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Stats Corner: Top Offensive Moneyball Players in the MWC

Determining which players help their team score the most runs.

Texas Rangers v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

What happened twice in August of 2005 in Major League Baseball that has only happened 12 times in the since 1957 and the only other time it happened in the same month was August of 1989?

Answer: the losing team had a record 13 hits and was shutout. On August 13th 2005 Colorado lost to Washington 8-0 regardless of having 13 hits and 5 walks, and on August 31st Minnesota lost to Kansas City 1-0 notwithstanding 13 hits, including 2 doubles, and 2 walks.

Four times in MLB has the winning team had no hits, most recently when Cleveland beat Boston 2-1 on April 12th, 1992. Cleveland had 7 walks and 1 Boston error while Boston had 9 hits. Matt Young pitched a complete game no hitter with 6 strikeouts and lost, while Charles Nagy pitched seven innings, gave up 8 hits, one earned run and won.

And finally 2 Yankees, both on July 20th, have scored 3 runs without registering a hit. Whitey Ford in 1958 and Sandy Alomar in 1975.

Last week, we looked at the Moneyball statistics used to answer the question “how can a team score more runs than their opponent?” That was the focus of Billy Bean as he created Sabermetrics. As shown above, the traditional focus of batting averages, singles, and even hits was shown not to lead to runs. Bean created the Sabermetrics as a way to simply to score runs and prevent his opponent from scoring runs. This week we are going to look at the top offensive Moneyball statistics players in the Mountain West. Next week, we will look the top Moneyball pitchers. Statistics are from www.thebaseballcube.com as of April 9th, 2019.

On-Base Plus Slugging, OPS (number of times a player touches first base)

To score you must get on base, any way possible.

The players most likely to touch first base are:

Kellen Strahm of San Jose State .503 off of 118 at bats.

Zach Ashford of Fresno State .480 of off 102 at bats.

Bryson Scott of UNLV .471 off of 130 at bats.

The most common statistics for hitters in their batting average, however OPS simply cares about getting on base anyway possible including errors, hit by pitch, and walks. Once again, these statistics were to find the best way to score the most runs, and you can’t score if you don’t touch first base. Strahm is third in batting average and Ashford is fifth, but Scott is 21st. Not bad, but OPS indicates that he is much more valuable to scoring runs than his batting average suggests.

Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA) (not all hits are created equal)

Using the formula wOBA = (0.690×BB + 0.722×HBP + 0.888×1B + 1.271×2B + 1.616×3B +

2.101×HR) / (AB + BB – IBB + SF + HBP), see last week’s column for explanation, we will compare our three OPS leaders with three top batting average leaders (Jared Mang from New Mexico, McCarthy Tatum from Fresno State, and Ediberto Reyes from New Mexico), and the conference three home run leaders (Max Smith from UNLV, Joshua Zamora from Nevada, and Dillan Shrum from Nevada).

wOBA

Player BB HBP 1B 2B 3B HR AB IBB SF wOBA
Player BB HBP 1B 2B 3B HR AB IBB SF wOBA
Kellen Strahm 22 3 39 4 1 4 118 0 2 0.4639
Jared Mang 18 1 30 15 3 3 129 0 3 0.4451
Bryson Scott 37 2 22 11 2 6 130 0 1 0.4389
Zach Ashford 21 2 29 5 2 1 102 0 0 0.4263
Dillan Shrum 9 12 21 6 1 7 114 0 0 0.4231
McCarthy Tatum 8 1 22 9 2 4 104 0 0 0.4220
Max Smith 13 4 27 11 0 8 135 0 2 0.4215
Joshua Zamora 7 5 24 5 1 7 118 0 1 0.3996
Ediberto Reyes 5 0 12 5 0 0 50 0 0 0.3705

Strahm is the conference leader when it comes to wOBA, or contributing to run scoring. That may not sound essential, but remember the objective of a baseball team is to score more runs than the opponent. And Strahm is the best in conference at helping his team achieve that objective. Batting average leader Mang is second in the conference, however the other batting leaders Tatum and Reyes, are towards the bottom of this group. This means, they are good at getting on base, but those base hits to not turn into runs scored. The purpose to cross home plate, not just first base. For Strahm, average number of home runs, but tons of walks and singles at least help put him in a position to score. Mang is helped by leading the conference in doubles (15) and triples (3) which puts him in a position to score. Home-run leaders Smith (8) and Zamora (7) are both towards the bottom of this list, which is a list of the top players so do not assume they are not quality players, we are simply trying to find the best. Smith has the most bats among these players (135), but average amount of singles (24) and doubles (11) and below average in walks (13) and triples (0). Indicating that both Smith and Zamora are big hitters and score runs when they connect, but are not consistently helping their team score runs. Shrum gets a bump, (pun intended), for leading the conference in hits by pitch. I am pretty sure, that is an award he would give up if he could. Given his low walk count (9) why hit him instead of walking him?

If a team wants to score more runs than the opposing them, the best player in the conference is Kellen Strahm. Need to score runs, not just get hits, to win. Just ask the 1913 New York Giants who had 14 hits and where shutout in a loss to the Cubs.