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Friday, December 08, 2006

The Balance of Power

Fascinating article by David Gassko yesterday on THT related to lineup balance. I've often thought that, offense being slightly nonlinear, a balanced lineup would create more runs in a statistically significant fashion than one where most of the punch was concentrated in a few individuals. The 1998 Yankees and 2001 Mariners are the anecdotal evidence I had in the back of my mind. Gassko uses the case of this year's Tigers and after developing a method to quantify lineup balance, concludes that balance essentially makes no difference.

He looks at both run production and Pythagorean record and although both correlations were in the proper direction, they were statistically insignificant. This result, in part, verifies the findings of Cyril Morong in this study from 2002. It would be interesting to use David's approach for OBP only instead of weighted OBA (wOBA) to see if he could replicate the result.

More interestingly, however, he does a variant study in discussing the dependency on homeruns in the post season. Here he finds that...

It turns out, there is a strong (r = .153, p = .002) correlation between a team’s reliance on home runs and its success in the playoffs. If an average teams jumped to the 68th percentile in terms of its reliance on home runs, it would increase its postseason winning percentage by .037 points (or six wins per 162 games). That is a huge effect. It would most certainly behoove playoff contenders to build up their power.

The result follows logically since in the post season the run environment is smaller (teams have better pitchers), the impact of homeruns is magnified since there will be fewer runners on base. The 2005 White Sox are a case in point and this finding of course flies in the face of the common wisdom that teams that rely on "small ball" are more successful in the post season.

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