Whew. I think I responded to everyone who emailed about getting together to watch road games. If you’re interested, we’ve got two dates already, both Bellevue: May the 12th and May the 26th. If you’re interested (and if you emailed and I missed it) drop me a line for the info.
Rafael Soriano’s back in the majors; Bloomquist is on the 15-day DL and Jarvis has been officially released. What, they couldn’t find a taker in trade? I’m stunned. Stunned, I tell you. Stunned.
Productive outs are defined in a sidebar in that article I didn’t see at the time because ESPN’s pages format like ass when you use anything but IE w/Flash. So!
What is a productive out?
A productive out occurs when …
A baserunner advances with the first out of an inning.
A pitcher sacrifices with one out.
A baserunner is driven home with the second out of an inning.
What is the formula for productive out percentage (POP)?
Productive outs divided by the total number of outs. For instance, if three of Player A’s 10 outs are productive, his POP is .300.
So it’s even worse than what I lambasted him for (that is, it’s just a proxy for OBP, since productive outs couldn’t occur without a runner). And a pitcher sacrificing with no outs isn’t productive but with one out, it is? But if you advance a runner while making the first out, that’s productive, but advancing the runner while making the second out isn’t? Why is it productive for the pitcher, then?
I actually think that defintion’s wrong. I can’t believe that Elias defined a stat so stupid: I mean really, POP must be calculated as
“productive outs” made/potential “productive outs”
Which would make it not a proxy for OBP. But until they actually define the stat, start publishing numbers, rather than using it as some kind of drive-by article reinforcement, that argument’s entirely valid.
Oh, and check out this chart:
Top and bottom
Through April 26
1. Detroit Tigers .430
2. Arizona Diamondbacks .417
3. Pittsburgh Pirates .417
4. San Diego Padres .400
5. Texas Rangers .365
6. Houston Astros .349
25. Seattle Mariners .229
26. San Francisco Giants .226
27. Cincinnati Reds .225
28. New York Yankees .210
29. Boston Red Sox .200
30. Oakland Athletics .137
Source: Elias Sports Bureau
Let’s look at those in a little more detail. Do they correlate to runs scored a game?
Team, POP rank, Runs scored/game rank
Tigers, 1, 1
Dbacks, 2, 6
Pirates, 3, 25
Padres, 4, 18
Rangers, 5, 8
Astros, 6, 2
Mariners, 25, 25
Giants, 26, 26
Reds, 27, 16
Yankees, 28, 21
Red Sox, 29, 17
Oakland, 30, 23
Ummmm… a little, I guess. But not really…. take OBP (please!), which everyone knows is even a better measure of team offense because it shows how good a team is at NOT MAKING OUTS AT ALL. Sorry, sorry. OBP to runs scored a game has a correlation of .865, which is about as strong a correlation as you’ll get (except maybe the inverse correlation between “decline in ESPN.com quality and number of old newspaper guys brought in to replace interesting writers”).
Correlation between productive outs and runs scored/game, based on the limited set of data he gives us? .544, which isn’t insignificant, but it’s like… Olney article:Neyer article::Produtive outs:OBP
Oh yeah, it’s that huge. And given that Olney (weirdly) only gives us six top and six bottom, I’d bet even that overstates the worth of this stat.
Here’s the huge, fatal flaw of POP:
It’s a measure of tactics and chance in a limited set of circumstances, and so it’s subject to wild variation. Do certain things happen when certain other things have already happened? It is not, and cannot be, a measure of success. Because while it purports to measure what teams do with their outs, but it totally ignores that the greatest thing a team can do when they’re up, which is NOT MAKE OUTS AT ALL. Sorry, sorry.
Let’s say you’re SUPER SMALL BALL TEAM.
Given a runner on first, you can advance them to third by giving up two outs every time. Your first guy in an inning gets on first 1/3rd of the time (a little more in practice, but bear with me), you give up two outs and… runner on third, two outs. A third of the time the fourth guy in an inning gets a hit and a run scores (that’s going to be much less in practice, but bear with me). The rest of the time he makes the third out and you score nothing:
3 innings: first batter gets on, gets moved to third with two outs
1 inning: 4th batter gets some kind of hit with two outs to score the run.
Then, with your non-productive innings (6) where you actually play baseball, the run expectation for no one on and one out is about .28, so you’d figure to score two runs in those innings on average. It scores as often in the innings where this perfect execution fails as it does when this perfect execution works as everyone wants it too.
Your team, the Productive Out Masters, now scores three runs a game. Congratulations, you’re the second-worst offensive team in the majors, ahead of only the Expos. Your team sucks.
But wait, you say, what if you only need three runs a game to win?
Please. Olney argues the Red Sox w/Schilling only need a couple runs, but go look at the game logs. Schilling doesn’t give up two runs a game consistently, so you’re punting on games…
Generally speaking, giving up an out to advance a runner does two things:
– it slightly increases the chance that one run will score
– it decreases the chance that many runs will score
The run expectation with a guy on first and no outs and a guy on second with one out is the same. It gains nothing except polite applause from the crowd for doing the little things. As Earl Weaver wrote, you should only play for one run when it’s certain that that one run will win you the game.
