The Offense at Midseason

I thought it would be interesting if we did a little midseason check in on a friendly non-wager between mikeA and myself from the opening of the season.

I surmised that the A’s offense would actually be outperformed by the Giants’ offense in 2007. I chickened out and offered the caveat that I’d consider "outperformed" to be a comparison versus league medians – but that there was a decent chance the A’s would be outperformed in absolute terms as well.

(And I’ve already conceded my more foolish "DJ will be outperformed by Lance Niekro" hyperbole.)

Let’s go to the numbers:

A’s

AVG: .258 (22nd in MLB; 11th/14 in AL; .011 below AL median)
OBP: .335 (11th in MLB; 8th/14 in AL; at AL median)
ISO OBP: .077 (4th in MLB; 3rd/14 in AL; .010 above AL median)
SLG: .406 (19th in MLB; 10th/14 in AL; .016 below AL median)
ISO SLG: .148 (16th in MLB; 8th/14 in AL; .004 below AL median)
OPS: .741 (18th in MLB; 10th/14 in AL; .014 below AL median)
R: 377 (23rd in MLB; 13th/14 in AL; 44 below AL median)
HR: 90 (10th in MLB; 6th/14 in AL; 4 above AL median)
2B: 151 (23rd in MLB; 10th/14 in AL; 8 below AL median)
3B: 8 (t27th in MLB; t12th/14 in AL; 6 below AL median)

San Francisco

AVG: .251 (26th in MLB; 13th/16 in NL; .013 below NL median)
OBP: .320 (25th in MLB; 12th/16 in NL; .009 below NL median)
ISO OBP: .069 (13th in MLB; t5th/16 in NL; .001 above NL median)
SLG: .388 (28th in MLB; 15th/16 in NL; .025 below NL median)
ISO SLG: .137 (21st in MLB; 12th/16 in NL; .013 below NL median)
OPS: .708 (26th in MLB; 13th/16 in NL; .034 below NL median)
R: 358 (27th in MLB; 14th/16 in NL; 30 below NL median)
HR: 71 (23rd in MLB; 12th/16 in NL; 10 below NL median)
2B: 141 (27th in MLB; 14th/16 in NL; 23 below NL median)
3B: 21 (5th in MLB; 3rd/16 in NL; 5 above NL median)

Pretty clear that neither offense is any good. But the A’s have definitely improved since the first month of the season, and they’re closer to being a league-median offense than the Giants are.

Now, here’s something interesting. Ordinarily, I tend to discount the entire argument surrounding RISP – that there’s greater pressure on batters in those situations, that there are betters who consistently year-year perform better or worse in those situations, that teams or individuals should change their plate approaches in those situations, that individual performances in those situations have any statistical significance, etc.

However, looking at the mid-season RISP batting statistics, I think that an intriguing storyline emerges:

A’s

AVG: .238 (27th in MLB; 14th/14 in AL; .035 below AL median)
OBP: .330 (27th in MLB; 14th/14 in AL; .018 below AL median)
ISO OBP: .092 (9th in MLB; 3rd/14 in AL; .010 above AL median)
SLG: .399 (18th in MLB; 11th/14 in AL; .024 below AL median)
ISO SLG: .161 (9th in MLB; 6th/14 in AL; .010 above AL median)
OPS: .729 (26th in MLB; 13th/14 in AL; .045 below AL median)
R: 286 (22nd in MLB; 13th/14 in AL; 37 below AL median)
HR: 25 (7th in MLB; 4th/14 in AL; 4 above AL median)
2B: 43 (12th in MLB; 7th/14 in AL; at AL median)
3B: 2 (24th in MLB; 9th/14 in AL; 1 below AL median)

San Francisco

AVG: .268 (13th in MLB; 4th/16 in NL; .006 above NL median)
OBP: .369 (4th in MLB; 2nd/16 in NL; .026 above NL median)
ISO OBP: .101 (3rd in MLB; 3rd/16 in NL; .013 above NL median)
SLG: .414 (14th in MLB; 6th/16 in NL; .015 above NL median)
ISO SLG: .146 (16th in MLB; 7th/16 in NL; .005 above NL median)
OPS: .783 (7th in MLB; 3rd/16 in NL; .029 above NL median)
R: 275 (25th in MLB; 12th/16 in NL; 15 below NL median)
HR: 18 (18th in MLB; 8th/16 in NL; at NL median)
2B: 30 (27th in MLB; 14th/16 in NL; 11 below NL median)
3B: 8 (5th in MLB; 4th/16 in NL; 2 above NL median)

Looking at those 4 sets of numbers, it seems to me that several conclusions jump out:

  • Though the Giants have "performed" better with RISP in metrics across the board (over both the A’s, and the Giants’ own overall performances), they haven’t actually managed to convert that "performance" into increased scoring
  • The A’s seem to actually exacerbate their "three true outcomes" tendencies with RISP (though I haven’t looked at Ks), maintaining or slightly increasing their HR and BB rates, while most of their other performance rates drop

I would hazard a guess that the two teams’ different batting philosophies are one step removed as causes of these outcomes.

I think that opposing teams are pitching to each team’s tendencies with runners on base: if you’re facing the Giants and you have runners on, you go ahead and toss one in the zone (unless Bonds is up), knowing that the Giants hitters are generally weak enough that they’ll only single at best; if you’re facing the A’s with runners on, you nibble-nibble-nibble/pitch around the hitters with power, and pitch to the underpowered hitters as if they were Giants.

The one big caveat to my conclusion regarding the A’s is the arrival of Jack Cust, who not only is the three true outcomes avatar, but also arrived in coincidence with the uptick in the A’s overall offensive performance – leading, I might guess, to an increased significance of his plate appearances in relation to the overall number of A’s Pas with RISP.

In any event, I think these trends for the A’s bear watching for the rest of the season. Essentially, unless the A’s are able to slot a consistent OPS threat behind Cust in the lineup (and, more generally, to bunch the high-OPS hitters in the lineup: i.e., to drop Chavez to the bottom third of the lineup), opposing teams are going to more and more pitch around the A’s power threats.

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