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Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Spector: Negative run differential doesn’t tell whole story for first-place Cardinals

Didn’t realize Boras took Jesse on as a client! (Kidding, kidding.)

the Cardinals have been outscored for the season, 532-526. That means St. Louis’ Pythagorean record — where the Cardinals could expect to be, based on their runs scored and allowed — is 68-69, six games worse than their actual mark of 74-63…

St. Louis has gone through this season with a highly stratified starting rotation. The Cardinals have gotten 70 starts from Lance Lynn, Adam Wainwright and the injured Michael Wacha, whose combined ERA is 2.69. The combined ERA of the eight other pitchers to start games for St. Louis this season is 4.59.

In games started by the Big Three, the Cardinals have a 256-203 scoring margin, which means that in all other games, the Cardinals have been outscored 329-270. From a Pythagorean standpoint, the Cardinals have performed exactly as expected in starts by their top pitchers, going 42-28, which means that they have outperformed math in the starts by the dregs of the rotation… the Cardinals have a 16-18 record in games decided by five or more runs, [and] they have been outscored by 30 runs in such games. As the sixth-lowest scoring team in the major leagues, St. Louis does not have the ability to really blow out opponents. Having lost four games by 10 or more runs, the Cardinals have only one such win on their ledger, and that was Saturday’s 13-2 rout of the Cubs.

To put it a different way, in their 10 biggest wins and 10 biggest losses — games that were in no kind of doubt whatsoever — the Cardinals have a run differential of minus-18. When they wave the white flag, they really wave it. To call St. Louis lucky does not capture what the National League Central leaders have done, but neither does it work to say that they know how to win.

The reason that the Cardinals are in first place with a negative run differential is that they know how to lose.

The District Attorney Posted: September 02, 2014 at 03:53 PM | 13 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: cardinals

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   1. madvillain Posted: September 02, 2014 at 04:27 PM (#4783983)
The Hard Ball Times looked at Pythag verse actual record past August a few years ago and concluded that after July actual record is a better predictor than Pythag -- so this sort of explainer is in line with that study.
   2. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: September 02, 2014 at 04:52 PM (#4784024)
Every single time run differential comes up on MLB Tonight, Harold Reynolds feels the need to express his distaste for it. Fine, I guess, except that his basic argument against its use is "I don't get it". As though his own lack of mental capacity were a reason to disbelieve.

Anyhoozy, this is pretty easily explained by a bit of good luck and the fact that it took the Cards a while to get their current lineup together. I have no doubt that the team as currently constituted is about as good as its record.
   3. vagab0nd (no longer an outl13r) Posted: September 02, 2014 at 04:53 PM (#4784026)
The reason that the Cardinals are in first place with a negative run differential is that they know how to lose.


So, they lose to the score?
   4. Baldrick Posted: September 02, 2014 at 04:56 PM (#4784033)
This sort of 'analysis' is pretty pointless. It is literally exactly opposite. We KNOW that teams who outperform their pythag will be getting outscored big in the blowouts. That's pretty much the only way for a significant gap in pythag/actual record to manifest. You haven't explained anything about the Cardinals by pointing it out. You're just re-describing what happened. Of COURSE a big chunk of their failure has come from their worst pitchers. Duh.

I am willing to listen to an argument that run-differential inaccurately portrays the true quality of a team. #1 is an example of that. Looking at component stats is another. Or simply noting that much of the record was compiled by a different set of players than the ones who will be playing the rest of the season. Things like that have some explanatory potential. This article, not so much.
   5. cardsfanboy Posted: September 02, 2014 at 06:54 PM (#4784134)
I am willing to listen to an argument that run-differential inaccurately portrays the true quality of a team. #1 is an example of that. Looking at component stats is another. Or simply noting that much of the record was compiled by a different set of players than the ones who will be playing the rest of the season. Things like that have some explanatory potential. This article, not so much.


I think this article pointed out why there was such a big run differential, it wasn't a critique of run differential, just an attempt to explain why some teams, with decent records, have beaten their run differential. It pointed out a few teams who had high 1 run wins, and beat the pyth, and then pointed out that the Cardinals don't generally fall into that grouping.

It pointed to why this author thinks the Cardinals are over performing their pyth and makes no predictions about the future of the team. There are a lot of different ways to beat your pyth, this author is giving one in which they found it interesting enough to write.

Anyhoozy, this is pretty easily explained by a bit of good luck and the fact that it took the Cards a while to get their current lineup together. I have no doubt that the team as currently constituted is about as good as its record.


That is my feeling also, but I'm a Cardinal optimist, a pessimist will point out that the Cardinals are riding an incredible three games by Matt Holliday, a little bit of luck, and looking at this team, you have several players on hot streaks right now(and even during Carpenter's recent struggles, he managed to put up a pretty good obp) and that when reality returns, they won't be able to sustain it. (I mean Kozma, Bourjos and Descalso all had more than one hit in the same week...that is not something you can project to happen in the future.)

