Power Rankings and Pythagoras

MLB Power Rankings

 

It’s time for the latest edition of the Talk Back Fans Major League Baseball Power Rankings.  Here we go.

 

#30 Miami Marlins (19-33, -95, LW:  26)

#29 Chicago White Sox (16-34, -69, LW:  29)

#28 Arizona Diamondbacks (26-26, +4, LW:  23)

Talk about a team that can’t wait for the month of May to be over with.  On the morning of May 1 the Diamondbacks were 20-8 with a five and a half lead in the NL West.  Last week I pointed out Paul Goldschmidt’s struggles, but it is really the entire lineup.  They have managed only 56 runs in 24 games (2.3 per game), and the team ERA is almost a full run higher (3.83 in May; 2.96 in March/April).  Not a good combination for success.

 

#27 Kansas City Royals (18-35, -80, LW:  30)

#26 Toronto Blue Jays (25-28, -13, LW:  28)

#25 Baltimore Orioles (17-36, -79, LW:  27)

#24 Texas Rangers (22-33, -62, LW:  25)

In 2016 the Texas Rangers set a major league record, going a preposterous 36-11 in one-run games.  Since then they are 18-28 in such contests.  Anyone that knows us at Talk Back Fans, we are cautious about teams that perform remarkably in one-run games.  Joey Gallo, despite 14 homeruns is posting an awful .276 on-base percentage, and Adrian Beltre is now on the DL, and while he has hit well so far, he’s 39 years old.  Roughned Odor is posting a 40 OPS+, and the Shin-Soo Choo is now 35 years old.  Oh, and their pitching staff is anchored by Bartolo Colon (now 45 years old) and 34 year old Cole Hamels.  Let’s just say that they’re quite a bit away from getting back to competitive.

 

#23 Cincinnati Reds (19-35, -60, LW:  24)

#22 San Francisco Giants (25-28, -44, LW:  16)

#21 Detroit Tigers (23-29, -35, LW:  22)

#20 San Diego Padres (22-32, -50, LW:  19)

#19 New York Mets (25-24, -20, LW:  18)

#18 Minnesota Twins (21-27, -20, LW:  21)

#17 Colorado Rockies (28-25, -22, LW:  14)

Let’s take a few words to talk about Nolan Arenado.  In 2013 he came up as a terrific defensive third baseman.  He didn’t hit much but was good enough to play 133 games and win the Gold Glove.  The next year his OPS+ jumped 34 points and he won another Gold Glove.  In 2015 he led the National League in homeruns (42), RBI (130), and total bases (354), made his first All-Star team, and won his third straight Gold Glove.  In 2016 he put together a very similar season, again leading in homers, RBI, and total bases with strikingly similar numbers (41, 133, and 352), but also doubled his walks to increase his OBP from .323 to .362 while playing his typical stellar defense at third.  Last season he led the league in doubles and set a career high in slugging percentage (.586), added his fifth Gold Glove and his third All-Star appearance.  This season he’s already got 29 walks and leads the league in OPS (.991).  Hopefully he will start getting some national pub because he’s simply amazing.

 

#16 Pittsburgh Pirates (28-24, +21, LW:  12)

#15 Cleveland Indians (26-25, +16, LW:  17)

#14 Los Angeles Dodgers (24-28, +22, LW:  20)

#13 Oakland Athletics (28-25, -3, LW:  13)

#12 St. Louis Cardinals (28-22, +24, LW:  11)

Tommy Phamm was born to a teenage mother along with his twin sister, Brittney, 1988.  Their father has spent pretty much all of their lives in prison (an even longer story).  Tommy was drafted and signed with the Cardinals right out of high school in the 16th round of the 2006 draft.  He was taken 496th overall.  In 2007 he hit .188/.272/.277 in A and Low A ball.  He did improve over the next few seasons, but the Cardinals weren’t exactly short on talent, so he stayed in the minors.  Then he tore a wrist ligament in 2011.  The following year he tore his labrum in one shoulder.  For good measure he tore his labrum in the other shoulder in 2013.  He got his first shot when he was 26, albeit just two plate appearances.  In 2015 he hit a respectable .268/.347/.477 in 173 trips to the plate.  In 2016 he dropped to .226/.324/.440 in 183 appearances.  Despite some decent numbers he was still demoted and got vocal about it, feeling disrespected and hurt by a front office that wasn’t the group who had drafted him (that group moved on to Houston).  He was ready to say he was done with all of it, at least in the Cardinals organization.  But his buddy since Little League told him to hang in there for at least a little bit longer.  Major League veteran Edwin Jackson also attempted to keep him engaged.  Last season he didn’t make his debut until May 5 in Atlanta.  He was 2-4 with a homerun.  Two days later he was 4-5 with two more dingers and a walk.  By the end of May he had a .978 OPS.  He didn’t stop hitting from there.  He ended the year with 23 homers, 22 doubles, and a .306/.411/.520 slash line.  He’s off to another good start this year, and he seems determined to make it continue.  But here’s the thing:  He’s 30.  His prime years are behind him now, so how long this ride goes, is anyone’s guess.  But that doesn’t mean that this isn’t one helluva great story.

