of .425 and an ISO of .158. Both of those numbers were one percentage point above the league average.
So what then does this tell us about the White Sox offense? First, itís clear that this smallball/Ozzie-ball talk is unfounded. This was a team that didnít rely on getting on base and manufacturing runs because they werenít that good at getting on base. They were average to hitting for power, but somehow, they won.
The first clues to their success come in the way manager Ozzie Guillen constructed the lineup. He adhered, knowingly or not, to a fairly decent lineup based upon each playerís on-base percentage. Here is the World Series Game 1 lineup with OBP.
This lineup is designed to maximize runs from the start. It leads with the top four guys on the team in OBP. While the fact that the top two OBP leaders on the World Series champions were .375 and .351 is sad, Ozzie was able to give clean-up hitter Paul Konerko the best opportunity to come up with runners on base. After that, Everett remains in the fifth spot because of his slugging while the bottom third of the lineup were awful at getting on. (Tell me: Does this lineup miss Frank Thomas and his career .427 OBP or what?)
Meanwhile, as David pointed out a few days ago, the White Sox fluke victory came about through their miraculous pitching.
But as a sabermetric backlash embraces baseball with the dismissal of Paul DePodesta and resignation of Theo Epstein, itís important to look at how a decidedly non-sabermetric-minded team still adheres to a basic principles of baseball statistical analysis: Put the guys who get on base first in the lineup to maximize your teamís run production. If even zany managers like Ozzie Guillen understand this concept, why is baseball so afraid of sabermetrics?