Wednesday, October 24, 2012


We have some ranking and performance comparisons for the last five years' worth of World Series teams to jam up into your divided consciousness (no more devilishly divided, alas, than the silly USA itself, improbably warming to a glad-handing cash-grabber--but then we love to fall behind 2-0 or 3-1 and then roar back to make a killing for someone's home team).

Politics? While the Series is on? How outré...but it's not any of the 99%'s fault that they've pushed the Fall Classic so far back into October that these two diametrically opposed pastimes in America are now forced to overlap. Of course, this year the really contentious election is going to be for the AL MVP--now that will be an ideological bloodbath...

At any rate: ranking and performance comparisons. First up, some offensive rankings guaranteed to offend...

Yes, that's correct. The Giants (dead last) and the Tigers (despite the presence of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, a shocking 10th) in home runs. Why, it's positively revolutionary. The Giants, as anyone listening to Game 1 tonight already knows, have a home park that is the stingiest in terms of HRs allowed (except, of course, on this evening, when a total of four left the yard).

Interesting to note how much different the Giants' offense in '12 was compared to the '10 World Champs. Despite fewer HRs, they were a good bit better ranked in NL OBP, and they were sixth best in run scored. What twangy Tim McCarver failed to mention during Game 1 was that the Giants scored the most runs on the road in the '12 NL (led by The Man Whose Name Cannot Be Mentioned, aka Melky Cabrera). The Unutterable One and Angel Pagan scored 50+ runs on the road, both of them plated often by Buster Posey, who had 62 RBI in 76 road games.

The pattern that's most discouraging for offense, however, is captured in the far right column, where we've seen fit to display the league leading team in drawing walks. Note how the league-high total has dropped on the order of a hundred walks over the past 2-3 seasons in each league. A decline in plate discipline is a leading indicator of continuing decline in offense, and the flattened distribution of walks is another troubling sign.

Our other table examines the OPS+ values for pitching staffs of World Series teams. We've broken these down into starters and relievers, and then we've broken the relievers down into save situations (SvS) and non-save situations (NSvS) as defined at Forman et fils.

Remember that lower is better in this instance. Keep in mind also that the better team performance in terms of the yearly World Series matchup is shown for starters (yellow background) and for relievers (orange background, for overall reliever performance only).

Again, it's interesting to note the performance difference between the two Giants squads. The '10 Giants were truly driven by their pitching, which had one of the great stretch runs in baseball history (which contributed to their impressive OPS+ figures, clearly the best over the past five years).

This year's team, however, has a sharp performance variation between top of the line relievers and the staff's second tier. That performance is actually worse than the analogous group for the '11 Rangers, who had their relievers exposed during the World Series (7.13 ERA). That's something that the Giants may well run into at some point this time around...tonight their hitters made that a moot point, but it's something to watch for over the course of the series.

How do these "pseudo-indicators" perform? Well, we didn't try to take it back all that far into the recesses of history (time is short right now...) but two out of three teams with OPS+ advantages in both starting/relieving won their WS matchup; the fourth matchup was split, but the Rangers' sub-par second tier was a decisive factor in their second consecutive Fall Classic bringdown.