Well, to expand at length on Jason’s post…. Productive outs is the worst stat anyone’s come up with in a while, and that’s not easy for me to say.
Other teams — the Anaheim Angels and the Florida Marlins, most notably — prefer to use their outs productively, by bunting, employing the hit-and-run; they put runners in motion and emphasize aggressive base-running as part of a larger strategy to put pressure on the opposing pitcher and the defense behind him.
There are several assertions when you get to this point in the article:
1) That the Red Sox are using their outs unproductively, that overall, they’re worse off for not having made a sac bunt there
2) That the Angels and Marlins employ the bunt far more often and run far more often, than the Red Sox
3) That this puts pressure on the pitcher and defense, and is good
1. The Red Sox offense last year destroyed everyone that stood before it, nearly. They scored runs all over the place, 961 on the year. The Angels and Marlins… Florida scored 751, and Anahiem 736. The park difference isn’t that great, folks: the Red Sox whupped on people last year.
2. The Marlins were 2nd in the NL in sacrifice hits last year, Anahiem was tied for 18th. Boston was tied for 27th, and did it half as often as Anahiem did over the season — and rated for sac hits/opportunity, that’s even more of a gap.
Florida stole 150 bases, but they did throttle way back when McKeon took over. Anahiem stole 129. Boston, only 88. But wait, was that worthwhile? The value of an extra base over an out is such that you have to steal at about over a two-thirds clip to even break even. Florida was 150-74, we’ll spot them that. Anahiem was 129-61, so that’s close enough to productive. Boston was 88-35, and so by a couple percent got more out of their running game than either of those two poster boy franchises.
But here’s the rub: the Red Sox don’t have to, for two reasons:
They hit like crazy.
They don’t have hitters that can run.
If you had a team of 9 Edgar Martinez clones, would you have them steal bases? Of course you wouldn’t — they’d get thrown out like crazy. But when the Red Sox put together a lineup of slow-running mashers, they get criticized for not running? Who cares? They won games.
3. If someone, anyone, can show me that this is true, I’ll give them $1. Because if it was true, wouldn’t the teams that play this kind of ball score more runs than the Red Sox 2003 offense? And if they don’t, why don’t they? Aren’t those significant effects?
The offenses of the Red Sox and Athletics, on the other hand, are effectively two-dimensional, eschewing the productive out within their philosophy.
Um, and they win a lot of games every year. What’s that tell you about the value of the productive out and evaluating teams by it?
Okay, time to get serious.
A Serious Critique of Productive Outs
Productive outs is a worthless statistic, like GWRBI. To quote Olney:
“Productive out percentage is the ratio of productive outs — generally, advancing runners with the first out in an inning, or driving home a run with the second out”
So let me ask you something: can you have a productive out without a batter on base?
No? You can’t? Sooooooo let’s say I have a player that never has a runner on base when they’re up. Ever. Productive out percentage = 0% Then take a team that gets on base a lot. Ton more baserunners for this batter. A lot of those same outs — the ground-outs, the fly-outs, suddenly they’re advancing runners. Suddenly, he’s a productive out machine! Wheeeeeeeeee!!! Clubhouse leadership mantle will be awarded at a pre-game ceremony mid-season.
Productive outs is a lame proxy for on-base percentage.
Here’s why you can tell it’s a worthless stat: it’s trotted out in support of assertion the author makes, but it’s never mentioned if it doesn’t.
As club broadcasters Jim Kaat and Paul O’Neill noted last weekend, the team’s offense is built much differently than in the championship years; in those seasons, the Yankees advanced runners, put runners in motion, bunted occasionally. While they didn’t always have an overpowering offense — the notable exception being the 125-win season of 1998 — they had an efficient offense that provided the team’s typically strong pitching enough runs to win.
Poor Paul O’Neill, forced to broadcast for a team that’s not as good as it was back in his day, when he had to tie an onion to his belt, as was the fashion at the time.
Were the Yankee championship teams
1) built much differently than today?
2) advance runners more?
3) put runners in motion more?
4) bunt occasionally?
Who knows? Buster Olney doesn’t provide us with any of that, much less comparative productive out statistics for those historical teams against today’s. However…
AL Championship seasons:
1996, stole 96 bases
1998, stole 153 bases (Knoblauch)
1999, stole 104 bases
2000, stole 99 bases
2001, stole 161 bases (Soriano, Knoblauch in LF)
2003, stole 98 bases
1996, 41 sac hits
1998, 32 sac hits
1999, 22 sac hits
2000, 16 sac hits
2001, 30 sac hits
2003, 25 sac hits
2004 team on track for…. 30 SB, 46 sac hits.
So yeah, they’re not stealing any more. Soriano, who pretty much was the only Yankee stealing frequently, is gone, and no one else is around. But despite their trouble getting runners on, they’re bunting hem over more than any of those championship teams ever did. To make these kind of dumb, overly-broad assertions, mixing stats with quotes when it suits him, isn’t baseball analysis or analysis at all, and it’s a waste of internet bandwith to download.