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Friday, August 27, 2021

Have Games Become Less Competitive Since the Trade Deadline?

Another way to look at this is analyzing performance after trade deadlines of past seasons. The last full season in 2019 yielded nearly identical average run differentials before (3.66) and after (3.64) the trade deadline. The bigger issue, however, is that each deadline has its own unique impact on the season, and 2019 was a bit of a dud in that regard, with only a handful of truly impactful moves.

I’m not saying the bevy of sellers at the trade deadline isn’t detracting from the competitiveness of some games for the rest of the season. The Orioles are currently in the midst of an 18-game losing streak, but let’s not forget, that’s their second double-digit losing streak this year, and Baltimore was more or less silent at the deadline, too. And while most of the beatdowns over the last few weeks have come at the expense of sellers and teams far outside of the playoff picture, the Rays, owners of the best record in the American League, lost 20–8 to the Red Sox and 12–0 to the Twins within a span of a few days. Blowouts can happen to anyone at any time.

I have my reservations, but there is certainly credence behind the idea that teams that traded proven major leaguers away are more at risk of losing by a lopsided margin than before. But even these teams tend to be more competitive than we give them credit for.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 27, 2021 at 08:42 AM | 4 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: trade deadline

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   1. Dolf Lucky Posted: August 27, 2021 at 01:33 PM (#6036723)
Disappointing article, in that I would be very interested in drawing a conclusion to this question, but this piece got me no closer to such a conclusion.

   2. Walt Davis Posted: August 27, 2021 at 05:52 PM (#6036791)
Looking for small, mostly individual differences in small, aggregate samples is a tough way to make a living. Mainly -- clearly the Cubs are a much less talented team than they were; same for the Nats. That will be true for any big seller. But how common is it for there to be one or two big sellers? (I don't know) The receiving teams mainly are slightly more talented than they were because usually the wealth gets spread around at the deadline. The teams that stand pat are largely the same. Then in the old days, things could go out the window in Sept with the massively expanded rosters and fringe contenders recognizing there's not enough time left.

Then there's the bizarre randomness of baseball. As the article alludes to, in June the Cubs only scored about 3.5 runs per game, then in July just a smidgen 4.1 ... and so far in Aug without Bryant, Rizzo, Baez, they've scored 4. Their terrible Aug is due to giving up 7 runs a game which was partly predictable due to cleaning out the bullpen of Kimbrel, Chafin and Tepera but that's still a smaller amount of talent than they gave up on the offensive side of things. Javy's a pretty awesome SS but not 2 runs a game. But maybe that seemingly stable offensive output looks closer than it is -- 13 of their 23 games have been against the likes of the Rox, Royals, Miami. Against the White Sox and Brewers they went 0-7 and scored just 18 runs with two shutouts. So is it our AAA hitters are doing well against other bad teams' AAA pitchers? Still it's the pitching and defense -- in Aug, we've twice scored 10 and lost and we gave up 19 in 3 games swept by the Royals at Wrigley. Prior to the deadline, the Cubs went 18-12 against bad teams (as we might expect of a 500 team); post-deadline they've gone 3-10. Maybe you don't think the Rox are a bad team in which case we've gone 0-7 against bad teams.

Anyway, it's just not a question you want to answer in the aggregate unless you're going to pool many seasons together. For this season, it's a question about specific teams with specific pre/post-deadline talent levels and schedules and maybe even specific pitcher match-ups. The article starts with an example of the Astros shellacking the Ms. As far as I recall, neither of those teams did much at the deadline -- what is run differential in games between teams that didn't change their talent level substantially supposed to tell us? (If that game told us anything, it reminded us the Ms record through end of July was a good bit better than their pythag.)
   3. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: August 27, 2021 at 07:34 PM (#6036807)
Have Games Become Less Competitive Since the Trade Deadline?

After the Orioles series ended on August 4th, the average Yankees game has been decided by 2.5 runs. 14 of those 20 games have been won by 1 or 2 runs, and only 2 games have been blowouts.
   4. Dolf Lucky Posted: August 28, 2021 at 09:05 AM (#6036843)
After thinking about this question for a bit, I think I would structure the analysis to look at standard deviation of the pre-game money lines before the trading deadline vs. after. Still not perfect, but gets a bit more at the heart of the question.

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