   6. Baldrick Posted: September 02, 2014 at 07:52 PM (#4784168)
It pointed to why this author thinks the Cardinals are over performing their pyth and makes no predictions about the future of the team. There are a lot of different ways to beat your pyth, this author is giving one in which they found it interesting enough to write.

But it doesn't say WHY. It says HOW. But there aren't a lot of options there. Losing a bunch of blowouts and winning close games is what defines overperformance.

It would be like an article explaining the Orioles success this year which said "they have won quite a few more games than they've lost. In particular, their offense has helped them score many runs while their pitching and defense have also made contributions."

Maybe I'm expecting too much of them. But I guess it's particularly annoying because there actually ARE reasonably good arguments for thinking that the Cardinals are better than their RD. To write an article like this without going into them just seems silly.
   7. madvillain Posted: September 02, 2014 at 08:01 PM (#4784171)
Yea but @ 6 usually Pythag assumes that you don't have an extreme variance between your 3rd starter and your 4th and 5th and that doesn't seem to be the case on this year's team. As I said in #1, using historical data, actual win loss starts to predict future record better sometime in late July. [see edit, it's actually June]

This is that study.

I was way off however, it's actually June, not August, when actual record better predicts than Pythag.

Interesting.
   8. Baldrick Posted: September 02, 2014 at 08:21 PM (#4784179)
Yea but @ 6 usually Pythag assumes that you don't have an extreme variance between your 3rd starter and your 4th and 5th and that doesn't seem to be the case on this year's team.

A) Is it really that uncommon? It's not like they have Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz here. Lance Lynn has had a nice year but his career ERA+ is the same as the apparently disastrous Shelby Miller. Again, I'm happy to listen to the argument that there is something unique about the Cardinals. I'm not saying that argument is wrong. I'm just saying the author needed to actually MAKE the argument.

On the study about actual vs. pythag, perhaps I'm misreading it, but it seems to only say that actual WP predicts final WP better. Which is very different from saying that actual WP predicts how well the team will do over the remaining games.

Of course actual WP will start to track better as the year goes on. Because it 'knows' that a team has banked a certain number of wins and losses, which the Pythag doesn't know. If you're outperforming by 10 wins in mid-July, then even if the Pythag number is perfectly accurate, you'll still only end up giving back one or two of those wins as your numbers regress in the final couple months.

Or am I just misreading the study? If not, I'd be curious to see how the different numbers compare by that metric.
   9. Rants Mulliniks Posted: September 03, 2014 at 08:55 AM (#4784386)
So, Cards fans....raise your hand if you thought Peralta would be third in WAR (B-R) this year by Sept. 1? Will he get any MVP votes?
   10. Russ Posted: September 03, 2014 at 12:23 PM (#4784558)

Or am I just misreading the study? If not, I'd be curious to see how the different numbers compare by that metric.


I don't think you're misreading it. It's not an invalid question, but you are 100% correct about the wins being banked. The question really should be which predicts the record in the remaining games better.
   11. Nasty Nate Posted: September 03, 2014 at 12:46 PM (#4784580)
We KNOW that teams who outperform their pythag will be getting outscored big in the blowouts. That's pretty much the only way for a significant gap in pythag/actual record to manifest.


Setting aside the article, I guess there could be 2 ways of this leading to an outperformance of pythag: Losing by blowout much more often than winning by blowout (like the Yankees), or by being around .500 in blowouts but losing by bigger margins on average than winning in those games (like the Royals). I don't know if the distinction between these two is interesting or valuable enough to note.
   12. Baldrick Posted: September 08, 2014 at 10:46 PM (#4788094)
Yea but @ 6 usually Pythag assumes that you don't have an extreme variance between your 3rd starter and your 4th and 5th and that doesn't seem to be the case on this year's team.

So it turns out that Shelby Miller isn't terrible.
   13. cardsfanboy Posted: September 08, 2014 at 11:00 PM (#4788099)
So, Cards fans....raise your hand if you thought Peralta would be third in WAR (B-R) this year by Sept. 1? Will he get any MVP votes?


On the team maybe(we had assumed that Molina and Carpenter would be 1 and 2 and that Craig, Holliday, Peralta, or Adams would be vying for the third best(ignoring pitchers of course)

Setting aside the article, I guess there could be 2 ways of this leading to an outperformance of pythag: Losing by blowout much more often than winning by blowout (like the Yankees), or by being around .500 in blowouts but losing by bigger margins on average than winning in those games (like the Royals). I don't know if the distinction between these two is interesting or valuable enough to note.


I know that fangraphs looked at "the sweet spot" for the White Sox one year, to determine their above pyth record and argued that teams which score 3-6 runs frequently(more than expected) might be a candidate for over performing their pyth.

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