It’s great to be back in the old ballyard!
The other day, while lying around wondering if we were going to be evacuated or not (can’t do any real work, nor sleep, in such circumstances) I added up the runs scored and allowed by the Rockies in their incredible 21-1 run from 16 Sept. through the NLCS.
The result is, well, incredible.
Through the end of the regular season, 102-52.
Through the postseason sweeps of Philadelphia and Arizona: 34-16.
Full period from 16 Sept. to 15 Oct.: 136-68.
Any time you are doubling up your opponent’s runs on a regular basis, you are doing pretty well.
Then came game 1 of the World Series: 1-13. Ouch. Reality sets in. The Rockies probably really were the best in the NL over the full season–even if it took an incredible run with much good fortune to make it happen. According to the Bill James Pythagorean Baseball Theorem–that is, expected W-L based on runs scored and allowed–the Rockies actually slightly under-achieved during the season. They should have been 92-71 (in 163 games, though in this hypothetical world, they would have played just 162), a record with which they would have won the west by a game or two over relatively easy “shoulda-been” wild-card winner, San Diego. So, their run after 16 Sept. was nothing but a “late-course correction,” albeit probably the most implausible one of all time given how time was running out on the season.1
Now the NL’s best is up against clearly the best team2 in a far superior league. The AL champion just demolished a very good Cleveland team, which is certainly much superior to the Rockies. Oh, sure, that series went the full seven and the Red Sox trailed, 3 games to 1, after the first four. But while the Indians made the series interesting, in the end the series only showed what a dominant team the Red Sox are. They outscored the Indians, 51-32. Any time you are outscoring your opponent by a factor of almost 1.6, you are doing pretty well.3
Is continuing to be on the wrong end of a 13:1 scoring ratio in the Rockies’ near-term future? Surely not. But they would have to have considerable good fortune to win this series, given that the AL’s continuing superiority has again guaranteed its champion up to four home games. Both teams have remarkably strong home-field advantages, based on home records during the regular season (51-30 for Boston, 51-31 for Colorado). Yet the Red Sox were a far better road team (45-36) during the season than were the Rockies (a mere 39-42), and the latter team obviously must win at least one game in Boston to have any hope in this series. Given that Josh Beckett, as dominant as he is right now, is not likely to be too adversely affected in his Game 5 start in Denver (if the series even goes that far), a Colorado sweep of its home games seems unlikely. In that case, they need two wins in Boston. Tall order.
It would be foolish to predict a sweep, so I will not. And if the Rockies somehow win tonight, the Series will at least be interesting. From a fan-interest perspective, it is a shame that game 7 of the ALCS was effectively over as early as was game 1 of the current series, because it was probably the last game 7 baseball fans will see for a year. If the Red Sox do not win this in five or six, it will be quite an upset. A sweep would be less than a shock. But I won’t predict one. That would be foolish.
So, when do pitchers and catchers report?
- At the start of play that day the Rockies were 76-72, which was three games worse than their then-expected W-L, or the same deficit of reality from expectation that they would have at the end. How much did they over-achieve during their 21-1 run? At such a small number of games, the Pythagorean estimates are not going to tell us as much, but a team with their runs scored and allowed during those 22 games should go about 18 and 4. So, they were only 3 games above expectation. That’s how good they were during this run. For those final 14 regular-season games, excluding the extra playoff to break the wild-card tie with the Padres, they would be expected to have been about 11-3. Of course, given how they had underachieved through 16 Sept. and how the Diamondbacks (who should have ended up 79-83) over-achieved all season, the Rockies needed every one of those excess wins! And their one loss in the final 14 games of the 162-game season almost cost them their well deserved postseason berth. [↩]
- The Red Sox scored 867-657 during the season, which would translate into an expected 103-59! They were “only” 96-66, same as the Indians (whose expected W-L was just 92-70). Under-achievers, those Sox! As more testament to how good the AL East is, all the teams except Baltimore actually underplayed their expectations, and Baltimore was only 1 game better than expected. The Yankees ought to have been 99-63. [↩]
- Of course, outscoring your opponent, even by a very wide margin, is no guarantee of winning a series. Just ask the 1960 Yankees! [↩]