21 July 2007

Twins Average with RISP

A recent
article in the Hardball Times plotted each of the American League teams with respect to their number of at bats with runners in scoring position (RISP) and their batting average in those situations. Inspection of the plot reveals a couple of things that are obvious and unsurprising:

- Detroit and New York (two of the best team offenses in the AL) are outdistancing the rest of the league in opportunities with RISP.
- Oakland and Chicago (two of the worst team offenses in the AL) are suffering from a lack of opportunities and a failure to capitalize in those occasions.

There are also some surprises to be found. The most surprising thing that caught my attention was that the Twins seemed to be outperforming some potent offenses. They had more ABRISP than Cleveland, Boston, and Texas, while having a better BARISP than New York, Cleveland, and Boston.

Now, as any Twins blogger can tell you, the Twins offense has not been something to be described as potent this season. Rather, they have been maddeningly inconsistent and, at times, depressingly incompetent. Can these two thoughts be reconciled? Can the Twins be performing well with RISP, with plenty of chances, and still be the sometimes putrid product that fans have come to dread?

On Saturday against the Angels, Justin Morneau led off the bottom of the second inning with a double. The Twins hitters would get four plate appearances with RISP as they went single, groundout, strikeout, and popout without scoring a run. They generated lots of plate appearances, even got a hit, but didn’t actually produce any offense. This kind of inning is the reason that the Twins can be where they are on the aforementioned plot without having a similar offense to the other teams in the same area.

Here is a look at top 5 teams in the American League in plate appearances with RISP have performed:

NY Yankees1132 .274 .772 45.3 14.7
Detroit Tigers1077 .321 .895 37.1 11.2
Cleveland Indians1064 .261 .770 35.5 13.6
Boston Red Sox1063 .270 .807 40.9 12.4
Minnesota Twins1056 .281 .788 42.2 13.9

Once again, the Twins don’t really stick out here, their OPS is right in the middle, they don’t hit HRs as often as the other teams but the extra base hit frequency isn’t terribly out of line. So, the problem doesn’t look like it is with production with RISP. The story of stranded Justin Morneau that I related at the beginning of this article doesn’t seem to be indicative of the Twins production in general (although it certainly feels like it has happens often).

Moving forward, the top 5 teams in the AL in runs scored and the Twins are shown below, as well as the percentage of their runs that came in plate appearances with RISP. This is not a perfect number, because it will also include batters driving themselves in with homeruns and runners scoring from first, but we’ll tackle that after we take a look at this.

Detroit Tigers 78.5%
Cleveland Indians 74.5%
New York Yankees 77.0%
Boston Red Sox 77.5%
Texas Rangers 75.5%
Minnesota Twins 82.0%

First of all, these are essentially the same teams as before although the Rangers have scored more runs than the Twins (who rank eighth in the AL in R/G). Looking at the percentages we begin to get an idea of where the Twins offense is failing. On average the top 5 offenses in the league are scoring 76.6% of their runs in PARISP. The Twins have a significantly higher percentage than that (82.0%) which indicates that if the Twins don’t have their runners in scoring position they are much less likely to drive in a run than these other teams.

In order to try to approximate the trouble that Minnesota has scoring runners from first, I subtracted all homeruns and any runners that scored from first on homeruns. I did not find a time-efficient way to account for runners scoring from first in 1st and 2nd, 1st and 3rd, and bases loaded situations, so this remains a rough approximation, but it backs up my previous point. The Twins remain the highest percentage on the list, and in fact, have further separated themselves (in the wrong direction) from the average of the other 5 teams (67.9%).

Detroit Tigers 70.6%
Cleveland Indians 64.1%
New York Yankees 69.5%
Boston Red Sox 69.2%
Texas Rangers 66.2%
Minnesota Twins 73.7%

Before we finish, here’s one last point about the Twins not being able to score runners from first at the same rate as the elite offenses of the AL. In situations where there was only a runner on first, the Twins are, unsurprisingly, the least likely to score that runner. Of course there are lots of other situations that aren’t accounted for here, but it’s another point toward the conclusion that the Twins lack of power is all that is holding them back from being among the best offenses in the American League.

Team R PA/R
Detroit Tigers 35 19.0
Cleveland Indians 44
New York Yankees 41
Boston Red Sox 37 19.5
Texas Rangers 37 16.5
Minnesota Twins 32 21.0

The offense is getting people into scoring position and hitting at a reasonable clip when they get there. However, they haven’t been able to complement that RISP success with a few extra base hits that score runners that are not in scoring position. I’m nowhere near the first to say this, and I’m sure I won’t be the last, but it would very much help the Twins to pick up a powerful bat, either at the trade deadline or in the offseason. In fact, an upgrade in this area is one the few differences betwixt the Twins and the best offenses in the AL.

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