This is one of those "duh" things that I'm prone to posting but ignoring the amazingly obvious I'll continue anyhow with hopes that someone else finds it interesting. Teams with good offenses and defenses generally win ballgames, correct? Well, I was doing some work with GPA and DER in a spreadsheet and decided to combine them and see what teams had the most combined positional player talent. I was slightly surprised to find the results looking just like the standings. (Ed: view the "total value" standings after the jump.)
Why was I surprised? I suppose I expected the statistics to magically morph into something random, but with the exception of a few misplaced teams it looked pretty solid to me. Upon running a regression with actual wins and pythag wins entering yesterday it appears the GPA+DER combo correlates better with pythag wins (.7151) compared to actual wins (.5715), but that's still pretty impressive none the less.
Something I noticed while doing this is that the differential in "total position talent" from a top-tier team to a mid-tier team is less than a mid-tier team to a low-tier team. The average of the top 10 teams is .963, middle 10 is .948, bottom 10 is .929, a 0.0156 difference between top two, 0.0193 differential between bottom two, and 0.0349 between top and bottom.
In some regards this makes sense; so-called bad teams are more likely to be in a rebuilding mode or just filled with underperforming or simply useless players. Average teams either have or had some aspirations of being competitive. Top tier teams obviously had intent of being good or at least competitive. What this tells is though is that teams need to add about .020 points of either offense or defense to become either semi-completive or really competitive, or roughly a couple of player improvements and some young player progression.
As an example if the Rays were to replace their season's right field production with Jason Bay the team GPA would move up 0.005 points, and assuming Bay is at least average defensively I would anticipate a slight gain, at most, over the likes of Eric Hinske and Jonny Gomes. Assuming a team wants to move up tiers they need to improve at two or three positions - either offensively or/and defensively - and have some of their other players progress. The beauty is that teams can build upgrades through their own farm system, trades, or high/low key free agency signings alike - for instance who had Jorge Cantu having a higher OPS through the first half than Miguel Cabrera? - good teams adapt to their available resources in order to build contenders.
In a league where a few moves can change your entire fortune I'm going to begin looking at some teams and what they can do to improve heading into the trade deadline and the off-season beginning this week. I'm not sure how many teams I'll cover weekly, but my goal is to show that there's not many teams in this league that cannot be at least near a competitive state (within five or so games of a playoff spot) given a few upgrades.