Stat of the Day: RE24

Of course, it needs a better name than RE24. That won’t work at all. We’ll work on the name later.

I have in my mind a friend who is a big baseball fan but does not like advanced statistics at all. I think he would love RE24 (with a different name) and a few other advanced stats if given a chance. So I’m going to explain RE24 with him in mind -- I suspect it will be too slow for the rest of you. Apologies in advance.

The statistic is called RE24 because, as you might know, there are 24 different possibilities when a batter comes up in any given inning. There are eight “states.” They are:

Bases empty.

Man on first.

Man on second.

Man on third.

Man on first and second.

Man on first and third.

Man on second and third.

Bases loaded.

So that’s eight states. You get 24 total possibilities because of the outs -- all of these states are possible with zero outs, with one out or with two outs. That makes 24 different possibilities in any inning.

Now, each of these possibilities offers a run expectation -- that is to say how many runs a team might be expected to score in the inning. You might not be able to do the math, but you intuitively understand this. If your team has the bases loaded and there’s nobody out, you have a run expectation in your mind. If your team scores just one run, you undoubtedly will be disappointed and feel like they let some get away. If your team has nobody on and two outs, any run they score feels like a bonus.

Well, smart people have calculated the run expectation for each situation. So far this year, for instance, when a team gets bases loaded with nobody out, they are expected to score 2.2 runs. When a team has nobody on and two outs, the run expectation is less than one-tenth of a run (0.0937 if you want to extend it out). So, while there’s some fairly sophisticated math happening here, it’s pretty intuitive.

All RE24 does is add up the run value a player adds (or takes away) from any given situation. Let’s say you lead off the first inning. The run expectation for every inning is about half a run (.47). That too makes sense -- teams average about 4.5 runs per game (4.3 this year in the AL, 4.08 in the NL) -- so that’s roughly half a run per inning.

Let’s say our batter singles. Well, the run expectation obviously goes up -- man on first with nobody out obviously leads to more runs than nobody on, nobody out. The run expectation with a man on first and nobody out is about .83. That’s adding .36 runs of value. And what RE24 does is put that that .36 runs into the players bank account. Every hit, walk, HBP, sacrifice is thrown into the RE24 account.

OK, let’s try another situation. A runner comes up with men on first and second and nobody out. The run expectation is 1.4 runs. He hits into a double play. So, now, there is a runner on third with two outs. That run expectation is about .36 -- which means the hitter just cost his team 1.04 expected runs. RE24 counts that too and puts it into the players bank account.

So, that’s really all you need to know. There are numerous calculations and variables, but don’t worry about those for now (unless you want to know more). The point is that RE24 -- which is Tom Tango’s preferred metric, by the way -- adds up a players value over the season. You might have heard of WPA -- Win Probability Added -- which works in a similar way. But there’s a difference: WPA adds up the WIN expectation rather than RUN expectation. That means that a leadoff double in the ninth inning of a tie game is worth A LOT more than a leadoff double in the third inning when the team is down by five runs.

Maybe that kind of measurement speaks more to you -- I like RE24 better because it doesn’t have the wild swings that WPA has and isn’t as context driven (if you play on a lousy team that is often down five runs, it really doesn’t matter what you do).

Here’s the main reason why I think you will like RE24 better than other statistics.

RE24 AL Leaders:

  1. Miguel Cabrera, 75.37

  2. Chris Davis, 66.32

  3. Mike Trout, 65.97

  4. Edwin Encarnacion, 41.80

  5. Robinson Cano, 38.57

RE24 NL Leaders

  1. Paul Goldschmidt, 55.44

  2. Allen Craig, 48.16

  3. Freddie Freeman, 47.30

  4. Joey Votto, 42.97

  5. Shin-Soo Choo, 42.87

I think that will come closer to matching people’s MVP votes than just about any other stat, including WAR (especially in the American League). Yes, it does miss Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen -- my personal MVP because of his brilliant all-around game (he ranks 10th with a 31.88 RE24) -- but I think in general RE24 is the advanced stat that comes closest to matching what many so-called “anti-stat” people really think of as “value.”

What seems to make many Cabrera fans so angry about the Trout lead in WAR (and, as expected, the lead is widening -- Baseball Reference now has Trout with 8.2 WAR, Cabrera with 6.9) is that it just does not seem to give him enough credit for his offensive awesomeness. The guy’s a hitting Terminator. He’s hitting .358. He’s got 130 RBIs in 127 games. He’s a demigod. And WAR just doesn’t speak to these fans. The argument goes that WAR, with all its contextual adjustments and its various attempts to give value to things that statistics have generally not valued in the past, does not give Cabrera enough credit for simply being the Incredible Hulk of hitting.

Well RE24 does give him credit. As you can see, Cabrera has a MASSIVE lead in RE24 over everyone else in baseball. Not only that, it is the highest RE24 in baseball since Albert Pujols in 2009, and the season ain’t over yet -- he could finish with the highest RE24 in a decade.*

*Just to give you one more idea of how ridiculous the big-headed Barry Bonds was, his RE24 in 2004 was 128.8 which was almost DOUBLE anybody else in baseball, and is almost 30 runs better than Mickey Mantle’s Triple Crown season in 1956.

So, maybe RE24 is a good stat for you when you think about MVP. I mean, I wouldn’t put TOO much stock in it. Last year, while the Trout-Cabrera MVP debate raged, it was actually Edwin Encarnacion who led the American League in RE24. But, anyway, RE24 is fun to talk about, though it definitely needs a better name.*

*How about Mantle Points? The Mick led the league in RE24 eight times -- maybe you name it for him. Barry Bonds led the league in RE24 10 times, but as cool a name as “Baseball Bonds” might be, I doubt anyone would go for it.