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AUGUST 6, 2004
Overall Team Contact Rating
By Steve Lombardi, NetShrine.com

A scrawling on this scorecard once made a claim that strikeouts were bad on offense. And, many responded to that assertion with counter-claims stating that "going down on strikes" is merely another vanilla form of being retired - and that the "K" was no better or worse than any other way of being retired as a batter.  Some offered specific findings - sharing that it was their opinion that a whiff is worth only .01 runs worse than a "regular" out.

However, another past scrawling on a scorecard once established that recent champions were very good at making contact

Wanting to now take both scrawled notions a tad further, for the fun of it, the following idea came up:  Why not examine every current team's seasons over the last 10 years (1994 to 2003) with the focus on strikeout frequency for both batters and pitchers - and, then, look for any correlation to team performance?  

In order to perform the application, the scrawling on this scorecard introduces a statistic called "Overall Team Contact Rating" (OTCR).  Stated simply, OTCR is a team's batting Plate Appearances to Strikeouts ratio multiplied by its pitching Strikeouts to Batters Faced ratio.  The full formula used in this study is:  OTCR = [batters (PA/SO) * pitchers (SO/((IP*2.82)+H+BB))]

Running the OTCRs for each team in each season (over the last decade) yielded some interesting results:

Granted, this just a snapshot.  One cannot look at 292 rows of data and come up with a golden rule.  However, there is enough evidence to strongly suggest that teams in our present era who excel at both making contact at the plate and having their pitchers limit their opponent's ability to made contact have an increased probability of making the post season - and conversely, teams who fail at both making contact at the plate and having their pitchers limit their opponent's ability to made contact have a strong probability of not making the post season.

Sure, it would be great if the percentages were 100% on both ends here.  That would be a much more convincing argument.  Perhaps we should look at the "other" 29% of the OTCR 1.20+ and the "other" 9% of OTCR below 1.00?  Who's in there?  Is there a story to tell?

Here are the 10 teams (out of 34) with an OTCR of 1.20+ in a season (during the last ten years) who did not make the post season:

Dodgers

2003

Diamondbacks

2003

Red Sox

2002

Cubs

2001

Diamondbacks

2000

Dodgers

2002

Padres

1995

Orioles

1998

Orioles

1995

Blue Jays

1994

The 2003 Dodgers and Diamondbacks were pretty good teams.  Both played better than .500.  Ditto that on the 2000 Diamondbacks and the 2002 Dodgers.  In fact, you can say the same thing about the 2001 Cubs, and 2002 Red Sox.  Maybe in different seasons teams that good would make the post season?  But, you could not say that about the 1995 Padres, 1995 & 1998 Orioles, and 1994 Blue Jays teams on this list.  They were not good teams - in terms of wins and losses.

Perhaps Tony Gwynn's 1995 incredible batting season is throwing off the Padres 1994 OTCR?  That might work.  But, there's still the two Orioles teams and '94 Blue Jays without an excuse. Too bad.

Here are the 11 teams (out of 123) with an OTCR under 1.00 in a season (during the last ten years) who did make the post season:

Rangers

1994

Reds

1995

Rockies

1995

Cardinals

1996

Rangers

1996

Giants

1997

Rangers

1998

Mariners

2000

Cardinals

2000

A's

2000

Twins

2002

Perhaps the Rangers in 1994 would have not made the post season?  They had a one game lead in the AL West when play was stopped.  Discounting them is easy.  The 1995 Rockies just made the post season, barely, as a Wild Card.  Ditto the 2000 Mariners.  

Three down, eight to go.  The 1995 Reds won 85 games to take their division.  One could make the case that somebody had to win the NL Central and 1995 and the Reds snuck in.  OK, four down and seven to go.  The 1996 Cardinals were a good team.  But, if they were in the NL East or West that season, they would have not been a post season team.  Ditto the 1996  and 1998 Rangers and the AL East and Central.  Ditto the 2002 Twins and the AL East and West.  That still leaves three teams:  The 1997 Giants, 2000 Cardinals, and 2000 A's.  Bummer.

There is not a way to validate (for lack of a better word) towards an absolute "100%" on the OTCR cutoffs of above 1.20 and below 1.00.  Still, again, there is some data which allows for the suggestion that teams in our present era who excel at both making contact at the plate and having their pitchers limit their opponent's ability to made contact have an increased probability of making the post season - and conversely, teams who fail at both making contact at the plate and having their pitchers limit their opponent's ability to made contact have a strong probability of not making the post season.

Therefore, perhaps, strikeouts have some great measure of magnitude and are more important than just a "regular" out?  Put it this way, based on the scrawling in this scorecard, if given the choice of having your favorite team be contact oriented on offense and strikeout generating on pitching - or the opposite of those two - which would you choose?


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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