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Home runs and non-homer RBIs May 31, 2016

Posted by tomflesher in Baseball.
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Neil Walker. Photo: Arturo Pardavila III via Wikimedia Commons.

Neil Walker. Photo: Arturo Pardavila III via Wikimedia Commons.

While at yesterday’s Mets game, a friend of mine pointed out that Neil Walker had a surprisingly high ratio of home runs to RBIs – at the time, it was 12 homers to 23 RBIs, or a ratio of about .522 homers per RBI. That boils down to Walker hitting a ton of solo homers, including the only run scored in yesterday’s game. True, a lot of that is because Yoenis Cespedes tends to clear the bases before Walker gets a chance to drive in the runners, but that does beg the question – what does the typical hitter’s ratio look like?

Of players with 150 plate appearances or more, the surprise leader isn’t Walker, but Curtis Granderson. As a leadoff hitter, that makes sense: he gets more chances than Walker to hit homers with no one one, since he gets an opportunity every game. Grandy’s hit four homers to open the first inning and 5 midgame, including his walkoff against Pedro Baez.

As a curiosity, there are seven qualified batters who have no home runs this season: Cesar Hernandez, Billy Burns, Francisco Cervelli, Austin Jackson, Erick Aybar, Alcides Escobar, and Martin Prado. Escobar is bringing up the rear with 230 plate appearances. Of the top 10 players in HR per RBI, only Walker and Giancarlo Stanton are in the double digits for home runs (each with 12).

The home-run-to-RBI ratio of all batters with 150 plate appearances, as of May 30.

The home-run-to-RBI ratio of all batters with 150 plate appearances, as of May 30.

Unsurprisingly, there’s a strong correlation (ρ = 0.78) between HR/RBI and number of home runs; longball hitters tend to hit them whether there are runners on base or not. Probably the strongest statistical interpretation we can offer here is that RBIs are a pretty lousy way to evaluate hitters; they contain little information that simply measuring home runs, slugging average (ρ = 0.46) or OPS (ρ = 0.315) doesn’t offer.

It’s possible that a high HR/RBI ratio would indicate that a batter performs poorly in the clutch: the player doesn’t hit homers with men on base. In order to justify that interpretation, though, we’d need significantly more evidence and to do some statistical testing to see if he really did hit differently with runners in scoring position than without. It may be that, like Walker, there just aren’t that many opportunities. The only time this seems to be a red flag statistic would be for a hitter who plays with a team full of high-OBP, low-SLG hitters, indicating that there are usually men on base and he doesn’t drive them home. Otherwise, for guys like Walker and Stanton, it’s just a fun eye-bugging stat.


Mets Game 143 Recap – 2-out RBIs a-go-go! September 14, 2015

Posted by tomflesher in Baseball, Sports.
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After yesterday afternoon’s roller coaster, the Mets are at magic number 11. That’s after a – frankly – ridiculous outing where the Mets were actually at a prior 0% win probability. Peter Moylan‘s strikeout of Kevin Plawecki in the ninth inning, 3 runs up, actually moved the win probability to 100% for the Braves, meaning (roughly) that from that state there was no expectation that the Mets would win the game. Never one to listen to statistics, Juan Lagares doubled, Curtis Granderson walked, and Daniel Murphy promptly tied the game with a home run. That’s three two-out RBIs. Later on, Kirk Nieuwenhuis scored from 3rd when Plawecki reached on an error with two outs. Lagares walked, and then Granderson walked to force in Ruben Tejada, and Murphy walked to force Plawecki home. Though Kevin didn’t get an RBI for his play Granderson and Murphy each notched a 2-out RBI.

For the Braves’ part, Andrelton Simmons and Adonis Garcia each notched an RBI with two outs as well.

There’s an underlying mythology that Mets fans hold – the Mets are killer in the clutch. They play better with 2 outs than any other team. For the most part, that’s actually true – the Mets lead the league in 2-out RBIs in 2015 with 266. What’s more, they’re fourth-best in the league on defense, with only 174 2-out RBIs allowed this year. They’re in the upper half for go-aheads with 2 outs, as well, with 47 (behind the Yankees’ 58 and nine other teams).

