Department of Statistical Anomalies: Texas Rangers Division
Of all of the ‘new fangled’ stats (so new that I read about many of them in the 80’s), one of the ones that’s seemingly accepted is the Pythagorean Record.
In essence, it’s an estimation of a team’s record given their runs scored and runs against in a number of games. It started out as a very simple formula that has now been updated, but still, anyone with an excel spreadsheet can calculate it, or use this web site.
It’s a sensible measure. To win, you need to score more runs than you give up. (As Herm Edwards said, you play the to win the game!)
Most of the time, this measure is used to see how lucky or unlucky a team is. Over the course of a season, teams generally have a Pythagorean Record close to their actual record. If it varies by more than 3 or 4, then they’ve been either lucky or unlucky. Sometimes, teams with winning records have under .500 Pythagoreans, and teams with losing records have a winning Pythagorean.
This year, the Texas Rangers have been in control of the AL West since June. The lead was up to double digits, but is now (at this writing) 8 1/2 games. Early into September, that’s a good place to be. They have the best record in the American League as of now, and have made some acquisitions in order to solidify their playoff run.
Funny thing is, that if you look at the Pythagorean Record, it is barely over .500. They have scored just twenty-three more runs than they have given up, and that was after a hot streak where they pounded teams into submission (outscoring teams 36-13 Wednesday, Friday and Saturday – and hey, that’s the three games that have given them their lead in runs scored vs. runs given up).
This, while not unheard of, is unusual. How can a team that gives up almost as many runs as they score have such an outstanding record?
The answer is: blowouts vs. one run games.
The Rangers have an outstanding 30-9 record in one-run games. That’s pretty unusual, as teams usually have similar records in one-run games as they do through the year.
You could point to Texas’ bullpen as the reason for this, but their metrics are not eye-popping. It’s a no-name core of four effective pitchers (Sam Dyson, Jake Diekman, Matt Bush and Tony Barnette) that are above league average in save percentage and in not allowing inherited runners to score, but they’re not obscenely better than the league. Also, for much of the season, the closer was Shawn Tolleson, who was ineffective and now injured.
It just seems to be one of those things.
In blowouts, though, the Rangers are 17-20. Blowouts are games where the margin is five or more runs. And when Texas gets blown out, they get blown out.
May 5th at Toronto – Lost 12-2 as Derek Holland gives up 11 in 2 2/3.
June 13th at Oakland – Lost 14-5 . Cesar Ramos gave up eight, and Tom Wihlemsen had a line to forget ( 1 9 6 6 0 0).
July 2nd at Minnesota – Lost 17-5. Chi Chi Gonzalez couldn’t get out of the first, and Ramos and Luke Jackson threw batting practice to boot.
July 7th vs. Minnesota – Lost 10-1, most of that against Tolleson in a five-run eighth.
July 10th vs. Minneosta – (YES, AGAIN!) – Lost 15-5, as Tolleson and Ramos gave up seven runs in two innings in relief.
August 26th vs. Cleveland – Lost 12-1, as the Indians methodically pounded Martin Perez and Dario Alvarez like they were tomato cans (boxing term).
September 5th vs. Seattle – Lost 14-6, even though they touched King Felix for those six runs. Cole Hamels (!) gave up seven, and Yohander Mendez made the dictionary definition of ‘ignominious debut’ by giving up five runs in one inning.
Due to injuries and stinkiness, Texas has used 30 pitchers, many for brief appearances before being DFA’d (Kyle Lohse, take a bow. You too, Phil Klein and Anthony Ranaudo) and a couple still on the 40-man (Michael Roth, come on down!)
What does this mean for Texas going into the postseason? Probably not a lot. The pitching rotation and usage will be tightened, and there will be little need for the 11th and 12th bullpen guys to come in and take a beating.
It’s just a weird baseball thing. That’s why I love the game!