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Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man
One of the many contributions of Bill James to the field of sabermetrics was his Pythagorean Theorem for baseball. The theorem states that the ratio of a team’s wins to losses is equal to the square of the ratio of the team’s runs scored to the team’s runs allowed. The equation is (Wins / Losses) = (Runs Scored / Runs Allowed)2 , The exponent 2 is just an estimate. I found that for a given season this exponent ranges between 1.85 and 2.15. The idea behind the Pythagorean Theorem is that one can predict the wins and losses of a team by simply looking at the team’s runs scored and runs allowed. For those interested, the derivation of this exponent is done using simple linear regression analysis which can be found in Chapter 5 of my book, Sandlot Stats. Chapter 5 also has a complete explanation with examples of James’ Pythagorean Theorem. The name was inspired by the Pythagorean Theorem in geometry which says for any right triangle the square of the length of the side opposite the right angle is equal to the sum of the squares of the lengths of the other two sides of the triangle (c2 = a2 + b2 ). 

I wish to now use James’ Pythagorean Theorem to look at the years 2001 and 2002 for the Oakland Athletics which were featured in the book Moneyball. At this point it might be worthwhile for the reader to review my last posting called Moneyball Revisited. For the year 2001, the exponent turned out to be 2.113 and for the year 2002 the exponent was 1.901. In 2001, Oakland’s actual record was 102-60. Applying the Pythagorean Theorem to their actual runs scored of 884 and runs allowed of 645, Oakland’s expected record would have been 107-55. In 2002, Oakland’s actual record was 103-59. For 2002, their actual runs scored were 800 and runs allowed were 654. Again, applying the Pythagorean Theorem, we would have expected their record to be 96-66. The loss of Jason Giambi and Johnny Damon for the 2002 season had a minor effect on their runs scored. The loss of Jason Isringhausen as their closer had no effect on their runs allowed. Using the results of the Pythagorean Theorem, Oakland would have finished second to Seattle in 2001 and fourth behind Anaheim, Boston, and New York in 2002. Again, using the results of the Pythagorean Theorem, the 2002 team would have finished 11 games behind the 2001 team.   

Comparing their actual won and loss records for the years 2001 and 2002, the 2002 team would have finished one game ahead of the 2001 team. The 2001 Oakland team had the second best record in the AL behind the Seattle Mariners. The 2002 Oakland team had the second best record in the AL behind the New York Yankees. The side-by-side bar graph below compares the statistics batting average (BA), on-base percentage (OBP), slugging percentage (SLG), and on-base plus slugging (OPS) for 2001 and 2002. The win-loss records and the graph below show that replacing Jason Giambi by Scott Hatteberg and replacing Johnny Damon by David Justice along with other changes allowed the 2002 Oakland team to be as successful as the 2001 team. Billy Beane accomplished this successful metamorphism without spending $33 million on Giambi. Damon, and Isrinhausen In fact, the Oakland payroll for 2002 was only $39 million. Billy Beane’s use of sabermetrics works and keeps on working today. Just look at Oakland’s record for 2012.

