Is power or contact better offensive philosophy in playoffs?
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Postseason baseball brings extra challenges to hitters. Teams with weak pitching have been eliminated, and the survivors shorten their rotations and go to bullpens earlier to keep fresh arms in the game.
The weather is a factor, too, with cooler October and November nights helping to cool bats.
There are conflicting views about the best way to cope. Is it better to emphasize contact or power against tough postseason pitching?
For a hint, we can turn to the Guillen Number and look at past postseasons.
The Guillen Number was named by Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus after Ozzie Guillen managed the White Sox to the 2005 World Series championship.
Guillen’s teams had a reputation for manufacturing runs via small ball — ‘‘Ozzie ball,’’ as it was called at the time — but backed that up with plenty of power. That team scored 42.4 percent of its runs on home runs, the fourth-most in the majors. The portion of scoring dependent on homers is the Guillen Number.
Among postseason teams this year, the highest Guillen Number belongs to the Yankees at 50.8, followed by the Brewers (44.3), Athletics (43.2), Rockies (42.8), Indians (42.5), Dodgers (42.2), Astros (41.9), Red Sox (39.2), Braves (36.2) and Cubs (34.6).
The Cubs had their lowest Guillen Number of their four consecutive playoff teams. Starting in 2015, their numbers were 39.9, 40.3 and 42.9.
Before the 2014 postseason, Ben Lindbergh, writing in Grantland, explored whether teams with high or low Guillen Numbers retained more offense in the postseason.
Lindbergh divided playoff teams in 1995-2013 into the five with the highest Guillen Numbers and the five with the lowest. The high Guillen group scored 22.4 percent fewer runs per game in the postseason than in the regular season, and the low Guillen group scored 26.5 percent fewer. The teams that were more reliant on homers lost less of their offense.
There’s some potential statistical noise. The smaller sample of postseason vs. regular-season games increases the influence of chance, and the dividing line between the fifth and sixth Guillen teams often means splitting hairs.
Nonetheless, there’s nothing that would suggest contact offenses have a postseason edge over power.
What about more recent seasons, which have seen an increasing reliance on homers? The high group in 1995-2013 had an average Guillen of 40.1, which would rank eighth this season and would have ranked ninth in 2017.
A check on the 2014-17 postseasons finds the high group averaged a 43.8 Guillen, 4.6 regular-season and 4.1 postseason runs per game for an 11 percent drop. The low group averaged a 34.9 Guillen, with 4.6 regular-season and 4.2 postseason runs per game, a 9 percent drop.
Small samples are notoriously volatile, and if the last four seasons were merged into the earlier group, the overall result would be that high Guillen teams have lost less offense in the postseason than low Guillen teams.
That doesn’t conclusively favor power-reliant teams, but there’s nothing to suggest they’re less effective in the postseason than contact teams, either.