Posted by Andy on October 7, 2010
I don't watch a ton of baseball on TV and during last night's Phillies-Reds game, I was reminded of one of the reasons why.
When Shane Victorino game to bat with the bases loaded in the second inning, TBS put up a graphic about Victorino's career with the bases loaded. It showed some of the data available from Victorino's splits.
It said something like he was 22-for-60 with a .367 batting average and 54 RBI.
My question is: what does the average baseball viewer think when they see these numbers? Someone who is really knowledgeable about stats (i.e. not the average fan) might have some sense of what these numbers mean, but to the average person the stat might as well say "Globally, there have been 74 earthquakes of at least 3.0 magnitude in the last 6 months." Is that significant? Is it a lot of earthquakes or very few? What does it mean? Who the hell knows without more information?
Here are my issues with the Victorino data as presented.
- First of all, I don't want to know his at-bats. I want to know his plate appearances. How many times has he walked with the bases loaded? That data is easily available. He's had 67 career (regular-season) plate appearances with the bases loaded. In 6 of those, he walked. In one of those he hit a sacrifice fly. His OBP with the sacks full is .418.
- Secondly, we need to know what the typical performance is for MLB. In 2010, for example, over 4,702 plate appearances with the bases loaded, the total major league performance was a .281 BA, .331 OBP, with 319 BB and 3,228 RBI. So that's 0.69 RBI per plate appearance with the bases loaded. Victorino, with 54 RBI in 67 plate appearances, is at 0.81 RBI per plate appearance, so he's doing quite well. Across MLB, players walk 6.8% of the time with the bases loaded. Victorino has done it 9.0% of the time.
So, yes, Victorino has done really well with the bases loaded. I just wish that when they showed his stats, they'd also show major-league averages--at least just batting average. That at least gives some context to Victorino's performance.
Beyond these basic comparative stats, there's one other thing I'd be curious about:
- What fraction of Victorino's plate appearances have come with the bases loaded? He's got 3,043 career PAs, so 67/3043 = 2.2% have come with the bases loaded. I suspect that's well below average since he has hit leadoff a lot, meaning that game-opening PAs are clearly never bases-loaded, plus hitting after the pitcher can't help either. In the majors in 2010, 4,702 out of 185,525 plate appearances came with the bases loaded, or 2.5%. So Victorino has been low, but now terribly.