Study: Develop or acquire players for a winning MLB team?

August 1, 2014

CLEMSON — Major League Baseball (MLB) teams should develop players within their organizations at three positions: left fielder, relief pitcher and catcher, according to a new study by Clemson University researchers.

Photo: Matthew Crownover, co-researcher on the independent study, is a Clemson student-athlete from Ringgold, Georgia.

The researchers used statistical modeling to investigate MLB roster construction for all playoff teams from 2009 to 2013 to determine the extent to which organizations should build their rosters through player development or acquiring players from other teams.

“We wanted to know if there are certain positions that produce more significant results based on whether the player is homegrown or acquired,” said Jimmy Sanderson, co-researcher on the independent study and assistant professor in Clemson’s communication studies department. “We created variables for player position, league affiliation, how the player was acquired and wins above replacement (WAR) value, a statistic that summarizes a player’s total contribution to the team and which indicates how much value a team loses if that player is injured.”

Statistical tests revealed that left fielders, relief pitchers and catchers who were homegrown had higher WAR values than those who were acquired. The researchers also found that it was even more advantageous for American League teams when they developed their second and third basemen within their organizations.

“The results show that teams need to protect their homegrown players at these positions and focus acquisition efforts on players at other positions,” said Matthew Crownover, co-researcher on the independent study and Clemson student-athlete from Ringgold, Georgia.

The researchers presented their findings at the Society for American Baseball Research annual conference Friday.

Clemson University

Ranked No. 21 among national public universities, Clemson University is a major, land-grant, science- and engineering-oriented research university that maintains a strong commitment to teaching and student success. Clemson is an inclusive, student-centered community characterized by high academic standards, a culture of collaboration, school spirit and a competitive drive to excel.