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Run Differential / Pythag Discussion


Mondo Trasho

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Being the open minded person that I am I decided to look into this whole run differential/pythagorean thing. Suspicious of it, yes, but also willing to look at it.

In 2010 Buck Showalter took over as manager. As most know we went 34-23 after he took over, with a plus 22 run differential. The pythagorean win percentage (as I understand it from wikipedia, if I have the wrong formula feel free to criticize me) had us at a .549 clip, whereas in reality we played .596 ball. Also in 2010 the team was 29-21 in one run ball games over the whole year, and 11-5 in such games under Buck (.688 win pct).

Last September, we went 15-13, but with a minus 13 differential. Which worked out to a .456 pythagorean, real number was .536. In September one run ball games we were 7-5 (22-22 for the season).

I looked up similar numbers in football (not sure if it works the same though) and found four recent teams with strange point differentials who made the postseason. Last year's SB champions had a -6, the Broncos were -81 last year. In 2010 the Seahawks had a -96, and the 2008 NFC Champion Cardinals had a meager +1 point differential.

What does this all mean? I don't know. Perhaps Buck is our "Zen Master" and knows how to "cheat" the law of averages. What I do know is this isn't the only stretch as manager here that Buck has beaten the odds as it were.

I'm not saying the models are wrong, but maybe Buck has read them too, and maybe he's just that good of a manager. It's anyone's guess how we'll do this season, I'll just enjoy the ride.

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As far as Buck is concerned I think the secret is bullpen management. In both Septembers he has had an expanded pen which allowed him to pull struggling SP earlier and mix and match to keep us in games. This season, in June and July, when the pen was being taxed by a number of poor outings from the three stooges, that resulted in early departures, we had our highest negative RD.

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If Buck has cracked the code on winning close games and beating Pythagoreas, why is his career record in one-run games three games under .500? Did he just figure out the secret a couple years ago?

Either that, or he's finally got the tools to do it. I don't see any other explanation. Voo doo, perhaps?

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If Buck has cracked the code on winning close games and beating Pythagoreas, why is his career record in one-run games three games under .500? Did he just figure out the secret a couple years ago?

I don't think he's cracked anything, I just think this bullpen has been fantastic and managed rather well from a burnout/overuse perspective.

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I think Drungo said it earlier...more likely to get blown out than to blow out another team.

IIRC, the Pirates won the 1961 World Series despite being outscored by the Yankees. Weird stuff happens.

The smaller the number of games, the less statistically significant a deviation from the Pythag will be, I think. Any team can have a little streak of winning close games. Winning 22 of 28 one-run games is extraordinarily rare.

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Interesting read, thanks for the information.

As for the September numbers and the football numbers, we're dealing with SSS. Football is only 16 games in a season and a single month of baseball is only a few games more. Like any average based stat, the larger the sample, the more likely to revert to the mean.

I am hoping the Orioles can be one of those fluke teams that can out perform their pythag by a significant margin throughout the season (and through the play-offs). I'm not counting on it, but I'm rooting for it. I just hope, if that does happen, the O's FO takes the necessary action to significantly improve the team in the offseason to avoid a more appropriate season in 2013 (based on the pythag).

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Interesting read, thanks for the information.

As for the September numbers and the football numbers, we're dealing with SSS. Football is only 16 games in a season and a single month of baseball is only a few games more. Like any average based stat, the larger the sample, the more likely to revert to the mean.

I am hoping the Orioles can be one of those fluke teams that can out perform their pythag by a significant margin throughout the season (and through the play-offs). I'm not counting on it, but I'm rooting for it. I just hope, if that does happen, the O's FO takes the necessary action to significantly improve the team in the offseason to avoid a more appropriate season in 2013 (based on the pythag).

Agreed. I don't want the front office people to assume that a fluke season means we're on the cusp of building a dynasty. This is still a flawed team.

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Agreed. I don't want the front office people to assume that a fluke season means we're on the cusp of building a dynasty. This is still a flawed team.

