For my entire archive of The Diff at WFNY, click on this link. Last week, I wrote about historical expectations for regression to the mean in the NBA and how that relates to the 2013-14 Cleveland Cavaliers. This week, it’s back to baseball again.
It’s been a strange start to the season for the Cleveland Indians, eh? Although the team is 16-14 and now performing better than or slightly around preseason expectations, it’s taken a wild ride to get here. There was the 8-13 start and now the 8-1 rally. But more significantly, it’s been a peculiar offensive run distribution that has made each coming game quite the surprise.
League-wide run distribution
In order to know what I mean a bit by the Indians’ peculiar run distribution, it’s first vital to set the bar for what has happened historically. This will allow Cleveland’s 2013 to stand out in terms of where it deviates from the norm. If you recall, I began writing about run distribution during Cleveland’s series against Houston nearly three weeks ago.
Thus, here is a chart that shows MLB run distribution by various categories for all games played from 2010-2012:
Quite obviously, one would next surmise, the MLB average is slightly less than the American League expectations over the past few years. Of course, the National League scores a bit less, so that skews the data in the negative direction.
Specifically, I want your attention to narrow in on the ranges from 0-3 runs, 4-7 runs and 8+. This will truly relate to the strange back-and-forth nature of the Indians thus far.
Knowing the differentiation between the NL and the AL, and with a goal of focusing on the peculiarity of the 2013 Indians in the AL, here next are some charts related to the AL since 2010:
|League||Year(s)||0-3 Runs||4-7 Runs||8+ Runs||Runs/Game|
The 2012 AL
So there you have the expected league-wide statistics for run distribution. To add in the context of team-by-team variability, however, it’s necessary to look at what occurred for the 2012 American League and start to make some notes. From there, we’ll look at what’s happening in 2013.
The results below shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. The good teams score lots of runs more consistently, while the bad teams are far too often in the 0-3 run category. Some of the differences in overall winning percentage are because of strong pitching staffs and insane records in close games (looking at you, Baltimore).
|Rk||Team||0-3 Runs||4-7 Runs||8+ Runs||Runs/Game||Wins|
Here are some quick notes on what I see in this data:
- Texas led the league by far in scoring 8+ runs in 21.0% of their contests. Considering the expected winning percentages in those games (about .919), that’s awful helpful for a 90+ win season.
- Look at the Yankees and Tigers — What made them good in 2012 was their ability to score in the 4-7 run category quite consistently. They were by far the best two at this last season.
- Seattle was bad, really bad. In fact, the difference between No. 13 Cleveland and No. 14 Seattle was as much as the difference between No. 7 Toronto and No. 13 Cleveland, as well as between No. 3 LA and No. 7 Toronto.
Unlisted in the table but notable nonetheless, scoring is down across the board in March/April of 2012. I don’t have historical data on this, but I’d assume it’s practically the same, as firs theorized by Jon in a WFNY email. Average runs per game in March/April were 4.34; then they were 4.46 the rest of the season. This is notable for context of what’s happened thus far in 2013.
The 2013 AL
All of this analysis thus far leads to what’s happening in 2013. The Indians have had some monstrous offensive performances, but also lots of duds. Now it’s time to see how that compares to the historical numbers above and exactly to the 2012 team.
I’ll have lots of observations to follow directly after this table. Here you go with the 2013 chart:
|Rk||Team||0-3 Runs||4-7 Runs||8+ Runs||Runs/Game||Proj. Wins|
Since we’re only about 30 or so games into the season, and all the different teams have played different amounts of games, the easiest thing to do was to label it as “Proj. Wins.” This is simply the winning percentage of that team times 162 games. So clearly, the Angels won’t win 54 games. But that’s been their pace thus far.
Now, some actual observations about the Indians and where they compare:
- Overall, Cleveland’s offense ranks third-best in the American League. This is probably a bit better than what most expected heading into the season. With the additions of Mark Reynolds, Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher, many expected the offense to be better — and likely at least average. But this has been even better.
- Despite having that third-best offense, it’s strange where the Indians rank in the various categories: No. 5 in 0-3 runs, No. 13 in 4-7 runs and No. 3 in 8+ runs. These rankings were even more polarizing a week ago, before some oddly average offensive performances by the Tribe.
- In total, it has somehow added up to an 86-win pace for the Indians thus far. That’s fairly close to what many predicted. But how the team has gotten there in terms of run distribution certainly has not been the norm.
Now, to add to the overall dialogue, here are some assorted notes on the 2013 AL:
- For as polarizing as the Indians’ offense has been, the same could be said about the entire 2013 American League. There are three teams averaging more than 5 runs per game and four teams averaging less than 4 runs per game. That’s nearly half the AL. Only one team (Seattle) fell out of the 4-5 run average last year.
- Houston has been bad, really bad, in their first year in the AL. But notably, it’s their pitching staff that’s likely worse; they actually have the No. 12 offense despite their current 44-win pace.
- The great offenses by Detroit and Oakland have been both because of their awesome outbursts and their ability to score at least 4 runs very frequently.
What it all means going forward
That’s a lot of data and information so far. But what does it all mean for the Indians and everyone else? Over time, with a larger sample, I’d expect all of the team’s run distributions to regress a bit more toward the mean — Chicago will finally have an 8+ run performance; Oakland won’t keep up this incredibly hot offensive start.
In terms of Cleveland, there just hasn’t been a whole lot of mediocre offensive games. Almost every single time, it’s either been a 0-3 run performance (which comes with an MLB average winning percentage of .220) or an 8+ run performance (.919). That’s pretty polarizing stuff and it shows how this team got off to such a slow start.
Over time, we’ll see a lot more mediocre-ish offensive performances from the Indians. That will have to happen. But it’s certainly fun to be able to show the exact context for the peculiar offensive start for this fun-loving Terry Francona team.