Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The End of a Frustrating Season

There are two things that piss me off about the Braves this year...

1. There's a mathematical equation that uses runs scored and runs allowed to determine an "Expected Won/Loss Record". Baseball statisticians call it the "Pythagorean Record".

The equation is simple: Runs scored [squared] / (Runs scored [squared] + runs allowed [squared])

Normally, the Pythagorean record pretty closely approximates what the actual record is. In fact, right now, 19 of the 30 teams have actual records within 3 games +/- of their Pythagorean record.

The Braves, right now, when comparing the actual record to Pythagorean record are the most underperforming team in the NL.

If the standings were determined by Pythagorean record alone, the Braves would be leading the NL East and have the second best record in the NL (1.5 GB the Padres).

The reasons for the disparity are many. Some say a large disparity between Pythagorean record and actual record is due to managing, a great/terrible record in close games, an oddly large number of blowout games (with a lot of them won or lost but not both), or just plain luck. This year, the Arizona Diamondbacks' Pythagorean record is 73-79. Their actual record is 85-67. That's basically the difference between last place and first place in their division. The biggest reason? The Diamondbacks are an absurd 32-18 in one run games. The Braves are just 17-24 in one-run games.

The Braves are scoring plenty of runs, and they're allowing few enough to win their division and make the playoffs. They're just not scoring or allowing runs in the right places. And that's frustrating.

2. The imbalanced interleague schedule has totally screwed the Braves.

The Braves went 4-11 in interleague play, the worst record in the National League.

Compare the current aggregate winning percentages of the teams the Braves played in Interleague play to those of their divisional and wild card rivals:

Braves (Boston twice, Detroit, Cleveland, Minnesota): 426-332, .562%
Mets (Yankees twice, Detroit, Minnesota, Oakland): 405-353, .534%
Dodgers (Angels twice, Toronto twice, Tampa Bay): 393-363, .520%
Phillies (Toronto, Kansas City, White Sox, Detroit, Cleveland): 378-377, .501%
San Diego (Seattle twice, Tampa Bay, Baltimore, Boston): 377-377, .500%
Colorado (Kansas City, Baltimore, Boston, Tampa Bay, Yankees, Toronto): 445-461, .491%
Arizona (Baltimore twice, Yankees, Boston, Tampa Bay): 368-387, .487%
Milwaukee (Minnesota twice, Texas, Detroit, Kansas City): 366-389, .485%
Cubs (White Sox twice, Texas, Seattle): 280-323, .464%

Those winning percentages might not seem so different upon first glance, so here's a better way to look at it. Consider the current aggregate winning percentages of each team's opponents in interleague play to a team that approximates that record, and see who you'd rather play. Below are the closest equivalent of a team (based upon its current winning percentage) . For example, the Cubs opponents' winning percentage is .464, which is roughly equivalent to the current won/loss record of the Texas Rangers. Look at the equivalents below, and you tell me who had it rough:

Braves, .562 - closest equivalent is the Yankees
Mets, .534 - Mariners
Dodgers, .520 - Cubs/Brewers
Phillies, .501 - Blue Jays
Padres, .500 - Blue Jays
Rockies, .491 - Twins
D-Backs, .487 - A's
Brewers, .485 - A's
Cubs, .464 - Rangers

If you eliminate the results of all interleague games from all NL teams, and the Braves would be currently tied with the Phillies, and 1.5 games behind the Mets. The Braves would be just 2 games back in the loss column from the Wild Card.

The imbalanced interleague schedule absolutely screwed the Atlanta Braves.


peacedog said...

Some good stuff there. Unsurprisingly, the Teixeira trade didn't make a big difference; there were too many other issues for it to do so. Note I'm not criticizing it there, just noting that nobody exepcted Buddy Carlyle to keep the magic going all year and that essentially meant that we had 2.5 decent Starters, and that is what it is (and never mind all the bullpen issues).

I feel like we'll never be off the hook for Hampton's contract, even though there is a light at the end of that tunnel.

LD said...

My view on the Tex trade is that we'er most certainly a lot better off than we would've been had we not traded for Teixeira, but the rest of our team (especially the pitchers) is a lot worse off since the trade than they were beforehand.

Basically, if we were 4 games over .500 at the point of the trade, and we're 5 games over .500 now, it doesn't look like Teixeira made much of a difference. But if we would have been 5 games under .500 had we not traded for Teixeira, then he's a 10 game swing - and I think that's quite possible.

As for the reasons why I think we haven't really improved mcuh since the Teixeira trade: 1) Bad starts from 3,4,5, 2) tired bullpen because of reason #1, and 3) Renteria's injury hurt bad.

peacedog said...

don't forget bullpen injuries, which helped make the bullpen tired. This year might go differently with a healthy Gonzales and then a move to get someone(s) down the stretch.

Of course, that doesn't speak to Cox's ability to grind a reliever into the dirt through useage, which he typically does with one setup guy throughout the year (often failing to recognize that someone is seriously faltering, and then switching to a hotter hand. E.g. 1996, where Cox leaned on Clontz as heavily as in 95 but it ruined him, and didn't really begin to lean on Bielecki enough even though he was lights out in the second half of the season as I recall; Cox would later go on to overuse Bielecki and the cycle continued, viciously).

The Teixeira trade hinges on signing him, IMO. I don't judge it on making the playoffs. But if we fail to sign him - a distinct possibility - I'll not be pleased. OTOH, who knows what the future will bring. I hear all sorts of crazy Peavy rumors (bring it on), for example. Maybe we can trick the Red Sox into taking on the rest of Hampton's contract. There will be money available if Renterria and A. Jones go (which I think is a distinct possibility).

Too bad the upper minors are a little on the barren side right now (the low minors look pretty lucious). Escobar might still find himself as part of a deal for pitching, especially if the team determines Lillibridge is ready to go (solid year at Richmond, good second half to boot).