This is a very important point. No matter how this season turns out there's still a lot of work to be done. I hope the FO isn't fooled into believing they're just a player or two away from a perennial playoff contender.

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This is a very important point. No matter how this season turns out there's still a lot of work to be done. I hope the FO isn't fooled into believing they're just a player or two away from a perennial playoff contender.

Some would argue by not making any moves at the trade deadline that they don't think we're just a player or two from being a contender. :)

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So the Orioles suck because we have a -54 run differential. Fine. That makes sense. But I was a bit curious, so I did a bit of digging through the numbers. Now please, take this with a grain of salt, as I wasn't going to go through each game, and get the run differential for each pitcher. I did a quick download of the run differential by the pitcher that got the decision. If you just add up Matusz, Arrieta and Hunter, their combined run differential is -62. Those pitchers ARE NO LONGER IN OUR ROTATION!. So...my theory, and I'm sure someone will dispute it is that the O's rotation, as has been made up for the year to date, has sucked. But let's credit DD and Buck for recognizing that, and making the necessary tweaks to give the O's the best chance to win games FROM THIS POINT FORWARD.

A few notes: This obviously doesn't account for the difference between earned and unearned runs, and Chris Davis rocks with a +3 differential - 4th best on the team.

Just in case you're curious, I'll post the table below: (I apologize if the formatting is off - I'm not a frequent poster, and don't know the ins and outs....) Enjoy.

O's Pitcher with Decision W L Grand Total

Matusz 14 -45 -31

Arrieta 13 -29 -16

Hunter 14 -29 -15

Britton 1 -9 -8

Eveland -6 -6

Gonzalez 10 -13 -3

Johnson 2 -5 -3

Ayala 5 -7 -2

Hammel 26 -27 -1

Gregg 4 -4 0

Lindstrom 1 1

Patton 2 2

Chen 29 -26 3

Davis 3 3

Tillman 16 -12 4

Strop 11 -2 9

O'Day 9 9

Grand Total 160 -214 -54

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A majority of "experts" will tell you the O's winning record will not last for long, and point to the O's -54 run differential. These "experts" assume runs differential is a leading indicator as only 4 teams with a negative run differential have every made the playoffs. But believing that is nonsense- the o's have as winning record for the simple fact that for a majority of the time, they score more runs than there opponents.

Analysts like to pretend they are smart because it's there job. But I did some homework and it shows that without Arrieta and Matusz, the Orioles have a +8 run differential. Since Arrieta and Matusz are not longer on the team, the +8 run differential should be a better indicator of future succes.

In short, I looked at each start Arrieta and Matusz made this year, and what the score was at the time the left the game for the runs differential that day, then got a total for all the games they started. I did not count Orioles runs scored after the starter left. So for example, if Arrieta pitched at home and left after 5.2 innings behind 5-1, that is a -4 runs differential. Pretty basic stuff. When I totaled the season total for both Arrieta and Matusz, I got a -62 runs differential (amazingly, each had -31). Neither pitcher had a positive runs differential for a whole month, so one could actually argue that the O's were a bit late to send them to AAA in July. But that's another subject. With Arrieta and Matusz gone, the outlook definitely improved.

Another good reason for improved runs differential is that some O's hitters are well below their seaon averages - Hardy, Weiters and Reynolds to name a few. If these hitters move back towards their season averages (which is expected), they O's will score more runs. Especially so since the leadoff hitter problem has been solved.

All you doubters need to wake up and climb back on the bandwagon. Start going to games. The O's are showing no signs of slipping and these next two months should be quite entertaining.

sfosfan

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Nice! I actually just posted a similar analysis, but not on as in depth a basis as yours. But at the end of the day, it shows the same thing. Those that led to the massive run differential are no longer starting pitchers for the Orioles, and we must evaluate it on a looking forward basis. Now, that's not to say that Steve Johnson and Miguel Gonzalez will be a whole lot better, but they sure can't be worse!

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