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Thinking About Runners Left on Base

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John Sterling was rambling on through another Yankee game tonight, this time saying, "What the Yankees need is someone who can hit a sac fly to bring the runner in from third with less than two outs."

Now, I generally disbelieve anything John Sterling says as a matter of principle.  While situational hitting may be a valuable skill, I'd argue that with so many great hitters in the Yankee lineup we're better off trying for a hit in any situation.  And I'd bet that approach has served us as well as the Sterling-method of giving up outs to move runners.  

But I decided I'd do what Sterling will not, and look at (gasp!) numbers to back up (or refute) my position.

I've never been a fan of the number "Runners Left on Base" because it gives no context: a runner left on first after a two out single should be different than a runner left on third after a lead-off triple; furthermore, both our teams could leave 10 runners on base- my team scoring 20 runs to your team's 1.

So I'm looking at % of baserunners (hits+BB) scored.

2008 Runs Baserunners % Scored Sac Flies
Rangers 308 790 39 25
Red Sox 299 789 38 20
Tigers 268 699 38 17
Twins 261 688 38 19
Rays 257 705 36 21
A's 254 714 36 17
Yankees 250 684 37 12
Angels 245 668 37 11
White Sox 244 678 36 12
Blue Jays 238 741 32 16
M's 231 646 36 18
O's 227 652 35 11
Indians 226 618 37 14
Royals 207 649 32 10

While the Yanks are toward the bottom of the league in sac flies, they are hardly alone there- the contending ChiSox and the division leading Angels are keeping the Yanks company, along with the Royals and Orioles.

And as for % of runners scored, I'd say the Yanks are safely within the standard.  One team below 35, one team above 38, one at 35, three at 37 and 38, four at 36.  Nearly a perfect bell curve, with the Yankees at the center. 

I probably should have run the percentage out to the first or second decimal point, but I'm too tired to go back and change it now- maybe next off day.

For those of you wondering, the Yanks' 36.55% scored in 2008 is a big step down from the 42.2% the Yanks plated last season.  

Unless somebody else wants to spend half an hour running last season's AL numbers (the math is pretty simple: (hits+BB)/Runs), you'll have to wait until tomorrow for confirmation, but if the Yanks really did that well stringing their hits together last season it would mean that everyone (myself chief among them) vastly overestimated  the offense's potency for 2008.  The drop in slugging so far (.417 this year vs .463 last season) certainly plays a role too.