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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Schoenfield: What does it mean to win 94 games?

94 Wins? Mondo topwinnerless! Let’s ask Russ Meyer!

One of the fun aspects of what I do is the ongoing dialogue we can engage in. When I posted my top-10 power rankings on Sunday, and then a follow-up on why I didn’t include the Giants, I heard it loud and clear from Giants fans on Twitter and in the comments section. OK, OK, I get it: I didn’t show your team enough respect. The two major gripes were: (A) The Giants are not only the defending World Series champions, but have won two in three years; (B) They won 94 games in 2012.

Starting with the first one, I’d argue what happened in 2010 is completely irrelevant to what may happen in 2013, especially since the 2012 Giants only had one starting position player who was the same in both postseasons, (Buster Posey, as Pablo Sandoval was benched for much of the 2010 playoffs). The 2010 playoff rotation didn’t include Barry Zito (not on the roster) and the 2012 rotation didn’t include Tim Lincecum (demoted to the bullpen), except for one start. So the two teams really weren’t the same team (which is a credit to the front office). As for the 2012 results, I understand the desire to give credit to the team that just won it all, but I also don’t think it’s accurate to give too much credit for predicting 2013 based on what happened in 2012—and, specifically, placing too much emphasis, for example, for beating the Reds in a five-game series that swung on Brandon Phillips’ baserunning play in Game 3 and Johnny Cueto’s injury.

But that paragraph won’t win over Giants fans. This next section might not either, but here goes. What does winning 94 games mean exactly? Now, one of my arguments in leaving the Giants out of the top 10 was that I believe their true talent level is lower than that of a 94-win team. But even leaving that aside, let’s say 94 wins is 94 wins, regardless of how a team got there. What happens the next season? I looked at all teams in the wild-card era to win 94 games—and, to get a larger sample size, all teams that won 93 or 95 games as well. This gave us 31 teams, not including 2012. The results:

  Those 31 teams declined by an average of seven wins the following season.
  Eight teams did improve, by an average of four wins per season.
  Two teams had the same record.
  That means 21 of the 31 teams declined—by an average of nine wins per season.

Repoz Posted: December 19, 2012 at 06:13 AM | 26 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: sabermetrics

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. Walt Davis Posted: December 19, 2012 at 08:51 AM (#4328339)
Whoa! It's like these teams, I dunno, regressed to the mean or something.
   2. Rants Mulliniks Posted: December 19, 2012 at 10:50 AM (#4328414)
This column was in response to his top-10 power rankings, which the Blue Jays didn't even make. I'd like to hear the reasoning behind that. It was after the Dickey trade was announced.
   3. shoewizard Posted: December 19, 2012 at 10:53 AM (#4328417)
Walt, did you read the article ? Thats actually what the writer is trying to introduce to the ESPN readers.
   4. Bhaakon Posted: December 19, 2012 at 11:27 AM (#4328464)
This column was in response to his top-10 power rankings, which the Blue Jays didn't even make. I'd like to hear the reasoning behind that. It was after the Dickey trade was announced.


To be fair, the strategy they've pursued is the same one the Marlins enacted 12 months ago, and we all see how that ended up. It's hard to go from 89 losses to 89 wins in a single offseason spending spree.
   5. Famous Original Joe C Posted: December 19, 2012 at 11:45 AM (#4328477)
To be fair, the strategy they've pursued is the same one the Marlins enacted 12 months ago, and we all see how that ended up. It's hard to go from 89 losses to 89 wins in a single offseason spending spree.


Agree 100%. The Blue Jays aren't even a shoo-in for third place in the AL East next year, much less a spot in the playoffs. You don't win on paper, and the Blue Jays had a long way to come.

   6. natebracy Posted: December 19, 2012 at 11:58 AM (#4328492)
By including 93 game winners, that introduces the '03 Mariners who went from 93 wins to 63 wins the next year. The slight increase of sample size introduces a huge outlier.
   7. Nasty Nate Posted: December 19, 2012 at 12:01 PM (#4328497)
To be fair, the strategy they've pursued is the same one the Marlins enacted 12 months ago, and we all see how that ended up. It's hard to go from 89 losses to 89 wins in a single offseason spending spree.




Agree 100%. The Blue Jays aren't even a shoo-in for third place in the AL East next year, much less a spot in the playoffs. You don't win on paper, and the Blue Jays had a long way to come.


Well, they will be playing the exact same players (Johnson, Buerhle and Reyes) so it might seem to be the same strategy. But they ALSO added Melky and RA Dickey, two guys coming off of excellent seasons.
   8. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: December 19, 2012 at 12:02 PM (#4328498)
There isn't a single team in the AL East that I feel comfortable predicting right now. If forced to pick a team that would win 95-100 games the Jays would be the team but I also wouldn't be shocked if they laid an egg.

