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O Zone efficiency helps Cards, Sox10/22/2004 2:00 PM ET
By Gregg Klayman / MLB.com
Last week, I explored how MLB.com's O Zone Factor, a new stat that measures a team's success with runners in scoring position (RISP), figured into the results of all four Division Series matchups.
St. Louis, Boston and Houston finished the first round of the postseason with the three highest O Zone Factors, meaning each team was efficient at scoring runners from second and third, while preventing opponents from doing so. All three teams won their respective series, thanks in large part to their success in these situations.
Minnesota was the only losing team to have better O Zone success than its opponent. However, the difference was so small (Minnesota, 12-for-30 with RISP; New York, 12-for-33) that it didn't affect the outcome of the series, but it did help contribute to three close contests in the four-game series.
So was O Zone efficiency an accurate predictor of success in both LCS matchups?
St. Louis dominated Houston when it came to performance with RISP, plating 47.5 percent (19-for-40) of runners, while allowing only 26.5 percent (9-for-34) to score.
Looking at these numbers alone, you might think St. Louis swept its series. The huge difference in success, however, comes from Game 1, where the Cardinals scored 8 of 11 runners from second and third, and Houston stranded all three of its RISP. The Astros had better O Zone success in their Games 3-5 victories, scoring 33.3 percent of runners, while allowing 30 percent of RISP to score.
Despite losing a tense seven-game series, the Yankees finished the ALCS with a slightly better O Zone scoring percentage than the Red Sox (38.5 to 36.8). A large portion of New York's O Zone success comes from the Game 3 blowout, when it scored nine of 15 RISP. Remove Game 3, and New York's O Zone success drops to 32 percent while Boston's remains above 36 percent for the rest of the series.
Overall, in the League Championship Series, only three of 14 games were won by a team with a lower offensive O Zone percentage than its opponent. In two of those games, the winning team simply had more O Zone opportunities than its opponent, so while their scoring percentage with RISP was lower, they actually tallied the same amount of O Zone runs.
Here's a look at final O Zone numbers for the two LCS matchups:
St. Louis (.244) and Boston (.032) enter the World Series with the two highest postseason O Zone Factors to this point. The Red Sox will need to improve upon their O Zone numbers, particularly when pitching (they have allowed 38.1 percent of RISP to score, compared to 24.1 percent by St. Louis), if they want to improve their chances of winning their first title in 86 years. The Cardinals have scored an amazing 48.5 percent of RISP so far in the postseason, so Boston's staff will definitely have its hands full if it allows a ton of runners to reach scoring position.
MLB.com unveiled the O Zone Factor in September. Using a simple formula -- RISP who score divided by RISP -- a team's offensive and defensive efficiency with runners on second or third can easily be measured. Take a team's O Zone percentage while at the plate, and subtract its percentage when in the field, and you have the O Zone factor.
The formula proved to be an accurate measure of success in 2004, as the teams with the top 10 O Zone factors all ended the season with records over .500, and the bottom 10 teams all finished at least 10 games under .500.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.