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By The Numbers: How Runs Lead To Wins, From A Sabermetrics Perspective

Robinson Cano #22 of the Seattle Mariners hits an RBI single against the Colorado Rockies during the fifth inning of the spring-training game at Peoria Stadium on March 3, 2014 in Peoria, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Robinson Cano #22 of the Seattle Mariners hits an RBI single against the Colorado Rockies during the fifth inning of the spring-training game at Peoria Stadium on March 3, 2014 in Peoria, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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By Father Gabe Costa
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No team has ever won a baseball game without scoring at least one run, save in the case of forfeits.

With the beginning of the 2014 season just three-or-so weeks away, I would like to review two fairly simple formulas which were given to us by Bill James, the writer who is most responsible for the popularization of sabermetrics. In fact, it was James himself who defined the term sabermetrics as “the search for objective knowledge about baseball.” And it was James who laid down the following premise as a first principle: A hitter’s job is to create runs.

Therefore, the two formulas deal with this most essential statistic: runs.

James gave us what can be considered as the “seminal” model for sabermetrics when he wrote about Runs Created (RC). He defined RC as follows:

where H = hits, BB = bases on balls, AB = at-bats and TB = total bases. James noticed that there was a strong correlation between RC and the actual number of runs (R) scored. While he modified this formula a number of times, this “basic version” will illustrate the accuracy of this metric, especially with respect to team statistics.

For example, last year’s World Series winners, the Boston Red Sox, had the following team totals: H = 1566, BB = 581, AB = 5651 and TB = 2521. The computed RC score was 869, which was very close to their actual number of runs scored, R = 853.

James also gave us a “Pythagorean” approach to predict (or expect) a team’s seasonal winning percentage based on the number of runs scored (RS) – the same as R above – and the number of runs allowed by their pitchers, RA. His original basic formula was

but eventually the exponents were lowered to 1.83, for greater accuracy.

So, for example, in 2013 the Red Sox logged a 97-65 record, which was only slightly worse than their “expected” 100-62 showing based on their RS = 853 and RA = 656 marks. This is verified by substituting these RS and RA totals into the formula which computes to a predicted winning percentage of .618, translating into a 100-62 mark. See below:

By the way, while one might say that manager John Farrell did not do “as well as he should have,” the fact that the BoSox were champs does indeed cover a multitude of sins!

So get the hits … get on base … pile up the total bases … and the runs will take care of themselves.

In turn, get the runs and the victories will be there in the end.

Sounds so simple, doesn’t it? But in the final analysis, only one team will claim the title of World Series champion, while the remaining 29 clubs can only ask, “Where were our calculations off?”

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