I didn't read the top ten piece but off the top of my head (not in order);

Tigers
Angels
Nationals
Braves
Giants
Dodgers
Yankees
Reds
Rays
Blue Jays/Athletics/Rangers/Cardinals...damned if I know. Going through quickly I don't feel like the best team (Angels?) is really that far ahead any of the teams in the 10-14 range.
   9. Kurt Posted: December 19, 2012 at 12:09 PM (#4328507)
Well, they will be playing the exact same players (Johnson, Buerhle and Reyes) so it might seem to be the same strategy. But they ALSO added Melky and RA Dickey, two guys coming off of excellent seasons.

And, hopefully, a full season from Bautista.
   10. Rants Mulliniks Posted: December 19, 2012 at 12:41 PM (#4328543)
I'm not saying the Jays are going to win the division, but his top 10 list includes the A's......
   11. Chris Fluit Posted: December 19, 2012 at 12:45 PM (#4328547)
He's basically predicting the same playoff teams in 2013 as in 2012; the two exceptions are the Dodgers instead of the Giants and the Rays instead of the Orioles.
   12. Famous Original Joe C Posted: December 19, 2012 at 12:49 PM (#4328552)
I'm not saying the Jays are going to win the division, but his top 10 list includes the A's......


Weird, why would he include a team that won 94 games last year with the youngest pitching staff in baseball but not a team that won 73. This demands an explanation!
   13. Nasty Nate Posted: December 19, 2012 at 01:00 PM (#4328565)
I think the 'you win the games on the field, not on paper' caveat has to be applied to the A's and Rays in addition to the Jays (and any other team that rhymes). The wins and point-differentials of 2012, much like the addition of RA Dickey etc, guarantees nothing for 2013.
   14. Jorge Luis Bourjos (Walewander) Posted: December 19, 2012 at 01:23 PM (#4328596)

This column was in response to his top-10 power rankings, which the Blue Jays didn't even make. I'd like to hear the reasoning behind that. It was after the Dickey trade was announced.


I saw him on Twitter saying the Blue Jays were in his top 10 after the Dickey trade. He must have written it before the deal, or was covering his ass.
   15. Squash Posted: December 19, 2012 at 01:44 PM (#4328615)
Yeah the Jays improved a lot on paper but there's also a ton that could go wrong. Reyes could play 100 games. Johnson could pitch 100 innings. Buerhle could explode going to the AL East. Dickey could be merely good instead of all-world. Melky could turn back into Melky. Encarnacion could come back to earth. If everybody on the team has their best year ever they could put up a big record. But there's a ton of risk, and a lot of them (the obligatory Reyes/Johnson injuries, regression for a few guys coming off what are probably career years) seem fairly likely.
   16. Bhaakon Posted: December 19, 2012 at 02:36 PM (#4328689)
Well, they will be playing the exact same players (Johnson, Buerhle and Reyes) so it might seem to be the same strategy. But they ALSO added Melky and RA Dickey, two guys coming off of excellent seasons.


Yes, but the guy Reyes is replacing was no zero, and they play in a tougher division (at least I think so). The Marlins were probably expecting something more from Zambrano and Bell as well, though Cabrera and Dickey are obviously safer, higher upside bets.
   17. Walt Davis Posted: December 19, 2012 at 05:08 PM (#4328881)
Well, they will be playing the exact same players (Johnson, Buerhle and Reyes) so it might seem to be the same strategy.

More importantly, those guys weren't the Marlins problem. They combined for 9 WAR -- maybe less than what you'd hope for but not responsible for the Marlins losing 93 games.

It's a point many folks seem to miss -- the Marlins "spending spree" worked other than Heath Bell. The problem was the mostly lousy players they already had on hand. I never understood the Marlins love. They were a 72 win that added a good but not great SP and a good and potentially great but oft-injured SS and a closer -- at best that makes a 72 win team a 500 team. And looking at it now, Buehrle was replacing Javier Vazquez who had given the Marlins 193 IP with a 106 ERA+ so even peak Buehrle wasn't going to be more than a 1-win upgrade.

Which raises the question of why nobody gave Vazquez a job in 2012. Hurt? Just tired of it all?

Anyway, in that sense, the Jays are following the same strategy except that, as noted, they're also adding Johnson, Melky and Dickey to the crap they have on hand. And Bautista and possibly Encarnacion (I want to see one more season) are a lot better than anybody the 2011 Marlins had on hand. But, yeah, the Jays love seems a bit too strong, we're still in the heady "nobody gets injured" stage of the offseason.
   18. Nasty Nate Posted: December 19, 2012 at 05:15 PM (#4328886)
And Bautista and possibly Encarnacion (I want to see one more season) are a lot better than anybody the 2011 Marlins had on hand.


