Baseball Prospectus has a semi-interactive feature called “Adjusted Standings,” which looks just like an ordinary baseball standings grid, but it has a few extra columns. I don’t pretend to understand the number crunching that’s going on behind the scenes to determine the precise contents of those extra columns, but I do understand the gist of the concept, which is to assess the relationship between a team’s outcomes and the quality of its play. Teams that play the game well usually win games. Sometimes teams play poorly but still win. Sometimes teams play well but lose. If such an incongruity persisted over the course of many games, we reasonably could say that the reason was due to good luck or bad luck.
In the Tigers’ case, that chart shows that, for three different ways of measuring teams’ luck (look at columns D1, D2, and D3), no team has had worse luck than the Tigers this year. (Yes, the Cubs have been a little less lucky under D1, but across the board, it isn’t close.) Because I don’t know what goes into calculating these various expected winning percentages, I can’t really render a hypothesis on the root or location of that bad luck, although the bullpen seems like a good place to start.
I think I can reasonably speculate on what this piece of information might mean, though. Just as we expect luck to “run out” on players and teams achieving better outcomes than their actual performance would indicate, so too should we expect players and teams experiencing bad luck to have their fortunes improve. With more than half of the season remaining, I am comforted by (if not presently comfortable with) the notion that, despite their record, the Tigers are playing good baseball. As much as it hurts my ulcer to watch them give away games in the late innings, I don’t think I’d prefer sitting on pins and needles waiting for the bottom to fall out, at least as far as the regular season is concerned.
These Tigers are playing good baseball, and some members of this team are playing exceptional baseball. Max Scherzer is having a wonderful year and at this point deserves to be considered the ace atop one of the best starting rotations in baseball. And while Scherzer is having a career year, Miguel Cabrera is backing up an historic 2012 season with another one that might be even better.
There certainly is tinkering left to be done with this team, but I can’t wait to watch them really heat up this summer.
Forget what you know – 6/25
History and Revision – 6/12
Tigers beat Braves 7-4 as part of series sweep of visiting Atlanta – 5/7
April in the D – 4/26
Jet Set (Sigh?) – 4/23
Run distribution, science, and the likelihood of a Detroit comeback – 4/15
WSJ throws a wet newspaper on the Tigers’ 2013 chances – 4/3
A Tiger is a Tiger is a Tiger – 3/29
The Departed – 3/14