Winning formula shows holes in O's

Book Review

May 09, 2006|By ALEX KNOBEL | ALEX KNOBEL,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Winners: How Good Baseball Teams Become Great Ones (And It's Not the Way You Think)

Dayn Perry

John Wiley & Sons/248 pages

The Orioles have not made the postseason since 1997, and if Dayn Perry's thesis is valid, their attempts to end that drought this season are misguided.

Perry cites middle relief as an important factor in the success of winning teams, and according to Winners, few teams were better in that area than those '97 Orioles, who had Armando Benitez, Jesse Orosco and Arthur Rhodes, not to mention a great closer in Randy Myers.

In '97, three Orioles relievers made at least $1 million. In 2006, with player salaries much higher, only one Orioles reliever will reach that level. Using Perry's logic, if the Orioles miss the playoffs again this season, one of the key reasons will be the lack of a bridge from a solid rotation to an up-and-coming closer, and the on-field evidence is already piling up.

Winners examines all full-season playoff teams from 1980 to 2003, with the goal of identifying what characteristics successful teams share. In addition to strong middle relievers, Perry says winning teams will usually have at least one elite starter (another possible Orioles deficiency), aren't afraid to spend money and are older than the league average. He finds small-ball tactics, such as stealing bases and manufacturing runs, to be inefficient and believes slugging percentage to be a better measurement of a player's worth than on-base percentage.

To make his points, Perry uses sabermetric tools with such esoteric acronyms as VORP, PRAR and DER. As for traditional statistics like RBIs and pitching victories, well, you won't find them here.

Winners makes its case solely on statistical analysis and doesn't attribute any value to intangibles like team chemistry. By signing clubhouse guys such as Jeff Conine and Kevin Millar, both of whom lack the power expected from players at their positions, the Orioles in 2006 appear uninterested in Perry's precepts. Seeing as the Orioles account for only three of the 124 winning teams chronicled by this book, perhaps they should pick up a copy.

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