Dewan: Looking at the Cardinals and Red Sox by defensive metrics

From SABR member John Dewan at ACTA Sports on October 21, 2013:

It’s fitting that Boston and St. Louis are in the World Series. The Red Sox had the best record in the American League and the Cardinals had the best record in the National, both with 97 wins. Boston led the AL in scoring (853 runs), the Cardinals led the NL (783). The Red Sox had the best run differential in baseball with 197 more runs scored than they allowed; the Cardinals were second with a 187 run differential.

In terms of runs allowed, the Red Sox finished 13th overall in Major League Baseball allowing 656 runs on the season. The Cardinals were fifth with 596 runs allowed. But keeping in mind that allowing runs is broken into pitching and defense, let’s look at them separately starting with defense. (We’ll use the term defense to just count fielding, though technically you can say that pitching is a defensive activity as well.)

The Red Sox were a good defensive team in 2013. Their defense saved them 24 runs on the season compared to an average team defensively. An average team would have zero Defensive Runs Saved. That ranked Boston tied for 11th in MLB. The Cardinals were very poor defensively. Their defense cost them 39 runs (-39 Defensive Runs Saved). They came in 23rd overall in baseball out of 30 teams and 14th out of 15 teams in the NL.

Now, using Defensive Runs Saved we can isolate pitching. We can determine how many runs each pitching staff would have allowed if they had an average defense behind them. For example, St. Louis allowed 596 runs. If their defense cost them 39 runs, that means that the Cardinals would have allowed only 557 runs if they had an average defense. We call this stat Team Pitching Runs.

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Originally published: October 21, 2013. Last Updated: October 21, 2013.