Lucky Teams

At the break and with the official news finally coming in that Manny Acta has been let go in Washington, I decided to take a look at which at which teams have been lucky or unlucky the most so far this season. Of course, the definition of lucky is going to be pretty subjective to people. Here is how I have defined it, and have defined it in the past as well lest there be any concerns that I gerrymandered my criteria.

I use BaseRuns, which is my favorite team-wide metric for determining expected runs allowed and scored, to come up with an expected won-loss record based on the pythagorean method (with a variable exponent based on the runs per game, namely the David Smyth/Patriot model of pythag).

That expected winning percentage is then added to the team’s strength of schedule and then 0.5 is subtracted away to get a scheduled-neutralized expected winning percentage. Multiplying that by 162 yields a BaseRuns, schedule-neutral estimate for how many games the team should win over a season if it played at its season-to-date level.

I then subtract that from the team’s actual winning percentage scaled out to 162 games to arrive a plus or minus win figure of how lucky the team has been per 162 games.

For the more math inclined,

And the rankings, from most lucky, to most unlucky:

Astros 11
Giants 10
Phillies 10
Tigers 9
Reds 9
Angels 6
Brewers 6
Red Sox 6
Marlins 6
Rangers 3
Orioles 3
Cardinals 3
White Sox 2
Cubs 1
Mets 1
Dodgers 0
Mariners 0
Yankees -1
Padres -1
Rockies -2
Braves -3
Pirates -3
Twins -5
Athletics -5
Royals -5
Blue Jays -8
Diamondbacks -8
Rays -9
Indians -11
Nationals -19



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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.


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MPAUL
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MPAUL
7 years 13 days ago

the nationals are good!!! i knew it

Mariano
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Mariano
7 years 13 days ago

Im not suprised to see the rays at the bottom of that list. I really expect them to catch some more breaks in the second half and win the Wild Card

matthew
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matthew
7 years 13 days ago

if the rays make it to the playoffs, one of boston and new york wouldnt make it. I really think the odd team out would be boston. Yankees just have too good a team

R M
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R M
7 years 13 days ago

Dream on

R M
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R M
7 years 13 days ago

How do you determine the strength of a team’s schedule?

Benne
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Benne
7 years 13 days ago

I believe he explained it in a Lookout Landing post. Give me a minute here….

Benne
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Benne
7 years 13 days ago
MGL
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MGL
7 years 13 days ago

It is not that big of a deal, but you can’t or at least shouldn’t use opponents’ actual winning percentage to figure a team’s strength of schedule adjustment.

A few unusual examples will suffice to explain why:

Say we are at the beginning of the season, and I have played 10 games. All 10 of those games have been against team A. Team A has played 100 games. Their record is 95 and 5. My record is 5-5. Do I want to adjust that 5-5 record for the fact that I played a .950 team in those 10 games? I think not.

Say you are doing what matthew is doing here and he comes up with the fact that the Astros are the luckiest team in baseball. The have played 100 games. They are .600 (60/40) but they should be a .400 team. I have played all 10 of my games against them. Do we want to adjust my strength of schedule by .600 or by .400? Certainly not by .600. I likely played a bad team that just has gotten lucky in those 100 games, most of which were not played against me. Why would I want to adjust my record to reflect the fact that I played an excellent team (.600) when in fact I likely played a crummy (.400) team? I wouldn’t and shouldn’t.

The correct way to do a strength of schedule adjustment is to use something else other than w/l record for each teams’ opponents, if you have that info. Something that more reflects their true strength. If you don’t have that info (and even if you do), you want to use a regressed wp for those opponents (if you are using some more granular data, you still want to regress that data).

MGL
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MGL
7 years 13 days ago

BTW, if you do the correct strength of schedule adjustments for teams at the end of a season, you will find that it doesn’t make that much difference. The teams with the toughest or easiest schedules will gain or lose 1-2 wins at the most, if I remember correctly, and I think that 2 is a rarity.

Kyle Boddy
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7 years 13 days ago

“Indians -11”

Of course.

B
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B
7 years 13 days ago

The fact that the Nats were so “unlucky” pretty much disproves this system. Watch them play, they are embarrassing bad. The pitching is among the worst I’ve ever seen, and their defense is even worse than that!!!

