Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Perhaps A Lead-Off Pop-Up Will Psych Out The Pitcher

Here's a question: what gives an offense a better chance to have a multi-run (2+) inning; a lead-off walk or a lead-off homer?

Answer: "We had our friends at Stats, Inc. check and see whether more multi-run innings came with a lead off homer or a lead off walk. You would think that a lead off walk would lead to more big innings than a lead off home run. Not true. A lead off home run, this year, has lead to more multi-run innings than lead off walks. It's against conventional thinking."

Tim McCarver - famous baseball man - found such a result surprising, but is it?

Senario #1: The lead-off man walks. Now there is a runner on first with no one out, and the team has scored 0 of the 2 (minimum) runs it needs.
Senario #2: The lead-off man homers. Now there are none on with none out, and the team has scored 1 of the 2 runs it needs.

The situation can be then broken down to the following: which is more likely; and team scoring 2 runs with a man on first and no outs (#1), or a team scoring 1 run with no one on and no outs (#2)?
I think that this phrasing makes it more clear as to which choice makes the most sense.

While it is true that the team needs that second run regardless (much like a team with a 2 run lead in the bottom of the ninth doesn't care if the opposing runner homers or triples, since it's the second run that matters), a double-play or caught stealing or whatever erases the runner on first, where as that home run can't be taken away. There isn't any real reason to think that the walk (or anything) would be better than having the run already. [It reminds me of how in football they say to never take points off the board (a field goal) in return for a chance at a touchdown (after a penalty, for example). It's the same thing here, except you don't get extra points if the first hitter scores after a walk.]

Run Expectancy from 2005 (number of runs a team will score, on average, in the given situation).
#1 - 0.90 runs (runner on first, 0 outs)
#2 - 0.52 runs (no one one, 0 outs)
You will score an extra 0.38 runs with #1, but that doesn't make up for the 1 run that #2 already has in hand.

Also, someone who looked all of the situations described above from 2000-2006 found that #2 led to 2+ runs about 3% more often (22% of the time vs. 25%).

"It's conventional thinking" may be true, which is something that tends to bother me about broadcasters and many writers. [It amazes me how often "conventional thinking" is at odds with what I would consider to be common sense. Case in point, I asked a several baseball fans and a few (pretty much) non-fans the question, and the non-fans (with their lack of ingrained thinking) were correct more often. It's not their (fans) fault - it's what they have been told by people they trust to know what's going on.]

No comments: