With the Indians playing sub-.500 baseball this year and the offense struggling mightily, it’s had many of us asking “what if”. What if the Indians players were just playing up to their career averages (nobody having a career year, nobody having a down year). What if the Indians were just scoring runs at the league average pace. What would the Indians record look like? How would it alter the current standings?
A “what if” that I prefer, though, is a little bit more simple. I would like to know what if the Indians were winning at their expected rate based on their run differential. Using the Bill James Pythagorean expectation formula (Win Pct = (RS^2)/(RS^2 + RA^2)), I made a simple spreadsheet to see how different the AL Central might look. You can click on the image below to view the full sized results:
As you can see, the White Sox, Indians, and Tigers are all winner fewer games than they should based on run differentials while the Twins and Royals are winning more. Of all the teams, though, nobody is playing further below their expected pace than the Indians. Even with their offense as pitiful as it is, their pitching has been so good that they should be winning more games than they are losing. So why the discrepancy?
I suspect there are several reasons. First of all, poor play in one-run games hurts. The Indians are 4-5 in games that are decided by one run. Secondly, the fact that the Indians tend to win big when they actually win. 8 of the Indians 24 wins (or, one third of their wins) have been by 5+ runs. On the flipside, they have only lost by 5 or more runs just five times. Losing more one run games than you win but having a blowout win in a third of your wins is a great way to underperform your expected pct.
The American League average is 232 runs. The Indians, at 213 runs scored, are significantly behind. The per game runs scored average in the AL is 4.37 runs. The Indians have scored 4 or more runs in fewer than half (24) of their games played (52) this year, but in those 24 games they are 18-6 (.750). If you look at just games in which the Indians scored either 4 or 5 runs, they 7-4 (.636). Basically, what these numbers show is just how good the Indians would likely be if they could just score runs at an average pace, nevermind scoring at an above average (794) pace like they did last season when they finished 6th in the AL in runs scored (811).
Don’t mistake any of this…..none of these numbers can help the Indians figure out how to score more runs. Instead, they just serve as yet another painful reminder of how badly the Indians are blowing this 2008 season. If anything, hopefully Mark Shapiro is familiar with these numbers and realizes the extent to which adding a guy or two who can help drive in some runs can turn this season around.