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Productive Molina outs
2006-02-27 09:08
by Bob Timmermann

In 2004 Buster Olney of was very big on the idea of the productive out.

The productive out was defined as:
A productive out occurs when ...

  • A baserunner advances with the first out of an inning.
  • A pitcher sacrifices with one out.
  • A baserunner is driven home with the second out of an inning.

There is also "Productive Out Percentage"
Productive outs divided by the total number of outs. For instance, if three of Player A's 10 outs are productive, his POP is .300. ran weekly totals for this (tabluated by the Elias Sports Bureau) for 2004.
However, articles such as this one by Larry Mahnken cast serious doubts on whether productive outs were predictive of anything. stopped running weekly totals in 2005, but Elias kept tabulating them. But in Olney's Insider blog entry for February 26, he revealed the leaders for 2005.

I'm sure everyone was waiting.

The AL leader was Tadahito Iguchi of the White Sox with 32. The NL leaders wer Luis Castillo of Florida and Omar Vizquel with 31. With Castillo moving to the AL, Vizquel should have the crown all to himself in 2006.

The Productive Out Percentage Leader (minimum 40 opportunities) were a pair of Molinas. Bengie Molina led the AL at .522 and Yadier Molina led the NL at .500. Three of the top 5 in the NL in POP were Cardinals, with David Eckstein and Abraham Nuñez at #4-5.

The most productive out making team in the majors was....

the San Francisco Giants with 211.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim led the AL with 187. Despite Iguchi's 32 productive outs, the White Sox did not crack the top five. The supposedly "smallball"-eschewing Red Sox had 184, the same as Detroit and Minnesota.

As Olney writes "The SABR world judges its value to be somewhere between useless and less-than-useless".

2006-02-27 09:32:46
1.   Ken Arneson
A productive out should be defined as:

An out that increases your odds of winning the game.

Then you can argue how you go about calculating those odds.

2006-02-27 09:44:10
2.   Ali Nagib
I think that this illustrates one problem that the "SABR world" has from time to time: casually disregarding stats because they are descriptive instead of predictive. Without picking apart the details of how to calculate a "productive out," it's important to remember that descriptive stats have their place, even if they are totally useless for predicition. The best example I can think of is BABIP for pitchers: it helps us understand how and why a player's actual performance deviates from what his "underlying" numbers say he should do. If a pitcher has a 1:1 BB:K ratio, but a 3.80 ERA, the fact that he also had a .240 BABIP might explain the gap. An accurate definition of "productive outs" could do the same for explaining the gaps between actual runs scored and EqR, which can often be the difference between going to the postseason and sitting home in October. We need stats that tell us what is likely to happen in the future, but we also need ones that tell us what happened in the past, in order to better understand the future.
2006-02-27 09:46:36
3.   Bob Timmermann
I didn't like the fact that Olney referred to the "SABR world" as if it were one monolithic body. It's far from it.
2006-02-27 10:15:45
4.   Brent is a Dodger Fan
Would you prefer if Olney referred to it is if it were two, trilithic bodies?
2006-02-27 10:22:56
5.   Bob Timmermann
If Olney ever went to a SABR convention, he would find a pretty wide disparity in thought. But he is taking the easy way out in his writing.
2006-02-27 12:31:20
6.   scareduck
Olney wouldn't know Pearson's r from, well, any other letter of the alphabet.

2006-02-27 15:36:34
7.   Mark
By definition, an out cannot increase your chances of winning the game, no? With an infinite number of at bats, you score an infinite number of runs, and vice versa.
2006-02-27 15:52:23
8.   Bob Timmermann
But the White Sox told us that's not true.

Oh wait, the White Sox didn't really have a lot of productive outs, except for Taguchi.

There are some strategic advantages to making an out in some circumstances. But I think that aside from a game-ending sac fly there aren't any productive outs.

2006-02-27 19:29:50
9.   Icaros
I guess there are better outs sometimes.

A sac fly is a better out than a popup to the catcher.

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