One side note: the Mets have 13 walks with the bases loaded – that is, run-scoring walks. Granderson leads the team with 5. Of those 13, 12 – Twelve! – came with two outs. Other teams have 194 walks with the bases loaded, and 102 of them came with two outs. After Granderson’s five, seven players (Jose Bautista, Yonder Alonso, Michael Brantley, Marcel Ozuna, Francisco Lindor, Josh Donaldson, and Logan Forsythe) are tied with 3. All three of Donaldson and Lindor’s RBI walks came with two outs; take note, there are two Blue Jays in that list. The Blue Jays have five walks with the bases loaded and two outs.

That’s right. The Blue Jays, combined, have as many of those as Curtis Granderson, and Granderson’s have all come since August 8. The Mets’ team OBP had hovered between .290 and .311 for the first few months of the season, but ballooned to .337 in August and .378 in twelve September games. The Mets have been setting the table and when you play the game right, these oportunities present themselves.

RBIs with Two Outs July 4, 2011

Posted by tomflesher in Baseball, Economics.
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Sunday’s Subway Series game between the Mets and Yankees ended with a bang – Jason Bay hit a single off Hector Noesi that brought home Scott Hairston. The tenth inning should have been over, but Ramiro Pena committed an error at shortstop that put Daniel Murphy on base for Boone Logan. Hairston’s run was unearned, but no matter – Noesi took the loss and the Mets won the game.

The final score was 3-2, and the interesting thing about the game was that all three of the Mets’ runs came with two outs. (My fiancée, Katie, suggested that this was unusual, and motivated most of the rest of this post.) In fact, so far, the Mets have had 347 RBIs (of 375 runs scored), and 147 of them have come with two outs. That’s about 42.4% of their RBIs. By contrast, only 1070 of 3274 plate appearances – 32.7% – come with two outs. (Less than a third of plate appearances come with two outs because of the double play, among other reasons.) The majority come with no men out (about 34.8%) with the remainder coming with one out. It seems like the high concentration of 2-out RBIs should be explained by the use of the sacrifice bunt, but the Mets have only had 31 sacrifice bunts this season – not nearly enough to account for the difference between 32.7% of plate appearances and 42.4% of RBIs.

Is that pattern common across baseball? So far, there have been 10,037 RBIs in Major League Baseball in the 2011 season. 3686 of them – about 36.7% – came with two outs. Excluding the Mets’ numbers, that’s 3539 out of 9690, or 36.5%. For the National League only, there were 1928 two-out RBIS of 5212 total, or 37%, with 1781 of 4865 (36.6%) of National League RBIs coming with two outs if you exclude the Mets. (Note that I’m defining ‘in the National League’ as ‘in National League parks,’ since what I’m interested in is whether the Mets’ concentration of RBIs can be partially explained by the rules requiring pitchers to bat.)

Assume that the Mets’ RBIs are drawn from the same distribution as all others’. Then, 95% of the time, I’d expect the proportion of RBIs that come with two outs to be within two standard errors of the National League’s proportion, excluding the Mets. (The ‘two standard errors’ comes from the fact that a t-distribution’s critical value for a large number of trials for 95% significance is 1.96. For less than an infinite number, two standard errors is a handy approximation.) For the Mets’ 347 RBIs, the standard error would be

\sqrt{\frac{p(1-p)}{n-1}} = \sqrt{\frac{.366(.734)}{346}} = \sqrt{\frac{.232}{346}} = \sqrt{.000671} = .026

Thus, 95% of the time, the Mets should be within the interval of (.366 – .052, .366+.052), or (.314, .418). Since, again, the Mets’ proportion is .424, the Mets are slightly outside the 95% confidence interval. That’s pretty close, and certainly could happen by chance, but it’s surprising nonetheless. The question then is whether this is due to some sort of strategy employed by the Mets’ management or to some sort of clutch playing ability by the Mets. Again, there’s more data to collect and crunch (as always).