"Hitting" Up Some Reader Mail
September 13, 2009
A reader recently posed this question to me:
"If you were a big league manager and before the season were told exactly how many hits your team would get for the season, and you were able to allocate as many hits as you wanted to each game on your season schedule at that moment, what would your strategy be?" -Ben
Interesting question, and one I'm going to use some quick numbers to answer.
First of all, I would immediately translate hits into runs. Over time, roughly 2 hits are the equivalent of 1 run, so I would figure out how many runs I need to win enough games. The way I see it, 100 wins is enough to get into the playoffs. Assuming this magic hit-assigning genie gives me an average amount of hits for the year, I'll be dealing with about 1,500 hits to divvy up over the season.
The average runs scored per game is about 9 to 9.5, so the winning team needs at least 5 runs on average. Without the luxury of knowing pitching matchups ahead of time as well, my strategy would involve losing early and winning the rest of the way. Assuming I couldn't get fired mid-season, my strategy would be to distribute ZERO hits for my team's first 25 games. I'd be 0-25, but my squad would have a heck of a comeback ready for the summer!
With 1,500 hits to spread across just 137 games now, I would allocate the hits evenly the rest of the way, totaling about 11 hits per game (1,500 / 137) for my team. While 11 hits, or 5.5 runs, doesn't exactly guarantee victory, it provides a great advantage over the team producing far less hits and should be good enough for a "W" much of the time.
Despite the miserable April my team would have, I still think I'd approach 100 wins with ease. Remember, even though 11 hits translates to an AVERAGE of over 5 runs per game, sometimes a string of those hits together will mean 10 or 11 runs (a likely win). On the other side, some games may only yield 3 runs but that still doesn't guarantee a loss.
Even an average team will win 81 games, so I would try to maximize the runs in the games I could win. Knowing that many games are decided by 1 run, I think that "stealing" the hits from the first 25 games and redistributing them to the rest of the season's games gives my team a great chance to go 100-37.
With a little extra thought, I might tweak the number of "hitless" games a bit, but my basic strategy of intentionally tanking some games early to prop up the rest would remain the same. The only hard part would be telling my team that those 11 hits per game won't be around in the playoffs. At least not until the genie pays another visit.