Thursday, June 9, 2011

Fun With Numbers: Stuff We Learned Looking at Team Stats

Once you're in the midst of a baseball season, it gets harder to pull yourself back out of the day-to-day fray of and get some perspective on your own team.

For instance: We've spoken all year about how thin the Jays' offense is, and how beyond José Bautista, it's a bunch of chumps getting the bats knocked out of their hands (supposing that they ever do put bat to ball.)

And then you look it up, and goddamnit if they aren't the most prolific scoring machine in the American League, with their 309 runs scored outpacing the Red Sox (307), Yankees (303), and Rangers (298). Suddenly, we're left to wonder about our complaints around the batting order or the extra outs being made on the bases. (Well, they have been caught stealing the second most times of any team in the AL, so the world isn't about to spin off its axis.)

Now, most of us probably prefer the granularity of looking at each particular contributor to figure out what parts of the machine are working and which are not. This is entirely fair, but we wonder if there isn't some value to assessing the team as "The Team", to try to understand whether if the whole adds up to something more than the various components, or whether if the philosophy (imposed either by the on-field or off-field management) is determining the outcome.

Below is some other stuff that we found at Fangraphs, which may or may not be surprising. (And BTW: We haven't figured in the NL to this, because it's a bit of a different game over there, and we don't want to parse these numbers by figuring out what's attributable to pitchers batting. So there.)

Hustlin' heartily: The Jays are tied for the league lead in triples with the Royals (16), and are tied for second in stolen bases with those same Royals at 59. (KC has managed to give up 11 fewer outs though, so they are a bit more efficient.) On the other hand, they're mid pack in infield hits (47), while the Royals sit third with 60 and the Angels lead the way with 62.

How they hit it: The Jays have the fourth lowest line drive rate (17.6%) and the second lowest ground ball rate (40.8%). Their ground-ball-to-fly ball ratio is almost even (o.98) for whatever that's worth (Yankees sit at 1.20, which we attribute entirely to Derek Jeter. The Mariners are at 1.30.) But here's the piece of info that you probably didn't need from us: The Jays have the highest percentage of infield fly balls (15.8%...sonofabitch!), and its not even really that close. They sit almost two-and-a-half points worse than the Orioles (13.1%) and the Twins (13.1%).

Like facing Frank Tanana every night: Nobody sees fewer fastballs than the Jays, who are dealt the heater just 55% of the time. And oddly, the Royals lead the league in seeing fastballs, with the catcher putting down one finger 63.5% of the time. (Swear to Henke, we'll delete this blog today if some takes us to task on how many fingers catchers put down for pitches.)

So what do the Jays get instead of fastballs? They lead the AL in both the percentage of sliders they see (16.6%) and the percentage of curveballs (10.3%).

So cuttered? No so much: For all of the talk about the use of the cutter by the Blue Jays' pitchers, we expected that they'd at least be in the top echelon in terms of usage of the pitch. But the Jays are tossing cut fastballs 6.1% of the time, sixth most in the AL. However, this stands in stark contrast to John Farrell's former brigade in Boston, who cut it 14.5% of the time. (And if someone wants to make an argument as to the mislabelling of pitches, we're all ears.)

Also, the Jays throw the second lowest percentage of curve balls in the league (6.0%), and considering that Ricky Romero is the only guy on the team who we can think of who has a good curve, this seems entirely reasonable.

Stop us if you've heard us say this before: The Jays need to throw strikes. In total, they've hurled in 3589 balls this year, second only to the Royals. They walk 3.72 hitters per nine innings, which is the worst in the AL. Of course, this could be offset to some extent by the fact that the Jays also have the highest strikeout rate (7.31 Ks/nine innings) amongst pitching staffs.

BABIP!: It might be too early (and too easy) to call the Jays' pitchers "unlucky", but their batting average on balls in play to this point of the season is .289, third highest in the AL. Of course, the fact that the Jays sit in the bottom third of the league in RZR, UZR/150, and error runs. Consolation prize? The Jays have the best rating in the league for their outfield arms, who have helped to contain the scampering around the bases.

See? Numbers are fun! Any numbers you'd like to share? Hit us up in the comments, or over on the Twitter. (Come, follow me! I'm a fun guy!)


Anonymous said...

Great post - very interesting stuff. The two things I found most interesting were 1) the fact that they face the fewest fastballs in the AL; Jose Bautista can't make up for all of that (can he?). 2) the infield fly ball %; you can see that they hit the ball into the air a lot, but I didn't consider how often it is on the infield. Obviously very little chance of getting on base when that happens.

Thanks for this!

Anonymous said...

Adam Lind 2010 is a chump. Adam Lind 2011 is a champ!

William Tasker - Caribou, ME said...

All great stuff, sir. One nice surprise for the Jays currently is that they are currently third in the AL in on base percentage after being third from the bottom last year. They've raised their team OBP from last year's abysmal .312 to .333. Enjoy that retirement, Mr. Gaston.

The Ack said...

You started the post laying out how the sum is greater than the parts and then you backed it up with sabre-esque numbers and then Billy Beane's head exploded.

So, a success.

VagabondBansal said...

One thing that I found interesting was the Yankee's monster 14.8% HR/FB rate, which is heads and tails above number 2 (11.7%), and our slightly above average 9.6%.

How do they do it?

Chad said...

Too wonky! To make up for this post you have to write about one of the following subjects:

a. The hotness of Jays wives and girlfriends.

b. Who would win if the Jays pitchers had a "tough man" competition.

c. The best Jays closer of all time without once mentioning stats. (The answer is in your post.)

BJays said...

The high slider rate can be most certainly be attributed to Davis, Rajai.

The Southpaw said...

the problem with the "one man gang" meme is that it makes it appear that Bautista is a very good hitter surrounded by chumps. in fact, Bautista has been a superhuman player supported (when healthy) by other quite good players.

Lind is hitting as well as any 1B in the AL not named Cabrera; Escobar is the third best hitting SS, JPA the second best hitting catcher; and Patterson, fercryinoutloud, is the second best hitting LF (I'm using OPS - damned If I'm going to look up your fancy-pants stats)

So it's not at all surprising that when you are among the 2 or 3 best players at 5 of the nine positions in the line-up, you'll have a top ranked offense.

Chill said...

Sliders down and away for Hill, Nix, Davis and to a lesser degree, Cibia are like hot stoves and kids. Tell them not to touch (or swing) and they just can't help themselves.