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Is Baseball 50% Hitting — It Is If You Want to Win, Says Prof

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You’ve probably heard the old saw, “Offense sells tickets; Defense wins games!” Not in baseball. At least not according to a new analysis by a University of Delaware professor. It turns out that winning in major league baseball is approximately 50% hitting, 25% fielding and, despite what Connie Mack said, only 25% pitching. Stolen bases – fuggidaboutit!

This month, the Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports will feature the article: An Estimate of How Hitting, Pitching, Fielding, and Base-stealing Impact Team Winning Percentages in Baseball. In it, University of Delaware Professor Charles (Charlie) Pavitt defines the perfect "formula" for MLB teams to use to build the ultimate winning team.

Dr. Pavitt, also known around UDel as “Stats Guy,” found hitting accounts for more than 45% of teams’ winning records, fielding for 25% and pitching for 25%.

Pavitt wanted to look past all the smoke and mirrors that distracts analysts, and dig deep into the statistics to clarify what makes the strongest teams win. To do that, he crunched hitting, pitching, fielding and base-stealing records for every MLB team over a 48-year period from 1951 through 1998 with a method no other researcher has yet to use in this area. In statistical parlance he used a conceptual decomposition of offense and defense into its component parts and then analyzed recombinations of the parts in intuitively meaningful ways.

He also found something many MLB teams don’t know: the ability to steal bases is just not that important to the overall winning record of a professional baseball team.

This is all fairly impressive stuff. But can Stats Guy explain what happened to the Red Sox last month?

3 Comments

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  1. Mike Bryant says:
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    April and May were just very bad baseball. Actually, the pitching played a big role in the Sox not getting it done. Amazing that they only won 7 in September and not 2 in a row ever.

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    It was definitely a tough month.

  3. Tom Taylor says:
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    I don’t think Stats Guy can explain last year’s World Series either. I thought it was pretty clear that San Francisco’s pitching beat the Rangers hitting hollow.