Getting Graphic

We at The Hardball Times take great pride in our statistics. We like to think that our stats, while relatively unique, give all the vital information you need without overwhelming you with a bunch of useless information. And we particularly like to present our stats in ways that help you understand the meaning behind the numbers. That’s why we regularly use graphs for our baseball stats, probably more than any other baseball site.

The 2005 THT Team Graphs are now available for your viewing pleasure. If you’re new to the site, or just want to reacquaint yourself with our graphs, read on.

Divisional Races

Yeah, divisional standings are nice, but I personally think that divisional graphs are way cool. Standings tell you how each team is doing right now, but graphs can tell you at a glance how each team is doing, and how it did last week, which team has momentum, etc. As an example, here is the current graph for the AL East race (not including Sunday’s games):

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Doesn’t this capture the dynamic of the race nicely? You can see that the Orioles are on a real streak, while the Red Sox have slid back with the Blue Jays at .500 ball. The Yankees and Devil Rays are bringing up the rear.

About twenty years ago, John Warner Davenport wrote a great book chronicling every baseball race in history this way. The book is called Baseball’s Pennant Races: A Graphical View, and I like to think that our graphs are honoring his pioneering work.

Run Differentials

Meanwhile, bigger questions about the AL East remain. The Orioles are in first place, sure, but how are they doing it? That’s where this next graph comes in:

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I covered the theory behind this graph in a guest piece at Baseball Analysts. The gist is that this graph captures each team’s run differential (which is generally what drives wins and losses). As you can tell from the graph, the Orioles are doing it with their hitting. Their position on the far right means that they have the best offense in the league, though their pitching and fielding are in the middle of the pack.

It’s also interesting that many teams are hanging around the .600 line.

Scoring Runs

So the Orioles are doing it with their bats. To get a little more insight, the following graph breaks down each team’s offense into the two key components of good offense: getting on base and slugging. I actually use Isolated Power (SLG minus BA) instead of slugging average, because it more clearly captures differences between teams.

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As is usually the case with great offenses, the Orioles are doing both well: their position in the upper right hand corner means that they are right near the top in both getting on base and slugging the ball. However, several other teams such as the Red Sox and Yankees are also great on-base teams. It’s slugging that has really separated the Orioles from the rest of the pack.

Allowing Runs, or Not

The obvious last question then is: what’s up with pitching and fielding? How are the Orioles and their league competitors performing on the mound and in the field? To gain some insight in this area, we use two stats: Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP), which consists of those things that only a pitcher impacts, and Defense Efficiency Ratio (DER), which is the percent of batted balls successfully turned into outs by the fielders:

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What’s wild about this graph is the outlier (there’s one every year!): the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Did you notice that three of the four best offenses in the league are in the AL East, which is also the domain of the worst pitching/fielding team in the league?

The Devil Rays’ fielders don’t appear to deserve much of the blame here. That goes directly to the guys on the mound. Baltimore’s pitching and fielding appear to be okay, though the fielding may be a bit below average. It’s important to remember that DER is not a perfect representation of a team’s fielding prowess. It’s just an indication. Zone rating is a better metric for this sort of analysis.

That’s the story. I will update the graphs as often as possible throughout the year. And you can view these graphs for every year in baseball history at the Baseball Graphs historical site.

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