Sunday, March 6, 2011

Improving the Indians Offense & Kenny Lofton

How bad was the Indians offense in 2010 and  how much did the offense contribute to the very poor record?  A quick look at a runs scored vs record breakdown reveals the following.  The Indians were shutout a league leading 15 times (0-15), scored only 1 run an additional 14 times (0-14), and scored only two runs an additional 25 times (4-21).  The Tribe's record in games where the offense scored two runs or less was an overall 4-53.  The Indians were a combined 21-32 when scoring 3 or 4 runs and had a record of 44-11 when they scored 5 or more runs.

The Indians offense was offensive in 2010 as the team finished with a dismal record of 69-93.  The team ranked 12th in the league in runs scored with 636 (3.99 R/G), 12th in batting average at .248, 10th in OBP at .322, 13th in SLG% at .378, and 13th in OPS at .700.   The Indians did manage to finish 6th in walks with 545.  It would stand to reason that an improved offense would lead to an improved win total in 2011.  To that end, we'll look at the Bill James Pythagorean Expectancy Theory as detailed below.

Bill James developed the Pythagorean Expectation for Winning Baseball, called that for its similarity to the Pythagorean Theory.  It is a formula that uses Runs Scored and Runs Allowed to predict the number of victories theoretically should of had and its result can be used to compare a team's actual winning percentage to the predicted winning percentage to evaluate how lucky that team was.  In 2011, the Indians Pythagorean winning expectancy matched their record of 69-93.

The Indians will look to improve on their offense in 2011. They hope to have a healthy Carlos Santana behind the plate come opening day and a fully healthy Grady Sizemore in CF by mid to late April.  The Indians were without Asdrubal Cabrera for a large part of the 2010 campaign after he broke his arm on May 18th (appeared in 97 games) and 1b Matt LaPorta was not ready come opening day as he had off-season hip and toe surgery.   

One area of the game that often isn't measured along with the traditional HR/AVG/SLG%/OPS which does have an effect on the ability for an offense to score runs is in the baserunning department.  Again, Bill James has presented some data in his annual handbook that provides a measuring stick for baserunning.  The individuals ability to move on the basepaths is judged by three main categories which are:
  • The ability to move from first to third on a single.
    • ML Average is 28%, Very Good is 38%, Very Slow is 18%
  • The ability to move from second to home on a single.
    • ML Average is 58%, Very Good is 70%, and Very Slow is 41%.
  • The ability to move from first to home on a double.
    • ML Average is 44%, Very Good is 62%, and Very Slow is 27
  • Each player is credited with a base taken for advancing on a passed ball, wild pitch, balk, sac fly, or defensive indifference and can also be a negative if out.
  • Getting doubled off base also is a negative value (Shin-Soo Choo was tied for league lead in getting doubled off with 5).
Each player and team is scored on an overall Bases Reached (BR) gain which could be positive or negative and SB Gain which could be positive or negative and the Net Gain which again could be positive or negative.  (SB - 2*CS = SB gain).  The Indians as a team were a Net +20 (a total of 5 runs) which was near the middle of the league and ranked 8th in the American League.  For comparison sake, the best team in the majors was the Tampa Bay Rays at a +196 (or 49 additional runs).  Of the 2010 playoff teams, five were above league average and three were below league average but, Cincinnati and Minnesota were just below league average.   The Indians overall best baserunner in 2010 was Jason Donald at a Net +21 and the team was overall below average in each of the baserunning metrics of 1st to 3rd, 2nd to Home, and 1st to Home which could be a main reason that Kenny Lofton is in camp to help the Indians with their baserunning.  The Indians projected roster is presented below along with their 2010 baserunning metrics. 

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