Howdy. I'm new to these online parts but being both a RAYS fan and an engineer, I've garnered a growing interest in baseball's sabermetrics. Before I proceed further, let me say that I've never played organized ball and I don't really have a great deal of insight into the underlying details of baseball performance, other than what I've been able to take home with me from attending a handful of RAYS games each of the past 6 seasons, and from what I've gleaned from various workplace conversations with ball-playing buddies.
That said, I do like to mess with numbers and (rudimentary) statistics, and I recently got interested in trying to determine the relative importance of hitting, pitching, and defense as predictors of wins. My homework led me to wOBA, FIP, and UZR/150 as readily available online data (MLB.com for team wOBA and FIP; FanGraphs for team UZR/150) that could be used in a multiple regression process to generate a win-predicting equation.
I used 3-yr's worth of AL and NL data (2011 to 2013) so that I could have a little more confidence in the results and because 3-yrs was manageable. I don't have a link up to the underlying data and regression spreadsheets but I do have .jpg files of the individual annual data summaries (2011, 2012, & 2013) as well as the 3-yr averages plus the regression equation itself. Hopefully these links will work but if not I can share out the .xls file if someone can show me how.
In brief, here are a few things I saw in the 3-yr results. Feel free to add your own thoughts and/or to point out errors/omissions:
- wOBA, FIP, and UZR/150 can explain 76% of the variability seen in the number of regular season wins.
- Of this 76%, about 37% relates to FIP, 35% relates to wOBA, and 4% relates to UZR/150...So defense is not a great predictor of wins while pitching and hitting have nearly the same predictive ability.
- The regression equation is WINS = 441*wOBA - 20.7*FIP + 0.48*UZR150 + 21.8 with an error of +/- 5.9.
- So a rough estimate is that increasing team wOBA by 0.002 will likely net an additional win.
- Similarly, decreasing team FIP by 0.048 will also net an additional win as will increasing team UZR/150 by 2.1.
- Four AL teams (Texas, New York, Detroit, and Tampa Bay) and two NL teams (Atlanta and St Louis) have averaged 90 or more wins these past three years.
- Three AL teams (Kansas City, Seattle, Minnesota) and four NL teams (Miami, Colorado, Chicago, and Houston have averaged 71 or fewer wins during the same period (I included Houston as an NL team since they only just moved into the AL in 2013).
- Teams winning 90 or more games are good at both hitting and pitching (in the upper half of their league wOBA and FIP rankings) but don't necessarily have to be good at defense (see Detroit and St Louis).
- Below average wOBA is strongly associated with low win totals in both leagues (the greens and yellows in the tables reflect the FanGraphs rule of thumb rating tables: Green indcates above average and higher; Yellow indicates below average and poorer; Lack of color indicates around average.
- Similarly, below average pitching in the NL is associated with low win totals...and it appears that Miami's above average pitching was overcome by their below average hitting and likely to a lesser extent their low-performing defense relative to the rest of the NL.
I found the UZR/150 info very interesting in light of the RAYS' emphasis on defense and their No. 1 UZR/150 ranking. I love to watch sharp defensive play and I'm psyched that the RAYS' infield will be back intact in 2014 and that they've added Ryan Hanigan at catcher. But defense doesn't appear to impact wins to a great extent so will the RAYS' defensive moves result in additional wins?
That said, the RAYS show well in terms of their 3-yr rankings: 7th ranked wOBA, 2nd ranked FIP, and 1st ranked UZR/150, so they will be fun to watch no matter the outcome.
Also, relating back to the recent Jerry Sands article and its reference to Oakland's fly ball prowess...It is interesting to look at Oakland's progression and results over these past three years:
- 2011: 74 wins, 12th ranked wOBA, 2nd ranked FIP, 12th ranked UZR/150, No post season.
- 2012: 94 wins, 11th ranked wOBA, 3rd ranked FIP, 5th ranked UZR/150, ALDS loss to Detroit (ranked higher than Oakland in wOBA and FIP that year).
- 2013: 96 wins, 3rd ranked wOBA, 6th ranked FIP, 7th ranked UZR/150, ALDS loss to Detroit (ranked higher than Oakland in wOBA and FIP that year).
- Will the As break through in 2014?