Friday, July 17

Taking Stock

At the beginning of the season, I made what I thought was a fairly common-knowledge prediction. I wrote that the Sox, the Yankees, and the Rays would all break even against one another, and against the elite of the league, generally, and that the real distinction amongst them would be this: who can beat the little guys, night in, night out. Baseball's a game of consistency, the nightly grind, so this seemed to make sense. Thinking about the first half of the season, I wanted to check it out.

Turns out, I was wrong.

The top of the AL East is fairly close in the standings. On that we were all right. The Sox are 54-34, the Yanks are in second at 51-37, and the Rays are not far behind at 48-41.

To test out my original argument, I went simple: I picked out what I consider the best of the AL: Boston, Tampa Bay, New York, Los Angeles, Detroit, Texas, and Toronto (they were so good for such a long time that statistically they should factor in here). And I simply looked at the matchups amongst those teams. It was a bit of a surprise.

Playing those six, the Rays are 16-13. That's about what you would have expected, even a little better. The Yankees, on the other hand, are 17-21. Many of those losses (we know) have come at the hand of the Sox, but still, the Yankees are underperforming against the AL's best. But really, 17-21 isn't that much of a surprise. The real surprise was this: the Sox are a whopping 24-11 against the six best teams in the AL.

To be honest, I'm not sure what to think of this. I was clearly wrong, so far. And it's to be celebrated - when it comes to elite clashes, the Sox are stepping up big time. But that also means that they're right around .500 against the middling teams. And my concern is that the torrid pace against the elite just can't be sustained. Baseball averages out, at least when you're talking about the best few teams or players in a league. Every year, the batting champ hits in the low-to-mid .300's. The best team gets between 93 and 103 wins. That's just how it works. It's a long season, and things tend to settle around historical averages.

So yes, I should be very happy with the Sox dominance. I just hope that they can keep it up. What if the Yankees stop blowing it against the good teams? They've been beating up on the small guys the way they're supposed to. If the Sox don't start doing the same, they could be in trouble.

Leave it to a Sox fan to panic when he sees his team has been crushing the best of the best. But still, it's a game of numbers, and math makes me nervous.


Anonymous said...

You may want to rethink a bit. If the Sox are 54-34 overall, and 24-11 against the "elite" teams, then they're 30-23 against the remainder (.563 winning percentage, and over the course of a season that translates into 92 wins). That's a far cry from "right around .500" ball.

Joe Murph said...

I factored out the InterLeague play. Sox went 11-6 against the NL, and I just erased those games. So that means the Sox are 43-28 in the AL. 24-11 against the elite teams puts them at 19-17 against the sub-elite AL. "Right around .500."

Anonymous said...

You "mathletes" are so funny!

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