Below is an updated reckoning of the secret sauce rankings for 2007. The secret sauce ranking consists of three statistics within the category of pitching and defense — Equivalent Strikeouts Per Nine innings (EqK9), Fielding Runs Above Average (FRAA), and Closer Performance (as measured by the WXRL of the pitcher with the most save opportunities) — that have been demonstrated to have a predictive relationship with success in the post-season. Teams are ranked from 1 to 30 in each category and the total rankings are added up to produce an overall score. Potential playoff teams are indicated in red
Yes, the Secret Sauce is still predicting a Cubs-Red Sox World Series. Might be time to start repenting any unforgiven sins.
The Red Sox, in fact, might be one of the best Secret Sauce teams of all time, ranking in the Top 3 in all three categories. Everyone knows that the Red Sox have an excellent closer — the playoffs are about having an alpha dog in the bullpen, not about ‘pen depth. And their pitching staff can bring the heat. That their defense rates so well might be a little bit of a surprise, but Boston is third in the league in defensive efficiency, and FRAA at the team level is heavily correlated with that number.
Similarly, the Cubs rank second in the league in defensive efficiency, so even if Clay has their defensive aptitude coming from some unlikely sources (Aramis Ramirez at +18?), the fact that the Cubs simply aren’t allowing a lot of balls to turn into base hits, so some people are certainly doing their job well. Ryan Dempster is not an asset, but between the Zambrano/Hill/Lilly trio and Carlos Marmol working in the 7th and 8th innings, this team has a lot of pitchers with rally-killing stuff.
Otherwise, the Diamondbacks come out looking pretty well, and this metric ought to at least somewhat counteract concerns about their negative run differential. The intriguing question is whether the D’Backs, on those days when Brandon Webb is not starting, might be willing to consider the parade-o’-relievers. Start Livan Hernandez or whomever, let him go 3-4 innings, and if you aren’t leading by at least two runs by the time his second plate appearance comes up, go ahead and pinch hit for him and let the parade-o’-relievers begin. As I’ve said, bullpen depth is generally something that gets buried in the playoffs — but it doesn’t have to be that way if the manager is a little bit creative, and Arizona’s middle relief corps is their greatest comparative advantage.
The other thing that jumps out about this table is just how big the magnitude is on some of the defensive numbers … the Rockies at +70, the Marlins at -59, the Devil Rays at -56, etc. Although I’m not quite ready to leap to this conclusion, if some teams are using advanced, proprietary systems to evaluate defense while others are not, this is something like you might expect the results to look.