Chemistry Deniers

March 31, 2014

Does better team chemistry create winning? For decades statheads ridiculed that notion, offering Charlie Finley's A's and the Bronx Zoo Yankees as proof that disharmony doesn't preclude dynasties. But now even the most statistically savvy teams are searching for edges that can't be precisely quantified. The Rays famously use morale-boosting group activities—Hawaiian-shirt road trip, anyone?—to build team unity. Oakland GM Billy Beane, Mr. Moneyball himself, has acquired popular clubhouse guys like Jonny Gomes and Brandon Inge in recent years; former A's and current Diamondbacks righthander Brandon McCarthy, one of the game's most stat-minded players, suggested at the 2013 SABR Analytics Conference that such players are worth 10 wins apiece. McCarthy is overestimating the impact, but don't think the Red Sox weren't paying attention when they grabbed Gomes (above) and swung from a 69-win disasterpiece in 2012 to a world championship last year. At SABR's annual conference this month, the organization's president, Vince Gennaro, presented a study arguing not only that chemistry matters in baseball but also that positive work environments can motivate players toward better conditioning and performance.

PHOTOROBERT BECK/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (GOMES)

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)