Monday, April 09, 2012

Monday Pythagorean, 4/9/2012

One of the things that I like to do during the baseball season is compile a weekly report of the AL standings, looking at runs scored and allowed, to see who's better than their records and who's worse.

For those unfamiliar, the Pythagorean report is based on a Bill James discovery regarding the relationship between runs scored, runs allowed and winning percentage. It intuitively makes sense that a teams record will be related to how many runs they score and how many they allow. What James discovered was that, for almost all teams, the winning percentage is very close to a ratio of the square of the runs scored to the sum of the squares of the runs scored and runs allowed. Which was dubbed the "Pythagorean" theorum of baseball.

The report consists of, for each team, their runs/game, runs allowed/game and Pythagorean project winning percentage, along with their rank among the teams in the league for each of those categories. The Pythagorean winning percentage is calculated as (r ^ 1.83) / ( (r ^ 1.83) + (ra ^ 1.83) ). (1.83 has been determined to be a slightly more accurate exponent with the current offensive levels than 2.) Using the Pythagorean winning percentage, the expected wins total is calculated and compared to the actual win total. Finally, any difference is expressed as "luck", with negative numbers representing underperforming teams.

Finally, there's a linear projection of final records, based on current winning percentage, and based on Pythagorean winning percentage.

So, on to week 1.

Well, that was a brilliant bloody start, wasn't it?

  • As anyone who has read my baseball commentary over the years knows, I tend not to overreact to a short stretch of bad (or good) play. One of the truisms of the game is that anything can happen in a short series, so the fact that the Red Sox have - again - started 0-3 doesn't mean much. And, in fact, it really doesn't mean much.
  • In fact, there's much from last year's first report that's relevant and appropriate.

    That all said, this was three games, and three games means...well, not nothing, but in the scope of the baseball season, not much. There were no "fatal flaws" revealed, anyone who says that "they can't beat TexasDetroit" is a moron, and it's just three games. Awful games, true. Disappointing. And magnified in our perception because a) they're the last three we've seen and b) for the 20112012 Red Sox, they're the only three games we've seen. It doesn't matter, it's still a three-game series.

    Obviously, all sensible people of proper moral framework loathe the Yankees, but it's worth noting, in this context, that the 1998 Yankees lost their first three games (while being outscored 21-6) and four of their first five. They finished with a record of 114-48, which is not too bad. That doesn't mean that this Red Sox team will win 114 games, of course. It just means that losing the first three isn't always indicative of a disastrous season...
  • The problem is that there are enough significant differences (specifically, the manager and the closer) between this team and the team that we know is really good, the team that played the middle of the 2011 season, to erode confidence, and enough similarities to what happened in September to make this a much worse start - or, at least, to make this feel like a much worse start - than it otherwise would be.
  • For those [this may be a strawman, as I haven't had the radio on or been on the bulletin boards, but I suspect there are many who take this position] who think that the absence of Bard and Papelbon from the bullpen cost the team badly this weekend, I'd note that both were in Texas for the 0-3 last start, both pitched badly and that Bard, in particular, was a key component to the 0-3 start of the 2011 team. This bullpen may turn out to be bad, Aceves and Melancon may turn out not to be able to pitch in late innings. But it's far too early to make that judgement right now. All we can say now is, "well, that was not a good performance."
  • You can win a game with poor starting pitching. You can win a game with poor relief pitching. You can win a game with poor offense. It's tough to win a game if two of the three are bad, though. And that's what they did in Detroit. Bad offense and relief pitching in game one. Bad offense and starting pitching in game two. Bad starting pitching and relief pitching in game three. That's an excellent recipe for an 0-3 start.
  • To repeat what I said after week 1 of the 2011 season, "there will be no Player of the Week awards this week, given the minimal length and maximal putrescence of what we witnessed over the weekend."

    But Jon Lester pitched very well.

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 4/9/2012
Tampa Bay6(2)4(6)0.677(4)21301
Kansas City4.33(7)3.67(3)0.576(7)21210
Los Angeles3.67(11)4.33(8)0.424(8)12120
New York4(8)6(13)0.323(11)1203-1

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Tampa Bay1620

Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
Tampa Bay11151

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