Oakland Graph

Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man
In teaching my Baseball and Statistics course at Quinnipiac University, besides using my book Sandlot Stats,I require my students to read the book Moneyball by Michael Lewis. The book describes how Billy Beane, the Oakland Athletics general manager, navigated his team through the 2002 season. In that season, Oakland finished first in the American League West with a record of 103 wins and 59 loses. During that season, Oakland also set a record of 20 consecutive victories. This success was accomplished despite having the third lowest payroll in 2002. In 2002, the highest payroll was the Yankees at $125,928,583 compared to Oakland’s payroll of $39,679,746.
In reading this book for a second time it became clear to me that even though this book involved baseball, there are lessons to be learned that can be used in almost any business. Yes, baseball is a business. Before the 2002 season, Oakland could not afford to resign three of their best players. These include 2000 AL MVP Jason Giambi, outfielder Johnny Damon, and closer Jason Isringhausen. The three of them signed with other teams for a total of $33 million. This was $6 million less than Oakland’s entire payroll for 2002. Giambi alone would have cost the A’s over $16 million.
Because of his low payroll, Beane realized that he could not compete with teams like the Yankees and Red Sox in the traditional way of signing expensive free agents. He hired a Harvard economics major named Paul DePodesta, who used his computer to find players based on certain baseball statistics. These baseball statistics came from his reading articles written by Bill James. For example, in the 2002 amateur draft the computer flushed out Kevin Youkilis. Scouts from the other major league teams classified Youkilis as a fat third baseman who couldn’t run, throw, or field. Paul did not care about anything but Youkilis’ high on-base percentage, OBP.
How was Beane going to replace the three stars they lost? The loss of Jason Giambi was the most serious. Jason had a very high OBP. Beane focused on this particular statistic. Using Bill James’ theories he concluded a high OBP was the best way to produce runs and runs were the best way to produce wins. So he went out and signed Scott Hatteberg, a catcher for the Red Sox with a damaged throwing arm and made him into a first baseman, despite the fact that he had never played first base before. During the spring training of 2002, Ron Washington was given the task of making Hatteberg into a first baseman. What Beane loved about Hatteberg was his ability to get on base and see a lot of pitches in each of his at-bats. Because he was damaged goods he was cheap. His high OBP replaced Giambi’s high OBP. Hatteberg’s salary for 2002 was $900,000. Another example of Beane’s thinking was he did not believe in paying a high price for a closer. Instead, he would find a young pitcher who had good control and the ability to throw in the low 90s. He would then for almost the minimum salary turn him into a closer.
This leads me to talk about my original premise. What lesson can we learn from Billy Beane? The answer is:  Do not follow the herd. Suppose you were a small retailer and Walmart opened a store nearby. Clearly, you could not compete with Walmart on price. However, you can emphasize the statistic measured by customer service. In the same way that the statistic OBP led to runs which led to wins; customer service can lead to a happy customer followed by repeat business from that customer.
My book Sandlot Stats not only teaches the concepts of descriptive and inferential statistics but shows the mathematics Bill James used to make baseball decisions on strategy and player personal. Part 2 explores some of Bill James’ theories.

Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

Part 3 of 3: When the Yankees open the 2013 season, there are oh so many questions about which 2012 Yankees will be on the opening day 2013 roster. The Yankees just picked up the 2013 options for Cano and Granderson for $15 million each. Swisher, Kuroda, and Soriano reject their 13.3 million qualifying offers. Twelve members of the 2012 Yankees: Eric Chavez, Pedro Feliciano, Freddy Garcia, Raul Ibanez, Andruw Jones, Hiroki Kuroda, Derek Lowe, Russell Martin, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Ichiro Suzuki and Nick Swisher have become free agents. Rafael Soriano has walked away from a $14 million salary for next year, terminating his contract to become a free agent. Their number one pitcher CC Sabathia just had elbow surgery on his pitching arm. Kuroda is a must sign. If CC is not ready for opening day, Kuroda will fill in. Michael Pineda will not be ready to pitch until June. Jeter will return after breaking his ankle in the playoffs. 

The following free agents will not wear pinstripes next year. These include Feliciano, out of baseball for two years, Garcia, who lost his effectiveness, Jones, who is over the hill, and Nick Swisher, who failed in consecutive playoffs. The Yankees would love to sign Rivera, Lowe and Pettitte to one year contracts. Newsflash: Mariano just announced he will return for 2013. This means they will not go after Soriano, who wants to be a closer anyway. Girardi likes Russell Martin’s defense and the way he handles pitchers. Martin will be the opening day catcher since Austin Romine is not ready and they probably are not interested in Napoli and Pierzynski. Chavez and Ibanez proved themselves as valuable role players and should be resigned. Ibanez value has gone way up and the Yankees may not be willing to up the ante for him. Since A-Rod and Jeter will spend a great deal of time as DHs, Ibanez is expendable. Chavez must be resigned to backup A-Rod. 

A big question mark is A-Rod. He struggled down the stretch and performed horribly in the post-season with 3 hits in 25 at-bats, 12 Ks, and 0 home runs and 0 RBIs. His regular season 18 home runs, 57 RBIs, and OPS of .783 were the lowest for a full season. Clearly, Girardi has lost confidence in him, pinch hitting for him on three occasions in the playoffs and benching him in three other games including game 4 of the Detroit series. With approximately $110 million remaining for five years on his no–trade contract, the chances are he will be a Yankee for the next few years. Girardi has already begun the process of mending fences with A-Rod. If A-Rod can stay healthy next year he is still an above-average third baseman. He could contribute 25 home runs and drive in 80+ runs while batting .270. Not bad but not worth $22 million.

