Today Baseball Prospectus looked at the combination of power and speed on a team, with Christina Kahrl positing an opinion that power/speed will soon be as important in defeating market inefficiencies as OBP was a decade ago and pitch-counts/defense have more recently become.
Her plan is to use ISO (isolated power, or slugging percentage minus batting average) to measure power, and a newfangled stat pioneered by BP called “EqBRR” (Equivalent Base Running Runs, which attempts to encapsulate not only steals, but caught-stealing, advancing on outs, and taking the extra base on a base hit — I do not know how they calculate it). She uses the PECOTA projections for every player on every team, sums them per team, and then combines them to come up with the power/speed “blend” for the team.
My first thought about this is that I think a power/speed blend is more interesting on a per-player basis (ie, if Gomez reaches his potential he’ll have a great power/speed blend and will be a great player — and one of the more interesting and entertaining players in the game). But a good “blend” of power and speed does not signify a good player: check out Morneau, or Manny, or Youkilis, or any number of great players who can hit the cover off the ball but can’t run to save their lives. Or look at guys like Ichiro or Willy Taveras who are great runners but don’t generate any power; they also have a terrible “blend” of power and speed, but are valuable players. Meanwhile, while Grady Sizemore would have a great blend, Mike Redmond would have an equally great blend: ie, he’s slow as hell and can’t run. Does having a good or bad blend of power and speed really signify a good or bad player, one way or the other?
If you sum it up across the entire team, is that problem minimized or not? I don’t know, it doesn’t seem like that would change the fundamental problems with the “blend” concept in the first place. Given that the linked article is about taking advantage of market inefficiencies, are we to take it to mean that a team with a bad “blend” are inefficient, in the generally accepted “win ballgames without spending a bunch of money” sense? Well let’s take a look at the data and see if it tells us anything.
She gives the top five and bottom five teams in terms of power/speed blend:
Team EqBRR ISO NrmEqBRR NrmISO Mult Age Padres -7.99 .143 -1.88 -1.08 2.04 29.6 Marlins 6.28 .170 1.64 1.10 1.80 26.7 Braves -3.71 .143 -0.83 -1.06 0.88 28.1 Phillies 1.68 .172 0.50 1.26 0.64 31.6 Orioles 2.80 .165 0.78 0.69 0.54 29.0 ChiSox -3.99 .172 -0.89 1.27 -1.13 29.3 Rockies -5.04 .169 -1.15 1.05 -1.21 27.9 Angels 6.23 .146 1.63 -0.84 -1.36 29.4 Cards -7.60 .170 -1.79 1.12 -2.00 28.4 Twins 5.22 .130 1.38 -2.10 -2.89 27.1Alright. So the Padres have the best blend. Kahrl jokes about this, calling them a freak show and describing them as a “sadly amusing statistical oddity of San Diego boasting the most evenly bad blend of power and speed.” (They’re like the Mike Redmond of baseball teams, blend-wise.) So moving beyond them, the top five includes the defending champion Phillies along with three more bottom dwellers. So four bad-to-awful teams along with a good team; sure doesn’t seem like having a good blend of power and speed guarantees that you’re a good team or a well run franchise.
The bottom five is even more interesting. The White Sox and Angels went to the playoffs last year, and the Twins were somewhere between 0 and 1 game short of making it. The Rockies were in the World Series in 2007, and the Cardinals won it in 2006. These are by no means bad teams.
Looking at the Twins for a moment, I’m somewhat amused — but not surprised — by the fact that they dwell at the bottom of the list (and by a considerable margin). They had no power and good speed last year, and while these are not based on last year’s stats but rather on PECOTA, there is no doubt that PECOTA hates the Twins like it hates no other team. Frankly, I expect the Twins’ power to improve significantly in 2009, as Gomez and Young* develop and with the addition of Crede’s powerful bat, as well as ditching Adam Everett’s swiss cheese fungo bat.
* Is anyone else amused by the fact that the Twins have actually realized that they have to try to encourage Delmon Young to develop into a power bat, and the only way they can think to do that is to tell him to “pull the ball.” I’m sure there’s more to it than that. And they were encouraged by his 4 double play game, given that all four GIDPs went to the left side of the infield. Maybe they should just have him talk to Killebrew just like Morneau does.
Ultimately, while it’s possible that power/speed blend becomes some sort of market inefficiency in the future, it doesn’t appear to indicate an inefficiently run front office today. By the various measures we’ve looked at here, the Twins are either in the top three most efficient franchises, or number one on the list. Similarly, the Angels are one of the better run organizations: by thrylos98’s measure they’re tied for #4 with the Indians, who were in the top 3 by my more simplistic measure. By the same token, the Marlins are an efficient organization and are near the top of the list. (Oh, so are the Rockies.)
I’d say we’ve demonstrated very well that being at the bottom of the power/speed list does not indicate that you’re a poorly run organization. By the same token, being at the top of the list doesn’t mean you’re well run (or not).
It seems to me that power/speed blend just doesn’t have any correlation one way or the other with an efficiently run franchise. And it also doesn’t seem to have any correlation with “excitement,” given that the Angels, Twins and Marlins are all exciting teams to watch, while the Padres and Braves simply are not.
I wonder whether Kahrl’s article was a legitimate piece or whether it was simply a way for her to meet her “bash the Twins” quota by finding a way to put the Twins at the bottom of a list.3 comments