The Baseball Analyst Issue 5: a review

This issue, like all 40 issues of this journal, is available on SABR’s website.

This edition begins with a plea from Bill James for more material. The issue’s four articles are by Dick O’Brien, Jim Reuter, Pete Palmer, and Dallas Adams.

O’Brien’s contribution is a quick-n-dirty examination of the relative importance of hitting and pitching when a team’s record improves or regresses by .031 (5 games). He concludes that teams whose records improve might show improvement at either offense or defense (or both). While collapsing teams have generally similar numbers, it appears more likely that the cause is a decline in offensive production. He goes on to examine ballpark effects. (O’Brien’s getting better at writing up his studies, which is good.)

Jim Reuter takes on Park Factors in this issue, arguing that simply splitting the season’s ballpark effects into home/not-home distorts the impact of extreme home ballyards. A better method would treat all league ballparks equally, at the cost of a slightly more complex calculation. The impact of the corrected calculation is, he shows, small (1% for Wrigley), but worth getting right.

Pete Palmer takes a look at the impact of balls and strikes on batter performance, based on data collected for 31 mid-1970s postseason games. He finds, unsurprisingly, that batters OBA improves as the ball count goes up; more surprising is the discovery that strike counts impact SLG far more than balls do. I’m sure this study has since been replicated with larger and more representative datasets, but don’t recall having seen that.

Dallas Adams gets more than half of the issue to complete his Issue 4 study of the distribution of run scoring, exploring some ways the data can be applied. Again, this involves fairly sophisticated math, but Adams is extremely good at explaining his methods. Definitely worth reading.