How ironic that a film extolling the virtues of using a statistical approach to winning baseball games was released at about the same time as the 2011 New York Yankees-Detroit Tigers playoff series started.
Billy Beane’s philosophy is based on the premise that on base percentage and slugging average are two of the most vital statistics. In the Yankees-Tigers playoff series, the Yankees did better in both categories. They also had much better pitching numbers.
Joe Girardi should ask for a do-over.
During the regular season, the Yankees outscored the Tigers by 80 runs, an average of about one-half run a game.
The Yankees out-slugged the Tigers, .444 to .434, which is not significant. Neither was the difference in on base average. The Yankees .343 barely edged the Tigers .340, but over 162 games, it is important.
The big Yankees offensive edge was that they hit 222 home runs compared to the Tigers 169, which was supposed to be significant in the playoffs.
The Yankees had the extra home game.
With respect to pitching, the Yankees had a 3.73 ERA and led the league with a 119 ERA+. The Tigers had a 4.04 ERA and a 102 ERA+. Each team’s ball park was a factor in ERA+.
The numbers gave the Yankees a solid edge. The results on the field during the ALDS conflicted with the statistics.
In the five game playoff series, the Yankees outscored the Tigers, 28-17. The team that lost three of the five games outscored the winner by 11 runs. Can anyone say, “1960 Pittsburgh Pirates?”
The Tigers hit six home runs to the Yankees four. In the deciding game, two of the Tigers three runs came on solo home runs. In that game, the Yankees hit one home run.
The following summarizes the teams’ offense:
Batting Average: Yankees .260 Tigers .228
On Base Average Yankees .350 Tigers .311
Slugging Average Yankees .399 Tigers .380
In the playoffs, the team that gets the better pitching usually – not always – but usually wins.
The following summarizes the teams’ pitching:
ERA Yankees 3.27 Tigers 5.73
WHIP Yankees 1.205 Tigers 1.500
BB Yankees 17 Tigers 21
The Yankees wins were 9-3 in the first game and 10-1 in Game 4. The Tigers wins were 5-3, 5-4 and 3-2, which explains the skewed statistics.
Based on statistics, the Yankees were favored to win the series, but statistics couldn’t account for the rain that suspended the first game. The fact that those in charge allowed the game to start limited Verlander and Sabathia to one start.
No one will ever know what would have occurred if they had faced each in the fifth game.