Brewers Diary Supplemental: Introducing Baseball "Run Score"
I figure if Professor Berri delves once in a while into a little football on Wages of Wins Journal, there should be no harm or confusion with me delving into some baseball here on Bucks Diary (sorry Glenn, I just can't resist Brewer Fever any longer). I promise, baseball haters, that my baseball postings will be sporadic and clearly signalled. On the bright side, I think they will bring some fun and variety to this blog for me and for the readers during this long, torturous summer (and I'm just not into that whole Olympic basketball deal -- what is it now, Dream Team 33 1/3?).
Let me explain my history with baseball. Originally I wrote a Milwaukee Brewers baseball blog, Four Blocks to Miller Park. I was inspired by the writings and approach taken by Michael Lewis in his seminal baseball book, Moneyball.
Later I started writing this Bucks blog just for some more fun, but I always intended to concentrate on the Brewers blog. Well, as it so happened this Bucks blog really took off and the Brewers blog basically never gained any traction outside of a few blocks along the Capitol Square in Madison (inside joke). There was a simple and obvious reason for that, as I explained to one of that blog's original fans, The legendary "Diesel", several months ago.
The kind of analytical writing and approach I wanted to use on "Four Blocks" was, frankly, somewhat passe in the baseball blogosphere. Everyone was using that style and was using better, more original metrics before I even got into the game. Thus, I had virtually nothing original to add to the conversation.
But in basketball the "analytical niche" had hardly been filled at all. Most bloggers when I started were writing in the familiar "Hoop Magazine" style of "Scoop" Jackson from ESPN.com. ("Man, that was a fly betty move by my man Kobe..."). Or they wrote in the satirical voice of Deadspin and National Lampoon, a style of writing which takes a special wit and talent and a lot of effort to pull off successfully (sometimes I try it, but its very difficult... Detroitbadboys does it extremely well).
Instead of following that path, I and others (Bratwurst.com is one, right here in BucksNation) instead took the approach that so many baseball bloggers successfully brought to their sport -- the Moneyball approach, for lack of a better name. The source for myself and others was the work done in The Wages of Wins (basketball's source version of Moneyball) as well as other great basketball analytical writings (Dean Oliver).
What makes the basketball analytical writing sphere so great, too, is that it is a conversation, not a competition. This isn't the race to split the atom. We are all having fun trying to develop better ways to analyze and understand this great game of basketball -- the people's sport.
And to the extent that I developed some ideas and statistics of my own (actually I "derived" all of my statistics... none of them are original in themselves), I felt like I became part of this whle thing, and that was what has made blogging fun, so I began to concentrate on my NBA writing and ideas, and, unfortunately, Four Blocks went in the dustbin. I've regretted it (and some people have even left me some hostile emails DEMANDING that I relaunch it -- it wasn't that good, people!!) and so now I am going to add from time to time some baseball postings on my Bucks Diary site (which could be moving BTW, stay tuned for further details).
Milwaukee Brewers "Run Score" Chart
Here is my Milwaukee Brewers "Run Score" production chart. The position players are first, followed by the pitchers. Run Score basically tells you who is most and least responsible for the Brewers great play this season. Its simply a calculation of the number of runs produced on offense, and prevented on defense by the player, above or below the number an average player at his position would be expected to produce/prevent.
Thus, JJ Hardy's 34.2 Run Score means he has produced/prevented 34.2 more runs than the average shortstop would have done over the same number of outs. He has been tremendous, and he is quietly proving to be the most valuable player on the Brewers.
(I will explain how I get the two statistics in detail at a later time. For now, "Offensive Run Score" is simply a derivative of BaseballProspectus's "Runs Above Average" at position. And "Defensive Run Score" is simply a function of the number of balls hit into the player's defensive zone that the player successfully turned into outs, and how those extra/fewer outs translate into expected runs.)
Milwaukee Brewers Analysis
1. JJ Hardy is having a superb season and no one seems to realize it. He leads all Brewers in Run Score. That doesn't mean that he is producing more runs than others on the team, it means he is producing more wins because he is producing a greater surplus of runs from his position than any other Brewer is producing from his position.
2. If you read "Four Blocks" last year, you will remember how I proved that Ryan Braun, despite his tremendous offense, was actually costing the Brewers runs because of his terrible glove. All winter I told anyone who would listen how much better the Brewers would be, and their pitching staff would be, simply because they moved Braun off third base and they moved Billy Hall out of centerfield. Its come to fruition. Not only is Braun producing monster runs for the Brewers as a result of his move, he has actually become one of their BETTER DEFENDERS. An absolutely astonishing transformation for anyone who remembers and understands how much damage Braun's glove did to the Crew last year.
3. In fact, the defensive theme is a general one. The Brewers have gone from a piss poor defensive unit to a unit that WINS WITH DEFENSE. Its unbelievable. Its the same transformation I'm hoping the Bucks will make, and it shows with certainty how valuable defense is to victory and how it cannot be overlooked.
4. If Rickie Weeks does not get it going, Durham MUST replace him. Weeks, and Billie Hall, are the teams biggest weak links. Neither is producing above average runs on either side of the diamond, despite sort of vague beliefs about how impactful each can be (Weeks supposedly scores runs -- which was true last year but not this -- and Hall can blast home runs, but he must do it more consistently, and he must find his consistent glove at 3rd or I'd go full time to the Muscle, Russ Branyan.
5. Sheets is easily the Brewers best pitcher... until you consider Sabathia. Look at how quickly he has vaulted near the top of Pitching Run Score! He's almost caught Sheets. Solomon Torres has been outstanding all season in Pitching Run Score.
6. On the negative side, Jeff Suppan is having a miserable season. He and Eric Gagne were TERRIBLE free agent signings, as they look now. Both are near the bottom of the team in Pitching Run Score. Villanueva is not as good as is commonly believed either, as his Pitching Run Score is and has been near the bottom.