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April 30, 2010

One-Hoppers

Combined Hit List Rankings: April 30

by Jay Jaffe

In response to a reader suggestion, I have decided to run the league-adjusted Hit List rankings on Fridays, the same day that the AL list runs (this week's is here) and just one day after the NL list runs (see here for yesterday's). Rolling out of bed on a Sunday morning to crunch the numbers for the fourth time in five days wasn't doing it for me, and this way is a bit less fragmented.

Rk   Team        HLF
 1   Rays       .704
 2   Yankees    .681
 3   Cardinals  .619
 4   Twins      .605
 5   Giants     .592
 6   Padres     .558
 7   Rockies    .554
 8   Athletics  .550
 9   Tigers     .549
10   Phillies   .528
11   Mets       .526
12   Red Sox    .510
13   Blue Jays  .508
14   Mariners   .507
15   Rangers    .496
16   Cubs       .488
17   White Sox  .487
18   Angels     .486
19   D'backs    .483
20   Marlins    .471
21   Indians    .462
22   Brewers    .451
23   Nationals  .450
24   Braves     .442
25   Royals     .433
26   Dodgers    .427
27   Reds       .416
28   Orioles    .368
29   Astros     .360
30   Pirates    .297

Since I actually skipped last Sunday (loong story not worth retelling), I'll run the methodology one last time before we simply consign it to the archives:

Beyond the basic calculations of the Hit List Factors which go into each week's rankings (an average of actual, first-order, second-order and third-order winning percentages; see here for more), the early season rankings also incorporate preseason projected winning percentages via our Projected Standings as well as this league adjustment based upon the AL winning 56 percent of interleague games over the past three years. In order to figure out the strength of the two "teams" that could produce a result where one won at a .560 clip, we deploy Bill James' the Log5 method, which Clay Davenport uses literally millions of times a day to generate our daily Playoff Odds reports. The formula boils down to Win% = .500 + A - B, where Win% is the observed outcome percentage (.560) and A and B are the two teams. Since we also know that in this case, the winning percentages are complementary (A + B = 1.000), it's simple algebra to determine that a .530 team playing a .470 team would produce that observed .560 winning percentage. With 14 teams in one league and 16 in the other, it's not quite that simple; the bottom line is that I've added 24 points (.024) to all AL teams' Hit List Factors, and subtracted 21 points (.024 * 14 / 16) from those in the NL.

Looking at this week's list, the NL occupies half of the top 10 slots despite the 21-point penalty, though only one other NL team, the suddenly lifelike Mets, cracks the upper half of the rankings. On the other hand, seven of the bottom 10 teams are from the Senior Circuit as well; what we're seeing is a wide separation between the good, the bad and the ugly. A quick peek at the raw run differentials shows the top six teams with differentials between 24 and 33 runs, a big gap and then four more between -1 and 3, and another big gap before we get to the bottom six between -14 and -75. That's quite a spread. Interestingly, the AL is similarly clustered, with the top four teams between 15 and 69 runs, the next four between -6 and 3, and then the rest between -15 and -44. For what it's worth, the standard deviation for run differential in both leagues is 28 runs, a wide spread; at a comparable time last year, it was 17 runs. That suggests there have been more blowouts early on; just ask the Pirates, Brewers and whomever is suffering at the hands of the Rays about that.

Jay Jaffe is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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