Monday, October 01, 2007

Long-Winded Baseball Reflections [Aaron DeRosa]

I've been toying with this idea for a while and thought i'd throw it out there for debate. I'll make my claim, state what I've found, and open it up to discussion:
Context: The assumption is consistently made that the AL is better than the NL. This disparity is reflected in the wins column. However, as with pitchers, wins don't necessarily adequately reflect a team's "quality."
Thesis: The dispairty in the records of AL and NL teams has more to do with the parity of the NL which spreads wins out more evenly among its teams.
This seems like a logical statement. the Florida Marlins aren't a "bad" team like the Devil Rays or the Royals. Or at least, they don't have that stigma that their AL bottom-feeding counterparts do. So how do we determine if one league has greater parity than the other? And how do we determine which league is therefore better? Well I started with parity:

90+ wins: 4 - 1
80-89 wins: 3 - 8
70-79 wins: 4 - 6
60-69 wins: 3 - 1
Mathematically, the average of all teams will equal 500. Thus, parity must be defined by the disparity between the "best" and "worst" team. This suggests there is far greater parity in the NL as there are fewer at the top and the bottom. The difference between the best and worst is only .136 vs. the AL whose disparity is .186. In other words, the NL are peopled by commies and the AL by capitalists.
Now that we KNOW that the NL is a more "equal" league, how do we compare the quality of the leagues overall? One obvious way is through interleague play. So...
During interleague play, the AL beat the NL 137-115 this year. This is a winning percentage of .543 (the same winning percentage as the Mets at the end of the season: in other words, a non-playoff "winning" season. not sure what this reveals. We could say that the AL "beats" the NL, but if so, it is not by a decisive enough margin to say that the AL "dominates" the NL.
But the curious thing was that the NL BATTED better than the AL (.281 to .267 and 271 HRs to 267) but were outscored by about 200 runs. The reason? PITCHING! the AL's pitching came in at a 4.38 ERA to the NL's 4.7. So contrary to stereotypes about NL/AL pitching/batting disparities, the real problem for the NL was their pitching. Of course, this is only true in interleague play. Throughout the season, these stereotypes bear out (NL has lower ERA and fewer runs per game than the AL). Again, I don't know what that means.
So the question becomes: how do you assess the quality of a league? It's not by wins, as we stated already. it's not by World Series wins (since 2001, it's been split 3 - 3, and i dont think anyone is willing to claim that the "best" team always wins: see St. Louis Cardinals, 2006) it oculd be the All-Star game (the American League has DOMINATED the NL, going 10-0 in the past 11 years (there was a tie in 02)). But this just means there is greater talent at the top. But the quality of a team isn't based on its #1 pitcher, it's on its #5. How DEEP is the team? That's the question.
So a few other stats and then I'll end:
NL Batting:
4.7 runs per game, .266 BA, .422 Slugging
AL Batting:
4.9 runs per game, .271 BA, .423 Slugging
NL Pitching:
4.43 ERA, 1.38 WHIP,
AL Pitching:
4.52 ERA, 1.41 WHIP
Anyway, I hand it over to you. Thoughts?

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