Marlon Byrd is gone. He hit 24 Home Runs last year; three in his one month as the Pirates right-fielder . And RF is considered a position of power. So, the question has been asked, “How many homeruns – or power – do the Pirates need from right-field?”
You might be shaking your head and muttering beneath your breath. You might be howling out loud. And you might be thinking that I’m saying that the Pirates don’tneed any power from RF because they get power from the unlikely places of centerfield, second-base, and catcher.
But if your inclined toward sabermetrics – or not – I ask you to give me a chance to convince you that no team needs power from any position!
Caution: This is going to get a little heavier on sabermetrics and math than most of my articles – but not too heavy. Bear with me, please.
I started with a question:
Does any given OPS create the same amount of runs, regardless of the differences in on-base percentage and slugging percentage? For instance: Would a player with an .800 OPS comprised of a .300 OBP and a .500 SLG% create the same amount of runs as a player with an .800 OPS that is comprised of a .400 OBP and a .400 SLG%?
My next step was to create those two fictitious players and calculate a statistic called Runs Created for both players.Bill James, the man who veritably created sabermetrics, developed a formula to calculate how many Runs a hitter Creates. I like his formula because it can be verified by applying it to team statistics. The simple version of the formula (which I find sufficient, although, unlike Bill O’Reilly, I am not a “simple man.”) is (Hits+BB+HBP) X (Total Bases) divided by (AB+BB+HBP). I did not use hit-by-pitch with my fictitious players. I simply (though, again, unlike O’Reilly) lumped the HBP in with the BB total. Player A has a batting line of .250/.300/.500 — .800 OPS, with 500 at-bats, 250 total bases, 40 HR, 80 singles, 5 doubles, 0 triples, and 38 walks (7.1% BB rate). Player B has a batting line of .300/.400/.400 — .800 OPS, with 500 at-bats, 200 total bases, 0 HR, 110 singles, 30 doubles, 10 triples, and 83 walks (14.2% BB rate). I admit that those two statistical profiles are so extreme that they are likely to never occur in reality. But that’s what makes them useful. If such an extreme difference in OBP and SLG% in two players with the same OPS results in similar Runs Created, I can make a pretty safe assumption that players with less extreme differences will also have a similar Runs Created total. Player A, the one with 40 home runs, had 75.7 Runs Created. Player B, the one with 0 home runs, had 79.9 Runs Created. The player with 0 HR and an .800 OPS was even more productive than the player with 40 home runs and an .800 OPS! Right now, I hope you are growling, “Yeah, Yeah, fiction! Give me a real life, practical example.” I’ll bet you can quickly think of a real life player who has a low batting average, low on-base percentage, a bunch of home runs, and a high slugging percentage. No? He plays for the team which is most often the subject of this blog. Pedro Alvarez, last year, hit .233/.296/.473 — .770 OPS, with 36 Home Runs in 614 plate appearances. Another real life MLB player, whom I shall call Player C, hit .282/.342/.429 — .771 OPS, with only 6 HRs in 341 plate appearances. Alvarez and Player C had an almost identical OPS, but very different on-base percentages and slugging percentages. Alvarez had 75 Runs Created. Player C had only 45 Runs Created. But that actually helps to prove my theory. Remember, Alvarez had 614 plate appearances and Player C only had 341 plate appearances. Pro-rated to Alvarez’s 614 plate appearances, Player C would Create 81 Runs. Player C, with only 6 Home Runs, was on a pace that would Create 6 more Runs than Alvarez, who had 36 Home Runs. You may not be buying my “pro-rated” stat. Okay. That’s reasonable. But . . . Baseball-reference.com has a statistic called Runs Created per Game. It calculates how many Runs a player would Create over the course of making 27 outs – the number a team makes during a 9 inning game. Pedro Alvarez had 4.5 Runs Created per Game in 2013. Player C had 5.2 RC/G. Player C also had a higher weighted On-Base Average and higher weighted Runs Created Plus than Alvarez. (wOBA and wRC+ measure total offensive production.) Player C – brace yourself – is . . . Jose Tabata. Yes, that Jose Tabata. The one who is projected to get most of the Pirates at-bats in rightfield this season. If he produces this year like he did last year, Tabata will create more runs than were produced by the .473 slugging percentage and 36 Home Runs that were hit by Pedro Alvarez in 2013. The Pirates don’t need Home Runs or power from their right-fielders. They need run creation. And that can be done without any Home Runs just as well as it can be done with a bombardment of Home Runs, such as was provided by Brother Alvarez in 2013. You’re probably not convinced – yet. Nate Schierholtz had the same OPS as Jose Tabata last year – .771. He hit 21 homeruns, with a .251/.301/.470 batting line. Tabata, again, had 6 HR with a .283/.342/.429 batting line. Schierholtz had 4.9 Runs Create per Game. Tabata had 5.2 RC/G. Okay. Alvarez/Tabata/Schierholtz and my fictitious players could be an anomaly. So, here’s one of the greatest low batting average, low OBP, high slugging, big HR hitters in the history of the game: Adam Dunn. In 2013, Dunn had a .762 OPS. He hit 34 HR with a batting line of .219/.320/.442. Player D also has a .762 OPS. He hit only 7 HR with a batting line of .254/.361/.402 last year. Dunn Created 5.2 Runs per game. Player D Created 5.6 Runs per game. Player D – brace yourself – is . . . Gaby Sanchez. The Pittsburgh Pirates do not need Home Runs – or power – in RF, at 1B, or any other position. They need Run Creation. And that can be done without Home Runs and without power. We ain’t fakin’, Leefoo, whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on!