A University of Delaware press release reports:
This month, the Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports will feature the article “An Estimate of How Hitting, Pitching, Fielding, and Base-stealing Impact Team Winning Percentages in Baseball.” In it, University of Delaware Prof. Charles Pavitt of the Department of Communication defines the perfect “formula” for Major League Baseball (MLB) teams to use to build the ultimate winning team.
Pavitt found hitting accounts for more than 45 percent of teams’ winning records, fielding for 25 percent and pitching for 25 percent. And that the impact of stolen bases is greatly overestimated.
He crunched hitting, pitching, fielding and base-stealing records for every MLB team over a 48-year period from 1951-1998 with a method no other researcher has used in this area. In statistical parlance, he used a conceptual decomposition of offense and defense into its component parts and then analyzed recombinations of the parts in intuitively meaningful ways.
The good news is that the numbers add up to less than 100% (I assume the remaining 5% can be attributed to baserunning, strategy, and teamwork—those are the only other variable factors I can think of that could influence winning). The bad news is that the press release does not link to the article or to any technical report.
So I have no idea whether to take Pavitt’s claim seriously at all. I think this sort of press release is just silly: the claim is empty without the accompanying analysis.
I don’t have high hopes, though, given that the author appears to be analyzing “team winning percentages” rather than runs scored and runs allowed. As Bill James has pointed out, runs scored and allowed are more directly related to offense and defense, and you’re pretty much just throwing away information by looking at winning percentages. It’s hard to know more, though, given that we have no link to the article and I can’t find anything with that title on the web.