Monday, June 06, 2005

Cause for Concern: Team Batting Avg. with RISP

In his White Sox preview, Studes said (scroll to question #3 in the article):

This is a graph of how often each team reached scoring position (the "X" axis), how well they batted with runners in scoring position (the "Y" axis) and how many home runs they hit (the circle). As you can see, the Sox hit lots of home runs and had a phenomenal batting average with runners in scoring position. But they had the least at bats in the league with runners into scoring position.

The issue is that the Sox almost certainly will not bat .292 with runners in scoring position again. So they need to find other ways to score runs, and they particularly need to get more runners in scoring position.

That graph is from 2004. The Sox didn't do a good job of getting guys to second and third (perhaps part of the reason why management decided "we can't wait around for the three-run homer"), but were opportunistic to the point where it didn't hurt them with regards to run production.

Studes warned that the Sox almost certainly wouldn't be that fortunate again, and indeed, they haven't been (you'll have to scroll to "The Other League"). The Sox were dead last in the AL in total at-bats with runners in scoring position in 2004, and so far in 2005, they're dead last again. But this season, they aren't hitting .292 w/RISP. They're hitting .257. And not only are they hitting at a lower average, they're also hitting fewer homers (compare the size of the circles surrounding the White Sox data points in the 2004 and 2005 graphs).

The only AL squads hitting worse with RISP--KC, Oakland, Cleveland--are off to some pretty awful starts. It's no wonder that the Sox offense has been so poor. At least the Sox appear to be on pace to have a marginal increase from 2004 in total at-bats with RISP.

[Just as an aside: it's interesting that Oakland (see link above) has had among the most opportunities with RISP in the AL. They've been hampered by a terrible batting average in those situations, so assuming they improve somewhat over the course of the year, they could be in for marked a improvement in runs scored. They've played better of late (even scoring 10+ runs in single games, rather than over the course of single weeks), so perhaps the turnaround is underway. The fact that they're second in the AL in at bats with runners in scoring position indicates their offense may be a whole lot better than it has shown itself to be thus far.]

I note with some measure of relief that the Twinkies are hitting an absurd .300 with runners in scoring position. Surely that's coming down over the next 100+ games.