Monday, July 7, 2008

Oh, Those Leadoff Walks

The great debate of "What's the percentage chance a leadoff walk will lead to a run?" came up at a recent Spinners game, and I just did some research to find out.

Someone actually studied 10 seasons of Red Sox games and (among other things) found that any time a Red Sox batter walked to lead off an inning, there was a 42% chance that he would score. For opponents, the percentage was a statistically similar 41%.

That still doesn't answer the question of what the chance is that any run would score in that inning...I have no idea what that is, I just know it must be greater than 42%, even if not by much.

The moral of the story is that leadoff walks are a great thing when you're up and cringe-worthy when you're in the field.


Nick said...

I thought it was more like 60 or 70 percent. 42 doesn't seem that bad. Consider that a team scores 4-5 runs per 9 innings.

What are the odds that a team will score at least one run in any inning? Surely not much less than 42/100.

And what are the odds that a lead-off hit will end up scoring? I think it's just that the walk seems unjustified and unearned.

The New Englander said...


Good point, I hadn't stopped to think about that...I mean, you average the # of runs per game per team..and it probably ain't that far off. But then when you factor in multi-run innings...well, I still don't know but should look it up.

One of the things that makes it neat though is that it's 42% that that particular guy will score, not just any run that inning for the team.

Time to go back to the Elias Bureau..


Nick said...

I see your point. The specificity of the stat is kind of cool.

I guess I had just romanticized the stat (without actually remembering it) as something even more shocking.

Isn't if funny how stats and numbers can hold this sort of nostalgic value? And not just in baseball. When I remember how many feet are in a mile, I am (every single time) fully transported back to a very particular classroom in 1988.

The New Englander said...


I did the same thing until I brought it up at the Spinners game and had it challenged...much like the old "50% of marriages end in divorce" clunker, sometimes things just get repeated enough to where they become accepted, conventional wisdom. (I'm not sure what that actual stat for that one is, but I've definitely heard people tear that canard up nice and good).

I know I had heard it was absurdly high, too -- and I'm blaming Tim McCarver, guilty or not!

Great point about the nostalgia of numbers/stats...I know your example wasn't from sports, but some (esp. baseball) seem perfect for that kind of stuff..