Wednesday, July 09, 2008

This Week's Daily Graph of the Month

Ready or not, here comes another graph:

(click graph to enlarge)

(data through Monday's games)

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.


DodgerDog in Idaho said...

Somebody either has asperger's syndrome or has way, way, way too much time on their hands.

With Donnie Baseball coming back to be the Dodger hitting coach after the All-Star break (!!!) the Dodgers should have a bigger circle at the end of the year and should be able to break into the first tier and conquer all the other circles for supremecy of the square graph!

Go Don Mattingly!!

Orel said...

Dodgerfan in Idaho, is that you? Or is there actually more than one Dodger fan in Idaho?

QuadSevens said...

I feel like this post should be on a Statistics exam. Lucky for me it isn't, because I forgot my graphing calculator today.

Steve Sax said...

EK, dodgerdog in idaho is saying that your pee smells.

DodgerDog in Idaho said...

Yeah... it's been a while... but I've decided to check you guys out again. Sarcasm and satire is way overrated and yet, so necessary to sustain a healthy and sane life for this Dodger fan in the current Grady Little/Joe Torre era...

Lived in LA my whole life. Moved up here ten years ago to get away from it all... miss the ravine but still catch it all with my DirecTV MLB Extra Innings in glorious HD on the 92" projector in 5.1 Dolby. It's not quite... but certainly the next best thing to being there.

Orel said...

Welcome back! I'm always impressed by those who can leave it all behind. And as long as you get Vinny on your feed, what else do you need?

Xeifrank said...

Great job EK. That's a great graph, I really enjoyed it. My only concern would be adjusting for park. If you do so, perhaps teams like the Rays would move a little bit down and to the right. Just a thought. Happy graphing!
vr, Xeifrank

Steve Sax said...

dodgerdog: a 92" projector? You mean, Delwyn Young ends up being taller than you?

DodgerDog in Idaho said...

Don't get Vinny all the time but, most of the time will do. It's good to hear the perspective from the other side as well. The San Diego annoucers are my second favorite... they're pleasantly impartial with a hometown twist of course and, they give the Dodger players many compliments, which is a rare thing these days.

Actually Saxy... 92" diagonal! Peanut looks pretty scary in the close-ups. When they pull the camera back, then life returns to normal. Russell's "Faux-Hawk" haircut... that's another scary sight in HD...

Erin said...

Where in Idaho? That's where my dad's side of the family is from.

DodgerDog in Idaho said...

Nampa... just west of Boise.

I grew up in La Crescenta, moved to Sylmar, lived in Chatsworth some. Then in 1999, I moved to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho (simply stated: God's Country!), then moved to the Boise area in 2002. The best fishing and outdoor sporting not more than an hour from my doorstep and, on the downside, I've only been able to find one authentic chile relleno in town thus far! Which makes my trips back to LA to visit family that much more special...

DodgerDog in Idaho said...

Oh... and did I mention the In-N-Out Withdrawal symptoms take several years to finally subside... but one ends up eventually [url=]looking something like this[/url].

DodgerDog in Idaho said...

ooops... gotta learn your html again.

here's the link to my goophy photo: