One of my favorite new features here is the win value section of the team pages. Instead of looking at the components for each individual player we now have the capability of checking which teams produced the highest batting runs total. Or which teams played the best overall defense. While scanning through the numbers I suddenly became interested in the value components for teams that made the playoffs. After all, much of the Rays success last year was attributed to their defense, and sure enough, their +70.6 team UZR rating led all of baseball. Were they the best defensive playoff team in recent history? And how did their offense rank amongst playoff-bound teams?
Our win value metrics currently date back to 2002, but I chose to look at the playoff teams from the last five years, setting 2004 as the starting date. The batting runs and defensive marks were recorded for each team that played into October and there were some very interesting results.
For starters, yes, the 2008 Rays were the best defensive team to make the playoffs over the last five years. In fact, their +70.6 UZR almost dwarfed the second place 2004 Dodgers, with +53.2. That Dodgers team featured Adrian Beltre’s +24.5 and Cesar Izturis‘s +11.9. The only player on their roster with a UZR below -2 was Jason Grabowski, in 30 games, in left field. Amongst those with more than 80 games at a position, the low happened to be Shawn Green at +0.2. They were followed by the 2006 Padres, at +51.0, who were led defensively by Brian Giles, Dave Roberts, and Adrian Gonzalez. The Friars defense that year was more evenly split up, with nine different player positions recording ratings exceeding +3.5.
How about the flip side? Which playoff teams over the last five seasons have been the worst with the glove? This may or may not be surprising, but the bottom three teams are the Yankees… the Yankees… and the Yankees. To be more specific, the Yankees from 2004-06. In 2006, the Bronx Bombers posted a -58.6 UZR. Two years earlier they were about one win worse with the glove, at -68.9. In 2005, however, they received an absolutely abysmal -130.9 UZR. The 138.9 batting runs recorded that year were almost completely wiped away by defensive ineptitudes.
Speaking of the 138.9 batting runs posted by the 2005 Yankees, that team and figure comes in third place amongst the top playoff offenses of the last five years. Ahead of thhem are the, um, 2006 Yankees at 146.1 , and the 2007 Yankees at a whopping 170.1. To put this in perspective, the Yankees made the playoffs from 2004-07, with a minimum of 127 batting runs coming in the 2004 season. A minimum of 127 batting runs. The highest such total for a senior circuit team since 2004 belongs to the Phillies, at 103.6 runs in 2007. Despite their offensive prowess, the Yankees have given plenty of runs back due to poor defense. Their best defensive season in this span came in 2007, at -27.2. Basically, the Yankees position players were at their best in 2007, with an aggregate batting runs total that exceeded the previous three seasons, and defensive ratings that bested their 2004-06 totals as well.
The issue here is that the pitchers are being counted on the National League teams, which actually makes the 2007 Phillies offense look all the more remarkable. With that in mind, here are the top three NL offenses in this span, of teams that made the playoffs: 2007 Phillies (103.6), 2004 Cardinals (87.8), 2008 Cubs (74.5).
Lastly, we have the worst, or most anemic offenses to play more than 162 games. Ironically, the worst two both played their way into October in 2007. The 2007 Diamondbacks, who have become the posterchildren for W-L records besting Pythagoras, put together a -85.2 run offense. Just three players amassed batting runs of +10 or more, with Eric Byrnes leading the way at +15. Almost half as bad were the 2007 Cubs, at -45.9 runs. Oddly enough, the Cubs actually received three separate +20 or more run contributions, from Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, and Alfonso Soriano. The problem is that everyone else ranged from +7 to -14. The best of the worst were the 2005 Astros. With Pettitte, Clemens, and Oswalt ranging from +5.8 to +6.1 wins, and Lidge at +2.5 wins, it is easier to see why their offensive production was not necessarily imperative. At -34.9 runs, though, they fell into third place.
Tomorrow we will take a look at NL and AL pitching staffs in this same span.
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