Just in Time for the World Series: UD Communication Professor Puts Pitching (and the rest of baseball) in its Place

Dr. Charlie Pavitt, decoding baseball

Dr. Charles Pavitt uses statistical analysis to debunk the old adage “Pitching is 75% of the Game”

Dr. Charles (Charlie) Pavitt is known around the Communication Department (COMM) at the University of Delaware as a “stats guy” having taught the research methods course all undergraduate COMM majors must take to get into the major, COMM 301 (Introduction to Communication Research Methods), for more than a decade.  Recently, Pavitt was up to his old trick of finding interesting ways to view statistical problems – this time it took the form of baseball analysis.

The on-line only Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports, Volume 7, Number 4 will feature Pavitt’s article: An Estimate of How Hitting, Pitching, Fielding, and Base-stealing Impact Team Winning Percentages in Baseball.  With this, Pavitt manages to define the perfect “formula” for MLB teams to use to build the ultimate winning team. Turns out, it’s NOT all about pitching.

“There’s an old adage about baseball that ‘pitching is 75% of the game’.  But actually it’s only about 25% of the game, according to my study,” says Pavitt, with a wry grin.

Pavitt wanted to look past all the smoke and mirrors that distracts analysts, and dig deep into the statistics to clarify what makes the strongest teams win. To do that, he crunched hitting, pitching, fielding and base-stealing records for every MLB team over a 48-year period from 1951 through 1998 with a method no other researcher has yet to use 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.

In the end, he found something baseball researchers know but many MLB team don’t: the ability to steal bases is just not that important to the overall win-record of a professional baseball team. What is? Pavitt found that hitting accounts for more than 45% of teams’ winning records, fielding for 25% and pitching for 25%

So as the boys of summer gear up for the World Series games in the next few weeks, perhaps their managers will look to Dr. Charlie Pavitt for a few tips on fielding a future baseball dynasty.  Seems like he’s got the secret formulation.