DECEMBER 20, 2003
Baseball’s Big Spenders Should Beware
By Steve Lombardi, NetShrine.com

This current off-season, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees have been loading up their rosters with the intent to annihilate each other (as well as obliterating the rest of baseball) on both sides of the ball in 2004.  The news here for those two teams is bad:

The majority of the time for baseball teams, total and overall dominance does not lead to championships.

First, some background on the definition of “total and overall dominance” to be used for this case:

“Runs Created Above Average” (RCAA) and “Runs Saved Against Average” (RSAA) are the creation of Lee Sinins.  RCAA, when applied to a team’s offense, is the difference between a team’s Runs Created* total and the total for an average team who used the same amount of outs. A negative RCAA indicates a poor team in this category.  RSAA, when applied to a team’s pitching, is the amount of runs that a team’s pitchers saved versus what an average team's pitchers would have allowed.  (It is the same statistic as Total Baseball's Pitching Runs, except (1) Lee and Total Baseball have different ways of park adjustments and (2) Total Baseball added a procedure to take into account the amount of decisions (W+L) the pitcher had, while RSAA does not have that.)  Just like RCAA, this statistic can produce a negative result.

Since 1900, only 21 teams (of those franchises still active today) have compiled both 100+ RSAA and 100+ RCAA in the same season.  The list is below:

1906 Cubs
1910 A's
1911 Giants
1922 Browns
1927 Yankees
1928 A's
1929 A's
1931 A's
1937 Yankees
1943 Cardinals
1944 Cardinals
1948 Indians
1969 Orioles
1996 Indians
1998 Astros
1998 Braves
1998 Yankees
1999 Diamondbacks
2001 A's
2001 Mariners
2002 Red Sox

The 1937 Yankees are the only team to have compiled both 140+ RSAA and 140+ RCAA in the same season.  The 1969 Orioles and 1948 Indians (along with the ’37 Yanks) are the only teams to have compiled both 130+ RSAA and 130+ RCAA in the same season.  The 1922 Browns and 1943 Cardinals are the only other teams to have compiled both 120+ RSAA and 120+ RCAA in the same season.

To offer some perspective, since 1900, there have been 2,052 seasons played by teams still current in the major leagues today.  Again, only 21 teams out of those 2,052 team seasons have compiled both 100+ RSAA and 100+ RCAA in the same season.  This means these 21 teams are the top 1% of all teams in terms of balanced dominance (offense and pitching) over the remainder of the field.

The next natural question is: How many of these 21 teams won world championships?  Only one-third of these teams (7) won a World Series.  They champions were:

1910 A's
1927 Yankees
1929 A's
1937 Yankees
1944 Cardinals
1948 Indians
1998 Yankees

In fact, three of these teams did not even finish first in their division or league at the end of the season.  The 1922 Browns, 1928 A’s and 2002 Red Sox were all second place teams at the end of their season.

It is remarkable that, in the top 1% of seasons in terms of total and overall dominance, two-thirds of the time that team did not eventually win the World Series.

It is more astonishing that, in the last 55 years of baseball, the only team to dominate its league in terms of both offense and pitching, and to then go on and win the World Series is the 1998 New York Yankees.

It has happened only once in (over) the past half century.

Makes one wonder what the current Yankees and Red Sox are spending all that money on these days?


* Runs Created is a Bill James statistic.  It is an estimate of the number of runs that a player would produce based on his offensive statistics.  For more, see the NetShrine Statistics Glossary.

Steve Lombardi is the Creator & Curator of NetShrine.com.  Scrawling On The Scorecard appears regularly during the baseball season and sporadically during the off-season.  Steve can be contacted at sots@netshrine.com

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