Saturday, May 24, 2014

Miguel Cabrera Adding Runs With Situational Hitting

Many fans grumble that statistics such as OPS and Batting Runs do not account for situational hitting.  For example, if Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera singles with a runners on second and third to drive home two runs, he gets the same credit as he would for a single with the bases empty.  Some will argue that this is not fair because he contributes more to his team in the former scenario than the latter.  In this post, I will re-introduce an under used statistic which accounts for a hitter's performance in different circumstances. 

Traditional fans like to address situational hitting with the familiar Runs Batted In statistic, but that is a team dependent measure.  A player has more or less opportunity to drive in runs depending on who is batting in front of him.  Thus, a player gets acknowledged for driving home runs, but does not get penalized for failing to drive home runs.  So, the RBI count is not an adequate measure of situational hitting.

Other fans point to batting average with runners in scoring position, but that is based on a limited number of plate appearances.  It also doesn't consider the number of outs, the specific base runners (e.g. bases loaded versus second base only) or the type of hit (single, double, triple or home run).  Moreover, it ignores a player's performance when no runners are in scoring position.  

What we want is a statistic which gives a player credit for everything he does including situational hitting.  Batting Runs Above Average by the 24 Base/Out States (RE24) - found at FanGraphs - does just that.  The RE24 statistic is also sometimes referred to as "Value Added".  This metric will give a player credit for his singles, doubles, and all other events, and gives him extra credit for hits occurring with runners on base.  It even gives him points for a scenario which most other metrics ignore - moving a runner over with a ground out.  On the other hand, it subtracts extra points for hitting into double plays.

In past posts, I discussed just plain Batting Runs or Weighted Runs Above Average (wRAA or RAA) which is an estimate of how many runs a player contributed to his team beyond what an average hitter would have contributed in his place.  The RE24 metric is similar to RAA except that it uses base/out states in the calculation.  An example of a base/out state is "runners at first and third and one out".  There are 24 possible base/out states and RE24 takes all of them into consideration. 

In the calculation of RAA, a double with the bases loaded and two outs counts the same (0.770 runs) as a double with the bases empty and no outs.  Conversely, RE24 counts the bases loaded double more than the bases empty double (2.544 versus 0.632) because it does more to increase the expected runs scored in the inning.

The RE24 metric for one at bat gives us the difference between run expectancy at the beginning and end of a play.  For example, suppose Cabrera bats with a runner on first and one out. In that situation, we would expect 0.556 runs to score by the end of the inning.  Assume that Cabrera then doubles, putting runners on second and third with one out. In that situation, we would expect 1.447 runs to score by the end of the inning. Therefore, Cabrera's double is worth 0.891 runs.

Summing RE24 over all of a batter’s plate appearances yields his season total RE24. For
example, Cabrera has a RE24 of 16.8 this year.  So, by that measure, he contributed about 17 runs above what an average batter would have been expected to contribute given the same opportunities. This is higher than his 11.2 RAA, which means that Cabrera has been especially good in situations with high run expectancy and has added more to his team’s runs total than RAA indicates.  We can estimate that he has contributed an extra 6 runs with his situational hitting.

Since situational hitting is largely (although not completely) random, RE24 is less predictive than RAA and should not generally be used as a measure of ability.  It is, however, a good alternative to RAA for looking at past performance.

Table 1 below shows that Cabrera is second in the American League in RE24 behind Athletics outfielder Brandon Moss (20.8).  Using RAA, Cabrera would rank only 8th in the league.  Another player who looks quite different using RE24 versus RAA is David Murphy of the Indians (15.8 versus 4.8 or a difference of 11 runs).

