Well, it's the end of a long, bad season. Just how badly did we do? Back in June, I was seriously trying to figure out if the team was cursed, and we took a look at various measures of "luck." As you may recall, the Nats were both somewhat unlucky and a good bit of terrible. The Nats managed to battle back enough to match last season's 59 wins, although we ended up with an extra loss, since 2008's home closer got rained out. Yep, that's 59-103.
In today's stat snapshot, we'll take a look at Pythagorean Win Expectancy. This compares runs scored to runs allowed to compute an "expected" winning percentage. If you're very much above or below it, your team is exceptional in some way beyond its ability to score or prevent runs. Either you're having a run of good/bad luck, or there's some terrible defect/huge advantage somewhere in your team (like, say, a bullpen made of straw).
Back in June, the Nats were fully 6 wins behind their "expected" value after only 62 games.* That's bad luck (and a terrible bullpen). It turns out that most of those "extra" losses came in 1- and 2-run games, a sure sign of bad luck (or a bullpen completely incapable of closing out a close game).
Looking at the full season, the Nats scored 710 runs and allowed 874. According to Pythagoras (actually, Pythagenpat), the Nats finished six games behind their expected 65-97. That means that the Nats' performance since mid-June has managed to roughly match what you'd expect based on their run differential. Mind you, their run differential is still bad, it's just not 100 losses bad (barely). The Nats' underperformance of even their already-poor raw offense and defense is pretty much confined to their atrocious first 60 games.
After the jump: Close games, curses, and who is teh g0at?
Get a little closer
Early in the season, the Nats were terrible at winning close games. By the end of the season, they'd managed to almost turn that around. Take a look at this table of W/L and "expected" W/L versus run differential (rounding throws things off slightly).
|4+ run games||19-41||20-40|
As we've seen in countless agonizing losses (especially in the early season), the Nats have trouble winning close games. However, they're getting better. Back in June, the Nats were 1-8 in extras (including the rain suspension), but by the end of the season they managed to play right up to their run potential in the bonus innings.
After I noticed the apparent difference in performance between the June data and the whole-season data, I started to wonder if maybe the Nats' play correlated to certain other dates. Just for fun, let's pick before and after the All-Star Break, games 1-50 and 51-162, and before and after the July 31st trade deadline. These dates are, of course, completely arbitrary selections. Again, just for fun, let's call these periods "Manny" (pre-AS), "Riggles" (post-AS), "Saint" (games 1-50), "McChatty" (games 51-162), "Mal des Expos" (pre-trade) and "Curse over" (post-trade).
Mal des Expos
On the surface, it looks like the Nats were playing noticeably below their talent level in the "Manny" and "Saint" eras, roughly at their expected level in the "Riggles" and "McChatty" periods, much below expected during the "Mal des Expos," and noticeably better than expected in "Curse over." Of course, there were a lot of things going on over the season, like the Milledge/Hanrahan for Morgan/Burnett trade and Josh Willingham's crazy hot streak. It's hard enough to say what correlates with what, much less what caused what. Still, an interesting coincidence, huh? I blame PLoD.
So, how'd we do?
We did horribly! We came in last place, we lost 103 games, and we managed to significantly underperform even the low level of aggregate talent that we displayed all season. However, it appears that the team picked up in the latter half, managing both to improve its level of play, and to improve its record to be on par with its level of play. This improvement seems to correlate with some personnel changes on both sides of the dugout railing. And, yes, the Curse of the Expos was real. Thank frank it's over.
Data courtesy of baseball-reference.com
* At the time, I had data for 61 games, because of the suspended game on May 5. When you add it back to the data and do Pythagenpat instead of "squared" Pythag, we were 6 games behind expected rather than the 7 I calculated at the time.