 

#11 Los Angeles Angels (29-24, +31, LW:  15)

#10 Tampa Bay Rays (25-26, -4, LW:  10)

#9 Philadelphia Phillies (29-21, +38, LW:  7)

#8 Chicago Cubs (27-22, +70, LW:  6)

#7 Atlanta Braves (30-21, +60, LW:  4)

#6 Seattle Mariners (32-20, +12, LW:  9)

The good news for Mariners fans is that the team is just one game back of the Astros in the AL West.  The bad news – besides the loss of Robinson Cano – is that they are ninth in run production, James Paxton has been their only reliable starter so far (and one really shouldn’t count on 33-year old Wade LeBlanc), and their run differential shows that they are playing a little bit over their heads right now.  But hey, enjoy the ride!  It’s been a while since fans in the Pacific Northwest had something to cheer about in June.

 

#5 Washington Nationals (29-22, +43, LW:  8)

#4 New York Yankees (33-16, +73, LW:  1)

#3 Boston Red Sox (36-17, +77, LW:  3)

#2 Milwaukee Brewers (34-20, +33, LW:  5)

The Brewers are 14-5 in one-run games this season, so proceed with caution.  With teams attempting different methods all the time, Counsel has opted to use his closer Josh Hader as more of a relief ace than a closer in the sense that we are used to.  Only once this season has he entered the game after the eighth inning (in the tenth against Colorado on May 11), and in only three of his 18 appearances has he only pitched one inning.  The best part for the Brew Crew?  They’re 18-0 in those games.  Twice he has entered with the team trailing, once tied.  He has only blown one lead in the other 15 appearances.  I like when teams do something different.

 

#1 Houston Astros (34-20, +122, LW:  2)

 

Today I want to bring up one-run games.  Remember that old saying that “good teams win the close ones”?  In a word:  bullshit.  As I mentioned above with the Texas Rangers, in 2016 they were 36-11 in one-run games.  Last year they were 13-24 and this year they’re 5-4.  The 2012 Orioles were 29-9 in such contests and in 2013 they were 20-31.  In 2005 the Indians were 22-36 in one-run games despite a 93-69 record while Boston was 27-15 in one-run games with a 95-67 record (despite a bullpen ERA over 5.00).  Arizona that same season was 28-18 in one-run games despite a 77-85 record.  The Cardinals won 100 games that season and were 21-25 in one-run games; The Padres were 82-80 and were 29-20 in those close games that good teams win.  A team’s record in one run games is more of a function of randomness and luck.  Good teams beat you up and blow you out.  So I’ll present to our newcomers the Pythagorean Winning Percentage.

 

Pythagorean Winning Percentage is based on Runs Scored and Runs Allowed.  It is simply:

 

PWP = (RS^2) / (RS^2 + RA^2)

 

There will be outliers, but for the most part this closely reflects a team’s W-L record.  Baltimore, for example has a record of 17-36 and a Pythagorean record of 18-35.  The Royals actual record is 18-35, as is their Pythagorean record.  The Braves are 30-21, and based on their run differential their record would be 32-19.  The biggest overachieving team by this method is the aforementioned Mariners, who have a Pythagorean record of 27-25, but are 32-20.  And here’s a scary part:  The Houston Astros are currently the biggest underachievers based on run differential.  Currently they sit at 34-20, but have a Pythagorean record of 42-12.  And the biggest reason for that?  They are 4-10 in one-run games.

 

That’s all for now.  See you next week.

 

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