The rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.
– Some guy in a white suit
After getting all the stress out after a long, great season with less-than-stellar finish I think it’s a good time to start taking a look back at some of the things that went right and wrong in 2010. This focus will start general and become more specific the deeper we get into the off-season. With that in mind, I thought it would be proper to start out looking at the Runs Scored (RS) and Runs Allowed (RA) over the course of the season by each of the teams in the AL East. I plotted each of the RS and RA for each game across the entire season and then created a moving average of 20 games trendline so that you could actually find something of value here. Whenever the blue line is above the red then the team was averaging more runs than it was allowing, and vice-versa.
Then I got the idea that maybe the quality of opponent had an effect. After playing with the numbers, and using the entire AL East as a sample, I ran a simple regression to see how the difference between RS and RA on a game-to-game basis had any relation to opponents number of wins. The formula spit out suggests that for every win over 81 that an opponent ended up with, your team could expect to lose .2 runs off of your expected winning margin. So, if your team is averaging winning by 1.5 runs and they played an 86 win team, then your team would be expected to only win by .5 runs per game. This is really nice, except with the relatively minor sample size the R^2 was an extremely low .02 suggesting that this data is not significant and not reflective of reality. I’d love to increase this sample over the course of the year and try to get some stability here, but it will take time. You will still find the opponent’s Win% (oWin%) as a 20 game moving average trendline that uses the secondary axis to the right and is the green line.
Enough of the nerd-talk, let’s see some fancy pictures. Here’s the Rays (click all images to enlarge):
You can see that the start to our season was just about as good as you could hope for. We were scoring tons of runs and not allowing many, but the green line shows that we were also facing a heavy concentrations of the worst teams in the league (by final record). As out opponents became more difficult the gap shrank to a more normal level (no team should be expected to routinely win by 3-4 runs) throughout the rest of the year. We can see how tight it got during our worst month of the season as we even averaged allowing more than we scored. Those were miserable times, but they wouldn’t last forever as our pitching stopped allowing so many runs and we got back to a stretch of strong offense. You can see that we finished the year allowing a ton of runs again, and though our offense stepped up we can still see some periods where we scored less than we allowed. It was a wild ride that was mostly fun, but to put this in context, let’s look at the worst team in the AL East. Here’s the Orioles:
For all those that nitpick about the little things that cost Rays games, you should probably harken back to when our season looked more like this. On the other hand, what a difference a manager can make to a team. I’m not sure you can give Buck Showalter all the credit here, but their pitching significantly improved over the last quarter of the season. Their offense was basically the same, but they started winning more games because their pitching wasn’t getting shelled. (Note: I use the term pitching, but this isn’t meant to put all the blame on them. RA does not care who’s fault it is. These high levels could easily be attributed to a pretty bad level of defense that suddenly shaped up under a new manager. I will continue to use pitching because this seems more intuitive to RA, but you should know that I’m not putting all the blame on the arms.) It’s even more interesting that their best stretch of play came against some of the tougher teams that they faced all year, but also, right after a dip in competition. Perhaps they started to find a bit more confidence to finish off the year. I love these graphs because they really give the outline to a story and it’s up to the reader to discern why these changes happened.
So now you’ve seen a good team and a bad team, how about the rest of the division. Here’s the Yankees:
The Yankees offense showed consistently, great performance across the year with only a couple of brief downturns, while their pitching (and defense) played just well enough to be in the black for almost the entirety of the season. They faced their weakest competition in the middle of the season when you can see some strong gaps, but they never pitched quite as well as the did at the beginning of the year. Not surprisingly, when they faced their toughest opponents they played some of their tightest games, but still blew away the majority of teams over long stretches. They are a good team, this should not be a surprise.
Let’s take a look at the 3rd place Red Sox (Lawd I love saying that):
Looking left to right, we can see that Boston’s pitching was absolutely woeful to start the season and couldn’t offset a league-average offense (MLB average was 4.45 RS/Game in 2010), but they quickly got the bats going and went through what Civ Fanatics would call a Golden Age that lasted for about a quarter of the season. Then the injuries started to take a toll, and though their pitching was pretty steady and right around league-average, the bats just couldn’t do enough to carry the team. They either needed to pitch a little better or hit a little better and they could have made a legit run at the post-season. Instead, you can see that they basically played just well/bad enough to win/lose a lot of coin-flip games.
Lastly, let’s take a look at the Blue Jays:
Briefly, we can see a team that pitched pretty well, for the most part, throughout the season, with the exception of leading up the All-Star Game and the end of the season. Perhaps, fatigue/injuries played a roll, as well as, shutting down some good young starters towards the end. Toronto is another team that really could have made a run at the post-season if it wasn’t for that awful stretch of offense in the middle of the year when they were facing some of their stiffest competition. You’ll notice a similar dip in offense around the end of the season, again, when they are facing better opponents. Such is life in the AL East where you have to beat the best as well as the worst and mediocre if you want to get into free baseball. This looks like, to me, a team that feasted on bad-average teams with the bats, but couldn’t turn it on when it mattered most. As young as their staff is and getting most of their bats back (might not be so great since they should expect guys that had career years to regress to their career norms, ahem, Jose Bautista) they look poised to make another run at the playoffs in the upcoming season.
Now let’s take a look at each of these teams by each of the components so that you can get a feel for how these teams performed in relation to each other. Here’s RS in the same format:
I won’t go over this since we’ve covered them individually, but I did want to share with the audience.
And lastly oWin%:
I hope this has been informative, but please feel free to tweet me or post a question in the comments if you have anything you’d like to add.