Halos have different take on new stats
Detail-oriented philosophy has helped club buck projections
TEMPE, Ariz. -- It's no secret that Angels manager Mike Scioscia is an old-fashioned baseball manager.
He stresses playing baseball the "right way" with an emphasis on fundamentals, and the term "small ball" has been synonymous with the way the Angels operate offensively.
You won't hear Scioscia talk about a player's WAR (wins above replacement) or VORP (value over replacement player) any time soon, but Scioscia did talk a bit about his club's use of advanced statistics before the Angels hosted the White Sox in a split-squad game at Tempe Diablo Stadium on Friday.
Scioscia specifically talked about why he thinks his club has outperformed its expected winning percentage based on a formula created by stats maven Bill James called a club's Pythagorean expectation, which estimates what a team's record should have been based on the number of runs they scored and allowed.
It's been a consistent trend for the Angels to outperform their run differential as they finished five games better than expected in 2009, 12 games better in '08, four games better in '07, five games better in '06, two games better in '05 and one game better in '04.
Of course, it could just be luck -- the Angels underperformed their expected win total by a combined six games in his first four seasons at the helm -- but Scioscia pointed to two reasons why he thinks his club has done much better than the formula suggests -- his club's bullpen and baserunning prowess.
It stands to reason that if a team can consistently hold tight leads with a top bullpen, then it could affect a team's run differential as a close win, of course, is worth just as much as blowout in the standings.
"If you're able to get leads and hold leads -- which, throughout our tenure here, we've had some arms that can hold leads -- then you're gonna hold onto those tight games," Scioscia said. "If you go back a few years ago, we played something like 80-some games where we had a two-run differential, and that was as much attributed to our bullpen than anything else."
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Whether his club's baserunning prowess has anything to do with its propensity to outperform its estimated winning percentage is up for debate, but at the very least it's clear that it does benefit from "running with reckless abandon," as Scioscia called it.
The Angels have led the Majors in going from first to third on a single in each of the past four seasons and have ranked in the top five in that category in every season since 2001. Baserunning has plenty of offensive value, as getting the extra base often leads to more runs scored.
Scioscia said it's a stat he pays attention to, and he mentioned he is interested by other more advanced offensive stats but neglected to say which ones.
And as for the recent developments in advanced defensive stats such as UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) and John Dewan's Plus/Minus, Scioscia still isn't quite buying the numbers yet.
"On the defensive end, I haven't seen any stats that really trigger anything where I go, 'Wow, that's really exciting'" Scioscia said. "I know they're doing range factors and all that, but I haven't any way to do that other than good old-fashioned scouting -- looking at hands, range, prep step and first step to balls. Stuff that our coaches pay attention to like positioning."
So it's clear that while Scioscia doesn't quite embrace many of the new advanced statistics out there, he's at least aware of them and in some cases interested by some of the offensive statistics available.
"Some of the offensive numbers are intriguing," Scioscia said. "[But] we pay a lot more attention to how much we go first to third than what our XYZ over 2 ratio is."
Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.