- Dumb Luck Wins
- Tough Luck Losses
- Out Prevention Percentage
- Infield Outs Prevented
I’m sure it’s not surprising to you that teams who hit more home runs generally score more runs than those who do not. Not all home runs are created equal, though; a team whose homers come with lots of men on base will score more runs than a team who hits mostly solo shots.
Obviously, no team is going to turn down a home run just because no one is on base. A homer is always the most desirable outcome for an at-bat. But if a team has only so much home run power (and every team has an upper limit in this regard), then it would be well advised to try to get as many runners on base for those home runs as possible, so as to maximize its run-scoring potential. This is why advanced lineup construction dictates that managers should bat high-OBP guys at the top of the lineup (not guys who are fast or who can “handle the bat”), followed by high-SLG guys.
So let’s take a look at all the home runs hit by each team so far in 2011 (through April 14th’s games). The following chart shows how many RBI each team has earned on its home runs, broken down into two categories: RBIs from the batter himself (1 per HR) and RBIs from runners on base.
As you can see, some teams have had much better luck at converting their HRs into RBIs than others. To take two extremes, the Diamondbacks have hit 14 home runs so far this year, but they have a whopping 29 RBIs on those home runs. On the other end of the spectrum, the Angels have actually hit more HRs than the D’Backs: 15. But, amazingly, 13 of those 15 home runs have been solo shots, so the Angels only have 17 RBI, 12 fewer than the Diamondbacks.
The sample sizes are tiny, so we should not draw any conclusions about these teams’ abilities to put runners on in front of their sluggers. However, as a purely descriptive measure, we can use these numbers to explain part of the reason that some teams have been successful offensively while others (despite a similar # of HRs) have struggled. The Diamondbacks have scored 64 runs; the Angels have scored 45. That’s a 19-run gap, 12 runs of which can be explained solely by the difference in baserunners driven in on home runs. (The D’Backs have played 1 fewer game, but that doesn’t really matter here.)
The epitome of the Angels’ frustrations was this game
A simple measure of how successful a team is at maximizing its HR opportunities is Baserunners per Home Run (BR/HR). This is just what it sounds like. (It’s just the green bars in the graph above divided by the blue bars.) The league average so far in 2011 is .564 BR/HR; in 2010, it was a bit higher, .591 BR/HR. Teams that average less than around .45 BR/HR generally will struggle to score runs unless they hit a whole bunch of homers.
The current leaders in this category are the Diamondbacks, with more than 1 BR/HR: 1.071 to be precise. The Orioles are second with exactly 1.000 BR/HR. The Angels bring up the rear, with a .133 BR/HR, followed by the Giants at .222 BR/HR.
Here is a scatterplot that shows each team’s performance in two important categories: hitting home runs, and having runners on when those homers are hit (BR/HR). Ideally, you would want your team in the upper-right portion of this chart.
Over the course of the season, the more extreme values will regress to the mean. The Twins, for instance, have to hit homers at a higher rate (don’t they?). The Orioles’ and D’backs’ BR/HR numbers will fall, and the Angels’ and Giants’ will rise. At the end of the year, though, I would not be surprised if most of the top 6-8 scoring teams are above average in both total HR and baserunners per homer.
For those who are wondering, so far in 2011, the ability to hit homers has explained about 42% of the variation in teams’ run-scoring.
Similarly, the number of baserunners per homer explains about 25% of the variation.
None of this should be all that surprising. Getting on base and hitting homers are two very important skills, and they work especially well when combined.
I’ll have more on this topic in a future post.
This blog is devoted to the invention and use of unusual baseball statistics. These Junk Stats are designed to reveal the not-so-meaningful quirks that make baseball so fascinating.
JunkStats is written by Jacob Peterson, who also writes for the Braves blog Talking ChopBeyond the Boxscore
For more about the site or the author, read the About page
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