The infield is set with Teixeira, Cano, Jeter, and A-Rod. What about the outfield? Suzuki hitting .322 in 67 games with the Yankees is loved by Girardi. If he is willing to sign for about $8 million, he will be in pinstripes next year. Right now we have 4 outfielders in the mix. They are Gardner, Granderson, Suzuki, and the soon to be signed, hopefully. free agent Torii Hunter. You heard me right. The Yankees should sign the 37 year old Hunter to a two year contract to replace Swisher. Last year Hunter batted .313 with 16 home runs and 92 RBIs in 140 games with the Angels. His defense in the corner positions would be an immediate upgrade over Swisher’s inconsistencies in right field.  Hunter would be an important player to use against left-handed pitching as he batted .340 versus LHPs in 2012. He will supply the right-handed power needed by the Yankees. Assuming Granderson is not traded, the opening day outfield will consist of three of these four outfielders. Each of them could play any of the three positions. You ask what if Hunter does not sign. Well did you ever hear of Josh Hamilton and Justin Upton?  

Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man
Part 2 of 3: The Yankees won a nail-biting 5-game (3-2) ALDS against the Orioles. In the ALCS, the Yankees pulled a Rip Van Wrinkle against the Tigers and were swept 4-0. This posting will revisit both series.

The series against the Orioles had three games decided by one run and one game determined by two runs. Even though game one was a 7-2 victory for the Yanks, it took a 5-run ninth inning to decide it. Sabathia pitched 8.2 innings yielding only two runs. The rally in the ninth was sparked by Martin’s hitting a leadoff home run and Cano producing a two-run double. Game 2 was decided by a two-run single by Chris Davis and a one-run single by Matt Reynolds and the Orioles went on to win 3-2. Pettitte pitched a strong 6.2 innings giving up just two earned runs. In my opinion, game 3 was really the deciding game. The Yankees won 3-2 in 12 innings. Kuroda pitched a strong 8.1 innings giving up only two earned runs. With one out in the bottom of the ninth and the Yankees trailing 2-1, Girardi did the unthinkable pinch hitting for A-Rod with Raul Ibanez who promptly homered to right. The game went into extra innings and in the bottom of the twelfth Ibanez hit a walk-off home run. Game 4 went 13 innings with the Orioles winning 2-1 on back-to-back doubles off of Phelps. Hughes pitched a strong 6.2 innings yielding only a solo home run to McLouth. This brings us to the deciding game 5. Sabathia pitched a complete game masterpiece striking out nine while yielding just one run. The Yankees scored three solo runs in the fifth, sixth, and seventh innings on a single by Ibanez, a double by Suzuki and a home run by Granderson. The final score was 3-1. What was unusual about the Yankee lineup for the deciding game was the absence of A-Rod. The Yankee pitching star for the series was Sabathia with two wins, an ERA of 1.53, striking out 16 in 17.2 innings. The hitting star was Ibanez who in four games went 4 for 9 with 2 home runs and 3 RBIs. Game 3 was the turning point. I believe if the Orioles held on and won game 3 they would have won the series. A-Rod had a horrible series going 2 for 16 with 9 strikeouts. For the series, The Yankees batted .211 and had a pitching ERA of 1.76. The Orioles batted .187 with an ERA of 2.52. Clearly, pitching dominated this series.

Game 1 set the stage for the Tiger series sweep with a 12 innings 6-4 victory. The first 5 innings were scoreless. In the top of the sixth the Tigers scored two runs on singles by Fielder and Young. Going into the bottom of the ninth the Yankees trailed 4-0. Miraculously, the Yankees tied the score in the bottom of the ninth on a two-run homer by Suzuki followed by a two-run homer by, that man, Ibanez. Could the Yankees pull another rabbit out of the hat? The Tigers said no by scoring two runs in the top of the twelfth off of Phelps. Game over!!! Added to this disappointing loss was the loss of their leader “The Captain” Derek Jeter with a broken ankle. Yes, to me this was the pivotal game. Without their leader, the Yankees scored a total of three runs in the next three games losing all three. Take a look at the anemic Yankee batting performance for this series. Cano was 1 for 18, Granderson was 0 for 11, Chavez was 0 for 8, Martin was 2 for 14, A-Rod was 1 for 9, Teixeira was 3 for 15, and Swisher was 3 for 12. You can call this a team slump. The only bright spot was Suzuki who was 6 for 17. For the 4-game series the Yankees batted .157 with an ERA of 4.14. The Tigers batted .291 with an ERA of 1.38. In fact, the Yankees only scored 6 runs in the four games. Another surprising statistic is in the entire series they scored only one run before the ninth inning. The Tigers embarrassed the Yankees. Part 3 will discuss the Yankee future.




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