As we pulled together this year’s Hardball Times Annual, I left something out on purpose. In every previous Annual, we had included league graphs, the ones I created on Baseball Graphs for all previous years. We had decided to pull back on the book’s stats and graphs, so they were left on the drawing room floor in 2012.
But I’ve always posted them on the Hardball Times site—I used to update them once a week—and I should have at least posted them here. Now, over two months later, I’m rectifying that mistake.
Today, we’ve got three basic team graphs for the American League, illustrating the season that was. I know this is old news, but it’s good to look back now and then, right? Tomorrow, I’ll post the National.
First, each team’s relative standing in runs scored and allowed.
There was no .600 team in the AL in 2012. The Rays and Yankees came closest, based on their run differentials, but the Rays lagged five actual wins behind their run differential. The Orioles were the surprise, finishing eleven games over their run differential record. If you believe that run differential is a truer indication of team production, then you might also notice the Indians, whose sub-.400 run differential record was masked by a won/loss record that was favored by the baseball gods by five games. I doubt that Indians management was fooled.
No team besides the Orioles and Indians had a positive variance of more than two games.
In terms of runs scored per game, the Rangers and Yankees were the class of the league (special footnote: these stats aren’t adjusted for park) while Seattle was at the bottom of the pack (left on the graph) by a goodly margin. The next graph picks apart each team’s offensive strengths into getting on base (also known as not making outs) and hitting for power:
Yah, the Rangers and Yankees are in the upper right and the Mariners in the lower left. When you lead the league in offense, chances are good you did both things well—and vice versa. The interesting stories are those in the middle. Two groups stand out: those who could have slugged more (Twins, Indians, Royals) and those who might have gotten on base more (White Sox, Rays, Orioles, A’s—the A’s lacked OBP. Oof.). Parks are making an impact here too, such as those in Chicago (slugger’s park) and Kansas City (not).
Our last graph picks apart the pitching and fielding of each team.
I used simple DER (Defense Efficiency Ratio—the percent of batted balls fielded for outs) for the left-hand axis of the graph, in an attempt to make a clear measure of fielding. The THT Annual has a better measure, courtesy of Carson Cistulli, in which the DER is measured for the ballpark’s impact. (There it is again. Ballpark.) But by most measures, the Angels belong near the top of this graph, as their team fielding was excellent, and the Royals belong near the bottom despite their cavernous home grounds.
Perhaps the Tigers stand out the most, by virtue of their superb pitching (second-best, as measured by strikeouts, walks and home runs allowed) but substandard fielding (second-worst DER, even adjusted for ballpark). In the end, Detroit had what it takes to be the American League champs. Graph or not.