2010 Big Ten Conference Recap: Team HittingPosted: August 20, 2010
On Wednesday I looked at how each team fared on the pitching side of things, relative to the league average. Now it’s time to focus on the offensive side of things.
But what do we look for? Pitching is pretty easy: you don’t want to let the batter put the ball in play and you don’t want to give up base runners via the walk or hit-by-pitch. But hitters are different as if you want to measure some amount of power, you need to take the context into the equation. And I don’t mean just how does Team A stack up against the conference average; that’s just half the battle. You must account for the park as well.
For that, I’m using 2006-2009 Total Park Factors (includes road parks as well) from Boyd’s World. I waffled on whether I should use a Strength of Schedule component or not and I really wanted to. However, the way I adjust for park factors and SOS, I need it in the form where 100 is average. Boyd publishes that data, but not until well after the season, so the only version I have of that (to my knowledge) is his pre-season “intended” strength of schedule ratings. Obviously those become outdated once the season has been played. So until further notice, I am not using a SOS adjustment in the offensive metrics that need adjust (basically, my power metric).
Like with pitchers, here’s the raw data for each club, sorted alphabetically:
K% = K/Plate Appearances
BB% = BB+HBP/Plate Appearances
AVG = Average
OBP = On Base Percentage
SLG = Slugging Percentage
BABIP = Batting Average on Balls In Play
Now, with all things, we need context. We could dissect this table but not get very far. To make things a bit cleaner, here are all of those numbers put on an OPS+ like scale where 100 is average.
(Note: Unlike with the K+ statistic I used for the article on team pitching, this K+ is calculated so that teams who strike out less than the average offense have a number above 100. Therefore, Purdue actually struck out 15% less than the league average, but I feel that more people associate a bigger number with “better.” I’m open to changing this, however.)
This is better. The first thing that jumps out at me is how closely bunched each team’s BABIP is to the league average. Maybe this shouldn’t surprise me but no one is more than 7% off the league mark with the Illini being the furthest from the mean. Team-by-team bullet points!
- Illinois’ poor year on balls in play was supported with very good contact ability (10% better than average in strikeouts) and a very good year with walks and HBP’s. Had they had a higher BABIP, they wouldn’t have had the third-lowest runs scored total in the conference.
- Indiana scored the second most runs in the league, yet were below-average in K’s and BB’s/HBP’s. How did they pull this off? I’ll explain that later.
- The Hawkeyes could have used a lot more contact ability. They finished middle-of-the-pack in runs scored, but were caught flailing more than is probably desirable. They over came that, however, with the third best BB+ number in 2010.
- Michigan was the second worst team in terms of K’s and pretty close to average in terms of patience. They lead the Big Ten in runs scored with 448 and the highest BABIP in the conference helps explain that. Like Indiana, however, there’s more to the story.
- Minnesota was below average in K’s and BB’s and dead average in BABIP. They did lead the league in walks but had the 7th lowest number of HBP’s as an offense. That sinks their BB+ total which includes HBP’s.
- Michigan State clearly put the bat on the ball. With an ever-so-slightly above average BABIP, they pushed the third most runs across the plate in the league with 415.
- Northwestern only scored 302 runs, but my estimates showed they should have scored 47 more runs than that. This table helps show that they weren’t as putrid of an offense as their raw runs scored total would indicate.
- Ohio State is odd: best offense in the league at avoiding strikeouts, best offense in BB’s and HBP’s and a league average BABIP. So why the second fewest runs scored in the conference? There’s a very simple explanation for that.
- Oh Penn State. At least you have football! Abysmal swing-and-miss rates and slightly below-average BB+ numbers. That all adds up to the second-fewest estimated runs scored.
- Purdue struck out a ton of batters from the mound and avoided striking out at the plate. With some more BABIP ‘luck’ they definitely would have scored more than their 411 runs they had. Scary thought: Purdue was much, much better than the raw stats show.
Like I alluded to for a few teams — namely Indiana, Michigan and Ohio State, there’s another piece of information we’re missing here: Power. For this, I’ve decided to look at power through the Isolated Power metric.
However, we can’t just look at raw IsoP numbers. If you peruse the college baseball landscape, the parks differ drastically in both dimensions as well as weather. The number of teams in the Mountain West that play in Coors Field-like atmosphere’s are astounding. However, here in the Big Ten, every team plays in a park that suppresses runs. Part of that is due to the weather and part of that is probably due to the talent of the players. It is easier to pitch in the Big Ten than it is in the SEC, Pac-10, or Big West, that’s for sure.
For this, I’ve turned to the 2006-2009 total park factors from Boyd’s World like I mentioned earlier. I used that and adjusted the Isolated Power numbers for each team and have put them on the same OPS+ like scale from above. Here’s the raw Iso’s and the Iso+:
This explains why Indiana scored way more than we’d expect from a team below-average in K+ and BB+: they hit the ever-loving hell out of the baseball. With a league high 85 homers — 29 more than second place Purdue — Indiana assaulted all pitching all year long. Unfortunately, the Hoosier’s hurlers couldn’t keep people off the base paths or strike them out. Indiana led the conference in estimated runs scored and estimated runs allowed.
The Wolverines had the second best Iso in the league. When you couple that with the highest BABIP, you can see why they lead the league in runs scored.
Ohio State on the other hand, led the league in avoiding K’s and getting on base via the BB and HBP, yet scored so few runs. Well, when you bring a knife to a gun fight, you often lose the battle. Ohio State should thank the Hawkeyes who was a remarkable 21% worse than league average in Isolated Power.
Bullet points on the rest of the league:
- Michigan State did nearly everything right offensively. Near league average in BB+ and above average in Iso+ leads to a lot of runs scored.
- Illinois had problems scoring runs despite being above-average in K+ and BB+ because of their lack of hits on balls in play and the below-average power they showed. If one or both of those corrected to league average, the offense would have been much more potent. I’d look for a higher BABIP in 2011 from the Illini — and as such, a better offense.
- Penn State: average or below in nearly everything offensively.
- Northwestern could really use a shot in the arm in power. The second lowest adjusted Iso and below-average K+ and BB+ rates left that offense pretty dead in the water. It wasn’t as awful as they seemed, but it was pretty bad.
- Purdue: crushed the ball, got on base and avoided strikeouts. On the mound, the K’d a lot of hitters and walked few. They had the 187th hardest schedule in the nation, so I’m guessing they piled up a ton of these stats in non-conference play. I plan to look at all of these same things using conference-only statistics, as well.
Finally, a graph that I think really gives a great look at the offenses with just a quick glance:
In this scatterplot, you want to be as close to the top right corner as possible. Indiana is below average on the BB/K+, but their power makes up for it. Beyond them, you can draw a line that puts the rest of the offenses in tiers.
Tier 1: Indiana
Tier 2: Purdue, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Illinois
Tier 3: Minnesota, Iowa, Penn State and Northwestern
You can quibble and even put Ohio State and Illinois in their own tier right below Purdue, Michigan and Michigan State, but I think three tiers really shows how the offenses stack up against one another.