Friday, July 1

Halfway Home for the Wahoos

This Saturday's game in Cincinnati with the Reds (Ohio Cup!) will mark the halfway point of the season for the Wahoos, and they'll find themselves no more than 2.5 games out of the top spot in the AL Central once that game ends. I think we all would have signed up for that at the beginning of the campaign, despite the club's recent struggles.

It remains to be seen how well the Indians will be able to hang in the race. Many other interested parties, from Paul Cousineau to Paul Hoynes to Manny "Paul" Acta have freely stated that the Indians' pitching has been their team strength so far and will need to continue to be so, and have the bats start contributing as well for them to contend through September.

Unfortunately, this is not correct. There's a tendency to overvalue pitching over batting when analyzing a team's prospects for success, or breaking down success already experienced. I don't understand this - pitching and hitting are equally valuable, and it seems to me folly to suggest that one has more to do with a club's record than the other. Am I missing something?

Consider the Indians, whom everyone curiously seems to agree has been carried by their pitching so far. Their team OPS+ is 102, slightly above average. Their ERA+ is 99, ever so slightly below average. Unless I'm missing something, this suggests that they're a somewhat better batting club than a defensive team. Their team offensive WAR is 9.8, while the sum of their pitching (6.5) and defensive (2.3) WAR is 8.8, again suggesting a team that's had more success at the plate than in the field. As for the defensive component of baseball - the Tribe's defensive efficiency is .700 and its fielding percentage .983, both of which are exactly AL-average to three decimal places. (Seriously.) Regardless of how much you trust defensive stats, I think it's telling that we're right on the mean no matter how you look at it.

Not a fan of advanced metrics? Prefer the more classic "runs"? OK, then. The Tribe's runs per game is 4.30, bettering the AL average of 4.26 by 0.04, or a run every 25 contests. The Indians allow 4.18 runs a game, also 0.04 better than the league average of 4.22. These numbers have been compiled while playing home games in the confines of Progressive Field, historically a slight pitcher's park.

My point is simply that the Indians are almost exactly balanced, and perched at the league average in all three facets of the game; pitching, defense, and hitting. I'm not sure how this notion of us being a pitching-dominated team started, but it certainly isn't backed up by any numbers, so let's stop saying that it is.