Sometimes the stats lie to you, the Nats aren’t unlucky they are just that damn bad.

don
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don
7 years 13 days ago

The Padres have about the same run differential and are 16 games below .500 instead of 35. The Nationals are still horrible, but they shouldn’t be on pace to lose 110+. It’s sort of misleading that these numbers are for the whole season rather than the half a season that they’ve played.

They played a 4 game set with Philly where they scored 22 runs and got *swept*. What are the odds?

Kardinal
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Kardinal
7 years 13 days ago

The fact that Derek Jeter is ranked as a “bad fielder” pretty much disproves fielding stat systems. His range is among the best I’ve ever seen, and did you see that one play that he dove in the stands?!!!

Sometimes the stats lie to you, Jeter isn’t bad, he’s amazing.

Pete
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Pete
7 years 13 days ago

Are bad and unlucky mutually exclusive?

tangotiger
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tangotiger
7 years 13 days ago

You have a “schedule-neutral estimate ” for the rest of the season, but you use this figure to compare to-date win/loss record and count that as luck. Indeed, you need the non-neutral estimate if you are going to compare to actual games played.

Brian
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7 years 13 days ago

B-
They’re unlucky and bad. When you have such a big outlier, it’s usually both.

Joe R
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Joe R
7 years 13 days ago

Acta will be the next Terry Francona.

Give him a real roster from a GM that understands that pitching matters and that LF =/= CF, and he’d do well. Love how smart baseball guys like Acta get canned, and Dusty Baker still gets to manage a roster.

Deacon Drake
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7 years 13 days ago

The Nats on Sunday TWICE loaded the bases with one out and failed to score. They stuck 14 runners on base and none of them scored.

http://deacondrake.blogspot.com/2009/07/nationals-baseball-again.html

They have found amazing new ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. They are the masters of losing two games 6-8, then salvaging the sweep with a 7-1 win.

Baffling team.

Adam
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7 years 13 days ago

The Angels pop up as “lucky” every year in every permutation of this sort of study. Perhaps just actually going out and doing things to win the game in front of them actually works?

Pete
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Pete
7 years 13 days ago

Why is it that seemingly every year since they went to the W.S. the Astros put together a really shabby team and they still manage to win respectable numbers of games? I’m really not surprised that they can be interpreted as a lucky team…they’re horribly run and have a roster of poor pitchers and bad contracts and yet manage to be not-horrible.

On a related note, I find it humorous that nearly every season announcers take it as just a self-evident truth that the Astros will play well in the 2nd half, like it’s some kind of innate skill of theirs. Um, it’s not a team playing over its head ever?

Evan
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Evan
7 years 13 days ago

Eh. The Astros have enough talent on their team to be successful. True, Drayton McLane is paying a lot of money for a .500 team, but at things could be worse. I guess they have a roster of “poor pitchers”. Go look at their pitchers in terms of RAR, and they’re an average NL club. Chris Sampson is best relief pitcher in the NL Central, in terms of RAR. Oswalt and Rodriguez at the top of the rotation aren’t too shabby…Hampton has been a cost efficient one year rental.

True, their pythag record is poor, but they have a number of blowout, outlier type games that make them “luckier” than they should be. Throw out those outliers, and they’re just right on pace.

It’s also tough to deny the Astros are a strong second half team. Maybe they’ll be terrible in the second half this season, but I doubt it.

awcom
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awcom
7 years 13 days ago

hilarious. fagnraphs never ceases to amaze me.

Johnny
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Johnny
7 years 13 days ago

How do you equate intangibles such as losing 4 pitchng starters to the dl, the back end of the bullpen also being in the dl, key hitters missing a lot of time from the batting lineup, and the death of a player? I guess that makes you the 6th luckiest team.

Chris
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Chris
7 years 12 days ago

If the luck drops off for the Angels and the Rangers it could be a real tight three-way race in the West (assuming these stats are accurate).

(Go M’s!).

Brian
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Brian
7 years 12 days ago

All I can say is you’re full of crap. This whole site is a joke.

Alireza
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Alireza
7 years 11 days ago

At what point is the pythagorean W/L system completely reevaluated? The Angels seem to be perennially “lucky”, yet haven’t dropped out of contention in years.

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