2010 Team Little Things Five Weeks In

Dave Cameron’s post from yesterday about the Rays’ clutch hitting reminded me of the Little Things. In short, what the “Little Things” stat does is subtract decontextualized offensive linear weights (called wRAA here at FanGraphs) from game-state linear weights (WPA/LI) to give an idea of how well a team or player has done at playing to the game situation, over and above the average linear weight of the event. For, in the contemporary run environment, a walk averages an increase in run expectancy of about 0.3 runs above average, and a home run about 1.4, which is what wRAA/linear weights records, no matter when in the game they occur. However, in a tie game in the bottom of the ninth inning with the bases loaded, a walk and a home run give exactly the same change win expectancy for the home team, which is what WPA/LI records (while factoring out the “leverage” element in order to make each plate appearance of equal relative value). So to get the “Little Things,” the “situational” performance (not to say awareness, not yet, since analysts differ on how much this is a repeatable skill that players possess), we subtract wRAA converted to wins (I simply divide by 10) from WPA/LI: the Little Things. Which three offenses are doing the best and worst so far this season?

The Three Best

3. Mets, -16 wRAA, -0.59 WPA/LI, 1.01 Little Things. Well, David Wright is slightly negative in Little Things, so I guess the fans are right to boo him. It’s not been an impressive offense performance for the team, but they’ve made more out of their production than what their wOBA suggests, as the Mets are a surprising (to me, anyway) 15-13 so far.

2. Reds, -13 wRAA, -0.2 WPA/LI, 1.1 Little Things. Another team that is negative in both categories, but is getting some good situational offense. Scott Rolen‘s veteran-ness might be the big difference here (ahem). But seriously, he’s done well, “Little Things-wise” so far.

1. Braves, -16 wRAA, 0.55 WPA/LI, 2.15 Little Things. Yes, Jason Heyward does the Little Things (so far), too.

The Three Worst

3. Angels, -11 wRAA, -3.28 WPA/LI, -2.18 Little Things. A few months ago, I noted that despite their reputation for doing the Little Things, the Angels have a spotty record, at least regarding this issue. Off to an ugly start in 2010, they are still waiting for Mike Scioscia‘s magic touch to kick in.

2. Tigers, +23 wRAA, 0.11 WPA/LI, -2.19 Little Things. The Tigers offense is one of the main reasons they are the only team seemingly within striking distance of the Twins so far, but their hitters certainly haven’t maximized their chances so far, being more than two wins below what their context-neutral linear weights would suggest. Given the talent gap between the Tigers and Twins, they’re going to need all the situational skill/luck they can get if they want a shot at the AL Central this season.

1. Red Sox, +28 wRAA, -0.18 WPA/LI, -2.98 Little Things. Has anything gone right for the Red Sox so far this season? Kevin Youkilis is about half-a-win below average, and David Ortiz has (somehow) been worse the more crucial the situation has been. It’s gotta be tough for all those 2 year olds who haven’t seen a Red Sox championship in their lifetimes.

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Matt Klaassen reads and writes obituaries in the Greater Toronto Area. If you can't get enough of him, follow him on Twitter.

20 Responses to “2010 Team Little Things Five Weeks In”

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  1. M says:

    So the Braves are clutch, even if they are 12-16? As a Braves fan, that’s comforting… I guess.

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  2. nothingxs says:

    Most hysterically named (and slightly enlightening) stat ever. :P

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  3. Steve C says:

    Youkilis a half win below average???

    1.1 WAR in 28 games means he is on pace to be about a 5 win player for the year. He is almost 1/2 a run below average on defense, but that does not change the defensive prediction.

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  4. drunkin says:

    anybody ANYBODY want to teach me baseball math? The Met are – – = + Angels – – = – ???

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  5. Having watched the Tigers so far this year, the numbers absolutely fall in line with what my eyes have told me. I’ve been to one game this year. In that game, the Tigers drew 9 walks and got six hits, one of which was a home run. And they scored 4 runs.

    In their first series against the Angels in Los Angeles they left scads of runners on the bases. They’ve improved over the last week and a half or so, but for the most part, they’ve looked like a team that doesn’t do the little things right. Knowing they’re 2nd worst in the league right fits with what I’ve seen.

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  6. NBarnes says:

    Why you gotta be hating on the Red Sox? My one year old son has never seen the Red Sox win it all!

    Who’s curse would it be this time, anyway? Shilling’s?

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  7. Reuben says:

    What was the official date that Red Sox fans became more annoying than Yankees fans? All I could remember growing up was Yankees fan hate, now it’s the Sox. I don’t care which way or the other, I’m just trying to make a chart.

    of hate.

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    • Gina says:

      I think they were always about even in annoyance levels, they were just much quieter about it through 100+ years of no WS. Then October 27, 2004 the flood gates of obnoxious opened and they haven’t closed since.

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      • OsandRoyals says:

        2006 was the year
        When they won in 2004 it was totally justifiable that they celebrated like crazy. 2005 they tanked. So that should logically mean 2006 was the year. That does come with the disclaimer that they reached new heights of annoyance in 2007.
        With the yankees you always got a successful team that knew they were better than any other teams, which truthfully the franchise is with by far the most world series wins (and presumably appearances). The Red Sox fans used to be similar but more whiny. Now they have the Yankees attitude but seemingly more patronizing while still seeming more whiny. Plus craptons of bandwagon fans. At least that’s my impression. feel more than free to disagree and explain why

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      • Bronnt says:

        Not only are they whiny, but if you happen to whine about your team in their hearing, they’ll jump in and tell you exactly why you have nothing to whine about.

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  8. Paul says:

    Situational Hitting is pure luck. It always evens out over time, as many a study has shown. I guarantee that if you were to do this again at the end of the season, the composition of the leaderboards would be completely different. In addition, it is also nearly impossible to draw reasonable judgements from a month’s worth of stats- unless you believe that Vernon Wells is a better hitter than Matt Kemp, Paul Konerko than Albert Pujols, that Javier Vazquez is a 1o E.R.A. pitcher, that the Blue Jays are better than the Red Sox…The list could go on and on, but I think you get my point.
    Overall, this atricle is bogus both in the conclusion it attempts to arrive at(clutch hitting is a legitimate ability at which some are better than others) and the range of stats it uses to support that conclusion (One month? Really?)

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    • Jason says:

      As far as “atricles” go, it’s not bad.

      Paul, you may be making some assumptions that don’t appear in the article. Matt does say “are doing the best and worst so far this season,” not “are proven to be better at this than other teams.”

      Ostensibly you could take the same stat and look at more data if you want more long-term trends. This is just a snapshot and is described as such.

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