The 2016 Graphical Review

The Red Sox were good at scoring runs this season. (via Dave Studeman)

The Red Sox were good at scoring runs this season. (via Dave Studeman)

Long ago and far away, we used to post statistics at The Hardball Times. I’m not a programmer, so I would create the stats in Excel and post them to the site once a week. The standings page would look something like this:

alstandings_end

These are the 2016 statistics, using the old THT format. Hopefully, most of these stats make sense to you…”Temp” is short for Temperature, a Bill James invention of how hot (or cold) a team is. Room temperature is normal. PWins stands for the Pythagorean Wins a team’s run differential result in (we use PythagenPat, actually) and Diff is the difference between each team’s actual wins total and its Pythagorean total.

I’m sure you already know this, but that 13-win differential for the Rangers is a major league record. The 1905 Tigers had the previous best differential. They also had a positive differential of 13 wins, but that’s a rounding thing. They were actually at 12.9, while the 2016 Rangers were at 13.2. In the little corners of baseball analysis, this is mind-bendingly awesome. Some of us have spent months in caves pondering the mysteries of pythagorean differentials.

We also used to post graphs at THT. This is our old standard, graphing each American League team by the number of runs scored and allowed. Check out where Texas is on the graph:

alteamruns

See? The Rangers are in the middle of the pack based on just their runs scored and allowed, but that 13 next to their name shows that their actual record put them out there on the right with the Red Sox (who were actually six wins worse than their data point). On a side note, you can see just how bad the Twins’ defense was here. They’re at the bottom of the graph, all by themselves. Here’s a graph that breaks defense into pitching and fielding.

alteamfipder

Defense Efficiency Ratio is an old stat (sort of the opposite of BABIP) that isn’t the best measure of fielding, but I like it because it is what it is…no data interpretation needed. As you can see, the Twins hold that spot in the bottom left (terrible fielding/really bad pitching) to themselves. The more advanced stats indicate that the Twins’ fielding wasn’t necessarily the worst in the league, just pretty close. The Twins’ pitchers gave up some mighty hard-hit balls.

Sorry, I was talking about the Rangers. If you go back up to that standings chart at the top of the page, the WPA stats of each team are on the right. And it’s here that you discover the key to their pythagorean success: their batting WPA was just about the best in the league (just barely behind the Red Sox) despite scoring an average number of runs (see the first graph). In other words, they won all those close games with some clutch hitting. Data point: they had the best batting Clutch score in the past six years, per FanGraphs, and by a wide margin.

In general, teams score runs one of three ways: get base runners in scoring position, hit with runners in scoring position, or just hit home runs any old time. Here’s a graph of how each 2016 team did in those categories.

team_barisp_hr_al

The Red Sox were the offensive class of the league, the Yankees were terrible with runners in scoring position, and the Orioles were the worst at getting runners into scoring position–but obviously hit a lot of home runs to make up for it.

Finally, a graph about Temperature. This is a box-whisker graph that shows the middle and upper quartiles of each team’s temperature. The line in the middle of the red box is the team’s median temperature.

al_temps_boxwhisker

The Indians had the majors’ highest temperature (127 degrees on July 1st) as well as its highest low (55 degrees on April 1). They were steadily, consistently excellent all year long.

Let’s switch leagues…

nlstandings_end

The Phillies had quite the pythagorean differential too, in the top 20 of all-time major league differentials. It’s pretty rare to have two teams spot such positive differentials in the same year. At this point, I should say that the WPA totals aren’t the final, official totals. I believe they still have to be massaged a bit to fit this year’s run environment. But if it stands, that 11.82 WPA by Cubs starting pitchers will be the second-best total of any team in the past 18 years (behind the 2011 Phillies).

Of course, we all know that the Cubs were good this year. As the graph says…

A Hardball Times Update
Goodbye for now.
nlteamruns

If only the Phillies had matched their pythagorean record, they’d have the second draft pick next summer. See, it doesn’t pay to mess with the baseball sabermetric gods. On the next graph, you can see how phenomenally good the Cubs’ fielding was, though the thing that really, literally, sticks out is how bad the Reds’ pitching was.

nlteamfipder

When it comes to scoring runs, much was made of the Mets’ low batting average with runners in scoring position this year, until they improved in the final month. But no one talked about how bad they were at getting runners into scoring position in the first place. The best at getting runners into scoring position were the Pirates and, once again, the Cubs.

team_barisp_hr_nl

One more sign of the Cubs’ dominance: check out their median seasonal temperature below compared to everyone else; the bottom of their third quartile just barely overlaps with the second quartiles of the other best teams. Yet they did slump, reaching a low temperature of 36 degrees on July 9.

nl_temps_boxwhisker

Notice how small the spread between the top and bottom temperature was for the Cardinals? They were the most consistent team in the majors last year when measured that way, followed closely by the Padres, Brewers and Nationals.

Really, these graphs are meant to be read from top to bottom with an eye on your favorite team. Hopefully you’ll see something you didn’t already know in the lines and dots.

References & Resources

  • Bill James invented both DER and Temperature, as well as many other things. Tangotiger invented FIP. The Mills brothers invented WPA.
  • To calculate a team’s Temperature, you multiply their pre-game temperature by .8958334. If they win the game, you add 15 degrees. Each team starts the season at 72 degrees.


Dave Studeman was called a "national treasure" by Rob Neyer. Seriously. Follow his sporadic tweets @dastudes.
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