Piling up the bases

A strong offensive attack is only half of the equation for a winning season in the major leagues. Maybe even less than half, as this year’s quirky playoffs have shown us.

Yet there’s still much to be said for an imposing batting order that frightens opposing pitchers.

Just ask the Los Angeles Dodgers, the only team in 2022 to hit more than 200 homers and post an on-base percentage higher than .330. The result: 111 regular-season wins, the fourth-highest total in 152 years of big-league ball.

And here’s another indicator of the Dodgers’ dominance at the plate. They attained a total of 3,258 bases this season, precisely 100 more than the runner-up, the New York Yankees.

I added up the total number of bases that each major-league club reached through singles, doubles, triples, home runs, walks, hit batsmen, stolen bases, sacrifice hits, and sacrifice flies. (The latter two categories are counted because they advance runners who are already on base.)

The average total for a single team in 2022 was 2,852 bases, a figure that the Dodgers exceeded by 14 percent.

But there’s another — and better — way to compare each team’s offensive output to big-league norms. The first step is to calculate each club’s ratio of bases per out (BPO). The Dodgers reached .764 bases for every out that they made, easily the best rate achieved by any big-league club. The average BPO for all 30 teams was .660.

If we apply that latter figure to the Dodgers’ total of 4,267 outs, we see that the typical team would have reached 2,816 bases under the same circumstances, as determined by multiplying 4,267 by .660. Los Angeles topped the resulting product (2,816) by 442 bases. That’s its base value (BV), a comparison of a given club’s output against the major-league average.

All 30 teams are ranked below by their offensive base values for 2022. They’re placed in five groups, according to their output per game.

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Excellent (BV of 1.00 per game or better)

  • 1. Los Angeles Dodgers (111-51), BV 442

  • 2. New York Yankees (99-63), BV 305

  • 3. Atlanta Braves (101-61), BV 274

  • 4. St. Louis Cardinals (93-69), BV 235

  • 5. Toronto Blue Jays (92-70), BV 218

  • 6. Houston Astros (106-56), BV 204

  • 7. New York Mets (101-61), BV 188

  • 8. Philadelphia Phillies (87-75), BV 168

  • Notes: Only seven teams posted BPOs higher than .700 in 2022, and they happen to be the top seven in this group. The Phillies barely missed at .699. The average record for these eight offensive powerhouses was 99-63, and all eight made the playoffs. So yes, pitching is awfully important, but a strong attack at the plate can compensate for many weaknesses on the mound.

Above average (BV of 0.25 to 0.99 per game)

  • 9. Milwaukee Brewers (86-76), BV 149

  • 10. Boston Red Sox (78-84), BV 69

  • 11. Seattle Mariners (90-72), BV 53

  • 12. San Francisco Giants (81-81), BV 43

  • Notes: The Brewers are an outlier in this group, falling short of the top echelon by just 13 in the BV column. The other three teams are far behind Milwaukee. The most interesting club on this list is the Mariners, who qualified for the playoffs despite a fairly mundane BV of plus-53. The average record for these clubs was 84-78.

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

  • 13. Minnesota Twins (78-84), BV 14

  • 14. San Diego Padres (89-73), BV -18

  • 14. Arizona Diamondbacks (74-88), BV -18

  • 16. Chicago Cubs (74-88), BV -20

  • 16. Texas Rangers (68-94), BV -20

  • 18. Baltimore Orioles (83-79), BV -29

  • 19. Cleveland Guardians (92-70), BV -30

  • Notes: It comes as no surprise that the typical club in this midrange group had a midrange record of 80-82. What is shocking is that two of these teams overcame their offensive handicaps and made the playoffs: the Padres with a BV of minus-18 and the Guardians at minus-30. The Orioles are the only other team in this group to finish above .500.

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

  • 20. Colorado Rockies (68-94), BV -53

  • 21. Tampa Bay Rays (86-76), BV -98

  • 22. Kansas City Royals (65-97), BV -104

  • 23. Los Angeles Angels (73-89), BV -112

  • 24. Chicago White Sox (81-81), BV -138

  • 25. Washington Nationals (55-107), BV -160

  • Notes: The Rays were truly subpar at the plate, posting a BPO of just .637 and a base value of minus-98. Yet they still qualified for the playoffs, seemingly an annual occurrence for Tampa Bay. The White Sox landed at .500, while the other four teams in this group posted losing records. The average mark for this bunch was 71-91.

Poor (BV of minus-1.00 per game or worse)

  • 26. Cincinnati Reds (62-100), BV -202

  • 27. Miami Marlins (69-93), BV -237

  • 28. Pittsburgh Pirates (62-100), BV -244

  • 29. Oakland Athletics (60-102), BV -412

  • 30. Detroit Tigers (66-96), BV -456

  • Notes: Welcome to the basement. All five clubs in this final group had BPOs worse than .615, with the Tigers dead last at an outrageously bad .555. Each of these offensive weaklings lost at least 93 games, and three reached triple digits in defeats. Their average record was a pitiful 64-98.

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