02 October 2007

Snakes vs Cubs Statistical Breakdown

by Joshua Worley

We all know it that the quality of a team's fifth starter is irrelevant once the post-season begins, because of all the off-days. The same is true of the back end of the bullpen and much of the bench.

It's clear then that the way to assess team strength entering a series is to count the statistics of only the players who will see the bulk of playing time. For each team in the post-season I've calculated a weighted average of on-base percentage and slugging percentage achieved by the hitters and allowed by the pitchers. Players likely to start everyday are given a weight of 1, while players who appear likely to share time get a weighting between 0 and 1. The cumulative hitting stats of a team's pitchers is weighted 0.5. The hitting weights given to players will add to 9. On the pitching side a starter gets 6 innings for every start he'll make if the series goes five games, while the teams top five relievers each get a weighting of 3 innings. So the pitching weights will add to 45.

A lot of these weightings are guesses, of course. Most of the guesses are based on player usage in the past month before teams clinched a playoff spot. But I think even if they're a little off the averages obtained will give a truer reflection of actual team strength in each series than if we just looked at aggregate season stats, which include injured players and mediocre players who won't see much playing time.

I'm going to break down every post-season series in this way. First up are the Cubs and the Diamondbacks.

Snakes Hitting Weights

1.0 -- Byrnes
1.0 -- Reynolds
1.0 -- Young
1.0 -- Drew
0.8 -- Ojeda
0.8 -- Synder
0.7 -- Upton
0.6 -- Jackson
0.5 -- Clark
0.5 -- Salazar
0.5 -- Team Pitchers
0.4 -- Callaspo
0.2 -- Montero

The Snakes have put together an offense as good as any they've had all year in the last month, even with Tracy and Hudson out. This is in part because Snyder and Reynolds have surged to good overall numbers on the year, while Salazar and Ojeda have stabilized things as well. This is still a weak offensive team, though, who strike out way too much.

Snakes Pitching Weights

12 -- Webb
6 -- Davis
6 -- Owings
6 -- Hernandez
3 -- Valverde
3 -- Lyon
3 -- Cruz
3 -- Pena
3 -- Slaten

The Snakes appear committed to a four man rotation. The front five in their bullpen is very good. This is the one area where they seem to have a clear advangate over the Cubs. The Snakes would gain nothing by going with a three man rotation and pitching Webb on short rest in game 4, because there is so little difference between Owings, Hernandez, and Davis. They're all mediocre.

Snakes Weighted Stats

Snakes ---- OBP -- SLG
Offense -- 0.318 -- 0.413
Defense -- 0.319 -- 0.392
Difference -- (-1) -- (+21)

Using the very simple Runs Created formula of OBP x SLG and the pythagorean estimate of winning percentage from runs scored and allowed, these numbers would give the Snakes a winning percentage of 0.523.

Cubs Hitting Weights

1.0 -- Soriano
1.0 -- Ramirez
1.0 -- Lee
1.0 -- DeRosa
1.0 -- Jones
1.0 -- Kendall
1.0 -- Theriot
0.5 -- Murton
0.5 -- Floyd
0.5 -- Cubs Pitchers
0.3 -- Fontenot
0.2 -- Ward

Most teams aren't as complicated to give weights to as the Snakes. The Cubs, for instance, have a pretty stable starting lineup. I don't know if hot hitting catcher Geovany Soto is eligible to be added to the postseason roster. If so, he might steal some of Kendall's playing time and help the Cubs offensive numbers a little bit. It wouldn't be that fair to include him, however, as he's got a +1.000 OPS in 60 plate appearances. He's not that good!

Cubs Pitching Weights

12 -- Zambrano
6 -- Lilly
6 -- Hill
6 -- Marquis
3 -- Dempster
3 -- Marmol
3 -- Howry
3 -- Wuertz
3 -- Eyre

The Cubs also appear to be going with a 4 man rotation. I wonder if it wouldn't be better to go with a three man rotation and forget about Jason Marquis. I think Zambrano is the type who would relish going on three days of rest; and then Lilly could pitch game 5 on a regular 5 days of rest.

Cubs Weighted Stats

Cubs ------ OBP -- SLG
Offense -- 0.340 -- 0.434
Defense -- 0.316 -- 0.382
Difference -- (+24) -- (+52)

Now this is a playoff team, unlike those lucky Snakes. Or clutch Snakes, if you prefer. It's all the same to me. Using the same simple runs created formula and a pythagorean projection the Cubs would have a winning percentage of 0.599 using these players. This is a much better team than the Snakes. If they dropped Marquis from the rotation and went with Lilly twice instead, that goes up to a 0.609 winning percentage. That assumes that Zambrano won't suffer on three days rest, though.


Cubs in four. They're obviously the better team, unless one rejects this method because I didn't introduce a "clutch" factor. Of course anything could happen in 5 games, but I can't pick the underdog in a matchup of a 0.599 team versus a 0.523 team. I would have predicted a sweep except that the Snakes should have the edge in the first game with Webb starting.

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