Thursday, November 8, 2007

I hope Cashman doesn't think this way

From the mouth of Hank Steinbrenner:
“This game is 70 percent pitching, and even more in the postseason.”
I'm pretty sure that this is not just false, but provably false. In fact, it's so false that Hank is probably off by a factor of two.

Here's how it breaks down. To win a baseball game, one must outscore one's opponent. It doesn't matter what the score is, so winning 12-11 is as good as winning 1-0. From this, we will assume that a run scored is as valuable as a run prevented.*

From this, it follows that run prevention as a whole is as important as run acquisition (doesn't that sound cool) as a whole. Run prevention is divided neatly into two parts: action before a batting event (pitching) and action after a batting event (fielding). Since run prevention and run acquisition are equal with respect to winning ballgames, if we assume that fielding has any importance at all, then pitching must be less than 50% of "the game."

So that's my reasoning. If we assume that preventing a run increases your chances of winning by roughly the same amount as scoring a run, then this logic is nigh infallible. I really hope Hank doesn't have as much influence as his Dad did.**

* Due to the fact that you cannot fall below zero runs scored, this will not be quite true, but it is a safe assumption that the difference is negligible for this exercise. For example, if you have a game that would otherwise be tied 4-4, you can win by either preventing a run or by scoring another run. The events have equal value. Perhaps I shall test this assumption in the near future.

** I will note in Hank's defense that if he means that pitching is more valuable than the other aspects of the game, then he could be correct, if good/great pitching were appreciably more scarce than hitting, base running, and fielding. This is unlikely to be the case, and it's hard to see that this is his meaning from his choice of words.

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