What’s Causing The Stinky Offense?

Since I started this blog back in March, I have predominantly been posting opinion pieces, because, frankly, they are easy to do and I never suffer from a lack of opinion on anything.  If I had the time or the inclination to start another blog, I could really bore folks to death with my endless opinions on just about any topic.  Truth be told, I don’t have a life.  I am an older, unmarried, childless woman, with nothing much else to do with my time.  So I write.  It just so happens that baseball is my favorite topic to write about.

I want to do more analytical pieces, but in addition to all of the above facts about myself, I am also technically challenged.  I just haven’t been able to figure out how to get those neato charts and graphs into my blog.  I have come to the point where I have decided to give it a go anyway and to cobble together something resembling an analysis.  I warn you, don’t expect much.

So here goes.  I am going to attempt to analyze why the Cardinals have scored so few runs this season, 29th in all of MLB in run-scoring as a matter of fact.   I used Fangraphs team batting stats as my reference.  What I did was use their ranking tool to rank all 30 teams in the number of runs scored.  Then I decided to start by testing a hypothesis that power was a factor in the number of runs scored.  The best stat to measure power is ISO (Isolated Power).  ISO measures extra base hits (doubles, triples and HRs).  I didn’t use SLG (slugging percentage) because it includes singles, which aren’t a measure of power.  Once I did that, I found a decent, but not perfect, correlation between power and runs scored.  I then looked for teams that had fairly low power but ranked much higher in runs scored, then scanned for what might distinguish them from the high power, high runs scored teams.  The stats that stood out for those teams was SB (stolen bases), and AVG (batting average).  I did the same for any team that had a higher power number, but was much lower on runs scored.  Again, the distinguishing stats for those teams seemed to be SB and AVG.  Of course, this made a lot of sense, because stolen bases and average are the bedrocks of small ball.  I also decided to add OBP to the list, to see how it correlated with runs scored.

At that point I put together a rough table of highest to lowest ranked teams in runs scored, and then the rankings of each of those teams with respect to ISO, SB and AVG and OBP.  Here is that table.  (*note:  I pulled all of these numbers before the Cardinals/Cubs game last night).

 

Team                      Runs                    ISO                  SB                 AVG               OBP

Athletics                  1st                       6th                  17th               20th               5th

Angels                      2nd                     9th                  21st               4th                  6th

Rockies                    3rd                      1st                   19th              1st                   4th

Tigers                      4th                      5th                   9th                2nd                 2nd

Blue Jays                 5th                      4th                  23rd              6th                  7th

Twins                       6th                      15th                10th              16th                8th

Brewers                   7th                      3rd                  8th                11th                17th

Indians                    8th                      11th                11th               12th                10th

Orioles                     9th                      2nd                 30th              8th                  21st

Nationals                10th                     13th                12th              14th                13th

Pirates                    11th                      12th                5th                7th                  1st

White Sox              12th                      7th                  20th              9th                  16th

Dodgers                  13th                     16th                1st (tie)         5th                  3rd

Royals                    14th                      30th               1st (tie)         3rd                  18th

Marlins                  15th                       20th              27th               15th                12th

Astros                    16th                       8th                6th                  27th                22nd

Mariners               17th                       19th              16th               22nd                27th

Rangers                 18th                       27th              14th               10th               15th

Giants                    19th                       14th              29th               21st                23rd

Yankees                20th                       18th              4th                 18th                19th

Rays                      21st                         25th             24th              19th                 9th

Phillies                  22nd                       23rd            7th                 24th                 24th

Dbacks                 23rd                         17th             22nd              17th                 26th

Red Sox               24th                         24th             28th               25th               14th

Reds                     25th                         21st              3rd                26th                28th

Braves                 26th                         22nd             15th              23rd                20th

Mets                    27th                          26th             13th              29th                25th

Cubs                    28th                         10th             25th              28th                29th

Cardinals            29th                         29th (tie)       26th             13th                 11th

Padres                30th                         29th (tie)      18th             30th                 30th

 

That’s a lot of numbers and a lot to take in.  The first thing I noticed (other than the Cardinals being at the bottom of the list) was that the Cardinals and the Padres did not have the lowest ISO on the list, despite being the last two teams in runs scoring.  The lowest ISO belonged to the Royals.  However, the Royals were ranked 14th in runs scored.  That is because the Royals are tied for 1st with the Dodgers for the most SBs and are 3rd in AVG.  The Royals are playing effective small ball.

