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Thursday, August 12, 2004
Quantifying the Impossible

Two days ago I set out to try to quantify, to put into terms of wins and losses, what the combined loss of Frank Thomas and Magglio Ordonez has done to this club. The only conclusion I have been able to draw is that it's nearly impossible to relate, in numbers, what the coinciding loss of a team's #3 and #4 hitters does to a ballclub.

The only real answer is that it makes the team a whole lot weaker.

Take last nights game for example. The sox were facing Darrell May. Magglio has a career OPS over 1.300 vs. May in 21 AB's. Thomas has not fared all that well against May, batting just .100, but he traditionally is a much better hitter vs. Lefties. May carried a no-hitter into the 6th inning of last night's game. Is there any reason to believe that May would have even been pitching a shutout if Maggs and Frank were in the line-up.

Take a look at what the addition/subtraction of the tandem does to the Sox line-up.

Last Night		Fantasy Land

Harris 2b Rowand CF
Alomar dh Alomar 2B
Lee lf Thomas DH
Konerko 1b Maggs RF
Rowand cf Lee LF
Borchard rf Konerko 1B
Uribe ss Crede 3b
Crede 3b Uribe SS
Alomar Jr. C Alomar Jr. C


In my Fantastyland line-up I chose to bat Rowand in the leadoff spot, he's got a .430 OBP and a 1.147 OPS vs. Lefties this season, compared to Harris' .216 OBP and a .424 OPS. Rowand's OBP is higher than Harris' OPS!!!

Against LHP Alomar is the best option in the #2 spot. From there the inclusion of Maggs and Frank is really felt. Lee instead of Rowand, who's having troubles w/ RISP this season, in the #5 spot. Konerko instead of Borchard, who's below the Mendoza line with 1 RBI(a solo HR) in 20 games this season, in the #6 spot. I'd move Crede up a spot, both he and Uribe are slumping big time, but Crede hits LHP much better than Uribe.

Take the 9th inning specifically. Konerko, the #4 hitter, lead off. In fantasyland, #4 is Magglio. With the sox down 3 runs, and with only three outs remaining, which lineup would you rather face? Konerko-Rowand-Borchard or Maggs-Lee-Konerko. The fantasy land Line-up has who good PH'ers against RHP coming off the bench too in Carl Everett and Jose Valentin.

There's innumerable variables that effect the outcome of the game, and trying to quantify how two players' absence from the line-up effect the overall record is nearly impossible. Think about just the difference in hitting approach; Frank Thomas is one of the most patient hitters in baseball, Joe Borchard isn't. It effects the pitcher's mindset, the way he plans to attack the game.

So here's how I attempted to quantify the loss of Frank and Maggs:

I figured out each players Runs Created, using Bill James' Run Created formula, for this season. I then divided by the number of games played to get their Runs Created per game. I then did the same for their replacements (Timo Perez, Ross Gload, Joe Borchard, Carl Everett, and Robbie Alomar).

Once I had everyone's Runs Created per Game, I estimated either their games missed(for Frank and Maggs) and their games used as a replacement (for the others). (I could have directly gone through the box scores and seen who replaced Frank and Maggs, but I don't have that kind of time.) Multiplying the Runs Created per game by the estimated games missed/replaced, I got a figure for everyone's Run Created during the Absence. I could then compare Frank and Maggs estimated Runs Created had they been in the line-up to an estimate of the replacements Runs Created. The result was a difference of just under 40 runs, just under .5 runs per game.

I then added the difference in runs scored to the White Sox total runs scored for the year, and used the Pythagorean Won/Loss formula to calculate the difference in games. Currently, the Pythagorean Won/Loss formula puts the sox at a .55 winning percentage, or about 60 wins (The sox currently have 56 wins). Using the adjusted Runs Scored numbers in the Pythagorean formula, I came up with a .579 winning percentage, or about 64 or 65 wins.

The quantifiable difference between a line-up with Frank and Maggs and the rag-tag group is 4 or 5 games.

Now I know you're thinking about all of the fallacies in my logic, and I can assure you that I've already recognized them. However, in two days of work I was not able to come up with a better way to quantify the problem. If you can come up with a better way, I encourage you to figure it out, and send it in. I WILL PRINT IT.

The Runs Created formula works well to compare two players, but it doesn't really work well when trying to figure how that player effects a line-up. It does even worse when trying to figure how 2 players effect a line-up; and even worse again when those two players hit back-to-back.

The value of the line-up around the player surely effects the Runs Scored too. Frank or Maggs would drive in more runs in the Yankee line-up than the Expo line-up. This is the problem when two players go down, they each effect each others stats, making the overall problem Impossible to Quantify.

So what did we learn through all of this?
- The loss of Frank and Maggs hurts this team, but I don't know how much.
- I have way too much time on my hands.
- Win Shares are probably a better tool to use for this problem, but I've already burned enough time thinking about this.