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Sox tops in Secret Sauce

Like I said yesterday, that's why they play the games. But despite my disappointment at this kind of missed opportunity, the Sox sit pretty much atop baseball, and division series time is almost upon us.

More good news: the genius-types at Baseball Prospectus rank the Sox tops in Secret Sauce, and a Cubs-Sox World Series may be in the offing. Don't ask me to explain Secret Sauce. I told you they are genius-types (h/t SoSH).

September 27, 2007, 10:35 PM ET
Secret Sauce Update

by Nate Silver

Secret Sauce Update

Posted by Nate Silver @ September 27, 2007, 10:35 PM-->

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

Team	EqK9	Rank	FRAA	Rank	WXRL	Rank	Total
BOS	7.2	2.5	43	2	5.062	3	7.5
LAD	7.2	2.5	4	12.5	5.582	2	17
CHC	7.5	1	36	3	2.955	18	22
LAA	7.1	4	4	12.5	3.862	11	27.5
ARI	6.8	6	0	15	4.076	8	29
NYY	6.1	21.5	27	5	4.21	6	32.5
MIN	6.4	13	-3	17	4.446	4	34
NYM	6.4	13	5	11	3.794	12	36
TOR	6.4	13	25	6	2.974	17	36
KCR	6.1	21.5	1	14	4.395	5	40.5
DET	6.3	18	22	7	2.849	19	44
CIN	6.6	9.5	-17	22	3.203	15	46.5
PIT	6	24.5	-2	16	4.087	7	47.5
CLE	6.3	18	14	9	2.554	21	48
MIL	7	5.5	-40	27.5	3.073	16	49
PHI	6.3	18	31	4	1.543	27	49
ATL	6.4	13	20	8	0.596	28	49
SEA	6	24.5	-19	24	7.246	1	49.5
FLA	6.7	8	-59	30	3.298	14	52
WSN	5.2	30	12	10	3.47	13	53
SDP	6	24.5	-8	21	3.942	10	55.5
TBD	7	5.5	-56	29	2.471	22	56.5
STL	5.4	29	-5	19	3.978	9	57
COL	5.9	27	70	1	0.272	29	57
BAL	6.6	9.5	-4	18	-0.159	30	57.5
HOU	6.4	13	-21	25	1.785	26	64
TEX	6	24.5	-6	20	2.774	20	64.5
SFG	6.3	18	-18	23	1.83	25	66
CHW	6.3	18	-40	27.5	2.436	23	68.5
OAK	5.8	28	-23	26	2.399	24	78

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.

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