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Chicken or Egg

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The talk of "chemistry" always seems to come up when discussing potential fits. Occasionally talent is over weighed by the idea that "Player X will destroy the clubhouse atmosphere." Yet, how can anyone truly tell whether this would be the case or not?

Every season you'll read and hear about how a team - winning is a prerequisite during the season - has "unbelievable chemistry". It's stated as a catalyst for success and not as a product of success. Take this spring for instance; a load of stories were written about how the Rays now had great chemistry and how the veteran leaders made the clubhouse all gooey in a love fest. Coincidentally the Rays had also added talent upgrades and were due for some talent progression, yet more than not you hear about how it is and was the chemistry that makes this team win.

Of course those exact same things were written about the San Francisco Giants. No longer did they have the worst person alive in the clubhouse. The atmosphere was calm in the locker room and guys like Barry Zito apparently loved coming to work which is funny, because Zito obviously had issues with the perceived teammate killer when he signed that big contract. As they sit now the Giants winning percentage is .011 points lower than last season. Fred Lewis is having a nice season, but he's not the kitten killer, and players like Omar Vizquel, Jose Castillo, and Dave Roberts still found at-bats.

This question of chemistry is not so much a question of statistics - there's little doubt that production will likely be better, if only marginally, in a good atmosphere - but rather a question of the chicken or the egg. Do teams win because of good chemistry, or do teams with good chemistry gel because of winning? I tend to lean towards the latter; in fact this is how I would quantify the relationship between winning and chemistry:

Chemistry_medium

I've always had an issue when an analyst talks about the Rays and instead of noting the improved defense and bullpen rambles on about how the guys "believe in each other' and "have a special bond". That's cute, and I'm glad everyone gets along, but what else are they going to do? It's not like that great chemistry stopped Dioner Navarro and Matt Garza from a little confrontation. Does anyone think Delmon Young acts like a brat if the team is winning? Okay, well maybe, but I think the spin assigned to it would be far different.

It just seems like chemistry has become an immeasurable variably thrown around by folks that cannot be proven wrong despite how untrue it may be. Yes, clubhouse chemistry can have a (minor) positive effect, but in the long run it's winning that causes it, not "good guys" and "veteran leaders".

If Hannibal Lecter can help my team win I don't care if he wants the bullpen catcher for lunch.