The next thing I noticed was the Cubs were 28th in runs scored, but were 10th in ISO.  However, the Cubs are 25th in SBs and 28th in AVG. The Cubs are also 29th in OBP, and 7th in HRs, which suggests they are hitting a lot of solo HRs as their primary means of scoring.

One would think that OBP would correlate highly with scoring runs but there is more to it than that.  Teams like the Cardinals, Rays, and Red Sox are in the top half of OBP but at the bottom in runs scored.  That is because all 3 are at the bottom in both ISO and SBs. Getting on base is only the first step.  Moving the runners quickly and efficiently is the key.

This is a very rustic and unscientific analysis, but it appears that the Cardinals’ offensive woes are due to low power numbers and a lack of aggressive baserunning.  The Cardinals are getting on base, but not moving runners.  Trying to score runs by stringing 3 or 4 singles together, as the Cardinals have been doing, is a very inefficient way of producing runs, absent the otherworldly hitting with RISP of last season..  The Cardinals need to either hit for more power, or in the absence of that, they need to run, and run a lot.  They are doing neither.

This conclusion should be a surprise to no one.  I think most of us had already figured this out, so these numbers are just the confirmation.   The solution ultimately may require personnel and/or staff changes in the offseason.

One final note.  How the Cardinals have managed to stay in the playoff hunt despite these low run-scoring numbers is simple.  Defense.   The one thing that the Cardinals are doing extremely well is run prevention.  The Cardinals rank 1st in Defensive Runs Saved (DRS).  The Cardinals’ top 5 players in DRS are Jhonny Peralta (16), Matt Adams (10), Yadier Molina (8), Mark Ellis (7), and Peter Bourjos (6)

Defense doesn’t matter, right?

 

 

Thank you for reading.

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4 Comments

  1. BW52

     /  August 30, 2014

    Cards have played banjo ball all year.Adams and Holliday are big guys who in Hollidays case turned into a doubles hitter to go along with the GIDP machine he has always been.His average is down along with his HRs.People will say he`s leading the team in RBIs……………with this sad hitting bunch that’s like being Custer`s lead scout. We all I had better hope this is a freaky bad year for him and not a trend to a very quick decline.
    Matt Adams might have a good average but Cards need HRs,extra base hits and more clutch hits.IMHO Matt Adams flashes a few games then goes silent for long stretches.Adams stats might show a decent season but IMHO it`s a soft season,not much big bang and little consistent production.I can `t think of a single Cardinal (except Jon Jay) who is playing better than last year.Peralta doing okay but he has been silent at the plate for long stretches.Jon Jay has slapped a bunch of singles but he still plays below average in CF and doesn`t steal many bases so he`s not a real big threat.Somebody will probably pay the price for this years hitting poorly and Mabry looks like the victim.

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  2. Wow. You must have a lot of time on your hands. Thanks for devoting some of it to this project. It sounds like total bases is really the key, whether coming via extra base hits or via singles, SBs and extra bases. Going first to third, and second to home is a factor to be considered in addition to SBs when it comes to aggressive base running.

    To be fair, though, the Cards brass had no way to know that there would be a power outage and subsequent need for more reliance on aggressive base running. Carpenter and Holliday are both down 100 OPS points from last season. Yadier is down 90 points. Production from right field is off 250 points. Those 4 lineup spots were the meat of the offense last year. No way to see that coming, even if the dropoff in RISP was predictable.

    The question is what to do about it. All, or nearly all, of the starting position players are likely to be the same next year, and none of them are going to get faster.

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    • The Cardinals had a power outage and bad baserunning last season, it was just masked by the insanely high RISP numbers. The FO has analytics people who monitor these trends.

      It’s not just lack of stealing bases, it is plain old base-running blunders (TOOTBLANS). The Cardinals rank 7th overall in Outs On Bases (OOB). Jesus, we have Lou Brock and Willie McGee at our beck and call, why can’t they teach these guys how to run the damn bases properly? Holliday, Adams, Carpenter, Jay and Peralta all have more than 5 TOOTBLANS so far this season. That’s ridiculous.

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  3. blingboy

     /  August 30, 2014

    No argument with that. By the way, the Padres have pulled ahead in homers and the Royals have caught us, so we’re tied for last.

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