Statistics, statistics, statistics! Charting patterns, amassing totals,
calculating ratios… statistics are read, studied and followed by
fans, players, coaches, everyone who has anything to do with the game
itself. They are the window we look through to rate the level of success or
failure of the players and teams we love and hate.
In the best light, statistics can help create the story-lines that
entrance fans all year long, they can help coaches and managers
strategize, they give the announcers and writers themes to opine about
in between pitches and games, they help create an historical context, a
way for us to compare and contrast. In the worst light, statistics can
distort, distract, mislead and sometimes just be plain esoteric.
But, regardless of how one views the numbers one is looking at,
statistics are and will always be an important fabric in the game of
baseball. So, as we settle into the post-season, let’s take a look
inside some numbers. Some might give us good insight on what kind of
performances to expect, and some might be just anomalies that explain
nothing more than just how quirky a game baseball can be.
Inside The Numbers
about parody! For the first time since baseball divvied up the two
leagues (MLB in 1969 went to 4 divisions, and in 1994 went to 6
divisions), a team from each division has won a World Series in
consecutive years. In other words six champions in six years, all
representing a different division.
2001– Diamondbacks (NL West)
2002– Los Angeles Angels (AL West)
2003– Florida Marlins (NL East)
2004– Boston Red Sox (AL East)
2005– Chicago White Sox (AL Central)
2006– St. Louis Cardinals (NL Central)
Until the Diamondbacks this year, 1906 is the last year in which a team
had the best record in their league while posting the worst batting
average. The Chicago White Sox of 1906 were known as the "Hitless Wonders". And for good reason, they hit .230 as a team and didn’t have one regular hit higher than .279. The D’Backs hit .250
as a team this year. But don”t fret too much D’Back fans, even with
their low average the 1906 ChiSox and their vaunted pitching staff
would go on tho beat the Cubbies in six games on their way to win the
third ever World Series.
100– This is how many runs Daisuke Matsuzaka
of the Boston Red Sox gave up this year. Now I want you to guess how
many of those runs were UR (unearned runs). If you guessed ZERO,
It was only the fourth time in the history of baseball that a pitcher has given up at least 100 runs and all of them were ER (earned runs).
**** Ruthven of the Atlanta Braves was the first to accomplish this feat in 1976 (112 R, 112 ER). In 1990, Frank Tanana of the Detroit Tigers became the second man to do it (104 R, 104 ER). But, it was righthander Joel Pineiro in 2005, then pitching for the Seattle Mariners, who gave up the most runs without any of them being unearned (118 R, 118 ER). Dice-K became the fourth member of this group (100 R, 100 ER) on the second to last day of the 2007 season when he gave up 2 runs in a victory over the Minnesota Twins.
The main reason this esoteric accomplishment has been so rare,
especially since the 1940’s, is that teams are much better at fielding
than they were in the past. While a .975 Fielding Percentage
(FPCT.) will get you in the bottom of the league nowadays, that same
FPCT. would have been a top the leader board 60 or 70 years ago. And
thankfully Dice-K wasn’t pitching pre-1920 when a third of all runs
scored were unearned. Heck, if he were pitching alongside Al Spalding in the 1870’s, having less than 60% of your runs unearned meant you were on a pretty good fielding team.
Matsuzaka having such a high strikeout total, plus being on the third best fielding club (Red Sox had a .986
FPCT.) might have contributed slightly to this strange accomplishment,
but the most likely contribution to Dice-K’s lack of UR is just plain
old dumb luck. This rare statistical feat truly falls under the anomaly