Right Field

Lies, Damn Lies, and Productive Outs

Last Thursday, Jim McLennan of AZ Snake Pit, SB Nation’s Diamondbacks blog, wrote

Initially, it seems they may be significant. After all, the most successful 2012 team in the category of PO% are the Dodgers, currently running away at the top of the National League West. But is that really a tribute to the virtues of advancing runners? Because rounding out the top five in the category are the Pirates (averaging less than three runs per game), Giants, Rockies and…er, the Cubs. Hardly what you’d call a parade of offensive win. Conversely, the leaders in the other two divisions, the Reds and Nationals, are currently ranked 13th and 14th in PO%, and seem to be managing quite well, despite bypassing the middle stanza of “get ‘em on, get ‘em over, get ‘em in.”

Even more damningly, if we look back at the larger sample size provided last year, we see that the Diamondbacks, who rolled to the NL West title, were ranked… 15th in the National League for both productive outs and PO%. So, last year’s team did perfectly well, while being almost as wretched in advancing runners as this year’s model. We certainly didn’t hear many complaints then about this aspect of the Arizona game. Indeed, all three 2011 division winners, the Phillies, Brewers and Diamondbacks, came in at below the league-average of 188 productive outs. So if any direct correlation exists between this stat and success, it’s hard to see.

Maybe there’s a reason why the Astros now post run expectancy statistic on the Minute Maid scoreboard.

 

Jason Epstein is the president of Southfive Strategies, LLC. He was a public-relations consultant for the Turkish embassy in Washington from 2002 to 2007.

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