Eckstein's Range Factor Revisited

Defense and ground-ball pitching mean marked change in results.

I started thinking about this again as I read a few posts over at some of the other forums (and even here) that still suggest that the Cards ought to be playing David Eckstein at 2B instead of SS, because of his "weak arm" and "lack of range".

Back in December, I had the thought that Eck's poor Range Factor numbers in 2004 might well have had more to do with the Angels' having been a primarily flyball/strikeout pitching staff than the Cards.

Here's what I said, including the conclusion - that Eckstein's 3.83 RF in 2004 for the Angels translated to a possible 4.67 RF in St. Louis:

Quote:


What affect does the composition of a pitching staff have on a stat like Range Factor?

It occurs to me that the Angels' pitching staff in 2004 was much different from that of 2003, and if there's any relationship between that and RF, that could explain the dropoff - because until they got hot and beat out Oakland for the division title, the Angels' pitching was pretty mediocre - Colon was getting clobbered, Ortiz wasn't any good, etc.

Even just being more of a fly-ball staff instead of a ground-ball staff might have been a factor in Eck's lower RF rating.



and...

Quote:


Sorting the GO/AO ratio does indeed show the Cards at the top at 1.47 GO per AO, followed by the Braves at 1.37, the D'backs at 1.36, and the Rockies at 1.34.

Seattle was the worst at 0.90; the Angels and D'Rays were tied for second-worst at 1.01.

I'm presuming that these figures alone wouldn't be enough to determine the exact formula; you'd need to also calculate the GO/AO per 9 IP rate.

To do that, we check the IP totals and see that the Cards were 10th in MLB with 1453 2/3 IP; the Angels were 9th at 1454 1/3 - so Angel pitchers only pitched 2/3 of an inning more than Card pitchers, which is a difference of just 0.046% - completely negligible for our purposes.

Then, we need to check the K's. We can dispense with K's per 9 IP, since the two teams' IP rates are so close.

And we see that the Angel pitchers had 1164 strikeouts (3rd in the majors) to the Card pitchers 1041 (16th in the majors). That's a difference of 153.

OK.

Taking the IP rates, we can calculate that Cardinal pitchers recorded 4361 outs and the Angel pitchers recorded 4363 outs.

Subtract the K's and we get 3320 non-K outs for Card pitchers, and 3199 non-K outs for Angel pitchers.

As a further refinement, eliminate the extra outs gained by DP - the Cards turned 154 DP's (11th place in MLB) and the Angels 126 (third worst in the majors), and we get 3166 non-K-or-DP outs for Cards pitchers; 3073 non-K-or-DP outs for Angel pitchers.

Take the 1.47 and 1.01 ratios for GO/AO, and we get:

Card pitchers recorded 1886 outs by GO and 1280 outs by AO.
Angel pitchers recorded 1545 outs by GO and 1508 outs by AO.

That means Card pitchers recorded 22% more ground outs than did Angel pitchers.

So... Renteria had a 4.41 RF to Eckstein's 3.83. That's only 15% better than Eckstein; given the 22% advantage the Cards had over the Angels in terms of ground outs, Renteria *should* have had a RF of 4.67 to Eck's 3.83; or Eck should have only had a 3.44 RF to be 22% below Renteria.

In other words, thus, is the combination of the Angels' staff being more of a fly out/strike out pitching staff, should have reduced Eckstein's RF by 22% for him to be comparable to Edgar Renteria. Since his actual RF was only 15% below Edgar's; the implication is that on the same neutral staff, Eckstein's RF is actually *better* than Edgar's - at least for 2004 - and that his moving to the Cards, a relatively low-K, low-AO, high GO staff, could result in an RF as high as 4.67 - a 5.9% improvement over Renteria's RF for 2004.



So, after all that - and with the 2005 regular season nearly complete - what is David Eckstein's Range Factor for 2005?

5.10.

http://mlb.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/stats/player_locator_results.jsp?playerLocator=eckstein


So the question is, how does a guy with a career RF of 4.21 going into the 2005 season all of a sudden jump up to 5.10? Fluke?

Not at all - since the Cards are even more of a groundball staff this year than last year (our GO/FO ratio has increased from 1.47 to 1.72 in 2005 - Anaheim stayed the same at 1.01) - it was inevitable.


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