Sunday, October 16, 2005

BASEBALL PLAYOFFS

Today's New York Times ran a column by Alan Schwarz about the statistical differences in playoff baseball versus regular season baseball. The statistics point to some interesting differences. For instance, about 16% fewer runs are scored in the playoffs than the regular season. This could have to do with the fact that better pitchers get more innings in the playoffs. There is a "no tomorrow" sense in the playoffs that supercedes pitch counts and similar structures that limit innings for aces.

On the other hand, maybe the lower number of runs scored can be attributed to a number of other statistics Mr. Schwarz highlights. For instance, while there are fewer singles per game in the playoffs (down 10%), and fewer unintentional walks (down 6.9%), there are MORE sacrifice bunts (up 14.2%). There are 27 outs in a nine inning game, and in the playoffs, managers give them away 14.2% more often than in the regular season. This in an environment where there are fewer runners getting to first base than during the regular season. This does not seem well calibrated to score runs. It seems like a waste of outs. This is especially true because the number of home runs remains about constant. Thus, moving the runner over to second for the single that is less likely to come than normal, instead of letting a guy hit to get on base before a home run (which is about the same as the regular season) seems like a waste of resources.

By the way, if bunting runners over is such a fantastic idea, why not do it for 162 games? I mean, if you think this strategy will help you win three out of five, or four out of seven during the playoffs, why not shoot for those same percentages all season?

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