Fan Fuel: Does defence really win championships in MLB?

Fan Fuel's Wes Armstrong looks at whether the old saying that "defence wins championships" is true when it comes to Major League Baseball.
July 22, 2013, 9:49 AM

BY WES ARMSTRONG – FAN FUEL BLOGGER

The old saying is that defence wins championships. But is that really true for Major League Baseball?

The last two World Series champions each committed a lot of errors. The St. Louis Cardinals of 2011 and the San Francisco Giants of 2012 both finished 27th out of 30 teams in terms of the number of errors they committed. The Texas Rangers were on the losing end of the 2011 series having committed the 24th most errors, and the Detroit Tigers were the losing team in the 2012 series having committed the 12th most errors. None of these four teams were strong defenders as a unit.


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On the other hand, the 1992 Toronto Blue Jays committed 72 errors which was the second fewest in the MLB that year, and when Jack Morris tossed a 10-inning gem to eliminate the Atlanta Braves in Game 7 of the World Series in 1991, that was the last time that the team that had committed the fewest errors went on to win the championship.

Taken for what they are worth, these stats tell us that having great team defence does not necessarily win championships in Major League Baseball.

This thinking provoked my interest into analyzing just what exactly errors have cost teams in terms of their won/lost record over the past couple of seasons. Opting for a simple analysis of recent statistics, I decided to group teams 1-10, 11-20, 21-30 to create three sets of won-loss records based on the 30 team’s error rankings since 2011. The thinking behind doing this, was to see if there were any general trends in terms of the group’s aggregate record.

Here are the findings:

Group 1-10: 2247-1960 (.534 WP)

Group 11-20: 2051-2153 (.488 WP)

Group 21-30: 2005-2192 (.478 WP)

Although this data set is limited to the last couple of seasons, it seems to show there is some relationship between good defence and winning. An interesting piece of data from this current season is that the teams ranked 11th-20th in terms of errors are actually posting a winning record this year (485-479) whereas the results for 2012 (777-843) and 2011 (789-831) were clearly losing records.

The Boston Red Sox, who currently have the best record in the American League have committed 52 errors. This puts them in a tie with Colorado and Texas for 12th out of 30. The St. Louis Cardinals, who currently have the best record in the National League have committed 42 errors. This ties them with the Minnesota Twins for fifth. The Toronto Blue Jays have committed 60 errors this season putting them in a tie for 19th with the Chicago White Sox.

Therefore, if someone mentions the idea that defence wins championships in Major League Baseball, the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals and 2012 San Francisco Giants and the fact that no team with the fewest number of errors committed has won the World Series since 1991 have proven that this is not necessarily true.

However, if you believe this data set from 2011 to now, and feel that is indicative of the relationship between won/loss records over MLB’s history, a more true statement would be that a top 10 defence tends to produce a winning record.

Want more from Wes Armstrong? Follow him on twitter at @WesOnSports

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