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There haven't been any easy games


Spy Fox

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There's no such thing as a truly easy game, but I've had the feeling this year that we have played an unusually high number of close games, and an unusually low number of "comfortable" games where one team takes command and keeps it. I decided to take a quick look into some of the numbers.

Pitching Leverage Index

According to Fangraphs the Orioles pitchers have faced an average Leverage Index of 1.15, so our pitchers' assignments have been 15% more important to the game than the league average. This is the highest Leverage Index in the AL, and second highest in MLB behind St. Louis. Toronto is at 1.09, Tampa 1.04, Boston 0.97, and New York 0.94.

Hitting Leverage Index

For whatever reason, probably because we have had the lead more often than not, our hitters have faced a much lower leverage index. The Orioles hitters have a 1.02 Leverage Index for the year, 12th highest in MLB, 7th in the AL, and 4th in the division. Toronto is at 1.13, Boston and Tampa each 1.04, and New York 0.96.

Big Wins

Let's use a very loose definition and say a Big Win is something that doesn't automatically include a save situation, so winning by more than three runs. The Orioles have won only four games by more than three runs, and haven't won a game by more than three runs since beating Chicago 4-0 on May 7. To compare to the rest of our division, Toronto and Boston each have seven such wins, Tampa has 10, and New York has 14. 

Big Losses

Big losses are bad, and not really a good sign for your team. But at least they may not always be as stressful. Using the same method as above, the Orioles have had six losses by more than three runs. And again comparing to the AL East, New York has six such losses, Boston has seven, Tampa has eight, and Toronto has nine.

(Arbitrary Threshold Alert: If you say that a Big Loss is losing by more than four runs instead of by more than three, then the Yankees have only ONE big loss all year, a 7-1 loss to Toronto on May 1. Yikes.) 

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We've played a lot of close games over the last five seasons but this year even more than others it's seemed that almost every game is mentally taxing. The numbers bear that out. We've had had only four relatively comfortable wins, the lowest in the division by several wins despite having the second-best record. And not many big losses either. The result is that the pitching staff leads the AL in Leverage Index by a pretty wide margin, meaning a lot of strain for both starters and relievers. I don't like to assign psychological explanations for individual players' performance. But it'd certainly be understandable if all these close games add to the mental exhaustion of the season, especially considering all the blown leads as of late. We need a couple big wins. Well, right now we need some wins of any sort. 

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