I’m fascinated by teams’ distributions of runs scored. I check it out every year, follow closely certain trivial tidbits (the Twins tied the record for times scoring exactly four runs in a season, with 35; the Rockies became the first team since at least 1950 to not win a single game when scoring four times), and search for ways to attach significance to the spread of runs scored from game to game, rather than the simple run total a team compiles.

This year, I decided to tabulate all the data and see what it really tells me. Baseball Prospectus keeps record by runs scored as one of its team stat reports, and I went through and found the number of times each team scored each number of runs. I then totaled up the times that all teams combined to score each number, and found their winning percentages when they did. Here are the results of that work, in big, unwieldy spreadsheet form:

White Sox822202727161214466
Red Sox151826212615147758
Winning Percentage00.1210.2560.4070.5710.6850.8060.8660.9350.9420.972

This is sorted by expected wins based on game-to-game run distribution. That is to say, I took the league’s aggregate winning percentages when scoring each number of runs (the bottom row), multiplied it by the number of times a given team scored that number, and repeated that, adding together the values until I got to a final number of offensive win shares (not my term, but that’s basically what this is).

These aren’t park-adjusted. Make your own adjustments for, say, the Rockies’ 20 games scoring 10 or more runs (18 of them at home; Colorado scored 500 runs at Coors Field this season, and 255 on the road). It’s just a ranking of offensive win shares, based on raw runs scored.

That being the case, let’s compare the rankings I created with some other general, unadjusted offensive rankings. Just a few highlights:

  • The Royals ranked 14th in MLB in runs and 18th in wOBA, but 11th in offensive win shares.
  • The Yankees were 20th in runs and 19th in wOBA, but 16th in these win shares.
  • The Cardinals finished 23rd in runs scored, but 17th in win shares.
  • The Mariners finished 19th in runs scored, but 23rd in win shares.

I mention those four teams, specifically, because it seems to me their seasons were shaped by the distribution of their scoring, as well as their overall scoring ability. The Royals, Yankees and Cardinals finished five, seven and seven games better than their Pythagorean expectations, respectively, and both the Royals and Cardinals made the playoffs because of it. Seattle finished five games worse than its expected record, leading to the Royals eking them out for a Wild Card playoff berth.

Take, as an isolated example, the Royals. Although the offense struggled at times, they were shut out only seven times all season—the third-fewest times of any team in baseball. They also scored six runs in 20 games, more such contests than any other team in baseball, and as you can see, six is something of a magic number. Teams won 80.6 percent of the games in which they scored six runs this season. The Royals won 18 of their 20.

There’s no evidence (of which I’m aware) that run distribution is a skill teams have. People will occasionally posit that, for instance, a team with a lower strikeout rate, or one less dependent upon power, is more consistent than others, but I don’t think we have proof of that. As likely as not, this falls under the umbrella of clusterluck.

I will note a few things:

  • The Yankees had an astounding platoon percentage this season. They had the platoon advantage in 72 percent of their plate appearances. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least to find that teams who maintain high platoon rates are less vulnerable to bad matchups, keep their guys fresher, and therefore, score more consistently. I just can’t prove that.
  • The Royals, Cardinals and 2013 Cardinals are evidence that teams who rely on strings of singles and doubles may score more consistently than their counterparts. Those are just anecdotes, though. The Mariners are a case of the opposite being true. They were low-OBP, high-SLG, and scored less than they were expected to. That could be coincidence. Just noting it.

Anyway, this is fun data to mine. I’ll do more digging into it, and present findings for runs allowed, as the offseason goes on.

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