Metrics show where White Sox, Cubs are getting their runs
BY JOHN GROCHOWSKI For Sun-Times Media May 5, 2014 10:24PM
Updated: June 7, 2014 6:23AM
As the Cubs and White Sox play their annual Crosstown Showdown, they’re nearly at opposite ends of the offensive spectrum. Through Sunday, the Sox were second in the majors with 163 runs scored and the Cubs 27th with 112. American League teams are higher-scoring because of the designated hitter, but the Cubs were 13th out of 15 teams in the no-DH National League.
One goal of advanced metrics is to understand how much each player contributes to team runs. That means restricting statistical models to individual achievements. Looking at the ‘‘runs’’ column on a stat sheet will tell you something about the player who scored, but it won’t tell you anything about the teammates who advanced him on the bases and drove him in.
Individual stats such as batting average don’t tell enough about a player. So metrics such as value over replacement player, WAR, base runs, equivalent average and runs created take in multiple facets of offense. We know they work because they correlate to team runs better than traditional stats do.
Take runs created, for example. It’s expressed in runs, so it makes for an easy comparison. The formula looks complicated: RC = (H + BB - CS + HBP - GIDP) x (TB + (.26 x (HBP + BB - IBB)) + (.52 x (SH + SF + SB))), all divided by plate appearances. But you don’t have to do the arithmetic. RC is among the metrics listed at Baseball-Reference.com.
Through Sunday, the Sox had 163 runs created, right on their total of 163 runs scored. If you take it by individuals, you can start with 25 runs created for Jose Abreu, then read through the roster to 21 for Alexei Ramirez, 20 each for Adam Dunn and Dayan Viciedo, 14 each for Tyler Flowers and Adam Eaton and so on until every player is accounted for. The total is 163.
That all the individuals’ runs created yield a total so near team runs indicates RC is giving us a meaningful basis for comparison. Take Ramirez out of the Sox’ lineup, and you need to replace something very close to 21 runs through 32 games.
What about the Cubs? They had 116 runs created through 29 games, four more than their 112 runs scored. By individual, Anthony Rizzo was the Cubs’ leader with 24 runs created. He was followed by Emilio Bonifacio with 18, Starlin Castro with 15 and Welington Castillo with 13.
The real world is always more complex than any statistical model, and unusual, unrepeatable streaks of clutch hitting, opponents’ errors and a touch of luck will mean advanced metrics don’t quite reach 100 percent correlation with runs scored. But the advanced metrics come a lot closer than traditional stats, and analysts and ballclubs alike know the metrics are real indicators of player value.