And sugar, I don't know if we're goin' down swingin'...
This is a fanpost about the reactions and views of an emotional stat freak. In other words, how does one view their confidence in the upcoming postseason when one embraces rational thinking with statistics and large sample sizes, but that the same time, lives and dies on each play.
As I sit here on the first off day of a 4 day break from baseball dwelling on then upcoming playoffs, I am reflecting back on this season and the past month, weeks, and days leading up to now.
2013 has been all in all, a very good year. 2 Cy Young candidates (and neither one named Justin), an MVP candidate, and a third consecutive AL central championship. At this point, looking back from the end of spring training, this is what you pretty much were asking for, and then some. So, why don't I feel more confident?
On August 31st, things were looking very rosy. The Tigers were 80-56, 7.5 games up on the Indians, and one game back of the Red Sox for best record in the AL. However, the month of September was not kind to the Tigers. They regressed from their season norms in pretty much ever batting category. The pitching held its own but also showed signs of regression overall from the season norms.
To take a closer look I’d like to look at some team stats. For fun I’ll show all the AL playoff teams in terms of record, and I’ll compare the Tigers to the Athletics in terms of specific batting and pitching stats.
According to Baseball Reference, the Tiger's Pythagorean W-L record is: 99-63, Yet we finished at 93-69. Six games below our expected mark. Compare that to the other teams in the playoff conversation
|Team||W (actual)||L (actual)||W (pythg)||L (pythg)||Difference|
What is interesting is that while the Tigers are by far the worst team in terms of playing under their season Pythagorean winning percentage, the league leading Red Sox are also playing below their Pythagorean winning percentage. The Rays hold the best differential between their actual record and their Pythagorean record. The pesky Cleveland Indians also are playing above their Pythagorean record. The Tigers first round opponents, the Athletics, are playing exactly the same as their Pythagorean record.
There are a couple ways to look at this. One could conclude that the Tigers are an underachieving team that is going up against a team that has been a model of consistency all year. What you see is what you get. This could bode either good or bad for the Tigers. You could say that they aren’t showing the ability to step up and take that extra step, or you could say that the Tigers are a team capable of playing better than their record and stats say. And there in lays the inner struggle of the emotional stat freak. The last series of the year brought to the surface all the negative scenarios and panic feelings. You look at the stats and see your worst fears coming to fruition. I watched the Tigers go from scoring 2 runs in a 3-2 loss, scoring 1 run and losing in extras, to be no-hit. Yeah I know it was a series of get away and AAA lineups but even then, it still wasn’t like our regulars were bombing the ball while the reserves were picking their noses in the batters box. Everyone caught a bad case of hitlessness.
And its not just that series. Over the last month, the Tigers hitting stats have taken a step back from their season norms. Lets take a look at the pitching and batting stats of the Tigers and the Athletics comparing their September stats their season stats. The pitching stats have mostly improved which is a good thing, at least depending how you look at it.
Again there are many ways to look at this. You could say that the Athletics are going into the playoffs hot, while the Tigers are going in cold. Sure the pitching is hot but no one ever won a game by not scoring a run. That certainly doesn’t sound promising for the Tigers, especially when you couple that with their weak hitting performance against 2 of the worst pitching teams in the AL and NL … well actually while the Twins are horrible, the Marlins have a middle of the pack pitching staff overall. Hot meats cold, the classic confrontation.
Or, you could look at it from a stance that the A’s overachieved in September and the Tigers underachieved, thus after a 4 day layoff you should look at the overall stats to make a determination about what each team will likely bring to the table come Friday. So there is that ray of sunshine. But the dark lining on it is that you could also say that the Tigers pitching overachieved a bit and will likely take a step back as well. Again, it’s the nerve wracking dilemma of the emotional stats freak. My gut is bouncing back and forth between ideas and feelings about how this is going to go down. I just don’t know how this will turn out…and its driving me nuts!
Of course there is the third option. Just say "To hell with the stats and play that game. Whatever happens happens." But where’s the fun in that? ;-)