Baseball players, baseball coaches, baseball team owners, baseball fans and baseball fantasy league participants love statistics and mathematical formulas associated with the game.
And any baseball person knows that this sport is loaded with all kinds of stats.
Now, this year’s season has just begun and it is too early to tell which teams are going to be playing in October. However, let’s say we reach the mid point of the season and that eighty-one games have been played.
What are the best statistics to determine if a team or if your team will be
playing in the post season?
To get an answer to this question, I consulted with an economist, a quant expert, collegiate baseball players, coaches, a professional gambler, umpires and avid baseball fans who love the math connected with America’s favorite pastime.
Now, obviously, a team’s winning percentage at the middle of the season says something about the quality of the baseball they are playing.
However, to use statistics appropriately, we need to drill down into this number and try to determine what is contributing to the wins and the losses.
Some of the widely chosen stats include: team ERA, on base percentage,
number of three run homers and the number of times a team gets a man onto second base and into scoring position.
One expert I spoke to felt that the quality of the catcher is quite important in building a championship squad, because the catcher plays such an important role throughout the game and because he handles the ball on every play unless the ball is hit.
He also noted that some dominant teams have had outstanding catchers if one studies the history of baseball.
Other baseball scholars like the idea of building a strong team “up the middle” which includes the catcher, shortstop and second baseman.
Another student of the game felt that the ability to throw first pitch strikes was quite important.
One of my coauthors and a friend for many years, Carlton Chin, found a correlations between winning at baseball and home runs, fielding and walks.
Carlton is a quant expert trained at Massachusetts Institute Of Technology.
Another interesting statistic is the number of pitches that a team sees at each at bat. A team that is disciplined at the plate has a good sense of the strike zone.
Being patient at the plate also says something about their ability to manage anxiety in a positive manner.
Also, seeing a lot pitches can tire out a starter and allow players to get familiar with the pitcher’s stuff, speed and control on a given day.
Sports Psychology Perspective On Baseball Statistics
Because athletes and teams consult with me to master mental parts of their sport, I have a slightly different view on which numbers may be very important.
One of my favorite stats are the run differential that teams win games by. In other words, a dominant team is apt to show large margin of victories at the
mid point of their season.
Secondly, come from behind wins after the sixth inning is also an interesting element to consider when evaluating a team.
Late game comebacks say something about the manager’s skill, the team’s resilience, the quality of the starting pitchers, the strength of the bullpen, the team’s defensive ability to keep game close, the quality of their clutch hitting, their ability to focus, their ability to manage pressure and the team’s overall confidence.
More research is needed to determine if these two statistics are accurate predictors of end of season success.
It would also be interesting to note if these statistics hold up at the collegiate and minor league levels.