Table 1: AL RE24 Leaders
Name
Team
RE24
RAA
RE24-RAA
Brandon Moss
Athletics
20.8
14.9
5.9
Miguel Cabrera
Tigers
16.8
11.2
5.6
Michael Brantley
Indians
16.7
11.5
5.2
Mike Trout
Angels
16.1
11.1
5.0
David Murphy
Indians
15.8
4.8
11.0
Jose Bautista
Blue Jays
15.4
19.3
-3.9
Josh Donaldson
Athletics
14.8
10.3
4.5
Shin-Soo Choo
Rangers
14.6
13.4
1.2
Alexei Ramirez
White Sox
13.7
9.7
4.0
Nelson Cruz
Orioles
13.6
13.1
0.5
Jose Abreu
White Sox
12.2
10.1
2.1
Melky Cabrera
Blue Jays
11.8
10.8
1.0
Adam Dunn
White Sox
11.6
9.7
1.9
Kurt Suzuki
Twins
10.5
4.2
6.3
Chris Davis
Orioles
10.3
8.2
2.1
Robinson Cano
Mariners
9.7
4.5
5.2
Brett Gardner
Yankees
9.7
5.7
4.0
Dayan Viciedo
White Sox
9.5
5.0
4.5
David Ortiz
Red Sox
9.2
9.2
0.0
Yangervis Solarte
Yankees
8.7
9.0
-0.3
Data source: FanGraphs.com

Table 2 shows that designated hitter Victor Martinez (8.7) and second baseman Ian Kinsler (6.5) rank second and third among the Tigers in RE24.  Martinez leads the Tigers with 13.4 RAA, but has not performed as well in high leverage at bats as average at bats, so has a differential of -4.7.  Catcher Alex Avila (-4.1 differential) is another Tiger who has not done as well in high leverage opportunities.   

Table 2: Tigers RE24 Leaders
Name
RE24
RAA
RE24-RAA
Miguel Cabrera
16.8
11.2
5.6
Victor Martinez
8.7
13.4
-4.7
Ian Kinsler
6.5
8.1
-1.6
Torii Hunter
4.6
3.8
0.8
Rajai Davis
3.0
0.7
2.3
Austin Jackson
1.1
1.8
-0.8
Alex Avila
-0.7
3.4
-4.1
Nick Castellanos
-4.8
-4.7
-0.1
Andrew Romine
-9.2
-6.8
-2.4



6 comments:

  1. AnonymousMay 24, 2014

    Isn't it true that it is a skill over a large sample and more predictive going forward than wRAA at some point. Say, 5000 PA's? For example, Jimmy Rollins has a career 17.7 wRAA, but a career 125.06 RE24 over 9088 PA's. It would appear that he has a clear, demonstrable skill that the context-neutral stats miss out on.

    Off the top of my head, I would imagine that he is a very extreme case. His career WAR underrates him, though, b/c I believe that stat uses context-neutral wRAA or some equivalent that adjusts for a player's park.

    Over the course of their careers, with rounding included, the career differential between wRAA and RE24 for Tigers hitters (a "+" means a higher RE24 than wRAA):
    Cabrera: +20
    Kinsler: -20
    V Mart: +10
    Avila: -23
    Jackson: -11
    Davis: +7
    Hunter: -30
    Castellanos: -1
    Romine: -1
    Kelly: -4
    Dirks: -21

    Former Tiger, Jhonny Peralta, is a -54.

    In general, it seems like the Tigers hitters tend to do worse with situational hitting with the exception of Cabrera and V Mart. Maybe Rajai Davis, as well. That passes the eye test too.

    They should acquire Rollins to fix their SS issues. Haha.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Right, over a long career, it can indicate a skill for some players. I probably should have made that more clear. The problem is it takes a long time to determine whether it's a skill or not and by that time the player's overall skill set may have changed. It's like ERA versus FIP in that ERA becomes more useful over time.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Sounds like there just needs to be more hybrid statistics that get at overall offensive efficiency, kinda like OE%! :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Great writing Lee. Love RE24 especially looking at it for award winners and determing past value contributed, not necessarily current ability, except when there is a long term trend present.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Nick, I agree it's a good stat to look at when deciding on award winners. If I was going to develop my own WAR stat, I'd probably plug in RE24.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Lee this is a great post and I could not agree more. What makes Miguel Cabrera the best hitter in the world is not necessarily his average or home runs, but his average with RISP and RBI's. This is why I can't stand when people talk about WAR being a better metric than average, home runs and RBI's.

    ReplyDelete

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