Barring the door

Baseball is largely a game of positive numbers.

It’s all about your batters rapping more hits — especially more homers — than the opposing batters do. Your pitchers piling up more strikeouts than their counterparts do. And, of course, your team scoring more runs than the other team does.

But there are occasions when a negative number is desirable, and today is one of those times.

Tuesday’s story focused on the base values for hitters on all 30 big-league clubs during 2022’s regular season.

BV begins with the number of bases reached by the batters on a given team, and then compares this total to the number that the hitters on an average team would have attained. The Los Angeles Dodgers paced the majors with a base value of plus-442, indicating that their batters exceeded the big-league norm by that impressive amount.

Today’s story, on the other hand, is about pitchers, who have their own version of BV. But their aim is different. They seek to drive their base values as far into negative territory as possible.

Here’s how I did the calculations: I began by totaling the bases that each club’s pitchers allowed in 2022 through singles, doubles, triples, home runs, walks, hit batsmen, stolen bases, sacrifice hits, and sacrifice flies. (Batters don’t reach base through sacrifices, of course, but they do gain bases for their team.)

Next I divided that total by the number of outs that the pitchers obtained, yielding a ratio of bases per out (BPO). My final steps were to multiply a team’s outs by the major-league BPO of .660 — thereby determining the base count for an average team under the same circumstances — and then to subtract the consequent total from the given club’s number of bases allowed.

The resulting math puts the Astros in first place with a BV of minus-475, which means that their pitchers surrendered 475 fewer bases than a typical big-league staff would have yielded.

Houston gave up 2,396 bases — the smallest total in either league — and its BPO of .551 was also the lowest. The average major-league team would have given up 2,871 bases under the same conditions, as I determined by multiplying the outs obtained by Houston’s pitchers (4,350) by the overall big-league BPO (.660).

I then calculated the Astros’ pitching BV by taking the bases they allowed (2,396) and subtracting what an average team would have allowed (2,871). The result: minus-475.

The Los Angeles Dodgers fared almost as well, finishing in second place with a pitching BV of minus-463. The woeful Washington Nationals plummeted to the other end of the scale, yielding 486 bases more than normal.

All 30 clubs are ranked below by their pitching base values for 2022, with their win-loss records in parentheses. They’re placed in five groups, according to what they yielded per game.

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Excellent (BV of minus-1.00 per game or better)

  • 1. Houston Astros (106-56), BV -475

  • 2. Los Angeles Dodgers (111-51), BV -463

  • 3. New York Yankees (99-63), BV -369

  • 4. Atlanta Braves (101-61), BV -264

  • 5. Tampa Bay Rays (86-76), BV -230

  • 6. Cleveland Guardians (92-70), BV -221

  • 7. New York Mets (101-61), BV -188

  • Notes: Pitching truly is the driving force of baseball. Seven teams limited their 2022 opponents to base values lower than minus-1.00 per game (the equivalent of lower than minus-162 for the year). And — no surprise — all seven qualified for the playoffs. The average record for these pitching-rich squads was 99-63. Four of them piled up more than 100 victories.

Above average (BV of minus-0.25 to minus-0.99 per game)

  • 8. St. Louis Cardinals (93-69), BV -125

  • 9. San Diego Padres (89-73), BV -116

  • 10. Seattle Mariners (90-72), BV -106

  • 11. Philadelphia Phillies (87-75), BV -76

  • 11. Los Angeles Angels (73-89), BV -76

  • 13. San Francisco Giants (81-81), BV -60

  • 14. Milwaukee Brewers (86-76), BV -50

  • Notes: Three of the squads in this second echelon had pitching base values below minus-100, and all three made it to the postseason. There’s also a fourth playoff team in this group, the Phillies, who qualified despite a relatively unimpressive BV of minus-76. (Thank goodness for that third wild-card.) The group’s average record: 86-76.

Average (BV of 0.24 to minus-0.24 per game)

  • 15. Toronto Blue Jays (92-70), BV -20

  • 16. Chicago White Sox (81-81), BV -3

  • 17. Minnesota Twins (78-84), BV 8

  • 18. Detroit Tigers (66-96), BV 12

  • 19. Baltimore Orioles (83-79), BV 14

  • Notes: These five clubs hovered around the big-league average for bases surrendered, an impediment that didn’t prevent the hitting-heavy Blue Jays from winning 92 games and making the playoffs. But everybody else fell short of the postseason. It should come as no shock that the typical record for a team in this group was close to .500 at 80-82.

Below average (BV of 0.99 to 0.25 per game)

  • 20. Miami Marlins (69-93), BV 81

  • 21. Arizona Diamondbacks (74-88), BV 119

  • 22. Chicago Cubs (74-88), BV 134

  • 22. Texas Rangers (68-94), BV 134

  • Notes: Here are four teams with below-average pitching — and four teams with below-average records. Everybody in this group finished at least 14 games below .500. The average win-loss balance was 71-91.

Poor (BV of 1.00 per game or worse)

  • 24. Oakland Athletics (60-102), BV 217

  • 25. Boston Red Sox (78-84), BV 225

  • 26. Pittsburgh Pirates (62-100), BV 241

  • 27. Kansas City Royals (65-97), BV 330

  • 28. Cincinnati Reds (62-100), BV 425

  • 29. Colorado Rockies (68-94), BV 428

  • 30. Washington Nationals (55-107), BV 486

  • Notes: It’s surprising how many clubs were saddled with truly miserable pitching staffs in 2022. Seven posted base values that exceeded plus-215, including three that soared well past 400. The Nationals almost reached 500. The inevitable result was an average record of 64-98, including four clubs that attained triple digits in defeats.

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