The interpretation of how baseball was to be viewed differently came about with Bill James book “Baseball Abstract”. He and his fellow scribes developed an illuminating way to no longer take a batting and earned run averages at face value, rather look inside the numbers to understand what it really might mean. The term “sabermetric” became part of the language of baseball in the late 1980’s and still is widely renowned in today’s world.
This has lead to other methods of interpreting statistics, opening the door for Baseball Prospectus and Baseball-Reference.com to name a couple. This in-depth type of analysis of numbers has benefited fans and those who love to wager on baseball. For those seeking opportunity to place futures wagers on baseball, being able to see halfway thru the season eliminates some of the guess work that appeared cumbersome back in March.
Today you have a track record to follow and an inkling what might occur in the last 81 games of the baseball season. The oddsmakers do also, and a San Diego preseason wager of Over/Under 74 wins at Sportsbook.com looks safer today then it did before the season started. However, the corrective reading goggles of the halfway point of the season has the Padres as less favorable +110 choice to win the NL West compared back in March when they +600.
One element of James’ work that is as fresh today as it was when he first brought up new topics is the runs scored vs. runs allowed aspect of the game. If you score more runs than your opponent, you cannot lose. If you score a great deal more runs then the opposition, then you might have a dominate team. From the wagering standpoint, the value in this information is which teams are playing to their potential, which are playing above their potential and which are playing below. The last two elements are especially valuable, since if a team or teams continue on the same path, ultimately, they should reach their water mark and play accordingly.
Our goal in making long and short term wagers for baseball is to ensure equal representation of all teams. Since we have the time at the All-Star, we’ll look who at every Major League squad has played thru 81 games or half the schedule. This presents a balanced look at all the teams.
How this exercise works is to multiply the number of runs scored and square it, followed by doing the same with number of runs allowed. We’ll use the New York Yankees as the example.
Yankees runs scored – 436
Yankees runs allowed – 340
436 x 436 = 190096
340 x 340 = 115600
Add the two numbers together and divide the runs scored into the total to achieve a percentage.
190096 + 115600 = 305696
190096 divided by 305696 = .621
Take the number 81 (half the season) and multiply by .621, this gives you a total of 50.3. What this means is the Yankees should have a record of 50-31, based on runs scored and allowed and their actual record was exactly the same, thus right on schedule.
Any difference greater than three games means something is occurring that needs to be understood. Typically, bullpen production or lack of it is the biggest culprit in terms of wins and losses. Below is the complete list showing each team’s actual record and record based on RS/RA methodology and projected season total if they were to play exactly the same way.
American League (actual – projected- possible season record)
New York Yankees 50-31 – 50-31- 100-62
Boston 49-32 – 47-34 – 94-68
Tampa Bay 48-33 – 51-30 – 102-60
Toronto 41-40 – 44-37 – 82-80
Baltimore 25-56 – 25-56 – 50-112
Detroit 45-36 – 41-40 – 82-80
Minnesota 44-37 – 46-35 – 92-70
Chicago WS 43-38 – 41-40 – 82-80
Kansas City 36-45 – 37-44 – 74-88
Cleveland 32-49 – 33-48 – 66-96
Texas 48-33 – 48-33 – 96-66
L.A. Angels 45-36 – 40-41 – 80-82
Oakland 40-41 – 40-41 – 80-82
Seattle 34-47 – 32-49 – 64-98
AL Observations – The biggest surprise out of the AL East is Tampa Bay projected to win its division. Though most sports books still taking action on division titles have the Rays as the third choice to win AL East, Tampa Bay brings plenty to the party. How they have managed to overachieve thus far is because they have the highest save percentage in the league and concede the lowest on-base percentage in the junior circuit (.305). Another reason Tampa Bay might be around longer than most expected is 25-10 record in games decided by four or more runs, showing their dominance.
The Detroit Tigers bullpen has saved them in the first half of the year, however their pitching as a whole might well send them plummeting in the second half of the season unless they swing a trade for another starter. The Chicago White Sox are the hottest team in baseball with an eight-game winning streak, but have to find a way to replace Jake Peavy who is gone for the year.
The Los Angeles Angels limp into the break having lost eight of last 10. Normally, if a team outperforms its RS/RA numbers, the bullpen is the reason. The overall season numbers for the Halos bullpen is meager, however during their hot June (19-10), the pen actually pitched well. Unless they pick up another bat for the lineup and the entire pitching staff improves, the Texas Rangers could well run away with this very weak division.
National League (actual – projected – possible season record)
Atlanta 48-33 – 48-33 – 96-66
N.Y. Mets 45-46 – 46-35 – 92-70
Philadelphia 43-38 – 46-35 – 92-70
Florida 38-43 – 43-38 – 86-76
Washington 35-46 -35-46 – 70-92
Cincinnati 46-35 – 45-36 -90-72
St. Louis 44-37 – 47-34 -94-68
Milwaukee 37-44 -38-43 – 76-86
Chicago Cubs 35-46 -36-45 – 72-90
Houston 32-39 – 26-55 – 52-110
Pittsburgh 29-52 – 20-61 – 40-122
San Diego 48-33 – 47-34 – 94-68
L.A. Dodgers 45-36 – 43-38 – 86-76
Colorado 43-38 – 44-37 – 88-74
San Francisco 41-40 – 44-37 – 88-74
Arizona 32-49 – 32-49 – 64-98
NL Observations – The two-time defending NL champion Phillies have outperformed their record, thanks to their ability to rule the NL Central. Philadelphia is 17-8 and +39 in RS/RA against that division (+48 overall). With no Chase Utley likely until September, the Phillies might not have enough hitting or pitching to catch Atlanta. The Florida Marlins numbers suggest they should be better, which is why manager Fredi Gonzalez was shown the door. The Fish are tied for the most blown saves in the NL and their 11-17 record in one run games speaks volumes.
The NL Central appears to be a two team race the rest of the season and how they perform against the other four mediocre clubs should determine the Reds or Cardinals fate. If skipper Tony LaRussa can find ways to score more runs, St. Louis should win division based on numbers.
It’s interesting to note both Houston and Pittsburgh have out-performed (at least on some level) their actual RS/RA figures. Not sure what hiring former Astros star Jeff Bagwell as hitting coach is going to do for team that is 9-28 in games decided by four or more runs. Then there are the Pirates. Consider Pittsburgh has been outscored by 194 runs this season. To put that number into perspective, that is more than fellow last place teams Seattle and Arizona combined (-179 total). The Bucs are a walking pla
y against run line team, losing by 2.2 runs per game and are 4-29 in contests determined by four runs or more.
San Diego is not a fluke, perfectly built for their vast acreage called Petco Park, with more than enough pitching to keep them competitive on the road. Will the lack of offensive production hold up, we’ll find out. Based on first half play, if one team in the NL West could improve, the San Francisco Giants should if they could squeeze more out of their batting order.