• Aug
    13

    When the Magic (luck) Predictably Runs Out


    by Kerry Leibowitz

     

    I’ve seen numerous references throughout the 2013 season—and particularly of late—that imply that the “magic” of 2012 has deserted this year’s version of the Orioles.  It certainly has seemed that way to me.  Last year’s club appeared to win nearly every close game; much was made of the 2012 edition’s dominance of tight contests and the fact that the team outperformed its Pythagorean projection by the huge margin of 11 wins, posting a victory in 93 regular season games despite a run differential of +7.

    The reason it seems as though something is different it because it is different.  After last night’s loss to the Diamondbacks, the Orioles have a run differential of +40.  While the club is outperforming its Pythagorean projection again, the margin is relatively inconsequential two wins.  But the real difference in feel from last year to this is revealed by casting a glance at the team’s record in games decided by specific run margins.

    Margin

    2012

    2013

    %G '12

    %G'13

    1

    29-9

    14-19

    23.5%

    28.0%

    2

    25-14

    13-5

    24.1%

    15.3%

    3

    9-12

    19-7

    13.0%

    22.0%

    4

    5-11

    8-13

    9.9%

    17.8%

    5

    5-7

    3-2

    7.4%

    4.2%

    6

    13-4

    2-3

    10.5%

    4.2%

    7

    2-5

    2-1

    4.3%

    2.5%

    8

    2-0

    3-2

    1.2%

    4.2%

    9

    1-3

    0-0

    2.5%

    0.0%

    10

    1-1

    1-0

    1.2%

    0.8%

    11

    0-1

    0-1

    0.6%

    0.8%

    12

    1-2

    0-0

    1.9%

    0.0%

     

    The first thing that jumps out from the above table is what we’ve been hearing about all year—the Orioles’ record in one-run games has gone completely to seed from 2012 to 2013.  This year to date, the Orioles are 17 games over .500 in games decided by more than one run. Last year, the team finished the season just four games over .500 in games decided by more than one-run.  What makes the decline in one-run performance (from exceptional in 2012 to poor in 2013) even more impacting is that an even larger proportion of this year’s club’s games have been decided by one run (28% this year to date versus 23.5% all of last year)

    All things being equal, I expect a team to perform more or less the same in one-run games and all other games, but things are rarely equal and for the second year in a row the Orioles seem to be destined to post substantially different winning percentages in one-run games and all other games.

     

    2012

    2013

    1-Run W%

    .763

    .424

    Other W%

    .516

    .600

     

    But focusing exclusively on last year’s team’s one-run record obscures something else—the club’s nearly equally impressive dominance in two-run games.  The Orioles actually played more two-run than one-run games last year and were nearly as successful, winning 25 of the 39 games they played that were decided by two runs.  This year’s team has been plenty successful in two-run games but has played far fewer of them.

    In fact, excepting the outlying case of the 2012 team’s record in games decided by six runs (13-4—17 is a lot of six-run games for a single season), the club’s performance really slipped once you move beyond two-run games.  77 of last year’s games were decided by two runs or less and the Orioles won a whopping 54 of those tight ballgames.  That’s incredible dominance over a sector of games that made up nearly half the team’s schedule (47.5%).

    2012

    W-L

    W%

    1-2 runs

    54-23

    .701

    3+ runs

    39-46

    .459

     

    That accounts for last year’s discrepancy between run differential and W-L record.  Call it clutch hitting and pitching if you like; I prefer “luck,” since things like this are almost entirely uncorrelated, and therefore nearly impossible to replicate, from season-to-season.  Regardless, this year’s performance is a completely different—and much less difficult to explain—experience:

    2013

    W-L

    W%

    1-2 runs

    27-24

    .529

    3+ runs

    38-29

    .567

     

    It was widely acknowledged entering the 2013 season that, if the Orioles were to roughly duplicate last year’s record, they were almost certainly going to have to perform in a manner more commensurate with that record than was the case this year, and we’re seeing that play out so far this season.  The 2013 team is almost certainly better than the 2012 club was, and there’s concrete evidence of this in the data.  But what’s missing is the “magic” (or luck) that last year’s unit possessed in such abundance.


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