Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
May 14, 2004
BASEBALL: What Wins In October

The Hardball Times carries a great look at what types of teams have prevailed in playoff serieses since 1995 (hat tip to Matt Welch). The answer (other than "teams with Mariano Rivera"), roughly: (1) pitching, (2) starting pitching, (3) pitching and defense, (4) speed and contact.

This partially gibes with Bill James' prior studies - I'm rushing this morning and don't have time to look it up, but I believe his various studies have found that what wins World Serieses, at least, is frontline starting pitching and home run power.

The advantage in the current study for steals is unusual, since historically, great stolen base teams (think of the 1985 Cardinals or 1911-13 Giants) get killed in the World Series. The relationship isn't strong enough to generalize, but I can take a guess: the stolen base is more of an advantage today precisely because it's rare. Thus, in the past, there were teams that reliead heavily on steals (Whiteyball!), and they didn't fare well, but nobody plays like that now. Whereas in today's game, a steals advantage is more likely to be negative - that is, one team can't run at all. And with the higher caliber of pitching in the postseason, a complete inability to manufacture runs may be a handicap more than the ability to do so is an advantage.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:23 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

I don't know if I'd say that the great stolen base teams get killed in the series. Yes, they all lost, but:

1) The Giants didn't lose to bad teams. The 1911 and 13 A's were stacked, and the 1912 Red Sox weren't awful.

2) The Cardinals did win the series in '82, although they weren't as stolen base-focused as they were in 1985. Whiteyball wasn't perfect, but it wasn't a complete flop, either.

3) 2 of the series were pretty fluky. Game 8 of the 1912 Series is a well-told tale, and the Giants outscored the Sox 31-25 in the series. And Don Denkinger's role in 1985 is also well known. I'm not saying the Cards would have won if the call had gone their way, but you never know. (Even they admit they pretty much tanked Game 7, which had a lot to do with the 13-28 run breakdown for that series.)

4) They didn't lose because of the running game; they lost because they didn't hit. Here's the batting lines for the 4 series:

1911: .175/.232/.243 (3 SB)
1912: .270/.324/.358 (11 SB)
1913: .201/.238/.250 (5 SB)
1985: .185/.248/.269 (2 SB)

You can't steal if you can't get on base, and that's where their problem came from. I think the biggest hurdle these teams faced was the opposing pitching staff.

Posted by: Devin McCullen at May 14, 2004 1:53 PM
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