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Paying back Pythagoras

The last time we took a look at luck, the Nats had been having a fair bit of it.  The early season had a few blowout losses and a lot of wins in close games, resulting in the peculiar situation of the Nationals being outscored by their opponents yet still holding a winning record.  Well, things have turned around over the last couple of weeks.  The Nationals have managed at least one blowout win, but have lost a bunch of squeakers (including last night's extra-inning heartbreaker).  Is Pythagoras finally satisfied?  Can the team go back to winning yet? 

Well, through last night's game, the Nationals have scored 251 runs and allowed 271 runs, with a W/L record of 27-31.  According to Pythagorean Win Estimation (a formula that takes runs scored and runs allowed to predict an "expected" winning percentage--I use a variant called Pythagenpat), the Nationals have an expected W/L record of... 27-31.  The team is back where their run differential predicts they would be.  A few more details about performance in close games after the jump.

If you recall the last time we looked at this, the Nats were doing a few games better than their Pythagorean record because they had won more close games than expected.  Let's break out their W/L by the "closeness" of the game again.  I divvy up their games into "saves" (decided by 3 runs or less) and "blowouts" (decided by more than 3 runs).  Here's what we get:

W/L Runs Scored Runs Allowed Expected W/L
Saves 21-19 161 156 21-19
Blowouts 6-12 90 115 7-12


The Nats are now right where you'd expect in close games: 21-19.  The Nats are slightly behind expected in the laughers, at 6-12 versus 7-11.  Given the small numbers and the vagaries of rounding to whole numbers of games, I don't think the difference is significant.

So to sum up: the Nationals' current record is right in line with their on-field performance.  They're scoring and allowing runs on pace for a 75-win season, which is just what their current W/L extrapolates to.  The Nats can't depend on luck to get to .500 this season: they need to score more runs and allow fewer runs (or to put it even more simply, "be better at baseball").  The debut of Strasburg and the potential return of Detwiler, Zimmermann, Marquis, and Wang could help a lot with allowing fewer runs.  As far as scoring more?  Run smarter and hack less--but those are topics for other posts.