Ready or not, here comes another graph:
Let me walk you through it. First, the basics:
- Each team's OPS is plotted along the X axis
- Each team's ERA is plotted along the Y axis
- The size of the circle corresponds to each team's win total
- AL teams are in red and NL teams are in blue (NL West teams are dark blue)
- The MLB average is the black circle
In theory, as you move towards the upper right of the graph, the circles should get bigger, as a strong combination of pitching and hitting is thought to produce wins. Conversely, the lower left should be populated with small circles. An eyeballing of the graph seems to be in line with this, with the Braves and the Angels probably being the biggest (though not particularly big) exceptions to each of these trends, respectively.
So far nothing mind blowing, just a pleasant scatterplot along the X and Y dimensions. But now, we divvy up the teams along two whole different dimensions:
First, based on the combination of their hitting and pitching, each team is categorized as either Tier 1 (the strongest), Tier 2, Tier 3, or Tier 4 (the weakest), as separated by the green arcs. This is how the cookie crumbled:
- Tier 1 (7 teams): White Sox, Tampa Bay, Boston, Cubs, Philadelphia, Oakland, and Atlanta.
- Tier 2 (10 teams): Toronto, Dodgers, Angels, Arizona, Milwaukee, St Louis, Yankees, Minnesota, Detroit, and Texas.
- Tier 3 (9 teams): Baltimore, Mets, Florida, San Francisco, Cincinnati, Houston, Colorado, Cleveland, and San Diego.
- Tier 4 (4 teams): Seattle, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, and Washington.
The MLB average lands slightly on the Tier 2 side of the Tier 2/Tier 3 border, whereas the Dodgers are squarely in Tier 2 in spite of their sub-0.500 record. Might this suggest they are playing a bit below their expectation given their level of hitting and pitching (a la a pythagorean expectation theory)? It sort of seems so to me.
The next step was to overlay a completely different grouping on top of this categorization. The second grouping divided the teams into five new categories, depending on how heavily they leaned towards either hitting or pitching. Here's how this cookie crumbled:
- Pitching-Dependent (4 teams): Oakland, Dodgers, Toronto, and Angels.
- Pitching-Based (7 teams): White Sox, Tampa Bay, Atlanta, Arizona, San Diego, Seattle, and Washington.
- Balanced (11 teams): Boston, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Yankees, Minnesota, Mets, San Francisco, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Houston, and Kansas City.
- Hitting-Based (4 teams): Cubs, St Louis, Detroit, and Baltimore.
- Hitting-Dependent (4 teams): Texas, Florida, Colorado, and Pittsburgh.
So let's take a look at this second grouping. First, keep in mind 'balanced' doesn't necessarily mean 'good'. It just means the team hits at approximately the same level of competence as it pitches, regardless of whether that level is high (Boston), medium (Minnesota), or low (Kansas City). The Dodgers land deep in Pitching-Dependent territory - no surprise there - with only Oakland depending more heavily on their pitching. On the other side of the coin is Texas, whose league-leading OPS but 2nd-worst ERA make it the league's most unbalanced team. And once again the MLB average is right around the middle.
Conventional wisdom would say the best place to be is in the Tier 1/Balanced intersection, where only two teams - Boston and Philadelphia - reside.
Anyhow, that's all I've got to say for now. Once again thanks for reading through the rather dry text. And please don't hesitate to post any thoughts/comments, I'd be interested to hear them.