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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Random Baseball Wednesday

I'm sitting here watching a baseball game, just trying to zone out and find momentary respite from the thoughts ever-churning in my head, when on the screen flashes a statistic about the two teams' relative success in one-run games--and I'm off to the races again.

Because, I mean, what is this statistic supposed to mean?  Yes, I know what it means! I'm not an idiot!  It refers, of course, to the teams' respective won-loss records in games decided by one run or less.

(WOS: Um. . . How many games are decided by less than one run?)

(SOL: Totally not the point!  Leave me alone!)

What I'm getting at, though, is what is this statistic supposed to mean, exactly?  My point, though, is what exactly is a statistics-obsessed baseball fan supposed to glean from this data point?  If a team is successful in one-run games, does this suggest a superior bullpen with a dominant closer?  Conversely, does a losing one-run record mean that the bullpen is constantly failing--or is it more an indictment of an offense that can come close but just can't quite get the job done?

Indeed, I suspect that a team's record in one-run games will track fairly closely its success in all games.  Here, for example, are the current records of National League East teams:

Atlanta             Overall: .600    One-run: .585
Washington      Overall: .524    One-run: .543
Philadelphia     Overall: .463    One-run: .521
Metsies             Overall: .444   One-run: .458
Florida              Overall: .375   One-run: .387

With the exception of the Phillies, the difference between win percentage in one-run games and all games is less than two percent.  You can pretty well predict how well a team will do in close contests simply by seeing how they do overall.  The only interesting revelation here is that all but one of the teams does better in one-run games than in other games--which somehow seems to defy logic--not that a team would do better in one-run games, but that most teams do better in one-run games.  Of course, ultimately this just proves the truism that if a team keeps a game close, it gives itself a better than average chance of winning.  But who needs truisms when you've got obsessive statisticians?

Oh, and one other thing, is it my imagination, or does it seem to other people like the Yankees play the Red Sox, like, 984 times a year?

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