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Winning and Losing at the Plate

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This is what happens when you listen to MLB Radio too much.


A couple of days back, Casey Stern and Jim Bowden had a discussion on MLB Radio with regard to players who hit better in games their team won than in those they lost. Stern was pushing the idea that this was a statistical split that had some significance as to a player's value to his team's success.

Superficially, the basic idea makes some sense, but I suspected that most players hit better in games on by their team than in those that they lost. A simple look at the Royals' team stats certainly reflects the obvious:

Kansas City Royals

in Wins: 300/357/435

in Losses: 216/267/301

After all, the game is won by scoring more runs and that is pretty hard to do without hitting the ball better in wins (more often than not) than in losses. While the basic premise pitched by Stern and Bowden was, from the beginning, flawed, it was enough to make me curious.

Last year's Royals hit 289/346/448 in wins and 245/292/361 in losses. In 2011, they hit 314/368/484 in wins and 243/295/358 in games Kansas City lost. Of course, the Royals were not very good either year. What about some 'good teams'?

2013 Detroit Tigers - Wins: 321/391/509 Losses: 228/292/321

2012 Detroit Tigers - Wins: 302/370/487 Losses: 227/291/343

2013 Texas Rangers - Wins: 307/367/519 Losses: 203/270/315

2012 Texas Rangers - Wins: 310/373/520 Losses: 220/275/341

Just looking at this very small handful of team triple slash lines, one could make a pretty giant statistical leap of faith and broadly say that there is roughly a 75-125 (maybe even a touch more in slugging for teams that, you know, hit for that weird thing called power) point difference in the triple slash categories between games won and games lost.

Is it at all relevant then, to attach any importance to an individual player whose won-loss disparity is greater than that? I am skeptical - enough so to not spend an evening compiling won-loss triple slashes or to explore a different metric - but moderately intrigued.

Prior to yesterday's come from behind win, here are the triple slash lines split by wins and losses for most of the relevant Royals position players (with all apologies to Kotteras and Adam Moore). Just 62 games into a season, this is also subject to small sample size concerns.

Salvador Perez

in Wins: 354/394/490

in Losses: 274/274/357

Eric Hosmer

in Wins: 333/400/435

in Losses: 209/254/245

Chris Getz

in Wins: 200/243/271

in Losses: 226/294/306

Alcides Escobar

in Wins: 274/314/425

in Losses: 213/225/228

Mike Moustakas

in Wins: 209/295/308

in Losses: 156/200/267

Alex Gordon

in Wins: 325/367/492

in Losses: 285/333/408

Lorenzo Cain

in Wins: 398/440/561

in Losses: 181/261/257

Jeff Francoeur

in Wins: 247/304/425

in Losses: 183/200/237

Billy Butler

in Wins: 353/437/520

in Losses: 187/326/290

Elliot Johnson

in Wins: 225/295/300

in Losses: 224/240/245

David Lough

in Wins: 250/270/306

in Losses: 313/333/594

Miguel Tejada

in Wins: 412/444/412

in Losses: 250/314/469

Jarrod Dyson

in Wins: 308/333/577

in Losses: 200/200/533

Only two players hit better in losses, Johnson and Lough, and both of their splits could be skewed back the other way by a good game or two in a winning effort. The rest of the group is predictably markedly better in wins: most by about the same margin as the team splits overall.

Two, however, have splits far wider than that of the team: Billy Butler and Lorenzo Cain (Tejada as well, actually, but he doesn't have many at-bats...and Hosmer is close to a big split, too). Is that meaningful? Especially factoring in that those two spend most of their time batting in heart of the lineup?

Their career splits:

Butler in wins: 354/421/582

Butler in losses: 254/317/372

Cain in wins: 365/401/534

Cain in losses: 201/269/285

And for fun let's look at Alex Gordon's career splits:

Gordon in wins: 301/381/510

Gordon in losses: 248/320/380

And Miguel Cabrera:

Cabrera in wins: 368/446/679

Cabrera in losses: 267/341/438

Without question, Stern and Bowden put way more significance on this split than is warranted (no surprise). One does not tune into MLB Radio for in depth statistical analysis, but their brief discussion caught my attention. In the end, the Royals are more likely to win when Billy Butler and Lorenzo Cain hit and what Elliot Johnson and Chris Getz do at the plate seems to have little impact on what the team does. Maybe that is the lesson and the lack of a significant split points to an area of weakness. Of course, we already knew second base was the problem.