They did have Hanley Ramirez and Giancarlo Stanton.
   19. Bhaakon Posted: December 19, 2012 at 05:32 PM (#4328897)
They did have Hanley Ramirez and Giancarlo Stanton.


And Josh Johnson, and Anibal Sanchez,
   20. The Chronicles of Reddick Posted: December 19, 2012 at 05:39 PM (#4328903)
I am still convinced that someone in the Giants front office sold their soul to win the World Series last year.
   21. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: December 19, 2012 at 05:41 PM (#4328906)
What does it mean to win 94 games?

You're Babe Ruth.
   22. BrianBrianson Posted: December 19, 2012 at 05:43 PM (#4328908)
I'm not sure there's ever been a team that things couldn't have gone wrong for. It's December, how can we evaluate teams except on paper?
   23. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: December 19, 2012 at 05:47 PM (#4328909)
It reminds me of the 2003 Rangers. After losing 91 games they traded the not-underachieving-at-all Alex Rodriguez for Alfonso Soriano. They let their other two high-priced hitters (Rafael Palmeiro and Juan Gonzalez, neither of whom was underachieving) walk, and replaced them with Brad Fullmer and David Dellucci.

They then won 89 games even though these were three major downgrades. Thanks to the starting pitching going from utterly atrocious to merely bad, the catching going from utterly atrocious (Einar Diaz) to merely bad (Rod Barajas), a career season from Kevin Mench, the continued development of future stars Young, Teixeira and Blalock, Francisco Cordero being a great improvement over Ugueth Urbina, and so forth.

Any chance of that happening with the Marlins?
   24. Matthew E Posted: December 19, 2012 at 05:48 PM (#4328911)
The thing with the Jays is this. On the one hand, yes, having a good team on paper means nothing, because a) you still have to play the games, and b) the Jays have proven twice in the last ten years that they're capable of turning in a season where every conceivable thing goes wrong. Plus, it's the AL East, where all these deals could work out well for them and they still finish fifth.

But saying that they were an 89-loss team obscures the fact that they were actually a better team than that; they just had horrible injury luck. They probably had the talent level of a .500 team, more or less.

Adding Dickey, Cabrera, Johnson, Buehrle, Reyes, Bonifacio, Izturis, and Rogers to an 89-loss team is one thing. Adding them to a .500 team is another. They should be fine as long as an unusual number of things doesn't go wrong.
   25. Walt Davis Posted: December 20, 2012 at 01:11 AM (#4329147)
They did have Hanley Ramirez and Giancarlo Stanton.

Hanley ain't been nothing special for a long time. Stanton is Bautista though.

It was a bit of an editing error actually. I originally was just thinking B + E > S. Then I decided E probably only deserved a "possibly" but forgot to re-do the math. Oh well.

And Josh Johnson, and Anibal Sanchez,

Well, Johnson coming back from injury. And the Jays have Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow. But most importantly the Jays are also adding Johnson to what they had -- adding Buehrle and Johnson kinda counter-balances adding Buehrle to Johnson yeah?
   26. Rants Mulliniks Posted: December 20, 2012 at 09:00 AM (#4329204)
Weird, why would he include a team that won 94 games last year with the youngest pitching staff in baseball but not a
team that won 73. This demands an explanation!


I realize this, and I might be underselling the A's, but no one on earth would have imagined they'd win that many at this time last year - most picked them to finish last. I have to believe the pitching staff aren't all going to have simultaneous career years again. The only two that didn't were Colon and Balfour, but Colon's was his best since 2005, and Balfour was still excellent. I mean come on, they got 60 Ks, a WHIP barely above 1.000 and a 130 ERA+ from a guy who'd pitched a grand total of 26 pro innings before his call up (Doolittle). Other than Tyson Ross, no pitcher threw more than 25 innings with an ERA+ lower than 103. The A's came out of nowhere, and their offense was based on timely homers and deft platooning that I can't happening again.

As Matthew says, the Jays may have lost 89 games, but that was with every conceivable thing going wrong except the emergence of Edwin. Their CF (age 25), SS (29), 2B (30) and No.1 starter (27) all had (some arguably) the worst years of their careers. They lost three starters for the season in consecutive starts. They had to use 12 starters, and 34 pitchers total to get through the season. Their best hitter missed 70 games.

regression for a few guys coming off what are probably career years)


Edwin was the only player who had a career year, unless you're talking about Morrow, but he only made 21 starts. Oliver did, but he's not coming back.

If the Jays ran last year's roster out there and had neutral luck, they'd be a .500 team at least. With the additions and any luck at at all, they'll win 90, and could win 95. They could also have bad luck and injuries and win 80. But if the A's have bad luck and injuries, they might only win 70.

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