Microeconomics And Offense (Part 2)

Last week’s post examined offense in the American League through the prism of capital and labor. This week, it’s the National League’s turn.

To review, Quadrant I contains teams which are above average at getting on base, but below average in driving runs in. Quadrant II consists of teams which are below average at both skills. Quadrant III contains teams which are above average in terms of strand percentage, but below average at on-base percentage. Quadrant IV consists of the league’s best offenses, which are above average in both variables.

In the AL, Seattle was by itself in the northwest corner of the graph as the league unquestioned worst offense. In the NL, this spot is occupied by two teams, Houston and Pittsburgh. These teams had almost identical offenses, separated by hundredths of a percentage in both strand percentage and OBP.

The other teams in Quadrant II are New York, Washington, Chicago and Los Angeles. The Nationals hope signing Jayson Werth will improve their offense, which was third-worst in the NL last year. All things being equal, Werth is a good example of a player who can move his team both South and East on this graph. He has a good OBP and above average power, which should improve his team’s strand percentage. However, the Nats lost Adam Dunn, so the net change will likely be a slight improvement in OBP and a slight decrease in strand percentage.

Quadrant IV contains the teams with the best offenses in the league: Arizona, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Colorado, and Cincinnati. The only surprise team here is the Diamondbacks, who were eighth in the league in runs per game. However, ignoring the quadrants and looking at the graph as a whole, Arizona lies closer to the pack of average offenses than in the Southeast corner with the top dogs.

The Brewers had a good offensive year in 2010, but better power production from Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun next year could lead to a better strand rate and a big improvement in runs per game.

Quadrant I contains only Atlanta, and it is an interesting case. Although they were fifth in the league in runs per game, the Braves had the potential to be a league-leading offense. They led the league in OBP, but a sub-par strand percentage prevented it from reaching its scoring potential. The Braves had eight players, with at least 50 plate appearances, who had a .350 or better OBP. However, there was just not enough power on the team to drive these runs in. Brian McCann led the team with 21 home runs, and the leader in isolated power was Brooks Conrad. With a injury-free season from a maturing Jason Heyward, and the addition of Dan Uggla, Atlanta figures to have a better strand percentage and perhaps a big offensive improvement in 2011.

Quadrant III contains San Diego, Florida and San Francisco. These three teams are close to the origin and not very different than the lump of teams just to the North and Arizona to the East. It is surprising to see the Padres in the mix of average offenses, although much of the offense came from Adrian Gonzalez. Without their best slugger next season, it will not be surprising to see San Diego make significant jumps North and West on this graph and join the Astros and Pirates in no-run land.

In Part 3, we’ll look further into microeconomic theory and use the data estimate a Cobb-Douglas Production Function for offense.

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Jesse has been writing for FanGraphs since 2010. He is the director of Consumer Insights at GroupM Next, the innovation unit of GroupM, the world’s largest global media investment management operation. Follow him on Twitter @jesseberger.